Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winey Tasting Notes: Oliver Moscato - From Indiana? Yup!

I recently attended a wine tasting that featured wines from across the United States. Let's see, there were wines from California, Washington, Oregon and Indiana. That's right, I said Indiana. Imagine my surprise to find out that there is a winery just north of Bloomington. Up until now, Indiana had simply been the state next to Ohio, the last state I hit on my journey to college during my collegiate years (NJ-Illinois....we always knew we were getting close when Indiana cornfields surrounded both sides of I-80).  But wine? Nope, this was a new Indiana concept to me.

It is also kind of a new concept to the state of Indiana. Seems that until Professor William Oliver got legislation passed in 1971 making small wineries legal in that state, the only wine making to be found was in the basements and garages of die hard wine hobbyists. Professor Oliver wanted to take his wine hobby to the next level....and he sure did. Today Oliver Winery is one of the largest wineries in the Eastern US and definitely the most prominent in Indiana.  Perfectly logical to include them in the Wines Across America theme then, wasn't it?

The Oliver wine featured at this tasting was the Oliver Moscato (12%, NV, Bloomington, IN) I had to admit, I was a little suspicious, since I am not normally a sweet wine drinker. And I had heard so much about Moscatos recently (one friend loves them...another um, not so much) that my antennae were up. First sniff was of oranges and citrus-y things (as if you were walking through and orange grove, not just sniffing an orange alone). In the mouth it was fizzy and peachy. And yet, it had a lot more depth than I originally thought it would (so did another gal at my table). There was a teeny bit of tang to it as well (the wine's label says it's got apricot, and I think that just about hits it right) that gave it that depth.  Served very cold..it was quite yummy. It didn't hurt that it was paired with a dazzling array of desserts: cream puffs and brownies and cheesecake bites and cream horns!! It was actually rather refreshing after sampling Chardonnays and Cabernet and Syrahs to sip the Moscato.

I actually found another great pairing for this wine a week later, when my sister in law (Queen of the Gewurztraminers and Rieslings) and I polished off a bottle at Thanksgiving dinner. (My husband seemed shocked that 2 women could drink an entire bottle of wine in one day. OK, he's not a wine drinker, but he still has a LOT to learn about Winey Moms, doesn't he?) It worked perfectly with the turkey and the stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberries.

So while I probably would never have picked this wine up off a shelf and brought it home (despite the really cool polka dots all over it), I have to say I'm glad I got to taste it. Knowing me, it might not show up in my house until next summer's patio picnics....but for anyone who likes a semi-sweet white, I would invite it over right now. Not bad for a state where wineries were illegal until about 40 years ago, huh?

Oh and  a quick note for all of you in Northeast Ohio - the tasting was held at Creekside Restaurant and Bar in Brecksville, Ohio. They really know their wines there! Great list, great advice!!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Winey Tasting Notes: I REALLY Needed Some Hob Nob Pinot Noir

Now, I may be a Winey Mom, but that's because I love wine! I normally do not advocate using this wonderful beverage to drown your troubles or to get you through stressful times. That's what Diet Coke with lime is for. But 3 days ago, I REALLY NEEDED A GLASS (OR 2 or 3) OF WINE.

Here's why. Last Wednesday was the day the entire world had been waiting for (OK, the day my 15 year old had been waiting for): The 16th Birthday. Which translates to "The Driver's License" (unless you live in my home state of New Jersey, then you have to wait until you are 17..but I digress). After one last hour of maneuverability practice and a nerve-wracking trip (for both of us) to the ever so friendly BMV, the license was in her hands!

Thursday, she drove herself to school. Bittersweet? Sure. But she was so happy.

Friday morning. The doggie and I stand in the doorway and wave as she backs out of the garage. And into the side of the garage door, promptly ripping and shattering the side view mirror off of the passenger side door. OUCH! But hey, it's just a mirror. She pulls back in, I reassure her and she pulls out again. And promptly slams the side of the car into the SAME side of the garage door. CRUNCH. And GRIND. I honestly don't know how you do that kind of damage to a fender and a bumper unless you are hit side on by another vehicle. But she's always been an over-achiever.

