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Trader Joe’s has done it again! This is an incredibly drinkable read with a sweetness that is very approachable. Though it does make you think it is a great affordable staple. At 9 smackers, its a crowd pleaser, great for bbqs and pork based foods.

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DGS: NYC!

DGS will finally be forming a NYC chapter after a year of procrastinating. Let me know if you will be in town or have any kick off ideas!

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Palex and Tanya organized an M-themed DGS at my place last night. We didn’t quite get the theme, given that one of the hosts, Tanya, forgot to wear a themed shirt. Haha. But we did have quite a few M-named bottles of wine, Marinated chicken wings, Melon, pasta Marina, and we played the Moon game.

The wine list for the evening were, in order:
(1) 2007 Brown Brothers Moscato: simple, sweet – maybe a little too sweet

(2) 2005 Mischief & Mayhem Chablis: think would be better as a food drink. Perhaps something creamy. Wasn’t a huge fan; found the finish a little too minerally, slightly bitter? Janice and Paul said it reminded them of sparkling water, tonic.

(3) 2007 Lawson’s Dry Hill Malborough Gewürztraminer: It was on sale at Denise for $30. What a steal; need to lay my hands on it. Paul loved it too; in fact everyone loved it. How can one not like the incredible nose of lychee and rose petals. I wish I could wear it as a perfume.

(4) 2002 Meursault Vieilles Vignes: Second favorite white of the evening. Beautiful citrus, bright and lively to drink. Some nuttiness in the back.

(5) 2004 Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits: I didn’t finish my glass. Wasn’t impressed by the nose, which was metallic. And the body was weak. Kind of a lame wine. I totally miss that De Bortoli Pinot Noir 2007 from Yarra Valley I had last week. Now, that was good pinot.

(6) 2006 Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz: I’ve had this one before, a couple times. Two Hands makes fun wines (and after last night, somehow associated with sea cucumbers). This one was good. Nice and deep color, lots of fruit. Also makes a good standalone drink.

(7) 2006 Two-Hands Lily’s Garden Shiraz: beautiful – intense color, nose, amazing fruit, concentrated raisins, and super smooth. Favorite wine of the evening. Excellent to drink alone.

(8) 2008 Villa M D’uva Rosso: Fun to cap off the selection of wines with two fun and light dessert wines. The Villa M series.

(9) 2008 Villa M D’uva Blanco

The 51 items that we said we’ll bring to the Moon were: Hot Dog, Refrigerator, Magnet, Moscato, Glass, Trap, Compass, Camera, Iguana, Slippers, Pontianak, Garlic, Whip, Orchid, Aircon Remote Controller, Chandelier, Handcuffs, French Maid Costume, Duckling, Staircase, Bunny Ears , Disposible Underwear, Charcoal Pills, Bunny Tail, Nose Ring, Mushroom, Koi, Luohan Fish, Tau Sar Pau, Harns Handphone, Headless Chicken, Cryogenic Chamber, Chaw Siew Pau, Diamond Ring, Microwave Oven, Avocado Pill, Blindfold, Kinky Batteries, Wasabi, Macho Man, Chao Ah Lian, Viagra, Solar Cell, Brownies, Candle, Chao Ah Beng, Monsoon, Screams of Joy, Handpump, Massage Chair, and Painted Toenails

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DGS Singapore held another tasting this past Sunday. Fabian and Zhongxi hosted the event at my place, and they had a spread of beef stew, pasta, BBQ ribs, roast chicken etc. :)

All but one of the seven wines they had sourced from their separate trips to Margaret River and Yarra Valley in Australia. Their aim of the tasting was to try wines from the lesser known regions of Australia, since most of the Australian wines that I’ve seen in Chicago and Singapore are sourced from Barossa Valley (or at least, the ones on my radar screen).

For more information on the various wine regions of Australia, Australia Wine Region Map is a pretty nifty site that even maps out the various vineyards in the different regions – super useful for planning a road trip to Australia (yes, there could be one in the works)!

By an odd coincidence, we ended up with 5 whites and only 2 reds. Not that anyone was really complaining; it was still a very fun evening of easy conversation and laughter (not bad for a group of random folks most of whom met one another for the first time).

