Non-California

Review: Laya Garnacha Tintorera/Monastrell

I was picking up dinner at Whole Foods and right before I hit the check I saw a Spanish wine for $8.99 and my heart fluttered.

I have a soft spot in my heart since I studied abroad in Spain while in college, although I have to admit–get ready to cringe–I drank a lot of calimocho when I was there. That’s a drink made from red wine, coke and grenadine. I grimace now, but six years ago, in a sweaty club blaring David Guetta, that was the thing to drink in Spain. Despite the calimocho and the cheap sparkling wine, I did squeeze in a nice Rioja every now and then.

Back to Whole Foods and the Garnacha. I picked up a bottle and tried it immediately when I got home.

As soon as I popped it open, I got a whiff of alcohol–this wine was strong. The alcoholic smell and taste makes sense with the Monastrell grapes, which tend to amp up the alcohol level and add a dryness to a wine.

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It’s the type of wine that makes you pucker. Super bold, super chewy, it warms up your tongue. It’s a deep purple, and yes that purple showed up mixed with my toothpaste in my bathroom sink later that night. The deep color probably comes from the Garnacha Tintorera grapes, which have red skin and red pulp, different from other grapes that have red exteriors and white interiors. 

I had it again two days later while catching up on Homeland and it’s punchiness resided slightly, but just barely.

According to the bottle, the grapes were grown “between 700 and 1000 meters above sea level, within the region of Almansa, we selected those [grapes] who can design a unique wine that combines complexity, structure and intense color with the explosion of fruit and ease of consumption…”

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Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Laya
  • Type: 70% Garnacha Tintorera/30% Monastrell
  • Origin: Almansa region of Spain
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $8.99
  • Alcohol content: 14.5%
  • When to drink: After coming off the slopes in Big Bear, warming up in your cabin.

 

 

Wine for cats!

A Japanese pet supply company has released wine for cats. Yes, you read that right.

The drink is a mix of Cabernet grapes, Vitamin C and catnip, which sounds similar to frat party jungle juice to me.

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Courtesy kotaku.com

It’s non-alcoholic and sells for $4. It’s called Nyan Nyan Nouveau, a play on the Japanese version of meow and the fancy English (with French roots) word for modern.

I think the whole idea of wine for cats is absurd. I can’t wait to hear what their sales are like. Any vets out there think this is a bad thing?

Top 5: Non-California, U.S. wine locales

I get a little California-centric when it comes to wines, mostly because they’re delicious and secondly because I live here. However, I’ve been learning a lot about other wine locales in the United States that are getting my continental travel bug rattled up.

Here’s my top 5 to-visit list for out-of-state wine regions:

1) Finger Lakes, NY

It’s Harvest season right now in the Finger Lakes, which is home to about 100 wineries, a third of the state of New York’s total. From all the Instagram photos and news stories I’ve seen about it, the Finger Lakes region seems pretty tantalizing, especially from a place that can put both Pinot Noir and Gewurtztraminer (I still can not pronounce the latter for the life of me) in my glass in one visit. And, I want to see those views in person and explore the many hiking trails. A camping trip with a few wineries squeezed in would be awesome if that’s a possibility.

2) Colorado’s Western slope

I’m torn because I want to visit the rockies during the winter to go skiing, but I also want to see the grapes on the western slope bask in the summer sun. Most of the vineyards here are family-owned, a big plus in my book if you plan to visit a site. Some also grow berries, which they let visitors pick!

3) Columbia Valley, Washington

Not only is this region home to Walla Walla–one of the most fun names for a city–but it also has roughly seven dozen wineries. That’s small compared to other regions and I hear you’ve got to plan in advance because often wineries are closed to the public without notice. On the other hand, that makes for a more intimate affair that often includes peeks behind the curtain when it comes to the winemaking process. I’ve seen Muscat, Cab Franc and other great grapes grow here.

4) Eugene, Oregon (more generally, Willamette Valley)

I’ve already been wine tasting in Eugene-twice, but I’d happily go a third time. The area is known for its pinots and I had the best Pinot Gris at Silvan Ridge Winery when I was there last. I have yet to hit up the big fish, King Estate, but Sweet Cheeks brings back fond memories of good food, good friends and good wine, and you can’t beat that!

