Tag Archives: Whole Foods Market

My 12 Days of Beer Camp

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BEERCAMP@WCW2014

As I prepare to enjoy my last Beer Camp brew it seems it is not all about wine in my work life. Beer is also a large part of my job as a Specialty Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market.  Admittedly beer is something I enjoy learning about. But truth be told I enjoy drinking it too!  Discovering new brews and old world styles that have been around for centuries is not only a job benefit but a fun hobby.

Thanks to beer-maker Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and their Beer Camp Across America variety pack the craft-beer bandwagon is getting even more attention than it usually does. And the traffic in our store shows it.

From Sierra Nevada: 

Sierra Nevada partnered with a dozen exceptional craft breweries to create 12 different beers for one mixed 12-pack—including 10 bottles and two cans—a first in the craft beer world.

Beer Camp Across America is a tribute to the art, and sometimes absurd ambition, of American craft beer. This unprecedented variety pack is a celebration of our collective spirit: 12 different collaboration beers brewed alongside 12 exceptional brewers, together showcasing the sense of pride and passion shared by craft brewers nationwide. Beyond the pack, we’re embarking on a seven-city traveling beer festival. Join the tour and help make this the largest craft beer celebration in history!

AMERICANOWNEDBREWED@WCW2014

This is how my idea for The 12 Days of Beer Camp came to be. With excitement building prior to its arrival [daily requests], the actual arrival, the set up of our American Owned American Brewed display and our quickly selling out of Beer Camp: yes I too along with team members and customers got caught up in the moment.

Twelve brews in twelve days. Well, give or take a day.  With the evidence posted @WhineCheersWine on Twitter and Instagram. Not too much of a challenge considering the heat of our Miami summer and the anticipation of trying 12 different beers. Correction: 12 different collaborations. Including some from my favorite craft beer brewers and others to discover:

Cigar City Brewing, Ballast Point, Oskar Blues, New Glarus, Firestone, Ninkasi, 3 Floyds, Bell’s, Allagash, Russian River, Asheville Brewers Alliance and Victory.

Here we go……

DOUBLELATTE@WCW2014Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, OR | Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout  Inspired by the perennial café favorite, Double Latte combines two of the greatest things in life: good coffee and great beer. Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing knows their way around a good cup of joe. Featuring cold-press coffee from the legendary Stumptown Coffee Roasters and a dose of milk sugar, this coffee milk stout is a rich and roasty treat.  

My notes: dark rich brown color, coffee on the nose. Palate: dark roast coffee, malt/hop finish, cocoa developing as it warms, burnt sugar/caramel. BU60/ALC 7.6%

 

YONDER

Cigar City Brewing, LLC, Tampa, FL | Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock Yonder Bock is a summery twist on the robust blonde bock. Its silky, semi-sweet malt body is bolstered by a blend of new and experimental hops that impart bright, fruity hop aromas of guava, mango and passion fruit.

My notes:  golden amber/red color. Sour citrus and guava on the nose.  Mid-level hoppiness. Reminds me of a Belgian style beer with added hops. Sweetness comes in to play as it warms. BU 45/ALC 7.7%.

 

ALTBIER@WCW2014Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA | Alt Route Altbier  Alt Route is our take on the old school German Altbier style featuring an ale-lager hybrid yeast, which is top fermenting and fruity like an ale, but matured at cool temperatures for a clean, lager-like flavor. This deep amber beer has a slight emphasis on the richly layered, slightly sweet malt body with enough citrusy hop flavor and aroma to produce a balanced, dry finish.

My notes:  honey brown in color, as German ALTBIER is, with aromas of cooked sugar and/or caramel. First impression: a lighter hoppier scotch ale. Malty sweet finish. Medium level hoppiness. BU 50/ALC 6.6%

 

TATER@WCW2014

Asheville Brewers Alliance, Asheville, NC | Tater Ridge Scottish Ale Tater Ridge pays homage to our area’s Scottish Highland history, and its craft brew pioneers. With a hint of down home Southern flair, this Scottish ale is rich and malty, using special floor-malted six-row barley from Asheville’s Riverbend Malting, and has a smooth kick from the use of sweet potatoes, a tasty Southern staple.

My notes: Caramelized amber in color. Caramel and light hop on the nose. Hoppy finish. A perfect example of what I consider a Scottish Ale to be. No sweet potato detected though. BU 35/ ALC 7%.

