Waterbrook Mélange Blanc 2010

It’s that time of year where I tend to drink more white wine than I do the red stuff. Although, my real passion for drinking wine is in the deep garnet coloring of the delectable juice we know as “Wine”. The Waterbrook Mélange Columbia Valley 2010 vintage from Walla Walla, Washington is a surprising, wonderful concoction of 39% Riesling, 18% Pinot Gris, 14% Gewürztraminer, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Viognier with an ABV of 11.8%. Don’t let the mere ABV percentage fool you, as this was packed with a variety of aromas and flavors.

Have you ever picked fresh peaches where you still have the twig and one leaf still attached to the peach? That kind of fresh peach aroma as you put it in the basket with a handful of other picked peaches is the kind of aroma that first hits you when you drop the “ol snozzola” into the opening of the wine glass. At first I thought “Is that it?” – well let that aroma savor for a bit. Then repeat the process of letting the aromas open in the wine glass, and uh, I would recommend using a Riedel or similar type wine vessel to open all the possible smells.

After you get the peach orchard smell, I found melon, honey, apricots, floral notes, fresh cut hay and lemongrass as additional aromas to the already present peach. The fresh cut hay and lemongrass were subtle yet letting you know its presence was real.  The flavors were a delightful blend of pear, apricot, peach and melon with sweet notes of honey. This clean, crisp white wine found the back palate with slight sweet vanilla notes. Although I wished this lingered longer than it did.

We served this well chilled with a baby spinach salad with bacon bits (from the fry pan, not from a jar – so pick your poison), thin apple slices (we used a Fuji apple but whatever suits your fancy & palate will suffice) topped with a mildly sweet salad dressing (recipe follows) and topped with chopped walnuts. For a meat protein topping, we used pan fried skinless chicken breasts sliced about an 1/8″ by 3″ (approx.) in a sage & onion infused olive oil (about a Tbsp) until cooked thoroughly. Just a note: the first glass of wine went down way too quickly but was an excellent complement to the meal. The second glass of wine sans the meal didn’t go as quickly but fear the bottle will not last through the evening hours on the deck. Not bad for a $13.99 bottle of wine. I don’t like spending a lot of money on white wines (there are a few though) and this was well worth the price we paid.

Salad Dressing:

3 Tbsp cider vinegar

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup shallots, minced

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and pour over the baby spinach, 1/4″ sliced bacon pieces, apples, strawberries (although the recipe didn’t call for this, we decided to add them) & walnuts. One thing of note – the above recipe is very vinegary, so my wife added more honey to sweeten it and that was more flavorful, so you’ll have to experiment a bit before pouring over the salad.

 

 

19 Crimes.

The 19 Crimes 2013 red wine is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir and has an ABV of 13%. It has a real deep garnet color with aromas of red cherry, strawberry and bing cherry with hints of wood and smoke. The flavor is of cherry jam, strawberry, sweet mixed berries and a hint of oak.  On the back palate, a Swiss Miss cocoa powder gives this wine a smooth, velvety, chocolate finish.

I did have this with grilled pork, homemade potato salad & fresh green salad and it went quite well with the meal. I’m sure this wine will pair well with a variety of dishes but I’d like to try it with grilled, skinless chicken breasts smothered in Texas Hot & Spicy BBQ sauce, roasted potatoes and your choice of vegetables. Oh, and corn on the cob wouldn’t hurt either.  I would suggest having several glasses of this wine as it is really tasty.

I’ve seen this wine in the price range of $10.99 to $15.99 depending on which wine merchant I visit, but found this one up in the NH State Liquor store on sale for $9.99. I only bought 2 bottles – foolish me! You also know that I’m not real fond of Australian wines but this one suited my palate very nicely. I’ll have to remember when I go back up to NH or to Table & Vine in West Springfield to look for this wine and get at least a half case of it. For the price you can’t go wrong.

Ghost Pines 2011 Red Blend

I received this as a Christmas gift in 2013 (yeah I know – what took me so long?) and has a delectable blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Sirah, Merlot & Sangiovese grape varietals from Sonoma County (56%), Joaquin County (23%) and Napa County (21%) which yielded a deep garnet color with an alcohol by volume of 14.5%.

On the nose were aromas of blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry & mulberry. On the palate were a variety of flavors and each time I sipped the wine I got a different combination which was quite a surprise and a fun experience. In addition to the blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry & mulberry flavors I found spice and caramel mixed in with the blackberry combination with nuances of leather, tobacco & pepper – but not always the same.