5) Loudoun County, Virginia

Loudoun County is mostly on the list because I know I’ll get there soon: I have several friends who live a hop, skip and a jump away and a free place to stay makes for a happy visit. Rolling hills, estates and horse-riding trails make up this region, which hosts several weekend wine festivals. And then there’s the pretty wineries: good looks and good grapes, I’m sold.

Plus, as Leanne Wiberg (aka @craterlady on Twitter) of Doukenie Winery informed me: Virginia wines are made from French hybrids, such as Traminette, Chambourcin and chardonel. So it seems there’s still French roots in Thomas Jefferson’s home state, how apt. Jefferson was once the American miniser to Versailles after all.

I had no idea there was a big wine scene in Virginia when I lived in D.C. If I had, I would have taken advantage of it!

Where else outside of California, in the United States, is a stand-up place to go wine tasting?

Review: Luisi Barbera d’Asti

Barbera’s not a wine grape you hear about everyday. In fact, before I drank the 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti, I had only had Barbera in blends before.

So what is Barbera all about?

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Barbera is one of the most popular grapes planted in Italy. You can also find it in Australia, thanks to UC Davis. It’s also grown in California.

Barbera wines run the gamut from fruity to medium-bodied to concentrated and intense. Often, they have a high acidity level.

When I drank the Luisi, it was ruby red and tanngyyy. After letting it sit in mouth for a bit, it felt like pop rocks. Who knew an Italian wine would bring me back to the schoolyard days?

There are two kinds of Barbera: Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, which signify the region in Italy where the grapes come from. Asti is drier and Alba tends to be rainier and the climates impact the flavor of the wine. Luca Currado Vietti, owner of Vietti Winery, told Wine Spectator that Asti and Alba are like Napa and Sonoma, in the sense that they are two wonderful, neighboring wine regions. Some say d’Albas are fruitier and d’Asti’s are more intense, but I haven’t tried the former myself, so I can’t confirm.

I’ll add a Barbera d’Alba to my list of wines I have to try, but I won’t be getting a Vietti wine. They cost upwards of $80, which is way out of my budget, I mean out of this universe, out. If you have a suggestion for a Barbera d’Alba under $20–under $15, even better–let me know in the comments.

I wouldn’t recommend the Luisi Barbera d’Asti to everyone–especially not to those who prefer smooth wines that aren’t explosive on the taste buds.

However, if you like thick and bold, you’d probably enjoy this Barbera.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Luisi
  • Type: Barbera d’Asti
  • Origin: Italy
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content:13%
  • When to drink: Bring this to dinner with the in-laws, not to your friend’s house party.

Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris

I had never heard of Pinot Gris until I visited this girl in Eugene:

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I’m on the left, Ann’s on the right.

That’s Ann on the right, a great friend and Eugene wine ambassador. You see, when Ann was living in Eugene both times I visited she showed me amazing wineries. I had no idea there were even wineries in Eugene!

I also didn’t know about Pinot Gris until my most recent trip. But one sip of a glass of Pinot Gris from Silvan Ridge, and I was hooked. In fact, Oregon’s known for Pinot Gris.

I’ve even spread the gospel of Pinot Gris to friend’s this summer during visits to the Hollywood Bowl. I could never bring enough bottles of the varietal. It went quick!

OK, technically the two are the same grape variety. Now here come the stereotypes about taste:

  • Pinot Grigio tends to be lighter-bodied; Pinot Gris more full-bodied
  • Pinot Grigio tends to be fruitier–think pear and melon; some Pinot Gris have a spice kick

Now, I remember the Pinot Gris I had at Silvan Ridge being pretty soft. It was fruity, but not too fruity, and just felt like silk on the tongue. Full disclosure: it’s not a full Pinot Gris. It was 3% Viognier (the ones I’ve had have always been sweet and flowery), but that’s so little, whose counting?

Give me a glass of Pinot Gris (leave the bottle) and a cheese plate, maybe Manchengo and goat cheese, and I’m a happy camper.