Friday, February 22, 2013

Boston Wine Expo 2013 – Thank You & Highlights

The 2013 Boston Wine Expo has come and gone. Overall I thought it was another well executed and well attended event. There were many wines, lots of foods to sample, an array of lifestyle vendors and all together I saw lots of smiling faces.

Thank You!

A number of thank you’s are owed. The organizers of the Boston Wine Expo took great care of a group of bloggers who were on hand sharing their experiences and creating buzz for others who might be watching the social networks for updates about the expo. My two-day admission to the Grand Tasting was comped, I was provided with tickets to give away to readers (Congrats to Kurt, Liz and Wayne!) as well as a discount code to share with blog visitors who might be interested in attending.

( Bloggers and wine reps tasting & learning at the Boston Wine Expo. )

During the event there was a "Blogger Lounge" overlooking the expo floor where coffee and water was available, and several times each day vendors were invited to pour wines and engage with us on the labels they represent in a more personal setting. Volunteers working in the lounge were able to answer questions on where seminars were located and what other facilities were available at the show. Nicely done!

Thank you's go out to

Resource Plus (Sharon, Janet and others)
Boston Guild of Oenophilists
All the vendors, sponsors, supporters
Boston Express (for getting me there and back safely both days)

Attending the Expo both days I had the pleasure of cruising the show floor looking for interesting wines with several groups of friends. It was great to meet Liz (@travelwinechick) in person. I had a great time with Richard (@RichardPF), Kurt, Christi, Todd (@vtwinemedia), Wayne and Meredith. Marie (@mariepayton) and I missed each other on Sunday afternoon, but it turned in to a cute joke about whether I was really there! Chatting with Terry (@drinkinsider) and Ray (@frenchoaktv) about beverages was fun as always! It was also nice to see Elizabeth and Matthew, at the Finger Lakes tables no less, fellow NH food and wine explorers who I've run into a couple time at events. I didn’t cover as much ground as I originally planned (I'm always optimistic!) and some of the highlights I’ll share next were worthy of a return visit on the second day so I could share them with friends who hadn’t tasted them yet.

One suggestion I have for the event organizers is that it would be eminently more helpful to attendees who might want to “plan ahead” to have the vendor list and floor map electronically (a PDF would be fine, but smart-phone-app it if you think that will help) for review ahead of the event. Would delivering the label and vendor information via a smart phone app be better here? Actually I don’t think so, and not just for this information specifically. Something more social in nature (like the Second Glass Wine Riot App) might indeed be successful with the right features and promotion.

The Social Media café in the middle of the expo floor had tweets from the event scrolling and the folks from Drync were promoting their direct shipping app active for the wines from the event in this same location. I don’t have an iPhone so I didn’t get involved in the Drync smartphone app activity.

( Social Media Lounge )

The first-thing-in-the-morning trade sessions are always the best opportunity to learn more about the wines, where they are from and how they are made, something I use to take the “pulse” of the industry. There just aren't as many people to fight through. I heard a number of reps talk about freshness, concentration of flavors but not necessarily color in red wines, and more restrained use of new oak. The recent vintages are primarily 2009 and 2010 with many reps suggesting that these years either are already or are beginning to taste well. Plenty of 2007 and 2008 wines were also poured, and I’d have to cross reference my notes before I could say which of the two groups was legitimately tasting better.

One aspect of the event that I had some conversations about on Saturday but really witnessed first-hand visually on Sunday was the change in balance between wine & food/lifestyle vendors and non-wine floor space. There appeared to be fewer tables pouring wines. On the flip side the event didn’t seem any less well attended, and I heard great things about the food, so until more feedback comes my way can't say whether this was a good or bad change.

During the afternoon sessions, when the crowd at each table was generally much larger, I took more opportunities to talk with fellow expo attendees. I love the diversity of the attendees to events like this. I talked with two women about their “wine" club (started as "book") and the challenge of consistently finding values that are both new and interesting. I sent them over to check out the Spanish and Portuguese wines where I knew they will find wines that fit the need. The three of us also talked about sensory exercises that groups of wine enthusiasts could use to sharpen their tasting skills which they can then turn around and use to explore and better develop a sense of what they like. I was excited to have a wine culture conversation with them, because in the end the Boston Wine Expo wouldn’t really be successful if it didn’t increase the desire of casual and enthusiastic drinkers  to explore more of the world of wine. I really hope these two ladies do in fact check out my blog and email me their wine questions. I’d love to share what I know to help pick the next destination in the journey.

