Friday, January 29, 2016

Winey Tasting Notes: Revisiting Israel with Mediterranean Soul Red Blend

A few weeks ago I reviewed an Israeli wine in honor of our recent trip to Israel. That was a white wine. (Winey Tasting Notes: Revisiting an amazing trip with Israel's Mediterranean Soul wine.) Today, we're going to go red as I reminisce about that wonderful, wonderful trip.

The red in question, Mediterranean Soul's Red Blend, comes from the Golan Heights sub-region in the Galilee region of Israel. (You can read more about the regions in the first post.) I thought that Galilee was such a pretty part of Israel and thoroughly loved our time there. But we were on the move, and after a few days in Galilee, we headed out to Jerusalem.

The Winey Travelers in Jerusalem
Talk about an amazing city. If you stand on one of the scenic overlooks to gaze at Jerusalem, it's like looking back in time...and yet not. You look at old Jerusalem and the walls and the domes and its all-white stone. And then you see the newer buildings, which are required to be built in the same stone as the old ones, which makes the city so seamless and sort of anciently ageless. The city embraces its past and the huge cultural and religious significance of the city, but it doesn't block any forward progress.

We saw the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, The Garden Tomb, Mt. Zion and The Upper Room, The Western (Wailing) Wall, The Holocaust Museum, The Davidson Archaeological Center (which digs at the Temple wall), The Church of All Nations, The Shrine of the Book, The Knesset....and we could have seen oh so much more.......

Jaffa Gate
Jaffa Gate and the
walls of Old Jerusalem
My favorite part of Jerusalem? Old Jerusalem. You actually have to walk through stone gates to enter into the old city. On our first foray, we went through the Jaffa Gate, which borders on the Armenian and Jewish sectors of old Jerusalem. You walk through and boom! Narrow cobblestone streets that wind in and out and around. Merchants teeming on each side of each street. The smells of different cuisines, herbs, coffee and leather. The chatter of shoppers as they go their way. Sure, the goods being offered now are a lot different from the things they sold hundreds and thousands of years ago, but you totally feel as if you have stepped back in time.
Old Jerusalem
Old Jerusalem

We walked and shopped and eventually wound up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where hundreds of pilgrims head daily to visit one of the spots claimed to be Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and buried nearby.

Outside the church, you're walking the Via Dolorosa, the route that Jesus took to his crucifixion. You can't help but walk it, because two thousand years later, it's still part of the city, just as it was back then. The sheer history of Jerusalem astounded us time and time again.

After our wonderful time there, I was very excited to find the Mediterranean Soul line of Israeli wines when we returned to the USA. Every time I sip them, I'm reminded of that amazing trip.

Mediterranean Soul is a boutique winery in the Golan Heights. As I said, I had tried a white blend first, but this was a red blend: Life Red Blend (2013, 13.9%, Golan Hts, Israel). It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. You'll get raspberry and fresh herbs on the nose. You'll taste fresh, green herbs and end with a tiny hint of coffee. The tannins on this wine are very present and they end up with a hint of cherry in your mouth.

This is a smooth wine, but not velvety smooth. It's smoothness doesn't come from the fruit flavors that you usually find a velvet feel with...this time it's more of an herbal smooth.  You'll love this wine if you like a full on red wine without any hints of fruit to speak of and more of a green, garden-y taste.

These wines are very affordable (about $10 a bottle) and I found them locally here in Ohio, so I hope that you can find them as well, wherever you are. I am really enjoying them...almost as much as I am enjoying reminiscing about our trip.


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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Winey Tasting Notes: Brancott Estate's Flight Song and The Winey Daughter Down Under

I am continuing to live for text messages and Facebook posts as The Winey Daughter studies film in Australia and New Zealand for the month. (Winey Tasting Notes: The Winey Daughter Down Under and Layer Cake Shiraz, Winey Tasting Notes: Down Under with Lobster Reef Sauvignon Blanc)

At least, she says she's studying film. As far as I can tell three weeks into the trip, she is scuba diving, shopping and sky diving. Because of course, that's what you do when you take a film class abroad.

The Winey Daughter scubas the Great Barrier Reef
Making friends on the Great Barrier Reef
Actually, it is. Because if you're going to go halfway around the world, you should absolutely take advantage of the fact that it's summer in Australia. And that the Great Barrier Reef lies off the northeastern coast of that country. Hence the scuba diving and sky diving. The shopping is a given and to be honest, it only came up when she announced that she and her classmates ran into and talked with a very famous, very cool American actor while they were shopping in Sydney. (Not sure I am allowed to say who, but his initials are Samuel L. Jackson.)

