Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What to Drink now that Winter is finally here!

Happy 2020!
Winter has finally arrived to NYC, and even though I have lived in the Tri-state area for longer than in my country (Argentina) fyi, I will celebrate my 29th anniversary in America next March, still snow and temperatures below 20 will never be my thing! Probably because in Santa Fe, where I was born and grew up, is not as cold, the coldest it gets is only 32, and that is something that doesn’t happen every year, either! So winters in NYC were always tough for me, will I ever learn to love the snow and freezing temperatures?

With this in mind, what can La Wina possibly drink to to keep warm and cheer up during the shortest and coldest days?  Williams & Humbert Crema De Alba, a delicious creamy spirit made with Brandy de Jerez Gran Duque de Alba Reserva and a concoction of cream, cacao and vanilla.

Smooth, velvety and sweet Williams & Humbert Crema de Alba is wonderful drink to have chilled, on its own or on ice. I loved it the first time I tasted this in the early 2000s, but then it was only available in Spain. To my surprise, I attended a Sherry master class by Williams & Humbert a few months back and there it was the Crema De Alba, now available in the US, and with suggested retail price of only $22. Wonderful!

It tastes very similar to a dulce de leche liqueur, I used to make in Argentina, behind my parents back….. Yes! once upon a time, me and my friends used to blend, 2 spoons of dulce de leche, 1 spoon of powder cocoa and 2 measures of cognac from my father’s stash…it was our favorite drink to watch soap operas at nap time, ah... those were the days!...Later that year, when I went with my friends to Bariloche (the Aspen of Argentina), my mother herself prepared a whole bottle of this drink…for us to make the cold weather more tolerable. I guess she knew what I was doing, all alongūüėČ

But back to our Crema de Alba, the base of this incredible liquor is Williams & Humbert Brandy de Jerez Gran Duque de Alba, made from Palomino and Air√©n grapes, and distilled in stills to perfection. This brandy is then aged in a solera system of american oak casks where previously Oloroso sherry had been aged. By all means, if you are Brandy drinker, I highly recommend you give it a try, too. 

Thank you, Williams & Humbert & Palm Bay Imports for providing samples for me to taste… I’m happy to report that the Winos were crazy about this one too! Silvina.

#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #Williams&Humbert

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Value Wines, Where Art Thou?

This is by far the topic I like the most, where can I get value wines? Where as from which countries? But, also where to find the best prices?

As far as countries, most come from the New World:US: Finger Lakes, Washington state, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It’s easier to find here great quality wines that are affordable
(costs less than $20) and made from the international grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and blends etc.
In the Old World we can find the best values coming from Spain, Portugal, France (only at the entry label & Languedoc) Germany, Austria, and certain parts of Italy (Southern appellations but also there are values in Chianti/Tuscany and the Veneto).

Value can also come from varieties not very well known, Mencia, Nero d’ Avola,Tannat, Malbec, Pinotage, Torrontes, Godello,Touriga Nacional, etc. So don’t be afraid to open your horizons and try some of these! You will be pleasantly surprised.

As far as finding value, La Wina buys and endorses Trader Joe’s, though their selection is not big but they usually have some of the best prices. Also Wholesale clubs: both BJS and Costco sell wines, and their prices are much better than any other wine store.

If you are only buying at a Wine store, it’s good to check their discounts offered when you buy a case or more. Some of them offer up to 30% off. Check prices online often. One of my favorite stores is Gianonne wines, they reduce their prices up to $2 per bottle if you put the order via the internet. Since I buy most of my stuff online, for me is ideal, I put the order through, save some money and my case of wines is ready for me to be picked up later that the day.

You should know, that the big percentage of wines I recommend, are 1) wines that I have tasted and that I really liked, or 2) wines that have been received 90 pts minimum by trade magazines such as Wine Spectator/ Wine Enthusiast and James Suckling (who used to be with the Wine Spectator before). Sometimes both situations happen (the wine received a great review and I tasted it and liked it). If the wines received great reviews but then after I taste them, I don’t like them, I usually take them out of my list. I also check online that my recommendations are available in several stores in the US. The only exception to the 90 pts rule are value sparkling and Ros√© wines, unfortunately sometimes these wines get only between 86 to 89 pts, in this case I'm willing to let this rule go. I will however dedicate a post about wine ratings and their importance in the future, so stay tuned for more.

