Delas Saint Esprit 2007 Cotes du Rhone

This French diamond in the rough red wine is comprised of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache and upon first pour into your glass you’ll find a deep burgundy color that is slightly opaque at the very rim. Although a young wine you would think this is a well preserved vintage wine.

On the nose I experienced blackberries, red currant, and black currant aromas. On the forward palate red fruit and pepper caress your taste buds with ripe strawberries and raspberries with hints of mulberry and fig finding their way to the mid palate. On the finish a slight chocolaty flavor much like a single chocolate morsel melting on the back of your tongue. This expressive wine could easily become an everyday favorite on the dinner table.

With 13.5% alcohol by volume this wine does not overpower the palate and the best part of this was the $10.99 price tag. Wow, this wine was an almost perfect match for a stand alone wine just to sip and enjoy. I really looked for the sales receipt on this one again to ensure I wasn’t mistaken by the price, but lo and behold, there it was staring me in the face. I could deny it no longer – this was a great wine on all fronts.

Pillar Box Red, 2008

This 2008 red blend of 66% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Merlot starts with black cherry, fig, smoke, and bacon with hints of leather and earth on the nose. On the palate I found black cherry, anise, plum, and pepper with a bit of a eucalyptus finish. I paired this with angel hair primavera and it was okay, nothing outstanding, however given my description of the aromas and flavors of this wine one would think this was a decent wine for the price ($10.99) but this did not sit very well on my back palate.

I had this stand alone the next day and the aromas and flavors waned quite a bit and was kind of flat, no get up and go, so to speak. So, I’m thinking this is a wine you need to open and finish in one sitting. This may go better with red meats than it was with the angel hair primavera, but I’ll let you experiment with this as this isn’t on my “favorites” list. I’m having a tough time with Australian wines. Sooner or later I’ll come across some good ones.

Domaine de la Renjarde 2009 Cotes Du Rhone Villages Massif d’Uchaux

This deep purple French red blend is comprised of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Carignane and produced in the Southern Rhone region of France beckons the senses to partake in a trip to France through a bottle. This French wine had a really active nose with aromas of black cherry, plum, boysenberry, clove, and spice propelled your schnozzola from the “slow lane” to “warp speed” hoping that the flavor was as good as what you just sniffed. Well, it didn’t disappoint as the palate experienced dark cherries, vanilla, mocha, and oak. At $14.99 this is a pretty good buy. I’ll need to go back to my wine merchant for more of this.

We paired this with three thin crust pizzas, one with pepperoni and Parmesan Asiago cheese, another with sausage and onions, and the last one had sliced salami and black olives. The wine went perfectly with all of them. I hope the French won’t mind that I paired this wine with pizza. I would also surmise this wine would go well with grilled meats and lamb. BTW, the wine was gone long before the pizzas were.

Cline Cellars 2008 Los Carneros Syrah

The Cline Cellars 2008 Los Carneros Syrah opened with black cherry and black currant aromas. I also detected a hint of leather as I tilted the wine glass to relish my first taste of the wine. I found tart cherries and plums on the palate with a slight mocha finish (this was a nice combination of flavors) with a hint of coffee and vanilla. This was a really nice wine priced at $28 with a value of 2 1/2 corks. I paired this with a Chicago-style hot dog.

Dalice Elizabeth Winery

I decided to take the back roads to Dalice Elizabeth Winery traveling on Rte 165 until it intersected with Rte 164 toward Amos Lake on my quest to visit all the Connecticut wineries this year (a feat I will undoubtedly accomplish given good health and other stuff) plus getting my wine passport stamped at each winery as I go along the trail.

