Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Santana Savor - Mumm Napa - Wine Review

Toast the New Year with Santana!

Recently, my husband Lee and I were able to steal away for a day trip to Napa. As they like to say in Napa, “Cab is king”. Though I’m not all that crazy about Cabernet Sauvignon, I keep trying, thinking eventually I’ll find the one that will change my mind.  Though Cab is king, there is still plenty in Napa for me to enjoy. We visited several wineries and tasted at three of them. We always plan where we’ll visit before we leave and route our tour accordingly.  This time, Lee chose the wineries, but as we drove past Mumm Napa, I asked that we include it and make it one of our tastings as I was familiar with Mumm Champagne and sparkling wine and I thought just maybe we might find our bubbly for this NYE. As it turned out, we did.

Mumm Napa came about when Guy Devaux was sent by G.H. Mumm, of the renowned Champagne house in Rheims, France, to discover the ideal area in the U.S for growing Champagne grapes. The first vintage was produced in Napa in 1983.

We tasted several delicious sparkling wines (Sparkling wines can only be labeled as Champagne if they are from the Champagne region in France and if certain traditional wine producing methods of the region are used.)

As we tasted, we learned about Mumm’s Santana series.  This is a collaboration with rock guitarist Carlos Santana.  A portion of the proceeds benefit the Milagro Foundation established by Carlos Santana and his family.  The foundation provides grants to tax-exempt community organizations that work with children in the areas of education, health and the arts.

There are currently three wines in the series.  We chose Santana Savor, a blend of 47 % Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier and 2% Pinot Gris. Oh, how I love blends! The wine presents notes of stone fruit; apricot and peach as well as apple and shortbread. It is very fruit forward and subtly sweet on the finish. Because it is slightly sweet, it will pair well with one of Lee’s favorite dishes, Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. If you’re having hors d’ oeuvres this NYE, it would also pair well with Cucumber Salmon Canapés . Click the links below to print or save the recipes.

I wish you all the best life has to offer in 2018!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Brancott Estate Flight Song (2016) Wine Review

How many calories are in a glass of wine? Well, that all depends.  It was when I came across this Wine Wednesday’s feature, the 2016 Brancott Estate Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc, that I considered this question more closely.  I noticed the label said it is “crafted to be 20% lighter in calories”.  This sort of surprised me.  Of course, I’m familiar with the Skinny Girl wines, though I’ve never tried them.  To be honest, though I enjoy wine, I don’t feel I consume enough that the 20% savings in calories is worth the compromise of the wine experience.  However, it did cause me to pause because I don’t remember seeing a well-known label such as Brancott touting a low-calorie wine.  So, I shelled out the $15.99 and gave it a try.

Before I get into my review of the wine, I think it pertinent to point out where the calories in wine come from.  Generally, it’s either sugar or alcohol. Low calorie wines also tend to be lower in alcohol.  In the case of this week’s wine, it is 9% ABV. A popular equation I came across to determine the calories in a glass of wine is to multiply the serving size x % alcohol by volume x 1.6.  This equation works best for dry wines. A serving of wine is generally considered to be 5 oz. with about 5 glasses in an average bottle.  So, in the case of Flight Song, using this equation, multiply 5 oz. x 9 ABV x 1.6, and you get 72 calories. Their website indicates that there are 88 calories.  As you can see the equation isn’t exact, but it can get you in the ballpark. Keep in mind also, that some sweeter wines like Moscato are lower in alcohol, but the additional sugar could make it higher in calories than a dry white with a higher alcohol content.

So, after all that, how was the wine?  Was it the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had? No. But, it was far from the worst. I thought it might seem watery or lackluster, but I found it to have the qualities I’ve come to love in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  On the nose, tropical fruit, grapefruit and green vegetables. On the palate it exhibited nice body and was well balanced with the citrus notes stealing the show. I found it to have a short finish – not evolving the way other favorite Sauvignon Blancs do, but in the end, I wasn’t disappointed with the purchase. 

I noticed that the regular Brancott Sauvignon Blanc has about 119 calories per 5 oz. serving and 13.5% ABV. Over the course of the holiday party season, that 34 calories per glass could allow you a few extra hors d' oeuvres and the lower alcohol content isn't necessarily a bad thing either.  Speaking of hors d' oeuvres, Flight Song would pair well with Salmon Cucumber Canapés, Crab Rangoon and Boiled Shrimp Cocktail.  Click the links below to print or save the recipes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Wine and Opine

Each year, I like to choose one wine that stands out from all of the wines that I have reviewed so far that year as my recommendation for Thanksgiving. This year, My winner is the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Rosé. Read below to learn more about my choice.

