Toasted Head 2009 Untamed Red, Barrel Aged

Toasted Head used to be produced by RH Phillips but not sure if that is still the case today. Toasted Head may be under its own nowadays. I tried researching it a bit and didn’t come up with a whole lot of information other than from a staff writer, Melanie Turner at the Sacramento Business Journal that RH Phillips was closing Sept 1, 2009. The Toasted Head brand was to be produced by Mondavi at the Woodbridge region near Lodi.  Not sure if that actually happened as this wine was quite good.

The blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petit Syrah is a well kept secret as I also tried to research the percentages of each varietal but to no avail. But alas, perseverance paid off and I was able to locate Toasted Head’s wine blog and here I found an article by Todd Ziemann titled “How to fit Untamed Red into a bottle” where I found the percentages of the red blend. It was comprised of 50% Syrah, 27% Zinfandel, 13% Petit Sirah, 9% Tempranillo, and 1% Carignan.

On the nose I got black cherry, black currant, fig, smoke, and bacon notes. On the palate I found black and red cherry, black licorice, spice, and pepper flavors with a nice cocoa finish. I enjoyed this wine stand alone and it was actually better the second night. It is reasonably priced at $9.99. I had originally given this wine 7 1/2 wine glasses but changed it to 8 WG due to the improvement of taste on the second night.

Vinos de Alborea, SL 2009 “La Sima” Tinto

The Vinos de Alborea, SL 2009 “La Sima” Tinto is from the Manchuela region of Spain where they have approximately 30 vineyards producing around 1 1/2 million liters of wine per year. Now those kind of numbers I can relate to.

The wine starts off with 14% alcohol by volume and is a red ruby color (indicative of young red wines) with dried fig, black cherry, and eucalyptus on the nose. On the palate black cherry dominated the flavor with hints of fresh blueberries ending with a smooth, silky mocha finish.

This reasonably priced wine at $8.99, is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Bobal and definitely in the category of “a drink now wine”, so don’t bother cellaring this. Enjoy it this weekend with your favorite dish. I paired this with Rotini and marinara sauce with Romano cheese and a Romaine salad.

Cortijo Tinto 2009 Rioja

This Spanish dark ruby red colored wine is made with 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha grapes and has a 13.5% alcohol volume priced reasonably at $9.99. This is a very decent young wine with red berry and flower (I’m thinking violets) aromas on the nose followed by raspberry, strawberry and black currant fruits with earth and spice notes. A hint of licorice followed on the finish.

I paired this with pork, egg noodles and steamed broccoli and surprisingly went very well together. I hesitated serving this with the pork as I am used to serving this blend with red meats, not white meats. You never know what your palate is going to reveal. Even though this was a young wine I still sent it through the Vinturi aerator for good measure.

Casa Petreo 2008 Merlot-Tempranillo

For this Christmas Eve be sure to drink responsibly, everyone who cares about you will be glad you did.

Okay, once you’ve had the Christmas Eve get together and the hot chocolate pudding is now rested in your belly it’s time to pop the cork (remember, no driving) and enjoy the rest of the evening watching your favorite Christmas specials or movies.

Open a bottle or two of the Casa Petreo as this bold and sassy Spanish red blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Tempranillo finds strawberry and raspberry notes on the nose. This has nice tannins with raspberry and mocha flavors with a tingling of mint on the finish. The best part about this wine was the $4.99 price tag and is an excellent buy, let’s say 5 corks worth!

I’m going to recommend two meals I think would go well with this wine, the first is a steak/chicken combo fajita sauteed with onions, red pepper and Italian hot peppers on a LaTortilla Factory multi-grain soft wrap.  The second meal is a cheeseburger (your choice of cheese) made with half beef/half bison with homemade sweet potato fries. Ohhh, when’s dinner? Go ahead,  relax and watch the movie Prancer.

This wine won’t break the bank leaving you with plenty of money for holiday gift shopping (although you’re running out of time) and for you last minute shoppers this is a great stocking stuffer.

