Tag Archives: vinho verde

Our Annual Wine Party

Cork collection

It has become a tradition in our house that every year for Nina’s birthday we throw a wine party. It used to be that it was a wine and cheese party, where we provided the cheeses and opened Nina’s huge treasure chest of mustards and fruit mustards, and everyone invited was asked to bring a bottle of wine they liked or always wanted to try or thought we just had to try. The tradition started back in Germany, where naturally almost everyone brought Rieslings…over the last couple of years we have also been able to open Rieslings from Nina’s birth year which has been fun and educational.

These days, the party has evolved to just a wine party. Nina still gives some guidance regarding what folks should contemplate bringing, and it is usually respected. One cool thing is that a number of friends that come are not really into wine, but are willing to explore and try things out. I always love that. The other cool thing is that it gives me an opportunity to see what others consider when they look at wines and try to bring something to a specifically wine party. Here are some of my impressions from this year’s party:

1) Pinot noir seems to be gaining ground like crazy. I’d guess that half the wines that were brought to the party were made from that grape. Pretty much all of them from the US or other New World locations, mainly because we tend to limit money spent to grad student salaries. I enjoyed seeing that not so into wine folks are embracing that grape more and more, yet some of the wines were clearly underwhelming…it’s just hard at that price range.

2) A Portuguese friend of ours brought a bottle of Alvarinho, a white,  called Deu La Deu from the Portuguese sub-region of Monção e Melgaço. Our friend introduced it by saying it was a vinho verde, and she knew we like vinho verde, but that it was a “next level” vinho verde. I was naturally intrigued, given how much I enjoy vinho verde. When I tried it, I was quite impressed: It has all the citrus and refreshment that I love about vinho verde, the sazziness, the fun. But it also has a more serious air about it: It carries more weight, is a bit creamier, a bit more mature, I guess I would say. At 12.5% ABV it is great to drink, and made for a wonderful surprise! More about the wine here.

A next level Vinho Verde

A next level Vinho Verde

3) Our newly found blogger friend Hannah (of Next Stop TBD) and her fiance Mark brought a bottle from a winery visit in California last year: A 2011 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. They wanted to retry the wine, because memories of it were a bit hazy, and so we were happy to oblige. You know how I usually see Cabernet Sauvignons with trepidation, but it was a really tasty wine: bold, juicy, chewy, with enough depth. Nina was shocked I liked it, which was probably the other reason I liked it even more. Nothing like surprising your spouse once they think they have you figured out.

4) The amazement that has been Vouvray whites is continuing: Our great tasting buddies and real life friends, coffee roaster Jay and his baking-wine nut wife Sarah brought another bottle: Noel Bourgier 2012 Vouvray, this one retailing for a mere $11! It was just what I described as a winter white in my post about Vouvray a while back: creamy and full, round and enticing. Uncomplicated and quaffable. Go find a Vouvray and let me know what you think!

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

5) As the highlight of the night, we opened yet another 1987 Vereinigte Hospitien Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese (we have had this wine before, last year we had a Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen, and we have had Vereinigte Hospitien’s ’87 Erdener Treppchen before). We are now 27 years in, so I begin to worry a bit about how these Spätlesen are going to hold up, especially from a not ideal vintage. I have been telling Nina numerous times that we need to start stocking up on Auslesen and even BAs from that year, if there were even any produced. The cork was moldy on top, but came out seemlessly, and the wine presented itself in fantastic condition: I had gotten the decanter ready, to potentially breathe some life into it, but the tiny sip I tried made me push aside the decanter and go straight for glasses: The wine was firm and structured. There was very bright acidity which held the wine together and led to citrus aromas dominating the wine. The finish was holding up, and so all in all a very solid expression of what an aged Spätlese can taste like. I thought it was very tasty and definitely has a couple more years ahead of it, which I find astonishing….and reason enough to buy a couple more of this when we are in Germany next…

Stunningly fresh

Stunningly fresh

So, when are you throwing your next wine party and encourage friends to bring what they want you to try or share with you?