THEREBACK@WCW2014

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI | There and Back English-Style Bitter There and Back is a classic, sessionable, English-style Bitter—easy-drinking but full of flavor. It features nutty, toasted Golden Promise and English Crystal malts balanced by a solid dose of zesty hops, with a fruity dry finish from the use of an authentic English yeast.

My notes: honey/amber color. Hop and malt on the finish. A slight sweetness at the front with malt bitterness at the back-end. Spice licorice/anise detected. BU 40/ALC 5.6%

CANFUSION@WCW2014

 

Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO/Brevard, NC | CANfusion Rye Bock  CANfusion is a dry-hop rye bock with a complex malt body that launches a peppery blast from the rye, balanced by a fruity hop aroma. As the style suggests, it was dry-hopped for an added aroma punch from the unique citrusy and spice-like Australian Ella hop varietal.

My notes: amber honey in color [between honey and maple syrup]. Definite hoppiness on the nose. Well balanced, dry. Fruit: orange spice and grapefruit detected. Rye and malt in the finish. BU 45/ALC 7.2%

ELECTRIC RAY @WCW2014Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, CA | Electric Ray India Pale Lager Electric Ray is an IPL—Imperial Pale Lager—combining intense citrusy and floral American hop aroma with the clean, crisp, classic malt body of a robust blonde lager. It is both traditionally dry-hopped AND torpedoed with whole-cone American hops for an intense grapefruit and rose-like nose.

My notes: sour, citrus hop on the nose. Golden amber in color. Hop sweetness on palate, malt finish. A slow drinker. BU 70/ALC 8.5%.

MAILARD@WCW2014Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Kalamazoo, MI | Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale Maillard’s Odyssey is a robust dark ale layered with complex malt flavors of toffee, caramel, chocolate, coffee, and dark fruit. This malt-focused concept spawned a daunting grain bill featuring 10 different grains including pale malt, Munich, chocolate malt, oats, dark wheat and roasted barley for a rich, semi-sweet and intense experience.

My notes: intense dark chocolate brown/black in color. Dry seeming at first with slight sweetness at mid-palate. Coffee on the nose and palate with sweetness developing as it warms. Malt finish. BU 40/ALC 8.5%.

TORPEDO@WCW2014Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA | Torpedo Pilsner Torpedo Pilsner ditches the traditional German “noble” hops and heads south of the equator for inspiration. With a traditional golden malt body, this “kiwi” pils features intense fruity and floral New Zealand-grown Motueka and Southern Cross hops, making this an alternate and delicious take on the classic pilsner.

My notes: light lemon yellow in color. Light, fruity, floral and dry. An oat/wheat aftertaste, possibly from hops. BU 45/ALC 5.2%

CHICOKING@WCW20143 Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN | Chico King Pale Ale Chico King is a regal yet raucous take on the pale ale that both our breweries adore. It features a complex malt body from the use of an undermodified malt, which leads to a complex and nutty malt flavor, and a bright fruit-forward blend of Mosaic, El Dorado and Calypso hop varietals. Chico King is a beer fit for royalty.

My notes: amber color. Sweet hop nose. Well balanced. Perfect example of the pale ale style. Aromatic as it warms. BU 45/ALC 6.5%

MYRONSWALK@WCW2014Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME | Myron’s Walk Belgian-Style Pale Ale Myron’s Walk is a Belgian-style pale ale combining the best of our two breweries. It features intense citrusy flavor and a complex aroma from the use of fruity and resinous whole-cone Citra and Mosaic hops offset by the complex spicy character of Allagash’s house Belgian yeast strain.

My notes: citrus and pine on the nose with a hop sour sweetness. A true hoppy belgian style. Intense. Sour citrus on the palate. Malt finish. BU 38/ALC 5.3%

IVAN@wcw2014Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA | Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde This genre-bending beer has the bright, resinous hop profile of an American IPA blended with the dry and complex yeast character of a Belgian farmhouse ale. Yvan the Great is a perfect combination of the two brewing styles—hoppy, dry, spicy, and impressive.

My notes: cloudy golden yellow in color. Yeasty nose. With notes of citrus; grapefruit, lemon and pineapple on the palate.  BU 50/ALC 6.3%.

 

Oh……BEER CAMP you and the friends made along the way will be missed. Thanks goes to Sierra Nevada and all the brewers who reached out, commented on my posts and even used my photos on their websites.  Oh Beer Camp where did the time go?  Twelve days just wasn’t enough. ¡SALUD!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

Chateau Le Cacheflo 2010 – Tobin James

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Tobin James 2010 Chateau Le Cacheflo

 

A recent wine discovery, this red blend out of Paso Robles has been a big hit with all of whom I have shared it with. At the store it is a hand sell due to it not being well-known. At home it’s an easy pour,  I am surrounded by wine lovers.  Our mantra should be POUR. Which is actually not a bad idea for t-shirts….

