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White Wines for Hot Summer Days

A refreshing glass of white wine!

A nice cold glass of white wine is perfect for these hot summer days. There are so many different white wines out there and so many different styles that it can get a little overwhelming and confusing. We hope that this will serve as your summer white wine guide and will help you to choose a varietal and style that perfectly suits your taste.

Sauvignon Blanc

In each region where Sauvignon Blanc is grown, the grape and resulting wine expresses a unique set of flavors and styles.  Sauvignon Blanc thrives throughout France, and especially within Bordeaux, where it is the prominent grape varietal in Bordeaux Blanc blends and the coveted dessert wines of Sauternes . The climate of Bordeaux allows the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to ripen more slowly than in other areas, giving a wonderful balance between acidity and fruit. The climate is also an important factor in the development of the wine’s aromas.  The flavors in these wines are fruitier than those from other regions in France. These wines can also age a bit more than the Sauvignon Blancs that are produced elsewhere.

The Loire Valley is the home of Sancerre, producing some of the most celebrated Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Sancerre is considered an elegant wine that is vibrant and crisp. Sancerre has good fruit and minerals, which combine to make a deep and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit flavors that are typically present in Sancerre are from the citrus family, including lemon, lime and grapefruit. However, when the grapes are really ripe you can taste pear, quince, and apple.  The wines that are produced in Sancerre have a good acidity, making them among the most refreshing wines out there.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

California Sauvignon Blanc is made in a variety of styles, some of which were inspired by the regions of France.  Fume-Blanc is a “French look a-like” that came into being when Robert Mondavi  began using oak aging to remove some of the grassy flavors that were showing up in his California Sauvignon Blanc.

The flavors that are present in Sauvignon Blanc/Fume-Blanc, grown in California, tend to be minerally, grassy, and tropical. The wines that show more tropical fruits tend to be mixed with Semillon, which helps add ripe and aromatic fruit flavors. In addition, there are wines produced in California that offer citrus fruit aromas, showing notes of passion fruit, grapefruit, and lemon.  On the other hand, the Fume-Blanc style shows melon flavors, as well as some other tropical fruits.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very tropical and refreshing when the weather is really hot. There is also something about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I really enjoy in general, but especially in the summer. Just like all Sauvignon Blancs that I have covered here, they are bright, refreshing, and crisp. Marlborough is the most well-known area in New Zealand where this grape variety is grown and produced.

A typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very aromatic with tropical notes of pineapple, passion fruit, grapefruit, melon, gooseberry, and other citrus flavors. Some of these wines can have grassy and floral notes too. The cool climate that the grapes are grown in allows for these flavors to be quite intense, but also gives a good balance between sugars and acidity. Moderate to high acidity is typical for these wines.

View all Sauvignon Blanc available on our website.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the white wine grapes, having a variety of expressions depending on the region and the winemaker’s influence.   Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Chardonnay is a native grape varietal to France’s Burgundy region.  Consumers always get confused when it comes to Burgundy – red or white. It seems confusing with the different appellations within a village, the many different growers within the same vineyard, and then of course you sprinkle in the negociant.  When it comes to White Burgundy, the first thing you need to know is that 95% percent of the time, the white wines produced there are made from Chardonnay! And Burgundy produces some of the finest and most age worthy Chardonnays in the world.  Depending on the area of Burgundy, the flavors that can arise range from citrus fruit to licorice and spice notes, and can be rich and creamy in style or very racy and brisk.   Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive expression of Chardonnay within Burgundy.  View all White Burgundy available on our website.

Chablis will always be 100% Chardonnay, no blending of any kind. Because of the cool climate that the grapes are grown in, Chablis is always refreshing and very crisp, but don’t let that fool you, Chablis can be aged.  Expressing a deep mineral character in its youth, the wine tends to softens with age and develop floral and honeyed notes.  Another typical characteristic of young Chablis is a green apple-like acidity, as well as a flinty-mineral flavor.

California is another popular Chardonnay producing region.  California Chardonnay tends to be fuller-bodied in style, filling the palate with rich flavors and textures.  Chardonnay is wonderfully versatile, which is why it works so well for all seasons!

View all Chardonnay available on our website.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris/Grigio Grapes

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio is a mutant form of the Pinot Noir grape.  The grapes can actually have a purplish hue, although the wine produced is light in color. This is a wonderful warm weather wine and is sure to cool you off on a hot summer afternoon.  It tends to be light to medium-bodied in style and is usually very pale in color. It is extremely bright, crisp, and refreshing.  Pinot Gris thrives in Alsace, California and Oregon, while Italy is known for Pinot Grigio.  View all Pinot Grigio available on our website.

Italian Pinot Grigio is very bright and clean. It is very light in color and in body. Sometimes there is an effervescent feel to an Italian Pinot Grigio. This makes the wine elegant and delicate, which means you want to drink it in its youth.

Pinot Gris is a major grape varietal in Alsace, and is very different from the Pinot Gris/Grigio that is found everywhere else. These wines have very intense flavors, because of the long autumn season, which allows for the grapes to ripen very slowly. The Alsatian Pinot Gris is medium-bodied and can be aged for longer than those of Italy and the United States.  Alsatian Pinot Gris can have a nice spice flavor to it, which is unique to this variety.  In general, Pinot Grigio makes a great cooler for the hot weather!

