Friday, December 28, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: The Nth Degree Merlot

I know what you are thinking right now! I really do. You saw the word "Merlot" in the title of this post and you immediately recalled that now infamous line from the movie Sideways: "No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any @#*$ Merlot!" Come on, we all do it. Even if you haven't seen the movie. Because that's one quote that has gone beyond its film boundaries and made it into the realms of everyday life.

And it's such an unfair quote too. I mean, it was funny in the movie and all, but to diss an entire varietal of grape just because one big jerk of a movie character says to? Don't do it! Just don't do it.

Because if you did, you might miss out on Wente Vineyards Nth Degree Merlot (2009, 14.4%, CA). And that would be a near criminal shame because it's so @#*$ good. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The wine gets its name due to the fact that the blocks of grapes used to make it (85% from Livermore Valley in the San Francisco Bay area,  10% from Napa Valley and 5% from the Arroyo Seco, Monterey area) were farmed to the "nth" degree. This involves hand harvesting and hand sorting only the best grapes. Wente calls this method "ultra farming". I call it a very, very good idea.

The nose on this deep red wine is dark plums and black cherries. It tastes of warm oak and cherry and feels very smooth in your mouth (the wine also contains  22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Barbera, and the Cabernet really helps with the structure of the wine. Way to go, Cab!). The finish is long and has some dark chocolate in it. It is so full of flavor and layers that you really need to drink more than one bottle (not at the same sitting, though, okay?). The only problem with this is that the Nth degree wines are only available to Wente Wine Club members or at some very select restaurants. Of course, you can sip them at the Wente tasting room, but if you are like me, that would be a 2,500 mile drive. And right now, the Nth degree club is full. But the regular club is not. So you know what to do.

This is a very special wine, and well worth the time and effort to get some. And if anyone ever quotes that Merlot line to you when you order some of that wonderful grape, smack them on the head with the bottle (wait until it's empty though - no reason to waste good wine on an idiot).


I was sent this wine for review purposes. I am very honored that I was too - it's hard to find, it's an amazing wine and I never would have gotten the chance to sip it if it hadn't been sent to me by the wonderful Wente family. The above opinions are my own. Can you tell I liked it?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Reaching New Heights With Don Rodolfo Malbec

Three Winey Family
members hamming it up
on the ski slopes of Colorado
Today's wine is Don Rodolfo Malbec (2011, 13.5%, Argentina). The label proudly states that this is a high altitude vineyard (5,900 feet!). I am duly impressed, because I have a healthy fear and respect for high altitudes. Seems that I am one of the lucky people to suffer from altitude sickness, which makes it kind of tough when you consider that skiing is one of the Winey Family's favorite sports. And living in Ohio, where the altitude is definitely NOT high, we tend to migrate to higher levels. We've spent some amazing ski times throughout Colorado, Utah, the Canadian Rockies and before I hang my skis up, I will ski Whistler.  Anyway, once you've had a bout of this lovely little sickness, you are forever wary and never leave your ski chalet without your meds, a huge bottle of water and a ton of ibuprofen. Ask the Winey Daughter - who also suffers from it. One of her big vacation thrills in life is the night she spent hooked up to oxygen in Colorado at the age of 8. I know, we sure know how to show a kid a good time, don't we? But back to the wine.

In this case, high altitude is a good thing. The sun and the rain and the air hit these Argentinian vineyards first and with a great intensity, giving you some amazing Malbec grapes to start the process with. The result is a wine that is simply wonderful! The nose is full of raspberry and cherry and an overlying hint of toffee. Very fruity. The taste is of licorice and a host of berries - I detected the raspberry but also some strawberry and blueberry as well as the cherries again. It felt smooth in my mouth and finishes juicy with just enough tannins to give it some kick. Not one bit drying...just major flavor going on. No aerating needed either - the wine is so smooth and velvety that you don't need to let it breathe. An added plus is that this retails for around $9 a bottle! Bargain time!!

I opened this wine with the specific intent of using it in a sort of quick version of Coq Au Vin that I make on cold, nasty nights. (We have our share of them here - and let me tell you, without the ski mountains in the background, cold nasty nights are hard to take.) I used it to simmer chicken thighs, carrots, herbs and garlic and it gave such a wonderful flavor to the dish. It would be just as easy to splash a little into any gravy you are making and add the flavor that way as well. But save enough to sip - you won't want to miss much of this by letting your dead chicken swim in it.

Once again, I had to depend on my fine friends at The Wine Chateau to induce me to try a wine I never would have picked out on my own. That's the beauty of an on line store like the Chateau - they've always got something new or featured and most of the time, it's a wine I never would have thought to try - except that they recommended it! Check them out if you have a chance...the prices are great, the ideas are wonderful and let's face it, you'll get to wander through pages and pages of wine - so much more productive to learn about a new wine than to learn what your high school friend's dog just did on Facebook.


Note: the 2011 vintage may be sold out in some places, but never fear: the 2012 is out and ready to be sipped.

I was sent this wine for sampling purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Post-Thanksgiving With Kidder Family Wines Duet

Every year many words are written about which wine to pair with the Thanksgiving feast. You'll get almost as many opinions about this as there are wine bottles in France. And Italy. Combined. I don't mean to sound really wimpy about this and all, but when it comes to Turkey Day, it's best to sip what you like. There are so many flavors and aromas piled onto the table that choosing one wine is kind of tough. This year I made my decision based solely on the fact that I was using Pinot Noir in the gravy. And being head cook, that gave me liberal leave to sip as I basted and stirred and chopped and stuffed.

We spend Thanksgiving at home usually. This is due to the fact that the Winey Son (aka Winey West Point Cadet) rarely makes it home these days, and when he does, he wants to stay (translate: sleep) here. And the Winey Daughter plays on the high school basketball team, which opens its season every Thanksgiving weekend. So it is to our house that anyone who is around makes their way. This year, I found myself in a bit of an odd situation though: the family gathered around me included only ONE other wine drinker. (Only 5 of us were legally old enough to drink wine, actually. And of those we had one beer person, two soft drink sippers and the two of us winos.) So the Pinot Noir I had opened and fully expected to be gone by dinner time was still rather full (I don't actually use that much in the gravy) when the turkey was ready and the table loaded up.

Not that I'm complaining, but I had planned on uncorking a bottle of Kidder Family Wines Duet (2010, 14.9%, Lodi, CA) for the main course. I had just participated in an on-line wine tasting with the wonderful folks from the Lodi Winegrape Commission (actually, due to a late shipment, I just listened to the tasting..but still...) And this wine came up as one that would be a good one for the upcoming holiday. Cool! Since I didn't get to sip with everyone during the tasting, I'd have my own holiday sip. But alas, the bottle remained unopened. (As chief cook, I had to keep my wits about me and the other wine drinker was 80+ years old and I wasn't about to force her to drink.)

