Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero

Did anyone else feel a perceptible shift in the universe as it aligned in my favor on Sunday, August 26th 2012 at approximately 2:15pm? It was only a matter of time until this day came, the day that Ernie asked me, "what do you think we should taste at PWC this week?"

insert beams of light, angelic
choir-like sounds and maybe  a
verse or two of We are the Champions-- for effect...
Of course y'all know what my answer was...

Riondo Prosecco is probably my favorite white wine. Ever. In fact, I am sad that I am not sipping a glass right now as I tell you about its merits (I checked, there's none in the wine rack at the moment. Boo.).
It's hard to put my finger on what I like best about it. What makes Prosecco in general a delectable treat: it's light and effervescent. It's fruity and aromatic, but not super sweet. The word "fresh" comes to mind. Exciting on the front (what with the bright flavors and the heavy bubbles) with a slight mineral finish, it's a great wine to drink cold, with a light meal, before and/or after a light meal, or completely on its own (entirely sans a meal of any proportion). My favorite way to indulge: lounging in a camp chair (pinky down, solo cup style) with some good company and snacks (I like triscuits and easy cheese...).

don't knock it 'til you try it...
So that's what I like about Proseccos. Now, you might be wondering why I like Riondo's more than any others I have tried. The answer: well, I just do. It just suits my style as well as my tastebuds. But, since I feel like I owe you a story, I'll tell you of the first time I tried a Prosecco that was NOT Riondo...

It was Spring of 2008, and my friend Trish and I were headed to France for a week plus of crepes, medieval churches, crepes, art, crepes, culture and crepes. We were thrilled to discover that on our Air Swiss flight there was a pretty nice selection of wine, and both decided to have a glass of Prosecco (I don't recall the label). It was ok; not great but drinkable.
Here's me, enjoying a
delicious dessert-type-thing
in Brest, France. It's not a
crepe, but you get the idea...
Just after I finished mine, we began making our descent into Zurich. There was a pretty serious rain storm, and the turbulence was really rough. It got so bad that people on the plane were screaming, crying and praying as the plane was tossed around. I just squeezed my eyes closed and focused on not yacking all over myself. FINALLY, we hit the runway, fishtailed for a minute or two and came to a stop. One of the flight attendants stood up and said over the loudspeaker, "thank you, captain," at which point the entire plane errupted into cheering and applause at having not just then died.

Riondo Prosecco: lovely afternoons with family and friends. Non-Riondo Prosecco: near-death or near-vomit experience. Coincidence? You be the judge...

Price: $

My Rating: A+

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


CWT and Riondo
Prosecco: BFFLs.
This photo looks much sunnier
than it really is as I am typing this.
So this week at PWC we're doing a SoCo tasting. Since CWT doesn't stand for Casual Whiskey Taster, I thought this would be the perfect time to go on VACATION. That's right folks, me and my Prosecco are camping in the rain. Hooray!

If SoCo's your thang, be sure to stop by Personal Wine Cellar on Friday 8/24.
I'll be back next week with a wine you're sure to enjoy. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peter Brum Zeller Schwarze Katz, 2008

