Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Pairing Made Simple! Foodies Chardonnay

So much has been written about pairing wine with food. It's one of the most confusing and sometimes downright intimidating wine dilemmas out there. Sure, you know what YOU like to eat. And you know what YOU like to sip. But if you pair them together, will it be a taste disaster? Will your guests have to chug from their water goblets the rest of the evening? Suppose some judgemental old uncle turns up his nose at your choice on Christmas? Or worse, YOUR birthday (for heaven's sake why are you inviting judgemental relatives to your birthday fete?). What if the wine makes your main course taste just plain old icky. Or vice versa. Oh, the horrors!

You could easily solve this problem by never eating and sipping at the same time. But come on, what fun would that be? Plus, if you live a life anything like mine, there are certain holidays where you not only need to sip during the meal, but before and after as well.

There is a wine out there that understands your fear. And it is aptly named Foodies. It's a line made especially for World Market and it is here to take all the angst out of picking wine to go with your chicken, beef or pork. The labels even feature pictures of the appropriate food providing animal, with diagrams of which meat comes from which part of said animal.

I decided that my first bottle of Foodies would be the Chardonnay (13%, 2010, California). It had a cute little green drawing of a (diagrammed) chicken on the label. And thus I decided what we were having for dinner that night.

But I have to admit I did pause for a moment. There are a gazillion kinds of "chicken" you can make. Chicken Parmesan, Coq au Vin (which Julia Child demands you make with copious amounts of red wine), fried chicken, sweet Chicken Marsala, spicy Chicken Mole...what was I to do? In the end, I decided that the simplest approach to this pairing was the best and went with good old roasted chicken and herbs picked fresh from the Winey Family garden. (The label actually recommends pairing the Chardonnay with roasted chicken and garlic smashed potatoes, so I was somewhat comforted by my choice in the end.)

I have to admit, the wine really did go well with the roasted chicken. It has a medium golden color and gives off a bouquet of pear and oak. It tasted of pear and green apple with a hint of a tropical mango. It was smooth and buttery in my mouth and finished crisply of apples and a tiny bit of cinnamon. The mellow taste did very well against the herbs on the chicken. The creamy body got along nicely with the crispiness of the chicken. 

This is not to say that you MUST serve Chardonnay with your chicken. If you want a sweeter white with your spicy chicken, or a full bodied red to go with that Coq au Vin, do it. But if you want an inexpensive ($7.99), great tasting sure bet with a really cute label, go with Foodies. Stay tuned for the beef (Cabernet Sauvignon) review. The Winey Hubby has that "I need some red meat" look in his eyes. (Not unusual, trust me.)


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Goats Do What? Goats Do Roam (Red)

Another entry in my "I want to try new wine regions outside of California" series....

I love a winemaker who doesn't take him or herself too seriously. A good giggle can go a long way in making the day much better sometimes. The wine Goats Do Roam (a play on the very serious Cotes-du-Rhone French wines) made me giggle so I bought some. (There are times when I just know I am a marketer's dream consumer.)

Goats Do Roam Red (2011, South Africa, 14%) comes from the western cape of South Africa. It is a dizzying blend of 6 different reds: Syrah 61%, Cinsaut 16%, Mourvèdre 12%, Grenache 5%, Carignan 4% and Petite Syrah 2%. Whew! That's a whole bunch of grapes to get into one bottle. I really wasn't sure what to expect with this big a mix, but I'm not afraid of goats. Spiders, yes. Goats, bring 'em. (They're kind of cute in a bearded, curved horn way.)

The bouquet on this wine was of very ripe cherries, some dark fruit and mellow oak. The taste was VERY tart cherries and plums. The oakey flavor sat warmly on the edges of the fruit taste, and there was a definite smokey flavor above it all. It finished with some very loud tannins. (I prefer tannins that aren't able to dry a load of laundry in my mouth. It was juuuust a bit drying.)

It was sort of hard to get a handle on this one. I had to really let it breathe for quite a while, because after my first initial whiff and sip, I would have said that there was a bacon-y flavor to it all. And not in a particularly good way either. So I let it decant for over an hour (do you have any idea how hard it is to pour wine and ignore it for that long, at least in my little world?) and came back to it. It got better, but I can't say it got great.

