Monthly Archives: July 2012

Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012 – Weekend of Wine

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The best things in life are usually unplanned. Having spent my Friday assisting customers with their wine and beer needs for the weekend I felt the urge to do the same. A few e-mails and texts later, it turned out we would be hosting a POP-UP beer, wine, fine cheese and pizza party that same night celebrating the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Spontaneity being the key, a fun time was had by all that partook; imbibing what turned out to be some very nice wines while debriefing each other on the week past and enjoying London’s beautiful Olympic show.

The celebrating did not end on Friday. More get-togethers with great friends continued through Saturday and Sunday all including wine.  While thinking about how lucky we were to all be together, how lucky I am to have friends that enjoy wine as much as I do and realizing we had tried eight different wines in 3 days, I decided to record our imbibing in some form for future reference.  Albeit, reviewing/recording wines experienced in a social setting is not exactly easy.  So, below you will find a somewhat chronological [got fuzzy after a while 🙂 ] drinking diary of our Olympics opening weekend.  Some of the tasting notes are mine and some will be winemaker notes etc.

Fortune was on our side because all were good. We had six red’s, two white’s and I would drink/purchase each of these wines again with no issue. In fact I think I will… ¡SALUD!

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenere 2009

A bold and strong flavored Carmenere. After tasting the Mont Gras [below] I believe this one could use more time in the cellar to mellow. That said, the bottle was emptied quickly by the crowd.

Winemaker’s notes:

Authentic Chilean style. Dark almost purple core with deep sooty red at the fringes. A blend of concentrated blackberry and plum softened by some red fruit character. Distinctive dried herbal and white pepper spice character. A superb balance of full fruit, good acidity, sweet French oak, and full tannins on the long lingering finish. Cutting edge grape coming into its own,  a première producer.

Critical acclaim:

“Purple/black; complex nose of balsamic, herbs, spice box, blueberry; easy-going, no hard edges.”

90 Points The Wine Advocate / Pricing; $12.00-18.00

LaMadrid Reserva Bonarda 2009

I have enjoyed a multitude of different wines from this great winemaker from vintages; 2008,2009, 2010. Never disappointed!

90 points (’10), Wine Advocate:
“nose of underbrush, mineral, plum, mulberry, and violets. Concentrated on the palate with good depth, balance, and length, this flavorful effort deftly combines elegance and power, quite an achievement at this price point.”

Price range; $14.00-$18.00

MontGras Reserva Carmenere 2011

Noted: Surprisingly smoother than the Casa Silva [above] and at a 2011 vintage. I was impressed.

Introduced from France in the 1800s, Carmenère has developed a unique  personality in the “terroir” of Chile, which is today the only  significant source of this uncommon varietal grape. The MontGras vineyards,  in the Colchagua Valley, are in the heart of the Chilean wine country.  The climate is typically Mediterranean, favouring the production of rich  concentrated red wines.

Color: Deep violet red Bouquet: Powerful aromas of spices, wild herbs and  vanilla. Taste:Well-rounded, with subtle fruit flavors and soft tannins  leading to a velvety finish.

Price; $13.00

 Folie à Deux Chardonnay 2010

Noted; a nice golden color. On the nose; yeast/minerality, tropical fruit [pineapple], tree fruit [apple] and melon. Also a slight honey aroma. Its rich flavor supplied nice acidity and a slight buttery taste on the palate with slight oak. As the wine warmed vanilla was also noted.  This is a good chardonnay for those who like some wood and butteriness in their selection.

Composition:100% Chardonnay Oak:Combination of French & American oak barrels (22% new) for five months

Fermented and aged in French oak barrels to preserve the wine’s rich, vibrant fruit character, this quintessential Russian River Chardonnay is a joyful dance of sun, sea and soil. Seductive, complex aromas of honey, green apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and baking bread introduce juicy apple, pineapple and tropical fruit flavors with light butter notes from partial malolactic fermentation and crisp balancing acidity.

Price: $16-18.00

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2010

A tasty treat we served between dinner and dessert. Most expected this to be a sweet wine and were pleasantly surprised that it was somewhat dry instead. I am very impressed with the quality and price point of this wine.

Winemaking Notes Gentle handling and careful attention is given to the Chenin Blanc grapes from the vine to the glass. To retain the delicate varietal flavors, Beringer’s winemakers chill the juices immediately following crush and continue to closely monitor the temperature throughout fermentation.  Just before dryness, they cool the juices even further to halt fermentation and retain a smooth, lush mouthfeel and lingering finish.

