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Wine and Dinner Out

March 31, 2007
Matt's Uncle called unexpectedly the other night to tell us he was in town and to ask if we happened to be free for dinner. Unless we already have plans we are always up for a night out as otherwise it's just me cooking dinner, and the bbq pulled pork I made could wait for another day! Plus we haven't seen Matt's Uncle since Thanksgiving, so it'd been awhile.

We headed to Cafe Atlantico downtown, not a restaurant Matt and I had been to before. It's kind of South America meets I don't really know what. For example, I had the Bacon wrapped Cornish Hen with deconstructed Mole and seared Watermelon and Bruce (the Uncle) had Flank Steak with Malanga Puree (I must confess I do not know what a Malanga is, but Bruce said it was potatoish). Matt had the Duck Confit. Both Matt and Bruce said their meals were excellent and well done. I wasn't so happy with mine. It had 2 rounded pieces of Cornish Hen wrapped in bacon which were about the size of a big scallop and were excellent. The bacon was seared perfectly and matched well with the hen. However, the entire plate was covered with deconstructed Mole, which you had to mix all together to get Mole sauce. With a fork. It didn't work well. And then the rest of the hen, 2 legs, were piled on top of each other done in a spicy moist outer coating with nothing going for it but spice and the meat was dry and flavorless. Also, seared watermelon is just weird.

The wine list was long and expensive. Only 5 bottles under $30 that I could count (and the online version isn't current) and bottles ranging up to $975. Bruce chose a 2004 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It had a real cork, was 14.2% alcohol by volume and appears to be available online for around $50. The color was a pretty garnet. On the nose were violets, ripe cherries and raspberries. In the mouth it had a medium feel. I found raspberries and a little earthy/natural taste. Overall it was very smooth and seemed very food friendly, if you liked your food.

As for the restaurant, our server was attentive, brought new wine glasses when we ordered the Pinot Noir with bigger bowls and poured just the right amount in the glass. We were seated immediately and the restaurant was fairly packed for a Tuesday night, there were very few open tables. The restaurant had several levels, so if you don't want to climb 2 or 3 flights of stairs make sure to ask to be seated on the ground level. Upstairs where we were seated was a cute "tapas" bar thta sat perhaps 6 people. The tapas looked interesting and you could get them matched with different wines. I also liked that the restaurant offered many wines by the glass, plus flights of wine, a concept that often seems to escape restaurants in DC.

Food...mine was the only disappointing entree. Both Bruce and I had the Baba for dessert, which may have been one of the more bizarre desserts I've ever had. It was sweet bread (like pound cake but fluffier) soaked in rum, over what was supposed to be coffee gel and topped with this cream thing. Too much rum, the bread was soggy and fell apart, the coffee gel wasn't gel and it tasted like rum. The cream was really thick. Thicker than yogurt, but tangy like yogurt.

If we returned I would get a different entree or do the tapas bar instead. And definitely skip the dessert. Matt had an odd thing involving bananas and chocolate, but he said the banana parts were just weird and didn't taste right. I wouldn't go anywhere near it as I can't stand bananas. My only other complaint was that you don't get bread to start or anything.

Weekend Round-Up 3/30/07

March 30, 2007
Lots of great tastings in the area for you to check out this weekend!

On Saturday Out of Site Wines in Vienna, VA will have "Superstars from France and Spain" on the tasting bar from 1-4pm.

Unwined in Alexandria is having a great event on Sunday at 5pm, West Coast Wine Tasting. You need to RSVP though as space is limited: Please RSVP to 703.820.8600 or

Tonight at Arrowine in Arlington you will find a tasting off Italian wines from 5:30-7:30pm.

Saturday at Arrowine there will be more than 10 wines being poured at the Super Tasting of values.

At the Curious Grape in Shirlington from 6-8pm tonight is a tasting of Springtime in Italy.

Tomorrow at the Curious Grape from 12-4pm is the Art of the Blend featuring "interesting" blends.

On Wednesday, April 4, at the Curious Grape (I know, not the weekend, but you'll deal) are New Arrivals from Austria from 6-8pm.

Spring Selections from France and California will grace the tasting bar at the Curious Grape on Thursday April 5 from 6-8pm.

Tonight at Church Street Cellars in Vienna, VA wines from Australia will be poured.

A Thousand Flowers

Tonight found us drinking a bottle of 2005 Hop Kiln A Thousand Flowers. The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Muscat Canelli. You can find it on the Hop Kiln website for $14, though I think ours' cost a little less because it came in a club shipment. It has a real cork closure and is 14.1% alcohol by volume.

I thought this blend might work well with our dinner, which was Chicken Roll-ups (a recipe I found at the age of 8 in the Mini-Page consisting of chicken and sharp cheddar cheese rolled up in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and topped with a cheddar cream sauce), green beans and white rice, because the flavors are really creamy and the wine said it worked well with chicken on the label. I was wrong. The flavors didn't work at all and the creamy nature of the sauce made the wine taste bitter. So instead, we drank it after dinner.

The nose of this wine is very aromatic, and you don't even have to stick your nose in the glass to smell the flowers jumping out. Honey, honeydew melon, white flowers and spice; an intensely sweet aroma. In the mouth, it's not nearly as sweet as I expected, given the nose. I find apples, but not crisp apples, more like slightly past their prime apples. It's light at first, but mid-palate it gets heavy and the melon flavors are more pronounced than the apple.

Overall, I think this perhaps does better as a stand-alone wine than it does with food, though perhaps a light white fish with very minimal sauce or flavoring would be an okay match. Or possibly with a spicy dish. I would serve it very chilled and drink it on the porch this summer if I had any more.

At the Taverna Again

March 29, 2007
We found ourselves back at the Lebanese Taverna this week with our out of town guest. It's one of our favorite "go to" restaurants as the food is always excellent, the wine list is surprisingly deep and interesting and it's close to our current apartment. Many of the dishes contain lamb or beef, so I thought a Zinfandel would be a good choice, since restaurants seem to always want to know your drink order before you even have a minute to look at the menu. But I knew I was having the lamb and beef shwarma, so..... ;)

I chose a 2003 Kenwood Yulupa Zinfandel, which from visiting their website, I gather is a series that was created especially for restaurants. And really, that's not terribly surprising, as it was a decent, easy to drink with your dinner wine. My notes say that nothing about it stood out, but it was food friendly and worked well with the meal.

Stats for this bottle: cost us $27, was 14.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. On those nose I got raisins and figs. In the mouth is was smooth and fruity, with black currants, a little black pepper and some plum. I have to quibble with the restaurant though, which is my only fault for the Taverna, and something I have experienced each time I visit. The red wines are simply served too warm. We had a beautiful day, and room temperature was warm. Really warm. And I think it took away from the wine. Plus, our server filled our glasses to the brim, which always makes a wine harder to enjoy.

And now essence of....well everything

March 28, 2007
Ladybugs yesterday.....milk, fish and chicken, plus lots more today. What is wine coming to? ;)

An extensive article appeared in the LA Times today (see, I told you I read lots of papers) about the fact that Congress passed a law in 2004 requiring disclosure of potential allergens in food products on labeling which is slated to affect wine labels. I've read other articles about this recently and seen blogs posts about in the past weeks.

I haven't weighed in on the debate raging over requiring wine labels to have a listing of all ingredients included in a "nutrition information" section (will there be a calorie label next, because frankly I have no desire to know how many calories I consume with the volume of wine I drink) mainly because I think it's a tad bit stupid to require a listing of things you can't even prove are actually in there, it's simply the potential that it might be.

I will say that some of the techniques listed are less than appealing to me. However, techniques to make all kinds of food and drink products are not all that appealing to me either. I took Food and Drug Law in law school. I read cases that would make your stomach turn.

