Category Archives: Chardonnay

Chalk It Up To Change

wineglass_fullI have a little chalk board I use to celebrate special moments; Spring, Christmas, family photos, Mother’s  Day, birthdays and this year… graduations. It might seem silly to break out my little Land O Lakes butter container full of old chalk to make note of a certain day, but ‘wiping the slate clean’ and starting anew is quite significant. Another year, another season, another moment of growth, love and experience comes with each new scribble. Just as in life, my chalkboard is ever changing.

Although, more frequent are the days I wish things weren’t changing quite so quickly. Our ‘Brady Bunch’ family has grown up in the blink of an eye, our once stray wisps of gray are becoming more dominant, our parents have grown older, and our crazy-busy life will begin to slow… just a little, but noticeably so. There are moments (more often than not) I find myself wanting to scream, “STOP!” and live in the moment, THIS moment for just a little while longer.  It’s futile, I know, for just as the vibrant magenta peonies in our garden burst into bloom, they wither and slowly fade away.  Change and transformation are inevitable; nothing lasts forever, so drink it in while you can.  IMG_2434

Wine is grace in a glass; patient, resilient and unassuming. It’s an expert when it comes to change. The sheer process of vine to wine is astounding and yet, despite the trauma and captivity each grape must endure during its transformation, once uncorked it breathes deeply, releasing all its pent up aromas and flavors before whispering, “Change can be good.”

It isn’t any wonder I was immediately drawn to the display of Chalk Board Chardonnay at our local Fred Meyer, for I knew it would be a wine to ponder and celebrate. From the label it promises fresh aromas of pineapple, melon and notes of vanilla and spice, and I would have to agree it delivered on all but the spice. It is packed full of juicy fruit flavor with a hint of sweetness on the tongue and low acidity.  It’s definitely an easy going, ‘roll with the changes’ kind of wine and at less than ten dollars a bottle, a wine I would buy again and again.

This summer we will have celebrated two daughters; one graduating from high school and one from college, a son becoming a man, and another entering his adolescent years.  However unsettling and exciting theses glorious moments might be, we will all gracefully embrace and grow from them as they happen.  In the meantime, we’ll just chalk it up to change. Here’s to all the changes happening in your life! Cheers!

Aromatique: Very fruity. Melon, juicy pineapple with notes of vanilla

Sip Quips: Mild acidity, slightly sweet

Kitchen Couplings: Any white meat, fish, grilled veggies and summer salads

P.S. Chalk Board wine is available exclusively at Kroger stores. 😉


Break the mold

This one earned a half glass.My heart is heavy tonight as I sip a glass of Sawtooth’s 2006 Chardonnay past its prime, and it’s got me pondering the similarities between life and wine. I know what you’re thinking, “Wine and life might be a bit of a stretch don’t you think?” But the reality is this; every varietal, every vintage is as unique, perfect and flawed just as each and every one of us right down to how we are labeled. It’s hard to know what to expect when you open a new bottle of vino regardless of any preconceived notions. Maybe it’s a fast favorite at first sip, maybe it just takes a little time to grow on you, or perhaps it’s awful, and you’re bitterly disappointed with the attempt. Life’s a little like that. We don’t know what to expect with each new day and experience. Sometimes life is one bad bottle of wine after another, but more often than not, each day and new experience or challenge we might face is a beautiful blend of balance.

We attended a memorial this evening to celebrate a man I had never met, and I have to admit that I wish I would have been as lucky as the masses in attendance to have known and loved him so dearly. It is clear after witnessing the endearing chuckles of laughter, sniffles between tears and sighs of sadness with each narration of memories that this man’s spirit was like that of a fine wine. His essence, scientific created through thoughtful passion, time and diligence will live on through his efforts just as the vines from this bottle of chardonnay. Think about it. We all have the ability to leave an amazing legacy for future generations.

Tonight’s service reminded me that life is meant to be lived uncorked. And that each moment should be breathed in deeply, without judgment or reservation and shared freely. My intent is not to encourage anyone to run off and join the circus, drop off the grid or become a snake charmer. After all, the vast majority of us have responsibilities to tend to and deadlines to meet. But, I do want to stir the notion that we all have lingering dreams or interests that seem to, for whatever the reason, get lost in the hum drum of our everyday lives (myself included) which yearn to be fulfilled. And quite frankly, there is no better time to make them a reality than in the present, for if not now, then when? The man I never met was keenly aware that time stands still for no one. I am no one, and so are you.

