Sunday, September 12, 2010

Willamette Wine Tasting

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful experience while visiting wineries in Oregon’s Willamette valley and while they were all good, the folks at Anne Amie provided a unique and special experience for me. I joined Thomas Houseman, Winemaker along with Andy Gribskov and Tammie Crawford both assistant winemakers in a tasting for some of their upcoming releases.  Not knowing what to expect, I sat down to 7 glasses of an unlabeled white wine.  Prior to tasting, I was told these were a fortified wine which was to be the next release, the 2009 Amie, which is a Late Harvest Muller-Thurgau wine.  Also know as “Stickes”, this would be classified as a dessert wine.  The Muller-Thurgau varietal is used in some of the other wines made by Anne Amie and could be described as similar to Sauvignon Blanc without the grapefruit flavors.

The tasting wasn’t meant to be challenging. Thomas asked me to indicate which were my favorite 2 glasses out of the 7 and then 2 favorites from the next 6 glasses.  In short, each of the samples held a slightly different percentage of alcohol produced from fortifying the wine with Brandy, thus giving each of the samplings a slightly different taste.  The goal was to sample 13 glasses in total, narrow the picks down to 4, which will be tasted later for the final decision.  I was happy to know that of my picks, I had 3 of the 4 as my favs.

The last tasting we did was for the next release of their Rubies, which is a red blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot, also fortified and a dessert wine as well.  With this tasting we had 6 glasses and I’m happy to share that 1 of my 2 favorites will be the new release.  It was unanimous for which sample we all liked.  For aromas, the Rubies samples I tried had hints of blackberries and cherries followed by little spice. It’s slightly sweet tasting with dark berry flavors as well.  As the tasting notes say from the 2008 release, this is a dangerously perfect match to chocolate.

I know it may sound weird to those of you who have done tastings before but to be invited to sample the future of a wine is a great honor and I owe Thomas and his entire staff a big thank you for including me. 

Don’t miss some of the other great wines I liked from Anne Amie such as:
’09 Muller-Thurgau (close to a Sav. Blanc w/out the grapefruit flavors)
’09 Pinot Gris (citrus w/ hint of spice)
’07 Willamette pinot Noir (hint of spice on the nose, very smooth tasting and 22% new oak).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Beverage Trends

Benchmark Hospitality Releases Beverage Trends

Benchmark Hospitality International released its Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2010. The beverage trends were released in response to requests following the distribution of the company’s popular annual dining trends.
“This is an exciting time for the beverage industry, with lots of positive changes occurring,” said Mary Watson-DeLauder, chief sommelier for Benchmark Hospitality International.  “Some of the changes are economically driven, some taste oriented and still others created out of necessity in response to changing palates and a new generation of consumers.”
The top ten trends are:
1.       Unoaked chardonnays are replacing the big oak wines of the past. Several wineries have backed off on oak completely to focus more attention on the fruit characteristics of the chardonnay grape.
2.       Sauvignon Blanc continues to gain popularity, with New Zealand leading the pack. California, Virginia, Chile and South Africa are producing great examples of this wine as well.
3.       More obscure grape varieties like Torrontes, Bonarda, Carmenere, Albarino and Chenin Blanc are being embraced today. These also tend to be less expensive alternatives.
4.       Champagne sales are down this year, but sales of sparkling wines are up. New and innovative cocktails and punches are making great use of these less expensive sparkling wines.
5.       Sangria is making a comeback – often mixing in less expensive wines currently on the market.
6.       Basic cocktails like martinis, mojitos, margaritas and sidecars are being revamped with fresh new ingredients such as herbs, spices, and unusual fruits and vegetables. House-made simple syrups are being infused with herbs and spices.
7.       Novelty is important. Bars are finding contemporary ways to serve traditional cocktails including, for example, wine popsicles.
8.       Beer dinners are growing in popularity, demonstrating the compatibility of beer with food. Beer is also working its way into cocktails, such as with beer margaritas.
9.       The slow food movement now includes enjoying locally produced beverages. All 50 states have at least one winery, and most produce herbs and spices for flavoring cocktails, vodkas and rums.
10.   The popularity of wine and wine-pairing classes is gaining for groups.
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