Sunday Supper a few weeks back found the Chateau Le Cacheflo winning the popularity contest among four or five other wines brought by the afore-mentioned vino lovers. Other good red blends were in attendance but the Cacheflo was the best balanced with intricate flavor layers worth pondering.

I was originally introduced to the wines of Tobin James by the Sommelier at Morton’s Steak House – North Miami Beach via their Cabernet Sauvignon.  It left a mark.  Months later when I realized Tobin James was approved for sale at Whole Foods Market I could not have been happier.Tobin James 2009 Cabernet

The blend is reported to be; Syrah, Barbera and Sangiovese. What is referred to by the winemaker as Mediterranean varietals.  Prior to researching I listed Syrah/Shiraz, Sangiovese and possibly Malbec on the nose. Now I see that the Barbera is what most likely gives this wine its body and richness.

I believe I have now had the Cacheflo at least three times in as many weeks. Glad to report; it was worthy every time. The name itself is a play on CASH FLOW. Originally started as a way of making wine under his own label from available left-over grapes and a way to get the cash to flow.  Their Zinfandel started this way too. With excess grapes a grower needed to move.  Tobin James worked his magic into an award-winning wine and launched Tobin James Cellars.

My notes:

Resilient legs [14.8% ALC]. On the nose; fruit forward [casis, blackberry], jammy, spices [nutmeg, vanilla], tobacco box, cedar and even tar [in a good way].

On the palate; a WOW at first sip, red and dark fruit [black cherry] well-balanced, robust, mouth-watering medium acidity.  A cherry finish with fruit softening and delicate wood appearing.

To learn more about Tobin James check out PasoWine.com where you can find out about his humble wine beginnings, becoming the founding wine maker at Peachy Canyon and recently being awarded the 2010 PASO ROBLES WINE INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE YEAR.

At a retail price of $15.99 or less this easy drinker is a great example of what an everyday to some, weekend wine to others, should be.  This is a welcome addition to Whole Foods Market North Miami and my home cellar. Yes, still the guest room after all these years.

¡SALUD!

 

Notes from the Winemaker: 

Paso Robles is one of the most unique growing areas in the world. So many varietals excel here that the focus has been on the production of great red wines.

In keeping with this great tradition, the wine community has discovered that the Mediterranean varietals flourish and develop distinct and unequivocal character in Paso Robles. This wonderful blend of Mediterranean varietals includes; Syrah, Sangiovese and Barbera.

Year after year Tobin James has produced this Highly acclaimed “Cache-flo” for you to enjoy with just about anything!

 

 

 

Whole Foods Market Point of Origin – Italy / Verrazzano Rosso

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Amidst the excitement of our latest wine program at Whole Foods Market; Point of Origin / Italy, I was able to sit down and spend some time with this 2012 Tuscan red.

Verrazzano Toscana Rosso

VERAZANO @WCW2014Reading about the Verrazzano Castle and vineyards on their web-site I was surprised to find that official documents of the XIVth century describe the vineyards and the olive groves of Verrazzano. Giovanni da Verrazzano, celebrated navigator and discoverer of the bay of New York and the majority of the east coast of America, was born here in 1485. The famous bridge in New York was named after him in 1964. Proud to say I have had the honor of experiencing the Verrazzano Bridge first hand.

 

 

Notes from Whole Foods Market:

This compelling Red from the Chianti Classico region revives the old tradition of including white grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia) in the blend, softening the vibrant juice of the red grapes. Complex aromas of youthful fresh fruits and violets. Tuscan herbs, black currant and pomegranate flavors move to a smooth finish. 

This wine using mostly Sangiovese with lesser quantities of Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Merlot was produced in Greve, Chianti. The soil is mostly limestone and the harvesting is done by hand. The ten month aging process was done in large Slavonian oak barrels followed by 3 months in bottle. For additional information on Slavonian oak check out Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator by clicking here.

My notes:

On the nose; red fruit, floral [violet] and some vanilla with light resinous wood [oak, vanilla]. On the palate I found that this light/medium bodied wine had a very nice fruity balance and paired wonderfully with a tomato sauce based dish we were having.  As the wine opened and breathed it was interesting to note the fading of the fruit to the background with a peppery spiciness evolving to the forefront. Both aspects were welcomed.

