Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coyote Yummy

With summer coming to an end, I am backing away from my use of boxed wines and trying to find some new bottled wines to try.  On a recent trip to Total Wine, one of their displays caught my eye.  The display was for Coyote Creek wines and each bottle was a dirt cheap $6.99.  As you know, I love a good bargain so I picked up a couple bottles to try.
Coyote Creek Winery is in Santa Rosa, CA.  Technically it is part of Adler Fels Winery which also produces Coastline, Kitchen Sink and Leaping Lizard…all favorites of mine.  Once I knew that, I figured the Coyote Creek wines had to be decent, at the very least.

The bottle I opened was the 2010 Chardonnay.  This wine is a blend of 95% chardonnay grapes and 5% mixed white varietals.  It had the aroma of citrus and fall fruits.  I detected pear and citrus in the taste.  It had a bit of a mineral tone with a buttery ending.  I really liked it.  I had hubby try it and he agreed that it was good and he isn’t a huge white wine fan with chardonnay being his least favorite.  We did drink it alone but Coyote Creek suggests paring it with fresh tomato and cucumber salad, risotto with mushrooms and parmesan cheese and roasted chicken and vegetables.  I make risotto quite often so I think I will definitely buy another bottle to accompany it the next time I make it.

The second variety I opened was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine of comprised of 76% cabernet sauvignon grapes, 8% Rubired, 7% ruby cabernet and 9% mixed red varietals.  I immediately noticed the aroma of dark berries with a hint of herbs.  The taste was full-bodied with hints of berries and plums.  I also detected and undertone of rosemary.  We drank it with a simple pasta and turkey meatballs and it paired very well.  Coyote Creek recommends pairing it with pasta with spicy tomato and black olive sauce, beef tenderloin and potatoes au gratin and slow cooked lamb shank.  I had just mentioned to hubby that I haven’t made pasta puttanesca in a while and I think this wine would go beautifully with it.

With everyone’s budgets being a little tight these days, I think these two budget wines are staples to have in your wine rack.  It’s always great to find good wines that won’t break the bank and these definitely fit the bill.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bzzz Bzzz Junebug

So, hubby and I were in Target the other day and he voiced his displeasure at the fact that I had only been buying boxed wine for the last couple of months.  We were in need of wine anyway so I went down the wine aisle and grabbed a familiar bottle of Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc but I also wanted to try something new.  A wine called Junebug caught my eye.  When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, L, she was due in June so we called her Junebug until we knew she was a girl.  Pus the bottle was pretty and cheerful so I grabbed it.

A couple of days later I chilled it and opened it.  It was a 2010 Pinot Grigio that had cost $9.99.  I didn't see any other varieties but I'll look next time I'm in Target.  I tried to do some research on it but I haven't been able to find much info aside from people blogging about it or asking people on Yahoo Answers about it.

I sampled it alone at first.  It was light and fruity with a hint of citrus...perfect for summer.  next, I paired it with grilled chicken and it went really well together.  I think it would be great with light, summery seafood dishes too.

I wish I could find more information on it.  I'll keep looking and add to this is I find out anything more.

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Thinking Inside The Box

When I posted my last post about boxed wines, I ended by saying I had heard that the Target Wine Cubes were very good and that they were on my list to try.  Well, I finally got around to trying a few of them and I have to say that I agree...they are VERY good.

The first one I tried was my favorite variety, Sauvignon Blanc.  My Target sells the 3 liter cubes for $17.99 though they occasionally go on sale for $15.99.  Even at the regular price, that comes out to about $4.50 per bottle of wine which is an excellent deal.  Anyway, I chilled the cube a bit and they poured my first glass. The first thing I noticed was the tropical nose. I thought to myself that it was very similar to my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, Nobilo.  I took my first sip and I was in love. The wine was light and crisp with a hint of tropical fruit and citrus...much like Nobilo.  I had already found a slightly cheaper wine that was very similar to Nobilo but the cube was an even better deal so it has now become my go-to Sauv Blanc.

