Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: A Quick Little Review of "Christmas at Biltmore" Wine

When the Winey Hubby and I were first married, we lived in North Carolina. He was getting his law degree at the time and while we didn't have much time (or money for that matter!) to get away, we did manage a weekend trip or two. One of our absolute favorites was a drive to Asheville, NC, home of the famous Biltmore Mansion as well as The Biltmore Winery. Back then, the winery was brand spanking new and the wines were numbered. (For the record, our favorite was #19 - a sweeter white wine.)

photo of Biltmore Winery, Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Winery
Fast forward 25 or so years, and I am still a big fan of Biltmore Wines. We took the Winey Daughter to the estate a few years ago and I can honestly say if you ever get a chance to tour this magnificent mansion, do it!! It is breathtaking. The winery is now the most visited winery in the nation.

Now flashback to earlier this week, when the wonderful folks at Biltmore asked me if I would be interested in reviewing their limited release Christmas at Biltmore Wine. Would I??? Does Rudolph have a red nose?

bottle of Christmas at Biltmore Wine, 2013So, I joyfully opened a bottle of Christmas at Biltmore (2012, 12.8%, grapes from CA and WA, made in NC - truly an American wine!). Actually, before opening it, I took a good look at the label. It's so pretty - a painting of Biltmore in all of its Christmas splendor. It was chosen via a wine label design contest that the winery holds for this varietal. So if you are so inclined, you can find the info for next year's contest here. Please note that the Winey Mom is not so inclined, as her artistic skills are far below her uncorking skills.

Anyway, on to the wine. A very light gold color, it's a blend of  Muscat Canelli and Gewurztraminer with a teeny bit of Riesling. So the first aroma that reaches your nose is flowers, followed quickly by honey and pineapple. The taste starts out sweet, but moves on to some bright acidity. I loved the way this wine moved around in my mouth. The acidity gave it almost a bubbly feel, so it stayed bouncy and never entered into that icky thick sweet territory. The flavors were honey and sweet citrus (the pineapple again), with a touch of  faint cinnamon spice. It finished tart and citrusy. I'd put it at a semi-sweet white. Definitely not dry.

If you buy this from the on-line wine store at Biltmore, it's $12.99. While Biltmore wines are readily available (I love the Biltmore Century red and its white counterpart, by the way), you may have to search a bit harder for the Christmas at Biltmore. But it's well worth it. Especially if you can get your hands on it for the upcoming holidays. I'd call this wine a real crowd pleaser. It would pair nicely with your Christmas ham as well as the many sides that accompany it. Since we are dining on roast beast (thank you Dr. Seuss!) Christmas Day in the Winey Household, I will serve this with appetizers, which include shrimp, bite sized quiches and whatever else I think of while I'm doing the grocery shopping tomorrow.

I really enjoyed this one, Winey Friends! It's got enough flavor and zip to be yummy, but it is also the rare sweet white that doesn't weigh you down. You can leave that to the cookies and the chocolate and those little quiches, which I seem to be unable to resist.

Cheers! Merry sipping!

I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. 

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Decking the Tree With A German Riesling

I am all for waiting until AFTER Thanksgiving to haul out the Christmas decor. But that's about it: I barely give it 24 hours until I start decking the halls. In fact, it is a Winey Family tradition that the day after Thanksgiving, we all (and by all I mean the dogs as well) head out to our favorite cut your own Christmas tree farm and after the usual haggling (the length of which directly correlates with the weather), choose and chop down a tree. I had to chuckle this year though. You see, when the Winey children were younger, it was considered quite the thrill to be able to help and/or actually use the tree saw. Ah, but they have grown wiser with the passing years. Wiser as in, "I'm not laying down in the snow/mud. You do it." For the record, this year it was snow. And it took both of them and the Winey Hubby to finally saw through the trunk. I was relegated to dog duty, 
children carrying fresh cut Christmas tree
The Winey Children carrying
our fresh cut tree
which meant I had to hold the older doggie in my arms because she got tired and at the same time, keep the one year old, six pound terror from barking her head off at all the other families and their dogs. I had doggie paw soaked jeans for the entire afternoon.

But eventually, the tree (blue spruce) was upright and straight and settled in the corner of our family room, ready to be adorned with our billion Christmas ornaments. Seriously, where do they all come from? And this after last year's disastrous tree-falling episode which actually wiped out a whole bunch of them. Anyway.. You can't really decorate a tree without retelling the story of each ornament (the Thomas the Tank Engine stage, The Madeline years, soccer, golf, vacations....), but being the Winey Mom, I can't really decorate without sipping on something to celebrate the fact that all four of us are 1) in one room at the same time and 2) it's Christmas!! 

Hans von Wilhelm Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese Christmas trees were introduced to us via Germany's Prince Albert, hubby to Queen Victoria. So I decided to go with a German Riesling while we decorated. I chose Hans von Wilhelm Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese (2011, 8.5%, Mosel region, Germany). OK, I didn't actually choose this one. It was given to me by friends for my big birthday bash this past summer. Oh, and these friends? They're from Germany. So they know their German wines, believe me. It also helped that being a sweeter wine, it had a lower alcohol content, allowing me to keep my wits about me and not stab myself with ornament hangers or tree branches while we worked. 

decorated Christmas tree
The finished product!
The wine started out with a sort of a sweet gingery aroma. No tang to it, but there was some ginger in there. And some sweet, ripe pear. It felt very rich and full in my mouth, and tasted of oranges and flowers. The flavors were not overpowering though, so I didn't feel as if I were sipping straight grape juice. There was maybe a hint of acidity that kept it from being icky. Plus, there was some mellowness to it all. Sweet? Yes it was. Refreshing...well, if it were a hot summer night, I'd have to say go with a Sauvignon Blanc. But for a cozy evening decorating a Christmas tree, this was a perfect wine. I would call it a "lighthearted" wine, because it went so well with the activity of the evening. You didn't have to think to much as you sipped. I enjoyed the taste, placed another ornament on the tree and repeated the process. 

Don't be intimidated by all the big German words on the label of this or any other German wine. Here is a little primer for you: Hans von Wilhelm is the wine maker. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen is the vineyard. Riesling is the varietal, or type of wine. Spätlese means late harvest and is a term for wine made from fully ripe grapes. It's part of the huge classification system in Germany. Don't sweat it -  if you see the word Spätlese, know that it is from the upper level of German wines and is sweet, but not dessert wine sweet. I feel like I need a German wine classification refresher course every time I open a bottle. Hope this helps. Also, don't kill yourself trying to find this exact Riesling Spätlese  (not all German wines are available in all areas of the country). Just look for the above clues (ie: Riesling, Spätlese) and you will have a similarly sweet wine experience.  

You should buy this wine if you like sweet wine, of course. It'll run around $11 - German wines are always a good buy. You could also serve it after a winey dinner party, as an end to the evening or start out with it with your appetizers. It would pair nicely with a whole range of foods, but I think it paired perfectly with Decking the Halls, vintage 2013. 


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Selling Out The House With Hogue Late Harvest Riesling

Each November, for the past 3 years, I have gone to a wine tasting. Big deal, you say, aren't you a wine blogger? Not much of a stretch there, huh? Well, true, but this tasting is a special one. It's put on by our West Point Parents Club and is actually a big fundraiser for our group. It starts out with a contest: all the club members are asked to submit a name for a wine label. The only stipulation is that the name has to have some tie in to West Point. Past winners have included Stoney Lonesome Grapes (named after an entrance gate at West Point), Hoo-ah Harvest (hoo-ah being the Army equivalent of Yippee!!) and Red Sash Splash (Firsties, or seniors, get to wear red sashes and scare all the underclassmen).

Northeast Ohio West Point Parents Club wine label winner 2013 Chateua Furlough
The winning label!
This has been a bit of a different year for us West Point parents, in that our Cadets have had to deal with a sequester (which resulted in many activities and internships and field trips being canceled) and a shutdown (good bye to civilian professors for a few days). The impact wasn't all that horrible on them (especially when you consider what many government workers had to deal with), and after all, they are kind of a tough bunch. But, in keeping with my theory that West Point parents have amazing senses of humor, the winning wine name in our label contest this year was: Chateau Furlough. How 2013 American, yes?