In an attempt to live vicariously through her adventures down under, and due to the lack of barrier reefs and sky diving planes here in Ohio, I have taken to sipping some Aussie wines. Actually, today's wine is from New Zealand, but since she spent the first part of her trip there, it totally counts.

Brancott Estate Flight Song Sauvignon BlancAnd besides, I was intrigued when I saw the label on the bottle. Brancott Estate's Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc (2014, 9%, Marlborough, NZ) promises that it is 20% lighter in calories than their normal Sauvignon Blanc. They harvest the grapes earlier in the season, when the sugar levels in the fruit are lower.

Really? I have had some "reduced-calorie" or "light" mixed reviews at best. (Winey Tasting Notes: Just In Time For Bathing Suit Weather: The Light Grape Collection, Winey Tasting Notes: Skinny Girl California Red (or: I'll Take The Extra Calories, Please) So I did ponder this one for a few moments. And then I figured I'd try it. In my experience, "light" whites do so much better than reds and this was from the holy ground of Sauvignon Blancs: Marlborough.

The first aroma I got when I opened the bottle was lime - lots and lots of it. And that was followed by green pepper. Very promising for a Sauvignon Blanc. The flavors didn't disappoint: green pepper and green grass mixed in with lime and lemongrass. Juicy and crisp with lots of clean acidity. This wine is dry and light.

I didn't expect that tart crispness. When I see a wine has a 9% ABV, I think sweet. Or watery. This was absolutely neither. It was full of flavor and zest. I'd buy it again, lower calories or not.

If you like your wine tart and puckery and aromatic, this is the white for you. It runs in the $10 a bottle range and would be a great wine to stock up on for summer. Or to stock up on if you are wishing it was summer and you need to find your warm weather in a bottle. It works fine for that too. I know this firsthand.


For the record: 88 calories a glass.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Winey Tasting Notes: The Winey Daughter Down Under and Layer Cake Shiraz

As I said last week, The Winey Daughter is studying for the month of January in New Zealand and Australia. Her first week of the trip was spent in New Zealand, where she lived as a Hobbit for a number of days. At least that's what it looks like from her pictures. I didn't even know she knew Gollum. (For those of you who are confused at the moment, it may help if I tell you that the The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in Wellington, New Zealand. And since she is taking a film class, it all makes sense now, doesn't it?)

Bondi Beach, Australia
Bondi Beach
(Photo by The Winey Daughter)
Right now she's in Australia. We've been getting updates from her and I'm pretty sure she's fallen in love with that land down under. It doesn't hurt that it's muddy and rainy and snowy (all at the same time pretty much) here and that it's high summer there. In fact, the other night her text announced that it was 107 degrees that day in Sydney. Now THAT'S summer, huh?

She will be traveling all over the country, but they started out in Sydney, cruising the harbor, visiting the Opera House and of course, hitting Bondi Beach. (Why travel to a different hemisphere with an entirely different season schedule and not go to the beach, right?) I  must say, the pictures I've seen are absolutely stunning. New Zealand was gorgeous, and Australia is turning out to be equally as picturesque.

Bondi Beach, Australia
Bondi Beach, take two
(Photo by The Winey Daughter)

Have I mentioned that I'm also coveting her wine time in the land down under? Because Australia, like New Zealand, is knows for its wines. It currently ranks as the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world. Grapes are grown everywhere in the country, but especially in the southern states, which is where today's Aussie wine comes from.

Layer Cake Shiraz (2012, 14.9%, South Australia) is sourced from McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, two of the more famous wine area in South Australia.

Layer Cake Shiraz The nose on this is a German chocolate cake: some faint mocha and some bright berry. When you taste it, the first layer is all oak and woodsy spices. Then you get to the middle layer and you taste the fruit, in this case, sour cherries. And to top it all off there's a layer of mocha and coffee flavors. They all come together in a wine that feels velvety in your mouth. The finish is elegant tannins. It’s very well balanced, too – no burning feel in your mouth, just a nice smooth sip.

You should buy this wine. And then buy some more. If you like red wine, but don’t want one as fruity as a Merlot, this is for you. The fruit and oak blend together so beautifully. You get the best of both of those tastes. It would please a whole range of red wine lovers.

