Monday, September 30, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Caretaker Cabernet Sauvignon

Caretaker Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Paso Robles, California

My friend and neighbor gave me this wine as a thank you for taking care of her kitty while she was out of town. Get it? Caretaker. Clever, right? I must confess I missed it until she pointed it out to me...

Review: This is a simple, light bodied Cabernet from Paso Robles, California. It has nice aromas of black fruit, which are echoed on the palate -- along with just a touch of anise. The wine has a pleasant texture with only a hint of tannin and moderate acidity. Overall, this is a pleasing and easy drinking wine. I must say I appreciate the sugar level in this wine: a lot of similarly priced reds have a bit of sweetness to them, but the Caretaker is nice and dry!

Food Pairing: Great with a burger!

Bottom Line: A light and easy Cab, perfect for the end of summertime. Not too shabby for $9.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • AGEING: 12 months in oak
  • BOOZE: 13.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now

Where did I get it? 'Twas a gift -- But she said she picked it up from Trader Joe's
What's the damage? Low Price

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pietroso Rosso di Montalcino

Pietroso Rosso di Montalcino 2011
Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

Might you be furloughed on Tuesday? Don't want to spend $70 on a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino? Never fear -- you can have a swig of a Rosso di Montalcino instead!

The Tuscan regions of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino overlap in their entirety. The soils are the same. The climates are the same. The grapes are the same -- Sangiovese! The only difference is the ageing requirement. Instead of the FOUR YEARS Brunello must be aged prior to release, Rosso only needs to spend 12 month in the barrel before its release. It's a baby Brunello!

Review:  This wine is a beautiful ruby color, with aromas of red plums and sour cherries -- and a hint of violets. On the palate the Pietroso shows fresh, mouth watering fruits with a little black pepper spice and a touch of leather. I adore the texture -- a medium light body with smooth and silky tannins. The flavors linger for a medium long finish.

This wine is a great alternative to not only the premium priced Brunello, but also for other Sangiovese based wines like Chianti!

Food Pairing: Spicy pasta!

Bottom Line: Great flavors, soft tannins, wonderful freshness. I dig it. Tasty and satisfying.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Rosso di Montalcino DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) 
  • GRAPE: 100% Sangiovese
  • AGEING: 12 months in oak barrels, 6 months in bottle before release
  • BOOZE: 14.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few more years

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? High Priced

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Marsuret Prosecco Treviso

Marsuret Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry
Treviso, Veneto, Italy

In honor of the impending government shut down I decided to open something yummy and bubbly and fun (and affordable!) -- so I can enjoy my weekend before the furlough "vacation" begins.

I adore Prosecco. Made from the Gelra grape, these bubbly wines are different in character from Champagne. Rather than going through a secondary fermentation (that's where the bubbles come from) in the bottle, the base still wine is fermented for a second time in a large, closed container where the CO2 produced by the yeast is dissolved into the wine. This technique, known as Charmat, involves is less lees (spent yeast) contact and prevents the wine from taking on the toasty, biscuit notes you would associate with Methode Champenois. Instead, Prosecco is fresh and fruity -- and fantastic.

Review: This wine has a lovely straw color and soft bubbly bubbles. On the nose I found aromas of white flowers, green apples, and lemon zest. On the palate the lemons really shine, with just the tiniest touch of toast. The fruit lingers for a moment, and makes me reach for another sip.

The Marsuret Prosecco is "extra dry" - implying it is a hint sweeter than Brut. In total, it has it has about 15 grams per liter RS! The high acidity and freshness of this wine prevents the sweetness from taking over the flavor profile. Instead, you're left with a fresh and balanced -- and perceived dry -- wine.  

Food Pairing: Wonderful as an aperitif. Great with dessert. A perfect pair to any meal in between. 

Bottom Line: Light and easy. Great flavors. Good value. I dig it.
Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
  • GRAPE: Glera
  • BOOZE: 11.5% 
  • RESIDUAL SUGAR: 14 - 16 g/l
  • CELLAR: Drink now
Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bodega Familia Sewell Estado Natural Torrontés

Bodega Familia Sewell Estado Natural Torrontés 2012
Medoza, Argentina

Torrontés is Argentina's flagship white grape. It's aromatic and fun -- the perfect wine to close out summertime. This is the second wine I've had recently from this producer -- you can check out their Reserve Malbec here. I have to say I've just loved both of these wines. Delicious!

Review: This wine is light lemon in color, with beautiful aromas of white flowers and citrus. It's dry on the palate with flavors of tart lemon pulp and candied lemon rind -- with a hint of minerals and flowers! The finish is pretty short -- no lingering flavors -- it simply leaves you feeling refreshed. 

