Sunday, March 10, 2013

Four Graces Pinot Noir

Anyone who has spent any wine time with me knows I am not a raving Pinot Noir lover. Actually, I don't really like Pinot to be honest. And even more specifically, I don't like cheap crappy Pinot.
I led a wine tasting earlier in the week on Pinot (email me if you want a copy of the tasting notes) for a friend's company, and it got me back to giving the Heartbreak Grape another chance.

The Four Graces
Willamette Valley, Oregon
I actually tried this wine a couple weeks ago when a wine rep brought it in, and after tasting it I had to ask where to buy it. It is a well made, nice structured Pinot with wonderful earthy notes punctuated by cherry, cranberry and violets and a slight white pepper finish. At first the acidity was a bit startling, but once my palate got comfortable and then filet and lobster Oscar style was added into the mix it was the perfect sipper. That once shocking backbone of acidity really made it pop with rich food, just cleansing the palate without overwhelming the delicate lobster, yet still firm enough to hang with the steak. I could drink this wine with every meal.
The great thing about Willamette Valley Pinots is their Burgundy-style drive to make Pinots with finesse and delicacy that express terroir.  The team at Four Graces does that nicely with this wine. They even go so far to put "Estate Crafted and Defined By the Terroir of the Willamette Valley", they know what style they want and they hit it.
One of the best parts of this wine was its price... $24.99 at Total Wine (or $22.49 with their pick 6 discount, and let's be honest, I always pick AT LEAST 6). This is truly a food wine with the ease of drinking alone.
Make sure to serve this at cellar temp, it drinks much much better with s slight chill to it. You won't hear me say it often, but mmmmmm, Pinot.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

You like Cotes du Rhone?! I'm shocked!

Hi, my name is Rachael and I am a Cote du Rhone-aholic.
The thing about this wine is that it is like your boyfriend/husband/cat... reliably good, always there, cheap, and you know what you're getting without having to look too hard. It also stays well overnight.
Applause.. I'll be here always.

Alain Jaume & Fils
Grand Veneur, Reserve
Cotes du Rhone, 2009
Rhone reds from 2009 have surprised me with their overt jammy style. Dense blackberry cobbler when room temp and freshly opened... I would have mistaken it for a Central Coast, CA Syrah. Vanilla, baking spices, black fruit, and a full thick mouthfeel had this bad girl on the track to jam town, and not in a good way, blech.
Like a good lady, left to its own devices overnight she became much more sassy and spicy.
Chilled, but with the fruit still there, this wine came alive tonight. Sassy and punchy with a better showing of acidity, while still smelling like a cooling blackberry cobbler on a rainy day.
Not my favorite CDR,but reliable in its character and pleasantness.
I'm still drinking it, so despite a $20 price tag, I think it is worth it!

Barolo Me This Batman!

There are a few thins I love in wine life: an amazing under $20 bottle, Cab Franc, Cotes du Rhone, a good wine story... and Barolo.
I like to call Barolo the neighborhood bully, all acid and tannin and not very nice on his own. But throw in a bit of tender loving steak and a few hours in decanter timeout and you have a true gentleman.

Mauro Sebaste
Barolo Riserva, 2006
A little unnecessary background: I've been on a liquid diet for a week. I am hungry. I came home from a particularly long day of wine servitude to find Mr. Boyfriend had purchased this bottle ($50 at Total Wine) and made me steak and mushrooms. Whether this was sweet or self preservation is still up for debate, but I digress...
Yeah, I said it.
This particular brick red beauty was just what dinner called for.
Barolo, made from the butt kickin' Nebbiolo grape is one badass dude of a wine. High acid, high tannin and all the sweet sexy oaky sour cherry goodness could ever want in a wine. More than anything this outlaw has a heart of gold for delicious food.
I will admit, after 12 hours on my feet I needed nothing from this wine on its own, and still so young for a Barolo (don't get boyfriend started on the 2001 we had for Christmas), it was tough. Soon rare filets, garlic mushrooms, and lemon asparagus tips arrived, and the acid and fat of the meal made Mr. Wine very loveable (and Boyfriend always is). Like a Sour Patch Kid commercial, I had been slapped in the palate and now was being hugged by vanilla, spice, flowers, cherry and more red fruit.
I will still pick a Barbaresco (same Nebbiolo grape, different hillside... le sigh Italy) over Barolo any day,  but this was the slap back to reality me and my tongue needed. And reminded me that wine is meant for food and vice versa. Happy Wino at the end of it all.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cotes du Rhone... I still love you!

