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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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: A Quick Visit, A New Wine: Grove Winery's Chardonnay

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was texting with The Winey Daughter. We do it a lot - a little text to say hello or to ask a quick question. (I am convinced I hear more from my freshman because of text messaging than my parents ever did in the days of land lines in the dorms.) Somewhere in the middle of this conversation, I asked how her friends were. She replied that they were wonderful and she was so blessed to have such good friends...but.....she could use a mommy hug.

Oh just rip at my heartstrings, why don't you? A mommy hug. I'm her mommy, and I would give anything to be able to give her that hug. It was then that a little idea took hold in my mind and about 36 hours later, thanks to a quick flight to North Carolina, I was able to deliver that hug. Very last minute, very impromptu and very, very much needed on both our parts!!

bottle of Grove Winery unoaked Chardonnay with tasting glassesBecause it was a quiet mid-week visit, I was able to book myself into the very charming Acorn Inn, on the edge of Elon's campus. They provided lovely suite type rooms, a hot breakfast tastings every evening. The first night I was there, The Winey Daughter had an event to attend, so after we'd spent the afternoon together, she went on her way and I headed back to the inn. It was a gorgeous, warm (70's) North Carolina evening and the sun was just beginning to set as I arrived there. The tasting had started, so I decided to head down to the lobby and sip away.

The Acorn Inn features the wines of Grove Winery, located only about 7 miles away in Gibsonville, North Carolina. They grow a wide variety of grapes and I had the chance to sample a few different wines, but in the end, I settled on a glass of their unoaked Chardonnay (13%, 2012, Haw River Valley, NC).  I am becoming a bigger fan of unoaked Chardonnays and this wine helped to seal my approval.

The nose starts out with ripe pear and a touch of honeysuckle. The first taste in my mouth was of round, mellow pear followed by sharp, spicy flavors of allspice and nutmeg. I totally didn't expect those spices to kick in after that first taste of mellow fruit. But there they were, in all their autumnal glory. It finished with juicy fruit and felt round and supple in my mouth. What a treat!

Winey Mom and Winey Daughter on campus of Elon University, NC
Mommy hug delivered!
Buy this wine if you like your Chardonnay light and full of flavor, but not necessarily big and oakey. I could see it pairing with a fruit and cheese tray, roasted chicken and light pasta dishes. It retails for about $16 and Grove has a web store that will ship to most states. If you happen to be in North Carolina, lots of stores carry their wines. Look for their unoaked Chardonnay - I sure will!

Did I mention that I was sipping this wine on the front porch of the inn? As I said, it was a gorgeous North Carolina evening. And perhaps the porch was that much more lovely because I knew that, back at home in Ohio, it was starting to snow. I don't usually take such an evil pleasure in the weather, but this night, with my book and glass of wine, I admit that I did.

Mommy hugs and cheers!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Vertically Sipping Bolla Chianti

Please note that the above reference to vertical sipping does not mean you must be standing up to drink this wine. I mean, you could, if you wanted. But it's not a deal breaker. What I mean by a vertical tasting is that we are going to compare two of the same wine - same vineyard and winemaker, but different vintages, or years.

Thanks to my amazing friends at Banfi wines, I have the perfect chance to do this. About a year ago, they sent me a 2011 bottle of Bolla Chianti. And then last month, they sent me a bottle of the 2013 to sample. So we get to see what a difference two years makes in a vineyard.

bottle of Bolla Chianti
The year you see on the bottle refers to the year that the grapes were grown, by the way, and not the year the wine was released so the grapes of the bottles I tasted were grown in 2011 and 2013. And lots of things can happen in a vineyard from year to year. One year could be really, really rainy and the next year, bone dry. One year could see a killer winter and the next year could be a nice, normal winter (if there is such a thing as a normal winter). All this can affect the soil, which affects the roots and the vines and thus the grapes. It's like one big circle of (winey) life. As well, the 2011 vintage got a bit more time to age in its bottle.

front label of Bolla ChiantiEach of these wines' grapes were grown in the hillsides of the Chianti zone of Italy, right in Tuscany. The Banfi website tells us that the soil there is composed of "sand, clay...limestone [and] often very rich in marine fossils".  They were both 13% ABV and primarily made with Sangiovese grapes.

Looking back on what I wrote in my review of the 2011 vintage, I said that, "It started out with sour cherry and oak on the nose." With the 2013 vintage, I found the nose to be mostly cherry aromas with a hint of anise. So the oak was gone from the nose, replaced with a bit of a licorice scent.

In the mouth, the 2011 "was tart cherry, oak, some dark green herbs (Chianti is known for its herbs) and a touch of raspberry in the middle. The 2013 taste was of cherry cordial and raspberry, with a thin line of something mineral and lemony above it all.  So gone were the herb tastes, to be replaced by a sharper citrus flavor.

