Liebestropfchen

IMG_0402

 
 
The readers in Central New York are going to love this edition of Griffy on Wine!  Today’s wine is Liebestropfchen, and yes, I would have bought it just for the name.  It’s made on the Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield, NY and it’s the bomb!
 
There are so many stories that go with this wine, but first I have to thank a co-worker Amity for bring the Liebestropfchen to my attention.  Amity grew up in Buffalo; family owns a chocolate business and her dad owns a beautiful boat.  Along with being a very hard worker in the electronics industry, Amity is a talented musician and has a great voice.  Click here to listen to this talented woman and her husband perform their original song, IF NOT FOR DREAMING. 
 
For Christmas she generally brings me the most wonderful candy in the world, orange cream chocolates.  Well, this year to help protect my health, she got me this wine instead.  Well, the wine is right there in running with the chocolates.  Folks this is a really good wine.  And in keeping with our theme for the Summer, it’s a white wine to boot!  
 
The name Liebestropfchen is German for “Little Love Drops,” sort of like my nickname LLFB or, “loveable little fuzz ball.”  I wonder what that is in German?  This wine had the best damn label I’ve ever seen on a wine bottle.  Not that it was all artsy and stuff because it isn’t; if anything the label looks like a legal contract, but it’s just full of information about the wine.  It tells you everything you’d want to know.  
 
The grape is the “Delaware.”  The exact origin of this grape is not known, but they have been making wine with it since 1850 in Delaware, OH.  The Liebestropfchen has a light, golden-straw color.  It’s nose has traces of sweet light pear.  You have to play with it a little bit out of the fridge as you can hardly notice the fragrance, but let it warm and you’ll find it.  If you’re a sweet wine person, the taste is for you: a very sweet, almost syrupy full-bodied flavor that blended white fruit pears, apple, and hint of lemon.  The bottle says it has the, “favor and character of a French Sauternes.”  I don’t know what that is exactly, so I guess we’ll have to find out about that as a subject for another Griffy on Wine adventure.
 
The infomercial on the label recommends that this is too sweet to be used as a dinner wine.  I almost agree, but I paired it with a chicken, orange, and walnut salad with oil and vinegar dressing and the wine put the flavor through the roof.  Please try it and let me know if you agree.  Josephine and I also enjoyed it all by itself while watching American Idol finally on TV.  I discovered a little ice after the bottle had been out for a while cut the syrup factor way down.
 
On page two of the label you get the history of the Johnson Estate Winery and it makes you want to get into your car and go.  It’s the oldest “estate” or “farm” winery in New York.  Located on the Southern shore of Lake Erie, the Johnson Estate Winery is bracketed by the Allegheny Plateau, where I hear they make some really good Pinot Noirs.
 
The bottom line is if you can find this wine it’s worth bringing home and enjoying.  The other story is there has never been a better time to be a wine drinker.  The United States is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, so get out, visit a vineyard this year, and enjoy some local wines.  And listen to If Not For Dreaming, that video was just one of four they currently have on YouTube. Enjoy!

A Favorite Wine Place

IMG_0383

IMG_0365Do you have a particular place you like to drink wine?  Do you live someplace where the climate allows you to enjoy a sidewalk café?  Maybe you have a favorite restaurant or bar, perhaps you live near a beach or a lake and enjoy sipping while watching the waves. You might even know about a park or garden that is fine with the fruit of the vine and is a paradise all your own.

According to Google Earth I’ve seen 29% of the planet, so I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a few opportunities to find that perfect wine spot. I’ve drank wine in Rome, London, Athens, and Jerusalem. I’ve sipped fine wines on cruise ships with dinner as we graced the Atlantic. Funny thing is, in the end I didn’t have to go that far, because it turns out the best place to drink wine is in my back yard.  Either by the fire pit or on my patio Josephine has made our backyard HEAVEN, a place where you leave the world’s cares at the front door and enter paradise, if only for a few hours. There was this place in Sicily that gave me a run for my money, but technically that was my backyard too. 

I’m writing about this because I was able to use my backyard for the first time this spring and the old mojo was working. For a few hours I escaped electronics, deadlines, quotes, deliveries, taxes, politics, crazy sales people, chaos, tumult and confusion and enjoyed a great glass…okay…a great bottle of wine while the weight of the world went floating by like so many clouds above me.

