Thursday, July 31, 2014

BRAMBLES: Summers Zenith, Again

Zinfandel Veraison in July

It is just lazy. They are called 'dog days'. Orchard and vine fruits are growing slowly, a fine dust in the air. It is a warm, dry vapor that lifts our passive spirits as we play & work outside, measured by the dramatic change of fruit on our maturing vines. Veraison, the ripening physical change of the grape berries structure from acid producer to sugar producer has started early and with a flourish on our local vines. Each sunny late-July day away from the summers zenith we grow a little closer to the fruition that is our richly anticipated grape harvest.

As vegetative growth in the vine naturally slows, the grapevine puts more of its sun nourished resources into ripening fruit by producing sugars. White grape varieties change from tart green to more of a golden-lime, and red varieties go from an opaque green to softer garnet and violet. Soon their sugar levels will evolve high enough to balance their piquant acids for the regions many sparkling wine producers, and harvest begins.  For grape growers this is the short lazy just prior to the frantic annual culmination of their seasonal cycle.

Each year it is this weather that draws us outside, as we continue to explore venues and recipes for outdoor dining(alfresco).  Our wines typically are drawn from a chilled cooler or the refrigerator, some even get insulated to travel to remote locations offering pristine landscapes. It is the time to enjoy refreshing Albarino's from Spain or juicy-tart Sauvignon Blanc's from New Zealand or ever-popular dry Rose's from almost any warm growing wine region.  Additionally, a consistently good quality/value and wonderful food pairing wine is the Chenin Blanc-Viognier blend from Napa Valley's Pine Ridge Vineyards, with its ripe stone fruit and bright citrus notes.  There may not be a more uniform domestic wine value.
Galician vineyards of northwestern Spain

Colorful picnic items in all sorts of containers were pulled from the woven basket as we sat admiring the distant view.  Cheeses were sliced and bread was broken, yet that 'ahh' moment when came when the plastic glass of rich Chenin Blanc graced our lips. On another lazy occasion, we scattered around the ball court, purposely standing in the shade of the tall trees nearby.  Smoke from the nearby grill told us that roasted mixed vegetables and slow-roasted pork were close at hand. A glistening bottle of Senorio de Valei Rias Baixas Albarino from northern Spain was rescued from the cooler and offered refreshing lime and green apple liquid flavors across our thirsty palates.  We were outside, together, and celebrating being lazy in the sun.
Bordeaux ripens in September

Every spring optimism renews in the vineyard, and at the end of the summer zenith we hope to be rewarded, yet once again. Lucky dog!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

TASTINGS: Summer Values Found

Lazy, hazy, crazy daze envelops summer. These are long days, when it seems hard to get going early and surprisingly difficult to say a warm 'good nite'. In between we dine al fresco more often, have lighter meals and seem to make more plans to enjoy the out of doors.  This then was a prefect time to join our tasting group recently as we sat down and explored great international wine values for our warmer weather.

Kono, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013; widely available(ours via Trader Joe's) offers a bright Kiwi style with screwcap, and it's all there: hints of lemon grass, gooseberry, wet grass, a whisper of stone fruit, lime peel and tart, bracing acidity. It lingers on the palate, offering a wet but tart and refreshing finish. Bring on the cerviche'.

Domaine du Dragon, Côtes de Provence Rose', 2013; an offering of all the usual Mediterranean suspects: Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache grapes. Here is a delicious, light, pale salmon hue offering a nose of white strawberry, white cherry, rosewater notes, the brightness with good acidity and a little tannin crosses the palate to grab the upper lip, but leaves you thirsty for more. Here there are lingering flavors of white strawberries, Rainer cherries and rosehip that refreshes while offering a good pairing for many of our picnic items.
Commanderie de la Bargemone, Coteaux D'Aix En Provence Rose' 2013; a similar mix of sourced fruit, but one whiff and it becomes a rose' of distinction with its fresh nose of perfumed summer fruits and wet flowers. Its pale salmon hue is a clue to delicious white cherry and floral notes that are round in the mouth and linger for what seems to be an extraordinary amount of time to savor this fine summer wine.

Spainish Monastrell(Mourvedre)
 Yaso, Toro, Castilla y Leon, 2012, Tempranillo offers an opaque plue hue, and a nose of generous black fruits, licorice and pepper spice. On the palate there's notes of boysenberry, black plum, prune, tea, cola and earth spice. Complex enough to be very interesting and quite pleasant with its moderate length on the palate.  Pair this luscious import with some grillin' to do some chillin' with this found Spanish selection.

All of these selections are widely distributed and will set you back less than one(1) Jack$on. In fact, they are in the sub-15 range, and that makes them an easy addition to a lazy picnic blanket or a sizzlin' barbeque table. Summer seems to take things less seriously, as we sit back sippin' and listen' to our favorite baseball painting vocal pictures in the background.  We gather with friends and family to savor and to share.  Along the way, we have a great opportunity to delight in the find of summer values found.


ps. If you would like to see more of our seasonal wine reviews please send a comment.