While my current winefriend might be Cab Franc, my long time love has always been Cotes du Rhone; always dependable, always yummy, and always cheap. Mmmm, cheap.
Tonight marks the last Friday I will ever be in my 20s. So after an especially amateur filled work night, I took myself out for something nice. Mushrooms Neptune, blue cheese broiled rare filet and crimini mushrooms AND....
Maison Paul Jaboulet
"Parallele 45"
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah
Cotes du Rhone, France
I classed it up with Ivy and Fibonacci in the background, because seriously, this wine is $26 a bottle, AT A RESTAURANT.
Lets all be honest friends here a second, restaurants mark up between 2-4 HUNDRED percent on bottles, so this sweet little spicy gem is like $9 at the store.
Anyway, I am a fan of this wine. Ruby-purple, loads of blackberry wrapped black pepper and smoke, snappy acidity, right amount of dirty earthy love, and a solid smooth finish, this works great with any food... As evidenced by my cheesy crab stuffed mushrooms, steak, blue cheese, and more mushrooms.
Like my bestie Cab Franc, this goes for all kinds of wine lovers, the light spicy Pinot Noirs and big and beautiful Cabernets alike.  Grenache is such a flirty little grape, trying to please everyone and be everything to everyone, and Syrah is a cowboy in a tuxedo... rough and unrefined yet dark and gorgeous and ready to... um, we were talking about wine, right?!
I know I talk a lot about "BBQ wines"... but I live in Texas, we would barbeque Cheerios if we could (or fry it, see a Champagne entry for that love) so it makes sense to think smoky and chilled.
Either way, minus the 6 buttholes who think $52 is an acceptable amount to leave on a $400 check, best last 20s Friday ever. And great cheap wine makes everything better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not Your Mama's "Essential Red"

Bogle Vineyards
Essential Red
(Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah)
California, 2009
Anyone who has met me knows I am a cheap-o. I love coupons, sales, free stuff, and Kroger fuel points, which is probably why I love Bogle. I can get most of their wines for under $10, and they are dependably good enough for everyday drinking. Back in the day before Boyfriend was trained in wine buying better, he would grab me the Bogle Petite Sirah and he always did good.
Bogle was founded by some technology bajillionaire, so I appreciate them making wine for the masses.
I have been wanting to try this new-ish red blend, I love their single varietal wines, really enjoyed their Phantom Blend, so why not.
Basically, this is a badass everyday red! Big and luscious and juicy, it drinks like a lot more than the $9.49 I paid for it at Target. Decanted and chilled to cellar temp, this wine was beautiful. Dark berry, dense fruit, jammy and complex, with a smooth finish and round tannins. It wasn't too acidic, it felt plush and soft on the palate, and was just so good.
Seriously, you could invite super serious wine snobs over, pour this from a decanter and they would get Wino wood, and you'd never have to tell them it was 2nd shelf grocery store. Or you could after they raved about it and do a sassy "in yo' face snobs" doing your best NeNe Leakes impression.
This will be a great summer barbeque wine, because it chills so well and the intense fruit will go great with smoky BBQ goodness. But don't wait til June to buy it, Target is still open, go now.

