Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Hoping for Italy, Part Two - Bolla Creso

Welcome to Part Two of my Italian vacation dream. I started these wine reviews because The Winey Family is planning (and hoping and praying for) a trip to Italy this coming summer to celebrate The Winey Son's college graduation and the Winey Daughter's high school graduation. (It's gonna be quite a week in May. You may want to check back on the us on June 1st to see if we survived two graduations in 4 days, 500 miles apart.)

Label of Bolla Creso wineI am well aware that a successful vacation requires some advance planning. And so I decided to channel my inner Rick Steves and prepare for this trip by sipping different Italian wines. (It does so count as planning!) My friends at Banfi wines have aided me (some would say aided and abetted me, but that is total opinion) by providing me with lots of Italian wine samples recently. I was happily surprised by Bolla's Chianti , and so eagerly moved on to another offering.

Twitter conversation Bolla Wine and The Winey Mom, Creso wineThis one is Bolla Creso (2010, 15%, Italy). It's a blend of 65% Corvina, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn't really familiar with Corvina, but a quick tweet session with the Bolla folks helped me get familiar. Corvina is grown in Veneto, Italy and makes a medium bodied, acidic wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon I knew about, but in this case, the Bolla tweeps informed me that the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Creso are partially dried before being used in this wine.

Newly and duly informed, I sipped away. The nose on this can best be described as an autumn afternoon spent outside: oak and smoke. More on the crisp side than the smoky side of things though. The first flavors I tasted were of framboise liqueur and raspberries. I say both because there was a tartness to it that made me think of the liqueur in addition to the fresh fruit. Then came some wood fired oak, which oddly enough, was an amazing partner to the fruit flavor. The tannins were big, but very refined, so you didn't get knocked down by them. I have to say that this wine is amazingly balanced too. For a wine that's 15% ABV, you get such true flavors of the fruit and oak that you've got to be impressed! The folks at Bolla suggested that you let it breathe for a while and that it would pair great with a rich dish, like polenta and short ribs. It was quite the Twitter chat. (Note to self: find good recipe and learn how to cook short ribs. Yes, I will take suggestions, Winey Friends. Just leave 'em in the comment section. Pretty please.)

There was just enough fruit in this to make me happy, and enough oak and big red flavor to make any red wine lover (include me) happy too. I love my reds, but I also like to be reminded of the fruits they come from. This wine did a great job. It's sold widely around the country for between $15 and $20. A great wine to present as a hostess gift!

And I must give another shout out to the tweeps at Bolla. You see, I originally started sipping this wine because the infamous polar vortex of January 2014 was at its end. For the first time in 3 days, we were looking at temps above 0 (OK, not the Winey Daughter, she was totally enjoying her extended senior year Christmas break) and yet they reminded me to look on the positive side of polar conditions:

Twitter conversation Bolla Wine and The Winey Mom, Creso wine
Love their perspective! 


Cheers!             


I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. In my opinion, polar vortexes stink. The wine however, did not. 



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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Italian Dreaming - Bolla Chianti

The Winey Family is gearing up (and by that I mean writing checks) for a graduation bonanza. It will occur this May, in the space of 4 days, at which time the Winey Son will graduate from college and the Winey Daughter will graduate from high school. The Winey Hubby and I have already begun our graduation spending, starting with senior pictures for them both and cap and gown for daughter (since she is a girl, we cannot recycle her brother's "boy" set from 4 years ago, so if anyone ever has the need for green OR white cap and gown ensembles, please call on us). The Winey Son, being that he is graduating from West Point, is eyeing a gorgeous Class of 2014 Pistol as a gift. And by gorgeous I mean expensive. Ditto the saber he has carried for his last year, the uniforms he has worn (ok, I am the one that wants them...he and his classmates can't wait to be rid of them) and the special coins that newly minted officers hand out. Daughter is going to college, and with every acceptance letter come the instructions for us to pay her initial deposit along with her instructions on what to buy to ensure her collegiate success. (Textbooks? Nope. New wardrobe and free reign at Bed Bath and Beyond? Yup.) Personally, I'd give anything if she'd just DECIDE on a college. But oh no...she can't make a final decision until we re-visit certain schools. All of which require at least one overnight stay. And shopping for t-shirts and sweatshirts at the bookstore.