Now what I cannot get a sense of is how frequently such methods are used in wine-making or if they are used by many producers or what. The article quotes a man named Charles Smith, the chairman of a CA company called Vinovation, Inc saying basically that he has 1200 clients for whom he transforms bad batches of wine into marketable products by the use of various additives. 1200 wineries seems like a lot, though according to this article, as of November 2006 there were 5,970 wineries in the US alone. Then again, this is only one man with one company.

So I guess my question remains, how many wineries would a labeling requirement affect? And are there known cases of anyone having an allergic reaction based on the fact that chicken( eggs, fish, etc) was used during the fining process of wine-making? I'd be curious about that.

Though I think some of the comments by the people interviewed for this article are more intriguing to me than the rest of it. The article quotes the Smith man as saying: " "For all of the posturing about terroir, very little wine sells because it is distinctive," Smith says. "Additives are cosmetics. They are supposed to enhance, improve a wine. [Wine enhanced this way is like] a beautiful woman whose makeup is invisible. It's the clumsiness of the winemaker who is using the additives that is the problem." Those wines end up tasting "tarted up," he says, instead of improved."

A very odd comment from a man who makes his livelihood by doing this. Additionally, the remark about wine not selling because it's distinctive causes me to cringe and think about the oft-touted idea that wine is growing more homogenous (usually blamed by purporters of the idea on the desire of wineries for points and good ratings from various critics).

My final comment on the article is in relation to a quote from the General Counsel to the Wine Institute: "The problem with listing additives, says Lee, the Wine Institute general counsel, is it could change consumer perception of all wines. "Wine would look engineered instead of natural," he says."

If there are additves, isn't it engineered?

Get Twisted DC!

It's official: Pimp Daddy of Twisted Oak will be making an appearance in NOVA/DC this spring. El Jefe announced the potential dates of the trip on El Bloggo Torcido yesterday and I got an email confirming it which I need to respond to. He'll miss the Cherry Blossom Festival, but who has time for that %@#$! when there's %@#$! wine to drink anyway?

The potential dates ate in late April, around the 25th. The idea is that bloggers will get together and organize (or I'll do it by myself if I need to!) an event somewhere in the area. Pimp Daddy will bring the wines and Twisted Oak will pick up the corkage fees. Attendees buy their sustinance and such (that is if you need more than wine to survive at dinner). Anyone can attend and events organized by bloggers in Indianapolis and Minneapolis have been really
%@#$!ing great according to the blog reports. (Though really guys, we're glad you're finally coming somewhere that doesn't end in "apolis.")

But I NEED help! Last I knew, restaurants in VA can't have BYO or corkage. You gotta buy it there. I found this list of DC restaurants with corkage fees, though I have no idea how recent it is and many of the restaurants (um, hello 1789 and Capital Grille) are WAY beyond my nightly budget. Glancing at some of the websites for the places listed I can't find any info on corkage or bringing your own wine policies. So first, help me narrow down the list, then let's make sure we can actually bring wine in and that we can get a reservation. I've probably been to around a dozen places on this list (most recently McCormick and Schmick's and Pizza Paradiso (a place I frequent with a not so great wine list and no where have I ever seen that they allow corkage)) and most were good, but many were special occassion type places (read: the bill was more than my monthly grocery bill). I'd appreciate the assitance of other local bloggers in this endeavor and in getting the word out. (Leah, Dezel, any interest in this kind of an event?) Any other DC area readers interested? Shoot me an email at and we will get this together!

2004 Roshambo Syrah

March 27, 2007
I attempted to serve the 2004 Roshambo Syrah from the Frank Johnson Vineyard with our dinner. It didn't work. The alcohol and heat on this wine when I poured it just wouldn't go away. It took well over an hour sitting in our glasses before the alcohol scent disappeared and I could actually attempt to drink this.

The wine was 15.5% alcohol by volume, had a cork closure and came in a wine club shipment, yet another one without a price list.

Eventually on the nose I found raspberries and cloves, plus a bit of earth and oak. I was trying to serve this with pasta, fresh tomato sauce and fresh grated parmasean, but that didn't work out, so we drank it by itself after (long after) dinner. Perhaps food would have helped this wine out, but to be honest, I'm not so sure. In the mouth there really weren't any flavors. It was very muted and all I can say is that the wine was bitter, astringent and thin. It really didn't do much for me. I can't find this online, but I really hope we it didn't cost too much.

Ah, the benefits of signing up for WineQ, I can choose the wines I want when I want them. And I hopefully won't end up with wines like this one that don't do much for me, since I can read other user's reviews before I queue up anything! (I have convinced Matt that we will be signing up when we get back from our upcoming CA trip! Woohoo!)

Sniff Sniff...Is that Ladybug I smell?

Back in 2001 I was working in NYC, living in Hoboken and my commute was literally took me an hour and a half (or more depending on delays) on a combination of the PATH, the Subway and walking 22 blocks to get to work. I picked up the habit of buying the NY Post on the first leg of my commute, mainly for Page Six, I will admit, but I also read the news, and then the New York Times on the second half. To this day, I still read both of those papers online, plus a handful or more other papers.

I have to say, in all those years, this is the first time I recall the Post having a news article (I rarely even recall a wine review to be honest) about wine that didn't invole stolen wine.

Apparently there is a new threat to the aroma of wine: Ladybugs. While good for pest control, it has been found by a new Iowa State University study that Ladybugs emit a foul smelling liquid that can be detected in very small amounts by the human nose. Likened to the scent of green peppers and roasted peanuts, the aroma has been dubbed "Ladybug Taint" and is reportedly becoming more common in wine. The article isn't long, you can find the AP text here.

The article asserts that the Ladybugs are being mixed into the grapes during the fermentation process. I will have to poke around the internet today to see if I can't find out anything more, but if for nothing else, "Ladybug Taint" made me chuckle this morning.

Marimar Pinot Noir

March 26, 2007
Our second bottle with our company and pizza this week was a 2004 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir from the Stony Block Vineyard.

The bottle came in a club shipment and it cost $42 minus whatever the club discount is. It was 14.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. This is an unfiltered wine.

In the glass the wine is a pretty ruby red color. On the nose I found strawberries and currants. It feels very light in the mouth and I am getting berries (raspberries and strawberries), a little spice and some oak. It has a bit of a kick at the end.

I much preferred the Alderbrook we had earlier in the evening. For the price, I was not all that impressed with the flavors or the depth of this wine. I found it a bit thin and lacking in flavor in the mouth to quite justify the price tag. We had a bottle of Marimar Earthquake Vineyard Pinot Noir perhaps a month before I started the blog to celebrate my passing of the bar and I remember that being an excellent wine, so I was disappointed that this one just wasn't nearly as good. I do have another bottle of the Earthquake hanging around so perhaps I will consume that one in the near future so I will have a better comparison point.

WBW #32-Regular v. Reserve

Thanks to a heads up from Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20, I've been alerted to the fact that the theme for WBW #32 is posted and it's a doozy! Hosted by The Wine Cask this time, you can find all the details here.

This month we are being asked to pick a regular bottle and a reserve bottle of the same varietal from the same vintage from the same vineyard. I will have to check my collection, but I am afraid that I just drank the last non-reserve version of a wine for which I also have a reserve version last week.

Pertinent details (besides what the theme is) are that you need to submit your reviews to The Wine Cask by SUNDAY April 8 and the round-up will be posted on April 11. That gives us less than two weeks to find, drink and write our reviews of the wines. The main idea is to compare the regular and the reserve and determine what, if any differences exist and if the cost difference is worth springing for the reserve.