I enjoyed the fact that this wine had character as it developed.  I have found myself recommending it to customers ever since. More importantly we’re experiencing customers returning for repeat purchases. Regularly priced at about $16.00 and sometimes available as low as $12.00 this new wine for Whole Foods Market North Miami is being discovered quickly.  To new wine discoveries!  ¡SALUD!

 

Winemaker notes:

Eclectic and dynamic red wine, ruby-red colour with purplish reflexes, very harmonic taste, round, of good intensity with fragrant notes of flowers and red fruits. Attractive, pleasant wine, well suited to contemporary “fusion” cuisine.
Alcohol: 13,50% vol

Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012

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I have been wanting to write about this wine for a while now. It is one of the best selling vinos on our Whole Foods Market Top 10 Fall program. OENOPHILOGICAL beat me to the punch and I am glad he did. I do not think I could have done a better job.
This wine not only helped me discover the Navarra region of Spain but also the bargain of the season. Deliciously fruit forward and with quite the growing fan base at our Whole Foods Market North Miami store.
So without further ado, I introduce you to Navarra’s Tablao and OENOPHILOGICAL. Salud!

$5.00 Wine – Trader Joe’s

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The Miami area of Pinecrest recently added a Trader Joe’s to the discount grocery mix.  As a long time fan of Aldi markets [in Europe and USA] I was excited about this addition. Aldi and Trader Joe’s share a relation. Owned by 2 brothers the company was split into Aldi North and Aldi South in the 1960s. The Aldi store is more bargain style and Trader Joe’s goes more for the trendy audience.  Both specialize in private label items.

Unfortunately our Miami/Pinecrest store got off to a rough start due to its shortage of parking spaces for patrons. Many cars were towed during the first few weeks and quite honestly I do not know how the city permitted construction of this site with so little parking. That said, this small store [drug store size] was nicely decorated inside with aisles roomy enough to get around.  Since this is a “wine” review I will not bore you with the specifics of my comparison shopping.  But, a somewhat obvious disclaimer here is the fact that I work for Whole Foods Market. Many compare the two but the truth is they are very different.  I’d also like to add that I was an Aldi fan long before I ever dreamed of joining the WFM team.

Wine! I was very impressed with the size of their vino area, about eight times bigger than the wine areas of the Aldi’s I have frequented. The majority of the wines being exclusive or private labels for Trader Joe’s. All inexpensively priced.  Surprisingly the well-known wines they carry are priced the same or even higher than at Whole Foods and other local merchants.

The majority of my time in the store was of course spent in this area reviewing all they had to offer.  Should I buy an under $20 Chateauneuf du Pape or even a Barolo under $15.00?  In the spirit of this shopping excursion I decided to budget myself at a whopping $5.  Per bottle of course and somehow limited myself to only two.

First up is Puglia’s 2012 GRIFONE Primitivo labelled “From old vine Zinfandel”.  As regular readers probably know I am a big fan of Zinfandel a.k.a. Primitivo which would explain my grabbing this $4.99 bottle without thinking twice.

Later that night with company over and cork  popped, everyone truly enjoyed this wine.  Only one flaw; among Zinfandel fans no one could name the varietal including myself if I had not been the purchaser.  Is it an easy drinker? Heck yeah. Would I serve it again? Ditto! But this fruit forward, medium bodied, low tannin wine was very un-Zinfandel like. Spice? Earthiness? Peppery? All nowhere to be found.  I’ve read that the 2010 was a tad more rustic so my notes could be due to the 2012 vintage. Below are some other opinions I found:

From Cheap Wine Finder

The color is cherry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries with a little chocolate powder and spearmint chewing gum, This is a soft, smooth, medium bodied wine with a slight rough edge on the mid palate. It tastes of black cherry, a little tart cranberry and a touch of cola. The mid plate offers are a dusty slap form the tannins and a final dash of sweet strawberry.  The acidity is balanced and the finish is a little watery and fades a bit too soon.

From the Savy Lush

The taste of this Primitivo is fairly mild with notes of cherry and jammy spice. The nose isn’t anything special, and finish is rather fleeting but really, who cares?!? Easy drinking, smooth and pleasing, this is classic “Skank”. But, if you’re truly worried, make sure you have some dark chocolate on hand-never a bad idea.

So my final verdict would be: very drinkable, an easy drinker, great for large crowds [parties], excellent way to spend $5.00, just do not call it Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Next up we have a Sangiovese, one of Italy’s most planted grape varietals, from Tuscany. D’Aquino Gaetano Sangiovese di Toscana 2012.  D’Aquino, in this case is also the wine importers name.

