WBW #53 – Breakfast Wine

2003_Alvear CrianzaBreakfast wine?  Great challenge up at El Bloggo Torcido for Wine Blogging Wednesday #53 from the folks over at Twisted Oak Winery, especially for me since I typically do not eat what one would consider a real breakfast – just a cup a joe with a banana on the go for my morning commute into the heart of Boston.   What’s more, I’m not much of a cook, short order or otherwise.  I have a tendency to burn food – eggs, steak, burgs, roast, toast.  However, there are a few dishes I do well,  and one happens to be a breakfast food – grits.   For this challenge, I’ll be serving up a mess of southern style cheese grits with garlic, hickory smoked bacon and biscuits with white gravy, lightly peppered.

But wine and cheese grits?  My first inclination was to go with a Pinot Noir just because I’d be frying up some bacon, but this just didn’t seem adventurous enough and avoided the question – what to pair with grits? Plus I have had my fill so to speak of Pinot Noir during the Holidays.  I was also thinking a crisp white, maybe an unoaked Chardonnay to cut through all the heavy dairy I churn into the grits – cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter and milk.   I decided to hold off until I got to my local wine shop.  After a few recommendations and samplings courtesy of the nice folks at the Wine Gallery, I narrowed my choices down to two –  a Chardonnay and a Spanish Tempranillo. Ultimately, I went with the red because of the name of the estate – Palacio Quemado – Burned Palace.  Sounds like my kitchen when I’m in it.  The wine is a 2003 Crianza produced by Alvear made from 100% Tempraillo grapes grown in the Ribera del Guadiana, a wine producing area which is part of the Extremadura region of Western Spain.  At $11.39, I was tempted to buy a case, but I had to stay on task and the question remained, will it go with baked cheese grits laced with garlic?

I unscrewed the cork but in doing so, destroyed it – I can never get a good center action going and stripped the thing right down the side.  I manged to extract it, but the cork practically crumbled in my hand.  Off to another great start!  You’ll have to read my WBW #52 entry to understand the reference.

Spice and earth on the nose…and a little cork too – my bad.   Medium-bodied – more weight than I expected from a Tempranillo.  A palate pleasing clean cherry tart with a dash of pepper on the finish.

From the winemaker:

Dark cherry colour, clean and brilliant, it’s aroma is intense, with hints of ripe fruit and mineral backbone.  Good varietal expression, where the wood is present, yet well integrated.  Tasty and yummy in the mouth, with fine notes of toast and liquorice.  Well structured and balanced, with a good finish and great ageing potential.

I did not find the nose intense, nor did brilliant come to mind to describe any aspect of the wine, but I’ll not quibble with the meat of the winemaker’s notes.  Balance, structure, clean, fresh fruit, spice from the oak, longish finish – it’s all there.

Now for the real test:  breakfast.   Fortunately, the wine’s acidity helped cut through the creaminess of the grits and combined beautifully with the cheddar to reveal freshly picked cherries.  The smokiness of the bacon brought out the earthy quality I sensed on the nose.   This red is indeed nicely balanced.  However, the peppered white gravy and biscuits buried the wine like an avalanche.   If you must have biscuits and white gravy for breakfast, better stick with OJ or try a Chardonnay!

With garlic infused southern style baked cheddar cheese grits, this 2003 Palacio Quemado red is definitely a hit!

Spanish Red “El Burro” Kicks

I went to a local wine shop last night looking for a wine a friend recommended, but could not remember the name (the wine, not friend).  I thought it was a budget wine from Italy or Spain produced by Banfi.  Sentimo or something like that.  The clerk had not heard of it but recommended several Spanish wines.  One she described as kickass.   What?  Kickass?  Is this a new winetasting term?  Or is she just a cashier with no knowledge of wine.  Or maybe she was so taken with the memory of this wine that she could not contain her enthusiasm.  Could it be that she thought I was some dolt who might only understand a crude adjective?  She said the wine was fruity, with soft tannins and a nice spicy finish.  Sounded good enough to me.  $12.99 – a little more than my $10 general rule, but I thought if this wine is truly kickass, maybe it’d be worth an extra 3 bucks.  As I walked to the register, bottle in hand, I noticed on the label just below El Burro, these words:  kickass garnacha.

I have a copy of the Wine Lover’s Companion published in 1995 that says the garnacha grape is widely planted in Spain and Southern France, where it is called Grenache.  The grape is also grown in Algeria, Israel and Morroco and in California’s Central Valley.  Garnacha is generally blended but frequently the dominant grape.  Characteristically fruity with low tannins, 100% Garnacha wines are rare, according to the Wine Lover’s Companion.

El Burro is just that, 100% Garnacha and quite rare tasting; certainly not kickass, but does have a spicy finishing kick.  The Well Oiled marketing company, no doubt responsible for the catchy name, El Burro kickass, published the vintner’s winetasting notes:

Color: Vivid purple with bright red rim
Nose: Raspberry, cherry fruit with earthy notes of spice, leather, vanilla and mocha
Palate: Full bodied with fine, soft tannins and well balanced acidity
Finish: Raspberry and wild berry fruits give way to a long, smooth, spicy finish.

When I popped the cork, my impression of the nose was similar, but I could not distinguish the fruit – certainly not fruit forward, the minerality came through though as did the vanilla.  No mocha – maybe a hint of freshly ground coffee.   Upon tasting, the tannins stood out – I felt my mouth go dry for a instant; on the second sip the dryness dissipated as the wine had a chance to breathe.  The acids were apparent too, giving a little kick to the fruit I could not quite identify.  Slightly spiced on the finish – vanilla, cinnamon and some bitter chocolate.

I don’t know yet if I like this wine, but I have half a bottle left.  By the way, I tried a little food accompaniment with this red – swiss on a cracker with salami.  Bad idea!!  Chocolate didn’t pair much better – granted it was a bite-sized snickers bar, but I didn’t happen to have any good stuff on hand.

Spanish Red a Steal of a Deal

This is my first wine review.  Let me say at the outset that I am no wine expert.  I don’t have the most sophisticated palate.  I doubt I can describe a wine intelligibly.   But I do know what I like, “and I like what I know, you know it’s getting better…..”  Are there any Peter Gabriel, Genesis fans out there?  I digress.  Forgive me.  I’ll give this review a whirl.

I always have a few bottles of wine around the house, and never, or rarely pay more than $10 (US) on principle.  I stumbled across a Spanish red at my local wine shop rated 90 points by Robert Parker.  The tasting notes said something about wildflowers, licorice and soft tannins.  I don’t care for licorice, and don’t eat wildflowers, but the combination intrigued me plus wildflowers brought to mind Tom Petty’s album Wildflowers, and the Rolling Stones LP, Flowers,  which had a couple of memorable tunes  – “Ruby Tuesday” and “Mother’s Little Helper”.   Made from 100% mencia grapes, this is a 2005 offering of Flavium from the Bierzo region of Spain.   At $10, this Spanish red is a steal of a deal.

I got home, popped the cork and took a good whiff.  I couldn’t detect any wildflowers, but did catch a hint of menthol.  I took a sip – no swirl and spit, I just swallowed.  Nice!  The coolness of menthol was there, with some licorice and maybe cinnamon spice.  Fruity – jammy even.  I’m not sure what berry exactly – blueberry, cranberry, raspberry; almost Zinfandel like.  Soft tannins.  Smooth.  Long finish.  Wasn’t long til I finished half the bottle.  I liked it enough to buy two more, one for the house and another for a dinner party this weekend.  If you find Flavium at your local wine store, grab a bottle.  Or two.