Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Another Pair of Wente Wines to Review Our New Wine Words

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a pair of Wente Vineyards reds and, the best of my winey ability, talked about the difference between a single vineyard wine and an estate grown wine. (Winey Tasting Notes: A Pair of Wente Reds, A Few New Wine Words) And I'm going to do it again this week, because I happen to have another pair of Wente wines waiting in the wings (how's that for alliteration?).  This time they are a red and a white as well as one of them being single vineyard and the other being estate grown.

Wente Southern Hills Estate Grown Cabernet SauvignonWe'll start with the estate grown wine, Wente's Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (2013, 13.5%, CA), and as you may have deduced already, it comes from vineyards that are located along the southern hills of the Livermore Valley. Were you paying attention two weeks ago? Ok, then, what does "estate grown" mean in wine speak? If you said that it means the grapes were all grown on land owned by the winery and then made into wine by the same winery, you are right. If not, go back and read it again. There's another quiz coming.

The wine opens with a nose of black cherry and black plum. It tastes of dark, rich stone fruit in the middle and is surrounded by a touch of oak and a hint of dark green spice. It finishes up long and smooth and rich. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon with all the good things about that varietal and none of the bad. For the record, it is blended with other wines, so it's 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot. The Merlot adds to the richness of the fruit tastes and the Malbec gives it some nice heft. A great wine, estate grown or wherever.

Wente Riva Ranch Single Vineyard ChardonnayNow on to the single vineyard wine, Wente's Riva Ranch Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, CA). Here's your quiz: under U.S. law, how much of a wine has to be from the same vineyard in order to call it a single vineyard? Did you say 95%? Good. If not, see my above comment on re-reading. Let me start out by saying that I am placing Riva Ranch on my go-to Chardonnay list. I absolutely loved this wine! It's a light golden yellow color that smells like pear and apple and brown spices. It tasted of crisp oak, pear, apple, vanilla and cinnamon. The finish is crisp and lively. This wine feels so smooth, and if you read up on it, as I did, you'll discover that Wente performs battonage (stirring the wine in its barrels) every three weeks. Wente says this adds to the creaminess of the wine. I agree. That smooth, creamy mouth feel is fantastic! There's a high note of acidity above it all (10% is aged in stainless steel) that keeps it from being cloying and makes it so full of layered flavors that you just can't resist it. I am thrilled to have found this one!

So now we've had two lessons on estate grown and single vineyard. And have found four great wines. A little education is a very good thing, is it not? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find some more Riva Ranch Chardonnay.


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

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Sunny San Angelo Pinot Grigio

It was the perfect reminder of our summer trip to Italy, and it landed on my doorstep on a chilly December day, thanks to my buddies at Banfi Wines. "It" was a bottle of Castello 
Casatello Banfi San Angelo Pinot GrigioBanfi's San Angelo Pinot Grigio  (2013, 13%, Tuscany, Italy) and just looking at its pretty lightly golden color made me want to dive right in and get all summery again. Sadly, the bottle wasn't deep enough to dive into, but it was absolutely the right size to share with the Winey Son at some time.

That time came one night over the recent holidays. I was making dinner and watching The Ryder Cup in between preparations. You did not read that wrong. We were watching The Ryder Cup. In December. And it was about time too, because the DVR was at 98% capacity. This is all because The Winey Son refuses to miss a moment of any major sporting event, despite the fact that his duties and travels often make him unable to watch them live. So I get a text to "please record _______(fill in various epic sporting events that he deems recordable). Thanks!" (At least he says thanks.) And that event will live on our DVR until he can  make it home to Ohio and watch it. I usually pepper the viewing with comments like, "Gee, I wonder who wins? Oh wait, YOU KNOW ALREADY" and "Make sure you delete this as soon as you watch it, there is a new NCIS/Grey's Anatomy/Downton Abbey on soon and we need the room on the DVR". He just looks at me and then turns back to the screen. And on this occasion, accepted a glass of the Pinot Grigio.  He's no dummy, after all.

