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Live blogging from our DGS sparkling wine tasting [hehe, the couple in the background is our first Singapore DGS couple. Woot woot!]. First up: Dog Leg from South Australia. Small bubbles, nice fizz on tongue, but a little too sweet for my liking. Yujuan is giving us the lowdown of the four different methods to make sparklig wines.

We move to Spain next, and our bottle of the night is the popular Freixenet Brut Cava. Cava, by the way, is Spanish for caves. The wine is made the French method, though the bubbles are bigger than the Aussie. Very different nose. More rounded and nutty? I prefer this I think.

Third bottle: Adriano Adami dei Casel Prosecco. Fav so far!!! Nice and citrusy, bright green apples. Mmmm.

The fourth bottle is also from the same Adriano Adami vineyard, another prosecco but this is a 2007 vintage. Notes of sour apples, but it’s more restrained.

We move on to champagne: Le Drappier. People ate commenting that it is a much more complex wine. Not as fruit forward; very yeasty!!!! Interesting weight.

Last white wine of the evening: Pol Roger Champagne. Some of that yeasty nose, but much lighter and more floral on the finish. I think I would prefer the Drappier as it seems more exciting.

Last unique wine of the evening (we had a few repeat bottles) was a sparkling shiraz.

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Hey Winos,

For those that missed last night’s “Wines from Asia” event, the final opinions on Asia’s wines were very mixed, to say the least! The one thing we had consensus on is that we wouldn’t mind waiting a while for the next time we feature Asian wines.

Looking forward, let’s keep the theme of new themes. I threw out a couple new ideas below. Please share yours!

1. Classic Cocktails – Steve will take us on this interesting tangent sometime in March or April. More details to come from Steve…

2. Viognier – I don’t think we’ve explored this unique white varietal in depth and I think it’s among the most interesting yet least-hyped whites. I recently had a French Condrieu and a Napa Viongier and, as expected, they were vastly different. Let’s check out how they differ around the globe and hopefully convert some into Viongnier freaks like me.

3. Wino-lympics – Let’s have wines from around the world represent their home countries and compete in brackets based on our collective ratings on areas like taste, nose, structure and complexity. We’ll do a few things to keep the playing field level: keep it under $15/bottle, seperate out red from white and keep the judging blind (good idea, Zhen).

As a side idea to (3), Peishan’s back in the States in March/April and wants to enjoy a DGS while in town. She’s missed the variety of great American wines we take for granted here. In major league baseball form, we could have a “World Series” of American wines in the same format as the Wino-lympics.

Cheers,
Aaron

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So Janice and I might not have been the smartest when it came to picking a theme for the DGS – we could have made our lives a lot easier had we stuck with say, Shiraz, instead of Zinfandel. But on the whole, I have to say I was pretty pleased with our selection. :) And everyone definitely had enough to drink, for we had hot buttered rum to kick the evening off and capped it with some spiced wine. Ah, the hot buttered rum was nice and buttery in its sinful goodness, and made me all nostalgic for the Duke of Perth. It was only this time last year that I was sitting in there with Peiyun, downing such a mug and trying to keep warm. Good times… Aye.

But I think the Zinfandel Christmas theme went really well, no thanks to Janice and her delicious roast potatoes and carrots, and the turkey, stuffing, ham, and crispy pork that we ordered from Cold Storage. We also made some tiramisu to round off the evening with; mmm. If I say so myself. :)

Wine-wise, the Beringer turned out to be a hit! I quite liked it myself, for the subtle sweetness and delightfully light and playful bouquet it gave off. The Marr, a $74 bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel from Mendocino County, was a bit of a disappointment though. But the favorites of the night was the Irvine from Barossa Valley, The Curse which really softened out after a while but remained nice and spicy, and The Outpost from Howell Mountain. :)

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Having grown used to the bountiful selection of Zinfandels in the US, Janice and I were disappointed to find the striking scarcity of Zinfandel here in Singapore. A search of SEVEN, and I repeat, SEVEN wine stores turned up just six bottles of Zin. Most of the stores had just one label in stock, while a couple had two, and on average, the bottles cost around $70. Not cheap. :(

