Wednesday, December 7, 2016

First & Local Red Wine ( 2013) Wine Review

Planning a holiday party and pondering which wine to serve?

For a party with several guests, especially where others may be bringing dishes to share, I always prefer to serve blends over single varietal wines.  I find them to be more interesting, more likely to please a variety of tastes and versatile for food pairing.  I choose a red option and a white.  

A while back, I tried the 2013 First & Local Red Blend at a Total Wine tasting and it instantly struck me as the perfect party wine.  At about $12 a bottle, it makes for an economical choice, yet in my opinion it drinks at a respectably higher price point.

First and Local is a California blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. It has a rich deep purple color -  even the little bubbles that form around the edge of the glass when you pour it have a purple hue, sort of like grape juice. Yes, yes, I know, it is grape juice.  Incidentally, have I mentioned that I can’t stand grape juice, yet enjoy wine, never thought about it much till just now - I digress.

I very much enjoyed this wine.  On the nose, deep dark blackberry, spice, slight herbal notes and a hint of smoke. The herbal notes, specifically mint, became more pronounced on the second day. The silky round mouth feel cannot be overlooked yet at just the right time it delightfully gives way to a long slightly tart, peppery, juicy finish. This wine is great by itself and very versatile with food. Think meatballs, a cheese tray, barbecue sandwiches, pizza rolls, mushroom canapés, lamb chops and the list goes on.

Try this for your holiday party or with dinner. We enjoyed this with étouffée one night and on the second night,  Hamburger Hotdish.  Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions. 

Hamburger Hotdish

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving Wine Picks for 2016

Each year, throughout the year, as I'm tasting wines I make mental notes and sometimes written ones of wines I think would pair great for Thanksgiving. This year I've made my choices and I think you'll find either one quite enjoyable. 

Here's wishing you and those you love a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving!

For a white wine, the 2011 Airlie 7 blew me away! Click here to read my review.

For a red, why not something highly drinkable, favorably priced and versatile? The 2013 Campo Viejo Tempranillo is all that and then some.  Click here to read my review. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Jean Claude Debeaune Macon- Villages Domaine Lenoir 2012 Wine Review

“Anything but Chardonnay!” For the longest time (and I have to admit even today to an extent) this quote speaks to my white wine preferences.  That is unless I am viewing a wine list and can select the Chardonnay.  Most often when I’m in a situation where the wine choices are limited it seems Chardonnay is the white wine option and it typically is a CA Chardonnay which generally are aged in new oak and are too toasted for my taste. However, thankfully, I’ve learned in time to not judge the varietal by the way it is treated.

Today’s Wine Wednesday feature is a White Burgundy, the 2012 Jean Claude Debeaune Macon-Villages Domaine Lenoir. The primary white varietal in the Burgundy region of France is Chardonnay. This particular wine comes from the Maconnais area of Burgundy. The Chardonnay or White Burgundy from this area is typically “unoaked”, so if you shy away from Chardonnay because of oak, you may want to try this wine.

On the nose, pear and tropical fruit. On the palate, a pleasant minerality and crisp clean finish with notes of citrus.

Pair this wine with Chicken and Dumplings or Seafood Penne Alfredo. Click the links below to print or save the recipe paring suggestions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Remy Pannier Rosé ď Anjou 2014 Wine Review

“The only thing appealing about Rosé is its color”. While at a wine tasting event this past weekend this is what another lady in attendance said when the person conducting the tasting poured a Rosé. It set me back when the person conducting the tasting agreed with her. GASP! How unfair, how untrue! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’re aware that in the past I too have been judgmental when it comes to Rosé which for the longest time would conjure up memories of my Grandmother’s holiday wine choice of Paul Masson sold in a carafe shaped bottle with a metal lid. I still shudder at the thought.