Once I arrived the views were spectacular with the rolling hills and trees surrounding the lake and just a short jaunt down the rock driveway was the tasting room. However, on the way I did get to see a few birds and sheep on the lawn in the distance. Just off to the right of the tasting room was a small pond, no doubt to be used by the various forms of farm animals enjoyment. I’ll bet if it’s hot enough (and it was this day) you’d be tempted to jump in to cool off a bit. Something I learned at an earlier winery – take time to smell the roses, take in those little pleasures in life. We don’t always see them but they’re around waiting for us to recognize them. Now, there I go getting philosophical – okay, back to the wine experience.

Dalice Elizabeth’s tasting room isn’t much larger than an overgrown tool shed, however it’s what is inside that counts. The decor was rustic in nature with plants and pictures and a few local products for sale and the ambiance of the small dwelling was picture perfect for a wine tasting. The tasting fee is $10 for four wines plus you get to keep their signature wine glass which was stemless. However, the day I visited the fees were only $8. This is the second winery I’ve come across so far on my Connecticut wine trips that has offered tastings from a stemless wine glass. This wasn’t quite as large as the one from another winery but large enough to really get a sense of what the wine’s all about.

So, here are the wines I tasted. I’ll have to go back and try the ones I missed (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Old Vine Zinfandel, and the Sangiovese) on this trip.

Chardonnay: Lemongrass and dried hay on the nose sort of like being in a barn with a breeze blowing through and you’re enjoying the moment. Tart apple and citrus flavors complemented the aromas with a subtle vanilla finish. A very decent white wine.

Pinot Grigio: Honey and pear on the nose leading into melon and pear flavors. This was clean and crisp. Would go well with Asian cuisine.

Cabernet Franc: Cherry aroma in an earthy tone on the nose. The palate consisted of raspberries and black currant with a smooth finish. I think I would tend to just sip this instead of serving it with food.

Syrah: A deep garnet color yielded blueberry, blackberry, spice, and smoke aromas. The palate had black berry and black currant with hints of semi sweet chocolate. Another great sipping wine but would go great with grilled meats.

And as a bonus the sommelier let me try their dessert wine.

Ice Angel: Peachy aromas with honey and apricot flavor. This was way too sweet for me, but it was good though.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

Jonathan Edwards Winery

Driving through the country roads in North Stonington on a warm summer day you get to see everything in bloom providing you’re in the right season that is. One thing to mention here is I didn’t have to drive down a long rock road. Instead when you reach the winery you immediately park right off the road.

Once you parked and got out of the car, you are impressed with the beautiful vineyards and the manicured lawns. The enormous white building just in front of you reminds me a lot like Napa Valley with a New England flair. While walking up the stone steps, the iron railing is what caught my eye with intricate designs including the proverbial grapes on a vine.

Jonathan Edwards’ lawn is huge and off to the right of the tasting room is where they place a large tent for their wine festival. If you haven’t been to their wine festival or music venues then you have missed out on the fun.

Once inside the tasting room the area is quite large and the tasting bar will easily accommodate 12-15 tasters. Out on the back porch you can sit and look at the view of the North Stonington hills as well as enjoying a glass of your favorite JE wine. The tasting fee was $12 for eight wines plus a signature glass or $6 for four wines without the signature glass. I was interested in tasting their Connecticut wines so I opted for the $6 wine tasting as I have a few of their signature wine glasses at home.

Here are the wines I tasted:

2010 Estate Connecticut Pinot Gris: Fresh cut grass and pear on the nose with a honeydew melon flavor. A very nice wine which would pair well with fish or spicy foods.

2010 Estate Connecticut Gewurztraminer: This was a really good tasting wine with fruit, mostly peach, on the nose. Fruit flavors on the palate, nice acidity, and a slight spicy finish. I really liked this one.

2009 Estate Connecticut Chardonnay: This Chardonnay opened with pear and lemongrass on the nose. Pear was the dominant flavor although I did detect a hint of lemon and vanilla. This sizes up well to their Napa Valley Chardonnay quite well.

