Category Archives: Red Wine

Federalist Dueling Pistols

AG Pick: The Federalist Dueling Pistols 2014

How does a Syrah, Zinfandel, red blend from the West Coast
Taste when you raise it for a toast?

I’ve had the hit musical Hamilton on the brain for months and I couldn’t help but think about the opening number when I was pouring a glass of The Federalist Dueling Pistols.

The name of the wine was inspired by the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The 2014 vintage is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma.

Federalist Dueling PistolsDueling Pistols is the latest wine from The Federalist, a series of wines that honor America’s Founding Fathers and their ideals.

It’s a great concept for a California red wine blend. Zinfandel, a proudly American grape (and definitely the Hamilton in this duel), faces off with Syrah, a grape that can be on its own or in blends, but is typically blended with Rhone varieties including Grenache and Mourvedre.

The Syrah and Zinfandel grapes for Dueling Pistols were separately fermented. After blending, the wine spent 15 months in 20% new American and Hungarian oak barrels. American oak was used to add sweeter notes, Hungarian to add spice.

Fortunately for us, this duel has a happy outcome – a rich and robust wine that’s enjoyable to drink.

Dark purple in color as you would expect with these two grapes, The Federalist Dueling Pistols has spicy berry and smoky aromas. The taste is bold with flavors of black cherry, ripe plum and blackberry rounded out with black pepper, root beer and a touch of smoked meat. Smooth tannins and good acidity give the wine a supple mouthfeel.

Pair the Federalist Dueling Pistols with roasted chicken or turkey, or red meat. Fittingly, it’s perfect at an all-American barbecue.

The only duel you might find yourself in is fighting over the last sip.

A bottle of The Federalist 2014 Dueling Pistols costs $29.

The Federalist wines are produced by Terlato Wines. Dueling Pistols is not associated with Hamilton: An American Musical.

14.5% alcohol

Smith & Hook red blend

AG Pick: Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend

It’s chilly, gray and drizzling where I am. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to close my laptop, light a fire, and get cozy on the couch with a good book and glass of red wine.

The wine I’d want to be sipping is the Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend from California’s Central Coast. Rich with intense dark fruit and smoke notes, it’s the wine equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold winter day.

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red BlendThe wine is a blend of 47% Merlot, 35% Malbec, 10% Petite Sirah and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco, San Antonio Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. It was aged for 26 months in French oak, 60% of which was new.

2013 is the first vintage of the Proprietary Red Blend. Smith & Hook, part of Hahn Family Wines, also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Proprietary Red Blend opens with aromas of dark red berries, smoked meat and toasted oak. The taste is full, lush and layered with dark red cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, baking spice, tobacco and leather. It’s velvety smooth in the mouth with well-integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with lingering berry pie.

The wine is a great pairing for hearty winter dishes. Enjoy the Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend with beef tenderloin or stew, a savory risotto or braised lamb shank.

A bottle of the Smith & Hook 2013 Proprietary Red Blend costs $25.

14.5% alcohol

Salta wines

Colomé and Amalaya: Wines from Salta, Argentina

There is more to Argentina’s wine than just Mendoza. You’re missing out if you don’t venture beyond the country’s best-known region.

Today we’re focusing on Salta. This region is located in the north of Argentina and is characterized by its mountainous terrain. Here you’ll find some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world.

For a taste of Salta, try wines from Colomé and Amalaya. These wineries are located in the Calchaqui Valley, at elevations of more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The vineyards benefit from intense sun during the day and cool nights, ideal growing conditions.

Amalaya wines

The natural place to start is with Torrontes, the signature white wine grape of Argentina. This grape produces aromatic, dry wines with lovely floral notes.