Perplexed at the paucity, I asked a sales clerk in one of the stores, who explained that Zinfandel hasn’t quite caught on with the local palate. To top it off, most stores stock very few labels from the US anyway, and the if they do, these are invariably the Cabernet Sauvignons. Which is a pity, because I’ve grown to become quite fond of Zinfandel over the years. When I started out drinking, I hated the metallic tinge that seemed to be associated with it, but then that was because I was mainly swilling down the likes of Yellow Tail, Beringer, and Sutter Homes. I think Mike first opened my eyes to good Zinfandel, when he brought a bottle of Burford and Brown Zinfandel 2003 to Wendy and my new year’s party three years ago (wow).

In the end, we did manage to scrounge up the number of bottles we needed, though we quite extended our budget in the process. Oh well. These wines better be exciting! We did include a bottle of Beringer White Zinfandel, which Janice thought might be fun to try, and hey, it was the cheapest bottle we got!

The wines:
1. Beringer White Zinfandel 2007
2. Collage (a Kendall-Jackson brand) Zinfandel-Shiraz 2004
3. Marr Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County 2005 (I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one; it was one of the few old vines we could find. We found the other, a St. Francis Zin selling for $70 after a 30% discount, only after we’d already bought the Mendocino one)
4. Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel 2004 (I’ve read good things about Outpost, and Wine Spectator has pretty rave reviews of this wine, so I’m quite excited about this)
5. The Curse, Tscharke, Zinfandel, Barossa 2006 (Which seems to have garnered strong reviews from RP as well… neat)
6. Irvine Zinfandel, Barossa 2005

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Here is the skinny on what we ate and drank. Please leave comments in terms of food and wine. My take on the whole event was a little skewed since I was knee deep in cheese and tomatoes for most of it. Comments on the wine would be much appreciated! Thanks to everyone who came. I hope you enjoyed it.

Our Menu

Nosh

Bruschettas

ricotta with sundried tomatoes

roasted garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes

roasted red pepper spread

Main

Assortment of Pizzas and Sausage

fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, ricotta, roasted garlic, basil

sausage, yellow and red peppers, feta cheese

mozzarella, feta cheese, ricotta, parmesan

sausage, sundried tomatoes, basil, fresh mozarella, roasted garlic

(one other combo I forgot…I made these up as I went)

Dessert

Pound cake two ways

with nutella and roasted bananas

with marsala wine soaked cherries and lemon curd

THE WINES!

Whites:
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2006 $24
- Damn Good
This Kerner is made in the northernmost part of Italy where the Italians speak mainly Austrian and the scenery is more reminiscent of Heidi than Under the Tuscan Sun. Light floral with a touch of minerality and a killer nose, this was definitely a good start to the evening for me.

De Falco Fiano di Avellino 2005- $22
- Pretty Good

This bottle had more minerality and was less fruity than the previous. Having a little bit of savoriness to it with citrus, it definitely paired well with the pizza. Light and refreshing I wouldn’t be opposed to cracking open another bottle for some seafood or sushi.

Santi Amarone dello Valpolicella 2003- $38
Damn Good
Mmmmmm….I liked this one. More old world in style, Amarone has a rich raisinyness (definitely not a word) and a velvety texture. The grapes are dried in the sun to intensify flavors in the processing. There were hints of spice and boldness to it that would please both old world and new world parties. (ie both peishan (new world) and I (old world) enjoyed it) I would love to eat this with lamb, or anything else meaty/gamey.

Prunotto Barbaresco 2004- $37 Not Bad
This Barbaresco did not wow me, but was good. It was the prototypical barbaresco with good fruit and depth, but for the price tag I feel I could get more bang for my buck elsewhere. Perhaps we opened it too early as it is just getting into its prime according the THE internet.

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2005- $18
Pretty god

Light and fruity, this chianti actually started us off with reds. It had a delicate sweetness and was not too tanniny. With hints of berries, savory notes, this went well with the pizza. It definitely seemed to be one of the most versatile at pleasing people’s palates, but did not wow anyone.