The wines we had (in sequence) were:

Pitchfork Sémillion Sauvignon Blanc 08 (Margaret River) – We didn’t have this chilled enough, but the wine was still nice and refreshing, with the grassy notes of the SB, softened by the Semillion
De Beaurepaire Captain Starlight Sémillion Sauvignon Blanc 06 (Mudgee) – With a 90% Semillion blend, you could definitely taste the sweetness; the crispness of the SB doesn’t quite cut through. Personally, I would rather the Pitchfork
Domain Chandon Barrel Selection Chardonnay 06 (Yarra Valley)
Green Point Cellar Door Viognier 07 (Yarra Valley) – Not my favorite example of the viognier. The nose was muted, and it wasn’t lively enough. The Viognier from Virginia that I had at last weekend’s DGS Chicago was much, much tastier.
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay 07 (Margaret River) – Nice and bright, with notes of pineapples and pears
Rochford Reserve Shiraz (Yarra Valley) – My favorite wine of the evening, this Shiraz is blended with a touch of viognier. Loved the nose.
Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon 05 (Margaret River)

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American Winolympics

I’ve really missed American wines, as well as my all-time favorite Sam’s Wines. Consequently, I was like a kid in a candy shop when Jeff and I went back to Sam’s last Friday to shop for a case of wines for our American Winolympics Tasting.

And it’s super gratifying too, when the wine store clerk is even more enthusiastic than you in recommending wines for your tasting. I love this guy – I always go look for him whenever I go into the store because I know he’ll have some fun stuff lined up. It’s not to say that every one of the wines he recommends is a winner – because we’ve had some where we were like, hmmmm – but his excitement is quite contagious. :)

Early bird special: Chloe Jeremy Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006 – found this to be super concentrated and dark, with seemingly many layers that has yet to be revealed; would probably be good for a few more years yet. Velvety and spicy on the tongue.

From Chicago Spring 2009
Whites

#1 Gruet Blanc de Noirs Brut, New Mexico, NV
This was Aaron’s favorite white; who knew New Mexico makes such excellent sparkling wines???

#2 Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, 2007
Bonny Doon of Santa Cruz makes some decent cheap Chenin Blanc!

#3 Hickory Creek Chardonnay Unoaked, Michigan, 2007
This was an excellent example of an unoaked Chardonnay. Most people correctly guessed that it was an unoaked Chardonnay, but everyone was surprised that it was from Michigan!

#4 Barboursville Vineyards Viognier, Virginia, 2007
I couldn’t for the life of me guess that this was a Viognier; I thought it was either a chardonnay (at first, for the heaviness) or a sauvignon blanc (for the grassy notes). Another wonderful surprise, from Virginia!

#5 River’s Edge Pinot Gris, Umpqua Valley, 2007

Reds
#1 Donata Family Sorelle Per Sempre, Central Coast, 2005

#2 Chateau Montalena Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2005
Montalena is famous for its Cabernets (thanks to 1976), but this Zin showed quite well too

#3 Benessere “Costa del Sol”, Napa Valley, 2005
Napa gone wrong; this was acidic, tannic, and closed. Everyone guessed that it was either a Michigan or Illinois wine

#4 Lieb Family Cabernet Franc Bridge Lane, Long Island, NV

#5 Owl Creek Owl’s Leap, Illinois, NV
This was from Southern Illinois, and honestly quite tasty!

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Heh, someone (too lazy to hunt down the source) offered a rather brilliant piece investment advice for these trying times:

If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago, you
would have $49 left.

With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left of the original $1,000.

With AIG, you would have less than $15 left.

But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all
of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND,
you would have $214 cash.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink
heavily and recycle

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DGS Singapore Italian Wines

From DGS

It was a good strong event, with over twenty people in attendance, and 11 bottles of wine, as well as a whole array of food. :) Looking forward to the next DGS event, at Andy’s!

1. Ruffino Orvieto Classico 2007 (S$30)

Eh, this turned out to be the best amongst all the whites… I didn’t taste the honey notes in the finish, but I did sort of taste some pineapple when I paired it with a slice of fried fish cake. Everyone else was convinced I was making things up in my head as usual though. Hehe.

Orvieto is named after one of the Umbrian cities in Italy, which used to be an important medieval hill city during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is a lightly sweet wine, often concentrated by some noble rot. It’s a blend of various different grapes, with a main base of Trebbiano Toascano.

I first came across this grape by accident in an Italian pizza place in Chicago, in May 2008, and was very taken with the burst of flavors in the mouth near the finish.

orvieto.jpg

2. Fronde Moscato d’Asti Fontanafredda 2007 (S$30)

We actually started off the event with this bottle. It was a little too sweet for my – well, quite a few of our liking, but perhaps it wasn’t cold enough like Andy suggested…

Tanya specifically requested some Moscato d’Asti in her RSVP, and I’d already thought to pick up a couple bottles when I headed to the wine store. I was surprised though, that the first two wine places I went to didn’t carry it at all, and I only managed to pick up a lone bottle today. I still remember my first taste of this – in a sunny piazza in Turino, the capital city of Piedmont, the region where the Moscato d’Asti hails from (Asti being the name of the town where the Moscato is made). That was the single bottle that I carted back to Chicago with me, and which I subsequently shared with friends back there. It’s a hugely popular wine at parties, being fizzy, sweet, and light in alcohol; a perfect starter wine for beginning wine lovers too.