The second variety I tried was the Pinot Grigio.  It had the aroma of apricots and the taste was light, slightly acidic and a bit dry.  The apricot carried over to the taste and I also detected a hint of honey.  Like the Sauv Blanc, I thought it was very good. It goes very well with chicken and light seafood dishes.

Now, my husband is more of a red wine drinker so he asked me to buy one of the red varieties. Consumer Reports had just rated some bargain red blends and had recommended Target's Cabernet/Shiraz blend.  Well, unfortunately, once I got to Target, I couldn't remember which one they had recommended so I grabbed the Vintner's Red Blend.  I really liked was light and quite fruity with hints of dark berries.  My husband however, is not a fan so next time I'll get the Cab/Shiraz blend.  I think the Target Wine Cubes have found a permanent place in my fridge and wine rack....good wine for a great price.  You can't beat that!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Super Affordable From South Africa

My interest in South African wines started when Zane Lamprey went there on Three Sheets.  He sampled some of Fairview’s Goats Do Roam wines and I went right out to find them myself.  Since then, I have tried all three (?) varieties and I LOVE them.  I’ve tried some of Fairview’s other wines and I have liked them all.  So when I needed a new topic, I though why not expand on affordable South African wines?

I found that our local Total Wine had plenty of affordable South African wines to choose from.  My first choice was Star Tree Nouveau Rouge.  It was a 2009 vintage and cost $9.99.  It was a medium bodied red with hints of raisin and nuts.  It was well balanced and a bit different, which I liked.  I drank it alone but I think it would pair well with cheese and red meat.

My second choice was a 2010 Spier Chenin Blanc that was a steal at $7.99.  I noticed the color at first since it had a bit of a greenish hue.  It had the aroma of tropical fruit which carried over to the taste.  I also detected a bit of kiwi.  It had a nice acidity.  I sampled this alone as well but Spier recommends pairing it with goat cheese, sushi, pasta and pizza.  Total Wine had several Spier varieties in stock and almost all of them fit my budget criteria so I plan on picking some of them up to try.

My third and last choice was a 2010 Chardonnay by Excelsior that also cost $9.99.  Like the Chenin Blanc, this wine also had a bit of a green hue.  It had aromas of peach and orange and had the taste of green apples.  It was a bit creamy and nicely fruity with a medium body.  I really enjoyed this one and I am guessing the fact that it is only lightly oaked had something to do with it.  Recommended pairings are grilled seafood and lightly spiced Thai chicken dishes.  I LOVE Thai food so that is a pairing I definitely want to try.

In my opinion, South Africa has a plethora of good, affordable wines to offer and I plan to stay on the lookout for more!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tour Of Italy

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a foodie.  I love to cook all types of food.  Both of my grandmothers were good cooks and I often baked with my maternal grandmother.  I guess things rubbed off.  One of my favorite kinds of food is Italian.  I think I cook that more than anything, especially in the cooler months.  And along with Italian food, you HAVE to have Italian wine.  For a long time I stuck to the two best known varieties…Pinot Grigio and Chianti.  But after looking at the wine list a couple week ago at one of the Italian restaurants in Disney’s Epcot, I realized that there are many more out there.  So, I hit my local store looking for some new Italian wines to try.

I headed to the white section first.  There were quite a few that fit my budget criteria so it was hard to choose.  I ended up choosing one with a cute little bee on the label (you know me and cute labels) that cost $8.99.  Of course, the label was in Italian but it APPEARS the vineyard is called Cren dell’ Ape and the variety is Piemonte Cortese 2009.  Ahh, I DID know that meant it came from Italy’s Piedmont region and I was right.  The back label said the wine was produced from Piedmont’s traditional white grapes.  The nose was very floral and fruity.  I tasted fall fruits like apples and pears with a floral hint in the background.  It was very crisp and light…perfect for a hot Florida summer evening.  After sampling it by itself, I had it along with my dinner…spaghetti with peas and pancetta.  It went well with the goat cheese in the pasta and I think it would also go well with chicken and seafood.  At that price, I’ll definitely be getting it again.