The Sangiovese flavor profile usually includes; cherry, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and some herbaceousness.  Unfortunately I noted very few of these qualities.

My Notes: Light in color and body. Red fruit on nose, more so on palate but not much else. Fruity with a cherry finish.  Not much development as it opened, status-quo as time passed.

Winemaker notes:  This is a fruity, red wine made from the best-known grape varieties. It is brilliantly red with good intensity and has lively, fresh, and full-bodied taste. It is ideal for everyday drinking with most foods and in particular pasta dishes.

The D’Aquino was in no way poor but at the same time it did not have any personality. Not a wine you would look forward to having again but a vino that may actually fall into the $5 wine category. OUCH: Now that the developing wine snob in me let that slip out I must admit to having had wines much more expensive with the same issue. Drinkable? Sure. Would I buy it again? I have to admit I would most likely not.

I have plenty of friends that swear by the TJ private label product line.  As I was mentally planning my reviews a fellow blogger also posted about Trader Joe wines. Luckily wines that he had recently discovered and enjoyed. Check out Talk-A-Vino’s; Trader Joe’s Wines – Again Exceeding Expectations.

All said and done not bad for my investment of $4.99 times two. Would I try more TJ wines? Definitely.  Their reduced pricing structure is hard to refuse. Luckily for me this new store is not nearby.  Luckily for my bank account if it were I could do some damage $5 at a time.  ¡SALUD!

International Tempranillo Day – Tablao Wine

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2012 Tablao – Red Wine

This Whole Foods Holiday Top 10 wine grabbed my attention this week. Perfectly timed for celebrating International Tempranillo Day which falls on November 14th this year.  

The first fact that caught my eye was the “Denominacion de Origen” of Navarra Spain. A region I quite honestly never heard of before, but quickly learned is located near the France border of northern Spain.

English: Map of Spain with Navarre highlighted...

From the Wines of Navarra web-site:

Navarra is the name of both the autonomous region in northern Spain, and the very specifically limited wine zone of Navarra—today one of Spain’s most exciting quality wine regions.

The Navarra wine region lies between Rioja and the French border to the northeast. The foothills of the Pyrenees descend towards Navarra from the north and the Ebro River runs up from the south into Rioja to the west. Navarra’s capital, Pamplona, lies just north of the wine region. With its special location between Rioja and Bordeaux, it draws expertise and inspiration from both of these regions while retaining its own individual wine style.

English: Navarra Denominacion de Origen label,...

English: Navarra Denominacion de Origen label, as found on the reverse of suitably qualified bottles. Shot with Nikon D70s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adding to the interest factor our in-store wine notes informed me that; Vines grown in the Navarra region of Spain are trained along trellises rather than in bushes, maximizing their exposure to the sun and resulting in grapes of intense flavor. A sight to behold I am sure and one I’d like to see in person someday.

Mature Tempranillo grape cluster with characte...

Produced and bottled by Bodegas Pagos de Araiz this 2012 red wine blend is made up of 81% Tempranillo, 9% Garnacha, 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. In my case the luck of the blends has struck again. Deliciously fruity and well-balanced this red fruit forward wine falls into my category of “easy drinker”.  A great every day accompaniment to meals with meats, pasta, pizza, Spanish foods etc.

Tasting and pairing notes;

Juicy with ripe red raspberries. Complex hints of licorice and cherry round out the sublime, lingering finish. pairs well with: Seaside Cheddar, glazed ham, smoked brisket, veggie lasagna, enchiladas.

I was not planning on writing a Tempranillo Day post but the stars must have aligned and fate stepped in to bring this wine to me with such good timing.  And I’ve saved the best for last. The Tablao is presently priced at $7.99. Yes, a perfectly priced every day wine. I am now looking forward to stretching out this International Tempranillo Day through the weekend.  ¡SALUD!

From Wine Enthusiasts “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Tempranillo”:

1. It’s very, very old. Tempranillo is indigenous to Spain and dates back to before the time of Christ. It’s been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the Phoenicians settled it in 1100 B.C.

2. It’s an early bird. Tempranillo is derived from the word temprano, which in Spanish means “early.” Among red varieties in Spain, it’s considered an early ripener.

3. It has many monikers. Tempranillo goes by more than a dozen different names around the world, depending on where it’s cultivated. It’s called Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Tinta de Toro in Toro, Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha and Tinto Roriz in Portugal.