But with all these monetary issues staring us square in our soon-to-be-empty-nester faces, there is one item that we are actually looking forward to spending money on. A big old celebratory trip. To Italy. The Winey Family has wanderlust. We love, love, love to travel and one of our bucket list destinations is that boot shaped country full of art and culture and pasta and gorgeous shoes and (for me at least) wine! My friends at Bolla wines have been helping me prepare for this venture (which at this writing, is just a plan..nothing has been booked but we are ever hopeful that all four of us can carve time out of a very busy summer to get away together) by sending me a bevy of Italian wines to sample. Seriously, you should all have friends like them. Anyway, knowing that research and planning are essential to any good vacation, I have been sipping these wines in anticipation of which ones I will drink in Italy. Sometimes, I am so on top of things, I scare myself.

Let's talk Chianti. I have written about this wine before, and I usually start those posts of by admitting that I am highly skeptical of Sangiovese, the grapes that Chianti is made from. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there are SO MANY Chiantis out there and many of them are well, let's just say they are the polar opposite of the experience of having two graduations in one week. And by that I mean cheap. In the "this tastes cheap" sense of the word. There is also that whole "Silence of the Lambs" Chianti thing. Fava beans and Chianti and human brain? Um, no. Besides which, I haven't really had any that bowl me over.

Then I tried Bolla Chianti (2011, 13%, Italy) and was very pleasantly surprised. It started out with sour cherry and oak on the nose. The taste was tart cherry, oak, some dark green herbs (Chianti is known for its herbs) and a touch of raspberry in the middle. My initial reaction was, "Finally, a Chianti that doesn't leave me with my lips in a pucker!" The fruits are there for sure, but the wine ends with some nice lingering tannins. They are more round and full though - not thin and sharp and drying as with some other Chiantis I have had. I would pair it with Italian dishes with red sauce (see, I am planning ahead). We happened to have it with beef stew and mashed potatoes and it did wonderfully. But you could sip it on its own too. And that's not often the case with big reds like this. This really surprised me. It had just enough more fruit than other Chiantis I've tried to make my taste buds happy. Plus, Bolla is a great bargain - look to pay around $8 a bottle.

I have more wines to tell you about, but I'm getting a bit long winded here. So in the interest of not overwhelming us all,  here is my review of Bolla Cresco

Cheers!!

I received this wine  for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. Ciao!


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Wine-ing on Broadway

Is there anything more fun than a Broadway musical? How about a Broadway musical that serves a yummy Argentinian wine in really cool sippy wine cups? I can attest that such was the case this past December when the Winey family took in the award winning musical "Once" on our trip to NYC.

I am a sucker for live theater. It was actually my major in college, along with communications. I love all types of plays: musical or not, I want to go. The Winey Hubby is actually more of a movie guy, but when you are in NYC, you go to Broadway! And we got to go twice on our last family visit to the Big Apple. First up, we saw "Jersey Boys" at the August Wilson Theater. The Winey Hubby, Winey Daughter and I had seen it before, but Winey Son hadn't. It's a rockin' play about the history of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. You will have so much fun at this show and you WILL be singing the songs long after the curtain drops. We saw this show after a big dinner with family (I am from New Jersey, right outside the city, and the Winey Grandparents came in to dine with us), so I didn't really bother to look at the drink offerings.

The next afternoon, though, we made our way over to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater to see the matinee of "Once". I just knew this was going to be a great show as we entered the main part of the theater and saw the full bar set up on stage, with cast members playing their music (the story revolves around Irish musicians) right there. Winey Son and I hurried to get in line, but missed out on the stage bar, as they did have a show to do up there and it closed down early to get ready. But never fear, we did get our drinks at a bar in the back of the theater. (It was a record setting 70 degrees that rainy day in Manhattan, and since it was December, we were all in coats and sweaters and rather hot and thirsty.)