The second bottle I chose is a 2010 Pinot Grigio.  I chose it because it was labeled as one of the stores Top 10 White Wines for summer.  This bottle cost $9.99.  Again, the label was in Italian but I THINK the vineyard is I vigneti di Albino Armani.  It also said the wine was an Alfio Moriconi Selection although I’m not sure what that means.  The back label said the wine comes from the delle Venezie IGT area which is comprised of Veneto, Terntino, Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia.  The grapes come vineyards that have been owned for four centuries.  The wine was very good.  This one also smelled of fall fruit and had a nice crisp flavor with a hint of pear.  The label said the wine id very versatile.  I sampled it alone but I think it would pair well with the same foods as above.  It’S another good wine to sip on a warm summer evening.

The last wine I chose was a red.  This particular wine was on the store’s Top 10 Red Wines for summer.  It is a 2009 Sangiovese from Mantelassi vineyards in the Maremma coastal area of Tuscany.  This bottle also cost $9.99 and indicated it was an Alfio Moriconi Selection as well.  The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and aged in steel tanks.  It was a beautiful ruby red color with the aroma of berries.  The berries came through in the taste along with a bit of earthiness.  It was fruity and well balanced and very easy to drink.  The label recommended pairing it with pasta, pizza and grilled meat so my husband and I tried it with grilled flank steak.  The pairing was wonderful.  I can’t wait to try it with some pasta and homemade tomato sauce.

I am so glad I have branched out beyond the run of the mill Italian wines.  I look forward to trying more and pairing them with some new Italian dishes!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

They Come From The Lands Down Under

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Australia and New Zealand.  I’m not sure if it’s the opposite seasons or the cool accents but I would LOVE to travel to both places one day.  Since a trip like that is not in the budget right now, I have to settle for drinking their fabulous wines.  There is a plethora of affordable wines out there from both countries and I am having a lot of fun trying them all.

Last weekend I was on the prowl for some new Down Under wines.  I was shopping at my local ABC rather than Total Wine so the selection wasn’t quite as good but I did manage to find three that fit my budget.  I couldn’t wait to go home and try them.

I picked up two varieties from the Nugan Estate Winery in Australia.  Nugan is one of Australia’s Top 20 wine exporters and they are the 18th largest vineyard holders in Australia…certainly nothing to sneeze at!  They have been in business for more than 65 years so they are obviously doing something right.  I picked two varieties from their Vision label which is their second estate label.  Both bottles cost $10.99.  The first variety I tried was the 2009 Chardonnay.  I had a friend sample it with me and we drank it by itself.  The color was a lovely light yellow with an almost green tint.  I detected the aroma of peaches and spice with a hint of vanilla.  The peach carried over to the flavor.  It was slightly acidic with a dry finish.  I think it would go well with seafood so I think when I buy it again, I’ll try that pairing.

The second variety tried was the 2009 Shiraz.  It was a lovely deep red color with hints of chocolate and spice in the aroma.  The taste was full-bodied with hints of mocha and spice.  My husband and I tried it alone at first and we both agreed it was very good.  We also had a glass with our pasta and meatballs one night and I thought it went well with it.  I think it would also go well with red meat dishes and anything a bit spicy.  We’ll definitely be buying it again.

The third wine I picked up was from Smythe & Renfield in Marlborough, New Zealand.  I tried the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and like the other two bottles, it cost $10.99.  Upon pouring I noticed the hint of citrus and tropical fruit which carried over to the flavor which was very crisp.  I still have some left and I plan on trying it with some grilled seafood later this week.  I think the two would pair well.

As I continue to sample new wines from the lands down under, I’ll daydream of the day when I can actually drink the wines while in their country of origin.  Maybe some day….

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hola Verdejo…And Other Spanish Wines

My sister introduced me to Spanish wines a couple of years ago.  I believe the first one I tried was a Tempranillo but I’m not sure.  Since then I have bought a couple of Spanish wines here and there but I don’t buy them regularly.  In my effort to expand my wine tastes, I decided to pick up three bottles on my last trip to Total Wine.  There were plenty of affordable options to choose from and since I love to pass on a good deal, a new article topic emerged!