We're a close family, really
Unopened until the next day, that is! (Insert big winey smile here!) Now I know that for many people, Black Friday is the day to hit the stores. But the only thing the Winey Family ever buys on that day is the Christmas tree. And we don't just head to a lot of pre-cut trees, oh no. We head out and chop our own tree down. And then we have to get it set up and decorated that day, since they Winey Son will be heading back to school and the Winey Daughter off to the basketball courts over the course of the weekend. It has also become the day to decorate the whole house. Hey, if you're heading up to get the ornaments, you might as well bring it ALL down, right? So after a day full of hauling boxes and unpacking decorations and ornaments and the tree tipping over once, the house was done!

Never underestimate
the strength of a
West Point Cadet

It was at this exhausted point that I decided Kidder Family Duet would do very nicely the day AFTER Thanksgiving as a reward for all that hard work. Not to mention that fact that every year, once piece of glitter glues itself to my cheek and bugs me the rest of the day. I needed a little treat.

Duet is a blend of two Spanish grapes that seem to grow so well in the Lodi area. It's 57% Graciano and 43% Tempranillo. It's extremely dark purple in color and gives off a nose of  cinnamon and tobacco. Wow - big nose here. The taste is full of spiced fruits, bitter chocolate, cinnamon and a hint of that tobacco. It finished of warm berries and the tannins were just right. Bold enough to finish off the strong nose and flavors, but overwhelmingly so. The warmth in the finish was greatly appreciated too, since our rather balmy 50 degree Thanksgiving had turned into a windy, snowy day after. 

I really enjoyed this one. And again I have to say how much I learn from these on line tastings that I am honored to participate in.  I probably never would have thought to try a Spanish red blend if the Lodi folks hadn't sent one my way. A great way to celebrate a wonderful family day. (Oh, and although this isn't a quality you'd probably look for often in a wine, it paired very nicely with the scent of fresh cut Fraser Fir!)


I was sent this wine for review purposes. The opinions are my own. Pin It

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Dinner With Friends, and Some Lodi Wines

One of the joys of being a Winey blogger is that you get to participate in some extremely interesting wine tastings...all in the comfort of your own home. Thanks to web cameras and Twitter, I get to join with fellow Wineys once or twice a month and taste wines that I might never have thought to try - or that I can't readily find here in Cleveland.

Such was the case last month, as the folks from the Lodi (California) Winegrape Commission (now there's a commission I'd gladly serve on) invited some of us to Lodi Live!, a tasting that featured six hand grown Lodi wines.  Easy enough! My wine would arrive on my doorstep and I would sip along with the others as we listened to the Commission gurus talk about Lodi, its wines, and each wine in particular. Of course, being writers, we would be tweeting our thoughts and questions to them as the tasting progressed. (I really do learn an awful lot from these webcasts. They're like a really really fun college class where the final requires you to drink wine.) Easy, right?

Well, it would have been, had not my wines been delayed in transit. Drat. Drat. Drat. What was I to do? Sit and listen and learn without the wine? Well, in a nutshell, that's what I did. And to be honest, it was one of the best tastings I've participated in: great discussion leaders, great tasters and I assume great wine.

In the end, my wine arrived the very next day. And let me tell you, I was looking forward to trying it, based on the comments of the night before. But when? Well, it just so happened that the Winey Hubby and I had one of our very favorite Winey Couples coming over for dinner that weekend. And I had six gorgeous bottles of wine just waiting to be tasted!

I decided to make osso buco (one of my favorites) as the main dish. And, since one of my great joys in life is to eat appetizers until they come out of my ears, I also planned an appetizer spread that included cheeses and crackers and specialty olives and Pinot Grigio summer sausage (really - if you ever see some sausage made with wine, buy some - it's yummy).

But which wines to sip? Well, as luck would have it, as I perused my bottles and their tasting sheets, right there on the d'Art Wines Zinfandel page it read: Perfect with all Italian style dishes from risotto with mushrooms to osso buco. Well, I'm no dummy. One decision down. Then I decided to start the evening and the appetizer fest with the Uvaggio Vermentino, mostly because it was a lighter, crisper white that I thought would go well with my smorgasbord of appetizers, and also because I had never heard of Vermentino until the night before (for the record, it's an Italian grape).

So our guests arrived and after explaining why I was using their palates as basically my guinea pigs for the evening (they got over that one real quick, let me tell you), we opened the Vermentino.

Uvaggio's Vermentino (2011, 12.5%, Lodi, CA) is pale gold in color and a faint nose that gives you wisps of florals and a teeny bit of mineral. Its taste blew away that faint nose though, with tart citrus and juicy lime, some green apple and some lively minerals. It finished with a kiss of tart tingling in our mouths..not one bit of oak here. It was crisp and refreshing. (As I read this I realize that some of you may think this sounds like a Pinot Grigio - but no. It wasn't as sweet as a Pinot Grigio - and had a ton of flavor to it, that some Pinot Grigios can lack.) To say we all loved it (even the Winey Hubby, who, despite my Winey encouragement, sips wine only once in a very long while) would be an understatement. The bottle did not last very long. But the praise did. This wine retails for around $14, making it a wonderful every day sipper.

On to dinner and the osso buco. There is something so very satisfying about chopping up all those veggies that go into this dish..but I digress. Out came the d'Art Zinfandel (2010, 15.5%, Lodi, CA, ~$22). Zinfandel is sort of the flagship wine of Lodi - puts it on the map so to speak, thus I was really looking forward to trying this. The nose on this was cherry and stone fruits, not overly strong, but nicely present. The taste was big and bold though - lots of raspberry and blackberry, a bit of herb-y thyme and some anise. It was very rich in our mouths - not jammy, more like smooth dark fruits. After it had been opened a while you got a hint of mocha on the end. Wow! I was very surprised at the finish - this wine is 15.5% alcohol, mind you. But there wasn't any "burn" to it at all. It was a warm finish, sure, but more elegant than overpowering. Mrs. Winey Friend and I LOVED this one. In fact, we stopped offering it to our hubbies at one point. (In our defense, Winey Hubby doesn't like red wine and Mr. Winey Friend just didn't stand a chance.)  During our tasting, we learned that 2010 was a good year for wine in Lodi, depending on when the grapes were harvested. Mother Nature was on her best behavior with this harvest, let me tell you!

So, I didn't get to sip with  my on line Winey pals, but I did get the chance to share two bottles of great wine with some in person Winey friends. Worked out well, didn't it? Just goes to show you that a delayed shipment can lead to a wonderful Friday night dinner at home!


I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions are my own. Pin It

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Getting Cryptic (NEW FAVORITE ALERT!)

According to the Cryptic wine website, "Encryption is the conversion of a message from readable form into a mysterious puzzle". To me, this usually means math. And that includes balancing the Winey Family checkbook, a job which was yanked from me over a quarter of a century ago. The Winey children were also told (by their Winey father) that their Winey mom could not help them in math once they passed third grade. I couldn't even defend myself. It's true. And I don't do puzzles either. They Winey hubby picks the hardest puzzle he can find to bring up to the beach every year. I buy 10 new books for my Kindle and a bottle of SPF 50. Get the picture here?