Forteto della Luja Moscato d’ Asti 2007- $20 Orgasmic
Holy crap the nose was AWESOME on this one, like whiffing a bottle of sweet honeyed perfume. The taste was there to match. Good thing I bought two bottles of this which went as fast as lightening. I caught some peach flavors, apple, and a lot of floral. So very drinkable, bubbly, and sweet. I wish I had gotten more.

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DGS Spring Events

Hey,

A big thanks to Jeff for having painstakingly selected and shipped the wines back to Chicago from New York, and then organizing with Zhen and Rita a tasting for us. It was great fun as usual, and thanks to the new folks who came! Hope you guys had a good time as well and we look forward to having you back again.

Coming up, we have a tasting of wines from Argentina. It will be held on April 19th, Saturday, at WineStyles (830-11pm). Denise, Martin, and Jenel will help us put together a thoughtful selection of wine, and Jenel, who has a culinary degree, will pair the wines with tasty treats as well. And, as a bonus, we’ll be conducting a smell quiz with dozens of tiny little vials to test your sense of smell! Think a Chardonnay has popcorn notes? Well compare that against a vial with popcorn scent! Think a NZ Sauvignon Blanc has a cat pee scent? Well… Good times! We’ll send out another reminder closer to the date; in the meantime, if you don’t know already, WineStyles offers free tastings every Thursday. Stop by if you can; it’s a great opportunity to meet with the distributors and find out more about their wines!

Look out for our May tasting as well. Bruce and I will be hosting a “make your own wine” DGS, where everyone will get a chance to pit their wine blending skills against one another! More details on that to follow, but in the meantime, drink and be merry!

Cheers,

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Hello!

A big thanks to all of you who gave feedback on the Italian wine night WineStyles event that we just had for DGS last Saturday (for those interested, we have a brief summary of all the wines we tasted at: http://deadgrapes.wordpress.com). From the feedback, we gleaned that while most people liked the convenience that WineStyles offered, they also liked the opportunity to “retain control of the wine selection” and thought that the range of wines we would otherwise choose personally made the event a “more worthwhile one for the price.” In the end, it seemed that many also appreciated the thoughtful selection of Italian wines WineStyles had chosen and liked the idea that they had veritable wine experts on hand to answer their questions on all things wine. It seems that people were ultimately leaning towards retaining both formats of wine tasting – the traditional and personable DGS style, and the formal and organized WineStyles style.

So, in light of all that, we’re happy to announce that we’ve picked out the dates and venues for the next TWO DGSes.

MARCH 29th, Saturday: Jeff and Zhen will host a DGS at their place in the heart of Old Town. The exact time and theme will be determined. In the meantime, please mark it down in your calendars.

APRIL 19th, Saturday, 830-1030PM: We will host DGS Argentina Night at WineStyles. Denise & Co. will work towards putting together an exciting tasting of Argentina wines (and having tasted a couple of Argentine wines they had on hand tonight, I can personally attest that it will be quite an exciting selection). This time around, WineStyles will help put together a food pairing menu with the wines! In addition, we will also conduct a aroma/scent/smell test with specially prepared pippettes/test tubes to try sniff out the particular smells of the wines we’ll be tasting. Please mark that date in your calendars as well!

Happy drinking!

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Last night, DGS veered away from our usual format of a long tasting at someone’s place in favor of a short and semi-formal tasting at WineStyles, a new wine store in the neighborhood. It was a delightful and stress-free night, since the folks at WineStyles were in charge of selecting the wines and the hosting, research and clean up – all we had to do was to choose a theme and show up to drink. For the night, we decided on Italian wines:

1. Sergio Spumante – This prosecco was a great hit with everyone present. Nice tight bubbles with a bit of a sweet fizz, but not overwhelmingly so. The finish was just a little tart, leaving one wanting more – a lot more.

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2. Rocca Pinot Grigio - others liked the crisp and refreshingly light palate, but I like my wines with more oomph. I likened the Pinot Grigio to drinking Bud Light/Tiger Beer instead of Wee Heavy. Nonetheless, it’s a delightfully simple and light wine to knock back, especially on a hot summer’s day.