We took our first sips, and I asked him how he liked it. He said that he liked it, but that he really didn't know wine like I did. Hmm...what does that have to with liking a wine, I asked back. After all, you don't have to know the backstory of a wine to know that you like it. Or don't like it. "OK, then I like it." And that was all that mattered. He and I both liked it!

This liking began with aromas of starfruit, kiwi and pear. The wine was full of flavors of tart citrus and minerals and had such a lively, bright, open feel in the mouth. So very full of flavors and memories of summer and sunny golf courses (for The Winey Son, at least).

Buy this wine if you like your whites tart and zesty and sunny and bright. It runs around $14-16 and is one of the tastiest Italian Pinot Grigios I've had in a while!

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

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Pair of Wente Reds, A Few New Wine Words

Wine words. If you spend any time around wine (ahem), you'll get your fill of them. Tannic. Varietal. Dry. Off-dry. Sweet. Vineyard. Estate. You get the idea, right? Sometimes, it's good to know them. For instance, you don't want to buy a wine that's described as "off-dry" if you don't like sweet wines. But what about some of those other words and phrases that get bandied about, mostly on wine labels? I recently got the chance to study up on estate grown and single vineyard wines, courtesy of my very good friend (and fellow West Point mom) at Wente Vineyards.

Wente Wine Charles Wetmore Estate Grown Cabernet SauvignonWente is currently celebrating their 130th harvest. Think about that one. 130 years of picking grapes. And making wine. Let's just ponder that wonderful job.... Back to reality now. My latest Wente sipping came from the estate grown and single vineyard offerings of the winery. And I got to try them with The Winey Son, who was home for the Christmas holiday and has developed into quite the red wine lover. Win-win!

The first wine we tried was Wente's Charles Wetmore Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (2012, 13.5%, CA). The nose on this Cabernet Sauvignon pops out with cherry and new oak. The flavors are some of my all time favorites when it comes to Cabernet: chocolate cherry and mocha that finished long oakey. The tannins were well behaved and full of flavor and it felt supple in my mouth. Here comes the educational part: “Estate grown” on the label means that the winery and the vineyard where all the grapes are grown are located in the same viticultural area. The winery owns or controls the vineyards, and the wine was made by the winery at its facility on the estate. 1 Wente owns and cultivates over 3,000 acres of "sustainably farmed" estate vineyards. This one came from the...Charles Wetmore vineyard (well, duh). Wetmore was California’s first agricultural commissioner and a Livermore Valley pioneer. Buy this wine if you like smooth reds that have a ton of flavor but not so much oak.

Wente Wine Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Pinot NoirNext, we tried the Riva Ranch Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (2012, 14.5%, CA). This is an estate grown, single vineyard offering, meaning that in addition to being grown on the Wente estate, 95% of the grapes come from the single property listed (the 95%'s US law if you want to call it single vineyard). In this case, it's the Arroyo Seco vineyard in Monterey. Unfortunately, The Winey Son was unable to sip this one with me, due to a horrendous stomach flu that hit him and The Winey Daughter. I was the one who sipped this after tending to them and let me tell you, sitting down with a glass of wine after caring for your sick kids (I don't care how old they are) all day is a treat. If you've been there, you are nodding right about now. Anyway, the nose on this Pinot is spicy smoke, boysenberry and cranberry. The taste was round, with flavors of smoke, dark green herbs and spices and cherries. It finished on a toasty oak. I think I can best describe this Pinot Noir as an herb garden in Autumn. Think of fire pits with woodsmoke, the last of the herbs in your garden and how good they smell when you brush by them, dark ripe fruits and that lively Autumn feeling you get on a crisp fall day.  This wine is for you if you like your red wine tart and full and less fruit forward.

Two more wonderful reds to get me through the winter. And we all got to learn some new wine words, too.


I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions and the friendship are all my own!