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Summer Wines: A Seasonal Guide

Sit back, relax, and cool off with a refreshing glass of wine in hand!

All of this warm weather, bright sun and our constant search for a cool or air conditioned space is a definite sign that summer is upon us! It’s the time to enjoy weekends at the beach, vacations abroad, or even some rooftop barbeques with family and friends. Whatever your summer plans may be, I am sure a refreshing summer wine would be a great companion to bring along, whether it be for a casual dinner with the family or for a momentous occasion such as a wedding.

Keeping your needs in mind, we have compiled a great list of summer wines spanning the traditional favorites like Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, and adding several unique wines for you to consider including Chenin Blanc, Prosecco, Rosé Champagne, and Gewurztraminer. Here, at The Wine Cellarage, we are thrilled to share our newly composed summer wine list with you. These wines have been chosen for their excellent quality and great value. They are sure to keep you cool and refreshed all summer long!

Here’s a closer look at our summer wine list…

Rosé

Summertime is here and it’s the perfect season to open up a bottle of refreshing berry-scented, floral rosé. Rosé is the ideal wine for summer barbecues and parties and is incredibly food-friendly. Perfect pairings include barbecue flavors, sausage, hamburgers, and just about anything on the grill – veggies, fish, shrimp, pork and so on.  Also, fresh salads and side dishes are easily matched with just about any rosé. How could you possibly turn down a glass of beautifully pink, crispy chilled wine on a warm summer night?

The 2011 Chateau Sainte Marguerite L’Esprit Rosétes de Provence ($16) from Côtes de Provence, the biggest appellation of the Provence wine region, is a beautiful blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grape varieties. This rosé is deliciously fruity and balanced with crisp strawberry and raspberry flavors and attractive acidity. It serves very well as an aperitif but is structured enough to withstand various entrées as a companion.

The 2010 Domaine Saint Ser Côtes de Provence Saint Victoire Rosé Prestige ($16) is an elegant rosé, offering lovely aromas of wild red berries, hints of watermelon and lemon zest; a perfect pairing for traditional Provencal meals like Bouillabaisse.  This wine definitely has the structure to stand up to substantial dishes. The Domaine Saint-Ser is located in the Saint Victoire sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence and is home to a small number of elite producers.

The 2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($14) is the perfect summertime sipper with aromas of raspberry, watermelon and undertones of Provençal herbs.  Charles Bieler has been crafting his charming Provençal rosé for the last 7 years. This particular rosé is named after his daughter, Sabine, who was born the same year as the wine’s first vintage, and honors his father, Philippe, who introduced both Charles and his sister to the wine business.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc wines are perfect coolers for hot summer weather. Their aroma, ranging from herbal greens to citrus fruits, often sporting refreshing acidity, makes them an attractive pick for a summer drink. Sauvignon Blanc is usually at its prime within a few years of its release while it still showcases its fruitful and fresh youth. This native French varietal is the main constituent of white Bordeaux wines and is widely planted in the Loire Valley, most notably in the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

The Seresin estate in New Zealand produces wines from organic and biodynamic vineyards where the fruit is hand-picked and sorted. This 2009 Seresin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($45) embraces typical traits of Marlborough, with herbal and floral flavors and underlying minerality. The fruit flavors, especially gooseberry, and complexity give way to a drawn out finish of juicy citrus.

We have another New Zealand wine for you! 2010 Craggy Range Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard Martinborough ($19) is great to drink now, with herbal and lime aromas and a hint of vanilla. The concentrated fruit flavors balance out with the citrus-like acidity. This drinks well as an aperitif or with lighter and fresh foods such as salads.

While we love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, we’ll always have a taste for those from the Loire Valley. Pascal Jolivet is one of the Loire’s youngest estates producing exceptional Sauvignon Blancs.  Established in 1987, Domaine Pascal Jolivet is devoted to natural winemaking and sustainable techniques.  Based in Sancerre, the estate owns over 70 acres of the best vineyards in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.  The 2009 Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc Attitude ($17) offers floral and citrus aromas, bright acidity and minerality on the palate.  This delightful wine drinks like a Sancerre at half the price.

This 2010 Gerard et Pierre Morin Sancerre Vieilles Vignes ($22) is a great Sancerre which I recently had the privilege of tasting. It offers aromas of citrus fruit zest and freshly cut grass, both scents reminiscent of summer days. The wine tastes ripe, tight, and crisp with good minerality.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the grape varietals, thriving in a range of climates and crafted in a variety of styles. Relatively neutral in character, Chardonnay is easily influenced by its environment and the winemaker’s techniques.  For these reasons, it is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Native to France’s Burgundy, Chardonnay is the only grape variety permissible in Chablis and one of three grapes varieties used in Champagne.  Outside of France, Chardonnay has flourished in the New World wine regions, growing happily in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and beyond.

Chablis is always a refreshing choice for summertime and perfect for pairing with lighter dishes, especially seafoods.  The 2009 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Montee de Tonnerre ($38) is representative of elegance and finesse with notes of fruit blossom and the great combination of smokiness and minerality on the palate, which leads to a powerful finish. This premier cru is terroir-driven and expressive, as most Domaine Fevre wines aim to be.

