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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