Front label
Back label
So one look at the front of the bottle of Cryptic California Red Wine (2010, 14.3%, California) kind of made me shudder. There was an encryption right on the label. And more on the back! Oh no. I usually don't have to work that hard to figure out what I'm drinking. But I have to tell you, this wine was well worth the mental gymnastics I had to do to read the labels. (OK, it wasn't THAT hard, really.) And I do love it when winemakers get all whimsical and funny and make us think for our vino.

What I love even more is this wine. To save you some of the decoding, it's a blend of Zinfandel (44%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%) and Petite Sirah (23%) and 9% other reds. (Yes, I added it up. It equals 100. So there.) The nose is dark berries, some dark spice and just a hint of smoke. It tastes of those berries, some black plum and some lovely warm oak. It finishes medium long, with a warm tingle on the end of your tongue and a hint of mocha. Such a velvety feel in the mouth! The absolute perfect blend of the Zinfandel's fruits and the silky Cabernet and the very serious Petite Sirah. This is such a good wine. You don't even need to let it sit - it pours wonderfully structured and flavorful right out of the bottle (trust me, I poured a lot in the interest of my blog). 

This would pair well with so many dishes. A big old pasta with lots of sauce comes to mind. As does a nice hot cheesy pizza or a grilled steak!

This has now entered the books (or the blog, I guess) as a Winey Mom favorite. Definitely not a puzzling choice (sorry, I had to). Even I, the "give me a book to read and go away with your puzzles and games" Winey mom, would solve puzzles for it. It's that good!


I was sent this wine for review purposes. I am very very happy that I was and all the opinions above are my own. So is the opinion that you should buy this wine right now. Pin It

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Getting Refreshed While Barefoot

I normally don't think of needing a lot of "refreshing" this time of year. When I think of getting refreshed, I am usually picturing myself cooling down after a long hot gardening session. You know: sweaty, hot, tired. But I can honestly say that this November, I have needed some refreshing and it has nothing to do with the temperature.

Let's start with the fact that Ohio was pretty much ground zero for the presidential election. It got crazy around here, with the robo calls, the regular calls, the mailings and the visits. Add to that the fact that this was a pretty polarizing election...especially on Facebook. I have no idea why some of my friends believe that their rants one way or the other will influence me in my politics. The best they can hope for is that I hit the like button on the pics of their kids or pets or recent vacation. Oh, and I'll always wish them a happy birthday or anniversary and yes, I do want to keep in touch. Just not in a political sense of the word. Then let's talk Hurricane Sandy. We in Ohio got through it. We weren't untouched by it - flooding and wind damage and power outages were rampant around here. But I sat and watched as my childhood memories of the Jersey Shore were literally swept out to sea. And I listened as my mom called and told me she was leaving her house because it was too darn cold and dark and dangerous to stay there any longer. (All is well with her now. I wish I could say the same for my beloved Normandy Beach and Seaside Heights.)

So, yes, by the time November rolled around, I was in need of and quite ready for some refreshing. And then, lo and behold, the folks at Barefoot Wine decided to send me some samples of their latest winey line: Barefoot Refresh. There are three wines in the line, Crisp White, Sweet White and Summer Red. And for once, it actually was refreshing to be in Ohio, because this line is only available in Arizona, California, Nevada, Ohio and Texas. It's like they just knew we in the Buckeye state needed this.

The Crisp White (NV, 9%, California) is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Riesling. It hits your nose with a big whiff of pear along with some melon and minerals. The taste is fizzy lime with ginger and it finishes with a touch of tart citrus (lemon, lime). This wine was so crisp in my mouth. It was nice and light but not lightweight. The lovely Riesling is tempered nicely by the Chenin Blanc - not thickly sweet, not tartly thin. It's a great refreshing wine for someone who really doesn't like to refresh with sweet wines. (It was my favorite of the three.)

The Sweet White (NV, 9%, California) is a blend of Moscato and Pinot Grigio. It gives you a noseful of honeysuckle and tastes of honey and peaches. This is definitely sweeter than the Crisp White, but not as sweet as your typical Moscato (thank you, Pinot Grigio). It also had a crisp taste, with a teeny bit of bubbling going on. I'd say it's in the rich style of a German Riesling, but the added Pinot Grigio gives it a nice little kick.

The Summer Red (NV, 9%, California) is a blend of Pinot Noir Rose with Moscato. This was probably the "sweetest" of the bunch. It had a gorgeous garnet color and some nice fizziness in the glass. The aroma was of orange blossoms and strawberries. It tasted of strawberries and raspberries and was almost velvety in the mouth. This just screams summer Sangria - it would be amazing as a base for that!

With a nod to the recent election, these are all very democratic wines. You could serve them at a party and I'll bet that everyone there would find one that they really like. And, in the true laid back style of Barefoot, these wines are also very affordable. They retail for about $8, making not just the taste of the wines refreshing, but the price as well! Keep them in the back of your winey mind for the next summer barbecue or the next hurricane or the next presidential election. You'll be glad you did.


I was sent these wines for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Bennett Family Cabernet Sauvignon

I don't know about you, but when I hear the words "Bennett Family" my winey mind takes me straight to the pages of my all time favorite book, Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". I actually love all of her books, but since Pride was my very first Austen read, it gets first place. So when my friends at The Wine Chateau decided to bless me with some bottles to review, you can imagine my great pleasure when I pulled this one out of the box. Immediately, I felt another visit to Longbourne and the Bennett sisters coming on. Or maybe even another viewing of THE ONLY mini-series version of this book that is worth watching. And by that I mean the one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Don't argue it with me, you will NOT win.

So I grabbed my very worn book and settled in for some sipping and reading. The wine in my glass was a Bennett Family Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (2006, 14.5%, Napa, CA). The Bennetts are actually a branch of the William Grant (of Glenfidditch Scotch whiskey fame), so they come with a pretty long and distinguished pedigree in the world of wine and spirits. Sort of like Mr. Darcy's lofty ancestry, instead of Elizabeth Bennetts more humble origins.

The nose on this wine is of black cherries, very ripe dark berries some cardamon and a hint of wet fall air...the kind of air that lets you know that autumn has definitely arrived, along with its spicy outdoor smells. It tasted of juicy cherries with the dark berries hanging around the outer edges. The tannins were big with a very warm (thank you 14.5% alcohol content) and oakey finish. I kept waiting for the fruits to show up a bit more, but the oak definitely won that battle. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you don't like your reds big and oakey and tannic, I'd stay away. However, if you are stuck inside on a rainy fall day and the rain is slowly turning into a sleety mix, and there is a fire in the fireplace and a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" is in your hands, definitely open this. It pairs very well with a real wood fire next to your chair.

Something else that surprised me about this wine was that I liked it a lot more before I used my aerator than after. And that usually doesn't happen... but for some reason, once the (fall) air hits it, the oak becomes a lot more powerful. If you drink it right away, the fruits really come through the oak and make a much more complex taste.

