Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Lab Red

Another article celebrating the only children left in the Winey Empty Nest: the doggies. Except this post could sort of be called a throwback post, because today I am going to celebrate the doggie that I grew up with: a black Labrador Retriever named Scamper.

picture of black labrador retriever sitting on picnic table
Scamper, circa late 1970's
Scamper (aka Scamper-damper, Scamper Boo-Boo, Scamper Doodle) joined my Winey childhood household when I was 13. I had accompanied my unsuspecting mother to a Labor Day picnic where someone uttered the now infamous words: "Hey, the neighbors' dog just had puppies, anyone want one?" My mother never had a chance. For years, we had been living vicariously (and at times babysitting) the English Setters, English Sheepdogs (dear heavens I will never forget that dog) and various other pooches of our family and friends. In desperation, my mother had allowed us to adopt 3 gerbils, two parakeets and untold numbers of goldfish in an attempt to stave off the inevitable: We were a dog family and we were going to get a dog.

black labrador retriever playing with basketball in snow
Action shot of Scamper
and her beloved basketball.
label of Lab Red Wine blendSo home came Scamper, the 6 week old runt of a litter of 12 who enchanted us from the very first day and never stopped doing so until she crossed the rainbow bridge at the age of 17. She was a credit to her breed: smart and loving and full of personality. She also had a vertical standing jump that NBA players would envy. She could stand in front of the back door and leap up to see out of its 4 foot off the floor window. Everyone commented on it. It was kind of her trademark.

So it was a no-brainer that I'd jump at  a bottle of wine called Lab Red Wine (2012, 13%, Portugal), right? This particular red blend hails from Portugal, which I love because that's one of the wine regions I don't normally find wines from. It's extremely affordable, around $10 a bottle and is made up of varietals that were new to me:  Castelão (35%),  Tinto Roriz (25%),  Touriga Nacional (15%). These are all well known Portuguese grape varietals, but not ones that I regularly run across. There was one grape I was familiar with though: Syrah, which makes up 25% of Lab Red.

The nose on this Lab was full of very ripe cherries and a bit of leather. It tasted of dark cherry and black plum at first, and then evolved to some mocha coffee. There were hints of dark green spices as well. The tannins were on the strong side, but they were smooth, so that kind of took their bite away. Overall, it was a bit warm in my mouth, which  may have been the tannins from the Touriga Nacional, which is a rather tannic grape. I was very happy to have discovered some new grapes though - new grapes, new tastes, dog themed's all good! Good doggie!

Buy this wine if you like your reds with a fruity bite. I wouldn't call it a fruit forward wine - more like a "fruity wood and spice" wine. It would pair with lots and lots of different foods, so would be ideal for a pot luck party or buffet party. Or you could cuddle up with your own doggie and enjoy it on its own. Woof.


Check out my other Empty Nest Series Posts: Chloe Pinot Grigio and Fred's Red

1 "Casa Santos Lima." Casa Santos Lima. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series, Chloe Pinot Grigio

dog with wine bottles
Can you see why Chloe is the perfect dog
for The Winey Household?
Another wine for the "empty nest series" that I have decided to dedicate to my two dogs, since they are the only "children" left in The Winey Empty Nest. But, unlike my last entry in this category (Fred's Red), the wine I'm reviewing this week does not have a picture of a dog on the label and does not have a dog breed name.

This is a wine collection named Chloe. The winemakers will tell you that the ancient word "chloe" means "blooming".  But in The Winey Household, the name Chloe means a 7.5 pound Maltese who was our very first fur baby, eleven years ago.

If you can imagine such a thing, The Winey Hubby did not grow up in a "dog" household. So until the Winey Kids were 11 and 7 years old, we were a dog-less home. And then one day, we met a Maltese and the Hubby said, "That is a very cute dog" and the three of us pounced on that comment, extolling the virtues of a cute, little doggie until we wore him down he agreed that we could get one. And faster than you could say "Bow wow," Chloe had joined the ranks.

My first sip of the wine collection named after my dog (yeah, I choose to think they named their wines after my doggie and not some lovely ancient word) was Chloe Pinot Grigio (2012, 12.5%, Italy). I noticed the wine because it had a simple black bow running across its label. Chloe looks great in black - most notably her black velvet collar.  She also looks good in many other colors, and if the rest of the Winey Family would let me, I would prove this with lots of little sweaters and t-shirts. But they are in some sort of conspiracy to keep me from buying such items. Hmph to them.