Colome Torrontes & MalbecThe 2015 Colomé Torrontes is made entirely from Torrontes. The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve its bright, fresh characteristics. This is a wonderfully fragrant wine, like taking a sniff from a bouquet of flowers. Gardenia, orange blossom and jasmine mix with slightly sweet citrus, with good acidity adding balance. $15, 13.5% alcohol

I first enjoyed Amalaya wines when I was in Buenos Aires and I’m so glad they’re available in the United States. The 2015 Amalaya Blanco is a blend of 85% Torrontes and 15% Riesling, two grapes that nicely complement each other. Just as with the Colomé Torrontes, the aim is to showcase the true nature of the grapes — controlled, cool temperatures during winemaking and stainless steel aging make the finished wine fresh and fruity.

The floral nose of the Amalaya Blanco introduces a palate of white flowers, jasmine, white grapefruit and lemon peel with a layer of minerality. Gentle acidity gives crispness, and the finish is clean with a touch of orange blossom honey. $12, 13% alcohol

Colome wines

Moving on to the reds, the 2013 Colomé Estate Malbec comes from four estate vineyards at varying elevations: La Brava Vineyard at 5,740 feet; Colomé Vineyard at 7,545 feet; El Arenal Vineyard at 8,530 feet; and Altura Maxima at the almost unbelievable elevation of 10,207 feet above sea level. The blend of Malbec grapes produces a wine that is bold yet elegant, with red and black fruit notes and firm tannins. Juicy dark red cherry and blackberry flavors are supported by an earthy backbone and a touch of black pepper and cedar. $25, 14.5% alcohol

Amalaya Blanco & MalbecThe 2015 Amalaya Malbec is a blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat and 5% Syrah. The three were fermented and aged separately, and blended just before bottling. One quarter of the wine was aged in one year-old French oak barrels for 10 months.

The fruit flavors in the Amalaya Malbec come through first – raspberry, ripe red cherry, plum and a touch of blueberry. Then come the spice and earth notes, with black pepper, cigar box and violet. Though the wine has a lot going on it’s not one that you need to overthink. The Amalaya Malbec is the kind of wine you can enjoy any night of the week, no fancy meal required. $16, 13.9% alcohol

Colomé and Amalaya are part of the Hess Family Wine Estates portfolio. For more information  www.hess-family.com.

Vinogram: Bottle Jack Winery

For more information on Bottle Jack Wines from Santa Cruz, California visit bottlejackwines.com.

Cru Bourgeois

Cru Bourgeois: High Quality Wine from Bordeaux’s Left Bank

With the incredible number of châteaux producing wines in Bordeaux, how do you know how to select a good bottle?

Sure, you can pick one from one of the five growths of the 1855 Classification – a ranking of Bordeaux’s best wines as requested by Emperor Napoleon III for the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris.

However, a lot has changed since 1855. So you may want to opt for something that has kept up with the times (not to mention that is also a lot easier than pulling up the list of classified estates).

When selecting a Bordeaux wine, look for Cru Bourgeois.

Cru Bourgeois logoCru Bourgeois du Médoc wines have met the strict quality selection procedure of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois. This union was created in 1962 to study, defend and promote the interests of the owners and producers in the Médoc area. The term dates back to the 15th century, when the bourgeois (merchants) of Bordeaux were able to acquire the finest properties in the region.

“We use an external and independent verification body – Bureau Veritas – to supervise every stage of the process to ensure quality standards and impartiality at every stage,” explained Crus Bourgeois du Médoc Director Frederique de Lamothe via email.

“Since 2008, each vintage is tasted blind by external professionals and evaluated before being sold, making the ‘Cru Bourgeois’ quality approach unique and a benchmark for Bordeaux and the rest of France.”

Cru Bourgeois wines are easy to spot, thanks to an authentication sticker affixed to each bottle since the 2010 vintage.

Cru Bourgeois sticker

“This sticker not only guarantees quality, but also that the wine is representative of its specific terroir and appellation,” said Mr. de Lamothe. “The sticker also has a QR code that allows easy and immediate access to that particular château’s technical information on the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc website.”

The wines come from the famous sub-appellations on Bordeaux’s Left Bank: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis en Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. They’re made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The wines in the Crus Bourgeois de Medoc offer variety, both in taste and price. Bottles range from $20 to $50, with the average price of a bottle currently at $25.50.

