Friday, November 9, 2007

Exploring Wines: Part 3- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandels

I thought it was about time for another installment of my "Exploring Wine" series. Being a Californian, I am partial to wines grown in our great state. As a reminder, I do not claim to be a wine expert, but I am a wine enthusiast! If you are still learning about wines, I hope you find this ongoing series helpful.
One of the most basic things to understand about wine are the characteristics of various grapes and how they relate to wine types. For example, today I'd like to describe three popular varieties of red wines with very different personalities: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
Merlots are often described as "soft" or "light", with flavors such as cherry, currant, herb, and chocolate .
Zinfandel is zesty, with flavors often like: pepper, wild berry, raspberry, cherry and plum. It often has some complex undertones such as leather, tar and earthen soil.
Cabernet Sauvignon often has rich jammy flavors such as plum, currant, black cherry and spice. The scents of tobacco, cedar, herb, olive, mint and anise can also observed.

I am partial to Cabernets with "big" flavor" and Zinfandels with a "zesty" flavor. The Cabernets I like have a dark purple-ruby color, a big, full body intensity, concentrated flavors, firm tannins and firm acidity. Cabernets are often stored in French or American oak barrels for anywhere from 15-30 months. The wine develops a wonderfully rich toasty cedar-oak flavor that delights the senses.
Here are a few different red wines I tried recently:

Above: Even Owen likes Quintessa, from the Rutherford area of Napa California

Above left: Sterling Vintner's Collection Merlot, and above right: McRae Wood Shiraz

Traveling with Wine...
If you are lucky enough to make friends with people who also enjoy wine, one of the nice things you can do is visit each others homes to drink wine and snack on cheese and nibbly-things all night. If you're going to do that, you'll want to buy a nice wine travel case to protect your fine wines as you travel. Here are a few different styles that I use:

Above: This is a really nice leather wine case, holding two bottles, with room for the corkscrew.

Above left: This carrier is a padded fabric that holds four bottles. It has insulation to maintain a consistent temperature for a short period of time. Above right: A simple cardboard "tube" with a fitted cap that holds one bottle. This is inexpensive and is great for a gift bottle.

Above: Some fine wines are specially packaged for gift giving in a nice cedar wood box. This really makes a statement.
Wine Etiquette...
If you have a guest visit who brings wine, never assume it is strictly a gift for you. Its best to ask if they would like it opened or if they would they rather have it at their next visit. Let the guest tell you that it's for you!

Many thanks for reading today! This weekend, Rick's Roadshow resumes, as I travel to New England for the weekend to visit family. I'll keep you posted!
-Rick Rockhill


marlupe said...

I'm glad you did another post on this subject, I really enjoyed the last two. I am learning about wines without feeling stupid!

Desert Songbird said...

Ditto Marlupe's comment. I'm a neophyte when it comes to wine. I usually never partake, but it's nice to seem somewhat knowledgeable when I choose to do so!

BTW - I like the new avatar. You're very photogenic.

Can't wait to hear about your NE adventures.

Mags said...

I love reds-I typically go with a Merlot if I'm not familiar with the wine but really haven't been disappointed much by a red yet.

Another red I love is Riojo.

Not that Type of Raven said...

Excellent, excellent reading! Thank you so much for sharing. Aside from looking at the pretty bottles and labels, I know next to nothing about wines. New England hum? Should be very beautiful this time of year. I hope we see pictures. Ta!

Lisa W. said...

Enjoy the cold weather in New England this weekend. It snowed in CT this morning...nothing stuck, but still. Bring lots of warm gear!

Lewis said...

So, would this be a good time to tell you that I was ONLY a sweet white wine person for many years? Me and the Rieslings and soft Chenin Blancs were tight...very tight. I've opened up to some beer now, and some reds. And Pinot Gris have become my favorites.

Steven said...

The series I have been waiting for! And it couldn't have come at a better time! The first time that I think I am printing a page from someone's blog. Thanks Rick!

karma lennon said...

Very cool! My favorite is Chilean wine.

MONA said...

That etiquette part is important. I have seen many a people who would make icecream ,that I take to eat with them, disappear.


Now you sound exactly like my brother in law that works at a wine corporation out here in chicago..that man knows his wine, and has large amounts to back him up...I prefer the simple pinot or the headache making merlot...wonderw what a psychologist would say about that selection?

Sheila said...

Nice job. We have a padded two-bottle carrier with corkscrew and glasses--a gift from our realtor who threw in a bottle of "House Wine."

On the etiquette, I would add if you bring wine to indicate to the hosts that you hope they'll enjoy it later. Well, unless it's a BYOB.


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