Friday, August 8, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Wines of Cinque Terra, Italy

Oh to spend a day on the Italian Riviera, wandering through the streets of some of the most enchanting little towns you've ever seen, boating between the towns themselves, paddle boarding on the Mediterranean Sea. What could be better? Well, maybe if there was wine. And there was!!!

Cinque Terre terraced hills
The terraced hills of Cinque Terre
main street, Manarola, Cinqe Terre, Italy
Main street, Manarola
The Winey Family visited Cinque Terra (five lands) after spending a few days in Florence. These tiny towns line the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea on the Italian Riviera. For the record, the towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. To preserve their beauty, Italy has made the area a  National Park and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
gorgeous flowers, Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy
Are these gorgeous???
Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre, Italy
The beach in Monterosso

We visited on a cloudless, hot day - just the kind of weather you want as you hit the Riviera. We took a bus to the city of Spezia and then a train to the seaside town of Manarola. The first thing you notice in Cinque Terre is that the air has its own special scent: basil, thyme and sea air. As you travel to the area, you can see why. The towns are all built on the hills overlooking the sea and the hillsides themselves are terraced with grape vines, olive trees, herb gardens and flower beds. We took another train to Vernazza and then boarded a boat to Monterosso, the resort town of the Cinque Terre. By this time it was very hot and we were hungry, so we found an outdoor cafe with a gorgeous view of the beach and a big umbrella and settled in.

bottles of Cinque Terre wine
Our lunch table!
This was the perfect time to try out the wine of Cinque Terre. Basically, there are two kinds: Cinque Terre is typically a dry, crisp white and Sciacchetra is the very famous sweet wine from the region. Both wines are made from a combination of the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. The Sciacchetra is made from grapes that have pretty much been left to become raisins, hence the high sugar content (think Ice Wine).

It was so hot that we went for the Cinque Terre, but got two small bottles, each from a different winery. (There was also some limoncello involved, because it's so darn good.)
Lunch was followed by a swim in the Mediterranean  and our first attempts at paddle boarding. Let me say that paddle boarding looks a lot easier than it is. Thankfully, the water was very warm (and very salty, which I discovered numerous times while squealing as I fell off the board).
Cinque Terre wine bottles
So of course I bought some of this wine home with us. I chose four bottles of Cinque Terre from different wineries.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
The Winey Family in Riomaggiore
Each one was crisp and juicy and alive with tart and sour flavors. Cheo winery's (12.5%, 2013) had some white grapefruit taste to it with a bit of grass on the top of it all. Sassarini's (13%, 2013) was full of minerals and  dissolved in my mouth the same was a very dry sparkling wine does. Cantina Cinque Terre  (12.5%, 2013) had the same minerality as Sassarini, but with some lime and green pepper in it as well. The local co-op's had a hint of ginger to it. (If you need a comparison for Cinque Terre, think of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. )

This wine is the perfect summer sipper, which is how I will always remember Cinque Terre: pastel buildings climbing the hills, burning sand, bright sunshine, scents of herbs and sea water and flowers everywhere. Add to that the warm, salty water and the sound of waves crashing on the shore and you have a beautiful memory.

These aren't the easiest wines to find here in the US. You may be able to order the Cinque Terre on line, but the Sciacchetra is very elusive. So consider yourself forewarned: if you ever get to Cinque Terre, bring some bubble wrap and save some room in your suitcase. Or go for it and ship some home to yourself. (Pricey option, though!)


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Friday, August 1, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Pinot Grigio in Target

Hee hee hee. I'll bet you all took one look at that title and thought, "She went to Target while she was in Rome? Seriously?"