This 2006 Maison Deux Montille Soeur et Frère Saint-Aubin sur Gamay ($32) is a premier cru from St Aubin in the Burgundy region. The estate is run by two siblings with vineyards located mostly in the Côte de Beaune region in 20 appellations. This particular Chardonnay offers lemony stone flavors that are round and focused with aromas of pear, minerals, and white flower.

This 2009 Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils Meursault Genevrieres ($79) is great for any seafood dish especially with a butter or sorrel sauce. Coming from Domaine Bouchard, the estate is one of the most renowned in Burgundy and has a reputation for producing exceptional wines. This particular Chardonnay is silky with citrus and floral flavors and a very smooth finish. This wine is great to drink today or to let age for the medium-term.

Now let’s head over to the new world with New Zealand’s 2008 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay Auckland ($32) offering sweeter exotic fruit aromas such as passion fruit and mango, with hints of toasted hazelnuts. This Chardonnay is crisp and tight with concentrated flavors and can be enjoyed now or until 2016. The estate is run successfully by the three Brajkovich brothers, and managed by their mother Melba, who is not only the head of the household, but head of the winery as well.

Another Chardonnay that we’ve fallen for this year is from a fantastic South African producer with a rich history, Glenelly Wine Estate. Located in Stellenbosch, the estate’s heritage goes back to the 17th century.  May-Eliane de Lencquesaing purchased the property in 2003, after running the famed Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande for 30 years prior.  May de Lencquesaing is renowned for the wines of her Pauillac Grand Cru Classé Chateau and has upheld the same level of excellence at Glenelly. The 2010 Glenelly Chardonnay The Glass Collection Stellenbosch ($14) showcases the exceptional quality and value coming from this estate.

Unique Summer Wines

If you love Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley as much as we do, François Chidaine’s Vouvrays are not to be missed.  Crafted in a range of styles from bone dry to sweet, Chidaine’s Vouvrays share an ethereal, elegant quality and great complexity.  This summer we’re sipping Chidaine’s dry style – the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin ($25). If you’re looking for a more sweet-styled Chenin Blanc, we suggest the 2003 Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvee Constance 500 ml ($89) which showcases dried fruit aromas and flavors with a refreshing touch of acidity in the lengthy finish. This is a sweet wine that can be enjoyed now until 2030.

Breggo Cellars’ extraordinary white wines from unique varietals (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling) places this Northern Californian producer on our summertime favorites list.  The 2009 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley ($25) is exotic and enticing with opulent aromas of orange zest, lychee, honeysuckle and rose.  Elegant and refreshing on the palate, bright tropical flavors mingle with zippy acidity and a long, lovely finish.

Now how about a combination of two of our favorite style summer wines, rosé and sparkling, for a rosé champagne! NV Varnier-Fanniere Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru ($58) is great served as an aperitif to accompany prosciutto or smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres, with berry or chocolate-based desserts, or even meat dishes. This energetic champagne offers great citrus and red fruit flavors, finishing off with a spiced ending. Definitely crisp and refreshing!

Another sparkler that is undoubtedly very enjoyable is our beloved Prosecco.  Both the NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($16) and the NV Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG ($18) are great accompaniments for salads, seafood or simply as aperitifs. Chill one of these Proseccos down and enjoy the bubbly!

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An Evening with Chef Angelo Sosa

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Chef Angelo Sosa at De Gustibus

On September 27th, I had the pleasure of attending the De Gustibus Cooking School’s “Asian Adventures” class with Angelo Sosa, Executive Chef and Owner of Social Eatz here in NYC.  Angelo is a protégé of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, having worked for a number of years at Restaurant Jean-Georges in Manhattan, Ocean Club at Dune restaurant in the Bahamas and opening Spice Market as Executive Sous Chef.   In 2009, Angelo went on to open his own restaurant, Xie Xie (shay-shay), a fast paced-casual establishment in Hell’s Kitchen.  Then, in 2010, Angelo was cast in Season 7 of Bravo’s hit reality series “Top Chef”.  His most recent endeavor is Social Eatz, a fun, creative American-Asian restaurant and bar in mid-town Manhattan.

Angelo’s energy and enthusiasm was palpable as he prepared a stunning five-course menu while telling entertaining anecdotes from earlier in his career as a Chef, and earlier in his life.  Each dish that Angelo demonstrated for the class was a sensational, playful surprise and paired beautifully with the wines of New Zealand Complexity.

The first course was a delightfully spicy Sweet Tomato Soup, made with whole peeled San Marzano tomatos, lemongrass and curry cream.  The soup was paired with one of our favorite sparklers from New Zealand, the NV Quartz Reef Sparkling Methode Traditionnelle ($28).

Next, Angelo whipped together his Tuna Pastrami with Asian Pickles and Rye.  In this tuna preparation, a riff on NYC’s classic sandwich, a center cut sushi grade tuna loin is cured overnight in an exotic spice mixture, including coriander, smoked paprika, mustard seed and allspice.  The tuna is sliced sashimi style and garnished with chili mayo, the homemade Asian pickles and a sprinkling of rye bread “bits”.  The result is incredibly refreshing and invigorating combination of textures and flavors, a dance party in your mouth, if you will.  The Tuna Pastrami paired wonderfully with both the NV Quartz Reef Sparkling Methode Traditionnelle ($28) and the 2008 Craggy Range Kidnapper’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($24) that were poured while Angelo prepared the dish.