Rotta Cab Franc

Cabernet Franc
Dino Boneso Vineyard, Paso Robles
I am going to continue to write about Cab Franc until you all get off your Wino butts and go buy it. We can make Cab Franc cool.
Now those of you who know me know I have no self control when it comes to drinking new wines. I pulled a good ole switcheroo on one very sweet Jen, taking this bottle off her hands and giving her my off-dry Prosecco at our company way belated Christmas party on Sunday. The cork stayed in this bottle for about 3 hours once I procured it.
Don't judge, I love me some Cab Franc.
And this one was a lot to love. I decanted it for a good amount of time, read: the 30 min it took me to drink my other bottle. It was gloriously brick-red and immediately told me of its Cab Franciness with aromas of cherries, strawberries, and violets. Oh Cab Franc, you are so dependable, you never let me down... now if the Court of master Sommeliers would just give me one of you during my blind taste tests in August... but I digress.
Upon sipping this delight, I got tongue evidence that my nose was right, and a surprising punch of acidity. It was all soft and sweet fruit and flowers and vanilla, then like Emeril... BAM! ACID! Now I see why the label helpfully suggested drinking this with "pasta and good friends", I don't normally eat my friends, but next time I do this wine will be the one to refresh my palate!
So as this was bottle #2 I didn't finish it night of, but I refrigerated the leftovers, and was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find it drinking BETTER than on Sunday. The acid had tamed a bit, but was still evident and the sweet vanilla was more pronounced. Maybe I should have decanted it for longer than 30 min. Guess I'll just have to get another bottle and try again.
There you go, and no more Cab Franc posts for the rest of the week. Wino's honor!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Primus "The Blend"

"The Blend"
 (29% Cab, 28% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, 18% Merlot)
Vermonte, Chile 2009
I love things that remind me of Transformers. And a wine with such a badass name needed to be bought and drunk. Now a badass wine with such Optimus Prime style grapes in it needs to be decanted... wait 90 minutes...
But we are all about instant gratification here Winos, so I won't make you wait.
This wine was MASSIVE! Rich, dark fruit nose, almost showing intense summer berry sticky sweetness, with lots of oak, cassis, blue and black fruit. Thick on the tongue with a surprising finish of acidity and a pop of boysenberry. Dense and rich through each sip, but taming the tannins with ripe fruit and jammy, yet not sweet, structure.
As it opened and warmed from cellar temp, the acid was more pronounced with black raspberry and maintained a fresh, ripe, lingering berry with a touch of spice.
Great wine for BBQ, or by itself. I was impressed, at $16.49 at Kroger, this drank like  much more expensive bottle. Something I love... less than $20 and a sexy delicious wine that would even impress the most Wino amongst us. Just make sure to buy another bottle to help fill your at least 90 min decant time!

Rubrato Aglianico something Italian di something else Italian

Rubrato Aglianico Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio
IGT Campania Aglianico
Italy 2005
I am currently on a quest to try 100 different grape varietals. To some people, this may sound easy, but I am a Wino to the Nth degree and have thus far only been able to list 74, thus my venture into Aglianico.
Back to the beginning... After work I like to go to Zambrano's, it is my classy wine version of cheers, and I love that I can buy a bottle retail. Even better, Cef usually is my Ms. Cleo, he reads my mind and tells me what I want, with a smooth Caribbean accent and colorful clothes. Anyway, Friday night I was a little too wine-fried (meaning I had to spend too much time and energy being Ms. Cleo myself) to be able to pick my own bottle, in come Ceferino Cleo...
Now he has a 92.3% success rate, far better than the actual Ms. Cleo when choosing a wine I will like... this one has resulted in a downgrade to merely 92%.  Maybe on another day, maybe with different food, maybe a different mood, but I was just not feeling this bottle of dried fruit goop.
Yes, goop. Almost as bad and in your face as one Gwenyth Paltrow who also makes GOOP.
Back to the wine... It was all to dried fruit and viscous and no backbone of acidity like I have come to expect from Italian wine. It was like a port gone blah. Which I will say may have its place with certain food, or a certain day, but it was just not what I wanted. I am never one to write off a wine entirely (except you White Zinfandel, we are enemies) so I will try it again, but for now, thanks for being Grape #74.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Andrew Will Cabernet Franc