2008 Napa Valley Syrah: The aromas consisted of earth and cedar while the flavors were of chocolate and red raspberries with a hint of spice on the finish. This would go well with most grilled foods.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

Rating Wine

Is just saying, “I like this wine or I don’t like this wine a true rating system? Absolutely, if that’s how you determine whether or not you would buy another bottle of the same wine again is a bonafide rating system that’s usually infallible.

Let’s face it, wine reviews are not objective be it mine, yours, or theirs. Or anyone else’s either, unless of course you have fancy schmancy initials (remember them?). Wine reviews are the perception of the wine which makes it subjective due in part to the many distinctive palates out there. So, my 100 point rating scale is entirely different than Wine Spectator’s 100 point scale, or Mike’s Cellar Emporium (I don’t really have a basement, but I keep the house like a wine cooler rating scale), or Cousin Carl’s Schnozzola Sanctararium’s 1-5 point rating scale based on smoked bacon, or Jacuzzi Jack’s Persnickety Palate to discern the “green apple”, or Gumshoe Guido’s Garage Grapevine “is this really a grapevine growing on the garage?”, or Sparing Sharon’s “can I get 2 bottles for $12?”, or Susie Q’s Silver Saloon’s “goodness, I love this label!”, or for that matter, my wife’s “I like it” or “I don’t like it” rating scale. But they all fall into the same basic category – the “it works for me” category.

However, some of us attempt to become a bit more scientific, or a bit more sophisticated, or a bit more technical, or a bit more refined, or you’re just a plain “ol wine snob. In the past I have rated wine with price being a specific criteria to the eventual outcome of the wine’s rating. I have come to realize this is not entirely fair to the quality of a wine. So, I’ve decided to just rate the wine based on it’s merit but I will add the value of the wine based on the cost which I will call “cork value”. Yeah, I know it will take awhile to get used to, including myself. Anyway, here goes…

The revised 100-point rating scale

95-100     Oh yeah, I stumbled on a good one. Darn I knew I should’ve bought more              but by the time I tried this and went back to the wine merchant, they didn’t have any left and they couldn’t reorder. You don’t find these everyday.

90-94      A really great wine, why can’t I open these everyday. This is like going to         wine heaven with your entire inventory and they have a climate controlled room with your name on it.

85-89      A really good wine. You wouldn’t mind opening these every day either. This is the kind of wine that your friends enjoy when they come over and they hope you open one up.

80-84      A good everyday table wine to have with whatever meal you have cooked or for a good wine to sit by the fireside with a good book.

70-79      A so-so wine, drinkable and worthy of second chances if you have any         doubts, but given my druthers…

<70        Not a chance, dump it down the drain, don’t donate it (they’ll know where it         came from), don’t buy another bottle (if you happened to buy two, bring one back and make up any excuse to get your money back), if that doesn’t work don’t cook with it either. If all else fails, refer to my first comment – dump it down the drain.

The new “cork value” rating system

5 Corks    A great buy. Keep plenty in stock and hope it ages really well.

4 Corks    A good value. Yeah, you might want to buy a case of it.

3 Corks    An average buy. You’re getting exactly what you paid for. Buy as the moment hits you.

2 Corks    Below average. It depends on your wine inventory. Just because it’s below         average doesn’t mean it isn’t good wine. If you’re a wine collector this doesn’t really matter (you’re in a different league). But if you’re just an average wine drinker (like me) the higher the cork value the happier I am.

1 Cork      Way below average. Don’t waste your money when there is so much wine to choose from. Again, just because this is a low cork value doesn’t mean this isn’t a good wine, I would just prefer a better value for the wine I purchase.

Well, there you have it, here are some wines to ponder while you’re trying to figure out the revised and new ratings.