We print up labels (perfect for holiday gift giving) and have a wine tasting to celebrate. And what a wine tasting it is! The local restaurant that hosts us goes above and beyond to come up with wines and food pairings for our evening. This year, the 5 course tasting featured wines from Robert Mondavi, Estancia and the two restaurant brands we chose to be our "Chateau Furlough" labels. But far and away, the hit our of our evening was Hogue Cellars Late Harvest Riesling (2011, 11%, Washington State).

Now, before all you sweet wine haters out there jump off this page, let me tell you that this is one of the best Rieslings I've ever had. Sweeter, sure - but there is a crispness to it that makes the flavors soar. The grapes are 100% Riesling, and are fermented in stainless steel, so you have to know that it's the growing season, the late harvest and Washington terroir (soil) that make this such and amazing wine.

bottle of Hogue Late Harvest Riesling, 2011, Washington StateOn the nose, you get a bouquet of of apples and honey. The feel of the wine is a bit surprising when you first sip it, given that rich bouquet. You'd almost expect something thick and syrupy, but nope. You get a feel of crispness and even some acidity that keep the wine from being cloyingly sweet (take that, all of you Riesling pooh-poohers!).  I tasted some clementine and red apple, but a friend swore there were flowers in her mouth as well. And again, the whole idea of the crispness just made this wine burst in your mouth instead of settling sweetly there. It was paired that evening with chicken dumplings in teriyaki sauce and was absolutely perfect.

How perfect? Well, by the end of the evening, the wonderful folks at the restaurant were SOLD OUT of this wine. In fact, they were oversold, because the clamor (and believe me, after 5 courses, we were quite the clamoring crowd) for this one was so great that they took extra orders! (Everyone has theirs now, so don't anyone out there worry.)  Even for our parents club, this was an amazing feat. (Seriously, you should see us at the Army Navy Game every year...but that's another story.)

Buy this wine if you like Riesling. Buy it if you want to serve it with your smoky, tangy appetizers. It would be perfect on its own as well. But, I'm also going to tell you to buy this wine if you have any thoughts that Riesling is just way too sweet and one dimensional for your taste. It really was that good. Make sure you get the late harvest varietal, which will give you that extra little kick that the grapes get from hanging around a bit longer than their other vineyard mates.

If you want to read about another West Point Wine Tasting, here it is:
Winey Tasting Notes: 2010 Guenoc Pinot Grigio & Cabernet Sauvignon: Hoo-ah!!! 

And since I know you are all waiting for it, here it is:


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: A Velvet Sledgehammer And A Song To Sip It With

bottle of Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 vintageIf you are a person of my age bracket (last of the baby boomers...), when you hear the word "sledgehammer" my guess is you flash back to the 80's and the song by Peter Gabriel. "I want to be your sledgehammer, Why don't you call my name.." If you are also like me, you now have an earworm for the rest of the day. I apologize. Kind of.

Now, I recently advanced to a certain age, the celebration of which required a huge surprise party in my honor. (Thank you to the Winey Hubby and the Winey Daughter!) And since I have only the smartest friends on the planet, many of them brought me wine. (No, I am not hard to shop for.) So not only did they gift me on my birthday, they also gave me plenty to write about for quite a while to come.

One of those bottles happened to be filled with Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.9%, CA). So even though I had the song running and running and running through my head, and I knew that uncorking the bottle would probably cause me to start singing it out loud, I opened it anyway.

The first scents to hit my nose were of dark plums. The first taste to hit me was the chocolate! Yay! And not just any chocolate, layers of mocha and sweet cocoa. It was so good...because it was followed by ripe cherries. Two of my favorite tastes in or out of a wine bottle. It was all tempered by the tannins, which really weren't very sharp - I'd have to say they leaned toward the mellower side of the scale. The wine felt smooth and supple in my mouth and I would definitely say it was full of flavor.

This was a much more fruit forward Cabernet than I was expecting, especially when you head to the website and find out that this is marketed as a big, manly wine. They've got pictures of stubbly faced men and references to bachelor parties all over the thing. But I have to wasn't really a big, in-your-face Cabernet. It didn't hit you like a sledgehammer (the actual tool, not the song). So while you may shy away from this one because you want a bigger taste, don't. It's a very nice, flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon which reminded me of why I liked Cabs in the first place. I would call it a velvet sledgehammer.  The price won't smack you either (around $10).

Again, my apologies for the earworm. If it helps any, I've got it now too. So let's all share it together:


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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Celebrating Milestones with Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon

Isn't it funny how you remember certain things about certain events? In my case, I am talking about the wine (big surprise there). The Winey Hubby and I have been married for 28 years (I was, um, a child bride, yeah, that's it, a child bride), and while all of our anniversary celebrations have been fun, our 20th was one for the books.

bottle of Liberty School Cabernet SauvignonLet me take you back to that year: 2005. On the day of our actual anniversary, the Winey Son (then 13 years old) was playing in a golf tournament. The 18 holes were slated to be done in plenty of time for The Winey Grammy to come over and babysit son and his then 9 year old sister while Hubs and I went out to dinner. What we did not plan on, but should have, given the Northeast Ohio weather, was the continuous rain that fell starting early in the morning. Starting tee times were delayed. And delayed. And...OK, you get the idea here. The only problem was that this was the final tournament of a summer long series of matches held throughout the area. It had to be played. And given the fact that they could only close the course to outsiders for one day, it had to be played that day. At some point, the skies cleared a bit and the decision was made that the golfers would play a 9 hole tournament. That still did not even remotely guarantee that our son would be done in time for us to make our dinner reservation. So Grammy joined us at the course with the Winey Daughter in tow and we all settled in to follow the 9 holes. To this day, I am so glad we stayed because the Winey Son actually took home a very nice trophy.

The Winey Hubby, being the very kind person that he is, decided that we needed to celebrate not just our anniversary, but the golf trophy as well, so our romantic dinner for 2 turned into a dinner for 5 rather wet people. And it was at this dinner that Grammy and I discovered Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon. It actually was a good thing she was with us, because she and I are the red wine lovers. It didn't come by the glass, so I never would have tasted it if we hadn't ordered the celebratory bottle. (I am also glad we had a really nice dinner, because our planned anniversary trip to New Orleans was cancelled by a hurricane named Katrina a few weeks later.)

Flash forward to this past summer, when I celebrated a milestone birthday. One of the ones with a zero at the end of it. And there among my presents was a bottle of the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.5%, Paso Robles, CA). It was surrounded by an array of designer chocolates too, making it a VERY memorable pairing! And I liked it just as much on my significant birthday as I did on my 20th wedding anniversary.

The wine starts out with an aroma of dark, ripe cherries and plums along with a whiff of oaky spices. The taste is less fruity than you'd think, given the bouquet: still the cherry and some red berry, but the spice is a bit more pronounced here - nutmeg or allspice. Definitely an autumnal spice taste. As you might guess, the tannins hang around and are medium strong - not drying, but they really gave the wine some nice structure.

Buy this wine if you like a well behaved, well rounded, smooth red wine, especially if you like a little oak with your fruits. I would call this is really versatile wine - on its own, with food, and very definitely with the chocolate raspberry truffles that I had to grab from the Winey Daughter and make her share. Geesh - they were my present, after all. But I digress. Great wine, great price (about $15), great sipping. Great memories.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Finally Some Time For Wine

You know those days when you are running around catering to the needs of your very busy children who cannot drive yet? You coach, you carpool, you run a bake sale, you carpool, you volunteer at school, you carpool. It seems as if you never leave the car or get a chance to relax at home. Multiply this statement by the number of children you have.