3. Villa Girardi Soave Classico 20055 (S$40)

I first tasted Soave in Venice, Italy, the region where the wine can be found. But I mostly forgot about this wine, until last December, when Peiyun came to visit. I brought her to the Italian restaurant below my apartment, and complemented our tasty pasta dishes with a bottle of Soave. She raved about it so much that we opened up another bottle later on in her stay. :)

Eh, I was quite disappointed with this actually – found the wine a little too harsh, and hot, even though it was only 12%. Where was that gentleness that the wine promised???

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4. Leonardo da Vinci Chianti 2005 (S$35)

Andy’s a little, well actually, very, biased against non-French wines, and wines with cutesy labels on them. So he predictably turned up his nose at this one. Hehe, to be honest, I was a little inclined to agree with him. Good wines tend to take themselves a tad more seriously. However, once it had a chance to air out a bit more, the wine softened a little more. I’d be tempted to buy this one as a day-to-day wine, for its price. :)

5. Poggio alle Sughere Morellino di Scansano 2005 (S$40)

It seemed, in this tasting, that the quality was proportional to the price. Most people liked this one a lot better than the previous one, for they found it heavier, and more fuller bodied. A couple though, begged to differ, for they didn’t quite like the pungent aroma of the wine.

Found in Tuscany, this wine is a blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).

6. Villa Girardi Bure Alto Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001 (S$53)

I liked this one. It was a lot smoother than the previous wines, though it still didn’t taste as full bodied as I liked. Is it a sign that I like the fruitier wines??!

Also from the Veneto region of Italy, the name Valpolicella is derived from Greek and Latin and means “the valley of many cellars.” What an awesome name. ;)

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7. La Matta Barbera d’Alba Giommi Gagliardo 2004 (S$56)

Aaah, Barbera, this was a good wine.

On that same trip to Turino, I fell in love with wine. The lover, a bottle of Barbera d’Alba we had over dinner – of fish, if I recall correctly. I was so infatuated that my glass of water sat completely untouched throughout the meal. Of course, since then, that’s been mostly the case, but that bottle convinced me to make a pilgrimage to Alba (which I did, and the truffle festival blew me away, but that’s another story).

8. Serre Barolo Giamni Gagliardo 2003 (S$93)

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I’m not sure if I would pay $93 to drink it on its own. To be sure, this was a better wine than the rest – softer and smoother, but it wasn’t that memorable. Nonetheless, it was a good wine to cap the evening with.

Hands down, Piedmont is my favorite wine region in Italy, and it’s not difficult to see why from this wine list. Barolo is also found in the Piedmont area, but it’s a rare treat because it’s so much more expensive. Made of the Niebbolo, this is a wine that is not meant to be drank young. Also, Janice’s wine request for the evening. :)

*Source: Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine

All in all, I think a good selection of wine, although I was a little disappointed we couldn’t explore the Sicilian region a little more. It would have also been fun if I could find a bottle of kerner, and amarone to round off the evening… Any one knows of a bigger wine retailer in the city?al

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Thanks to everyone who came and participated. It was a great learning experience for me choosing what food would go well with which wines. Now to truly show you guys that I am not really that impressive as a domestic diva, here is the link http://twoasiansnabottle.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/wine-pairings-from-a-novice/ to all the simple recipes I used for the food. Hope you all enjoyed yourselves. Cheers!

Chateau de Beauregard-Ducourt 2005 (80% Merlot/ 20% Cab)-$13- beef wellington, bacon dates, dark and bittersweet chocolate, port salut, brie, chocolate covered fruit
Despite being decanted for 1+ hour, the majority of us felt that this was a harsh minerally bordeaux that definitely needed food to take away from its chalky finish. It was noted that it brought out the meatiness of the beef wellington and paired particularly well with the bacon dates. The tannins in this pour definitely calls for a rich dish to cut through.

Domaine des Chazelles Vire-Clesse 2005 White Burgundy-$17- chicken, polenta, goat cheese, port salut, brie,
This was one of the favorites of the night. It had a savoriness to it that was described as cheesy and rich flavor. The polenta and goat cheese went particularly well with it as well as the chicken kabobs. Mellow and deep, this white burgundy paired easily with a wide variety of foods.