The first one I tried was a white wine.  It was a Verdejo from the Palma Real winery in Rueda, Spain.  The card next to the display explained that it was an unoaked white wine.  The vintage was 2009 and the bottle cost $11.99.  The first glass I drank by itself.  I was pleasantly surprised at the floral and citrusy nose and the crisp acidic flavor.  It was very pleasant to drink on a hot Florida summer day. The next night I paired it with grilled chicken, brown rice pilaf and a salad.  It went wonderfully and I later found that grilled chicken was a recommended pairing along with grilled seafood, shrimp scampi and pasta salads.  Shrimp scampi is a favorite in my household so I will definitely pick up another bottle of this wine the next time I make it.

The next wine I tried was one of the two reds I had chosen. It came from the Bodegas Montecillo winery in Rioja.  It was a 2007 Tempranillo which was aged for more than a year in oak barrels and then aged for an additional year in the bottle.  It cost an affordable $9.99.  It was a beautiful garnet color and had the aroma of fresh fruit and vanilla.  As I sipped, I detected the taste of dark berries with a slightly spicy and woodsy hint.  It was fresh and medium bodied.  I drank it alone at first but then paired it with a grilled flank steak.  The two went quite well together.  Other recommended pairings were meat dishes, mild cheeses, paella, and spicy dishes.  My husband liked it a lot so I am sure this will find its way into our cart again.

The last wine I tried was another Tempranillo from Rioja.  This one came from the Monte Clavijo winery.  It was a 2010 vintage and cost an even more economical $8.99.  The flavors were very similar to the one above…fresh with hints of cherry and berry.  It was light and very delightful on its own so I didn’t end up pairing it with anything but they say it pairs well with pasta and meat dishes.  My husband liked this one as well so maybe I will try it the next time I whip up a batch of pasta with homemade sauce.

I know there are many more Spanish wines out there so I think will continue to say “Hola” to the different varieties and I encourage others to do the same.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On The Rhône Again

When people talk about fine wine, they often mention fine French wine.  At least, that’s the way I remember it being when I was a kid.  I think for a long time, I thought wine only came from France.  Obviously, as I grew older, I learned that wasn’t the case.  Even so, I think it was a good long time before I actually tried a true French wine.  It just wasn’t really on my radar and I assumed they were all expensive.  But since trying it for the first time, that has definitely changed and I have found quite a few that are very good and very budget friendly. I have found myself partial to Rhône wines though I plan to expand into other French wines in the near future.

Chateau De Nages has become one of my favorite producers of Rhône wines.  They are organic and practice sustainable farming which really appeals to me. I have previously written about their Reserve Red Rhône blend and their Reserve Rosé, both of which I enjoyed.  Since I enjoyed those, I decided to give their Reserve 2008 White Blend a try.  I picked it up at Total Wine for $9.99.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Roussanne. The nose was delightful…floral and citrusy.  The taste was light and fresh with a crisp finish.  At first I drank it alone but later I paired with simple grilled chicken and a barley risotto.  It paired very well.  The label also recommended pairing it with grilled fish and seafood which is what I will do the next time I buy it.  As usual, Chateau De Nages did not disappoint.

My other favorite Rhône wine is also probably the most well known variety…Cotes du Rhône.  I have tried several in the past but never wrote them down so I have no idea what they were.  The one I tried for this article by Domaine Guy Mousset.  It was a 2009 vintage that cost $11.99 at Total Wine.  It was a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah.  It had a dark berry nose and that also carried over to the flavor though I also detected a hint of strawberry.  It had a nice, smooth finish.  It went very well with grilled flank steak and I assume it would go well with other grilled red meats as well.

The third wine was simply labeled as a Red Rhône Wine by Domaine de Clairfont.  This was also a 2009 vintage and cost $9.99.  When I looked closer at the label, I realized it also said Guy Mousset on the label but I couldn’t find much information on it.  This bottle did not indicate what wines it was a blend of which was a bit disappointing.  It had a nose of red fruit…maybe a bit of plum.  The taste was light bodied for a red.  It was acidic with a medium finish.  Both Hubby and I thought it was very good both alone and with a nice steak so it will likely go in our wine rack again.