As for the finish, in 2011, "My initial reaction was, "Finally, a Chianti that doesn't leave me with my lips in a pucker! The fruits are there for sure, but the wine ends with some nice lingering tannins. They are more round and full though - not thin and sharp and drying as with some other Chiantis I have had." But in 2013, that round feeling led to a line of tannins that were a bit puckery. The whole feel of it thinned out to a fruity, tannic taste. So the 2013 vintage was less round and fruity but a bit brighter and livelier.

If I had to pick, I liked the older vintage better, but I have learned that I love a round, full feeling with my red wines. I also like my fruit to be at least on par with the tannins, because apparently, I hate to pucker.

To keep you from being bored to death, I won't go into all the meteorological details, but in August of 2011, a massive heatwave settled over Tuscany and most winemakers had to harvest the grapes about three weeks early. Winemakers were a bit disappointed that they didn't get as many grapes as usual, and that the ones they did get came from very dry soil. 1 2013 started out with a very rainy, mildew inducing spring, but in the end, the winemakers thought it would be a great year for the wine. 2

All this amuses me, because I liked the Chianti from the "bad" weather year better. I don't do it to be contrary, really. In the end though, can you see how two different years can give us two very different tastes from the same vineyard?

Now that we are done vertically sipping, if you'd like to have some fun with Chianti, and learn a little more about it, head over to Crazy For Chianti - it's a fun winey website and those are always a good vintage!


1 Sanderson, Bruce. "2011 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.2 Sanderson,  
 2 Bruce. "2013 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Olé! Today is 2014 Tempranillo Day!

logo of Lodi Californai Winegrape AssociationHappy 2014 Tempranillo Day! I know, I know, and you without a present. Well don't worry, there is still time to celebrate..and thanks to the Lodi Winegrape Commission I recently got to sample some of that California appellation's Tempranillos.   

A little background, courtesy of my very entertaining on-line tasting with the Commission. Tempranillo means "early" in Spanish, and thus this grape is known as "early ripener". You'll find that the wine is usually low in acid and high in tannins. That being said, you can roughly group Tempranillo into two taste groups: the savory and the more fruity. It is the 4th most planted grape in the world, which surprised me. I mean, it's not a varietal that leaps off the shelves at you - possibly because it's often blended with other wines. But in Lodi, California, 25 wineries produce a Tempranillo, and that's going to be my focus for International Tempranillo Day 2014. No bridesmaid today, this time Tempranillo is the bride and gets all the attention.

The wines I sipped fit somewhat into the above two taste groups, so I'm going to talk about them within those groups. (Please note, the wines are grouped according to my Winey taste buds. And with Tempranillo, fruitier does not mean "fruity". 'Nuff said.) Here we go:

bottle shot of Harney Lane TempranilloMy favorite of the group hails from Harney Lane Winery and falls into the more fruity category. It's a 2010 Tempranillo, 15% ABV.  A bright red wine, the first aroma to hit your nose is plum that gives way to earth and leather. You'll taste that leather right away, along with some warm cherry compote and bitter chocolate. The tannins were strong, but not overwhelming in the finish. The Winey Hubby and I had this with a rack of lamb and it was wonderful.

M2 Wines, Lodi CA logoNext up in the more fruity category is M2's Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). This was my second tasting of M2's Tempranillo, as I had their 2010 vintage before. This very dark red wine has a nose of mocha and coffee, which normally wouldn't make me think it was fruitier. But the taste opened up with mocha and cherry and ended with lots of dark stone fruit. No leather or earth here. It had a wonderful mouth feel too - satiny smooth. For the record, less cherry but more mocha than 2 years ago.

bottle shot of Bokisch Vineyards 2013 TempranilloNow let's move on to the more savory group with Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA), which is actually 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. This one is more of a purple color with a nose of blackberries and dark green spices. The flavors were strawberry and smoky pepper and sour greens with almost a mineral taste hanging above them all. It finished of new oak with lots of chewy tannins. There were tasters in our session that loved this wine! I am iffy on it, but that's me and chewy tannins.

McCay Cellars logoMcCay Cellars also offers up a Tempranillo "Lot 13 Vineyard" (2012, 14.2%, Lodi, CA), and the grapes actually come from the same vineyard as the M2 grapes. The nose has aromas of nutty oak and plum followed by flavors of blueberry, cherry and dark green spices like sage, thyme and oregano. The tannins were not as biting as Bokisch's were, but there was still that high mineral taste hanging above it all.

bottle shot of Riaza Wines 2013 TempranilloThe last Tempranillo (and winner of the cool wine label award) hails from Riaza Wines (2102, 14.6%, Lodi, CA) and is harvested from some of the younger vines in Lodi (12 years old, which makes them pre-teens). The nose has lots of leather on it, with a ribbon of dark berry running through it. This is a  savory Tempranillo, with flavors of leather and earth and a teeny bit of cherry. I think this one would be great with food, as opposed to solo sipping. Red meat comes to mind right away, especially with all that big red flavor going on.

So my take on Tempranillo is this: if you love a big red with lots of earthy, tannic tastes, this is a great varietal to try. You don't have to go to Spain for it either - you'll find some great ones from Lodi, right here in the good old USA. Taste a bunch and find out if you like them fruitier or more savory, with meat or cheese (or both!). But if you shy away from red, you might not appreciate this "early" grape.

