Category Archives: wine

Travel: E.I.E.I.O.

37 hours and 9 states later, I am finally in California.

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Exhaustion gave way to severe aggravation and agitation: “why the fuck aren’t we there yet,” happened at hour 29 and my girlfriend was a sweet honey bear the whole way.

Between naps and complaining, we saw this:

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Texas

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New Mexico

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Arizona

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And a million miles later, California. Work today was rough but I am going to do my best to update in a timely fashion. 12 hour days of heavy labor make that challenging but certainly not impossible. Thanks for checking in, next I’m gonna show you what I do here.

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Wine: Vino de Pago Tasting

Ansley Wine Merchants & Bantam and Biddy Present:
Vino de Pago Status: 
A Tasting of Spain’s Finest Wines
Ansley Wine Merchants would like you to join us for our exclusive tasting of the wines of a Vino de Pago winery, Chozas Carrascal. Chozas Carrascal recently achieved Pago status in October 2012 and is now a part of an elite group of less than 14 designated Pago wineries. Vino de Pago is classification unique to Spain and has only existed since 2003. It is given to top wineries who have produced superior wines and demonstrated excellence vintage after vintage. They can only source their grapes from their own vineyards, ensuring quality. So think of it like this, instead of designating an entire region, as is done in France with AOC’s, individual wineries receive Pago status and function as “mini appellations”.
Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time: 6:30 PM

Location:
Bantam & Biddy
1544 Piedmont Rd.
Suite 301
Atlanta, Ga, 30324

Cost: ONLY $10* (for 5 wines and tapas)
Special discounts offered ONLY on the evening of the tasting.

*If you choose to stay for dinner, Bantam & Biddy will factor in the cost of the tasting into your final bill, making the tasting completely free.

The Wines:

Las Ochos 
Tinto D.O. Pago
2008
$19.99
This wine contains eight different varietals!  It has very dark and full-bodied aromas of balsamic and dark fruits and is exceptionally well balanced for such a big wine.

Chozas Carrascal
Cava Brut Nature
$19.98
Rich concentrated fruit with citrus and honey and pin point bubbles.

Las Dos Ces
Tinto Barrica
2010
$11.99
Bright red fruits and luscious texture in an everyday food-friendly wine.

Las Dos Ces
Blanco
2011
$11.99
 Traditional white Spanish blend in a fun, modern style.

El Cabernet Franc de Chozas Carrascal
D.O. Pago 2009
$36.99
A 100% Cabernet Franc made from grapes grown on the lowest yielding vines at the estate.  An expressive wine with a big personality.
You do not have to RSVP.  See you there; palate’s ready!
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Travel: The United States of Georgia

So over the weekend I had the opportunity to see just a spec of how truly fantastic and gorgeous my state actually is. A one hour trip to Dahlonega revealed all.  Dinner in downtown Dahlonega at Piazza with a bottle of easy drinking Chianti from Banfi.  Wine prices were stellar, only $26 for the bottle.  What a mark up!  I was so proud, my student/girlfriend correctly guessed the vintage of the wine based on some information I gave her about the color of the rim and its connection to age.

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The pizza, a concoction of spinach, roasted garlic, prosciutto, pepperoni, mozarella and ricotta was pretty good too.  For the price it was fantastic but of course it was no Antico.  Breakfast at the B&B proved lovely as well.  I loved her place settings and the mug of Bavarian chocolate.
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Cream cheese pancakes are the truth…and we love kielbasa. But in no way do these compare to Elaine’s pancakes with orange steeped blueberry compote from the B&B in Savannah. Those were/are still the best.

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Full and ready for take off, we decided to celebrate our small vacay and her finishing her first major medical school exam with a bottle of Special Club Champagne. Special Club is a designated group of small wine growers in Champagne who select their best lots every year for bottling of a vintage release, this is a 2006. Yes, those were coffee cups but with the lemon and vanilla almond macaroons, it was a showstopper.

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So we sat by the pond with our army of gnat buddies and sipped and giggled.