Winey Family in front of St. Peter's Basilica
The Winey Family at St. Peter's
Allow me to let you in on our little family joke. While we were in Rome this past month, we stayed at a great hotel (Aberdeen Hotel if you are making plans) near the train station. And on the street just behind us, every time we left our hotel and headed out for the day, we saw a sign that said "Target". Well, of course, we began calling it "tar-jay", as I pretty much always do back home. And every time we walked out of our hotel, we joked about going to Target. (A bi-weekly occurrence for me these days, as I get ready to send the Winey Daughter off to college.)

bottle of Livon Pinot GrigioOn day 4 of our wonderful vacation, we spent the entire, and I mean entire day in Vatican City. (And we still never saw it all.) The Vatican Museums, the Raphael rooms, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, climbing to the Dome (narrowest staircase ever). At one point, I was fairly sure my feet had fallen off, since I couldn't feel them. I say fairly sure because I was too tired to expend the energy to bend my head and actually look down at them, but I'm sure they were gone. It was an awe-inspiring day and we gladly decided to take the subway back to the hotel (usually we walk as much as we can in cities because you see so much more when you are walking through the neighborhoods). As we crawled off the subway, happy, but hungry, we decided that it was the perfect night to check out Ristorante Target (which was its actual name, we discovered). To add to the fun, we found it listed in our Rick Steves' Italy guide, where he told us that it was highly recommended by all the hotels in that area. And it was right around the corner from our beds.

interior shot of Ristorante Target in Rome, Italy
Ristorante Target - I loved the white
baby grand piano in the corner! Our table
is the one you see front right.
So, in we trooped. We usually ate outside in Italy, but that night, we needed a little air conditioning and quiet. After the heat and dust of the day, some Pinot Grigio sounded like heaven in a glass to me, so I chose Livon Pinot Grigio (2013, 12.5%, Italy).  The winery is located in the very northwest area of Italy, close to Austria and Slovenia and is called the Collio region. As white wines go, Italians love their Pinot Grigios and after sipping this one, I could see why. The wine itself was a very pretty golden straw color and had a faint nose of kiwi and minerals. It totally drew me in at first sniff!  The first taste was of minerals and then some fleeting flowers. It ended on a tart citrus flavor. Of course, I was taking notes as I sipped, and I now quote directly from said notes: "Wow! Loved this right away." And so did the Winey Son, who had to have some since I liked it so much.
They were good sports at the restaurant and gave us the (empty) bottle to take home (it was one of the smaller bottles...375 ml, so it was easy to slip inside a pair of socks for safe suitcase travel).

You should be able to find Livon out and about on your wine search. If you like a refreshing, tart but not lip puckering wine, you'll like this just fine. Pair it with chicken, seafood pasta or with a day of sightseeing in the world's smallest country, Vatican City.


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Spritzing Like They Do In Italy!

The Winey Mom sipping a Spritz in Rome
One of my Spritz breaks. I saw them served
mostly in this oversized red wine type glass.
Another post about sipping like an Italian, or as I call it, "What I Did On Vacation." This time, I'm going to tell you how to make a Spritz. If you want to sip like they do in Italy, you've got to know about this drink. I was alerted to its existence by a Winey Friend who was in Italy just before we were, so I was prepared to look for it. But as I soon found, you don't need to look far. It's on nearly every menu there, but in different areas of the menu. For instance, one restaurant could have it listed under the aperitif (before the meal) section. Another could have it listed under cocktails. And a few of them had it listed with the soft drinks. (Quick soft drink aside here: if you order coke, ask for "American champagne". It'll get a laugh out of your server and show them that yes, you know that you are American, that you have a sense of humor and that you still want it anyway. Personal experience here.)

Spritz originated in Venice, but you can find it anywhere you go in Italy. Don't confuse it with a wine spritzer, which is wine mixed with seltzer (and considered by some to be a waste of wine - why DILUTE it, for heaven's sake?). The Winey Son and I enjoyed many of them (ahem) on the very hot June and July days and nights we spent in Italy.