Merry Christmas!

Perkin’s Cove In The Fall

Sitting on the lawn at the Riverside motel in Perkin’s Cove in Ogunquit, ME is one of the most relaxing mini-vacations I’ve had in a long time. The sun was gleaming off the water in the cove with a slight breeze and temperatures in the high 60’s still allowed you to wear shorts but warranted a sweat shirt in late afternoon and early evening. Early evening is 5 pm where bedtime is usually 8:30 pm for working days but when on vacation – anything goes. Not only did my wife and I catch up on the three R’s: reading relaxing, and recreation, we tried some really good wines. Although Ogunquit isn’t overflowing with wine merchants they do have several establishments that carry a variety of wines. There is one particular wine shop on US Rte. 1 that is quaint and carried some usual and unusual brands of wine.

In the center of town there is a grocery/sandwich shop/deli where a multitude of wines can be found. Grab a bottle of wine and a sandwich and you’re ready to mull out the afternoon on the deck of the motel and watch the boats and people go about their day. However, the best part about Ogunquit, ME is their many seafood restaurants. One of our favorites is Barnacle Billy’s in Perkins Cove. We have tried several meals at this establishment and have not had a bad meal yet. So, I recommend everything on the menu, I even had a Bloody Mary that was great.

So, nestled in for the night out on the back porch with a glass of wine looking at the bay amidst the many vessels anchored for slumber before an early morning jaunt into the ocean blue. Names like the Marcia Beal, the Three E’s, Melanie Jean, Happy Hour, Silver Lining, Queen of Peace, Bunny Clark, and the Gray Ghost set the backdrop for the evening sunset glistening off the treetops ablaze with the early colors of fall.

Oh, the wine we were enjoying on the back porch with a colorful rainbow in the distance was a bottle of Cline Cellars 2003 Cashmere. This blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, and Syrah brought on notes of black raspberry and clove aromas leading to mixed berries, spice, and mint chocolate flavors ending in a smooth, silky mocha finish. This went well as a stand alone wine but I had it with a chocolate brownie, okay, two chocolate brownies. $15.99 and a 92 rating.

A Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Sauvignon Blanc opened with melon and pear on the nose with nectarine and peach flavors with a hint of lime finishing with a delicate mineral finish. $8.99 and an 89 rating. Pair this with salmon, haddock, cod, and believe it or not – bluefish. Round out the meal with any style of green vegetable which suits your taste buds, and a baked potato with a dollop of sour cream with fresh chives.

The last wine for a weekend getaway: Francis Coppola 2007 Crimson Label Tempranillo. This wine exhibited nose notes of plum, leather, and tobacco. The palate experienced black raspberry, plum, and chocolate. This wine wasn’t as intense as some of the Spanish-made wines I’ve tried lately. Maybe this is due to the types of climates from California and Spain but nonetheless a decent wine. I did not pair this with food but anything grilled I’m sure will go well with this, even grilled fish would be a nice treat. Hmmm, I think I might try this with a panini. What do you think? $15.99, 83 rating.

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

Holiday Excursion

The Friday before the Labor Day holiday I left the throes of a light wind swept rain from hurricane Earl kissing the Rose City boundaries to embark on a journey to Table & Vine in search of the elusive low-priced reds Cousin Carl speaks so fondly of. Reaching my destination the coolness of Table & Vine’s “wine cellar” tingled my senses and upon first glance hundreds of bottled wines beckoned me to peruse at my leisure. However, my time was limited as my brother and I were taking our “mom” out for her 85th year on this earth. The short escapade to this wonderful “wine cellar” proved fruitful as I purchased a case and a half of wine. Yes, some of these were Spanish wines of which I am not very familiar with but willing to experiment on or accept recommendations from our wine enthusiasts’ community. Each of the 18 bottles was under $15 with 11 of them under $10. So, I believe I have stumbled upon some decent low priced reds. My fingers are crossed.