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3. Castello delle Regine, Bianco (literally, Castle of the Queen) – Now, this blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)from Umbria was quite a bit more interesting, with quite a bit more weight. Evidently, this is a really young winery (first vintage in 2000).

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4. Carpineto Dogajolo – This “Super Tuscan” had a strong, pleasant smell of wood, and little wonder because it has been aged in small wooden casks. Made of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvingnon, the wine is bottled between the last week of March and the first week of April of the year following harvest. Should be a wine that would age well, with its strong tannins.

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5. Il Cuore, Barbera 2005 – Literally translates into “The Heart” in Italian, I found the Barbera fascinating, not least because one doesn’t usually find the grape outside of Piedmont. According to the folks at WineStyles though, they are also going to bring in a Barbera from Argentina, which I’m really keen to try, just to see the different styles. The Il Cuore is made from grapes grown in Mendocino County, California, and is only the winery’s third release. It’s a blend of 89% Barbera with 11% Old Vine Zinfandel for the plum and spice notes.

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6. Catello delle Regine, Rosso - Some blackberry notes, a little bit of chocolate, and quite tannic on the mouth.

Here’s some information on the wine from Wine Legacy:

A young winery to watch. In 1994, Paolo Nodari, a lawyer from Milan, decided to purchase Castello delle Regine, a historical piece of property nestled between the towns of Narni and Amelia in the hilly region of Umbria.

Castello delle Regine covers around 1000 acres, located midway between Rome and Orvieto. It has a long (and often disputed history) as part of a fiefdom that has been held by various aristocratic families over the centuries.

Paolo’s dream was to restore and modernize the estate without compromising its charm, rich heritage, and respect for the surrounding natural environment.

Today, the estate includes a wild game preserve, and a breeding facility for rare Chianina cattle. Under the direction of Livia Colantonio, the ancient farmhouse was carefully restored and a restaurant and guesthouses were developed to welcome visitors.

With the help of Fabio Busetti and after years of careful study, 150 acres of vineyards were planted on the best south-facing hillsides where the sandy clay soil is ideal for Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. These vineyards complement the plots of old vines that have been growing on the estate for generations.

Consulting oenologist Franco Bernabei was brought in to direct the transformation of the barrel aging cellar and the construction of a state-of-the-art vinification cellar. The estate produces highly acclaimed wines, olive oil, and beef.

Rosso delle Regine is the newest addition to the Castello delle Regine line. This blend of equal parts of Sangiovese and Merlot are fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in French Allier barriques.

This wine is enjoyable to drink now, and can be aged for another few years. Serve with Osso Bucco and grilled, marinated, olive oil drizzled vegetables.

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Wine Club 101

Honestly, is setting up a wine tasting club such a difficult thing to do that one has to rely on buying kits that promises to deliver all the know-how, right down to the calculation of tasting fees??? Seriously. Swill Party is evidently one such new phenomenon in the market right now. Man, if only I’d known and gotten in on the marketing act earlier…

The SWILL™ Wine Tasting and Club Starter Kit has all the supplies you need to host a blind wine tasting party for 8 including:8 wine rating cards which include comprehensive tasting guidelines • 8 stylish and witty invitations • the exclusive SWILL™ Hosting 101 Guide with step-by step instructions for hosting a SWILL™ • 8 wine glass markers that each guest can personalize • 8 stamped wine station bags with 8 elegant black bag ribbons • and 8 SWILL™ pens to write your most profound and witty wine tasting comments. We’ve even included a SWILL™ travel-style corkscrew. [Note: wine and glasses not included.]

Buy some wine and get your friends to bring glasses, and you’re all set to host your first SWILL™ wine tasting party or better yet – start your own SWILL™ wine tasting club. Share the cost of the wine and SWILL™ wine tasting supplies as a tasting fee (as most wine clubs do) and the kit ends up virtually free!

**Amp up the aesthetics of your party with iridescent cloth wine bags.**

**Have more than 8 tasters? No problem. Just buy an Individual Wine Tasting Packet for each extra person and you’re covered.**

Come on people, it’s not hard to start your own wine club. All you need is a group of like-minded friends who like wine and fun! Who cares if you don’t know anything about wine? You’ll soon learn plenty just through drinking and experimenting.

