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Wine and Cheese

May 30, 2007
What could be better when your favorite food is cheese and your favorite drink is wine? Not much in my humble opinion. Especially when those cheese are local artisan cheeses and the wines are delicious and pair very well with the cheeses.

Prior to heading to CA, I found a link to Michel-Schlumberger on Fork and Bottle and decided to check it out. On poking around the website, I found that they offer tasting by appointment only and also have a special wine and cheese pairing by appointment. I was sold.

We were a few minutes earlier so we had a chance to wander around the beautiful courtyard of the winery and sit by the fountain as we waited for the other people to arrive. Our tasting mates turned out to be a very nice couple from North Carolina whom we ran into latter at Passalacqua.

Eventually we were moved to a large kitchen where our cheese plates and wine glasses were set at individual tasting stations around the kitchen island. The pairing event is $26 per person.

First up was the 2005 La Brume Chardonnay for $20 with an Aged Acapella cheese. The wine showed pear and lemon flavors with a slight hint of oak. It seemed slightly crisp, but drinking it with the cheese turned it into a nice light, creamy wine. Yum, this cheese was AMAZING!

Next was a 2002 Merlot, which cost $30 and our attendant said should age for 8-10 years. The wine was paired with Carmody Farmstead Cheese. The wine showed alochol, raspberries, spice and cherries. I could see that it needed time to age. Once I took a bite of the cheese however, the fruit came jumping out of the glass with gobs of black cherries and raspberries. Delicious wine with the cheese!

Third was a 2003 Pinot Noir for $32. It was paired with blue cheese. I described the wine before cheese as clean, with strawberries and quite earthy. After the cheese, I found mushrooms along with the other flavors. I loved this match.

Fourth was a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon for $38 that our attendant said to age for 10 or more years. It was paired with St. George cheese. The wine showed black currants and was very reserved, but after the cheese the wine opened up in the mouth.

Next we had a Late Harvest Semillon Dessert wine called "Silk Purse." It was floral with apple, pear and honey notes. We tried it with the leftover blue cheese and the flavors jumped out of the glass. This was Matt's favorite pairing.

Finally we tried a 2006 Pinot Blanc for $21. It is aged for 6 months in stainless steel. No cheese match for this one, but the attendant suggested buttery cheeses. The wine had a sweet aromatic nose, with lemon and pineapple. It was very light and would make a great summer sipper. We took a bottle home.

Overall, a great experience and it was really fun to taste in such a small group over an extended hour. I would certainly recommend this to anyone heading out that way.

A shipping issue

May 29, 2007
Thanks to Dr. Debs for posting this timely (for me anyway) post on Wine Life Today that she found on Good Grape. The post is regarding the shipping of wine to consumers and how it's a big issue facing the industry today.

And I must agree. Especially given that I just got royally screwed by UPS. A shipment of 6 bottles was scheduled (per the phone call of UPS) to arrive at my home on Friday. I went home early to wait for it. And I waited. And waited. And it did not come. So I think maybe it got shipped to our old apartment. I went over there. And nothing. I harass the front desk people into showing me the package log for Friday to make sure it didn't get sent there. Nothing.

I call today to track it. Supposedly UPS came and left a notice on our door at 6:47PM on Friday. Well, apparently this was a ghost UPS truck and a ghost notice, because let me tell you, it wasn't there. I may be oblivious at times, but I certainly don't miss it when people ring the doorbell or when missed package notices are taked to my front door.

So now, my beautiful wine that cost $170 has been sitting in a hot warehouse the entire LONG weekend. That's 3 full days, plus 2 full dasy today being driven around in our achingly hot weather. I fear the worst dear wine lovers: my wine will be cooked. I am doubly irritated and pissed off due to the fact that I was sitting in my living room when this was supposedly delivered.

PS: Even more irritated now that I just found out they will attempt to deliver at 4 today. No one will be there and every other time UPS has come, they arrive around 7. When we are home. Of course, not today though.

Wine with a Smile

Pulling up to Yoakim Bridge reminded me of pulling up to a cabin to go camping at. The winery was rustic and looked very inviting. And, as many people say, first impressions are often right; everything about Yoakim Bridge was inviting. The winery is only open to the public Friday-Sunday, unless you call for an appointment. Tasting fee is supposedly $10, though we were not asked for it and it was never mentioned.

Walking into the tasting room, we were immediately greeted very exhuberantly by Virginia, one of the two owners of Yoakim Bridge. We were then offered meatballs, which she had simmering in a crock pot behind the tasting bar. And they were delicious, made in their own special wine sauce. Virginia made sure we were red wine drinkers, as, in her words: "We don't do white wines here, we're red only!" Much to the disappointment of the people who walked in behind us, as they were looking for white wines and walked away with out even tasting, despite our encouragement to try something is divine!

