Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Day Follow-Up

Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. Family was fun, the food was great and the wide selection of wines offered many choices!

Early in the day the Ancient Fire Chilean Chardonnay and New Harbour 2007 Sauvignon Blanc provided casual sipping with cheese, crackers and snacks.

A selection of 2006 Cabs from Don David, Sterling Vineyards and Smoking Loon matched some bold wines with sweet potatoes, baked stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes and of course two kinds of turkey!

The Smoking Loon Cab is the closest variety to the Ancient Fire Cab (forthcoming) I have had. I had to go back for several additional tastings to savor the similarities and what lies ahead from our own cellar.

The Candia Diamond went on the table at the end of dinner and promoted much comment. As was expected nobody other than Margot and I had had it or recalled having wines that were similar. We must work on this. It went fast so there may not be so much work to do...


Monday, November 24, 2008

Holy Tartrate Crystals Batman!

I precipitated my first batch of tartrate crystals from a white wine this week. A process called cold stabilization is recommended for white grape wines. This process reduces the temperature of the wine and will make the dissolved solids heavy and drop to the bottom of the carboy. Having never done this before I was pleasantly surprised when I racked off the clearing wine to see a layer of shiny sediment that looks like salt. With some additional time I am betting the wine will continue to clear.

The wine tastes OK, the initial fermentation went pretty dry and I like my Rieslings a little bit more full so I am going to back sweeten and blend it as it continues to age.



Saturday, November 22, 2008

LaBelle Wine Tasting

Margot and I went to the open house and wine tasting at LaBelle Winery in Amherst, NH today. This was our first trip to LaBelle, but not our first experience with their wine.

Amy and Cesar lined up a wonderful selection of wines for visitors to try and we were not disappointed. An example of a sangria made with LaBelle wines was also available, and of course cheese and crackers!

Today's tasting line-up included all non-grape fruit wines ranging from light and fruity to bolder and sweet. Our favorites were the Corazon (Seyval/Raspberry blend), Cranberry Apple, Blueberry and Cranberry. We also tasted the Seyval, Heirloom Apple, Granite State Apple (Apple with Maple), and the Blanco (Peach dessert wine). In short supply the Raspberry Dessert wine was not available for tasting, but having had it before we weren't unhappy. Plus we have a bottle of it in the wine fridge already.

All of the wines presented the fruits very well, with the apple wines being the lightest and striking parallels to Riesling and un-oaked Chardonnay. The Cranberry was the most expressive with the fruit flavors and wasn't as tart as you might as expect. The Corazon is a blush wine that is slightly sweet, fruity and would be a knockout chilled on a warm summer day! The Blueberry wine was slightly sweet and pleasingly tart. I will be using this wine as a guide for the Blueberry wine I have planned for 2009.

I also tasted the Jalapeño cooking wine and while it was spicy, it was pleasing and should work very well in the kitchen.

We bought a bottle of each of our favorites and the cooking wine. Pairing these wines with future meals will most certainly be fun!

We met Christopher and Nancy Obert who just published "The Next Harvest... Vineyards & Wineries of New England". This book is hot off the presses and having started reading it earlier in the week I was overjoyed to meet the authors. I will share my thoughts on the book, the adventures it will inspire and the wonderful time we spent with Chris and Nancy in my next blog post.

Check out LaBelle Winery at


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food & Wine Pairing #1

Jason Talks Food & Wine Pairing
November 2008

Welcome to the inaugural installment of a food and wine pairing series I am starting. Through this series I hope to offer pairing tips, personal insights and promote some exploration by my faithful readers. Please feel free to respond to the posts with questions and I hope that I will be able to provide useful answers.

With the Thanksgiving holiday almost here, many of us are furiously planning the dinner menu or choosing what to bring to share with family and friends. In this installment I am going to offer some tips to generate conversation over the big meal.

What wines go well with turkey dinner? This question has a wide range of answers and none of them are universal.

One basic principle in pairing wine with food is that bold foods need bold wines. When either the food or the wine is drastically understated in comparison to the other, the lesser of the pair can easily suffer a knockout.