The third course was Angelo’s modern take on “Pork & Apple Sauce”, which is spiced up with Pickled Japanese Ginger Sprout and Sake.   The Pork and Apple Sauce à la Angelo was paired with the 2008 Craggy Range Kidnapper’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($24), which really highlighted the apples and Asian pears in the dish.

For the fourth course, in a whirlwind of energy, right before our bemused eyes, Angelo created the most delicious Korean Beef Tacos with pickled veggies.  The freshness of the pickled veggies combined with the sweet-salty-spiciness of the marinated beef, all tucked into homemade tortillas, made for a real savory finale to the exquisite menu.  The Korean Beef Tacos paired marvelously with the 2008 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir ($40).

Angelo’s final demo of the evening was dessert, a Corn “Brulée” with bitter sugar, sake and blueberries.  This was the perfect end to the menu, a not-too-sweet spin on classic Crème Brulée.  I usually can’t finish a dessert course all by myself, but had no problem with this.

This was my first experience at the De Gustibus Cooking School and it was truly a treat.  Watching Angelo demo five courses, each distinct yet unified by Asian flavors, and learning from his methods and tips was an inspiring adventure!  Adding to the whole experience of the evening, I had the opportunity to interview Angelo after the class and learned even more about one of New York City’s great Chefs.  The Wine Cellarage’s exclusive interview with Angelo Sosa is below…

WC: The wine menu at Social Eatz is manageable, yet eclectic.  What was your philosophy behind choosing the wines?

Angelo:  A dining experience is not only formed by the greeting at the door, the presentation of the menus, the staff and the food, but it’s the whole experience of the wines that really accentuates the dining experience, along with the personality of the restaurant.  Social Eatz is more of a casual environment and we have a very affordable and very easy to drink wine menu; wines that are very diverse with different types of flavor, from Rieslings to Gewurztraminers and Sauvignon Blancs.  The wines we’ve chosen are very manageable and very easy to drink.

WC:  Is there a wine pairing rule of thumb that you go by?

Angelo:  Maybe it’s a little bit unorthodox, but personally I think any combination can work.  Flavors are subjective.  ‘Drink what you like’ is really the bottom line.  You eat what you like, so why shouldn’t you drink what you like?  Who’s to say what goes with what?  Maybe there’s a certain combination that you can extract an epiphany experience from, but in the end, you have to drink what you like and what you enjoy.

WC:  At what point in your life or career did you become Asian food devotee?

Angelo:  Working with Jean-Georges Vongerichten definitely was the first exposure to Asian flavors. But in retrospect, thinking back on my life, part of my Latin-Dominican side had an influence.  Very spicy foods with a plethora of flavors, from rice and beans, to ingredients such as bay leaf, vinegar, cumin and coriander.  That background is really the essence of my inspiration and affinity for Asian flavors.

WC:  What was the most valuable lesson or experience that you took from being a Top Chef contender?

Angelo:  Biggest lesson, other than ‘taste your food’, was to be 100% confident in what you put out.  Stand behind what you put out.  There shouldn’t be justification, it’s your vision, it’s what you feel and you have to stand behind it.  You can sell yourself on your passion and what you love to do and then people will love what you are doing.  When people are placed outside of their element they actually accomplish more.

WC:  What has been your greatest culinary achievement to date?

Angelo:  Competing back to back on Top Chef.  I created over 50 dishes, improv.  I think that’s a lot for one person under those extremes, the pressures of being on national camera, cooking for those judges, competing outside of your element.  It’s a big accomplishment.

WC:  As Executive Chef and Owner of Social Eatz, where does the inspiration for your menu and recipes come from?

Angelo:  Definitely from my travels.  I’m very keen and really push myself to travel.  It’s a very important process of linking and bridging the beginning phases of travel and discovery to the end product.

WC:  If there’s a wine you could drink every day, what would it be?

Angelo:  Definitely Icewine.  I think I would take a bath in it if I could.

WC:  Have you tried Icewines from Canada?

Angelo:  Yes, absolutely.  And I love the ones I’ve tried from Niagara too.  I love sweet things.

WC:  Finally, what is your favorite ingredient?

Angelo:  I go through phases and get very compulsive with ingredients.  I would say either Dill or Sriracha.

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Mt. Difficulty Winemaker’s Dinner at ’21′ Club

Tuesday, July 19th 2011


Last week I had the pleasure of attending a sumptuous wine dinner at New York City’s ’21′ Club, hosted by Matt Dicey, the winemaker of Mt. Difficulty Wines in Central Otago, New Zealand.  The dinner was held in the elegant, upstairs dining room, Upstairs at ’21′, surrounded by vibrant murals of New York landmarks created exclusively for ’21′ by Brooklyn-based artist Wynne Evans.

Mt. Difficulty is a boutique winery located in Bannockburn in Central Otago, New Zealand and owns some of the region’s oldest vineyards.  Central Otago is the world’s most southern vineyard area and has unique, unpredictable temperature fluctuations on a daily basis, as well as from season to season, which turns out to be a plus for growing finicky Pinot Noir.  The distinctive microclimate of Bannockburn provides hot summers and cool autumns, coaxing the very best out its Pinot Noir grapes.  The namesake of the nearby mountain that shelters the vineyards, Mt. Difficulty Wines is an exceptional New Zealand producer.