Yoakim Bridge is a very small operation. They've been around for just over 10 years and don't have any tasting room help, just the two owners, both of whom were pouring wine that Friday. Along with the very friendly and adorable winery dogs. I would highly recommend a visit to Yoakim Bridge. The wines were delicious, the people fantastic and the atmosphere great, even after we got home, we got a personal email from Virginia thanking us for visiting and for purchasing wine. Little things like that go a long way with me.

2001 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: $32. Raspberry and chocolate on the nose. Oak and raspberries in the mouth with a long finish. Could age longer in my opinion. We took home 2 bottles.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: $32. Pepper, blackberry and oak. Overall, quite spicy!

2004 Dry Creek Valley Merlot: $34. Toasty, with the distinct scent of sausage. Strawberries and spice in the mouth, I relaly liked the flavors in this one.

Three Valley Cuvee NV: $34. Violets and other flowers on the nose. Mint, and dried raspberries, the tannins were heavy on this wine. The grapes come from 13 differents vineyards.

2002 Dry Creek Valley Syrah: $34. Dark fruit, blackberries and blueberries. Vanilla notes and spice. Definitely age this one longer.

Weekend Wine Events (and more!)

May 25, 2007
First of note, is a wine dinner coming up on June 4th being hosted by Church Street Cellars in Vienna. The dinner will take place at Bazin's on Church and feature a Robert Mondavi Reserve Wine Dinner. The festivities begin at 6:30 with appetizers and the cost is $100 per person. Entrees include Pekin Duck, Double Thick Lamb-Chops.....reservations will be taken by the restaurant at 703-255-7212.

Church Street will be tasting on Saturday from 12-3 with Grappoli Imports. Wines include: Barbi Orvietto, Graofoli Sparkling, James Judd Cabernet Sauvingon and James Judd Petite Verdot.

On Sunday from 12-5 and Monday from 12-3 Church Street will feature 16 wines from an Enomatic Wine Dispenser! It looks like they may be getting ready to introduce this feature in shop in the future!

Today from 6-8 at the Curious Grape in Shirlington you will find Artisanal American Wines and Chocolates on the tasting bars. Wines will be featured from California, Oregon and Washington.

On Saturday the Curious Grape has All New-Zealand Favorites looks like a great line-up, including one of my favorite summer styles, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

If you are in town on Monday, head to the Curious Grape from 10-2 and receive a 20% case discount mix or match. Nothing is excluded, so take this opportunity to pick up some of those wine's you've been eyeing or perhaps to do your own at home mixed case learning as Eric Asimov of The Pour has been encouraging us to do!

Arrowine in Arlington offers wines from Dionysos on the tasting bar tonight from 5:30-7:30, indcluding a French Rose and a red Portugese wien they claim is perfect for grilling.

On Saturday from 1-4 Arrowine will be featuring a dozen wines in a SuperTasting of Tuscan Burgundy and Other Wines of Terrior from Rosenthal Wine Merchant.

Out of Site Wines in Vienna is also featuring a Memorial Day Weekend special, though be careful as you will have to carry your wines due to the street being closed for the ViVa Vienna Festival. On Saturday and Sunday they are offering $20 off any purchase of $250 or more if you mention the ViVa Vino Vienna Email Special. Try saying that 5 times fast.

Tonight Out of Site Wines will be tasting the 2005 Obvio Torrentes (a wine I have previously reviewed) and a 2001 Bodegas Valsacro "Valsacro Red."

Saturday from 12-2:30 Out of Site will feature Portugal, France and Spain with a Verdelho, a Sancerre and a Grenache/Tempranillo blend. From 2:30-5 they will feature a selection from Grappoli Imports including a Prosecco, a Verdicchio and a Sangiovese.

On Sunday at Out of Site you will find, from 12-2:30 Sauvignon Blacn from Chile, Chardonnay from France, and Malbec from Argentina. From 2:30-5 look from a Veltliner, a Garnacha and aPaso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.

Not to mention, if you are feeling adventureous and want to leave the hectic tourism of DC behind you, the West Virginia Wine and Arts Festival is going on from Saturday-Sunday. It's located at 601 South Queen Street in Martinsburg, WV. The cost is $15 per person and looks like a great way to spend a Memorial Day weekend.

Be safe this weekend and I hope that everyone has a festive and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend!

My Problem

May 24, 2007
We don't have internet access at home right now.

Which means I can't type up my tasting notes or upload my pictures. And that leaves me with several posts that I have written but have not attached the pictures to yet.