If your turkey has subtle flavors, butter and sage as an example, a medium bodied Chardonnay with some oak might go very well. If your turkey has a spicy or thick glaze with lots of pepper and/or fruit flavors that same Chardonnay would be lost. In the latter case a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir might stand up to the flavors without going overboard. Keep in mind the boldness of the side dishes as well. With a healthy mix of flavors that is typical on the Thanksgiving table no one wine will pair well with every dish, but medium bodied whites and reds will be the all-around best choices. You might also try Viognier, Riesling or Merlot.

You may come across buzz about Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau is one of the earliest of the French wines released from the current year’s harvest and typically hits the stores in North America around the 15th of November each year. A mellow, fruity and approachable red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with many flavors. That coupled with the timely release means it shows up on many Thanksgiving tables. I have paired this wine with Thanksgiving dinner for a couple years in a row with positive results, but for the last two years I wasn’t that impressed with the wine itself. The 2005 vintage was my favorite of the last 5 years and the 2008 vintage will be tasted independently of the Thanksgiving holiday for me this year.

If you live in the northeastern United States you might not realize the next domestic wine revolution is underway. With so many unique wine varieties available your options have never been so vast. Many of these wines, which are made from grapes that tolerate the colder climate, offer flavors and aromas that pair well with the distinctive seasonal tastes of New England. Choosing some local wines to put on the Thanksgiving table can be a worthwhile adventure and a wonderful reflection of the traditions we honor at this time of year.

Wine List for our 2008 Thanksgiving

2008 Ancient Fire Chardonnay (no oak) – this is the starter with the salad, cheese and crackers.
2005 George Deboeuf Beaujolais Villages – I expect this will pair well with the turkey and the sides.
2007 Candia Vineyard Diamond – this slightly sweet and fruity cold weather grape wine should help the transition to dessert.

Some of this information might seem non-committal and circular and if you were thinking this you were paying attention. The best wine and food pairing are the ones you try and like. The person to your right, whose elbows keeping jabbing into your side, might disagree entirely with your take on a pairing. As a host your goal is to provide options that are balanced and do not create strong negative reactions for a broad range of tastes. Not getting it right once only means you have to come back and try again.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wine progress update.

The peach beer went into the bottle today. It is going to need some charging time and I hope for a good bit of fizz to help it taste more sophisticated.

I checked on all but the plum wine today and I am very excited. Amongst the reds the Cab that was started in March is coming along the best, I guess nine months since it was started is meaningful. Assuming I need to let the others age that long I won't be bottling anything until mid-year 2009!

The Riesling and G are coming along well. The funny taste and aroma are gone. I am awaiting a bit more of a drop in the outdoor temperature so that I can get the acid crystals to drop out. With a little patience and a light back sweetening I think we will have some wonderful wines to drink.

I opened a bottle of the 2007 Amarone last night. This batch went into the bottle in the early spring of 2007 so it has aged almost 18 months. It has come a long way and is very rich and powerful. I couldn't have hoped for a better result.


-- Jason

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So the Riesling and G are coming along, but I am a bit suspect based on the taste and how dry they are. I think I need to increase my patience further with the fresh juice wines and for these two let them clear on their own. I also plan to use the New England cold to help stabilize these new whites, the reds won't need it as I understand it.

LaBelle Winery in Bedford is having an open house on 11/22. Check their web site for more information.

-- Jason

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All four of the newest wines, Riesling, G, Amarone and Cab were racked to clean glass this week. The tastes that come through the yeast and CO2 are pretty good, with the Amarone the farthest along based on taste alone.

We had some homemade ribs with a Penfolds Hyland Shiraz last night. The wine was magnificent and worked really well with the smoky and spicy ribs.

We went to Jewell Towne in South Hampton NH this week and enjoyed a tasting with Peter and his staff. Many of the varities available for tasting will be unique if you are not already aware of the types commonly grown in New England. The Traminette was the mutual favorite.