Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Watching "Bottle Shock", Sipping Chateau Montelena

Today I'd like to talk about a particularly inspired birthday gift that some friends gave me this past (significant/big/ends in a zero) birthday. I really don't think I am a difficult person to buy for, because if there is ever any question…go with the wine. Any wine. All wine. Thank you very much. Which is what two of my favorite people did for said birthday gift. But these two inspired souls went one step further.

Chateau Montelena
The lovely Chateau Montelena
photo courtesy of Chateau Montelena
They bought me a bottle of wine as well the movie to go with it.

I am talking about the famed Chateau Montelena, of the equally famed Napa region of California. You have never heard of it? I'll bet you have. While the name Montelena might not jump out at you, you probably have heard of the Judgement of Paris winery. Or the winery that put Napa (and thus California wines) on the map. Or the winery from the movie "Bottle Shock". That would be Chateau Montelena! And yes, the movie is all about the time that one upstart sommelier  brought a Napa Valley Chardonnay to a blind French wine tasting competition, and beat the grape skins off the big boys from France.
Bottle Shock DVD picture
The Movie
photo via Winey Mom
and her scanner

bottle of 2010 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay
photo courtesy of Chateau Montelena
The Winey Hubby and I love this movie - very wry humor and full of some great actors. Alan Rickman (in the middle of his run as Severus Snape) plays the sommelier. Bill Pullman plays the vineyard owner and Chris Pine plays his son. And although we are fans of the movie, we have never tried the wine. Looking back, that seems sort of odd, but we had only seen the movie on TV or rentals..we never actually owned a copy of it until this past year. Luckily, our friends decided to skip a box of popcorn to go alone with the DVD and gifted us with a bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (2010, 14.1%, Napa, CA) instead.

So about that wine. The nose was full of red apples. The first taste to hit you is of oak and warmed cinnamon. Then you get the apple and nutmeg. (I just realized it sounds like I'm describing an apple pie - and I would have to say that the taste really did describe a nice juicy apple pie - from the top of the crust to the bottom of the apples!) The finish was tart and citrusy with hints of lime. Very full, very round and supple in my mouth. I could really taste the layers of the different flavors.

I really enjoyed this wine. I could easily see it as being a go-to white. It's very accessible - enough oak to give it some style, but not too much that you can't taste the bevy of flavors. It will cost a bit more than wines I usually review (about $50) but hey, I got it as a gift. You may want to do that as well - pair it with the movie or there is also a book ("Judgement of Paris" by George Taber). There is no rule that says you can't buy a gift for yourself, either. Just saying'.  If you like white wine, you will love this one, as well as the history behind it.


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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Canvassing the Campuses With Campus Oaks

I don't know about all of you, but recently, the word "campus" evokes a certain anxious excitement around the Winey Household. This is because we are smack dab in the middle of the Winey Daughter's senior year in high school. And that means she will be heading off to college in the fall. But not if she doesn't pick a college to attend.

I had it coming to me: I thought that all the pain, torture and eye-rolling joy and wonder of choosing which colleges to apply to and then filling out those applications would be tough. All those options to take into consideration: location? "NOT anywhere in this state." All righty then, let's just talk about the in-state tuition break? "NO." Size of school? "I don't know." Majors available? "I don't know." City or campus? "I don't know." How about the school Winey Mom and Winey Dad met at? "NO."

To give her credit, after some initial trips, we did narrow a few things down. NOTHING in state. (Really? Two very fine universities have accepted her. But it seems that residing inside the same state lines as her parents is NOT an option.) South is good. (I believe this is a direct correlation to the number of -0 days we've had this winter.) Very, very small colleges are out. (OK sure, I'll give on this one. Going to a college smaller than your high school might be tough.) A few got tossed out just because she didn't get a good feeling on the visits. (I do not knock this way of deciding - you can get a real feel for a school just by strolling on campus.)

So here we are, still in decision mode. Weighing the options. Filling out the FAFSA. Where does a Winey Mom turn? One guess.

bottle of Campus Oaks Chardonnay 2011Yup, there's a wine for all of this.  And it came to me as a Christmas present.   Two bottles of Campus Oaks wine, proving once again that Santa knows each and every one of us and is well aware of the things we need to make it through the next year of our lives. And no, I really didn't care if there were any oak trees on the campuses in question. There was wine in the bottles and that was good enough for me.