I guess I was expecting a bit more out of a wine with so many different varietals in it. Or at least I was expecting more flavor and taste before that drying finish. Would I buy it again? Probably not. But, I will be heading out to try some of their white wines, for which South Africa is becoming more and more famous for.

The winery's famous
 goat tower.
Now, back to the giggles. While I can't say I loved this red, I have a profound liking for any company that names their wines, among other things, Goat Door, Goatfather and....wait for it: Bored Doe. And in case you are wondering, yes, a certain French wine took great offense when these wines first went on the market here in the US. The resulting lawsuit publicity sold lots and lots of bottles, and eventually, Goats Do Roam was the number one selling South African wine here. Hee hee. (For the record, the company swears on its website that one day, the owner's son left the winery's goat gate open and a bunch of goats wandered into the vineyards and well, snacked like goats snack. Goats DID roam.)

I also have a very profound respect for the man who founded The Goats Do Roam Wine Company.  Charles Back also founded Fairview Wines and  Fairvalley, one of the most successful Black-run wine labels in that country. And in South Africa, THAT kind of thinking goes a much longer way than a little giggle.


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Winey side note: If you want to read about Charles Back, the founder of Goats Do Roam, Fairview and Fairvalley, he is one of the featured South African winemakers in Natalie MacLean's book Unquenchable. You can also find out what it's like to milk a goat. You might as well read about goat milking there, because you won't be reading about it on this blog anytime soon. :) Pin It

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: This Wine's From Joisey. You From Joisey?

For those of you who need a translation or explanation for the above title, it goes back to a 1981 Saturday Night Live skit written by and starring Joe Piscopo (and Deborah Harry, singer AND Jersey Girl). The original line is "I'm from Joisey! You from Joisey?" The skit also led to a very famous ad lib, which has become a catch phrase heard by Jerseyans everywhere when they tell you where they're from: "What exit?" (meaning what exit on the infamous NJ Turnpike).

I live in Ohio. I have lived here for just about 25 years now. But I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. I spent my summers down the shore (not AT the shore, Jerseyans go DOWN the shore). I clog my arteries with Taylor Ham (I still do. I make a Taylor Ham stock-up run every time I visit Mom). I know what a hard roll is. I have eaten in diners at all hours of the day and night. I stand at attention when I hear Springsteen's "Born To Run" (and have taught my Ohio born children to do the same). It is my dream to have Springsteen sing "Jersey Girl" to me in person. I would kill for a good salt bagel with cream cheese. I never paid sales tax on clothes or pumped my own gas growing up. And I am a better person for it all!
And for the record, yes, I am from Joisey. Exit 15w on the Turnpike. OK???

Now, you might think, why is The Winey Mom lecturing us about the benefits of being born and raised in the third smallest state? Where is the wine in all this?

The wine in all of this is grown and made in New Jersey. Specifically in the small Musconetcong Valley town of Finesville. (Western New Jersey....just over the Delaware River from Bucks County, PA) It's here that you'll find Alba Vineyards, the folks who produced Mainsail White. You don't think of wine when you hear New Jersey, do you? But lately their wines have been garnering some attention - all of it good! (see The Bottle Notes article on The Judgement of Princeton)

I found Mainsail White at Livingston Bottle King. If you live in Northern New Jersey, as I did and my mother still does, you know the store of which I speak. Kind of legendary around our parts, since you can't generally can't find wine in supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations. Thus, you go to Bottle King (at least I do!). 

I hope you are totally getting the feel for my home state by reading this. If not, you just aren't trying hard enough. Please go get yourself a bagel and a cup of cawfee (as it is pronounced there) and continue reading..

Mainsail White (NV, 11.5%, New Jersey) is made from a blend of estate grown Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White and Riesling (just a little) grapes. It starts out with that Riesling aroma, which to me was pure honeysuckle - not real heavy honey, a more flowery honey. It tastes of key lime with the honeysuckle on the outside of your tongue. There was a hint of something else there too - I'm guessing it was sea air added for Jersey authenticity. The finish was tangy with just enough roundness to keep it from being too crisp and puckery - a smooth finish.

The folks at Alba call this their "Wednesday Night White" because it goes with lots of different foods and fits perfectly into a mid-week ($7.99) budget (monetary and time-wise for those of us with children that play sports).