Firth as Darcy.
'Nuff said.
A note about the Wine Chateau here... this is one of the easiest and most accessible on-line sites to shop. All their wines are discounted, you get your 10% off per case, and over 150 of the wines are free shipping. For instance, the Bennett Family Cabernet Sauvignon normally retails for about $35 a bottle..but you'll get it for about $20 at their site. And it also happens to be one of their free ship wines right now, so ordering a case will cost you nothing more than the wine price and the energy you use to uncork the bottle. (Don't waste your energy will want to save some in order to lift the glass.) Oh, and, um did I mention that the Wine Chateau has two retail locations as well in the great state of NEW JERSEY?? (Remember, I live in Ohio, but I was born and raised a Jersey girl. Although there are those time when I wished was an Edwardian lass in the same town as Colin Firth, er, Mr. Darcy.)


The Wine Chateau sent me this wine for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Sipping Some Tuscan Bargains

I have freely admitted before that I am a bit, OK, woefully, lacking when it comes to my Italian wine tasting skills. Maybe it's because I don't think to make myself look for Italian wines specifically. Maybe it's because they all have such long hard to pronounce words on the labels (and yes, German wines do that too). Or maybe it's because I grew up in an Irish family that drank beer. I know, I know - a Winey Mom from a bunch of beer drinking Irish folk? Hey, it happens.

So, when some folks from Banfi contacted me, I was a little bit intimidated. Banfi? That big, well known Italian wine name? Tuscany? That magical land spoken of in hushed and reverent tones by foodies and wine lovers alike? Gulp. On the other hand, it will be the rare region that intimidates me into turning down free wine. So I accepted.

So very glad I did too!!! My first forage into the Tuscan landscape came in a bottle of Col di Sasso (2010, 13%, Tuscany, Italy). It's a blend (and we know how I love my red blends) of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Col di Sasso means "stony hill", so that gives you an idea of where these grapes were grown. It's a bright cherry red in color around the edges - a deeper red in the center. The nose was of cherry and grape jam. Those came through in the taste, as did some blueberry and a hint of something darker. Cocoa maybe? It had a nice balance to it and finished of warm tannins on my tongue. Very nice, these tannins. They allowed the fruit to shine through, but let me know there were around as well.  I'd never had this particular blend before, not to mention from Italy. So was it any good?

Hmm, how about if I say "vino fantastico"? Translation: awesome wine. Or you could translate it as "go buy some now". Oh, and if I tell you that this wine retails for around $9 a bottle, would that help in the translation? Sip it alone or, since we are fast approaching Turkey Day, sip it on Thanksgiving. It would pair well with a big old roast gobbler. 

(Quick side note here: As luck would have it, I attended a wine festival shortly after tasting Col di Sasso, and I kid you not...take a look at the picture and the size of the bottle of Col di Sasso I found. Sadly, it was not for sale. And to be honest, it was really heavy. But don't think I didn't consider a well timed (if not well concealed) theft for a split second.)

Whew. I'd gotten through the red. Now it was on to the white wine offering. This came in the form of Le Rime Pinot Grigio (2011, 12.5%, Tuscany, Italy). It was a very pretty pale, summery yellow-green color that gave off an aroma of melon, tart berries and tart citrus. And that taste!! Lemon and lime, some kiwi, an edge of fine minerals with just a hint of sweetness (honeysuckle) at the end. It felt tangy and juicy in my mouth and pretty much made me want to run right out and book a flight to Tuscany for next summer. I will buy this again and again. And yup, it retails for around $9 as well. Win-win situation, huh?

OK, I'm hooked. Italian wine is now on my repertoire...and I will actively be searching out Banfi Tuscans in the future. After all, I'm two for two with them. Up next, however,  will be a bottle of their Chianti which I am really looking forward to!

Arrivederci for now!

And cheers!

I was sent these wines for review purposes. The opinions in this review are my own. Pin It

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winey Decor: Alphabet Photography Gives The Winey Family A Label!

Being the wine loving Winey Mom that I am, I'm all about labels. Sure, I read them for the varietal and the alcohol content and the region...but I am totally not above grabbing a bottle because the label is cute/funny/pretty or if it has a little doggie on it. I also save all my wine labels. I can't help it. I just have to do it. Someday I will make an amazing arty creation out of them all. But right now they're just in my wine binder.

You'd think that since I like labels so much, I'd have lots of other labels around the house. Specifically with the Winey Family name on them. But, um, well, no. The closest I have come until now is a slate plaque given to us by neighbors. It is for outdoor use. And we live in Cleveland. Thus it spends much time covered in snow. Or, if you look outside right now, oak leaves. So yes, there was a lack of family name labels in my house. Until a few weeks ago.

Alphabet Photography home page

That's when I was chosen to write about Alphabet Photography's gorgeous creations. I think you've probably seen them around. They are words spelled out in everyday objects that resemble letters of the alphabet. You can use any word you want, but my first thought was, "Finally! A family label for our wall!" And it's easy. You just head to their website and type in the word you want. The site does the work for you. Don't love the picture on a certain letter? Just click on it and it gives you all the choices for that letter.

Our chosen letters
The Winey Family had lots of fun designing their picture. We decided to customize it a bit. One of our letters is a ferris wheel (we love them), one is a shelf of books (ditto the love) and our M is a picture of stained glass church windows (at the heart of our family and also representative of the billions of cathedrals the Winey Hubby has had us visit on any trip we have ever taken, anywhere).

Matted and signed
How cool is this thank you card?
The picture we received (adorably wrapped and with an Alphabet Photography thank you card!) is valued at $169.95 and has a 3” solid wood frame with a dark Chocolate finish accented with gold leaf. The frame is matted with a museum quality double mat with a V groove. At first we thought we'd put it up in the Winey Master Bedroom, since we just finished a big re-do there, but then we decided that our Winey family label needed to be seen by everyone, not just sleepy parents and the occasional invading doggie. So it went up in the family room above the fireplace. And you know what? It fit perfectly well in either room. It's  got that kind of a timeless elegance to it. It blends in anywhere.

Looks great!

So finally, a label for our family! And with the holidays fast approaching, what a great idea for a gift for the  newlyweds, the new home owners, the in-laws who are seriously the most difficult humans in the world to buy for. It doesn't have to be a name either. I typed in the Winey Son's college and presto: instant graduation gift.
Grab a glass of something and start designing your masterpiece! Cheers!

The perfect customized gift that includes photographs from all over the world, this is the original Alphabet Photography. Celebrity owners include: Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, Tyra Banks, Ryan Seacrest, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, John Schneider, Nelly Furtado, and many more!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Alphabet Photography. The opinions and text are all mine.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: My "Vicious" Dogs Check Out Vicious Petite Sirah

Rory, 3 months old
As you may have read recently on other articles in this blog, the Winey Household has expanded by four little feet...paws, to be exact. Her name is Rory and she is a Maltese/Shitzu mix. As of this writing, she weighs in at a whopping 3.2 pounds, adores her older doggie sister Chloe and sort of hops when she runs. Yup, we love her!

As you can she, she has pretty much cornered the market on "cute". I routinely have to check the backpacks of The Winey Daughter's friends as they leave to make sure no one has smuggled her out (there have been threats). Friends come to the door and the first thing they ask is "Where's the baby?" She attended The Winey Daughter's soccer game once and pretty much stole the show. She is all puppy.

