Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Another Pair of Wente Wines to Review Our New Wine Words

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a pair of Wente Vineyards reds and, the best of my winey ability, talked about the difference between a single vineyard wine and an estate grown wine. (Winey Tasting Notes: A Pair of Wente Reds, A Few New Wine Words) And I'm going to do it again this week, because I happen to have another pair of Wente wines waiting in the wings (how's that for alliteration?).  This time they are a red and a white as well as one of them being single vineyard and the other being estate grown.

Wente Southern Hills Estate Grown Cabernet SauvignonWe'll start with the estate grown wine, Wente's Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (2013, 13.5%, CA), and as you may have deduced already, it comes from vineyards that are located along the southern hills of the Livermore Valley. Were you paying attention two weeks ago? Ok, then, what does "estate grown" mean in wine speak? If you said that it means the grapes were all grown on land owned by the winery and then made into wine by the same winery, you are right. If not, go back and read it again. There's another quiz coming.

The wine opens with a nose of black cherry and black plum. It tastes of dark, rich stone fruit in the middle and is surrounded by a touch of oak and a hint of dark green spice. It finishes up long and smooth and rich. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon with all the good things about that varietal and none of the bad. For the record, it is blended with other wines, so it's 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot. The Merlot adds to the richness of the fruit tastes and the Malbec gives it some nice heft. A great wine, estate grown or wherever.

Wente Riva Ranch Single Vineyard ChardonnayNow on to the single vineyard wine, Wente's Riva Ranch Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, CA). Here's your quiz: under U.S. law, how much of a wine has to be from the same vineyard in order to call it a single vineyard? Did you say 95%? Good. If not, see my above comment on re-reading. Let me start out by saying that I am placing Riva Ranch on my go-to Chardonnay list. I absolutely loved this wine! It's a light golden yellow color that smells like pear and apple and brown spices. It tasted of crisp oak, pear, apple, vanilla and cinnamon. The finish is crisp and lively. This wine feels so smooth, and if you read up on it, as I did, you'll discover that Wente performs battonage (stirring the wine in its barrels) every three weeks. Wente says this adds to the creaminess of the wine. I agree. That smooth, creamy mouth feel is fantastic! There's a high note of acidity above it all (10% is aged in stainless steel) that keeps it from being cloying and makes it so full of layered flavors that you just can't resist it. I am thrilled to have found this one!

So now we've had two lessons on estate grown and single vineyard. And have found four great wines. A little education is a very good thing, is it not? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find some more Riva Ranch Chardonnay.


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

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Sunny San Angelo Pinot Grigio

It was the perfect reminder of our summer trip to Italy, and it landed on my doorstep on a chilly December day, thanks to my buddies at Banfi Wines. "It" was a bottle of Castello 
Casatello Banfi San Angelo Pinot GrigioBanfi's San Angelo Pinot Grigio  (2013, 13%, Tuscany, Italy) and just looking at its pretty lightly golden color made me want to dive right in and get all summery again. Sadly, the bottle wasn't deep enough to dive into, but it was absolutely the right size to share with the Winey Son at some time.

That time came one night over the recent holidays. I was making dinner and watching The Ryder Cup in between preparations. You did not read that wrong. We were watching The Ryder Cup. In December. And it was about time too, because the DVR was at 98% capacity. This is all because The Winey Son refuses to miss a moment of any major sporting event, despite the fact that his duties and travels often make him unable to watch them live. So I get a text to "please record _______(fill in various epic sporting events that he deems recordable). Thanks!" (At least he says thanks.) And that event will live on our DVR until he can  make it home to Ohio and watch it. I usually pepper the viewing with comments like, "Gee, I wonder who wins? Oh wait, YOU KNOW ALREADY" and "Make sure you delete this as soon as you watch it, there is a new NCIS/Grey's Anatomy/Downton Abbey on soon and we need the room on the DVR". He just looks at me and then turns back to the screen. And on this occasion, accepted a glass of the Pinot Grigio.  He's no dummy, after all.

