Thursday, April 30, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Wine with the best of friends - Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel

Plungerhead Old Vine ZinfandelThere are friends that will be forever friends, no matter how often or little you actually see them in person. I am blessed to have found a number of friends like that and they're from all different times in my life. They are from high school, college, my early married days and from work.  But, since it's been many (ouch) years since I have left college, you can imagine how special those friendships are to me.

One college friend gets out my way once a year or so on business. And although I am honored to call her friend, that word just doesn't do justice to the 30+ (ouch again) years we have known each other. We met my sophomore year and her freshman year, in our sorority. And realized that both of us had traveled hundreds of miles to Chicago and become friends when we grew up just 40 minutes from each other in...New Jersey!! A Jersey girl!! Kindred spirits. She became my pledge daughter (today the term is "Little" and "Big"), and subsequently, one of my closest friends. We went on spring break together, got to know each other's families, despaired over boys... Did I mention that she was also my maid of honor and I was one of her bridesmaids? And that after one huge, tight, heart-to-heart hug, we can pick up with each other no matter how many miles and how much time have separated us? Yup, it's just like that.

So when she hit town a few weeks ago, we met for dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants. Full disclosure: we shut the place down. How can you put a time limit on the catching up that two born and bred Jersey girls must do? Well, closing time did that, actually, and I'd like to once again thank the staff of that lovely restaurant for being so nice and not throwing dirty silverware at us to get us to leave. They were very civil.
Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel label
Close up of funny label.

And they kept the wine coming! Well, I guess to be technically correct, I started it by picking out a bottle of one of my favorite varietals: an Old Vine Zinfandel. It helped that it was from one of favorite wine locales, too: Lodi, California. And that it had a funny label.

The wine in question is Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel (2011, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). I have seen this wine around for a while and when I saw it on the wine list, I decided that it was high time to try it (plus my Winey Friend and I love our red wine).  It's 85% Zinfandel and is enhanced with
6% Barbera, 5% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah and 2% Tempranillo.  The nose is full of cherry wood smoke and blackberry. In the mouth we got black cherry, mocha and a mix of green spices and herbs that I have heard called "Lodi spice". The finish was cherry chocolate and oak. Simply everything I adore about my Lodi Zins. We both loved it.

Since that dinner, I have actually gone out and bought more of Plungerhead because it was that good.  It runs about $13 a bottle, give or take a dollar or so. I am going to buy it again and again too, because I think this would be a great wine to serve at a dinner party. It would pair well with lots of different foods and would please a whole range of red wine sippers. 

Cheers to lifelong friends, and cheers to you all!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: 3 Girls Red Blend and Some Air Please

I know that we all need oxygen and the air it resides in order to live. But I learned a big lesson when I started sipping a red blend recently: wine needs oxygen and air more than we do. Not always, mind you. But when a red wine needs to breathe - you'd better let it breathe. Or waste a perfectly good bottle of vino.

This lesson came to me courtesy of 3 Girls Red Blend (2012, 13.5%, Lodi, CA). This wine is named in honor of three daughters of the owners of Oak Ridge Winery, located in Lodi, California, one of my favorite areas for red wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Merlot, which usually makes me very, very happy.

3 Girls Red Blend wineI say usually, because to my discredit, I was born without the gene for patience. Yeah, I'm not alone either, from what I can tell. At least in my immediate family anyway. OK, moving on. So if you aren't a normally patient person, the concept of opening a bottle of wine and not being able to pour and sip as soon as you want to, instead of waiting for the wine to "breathe", is a bit foreign. I thought I had this issue solved with the purchase of a wine aerator, but sometimes even that doesn't help. You just need to let the wine gets its dose of oxygen the good old-fashioned way: time outside the bottle. Preferably in a really cool decanter.

This was one of those times. My first sniff of 3 Sisters brought out aromas of cherries and cherry syrup. The first taste brought flavors of chocolate cherry and mocha followed by some earthy spices. It was rather warm at the end of it all, so I wouldn't call it a very balanced wine. It was just okay, and I was a little disappointed because I have such high standards for my beloved Lodi wines.

As luck (or life) would have it, I was interrupted in my sipping and came back a while later to a totally different wine. That breathing time (about 90  minutes) opened the flavors of the wine up, smoothed them out into a luscious taste and brought out some yummy richness to the overall feel of the wine.

There was my Lodi red - all fruit forward and mocha-y and with a hint of that wonderful "Lodi spice" at the end of it all. The warmth was gone - replaced with smooth tannins that added to the overall flavor.

