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December 2009

Castell Silvaner Trocken 2008

It's Maine Shrimp Season!! I just realized a few days ago, and I'm trying to eat as much shrimp as possible.  There are so many reasons to eat ME shrimp, let me name a few.  They're local, sustain-ably harvested, a good source of protein, fresh, and CHEAP!  And they are a perfect match to this Silvaner here.

Grapes: 100% Silvaner

Background: So this is a German Silvaner; it comes from Franken down in the south, above the Rhineland.  Franken is the traditional home of Silvaner in Germany because of the rocky marl and gypsum filled soil.  All these minerals get translated into the wine and give it a great focused core and complexity.  The Castell domaine planted Silvaner back in the 1659 and is now sustainably farmed.

Proflie: This is a medium bodied wine.  It manages to have a pretty full texture on the pallet and really fill your mouth, but it is crisp and bright at the same time.  The mid-pallet has a great core of minerality that makes my mouth water.  That combined with the acidity give the wine great structure and a componant that's almost flinty like a Chablis or some of my favorite dry Vouvrays.  That combination of bright citrus fruit, rich mouth feel, and mineral edge make this my ideal wine for shrimp.  The mouth feel and fruit pairs well and compliments them while the minerality and acid will cut the fat.  I think the best way to prepare the shrimp is fried in butter lightly but this could work ok with a ceviche as well.

The wine costs about $15 and is available at the Freeport Cheese and Wine Shop, Provisions, Clayton's, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop.

Christmas Wines

My new sales strategy is to just put together lists of what I want to drink for each holiday and then use them as my feature wines.  It's that kind of "you can't please everyone, so please yourself" mentality.  So here's a list of the wines I'm really excited about with descriptions, food pairings, and ball park retail prices.  I hope these are helpful.

Henry Varnay Blanc de Blancs Brut NV  $12.99

In my humble estimation the Henry Varney Blanc de Blancs is one of the hands down best sparklers that costs under $15.  It has a classy, attractive label and the wine inside is delicious, balanced, and easy to drink.  It’s a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay from the Loire.  The wine has an inviting aroma of white flowers, green apple, and a hint of toasted bread.  The pallet is creamy, a slight bit toasty, but smooth with a softly dry finish.  I once drank four bottles in the course of a night and can swear that the wine will not give you a nasty hangover.


Fattoria La Rivolta Falanghina DOC 2008 $21.99                                                                                                     

Falanghina is quickly becoming one of my favorite white wines, and this is among the most refined, complex examples I’ve tasted.  There are aromas of lemon tart, a hint of grapefruit, and a bit honeyed.  The pallet follows up with a full body and lush mouth feel balanced with some great flinty minerality on the mid pallet.  This wine pulls off being big and focused at the same time.  If you like un-oaked Chardonnay, full bodied Pinot Grigio, or dry Vouvray this is a good white to try out.


Domaine de L'Harmas Cotes du Rhone 2005  $14.99

Domaine de L’Harmas is a small family domaine in northern Chateauneuf, near Beaucastel.  This Cotes du Rhone is a blend of old vines Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre from a single 2.5 hectare vineyard.  The grapes are fermented all together traditionally and then aged in old neutral oak casks.  2005 was a great vintage and the wine has just improved from having time in the bottle.  This is full bodied, complex wine with smoke, black pepper, autumn leaves, roasted meat, leather, and cherry and cranberry fruit.  Mature tannins round out this approachable wine that’s really worthy of the moniker “baby Chateaunuef du Pape”. 


Bodegas Ostatu Rioja 2006  $21.99

This Rioja is one of the biggest baddest in your face Riojas I’ve had, yet it’s still balanced!  The fruit is ripe and juicy, but it’s not jammy at all.  There’s some earth to it, some spice, and a hint of vanilla, but also some bright acidity and firm tannins on the finish tying it together.  As it opens up it takes on some slightly woodsy qualities as well.  This is a great wine for a big roast beef!  The acidity and fruit will work well with beef and the tannins are strong enough to stand up, but not so harsh as to clash.


Three Saints Syrah Santa Ynez 2007 $20.99

 I make no secret of the fact that I’ve got a big crush on Santa Barbara Syrah.  This comes from the Starlane ranch in the extreme east of the county where the grapes get riper and more powerful.  It’s inky and dark with serious brooding blackcherry fruit, lush expansive texture, black pepper, and ripe mouth watering tannins.  It’s still balanced, no component is over the top, but it’s about as sexy and hedonistic as wine comes.  I look forward to drinking this on some of the long cold nights this winter. 


Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez 2005 $55

Starlane Cabernet 2005 was named best new domestic Cabernet of the year by Food and Wine.  I’m really fond of it because it’s a big old school CA Cabernet.  The wine is a blend of Cabernet with small proportions of Petite Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  The vineyards are on sun baked mountain sides so steep all the work has to be done by hand.  I love the dense, tightly wound currant, black cherry, character of it with touches of blueberry, graphite, and mocha woven in.  It’s got an alluring spicy character of those dry baked hill sides up above the fog line that comes through on the mid-pallet. 

El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez Sherry 375 ml  $18.99

Golden raisins, Apple crumble with cinnamon, Hazelnut, and Butterscotch are all aromas that leap from a glass of this Sherry.  The pallet is a great combination of rich raisinated fruit with balancing acidity underlying it followed by a sweet, but not cloying mid-pallet and then a finish of butterscotch and a long lingering hazel nut flavor.  An excellent cold weather dessert wine.

El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez Sherry


Solera style sherries are some of my favorite dessert wines.  They're rich and sweet, but often not as heavy as port and slightly lower in alcohol. 

Grapes: 100% Pedro Ximenez

Background: El Maestro Sierra is a smaller family sherry house.  It was founded in 1832 by Jose Antonio Sierra, a master cooper who managed to break into the sherry trade which was then controlled by the nobles.  For the last 30 years the house has been controlled by the widow of the last direct descendant of the Sierra family.  

Profile: This is a very pretty sherry.  I smell a strong aroma of golden raisins, apple crisp with cinnamon, and hazel nut.  The pallet shows off a lot of the same.  Golden raisin is the first thing you taste, with nice acidity keeping it from seeming thick or cloying.  Then on the mid-pallet you get some butterscotch followed by this beautiful hazelnut quality that lingers and evolves on the finish.

Conclusion: This is a rich balanced dessert wine, that will be a great pair for desserts like apple pie, or chocolate cake.  It's 15% alcohol, so not quite as heavy as a port, and won't overwhelm.