We took our first sips, and I asked him how he liked it. He said that he liked it, but that he really didn't know wine like I did. Hmm...what does that have to with liking a wine, I asked back. After all, you don't have to know the backstory of a wine to know that you like it. Or don't like it. "OK, then I like it." And that was all that mattered. He and I both liked it!

This liking began with aromas of starfruit, kiwi and pear. The wine was full of flavors of tart citrus and minerals and had such a lively, bright, open feel in the mouth. So very full of flavors and memories of summer and sunny golf courses (for The Winey Son, at least).

Buy this wine if you like your whites tart and zesty and sunny and bright. It runs around $14-16 and is one of the tastiest Italian Pinot Grigios I've had in a while!

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

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Pair of Wente Reds, A Few New Wine Words

Wine words. If you spend any time around wine (ahem), you'll get your fill of them. Tannic. Varietal. Dry. Off-dry. Sweet. Vineyard. Estate. You get the idea, right? Sometimes, it's good to know them. For instance, you don't want to buy a wine that's described as "off-dry" if you don't like sweet wines. But what about some of those other words and phrases that get bandied about, mostly on wine labels? I recently got the chance to study up on estate grown and single vineyard wines, courtesy of my very good friend (and fellow West Point mom) at Wente Vineyards.

Wente Wine Charles Wetmore Estate Grown Cabernet SauvignonWente is currently celebrating their 130th harvest. Think about that one. 130 years of picking grapes. And making wine. Let's just ponder that wonderful job.... Back to reality now. My latest Wente sipping came from the estate grown and single vineyard offerings of the winery. And I got to try them with The Winey Son, who was home for the Christmas holiday and has developed into quite the red wine lover. Win-win!

The first wine we tried was Wente's Charles Wetmore Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (2012, 13.5%, CA). The nose on this Cabernet Sauvignon pops out with cherry and new oak. The flavors are some of my all time favorites when it comes to Cabernet: chocolate cherry and mocha that finished long oakey. The tannins were well behaved and full of flavor and it felt supple in my mouth. Here comes the educational part: “Estate grown” on the label means that the winery and the vineyard where all the grapes are grown are located in the same viticultural area. The winery owns or controls the vineyards, and the wine was made by the winery at its facility on the estate. 1 Wente owns and cultivates over 3,000 acres of "sustainably farmed" estate vineyards. This one came from the...Charles Wetmore vineyard (well, duh). Wetmore was California’s first agricultural commissioner and a Livermore Valley pioneer. Buy this wine if you like smooth reds that have a ton of flavor but not so much oak.

Wente Wine Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Pinot NoirNext, we tried the Riva Ranch Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (2012, 14.5%, CA). This is an estate grown, single vineyard offering, meaning that in addition to being grown on the Wente estate, 95% of the grapes come from the single property listed (the 95%'s US law if you want to call it single vineyard). In this case, it's the Arroyo Seco vineyard in Monterey. Unfortunately, The Winey Son was unable to sip this one with me, due to a horrendous stomach flu that hit him and The Winey Daughter. I was the one who sipped this after tending to them and let me tell you, sitting down with a glass of wine after caring for your sick kids (I don't care how old they are) all day is a treat. If you've been there, you are nodding right about now. Anyway, the nose on this Pinot is spicy smoke, boysenberry and cranberry. The taste was round, with flavors of smoke, dark green herbs and spices and cherries. It finished on a toasty oak. I think I can best describe this Pinot Noir as an herb garden in Autumn. Think of fire pits with woodsmoke, the last of the herbs in your garden and how good they smell when you brush by them, dark ripe fruits and that lively Autumn feeling you get on a crisp fall day.  This wine is for you if you like your red wine tart and full and less fruit forward.

Two more wonderful reds to get me through the winter. And we all got to learn some new wine words, too.


I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions and the friendship are all my own!

1"The Wine Institute." Lifestyle Release: Fascinating Facts About California Wine -. Wine Institute, n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
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