‘Twas The Night Before…

I purchased another case of wine to experiment on for the next couple of weeks. Yes, six bottles were the Camille Cayran Secret de Campane as I said I would buy up all the wine merchant had. Well, I was going to when someone was looking for a decent wine that wasn’t too expensive so I relented and let them know of this wine (I must be getting soft in my old age). Although I could not find The Flying Winemaker Tempranillo I was able to locate their Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m curious to see if it compares well to the Tempranillo.  Anyway, let’s get back to the wine reviews to see if we get tricked or treated with the following wine reviews. Seeing as Halloween has just passed, you may be surprised that chocolate goes well with just about any type of wine. But, I think you knew that already. So, get your pillowcase ready for all those treats. And this post has nothing to do with Christmas so don’t be looking for any gifts just yet.

Trapiche 2008 Oak Cask Malbec found plum, raisin, and blueberry aromas while cassis and pepper dominated the flavor. This wine finished with blueberry and clove nuances. With a $9.99 price tag and a 79 rating, so this wine falls in the Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category. Just a quick note that anything I rate over 75 I would more than likely stock this in my personal wine cellar. I didn’t pair this with any food but would surmise a guess that it will go well with grilled meats, lasagna, other pasta dishes and any other dish you may challenge yourself to create.

Fabla 2008 Calatayud Garnacha. A deep red-purple color yielded blackberry fruits with a hint of clove and mint julep. Wild, tart strawberry flavor with chocolate mousse nuances left a subtle finish with hints of chilled, tart blueberries. Pair this with chicken roll-ups (which is a combination of boneless chicken breast, provolone cheese, and prosciutto di parma). The chicken roll-ups were attended harmoniously by fresh green beans, mushroom risotto, and fresh tomato topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Italian star bread rounded out the starches for this meal. I also had this wine afterward as a stand-alone wine and it was as good as it was with the meal, maybe even a little better. $7.99 yielded an 88 rating. A definite keeper for the wine cellar. And yes, this falls into Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category. What would we do without Cousin Carl? Should we dedicate a post to Cousin Carl’s low priced reds? You’re the voting public, tell me what you think.

I suppose we must get a white wine in for those that prefer this as opposed to us red wine lovers. Here goes…

Estancia 2007 Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches Chardonnay. This wine was gold in color which produced a pear/apple aroma with a hint of melon. The palate generated tropical fruits and delectable citrus flavors. A creamy toasted oak finish completed this wine. This was a stand alone wine but I’m convinced it will pair well with an array of food dishes you consider as favorite meals. $14.99 with an 87 rating would fit nicely into anyone’s wine cellar.

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

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….

Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce

My Italian heritage gave me the basics to wine tasting and as a food critic as well. As a young child my grandfather would give us wine in a jelly glass (which probably amounted to about an ounce of wine but kept us quiet afterward) while my grandmother would simmer a marinara sauce from 5 am in the morning till sometime around 4 pm in the afternoon where we would gather at the dinner table to savor Grandma’s great spaghetti sauce over our favorite pasta while Grandpa poured our homemade wine. However, prior to the 4 pm ritual of eating pasta, Grandma would give us a sneak preview of the simmering liquid with a bowl of sauce with a meatball or two with Italian bread to soak up anything left over. The best part of the whole ritual was waiting for the wine prior to dinner. I could remember how that wine smelled and tasted and I’ll never forget those times. Think back to the first wine experience you had. How does it compare to now?

So, on with the wine reviews…

Banfi 2002 Col di Sasso. I believe this translates into “Stony Hill” where this is grown in Italy. This 70/30 blend of Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon opens with cherry, licorice, and chocolate aromas with a hint of spice & leather. Black currant, red raspberry and red cherry flavors finally succumb to a smooth mocha finish.  $8.99 and an 89 rating. And yes, pair this with spaghetti and meatballs.

This wine reminds me of those days Grandma would cook and all the beautiful aromas reached every sense you could muster while Grandpa (or Pop as everyone called him) poured our small indulgence of wine. Of course all I can remember from those days was that the wine smelled like LifeSavers – that isn’t such a bad thing, is it? I always try to keep a bottle of this wine in my collection, should you? Let me know what you think.

Continuing the effort to find the low priced reds I came across this Australian wine (Mike’s Cellar Emporium vows to find me an Australian wine I really like), that is, wine that I would actually keep in my cellar.

Lindemans 2007 Bin 55. This 60% Shiraz & 40% Cabernet Sauvignon yielded mulberry, black pepper, & earthy aromas with black cherry & black pepper on the palate and a slight mocha finish. I’m not crazy about Australian wines but I like this one. I had this with snacks – nuts, chips, pretzels, & crackers and it actually went pretty well. This would probably go well with a grilled burger or steak or just to drink. I think the Aussies are the only ones that refer to this as Shiraz, whereas everyone else calls it Syrah. $7.00 and an 82 rating although I may change/challenge the rating at a later date depending on how the second glass matches the first.

Although I will always kid white wine drinkers, I still remember being chewed out by a white wine drinker so I have found this little gem of some fairly unused grape varietals in a blend that awakens the senses.

Cline Cellars 2008 Marsanne Roussanne. Made with 74% Marsanne and 26% Roussanne grapes produced floral notes on the nose leading to apricot and nectarine flavors with a hint of lime and a subtle mineral finish. Serve this wine slightly chilled with Herb or Rosemary Chicken, rice pilaf, and a medley of pearl onions, sweet baby peas, and sautéed mushrooms. You can substitute the chicken with blackened fish (sea bass, haddock, flounder, etc. – you make the choice). This $20 bottle of wine yielded a 90 rating. Does this mean I’m starting to like white wine?? Or am I a red wine drinker going soft?

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….