"Once" The Musical wine cup
Broadway theater sippy cup
The wine they were serving was Trapiche Vineyards Pinot Grigio (2012, 13%, Argentina). But what got us all thrilled were the glasses they were serving the drinks in. (It wasn't taking much to thrill us that weekend - we were having such a good time!) It seems that Broadway has finally wised up to the fact that patrons cannot chug down their drinks before returning to their seats. (I mean really, chugging wine on Broadway?) So the theaters are now serving drinks (wine, beer, soda) in what I can only describe as sippy cups for adults. (The only thing that makes me say they are for adults is the lack of cartoons and/or cute little animals on them. Otherwise, they really were sippy cups.) The cups have the name of the show written on them, making them souvenirs of a sort. And just like the souvenir cups at sports events, a refill will cost you less than your first purchase. I took advantage of that, by the way.

Trapiche Vineyards Pinot Grigio bottleWhen I think of Argentina, Pinot Grigio is not the varietal that comes to mind first. In fact, when I think of Argentina, what usually comes to mind is another Broadway show I saw when it opened (LONG time ago), "Evita". "Don't cry for me, Argentina....." Oops, sorry about that..took a little trip down memory lane there. Anyway, I usually think of Malbec when I hear Argentina, but on this rainy, warm Sunday, I wanted something a bit more refreshing, so I chose the Pinot Grigio. It starts out with a nose of peach and minerals. The taste was bubbly minerals - not soda fizzy minerals, but lively tart little bubbles. There were flavors of white peach and grapefruit. It finished tart and fresh. I was totally reminded of an Australian Pinot Grigio - lots of tart, refreshing flavors here.

Trapiche wines are found all over and are a very good bargain. I recently saw a 1.5 litre on special for $10. I would totally buy this wine for summer and for a light white option for parties any time of the year. It's not sweet, but it's not bone dry either. It would pair with a whole lot of different foods or you could also use it to make winey cocktails. Winey Tasting Notes: Winey Cocktail Hour.
Paul Nolan, aka "Guy", of
the Broadway musical "Once"
with Winey Mom and Daughter

Oh and I have to show you this pic. I am a true theater geek, so I wait outside stage doors. Winey Daughter and I got to talk to the show's lead, Paul Nolan, after the performance. He was extremely gracious and we had a nice conversation about another favorite theater haunt of mine, Ontario's Stratford Festival. What fun!!!

Cheers to great theater while sipping yummy wine!



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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Bolla Prosecco for 2014

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, December 2103
Winey NYC Family
Army-Navy game picture, December 14, 2013
Winey Army-Navy Game
Family
Oh my oh my. The Winey Hubby and I were exhausted. Since the beginning of December, we had been on a winey whirlwind of a month. First up was a trip to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game. A wonderful weekend, if you don't count the actual game itself. Wet, snowy rain means heavy, wet, winter clothes and heavy, wet, smelly Cadet overcoats. It didn't help that Army made it an even dozen years of losing to that other team from Maryland. Anyway. The next weekend we travelled to New York City to celebrate the Winey Daughter's 18th birthday. The Winey Son finished his finals (TEEs - term end examinations -  in Cadet speak) and joined us there for what turned out to be one of our best mini vacations ever. We packed so much into those 3 days! We wound up home on Christmas Eve, celebrated with family and had a great Christmas. Two days later, we hit the All Academy Military Ball, in our full out, no holds barred formal wear. So by New Year's Eve, the Hubs and I were tapped out of any energy that we would normally use to haul out butts out of the house and celebrate a new year.
NE Ohio All Academy Military Ball, December 27, 2013
Winey Formal Family

Thus it was that we settled in for the evening with a fire in the fireplace, books on our laps and doggies floating between the two of us. (For the record, they don't float. They sneak up on you and eventually wiggle their way onto your lap or into that warm space in between your thigh and the sofa cushion, there to stay until you desperately need a powder room break, which you are not permitted to take unless they accompany you into said powder room and supervise all that goes on in there.) Oh and did I mention that "A League of Their Own" was playing on the TV? We both LOVE that movie.
bottle of Bolla Prosecco, Extra Dry
It was the perfect way to end a very busy, very fun month. And of course, there was some bubbly to celebrate. But this year, thanks to my friends at Banfi Wines, I went a different route than the standard Champagne. The Hubby and I popped open a bottle of Bolla's Prosecco, Extra Dry (NV, 11%, Italy). Prosecco is simply an Italian sparkling wine made from the Glera (or Prosecco) grape. You've probably heard a bit about it lately, since its popularity is rising here in the US. Why? Well, to put it simply: it tastes as good as Champagne, but costs less. Unlike Champagne (which is only Champagne if it's made in the Champagne region of France), Prosecco is made using the Charmant method of sparkling wines. So instead of the second fermentation of the grapes taking place in individual bottles, it's put into stainless steel tanks to finish up, which is less expensive to do. ABC News reported that this is why Champagne sales are down and Prosecco sales are up (1) (I mean really, if it's equally good and costs less, wouldn't YOU buy Prosecco over Champagne?) Bloomberg News had a similar story,  "Why the Dumb Money Is On Champagne Tonight" (2) that actually ran on New Year's Eve.

