Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Middle Sister Rebel Red Blend

According to the Middle Sister wines website,  "birth order is commonly believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development? And that the middle sister has a greater chance of having a special wine named just for her?"

I agree about birth order having a major effect on us. I, myself, am the trail blazing, parent raising so everyone else gets it easier oldest child. And only girl at that. My male siblings have ME to thank for them getting cars earlier, curfews later and generally a much better teenage life than I had to endure. You are welcome.
 picture of Middle Sister Rebel Red wine front label
Back to the wine though. I am a big fan of Wine Sisterhood (the, ahem, parent company of Middle Sister Wines). They are a fun bunch of women who make great wine and give back to the community. Plus their Chardonnay is fantastic! (See my review: Wowing Me With Wine Sisterhood Chardonnay.) So as I was trolling strolling the wine aisles at my beloved Target, I decided it was high time to try another one of their wines. I opted for Rebel Red (NV, 13.5%, Napa, CA). This is a blend (38% Zinfandel, 34% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 2% mixed red varietals) and I have had such good luck with blends lately that it didn't take me long to decide.

The nose on this is of cherry and oak. The taste is pure YUM! Cherry, jammy strawberry, summer fruits and a finish that is smooth and full of sour fruit. No biting tannins here, just a brief warmth to end it off. A wonderful, fruit forward red blend, if I do sip so myself. This would totally be a crowd pleaser because of all the wonderful flavors (the $9.99 price tag doesn't hurt either).

two little dogs
My Grey's Anatomy viewing companions.
I would call this an extremely drinkable wine, especially after a week of dealing with a teenager (youngest child) with the stomach flu and yet another winter storm warning just posted. But that night, I had a new episode of Grey's Anatomy, my two doggies for company (Winey Hubby - 4th of 5 children - chose to watch basketball) and my bottle of Rebel Red. I might even have to go as far as to call this a bit too drinkable...but it was an hour long show and it HAD been a rough week. Nuff said, okay?

I would give this wine a try...and then head on to all their other varietals. And like the good oldest child that I am, I will sip and report back to you all..making your winey lives just that much easier.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Organic Wine? Well.....

Organic. Never has such a harmless looking word inspired more debate. In the veggie aisle, the fruit bin, the cotton gin and yes, the vineyard, the benefits of and drawbacks of "organic" are debated. There are a growing number of organic wines out there for us to sip on. My own curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided to give some the old Winey try.

I was mostly intrigued by the idea of "no added sulfites". Here in the good old USA, a wine is organic if you don't add sulfites (aka sulfur dioxide, a preservative widely used in winemaking and many food industries). You can grow your grapes organically (which can mean no unnatural fertilizer, chemical sprays, etc) but to label your wine organic, you have to not add sulfites. This is a rough definition of it all, but it's as far as my science fearing mind is going to travel for this post.

Sulfites often take the rap for the infamous "wine headache". (This too can be debated long and hard, so let's just say there a ton of things that can give you a wine headache: tannins, alcohol and drinking the entire bottle in one sitting. You KNOW there've been nights when you've done this, so stop judging.) So I wondered how a wine would taste if these little preservatives weren't added. Different? Better? Worse? No big deal?

bottle of Frey Vineyards Natural Red Wine, Organic WineMy first foray into organic sipping came with a bottle of Frey Vineyards Natural Red Wine (NV, 12%, Mendocino Co, CA).  Frey was one of the first organic winemakers in California, so their pedigree was pretty strong. This wine was a pretty purple color and is medium bodied. The nose was cherry and raspberry. Oh that the taste lived up to the bouquet! You could taste the raspberry and then boom! It was gone in a flash. I really, really wanted it to hang around longer. But it didn't. It simply gave way to a nasty dryness in my mouth. A dryness that overpowered any flavors that might have tried desperately to hang on. Big disappointment here. My first organic wine and it was...icky (technical Winey Mom term).

But hey, I've had icky wines before. Just because this was organic didn't mean that was why it was icky. So, being the Winey trooper that I am, I headed out for a different organic red to try.

bottle of Our Daily Red California Table Wine, organic wineI found Our Daily Red from Orleans Hill Winery (2011, 12.5%, American Canyon, CA). This wine is also vegan friendly, should that matter to you. The California Table Wine is a blend of Syrah, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. It starts out with a nose of plum and cherry and a hint of something green - I came up with celery. The taste (after much oxygen - don't try to sip this without aerating it in some way) was of warm sour cherries with a sharp taste of tin foil above it all. I have nothing against tin foil. I just don't like it in my wine. But there it was, a sharp metallic tang that kind of just lived above all the other flavor. The wine felt thin in my mouth, and finished with lots of tannins. They were woody, but not overpowering or as drying as the Frey wine was. Better...but still....not great. Not a wine I'd buy again. It was just kind of wimpy and thin and forgettable.

I realize that I am lumping organic wine into one opinion based on only two bottles. And, admittedly, I didn't try a white organic, but to tell you the truth, I'm a bit scared to. Two consecutive bottles of wine that you don't like can cause a Winey Mom to avoid the genre altogether.

So I'll ask all of my Winey Friends out there: is there an organic wine (white or red) that I should be trying? Is there hope for curing my current fear of such wine? I will take and and all suggestions.. but until then...I'm opting for the sulfites. ~clink~


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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Let's Get Small! (Bottles, that is)

Those of us of a certain age will remember that the above title to this post is actually the name of one of comedic genius Steve Martin's comedy routines. In addition to the movies and Saturday Night Live, the guy had one heck of a stand up act. I fondly remember listening to his comedy album (and I mean album) with the cousins during holiday gatherings. In my mom's house. I was in junior high. It was.....the 70's. But we survived that decade and have moved on to other small delights.