Food Pairing: Grilled chicken. 

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this wine quite a bit. It's light and fresh and just plain yummy.

Wine Geekery:

Where did I get it? Cheesetique Del Ray
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Laurent Reverdy Sancerre
Laurent Reverdy Sancerre 2010
Loire Valley, France

This weekend I went through my whole wine collection -- cataloging and organizing -- and I found something unexpected! I've been holding onto this Sancerre for years, thinking it was high-end. It turns out I bought it at the Joe for $9.99. Time to pop this puppy open!

Review: This Sauvignon Blanc is light and easy. On the nose I get aromas of lemon zest, herbs and a hint of gooseberries. It's dry on the palate with flavors of citrus and herbs. It's not overly grassy -- just a touch. The acidity is a little high, but not too out of balance. The wine has a light body and super short finish. 

I wish there was some minerality and some more fruit... Really, I just want more overall. More flavor. More intensity. This is definitely a watered down Sancerre. Even though I find it lacking, if I were hunting for a super simple and not too grassy Sauvignon Blanc this would fit the bill. 

Food Pairing: To be honest, I paired this with a bowl of cereal. But for an actual meal this would be great with an omelet or frittata.

Bottom Line: Definitely not the most expressive Sancerre on the planet, but it'll do.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Sancerre AOC  (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)
  • GRAPE: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • BOOZE: 12.5% 
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Trader Joe's
What's the damage? Low Price

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Charles de Cazanove Brut Champagne

Charles de Cazanove Brut Champagne

Reims, France

If I could drink French Champagne every day I absolutely would. This quality bubbly for under $35 is a great place to start -- clearly not viable for every day, but still get's me a few steps closer to the dream.

Review: The Charles de Cazanove is a gorgeous golden color with teeny tiny bubbles. It has lovely aromas biscuits and white flowers. On the palate the bubbles simply come alive. The wine is dry and frisky with notes of toast and stone fruit. It the finish the yeasty character lingers making me reach for another sip. Delicious and refreshing!

This wine hails from Reims and is a blend of the three Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The blending of these grapes produces the Charles de Cazanove "Tete de Cuvee".

Food Pairing: I'm sure this would be great for fine dining, but I paired it with a cheeseburger. It was spectacular.

Bottom Line: Yummy and affordable. Sold!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: Champagne AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)
  • GRAPES: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier
  • BOOZE: 12%
  • CELLAR: Drink now, age for up to 5 years

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Premium

Monday, September 2, 2013

Non-Reviewing Post: Sweet or Dry?

Non-Reviewing Post: Sweet or Dry?

Dear Readers,

When a customer asks for a wine recommendation my first question is always "What do you like?" We all have our own palates and tastes. It gets hard, though, when a customer can't articulate what it is they like. My next question is "Sweet or dry?" This isn't a hard question to answer, but sometimes the wine vocabulary gets in the way. Do you remember this gem?!?

That movie yielded many good quotes, including Liza Minnelli stole our Buick! But I digress. A few weeks ago I asked a customer the sweet or dry question and got "a little bit of both" as the reply. I had the hardest time maintaining my composure. (Yes, Ms. Applegate's character was responding to wet or dry, as in the amount of Vermouth in her cocktail, but the idea remains the same.)

So, what makes a wine sweet? As grapes ripen in the vineyard the sugar content of their juice rises. The riper the fruit, the higher the sugar, and the higher the potential booze (yay!). Yeast convert these sugars into alcohol during fermentation. The sweetness of wine comes from residual sugar -- what's left after the little yeast monsters finish their job. Alternatively, sweetness can come from the addition of sugar or grape juice after fermentation. Most wines of quality are not sweetened, but rather the fermentation is interrupted, leaving some sugar "uneaten" by the yeast.

The following scale of residual sugar can be used as a guide when trying to articulate your wine's sweetness:

Enjoy your wines -- sweet or dry!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Vinaceous Snake Charmer Shiraz
Vinaceous Snake Charmer Shiraz 2011
McLaren Vale, Australia

Spicy Label - Spicy Wine!

Review: Everything about this wine is deep and rich. The color is dark ruby. The aromas are of juicy cooked plums. On the palate the fruit explodes with spicy black pepper. This wine runs hot -- 14.5% alcohol -- but it's remarkably well balanced so that it doesn't seem overly boozey. 

Food Pairing: I'm sure you could pair this with more sophisticated fare, but I had it with pizza.  

Bottom Line:  Not too serious -- just a fun wine, inside and out!

Wine Geekery:

  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: McLaren Vale, South Australia
  • GRAPE: Shriaz/Syrah
  • BOOZE: 14.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop

What's the damage?   Mid Priced