Here at The Wine Cellarage, we’ve been fans of Mt. Difficulty for quite some time, which is why we were thrilled to find out that Matt Dicey was coming to town and jumped at the opportunity to partner with ’21′ Club for this special wine dinner. Matt is a fourth generation winemaker and has been making Mt. Difficulty Wines since 1999.  Matt was a wonderful host and gave captivating introductions for each of the wines that we tasted, going into the differences in soil types, the mixture of clays and gravels found in the region, along with the influence of the region’s climate on grape-growing there. Matt’s jovial disposition and informative dialogues made the evening truly memorable.

Guests were welcomed with a glass of the 2010 Roaring Meg Pinot Gris and a delicious selection of passed canapés, including tuna tartare and lobster and crab salad.  The Pinot Gris was crisp and refreshing, cooling everyone down as they came in from the intense heat!

The dinner, prepared by Executive Chef John Greeley, began with seared sea scallops over English pea risotto, razor clam nage and kefir.  The scallops were paired with the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Estate Pinot Gris and the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Estate Sauvignon Blanc, offering an interesting juxtaposition.  The Pinot Gris complimented the dish perfectly, enhancing the inherent sweetness of the scallops and peas with its aromatics, floral and tropical qualities.  The Sauvignon Blanc had a more racy acidity that cut right through the richness of the dish, while its herbaceous notes played harmoniously alongside the pea risotto.  Both wines were a great pairing, but I preferred the Estate Pinot Gris.

Next up, we were presented with sockeye salmon, a fricassee of mushrooms, sweet corn purée, lemon butter and dry chilis.  This lovely salmon was paired with the 2006 Mt. Difficulty Estate Chardonnay and the 2009 Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, both working marvelously with different elements in the dish and really demonstrated that both varietals can offer an enticing pairing for salmon.  The Estate Chardonnay’s red apple notes had a pleasant interplay with the corn purée, while the wine’s creaminess highlighted the splendid richness of the sockeye and lemon butter, finishing with palate cleansing, fresh minerality.  On the other hand, the Roaring Meg Pinot Noir complimented the earthiness of the mushroom medley and provided a refreshing contrast to the salmon’s rich texture and flavor.

By the time the third course arrived, animated conversation was as plentiful as the wine being poured and our table had covered a range of topics including biodynamic farming, sustainable energy and the differences between salmon from New Zealand and that from the Atlantic.  The grilled lamb chop (cooked beautifully on the rare side) and belly were presented with an array of accompaniments – fine herbs with honey mustard, cherry tomatoes, zucchini blossom and smoked bacon. The lamb was paired with the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir and the single-vineyard 2008 Long Gully Pinot Noir, providing the opportunity to compare different bottlings from the same vintage.

The Estate Pinot Noir showed rich, black fruit and prevalent, balanced tannins and acidity, making for a wonderful pairing.  Both Pinots shared rich dark fruit, black cherry and blackberry characteristics, yet the Long Gully had greater complexity and finesse.  The Long Gully displayed wild berry flavors, currants and cassis, along with floral and violet aromas, velvety tannins and harmonious acidity that carried through on the long, sweet fruit finish.

The final course, a Pavlova filled with passion fruit coulis and exotic sorbets, was paired with the 2008 Roaring Meg Riesling.  This vibrant dessert was the perfect finale to the dinner, where each element came together and made for an enchanting evening of magnificent wine, incredible food, flawless service and delightful ambiance.

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Summer Wines: What to Drink All Summer Long

Cool off with crisp, refreshing summer wines!

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorite holiday weekends, the unofficial start of the summer season. The official turning of the season may be a few weeks away still, but these long, hot sunny days and warm, pleasant nights sure have me fooled, and I couldn’t be more thankful.  It’s time to break out the whites in our wardrobe and to fill our glasses with light, bright, refreshing summer wines.

Here at Wine Cellarage, we’ve compiled a selection of great summer wines that we’re thrilled to share with you.  These wines have been chosen for their excellent quality and great value. They are sure to keep you cool and quenched all season long without draining your summer vacation fund!  There are certain wines that go hand-in-hand with the summer season, classic choices that will never go out of style, including Rosé, Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  In addition to these classics, we’ve added some slightly more unusual wines to our summer wine collection.  Among them, delicious Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley, a Gewurztraminer from Northern California and a fantastic Methode Traditionelle sparkler from New Zealand.

Our homage to the summer season doesn’t stop with our exciting portfolio of summery wines.  This year, we’ve partnered with Eating Vine, a new recipe sharing and wine pairing community, to create three different Summer Wine Packs. Each pack is an intriguing wine tasting adventure, filled with six carefully selected wines from Wine Cellarage and paired with amazing recipes from Eating Vine!

Our Summer Wine Packs are a great way to stock-up on crisp, cooling summer wines, such as Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Prosecco and even Champagne.  Perfect for picnics, parties and gifts, the delicious recipe pairings will make entertaining easy, breezy and elegant all summer long.