Chloe Pinot Grigio wine labelAs for the wine: the nose is tangerine. Not an overpowering nose. Actually, I'd describe it as very faint. But that doesn't matter because once it hits your mouth, this wine is crisp and lively. Flavors of peach and lemons lead to a touch of honeysuckle. The tangerine shows up again in the finish. Overall, this is a flavorful Pinot Grigio, as opposed to a tart Pinot Grigio. None of the flavors overwhelm the others, so you have a nice blend of sweet and citrus fruit and some flowers.

You'll like Chloe Pinot Grigio if you like a white wine that refreshes, but isn't overly tart. I liked it lots.

We love Chloe in The Winey Household. Both the dog and the wine version.


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Wines of Island Wine Fest, 2014

There is no better way to spend a crisp sunny Saturday than on one of the Lake Erie islands. And if you happen to spend it with three good friends at the put in Bay Wine Fest, well all the better. That's how I spent last Saturday, courtesy of the Miller Boat Line and Island Bike and Cart Rental.

Miller Boat Line ferry to Put in Bay, Ohio
Our water chariot for the day.
I will admit though, that the day started off a bit, well, choppy. This had nothing to do with the ferry itself or the company I was in and had everything to do with Mother Nature, who decided that the buzzword for the day should be “windy”… really windy. In fact, we made quite a few new friends sliding around in our seats on the way over to Put In Bay. It's amazing how quickly you can start up a conversation when you slide into someone's lap. Anyway, we disembarked safely, picked up our golf cart, and headed on over to the festival which was being held at the Put In Bay Winery.

Menage a Trois tattoos on wrists
Tatted up for tasting!
Before we started sipping, however, we felt it necessary to mark the day by tattooing the words "Ménage A Trois" on our wrists.  For those of you who don’t know and are currently judging us, "Ménage A Trois" is a winery, OK? I am a huge fan of their wines, as were my buddies, so we happily tatted up for the day. Then we started sipping. (By the way "Ménage A Trois" had all three of our favorite MAT wines on hand: the red blend, the Pinot Grigio, and the amazing new Midnight.)

Save Me San Francisco Wine Company Cab California 37 wine bottleThe first group that made an impression on us was the line of wines made by Train’s Save Me San Francisco Wine Co. Yes, as in Train the rock band. I had tried "Drops of Jupiter " red wine blend a while ago, and remembered liking it. In addition to "Drops of Jupiter", though, we were also able to try Sauvignon Blanc Bulletproof (in honor of their new album) and Cab California 37. And all four of us decided that we loved Cab California 37 (2012, 13.5%, CA)! The wine is inspired by Highway 37, which, in California, leads you to wine country. A nose of licorice and cherry, followed by flavors of ripe cherries and dark berries with a long lasting rich finish.  It was so good that all four of us went home with a bottle.
Greg Norman Estates Shark Red wine bottle 
Moving on, we entered the sporty side of wine, stopping at the Greg Norman Estate wines. To be quite honest, these wines caught my eye because the Winey Son is a big golf fan, and had asked me to recommend some red wines to him. So these bottles with the obligatory Greg Norman shark were a no-brainer to sample. The winner from this line was Greg Norman's Shark Red (2011, 13.9%, CA).  Shark Red is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mouvedre, Grenache, Merlot and Malbec. As with many of my favorite red blends, this dominant taste is of dark fruits – think plums. It ends with some vanilla oak and is soft and smooth in the mouth. A winey hole in one for sure.
Layer Cake Sea of Stones Red Wine Blend bottle

Shortly after that, another red blend made my “to buy” list. I found it in Layer Cake Wine's "Red Blend Sea of Stones"(2012, 14.5%, Argentina). A nose of mocha followed by tastes of dark chocolate and cherries and a smooth, long lasting finish.

There were other offerings besides wine this year, and my Winey Friends and I were pretty much stopped in our tracks at the table that held Hot Sex. Yes, I said Hot Sex (NV, 12.5%). And contrary to what you're probably thinking right now, this was not some foo foo cosmo or Sex in the City type of drink. This was a creamy liqueur concoction that brought all the flavors of autumn into one little cup. Ginger liqueur, cream, chocolate, vodka and some ginseng made for one extremely yummy cocktail. We had so much fun enjoying it (OK, and kidding each other about the name) that the folks who were behind the table actually presented us each with a pair of very cool, bright orange sunglasses. And yes, we all went home with a bottle of Hot Sex. (My one Winey Friend is still justifying her purchase because "the ginseng is healthy for you… Really!") We love her anyway despite her naïveté.
group of women wearing orange sunglasses with bottle of "Hot Sex" liqueur
Orange sunglasses. We are so cool. 