4. It’s cloned. There are about 500 clones of Tempranillo in Spain alone; Tinto Fino and Tinta de Toro are the best-known.

5. It has a white mutant. Although rare, albino Tempranillo does exist in Rioja. It’s an approved wine grape; it yields a citrusy, rather simple wine akin to Viognier in weight, flavor and overall style.

Isosceles 2009 – Justin Vineyards and Winery

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Copyright@WhineAndCheersForWine<br />ISOSCELES 2009 by Justin

A few years back I was introduced to JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon by friends and neighbors. It is a dry and powerful wine that sells very well for us in the store. Usually priced in the $20.00 range it is one I recommend often to customers looking for this type of Cab.

With a price range of $60-$75.00 Justin’s the ISOSCELES was often on my radar or I should say on my wish list.  Not an everyday drinker for me but a special occasion wine who’s cork was recently popped.

Justin Vineyards and Winery is located in Paso Robles appellation of California’s Central Coast.  Per their website the “appellation encompasses more than 600,000 acres and is the largest stand alone AVA in California.”  Impressive news to me a big fan of wines from this region.  “The region’s first grapes were planted in 1779 by Franciscan missionaries and today are home to the third highest concentration of wineries in the United States.” When owner Justin Baldwin began with 160 acres in 1981 only 10 wineries existed in the area.  Fast forward to 2013 and being recently named one of the best 75 wineries to visit by FOOD & WINE.

The winemakers refer to ISOSCELES as a “left bank” Bordeaux style wine.  The 2009 vintage, now mostly sold out, was an unfiltered blend of; 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot.

Vintage Notes 
The 2009 growing season began early due to a very warm spring. An early April frost affected parts of Paso Robles, but we were relatively unaffected. Consistently warm summer weather segued into a moderate early fall with some rain, but the vines shrugged off the water retaining great fruit concentration and flavor. Balanced weather through the fall allowed us to pick by flavor profiles without any concerns about excessive temperatures and as a result, our red wines from this vintage show incredible density and power of varietal expression. The style of the 2009 vintage is flashy and intense.

Maturation was over a period of 24 months in 225L French oak barrels (Bertrange, Allier, Center of France); 64% new barrels.  The bottling period was Dec. 12-21, 2011 with a release date of May 1, 2012.

My first observations were as follows: no alcohol on the nose, but plenty of earthiness, dark  fruit sweetness [noted as ripeness] and oak. Along with glass tinting slow legs which surprised me because of the noted lack of alcohol on the nose.  Alcohol reportedly at 15.5% by volume.

On the palate a dark fruit forward blast on the first sip which softened in minutes. Medium body with mid-level yet mouth covering tannins. At the one hour mark I noted better defined new wood on the nose, clove/licorice and fig.  Pepper, vanilla/spices and dark fruit [raisin/prune] on the palate.

I can see why Wine Spectator rated the 2009 ISOSCELES 93 points.  This is what I would refer to as one Easy Drinker!  Next on my Justin wish list? The 2010 ISOSCELES for comparison and Justin’s JUSTIFICATION, just because.  ¡SALUD!  

93 Points Wine Spectator: “Offers a tight, generous mix of raspberry, wild berry and pomegranate. This is pure and focused, gaining depth and velocity, ending with a long, persistent finish.” Drink now through 2022.”  9,000 cases made.

Winemaker tasting notes:

Appearance: Dark ruby in the glass with a violet rim.
Aroma: An alluring, rich mix of ripe black currants and berries faceted with vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa highlights.
Palate: Full bodied, complex black fruit of lush currants, and cherry layered with licorice and vanilla spice with chocolate, roasted coffee, and tobacco. The finish is extremely long and complex, showing firm plush tannins that bring everything together making it easy to drink it now, but implying a great future.

Below is a chart and/or link to a chart that shows Justin wines by production.  I was impressed to find this on their website.

http://www.justinwine.com/images/wines_pieChart_large.gif

Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

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Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

I first discovered the wines of Louis M. Martini on the job as a Wine Steward. I didn’t taste them but was often told by customers of their merits. We carried the Sonoma and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, both sold well.  In my mind a side by side tasting and review for Whine and Cheers would be in my near future.  So much so that when I had the opportunity to buy the more expensive Napa Cab at a crazy sale price I jumped at the opportunity. Well, I may have jumped but basically I assigned the task to my parents who lived near this wine source across town.  Luckily for me they did as they were told. This is how I came across a few bottles of both Napa and Sonoma Cabs. How lucky am I?  I put them in my cellar [for those counting; yes still the guest room] about a year and a half ago.

