Category Archives: reviews

Liveblogging red wine at WBC14

Live blogging the whites and rosés yesterday was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t attend the reds session this afternoon, but then I talked myself into it. I joined a little late because I spent so long talking WordPress in the lobby with the charming Allison from Please the Palate that I ran my laptop battery nearly dry and had to run up to my room for the power cord I had left there.  She liveblogged the reds too, so if we tasted the same thing, you can compare us. If we diverge greatly, trust her notes, not mine. :)

The Wines

Casey Flat Ranch 2011 Red Blend: (52% Cab, 24% Syrah, 6% Merlot, 1% Viognier) Oak and green pepper on the nose, mashed blackberries, and cedar. Kind of a pruney palate, with lots of pine and forest floor, pretty grippy tannins and a lasting menthol/chestnut flavor on the finish.


Gypsy Canyon 2012 The Collector’s Pinot Noir: BIG pomegranate, spicebox, mushroom, and thyme on the nose. Deep cherry juice on the palate with . Smooth mouthfeel, elegant tannins, with some coffee and blueberry on the finish. $110

Bianchi Heritage Selection Paso Robles 2011 Zinfandel: Pretty classic black pepper and blackberry jam with a nice lifted aspect on the top. Tastes like a good bbq ribs wine: sweet notes without cloying jamminess, but a nice bitey char at the end that I think would balance well with any grilled red meat. Yummy!

If you choose to engage in liveblogging, you might be writing your notes with the winemaker looking over your shoulder at your tasting notes. No pressure! :O

Trione Alexander Valley 2009 Red Wine Blend: Wow, menthol much? Mint/tobacco/green pepper overload. Really green on the nose but super-purple in the glass. I was expecting it to be spare on the tongue but it explodes with juice and goes out like an angry, eucalyptus-laden lamb. $45

Taken Napa Valley 2011 Red Wine: two millennial sons of famous Napa winemakers make this; sophisticated nose of pretty oak, currant, and pepper. Grippy tannins and nce fruit. Nothing wrong with this wine, but it didn’t blow my socks off. $30

Bandit NV Cabernet Sauvignon: You’ve seen this wine in the bright purple Tetrapack “bottle.” Great for camping or floating the river. Unremarkable cabernet with sweet oak, blackberry, and pine needles. Very soft tannins and a pretty vegetal finish, but good with burgers over a campfire I bet. Following the fancy Napa cab blend didn’t do it any favors. :)

Labyrinth Presqu’ile “Clone 667″ 2012 Pinot Noir: Musky sweet/sour burgundy style nose, pretty violets, spice, and subtle herbs. I really enjoy smelling this wine. Smooth and delicious on the tongue, with elegant satiny texture. Extremely well-made. $50

Brecon Estate 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc: Really pretty, floral and fruity nose. The oak lifts the floral spicy smells and complements without competing. Someone said caramel, I guess I can see that. Bright and sassy palate, with not-quite-ripe blackberries and a little tarragon on the finish.

Consilience 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah: Great floral/fruit nose with brisk black pepper. Jammy and grippy on the palate but not overwhelmingly so. Violets? Lavendar? something flowery on the end there. $20

Whew! Let’s not do that again for a while, ok?

WCB14: liveblogging whites and rosés

10 wines in 50 minutes! WAT.

Urban Legends Cellars 2013 Grenache Blanc: oodles of lime, floral notes, quite a whang on the palate with honeydew and lazy peach, not as much of the acidity I was looking for. Fermented stainless with some lees stirring in tank.

Uproot 2012 Grenache Blanc: trying to attract 20somethings, funny little card showing flavors. Kick-ass opulent stone fruit nose here, with pretty high alcohol. Good melon and lemon on the palate. Not completely off-balance, but it tilts much farther away from acid than Urban Legends did. Continue reading

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! :)

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. :) 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!