The wine was Dona Paula Los Cardo, a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.  This wine had me at hello.  The color was a beautiful purple-red.  The nose was a spirited blend of sweetness, spice, and intense aromas of berry fruit and roasted nuts.  If you love fruit-forward wine this is a best-buy alert! The palate was fantastic: soft, velvety and fresh.  You’ll love this wine with everything from fancy meals, to entertaining with appetizers, or just sitting in a back yard on a sunny Sunday afternoon after doing some yard work and feeling relaxed for the first time in a long time.

This wine makes me feel like singing the old Coke song “I’d like to buy the world this wine and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtledoves.”  For me, wine really has become the healing balm of Gilead; a brief rest from a world just gone mad, which was one of the historical uses for wine anyways.  Recently, I shared my wine haven with my son, his wife, and my daughter-in-law for a perfect Father’s Day lunch. So friends, do the same: find your spot, open your wine, and realize that for all its sham and drudgery this is still a dilly of a planet with plenty of places to enjoy a bottle.  Remember wine is liquid sunshine.

“Sometimes you have to stop and sniff the corks!”
-Arna Dan Isacsson

D.R. Loosen Bros 2011 Riesling

IMG_0431It’s a good thing that Griffy on Wine is a blog of laws and not given to the whims of just one man, like some other governmental bodies.

Last week I said no Riesling, absolutely not, and that we would not consider any Riesling wines in our search for the Great White Wine of 2013. Did I really say that? Maybe I said Reichensteiner and just spelled it wrong! Where’s Jay Carney when I need him?

The reason for my grief is I enjoyed one of the best bottles of white wine I’ve had in a while, the D.R. Loosen Bros. 2011 Riesling. I had purchased this wine after reading an article in Wine Spectators magazine on German Riesling. Folks, this was the BOMB! Overlooking the Mosel River , the wine is grown on an Estate that has been passed down for 200 years. The vines are on average 60 years old.

The color is a clear yellow. The wine had a noteworthy nose, which surprised me the most because most whites are like sniffing water. I found an inviting aroma of apples and pears. The taste was sweet, refreshing, and it tasted thick. One critic said it was like an apple pie filling, a gross exaggeration, but it is sweet and thick. Again, I got the apples, and pears, and I think a hint of grapefruit. The main reason I liked it was it was refreshing and paired well with my spicy Buffalo wings. I liked the wine so much I purchased another bottle.

The wine snobs hammer the Loosen Bros, with one saying, “Yet another of those American Style overly-sweet Rieslings.” Goodness, I’ll go hang my head in shame for being sweet and one of the most popular Rieslings on the market. Gees.

Wine Spectator routinely awards this wine high marks and praise despite its modest price point of only $12. Wine Trials, a publication that blind tastes under-$15 bottles against $50 had this wine coming out on top. My suggestion is to go buy a bottle and try it yourselves!

Now, I’ll tell you the search for the Great White is in full swing. One variety that has been added to the list is Gruner Veltliner from Austria . Until I got the e-mail I had never heard of this grape, so it went right on the list. If you have suggestions for a vineyard send it along.

I have a La Segreta form Sicily a blend of 50% Grecanico, 30% Chardonnay10% Viognier and 10% Fiano on deck in the cooler. We have Collidi Lapio from Italy , that’s made from the Fiano Grape. Then from Spain we have Columna from the Albarino grape. So get you suggestions in, the list is filling up!

A few e-mails have indicated I might be limiting myself with the exclusion of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. I still say the summer is the best time to experiment with wine, so have fun and let your hair down a little bit.

Reality

IMG_0213

Okay, I have a question.  Would you watch a Reality TV show about wine?  To me this is a brilliant idea so you know I didn’t come up with it, but I think this would be a hit! 
 
Some of you are probably familiar of a show called “The Voice.”. I’ve never watched it but after this I will.  The premise behind The Voice is simple: you have known music personalities listen to blind auditions of wannabe singers.  The stars pick the guy they like and the competition begins.  The stars coach their protégés through the competition until they crown a winner.  The viewer gets to see the stuff that people in the music business must contend with on the road to making it big.
 