These are the latest gems I have found, and if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, these could be great gifts for the wine lover in your list:

Jermann Pinot Grigio 2017 $19
Mohua Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $15.99
De Wetshof Estate Chardonnay Limestone 2019 $14.99
Mionetto Prosecco NV, $12
Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava NV $9
Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages 2017 $14.99
Borgo Scorpeto Chianti Classico 2016 $20.99
Alma Negra Malbec Bonarda 2017 $21.99
Luigi Bosca Malbec 2017 $18.99

Happy Holidays, Dear Winos! I wish you an incredible 2020, full of good wine and memories. Cheers! Silvina
#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #winewednesday

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Matching Foods with Wines, plus Holiday Recommendations

With the holidays a few days away, and thinking about all the wonderful food you are about to enjoy soon, I decided it was time to talk about matching food and wine. Especially, because wine plays always a very important role in all of your holiday gatherings. Let's start by the beginning with rule #1: when matching food and wine, it's important to keep the balance between the two.
All of my winos have heard me say this, many times: the most important quality a wine can have, is its balanceBalance of the elements is the holy grail of any wine producer in the world, it’s important to integrate all key components in a wine: fruit, acidity, tannins, alcohol, sweetness and body; so, that no element overpowers the other, the same rule applies when matching food and wine, we don’t want the wine to overpower the food or worse the wine to disappear when matched with the incorrect dishes. No, Cabernet Sauvignon with chicken or turkey please!

A few things to keep in mind here, when in doubt, keep it local, meaning match wines and dishes from the same region. One of the best matches is Goat Cheese with Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley), Beef Bourguignon and Pinot noir, Sausages and Alsace Riesling etc, do match local foods with local wine.

Body in wine is a key element to match with food, if you eat/cook light dishes, then the obvious choice will be a light bodied wine: Baked Flounder and Pinot Gris for example and match big dishes with big wines: Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon or Lamb with Syrah. Match, light with light and big with big, and there’s plenty of medium bodied wines to match with everyday meals, such as Pizza, Hamburgers, Quiche. Also not only consider the main component in the dish but also the sauces, since these can change the texture of any dish.

Acidity: in the case of acidity, we can apply the law of opposites: high acid wines will go well with sweet dishes. I’m not talking desserts here, but dishes with sweet sauces. Acid can also be reduced when matched with fat, french fries and champagne (try it, it’s so good) And of course acid will match with acid, or in place of acid, if you use lemon in your dishes, then match this dish with a high acid wine.

Tannins: these are usually drying in your palate and bitter, so when considering a pairing look for dishes that will soften them in your mouth. Protein and fat can help reduce and soften the blow of the astringency found in tannins. That is why most red tannic wines will pair beautifully with hard cheeses and red meats.

Oak: oaky wines are better matched with dishes with butter and cream; these two ingredients will make dishes big so choose big wines. A good example of this, is lobster with oaky Chardonnay. Also, consider here the spices that oak in wines may provide, like coconut, or vanilla, caramel, coffee, chocolate, etc.
Match savory foods with savory wines, spicy wines (I will dedicate a post about these wines soon, Carménère and Malbec are two examples) are perfect with savory foods, but be careful with the spices, some may be too hot. Spicy wines go well with Middle Eastern foods. Now, if your dishes are very hot like Chili, it will be best to match them with an off dry or sweet wine, applying the law of opposites: do match Riesling and Indian Food.

Sweet dishes such as dessert will go very well with sweet wines, or a sweet wine can replace dessert, instead of eating cake, you can have a glass of Sauternes, or Port. Match Port with Chocolates, Ice Cream with PX Sherry, Tarte Tatin with Sauternes, Moscato D’Asti and Birthday Cake.

More recommendations in the chart below:
Beef, Lamb Chops, Hard Cheeses
Powerbombs: Barolo, Bordeaux, Priorat,  Rhone Valley reds, Ribera del Duero, Argentinean Malbec, CA and Chilean Cabernets.
Veal, Salmon, Tuna, Chicken, Turkey
Light and Classic:Pinot Noir, Burgundy, California or Aussie Chardonnay, Rosé
White Fish: filet of Sole, Pollock, Cod
Medium Whites:Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, NZ Sauvignon Blanc
Charcouterie, Hamburgers,Pasta
Light Reds:Beaujolais, Rioja Crianza, Chianti, Barbera D' Alba
Vegetarian Dishes
Light Whites: Pinot Grigio, Alsace and German Riesling, Austria Gruner Veltliner
Oysters, Shrimp, Sushi
Dry Whites: Muscadet, Chablis, Manzanilla and Fino Sherries, Champagne
My Holiday Recommendations:
Below are some of the wines I tasted lately and loved! Some of these are a bit pricey but they are so worthy of once or twice a year splurge.

Amiraut Crémant de Loire Les Quarterons NV $31.99
Delamotte Champagne Brut NV $65.99
Laurent Perrier Brut NV $45 

Big Reds:
Famille Perrin Gigondas La Gille 2017 $38.99   
Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva 2011, Rioja $39.99
Charles Krug Cabernet 2016, Napa $30

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella 2014 $60
Alion 2015, Ribera del Duero $125

Cheers! Silvina
#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #winewednesday

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Buying a Mixed Case of Wine

Lucky you! you have some money to buy a case of wine.... how should you proceed?

When buying a case of wine, I always think of the meals I’m going to serve them with, basically what do I eat more? These days I eat a lot fish, veggies, some chicken/turkey, pasta and rice. Meat (though I’m Argentinian) not so much, those that know me, know that my kidney problems got better when I stop having red meat. But don’t worry I will recommend a few wines for those meat eaters out there too!