I am going to find this to be really difficult. We leave to visit the in-laws in Los Angeles come April 6 and April 8 is Easter Sunday, so I'm not sure that I will have the time to do this WBW as finding and drinking the two bottles in less than 10 days is going to be troublesome. I'll do my best, but no promises. I hope I don't have to sit this one out as I haven't missed one yet since starting Wannabe Wino.

When the Moon Hits Your Eyes like a Big Pizza Pie...

March 25, 2007
We've had some company with us this week, so I decided to make some homemade pizza as a slightly fancier mid-week dinner. And with it, we started out with a bottle of 2004 Alderbrook Carignane.

The wine came in a club shipment and didn't have a price, but the 2003 was $19, so I would guess it was around the same price. It was 14.1% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

On the nose there were plums, dark berries, spice, leather and oddly enough, the scent of a forest. The aromas just kept coming as the glass sat out. In the mouth the wine was incredibly smooth and is drinking really well, though the layers of flavors make me think it could age for quite a bit longer. In the mouth there were dark fruits, black cherries and blackberries.

Overall the wine had a great mouth feel and I wish we had more of it hanging around. I picture this with pasta sauce based dishes, the spice would be a good compliment to the sauce.

I was poking around the Alderbrook website this afternoon and discovered that Alderbrook is part of the Terlato Wine Group. I wonder if it's possible that the one bottle of Terlato that we drank back in February came in a club shipment? It was a mystery to me as to where it came from since I am 100% positive that we did not go to the Terlato Vineyard and it has been driving me nuts ever since we drank it trying to figure out how it arrived in our wine rack. However, it might make sense that it came from an Alderbrook shipment since they are all part of the same group. I guess mystery solved, finally. Here's to hoping that I will no longer have the lapses of my spreadsheet now that I am faithfully using Cellar Tracker.

A Rose for a Warm Day

March 24, 2007
And a soup too....not good for a warm day, but that's what we had as leftovers tonight. But it balanced out nicely with the rose, though I think soup days are over here.

The wine was a 2006 Hanna Jasmine. It came in a club shipment without a price, but it looks like you can get it for $14 from the Hanna website, it is 12.8% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

Fresh strawberries were jumping out of the glass as I poured this wine. I really liked the aroma. In the mouth I found crisp strawberries and a little taste of lime.

It was great for our mid-70s weather and actually worked really well with the creamy soup, though I can definitely imagine it on a hot day as a really refreshing wine to drink.
The wine had nice acidity and good structure. It was very crisp and lively in the mouth. I liked it a lot and would definitely get it again, especially since the price was right, it made a good value.

Weekend Tastings Round-Up

March 23, 2007
Church Street Cellars in Vienna is tasting from a portfolio of Italian wines from 6:30-9:00pm on Friday. Included in the tasting is an Oddero Chardonnay, a Pelissero Nebbiolo and a Firriato Camelot.

Out of Site Wines in Vienna is having a tasting on Saturday from 1-4pm. They are tasting 4 wines from the portfolio of Robin's Cellars.

Tonight, the Curious Grape in Shirlington is having a tasting of new world wines from South Africa and Spain from 6-8pm.

Tomorrow at the Curious Grape is a free seminar starting at 1pm about aging wines. They will be tasting younger and aged versions of the same varietals.

At Arrowine in Alexandria tonight there is a tasting of 12 French wines from 5-7:30pm. (I wish we could go, but we have company!)

Tomorrow at Arrowine from 1-4pm you'll find the Country Vintner pouring selections from their California portfolio.

Have a great weekend!

2005 Fritz Pinot Noir

Drank my 2005 Fritz Pinot Noir the other night with Roz's Zuppa Toscano. We had tried Pinot Noir with the soup before the match was a good one, so I didn't want to mess with success. And it was a good match, but I found this Pinot Noir to be a bit heavier in the mouth than I am used to for Pinot Noir.

The Fritz was 13.9% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure and came in a club shipment so I have no idea how much it cost. We also have a bottle with "Clonal Select" written on it and I am not sure if they are the same thing...they have the same alcohol levels and since the actual science of winemaking escapes me, I have no idea if you could do bottlings with two different sets of grapes and come out with the exact same alcohol content.

On the nose of the wine were black cherries, raspberries and spice, and then strawberries a little later. In the mouth it was smooth, though as I mentioned it was heavier than I am used to for a Pinot Noir. Flavors in the mouth were mostly strawberries and I would describe this wine as a fruity red. I would also suggest letting it air a bit before drinking as it seemed to develop nicely in the glass.

Anyone had Wine from these Vineyards?

March 22, 2007
I received several emails from my mother in law today about some wine she is shipping me (yay! Thanks Mary!).

She recently attended her high school reunion and it turns out that several of her classmates own vineyards. So she ordered some wine from each of them and sent it to me. It's on it's way, and I'm really excited. No one has ever sent me wine before! I'll also be excited to try it as the wines are not from vineyards I'm familiar with.

These are the vineyards, anyone know anything about them?

Buehler Vinyeards (Napa)

Domaine Dujac (Burgundy)

Chatom Vineyards (Calaveras County)

In any case, look for reviews coming up soon after the wines arrive!

Drinking the Box from WBW

March 21, 2007
Is it my fridge or the particular box wine I bought? I thought the premise of the box wines was that you can stick it in the fridge and it will keep for up to six weeks.

I have to say that I am not finding that to be the case. My box wine has now been open for a full week. I drank some more out of it a day or two after WBW and I actually have to say that the flavor improved. The fruits were more discernible and it overall had more character.

Then I went back to it a few nights later. It was thin and astringent. The fruit was muted, even after letting my glass warm back up to a more proper temperature. And I just went back again for another glass last night and it's not that drinkable anymore.

I'm really not sure what happened. I am tempted to leave the rest of the box in the fridge and taste it in a few weeks to see what it's like. I enjoy the concept of wine that will keep for a while, so long as the quality remains the same. If it won't even keep for a week, how's it going to be in 3 weeks? Has anyone else gone back to their box and tasted it? Thoughts?

Plonk in Your Food?

Today's New York Times Food and Dining section features an article on cooking with cheap wine entitled "It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine." The premise is that the author cooked several dishes multiple times with different levels of wine, ranging from a Sauvignon Blanc that she bills as a "Club Med Pina Colada" to an aged 20 years twany port. Her findings were that in a blind taste test of three Risotto al Barolos, using a 2000 Barolo (most expensive), a 2005 Dolcetto d'Alba (mid-range) and the much maligned "Two Buck Chuck" Cabernet Sauvignon (more like Five Buck Chuck around here....), the Two Buck Chuck made the winning risotto.

Now, I've had Two Buck Chuck. It doesn't rate high on my scale of wine I would want to drink ever again. I also tend to lean towards the school of, if I won't drink it, why would I want to put it in my food? The contention of the article seems to be that cooking wine is the great equalizer, or even boost for cheap wine. And it seems, in the case of the risotto at least, that the tasters had less than favorable opinions of the dishes made with the more expensive wine (and arguably better tasting, though of the three I've only had the Chuck, but I find it hard to imagine that they are worse). In her other taste tests, she seems to have found little or no difference in the dishes made with the cheap wine versus the expensive wines and suggests that the interaction of the food and the wine makes the wine secondary and it's really the acidity of the wine that's important, not the flavor.

Her descriptions of the "cheap" wines lead me to believe that these are wines I would consider plonk, and the one named one certainly rates as plonk in my book. So again I make a distinction between "inexpensive" and "cheap," with "inexpensive" being a good wine at a good price, and "cheap" being that yellowtail "riesling" I encountered recently.

With that said, do you cook with wine you find undrinkable or barely tolerable? Or does it go straight down the drain?