Italian menu listing for Spritz
 Spritz listing on a menu - grouped
this time with cocktails. 
bottle of Aperol
The Winey Mom's brand
new bottle of Aperol. 
The basic ingredients for a Spritz are Prosecco (Italian white sparkling wine), Aperol (an Italian aperitif, a liqueur with a bitter orange taste) and seltzer water. Whenever we had it, it was garnished with orange slices. Typically, you'd use a dry Prosecco, as opposed to the sweet variety (but it might be fun to experiment sometime!). There are other liqueurs you can use to make a Spritz (Campari, for one), but the ones we had were all made with the bright red Aperol. So as soon as we hit the USA, I headed out for a bottle of Aperol (don't buy it in Italy, it'll just make your suitcase heavier and it's easy to find here) and some Prosecco (whatever brand you like - but since I was mixing it to make a Spritz, I kept my price point to under $15, which is easy to do). I usually have some club soda hanging around, so I used that.

Now, as for the actual "recipe" for the drink. Let me put it this way, if you ask 20 different people how to make chili, you will get the same basic dish, made with varying amounts of spices, meats, beans and veggies. So it is with a Spritz. You have three ingredients and can mix them up in a ton of different ratios (but don't take my word for it, go ahead and google "Italian Spritz recipe" and see for yourself). One page will tell you to add all three in equal amounts (i.e.: one part Prosecco, one part Aperol, one part soda). The back of the Aperol bottle suggests 3:2:1. (I've also seen 2:1.5:1, but who has time for all that math?) I started out with 3:2:1, since it was the one I saw the most. If you are totally against a bitter taste, go less on the Aperol, but the bitter taste was really what gave the Spritz its zesty kick. You could also add some more orange slices, but I suggest saving them to the end of your drink and then eating them - yummy!!

What you will taste in a Spritz is a bubbly, sour fruit drink.  It is a very refreshing drink. (The smaller Prosecco bubbles meet with the big old club soda bubbles and really go to town!) It is very easy to drink, especially if you are thirsty, so consider yourself warned.

And now I have some Winey homework for you all: Make a Spritz. Tell me what kind of Prosecco you used, what ratio you decided on, and what you thought about it. We can compare notes and survive summer's hot weather all at the same time.

And in the meantime.... Cin cin (translation: cheers)!!!!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: When In Rome....Drink Frascati

We did it! The Winey Family is just back from a long awaited trip to Italy, a country we have been saving and scheming to visit for about 2 years. To misquote Julius Caesar: "Venimus, vidimus, omens nos" (translation: We came, we saw, we did it all!) From the sightseeing to the eating  and shopping and of course, the wine, it was the trip of a lifetime. Over the next few posts, I'm going to tell you a little about the Italian wines I sipped, and I'm going to start out with a wine that will come up every time you hear the phrase "Italian wine": Frascati.

I cannot lay claim to knowing
families eating dinner in Rome
A splendida serata (wonderful evening) in Roma!
about Frascati before heading over to Italy and our first stop, Rome. It just so happened that in the way of all great minds, one of our best buddies from college (we are all proud Northwestern University alumni) was also visiting Italy with his family this summer, and we discovered that we'd have a night in the eternal city together. Plans were made to get together for dinner, and it was there that The Winey Friend and his wife told us they'd tried Frascati the night before and loved it.

I picked up some info on Frascati after our dinner from a cookbook I had bought in Rome*. It's a varietal from the Castelli Romani hill town of - what else - Frascati. It's one of the oldest Italian wines - Pope Paul the Third was a big fan, and he was Pope in the 1500's!! It is usually a drier wine (there is a sweet version, but it's rare) and is usually a sparkling wine.

wine cork from a bottle of Frascati Superiore
I didn't lug the bottle all over Italy,
but I did save the cork!
The Frascati we drank that night was Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore DOCG (2013, 13.5%, Italy).  It was the sparkling kind, and started out with a nose of fresh air. No flowers, no smoke, not anything but a whiff of fresh air. The tiny bubbles were very lively in the mouth and the flavors were layers of minerals, followed by faint lemon and a hint of flowers. It finished on a bit of sour citrus (Meyer lemons).  Our friend said it best when she remarked, "It's light but it's full of flavor." I think the bubbles had something to do with it. They just took all the minerality and citrus and exploded them in my mouth. It was wonderful paired with my white fish dinner, but would be terrific with shellfish, chicken, pizza, prosciutto or just about any food you can think of that you'd eat al fresco on a gorgeous June evening while you are in Rome.

