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!


Collectible Wines or Just a Keepsake

How many of you go out and buy a special wine to celebrate the birth of your child?  It seems to be a fairly common tradition.  Do you drink the wine?  Now?  Later?  On his or her first birthday?  Or do you save it to give to your child when he or she becomes an adult?

Hubby and I started down this wine path together when we first started dating 17 years ago.  I branched off and took it to a different level while he chose to remain  a recreational wine connoisseur.  However, years ago he was one of those parents who thought it would be really cool to buy a bottle of wine from the year of your child’s birth.  Hubby had two sons with the younger of the two being born in 1989.  Hubby rushed out to find a 1989 wine he could keep until Justin turned 21 and they could drink it together.  While he was shopping for wine he decided to look for a 1985 wine as well for his older son whom he had adopted only a few months earlier.  Those wines managed to find their way to my house several years later.  Sadly, though, they had never been stored properly and to add to that, the 1985 was a Chenin Blanc and was already 13 years old.


Rolling forward another few years and I now have wine that is 28 years old.  You can tell by looking through the green glass that the wine is dark brown and most likely pure vinegar, but we wouldn’t get rid of it for anything.  It appears that Christian Brothers Winery no longer exists.  So this wine may not be drinkable, but it is definitely a collectible.

The second wine Hubby picked up that day was a 1989 Sebastiani Merlot.  Although Sebastiani is still around, the winery has changed hands and is no longer run by the Sebastiani family.  Using all my favorite wine search websites, I looked for this one in vain.  All I can figure out is that maybe it wasn’t meant to be aged.  But here, once again, since this wine wasn’t stored properly, it would have never been drinkable after 24 years.  Another great collectible though.


Last, but not least we have a 1981 Ersekhalom-Bischofsberger (Hungarian Spatburgunder) which is actually a Hungarian Pinot Noir.  It appears that this wine would have aged graciously had it been stored properly.  You can find it listed on Cellar Tracker.  This one came from my in-laws.  In the early 80’s, they went through a phase of drinking wine.  There were no wineries or wine stores in their area, so the “wine party at home” concept was born.  They would attend these parties and have wine shipped in.  Once the parties lost their thrill and the desire for wine faded, they just kept the wine in their basement.  When they found that hubby and I were into wine, they brought us their leftovers.  We were actually such novices that we thought we might be able to drink it.  🙂  All I can say is that I am REALLY glad hubby tasted it first!!!


ancient wines

So this is my “ancient” wine collection.  It has no real value, but the intent was sincere when the wines were purchased.  Now they are just a keepsake.  I doubt the boys even know we have these wines from their birth years.  I foresee a special place for all of them on a display shelf at the new wine bar though.  It is one of those things that just makes you smile.

Burgers and Bubbles

This Champagne was a media sample from the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

Until recently I thought champagne and sparkling wines were only drank when celebrating.  It didn’t matter what you were celebrating, you just had to be celebrating.  But thanks to social media, I have come to realize that champagne, like wine, is meant to be enjoyed any day.  You don’t need a special reason, you just need to open the bottle!  The champagne makes the day/event special.

I am really glad I came to this realization, as I have a few bottles of Champagne and sparkling wine I need to review.

hamburgerA couple of nights ago, I decided to pop (literally) open a bottle of sparkling wine from McGregor Vineyards.  I had actually been thinking about having sparkling wine all day.  So when I started home from work, I had to come up with a pairing.  I decided what better way to celebrate Finger Lakes Sparkling wines than with a traditional American hamburger.  And it worked – everything tasted better with this pairing.  the burger tasted better because of the sparkling wine and the sparkling wine tasted better because of the burger.  I think we have a winner!!!

2013-04-07 17.47.00

The McGregor 2008 Blanc d’ Noir is a 100% estate grown Pinot Noir sparkling wine made in the méthode Champenoise tradition. It is a complex and rich sparkler bursting with Pinot Noir fruit character, lingering tiny bubbles and a long finish. The experience is full, intense and even more gratifying with fine foods.  (quote from McGregor website).