I remember thinking that once my two Winey Children were old enough to drive, life would get so much simpler. And for a while, it did. Winey Son drove himself to golf matches and baseball practice. There was still Winey Daughter to drive around. But there were advantages to it. You will never get a better chance to hear about what your children are doing than when you are playing chauffeur to a carpool of 12 year old soccer players. Don't think of it as eavesdropping, think of it as keeping up with current events.

But then Winey Son went away to college, and eventually Winey Daughter entered her senior year in high school. And the SENIOR YEAR STORM hit our household. I must have forgotten about it: the unwritten rule that high school seniors will be so busy that they will suck you into their vortex of busyness, thereby denying the entire family any chance at all of 1) eating dinner together 2) eating dinner at a table, any table or 3) relaxing with a nice glass of wine after a long day.

Aurora High School Girls Varsity Senior Soccer Night 2013
Senior Soccer Night (insert bittersweet tears here)
I must admit I didn't see it coming. Sure, she's a soccer player. And it's a busy season. And she's the captain this year. But then BAM! College visits (my forced recovery from spinal surgery did not allow me to accompany her on these long hauls so Winey Hubby made the trips because heaven forbid she be interested in a college within a 2 hour drive of our home). BAM! Senior college info night. BAM! College nights at local venues. BAM! Senior Soccer Night. (sob) BAM! SAT's & ACT's. BAM! College applications. Let's not forget that the Winey Hubby and I might have lives to live. During soccer and football season, he can be found most evenings running the scoreboard at the high school football field. BAM! Playoffs. I signed on to help a good friend run for mayor of our town. BAM! Debates! BAM! Candidate meet and greets. And we still served as presidents of our local West Point Parents' Club. BAM! Go Army Beat Navy. ahem.

Is it a wonder we joked about not seeing each other except to fight for shower time (which really translates to hot water time - I think our hot water heater is getting old, but that's another post)?

And then one happened. We were all at home. It was a Saturday. It was raining. Without hesitation I ran to fridge and yanked out a bottle of Bixler Vineyards Union Island White. (2009, No ABV given, Lodi, CA). If ever an autumn evening called for a crisp white and a bunch of new magazines, this was it.

label of Bixler Vineyards Union Island White Wine
Union Island White is a blend of Viognier (58%) and Chardonnay (42%). Upon first sniff, you'll get some green apples and some mellow pear. The taste is tart, with those green apples showing up, along with some kiwi and some lemon-lime flavors. It finishes off with an apple-y oakey taste, but I'm not sure how, because it's aged in stainless steel and not barrels. But who am I to argue with my taste buds? The Viognier shines at first and Chardonnay shows up later. This is a very easy drinking wine. It could pair up with lots of different foods (chicken, pasta, fish - just stay away from the tomato sauces). I must say it paired very nicely with two October home magazines and one fall fashion mag.

I have always said what a big fan I am of red blends, but will confess to finding most white blends a bit too sweet. This one proved me wrong. It was tasty! I may need to get busy and try some more white blends real soon. But I'm going to wait til after soccer season.


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Barking Good! Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel

I have a confession to make. Don't judge me. But -- I have been buying Christmas gifts since August. OK, I know that sounds horribly annoying. And I would happily choke someone who says "I've had my Christmas shopping done since Labor Day". And yes, I would choke them with a string of Christmas lights.

But there is a reason I've been collecting Christmas gifts since then. I am a member of a Secret Elf gift exchange. This group is made up of West Point Moms from all over the country, and starting on September 1st, we put on our pointy ears and jingling elf hats and send our designated giftee an ornament each month until the big reveal on December 1st. It's so much fun and it gives you total permission to creep on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest accounts to find out what your Giftee likes. So lots of us get ornaments or decorations that are personalized with our Cadet's name and year, that celebrate the breed of doggie we have or highlight our home state.(I can't go into tooooo much detail on this or I may give myself away!)

Winey Mom post spine surgery with walker
Well of course I decorated my walker.
My September ornament proved that my Elf knows I have a little white doggie! So cute. But it was my October gift that pretty much brought tears to my eyes. You see, it has been a rather, well, let's say interesting summer here in Winey Mom land. To make a long story short, I kind of blew a gasket in my spine and wound up having some major (translate: OUCH!) spinal surgery in August. Even if I wanted to, which I didn't, I wasn't allowed to drive for 7 weeks. (On the plus side, I was also banned from housework. Not that I suggest it as a way to get out of cleaning..) Many of my West Point mom pals knew this because I arrived at our son's Ring Weekend (Bully for My Firstie & Ring Weekend at West Point) with a walker. And lots of pain pills.

Well my Elfie did her homework, because my "Christmas" gift for October was a bottle of wine! And not just any wine - it was a doggie themed wine. The card read "This little Elf heard you were not feeling well." Just what the doctor ordered!

picture of Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel, Mutt Lynch winery,The wine was Portrait of A Mutt Zinfandel (2007, 14.5, California) from the Mutt Lunch Winery. (I'm loving this!) Keeping with the mutt theme, some Carignane is blended into it. It's a very autumnal dusty red color and brings oak and raspberry and some earthy spices to your nose. The taste is doggone wonderful! Warm oak and raspberry and blueberry flow through your mouth when you sip it. There is a tinge of that spice again  at the end. It finishes up with warm berries and spices and a some pepper (Mutt says that's the Carignane showing through). When I was making notes to review this wine I wrote "SMOOTH, VELVETY" in really big letters. Obviously, this mutt made quite an impression on me, huh? ( Shopping note: Mutt Lynch is a smaller winery
so the easiest way to get your paws on this might be to order directly from them.)

bottle label, Portrait of a Mutt ZinfandelI have become a big fan of California Zinfandels and this wine just helps to seal my approval. It's really everything you want in a Zinfandel - fruity, but with layers of spice and a kiss of oak. I love the wine, love the doggie theme and love the Elf (whoever she is) who sent it. It was the perfect pick me up after a long and achy summer.

As the label says, “Just because I’m not pedigreed doesn’t mean I’m not a good dog!” VERY good dog! Very wonderful Elf!


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Some "Spur"s for My Very Muddy Cowboy Boots

I am not a selfish person. I truly don't mind sharing things. I share the bathroom with the Winey Hubby, and really, we have no problems there. I share my wine with friends - again, no problems. I share my advice with the Winey Children - um, OK, maybe not a problem free experience, but I try. And in the past few years, I have learned that I am able to share my footwear with the Winey Daughter. Yup, she topped out at a shoe size just a little bit less than mine. Which means that it is extremely easy for her to fit into my shoes. But not so much the other way around (a shoe can be a little too big...but a little too small? Ouch).

I have actually been in favor of this most times a pair is borrowed. It has saved us some money on dress shoes. However, I must draw the line at extending my favor when it comes to my cowboy boots. I love them - I really do. They are a soft brown color with some black lacy type overlays that make them the best of all color worlds. They work perfectly with my jeans - all 1,000 pair. (I don't really have 1,000 pair of jeans, it just seems that way.) Did I mention the lovely, low heels? No, well, let me do it now. They have the perfect heel - not too high, not too flat. Apparently, the Winey Daughter agrees with me. She "borrows" them constantly.

This is not to say she doesn't have her own pair of gorgeous cowboy boots. In fact, we bought our boots together on the same trip to Nashville a year and half ago. But hers have a high-ish heel. Not very good for rocking out on the lawn of all those country music concerts she went to this past summer at Blossom Music Center's Country Megaticket series (awesome venue - pavilion and lawn seats - can handle every act from Elton John to the Cleveland Orchestra). But if you are sitting  dancing on the lawn, apparently, you must have low heels.

That is why said boots were at nearly every concert in the series. They started with Tim McGraw and moved on to Rascall Flats, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean.  All was well. UNTIL Keith Urban came to town. Sort of.

It started like any other concert evening. Winey Daughter came downstairs decked out in full country regalia, already wearing my beloved boots. (I guess she had worn them so much that she didn't need to ask anymore. ??? ) I bade her goodnight and off she went.