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2010 Caiu a Noite Vinho Verde and 2011 King Estate Acrobat Pinot Gris

2010 Caiu a Noite and 2011 Acrobat Oregon Pinot Gris

2010 Caiu a Noite and 2011 Acrobat Oregon Pinot Gris

We were invited for at dinner party on our last Saturday evening in Alaska before flying back to Ann Arbor. The hosts had told us to bring wine and sent us a menu for dinner: broccoli, roasted lemon-herb chicken, mashed lentils with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar. In my opinion, this dinner was screaming out for white wines. I guess a Côtes du Rhône would have worked fine as well, but with the lemon chicken I just felt safer with whites.

We headed over to the liquor store and I was thinking something along the lines of a Burgundy chardonnay. We kept checking the pretty decent wine selection when Nina had the idea to bring a vinho verde to start with. We couldn’t see any, so we asked the lady in the store who promptly sent us to the Chile wine section because Portugal was somewhere in South America…ah, well. I finally spotted a vinho verde, the 2010 Caiu a Noite. I had never seen that wine before, but it was $6.99 and since a bottle of vinho verde has yet to disappoint me, we picked it up.

With some uneasiness and the very limited selection of Burgundy whites I was convinced by Nina that we might want to look into pinot gris. I complained that I am not the person who brings pinot gris to a dinner party (I am not the fondest supporter of that grape). I saw some Oregon pinot gris and I decided that that might be a route to take. I have never had Oregon pinot gris before, so it was an experiment. The 2011 King Estate Acrobat seemed about right, and cost around $10.

Both wines turned out to be very good (as did dinner!). The 2010 Caiu a Noite Vinho Verde still had some bubbling going on, which I did not expect given that it is a 2010 vintage and vinho verde is usually meant to be drunk young. It had a great nose of fresh apple and citrus and in the glass showed these same apple aromas, a very slight sweetness backed up by a nice acidity. It was a really good vinho verde, probably one of the best I have had (better than the Trader Joe’s Vinho Verde Espiral, I think, because it was more rounded and less wild). I highly recommend this wine if you get a chance to try it.

The 2011 King Estate Acrobat Oregon Pinot Gris poured in a very light yellow color. The nose was a bit perfumy, but somewhat subdued. Not very expressive at first. On the palate the wine was beautiful. It had a nice body to it, was dry and showed some interesting fruit aromas of pear and apple. It had a nice length to it and was just incredibly smooth and wonderful to drink. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I loved that there are always wines out to positively surprise me. It also paired well with dinner. I have to try more Oregon wines, from what I hear this is a wine region that is producing wines that I will like. I am very excited about that prospect.

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Trader Joe’s Espiral Vinho Verde – my idea of summer wine

Man, I have made my find of the summer! With heat like we have had those last weeks, there is nothing like a well chilled down white wine. Even better if the people who make it know what heat means. And in vinho verde country, that is Northern Portugal, they sure do…I am even willing to forgo my riesling snobbishness for this.

I first came across vinho verde (literally green wine) through my good friend Nair, who comes from the beautiful town of Porto, and whose father happens to own a winery along the Douro river. Whenever he came to visit, he would bring bottles over bottles of vinho verde and his house red. All bottles unlabeled. He also brought gallons of olive oil that they produce, so Nair also distributed that among us, because she is a great friend! (And we threatened her if she did not give us some…)

Vinho verde is to be drunk young, and it usually is still a bit fizzy. It is dry, but remains fruity, usually lower in alcohol content which makes it easy to enjoy in the heat. Those memories made us pick a bottle from Trader Joe’s display two weeks ago. At $4.49 there is not much one can do wrong we thought. And nothing wrong with it there was!

We have made several runs to TJ’s in the last weeks to stock up because we are constantly running out of it. I think it is just what summer should taste like: In the glass you get a light colored, depending on the bottle more or less fizzy wine. The nose is full of fresh apple and pear and some fresh grass. When you try it, it is a dry wine, but not too dry. The fruitiness is amazing, but the acidity gives you that refreshing race over your tongue. At 9% ABV there is also nothing to worry about.

Simply put: It is delicious. And at that price, it is a steal! So, better pick some up while the heat lasts, and TJ’s supplies do as well…I for one am sure that I will make a couple more runs in the not too distant future….

If you’re not in Trader Joe’s country, go and pick up some other vinho verde. Chances are that it won’t be too expensive, fruity and fresh, and just be the right thing on a hot summer’s day! Just make sure you drink it well, well chilled.

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