Wine Tasting Video Series
Andrea Morgan, CSW, FWS
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Port is a fortified wine made from grapes grown in the Douro River Valley of northern Portugal; fortified meaning a clear grape spirit or brandy is added to the wine. This was traditionally done to preserve the wines for their boat journey to Great Britain. Port wines are stored and aged in Port Houses, downstream from the Douro, in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. While there are white and rose Port wines, sweet Red Port wine is most common; alcohol ranges somewhere between 17%-22%. My favorite red is an aged Tawney Port; the older the better! Port is served like a dessert wine and typically pairs well with chocolate, fruit (red/black berries and figs), nuts, and cheese (blue cheese, Stilton, or any aged, nutty cheese).
Look for a bottle of white Txakoli or "Chacoli" wine made primarily from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape. You will likely find this in the Spanish section of your wine store. It is a refreshing summer wine with a slight bit of spritz. It is traditional paired with Pintxos; a Basque version of small plates or tapas. Txacoli is a wine style, not a grape, and is extremely popular in the autonomous Basque region of Northern Spain. While you can find a rose, red or sparkling Txakoli wine, it is rare. This is because production of these less common styles are small, and are generally consumed by locals. If you want to try making some Northern Basque Pintxos, there are a multitude of cookbooks and online recipes you can find. I would highly recommend watching the late Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown in San Sebastian episode which inspired my visit to this region.
Assyrtiko is the most popular white grape grown on the island of Santorini, Greece. Each ot the island's 18 plus wineries make it into different styles. Sometimes it is made in a single varietal and other times it is blended with the white grapes Aidani or Athiri. It can be oaked, lees aged, and is even made into a sparkler and sweet dessert wine called Vinsanto. When looking for a bottle you will find the label may or may not contain Assyrtiko. You can look for Santorini PDO, Santorini Assyrtiko, or even Nyketeri, which is an oaked blend of Assyrtiko. When tasting this grape, I generally think lemon, wet cement, salinity, and savory notes! Have fun pairing this with salads, seafood, goat/sheep cheese, olives and classic Greek cuisine!
When you pick out your Nerello Mascalese for our tasting this week, look for Etna Rosso DOC. This will contain a minimum of 80% Nerello Mascalese and a maximum of 20% Nerello Cappuccio. If you would like to taste a white wine from the Etna DOC wine growing region look for Etna Bianco DOC. This contains a minimum of 60% of the white Carricante grape blended with a variety of other white authorized grapes. If you are unable to obtain a bottle of our varietal this week go for a Nero d'Avola. It is grown all over Sicily and is widely available. Cheers!
You are going to want an appetizer or some food to go with your Syrah from the Northern Rhone. Try something savory (black olive tempenade), smokey (gouda/gruyere), peppery (beef), or gamey (lamb). If it were winter you could opt for a hearty beef stew, but with summer coming why not grill some meats and mediterranean vegetables. The char from the grilling is a great complement to the smokey, peppery notes that often express in Syrah. To ensure you are getting a bottle of Syrah from the Northern Rhone look for one of the following appellations on your wine label: Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cote-Roti, Saint-Joseph or Cornas.
When purchasing your wine from the Burgandy region of France this week, rest assured, that if it's red, it's a Pinot Noir. There is only one exception to this; avoid purchasing a wine from the Beaujolais district of Burgandy because this will be made from the Gamay grape. There is a wide range or price when it comes to Pinot Noir from Burgandy. The wine label itself reveals a quality classification system ranking wines from the highest quality level of Grand Cru, and working it's way down through the Premier/1er Cru, Commune (Village) Appellations, and Regional Appellations. There are good wines at every quality level, so start anywhere you please!
When you shop for your wine this week, make sure you purchase something from the Champagne region of France. Champagne is a protected place name famous for it's chalky soils. No other sparkling wine producer, even in other areas of France, can put Champagne on their label. Somewhere on your Champagne label you should see Methode Champenoise.
Anyone who has signed up for the Certified Sommelier exam, with Court of Master Sommeliers, knows how daunting and formidable the task at hand can feel. My own choice to pursue the Certified exam emerged from a desire to improve my service and tasting skills. My experience in the industry ranged from working in a wine retail and academy setting, to restaurant beverage consultation & menu development. I had previously completed my French Wine Scholar, and Certified Specialist of Wine exams, and felt fairly confident from a theory perspective.