Since the drinking age in Australia is 18, I am hoping that The Winey Daughter partakes of some of the country's amazing wines. She loves hard cider ever since her summer studies in England, so I hope that this little trip down under opens up a love of Aussie wine for her. And dang, I wish I was there to guide her along the way. ~clink~


If you want to read about another Layer Cake offering, you can click here to find out about Layer Cake's Sea of Stones Argentinian red blend. 

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Winey Tasting Notes: Down Under with Lobster Reef Sauvignon Blanc

It was pretty easy to decide on a wine to review this first week of 2016. I simply followed the Winey Daughter (metaphorically, unfortunately) to New Zealand.

Yes, the child is off on another educational adventure: this time taking a 3 week film class that will have her start out in New Zealand (where they shot the "Lord of the Rings" movies) and finish in Australia. I know there is also a film tie in with Australia, but I am a little hazy on it. I was mostly listening to her talk about snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and getting a picture in front of the Sydney Opera House. And thinking that I was very happy this is a class that counts toward her major and also that the Winey Hubby and I need major job security.

I am kidding. A little. I want my children to travel and see this big wonderful world that they live in. If those travels happen to take them to some amazing wine producing regions, all the better. So expect some New Zealand and Australian reviews for the next few weeks and bear with me as I try not to be jealous of her trip. And as I try to figure out where skydiving fits into the film class. Come to think of it, I'm gonna need a lot of wine for this one. Thankfully, there are hundreds and hundreds of great wines from these two countries.

The wine I chose for today is Lobster Reef (2014, 12.5%, New Zealand). It's grown in the Sauvignon Blanc - lots of folks think that they make the best Sauvignon Blanc anywhere. I cannot disagree, because some of my favorites come from New Zealand.
Marlborough region of New Zealand, which is that country's largest wine-growing area. New Zealand is actually two islands, and Marlborough is at the very top of the southern island, bordering on the coast. Lobster Reef comes from just outside Blenheim, the biggest town in Marlborough. The area is sunny and dry in summer but their nights can get downright cool. Their rock star wine is

I am including Lobster Reef in this one. This was one yummy wine. The nose was big and fragrant with apricot. In fact, I was almost worried that the wine itself wouldn't live up to the amazing bouquet. But it did!!  It tasted of sweet fruits: mango, apricot and then some peach. But it was not just had the lively flavors of those fruits. It had a zesty feel in the mouth – not a bit of creaminess to it. It finished on a lip smacking tart, peachy note.

If you like a white wine that is fruity tart - not sweet, not oaky - and full of giant fruit flavors, you'll love this wine. I have gone back and bought it again, I liked it so much. I found it for $10, but it generally won't run you much more than $12. It's a great wine if you want to bring back memories of summer, or if you happen to be in New Zealand, for summer sipping. Because remember, they're in a different hemisphere and it's summer there now. So yes, the Winey Daughter has escaped January in the US for summer down under. Her momma didn't raise no dummy!


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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: A Curated Box of Wines? Yes, Please

There are times when you just want someone else to make decisions for you, aren't there? For instance, when I hear "Where do you want to eat?" or "What kind of pizza are we ordering?" or "What's for dinner?" I would absolutely love it if some decision genie would pop up and give me the answers. Because I have come to the point in my life where if I say "It doesn't really matter to me," I mean it. If it mattered, I'd say so. If I have no real strong thoughts, and I say so, I MEAN IT.

Spagnol Prosecco Extra DryUnfortunately, The Winey Hubby is also at this point in his life, so when you are trying to answer a question and both parties really don't have any strong opinions, you get a little stuck. Or you just order Chinese take-out, which has become the option for argument free dining around these parts recently.

So let's just say you're trying to decide what wines to buy for a party. Wouldn't it just be heaven on earth to have someone else decide what wines to serve? And then to send them to you? Wouldn't it also be heaven on earth to have someone clean the house for you before hand? OK, I'm getting off track here a bit. But choosing a bunch of wines for a party can be a bit intimidating. Not to mention a pain in the butt. Because you've got so much else to decide on. Like food, and what you're going to wear and how to convince the family not to use the powder room until after the party because you cleaned it cleaner that it's been in months. So there.

