Bring on The Reds!!!

It’s that time of year again!!!  The summer heat is starting to dissipate, the nights are getting just a wee bit cooler and the smell of Fall is in the air.

For those of us that love a big, bold, red wine but back away from them in the summer, the time is now.  “BRING ON THE REDS!”

Caymus 40th Anniversary cabernet Sauvignon

Caymus 40th Anniversary cabernet Sauvignon

Stock photo from Wagner Family of Wine website.

For your first fire pit evening of the season, I recommend the Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is so rich and so decadent that you can forget the S’mores (or not) and just sip wine.  Vanilla and cherry on the nose with hints of leather then dark chocolate and bing cherry on the palate, this wine is your dessert.

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon     ABV: 14.6%.    Suggested Retail: $60

This wine was a media sample received for review purposes.


7 Days, 7 Cities – 1 Great Wine

Aquaoir – from aqua,(“water”) is the interaction between a submerged container of wine and the set of special characteristics that a body of water and its environment hold – temperature, pressure, light (or darkness) and motion.

And so the experiment began in the Spring of 2013.  Mira Winery dropped four cases of their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon into the Atlantic Ocean just off the Charleston Harbor.  The wine stayed for three months.  Four cases of the same wine were left to age naturally in the bottle at the winery.  The wine was retrieved from the ocean and the tastings, along with the media frenzy, began.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as Mira’s guest to attend a blind tasting of the two wines side by side November 6.  The tasting event kicked off a 7 day tour where Mira was hosting a tasting event in 7 cities.  The tour lineup was:

  • Charleston SC – Nov 6
  • Washington, DC – Nov 7
  • New York, NY – Nov 8
  • Palm Beach, FL  Nov 9
  • Little Rock, AR – Nov 10
  • San Francisco, CA – Nov 11
  • Los Angeles, CA – Nov 12

The setting for the Charleston tasting was at Harborside East and you couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for tasting wine

  • Charleston Harbor

    Charleston Harbor

The wine was initially aged in the ocean in an effort to discover a better process for aging wine.  The three-month experiment, by all accounts, was hugely successful.  The experiment was limited to three months to test equipment.  The bottles came out of the water covered with barnacles, but the corks were still securely in place.  Mira has now submerged eight cases in the water and plans to leave them eight months.  The difference in this group of wines is that they were submerged immediately after bottling with no bottle aging prior to submersion.  The labels were etched on the bottles for the new group of wines to avoid having to scrape barnacles off and attach labels after the fact.

Jim "Bear" Dyke

Jim “Bear” Dyke

So what was the result of the three-month aging as compared to regular bottle aging?  Answer: Significant and Amazing!

I have been following this Aquaoir experiment from the beginning.  I had already heard how significantly different the wines tasted.  With the blind tasting, I had no way of knowing which wine was in which glass.  Glass “A” appeared to be a young wine and was very tannic.   It had a great nose with hints of leather and spice.  I picked up licorice on the palate.  I felt like it needed quite a bit more time in the bottle.  Glass “B” didn’t have near as much on the nose, but the flavors were intense dark cherry, plum, and vanilla.  It was more evolved, silky with smooth tannins.  One would never guess that these were the same wine.  Glass “B” had been ocean-aged.  The difference was remarkable.

SIDE NOTE: The last case of the ocean-aged wine goes on sale TODAY.  The first case sold out to wine club members in a few hours.  Word of warning, this wine won’t last long.

So what created the differences in these wines.  As of right now, the science behind testing these wines hasn’t really given any clues.  The chemical analysis consisted primarily of  testing pH, alcohol, volatile acidity and turbidity and comparing the results of the land aged versus the water aged.  There was no significant difference in any of this.  When the wine was submerged, the bottles were at 57°.  The wine was set ay 60′ deep and stayed for three months.  When the wine came up, it was at 72°.  This was completely unexpected and they are not sure why it was so warm.  The warmth could have sped up the aging process, but the results are not conclusive.

The eight cases that have just been submerged will age through the winter months.  Will this make a difference?  Only time will tell.

Could ocean-aging be the answer to the global wine shortage that is being talked about lately in the news?  It is definitely something that should be looked at closely.  Mira is the first US winery to try ocean-aging, but several wineries around the globe have experimented with ocean-aging.