So while I've been drinking wines as usual, I don't know that I can make any real wine related posts until the Internet people show up on Saturday to hook up our cable. I had high hopes for drinking some wine out tonight, but I checked out the wine list of the place we are headed to and woefully discovered that there are only 3 reds and 3 whites on it. That's it. And one of the reds is The Little Penguin Pinot Noir if that provides you an indication of the type of wine list.

I was interested to note that the Washington Post Wine Writers noted the Nora Albarino as one of their favorite white wines under $20. I had recommended that to Dr.Debs a while ago and she reviewed it a few weeks ago. I'm hoping the mention in thePost won't drive up the demand and the price of it around here as it is one of my favorite "go-to" white wines.

Other wine events of note:

We have moved our wine into our basement at the new house. What looked HUGE in our apartment as it basically took up what space remained on either side of our bed looks itty bitty in our basement. And, as I've been monitoring it, our basement seems to have been steady for 2 weeks at a 62 degree temperature. While I realize that 55 is more ideal, I wonder if it will be okay down there? Keep in mind most of wine doesn't hang around for more than a year or so as I make no pretense about attempting to store and age wine. Thoughts?

My second WineQ shipment has arrived with a Sauvignon Blanc, a Zinfandel and a Red Table Wine. I'm much looking forward to my next shipment which has some Twisted Oak Petite Sirah in it, something I've been dying to taste! My only concern is that I've now purchased all the wines under $20 that are available through WineQ to ship to VA. I'm all for trying new things, but I hesistate to spend more than $20ish on a wine I haven't tasted yet...Hopefully some of the other wines will be able to ship to VA soon or more new arrivals will pop up!

Finally, I can't figure out where to put the wine fridge in the new house. Keeping it in the basement with the wine seems to defeat the purpose of its convenience. And the way the new kitchen is designed it doesn't seem like there is a logical place to keep it. Hmm, perhaps my next kitchen will be designed around a built in wine-fridge.... :)

Hope to be back in gear soon!

A Random Stop

May 23, 2007
One afternoon on our trip we were bored and had managed to hit all the places I had planned on us seeing. As we were driving around we decided to stop at a winery on the road called Mazzocco. The tasting room set up on slight hill among the vineyards was very pretty, especially later in the afternoon with the sun glowing behind it. I gather they were purchased by Wilson Winery several years ago, but prior to that had been owned by a Dr.Mazzocco.

Inside, the tasting room was enormous and very open. The tasting bar was huge, easily 30 people could have stood around it without feeling crowded. Our tasting room attendant was friendly, though a little busy with several groups showing up all at once.

2004 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc: $14. Some oak and lemon, very reserved.

2004 Sonoma County Chardonnay: $18. Oak and spice. Peah, smooth and very flavorful.

2004 Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay: $28. Buttery nose, oak. More "reserved fruit" than the non-reserve, lemon, drier in flavor.

2003 Alexander Valley Carignane: $18. Chocolate and cracked pepper. Pepper and scpicy red fruit in the mouth.

2002 Sonoma County Merlot: $25. Milk chocolate on nose, berries. Smooth and tart with some drying tannins on the end. Bought one bottle.

1999 Matrix Estate Bordeaux Blend: $40. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Black currants, bell pepper. Bell pepper in the mouth too, very spicy.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: $24. From the Cuneo and Saini Vineyards. Oak, dark flavors, currants. Currants, spice, and earthy in the mouth.

2004 Alexander Valley Stone Ranch Zinfandel: $24. Spicy blackberries, leather. Chocolate, blackberry jam and spice in mouth. Bought one bottle.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel: $27. Currants, raisins, peppery, a little blackberry. Strong tannins, more juicy than jammy.

2002 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: $50. Dark cherries, leather on the nose, fresh raspberries in the mouth. I liked this the best, but not enough to spend $50. Served with brownie covered in chocolate wine sauce.

WBW #34 Announced

May 22, 2007
Our lovely host this month will be Catie of Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine fame.

And it should come as no suprise to anyone who reads Catie's blog that the theme is Washington State-centric. Sadly, not Walla-Walla-centric though, but I understand that it can be a bit tough to find Walla Walla wines, I personally don't recall seeing any in my wine shops!

This month we are tasked with finding a Washington Cabernet to consume and blog about. Our entries are due to Catie by June 13, so get on the hunt for your Cabernet! You can find all the details in Catie's post here.

Barring any other major events happening in the Wannabe Wino world, I really hope to get back on track with WBW Wednesday this month. I have so much fun participating but due to circumstances mostly beyond my control I've been unable to play for the last two months. My goal then for June is get back in gear!

