Friday, December 12, 2008

December Wine Post: Baby Girl has arrived and all is well

It's been quite a while since this space has been updated but I do have two great adventures for tommorrow if you choose to accept them. Drive up to Santa Barbara and stop by Jaffurs to try Jaffurs Cellarmaster and Tasting Room Manager, Matt Brady's winemaking introduction.

The 2006 "Grandaddy Grenache" is the debut release from vino sapien wine co and will be served Saturday 13th 11-5pm at Jaffurs Wine Tasting Room in Santa Barbara. 819 E. Montecito St Santa Barbara

"The 2006 “Granddaddy Grenache” is the debut release from vino sapien wine company. vino sapien (“wise wine”) productions are inspired and dedicated to personally significant people in my life. This ultra-small lot was sourced from Thompson Vineyard in Los Alamos, and barrel aged 19 months. This wine explodes with candied cherries, cola, cinnamon and nutmeg spice, complex palate flavors and a silky smooth mouth feel, with a long drawn out finish. Grapes were hand farmed and old-world techniques were used in making this wine. Only 48 cases produced. " -From Jaffurs Newsletter.

Continue up to the wine ghetto and get into Palmina's Red White & Green Holiday Party!December 13th, 4.30 to 7.30pm At the Winery & Enoteca
$20 for Stagioni/Vendemmia members.$25 for the general public.

My husband and I made our first wine adventure up to Santa Ynez with our new little girl last week and managed to stop by Foxen for our wine club shipment. Everything they were pouring was great but I really enjoyed the 2007 Pinot Noir and the 2005 Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon. No tasting notes yet, since I'm still learning to sip with an 8 week old in tow.
We also hit up the Buttonwood Pomegranate Fest and tasted some 2005 Cab Franc at Wine Country in Los Olivos. Tim Duggan and Graham Palmer's debut wine. Stop by to try some!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Santa Barbara County Wine Event Weekend

If you didn't have a reason to get out of town already. Here are a few more that might motivate you to head up to the Santa Ynez Valley this weekend. You might even want to call in sick on Friday and head up for an early start on the fun.

Its the annual Santa Barbara County Vintner's Festival. This event features wines from over 100 wineries in the area plus great food and music. Event is 1-4pm on Sat April 19th 2008 at River Park in Lompoc.

To compliment the festival, Pick up a Vintner's Visa at Wine Country in Los Olivos. ( $35 w/o festival ticket, $25 with your ticket). This gives you access to an amazing array of events running from Friday to Monday.

The list of events each day is just overwhelming. The standout on Friday looks to be a winemaker dinner with Flying Goat Cellars, Norm Yost's winery, at the La Purisima Mission. Additionally, Foley Estates will be open till 8pm and have light hord'oeuvres and wine tasting. Ken Brown Wines will also have an open house and library tasting. ( 11am- 4pm)

Saturday the big event is the festival of course but there is lots of other cool stuff to check out as well.

  • Babcock will be having an open house.
  • Palmina will be having a Friulian Symposium & Brunch prior to the festival.
  • Longoria will be having a Production Facility Open House so stop by there in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto prior to heading over to the festival.
So now you've gotten out of the festival and you're wondering what you can do now. There are tons of great winemaker dinners to choose from. Foxen's dinner at Alisal Ranch, Palmina's dinner at the Santa Ynez Inn, Buttonwood Farm's Taste the Futures dinner in the Vineyard featuring New West Catering, Core Dinner at Wine Country, and the Longoria dinner at the Ballard Inn. Check out this link for more information. Any of these would be amazing. You can't go wrong.

You still haven't had enough food, fun, wine. Well then there's Sunday!
  • One of my favorites is the ABC open house. For $15 bucks you get to taste wines from Au Bon Climat, Qupe, and Verdad. This is one of the two times a year that Jim Clendenen with Bob and Louisa Lindquist open the doors to their facility tucked away at Bien Nacido Vineyards. (11am-3pm)
  • Alma Rosa will also be having an open house with wine, food, and the music of Francisco Gonzalez a founder of the well known "Los Lobos". Admission is $15 dollars. ( 11am-5pm)
  • Jeff Wilkes of J Wilkes wines will be pouring over at Wine Country some of his new wines, library wines, and barrel samples. ( 11am-5pm)
  • Hitching Post wines will have an open house featuring their current releases and selected library wines, complete with Hitching Post appetizers! $15 per person (11am-3pm)
  • Kathy Josepth, of Fiddlehead Cellars, will be featuring a special library tasting so you can check out the aging potential of her wines. She will also have a great selection of cheeses and bbq.
This is just a taste of what's coming your way this weekend. To read more go to the check out the SB Vintner's Association Site. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

WBW: How Old World Cab Franc Reminds Me of Spring

The first days of spring growing up always seem to coincide with my preseason practice for softball. The smell of fresh cut grass, still dewy with March rains. The hint of leather in the air from your well worn glove. The breeze carrying faint floral scents that mingle with the dust of the infield. My old world Cab Franc after a swirl or two took me back to those memories with its nose of roses, celery, dark berries, green pepper, and leather. This wine was spring in a glass. Now I just have to dig out my old glove and get outside. I'm a big fan of Cabernet Franc and my wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday did not let me down. The other good news, is that I did not break the bank.

Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon "Les Chiens- Chien" for $15.99
This wine is a lovely balance of spice and silkiness with a pleasing gravely mouth feel that allows the finish to linger. This red is produced from 40-80 year old vines. I highly recommend this wine.

My wine was from Domaine547. While everyone is sold out of the 2004 we had, Domaine 547 has the 2005 if you are looking for your own supply. Snap it up now!

Thanks to Gary V for hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday#44!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cana's Feast Turns Grapes to Some Delicious Oregon Wine

Last time we stopped by Cana's Feast, it was known as Cuneo Cellars and the winery had a much smaller space. Previously their best wines were labeled under the Cana's Feast. The name refers to the wedding feast in Cana, where Jesus was reported to have turned water into wine. From what we're told, they do use grapes from Southern Oregon, Eastern Washington, and the Willamette Valley to make the wine instead of water. One of my favorites about this tasting room is the expansive views from the property. Absolutely breathtaking. Lucky for us the wine's inside were a match for the scenery.

2005 Bricco Sangiovese
Bricco in Italian means the top of the hill hence the name since their Sangiovese is sourced from the vineyard at the top of the hill. This Sangiovese was delicious.
Bright juicy cherry, touch of cinnamon and leather. Fantastic fun wine thats judiciously exuberant yet restrained enough to pair with food. $34

2004 Bricco Two Rivers Blend ( Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Petit Verdot)
Lovely, succulent cherry and earthy notes contrasting to make a delicious blend sourced from vineyards along the Rogue and Columbia River. Its a bargain at $20!

2005 Bricco Syrah $27
Co fermented with Viogner. Loads of dark fruit, leather and a finish of dark chocolate. $24

2005 Tre Novo Dolcepassa $35 A sweet, slightly raisiny dessert wine with lovely dark fruit and 7% residual sugar.

Cana's Feast also prices their wines in the tasting room the same as the average retail price in local wine shops or grocery stores so unlike many of the other Oregon wine tasting rooms, you don't have to feel ripped out when you see the same wine in the grocery store for less. Erath and Argyleboth charged a premium price in their tasting room compared to the same price you could get in the local Safeway. Sometimes it's best to taste and take your list to the local wine shop in wine country and pick up the same stuff for less. Cana's Feast was the exception the to rule.

