Creative Juices Wine Blog

Summertime, and the pairing’s easy.

In case you haven’t been outside recently, it’s hot. I’m not just speaking on behalf of where we are, but the majority of the country is feeling exactly what I’m talking about every day. Many of us are experiencing 100 degree plus temperatures on a regular basis, and with it comes a sense of being overwhelmed by drink choices.

It’s too easy to reach for a cold domestic brew after 15 minutes in this heat, which inevitably lead to sweating through two shirts, and virtually passing out. Here are some recommendations for you that don’t start with ‘Bud’, or end in ‘Light’.

If there is on thing we have learned about serving wine, it’s that exploration (for the most part) died with Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. “I know what I like” is a common phrase from many consumers. That’s not to say that knowing what one likes is a bad thing, but let’s face it, Napa isn’t the only place making wine. Hence, a need for the revival of exploration. This time, with better navigational tools.

For us, hot summertime weather means a break from Cabernet, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, and anything else that could be used as a club in the event a riot breaks out due to frost-bitten nerve endings during the winter months. It’s a well deserved hiatus for us and all of the abuser friendly wines we love so much. During the separation months, these varietals still see periodic visitation on rainy days, or cool(ish) evenings. In some cases, we get to visit them in the form of Rosés, which is nice. Speaking of Rosés, I feel the need to call men out briefly. It’s ok to drink pink wines. They’re not all sweet. They’re not White Zinfandel or White Merlots. And it by no means makes you look feminine. All you’re really doing is saying, ‘I have a sophisticated palate, and I don’t buy into stereotypes.’ The next time you’re at a wine tasting, give the pink one a go. You may be surprised.

That being said, here are some more heat friendly wines for you to enjoy. The first thing you’ll want to do is avoid heavy oaking. Sorry Cali Chards. Think White Burgundy (Chablis, Côte de Beaune) are great choices, or possibly Viognier from further south in Rhone. Try Sancerre, Alsacian Riesling, Pinot Gris, or Gewürztraminer. These are amazing choices this time of year. Looking for something a bit more crisp, and tropical? Perhaps more floral? How about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, or some Mendoza Torrontes? If you’ve never heard of some of these, that’s okay. That’s why wine professionals exist. If you’re at a restaurant, ask your server or sommelier what they suggest. We still ask for recommendations when we go out. I frequently ask questions like, “what would you pair with 100 degree heat, a pulled muscle, and the shrimp scampi?” If someone can answer a question like that without looking at you like you’re clinically insane, drink what they recommend. They know what they’re doing. You will also find luck with Grüner Veltliner from Austria, and in a multitude of German Rieslings. Try to avoid a lot of sugar though. Lean towards the dry or Troken end of the spectrum. Don’t let me forget sparkling wine, or Champagne. A little bubbly on a hot day is always the right choice. Celebration or not, bubbles will make you smile. On that note, something a little fizzy that we find does the trick is Vinho Verde. They’re usually pretty inexpensive, and tasty.

If you can’t get over your winter Red kick, that’s okay too. Just back it off a notch. Just switch the regions around a bit. If you’re a Cab or Merlot drinker that only drinks Cali stuff, think Bordeaux for a change. If you’re a big Zinfandel drinker that loves the spiciness and high alcohol content the Zin carries, try going with a Spanish Garnacha, or Côtes du Rhône. You may find a new friend that you never knew existed. Tempranillo or Mencia may also be valid options. Malbec from Argentina or Cahors, France are quality picks for this time of year, though, I find myself avoiding  them for the most part. Pinot drinker? Love California, or Oregon? Try Central Otago, New Zealand. More good options for Pinot fans would be a Beaujolais Cru, or a Dolcetto d’Alba. You’ll find a sense of home with these lighter style reds.

All of these wines are pretty easy to find. In most wine shops, and restaurants around the country, there is someone waiting for you to come in and just ask questions. That’s what we live for. We have answers, and it’s rewarding on both ends. We get to talk about wine, which we love to do, and you get to enjoy something new. Worst case scenario, just go online and check out wine.com, 2020wines.com, winelibrary.com, or any number of other online resources. This is, of course, if you cannot find it locally.

Good luck, stay cool, and have fun.

Cheers!

-Zak

Grão Vasco 2007-Dão, Portugal

Posted in Dão, Jaen, Portugal, Red Blend, Tinta-Roriz, Touriga-Nacional, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on February 12, 2010

Last night we tasted a bottle of Grão Vasco Dão, which is a Portugese Red blend of Jaen, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional. We procured this gem for $7. In the glass, Grão Vasco has a few transitions in color, that range from a dark cherry color to a more vibrant ruby.

On the nose we got a lot more than we expected with highlights such as leather, wet soil, black pepper, strawberry, and a little cedar or tobacco box on the end.

On the palate, Grão Vasco is a dry, medium-bodied red that exhibits spicy, earthy, and mineral flavors up front and then transitions with a bit of plum on the mid-palate, and then finishes with sea-buckthorn (which Olena, or Wikipedia can tell you more about.)

In the end, this wine was pretty straightforward, and had a reasonably long finish that we enjoyed. Everything seemed to be in balance, and we were impressed with this bottle. It’s a great find at $7, and we ended up scoring it 87 points. Saúde!!!

If you’ve tried this, or other Portuguese wines, please share your experience with us.

Zak & Olena

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Gazela Vinho Verde-Portugal

Posted in Minho, Portugal, Vinho Verde, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on November 22, 2009

When we think Portugal, we think Porto. Secondarily, we think Vinho (“Veen-yo”) Verde. What’s that? Glad you asked.

Vinho Verde is a white wine made from Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal grapes. These grapes are grown in the Northern regions of Portugal, and have made Vinho Verde a staple since the 12th Century. It is very close to being semi-sparkling, yet lacks the carbon dioxide pressure to classify as such. We like to think of its frizzante nature as being one of the dimensions of its youth and freshness. Vinho Verde means “Green Wine” and refers to the fact that these wines are to be drunk in their first year after release.

Gazela Vinho Verde has become a frequent guest of honor in our household. We generally do not go back to wines we have consumed before, unless it is a different vintage. This wine has been one of few exceptions. This is now the fourth bottle that we have purchased, and to be perfectly honest, we probably should have just bought a case of it. Gazela retails for $8 a bottle, and if you are in the right place, even less.

This wine barely possesses any color at all. If it weren’t for its pale yellow outer rim, it would look like mineral water. On the nose, there is a light hint of citrus fruits and green apple. The palate carries out the flavors consistent with those from the nose, adding a bit of minerality. The natural acidity gives the wine a crisp finish.

We would recommend pairing this food with oysters, scallops, or possibly cod.

Vinho Verde drinks like nothing else, and although the United States gets a good portion of Portugal’s exports of this wine, finding one may not always be that easy.

Gazela gets 88 points from us, and will no doubt make a few more appearances.

We challenge you to expand your palates, and if you have not tried this bottle (or any other Vinho Verde) go out and pick one up. Let us know what you think via comments. Cheers!