Thursday, May 14, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Portugal's Twin Vines Vinho Verde

Twin Vines Vinho Verde wine bottleI have not had a lot of wine from Portugal. In fact, I think I've only reviewed two Portuguese wines here and one of them was a Port. (The other was a red blend.) And I know that Portugal has a thriving wine industry, but I just don't run across their wines all that often. So when I saw a bottle of JM Fonseca's Twin Vines (2012, 10%, Vinho Verde, Portugal) and realized it was from Portugal, I decided to give it a sip.

This particular Twin Vines is a Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde isn't a varietal of wine, it's a blend and also a DOC region, which is simply a wine/area that is controlled by a wine commission. It's located in northwest Portugal. To explain Vinho Verde, I'm going to quote from the Twin Vines website, because they do it so well: "Vinho Verde is made from one or a combination of twenty five different white grapes. The best and most popular varieties are Alvarinho, Trajadura, Louriro and Pederña....The name Vinho Verde, or "green wine," refers to the youthful style of this refreshing white wine, not the color! Coincidentally, this "green wine" hails from the Minho region, among the greenest and most lush landscapes in all of Portugal. See, I told you they did it well..better than I could have.

I did notice that this wine had an ABV of 10%, which puts it on the sweeter side of the vine. I don't dislike sweet wines, but I am not always in the mood for them. But I really wanted to try a wine from Portugal, so I went ahead and bought it.

The first thing you'll notice about this wine is that it has almost no color at all. But it does have bubbles. Lots of teeny tiny bubbles.

The second thing you'll notice about Twin Vines is the bouquet of honeysuckle, lime and citrus. Oh did it smell good! The taste did not disappoint either, as sometimes happens with a very fragrant wine. I tasted lots of tart citrus and lemongrass all mixed in with a line of sharp minerals. The bubbles added nicely to the wine, making it lively and tart in my mouth.

This was so much more crisp and tart than I had expected! I wrote down that this was the perfect "light, zesty summer wine." And since it's priced at below $10 a bottle (I paid $8!), I'm going to suggest you have a party just so you can buy a lot of it. It would be perfect for a patio supper! And it would please those who like a sweeter wine and those who like a crisp, citrusy wine. That's not an easy pair of pleasings to carry off, either. And you also have the bubble effect, which is just plain fun.

Buy this wine if you like a light, lively, not too sweet, not too dry white wine.

You do need to serve this very cold. My wine refrigerator only goes to a certain temp, and I found that a few minutes in the freezer really did justice to this wine.

Cheers!! Pin It

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series and Mother's Day with Chloe

maltese dog
Our Chloe
I have been writing an Empty Nest series of reviews for the past 8 months. The reason for this is that my Winey Household became an empty nest once our youngest left for college. All the wines in this series are dog themed. The reason for this is because the Winey Dogs are the ones who stayed with us and didn't leave the nest. So my empty nest still includes the doggies, and I thought the series should honor those little sweeties.

Today I am going to review the last wine in the Chloe collection of wines. And it is fitting that I do it today, right before Mother's Day. First off, any of these wines would be a great Mother's Day gift. The folks at Chloe are suggesting the Chloe Pinot Grigio for the day (and they sent me a bottle of it to underscore that idea - smart people). I love the Pinot Grigio!  Let me quote from myself:

"This wine is crisp and lively. Flavors of peach and lemons lead to a touch of honeysuckle. The tangerine shows up again in the finish. Overall, this is a flavorful Pinot Grigio, as opposed to a tart Pinot Grigio. None of the flavors overwhelm the others, so you have a nice blend of sweet and citrus fruit and some flowers. You'll like Chloe Pinot Grigio if you like a white wine that refreshes, but isn't overly tart."

I have also sampled Chloe Chardonnay and found it equally as yummy:

Chloe Red Blend No. 249"A classic Chardonnay: pear and vanilla and cinnamon with a touch of mellow oak to finish it all off. The finish was smooth and lingering and it felt creamy and full in my mouth. Another winner for Chloe. A little refresher course here: according to the Chloe Collection website, the word "chloe" is an ancient word that means "blooming". That's just what this wine did - it started off with the pear flavor and then bloomed into the vanilla and cinnamon spices and opened up fully at the end, adding in the oakiness. Another great one from the Chloe folks. And at $12.99, it's very affordable. Buy this if you like your Chardonnay lightly oaked and full of flavor as opposed to big and oakey and buttery."

The last wine in this collection is Chloe Red No. 249 (2012, 13.5%, North Coast of CA). The wine is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot. Chloe Red starts off with a nose of cedar and a tinge of wood smoke. The taste is full of mocha java coffee, black plum and a hint of oregano. I would call it sort of fruit forward...not so much that it turns into a syrupy blend, but enough so that the kick of oak doesn't hurt you - it just feels full and bold in the mouth. Oh, the number 249? That refers to the 249 wine lots that the winemaker tasted before making Chloe Red. Is that dedication or what?