375 ml wine bottle next to 750 ml wine bottleIn this case I'm talking about small wine bottles. Same great wine, same label, just in a smaller (usually 375 ml size, sometimes 250 ml) bottle. Perfect for slipping into a gift basket, a Christmas stocking or a lunch bag. (I'M KIDDING.) They're also great for when you are the only one sipping and you just don't want to waste opening a whole bottle and winding up with that mysterious entity called "leftover wine". Or you could be the suspicious type and not want to invest in an entire bottle of a new wine. This gives you a great chance to try it without a larger monetary investment. (I've seen these teeny bottles for as little as $1.99 and up to about $6.99.)

Either way, I wanted to give you a review of some of these cute little vinos I've been sipping lately. It all started when I saw a special at my gourmet store: Alexander Valley Vineyards half bottles (the 375 ml size) - 2 for the price of one big bottle. I know the math isn't anything profound, but it did give me a chance to try 2 new wines for the price of one. So I scooped up a Chardonnay (2011, 14%, Sonoma County, CA) and a Syrah (2010, 14%, Sonoma County, CA) and headed on my merry way.
Alexander Valley Vineyards Chardonnay bottle
I started off with the Chardonnay. The nose was oakey and full of apples and pears. The oak was very present in the taste (French oak barrel aging makes it mark here!), but there were also flavors of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and tart apples. It finished of toasty tannins with a hint of cinnamon. It was like drinking in a crisp autumn day! I wanted the big bottle.

Next up was the Syrah. The nose on this had woody herbs, a bit of smoke and an overall hint of bacon. The taste was very tart berries - a hing of blueberry, some oak and those herbs again, especially thyme. This was a very balanced wine, given its high alcohol level - it really didn't burn at all. It was a tad more tannic (IE: puckery, in Winey Mom speak) than I would have liked, though. In this case, I was okay with the smaller bottle.

BV Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon bottleOn a separate trip to my grocery store, I came across some other smaller bottles. A BV Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.5%, Sonoma, CA) and Francis Coppola Chardonnay Diamond Collection (2010, 13.5%, Monterey, CA). Each was the 375 ml size.

The BV Coastal Estates Cabernet had a very full nose of sour cherry and dark spices. The cherries came through again in the taste, as did some nice warm oak. It finished velvety smooth, with a touch of warmth and lingered nicely. A full bottle retails for about $11 - a great wine at a great price.

Franics Copolla Chardonnay bottleThe Coppola Chardonnay, yes, of the famed director of the same name, was all oak on the nose. It tasted of butter and oak and some pear. I really wanted a touch of something else in there  - like some cinnamon or toastiness from the oak. But it wasn't there. This is a very "heavy" Chardonnay - more like an "Apocalypse Now" or a "Godfather" than "Peggy Sue Got Married".

So, I got to try four new wines and wound up breaking even. Two bottles (AVV Chardonnay and BV Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon) I'd buy bigger, the other two: glad I only had the smaller size.

Kind of fun, yes? Good things do come in small sizes...and if you like them, well by all means, upgrade next time you feel like sipping!


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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Cooper Station Red and Downton Abbey

I'll put it right out there: I LOVE DOWNTON ABBEY! Every Sunday morning at church, I give a little prayer of thanks that another episode will be showing that night. I love the whole idea of a classy soap opera spoken in English accents. I love the fashions. AND I love Maggie Smith as the Countess of Grantham. (WWDCGD?)* I also want a "Free John Bates" t-shirt. (Even if he gets out...)

So it was only a matter of time before my viewing and my sipping collided with one another on a snowy Sunday evening. This was a mid-January Sunday, right before final exams for the Winey Daughter. So I found myself not watching in front of the fire, glass in hand...but in the comfy chair in the master bedroom - glass in hand, but no fireplace. I mean, really, a huge English castle with no roaring fire to view it near? But since finals were coming up, the Winey Daughter had pretty much loaded up the DVR with her recordings (yes, we have cable) for her post exam TV marathon. So that put me either in the rec room - nope, NBA already on down there - or my bedroom. My bedroom it was then. I was joined by one of the doggies, which made it a little more English as she snored on my lap after receiving what has since become her "Downton tummy rub session".

I had made a lovely London broil (pun intended) for dinner that night. And in keeping with the household tastes, it was marinated in a tangy mix of balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and some red wine. This night, the wine was Cooper Station Red Wine Blend (2011, 13.5%, Sonoma Co, CA). I had seen this wine featured at one of my favorite wine stores, and since I love red blends, I thought I'd give this one a try first (they produce other varietals too).

This wine had a nose of wood-tinged cherries. And in keeping with that sniff, the taste of it was cherry at first, then some other berries (strawberry, perhaps - it was faint) and finally a hint of mocha coffee. It finished warm and fruity and didn't really linger around my mouth.

Now, I have said before that I don't like it when the oak punches out the fruits...but in this case, I'd have to say that this fruit really punched out the oakiness. In fact, it knocked it for a real loop. I kept waiting for some of that mocha to reappear, or some of that oaky bouquet to spend some time on my tongue. But they didn't. So, let's call this a very fruit forward blend without a lot of deep flavors. Not my favorite type of blend, but if you like your reds fruity, this may be for you. The $9.99 price tag is certainly a plus!

The night was not a total loss, however. Dame Maggie Smith won a Golden Globe for her portrayal as the Dowager Countess, the dog got a great tummy rub, and I had my Downton fix for another week.
Until next Sunday....


*What Would Dowager Countess Grantham Do?

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