There are several champagne mixers you can create that add even more variety to when and where you could drink champagne or sparkling wine.  The most famous is the Mimosa – simply combining Champagne with orange juice, but you can mix it up and try substituting Sprite for the orange juice and adding some sweetened strawberries for a refreshing afternoon take on the mimosa.  What a great way to cool off on a hot, humid summer day.You could also pour a glass of champagne and add an ounce of simple syrup and crushed, sweetened blackberries.

No matter how you blend it or mix it, make champagne and sparkling wine a staple in your house.  Have it readily available to serve friends when they drop by unexpectedly or to serve with that burger hot off the grill on any given night.  Champagne makes any day and any occasion a special event.

Varietal:  Pinot Noir          Alcohol:  13%          Price:  $29.99

Cherry Pie

Explore Italian wines from Abruzzi to Veneto.


Truett Hurst 2011 Pinot Noir

Truett Hurst 2011 Pinot Noir

I know it’s only Monday, but one sip of this wine and my mind transported me to Friday.  It was like I was like I was starting my weekend.

This is a fabulous Pinot Noir from Truett Hurst.  Truett Hurst is one of only two wine clubs I belong to.  I so look forward to their quarterly shipments.  I don’t pay any shipping charges, get great wines and a special little gift enclosed with each shipment.  I wait with anticipation to see what my extra gift is with each shipment.  I have gotten things such as olive oil, grape seed oil, a specialty lilac salt, honey – always a special treat from a local Sonoma/Dry Creek artisan or farmer.  And of course, I get the wine!

I used to be very stingy with these wines fearing that I might run out before the next shipment and I can’t buy them anywhere!  I have been stingy enough, that I have actually accumulated a few bottles.  🙂  Truett Hurst wines always impress.  I always know without a doubt that these wines will have depth and character and that there is always one that will pair with dinner!

Tonight we chose the 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  Have you ever heard of the moonshine called, “Apple Pie?”  (That’s another blog post for another time!)  Well, this wine could easily be called Cherry Pie.  It is a wonderfully tart cherry pie with hints of vanilla and butterscotch on the finish.  On the nose I get an earthy raspberry.

Varietal: Pinot Noir          Alcohol:  14.8%          Price: $40

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.

Soaring High – Highflyer Pinot Noir

This wine was a media sample from Somerston Wine Company.

One of the things about wine that amazes me is how our palate constantly evolves.  A few years ago I developed an affinity for Pinot Noir.  I think this was after my love of Cabernet Sauvignon and before my love for Zinfandel.  Even though my evolution continues, I find that I can still fall back to one of these old favorites and it is like putting on that sweater you’ve had for at least ten years but just can’t bring yourself to get rid of.  Its comforting.  It brings back memories and stories and a smile.

What I thought when I received this bottle of 2009 Highflyer Pinot Noir from Somerston Wine Company was, “Wow – it’s been a while since I tasted a Pinot.”  And then I found myself really looking forward to it!  I actually received three different wines from the Highflyer line and I have been impressed with all of them.  (Highlyer Centerline  and Highflyer Grenache Blanc)

The grapes for this wine were harvested from a vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands where they are known for “bolder character and elegant flavor.”  This Pinot was a deeper color than some Pinots and was bursting with flavors of dark stone fruit and earth.

Varietal: Pinot Noir          Alcohol:  14.5%          Price:  $38

Although Somerston Wines are not sold at retail locations, you can make reservations for a visit to Somerston Estate and enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the vineyard.  You will be able to purchase wines at the Estate.  You can also join one of the wine clubs and receive Somerston Wines before they are ever released as well as get discounts on exclusive Somerston Experiences.

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!

NC Holiday Wine Project – #5

This wine was a media sample provided by Iron Gate Winery

Red is my favorite color – in everything, especially wine!  And this wine, Blessings, is the most beautiful ruby-red wine.   It is a Pinot Noir that has been infused with cranberry making it the perfect pairing for your holiday meal of turkey, dressing and cranberry salad.  A holiday special from Iron Gate Winery , this semi-sweet wine will pair with most anything and will please even the most discerning guest.  Add some mulling spices and this wine will take the chill off as you and your family and friends come in out of the cold.  It is a great gift wine as well!


Varietal:  Pinot Noir (infused with cranberry) 

Alcohol: 9%

Residual Sugar: 4%

Price: $12.85 (10% discount on case purchases)

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