Hey Jason, how about the wines?

Highlights from the Boston Wine Expo 2013
(in no particular order)

Sparkling wine is a constant curiosity for me now. I think it is the texture. There is so much range and I am always looking for new and interesting textures to try. The elegance of the Berlucchi Franciacorta sparkling wines was joyful to experience. Both were crisp and clean with fine, prickly bubbles. The rosé style was just a hint sweet, pale pink in color and tasted of crushed, dried flowers.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape & Rhones

I didn't spend enough time at the Chateauneuf-du-Pape & Rhones tables because I didn't find anything that really grabbed me. The most recent vintage of both seemed leaner and more austere to me than the profile in minds-eye.

The Finger Lakes Region

The Finger Lakes region had a great presence at the Boston Wine Expo again. As a disciple of the products AND the region I have tried enough of the wines and visited some of the region to know that there is little chance one would be disappointed to visit and taste. Get out the word!

With a combination of wineries, wine trail groups and the local winery associations the Finger Lakes region had 10 tables in total! I tasted some of the Riesling at Wagner Vineyards, the Gruner at Dr. Frank's, Seyval from Hunt Country, the Ravines 2011 Dry Riesling and Game Bird Red from Heron Hill, which I found particularly interesting. I heard great things from others about many of the same wines as well as both the Cabernet France and Meritage blend from Wagner. 

I had a chance to talk with Katie Roller and Stephen Lee from Wagner about their Expo experiences. They both agreed that there had been lots of consumer interest in the wines and they were answering lots of questions. I brought several groups of friends by to check out what the region is doing. It made me realize I need to plan another warm-weather trip to the area!

( Lots of activity around the Finger Lakes tables! )

Garrafeira Vinho Tinto Alentejo 2002

Of all the red wines I tasted at the Expo Grand Tasting this wine was the most interesting. It has a spiciness to it that is so complex. I easily detected black pepper and brown spices, but there was so much more that was elusive. I am still somewhat unfamiliar with Portuguese wines so I can only rely on feedback from friends that suggests that this spicy attribute is something I can explore more with wines from different parts of the country. Exciting!

Nobody is going to be surprised that I mention Moonlight after a tasting event. Rock solid as always. Fran was working the table when I visited with friends and he nailed some rather specific fermentation questions (asked by a friend) with confidence, which of course made me smile. I got to taste some Utopian, which is always a pleasure. The current batch is tasting drier to me than I recall. I might have to invest in some to do further periodic tasting!

( Experienced Romance by the Glass with Moonlight Meadery. )

You got it, more sparkling wine! 

I tasted the Anna Codorníu Rosé in the Blogger Lounge on Sunday and tasted the Brut at the Codorníu Raventos table a bit later that day. Both are crisp and focused, and the rosé being as dry as it is it finishes with a blast of tart red fruits.

Corte Di Dionoso Amarone

This wasn't the best Amarone I tasted all weekend, but it was a very delicious start. I didn't write the vintage down but I believe it was a 2007. Richly fruity but with a surprising angularity and dryness to it. The typical stylistic sweetness was not in the proportion I expected for a young wine. Still being a medium plus bodied wine it finishes with an restrained sweetness that almost tastes like it was made in the lean vintage.

Stay tuned for a post on the Soave & Amarone seminar I went to on Sunday of the Expo.

Beverages made from apples and I are great friends. Sparkling ciders made with heirloom, vintage and traditional cider apples can be all as elegant as Champagne, but bring their own unique aromas and flavors thanks to the apple. I love them.

The Neige Sparkling Apple Wine has a balanced apple profile with flavors of both tart cider apple as well as those I more associate with dessert apples. It is plenty carbonated and served cold would be a fine stand in for something sparkling made from grapes. The cidre de glace (ice cider) is viscous liquid apple sugar. Definitely a very fine taste and an example where hard work and a concentration of resources can create something highly sought after!

