Thursday, April 30, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Wine with the best of friends - Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel


Plungerhead Old Vine ZinfandelThere are friends that will be forever friends, no matter how often or little you actually see them in person. I am blessed to have found a number of friends like that and they're from all different times in my life. They are from high school, college, my early married days and from work.  But, since it's been many (ouch) years since I have left college, you can imagine how special those friendships are to me.

One college friend gets out my way once a year or so on business. And although I am honored to call her friend, that word just doesn't do justice to the 30+ (ouch again) years we have known each other. We met my sophomore year and her freshman year, in our sorority. And realized that both of us had traveled hundreds of miles to Chicago and become friends when we grew up just 40 minutes from each other in...New Jersey!! A Jersey girl!! Kindred spirits. She became my pledge daughter (today the term is "Little" and "Big"), and subsequently, one of my closest friends. We went on spring break together, got to know each other's families, despaired over boys... Did I mention that she was also my maid of honor and I was one of her bridesmaids? And that after one huge, tight, heart-to-heart hug, we can pick up with each other no matter how many miles and how much time have separated us? Yup, it's just like that.

So when she hit town a few weeks ago, we met for dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants. Full disclosure: we shut the place down. How can you put a time limit on the catching up that two born and bred Jersey girls must do? Well, closing time did that, actually, and I'd like to once again thank the staff of that lovely restaurant for being so nice and not throwing dirty silverware at us to get us to leave. They were very civil.
Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel label
Close up of funny label.

And they kept the wine coming! Well, I guess to be technically correct, I started it by picking out a bottle of one of my favorite varietals: an Old Vine Zinfandel. It helped that it was from one of favorite wine locales, too: Lodi, California. And that it had a funny label.

The wine in question is Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel (2011, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). I have seen this wine around for a while and when I saw it on the wine list, I decided that it was high time to try it (plus my Winey Friend and I love our red wine).  It's 85% Zinfandel and is enhanced with
6% Barbera, 5% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah and 2% Tempranillo.  The nose is full of cherry wood smoke and blackberry. In the mouth we got black cherry, mocha and a mix of green spices and herbs that I have heard called "Lodi spice". The finish was cherry chocolate and oak. Simply everything I adore about my Lodi Zins. We both loved it.

Since that dinner, I have actually gone out and bought more of Plungerhead because it was that good.  It runs about $13 a bottle, give or take a dollar or so. I am going to buy it again and again too, because I think this would be a great wine to serve at a dinner party. It would pair well with lots of different foods and would please a whole range of red wine sippers. 

Cheers to lifelong friends, and cheers to you all!



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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: 3 Girls Red Blend and Some Air Please

I know that we all need oxygen and the air it resides in order to live. But I learned a big lesson when I started sipping a red blend recently: wine needs oxygen and air more than we do. Not always, mind you. But when a red wine needs to breathe - you'd better let it breathe. Or waste a perfectly good bottle of vino.

This lesson came to me courtesy of 3 Girls Red Blend (2012, 13.5%, Lodi, CA). This wine is named in honor of three daughters of the owners of Oak Ridge Winery, located in Lodi, California, one of my favorite areas for red wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Merlot, which usually makes me very, very happy.

3 Girls Red Blend wineI say usually, because to my discredit, I was born without the gene for patience. Yeah, I'm not alone either, from what I can tell. At least in my immediate family anyway. OK, moving on. So if you aren't a normally patient person, the concept of opening a bottle of wine and not being able to pour and sip as soon as you want to, instead of waiting for the wine to "breathe", is a bit foreign. I thought I had this issue solved with the purchase of a wine aerator, but sometimes even that doesn't help. You just need to let the wine gets its dose of oxygen the good old-fashioned way: time outside the bottle. Preferably in a really cool decanter.

This was one of those times. My first sniff of 3 Sisters brought out aromas of cherries and cherry syrup. The first taste brought flavors of chocolate cherry and mocha followed by some earthy spices. It was rather warm at the end of it all, so I wouldn't call it a very balanced wine. It was just okay, and I was a little disappointed because I have such high standards for my beloved Lodi wines.