Tasting Notes The California Collection Chenin Blanc is a well-balanced wine with aromas and flavors of crisp citrus, melon, and spicy ginger.  It’s meant to be enjoyed with a variety of foods, from Asian and Mexican foods to a casual backyard barbecue with friends.

Price: $5-7.00

Pascual Toso Malbec Mendoza Reserve Barrancas Vineyards 2009

 A well-oaked wine with pencil-shaving aromas yielding to coconut and subtle black fruit notes. The palate is dense, structured and full of cherry, cassis and clove flavors. 

Winemaker notes; This Alta Reserva has a complete harmony of color with a deep, bright red combining with violets hints. Characterized by fruity aromas, blackberry and spices, the mouth has sweet tannins with the presence of spices from oak. All these notes give persistent elegance and complexity to this wine.

Wine Spectator

Quite ripe and flashy, displaying lots of spice, licorice and mocha notes up front, backed by fleshy plum sauce, boysenberry preserve and currant paste notes. Stays nicely layered and focused through the finish. An excellent effort for the vintage. Drink now through 2012. 150 cases imported.

Score: 91. —James Molesworth, December 15, 2010.Price: $18.00

Frei Brothers ReserveFrei Brothers Reserve Dry Creek Merlot 2010

I was glad to see this wine served on a Saturday night dinner outing. We sell it at the store and I have looked forward to trying it. It did not disappoint.  Everything a Merlot should be with the help of a few other varietals to soften the edges [see varietal content below].

The 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot captures the rich, ripe flavors of the Dry Creek Valley terroir. Aromas and flavors of red licorice, Satsuma plums, red fruit jam and blackberry meld with hints of toasted oak, milk chocolate and medium-roasted coffee. This medium-bodied wine delivers excellent structure and an elegant finish.

Winemaking Notes

For our 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot, we co-crushed the Merlot grapes with Petite Sirah to achieve dark fruit flavors and enhance the overall tannic structure in the wine. The grapes were destemmed, but not crushed, before being cold soaked to extract vivid color and intense flavors. We fermented this wine at warm temperatures, reaching 90°F for a few hours, to create a darker, riper fruit profile. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on fine lees to soften the mouthfeel. This Merlot was aged for seven months in a combination of French and American oak barrels to impart notes of chocolate and vanilla in the finished wine.

Price: $16.00-$22.00

Technical Notes

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Varietal Content: 88% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Sirah

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Description;

Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon  was one of the first wines we produced in 1975 and three and a half decades  later it is still our flagship wine. From the beginning our Cabernet stood apart  from other California cabs because it was an elegant old world style wine.The climate in the southern end of the valley defines our Estate Cabernet  Sauvignon. Warm days during the growing season allow the grapes to ripen evenly  and develop flavor. The fog rolls in before sunrise each morning, lowering the  temperature; which cools the grapes and maintains the acidity. Our estate  vineyards are home to all five Bordeaux grapes, planted on the terraces, bench  lands and hillsides of our valley where the soil is predominately a gravelly  clay loam. Water from irrigation and precipitation drains away quickly, which  allows the vines to be stressed, leading to smaller grapes and lower yields with  more concentrated flavors. Each lot is picked, crushed and fermented separately  to maximize complexity. We barrel age for 14 months, then blend to create a  complex Cabernet Sauvignon that is enjoyable as soon as you pull the cork.2009: 90 points & Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast Price: $22.00

Appellation Alexander Valley
Grape Varietal 92% Cabernet Sauvignon – 4% Cabernet Franc – 2% Merlot – 1%  Malbec -1% Petit Verdot
Barrel Regimen Aged for 14 months in French and American oak, 25% new
Release Date May 2011

Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay 2010

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Chardonnay, Fat bastard 2010Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay – 2010

This was almost my choice for last weeks Bastille Day 2012 considering its French origin.  A fact that many still do not realize, and I was even surprised to find out last year. Must be the funny name that throws some consumers off, although the french can be humorous, but no matter the reason as the wine maker Thierry himself states; this Chardonnay is a consumer favorite. 

Thierry and Guy get all the credit for developing what Fat bastard has become. They used no malolactic fermentation and the wine is aged on lees to give it “more structure and fruit forward style”. Only 35% is oaked therefore giving it I believe,  a more delicate yet still bold true Chardonnay taste. Those accustomed to oaky California Chardonnay’s may think they are drinking a completely different varietal. I prefer this style of winemaking when it comes to Chardonnay.