As you might imagine, a day at a wine fest with good friends on a stunning island in the middle of Lake Erie makes for one amazingly fun day. You can count on lots of good wine, good food, great conversation and laughing so hard that you actually get a very effective abdominal workout. All in all put in Bay Island Wine Fast 2014 was a sipping success. We are already making our plans for next year!

Miller Boat Line and Island Bike and Cart Rental sponsored our trip to Island Wine Fest. We are very, very happy they did. The opinions expressed are all my own.
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series: Fred's Red

With the Winey Daughter's departure to college, I suppose you could call the Winey House a Winey Empty Nest. But that really would not be fair to the two Winey "children" who are left in the nest. Sure, they might not be human (in the "scientific sense" of the term), but they are our children. I refer to The Winey Dogs.

cute dog picture, maltese
Chloe (l) and Rory (r)
I can hear you now: Crazy Winey Dog Lady. Fine, I accept the label with pride. Because there are times when our two little doggies are all that stand between me and a good cry. Like when I walk into the Winey Daughter's room and realize that there is no laundry to take downstairs. Or when I walk into the Winey Son's room and realize he is simply using it as a holding tank for all the things he has left over from four years of college. It hits at odd times.

But waiting for me downstairs are two little girls who will lick and cuddle the shock away. For the record, they are a Maltese named Chloe and a mostly-Maltese named Rory. And when the Winey Nest emptied of the human offspring, I decided that it was high time to write a winey series that focused on the new regime of children in the Winey House: the dogs.

Luckily, there are many enlightened wineries out there who have doggie themed wines. So I'll be focusing on them for a while.

dogs in Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts
Thing 1 and Thing 2
I'm going to start the series out with a red blend from McNab Winery called Fred's Red (NV, 13.9%, Mendocino Co, CA). Fred was the original McNab Dog, who travelled with Alexander McNab on the boat to America from Scotland in the mid-1800s. Fred is a cutie who seems to prefer red bandannas, which set off his black and white coloring so well! (Take note here: I have absolutely no problem with dressing dogs in bandannas, sweaters, cute dresses and Halloween costumes. The rest of the Winey Family does not share my enthusiasm for this, but as you will see in the picture to the right - I can sometimes win that argument.)

fred's red bottle shotFred's Red is a rusty maroon color and has aromas of cherry, strawberry and smoke. The first flavors that come through when you sip are berries, then mocha and a wisp of smoke and a tinge of oak. Later on you'll taste some dark spices and feel some very supple tannins. It's smooth in the mouth and is full of wonderful flavors and tastes.  It's nicely fruit forward  (I know there is some Zinfandel in there) but with enough of the mocha and smoke to keep the fruit from being obnoxious. Layered and balanced and bursting with taste. This is a very, very good doggie.  The Winey Dogs would be proud (if I let them drink wine, which I don't.)

This is a wonderful sipping wine. Drink it if you like your reds velvety and fruity with a touch of mocha. Or if you are now a crazy dog lady an empty nester with dogs.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Lure of the Sale: Unsung Hero Malbec

It's kind of a well known fact that you don't have to spend a ton of money to get a great bottle of wine. (And yet, I still can't resist telling the Winey Hubby I'm going to order the $300 bottle of champagne every time we go to a restaurant that carries such bottles. He doesn't even blink anymore when I say it, so I know the joke has worn thin.) I will admit to being curious about a wine with such a price tag though. I mean, aren't you? Is it that good, really??

Mendoza Vineyards Unsung Hero Malbec, picture of front wine labelThankfully, the wine industry is not against the idea of a sale. And every once in a while I run across an expensive (in my Winey World) bottle of wine on sale for such a great price that I cannot pass it up. (For instance: Concannon Conservancy Cabernet Sauvignon, Hey MAMBO Chardonnay, Matthew Fritz Pinot Noir and Gnarlier Head Old Vine Zinfandel.) And all these wines were a bargain - from 50% off to $15 off. And then this summer, I found another irresistible sale. In fact, I was not the only one to find it: I bought a bottle and then shortly after that, a friend presented me with a bottle of the very same wine as a thank you gift. Great minds, great winey minds.

