Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tasting Notes: A Bar Full of Beaus at JavaMonkey

(or “Cecilia ran off to San Francisco and all you get is this lousy blog post”)

Yes, Cecilia is off at a convention in San Francisco this weekend, so the blogging for this week’s JavaMonkey tasting gets left to me. As is usual on the third Thursday on each November, this tasting was all about the Beaujolais in honor of the release of the 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau.
Before the review, recent sporting events have led me to post this disclosure:

I paid regular market price for this tasting. I received nothing additional for it other than a t-shirt and hideous yellow tie that I won in a raffle. (And if you saw my impromptu traveling fashion show after the tasting, I think you’ll agree that I know how to rock the t-shirt and hideous yellow tie.) At no time did I ask for any compensation, nor did any of my associates. The rumors of a text message containing a proposed payment plan from someone representing me to one of Georges Dubouef’s boosters are completely bogus. As for the allegations that I cheated on a solitaire game once in college, I won’t address something that happened that long ago.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the wines (hangover neutralizing Pho not included):

2009 Macon-Villages Chardonnay
The first thing I noticed about this wine was that something seemed… odd. What was it? Everything about it seemed like a pretty typical Old World Chardonnay. It had the nice golden color and the fruity, slightly tart nose. A little mineral there as it goes down. But something else… And then on my second sip, I got it.


I have no idea what, if any, oak this wine sees, but I wasn’t the only one who got a little bit of it at the very end of the finish. (After my infamous declaration of “popcorn” on the nose of a wine once in the presence of the winemaker, you have no idea how much better that made me feel.) It certainly wasn’t California Oak-Tree-In-A-Glass, but it might catch you off guard. I think this warrants some future research, preferably with the assistance of a good chicken and mushroom dish.

2010 Beaujolais Nouveau
Ah, the star of the party arrives! Fresh off its overseas flight from Paris (TSA pat-down not pictured) and into this fine establishment. With the red carpet rolled out, it elegantly strolled through the paparazzi and autograph-seeking masses and into my glass. What wonders would this French star have for me this year? I anxiously lifted the glass to my nose, swirling the red nectar and inhaled…

Cranberry. Bubble gum.

Yup, it’s a Beaujolais Nouveau.

Dan suggested that it would make a good base for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. I concurred, and scribbled down that it might also make a good base for getting unwanted holiday house guests sauced.

Hey, at least we get wine schwag for drinking it.

2008 Brouilly Flower Label
The very first bottle of this at the tasting was corked. The next bottle was so weak that I’m pretty sure I saw some Italian Pinot Grigios kicking its ass outside Twain’s later that night. Other people seem to be pretty impressed with it, so I’m going to write this off as a bad case and hope to try it again sometime in the future.

2009 Juliénas Flower Label
While researching this wine, I came across an interview with Georges Duboeuf on Wine Review online where he states that the Juliénas is his favorite Cru. I can see why. This wine was surprisingly intense – inky color, tart dark fruit in the mouth, and a hint of earthiness on the finish. My first reaction was to compare it to some of the more intense Oregon Pinots I’ve had, though I don’t remember as much spiciness here as those tend to feature. If you’re jonesing for Beaujolais on your Thanksgiving table, skip the Nouveau and head for this one. (Or save it for yourself after you kick out the house guests for whom Nouveau was bought.)

2009 Morgon Flower Label
This one was supposed to be poured before the Juliénas, but we got crossed up. This was unfortunate, because I think that might have helped my opinion of it. My impression was that it was like a slightly more subtle version of the Juliénas. It didn’t have the earthiness, and the tart fruit was less pronounced. It’s probably the more food friendly of the two.

Cecilia is returning this evening, and I’m sure she’ll catch you up on her weekend of beer tasting and North Beach pasta touring in the coming days. I could fill you in on my weekend of futile attempts to rid the front yard of leaves, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Oenophilic Foray into Urban Art

There is a statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Old Dekalb County Courthouse in Decatur. It depicts him sitting, quill pen in hand, looking into space, doubtlessly pondering his next passage as he writes the Declaration of Independence.

For years, I've always felt that something was missing from the statue. After all, Thomas Jefferson was America's original wine connoisseur. Here he is, writing the document that set out the rationale and reasons for the founding of the United States. And here is his left hand, left thumb and index finger parted just perfectly for...

(My apologies to Mr. Jefferson. They wouldn't let me out of the wine festival with a full glass.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Metapost: This is going to drive me to drink...

Okay, it's not a long drive, but...

