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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