Here’s a closer look at our summer wine collection…

Rosé

There’s no better way to welcome the warm weather and to kick off the summer ahead than by opening the season’s first bottle of crisp, refreshing berry-scented rosé. Rosé is the ideal wine for summer barbecue’s and parties.  Incredibly food friendly, Julia Child put it best when she said, “Rosés can be served with anything!” As you gear up for summer entertaining, don’t forget the rosé!  Perfect pairings include barbecue flavors, sausage, hamburgers, and just about anything on the grill – veggies, fish, shrimp, pork and so on.  And of course, fresh salads and side dishes get along incredibly well with this cool, crisp rosy wine!

One of the best rosé values out there comes to us from an award-winning South African producer, Mulderbosch Vineyards. Renowned as one of the country’s very best white wine producers, Mulderbosch makes two highly regarded reds and an excellent 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé.  The 2010 Mulderbosch Vineyards Rosé Stellenbosch ($12) is a delicious, refreshing rosé, showcasing complex aromas and flavors of rose petals, lime zest and wild strawberry.

The 2010 Domaine Saint Ser Cotes de Provence Saint Victoire Rosé Prestige ($21) is an elegant rosé, offering lovely aromas of wild red berries, hints of watermelon and lemon zest; a perfect pairing for traditional Provencal meals like Bouillabaisse.  This wine definitely has the structure to stand up to substantial dishes.  (I paired this with grilled sausage and peppers last weekend and it was wonderful!)  The Domaine Saint-Ser is located in the Saint Victoire sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence and is home to a small number of elite producers.

The 2010 Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($14) is the perfect summertime quaff, showing aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and wild strawberry, along with racy minerality and bright acidity.  You’ll want to drink this rosé every chance you get this summer.  Charles Bieler has been crafting his delicious Provençal rosé for the last 5 years. Named for his daughter, Sabine, who was born the same year as the wine’s first vintage, this rosé honors Charles’ father, Philippe, who introduced he and his sister to the wine business.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blancs are the perfect coolers for hot summer weather. Their vibrant, zesty character, citrus aromas, herbal notes and crisp acidity make them a classic choice for summertime imbibing.  Sauvignon Blanc is best consumed within a few years of its release, while youthful, fruity and refreshing.  This native French varietal is the main constituent of white Bordeaux and is widely planted in the Loire Valley, most notably in the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

This year we can’t get enough of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Craggy Range wine estate makes one of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs.  Owned and operated by the Peabody family, Craggy Range specializes in exceptional single-vineyard wines that are true to their terroir.  The 2009 Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($19) is from their Te Muna Road Vineyard in Martinborough and is produced from vines that grow on stony, limestone-rich soils.  Minimal cellar intervention results in an elegant Sauvignon Blanc with a delicate, soft texture and mineral undertones.

Another favorite from New Zealand is the 2010 Cloudy Bay Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($27).  Located in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough, Cloudy Bay’s vineyards benefit from the cool, maritime climate bestowed by the South Pacific. This sustainable, environmentally conscious wine estate single-handedly pushed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc into the spotlight.  Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc delivers classic characteristics of ripe lime and grapefruit, along with a remarkable tropical medley of papaya, mango, orange blossom and gooseberry. Vibrant and refreshing, this is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer afternoon and makes an ideal accompaniment for the fresh flavors, herbs and spices of Asian cuisine.

While we love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, we’ll always have a taste for those from the Loire Valley. Pascal Jolivet is one of the Loire’s youngest estates producing exceptional Sauvignon Blancs.  Established in 1987, Domaine Pascal Jolivet is devoted to natural winemaking and sustainable techniques.  Based in Sancerre, the estate owns over 70 acres of the best vineyards in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.  The 2009 Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc Attitude ($17) offers floral and citrus aromas, bright acidity and minerality on the palate.  This delightful wine drinks like a Sancerre at half the price.

If it is true Sancerre that you’re after, the 2010 Domaine des Vieux Pruniers Sancerre Blanc ($20) is a wonderful, affordable option.  Domaine des Vieux-Pruniers is located in the village of Bué, a few short miles from Sancerre.  Here the grapes grow on incredibly steep, hillside vineyards renowned for their limestone-rich soils.  This is a quintessential Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc – clean and pure, showing aromas of citrus fruit and blossoms, zesty lime and orange flavors and brisk minerality that lingers on the palate.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the grape varietals, thriving in a range of climates and crafted in a variety of styles. Relatively neutral in character, Chardonnay is easily influenced by its environment and the winemaker’s techniques.  For these reasons, it is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Native to France’s Burgundy, Chardonnay is the only grape variety permissible in Chablis and one of three grapes varieties used in Champagne.  Outside of France, Chardonnay has flourished in the New World wine regions, growing happily in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and beyond.

Chablis is always a refreshing choice for summertime and perfect for pairing with lighter dishes, especially seafoods.  The 2009 Domaine Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes ($25), made from fifty year old vines, is a classic Chablis with plenty of zippy minerality and pure fruit character.

The 2009 Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne Blanc ($18) is a great summer Chardonnay from Burgundy – lively and fresh, offering pear and peach aromas and a smooth texture with just a touch of oak.  The Bouchard Bourgogne Blanc is an ideal accompaniment for grilled seafood, shellfish and poultry dishes.