I tend to pour mine straight down the drain, though I may reconsider next time I get bottle I don't care for and do a little blind tasting of my own. At the same time, I tend to simply cook with what we will drink that night and I certainly don't want to drink the plonk nor do I want to buy a bottle of it for the sake of the 1/4 cup a given recipe needs.

Food for thought.

My Take on a Southern Feast

March 20, 2007
I am far from a Southern Girl, having been raised in New England and spending my first 20-something years there. I only moved down South about 4 years ago and I still am not very good at frying a chicken! However, we had this interpretation of a Southern feast consisting of fried fish, corn on the cob and couscous.

With our dinner I served a 2005 Madame Preston from Preston Vineyards (where I will be stopping in April to pick up some olive oil, delicious!). The Madame Preston is billed as a Rhone style white blend and is made of 62% Rousanne, 31% Viognier and 9% Marsanne. It cost us $26 minus a case discount, is 13.8% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure, but no foil covering. Like all of Preston's wines this one is also made from organic grapes.

On the nose there is a huge sweet perfume aroma consisting of honey, spices and tinned pears. It is smooth and full in the mouth and tastes just very slightly oaked. Contrary to the nose, it is not sweet at all in the mouth. It has almost a reserved lemon flavor with pears as an undertone. The finish is a decent length and overall it was an okay match with our dinner, but I preferred it on its own.

"My Zin"

March 19, 2007
It's been a bit of zinfandel couple of weeks for us. Our weather is a little kooky these days (73 one day and ice and snow the next) so I'm not sure how many more weeks of "big red" wine drinking we're going to get. Though I am looking forward to a return to some light whites and roses (not that I really laid off them too much this winter) with spring just around the corner!

We drank this 2005 David Coffaro "My Zin" with some pasta and homemade tomato sauce, sprinkled with fresh parmasean. It cost us $26.00 at Coffaro last summer, was 15% alcohol by volume and had a screw-cap closure. This is an unfiltered/unfined wine.

On those nose I found currants, spicy oak (does that even make any sense?) and blackberries. The wine was a bit hot to start with. The alcohol is big on the nose, but it quickly blows off. In the mouth it shows smoothly after letting it sit for a few minutes. The taste is of blackberries and spice. After an hour or so I get a little chocolate and earth showing in the glass.

This wine worked well with our dinner because it tend to make a sweeter tomato sauce and the spiciness of the wine was a good complement to the sweet sauce flavors.

A Laundry List of Wineries

One of our wine clubs, Nelson Family Vineyards, is having a nifty event on April 14. You sign up to come to a lunch and a wine blending, where you work in teams to create the winning blend, which will then be bottled and you win a magnum if your blend is chosen. To me, this sounds awesome and like it would be lots of fun (I get to play winemaker!).

We had already been planning a trip to CA to visit Matt's parents and I thought it wouldn't be such a stretch to take a short flight up towards wine country at the end of the took a few days of convincing, but Matt's on board and we are headed back to the Sonoma area in mid-April!!

Well be in the area for 3 full days. I figure we will be able to go to 6 vineyards in that time, given that the wine club event will take up most of the afternoon of the Saturday. I've already scheduled a visit to Michel-Schlumberger thanks to a tip I found on Fork and Bottle. We are also definitely going to go to Ridge Vineyards (I think you can just show up, at least it appears that way) thanks to a tip from Tim over at Winecast.

The point of this post. Anyone want to suggest other places for us to visit? We are big Zinfandel fans, among other varietals of course :) Following is a list of everywhere we visited last time we were out in CA:

Alexander Valley Vineyards
David Coffaro
Davis Bynum
De La Montanya
de Lorimier
Dutcher Crossing
Ferrari Carano
Hop Kiln
Robert Young

By the way, it was certainly a work-out for my brain this morning to come up with that list, it took me forever to get the last one. I knew we went to 26, but I could only come up with 25!

Zinfandel and Steak

March 18, 2007
Sometimes I think I should break out of my habits and make new pairings. Then I think, naw, I love my steak with a big glass of Zinfandel, so that's what I picked to go with dinner. Dinner was pan seared steak with currant and zinfandel sauce over cheddar cheese, gorganzola and parmasean risotto and a side of broccoli.

The Zinfandel was a 2003 Mauritson Grower's Reserve. It clocks in at 15.1% alcohol by volume, cost $19.20 and had a real cork closure.

On the nose I found a lot a fruit, but I had to let all the alcohol dissipate before I could get anywhere near my glass. It was hot. Really hot. My glass sat out for almost an hour before I was willing to jump back into the wine. And then I found fruit jumping out of the glass. Blueberries, blackberries, black currants, oak on the nose. However, the fruits were more like blueberry and blackberry cobbler than fresh fruits.

In the mouth there were gobs of dark fruit, black currants and blackberries with a little kick at the end. The wine was really tannic. It dried my mouth out as I was drinking (not to mention stained my lips!) and didn't really get much less so as we worked our way through the bottle. I would definitely suggest letting this one hang around for a while before drinking it, unless you are patient enough to let it decant for quite a long time before drinking. We have another bottle and I will stick it in the back for at least another year, maybe two.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

March 17, 2007

In honor of my heritage, I wish you a very happy St. Patrick's Day. I'd do a little jig for you, but my dance costume is currently residing 500 miles away in a closet at my folk's house (yes, I was an Irish Dancer for a good 10 years and have a drawer full of medals and trophies to prove it!). It's certainly not a wine drinking day, but go have a pint of green beer or two. I know we will as we go listen to some traditional Irish music at one of the local pubs after heading to a party hosted by an old friend this afternoon. Slainte! (Sorry, can't put the accents in the right place!)

Pin Up Platinum

March 16, 2007
De la Montanya has an interesting concept for the labels for their Pin Up Collection. They let anyone (I think just females, but who knows?) from their wine club throw their name in the hat, literally, and then they draw the names for the models. Now, Matt said he wouldn't be thrilled if I tossed my name in, so I don't think you'll see me in a negligee on a wine bottle any time soon, but a cool idea nonetheless and a great way to get club members interested in the process.

Anywho, the Pin Up Platinum is a Pinot Gris from Christine's Vineyard. It is 14.1% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure and only 135 cases were produced.

On the nose of this one I found spiced peaches, pears and a tropical note. The nose was very aromatic and pleasant. In the mouth I got pears, clementines and tangerines. The wine had a nice long and tasty finish. Overall it was very light and crisp and would make a great summer sipper. It had good acidity and structure.

It went really well with our summery dinner, which was breadcrumb and parmasean encrusted Asian Basa Fillet over cheddar cheese and parmasean polenta with broccoli on the side. The acidity went well with the creamy polenta and the light wine was great with the flaky fish. I would drink this one now or soon. And with the weather in the 70s here this week, I'm all about the summer whites!

Weekend Round-Up

So, being the wino I am, I am signed up for a ton of local wine shoppes' email lists and I get updates (really, a ton of them) about local tastings and what's happening on the weekends. I thought I'd try doing a quick summary of the events you can attend in the DC Metro Area.

At Arrowine in Arlington tonight there is a free tasting of Spanish wines being poured by a rep from Elite Wines. It runs from 5:30 to 7:30 and you get a discount (typically 10-20% on any wines purchased that were tasted).

Tomorrow at Arrowine from 1-4 there's another tasting of wines from Michael Downey Selections.

At Out of Site Wines in Vienna tonight from 5-8 there is a pouring of wines from Schild Estate wines from Australia.

Tomorrow at Out of Site you will find 5 wines from JAO Imports being poured, including a 2005 Fontaine-Gagnard Bourgogne blanc and a 2001 Christia Beaumes de Venise.

