29 Nov 2009
Over the last few months I’ve read hundreds of wine pairings from great bloggers around the world (wide web). The general concensus of Thanksgiving pairings included a Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. While I respect the opinions of those blogs and I learned a great deal, the best advice I heard was from TheWineWhore who encouraged, “drink what you like.”
Our Thanksgiving adventure began with driving to Portland, OR from Spokane, WA. After 5 hours and 20 minutes in the car (impressive to those that know), we arrived ready to celebrate with family and with wine. Below is a recap of the five wines we enjoyed.
Frontera Cabernet Merlot Blend – $3
Okay, before you judge me and discredit this blog – it was offered to us by my Father in-law. In the spirit of diplomacy, I partook. It wasn’t Boone’s Farm but it was dull, bland, watery, and lifeless. If you’re in the need for a $3 bottle of wine, it’ll do but otherwise drink grape juice instead.
Thursday (Turkey Day)
2008 J Bookwalter Tercet (Roussane / Marsanne / Muscat) – $18
We brought this Columbia Valley, WA white blend from our Woodinville tasting trip. This was a great starting wine for the night. Very flowery roses, lemon and vanilla for the smell. The sip was crisp and believe it or not had hints of pumpkin pie (nutmeg and vanilla). The wine was overwhelmed by the sweet potatoes but held up well with the turkey, stuffing and cranberry. P.S. It is the only J Bookwalter white that is not sold out.
2008 Cline Cellars Cashmere (Mourvedre / Grenache / Syrah) – $21
Like the Led Zeppelin song of the same name this wine is big, bold and complex. This blend supporting the breast cancer network comes off very fruity on the sniff but the sip provides a balance of plum, pepper and cocoa. The Sonoma Valley, CA wine clashed with the cranberry but paired well with the mashed potatoes, gravy and green been caserole. Definitely want to find this wine again to try with pork, lamb or heavy pasta. Cline Cellars
2007 Pillar Box Red (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) $10 or less
The big fruit forward selection is a bargain from your local Costco. The fruitiness of the Shiraz was balanced out by the spice and boldness of the Cab. The sniff was not as complex as the previous wine and the finish had the most tannin. Pillar Box Red felt chewy when drank alone but pairing with the turkey, stuffing, and later the cheesecake it came alive nicely. The 90 point score in Wine Advocate seems a few points high but I will definitely pick this bottle up on the next trip to Costco.
2008 Oregon Pinot Noir – $13
This ‘best selling Pinot in Portland’ was the last of the Thanksgiving wines to be opened. The only thing paired with this wine was great conversation over global warming, health care, and my last piece of Eggnog cheesecake. At $13, Eola Hills Pinot was the hands down best value. The swirl was the lightest of all the wines we tried, translucent and brilliant. The cherry, vanilla smell reminded me of Cherry Dr. Pepper. The sip was light bodied with good tannin structure on the back end. Admittedly, I am not a Pinot lover, nor do I have vast experience in tasting them, but this wine scored high with me.
For the most part we bucked conventional wisdom. The wines we gave thanks over were chosen because they were ‘liked’ by the people who brought them. TheWineWhore’s advice is the best – drink what you like. If you don’t know what you like or have fears over food pairings, check out the hundreds of amazing reviewers out there (some are on my blog roll to the left).
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
25 Nov 2009
Simply the most beautiful place that I’ve ever tasted wine!
I’m not a world traveler. I’ve never been outside the US, unless you count downtown San Francisco – okay, I’ve been to Canada but not the cool parts. I hear great things about wine tasting in Napa. I’m sure tasting rooms in Northern Nevada and the East Coast are tops too. From my limited experience (5 regions in WA), Lake Chelan AVA is tops! The majority of the wineries are small lot makers of 5000 cases or less that either grow their own grapes or source from local Columbia Valley or Walla Walla. These are passionate people who have yet to be consumed by the lust of big money and big business!
Kimberly and I enjoyed this trip so much that we have already planned a return trip in May, 2010.
Washington’s youngest AVA (American Viticulture Association), born in May, 2009 boasts 14 wineries. If I were a betting man and had any money to bet, I would put a C-Note down that in 3 years or less you’ll see no less than 30 wineries and tasting rooms in the area.
Of the 12 wineries we visited (sorry to say we missed 2), it was truly difficult to pick our favorites. We loved the personality of Nefarious, the grand tasting room of Benson, the grounds and atmosphere of Vin du Lac, the sexy story behind Hard Row to Hoe, and the impressive underground cave of Karma! However the WINE is the most important part. While we purchase wine at EVERY place we visit, there are a few that lose their appeal when leaving the sunny slopes of the mountain lake.
