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 disagree..it 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.

Cheers!!   Pin It