At the Curious Grape in Shirlington tonight you will find Not to be Missed French Values and Irish Cheeses from 6-8.

Tomorrow at the Curious Grape there is an Italian Winemaker tasting from 1-3. As always, you'll get a tasting bar discount and more if you buy a case, even a mixed one.

That's it for now, thought I'm still missing a few emails.

WBW #31 Round-up Posted

Roger over at Box Wines has the Round Up Posted from the most recent WBW! Wow, that was fast!

Looks like we had 22 bloggers participate this month and the selections ranged from the good to the bad to the ugly!

So head on over and check out the summaries and see if you can find a box wine (or alternatively packaged wine) that works for you!

I hope the quality of other packaged wines gets better, as I really like the concept of a wine that will stay fresh longer.

A Blog I Rediscovered Today, with a Great Post

March 15, 2007
I was browsing on Wine Life Today this morning (see, I promised to get better about that!) and I came across this great post over at Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine. I highly suggest you go read it yourself, but to summarize in a quick, short and sweet manner, it's about why the point system for wines used by Robert Parker sucks. Clearly, it's much more detailed than that and goes into depth on 8 separate reasons as to why it sucks. (Much more eloquently than I am doing at the moment.)

However, this post jogged my memory to an event that happened to us this past summer while we were out in Sonoma. And I thought I'd tell you about it here, since it's wine related, and apropo to the point system.

While in the Sonoma area, we stayed at a cute and excellent Bed and Breakfast called the Vintage Towers in Colverdale. We chose it because it was a little off the beaten path, the pictures were pretty (yes, we are discerning travelers) and the breakfasts sounded delicious. Now, the downfall, or the upside, depending on if you like to talk to strangers, about B&Bs is that you generally all eat breakfast together and inevitably end up making idle chit chat over your meal.

On our second day at breakfast a couple came down and started talking about their numerous trips to Sonoma and how they love coming there and they make their own wine in their garage at home and blah blah blah. They then asked where we were planning to go that day and immediately started criticizing our choices and making suggestions of thier own. Now, this instantly caused me to bristle, because I don't take unwarranted criticism well, especially from strangers. And for all they knew, there could be gems at any winery, even if they would never deign to go there.

The sound-byte from them that made me write them off completely (and still causes Matt and I to chuckle, because it was one of the more absurd statements I've heard anyone make about wine) was as follows: "We don't even bother with wines that haven't scored at LEAST a 93 from Parker. They just aren't worth our time or money. It's simply the threshhold at which the wine becomes drinkable for us."

Now, I'm sorry to anyone who will follow a critic to such an extreme, but grow a pair and learn to taste for yourself. One, Parker does not rate every single freaking wine that has ever and will ever be made. Not being rated at all makes it totally unworthy of being consummed? Well, I better just stop drinking wine then. Only wines that get a 93 or better are drinkable? Pish posh. All these people managed to do by spouting off like that was to convince me that they were sheep, they had no desire to think outside the box (I wonder if their homemade plonk would rate a 93?) and they were lazy.

Needless to say, we smiled and nodded at them (and thought condescendingly, we may be younger, but we certainly think we are wiser than that) and went on our merry way to the places we intended to go to and discovered wines that we loved, 93 points or not.

At Long Last, Success!

What seems like ages ago, but was apparently only 2 months ago, I spent a very frustrating weekend attempting to add an RSS subscription button from FeedBurner to my blog in case any of you readers like it here enough to want to subscribe. :) At the time, I managed to add the Toast This! feature from Wine Life Today (though I admittedly rarely remember to actually put what I write up there, or maybe I just feel a little self-serving in doing so...nonetheless, I should be more diligent about it) and was quite proud of myself.

I haven't actually tried since that day to add the feature again, since html code is really not my thing and I get easily frustrated with it (I was, at one point, a webmaster for an organization I belonged to in college and I won't even begin to tell you what a disaster that was....HTML for Dummies was lost on me and I had to farm the work out to someone else who actually knew what she was doing).

However, apparently the computer language gods were smiling on me today and I did it! And more! You will now notice the handy RSS Subscribe to WannabeWino in the sidebar, along with a Fave Technorati icon! Also, down at the bottom of the sidebar you can see a link to get to all the blogs that link here and a search my blog feature! (Or was that there before?) I also added a new section for Helpful Wine Related Links, which I will update as I remember more and/or find more. Finally, I've added a link on the sidebar to my CellarTracker cellar so you can see what's in there waiting for me to drink (even though it's significantly smaller than it used to be, and apparently I drink obscure California wines that NO ONE else drinks....literally, there are maybe 12 of my wines in there that anyone has ever written a note on).

Please enjoy, and now that I *think* I've figured out how to manipulate the template around here, let me know if there are any other features you think I'm lacking and I will take a look!

Memories.....WBW #31

March 14, 2007
I have to admit that I am scared of boxed wines. Really, quite terrified. It simply resurrects the image of pink Franzia, or Dr. Franz as we used to call it. Sickeningly sweet, disgusting plonk. So it was with great trepidation that I opened my box for the theme of WBW #31, Wines in Alternative Packaging.

My local wine shop didn't have any boxed wines at all. So I turned to our discount supermarket, Shopper's, which had about 15 different varieties of boxed wine. Now, I'm trying to be budget conscious these days, but I also wanted to get something that wasn't reminiscent of sugar water with cough syrup mixed in.

With that in mind, I chose a 2005 Delicato Shiraz. On its package it proclaimed that it had won gold medals in the early 2000s, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The 3L (so 4 bottles or about 20 glasses) box cost $17.89 and is 13.5% alcohol. It has a little tap as you can see where the wine comes out, which is actually pretty sturdily constructed. And I have to say, that it's much harder to judge how much you are drinking out of a box than it is out of a bottle.

On the nose, I get an overwhelming sweet, dark fruit scent. So blackberries, but more in their candied forms. And sugar plums, rather than fresh plums. My first impression is that this is going to be a sweet wine. As it sits in my glass I get an underlying chocolate aroma. In the mouth, there is dark fruit and a little bit of spice. It's not as sweet as I expected it to be, which is a relief. I can't seem to distinguish which dark fruits are coming through. It's smooth and easy to drink and I have to keep in mind that averaging it out, it costs less than $5 a bottle. The wine is not complex, but I wouldn't really expect that at the price point.

It certainly is better than Dr. Franz. And it's probably equivalent to an $7-$8 a bottle Shiraz. I'm glad I tried a box wine, and many thanks to Box Wines for hosting and getting me to step out of the box (or, I guess into it in this case). I don't know that this is something I would seek out again. Maybe if I could get it in a smaller box and I really did only drink a glass a night. But 4 bottles is a lot of one wine. I know it will last for many weeks, but at the same time, I open a new and different bottle of wine almost every night. I wouldn't wrinkle up my nose if I saw this at a party and I could definitely see how the concept of boxed wines would be economical and efficient for a party situation.

I served the wine with homemade pepperoni pizza with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. It worked fairly well, though was a little sweet to be a pizza wine in my opinion.

Bebo Trattoria Redux

March 13, 2007
Sadly, the website for this restaurant is still just a "Coming Soon" page, which is highly disappointing, given that they have been open since November. Also disappointing because it's a really good place that you should check out if you are in the Crystal City area. The prices are right, the food is tasty, the space is interesting and the wine list is pretty darn decent.

We headed out to Bebo Trattoria on Saturday. I was planning on cooking, but decided since one of Matt's coworkers kindly picked up the tab for our dinner on Friday, that we could justify a night out again. Plus, it's literally a half block from our apartment, so it's no great effort to get there.