We paired this with ziti & marinara sauce with Romano & Parmesan cheeses, a side green salad sans Italian bread (which I really missed) and had it on the deck. I’m not sure if the bottle returned to the pantry (where all my opened wines find their resting place) or it was emptied while enjoying it on the deck.

I don’t have a price for you on this wine as it was a gift, but whatever the price, it was worth it – don’t be afraid to bring this to the party and have it be the first one opened.

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

Jacqueline Bahue 2012 Red Angel

Here is another selection I received from Naked Wines. I was mildly surprised with the Jacqueline Bahue Rosé I reviewed a couple of posts ago. And I’m not a real big Rosé fan but hope to try this one again in the summer while out on the deck.

Well, back to this red blend and I’m not sure what this wine’s blend varietals are but I’d guess it contains the major varietals we all see in most red blends. This opened on the nose with mostly a black berry aroma with a hint of Bing cherry. The flavors were of black berry with hints of berry jam and black cherry. There was some oak in the flavor.

This did not pique my interest a whole lot and doubt I would purchase again. Not that it isn’t worth it, but it’s that I have tried so many really good wines that are as good if not better and for the same price (around $10).

This has a screw top as did all the wines I received from Naked Wines. With a 14.2% ABV it had decent tannins and an okay balance. I had this stand alone so I don’t know if it would have gone better with food or not.

 

Apothic Rosé 2012

The 2012 vintage of the Apothic Rosé Limited Release California ‘First Cut’ was a mild surprise and one I didn’t expect. But then again, I never know what to expect from a bottle of wine I’ve never tried before.  I picked this up due to the fact I really enjoy the Apothic Red Blend and figured I would like to try this to see how it would compare to other Rosés’ and was pleased with the whole wine experience on this one.

First, this must be chilled to enjoy the complete wine. Second, you can have this with food or have it by itself. I decided to have this with stuffed green peppers & long grain rice. I wasn’t sure how this was going to pair. The sweetness of the wine complemented the roasted pepper with meat filling much better than I anticipated.

The color of the wine was that of raspberry lemonade and per the back label, was a description of its hue “…its vibrant hue from an ancient wine making practice called saignée, which means ‘to bleed’ intense color from the grape’s red skin”. Hmmm, wonder if that equates to raspberry lemonade?? The wine has medium acidity with 13% alcohol by volume and I picked this up for $8.99 ($11 average price from several different wine sites I visited).

Guess you want to know what the aromas and flavors were, huh? On the nose were aromas of apple, strawberry, berry, watermelon, and cherry. This is a blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon which produced flavors of strawberry and watermelon and didn’t really have much of a finish to it. There was a dash of sweetness to the wine, more so than in other Rosés’ I’ve had in the past. I’m thinking this would be much more suited to the warmer climates sipping out on the deck on a hot summer night.

 

Small and Small At Large 2012

Not the strangest name I’ve heard and yes, this is another selection from NakedWines.  Again, this has a screw top closure and has an alcohol content of 14.2%. Actually the six bottles of wine I received were all screw tops – what is the wine industry coming to? Although I do recognize the dilemma wineries face with cork and the possibility of losing up to 3% of your wine production can be costly.

Back to the Small and Small At Large, The color of the wine was dark red and I got black cherry, blackberry, strawberry, tobacco and leather notes on the nose which was quite pleasing. On the palate was a dominant black cherry flavor with hints of strawberry jam more so than fresh strawberries. I don’t have an issue with either flavor as I’m fond of fresh strawberry and strawberry jam (if it’s seedless).

The wine was decent for the price but for a very young wine (2012 vintage) the first sip seemed to be a bit flat or should I say it didn’t have that spark that glitters in your eye when tasting a wine. I did notice however that after a day or two in the pantry, the wine improved in flavor. I wouldn’t think a young wine would require a lot of decanting. Normally I pour this through my aerator but didn’t. I’ll remember next time though. You can find this at the Angel’s price of $8.50 (regular price of $19.99 – I wouldn’t buy this at that price) but the majority of wine sites I searched were selling this wine at under the $10 range.

Jacqueline Bahue Rosé Lodi 2012

The Jacqueline Bahue Rosé Lodi 2012 has an ABV of 12.3% and is the second of six bottles I received from NakedWines. Still a bottle of wine with a screw top closure (will I ever see a cork again???), at least I didn’t have to search for the corkscrew – like that’s really a problem huh? Anyway, this had a fruit punch color but stopped there as it began with a very nice fresh strawberry aroma. After swirling it for a bit I was able to detect a nice floral bouquet with hints of Peach Melba. And at the very end I picked out a hint of tart cranberry. I’ll have to tell you I was quite pleased with what I smelled so far as it gave me hope that the flavor would follow the nose’s lead so to speak.