Cana 's Feast tasting room is open 11-5pm most days. On Saturday's they have Enoteca Lunchs and Sunday's their tasting feature a menu of soup, cheeses, antipasti, and small plates. Their wine's are sourced from location in Oregon and Eastern Washington. A fun way to re stimulate your palate while tasting in the Willamette Valley which will predominately feature Pinot Noir at most wineries.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patricks Day to everyone. Even though I am half Irish, I'm not a big fan of the corn beef and cabbage dinner and will be having salmon instead. My Irish grandmother told me in Ireland they often have salmon for St Paddy's day so I'm happy to leave the cornbeef and cabbage in the dust. Other key items are Guinness, Irish Soda Bread (Bristol Farms) and for the kid in you, the elusive Shamrock Shake from McDonalds. Last year was the first Paddy day that I was unable to locate my favorite guilty pleasure, the Shamrock Shake. The McDonald's register person made me feel like I was trapped in the Chappelle's Show's Pop Copy Skit by backing away from his register,raising his arms out to his side as if I had challenged his manhood. After this negative response to a simple question, I sadly left the McDonalds. How could they let me down? I rely on this "restaurant" for 2 things, reliable sausage egg and cheese mcmuffins for breakfast 3 times a year and the Shamrock Shake. I'm happy to see this post today at the LAist. It looks like they are back and I will hunt for mine today.

Or perhaps I will make this recipe instead. It sounds even better.

2 cups Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
1/4 cup Low Fat Milk
1/2 York Peppermint Patty
1 Pack of York Wafer Bars
Reddi Whip
Chocolate Sprinkles
Green food coloring( optional)

In a blender combine milk, ice cream and a few drops of food coloring. Blend to desired consistency. Pour into malt glass and top with a swirl of whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolates. Garnish with York patty and and wafer bars.

Show your support at Bring back the Shamrock Shake

And of course, wine just doesn't work today, Pour yourself a Guinness and enjoy your St Paddy's Day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One of my favorite Wine Events of the Year: Melville Small Lot Pinot Noir Tasting

It's time for Melville's yearly debut of the 2006 estate small lot collection pinot noirs: High Density, Indigene, Terraces and Carrie's. For a tasting fee you get access to some of the most sought after Pinot Noir from Melville. Last year we retired to the tables and enjoyed chatting with Brent Melville who was whipping up some great complimentary Tri Tip. According to the site, he'll be barbecuing again this year. Tasty stuff, plus he's apt to go dig out some other new releases for sampling. This is event is fantastic every year and a great opportunity to taste some Pinot Noir. I've been a fan of the Carrie's and the Terraces since our wedding at Melville. Last year was the first year for the Indigene, Melville's first Pinot fermented with native yeast. I'm looking forward to see how it compares with the other selections.

Dates March 21st- March 23rd 2008 . Hours 11 am - 4pm. Link to Melville's site.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WBW: Comfort Wine for the Last Days of Winter

Charged with finding a “comfort” wine, I thought about what brings me comfort. Wine is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think comfort. I find comfort in childhood favorites like grilled cheese with a Guldens Mustard smiley face drawn on it and a cup of tomato soup. Or comfort is indulging in a box of macaroni and cheese without worrying about the “carbs” because I was out hiking or biking all day. Or staying in and curling up on the couch with my husband, popcorn, and a good movie. Well, perhaps a nice sparkling would be just the thing with popcorn and that scenario. For me, great wine engages so many of my senses, that I don’t unwind per see, but I do refocus my mind from perhaps a tough day at work to investigating what the wine has to offer. What do I smell? What do I taste? Is it what I expected? What foods would this be perfect for? What can I perceive about the choices made during harvest? And most important, do I like it? Finding a wine that engages all my senses and stands out as memorable is akin to perhaps catching that big fish, or winning the big game. Its deeply satisfying and not easily forgotten. Perhaps going wine tasting for me, is better described as wine hunting. I'm always looking for the next great white whale, or red whale in this case.

Recommending one wine is tough, but the wine that is up there in the wine hunt and allows me shift gears and unwind my mind to a sensory pursuit is the J Wilkes 2005 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Hillside Blend. I love this wine just for the sensual experience of drinking it. Great Pinot Noir is one of our civilization's best inventions. It's probably up there with electricity, a great shower, comfortable bedding, terrycloth robes/slippers, and running water. All great comfort giving inventions. My experience with this wine is enhanced since I got the opportunity to assist the winemaker during the 2006 and 2007 harvest. I can’t lay claim to any input on the wine I’m recommending but it adds greatly to my enjoyment that I can visualize how it was made based on my harvest experiences. This adds an extra dimension to every sip of this wine and allows me to reminisce and savor simultaneously.

Tasting Notes ($39.99)
This is not a big fruit forward California Pinot. Instead, there is a deep sensuous complexity reminiscent of great burgundy there for the attentive soul who indulges. A wonderful spicy, herbal bouquet invites you in. The notes of strawberries and cherries typical to Pinot Noir are present upon tasting but they are just one of the many that will overwhelm your senses. Simply sublime wine.

Read here for more reviews of J Wilkes Wines and Harvest.

Thanks and Congratulations to Joel at Wine Life Today for the Comfort Wine Theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday and on the arrival of his new baby girl!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pinkie Party Report: 2007 Pink Fiddle

The 2007 Pink Fiddle ($18) made its debut this February and I have to say, its the best vintage yet.

An enticing vibrant strawberry color gets you to lean in and experience the burst of strawberry on the nose. The wine is not sweet, its tart with juicy strawberry notes and a touch of nutmeg and clove. I think this my favorite vintage of Pink Fiddle. Rose's are fantastic wine for a warm summer day. More about Pairings,winemaking and fun facts on Drinking Pink here

Wine making This is not a saignée*, the fruit was chosen and dedicated to the making of this delicious rose. 100% de-stemmed, cold-soaked at 40º F for 24 hours for delicate extraction of color and texture; lightly-pressed and cold-fermented at 50º F to complete dryness. Non-malolactic to keep the fragrance true to pinot noir.

*saignée is when you bleed off some juice from a fermenting batch of fruit. Often use to increase the ratio of skin to juice in order to intensify the remaining juice to improve the flavors. The leftover bleed or saignée can then be used to make a rose. I have also seen winemakers take this saignée and let it barrel ferment and use this batch later for blending purposes.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pinkie Party Report: Fiddlehead Pinot Noir

More notes from the Pinkie Party. Kathy Joseph's wines continue to amaze me. I took a sip of her first pinot and serendipitously scored a slice of a delicious piece of tri tip sandwich.
Matching up nicely with my grilled tri tip sandwich were the Fiddlestix and Oregon Pinots. Tip for the home cook, the bread was soaked in butter and garlic prior to grilling. It really makes the sandwich.

Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir 2004 Fiddlestix Vineyard Named for the mile marker 7.28 on Santa Rosa Road in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, this wine is quite showy for Fiddlestix and enjoyable. ($40)
Lovely bouquet of raspberry and black cherry supported by cloves and nutmeg. Lots of rustic red fruit and plum with a touch of spice on the finish. Well rounded and silky and a favorite of the day.

