Sunday, February 13, 2011

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Wine and chocolate pairing at Sweet Decadence

Matt and I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon sampling wine and delicious chocolate truffles handmade by Sweet Decadence, located in Newcastle WA. We had a private table beautifully set with wine glasses and artisan glass plates for the truffles. It definitely felt like a special occasion.

We had four pairings total. For each, we took a couple of sips of wine to let the flavor sink in before taking a bite of the truffle. They were all pleasant, though we enjoyed some samplings more than others. I've rated the wine, the chocolate, and the pairing of both together on a scale from 1 to 5. All of the wines are from WA state and retail for less than $20. Here's what we tried:


Sampling 1
-2007 Ginko Forest Gew├╝rztraminer (2/5) - The wine was not too sweet, but didn't have much finish. Aromas of lychee and spice.
-Peanut butter truffle with crisped rice pieces, covered in white chocolate (3/5) - a very nice texture and strong peanut butter flavor, which I enjoyed.

-The pairing together (3/5) - the truffle complemented the slight sweetness of the wine nicely. I would not have guessed that peanut butter and Gew├╝rztraminer would complement each other, but they definitely did.


Sampling 2
-Dark chocolate espresso truffle (5/5)- this was by far my favorite truffle of those we tried. A deep dark chocolate truffle with subtle coffee flavor, topped with an espresso bean. Wonderful and decadent.
-Townsend Bay Point Wilson blend (non-vintage) (4/5) - a pleasant blend of 48% Sangiovese, 24% Malbec, and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. A very pleasant nose of cherries and spice. Earthy flavors with a medium finish.
-The pairing together (3/5) - this was a tough one. I really enjoyed the two items separately, but together there just wasn't harmony - the espresso truffle overpowered the wine. Still enjoyable, but I would perhaps pair this wine with a chocolate featuring a smaller percentage of cacao.



Sampling 3
-2006 Ginko Forest Syrah/Cab blend (3/5) - Spicy notes on the nose, loads of ripe berries on the palate. Firm tannins but the finish was shorter than I expected. Not a lot of depth here, but very pleasant.
-Strawberry truffle (3/5) - milk chocolate with a nice strawberry flavor. However, this reminded me of the Strawberry Quik powder I added to milk as a kid. Not necessarily a negative, but not what I want to think of when sampling a truffle.
-The pairing together (2/5) - These did not taste better together. Interestingly, I had a bit of the Point Wilson blend left in my glass and tried that with the Strawberry truffle - with much better results.


Sampling 4
-2007 NW Totem Cellars Syrah (4/5) - This was opened right before we tried it, and it was still tight. We gave it 15 minutes with swirling in the glass, and it began to open up with notes of wood, coffee, and blackberry. Also a caramel note on the nose that I've found to be common in WA state syrahs. Very pleasant.
-Amaretto milk chocolate truffle (4/5) - I'm a fan of Amaretto liqueur, so this was a no-brainer. I'm glad to report that it was not sickly-sweet as Amaretto flavored desserts can sometimes be. Creamy and a lovely almond flavor.
-The pairing together (4/5) - These were both rather bold in flavor and balanced each other nicely. 



Overall, we had a great time, and recommend it to anyone who loves chocolate. Everyone working there was friendly and we saw a couple of people making truffles - I wanted to join them! 




Thursday, January 20, 2011

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Napa vs. Bordeaux tasting at Esquin

Esquin, a wine shop in South Seattle, hosts free tastings every Thursday night. Tonight's theme was 'Napa vs. Bordeaux.' Now, those of you who know me and my wine tastes know that my preference is New World (domestic) wines. However, I try to keep an open mind as I taste. The selections were as follows in order of tasting. My favorite from each group is highlighted in bold.

Bordeaux:
2009 La Croix Du Duc $9.99
2000 Chateau Ampelia Cotes de Castillon $12.99
2006 Chateau Greysac Medoc $17.99
2006 Pipeau Saint Emillon Grand Cru $26.99

Napa:
2007 Anabella Merlot $12.99
2008 Turnbull Red Wine $17.99
2004 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon $23.99
2006 Ramey Claret $25.99

The Bordeaux wines were mostly dry, with aromas of cherry and overall earthy tones. The Pipeau Saint Emillon Grand Cru was the standout for me, with a very earthy nose,  nice red berry flavor, and a long finish.

The Napa wines were all great values for the price, with fruit forward flavors. The Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. A nice cherry aroma with a hint of vanilla and wood. Very smooth, with a long finish.

The Napa wines as a group were more suited to my taste. No surprise there!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

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Washington vs. Argentina showdown

On a wet dreary winter's night, nothing beats getting together with friends for some wine and conversation. On Friday night we tasted five different wines, along with a dinner of lasagna, green beans and chocolate cheesecake.
I have scored the wines on a scale from 1 star (not recommended) to 5 stars (amazing).

The first two were a couple of favorites from wineries in our great state of Washington:
 2007 Waters Syrah (Columbia Valley) - deep ruby color, beautiful nose with aromas of caramel and raspberries. The taste was fruit forward, but not so big and overpowering as some WA Syrahs can be. Jamie Brown is the winemaker at Waters, and he definitely has a talent for Syrahs. This winery just started a few years ago, and is definitely a rising star. This was my favorite of all the wines sampled. 4 stars.

2003 Wineglass Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Yakima Valley) - due to the age of this wine, we didn't think decanting was necessary. However, this was tight upon opening. After about an hour it tasted completely different. Spicy aromas on the nose, loaded with fruit flavors and nice long finish. Showing even better on the second day. 3 stars on day one - 4 stars on day two.

The other three wines were from Argentina. A friend of mine is getting married in Costa Rica next month, and was asking our opinion on these as possible wedding reception selections:
2007 la Bodega Navarro Correas Cabernet Sauvignon - Tasting immediately after opening yielded a bitter, metallic taste. Some appealing fruit flavors come through, but a clipped finish and the bitterness detracted from the overall enjoyment. Some improvement on day two. 2 stars.

2008 la Bodega Navarro Correas Malbec- A watered down, rather uninspiring Malbec from a region that is known for that grape. The bitterness present in the Cabernet above was also present in the Malbec, but to a lesser extent. Proof positive that not all Malbecs from Argentina are great quality. A pouring on day 2 showed little improvement. 1 star.

2004 la Bodega Navarro Correas Structura Ultra (Red Blend) - The other two wines didn't exactly knock my socks off, so my expectations were not high for this one. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. This red blend is a step up from the other two - similar to a reserve from this winery- and it definitely showed. A nice aroma of raspberries and blueberries on the nose. Well balanced and smooth, with a hint of smoke on the back end. A much longer finish than the other two. 4 stars.

In this showdown, I think Washington had a slight edge!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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Waiting, wishing, hoping...

Long long ago, on a planet far far away...I signed up on the waitlist to be on the Cayuse mailing list. The fact that there is a waitlist for their mailing list is rather humorous in itself. Normally I don't endorse this kind of hype as there are many great wines to be had in WA state that do not require long waits and generous helpings of patience. However, I had the privilege of trying a 2005 En Chamberlin Syrah a couple of years ago and was hooked. This was a bottle, when opened, that I could smell from 3 feet away...and oh what a wine! Earthy and complex, with aromas of black olive and infused with minerality from rocky soil it came from. This wine was not shy!

A few days ago I received an email from the folks at Cayuse - 'We haven't forgotten about you, and your perseverance will be rewarded one day'.

Patience, grasshopper. The wine will be mine one day...and I will write about it when that day comes.