Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The Re(night)cap with Afterword

The nightcaps we posted are good all year long

With any of these you will never go wrong

In case you missed one we’ve reposted them here

With one afterword, coming sometime next year…

imageEpilogue: Oktopusake Premium Junmai Sake, Connecticut

On the rare occasions I’m not drinking wine with sushi, I opt for sake instead. Sake is a perfect pairing with sushi and, since it is a rice wine, I can still call it research. I was very excited to learn that there is a local company working on perfecting their own sake. Oktopusake will soon be offering three varieties of their premium junmai sake to Connecticut consumers: Sun – a traditional dry sake; Moon – an unfiltered version (think milky white and slightly sweet); and Stars – a specialty reserve sake that will be as black as squid ink because it will be tinted with, well…squid ink! We will keep you posted on Oktopusake’s progress and are very much looking forward to seeing this new local product in Connecticut stores and restaurants in 2014.



Re(night)cap: One of the questions I encounter the most as a wine educator is “What’s your favorite wine?” I confess, it’s a question I’ve come to dread because I always feel like I’m disappointing the inquisitor. My answer usually goes something like this: “I don’t really have a favorite. It depends on the day, the time of year, the company in which I find myself, and any gustatory delights with which I may be pairing the wine.”  If really pushed, I’ll tell them that I am a Champagne girl. This seems to provide them with a little more satisfaction. But the truth is my favorite wine changes on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. And I am always waiting to find my next favorite wine. The beauty of the wine world is that there is always more to explore. So, here I will present a list of my 12 favorite wines right now for drinking and gifting during the holidays, one day at a time for the next 12 days.

A Votre Santé!

For the full list of 12 nightcaps, click here: Nightcap Recap






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?

When New and Old Worlds Collide

I had the pleasure of attending my first wine tasting event at Divine Wine Emporium in Niantic last Wednesday. The Emporium is a liquor store with a “learning center” in the back for wine events. The store is well laid out, warm, friendly and interesting. Little touches catch one’s eye, like the collection of antique wine bottle openers at one end of the store. The owner, Ken Turcotte, is knowledgeable and passionate. After perusing the shelves, I headed for the back room. The event was packed, every seat was filled and bodies lined the walls. Things were getting warm and the wine had yet to be poured. The main event? Marcus Notaro, head winemaker at Col Solare vineyard in Washington State. Mr. Notaro looks too young to be a head winemaker but, after listening to him speak, I’m convinced he’s up to the task.
Mr. Notaro spoke of the unique topography in Washington and how it affects viticulture. According to Mr. Notaro, Argentina is the only other region in the world that is topographically similar to Washington. It is this unique topography, he continued, that brought Piero Antinori to Washington in 1992, known for his lifelong curiosity about how grapes are grown around the world. Upon seeing the Washington wine region, led by the oldest and highly acclaimed winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Antinori formed a partnership with CSM for the purpose of producing fine, cabernet sauvignon based wine. Their search for the right terroir brought them to Red Mountain, the warmest of the Washington AVAs. The nutrient-sparse soil, warm days with cool nights, and low rainfall was ideal for producing wines that met Antinori’s requirements: 1) ageability; 2) good intensity of flavor; and 3) authenticity. And so, a vineyard marrying old and new world styles and philosophies was born. Col Solare is the child of that marriage. It is Italian for “shining hill.”
Mr. Notaro was informative, eloquent and engaging. But how did the wines fare?
1. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Pinot Gris – straw color with apple and pear on the nose. The flavor smacked of green apples. Acidic, thirst-quenching, not too much complexity, with a slightly tart finish.
2. Villa Antinori 2009 Villa Bianco Toscana IGT – made from trebbiano and malvasia, pinot bianco and pinot griogio, the color was pale straw yellow. I found the nose to be intensely herbaceous and floral which carried through to the taste. There was a slight woodiness to it.
3. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2007 Syrah – light garnet with fair clarity, the nose jumped with smoked meats, spice and dark fruits. This cured meat aroma was present in the flavor, along with spice, followed by dark berries and molasses.
4. Villa Antinori 2007 Villa Antinori Rosso Toscana IGT – sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. Ruby red with good clarity, there was earth and tar on the nose. The flavor opened up with this earthiness, giving way to jaminess with currants and cherries. Nicely complex. One participant described this wine as “musical.”
5. Col Solare 2006 Shining Hill Red Blend – merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a touch of syrah. Dark ruby with a hint of smoke on the nose, the flavor was smokey and peppery with black fruit spice on the finish.
6. Col Solare 2006 Red Wine – predominantly cabernet sauvignon, with merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and syrah. Garnet hued, aromas of cigar box and dark berries rose from the glass. This full-bodied wine was well-balanced with black cherries, pencil shavings and chocolate notes leading up to a long silky finish.


After noticing a heavy smoked or cured meat aroma and flavor in the Col Solare wines, I wanted to know more about the cooperage. Mr. Notaro explained that they use a combination of new and old oak, as well as a combination of American and French oak, and that all of the barrels are charred. I could attribute the toasty aromatics to the charring, almost like a bbq flavor or, the way Mr. Notaro described it, like a marshmallow that’s been toasted over an open fire just a little too long.

Special thanks to Ken Turcotte, owner of the Divine Wine Emporium, for putting together an enjoyable and informative tasting. I look forward to spending more time in the learning center.