Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Downton Abbey's Countess of Grantham Collection

As I write this review, and was sipping on the wines, The Winey Daughter is and was spending the summer studying in England. Yes, England, the land of The Royals, tea and scones, British rock and (reverent pause here) Downton Abbey.

I am a serious Downton addict. In fact, when The Winey Daughter was accepted into the program in merry olde England, my first thought was, "How close will she be to Highclere Castle?" Which, for those of you who are woefully ignorant, is the Hampshire estate where Downton is filmed. (Trivia tidbit for you all: the very funny series Jeeves and Wooster, staring High Laurie and Stephen Fry, was also filmed there. Yes, I own that entire series on blue ray. Thanks for asking.) Back on track here....I suppose a really responsible Winey Mom would have thought, "Is this a solid study abroad program?" Or, "Do the credits transfer?" Or, "How much?" But no, my thoughts flew straight to Downton and how I could come up with enough money for her to buy it for me. The Abbey, I mean, Castle. Whatever. To answer some of those questions: close enough, great program, credits count toward her major and enough.

Not that I begrudge my child any sort of fact, The Winey Hubby and I love to travel and have instilled that love in both of our kiddies. I just can't help but be a little bit jealous.

There is a cure for my envy though, and as you might have guessed, it comes in a wine bottle. Right before the start of season five of Downton Abbey this past January, Downton Abbey wines released two new offerings. Instead of the classic Bordeaux wines (which of course I here to head there), these two new wines pay homage to the Countess of Grantham, who, in the show, is an American heiress. The wines hail from one of my favorite wine regions, Lodi, California. And there's a picture of Downton Abbey on the label. Oh joy.

The Lady of Grantham Chardonnay (2013, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts off with a nose of nutmeg, cinnamon and pear. The flavors in it are sweet pear, vanilla cream and cinnamon and they're all wrapped up in a touch of toasty oak. The wine is light but full of flavor and it has a creamy silk mouthfeel that reminds me of one of the Countess' gorgeous gowns. Sleek and silky and classic and just gorgeous. Kind of like Cora herself. The more I sipped on this wine, the more I really liked it. Don't let the marketing via Downton on this one keep you from trying it. It's simply that good. I am going to get more. (The Winey Daughter has six weeks in England, after all.)

The Lady of Grantham Cabernet Sauvignon (2012, 13.8%, Lodi, CA) starts out with a nose of pepper, cherry syrup and some fresh cut wood. You'll taste flavors of pepper, mocha and green herbs. There's definitely an oak tinge on the finish. This is a wine that you will want to let breathe first - I solved that problem with  my trusty aerator. I'd call this a very stately, layered wine with extremely good taste. Kind of like the Abbey itself....big and bold and stately and dignified. I can just see Carson pouring this as we sit down to dinner in the formal dining room.

If the Chardonnay is cultured and elegant like Lady Cora, the Cabernet Sauvignon totally represents the house that she lives in: majestic and dignified.

You can find both of these wines at Downton Abbey Wines' website, but if you live in Ohio, like I do, you will have to order them through I have given up trying to comprehend the shipping laws of my state, so I'll stop right there. I'm just glad I could get my Winey little hands on these two offerings. They were very, very good...especially the Chardonnay.

I suppose I would be remiss if I did not address the other big issue with Downton Abbey these days, and that's the (very, very sad) fact that cast and crew have started shooting Season 6. THE LAST SEASON.Seriously, Mr. Fellowes, what were you thinking when you decided that? Or were you?  I mean, how am I supposed to get through a Cleveland January without a new Downton Abbey to look forward to?

I intend to weather the storm with dignity, though. And a few bottles of Downton Abbey wine. And a blue ray of the series.  I have recently convinced The Winey Hubby that Downton is worth watching...all of it...from Season 1 to the just finished Season 5. So I am getting my fix this summer and will be primed and poured when Season 6 starts..and ends. Sob.

But hey, stiff upper lip and all that...and cheers!

Pin It

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Tricky Rabbit Cabernet/Syrah for The Finals

I have never made it a secret that The Winey Family lives in Cleveland. (OK, an eastern suburb, but when people ask, we say Cleveland.) And even if you don't like sports, or basketball or The NBA, I am sure you have heard what we have just been through there for the past two roller coaster themed months:

Always #ALLinCLE
Game 6 photo courtesy of The Winey Son
and The Winey Hubby
The Playoffs.

As in, our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs...taking us all the way to The Finals of this season. This season, where our hometown boy returned to the fold (he goes by the name LeBron, in case you live under a rock. Or are my mother) and the hopes for a championship for our long-suffering sports city rose with his return. This season, where, up until January, things weren't looking so good. This season when, two months ago, our Cavs started a long, arduous journey also known as the NBA playoffs.

