Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Getting Evil on Halloween

Halloween is such a fun time of year....the candy, the costumes, the parties, the candy. And thanks to the enterprising minds of some winemakers, there is also the Halloween themed wine. Boo!
Evil Cabernet Sauvignon back label.
It's really not wrong.

Evil Cabernet Sauvignon labelThis year, as I was looking for such a wine, I came across some pure Evil. There it was, just sitting there in a bottle. How could I not resist? Especially since this evil has a bit of a sense of humor, because it tells you right on the back label: "It's just wrong."

So Evil it is for the 2014 Halloween review.

This Evil comes to us in the form of a Cabernet Sauvignon (2013, 15%, Aragon, Spain).  It's a dark, rusty red color and has a nose of smoke with a cherry overlay. Given its high ABV and that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, I decided that it was best to let this one breathe for a while.

The Winey Couple as Starbucks, Halloween 2014
Star............bucks. Get it?
In the meantime, I worked on a Halloween Costume for the Winey Hubby and I.  One of our neighbors has an annual costume party, where the rule is "Come in costume or come naked." Not being into the whole nudist scene (especially with Cleveland weather what it is at the end of October), this always presents a challenge, since The Winey Hubby hates to dress up in costumes. If he can wear regular clothes as his costume, all is well. One year, I was the red Angry Bird, he walked around with an iPad and played the game. This year, I was having some creative trouble, until the Winey Daughter, at home on fall break, suggested this (see the picture at right):

For those of you going, "Huh?" right now, let me help you. I have a big STAR on, and the Winey Hubs has bunch of dollar bills pinned to his shirt. Some people call a dollar bill a buck. There is more than one buck, hence, they are BUCKS. Yes, we are Starbucks. This costume only works when you stand next to each other all night and are standing in the right order (otherwise you'll be called 4 Star).

On to the wine though, because by now it's had quite enough time to breathe. The first flavor was smooth red berries, surrounded by oak. This moved on to some mocha and finished with a taste of cafe mocha. While I'd say the tannins were full and smooth, there definitely was some heat to this wine on the finish. All in all, I'd have to say that this is a good evil and that there is nothing wrong with it at all, despite what the back label says. 

Buy this wine if you like a big, strong red with lots of equally strong tannins.  It runs in the neighborhood of $12 and will pair nicely with barbecued foods, but go easy if you are going to pair it with handing out candy. At 15% ABV, this one could potentially pack an evil punch, especially if you go by the "one for you, one sip for me" rule of candy distribution. 


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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Lab Red

Another article celebrating the only children left in the Winey Empty Nest: the doggies. Except this post could sort of be called a throwback post, because today I am going to celebrate the doggie that I grew up with: a black Labrador Retriever named Scamper.

picture of black labrador retriever sitting on picnic table
Scamper, circa late 1970's
Scamper (aka Scamper-damper, Scamper Boo-Boo, Scamper Doodle) joined my Winey childhood household when I was 13. I had accompanied my unsuspecting mother to a Labor Day picnic where someone uttered the now infamous words: "Hey, the neighbors' dog just had puppies, anyone want one?" My mother never had a chance. For years, we had been living vicariously (and at times babysitting) the English Setters, English Sheepdogs (dear heavens I will never forget that dog) and various other pooches of our family and friends. In desperation, my mother had allowed us to adopt 3 gerbils, two parakeets and untold numbers of goldfish in an attempt to stave off the inevitable: We were a dog family and we were going to get a dog.

black labrador retriever playing with basketball in snow
Action shot of Scamper
and her beloved basketball.
label of Lab Red Wine blendSo home came Scamper, the 6 week old runt of a litter of 12 who enchanted us from the very first day and never stopped doing so until she crossed the rainbow bridge at the age of 17. She was a credit to her breed: smart and loving and full of personality. She also had a vertical standing jump that NBA players would envy. She could stand in front of the back door and leap up to see out of its 4 foot off the floor window. Everyone commented on it. It was kind of her trademark.

So it was a no-brainer that I'd jump at  a bottle of wine called Lab Red Wine (2012, 13%, Portugal), right? This particular red blend hails from Portugal, which I love because that's one of the wine regions I don't normally find wines from. It's extremely affordable, around $10 a bottle and is made up of varietals that were new to me:  Castelão (35%),  Tinto Roriz (25%),  Touriga Nacional (15%). These are all well known Portuguese grape varietals, but not ones that I regularly run across. There was one grape I was familiar with though: Syrah, which makes up 25% of Lab Red.

The nose on this Lab was full of very ripe cherries and a bit of leather. It tasted of dark cherry and black plum at first, and then evolved to some mocha coffee. There were hints of dark green spices as well. The tannins were on the strong side, but they were smooth, so that kind of took their bite away. Overall, it was a bit warm in my mouth, which  may have been the tannins from the Touriga Nacional, which is a rather tannic grape. I was very happy to have discovered some new grapes though - new grapes, new tastes, dog themed's all good! Good doggie!