In recent years I’ve made a point to explore Rosé wines and though the color is quite lovely, I've found it’s not just another pretty face. I’ve realized one shouldn’t paint with so wide a brush. Actually, some of you may have fond memories of Paul Masson.  I’ve learned Rosé wines vary greatly just like red or white and can be comprised of many different varietals other than Zinfandel.

As I stood at the tasting, I was thinking about this week’s Wine Wednesday feature that I had just enjoyed the night before. The 2014 Remy Pannier Rosé ď Anjou is from the Loire Valley of France. The wine takes its name from its location of origin, Anjou the former French county. This wine is a blend of 70% Grolleau, 20% Gamay and 10% Cabernet Franc. Though all are dark skinned grapes the salmon color of this wine is likely achieved by the skin contact method where the juice is exposed to the dark skins for a limited period of time.

This is an off-dry wine with notes of strawberry and citrus blossom and a pronounced minerality. It starts slightly sweet on the tongue and finishes with a lovely crisp acidity. Because of the minerality I think it would make a great pairing with fish or shellfish and because it is off-dry it could be wonderful with spicy dishes.  We enjoyed it with Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia. Try it with Grilled Squid Tacos with Pineapple Slaw and a spicy Thai Remoulade. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ropiteau Bourgogne Pinot Noir (2013) Wine Review

ABV (alcohol by volume), this is what caught my eye on the label of this week’s Wine Wednesday feature the 2013 Ropiteau Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

All wine labels display the percentage of alcohol by volume. What does this mean?  If the label says Alcohol by Volume 12%, that means if you were to separate the alcohol from the rest of the liquid in the bottle, 12% of it would be alcohol.  It is a good idea to be mindful of this when you are consuming wine or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter, because it does matter. My point here is not all wine is the same. There is a significant difference between a wine that is 11% ABV vs. one that is 15% ABV. The more experienced you become in tasting wine, you can usually detect those that are higher in alcohol. 

What caught my eye with this label is something that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before.  They listed a range of ABV, 11% to 14%.  Does it vary from bottle to bottle? Interesting. For what it’s worth, my thoughts in this case or with this bottle anyway is that it was on the lower end of the spectrum.

In many ways this wine drinks to me like a Beaujolais (another region and different varietal) but I found it to be a light bodied red similar in style to a Beaujolais. This wine is fermented in stainless steel than aged in oak for 6 months resulting in light tannins.  On the nose, notes of cassis, blackberry, violet and cedar. 

The beautiful burgundy colored wine (from which the color takes its name) offered flavors of raspberry, blackberry and flint. I found it to be a very well balanced wine though with a shorter finish than I would prefer. We enjoyed this with Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs one night and Italian Street Fair Crepes the next. Try also with quail or other game birds. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Wine Review

Linear Acidity – a new descriptive I hadn’t heard before in a wine, but nevertheless, spot on with this week’s Wine Wednesday feature the 2014 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc.

I love the backstory for this wine. For years I’ve purchased my share of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – it makes a regular rotation in my wine fridge as my "go to" New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. When I came across Loveblock in the wine shop I had no idea as to the connection. I knew upon tasting it that Kim Crawford would soon be sharing the rotation with Loveblock. Both are delicious wines, though distinctly different. 

Now - the backstory. You see, in 2003 Kim Crawford and his wife Erica sold the brand that bears his name.  In the transaction they lost the commercial use of his name and for a period of time couldn’t make wine but could grow grapes. Loveblock marks their return to the industry.

On the nose, Loveblock features notes of tropical fruit (passion fruit), peach and sweet Ruby Red grapefruit. On the palate, pronounced peach, subtle minerality and citrus. 

The label uses the words “constrained” and “linear acidity”. To be honest the descriptive made the wine sound a little lackluster, but after tasting it, it strikes me as a more mature approach to Sauvignon Blanc. 