Once I registered for the exam, I used GuildSomm to e-mail other members in SLC, Utah, USA, to see if there was anyone else in my area taking the Intro or Certified exams. I was unsuccessful in my attempts to connect with a support/tasting group. I engaged my regular wine tasting group to assist me. My colleagues were generous with their support, and were relieved it was me, not them, under pressure! We had been tasting together for three years through our previous two exams. In addition to regular group tastings, I made it a point to taste daily on my own. I used the Proimb Pump Preserver with Vacuum Bottle Stoppers, but in hindsite, could have benefited from a Coravin.
Unfortunately, my Introductory/Level 1 examination (required) had given me a false sense of security when it came to theory. I scored 100 % on the Intro exam and felt it was super easy; consequently, I studied very little for the theory portion prior to my Certified exam. There is so much to cover that you simply have to order your priorities! The one step I did take was to sign up for a GuildSomm Deductive Tasting workshop. This proved to be highly beneficial.
I passed this beauty in the Stag's Leap District, in Napa Valley, CA, on the way to Clos du Val. One might speculate this winery was once a Mission. Chimney Rock, however, was inspired and designed to look like South Africa's oldest wine estate Groot Constantia. Trust me when I say my picture does not do this winery justice-not to mention this is just one of many buildings on the property! Check Chimney Rock's website for their tasting hours, as reservations must be made in advance!
In spite of the fact I am standing in a puddle of mud, Chateau St. Jean is looming in the distant background. Founded in 1973, this European style, Sonoma winery has the grounds and gardens to match the elegance of their wines. Nothing like a little terroir on to remind you where a good glass of wine comes from!
Don't let one of the highest tasting room prices in Napa Valley deter you from visitng Stags Leap Wine Cellars. Not only does this top notch winery boast amazing vineyard views from across the tasting counter, but offers a selection of Cabernet Sauvignons that will transport you, back in time, to the Judgement of Paris itself!
Click here to view my Travel Log of Madeira Portugal
Touching down in Paris, simultaneous with a cold front, made for a week of umbrellas, scarves, and a slew of hot beverages. The city was buzzing with excitement over the Tour de France finish, and much like New York . . . the city never sleeps! Knowing we would be heading into the sweltering heat of Spain, we decided to embrace the weather.
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My Cambodia Travel Log is out. Click here to see the amazing journey!
Okay it would be completely unfair to leave out the more difficult parts of my stay, like the noxious smells wafting out from the city grates, major communication barriers, burning lungs from the endless torrents of exhaust, booking the wrong flight which, after all, was only a minor mistake considering there were six other flights that DID get booked correctly. Lets just leave it at that. Enjoy the pics!
Let's just say Angkor didn't disappoint! Arriving this ancient site before sunset, we glimpsed Angkor Wat's pine cone looking spires looming out of the sky, in proud form. Our tuk tuk driver drove us between the various temple complexes, and patiently stopped so we could enjoy the monkeys and elephants! Another amazing day in Southeast Asia. Thanks Mark and Anne for hosting!
Spent the night on a boat in Ha Long Bay, explored a local fishing village, enjoyed some Thai Chi, and soaked in the stillness of this bay with its Jurassic like rocks!
Enjoying staying in the intriguing chaos of Hanoi's Old Quarters! How to describe the experience? Smells of mini fires burning, street food, yelling, horn honking, fog like precipitation, hydrocarbons. . . An overall assault on the senses, as best described by one my fellow travelers!
For those of you who posed the question. . . Angkor Wat is an ancient site in Cambodia constructed by the Khmer people. It was a Hindu, and later Buddhist temple. Angkor Wat first caught my attention when I heard it made the World Wonder list. Situated on 500 acres, in the middle of a swamp, Angkor Wat is surrounded by massive waterways. It is thought to represent the cosmic world, and for many holds the possibility for peace, refuge, and enlightenment. Can't wait to make the trek with my fellow travelers!
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Andrea Morgan is a wine enthusiast and Certified Sommelier. You can refer to her Wine Consultation page to view her other credentials and services.