Tag Archives: chardonnay

Talking Vines and Drinking Wine with Stangeland Winery

2 May

I am a proud Californian.  My favorite author is John Steinbeck, my favorite flower is the California poppy, and I love Mexican food.  However, I can’t get behind everything Californian, especially when that thing is Pinot Noir.

There are great examples of California Pinot Noir–for instance, the illustrious Sea Smoke and the much more affordable Belle Glos “Meiomi”–but I have found that too many are high-alcohol, big-bodied wines that hurt my palate.  I mean, of all wines Pinot freakin’ Noir is supposed to be easy to drink, right?

Enter, stage north, Oregonian Pinot Noir to steal the show and save the day.

As a general rule, Oregon winemakers subscribe to Old World virtues such as restraint and elegance.  Their Pinot Gris is more Alsatian in character than Italian, and their Pinot Noir is positively Burgundian.

Part of this has to do with Oregon’s cooler, wetter climate, which lends itself to the more classical French style of winemaking.  But much of this also has to do with the winemakers’ philosophies on what wine should be.

I had the chance to taste some of this philosophy in action at a tasting of Stangeland Vineyards & Winery, held at Planet Wine.  Also at the tasting was Larry Miller, the president and winemaker at Stangeland.

Stangeland is a pioneer of Oregon wine, having planted a vineyard at the current Eola-Amity Hills AVA in 1978.  Eola-Amity Hills, which is contained entirely within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, is a very new AVA, having been designated in 2006.  Stangeland focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.  I tried a number of the winery’s Pinot Noirs, in addition to one of their Chards and a Pinot Gris.

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An Excellent Evening with Ansonia Wines & Friends

26 Mar

I’m a very happy person by disposition, though I’ve been known to have my emo moments.  However, one thing I have learned about myself is that I very rarely like the place I am until it’s time to leave.

For instance, I spent four and a half years in Berkeley, and it wasn’t until my last year that I truly started to enjoy it.  Suddenly, its wonders started presenting themselves to me like a blossom of gastronomic joy.  Where the hell was Gregoire all my life?  Why didn’t I go to Kermit Lynch before?

I am also a native of the Los Angeles region–Alhambra and South Pasadena, to be exact–but I can’t say I truly loved LA until I left for law school here in DC.  Now I love LA; every moment I spend there on break is a little blessing.

You might have heard me railing on DC.  I’ve always had the feeling that it’s trying to be like many different cities but failing.  I hate the crazy humidity of the summer, and I don’t like the absolute lack of tall buildings.  I hate how the Metro closes early–or at all–and how the bars close early.  I also don’t consider myself a very political person, which considering the town is not such a good thing.

However, DC has begun to grow on me.  There are little pockets of DC, a coffee shop here or a restaurant there, an alleyway here or a circle there, that I love.  Of course, one can choose to explain this cynically by pointing out that every city has its charms.  Still, I think I’ll be missing Amsterdam Falafelshop a lot once I leave DC.

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Burgundy: Not Just for the Reds

12 Dec

About a week or so ago I wrote a post about some delicious, delicious red Burgundies I shared with some staffers of the Nota Bene.  However, that was only half the story, as along with the three excellent pinots we tried three chardonnays.

I think a lot of people, when they think about Burgundy, see in their mind’s eye big jug wines labeled “Burgundy.”  (An aside: I was looking up Carlo Rossi’s Burgundy to see what grapes go in it but was unsuccessful.  I have no clue what goes in their Burgundy, and apparently no one on the Internet cares enough to do the research!)  This is horrible, and my hat goes off to those wine drinkers who appreciate well-crafted, artisanal pinot noir-based Burgundies from Burgundy, France.

But that’s not all this wondrous region has to offer.  I would argue that some of the world’s greatest white wines–and definitely the world’s greatest chardonnays–come from Burgundy.  Those white Burgundies I’ve tried have all been vastly superior–to my palate, at least–to those super-oaky butterballs that California seems to churn out with a vengeance.

To each his own, though, right?  This might be the case, but in my age demographic (20-30, generally) white Burgundies get ignored.  This can be chalked (heh) up to four broad reasons:

  1. When people think of Burgundy, they think of horrible jug wines.
  2. When people don’t think of Burgundy in terms of jug wines, they think that all Burgundies are red.
  3. Many people are turned off by the “butterball” super-oaky style of chardonnay championed by Californian winemakers.
  4. White Burgundies can be friggin’ expensive.

I’ve already addressed numbers one and two.  As regards number three, white Burgundies are as a general rule much less oaky than California wines.  However, they do exist on a stylistic scale ranging from lean and mean to round and supple, which makes Burgundy a veritable playground of chardonnay.

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A Burgundy Moment

4 Dec

I’ve been meaning to update this blog with the results of a fantastic Burgundy tasting I hosted for the staff of the Nota Bene a few weeks ago, but I never got around to it (I think finals, which start next week, has something to do with it).  However, a post on the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant blog “Inspiring Thirst” inspired me to post at least a short entry on a few of the wines we drank that evening.

