One of the best things about my job has been the opportunity to meet the people behind the wines I love. To be able to ask them questions about how they make their wine, what makes it unique compared to the millions of other wine brands out there, to ask why they make their wine in a certain way and to learn the secrets and stories behind their wines.
Every wine has a story, and it is always interesting to meet the storyteller! This coming week you will have a few opportunities to meet the "storytellers" behind some of our favorite wines from the Southern Hemisphere.
Tuesday March 29th we will be hosting a double feature! Representatives from the Allen Scott Family Wines from New Zealand will be here, along with the Australian winery Vinaceous Wines. They will be pouring their wines and discussing their unique winemaking styles and philosophy. They will both be joining us from 5:30 to 7:00pm, stop by and meet your winemakers!
On Saturday, April 2nd we will be speaking with one of our favorite winemakers in the world, Bruwer Raats! He will be hosting a wine tasting live via Skype from his winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Come hear a short crash course in South African wine by Andy Hale of the Asheville School of Wine and stay to learn about Raats wines from the man himself! We will taste several of Bruwer's wines while he tells us about how he made them. Bring your questions about South African winemaking and ask them to one of South Africa's most famous winemakers. It really is a rare opportunity! The tasting starts at High-Noon on Saturday! Come out and start your weekend off right!
I still can't believe it! Monday afternoon we had THE Andre Mack, you know, the Sommelier, Author and Winemaker pouring his wines at here at Metro Wines!
If you haven't heard of Andre or tasted his wines, check them out. In my opinion, they are some of the most innovative wines coming out of Oregon currently. He poured his Rosé called "Love Drunk", his Pinot Noir called "O.P.P.", and his red blend called "Horseshoes and Handgrenades". The crowd loved the wines and loved listening to Andre tell his story! Andre stayed long enough to sign some bottles and then he was off to a wine dinner at the Junction. Check out his website here http://moutonnoirwines.com/, and while you are there, get some of his T-Shirts. They are some of the funniest wine-geeky shirts I've seen! We still have signed bottles available of the three wines he poured. Get some before they are gone!
Next week will be a good time to come by Metro Wines if you like free wine tastings! The Asheville School of Wine will be offering three wine education classes with tastings hosted by wineries PradoRey and Rodney Strong as well as the famous importer Votto Vines.
Monday brings PradoRey from Spain, a winery established in 1503. They've been making wine longer than I have even been drinking it! If you enjoy the Tempranillos from Rioja, then try them from lesser known, but equally esteemed Ribera del Duero, and stay around for their Verdejos from Rueda!
Wednesday brings Rodney Strong in from California. I was familiar with their cheaper, grocery store line of wines, but was really impressed by their higher end ones! I tasted the "Rockaway" Cabernet next the Joseph Phelps Insignia and liked the Rockaway better!
If only all the wine that I drank helped out a cause, the world would be a much better place indeed! Fortunately for us, there is a way to help out our Public Schools with the wine that we drink. From 3:00-5:00pm on Valentines Day "Reds for Ed" will be having a wine tasting at Metro Wines to raise money for our School System. So, for $25 + tax, you can drink great wine and support our community at the same time!
Try these fantastic wines!
Paitin Barbera 2013
One of our favorites in the shop! Made by a winery which predates the Renaissance, it is likely that Caravaggio enjoyed this wine himself. Barbera is the “everyday” wine of Italy’s Piedmont, but is capable of great complexity and beauty. Medium bodied, crisp and earthy, with flavors of cranberry, sour cherry and dusty strawberries, this wine is an excellent Pinot Noir alternative.
Chateau Monestier LaTour Bergerac Rouge
A classic Bordeaux blend from the only American, woman winemaker in Bordeaux, Michelle D’Aprix! Merlot based, with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, this wine is sure to please your palette whether you prefer Bordeaux or California! Flavors of blackberry, smoke, plum, leather and red cherry.
Maria Mora Reserva
Portugal has been making fine wine for hundreds of years, but has only started exporting their dry table wines within the past few decades. Because they are less known, they are probably the best values coming out of Europe today! This is a blend of Portugal’s national grape, Touriga Nacional, blended with Syrah and Alicante Bouchet. Big and bold, with black pepper and spice. This wine sells for $36 in New York, but we are able to get it for far less because it is imported into Asheville!