You can find 3 Girls at World Market or through certain online wine sites. You won't find it on the Oak Ridge Winery website, which kind of bugged me, but when I realized it was a World Market exclusive, it made sense.

Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine ZinfandelOddly enough, I had recently purchased a bottle of Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (2012, 13%, Lodi, CA), not realizing that it too was made by Oak Ridge Winery. When I realized it was, and looked back at my notes on it, the first thing I wrote was "needs aerating". Hmm...sensing a pattern here. Because the flavors of cranberry, smoke, earth and dark green herbs just weren't working for me. And usually they do. I also noted that there was "a lot going on here...almost a Pinot Noir in its lightness".

So I think, in the interest of fairness (and having a great excuse to buy another bottle), I should go out and procure another 750 ml of this Old Vine Zin, open it, LET IT BREATHE, and then taste it again.
I'm just fair like that. Not patient, but fair.


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Monday, April 6, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Celebrating Little Victories with a Red Splash

They say that it's the little things in life that count. Sure, there are big epic moments in all of our lives, but when you think about it, the little moments are the ones that add up to be bulk of our experiences. So when you have a few little victories in one day, you look back on them as being a pretty big deal. Such was the case with me about a week ago.

Red Splash wineIt started out with a simple request from the Winey Daughter. She needed to replace her favorite black jeans (the old ones were about ready to give up their life for a higher cause...which I gathered was cut-off shorts). The store where this particular brand was sold happened to be about a minute from The Winey House up here in Ohio (not at all close to campus in North Carolina) and I also happened to be in possession of a coupon for the store. So of course, I took one for the Winey team and went shopping for her. While I was at the shopping center I just happened to walk by my one of my favorite stores in the outlet mall (yes, we live just north of an outlet mall...and our town is very small and quaint and yet we have an outlet mall. Can you say "best of both worlds"?).  I can.

And in that store, there just happened to be quite the sale going on. And I found two - count 'em - two pair of  pants. Big deal, you say. Well, yes, it is. Because pants and I have a long and checkered history. I am rather tall, with a long torso. Not many pairs of pants are nice to me. They somehow think they need to be ankle pants when I don't want them to be. Plus, let's face it...after a certain age when you find pants that hit you at the right length, don't cut off circulation to the upper torso portion of your body and just look good, you celebrate. I gave a silent little cheer in the dressing room and pulled out my credit card.

If you are counting, that's three pair of pants on sale for me (I count the coupon for The Winey Daughter's as being on sale). And later on that night, I uncorked what turned out to be another little the form of a bottle of red wine.

This was a bottle of Red Splash (2011, 13.3%, California). I had found it in the "best under $10" section of my favorite wine store. Yes, I said "under $10". And it was a red blend. As a rule, I love red blends. So, hoping for one more victory that day, I opened the bottle.

Red Splash is a dark garnet color, with a rusty red tint around the edges. The nose is full of cherry, chocolate and a touch of earth and dark green herbs. The taste starts out with black cherry and mocha (one of my all time favorite taste combos!). Then the dark herbs kick in at the end and the finish has a tiny hint of sunny warmth in it. It fells silky and smooth, like a dark red silk ribbon. Yes, we have a victory here, Winey Folks!

My fourth victory for the day. Taken individually, the victories were not earth shattering or life changing. But they were victories and when you add them all together, you wind up with a big victory of a day. And you go to bed with a smile on your face and the taste of some great wine on your lips!


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: No Coincidence Here! Red Diamond Chardonnay

Red Diamond ChardonnayIn wine, there are no coincidences. If someone mentions a wine to you, and you are destined to sip it, the universe will conspire to get you that wine.

That's what happened to me with recently with Red Diamond Chardonnay! It all started when The Winey Family was in Arizona. We met up with a friend of mine from college, who had moved to Phoenix about a year ago. We had a wonderful dinner with her and her husband, sharing college memories (she knew The Winey Hubby from college, too), talking about Arizona, kids and of course at some point, the talk turned to wine. It helped that our waitress had some great suggestions for us, and when we were unsure about a few of the ones she mentioned, she brought over samples for us. So of course we were going to talk about wine!

My friend happened to mention a wine that she had recently tried by the name of Red Diamond. I recorded her recommendation on the notes in my phone and then pretty much proceeded to forget about it. I had canyons to hike after we left Phoenix.