So you can understand why I had to laugh out loud when I saw the label on a bottle of Vicious Petite Sirah. The doggie on the label is kind of cute, actually, but the idea of a vicious dog was so far away from the reality I was living that I just let out a chuckle. But of course, the very nice wine lady working near me heard me, because heaven forbid I don't make a fool out of myself in the wine aisle at least once a month. I'm not sure what she thought my laughing meant, but she walked over and asked if she could help me. (Oh great. I must have sounded crazy...or something.) So I wound up explaining that we had a brand new puppy at home and how she was really tiny and we had only gotten her that week and she was so very cute and that the whole idea of vicious made me laugh. I'll give her credit, she just listened and smiled at me. Wanting to steer the conversation to a more, well, sane, tone, I asked about the wine. (Good call there, Winey Mom.) She said it was one of their favorites, (it was on their "Best Wines Under $10" wall) and was a great buy. would be kind of fun to write a Winey Doggie I got some.

I'm hiding!
Vicious Petite Sirah (2009, 14.1%, Central Valley, CA) comes from the Sobon Family Vineyards. It's actually 78% Petite Sirah and 22% Zinfandel, which makes sense, since winemaker Paul Sobon has his very own Zinfandel vineyard as well as his family's vines. It begins with a bouquet of sour cherry and raspberries. On the tongue, it's got lots of fruit and mocha, which blend together to fill your mouth with flavor. There's a little oak in there and it finishes with soft tannins. The whole "feel" of this wine was smooth and round and like I said, it felt like the flavors just filled my whole mouth. That touch of Zinfandel worked wonders. Nothing vicious here in any way.
Hmm.....doesn't smell vicious

You can pair Vicious Petite Sirah with food or sip it on its own - preferably with your doggie snuggled nearby. Not your cat. Cats can go get their own wine labels - this one is for the Pooch.  
This is a definite buy again wine. Maybe I'll get another bottle when Rory finally gets housebroken. Um, no. Given the size of her bladder, that could take way too long. Oh, and the very nice wine lady also showed me a bottle of the Vicious Red Blend. I've been so impressed with all the red blends lately that I'm going to go out and get a bottle of that too. Maybe that review will come out by the time Rory is housebroken. Then again.....I'd look for it sooner.
Winey Disclaimer: NO dogs were allowed to drink any of the wine during this photo session. I don't care what you say about "dog years", they are both underage. Like I'd share anyway. They'd probably pair it with a totally inappropriate bone or something.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winey Halloween Tasting Notes: Hob Nob Wicked Red

That hourglass...
Does anyone else get a bit confused with the current usage of the word "wicked"? Cause I know that in some geographic areas as well as certain teenager minds, "wicked" means awesome, wonderful, amazing. And yet to my Winey mind, I can't but help think of a wicked witch. And not just any wicked witch. The word "wicked" brings a picture of The Wizard of Oz's Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, telling little Dorothy that when the sand runs through the hour glass, her time is up. I swear to you, that scene from the Wizard of Oz gave me more childhood nightmares than all the flying monkeys put together. (But not more than those damn raptors that can open doors in Jurassic Park...nope, that still freaks me out the most, even as an adult.)

So now you know about my hourglass phobia. Let's talk about some wine.

I found the latest offering from Hob Nob wines and immediately knew it would be this year's scary Halloween wine review. (See above hourglass reference if you are losing me here.) It is a brand new wine, released just last month and it's called Wicked Red (13%, 2011, France). I'm a big fan of Hob Nob Pinot Noir (Winey Tasting Notes: I REALLY Needed Some Hob Nob Pinot Noir), so I was excited to see that they were coming out with a red blend (Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir). And this blend did not disappoint.

The wine is a gorgeous dark ruby red (kind of like those shoes Dorothy wore..). The bouquet is dark stone fruit - mostly black cherry, a little plum and some sharp oak. It tasted of herbs (thyme) and dark fruit (tart cherry) and had a hint of earth in there for good measure. The warm finish was smooth, smooth, smooth mild tannins (and the cherry showed up again here too). Yay!! Another reason why red blends are quickly becoming some of my favorites. The best of the red varietals all together in one bottle!

This is a red that gives you enough heft to make you feel like you're drinking a big red wine - but one that will warm you up, not dry you out. There is absolutely nothing "wicked" (common definition, none of this teenaged stuff) about it. It's a great wine that will fit right in at any Halloween party. It would be "wicked" good with Hershey bars, by the way. And if you are of the mindset that handing out candy bars sounds like this: "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me", I suggest having a bottle opened and ready to go during trick or treat! You may even want to practice ahead of time, so get two.


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Friday, October 26, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Olive Garden's Porta Vita Wine Line

I will have to admit that I have nothing but fond memories of The Olive Garden. WAAY back when the Winey Son was a infant, a group of us new moms would gather there once a week or so to indulge in the - you guessed it - endless soup, salad and bread sticks (oh man, those bread sticks - try losing the baby weight with an unlimited supply once a week!!). And not one Olive Garden worker even blinked an eye when they realized that the 6 or so moms eating at the big round table each had an infant in a carrier next to their chair. Brave, noble people.

Fast forward 20 or so years, and it's been a long time since I've been to an Olive Garden. This was mostly due to the fact that 1) there was always such a long wait and we had small children and 2) after moving into a larger home, there wasn't one that close to us (call it the boonies if you will, but the Winey Hubby really really wanted a riding lawn mower).

But recently The Olive Garden has decided to give itself a bit of a makeover. Going to the spa, in a way. (The Winey Mom is always, always in favor of a makeover and/or a day at the spa.) They have lightened things up with a new “Lighter Italian Fare” menu and -- gasp -- have decided to go into the wine business with three varietals of its new signature wine called Porta Vita. I go the chance recently to talk with Jennifer Arguello, their winemaker, about the wines. Oh and yup, I got the chance to sip them all too!

So let me start by admitting that I've always been a little hazy when it comes to Italian wine. All those regions on the label, all those grapes I'd never heard of, much less could pronounce. And let's face it, one bad Chianti can scare you for a long, long time. (That's another story though.) Jennifer broke it down for me a bit though, by teaching me that all three of these new wine's varietals come from Northern Italy. Think Alps, not Roman ruins. So you've got the Italian influence, but also some influence from the soil of Northern Italy's neighbors, Austria and Germany.

Let's talk red first. Porta Vita Rosso (11.5%,2011, Northern Italy) is a blend of only in Italy Schiava and Teroldego grapes, with a little Merlot thrown into the mix as well. It has a nose of garden spices like thyme and sage along with some red cherry. The taste is of cherry and darker red berries and the finish is very quick and rather fruity. My first thought on tasting it was that this would be a great starter red. It's got that fruit base to it, very little tannin and would be a good way for someone who is intimidated by a puckery, big red to start off reds. It did pair wonderfully with some Italian cheese (Grada Padano). Jennifer said that she'd love with a plate of big cheesy lasagna, and I agree with her there. You could also sip this wine on its own. And while it's a good wine, I like my reds a little heartier. I don't mind the fruit flavor, I just like it to be a little more tempered than it was. For the record, two of my Winey girlfriends also agreed on this. While we liked it, we were all probably a bit further down the red wine road than the Rosso was.

