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