I hope this restaurant makes it. We got there at around 6:30 and there were plenty of open tables. And virtually ever table had its own server. Which is good and bad, since it means fast service, but at the same time, I've rarely had a server check on me that much in the course of a meal.

I chose the wine (sometimes this gets old, but Matt always says I care about it more than he does, so I go with it). The bottle was a Colle Caia 2005 Trebbiano D'Abruzzo. I cannot find anything about this wine or winery on the internet, so I have no idea if paid a good price, but it was $23, which is in our budget for wines at a restaurant these days.

The wine was 12% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. On the nose I found lemons and white flowers. After a few minutes, I noticed the slightest melon scent, which was reminiscint of a honeydew melon. In the mouth this wine was citrusy, more lemons and a slight bit of grapefruit. It was quite crisp, but very light overall, with the tiniest hint of minerals in the finish.

We had a smoked mozzarella on crisp bread with sweet sausage and orange sauce for an appetizer and I liked how the crisp citrus in the wine played with the smokiness of the cheese and the sausage. Matt had the fried rabbit bites with squash and onions, and he said the wine worked well with that. I had the ravioli special, which was bite-sized ravioli stuffed with Italian pork and cheese in a tomato butter sauce. The wine wasn't a great match with my meal, but both were very good in and of themselves. We finished off with a Tirimisu for me (which Matt ate half of) and a warm chocolate pudding with caramel sauce for Matt. The restaurant wasn't crowded, so we didn't feel too bad lingering and chatting over the last glass of wine from the bottle.

Out and About

March 12, 2007
On Friday we accepted the very kind invitation of one of Matt's former coworkers to attend a happy hour that he was hosting at the Army Navy Club downtown. After several glasses of wine (no idea what it was beyond Merlot and Chardonnay since it was dressed up in fancy Army Navy Club labels) we decided to head with the host and another former coworker (whom we also knew from college) out to McCormick and Schmick's for a late dinner.

While there, I had a glass of Penfolds 2005 Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet. At the restaurant it was selling for $9.25 a glass and $37.50 for the bottle, but I see you can find it here for as little as $8.68 a bottle. For that price, this would be an excellent value as an easy to drink wine that would please a crowd at a party with no trouble.

My tablemates all had the Guiness special at $3.00 a pint, but I really only feel the need to drink Guiness when eating corned beef and cabbage, not with my seafood. Though I guess I shouldn't talk since I paired a big red with my seafood....

I'd never been to McCormick and Schmick's before, and didn't realize it was a chain until I just went and looked it up. However, for a chain, the food and service were excellent and I loved the decor/ambience. We were seated immediately and put in a tucked away booth with curtains to close if you wanted more privacy.

I had the Maryland Crab Soup, which was a little spicy for my taste (just a little too much tabasco it felt like) but Matt really enjoyed it. My main course was the Crab, Shrimp and Artichoke Dip, which was fabulous. I love this creamy concoction in all its forms at various restaurants, but this one was especially tasty. And it was huge. There was more than enough for me and at least one other person to make an entire meal out of it. The pita chips were crispy and thick enough to scoop up the dip nicely.

Now, the food wasn't a fabulous match with the wine, but that's okay, I really wanted this glass. Overally, the restaurant had a really good selection of wines by the glass and a fairly large selection of wine overall, ranging from decently priced huge producers to smaller, more expensive selections.

The Penfolds had a nose of vanilla, cedar, dark fruit and spices. It really jumped out of the glass. In the mouth I got black currants and blackberries. Overall, it had a good mouthfeel and is definitely a drink it now kind of wine. It's smooth and structured nicely, but seems clearly to be a wine that was bottled with immediate drinking in mind. I would really like to have some of this on hand for a backyard bbq this summer, as I can see it going over really well with a crowd. Good sized pour for the glass as well.

This was the first glass of anything from Penfolds that I have had and I would be very interested in trying some of the other offerings. I know over on Wino-Sapien there are many reviews of the various levels of the Penfolds collection (and it looks like there are many, many tiers to their offerings) and lots of them sound like excellent bargains if they can be found here in the US. I see that several stores in the NY/NJ area have good deals on the particular wine I tasted, I will have to keep my eye out for some more of the offerings in my area. Perhaps on my trip to the wine store next week....I need some everyday wines again!

What I Learned Today

March 10, 2007
I finally broke down today and entered our collection of wine into Cellar Tracker, mostly at the repeated urging of Dr. Debs from Good Wine Under $20.

I learned that I do not like when wine clubs ship you wine yet do not list on the packing slip or anywhere in the shipment how much each bottle cost. Yes, I can look it up on my credit card bill and figure out the total, but that doesn't break it down by bottle. It's a royal pain in the rear end to figure out the price of something, especially when it's an older bottle that was sent and is not available on the website to purchase. Note to wineries: Tell me how much my wine costs!

I learned that we currently have 84 bottles of wine that are all now rearranged into 9 wine racks. This is both good and bad. We started, back in early September, with 12 wine racks and a wine fridge full (read: approximately 150 bottles). So this means that at a minimum, since September, we have consumed 66 bottles of wine. However, this is not nearly the extent of the wine we have actually consumed, given that we were receiving shipments from 12 wineries during that time and we bought several cases of "everyday" wine, not to mention the odd bottle here and there for WBW. By rough estimating, I gather we've received around 60 bottles of wine from wine clubs. Rough guess? I would say the number of bottles consumed (or given away as presents) exceeds 150. In approximately 185 days. At that rate, what we have in our racks will only last us about another 100 days. And we will not be drinking all of it, since there are bottles I know are not ready yet. Additionally, since we cut out half of our wine clubs, the wine will not be arriving fast enough to cover the rate we are drinking it. I guess I will be hitting up the local wine shops more this spring.

Finally, I learned that the wine we do have adds up to a cost that I don't really want to think about. And if I do think about it, and and I assume it roughly equates (if I extrapolate it to include more bottles) to the cost of the wine we have consumed thus far, we have, in the last 6 months, probably drank several thousand dollars worth of wine.

In conclusion, wine drinking is an expensive habit, and if you'd like to have a mini-heart attack like I did this afternoon, head on over to Cellar Tracker and enter your collection in. I will be recuperating from the shock this evening with a bottle of wine.

Knocking another one out of the park!

Now, if you are an incredibly avid reader of my ramblings, you might be thinking, hum, didn't she review the 2004 Nelson Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon back in November? And the answer is, yes, I reviewed the regular garden variety, but tonight I am reviewing the 2004 Nelson Family Vineyards Top Row Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and I am blown away!

The wine clocks in at 14.3% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure and cost us around $19 in a club shipment. The wines from Nelson are very reasonably priced and represent great values for our wine budget. I actually need to get in touch with Chris Nelson as several months ago I asked him to answer some questions about his vineyard for the blog and he agreed, then things got crazy for me (read: we found, bid on and bought a house) and I haven't had a chance to sit down and draw up the questions. I promise I will do so soon readers!

Back to the wine. I get blackberries on the nose to begin with. They jumped out of the bottle when I opened it. My glass has been out for a few hours now and I am getting a touch of earth and something almost slightly minty (can't say I've seen that before!). Under those aromas comes some cedar and a little oak.

In the mouth I am finding plums, black currants and blackberries. The mouth is full of dark fruit. Following the fruit is a cedar taste. The fruit lingers in the mouth.

Overall, this wine is drinking really well right now. (Again, woo hoo, I'm back with wines I'm loving!) In the mouth it is smooth and silky and I don't get any tannins or alcohol heat. I served this with bruschetta and pork chops that I cooked in the crockpot in pasta sauce all day. I liked the match of the pasta sauce flavors with the dark fruit in this bottle. I would drink this one anytime you are ready if you have it around, it's drinking beautifully.