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30 minutes later we took a hand drawn map headed towards Amicalola Falls but got sidetracked here at another winery. A Tuscan masterpiece deadsmack in the Georgia countryside. Say what?

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There were rolling hills covered in vines and a small community of Tuscan style homes nestled in the forests  behind the vineyard.

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It’s lovely and for a moment you almost feel as if you’ve traveled abroad…although we almost traveled down the road of no return. A house was for sale and we opted to check it out. The door was unlocked BUT the owner was home. Luckily he wasn’t afraid of the two girls who just walked into his house somewhat unannounced. #hotmess

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These two lucky escapees fled to Amicalola Falls state park to go hiking. My girlfriend wanted to see bears. I did not want to see bears. We did not see any bears. Yay for us.

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There isn’t much I can say other than go here now…or this weekend or whenever you have 4-7 hours to spare for nature.

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It’s breathtaking. It will make you stare. It will challenge you. You will climb 175 stairs to see this 600 ft.  drop of magnificence.  You will be in awe that you are standing in Georgia and you will realize that Georgia is beautiful.

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Then you will climb an additional 425 stairs to see this fantastic vista from the top of the waterfall.   “The view is certainly different from the top,” she said.

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Whoever was in this car 50+ years ago maybe got too over zealous about being at the top and crash landed to the bottom. Eeriest and creepiest part of the trip seeing this old vintage truck crashed and rusted on the side of the mountain.

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But the sun was out and shining brightly.

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A beautiful day to wash away all the stresses of the city and enjoy a little cool mountain breeze.

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Super Summer Tasting

For all of my wine drinking buddies/newbies and readers in Atlanta, my store is hosting a pretty big tasting next Tuesday from 6:30-7:30.  The wines range in price from $20-$90 but you only pay $10 to taste them and that comes with food.  Check out the deets below.  This is a rare opportunity to taste some of the higher end wines that stock the shelves of your local wine retail store that you look at and say, “Why is that $85 and what does it taste like?”  Here’s your chance to find out.

Ansley Wine Merchants & The Sorting Table Importers Present:
The Sorting Table Portfolio Tasting

Sorting table: Used at harvest time to inspect grapes by hand and ensure only the finest quality fruit is used to produce the wine.

Ansley Wine Merchants wants you to join us as we taste through The Sorting Table’s wine portfolio.  This is an excellent opportunity to taste higher end wines, wines you’ve always wanted to try but weren’t sure about, wines you’ve never heard of from phenomenal producers or wines you already have a great deal of knowledge about and wish to revisit.

We chose a plethora of wines to allow tasters to experience this diversity in the hopes that we bolster your interests in unique and often misunderstood grape varieties.  Rarely will an opportunity come along where you get to taste wines ranging in price from $20 to $90 for only $10.  This is a very important tasting; not to be missed.  We certainly hope you can join us.

Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Time: 6:30 PM

Location:
Bantam & Biddy
1544 Piedmont Rd.
Suite 301
Atlanta, Ga 30324

Cost: ONLY $10* (for 6 wines and tapas!)
Special discounts offered ONLY on the evening of the tasting.

*If you choose to stay for dinner, Bantam & Biddy will factor in the cost of the tasting into your final bill, making the tasting absolutely free.

The Wines:
Borgoluce
Valdobbiadene
Prosecco Superiore
DOCG Extra Dry
$20.99
 
Zind-Humbrecht
Pinot Gris
$27.99
 
Domaine Roblet-Monnot
Bourgogne Rouge
Vieilles Vignes
$29.99
 
Poggio Antico
Rosso di Montalcino
$42.99
 
Zind-Humbrecht
Riesling
Brand Vendage Tardive
$75.99
 
Domaine Roblet-Monnot
Volnay Santenots
1er Cru
$91.99

Come join us at the table and sort it out for yourself.

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Foodie: For the Love of Gluttony

This has been such a fantastic weekend, the sort that I have come to love in my later years.  Good cocktails and wine and bites and a lot of kisses.

