Thursday, July 30, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Winey Day in Ohio

What to do on a perfect July day in Ohio, when it is NOT raining (this year, that's kind of rare) and you and two of your Winey friends want a girls' day out? You hit the wineries, of course. For those of you who don't know northeast Ohio, take that surprised look off of your winey little faces. We have quite the wine region up here, known as the Grand River Valley region, which stretches through Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties.

Lake Erie is the reason this region pretty much exists, since the waters to and from it carved out the Grand River valley. The lake also keeps the temperatures nice and moderate (just don't ask how much snow they get up there....YIKES!) and provides a very happy climate for Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc grapes. It's also very well known for its ice wines, thanks to the winters we struggle through have here.

And it's less than an hour drive from our homes. Easy decision.

We started our day out at the largest of these wineries, which none of us had (gasp) never been to: Debonne Vineyards. This winery began life in the early 1900's as a fruit farm, and became an official winery in 1972. They also have a great menu there, and since we all wanted lunch, Debonne was the perfect choice.
The dry varietal white wine tray
(yes, you get to keep the glass).

Debonne also has these awesome tasting trays, where you get anywhere between 6-8 samples of wine and can choose from a number of wine combinations. We went with the dry varietal wine tray (reds and whites), the dry white wine tray, and the off dry to sweet varietal tray. Yes, we all made sure we had a different tray because we are a sharing little group..and this way we really got to sample a very full range of Debonne's wines.

Since, between the three of us, we had about 18 different wines, I'm going to give a quick little overview of some of our favorites, in the hopes that it will help anyone else pick a Debonne wine to try. Here we go:

Chardonnay Reserve: aroma of pear and light oak, full of flavors of pear and nutmeg and a little toasty vanilla.

Semillon, Muddy Paw: (from Trebets Estate Wines, see my review of the Muddy Paw Cabernet Sauvignon for more info on Muddy Paw) Light and juicy, just shy of being fully tart. Peach and light citrus scented, flavors of peach and some citrus, hence the "almost" tart!

Pinot Grigio, 2013, 11%:  All three of us loved this one, and I went home with a bottle of it.  A nose of pear and pie spices followed by tastes of flowers, honey, citrus rind with a refreshingly tart finish. Sip it cold, but pay attention as it warms up, because that's where the finish comes with a sweet note above it all. Great wine!!!

Jazz White: A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. A bottle of this one went home with one of my friends. Apple and pear aromas, followed by zesty lemon-lime flavors.

40th Anniversary White: A blend of Chardonnay with a little Riesling. A lovely, light wine. I tasted granny smith apples and light oak flavors.

Merlot: Berries on the nose. Raspberry and strawberry flavors with a medium tannic finish (not too drying, but it does have that Merlot pucker to it!).

South River Vineyard, church building
South River Vineyard
South River Vineyard, back patio view
South River Vineyard
view of the back patio
After our lunch and mega catching up with each other session (kudos to the folks at Debonne who didn't roll their eyes at us at all), we took a drive by some of the other nearby wineries. The staff at Debonne told us that we had to see South River Vineyard, which was pretty much just down the road from Debonne.

And we were so glad we did! A picturesque winery housed in an old church with gorgeous views off its back porch and patio. Being the responsible people that we are, we didn't try any wines, because we know our limits...but we walked around the grounds and vowed to come back.

We had also been told that the newer Hundley Cellars was lovely, so this was another winery we stopped at. Our first thoughts upon walking into the tasting room was "our hubbies would love this place". Lots of wood beams, antlers, rustic wooden tables and one of the friendliest tasting staffs I can remember. They were all so excited for us to try the wines there that even though we hadn't planned on it, we wound up on their gorgeous back patio with a glass of wine.

view of lake and grounds, Hundley Cellars, Geneva, Ohio
Hundley Cellars
view from the back porch
I had their Riesling (12%) because it was just so good! The nose was faint, but the flavors were not. There was a line of juicy peach running through the middle of it, surrounded by sour citrus flavors. A great combination! The finish was key lime, and as far as I'm concerned, you can never go wrong with key lime. (Side note: they also have a wine called Blonde Ambition, which I liked a lot when I tasted it and which would be a VERY fun gift for ladies of a certain hair color. Like me.)

We could not have asked for a more glorious day: lots of talking and laughing and eating and sipping and the chance to explore a stunningly beautiful area of our state. If you ever get the chance, give the Grand River Valley wineries a try. The wines will please everyone from the sweet wine sippers to the big red lovers. I suggest pairing the wines with your special date or a bunch of your best girlfriends. For more information on the Grand River Valley wine growers, head to their website.