Digging Into the New Stash Already!

I just couldn't wait to start drinking some of the wines we brought home from Sonoma and to cure my cellar fatigue. So we hoped right in with this bottle of 2005 Passalacqua Sonoma County Zinfandel. As I've mentioned before, Matt and I are big Zinfandel fans and I am always on the look-out for new ones to love, and this bottle was no dissappointment.

We picked this bottle up at the winery for $25, it had a real cork closure and clocks in at 14.8% alcohol.

On the nose I found black pepper, vanilla, raspberries and strawberries. Overall, the nose had a toasty oak charcteristic. In the mouth I found blackberries, raspberries, cherries and strawberries.

Overall I would describe this wine as juicy. It is currently very smooth in the mouth and drinking really well. I wouldn't hold this one for more than another year if you have any bottles hanging around.

I served this with pasta and tomato sauce and fresh parmesean. It was an okay match, but Zins are not my first choice for tomato based pasta sauce. I prefer a Sangiovese with my tomato sauce! I picture steaks on the grill being a future match with the other bottle I have! (We just got a grill for the new house and the weather seems perfect!)

Osteria 177

May 21, 2007
I met a friend whom I hadn't seen in many months in Annapolis, MD recently. Neither she nor I had ever been there before, but I would definitely love to return. Many cute shops and restaurants to explore, plus a beautiful setting. We initially drove into town and saw a wine bar and were going to get lunch there, but it turned out to literally be just a wine bar. So instead we meandered back to this Italian restaurant called Osteria 177. An excellent find overall.

The atmosphere was very laid back, with high ceilings and deep colors on the walls. We got a cozy corner booth where we chatted the afternoon away over some delicious food and wine. My friend Kim ordered the whole Dover sole with white wine and caper sauce and fresh asparagus. The server highly recommended it, but it wasn't listed on the menu. The presentation was fabulous, they actually cooked the fish whole and brought it to your table and dressed it tableside. Very cool. However, not so cool when the bill arrived and her meal was $45....everything on the menu was less than $20, so it was a huge shock. I had a delicious fresh mozzerella and prosciutto pannini ($9) and a lobster/crab bisque ($3). Both were fantastic, as was the fish. The soup was just the kind of bisque I like, very light with lots of chunks of crab and lobster. The sandwich was grilled perfectly and the prisciutto was the best I've had in the US.

Onto the wine. We wanted a bottle as we knew we would spend at least 3 hours or so catching up over lunch and could take our time with a bottle even though it was lunch. Kim prefers red wine, even though she was having fish so I looked for a good red. I couldn't find anything that I thought she would like, so I asked our server for a recommendation in a price range. He said he had a Barbaresco that was not on the menu and recommended that. As I tasted it, I knew Kim would love it and took the bottle.

It was a 2003 Poderi Colla Barbaresco Roncaglia. I see you can find it here for $45.99, so the restaurant price of $60 was really not bad at all. The wine was 14% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

On the nose the wine showed violets, leather, dried cherries and roses. It was very aromatic and I kept going back to stick my nose in the glass. I love wines where I just can't get enough of the aroma. In the mouth, the flavor was full, but it wasn't a heavy wine. I thought it was very well rounded and drinking very well now. The flavors were leather, deep red fruits and cherries. Oddly enough, the wine left an impression of rose water with me. I really enjoyed this wine, though a lot can be said for the fact that I was very much enjoying the company with whom I was drinking the wine, which always adds to the experience!

Overall, the service was fantastic, the food expertly prepared and the atmosphere great. The wine list was interesting, though very pricey in comparison to the food. However, I would definitely go back and would recommend it for lunch. Just don't be shocked if you order the Dover Sole! And, it can sometimes pay to ask for a recommendation because you can end up with something totally different!

Quivira 2004 Zinfandel

May 18, 2007
This bottle arrived in the mail in our latest Quivira club shipment (by the way, how did I not learn about wine by mail before last summer??). The wine was a 2004 Dry Creek Valley Wine Creek Ranch Quivira Zinfandel. It cost $25.50 after a discount, had a real cork closure and clocked in at 14.4% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found blackberries, raspberries, dark cherries and undercurrents of currants (yeah, I know, poor choice of words, give me a break, it's been a long week already and it's only Tuesday). In the mouth I found raspberries, red fruit and cracked pepper.

In the mouth the wine had quite a bit of juicy fruit mid-palate and was a bit tannic towards the finish. I think that overall the wine was fairly young and could easily sit on my shelf for at least another year, probably a bit longer than that as well. I served the wine with my steak and risotto dish, with the sauce made from raspberry jam instead of red currant jam as I was out of red currant jam and didn't realize it until the steaks were already cooking. The risotto only had two cheeses, the extra sharp Cabot I had in the fridge and some fresh grated parmesean. Good match for our dinner, I do like using the wine we are drinking in the sauce for the steak!

