Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Celebrating a Birthday with The King of Rock and Roll

What would you serve as a beverage at a St. Patrick's Day birthday party? I'll bet you said "green beer" or at least "beer", right? And I would totally agree with you, except for the fact that the birthday I am referring to is the Winey Hubby's birthday. March 17th. The Feast of St. Patrick. The Wearin' O' the Green. Erin Go Brah.

"Kiss Me It's My Birthday" Irish birthday t-shirt pictureYeah, well. The Winey Hubby has not one little drop of Irish blood in him. (And I should know, I did the research on our family trees.) Neither does he like beer. Which is good that he has no Irish blood in him, he'd have to give up his Irish card. (I should also know that, coming from an Irish American family that bleeds green and where the beer flows freely. Not to mention the whiskey. I can admit it now: most of my cousins and I had our first sips of hard alcohol from our grandfather's whiskey sour glass. With a cherry. It was the '70's, okay?)

 But back to the Winey Hubby. No, he doesn't like beer. He doesn't much like fussy birthdays either. It is a low key affair around here. The menu usually revolves around steak, the cake is simple, the presents are books and music and the beverage is decidedly not beer.

That does not mean that I cannot toast the guy in my own winey way though. And this year, I found a fun way to raise my glass and honor Hubs at the same time. The guy loves, loves, loves his music, so what better bottle to invite to his birthday than one honoring the King - Elvis Presley.

picture of The King Of Rock and Roll Cabernet Sauvignon bottleElvis has a winery. Of course he does. Elvis Presley Wine Cellars is in California, and they make wines that celebrate the King's legacy in music. A little Jailhouse Rock Merlot? Maybe some Blue Suede Chardonnay? On this night, however, I went with The King of Rock and Roll Cabernet Sauvignon (2008, 14.5%, CA). I did not find this wine on my own - I was directed there by the brilliant minds behind Likelii, a wine search engine site (Winey Search Notes: Can Likelii Keep You From the Aimless Wandering of Wine Aisles?). The King arrived on my doorstep in plenty of time for the the celebration and was duly invited to the celebration.

This is a dusky maroon colored wine. On the nose, you get some black plum and cherry with a tiny tweak of tart pomegranate. You taste the cherry right away, and it's followed by some yummy mocha. It finishes of oak tannins. They hang around for a bit - not too long though - and leave you with a taste of oak and warmth in the mouth. The King has a hit with this one. None of that new wave, emo rock and roll here. This is classic Cabernet Sauvignon with a great taste. It would be a good one to serve at a party cause it's not too big a red, but it's not so fruity that you want to sip it with a straw either.  Just don't pair it with peanut butter and banana sandwiches, an Elvis favorite. Do this wine a favor and serve it with a good steak or pork chops. It would also go nicely with chocolate birthday cake. And I'm talking chocolate cake with really thick chocolate butter cream frosting.

So happy birthday to the Hubby, and happy wine-ing to Elvis and his Cabernet Sauvignon! And to those of us that sip it.


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winey Search Notes: Can Likelii Keep You From the Aimless Wandering of Wine Aisles?

I just realized as I sat down to write this that I started off my last review with a familiar scenario: Me, wandering around a wine department, trying to decide on a wine and being helped by a pitying wine clerk. (Winey Tasting Notes: Finding Found Object) Let's face it, it happens to us all. That overwhelming feeling when you're confronted with bottle upon bottle of possible new sipping pleasure - but you just don't know which one you'd like (this also happens to me at Sephora in the "skin care for moms of a certain age" aisle, but that's a totally different story). You could always go with an old favorite, but where is the thrill in that? Finding a new wine you love is great - getting stuck with a bottle of "ick", not so much.

The folks behind Likelii were in the same winey boat, having wandered in a daze through wine aisles, finding themselves drinking the same wine time after time. But instead of standing around looking helpless, they did something about it. And they did it with: "two algorithms and 1M data points to accurately recommend other wines you are most likelii to enjoy". Yes, that's a direct quote from their website, because I have never used the word "algorithm" willingly in a sentence, nor do I have any idea what 1M data points are.

It's a cool idea: you tell them what wines you like, they use that aforementioned math/techy stuff, and present you with a list of wines that are a good match for your palate. Kind of like Netflix - if you like a certain movie genre, the site recommends other movies of that type you'll like (this does NOT work in the Winey Household, by the way: Winey Daughter is into any movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, Winey Hubs is working his way through the top 100 movies of all time, and I would rather read a book, unless the words "Hepburn and Tracy" are used to describe the movie. Kind of hard to solve that with an algorithm. But again, that's another story altogether).

screen shot of Likelii home page
So when Likelii asked me if I would give the site a try, I was more than happy to do so. Heading to the home page, I was asked to fill in the blank: I pick up _____________ for special occasions. Assuming they meant wine and not a new pair of Spanx, I entered "Menage A Trois", a favorite red blend of mine.

