Thursday, September 25, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Lure of the Sale: Unsung Hero Malbec

It's kind of a well known fact that you don't have to spend a ton of money to get a great bottle of wine. (And yet, I still can't resist telling the Winey Hubby I'm going to order the $300 bottle of champagne every time we go to a restaurant that carries such bottles. He doesn't even blink anymore when I say it, so I know the joke has worn thin.) I will admit to being curious about a wine with such a price tag though. I mean, aren't you? Is it that good, really??

Mendoza Vineyards Unsung Hero Malbec, picture of front wine labelThankfully, the wine industry is not against the idea of a sale. And every once in a while I run across an expensive (in my Winey World) bottle of wine on sale for such a great price that I cannot pass it up. (For instance: Concannon Conservancy Cabernet Sauvignon, Hey MAMBO Chardonnay, Matthew Fritz Pinot Noir and Gnarlier Head Old Vine Zinfandel.) And all these wines were a bargain - from 50% off to $15 off. And then this summer, I found another irresistible sale. In fact, I was not the only one to find it: I bought a bottle and then shortly after that, a friend presented me with a bottle of the very same wine as a thank you gift. Great minds, great winey minds.

The wine in question is Unsung Hero Malbec (2011, 13.5%, Argentina) and this normally $42 bottle of wine was selling for $12.99. Almost thirty dollars off. That's a good sale!

So, onto the wine.  The nose on this is full of aromas of warm cherry, toasty oak and the inside of a leather shop. (Have you ever walked into a fine leather store and taken a deep breath? You know what I mean then.)  I was a teeny bit suspicious of this nose, because while I love a nice leather purse, I don't normally drink one (or from one, for that matter). And my suspicions were somewhat confirmed with the first sip: earthy flavors, overripe black fruit and a strip of leather running through it all. Again, as much as I like pretty leather shoes, I do not drink them (again: or from them). Some aerating smoothed out the taste a bit, so I'll warn you to decant this one or use an aerator.

The second bottle we tried started out a bit smoother (aerating helped). Since we were drinking it a bit later in the season, the grill was open for business and we were grilling a London Broil. Which made me think that this is a wine that might need to be paired with food instead of sipping it on its own. It was a warmer evening, too, and I think the warmer temps helped to smooth out the rough edges on this Hero.

So, for $12.99, it was an okay wine. For $42...not so much. And I wonder if other people have discovered this too, because after its initial $42 price, it seems you can buy this for around $12-15 now. (And maybe the original price had been inflated to nab sale crazy Winey Moms like me who love the thrill of the hunt. Well, it worked.) I'm glad I tried it, but I'm not real sure I'll go for it again - sale or no sale.

Please note that the phrase "sale or no sale" as uttered by me does NOT in any way apply to Kate Spade shoes, Italian leather purses or the gorgeous belt I saw at Nordstrom Rack last time I was there.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: It's North Carolina Wine Month

Why am I telling you about wine from North Carolina? I mean, I could talk about wine from anywhere in the world, right? Well, I have good reason for my interest in this lovely southern state. You see, three weeks ago, my Winey nest emptied out as the Winey Daughter headed south to start college. Yup, you guessed it. Her school of choice is in North Carolina. So now I have a vested interest (not to mention a sizeable financial deposit) there. For the record, she chose an amazing school (Elon University – Go Phoenix!) that has everything she wanted. But I truly believe that the fact that North Carolina is below the Mason-Dixon line and thus somewhat immune to the brutal
Elon University campus
The new home of the Winey Daughter.
Photo by Winey Mom, who, for the record
was NOT crying when it was taken.
Ohio winters like the one we just survived was also a factor in her decision. She outright rejected the idea of even applying to The Winey Hubby’s and my alma mater because it is in – brrrrrr – Chicago. We are coping.

