Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pinot Noir: The Elegant Grape

   Since spring officially sprung over a month ago and the weather can't seem to make up it's mind, I thought I would give a shout out to my red “of the moment”, Pinot Noir, before we leap right into summer. During the colder months, I tend to gravitate towards a single red varietal (specific wine or grape), sampling different brands. The gravitational pull typically occurs while I am out socially at a bar or dining with friends. My home wine cooler, however, is always stocked with an assortment to satisfy my other red wine urges.
   The name Pinot Noir comes from the French words “pine” and “black”, referring to the dark purple pine cone shaped clusters of fruit that grow on the vines. Grown mostly in cooler climates, it thrives in France (Burgundy and Champagne), northern Italy, western Germany, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States to name a few. The latter is recognized as one of the major Pinot producers in the world with its most notable examples coming from California's Sonoma County, Central Coast's Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County and Willamette Valley in Oregon.
   A dry wine, Pinot Noir is light to medium bodied with cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry on the nose and palate. Hints of warm spices also come through in the fuller bodied Pinots; cinnamon, clove and smokey tobacco.
   Also a flexible wine, Pinot Noir can be paired with a variety of ethnic cuisines and traditional favorites. Ideal pairings include chicken, pork, beef, fish, lamb, wild game, mushrooms, fresh herbs, cheese and chocolate. The best cheese pairings are Asiago, Blue, Brie, Camembert, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Havarti and Swiss.
   A few of my favorite Pinots come from the aforementioned areas above:
  • 2011 Hahn Estates Pinot Noir - While out celebrating the New Year with some friends this January, we uncorked a bottle (maybe it was two!) of this Pinot. Hailing from Soledad, CA (Monterey County), this wine retails for about $11.99, though in the restaurant we paid about $40.00, which always kills me.
  • 2010 Firesteed Oregon Pinot Noir - At a tasting in a local wine store, I sampled this Pinot, from Rickereall, OR  (Willamette Valley). The winemaker procures the fruit from the Willamette, Umpqua, Rogue and Walla Walla Valleys, producing a genuine Oregon blend. It retails for about $13.99.
  • 2009 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir - Awhile back I did a wine exchange with a friend and she shared this Pinot from Valle Central, Chile. Do not let the price scare you; I have seen it for as low as $4.99. It definitely competes with any of the more expensive Pinots.
  • 2009 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir - My friends at the Marriott recently recommended this Pinot from Central Otago, New Zealand. I found this one became smoother, the longer I let it breathe. It retails for about $28.79.
Whether you enjoy it on its own, with a mushroom risotto, steak fajitas, or chocolate-covered strawberries, Pinot Noir is known for being one of the more elegant grape varietals. However you fancy it, just crack open your favorite bottle or one of the ones I have mentioned and share your experience. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cin Cin!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gem of a Wine Store

   Last weekend I discovered a gem of a wine store in New Jersey of all places. Gary's Wine and Marketplace, however, is not just a wine store; it is a one-stop shop for wine, beer, spirits, gourmet items and wine related gifts. With a few locations throughout New Jersey, I stumbled upon the place on Route 23 in Wayne, NJ thanks to my friend Liz.
   Just as Charlie Bucket entered the Chocolate Room at the Wonka Factory in awe, I stood in the doorway with the same wonder, gazing at all the bottles at my disposal. A courteous wine advisor immediately asked if I needed assistance. Not sure if he was just doing his job or if he thought I required medical attention, I let him know I needed a moment to myself, as I absorbed what lay before me.
   I finally composed myself and mentally came up with a plan of action. With six-pack bag in hand, I made my way around the store like a giddy kid. I must have looked confused as I pin-balled around the store in excitement; another adviser asked if I needed help. While we stood in front of the Italy section I searched for a Montepulciano I recently had. He suggested a popular brand they sell – 2010 Natale Verga Montepulciano. It was a fine recommendation, decently priced; I uncorked it that evening. It has a very smooth finish; I would definitely buy it again.
   As I made my way around the reds and filled my bag with other great deals, I worked up a sweat, started thinking about the warm weather ahead and a crisp rose. He led me to the front of the store to a dozen or so on display. At this point I also discovered they do tastings every Saturday from 12pm-4pm (4 wines per person). I sampled a rose 2012 Mas de Cadenet which was dry, light and fresh. I immediately added it to my bag, along with another rose from my list. Six-pack complete!
   Before heading to the checkout, I meandered through the gourmet area and the gifts. They appear to have everything you could ever need, from cheese, crackers, and dips to napkins, plates, and gift baskets; Gary has thought of it all. If you cannot make it to New Jersey, their website is amazing as well. You can order everything online or join a wine club.
   So if you ever find yourself in, passing through or lost in New Jersey, you definitely should wander into Gary's Wine and Marketplace. In the time it takes to make a Jersey u-turn, you may uncover some really great wines!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Welcome, Wineaux! (pronounced Wy-noze)

     On this, April 17 Malbec World Day, it only seems apropos that I write my very first entry and introduce you all to Wineaux. Many of you who know me are aware that I have been an oenophile (a lover of wines) for some time. Since I started working again full-time over a year ago, I really miss the free time I had to roam the local wine stores, to visit events and tastings or to attend a class.
     Before returning to work, I was unemployed for nine months and spent hours in the wine stores, scanning the shelves, just reading the labels and wine descriptions. It brought me such joy; I used to joke that I would have dusted the bottles and shelves for free (or for a bottle or two!). 
     At the time I was also taking a really intense wine class. Once a week for twenty-four weeks, me and a room full of twenty-somethings learned about grape varieties, regulation and legislation, climate, geography, soil, industry statistics, and specific grape growing and winemaking techniques. It was a lot to absorb while sipping six to eight wines each week. 
     Now over a year later I find myself frustrated, with little time to spare to do the things I enjoy most. This page was created as a way to express myself, uncork my enthusiasm and dispense my knowledge for wine. It could be a new store I wander into, a label I like, or a unique wine pairing; everything and anything wine, all brought to you with a touch of humor. It is my hope that you will join me on this new adventure as I believe, deep down inside, we are all wineaux.