Chateau Ste Michelle 2003 Columbia Valley Semillon. Melon aroma (the label also indicated sweet red peppers but I couldn’t get the ‘ol schnozzola to pick up on this – can you?). Tangerine, Mandarin orange, and nectarine flavors with an orchid finish (isn’t this a flower you can actually eat?). $7.99 86 rating, 4 1/2 corks. Definitely a good buy. I had this with Cajun scallops, cross trax fries (they look like a potato chip with criss-cross lattice work) and green beans (yes, fresh ones). The Semillon wine is underutilized and doesn’t get the notoriety of the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs and I for one need to drink more of this varietal.

Evodia 2009 Old Vines Garnacha Calatayud Red Wine. This wine was decanted for about an hour before tasting it and red raspberry, boysenberry, and clove aromas immediately dominated the nose. On the palate, blackberries and clove flavors preceded a smooth blackberry finish. I had this as a stand-alone wine and it was exceptional. $9.99, 86 rating, 4 1/2 corks.

Harthill Farms NV California Merlot. Cherry, cherry, and cherry aromas with a hint of boysenberry. Cherry, cherry, and cherry flavors with a hint of clove on the palate. This is a “drink now” wine as I’m not sure if I want to cellar this other than to drink it within the year I bought it. However, I gave it an 81 rating and it only costs $4.00, and of course it deserves a value of 5 corks. I paired this with a Portobello mushroom burger, American cheese, and salt & vinegar chips. I could not find a picture of their Merlot but did find one with their Cabernet Sauvignon just to give you an idea of what the label looks like.

Quail Creek 2008 California Shiraz. This wine opened with red raspberry, tart strawberry, and leather aromas. On the palate I found cherry hard candy and pepper flavors. This is a very decent wine that did not need decanting and didn’t taste much different the night after I opened it. $5.00, 83 rating with 5 corks as a way to ease the pocket book or wallet. I was quite impressed with this as a stand-alone wine but would not hesitate to have this with anything off the grill.

Quail_Creek_2009_SH_sell

Fancy Schmancy Initials Club

There is a small group of oenophiles that exchange emails discussing wines we really enjoy and we got to naming each other for our particular expertise and decided we would give each other special initials much like Wine Spectator (WS), Wine Advocate (WA), Robert Parker (RP), Wine & Spirits (W&S), Stephen Tanzer (ST), et. al., to name a few famous wine experts so we too can be identified as elite wine tasters (although this is all done to poke fun at each other). Though we may not be wine experts we do know what we like and what we don’t like so we share this through emails and one thing led to another and I’ll introduce them in this special Fancy Schmancy Initials Club edition of the “The Wit Is Out”.

Now mind you, some of what is in this post is fact, while some is fiction, some of it is witty, some of it funny, some of it is amusing. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which. You see my stories each week so no need to bore you this week with another story from the Witless Whiner (WW), but I do want you to meet our fancy schmancy initials club members. Here are their stories as told by them, or by someone else, or do their stories really exist…

Susie Q’s Silver Saloon (SQS2)

I moved to Vancouver, BC in the fall of 2006 to go to grad school at the University of British Columbia. I decided to go for a nice run in the nearby Pacific Spirit Regional Park.  I double checked at the kiosk to make sure I knew what trail I wanted and noticed a posting about owls. Apparently, it was their perching season which meant they were “in the mood” and aggressive towards anything that looked like they were going to get in the way of their love making. I didn’t really pay attention to it and decided to start my run. Not even 10 minutes into the run do I start hearing the “coos” of the owls and decided it was actually quite beautiful to listen to as I ran along the wood-chipped trail.

Then, out of nowhere, I feel a spike piercing my skin on my head and I quickly hit whatever it was that was poking me. I looked around and saw nothing so I started my run again. With that, the creature came back immediately and was holding on hard, pecking at my head.  I finally fell down to the ground with whatever it was that was biting me and I grabbed hold of it and ripped it from my head.  Sure enough, it was an owl… cute little devil. He flew off as I laid there on the dirt ground laughing my ass off about the randomness that just happened.