On the palate a nice burst of fresh strawberry flavor abounded past the ‘ol taste buds and found ripe apricot on the back palate. Oh, but that wasn’t the end of the experience as the aftertaste was of creamy strawberry yogurt. This wine costs $14.99 on the Naked Wines website (see above link) but if you’re an “Angel” (still need to do my homework on this) the cost drops to $8.99, but I did find where this sells for around $8.99 on most sites I searched.

We paired this with baked chicken breasts (skinless) with a BBQ sauce concoction of Jack Daniels BBQ, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco brand hot sauce. We accompanied the chicken with Rice Pilaf (chicken style) and mixed veggies (regrettably from the can, but we survived) and surprisingly the wine and food went quite well. I also tried this stand alone and this would make a great summer sipping wine out on the deck on a warm summer eve with a bunch of friends to hang out with.

 

 

Jim Olsen Fair Angel 2012

Seeing as the holidays are over and might be some of the best and worst times of the year. Shoppers abound with good intent only to come home frustrated and tired with little to show for their efforts. Crowds are at an enormous level testing the small amount of patience we have left after we cannot find a parking spot – and we haven’t even started shopping yet. Even e-shoppers get the blues with out of stock items and Internet glitches.

However, we do have the ability to relieve all that stress of getting over the holidays by experimenting with new wines. I received a coupon from my brother for $50 off wine from NakedWines. So, I opted for one of their packages and selected a six-pack of wine which cost me a total of $11.68 for the six bottles which included the cost of shipping. I really can’t complain about the price but that never stopped me before… Seeing as the holidays were over and I wanted to start getting back into trying wines again I decided it was time to experiment with the wines I just received.

The first of the 6 bottles I opened was a Jim Olsen Fair Angel 2012 red wine from California. I couldn’t find out a whole lot about this wine other than the Naked Wine website. All I know is this – it’s a red blend (not sure of the grape varietals) and that’s about it…This had an ABV of 13.8% and a screw top closure. Both the aroma and flavor was dominated by black cherry – a real strong black cherry. It was difficult for me to pick out anything else but the black cherry. However, given enough time I was able to detect a bit of blackberry on the nose, nothing more on the palate though. I had this stand alone and the following day it did seem to have a bit more body and flavor but not much. According to the Naked Wine website this costs $24.99 (regular cost), $10.99 (Angel price) – I’d have to do more research on what constitutes an “Angel”. This wine leaned toward the semi-sweet scale rather than a semi-dry red wine. More to come on the other bottles I received and of course from the other 50 or so bottles in my wine cellar that I have not tried yet. Well – best I get to drinking…uh, I mean tasting those wines! Will they be gems???

Are Connecticut Winery Tasting Fees Too High?

I have only visited two wineries so far this year and there’s a good reason for that. 2012 was the last year I visited all the CT wineries on the CT wine trail (and some that are not on the CT wine trail) and I have been to all of them the previous three years. I’ve noticed two things since I’ve been visiting the Connecticut Wineries.

The first thing is that wines have gotten extremely better each year as many of the wineries have perfected their wines. I’m sure the grapes are maturing as they season each year.

They seem not to be boutique wineries as they were when first starting out but are becoming bonafide wine producers of consistently good wines. And the CT reds are starting to get much better than in the beginning. I think a lot of CT reds are getting as good as the CT whites, if not more so.

So, with that here’s the second thing I’ve noticed – tasting fees have risen considerably from the majority of the state’s wineries.  It used to be that I could visit all of the 30+ wineries (usually 4 at a time) and it would be reasonably priced at around the $3 to $6 for a tasting. And some were even free. Some of the wineries gave you their signature glass with the tasting fee.

I get it that you have to cover the costs of doing business and that much of the total production you harvest are mere “experimental batches” in California wineries. And I don’t mind paying more for a bottle of your wine as I like to support local wineries as much as I do local farmers’ markets.

Prior to this year wine tastings were approximately about 75 cents for an average ½ ounce pour. I can live with that. But this is what we’re experiencing at the wineries today:

$14 for 8 wines plus signature logo glass

$8 for 7 wines

$7 for 6 wines

$10 for entire wines on the list plus signature logo glass

$9 for 8 wines

$7 for 5 wines or $12 for 12 wines

2 free samples, $4 for 8 wines, or $8 for 12 wines

$6 for 6 wines plus signature logo glass

up to $25 for 6 wines (of which 2 are reserve wines) plus a famous brand name glass

$9 for 10 wines

$7 for 6 wines

some have options of 2 wine tastings consisting of:

$5-$8 for 3 or 4 wines OR $10-$12 for 7-9 wines plus the signature logo glass

$10 for 4 wines – REALLY?