Ceja Vino de Casa

May 17, 2007
We drank our very first bottle of wine from our very first WineQ shipment this week. The bottle was a 2005 Vino de Casa-White. It cost $17.99 (free shipping!), had a real cork closure and was 12.8% alcohol by volume. The blend is made of 68% Chardonnay, 28% Marsanne and 4% Viognier. I didn't really think that only 4% Viognier would make a difference, but was I ever wrong, from the nose, this could have almost been a Viognier.

The wine was incredibly aromatic, I could smell it as I opened the bottle. The nose was full of tropical fruit, pineapples and touch of oak, which I am assuming comes from the finishing in 2nd fill French oak as this is a steel fermented wine. In the mouth the wine was smooth and creamy. Flavors of lemon and apple dominated with a sweet hint that I want to say was toffee or caramel.

Overall the wine had an excellent structure and flavor. I was actually surprised by the flavors as I didn't know what to expect from this type of blend. We drank it on its own on a lazy weekened afternoon (one of our last of those for a while now that we have a house to take care of!) but I think it would have done well with many foods, particulary a roast chicken. A very successful first foray into WineQ. (More to come on my WineQ experience later.)

Sorry for the blog silence, we had a death in the family and had to travel unexpectedly for a few days. I'm also starting my new job today and the movers are coming on Saturday, so please pardon my slightly erratic posting and my lack of commenting on other blogs, I am still reading I promise!

Visiting Passalacqua Winery

May 14, 2007
Another stop on our marathon tasting day in Sonoma, just before lunch, was Passalacqua Winery. Overall impressions: tiny tasting room and tiny tasting bar. It was too crowded (with only 3 groups) when we first walked in for us to even taste. We waited for 2 groups (of only 2 people in each) to leave before we stepped up for our tasting. However, the tasting room was bright and cheery with plenty of things to look at while we waited. The winery charges a $5 non-refundable tasting fee, and they are the only winery we visited where the fee was actually enforced even though we bought several bottles of wine, though the attendant only charged us for one tasting instead of two.

2005 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc: $16. My favorite white wine of the trip I believe. Grass and citrus on the nose. Crisp and clean with melon flavors in the mouth. We took home 4 bottles.

2005 Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay: $21. NMS. Flowers spice and citrus in this one. It didn't work for me.

2005 Sonoma County Barrel Chardonnay: $30. Oak, reserved nose. Lemon, creamy and reserved in the mouth.

2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel: $25. Jammy nose, pepper. Raspberries in the mouth. Lighter than I am used to for a Zin, but it worked for me. We took home 2 bottles.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: $40. Currants, old red fruit and saddle leather on the nose. Cherries with a spicy after taste in the mouth.

Big Red

May 13, 2007
Drank this bottle of NV Hop Kiln Big Red while just hanging around the other night. The wine cost $12 and came in a club shipment, with a real cork closure. Matt pitched the bottle before I managed to write down the alcohol content, but I imagine it was close to 15%. The wine itself is a Zinfandel blend, so has a lot of Zinfandel characteristics.

I found the nose of this wine to be fairly complicated and layered. At first it was all vanilla and blackberry, which gave way to oak and black currants and finally showed a spice that I cannot place. In the mouth I got flavors of blueberries, blackberries and plums.

Overall I would describe this wine as very full of flavors and with a big feeling in the mouth, almost as if it were heavy. At the end, the wine is tannic, drying the back of your tongue a bit. I imagine that this would be fine if you've left it on your shelves for a few years. I thought that for only $12 this was a fairly complex and well done wine.

Visiting Argentina (Through Wine)

May 12, 2007
I picked up this bottle of 2004 Barricas Tempranillo from Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena. It had a real cork closure, cost $6.95 and was 13% alcohol by volume. At this price point, I thought this wine was a fairly good value, though I'm not terribly familiar with Tempranillos, so don't have much to judge it by. I believe I had one at a Best Cellars tasting and I wasn't impressed. This one, for $6.95 was definitely drinkable and I thought it had good characteristics.

On the nose there was leather, undertones of bosenberry and a distinct barnyard aroma. I picked up on that when I opened the bottle, but didn't want to prejudice anyone who was drinking the wine so didn't say anything until everyone was drinking and laughing at me as I tokk notes. (Matt's friends from home again.) Then I said "barnyard" and they laughed even more until one finally stuck his nose in the glass and said "It is like a barnyard!" In the mouth I would describe this wine as being full of juicy fruit, mostly blackberry with hints of the leather from the nose. A tasty wine and one I wouldn't hesitate to get again.