So, what will I buy? 

Light to Medium whites: Sauvignon Blanc, not just any Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which I love, high acidity, nice passion fruit aromas what more to ask?, these will go great with all my salads, asparagus (my favorite vegetable), plus they are always $20 or less: Babich, Mohua and Greywacke are some of my favorite brands. More light whites: Verdejo from Rueda Spain, of all the Spanish whites, Ruedas are my favorites, crispy, grassy aromas, another good match with veggies, I’d choose brands that don’t see any oak. Like Naia and Marqu√©s de Riscal. Vibrant Riesling: from Alsace, like Domaine Weinbach, Hugel, and from Germany: JJ Prum & Dr Hermann.

Big whites:
Chardonnay, ideally from Burgundy though these can be pricey, but there are some appellations in the South that are a bit cheaper (Macon Villages, Montagny) my favorite brands:Louis Jadot, Louis Latour and Olivier Leflaive. Also New World Chardonnay, I love their oaky, buttered flavor plus they have more alcohol! My favorite brands: Sonoma Cutrer, Kistler and Hamilton Russell Vineyards.

Rosé or Rosados:
in this particular category I always go to Spain, though France produces some excellent samples like Chateau Miraval. My favorite Spanish brands: Cune, Chivite Rosado and Breca Rosado.

Sparkling: I don’t want to repeat myself, but yes! my favorite Champagne is Pol Roger NV!, but if I’m on the cheap I like Mionetto Prosecco and Cristalino Ros√© Cava.

Light Reds: this is a very versatile category, since I don’t eat so much meat, these will go great with chicken,veal, duck, turkey, tuna and salmon. Pinot Noir, any Louis Jadot or Jacques Prieur wines from Burgundy. Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d' Alba and Chianti, for pasta dishes with cream or tomato sauce: Massolino,
Marziano Abbona and Prunotto. More light reds: Rioja Crianza: Marqu√©s de C√°ceres and Cune. Chianti Classico such as Castello Di Ama, Lamole di Mole and Marchesi de Frescobaldi.

Medium Spicy Reds: this is my favorite red category, this can be had with meat, but also on their own, Argentinean Malbec: 
Angulo Innocenti, Norton and Catena Zapata. Ribera del Duero: Pesquera Tinto, Protos and Abadia Retuerta.

Big Reds: I included this category just for the steak eaters of the world! My mixed box won’t have any of these, which doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate tasting them, it’s just that I prefer lighter styles of red.  Napa Cabernet: Beringer, Shafer, Joseph Phelps, Caymus. Priorat: 
Alvaro Palacios,Vall LLach and Clos Mogador.

Finishing up my favorite box will have 2 sparkling 2 light whites, 2 big whites, 3 light reds and 3 medium spicy reds.

Plus I could add one more wine that I truly like with sushi and light fish (filet of sole, flounder or Mahi Mahi are my favorites) a bottle of Fino Sherry. I know, not everybody likes dry sherry but I do, I love to drink it and also to cook with it.  Either Tio Pepe Fino or Barbadillo Manzanilla. 

It will be Thanksgiving next week, so below are my recommendations. When choosing a wine for the bird, my favorite is Riesling, but if you only drink red, it must be something light like the samples below, stay away from Cabernet Sauvignon and leave that for the Prime Rib that you will have at Christmas.

Many thanks to Vineyard Brands for providing samples for me to taste: 

Domaine Weinbach Riesling $31.99 (a nice off-dry white to match with turkey, you guessed right this is what I'm having with my turkey on Thanksgiving!)
Hamilton Russell Vineyard Chardonnay
$42.99 (good acidity and oak in this one, more Burgundy in style and less New World.)
Marqués de Cáceres Crianza 2014
$12 (an every night red that everybody must drink.)

Angulo Innocenti Nonni 2017 $14.99 (a delicious Malbec, soft and beefy.)
Massolino Barbera d' Alba 2018 $26.99 (One of the best Barberas I tasted lately, juicy, with a medium plus body.)

So what do you think? Let me know your favorites. Until next one, Happy Thanksgiving! Silvina

Follow me on Instagram: @silvinalawina. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Happy Tempranillo Day!

Tempranillo, also known as Tinta del Pa√≠s, Tinto Fino,Tinta del Toro, Cencibel, Ull de Llebre, or Tinta Roriz/Aragonez (in Portugal), is the most important Spanish contribution to the wine world. Tempranillo is also kind of an underdog, mostly because in Europe, grapes are not listed on the labels, so you  probably had a Rioja, or Toro wine and not know that Tempranillo is the grape in these appellations. However, in the last 20 years or so, this is fast changing, not only Spanish wines got their truly deserved recognition, but more and more producers are experimenting with plantings of Tempranillo in places like Australia, California,Oregon and Argentina. 

