Got Merlot?

  Farmgirl in Saint Émilion (right bank of Bordeaux) November 2016   “You had me at hello.” A line made famous by Dorothy Boyd, the love interest in the film “Jerry Maguire.” However, if Dorothy had been a sommelier, she may have said, “You had me at Merlot.” And, with good reason. Merlot, French for little blackbird because of its very dark fruit, is naturally versatile, acclimating to different climate zones and soil compositions, which, over time, have made it the second most planted red grape on the planet, behind its brother from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot can be big and rich, but also fruity and soft, without being overly high in acids or tannins. These characteristics make Merlot an elegant and easy choice to drink as well as pair with food. If that doesn’t spark your interest in Merlot, maybe this will.  You know all those famous red wines from Bordeaux? Wines that are considered some of the best in the world?  Well, they’re all blended with Merlot.  And, many are mostly Merlot—especially, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary in the Bordeaux appellation, where it’s the law that Merlot has to be the predominant grape.  Of course, the most famous Merlot wine is undoubtedly Pétrus (100% Merlot) from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux.  This highly collectable wine can fetch several thousand dollars, depending on its vintage. You may not be as familiar with Merlot’s positive attributes, especially post “Sideways”—a 2004 film […]

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Wine Basics: The Five Ss

Wine requires two assessments:  Subjective and Objective.  Just because we like a wine, doesn’t mean it’s a great wine.  One way to illustrate this point is with art.  You may not want to hang a reproduction of a Claude Monet painting in your home, but you agree that Monet is a great artist. So, getting to the point where you have both a subjective and objective opinion is one of the most rewarding stages in developing knowledge and comfort in wine; thus, allowing you to separate your liking of something from its quality. So, the point is this:  You can love a wine but understand that it’s not a great wine.  For example, I have weekly wines and weekend wines.  Weekly wines are inexpensive wines ($15-25) we enjoy with our simple evening meals; however, weekend wines are the special ones ($50 or more) we may take to a favorite gourmet restaurant that has a corkage fee. Most of us know what we like, but having an objective opinion means increasing our knowledge base. So, let’s get started! The Five Ss: –See –Swirl –Sniff –Sip –Savor All together, they’ll enable you to maximize your enjoyment of your next glass of wine. SEE A wine’s color can tell you a lot: Taste, intensity, condition, and most likely, its aromas and flavors. The best way to examine the color is to tilt the glass over a white surface, such as a white table […]

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All That Sparkles

I absolutely love fizzy and sparkling wines!  And, since New Year’s Eve celebrations are fast approaching, I thought it may be fun and helpful to share some information about Champagne and sparkling wines. Champagne: First, all that sparkles isn’t Champagne.  Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France and made in the traditional method (méthode champenoise). The traditional method is a labor intensive, multi-step process (two fermentations) that contributes to the expense.  Champagne can be made from three grapes:  chardonnay and red-skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier.  Sometimes the label will use the terms “blanc de blancs” meaning the wine was made from white grapes, or “blanc de noirs” indicating that the Champagne is a white wine made from the dark pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties. There are also different levels of dryness/sweetness in Champagne: Brut Nature/Brut Zero:  Bone dry.  No residual sugar. Extra Brut:  very dry Brut: very dry to dry Extra-Sec or Extra Dry:  off-dry to medium dry Sec:  medium dry Demi-Sec:  sweet Doux:  super sweet *Special note:  More Champagne houses from France are opening vineyards in California: Roederer Estate (by Champagne Louis Roederer), Domaine Chandon (by Moët & Chandon), Mumm Napa (by G.H. Mumm), and Domaine Carneros (by Taittinger) are a few of the French producers in California. Sparkling Wines: Crémant:  French sparkling wine that is made outside of the Champagne region in France but produced using the traditional […]

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Drops of Jupiter…And a Little Bit of Heavenl

Fattoria della Talosa–Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Ornellaia–Super-Tuscan, Cordella–Montalcino   In May 2018, I spent a delightful week in Tuscany.  I wasn’t alone, though.  Melody, author of the blog, Meals With Mel accompanied me on this little adventure around Florence and the Tuscan countryside.  We had a fabulous time wandering around the beautiful city of Florence and marveling at the many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture—including the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. We visited The Galleria dell’ Accademia which displays Michelangelo’s, “David” sculpture as well as the Uffizi Gallery which exhibits Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus.” Once in the countryside, we enjoyed lots of sunshine and blue skies while truffle hunting at a beautiful farm and vineyard called, Fattoria Santa Vittoria.  And, of course, we had some of the most beautiful wines in the world—mainly, but not entirely, comprised of the Sangiovese grape, an Italian red grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter.” For those of you who may not be familiar with the wines of central Italy, The Apennine Mountains, which run the length of the Italian Peninsula, dominant the wine regions of this area. Grapes are planted in the hills and valleys of this mountain range with altitude providing a moderating influence on the hot climate.  It’s also important to mention that the coastal areas on both sides of the country […]

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So, What Vintage Are You?

Farmgirl celebrating her 4th birthday   September is my birthday month, and thankfully, I’m turning another year older.  I am now firmly into my fourth decade–or as Farmguy corrected–fifth decade, because you count 0 to 10 as your first decade…..okay—whatever!  The bottom line….I am forty-something and well into the journey of my life.  And, with this understanding, I started considering […]

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My Favorite Champagne and Food Pairing

Champagne, despite common misconceptions, shouldn’t be reserved as a special occasion-only wine. With its varying levels of acidity and texture, and rich layers of flavor, Champagne is incredibly versatile and pairs perfectly with a wide variety of foods. So, what are the rules when it comes to Champagne pairings? First of all, complimenting the notes and flavors of the Champagne […]

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Food, Wine, and Fellowship

Photography:  Courtesy of Douglas Frassa   “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” –Plautus   “I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.” –Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield   As a wine enthusiast and someone who’s recently completed the Level 3 Award in Wines with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), I’ve grown to enjoy different kinds and styles of wines as well as learning how and where they’re made.  Not only do I delight in a glass of wine from an exceptional vintage, but what is truly great is when wine is paired perfectly with food; both are better for the pairing.  In my opinion, it’s the same thing when people get together for a meal–the fellowship makes the food more pleasurable, and both are better because of the pairing.  When all of these elements align, a transcendence occurs; and, the act of eating becomes much more–especially, when a talented chef, gracious staff, and good friends are involved. A number of years ago, I experienced dining out as an artful experience in a nearby town.  The restaurant, located in Roanoke, Virginia, was called Horizon Bar and Grill.  Don’t let the location or the unassuming name of the restaurant fool you. The chef and our friend, Scott Lockhart, was the artistic talent and creative energy behind the weekly/ monthly wine dinners and beautiful seasonal menus at his family’s […]

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Wine Basics: The Five Ss

Wine requires two assessments:  Subjective and Objective.  Just because we like a wine, doesn’t mean it’s a great wine.  One way to illustrate this point is with art.  You may not want to hang a reproduction of a Claude Monet painting in your home, but you agree that Monet is a great artist. So, getting to the point where you […]

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Ankida Ridge Vineyard: Where Heaven and Earth Join

Ankida Ridge Vineyards Amherst County, Virginia October 2018   With an elevation of around 1800 ft, a steep southeast aspect, and weathered granite soils over 500,000 million years old, Ankida Ridge’s name is befitting its breathtaking splendor—“Ankida,” an ancient Sumerian word which means where heaven and earth join. It’s definitely one of the most stunning vineyards I’ve visited.  Located in […]

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