The first bottle I tasted was the Chardonnay (2011, 13.3%, CA). I uncorked it shortly after New Year's. It's a very pretty light gold color with a nose of fresh sea air mixed with fresh cut oak and minerals. It tasted of cinnamon and pear and vanilla and finished up with tart spices - you could especially taste the cinnamon here. A very smooth, round wine. You can tell it spent some time in the barrel, but it wasn't one of those wood filled, buttery Chardonnays. I'd describe it as mellow and flavorful. A great Chardonnay for white wine lovers - not so dry that you need to pick the wood out of your teeth after you finish it, but not so fruity and tart that you think you are drinking a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. It paired well with LOTS of food, since we were on a mission to finish up the holiday leftovers. So go ahead and serve it with baked brie, shrimp, buffalo chicken dip, and pizza.  (I never said there was a theme to those leftovers.)

bottle of Campus Oaks Old Vine Merlot 2009
A few weeks later I opened the Old Vine Merlot (2009, 14.5%, CA). I have come to learn that if you put the words "old vine" on a bottle, the chances that I will like it are very, very good. And this wine did not disappoint. It's medium bodied and a dark red in color. The nose is cherry and raspberry and again, some newly cut oak. The taste was out of this world! Blueberries and raspberries and oaky vanilla. There was definitely some lip smacking going on here, especially at the finish, which was full of velvet and tart cherry. Yummy!! I really loved this wine. It's  perfect if you are trying to convince someone that red wine is not the devil and is actually very good. It's very balanced, fruit forward and has that little tannic kick at the end.  Sip it or pair it, either way. Another winner for the Winey Mom winey win list.
And as for those colleges. The three of us, in some combination or another, will be spending the rest of February visiting and re-visiting some of the top runners. As much as I tease about it, we are very proud of her for working so hard and ensuring that come next August, the Winey Household will be a Winey Empty Nester Household. Gulp.

There's gonna have to be a wine for that too. 


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Chocolate and Wine

We are a few days out from Valentine's Day, which means that all our Winey hearts are turning in one general direction: wine and chocolate. A classic combo if ever there was one. And yet it seems that everyone has an opinion on how to pair them with each other. The first words that comes to my mind  are "constantly and abundantly". But I'm guessing that we'd all like to get a bit more specific than that. I  mean, why ruin perfectly good chocolate or perfectly good wine by making them play nice together when they simply cannot.

A lot of folks will tell you that sweet wine pairs better with chocolate. Others will tell you that big reds can be paired with sweet chocolate. Or that you should never pair an extremely dry wine with chocolate at all. Yikes. Lots of opinions, lots of decisions.

Rosa Regale sparkling red wine and Brix Smooth Dark ChocolateIt will come as no surprise to you then, that some inspired soul went out and developed a line of chocolate made to pair with wine. It's called Brix and I was lucky enough to get a sample of their Dark Smooth Chocolate, along with a bottle of Banfi's Rosa Regale (2012, 7%, Italy). Rosa Regale is the perfect wine for Valentine's Day - it's all pretty and pink and bubbly and it has a rose on the label. (Don't judge me here, I love a frilly Valentine, especially when it is inside a wine bottle.) The Brix box suggested that this particular chocolate (there are 4 varieties) would pair well with Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Vintage Port. So since Rosa Regale is bubbly and berry sweet (think strawberry and orange blossom and elegant little bubbles), it promised to be a yummy outcome.

bottle of Rosa Regale sparkling red wineFirst, I sipped the wine. Then I had some of the chocolate. It was a very mellow dark chocolate, by the way. Then I sipped some wine with the chocolate. The combo gave the wine a bit more of a sharp taste - more cherry than strawberry. It almost changed the texture of the wine, in that the bubbles felt different when the chocolate hit them. (Although this could also have been the amount of chocolate in my mouth. I truly have no self control went it comes to a gourmet block of chocolate. And I've grown to accept this about myself, OK?) Either way, I did love the bubbles paired with the smooth texture of the chocolate. The chocolate took on a bit more creaminess while the wine took on a deeper flavor. Pretty cool!

label of Rosa Regale sparkling red wineNot being in any way, shape or form research minded, I nevertheless decided to do a few more chocolate tests in order to make my pairing experiment a bit more chocolately scientific. I gathered up some semi-sweet chocolate. (OK, yes, it was in the shape of morsels. Come on, you can't tell me you all don't raid the baking cabinet when you desperately need a chocolate fix. It's like every Mom's secret stash.) This time the strawberry flavors of the wine were pretty much gone. The wine took a tangy, citrusy flavor.