They'll also be serving a Porta Vita Rosato (10%, 2011, Northern Italy). Do not let the pink color of this blush wine freak you out! The nose is faintly sweet, maybe a touch of flower and peach. But the taste is absolutely not the syrupy taste many of us have come to expect from a blush wine. I did taste some peach and some flowers...but there was a tart balance to this wine that made me want another sip .... and another (please note that my first taste of this was the middle of the day, and in an effort to keep the Winey Mom upright, I stopped after a few more sips). I took some of this to a Homecoming 2012 recovery session (think Moms at the table after serving 15+ high school juniors dinner before the dance) to share and all of us agreed that this was a very yummy wine. It would go wonderfully with a spicier Italian dish and as you can tell, it is wonderful to sip on its own, as you recover from the trauma of getting your offspring primped, dressed and fed and off to the big dance. The base of this wine is a grape called Enantio Rosato. I'm told these grapes only grow on ankle-twisting hills in Northern Italy, and am perfectly willing to believe this without actually twisting my own ankles. (There is also a little Moscato blended in.)

The last Porta Vita wine is their Bianco (11.5%, 2011, Northern Italy). It has an aroma of fresh, zesty citrus along with some apricot and peaches. This is a smooth wine, blending the lime and the stone fruit flavors wonderfully in your mouth. There's also a lovely mineral taste to it, which I'm told is courtesy of the mountain regions in Northern Italy. The grapes used in this wine are Müller Thurgau (no, I'd never heard of it either) and some unoaked Italian Chardonnay (I am about to start driving the unoaked Chard bandwagon, by the way). This would pair so very well with the creamier Italian dishes. Jennifer brought up the idea of pairing it with lobster cannelloni and I haven't been able to stop thinking about that dish since. Thanks, Jennifer.) It was my absolute favorite of the three...just a lovely, supple white wine.

The idea behind these signature wines was to give the public some fruit forward, aromatic wines. (Seems that we as a Winey American Public really like that in a wine these days.) And while I was a teeny bit disappointed with the Rosso, I'd have to say that the Rosato and the Bianco hit the mark very nicely. I think they'll surprise you with their great taste. Just watch out for those bread sticks. They are addictive.

Olive Garden provided me with an exclusive preview of its new Porta Vita Signature Wines for the purposes of providing feedback and learning more about the new wines. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Pin It

Monday, October 22, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Whip....It's Good!

Let me start off by apologizing to Devo for the above title. But seriously, when you’ve got a wine called “The Whip” (2011, 12.5%, Livermore, CA), and you were a high school junior in 1980, how are you NOT going to start singing that song? And The Whip is good (Whip it GOOD!).  In fact, it’s great, but the song doesn't tell you to "whip it great", now does it?  

Whip It Good
I actually thought about putting this in the Naughty Wine Names category, and then I thought better of it. Somehow, if you place it there, it’s just not as fun and dancing around with funnel shaped hats on your head. (Plus, when you realize that its "sister" red blend is called “The Spur”, the whole thing goes California Wild West and just a bit kinky.) So I stayed New Wave.  

The Whip is a product of Murrieta’sWell, (named after the artesian well on the property), and is a mind boggling blend of six different wines: 39% Chardonnay, 26% Semillon, 13% Gewurztraminer, 9 % Orange Muscat, 7% Viognier and 6% Sauvignon Blanc. My brain actually got a little whiplash trying to take that all in. (The Winey Mom is NOT a math or numbers person.)

The first aroma that whips your nose (I couldn’t say “hit”, now, could I?) is of orange peel. Then a little whiff of mineral..I think the Sauvignon Blanc, all 6% of it, was making itself known here! And then you sip it!!! Wow!! The orange comes through the middle of your mouth, the Semillon bubbles it around the edges and then a bit of vanilla and honey come into play.  It finishes with some mellow oak (some of the Chardonnay was fermented in oak). It was both smooth and effervescent at the same time. That’s quite a trick.
This is a wine that you could pair with so many different dishes that it just begs to be served at your next party. If you have any really Winey Friends, I suggest you stick a bow on it and gift it at the next appropriate occasion. It’ll keep every white wine fan happy – not too sweet, not too dry…just whippingly wonderful.

I was sent this wine for review purposes. (And I’m very happy about it too.) The above opinions are my own.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Surviving the Election in a "Swing State" By Flipflopping (the Merlot)

 Election season. When Americans exercise the right to choose their nation’s destiny. When they flock to the polls to let their opinions be known. When debate ranges freely among differing views. When voting is a celebration of our rights as Americans.

 UNLESS you are like me and you live in swing state. Because here in Ohio, election season means that you do NOT answer your phone from primary season on. It means that we haven't seen a television ad for food, clothing or cars since August. We live in constant fear of having our mailboxes explode due to pounds upon pounds of political mailings. And don't even try to drive near the airport/major city/community college when one of the candidates is in town AGAIN to try and swing us to his side. Gridlock.
Let's take this morning, for instance. Since returning from my morning walk 90 minutes ago, I have gotten 2 phone calls. Caller ID tells me they are from Middletown, OH. I don't know anyone named Middletown, OH, nor do I know anyone from Middletown, OH. I don't even really know where Middletown, OH is. So I let it ring. No message was left when the machine picked up either, so you know I was getting robo-called. Our caller ID list reads like this: 22 missed calls, one call from the schools, one from the Winey Hubby telling me he's on his way home, and one the town library (I totally have to remember to go pick up that book). That is all in the past 72 hours. Now, the missed calls each represent a call we didn't answer, because they were identified as "private", “out of area”, Washington, DC, or other towns we don't know anyone from. Twenty two!!! That translates to about 7 times a day that someone in the Winey household looks at the caller id and yells out "Don't answer it!"

I must admit that for a while, it was a bit flattering. Winey Hubby would come home and I would announce that Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Newt Gingrich or the governor of Ohio had called us that day. OK, ha ha...yes, isn't it funny how popular we are? Tee hee. That wore off very quickly, let me tell you.

But then I came upon a bottle of wine that I thought just might make all this a bit easier to bear: flipflop Merlot (2009, 13.5%, California). I’m sure many of you are thinking “How does a wine named after summer sandals make election madness easier?” But remember, to us in the swing states, flip flop is a verb to describe what politicians accuse each other of doing. All day. On TV, radio... OK, I went through this already. So in an attempt to find some humor in all this attempted brainwashing, er, campaigning, I grabbed a bottle.

And let me tell you, if any Merlot could make this election a bit easier, this is the one. It starts with a bouquet of strawberry jam and a touch of cherry cordial. It tastes of black plum with some cherry overtones and a quick bite of blueberry at the end. It’s got a velvety feel to it. The tannins start to do their work in the finish, giving a lovely warm, toasty feeling on the tongue. They’re not harsh tannins by any means…kind of softer, but they do a wonderful job of keeping this Merlot from being way too fruity. This wine screams out for a good book, a comfy chair, a fire in the fireplace and a broken phone.