Now that I’ve dipped my toe a bit more into the pool of French wines, I can’t wait to expand my horizons and try more.  I’m sure you’ll see them here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thinking INSIDE The Box!

Box wines have gotten a bad rap mainly because of wines like Franzia that are, well, they just aren't that great.  I do have to admit though, I HAVE bought Franzia, usually the white zinfandel.  I would buy it for my daughter's birthday party when we lived in CT.  Several family members like white zinfandel so, it made sense.  And I'll admit, I would have a sip or 2.  It's not AWFUL but it's not something I would want to drink on a regular basis.

Over the last couple of years, a few higher end box wines have emerged.  Box wines are a bit more acceptable in Europe mainly because of the eco-friendliness of it and people in the U.S. began to wonder "Why not here?" 

I'll admit, the first time I tried one of these box wines, I was apprehensive.  And hubby looked at me like I was out of my mind.  But, budget friendly drinker that I am, I thought it was a great value.  I tend to drink more white wine during the summer so I thought it was a good way to cut some of the cost.  I was living in CT at the time but bought the box at a liquor store in MA where we bought most of our stuff. I think it was around $15 for the 3L box which is equivalent to 4 bottles of wine. Not too shabby!  The brand was Fish Eye and I had tried several of their bottles wines.  I bought the pinot grigio and was pleasantly surprised. 

With that purchase under my belt, I decided to try a different brand....Black Box.  I bought the sauvignon blanc.  Depending on where you get it, the price can be anywhere from $16 to $18.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised.  If you've read here before, you know sauvignon blanc is my FAVORITE variety so to find it in a box and have it taste good was a huge bonus.  Since then I have also tried the chardonnay and the pinot grigio, both of which were very good.

On my next trip to one of the bigger liquor warehouses, also in MA, I saw third brand called Bota Box.  I usually find there for around $18, sometimes a little less.  Now, this one really impressed me.  I've blogged about eco-friendly wines before and this one is exceptionally eco-friendly.  The boxes are made from 100% post-consumer fiber with soy inks and a BPA-free plastic bag.  Sadly, they don't make a sauvignon blanc but they may a darn good pinot grigio which is my runner up.  Their chardonnay is good too.  I've heard good things about their Old Vine Zinfandel so I need to try that too.

A friend has sung the praises of the Target wine cubes.  I haven't tried them yet but they are on my list.  With the weather warming up here, I think box wines will be my go to's from now on.  Even hubby is starting to come around.  He asked last week if they make red wines in boxes.  I told they did indeed and they keep for up to 6 weeks.  He prefers red wine so he may be coming around to the box side of things too.

So, forget the stigma of box wines and give some of these a try.  With summer coming, they're great to bring to a picnic or barbecue and chances are, you'll get other people hooked too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's In A Name?

I am not easily offended. I swear like a sailor and unless something obscene is directed at ME, I usually do not get offended by it. So, when I saw a line of wines called Fat Bastard, well, I think it goes without saying that I had to try it. The cute little hippo on the label may have helped a bit too.

Fat Bastard Wines was started in the South of France by two men. Thierry Boudinaud is a renowned winemaker and Guy Anderson is a friend of Thierry’s from London. One day, Guy arrived to visit Thierry in his wine cellar to sample his most recent vintages. After sampling several, they thought they were good but nothing really blew them away. The next day, Thierry decided to let Guy try an experimental wine he had in the back of his cellar. Thierry explained to Guy that they had left the wine on the lees (yeast cells). After trying this experimental wine, the two knew they had a winner. The wine was a beautiful color with a rich, round palate. After a few minutes, Thierry exclaimed, “Now that is what you call a fat bastard!” Fat bastard was a term Thierry often used to describe something that is great. Both men agree this wine needed to be shared and there was no question about what to name it…Fat Bastard.

The two men proceeded slowly when it came to distributing the wine. The first vintage consisted of only 5,000 cases of which 2,000 went to an American friend of Guy’s named Peter Click. Even with the small distribution it was clear that people in the U.S. and Europe loved the wine. Many bought it because of the name and liked it so much, they returned to buy it by the case. It seems both the name and wine were home runs. Who knew a lot of people buy wine because of the name? Some retailers in the U.S. were reluctant to carry the wine in the early 1990s but it seems they got over that fairly quickly.

