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.


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!

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

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

Mira Winery Makes History with Aquaoir

Mira Winery Makes History after Successfully Recovering Wine Aged in Charleston Harbor

Taste Test Reveals How Quickly Two Wines Changed Paths


Charleston, S.C. (May 22, 2013) – Mira Winery concluded a historic three-month experiment in the Charleston, S.C. Harbor Tuesday, May 21, 2013 when the Napa-based producer of fine wines recovered four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from 60 feet below in the Atlantic Ocean. Mira is the first American winery to successfully experiment with aging wine in the ocean.

“There is no doubt that the ocean holds a potential gift to wine,” said Mira Winery President, Jim “Bear” Dyke Jr. “The success of Phase I makes us more committed than ever to going back down in the fall with twice the cages for twice the time.”

In February, Mira Winery began Phase I of its project by submerging cages filled with its wine to test how it would be affected if aged in the ocean, experimenting with the major elements that can affect aging — temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, light – or lack thereof – and oxygen. The experiment follows generations of European wineries that have explored the ocean’s impact on wine.

Mira Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez, and Communion Wine Club Advanced Sommelier Patrick Emerson first tasted the wine before sharing the results on a conference call with Mira Wine Club Members.

“In full disclosure, I am a big fan of the control wine which was on land,” said Emerson. “I am quite surprised – shocked at how quickly these two wines have changed paths – something magical has happened with Aquaoir. The signature difference might be in the riddling motion of the tides.”

“It’s not better, its not worse and it is definitely different,” said Gustavo Gonzalez. “The land wine is tighter versus Aquaoir aged wine which is more complex and broad, more open and relaxed. The result is proof certain that we have more to learn.”

Mira Winery will share temperature readings and other information from Phase I on its website at Twelve bottles of the wine will be sold via the website exclusively to Wine Club Members, beginning July 1, 2013 on a first come basis.

Mira Winery, launched in September 2012, employs the craftsmanship of Napa Valley 100-point Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez. Mira’s wine was most recently rated by Wine Enthusiast with the 2010 Pinot Noir receiving 94 points and named “Editors’ Choice” and the 2009 Syrah receiving 92 points. Mira prioritizes craftsmanship over production, yielding handcrafted, small production wines that can be found in fine dining restaurants throughout CA, Charleston, S.C., Palm Beach, FL and Washington, D.C. and at

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

first bottle

First bottle retrieved after 3-month Aquaoir aging.

G during taste testing

Gustavo Gonzales

About Mira Winery

Mira Winery produces Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Red Wine, Rose, White Wine, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Napa Valley. Old world tradition meets new world techniques.

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

Wine-Stained Fingerprints

“The bare essentials packed into a small bag.  A man on the run; toothbrush, a change of clothes, cash and a few bottles of wine.  Not just any wine – the wine you drink when you know it may be your last.”  Introducing The Fugitive, a full-bodied red blend offered by Truett Hurst.

picture045 picture044

Going incognito with the face intentionally left blank, the only way this Fugitive will be caught is by his wine-stained fingerprints all over the label.

Sealed with a real cork, you get numerous suggestions imprinted on the cork on how to disguise yourself as you make your escape into the world of the Fugitive – although I don’t think I would ever really try burning the end of the cork in order to draw a fake moustache on my face.  To each his own.

A daring red blend, this wine is worth capturing.  It is full of flavor.  It pours a deep purple in the glass and has flavors of dark plum, spice and black pepper.

Truett Hurst is one of two wine clubs that I belong to.  Wine club members were offered this wine (2011 Fugitive) by the case at a 50% discount as they were preparing room for the 2012 vintage and I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Varietal:  Red Blend          Alcohol:  14.8%          Price:  $28

Bear & Crown Cuveé

Bear & Crown Cuveé is a remarkable white wine blend created by winemaker Robert Langton exclusively for Naked Wines.   I actually bought this wine well over a year ago after receiving a Naked Wines gift card at the 2011 Wine Blogger’s Conference.  Apparently the main grape in this blend is Sauvignon Blanc – the blending part is attributable to the fact that the wine is made of three different vintages (which would be why there is no year on the label) from a variety of barrel lots and a variety of vineyards.  That was as close as I could get to deciphering the actual blend.  The tanks must be stamped with a huge red seal proclaiming “Top Secret.”  But then when you have this kind of winner, why wouldn’t you keep the blend a secret?  The next question is, though, can this success be repeated???

With soft floral notes on the nose and vibrant tropical fruit on the palate, this is the kind of wine that Naked Wines has become famous for.  This one definitely gets a “Thumb’s Up!”

Bear & Crown

Variety:  Sauvignon Blanc          Alcohol:  14.5%          Angel Price:  $15.99

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 1

We have a (fairly) new Trader Joe’s here in Winston Salem.  Although it has been her for a few months now, I just had my first shopping experience there Saturday.  I was anxious to see their wines.  I have never bought wine at Trader Joe’s before, but I have read some reviews and seen comments on Twitter – some good, some not so good. I will review each of the wines I bought hoping to give some valuable insight on what you can expect when you shop at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's

My first Trader Joe’s wine – 2011 Tribunal Red (Tribunal Cellars made and bottled by Kunde Estates).

The person that helped me with my wine selections at Trader Joe’s explained that the store actually oversees the making of most their wines through various wineries working closely with each winemaker, tasting and blending until they get it right.  So in researching Tribunal, I did see on the Snooth website that this was bottled by Kunde Estates; which is one of my favorite wineries and one of only two wine clubs that I belong to.  This might explain why I really liked this wine.

I fell in love with this Tribunal.  It seems recently that I haven’t been able to find a wine that hit the palate just right, so it was leaving me with a craving.  Well this did it!  From the reading I was doing about this wine, it appears that it is a TJ favorite with a lot of their customers and they tend to run out of it for months at a time.  (Enough research on that, I headed back to TJ’s the next day and bought a case.)  I’m anxious to try the other wines I have purchased at TJ’s.  I am sure they won’t all measure up to this, but it is really nice to find a few good wines under $10 to stock up on.

I found my favorite flavor profile in this wine: leather, cherry, chocolate.  It was smooth and bursting with flavor that lingered just long enough on the palate.

One wine down, six to go and so far, a “thumb’s up!”

Varietal:  A mystery Sonoma “red blend”          Alcohol:  15.1%          Price:  $9.99

To read more about the wines offered at Trader Joes read, “TJWineCommunity – Recommendations of Trader Joe’s Wines.”

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