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Creepy Cat Face

My dearest Kema and fellow Gemini in awesomeness, had a surprise birthday party at The Drink Shop at the downtown W Hotel. Her girlfriend organized a pretty sweet set up complete with open tabs and high end bar food.  They’ve got the best fries ever.  I’m almost certain they soak those potatoes in salt water.  The gamey duck sliders were so so.  They had this Asian influence happening, a kind of sesame oil slaw but I wasn’t the biggest fan.  I’m probably still salty that they came out 30 minutes after we ordered them.  They pour heavy at The Drink Shop, maybe too heavy.

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My crew.  We look crazy.  I missed them.
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And my babe took a break from studying to join in the festivities.  I’m glad she came, otherwise I probably would have gone to MSR and regretted my decision the entire time.

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My real life crush Jah made an appearance.  She’s such a baddie.  (See, she’s eating those delicious fries).

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Saturday:

After reigning it in and heading home I went to work the next day to get this money.  After work, we spent this money at Alon’s.  It’s kind of our Toys R Us.  A bottle of Shaya Verdejo from Rueda, Spain, fresh baguette, Iberico Curado cheese and fig cake and I was chillin hard.

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My baby did not see it for the Verdejo so I had to drink the whole thing alone.  We can’t have open containers in the car; that would be illegal.  The bottle put me down, which is probably what I needed since I had to get up for today’s walk.

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The Fabulously Rainy Sunday Funday:

A group of women I know do a daily walk around Grant Park and since I’m always at work, it had been very difficult for me to join until today.  I’m committing myself to walking with them every Sunday, a 4 mile walk makes for a happy body.

So on a non-health related note, I was inspired by a bottle of Colombo Cornas Rose and figured after our extensive walk around the park, we should have a rose party.  So we stopped at the Farmer’s Market inside the park and grabbed rabbit and chicken liver pate, some fresh baguette from H&F, some farm made cheeses and several bottles of still and sparkling rose.
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It all felt very grown. I can dig the changes that have come with my increase in age.

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High acid Rose.
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Berry Bomb.

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Bandol Bandit.
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About the wines: They’re all from the southern parts of France. Bandol is Rose king of the land and here’s why. The Grolleau was a striking acid bomb. Excellent for the fatty cheese, it washed your palette right up. Tart fruits primarily and a minerally nose.

The Beraud, which has been my favorite for a while now is a red berry bomb. It’s ripe, it’s not crazy acid and it’s refreshing.

The Bandol, which retails for $19.99, is a perfect balance of all the things we loved about the other wines. I suppose that’s where the $8 increase in price is justified. Good times!

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Happy Camper

I organized a tasting for Fiddlehead Cellars today. It was the first tasting I’ve had to organize, promote and host without my supervisors. I was very nervous, but apparently I did well; so well in fact that the distributor gave me a bottle to take home. So I made dinner and drank Fiddlehead Happy Canyon 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Fiddlehead Cellars is run by winemaker Kathy Joseph and the property is located in the coolest wine growing region on the West Coast, Santa Barbara, California…even including Oregon and Washington. Because there is an east to west mountain range in Santa Barbara that runs through the Santa Ynez Valley, there is no obstruction of wind or fog from the ocean, which is the case elsewhere along the coastline.  Kathy only uses two varieties; Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc is the “weird” part. Don’t think of this as South American or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  That pronounced citrus fruit and grassy flavor profile you’re used to is weaved into minerals and acidity and texture out the wahoo.  I should have known that when my boss said she liked the wines and referred to them as “liquid gold.”

So Happy Canyon joined my dinner. For my birthday, my coworker Michelle bought me a book called Meatless. My honey and I are currently trying to cook recipes and tonight’s dinner was something called a California Veggie Sandwich.

It should have only had veggies but I decided I wanted to add smoked salmon.

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The sandwich: radishes, red onions, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, a goat cheese and parsley spread, red pepper and toasted multigrain bread.  In the future, I’ll make toast the bread for less time.  It was too toasty.

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It paired quite nicely with the Sauvignon Blanc.