Visiting Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs

May 10, 2007
One of my pet peeves about websites is when they contain outdated information. Such was the case of Ridge Vineyards at Lytton Springs. The website says it has no tasting fee. Well, they do. We asked if they waive the fee if you buy wine, no dice. Oh well, we went ahead with the tasting anyway, and thankfully, our attendant ended up not charging us for the fee when she rang us out. Yay!

My impressions of the tasting room: The tasting bar was fairly large and very high off the ground. The interior really lacked any personality, I would say it was sterile and cold. Not really any decoration. I like to see something in a tasting room, especially if it's not a busy day for the tasting room I like to wander around and look at pictures of the vineyards and such. Their overall wine list made my jaw drop. I had NO idea that their wines went for so much money! Not the ones that were being tasted, the ones for sale!

2004 Geyserville Zinfandel: $33. Blackberries, cherries, spicy, cracked black pepper.

2004 Lytton Springs Zinfandel: $33. Vanilla, blackberry pie (blackberry desserts and vanilla were common wine experiences for me this trip...), blueberries. This wine was very juicy. Matt's favorite from this stop, we took home 1 bottle.

2004 York Creek Zinfandel: $28. More peppery than the Lytton, and the fruit had a darker quality. Blackberries and jucier than the Lytton. This was my favorite offering at Ridge and we took home 2 bottles.

2003 Lytton East Zinfandel: $30. Younger tasting fruit than the previous offerings, oddly enough given that it was a 2003. Juicy fresh blackberries, vanilla with a pepper note.

2002 Lytton Estate Petite Sirah: $30. Alcohol on the nose of this one, I had trouble getting past it. Cracked pepper, blueberries and blackberries.

WineQ Hits Another Homerun!

May 9, 2007
This bottle of Twisted Oak 2005 Verdelho arrived in my very first shipment from WineQ. I have been meaning to try the wines from Twisted Oak for quite some time now, but let's face it, I'm a bit lazy and I can be forgetful (yet another reason WineQ works really well for me, I don't have to think much about it beyond adding more wines to my queue, minimal effort is excellent) so I hadn't gotten around to it. But now I have and I can say for certain this will not be our last bottle of this one or from Twisted Oak in general....I have my eye on the Petite Sirah....

Anywho, onto the wine. Screw-cap (which actually came off the bottle without Matt having to take the pliers or a knife to it, thanks Twisted Oak!), 13.2% alcohol by volume and cost $15.99 (free shipping!).

The nose of the Verdelho was very aromatic. It started out with a strong sense of pineapple giving away to apple. Flowers then dominated the nose. In the mouth there were pears, apples and peaches. The wine had excellent acidity and structure.

I served it with parmesean breadcrumb baked tilapia and leftover risotto. Some kind of vegetable too, though my memory is foggy and I couldn't take a picture of the dinner with the wine as you couldn't see the bottle up against my pile 'o junk. The light flower and crisp fruit flavors in the wine paired well with the light flaky fish and the acidity did well up against the creamy cheese risotto.

Overall, we loved this wine. The flavors and aromas were great for the summery weather we've been experiencing here and the value was excellent.

Disintegrating Cork

May 8, 2007
This bottle was a nightmare. I picked it up in Pasadena at Chronicle Wine Cellar. The wine caught my eye as it was from Kunde Vineyard, which someone had suggested I visit in my post about vineyards to hit in Sonoma. We weren't going to be able to make it there, but I still wanted to try the wine, as the Zinfandels seemed right up my alley.

The wine was a Kunde 1998 Shaw Vineyards Zinfandel. It cost $19.95 at Chronicle Wine Cellar. It was a lone bottle on a shelf and I grabbed it the second I saw it. The problem came when I went to open the bottle. I stuck my corkscrew in and the cork was soft. I went to pull it out and it broke. Undaunted, I tried again. What remained of the cork crumbled into a million little particles and fell in my wine, rendering it temporarily undrinkable. I had to strain each glass. And even that didn't get it all because some of the pieces were so miniscule they fit through the strainer. I wasn't too hopeful at this point for how the wine was going to taste, given that it indicated to me that the storage of the bottle had been less than ideal (it was 9 years old after all).

Thankfully, I was wrong! The wine was perfect. In fact, it could have aged even longer in my opinion, though I'd be wary of the cork....