Another Chardonnay that we’ve fallen for this year is from a fantastic South African producer with a rich history, Glenelly Wine Estate. Located in Stellenbosch, the estate’s heritage goes back to the 17th century.  May-Eliane de Lencquesaing purchased the property in 2003, after running the famed Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande for 30 years prior.  May de Lencquesaing is renowned for the wines of her Pauillac Grand Cru Classé Chateau and has upheld the same level of excellence at Glenelly. The 2010 Glenelly Chardonnay The Glass Collection Stellenbosch ($14) showcases the exceptional quality and value coming from this estate.

Unique Summer Wines

If you love Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley as much as we do, François Chidaine’s Vouvrays are not to be missed.  Crafted in a range of styles from bone dry to sweet, Chidaine’s Vouvrays share an ethereal, elegant quality and great complexity.  This summer we’re sipping Chidaine’s dry styles – the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin ($25) and the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Les Argiles ($23), which are enchanting now and will age gracefully for years to come.

Breggo Cellars’ extraordinary white wines from unique varietals (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling) places this Northern Californian producer on our summertime favorites list.  The 2009 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley ($27) is exotic and enticing with opulent aromas of orange zest, lychee, honeysuckle and rose.  Elegant and refreshing on the palate, bright tropical flavors mingle with zippy acidity and a long, lovely finish.  Only 398 cases made!

On of the best value sparkling wines we’ve come across is the NV Quartz Reef Sparkling Methode Traditonelle ($28) from Central Otago, New Zealand.  Blended from 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay, this is a beautiful, brisk and refreshing sparkling wine that you’ll want to enjoy poolside, dockside and just about everywhere else you go this summer.

When we think of summertime sparkling wine, we think Prosecco.  Both the NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($14) and the 2009 Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede ($20) are amazing!  When looking for the ideal wine to pop open on a hot Saturday afternoon, you can’t go wrong with either of these delightful, summery Proseccos.

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New Zealand: An Intriguing Young World of Wine

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc picnic on the shore of Lake Wanaka, Otago, South Island.

All of these gray, early April days have me longing for the sunshine more than ever.  For me, nothing invokes the spirit of summer like certain wines, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of them.  This bright, vibrant wine, with invigorating tropical fruit aromas and zippy, refreshing qualities immediately conjures memories of hot, sunny days and warm, pleasant evenings.  Thoughts of this distinctive Sauvignon Blanc, the wine that New Zealand has become most associated with for better or worse, got me thinking about the country as a whole, and more specifically its wine industry and individual regions.  New Zealand’s wine industry has had a tumultuous, albeit short, history and is one of the most interesting New World wine regions to explore in depth.

New Zealand Wine History: Challenges & Triumphs

Still very much in its youth, New Zealand’s wine industry was born less than 200 years ago, in 1819.  We can thank the British missionaries of that era for recognizing New Zealand’s various and textured landscapes as viable grape growing territories.  The Reverend Samuel Marsden was the first among them to plant vines, in the aforementioned year, choosing a site on the northeast coast of the country’s North Island (now the Northland wine region).  In 1836, the British expat James Busby started a vineyard near Marsden’s location, began making wine and sold it to British troops.  Since its early days, the wine industry has experienced many ups and downs, and has had to compete with the country’s taste for beer, consumption of which far exceeds that of wine.

Despite New Zealand’s relatively isolated location, the same pestilences that have ravaged the rest of the world’s wine regions have made their way here and had destructive affects on the vines.  During the late 19th century, phylloxera, the insatiable louse that feeds on vine roots, and powdery mildew, the vicious fungal disease that attacks grapevines, caused major damage to New Zealand’s young vineyards.  In response to these pests, New Zealand’s winemakers planted resistant American hybrids.  Since the 1960s, these vines have gradually been replaced with European vinifera grafted to phylloxera-resistant American rootstock, which has long been the wine world’s solution to the devastating louse.

Subsequent to the damages caused by natural pests, New Zealand’s budding wine industry met with additional challenges in the form of the country’s temperance movement, prohibition and post-World War economic depression.  On the bright side, all of the lows in the country’s wine trade have been matched with periods of growth and success, including government restrictions on wine imports, which began in 1958 and encouraged national support of the industry.  Soon after, restaurants were given permission to sell wine, followed by the issuance of a BYO license, permitting restaurant patrons to bring their own wine.  These legislative changes significantly boosted wine sales and, in the face of hardship, New Zealand’s wine industry has prevailed!

Geography & Climate

New Zealand is the most southern of the world’s wine regions and its location in the South Pacific Ocean provides a moderating maritime climate.  The surrounding ocean currents bring about mild winters and relatively cool summers.  During the hottest days of summer, the nights in New Zealand are cool, producing grapes with consistently high levels of acidity.  Together, the North and South Islands span a remarkable range of climates and geographical differences.  For starters, the North Island is much warmer than the South Island.  The country’s topography ranges from gravelly, alluvial valleys to rich, green pasturelands.