Now, what if we apply this to wine?  We get four celebrity-status winemakers to do blind tastings of aspiring wine makers wine.  They select their guy and the competition begins.  We get to see the nitty gritty stuff that goes on and the process of making a great wine, plus what it takes to launch a new wine label.  We all know there’s more to the process than just what’s in the bottle!  There’s the marketing process, designing the label, selling distributors, visiting retailers and restaurants, going to the tastings, and building a social media campaign.  Then, there are the daunting legal and regulatory hurdles that have to be surmounted.
 
I’m getting all fired up just writing about it.  We could pull winemakers from around the world or from different areas of the wine business: a Sommelier from a famous restaurant, a major wine distributor or famous retailer.  We could get Gary Vaynerchuk, he’d love it, or a CEO from a major liquor company. I think this is a fantastic idea!
 
Oh man, think of the pairings we could come up with.  William Koch could be a coach and Rudy Kurniawan could be the winemaker and they could call the wine SO, SO SUE ME!  Or Drew Bledsoe could be paired with Tim Tebow to make the first 100 point Sacramental wine in Canada!  Bethenny Frankel of SkinnyGirl could face off against Guy Anderson of Fat Bastard wines.  I’m having way too much fun with this.
 
Well, I understand a show similar to this already exists.  It’s called “CRUSHED” formally called “The Winemaker” and it’s into its second season on PBS, who knew?  I am told it’s like “Top Chef” collides with the “Apprentice”.  I think my idea would be far more interesting and positive.  They wouldn’t have made up situations to deal with; they’d have the real challenges of making a wine start up work, which would be challenging enough.  I’ll be looking to see if “CRUSHED” is listed in my area.
 
Now, there is a problem with this idea, how do we get the public involved?  With current laws in place we couldn’t send out little sample bottles for people to try and vote, and watching a guy sample wine on TV would be like watching grass grow or a guy fishing, wait that one actually works.  Well, let me go work out the bugs on this and I’ll get back to you.  Check out and see if CRUSHED is listed on you PBS network.  Stay thirsty my friends!
 
Don’t forget to send me your suggestions for the Great White Wine Hunt!

Fattoria dei Barbi

IMG_0366

 
 
Rod Steward wrote a song about how “every picture tells a story.”  For me the same is true about every bottle of wine, they each have a story too.  This week’s wine is a tale of love.
 
The story begins almost 12 years ago when a friend of mine got word that he was going to be a father.  Now, some dad’s buy cigars, but my buddy bought a bottle of wine.  Specifically, he bought this bottle of Fattoria dei Barbi Morellino di Scansano.
 
The day came and my buddy was blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  The bottle went back on the shelf. Four years later the stork visited again with another little angel of a girl.  The bottle remained un-opened.
 
Recently we got together.  The girls taught me songs and a dance, I’m sure it’s on YouTube and soon I will be bigger than Gangnam Style.  We told stories, ate pasta, that’s what we do!   My friend takes me outside and plops down the bottle of Barbi on the table.  He looks at me with sad eyes and says, “what do you think?”  I looked at the age and knew what this bottle meant to him, so I said, “it’s getting long in the tooth!”  “WE ALL ARE” was his response, and he pulled out a corkscrew.
 
The wine Morellino di Scansano is a beautiful red wine from southern Tuscany.  85% Sangiovese and 15% merlot, this wine is one of the best kept secrets of Italy; if you have not tried this wine stop reading now and go get a bottle, it’s that good!  Just don’t forget to come back. 
 
 Locally the wine is called just “Morellino,” or “Brown,” because of it’s rusty garnet color.  The nose is an aroma that makes reminds me why I signed up to be a wine drinker, intense and clear, I just love it.  The flavor is liquid velvet, and the two blend to give you a fantastic sensory ride you’ll remember for a long time.  Everything fits perfectly right into a wonderful finish.
 
We drank almost in silence, enjoying the wine to be sure, but more we were caught up in understanding and appreciating the significance of the moment.  When he opened that bottle, my friend was saying good-bye to a dream, a very deep desire for a son.  This was a moment of passage, where one door closed and we walked through another.  It was perfect that we marked this passage with a great wine.  They have been making this wine since 1352, the very roots in the vineyard are history.
 
The bottle passed slowly and with great dignity.  It felt like the wine was a proud man passing it’s knowledge, it’s dreams and desire and surrendering to the reality of what is.  When it was gone he looked at the bottle and said, “What do I do with this?”  “Keep it” I said, “put it somewhere you can see if every day and remember that, though that one dream might be gone, the reality of here and now is pretty damn good.”
 