In either case, enjoy the day....because any day devoted to wine is a good one, right?


I was provided with these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. 

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Round Hill Chardonnay From a Friend

You know you've reached a certain milestone as a Winey Mom when Winey Friends start giving you their leftover wine. I have reached that milestone. And I'm proud of it.

Bottle of Round Hill Chardonnay wineA few weeks ago, one of my Winey Besties (and by Bestie I mean someone who has sat by my side through countless high school basketball games on butt numbing bleachers, worked till the wee hours of the morning with me at After Prom and logged countless walking and talking miles with me on the path around our town's lake...we actually weren't walking around the lake as much as we were being walked around the lake by her dog, but that's just a detail) announced that she had a bunch of leftover wine from a work party, and had brought some of it home. She likes her wine, but like me, is the only one who really drinks it at home. So of course, she thought of me to hand the leftovers to. And it's funny, because I had actually seen this wine recently and made a note that it was one I'd like to try. I was very glad it was a Chardonnay, too, because it seems like all I'd been sipping lately was big juicy reds. And I mean no offense to the reds, it's just that after tasting so many of them, I was in the mood for a white wine. And then my girlfriend shows up on my front porch with one. Wine karma at its best.

The wine in question is Round Hill Chardonnay (2012, 13%, California). One of the main reasons it had caught my eye was that it was on sale - and we all know how I love a Winey sale. And I hadn't had a Chardonnay in a while. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in possession of a bottle, courtesy of said Winey Friend.

Little did I know that I was about to sip a gorgeous fall day in a bottle. Because that's exactly what the bouquet and tastes of this Chardonnay brought to mind. The nose starts with aromas of ripe, mellow pears, Macintosh apples and vanilla - the scents of autumn! The taste followed up on this nose perfectly with prickly pear, toasty vanilla and sour red apple. It finished with light vanilla and oak. The mouth feel was round and smooth.

The perfect wine for Autumn, evoking thoughts of gold and orange tinged leaves, cold, crisp air, bonfires, fall fruits and of course, those awesome chunky fall sweaters. (I am a sucker for a big old comfy sweater.)

Buy this wine if you like your Chardonnay with a touch of oak and full of fruit pie flavor - not sweet, but toasty and warm and smooth. I can see it pairing so nicely with a roast chicken, or a cheese plate appetizer (perhaps before you serve the turkey in a few weeks). An added plus is that it retails for around $8 a bottle - and as I said, it was on special for less when I sipped it.

Cheers to Winey Friends! Cheers to us all!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Getting Evil on Halloween

Halloween is such a fun time of year....the candy, the costumes, the parties, the candy. And thanks to the enterprising minds of some winemakers, there is also the Halloween themed wine. Boo!
Evil Cabernet Sauvignon back label.
It's really not wrong.

Evil Cabernet Sauvignon labelThis year, as I was looking for such a wine, I came across some pure Evil. There it was, just sitting there in a bottle. How could I not resist? Especially since this evil has a bit of a sense of humor, because it tells you right on the back label: "It's just wrong."

So Evil it is for the 2014 Halloween review.

This Evil comes to us in the form of a Cabernet Sauvignon (2013, 15%, Aragon, Spain).  It's a dark, rusty red color and has a nose of smoke with a cherry overlay. Given its high ABV and that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, I decided that it was best to let this one breathe for a while.

The Winey Couple as Starbucks, Halloween 2014
Star............bucks. Get it?
In the meantime, I worked on a Halloween Costume for the Winey Hubby and I.  One of our neighbors has an annual costume party, where the rule is "Come in costume or come naked." Not being into the whole nudist scene (especially with Cleveland weather what it is at the end of October), this always presents a challenge, since The Winey Hubby hates to dress up in costumes. If he can wear regular clothes as his costume, all is well. One year, I was the red Angry Bird, he walked around with an iPad and played the game. This year, I was having some creative trouble, until the Winey Daughter, at home on fall break, suggested this (see the picture at right):

For those of you going, "Huh?" right now, let me help you. I have a big STAR on, and the Winey Hubs has bunch of dollar bills pinned to his shirt. Some people call a dollar bill a buck. There is more than one buck, hence, they are BUCKS. Yes, we are Starbucks. This costume only works when you stand next to each other all night and are standing in the right order (otherwise you'll be called 4 Star).

On to the wine though, because by now it's had quite enough time to breathe. The first flavor was smooth red berries, surrounded by oak. This moved on to some mocha and finished with a taste of cafe mocha. While I'd say the tannins were full and smooth, there definitely was some heat to this wine on the finish. All in all, I'd have to say that this is a good evil and that there is nothing wrong with it at all, despite what the back label says. 

Buy this wine if you like a big, strong red with lots of equally strong tannins.  It runs in the neighborhood of $12 and will pair nicely with barbecued foods, but go easy if you are going to pair it with handing out candy. At 15% ABV, this one could potentially pack an evil punch, especially if you go by the "one for you, one sip for me" rule of candy distribution. 


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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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