According to the folks at cellarsnotes.net, a higher-priced bottle of chardonnay ($25 or more) should be consumed within 3 to 5 years, whereas a $10 bottle should be consumed right away. This mini bottle, of “The Coeur d’ Alene” Sawtooth 2006 Chardonnay, was only $2.99 at our local Grocery Outlet. A more current vintage, 2009, sells for about $9 a bottle, and it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out the mini bottle, while positively adorable, is every bit past its prime. And you know what? It isn’t horrible, and I’ve had horrible. It has distinct notes of vanilla, pineapple and tropical fruit with crisp acidity. In its heyday, I bet it was downright fabulous, but we will never know will we? At the end of the day, it was yet another wine adventure for a wine slob, and I’m happy to have risen to the challenge.

I encourage each and every one of you to join me in broadening both our circle and imagination and think about what has yet to come to pass; to make time and take the time to live the life we yearn to live and explore the possibilities of what we are truly capable of. The only thing any of us have to lose is time. What are you still doing here? Don’t you have a mold to break? Cheers!

Aromatique: Tropical fruits and vanilla notes

SipQuips: Clean finish, with pineapple, peach and a hint of vanilla

Kitchen Couplings: Would go well with pasta, chicken or fish. Or if your in the mood for a simpler fair of hummas, cucumbers and pita bread or a variety of cheese, crackers and fresh pear.


Woop Woop … Whoops!

Remember those old TV for commercials for Foster’s Lager? “Foster’s … it’s Australian for BEER!” Well, Woop Woop apparently is Australian for “out of the way” or “not even close.” This Chardonnay from down under is, well, not even close to being good. Just the look on Debbie’s face when she takes a swallow is enough to tell you that this 2004 Chard is best left on the shelf.

Mmmm. Roasted veggie and goat cheese ravioli.

Grilled vegetable and goat cheese agnolotti with a fresh thyme and parmesan.

We’ve been saving this wine to enjoy with the perfect meal, for the name alone seemed to promise some festivity. We opened the screw top with anticipation. The sticker, from some retailer called “Rudy’s,” says $9.99, but we got it for free. Some non-wine-drinking friends gave it to us in exchange for a promise to review it for this blog. Listen, Scott & Traci. We’re sorry, but this particular vintage is sub-par … and we don’t mean like Scott’s golf game. You can consider it a favor; we saved you from drinking this bottle of wine. That’s what friends are for. You’re welcome.

The wine had clear, bright color, offering hope for plenty of crisp, clean citrus flavor that would pair nicely with the tasty ravioli in wine sauce we had planned for dinner. Buttoni’s Grilled Vegetable & Goat Cheese Agnolotti makes a great weeknight gourmet meal, especially with the addition of fresh thyme and parmesan cheese.

The glass revealed a hint of effervescence, which often implies a dry white wine. The first whiff revealed little hint of fruit; it was sharp and strong but not particularly appealing. Tasting didn’t improve the experience much … an astringent beginning led to a metallic (one favorable online review called it “steely”) finish, as though it was served from a rusty tin can. In reality, it’s hard to say this wine even really has a finish; it lingers like a house guest who won’t take a hint.

Of course, maybe WE should have taken a hint. This wine is a 2004 vintage, which puts it very long in the tooth for an inexpensive Chardonnay. Consider this a lesson for the Wine Slobs. The folks at cellarnotes.net and elsewhere say that even a Chardonnay that lists for $25 should be consumed within 3-5 years. We aren’t mathematicians, but seven years seems well outside of the optimal window. Bottles under $10 should be opened right away, as they don’t age well. Well, lesson learned.

So, now that we’ve talked a little vino and learned that it’s not good to let cheap wine sit around (drink faster!), let’s look at this Woop Woop phenomenon more closely. How did two nonsensical words become so ingrained in the pop culture? Besides being the Aussie version of “out in the boonies,” woop woop is also a term used to express approval, happiness or joy and is often accompanied by fist bumps. It’s also, for those of you who might need to know such things “the sound of the po-lice” comin’.

well, mistakes are a part of life.Woop woop reached the apex of its popularity a few years ago when some Danish rapper named Natasja recorded a reggae fusion remix of Enur’s “Calabria” (original video may be NSFW depending on your co-workers). We have no idea what the words mean, but “woop woop” runs throughout. The fist bumps were short-lived however; Natasja died in Jamaica in 2007 at age 32.

Apparently there’s no respect for the dead anymore, because her version of Calabria has spawned innumerable remixes, many of them serving as testament to the fact that not everyone should be allowed to post on YouTube. There’s even a Teletubbies version. Have you people no shame?

