Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wine-Sense: An Update, With Cookies

How time flies sometimes! This past Thursday, I stopped by Wine-Sense, a small, boutique wine shop in Andover, for their special Thanksgiving wine event. As I prepared to write about the event, I realized that I had reviewed Wine Sense back in June 2008, more than three years ago. It is probably time for an update, to determine whether my review is still relevant or not. A period of three years can sometimes see significant changes in a store or restaurant.

I am pleased to report that Wine-Sense is just as good as it was three years ago, and probably even better. Samanta, the store owner, is still as energetic and passionate as ever, bringing in a fascinating selection of more artisan wines, at all price points. She has not compromised in the type of wines she stocks and has grown a good following of regular customers. It remains a wine shop that any wine lover would enjoy, and they would likely find plenty to appeal to them.

It was cool to see there is now a local wine section, with wines from Still River WineryIsaak's of Salem and  Zoll Cellars. Samanta also now carries five Manotsuru brand sakes from the Obata Brewery in Niigata. I am actually not familiar with this brewery so I was very excited to find them. I ended up buying a case of wines, an assortment including a couple sakes. It was easy to fill up a case, and I probably could have filled another case or two with other wines that intrigued me. Wine-Sense thus continues to receive my strong recommendation.

For the Thanksgiving tasting event, two distributors presented their wines and there was also a cheese table from Whole Foods Market (which had a great selection of tasty cheeses) and cookies from Miss Maura's Delectable Delights. Whole Foods did a great job with their cheese tray! I will showcase a few of my favorite wines from the tasting, as well as review the cookies.

Just in time for Thanksgiving comes the NV Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile ($14). Forget that cheap Lambrusco you had when you were young, this is a very different wine. This wine is frizzante, possessed of a light effervescence, and is mildly sweet, with a good acidity. It has some pleasant red fruit flavors and should appeal to almost everyone at the Thanksgiving table. I know many in my family will really enjoy this wine so I bought a couple for the upcoming holiday. This would be great not only for Thanksgiving but for any other upcoming celebration or holiday.

The 2010 Tenuta dell Terre Nere Etna Rosso ($18.99) would also be an excellent choice for Thanksgiving, as well as everything from pizza to burgers. This Sicilian wine is made from the Nerello Mascalese grape, and is the introductory wine from this line. An elegant wine with delicious red fruit flavors, moderate tannins and hints of minerality. It has lots of character for the price and will bring to mind a fine Pinot Noir. I will be looking for the higher end wines in this line as this wine was so interesting.

The next three wines are all from the same Oregon winery, Anne Amie. The 2010 Anne Amie Pinot Gris ($18.99) is all estate grown fruit and was fermented only in stainless steel. It had a spicy taste, with crisp fruit flavors of orange, pineapple and lemon with a backbone of minerality. A compelling white wine, showing just how good the wines of Oregon can be.

I also enjoyed two dessert wines from this producer, Anne and Amie (package of two 375ml bottles for $55). Both are made from Late Harvest Muller-Thurgau, grown in their own vineyards, and they freeze the grapes at the winery. The Anne is fermented for seven months, intended to create a Vin Glace dessert wine. It was sweet, though not overly so, with delightful flavors of honey, apricot and ripe peach and sufficient acidity to balance the sweet. The Amie was maderized and fortified with Pinot Noir brandy to produce a Vin Doux Naturel dessert wine, though the additional alcohol was not noticeable. It had a sweeter taste, and presented some more nutty flavors, almost like a sweet sherry.

Miss Maura's Delectable Delights is a local business making specialty custom cakes, cookies and pastries. Besides the usual desserts, they also produce a line of gluten free cookies and pastries, and they brought two of their gluten free cookies to the tasting. There was the French Almond Cookie, a chewy almond cookie frosted with buttercream and dipped in dark chocolate, and the Lime in the Coconut, a light lime flavored shortbread cookie with a sweet coconut American cream filling.

These were both delicious, and you certainly would never know from the taste that they were gluten free. My personal favorite was the Lime in the Coconut, as the lime was very restrained and the creamy coconut taste was prominent. Chocolate lovers would really enjoy the French Almond cookie. Both had a very homemade feel to them and they should prove popular. My only concern is the high price, $20 per dozen, though I note their chocolate chip cookies sell for only $12/dozen. So maybe these are more for a special occasion.

Check out Wine-Sense and I am sure you too will be enamored with their carefully chosen, diverse selection of wines.

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