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This particular wine comes from the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara and is whole cluster pressed, (the grapes, seeds, stems etc. are pressed by a machine to extract the juice…usually white grapes are removed from the stems before pressing). Once the juice is extracted, 1/3 of the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks, 1/3 is fermented in neutral oak and 1/3 in new French oak.

It’s the most and it shows. You get a buoyant, bright, round and crisp wine with beautifully integrated fruit and acidity.

Me = Happy Camper

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Foodie: Empire State South

It would be a grave understatement to say I was in over my head the other day while dining with coworkers at Empire State South for lunch.  They have all been major oenophiles and foodies for decades and it showed.

We ordered a spread.  And I was reminded that I have quite far to go in my food journey.  There were things on the plates, methods and creations that I had either never heard of or simply just didn’t get.

One such creation was called Duck Terrine.  I still don’t know what that is.  I know it’s fatty and has meat wrapped around it, maybe bacon.

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This was my absolute favorite dish.

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It’s referred to as the Farm Egg  and comes with crispy carolina gold rice, onion puree, cheddarwurst, shiitake mushrooms and the tops of vidalia onions.  They boil the rice until all the starch is removed, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake it at a low temperature until it is completely dry. Next they coat the rice in tapioca flour and fry it, making it the perfect complement to the runny egg on top.  I could eat buckets of this.  It was THAT good.

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There was the Super-Food, which consists of medium rare hanger steak, lettuce, radish, sesame seed coated carrots, a beet dyed farm egg and beets, turnips and pimentos, english peas and mint, vidalia onions, strawberries, blueberries and sorghum sweet potatoes.  Hangar steak can be so chewy but this was not the case.  It was perfectly cooked, tender and moist.  And I’m a huge fan of english peas.  They serve similar peas at Taqueria del Sol with steak but the steak is usually overcooked.  I eat it anyway.  I’m not sure what the white sauce is but I assume it involves mayo.

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There was Smoked Trout Mousse mixed with dill.  It was a simple topping.  The best part is the bread.  Empire State South has the best bread!  Looks like they char it on the grill.

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It was my first time tasting octopus.  This dish is the Charred Octopus, it’s served with frisee, my favorite lettuce of all time, fennel, greens, and peanuts.  It was all coated in this tangy hot chili sauce that my boss suggested might be to cover up the taste of the octopus.  She does not like octopus.  To me it has the texture of tofu and frankly I like charred tofu.  But in all fairness, it’s not something to be consumed regularly or made by someone who doesn’t treat it with care because I could see how they could easily become chewy and flavorless.

We also ate an Oyster Po-Boy, I knew what that was…I’m from New Orleans.  Rice Grits with Kimchee and Wheatberries.  The butter sauce for the wheatberries was a great “dipping sauce” for the bread.

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After a flavorful but somewhat confusing lunch, we went inside for the Montrachet in May tasting of the 2011 Burgundies.  I read a vintage report and it doesn’t sound like these wines are going to be age worthy.  A few notable producers, like Domaine Paul Pernot, were able to extract fruit and acid from the grapes and offer up some fairly well integrated white Burgundies.  Other wines were overly extracted and so fruit bomby you had to wonder what were they trying to cover up.  There was a Premier Cru Volnay “Brouillards” from Domaine Montille that had aromas of white pepper, so much so it almost smelled like incense.  It was brilliant.

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After Empire State South we headed to the downtown Ritz Carlton, where the Henri Giraud Champagne tasting was held.  I’d never been but it’s so much cooler than the Buckhead location.  Better design, or so it appears with all the gold gilded furniture and antique pieces lining the halls.

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We currently sell the Fut de Chene, which at that point I thought was one of the finest Champagnes I’d ever tasted.  It retails for $179.  We also sell the Hommage, for $69.  They are not my favorite but absolutely in my Top 3.  I bought my favorite  (Duval Leroy Femme 1996) and will be drinking it for my 30th birthday.  It’s yeasty magic!

This tasting was to showcase the wine above, a vintage Champagne from Giraud called Argonne, vintage 2002.