Interestingly when I was hired earlier this year as a Specialty Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market I came to find out that not only would we be featuring the Louis Martini Cab’s at our Grand Opening but that……drum-roll ….. Michael Martini the third generation winemaker and grandson of Louis M. Martini would be in attendance signing bottles.

Bio:

Growing up in his father’s and grandfather’s vineyards, Michael Martini got a hands-on education in the art of crafting world-class wines. His formal study of viticulture began in the world-renowned wine-making program at the University of California, Davis. After graduation, Mike worked alongside his father, Louis P. Martini, before taking the reins as winemaker of Louis M. Martini Winery in 1977. Mike shares his grandfather’s passion for the Napa Valley region and is a past president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, an organization that his grandfather Louis M. Martini helped establish in 1943.

Quite the character Michael [Mike] Martini was a hit at the North Miami store.  Our customers lined up to meet this tall gregarious and quite humorous gent as he entertained all with wine war stories. Thinking back I love that he was bluntly honest about his wines, present and past vintages whether good or bad. He did not hold back.

During this main event and other tastings that followed I was able to compare both wines side by side. Not enough to write about them extensively but definitely enough to know which one I preferred.  So this week finally after cellaring 1-2 years and realizing the 2009 vintage is practically no longer available I popped the cork on the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

My tasting notes:

On the nose; dried dark fruit [blackberry, figs, prune, black currant], wood [oak], cigar box [cedar], tobacco, spicy [black pepper, vanilla]. With the addition of black cherry on the palate.  Aromas of cedar and grape really coming out at the 2 hour mark.

2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Louis M. Martini Winery which was established in 1933. In 1936 the winery became one of the first to use temperature-controlled fermentation. In 1943 Louis helps set up the Napa Valley Vintner Association. 1951; Louis P. Martini, 2nd generation winemaker is among first winegrowers to use wind machines to battle frost in the vineyards. 1968; Louis M. Martini Winery is among the first to bottle Merlot as a varietal wine in California.  In 1977 Michael Martini takes the helm. In 2002 the Gallo family, close friends of the Martini family for three generations, purchased the winery and vineyards.

I didn’t officially ever get to my vertical tasting, not yet anyway. But I must admit that the Louis M. Martini 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bowls me over every time. It is intense, beautifully balanced and has a silky finish.  I am now longing to try their Monte Rosso or better yet take Mikes’ advice which he whispered to me as he was leaving: “Wait until you try the Alexander Valley!”

¡SALUD!

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

“A nice Cabernet, on par with the winery’s equally fine 2008. Shows plenty of class, with rich blackberry, currant and cedar flavors. Earns points for sheer elegance. Ready to drink now.  Editors’ Choice

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

The Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards up and down the Napa Valley. This wine exhibits a deep burgundy color with intense aromas of cassis, sweet herbs and hints of pipe tobacco. Intriguing flavors of ripe black cherries, deep, briary red fruits, and old world complexities linger throughout the finish. This is a well structured and balanced wine that is medium-to-full-bodied and is ready to enjoy now or can be aged up to 5 years.

Winemaker’s Notes

The Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards up and down the Napa Valley. This wine exhibits a deep burgundy color with intense aromas of cassis, sweet herbs and hints of pipe tobacco. Intriguing flavors of ripe black cherries, deep, briary red fruits, and old world complexities linger throughout the finish. This is a well structured and balanced wine that is medium-to-full-bodied and is ready to enjoy now or can be aged up to 5 years.

 

A Cuban and a Bottle of Carménère on Prince Edward Island

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A few months ago I was asked by a fellow wine lover and blogger to do a guest post on his web site: The Winegetter. In need of a personal challenge I said YES. Okay, maybe not with the excitement of capital letters, but yes just the same. With my mission now complete, I must admit that I was not only happy with the outcome but also surprised with its reception; the kind words and now having it picked up by the Canadian outlet: Joy For Organizing for their Leisure section. 

Below you will find my original post as it appeared with additional photos that were not included before. As you will see it truly is a beautiful place.¡SALUD! 

Map of Prince Edward Island

Map of Prince Edward Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When The Winegetter first approached me with the theme of Somewhere Beyond the Sea I have to admit I was a bit lost at sea.  What on earth could I write about? I have always appreciated wine, but most of my travels abroad were prior to my true love of wine. Ireland; beer and whiskey. England; beer and cider. Hawaii; pineapple sparkling wine but lets not go there. Amsterdam? Let’s really not go there!