I thought this was favorite of the day but then I tried

Fiddlehead Oldsville Reserve Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Noir 2003. This wine since it was poured from a 375 ml bottle had a bit of an unfair advantage of the other pinot. Wine will tend to age faster in smaller bottles and we got to reap the benefits.
Lovely dark earthy mushrooms and soft raspberry notes on the nose. The taste was so smooth and the wine possessed an elegant blend of so many fantastic elements. I detected raspberry, cranberry, marionberry , lavender, earthy mushrooms, and a touch of creme brulee . Amazingly seductive haunting wine. This is a wine to pause for a moment in life and just enjoy. Fantastic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vino Italiano: Wine Book Club

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy By Joseph Bastianich, David Lynch is an excellent Reference on Italian wines. I wish more countries were covered in such a thorough manner. I say Reference with a capital "R" for a reason. This book does not have a central narrative and thus can be challenging to read cover to cover. I am glad now that I've familiarized myself with its structure to have this book as a reference for when I shop for Italian wine. You may notice that the previous phrase is code for .. I did not finish this book... However, the first section was a quick read for me. It details the basics of Italian wine history, laws, and labeling rules. Very useful stuff you put to work right away in your local wineshop. Part two explores all 21 regions of Italy in detail. Each region is lovingly detailed and is written as a stand alone section and immerses the reader in the people, culture, foods, and history in addition to the main varietals from that region. The Fast Facts section for each region is a great breakdown that would be helpful to copy and take to your local wineshop to inform your purchases.

The first great use of this book was for Wine Blogging Wednesday when we covered wines from Fruili. It was a great reference and provided a wonderful context in which to consume the wine. From reading, I learned which DOC's were known for better wines so I selected a wine from a specific DOC, Collio, based on my reading. Now whenever I encounter an Italian wine, I can later go and read up on the region, the expected flavors for that varietal and compare it with my experience.

One of my favorite aspects of this book were the descriptions of typical flavor profiles for varietals grown in the region and the basic winemaking techniques. This is the kind of information I find immediately useful because it enhances my tasting experience and my ability to discern which varietals I may prefer prior to purchasing. I also enjoyed that regional recipes were included at the end of each region's section. The flip side of that is my one complaint with the book. I wish there were more recipes at the end of each region's section! One section had a recipe for wild boar... Realistically, when am I going to make wild boar anything ? I wish there had been a more easily realized recipe associated with each region where I could obtain the ingredients. Considering how carefully the authors made sure that the wines they mentioned are available in the US, it would have been great to pick recipes that had the same consideration for ingredients. Mostly I 'm asking for additional authentic regional recipes since reading about each wine region made me a bit hungry and inspired to cook.

For best results here's how I would prescribe your dose of Vino Italiano.

  • Browse through a section on one of the wine regions just enough to help inform your purchase of a wine from that region. Once home, open said wine and enjoy a glass while curled up with the book and learn more your wine and its region of origin. If you are the ambitious sort, make the suggested recipe that is at the end of each wine region's section. If you have decided to make a recipe go back to wine purchasing step and get a second bottle to have with your completed dinner. The first bottle is inspirational for the cook and an apertif for your guest.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about Italian wines. Its a bargain at $15 dollars and a great addition to your wine library.

Thanks to Dr Debs for starting the Wine Book Club and I look forward to what is in store for us next. I hear solid rumors its much shorter and will will be announced on the first Tuesday of March by host Tim Elliott of Winecast.

Thanks to David McDuff, of McDuff's Food and Wine Trail for hosting this month. The discussion is also ongoing over at on Facebook, or Shelfari.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pink Fiddle Party Report Part 1: A Whiter Shade of Pink

Fiddlehead Wines had their annual Pinkie party for their upstart Pinot Noir Rose that has become a cult favorite in Santa Barbara County. Lucky for us, that's not all they were pouring. As you can see on the right some people really went for it with a complete outfit made of pink post its. We also spotted a few winemakers there besides Kathy. Don Schroeder, the new winemaker for Seasmoke, made an appearance. He also has his own label; Ampelos. Karen Steinwachs, Kathy's former assistant winemaker was helping out by pouring for a bit even though she is now the winemaker at Buttonwood. Kris Curran and Bruno D’Alfonso also stopped by Fiddlehead to take part in the festivities. In summary : Great wine, great food, fun people, and a live band= Great Party

Now for the White Report. Kathy Joseph has dedicated herself to making wines from her two favorite varietals. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc from California is often derided in comparision with other wine regions. I think Kathy's Sauvignon Blancs could make people reconsider this notion. I once had one of the most fantastic experiences with her Fiddlehead Honeysuckle Sauvignon Blanc with a Halibut from Tupelo Junction. The wine started out crisp and fresh with lots of citrus notes and as it warmed in the glass it continued to evolve and began to reveal lovely notes of honey and even more intense aromatics. It was a perfect match for my halibut. It was just one of those perfect moments in wine and food pairing. Needless to say, I have had a soft spot for Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc ever since.

My favorite whites of the day

Fiddlehead Goosebury Sauvignon Blanc 2007 **
Pale golden with a lovely litlting blend of citrus fruit and floral notes. Fantastic bracing acidity makes this a perfect match for seafood. This wine whole cluster pressed and cold fermented in stainless steel to preserve the varietal characteristics.

Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($24) **
This is the most versatile and crowd pleasing of all the Sauvignon Blancs poured. This wine is a blend of 1/3 fermented in stainless steel for aromatics and zinginess, 1/3 in new French oak barrels for texture and spiciness and the remaining third from neutral French oak barrels for fruit tones and elegance. I consistently enjoy this Sauvignon Blanc and it's probably the most easily found in stores and restaurants in the area.

Fiddlehead Hunnysuckle Sauvignon Blanc 2003 ($34)***My favorite Sauv blanc
The nose was lovely, lots of floral notes and honeysuckle. Smelling honeysuckle in wine reminds me of my childhood. How all the smells cling to the air in the summer with the help of the humidity and my mom showing me how to pull the stem out of the honeysuckle flower to get a drop of "honey". I still love the smell of honeysuckles today. The wine also had a fantastic silky mouthfeel and distinct notes of juicy grapefruit and nutmeg. This wine is a winner. Fermented and aged , in 100% new oak tight-grain, Damy French oak barrels and finished non-malolactic. A bit pricey for Sauvignon Blanc but worth it. The 2001 vintage of this wine was featured in Sideways during the dinner scene at Los Olivos Cafe.

Stop by Fiddlehead's Tasting Room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto to taste these wines and see what you think. 1597 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc CA. Click here for directions. Thursday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wine Blogging Awards, Book Club Reminder and WCWC Adventures 100th Post!

Stop by Tom Wark's blog and vote on your favorite Wine blogs

This is the second year for these awards and here are the categories

This post is the 100th Post on West Coast Wine Country Adventures and I was happy to see that some folks had nominated us for the Best Single Subject Wine Blog and Best Wine Blog Writing. I don't expect to win by any means but appreciate the mention. Stop by and nominate your favorites. You can nominate up to 3 wine blogs in each category.