But for me the greatness of Tempranillo comes only from Spain, where it is the key ingredient in many of its appellations: Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro are probably the most important ones. Differences in terroir, altitude and climate create three expressions of Tempranillo, showing how versatile this grape can be. Rioja produces the lightest and most elegant style, though we can find some beefy samples here too, followed by Ribera Del Duero and then Toro. Alcohol levels will vary, reaching in Rioja (12-13%) a bit higher in Ribera (up to 13.5) and highest in Toro (13.5-14%).

Rioja was the first appellation to make Tempranillo famous, inspired by the winemaking style of Bordeaux, Rioja wines are also blends, though some producers make also 100% Tempranillo wines. Like in Bordeaux, Riojas are aged in a bordelais size barrel (225 lt). For many years, American oak was the favorite choice, nowadays a lot of producers are also ageing in new French oak. In Portugal, where it is known as Tinta del Roriz, Tempranillo is a key ingredient in all Port blends, but there are very good dry wines made in Alentejo and Douro. 
Tempranillo’s name comes from the word Temprano (early in Spanish), because the grape ripens early and buds late, it has a short growing season. It does best in a warmish climate with cool nights (like in Rioja and Ribera del Duero) that will boost its elegance and its natural acidity, but at the same time, sunny days will ripen the grapes to get the alcohol and fruit extract needed to make extraordinary wine. Altitude has an important role to play here, in Ribera del Duero, we find vineyards at 850 m, in Toro vineyards at 600-750 m and in Rioja vineyards at 500-600 m, it's no surprise, why Tempranillo does so well in all 3 locations. 

It grows in different soils, but likes limestone and chalk best, yielding elegant wines and clay will give wines with plenty of body. In Toro there are alluvial soils with limestone and schist soils in the Douro, Portugal.  It can be very vigorous so yields must be kept low; in Spain the usual is 45-50 hl/ht or less. In the New World yields are usually higher, making more diluted/ simple wines. Though there are many varietal wines, Tempranillo is usually blended with other grapes: Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha in Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or Garnacha in Ribera del Duero and Pened√®s. 

Tempranillo is very versatile and can produce a range of wines, and styles that fall between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, it will produce light, fruity, everyday wines but also massive, inky and concentrated ones. Because of its resistance to oxidation it can age in oak for a very long time, this will allow the wine to acquire a mature,  earthy and very interesting character in barrel and bottle. By law, Rioja and Ribera del Duero Crianzas are aged for a year in oak and 1 in bottle. Reservas are aged for 3 years, 1 in oak and 2 in bottles and Gran Reservas are aged for 6 years, 2 in oak and 4 in bottle. These are the minimums, meaning some wineries will choose a much longer aging. This also means that the wines will be ready to drink at the time they are sold in the market, without any necessary waiting from the consumers.

From a style point of view, Riojas are elegant with medium alcohol showing delicious red fruits and balanced tannins (it is definitely less tannic than Cabernet, but Tempranillo wines do have structure). I define Ribera del Duero as Tempranillo on vitamins, since they tend to have bigger bodies than Riojas and plenty of black fruit aromas, and then the wines from Toro are possible the biggest expression of Tempranillo, powerful and concentrated.

Tempranillo's profile will feature strawberry,raspberry, red cherry in cool climates,  blackberry, black cherry and plums from warmer climates, with age it will show tobacco, cocoa, coffee, leather and bacon notes. 

Young wines and crianzas should be consumed young, three years from their release.  Reservas can age 5-10 years from release and Gran Reservas can really age, up 30+ years. I recently tasted a Rioja Gran Reserva from 1989 and Wow, it was a life changing experience! (it was the Faustino I).

When drinking Reservas and Gran Reservas always look at the colors and rims of these wines, you will see how different they are from young wines, usually featuring brick/orange colors. The wines may also be paler, garnet instead of ruby and in some cases brick red, all of this happens as a result of the extra aging both in oak and bottle.

Recommended Producers:
Rioja: Artadi, Muga, Marqu√©s de Murrieta, Roda, Cune, Rem√≠rez de Ganuza, Finca Allende,  Marqu√©s de Riscal, Senor√≠o de San Vicente, L√≥pez de Heredia, Remelluri, Marqu√©s de C√°ceres, Faustino.
Ribera del Duero: Pesquera, Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Alión, Abadia Retuerta, Bodegas Mauro,Emilio Moro, Dominio de Atauta, Hacienda Monasterio.
Toro: Numanthia,Maurodos, Elías Mora, Teso La Monja, San Román, Campo Eliseo, Pintia, Telmo Rodríguez, Rejadorada.

Happy#TempranilloDay. Cheers! Silvina. 

pic of Tempranillo Grapes provided by D.O.Ca. Rioja. Thank you!

For more Tempranillo recommendations, follow me on Instagram @silvinalawina.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Celebrating International Sherry Week with Manzanilla and Fino Sherries

This week Sherry wines are celebrated worldwide, inspired by this wonderful event, I decided to write a post about two of my favorite dry sherries: Manzanilla and Fino. I love Manzanillas and Finos, particularly with fish like Mahi Mahi, Cod or Flounder, and of course with Sushi and Poke. Their delicious dryness and salty tang make them a perfect match for tapas, too (Serrano Ham, Olives, Manchego Cheese, Almonds, Tortilla!). However, they are an “acquired taste”, a category that you either love or hate. Of course I do love them! But if you are new to Sherry, allow me to give you some info.  