1"The Wine Institute." Lifestyle Release: Fascinating Facts About California Wine -. Wine Institute, n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Arizona Wine Fit For a President, and A Winey Mom and Son

The Winey Family came through for Christmas this year, as far as their Winey Mom is concerned. There was an Elon University wine glass from The Winey Freshman (i.e.: Daughter), a wine fridge from The Winey Hubby (dual control for reds and whites!) and four bottles of Arizona wine from The Winey Son.

You did not read that wrong: I said Arizona wine, Arizona being the temporary home of The Winey Son. He lives south of Tucson, which puts him waaay down in southern Arizona, just a quick drive away from Callaghan Vineyards in Sonoita. There is such a growing wine culture in Southeastern Arizona that some have ventured to nickname it "Napa-zona". In fact, there are 16 wineries within a half hour drive of his little town. How perfect. For me, anyway.

Callaghan Vineyards Buena Suerte red wineThe Winey Son and his pals have taken advantage of this fact and have made some memorable visits to some of those wineries, and it was at Callaghan Vineyards that he tasted "one of my favorite wines of all time" (direct quote from him, by the way). Being the wonderful child that he is, he bought his Mom a bottle for Christmas. And so on Christmas night, just before dinner, we opened a bottle of Callaghan's Buena Suerte Proprietary Red Blend (2012, 14.2%, AZ).

A little research told me that this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and that this wine has been served twice at the White House (not just any white house, I'm talking about THE White House, the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave), the first time in 1996 for a White House dinner for the Democratic National Committee and again in 2000 at President Clinton's last state dinner. Let's put all politics aside here and acknowledge that Clinton's White House had excellent taste in wine! (Another wine from Callaghan, Claire’s 2004, a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Petite Sirah, was served at President George W. Bush’s dinner for retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, proving that wine is apolitical. Democratic or Republican, The White House knows how to pick their wines.)

The Winey Son was spot on on this one. This wine is terrific! It starts out with a nose of cranberry and tart cherry. You'll taste that cranberry with your first sip and then you'll get flavors of cherry, earthy herbs and a tiny bit of dark chocolate. It felt like a silky thin ribbon in my mouth and was a very well balanced red - no hint of tannic heat or puckering, despite the 14.2 alcohol content.

Behold the turducken!
I totally agree with The Winey Son - this was a wonderful, wonderful red wine! And it paired so very well with The Winey Household Christmas Feast featuring: turducken (deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, stuffed into a partially deboned turkey). The turducken has become legend in our Winey Extended Family over the years, and there was a big clamor to bring it back this year, so we did. And for the record, I bought a pre-assembled turducken because I know my limits in the kitchen. I'm good, but not that good. Or strong. But it was delicious, and we all loved it. Those of us that got to have some of this special wine thought it went very nicely with the dinner.

Now, if you want to buy a bottle of this particular wine, as far as The Winey Son and I can tell, you'll have to visit the winery. He thinks it might be in a few local stores out there as well...but he went straight to the source, so to speak, for his purchase. But fear not: Callaghan Vineyards has other wines you can buy on line and a pretty good wine club membership, which could get you wines that are special to club members (older vintages, new releases).

I am going to be buying some of this wine for myself...when I visit the Winey Son in Arizona in a few weeks. He has promised me a visit to Callaghan and some other wineries he's liked (oh and other places too...some big, or was it grand? canyon). So Merry Christmas to me and look for some more Callaghan reviews in the weeks to come.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Sweeter Side of Ohio, or "Go Bucks!"

 Brutus Buckeye
The Winey Family's Official
Brutus Buckeye
Having now lived in Ohio for over 25 years, specifically Cleveland, I can honestly say that it's a wonderful place to live and work and raise your family. The only drawback that I can see (and no, in my Winey World, snow is NOT a drawback) is that sometimes, our sports teams are, well, um, let's go with heartbreaking. I can't say disappointing, because that wouldn't give you an accurate idea of the pain felt by thousands upon thousands of Northeast Ohioans at the end of _______ season. (fill in the blank with baseball, football or basketball...and remember, the current NBA season is not over with there is a little bit of hope shining there... #thereturn #hesback). So what are we to do except turn our eyes about 2 hours south to that scarlet and grey land of hard hitting, game winning football: THE Ohio State University Buckeyes.