It’s not as zippy or acidic on the finish as Kim Crawford. The slightly rounder silkier mouthfeel is evidence of malolactic fermention. It's as if it's been reigned in a bit and that's not a bad thing. I think this wine has broader pairing appeal than Kim Crawford. The wide availability of Kim Crawford will likely seal it’s place in my rotation, but I won’t visit AJ’s Fine Foods without grabbing a bottle or two of Loveblock.

We enjoyed this with Steamed Mussels one night and Chicken Tortilla Soup another. To print or save the recipe pairing suggestions, click the links below.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SeaGlass Pinot Grigio 2015 Wine Review.

The SeaGlass label lured me in. Visions of sipping something cool, crisp and refreshing while taking in the ocean breezes coerced me like wavelets nipping at my toes on a secluded Caribbean beach can draw me deeper into the turquoise water.  

A creature of habit, I tend to gravitate toward the Pinot Gris of the Pacific Northwest, but at $12.99 (the “Calgon” moment at Bevmo was worth at least half that) I figured, “Why not?”

The label also found me googling sea glass. Sea glass is actually bits of broken glass from bottles, shipwrecks or other litter that get tossed and tumbled by the oceans waves until the edges are smooth and they take on a frosty appearance. Note to self – next time you’re at the beach – look for sea glass, the actual glass (and the wine for that matter), give the shells a rest.

Interestingly enough, my general impression to date of CA Pinot Grigio has been that it tends to be a little rough around the edges. This one showed me that there are exceptions.  A brand of the Trinchero Family Estates (Sutter Home) with a motto of quality wine at a fair price in this case exceeded my expectations.

This wine, 97% Pinot Grigio from Santa Barbara County and 3% Riesling from their Monterey county vineyards is fermented in stainless steel tanks at cold temperatures preserving the grapes natural flavors and aromas.

On the nose - pear, tropical fruit, mandarin orange and honeysuckle.  On the palate, well balanced citrus with a crisp mouth watering lingering finish.

We enjoyed this poolside with crudités, cheese and crackers. Next time, I’d pair with Grilled Shrimp with Wasabi Remoulade or Lobster Risotto. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Lobster Risotto

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Michel Gassier Viognier (2014) Wine Review

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. I loved this quote from the company’s website of this week’s Wine Wednesday feature the 2014 Michel Gassier Viognier. Committed to organic farming, they strive to allow the terroir to speak through their wines. The terroir in this case is that of the Languedoc-Roussillon sub region in the southernmost coastal region of mainland France, bordering Spain and the Mediterranean Sea.

On the nose; stone fruit, fresh herbs and vanilla.  On the palate; a slightly rounder mouthfeel than expected - evidence of malolactic fermentation. For this wine the winemaker blends wine that has not undergone malolactic fermentation with wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation to create the desired balance. Each year the blend can vary depending on what the terroir bestows.

I often think of Viognier as a “winter white” since it tends to be a fuller bodied white wine. This is that, but yet it has a citrus note, perhaps due to the blending that makes it great for midsummer pairing.

Enjoy with Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs and Creamy Onion Potato Bake or a 7 Layer Mezze.  To print or save the recipes, click the links below.

7 Layer Mezze

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Camp Viejo Rioja Tempranillo (2013) Wine Review

Campo Viejo (Spanish for “old field”) is also the name of the winery that brings us this week’s Wine Wednesday feature, the 2013 Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo. Rioja is a wine region in Spain where the primary varietal is a black skinned red wine grape known as Tempranillo. It is believed that Tempranillo is native to Spain.

Though the varietal is often blended with other varietals, single varietal Tempranillo wines are becoming increasingly popular and this wine is 100% Tempranillo. There are three main sub regions of Rioja - Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  The three sub regions vary due to altitude, climate and soil and the grapes from each sub region vary as well. As is quite common with Rioja, winemaker Elena Adell blended Tempranillo grapes from all three sub regions capturing her favorite characteristics from each.

In the glass, the wine had a deep dark cherry color. On the nose, dark fruit, vanilla and a hint of black licorice. On the palate - well balanced dark fruit specifically cassis and subtle smoke.