So why is it so appropriate that I am doing the last bottle in the Chloe collection for Mother's Day 2015? 

dog and wine bottles
Chloe was always willing to help me as
I worked on The Winey Mom blog!
A little history: Chloe is the name of the older of our two doggies. And just two weeks ago, after a long illness (I talked about it in the Chardonnay review), our sweet baby Chloe crossed the Rainbow Bridge and left us. She had been failing for so long and had reached that point where her pain was unbearable - for her and us and her little doggie sister, Rory. It broke our hears to say good bye to Chloe, who had been part of our lives for nearly 12 years. It was our honor to have her as part of our family and it is now our pleasure to have her as part of our happy Winey Family memories. I'm not sure when the ache will go away or when I'll smile over little memories of her instead of tearing up, but I'm so glad that we had the privilege of loving her. I was so happy to be her Mommy. She was my faithful little buddy for many, many years. She loved to cuddle with me and kiss me and basically, she treated me like I was perfect. What else could a Mom (doggie or otherwise) ask for?

I know I'll be buying wines from the Chloe collection for a long time. Great wines to toast a wonderful doggie with.

Cheers to the four-footed members of all our Winey Families. And Happy Mother's Day to Winey Moms everywhere, whether your kids are human or doggie (or other cuddle friendly species)!

I was sent a bottle of Chloe Pinot Grigio for review purposes. The opinions and the love of my doggies are all my own. 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Wine with the best of friends - Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel

Plungerhead Old Vine ZinfandelThere are friends that will be forever friends, no matter how often or little you actually see them in person. I am blessed to have found a number of friends like that and they're from all different times in my life. They are from high school, college, my early married days and from work.  But, since it's been many (ouch) years since I have left college, you can imagine how special those friendships are to me.

One college friend gets out my way once a year or so on business. And although I am honored to call her friend, that word just doesn't do justice to the 30+ (ouch again) years we have known each other. We met my sophomore year and her freshman year, in our sorority. And realized that both of us had traveled hundreds of miles to Chicago and become friends when we grew up just 40 minutes from each other in...New Jersey!! A Jersey girl!! Kindred spirits. She became my pledge daughter (today the term is "Little" and "Big"), and subsequently, one of my closest friends. We went on spring break together, got to know each other's families, despaired over boys... Did I mention that she was also my maid of honor and I was one of her bridesmaids? And that after one huge, tight, heart-to-heart hug, we can pick up with each other no matter how many miles and how much time have separated us? Yup, it's just like that.

So when she hit town a few weeks ago, we met for dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants. Full disclosure: we shut the place down. How can you put a time limit on the catching up that two born and bred Jersey girls must do? Well, closing time did that, actually, and I'd like to once again thank the staff of that lovely restaurant for being so nice and not throwing dirty silverware at us to get us to leave. They were very civil.
Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel label
Close up of funny label.

And they kept the wine coming! Well, I guess to be technically correct, I started it by picking out a bottle of one of my favorite varietals: an Old Vine Zinfandel. It helped that it was from one of favorite wine locales, too: Lodi, California. And that it had a funny label.

The wine in question is Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel (2011, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). I have seen this wine around for a while and when I saw it on the wine list, I decided that it was high time to try it (plus my Winey Friend and I love our red wine).  It's 85% Zinfandel and is enhanced with
6% Barbera, 5% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah and 2% Tempranillo.  The nose is full of cherry wood smoke and blackberry. In the mouth we got black cherry, mocha and a mix of green spices and herbs that I have heard called "Lodi spice". The finish was cherry chocolate and oak. Simply everything I adore about my Lodi Zins. We both loved it.

Since that dinner, I have actually gone out and bought more of Plungerhead because it was that good.  It runs about $13 a bottle, give or take a dollar or so. I am going to buy it again and again too, because I think this would be a great wine to serve at a dinner party. It would pair well with lots of different foods and would please a whole range of red wine sippers. 

Cheers to lifelong friends, and cheers to you all!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: 3 Girls Red Blend and Some Air Please

I know that we all need oxygen and the air it resides in order to live. But I learned a big lesson when I started sipping a red blend recently: wine needs oxygen and air more than we do. Not always, mind you. But when a red wine needs to breathe - you'd better let it breathe. Or waste a perfectly good bottle of vino.

This lesson came to me courtesy of 3 Girls Red Blend (2012, 13.5%, Lodi, CA). This wine is named in honor of three daughters of the owners of Oak Ridge Winery, located in Lodi, California, one of my favorite areas for red wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Merlot, which usually makes me very, very happy.

