Comings and goings

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     It's been quiet in here as of late, hasn't it? For good reason, I promise. The end of February and most of March have been very busy for us at Metro Wines. 

     One of our favorite winemakers, Michele D'Aprix, was here not very long ago. Michele is the only American woman wine maker in Bordeaux! And she was actually here IN our store! Not Skype, or Facebook Live, but in the very flesh, enchanting us with stories about life in Bordeaux, and how she comes up with names for her wines. We had a significant turnout that evening, and I'm sure many of you had the pleasure of meeting Michele.

     We also had a fantastic tasting featuring the wines of Donkey & Goat. Based in California, they take a very holistic, "hands off" approach to wine making: natural, sustainable, and biodynamic practices at the vineyard; in the cellar, they don't add or take anything from the wine, and they ever only use minimal effective sulphur. They don't stabilize, fine, or filter their wines at bottling. The result is a world of flavors that you don't usually get from these varietals, with a fantastic texture to boot. And, from what I hear, no donkies, nor goats, are ever harmed in the making of the wine.

     I had the pleasure of being invited to the Beth HaTephila Congregation to do a presentation on Kosher wines. This was a great learning opportunity for me. Admittedly, I fell under the umbrella of everyone who believed that all Kosher wines are boiled, and of poor quality, because I was told that long ago, and never questioned it. It was eye-opening, as well as pleasantly surprising to find out that, while some Kosher wines are pasteurized, most are not, and as far as quality goes, there's no difference between a Kosher wine and its conventional counterpart. Chateau Valandraud double magnum, you say? $3,000 at auction. Quality, pedigree, and the history are there to rival the most legendary wines on earth. By the way, that's a picture of the Golan Heights at the top of this post. 

     We have also been making our Auction winners very happy with their tastings. Among the themes for these tastings are "Fun, but not weird," "Wine for Bourbon drinkers," and "Greek wines you've never heard of, or heard of but haven't tried." Retsina, anyone? 

    These are but a few of the activities that have kept me away from the keyboard here at Metro. While things don't seem to be slowing down (which is a good thing), I will try to keep the updates more consistently frequent.  Until next time.

Cheers!  

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Valentine's Day dinner at the Princess Anne Hotel

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     Bubbles and amuse-bouche; Pinot Gris and Squash soup; Bourgogne Rouge and Duck, fennel, and beet salad; Cabernet and steak. The pairings were fantastically executed (I would know- I was there!), and ensured love remained in the air long into the evening. So did the entire staff at the Princess Anne Hotel, without whom this would not have been possible, nor as successful or enjoyable.

     With every new course came a new wine. Tom Leiner of Grapevine Distributors and I introduced these delights as they were poured, offering small bits of information about the wines and the people who make them. To my relief, it was well received- safe to say we made acceptable entertainers.

     For my part, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with every guest, meeting new faces, and sharing a little of what we do here at Metro. It was my first of such events, and I should like to know it won't be the last. Certainly a memorable experience!

     Again, infinte thanks to the Princess Anne Hotel for hosting the event, their kitchen and wait staff for the impeccable service, and Tom Leiner and Grapevine Distributors for the libations. I had a great time working the event, and look forward to doing it again soon!

Cheers!

 

This was originally posted on the Wine Blog at the Metro Wines Asheville website.

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Wine Basics Class

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     Another week, another class! This time we went back to the drawing board, to expand on the finer details and cover the lesser-known bits of the basics, beyond fermentation, balance and complexity, and typical flavor profiles. For instance, did you know that many of the wines that you've drunk have gone through Malolactic conversion? You may associate this term with white wines, such as Chardonnay and Viognier, and the distinct buttery flavor and creamy texture it imparts on the wine. What's less known about MLF (as this conversion is usually referred to), is that nearly all reds will undergo this process, so it isn't considered a distinctive or differentiating quality. To showcase the effects of MLF, we tasted Talbott Chardonnay from Monterey, California.

    We also covered "lees". Lees are, in simple terms, the dead yeast cells post-fermentation, when they've essentially eaten themselves. This may sound odd, but for some wines, keeping these little critters can enhance the texture, and add complexity to the flavor. Muscadet, legendary friend of oysters, is a great example of a wine aged on the lees, and very often the words "sur lie" will be printed on the label. Albariño and Champagne often get cozy with their defunct friends as well, except it isn't explicit on the packaging. We did in fact taste a wonderful Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie to identify those delicious bready, brioche flavors, as well as the incredible texture that results from this, and we learned that every time we heard the words "autolytic character" this is what was being talked about.

     These are just two of the topics we covered in addition to oak (French vs. American, toast levels, size of the barrel), extraction, terroir, variety vs. varietal (yup, there is a difference!), decanting (when and how to do it), clones, crossings, hybrids, and mutations (Pinot Noir, Gris, and Blanc are the same grape with varying degrees of pigment). We even discussed how to interact with your sommelier at the restaurant to get your wine in perfect drinking condition! To wrap up the evening and, well, enjoy ourselves a bit, we chose a fantastic example of a crossing: Austrian Zweigelt. Delicate flavors of red currants, raspberries, violets, lavender, and earth were just the perfect kiss to send us off.

Cheers!

For more information on our classes, as well as our schedule, visit www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com

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Traveling Vicariously - Tuscany

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     Wine can be, and often is, an expression of the place where it's made; a representation of the local taste and culture, a sense of 'what grows together goes together.' As part of our ongoing Italy class, and thanks to Mark Orsini of Orsini Wines, we tasted our way Tuscany. This means we got really friendly with Sangiovese, as well as other much more rare, but no less tasty varietals: Malvasia frizzante; a Vermentino blended with Fiano, Verdicchio, Incrocio Manzoni, and Petit Manseng; a Bordeaux left-bank style beauty with the kingly name of Atis. While these uncommon wines showcased Italian artistry and creativity, the more familiar names reminded us of the power of tradition: Chianti Classico, Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 

     And then, there was Jassarte. Oh, Jassarte! Where old meets new, tradition meets experimentation, and the diversity of the world grows in one small lot of land. This wine is a blend of thirty (yes, THIRTY) grapes, all contributing the same 3.3% to the bottle, with origins that go beyond Italy, both in location and in history. France, Spain, and Greece lend their flavors, as well as the Saperavi grape from Georgia! Saperavi was found in amphorae dating back over 8,000 years, and it is still planted in Georgia today. All of this amounts to a wine that is powerful, but not opulent or hedonistic; complex, yet approachable; great friend of food, and a pleasure to enjoy on its own. 

     This experience would not have reached such heights without Mark and his wines, and Mr. Michele Scienza of Guado al Melo, who was beyond kind to connect via Skype with us so late in the day and take us through the history, land, fruit, and flavor of his little piece of Tuscany. For that, the team at Metro Wines are infintely thankful!

Cheers!

    -Juan.

*For more information on our classes, visit www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com

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