O-H.....(the correct response here is for you to say "I....O".)


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Frisk Prickly Riesling

Well, I learned something new when I started drinking my latest wine choice. There are Alps in Australia. Who knew I'd get a geography lesson that day?

I thought I was just buying a nice refreshing-looking wine for the weekend. It had a cute name: Frisk. And it was Riesling, but it was "prickly" Riesling. That intrigued me.

As I researched the wine, I learned that Frisk makes its home in the Alpine Valleys of the Australian Victorian Alps. And by Victorian, I mean the city of Victoria, not the era of Queen Victoria. Well, well, alps in Australia. But what did that matter or mean for the vino? First off, you've got a bit of an Italian influence here, since the vineyards were founded by Italian immigrants in the 1850's. They saw the mountains, started climbing and then sent back to the homeland for their grapevines. The valleys are formed by 4 rivers, so you get that wonderful mineral element in the soil. It snows on them in the winter, too. These grapes have a lot of character, it would seem.

The first thing I noticed about Frisk Prickly Riesling (2014, 9.5%, Victoria, Australia) is that it fizzed when I poured it. It smelled of tarragon, which kind of scared me, since that's not a favorite aroma of mine. But then I tasted it. Flavors of juicy starfruit and lime and flowers hit me first...and the bubble were tiny and active, so it felt lively and, to quote the bottle label, it had a "racy verve" (I love that description. I wish I'd come up with it first.) The winemakers say that the "prickly" element comes from the "canny" yeast added during fermentation. Again, another description I wish I'd thought of first: canny yeast. It finished nice and tart

This wine was so yummy. Absolutely not too's like they took all the best flavors of a Riesling, added a little sass, and came up with a refreshing, flavorful, bouncy wine.

If you like a wine that is on the sweeter side, but not thick and sweet, you will love this one. If you like your wine with a bit of a tart taste in it, ditto. And ditto again if you like a little movement in your vino. The bubbles really play a big role in the taste and feel of Frisk, tiny as they are after you pour it.  I found this wine for under $8, by the way. Frisk also makes a Prickly Rosso, and I intend to climb the nearest Alp, or head to the nearest store, to get some.

This wine paired very nicely with a seat on the patio, doggie in my lap and a new magazine to read. (Yes, since you asked, it is a bit difficult to read a magazine with a dog on your lap. I gladly accept the hardship however.)


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: "The Empty Nest Series" Muddy Paw Cabernet Sauvignon

rory, malshi
Rory, just before her 3rd birthday
My "Empty Nest Series" is dedicated to the Winey children who did NOT leave The Winey nest for college and jobs and - the  nerve - their own lives. Each Empty Nest Wine has something to do with those children who stayed: namely, the doggies. Woof. So from time to time, as I come across a doggie themed wine, another entry into this series gets posted.

When The Winey Nest emptied, we had two precious doggies to keep us company. However, one of those little ones, our Maltese named Chloe, has since left us for Doggie Heaven. We miss her horribly and there isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about her. Especially her little sister, Rory, who is an about to be 3 year old Malshi (she's a Maltese with a little Shitzu). The Empty Nest Series is still dedicated to both of our woofers, though. Because even after a pup crosses the Rainbow Bridge, they are always, always in your heart and memories.

I have a soft spot for people who do nice things for their canine rescue them and find them homes. And one day at work (yes, I decided that as fun as the empty nest can be, it can also be a bit..well....slow at when the opportunity to re-join my friends at Fox 8 news in Cleveland came up....back I went to produce their website) we had some of these special people on. They were holding a benefit for the Lake Humane Society (Ohio) and it was called: Wag, Woof and Wine. That's right....wagging and woofing and wining!!!!! I ran to the studio to say hello to these highly enlightened folks, and got to meet up with Cindy from Grand River Cellars, the winery that puts on the event. I also go to meet Harry, an amazingly mellow pooch who let me hug and pet him lots. Seriously, major TV news perk: meeting the guests, human or otherwise.

Muddy Paws Cabernet SauvignonCindy left me a bottle of Muddy Paw Cabernet Sauvignon (NV, 12%, Madison, Ohio), which is produced by the Trebets Estate Wine folks. When it isn't being featured at Wag, Woof and Wine, it raises money for another local humane society in Geauga County. And it comes with the highest of approvals: Owner tested, dog approved. What more could you ask for????

Not much really, because I'll tell you flat out that this is one of the best Ohio Cabernet Sauvignons I've ever had. We have a great wine growing region called The Grand River Valley Wine Region and if you ever find yourself up around Madison or Geneva, Ohio....stop and sips the wine.