Just a reminder for anyone reading Vino Italiano, the Wine book Club Discussion is due Feb 26th. Here's some questions from McDuff's Food &Wine Trail to get you started

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cool Climate Syrah may be Moving in on Pinot's Turf

If you long for the days when cool climate Syrah was "cool" perhaps the answer is to grow it where Pinot is dominating the terrior. I miss the days when I found black pepper intertwined with floral notes in my Syrah. Soon they might be able to prove what winemaker's, and I :) have long believed, is that this spiciness comes from cool climate Syrah. " The Australian Wine Research Institute announced last year that researchers had isolated a compound, rotundone, responsible for Syrah's classic black pepper character. Now it's seeking data to prove whether grapes in cooler sites have more of it. " *see below for reference . I'm glad that the Australian Wine Research Institute is looking out for me and my love of black pepper in syrah. While we wait for that to be resolved, I'm very happy to see that winemaker's, like Cristom, are exploring this varietal. Winemaker's in the cool climate of the Willamette Valley are flirting with Syrah and getting fantastic results. The Deux Vert vineyard and Adelsheim Vineyard's Calkin Lane are growing Syrah as well.

Check out this great article in the *SF GATE by John Bonne Here and come back and leave a comment whether you prefer the big bold fruity Syrah's often associated with Australian Shiraz or do you want your Syrah to be "cool" again?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Brought to you by Natalie Maclean

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone has gotten smarter out there and has decided to choose a great wine and some decadent dessert to share with someone special instead of overpriced flowers and fighting the crowds in a restaurant. Natalie Maclean sent this over to me and I doubt I could improve on these recommendations. The most fun pairing from playing around with the food and wine matcher sounds like late harvest zinfandel and chocolate mud pie. Pure decadence.

My own fun and playful options for Valentine's Day are chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas, biscotti, and marshmallows or red velvet cupcakes and Champagne. These would be fun with that special someone or a great group of friends enjoying their single status.

Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass concurs and suggests that “Just share a glass of wine (or three) with your sweetheart.”“Wine is liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire,” she observes. “What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the mouth-coating luxury of chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.”The creamy flavors of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines, MacLean notes. She suggests wines to complement 50 chocolate dishes in her online matching tool at Just click on “desserts” to find pairings for chocolate mud pie to chocolate cheesecake.

Natalie’s top 10 wine and chocolate matches:

  1. Dark Chocolate and Banyuls, France
  2. Chocolate-Covered Biscotti and Recioto Della Valpolicella, Italy
  3. Chocolate-Orange Cake and Liqueur Muscat, Australia
  4. Chocolate with Nuts and Tawny Port, Portugal
  5. Milk Chocolate and Tokaji, Hungary
  6. Bittersweet Chocolate and Amarone, Italy
  7. Chocolate-Dipped Fruit and Icewine, Canada
  8. Chocolate Ganache Truffles and Sauternes, France
  9. Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Framboise, California
  10. Chocolate Hearts with Cream Filling and Cream Sherry, Spain

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WBW: In Seven Words or Less 2005 Gaja Ca Marcanda Promis

I chose the 2005 Gaja Ca Marcanda Promis based on a recommendation from the commentary on a recent Sangiovese post and I was not disappointed. Score 1 for the wine blogging community. This wine is the product of a venture Angelo Gaja started in 1996 by venturing from Piedmonte to Toscana. He planted 150 acres of vineyards along the Tuscan seaboard in Maremma to source his Ca'Marcanda Label. Promis is a Super Tuscan blend of 55% Merlot, 35 % Syrah and 10% Sangiovese that was fermented separately and then blended together in early winter. Aged 18 months in new and near neutral oak this wine clocked in at a reasonable 13.5% alcohol.

So now for my Wine Blogging Wednesday entry, with the theme brought to us by Andrew over at Spittoon.

Tasting Notes in Seven Words or Less:

  • opulent cherry, rustic leathery tannins, fantastic acidity.

This wine was fantastic and possesses a great balance between opulent cherry cola fruit notes, leathery tannins, and a lovely bracing acidity that lends Italian wines to pair so well with food. This is a big wine so I'd suggest a big meal like lamb, NY Strip steak, or a delicious Tri-Tip. Stay in and grill a nice steak for your Valentine and share this lovely Italian wine. It will run you around $38-$44 or even higher so be sure to shop around. Considering that it costs less than a dozen marked-up roses, it's a bargain for Valentine's Day. Bring your lady a fabulous bottle of red to show your love. Anybody can pick up flowers, sharing a memorable wine with someone special indulges all your senses.

Monday, February 11, 2008

WTDOMN: 2006 Palmina Dolcetto

This Dolcetto is a casual easygoing wine that is perfect for our weekly "What to drink on Monday Night"segment. While the varietal is orginally from the Piedmonte region of Italy, this Cal Italian gives you a great peak at the sense of place that develops from growing Dolcetto in the Santa Ynez Valley. This wine is sourced from the Honea Vineyards right off Alamo Pintado Road in between Solvang and Los Olivos and the Zotovich Vineyards that lie further west in the cooler climes of the Santa Rita Hills. It has also been aged for only 5 months in neutral oak and is meant to be consumed young.

As soon as I leaned into my glass this wine brought a smile to my face. The nose was contained distinct aromas of bright raspberry and cherry butressed by a lingering scent of roses. I suspect the bright cherry and raspberry are a reflection of the warmer Honea Vineyards. Upon tasting the darker black cherry and blackberry influences of the Zotovich vineyard emerged and the wine possessed a lovely acidity that's begs you to pair with simple Italian foods. I was really taken with the focused flavors and aromas in this wine. A fantastic wine at a price point($20) sure to please everyone.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Party in Pink at Fiddlehead

Party in Pink this Saturday, at Fiddlehead Headquarters with the winemaker. It's the Annual Pinkie's Release Party on Feb 9th from 1 - 4pm. A ticket will run you $25 and there will be artisanal cheeses and rosé friendly appetizers, live music, and a Pink Costume Contest. Warm up for Valentine's day by digging out your finest Pink outfit and welcome the 2007 Pink Fiddle Pinot Noir Rose to the world with Kathy Joseph and other Fiddlechix folk. Here's the short version of how the 2007 Pink Fiddle got from fruit to bottle.

Winemaking Notes from Kathy's Site: Fruit Source: 100% Fiddlestix, 100% Sta. Rita Hills, 100% Estate-owned pinot noir.100% Pommard clone ($18)

"100% de-stemmed, cold-soaked at 40º F for 24 hours for delicate extraction of color and texture; lightly-pressed and cold-fermented at 50º F to complete dryness. Non-malolactic to keep the fragrance true to pinot noir."

Pink Fiddle was built from the ground up to be a Rosé. That is, it was not made as a a saignée (an early juice bleed by–product removed from an alternate red wine fermentation, with the intention of concentrating the red wine left behind) Rosé's made in this fashion can be more of an afterthought or perhaps a more efficient use of fruit. Kathy instead uses the entire Pinot Noir grape cluster to add desired complexity and character.

A small production of only 184 cases. This is Fiddlehead's only wine bottled using a screw cap closure. Its done to keep it fresh and to remind the consumer that its meant to be enjoyed in its youth. Serve it well chilled. This wine is so enjoyable every year and with such a lovely shade of pink, its a great idea for Valentine's Day. Rose's and Rosé are a great combination. I'm looking forward to tasting the new Pinkie.
More about Pairings,winemaking and fun facts on Drinking Pink here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jump in and have some fun in the Wine Blogosphere

I've been remiss in mentioning all the great chances around the wine blogosphere for you to participate. Its been a busy 2008. Here's the roundup.