Maybe you are thinking that my glowing review of this wine is a bit prejudiced by the fact that while sipping it, I laughed and reminisced and talked and ate and laughed some more. But given the fact that I'll soon be on a hunt to find some Frascati here in Ohio, I'd have to say that I liked the wine as much as I loved the evening we spent drinking it. Frascati is available lots of places but I will caution you to plan on drinking it soon after you buy it. As the Casale Marchese website says,"Frascati should always be consumed before the next harvest starts." In fact, it's on sale about a month after its first bottling. Good excuse to drink up promptly, isn't it?

Cin cin!

*The Flavours and Scents of Rome. 2013 ed. Rome: L'Ortensia Rossa SRL, 2010. Print.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: A Visit and Tasting at The Nation's Oldest Winery, Brotherhood

"Hey, Mom, did you know that America's oldest winery is right near here?" Oh, the joy in my Winey heart as the Winey Son, calling from West Point, uttered those happy words. He was planning some trips for us the week of graduation, and Brotherhood Winery of Washingtonville, NY was one of the first outings he mentioned.

Brotherhood Winery wine barrel signThus, on the Sunday before he graduated West Point, 8 of us made our way through the ever gorgeous Hudson Valley to the town of Washingtonville. Way back in 1839, Jean Jaques opened the underground cellars after cultivating vineyards in the area for over 25 years. Those cellars were and still are the largest underground cellars in the country and are in use today. The winery is able to say that they are America's oldest continually operating winery because in the dark, sad days of prohibition (insert shudder here), Brotherhood was allowed to continue to produce wine. Why? Well, they provided wine for the church and were granted permission to continue making sacramental wine. Brotherhood's website will tell you that "It has been noted that the clergy population in the area grew substantially during this period." (Insert chuckle here.)

Brotherhood Winery cellar
The Brotherhood cellars and our Winey group
The best way to see the winery is to buy a Tour and Tasting pass, which gives you a tour of the famous cellars, the grounds of the winery and a tasting flight afterwards (appropriately enough, the tasting is held in an old church right on the grounds of the winery. Never forget your roots, people!)

Winey children in front of a Brotherhood Winery cellar barrel
The Winey Kids in front of one of the
massive cellar barrels (for
perspective, the Winey Son is 6'3"!)
The guides at the winery are pretty cool (this was the agreed upon term from our group, ranging in age from 18 to way past 18). And funny. After explaining the various buildings on the grounds to us, we headed down into the cellars. The first thing you notice is the chill. Then the guide says, "You know when they tell you to serve red wine at room temperature? Well, this is the temperature they're talking about." (About 55 degrees, if you are taking notes.) You get a history of the winery's owners (from the Jaques to the Emersons to the Farrells to a group of Chilean businessmen to today's Chilean owners, winemaker Cesar Baeza and the Castro and Chadwick families). The Chilean connection is why, in addition to the famous New York wines produced at Brotherhood, you are able to get some great Chilean offerings as well.

We got to see their sparkling wines on the riddling racks down in the cellars (they use the method champenoise process for their sparklers) as well as over 200 oak barrels and a tiny vault area that held some of the oldest vintages in America.

Brotherhood Winery tasting room - Winey Mom, Hubs and Son
Winey Son, Winey Hubby, Winey Mom in the tasting room.
Tasting room photos courtesy of Winey Daughter,
who is only 18 and couldn't
taste, so she snapped away
And then it was up and out and into the tasting. Once again, our tour guide proved to be an amazingly good sport, because let's face it, the more wines we tasted, the louder and chattier we got. You could choose between a "sweet" flight tasting or a traditional flight, each with 7 wines. Let's just say there was ample sharing going on in our group, so we did get to try most of the wines we wanted to.