Car in the body shop. New driver home from school. College aged brother also home from school. The teasing began as soon as she walked in the door. Drama ensued ("It's too soon to tease me about it!" Dramatic exit from room.) And then it was time to head up to her high school basketball game. Brother decided to do a few warm up shots with the team. As he passed the ball to sister, his comment was "Whatever you do, don't dribble backwards." OH GREAT. Is it  a wonder that by the time I got home from the game (did I mention I had to work concession stand and smelled like popcorn oil?) that I REALLY NEEDED SOME WINE.

Hence, the Hob Nob Pinot Noir (13%, 2010, Southern France). I had first tried this wine with a group of girlfriends after an evening of mani-pedis at a local spa. I didn't see it in stores right away, but one day, there it was! I grabbed a bottle intending to sip away some nice quiet evening in front of the fire. Well, it was evening. But not quiet and the only fire was coming from the ears of the highly insulted 16 year old. (Did not pair well with the laughter coming from her 19 year old brother.) But really, what better time to unscrew (not uncork - screw top here and boy was I glad about that this night) a new bottle of wine? Please note that even in my deeply agitated and needy state, I was able to take some descriptive and coherent notes: The color was a deep red - almost a maroon. The nose on this wine was deep cherry. The taste was of warm oak and cherry. The finish was smooth - not one bit of bite (which I didn't need any more of that night) - and stayed on in my mouth and left a nice warm feeling. No drying tannins - just lovely, round medium bodied Pinot Noir. Exactly what The Winey Mom had ordered.

I totally recommend this one - especially since it normally retails for under $10 a bottle. And while I still don't advocate using wine to drown your troubles, it is illegal to drown your teenagers, so if you must, go with the Hob Nob.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winey Thoughts: The Cut Glass Decanters On My Shelf

There are A LOT of decanters on the market these days. They are sleek and modern or quirky and fun. Some come with aerators, some with foil cutters and corkscrews. I own none of these.

I do own two decanters though. They are not sleek. And they are years removed from being modern or probably even very decanting-friendly (I made that word up, I think). To look at them, you'd pretty much expect Major Nelson and Jeannie to be walking into the room soon. It's a style that not everybody loves...or even tolerates. But to me they are priceless.

Take a look at the clear decanter on the left in the picture below. It's just about 15 1/2 inches high - 4 of which are the stopper. It's got some heft to it - it's cut glass, after all. The designs cut into it are starburst-like patterns with horizontal lines in between and underneath. The stopper has the same designs cut into it. I suppose you could say that this decanter sealed my fate as a Winey Mom. Here's why:

My mother (Gail Ann - you'll need the names here to follow along), was best friends with her grandmother, Anna (her mother's mother). Ever wonder how I got my name, Ann? Well now you know. They were always close - the families lived next door to each other for a time in the little New Jersey town my mom was born in. According to my mom, every time she visited her Grandmother, they'd have a glass of wine. Apparently this went on even after I was born. My mom would bundle me up and head to her grandmother's house (at this time we all lived at the Jersey shore - no cracks here about a certain reality show, okay? MY Jersey shore is and was a wonderful place to be...I spent my summers there until I was in high school). And they'd have a glass of wine. So of course I was destined to be a Winey Mom - I was exposed to it as an infant!!! This little ritual continued, and Anna and her husband Frank celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. My mother bought them this decanter as a gift, in honor of the precious hours she spent with her grandmother sipping away. When Anna passed away, the decanter came back to my mother, who presented it to me as a gift one Christmas years ago.