A few things happened during that journey: we lost one All-Star player to a dislocated shoulder. (Don't even get me started about HOW it happened and why a certain member of a team from a certain northeastern team is not exactly "liked" here.) And then BOOM! Another All-Star down to a fractured knee cap. LeBron, Dellavedova and the rest of the team played valiantly until the bittersweet end, all the way to Game 6 of The Finals, when a certain team from the western frontier of our nation (playing with ALL of their guys) ended our season.

But what a beautiful season it was! The Cavs won everyone's respect and admiration with their amazingly tough playing. And winning. And diving. And sweating (a little too much of that - just ask Dellavedova, who wound up on an IV in the hospital after Game 3). It was a thrill ride with the wonderful city of Cleveland spotlighted in the background of every home game and our fans cheering themselves hoarse.

The Winey Family was in attendance for various games throughout the playoffs. And when we weren't inside The Q, we were at home on the edge of our seats, clutching out stomachs, through every minute. Because a playoff ride like this one does not come without some nerves, some family room coaching (cue the Winey Hubby), some very specific, well let's call them "ideas" for the referees (cue The Winey Hubby and The Winey Son) as well as a fair amount of screaming nervous chatter.

The Winey Son actually flew home to visit during The Finals. And his visit was rewarded with tickets to Game 6. (In my effort to maintain  my title of "Cool Winey Mom/Cool Winey Wife, I will tell you that the pair of tix was the Hubby's Father's Day gift. Of course, the Hubby was the one to actually buy them, but I will profess 'til the day I die that I thought of it first.) He and The Winey Hubby still say that, despite the outcome of that game, it was a total blast. Outside The Q,
the crowd was massive, the legendary Cleveland food trucks were out in full force, and inside the arena: the fans were loud and proud and #ALLin. It was a very special time and place.

But, I will tell you, the behavior of my boys during Game 5, a few nights before that, was not a total blast. It was a bit, um, opinionated. Loudly so. In fact, they scared the four legged member of our household:

Hubs and Son are yelling at the tv so much that they are scaring the dog. I have wine. #help
Posted by Ann Judge Domeck on Sunday, June 14, 2015

As you can see by my post, I was prepared for Game 5. I have lived with these two Cleveland fans for a combined 50+ years of sports watching, after all. The wine that evening was a red (for the heart health benefits needed during a Cleveland playoff game) from Chile. I sat quietly in my chair, sipped on my Tricky Rabbit Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend (2012, 14%, Chile) and tried to comfort the doggie.

Tricky Rabbit is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah. It's dark maroon (not unlike some of the Cavs uniforms) and has a nose of cherries and wood smoke. The taste is very ripe cherries, some cedar and a tinge of oak. It wasn't fruit forward at all..more of the Cabernet came through on the palate. (It is 60% Cab, after all.) It finished with almost a mocha flavor and some woody tannins.

If you like a red wine that I'd call a "fruity oak", you'll like this Tricky Rabbit blend. It's not for the faint of red wine drinkers though, because while I'd stop short of calling it a "big" red, it's most definitely a "good sized" one. I bought it for $10 and would like to try it with some grilled steaks, instead of a nerve wracking, doggie scaring game.

And about those Cavs? The Winey Family is, was and always will be #ALLinCLE. They did us proud and we are honored to call them OUR team!

Go Cavs!


Pin It

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Trio of Chardonnays

Every once in a while I take a trip through my wine journal - because it's fun and also because I need to plan out my reviews. I don't review every wine I try. There are times when I just want to drink a glass of wine without all the note-taking and sniffing and swirling, so I may note the name of the wine and it's vintage, but that's it. Some wines I have every intention of reviewing but they turn out to be just okay. Not bad, not great.....just good. (I think it's easier to write about a really good wine or a really icky wine than those that fall in that in-between category.) And some I just don't get around to doing right away, so they sort of pile up until I decide it's time to bring them out of the pages of my journal.

That's exactly the case with these Chardonnays. I was flipping through the pages and realized that I had a trio of them waiting to be written up, so I decided that I'd do it all up in one review:

Cave de Lugny La Côte Blanche Chardonnay (Mâcon-Villages) (2013, 12.5%, Macon-Villages, Burgundy, France) is 100% Chardonnay. White wine grown in Burgundy is also called White Burgundy (or Bourgogne Blanc if you want to get fancy). It costs around $10 here in the US. It's got a nose of pear and apple and tastes of pear and red apple. I was trying to consciously sample some more French whites, so I was glad to find this one for the price. It's not aged in oak, which is pretty common in Burgundy, so you don't get the oak flavors with the pear. You don't get much of anything with it actually...and I kept waiting for more flavor from this. Not that it was was just not anything: not oakey, no minerals, no big flavors, not much of a mouth feel. 