So what makes Sherry so special? For starters Sherry can only come from Spain, from the D.O. Jerez-X√©r√®s-Sherry, so if you see a sherry made in California… it will never be the same thing. The appellation has the shape of a triangle, see map below, and in each corner we will find a city, where Sherry can be aged: Jerez de La Frontera, Sanl√ļcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Mar√≠a. 

Sherry is basically a fortified wine, meaning a wine that producers have added extra alcohol, with most sherries showcasing between 15,5¬ļ to 20¬ļ. In the case of Sherry, the alcohol is added after fermentation is completed, so at the beginning Sherry will start its life as a dry wine to which producers will add the spirit, color and flavors to create different styles that may go from dry, medium or sweet.

Sherry is made from three Spanish grape varieties: Palomino Fino, which is the most important, Pedro Xim√©nez also known as PX and Muscat. Palomino occupies 90% of all vineyards, PX and Muscat the rest, and even though varietal wines are made from the last two, PX and Muscat are mostly used to add color and sweetness to Sherry. All three varieties grow in different types of soils: the most important is the Albariza soil, which has good drainage and is chalky and crumbly, it creates a crust that helps prevent evaporation, something very important considering the warm climate of the region but very much influenced by the oceans and the Levante, a dry wind from the south. PX and Muscat grow in sand (arenas) and muddy soils (barros).  Because of the warm weather of the D.O., harvest starts early, usually in the middle of August.  The PX will be left in the sun to dry/ raisin these grapes, the must obtained will be extremely sweet and dark, creating the sweetest style of all Sherries, that most Spanish have with ice cream!, believe me and do try this!

The best vineyards are located in an area called Jerez superior. Now, once producers ferment the Palomino Fino grapes, obtaining a very dry white, they add some spirit to it, and then they need to decide the type of aging that Sherry will see or style they will create. There are two important categories: Sherries that are aged with Flor: like Finos and Manzanillas and those aged without Flor: Olorosos, where wine will be fully exposed to oxygen, I will talk about the last category in another post.

But what is Flor? Flor is a very fine veil of yeast that will grow on top of the wine, preventing its contact with air and therefore its oxidation. Flor will give the wine its wonderful pungent aromas and typical flavors of citrus, olives & almonds. In order for Flor to grow, producers will put the wine in botas or (American oak barrels) and will fill only ¾ of them, leaving a gap on top, see picture below.  

Flor requires certain conditions to live,  and this is why Sherry can’t be replicated in other places in the world. In order to be alive it needs the addition of new wine, feeding also on alcohol and oxygen. By adding new wine via fractional blending, we can find Finos that may have an average age of 5-8 vintages. 

Another important characteristic of Sherry is that they are not vintage dated but instead are blend of old and new wines, very similar to NV Champagne.  

Now, in the case of the Manzanillas, which are the palest, lightest and driest, they are made from the thickest Flor of all, the Flor that grows in the town of Sanl√ļcar de Barrameda. Here Flor is active all year around, mostly because of the humidity and sea breeze influences of this town. Flor will protect the wine and at the same time impregnate it of yeasty flavors. 

Now, how does the fractional blending take place? By putting wines in a Solera system, or in different rows of oak casks. The young wines will be at the top and the old ones at the bottom (near the floor). Solera comes from the word Suelo (floor in Spanish). Every year when it’s time to bottle, producers will only pull 25 to 30% of their stock from the Solera (stack of casks closer to the floor) and replace the wine taken with younger wines from the criaderas above, running the scales. 
See below picture that will help you understand the process better.

Now, stylistically Manzanillas and Finos will have between 15,5-17¬ļ Alcohol, so you will feel the extra alcohol in your palate, they will be always dry with medium bodies and crisp acidity. Remember that though Finos are Manzanillas don’t have a vintage date, it’s better to consume the freshest wines possible, if you ever in Andalusia, you are guaranteed to do just that, since people in the south of Spain consume Sherry copitas on a daily basis. Always drink them chilled with tapas or in my case fish. 

My favorite recommended producers of Manzanilla and Fino are: Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe, Lustau, Williams and Humbert, La Guita, Osborne, Barbadillo.

For more information about Sherry week,click here.
Until next one! 
Cheers, Silvina.

All pictures provided by the D.O. Jerez-X√©r√®s-Sherry. Thank You for allowing me to use these!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Art of Tasting 101

Every time I teach people how to taste, I always tell them tasting wine as a wine professional will change their wine experience completely. Mostly, because there is a big difference between just sipping wine and conducting a proper tasting. So, this post is for those who want to learn how to taste wine properly, I know this is something I should have done at the beginning (in my early posts), Sorry for the delay!

