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Lately, it seems we are all taking comfort in simple pleasures. We cook macaroni and cheese, we play Scrabble with our kids and we enjoy a glass of wine or two. Because after working at home all week, figuring out how to host Zoom calls, keeping the kids from going crazy inside* and watching our retirement accounts dissolve, we feel like we deserve a moment of pleasure. And we do. But before you uncork that Pinot Noir or uncap that Sauvignon Blanc, ask yourself: “Is this a quarantine-worthy wine?” A wine that’s worthy of self-isolation is one that pairs well with sweatpants and stubble, whose subtle notes of pencil shavings and the forest floor are discernable through a face mask; it’s a wine that you’re willing to commit to because you’ll be drinking all of it…. alone.

 

Such a wine is Gooseneck Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay. A white wine from Navarra, Spain, this vintage is a lovely golden color. It’s light but complex with lovely notes of vanilla, oak and to my untrained nose, a hint of pear.

Here on Bartlett Ave., when it hasn’t been raining, we’ve been social distancing with neighbors. That means we stand in the middle of the street and drink wine. Rain, however, forces us to Zoom and last Friday as the rain poured down, I thought it might be fun to bring everyone together electronically to virtually share the same wine. So I sprung for several bottles of the Gooseneck Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay (not a fortune), dropped them off to my neighbors with touchless delivery, and sent out the Zoom notice.

There were seven of us at this cyber-tasting and although my friends were impressed with my seeming generosity, I had to confess that the wine is shockingly affordable. As the Zoom party commenced, we talked about what we’ve binged on Netflix, we discussed mask designs and we talked about what we were eating with that night. One neighbor paired their Gooseneck Vineyards Chardonnay with an aged Brie and seeded crackers. Another thought that it perfectly complimented their homemade chicken tetrazzini, still another drank it with black beans and rice and I savored it with a fried haddock plate from Fresh Pond Seafood. The Gooseneck 2017 Chardonnay seemed to enhance each of these dishes and, I suspect, it would also go well exceedingly well with a bowl of popcorn and Netflix.

*It takes a village to raise a child but it takes a winery to homeschool one.

Article By: Carol Band, one of our amazing wine experts and connoisseur

 

Photos by Carol Band and Gooseneck Vineyards

Everybody in Arlington thinks that they live in the best neighborhood, but I really do. On my street we don’t just get together for block parties, we regularly have backyard barbecues, game nights, afternoons with the Patriots and dinners together. And the food is always extraordinary. But on Friday, after a week at work when everyone just wants to hang out, we often throw together a big green salad order a couple of pizzas and holler to the ‘hood that the door is open.

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Since the venerable Nicola’s closed, we don’t have a regular place for pizza but, as long as there a hot cherry peppers on top, I’m good—so we’ve sampled lots of local places. This Friday, it was two large pizzas from the Northender Italian Kitchen in Arlington Heights. We got a plain cheese and a sausage, onion and hot cherry pepper (my favorite) and put out the call to the neighbors.
I’ve discovered that same way it can elevate a burger from fast food to fine dining, a nice glass of wine can make a takeout pizza feel like a meal in a trattoria. I had a bottle of Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010) and when I called in the pizza, I opened the wine to let it breathe a bit. We lit a fire in the fireplace, and the neighbors came in, grabbed a paper plate, a slice of pizza and pile their plates with salad. The fire was roaring and for a while, no one spoke. It was the silence of contentment. Then Dave said “Hey, what’s this wine? It’s pretty good.”  I poured myself a glass and took a sip. He was right.
I like a Montepulcano because it’s bold enough to hold up to hearty food without the strong tannins that I sometimes associate with Italian wine. The Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010) was a deep rich red—almost purple. The first sip was satiny and offered notes of blackberry, a bit of mineral and even a hint of chocolate as it lingered on my tongue. I sipped again and swore that I tasted vanilla. I piled some arugula salad on top of my pizza and took a bite.

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While I wasn’t exactly transported to a trattoria in the Italian foothills, it was a delicious combination and made even better by the wine, the company and the prospect of a weekend ahead.

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The neighborhood fun continued on Sunday when my neighbor Nancy, christened her new family room by inviting a gang in for an early supper, followed by football. The Patriots were playing Kansas City— which I think called for ribs, but Nancy made a wild mushroom and pasta dish that felt like pure comfort food. I pulled together another huge salad and brought another bottle of the Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010). While some thought that white wine would pair well, I found that the earthiness of the mushrooms was perfect with the Montepulcano. Others agreed and I congratulated them on their ability to cast aside outdated ideas like: “only drink white wine with mushrooms.”  But the real congratulations of the night went to the Patriots. What a great game! What a great neighborhood!

Thanks for reading, Carol Band

I am fortunate that when my daughter was in elementary school, she picked her friends well.  What I mean is that she hung out with a group of elementary school girls whose parents I adore.