Here’s how DGS was set up:
1. Gather a group of friends who are interested in wine and would love to learn more about it
2. Commit to holding the event at regular intervals, say, once a month or once every two months
3. Take turns to host the event – the host gets to pick the theme for the tasting, e.g. Italian wines, Adventurous wines, Pinot Noirs. Anything goes
4. The host buys the food (nibbles, or if you love cooking, fancier hors d’oeuvres) and the wine; everyone else shows up and splits the cost
5. The host assigns random bits of research to the each member of the group – e.g. what are the characteristics of a Cabernet Sauvignon grape? Or, in what climate does Chardonnay grow best? Answers can be easily found a click away, on the ever trusty Wikipedia, and so really doesn’t require much time/effort on any one individual’s part

Simple enough model eh? So come on people, I say, don’t waste your money on self-help books on how to start your own tasting club, or start-up kits for that matter. Rather, spend it on the wines!

Here’s my #1 advice for someone who’s interested in learning more about wine: THE WORLD OF WINE IS NOT A SCARY PLACE. Don’t go in frightened that you’ll look dumb because you don’t know the difference between a Burgundy and a Pinot Noir. Who cares? So long as you enjoy it, and aren’t afraid to keep on drinking and trying new stuff. Besides, I can point out lots of snotty rich people who like to lecture people on what the good wines are (case in point, an uncle of mine, who said that Australian wines cannot be compared to French ones because the Aussies use too much sulphur in their wines and that’s why people get headaches. Snort), and who have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. You only believe them, because they sound so convincing. Haha. Well then, here’s a trick for you – pretend to be convincing too! After all, in the subjective tasting world, what works for you might not work for others. Some people might like cats’ pee, while others, well, don’t.

And here’s my #2 advice: Don’t think that only the expensive wines are good wines. There are PLENTY of delicious wines at really affordable prices. So ok, once in a while, you might come across duds, but getting it right every single time does not make the experience as thrilling right? :)

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DGS went wild last night, with a tasting of wines from all over the world, in what we’d dubbed Dead Grapes Society Adventurous Wines. We had ~25 people and 16 bottles of wines (some doubled up).

1. Taberno Brut Champagne Style Charmat Method (Peru) $10

We kicked the tasting off with two bottles of Taberno, a Peruvian sparkling. It was a hit, everyone expressed surprise at how well done it was, nice and dry on the palate, with tight concentrated bubbles.

2. Lambrusco Cantine Ceci La Luna 2006 (Italy) $14

Most people haven’t had Lambrusco before, but since Wendy discovered the wine (Lambrusco Reggiano, slightly different from the one we had last night, this being a sweeter version) at Trader Joe’s a few years ago, this has been my favorite pairing with spicy food, especially curry. With a sandalwood perfume and big cherries mouthfeel, there was just the slightest fizz at the finish, as if the wine didn’t want to go without a fight. Really fun and delicious wine.

3. Chateau Bela Riesling Sturovo Region, Muzca 2003 (Slovakia) $14

This was a dry riesling from Slovakia, which doesn’t really produce much wine, especially not since it split from the Czech Rebpulic in the early 1990s. To be honest, I don’t remember much of this wine, except for the fact that it was drinkable, though not memorable. We started to play some wine trivia at this point. Did you know, for instance, that Prohibition lasted from 1920 through 1933? And that it only ended because of the Great Depression? The government, after thirteen long years, finally realized that the mobs were getting out of control running the speakeasies and smuggling operations, and that the population condoned the mobs because they needed their drink. Of course, they might have chosen to stubbornly – and pig-headedly – stick their stand if not for the fact that they were losing millions and millions of dollars from alcohol tax. Anyway.

4. Dragon’s Hallow Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 (China) $10

Did you know that China has actually the world’s fifth largest vineyard area and is the seventh largest wine producer??? Even so, I think the Chinese should stick to making rice wine. The chardonnay we had could be likened to a thick-headed fellow, stout and completely insipid and stupid. I gulped it straight down; some others (notably the Chinese people in the room) tossed it out. However, some people professed to liking the unoaked style, so perhaps there’s hope for the Chinese wine makers after all. Oh, in case you were wondering, Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to encourage the planting of vines in China in the mid 19th century.