Swing and a Hit!

March 9, 2007
I can't even begin to explain how happy I am to again be drinking wine after wine that I am enjoying so much. Between being sick for a week and getting a string of so-so bottles my palate was in desperate need of some good juice. And this last bottle continued the winning streak of excellent bottles.

We drank a bottle of 2004 Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay. The wine cost us $30, came in a club shipment, checked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

This Marimar is steel fermented and is drinking fabulously now. On the nose I found pineapple, tropical fruit and a hint of exotic spices. It was a wonderful smell. In the mouth it displayed crisp lime and green apple tones.

The finish was very long and an excellent taste lingered in my mouth. I could picture myself drinking this on the patio in the summer. Too bad this was our only bottle! Overall, the structure was well done and I love the way the steel fermentation allows the characteristics of the grape to show through. I served this with leftovers last night, which probably didn't do it much justice, but it worked fairly well with my leftover fish and chicken soup. I don't think I can say the same for Matt's leftover ravioli and pasta sauce though....

1000 Best Wine Secrets

Several weeks ago a publisher contacted me, and by the looks of it, many other wine bloggers, offering a copy of the book 1000 Best Wine Secrets by Carolyn Hammond for review ( You can get it on Amazon for $11.01). I agreed and shortly after a copy arrived in the mail. Now, I've been meaning to write up the review for a while, but again, life got crazy, and I didn't. However, I've noticed that Wino Sapien, Wine Outlook and Vivi have gotten their reviews up this week and it's spurred me to get around to mine.

Organization: The book is divided into thirty chapters ranging from: Tasting Wine Like a Pro to Wine Myths. The short chapters make it easy to thumb right to the information you are looking for and to ignore information that isn't relevant to your current question. Within each chapter, the tips are presented literally as a numbered list, from 1 to 1000. The tips in each chapter are a little disorganized for my taste, jumping in one chapter from a tip on how the best wines come from producers who are fastidious about every step of the wine making process (Tip 31) to a tip about respecting diversity in wines and not comparing (to paraphrase) apples to oranges (Tip 32). While both are good tips, I don't think they are linked to one and other and the flow didn't work for me in that respect.

Information: I did like that the information presented was in short blurbs. The book doesn't pretend to be an end all for information about wine, instead, it (to make a bad joke) gets your palate wet and gives you a starting point to find out more if you are so inclined. Some of the more obscure facts were really interesting in an incredibly geeky way. Did you know that a newer Bordeaux house actually makes Bordeaux wine perfumes? (Tip 185)

Audience: At times I'm sure the audience for this book are those new to the wine world or those with a casual interest that would not merit purchasing a more in depth (and significantly more expensive) book such as the Oxford Companion to Wine. Then, it delves into California Cult Cabs (and give 4 or 5 tips on just Screaming Eagle) which I think might be a slightly off topic for those new to wine and looking to learn more about what various wines taste like and what sort of food goes well with them. But then again, it jumps back to a full page worth of tips on yellowtail (and we all know my opinion on the recent bottle of that I tasted) which makes me think that yes, it is a book for those just interested in getting their feet wet.

Overall: I think with a few exceptions that are probably personal to me in the organization, 1000 Best Wine Secrets accomplishes what it sets out to do. It presents an easily accesible, easy to read set of tips for those readers who are interested in wine and want to begin to test the waters. A reader's curiosity could easily be piqued by any given tip to run and learn more about that particular wine or region. It's a quick read and for $11 a decent value to those looking to get their feet wet and start with a user friendly book that doesn't get bogged down in technical processes and debates about the merits of one Bordeaux producer over the other.

2003 Fritz Cabernet Sauvignon

March 8, 2007
I picked this bottle of 2003 Fritz Cabernet Sauvignon from our collection to pair with a dinner of homemade tomato sauce and ravioli. It cost us $30, is 13.9% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a real cork. We picked this one up from Fritz this summer and I have one more bottle still in the racks.

Now I've recently been worried that perhaps our wine has been cooked over this winter by the heat in our apartment. As hard as I try, it's very difficult to regulate the temperature in an apartment building that insists on keeping the heat on even when it's 70 out. I try my best and have been freezing my tush off sleeping with out window in the bedroom open even when it's 20 or below out. However, my fears have been put to rest over the past few days as we have had bottle after bottle that has been perfect. I'm now more inclined to believe that it may have simply been a case that got cooked in shipping, which actually makes sense to me now that I have pulled UPS records. One of our cases arrived suspiciously late compared to the others, despite the fact that all 14 were shipped on the same day. I can't say for sure that all the wines I've been "eh" about lately came from that box, but if I were a betting woman....

Back to the wine. On the nose, I got dark fruit aromas, possibly black currants. Later, I could detect blackberry. Then layers of leather and a spice I can't identify, plus something that smells like a spicy tree or plant, but isn't oaky or woody or cedar or vegetal. (Could I be more vague?)

In the mouth I found black currants. After a while some oak and spices showed through. Overall, this wine was incredibly smooth in the mouth, I would even call it silky after airing for a while. The wine is drinking very well right now, though I will be curious to see how the next bottle drinks. This time I will be more careful about actually saving the second bottle, though really, I could drink it now and be perfectly happy with it.

Ah....that's good.

March 7, 2007
I garnered immense satisfaction from the Pinot Noir we drank the other night. It was a bottle of 2005 Alderbrook Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and it was absolutely delicious. I have no idea what this cost, it came in the club shipment, but I assume it's around $30ish given the total cost of the shipment. The wine comes in a tremendously heavy bottle (seems to be a trend this week), weighs in at 14.2% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

On those nose of this one I get a delicious scent of raspberries, strawberries and cedar. Yum. Seriously, yum. In the mouth, fresh raspberries filled all my taste buds, followed by a slightly earthy feeling. After sitting out for a while I found notes of strawberries.

I really enjoyed how the wine developed as I drank it. The fruit kept coming, but overall this was a very light wine and I didn't feel bowled over by the fruit or alcohol at all. It worked so well with our dinner, which was homemade chicken noodle soup (I'm making the most of winter dishes while I still can, though that damn rodent seems to have been wrong about winter ending since we are expecting 2-4 inches of snow today!). My final words on this one are lip smacking good.

Virginia Wine Club Meetup Tonight

ETA: We are going to have change our answer here, the weather will be keeping us at home. I hope everyone has a great time and we will catch you at the next one!

The most recent email for the Virginia Wine Club Meetup event managed to get lost in my inbox. Possibly due to the fact that my once spam-free email has in recent months become home to all varieties of spam, which saddens me greatly. (No, really, I don't need cheap Xantax or whatever else you are peddling....)

However, our kind assistant organizer Leah, of DcGastronome, sent out a reminder email last night which caught my eye.

Tonight there are around 20 of us who have rsvp'd "yes" to attend the Meetup at Cafe Saint Ex in DC at 6:00pm. It's close to the U Street Metro, so easily accessible by both Metro or car if you are so inclined to brave driving into DC (a task I try to avoid at all costs, really people, the car manufacturers installed turn signals on your vehicle for a reason, not just so you could watch pretty blinking lights on your dashboard, learn to use them!).

Happy hour specials run from 4:00pm through 7:00pm which includes $4 glasses of house wine, and I'm not sure what else since the happy hour section of the website is unpopulated. The wine list looks interesting, though I wish there were a larger selection of wines by the glass. It appears a bit unbalanced with only 5 reds by the glass and 7 whites. Hear that DC area restaurants? Offering wines by the glass (and not just plonk!) in greater variety would be an appreciated factor when composing your wine lists! Or how about flights of wine? Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I think I"ve only been to one restaurant with that option!