Back to Muddy Paw. Let it breathe: not an option and you'll be happy you did. It's a dark pinkish maroon color that gives off aromas of coffee, mocha and raspberry. The flavors that hit your mouth are cherry jam, mocha coffee and vanilla cream. There's a long line of oak running through the finish and the tannins hang around for a bit. It feels smooth in the mouth and is just everything you want in a Cabernet Sauvignon: fruit and oak and that hint of vanilla cream that smooths it all out.

A flavorful, rich Cabernet Sauvignon that is dog approved and helps doggies in need. Need I say more?

You can find Muddy Paws at Grand River Cellars, along with Grand River's own line of wines. Safe to say that you'll be hearing more about them in the near future.

Here's the interview from the day I met Harry and his human pals:

Cheers and woof!! Pin It

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Downton Abbey's Countess of Grantham Collection

As I write this review, and was sipping on the wines, The Winey Daughter is and was spending the summer studying in England. Yes, England, the land of The Royals, tea and scones, British rock and (reverent pause here) Downton Abbey.

I am a serious Downton addict. In fact, when The Winey Daughter was accepted into the program in merry olde England, my first thought was, "How close will she be to Highclere Castle?" Which, for those of you who are woefully ignorant, is the Hampshire estate where Downton is filmed. (Trivia tidbit for you all: the very funny series Jeeves and Wooster, staring High Laurie and Stephen Fry, was also filmed there. Yes, I own that entire series on blue ray. Thanks for asking.) Back on track here....I suppose a really responsible Winey Mom would have thought, "Is this a solid study abroad program?" Or, "Do the credits transfer?" Or, "How much?" But no, my thoughts flew straight to Downton and how I could come up with enough money for her to buy it for me. The Abbey, I mean, Castle. Whatever. To answer some of those questions: close enough, great program, credits count toward her major and enough.

Not that I begrudge my child any sort of fact, The Winey Hubby and I love to travel and have instilled that love in both of our kiddies. I just can't help but be a little bit jealous.

There is a cure for my envy though, and as you might have guessed, it comes in a wine bottle. Right before the start of season five of Downton Abbey this past January, Downton Abbey wines released two new offerings. Instead of the classic Bordeaux wines (which of course I here to head there), these two new wines pay homage to the Countess of Grantham, who, in the show, is an American heiress. The wines hail from one of my favorite wine regions, Lodi, California. And there's a picture of Downton Abbey on the label. Oh joy.

The Lady of Grantham Chardonnay (2013, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts off with a nose of nutmeg, cinnamon and pear. The flavors in it are sweet pear, vanilla cream and cinnamon and they're all wrapped up in a touch of toasty oak. The wine is light but full of flavor and it has a creamy silk mouthfeel that reminds me of one of the Countess' gorgeous gowns. Sleek and silky and classic and just gorgeous. Kind of like Cora herself. The more I sipped on this wine, the more I really liked it. Don't let the marketing via Downton on this one keep you from trying it. It's simply that good. I am going to get more. (The Winey Daughter has six weeks in England, after all.)

The Lady of Grantham Cabernet Sauvignon (2012, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts out with a nose of pepper, cherry syrup and some fresh cut wood. You'll taste flavors of pepper, mocha and green herbs. There's definitely an oak tinge on the finish. This is a wine that you will want to let breathe first - I solved that problem with  my trusty aerator. I'd call this a very stately, layered wine with extremely good taste. Kind of like the Abbey itself....big and bold and stately and dignified. I can just see Carson pouring this as we sit down to dinner in the formal dining room.

If the Chardonnay is cultured and elegant like Lady Cora, the Cabernet Sauvignon totally represents the house that she lives in: majestic and dignified.

You can find both of these wines at Downton Abbey Wines' website, but if you live in Ohio, like I do, you will have to order them through I have given up trying to comprehend the shipping laws of my state, so I'll stop right there. I'm just glad I could get my Winey little hands on these two offerings. They were very, very good...especially the Chardonnay.

I suppose I would be remiss if I did not address the other big issue with Downton Abbey these days, and that's the (very, very sad) fact that cast and crew have started shooting Season 6. THE LAST SEASON.Seriously, Mr. Fellowes, what were you thinking when you decided that? Or were you?  I mean, how am I supposed to get through a Cleveland January without a new Downton Abbey to look forward to?

I intend to weather the storm with dignity, though. And a few bottles of Downton Abbey wine. And a blue ray of the series.  I have recently convinced The Winey Hubby that Downton is worth watching...all of it...from Season 1 to the just finished Season 5. So I am getting my fix this summer and will be primed and poured when Season 6 starts..and ends. Sob.

