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.


Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 4

This is my third post about the wine I picked up at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago.  This one is a straight Trader Joe’s label.  Apparently they have a “reserve” series wine and a “Petit Reserve” line of wines under their name.  I may have to visit the store again as I didn’t know the story behind their wines and I am thinking I have probably missed some really good ones.  On my next visit, I need to take my time and really study the labels and what I am buying.  I would hate to miss out on a bargain – and no, I am not talking about “2-buck Chuck!”

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep inky garnet in the glass.  Give it a good swirl and you can see legs form slowly on the side of the glass and trickle back down into the wine indicating good structure.  Flavors of blackberry and vanilla follow notes of strawberry and jam.  The wine is very jammy and reminds me of a zinfandel.  With a cost friendly price point of only $7.99, this is a great cab to keep on hand.  I would definitely buy it again, and if you buy it by the case, no worries.  This wine will easily keep for a couple of years.   Make this your house cab.


Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon          Alcohol:  13.7%          Price:  $7.99

Franciscan Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

When you are shopping for wine, all you have to go by is the label or the reviews.  I much prefer reviews over the label because I like to see a variety of perspectives on a wine as compared to what the winemaker has to say.  The problem with this is that I don’t know what I am buying until I get to the store and then I don’t want to search and read reviews while I am standing there trying to decide on what to buy.  So I read the labels and any employee notes that might be attached to the display (another good source of information).

When I receive a wine as a media sample, however, I have the luxury of reading other reviews while I sip my wine or even as I prepare a blog post.

For this Franciscan Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon there were several other reviews available and I enjoyed reading what they each had written.  The general consensus is that this wine has good body and is full of flavor ranging from vanilla to cherry & plum with hints of tobacco and cocoa.  (By the way, these are some of the descriptors I look for when purchasing a wine.)  I found all of these elements in this wine as well as anise.  The silky texture and the lingering finish put this wine on my “buy list.”  With this Franciscan Estate Cab, you get the taste Napa Valley is famous for without the price tag.

2013-02-11 20.00.05

This wine was a media sample from Franciscan Estate.

Varietal:  85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Syrah, 1% Malbec          Alcohol:  13.5%          Price:  $28

For more reviews about Franciscan Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon:

The Good Wine Guru

The Reverse Wine Snob

Six Pack – Trione Vineyards & Winery

I love a good six-pack! (No, wait, we are supposed to be talking about wine!) 🙂

I actually received a special treat in the mail the other day through Tasting Room (who has recently partnered with Lot 18) with a six-pack of sampler bottles from Trione Vineyards & Winery enclosed.  I was not familiar with Trione Vineyards & Winery but thought it would be fun to do a blog post about all six wines which is their current wine offering through the tasting room.

Trione Sampler

Trione Sampler

For more than 30 years Trione has been growing award-winning grapes for other wineries, then in 2005, decided to take it to the next level and start making their own wines.  What a great business decision!!!

The sampler included their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Chardonnay, their 2008 Syrah, their 2008 Pinot Noir, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and  a 2007 Red Blend.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have probably noticed that I have never reviewed a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris (Grigio).  I have never found one that I like.  The tannic bitter finish and the strong grapefruit taste just turn me off.  So I opened this one with trepidation, hoping to pair it with the right food to make it palatable.

Trione pairings

Trione pairings

The pairing line up consisted of (in order by the picture) a white cheddar, Smithfield spiral cut ham, white cheddar Cheez-It’s, smoked cheddar and bruschetta.  (We will ignore the fact that I was eating alone!)  I was trying to get creative so that I had a pairing for each wine.

Apparently I hit a home run!  The white cheddar and the Sauvignon Blanc were the absolute perfect pairing.  These sample bottles are only a couple of ounces so this first sip paired with this cheese  begged for more.  I begged for more – I could have truly enjoyed a whole bottle!  Yes me, the Red Wine Diva – I could have drunk a whole bottle.  There was no bitter aftertaste, no over-powering tannins, no bitter grapefruit – yeah!!!  The winemaker describes this wine as crisp, but I found it mild and sumptuous, almost a delicacy – one that should be enjoyed by all.  (Trione Sauvignon Blanc – 14.0% alcohol, price – $23).

Next up was the 2009 Chardonnay.  I typically like a Chardonnay, but once again, this one was exceptional.  The smooth buttery, Creme Brulée leads to a long, silky finish.  The winemaker suggest that this wine could actually age another three to five years which speaks highly of his winemaking style.  One of my pairings was a simple brushcetta on an olive oil toasted bread.  Once again, the pairing worked, the wine worked and I highly recommend it!  (14.3% alcohol, price – $30).

Moving on to the 2008 Russian Valley River Pinot Noir, we find classic examples of black cherry and earthiness lending itself to a long, silky finish.  I paired this wine with the Smithfield ham and the Cheez-It crackers.  As a Pinot Noir fan from way back, I can attest that this wine will hold its own in any competition.  You will notice the characteristic watered-down red color of the wine as you pour it which is indicative of any great Pinot. (no winemaker’s notes on the 2008, but the 2009 is 14.3% alochol – price, $35).