This wine is from the new-to-me region of Mallorca, which is the largest of the Balearic Islands off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Made from a blend of Mantonegro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this wine presents a good balance of fruit and earth with an interesting savory element to the finish. This was the boldest and most characterful wine of the offerings from Son Prim in my opinion.

Roberto Ceraudo Rosé

Both of these rosé wines are made with the Gaglioppo grape in Calabria, Italy. The silver label is aged in old barriques and the copper label is not. Both wines were very straightforward and smooth with the expected hints of lees and oxidation/oxygenation from the barrel aging in the silver label version. The ability to taste the same wine made in two ways was an exciting opportunity. In research the wines, they are not yet distributed in the US, found the following article from The Wine Traveller on the wines and their producer.

I don't have a lot of experience with the grape Aglianico, but I do know that when used to make a decent wine the grape adds a layer of wildness to the mix that excites me. This wine also includes some Sangiovese, a combination used in many areas where both grapes are grown in Italy. The wine is flavorful but not demanding, dry with a nice thread of acidity that builds through the finish. A very food friendly wine and also one that could take a chill and bring refreshment on a hot day. And all for likely between $11-13!

Those are only some of the highlights from the weekend. I estimate I tasted about 100-120 wines over the course of two days, and while my perceptions were mixed, there were plenty of wines that would be worth another taste in a different setting.

Next up will be separate posts on the two seminars I attended during the expo. One was on Bourbon and the other included both Soave and Amarone!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Half Full Glass - February 21st, 2013

Tie Kuan Yin Oolong Tea

I don't really know anything about tea, and I know absolutely nothing about this style or this source (is it reputable or not to start?), but I do know that the tea tastes wonderful!

The text on the side of the tin says that it is an Oolong tea from the Anxi area of Fujian Province in China. The Wikipedia entry confirms the particulars and also has some interesting information about the style and origin. Other web sources identified this style of Oolong as much desired and typically heavier than its siblings.

For me the tea is nutty and earthy, toasted also comes to mind. It is medium bodied with a touch of acidity or tartness in the finish. I've enjoyed it both warm and cool.

What I do know about Oolong tea is that many varieties can be brewed more than once, and in some cases the second or third brewing is the most desirable. I have tried this on a limited number of occasions with several different styles of Oolong experiencing a range of second and third running's; some I liked more than others.

I typically buy my tea at C-Mart on Lincoln Street in Boston. They have a broad selection of basic bulk teas and plenty of "interesting" varieties in bag form. Teas designed for specific maladies are not something I would recommend trying however. I would rather work by varietal and know up front about any added flowers or plants in a more straightforward way!

C-Mart is not a tea shop, actually a full service Asian grocery which is also useful, so I don't believe the teas are "fine" in anyway. That said my experience with several dozen varieties of tea from there has been positive. I typically look for the clean, newer contains and some can be opened to inspect the date sticker on the vacuum sealed package to find the teas that have been sitting in the store the shortest time.



Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Half Full Glass - February 14th, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

No matter what you are doing today/tonight I sincerely I hope you are enjoying it. Being a Valentine with you based solely upon that wish is my pleasure. Cheers!

The last three Wednesday's have been fun. We started with a mead/beer cocktail livening up the mood with fruit & chocolate flavors and then enjoyed a homemade rose petal wine with a humorously romantic twist, and we finished yesterday with a flirty little sparkling cocktail!

I also shared a beer specific take on Valentine's Day in the February edition of On Tap in Taste of Seacoast Magazine.



Drink Three for Valentine's Day

I'm calling my new creation Cupid's Arrow. Why? Cause it sounds good for Valentine's Day. I'm actually drinking this the day before, so it doesn't really count anyway. Who knows what I'll be sipping with the dinner I am making for my wife for Valentine's Day tomorrow night!

Last week I sliced some strawberries and soaked them Cognac and sugar. Functioning primarily as a garnish I didn't really need to do this, but planning ahead added some nuance to the final outcome. For the drink I placed 1 marinated strawberry in a regular wine glass, then measured 3 ounces of strawberry mead, 1 ounce of the strawberry/sugar infused Cognac, a splash of lemon juice and poured them into  the glass. I filled the glass with a sweet sparkling wine and named it Cupid's Arrow.