A fantastic wine from a very small producer in Coster Del Segre, Spain. This is a blend of Syrah, Tempranillo and Garnatcha. Bold and powerful, with exotic spices and rich, jammy fruit. If you like Napa Cabernets, you will love this little gem from Spain!
I have always been a fan of Organic and Biodynamic farming for wine and welcome a return to the "old days" of winemaking, where wine was made from grapes and wasn't a manufactured product. (if you ever want to give yourself nightmares, do an internet search for "list of approved additives for wine"). Biodynamic wines are the way to go!
Also, I love their list of new wine regions that are thriving due to global warming. I look forward to trying those soon! They forgot about Austria and Germany, however. A few decades ago it was hard to get grapes to ripen here, now they are starting to produce incredible, powerful reds with great earthy qualities! Try out my favorite, Tinhof's "Zwei" Zweigelt around $18 and the Koehler Ruprecht Pinot Noir around $20. They are even starting to grow hot weather loving grapes like Syrah!
Furthermore, tthe future of wine will involve llearning lots of new regions other than Napa, Chianti, and Bordeaux. There are lots of new wine appelations popping up all over the world that are just as good as the more famous regions, at a fraction of the cost.
If you like the wines from Spain, try Potugeuse wines! They are practically giving them away right now in order to get onto the world's wine scene. For a wine that will knock your socks off at an everyday price, try Maria Mora Reserva around $15 or for a great alternative to expensive Cabernet, try Julia Kemper's Touriga Nacional at $21.
If Barolo is your poison, seek out some Aglianico from Campania. Try Fontanavecchia's from Taburno. It drinks a lot like a Barolo for less than $18!
If you prefer French wine, look to some of the new appelations in the Languedoc. Try the wines from Bandol, Maures, and Pic St. Loup. They are all similar to a good Rhone blend, but a bit more powerful and a touch more earthy. Try La Croix Peyrassol at $15 and Ermitage for $18. You will definitely get more complexity and flavor than you expect for that price!
We may have to learn a lot of new regions for fine wine in the near future, although it sounds like they will be made more responsibly and with less chemical additives than some of the "bulk" wines we currently have to sidestep. The future looks bright indeed!
Staff at Skype picked up an online post by Kat McReynolds of MountainX and contacted MetroWines. "I’m always on the lookout for interesting stories showcasing original ways in which people use Skype and wine tasting over Skype totally grabbed my attention,"said Natacha Brown, Skype Blog Editor.
The story will be promoted to the 5 million followers on Skype Twitter and to Skype Facebook that hosts a whopping 30 million followers.
"We plan to broaden our use of Skype to bring winemakers from around the world to MetroWines," said Gina Trippi, co-owner of MetroWines. "We also plan to make our Blind Tasting League (http://www.blindtastingleague.com/) available to participants remotely through Skype."
Here at the school, we are fortunate to not only have one but two Aglianicos of tremendously different styles!
The first is Terra di Vulcanos from Basilicata. Basilicata is basically the "ankle" of Italy's boot, and currently isn't very well known for fine wine production. The only area that actually does produce wine for export is along the slopes of the volcano, Mount Vulture. Aglianico thrives in the volcanic soil here. This wine is medium bodied and somewhat fruity, with flavors of raspberry, smoke and grape bubble gum.
My absolute favorite is the Fontanavecchia Aglianico from Taburno in Campania. Campania is located in the lower "shin" of italy's boot, near where you might kick a soccer ball if you were using Italy instead of your foot. This wine compares much closer to Barolo to me than the Vulture, with flavors of sour cherry, tobacco, and earth with a bracing shot of tannin to add structure. If you have ever wished that you could drink Barolo every night, this will get you pretty close without having to take out a second mortgage on your house!
Aglianico is probably my favorite obscure grape to recommend to Italian wine fans and I really can't think of a better pairing for a dry-aged ribeye steak! It was also a favorite of the ancient Romans. If you happened to find yourself in an ancient Roman restaurant and ordered from the reserve list, you would likely have been served an Aglianico! Do as the Romans did, drink Aglianico!