Due to frequent rainfall, New Zealand is a lush, green country for the most part, which is great for grazing cattle, but not always so good for vineyards.  In soils where excess moisture cannot drain properly, vigorous leaf growth and dense vine canopies have been a major issue, resulting in wines with green, vegetal flavors.  All of the verdant vine growth shades the inner grape bunches, preventing them from ripening and encouraging the spread of fungal diseases.  It wasn’t until the 1980s, when Dr. Richard Smart served as government viticulturist and taught canopy management techniques, that the affected vineyards took a leap in quality.  As a result, New Zealand viticulturists are the authority on the topic of canopy management.

Wine Regions of New Zealand

New Zealand’s wine regions are each unique, producing signature wines with distinctive qualities.  From north to south, the major regions are Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa (including Martinborough), Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury (including Waipara) and Central Otago.

North Island Regions

Northland is located at the northern most tip of the North Island and is where vines were first planted in New Zealand.  The climate here is warm, damp and fair, which hasn’t been so advantageous for the region.  The warmth and wet weather are breeding grounds for rot, getting in the way of quality wine production, although there have been some success stories here.

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and the vintners here make wines from grapes that are brought in from all over the country, making it the most diversified region of production.

Located on the east coast of the North Island, Gisborne once had an unappealing reputation for producing bulk wine.  Now the region is known for producing supple, peach and pineapple inflected Chardonnays.  Gisborne’s vintners are indeed proud and have dubbed the region the Chardonnay Capital of the country.  Within the region, the runner-up to Chardonnay is Gewurztraminer.

South of Gisborne, on the North Island’s east coast, Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand most prized wine regions, producing exceptional Bordeaux-style blends of Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  These Merlot blends have rich black currant flavors and delicate herbal notes.  Chardonnay is the co-staring varietal of the region, with a signature concentrated citrus fruit character and resounding elegance.  The Sauvignon Blancs from this area also have a distinctive flavor profile, tasting of nectarines and peaches.  In addition to Merlot and Chardonnay, Syrah is an up-and-comer here, gradually becoming more widely planted and having great potential within the region.

Hawke’s Bay encompasses an array of terrains and soil types, from coastal mountains to fertile, gravelly flatlands, and gets more hours of sunshine than the rest of the country.  The region’s gravel soils support water drainage and cause water stress, which is actually a good thing for grape quality.  Stressed vines lead to more intense and complex flavors in the grapes, resulting in better wines.  Conversely, the more fertile areas of the region, consisting of alluvial and gravel soils, contend with vigorous vine growth and require more canopy management.

The most famous area within Hawke’s Bay is the Gimblett Gravels district.  The deep gravelly-shingle soils here are renowned for producing arguably the country’s very best Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.  One of the area’s noteworthy wineries is Te Awa, a single-vineyard estate situated in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels.  If you’d like to experience the signature wines of Hawke’s Bay and Gimblett Gravels, we recommend trying both the 2007 Te Awa Cabernet Merlot and the 2007 Te Awa Syrah!

In the southern part of the North Island lies the Wairarapa region, including the Martinborough sub-region, which is home to small boutique wineries that have remained committed to making wines of the highest quality.  Both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon do well in this elite wine region.

Dry River is one of Martinborough’s finest wine estates, consistently crafting cellar-worthy wines that reflect the vineyard sites from which they come.  A few favorites include the 2008 Dry River Chardonnay, the 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir and the 2009 Dry River Craighall Riesling.

Craggy Range wine estate, owned and operated by the Peabody family, specializes in exceptional single-vineyard wines that are true to their terroir. The highly rated 2008 Craggy Range Vineyards Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard is a wonderful example of Martinborough Pinot Noir, showing aromas of dark fruit and violet, flavors of rich, ripe raspberry, silken tannins, impeccable balance and finesse.

South Island Regions

Traveling further south and leaving the North Island behind, we reach the South Island’s most northern wine region, Nelson, where fifteen wineries lie amidst picturesque undulating hills.  Here Sauvignon Blanc rules over Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the leading grape variety.

Next up on the South Island is Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region and home to the Cloudy Bay wine estate, which single-handedly pushed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc into the spotlight.  Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc delivers quintessential characteristics of ripe lime and grapefruit, along with a remarkable tropical medley of papaya, mango, orange blossom and gooseberry. Vibrant and refreshing, this is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer afternoon and makes an ideal accompaniment for the fresh, bright flavors of Asian cuisine or mussels steamed with white wine and herbs.

Located on the South Island’s central coast is the region of Canterbury, including the Waipara sub-region.  Here the cooler weather is a great fit for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with long-established cool climate lover’s Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Last but not least, we come to Central Otago, the world’s most southern vineyard area!  Here the climate is continental and the region experiences unpredictable temperature fluctuations on a daily basis, as well as from season to season.  The vineyards of Central Otago are planted on hillsides to increase sun exposure and decrease the threat of frost.  One of New Zealand’s developing wine regions, the growth of Central Otago viticulture has been astounding.  Pinot Noir accounts for three-quarters of the region’s wine production and is the star of the show!  Showing a rich, fruit-forward character, Central Otago’s Pinots have caught the eye of the wine world and have garnered great recognition for New Zealand red wine as a whole.  One of our favorite Central Otago wineries is Mt. Difficulty, which owns some of the region’s oldest vineyards and produces exceptional Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings.  We’re big fans of the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg Central Otago, the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Riesling Roaring Meg Central Otago and just in time for summer, the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Sauvignon Blanc Central Otago!

To browse our entire selection of New Zealand fine wine, click here.

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