Best of all, everyone lives within a few blocks of each other. So, twenty years later, the girls have all gone their separate ways, but we parents, now a group of empty nesters, continue to see each other almost every weekend for dinners, election night gatherings, holidays, birthdays and lots of laughs.

This group is bound not just by our parenting experiences but we also we share a passion for politics, travel, the love of a good argument and we are all devoted to creating good food. It doesn’t have to be fancy, (we’ve had amazing hot dog and bean dinners- homemade beans, of course-) but it’s always delicious.
Last Saturday at Andrea and Dennis’ house on Jason Street, was no exception. In fact, Andrea is probably the most serious cook in the group. She worked as a professional caterer and also had her own business providing meals to go that she made at home.  And, she knows wine. So a dinner at Andrea’s means that not only do I agonize over what to make for a dessert or appetizer, I also put some serious thought into the bottle of wine that I’ll bring to share.

Pork and chorizo stew was on the menu. Andrea had suggested a Gewürztraminer
(white and light) but I went with a red and matched the earthy flavors in the stew with a silky yet substantial Ken Forrester Renegade 2013, a blend of Grenache and Syrah from South Africa. I was glad I did.

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This wine did exactly what wine is supposed to do. It complimented the food (not that Andrea’s cooking needs any enhancement!). The slight heat in the stew, along with the green rice, spiced with poblano papers set the wine off perfectly and revealed its subtle notes of plum, black olive and a trace of chocolate that made me pour myself another glass to accompany the bourbon chocolate cake that someone else had brought for dessert. We lingered over the table, went back for seconds on the pork stew, sliced a little more off the chocolate cake, cleaned up the edges of my lemon meringue pie and were reminded again of just how lucky were are to have daughters with such exquisite taste in parents. Here’s to old friends, a new wine and to friends who can cook!

 

Thanks for reading, Carol Band

Thanksgiving is around the corner (we can’t believe it either)!!! Don’t procrastinate this year… get ahead of the game and shop our delicious wines that pair perfectly with appetizers, turkey,  and dessert.  We’re making it easy for you with our Turkey Day Wine Guide!

Aperitifs:

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Riva Rosé is a delicious sparkling rosé from the Mediterranean. The wine displays delicate yet persistent bubbles. The nose exudes aromas of small red fruits such as strawberry and raspberry. The palate offers refreshing notes of grapefruit and spice. Perfect for aperitifs and to possibly drown out the noise of your relatives… haha, just kidding!

The Main Meal:

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Pinot Noir Wines are a perfect pairing for turkey!  Here are two that we love –

  • Elouan Pinot Noir Dark: Shimmering ruby red. Deep notes of plum, red cherries and blackcurrant jam with subtle touches of toasty vanilla and spice. Rich, ripe fruit flavors of plum, cherry, mixed berry jam, and blackberry. Smooth tannins round out the mouthfeel.

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Along with a good red, we also love a good white wine to pair with turkey. Here are two delicious white wines from Trimbach.

  • Trimbach Reisling: The nose shows restrained citrus and a slightly lifted, very slightly aromatic touch of conifer. The palate is taut and slender, presenting sober, clean citrus flavors. This stands upright and has a wonderful backbone of freshness.
  • Trimbach Gewurztraminer: A very shy nose just releases the most teasing hint of peach. The palate is utterly restrained: peach flavors are dry and brightened by lemon and have a wonderful lightness of touch. The finish is dry, clean and long.

Dessert/After-dinner Drink:

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You can’t forget about the post-feast wine!  A great dessert wine is in order

Haut Charmes Sauternes 2015: Haut Charmes is a very special Sauternes bottling, made from the younger vines of the region’s most legendary château. While we aren’t allowed to actually reveal the source, it’s safe to say its location in the Ciron Valley exposes the Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon fruit to conditions perfect for the development of botrytis. Charming, elegant and an exceptional value for what’s in the bottle.

Not in love with these wines?! Head on in and let us help you choose the perfect wine. Our educated staff is always happy to help!

Thanks,

The Mystic Wine Shoppe Team

What an event!!!  On Saturday, October 13th we held our second annual Grand Wine Tasting event at Mystic Wine Shoppe. We had customers from near and far, including dogs and babies, come sample over 20 delicious wines with us.  This year we held the event in our attached garage to allow plenty of space for sampling. It was a great turnout and we’re so thankful for all the support.

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Did you miss the event? Don’t worry, we hold weekly wine and beer tastings.  Plus, make sure you reserve your ticket for our Dec. 6th Bourbon Tasting.
Thanks again for everyone who joined us!

 

What a great turnout we had this weekend for our wine tasting with the one and only Hugh Hamilton!  Hugh travels from Australia twice a year and always hosts a wine tasting with us at Mystic Wine Shoppe. We’re always grateful for his time and for the support of the community.  Hugh and his team just launched a new wine collection and it will soon be coming to Mystic Wine Shoppe.