The folks at Global Wine Cellars feel this pain. And they decided to take some of the pressure off by offering an Entertainer's Collection of wines. Six bottles that range from a bubbly Prosecco to a big old Cab that should be able to please the palates of guests gathered at your home.

Global Wine Cellars thought it might be a good idea to let me try one of their wines, and they sent me a bottle of Spagnol Prosecco (2013, 11%, Treviso, Italy). I love sparklers for a party - they pair with such a wide variety of food and they just add that little extra bit of fun because of the bubbles. Most people like bubbles. They really do. Me included.

And this Prosecco did not disappoint. It's a very pretty golden yellow color and like most bubblers, the nose was a bit faint, but had a golden apple bouquet to it. The first taste was so yummy: there was the apple, a bit of ripe, sweet pear and some honey. It wasn't sweet though, because the bubbles gave it a zesty little kick that kept it from being cloying. It was lively and fresh and made me want to find some prosciutto STAT. A wonderful party bubbler that would stay as wonderful no matter when you decided to sip it. Party or not.

The other 5 wines in the Entertainer's Collection look amazing too. I am especially intrigued by the 2014 Ranga Ranga Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the 2013 Saint Gregory Pinotrois, a blend of three Pinot wines from California. The 6 bottles cost $100 which is pretty reasonable, especially when you add the sanity saving bonus in there.

Global Wine Cellars also has an online wine shop so you can explore wines from all over the world, including Austria, which is an area I'd like to explore more when it comes to my Winey sipping.

Happy entertaining! Cheers!

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

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Ménage à Trois Silk and the Advent Calendar

I am going to pause in the reminiscing about my wonderful trip to Israel (and the great wines from that country) to talk about something that has been on my mind lately. Every single morning, actually.

The Advent Calendar.

wine rack advent calendar
NOT this Advent Calendar
(but I do like it)
And to clarify, I'm not talking about the Advent Calendar that may show up on The Winey Mom's Facebook page every year. The one with bottles in a wine rack, numbered from 1-24. Also known as Mommy's Advent Calendar.

No, this calendar is the cloth hanging that holds court in the kitchen, on the french doors, and has
done so starting every December 1 for as long as I can remember. I don't even recall where we got this Winey Family Advent Calendar. (I'm guessing Grammy...but that's just guessing.) But ever since the Winey Kids have been old enough, it's been there. It has, at times, been accompanied by other calendars given to us by well-meaning friends or family (a Playmobil calendar that fell apart every time you breathed on it comes to mind) but this is the one that we have always used to mark the time until Santa comes. Ever year.

And every year it's the same argument  discussion. Which Winey Kid gets to do which day. Do we split it up odds and evens? Oldest first? Youngest first: A reward for whichever one gets downstairs first? And what about December14th? Because that's the Winey Daughter's birthday so of course she MUST take the little cloth marker out of it's pocket and add it to the tree that day, right?

advent calendar
The Winey Family
Advent Calendar
No matter how we did got done. Little hands reaching for a marker to get us all one day closer to the big day.

After the Winey Son left for college, the Winey Daughter became the sole keeper of the calendar. Bittersweet you ask? Because she was the only child left? Nope. She was diligent about it in a way I have seen her be diligent in little else throughout her life. Every morning, before school and again on weekends, another day was marked.

But, as time moved on...well, you guessed it. I have become the sole keeper of the calendar for the past two years. I dutifully put it up in the same place. And every morning, I add another marker to the tree. (The dogs can't reach the calendar and The Winey Hubby would forget, so I win the honor.)

But I'm not marking the days until Santa gets here, am I? (OK well maybe a teeny bit.) I am mentally marking the days until I am no longer allowed to add to the Advent Calendar tree. So I'm counting down until Winey Daughter's finals are over and she can take over. And then I am counting the days until the Winey Son gets home on leave so that the two of them can debate who gets to put the markers out (that whole first downstairs thing? Doesn't really work any more since now they compete to see who can sleep the latest on their breaks.) For the record, the 14th still belongs to the Winey Daughter (woe to the person who puts THAT marker up).

I long for the days that I don't have to be in charge of the calendar. Because it means that our Winey family is together again, for however brief a time.