Now that I’ve fully recovered from my pilgrimage... uh...I mean field trip... to Westfield, we’re back to our regularly scheduled weekly tastings. This past weekend, only my taste-buds visited the fabulous Mosel region of Germany, where many of the world’s most exciting Rieslings (i before e, except after c...) and Riesling-based blends are born. Rieslings are generally bright, sweet and refreshing wines with a sometimes yeasty quality if not done right—but you can bet your hinterbacken that they're done right in Mosel.
I've been exposed to my fair
share of attack cats. This is
Arthur, guarding my diary.
For my (and your) tasting pleasure, today's offering will be the Peter Brum Zeller Schwarze Katz. Hailing from the town of Zell on the steep sloping banks of the Moselle River in Germany, Zeller Schwarze Katz wines are fun to drink and have a great story to go along with the great name: Legend has it that back in lederhosen times, there was a black cat that fiercely guarded the finest wine in town. When some wine merchants arrived at the town wine cellar to try some of the wines, the black cat ferociously guarded one of the barrels by swatting and hissing at anyone who came near it. The merchants, in their infinite wisdom, took this not as a sign that the cat was rabid and/or protecting its litter of kittens that were sleeping behind the barrel—this likely scenario is purely speculation on my part— but that the cat must be protecting the best wine. Thenceforth the Black Cat of Zell (Zeller Schwarze Katz) became the official symbol for the town and its quality wine. Because if a cat will attack you over it, it must be good, right?
This pissed off cat is ready to
your hinterer teil des
menschlichen beckens*
Right. Sunday evening, after a long day of doing pretty much nothing, I decided that while I was watching some Olympic highlights before bed I would have a glass of the Peter Brum Zeller Schwarze Katz and then tell you alllllll about it. It’s a predominantly Riesling blend of a dazzling yellow color with a crisp, zesty scent that clouds into your nostrils and continues all the way down to tickle the base of your throat. Xxx xxxx xxxxxxx x xxxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxx xx xxxxx. (The previous statement has been removed due to inevitability of "that's what she said" jokes).
...the bottle is pretty too.
The taste is not nearly as cloying as the aroma. The Peter Brum Zeller has a pleasant, light flavor. It's a sweet but relatively uneventful wine—it doesn’t change much on the palate but rather begins with quick, crisp floral flavors on the tip of the tongue and ends with some minerality and a little warmth in the chest. There isn’t much middle to speak of; it starts bright, fades quickly and returns for a smooth finish without that “beery” quality some white wines tend to have.
The Peter Brum Zeller Schwarze Katz is a well done table wine, perfect for late afternoon drinks on the patio or after dinner digestifs in front of the TV. But beware; this wine is no sipper. It’s refreshing and light, so if you’re thirsty (like I was) you will find yourself polishing off a third glass before you know it. And once you’ve had three glasses you might as well have four and then whoops, there goes the entire bottle. Don't worry, I wouldn’t think any less of you for it...
Glass number "three"
Price: $

My Rating: B+

* P.S. Because I know you're wondering, "hinterer teil des
menschlichen beckens" is loosely translated as "rear part of the human pelvis." You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CWT Field Trip: Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield, NY (Part Two)

Bring on the wine!

After our enjoyable (and incredibly interesting) tour of the vineyard, we brunched in the tasting room with the rest of the guests. While I thoroughly enjoy food (No surprise there; pretty much every post at least mentions food and some form of the word "yum"), I was more than a little excited to start tasting the wines.
The tasting bar, a perfect spot for keister-parking. 

The tasting room is the sort of low-key, inviting space I always feel very relaxed in; I imagine myself swirling a bit of vino around in a cool crystal goblet, talking about flavonoids and somehow sounding intelligent. Ambient lighting that twinkles off of the soft edges of the bottles, lots of finished wood and humongous, shiny stainless steel casks add to the effect (at least for me) at Johnson Estate. In the background of the photo next to this paragraph are those cool casks. Most of the wines are aged in the casks and any oak is added by soaking long strips, NOT by aging the wine in oak. The winemaker, Jeff-- who was unfortunately off duty during our visit-- has a light hand with oak, which I appreciate because I hate it when my tongue feels furry. 

I was more than happy to park my keister in front of the tasting bar and take notes.
I'd like to give a shout out to
Jennifer Johnson, who gave me this
notebook to take notes in because
I forgot to bring mine.
Johnson Estate, 1. CWT, 0.
And oh, did I ever take notes! I think I mentioned this before, but while we were there we sampled 29 wines. 29 WINES!!! 
I scribbled furiously, my handwriting growing less legible with each sampling. I couldn't possibly tell you about all of them. For one thing, even the truest of tongues can tire from that much tasting. Even with palate cleansers (some wonderfully nutty Parmesan, herbed crackers and some kind of sugarcoated hazelnut thing that I couldn't have due the possibility that my face might erupt in hives) it started to get a little difficult to pick out all of the complexities toward the end. Also, I couldn't stop giggling. I needed a big glass of water and at least an hour of sitting-on-a-bench time to avoid possible felony charges were I to drive. It's a good thing we weren't in a hurry, and it's for this reason I suggest renting a limo (or at least enlisting a reliable DD) if you are winery-hopping-- when you're ready to move on you just go; we had to wait it out.