For more information on Crus Bourgeois du Medoc including member châteaux visit www.crus-bourgeois.com.

Vinkara wine

Vinkara Wines: Indigenous Grapes from Turkey

Love Old World wines and looking for something new? Try the wines from Vinkara Winery in Turkey, a place where winemaking started some 15,000 years ago.

Vinkara is a leader in the production of indigenous Anatolian grape varietals. They are now introducing their wines to the United States.

Vinkara Winery is located in Kalecik, in the Ankara Province in north-central Turkey. The village gives its name to Kalecik Karasi, a red wine grape that originated there.

Vinkara Narince Reserve 2012Vinkara’s 135 acres of vineyards are planted at an altitude of 2,000 feet, and are influenced by a continental climate with cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The grapes for all their wines are harvested by hand, and grow in a mix of sand, clay and limestone soils with high mineral content.

I had a chance to taste two of Vinkara’s wines – the Narince Reserve 2012 and the Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012.

Narince, pronounced nah-rin-djeh and meaning ‘delicately’ in Turkish, is a white wine grape. The 2012 Narince Reserve is a dry white wine that is reminiscent of Chardonnay or a fuller boded Sauvignon Blanc. It opens with citrus, tropical and floral aromas. On the palate are flavors of pear, grapefruit, pineapple and white flowers, with a touch of vanilla and well-balanced acidity. $25, 13.5% abv

Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012The Kalecik Karasi Reserve 2012, pronounced kah-le-djic car-ah-ser (with ‘er’ as in ‘father’), immediately brought to mind a spicy Pinot Noir or Gamay. This dry red wine is medium-bodied with aromas of red fruits, spice and smoke. Plum, red cherry and blackberry flavors are layered with black pepper, nutmeg and subtle notes of smoked meat. Smooth tannins and a lingering finish make it a really pleasing sip. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels.
$27, 13.5% abv

Though the wine producing region may be unfamiliar and the names may be a bit awkward to pronounce, all you need to know is that the wines of Vinkara are easy to drink and approachable, and well worth seeking out.

For more information on Vinkara Winery visit www.vinkarawines.com.

Vinkara wines are imported by The Winebow Group.

>> Connect:
Facebook: vinkara.wines
Twitter: @vinkarawines
Instagram: @vinkarawines

Vinogram: Anaba Pinot Noir 2013

For more information visit anabawines.com.

AG Pick: Loveblock Pinot Noir 2012

Celebrate love this Valentine’s Day and beyond with a bottle of the 2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir. This red wine comes from Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand. It’s a region known for high quality Pinot Noir, and Loveblock is just that.

Loveblock Pinot NoirThe winery was founded by Erica and Kim Crawford. Kim, Loveblock’s winemaker, is probably best known for the wines that carry his name, though he is no longer involved with the brand.

As the floral label would indicate, Loveblock is an aromatic Pinot Noir. Red fruit and violet aromas are further expressed on the palate. Cherry, raspberry and ripe strawberry flavors mix with white pepper and sage. The finish has a subtle note of dried mushroom.

The Loveblock Pinot Noir is light to medium in body, with a silky texture. It pairs well with a variety of foods so enjoy it with aphrodisiacs or at a romantic dinner with your Valentine.

For more information on Loveblock wines visit loveblock.co.nz. Loveblock Pinot Noir is imported by Terlato Wines.

$37, 14% alcohol

Organicgirl

Dress Them Your Best: Organicgirl #FlavCraze Challenge

Since becoming a new mom this summer, I have learned the importance of being able to throw together a meal in minutes.

That’s why I’m such a fan of organicgirl salad mixes. With organically grown lettuces from California that have been washed three times so I don’t have to, organicgirl helps me make a healthy meal in no time.

Even before I was pregnant I enjoyed organicgirl’s salad mixes. Let’s call it convenience, not laziness. Simply put, having lettuce that’s all ready to go keeps you from making excuses for not eating your veggies.

