Friday, October 27, 2006

Good 'Clean' fun

I'm on a mini-quest (one of those quests that you go on when you get around to thinkin' about it) to try more Rieslings, and this week's attempt has not proven disappointing.

Clean Slate Riesling, from the famed Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany, is a crisp, fruity wine that's sort of got the attitude of something carbonated. That is, it jumps around on the tongue just a little, and feels a little bubbly.

There are notes of citrus and peach and even a little spice. Er, acid. Whatever. It's not quite as smooth as the Relax I tried (another German Riesling) and loved, but it is just as lush and fruity and at a price of around $10, I'll definitely be taking one of these home for Thanksgiving.

The label design is also really nice. The bottle is clear, the label is narrow and long, with good typography, and requires no translation. (Their website design is nice, too.)

A solid screw-top white if ever there was one.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Local wine

Last night I hung out with my friend and co-worker Ashley at her and her husband's apartment in Cordova. We'd spent the evening working our way through the Jones Orchard corn maze, and by the time we got out we were parched and Ashley was all, "Let's get drunk!" and who am I to argue with such a pure sentiment?

She and her husband, JD, had recently made a trip up to the Old Millington Winery, a small outfit about 20 minutes north of Memphis. Old Millington specializes in sweet wines. Ashley and JD brought back several bottles of the winery's offerings, including blackberry, muscadine, peach, and Delta red.

I had a glass of the peach first. Normally I don't care for peach-flavored spirits, but this peach wine was more tart than sweet. It was very light and crisp and not at all sulfury or sour.

Next was a glass — okay, a couple of glasses — of the blackberry, which was also sweet and tart, and a bit like grape juice. According to Old Millington's website, blackberry is one of the most popular of their offerings. I can definitely see why; it's just downright pleasant to drink.

At about $10 a bottle, Old Millington's selections are a good value. I'm gonna do my best to get up there soon and support Tennessee wine country.

Tasting notes: A tale of two blahs

I've been sick and post-vacation broke for the past couple weeks, so the only drinkin' I've done is from a couple of bottles of generic Nyquil.

But I'm more or less over my crud (with the exception of my right ear, which, at this point, feels like it could use a nice lancing; Amber, can you come down to help me out with that?) and I had some money to burn (not really, but I burned it anyway) so brought home a couple of cheapies from Tip-Top, my neighborhood liquor store.

Sampling, the first

The Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold, heavy wine. It's sort of like drinking a grape-flavored steak. In other words, this wine is not fucking around, despite the cute little penguin waddling around on the label. Little Penguin is an Australian wine — South Eastern Australia, to be precise — and much like Yellowtail (the only other Australian red I've ever tried; it was a Merlot/Cab combo), Little Penguin seems to be a lot heavier than many domestic Cabs.

I bought a hunk of Vincent gouda and laid out several cubes on a plate with my beloved Breton crackers and proceeded to form a whole different opinion of the Little Penguin as I shoved cheese and crackers into my cheese-and-cracker-and-wine hole. Its aforementioned heaviness (I'm serious, the wine is nearly black) nicely complemented the dry sweetness of the gouda and the flaky consistency of the crackers. The Vincent link up there suggests trying medium-bodied reds like Zin and Merlot, which sounds like a fabulous idea. But Vincent and Little Penguin ain't a bad combo either.

Ha, I am totally blogging about cheese and crackers.

Anyway, Little Penguin seems to me to be a wine you'd want to save for a time when you're eating something savory: Cheese, or perhaps a nice steak. It's a bit much to drink by itself. That said, I also think you can find a much smoother, much better Cab for the same price range (about $10).

Sampling, the second

Hacienda, yet another Pinot Noir from California, is nothing much special. In fact, I drank the whole thing and totally forgot to write down any tasting notes. I remember thinking "meh" on the first couple of swigs and by the time I got to the second glass or so, I remember liking it a bit more. But, well, every wine is good by the second or third glass.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Our staff foodie has a story out today about starting a wine cellar. Basically, the premise of the article is that you needn't freak out and think you need a head full of great vintages and a dedicated, temperature-controlled room to start a cellar. All you need, Leslie says, is a dark, undisturbed space whose temperature, rather than being cool, is simply constant.

The experts suggest using the back of a closet, stacking bottles on their sides to keep the corks moist.

Ed McCarthy, one of the authors of "Wine for Dummies" (a book I'll be mentioning frequently to my parents when Christmas/my birthday rolls around) shares this advice:

"People can start with wines in the $18 to $20 category," he said. "Most people aren't going to start out spending $75 on a bottle. And there are some inexpensive Bordeaux and Burgundies people should consider. Believe it or not, the best values are not from the U.S."

Egads! I've only once spent more than $20 on a bottle and that was by accident. I'm still stuck in the $7-$15 range. I want to see a list of tips for stocking cheap wines. Do the same principles apply? Do cheap wines by default not age very well because of ... their cheapness? Inquiring minds and all that.

What surprises me in McCarthy's quote is his assertion that the best values can be found across the pond(s). I tend to stick with domestic wines (love my California reds) because I usually assume that the shorter distance they have to travel to get to me, [insert random benefit here]. It's taking some work challenging that assumption. (Work, ha! Since when is drinking work?)

So, despite the friendly encouragement from the enthusiasts in the article, starting a wine collection still seems to be an enormously complicated undertaking. (Of course, what obnoxiously bourgeois hobbies aren't ridiculously complicated? The middle class loves jumping hurdles like thoroughbreds, to prove their dedication to a craft that defines them in an utterly post-modern way.)

For one, you've got to have the space. Right now I have two small closets in my apartment. One houses boxes I never unpacked (10 or so) and the other houses my suitcase set and my clothes. It's conceivable that I could hollow out some room at the base of one of the closets. But then, a week later, I will run the risk of forever losing whatever wine gets deposited, because, you see, the things that go into my closets often never find their way out.

For two, you've got to have money. I cringe when I think about dropping $13 on a bottle; how the hell would I pony up the cash for an entire case? And then convince myself to save what I'd bought and not drink it to drown the pain of dropping a ton of money on several bottles of wine I'm not allowed to drink for a couple of years?

No one told me wine enthusiasm was part masochism.