I can go to almost any restaurant and get a decent glass of wine for around $6-8 and it’s usually around 6-8 ounces of wine. As you can see from the tasting fees above I’m paying about double that. And I only want to TASTE your wines not drink them.  If I want to drink your wines it will come after I taste them and at a different time as I will remember what your wines taste like and visit you again but with the purpose of bringing along a picnic lunch (most wineries allow you to do this, unless of course they sell food too which I understand) and purchasing either a glass of wine or a bottle and enjoy what your winery has to offer. Which means I’m going to spend a few hours at your establishment.

With the cost of gas nowadays I’m starting to get particular to which wineries I visit and if you’re going to charge me more than about a $1 for a ½ ounce pour I probably won’t be visiting you.

I can go about 15 minutes from home and get free wine tastings (because I belong to their wine club) for myself and up to four guests. Their wine club averages out to one bottle of wine a month. Then, there is another winery I travel about 50 minutes to because their wine is exceptional plus I cannot remember when they last charged me for a tasting, even though their wine tastings are one of the few wineries that have reasonable fees for tastings. 

As far as the signature logo glass is concerned. I really do not need it. If you sponsor a wine festival at your winery then I expect to get signature logo souvenir glass. After all, don’t take this to heart but given my druthers I’d rather drink my wine from a Riedel wine glass (yes, I’m snobbish that way but have found a good wine glass makes the wine taste better) so I won’t be drinking the majority of my wine from a signature logo wine glass unless of course it’s a Riedel. I’m seeing a trend of exploding tasting fees in the future. Are the CT wineries forcing me to visit wineries outside the state???

Okay fellow oenophiles – am I wrong? Do you agree or disagree?  Please comment on the post. Let me know how you feel. It can be as easy as “I agree” or “I don’t agree”.  Winery owners – how about you? Am I on target or am I sniffing up the wrong grapevine? I’d like to hear your point of view.

Connecticut Wine Festival – 2012

The CT Wine Festival was on the last weekend of July. The witless wine troupe (ah, that would be me & the missus and my sister- and brother-in-laws) started off the morning drive to the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT under a partly cloudy sky but soon realized that it was not if it would rain, but when. We were hoping the inevitable dilemma of transparent moist daggers from the heavens would hold off long enough for us to enjoy the 4th annual CT Wine Festival.

The parking lot was as empty as could be, given that the wine festival would not open for another 30 minutes.

We arrived a half hour earlier than expected and you can see that we were among the brave and loyal wine enthusiasts to get a front row parking spot.

This is advantageous strategy on the part of us wine purveyors. You see, we didn’t need to worry about parking in the doldrums of the cheap seats, way back in swamp land, wondering if we would ever find the wine mobile without utilizing the panic button on the key fob.

Umbrella in hand, we marched on to the starting gate (see featured photo) to enter the world of fine wines.  You can see the line forming in anticipation of finding the best wines of the festival. Much to our surprise they opened the gates about 10 minutes before the announced starting times.

Fortunately we arrived early but so did many of the other wine enthusiasts as well but it was not yet to the point where you were four or five deep. So, the process of getting wine samples was still relatively easy to obtain. Here are just a few of the brave wine tasters waiting for samples or those purchasing wine.

Many of you have heard about our Fancy Schmancy Initials Club so, can you spot Sparing Sharon and Cousin Carl?

Once we sampled the wines and made our purchases we found ourselves outside the tasting barns and out in the open where the skies threatened numerous droplets of rain but we were determined to visit the vendors of other products than wine before the wet stuff began. I’m particularly fond of the vendors selling oils and vinegars.

Once we had visited the outside vendors we got back to the car – oh, look at the parking lot now.

So, if you want to park in the front row, get to the wine festival early. Now, the only thing left to do now was stop at Apricot’s restaurant in Farmington to top off a perfect afternoon wine tasting. But outside under the tent the rains finally poured down upon us (sorry no pictures of the rain as the camera was in the car). I have to remember that I have a phone with a camera in it.

If you’re looking for a fun day and want to taste wine from many of the state’s wineries, you’ll surely enjoy this outing. So, put a reminder on your calendar for July 2013 to visit the Connecticut Wine Festival