So I was excited when I was offered the chance to taste organicgirl’s new salad mixes and salad love dressings, plus a challenge: to create a dish featuring them.

My dish will be featured on organicgirl’s Facebook page, where it will compete with dishes from other bloggers.

But first, the new organicgirl greens:

Sweet Pea combines tender baby greens with fresh sweet pea shoots, which give the salad mix a springtime, fresh-from-the-garden feel. It also has 5 grams of protein per serving.

The PEPPERGREENS salad mix is rightfully in all capital letters because it shouts spiciness, with baby mustard greens, arugula and cress adding a kick.

organicgirl salad and dressings

Salad love is the new line of organic dressings from organicgirl. All are gluten free, GMO free and vegetarian.

White Cheddar is a tangy vinaigrette of aged cheddar, green onions, parmesan, buttermilk and sour cream.

Lemon Agave is a vegan-friendly vinaigrette with fresh lemons, extra virgin olive oil and blue agave nectar that is reminiscent of homemade lemonade.

Fresh Tomato Italian is tomatoes, basil, parmesan, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It’s like bruschetta in a bottle, and so tasty you’ll want to use it as a dip too.

Kale Parmesan is made with baby kale, mint, basil, chives, parmesan and spinach. It tastes like you’re drinking pesto sauce – truly decadent.

organicgirl salad love dressings

The Sweet Pea and PEPPERGREENS salad mixes are so good on their own that all I need is a little olive oil. But that’s certainly not going to win me any votes!

So here is my entry:

White Cheddar Marinated New York Strip Steak with
PEPPERGREEN Chimichurri

Organicgirl steak

I love a good dry aged steak, but unless it’s a special occasion I buy the standard supermarket cuts. When I tasted the White Cheddar salad love dressing it was like a light bulb going off – maybe by marinating the steak in the dressing it would impart some of those delicious flavors that you get from dry aging.

Inspired by the flavors of Argentina, I decided to try an organicgirl spin on chimichurri. Instead of using parsley and oregano for the traditional green sauce, I used the PEPPERGREENS mix and the Kale Parmesan salad love dressing.

I finely chopped the organicgirl salad mix by hand, then whisked it together with the Kale Parmesan dressing, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and salt. I’ve shared the full recipe at the bottom.

Organicgirl chimichurri

I marinated the steaks overnight in the White Cheddar dressing, then seasoned them with salt and pepper before grilling them to a perfect medium rare.

After plating I topped the steak with the PEPPERGREEN chimichurri, and served it with the PEPPERGREENS mix and locally grown heirloom tomatoes. Bonus: the PEPPERGREEN chimichurri made excellent dressing for the salad!

AG Organicgirl steak

The dish tasted even more delicious than it looks in the picture. The White Cheddar marinade imparted tangy and aged cheese flavors (especially on the parts that were charred from the grill), and all the savory elements of the steak worked so well with the spiciness and vinegar of the chimichurri.

For such an easy to make dish it made a big impact – and made our weeknight dinner feel like a special event.

AG Organicgirl steak3Naturally we decided to pair our Argentine-inspired meal with an Argentine Malbec. We selected a bottle we brought back from our last trip to Argentina, a 2010 Marcus Gran Reserva Malbec.

If you’d like to try this meal in your own home, I recommend the Septima Malbec, which can be found a few aisles over from organicgirl in many grocery stores.

Look for organicgirl salad mixes and salad love dressings in the refrigerated produce section of Publix, Whole Foods and other natural food markets.

For more information visit www.iloveorganicgirl.com.

>> Connect:
Facebook: iloveorganicgirl
Twitter: @iloveorganic
Instagram: @iloveorganicgirl
Pinterest: organicgirl


White Cheddar Marinated New York Strip Steak with PEPPERGREEN Chimichurri

Ingredients:

  • 2 New York Strip steaks, approximately 1.5 lbs total
  • 1/2 bottle organicgirl salad love White Cheddar dressing
  • 4 cups organicgirl PEPPERGREENS salad mix
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp organicgirl salad love Kale Parmesan dressing
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more if you love garlic)
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Directions:

Marinate the steaks overnight in the organicgirl salad love White Cheddar dressing.