Domaine des Gatilles Chiroubles Cru du Beaujolais 2004-$13- bacon dates, strawberries, raspberries, port salut, brie, dark, bittersweet chocolate
This wine paired beautifully with strawberries and on the savory end the beef wellingtons. It was very fruity and light, a very drinkable wine although not very distinctive.

Les Tours d’ Amelie Viognier 2005-$12- chicken, polenta, bittersweet, milk chocolate, blue cheese, goat cheese, dried apricots, dates
Crisp and tart, this viognier went well with fruit, particularly cantalope, pears, and dried apricots. The blue cheese and chicken went well with it too. Most felt that it was high in acidity and was complex. More on the mineral side of the spectrum and less floral, this pour showed good depth of flavor. On the nose it was surprisingly savory reminiscent of aged cheese, but on tasting had the characteristic crispness of viognier. This was definitely another favorite of the night.

d’Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz Port 2002-$30- milk chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, fruit, brie, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, chocolate covered fruit
Although described as being part of the tawny spectrum of ports by the wine sellars, we felt that this definitely hovered towards the ruby style of ports. There wasn’t the sense of caramel or raisin notes that you would find in tawnies. However, the more caramel toasted nature came out with honey roasted almonds, and it paired wonderfully with chocolate. Notes of chocolate were found by most everyone in our group. Things to avoid were lighter sweet fruits like strawberries that brought out the berry quality of this port and made it border on cough syrup.

Chateau Huradin Ceron Sauternes 1999-$20- white chocolate, blue cheese, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, caramel, pears
Golden yellow in the bottle, this Sauternes was rich and sweet, some felt however that it lacked much depth or flavor. Although for the price and for the concentrated sweetness, its not bad for a Sauternes. This particular year is supposedly one of the better ones for the vineyard in terms of forming the nobel rot. However, most of the group felt it fell flat on its own. However, it paired well with blue cheese, cream puffs, caramel, and fruit. The food brought out interesting notes of apricots and burnt sugar.

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We’ve had a lot of great ideas recently and I think they warrant a thread to keep track of them. Post your ideas and comments here!

Idea one: Oak and its many intricacies.

Winemaking includes a slew of variables that can be tweaked to alter the end product. Oak is among the most significant, having the potential to make a profound difference. Its use spans reds and whites, through most varietals. Different aging lengths, woods from specific regions or forests, barrel producers, barrel ages and so on are all sub-factors. We will explore the use of oak in wine production to better understand all aspects involved and how they play into the ultimate flavor.

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In recent DGS meetings, a common complaint of the hosts is that the group is growing to be too unwieldy, and that they feel they cannot properly cater for 20 plus people. It’s a valid concern, given that while a group of 15 can reasonably taste and enjoy 8 different bottles of wine, there’s not enough wine per bottle to go around a group of 20, and too little variety if two bottles per wine are bought. In addition, there’s the difficulty of cooking for a much larger group goes up exponentially beyond a certain size too, a problem that Jon was constantly reminding me at the last wine tasting. Still others complain that in a large group setting, it’s much harder to focus on the wine.

I have to agree; I’ve found myself in recent weeks yearning to just relax over a couple bottles of wine with a smaller group of friends. Sometimes I want a little more informality and the luxury of kicking back and lounging on my couch without having to be at my PR-best.

Still, it’s a nice problem to have. Because rather than having to hit up random parties, stake out in clubs, or hang out in gyms in the hopes of meeting one new friend, I get to meet people without having to ever step out of my comfort zone. Plus, in that kind of controlled environment, I already know that I share a common interest with the people I’ll meet, making it easier to build on the friendship. Consequently, I do not want to intentionally limit the group size; heck, few things give me more pleasure than telling people about the group, inviting them to a tasting, and have them return for subsequent ones.

Nonetheless, the wine group has now reached a turning point, and we have to revisit our original ideals of getting people together to learn about wine. Just how much can we learn about wine in a large group setting? One (partial) solution thus far has been to get people to send their respective research topics out to the list-host, instead of presenting it verbally at the meeting itself. However, that also creates undesirable mass mails, which clogs up mailboxes and could potentially turn people off from receiving group emails. I guess, one way to reduce the number of emails would be to set up a DGS blog site, but the problem with that is I’m already writing on wine on a few sites, including this one. Too much duplication dilutes the impact too. And then the issue of space constraint? I guess, for now, the problem could be potentially resolved by moving events permanently to my apartment. It’s spacious (thanks to the lack of furniture), and can easily hold over two dozen people without a problem. I guess the biggest issue here is to successfully re-assure hosts that the group at its present size is not yet unmanageable, and that we’re not too big for comfort. Hmm.

Thoughts?

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