I'll start out with the sparkling wines.
Blanc de Blanc is a dry sparkler, full of ginger and creamy bubbles.  It finished tart with a bit of a sour aftertaste. If you love dry champagnes, this is for you.

Carpe Diem (10%, NV) was the favorite of the sparklers in our group. It's made from Muscat grapes, and has flowery and fruity flavors to it. The flavors work so well with the bubbles! It was so tasty that we carped this diem and now have a bottle at home with us - it was on many of our "let's buy this one" lists.

Grand Monarque is the top of the line sparkler at Brotherhood. It runs $40 a bottle and is raved about by the staff there. It wasn't on the tasting, but of course, we bought a bottle (at the Winey Son's urging). We haven't had the chance to open it yet, but I will review it when we do.

The whites were next.
Chardonnay (12%, 2012): I liked this wine well enough at the tasting, noting some oak tastes with a touch of light fruit above it all. I did buy a bottle and had some after we got back, and in that bottle I tasted lots of celery. Not a great thing, in my opinion. There were also flavors of green leaves and oak and something very woodsy and tart as well. It was crisp and thin in my mouth. I think I'd like to try another bottle of this one, given that the two tastings I had of it were so different. And who knew how long the tasting room bottle had been open.

Sweet Riesling (12%, 2013): ding ding ding...we have a winner. This wine has won many awards, and rightfully so. Lime on the nose and honeysuckle flavor and a nice, clean finish that keeps this from being one of those sticky sweet Rieslings. It was our favorite wine and is the winery's best selling wine as well. An interesting note: during the Clinton presidency, the White House folks realized that there were NO American wines in the wine cellar. So they held a contest to choose USA wines to add, and this Riesling, along with Brotherhood's Merlot, won. Quite the endorsement, huh?

Now for the reds.
Brotherhood Winery tasting room - two soon to be West Point graduates
Soon to be 2LT's:Winey Son and
Winey Roomie in the tasting room
Pinot Noir: oh well, can't win them all. This wine was flabby and a bit sour. The taste of bacon and smoke overwhelmed everything else. Now again, the bottle could have been opened for a while, given that we were not the first tour of the day.  But one little sip was enough for me.

Merlot: Another award winner from the winery, full of cherries and dark berries. It was velvety in my mouth. I really liked this one lots.  I did buy a bottle of this, but for my life, I cannot find it now. I think I need to check the Winey grandparents' box of wine, which at the moment, is 500 miles away. I will keep you informed on my search, though, and will report back with a full review if I ever find it. (Geez, how did I lose track of this bottle?)

Winey son hamming it up in the tasting room
Winey Son hamming it up 

I also tried some of the May Wine, which is a spring staple in Germany. The best way I can describe it to you all is to say it's just like drinking strawberry soda. It was that sweet. Not my favorite, but certain members of our group headed straight to the store and got some (they are also the people I suspect of having my Merlot, in case you were wondering).

Winey son drinking wine, pinky up
Winey Son after being told to behave

Much to my surprise, the Winey Son loved the Brotherhood Ruby Port (18%, NV). He is a newer wine drinker and I never even knew he had the taste buds for Port. A bottle of it is now at our home, awaiting the proper dessert to sip with. (Review to come.)

If you ever get the chance, do yourself a favor and visit Brotherhood. It's a leisurely half day visit, and if you decide to stay and eat lunch, it can become a lovely full day outing.  The wines are mostly available in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but they have an online store and are about to start a wine club.  I can almost assure you we will be ordering more of the Riesling.

Let me know if you  try and of these and cheers!!