The first step in every tasting is to find an ideal room, a room without any aromas, yes leave the perfume behind, if you plan to taste wine professionally! Good natural light is ideal but if this is not possible then good artificial light will do and a white background to check the wines against it, so you can detect the different colors of each variety, and other details that will allow you to tell if a wine is young or old from its color. 

The first sense we used in wine tasting is Sight. As a rule reds will have vibrant colors when young and lose their colors as they age, so ruby red or purple when young and brick, tawny, pale garnet when old. Also it's important to check the rim, if it’s watery we are dealing with a young wine, when it is orange with a wine with some age. In the case of the whites, the rules change, young whites will have lighter colors, the rims will be still watery though, and older whites usually will have darker/ golden colors. This is also true for whites that are aged or fermented in oak. Swirl the wine in the glass and check the wine drops, are these drops (called legs) thick or thin? Thick legs means alcohol is present in the wine as is glycerol. Remember the denser the legs, the more alcohol and usually the more body in our wine. With practice, you will differentiate the different colors of each variety, for example Riesling has the lightest color of all whites, Sauvignon Blanc usually has a green tinge, while Chardonnay has a straw yellow color and with oak a golden color. In the case of reds, Pinot Noir has the palest red, it’s very easy to recognize in a blind tasting, while Shiraz will have the darkest color, usually deep ruby with purple hints.

Now to the second sense and most important in a wine tasting: Smell, aerate the wine, meaning swirl it once more and smell it, has the wine a strong aroma or weak/ almost mute? Besides the intensity, does it smell fresh, young, or developed? fruity, floral? after reading this post, you can look online the aroma wheel to learn a few of the aromas that the University of Davis has found in wines here. Or does it smell more herbaceous, mineral, less fruity? What about faults? Does the wine smell good, i.e healthy or is it oxidized, corked, present funky smells of vinegar, onions, rotten eggs?...if that happens your wine is no good, time to call the waiter and ask for an exchange. Learn about wine faults here.

Now, let’s go to step 3: Taste, this is the best part!  let’s have a sip, take a bit of the wine and before swallowing, move it around your mouth and cover all sides of your tongue, like you do with mouthwash, then swallow or spit it,like most wine tasters do, not to make a fool of ourselves in a public tasting! Remember, sweetness is detected on the tip of your tongue, acidity to the sides, tannins on the gums and back of your throat, body/weight in your middle palate.
Now it's time to analyze the different elements, how is the fruit on the palate, how is the acidity, how are the tannins, and the alcohol? How is the body, light, medium, full? after you swallow,
how is the length? does the wine disappear or does it stay with you and for how long? A long finish is a sign of a good quality wine.

Finally, it's time to make a conclusion, thumbs up or down? Is it worthwhile to spend money on this wine or do we need to move on?

Here are some recommendations, so that you can become an expert in no time.

Dr Hermann Wines Riesling Kabinett Urziger Wurzgarten 2017 $22

Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2017, California $19
A to Z Pinot Noir 2017, Oregon $15
Ch√Ęteau Sansonnet St Emilion 2017, $33
San Martino Siir, Aglianico del Vulture 2016 $16

Cheers! Silvina

Saturday, October 19, 2019

@ the NY Wine Experience... What a Night!

I have a confession to make, I love wine tastings! Tasting wine is one of my favorite things in this world, and every year I indulge myself to a ticket to the NY Wine Experience. This year, this event happened on October 17-19. This is not the first time I have come to this mega tasting, I must admit that I try to save money every year to purchase the costly ticket to the Grand Tastings: $375 (being rich is not in the cards for La Wina yet). Anyhow,I was there last year and tasted way too many Cabernet Sauvignons, so this year I promised myself to try other wines too. What the heck, If I die tomorrow, at least I got to taste and spit* (breaks my heart to admit this) some of the best and most expensive wines in the world. 

This past Friday, I drank plenty of water all day long and off I went with my map of the wines I wanted to taste. I know that the Wine Spectator has this free app that you can use too, but I’m old school and prefer to use the map, knowing that on my way out I can always grab the heavy tasting book that has all the information about the wines shown.  The NY Wine Experience is for me like going to the Oscars, not only all the wines must have received at least 90 pts or more by the  magazine, but each winery serves only 1 wine, and usually by the winemaker or owner.  I always remind myself to act my age, especially when I’m facing my favorite winemakers/ producers...  Besides tasting the wines, I decided to take some pictures of my favorites too, to recommend them in future posts in my social media accounts. If you are not following me please do! My Instagram: silvinalawina, and Twitter: silvina_lawina.