I recently visited Willamette Valley Vineyards while visiting family in Oregon. The location and facility are quite impressive and the view from the entrance, breathtaking. 
This is one of the wines we tasted and decided to bring home with us. I always like it when I taste a wine at the winery and then when I get home and try it again, it’s as good as I remembered it being.  Sometimes, especially in cases like this, where the setting and ambience contribute greatly to the experience, I worry whether the wine will hold up without it. FYI, it most certainly does.
A rosé made from Pinot Noir, it is left with skin contact for 48 hours resulting in the medium pink color.  On the nose, slightly floral, hints of citrus and a pleasant minerality. Having been fermented in stainless, it is lively on the tongue with strawberry and honey notes on the palate.

This is a great summer picnic wine, quite versatile for pairing with lighter fare. We enjoyed it with Oven-Roasted Cornish Game Hens and Sage and Garlic Infused Whipped Potatoes. It occurred to me that this could be my Thanksgiving 2017 wine. 

I also noticed on the label that if you bring the bottle back to the winery, they’ll give you a 10 cent refund.  Perfect, I was looking for an excuse to go back. Click the links below for recipe paring suggestions.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cosa Obra Sauvignon Blanc (2016) and Proprietor’s Blend (2013) Wine Review

Saturday afternoon, I was shopping at AJ’s Fine Foods, and was fortunate to be able to enjoy their Saturday tasting. This week they were featuring wines from Cosa Obra of Sonoma County.  There were 3 wines offered; a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Noir, and a red blend.

I have to admit, as winemaker Gregory Hayes introduced the wines, I wasn’t all that enthused about trying a CA Sauvignon Blanc.  You see, for the longest time, if I had to choose a favorite varietal, it would be Sauvignon Blanc.  I have loved the crisp citrus, sometimes grassy, sometimes mineral notes, but usually prefer the New Zealand or French styles of this varietal. It seems the CA winemakers like to introduce oak, or too much oak for my taste, and I don’t care for that in my Sauvignon Blanc.  I say this, but at the same time, lately, I have found myself to be somewhat bored with my favorite varietal. 

Gregory poured the Sauvignon Blanc tasting. I swirled and sniffed and was “wowed’ and “wooed” by the nose. Lush tropical fruit, peach and orange blossom. The wine had a wonderful viscosity, more body than most Sauvignon Blancs and was very well balanced.  There was a luscious fruity finish, so much more than the typical citrus burst.  He mentioned that the wine was probably not chilled as much as it should be, but I thought it was perfect. At this temperature, there was nothing to hide behind. The wine is fermented in stainless tanks, but does just a short amount of time in neutral French Oak.  Fabulous!

As I was enjoying my tasting, Gregory mentioned that the wine was 100% Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué. When I sat down to write this, my curiosity led me to learn more about this Musqué. A Musqué is a clone or mutation of the parent grape that has Muscat (highly perfumed) qualities. Sauvignon Musqué is not yet recognized as a varietal, thus, though unique, is still considered Sauvignon Blanc. This discovery was quite exciting to me. My favorite varietal, once again, claimed and owned its distinction as my favorite varietal.  Though the importance of exceptional fruit must be noted, this fruit, thankfully, ended up in the right hands. 

I went on to taste the other two wines, both very fruit forward options.  I also purchased the Proprietor's Blend, a red blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Grenache.  I enjoyed the dark fruit, blackberry and blueberry and the wonderful peppery finish as well as the deft use of oak.