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: William Hill Chardonnay for Our New Second Lieutenant

It was quite a day. We woke up at 5 am and were out the door of our hotel by 5:30. It was a damp, chilly fog shrouded Hudson Valley morning. We pulled up to the gates and were waved on through. And then again. Then it was onto the shuttle bus, into the football stadium and settling in for our 3 hour wait for the ceremony to start.

So, what kind of a ceremony would you wait three hours for? How about your son's graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point? Why three hours? Well, we had to pass through security on our way in because his big boss was the commencement speaker. And when your "big" boss also goes by the titles of "Commander in Chief" and "President of the United States" and the Secret Service says you must be in your seats 90 minutes before the ceremony or you will be locked out, well, you tend to listen. (We actually breezed through security, hence the extra long wait.  But as our son said, "Better safe than sorry for this one." I had actually never heard such words come out of his mouth before, so we took it very seriously.)

excited West Point moms on graduation day
I told you we were excited.
Two and a half hours later, having received his diploma, shaken the President's hand and thrown his cap into the air, we arrived at a stately old hotel at West Point for the new Second Lieutenant's commissioning ceremony. (Actually, they had all commissioned during the grad ceremony. This ceremony was a more personal commissioning for families and the new grads.) Our son was commissioning with four of his best buddies from West Point, and over the four years, we had gotten to know them and their families very well. So it was 5 families together. And what I mean is, it was five brand new Army moms together as their sons started the  next chapter in their lives.

What did we moms do? Yup.  We got to our luncheon room, dropped our coats and headed to the hotel bar. This is really not as disrespectful as it seems, since this was a day for total and complete celebration. We had all been working together via email to plan the luncheon and the ceremony and coordinate with family and friends and our sons (want to guess which ones were the hardest to get answers out of?).  And before that? We had lived and laughed and cried with our children for the entire four years of West Point. Through the highs of their academic and military success to the lows of massive workloads and brutal training assignments and the dreaded room inspections (The Winey Son, if you ask him, will tell you that he never once slept UNDER the covers of his bed. It was much easier to sleep with a blanket on an already made bed than to try and get it ready for inspections - scheduled or not.) We had worried about injuries and illness. And every time the caller id came up that it was them, woe to the person who got in our way as we lunged and grabbed for that telephone.
bottle of William Hill Coastal Collection Chardonnay
So yes, we trotted together down to the bar in order to start the celebrating and toasting. And it didn't make sense to just get one glass of wine, now did it? We had a few hours left as we watched our boys commission together. So we agreed that some bottles were in order.

I decided that a Chardonnay would be a lovely way to go on this day, and I selected a bottle of William Hill Coastal Collection Chardonnay (2012, 13.5%, California). I had tried some of their reds a while back and when I saw the Chardonnay on the list, I decided this was a good time to try that. It turned out to be a very, very good idea.

The best way to describe this wine is to say it's "oakey and sweet". That may sound like an odd combination (I usually don't take my oak with sugar), but that is what leapt to my mind. (For the record, I bought another bottle of this when we arrived home to make sure I had the correct info - I did NOT trust my note taking that day.) At first sniff, you get wet oak - think a forest after a rainstorm. The first note in my mouth was that sweet oak. There was the oakey Chardonnay flavor of course, but it had a sweet overtone to it. Sweet oak. It's the first time I remember tasting this combination. It was followed by pear and green apple and ended with a bit of kiwi. The kiwi gave the finish a tartness to it that was amazing after the sweetness of the first sip. It felt nice and round in my mouth and that was just right. If it had been a velvety, rich feel, the oak might have taken over the taste. In any case, this was such an interesting, sweet note to a classic oakey pear Chardonnay. I just loved it.

Buy this wine if you can't decide if you like ultra oaky Chardonnay or super sweet Riesling. It's got enough of both tastes and will seriously give you the best of both worlds here.

It was the perfect wine to sip on and toast with through many happy, relieved, proud and overwhelmingly joyful tears. Not to mention with my fellow Moms, who are without a doubt, some of the best buddies I have had through these years and will have for years to come.