Now to my wish list of wines: I saw the list on the web before attending and of course I knew exactly where I wanted to go first: Champagne! I saw several ros√© champagnes this year, something that doesn’t happen very often! the best I tasted was: Bollinger La Grande Ann√©e Ros√© 2007 $205.
Next stop Burgundy, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and my favorite wines were: Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru $238  and Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2016 $175.
Then I went to taste Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Papes, the best was: Ch. La Nerthe Cuv√©e des Cadettes 2015 $155. The Best Syrah from Washington was Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley In the Rocks 2016 $ 90. Then, I went to Spain, only a few wineries were there but still some of the very best Tempranillo blends: Vega Sicilia Unico 2009 $575 and best Rioja Marqu√©s de C√°ceres Gran Reserva 2011 $40.
After that, I couldn’t help myself and went to taste the wines of my country Argentina! and the very best for me were: Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae 2014 $140 and Colom√© Altura M√°xima Malbec 2014 $125.
Since I did have some time left, I went to eat some of the delicious buffet they had there and decided to do some Cabernet Sauvignons after all, but only from Bordeaux, France: Ch. Lafite Rothschild 2011 $690, Ch.Mouton Rothschild 2009 $1,000 and for me the best Bordeaux of the night: Ch. Margaux 2004  $220.
Finally!  I allowed myself a very happy ending with Ch. d’ Yquem Sauternes 2016 $379, the best dessert wine of the world! 

What a night! If you love wine like me, I highly recommend you do this at least once in a lifetime. 
Before I leave,  I must recognize that not every wine shown was super expensive, there were a few that cost less than an arm and a leg, here are my favorites:

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2014 $40
Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Tenuta Mocenni Caledonia Riserva 2015 $28
Weingut Nik Weis St Urbans Hof  Riesling Kabinett Mosel Ockfen Bockstein 2015 $24
Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2015 $30
Resonance Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon 2016 $35
La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2010 $32

Indeed! #lifeisbetterwithwine, Cheers, Silvina

PS: Remember to subscribe for free to continue receiving my posts in your inbox.
*Spitting is the only way I was going to be able to taste more than 10 wines in a seating without getting drunk :)
Yep! All the prices in this post are per bottle...I guess there are lots of rich people in New York.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Silentium Wines

Last week, I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Silentium, one of four brands produced by Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, a Spanish joint venture created by 17 vine growers in 1998.  Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, produce their line of wines from fruit sourced from their own 137 hectares, which are located in the D.O. Ribera del Duero, in the province of Castilla y Le√≥n, about a two hour drive north of Madrid.

The appellation of Ribera del Duero (Denominaci√≥n de Origen in Spanish) is known for producing some of the best and most elegant reds from Spain (This is, after all, the home of Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera and so many other well known brands… I promise to dedicate a post to this appellation in the near future). 
Ribera del Duero means riverbanks of the river Duero, in Spanish. The Duero river is the second most important river in Spain, and runs across the country from the north of the city of Soria in the west to the east, to the Atlantic ocean. It also crosses through Portugal, where it is known as Douro, another famous appellation for producing powerful reds and Port. Most Ribera del Duero vineyards are located on both sides of the river, in the valleys of the Meseta Central (high plateau of Spain), where altitudes could go from 750-1000 m. 

All of the Silentium parcels are about 1 Km south of the river, located at some of the highest elevation vineyards in Spain:@ 975 m above sea level. The climate here is continental, think hot summers and very cold winters, altitude like everywhere else in the wine world, plays a very important role here; during the summer, it’s not unusual to see 40¬ļ C/104 Fahrenheit during the day, yet at night temperatures drop considerably, which will allow the vines to rest and preserve acidity and therefore elegance in the wines.The most important grape variety in Ribera del Duero is Spain’s top red grape: Tempranillo, known here as Tinto Fino, which must make at least 75% of the blend according to D.O. regulations; Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are also allowed in small quantities. If you are wondering what is Tempranillo and how does it taste like? I must remind you that Tempranillo is also the grape variety in Rioja, another appellation known for their fine reds. I’m a Rioja fan, as many will know, and over the years I have consumed and recommended many of their wines, yet Ribera del Duero for me offers a plus, Ribera del Duero's Tinto Finos tend to be luscious, beefier than most mass produced Riojas, and this is why I normally describe them as “Tempranillo on vitamins”.

The winery sent me six samples from their portfolio, and here are my favorites:

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, Silentium Verdejo 2018:
There’s no white production in Ribera del Duero, the whites are made in another appellation: D.O. Rueda, which is located to the south east of Ribera del Duero. This delicious white was made from fruit sourced from 12 different plots located at altitudes of 750m, planted on gravel soils and with an average vine age of 20 years old. Rueda is known for having many old vines, which by the way, is another indication of quality; old vines provide more concentration and fruit extraction, which is very often showcased in the final product. This white was made in stainless steel to preserve the freshness of the Verdejo variety and aged briefly on its lees.  This Verdejo displays a fresh nose featuring white peach, honeydew and fennel with a medium body, crisp acidity and a juicy finish.

All of the Silentium reds are made from 100% Tempranillo grapes that grow on soils which are mixed of loam with clay. The average age of all Silentium vines is 27 years old. All of their fruit is hand harvested at optimal ripeness and then divided to create the different styles: Tinto, Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Expresión. After tasting the whole flight of reds, you can easily see a progression in complexity, with more oak aging and better and riper fruit.