Cupid's Arrow
3 parts strawberry mead
1 part strawberry infused Cognac
splash of lemon juice
sweet sparkling wine

At first I thought of making something like Rosa Regale, one of Margot's favorite sparklers, but I didn't want to bump up the drink with lots of sugar to match the sweetness. What I ended up with was more like carbonated strawberry lemonade, and so delicious! The strawberry is subtle, the Cognac gives it a little richness and the bubbles make it fun!



Friday, February 8, 2013

My Half Full Glass - February 7th, 2013

Balcones Blue Corn Whisky

I was curious about Baby Blue, a blue corn whisky from Balcones in Waco, TX, after I heard that I might be able to get their used barrels for my home fermentation projects. After tasting the finished product I can say with absolute surety that I would be one happy zymurgist working with some of the barrels used to make it!

It pours an amber color. There is a smoky element to the nose. The corn is roasted before use, which is a good bet for the source of the smoke in the aromas. I also nosed figs, maple and brown spices. This whisky is sweet and meaty and the smoke aromas/flavors push it into more of a Scotch profile.

At only 46% alcohol this whisky is smooth but does have a punch of alcohol in the finish. I would easily drink this neat or with a single rock whenever I found it available. It would also work well in any whisky cocktails that are slightly sweet.



You Gonna to Stop and Smell the Roses?

I continue my three act beverage tour for Valentine's Day in the second installment this week. I'll be honest right away and say that this week didn't go as planned (this being posted on Friday instead of Wednesday to start) and the post had its own twist even before that because the drink I am sharing isn't ready!

Most guys at least consider getting their significant other flowers on Valentine's Day. Some actually follow through and well, I wish everyone involved well no matter what.  I've bought my share of flowers for my wife, but this year I also incorporated flowers into by home fermentation projects. I made a rose petal wine.

I was inspired to do this by my friend in winemaking Alan from Montana. He and I ferment offbeat wines and love doing it. We've both made fruit wines, strawberry in particular, fruit/grape blends,  and wines made from flowers, plants and herbs aren't at all strange to us! I had Alan's rose petal wine in 2012 and it blew my mind. A rose colored wine with huge rose aromatics, the few sips I had were sweet with good tannic structure. I knew I would eventually try my own hand at this wine.

The wine is pretty simple to make, dried rose petals (organic, untreated) are steeped in hot water to release color, aromas, flavors and tannins. The hot water is strained and combined with sugar and acid to create a simple rose-infused batch of sugar water. The fermentation went slowly and smoothly and the aromatics and flavors stayed strong through completion.

And that's about as far as we have gotten. There is a considerable amount of trapped gas in the wine and I am trying to not intervene so I don't destroy this delicate wine. I did however have a small amount of overflow that I stored in the fridge so I can give you an early taste.

Sweetened, iced, rose tea. That is what it tastes like. I captured and retained enough tannins for it to be very tea-like in texture.  When it is clear I expect the color to be dark reddish purple. The nose is flowers all the way.  This wine is a delightful sipper which can easily put you and your significant other in a romantic mood.

Since this wine isn't done yet, it will be interesting to see exactly where I end up. If I had to guess I would say that I will end up sweetening this wine just a tad. It has plenty of acid and tannin so I doubt I'll need to do anything there. I plan to make a small batch of a mead blend with it, something that might be one of my big "offbeat" winners!



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Building a Better Homemade Beverage

Last year (2012) I asked friends and fans for ideas about flavors and styles of home-fermented beverages I should try. Huge responses came in for mango and cranberry, and oddly enough quite a few also came in for savory ingredients including chili peppers. Here's how that worked out:
  • A mango infused mead, which started with a base of orange and vanilla (a current fave) is done and ready to drink!
  • A cranberry wine, and a mead variant, will take final forms later in the spring. All the base wine is clear and aging right now. 
  • Both our lemon and lime beers have consistently shown well at home, and the lemon (a riff on a Shandy) took a first place last year. 
  • A three-chili mead won Best in Show at a regional competition last Fall. Once I can grow peppers outside again this year, a new batch of this is on the list. And I'm going to go bigger than one gallon!
Clearly our collective efforts (and I say our) were successful. Got any more crazy ideas?