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Thanks again, Hugh We loved having you and sampling all your delicious wines.

Stop in and grab a bottle of Hugh Hamilton Wines at Mystic Wine Shoppe.  Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!

Wine writers call wines like Black Ops by Hugh Hamilton a “rare red blend.” I would call it an “extremely rare red blend.” It is just luscious – deep, inky color paired with unmistakable notes of wild blueberries, dark blackberries, juicy red cherries and a slightly elusive savory/wild herb / ripe fruit note that soaks into every taste bud and makes your shoulders relax.

This wine is made of the unusual blend of Shiraz, Saperavi and Nero d’Avola. Shiraz, a mainstay of McLaren Vale, is the iconic grape of meaty, mighty and most especially tasty Australian wines. It is the same grape that is used in Rhône wines, notably Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Cornas, which is the only French wine made with 100% Syrah. The primary distinction between Shiraz and Syrah is stylistic. Most Australian Shiraz tends to have a riper, fruitier, more concentrated set of flavors, whereas the cooler climate Syrahs of the Rhône Valley in Southern France, then to be a bit more savory, a bit more structured and a bit more peppery. The trend these days in Australia is that Shiraz is planted in cooler microclimates and is producing a more restrained type of wine, closer in character to the Syrahs of France, while the French are dealing with warmer, longer summers and are producing much more alcoholic, powerful wines than in the past. But despite this climatic convergence, they are still very distinct.

To add to this distinction, Hugh Hamilton has lived up to his Black Sheep logo by introducing an extraordinary grape to Australia called Saperavi. It is an ancient grape variety from the Republic of Georgia. In my mind, it evokes romantic images of farmers thousands of years ago, plucking grapes by hand, stomping the grapes in celebratory fashion with their families, fermenting that must in clay amphorae and drinking it with joy at every hearty meal. It is a grape that deserves this image. It brings to this wine a sort of wild, gamey nature that the buttoned-down varieties of Western Europe lack. It is a teinturier grape, that rare grape whose flesh, not just the skin, has color. And it is known for its depth, acidity, and full body.

Another bold move was to blend in Nero d’Avola. Again, this is an ancient variety that has found its home in the southern parts of Sicily. Like its happy compatriots, it is a dark, full-bodied wine that exhibits bright cherry notes that when oak-aged, can become plummy and juicy.

Together, these three varieties make Black Ops a truly exceptional wine. It is fruity and fragrant while still being structured and powerful. The wine starts strong with aromas of black currants, plums and cherries and fills your mid-palate with wonderful roundness and the complexity of pepper, dark chocolate and a small hint of herbs that seems ingrained in Australian terroir. The mellow tannins are more textural than grippy, rolling over your tongue with very pleasing sensations. It finishes with a long, slow slide of lingering fruits and tobacco and perhaps a hint of smoke.

You’d be a fool to pass up this wine at $19.99 a bottle!!!!

Your wine expert, Seema

Ok, so no matter how serious you are about drinking wine and learning all you can, sometimes you are seduced by the label.  And the João Portugal Ramos Alvarinho 2015 label is seductive.  The voluptuous bottle shape is shown to great advantage by the slanting, “off-the-shoulder” style of the label, very simple and elegant lettering with just that small showy glimpse of a golden “L” in the word Alvarinho.  I just had to try it.
 
Alvarinho (pronounced Al-va-reen-yo) is the same grape as the Albariño grape found in Spain.  And it is grown in a very similar environment or terroir – the cool Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula.  But the Portuguese version is a bit fuller and rounded with a lovely, rich mouthfeel with a bit of a sharp kick from its flinty, acid finish – every bit as seductive as the label.
 
Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 10.14.49 AMPortugal has long been overshadowed by its neighbor in wine production.  Spain is quite simply a powerhouse when it comes to wine.  Everyone has heard to Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, they know the Temperanillo grape and most have heard of Garnacha as well.  Spanish Cava, their traditional method sparkling wine, is beginning to be highly prized and is starting to compete on quality with Champagne in a way that Prosecco never will.  So, how is Portugal to fight back and carve out its own identity when so many of the wines are so similar?  The solution has been to really concentrate in recent decades on quality.  Portuguese wines used to be of marginal quality largely because it has a very large domestic market where people drink their local wines by the liter.  But over time, it has been recognized that to compete on the global market, the wines have to be really good with consistent and high quality.
 
This producer understands this challenge and has been making wonderful wines in its very short lifespan (for a European winery).  Established in 1990, João Portugal Ramos only began making this Alvarinho in 2013.  And for a third iteration, this wine is excellent.  It is very carefully made – fermented at low temperatures to preserve that beautiful varietal character of peaches and lemons with a slightly briny character.  It is then made richer by partially fermenting it in new French oak to bring out that voluptuous quality I had mentioned before.
 
 

Enjoy this wine with shellfish, sushi and anything fried!
 
Seema 🙂