And thus we come to wine, because the state of North Carolina has over 100 vineyards and wineries.  Yup, that many. The vineyards plant many of the well known varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot), but they also plant a muscadine grape called Scuppernong. This is important because Scuppernong was the very first grape grown here in the US and is the official fruit of North Carolina. 1 You gotta love a state who has a wine grape as its official fruit, don’t you? And according to said state, September is North Carolina Wine Month. How timely!

So in honor of the Winey Daughter’s new adventure, I went in search of some North Carolina wine before we left to drive home. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and you can’t buy wine until noon in North Carolina on Sunday. By noon, we were in Virginia. Luckily, you can find North Carolina wines all over, so I went shopping when we got back home. And since I thought the word Scuppernong was so fun to pronounce, I went looking for that. The one I chose comes from Duplin Winery (NV, 12%, North Carolina). Duplin is the largest and oldest winery in the state, and is also the world's largest producer of Muscadine wine.

This is such a fragrant wine! Like breathing pure apple blossoms. The first taste when you sip it is white grapes and honey and some sweet apple. There is something like a line of minerality running through the wine, which ends in a bit of green apple. This is a sweet wine, but it doesn’t feel overly thick and syrupy, like some sweet wines do.  This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Duplin suggests that you serve this wine very cold, but with all of its apple and honey flavors going on, I’m going to go out on a grapevine here (instead of a limb, this is wine blog after all) and suggest that this would be a great wine to warm up and use in mulled wine, too.  

Drink this wine if you like sweet wine, because this is a truly sweet, fruity wine. It’s widely available at grocery and wine stores for about $9 a bottle. Chill it for now, warm it for later and enjoy!


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Naughty Wine Name Series: Ménage à Trois Midnight

Bottle of Menage A Trois Midnight red blendI will admit to enjoying my wine with a side of giggles. Any wine that can make me smile after I read the label is very likely to end up in my cart, especially if it's a little bit naughty in nature. I always smile when I spy a wine by Menage a Trois, mostly because I remember my shock at first seeing the label (see The Naughty Wine Name Series: Ménage à Trois Red Blend) and then realizing that the menage referred to the three wines used, not some, uh, well, other menage.  I also like to see the look on people's faces when I tell them how much I love Ménage à Trois. (!) Their red blend is one of my all time favorites.

Now the Ménage à Trois label has introduced a limited release red blend called Midnight (2012, 13.5%, CA). They're calling it the dark side of Ménage à Trois. Technically, it's actually a Ménage à Quatre, since there are four wines used to make it (Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon).  But Ménage à Quatre really doesn't exactly have the same ring to it as Ménage à Trois does, so I will not quibble with them on this fact.

What I will do is tell you right now to go out and buy this wine. Once again, a red blend has made it into my "dangerously good" category. And by dangerously good, I mean that you just can't resist it. One glass is not enough.

The nose on Midnight is full of ripe cherries and cocoa powder and dark red berries. You will taste cocoa, cherry and a bit of sweet blackberry. It finishes to smooth, faint oak tannins with a cherry bite to them. This wine is velvety and rich in your mouth and is amazingly layered with flavor. You get the fruit but not at the expense of the gorgeous oak and cocoa. Proof once again that Ménage à Trois is doing some wonderful things with red blends.

The taste will make you think of deep red velvet, cold nights with flickering candles and a roaring fire in the fireplace. However, I did just fine tasting this in August, so please don't think this is solely a winter sipper. I am a bit concerned about this whole limited release thing though. It sort of feels like the clock will strike midnight and poof!! all will be gone. Kind of like Cinderella and her shoe. But losing a bottle of such good wine is so much worse than losing a glass shoe on the steps. Unless of course, a handsome sommelier shows up at my door with said bottle. I digress here...

If you love your red wines balanced, silky and full of flavor you will want to try this. This is a go to wine for sipping alone or with beef or lamb. It is widely available and will cost $10-$12. I'd stock up on it now, when it's available. It would be a big hit at the holidays!


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