Andrew Will
Cabernet Franc
Columbia Valley, Washington
Lately I have been obsessed with Cab Franc. It is a great varietal, almost always dependably full of sour cherries, red raspberries, and violets, with nice searing acidity, especially from Washington, so it is the perfect wine to pair with food as it refreshes the palate, and isn't as thick, fruity, and tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Andrew Will delivers on everything I expect from a nice Cab Franc. Nice dark red with purplish hues, it has a lovely nose of vanilla and flowers opening up into lush ripe berries and red fruit. I like to drink this wine fairly cold, and the zippy acidity clears the way for a lush medium+ weighted wine full of strawberry, sour cherry, violets, with low/medium tannin. As it warms, a smooth herbal peppery finish lingers for an appropriate amount of time.
While I appreciate Cab Franc for its easy pairing ability, many will love this wine for its easy drinking nature, almost like it is a starter Cab. If I can make a Wino suggestion... pick this wine or any Cab Franc to please a table of wine drinkers who can't agree on a varietal (Pinot Noir vs Cab Sauv... ding ding ding). Also as a "lesser known" varietal you can find extraordinary values on wine lists (unless it is Cheval Blanc, then hope someone else is paying!).
So as I step off my Cab Franc soap box, I leave you with this, at $32 at Zambrano's go buy this wine and some rich fatty cheese (sharp cheddar, cranberry stilton, Danish blue) and then call and invite me over so you can thank me for rocking your wine world!

The Food Lover's Guide to Wine

In my never ending quest to be the best Wino I can be, I devour books on wine making, regions and factoids, wine and food pairings, and other less fun sounding topics in wine (the history of Italian DOCs anyone? Bueller?) at a rapid pace.
Which made my Christmas present from Boyfriend so awesome, it was the best of all worlds. I had previously read the Kindle version of their book "What to Drink with What you Eat" and it is a good quick pairing reference, but this book rocked my world. It is a comprehensive compilation of tips from Master and Advanced sommeliers at some of the best restaurants in America.

But beyond great tips this book is loaded with charts showing ideal serving temperatures and other fun technical things like grape varietals by desired flavors, residual sugar, importers, etc...

The part that really got my inner wine geek going was Chapter 4, "Know Your Wines: The Lists" that contains a comprehensive list of grape varietals and wines listed by region (Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc.). What makes this list special is the authors' easy break down of each by adding info on acidity, tannin, flavor volume, pairings, ideal serving temperature, weight, and prominent flavors. It also adds some info on aging potential and well known producers. This section alone is a gold mine for blind tasters and those of us that can't keep their Asti from their Alba.

I could go on and on about this book, it is a great reference, a fun read, and has some amazing tips from somms at the top of their game. I can see this book will be highlighted and dog-eared more than it already is.

In short winos, go buy this book! It is invaluable to the beginner wino and the hardcore, and if it helps you pick a better wine to go with your chicken and rice on a Tuesday night, then consider it worth it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wine, from Uruguay?!

Even in a Wino's world, there are some things that are new, even to us. That's the great thing about wine, there is always a new vintage, vineyard, region, winemaker, and blend to try. Today I had my most recent "new" moment... Pisano's "Rio de los Pajaros" Reserve 2011 Torrontes, from of all places, Uruguay!

I used to live in Argentina, right across the river from Uruguay, and I can't say I would ever imagine them growing wine grapes there, but a lot of things surprise me. According to the label between the vineyard is between 30' and 35' parallel, it has a tempered by an Atlantic climate, which would be well suited to the Torrontes grape, which has found a home in the cool, yet arid harsh upper altitudes of the Andes Mountains near Salta, Argentina.

On first impression I thought they mislabeled the grape varietal. All the reasons I love Torrontes (and others hate it) is because of the over the top perfumed, herbaceous, floral in-your-face characteristics. This wine has NONE of that. It is more like a cool climate Albarino or California Pinot Grigio. Upon tasting it, I was confronted with all acid, green apple, and citrus... again an Albarino or Pinot Grigio in Torrontes' clothing.

Upon further research, I find out the Pisanos (like many families in the Southern Cone) are Italian and follow old school Italian wine making (a-ha! Pinot Grigio makes sense).

Still, this is a very drinkable wine, if you know what you're getting. I was expecting a Graffigna or Balboa Torrontes, and was thus very disappointed. But as I drink I am pleased with its clean finish (yes, I am drinking it as I type), this may be a good "starter" Torrontes for the less perfume-y lovers.

Just know what you're getting. So far, I'm not going to search out "wines from Uruguay" for my next dinner party.