3 Girls Red Blend wineI say usually, because to my discredit, I was born without the gene for patience. Yeah, I'm not alone either, from what I can tell. At least in my immediate family anyway. OK, moving on. So if you aren't a normally patient person, the concept of opening a bottle of wine and not being able to pour and sip as soon as you want to, instead of waiting for the wine to "breathe", is a bit foreign. I thought I had this issue solved with the purchase of a wine aerator, but sometimes even that doesn't help. You just need to let the wine gets its dose of oxygen the good old-fashioned way: time outside the bottle. Preferably in a really cool decanter.

This was one of those times. My first sniff of 3 Sisters brought out aromas of cherries and cherry syrup. The first taste brought flavors of chocolate cherry and mocha followed by some earthy spices. It was rather warm at the end of it all, so I wouldn't call it a very balanced wine. It was just okay, and I was a little disappointed because I have such high standards for my beloved Lodi wines.

As luck (or life) would have it, I was interrupted in my sipping and came back a while later to a totally different wine. That breathing time (about 90  minutes) opened the flavors of the wine up, smoothed them out into a luscious taste and brought out some yummy richness to the overall feel of the wine.

There was my Lodi red - all fruit forward and mocha-y and with a hint of that wonderful "Lodi spice" at the end of it all. The warmth was gone - replaced with smooth tannins that added to the overall flavor.

You can find 3 Girls at World Market or through certain online wine sites. You won't find it on the Oak Ridge Winery website, which kind of bugged me, but when I realized it was a World Market exclusive, it made sense.

Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine ZinfandelOddly enough, I had recently purchased a bottle of Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (2012, 13%, Lodi, CA), not realizing that it too was made by Oak Ridge Winery. When I realized it was, and looked back at my notes on it, the first thing I wrote was "needs aerating". Hmm...sensing a pattern here. Because the flavors of cranberry, smoke, earth and dark green herbs just weren't working for me. And usually they do. I also noted that there was "a lot going on here...almost a Pinot Noir in its lightness".

So I think, in the interest of fairness (and having a great excuse to buy another bottle), I should go out and procure another 750 ml of this Old Vine Zin, open it, LET IT BREATHE, and then taste it again.
I'm just fair like that. Not patient, but fair.


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Monday, April 6, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Celebrating Little Victories with a Red Splash

They say that it's the little things in life that count. Sure, there are big epic moments in all of our lives, but when you think about it, the little moments are the ones that add up to be bulk of our experiences. So when you have a few little victories in one day, you look back on them as being a pretty big deal. Such was the case with me about a week ago.

Red Splash wineIt started out with a simple request from the Winey Daughter. She needed to replace her favorite black jeans (the old ones were about ready to give up their life for a higher cause...which I gathered was cut-off shorts). The store where this particular brand was sold happened to be about a minute from The Winey House up here in Ohio (not at all close to campus in North Carolina) and I also happened to be in possession of a coupon for the store. So of course, I took one for the Winey team and went shopping for her. While I was at the shopping center I just happened to walk by my one of my favorite stores in the outlet mall (yes, we live just north of an outlet mall...and our town is very small and quaint and yet we have an outlet mall. Can you say "best of both worlds"?).  I can.

And in that store, there just happened to be quite the sale going on. And I found two - count 'em - two pair of  pants. Big deal, you say. Well, yes, it is. Because pants and I have a long and checkered history. I am rather tall, with a long torso. Not many pairs of pants are nice to me. They somehow think they need to be ankle pants when I don't want them to be. Plus, let's face it...after a certain age when you find pants that hit you at the right length, don't cut off circulation to the upper torso portion of your body and just look good, you celebrate. I gave a silent little cheer in the dressing room and pulled out my credit card.

If you are counting, that's three pair of pants on sale for me (I count the coupon for The Winey Daughter's as being on sale). And later on that night, I uncorked what turned out to be another little the form of a bottle of red wine.

This was a bottle of Red Splash (2011, 13.3%, California). I had found it in the "best under $10" section of my favorite wine store. Yes, I said "under $10". And it was a red blend. As a rule, I love red blends. So, hoping for one more victory that day, I opened the bottle.

Red Splash is a dark garnet color, with a rusty red tint around the edges. The nose is full of cherry, chocolate and a touch of earth and dark green herbs. The taste starts out with black cherry and mocha (one of my all time favorite taste combos!). Then the dark herbs kick in at the end and the finish has a tiny hint of sunny warmth in it. It fells silky and smooth, like a dark red silk ribbon. Yes, we have a victory here, Winey Folks!

My fourth victory for the day. Taken individually, the victories were not earth shattering or life changing. But they were victories and when you add them all together, you wind up with a big victory of a day. And you go to bed with a smile on your face and the taste of some great wine on your lips!


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: No Coincidence Here! Red Diamond Chardonnay

Red Diamond ChardonnayIn wine, there are no coincidences. If someone mentions a wine to you, and you are destined to sip it, the universe will conspire to get you that wine.

