Friday, October 1, 2010

#Grenache Day and the ensuing weekend

So this is my first post.  I've attempted no less than three "first posts" before this one.  Let's hope this one actually gets posted.

I'm not sure if this is how this entire blog is going to go, but I do know that it's how I'd like it to go.  I love wine.  I'm passionate about it.  I'm not, though the most educated person on the subject, so when I talk about it on this blog, it'll be from some personal experience and from a lot of research.  I'm not sure I'll always (or ever) be able to properly cite my references, but I'll do my level best to at least point you in the right direction, or at a bare minimum let you know from whom I'm getting my information.

Friday was "International #Grenache Day" (make sure you include the #hashtag!).  Based on the little information I could find on the grape, I decided that I was going to buy three different bottles of wine, all with the Grenache grape, and host a small tasting (small = me, wifey, mom & dad).  I was able to get some information from Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World Complete Wine Course" (although my edition is rather old) and I'm sure I read some tweets by @RickBakas and @TishWine that lead me in the right direction.  I may have even read some Wikipedia (

The thought process was I'd get a Grenache from Spain (or Garnacha as it's called there) and then two Grenache-based wines from the southern Rhone Valley (wines from the northern Rhone Valley are often 100% Syrah, very different from the wines made in the South - more info:  Even the Grenache-based wines from the southern region can be very different from each other, so I decided on a Côtes du Rhône and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.   It turns out I didn't have $45 to spend on the only Chateauneuf-du-Pape Total Wine had, so I ended up getting whatever the very helpful guy that worked there told me to get.  

Okay so I've done some more extensive research on exactly which bottles I bought and I've come up short (note to self, take pictures and notes on the day of the tasting, you dipshit).  The good news is that I remember the grape blends and where they're from, so hopefully that'll help a bit, also they're all about $10 (I'm sorry...) Sooo here's how we'll describe them for the sake of this blog:

Wine 1:
Southern Rhone blend: 60% Grenache; 40% Syrah - Bought at Total Wine

Wine 2:
Southern Rhone blend: 50/30/20ish Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache (GSM's are common blends for S. Rhone, although technically this one would be a SMG) - Bought at Total Wine

Wine 3:
Spanish 100% Garnacha (Tapeña - Bought at BevMo

Notes and impressions:

Wine 1:
I loved it. Wifey loved it.  Mom really liked it.  Dad thought it was okay (Dad is a fan of "suck-your-lips-from-your-mouth dry" wines.  It was VERY light. Dude at Total Wine called it "medium bodied".  I must drink Fat Albert bodied wines then because this was way light as far as I'm concerned, but not in a bad way.  It had a very unique flavor about it.  I described it as red cherry (as opposed to black cherry) (NOTE: I don't know shit about verbalizing that which I taste, so take my descriptions with a grain of salt).  I would call this a good summer red, although it does not need excessive chilling.  I see this paired well with a capellini pomodoro (more on this later).

Wine 2:
Dad and I agreed that this had almost no nose and almost less taste.  The little we could get out of it was earthiness, although not quite Pinot Noir style earthiness.  It sucked.  Next. (I promise I'll let you know if I can remember which wines these were.  I'll do better next time, Mommy, really!!!)

Wine 3:
Although 100% Garnacha/Grenache (supposedly a "lighter" grape) this was the closest to a traditional California red.  This is why I wanted to do this type of tasting.  This tasted NOTHING like the first two and furthest from the first one (the Grenache-heavier one of the French wines).  This was Dad's fave.  The most tannins of the three although not "heavy" on the tannins.  Definite dark fruit. Earthy, but not overly so.  For $10, pretty damn good. My 2nd fave tonite.

Soooo we do a quick tasting then I have to run off to play cards with my buds. Wish I could have stayed longer and talked more about the wines (more on this later, too).

We played cards, had fun, wifey went out with the WAGS of the other players. Good night all the way around.

Next day:
Had a Gruner Veltliner for the first time EVER.  It was a "Grooner" brand from BevMo.  Hmm... I've had this before.  It's called Sauvignon Blanc. Don't know if its the winery or the grape, but very chalky.  Wifey very accurately called out notes of dry sparkling apple cider. Wasn't bad, but with all of the attention that Gruners have gotten lately, it was very underwhelming. Hopefully my next Gruner will be more enjoyable (not that this one was bad, but it just wasn't the "nectar of the gods" I was expecting).

So I get to cooking that night. Have this rich, yet kinda light pasta dish in my brain.  Thinking fresh tomatoes, thin spaghetti, bacon, garlic, onions (I think), wifey suggests shrimp, and my fave ingredient, fresh basil (I grow loads of it... my only damn "crop" that grows well).

My thought is to dice 2 of my 4 tomatoes and crush the other two, creating a saucy sauce with chunks in it.  I start by frying the bacon and after it starts to brown adding in the onion (I'm pretty sure there was onion in there) and the garlic.  Next comes the tomatoes.  Not as much sauce as I'd've liked, so I add a can of diced tomatoes.  I throw the al dente spaghetti in the sauce to absorb the juices, but I realize I still don't have enough sauce.  I toss in the chopped fresh basil.  The dish was a little softer than I would have liked.  Just not quite what I was hoping for.  Dinner was a solid 6/10.  Very "okay".

Next day:
I sauté the pasta dish in some olive oil for lunch the next day.  This is what I was looking for.  The tomatoes dry out a bit and take on the strong "sun dried tomato" flavor.  The bacon crisps up.  The pasta gets a nice crisp to the outside.  I add a little salt that should have been there the night before and pair it with more of Wine #1 from Friday.  A solid success.  The flavors come out so much more after the additional cooking and everything gets just enough crisp on it to kill the mushiness from the night before.  Lesson to be learned: next time, more sauce and more time in the pan.

So in addition to all of this, I first decided I wanted to moonlight as a VinoVirtuoso "Wine Educator".  One of my friends asked me to conduct a tasting at a little girlie party she was putting on.  Well then I realized that it would be almost $200 to join VinoVirtuoso and I really started thinking about why I wanted to do it.  It wasn't for the money! It was for the wine and friends and I don't need VinoVirtuoso or any other similar company for that.  So I took it upon myself to come up with about 15 different tasting topics and I emailed some people to gauge interest.  Great response! So it looks like me, wifey and some of my friends are going to start semi-regular tastings about once a month.  The first one will be an "everyday" type of winery that makes everything from Sauv Blanc to Cab Sauv with the idea being to get the "tasters" familiar with the varietals and how they differ from one another (using the same winery, vintage and price point will help level the playing field and really help highlight the differences in the varietals.) I'm hoping to really turn this into a regular event.  It'll also be great blog fodder.

Okay this first post is waaay too long and has taken waaay too long to actually get out there. So I'm gonna cut it off here.  Will try to post again soon, especially if I have something interesting to say.  Thank you for reading this, especially if you've actually gotten this far!

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