Archive for March, 2009


Summer Fun: Wine Camps

Wine enthusiasts often travel to various wine-growing areas, visiting wineries. They gaze longingly at rows of vines laden with grapes. Most have a deep affection, even a romantic feeling for wine, but their understanding stops at their familiarity with the liquid poured from the bottle. Now curious and adventuresome souls have the opportunity to participate in the wine-making process. Harvest time is the most exciting part of the winemaking process. Some wineries in California and other wine regions offer an opportunity at harvest for enthusiasts to roll up their sleeves and join top winemakers in the vineyards. Pickers are often in short supply, so volunteers are encouraged to spend several days lending helping hands at wineries. These amateur workers soon become familiar with the complicated and fascinating steps of wine-making. They work by side with with top-flight winemakers and teams of paid pickers, learning to assess when grapes are ripe enough to be plucked from the vines by hand with sharp cutters called secataurs. There is work to be done on the de-stemmer, tottering on a ladder and snatching leaves and debris as the grapes move along a conveyer belt to the crusher. At lunchtime, share a hearty meal with vineyard workers, and take a quick nap under the shade of the vines.


Malbec: Yet Another Grape to Check Out

Meander into any wine shop and be bombarded with choices. Aren’t we lucky! Grape varietals trip off the tongue poetically. Labels attract us with spiffy new designs, (think critters). We have to reckon with new grape varietals. Malbec, once used in classic Bordeaux blends with Cabernet and Merlot, is now singing its own solo arias. It’s definitely worth looking into, particularly those from Argentina where it is the country’s signature grape. It’s a flavorful wine, intense, with a deep red color, flavors I particularly enjoy. I love wines with a hint of spice, herbal, and earthy flavors. It’s a medium weight wine, with well-balanced acidity. While Merlot is currently Americans’ favorite red, (and I’m not knocking that grape) it’s nice to open our hearts and minds to a wine of a different character. Malbec is often touted as perfect for summer cook-outs, but it partners fabulously well with winter meals of steak, stews, lamb, venison, duck, and goose.

I’m always looking for a delicious red wine that will satisfy a wide range of palates. I try to avoid wines that put hair on my chest … ones loaded with tannins and the current rage for high alcohol. There are other reds that are tasteful, yet don’t overpower out taste buds. Beaujolais, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir, and even our old friend Merlot, are generally good examples, often easier to quaff that some heavier reds. Argentinean Malbecs are easy to find, and best of all, generally reasonable.

One of the best is Felipe Rutini, great for cedar and herbal flavors, with a lovely, long finish, at a mid-range price of $17.99. Nieto Senetiner Reserva has delightful flavors. Grab it at a bargain price of $6.99. El Felino may be the friendliest of them all, very smooth with hints of blackberries. Can’t be beat at $17.00. Don’t hesitate to find your own favorite. Make a new friend with a new grape varietal.

March 2009
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