On the nose there were aromas of toast, oak, blackberries and currants. The wine had a very pleasant nose and Matt's friends were laughing at me as I just kept sticking my nose in the glass. I love the aroma of a good Zinfandel. At 14.1% alcohol the wine was on the lower end alcohol-wise of the Zinfandels I see now. In the mouth there were big gobs of dark fruit, spice, currants, blackberries and red cherries. Overally, it left an impression of dark fruit and spiciness with me. I very much enjoyed the wine in the bottle, once I got it open, and hopefully the cork added to my fiber intake for the day.

But tell me, how do you handle things if a cork goes horribly, horribly wrong?

VIsiting Seghesio Vineyards

May 7, 2007
Our very first stop on this trip to Sonoma was at Seghesio Vineyards. Unfortunately, I left my camera at our B&B and didn't take any pictures. The tasting room is fairly close to the center of Healdsburg, so is a great stop for after lunch in town, which I would have thought of had I actually mapped everything we wanted to get to in relation to each other rather than making individual maps for each thing! Enough of that. I loved the yard in front of the tasting room. It had a single row of vines growing up close to the property line and was very well manicured with flowers all in bloom. Inside, the tasting room was very spacious, with a long tasting bar against the back room. I thought it was great that through the windows behind the bar you looked directly into the barrel room which was dimly lit so you could see all the barrels lined up (I'm a little fascinted, oddly enough, by wine barrels).

Our tasting room attendant was very friendly, he encouraged us to come back on Friday for the food and wine pairing they offer, but we weren't able to swing back by. Sorry about that! He chuckled at my note-taking, but said he'd check out my blog, so hopefully he will and catches this post! We tasted through 6 wines, following are my brief notes on each.

2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio: $19.95. Light and crisp, lemon and vanilla flavors, nice finish. Good summer wine.

2005 Costierra Pinot Noir: $38. Raspberries, cherries, spicy. Very young. Seems like it should age very well.

2004 Sangiovese: $28, 14.8% alcohol by volume. Very pleasant aroma, juicy black fruit, very well done. This was Matt's favorite of the tasting, we took home 3 bottles.

2004 Cortina Zinfandel: $36, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Pepper, blackberries, juicy, good structure.

2004 Old Vine Zinfandel: $33, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Blackberry tart, vanilla. Juicier than the Cortina. This was my favorite of the tasting, we took home 1 bottle.

2005 Home Ranch Zinfandel: $36, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Earthy, dark cherries, slight hint of vanilla.

Overall, a very nice choice for a first stop. The wines were a little pricier than I would have liked, but were all very well done.

Run Rabbit Run!

May 4, 2007
We had a bottle of Rock Rabbit Winery 2005 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc while out visiting the in-laws in California. I picked the bottle up at Gouda and Vines in Montrose, CA for $9.95. It had a real cork closure and clocked in at 13.8% alcohol.

The style of this Sauvignon Blanc was completely different from the Matua from New Zealand we had consumed the night before. While still crisp and full of acidity, it didn't have the same "zing" that the Matua did. I enjoyed both, but I really do love the New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc.

On the nose I found apricots, lemon, melons and hay. In the mouth I found peaches, limes and pears. We drank this on it's own one evening, though I would pair it with a nice white fish or crab legs. Overall this wine was crisp and had good structure in the mouth. The value was good as well, though for my tastes, I prefer the Matua at $7.95!

Wine Gifts are Great!

May 3, 2007
Tonight we drank one of the bottles of wine that my mother in-law sent us. As I mentioned before, when she went to her high school reunion in CA she discovered that several of her classmates own vineyards and she decided to send me a bottle from each to try. The first one we have consumed is a 2003 Chatom Vineyards Esmeralda Syrah. From the website I can see that it runs $34, is 14.5% alcohol by volume and has a real cork closure. Chatom Vineyards is located in Calaveras County in Esmeralda Valley from which this wine takes its name. It also appears that this Syrah won a bronze medal in the 2006 San Fransisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I believe this is my first bottle of wine from Calaveras County, though it won't be my last as I've got a Twisted Oak Verdelho that just arrived from WineQ waiting for me!

Oh yes, the wine! Decant it. The alcohol on the nose took quite a while to blow off, over an hour in the glass I'd say. I served the wine with some freshly made tomato sauce, pasta and parmasean cheese. Aromas of cherries, spices, oak and dark chocolate could be found on the nose. The nose was complex, with the aromas showing better after sitting out and more layers appearing over the next hours. In the mouth, the flavors were cherries, raspberries and plums, with a lingering spicy note. The finish was long, lasting at least 10 seconds or so.

Overall the wine was a good match for the dinner, with the spicy notes complementing my sauce nicely. I liked the style of the wine, it was quite well balanced and I think I would serve it with roasted lamb or a nice bbq if I had another bottle.

