Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Downton Abbey's Countess of Grantham Collection

As I write this review, and was sipping on the wines, The Winey Daughter is and was spending the summer studying in England. Yes, England, the land of The Royals, tea and scones, British rock and (reverent pause here) Downton Abbey.

I am a serious Downton addict. In fact, when The Winey Daughter was accepted into the program in merry olde England, my first thought was, "How close will she be to Highclere Castle?" Which, for those of you who are woefully ignorant, is the Hampshire estate where Downton is filmed. (Trivia tidbit for you all: the very funny series Jeeves and Wooster, staring High Laurie and Stephen Fry, was also filmed there. Yes, I own that entire series on blue ray. Thanks for asking.) Back on track here....I suppose a really responsible Winey Mom would have thought, "Is this a solid study abroad program?" Or, "Do the credits transfer?" Or, "How much?" But no, my thoughts flew straight to Downton and how I could come up with enough money for her to buy it for me. The Abbey, I mean, Castle. Whatever. To answer some of those questions: close enough, great program, credits count toward her major and enough.

Not that I begrudge my child any sort of fact, The Winey Hubby and I love to travel and have instilled that love in both of our kiddies. I just can't help but be a little bit jealous.

There is a cure for my envy though, and as you might have guessed, it comes in a wine bottle. Right before the start of season five of Downton Abbey this past January, Downton Abbey wines released two new offerings. Instead of the classic Bordeaux wines (which of course I here to head there), these two new wines pay homage to the Countess of Grantham, who, in the show, is an American heiress. The wines hail from one of my favorite wine regions, Lodi, California. And there's a picture of Downton Abbey on the label. Oh joy.

The Lady of Grantham Chardonnay (2013, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts off with a nose of nutmeg, cinnamon and pear. The flavors in it are sweet pear, vanilla cream and cinnamon and they're all wrapped up in a touch of toasty oak. The wine is light but full of flavor and it has a creamy silk mouthfeel that reminds me of one of the Countess' gorgeous gowns. Sleek and silky and classic and just gorgeous. Kind of like Cora herself. The more I sipped on this wine, the more I really liked it. Don't let the marketing via Downton on this one keep you from trying it. It's simply that good. I am going to get more. (The Winey Daughter has six weeks in England, after all.)

The Lady of Grantham Cabernet Sauvignon (2012, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts out with a nose of pepper, cherry syrup and some fresh cut wood. You'll taste flavors of pepper, mocha and green herbs. There's definitely an oak tinge on the finish. This is a wine that you will want to let breathe first - I solved that problem with  my trusty aerator. I'd call this a very stately, layered wine with extremely good taste. Kind of like the Abbey itself....big and bold and stately and dignified. I can just see Carson pouring this as we sit down to dinner in the formal dining room.

If the Chardonnay is cultured and elegant like Lady Cora, the Cabernet Sauvignon totally represents the house that she lives in: majestic and dignified.

You can find both of these wines at Downton Abbey Wines' website, but if you live in Ohio, like I do, you will have to order them through I have given up trying to comprehend the shipping laws of my state, so I'll stop right there. I'm just glad I could get my Winey little hands on these two offerings. They were very, very good...especially the Chardonnay.

I suppose I would be remiss if I did not address the other big issue with Downton Abbey these days, and that's the (very, very sad) fact that cast and crew have started shooting Season 6. THE LAST SEASON.Seriously, Mr. Fellowes, what were you thinking when you decided that? Or were you?  I mean, how am I supposed to get through a Cleveland January without a new Downton Abbey to look forward to?

I intend to weather the storm with dignity, though. And a few bottles of Downton Abbey wine. And a blue ray of the series.  I have recently convinced The Winey Hubby that Downton is worth watching...all of it...from Season 1 to the just finished Season 5. So I am getting my fix this summer and will be primed and poured when Season 6 starts..and ends. Sob.

But hey, stiff upper lip and all that...and cheers!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Tricky Rabbit Cabernet/Syrah for The Finals

I have never made it a secret that The Winey Family lives in Cleveland. (OK, an eastern suburb, but when people ask, we say Cleveland.) And even if you don't like sports, or basketball or The NBA, I am sure you have heard what we have just been through there for the past two roller coaster themed months:

Always #ALLinCLE
Game 6 photo courtesy of The Winey Son
and The Winey Hubby
The Playoffs.

As in, our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs...taking us all the way to The Finals of this season. This season, where our hometown boy returned to the fold (he goes by the name LeBron, in case you live under a rock. Or are my mother) and the hopes for a championship for our long-suffering sports city rose with his return. This season, where, up until January, things weren't looking so good. This season when, two months ago, our Cavs started a long, arduous journey also known as the NBA playoffs.

A few things happened during that journey: we lost one All-Star player to a dislocated shoulder. (Don't even get me started about HOW it happened and why a certain member of a team from a certain northeastern team is not exactly "liked" here.) And then BOOM! Another All-Star down to a fractured knee cap. LeBron, Dellavedova and the rest of the team played valiantly until the bittersweet end, all the way to Game 6 of The Finals, when a certain team from the western frontier of our nation (playing with ALL of their guys) ended our season.

But what a beautiful season it was! The Cavs won everyone's respect and admiration with their amazingly tough playing. And winning. And diving. And sweating (a little too much of that - just ask Dellavedova, who wound up on an IV in the hospital after Game 3). It was a thrill ride with the wonderful city of Cleveland spotlighted in the background of every home game and our fans cheering themselves hoarse.