The weather had been very sultry and summery that day. Hot and steamy, in country music lingo. But the rain held off. At least it did here in Cleveland. At least until about 9:30 pm. That was when the skies opened up and deposited a ton of mud-making raindrops on the concert goers. That was also when my boots were pretty much slathered in gobs of slimy, grassy dirt. Heels and all.

picture of muddy cowboy boots
This is AFTER drying out and
 a first attempt at cleaning. But seriously,
aren't they cute??
Oh wait - did I mention that the rain did not hold off in New York City? Which is where Keith Urban was trying to fly out of to get to the concert here in Cleveland. Which is where he stayed, due to the storms, overnight. He never made it here that evening. Luckily, his openers, Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch did, so there WAS some music to dance to. (Keith made it here two days later and gave an unbelievable show. Unfortunately, The Winey Daughter couldn't be at the make up concert, and my boots were given a reprieve to dry and heal - get it, heal/ heel?)

But in the meantime, there romped my boots. Sopping wet, mud covered, but still perfectly low heeled.

Where does the wine come in, you ask?? Well, it so happened that the winemakers at Murrietta's Well had just sent me some of their wine to review. One of these wines was called The Spur. Can you believe it? I might not be able to put a pair of spurs on my now completely soaked boots, but I sure as heck could sip some in my wine glass!

Murietta's Well The SpurThe Spur (2011,13.5%, Livermore Valley, CA) is a red blend of Petite Sirah (31%), Petit Verdot (27%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). It's an estate blend, so each of those wines was grown right on the grounds of the winery. (There really was and is an artesian well there, hence the name.) You start out by sniffing up some cherry and chocolate. When you first taste it, you get plums and cherries. And then the pepper (from the Petite Sirah, I'm told) hits you. As do some dark spices and oak. The tannins are very much present here. And while they are rather smooth (as opposed to pricking you with a spur), they do linger. The wine is more thin and sharp (like a good pair of spurs), not fruity and round.

Since this is totally not a fruit forward red blend, I'd pair it up with richer foods - like grilled steak or bison or with really rich cheeses. In an on line chat with the Murrietta's Well folks, I also learned that The Spur would make an outstanding marinade - especially if you brush it on near the end of cooking, so you get that oakey taste fresh on the meats.

Strap on this bottle of The Spur if you like your reds oakey and full of spices. (It retails for about $25 a bottle.) Just keep in mind that your cowboy boots should be clean, dry and teenage concert goer free if you intend to sip it while wearing them. And if anyone has some extra boot cleaner, feel free to send it my way. Luke Bryan is in town tomorrow night.

Off to check the weather forecast!


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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Winey Problem Solving: Those BIG Wine Bottles (and a discount code for us!)

I don't know about all of you, but I have a wine storage problem. And no, it's not because my state of the art wine cellar is overflowing. (Don't I wish.) It's because my winey little wine rack can only hold bottles of a certain sized bottom. I will now direct you to the actual, unretouched photo of my wine rack, below.  You can clearly see the oversized bottles standing next to it, not laying in it. It's not that we trip over them (although one of the Winey Doggies has taken to pawing at the large green bottle..not sure if she is asking for a sip or she thinks it's a doggie toy) it's just that it looks messy. And bottles should be stored on their sides. I want my wine to be well rested when I open it.
See what I mean?

This is not to disparage my wine rack. I love it. The Winey Hubby and I found it on a trip to one of our all time favorite places ever: Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, Canada. If you are ever able, get your winey self up there! Not only is it a charming little English cottage town sitting right at the end of the Niagara River and the beginning of Lake Ontario, it is smack in the middle of Niagara wine country. Wineries galore, as a matter of fact!!! And the shopping!!! Makes my winey heart go all aflutter. Everything from Christmas stores to gourmet foods to English wares to antiques. And it was in one of these little antique stores that we found our piano themed wine rack. It's not an antique, but we are a music loving family, so we couldn't resist it.

But as with many wine holders, this rack is set up to hold bottle of a certain size. So forget the big bottomed bottles that hold champagne or sparkling wine or even a litre and a half (don't smirk, you know you buy them).

champagne bottle wine rack
Front view
Granted, this is not as big a problem as say, the large colony of bees who have taken up residence in our patio light fixture. Nevertheless, I was intrigued when the folks at ThinkEco2 contacted me and asked me to take a look a their shop (on Etsy). A little background first: Jules Lavallee and Brian Behncke are the brains behind this eco-friendly company in San Diego. Brian is the construction guy, and he takes old cedar wood and turns it into wine racks, wine gift boxes, garden products, and patio furniture. (They caught my eye at "wine racks".) So I decided to take an online stroll through their shop and lo and behold, I found the answer to my big bottom bottle problem! A wine rack made especially to house those oversized bottles! It's made of 100% reclaimed cedar wood and is meant to sit on the floor. I love the rustic look. (It would fit right in the Winey Family kitchen decor, since I have decided that sleek and modern is not my style as much as French country/US teenager applying to college clutter is).

champagne bottle wine rack back view
Back view

I love the fact that this is a small business, that they are committed to recycling and that they make wine accessories. (Not just wine accessories though - I have my eye on a very cool outdoor cedar side table with a built in plant holder in the middle!)

And as an extra special treat, ThinkEco2 is going to give us all a $10 discount on our orders. It's only good for one week, so check it out today! Simply enter the code wineymom1 when you check out.

And for those of you who are Etsy fans out there - let's start a list of some of our favorite Etsy stores. Just list them in the comments and maybe, just maybe, some of us can start shopping for the holidays a bit early!!???

Cheers to that!

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Bully For My Firstie & Ring Weekend at West Point

As many of you may know, I am the Winey Mom of a West Point Cadet. GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY! (Sorry, that phrase is actually required of us once a day. Especially now that college football season is upon us.) Well, lo and behold, the time has flown by and now the Winey Cadet is a Firstie (or senior) at West Point. This is a wonderful thing for the Cadets. They get to wear a cool red sash, they get passes almost every weekend, they have their own bar (The Firstie Club) and right at the beginning of the academic year, they get their class rings.

Now you might ask why I am about to write about my son taking a ring out of a box and slipping it on his finger. But wait...this is a West Point class ring and there is so much more to it than that.  Let's start with the fact that each year, West Point graduates or their families donate their old rings to the "Ring Melt". It's part of the Ring Memorial Program and what it means is that each new ring that goes on a Firstie's finger contains a bit of gold from his or her brothers and sisters of past graduating years. So my son and his classmates are able to "grips hands" with those that went before them into The Long Grey Line. This year the 36 class rings donated range in class years from 1976 all the way back to 1914. Those rings were melted down along with a sample from all the years of ring melts and mixed into the gold used to make the Class of 2014 rings.

West Point Class of  2014 Ring Ceremony
The Ring Ceremony at Trophy Point
Then there is the whole significance of Ring Weekend. That's right I said "weekend". Because although putting that ring on takes about a nanosecond in Cadet time, there is an entire weekend dedicated to celebrating the fact that they've made it to Firstie year. The first ring weekend was held in 1835, so there is a bit of history to back this up. Each Firstie designs his own ring (the stone, the embellishments) but every ring worn by a Cadet and Grad has 5 elements on it: the Class Motto (2014: Forever One Team), class year, an eagle, a cadet with officer saber and the American Flag.

The rings are handed out on what this year turned out to be a gorgeous Hudson Valley evening. I absolutely cannot describe to you what I felt as the Firsties marched in, shining in their India White uniforms, to the Ring Ceremony. (Really, I can't..rarely do words fail me, but this time, they did. Let's just say I was glad I wore waterproof mascara and leave it there.) The ceremony is held at Trophy Point, overlooking the Hudson River (and one of my all time favorite views, anywhere).  Hundreds of family and friends looked on as the rings were handed out to each Firstie. And then it was class dismissed and let the fun begin!!
West Point Cadets wearing India Whites, Ring Ceremony
Some random, yeah, "random" Firsties march in
The Cadets run up to their families to show off the bling and take pictures. Most of them then went back to their barracks to change into civilian clothes (another Firstie perk) and head out to dinner with their families. BUT first, they had to get through Ring Poop. This is when the lowly Plebes (freshmen) rush the newly ringed Firsties (and by rush I mean mob), reciting this lovely poem:

"Oh my god, sir! What a beautiful ring! What a crass mass of brass and glass!
What a bold mold of rolled gold! What a cool jewel
you got from your school! See how it sparkles and shines?
It must have cost you a fortune!
May I touch it, may I touch it please sir?