The next day I went out and bought two new bottles of the same wine and dropped them off.  “What are these for,” he said.  “The weddings,” I replied.  He laughed and said “you’ll most likely drink most of these too.” You had better believe it!
 
I don’t know why we prefer to mark our lives’ journeys with wine.  Maybe it has something to do the sacredness of wine, I don’t know.  New Years, Birthdays, Weddings, Graduations, new life’s victories and defeats are all celebrated with wine.
 
Wine can be liquid music, and music paints pictures and often tells stories all of them magical and all of them true, and the stories, the pictures, the music and yes the wine, tells the story of YOU.
 
So this Sunday get a good bottle of wine and go see your dad, or someone you think of as dad,  remember it’s the heart that makes a father, not the blood.  Wine reminds us to take our time, to consider the color, to slow down and savior the aromas, to slip, slurp and swallow, not gulp and move on.  Go ahead buy the one you really want to drink, think about it, you’re not going to be able to afford it tomorrow either, so might as well buy it now!  If you ask life to give you many blessings it will!
 
The life lesson here is buy your wine, make your dreams but remember wine and dreams don’t last forever.  Take them off the shelf and drink them, enjoy both to the fullest and remember them, then go buy new wine and make new dreams!
 
Happy Father’s Day!

The Great White Wine Hunt of 2013

IMG_0413

Okay the temperatures are getting hot, and it’s time to park the rich red wines of winter for the cool crisp whites of summer.  I know, I know, I’m not a big fan of white wines either, but I’m willing to learn!
 
So because Griffy just wants to have fun, I’ve decided that we should have the GREAT WHITE WINE hunt for the summer of 2013.  I declare its open season on white wine!  So, this is what I want you to do; tell me what your favorite white wine is, I’ll pick 12 of them, sample them, sample hell, and I’ll drink them and review each.  Now, we have to put some limits, so unless you are buying, limit the purchase price between $10 and $25.  I am going to rule out some varietals; no Chardonnay, no Rieslings, no Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc, I’ll get you out of your 9 wine rut if I have to drag you screaming and kicking.  I’ll make an exception on the varietals above if they are included in a blend but they must be less than 30% of the blend. 
 
There are 12 weeks of summer, we are hunting 12 bottles; a coincidence?  I think not!  Get your lists together, send them to me, and let the hunt begin!
 
To kick off the GREAT WHITE WINE hunt of 2013 I have a wonderfully tasty white for you from Loreto Aprutino in Abruzzo Italy. The name of the vineyard is Torre Dei Beati which means “The Tower of the Blessed.”  This is the name of a 14th century fresco that hangs in a nearby church of Saint  Maria in Piano, Italy.  The fresco depicts souls attempting to reach heaven by living right, striving to imitate Jesus.  
 
The vineyard seeks to produce the very best wine possible through hard work, careful selection of grapes, and organic farming techniques.  The vineyard is a family business and they planted their first vines in 1972.  They started the winemaking activity in 1999.  Originally focused on producing wine from just Montepulciano grapes, in 2005 they began making some very interesting wines based on the traditional white grapes of the region, Pecorino and Tebbiano.
 
The wine’s name is “Giocheremo coni fiery,” or, “Playing with the flowers.”  I love Italian!  Do you know what Portare fuori la spazzatura means?  Me neither, but my wife says it to me every night, so it must mean how much she loves me!  The grape is 100% Percorino.  Percorino is an old grape variety that originated in the wild around the Sibillini Mountains.  The word stems from the Itialian word “percora,” which means sheep, and the sheep would eat the wild grapes while moving through the vineyards.  It’s also the name of a cheese.
 
Folks, this is a great wine.  The color is straw yellow with light golden tones.  The bouquet gave up an overtone of pear with hint of honey aroma.  It’s slight, but I liked it.  Flavor is far more full-bodied than whites I’ve drank before and the finish lingers far longer than I expected with a white wine.  The vines for this wine were planted in 2005, and if they are yielding grapes this good at such a young age the future looks very bright for this vineyard.  Fermentation takes place 75% of the time in stainless steel and 25% barrique.  They recommend you serve the wine at around 50° F.  Mine was at about 38° F, and both the flavor and the nose opened up as the wine warmed.
 