Buy this wine if you like your reds with a fruity bite. I wouldn't call it a fruit forward wine - more like a "fruity wood and spice" wine. It would pair with lots and lots of different foods, so would be ideal for a pot luck party or buffet party. Or you could cuddle up with your own doggie and enjoy it on its own. Woof.


Check out my other Empty Nest Series Posts: Chloe Pinot Grigio and Fred's Red

1 "Casa Santos Lima." Casa Santos Lima. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series, Chloe Pinot Grigio

dog with wine bottles
Can you see why Chloe is the perfect dog
for The Winey Household?
Another wine for the "empty nest series" that I have decided to dedicate to my two dogs, since they are the only "children" left in The Winey Empty Nest. But, unlike my last entry in this category (Fred's Red), the wine I'm reviewing this week does not have a picture of a dog on the label and does not have a dog breed name.

This is a wine collection named Chloe. The winemakers will tell you that the ancient word "chloe" means "blooming".  But in The Winey Household, the name Chloe means a 7.5 pound Maltese who was our very first fur baby, eleven years ago.

If you can imagine such a thing, The Winey Hubby did not grow up in a "dog" household. So until the Winey Kids were 11 and 7 years old, we were a dog-less home. And then one day, we met a Maltese and the Hubby said, "That is a very cute dog" and the three of us pounced on that comment, extolling the virtues of a cute, little doggie until we wore him down he agreed that we could get one. And faster than you could say "Bow wow," Chloe had joined the ranks.

My first sip of the wine collection named after my dog (yeah, I choose to think they named their wines after my doggie and not some lovely ancient word) was Chloe Pinot Grigio (2012, 12.5%, Italy). I noticed the wine because it had a simple black bow running across its label. Chloe looks great in black - most notably her black velvet collar.  She also looks good in many other colors, and if the rest of the Winey Family would let me, I would prove this with lots of little sweaters and t-shirts. But they are in some sort of conspiracy to keep me from buying such items. Hmph to them.

Chloe Pinot Grigio wine labelAs for the wine: the nose is tangerine. Not an overpowering nose. Actually, I'd describe it as very faint. But that doesn't matter because once it hits your mouth, this wine is crisp and lively. Flavors of peach and lemons lead to a touch of honeysuckle. The tangerine shows up again in the finish. Overall, this is a flavorful Pinot Grigio, as opposed to a tart Pinot Grigio. None of the flavors overwhelm the others, so you have a nice blend of sweet and citrus fruit and some flowers.

You'll like Chloe Pinot Grigio if you like a white wine that refreshes, but isn't overly tart. I liked it lots.

We love Chloe in The Winey Household. Both the dog and the wine version.


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Wines of Island Wine Fest, 2014

There is no better way to spend a crisp sunny Saturday than on one of the Lake Erie islands. And if you happen to spend it with three good friends at the put in Bay Wine Fest, well all the better. That's how I spent last Saturday, courtesy of the Miller Boat Line and Island Bike and Cart Rental.

Miller Boat Line ferry to Put in Bay, Ohio
Our water chariot for the day.
I will admit though, that the day started off a bit, well, choppy. This had nothing to do with the ferry itself or the company I was in and had everything to do with Mother Nature, who decided that the buzzword for the day should be “windy”… really windy. In fact, we made quite a few new friends sliding around in our seats on the way over to Put In Bay. It's amazing how quickly you can start up a conversation when you slide into someone's lap. Anyway, we disembarked safely, picked up our golf cart, and headed on over to the festival which was being held at the Put In Bay Winery.

Menage a Trois tattoos on wrists
Tatted up for tasting!
Before we started sipping, however, we felt it necessary to mark the day by tattooing the words "Ménage A Trois" on our wrists.  For those of you who don’t know and are currently judging us, "Ménage A Trois" is a winery, OK? I am a huge fan of their wines, as were my buddies, so we happily tatted up for the day. Then we started sipping. (By the way "Ménage A Trois" had all three of our favorite MAT wines on hand: the red blend, the Pinot Grigio, and the amazing new Midnight.)