Trying not to be selfish

May 2, 2007
Although I had planned where we wanted to stop, sometimes you just have to explore new things. I tend to think you run across great finds that way, as was the case here. As the title implies, I almost don't want to share this find because it was SO good. The outside doesn't look like much, and the website isn't all that functional yet, but what was inside these wines makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings. The winery is new. Really new. It's called Mounts Family Winery. While the vineyard has been growing grapes for over 50 years, they just opened this spring as a winery producing their own wines. We were leaving our one appointment of the day and it was early, my list was going to be done well before the day was even remotely over. I drove us by this winery with a plastic banner and a few lonely balloons and we decided to turn in.

The driveway is long. It runs you right up through the vineyards to this old barn. There was a woman in the driveway, but no one else, and no cars. I thought maybe we were at the wrong place, so I rolled down my window and asked the woman if she was having tastings. She seemed really excited and told us to come on in. It turned out we were her first tasters ever. Literally. She told us that she was officially opening the place for business on that Saturday but on a whim had stuck out a balloon to see if anyone would stop. Apparently Matt and I are easily lured by balloons.

The tasting room, if you can call it that, is actually down in the basement of that old barn, down around the back. The owner had to pull out glasses from brand new boxes for us to use and open each of the four bottles, comprising their entire current line-up. Matt could barely fit in the room and it was packed to the gills with barrels, which I eagerly looked at and was interested to find that they were all different. The owner informed me that her husband likes to try different barrels from many different manufacturers. Overall, the winery is at a current production of 500 cases and does not appear on the old map, so make sure you get a 2007 copy if you want to find them.

It was really a ton of fun to be someone's first tasters ever. The owner was so excited to tell us about her wines and to let us taste them. And they were so good. Really really good, I was sad that I was the driver and had to spit them out.

2005 Syrah-$22, 15.2% alcohol by volume. On the nose, oak and cherries. In the mouth, an earthy flavor with deep red fruit, cherries and plums.

2005 Cabernet Franc-$28, 15.5% alcohol by volume, only 85 cases made. Spicy, tobacco and blackberry on the nose. Blackberry and bitter chocolate in the mouth.

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon-$26, 14.8% alcohol by volume, only 50 cases made. Raspberry, chocolate and leather on the nose. Smooth in the mouth with raspberries and a leathery hint. We brought 2 bottles home.

2005 Petite Sirah-$28, 15.2% alcohol by volume, 180 cases made. Absolutely the star of the show in my opinion, though everything was just delicious. Blueberry pie, vanilla on the nose. Full of fresh, dark berries in the mouth, a little spicy with hints of cracked pepper. If you are a Petite Sirah fan, do yourself a favor and get a bottle of this. We took 2 bottles home.

Mounts was by far the best discovery of this trip. The wines were delicious, the owner was so friendly and so eager and it was a blast to be someone's first tasters. It may look humble, but the wines are anything but. I look forward to the Zinfandel they anticipate releasing in future vintages.

Fried Chicken and Cabernet Sauvignon

May 1, 2007
One evening out at my in-laws, Matt decided he wanted his dad to make fried chicken so that he could actually learn how to do it himself, as his last few tries have been a bit of a disaster. With that in mind, my mother in-law picked up all the fixings for dinner and invited family friends over, whom we hadn't seen since September and who hadn't had the opportunity to see the in-law's new house.

My mother in-law wanted to have wine with dinner and what she had in the cabinet were 2 bottles of 2001 Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville Estate. The wine was 13.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. I can see from their website that the 2003 runs $28 a bottle and I would venture to guess this one was somewhere in the same neighborhood, though I can't seem to find it on the internet. I'd venture to guess some wine stores must have it though as I can pretty much guarantee it wasn't around in the cabinet last time we visited!

On the nose the wine displayed black cherries, plums and raisins, a bit of spice and some oak. In the mouth it was smooth, with a little spice, with flavors of plums, leather and cherries. It is drinking well now and if you have it or buy it I would suggest consuming it fairly soon. Not a great match with dinner, but it would do well with a steak!

I like Wine. I like Contests.

Therefore, I really like Wine Contests.

In case you hadn't already seen this one, I wanted to draw your attention to a new contest for free wine, this time being hosted by Russ, the Winehiker. Russ is offering wine prizes to the best reviews of his site, California Wine Hikes, written by other bloggers. The top six will win a prize and the best review will be the recipient of a full case of wine valued at $500.

The contest starts today and runs for 6 months, so you have plenty of time to explore Russ' website and get to know what he does and how he does it before posting your review!

Russ promises more details today, but for now you can check out his current post on the contest.

Best of luck to everyone!