I remember friends of mine years ago referring to this wine mostly because of the character with the same name in the Austin Powers movies.  I quite honestly didn’t take the wine seriously [because of the name] but I also didn’t taste it. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when in a rush for a white wine I picked this one off the grocer shelf for a dinner party. It was a hit!  Since then I’ve had it a few times and recently it’s almost become a staple at my house. The fact that it is summer may have something to do with it but us red wine drinkers do have to go white every once in a while….

To craft the Fat bastard Chardonnay, grapes are sourced from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon, from the banks of the Rhone in the east to Carcassonne in the west, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. These different origins give the wine the balanced fruit flavor and acidity that have made it a consumer favorite.

I can see why this winemaker refers to their Chardonnay as a consumer favorite, I find it to be delicious and somewhat bold and delicate at once, the way I feel Chardonnay should be.  Therefore I am categorizing it as a perfect “go-to” wine. Usually priced in the $8.99-$9.99 range,  it is always reliable and a pleasure to drink!  I feel it is the perfect wine to drink during the week at home, to take to friends house and even as a gift. I’d also like to add that I think it tastes like a wine at a higher price point.

My tasting notes: Golden straw in color. Honeysuckle, melon and peach [tropical/tree fruit] on the nose with minerality as it warms. Also the flowery aroma expands as it breathes and or warms. On the palate much the same, with the peach flavor expanding over the others. I would classify this wine as having medium acidity levels and little to no wood influence on the nose and palate. It paired excellently with wild rice and pan grilled chicken.

Interestingly enough my mouth was watering as I typed the above description. I guess I know what I should be drinking tonight 🙂  ¡SALUD!

 Vintage Notes:

A cool spring led to difficult flowering, but the summer was mainly hot and dry so the wines have nice acidity and good body. Harvest was started much later than the previous year, and grapes were harvested at night to benefit from the cooler temperatures.

Maturation/Winemaking

The winemakers work very closely with the growers to determine the start of the harvest. The goal is to seek aromatic ripeness and rich varietal character.  Upon arrival at the winery, grapes immediately go through the crusher-stemmer. The juice is pressed pneumatically and refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours; it is then drawn off to start the fermentation with selected yeasts, at controlled temperatures.

Thierry’s Notes

It was a good thing I dressed in layers while monitoring the grapes for the 2010 vintage. A hot July and then a very cool August produced fruit that had perfect, high acidity while maintaining intense fruit flavors. The goal for me was to incorporate the fruit’s great flavor all the way from vine to bottle.

Bastille Day Wine – July 14th Celebrating La Fête Nationale with Chateau’s; Montet and Bonnet

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July 14th the annual La Fête Nationale celebration in France or Bastille Day as it is mostly known in English-speaking countries is upon us once again.  I now know that the Tour de France should have been a sign since it is always scheduled to correspond with this celebratory occasion.  Better yet,  I/we have another holiday to drink wine to. This may not be a “wine” holiday for most but the French are famous for their brew so…..I say let’s drink some French wine and since we are amidst the Summer season with heat records being broken every which way,  I will be drinking and writing about two French white wines.  Both these wines caught my attention last year while attending a Bordeaux class and a Sauvignon class. I’ve enjoyed them regularly since and if I may add, both would easily be my own Chateau wine if I wasn’t always out there looking for my next possible Chateau wine.

Should you be interested in more facts/myths about Bastille Day check out this fellow WordPress site I came across and found quite entertaining: http://irishherault.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/bastille-facts-myths/

Chateau Montet was discovered first [in a Bordeaux class] and I have since enjoyed their 2009 and 2010 vintages. Even more so I love the price! So much so that I bought a case the first time we crossed paths. The retail price is $8.99 but I was able to get it closer to $7.00 thanks to a sale and an additional 10% discount for the case at Total Wine and More.  I dare say this is the perfect under $10.00 wine for White Bordeaux [Sauvignon Blanc] wine lovers out there.  The wine comes from the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers, famous for its dry white wines and I can see why. We paired it with various cheeses but I can see it pairing wonderfully with seafood and lighter fare.  Noted on the nose and palate were citrus [grapefruit], pear, grass and a very appealing minerality. A pale greenish-yellow in color with light to medium body.  Again, this could easily be my “go to” dry white wine.  Should you be interested in reading another review of the Chateau Montet check out the following White Sauvignon Review link; http://whitesauvignon.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/hello-world/

Chateau Tour de Bonnet Blanc I was lucky enough to discover in a Sauvignon class. It also comes from the appellation of Entre-deux-Mers and is produced by; André LurtonChateau Bonnet is located in his home village of Grezillac in the north of the Entre-deux-Mers appellation and has been under his control since 1956.

