Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Pas de Deux and Pomp and Circumstance

As I write this review the Winey Family is just days out from the Winey Son's graduation from West Point. This will be our first graduation of the week, since three days after, the Winey Daughter will graduate from high school. So as you might image, The Winey Hubby and I have been doing some thinking about those two and the paths they're about to walk upon.

Graduations are, by nature, bittersweet. On the one hand, many of the graduates are SO ready to move on. They've grown out of the routine of their recent years, be it college or a high school. They know there are bigger and better adventures out there and in the usual way of the young, want it NOW.  But on the other hand, they are not quite ready to move on from the friendships they have developed. Or the families they have grown up around. The easy comfort of the people who know and love them, or the familiarity of a small town, of a campus, of the light in the window that is their goal at the end of each busy, wonderful, frustrating day.

So we will watch those two remarkable people step out of the Winey House to write their own stories, knowing, in the way only parents can, that those stories could be so very different than what they have planned.

Take The Winey Son, for instance. A few short hours after walking across the stage at Michie Stadium, he will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army and will begin his career. Will it be spent in the Army? Will he stay on after his West Point commitment is fulfilled? Or, will he take off on a totally new path...one that he might not even realize is there right now.

bottle of Pas de Deux, Biltmore WineryThere is a point to this, I promise. And as usual with The Winey Mom, it begins with a bottle of wine and one of my favorite wineries (and houses, for that matter). I am talking about Biltmore Winery in Asheville, North Carolina. Home of the awe inspiring Biltmore House (if you ever have the chance, go see it...it is jaw droppingly stunning) and home to the most visited winery in the country. The Winey Hubs and I have visited there often (see my review of Christmas at Biltmore wine), but I recently learned something about the winemaker there that made me take note.

Sharon Fenchak became the Biltmore's winemaker in 2003. And just when did her interest in wine blossom? When she was IN THE ARMY!!! That's right. The Army! Sharon enlisted at age 19 to be able to serve our country and explore the world. And then, as Sharon puts it, "I was stationed at Caserma Ederle in Vincenza, Italy for most of my time on active duty. While in Italy, I fell in love with the culture of wine, food and the Italian lifestyle. My favorite wine at that time in my life was the Moscato from the Veneto, Colli Euganei area of Italy. We have a wine at Biltmore called Pas de Deux that was inspired by the Moscato wines from this region." 

After her service in the Army, Sharon went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in food science from Penn State University as well as a master’s degree in food science from the University of Georgia, which lead to jobs in Georgia wineries before joining Biltmore in 1999. What a wonderful journey, right?

And it is a bottle of that aforementioned Pas de Deux (2010, 12.5%, Asheville, NC, grapes from CA) wine that wound up on my winey front steps a few weeks ago for my winey sampling pleasure. Pas de Deux is a sparkling Moscato, made from 100% Muscat Canelli grapes. What a delight this wine is! And to think we might never have been able to sip it if Sharon hadn't joined the Army, gone to Italy and fallen in love with sparkling wines!

The first thing you'll notice with Pas de Deux is all those pretty little bubbles. You will catch the scents of apricot and orange blossom, followed by flavors of almond cookies and mock orange. It finishes on a slightly bitter lemon fruit note. This is a semi-dry wine and has such a wonderful, grown up flavor to it! Fruit, but not cloying fruit. Think of it as tea time as compared to a child's birthday party. It would pair well with a range of foods, from fruit to seafood to a creamy dessert.

It would also pair very well with toasting your children as they mark the milestones of their lives. (And given that, it is going to also have to pair beautifully with waterproof mascara, tissues and a bit of proud sobbing.) So here is to the Winey Son and the Winey Daughter as they start out their new chapters. Enjoy the ride, and if you wind up in a winery at the end of it,  make sure you invite your Winey Mom to happily toast you once again!


I received this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Steelbird Unoaked Chardonnay for National Chardonnay Day

Last Friday was International Sauvignon Blanc Day. As I said in my review that day (Novas Sauvignon Blanc) I tend to be very suspicious of made up holidays. That does not, however, include the ones that have to do with drinking wine. On that note, let me wish all of you a happy National Chardonnay Day 2014. You're welcome.

bottle of Smoking Loon Steelbird Chardonnay, 2012Given that Chardonnay is pretty much the king of varietals these days, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose which one(s) to sip on this day dedicated to Chardonnay. But this year I happened upon one of my favorite types of Chardonnay - the unbaked kind - and the decision was a bit easier. To give you a quick refresher course, Chardonnay is traditionally aged in some sort of barrel. That's what can give it the cinnamon/vanilla/oaky/buttery flavors. But, as with any rule, there are exceptions, and some winemakers are giving us unoaked Chardonnays. No wood shall touch these grapes! And as I have tried more of these Chards, I am becoming a big fan of them. Why not let the grapes speak for themselves?

So, the wine in question for this review comes from Smoking Loon, part of the Don Sebastiani & Sons family of wines. It's called Steelbird Unoaked Chardonnay (13.5%, 2012, Napa, CA) and true to its name, the wine is fermented for 5 months in stainless steel tanks. It's a very pretty spring green color - sort of a golden green - and has lush aromas of mango and apricot and very ripe pears. It tastes of yellow apples with a hint of that pear. And oddly enough, it ends on a toasty note. I swear it was in there - kind of oaky and toasty. Not overwhelmingly so, but there all the same. So you can attribute this to the power of the grapes (while Steelbird is 92% Chardonnay, there is some Chenin Blanc, Symphony and Sauvignon Blanc blended in) and not the barrel. The wine feels very round in your mouth and there is a wonderful touch of velvet running through the middle of it.