Go Army! Go Moms! Cheers!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Pas de Deux and Pomp and Circumstance

As I write this review the Winey Family is just days out from the Winey Son's graduation from West Point. This will be our first graduation of the week, since three days after, the Winey Daughter will graduate from high school. So as you might image, The Winey Hubby and I have been doing some thinking about those two and the paths they're about to walk upon.

Graduations are, by nature, bittersweet. On the one hand, many of the graduates are SO ready to move on. They've grown out of the routine of their recent years, be it college or a high school. They know there are bigger and better adventures out there and in the usual way of the young, want it NOW.  But on the other hand, they are not quite ready to move on from the friendships they have developed. Or the families they have grown up around. The easy comfort of the people who know and love them, or the familiarity of a small town, of a campus, of the light in the window that is their goal at the end of each busy, wonderful, frustrating day.

So we will watch those two remarkable people step out of the Winey House to write their own stories, knowing, in the way only parents can, that those stories could be so very different than what they have planned.

Take The Winey Son, for instance. A few short hours after walking across the stage at Michie Stadium, he will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army and will begin his career. Will it be spent in the Army? Will he stay on after his West Point commitment is fulfilled? Or, will he take off on a totally new that he might not even realize is there right now.

bottle of Pas de Deux, Biltmore WineryThere is a point to this, I promise. And as usual with The Winey Mom, it begins with a bottle of wine and one of my favorite wineries (and houses, for that matter). I am talking about Biltmore Winery in Asheville, North Carolina. Home of the awe inspiring Biltmore House (if you ever have the chance, go see is jaw droppingly stunning) and home to the most visited winery in the country. The Winey Hubs and I have visited there often (see my review of Christmas at Biltmore wine), but I recently learned something about the winemaker there that made me take note.

Sharon Fenchak became the Biltmore's winemaker in 2003. And just when did her interest in wine blossom? When she was IN THE ARMY!!! That's right. The Army! Sharon enlisted at age 19 to be able to serve our country and explore the world. And then, as Sharon puts it, "I was stationed at Caserma Ederle in Vincenza, Italy for most of my time on active duty. While in Italy, I fell in love with the culture of wine, food and the Italian lifestyle. My favorite wine at that time in my life was the Moscato from the Veneto, Colli Euganei area of Italy. We have a wine at Biltmore called Pas de Deux that was inspired by the Moscato wines from this region." 

After her service in the Army, Sharon went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in food science from Penn State University as well as a master’s degree in food science from the University of Georgia, which lead to jobs in Georgia wineries before joining Biltmore in 1999. What a wonderful journey, right?

And it is a bottle of that aforementioned Pas de Deux (2010, 12.5%, Asheville, NC, grapes from CA) wine that wound up on my winey front steps a few weeks ago for my winey sampling pleasure. Pas de Deux is a sparkling Moscato, made from 100% Muscat Canelli grapes. What a delight this wine is! And to think we might never have been able to sip it if Sharon hadn't joined the Army, gone to Italy and fallen in love with sparkling wines!

The first thing you'll notice with Pas de Deux is all those pretty little bubbles. You will catch the scents of apricot and orange blossom, followed by flavors of almond cookies and mock orange. It finishes on a slightly bitter lemon fruit note. This is a semi-dry wine and has such a wonderful, grown up flavor to it! Fruit, but not cloying fruit. Think of it as tea time as compared to a child's birthday party. It would pair well with a range of foods, from fruit to seafood to a creamy dessert.

It would also pair very well with toasting your children as they mark the milestones of their lives. (And given that, it is going to also have to pair beautifully with waterproof mascara, tissues and a bit of proud sobbing.) So here is to the Winey Son and the Winey Daughter as they start out their new chapters. Enjoy the ride, and if you wind up in a winery at the end of it,  make sure you invite your Winey Mom to happily toast you once again!


I received this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.
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