Alexander & Fitch Chardonnay (2013, 13.4%, Sonoma, California). I found this white at Trader Joe's for $8.99. The bouquet was all pear and I could totally taste the pear upon first sip. There were also flavors of nutmeg - a nice spicy touch - and some medium oak, which really shined in this wine. It ended up with a finish of sour apple and sour oak and felt nice and round in my mouth.  I liked this wine a lot - and with the price, well, it's a nice go-to Chardonnay.

Dark Horse Chardonnay (2013, 13.5%, California). I bought this wine at a local store for $9.99. The Dark Horse line has a number of other varietals, and I after sipping this Chardonnay, I'm going to try them. This was the best of the bunch of these three Chardonnays. A bright gold color, with a nose of apricot and golden apples. The taste was mellow pear, yellow apple, vanilla and some cinnamon rounded off with a touch of oak. This is a really solid Chardonnay for a great price. I'd describe it as "flavorful," which is what I love about a good white wine - a range of flavors with that lovely feel of smooth roundness in the mouth. 

If you like spicier oak tinged Chardonnay, go with the Alexander & Fitch. If you like a traditional Chardonnay with a lovely balance between the fruit and oak flavors, go for the Dark Horse. I'm not sure what to tell you about the Cave de Lugny...maybe try it and judge for yourself! 


Pin It

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Springtime with some Italian Frascati

Spring is finally here in northeast Ohio and if I may say, it took its own sweet time getting here. I know, I know, I shouldn't be surprised, but every year that one last frost warning has me running around the garden throwing towels and sheets on all the new plants and, well, expressing my thoughts about the weather in, um, some colorful words. And that's all I'm going to admit to say about that. 

My friends at Banfi wines, being the optimistic folks (and not Ohio residents)  that they are, had sent me a trio of wines to sip for spring. And although when I sipped the first one of these wines, it wasn't what you'd call "spring" outside, I sipped anyway. I'm no quitter. 

The first wine I chose to try was Fontana Candida's Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC (2013, 13%, Lazio, Italy). It's a blend of 50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio (as an aside here, wine from the Frascati DOC of Italy has to have at least 70% Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Trebbiano Toscano). 

The word Frascati took me right back to the Winey Family's amazing trip to Italy last summer, where I first tasted Frascati at dinner with some of our dearest college friends.  Winey Tasting Notes: When In Rome....Drink Frascati

That night, the Frascati was a sparkler, but this one is a still wine. It started off with a nose of pear and kiwi and followed with a taste of apple, pear and some faint nutmeg and cinnamon. I was rather surprised by this, given that it's stainless steel fermented, but the winemakers say it "rests on its lees for 4 months". Lees are the dead yeast cells and other stuff that are left over after a wine ferments. They can be removed after fermentation, or left in to give a wine richness and more flavor. So it makes sense that this Frascati has a bit deeper in the pear and apple flavors. 

This was not a bad thing, by the way. I loved the fruit flavors with the touch of creaminess to them. Unlike an Italian Pinot Grigio, this wine feels softer in the mouth, but unlike a big oakey Chardonnay, the oak and tastiness doesn't take over. It hits nicely in the middle of these. 

Buy this wine if you don't like a big oakey white, but are looking for a bit more smoothness than a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. It would go great with chicken and fish dishes or salads and grilled veggies. It retails for around $13, so it's a totally affordable spring buy. 


I was given this wine as a sample. The opinions about it are all my own.

Pin It

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Portugal's Twin Vines Vinho Verde

Twin Vines Vinho Verde wine bottleI have not had a lot of wine from Portugal. In fact, I think I've only reviewed two Portuguese wines here and one of them was a Port. (The other was a red blend.) And I know that Portugal has a thriving wine industry, but I just don't run across their wines all that often. So when I saw a bottle of JM Fonseca's Twin Vines (2012, 10%, Vinho Verde, Portugal) and realized it was from Portugal, I decided to give it a sip.