Now for the 2008 Syrah.  Syrah has long been a favorite of mine.  The first sip of this wine and I knew I had just tasted a bit of heaven.  Reaching for the smoked cheddar to pair this with, I once again found myself wanting a whole bottle instead of just this 2-ounce sampler.  The smoky cheddar and the ham both melted in my mouth as I paired them with the earthy notes of this smooth, silky wine.  (15.3% alcohol – price, $32).

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon presented itself as a classic bordeaux blend with 10% Merlot and 2.5% of both Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Having been aged for a total of 24 months, this inky colored wine oozes allspice, black currant and clove.  It is bold and commands its place at the table but has a velvety texture and smooth tannins that linger just long enough on the palate to allow you to reach for the glass again.  This wine paired exceptionally well with both the white cheddar and the smoked cheddar as well as the ham.  This is definitely my recommendation for the next “Cabernet Day.”  (14.5% alcohol – price, $64).

Last, but not least, is the Trione 2007 Red Blend – a luxurious wine made in the bordeaux style similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is full-bodied but still balanced with a smooth tannin structure.  The winemaker suggests you could age this wine for 5-10 years.  (14.9% alcohol – price $48).

You can join the Trione Estate Guild wineclub and have these wines delivered directly to your door; and if you are ever in Geyersville, CA, I recommend a visit to their tasting room located at 19550 Geyersville Avenue, Geyersville, CA  95441.

Cabernet Day 2012

Cabernet Day – Thursday, August 30, 2012:  I was really excited about #CabernetDay this year – not sure why, but wanted to make sure I stocked up on Cabernet and participated via twitter.  I actually had my days mixed up and thought the 30th was on Wednesday so driving home from work Tuesday, I decided to go through my wines to see if I even had any Cabernet (Sauvignon, Franc, anything).  I truly thought I didn’t have any at home and would have to stop at the store to pick something up.  So the first thing I did when I got home was to see what the wine rack held in store.  Was I surprised – I had a case and a half of Cabernet Sauvignon from various wineries and quite a selection to choose from.  Some were starting to get a little age on them! 

I had gotten away from drinking Cabernet and had been more focused on Zinfandel, Rose’ and a variety of white wines recently.  Cabernet Day was the perfect opportunity to go back and revisit the wine that used to be my passion.  Once again I am reminded of how great this varietal is and why it deserves its own special day.  As I looked at all these great wines in front of me, I got really excited about the prospects and decided to start Cabernet Day a day (or two) early.  I opted to open a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Series from Childress Vineyards

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon          Alcohol:  13.5%

This is what North Carolina wines are all about!!!  Smooth as silk, plum, black cherry, vanilla and a hint of tobacco – sensory overload!  Unfortunately, I didn’t see this particular wine on their website so I am not sure if you can still get it; but it you ever get a chance to visit Childress Vineyards and Winery, I highly recommend that you do the Signature Tasting so that you can experience the best of what North Carolina has to offer.

Shades of Grey – Wine Pairings

Have you ever had a wine make you moan?
I love pairing wine with the books I am reading.  There is something about picking up a good book that makes me crave a good wine as well, but this is the first time I have ever thought about what wine actually goes with the book.  There are so many great descriptives in Shades of Grey  that describe the wines we all love (used in a different context of course), it would be a shame let them go unnoticed.
Pinot Noir:  Though unpredictable at times, the best Pinot Noirs are seductively enchanting in their intense aromatics, complex flavors and long silky textures.  They have a shimmering medium to dark ruby-red color.  Pinotosity is the unique essence of Pinot Noir.  A Pinot Noir is said to have pinotosity when it is irresistible and brings you to your knees.  Ana had this effect on Christian Grey as he found her completely irresistible from the moment he met her.  
Cabernet Sauvignon:  The flavor profile for Cabernet Sauvignon is highly dependent on the grapes’ ripeness when harvested.  Less ripe grapes tend to have a more vegetal flavor profile such as green peppers, while very ripe grapes may display salacious flavors of jam, black currant, plum and black cherry.  Commonly described flavors include smoke and tobacco.  Oak barrels also play a big role in the flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon bringing out flavors of toast and vanilla – another word used by Christian to describe his “relationship” with Ana.
Zinfandel: Zinfandel comes in a variety of intensity levels creating a flavor profile that is hard to put into words.  A Zinfandel can be a  lighter red fruit-driven wine or a black fruit-backed offering built for aging. Ripe, even jammy fruit is a constant. The seductive taste of  spice – pepper, herb and brown iterations – and vanilla, cola, mocha and toast from oak fill your senses and pair well with the salacious desire Christian and Ana have for each other.
Sauternes: Christian told Ana, “You. Are. So. Sweet.”  It is no wonder that one of his favorite wines was Sauternes, a sweet French wine that is characterized by a balance of sweetness and acidity, a perfect way to describe the struggles of Christian’s “Fifty Shades” as Ana tries to pull him into the light.
Sauvignon Blanc:  Crisp and zingy, this wine is tantalizing just as Ana found it so tantalizing to be close to Christian.  Sauvignon Blanc is one of the easiest varietals to recognize as it typically has an enticing sharp, grassy, grapefruit flavor.  Sauvignon Blancs are very versatile with such crispness that it cleanses the palate.
Pouilly Fume’:  Christian has expensive taste in wine with an extensive wine cellar.  White wines seemed to  be his preference.  This included Pouilly Fume’, a variety of the Sauvignon grape.  Trademarked by mineral and fruity aromas, this wine will leave you feeling satiated on a hot summer day from its fresh, lively flavor.  
Wine – erotic, sensual, delectable, exquisite – and it pairs well with Shades of Grey!