That's what happened to me with recently with Red Diamond Chardonnay! It all started when The Winey Family was in Arizona. We met up with a friend of mine from college, who had moved to Phoenix about a year ago. We had a wonderful dinner with her and her husband, sharing college memories (she knew The Winey Hubby from college, too), talking about Arizona, kids and of course at some point, the talk turned to wine. It helped that our waitress had some great suggestions for us, and when we were unsure about a few of the ones she mentioned, she brought over samples for us. So of course we were going to talk about wine!

My friend happened to mention a wine that she had recently tried by the name of Red Diamond. I recorded her recommendation on the notes in my phone and then pretty much proceeded to forget about it. I had canyons to hike after we left Phoenix.

Iphone note - Red Diamond ChardonnayFlash forward to a few weeks later. I'm in Trader Joe's looking for a white wine and I notice a wine from Washington State with a red diamond shape on its label. Hmm....hadn't I heard about a red diamond something or other recently? But where...... for some inspired reason I took out my phone to check any notes I may have written (I do keep a running "wines to try" list on my phone) and there it was!! From January 26th....Red diamond wine. Bingo!! I took it as a sign and grabbed a bottle.

Red Diamond Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, Washington state) starts out with a nose of pineapple. At first taste, you'll get flavors of red apple and pineapple. Following those comes some creamy vanilla and oak. This wine had a wonderful "mouth feel" to it - round and creamy and full. If you like your Chardonnay classic and creamy and rich, buy this wine! And to make it even more enticing: you can find it for under $10 a bottle. (I found it at a number of other wine sellers in my area, not just TJ's.)

So, can you see how one little mention during a dinner dozens of states away from me resulted in finding a yummy new wine? No coincidence here, I was meant to try it. Good wine karma, huh?


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Chloe Chardonnay

Chloe Collection Chardonnay Since the Winey Nest has become a Winey Empty Nest, I have dedicated a new series of wine reviews to the children who will never leave for college and career: The Winey Doggies. They are a pair of little characters: Chloe, an 11 year old Maltese and Rory, a 2 year old mostly Maltese (she has 1/4 Shih Tzu in her, hence her black and white coloring). These two girls are my constant companions in the Winey house (I mean that literally sometimes...Rory has come to see me as her own private couch whenever I sit down) and are without a doubt the best little doggies in the world. (Please note that I am NOT dismissing your own Winey doggies and their shot at being best in the world. But if you are a dog person, you know where I'm coming from. As the folks at The Westminster Dog Show say, "Best in show is the dog sitting next to you on the couch." And they are right!)

I was thrilled to find out that The Chloe Wine Collection decided to name themselves after our older dog. Ahem. I first tried their Chloe Pinot Grigio and loved it. So I was anxious to sip on the Chardonnay. While the Pinot Grigio is from Italy, the Chardonnay is from California's Sonoma County. And it does my Chloe and Sonoma County proud.

Chloe Chardonnay (2012, 13.5%, Sonoma Co.) is a pretty translucent gold color with aromas of white grapes, pears and cinnamon. The taste is classic Chardonnay: pear and vanilla and cinnamon with a touch of mellow oak to finish it all off. The finish was smooth and lingering and it felt creamy and full in my mouth. Another winner for Chloe.  A little refresher course here: according to the Chloe Collection website, the word "chloe" is an ancient word that means "blooming". That's just what this wine did - it started off with the pear flavor and then bloomed into the vanilla and cinnamon spices and opened up fully at the end, adding in the oakiness.  Another great one from the Chloe folks. And at $12.99, it's very affordable. Buy this if you like your Chardonnay lightly oaked and full of flavor as opposed to big and oakey and buttery.

dog on pillows
Chloe on her pillows.
dogs on pillows
Rory watching Chloe on
her pillows!
My Chloe (the one not in the bottle) was happy to hear that I liked another of her namesake wines. She showed her happiness by.....taking a nap. You see, at 11 years old, Chloe is starting to slow down a bit, and she has recently come through a health scare that had us all very worried. She has seen so many vets and specialist vets that The Winey Hubby and I have decided one of our Winey Children should go into that field simply to make house calls for us. OK, so neither of them is even close to showing any inclination to be a veterinarian, but that is beside the point. Now, she was never a spitfire type of dog. No squirrels were chased, no holes dug. Her greatest pleasure as a puppy and young dog was to roll on her back and have her tummy rubbed. And to sit on your lap or, if that wasn't possible, so push her little doggie butt up against a human butt and burrow in. She still loves tummy rubs, but with her new frailty, one of her favorite spots is now atop two big throw pillows in the corner of the couch. She is and always will be a total and complete love of a dog,  and to see her so frail these days touches my heart with a sadness that only another dog lover can understand.

So cheers to Chloe - the wine and the wonderful, wonderful dog.

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