West Point Ring West Point Mother's Ring Pendant
The RING and the pendant
I wasn't able to actually see my Cadet's Ring Poop, mostly because the Plebes were crowded into the portico to his room...a massive mob of grey and white....and the Firsties were swallowed up in it as they went through. (There is a close up video of the Winey Son taken by one of my braver friends, but I will refrain from sharing it since I love my Firstie. Plus,  I have a healthy fear of his revenge.) I will share the picture of my Mother's pendant, though. Firsties can choose matching rings, pendants, cuff links and tie tacks to give as gifts. I was not subtle in my desire for one.

The weekend culminates the next evening at the Ring Banquet. Full dress, black tie. It's held in Washington Hall, aka The Cadet Mess Hall. Washington Hall is anything but a mess though. It is a stunning cathedral of wood and flags and murals (think Hogwarts dining room, but without the pointy hats and magic). It feeds the entire Corps of Cadets (about 4,000) on a daily basis all at once, so we're talking HUGE here. But this night was all the Firsties and their guests!

West Point Ring Weekend 2014 wine glasses and bottle
We got wine glasses too!

There was a similar formal dinner held back when our Cadets were Plebes. You only get one Parent Weekend at West Point, and it's held Plebe year, right before spring break. It too, is formal but there is one big difference. Now that they are Firsties (and all 21 or older)...there is WINE at the Ring Banquet!!!!

Took a while to get to the wine, didn't it? Sorry about that, but I had to give you all the lead in as to why this is such a momentous occasion on which to sip!

The wine that was chosen to serve that night was, very appropriately, a New York Finger Lakes wine.
It comes from Bully Hill Vineyards and is called Goat White (NV, 11%, New York). For those of you who are familiar with West Point, I'll pause here for you to chuckle. For those of you who aren't, allow me to explain: At West Point The Goat is the Cadet who graduates with the absolute lowest class rank. Bottom of the barrel er, wine bottle, I guess. I can hear you now: "They announce this? How mean, how horrible." Ah, but wait: every member of a graduating class gives one dollar to The Goat, making that graduate about $1,000 richer at the end of the day. (I might add that being The Goat has no bearing on your career prospects after graduation: General George A. Custer was the Class of 1861 Goat, and he turned out okay.) Hence the giggles over the choice of Goat White. Each bottle was also labelled with a commemorative Ring Weekend label featuring the class crest. You bet I've got a few of them in the house right now!

Bully Hill Vineyards Goat White wine
Goat White
OK, wine review starts here. Goat White (a blend of Seyval Blanc and Vidal Bland) is neither sweet nor dry. It sort of lands right in the middle, especially if it's served very chilled (kind of hard that night, given that the historic mess hall is not air conditioned). The nose is full of light fruity flowers- think apple blossoms - very summery. Given that, I thought it would be a sweeter wine, but there was some green apple and some tart citrus that brought it over to the semi-dry side. It had soft feel to it. Not big and plush soft, more like a soft cottony feel. Very fresh and a little crisp. It was served with chicken Marsala and was a nice light pairing with the meal.

This is a great all around wine. Perfect for your next banquet for 3,000 people because it balanced perfectly between the "we like 'em dry" and "we like 'em sweet" wine camps. Oh wait, you're not going to have a banquet for 3,000 anytime soon? Buy it anyway. It really is a lovely, flavorful wine to drink alone or with a meal. Or with your Firstie as you realize that the little boy that stole your heart the minute he was born is now a leader at the finest military academy in the world. (BEAT NAVY!)  In 9 short months he will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and move on to the next phase of his life.

But that night at West Point, he was still my baby.

Cheers to the West Point Class of 2014!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Winey Cocktail Hour!

There are a lot of debates raging over the concept of a cocktail hour/happy hour. Most of them center on two topics. The first is: why limit it to an hour? The second is: where does that leave wine drinkers?

As for the first topic, forget it, I choose to be happy for more than one hour at a time. Unless it's a freezing cold Sunday night in January and Downtown Abbey is only on for one hour. It's just gonna be an hour then, no debate about it.

Bottle of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot GrigioAs for the second, it seems that winemakers all over are solving that problem recently by coming up with a bevy of wine cocktail recipes. Not that wine doesn't look pretty by itself in a glass, but dress it up with some juice and fruit slices and BAM - it's simply stunning.

The winemakers at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi have realized this, and to prove their point, they sent me some of their Pinot Grigio (2012, 12%, CA) and some yummy looking wine cocktail recipes to try. Since it WAS the "thing" to do this summer, I was all over it like, well, like a Winey Mom on a wine cocktail.

The Pinot Grigio itself has a nose of pineapple and peach (just like all the peaches in the bowl on my counter these days. May I add that the bowl is a bit of sore point between the Winey Hubs and me. He likes his peaches chilled once they are ripe. I like mine at room temp. But let's stick to the topic here..) It tastes citrusy and is bright and dry, all at the same time. It's definitely not overpowering in dryness because the fruit is very much present, this time in the form of white peaches. It finishes nicely peachy - not big and juicy like a Sauvignon Blanc, but a well behaved lingering crispness.

Now for the cocktail. I chose to make the Blood Orange Pinot Grigio Fizz.

Blood Orange Pinot Grigio Fizz
By: Krista Simmons
blood orange pinot grigio fizz wine cocktailIngredients:
 ¾ cup (6 oz) Woodbridge Pinot Grigio
1 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 oz Campari
1 oz simple syrup (basic 2 parts sugar:1 part water ratio)
1 ½ oz soda water
blood orange wheels to garnish
*makes one large cocktail
Fill a large glass or Mason jar with ice, then add in all of the measured ingredients, except for the soda water. Stir the ingredients with a bar spoon. Once incorporated, finish with a splash of soda water. Garnish with wheels of freshly sliced blood oranges.
Wow! Yum! I don't know how, but the blood orange (if it's not winter, you will have to search high and low for these. I actually was lucky enough to find some blood orange juice)  made the peach flavors in the wine just shine. The Campari added a nice little tartness to it (this is pricey, so if you can't find a smaller bottle or don't want to spend a lot, you could leave it out) and the soda water gave it some pretty little bubbles. It was simply delicious. Actually, it was a bit dangerously delicious. Perfectly suited to a late afternoon  patio session. I would most definitely double the recipe if there are more than two of you.
Or you could go with the other recipe they came up with and make both for a crowd:
Pinot Grigio Sweet Tea
By: Krista Simmons
pinot grigio sweet tea wine cocktail
Ingredients for cocktail:
 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 oz extra-strong black tea, brought to room temperature
1 oz peach simple syrup (see below)
¾ cup (6 oz) Woodbridge Pinot Grigio
½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
slices of fresh peaches for garish
Ingredients for peach simple syrup:
 2 peaches, sliced
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Method for simple syrup:
 Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium/low heat until all sugar is dissolved. Allow mixture to cool, with peaches still inside the pan. Once the syrup has cooled, about 30 minutes, remove the peaches with a slotted spoon. Transfer the syrup to a mason jar or a plastic squeeze bottle. You can use this mixture for naturally flavored sodas or other cocktails.
Method for cocktail:
Fill a rocks glass with ice, then top with three dashes Angostura Bitters. Then add strongly steeped tea (use two teabags for a cup instead of one when brewing), peach simple syrup, Woodbridge Pinot Grigio, and lemon juice. Stir with a cocktail spoon, and add slices of peaches to garnish.

