Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas

pgpa11_1Nightcap #2:  Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Les Princes Abbés 2011, Alsace, France $18

Allô Alsace! When Americans think about French wine, Bordeaux comes to most minds. For others, it's Burgundy. And, of course, nothing could be more French than Champagne. It seems like the cool, northeasterly region nestled between the Vosges Mountains and Germany known as Alsace is oft overlooked. But Alsace has exceptional wines, especially if you're a lover of whites, and deserves its due attention. And although one need look no further than the quality of its wine to fall in love with Alsace, this region has endeared itself to me by being home to the very first biodynamic estate in France. It is still a hotbed of organic and biodynamic grape growing today. Domaines Schlumberger practices both organic and biodynamic viticulture, and they plough and work the vineyards with the estate's four horses.

One of my favorite grape varieties from this region is pinot gris. For all you lovers of pinot grigio out there, it is the same grape. What creates the difference in taste, for the most part,  is the soil and the climate. Alsatian pinot gris tends to have more powerful, riper aromatics, and a weightier mouthfeel. This beauty from Domaines Schlumberger is no exception. The warmth of the wine is foretold by its light golden hue (the winemaker compares it to buttercups), while the titillating aromatics announce the lively grapefruit and pear flavors within, and the hint of honey that adds to the slightly creamy mouthfeel. Although historically fermented to dryness, the wines of Alsace today often contain some residual sugar due to the changing climate. This wine has a hint of sweetness to it, which provides the perfect complement to foods with a slight kick to them, such as Thai or Szechuan Chinese. I personally enjoyed it with sushi and would not hesitate to serve it as an apéritif. And who doesn't love the elegance of the flute d'Alsace, the traditional long, tapered green bottle, a reminder of Alsace's Germanic history?

And the Winner is…

The results are in and, although I would like to say I am shocked, I am not. Winetwits has just announced that, by a 2 to 1 margin, the 2009 Barone Fini Pinot Grigio was favored over the 2009 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio in the Pinot Grigio Taste Challenge held on March 24. To read WINE’s tasting notes on the challenge, please see our blog from March 25. The event, tweets and twitpics can all be viewed at

Blind Wine Tasting for 50+ In My Kitchen, Virtually Speaking

In the ultimate social media networking experience, a friend and I joined winetwits and over 50 twitter members in a virtual wine tasting last night. Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini, the producer of Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, was present at the Robert Smith Hotel in New York to conduct a blind wine tasting – Barone Fini versus an unknown Pinot Grigio. As the host guided the participants through the tasting, more than 50 wine experts and enthusiasts conducted their own tastings at home simultaneously with a live stream of the tasting at the hotel and tweeted their comments using the hashtag #tastechallenge. Giovanni began with a brief history of the now 150 year old Italy. He then spoke of terroir. He next led everyone through a blind tasting of the two wines. Armed with tasting mats and tasting note cards, virtual participants tweeted their thoughts throughout the presentation and the tastings – everything from chat about wine coasters to in depth critiques of the wines. After both wines had been tasted, participants were asked to vote for their favorite. Several minutes later, the brown paper bag clad bottles were unveiled and their contents revealed. But before I tell you what was inside, here is WINE’s tasting notes on the two wines:

Wine #1 – Light, straw yellow color with excellent clarity. The nose gave hints of lemons and apples. The flavor showed crisp acidity with notes of sour apples. Light, smooth, mineralic, acidic, well-balanced.

Wine#2 – This wine had a faint, chartreuse tinge to it. Although perfectly acceptable, the clarity was not as good as Wine #1. The nose was bigger on this wine, evidencing more fruit flavors. As was expected, the wine was bigger bodied, with more aggressive tastes of green apples. The fruit forward taste gave way to a slightly tart, almost bitter flavor, the fruit and bitterness lingering on the tongue for some time.

In Wine Institute of New England’s opinion, Wine #1 was a truer, more representative expression of Pinot Grigio. It was light, crisp, acidic, and thirst-quenching. This wine would pair well with lighter fare, including oysters and other shellfish. Wine #2 was fuller bodied, fruitier, also acidic although not quite as well-balanced. I believe many wine drinkers who enjoy a slightly bolder taste than the typical Pinot Grigio would be happy selecting this wine to pair with seafood seasoned with slightly bolder flavors.

It was WINE’s guess that Wine #2 was the Barone Fini Pinot Grigio. We were correct. Wine #1 was Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Both wines hale from Valdadige. Although both wines were perfectly quaffable, Wine #1 was a truer and better expression of what a Pinot Grigio should be. All tasting notes were made without regard to price. Of course, price does need to be taken into account and the price of his wine was something that Giovanni certainly felt was a key selling point. The Barone Fini runs about $12 per bottle, whereas the Santa Margherita will set you back closer to $24. When all is said and done, it’s nice to have choices.

We will report the results of the vote as soon as we have word.