Fat Bastard carries several varietals. I have only tried two so far. Both wines retailed for around $10. The first one I tried was the 2009 Chardonnay. This wine is fermented in both oak barrels and steel tanks. The wine was a pale gold color. The aroma carried hints of vanilla and a bit of toast. The taste was full bodied with vanilla carrying over. I also detected an almost floral taste. I drank it paired with grilled chicken and barley risotto but Fat Bastard recommends pairing it with cheese, poultry and cream sauced pastas. I liked it a lot and will definitely be purchasing it again.

The second variety I tried was the 2009 Pinot Noir, a variety I do not drink enough. The wine was a beautiful ruby color. Upon pouring, I detected a floral tone as well as a hint summer berries. The berries carried over to the taste and were joined by cherries. The taste was smooth with a nice finish. My husband and I drank it with grilled flank steak. Recommended pairings are white meats like chicken, veal and pork as well as fresh fish and salads. I think I’ll buy another bottle this week and try it with grilled pork tenderloin. I also look forward to trying the other varietals and maybe buying some merchandise from their online store…I can’t resist that little hippo! In my opinion, Fat Bastard is a winner and not many bastards can claim that!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yay for Yalumba!

While browsing the shelves for wines to write about in this article, I came across a bottle of Pinot Grigio that said “Australia’s Oldest Family Owned Winery” on the label. If that isn’t asking to be written about, I don’t know what is. So I grabbed it and took it over to show my sister who was down visiting from New Hampshire. “Oh yeah…Yalumba, “she said. “We really like their Shiraz.” I made a mental note of that so when I went back to buy more to complete the article, I would make sure to pick up the Shiraz. I ended up trying 3 varieties in all and they were all really good.. But, given the fact that the history is what made me buy these particular wines, I guess I should start out with that piece before I get to the good stuff.

Yalumba was founded in 1849 by a British migrant and English brewer named Samuel Smith. Smith had brought his family to Angaston, Australia to start a new life. He purchased a 30 acre parcel of land just past the southeast boundaries of the town and he and his son began planting their first vines by the light of the moon. Smith called the land “Yalumba” which is aboriginal for “all the land around.” Now, after 5 generations and more than 160 years, the winery has grown substantially and has become a wine success story that is envied by winemakers all over the world.

The three wines I bought were part of the winery’s Y series and that series is only one of MANY that the winery has. All three bottles cost $9.99 at my local Total Wine. Since I picked the Pinot Grigio up first, that was the first one I tried. It was a 2010 and the wine was the color of straw. The aromas were fresh with hints of citrus blossoms and honey. Upon tasting it, I detected hints of apple and pear. It was crisp with a nice acidity and the recommendation was to “enjoy with anything and everything.” I had it with grilled chicken and it paired very well.

The second one I tried was the Shiraz my sister had told me about. It was a 2009 vintage that was deep purple in hue. It had aromas of blueberries, cherries and tiny floral hint. It was a medium bodied wine that tasted of cherry and a bit of pepper. I drank it alone but recommended pairings were Mexican foods such as tacos, burritos and nachos. I may have to try one or all of those pairings since I LOVE Mexican food. As unusual as those pairings sound, I bet they go great together.

The last variety I tried was the 2010 Unwooded Chardonnay. I was excited to see this one since I prefer unwooded Chardonnays. The color was a bit paler than the Pinot Grigio. I detected aromas of peaches and citrus with a slight hint of cinnamon. It was medium bodied with a crisp acidity. Citrus was the primary flavor I noted but it was fresh, not bitter in any way. I drank this one alone too but am looking forward to pairing it with the recommended grilled eggplant, arugula and hummus. I think it will be delightful to have on hand for summer grilling.

I have to say that Yalumba is definitely doing something right. Any winery that has been around that long has to know what it’s doing and I look forward to sampling some of the other varieties from their vast collection.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Red, Red Wine - Part 2

As most of you know, I prefer white wine to red, but I have been trying to drink more red wine since it has more health benefits. I figured since starting a diet, I would try to be careful about what I drank as well as what I ate. So, I decided that would be the perfect opportunity to try some new red wines. And I knew my husband would be happy to help me with the research since he prefers red wine to white.