Iphone note - Red Diamond ChardonnayFlash forward to a few weeks later. I'm in Trader Joe's looking for a white wine and I notice a wine from Washington State with a red diamond shape on its label. Hmm....hadn't I heard about a red diamond something or other recently? But where...... for some inspired reason I took out my phone to check any notes I may have written (I do keep a running "wines to try" list on my phone) and there it was!! From January 26th....Red diamond wine. Bingo!! I took it as a sign and grabbed a bottle.

Red Diamond Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, Washington state) starts out with a nose of pineapple. At first taste, you'll get flavors of red apple and pineapple. Following those comes some creamy vanilla and oak. This wine had a wonderful "mouth feel" to it - round and creamy and full. If you like your Chardonnay classic and creamy and rich, buy this wine! And to make it even more enticing: you can find it for under $10 a bottle. (I found it at a number of other wine sellers in my area, not just TJ's.)

So, can you see how one little mention during a dinner dozens of states away from me resulted in finding a yummy new wine? No coincidence here, I was meant to try it. Good wine karma, huh?


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Chloe Chardonnay

Chloe Collection Chardonnay Since the Winey Nest has become a Winey Empty Nest, I have dedicated a new series of wine reviews to the children who will never leave for college and career: The Winey Doggies. They are a pair of little characters: Chloe, an 11 year old Maltese and Rory, a 2 year old mostly Maltese (she has 1/4 Shih Tzu in her, hence her black and white coloring). These two girls are my constant companions in the Winey house (I mean that literally sometimes...Rory has come to see me as her own private couch whenever I sit down) and are without a doubt the best little doggies in the world. (Please note that I am NOT dismissing your own Winey doggies and their shot at being best in the world. But if you are a dog person, you know where I'm coming from. As the folks at The Westminster Dog Show say, "Best in show is the dog sitting next to you on the couch." And they are right!)

I was thrilled to find out that The Chloe Wine Collection decided to name themselves after our older dog. Ahem. I first tried their Chloe Pinot Grigio and loved it. So I was anxious to sip on the Chardonnay. While the Pinot Grigio is from Italy, the Chardonnay is from California's Sonoma County. And it does my Chloe and Sonoma County proud.

Chloe Chardonnay (2012, 13.5%, Sonoma Co.) is a pretty translucent gold color with aromas of white grapes, pears and cinnamon. The taste is classic Chardonnay: pear and vanilla and cinnamon with a touch of mellow oak to finish it all off. The finish was smooth and lingering and it felt creamy and full in my mouth. Another winner for Chloe.  A little refresher course here: according to the Chloe Collection website, the word "chloe" is an ancient word that means "blooming". That's just what this wine did - it started off with the pear flavor and then bloomed into the vanilla and cinnamon spices and opened up fully at the end, adding in the oakiness.  Another great one from the Chloe folks. And at $12.99, it's very affordable. Buy this if you like your Chardonnay lightly oaked and full of flavor as opposed to big and oakey and buttery.

dog on pillows
Chloe on her pillows.
dogs on pillows
Rory watching Chloe on
her pillows!
My Chloe (the one not in the bottle) was happy to hear that I liked another of her namesake wines. She showed her happiness by.....taking a nap. You see, at 11 years old, Chloe is starting to slow down a bit, and she has recently come through a health scare that had us all very worried. She has seen so many vets and specialist vets that The Winey Hubby and I have decided one of our Winey Children should go into that field simply to make house calls for us. OK, so neither of them is even close to showing any inclination to be a veterinarian, but that is beside the point. Now, she was never a spitfire type of dog. No squirrels were chased, no holes dug. Her greatest pleasure as a puppy and young dog was to roll on her back and have her tummy rubbed. And to sit on your lap or, if that wasn't possible, so push her little doggie butt up against a human butt and burrow in. She still loves tummy rubs, but with her new frailty, one of her favorite spots is now atop two big throw pillows in the corner of the couch. She is and always will be a total and complete love of a dog,  and to see her so frail these days touches my heart with a sadness that only another dog lover can understand.

So cheers to Chloe - the wine and the wonderful, wonderful dog.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Wine After My Own Heart: Ann's White Wine

Judging by the gifts that The Winey Children bought for The Winey Hubby and I this past Christmas, we can honestly say that we have taught them well when it comes to choosing presents. The Winey Hubby has very good taste when it comes to shopping. He has his artist mother's eye for decorating and choosing things like artwork, china, table linens and furniture. And I am a big advocate of the "buy fewer but buy quality - especially if you can get it on sale" shopping school (I love me a good sale hunt). The Winey Kids have taken the best of these lessons and become very good and thoughtful shoppers.