I was given this wine by Banfi wines, so I didn't have to think about the cost. I simply thought it would be fun to try a Prosecco instead of Champagne. This one started out with aromas of minerals and faint honeysuckle. The taste started out with orange blossom, turned into pear and ended on a dry sugar cookie note. I know you're probably reading that going "HUH?"...but seriously, the taste went from sweet (orange) to dry (pear) to sweetly dry (the crumbly sugar cookie). This was a very bouncy wine. The flavors stayed in my mouth too, instead of fizzily dissolving as they do in some bone dry sparkling wines. It leaves you with a light fruit taste in your mouth, instead of a tongue in dire need of Chapstick.  I really liked it but more importantly, so did the Winey Hubby, who is not much of a wine drinker to begin with. (I know, shocking, isn't it? Here's another shocker about him: He was born on St. Patrick's Day and does not like the taste of beer.) So he sipped about half a glass and I "helped" with the rest. And yes, there was some left over (we did our best) for the next day. [Fun side note: a little trick to re-bubble your bubbly if you face this situation: drop a raisin in it! There is a whole science-y thing about why this works, but I'm going to stop at "it just does" and leave it there. Mostly because I don't understand it, but also because I don't want to bore or confuse you. You're welcome.] 

The best part of all this? You'll pay between $10-$12 a bottle (depending on where you are buying it). This is a great sparkler for those who want some great flavor at a reasonable price. The flavor is a bit sweeter than you think of when you think of sparkling wine or Champagne, but in this case that is a very good thing. 

And so, the Winey Hubby and I (and the doggies, who wanted to go to bed LONG before the Times Square ball drop) rang in 2014. We were warm and cozy and pleasantly wiped out from a wonderful December full of family and friends and travel. 

Good start to 2014, wasn't it? Hope yours was too!

Cheers!

1 - Via Good Morning America. "Champagne Sales Expected to Fall Flat for Second Year in a Row." ABC News. ABC News Network, 25 Dec. 2013. Web. 

2 - Stock, Kyle. "Why the Dumb Money Is on Champagne Tonight." Businessweek.com. Bloomberg News, 31 Dec. 2013. Web.

I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: I Can Handle January, As Long as Downton Abbey Makes Wine

January 2014 will arrive a little less painfully in my Winey Little World. Oh yes, I will still be dealing with the after effects of The Winey Son returning to school and the current effects of the Winey Daughter gearing up for senior midterms (our misguided school district schedules them for two weeks AFTER Christmas break..go figure). I will be starting to look at the normally gorgeous Christmas decorations festooning our home as evil dust collecting tchotchkes. I will be a little weary of the scent of evergreen and peppermint. And I will be totally over the end of the year reviews that hit us on big and small screens, in print, on line and on the radio. Move on already.

So what makes this January a bit more palatable? DOWNTON ABBEY RETURNS JANUARY 5th!!!

Yup, I'm one of them: a Downton fanatic. It was bound to happen, given the fact that I love all things England: we spent our Winey honeymoon there 29 years ago; I will read any and everything written about the Royal Family, with a special fondness for those wacky Tudors; I have an odd desire to get to know Jane Austen as my BFF and if you need any more proof: I got married in a Laura Ashley wedding dress. (It was the 80's, though.) And yes, the following little funny just might apply to me:



Now, if one epic, PBS-produced, Anglophile worshipping television series can make me look forward to another dreary old January, can you imagine the utter euphoria I experienced when I saw the following: 
http://downtonabbeywine.com/index.html
DOWNTON ABBEY WINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am usually a somewhat prudent shopper, but upon seeing this, I whipped out my credit card faster than the Dowager Countess could cut you down to size with one of her infamous quips. "Stop whining and find something to do."  "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit." And soon two bottles of Downton's finest arrived on the steps of my Winey Manor (ahem) House. (You can find the wine in the US on Wine.com. If you want to find it in store, World Market stores would be your best bet - but call ahead. You'll pay in the $15-17 a bottle range.) 