  • Over at El Bloggo Torcido.. there is what I'm sure will become the Infamous Take your Rubber Chicken to Work Day Contest. Send in your photo or video of you and your rubber chicken at work and get a prize.
  • Over course there is the clever challenge thrown down by Andrew over at Spittoon for everyone to review an Italian Red in Just Seven Words. Wine Blogging Wednesday posts are due Feb 13th.
  • Feb 23rd is Open that Bottle Night. OTBN is always the last Saturday in February and was the creation of Wall Street Columnists,Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. This should give you a great excuse to open that special bottle you keep saving. Wine is meant to be enjoyed not kept as a trophy. Farley is showing her support and having a contest over at Behind the Vines. You can win two bottles of unreleased Rosenblum wines just for commenting on what you are planning to drink. Check out the rules here. Seems like a great deal to me, open up 1 bottle, and you could get 2 to replace it. I'm debating between opening a Doyle Pinot Noir from Fiddlehead or my last 1997 Buttonwood Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Lenndevours is asking for a New logo for Wine blogging Wednesday and has kicked off a contest over at his blog. Submissions are due March 31st and I believe a few generous people have kicked in some great prizes.

As you can see there are lots of creative ways to participate in the Wine 2.0 Conversation. Make 2008 the year you were photographed with a rubber chicken, drinking that wine you've been saving, while designing a new logo for WBC. At the very least find seven words to describe that Italian Red and read more about in Vino Italiano for the Wine Book Club by Feb 26th.

Monday, February 4, 2008

WTDOMN: The Bridesmaid White 2006

I found a bargain Napa Valley white at our local wine shop. The Bridesmaid will run you about $19 . The mind's behind this label are three premium winemakers, Josh Peeples (Chateau Boswell), Drew Neiman (Kongsgaard, Neiman Cellars), and Pam Starr (Crocker & Starr, Spottswoode). They have collaborated together by blending their excess barrels and creating a wine that was destined to be always a bridesmaid never a.. Anyway, even if this wine may not be fit for the bridezilla in your life, the Bridesmaid is a compelling value. Lets face it, the Bridesmaids are usually the unsung hero of the wedding so pour yourself a glass and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

The Bridesmaid is a blend of 60% semillon and40% sauvignon blanc. It had a lovely pale straw color in the glass and had a vibrant tropical nose that evolved as it sat to meyer lemon and minerals. Upon tasting, the Bridesmaid was a light enjoyable white that began with notes of tropical citrus fruits and banana, mostly pineapple, and had a crisp mineral finish that reminded me of crushed seashells. Pair with a cheese plate and invite your favorite bridesmaids over. It might start to make up for that overpriced dress they'll never wear again.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sparkling Sunday Brunch

Sunday is game day and the best way to start your day is a good breakfast right? Lets lay out a nice morning plan for Superbowl Sunday. Grab your favorite sparkling, some good recommendations across different price points are

  • Korbel Brut Rose $9.99 Its inexpensive but always is pleasing. One of the better values out there. You can find this wine in your local supermarket.
  • Gruet Methode Champenoise, Blanc de Blancs ( $24) A sparkling from New Mexico, their line of sparklings are great bargains and delicious.
  • Laetitia Brut de Blanc $24 I always enjoy stopping at this tasting room on the way to Paso Robles.
  • Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne $37 We visited their tasting room last year and its worth the stop. You get to compare aging differences in Magnum's vs the 750ml. The sparkling ages slower in the magnum. This wine is inexpensive considering these are the people who make the much hyped Cristal.
Chill the sparkling, and lets start to make Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes w/ Maple Syrup Pecans. Preheat oven to 400 F and drink your coffee.
Toast 4oz of pecans for 5 mins on a cookie sheet at 400 F. Take 1 cup of maple syrup and heat in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in toasted pecans and 2- 4 tbs of unsalted butter. Set aside. Melt 4 tbs of unsalted butter and let cool for the next step. Toss fresh blueberries in Freezer chill slightly and reduce chances of burning later.

In the larger bowl, (this will be where all your final ingredients end up) put in 2 egg yolks, reserve the whites for later, 1 cup of sourcream, 2/3 cup of milk and 4 tbs of cooled melted butter. Beat this mixture well.

In a smaller bowl sift 1 1/2 cup of flour , 2tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup of sugar. After sifting ingredients together add this to your first larger bowl all at once and beat until smooth.

Take the reserved egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter. Then fold in 8 oz of blueberries. Mix but don't over mix. That is , don't concern yourself if there are a few lumps. You can use frozen or fresh. I used fresh and put them in the freezer when I started to chill them a bit so they'd hold up to cooking better.

The recipe says to heat griddle over medium heat and then reduce to low to avoid burning the blueberries. I used a 1/4 cup measure to add batter to the pan and cook in batches. My stove cooked them fine using medium heat the whole time. It took too long to cook them on low and I was hungry. Experiment with the first batch and adjust heat as necessary. Turn pancakes when bubbles appear on the surface and/or peak under to see if they have turned golden brown. Cook on other side for a minute or so. Serve with the maple syrup or if go over the top like I did and serve them with a dollup of rice pudding , fresh ground nutmeg, and then the maple syrup pecans. It was divine with the sparkling. Enjoy and add a few fresh blueberries to the champagne. This recipe is adapted from Pancakes & Waffles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2002 Arcadian Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard

I just had another bottle of 2002 Arcadian Pinot Noir from the Fiddlestix Vineyard ($52). I knew that I really liked this wine, but I had forgotten how much. I may have tasted every wine made from this vineyard in this vintage, about 20, and this is one of the two or three best. It has all of the trademark Fiddlestix components: dark fruit, surprising earthiness, some cool spice notes. But whereas most of the Pinot Noirs from that vineyard are big and fleshy with incredible depth, the 2002 Arcadian is sexy and complex. I've described it as a symphony before and I think it's true. The wine starts with bright cherry notes that immediately become darker almost to plum. The mouth-feel and flavors increase in the mid-palate with tones of soft mushroom and other earth note mingling with the fruit. The finish is long and complex with hints of black and green tea, rhubarb, and cherry cola. It is a very silky wine as well.

I wish there was more of this wine to be had, But I've been told by winemaker Joe Davis that it is almost gone at the winery. Joe will be making an appearance at Wine Country in Los Olivos on February 17th and perhaps he will still have some with him.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Spotlight on Jaffur's Tasting Room in Santa Barbara

I'm thankful that Craig Jaffur's quit the aerospace industry and followed his passion for wine. Starting out as a cellar rat at the Santa Barbara Winery, Jaffur's first commercial vintage was in 1994. They've been successful ever since. Craig Jaffur's passion for Rhone varietals shows in his always enjoyable Viogner and Syrah. Jaffurs moved to their Santa Barbara Facility in 2001 located on Montecito Street just off of Milpas. We stopped there on our way to the Santa Barbara International Film Fest. Its going on till Feb 3rd and has some pretty interesting movies showing all throughout the week.
Jaffurs 2006 Viogner $24
Color: Pale straw Nose: perfumed flowers, touch of spice. Taste: well rounded and floral, pleasant mineral finish.

Jaffurs 2006 Grenache $34 -New Release
Color: dark ruby red. Nose: bing cherry, leather, plum, and pepper
Taste: Delicious ripe cherry, distinct notes of tellicherry black pepper and some nice soft tannins supporting the fruit. Lingering finish that fades out to a faint note of cherry.