The purple decanter you see in the picture also stands about 15 1/2 inches high. Again, four of those inches are the stopper. It is a hefty little thing too. Much heavier than its counterpart. You'll need your upper arm strength once you actually add liquid to it. It too is decorated cut glass - featuring flowers and grapes and some star-like designs. There's even some etching that is supposed to look like a grape vine alongside the grapes. It's old...really old. I don't know exactly how old...but it was an antique when I was a newborn (and I am decidedly NOT a newborn anymore so....)

The purple decanter came into my possession one Christmas a few years back. It had been my grandmother's. Her name was Elizabeth (again, you'll need the names). When her daughter, my mother (the aforementioned Gail Ann), got married in 1962, she received a similar decanter as a wedding gift. Elizabeth loved the decanter - always commented on it and generally "made a fuss over it". So one day, as my mother wandered through an antique shop: BAM! A duplicate of the decanter she had gotten as a wedding gift. She bought it for her mom and gave it to her as a present. So now there were two purple decanters in the family - the original (which is always in my mind's eye as I remember the dining room of the house I grew up in) and its twin.

My grandmother was one of my best friends. Ever wonder how MY daughter got the name Elizabeth? Well now you know that, too. So when she passed away 5 years ago at the age of 90, my mother took the purple decanter and gave it to me. Mother and daughter once again have a pair of purple, cut glass decanters.

Yes, I'm noticing a pattern here. Anna and Gail Ann drinking wine together (as baby me lay nearby obviously taking it all in and committing it to memory!). Elizabeth and Gail with matching decanters. Is it a wonder that I am thrilled to have these two items in MY house now? MY house - with an Ann and an Elizabeth under its roof. Yes, I know where they will end up one day.

My Elizabeth is 16 at this writing. So I am 5 years away from introducing her to the ritual of mother daughter wine sipping. But history tends to repeat itself and it is doing so right now. Because my mother, Gail Ann, and my daughter, Elizabeth, are best buddies. So it might not be my job to bring her into the sipping mode...that honor will most likely go to my mom. But I will absolutely make sure that those decanters make it into my Elizabeth's house someday...so she can continue the tradition with her daughter (name to be determined.....MUCH later!).


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Winey Tasting Notes: Getting formal with the Little Penguin Shiraz

I have to admit - I have always thought that penguins were one of the cuter birds out there. Even if they don't fly. They swim. I was a swimmer. And once you get past that fishy smell, honestly, how can you resist a guy who always dresses formally?

"the Little Penguin" wines are named after the real life little penguins, who live along South Eastern Australia's coast. Some of Australia's best vineyards can also be found along that coast. Nice combo.

This is another wine that I am a long time fan of. This review is going to talk about the 2010 Little Penguin Shiraz (13.5%, SE Australia) - but my first taste of the wine came with a 2003 vintage. So "little" does not translate to "insignificant" here folks....it's wine worth coming home to (or swimming home to if you happen to be a cute little flightless well dressed bird) time and time again.

The bouquet is, mercifully, not at all fishy, despite its mascot. Nope, with this one, you get warm spices and plums and cinnamon. Its color is a lovely garnet red . The taste is smooth and full of blackberries (maybe with a hint of sweetness - just a little hint though) with a kick to them. More spice and warmth...and closes with a nice long tannic finish. Not too dry (penguins live in the water, for heaven's sake) - just a perfect zingy Shiraz. You don't even need to pair this with a food - I usually don't. It stands very well in its own, just like a stately penguin in the snow. (OK, running out of corny penguin analogies here..) The last time I had some, though, it was with a bowl of penne pasta with a mushroom red sauce.  So good!

Did I mention that this wine retails for around $6.00 a bottle? No. Well consider yourself fully informed. Go put on a tuxedo and buy some.