According to the labels, "When Mr. Carson pulled a bottle of wine from the cellar for Lord and Lady Grantham, one could be assured it was a fine French Bordeaux, the wine of choice amongst the British nobility in Edwardian England." Bordeaux (France's largest wine growing area) wines are usually red. In England, they are referred to as Claret. Bordeaux is famous for its renowned wine producing Chateaus, and the Downton Bordeaux hail from "the famed Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, France by Dulong Grand Vins, a family-owned vineyard with more than 130 years of winemaking experience."

So enough about the pedigree here, they had me at "Mr.Carson" anyway. Let's talk about the wines. 

Lady Edit Crawley, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
The Claret is definitely a
 "Lady Edith" wine
Downton Abbey Bordeaux, Claret, 2012 FranceThe Downton Abbey Bordeaux Claret  (2012, 13%, France) is a blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. On the nose, you get raspberry. So you start out thinking Merlot..but when you taste it, you get Cabernet. The first tastes that came to me were lots of anise (OK, licorice, but anise just sounded more Edwardian), followed by sour cherry and blackberry and a hint of pomegranate arils. The anise overpowered it all. So did the oaky, dry finish. Very tannic, very sour on the lips and tongue. For all the tannins though, I would still call this a "bright" tasting wine (not my term, the label said that and for once I agreed with a wine label adjective). It wasn't thin and woody, like some dry reds can be.  Not fruit forward by any means, though. I would definitely pair this with food instead of sipping it on its own. In fact, I discovered that pairing this with Godiva chocolate is an amazing taste experience. Wow. But for more substantial meals, go with any hearty beef dish or stew.  I'm going to go ahead and call this wine a "Lady Edith". Very refined, very dry, rather sharp around the edges and definitely best enjoyed in the company of others and not one on one. (She scares me.) Would I buy it again? Um, well, not for the taste. For the novelty of the Downton name, sure, but again, Edith scares me.


Anna Bates, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
Definitely an Anna.....
bottle shot of Downton Abbey Bordeaux BlancThe Downton Abbey Bordeaux Blanc (2012, 12%, France) is a different taste altogether. A bit of background first. Most Bordeaux Blanc falls into two categories: light and zesty or rich and buttery. The Downton Blanc falls into the light and citrusy category and is a blend of 70% Muscadelle and 30% Semillon Blanc, two of the most planted white grapes in the region. The other Bordeaux Blanc grape you'll see used extensively is Sauvignon Blanc. (In fact, most Bordeaux Blancs contain some Sauvignon Blanc, so this one is unusual.) You also need to know that Sauvignon Blanc, which today brings to mind New Zealand, originated in Bordeaux. So they have dibs on it. Which makes total sense when you get a whiff of this wine. Tropical fruits, kiwi, white grapes make up the nose on this one. The taste is tart and juicy at first sip, with lime and white grapefruit flavors with a touch of minerals to give it some sip. Very much like a Sauvignon Blanc, especially when it finishes on a lemon note, very tart and very crisp. This would pair well with salads or shellfish but would be wonderful on its own. Thus, this wine is going to be called an Anna wine (very likeable, lively and easy to be with) with a hint of Mrs. Patmore (there is that lively tartness to it, after all!!).                                            

Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
...with a bit of Patmore for fun!
So obviously, the Blanc was my favorite of the two. I'd buy it again, even if it didn't have the Downton name attached to it. But, if it ever came time for me to sit down to dinner at Downton, above and/or below the stairs, I'd never say to to the Claret. It just isn't done, my dears. It would upset the Dowager. And I for one, am never, ever going to upset the Dowager Countess.

Downton Abbey, season 4, premiers in the colonies (aka The United States), Sunday, January 5th at 9 pm on your PBS station.  I suggest pouring a glass of either of the above, settling in next to a roaring fire with or without doggies at your side and start the year off in real style. 

Ta-ta!

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