(I did not try the Sweet Tea recipe, given the fact that I am not a big sweet tea fan and it just would not have been fair to the wine. I have a friend who lives on sweet tea, but she chose to go on a beach vacation instead of staying home during the time I was writing this. Sheesh, go figure.)

So there you have it, the only way The Winey Mom would condone messing with wine! Dress it up and turn it into a cocktail. Remember, the fun can last a lot longer than an hour!!


I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Save It For The Grill - BBQ Zinfandel

I love to cook. Please note I did not say bake. The Winey Daughter is the baker. She loves to measure and stir and decorate. I do not. However, give me a stove top, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs and some sort of meat/poultry thing-y (I cannot, sadly, do fish or the Winey Hubby and Daughter would, well, kill me) and I am happy.

2011 BBQ Zinfandel labelThis happiness extends outdoors in the nicer weather, when I pull the cover off my bright red grill, fire up the burners (yes, it's gas - please don't judge me or get into that debate, I will NOT engage) and start dinner. I have to smile now at my grilling prowess, because way back in the early days of our Winey marriage (just past the 28 year mark), the Winey Hubby was the griller. I had never really used a grill, so I let him take the tongs. But then one day he was late getting home and I was seriously hungry so I took the plunge, so to speak, and started grilling. It's been a love affair ever since. I have progressed to the point where I can grill whole chickens and roasts. I can grill direct or indirect, meat or veggies, bread or potatoes and yes, my grill has a side burner, so bring on the sauce pot, baby!!

BBQ holds a special place in any griller's heart. I have a BBQ rib recipe that wows 'em all. So imagine my delight when I saw a bottle of BBQ Zinfandel from Renwood Winery (2011, 14.8%, CA). The label promised that this was the "perfect wine to enjoy with grilled meats and veggies." I took this as a promise and a challenge. I had a gorgeous London broil marinating in the fridge (I like my marinades a bit smokier - so this was soaking in a mix of paprika, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of balsamic vinegar).

Upon opening, the nose on BBQ was full of black pepper and those Zinfandel spices (dark green ones like sage and thyme and oregano). There was a hint of oak in it and some cherry syrup as well. Right away you could taste the cherries - they were smooth and a very deep black cherry flavor right through the middle of your mouth. There was some pepper on the top of my tongue and the spices did finally show up. It finished VERY fruity.

This was very well balanced. You'd think that with such a high alcohol content you would feel some warmth in your mouth, but nope. I have to say I was a bit surprised by the "sweetness" I tasted in this wine. That coupled with the lush feel almost made me think I was sipping on some BBQ sauce. It was bordering on being a bit much for me. And paired with the London broil... just okay.

Would I buy it again? Probably not. I have had better Zinfandels from California, with or without something from the grill. But if you like your big reds on the sweeter, lusher side, and at price tag of $9.99,  you may want to check it out. (I had a hard time finding this on line, so check with your favorite wine store and let them know it's from Renwood, which is a very well known winery. I have a feeling this is one of their less costly, just for fun offerings.)


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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Ding Dong! Moscato Calling!!!

Wouldn't this be nice?
One of the pure joys of being a Winey blogger is that every so often, your doorbell rings and you open it to find the friendly UPS or FedEx delivery person holding out a signature pad. Which can only mean one thing: they've got wine samples for you!!! Yippee!! Wine must be signed for by someone over the age of 21, a fact which has embarrassed the Winey Daughter on occasion as she has to turn around and yell for me or the Winey Hubby. One day neither of us was here and you'd have thought it was the end of her dignity as we know it. (Why yes, dear, actually we did plan it for your maximum discomfort.)

One day the ringing of the bell produced a box containing a pair of pretty bottles from Australia. Southeastern Australia, to be exact. One bottle contained Moscato. The other contained Pink Moscato. A set of Moscato delivered right to my door!! Whoo hoo!

These came courtesy of Banrock Station, part of the family of Accolade Wines. The folks down under at Banrock are extremely committed to the environment - practicing it while they make wine and donating to environmental causes worldwide. So you're sipping for good while you're sipping these wines. Always a plus. But this just begs an answer to the question: How does the wine taste?

bottle of 2012 Banrock Station Pink MoscatoI'll start with the Pink Moscato (2012, 6%, Australia). The nose was pure berries. The taste opened up to reveal strawberries with some pink grapefruit around the edges. The wine felt thicker in my mouth than I expected though. Not as bubbly as other Moscatos. The bubbles were there, they were just a bit sluggish and very tiny. The finish was of key lime - not full on tart lime, more of the mellower key lime. If you like sweet wines you will love this one. A lot. The flavors are full and rich, and the feel is very rich and thicker than other Moscatos I've tasted.
bottle of Banrock Station Moscato 2011
The bottle of Banrock Station Moscato (2011, 5.5%, Australia) had a nose of tangy citrus (grapefruit, lemon) with just a hint of flowers. The flavors were of pink grapefruit and peach and the flowers returned again, but just at the edges - just a hint of them. The bubbles were there this time too, but in a subtle way - more lively than out and out bubbly. Very refreshing. It finished with a very juicy taste that left you wanting another bottle! I was sharing this bottle with two other wine lovers and we were all kind of eyeing the last few drops. I am happy to report that we didn't come to blows over them, but another bottle would have been really, really helpful. Not to mention delightful.

So my pair of Moscatos took me on quite a Moscato ride. If you like the sweeter, rounder, lusher style - pour the pink. Need a spritzy refresher? Pour the white. You really can't go wrong with either. Unless you run out like we did. That's just wrong.


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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Seaside Memories with Sea Glass Pinot Gris

As you may have gathered by reading other reviews I have written, I am a Jersey girl. Yes, I live in Ohio, and have for the past 26 years. But Jersey is where I took my first breath, tasted my first Taylor Ham, learned to drive on the Garden State Parkway and most importantly, spent my summers at the Jersey shore. For six weeks every summer, we would load up the wood paneled Ford station wagon and head out to Normandy Beach, an 8 block wide "town" located halfway between Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights. And there we would stay, shoeless and carefree, until 2 weeks before school started, when my mother deemed it was time to start the back to school shopping and head home again.

picture of Winey Mom at age 2 and her grandfather, Jersey Shore, 1965
The Winey Mom and
her Winey Grandfather
 Seaside Heights, NJ
My mother's parents lived in New Jersey and were frequent visitors to our shore homes, staying with us for days and weeks at a time (until they finally bought their own home "down the shore" when I was about 13). My grandmother loved to walk on the beach, and because of that she became the "professional" shell and sea glass collector. You can't help it. Follow the wave line and a whole sea of treasures just washes in at your feet. There wasn't a summer that didn't go by that a jar or bowl of treasures didn't find its way onto a counter or windowsill. For years, I had one such jar in my bedroom of the house I grew up in, and right now, one of the larger shells is residing in the pond in our backyard. A bit of Jersey for me in Ohio.

Grandma and I were buddies, and more often than not I was her companion on those walks. She and I both loved to look for sea glass. It sounds rather magical, doesn't it? Sea glass. Smooth, polished bits of blue, brown, green and white washed onto the sand in the foamy waves. But let's face it, in reality, most sea glass starts out as wine or beer bottles or maybe some industrial glass from a seaside factory. (For my purposes these days, I'm pretending ALL sea glass is from lovely bottles of wine.) But no matter where it comes from, finding sea glass was always a banner discovery.

bottle of Sea Glass Pinot GrisSo upon discovering a bottle of Sea Glass Pinot Gris on the shelf of my favorite wine store, my mind immediately flew back to those days of salty warmed skin and wet feet and buckets of shells and sea glass. It was a given that I'd buy a bottle.

