Monday, May 31, 2010


Braving the monsoon rains, I found myself belly up to the bar at Winestock. A fantastic neighborhood wine bar nestled in the historic downtown of Oregon City, Oregon. With a sleek decor and plenty of tables and couches to relax, this is an ideal location for a leisurely wine tasting experience. Surrounded by wine racks filled with wine from around the world and whimsical candle light, you feel as if you have been invited into a collector's private cellar.

Every Thursday evening, Winestock offers themed tasting flights. This particular week was a choice of 5 wines for $10. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! With an excellent glass selection to satisfy any palate, choosing just 5 seemed impossible, so we tried 10! I have highlighted the three which really stood out to me. The full list of additional wines tasted is below.

  • Tintero, Grangia, Favorita Piedmont Italy NV. The grape is Grangia, a native Italian varietal. I was very intrigued since I had never tried this grape variety before. It is also worth noting the 'NV' or non-vintage, meaning it is most likely a blend from more than one vintage or year. If Sauvignon Blanc, Arneis and Albranio had a baby...Grangia would be it's name! This white wine is crisp, light on the palate and very refreshing. It tasted of minerals, grass and bright bursts of citrus. Medium acid structure with a soft finish. A perfect accompaniment to salads or light appetizers such as scallops. This wine reminds me of summer! Priced at $12. 
  • 2008 Deux Fen Estates Pinot Noir, Yamhill Valley. This wine was a real treat and my favorite wine of the night. A local producer with its production facilities a stones throw away from Winestock,  I was completely captivated with the aromas alone. Almost too good to drink...almost! A very fruit forward wine with aromas of bright cherry, blackberry, slight earliness, nutmeg, cinnamon with a fresh floral component. On the palate, there were layers of flavors. I got lots of floral to start, then by a burst of fruit, finishing long with fairly light tannins. This wine resembles a best friend, someone you can sit with for hours, it's comforting, familiar and a great story teller! Priced at $25. 
  • Quinto Do Infantado 10 year old Tawny Porto. This producer has been producing port since 1816 and man do they know what they are doing! Port is a fortified wine, generally with an alcohol percentage around 20%. It is a beverage I enjoy once and while and have recently been tasting more and more. Cheese and port is a classic pairing and a great way to finish a meal. This Tawny Port was brick red/brown in colour, had a bold noise full of raisins and nuts. On the palate, lots of dried dark fruits such as plum and raisins, lots of nutty characteristics, a touch of sweetness, big bold finish. I highly recommend pairing with blue cheese or a cheese with a nutty characteristic.  Priced at ~ $40.
Here is the list of the additional wines tasted. If you are interested in reading my tasting notes/comments on these wines please e-mail me :
  1. Veuve Du Vernay, Blanc du Blanc, France Brut NV (Sparkling)
  2. 2008 Phelps Creek Pinot Noir Rosé, Columbia Gorge, Oregon
  3. 2009 Evesham Wood Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon $12
  4. 2009 Illahe Vineyards Viognier, Willamette Valley, Oregon $16
  5. 2006 Montoya Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $18
  6. 2008 Owen Roe, Abbot's Table, 24% Zinfandel, 22% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Blaufrankish, 4% Malbec, Columbia Valley, Oregon 
Next week at Winestock: Tempranillo and Cava! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Favorite Food & Wine Pairing

Found on Google Images

"I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food."

-W.C. Fields

What is one of your favorite food and wine pairings?? I love Champagne and French Fries! ;)


Friday, May 21, 2010

Italian Romance

Happy Friday Everyone!!

Two weeks ago I picked up a bottle of Italian Nebbiolo from Piedmont made by Pedere Ruggeri Corsini. From the sub-region of Langhe, vintage 2007. Priced around $20 (I was so excited to drink it, I forgot to note the price!) I have to say this was love at first taste!

The bright ruby to brick red colour slightly resembled a pinot noir. Slow tears confirmed the 14.5% alcohol.