5. Kerner Slifskeleni Neustift Abbazia di Novacella 2006 (Italy) $17

This was one of the favorites of the night. Sihao said it had all the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, and I have to agree – a little spicy, with strong notes of lychee and roses. Interestingly, the two bottles I picked up were from Italy (at the enthusiastic recommendation of the Sam’s wine expert), although this is a grape most commonly found in Germany. It’s a cross breed from a red grape Trollinger and Riesling. Speaking of cross breeds, another trivia question: what is Cabernet Sauvignon crossed from? Answer: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

6. Tinta da Anfora Vinho Regional Alentejano 2005 (Portugal) $12

Mm, quite a few people said they really liked this wine, which was quite tannic, but otherwise full bodied with lots of fruit and spices. It’s a blend of Portuguese grapes, including Trincadeira, Aragonez, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh, and did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of corks in the world?

7. Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato 2006 (Italy) $16

Another favorite of the night – those Italian wines really are something! Given the huge popularity of the wines Barolo, Barbera, and Moscato in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that Ruche does not get in the spotlight too much. I really enjoyed this smooth, and light-bodied wine.

8. Bull’s Blood Egi Bikarer 2003 (Hungary) $8

There’s a story behind the label, “Bull’s Blood” (don’t you love stories??). Anyway, as the story goes, in 1552, when the Eger fortress was under attack and looked to be giving way, the defenders, in a last desperate bid, downed copious amounts of red wine for liquid courage. Their hands must have been shaking from terror, for they spilled the red wine all over their chests. When the attackers saw these men running towards them with red chests, they thought the defenders had been drinking bull’s blood, and their courage faltered and they fled. And so the Eger fortress stood for another day. I think I’d have to bring this bottle to parties – it makes for a great conversation opener (I think anyway), and is really fun to drink.

Wine Spectator writes:

“Bull’s Blood must be made from at least three approved red varieties. Most producers use a fair amount of Kékfrankos, because its sturdy character and acidity provide backbone. Also used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The wine’s hallmark, though, is the indigenous, spicy Kadarka grape. During the Communist era, Kadarka nearly disappeared from Hungary because its sensitivity to rot and its tendency to grow close to the ground made it very labor-intensive.

But today, Kadarka — which can produce balanced tannins and complex flavors, such as black pepper, cherry jam and cloves — is viewed as essential for a quality Bikavér, and producers are scrambling to return Kadarka to the vineyards.”

9. Skouras Red Saint George 2004 (Greece) $7

I’ve had this light bodied wine on a few occasions already, and really enjoyed it – it is a great pairing with meatballs and pasta, and I might even stock up on more as my house wine. After all, at $7, it’s really a bargain, especially when you consider that Yellow Tail costs the same amount.

10. Garnacha Marco Real Navarra 2005 (Spain) $10

I think our palates were tiring by this point for I still have half a bottle of this sitting at my desk right this moment. Anyway, Garnacha is the Spanish name for the grape Grenache. Flavors of dark berries, it is juicy and great to drink on its own and with food.

11. Chateau Henye Tokaji Dry 2006 (Hungary) $13

I first came across Tokay in Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and had been lusting after it. Tokay is normally a dessert wine, but this version we got was off dry, and so wasn’t cloyingly sweet.

12. Four Seasons Collection, Muscat Red Dessert Wine, Dionysos Mereni (Moldova) $6

I had to look Moldova up on the internet to see where it was… – somewhere in Eastern Europe. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Moldova may be one of the geographically smallest states of the former Soviet Union but it has more vineyard, 108,000 ha/267,000 acres in 2002 according to the OIV, than any other apart from Ukraine and the table grape producer Uzbekistan. It has the greatest potential for wine quality and range, thanks to its extnesive vineywards, temperate continental climeate, and gently undulating landscape sandwiched between eastern Romania and Ukraine.” We rounded off the evening with a bottle of Muscat, which was surprisingly palatable. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

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