The Chateau Bonnet White Bordeaux is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle fermented in 100% stainless steel. It is pale straw in color with a very inviting bouquet. Its taste intensity is ample with a crisp style. This wine starts with classic fruit and flower aromas with an underlying minerality.  On the palate notes of apple, grapefruit, grass and minerals were detected. I also noted fig and or guava. The sweetness was dry with acidity low on this light bodied wine with a lengthy finish.  The Chateau Bonnet retails for $14.99 and is a great choice to serve as an aperitif with cheeses or with lighter meals. Its taste is distinctive and somewhat comforting. I know that may sound crazy to some but as I have written before some wines just make me feel cozy. I would add this one to the list!

So, as I end this French themed post celebrating the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution I/we at least have one more excuse to drink and appreciate good wine.  Happy Bastille day,  ¡SALUD! or more appropriately  Á votre santé!

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Malbec has become Argentina’s emblematic grape, a national symbol of pride and an international success. When we also think about Argentinian wine, Mendoza comes to discussion, the Napa valley of the Andean country. A natural desert, Mendoza has become the most renowned wine region in Argentina, producing world class complex Malbecs as well as Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignons, also including well known grapes such as; Tempranillo, Bonarda, Syrah and Merlot. This region also produces top quality and highly expressive white varietals as Sauvignon Blancs, Chenin Blancs, Chardonnays and Argentina’s emblematic white grape Torrontés!

Map courtesy of Wines by Jennirer, all rights reserved.

Let’s have a closer look at Mendoza; an amazing semiarid desert valley sitting on the eastern side of the Andes with an influential altitude where most vineyards are located at 2,640–3,630 ft above sea level. Mendoza has a unique climate that makes viticulture possible; a dry continental climate, low fertility of the soils stressing the grapevines…

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Battle of Sonoma Cab’s: Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve vs. Rodney Strong

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Battle of Sonoma County Cab’s: 2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  vs.  2009 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon

Somehow this Cab “event” just happened over the last week. Originally I was going to write about these in separate posts but realized, as the empty bottles kept staring at me on my desk, that not only had we drank two Cabernet Sauvignon’s back to back [not on same day] but they were both from California’s Sonoma County.

Although I did buy both at a grocery store [Winn-Dixie] and because I realize many if not most grocers do not sell $20.00-$30.00 bottles of wine I have decided not to classify them as such for this post.  As usually happens lately I was attracted to both wines because of their pricing. Not their retail price which runs from close to $20.00 for the Rodney Strong and $28.00 for the Kendall Jackson but their SALE prices.  When I have the opportunity to drink $30.00 bottles of wine @ close to 50% off you bet they get my attention. Heck it actually makes my mouth water if I am being honest. Now if only I could find some $70.00+ wines on sale 75% off… I can dream can’t I?

Notes from the tastings:

2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  Dark purple almost black in color. On the nose; a very rich overall aroma, very appealing. Noted; vanilla, cedar, tobacco, spices as it opened with berry [casis] coming through. Minerality [clay soil?], leather and mocha were also detected as the wine opened. Tasting added dark fruit [plum, fig] along with black pepper.

2009 Rodney Strong  Purple dark garnet in color. Aroma; abundant.  Interestingly this wine was thought to be a Zinfandel upon decanting by a fellow drinker. On the nose we detected; caramel/molasses, wood [cedar], vanilla, tobacco, pepper, dark fruit [currant], and raisins [dried fruit]. Tasting added an earthy minerality, mushrooms, anise, chocolate with a lingering finish and the wine becoming more tannic as it opened instead of the usual reverse. I would better describe it as a long tannic finish.

Rating tidbits found: Wine Enthusiast rates the Rodney Strong at 87 and the KJ at 90 points. Wine Spectator and their vintage chart rates the 2008 Sonoma vintage at 86 with a Hold suggestion for drinkability and the 2009 vintage although not finalized is estimated to be in the 83-86 range. I found this information after drinking the wines,  I do enjoy researching my wines but prefer to not look too deeply into the ratings until I have my say 🙂 The WS vintage chart ratings seem a bit low to me but that could just be due to the saturation of the market with marketing campaigns quoting 90 POINTS! or higher from all types of sources out there. That said, if any organization out there wants to quote my rating on a wine you know how to reach me LOL.

