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.

Guest Post: I’m a Wineaux Wannabe

Martha is a single work-at-home mom. She works as a social media strategist and consultant at Yellowfly Social Media. She also blogs over at Momsoap, where she writes about parenting and race-related issues, because her daughter, Annika, is biracial. Her blogging style is irreverent, which mostly means that she swears a lot. She likes wine, but she’s never quite sure if Shiraz is a brand or a type of wine.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a wino when it comes to wine. But last week I realized something, since becoming a mom, I’m no longer a wino. I’m a wannabe wineaux. I wish, with just a hint of desperation, that I knew what good wine tasted like and how to tell a hit from a dud.

I like to imagine that I know what really good wine tastes like. I dated a guy once who proffered me French wine from menus without prices. I pretended to understand how delicious they were. To me, they all tasted like wine has always tasted. Some wine is delicious, and some just leaves my mouth feeling like someone mixed cardboard with grapes and bottled it with a vineyard label.

My first bout with wine was, I kid you not, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. I was not even legal drinking age yet. But I thought it was delicious. I drank the entire bottle while waiting for a friend to show up, who was supposed to be sharing it with me. I was shamelessly drunk and entirely happy with myself after that experience. For years, all wines paled in comparison to that enjoyable evening where I was mostly drunk on the delight of being drunk from a $3 bottle of wine.

My standards moved up when I started working at an Olive Garden, at the age of 19, and I learned that the choice of wine with your dinner depends on the color of your meat. It seems ridiculous to me now, but yes, people actually came into a place that serves endless baskets of bread and salad and expect the servers to know about wine.

I always had a good answer. My answer depended on the price of the bottle and the appearance of the customer. To my surprise, they always believed me. It’s amazing what a knowing look, slight bend at the waste and a flourishing touch as you wipe the lip of the bottle with a napkin can do to assure your customers that they have, indeed, made the best choice of wine to go with their pasta primavera.

And perhaps they did. Perhaps I was better at guessing than I gave myself credit for.

All I know for sure is that I’ve always felt like a fraud when it comes to wine. It seems like there should be some knowledge I could have picked up by now, after traveling around the world and drinking wines from varying restaurants.

Mostly, I just pick out the prettiest label for the best price. But I know there’s a better way. I just know it.

Behind the Curtain: Wine Chicks Guide

I’m always looking for new wine blogs.  There are plenty out there, and my favorites focus on easily-found, reasonably-priced wines.  I also particularly enjoy wine blogs written by women, partly because there aren’t as many out there as I’d like.  To find new blogs, I generally surf around other wine bloggers’ blogrolls…

That’s totally not how I found Wine Chicks Guide; I ended up meeting Kellie through Facebook, as one of my FB friends (who is completely not related to my wine life) also happened to be one of Kellie’s childhood friends.  This is your world, gentle readers; watch it shrink!

Kellie Dolan Stargaard’s blog is Wine Chicks Guide; she’s been blogging about wine since 2009, when she lost her job and decided to start writing about one of her passions.  I’ve been wanting to do some wine blogger interviews for a long time, and Kellie very kindly agreed to be first.  I really enjoyed her candor – I hope you do too!

What’s the first wine you ever drank?

Oh wow, I’m sure it was something really cheap and horrible back in high school. In college I progressed to Boone’s Farm, yes I have come a long way. Somewhere in my 20’s I discovered Blackstone Merlot. I think this is the first wine I can remember drinking that had any redeeming qualities. My love affair with wine grew from there.

What’s the most common reason you drink wine (stress relief/enjoyment/celebration/anesthesia/etc)?

All of the above! Seriously, I think I drink wine just for the enjoyment. When people find out I write a wine blog and receive wine samples they, think my husband and I are drunk all the time. I don’t drink wine because of the alcohol; I drink it because I enjoy the act of opening the bottle, pouring the glass and analyzing the flavors. There’s something about holding that glass and watching the wine swirl around the glass.

When did you start your wine blog, and why?

I started my blog in August of 2009. I’d lost my full-time status at the company I had worked for 10 years and was feeling a little lost. I found myself with extra time on my hands. So, I decided I liked wine and liked to share my experiences with wine, hence Wine Chicks Guide was born.

Has it taken you where you thought you’d go?

It’s taken me much further than I ever imagined it would. In October 2010 I was inducted into the Order of the Raven by Ravenswood founder, Joel Peterson. A group of 10 wine experts and journalists were flown out to Sonoma for a 3 day tour of the Ravenswood Single Vineyards. We spent everyday and evening with Joel and it truly was a remarkable event. I can truly say I never thought I would take a helicopter tour of Sonoma Valley.

How do you shop for the wines you review (every time you’re in the store/special trips to wine shops/online)?