Before I even started drinking more reds, I came upon a red that has become my go to favorite for roasted beef dishes. Over Thanksgiving week, we took a trip to Disney World with my husband’s family. While we were there, hubby and I were able to steal away for a night alone (thank God for grandparents, aunts and uncles!). We decided to try the Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club since we were staying next door at the Beach Club. I remember that I ordered the filet mignon but I can’t remember what my husband had. With one of our entrees, the recommended wine was a 2008 Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage. We decided to splurge and get a bottle which cost us $45. But, we both really liked it and it went well with both of our meals. I made a note of the wine in my phone so I could try to find it locally (I live all of 45 minutes away from Disney.). I kind of forgot about it until I was planning our Christmas and New Year’s Day dinners. I was making Chateaubriand and a standing rib roast and I thought the Meritage would go great with both. So the next time we were at our local Total Wine, I looked for it. Lo and behold, I found it…for $9.99. Yeah, you can do the math on that markup. Anyway, I picked up a couple of bottles for our upcoming dinners.

This Meritage is blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. It comes from the Central Coast of California and these particular grapes come from a variety of California’s best appellations. It’s a full bodied wine with aromas of dark berries and chocolate. The taste is rich with hints of cherry and chocolate with a lingering finish. The bottle recommended pairing it with grilled or roasted meats and hearty veggies which is exactly what we did. The wine went superbly with both the Chateaubriand and the rib roast. And like I said, it’s become of go to beef wine, especially when we have company.

My next wine I picked up purely because of the name, Running With Scissors. It was 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that cost $9.99. This wine is also from California’s Central Coast and claims to “showcase classic Central Coast fruit.” This was another full bodied wine with the aroma of cherries. The taste was a bit toasty almost, with more hints of cherry and a smooth finish. We paired it with skirt steak however the bottle recommends pairing it with filet mignon or any other flavorful meats. I may start alternating this with the wine above for a little variety.

My last wine was also chosen because of the name…Pigs In The Sky. I chose the 2008 Reserve Shiraz but they also make a Chardonnay. This wine comes from Southeastern Australia and cost an economical $8.99. As I poured it, I noticed a hint of herbs which I also noted in the background when I tasted it. It was fruity with hints of vanilla and dark berries. Hubby and I both liked it so it’s likely we’ll buy it again. I also want to try the Chardonnay.

Now that I am drinking red wine more, I have found that I have come to like it even more. I still don’t like it as much as white but I definitely enjoy it a lot more. And I will continue to drink it for my health.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gnarly Wines from Gnarled Vine

I am sure I have mentioned before that I am not real scientific when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine. Since my thing seems to be bargain wines, price is usually the first thing I look at. The second thing I look at, and I know some people out there will laugh at me, is the label. If I see a pretty or unusual or artistic label, I’ll choose it. And that’s how I came to choose the wines for today’s post. Well, that wasn’t the ONLY way. The price was great. All 3 varieties cost $7.99 each. But after the price, the label is what caught my eye. I am sure some wouldn’t consider it artistic but I did. The artistic drawing of a, well, gnarled vine, caught my eye. I thought it was well done and different. So, I chose 3 varieties and off I went to try them out.

Gnarled Vine wine is produced and bottled my Oak Ridge Winery in Lodi, CA. Lodi is located between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay. The climate is ideal for growing several varieties of grapes and Oak Ridge, as well as most of the other area wineries, is dedicated to being sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The name Gnarled Vine comes from , obviously, the gnarled vines that are found in Oak Ridge’s vineyard. Many of the vines, specifically Zinfandel, have been growing in there for 120 years. The look of these old vines inspired the name of the wine.

The first variety I sampled was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. It had rich berry aromas which carried over to the taste. The berries were accompanied by a hint of vanilla, a touch of chocolate and a bit of oak. The wine was medium bodied with light tannins and a smooth finish. My husband and I enjoyed it with grilled skirt steak which was a wonderful pairing. Other recommended pairings were barbecue and wild game. The price certainly couldn’t be beat so we added it to our growing list of keepers.