The Nefarious Cellars wines were amazing. We only purchased the whites (there must’ve been a reason for that – either we didn’t like the reds or they were already sold out). Heather and Dean Neff (owners and wine makers) create a personal wine that reflects their own individual passions using grapes grown on their plots of land or from respected vineyards in WA. The video review shares more of their information and the review of their white blend, 2008 Consequence. The wine, nearly a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Aligote (some Viognier thrown in), gave me an opportunity to try a varietal that I’ve never experienced in the Aligote. My research found that this grape, mostly grown in France as a blending grape has a good sparkling quality to it. This wine is definitely crisp and refreshing. Makes me wish I would’ve opened it in the summer. The 350 cases of Consequence are now sold out.
I typically do my reviews first and then double-check my work with other tasting notes and reviewers to see if I’m full of it. We enjoyed a glass with a Roasted Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes on a bed of veggies. The wine paired well with the dish and didn’t shrink away.
- The Swirl: Lighter than a Chardonnay but not as light as a Sauvignon Blanc
- The Sniff: At first I smelled pears, citrus fruits and rockyness. My wife said she got the smell of butter, like movie theater butter (not the popcorn, just the butter)
- The Sip: Crisp, like biting into a crunchy pear or apple. It felt like a non-oaked Chardonnay with more citrus to it. During my video tasting I mentioned the lack of acidity or finish, but after taking the final glass to the hot tub, I must contradict myself. The structure began to come through after sitting out and being just below room temp (maybe 60 degrees)
- Price to Value Ratio: ($17) $$$$+ If this wine were over $20, I would not score so high. Great value only if you like the style I’ve described.
For me, if you love crisp wines that are not too dry and not too sweet, this is a great buy (if you can find any). If you’re in the mood for something with strong passionate flavor and acidity, then skip it.
DOTD? Currently, while I write, I’m having a Widmer Brothers Drop Top Amber Ale. Soon, I’ll be examining our wine selection to see what wine to take on our Thanksgiving trip with family. You?
While away for Thanksgiving, I’ll try to put together an on the spot Thanksgiving review of the wines other people brought and get candid response from some family members.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
20 Nov 2009
What do you get when you combine high fruit, high sugar, high alcohol, high flavor, and traditionally smooth flavor?
My favorite wine varietal.
Some oenophile’s think Zinfandels are too sweet to be considered among the elite, but the grape that makes up 10% of the California production is a complex, challenging grape to coax consistent flavor out of.
Tonight the everyday man Zinfandel gauntlet is thrown down. Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Brett Hart in a cage match to the death. Okay, so no death was involved, but this taste test certainly exposes three under $20 Zinfandel wines! Check out the NectarView and tasting notes!
- Swirl – Light in color, could see all the way to the bottom of the glass.
- Sniff - Aromatically challenged with hints of pepper and red fruit, cherry and strawberry.
- Swirl – More pepper than fruit on the front; fruit comes through on the back. Like biting into a sweeter green pepper with a mild cherry finish. Not enough acidity to compete with the big boys.
- Price to Value Ratio: $$$+
For $8, the wine wasn’t offensive or negative in taste. Overall there wasn’t anything exciting to write home about. Your everyday Hulk Hogan wine that has a lot of talk but not much substance.
- Swirl: Darker plum in color with slight cloudiness, mild legs representing mild acidity
- Sniff: Musty wet basement smell was overwhelming. With effort a little bit of spice comes through. Pretty offensive to the nose
- Sip: Now the fruit, strawberry and cherry, comes through. More acidity and tannin on the finish
- Price to Value Ratio: $ – Not recommended. Could be an issue of poor storage or a bad bottle, but the musty smell was difficult to overcome.
Like Rowdy Roddy Piper very offensive, but tries to compete with the big boys.
- Swirl: Dark pearlescent plum color with good color. Good strong legs representing good acidity
- Sniff: Wow, before I even put my nose in the glass I could smell the amazing berry fruits – especially strawberry. More investigation revealed more mild pepper, rhubarb cinnamon and vanilla – it smelled like I was going to bite into a freshly made strawberry rhubarb pie.
- Sip: The flavor did not disappoint. Just beyond the berry was a great cinnamon flavor paired with just enough spice and acidity to cut through a roast, pizza, or turkey dinner. Would even be a great dessert wine!
- Price to Value Ratio: $$$$ – Maybe not an everyday value for those on a budget, but definitely a crowd pleaser for the holidays or to show your wine sophistication.
One again Brett Hart shows everyone up as the best and most entertaining of the bunch.
Overall, this was the most interesting taste review. It was super cool to have three different price points side by side to explore the grape quality and wine making quality differences.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
18 Nov 2009
Recently my wife and I spent 3 days in Woodinville, WA. We’re trying to make our way to all the appellations and wine meccas of WA and were excited to visit the area.
Woodinville is home to two of Washington’s largest (Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Winery) These two building dominate the landscape, however, the shining stars can be found in the small strip malls and the industrial warehouse district. We purchased more wine on this trip than on our previous 4 trips and the winery that captured our imagination and taste was Alexandria Nicole.