I was oh so pleasantly surprised to read about the growing wine industry in New Jersey. Right now there are 41 wineries there - not bad, huh? Cause when you've got the Atlantic Ocean pushing you on one side, and New York City and Philly on the other, squeezing all those wineries in is fairly impressive, isn't it?

Actual, unretouched photo of
The Winey Mom's shopping
cart, taken during her last
visit to NJ, 7/12.
If you get the chance, give a Jersey wine a few sips - I think you'll really like it. And if you visit the state, please let me know. I'm low on my Taylor Ham supply.


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Beaching it with Bota Boxes

I am a beach person. There is no question about it. I spent summers growing up on the Jersey Shore. I am told I spent the entire summer before I was born on the beach at Red Bank (my mom is also a beach person and was a teacher - hence the summer off). I have been known to spend HOURS on the beach, as long as there was a good book nearby. I love sitting there, reading there, napping there and eating there...and of course, I love sipping wine on the beach too.

But there is always that issue of getting bottles down to the beach (red solo cups work fine if your house is nearby, but they are a bit limited in quantity and they splash). Also, bottles tip easily and it's really, really hard to suck wine out of sand. Just trust me on this one and don't ask for details, okay?

And then along comes Bota Box, asking to be taken on a picnic (really, this was an assignment I was given for another site, and since the very nice Bota distributor found out I was taking them on vacation he decided I needed a LOT of boxes to enjoy myself. He was right too.). So of course I obliged them and decided to picnic on the beach.

Ready to hit the sand!
Pinot Grigio decided to settle in under
the umbrella, being so light and all.
As you can see, I had two different sized boxes. The Cabernet Sauvignon (2011, 13%, appellation: South Australia, made in California) came in a nifty little tetra pack that is the equivalent of 3 glasses of wine. The Pinot Grigio 3 liter pack is the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine.  Despite their size differences, each box settled in very nicely at the beach.

Cabernet, being a bit darker,
decided to soak up the rays right away.
With proper eyewear of course.
I hadn't had much boxed wine before this, and I really wondered what to expect. I did know that boxed wine was supposed to be a bargain - the 3 liter sells for about $21 - that's four bottles of wine for $21. The tetra is $4.99. But that was all I really had heard. However, I was committed to sipping and sip I would.

The Cabernet was duly opened, giving off a wonderful aroma of black cherries. And believe me, I knew my cherries that day because the Winey Daughter and I were engaged in a cherry spitting contest at different points throughout the afternoon (NOTE: this only works if you aren't sitting really, really close to your beach neighbors). The taste was cherry with some oaky tang and a hint of blackberry on top of the mouth. It finished fruit into oak and had a nice smooth finish.

To be honest, it was an extremely hot day and one glass of the Cabernet was all I could really handle in between trips into the water. So Pinot Grigio (2011, 13%, California) had to wait a bit to be opened.

But when I did open it, the first word that came to my mind was tropical. The aroma was melon followed by tastes of melon and kiwi and some mango. There was some orange and a teeny bit of lime on the end of it and it finished tart and light. This wasn't as tartly dry as some Pinot Grigios. This wine had a roundness to it somewhere that made it a bit more lush. It was so refreshing during that hot July week.

Bota boxes are very eco-friendly. They are also very single drinker friendly. You can drink just one glass and when you seal it back up with the handy-dandy cap, the wine still stays fresh - for over a month! This is somewhat important with the smaller boxes and extremely important with that big 3 liter box - seriously, unless it's a party, that box won't be empty at the end of the night. And it really does stay fresh. Right now, there is a box of Pinot Grigio in my fridge that has been there for 2 weeks. Each glass is as crisp and lively as the first one I had. Oh, the wonders of cardboard.

These wines are perfect party wines. To quote Billy Joel (sort of), "A box of red, a box of white, whatever kind of mood you're in tonight." So you can make your red wine friends happy, your white wine friends happy and also know that the wine will stay fresh - inside or out, beach or patio.

I had a great time sipping Bota Box wine - not because of the novelty of the box (although that was kind of fun), but because it was good wine!


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I was given these wines for review purposes and was very happy about it, too.

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