And boy am I glad they decided to let these grapes sing on their own. I felt like I was getting a true Chardonnay flavor without giving it all up to the oak. The tastes were well layered with fruit and grape skins all pitching in here. I liked this wine a lot.  If you don't want your Chardonnay big and buttery and oaky and woodsy, you will love this! The fruits are there, but not in an overly sweet way. Just true fruit flavors blended together in a big old steel tank. It retails for about $10 and is readily available. A bit of a different take for National Chardonnay Day 2014. And in this case, different is a yummy thing.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: It's International Sauvignon Blanc Day!

OK, am I the only one who is very suspicious of made up holidays? Did you know there is a frog jumping day? A sea monkey day? An accounting day (eww...math...shudder)? Don't get me started on Sweetest Day, as we here in the Winey Household ignore that one completely. I suppose you could find a holiday dedicated to just about anything if you tried hard enough. Or start your own. It seems pretty darn easy.

But while these holidays kind of irk me, you will never hear me complain about a day dedicated to an entire varietal of wine. (That didn't surprise anyone, did it?) And it just so happens that today is the 5th International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Wheee!! It'll come as no shock to anyone that this day was started by a California winery, but for the very best of reasons: to get folks around the world to drink Sauvignon Blanc. I'm in.
bottle of Novas Sauvignon Blanc
The official first sip comes in New Zealand, which is justifiably known for Sauvignon Blanc. There are some amazing tastes coming from that little island down under! And as much as I tip my winey hat to the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, this year I decided to tell you about a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.

I received Novas Sauvignon Blanc (13%, 2012, Chile) as a sample for Earth Day celebrations, because it is made from organic vineyards and organically grown grapes. But a very busy spring was getting in the way of my wine tasting (how rude of my life to interfere with my fun) so I didn't get around to sipping it until Earth Day (another one of those holidays, by the way) was long past. And this turned out not to be a good thing, because I had simply delayed drinking a very yummy wine.

This vino starts out with a nose of starfruit, ginger and salt air (think beachy minerals). The first taste to hit you is green peppers, followed by celery and minerals and ending up with some key limes. What an amazing grouping of tastes! Complex? You bet. There is a lot to smell and taste here, and it all fits together in the end. There is not one bit of sweetness in Novas. In fact, I'd say it's sort of an earthy wine in a summer garden way. It's all green and crisp and fresh and fragrant. Yup, I loved it.

This paired very nicely with what seemed to be my only hour of down time in a very busy few weeks: a brand new episode of Grey's Anatomy. I am unashamedly addicted to that show. Or maybe I'm addicted to an hour of peace and quiet on Thursday night. Either way, this Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect companion to an hour of Meredith and Christina and Derek and Burke (yes, it was one of the good-bye to Christina episodes where Burke returned).

So, on this 2014 Sauvignon Blanc day, I would totally recommend a bottle of Novas. But please, if you can't find one, do uncork any bottle of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Because this is one holiday I totally endorse.

Oh, and guess what May 22 is? OK I'll tell you. National Chardonnay Day!!!!!! You've been warned, so no excuses. And be sure to check in that day for my review of a wonderful unbaked Chardonnay!!


I received this wine as a sample for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. 
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Pennywise...Not At All Foolish!

bottle of Pennywise ChardonnayWhenever I hear the word "penny-wise" (or is it penny wise? In which case I should say words.. OK, whatever) I automatically add the phrase "and pound foolish" after it. I know that this is a very old saying, in fact, according to Miriam Webster, this phrase was first used in 1607.That may be very true, but according to my winey mind, this phrase was first uttered by my grandmother when I was a young girl. You know how there are just certain things you think of certain people saying? Well, with Grandma, it was "Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish", along with "Life is too short", "See a penny pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck" and the term of endearment "love bug". (She called us all that.)

bottle of Pennywise Cabernet Sauvignon
The saying itself, again according to good old Miriam Webster, means "wise or prudent only in dealing with small sums or matters"1, the flip side of which is that if you are only smart in dealing with the small money, you miss out on the chance to make big money. Since this is a wine blog, I'm going to illustrate it this way: You find a bottle of wine on special for a dollar, so you buy 100 bottles of it. But the wine is horrible. You were penny-wise in buying inexpensive wine, but in the end, you were pound foolish, because you spent $100 and the wine tasted like swill. 

I am happy to report that I found a wine that does not fit into the "penny-wise and pound foolish" spectrum of responsible wine buying. And yes, it is called Pennywise! I really was going somewhere with that phrase, as you can now see.

I found Pennywise on special for $10 a bottle. It usually runs around $18. So, was I penny-wise and pound foolish in buying two varietals of it? Or was I penny and pound wise?

My first bottle of Pennywise was a Chardonnay (2012, 13.5%, Napa, CA). The nose was full of heavy summer fragrances like apricot and honey. On the palate, it was a bright taste of fruit - mostly citrus, followed by cinnamon and nutmeg. It was round and mellow in the middle of the sip, and felt creamy on the finish. A great Chardonnay that blended tropical and oakey! Buy this if you like a traditional creamy Chardonnay - because even with the little kick of citrus fruit, the oak wins out. If you like your wine with some body and fullness, this will also do the trick.

Next I tried the Cabernet Sauvignon (2011, 13.5%, Napa, CA). The bouquet was pure cherry. At fist taste, you got some cranberry flavor along with a bit of fresh thyme. This all let up to an oakey flavor and some big tannins. A true Cabernet here, folks. If you like a tart fruity flavor that ends up oakey. I will caution you to finish this right away because even with my handy dandy vac-seal wine stopper, this wasn't so great on day two. So make sure you have sipping buddies when you pop the cork on this one.

Now, back to the relative value of this wine. At $10, you get so much more than you pay for! Quite the bargain. At $18...still a good wine. So no, buying these wines will not make you penny-wise and pound foolish. They will make you very happy.


1 "Penny-wise." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

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