Vintage simply refers to the year the grapes were harvested.  Most Champagnes blend vintages (years), meaning a bottle of Veuve may be composed of grapes harvested in 2007, 2009 and 2010 etc.  When a Champagne house makes a vintage Champagne, that means the grapes were particularly wonderful that year.

Argonne retails for $459/btl.  Yes, I know.  We jokingly said they should bolster its presence in strip clubs.  It’s much better than Dom and pricier and sealed with a 14kt? gold staple.  The wine is highly concentrated and rich, very very rich but not yeasty.  The nose is bigger and brighter than the Fut de Chene and it leaves the most wonderful caramel scent in the glass after you’ve finished, almost like bourbon.

While I won’t be buying any, I felt so honored to sip it.  It’s a pretty rarity.

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Foodie: Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

It’s safe to say that Watershed is becoming my favorite in-town restaurant. Every time I’ve ventured there for a tasting, to grab dinner or even a cocktail, I’m always so pleased with the execution.

Juicy meats, high quality booze, super sleek country farmhouse decor and above all location (you know I’m a sucker for a good location).  At a mind blowing 6 minutes from my house, how can I not love this place.

If you’re familiar with the Indigo Girl owned restaurant, then you know Watershed is notorious for their fried chicken, so when Ultimate Distributors said they were going to host a fried chicken and bubbly industry night it didn’t take much to get a yes out of me.  I’d never had it and I needed it.

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The importer, Chris Dillon, of Casa Defra, an Italian winery poured Pinot Grigio (as pictured here)

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as well as Prosecco. Very fitting since The New York Times just did an article on bubbly and its noteworthy food companion, fried chicken. And boy was there some savory goodness served up from the kitchen today.

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We chatted it up while the food began to find its way to the serving tables.

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Pretty sweet spread indeed.
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First of all, these biscuits rank as some of the best most fluffy, buttery bits of joy I’ve ever had.  I’m one to slather butter on my biscuits, but it really didn’t need it.
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Coupled with the honey, it was the perfect, crunchy crusted, soft centered, sweet buttery pillow of love that I hoped for, and made from scratch, as it should be.

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Mmmmmm…and the fried chicken.  Excellent flavor.  The skin wasn’t crunchy, probably because it wasn’t laden with flour but it was downright juice ridden. Likely the result of the combined 24 hour kosher salt and buttermilk brines the chicken sees before it ever touches grease. If you can imagine; think of it as a kind of “stewed/fried chicken.”  It has all the flavor and texture of good versions of both styles. It would probably be perfect for a picnic. I cannot recall a juicier breast, at least not on a plate.
DSCN1121And despite being a ride or die for Alon’s chocolate chip, pecan cookies (my preference has always been the simple chocolate chip version but these cookies are obviously baked with hunks of butter) I rather enjoyed these.  Instead of hunks of butter, they used hunks of bittersweet chocolate that left these melted layers throughout the cookie so you ended up with chocolate in every bite.

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After several rounds, I happily tapped out and if you haven’t already, you should tap in.

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Wine: Rose Roundup

I hope that I’m not jinxing anything by saying, Rosé season is here!  Is that exciting or what?!  We at Ansley have been taste testing through the bitter bipolar weather to secure some prime Rosé options for you and your porch this summer.  Here they are!  Say hi.

Wine Descriptions (left to right)

Hendry
Napa Valley 2012
$12.99

This California Rosé wine is made using the saignée method, a process that is usually implemented to intensify the color, tannins and flavors of red wine.  The pink juice in one tank of wine runs out into another smaller tank and that juice is fermented to make Rosé.  With less juice in the original tank, more concentration of flavors, color and tannins can be imparted into the wine.  Hendry is primarily made up of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Primitivo.  It has great strawberry and citrus fruit.

Domaine de l’Anjaurdiere
Val de Loire 2012
Grolleau
$15.99

This wine is made from the Grolleau grape, indigenous to the Loire Valley.  The name means “crow” in French and expresses the deep black color of the Grolleau berries.  It is often used to make rose wines that have low alcohol and high acidity.  As described by our beer buyer Adam, “It has all the intensity and tension of a rattlesnake waiting to strike.” 