Lastly, let me say that I love wine. There are two things worth living for, one is wine and the other is more wine. So, on with the reviews……

Osborne 2001 Solaz. This Spanish wine comprised of 80% Tempranillo & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon produced black & bing cherry on the nose with a hint of leather. A beautiful wild raspberry flavor greeted the tongue and lasted quite awhile. One of those great low priced reds. $9.99, 88 rating. I did not pair this with any food but I’m sure it will go well with any grilled meats as the raspberry flavors complement the meat quite well.

My wife and I went to Boston for breakfast on the Sunday of the Labor Day weekend, alas also to visit with our daughter and her friend. We walked a couple of blocks (have you seen the blocks in Boston? Much longer than the Rose City offers). Anyway, we walked in a chilly early morn a couple of blocks (seemed like 8 blocks though) to reach a convenience store and wondered what we were going to do in a convenience store as we were on a quest to find a breakfast establishment. So, my first thoughts were of packaged donuts and pastries prefaced by weak coffee. Upon entering the convenience store we walked to the back and I was surprised to see an entrance to Gerard’s Tavern opening into a small but quite comfortable dining area. Although the tavern was Irish in tradition I ordered a Spanish omelet after buying so many Spanish wines two days before. I was sure I was morphing into a Spaniard as I was envisioning being in a bull ring chanting Ole, Ole, and then slipping into a paragon dream with the aromas of wild raspberry and chocolate nuances.

After the walk back to the apartment, I learned that my daughter bought me a bottle of Spanish wine (I knew there was a reason we had children). I haven’t the faintest idea of the cost but here’s what I found in the bottle when I returned home and paired it with a medium-well hamburger and a grilled hot dog with yellow mustard, sweet relish, chopped onions and a sandwich dill pickle. Not quite a Chicago style hot dog, but darned close. The tasting notes are as follows….

The Flying Winemaker 2007 Tempranillo. Upon putting the ol’ schnozz into the bowl of my wine glass an immediate explosion of wild raspberries hit the nose in such force I think my nose is  still disjointed. I also detected hints of mint chocolate. The palate provided nuances of dark cherry and black raspberry flavors followed by a smooth blueberry and chocolate finish. I gave this wine 90 points. Whatever the price was well worth what I got out of the wine. I’m beginning to realize that Spanish Tempranillos have a lot to do with wild raspberries. Do you find the same or similar nuances? Again, I’m not sure of the price but this is a wine that you can bring to your neighbor’s, a wine group, as a house warming gift, or just for turkey dinner and have everyone tell you that you need to pick the wines for future venues, you’ll be an instant hit while getting on several “speed dial” lists.

I’ve often chided white wine drinkers for being a white wine drinker and why would anyone drink white wine as I’m a staunch red wine lover.  One of our wine enthusiast’s siblings lived in Germany and Japan for a number of years and had the following to say:

“Why drink a white?  Because if you lived in Germany and had Riesling grapes giving you 5 distinct levels of taste (sweetness) all during one 5 or 3 course meal, you’d do it every day for $8, just like if you lived in Argentina, you drink Malbec all night with fish to beef for $8.  Wait ’til he “discovers” sake and the Far East!”

Whoa, is this the beginning of a white vs. red venue? This could prove to be a lot of fun. This prompted me to take a more serious look at white wines and what all the fuss was about, so as a result I found this delectable white wine.

Ca’Montini 2004 Pinot Grigio. Apple greeted the nose much like a fall evening in the apple orchards with a hint of pear. The aroma led to a green apple and lemon flavor on the palate with a slight, pleasing mineral finish. Yummy comes to mind after opening this bottle of wine which was well-chilled. Pair this with shrimp fettuccine or baked salmon with a maple syrup/balsamic vinegar glaze topped with chopped garlic, however I prefer thinly sliced garlic over chopped. I’m more of a red wine drinker but this one I really like. $18.99 deserves a 90 rating.

Try the wines and let me know what you think. Post your comments below.

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