No? Well, neither do we, which is why our favorite Woop Woop remix is included below.

The Woop Woop madness doesn’t stop there. Oh no. Apparently the term has become a standard greeting for fans of the Insane Clown Posse, often referred to as Juggaloes. No, really. We aren’t making this up. ICP recorded a “song” (loosely defined) a while back called Stomp (lyrics definitely NSFW), in which the “singer” (again, loosely defined) says “I say stomp, you say” and the response is “woop woop.”

Whatever, yo! We say “bottoms up!” (You say “woop woop” – but maybe toast with a glass of a nice 12 Apostles Chardonnay.)

Aromatique: A hint of citrus but mostly acidic and strong alcohol scent.

SipQuips: Not good. Very tart, watery mouth feel with a metallic aftertaste.

Kitchen Couplings: Don’t bother. It’s not worth wasting a good meal on this wine. If you must pair it with something, very strong cheese or meats with significant fat content will help to mellow the heavy acidity.


Up, Up and Chardonnay!

It's getting hot in here!Once again I found myself wedged into a cramped Alaska Airlines seat on a quick weekend trip to groovy Eugene, Oregon.  If you’ve flown on the Q-400 you know exactly what I’m talking about.   And you also know that the only thing that makes up for the less than ideal seating arrangements is the free in-flight wine!   It also helps to have a couple of good-humored flight attendants from Montana, who  believe one glass is never sufficient.  After the third sampling, it became clear it was a good thing I wasn’t seated in the exit row.  Before takeoff, our comical attendants taught us how to buckle the seat belt we had already managed just fine and how to show them off as if they were prizes in a rodeo when they passed by.
Flight-Attendant Barbie serving chardonnay

We’d barely reached altitude and it was time for beverages and snacks. I have yet to figure out why they call those minuscule packets of pretzels and crackers with flax seeds, “snacks”.  Seriously, I consider anything less than a handful, a bite. Brad is convinced they are simply to cleanse the palate after chewing gum. Although he also described them as frequent flyer communion wafers. “Forgive me father, for I have chosen to fly coach.”

Three “Hail Naomis” for our flight attendant with the wine.  I glanced out the tiny oval frame at the breathtaking pinky peach sunset flecked with lavender and gold while listening to the constant hum of propellers and low conversation, broken by the occasional displeasure from the infant four rows back. Naomi and Diana made the rounds with a trash bag while I maintained a death grip on my mile-high plastic wine cup.  My lips were getting numb and fingers more nimble as my pen drifted across the lines of Brad’s steno pad.   My toes tingled.  This wine and I were feelin’ fine.

I swirled my cup as if it were my favorite wine glass and took another sip of my Sycamore Lane Chardonnay.  Holding it up to the window, it resembled a urine sample more than anything else through the milky plastic.  But with its mild spice, it was bright and smooth with a soft finish.   This chardonnay is a melody of crisp tart apples, with hints of peach and pear.  The flavor floods the palate with instant gratification and a burst of citrus.  Unlike the poorly recycled air in the cabin, this wine isn’t dry or stale.

Sycamore Lane Chardonnay hails from Trinchero Family Estates and is made from grapes found in California’s most prolific wine regions.  These are the fine folks who purchased Sutter Home in 1947 and went on to develop the ever popular White Zinfandel.  This family’s wine making legacy has rapidly expanded over the last 60 years and to date, they represent over 27 wine brands in the United States and Australia.  Despite the overwhelming success, they have tried to stay true to Sutter Home’s fundamental value to offer “a great product for a fair price.”   Although their website states you cannot find this wine in your local supermarket, I was able to find it online through various wine exchanges ranging from $4.99 to around $14 a bottle.

A couple of hours and a connecting flight later, the view from my window had dramatically changed from the brilliantly colored sunset to snowy mountaintops and blankets of cotton clouds resting gently on evergreens much like a layer of batting from one of my grandmother’s handmade quilts.

With the final tip of my cup, the last rush of fruity intensity gave way to a flickering city with rope-light roadways cutting through the grid below. It was the end of another short journey, but the start to a budding new weekend and a fruitful relationship with a certain chardonnay.

SipQuip:  Melody of crisp tart apples, peach and pear with a burst of citrus. Clean and bright with mild spicy flavor. Fruity with a soft finish.

Aromatique:   Light fruity scent.  Intensity in the flavor not in the smell.

Kitchen Couplings:  Pasta, fish, poultry, Swiss or other flavorful white cheeses — or frequent flyer communion wafers.