Bieler Pere et Fils
Coteaux d’ Aix en Provence
$11.99

The bottle says this wine is composed of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The website says it has Cinsault in the blend.  We don’t know what’s in it but we do know we love the strawberry-watermelon fresh fruit profile it has.  According to the site there was a bit of lees stirring as well, giving it more body than a typical Rosé…it doesn’t say if this actually happened on the bottle.

Chateau de Campuget
Costieres de Nimes
$9.99

This is a repeat Rosé offender at Ansley.  It comes back every year and runs out much too quickly.  The price point is fantastic and the finish, juicy!  It is also very portable with its twist off cap.  The flavor profile is much more bright, with hints of ripe raspberry.

Domaine Les Aphillanthes
Cotes-du-Rhone 2012
 $12.99

Yummy, yummy delicious!   Primarily Grenache with good acidity and bright red fruit!

La Bastide Blanche
Bandol 2012
$19.99 

This is composed of Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault from Bandol.  The Bandol vineyard is located in the far southeastern part of France facing the Meditarrean Sea.  It is renowned the world over for its intensely complex, spicy, earthy Rosés and big powerful reds, and that is to be expected since Bandol is one of the oldest vineyards in France, dating back to 2,500 years ago.  The definition “Go big or go home.”

Buy some and then invite me over to drink it on your patio.  I promise to bring good bread and creamy cheese.

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Wine: Chateauneufs and Riedels

i knew i was bound to have a great day when a shipment of magnums and baby bottles of Veuve arrived when i got to work. i am no Veuve fan (at least not since my palette has become more refined) but bubbles always get me excited no matter how much nuance they seemingly lack.  and magnums make me dance.

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and dance we did, right to over to King’s Circle to a tasting of high end Chateuaneuf-du-Papes held at Paul’s, an “Americana” restaurant tucked away in the quiet Buckhead neighborhood of Peachtree Hills.  they served some tasty apps, namely cheese, which works like a natural spackle on your teeth to prevent enamel damaging tannins from giving you permanent medieval mouth.

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one unflattering photo of me later, with John Junguenet, the son of world renowned importer Alain Junguenet of Wines of France and host of the tasting, and i was headed to the second tasting; a sit down seminar at ONE Midtown Kitchen held to announce the release of the new Riedel malbec glass.

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if you ask me, the glass looks shockingly close to the Riedel Vinum XL Syrah glass, which retails for $70/glass.  it would appear the price has decreased. when i checked the prices last year after a tasting seminar i participated in for Riedel glasses, it was $105…or maybe i was looking at a different line. nonetheless, it’s a pricey pay for a luxury tasting opportunity…as the glasses actually impact the aromas and flavors you experience from the wine.  but “it ain’t trickin if you got it.”

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the event was put on by Argentine wine producer Graffigna and hosted by super hot, former sommelier and present day Global Wine Ambassador (Argentina), Frederico Lleoart.  since Graffinga winery  opted to contact Riedel and ask that a malbec glass be designed, they now have exclusive rights to the glass for one year.

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as for the tasty tummy fillers, there were these creamy cucumber bites topped with raw salmon.

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crunchy croutons topped with goat cheese, beets, red peppers and chives, a true reminder of spring, since Atlanta weather is slipping on its job.

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and these f-in delicious meatballs. whenever i see meatballs at an event i expect dry balls of meat, yes that gross.

i assume they’re being cheap and trying to inexpensively fill guests’ bellies. i never like them, until now. nothing exciting about them until i sliced open my meatball and juicy meat runoff poured down the sides and melted into the mild and herbaceous tomato sauce. i only ate one because something that good had to have a lot of fatty meat in it.

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i’m not sure what these were and perhaps if i had enjoyed them, i would have asked. they acted as vegan meatballs. unsatisfying, but still acceptable.

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i have always loved ONE Midtown Kitchen, a lot more than TWO Urban Licks, its equally stunning but gastronomically underwhelming sister restaurant. i’ll have to go there and give it another proper eating.

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