Save Me San Francisco Wine Company Cab California 37 wine bottleThe first group that made an impression on us was the line of wines made by Train’s Save Me San Francisco Wine Co. Yes, as in Train the rock band. I had tried "Drops of Jupiter " red wine blend a while ago, and remembered liking it. In addition to "Drops of Jupiter", though, we were also able to try Sauvignon Blanc Bulletproof (in honor of their new album) and Cab California 37. And all four of us decided that we loved Cab California 37 (2012, 13.5%, CA)! The wine is inspired by Highway 37, which, in California, leads you to wine country. A nose of licorice and cherry, followed by flavors of ripe cherries and dark berries with a long lasting rich finish.  It was so good that all four of us went home with a bottle.
Greg Norman Estates Shark Red wine bottle 
Moving on, we entered the sporty side of wine, stopping at the Greg Norman Estate wines. To be quite honest, these wines caught my eye because the Winey Son is a big golf fan, and had asked me to recommend some red wines to him. So these bottles with the obligatory Greg Norman shark were a no-brainer to sample. The winner from this line was Greg Norman's Shark Red (2011, 13.9%, CA).  Shark Red is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mouvedre, Grenache, Merlot and Malbec. As with many of my favorite red blends, this dominant taste is of dark fruits – think plums. It ends with some vanilla oak and is soft and smooth in the mouth. A winey hole in one for sure.
Layer Cake Sea of Stones Red Wine Blend bottle

Shortly after that, another red blend made my “to buy” list. I found it in Layer Cake Wine's "Red Blend Sea of Stones"(2012, 14.5%, Argentina). A nose of mocha followed by tastes of dark chocolate and cherries and a smooth, long lasting finish.

There were other offerings besides wine this year, and my Winey Friends and I were pretty much stopped in our tracks at the table that held Hot Sex. Yes, I said Hot Sex (NV, 12.5%). And contrary to what you're probably thinking right now, this was not some foo foo cosmo or Sex in the City type of drink. This was a creamy liqueur concoction that brought all the flavors of autumn into one little cup. Ginger liqueur, cream, chocolate, vodka and some ginseng made for one extremely yummy cocktail. We had so much fun enjoying it (OK, and kidding each other about the name) that the folks who were behind the table actually presented us each with a pair of very cool, bright orange sunglasses. And yes, we all went home with a bottle of Hot Sex. (My one Winey Friend is still justifying her purchase because "the ginseng is healthy for you… Really!") We love her anyway despite her naïveté.
group of women wearing orange sunglasses with bottle of "Hot Sex" liqueur
Orange sunglasses. We are so cool. 

As you might imagine, a day at a wine fest with good friends on a stunning island in the middle of Lake Erie makes for one amazingly fun day. You can count on lots of good wine, good food, great conversation and laughing so hard that you actually get a very effective abdominal workout. All in all put in Bay Island Wine Fast 2014 was a sipping success. We are already making our plans for next year!

Miller Boat Line and Island Bike and Cart Rental sponsored our trip to Island Wine Fest. We are very, very happy they did. The opinions expressed are all my own.
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Fred's Red

With the Winey Daughter's departure to college, I suppose you could call the Winey House a Winey Empty Nest. But that really would not be fair to the two Winey "children" who are left in the nest. Sure, they might not be human (in the "scientific sense" of the term), but they are our children. I refer to The Winey Dogs.

cute dog picture, maltese
Chloe (l) and Rory (r)
I can hear you now: Crazy Winey Dog Lady. Fine, I accept the label with pride. Because there are times when our two little doggies are all that stand between me and a good cry. Like when I walk into the Winey Daughter's room and realize that there is no laundry to take downstairs. Or when I walk into the Winey Son's room and realize he is simply using it as a holding tank for all the things he has left over from four years of college. It hits at odd times.

But waiting for me downstairs are two little girls who will lick and cuddle the shock away. For the record, they are a Maltese named Chloe and a mostly-Maltese named Rory. And when the Winey Nest emptied of the human offspring, I decided that it was high time to write a winey series that focused on the new regime of children in the Winey House: the dogs.

Luckily, there are many enlightened wineries out there who have doggie themed wines. So I'll be focusing on them for a while.

dogs in Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts
Thing 1 and Thing 2
I'm going to start the series out with a red blend from McNab Winery called Fred's Red (NV, 13.9%, Mendocino Co, CA). Fred was the original McNab Dog, who travelled with Alexander McNab on the boat to America from Scotland in the mid-1800s. Fred is a cutie who seems to prefer red bandannas, which set off his black and white coloring so well! (Take note here: I have absolutely no problem with dressing dogs in bandannas, sweaters, cute dresses and Halloween costumes. The rest of the Winey Family does not share my enthusiasm for this, but as you will see in the picture to the right - I can sometimes win that argument.)

fred's red bottle shotFred's Red is a rusty maroon color and has aromas of cherry, strawberry and smoke. The first flavors that come through when you sip are berries, then mocha and a wisp of smoke and a tinge of oak. Later on you'll taste some dark spices and feel some very supple tannins. It's smooth in the mouth and is full of wonderful flavors and tastes.  It's nicely fruit forward  (I know there is some Zinfandel in there) but with enough of the mocha and smoke to keep the fruit from being obnoxious. Layered and balanced and bursting with taste. This is a very, very good doggie.  The Winey Dogs would be proud (if I let them drink wine, which I don't.)

This is a wonderful sipping wine. Drink it if you like your reds velvety and fruity with a touch of mocha. Or if you are now a crazy dog lady an empty nester with dogs.


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