Apparently, I was making a lot of noise and a nearby cyclist came over to see if I was OK. I guess I was laughing so hard that he thought I was crying but I reassured him that I was not and described to him what had just happened. He laughed as well and then went on his merry way. I still sat in the dirt, trying to figure out why the owl had picked me since I saw a lot of people on the trail that day and realized it had to have been my ponytail. It was bouncing around so much that it looked threatening to a young adult owl in his perching phase. Therefore, he had to kill it… and so he did. I chopped my hair off the next week.

And SQS2’s favorite wine:

My favorite wine is Blasted Church Sauvignon Blanc (doesn’t matter what year).  It reminds me of freshly cut grass (I know that sounds gross but it’s totally awesome) and I also just LOVE the labels! You can view the wines of Blasted Church at http://www.blastedchurch.com/

Gumshoe Guido’s Grapevine Garage (4G’s)

My maternal Grandfather was a “Market Gardener”, essentially a door to door veggie vendor, complete with horse, wagon, a loud bell to ring to announce his arrival, and neighborhood kids utilized to carry goods to customers, and payments back to him.

From his farm in Suffield, Connecticut, he would sell his vegetables across the Connecticut River in the Thompsonville section of Enfield, Connecticut, which at that time was a bustling hub of industry as the home of the “Bigelow Sanford” Carpet mill complex. The farm in Suffield was comprised of two houses, two barns, garages, and other outbuildings. The two homes were set up as duplexes. One house my grandfather had built, and another which came with the property. My grandparents lived in the first floor of the newly constructed home, rented the upstairs apartment, and had renters in both floors of the original dwelling.

As his family grew and matured the renters were moved out so daughters and son could move in. So, by the time I arrived it was truly a “family compound”. With a shared driveway between two houses, my grandparents living below me, an aunt and uncle with families living across the driveway, well you get the picture.

One of my memories as a youngster was watching the wine making process first hand.  In early fall my grandfather and uncle would make their own wine.  I remember the process would start many days earlier, readying wooden barrels to contain the “fruit of the vine”. Each barrel was filled with water so its fitness was tested. The water swelled the staves and my uncle would adjust the hoops until the barrels no longer leaked. Next was the arrival of the grapes, box after box of “Zinfandel” with a picture of a smiling young girl on each. These were transported to the cellar, where the wine press was located.

Next, powered by an electric motor, was what appeared to me like a noisy clothes wringer which would crush the grapes into the wine press. No foot stomping for them. I don’t recall what method was used to separate the stems and skins from the liquid, but there was a spigot at the bottom of the press from which the liquid flowed into the barrels. As I recall the barrels sat for awhile, and then my uncle (grandfather was well on in years at this point so most of the work fell to my uncle) would bottle the product in gallon jugs and they would be stored in the wine cellar. From there the next step was the dining table as my grandparents had wine on the table at every meal, with the exception of breakfast.

My Italian heritage presented wine, not as a forbidden fruit, but as required adjunct to family meals. My grandmother did have a habit of lacing her coffee with a half and half mix of whiskey and Anisette, (Sambuca). A tradition we still affectionately refer to as a “buca blast”.  Picture it, a young boy comes upstairs to his mother, who inquires: “you seem to be in a very happy mood”. Answer:  “Oh, I just had some coffee with Grandma”.. Yee ha!

And 4G’s favorite wine: 4g doesn’t really have a favorite wine but does prefer wines with   either the Bardolino grapes for red wine and the Verdichio grapes for white wines.

Mike’s Cellar Emporium (MCE)

OK, We were late arriving to the world of wine, which is really a bummer as all those years were wasted drinking beer(sic)! Our friends introduced us to wine when we were in our late thirties, we are now a lot grayer.  First glass was Louis Jadot Macon Villages and the rest is history.

We like motorcycles, wine, good food, wine, camping, wine……anyway you get the picture. We love getting together with friends to eat and share our love of wine, whether a gourmet meal or just hors d’oeuvres.