This is a great go-to weeknight wine. It’s consistent, affordable, an easy drinker and pairs well with a wide variety of food. We had it one night with grilled lamb chops and the next night with pizza.  Try also with my Bistro Burgers. To print or save the recipe pairing suggestions, click the links below.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Savor Collective Sauvignon Blanc (2015) Wine Review

To most of you it will be quite obvious as to why I had to try this week’s Wine Wednesday feature, the 2015 Savor Collective Sauvignon Blanc. The name alone was enough to find its way into my cart, but being a Sauvignon Blanc; especially a New Zealand (Malborough) Sauvignon Blanc has me wondering why I took just one bottle. I love NZ Sauvignon Blancs and some French ones as well. I’ve said it in the past, “Why does anyone else bother with the varietal.” I keep trying others thinking eventually someone will change my mind, but so far, I stand by that quote.

I always like to research the wines I review to learn as much as I can about them. This week, I was sad to find so very little about this wine.  Even the web address on the label was inactive.

This leads me to another topic that’s been on my mind. I know my friends in Tennessee are now excited that wine will be available in grocery stores. Since moving to Arizona where you can by wine at the grocery store, gas station, drugstore, you name it, I have a new perspective on this.  

As an appreciator of wine, I would gladly forego the convenience.  Here is what I see as a result.  There is a limited selection – everyone stocks the same wines from the large labels at competitive prices.  Then there are the big box wine stores. The selection may be a little better, but it still feels the same. Isles full of very drinkable wine, but no gems to discover.  It all feels like Walmart, the same merchandise everywhere with no one with any passion for the product waiting on you. The big box stores also seem to have winemakers that sell to or make wine for only them.  I suspect this may be the case with my feature this week.  I bought it at Total Wine, a big box store with a good selection at rock bottom prices. 

This wine however, to me drinks like a gem. It’s frustrating that it may be difficult to find anywhere else. However, if you are a fan of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, I suggest you try.  On the nose I found that grapefruit scent so signature to NZ Sauvignon Blancs but in addition, honey and nectarine. The mouthfeel was slightly rounder than the usual with just a touch more body, along with a slight salinity and minerality. It had that crisp clean finish I’ve come to expect that in this case, fit the name. It was long and lingering, causing one to pause and SAVOR the Flavors!

Try with Grilled Swordfish with Lime Crema or Prosciutto Pasta Roulade. Click the links below to print or save the recipes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Yalumba, The Strapper (2011) Wine Review

”The Strapper “ is a British English term mostly used in Australia for someone who looks after racehorses by doing everything from mucking the stalls to grooming and saddling (thus the term strapper). The Strapper is reliable, solid and trustworthy.  

It’s been my experience that all of the offerings I've tried from Yalumba possess these desirable qualities causing me to continue to reach for their brand while wine shopping.  This one is a GSM. GSM is an acronym for Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, three varietals commonly blended in French, Southern Rhone wines including Chateauneauf-du-pape.

This GSM however is from the Barossa Valley of Australia. The blend is 48% Grenache, 47% Shiraz and 5% Mataro (Mourvèdre).

First off, I noticed its garnet, somewhat see-though, color.  On the nose - chokecherry or boysenberry syrup, cranberry and violet and a hint of cedar and baking spice. On the soft palate, I found it to be fruit forward, slightly jammy with a peppery yet lengthy finish possessing moderate tannins.

We enjoyed this with grilled pork chops slathered in Bone Suckin’ (Hot) Sauce and Savory Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Pecans one night and BLT’s the next. If you are making crock-pot dinners this summer, try with my Braised Beef Tips and Mushrooms over Riced Potatoes. To print or save the recipe pairing suggestions, click the links below. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Secco Italian Bubbles (2013) Wine Review

Perlage – that’s the word of the day this Wine Wednesday. Perlage is French (pronounced pear LEE ziə). The word translates as beadwork but is also used to describe the beads that form in sparkling wine. Yes, you guessed it, this week’s feature the 2013 Secco Italian Bubbles is indeed a sparkling wine.