Sea Glass Pinot Gris (2011,13.5%, CA) is made from grapes grown mostly in foggy seaside Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties. A very teeny bit comes from Napa, so we're talking some very well pedigreed grapes here. It's the grapes from Santa Barbara that give the wine it's ocean feel though. It's right there immediately in the aroma - sea air and minerals with a touch of key limes. (Can you hear the waves crashing? OK, it's a stretch, but I really wanted to.) The taste was sharp citrus on the back of my tongue and full of lime peel and minerals everywhere else. It was totally crisp and refreshing and in the end, it faded to a juicy-tart aftertaste. The perfect blend of flavors and feels for an ocean themed wine!  Plus, the label is so darned pretty.  It is widely available too and for the most part, under $10 a bottle. Not a bad price for a quick trip to the beach, huh?

Buy this if you want a tart, refreshing, zingy wine or if you are looking for something to go with seafood or spicy Chinese food. It would also go well with lighter chicken dishes (no heavy creams or BBQ sauces).

Or just take it to the beach and sip on it!


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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: The Story of Two Ravenswood Old Vine Zins

You see it time and time again. Siblings who are nothing alike. From eye color to food preferences, they could have come from totally different parents. Take the Winey Children for instance. The Winey Son is a winey mini-me. (OK, as much as a 6'3" kid can be called mini. Or me.) Line his baby pics up with mine and my Winey siblings and you'd think he was just one of us struggling to grow up in New Jersey in the 60's. Then there is the Winey Daughter. She is the Winey Hubby's mini-me. In fact, I would go as far to say that I simply served as the incubator for my husband's gene pool on this one. I know they are both ours, though, because they keep returning to this house demanding food, shelter, funds and and oh yeah, love.

But they differ in other ways as well. One loves olives. The other would rather eat bugs in Mexico. And has, for that matter. One is a country music devotee, the other wants to be Bob Dylan when he grows up. (May I suggest that he learn to sing like a goat first, though?) One has her grandmother's artistic talent. The other, well, not so much. I could go on and on.

Ravenswood Winery logoI bring this up to lead you into my latest wine review. Two Old Vine Zinfandels from the same winery, but very different in taste. I received Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel and the Old Vine Zinfandel Vintners Blend  courtesy of the kind folks at Ravenswood Winery in the Sonoma area of California. I knew enough to realize that one was from their "County" line and the other their "Vintners Blend" line (give me some credit, puhleeze). And they were different vintages. But really, how totally different could they be? Let me tell you, I found out.

Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel bottle 2010Let's start with the 2010 Sonoma County Zin, (2010, 14.5%, CA) since that's the one I tried first. I have become a big fan of California Zins in recent years, and I was really looking forward to this one. It opened to my nose with aromas of faint spice. Nothing good, nothing bad...just there to sniff. The taste was of oak and black cherry. The spice showed up again, along with a hint of some dark green herbs such as oregano and thyme. I will say this, that for a wine with such a high alcohol content, it was amazingly balanced. Sometimes you'll get quite the hot feel from a big old Zin, but this one stayed true to its fruit and oaks. It finished. That's about it. Nothing spectacular or horrible. I didn't dislike it - I just kept waiting for more...more depth in the flavors, more aroma in my nose. It was not quite there though. (A friend sipping along with me agreed, by the way.) It might be interesting to note that this is a blend of Zinfandel (80%), Petite Sirah (9%),  Syrah (6%),Carignane (4%) and 1% Mixed Blacks.
Ravenswood Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 bottle
Now, let's visit the sibling, so to speak. This was the 2011 Vintner's Blend Old Vine Zinfandel (2011, 13.5%, CA). And as much as I don't like to favor one sibling over another, if the Winey Mom had to pick, this would be her Zin of choice. Here was the nose of sour cherry, dark spices and coffee. And the taste of mocha and coffee surrounded by some earth and herbs. The finish was mellow and earthy and the tannins were smooth and very supple. Now we were talking! I loved the fruit and the earthy, spicy depth here. And yes, it was a bit more "earthy" than some other Zins I've tried, but it was so very good. This too, is a blend of Zinfandel (75%), Petite Sirah (16%), Syrah (6%) and 3% "Mixed Blacks".

Just as with the Winey Children, you can put the same ingredients into a mix, albeit at different levels, and come out with two very different products. Thankfully, I am very happy with the outcomes of both of the Winey Children's mixes - two very funny, intelligent and caring young people who have the best mother in the world (Yeah, yeah, their Dad is pretty awesome, too).

As far as these two Ravenswood Zins, I will say that I am glad to have tried them both. But I am gonna play favorites here and go with the Vintners Blend. If you are a big red wine lover, you should play favorites too. But just with wine, not your kids!


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

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Red Rock Rocks the Dinner Table As The Winey Son Turns 21

There comes a time in the life of every parent (Winey or not) when you realize that your baby is not a baby anymore. I suppose I could have had such a revelation when the Winey Son turned 18. Or when he topped 6 feet (WAY before he turned 18, by the way). But nope. Mine came just a few weeks ago when the Winey Son returned from West Point with two of his best friends in tow. This was not what made me realize he was all "growed up". Nor was it that fact that during his 3 week assignment at West Point, he had turned 21. No, what made me realize he was a big boy now was when he called from the road and asked if I would make dinner for the three of them and oh, they'd like wine with their steak.

picture of a bottle of Red Rock Winery's Reserve Winemaker's Blend, 2011Yup. That did me in. My little (ahem) boy letting me know that Cherry Coke or ruby red grapefruit juice wasn't going to do it anymore. Hey Mom, how about a nice bottle of wine? Good heavens! How can he be 21 when I am still 29????? Funny how the little things are the ones that leap up and smack you in the head sometimes, isn't it? I had a hard enough time when he started buying his own underwear and now here he was asking me for some wine.

Sorry about that...I'm back now and I promise no more Mommy hand wringing. I gamely rose to the occasion, and I did so with a bottle of Red Rock Winery Reserve Winemaker's Blend (2011, 13.5%, CA). I had seen it on the shelves many times and had never gotten around to trying it, which surprises me since I am a red blend lover. But I had recently purchased a bottle, and it was waiting in the wine rack, ready to be uncorked.

You need to understand that two of the three Cadets (mine included) at the table had just spent 3 weeks in the field. And I do mean the field. No tents, MREs* to eat, no showers (do NOT even ask me about the laundry issues that brings up) and in their case, lots of rain. The other Cadet was just back from a trip abroad. What else could a mom do but grill up some steaks, bake some potatoes and make a huge salad? An All-American meal made to order for some very hungry young men.

But what about the wine? Did I choose well? Was it worthy of being the first wine I sipped with the Winey Son sipping along?

OH MY YES! The Winemaker's Blend is a mix of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot. I don't know how they did it (or I'd be the winemaker, wouldn't I, now?) but Red Rock brought out the very best of these 4 wines in one bottle. The nose was very jammy and promising (I think that was the Petite Sirah talking). And when you sipped it, the fruit really let itself be known, but so did some very lovely cocoa flavors and a touch of vanilla oak. It was the perfect balance between fruit and oak, and it was incredibly lush in the mouth. I wasn't the only one that thought so, either. The wine drew raves from all, especially the Cadet who'd been out of the country. It seems that he loves his wine too, and for both of us to be wowed really says something. I had a great time talking wine with him and I only had to stop every once in a while and compose myself when I realized I was talking to my son and his friends about wines. We'd come a long way since talks about Thomas the Tank Engine. (sob)

Oops, sorry, I promised I wouldn't do that anymore. OK, well...let me add that the price of this wine was under $10 dollars. What more could you ask for? Maybe another tissue? No seriously, I'm fine.
Now excuse me while I go look at the baby books for a while.


*MRE stands for meal ready to eat..a staple of Army field food. It gives you the calories and energy you need to make it through a mission, but not much else. And I'd also like to add at this time that you should never wash an MRE heat pack. Don't ask.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Winey Nights Out: Find Your Local Wine Bar and Uncork!

As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am the parent of a West Point Cadet. Go Army! Beat Navy! OK, now I can continue.