Well the Asheville Wine & Food festival has come and gone again, and as always it was wonderful to attend! The Asheville School of Wine was there with blind tasting for both wine and beer. I was thrilled to be asked back to demonstrate the basics of deductive blind tasting not once, but twice to two seperate groups of people! Our resident beer expert Anita Riley showed a sold out crowd that blind tasting isn't just for wine, it can be done with Beer as well.
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend and especially to Sommelier Eric Crane who educated and entertained the crowd with me! If you missed the blind tastings at the Festival, fear not! Our Blind Tasting League meets twice a month at Metro Wines, the first wednesday is for Wine and the third wednesday is for Beer! Call ahead to make reservations or buy tickets online at www.blindtastingleague.com.
As summer is drawing to a close and the air is starting to cool, I reach less and less for my insubstantial Vinho Verdes and my summery Sauvignon Blancs, and look for something with a little more meat on it's bones! When I'm looking for a white wine, I reach for a bottle from Alsace.
Alsace is one of my favorite regions in the world, and one of the most unique and interesting in France, in my opinion. Sandwiched between France and Germany far to the North East, it has gone back and forth in ownership between these two countries. Because of that, it has a hybrid culture. Not quite German and not solely French.
The wines of the region reflect this cultural mish-mash, you will find classic German grapes like Riesling and Sylvaner grown and produced in a French style. For example, the Rieslings of Germany wrestle the line between fruit and acid. They will often leave their wines with residual sugar in your glass in order to balance out the searing acidity that is characteristic of the grape. The Alsatian Rieslings are made more like a good Sancerre; powerful, acidic, dry and with enough authority to stand up to fine French cuisine!
The climate in this area is very cool, it lies almost at the same latitude as Champagne! This encourages the grapes to develop high levels of natural acidity, a must have for a good food wine! The Vosges mountain range to the West creates a rain-shadow effect that keeps the region dry, making Alsace one of the coolest and driest wine growing areas in France. This causes the grapes to struggle and to reach their roots far down into the subsoil to find water, getting into the rich minerals that provide so much flavor to these wines.
When you are browsing the Alsatian section in your local wine shop, or perusing the wine list at a restaurant, don't be intimidated by the German names. Sylvaner makes terrific wine that can be light and tart, to somewhat rich and oily. Gewürztraminer is a bouquet of potpourri in a glass, full of orange blossom, rose petals, lychee and exotic spices. The Pinot Gris of Alsace are a far cry from the light Pinot Grigios of Northern Italy, these are full bodied and incredibly aromatic! But the real gem of the region is Riesling. This is not your cloyingly sweet Liebfraumilch from the grocery store, these are powerfully structured wines, full of minerality and bracing acidity, with a nose full of orange zest and honey. Have no fear if you dislike sweet wine, all of these wines are dry and frequently overlooked. It's time to give Riesling another chance!
Andy Hale of The Asheville School of Wine is going LIVE on WLOS Saturday Morning. He will be discussing some wines that are essential for summertime, and some food pairings for each of them. Tune in at 7:25am. If you miss it, you can view under the news tab by clicking on News13 This Morning.
Order a glass of Merlot in a wine bar and someone will surely quote the movie Sideways, "I'm not drinking anymore f-ing Merlot"! Yes, we've all heard that one and it hasn't gotten stale at all in the past 10 years or so.
So why does everyone hate on Merlot? Is it just a terrible grape that produces foul-tasting wine? I mean, the French grow more Merlot than any other grape, dont they? Didn't they know how to make wine at one point?
It all started with 60 Minutes. They ran an episode called the "French Paradox", where they questioned why the French eat buttery, salty, fatty food and smoke cigarettes all day but still out-live us. The answer, they said, lay in the glass of red wine that they consume with their meals, which is loaded with the antioxidant Resveratrol. This, according to the episode, extends their lives and allows them to eat as much escargot as they like!
The effect was almost immediate. All across America, people were looking to take up red wine for health reasons. They were looking for a wine that was approachable, fruity, easy to drink and relatively inexpensive. They found Merlot, with it's easy to pronounce name, it's willingness to ripen quickly and it's lack of an aging requirement, and it was an instant star!