2005 Cane Felice Sangiovese $25
This is a project by Jaffurs' assistant winemaker, David Yates and features Kava the winery dog on the label. Notes: Lovely garnet color with aromas of raspberries and spice. A simply delicious wine. The nose on this wine is amazingly vibrant.

Jaffurs 2006 Syrah Santa Barbara County $23-$25
Aged for 10 months in oaks this wine was silky on the palate with lots of dark fruit. A tasty Jaffurs syrah with good QPR. This wine is blended from several vineyard sources throughout SB County.

Jaffurs takes the best barrels from each vineyard and lets them aged for 18 months in oak. These barrels are the source for the vineyard designate Jaffurs Syrah's from Bien Naciedo, Thompson, and Verna's Vineyard. The best of these barrels will contribute to their 2005 Upslope Syrah $75 . This wine is built to last and would be one to lay down. Sorry, no tasting notes for this one.

Jaffurs 2005 Thompson Vineyard $30-$34
On the nose there were hints of mint and chocolate. This wine is big & a bit thick on the palate, reminiscent of glycerin. Notes of tobacco and vanilla adding to the dark juicy fruit. Very decadent heady stuff.

Jaffurs 2005 Late Harvest Syrah
This was Jaffurs first red dessert wine. During our tasting, Matt Brady told us how Jaffur's has always made a different dessert wine every year. I think he was pulling for a late harvest Grenache some time soon. The only other one I'm aware of is the Core "Candy Core". This late harvest Syrah was quite enjoyable. Lovely fruit with the right touch of sweet and tannins. I'd recommend serving this with raspberries and molten chocolate cake.

The wines I couldn't bear to leave the tasting room without were the Viogner, Grenache, and the Sangiovese. Stop by next time you are in Santa Barbara and let us know what you think.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Time for Winter Whites and Comfort Food

Winter weather is a great excuse to cook. The oven gets your house warmer and who doesn't love comfort food in the winter. It was Sunday and there were 2 NFL Football playoffs on... I figured it was time to roast a chicken and make Portabella Mushroom Lasagna. Of course I needed a wine...

St Francis 2005 Behler Reserve Chardonnay ($26)
We first had this wine during our reserve wine & food pairing for two at St Francis. The pairing of this wine with the Mt Tam and La Tur cheeses was sublime. This Chardonnay was barrel fermented and went through malolactic fermentation. The Behler estate that provides most of the fruit for this bottling was named in honor of the Behler Family who cultivated the vineyard back in the 1900's. It became St Francis's original estate in 1971.

Tasting Notes:
Color: Pale Golden
Nose: Floral notes akin to gardenia and honeysuckle and green apple. Not as tropical as the first time I had it.
Taste: Crisp green apple, a touch of creamy vanilla and well rounded. Being a barrel fermented Chard, this wine had a fuller body that paired great with the Roast Chicken and the Portabella Mushroom Lasagna. Just enough oak influence to impart some more texture and roundedness without blighting out the varietal. It was heavenly with this meal.

Recipe for Roast Chicken

  • Get a whole Chicken
  • Get your husband to rinse him and get rid of the neck:)
  • Pat the chicken dry inside and out ( this makes a huge difference in flavor)
  • Place in a glass dish and season inside and out with Northwoods Seasoning, garlic salt, and fresh ground tellicherry pepper.
  • Cut a whole garlic in half and place(shove) inside the chicken
  • Roast Chicken at 425 for 1hr -1.5 hrs or till internal temp is 170. In this case I roasted at 425 for about 30 mins and then turned it down to 375 to cook the lasagna with the bird.
  • Remove chicken from Roasting rack
  • Make Gravy with browned bits.
  • Make use of the DVR to pause the game to ensure good gravy
  • Add chicken broth & some of the white wine and a diced shallot to the pan and let it come to a simmer while scraping the browned bits off the pan. Add 1 tbs flour and Add 1- 2 tablespoons of butter, add a bit more flour if its not thickening. Stir whole time :) Salt and pepper to taste.
Modifications to Barefoot Contessa Recipe:
  • I mixed shitake and baby portabella's and sauteed them with a clove of diced garlic.
  • I used 2% milk instead of whole and it was still very good.
This made Monday nights dinner easy (leftovers) & we got to pair it with a different wine. The J Wilkes Pinot Blanc, while good with the chicken, paired much better with the portabella lasagna. This Pinot Blanc was more crisp since it was fermented in stainless steel. It went great with the Parmesan in the lasagna.

The J Wilkes 2006 Pinot Blanc ( $18) had really changed quite a bit since the last time I had it. Instead of tasting Meyer lemon, it was now showing softer more complex tropical tones. I tasted mango, guava, cantaloupe and floral notes. The wine also opened up more on the nose and had a ton of floral and spicy notes. I have enjoyed watching this wine evolve.
Disclosure: I worked with Jeff Wilkes for the 2006 & 2007 harvest and have fond memories of tasting this wine while it was still fermenting.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2005 Foxen Sangiovese Volpino is good Vino

It has been a flurry of sports watching in our house with the NFL playoffs and Bruin Basketball. The Foxen Sangiovese wine paired great with friends, UCLA basketball, and Pizza. A big hit with everyone.

Tasting Notes:
2005 Foxen Sangiovese Volpino Red Table Wine($30)
78% Sangiovese from Faith Vineyard and 22% Merlot sourced from Volgelzang Vineyard
Color: Dark Garnet
Nose: Cherry, thyme, rosemary, blueberry and a touch of something that kind of reminded me of being a kid. It was like Play dohbut in a good way. Lets take that up a notch and call it earthy, perhaps clay.
Taste: Juicy cherry and raspberry up front, leathery tannins and a nice compact finish.

For those of you reading along with the Wine Book Club know.. you'll notice Vino Italiano peering out from behind the wine. I know this is a Cal Italian wine but hey this WCWC Adventures :) ...Anyway, just a subtle reminder that there are only a few more weeks to finish before the First Edition of the WBC in 2008!

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Monday, January 21, 2008

WTDOMN: Rosenblum Vintners Cuvee XIXX : Recession Proof Wine

Continuing with the inexpensive wines for Mondays this January and considering the predicted impending doom in the stock markets, this one probably can't be beat for the amount of flavor and fun you get for around $8.99 at many stores or K&L. Rosenblum Vintners Cuvee XIXX was a bargain I discovered while perusing the wine list at PF Chang's. It was a rich, fruity Zinfandel that I was later shocked to find in stores for 9 bucks. That's about what I paid for the glass in the restaurant, which is why we often pick up dinner so we can have our own wine. But for a bit of inexpensive wine tasting fun, PF Chang's will let you pick three wines for a wine tasting flight off their menu for $12 bucks. Its a pretty good deal and make dinner a bit more fun. I enjoyed my flight of this wine, the Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir, and the Rioja Reserva Marques de Riscal 2000. Check out their wine list here. Apparently I'm the only one who likes the Rioja, the bartender there told us it was the least frequently ordered wine. Which is kind of funny because the more commonly ordered wines, I didn't think very much of or found them downright offensive. My husband always finds it funny when I don't like a wine. I guess you could say I don't have what you call a poker face.

