No need to pinch pennies on this pinot

It's getting hot in here!Abraham Lincoln has always been America’s coolest president. Sure, Teddy Roosevelt was a “Rough Rider” before it sounded like the most popular guy at a gay bachelor party. And Ron Reagan was a bad actor, Bill Clinton blew a sax and Barack Obama started hosting jam sessions at the White House.

Bitch, please.

The guy wore a stovepipe hat, ended slavery and kept the union together before getting shot at a play. The 16th President was a Renaissance man! And that was before Hollywood revealed him as a badass vampire hunter.

Let’s face it. Lincoln had more character in his beard than most POTUSes can find in a cabinet. So when his face turned up on this bottle of 2010 Pennywise Pinot Noir, it gave some instant credit.

Now, Honest Abe was a known teetotaler. (Some reports say that he drank beer for a while, on his doctor’s advice, but I suspect that excuse didn’t work for him any more than it has for me.) But I digress. Truth is, Lincoln’s profile on the penny is the centerpiece of a decidedly understated label that masks a very respectable wine. This “California Smart Wine,” as the label promises, is not intended to increase your IQ, but to harken back to Honest Abe’s era when folks knew the value of a penny.

Of course, there’s no virtue in being penny wise and pound foolish. The Wine Slobs might scrimp on the payout, but we’re not interested in buying cheap wine just for the sake of cheap wine. It’s got to be good — or at least have a cool label or an interesting story.

But we do know the value of a $10 bill, and we gladly surrendered one after tasting this Pinot at our local Rosauer’s. Now, if you are familiar with Rosauer’s, you know that you can easily spend 10 bucks on a bunch of arugula, some capellini mushrooms and an organic, free-range chicken breast. So getting a bottle of tasty vino for $9.99 seemed an especially good deal.

It wasn’t just the price that appealed to us. Even the tiny plastic cups at the tasting table revealed a fruity but robust pinot. The color’s actually a little thin, which makes the flavors seem that much more dramatic. The aroma is somewhat unique, with cherry cola and light cinnamon coming to mind, just like the vintner’s website says. They also claim “sassafras,” but frankly, I don’t know what that smells like, so I’m gonna take their word.

When it comes to flavors, cherry is the obvious leader here, but there are plenty of berry notes in the middle and a cranberry-infused finish that combine to make this a very well-rounded wine. The makers also claim wild strawberry, candy cap mushroom and sandalwood. Mushrooms and sandalwood sound like the beginnings of a good Saturday night for sure, but I can’t confirm the connection to this wine.

The Other Guys,” makers of Pennywise, take themselves pretty seriously, it seems. But they come by it honestly as the fourth generation of winemakers in a family that began growing grapes near Sonoma, Calif., in the late 1890s. The “laid-back guys” make “stand-out wines” under a half-dozen labels. This particular blend combines 60% Clarksburg Pinot grapes, 39% Monterey grapes and a touch of Paso Robles sirah for a pleasing, middle-of-the-road wine that would pair well with a wide range of dishes — brie and crusty bread, chicken, pasta with white sauce, a salad laden with herbed croutons and slivered almonds.

No matter what you prefer as accompaniment, this is an all-purpose wine that, once tried, is sure to keep turning up in your wine rack. Kind of like a bad penny.

Aromatique: Surprisingly complex, with hints of cherry cola, raspberry and cinnamon.
SipQuips: Cherry, not overly tart, with sweet berries and just a touch of oak.
Kitchen couplings: Would pair well with a wide range of foods, including Finnish summer soup, which is what I enjoyed it with. Soft cheeses, good bread. Vegetable dishes, light pasta and chicken would all be good choices.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Red on June 20, 2012 – 10:54 pm | Comments (1)
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The Sisterhood and the traveling…bottle?

This one earned a half glass.Whether you have a sister or you have friends you consider sisters, sisterhood is kind of a big deal. Not to discredit the men in our lives, brothers, husbands and the like, but it’s difficult to describe the bond woman share all over the world  in the name of sisterhood. Our “sisters”, always seem to know just what we need to get through this thing called – life.  If we are feeling low, sisters give us wings.  When we are successful, they share the moment and encourage us to keep on shining!  When we are completely out of control, they meet us head on until we can keep our cool. When we need a defender there is no greater a warrior goddess. And when we are filled with delusion, they tell us the truth – even if it hurts.  Sisters love us for who we are at every stage in our lives regardless of time passed.  Distance is irrelevant and status has no bearing.  Sisterhood really is quite magical.

The Brutus sisters of Seven Sisters Wines

The Brutus sisters of Paternoster, South Africa are an inspiring group of women who embraced their sisterhood to break into the white male dominated wine industry. In fact, they are one of only two black family owned wineries out of 3,000 in their country. That seems utterly amazing to me.  But what is more amazing is how they started. While very young, the family was evicted from their home after their father lost his job of 20 years in the fishing industry. Due to their financial circumstances, the family was not able to stay together and the children were split up among various relatives. The seven sisters and their baby brother John had aspired to one day return to their quiet village in Paternoster, but twenty years would pass before their hopes would come to fruition. After extensive research, diligence and funding on the part of eldest sister Vivian, the sisters reunited to create a new destiny when they launched the Seven Sisters wine brand in 2007 (African Roots Wine)

As African women, they had no land or vineyards.  They were basically a virtual company.  Today, their wine can be found in 27 states and only recently has their own country started to take notice of not only their wine, but their accomplishments too.   Each Seven Sisters Wine has been skillfully created to match the style and character of each sister.  Tonight I am enjoying a 2008 Chenin Blanc – Yolanda that we purchased at Albertson’s for $7.99 . If your new to vino or if you found yourself overpowered by a white wine like a dry chardonnay, this is the wine for you!  This wine doesn’t scream for your attention, like an overzealous first date.  It’s more of a go with the flow vintage.  It’s light and a little tart on the palette, but finishes well with hints of passion fruit.  Perfect for a hot summer day when you want a chilly glass of vino to sip in the shade.  Personally, it was a little too mellow for me, but it is a great for someone who wants to drink wine without it really tasting like wine. Kinda like that first date; no commitment.  Heck, you could even throw in a splash of lemon-lime soda and invite a few sisters over! I don’t want to say it’s a great “housewife” wine, but during my taste test, I envisioned a hard working housewife rounding out her day with a glass vino just like this.

Ironically,  Yolanda is the housewife of the bunch, but almost all the sisters contribute their talents in some manner to the winery’s success whether it is sales and marketing, event planning, logistics or flower arranging and catering.  According to their website, the sisters have obtained 9,000 acres of land near Stellenbosch. There are several areas in South Africa that have a gravel under-structure of shale, granite and sandstone, making the need for formal irrigation unnecessary.  The soil is able to retain its moisture during dry and hot summers. Perfect for growing grapes!  Seven thousand acres will be planted in vines and will be tended by their brother John who will take over the wine making when he has finished his studies in oenology and viticulture at Elsenburg. They  also plan to add another wine to their line, appropriately named, “John Brutus.” (although I think this has already happened…time to update your site ladies) What’s sisterhood if you can’t help a brother out now and again? Empowerment is a beautiful thing.

And while we are basking in the glow of sisters and sisterhood, this review would not be complete without mentioning the Seven Sisters constellation (click here to read a version like you’ve never read before!) and Cyndi Lauper’s classic, “Sisters of Avalon” embedded below.   I witnessed her perform the acoustical version live several years ago and loved it.

(A special note of ‘thanks’ to all my sistas. I am forever grateful. You know who you are.) Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aromatique: Had a very difficult time getting much from the nose. Almost nonexistent.

SipQuips; Light on the palette. Very mellow semi-tart wine with hints of passion fruit.  Beautiful golden color. Finishes well.

Kitchen Couplings:  Salads, fish, light pasta with white sauce. Asian cuisine.

 

Posted in Chenin Blanc, White on June 10, 2012 – 8:00 pm | Comments (2)

Zany Zin … it’s crazy good. Seriously.

Gotta say  it — I’m crazy about this wine.

While I won’t turn down a tasty white wine, give me a hearty, complex red any time — something bold with rich flavors that grow as the glass warms in your hand. Despite the flippant name, this 2007 Zinfandel from California’s Lodi wine-growing region is a serious wine, a good wine. Buying it for under $7 (at Grocery Outlet) almost seems like stealing.

It’s hard to say what makes any wine a “good” wine. If you like it, I guess it’s good. Maybe you like Night Train. I got no problem with that. (And, truth be told, Zinfandel’s Italian cousin, Primitivo, is used to make fortified wine in that country.) But for me, the best wines spur more than the physical senses, bringing out a memory, real or imagined. Like a good book, a good wine can transport you to a different time and place.

Imagine yourself staring down into long-abandoned cellar in a forgotten farmhouse outside a nameless Greek village. The temperature falls with each step as you descend the old stone staircase, curling into the darkness. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, you see row after row of dusty oak barrels and a few unlabeled bottles. Grab a couple and carry them upstairs. Imagine gazing into the dark mystery of that first pour and wondering just what history that bottle contains.

In the case of Zany Zin, that history probably trumps your imagination. During the revolution that won Greece its independence from the Ottoman Turks, a Greek fellow named Stamatopolous was captured and chained to a wall, presumably in a dark, musty cellar.

Facing death by fire, Stamatopolous earned a place in a long line of legendary Greek heroes by breaking free from his chains and escaping. His story is still told in his native village, and half a world away, where his great-great-grandson, Gus Kapiniaris oversees the Stama Winery in honor of his ancestor.

“My blood is in this vineyard,” he told California Country Magazine in 2007. “All of my life, all my work, all my blood is lying in these vineyards.”

It’s blood well-spent, indeed.

Gus Kapiniaris with his award-winning zin.

Gus Kapiniaris poses with his award-winning Zany Zin.

In old war movies, there’s often a scene where exhausted Allied soldiers, hiding, hopelessly outnumbered in a bombed-out building in some ruined European city, discover a stash of vino and start passing the bottle. It’s never Chardonnay.

I imagine this zin to be something that might be found in such a place — full-bodied and earthy with enough character to hold its own under the weight of expectation befitting the winner of the 2009 Gold Medal at the Beverage Institute’s World Wine Championship.

The first whiff of this wine is almost overpowering, with heavy scents of cigar and damp wood, like you might expect in an old wine cellar — perfect for an old-vine red from one of the most notable wine regions in the U.S. Further exploration reveals a fruity undertone with a hint of oak. The finish is round and satisfying, with just a trace of pepper. It lingers like the memory of campfire smoke on an unforgettable vacation.

This wine also is not soon forgotten. It’s a worthy toast to trusted comrades and legendary ancestors.

Aromatique: Strong, but not sharp. Smoky with a hint of mustiness like damp wood.

SipQuips: Full-flavored, black currant or dark cherry … a bit sweeter as it mellows … with hints of oak and cigar.

Kitchen Couplings: Start with a Greek salad with lots of feta; garlic pork roast or, on a chilly evening, a hearty minestrone. Lasagna or a baked zit dish.

 

Posted in Red, Zinfandel on May 31, 2012 – 10:43 pm | Comments (2)

A Cellar Full of Noise

It's getting hot in here!How’s that for a catchy title? While we were both drawn to the name, I gravitated to the image on the label. It reminded me of Anne Taintor’s humor, which left me wondering what this vintage Archie and Edith Bunker might be singing. “Those Were The Days?” Or perhaps it was something more appropriate like, “The Days of Wine and Roses?” Which, by the way, I have played and sung (not well, mind you) with my late grandmother. I still have the sheet music in my piano bench. Perhaps I should tinkle those ivories and take it out for a spin … or not, out of respect for the innocent victims in my home and the neighbor’s dog.Those really were the days. *smile* Whatever the tune, the label is meant to remind wine drinkers of happiness and good times shared between friends over a great bottle of vino. Now, I’m quite certain there are a few of us out there who have downed a bottle or two during some not-so-happy times, in which case the noise in the cellar might be the screams of whomever did us wrong. Which reminds me, I need to pick up another roll of duct tape and some baling twine.

No matter the reason for consumption, the vintner of our latest wine find believes purchasing and drinking wine should be enjoyable, unpretentious and never intimidating. A Cellar Full of Noise winery is located in the Paso Robles appellation halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, near California’s Central Coast. The 40-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is in San Miguel, just 25 miles from the ocean. The vineyard is on a mostly flat piece of land with gentle rolling hills to the east which block most of the morning sunlight. More often that not, this vineyard and the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards surrounding it are covered by the coastal fog. It is because of these conditions, the region is said to be the premier location for growing this type of grape.

Like a few other vineyards we have researched, A Cellar Full of Noise grows its grapes in blocks or sections. This helps maximize individualized maintenance of the vines through pruning, irrigation and harvesting. Who knew grapes could be such attention whores? The vineyard keeps about 15 to 20% of its grapes to produce its own brand of lush wines and sells the rest to other vineyards, who want to keep fruit local, but don’t have the patience or the means to grow certain types of demanding varietals.

The winemakers, James B. Judd and Eric R. Alvaraz founded the winery in 2002. James Judd isn’t new to the wine biz. He also partnered with this father back in the mid-70s on their  their sister vineyard, James Judd and Son Vineyard, which is still going strong. James and Eric share their philosophy about wine at every opportunity. Eric Álvarez: “When I tell people I’m in the wine business, they almost invariably say, ‘I don’t know anything about wine.’ I always say to those people, ‘You already know everything you’ll ever need to know about wine. If you like it, it’s good. If you don’t like it, it’s not good. Your opinion is the only opinion that matters. Wine should be a fun experience,” insists Álvarez. “There is no right or wrong. Just keep tasting until you find what you like.” Indeed!

And hopefully our little blog continues to encourage readers to experience and explore various wines until you too find something you like that won’t break the budget. We found this clever bottle of 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon at our local Grocery Outlet for less than $7, and I have to say, it was worth it. If you like intense tart cherry with a hint of chocolate and a relatively mild peppery feel, this definitely is a wine you should check out! This particular vintage was harvested in 2005 and bottled in 2008 after spending 29 months aging in American, French and Hungarian oak barrels. The winemaker suggests the best time to partake of this bottle is between 2009 and 2015. Finally, I’m on time for something!

I want to add a little fun fact if I may with regard to the name. During my research, I found an autobiography titled, “A Cellarful of Noise” by Brian Epstein. Did you know he discovered and managed the Beatles until his death from a drug overdose in 1967? It seems Epstein was a child no school would consent to having, a would-be aspiring dress-maker, and a record store clerk with a bleak future prior to managing the most famous group in music history. How’s that for a long and winding road? If you are a Beatles fan and haven’t had the opportunity to read his personal account it sounds quite interesting! Cheers!

Aromatique: Intense Cherry, with a hint of chocolate and mint

SipQuips: Fairly tart on the tongue, gives way to a mild peppery but smooth finish. Not overpowering.

Kitchen Couplings: Would be great with savory meats; pork roast, juicy cuts of meat like prime rib, a hearty beef stew, or hamburgers smothered in blue cheese!

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Red on May 29, 2012 – 8:36 pm | Comments (3)

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.

Posted in Chardonnay on May 2, 2012 – 8:29 pm | Comments (0)

Flight Of Fancy

This one earned a half glass.What do Howard Hughes, Walt Disney, Captain Michael King Smith and a small Oregon vineyard all have in common?

Think big wooden airplane.

The Spruce Goose, perhaps the biggest intact relic of World War II, sits in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum near McMinnville, Oregon. More importantly, it’s right next door to the Evergreen Vineyards, makers of the 2008 Spruce Goose pinot gris.

The Spruce GooseWe weren’t sure this Grocery Outlet purchase ($5.99) would ever get off the ground, but we try to keep wines from Idaho and other Northwest growing regions front and center on our wine rack. As it turns out, this is a very lively white wine with plenty of lift.

The citrus and apple notes are evident from the beginning, with a sweetness of pear rounding out the flavors and keeping this wine from being overly tart. It’s medium-bodied and is best served lightly chilled, just below room temperature.

Critics of the would-be transport plane also known as the “Flying Boat” thought it wouldn’t fly either. The largest airplane ever constructed was built by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, Jr. He also piloted the huge craft on its one and only flight — a one-mile hop designed just to prove he could get it airborne.

It’s highly unlikely that the man who began this story, who was born wealthy and grew moreso throughout his life, ever had a wine this cheap. But it’s a decent all-around wine, good with a light meal and something you won’t mind pouring for friends when they stop by. That’s something else Mr. Hughes didn’t have, at least later in life — friends. Perhaps if he’d been more free with his wine…

In 1988, the Walt Disney Company bought the plane, which had been kept intact by a crew hired by Hughes until his death in 1976. Four years later, the museum’s founders, Michael King Smith and Delford M. Smith cut a deal to bring the wooden behemoth to Oregon.

Despite its name, the plane is actually made primarily of birch. Wartime restrictions on aluminum and steel forced Hughes to use the lightweight, light-colored wood. Turns out, it’s pretty close to the color of this wine, which is on the pale end of the spectrum generally covered by wines made from pinot gris grapes.

Evergreen Vineyards labelA lot of Oregon pinot gris trends more toward copper and has a fruitier nose and taste than the Evergreen. But this is not an overly dry wine, and the mouthfeel is more substantial than you’ll find in a lot of whites.

Oregon is more widely known for its pinot noir, of course, but the pinot gris (a mutant descendant of pinot noir dating back centuries) is becoming more popular. This is largely due to the efforts of an Evergreen neighbor, the King Estate winery about 100 miles south on I-5.

The full story of the Spruce Goose is pretty amazing, and you can check out the real thing at the museum. It’s just 40 miles from Portland. The Evergreen Vineyards tasting rooms are located right inside the museum.

Aromatique: A little sharp, but the fruit is evident, especially after the wine mellows a bit.

SipQuips: Apple and citrus, moderated with rounder notes of pear. Smooth mouthfeel and a fairly clean finish.

Kitchen Couplings: Ideal for a light meal or hors d’oeuvres; light- or medium-flavored cheeses.

Posted in Pinot Gris on March 8, 2012 – 9:04 pm | Comments (0)

Pretty In Pink

Remember the old douche ads from the late 70s and early 80s (now considered “vintage” I’m sure), before the Summer’s Eve “Hail to the V” campaign? Where marketing moguls depicted a woman strolling along a pristine beach clad in yards of flowing white gauze or wandering a field blanketed with wildflowers, carrying a thoughtful smile?   I know now that her outward expression of happiness was not because her freshly cleansed va-jay-jay had the lingering scent of newly cut lilacs, but because she was remembering the fabulous new wine she’d enjoyed the night before. A wine like Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir: romantic, clean, refreshing and packed with floral aromas.

We discovered this wine across a crowded room at Boise’s own, “Sippin’ in the City” a few months back. It was love at first sight. After all, it’s a pretty wine in a pretty bottle and sells for less than $10, which makes for a pretty sweet deal. We found this bottle at our local Fred Meyer on sale for $7.99.

So what made me fall head over heels in love with this wine?  Let me count the ways…

It’s local.  At least it’s local for us. It has been a long time coming, but Idaho is finally making its way up the grapevine.  The Snake River Valley is home to at least 34 of the more than 40 wineries in Idaho. This appellation is historically known for its volcanic and glacial activity and, although this is typically an arid region, the river provides irrigation and much-needed air currents that moderate the often intense weather during the summer and winter months. Lucky for us, grapes dig it.  Indian Creek Winery is located on the west end of the Snake River Valley, in Kuna, Idaho, and open every weekend from noon to five.

It’s pink. And who, pray tell, doesn’t like pink?  At this point, you might be wondering why a wine called, “White Pinot Noir” is pink at all. To this, I implore you not to judge a grape by the color of its skin.  Almost all wine made from the Pinot Noir grape is red, due to its deep purplish color. But if the skins are not allowed to “get jiggy” with the juice, the result is a quite lovely shade of pink oftentimes referred to as a rosé.

Indian Creek White Pinot Noir

Did you know Indian Creek's 2009 White Pinot Noir took Gold and was voted "Idaho's Best Rose?" Photo: Indiancreekwinery.com

It’s a winner. The Idaho Wine Competition is a bit like an Olympic event for Idaho vino, with more than a hundred contestants in various categories, and arduous standards. Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir took silver last fall (2011). Clearly, even wine slobs recognize a winner when they taste it.

It rocks.Let’s face it, the most important aspect of any wine is, taste. If you don’t enjoy the flavor, what’s the point really? If you love wine (and I assume you do, or you wouldn’t be wasting life’s precious moments reading our drivel) I feel quite confident Indian Creek’s White Pinot Noir will find its way into your heart, too.

The intense aroma of cherry blossom and honey are absolutely intoxicating. At first glance it could be compared to plum wine, but with only 2.5% residual sweetness, it is far from being sickeningly sweet.  Instead, it’s relatively tart on the tongue, boasting well balanced acidity and notes of juicy strawberry, melon and a burst of mouth watering citrus.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to a light snack or meal, decadent desserts, a single square of chocolate to be savored by you and you, alone.  Rarely, do the wine slobs purchase the same bottle of wine more than once or twice (okay four is all I’m admitting to), but this one my friends will always have a spot in our wine rack.

Enjoying a glass at Mai Thai in downtown Boise!

Aromatique: It’s all about the floral, baby! Bring on the Cherry blossom!

SipQuips:   A wonderful meld of honey, strawberries, melon, and citrus give way to loads of juicy flavor! Not overly sweet.

Kitchen Couplings: Asian cuisine (spring rolls, sushi, jasmine rice), cheesecake, white chocolate dipped strawberries or mild white cheeses.

Hail to the “V”, people! I promise this is worth watching. It’s a least good for a smile. 😉

Posted in Pinot Noir, Rose on February 25, 2012 – 5:47 pm | Comments (1)

This ‘Bodega’ begs for something more

This one earned a half glass.

Even if my eyesight was good enough to read the tiny italic letters on the label of the Bodega Privada 2010 syrah, my Español probably wouldn’t be good enough to translate. I’d like to think it says something like “a dark, mysterious wine that is an interesting departure from traditional reds.”

To be honest, I didn’t fall in love with this Argentinian wine from the first sip. It’s a bit standoffish right out of the bottle, with an initial bite and relatively little fruit to invite exploration.

Captain Jack Sparrow likes him some syrah

The cool piratey bottle may be the best part of this wine.

The aroma betrays every bit of the 13.9% ABV, making this a very heady wine that seems almost unapproachable at first. But a little time in the glass reveals a rounder nose that, quite frankly, offered more than this wine could deliver.

The color is nearly black, with a rim of cranberry. It has long legs, and a dry, peppery finish that only grows slightly more complex as the bottle empties. Currant would be the closest thing to a berry flavor that I would impute to this wine. It carries more of an earthy flavor that may disappoint those accustomed to the more varied notes expected from a syrah.

We picked up this bottle at Grocery Outlet during their 20% wine sale a while back for under $6. The frosted black bottle and scroll-inspired label combined for an interesting presence on the wine rack. It looks like a prop from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and how can that not be cool?

But despite the exclusive sounding name — Private Cellar (hey, my Español isn’t THAT bad) — this is really just your basic table wine, a vino tinto for the masses. It’s made by RPB S.A. of Mendoza, Argentina, a winery started in 1959 by Rufino Baggio. It has become one of the three largest wine producers in the country, but wine is only part of Baggio’s business empire. He’s like the Argentinian love child of Julio Gallo and Joe Albertson. The guy has more products than Paul Newman.

Turns out that mass production of consumer commodities like jugo de naranja and soda pop might not be the best path to making excellent wine. The 2010 Bodega Privada syrah isn’t bad, but the next time I venture out for some Argentinian vino, I might stick with the malbec that country is best known for.

Aromatique: Berry notes, but one-dimensional.

SipQuips: Earthy, with hints of dry currant; sharp at first, but mellows a bit.

Kitchen Couplings: Something hearty — beef, strong cheese perhaps, but nothing overly spicy as the wine is peppery enough. One reviewer recommended serving with lamp. I assume they meant lamb, although it’s a Thai website, so that could be short for lamprey, I suppose. Or maybe they meant you should leave the light on.

Posted in Syrah on February 23, 2012 – 10:49 pm | Comments (0)

Mulling it over

Is there anything so perfect on a cold winter’s night as a warm mug of mulled wine? How about a warm mug of mulled wine while sitting in the glow of freshly strung holiday lights while your true love reads humorous bits to you from the internet? It may be cold outside (about 18 degrees here, btw), but it’s warm in here, where the clothes dryer is providing the perfect backbeat to the comedic reading. It’s awesome.

Some wine purists cringe at the notion of pouring perfectly good vino into a pot and adulterating it with juice and spices and warming it like a big bowl of holiday potpourri.

Well, we don’t care. This is one of the great things about sticking to wine priced under $10 per bottle — you don’t feel too bad about emptying a liter or two into the spaghetti pot. We sacrificed a six-year-old bottle of Driftwood Bay Barbera from Austalia’s Mudgee wine-growing region ($4.99 at Grocery Outlet).

So that’s what we’re doing now Drinking and huddling in the soft glow of twinkling LEDs, thinking about what a really expensive bottle of wine might taste like and that we’ll never know because we are pretty much signing the next two paychecks over to the power company to pay for all the blinkly-twinkly holiday goodness.

Oh well.

Here’s our recipe for hot spiced wine. Feel free to add your own in the comments, or let us know what “secret” ingredients you put in your holiday wine. We won’t tell. Promise.

2 qts black cherry juice (we only had cran-grape; it works just fine)

3 three-inch sticks of cinnamon

6 whole cloves

12 oz. pineapple juice (we drained canned pineapple and floated a few rings in the pot; it works just fine)

2/3 cup sugar

1 bottle of cabernet sauvignon (we were fresh out of cab, so we used a bottle of Australian Barbera. It works just fine.)

1/3 cup of lime juice

1 cup of orange juice

Heat everything but the wine and lime juice until it boils. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the wine and lime juice. Don’t boil. Discard the chunky stuff and serve warm.

Folks have been enjoying variations of this cold-season nectar for centuries. In Germany, they call it Gluhwein, which sounds kinda gross, but you can get bottles of it in most import shops, including Cost Plus World Market.

According to the Wikipedia, the oldest documented Glühwein tankard is attributed to the German nobleman and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV around 1420.

There are seemingly endless recipes for this holiday elixir, but most include cinnamon, cloves and citrus. In Moldova, they make their hot wine with black pepper and honey.

In Latvia, they take their karstvins (“hot wine”) more seriously than anywhere else in the world. When they run out of wine, they mix grape juice with something called Riga Black Balsam, which is basically pure vodka mixed with various natural ingredients. It’s 90 proof — guaranteed to take the chill off a cold winter’s night.

No matter what you prefer to put into your favorite solstice toddy, you’re part of a tradition that predates Columbus’ first trip across the Atlantic.

Whether you are just trying to blunt winter’s hard edge, or whether you’re trying to combine a sugar high with your drunken stupor, it’s hard to beat a nice, warm spiced wine.

Cheers!

 

Posted in Red on December 10, 2011 – 8:31 pm | Comments (0)

Some the wiser …

Well, this was a no-brainer.

I mean, really? Putting a bottle of wine called “Wise & Heimer” in front of the Wine Slobs is like throwing raw meat in front of a pair of starving … um … starving … well, what’s more bad-ass than a tiger? A werewolf maybe? Hyenas might be more appropriate in our case. Whatever, you get the idea.

It’s not clear from the label whether this 2009 German Riesling was inspired by the vaguely insulting “wisenheimer” or was merely the brainchild of the worst law firm name ever. It was, after all, imported by Prestige Wine Group (which, incidentally, must be fresh out because it no longer appears on their website).

Smarty pants wineBut, dear readers, there is a reason you come here for your wine edification. We know you deserve more than just a casual glance at the label. We take our wine-drinking seriously, imbuing our libations with deeper meaning and conveying that understanding to our legions of dedicated fans — all four of you. You know who you are. 😉

Call it the Zen of Tippling[?].

In this case, our witty vintners have achieved a sort of verbal yin and yang, balancing the semantically opposite “wise” and “heimer” on an ampersand fulcrum [?]. “Wise” evokes thoughts of the oracular elder contemplating the essence of his daily glass. Think Yoda sipping in his little hut on Dagobah.

The other half, the Heimer, is the foil in this little fencing match. According to the indispensable Urban Dictionary, it derives from the 90s-era insult “dingleheimer,” and means “a person exhibiting severe ignorance and inability to comprehend simple ideas.” Think GOP presidential candidate.

And there you have it: Balance. And that’s what we want in our wine, isn’t it? A balance of flavors and aromas within the wine itself and a balance of the wine with food and a match between the wine and the mood. In all things, balance.

Now if only we could balance the checkbook after buying this modestly priced bottle.

We had already committed to spending an ungodly amount of cash on a new kitchen table and chairs in preparation for the Thanksgiving in-law invasion. Either of those events would justify a trip to the wine aisle which, at Cost Plus World Market, just happens to be right next to the kitchen furniture. Go figure.

The selection at Cost Plus is awesome, but we didn’t browse long. We needed to get home and start drinking so we could decipher the instructions for assembling our new table. Fortunately, it didn’t require power tools or the ability to translate Swahili. This vintage with the clever name, in its bright blue (probably lead-tainted) bottle caught our eye right away.

As dedicated reviewers of inexpensive wine, we accept the fact that, sometimes, the pretty bottle and the cool label are the best part. (See Ed Hardy review, below.) But this wine was well worth the $7.99.

It opens up nicely with bright, crisp apple and peach/apricot flavors. The hint of lemon isn’t tart, but moderates the fruitiness. It starts sweet and warms nicely on the tongue, finishing clean and smooth. If you find some whites too dry but you also don’t like them overly sweet, you may find this well-balanced wine just what you’re looking for.

This is not a wine that is going to stand up and make you take notice. For one thing, it’s only 10% alcohol by volume (so get a couple of bottles). It’s refreshing and easy to drink, making it a good choice to have with a light snack or over ice while chilling with friends on the patio in the summertime.

It plays a nice second-fiddle at your table, provided you don’t overwhelm it with red meat, red sauce or bacon. (I know — supposedly bacon makes ANYthing better, but trust us on this one … save the bacon for a hearty red or something sweet like an ice wine or late-harvest riesling.)

Frankly, I don’t remember what we drank it with. I just know it wasn’t bacon.

So get on down to Cost Plus and buy a bottle or three for your holiday party. Maybe you can pick up a nice table on your way out.

Aromatique: Fresh, citrus-y nose with a hint of sweetness.

Sip Quips: Apple and peach lead the way, but there’s enough citrus here to balance the flavors nicely.

Kitchen Couplings: Lighter fare would be best. Salad, salty cheese or other hors d’ourves.

Posted in Riesling on December 3, 2011 – 12:10 am | Comments (1)