I swing by the wine section in my local supermarket to see if they have any specials or anything new on the shelves. I also hit my local big box wine retailers once a month to stock up on new wines to include in my blog and inexpensive wines to just enjoy. Most of the wines I blog about now are between $8.99 and $20. Since I receive many of my wines from PR firms, they tend to be on the higher end but I do try to include some wines under $10.

What is the most rewarding thing about blogging, for you?

The people I meet, fellow bloggers, winemakers, public relations or just wine lovers. It’s opened new doors to connect with people who share in my passion for wine.

What is the most difficult aspect of blogging, for you?

Carving out the time in my day to actually write. I don’t want my blog to take time away from spending time with my husband or interfere with my paying job. I try to blog in the afternoons only and stay off the computer as much as I can once my husband is home. He’s very supportive of what I’m doing but I have to keep my priorities straight.

What aspect of the wine world do you wish you knew more about?

Funny you should ask, because I’ve wanted to take viticulture classes but unfortunately none are offered in my area. For now, I have to settle for reading books on wine.

What aspect of wine can people not shut you up about?

My passion for family owned wineries. So many of the big wineries have now been sold to conglomerates. I think it speaks volumes when a winery big or small is still family owned and run.

What are some blogs you read regularly?

TaylorEason.com and Vinography are the two I read most often. Taylor Eason is from Tampa and I’ve had the opportunity to meet her and I really look up to her.

What are some blogs you’ve just discovered?

That would have to be Wine Scamp. I’m so glad we were brought together through a mutual friend.

What should people know about you (that they probably don’t)?

I’m not a wine expert and I’m not a journalist. I’m just a wine lover trying to break down the wine walls that make wine intimidating to many people. Wine has a bad rap as being a bit of a snobbish and affluent drink. I can’t buy a bottle of Caymus just for everyday drinking and I don’t know many people who can. My goal is to convey to people you can find great wines at affordable prices and to give them a little background on the wine.

Thanks so much to Kellie for allowing herself to be interviewed! I really enjoyed learning more about her.

House Wine Bar

A friend and I dined the other night at Casa de Luz, an awesome place to eat some delicious vegan fare.  After, we walked over to House Wine, a new-ish wine bar (I’ve been out of the wine bar scene for so long, it may be 2 years old for all I know) near Lamar and Barton Springs Road.  All I had with me was my phone, so pardon the grainy shots.

My friend ordered the Muscadet they were pouring, and that’s one of the things that should send you right down to this spot – they are pouring a Muscadet.  And multiple Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays and Rieslings and white blends and… well, 33 white wines and 43 reds.  And 5 or six sparklers, as well as some 6  sweet wines.  All the bottle prices are pretty reasonable, and basically any flight is $15.  If you like variety, and I know you do, gentle reader, this is your place.  Variety Central!  It’s like they opened it just for you!

I ordered a flight of three Malbecs: the Llama, Terra Rosa and Tomero.  All from Mendoza, all around $9 per glass.  The flight setup was very sensible, given that all wine is served at a bar for the patron to carry with her to a table.  I was there to socialize and not to scribble wine notes, so I don’t have tasting notes for you, but the Tomero was my favorite.  The other two were more tannic and might have been happier with food.  The Muscadet was really lovely, with tartness as arresting as a slap in the face from an old Southern lady.

Oh!  And Sundays they do a great deal in which they pour all the wines by the glass half-price, as long as the bottle’s already open (usually from the night before I bet). And they do wine cocktails!!! I love wine cocktails!  I’m going back just for the cheese plate and the wine cocktails.

What other things do Austinites care about in a wine bar?  Let’s see.  Big patio.  Dogs allowed on patio.  Street parking.  Probably gets crowded at the bar when it’s busy.  Minimal food but interesting cheese and chocolate. Good happy hours.  Go see them; I bet you’ll like it too.

 

Amazing Austin Tasting Alert for 3/30/2011

If you are in Austin and happen to be free between 4 and 6 pm today, I highly recommend you go to Austin Wine Merchant and taste wines from Tablas Creek.  I will not be able to attend, alas!  But everything Tablas Creek does is phenomenal, and you will not regret the expenditure of time.  Winemaker Tommy Oldre, will be there – ask him about his trip to Chateau de Beaucastel last year.

AWM tastings are awesome, anyway.  And they discount the wines they’re pouring, usually.  Which, FYI, is not to be sneezed at when you’re tasting Tablas Creek wines – they’re not ruinously expensive by a long shot, but they are high of quality and priced fairly given that fact.

Oh!  And I just noticed… dude.  Dude.  They’re going to pour the Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge 2008.  (expletive)   That is some gen-you-wine premium juice, Austin.  If you can possibly manage it, get your wine drinking self to this tasting, my friends.  And then tell me what you thought!   You don’t mind me living vicariously through you, right?  Awesome.

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.)