To make the chimichurri, finely chop the organicgirl PEPPERGREENS salad mix and garlic by hand or in a food processor.

In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and organicgirl salad love Kale Parmesan dressing. Add the chopped PEPPERGREENS salad mix, garlic and salt, and stir to mix.

Without removing the excess marinade from the steaks, season the meat with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks until your preferred doneness.

Top the steaks with the PEPPERGREEN chimichurri and enjoy!

Serves two hungry adults

Full disclosure: The Amateur Gastronomer received complimentary salad mixes and salad love dressings from organicgirl.

Finger Lakes wine

Cabernet Franc and Lemberger: Red Wines of the Finger Lakes

Riesling is the undisputed signature white wine grape of the Finger Lakes. But as for the signature red wine grape of this region in upstate New York, should it be Cabernet Franc or Lemberger? The answer isn’t as clear.

The question was posed to a panel of winemakers and winery representatives during a virtual tasting of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and Lemberger, organized by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

I joined other wine writers and bloggers in tasting, talking and tweeting about the red wines.

First up was the Cabernet Franc.

Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc

The wines tasted were:

Heron Hill Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.
Aged for 20 months in French, Eastern European and American oak barrels. Aromas of clove and toasted wood with flavors of jammy cherry and plum with a subtle hint of eucalyptus.
heronhill.com

McGregor Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Vineyards located on the east side of Cayuga Lake.
Aged for 13 months in oak barrels. Berry aromas and flavors, with notes of sweet oak and black tea and smooth tannins.
mcgregorwinery.com

Damiani Wine Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Cayuga Lake and east side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels (16% new American oak). Aromas of stewed berries and wood spice, with flavors of dark plum, blackberry, cocoa and cigarbox.
damianiwinecellars.com

So why should Cabernet Franc be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes?

As the panel explained, Cabernet Franc is well suited to the Finger Lakes climate. Wines produced there have good acidity and are very food friendly. They are more fruit driven, with crisp, clear flavors. In the Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc is also excellent as a rosé.

The panel recommended pairing Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc with grilled steak, anything with mushrooms, or a dish that is earthy and charred. One winemaker suggested enjoying a glass with a beet and goat cheese salad.

Next it was time to taste Lemberger. Also known as Blaufrankisch, this grape is grown across Central Europe. Most wineries in the Finger Lakes have chosen to use Lemberger, not Blaufrankisch, on their labels.

Finger Lakes Lemberger

The wines tasted were:

Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 10 months in 50% New York oak, 40% other American oak and 10% French oak barrels. Aromas of raspberry and blueberry with black pepper, cocoa, toast and a touch of spice.
lakewoodvineyards.com

Fulkerson Winery 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for one year in French oak barrels. Sweet cherry, plum and smoky oak aromas with flavors of ripe berries and a silky finish.
fulkersonwinery.com

Fox Run Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry and freshly ground black pepper with flavors of black cherry, plum, sweet vanilla and spice.
foxrunvineyards.com

So why should Lemberger be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes? The first and most obvious reason is that there aren’t a lot of other wine regions in the United States that are focusing on growing Lemberger. In addition to doing well in the Finger Lakes climate, it is an easier grape to grow. It consistently ripens, and neither the deer nor the turkeys like it (apparently turkeys love Pinot Noir).

Wine produced from Lemberger grapes has a rustic and wild character to it, and really benefits from oak. Without oak, the wine lacks a persistence of flavor and length. In the Finger Lakes Lemberger blends the fruit-forward New World style with the food-friendly nature of an Old World wine. The wines are lower in alcohol and have good acidity.

The panel suggested pairing Finger Lakes Lemberger with beef and hearty pasta dishes like lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs.

At the end of the tasting the vote on which should be the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes was still split.

The verdict that anyone could agree upon – pick up a bottle of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc or Lemberger and taste them for yourself!

For more information visit fingerlakeswinealliance.com.