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot ...

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which lead me to a trip taken a few years ago as I was careening towards the proverbial fork in the road. Wine was still a hobby at this point in my life. No blog or wine job in sight. These would come later. Perfect timing for a much-needed first time visit to Nova Scotia and Canada’s Prince Edward Island. I realize some may say a sea was not technically crossed but having experienced the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ferry rides across the Northumberland Strait I would beg to differ. At least for this story.
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An adventure with dear friends. Driving and hiking the Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia prior to ferrying over to Prince Edward Island and the incredible accommodations of the Johnson Shore Inn. Owned by friends of ours who many can attest are beyond wonderful hosts.  This bed and breakfast sits on a red rocky cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence who’s coastline kept us in awe for the entirety of our stay.


Wonderful memories come to mind including fabulous home cooked meals, PEI mussels, roasted pig, a visit to a dance hall where yes we danced into the cold night, a fresh steamed [salt water from the beach a few steps away] lobster dinner party for 18 where guests were asked to show off a talent which included poetry, song, and even tap dancing. Not aware of this tradition of entertaining others at dinner my impromptu talent became speaking Spanish. Luckily the other guests were very welcoming and pretended to be in awe of this talent as I babbled on. A few of my new friends had recently been to Cuba [Beyond the Sea!] so this became quite the topic as I was asked about my people, politics and family lineage.  A visit to our hostesses  Prince Edward Distillery to sample their award-winning potato vodka and many a day sitting along the red cliffs pondering, taking in all the natural beauty surrounding this very special place also made for incredible memories.
 
The wine portion of this story came near the end of our trip. After days of being pampered we decided to cook dinner for our hostesses. We spent most of the day researching and shopping for ingredients that included a stop at the state-run liquor store where the cashier had now started to recognize us after more than a few visits.  Not accustomed to such government operated stores I was first taken aback by their small selection of U.S. wines but at the same time impressed by their also small but varied choice of South American wines. Chile and Argentina were very well represented and Chile became my choice for our farewell dinner.
Those who frequent my web-site may know that I enjoy spreading the gospel of this signature Chilean, albeit originally Bordeaux varietal. In fact in reviewing my earlier posts I even referenced the PEI adventure in my: Our Wednesday night choiceSanta Rita Reserva 2008 Carménère review from last year.  And as fate would have it a wonderfully written recent guest post by The Armchair Sommelier:Drinking Carménère With the Devil.
 
Carménère, thought to be extinct for years, was discovered in Chile during the 1990′s inadvertently being grown as Merlot.  This lush somewhat exotic grape has earthy and leather aromas with a sweet dark fruit taste of plum, blackberry, and cherry.  I would describe it as deliciously rustic.
 



On this occasion our last meal turned out to be a delicious Rib-eye Pot Roast laden with fresh spices and root vegetables that cooked slowly for about 5+ hours. In my mind at least, it was to be perfectly paired with my chosen Carménère. If only I could remember which one in particular I painstakingly decided on that day.  But as it turned out I would come to learn years later forgetfulness was to be shared that evening.  As our meal progressed to the main course I poured the Carménère along with a little history of the grape and it was an instant hit. Those in our party of six that I had previously introduced this varietal to were excited to be sharing our secret.  For the newbies it was love at first sip.  As I recall dinner went off without a hitch.  All courses were better than expected and I would to this day forever be trying to match the perfect pot roast recipe from when we were on Prince Edward Island.  Yes, still trying.
 
Fast forward a few years to our Canadian hosts coming south to Florida for the winter. A reunion dinner planned!  My assignment; wine. What better choice but to relive our last supper, so memorable to me, by bringing a bottle of Carménère.  A joyous reunion. As dinner was served, I poured the wine and pointed out the varietal I had chosen.  Yes the same one we had devoured and shared before on our last night on PEI!  To my surprise I was met with blank stares, a lack of recollection and the comment; “Oh, we’ve never had that varietal”.  What?? Could I have possibly made up the entire experience or more likely romanticized the event that defined our last night together?  We laughed as I reminded them of our first time at the last supper and then we just moved on to the dinner at hand and wonderful new conversations. Our soon to be memories being created.
 
I find it interesting that as I bonded with the wine with friends for my memory of the event, others bonded with the dinner with friends or just the quality time of friends together. The one common denominator: friendship. This realization has made me think about how I may attach too much weight to factors that surround us all instead of what truly is important.
 
So yes, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit: My name is Whine and Cheers and I appreciate wine. But, I love  friendships!