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Crianza 2015: by law Crianzas are aged for 2 years, 1 of which must be in oak. In this case Silentium uses a blend of American and French oak, followed by 1 year in the bottle. This is a medium bodied/every night red featuring ripe black cherry, with nice mocha and chocolate notes.

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Reserva 2012
: Reservas are usually aged for a total of 3 years, 1 of which must be in oak. In the case of the Silentium Reserva 2012, the wine was aged for 16 months in a blend of American and French oak. This polished red is a step up from the Crianza and combines rich stewed blackberry and plum, with spice and mineral notes. Soft tannins, make this a medium plus bodied red, with balanced acidity and a velvety finish.

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Expresi
√≥n 2015: this is Silentium’s top brand/ flagship. This wine is aged for 18 months in both American and French oak. It’s a complex red showing ripe black cherries and blackberries, with espresso and leather notes and a touch of minerality. It shows a solid structure from ripe tannins and a lively long finish.

The winery also produces  a Rosado made from Tempranillo (which I didn’t taste) Tinto and Roble, which are lighter reds with no oak and less than a year of oak aging respectively.

All of these wines are currently imported in the tri state area by Park Street Imports: www.parkstreet.com.

Cheers! Silvina.

Picture of the Silentium vineyards courtesy of Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Grapes and Wines of France

Do you remember my February post when I explained to you which wines were considered Old World and which were New World? Beginning with this post I will explore the grapes of Old World Regions. Back then, I told you that one of the problems that we find with bottles that come from the Old World or Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, etc. is that they don’t usually list their grape varieties on the label, requiring you to do some investigation. 
So, here comes Silvina lawina to the rescue, I’m about to give you a cheat sheet so that you will always know or at least have an idea of the grapes in these wines, which should simplify your wine shopping.

So, I’m starting with the  country that was blessed with some of the best conditions for wine production: La France! Envied by many, la France is still the source of some of the finest wines in the world, now if you truly want to taste the good stuff, you will need to spend a little more: good French wine is not cheap! but if you know where to look, you an also find true gems. Now, if you are a rich wino, I’m basically green with envy!  If I was a rich man lalalala, I will only drink French Champagne and fine Burgundy (Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot 2013, for example).
Now it’s time to learn the grapes:
Grapes allowed by law
(all appellations)
Right bank:St Emilion, Pomerol.
Left bank: Margaux,
Reds are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Right bank wines are mostly Merlot and Left bank wines mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.
Whites both dry and sweet are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
(all appellations)
No blends here, Reds are 100% Pinot Noir and Whites: 100% Chardonnay.
(Fleurie, Morgon, Beaujolais Villages, etc)
No blends here, 100% Gamay grapes.
Loire (Muscadet)
Melon de Bourgogne grape
Loire (Pouilly Fume and Sancerre)
Whites from Sauvignon Blanc
Loire (Vouvrey, Cote du  Layon, Bonnezaux, etc)
Both Dry and Sweet Whites are made from Chenin Blanc
Loire Saumur,Chignon, Touraine, Bourgueil, etc
Roses and Reds made from Cabernet Franc, but also Malbec and Gamay.
It’s the exception to the rule, here the grapes are allowed to be listed on the label. Most wines are white and made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, some are blended. Reds are made from 100% Pinot Noir
Northern Rhone
(Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, St Joseph, Condrieu, Cornas,etc)
Whites are made from Viognier, but also from Marsanne and Roussanne, Reds from 100% Syrah.
Southern Rhone
(Tavel, Chateauneuf  Du Pape, Ventoux, Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas, Lirac CDR Villages,etc)
Several grapes are allowed, most wines are blends: the most important are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault. Most Rosés are made from Grenache.
Provence (Bandol,Aix de Provence)
Reds from Mourvedre, Grenache. Rosés from Grenache.
Languedoc Roussillon
(Minervois, Roussillon,etc)
Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Carignan.
NV are usually a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Blanc de Blancs: 100% Chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs: 100% Pinot Noir or a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, same blend is used to make Rosé Champagne

Now I also added a bonus, a chart with more info about the style the grapes above made.

Pinot Noir
Balanced to high 
Light to M
Medium to B
Medium or M+ 
Medium or M+ 
Cabernet Franc
Medium +
Medium or M+
Medium or M+
Cabernet Sauv
Medium or M+
Medium or M+
Low to Balanced 
Biggest of all
Medium or M+

Low to M
Pinot Gris
Sauvignon B
Medium to M+
Low to balanced
Medium to high
Medium to M+
Low to balanced
Medium to high
Darkest of all
Biggest of all
Medium to high

Alors, it’s time to taste some French wines!, here a few recommendations from Frederick Wildman. Thank you for providing samples for me to taste:

Hugel Pinot Gris 2016 $20
Jolivet Sancerre "Les Caillotes" 2018 $36
Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge 2016 $22
Hecht and Bannier Languedoc 2017$20
Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Rouge 2014 $40

à votre santé, cheers! Silvina