Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wine Review: Sterling Vineyards

By Joy Neighbors

Sterling Vineyards
Rising 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, California, Sterling Vineyards offers guests panoramic views of Napa Valley. Peter Newton, a British international paper broker, founded the company in 1964 after purchasing a 50-acre vineyard. Newton decided to increase the vineyard’s production from Cabernet grapes to also include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the area’s first significant planting of Merlot.

Four years later Sterling Vineyards released the first California vintage-dated Merlot. By 1972, a new winery had been opened and featured a salon-style tasting room with an aerial tram to take visitors from the parking lot to the tasting room at the top of a hill.

Then, as today, when guests arrive they are given a glass of wine and allowed to stroll through art galleries and elevated walkways, winding their way through visual displays that tell the story of the Sterling winemaking process from grape to glass.

Sterling Vineyards released their first Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay and Merlot in 2000. Today, nine varietals make up the Vintner’s Collection, which sells a million cases annually. A few years ago, Sterling began crafting “Reserved" wines and has established a dedicated winery for that production.

2014 Chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve
The Chardonnay is barrel-fermented for 12 months resulting in its oaky aromas and crisp mouthfeel. The pallet is composed of melon, pineapple and citrus with a rich hint of spiciness on the finish. This full-bodied wine is wonderful with grilled chicken and seafood. Retails at $14 a bottle.

2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Cabernet grapes are hand-sorted before undergoing barrel fermentation of 12 to 24 months in the wine caves. Cerise and pepper on the nose lingers with hints of cedar before the flavors of plum, berry and cherry deliver a full pallet surprise. And a touch of chocolate tantalizes at the finish. With its rich texture and supple body, this is one Cab that delivers all it promises. Excellent with roast pork; also serve with grilled meats and hearty autumn dishes. Retails at $32.00 a bottle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Experience an Olive Oil Tasting

By Joy Neighbors

Wine drinkers love tastings! They are the perfect opportunity to sample a few different wines, experience the flavors, and decide what you like. But have you ever experienced an olive oil tasting?

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in cooking. Today olive oil has garnered a lot of press due to its health benefits. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil increases good cholesterol (HDL), aids internal digestion, slows cerebral aging, and prevents heart disease.

And just like with wine, there are several factors to consider when selecting an olive oil: the type, the color, and the tasting profile, which will help you discover some new favorites.

Types of Olive Oil

Virgin – This oil is extracted directly from the fruit and has not been refined.

Extra-Virgin – The oil is extracted using only cold pressure, known as cold pressing. With less than 1% acid, it's derived from the first pressing for the freshest, fruitiest flavor of any olive oil.

Fino – A blend of virgin and extra-virgin olive oils.

Light – This term refers to the color not calories, and has been filtered to remove any sediment.

Pure – A blend of refined virgin and extra-virgin oils.

Any oil bearing the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) logo is certified to be the grade promised.

Flavor Profile
Olive oil falls into two different tasting profiles – grassy and floral.

Grassy – Look for the vegetal flavors of artichoke, cucumber, tomato, fresh grass, or green apples. (Think Granny Smith.)

Floral – This type of oil provides a sweet smooth light flavor similar to almond milk. Fruity flavors include pear, pineapple, citrus, almond, and hazelnut.

Red or White
When compared with wine, a grassy olive oil is more like a young red wine with bright flavors - a bit immature but still charming.

A floral olive oil compares to a mature white wine (think Riesling),
with a light flowery flavor.

How To Taste Olive Oil
There are the five tasting steps, just like with wine.
(And it is suggested to taste a true extra virgin olive oil (EVOO.)

1) Pour a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass.

2) Swirl the oil like you would wine, but place your palm over the glass to contain the aromas.

3) Sniff those aromas! Just like wine, olive oil has a “nose.” These are the most prevalent notes that help you detect the oil's flavor characteristics. (Yes diehards, there is also an olive oil tasting wheel!)

4) Sip the same way you taste wine by taking in a small amount of air and mixing with the oil.

5) Swallow; the oil should have a smooth finish and a tingling sensation in the back of your throat, thanks to the polyphenols (antioxidants) in the oil.

Now head to your local olive oil shop (if you’re so lucky to have one), visit a specialty/gourmet food store, or go online and select a variety of olive oils to begin your exploration.