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Wiping the dust off…

October 21, 2012

So let’s catch up since my last post. Yikes! That would be the last 10 months! Much has happened, and I put my blogging aspirations to the side (obviously). Time to get back into the game! So my last post was in December of 2011, right around the time that I was accepted to sit for the Master Sommelier Diploma in July of 2012. What an honor. However, this was like staring up at the Mount Everest of wine exams for me. Yes, intimidating. BUT…others have climbed it so it must be possible. I buried myself in the books and the “new” way to study, which is through the incredible website of www.guildsomm.com . The intensity of my studies increased as the date of the exam grew closer, and from May, June, and the first 2 weeks of July, this is all I lived and breathed. Long story short, I came up short for my first attempt at passing this exam. Yes, that implies that there will be a second attempt and I can’t wait. After my exam, it was time to blow some steam and take a break of wine studies. For me, that means enjoying as much craft beer, rose and golf as possible, which is exactly what I did. Fast forward to today, and I’m starting up my studies again (this time months earlier than my first try). I’m also starting to drink more wine than beer as we’re moving into the cooler Fall weather here in Chicagoland. This has inspired me to get back into my blog and try to write more posts.

I drink wine nearly everyday. That means, at least for me and probably much of the wine drinking world, that value is important. My everyday drinking wines hover around $10 a bottle. Where can you find quality wines with interesting character that retail at this price? Europe baby! France, Spain and Italy are some of my favorite countries to look to for a great quality to price ratio (qpr).

For now, I’ll just write about some of my favorite regions in France. Here’s where I find some killer values–>

Loire Valley: some of the best value sparkling wines, white wines, rose wines, red wines, and sweet wines are produced here. They do it all! I’ve had a number of stunning whites lately from the appellation of Vouvray (100% Chenin Blanc. dry and off-dry styles, about $11-$16). Great with chicken dishes, seafood dishes, Thai and asian food. Check out the appellation of Muscadet for some of the best value dry white wines. Muscadet is one of the quintessential wine pairings with steamed mussels! For red wines, I look to the grape Cabernet Franc, from the appellations of Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, and Chinon. These soft reds offer tremendous character and complexity, age well, and are also versatile food wines. For lighter reds, check out the Gamay-Pinot Noir blends of Cheverny. Light and easy drinking with dried red fruit and herbal flavors.

The next place in France that I hit up for killer values is….pretty much the entire wine producing area in the south of France! This is a treasure-trove of delicious wines and I mostly drink up the reds, many of which are blends, from dozens of different grape varietals. Some main red grapes you might recognize are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. These medium to full-bodied, juicy red wines offer warm, ripe fruit-forward flavors layered with earth, minerality, spice, and dried herbs. A couple specific regions I find myself going back to again and again are Corbieres, Minervois, and Cotes-du-Rhone. Enjoy these reds with an enormous variety of foods from steaks, to chicken, to pork, pasta dishes or simple burgers off the grill. They’re also great to drink on their own.

These past few days, my wife and I have been enjoying a variety of wines with my parents (Fran and @VinoBobTV) who are up for a visit from Florida. We only get together a few times a year, so we really try to enjoy ourselves. My dad( www.twitter.com/vinobobtv  ) has been into Pinot Noir lately, so their first night here I started us off with a delicious California Pinot Noir: Bedrock “Rebecca’s Vineyard” Russian River Valley 2008 (www.bedrockwineco.com). This was warm and inviting, with luscious red mixed-berry fruit and sexy oak spices. Soft, round and elegant, it was the perfect start to the evening paired with a little salami, Gruyère and strawberries. We then headed out to dinner to a restaurant in Westmont called Bakersfield (www.bakersfieldrestaurant.com). It was our first time eating here, and we were pleasantly surprised when we found out that their was NO CORKAGE FEE! So we brought one of our favorite wines to drink when we get together…Zinfandel from www.robertbialevineyards.com . We had a 2009 bottling from St. Helena, Napa Valley. The exciting part about drinking this wine was how well it paired with all four of our different dishes. My mom had ricotta stuffed gnocchi with meatballs in tomato sauce. My dad had a French dip sandwich. My wife had a grilled trout with creole-mustard sauce and I had fried chicken. This just goes to show the versatility of America’s own variety, Zinfandel, to pair well with all types of different foods. Also, Robert Biale Vineyards makes some of the best, if not THE BEST, Zinfandel on this planet.

Tonight we went to a somewhat new seafood restaurant in Oak Brook called Devon (www.devonseafood.com). We always do a bottle of red with the entrees, so I went back to Pinot Noir. Once again, California, but this time we had a wine from the beautiful Pinot Noir producing region of Santa Barbara County. The wine, Au Bon Climat SBC Pinot Noir 2009 (www.aubonclimat.com). Soft and easy drinking, with juicy red fruit flavors, this worked just fine with the variety of seafood dishes that we had. So, red wine with seafood? You betcha!!

So what’s next? I have a feeling that Sunday means Italian! Thanks for checking out my new post, which hopefully wiped a little bit of dust off of my blog. I hope to keep it dust-free going forward, sharing more wine drinking experiences as well as giving you a peek into my studies for the Master Sommelier Diploma (www.mastersommeliers.org).

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