We enjoyed the Proprietor's Blend with Beef Fajitas on Sunday evening, and I look forward to uncorking the Sauvignon Blanc very soon.  I also plan to make Cosa Obra a stop on my next CA wine tour. Click the link below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestion.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bodegas Shaya Arindo Verdejo (2013) Wine Review

It was in August that my husband treated me to a birthday dinner at VB Lounge, a place in Chandler, AZ, I had been wanting to check out.  As per usual, I had perused the menu prior to our arrival, and my taste buds were set.  The server handed me the wine list, I ordered, only to have her come back and say that they were out of what I’d requested – gasp! She then suggested a Verdejo, pronounced Vare – DAY – oh, which wasn’t on the wine list, but she highly recommended. It turned out to be a wonderful suggestion, and I was reminded of a varietal that I enjoy and don’t often purchase because there isn’t usually a broad selection and you have to ask or search it out at the wine shop.
My next trip, I was sure to bring home a Verdejo - this week’s Wine Wednesday feature, the 2013 Shaya Arindo.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from a vineyard in Segovia in the Rueda region of Spain where the primary varietal is Verdejo. Wine labeled as Rueda Verdejo must be at least 85% Verdejo. This wine is 100% Verdejo.
The wine exhibited a beautiful golden color. On the nose, tropical fruit, honey and a noticeable minerality. The wine though fermented in stainless, still possessed a creamy, silky mouthfeel that I found surprising while still providing a familiar well-balanced acidic finish.  I liked the body of this dry white wine, making it more versatile for pairing.
We enjoyed this with steamed mussels and I used the wine in the mussels as well. Try also with Prosciutto Pasta Roulade.  Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bulgariana Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah (2011) Wine Review

When I think of different countries and/or regions known for wine production, I must be honest, Bulgaria isn’t one of the first that comes to mind.  This week’s Wine Wednesday feature, the 2011 Bulgariana Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah Blend piqued my curiosity and caused me to do a little research.

In the 80’s, Bulgaria was the world’s second largest producer of wine, but the collapse of communism caused the industry to decline. However, it is on its way back to the extent that the Thracian Valley is one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations for 2017. Who want's to go?

The Thracian Valley (Southern Bulgaria) produces Mavrud (a red varietal thought to be indigenous to the area) as well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon among others.

Bulgariana is a 50%/50% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It has an intense deep garnet color.  On the nose, blackberry, cassis, very very ripe plum and coffee. On the palate, it wasn't as aggressive as I might have expected from a wine of 14.8% alcohol by volume. It started out very fruit forward, slightly sweet and sort of jammy in the middle with a welcomed peppery finish.

Incidentally, the wine wasn’t quite as sturdy the second day. It was a touch sweeter, though it kept its peppery finish, which made it a great pairing for barbecue and sloppy joes. We enjoyed this with Grilled Lamb Chops with Walnut and Herb Pesto the first night and Chipotle Chili Sloppy Joes the next. Try also with venison or bison. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

La Quercia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2015)

My basil plant has become a basil bush.  What does that have to do with this week’s Wine Wednesday feature you ask? Well, it has to do with how I arrived at serving it. You see, I decided to use some of my fresh basil to make a double batch of my homemade marinara. 

Whenever I’m making “sauce” I usually freeze most of it for future meals, but after smelling it slowly simmer for a good part of the day, I had to reserve some for dinner that night.  So, I browned some hot Italian sausage, sautéed some mushrooms and heated it with my marinara – then decided to choose my wine.
 I had used some Chianti in the sauce, but when I noticed that my wine fridge was now void of Chianti, I spotted the bottle of 2015 La Quercia Estates Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I thought to myself “Montepulciano – Sangiovese – Chianti – same thing – that’ll work”. That could all be true if not for the d’Aburzzo part I had hastily overlooked.
To clarify, Montepulciano is a town in Tuscany. It is also a red wine grape varietal. The key grape varietal grown in Montepulciano, the town,  is Sangiovese which is also the key grape varietal in Chianti.  However, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the Montepulciano varietal grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The good news is that though the wines are uniquely different they do share some common characteristics which still made my choice a delightful pairing for spaghetti with marinara.
Both wines tend to be very fruit forward and this one certainly was. On the nose, blueberry with a hint of spice and cassis. It was slightly sweet on the tongue but exhibited a well-balanced acidity with pleasant pepper on the finish. I actually preferred this over a Chianti with my sauce as my sauce is on the zesty side and with the addition of the Italian sausage, the wine stood up nicely to the bolder flavors. This wine is fermented in stainless steel with no barrel aging which in my opinion usually makes the wine a little brighter and more lively on the palate.
With a price point of $11 - $12 a bottle, this versatile wine for pairing makes for a great weeknight choice.
I would also recommend with pork loin or Baked Chicken and Wild Rice. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.