I love the business of wine and pairing the experience with the flavor. When I say that ANC (@ancwine - twitter) was our favorite, it’s because the combination of the wine flavor, the employee’s personality, the building decor and the obvious passion that came across from everyone we met.
Hidden within the maze of white industrial space is the gem of Woodinville! When entering the tasting room you are greeted with simple, warm decor, and a beautiful slab granite tasting area. Beyond the main area is a fantastically decorated meeting space, wine club member area for tasting and events. The hosts were extremely informative and the love of their work came through. We tasted all they had to offer and purchased a little of each.
The other evening we were asked to bring a good wine to dinner. I really wanted to drink the Crawford Viognier and even though the pairing with Jambalaya didn’t seem quite right, I thought the Viognier would hold up well to the spice in the dish. Although I was slightly off with my pairing, I thoroughly enjoyed the wine (the dish was much more tomato based and not nearly as spicy – a Cabernet Sauvignon or even a Pinot Noir would have stood up better).
2008 Crawford Estate Alexandria Nicole Viognier - Columbia Valley $20
- Swirl: Very light in color, pale and clear – can tell just from the swirl that this is going to be crisp and refreshing
- Sniff: Wow, extremely potent with citrus, peach and melon, minimal floral scent (reminiscent of Hawaii)
- Sip: Tasted more of an apple crisp, like having an apple cobbler of some sort including the vanilla ice cream, extremely crisp. could drink the whole bottle by the fire on a cool September evening. Mild alcohol aftertaste but not enough to deter from the flavor. Only flaw is the flavor trails off quickly.
- The Score: At $20 I can easily score this a 4 (at the $15 range would make this easily a 5)
This wine scored 91 from Wine Spectator and definitely deserves that rating. I’m looking forward to our next trip and the next bottle in the rack.
2007 Alexandria Nicole Gravity Merlot
- The Swirl: Dark plum in the center with a light ruby at glass edge. No visible sign of legs
- The Sniff: Spicy leather and cherries jubilee with some chocolate shavings on top.
- The Sip: Good tannins but presented a mild hot alcohol on the back end. Not a typical smooth Merlot, had a big bold taste.
- The Score: At $24, I score this a 3+. It’s a well made wine but seemed a little off balance to score as a 4 or higher.
Other scores were found on Cork’d as a 91 and on Cellar Tracker as a 86.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
17 Nov 2009
Now, I’m on a quest; the quest to find three good wines under $10 (maybe even under $7). Tonight, I must say, I took one for the team. It’s no secret that we drink wine. admittedly we probably drink over 200 bottles a year. My budget says, I can’t be drinking $20+ bottles every night (somewhere north of $4,000). If you’re like me, we need a few great selections we can trust. Good staples are a smooth, sweeter red, a spicy meaty red, a crisp full white, and a sweet summer white. We need that $7 trustworthy wine for daily use.
The Rocket Market (726 E 43rd Ave) is a great place to try new wines. You can count on them to have hundreds of bottles to choose from ranging from $5 – $105.
Tonight I reviewed three wines available for under $7 with hopes that one could be added to the “trusted” list.
2008 Estrella White Blend; California $5
With no pronounced varietals, I didn’t expect much, other than a white grape bland wine. I was pleasantly surprised.
- Swirl: Good crisp color darker than a Sauvignon Blanc, but lighter than a Chardonnay
- Sniff: Crisp nose with strong butter reminiscent of a Chardonnay. In the video I mentioned a peach smell, but after a few more sips, the strong flavor is apple, and a mild citric.
- Sip: Butter smell carried over to the flavor. Really noticed the citric flavor here too with mild vanilla on the back end. The finish was mild without overbearing alcohol.
- Price to Value Rating: $$$$ – this is a pretty darn good value. Not a ton of structure or distinguishing flavor, but nothing offensive either.
2008 Estrella Red Table Wine; California $5
- Swirl: Cloudy purple color, weak legs
- Sniff: Fruit forward, jammy smell, a little spice on the back end. Reminiscent of a Australian Syrah
- Sip: Ick, Sugar water, weak grape juice on the front end, more structure as it sits but the best it could do is dark blackberry, strong alcohol leaving me with a chewy tongue
- Price to Value Rating: $+, skip this one and keep searching
2008 Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon
- Swirl: More structure to the color, nearly see to bottom of glass, no legs
- Sniff: Not very strong with moderate spice and pepper
- Sip: A decent structure, not overpowering or overly-meaty like some Cabs. A mild alcohol finish. Should be consumed with food but not too over powering to be drank alone
- Price to Value Rating: $$$ – This wine is almost there but not quite the one to add to the trusted list. If you’re in need of a decent burger wine, this could work.
After tonight’s adventure, the journey continues. I would safely add the Estrella White table wine to my list of trusted under $10, but there are already a few there. The quest continues.
Enjoy life with friends and <drink.happy>