It's worth noting that a trip to the Little Penguin website is a lot of fun, kind of like watching penguins waddle around in the snow (I promise, I'll try and stop that now). You can take a wine test to find out what your wine personality is (I am a Merlot, and here I always thought I was Irish.) You can find ot everything you always wanted to know about Little Penguins and you can learn some penguin party games. Their wine tasting tips actually made me laugh out loud, so I thought I'd share them with you:

How to get the most out of drinking the Little Penguin wines.
The Basics:
  1. Open a bottle of wine.
  2. Pour it in a glass.
  3. Open your mouth.
  4. Tip wine into your mouth.
  5. Swallow. (preferably before reaching full capacity)
  6. Enjoy. (In moderation, of course.)
This may sound simple to you, but to a penguin this is no small task. (http://www.thelittlepenguin.com/winetips/tastingtips)

And here I was totally oblivious at how difficult it is for penguin to sip wine. Shame on me. (NOTE: Be careful if you play the Guide Your Penguin Safely Home game...it's kind of addicting. And hard.)

  A little picture of the Little Penguin Shiraz!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winey Gift Giving Guide, 2011

     It's that time of year again when all our thoughts turn to: gifts. (You thought I was going to say wine, didn't you?) Well, you wouldn't have been that far off, since my Winey Gift Giving Ideas have to do with wine (mostly...please read all the way to the end of this posting). I don't know if the rest of you are like me, but one of my great delights of the season is to pour through all the catalogs that come in the mail. A great way to escape from sweeping up the pine needles that are STILL hiding in my floors from the great "let's bring in the Christmas tree" project that occurs here the day after Thanksgiving. Anyway, these are some of my favorite finds from those catalogs this year - some are a bit out there, some are funny...and some are very, very dear to my heart (see above comment about the end of this posting)......


Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub ($29.00) - seriously, who wouldn't want Cabernet all over their being? And if that wasn't enough, the Caudalie website claims that the scrub "also contains the 6 draining and cellulite-fighting organic essential oils of the Contouring Concentrate." Bring it on, baby!

Swanson Vineyards Modern House Wine - send a message in on a bottle. (With apologies to Sting and The Police.) No seriously, haven't you ever gotten a little sick of those sappy greeting cards? How about sending a bottle that says "Thrilled for you" or "Merci" on it? Swanson Vineyards has 9 different message bottles filled with their 100% house Merlot that will say it all for you. Winey Mom favorites include "Swell Swill" and "Lucky Night"!! I never said I was subtle. ($25.00/bottle, 6 bottle minimum.)


Space Saving Countertop 4 bottle Wood Wine Rack Recycled
Cedar - Not only will this wine rack clear up some room on your counter, but you can put your opened bottle on top and it is angled so that it won't drip. Now if we could just get this for certain members of my family, many of my cleaning issues would be resolved. The rack is made by 8point8 in San Diego (I found them on Twitter - yay tweets!) and not only solves your wine-space issues, all their products are made from recycled cedar or redwood...so you can feel good about being green as well!


Truer words have never been spoken (unless wine really makes you think you know how to dance like a pro. Then you have other, entirely different issues to deal with.)  $17.95 at Catalog Favorites.

I'm no wine snob. I like to include everyone in my winey gift giving. So for all my redneck friends out there, here it is: The Rednek Wine Glass. (Not to be confused with juice glasses - this one has a stem on it!). Plus, it has the screw top lid for when you need to go mobile in the middle of your sipping... and it holds 16 ounces. Remember: drinking two glasses of wine a day is good for your heart. I have seen this for as low as $8.99...just google "Rednek Wine Glass and you can find a whole slew of them there places what sell this nifty little sipper.
Keeping on my including all theme, how about a little throw pillow that embraces both wine and beer drinkers?
(apologies again, this time to Sir Clement Moore)
($19.95 Catalog Favorites).
I am never one to discount the wisdom of our greatest writers and statesmen and forefathers. Which is why I love these quotable wine towels. Yes, Mark Twain really believed that "Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough" (I just know he had teenagers) and Ben Franklin preached that "There cannot be good living when there is not good drinking" (don't even try and tell me he was talking about Diet Coke, I KNOW he wasn't, okay?).  What better way to get your guests to smile in the powder room? (set of 4, $45.00, Uncommon Goods)

I know I put this in the giggles section...but the more I look at it..the more I think it should go in the "absolutely essential" section...but since I don't have one....
Here is the answer when your doctor asks you how much wine you drink a day:
"Just one glass, Doctor."
Yes, this glass actually holds an entire bottle of wine!!
Is that a dream come true, or what? There are lots of these on the market, I found this one for $9.99 at Vat 19.


