Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: Hermanos Torrontes and Cloudy Bay Chardonnay

These two wines make up the last of the four that we drank at the Fenelon wine tasting night.  The only thing these have in common is that I picked them because I thought that (besides being good) few in the group would have tried them before.  Torrontes makes a great aromatic white that people who like to drink Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris would likely enjoy, but few know about it or know it well enough to go to it every time they walk into an LCBO.  Chardonnay is run-of-the-mill, but not from New Zealand.  When people here think New Zealand, they overwhelmingly think Sauvignon Blanc, and not too many are even aware of the excellent Pinot Noir to be had from Otago.  I thought I'd give the group some new options when they are looking along the shelves.

Hermanos Torrontes, 2011, from Valle de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina.  This yellow gold wine was juicy and full.  It had flavours and aromas of honey, melons, white pepper, and a touch of walnut.  It was a little toasty on the finish, and had likely had a little oak treatment.  This wine was paired with a waldorf salad, which was a delicious pairing.  The salad had red and green apples, grapes, walnuts, cheddar cheese, and raisins in a slightly tangy creamy dressing.  The fresh fruit and nuts matched the nutty fruitiness of the wine, while the wine's acidity cut through the creamy dressing.  We also ate some Drumloch Scottish cheddar cheese, from the Isle of Kintyre.  This mild cheddar was a great match, with its typical slightly sharp edge to it.  The flavour was just pronounced enough and the cheese just creamy enough to let the Torrontes take the stage and cleanse the palate.

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, 2009, from Marlborough, New Zealand.  This wine typified Chardonnay in every way.  The aromas and flavours were of golden apple, lemon, and a hint of smokey vanilla.  This was not a complex wine.  It was balanced, and had medium acidity, but overall the wine was just pretty good.  We ate filets of salmon which were prepared with a little smoking, a little steaming, and a tasty maple glaze.  The salmon actually lifted the Chardonnay and brought out additional fruit flavours that we hadn't found before trying the fish.  It was a great example for the group of a wine that needs food, rather than a wine that stands on its own and accompanies food well.  Once we were eating the smoky, sweet salmon, the Chardonnay was happy and good-drinking.  We paired this with delicately-flavoured salty cheeses, including a Pecorino da Tavola from Tuscany, and a hard sheep's milk cheese from France.  These cheeses paired well because there were no strong flavours to overwhelm the Chardonnay, and the dry saltiness was a good match for the level of acidity in the wine.

Wine: Hermanos Torrontes, 2011, Salta
Food Pairing: Waldorf Salad (Tilapia would also be a great choice)
Chip Pairing:  Ruffles Regular with mild salsa
Verdict:  Yummy!

Wine: Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, 2009, Marlborough
Food Pairing:  Fresh salmon in maple glaze
Chip Pairing:  Miss Vickie's Sweet Onion and Balsamic Vinegar
Verdict:  Pretty Good

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