Tag Archives: Red Blend

Wine for Halloween Chocolate! Drink Away the Indian Summer With Romantic Graciano!

25 Oct

Summer didn’t linger, it stayed out late and curfew be damned. Night after night  it returned to rub our noses in the heat and humidity for more than a month past the Fall Equinox in the way that summer lovers can’t bear to leave each other’s side.

 

Más de Berceo Graciano 2015, Navarra, Spain. ABV 13.5%; SRP $9/bottle.

 

Color is medium purple with garnet center and a pale edge. The nose is rich with plum and boysenberry, clove and spice box with underlying heat; providing an exciting, aromatic adventure with reduced acids and round,  easy-going tannins. On the palate, the blend is gentler than one expects. This graciano demonstrates a softer, mature red and black fruit blend with  loam and clay, showing strong influence from the oaken cask it matured in.

A gentle yet full body with a tart and lingering stare, this is a wine that begs to be fed and enjoyed with food. Salty or sweet, your palate will reward you: fresh or dried fruit, cheese, fresh briny seafood, cured or roasted meats, all are choice compliments. Tapas? Of course! It also worked easily with a classic salad and Margherita pizza. My favorite pairing? Fig & olive crisps from Trader Joe’s with a chunk of triple-cream cambozola blue cheese on top.  But the one that might make you drop your costume in the foyer and dig into your lover’s trick-or-treats is the pairing of graciano and chocolate! Your tasty candy might be milk or dark, sea salted or caramel-laced. The graciano blend is a stunning complement for chocolate and candy that will have you pouring glass after glass for yourself and your loved one from the front hall candy bowl until you’re entrenched in the bedroom. At $9 a bottle, who’s to know or care how many bottles you enjoyed over Halloween? I won’t tell.

 

 

 

Just leave the candy bowl on your front stoop with a note that says “doorbell broken”, and enjoy your night together. 

à votre santé!

 

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Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

locations-wa4

 

Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

locationswa4

 

Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

Furious Live Wine Blogging. Day 2- Reds!

13 Jul

It’s hard to explain the insanity of Live Wine Blogging at the WBC14  Wine Blogger’s Conference, but let’s try: 300+ people crammed into a conference room with round tables for 8 with a number in the middle. 50 minute time limit on the event! Wine makers run around the room, changing tables every five minutes from table number to number (in order), trying to shout above the din what their wine is while they both pour tastes and answer questions. Bloggers furiously try to taste each wine, scribble notes, and tweet or record their findings as they try not to spit wine on themselves or their digital devices. All of this while the conference leaders shout furtively into a wireless microphone that only feeds a speaker in one small corner, far below the room volume. A tiny bit of insanity, strangely fun, while frustrating. Did I mention the intermittent internet connectivity, or the lack of good signal in the basement? Oh- never mind. 🙂

Regardless- we tasted some good, some not so good, from $8 to $60 (Jordan Winery’s 2006 Cab: Tasty!). Here is my pile of tweets for your enjoyment!

 

Labyrinth Pino ’12 clone 667 “More Cary grant than John Wayne”

2011 SB Syrah Brett and barnyard on the nose, very mixed palate. Grill pleaser for sure.

Monterey Pinot. Black cherry, boysenberry, nice tight finish. Stelvin & $15- easy to drink!

2010 vineyard 511 Cab- aged 30 mo’s in oak! Menthol & Forest, black fruit and long pull.

Symmetry Meritage ’11 Classic Sonoma, where’s my steak?

Carmenere Reaerve 2011. $13, earth & brown spice, ideal for Classic French aka boef bourg.

’06 Cab. Lovely Alexander valley, menthol and perfume- so old world! Luxury-Yum!

à votre santé!

The Red Wine Party Challenge: Part 2/Conclusion

12 May

In Part 1 of The Red Wine Party Challenge, I provided mini-reviews of eight possible wines under consideration for a catered meal where I needed to choose one red wine for a very large group of people. The criteria included: 

1) Ideally a French wine

2) Must pair with: pasta with a variety of sauce options, poached salmon, roasted vegetables, & sushi.

3) To speed bar service, require alternative enclosure, or to be available in 1.5L bottle.

4) Lower price range ($7-$15/bottle) to stay in the party budget. 

As a refresher, at a local wine store I found these eight wines as possibilities:

La Vielle Ferme (Rhone, France) $7

Rosemont Estate Cab/Merlot Blend “Soft & Smooth” (Australia) $7

Rothschild Mouton Cadet 2012 Bordeaux Blend (Gironde, France) $9

Duboef Beaujolais-Villages Gamay  (Romaneche-Thorins, France) $9

PepperwoodGrove Pinot Noir (Valle Central, Chile) $9

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve, (Rhone, France) $10

Chateau La Freynelle 2010, Merlot/Cab Blend (Bordeaux, France) $12 

Drouhin LaForet Pinot Noir (Beaune, France) $15 

8 bottle

Round One: I started by removing the wines I thought had limited pairing ability- even though they might have paired wonderfully with one specific dish from the meal, after tasting them I had to find that one wine that will stand out on its own AND pair well with all the foods being served- salad, poached salmon, pasta (tomato sauce, pesto, garlic & oil, primavera) as well as a sushi station. Well, it’s called a challenge for a reason, right?  I took three out of consideration after my initial tasting:

-The Rosemont Estate felt smooth and a tiny bit sweet- not right for this pairing.