Back to the Zin, I find this wine consistently appealing and far more complex than it needs to be for the price. Rosenblum is a consistently good producer and their pride shows even in a lower priced wine. Great delicious fruit, touch of vanilla and enough acidity to make it wonderfully balanced on your palate. If you want a satisfying wine but don't want to dig into some of your pricier stash that night, this wine is a pleaser.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kris Curran moves on from Seasmoke to....

Looks like 2008 is going to be a big year for Kris Curran. After working to make Seasmoke probably one of the most successful names in Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills, she's moving on to help Bill Foley develop a new project. This project will be the transformation of the previously named Ashley's Vineyard,(when Fess Parker owned it) to Las Hermanas under Foley. Just to keep track, this vineyard was sold by the Parkers to John Zahoudanis and known as Gaia for a time. Read more here on that deal.

I know this vineyard can make great Pinot Noir based on my experience with wines sourced from there. Las Hermanas is only 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean on Highway 246 near Lompoc. I believe this makes it the westernmost vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. It certainly will provide lots of cool nights for some exciting Pinot in the future. Considering her track record, we are looking forward to what Las Hermanas will bring in 2008 and beyond.
Kris Curran will also be continuing her work on her own label which you can taste at Trio in Solvang. We also look forward to her further investigation of Spanish Varietals including the still fermenting Grenache Gris we got to taste at Trio.

Since it was still fermenting, it was still cloudy. The color reminded me of guava juice. On the nose, it smelled of melon and spice and it tasted of mango and guava fruit. This is my impression of a still fermenting wine and thus not representative of the final product but it has some pretty exciting fruit and spice already. I’m pretty sure that this was the first time I had any Grenache Gris from Santa Barbara County or from anywhere for that matter. The varietal is also known as Garnacha Rosa or Grey Grenache. Grenache is like Pinot in that there are three color related varietals. ( Noir, Blanc, Gris) According to Kris, this fruit came from Tierra Alta on the top of Ballard Canyon above Stolpman Vineyards and the rootstock was sourced from an 83 year old vineyard in Mendocino. Kris stressed to us that the overwhelming positive reception from her Grenache Blanc indicated to her that wine drinkers are no longer content with ordering a house cabernet or chardonnay. She believes that wine drinkers have a more adventurous spirit when it comes to wine and her new label Santanyana is going to focus on Spanish varietals to continue to encourage the exploration of new wines. We here at WCWC Adventures couldn’t agree more with her assessment. Fun Fact: Santanyana is named for George Santanyana known for his famous quote: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” A useful lesson to remember and an exciting future for Santa Barbara County wines.

WCWC Adventures would also like to congratulation Kris and Bruno for getting married in December. Just to let you know they will be having a Valentines lovers of the vine Winemaker Dinner Event on Feb 8th at Los Olivos Cafe. Wish them well if you get to attend.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vinum Populi: Enomatic Wine Tasting is better than playing the slots

Awhile back I checked out Vinum Populi in LA and had a great time. If you haven't run into these Enomatic tasting machines yet, they are pretty fun. I first encountered them at Taste in San Luis Obispo. You lay down some cash for a card that you insert in the machine and pick the wine you like and the machine dispenses a 1-2 ounce pour. It's a great pre-dinner activity sure to spur on conversation with a group and way better than losing at slots. Vinum Populi also has a nice selection of food so if you have too much fun, stay and have some yummy small plates among friends.

My favorite part of the wine slot machine is discovering new wines in a pretty inexpensive way. That and not having that Vegas casino sound in my head for at least a day after I get out of town. I bring along a camera and take pics of anything I really enjoyed. Here are the wines I found that really interested me. I don't have tasting notes for you all since I was having too much fun to break out a pen. Here are the finds and the photos to help you track them down.

2004 Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Beaumes de Venise Cuvee du Diaper from Cote du Rhone. It's a blend of 90% Grenache and 10 % Syrah

2005 La Mirande Chateauneuf du Pape Blend of 70% Grenache 15% Syrah 7% Mourvedre 5% Cinasault
If anyone can point me a place to pick these wine's up, I'd much appreciate it.

My favorite and recommended by the poor girl running around refilling the stations was the 2004 Cenit 100% Tempranillo. The winemaker's name is Amy Hopkinson so I had to love that since I hope to be a winemaker someday soon and my name is already Amy. I loved this wine so much I tracked some down after the visit. Its pretty pricey so a great alternative is the 2003 Cenit for a bargain price from Domaine 547. I do think the 2004 was a bit better but considering that its selling for about $50-$100 bucks a bottle, the 2003 packs so much of what is good about 2004 for the bargain price of $19.99.

Tasting notes for the 2003 Cenit Tempranillo from Domaine547

  • Color: Deep garnet
  • Nose: lots of vanilla so I'm guessing there was a lot of new oak used making this wine, black cherry and licorice
  • Taste: black cherries, anise, hint of rosemary and a bit of leather on the finish.
This wine is very enjoyable for the price. Tempranillo is my new Zinfandel. Good Zinfandels are usually fun and unpretentious. Good Tempranillo steps it up a bit by having better acidity. I've been loving Tempranillo since 2005 when I had Rick Longoria's first 2004 Tempranillo. Often you can find great bargains if you stray outside the safe/standard varietals( Cab, Merlot, Chard and now Pinot Noir thanks to Sideways)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday: Friuli Whites

WCWC Adventures is bringing you not one but two different wines for Wine Blogging Wednesday. Thanks to Jack and Joanne at Fork & Bottle for making me stretch a bit into Whites of Friuli. I'm sure tons of my fellow bloggers will opine on the region of Friuli. I will just refer you to the Wine Book Club's selection of Vino Italiano for more information on the region.

Friuli #1 Italo Cescon from Grave Pinot Grigio 2006 DOC for about $15 dollars at the Wineyard. I know they said it would be tough to find a good wine for this price but I did enjoy this wine. Very pretty packaging. Features a wooden branch they call a Tralcetto around the neck. According to their site "The Tralcetto is the piece of vine located on the neck of Italo Cescon bottles. This vine signifies where the wine came from and the hard work that was involved in making the wine. "My translation is that the Tralcetto means "marketing stick" in Italian, but I fell for it anyway.

Tasting Notes: Pale yellow color. 12% alcohol. Nose of lemon, pears, and pomelo. Crisp acidity braced with lemons and grapefruit and a nice full mouth feel. This wine was much bigger and quite well balanced for the price.

Friuli #2 2004 Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano that was $22 bucks at Izo Wine. This wine was from the much more renown Collio region of Friuli and had no discernible "marketing stick". This wine was much more full bodied and complex. The color was a rich golden yellow. The nose had strong notes of rosemary with a touch of thyme, some hints of bitter almonds, and lots of minerality. To be clear on the wine term, minerality, it literally smells like wet slightly salty rocks and shells. Also I detected notes of Meyer lemon, papaya and pomelo...A lempapmelo. There also was a bit more oak on the nose than I typically prefer. Upon tasting, lots of citrus fruit( pineapple, tart blood orange, lemon), herbal tones akin to rosemary,and a sleek mineral finish that lingers and lingers. This is a wine meant for food. I had it with some Cyprus Grove Truffle Tremor and it was a wonderful experience. With food, the finish that overstayed its welcome disappears, and the wine becomes more focused in flavor. That being said, while I liked this wine, parts of it reminded me of the sour lemon tart aspect I tend to dislike and encounter often with Roussanne. I would probably prefer a less sour lemony, more brightly acidic Tocai Friulano in the future. But of course in the future, it will just be known as Friulano.
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Monday, January 14, 2008

WTDOMN: Andrew Murray Tous les Jours

After a hard day Monday back at work and the harsh reality of the week looming ahead of you, you can treat yourself with an everyday inexpensive wine with dinner. This week, I'm recommending Andrew Murray's 2005 Tous les Jours Syrah. This wine can be found for $14-$18 bucks a bottle. I love that it has a screw cap closure so you can seal it up for another day. (Hint, screw caps on certain wines from one winemaker are often a sign that a wine should be consumed early.)