I don't usually talk about what I do on social media outlets, but sometimes I feel it's warranted, and this is one of those times. As you've probably heard, an old law is going to cause the Medicare reimbursement rates to healthcare providers to be cut by around 25% if it's not stopped by our lovely Congress.

"Sure," you may be thinking, "this will impact healthcare access for the over 65 crowd, but how will it affect me?"

If you're over 65, you're probably thinking, "I'm screwed."

The problem is, as an auxiliary healthcare provider, I'm also thinking, "I'm screwed." Why? Because the rest of managed care bases reimbursement rates on Medicare rates, never mind that they supposedly have antitrust laws. You know that they're salivating over this because it will mean even more billions in profit for them. In the end, if it's not stopped in a timely manner, it could mean a 25% reimbursement cut for me.

"Sure," you may be thinking, "but won't they go back up if the law is corrected later, and Medicare reimbursement goes back up?"

That's the thing about insurance companies -- once rates drop, they RARELY go back up, and they've been on a steady decline for years even though operational and overhead costs for providers keep increasing.

So here, I'll make it easy for you. Here is what I've written to my Senators and House Rep:

Dear ,

I am writing to request that you make halting the Medicare reimbursement cuts a priority. If they are not stopped, they will impact both the ability of senior citizens to access care and will cause a ripple effect through the healthcare industry, as the other companies base their rates off of Medicare.

One important consideration is that most healthcare and mental healthcare private practices are small businesses, and this is one of the few economic areas where growth is anticipated. The Medicare rate cuts, if they go through, will only serve to make them cut staff and shrink the main industry the country is depending on for growth.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


Yes, that's right, cut staff. Do you already allow two hours for a routine doctor's visit? Better make it four or just take the day. Oh, you're sick? The doctor will be able to see you in a few months instead of six weeks (yeah, that's already an issue, but not in my practice). Got a billing problem? Oh, sorry, it's going to take a while to get back to you because the billing departments are short-staffed.

For the Georgia people, here are some important links:

Contact form for Senator Isakson: Click Here

Contact form for Senator Chambliss: Click Here

Your House Rep will depend on where you live.

Please please please bug your Congresspeople! This is one of the few times when government inaction could affect EVERYBODY.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tasting Notes: Crane Creek & Blackstock

Yeah, Hubby and I have been hitting the sauce again. Shocking, right? We went up to my parents' cabin in Blairsville in September and October and decided to check out a new (to us) winery and one that we'd visited before. With the Winter Wine Highway 2010 weekend coming up in a few weeks (Dec 3-5), it seemed like a good time to write about them.

Crane Creek Vineyards, located in Young Harris (e.g., one of those places near Blairsville that sells alcohol) has great views, like all the Georgia wineries:

Their 2000 vintage was their first, from vines planted 15 years ago. The tasting room has been open for eight years. Apparently my in-laws had trouble catching them open, but we walked right in and tasted the lineup. There is a small tasting fee, but the pours are big enough for two to share.


Seyval Blanc:
The first wine planted and made, this one has a tangerine/mandarin orange nose with citrus notes carrying through the palate to orange and grapefruit.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Cross of Gewurtzraminer and Seyval Blanc, has a mint/stone fruit nose and is floral and tart through the palate and finish.
Rating: Okay to Good (not a big fan of mint on my wines)

Enotah White:
Another hybrid, Chardonel (Chardonnay & Seyval) is the basis of this wine. Smoky oaky nose, but overall nice with good balance of citrus and vanilla.
Rating: Good

Vidal Blanc:
Described as "uncomplicated," and I would agree. Fruity with a tart finish. Another quote: "You can sit on the porch and pound this one back." Very likely.
Rating: Good


Brasstown Mountain Claret:
Medium-bodied with a spicy nose and spicy cherry on the palate.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Mountain Harvest Red:
Super-smooth red made from the Chambourcin grape. Berry characteristics.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

Sweet Sally:
Blend of Catawba and Niagara, has a scuppernog/muscadine nose and honeysuckle notes.
Rating: Good to Very Good

We came home with a bottle of the Mountain Harvest Red, which will be a great porch sipper next summer.

We revisited Blackstock Vineyards & Winery on the way up to the cabin in October since it had been a while. The way their tasting works is that you select eight wines for $10, so with two people sharing, you can cover most of the list, which is what Hubby and I did. We also got a cheese plate, which complimented the wines.