But hey, stiff upper lip and all that...and cheers!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Tricky Rabbit Cabernet/Syrah for The Finals

I have never made it a secret that The Winey Family lives in Cleveland. (OK, an eastern suburb, but when people ask, we say Cleveland.) And even if you don't like sports, or basketball or The NBA, I am sure you have heard what we have just been through there for the past two roller coaster themed months:

Always #ALLinCLE
Game 6 photo courtesy of The Winey Son
and The Winey Hubby
The Playoffs.

As in, our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs...taking us all the way to The Finals of this season. This season, where our hometown boy returned to the fold (he goes by the name LeBron, in case you live under a rock. Or are my mother) and the hopes for a championship for our long-suffering sports city rose with his return. This season, where, up until January, things weren't looking so good. This season when, two months ago, our Cavs started a long, arduous journey also known as the NBA playoffs.

A few things happened during that journey: we lost one All-Star player to a dislocated shoulder. (Don't even get me started about HOW it happened and why a certain member of a team from a certain northeastern team is not exactly "liked" here.) And then BOOM! Another All-Star down to a fractured knee cap. LeBron, Dellavedova and the rest of the team played valiantly until the bittersweet end, all the way to Game 6 of The Finals, when a certain team from the western frontier of our nation (playing with ALL of their guys) ended our season.

But what a beautiful season it was! The Cavs won everyone's respect and admiration with their amazingly tough playing. And winning. And diving. And sweating (a little too much of that - just ask Dellavedova, who wound up on an IV in the hospital after Game 3). It was a thrill ride with the wonderful city of Cleveland spotlighted in the background of every home game and our fans cheering themselves hoarse.

The Winey Family was in attendance for various games throughout the playoffs. And when we weren't inside The Q, we were at home on the edge of our seats, clutching out stomachs, through every minute. Because a playoff ride like this one does not come without some nerves, some family room coaching (cue the Winey Hubby), some very specific, well let's call them "ideas" for the referees (cue The Winey Hubby and The Winey Son) as well as a fair amount of screaming nervous chatter.

The Winey Son actually flew home to visit during The Finals. And his visit was rewarded with tickets to Game 6. (In my effort to maintain  my title of "Cool Winey Mom/Cool Winey Wife, I will tell you that the pair of tix was the Hubby's Father's Day gift. Of course, the Hubby was the one to actually buy them, but I will profess 'til the day I die that I thought of it first.) He and The Winey Hubby still say that, despite the outcome of that game, it was a total blast. Outside The Q,
the crowd was massive, the legendary Cleveland food trucks were out in full force, and inside the arena: the fans were loud and proud and #ALLin. It was a very special time and place.

But, I will tell you, the behavior of my boys during Game 5, a few nights before that, was not a total blast. It was a bit, um, opinionated. Loudly so. In fact, they scared the four legged member of our household:

Hubs and Son are yelling at the tv so much that they are scaring the dog. I have wine. #help
Posted by Ann Judge Domeck on Sunday, June 14, 2015

As you can see by my post, I was prepared for Game 5. I have lived with these two Cleveland fans for a combined 50+ years of sports watching, after all. The wine that evening was a red (for the heart health benefits needed during a Cleveland playoff game) from Chile. I sat quietly in my chair, sipped on my Tricky Rabbit Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend (2012, 14%, Chile) and tried to comfort the doggie.

Tricky Rabbit is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah. It's dark maroon (not unlike some of the Cavs uniforms) and has a nose of cherries and wood smoke. The taste is very ripe cherries, some cedar and a tinge of oak. It wasn't fruit forward at all..more of the Cabernet came through on the palate. (It is 60% Cab, after all.) It finished with almost a mocha flavor and some woody tannins.

If you like a red wine that I'd call a "fruity oak", you'll like this Tricky Rabbit blend. It's not for the faint of red wine drinkers though, because while I'd stop short of calling it a "big" red, it's most definitely a "good sized" one. I bought it for $10 and would like to try it with some grilled steaks, instead of a nerve wracking, doggie scaring game.

And about those Cavs? The Winey Family is, was and always will be #ALLinCLE. They did us proud and we are honored to call them OUR team!

Go Cavs!