Elon University Wine Glass, Callaghan Vineyards Ann's White Blend
My presents!
For instance, The Winey Daughter was able to find me a gold and maroon Elon University wine glass for Christmas. It is oversized and long-stemmed and I just love it! The Winey Son is old enough to buy wine as presents now, and in exploring his temporary digs in Arizona, found Callaghan Vineyards and another amazing Christmas gift: Ann's Selection White Wine (2010, 13.5%, Elgin, Arizona). Yes, a wine named after ME!! OK, maybe not me in particular, but hey, it says Ann's right there on the label and that is all that matters to me! How great is that?

Ann's is a white blend, and Callaghan says it is made up of "equal parts Grenache Blanc, Verdelho, Symphony (Muscat x Grenache Blanc), Marsanne and Roussanne." It's also an unfiltered wine (meaning that it doesn't go through the process to make it see-through wine. So while it has a sunny golden-yellow color, it isn't "crystal clear". It's also totally barrel fermented in French Oak, which gives it a creamy feel and taste.

Ann's starts out with faint aromas of ripe pears. The flavors of yellow apples, golden pears, starfruit and cinnamon are dominant and it finishes up with a sour, tart taste. To expound on that "creamy" feel, I'd describe this wine as "round". It's not as satiny full as a Chardonnay. It has a lighter feel to it even though it has many of the same flavors you'd expect in a Chardonnay. (It paired nicely with the Elon glass, by the way.)

Ann's is currently available to buy from Callaghan's on-line store (check to make sure they can ship to your state AND note that they will only ship wine from November-March, thanks to the hot Arizona weather). You will love it as much as I did if you like your a smooth, creamy white with lots of mellow fruit flavors. It would pair wonderfully with roast chicken or a pasta dish with a creamy (not tomato) sauce.

I wonder what other amazing gifts The Winey Kiddos will find for me in the future? I think I cannot wait for Mother's Day!

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Wyandotte Winery's Vin de Cacao for Valentine's Day 2015

Vin de Cacao Chocolate Red WineAhh....Valentine's Day. One of my favorite times of the year.  And when I refer to favorite, I am NOT talking about roses or fluffy heart pillows or little cupids flying around shooting at us. When I say favorite I am referring to  chocolate and wine. Together. Because there's no other time of the year when you are practically obligated to nibble on chocolate and sip wine. Know what's even better? When they come in the same bottle, as they do when Ohio's Wyandotte Winery makes their Vin De Cacao. My friends at Ohio Cellars (a Grove City, OH business that champions Ohio wine and beer and makes them available online to us all, bless their heart) sent me a bottle for my sipping pleasure.

But first a little quiz: what words do you think of when I mention "chocolate wine"? I'll bet "sweet" and "thick" come to mind. But go ahead and banish those words right now. Are they gone? Good, we will continue with my review then.

Vin de Cacao (NV, 12%, Columbus, OH) is a very pretty garnet red color and gives off a nose of milk chocolate and cherries. It's not an overwhelming nose, either. It's just a light whiff of those yummy aromas. The first sip brings you flavors of cherries with a line of mocha running through them. The cherries aren't the sweet ones - they are the tart cherry flavor of riper, darker cherries instead of the smaller, bright red cherries. The mocha is smooth and velvety and it plays very nicely with the cherry. There's a crisp little bite of light tannin at the end of it all too.

Vin de Cacao Chocolate Red Wine labelNot too much red, not too much chocolate....this is a great blend of the two.  Can you see why I wanted you to get away from thick and syrupy when I said chocolate wine? Nothing like that here - the wine feels like a smooth ribbon of silk. Wyandotte classifies this wine as a semi-sweet red infused with chocolate, and they are spot on with the blending of the two. The red wine is bright and the chocolate is rich, making them the perfect Valentine's Day couple.

Buy this wine if you want a different sipping treat. Whether you fall on the sweet or dry side of the red spectrum, I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy it.

A bottle of Vin de Cacao will run you less than $20, which will leave you with plenty of cash left over to buy your sweetie something else. May I suggest a second bottle?

Happy Valentine's Day! Cheers!

Want to try more chocolate wines? Check out my review of Chocolate Shop Chocolate Red Wine

I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.

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