The problem was, that the demand for a glass of Merlot for health reasons meant that people cared less about the quality of the wine they were getting. As demand increased, quality slipped more and more. You see, with X amount of land to grow grapes, you can make a little bit of great wine or a lot of mediocre wine depending on how many grapes you allow a vine to produce. If you cut down, say, half of the grape clusters that are starting to develop, the vine will put more energy into the remaining grapes and they will be richer and tastier. This is one of the reasons that "premium" wines are more expensive. Winemakers in the 90's started pumping out as much Merlot as their vineyards could make, and focused solely on the amount of bottles they were filling instead of the quality of the wine inside it. Why bother making a beautiful wine when people will buy it and drink it regardless?
Sideways called them out on it.
After Sideways, winemakers ripped out their Merlot and planted the grape that the movie had championed, Pinot Noir, and started over-producing it in the same way that they had with the Merlot. Which, by the way, to grow Pinot Noir properly, you have to treat it like a baby. It needs just the right amount of sunlight and moisture, the right soil composition and if you look at it wrong it will curl up and die, or at least make really watery, unpleasant wine. It's a bit of a diva, and a terrible grape to try to over-produce!
But thanks to Sideways, anyone who is still growing Merlot with it's horrible reputation, loves the grape and is really out to make an amazing wine. You could say that Sideways saved Merlot with its reality check. So thanks to the movie, not only is Merlot being made better than ever, it is also tremendously affordable since most people think it is a faux-pas to order it. This is good news for people who like to drink good wine, but don't want to spend a lot of money on it!
Oh, and remember that bottle of wine that Paul Giamatti's character was carrying around like a baby throughout the entire movie, waiting for the right time to open it, only to crack it open at the end of the movie and drink it with a burger and fries? That was Chateau Cheval Blanc, and it is mostly Merlot.
To see the saga of Merlot acted out by the winemakers of Gundlach Bundschu, watch this video! It plays out like the plot of Boogie Nights a little bit, but with less sex and more wine. Who knew that Merlot could be so dramatic!
It wasn't long ago that when you saw a glass of pink wine, you could be relatively sure that it would taste saccharin-sweet, with flavors of cotton candy, strawberry jelly and regret. I can assure you, this is not the case anymore! They are a must-have for your summertime pool-lounging, BBQing, and sitting out in the sunshine in general!
Modern, dry Rosés are crisp and tart, light and fresh, with just the slightest hint of tart Raspberry, under-ripe Strawberry, and even Lemon and Lime. They range from pale in color, delicate and light, to richer, more robust and flavorful. They come out every year in mid Spring, and are usually gone by Fall. Something to keep you cool during the summer before they are gone until next year.
I also find them to be phenomenally versatile wines to pair with food. They can be light and delicate enough to pair with shrimp and light fish, crisp enough to pair with pork chops, and I truly can't come up with a better wine to keep your grilled BBQ chicken company!
Rosés can be made by mixing red and white wine, but are usually made by a brief amount of contact between the juice and the skins of the grapes, which stains the wine pink. The longer you leave the skins on the juice, the darker the resulting Rosé. They can be made from virtually any red wine grape, and the wine will taste different depending on which grape is used.
In short, if you haven't tried Rosé wine in a while, you owe it to yourself to taste a few. They are a far cry from White Zinfandel or Mateus! After all, France drinks more Rosé than they drink white wine!
A great time to taste a variety of Rosés is this weekend at Metro Wines. We will be tasting through our Rosé wines this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (6/5/15-6/7/15) all day. Stop by and see why I'm so excited about these wines!
It's almost time for the second run of our wildly successful wine class for seniors, taught through UNC Asheville's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This 6 class series will start with the basics of wine and run up through some advanced wine knowledge. You will learn the basics of food and wine pairing, grape varietal characteristics, tips to help you get the most out of your wine, basic geography of wine regions, and even some secrets from wine industry insiders! All while tasting a flight of different wines with each class!
Sign up today at http://olliasheville.com/courses/30011-2. Space is very limited and we expect to sell out quickly! Dates of the class are June 15, 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 2015, from 2:00pm-4:00pm. The cost for the course is $72.