Wine Bar Update: 9-30-2013

STICKER SHOCK:  I need to get one more item for closing on the loan for the wine bar – insurance.  I have gotten two quotes in this week and have experienced some serious sticker shock.  I have dealt with insurance for years in my position as a financial controller.  As a result, I have several connections in the industry.  I consulted with them as I built my business plan for the wine bar and prepared my projections.  I thought I had a handle on it, but the quotes (like everything else I have touched for this project) are WAY over budget.  A couple of things have led to this – being so near the coast (and hurricanes) and the fact that I don’t have an experience rating yet.  I am waiting for a couple of other quotes to come in hoping to find a policy that won’t break the bank.

CELEBRATION:  We also had reason to celebrate this past week.  For the last six months, I have been in South Carolina while hubby was still in North Carolina working.  One of us needed to keep a pay check and since the wine bar is my dream, he wanted to continue working while he helped me realize it.  This past week he was offered a job working for the City of Bluffton doing basically the same thing he has been doing for the City of Winston Salem.

Over the last few months, I have met with bankers, architects, and contractors by myself.  I have made major life-altering decisions with only a phone call to discuss these decisions with Hubby.  I even bought our new home with him only seeing it online, not in person.  But now we can be together again as the construction begins on the bar.

We celebrated by taking the family to The Old Oyster Factory on Hilton Head Island.

view oyser factory

View from our dinner table.

We opted for a bottle of Cakebread Cellars 2011 Chardonnay.  The wine was creamy with just a hint of buttery notes and spicy oak.  It had flavors of green apple, melon and citrus.  The finish had just enough bite to make it linger on the palate.  The delicate balance between acidity and minerality made this the perfect wine for  our meal.

cakebread chard

2011 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay paired with Bruschetta

We started by pairing our wine with The Old Oyster Factory’s own recipe for Bruschetta, then moved on to our entrées.

Seafood Medley

Seafood Medley

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil

We completed the meal with all the kids getting t-shirts from our waiter.


The Family

We’re home!

Please be sure to check us out on Facebook and give us a thumb’s up.  Our soft opening will be a special event for Facebook followers only and we would love to see you there!

Virtual Tasting #WITS2013

This wine was a media sample from Wine Twits.

I was invited by Wine Twits to participate in one of their virtual wine tastings and media event.  The wine selection was Morning Fog Chardonnay from Wente Vineyards, 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel from Renwood Winery and a 2011 Garnet Monterey Pinot Noir from Garnet Vineyards.  I love interacting virtually with other wine lovers for these tastings.  People share not only tasting notes, but great tips as well.

Typically I taste the wines alone for these virtual events and find it necessary to only open a couple of bottles, saving some bottles for a later date and individual review.  However, my move to South Carolina has opened the door to new wine friends so I was able to share the wines and get input for my tasting notes.

Morning Fog Chardonnay was first on the tasting list. It has been  a go-to Chard for me since I first tasted it last year for a virtual event.  For those of you that haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  From the soft floral aromas to the pear and vanilla notes on the palate,  this wine will never disappoint.

Morning Fog

Second up was the Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir.  This is a very bold Pinot aged in 100% French Oak.  It is rich and velvety with aromas of blackberry and vanilla and flavors of dark berry and spice.  This wine was meticulously crafted by Pinot specialist Alison Crowe and retails for only $14.99.

Our third and final wine for the evening was Premier Old Vine Zinfandel from Renwood Winery.  Cool fermented at a maximum temperature of 75 degrees, this wine is dark and intense with jammy dark fruit flavors and a hint of spice.  Not only is this wine a gold medal winner, it was also awarded “Best in Class” at the Los Angeles 2013 Wine Competition.


So which wine fared the best with my tasting friends?  It was a toss-up.  Overall, the group (excluding me) prefers white wine, but we ended up with a convert.  One of the ladies actually preferred the Renwood Zinfandel over the Wente Chardonnay.

As always, it was a pleasure and an honor to be invited to participate in this virtual tasting.  My sincere thanks to Wine Twits for including me.  To learn about wine or to share your thoughts on wine, please visit their website.  And if you are a winery looking to host a virtual tasting for a new release, check them out!