My opinion on these two wines is close to the Wine Enthusiast rating.  The Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve was bold and consistent throughout the evening, delicious. Something interesting happened with the Rodney Strong. It was incredible out of the bottle and by itself but as soon as we paired it with food [camembert & goat cheese to start with mushroom pesto pizza later] the flavor of the wine deadened. At first I blamed the pairing but interestingly enough about 1-1.5 hours after decanting the flavor of the wine came back close to its original intensity. I had never experienced flavors fading and then returning as the wine breathed.  I should also point out that the KJ being a 2008 may have a maturity advantage over the Rodney Strong.

I have to say I enjoyed both wines. In a blind tasting I probably would have picked the Kendall Jackson but who knows; the Rodney Strong was delicious straight out of the bottle too.  Would I buy these again? Yes! But hopefully at great SALE prices.  ¡SALUD!

Kendall Jackson winemaker notes:

This Cabernet has distinct flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black currant and cassis with enticing fragrances of mocha and nutmeg. Subtle notes of smoke, cedar and tobacco leaf round out the lingering finish.

Grand Reserve is a winemaker’s blend of our mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations. We hand select grapes from our best estate vineyards and then monitor, taste and hand-hold each individual lot throughout the winemaking process. Each lot is kept separate, barrel-aged and handcrafted – boutique winery style. Our winemakers have an unmatched palate of flavors, toast levels and terroir nuances from which they masterfully blend these exemplary rich, deep and complex wines.

Blend: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec

alcohol by volume:14.5%

Rodney Strong winemaker notes:

Aromas of blackberry, cocoa, and currant lead to a rich, layered mouthfeel, replete with black cherry, cedar, and cassis, and structured with lush, mature tannins. Enjoy this seductive Cabernet Sauvignon now and over the next several years.

alcohol by volume:13.5%

Wine 101 – Revisited

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The Gourmet Bachelor by Chad Carns

The Gourmet Bachelor by Chad Carns (Photo credit: somenametoforget)

Every once in a while I like to review notes I have jotted down, articles I’ve saved, passages in books I have highlighted etc. As I move forward with my blog, my hobby [lot’s of wine drinking!] and now career [I will sell wine today!],  I must remind myself to do so on a regular basis. It is amazing how easily one becomes focused on one aspect of the bigger picture and  forgets the details that may have crossed your path or got you to where you are today.

Writing this I just had a flashback to my college days of yore; cramming at the last-minute and soon afterwards forgetting everything I learned.  History will not repeat itself no matter that I probably have way fewer memory cells now compared to then 🙂

Wine 101 refers to one of my earlier posts; What I learned in wine class this week-Wine 101. In it I asked the question:  If a bad or turned wine with a cork closure is referred to as CORKED would a turned wine with a screw cap be classified as SCREWED?  I  also listed tidbits of information I found interesting or am purposely keeping as a reference for future use.

https://whineandcheersforwine.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/what-i-learned-in-wine-class-this-week-wine-101/

Here begins my next chapter and I look forward to coming across even more to share in the future.  ¡SALUD!

Aroma is derived from the grape. Bouquet comes from fermentation, wood [oak], aging.

Chardonnay and Riesling; white wines that can age.

Chardonnay is a component of; Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis.

Chianti; is Sangiovese blended with other indigenous varietals.

-Wine most sold in U.S.A. = White Zinfandel ARGH!

-When in doubt: Beaujolais goes with practically everything.

Rosé wine is not sweet.

Sauvignon Blanc is used in Sancere, Pouilly Fume’, and blended with Semillon for almost all white Bordeaux’s.

-Sweet Sauternes are mostly Semillon with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc.

-Most planted grape in California prior to Chardonnay; Chenin Blanc.

Chenin Blanc = Vouvray. Also the leading white grape of South Africa.

Viogner is one of the rarest french white grapes. Less than +/- 300 acres are planted in the grapes home; northern Rhone.

Merlot often confused as Cabernet Sauvignon during blind tastings.  Merlot is the leading grape varietal produced in Bordeaux. Chateau Pétrus one of worlds most famous wine is 99% Merlot.

Burgundy, except for Beaujolais is mostly made from Pinot Noir.

-The Gamay grape is the source of french wine Beaujolais.

Syrah is usually part of the blend making Chateauneuf-de-Pape which can use up to 12-13 different varieties.

Tempranillo grows in the Rioja region of Spain. In Portugal Tempranillo known as Tinto Roriz  is one of the grapes making up Port/Porto.