We had a spate of seven wines for the tasting, starting with the decidedly NOT Burgundian Drappier “Carte d’Or” Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne which I included because, hell, it’s 100% chardonnay, and hell, who doesn’t like Champagne?  We went through three whites–a basic Mâcon-Villages, a Chablis, and a Chassagne-Montrachet–and three reds.

The first red, the 2005 Domaine René Leclerc Bourgogne, was a basic rouge I picked up at MacArthur Beverages for around $25.  However, it was really, really good, with nice acidity, some spice, and a hint of funk.  This is definitely something I’d pick up as a “house Burgundy” if I ever make that much money in the future.

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Note: 2005 Pierre Andre Saint-Aubin “Les Anges” Premier Cru

2 Sep

I have had much to be thankful for this past week.  For instance, classes started up again and, strangely enough, they’re all pretty interesting (though the amount of reading I have is daunting at times).  I finished up the main portion of a Student Bar Association (SBA) program I was in charge of which consisting of pairing 1Ls with upperclassmen mentors.  I got two more Riedel Vinum Burgundy glasses, and my friend Sharon got a sweet part-time job at Banana Republic (which will result in sartorial benefits for m, I hope!).

Thus I wanted to get a decent bottle of wine with which to celebrate.

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All Grown Up: My First Hosted Wine Tastings

21 Nov

It’s strange being 25.  I remember being a kid in grade school and looking up to the new young teachers, those who were obviously younger than people like Mrs. Donaldson or Mr. Kinter–people who had been at the game for years and years.  They didn’t really know what they were doing yet, but they were bright and fun and energetic.

And now I might very well be older than they were at the time.

(My torts professor summed it up quite nicely when he quipped, “It’s a strange feeling when both the president-elect AND the chief justice are younger than you are.”)

Now that I’m a quarter century old, I feel as if I should be an adult.  I certainly feel adult-like at certain moments–for instance, when I cook dinner, or when I go to the Ritz-Carlton for drinks (that one time!)–but sometimes feel as if I’m a child playing grownup. I think many of my peers feel the same way.

All that aside, it IS nice to get together and do grownup stuff–like hold wine tastings.  My roommate and I decided to throw a wine tasting; I decided also to throw a wine tasting before that wine tasting to get the feel of things.

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Wednesday Wine Night at LegalZoom

27 Mar

Unless you are a winemaker or, say, this guy, work sucks. I don’t care how much you get paid, or how “rewarding” the job is–work is work, and work by definition sucks. Getting up in the morning, beating traffic, then getting harassed by customers for 8 or 9 hours straight is not exactly my definition of the “best day ever”, though of course there’s much worse!

I work on the sales team for the business department; there are other departments with their own sales teams. The estate planning sales team recently moved into the ground floor suite with my team. To “facilitate” this move, the LegalZoom administration funded a wine and cheese mixer in one of our conference rooms for Wednesday.

Needless to say, I was very keen on who, exactly, would be choosing the wine. I was delighted to hear that Heather from HR was the one assigned to purchase the food and wine. Heather knows her wine: in the days leading up to the event I e-mailed her repeatedly about her wine preferences and what she thought she would purchase. Tempranillo? Some sort of Rhone-style blend? As for whites, she settled on an unoaked or at least neutral-oak chardonnay.

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An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part One (#1 – 6)

24 Feb

LegalZoom = overtime. A lot of overtime. For instance, this means that once every three or four weeks we have to come in for half days on Saturday. Luckily, the time passed relatively quickly and I was able to drive down the 101 South to the 110 North, then exit Orange Grove, then make a left onto Mission Street and, two or three blocks past the Gold Line, pull into the familiar parking lot of Mission Wines and meet up with the usual motley crew of my co-workers, regulars, and newbies for an afternoon of conviviality.

Joining me in the 25-and-under group were some fellow “Zoomers”: Jonathan (not Jonathan Lewis from entries past), a film major from USC; Will, the Guatemalan martial artist who can squat-press over 1,000 pounds; Erica, of Coloradan extraction; and her boyfriend, Jack, the New Yorker accountant.

We were in for a treat: a wine broker was present for the tasting showcasing wines from his portfolio. This portends well because importers, winemakers, and brokers are pretty keen to put forth their best; Saturday was no exception. The five wines on the “official” tasting list were:

1 | 2006 Lioco Chardonnay | Sonoma, California | $19.99
I hate to admit it, but my palate’s not very refined. I sipped this chardonnay and thought I detected vanilla and oak. Hell, I was dead certain I detected vanilla and oak. The broker came over and told us some more about the wine, including the little fact that this chard had not been aged in oak. At all. It had not even touched neutral oak. All stainless steel. I did taste a lot of fruit–very tropical–and some nice acid. A bit of butter–not a big butterball like many other California chardonnays I’ve had. Overall, one of the better chardonnays I’ve had, though I would have to say that I still have never encountered a chardonnay I wanted to take home with me.

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