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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Trio of Chardonnays

Every once in a while I take a trip through my wine journal - because it's fun and also because I need to plan out my reviews. I don't review every wine I try. There are times when I just want to drink a glass of wine without all the note-taking and sniffing and swirling, so I may note the name of the wine and it's vintage, but that's it. Some wines I have every intention of reviewing but they turn out to be just okay. Not bad, not great.....just good. (I think it's easier to write about a really good wine or a really icky wine than those that fall in that in-between category.) And some I just don't get around to doing right away, so they sort of pile up until I decide it's time to bring them out of the pages of my journal.

That's exactly the case with these Chardonnays. I was flipping through the pages and realized that I had a trio of them waiting to be written up, so I decided that I'd do it all up in one review:

Cave de Lugny La Côte Blanche Chardonnay (Mâcon-Villages) (2013, 12.5%, Macon-Villages, Burgundy, France) is 100% Chardonnay. White wine grown in Burgundy is also called White Burgundy (or Bourgogne Blanc if you want to get fancy). It costs around $10 here in the US. It's got a nose of pear and apple and tastes of pear and red apple. I was trying to consciously sample some more French whites, so I was glad to find this one for the price. It's not aged in oak, which is pretty common in Burgundy, so you don't get the oak flavors with the pear. You don't get much of anything with it actually...and I kept waiting for more flavor from this. Not that it was was just not anything: not oakey, no minerals, no big flavors, not much of a mouth feel. 

Alexander & Fitch Chardonnay (2013, 13.4%, Sonoma, California). I found this white at Trader Joe's for $8.99. The bouquet was all pear and I could totally taste the pear upon first sip. There were also flavors of nutmeg - a nice spicy touch - and some medium oak, which really shined in this wine. It ended up with a finish of sour apple and sour oak and felt nice and round in my mouth.  I liked this wine a lot - and with the price, well, it's a nice go-to Chardonnay.

Dark Horse Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, California). I bought this wine at a local store for $9.99. The Dark Horse line has a number of other varietals, and I after sipping this Chardonnay, I'm going to try them. This was the best of the bunch of these three Chardonnays. A bright gold color, with a nose of apricot and golden apples. The taste was mellow pear, yellow apple, vanilla and some cinnamon rounded off with a touch of oak. This is a really solid Chardonnay for a great price. I'd describe it as "flavorful," which is what I love about a good white wine - a range of flavors with that lovely feel of smooth roundness in the mouth. 

If you like spicier oak tinged Chardonnay, go with the Alexander & Fitch. If you like a traditional Chardonnay with a lovely balance between the fruit and oak flavors, go for the Dark Horse. I'm not sure what to tell you about the Cave de Lugny...maybe try it and judge for yourself! 


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Springtime with some Italian Frascati

Spring is finally here in northeast Ohio and if I may say, it took its own sweet time getting here. I know, I know, I shouldn't be surprised, but every year that one last frost warning has me running around the garden throwing towels and sheets on all the new plants and, well, expressing my thoughts about the weather in, um, some colorful words. And that's all I'm going to admit to say about that. 

My friends at Banfi wines, being the optimistic folks (and not Ohio residents)  that they are, had sent me a trio of wines to sip for spring. And although when I sipped the first one of these wines, it wasn't what you'd call "spring" outside, I sipped anyway. I'm no quitter. 

The first wine I chose to try was Fontana Candida's Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC (2013, 13%, Lazio, Italy). It's a blend of 50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio (as an aside here, wine from the Frascati DOC of Italy has to have at least 70% Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Trebbiano Toscano). 

The word Frascati took me right back to the Winey Family's amazing trip to Italy last summer, where I first tasted Frascati at dinner with some of our dearest college friends.  Winey Tasting Notes: When In Rome....Drink Frascati

That night, the Frascati was a sparkler, but this one is a still wine. It started off with a nose of pear and kiwi and followed with a taste of apple, pear and some faint nutmeg and cinnamon. I was rather surprised by this, given that it's stainless steel fermented, but the winemakers say it "rests on its lees for 4 months". Lees are the dead yeast cells and other stuff that are left over after a wine ferments. They can be removed after fermentation, or left in to give a wine richness and more flavor. So it makes sense that this Frascati has a bit deeper in the pear and apple flavors. 

This was not a bad thing, by the way. I loved the fruit flavors with the touch of creaminess to them. Unlike an Italian Pinot Grigio, this wine feels softer in the mouth, but unlike a big oakey Chardonnay, the oak and tastiness doesn't take over. It hits nicely in the middle of these. 

Buy this wine if you don't like a big oakey white, but are looking for a bit more smoothness than a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. It would go great with chicken and fish dishes or salads and grilled veggies. It retails for around $13, so it's a totally affordable spring buy. 


I was given this wine as a sample. The opinions about it are all my own.

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