Up popped the names of 9 wines that based on Menage A Trois. Promising results, since one of the wineries was Klinker Brick, and I loved their Syrah. The page also gave me the chance to enter four other wines I liked, in the hopes of narrowing down my choices even further. So I entered 4 other reds....and nine more wines popped up. Each wine was rated from 1-5 glasses on the "likelii"hood that I'd like it. At this point, you just want to start browsing the wines and this is where my favorite feature of the site came into play. I could read the description of a wine and enter it in my "saved wines" list. It keeps track of the wines you want to try, lists the wines you have tried and loved, and remembers which wines you've already purchased. So I read and saved and read and saved. After finishing the first 9, I refreshed the selections and 9 more came up. It was a bit addicting, actually. Kind of like gambling, or golf. You never know what will happen the next time you roll/swing/click (actually I do know with golf, which is why the Hubby never plays with me). Some wines I had tried and knew I liked so I rated them in order to help the search engine predict my tastes. Some wines  I knew I didn't like, and I rated them accordingly so that I'd be lead away from them in the future.
screen shot of Likelii's varietal choice pageYou can also search a different way by clicking on the "discover" tab and then "how it works" instead of entering a wine on the home page. This option lets you pick from red, white or both and also gives you the option of choosing a certain region you like or would like to try. I used this for white wines, entering my favorite varietals and areas I'd like to explore. Again, some promising results, including a Finger Lakes winery I liked (Red Newt Cellars), as well as Josh Cellars Chardonnay, which was kind of spooky, since I had just seen this one for the first time at the store earlier in the day.
screen shot of Likelii's regional choices pageI clicked and saved and clicked and saved...seriously, this really was fun. But at some point I had to actually choose the wines being recommended to me. So I headed to my saved wines page and narrowed it down to four: Josh Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau St. Michelle Merlot and Elvis The King Cabernet Sauvignon (I couldn't resist). All of these wines were recommended to me were 4.5 glasses or higher, with the exception of Elvis, which came in at 3.5. I also stayed in the $10-$15 dollar range.
Likelii just doesn't list the wines for you (although you can take your recs and head out to the store) - you can buy them from the site as well. All my choices were able to be shipped to me in Ohio, they arrived within 3 days, and I got to work sipping.
First up was the Josh Cellars Chard (2011, 13.9%, CA). This was a big, buttery Chardonnay was predicted as a 4/5 on my likelii list, but there was just something about it. The big and butter sort of overwhelmed any other tastes (and there was some nice tropical fruit in there somewhere), so I dropped my rating of it to a 2/5. Just not for me.
Moving on to the reds, I poured Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.5%, Washington State). It was rated 4.5/5 for me and it was spot on! This was a wonderful wine - cocoa and blackberries on the nose, cherry and chocolate in the mouth, smooth and supple. Winner!
Up next was the Chateau St. Michelle Merlot (2009, 13.5%, Washington State). It was rated as another 4.5/5 for me...but this time, I had to disagree and give it the full 5 glass rating! LOVED this wine. Warm oak and earth on the nose gave way to a different kind of taste than I'd ever had in the mouth. There were green herbs and fruit and oak all working together to create a wonderful sipping experience! Another winner.
(Elvis The King is not open yet. He will be debuting in the Winey Household on St. Patrick's Day. You may wonder why, since Elvis is not exactly known for being Irish. It just so happens that the Winey Hubby is a St. Patrick's Day baby and is also one of the biggest music fans in the world. So Elvis must wait until then to toast a happy birthday to the Hubby.)
Based on my three bottles, I'd have to say that Likelii did a pretty good job of telling me what to buy. Sure, the white wasn't a big hit (I was taken in by the fact that I had just seen this new-to-me wine earlier in the day - the description did mention "smoke", which I should have paid more attention to) but the reds were home runs. And I mean grand slam home runs - I'll buy them again and again. But not before I head back to Likelii and lose myself in another search!
I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions expressed above about the wines and the website are all my own.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Finding Found Object

It is not an unusual situation for me: there I am wandering the wine aisles of a favorite store, looking and looking and starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the sipping choices arrayed before me. In this case, it was Trader Joe's and to be perfectly honest, I had only gone in to buy my doggies some of their favorite dog treats, which only TJ's carries. But how do you resist the wine aisles when you are a Winey Mom? I also would pose the same question about the cheese section, but I'm not a Cheesy Mom.

bottle of Found Object Carmenere wineBack to the wine. I had my doggie treats in hand, and I had lost all momentum and had just sort of stopped walking. I was facing the shelves and I must have (once again) had a certain look on my face, because one of the store's very helpful employees stopped and said, "Need a suggestion?" Hello - I sure did. So he walked a few feet to the right and took out a bottle of Found Object Carmenere (2010, 13.5%, Chile). He brought it over and of course the first thing I wanted to ask was "how did you find this?" hahahah. But I didn't. I was feeling clueless enough and didn't want to seal the deal on it.

He told me that this one one of his favorites. It was $9.99 (Ohio prices, remember), it was from Chile, I was feeling the need to travel outside my typical wine buying regions, plus it was being handed to me. I bought it.

Carmemere is a huge deal down in Chile - they grow the most of it out of anywhere, even though the grape itself started out in France many moons ago. A lot of times you'll find this in a blend of reds, but this time it got the bottle all to itself. The nose on this one was herby with a bit of raspberry at the edges. The berries came through in the taste, as did the herbs (think thyme and oregano) and a teeny hint of black pepper. There was a taste of warm vanilla oak on top of it all (it's aged 4 months in oak) and it finished warm and lasting - again, the oak talking here. No big giant tannins though, just a hint.

You don't need to aerate this one at all...just uncork, pour and sip. Very convenient should the need for instant wine therapy arise.

Did I like it? Yup. It was a nice, well-behaved red - not too wimpy, not too in your face bold. It speaks well of more trips to the Chilean wine aisle....and to Trader Joe's for those doggy treats. (REALLY - I just went in for them - really.)


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