12 Apostles: A heavenly chardonnay

three-fourths fullWe spotted this Aussie wine while shopping for Easter Sunday dinner fixin’s. It might have been the carefee surfer dudes on the label, or maybe the season just had us in a New Testament frame of mind, but the appearance of this $2.99 bottle of 2009 South Eastern Australia Chardonnay seemed like a sign from above. After all, Jesus saves, too.

Original oil painting by Grandma B. Happy Easter. RIP.

It turns out, the 12 Apostles don’t have anything to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. There’s no reference on the label to Jesus turning water into wine. (Pretty sure he was more of a red-wine guy anyway.) But if you’ve ever met a devout surfer, you know that they liken a ride on the perfect wave to a religious experience, so maybe the biblical tie-in isn’t as tenuous as it first appears. The 12 Apostles are actually some tall rocks off the southeast coast of Australia. And, to tell the truth, there aren’t even 12. As of 2005, there were exactly eight of these distinctive limestone stacks jutting from the water in Port Campbell National Park. But who’s counting? It’s still a hot tourist attraction; one wonders if they ought to serve this refreshing vintage to some of those weary travelers.

Speaking of weary travelers, the original Apostles probably could have benefited from a glass or two after shuffling along the dusty Middle Eastern roads. This wine is full of crisp, refreshing flavor and is worthy of any table, whether it’s your first supper or your last. The sweet, floral aroma hints at a lush, fruity flavor led by crisp, tart apple followed by a citrus and melon finish. The maritime climate that makes Australia a popular wine-growing region isn’t all that different from what those original Apostles experienced while schlepping around the east coast of the Mediterranean back in the day. The connections are truly endless.

For just three bucks, this lightly effervescent, not-to-sweet wine is great to have on hand for when friends drop by. The screw-top makes it perfect for warm-weather outings or to keep in the fridge for a quick splash while whipping up dinner. We served ours with an Easter meal of roast chicken Holy cow! We mean "chicken"with rosemary-orange butter and maple-dill carrots. And instant mashed potatoes. (What? You expected hand-mashed after all that work on the bird and two glasses of wine?)

And lest you think this wine isn’t versatile, we finished the bottle with some Easter chocolate. So put on your best sandals and hoof it down to your local Grocery Outlet for a bottle — or three — of this bargain vintage. Put on a comfy robe (white, of course) and enjoy this with a bit of ice and a good book — or maybe THE good book. It’s good enough to make even the most doubting Thomas a true believer.

Aromatique: Fruity and sweet but not intense.

SipQuips: Not overly sweet, but definitely not dry. Tart apple with citrus undertones. Crisp, with a clean finish.

Kitchen couplings: Great with fish or poultry dishes, or with cheese and crackers.


Kinda plain on the plane

Cup o WineEven when you’re drinking cheap wine, ambiance matters, and crammed into the window seat of an Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 isn’t exactly the ideal spot for enjoying a glass. The experts tell me wine glass size and shape matter, too. I’ve never seen small plastic cups recommended, and I don’t know what the perfect pairing would be for those tiny parcels of stale chips and pretzels the flight attendants toss in your lap.

Nevertheless, those were the circumstances of my recent tasting of Trinity Oaks 2009 Chardonnay. Despite the less-than-ideal setting, the price was perfect: free. (Yes, I know. I did have to buy the plane ticket, but I would have been on the plane anyway, so props to Alaska for their complementary beer and wine, even on short flights like the one I was on, between Seattle and Boise.) On the ground, this wine sells for more than $8 per bottle.

Trinity Oaks ChardonnayI’m more of a red wine guy, but I enjoy a glass of white now and then. This particular variety was a little fruity for my taste, and served not quite as chilled as I like my whites. I guess that’s what I get for sitting toward the back of the plane.

While the wine itself was strictly ordinary, I was interested to learn that the Trinity Oaks Winery, part of the huge Trinchero Family Estates group (Sutter Home, Newman’s Own, Napa Cellars), is among the leaders in environmentally-friendly winemaking. They even plant a tree for every bottle of Trinity Oaks sold.

On balance, I’d call this a decent wine for the price. And the cool three-oak label certainly meets The Wineslobs© criteria for cool-looking bottles.

Aromatique: Quite fruity and lush.

SipQuips: Citrus-y with sweeter pineapple notes; not terribly crisp.

Kitchen Couplings: Maybe this should have been “cabin couplings.” Anyway, I’d serve this with milder cheeses or fish, salads or not-too-salty snacks.