The nose completely transported me to the rustic Italian countryside just after it had rained. Like I mentioned in my last posting, I love wine with an essence of place or terrior. There was a great musty and earthy quality. A slight barnyard or horse barn smell. So really, it was like standing in a horse barn in the Italian countryside right after it rained...really. :) There was lots of ripe dark cherries with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

The palate was an explosion of black cherries stewed in cinnamon which were then coated in dark chocolate. It also tasted of strawberries and plums nestled in the earthiness mentioned on the nose. The finish was long with a touch of coffee grounds and strong tannins. The acid was on the higher side, making this a perfect pairing for any tomato based sauce or veggies cooked in olive oil or butter.

This was an Italian Romance at first taste! I highly recommend this bottle, I hope you get a chance to try it! If you do, I would love to hear about!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Risking Terrior to make Compelling Wines?

Found on Google Images

I've been reading a few blogs and news articles lately discussing unique grape varieties being grown in new regions. Understandably, this is a common event but how many different varietals can you plant in one area before it becomes overrun with non-native varietals and which wines are truly authentic to the terrior? I've read some strong sentiments wishing to see more Barbera, Nebbiolo and Albranio etc. in California. If you know me at all, you know I'm obsessed with Albranio, but from California? Part of the romance of Albranio is that it is from Spain. I feel like I can taste the mineral laced soils of Rais Baixas. For that moment, I escape to Spain, I taste the terrior and feel like I'm seating by the sea in Europe. The wine transports me to an exotic and exciting place I have never been before. Mind you, I haven't been to all parts of California but I wonder if an Albranio from California would have the same effect? Do I live too close to California for it to transport me or is terrior playing a bigger role? Terrior is the 'je ne sais quoi' in wines. It's the combination of soils, climate, weather patterns that make a region, and ultimately a wine. That is why Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tastes different to those of the Bordeaux region in France. Some will argue winemaking techniques also play a role, but when it really comes down to it, winemaking plays a supporting role in the final product.

So when I read articles full of disappointment because winemakers aren't taking enough risk by planting a wider variety of grapes in California, I have to stop and wonder, should we be taking more risks planting anything and risk loosing the 'je ne sais quoi?' Is it worth losing a regional identity to make interesting and compelling wines? Cabernet Sauvginon and other traditional French varietals are becoming more prevalent in certain parts of Italy but should native Italian varietals be planted in California? I think we should be planting what is best suitable to the environment. That is the whole concept of terrior, different environments, different grapes. Can one region really be suitable for all varietals? Maybe I'm just a traditionalist and I don't want to risk terrior. I just don't want to see the same varietals from multiple countries all start tasting generic. I want to escape to Spain once in a while. ;)

As a final note, those of you in San Francisco on June 5th, there is a tasting event put on by the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigo Society ( at Fort Mason. $35 a ticket gets you in to taste from wineries making the lesser known varietals. I'm not against this organization and I know there are some winemakers taking these risks and making phenomenal wines, I just don't want to see it overdone. Would love to hear if you attend!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Spanish Wine Tasting

In the spirit of "continuing" my education of wines, this evening, I attended a wine tasting at a local wine shop in West Linn, Oregon, called Wine About It. The theme was Spain featuring 5 wines.

The first was a 2008 Naia Verdejo from Rueda Spain. Rueda is a region located on the Western side of Spain close to Portugal. This indigenous grape variety, Verdejo, makes a very crisp white wine with lots of citrus fruits such as lemon, lime and grapefruit. In addition to citrus fruits there was a great minerality, bedrock stones. The body was medium and had a great well balanced finish. This is a perfect seafood wine or to drink poolside, just in time for summer! Priced at $13.99.