The Winey Family was in attendance for various games throughout the playoffs. And when we weren't inside The Q, we were at home on the edge of our seats, clutching out stomachs, through every minute. Because a playoff ride like this one does not come without some nerves, some family room coaching (cue the Winey Hubby), some very specific, well let's call them "ideas" for the referees (cue The Winey Hubby and The Winey Son) as well as a fair amount of screaming nervous chatter.

The Winey Son actually flew home to visit during The Finals. And his visit was rewarded with tickets to Game 6. (In my effort to maintain  my title of "Cool Winey Mom/Cool Winey Wife, I will tell you that the pair of tix was the Hubby's Father's Day gift. Of course, the Hubby was the one to actually buy them, but I will profess 'til the day I die that I thought of it first.) He and The Winey Hubby still say that, despite the outcome of that game, it was a total blast. Outside The Q,
the crowd was massive, the legendary Cleveland food trucks were out in full force, and inside the arena: the fans were loud and proud and #ALLin. It was a very special time and place.

But, I will tell you, the behavior of my boys during Game 5, a few nights before that, was not a total blast. It was a bit, um, opinionated. Loudly so. In fact, they scared the four legged member of our household:

Hubs and Son are yelling at the tv so much that they are scaring the dog. I have wine. #help
Posted by Ann Judge Domeck on Sunday, June 14, 2015

As you can see by my post, I was prepared for Game 5. I have lived with these two Cleveland fans for a combined 50+ years of sports watching, after all. The wine that evening was a red (for the heart health benefits needed during a Cleveland playoff game) from Chile. I sat quietly in my chair, sipped on my Tricky Rabbit Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend (2012, 14%, Chile) and tried to comfort the doggie.

Tricky Rabbit is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah. It's dark maroon (not unlike some of the Cavs uniforms) and has a nose of cherries and wood smoke. The taste is very ripe cherries, some cedar and a tinge of oak. It wasn't fruit forward at all..more of the Cabernet came through on the palate. (It is 60% Cab, after all.) It finished with almost a mocha flavor and some woody tannins.

If you like a red wine that I'd call a "fruity oak", you'll like this Tricky Rabbit blend. It's not for the faint of red wine drinkers though, because while I'd stop short of calling it a "big" red, it's most definitely a "good sized" one. I bought it for $10 and would like to try it with some grilled steaks, instead of a nerve wracking, doggie scaring game.

And about those Cavs? The Winey Family is, was and always will be #ALLinCLE. They did us proud and we are honored to call them OUR team!

Go Cavs!


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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Trio of Chardonnays

Every once in a while I take a trip through my wine journal - because it's fun and also because I need to plan out my reviews. I don't review every wine I try. There are times when I just want to drink a glass of wine without all the note-taking and sniffing and swirling, so I may note the name of the wine and it's vintage, but that's it. Some wines I have every intention of reviewing but they turn out to be just okay. Not bad, not great.....just good. (I think it's easier to write about a really good wine or a really icky wine than those that fall in that in-between category.) And some I just don't get around to doing right away, so they sort of pile up until I decide it's time to bring them out of the pages of my journal.

That's exactly the case with these Chardonnays. I was flipping through the pages and realized that I had a trio of them waiting to be written up, so I decided that I'd do it all up in one review:

Cave de Lugny La Côte Blanche Chardonnay (Mâcon-Villages) (2013, 12.5%, Macon-Villages, Burgundy, France) is 100% Chardonnay. White wine grown in Burgundy is also called White Burgundy (or Bourgogne Blanc if you want to get fancy). It costs around $10 here in the US. It's got a nose of pear and apple and tastes of pear and red apple. I was trying to consciously sample some more French whites, so I was glad to find this one for the price. It's not aged in oak, which is pretty common in Burgundy, so you don't get the oak flavors with the pear. You don't get much of anything with it actually...and I kept waiting for more flavor from this. Not that it was was just not anything: not oakey, no minerals, no big flavors, not much of a mouth feel. 

Alexander & Fitch Chardonnay (2013, 13.4%, Sonoma, California). I found this white at Trader Joe's for $8.99. The bouquet was all pear and I could totally taste the pear upon first sip. There were also flavors of nutmeg - a nice spicy touch - and some medium oak, which really shined in this wine. It ended up with a finish of sour apple and sour oak and felt nice and round in my mouth.  I liked this wine a lot - and with the price, well, it's a nice go-to Chardonnay.

Dark Horse Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, California). I bought this wine at a local store for $9.99. The Dark Horse line has a number of other varietals, and I after sipping this Chardonnay, I'm going to try them. This was the best of the bunch of these three Chardonnays. A bright gold color, with a nose of apricot and golden apples. The taste was mellow pear, yellow apple, vanilla and some cinnamon rounded off with a touch of oak. This is a really solid Chardonnay for a great price. I'd describe it as "flavorful," which is what I love about a good white wine - a range of flavors with that lovely feel of smooth roundness in the mouth. 

If you like spicier oak tinged Chardonnay, go with the Alexander & Fitch. If you like a traditional Chardonnay with a lovely balance between the fruit and oak flavors, go for the Dark Horse. I'm not sure what to tell you about the Cave de Lugny...maybe try it and judge for yourself! 


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