The second variety I sampled was the 2009 Pinot Grigio. This was also the first variety that I had picked as I was looking for something a little different from my usual Sauvignon Blanc. Right away I detected the aroma of tropical fruit. It had a light acidity and a touch of citrus. I drank it alone at first but then paired with some simple sautéed chicken and a Caesar salad. It went very well with the chicken. Other recommended pairings were light seafood dishes and mild cheeses. I think it would be an excellent wine to serve with a cheese plate.

The last variety I sampled was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite variety. It had the aroma of citrus which was also the dominant flavor I detected along with pineapple and peach. It was light bodied and crisp with a clean finish. I sampled it by itself but the recommendation of pairing it with salad and light appetizers seemed right on. It struck me as a summer wine that would be best enjoyed in hot weather with light foods.

Overall, I found all 3 of these wines delightful and would definitely get them again. Gnarled Vine also produced a Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay, and a White Zinfandel. I think we will be trying the other varieties soon and I hope you do too.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Rosé Is A Rosé Is A Rosé

I have to admit, I am a rosé novice. Rosé wines were not even on my radar until about a year ago…unless you count white zinfandel. While browsing the wine selection on our Costco, I came across a rosé by Francis Coppola’s Sofia line. It was very good (though not on par with my theme of bargain wines) so I started my quest to find rosés that fit into my budget better.

I have tried a few rosé wines over the past year and I have even posted about one or two in past posts. While browsing my local Total Wine looking for inspiration for my next post, I spotted a rosé by Goats Do Roam (more on why that attracted me in a bit) and realized I had found my next topic. I scoured the aisles for a couple more and off I went.

The Goats Do Roam rosé was the first one I tried. As many of you know, I am a fan of Zane Lamprey and I contribute to his online magazine, Drinking Made Easy (the link is on my sidebar).  I found out about Goats Do Roam from his Cape Town, South Africa episode of "Three Sheets."  It’s produced by the Fairview Winery and Zane sampled the red which was very similar to France’s Côtes du Rhône, hence the play on the name since goats roam all over the winery property. I have also tried the red which is very good. I figured I may as well give the rosé a shot. I picked the 2010 rosé which is a blend of 40% Syrah for body, 31% Grenache for fruit, 17% Gamay Noir for freshness and 12% Mourvèdre for spice. It cost $8.49. The grapes come mostly from Fairview though some are harvested from Swartland and Piekenierskloof. The wine was a vibrant pink with the aroma of fresh summer strawberries. It was very fruity on the palate and slightly sweet. It was very refreshing. My husband tried it as well and we both decided it would go on the list of wines to buy again.

The second rosé I sampled was an organic 2009 Reserve Rosé by Chateau de Nages Costieres de Nimes Rouge from the South of France. You may recognize that name from my post on organic wines here. This rosé is a blend of 70% Genache and 30% Syrah and cost $9.99. The wine was a beautiful rose color, very appropriate for the variety. It had bright aromas of berries with some citrus. It was very crisp on the palate with hints of citrus and nice light finish. I think it would be a delightful summer wine. I sampled it alone but the bottle suggests pairing it with pasta, salads, grilled fish or even cold cuts. This too went on the list of wines to buy again.

The last rosé I sampled was by Anakena which is located in the Rapel Valley of Chile. In my post on bargain Sauvignon Blancs, I said that theirs was one of my most economical go to’s. And their rosé will go on that list as well. This was a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé that cost $7.99. You can’t beat that price. It was a vibrant pink, much like the one by Goats Do Roam. I detected aromas of spice and plum. On the palate, it was quite smooth with flavors of red berries. It was a bit drier than the other 2 but not overly so. The bottle recommended it as an aperitif or paired with white meats or salads.

I have decided that my list of favorite wines now goes like this: white wines (specifically Sauvignon Blanc), Rosé wines and then red wines. I do think that rosés are perfect for summer drinking so once the weather warms up, go out and try a few!