This year, our Bucks will be meeting Alabama on New Year's Day in the first ever college football playoff semi-final round. (I do believe this game is why the Winey Son has delayed his departure until January 2nd.) And where are they meeting? Why, in the Sugar Bowl. Sweet, huh? (stay with me, the tie in is coming....)

Ohio Cellars LogoSo it was with much scarlet and grey happiness that I was sent some Ohio wines from Ohio Cellars, a cool Grove City business that "is about Drinking Local. We want to promote fermented products in our state and make them available online directly to consumers using a convenient commerce platform." Is that beautiful, or what????? Both of the wines I'm going to tell you about today are the products of urban boutique wineries in Columbus, Ohio (home of Ohio State and oh yeah, the governor of Ohio): Signature Wines and Camelot Cellars. And since both wines are on the sweeter side of the wine tasting spectrum, I thought they'd be perfect for our Ohio State Buckeyes Sugar Bowl win appearance.

bottle of Signature Wines unoaked, off-dry  ChardonnaySignature Wines was founded and is owned by Kelly Harvey in 2004. I got to taste her unoaked, off dry Chardonnay (NV, California grapes, wine made in Columbus, Ohio). (For those of you wondering, off dry will give you a sweeter wine - not dessert wine sweet, but a wine with some decided sweetness to it.) This is a bright golden colored wine with a very rich nose of honey. The first flavors to hit my mouth were honeysuckle and nutmeg followed by a tinge of sweet wood (not an oakey wood, more like a herb-y wood). It was almost like drinking a Chardonnay with a vein of Port running through it. It felt like thick satin and heavy velvet in my mouth. If you like your whites sweet and layered, this one is for you. Oh and check out Signature's custom labels - you could have a LOT of fun with them and there is no extra charge.

Camelot Cellars logoNext up was a Pomegranate Zinfandel (NV, 7%) from Camelot Cellars, which not only imports grapes from all over the world to make their wines, they'll help you craft your own too! I was intrigued by the idea of a pomegranate Zinfandel, so I was eager to sip this one. The wine pours out a little bit fizzy and the nose on this is all pomegranate (well, duh of course it is). And of course, the dominant flavor is the wonderfully tart pomegranate, but I also got some dark cherry juice in there (that would be the Zinfandel talking). This is a fruity wine and Camelot suggests pairing it with beef or sausage or BBQ, but I'm going to tell you that it pairs wonderfully with dark chocolate M&M's and a bazillion presents to wrap. If you visit the site check out their cute #winelover tee shirts too.

You can buy both these wines through Ohio Cellars, but alas, my Winey Friends, if you are not lucky enough to live in Ohio, California or New Mexico, you can't order it. So suck up to some friends from those states or come visit, right now. Their warehouse is in central Ohio, so any wine ordered to Ohio will get there in two days. Mine did!

I did receive another bottle of wine from Ohio Cellars, but it is being saved for some other Christmas feasting.. so stay tuned.

Cheers and Merry, Winey Christmas!!

I received this wine for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. Go Buckeyes!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The One I Forgot - White Knight Viognier

I hate to admit this, and it really goes against my grain to do so, but I had a great bottle of wine all ready to serve on Thanksgiving, and I forgot about it.

This is something that no self respecting Winey Mom should probably admit to, but it did happen. And in my own Winey defense, there was a good reason it did.

bottle of The White Knight ViognierYou see, I had found a wonderful new Pinot Noir (Winey Tasting Notes: Route 152 Pinot Noir - Get There First) that I was so excited to serve on Turkey Day. (We normally host the family for the day, which means that I am chief cook and menu guru.) And then a few days before Thanksgiving, I tasted this wonderful Viognier and decided that we needed at least one bottle of it to serve the non-red lovers in the bunch. I also had an off dry-Riesling for my sister in law, who just LOVES Riesling, and since I really like her, I cannot deny her her favorite sip. So I certainly had enough wine for all of the wine drinkers in the crowd that day.