Menage a Trois SilkAnd I will celebrate that day, when it comes, with a glass (or two..) of wine. This year I'm really enjoying a new offering from one of my old favorites: Ménage à Trois. My first meeting with this winery was a few years ago at a party (Winey Tasting Notes: The Naughty Wine Names Series: Menage a Trois Red) Then, a bit later, they introduced a different take on their blend with Ménage à Trois Midnight (Winey Tasting Notes: The Naughty Wine Name Series: Ménage à Trois Midnight). And just recently I spied and tried Ménage à Trois Silk (2014, 13.5%, Calif).

The winery calls this a "soft red blend". It's 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Malbec and10% Petite Sirah. The nose is smoke and cherry. The taste? Wow! Mocha surrounded by cranberry with a tinge of dark herbs wrapped up in some chocolate covered cherry syrup. Silk is right! As I sipped, I imagined a big, wide bolt of wine-colored silk.

This is another great example of why I love red blends. All the best of each varietal coming together to make this a dangerously drinkable wine. If you like your reds fruity-forward but not totally without some herb and mocha influence, you will love this wine. I have found readily available at a number of places - big box and local grocery store, all in the $10-12 range.

Cheers to me not touching that Advent calendar again this year.....starting very soon.

And cheers to you all!

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winey Tasting Notes: Revisiting an amazing trip with Israel's Mediterranean Soul wine

Mediterranean Soul Dream White BlendThe Winey Hubby and I celebrated a major wedding anniversary this year - one that ended with 0. OK, it was 30 years (yes, as a matter of fact, I was 9 when we got married, thank you for asking). What to do to celebrate such a happy milestone?

We went to Israel.

Yup, this fall we joined a group of wonderful folks who made the journey to the Holy Land. And to answer everyone's first question to us: No, we didn't feel unsafe at all. Awed, overwhelmed and emotional, but never unsafe. Israel is a beautiful country - from the rolling hills and mountains and fields of Galilee to the narrow streets of old Jerusalem to the beaches of Tel Aviv to the desert of Masada and the lowest place on earth, The Dead Sea, Israel astounded us. And the scenery was almost the least of it all! The sheer history of the land is mind boggling. Really. I had to laugh once when our guide told us that one particular wall wasn't that had only been there for 500 years. Ha! Here in the US, 200 is pretty darn good. But in Israel, 500 is nothing. We walked on stone streets that had been in use for thousands of years. We walked on stones that Jesus had walked on. All in all, it was a very moving experience.

Galilee, Israel, Israeli wine
Sea of Galilee in background
And yes, Winey Friends, there was wine. Actually, Israel has a number of different wine regions. I loved the Galilee region, which is in the north and is pretty much a Mediterranean climate. Think cold and wet winter and warm and dry in the summer. In fact, if you drew a line of latitude across to Europe, you'd hit some of that continent's best vineyards.) The wine I'm going to review today comes from a sub-region of the Galilee, Golan Heights.
Galilee, Israel, Israeli wine
Olive trees

Actually, I didn't sip on this particular wine in Israel. We had some yummy wines over there - especially some great Cabernet Sauvignon blends. But buying wine and toting it around for 10 days and then packing it for the 20-ish hour journey home sounded a bit too daunting. So we drank as we went, enjoying wine with some very tasty Mediterranean foods. And when I got home, I found Mediterranean Soul Wines.

Galilee, Israel, Israeli wine
View of north shore of the
Sea of Galilee
Mediterranean Soul is a boutique winery in the Golan Heights. The first of their wines that I sipped was a white blend called Dream (2013, 13.5%, Israel). It's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Semillon. It's a translucent, pineapple yellow color with a nose of peach and kiwi. The flavors are tart green apple, lemon-lime and a hint of melon. It finishes tart and juicy, like a Sauvignon Blanc, but with the blend of the other wines, Dream doesn't feel as thin in the mouth. It's got a bit more heft to it. Overall, it's a refreshing, tart, sharp juicy wine.

I wouldn't call it a light wine - but it's not big and oakey either. I'd say that this wine was very reminiscent of our amazing time in the Galilee. It brings to mind fresh air, water, olive trees everywhere and herbs that grow like weeds in the Mediterranean climate.
Galilee, Israel, Israeli wine
OK, so yeah, I milked a goat
while dressed like...OK, a tourist,
I was a tourist!

Galilee, Israel, Israeli wine
Winey Couple, Galilee
Buy this wine (I found it locally here in Ohio for $10) if you want a citrusy-tart, flavorful white wine that stops just short of being buttery and big. Perfect for seafood, chicken and looking at a bazillion pictures from the trip of a lifetime.


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