The wine in question is Unsung Hero Malbec (2011, 13.5%, Argentina) and this normally $42 bottle of wine was selling for $12.99. Almost thirty dollars off. That's a good sale!

So, onto the wine.  The nose on this is full of aromas of warm cherry, toasty oak and the inside of a leather shop. (Have you ever walked into a fine leather store and taken a deep breath? You know what I mean then.)  I was a teeny bit suspicious of this nose, because while I love a nice leather purse, I don't normally drink one (or from one, for that matter). And my suspicions were somewhat confirmed with the first sip: earthy flavors, overripe black fruit and a strip of leather running through it all. Again, as much as I like pretty leather shoes, I do not drink them (again: or from them). Some aerating smoothed out the taste a bit, so I'll warn you to decant this one or use an aerator.

The second bottle we tried started out a bit smoother (aerating helped). Since we were drinking it a bit later in the season, the grill was open for business and we were grilling a London Broil. Which made me think that this is a wine that might need to be paired with food instead of sipping it on its own. It was a warmer evening, too, and I think the warmer temps helped to smooth out the rough edges on this Hero.

So, for $12.99, it was an okay wine. For $42...not so much. And I wonder if other people have discovered this too, because after its initial $42 price, it seems you can buy this for around $12-15 now. (And maybe the original price had been inflated to nab sale crazy Winey Moms like me who love the thrill of the hunt. Well, it worked.) I'm glad I tried it, but I'm not real sure I'll go for it again - sale or no sale.

Please note that the phrase "sale or no sale" as uttered by me does NOT in any way apply to Kate Spade shoes, Italian leather purses or the gorgeous belt I saw at Nordstrom Rack last time I was there.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: It's North Carolina Wine Month

Why am I telling you about wine from North Carolina? I mean, I could talk about wine from anywhere in the world, right? Well, I have good reason for my interest in this lovely southern state. You see, three weeks ago, my Winey nest emptied out as the Winey Daughter headed south to start college. Yup, you guessed it. Her school of choice is in North Carolina. So now I have a vested interest (not to mention a sizeable financial deposit) there. For the record, she chose an amazing school (Elon University – Go Phoenix!) that has everything she wanted. But I truly believe that the fact that North Carolina is below the Mason-Dixon line and thus somewhat immune to the brutal
Elon University campus
The new home of the Winey Daughter.
Photo by Winey Mom, who, for the record
was NOT crying when it was taken.
Ohio winters like the one we just survived was also a factor in her decision. She outright rejected the idea of even applying to The Winey Hubby’s and my alma mater because it is in – brrrrrr – Chicago. We are coping.

And thus we come to wine, because the state of North Carolina has over 100 vineyards and wineries.  Yup, that many. The vineyards plant many of the well known varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot), but they also plant a muscadine grape called Scuppernong. This is important because Scuppernong was the very first grape grown here in the US and is the official fruit of North Carolina. 1 You gotta love a state who has a wine grape as its official fruit, don’t you? And according to said state, September is North Carolina Wine Month. How timely!

So in honor of the Winey Daughter’s new adventure, I went in search of some North Carolina wine before we left to drive home. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and you can’t buy wine until noon in North Carolina on Sunday. By noon, we were in Virginia. Luckily, you can find North Carolina wines all over, so I went shopping when we got back home. And since I thought the word Scuppernong was so fun to pronounce, I went looking for that. The one I chose comes from Duplin Winery (NV, 12%, North Carolina). Duplin is the largest and oldest winery in the state, and is also the world's largest producer of Muscadine wine.

This is such a fragrant wine! Like breathing pure apple blossoms. The first taste when you sip it is white grapes and honey and some sweet apple. There is something like a line of minerality running through the wine, which ends in a bit of green apple. This is a sweet wine, but it doesn’t feel overly thick and syrupy, like some sweet wines do.  This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Duplin suggests that you serve this wine very cold, but with all of its apple and honey flavors going on, I’m going to go out on a grapevine here (instead of a limb, this is wine blog after all) and suggest that this would be a great wine to warm up and use in mulled wine, too.  

Drink this wine if you like sweet wine, because this is a truly sweet, fruity wine. It’s widely available at grocery and wine stores for about $9 a bottle. Chill it for now, warm it for later and enjoy!


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