As luck (or life) would have it, I was interrupted in my sipping and came back a while later to a totally different wine. That breathing time (about 90  minutes) opened the flavors of the wine up, smoothed them out into a luscious taste and brought out some yummy richness to the overall feel of the wine.

There was my Lodi red - all fruit forward and mocha-y and with a hint of that wonderful "Lodi spice" at the end of it all. The warmth was gone - replaced with smooth tannins that added to the overall flavor.

You can find 3 Girls at World Market or through certain online wine sites. You won't find it on the Oak Ridge Winery website, which kind of bugged me, but when I realized it was a World Market exclusive, it made sense.

Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine ZinfandelOddly enough, I had recently purchased a bottle of Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (2012, 13%, Lodi, CA), not realizing that it too was made by Oak Ridge Winery. When I realized it was, and looked back at my notes on it, the first thing I wrote was "needs aerating". Hmm...sensing a pattern here. Because the flavors of cranberry, smoke, earth and dark green herbs just weren't working for me. And usually they do. I also noted that there was "a lot going on here...almost a Pinot Noir in its lightness".

So I think, in the interest of fairness (and having a great excuse to buy another bottle), I should go out and procure another 750 ml of this Old Vine Zin, open it, LET IT BREATHE, and then taste it again.
I'm just fair like that. Not patient, but fair.

Cheers!


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Monday, April 6, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Celebrating Little Victories with a Red Splash

They say that it's the little things in life that count. Sure, there are big epic moments in all of our lives, but when you think about it, the little moments are the ones that add up to be bulk of our experiences. So when you have a few little victories in one day, you look back on them as being a pretty big deal. Such was the case with me about a week ago.

Red Splash wineIt started out with a simple request from the Winey Daughter. She needed to replace her favorite black jeans (the old ones were about ready to give up their life for a higher cause...which I gathered was cut-off shorts). The store where this particular brand was sold happened to be about a minute from The Winey House up here in Ohio (not at all close to campus in North Carolina) and I also happened to be in possession of a coupon for the store. So of course, I took one for the Winey team and went shopping for her. While I was at the shopping center I just happened to walk by my one of my favorite stores in the outlet mall (yes, we live just north of an outlet mall...and our town is very small and quaint and yet we have an outlet mall. Can you say "best of both worlds"?).  I can.

And in that store, there just happened to be quite the sale going on. And I found two - count 'em - two pair of  pants. Big deal, you say. Well, yes, it is. Because pants and I have a long and checkered history. I am rather tall, with a long torso. Not many pairs of pants are nice to me. They somehow think they need to be ankle pants when I don't want them to be. Plus, let's face it...after a certain age when you find pants that hit you at the right length, don't cut off circulation to the upper torso portion of your body and just look good, you celebrate. I gave a silent little cheer in the dressing room and pulled out my credit card.

If you are counting, that's three pair of pants on sale for me (I count the coupon for The Winey Daughter's as being on sale). And later on that night, I uncorked what turned out to be another little victory...in the form of a bottle of red wine.

This was a bottle of Red Splash (2011, 13.3%, California). I had found it in the "best under $10" section of my favorite wine store. Yes, I said "under $10". And it was a red blend. As a rule, I love red blends. So, hoping for one more victory that day, I opened the bottle.

Red Splash is a dark garnet color, with a rusty red tint around the edges. The nose is full of cherry, chocolate and a touch of earth and dark green herbs. The taste starts out with black cherry and mocha (one of my all time favorite taste combos!). Then the dark herbs kick in at the end and the finish has a tiny hint of sunny warmth in it. It fells silky and smooth, like a dark red silk ribbon. Yes, we have a victory here, Winey Folks!

My fourth victory for the day. Taken individually, the victories were not earth shattering or life changing. But they were victories and when you add them all together, you wind up with a big victory of a day. And you go to bed with a smile on your face and the taste of some great wine on your lips!

Cheers!

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