I’m psyched for this summer and our little adventure.  A quick pass through my favorite wine store, Center Street Wine and Spirits in Wallingford, told me that in this one store only looking at my beloved Italian wines there were 27 different kinds of white grapes represented.  Wow, we could do our contest from here!  So stop in and check them all out, send me your list of Great Whites and let’s have a great summer.
 
“Penicillin can cure those that are ill, but wine brought me back from the dead!”

Juan Gil

IMG_0409

 
 
A smarter man than me once asked, “Is it better to climb one mountain 100 times or climb 100 mountains once?”  Me, I don’t climb mountains, too freaking old for that stuff, but the question is intriguing when applied to wine.  Is it better to drink one wine all the time, or drink many wines as often as possible?
 
It is estimated that there are 24,000 named grapes known in the world—with 5,000 truly different verities–and 150 are planted in commercially significant amounts.  With that being said, why do we only drink wine from about nine grapes?  The classics whites: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon; and the reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah; constitute only a fraction of the grape world yet are the primary wine-making grapes.
 
I know people who only drink Cabernet or Chardonnay that are very knowledgeable about the wine.  They know its nuances, its strengths and weaknesses, its varieties; good years and bad years, in short they KNOW the wine.  They’ve climbed the same mountain 100 times and have mastered all the trails.
 
For me, my adventurous spirit leads me to want to drink new and unique wines every opportunity I get.  I don’t need a challenge like golf; my life has enough aggravation in it without paying money to smack a little white ball all over some guy’s lawn.  I prefer the challenge of finding that new varietal in the air-conditioned comfort of a wine shop!
So, with today’s wine let me invite you to BOLDLY GO WHERE YOU HAVEN’T GONE BEFORE, TO SEEK OUT NEW WINES AND NEW VARIETALS, TO BOLDY DRINK WHAT YOU HAVEN’T DRUNK BEFORE!  (By the way, while I was writing this they introduced a Star Trek wine, stole my idea, sons of B, ah guns!)
 
Today’s wine comes to us from Spain.  The wine maker is  Australian Chris Ringland, if they had wine maker cards like baseball cards Chris Ringland would be a collectors card.  Juan Gil 2010 Monastrell comes from 40 year old vines, aged in French oak barrels.  This wine has a clean fresh nose that will make you smile ear to ear.  The color is a deep bright ruby red.  This wine is no shrinking violet; it’s powerful with 15% alcohol, okay, closer to 16% but they can’t put that on the label, great taste, and a long, finely-tuned finish.  This is a masterpiece of a wine.
 
The vineyard was founded in 2002 by the Gil Vera family, who can trace their wine-making roots back to 1916 and their great-grandfather, Juan Gil.  The vineyard is located just North of the town Jumilla in South-eastern Spain, which resides in the North-eastern corner of the Murcia region near the towns of Cieza and Yecle.  All of this is south of Barcelona on Spain’s East coast.  
 
But while the Gil family serves as the director of this fine feature, the real star of this production is the Monastell grape.  Monastell, which is also known as Mourvedre in France and Mataro in Spain, has a reputation for making wines with a very high alcohol content and is the high-octane in the super-charged blend of GSM wine (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre).  For you Rhone Rangers out there, this is your favorite brew.
I love the winemakers’ comment about the Monastell grape, “it likes it face in the hot sun, and its feet in the water,” meaning this grape grows best in very warm weather, but with a bunch of irrigation to produce its intensely flavored fruit.  It likes an arid environment to grow.
 
The grape is a world traveler, and it isn’t sure if it’s French or Spanish.  It was first used by the Phoenicians to make wine around 500 BC.  The name Monastell is a compromise between Mataro, and Morvedre.  No one knows when, why, or how this compromise was reached probably it was a neutral name chosen so neither French or the Spanish prides were offended.
 
Monastell arrived in the United States in the 1860’s in California.  They called it Mataro and it was used in making jug wine.  Bonny Doon Vineyards and Cline Cellers are the major US makers of wine with high concentrations of Monastell.  Australia started growing Monastell in the mid-19th century and used in mostly as an anonymous blending grape in fortified wines.
 
Guys this is a great wine wherever it comes from and by any name it’s called.  Try the Juan Gil.  If you want a U.S. wine of the same style, Cline Cellars has one.  Drink nothing but French wines?  Try a Bandol.  But please get out of the nine-wine rut, there’s a lot to explore, and drinking wine is far easier than climbing a freaking mountain!