 Anyone else out there wine cooling challenged? I am actually on a crusade to get this listed as a medical condition (kind of like the "wrist unable to load dishwasher" condition that my family suffers from). Sure, I have the wine keepers that I fill with ice. They're fun at a party cause you can entertain your guests with the drips as you pour the wine. Or you can go with these nifty little coolers: The Cool Sack. They fold flat to store in your freezer and the cute little gel packs look very festive on your table. Notice the carry handles...transporting is very user friendly. ($9.98, Solutions)
Seriously, it DOES happen: sometime you don't finish a bottle of wine in one evening. Go ahead: wussies, lightweights, wastrels....but whatever you call them, there are times when people need to seal up the bottle for the next day. And although a little oxygen is a good thing for your vino, too much of it can give you a very fancy vinegar to go with your salad. The solution? A vacuum pump. There are tons of them out on the market...prices range from $9 on up depending on how fancy you want to go. My mother in law gave me mine: your basic, get the job done and the air out model.

When I was younger, I thought one of the saddest sounds ever was the pinging of M&M's as they fell all over the movie theater floor. Now that I am a Winey Mom, one of the saddest sounds I hear is "Oh sorry, I spilled the wine." I regret the wasting of the vino....someone else may regret that it just spilled all over their heirloom table cloth or family room couch. There is a product called "Wine Away" (perhaps a poor choice of naming...no one wants to send wine away, right?) that claims to banish the stain - on almost any fabric, without bleach. What I find amusing is that it comes in a gallon sized refill, a purse size and an emergency kit as well as the normal 12 oz. size. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it??

Because these are gifts that have absolutely nothing at all to do with wine. They have to do with honoring the men and women of our Armed Forces. You may have gathered from other posts on my blog that I am the very proud mother of a West Point Cadet. (Go Army!) And since my child has entered West Point, I have had the honor of hearing about and seeing the amazing work that is being done to help our veterans and their families. A donation to either of these outstanding organizations would be one of the best Christmas presents you could give (to honor someone specific or to just help out in general). Because sometimes, it's just not about the wine and the fun...it's about something way more important.

Their purpose:

  • To raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members.
  • To help injured service members aid and assist each other.
  • To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

  • "Providing a "home away from home" for military families to be close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury."

    I encourage you all to head to their websites and read some of the truly inspiring stories you'll find there. Personally, I've had my eyes and my heart opened by these organizations - they deserve our gratitude and our support.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah...Happy New Year! Cheers!

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    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Winey Tasting Notes: 2010 Guenoc Pinot Grigio & Cabernet Sauvignon: Hoo-ah!!!

    As a former theater major, I was intrigued when I heard that actress Lillie Langtry had founded the estate that this wine comes from. All the way back in 1888...staying  power, huh? But what really got me interested in this wine was the United States Military Academy at West Point. And yes, there is a story to this. (You knew that, didn't you?)

    Each year, our West Point Parents Club (Northeast Ohio) hosts a wine tasting fund-raiser. To make things more interesting, we hold a wine naming contest as well. Members of the club submit wine names that have something to do with West Point. The winning entry gets their wine name turned into a label (by a very talented West Point graphic artist uncle) and that label is in turn pasted onto a bottle of wine chosen by the manager of the wine bar where we have our tasting. The wines are then bought by club members and many of them wind up under  the Christmas trees of various West Point friends and family. (Side note to both our Moms: if you are reading this, try and act surprised, OK?)