So now that I’ve got a wine to keep me happy during all this political madness, I just might make it to the end of the election season. And then the Christmas toy ads will start.
My name is The Winey Mom and I approved this message.


Winey side note:  In all the election nuttiness, sometimes basic things get overlooked. So ponder this: a portion of the money from every bottle of flipflop wine sold goes to Soles4Souls, an international charity that gives footwear to those who have none. Now that’s a phone call I would gladly take!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Winey Fun: Thoughts from 2012 Island Wine Fest, Put-in-Bay, Ohio

The Winey Family took our very first trip to the Lake Erie Islands this summer and I got to visit two of the wineries on the islands (Kelley's Island Winery, Heineman's Winery). We really enjoyed ourselves and were looking forward to our next trip out there. And then something wonderful happened: The Winey Mom was invited by the Miller Boat Line to attend the 10th Annual Island Wine Festival. Now, understand, I may be a Winey Mom, but I am a very smart Winey Mom. And when some very nice people offer a day full of transportation (ferry and golf cart!), wine and food to you and three of your friends, I would never be so unintelligent as to turn that down! (Seriously, would you?)
Our vessel to the festival:
Miller Ferry 

So on a brisk Saturday morning, the four Winey Moms boarded the Miller Ferry and bounced (it was kind of windy and I must admit we got a kick out of the astonished look on the face of our one friend who'd never been on a ferry that could take cars as well as people, much less do it leaping over a very choppy lake) our way across Lake Erie to South Bass Island's Put-in-Bay.  And there, on the grounds of the Put-in-Bay Winery was our festival.

Raising those Wine Festival glasses!
We stood for one quick moment gazing at the tables that held over 350 different wines from all over the world. We raised our glasses, and then headed on in. Our mission was to try as many different, new wines that we could so we'd have a whole new sipping repertoire to head home with. And while we made a lot of headway in this mission, in order to recount everything we sipped, I would need a separate blog (and a much better memory, to be painfully honest). So let me tell you about our sipping highlights.

The very first table we stopped at was offering samples of one of my favorite wines ever: Ménage à Trois. I am a huge fan of their red blend, but they also had their Pinot Grigio and their brand new Cabernet Sauvignon to sample. I will put it simply: find the Cabernet Sauvignon (13.7%, 2010, California) and get some. It was a wonderfully smooth wine, full of flavor and finish! The Pinot was also very good, but on a chilly fall day, the Cabernet stood out as one of our favorites. And this was our first table!!

My one friend had been telling me about this wonderful red wine she'd had at our local wine bar. And lo and behold, right next to the Ménage à Trois, there it was: The Show's Garnacha (14.9%, 2010, Northeastern Spain). Talk about a coincidence! This was my first experience with the Garnacha grape and I was not disappointed! Lots of fruit and a tinge of dark chocolate. I went home with a bottle of this one, easy decision there.

Cute polka-dot label
As we rounded the corner some very cute labels caught our eyes (No, we are not above the cute label draw. We're human for gosh sakes.) My friends decided to sip some OohLaLa Riesling. I didn't have any, but a bottle came home with us, so I'd say go for the cute polka dot labels and try some.

Moscato has been a hot wine this past year, and we couldn't pass up a chance to try some, especially since none of us had ever had Lotto Moscato before. I tasted a lot of bubbly peach and some smooth honeysuckle in it. And yes, a few bottles of Lotto came home with some of us.

Next up was Kendall Jackson. They make a Chardonnay that has become one of my go-to, never fail wines, but this time I spotted a Vintner's Reserve red blend called Summation (135%,2008, California). Wow! Another good reason to drink blends here. My (sloppier by the minute) notes mentioned rich, smooth, mocha and cherry. Second bottle into the Winey Mom carrier.

And then we rounded the corner and hit the Cakebread Cellars selection of wines. I will be honest with you, dear Winey friends, and admit that I have seen this wine quite a bit, but it is so darned pricey ($49 Chardonnay, $82 Cabernet) that I just didn't dare try it. Imagine spending all that money and not liking the wine? Horrors. But, this was the perfect opportunity for a sampling (although even the samples were on the pricey side: 4 and 5 tickets - most other wines were one or two sampling tickets). So I tried some of the Chardonnay. And yes, it was very good. But it wasn't any better than some much less expensive Chardonnay I've had. Ditto the Cabernet. Really, nothing against them, it's just that in my Winey little opinion, you can get wines that are just as good for much, much less.  One of us broke away to try some equally pricey Trinchero Meritage, which was retailing for $56 a bottle. Same thing. Good, but worth the money? Um, maybe not.

Giggle of the day
Back in the land of more affordable Winey Mom prices, we were all stopped dead at the very last table on our circuit.  Because there it was: the giggle of the day: Bitch Grenache (14%, 2009, Spain). Need I tell you that there were a bunch of ladies crowding round that table? Or that the sampling volunteers were having a really, really good time? Probably not. Ok, well, despite the fun pink label and all the thoughts that were running through our minds (we are all mothers of teenaged daughters...and let's just say that that noun works both ways), we reasoned that we loved The Show Granacha (which is Grenache in Spanish) so let's try this one. And you know what? We really liked it. It made the trip back home with us as well, and I have to say we had so much fun asking each other if we had our Bitches with us (not in us, with us).
So, mission accomplished? Well, let's see. Four Winey Moms got to try a whole bunch of new wines. They came home with 12 bottles between them. They had an amazingly fun time with the volunteers and attendees at the Festival. They got to miss sitting at a freezing cold varsity soccer game, sending the Winey Hubbies out on their own. They rode a ferry, drove a golf cart, did some shopping and laughed all day long.
Mission totally accomplished!

The Moms above were the guests of Miller Boat Lines, and were treated to an absolutely wonderful boat ride, tickets to the Wine Festival entry and tasting tickets for this article. (And yes, we wound up buying more tasting tickets..there were four of us, after all :)
We were also the guests of Island Transportation, who provided us with a golf cart to ride around in all day. And thank heavens they did, too! We'd have never made it on foot.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Blue Fin Wine & Why The Winey Hubby Was In The Doghouse

Let me start by saying that I love The Winey Hubby. He's a great guy, an awesome dad, a good friend...but when it comes to certain, um, circumstances, let's just say there is a definite deficit in his character.

Without being too graphic (although if you have children, you'll get my meaning easily), let's just say that when certain areas of our children's anatomies have reacted negatively to a virus or tummy issues over the years, the guy is a big CHICKEN. This is especially true when the Winey Children got sick in the middle of the night. ("Um, I'll go start the washing machine, you take over up here.") Or when the diaper was...OK, you get the idea, right? Oh wait, let me just add that he tends to get sympathetically barfy, no matter which end of the child was affected. Not a big help there.

But like I said, he's a great guy, so we kept him around. And then we got a dog. Now, you might think that a canine addition to a household is no big deal. But The Hubby had never had a dog until he was 40+ years old. I'm not sure there were even goldfish when he was growing up. That's not to say he didn't love our Chloe as much as the rest of us. She is an amazing little doggie. But, I refer  you back to the second paragraph of this post. Just replace the word children with dog and you will get my idea of the kind of help I received in housebreaking.

