Thursday, September 25, 2014

#WineStudio Session XVII Rinascimento Rising

#WineStudio Session XVII Rinascimento Rising

“Many of the wines I work with are farmed either organically or biodynamically and are naturally fermented using only native yeasts, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically good; the wines are good because of the blood, sweat and tears that are shed by the producers working with nature to make something great.”
~ Justin Gallen, owner Rinascimento Wine Company

Small business owner, wine importer, Italian-centric, family man and trusted wine friend of PROTOCOL wine studio, this month’s #WineStudio looked at Justin’s early experiences in the business, what it meant going out on his own, and how that changed and morphed as he made it work with a young family. what drove him to become independent. Justin is passionate about what he does, putting boots to the floor and receiver to the ear in search of wines (and wineries and winemakers) that meet his exacting paradigm. In love with Italian wines, Justin imports, what else, Italian wines through Rinascimento Wine Company - we were lucky enough to get samples and taste a few of his producers.

Wine Tasting Notes:

G.D. Vajra, Piemonte (non-certified organically grown grapes)

The estate of GD Vajra is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo. Its vineyards are planted with Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera at heights of 350-400 meters, which result in distinctive and aromatic wines. The Vajra family is a group of dedicated, passionate winegrowers, who are also grounded and sensitive to the human role in winemaking. Their philosophy remains faithful to the traditional and authentic wines of Piemonte, and in essence they regard themselves as the instruments that enable nature and the environment full self-expression through their wines.
Barolo Albe 2009: A blend of Nebbiolo grapes from three different vineyards at three different altitudes, dry-farmed sustainably; hand picked; aged in Slavonian oak barrels for approximately 36 months; dark ruby red color; dusty plum, resin, dark cherry, and vanilla aromas; smoke, dark plums, bright red fruit, and toast flavors; medium mouthfeel laced with bright acidity leading into a tannic finish; % ABV; cork closure; SRP $38. 
Barbera d'Alba DOC 2011: 100% Barbera; a blend of six di erent terroirs; dry-farmed sustainably; malolactic fermentation and aging in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks for approximately 12 months; pretty dark ruby red with lighter edges; very closed upon opening - poured through aerator twice, opened up quite a bit; earthy dark cherry, blackberry and spice aromas; black cherry, plum, cassis and licorice flavors; lighter mouthfeel with mild tannins and good acidity; 14.5% ABV; cork closure; SRP $23.
Musto Carmelitano, Basilicata (certified organically grown grapes)

Musto Carmelitano is a family winery run by Miss Elisabetta Musto Carmelitano, a passionate and reliable entrepreneur. With the help of all her family she has been able to invest in the quality of their wine. Aglianico del Vulture grapes are selected very carefully, hand-picked and grown by taking inspiration from the biological and organic agriculture. Musto Carmelitano winery is extremely careful with the transformation of the grape into wine so that all of its precious organoleptic traits are preserved. Grapes come from different vineyards: Pian del Moro (90 years old), Serra del Prete (45 years old) and Vernavà (25 years old). To accomplish this, they avoid all clarifying and filtering processes and do not allow any type of stabilization procedures. Musto Carmelitano wines are made with traditional methods, with great respect for the environment and protecting consumers interests.
Serra del Prete 2010 Aglianico del Vulture: original taste and smell straight up paint thinner, thought we had a corked bottle; after letting it sit, seemed to smell and taste better, so continued on; dark looking wine but actually bright ruby center with darker edges; dusty stewed prune, bright red berry, olive, and herb aromas; tart red fruit, earth, mushroom, and herb flavors; tannic finish; 14% ABV; cork closure; SRP $20. Paired with pepperoni pizza - nice complement to tomato sauce and melted cheese. Second pour also started with a strange smell, nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol, but improved in the glass. This is a wine I would definitely decant or aerate in the future.
Cirelli, Abruzzo (certified organically grown grapes)

"I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a well off family which allow me to spent a fantastic and dispassionate childhood and to study in the most prestigious schools in EU; My grandparents and my parents spent all their entire life on bettering the social, cultural, economical status of the family, cutting all the links with their origin: the soil. Once I got the graduation in BA I decided to invest my little money on a farm in Abruzzo, the so-called “green region of Europe”. Since 2003 I am therefore trying to reestablish a link between myself and the origin of my Family because I am more then convinced of the goodness of the values within the farming. In fact there is a phrase that I love (but I don’t remember the author): “the farmer is the closest man to God”. This is not to say that I feel close to God, but I would like my children to grow up with a better understanding of the moral values of the soil. That’s all." 
~ Francesco Cirelli
Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2013: certified organically grown grapes; skin contact for 10-12 hours; dark rosé color; cassis, subtle watermelon, and strawberry aromas; cranberry, tart red cherry, bit of saline and crabapple flavors; medium mouthfeel with plenty of acidity; tart red fruit finish; 12.5 % ABV; twist-off closure; SRP $18. This wine tasted and smelled differently at a variety of temperatures, opening up quite a bit from refrigerator cold to room temp.
PROTOCOL #WineStudio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and wine tasting, with discussions on producers, grapes, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food and wine matching and what all this means to us as wine drinkers.