Southern Charm

I was born and raised in the South.  Except for a few years from the second through the fifth grades when my family moved to Indiana, I have always been a southern girl.  As a southerner, I use several colloquialisms that are common to my roots.  For example, when I see someone I know, I don’t say, “Hi,” I say, “Heyyy!”  Most southerners have never met a stranger – we smile and speak to strangers, we strike up conversations in the checkout line with people we have never seen.  I personally never call anyone, “Sugar,” but if you visit a traditional southern restaurant chances are the waitress will address you this way.  Most people seem to appreciate the southern drawl.

Another thing Southerners like is sweet tea.  When you are below the Mason-Dixon line and you order tea at a restaurant, if you want it without sugar, you must specify when you order that you want unsweet – they may have it and they may not!  And sweet tea isn’t just sweet, it is REALLY sweet.  I have been told several times over the last few years that this sweet tea phenomena leads southerners to prefer sweet wine as well, which may be a good thing as the conditions in the deep coastal south only allow for growing either Muscadine grapes or a close relative of Muscadine.

The reality is though, these sweet Muscadine wines sell.  There has been a quiet resurgence of sweet wine over the last couple of years.  Part of the reason is that people love spicy foods.  Dry wines are not as easy to pair with spicy fare, but sweet wines pair with almost anything from Asian to Thai to Latin.

So in comes September Oaks with all their Southern Charm and a full range of sweet and semi-sweet Muscadine wines.  Their driest wine is a Chardonnay made with grapes sourced from California.  They also have a Sauvignon Blanc but add a touch of Muscat to it so that it has some residual sugar.  The rest of their lineup has increasingly more residual sugar ending with 5.5% in their Carolina Wren which can be served as a dessert wine.  Muscadine wines are not meant to be aged.  These sweet wines have a 6-12 month drinkability, are meant to be consumed soon after purchasing and are best served well chilled.  They are perfect for the long, lazy days of summer.

SO Registry


SO wines

Grady Woods, winemaker and vineyard owner, is working diligently to establish the Lenoir (pronounced le-nwah like Pinot Noir) grape as the state grape for South Carolina.

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 7

Trader Joe's

This is the final post on the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  All  in all, the wines have been great and well worth the bargain prices you find at Trader Joe’s.  As I mentioned in my first post about Tribunal, I actually went back and bought a full case of it.  I am still very impressed with it each time I open a bottle.  (Something tells me there aren’t many bottles left – but whose counting?)   But today’s post is regarding bottle #7 – a 2010 Cline Zinfandel.

Zinfandel has been one of my favorite varietals for a few years now.  I was surprised to find this one on the shelves at Trader Joe’s.  I follow Cline Cellars on Twitter (@ClineCellars) but had never tried any of their wines.  This was why I purchased it, not only was it a zinfandel, it was by one of my favorite Twitter followers .  Anytime I interact closely with a winery on social media, I want to try their wines.  I want them to know that I am willing to support them not only through social media but truly support them.  Of course a lot of these wines are not available to me so I snatch them up when I have the chance.

I contacted Cline Cellars to see if this wine was made specifically for Trader Joe’s and was told that it is not.  They do sell to Trader Joe’s but this wine is part if their regular production and can be purchased at the winery as well.  Trader Joe’s does carry some wines that are only available through them even though they are made by well-known wineries.

This Cline Zinfandel is a typical California Zin with rich jammy, berry flavors and aromas of vanilla.  I would definitely buy it again and if I am ever close to Cline Cellars, I will stop by for a tasting of their full line-up.  I hear they have a great Rose’.

Varietal: Zinfandel          Alcohol:  14.0%          Price:  $7.99

What is your favorite wine from Trader Joe’s?  Need help deciding, please check out the first six wines from my wine haul:

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 1

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Parts 2 & 3

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 4

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 5

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 6

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 6

Chardonnay Day is an annual event where wine passionistas all over the world open bottles of Chardonnay to sip its praises.  It’s a major event celebrated on all forms of social media as well at wineries and wine bars.  This year’s Chardonnay Day was May 26.   I selected Vintage Press, one of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago.