And then I went for milk chocolate. Full disclosure here: this is my favorite kind of chocolate. In total opposition to the rest of the Winey Family, who love their dark chocolate. So I had to delve into my stash. And the combo of the sweeter milk chocolate with the sweet fizzy wine was NOT the way to go. The wine and the chocolate both lost their flavor. The finish did have a raspberry taste to it, but until then - nothing.

So I learned a few things here: I can't imagine any dry white wine going well with this chocolate. A sweeter Riesling would be fine though. Dark chocolate with a sweeter wine is heavenly. I think the milk chocolate needed a red wine (to make it more like my favorite chocolate treat: chocolate cherry cordials) as its partner. And the milk chocolate. Hmm...this is tough. I need to do a LOT more testing I think. By the way, the Brix folks suggest that their very dark chocolate be paired with a big red, but I am going to reserve judgement until I try it. So Winey Hubby, take note!

Let me know if you have a favorite wine and chocolate pairing. I am looking for testing options!

Happy Valentine's Day! Cheers!

I was given this wine and chocolate for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. Pin It

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: A Pair of Rosés for Valentine's Day Sipping

Rosé wine and I have had a bit of a difficult relationship. First off, I had to get over that pink color. Because I think that, like most people, when I see pink wine, I think "sweet" or "lightweight" or "the only wine I can get my mother to drink". But no no no no. Rosé wine, to put it simply, starts out as red grapes, complete with red grape skins. The skins give the wine its pretty color, but they don't hang around long enough during the wine making process to make the wine a red wine.
bottle of LaPlaya Rose wine
My next problem with Rosé was due to the fact that the first true Rosé I had tried was, well, icky. I did not like it at all. No aromas, no flavor. It scared me off of Rosés for a while. (check it out: The Crusher Rose of Pinot Noir.) But then I saw a recommendation for a Rosé hanging from the shelf in one of my favorite wine stores. I trust the folks there, so I decided to give it a try. The wine in question is La Playa's  Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (2012, 13.5%, Chile). And yes, it was a very pretty pinky-salmon color. The bouquet was a lively strawberry and minerals. The first flavors were the strawberry, along with cranberry. Then came a bit of stony, mineral flavor. There was a hint of flowers at the edge of it all. (The wine is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Viognier, which explains the flowers.) The finishing taste was tart fruit and minerals. Well, put my suspicions to rest here! This Rosé had aroma and layers of flavors and was pretty generally an amazing taste. I even wrote the word "amazing" down in my notes. I was that pleasantly surprised.

bottle of Centine Rose wineA bit later, I received another Rosé from Banfi wines to sample. So now I was about to taste an Italian Rosé instead of a Chilean one. This one was Centine Rose (2012, 12.55, Italy). This time, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are blended with Merlot and Sangiovese, instead of Viogner. Again, a very lively nose of cranberry, with some strawberry on top of it. The taste was juicy strawberry, lime and kiwi and it finished off with crisp minerals and citrus rind - perfectly tart! And there it was, another good reason to like a dry Rosé wine. As far as Italian wines are concerned, this could easily become one of my favorites. I will have to try more..yeah..that's it. More.

Buy these wines if you like a tart, lively flavorful wine. If tannins and oak scare your taste buds, these are perfect for you.

Now, as we are coming up on Valentine's Day, many Winey people will be turning their eyes toward a bottle of vino to celebrate. And what better color to celebrate with than a pretty pink? Both these wines can be readily found in all areas of the country for under $15 - and many times for under $10. So that will leave you with plenty of cash on hand to buy some chocolate for your Valentine. And since wine and chocolate are a hotly debated pairing - opinions all over the place on this topic - I'll be publishing a review of a wine and chocolate pairing in a few days. Plenty of time to make your decisions for the 14th!


I received Centine Rose for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.  

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Answer to the Wine Glass Translation

So here is the photo that I asked you all to "translate":

Here it is:
"8 oz by mouth three times daily as needed for stress"

That is one smart glass. 
You can find this adorable glass at:
2 Lollies on Etsy


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