These wines were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Whiskey River BBQ, Mt Prospect, IL

Whiskey River BBQ

Whiskey River is a throwback to the old roadhouses, full of old beer can collections, rock and roll photos, and every inch crammed with signs, guitars and maybe a taxidermied animal or two. Add an endless number of flat-screen TVs, and the updated roadhouse is complete.  Outdoor seating is available, with a view of the forest preserve across the street.

No booths at this restaurant, just plenty of tables, chairs, and bar stools (perhaps to allow for some late night dancing should it happen).  A second bar upstairs allows for more space and room for private parties (as was happening the evening we were there). Rock and country music comprise the playlist, maintaining the honky-tonk vibe.

Whiskey River BBQ

Plenty of variety on the food and drinks menus, though much of it leans towards bar and grill fare. Much of the typical fare has been tweaked, like the nachos, which include chili and coleslaw, along with a cheese sauce, very tasty update. Our other appetizer, Southwestern Egg Rolls, were tasty but a bit soft, could have used some crunch. We stayed away from what might be the world's saltiest popcorn, though I bet it would go down easily sitting at the bar with cold beers. On the drinks menu, mixed drinks lean towards the classic long island iced tea in a mason jar options, with draft beer, craft beer, craft sodas, and some wine rounding out the choices. 

Whiskey River BBQ

At a BBQ joint, you gotta try the barbecue, right? We decided to share the Combo Big Momma Sampler, 1/2 slab of ribs, 1/2 lb pulled pork, 1/4 lb brisket, with 3 sauces to try out: Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City - we each had our favorite, though mixing them ended up being a fun part of the meal. The meat was all fall-off- the-bone tender, all tasty, with the brisket being my favorite that night. Sides included Cajun Green Beans (crisp but not particularly spicy), Alabama Slaw, Spicy Bacon Potato Salad (very good but again not very spicy), and Cornbread with whipped butter, which was flat out fantastic. I'm sure the rest of the menu is equally good, but I'd order this (or the larger Big Daddy Sampler, which also includes chicken) again in a heartbeat. We saved room for dessert, opting for the Brownie Sundae Bowl, very tasty, though I'd leave off the maraschino cherry and off nuts for those inclined. No espresso, but straight up coffee id available.

If you're in the mood for roadhouse ambiance, rock and country music, and tasty barbecue all wrapped up in one spot, then make Whiskey River BBQ your destination. Plenty of food and drink options and, if you're a sports fan, plenty of games on to keep you occupied.

Whiskey River BBQ and Honkytonk on Urbanspoon

This meal was comped for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pairing Guide: Wine and Fall Flavors [Infographic]

Fall is cider and football and beer, and classic fall flavors: pecan and pumpkin pies, caramel apples, and other classics. Here's an info graphic to get your taste buds salivating with anticipation. Will the pairings work? Only one way to find out - taste!

Wine and Fall Flavors
Infographic courtesy of Shari's Berries

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thirsty Thursday: Boneshaker Zinfandel 2012

"Imagine. Bumping down a cobblestone street on a wrought iron bicycle. Thump, thump…thump. Thrill seekers of the past called this kind of ride a Boneshaker. Your teeth rattled and your bones shook. You felt it. This is our BONESHAKER. A full bodied Zin."

Boneshaker Zinfandel 2012

When I was offered a sample of the Hahn Family Wines for review, it didn't take long to respond with a resounding yes! Lodi Zinfandel from a group known for their work with high quality, small, family owned, estate brands? Heck yeah.

I couldn't find much information on the winery itself - their website appears to be for a vintage bicycle shop, though further research shows that Cycles Gladiator actually produced the Boneshaker Zinfandel in an earlier incarnation. Interesting...

Tasting Notes:
Grapes from sustainably farmed vineyards; 88% Zinfandel, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon; aged in 70% new French oak, balance neutral; Deep ruby with lighter edges; smoke, smoke, and more smoke, on the nose and in the glass; cassis, red cherry, and vanilla aromas; dark plum, earth, mocha, and dark cherry flavors (almost cola-like); medium mouthfeel, decent acidity into a slightly tannic finish; drinking nicely now but might be better in a few years; tasted with beef ravioli, nice combination with the smokiness of the meat and wine; 15% ABV; 2500 cases produced; SRP $25.
BONUS!

Boneshaker Zinfandel 2012

The wine label is GLOW-IN-THE-DARK! How cool is that? I have no idea what useful function that brings, but it is an extra step that didn't need to be taken and makes the Boneshaker crew extra cool.

This wine was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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