2007 Viognier:
Stone fruit/orange/floral nose, but very tart and a little bitter.
Rating: Good

2009 Chardonnay:
Pear nose, musky melon flavors.
Rating: Okay

2008 Viognier:
Still good citrus, but a lot smoother.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2008 Reserve Viognier:
Toasty nose with a little vanilla oak, but well-balanced and good with cheese.
Rating: Very Good

2006 Sangiovese Rosé:
Smoky on the nose, but nice and fruity and balanced between dry and off-dry.
Rating: Very Good

2008 Sangiovese Rosé:
Muscadine nose, and a little rough on the finish.
Rating: Good

2008 White Merlot:
Hubby smelled this one and said, "Apple juice!" It has a somewhat effervescent texture, kind of like an apple wine cooler.
Rating: Good

2007 Rocking Chair Rosé:
Subtle nose and flavor, but kickass finish.
Rating: Starts Okay, goes to Good, finishes Very Good. Would be a good one for a beginning wine drinker to experience the different stages of the palate.

2007 Rocking Chair Red:
Big Merlot nose, but light-bodied.
Rating: Good

2008 Sangiovese:
Still Very Good

2006 Merlot: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet
A little acidic.
Rating: Good

2005 ACE Family Reserve:
Better than when we tried it last year with more depth to the fruit in the middle, but still not as good as the previous award-winning vintage. Apparently that one's going for something ridiculous, over $100/bottle.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2007 Cabernet: What I'm drinking as I write this
Savory fruit, medium-bodied, would be great with Italian food (yeah, I think I have the wine munchies).
Rating: Very Good

2006 Reserve Merlot:
It was recommended that this one be aged, and I agree.
Rating: Good

We came home with a mixed case of the 2007 Viognier, 2008 Reserve Viognier, 2006 Sangiovese Rosé, 2008 Sangiovese, 2005 ACE Family Reserve, and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

So, please get out the first weekend in December and support your Georgia wineries! You may not realize it, but there's legislation in front of the national House that may limit their ability to sell and ship to consumers, so the more support they have, the bigger the message we send to our Congresspeople (especially those who think that Guam is going to tip over) that this industry is important to us and to Georgia.

If you're a winery and would like to send us samples for review, please check out our Sample & Disclosure Policy, which also includes a link to contact us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Random Thoughts and Tasting Notes: 2010 Decatur Wine Festival

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The changing leaves, cool weather, and thoughts of the holidays put me in a good mood, and, of course, there are fun festivals. No, I'm not talking about harvest festivals. My favorite by far has to be the Decatur Wine Festival.

This year's Wine Fest was particularly good, likely because the weather was cooler than in years past, when the red wines at tables in the full sun tended to get overheated and taste more like mulled wine than how the distributors intended. As Hubby noted, we all reached cellar temperature this year, and I ended up wearing my gloves toward the end of the day. However, the temperature of the wines ended up being about perfect, and we only tasted at one table where the wines were too warm (and it wasn't over the MARTA station).

Of course I didn't try all of the hundreds of wines that were poured. One very helpful addition this year was a featured wine or two for each table. This gave the experience some structure. After getting some snacks, Hubby and I started at Table 26, Pasternak/Black Tower. I tried the featured Trumpeter Torrontes and found it to be less floral and more fruity than I had expected. It started with stone fruit and went into citrus with a good mineral backbone. A few other solo wines that I liked:

Duboeuf Cru Beaujolais (W.J. Deutsch table): light bodied, with dry, delicate fruit

Concannon Conservancy Petite Syrah (Sustainable; Wine Group/Sebastiani Table): grapey nose, but not a fruit bomb, moderate tannins

Steele Lake County Merlot (Also the Wine Group/Sebastiani Table): not a fruit bomb like a lot of Merlots. Nice fruit, but also hints of cedar.

Shooting Star Zinfandel (Pacific Southern Table): toward the end of the day, so my notes simply said, "very nice"

Val de Salis Marselan (first Catamarca Table): made from a grape that's a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache Noir, this gorgeous red had overtones of butter.

Yellow + Blue Malbec (Organic; first Quality Table): this one made me curious to try more box wine. Definitely not my mother-in-law's Franzia!

Santa Julia Organica Bonarda (also Organic and at the first Quality Table): drinks well on its own, but would love some food.

The festival website noted that the focus was on organic and sustainably grown wines, and there were a few, but one change that excited me was the number of sparkling wines being poured this year. Some of the better ones:

Taltarini Brut Tache (Empire – a whole table of sparkling wine and champagne!): light peach color, yum. Per the website, it's from Victoria and Tasmania, and the blend is, "52% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir, and 7% Pinot Meunier" with a dash of red wine liqueur.