Since West Point is not your typical college experience, to say the least, the parents of the Cadets come together in Parents' Clubs across the country. The Winey Hubby and I are blessed to have an amazing group of parents in our Ohio area. They are there for support and encouragement and to answer any questions about the school, the Army and military life in general.

wine bottles outdoor shot Hob Nob, Parker Station, Hayman & Hill, Meeker Wine, Borealis White
The evening line-up
Oh and did I mention that they are a ton of fun? Maybe more than a ton, but that's all I'm admitting to in writing! It's a beautiful thing when you join a club and find some genuine friends there. I mean, sure we all have West Point in common, but when that common thread becomes a true friendship? I'll toast to that.

So about a week ago, some of these wonderful friends and I and the Winey Hubby had a get together at a local haunt, Riverside Wine & Beer Bar, in Kent, Ohio. I am going to speak about this bar in particular, but I just know that you all have such venues near you. Very casual, very relaxing, great selection of nibbles and bites and an amazing wine list. Riverside's patio has a gorgeous view of the Cuyahoga River and nearby train tracks. It's also a wine store, and on certain nights there are no corkage fees. A corkage fee is charged by an establishment for opening and serving your bottle of wine. It applies to wines you bring in yourself from outside. But since Riverside is also a store, it's so much fun on "no corkage nights" to wander around the store, pick your bottle and have them serve it to you on that gorgeous patio.

So, eight of us settled in on the patio for lovely summer evening of sipping and talking and nibbling. We decided that the best way to sip was for each of us to pick a bottle and share it with everyone. Kind of like our own impromptu wine tasting. This is the best way to do these type of nights because you wind up drinking wines you'd never think to try. It's a win-win situation all around.

First up for me was Borealis White Wine (2011, 11.5%, Oregon). I was very happy to discover that this was an Oregon wine, as so many people have so many good things to say about that region. It's a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer and is as crisp and bright and lively as The Northern Lights it's named after! One to buy if you like lighter (not really sweet) whites.

Next up was Parker Station Pinot Noir (2010, 13.5%, Central Coast, CA). And by Parker I mean Fess Parker, the actor who will forever be thought of as Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone! The friend who chose it said he wanted me especially to try it, since we share a love of red wine. This was a lovely Pinot Noir - plum and cherry and toasty oak. Another success story in my search for a good Pinot Noir.

I love hearing how people pick out wines, and my girlfriend, after wandering through the store, decided upon Hayman & Hill Meritage (2010, 13.5%, Monterey Co, CA).
Why did she chose it? Because the winemakers names were the same as one of her married sisters! A fine reason as far as I'm concerned! Meritage must be made from at least 2 grapes on the "approved" Meritage label, and these folks went above and beyond that! It's a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc! Lots of berry flavors in this, but the oakiness saves it from being too fruity. If I had to say, this was my least favorite of the bunch, but to be fair, it was going up with some stiff competition.

My contribution to the evening was Hob Nob Chardonnay (2010, 13.5%, France). I found it in the store, and since Hob Nob's Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines (see Winey Tasting Notes: I REALLY Needed Some Hob Nob Pinot Noir) , I decided it was high time we checked out its sister wine. Pear and oak, with a hint of cinnamon dominate this one. It's not a light Chardonnay of the unoaked variety, but it's not big and buttery either. It falls somewhere in the middle. A great wine chilled and sipped with all that cheese and sausage we ordered.

And last but not at all least, out came Blankenheim's Frankenstein Formula 5 (Meeker Wines) (NV, 14.6%, CA). The absolute hit of the evening with everyone there. It is a red blend of 11, yes I said 11, red wines: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Malbec. No wonder they call it Frankenstein - cobbled together from so many different parts, but a wonderful creation in the end (yes, I consider Frankenstein to be a great creation - book or movie, you choose.)  A very high alcohol content but such a well balanced wine that we didn't know what hit us. The flavor was dark fruits with some green spices (thyme, oregano) and a touch of oak to give it some body. A big red, sure - but not a scary one (despite its namesake). Very drinkable. As we proved dutifully. (see picture for number of bottles)

So thus ends my winey travels through a very entertaining and educational evening with friends. I encourage you all to find your own local wine bar and sip away an evening with friends. It'll do your heart (and your taste buds) good!


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No Conundrums About It: 2013 Cleveland Wine Festival Was A Perfect Vintage

Conundrum: noun \kə-ˈnən-drəm\  a confusing or difficult question or problem
I am happy to report that my visit to the 2013 Cleveland Wine Festival did not pose any conundrums at all. Logistical problems, such as how do we visit all these booths in one night, sure. But not one hard to solve, nerve wracking problem.
Well, actually, I guess there was one Conundrum, but this one came in a bottle (2011, 13.5%, CA)!
Conundrum Red Wine bottle shotA little back story to this evening. The Winey Hubby and I visited Winefest with one of our very favorite Winey Couples. The husband in this couple is a red wine lover, like myself. The wife tends toward the lighter sweeter wines, just like the Winey Hubby does. So the four of us spent a good part of the evening explaining that no, we weren't married and our spouses were at another tent sipping away, one ounce at a time, the wines they really loved. We did stay in near proximity to each other though...until Winey Friend and I hit the Wagner Family of Wines tent and ran straight into said conundrum.
This is only the second vintage of Conundrum Red released, and it goes fast and furious, as it will be the only one this year. (insert your frowny face here) My Winey pal knew of the wine, since it seems that at a party we were all that, someone had brought a bottle of Conundrum and he got to taste some of it. After sipping this one, I immediately accused him of holding out at the party and threatened his life if he ever did so to me again. This was seriously one of the best wines I have tasted  - red, white, USA, France - no contest - it was amazing. The nose started out with a teeny whiff of bacon laced with chocolate. (DO NOT make that face, it's a wonderful combo.) The taste was about mocha and cherry. It felt like silk in my mouth. The finish lasted quite a while, but you really couldn't taste anything tannic in it - just the mocha cherry flavors. I will tell you that this wine is a bit pricier than most I write about - in the $20-$30 range, depending on where and when you buy it (it is on special at times for the $20) but I loved it so much I just had to share it with you!
label shot of Meiomi Pinot Noir
Needless to say, we stayed at this booth for a bit, leaving our respective spouses to wander off in search of a strawberry wine cocktail that had been recommended to them. We got to talking with the folks from Wagner Family Wines, and they made us try (yeah, made we argued) a Pinot Noir that they had there as well.
This particular Pinot is called Meiomi (2012, 13.8%, CA). It runs about $20 as well, and penny for penny, it is another amazing wine to spend the money on! It's a pretty garnet color and gives off aromas of berry and cherry and oak. The taste is WOW! (Seriously, I wrote that in my wine notes from the night.) All jammy and cherry and that touch of light oakiness. Pinot Noir can be a bit of a diva wine, and I have a hard time finding good ones, so this was quite a find for my taste buds. The next time I sip this, it will be on my patio with a plate of blue and goat cheeses in front of me. Or when I sit down to a lamb chop dinner. My oh my!
The Winey Foursome with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in the background
photo credit: some very nice person that stopped sipping long
enough to take our picture
Now, these were obviously not the only two wines we sipped all evening long. But they were without a doubt the standouts. Others that we liked were Bogle's Essential Red and the Old Vine Zinfandel. Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon (aptly named Opulent) and our spouses were all about St. James Winery and their fruit wines, which were served as some yummy wine cocktails.
A note about the Festival: The perfect night to be on Cleveland's lakefront. The temperature was just right (light sweaters) and the sky was clear and blue ending in starlight. There was a very tempting array of food on hand as well (we went for the gyros from Parma's Original Greek Gyro - messy, but worth it). The exhibitors were friendly and generous with their pours and the live music was very danceable (just ask me and my Winey Girlfriend). All in all, a wonderful night was had and sipped by all. Not a Clevelander? I'm sure your city has a wine festival or at least a nearby one, and  I would highly suggest an evening out there. They are great places to try new wines and learn about wine in general.
See you at next year's Festival!!

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