Red is our first choice but we also have a great supply of whites and ports. We have a wine closet as we do not have a cellar which will hold up to approx. 400 bottles. We keep the house between 64 and 68 year round and the closet is about 1 or 2 degrees less. This has worked out OK so far for storage.

As for our favorite wine that is a tough one. We had a favorite for over 10 years but can no longer get it. We have not found another yet but we keep looking. My favorite wines are Spanish made in the old style, especially Riojas and older reds.
Remember a wine not tasted is a treasure possibly wasted!

And MCE’s favorite wine:

McGuigan Bros. Black Label Shiraz visit their website at http://www.mcguiganwines.com.au/

Cousin Carl’s Schnozzola Sanctararium (CCSS)

The Cousin Carl ( CC ) initials ( and the less recognized longer version referring to my schnozz, that is the Schnozzola Sanctararium) was earned the old fashion way— by birth. Well, yes, I was born with a prominent nose but I was referring to the fact that I am lucky enough to be the cousin of the co-owner of Taylor Brooke Winery (my cousin Linda runs the day to day business while husband Dick is the wine maker). This helps support my habit (as well as Sparing Sharon) of enjoying good/great wines. While I certainly think Taylor Brooke is tops I have learned to appreciate other fine (and hopefully bargain priced) wines, most importantly ones with a bacon nose….

And CCSS’s favorite wine is: Anything under $10 and it’s good.

Sparing Sharon (SS)

I was dubbed Sparing Sharon (S.S.) by my husband, Cousin Carl (another story).  Once a week, on Wednesdays, I travel to Hannaford to do my weekly grocery shopping.  Browsing through numerous bottles of red wine, my goal is to find outstanding red wines for under $10. My favorite find from the supermarket is the wine, “Twisted – Old Vine” which sells  2 for $12! I have been buying several bottles of this wine for the past 3 weeks since the wine is affordable but mostly due to the outstanding taste and aroma.  (I also fear the price might go up, so gotta stock up!) I realized later this wine was reviewed by the Witless Whiner back on December 11th. I totally agree with the review.

Sparing the dollars on everything else has given us the opportunity to fully enjoy our trips to other wineries and purchasing wines from them as well.  Sparing the dollars on restaurants by staying home and preparing healthy meals has paid off as well.

Cousin Carl actually prefers his meals at home vs. the restaurants but he feels his wife can be too sparing at times, when it comes to giving him cash when he needs it. (Sparing Sharon is the boss with the finances).

It’s all about the wine, good food & friends…

And SS’s favorite wine: Anything that is a better bargain than what CCSS finds!

Jacuzzi Jack’s Persnickety Palate (Double J Double P)

One night after work a few (actually more than a few and more like a dozen) of us gathered at a friends house for an evening of wine, food, and conversation. Well, the conversation was complete with varied topics ranging from vacation places to wineries visited and everything in between. Which actually entailed a myriad of topics. Another conversation piece included favorite restaurants, favorite this and favorite that, etc.

Anyway, while we were talking just about any subject that crossed our minds we opened a bottle of Jacuzzi Pinot Gris and as we were all enjoying the crispness of the wine and we all came up with a plethora of aromas and flavors. Although we agreed that we all obtained a great and delectable amount of apple there was something missing.

So, we all stopped and smelled the wine, tasted it, then smelled it again, tasted it again, etc., etc., etc. we couldn’t get our schnozzes in the right frame of mind. All the while I had a precocious smile as I knew what everyone was missing as only my palate picked up the elusive flavor. Alas, I couldn’t hold in the surprise any longer and calmly said “green apple” and everyone began to smell and taste the wine and all agreed I had nailed the wine to “T”, hence I was dubbed Double J Double P.

And JJPP’s favorite wine: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Visit them at http//www.santamargherita.com

So you see, we all have our fancy schmancy initials making us bonafide wine critics 🙂

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….