Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Steelhead Red

I'm working on a wine article about blends and came across this interesting one from the North Coast of California. The Steelhead Red consists mostly of Zinfandel but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

It was a little hot at first, lots of alcohol in this baby. But as it opened I got more dark berries, some cocoa and easy tannins. Another good BBQ wine in my opinion and an affordable one in the $15 range.

But perhaps best of all, you may just feel better when you drink this wine. Not because of the 14.2% alcohol content, but because a portion of the sales from each bottle helps to fund conservation efforts for the steelhead trout and coho salmon in Northern California. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Merlot

The last couple of Wine Wednesday selections have been about items new to me and  also the area in which I live. And while I usually just pick just one wine, today I've decided to pick one grape; two bottles.

I like to experiment so when I looked on my counter this week and saw two bottles of merlot (when I typically have none), I decided to try them side by side. I thought it would be especially fun since they appeared to be so different, at least geographically; one from Chile, the other from California.

First up was Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. This was exactly what I expected from an entry level California merlot. It was juicy with lots of plums and some vanilla. The wine was smooth and went down the hatch easily. A good wine for your Memorial Day cookout, especially considering the price; in the $10 and under range.

I've tried a few of the Casillero del Diablo wines but never the Merlot. This one comes from Chile and I could immediately taste a difference. While still full of lush dark fruit, this one was more herbal, a common characteristic of Chilean wines. I also tasted some cocoa. There was a bit more structure and it costs a few more dollars; but only a few. Another good choice for holiday grilling!

Both wines are good values and easy to find. Perhaps you have done similar experiments? Let me know! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tequila For Dinner

I've been to countless wine dinners, a rum dinner but never a tequila dinner; that is until last week at Agave Southwestern Grill in Naples, FL. The restaurant recently upgraded and updated the regular menu but I knew on this night we were in for an extra special treat from the kitchen.

We had four courses of food and different 1800 Tequilas. The tequilas were poured on their own, in addition, they were mixed into  specialty mini-margaritas.

The first course set the bar pretty high; butter-poached lobster over a roasted mushroom and gulf shrimp crepe. It was paired with 1800 Blanco, the youngest spirit of the night. The blanco was also mixed in to a refreshing lemon rosemary tart-rita. On it's own it added spice to the dish and in the margarita it cut through the heavy butter for a near seamless combination.

Next up, a pan-searted yellow tail on top of spiced sweet potato sticks, a chipotle-corn nage and avocado tomatillo relish. The 1800 Reposado was richer with a bit of a butterscotch on the palate. It was also mixed into a ginger pear margarita that was not as sweet as I was expecting. The combination worked well.

Third course was braised short ribs with roasted root vegetables, whipped boniatos and chile negro. I could taste more oak and vanilla in the 1800 Anejo. The aged spirit was also mixed into a pomegranate sage margarita. I liked the spicy tequila with the sweet roots and the sage was a great companion to the tender meat.

The last pairing was my least favorite; margarita cheesecake with orange-lime marmalade and lime dust. The dessert itself was outstanding, but I did not like it paired with the 1971 Cream tequila and the berry cobblerita. The cream tequila on it's own reminded me of a Baileys; try it for something different. However, when mixed in the cocktail it separated and tasted like bubble gum. Hey three smashes out of four ain't bad!

Agave often has tequila dinners, so check their website or call the restaurant for upcoming dates. You can even plan your own. This particular night was a special event put on by Impact Initiative as a fund raiser for the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida. I think I can speak for all of the ladies in attendance when I say we had one heck of a festive, fun time while raising money for a great cause!

Agave Southwestern Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Casarena

When the words "wine" and "Argentina" are mentioned in the same sentence, typically the next thing that pops into my head is "Malbec".  Just because Malbec is the signature grape ot the South American country doesn't mean it's the only one grown, and certainly not the only one done well.

My Wine Wednesday feature is a reserve Cabernet Ssuvignon from Casarena; another wine that is new to Southwest Florida. I sat down with Martin Perez Cambet, Commercial Manager for Casarena, at Bistro 41 yesterday. We began tasting the winery's entry level, 505 label. I would order ANY of these wines without hesitation, including the Chardonnay. They are amazing values in the $10 range. Next up were the Estate wines, also phenomenal values in the $15-$20 range.

But the big dawg was this lovely Reserva. It smelled a bit like raisins and I could tell the alcohol content was high, about 15%. The grapes come from old vines, with lots of sun exposure. The result is a wine that is ripe, with strong tannins, herbs, spice, dark chocolate and dark fruit. Its structure and elegance far surpasses the price tag; in the $25 range.

While tasting it, Cambet said it felt like the sun of Mendoza in a glass. Having been there, I couldn't agree more.  Cheers!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Friulano

It's Wine Wednesday! WOW have I had some great wines this week, not to brag, but what the hell: Kistler Cuvee Elizabeth, 2002 Nickel & Nickel Carpenter Vineyard,  2005 Nickel & Nickel Dragonfly Vineyard, 2007 Zenato Amarone del Valpolicella, Veuve Clicquot, 2006 Swanson Rosato and a 2010 Casa Nuestra Rosado to name a few. Thanks to my friends; Jonathan, Ali, Frank and Angie. I could not just pick one for Wine Wednesday, especially since it would be hard to find all but one of them.

That being said I was recently turned on to a fabulous Italian white grape called Friulano. It's indigenous to the Friuli region in northeast Italy. The Livio Felluga Friulano surprised me with it's elegance and depth of flavors. It's in the $30 range, retail.

It has flavors of nuts and apricots with a spicy finish. There is a good balance of acidity and it went well with a basic meat and cheese tray that my friend was serving. A unique wine, good with food or on its own. As my friend "French Tony" said while sipping, "ooooooo, ees beautiful, no?" Me, "Yes! Yes! and YES!"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Tariquet

This is the time of year where I can't take time off from work physically. But mentally, I took a road trip this week to a nearby place called France; you may've heard of it?

Ithier Bouchard from Domaine du Tariquet arrived in Florida at 1am, by 2pm I was sampling his crisp whites and unique Bas-Armagnac, with my friends at The Twisted Vine Bistro in Downtown Fort Myers.

Tariquet is a family owned vineyard in Gascony, in south-west France. For Wine Wednesday I've picked their entry level, flagship wine: 2012 Domaine du Tariquet Classic.
This wine consistently wins awards for it's unique blend and great value; in the $10 range for retail. The 2012 is mostly Ugni Blanc and Colombard,  mixed with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc and Gros Manseng. The result is a fresh, grassy wine with crisp citrus and juicy tropical fruits. Another great summer find.

A number of restaurants are pouring Tariquets other wines, but Bistro 41 at the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers and the Wine Merchant in Naples currently have this blend. You wont be disappointed. Bouchard talks more about the wine here: