Category Archives: Wine

Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! ūüôā

Oh those Dundee Hills

Tom and I took a little overnight trip to the Dundee Hills, our first since having kids over 5 years ago. Tasting notes to come (when I find my notebook), but here’s some of the beautimousness.

Tasting 2008 Methven Family Vinyards Pinot Noir Reserve

This is¬†a really great wine, but this tasting record is from after letting it sit in my fridge for a week. ūüôā Sorry, wine! I have a terrible time drinking up a whole bottle by myself. Sorry to disillusion you, but I have to be quasi-alert at 4pm for a 2yo, so…

Opulent, intense plum on the nose, with a fair amount of heat from the alcohol. Warm spices and a slightly stewed scent that I associate with Ripasso. That’s probably from sitting in the fridge for a week, alas.

The palate has amazing body: structured but silky, though I’ll admit much of the fruit is muted by the time this has been gently decaying in my icebox. Still a real pleasure to drink, though, with some zingy cranberry and black tea on the finish.

I got this as a gift, but it seems to run about $22-25 per bottle; very much worth the price.

Tasting Black Mountain Pinot Noir 2012

Black Mountain Pinot Noir 2012I can’t find my good wine key. I have had to use this crappy, only-in-case-of-an-emergency one for weeks now, and it’s incredibly annoying. Using a good wine key is a simple pleasure – it’s a unflashy, elegant way to open a bottle, and it sets the tone for what follows.

So, Black Mountain Pinot Noir is a $6.99 wine from Trader Joe’s. Really, for under seven bones you shouldn’t hear much guff from me about this wine, right? Because Pinot is expensive to make – the damned vine is persnickety as hell – and anyone buying a cheap-ass bottle of PN should know what they’re getting in to. The glass in this picture cost more than the entire bottle of this wine.

That being said, if this wine were any good at all, you know I would not have kicked this review off with two long sentences about my lost wine key. I hesitated – I did! – when I pulled this bottle off the shelf at TJ’s, because I *thought* I remembered this wine being unredeemable plonk.¬† But toddler-related sleep deprivation screwed me yet again, and I did not feel my memory was as reliable as it really, truly was.

It’s sharp and lemony on the nose, with notes of histrionic, under-ripe cranberries and, ok, some not-unreasonable spice and black tea. Unfortunately, it really falls apart on the palate. Tart yet flabby and muddy, this is not a pleasure to drink. For the record, if you spend another $2-3 at TJ’s, you can buy a fairly competent Pinot Noir.

Andrea. Remember. YOU DO NOT LIKE THIS WINE.

Tasting Middle Sister Drama Queen California Pinot Grigio

My dear friend spent a decompression day at my house after SXSW Interactive, and brought me this wine, which she says someone dropped off at the WordPress booth.

Free!  Free wine is my favorite price.

I confess that the marketing of this wine has me on the fence. I like accessible, approachable wines that straight-up tell you what to expect. I especially like them when they’re affordable and easy to find. I feel happy when they help people feel more comfortable with drinking wine, a beverage that so often is perceived as exclusionary and snobbish.

But I don’t like it when I feel I’m being pandered to, and I recognize it’s a fine line. The Middle Sister wine brand is one of ¬†ten brands developed/owned by Canopy Management. Their brands all “tell a story,” which to my ear means that what’s selling the wine is the marketing/packaging, and not necessarily the wine’s flavor or quality. ¬†Which, to be fair, could be said about nearly any foodstuff or beverage that I have not tried already or researched before buying. So, OK: hall pass.

Canopy Management also owns a company (site? group? concept?) called Wine Sisterhood, which describes itself as “celebrating and sharing the world of wine from the female point of view,” and encourages people (women people, presumably), to “actively participate in the creation of the next new hot wine brand.”

All this is prompted by the fact that women drink more of the wine in this country.  Plus, we do most of the shopping.   The wine industry wants to figure out how to get women to buy their wine, stat.

Enter Canopy Management and their Middle Sister brand. ¬†It’s ingenious in many ways; it fulfills the consumer’s need for personalize-able variety. ¬†It appeals to the oft-ignored middle sister, and every woman, no matter her birth ranking, has felt like the ignored girl. ¬†Each wine has its own “personality;” what’s more, on their website, you can take a Cosmo-style quiz to see “which middle sister you are.”

It’s been a while since I’ve done a magazine quiz… and guess what? ¬†My Middle Sister Wine Personality is actually the wine that had randomly been brought to me! ¬†Spooky! Fate! ¬†Something!

Here’s my¬†Middle Sister Wine Personality synopsis (with comments):

Drama QueenYou’re a Drama Queen. Nobody does quite like you do.* You like to make an entrance. You know the best color/cut/face/eyebrow/wax lady.**¬†You are friends with the bartender, the chef, the kid who started Face Book and the mayor.*** You’re a social butterfly.****¬†When it’s time to land, it’s poolside in South Beach with a glass of Middle Sister Drama Queen Pinot Grigio. And a cabana boy.*****

This actually describes some women I love dearly, who wish I would buy sassier shoes and less schlubby clothes (and probably, secretly, that I would wax my eyebrows). ¬†I like to take them shopping with me, because then I look much more elegant than I would if I dressed myself. ¬†But I have yet to discover what this persona has to do with Pinot Grigio or those who like it. ¬†And, while I enjoy being arbitrarily how fabulous I am by a quiz just as much as the next gal, it’s a reach to connect gender to personality to wine preference, if you ask me.

Anyhow, let’s taste what’s IN the bottle, shall we?

Pale straw yellow in the glass. ¬†Nose of pear, lime and melon. ¬†Very heavy honeydew on the palate, with a spritz of lemon and a white grape juice finish. ¬†Not frightfully… dramatic per se, but quite pleasant and easy to drink. ¬†Keep it cold – when at a cool room’s temperature, it gets a little clunky.

Brass tacks: if you like kitschy wine labels or gimmick names, I can extrapolate from this one wine’s quality that Middle Sister makes drinkable, uncomplicated wines which will not let you down. The Drama Queen is very pleasant. ¬†I will mention that when I want a wine to “tell a story,” I prefer the story to be about a region, a grape or a winery’s vision.

*(thanks, that’s very kind and pretty much true of everyone)

**(Actually, I don’t know any of these people; I go to the salon about every 6 months, and have never waxed anything, ever.)

*** (Except for the last three.)

****(more of a groundhog – oops! shadow!)

*****(If his name is Tom.)

 

Tasting Schramsberg Brut Rose 2006 (with Deb Harkness at Wink)

Last night I went to Book People to see fellow wine blogger and NYT bestselling novelist Deb Harkness speak about her fantastic novel, A Discovery of Witches. ¬†Go buy it. ¬†Right now. ¬†It’s OK, I’ll wait.

Cool. ¬†Anyway, after the talking and the signing, Deb and I went to Wink for some wine and conversation, which were equally delicious. ¬†I will comment at this point that, while Yelpers reference issues with attitude and portion size at Wink, our experience included an exceptionally warm, gregarious staff and what I considered reasonable portions. ¬†But then, we just had wine, cheese and dessert, so I’m not sure my portion size wisdom is worth much. ¬†I was very pleased with the host and our server, however – we had actually intended to just go to their wine bar, but when we stumbled in to the restaurant first, the host walked us over to the wine bar… and then offered us a table at the restaurant if we preferred. ¬†We did, as the wine bar was packed.

When reviewing Wink’s list online, I had my eye on the Schramsberg Brut Rose 2006, as I (1) love sparking wine SO MUCH, (2) love Schramsberg SO MUCH and (3) thought it was really reasonably priced on their list at $60. ¬†Seriously, it practically retails for that. ¬†(Please don’t tell Wink.)

THEN, when Deb and discussed, I discovered that she had never tried Schramsberg’s vintage wine, which had me agog with horror (on their behalf, and hers), PLUS 2006 is when she started blogging, so it was… let’s be honest. ¬†It was Wine Fate. ¬†Sometimes Wine Fate takes hold of your life, and it’s senseless to struggle. ¬†Just let go, and let wine.

Schramsberg was the first winery in California to make sparkling wine, let alone methode champenoise (meaning in the style of the Champagne region) sparkling, and I still think their vintage bubbly rivals great Champagne. ¬†They’re a Napa house, though the 2006 Brut Rose contains grapes sourced from Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma. ¬†The 2006 vintage was¬†68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay.

Dear, dear readers – it was SO GOOD. ¬†This wine was a perfect, glittering jewel box of salmon pink, with pinpoint bubbles that never quit. ¬†The nose was of the most flawless wild strawberry on Heidi’s mountain. ¬†I confess I did not linger there because I so desperately wanted to taste… the palate was crystal clear and whistle-clean, yet simultaneously creamy and slightly spicy, with complex flavors of strawberry, apple and nectarine, and a finish that could go all night. ¬†Sublime.

We ate “lightly,” ordering the Texas cheese plate (which included CKC Farms Baby Caprino, Sand Creek Gouda, Texas Gold Cheddar, and Bosque Blue), and then going on to dessert. ¬†We had fun tasting the wine with the four cheeses, agreeing that the Baby Caprino was the best match for the wine, though the other cheeses were also very delicious. ¬†The cheddar was beautifully nutty, and the blue was fabulously rich and pungent.

Based on our experience with the cheese, we were excited about pairing the wine with Wink’s chevre cheesecake, which sits on a shortbread crust with a riesling syrup reduction, little balls ‘o pear, and candied pecans. ¬†We also got the Wink trio, which included their flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee and lemon merengue pie/confection. ¬†But mostly I need to tell you about the cheesecake.

The chevre cheesecake was, on its own, resplendent in its perfection – and with the wine, it hit a superlative level that blew us away. ¬†The tanginess of the chevre, balanced with the buttery shortbread and then mixed with the pear and the frosted nuts… THEN combining all THAT with the creamy yet crisp wine, with the pear coaxing out more of the Chardonnay than we had tasted before, transforming both the food and the bubbly… it was one of those alchemical¬†pairing experiences, when 1 and 1 make 3, that all wine & food lovers treasure.

The other three desserts paled in comparison with the above, so I won’t bore you with it – but I will mention that the bubbly did a great job with the intense chocolate cake, gratifying me in my memory that Schramsberg Brut Rose is an awesome chocolate wine.

Deb and I talked of everything under the sun, including wine blogging, feminism, fiction, academia, Texas,¬†motherhood, self-actualization and cowboy boots. ¬†The whole evening was a blast, and I am so grateful for a world that has Deb Harkness in it, both for her whip-smart, generous self and her engaging, complex fiction. ¬†Can’t wait until next time!

 

Tasting Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

The clever folks at Good Cheap Vino clued me into the fact that Cost Plus World Market is having a white wine sale all month long. ¬†As Jeff Lefevere at Good Grape writes in his post about World Market, it’s a good place to find decent, reasonably priced wine that is terribly likely to have a little class. ¬†I don’t think they have the best deals in Austin, for the record, but this particular sale brought them down about a dollar a bottle lower than comparable stores… on most things.

Plus, I could bribe the toddler to stay in the cart while I stocked up with a small blue froggie. ¬†(I’m virtually certain Specs does not stock bath toys. Hint, hint, y’all.) ¬†And yes, I take my preschooler wine shopping. ¬†How else is she going to learn?

So¬†Good Cheap Vino was interested in the Bogle Chardonnay ($8.99),¬†Pacific Rim Riesling ($9.99) and¬†Hess Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99), among others – which definitely piqued my interest. ¬†However, once I made one round (and with the family budget in mind), I set myself the challenge to “get down, girl, go ahead, get down.” ¬†And whaddyaknow if I didn’t walk out of that store with 8 bottles of white for $60 (plus $3 for the above-pictured blue froggie. He goes “puff-puff-puff.” It’s pretty awesome.)

But the most exciting thing… do you want to know the MOST EXCITING THING? ¬†The thing that will probably get me BACK to Cost Plus World Market, heaven help me?

Dude. ¬†Dude. ¬†This $3.99 Rene Barbier Mediterranean White. ¬†It’s sick. I want to bathe in it.

And it’s only $3.99, SO I CAN AFFORD TO.

Lemon yellow in the glass. Lemon/granny smith nose, floral notes and a whiff of the seaside. Bright and lively on the palate with just a feint of sweetness before the refreshing lemon/lime flavors and the edge of the edge of petillance chase that off. Nice medium weight, and a respectably long finish of mineral and (hey, what a coincidence!) lemon peel. Really delicious. Yum.

Rene Barbier is a pretty respected winery in Spain (owned by the Ferrer family – they of Freixenet – since 1984), and from what I can tell their Mediterranean White (also comes in Rose and Red, btw) is Made For the USA. ¬†Which, um, yeah – cool with me. ¬†I’m going to drink the crap out of this wine over the summer.

The region spouting this tasty jooce is Catalunya, which is the most northeastern area of Spain, on the Mediterranean. ¬†The grapes in the wine are¬†a blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada – all grapes used in Spain’s signature sparkling wine, Cava.

The alcohol level is higher than my other go-to summer wine, Vinho Verde, at around 11.5%. ¬†Which is fine, since this is a lovely food wine – anything you can imagine squeezing lemon on will pair well with this. ¬†And the food will soak up some of the alcohol you’ll have ingested when you realize that somehow you’ve drunk half a bottle all by yourself.

When you go get some – and I encourage you to do so in the next couple of weeks, before the price goes back up to $5.99 – please don’t buy it all. ¬†I’m almost done with this bottle already.

Tasting Santo Cristo Garnacha 2008 Wine Blogging Wednesday #71

Here’s how it went, today at 5:50: “Hm, I guess while the kiddo is watching a special treat TV show before dinner, I’ll surf around wine blogs for a sec.

Wait, is it Wednesday?

Wait, isn’t there a WBW coming up?

Wait, is today the effing 16th?

GD it, I was going to drink that crisp white in the fridge tonight.

Hell.

Do I even have any Rhone varietals in the closet?

Cotes du Rhone, Morgon, Bourguiel… Oh! ¬†I forgot about this little Garnacha.

Campo de Borja, cool.  $7.50, easy to open for no other reason than blogging.

Plus, that’s all I’ve got that works.

OK, let’s crack it open, snap a photo and get to writing.”

So I poured out a glass and got started 10 minutes before dinnertime.

This is a pretty little wine; purple in the glass, with ruby-red tints, it smells of raspberries and mint. Tart on the palate, with pepper and flavors of unripe blackberry now, as well as a hint of… tar? ¬†Then the tannins come and chase everyone out of the room; the finish is pretty long, with cane berry flavors re-emergent and lingering. ¬†A decent level of complexity for this wine I spent $7.50 on at Austin Wine Merchant, though more of a quaffing wine and less of a food wine, to my mind at least.

I am confident of the latter statement because I happened to make barbecued chicken thighs, anasazi beans and baked sweet potato fries tonight for dinner, which was, I thought, fortuitous.  I like Rhone varieties with barbecue flavors РSyrah especially, of course Рbut Spanish Garnacha can be so heavily extracted that they can sometimes pull off that sweet fruit/charred notes match.

With the Santo Cristo, though, the barbecue sauce on the chicken really brought out the tarry notes in the wine. ¬†Maybe if there were more acidity in the wine to offset the tomato… but the creamy sweet potatoes and beans didn’t match very well either. ¬†If I knew then what I know now about this wine, I’d put it with a fattier meal, like a grilled sirloin, or maybe just not tricky-dick barbecue sauce.

Garnacha is my ticket in to Wine Cast’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #71 because it is the Spanish version of Grenache, that staple grape of the Southern Rhone. ¬†Grenache/Garnacha is a high-producing vine that is known for its spice, ample berry fruit and high sugars (which translate to high alcohol). ¬†When the Spanish vinify their really old, old vines, however, the resulting Garnacha wine bears only superficial resemblance the French Grenache.

OK, so this is probably my worst WBW post ever. ¬†I did not plan, so I have not had time (had people over this evening after I got the kid to sleep, and it’s late – for me at least – now) to really research the producer or write a cogent breakdown of the region or the grape. I really like the Campo de Borja region for wines that drink way above their price tag, just so you know. ¬†And I am in favor of Rhone varieties wheresoever they are planted.

Drink Garnacha.

Scamp out.

Wine Flour? Wine Flour!

I was listening to a KCRW Good Food podcast today and heard about this new (to me at least) product called wine flour. This company Vinifera For Life out of Canada makes it – and has been doing so since 2006 – so it’s not like this is breaking news, just to be fair. ¬†But now this firm called Marche Noir makes food for sale using wine flour made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, including brownies and pasta.

Wine flour is made from the grape skins and seeds (sometimes called pomace) that are left over from wine making; Vinifera for Life sources its product from the Niagara wine region in Canada. ¬†You may recall me mentioning that most of the taste of a wine comes from the grape’s skin; grape skins are where polyphenols like tannic acid, anthocyanins and flavenoids live, and winemakers generally get those compounds into wine by crushing grapes and letting the juice extract flavor and color for a period of a couple days (in the case of rose) to a couple weeks (in the case of red wine). ¬†One of the most famous polyphenols in wine is called¬†resveratrol, which is famous for its anitoxidant properties and other reputed health benefits.

It’s the health benefits of resveratrol that has been garnering a lot of internet interest in wine flour. ¬†I confess that my interest is more from a taste perspective: I keep thinking about what one could do with a pasta that tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon. ¬†My favorite notion is a blue cheese alfredo sauce with toasted walnuts; blue cheese and walnuts are great together and are also great with Cabernet. ¬†Other interesting pairings might include shredded duck breast tossed with cabernet pasta… what do you think? How would you prepare the perfect dish of cabernet pasta?

Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to talk myself into paying $8 for the pound of pasta and another $8 for shipping it to lovely Austin, Texas from California. ¬†I can’t find a local producer of wine flour pasta, and I confess that I am too lazy/busy to make my own. ¬†So I guess I’ll have a lot of time to kick around recipe ideas in my head… until I get over my cheapness, or Whole Foods decides to pick up Marche Noir’s fascinating new products. (hint, hint) ¬†If you’ve tried something made with wine flour, or worked with it yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

Tasting Zolo Bonarda 2009

Honestly, I don’t know how this bottle even got into my cellar. ¬†It looks like something I would buy; (1) it’s Argentinian, so reasonably priced, (2) interesting grape and (3) just plain fun to say. ¬†Heh, kidding on number three. ¬†I don’t buy wines because they’re fun to say. ¬†Much.

Bonarda is a super-prevalent grape in Argentina and nowhere much else. ¬†In California, it’s called Charbono but doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity. Bonarda (or Charbono) is used generally as a blending grape due to its ink-dark color and intense tannins.

Evidently Argentina is experimenting with single-variety Bonarda wines. Cool! Zolo is a wine brand made by Finca Patagonias; they¬†mostly do Tapiz, and describe themselves as “one of the most technological wineries in Argentina.” Which, totally not trying to be condescending here, cracks me up. ¬†That usually tells me that they’ve got solid grapes, maybe always have, and now focus on the science of making large quantities of stable, crowd-pleasing wines. Fair enough.

The color is all Heart of Darkness, all the time in the glass. ¬†The nose is pretty hot, with stewed blackberries, jammy jam and dusty earth notes. ¬†The palate is spare – prunes are hanging around, and there are certainly tannins, but there’s also enough acidity to keep them from waking the baby. ¬†And then there’s that smoky, toasty, don’t-call-me-fruity-or-I’ll-punch-you finish. ¬†Something about this wine makes me think of… leather. ¬†Not black leather, as the color would lead you to believe, but the dark brown leather of good riding boots.

All the dark tones of this little goth number make me think of what to pair it with.¬†¬†Duck confit? chocolate coated pepper steak? boiled leather aux herbes? ¬†Actually, the chocolate isn’t far off the mark – I snuck some dark chocolate chips out of the freezer, and they’re a hit. ¬†But the smokiness of this wine makes it an excellent wine to go with my husband’s favorite food… Texas barbecue. ¬†Yep, 12-hour smoked beef brisket would totally make out with this Bonarda. ¬†They can get all intense and philosophical together, and talk about how they hate their parents. ¬†It’s a date.