-While La Vielle Ferme is often a wine I enjoy, this year’s selection was only OK.

-I thought a gamay selection offered good potential, but this bottle of DuBoef felt too astringent.

Round One left me with five remaining wines: two Bordeaux blends, one Rhone, two Pinot Noirs to decide among. 

Round Two is going to be difficult! These wines all drink very well and are delicious, great bargains with no obvious faults.

Time to compare the two pinots and the two Bordeaux. This is not going to be easy, but I’m determined to make it fun!

For the pinot noirs and this meal, the Pepperwood offers more pairing options and is easier to drink by itself. Reluctantly, I had to put the Drouhin to the side. While it is a lovely complement for the salmon and sushi, it did not offer enough body to pair well with the spicier pasta sauces.

-The Mouton Cadet is an easy vin du table that is so incredibly consistent but I preferred the Chateay La Freynelle when considering the entrees being served. I put the Mouton Cadet to the side.

-I compared the Freynelle and the Perron Rhone. I tasted, spat and tasted, and then tried each with a medium cheese. The Famille Perron Rhone has a darker palate yet was more harmonious to the dairy, while the Bordeaux blend was crying out for meat. I’m not serving meat. I put the Freynelle to the side.

 

Round Three! I’m down to Perrin Red Rhone Blend and Pepperwood Pinot Noir.

photo Pepperwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either of these wines would be a wonderful complement. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir, a Chilean wine that drinks like entry-leve Burgundy from a top producer (at a fraction of the cost) would also be a great example of options to my guests who EXPECT French wines from me. It’s super easy to drink by itself or almost any food. Add the Zork enclosure, and this wine is a killer bargain at $9. Any nay-sayers would be stopped by the list of accolades on the label.

Yet the  Côtes du Rhône is a beautifully-made red that is the epitome of great, inexpensive French red wine, with more body and a longer finish.

I debated and debated. I sipped and spat, swirled, sipped, and swallowed. I had to choose one.

 

Decision time:

photo

 

In the end, I went with the Perrin Family Côtes du Rhône. The beefier body, the long finish, and the multiple specific notes from the wine make this the ideal red to serve. It will satisfy those who don’t know anything about wine (who will simply enjoy it with whatever they choose to eat) and equally well it will satisfy the oenophiles who will break down the elements, discuss the fruit, acid and tannins that I do so often in this very space.

So: decision made. For those who wonder what white wines were served, I will make good on that promise!

I started everyone off with the Gazela Vino Verde 2012 $6/bottle from Portugal, whose touch of fizziness reminds the drinker of sparkling wine while being lower in alcohol, light and delicious, making it really fun to drink.

SAQ-Gazela-III

For a full-bodied white, I chose the Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay 2013 at $11/bottle from Southern Australia. The Yalumba is a vegan and vegetarian-friendly wine that uses no animal-based fining agents as well a being a predominant winemaker who uses both organic, biodynamic and sustainable winemaking practices in their work. Beyond that, it simply tastes delicious (green apple & white peaches) with notes of stone and spice on the crisp, clean finish. Very satisfying.

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Please share with me YOUR experiences and trials in trying to find the “right” wine. I look forward to hearing from you!

à votre santé!

 

Best Little Wine Store- Part 2: Wines from the Sorting Table

30 May

I got a note from a reader, asking if I tasted any wines from The Sorting Table on 7th  and if so, why didn’t I write about them? I admit, I am remiss in the time it took me to get these words out to you. Hence, Part 2! Wonderful Wines.

Yes, I tasted wines from Josh V’s Sorting Table, but it began with a challenge.  When I asked Josh for brilliant, funky, Napa blends he asked me back specifics as he handed me bottle after bottle starting from $15 and up to $50, all of which fell in that category and every one I wanted to try. So I kept asking, and tried several bottles to take notes for you, my fair readers.

And try I did. I tasted several wines from his store, and here they are in no particular order:

Salmon Vineyard’s 2011 Petite Syrah

R petite syrah

 

Deliciously wonderful, a wine that changed on the palate with every sip! I could not put this down. Amazing small-format winemaking- could rate in the company of Jason Moore and David Phinney, for $25/bottle. Paired this with an organic margarita pizza and thought that heaven could not be closer to my mouth. Deep purple in color, thick and viscous, jammy fruit with nice acidity, tart tannins, and an amazing finish. YUM!

Bennett Lane 2008 Maximum Red Feasting Wine

Maximus

94 points.  The ruby-purple color and blackberry nose entice you until the massive mouthfeel hits you: blackberry, cassis, and plum start off the tongue this mind-blowing red blend, and is followed with a slew of fabulous notes including mocha, truffle, chocolate, and cedar barrel to sate the palate of the serious wine guru for under $40. I’m buying more. ‘Nuff said!