Second was the 2009 Bestue Rosé. Made in Somontano just two wine making regions to the east of the well known Rioja. This rosé is a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. I have to say this wine was the most surprising because it did not smell or taste like I expected it would. Lots of spicy characteristic from the Tempranillo. There was a lot of ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors. With a long spicy finish, this is a perfect rustic BBQ wine priced at $15.99.

Third was a wine aged 10 years before release, 1999 Anciano Tempranillo from Valdepenas. This wine is 100% Tempranillo. A well rounded wine, great acid structure and medium bodied. Lots of red fruit, cherries and plum. Oak was evident but did a great job as a supporting role. Priced at $11.99 it is a Gran Reserva steal!

The fourth wine was the 2007 Volver from La Mancha, the largest region in Spain. This wine was also 100% Tempranillo which was very interesting to compare to #3 since they were very different. This is due to a couple of reasons; region, vintage and wine making techniques. For instance, this wine is younger and made with new oak barrels. The oak was much more evident on this wine. With a deep ruby colour and lots of red and purple fruits, plum, cherry, blackberry and lots of tannins. Priced at $13.99 this is a great wine for any dinner party.

The fifth and finally wine of the evening was the 2005 Altos de Luzon from the Jumilla region in Southeast Spain. This was my favourite wine of the evening because it was full bodied and bold. Made from 50% Monastell or Mourvèdre, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Tempranillo. Lots of blackberry and black cherry fruits, spice, a hint of green vegetable and oak. I think I liked this wine the most because it is best suited to people who enjoy Napa Valley Cabernets displaying the same mouthfeel, flavors and structure. In a blind tasting I'm not sure I would guess it is from Spain but overall a great wine priced at $17.99.

Hope you get to enjoy a few of these wines! I would love to hear what you are tasting as well!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Women of Wine

I just finished reading a book called Women of Wine: The Rise of Women in the Global Wine Industry, written by Ann B. Matasar, which traces the history of women and their involvement/influence in the wine industry. I was both motivated and sadden by the book. It is very interesting to read the stories of women paving paths in the wine industry such as Janis Robinson, Heidi Peterson Barrett, Merry Edwards and Mireille Guiliano, to name a few. Each women has come across numerous hurdles and in most cases, worked twice as hard as their male counterparts to reach the top of their careers.

As much as I was truly inspired by most of these women, I was sadden by the fact that gender issues still exist. I was extremely sadden by certain old world traditions where daughters have to convince their own fathers that they are capable of running the family business after generations of male family members have been running the business. Even if they obtain the opportunity and title of CEO, it could be taken from them at any moment, whereas a male sibling would hold the title and would not be at risk of having the opportunity taken away. The most outrageous moment in the book talked about a superstition in France, which still holds true today at certain wineries, stating, "women are not allowed near fermenting wine because...if they are menstruating the wine might turn to vinegar or referment monthly." (pg.11.) Unbelievable!

Understandably, each women has dealt with gender issues differently. I was surprised by the number that said gender roles weren't an issue or rather chose to ignore it in order to stay focused while others didn't hesitate to say women have to work twice as hard and often skip out on office happy hours at the risk of looking like a "loose" women fraternizing with the guys. The wine industry is social industry, happy hours are a vital extension of the office. The double standard of women and alcohol needs to disappear. I was also sadden with a number of women who have "made it," but do not have time to network or mentor the next generation. As women having to work so hard to remain at the top that do not have a moment to look back or are they afraid of being labeled a feminist by helping other women succeed?

Even the list of blogs featured on are all written by men. I think it is time for gender to stop being the driving force that dictates who becomes more successful in certain jobs and industries. The best person for the job should be advancing. As I have run into some hurdles in my own wine career I am looking to these women for inspiration. I am making a commitment both to myself and to the industry that I will not give up and help erase gender stereotypes. As I adopt a "Life is tough- so what?" attitude like Piero Antinori, I will continue to do my part through education, blogging and experience. With that being said I am just over two months away from the Sommelier exam. As I taste and studying wine I will be sharing my experiences here at The Wine Key.