Boxed Wine Gets a Make-Over

This wine was a media sample from Cal Naturale

A few years ago before I had developed my passion for wine, I worked with a person who loved wine.  He drank wine every evening, but he didn’t believe in drinking “good” wine.  I don’t know if he was just cheap or if he preferred boxed wine.  I won’t call the wine by name, but it was probably the first wine to come in a box.  At that point in my life I failed to see how efficient boxed wines could be.

Then came the Red Truck Mini Barrel.  I read an article in Food & Wine Magazine about how good these wines were and how the system kept the wine fresh for days.  So the next time I went to our local Sam’s warehouse store, they had the Red Truck Mini Barrels and I just had to have one.  For the grand price of $19.99 we got the equivalent of four (4) bottles of wine in a great recyclable plastic barrel.  And the wine was good – as good as the bottled Red Truck I had tasted.  I had some friends though who snubbed their nose at it.

Fast forward another 2-3 years and boxed wine is really in vogue and being written about by some of the best writers in the wine industry. One of the best boxed wines to come out of California is CalNaturale.  I received this sample at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia in July, 2011, which means I kept it cellared 10 months.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and full-bodied, inky black and jammy with a wonderfully long finish.  The wine comes in a Tetra Pak which is similar to a milk carton, screw cap and all.  This allows for easy resealing of the wine, but I couldn’t find anything that suggested how long the wine would keep once it had been opened.  I kept mine for 3 days with no problem.  Not sure what I expected when I first opened it, but what hit my glass was a pleasant surprise. 

Boxed wines today are popular due to organic farming and wine production as well as saving the environment.  If the quality is there, do we have to have the prestige of the bottle? 

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon                        Alcohol: 13.8%                         

To read more about CalNaturale and the Red Truck Mini Barrel

NC Holiday Wine Project – #7

Oh the weather outside is frightful, 
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Don’t you just love snow!?!?!  I do – whether I am out playing in it or inside by the fireplace (which may become a theme of my posts over the next few weeks) just watching through the window, I think snow is beautiful.  In one sense it awakens the inner child in me and in another sense it awakens the romantic in me. 

So the next question is, “What kind of wine do we pair with snow?”  And the answer is, “Anything you like!”

So how about a mulled wine?  Mulled wine is the wine lover’s version of hot spiced tea.  I have found a great recipe on Food Network’s website.  (There are actually several).  I won’t try to tell you which one to use, but regardless of which recipe you try, this is the wine you should use.  Shadow Springs Vineyard has created a special Holiday wine, Merry Mist.  This delightful wine is a lightly oaked Cabernet Sauvignon that has been infused with cranberry and orange.  It has 3.5% residual sugar as well.  In other words, half the recipe is already in the bottle!  You can do something elaborate with this wine or you can simply heat it and stir/serve it with a cinnamon stick.

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon (infused with cranberry and orange)

Alcohol: 12.5%

Residual Sugar: 3.5%

Price: $14.00

NC Holiday Wine Project – #6

Here’s the REAL secret to pairing wine: If you like it, then your pairing works.  You don’t need a sommelier or the winemaker to tell you that it is good.  It just is!  A sommelier or a winemaker might make a suggestion that you hadn’t thought of, but nothing is carved in stone when it comes to pairing a wine you like with a food you like.

You definitely don’t have to have company to prepare something delicious to munch on this time of year. There is just something about sitting cozily by the fireplace that makes me want to eat rich, decadent foods and/or comfort foods.  One of my favorite comfort foods is Sausage Balls, one of my favorite wines is Cabernet Sauvignon – so why not pair the two. 

I dropped by Raylen Vineyards today to do a wine tasting for the NC Holiday Wine Project and couldn’t wait to get home with this 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with the few sausage balls we had left in the fridge – and what a pairing!  The spice in the sausage brought out the spice in the wine making this a natural pairing.  This wine is rich with complex flavors of clove and chocolate which also makes it a perfect pairing for a holiday ham.  And if you are planning a holiday brunch, pull out this wine to pair with country ham and biscuit or with Quiche.  You might want to even try a dollop of raspberry jam on that ham and biscuit.


Side Bar: This wine just won the prestigious award, “Best in Show” at the North Carolina State Fair.  This award isn’t give out lightly.  And the trophy isn’t the Winery’s to keep.  Like the Stanley Cup trophy in hockey, this trophy moves from winery to winery each year.  Congratulations to Raylen Vineyards for winning Best in Show, 2011.  This Cabernet Sauvignon went up against 443 other wines and came out on top! 

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: $15.99

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