Valdivieso Extra Brut (New World Wines table): a very reasonable sparkler from Chile made with the same process as champagne, this one would probably hold its own in a blind tasting.

Fontallada Brut Cava (Compass Wine Group): this Spanish sparkler had nice hints of almond

What would a wine festival be without cool wine toys and displays? Compass Wine Group at Table 20 had a gorgeous decanter, from which they poured the Martius Selection Red. I went to look up the blend online but couldn't find anything about it. It was very smooth with dark fruit. The Iberian Pig also had a nice display (and their yummy dates wrapped in bacon).

Finally, let's talk about good wines with interesting labels. Of course this one at the New World Wines table caught our attention:

The Sexy Rosé was actually one of the better ones I've had. Not too dry or too sweet, it hits the palate just right with plum notes to smooth out the berry.

Of course, if you're gonna have Sexy, you'd better have Naked Grapes:

Not to be confused with the Naked winery in Washington or the Naked Grape winery in Canada, this one had a great Pinot Noir that wasn't earthy but still had great fruit and body (no pun intended). The Cabernet Sauvignon was also very good.

Hubby and I had ended up skipping lunch in anticipation of stuffing ourselves at the festival, but this turned out to be an epic fail on our part. It's not the restaurants' fault – all the food we tried was great – but there was less of it than we remembered from years past. Particular highlights were the Crab and Prosecco Cream Sauce tossed with Gemelli pasta from Capozzi's, who won the award for favorite food, the sushi from Sushi Avenue, the pumpkin ravioli from Saba, and the Orange and Tomato Soup from Mercantile. Farmstead 303 and The Marlay House also had good stuff, Caroline Barbecue and Apple-Rhubarb Crumble, respectively.

Okay, so now that I've put all that in a list, it sounds like we ate a lot, but remember, these were all samples. We ended up at The Square Pub for after-festival snacks. The nachos with grilled chicken and fixins were good, and we're curious to try the rest of the menu.

And okay, I'll admit it, my post-festival libations were decidedly non-vintage:

For my Decatur News Online article on the Wine Fest, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Decatur Wine Festival: This Year's Tips

This year's Decatur Wine Festival has a focus on organic and sustainably produced wines. In the same spirit, this is a sustainable blog post in that I've recycled some of last year's etiquette and survival post.

Now that we've all survived the elections, who wants a glass of wine? Or several? Seriously, whoever planned the Wine Festival for the weekend after Election Day was a genius. Nothing makes me want a drink more than weeks of mudslinging and robocalls.

However, no one wants a hangover or a miserable Saturday night after having spent three hours in the sun drinking wine. The temperature looks to be a little cooler than in years past, which will hopefully keep the reds from getting too warm.

Of course it's impossible to taste every single wine. First, the festival is only a few hours long. Second, a lot of tables start to run out toward the end of the day, especially the ones from popular or well-known wineries. Third, even if you have phenomenal tolerance, you've got to pace yourself.

Here are some survival and etiquette tips:

1. Bring a bottle of water and/or avail yourself of the ones there, if offered. An occasional glass of water is not going to be enough to stay hydrated. Try to consume equal parts water and wine, ideally more water. Hopefully they will continue to have the fancy portable bathrooms. Also, avail yourself of the food and keep something in your tummy.

2. To keep things moving, get a pour and move to the back of the line. Sip as you move forward again. There's nothing more frustrating than waiting forever for someone to go through four or five tastes while they block the entire table.

3. Rinse between tastes, especially if you're going back and forth between reds and whites. If you don't rinse, pour thoroughly and shake your glass out. Even if you're really tempted, don't shake it out on the table hog.

4. Try to save the sweet wines for the end. They'll burn your palate. They also tend to have higher alcohol content, and really, who wants to be sick by 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon?

5. As I mentioned above, pacing is everything. Hubby and I have a "two sip, three strike" rule: If the wine isn't good after two sips (two to allow for the interference of previous tastes), it gets dumped. If you try three wines at a table and don't like any of them, move on. Don't try to sample everything! The setup this year will make this easy with featured wines at each table.

As a wine professional commented last year, "Wine tasting is a journey, not a destination!" Relax, enjoy, and remember -- this is one of the few occasions where it's actually okay, even encouraged, to spit.

Disclaimer: all of the content of this post is mine. I didn't get any perks or freebies from the Decatur Arts Alliance or any of the festival sponsors. No wines were harmed in the writing of this material, although I can't make any guarantees for later.
Posted by Cecilia Dominic at 2:39 PM