As dinner time got closer and the house filled up with family, the Pinot Noirs stood ready and waiting. The Riesling and Viognier were in the fridge, chilling away. Oh, I also had a bottle of inexpensive Chardonnay out for cooking purposes (I use wine in the gravy, the veggies and to baste with). My sister in law arrived and pulled out the Riesling and the rest of the folks sipped on the Pinot Noir. And they totally agreed with me that this was one good Pinot Noir. I was busy watching the turkey and finishing the veggies and warming up everything else, and didn't really get to start sipping until a bit later.

That was when I discovered that the wonderful Pinot Noir was almost gone, so I had some Riesling. And some of the Chardonnay. And I have no idea why, but I totally forgot that I had a bottle of The White Knight Viognier (2013, 13.9%, Clarksburg, California) in the fridge. Me. I. Forgot. A. Bottle. Of. Wine.

table set for Thanksgiving
The Winey Family Thanksgiving table, circa 2014
A few days later, while once again re-arranging leftovers, there it was. Yikes! My first feeling of "Oh no!" was quickly replaced with, "Oh good - a bottle of unopened wine for me." So at the next available moment, I poured myself a glass.

The wine was as good as I remembered from the tasting. It was a pale yellow color with aromas of pear and starfruit, a touch of green pepper and some green apple. The taste was of mellow, ripe pear and sour orange peel with a finish of wet oak. It was full and round and mellow in my mouth and was so, so good!!

I'm not going to go into the underlying reasons that I "forgot" this bottle...let's just say that I am very remorseful that it spent the day in the fridge, unopened and unappreciated. But I am in no way remorseful that I got to drink it - all to myself - a few days later. I'm going to think that it was the salary I earned for cooking the meal. And we're going to leave it at that, OK???


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Route 152 Pinot Noir - Get There First

bottle of Route 152 Pinot NoirI am of the firm mind that a good Pinot Noir is a wonderful thing to find...but that doesn't mean it is an easy search. So a few weeks ago, I was sitting at a wine tasting dinner, just minding my own taste buds, when a, dare I say...great Pinot Noir just plopped right down in front of me.

To be honest, it didn't do this on its own. It had help. And it didn't quite "plop" down either. The server actually gently placed it in front of me, right next to that course's pairing of artichoke and chicken sauté. But there it was: one of those wines that made me exclaim, "Wow! Honey, we're buying some of this." (Honey is The Winey Hubby, by the way. Not the server.) It didn't hurt that we were one week away from Thanksgiving and I had yet to decide on a wine to go with my turkey.

The Pinot Noir in question is Route 152 (14.4%, 2012, Central Coast, CA), from Pietra Santa Winery. According to the label, Route 152 was once part of the Oxbow Trail, a California stagecoach route. Thankfully, no stagecoaches were on the menu for that evening's tasting (I don't think I'd do real well in a stagecoach). But I digress. Route 152 is a very pretty red color, with aromas of cherry blossoms and red berries. It had flavors of red cherry and strawberry and raspberry and a touch of vanilla oak. It was bright and full of flavors and feels like a thin silk ribbon in the mouth. I liked it at first sip, which was why I turned to The Winey Hubby with the bottle order. This Pinot had great possibilities!

Those possibilities were confirmed the next week when I brought out my bottles of Route 152 on Thanksgiving. And that was pretty much the last I saw of them. To say they were a huge hit was an understatement. I had sort of forgotten that we had added another red wine drinker to the mix (yes, The Winey Son has recently come over to the red side...quite happily too, I might add) and how much we really did like red wine and having fun and sipping and talking and all of a sudden there was none left for the very deserving (and rather thirsty) cook. Luckily, I had a stash of some very nice Chardonnay that I had opened to use as part of my culinary greatness that day. So I had to settle for that. And by settle I mean I didn't share it. So there.

But I am determined to get me some more Route 152. And since it's in the $10-$11 range, I can get a few bottles. And hide one. Or get to it first this time. After all, Christmas IS coming.


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