The name “Secco” seems to allude to “Prosecco” an Italian white wine which is usually sparkling. However, this is not Prosecco even though it’s produced by two Italian sisters, Ginevra and Olivia Casa, who happen to be quite passionate about Prosecco. Washington state rock star winemaker Charles Smith joins them in this effort and shakes things up a bit.

Instead of the Glera grape varietal used in Prosecco, here they are using 100% Moscato Blanco. Sparkling wines have varying degrees of perlage and I would describe this as “frizzante”, a semi-sparkling wine.

As the days get warmer and lazy summer afternoons grow nearer, you might want to stock up on a few bottles of this. The low alcohol content (5%) makes this the perfect summer sipper.

On the nose (and palate as well) floral and tropical fruit notes. On the tongue, the sweetness of the Moscato is offset by the effervescence making it enjoyably but not cloyingly sweet.

We savored this with Grilled Bruschetta and Salmon Cucumber Canapés for one of our Saturday night appetizer night dinners. Start planning your weekend, sit on the patio or under a giant shade tree, play a relaxing game of checkers or Scrabble and sip on some Secco this Saturday or Sunday afternoon! Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Salmon Cucumber Canapés

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Machi Torrontes (2012) Wine Review

Could you recommend a wine to serve with salmon?  I’ve been asked this question more than a few times and there are several great options, but upon tasting this week’s Wine Wednesday feature it was the first pairing that came to mind. 

The 2012 Machi Torrontes comes to us from the Salta wine region of Argentina. The name pays homage to Machi, traditional healers and tribal leaders of ancient Indian culture indigenous to the area in the far north of Argentina. Machi relied on medicinal herbs and other remedies for healing and thus inspired the name and winemaker to use natural viticultural techniques to craft the wine.  

Torrontes, pronounced Tor RON tez (roll those r’s) is the most widely cultivated white wine grape of Argentina.

In the glass, a rich golden color. On the nose, bold herbal notes, also floral, though more the leaves of flowering plants, lychee and spice. It has an incredibly silky mouthfeel – a wine with weight – and a beautifully balanced acidity delivering a crisp, clean, yet complex finish of citrus, spice and lastly honey on the roof of your mouth.

The mouthfeel and weight of the wine makes it an ideal pairing for salmon, arctic char or other more oily fish dishes. The complexity of the wine will hold up to the bolder flavors of salmon and other oily fish yet not overwhelm them. The herbal aspect will also nicely compliment my Salmon with Dill Sauce. Also try with spicy Indian food or Thai flavors like those in my Tempura Fish Tacos. Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pfaffl Zeiseneck Grüner Veltliner 2012 Wine Review

Austria. I love Austria. I’ve been there several times and each time I’ve experienced this visceral sense of belonging. I have no knowledge of ancestry there, but sometimes what you feel is greater than what you know.  If I were one to believe in former lives I might conclude that one of mine had ties there. 

What’s interesting is the last time I was in Austria was in 2005, the first was in 1991 and if I have any regrets it is that I didn’t discover Grüner Veltliner until about 8 years ago.  Now I have yet another reason why I simply must return! Grüner Veltliner is the most important native grape to Austria. Over 75% of the varietal comes from Austria.

Today’s Wine Wednesday feature the 2012 Pfaffl Zeiseneck Grüner Veltliner is the entry level Grüner Veltliner from winemaker Roman Josef Pfaffl.  The wine comes from the Weinviertel region near Vienna which also borders the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Zeiseneck is the name of the vineyard the grapes are sourced from.

As days start getting warmer I start turning to lighter fair and wines such as this. On the nose, herbal notes and a distinct minerality with subtle hints of smoke. I enjoyed the slightly round mouth feel with a clean crisp finish and what some may describe as a bit of pepper on the finish as well.  I think of it more as a slight tingle on the tongue that can often accompany a wine aged in stainless tanks. This for me adds to the refreshment and makes it a great summer sipper.