So come join us! I'll be there at 6 and Matt will be joining me shortly thereafter. Last month's Meetup was a blast and it was great to get out and meet new people, I hope to see some familiar faces and some new ones this time. I'm the brownish-blonde with bad roots (help, I need a new salon!) wearing a chocolate brown suit. Hope to see you there!

Short term memory anyone?

March 6, 2007
I apparently lack one these days. We just drank a bottle of this the other night and somehow that fact managed to escape me. Sigh. You'd think with the blog and my spreadsheet, I would be better about this. Especially since I specifically said I didn't think the 2005 Hanna Pinot Noir was ready to drink yet. We literally had this 3 weeks ago. This time I served the Hanna with a baked maple syrup/brown sugar acorn squash and cornish hens wrapped in bacon and topped with a raspberry jam/balsalmic vinegar glaze. (Mainly I'm showing off my dinner at this point cause I'm really proud of how it came out!)

However, this is not the first repeat we've had in recent memory. We also just drank another bottle of 2005 De La Montanya Chardonnay which we tasted just a few months ago. And I've noticed as time goes on that I am having more and more trouble finding wines in my collection that are ready to drink, that are in the price range I want to drink that night and we haven't had them since I started the blog in November. Which leads me to believe we are in a slight wine rut. Not good. And now that I've combined all my wine club shipments into only once or twice a year, I am not expecting any new wine for at least 2 months.

Alas, we are also not in the position to be buying much additional wine at this point either. With the house closing coming up (eek, about 50 days!) we are watching every penny. So sadly my posting may be slowing a little for the next month since we simply are not drinking as many new wines as we had previously (though with 175 posts since mid-November, and the majority of them being wine reviews, we have consumed a slightly alarming number of bottles!!). I will attempt to find as many as I can that are different from what I've already reviewed while staying in the confines of my collection and keep up the posting!

Quivira 2004 Zinfandel

March 5, 2007
First, the empty bottle from this wine weighs a ton. Second, this bottle of 2004 Quivira Zinfandel cost us $28, is 14.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. Only 425 cases of this wine were produced.

In this wine, I found blackberry, spices and cedar on the nose. This is not a huge zin like I am used to, it seems more reserved in the mouth. The fruit flavors don't jump out and drown your palate. Instead, it's silky smooth in the mouth, showing raspberries, blackberries and bit of peppery spice.

This is a really well balanced zin, and certainly not a "fruit bomb" despite the 14.5% alcohol by volume. It didn't overwhelm our dinner at all, which many zins tend to do unless you serve them with a really big meal: smoky bbq or a huge steak. I served it with a bread crumb and parmesean baked tilapia filet over a bed of creamy parmesean polenta and steamed broccoli florets on the side.

Pizza Paradiso

On Friday we headed out to Pizza Paradiso, our favorite pizza place in the area. Now, Pizza Paradiso isn't known for it's wine selection, but instead it's beer selection. They have over 20 beers on tap, many of which are really unique and I haven't seen them elsewhere. However, I still really like some wine with my pizza.

I've tried most of the whites on the list and I don't like the way they taste after you've had any tomatoes. So I've moved on to the reds and I usually go with the special selection, and Friday was no exception. That night it was a 2005 Feudo Maccari Renoto, which was selling for $7 for a glass and $26 for the bottle. I opted for the glass since Matt wanted one of the beers.

The wine is a blend of 85% Nero D'Avola and 15% Syrah. I have a bone to pick with Pizza Paradiso. They serve their wine in tall skinny juice glasses and some of their beers in wine glasses. This frustrates me because it really detracts from the wine. Additionally, it's served simply too warm. Pizza Paradiso is full of brick ovens to make the pizza. The place is not cool and the wine at room temp is not so appealing.

As to the actually wine, I got earth and raisins on the nose. In the mouth red currants and raisins showed. After a little while, red cherries came through. Throughout the whole glass there were spices and at the end I would say a hint of tobacco. I would guess this retails for somewhere between $11 and $16 given the cost in the restaurant and for that price, this would be a great value in a red. It went pretty well with my pizza of choice, a Pizza Paradiso made with fresh tomatoes and fresh Buffalo mozzarella. Though I will say I appreciated the glass of ice cold Red Raspberry Draft that was on special that I ordered after I finished my wine.

Is this wine?

March 3, 2007
I can't really tell. We have a bottle of yellow tail riesling. I didn't buy it, it was given to us. The only thing that makes me think it might be wine is that it's in a wine bottle. But even that's dubious, as I'm sure you could pee in a wine bottle, but that doesn't make it wine.

On the nose, I get vanilla (how odd) and chemicals. There's nothing else there. It's a bright yellow color in the glass. (So maybe it really is pee in a bottle?) In the mouth it tastes like plastic fruit, like what I would imagine biting into one of those plastic display lemons that furniture stores are apt to place in bowls on dining room tables. The taste is really just kind of foul and I can't get the lingering bit of plastic flowers/fruit out of my mouth. Otherwise, it's simply bland.

I love riesling. Really, it started my love affair with wine. I think it's an abomination to call this riesling. It has none of the flowers, or petrol or sweet light taste that rieslings often have. The color isn't even right. All the rieslings I've ever had are very light in color, some are almost translucent. I made it through maybe half my glass before giving up.

Totally Twisted

March 1, 2007
Even for Twisted Oak! Over at El Bloggo Torcido El Jefe has announced a great promotion. Write the tasting notes/label for the 2006 %@#$! and win a case of the wine which will have your label (immortalized forever!) on the bottles. And even if you don't win, you get a 20% off coupon just for entering, which will perhaps finally get me off my ass to order some wine from Twisted Oak which I have been wanting to try for a while now. Here's the announcement: Write This %@#$!. Here are the details on the contest: The Little %@#$! Technical Details. And finally, some examples of previous Twisted Oak wine labels: Classic Back Labels.

A great idea from a really different winery. I'm sure it will pique interest in the winery and hopefully get some great enteries. The deadline to submit your entry(ies) is March 16, 2007 and El Jefe will announce the winner on his blog on March 19, 2007. So get your creative (or twisted!) minds working and enter. (I hope El Jefe will post some of the enteries when this is over as it would be fun to see what people submitted!)

Now, wordsmith I am not, but I will be putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys as the case may be) and attempting to write something bottle-worthy. Get cracking!

6 Month Old Wedding Cake

I think I may have mentioned that we went to visit my parents recently. And while there, it just so happened that we have been married for 6 months. My parents, unbeknownst to us, had actually taken the top layer of our wedding cake home with them and frozen it for us, but had no idea how to get it to VA without it defrosting at least a bit on the trip. I decided that since we were there and it had been exactly 6 months, why not just eat it then? So we did, and then my mom packed the rest of the now defrosted cake in cooler for us and we took it home to finish it. Now, surprisingly, 6 month old wedding cake didn't actually taste too bad, though I can't honestly say how it compared to being fresh since I think I got the bite Matt fed to me and that was it.

At home we chose to open some bubbly to finish up the last bit of cake. And what did I have in the house, but a bottle the "could've been a contender" for my very first WBW, "Sparkling Wines." I actually did purchase it then, with the idea that it would be my entry, but decided against it at the time. The bottle is a Toso Brut from Mendoza Argentina. It cost me $10 for this and a split in a gift package at World Market.

It worked well with our cake, which Matt served with some fresh strawberries I had chopped earlier in the day. On the nose, this one is all yeast and a little toast. In the glass, it is very very fizzy. In the mouth, this is a dry wine, with no discernible fruit flavors, but more yeast and a nice bubbly feel. Overall, I would have rated this a "party sparkler" for the WBW, given the wallet friendly price and overall quality.

Cheers! And wow, 6 months went by so fast!