    This year's winning name was Hoo-ah Harvest. Hoo what??? Hoo-ah, which is a West Point expression meaning "Hooray", "Yippee", "Wonderful" and some other expressions that do not belong on this blog. You get the picture, right? So why am I talking so much about the name of this year's wine? Because it was my entry!! I named a wine!! Hoo-ah for me!!

    And wasn't I happy when I was informed by our club's president that as vice president, one of my jobs was to help her paste the wine labels on the wine chosen as this year's vintage: Guenoc Pinot Grigio (Langtry Estate & Vineyards, Lake County, CA, 13.5% alcohol on the bottle...website has it at 12.5%) and Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.5% alcohol on the bottle - website lists it at 14.5%). To make sure we knew exactly what we were giving the club, we tasted these wines extensively as we pasted. (To this very day, I am surprised the labels were all attached straight and right side up.)

    Let's start with the Pinot Grigio (we did at the wine tasting). Great tropical bouquet - mostly of pineapple and a teeny bit of pear. A beautiful pale gold color. The taste was of pineapple and had some great acidity that made it feel like a light wine, but really not a lightweight wine at all. I'd say it had a fairly medium body to it.  The finish was crisp, mellow pear (this wine is fermented in  stainless steel so no oakiness here). We sipped this wine with an antipasti platter and boy, did it do well with the cheeses and olives!!

    Eventually we wound our way to the Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of black cherry in the bouquet and on the palate. A little peppery kick at the finish that kept it from being too "fruity" - it had some nice body to it. In fact, we sipped this with a pasta bolognese and it help up nicely!

    Both of these wines run around $10 a bottle...and when you combine that with their great taste, well, I'd give them each a big old Hoo-ah!
    The design of the winning wine name in the 2011 Northeast Ohio
    West Point Parents Club contest.
    Design by Mike Blanc, winning name submitted by
    The Winey Mom!
    Go Army! Beat Navy! Cheers!

    (If you live in the Northeast Ohio area, I highly recommend a trip to Creekside Restaurant and Bar, where we held our tasting. The Harpers really know their wines - huge wine list -  and the food is wonderful!!)

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    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Winey Tasting Notes: Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

    You know how there are certain things in life that you can always count on? The black pants that go to and with everything. The best friend who will always listen. The fact that if you just run into the store for milk and have on your oldest sweats, no bra or makeup and haven't put your contacts in yet that you will see everyone you have ever met? Yup, the constants in our lives. That's how I feel when I see a bottle of Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon. I can always count on it being fantastic!

    The root 1 of this wine has nothing to do with the last, un-highlighted grey strand on your (my) head. When you sip this wine, you are sipping grapes from original, ungrafted roots. These roots happen to reside in the Colchagua Valley of Chile (their white wines come from the coastal Casablanca).

    The latest bottle of Root 1 that I have sipped from is the 2009 vintage (14% alcohol) which is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. I looked back at my notes though, and noticed that I have also tried the 2004...so I've been sipping this one for a while. I can't even remember when I first tried it. But it's a keeper. Like those black pants.

    The bouquet of this dark red wine is cherry, with a hint of thyme (it took me a while to figure that one out, but thyme it was) and some pepper. The taste was dark fruits and ripe cherries and spices. The finish was oakey and warm - it tingled on the sides and the front of my tongue. The wine has legs too - full bodied and round in your mouth. It really is one of the best Cabs I've ever had. The fact that it continues to be so year after year really speaks for the winemakers and for those Chilean valleys!

    I have seen this wine sell for as much as $14.99, but it's also been priced at $11.99. I paid $9.99 for this bottle. The price seems to fluctuate, so I always watch and buy it when it drops (don't you just love it when you get something on sale?).

    This is a great wine to stock up on for the coming holiday season. You will be sure to please many a red wine lover with it. And you'll be pretty happy too!


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