I have been pleasantly surprised by most of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  This one, like most of the others, did not disappoint!  Vintage Press is a buttery Chardonnay with hints of vanilla and stone fruit such as nectarines or peaches.  I picked up delectable caramel notes as well, like the caramelized crust of Grandma’s peach cobbler.  Vintage Press is mellow with a silky smooth finish and bursting with flavor.  I highly recommend it for a relaxing evening of summer sipping.

Varietal:  Chardonnay          Alcohol:  13.9%          Price:  $8.99

For further reading about Vintage Press Chardonnay, I recommend, Aspiring Wine Geek:  Tasting Notes, Vintage Press.

And for more insider notes regarding Trader Joe’s wine, check out TJ’s Wine Community.

Unlocking Dead Bolt

This wine was a media sample from The Brand Action Team and Pernod Ricard USA Wines.


Touted as a “premium red blend,” I couldn’t agree more.  Dead Bolt poured into the glass a dark purple with ruby edges.  On the nose I got black current, blackberry and plum.   On the first sip, I got the rich jammy taste of a Zinfandel as well as the bold taste of a Cabernet Sauvignon with black cherry and mocha being predominant.  It is very full-bodied.

Dead Bolt is a proprietary red blend that marks Pernod Ricard’s first California wine brand and they have definitely locked this one up.  The wine includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah, Shiraz and Zinfandel but the percentage of each is sealed securely behind the dead bolt.  They chose to create a red blend as that is the fastest growing segment of the wine market.

Even though this is a good sipping wine, it would pair especially well with red meat or a hearty pasta dish.

Varietal: Red Blend          Alcohol:  13%          Price:  $15.99

Terra Andina Sparkling Moscato

This wine was a media sample from Terra Andina and Palm Bay International

One of my favorite things to do is simply hang out with my husband.  He is my best friend and we love lazy afternoons where we can sit and talk or just share the day and occasionally he even a glass/bottle of wine with me.  He likes wine, but prefers beer.  When it comes to wine he is very particular.  His palate is limited and he doesn’t push himself beyond his comfort zone, he knows what he likes and that’s typically what he sticks with.  He doesn’t like rose’ and rarely tries any white wines, but the other day he came into the house and wanted something different to drink.  He didn’t want wine, he didn’t want beer.  It must have been his luck y day as I had already started chilling a sparkling Moscato to enjoy later.


A dry champagne would not have suited the hot May afternoon, but this slightly sweet sparking wine was a real treat.  Hubby popped open the bottle and we headed outside.  Sitting on the covered back porch with the ceiling fan stirring just enough air to take the heat away, we sipped and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

Terra Andina describes this wine as chic, refreshing and like Brazil itself, fun and full of life.  With only 7.5% alcohol, it was the perfect afternoon drink.

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 5

Apparently it is going to be a Rosé kind of Summer!  I have already read several blog posts about various Rosés and I am certain the trend will continue – as a matter if fact, here’s another one.

I absolutely love a good Rosé so I purchased two when I bought my wine haul at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago.  The first one wasn’t great but would do in a pinch.  But this one, I would buy again (and again).  It is Josefina from Paso Robles, California, bottled at San Antonio Winery.  It is a Syrah which is a grape that thrives in the warm days and cool nights of Paso Robles.


As I have been old that Trader Joe’s has numerous wines bottled just for sale at their stores, I am making the assumption that this is one of them.  I couldn’t find any mention of it on the San Antonio Winery website and there was no website for Josefina.

This wine pours watermelon pink with hints of pink grapefruit on the nose.  On the palate you get a touch of citrus and red fruits such as strawberry and raspberry.  It is crisp, dry and refreshing, the kind of wine that will take the edge off a hot summer day as you lounge by the pool or sit outside to enjoy a sunset with colors that match what’s in your glass.

So far, I have come to the conclusion that you can get some great wines at Trader Joe’s for the money.  It doesn’t matter where you buy your wine, at some point you will buy one that doesn’t suit your palate.  Those are the ones you remember and you never buy again.  And sometimes you find a real steal as in this Josefina Rose’.

Varietal:  Syrah          Alcohol:  12.5%          Price:  $5.99

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