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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