Nine years went by and we decided that Chloe needed a sister. We didn't really want her to be an only dog, after all, and the Winey Children were growing up and getting their own just a few weeks ago we welcomed Rory into the family. 

Typical puppy that she is, Rory was a little upset the first few nights home. She cried when we tucked her into her crate at bedtime. I guess it got to be a bit too much for the Hubby on her second night here, so he got up, took Rory and went to sleep in the guest bedroom with her. And Rory did appreciate it..she calmed down and slept peacefully. At least until....hold on, let me give you some background here: I wake up early to get the Winey Daughter off to school. It is a full 2 hours before the Winey Hubby usually rouses himself to get ready for the day. On this day, though, shortly after I got up, the Hubby brought Rory downstairs, mumbled something about her needing to go out, and went back upstairs. No biggie. I took the doggies out, romped with them a bit, got the girl off to school and then went upstairs to get ready to go walking with my girlfriend. That was when I noticed that there was an odd....odor...coming from the guest room. And lo and behold, guess what Rory had done ON THE QUILT sometime early in the morning (Both. Okay, there I told you). But...did the Winey Hubby clean it up, or even WARN me that there was a smelly little problem? Nope. He just brought the dog down and trotted off to our bed without even warning me that the queen sized quilt was going to need fumigating. This resulted in his being called an insulting name and being hit with a pillow while he still slept. Before leaving for my walk, I left him this note: "Husbands who leave dog presents for their wives to discover at some later point owe said wife some really good wine, as well as the choice of movie viewing for that evening." I thought that was fair. Very fair. Cause I really didn't smack him with the pillow all THAT hard.

So Winey Hubby dutifully (he's not dummy, after all) made his way to Trader Joe's before he headed home. And being the frugal kind of guy that he is, he decided to buy two bottles of wine, because they were so cheap! So home came a bottle of Blue Fin Petite Sirah (2011, 12.5%, Napa) and a bottle of Blue Fin Chardonnay (2010, 12.5%, Napa). Each bottle was $4.99.

And yes, they were a bargain. They are part of the Bronco Wine Company family of wines (the most famous of which is Charles Shaw, aka Two Buck Chuck) that are proprietary to TJ's. I started that evening with the Petite Sirah. It was a pretty maroon color that gave off a bouquet of black berry jam. And that's where it all stopped. The taste absolutely did not live up to that bouquet. What little I could taste was more of a warm, earthy taste with a bit of fruit that disappeared as soon as it hit my mouth. It finished very dry and tannic. Well, not exactly what you'd hope for after having to earn the bottle of wine the way I did, huh? See my caption at the left and I believe you will gain a true insight to whether or not I'd buy this again.

A keeper!
A few nights later I cracked open the Chardonnay. It was a pale straw gold color with aromas of lime, melon and some faint oak. It tasted of pears and warm oak and a touch of cinnamon and finished with a mellow oakey pear taste. Now we're talking!! This was a $4.99 bottle of Chardonnay that was rich and flavorful - not to big and buttery, not too fruity - the perfect balance. The Winey Hubby was out of the doghouse! I'm adding it to my TJ's list of wines to keep buying (yes, along with Two Buck...I love that stuff).



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Friday, September 28, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Doubling Up With Double Decker

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words "double decker"? It's a 2 level red bus that roams the streets of London, right? I'm sure that's what most people think of first...but for me, it's a two level red bus that roams the streets of Paris. Here's why...

On the Chunnel Train, 2005
Many moons ago, when the Winey Son and Daughter were in 7th and 3rd grade, our Winey Cousins were living in London for a few years. They were (and still are) the kind of cousins that are your friends, and would have been even if you hadn't been related - pretty cool, huh? They were also the kind of relatives/friends who insisted we visit them for spring break and stay with them in their mews home. Not being idiots (who would turn down free lodging in London?) we flew "across the pond" for 10 days of London. While we were there, we decided that it would be a lot of fun to take the Chunnel train over to Paris for 2 nights. Easy as anything - and a ton of fun to ride under the English Channel. (The Winey Children will tell you the best part was the dining car. Isn't that always the case?)

Winey Daughter & Winey Husband on that
Paris Double Decker bus ride, 2005
Anyway, given that our time in the City of Lights was limited, we decided to buy tickets on the famed Paris double decker sightseeing bus line. (The better to see the city than to speed through it underground on the Metro.) That first sunny spring day, we climbed to the top of the bus and began our journey through Paris. Heading toward Notre Dame, we navigated some rather small and narrow neighborhood streets. As we approached an intersection in one of these charming neighborhoods, an elderly man was crossing the street just ahead of the bus. The bus kept moving forward until it looked as if we would totally flatten that man into a French crepe. Our then 9 year old daughter, being the good Samaritan that she is, decided that she alone would save this gentleman by screaming, at the top of her little lungs, "HEY DUDE. WATCH OUT!!!" First of all, I don't think I'd ever heard her use the word "dude" before this. Second of all, the man obviously did NOT understand what this small blonde child was screaming at him. Thirdly, the bus was a flat front bus and did stop in time to avoid smushing him. Fourth and so on: Winey Hubby and I could not stop laughing. Winey Son couldn't believe his sister had done this. And from that point on, for all these many year, the phrase "Hey dude, watch out!" has been a family joke and evoked memories of a very fun Double Decker Bus ride.

So, where is the wine in all of this? It's in a bottle labelled "Double Decker", a line of wines from the Wente Family Estate. (See my article: Choosing Wente Wines). I was fortunate enough to be sent two of the three Double Decker offerings.

The Double Decker Red Blend (2009, 13.5%, California) marries Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Barbera together. It gives off a strong cherry bouquet. It is absolutely luscious in the mouth, with flavors of cocoa, mocha and black cherries. The finish is smooth with some very light oakey tones to it(the only oak used to age it is termed "neutral" oak, so there are no biting tannins).

I am loving red blends more and more. Why not take a lesson from Mother Nature and combine the best of what she gives us? This could be a new favorite red around the Winey household.

Now on to the white side of this double decker tasting. The Double Decker Pinot Grigio (2010, 13%, California) brings the scents of tropical fruit and fresh air to your nose! It tastes of zesty citrus, some tropical fruit and ends in a wash of tart green apples. The feel of this wine is smooth as well - but with a tiny bit of a mineral bite before it rounds out into a softer ending. So full of taste and liveliness. (I had some fun tasting this while making dinner: If you eat a strawberry and then sip it, the tartness of the wine really comes out - almost to where you'd think you were sipping a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But, if you nibble a blueberry and then sip this wine, the taste mellows a bit and becomes a bit rounder. YUMMY. And yes, that is the technical term.)

The Double Decker winemaker is fifth generation winemaker Karl D. Wente. He may be 5th generation, but he does wonders on a double decker level. These wines sell for under $10 a bottle and I would suggest a case for your next party. Or simply to fill your wine rack up. I'm heading out, on a double decker bus if I can find one here in the suburbs of Cleveland, to find more of them!!

I was sent these wines for sample purposes. Very happy about it, too!

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