Tasting and note-taking.
What an awesome job!
Back to the wine. Johnson Estate Winery grows 11 grape varieties and bottles 32 unique wines, including a port, a sherry and North America’s only sparkling Traminette made in the traditional champagne style. They do some of the standard New York State fare, such as Riesling and Concord (you're in Welch's neck of the woods), but are also branching out into new territory. The most recent addition is a Pinot Noir which won't be completely added for some time; right now the grapes they're practicing with are purchased from a Long Island vineyard, while their own vines mature in a Washington State nursery.
My favorite wine was (not surprisingly) their best seller: The Marechal Foch; a robust, jammy red with a woody, peat smell and a smoky strong smack at the back of the mouth. Not far behind the Foch is a much different but just as iconic wine, the Freelings Creek Reserve Riesling (which I described a little in Part One of the field trip). Very different, just as delicious.

I could probably go on and on, but I won't. I will, however leave you with this recommendation: if you do decide to head out to Lake Erie and pay Johnson Estate a visit, ask Fred what the difference is between the House Red and the Proprietor's Red. There's a great story there; you won't be disappointed!

This concludes our tour. Please mind the gap as you exit the
vehicle and don't forget to tip your driver!

Next week we're back to a regular wine review (my tastebuds should be fully recovered by then). I'll be tasting a Peter Brum wine; which one will be a surprise for the both of us!

Friday, August 3, 2012

CWT Field Trip: Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield, NY (Part One)

Due to constraints on time, space and attention spans, I'll be talking about Johnson Estate over the next two posts...

Travel is probably one of the few things that still make me feel like a kid at Christmas. The prospect of hitting the road early, feeling the wind rush over the skin of my arm (which I’ve stuck out the window), listening to some carefully chosen tunes and winding up somewhere I’ve never been before always gives me the best kind of butterflies.

This weekend’s trip was no exception. With our overnight bags packed, the cats fed and my iPod loaded with mid-90’s alternative one-hit-wonders, we started the six hour trek to Westfield, NY for our much anticipated visit to Johnson Estate Winery.

We arrived around 3 o’clock and after a good stretch of the arms and legs we met our hosts, winery owners Fred and Jennifer Johnson, who graciously provided us with a restroom and a chilled glass of Riesling—in that order.

Sipping the Johnson Estate Freelings Creek Reserve Riesling (ohhhh, did it hit the spot! Light and fresh, a little fruity and sweet), we were treated to a brief overview of the property before whisking ourselves away to our hotel for a superb evening of steak, scotch, swimming and miniature golf.

The next morning we met Fred (and about 15 other guests) for a walking tour of the vineyard and a light brunch. Johnson Estate hosts events frequently, including their popular seasonal walking tours and themed activities. There are also tastings daily from 10-6. We just missed their "Summer Locavore Wine Pairing Supper," which sounds AMAZING-- food and wine pairings all from local sources (Yummo!)-- but no worries; there's lots of other things to see, do and sign up for

Here's Fred, schooling us on
the geology of making good wine.
Okay, back to the tour. I learned a lot. History, science, viniculture, the whole shebang! Here’s just a taste (get it?) of what I found most interesting:

The farm is third generation, having been purchased in 1911 by Fred’s grandfather (Fred Johnson) and spending it’s first 50 years as a fruit farm. It saw the family through the Depression and was passed down to Fred’s father (another Fred Johnson!). This Fred dug up the orchard and planted a variety of grapes instead. He opened the winery in 1961 (voila—New York’s oldest estate winery). The rest, as they say is history...well, not entirely. There's more to the story, but it's best told by Fred himself...

These babies are right at home
this microclimate. 

Geologically speaking, the vineyard is ideally placed—it sits between a ridge (which was the shore of Lake Erie 15,000 years ago) and Lake Erie’s modern day shore. The retreat of Lake Erie over tens of thousands of years carved out a nice home for the grapes with built-in drainage. The Lake itself acts as a temperature moderator, causing the air around the vineyard to remain warmer late into the fall and saving the grapes from being damaged or killed by freezing temps. Neat!

At the top of the ridge sits
the irrigation pond. Just over the
horizon you can see Lake Erie

If you're interested in more details, well, you'll just have to sign up for the walking tour and get the skinny for yourself!

NEXT TIME: I'll tell you about the tasting room and the wines I tried (drool). So good...