Satisfied with red wine options, I took a different path. “Old world, yet affordable chardonnay that champions the grape,” I challenged. Two bottles appeared, and I chose:

Chateau de la Greffiere Macon La Roche “Vielle Vignes” Vineuse 2011

Macon La ROche

An amazing chardonnay from 50 year old vines for under $20. Stellar pricing for serious structure, I almost thought I could taste the vines standing in the clay underneath the perfectly aged chardonnay grape. Classic old world white!

Patient Cottat ‘s Le Grand Caillou Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Calliou

Chardonnay accepted, I asked for Sancerre, and Josh showed me three, then said- “what about a Sancerre that isn’t technically a Sancerre?” He pulled up a Sauv Blanc from the Loire Valley, outside of the lines that delineate Sancerre but one taste will show you how a half-price wine can blow away the competition. I knew this was the one I’d take. This is one of the best high value/low cost offerings in French wine you may ever see.  $12/bottle, and simply delectable. I’d love to see this in a blind tasting against “legit” sancerre!

Les Crêtes Valle D’Aosta Chardonnay 2011

Cretes

After pulling the sancerre out of his proverbial hat, I said “what is the best value white burgundy you have?” He riled thru a pair of wine fridges and pulled this lone bottle out along with a cheshire cat grin. And was he right? Spot on! This was a delicious, un-oaked white Burgundy-styled-white that impressed my palate with depth. Gentle tropical melon and floral notes in the mouth are followed by bright acidity, and find a finish with luscious terroir of sandy clay with a hint of chalk. Rich and delightful, savory yet taut, and drinks like an 80/bottle for under $40. I drank this with goat cheese on a fig cracker and ooh’d my way through every bite and sip.

Check, and mate! Perhaps in Josh’s world, I should try something akin to:

“R2 says the chances of survival are 725… to one” – C3PO, STAR WARS

à votre santé!

Two Organic 2010’s

16 Mar

Frey 2010 Mendocino Chardonnay, $14.50/bottle at Mayfair Wine, Queens NY

Light straw with a greenish tint. When uncorked, the initial nose included p-mentha-8-thiol-3-one (remember my favorite descriptive term, cat urine?) Fortunately this aroma dissipated quickly after airing, and the nose completely changed.

Frey Chardonnay

After airing, I got lime, spearmint, sulfur, and daffodil on the nose. In the mouth, I sensed sweet pear and tart green apple with lemon zest and a strong acid backbone. It stayed consistent over three days with refrigeration, and paired well with fish, pasta, and light flavors. I served this to others who enjoyed it with meals and had no complaints, so I feel that the average wine drinker would be happy to enjoy this. I looked at the Frey Website and found out the 2011 vintage is rated at 90 points and won a gold medal. I think I’ll keep an eye out and give that one a taste as well!

Here’s a link to the Frey home page.

Our Daily Red 2010 California Organic Table Wine, 9.99 at Mayfair Wine

Garnet color with ruby edging. With a nose of cassis and rose bush, this red blend has cherry and blueberry dominant on the palate, a dry finish with a hint of sour cassis, and I was pleasantly surprised by this organic, no-sulfite wine. For the oenophile, this is a passable vin du table, but for the vegan, the organic-preferred health conscious, this is a great find! If you know sulfite-sensitive asthmatics, this is a wonderful option. I opened this bottle, did not refrigerate, and it was both good and largely unchanged for three days, when we finished the bottle.

Our Daily Red

I think this market (organic, sulfite-free wine) has huge potential, and Our Daily Red is doing a great job. Word on the web is this wine has cornered the market in San Francisco. According to this informative video by The People’s Chemist, The People’s Red has another organic brand called Well-Read wine that is carried only by Trader Joe’s.

Whether you are interested in organic and sulfite-free wine because you 1) support organic agriculture,  2) want preservative-free wine, 3) are asthmatic, or 4) believe in sustainable farming, it doesn’t really matter. This is a wine and a brand I’d suggest you check it out for yourself. And of course, the label is a great pun in its own imagery.

à votre santé!

Orin Swift’s Abstract 2011

23 Jan

Abstract Wine 2011 Red Blend by Orin Swift Cellars, Napa, CA

Deep violet color with ruby edging. The nose is plum with hints of wildflowers, cedar, clove, and anise. Huge fruit initially on the palate: raspberry, blackberry, with a slow finish that features gravel and peppercorns. After that initial taste, I decanted a glass and was quite pleased with the way the wine opened up, pushing the fruit back and introducing structure and balance that was previously absent. Decanting also allowed me to detect additional floral and red fruit in the nose, a touch of cacao and oak on the wine’s finish along with some welcome tannins. As always I suggest you drink responsibly, noting this wine features a high alcohol content at 15.2%.

photo-11

The bottle states “Red Blend” and I noted it tasted like syrah and grenache with a small amount of cabernet. The Orin Swift website says it “is a blend of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah primarily from hillside vineyards.” As you might guess from my notes above, I highly suggest decanting. Found locally in Columbus, OH at $29/bottle, online as low as $23/bottle. I enjoyed this wine over several days after decanting, but preferred Swift’s Papillon even more. David Phinney is a winemaker to follow and watch, his work is fascinating, unusual, and delicious.

photo-12

à votre santé!

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