Tasting Notes:
Nose: smoky dark fruit and some mango notes as well. A finishing touch of graphite and shoe leather. Nice mouth feel with notes of blackberries and spice. A little hot at 15% alcohol but it calms down in the glass as it sits. This wine might benefit by being slightly chilled. ( Red's should be served at 65 degrees) Its standing up great to my takeout Pizza. Now, if I could only get ready for Tuesday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dark Horse Wines in the Spotlight

Back in Nov 2007, I tasted the Dark Horse wines over at Wade's Wines, which means I tasted them before James Laube who posted today about the Dark Horse 2005 Dry Creek Zinfandel Treborce Vineyard. Now that I feel a bit special, I'd love to share with you my tasting notes for the wine I had to buy from Dark Horse.

2005 Dark Horse Zinfandel Russian River Valley ( $28)
Tasting Notes: Smooth velvety mouthfeel, jammy dark fruit with lovely spices coming into play on the nose and palate. I actually wrote down Zinalicious ( an ode to Fergalicious) so this wine must be good.

Here's a photo of the winemaker, or the cowboy himself, pouring his releases last November. Mike Loykasek got his start in Paso Robles, then moseyed on up to Sonoma County to Meeker Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley for seven years. Then on to Armida and finally after 13 years of winemaking in Dry Creek Valley he let his personal project out for public consumption. Read more about Dark Horse here. Wade's Wine's also sells these wines online. Here is a link to their tasting notes. Thanks to Jamie from Hollywood & Wine for pouring for us at such a busy event.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Adam Tolmach's Change of Heart at Ojai Vineyards

Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards is in the LA Times today. It looks like Adam has gotten tired of serving the dark Sith lord Darth Parker and decided that his own Jedi palate should rule the day. That may be a geeky over simplification of the LA Times article but its simply astounding to hear a successful winemaker be honest about how he feels he may have compromised his own vision in order to attain certain scores from a certain someone. But then if you ask Adam himself, he says the LA times misquoted him and he has never made wines to please critics. Check the thread on Mark Squires Board at However, Adam states plainly that he plans on picking even earlier for next years harvest in order to make the wine he loves, even if it means these wines may not garner as much praise.

"The goal is to produce 14%-alcohol wines with nuance", Tolmach says. He wants to avoid overripe prune and jam flavors and preserve acidity to allow the more delicate floral and herbal qualities to emerge. "I want to take the Eurocentric sense of balance and apply it in California. We add no acid. No water. It's about picking at the right time and from cooler climate vineyards," he says." -Quote & photo from LA Times

"Tolmach thinks that other wine critics are beginning to get the attention of wine lovers. "-La Times. Is Tolmach perceiving a new trend in the wine industry? There has been plenty of talk about moving away from high alcohol wines all over the place. Even to the point of some wine shops deciding not to sell wines above a certain alcohol percentage. I think Adam Tolmach is right. Wine blogs like this are part of a wine blogging community that are already providing an alternative to the monopoly of a few palates. Perhaps the next generation won't be so beholden to one critic's scores and will instead have the confidence to disagree and rely on multiple sources for wine recommendations. I've met plenty of people who get turned off by wine after only drinking Parker recommended wines. This especially seems true with women who think they don't like red wine because of the hot fruit bombs they've encountered. I 've suggested what I consider more elegant, balanced wines and they are so happy to find that there are red wines out there for them. Considering women are making around 57% of wine purchases, there is additional support for more elegant wines in the marketplace. Keep in mind I don't mean making wines that are heavily marketed, generic chick lit girlie wine. I agree with Kris Curran who said "I find it demeaning, It's implying that women don't have as sophisticated a palate."- quote from International Herald Tribune Patricia Leigh Brown.
In the end I am not saying that Robert Parker is evil, even if the jokes are fun. He, like everyone else, has every right to his or her own palate preference. If you love only Parker wines, then he is the wine critic for you to follow. However, it is unfortunate consequence of Parker's success, that 28 brix(at harvest), watered back/micro oxed, high residual sugar, high alcohol wines are what it takes to get the 90 plus point scores and therefore to sell wine. Its time to bust up this Monopoly of taste. The consumer deserves to be able to choose a bottle of wine at dinner that does not overwhelm their food and is not so high in alcohol that its actually splittable on a date. High alcohol wine = TMI ( too much information) for a first date... Lets hope they start voting with their dollars. I applaud Adam and look forward to trying Adam's new wines in the coming years and hope you do too.

Check out some of the comments over at on this topic... Drama!

Monday, January 7, 2008

WTDOMN: Pacific Star 's Dad's Daily Red 2002

It's the new year and we are all a little lighter in the pockets and dragging ourselves back to the office. So for this week's "What to Drink on Monday Night", I'm recommending Pacific Star's Dad's Daily Red 2002. If you can scrape $12 bucks together you can have a great wine that's a blend of predominately Carignane,with Petit Sirah, Merlot, Grenache, Charbono, and Zinfandel all from Mendocino County. I can probably guarantee that most people haven't tasted at least one of these varietals and you can have them all in a wine for under $20. In fact with a case discount...

Dad's Daily Red is a blend made by Sally Ottoson in honor of her father's prescription of one glass of red a day to aid his digestion ( that's her Dad on the label). It has nice supple tannins to support the enjoyable dark fruit and spice inside. I'd pair it with casual Italian foods, like Pizza or spaghetti & meatballs. See, Monday's not so bad. Buy direct from the winery here

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Are you down with the WBC? Wine Bloggers Unite to Bring you ..

The Wine Book Club 1st Edition. Inspired by Lenndevours' Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine bloggers and hopefully you the reader will read a chosen wine text every other month. Dr Debs is the mind behind this initiative and has set up space at Shelfari and Facebook. As with WBW, you can post your thoughts on the chosen book on your blog. No blog, well then add to the discussion at Shelfari or get involved in the discussion at your fav wine blog in the comments section.

Every other month you ask? well, its baby steps in the new year, and if there's a push for more frequency, Dr Debs at Good wine under $20, has promised to shift to a monthly format in 2009.

Now without further delay, McDuff's Food & Wine Trail is the host for the First Edition of the WBC. Hailing myself from the Philadelphia area, still mourning the Eagles season, and anytime I hear this little snippet, I'm transported back to my childhood, apparently I watched a lot of Action News.. anyway I consider it fortuitous to have someone from Philly bringing us our first edition.

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy By Joseph Bastianich, David Lynch

The book reviews are due Tuesday, Feb 26th 2008. McDuff's Food and Wine Trail will be posting reminders and key questions for everyone to focus on. Happy Reading.

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