This particular Twin Vines is a Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde isn't a varietal of wine, it's a blend and also a DOC region, which is simply a wine/area that is controlled by a wine commission. It's located in northwest Portugal. To explain Vinho Verde, I'm going to quote from the Twin Vines website, because they do it so well: "Vinho Verde is made from one or a combination of twenty five different white grapes. The best and most popular varieties are Alvarinho, Trajadura, Louriro and Pederña....The name Vinho Verde, or "green wine," refers to the youthful style of this refreshing white wine, not the color! Coincidentally, this "green wine" hails from the Minho region, among the greenest and most lush landscapes in all of Portugal. See, I told you they did it well..better than I could have.

I did notice that this wine had an ABV of 10%, which puts it on the sweeter side of the vine. I don't dislike sweet wines, but I am not always in the mood for them. But I really wanted to try a wine from Portugal, so I went ahead and bought it.

The first thing you'll notice about this wine is that it has almost no color at all. But it does have bubbles. Lots of teeny tiny bubbles.

The second thing you'll notice about Twin Vines is the bouquet of honeysuckle, lime and citrus. Oh did it smell good! The taste did not disappoint either, as sometimes happens with a very fragrant wine. I tasted lots of tart citrus and lemongrass all mixed in with a line of sharp minerals. The bubbles added nicely to the wine, making it lively and tart in my mouth.

This was so much more crisp and tart than I had expected! I wrote down that this was the perfect "light, zesty summer wine." And since it's priced at below $10 a bottle (I paid $8!), I'm going to suggest you have a party just so you can buy a lot of it. It would be perfect for a patio supper! And it would please those who like a sweeter wine and those who like a crisp, citrusy wine. That's not an easy pair of pleasings to carry off, either. And you also have the bubble effect, which is just plain fun.

Buy this wine if you like a light, lively, not too sweet, not too dry white wine.

You do need to serve this very cold. My wine refrigerator only goes to a certain temp, and I found that a few minutes in the freezer really did justice to this wine.

Cheers!! Pin It

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: The Empty Nest Series and Mother's Day with Chloe

maltese dog
Our Chloe
I have been writing an Empty Nest series of reviews for the past 8 months. The reason for this is that my Winey Household became an empty nest once our youngest left for college. All the wines in this series are dog themed. The reason for this is because the Winey Dogs are the ones who stayed with us and didn't leave the nest. So my empty nest still includes the doggies, and I thought the series should honor those little sweeties.

Today I am going to review the last wine in the Chloe collection of wines. And it is fitting that I do it today, right before Mother's Day. First off, any of these wines would be a great Mother's Day gift. The folks at Chloe are suggesting the Chloe Pinot Grigio for the day (and they sent me a bottle of it to underscore that idea - smart people). I love the Pinot Grigio!  Let me quote from myself:

"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 have also sampled Chloe Chardonnay and found it equally as yummy:

Chloe Red Blend No. 249"A 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."

The last wine in this collection is Chloe Red No. 249 (2012, 13.5%, North Coast of CA). The wine is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot. Chloe Red starts off with a nose of cedar and a tinge of wood smoke. The taste is full of mocha java coffee, black plum and a hint of oregano. I would call it sort of fruit forward...not so much that it turns into a syrupy blend, but enough so that the kick of oak doesn't hurt you - it just feels full and bold in the mouth. Oh, the number 249? That refers to the 249 wine lots that the winemaker tasted before making Chloe Red. Is that dedication or what?

So why is it so appropriate that I am doing the last bottle in the Chloe collection for Mother's Day 2015? 

dog and wine bottles
Chloe was always willing to help me as
I worked on The Winey Mom blog!
A little history: Chloe is the name of the older of our two doggies. And just two weeks ago, after a long illness (I talked about it in the Chardonnay review), our sweet baby Chloe crossed the Rainbow Bridge and left us. She had been failing for so long and had reached that point where her pain was unbearable - for her and us and her little doggie sister, Rory. It broke our hears to say good bye to Chloe, who had been part of our lives for nearly 12 years. It was our honor to have her as part of our family and it is now our pleasure to have her as part of our happy Winey Family memories. I'm not sure when the ache will go away or when I'll smile over little memories of her instead of tearing up, but I'm so glad that we had the privilege of loving her. I was so happy to be her Mommy. She was my faithful little buddy for many, many years. She loved to cuddle with me and kiss me and basically, she treated me like I was perfect. What else could a Mom (doggie or otherwise) ask for?

I know I'll be buying wines from the Chloe collection for a long time. Great wines to toast a wonderful doggie with.

Cheers to the four-footed members of all our Winey Families. And Happy Mother's Day to Winey Moms everywhere, whether your kids are human or doggie (or other cuddle friendly species)!

I was sent a bottle of Chloe Pinot Grigio for review purposes. The opinions and the love of my doggies are all my own. 

Pin It

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!

Pin It