The vineyard for this wine lies on the largest fossil oyster reef in the world and the terroir seemingly predisposes it for pairing with shellfish. Try with Steamed Mussels or Clams alla Puttanesca. In fact use it in the recipes as well. To print or save the recipes, click the links below. 

Clams alla Puttanesca

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Callaghan Vineyards Ruth's Blend (2014) Wine Review

AZ wine is fine! At least, that is my opinion of this week’s Wine Wednesday feature the 2014 Callaghan Vineyards Ruth’s Red Blend. In February while my parents were visiting us in AZ we took a little road trip which included wine tasting along the Sonoita Wine Trail near Sonoita and Elgin, AZ about an hour south of Tucson. I had visited the wine trail about 3 years ago, interestingly enough, the day after wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma. At the time, I didn’t have high expectations for AZ wine, but was curious none the less. During my 2013 visit I was surprisingly impressed and purchased several bottles to take home with me. Once home and time had passed  I was equally impressed when I realized I loved the wine as much as I did while tasting at the winery. The wines of winemaker/owner Kent Callaghan were among my favorites then and once again they topped the list!

Ruth’s blend is named after Ruth Graham, co-owner of Golden Rule Vineyards where the grapes for this wine are sourced in Cochise, AZ. Cochise is about an hour north and east of Elgin. This blend is 67% Cabernet Franc and 33% Petit Verdot.  On the nose, black cherry, plum, cocoa and baking spice. On the tongue, big fruit, moderate tannins and a tart juicy finish. This wine is an incredibly balanced wine that is easily paired with a variety of dishes - a real go-to wine as a crowd pleaser for red wine drinkers. 

Ruth’s blend is not on Callaghan’s official tasting sheet, but be sure to ask for it.  The wine can be purchased and shipped from the winery. Contact them via the contact section on their website to purchase.

While visiting the Sonoita Wine Trail, make Callaghan one of your first stops and purchase there as other wineries are good, but not better. I recommend staying in Tucson.  

For dining, visit my friend Chef Alisah at Chef Alisah's Restaurant for delicious homemade European comfort food and Bosnian dishes.  I also recommend Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails and Wilko near the university.

We enjoyed Ruth's Blend with a Grilled New York Strip with Burgundy Mushrooms (I used the wine in the mushrooms) and a side of Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.  Try with my Roast Beef Sandwich Au Poivre or Bouja (Harvest Stew). Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza (2011) Wine Review

Tempranillo. It’s a varietal I’m growing increasingly fond of. Since moving to AZ  I’ve sampled Tempranillo from the Sonoita wine trail and have been delightfully impressed – more on that later. This week however, for our Wine Wednesday feature, we go to the native land of Tempranillo – Spain! The 2011 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza is from the Rioja region.  Crianza on the label is an indication of how long the wine has been aged. Spanish wines can be labeled Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva, Crianza being the youngest of them in terms of aging. Crianza red wines must be aged for a minimum of two years with at least one year in Oak and one year in the bottle.  

This wine is a blend of predominantly Tempranillo (85%) along with 10% Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) and 5% Graciano. On the nose -  notes of raspberry, strawberry and licorice and after a few sips - on your palate (roof of the mouth) – hints of chocolate and subtle coffee.  I found it to be a full bodied sturdy wine with ample fruit and acidity with moderate tannins - great for food pairing. We enjoyed it one night with a grilled ribeye and even more the next night with pizza.  Even better, priced as a “weekday wine”, it took the doctored up frozen pizza to another level. It seemed to love the tomato sauce on the pizza. Try also with my New Orleans style “red” Jambalaya or my Homemade Marinara. Be sure to open the wine 30 minutes prior to serving for the best experience. Click the links below to print or save the recipes.