Tuesday, December 22, 2009

what is life, if not always an adventure?

Sorry I haven't written in the past week. I've been working like crazy, trying to make up for all the time I had to miss. Money's tight ... but then again, I'm sure it is for everybody, being Christmas and all. I haven't had wine in the past week because, honestly, haven't been able to afford it ;). But I'll be having tons of it for Christmas! And I'm working at Heller Estate today so I'll write a quick bit on some of their wines tonight. Hooray for required sampling!
The tiny pittance of money I did have went to the Charles Dickens Fair in San Francisco on Saturday ... and it was a blast! I made my costume myself! Can you imagine - me using a sewing machine? Let me be honest when I tell you ... uh, no. But here's proof!

But the costume looked great and I'm very proud of it. I went with Julien's mom, sister and our friend Nicki. We promenade in our fancy costumes, saw Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past and had high tea like proper English ladies! It's a really cool event and I'd recommend it for anybody, especially fans of the Renaissance Faires. Here's a couple pics from the trip.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

atw - ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show

Well, my last dance performance was today, and boy am I exhausted. It was a crazy fun week, with lots of jumps, spins and shaking hips. I got to dance in a tribute to Michael Jackson, which was fantastic. I also danced in two afro-brazilian pieces as well as a drum/singing piece that I wrote the lyrics and melody for. Here's a couple behind the scenes pics that I took while we were getting ready.

What sucks is I wasn't able to really dance on the last day because my previously sprained ankle decided to go all haywire on me and I could barely walk on it, let alone dance. But, seeing as it was still the last day, I decided to celebrate anyway and opened my specially saved and perfectly chilled bottle of 2008 Innocent Bystander Moscato from Victoria, Austrailia ($9, 375ml, Cost Plus). I'd tried this wine once as a dessert wine with strawberries and rhubarb and had adored it, so I decided to give it another go.
Well, I ended up finishing the bottle all by myself, so you can guess that means it was pretty darn good.
It's a light pink wine - it carries soft scents of rhubarb, cream and a little bit of rose (or rosewater, still on the fence on that one). The taste has a bit of spritz to it and has strong notes of floral (mainly rose) along with strawberry and ripened green apple. The finish is soft and lingering, it's just so easy to drink. It also only clocks in at 5.5% alcohol so, like me, you can enjoy the entire bottle without getting sloshed. It's a delicious wine that I would absolutely recommend for anyone to try, especially for the price. Plus, the label is just absolutely gorgeous.
I definitely plan on taking a dance class next semester, but more as a choreographer instead of a dancer for hire. I'm pretty stoked about that - I've already got the music and most of the choreography prepared already!
And I cannot stress this enough: TRY THIS WINE. It is delectable.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

OFFICIAL: new web site!

It's SUPER-DUPER-AWESOME OFFICIAL, everybody: I am now the proud owner of a Web site! Well, at least the domain, to start :). But until I learn how to use Flash and make a really cool site (taking a class next semester at college), the web address will automatically send you here. Here it is (da-da-da!):


Like it? I was originally gonna go with winorhino.net, but I really wanted a .com, for some reason. And since winorhino.com was taken (don't ask me why, I have no idea, it's not even being used ... i.e. someone's parking on it for some stupid reason), I put a 'the' in front and presto! Be sure to update your blog feed / link site / human memory!

Sorry I haven't done any wine posts this week. It's final rehearsal week for my dance performances at school so I haven't been drinking any alcohol. Trying to keep my body clean and healthy for the shows this weekend. I'll let you know how they go!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

the lights are twinkling

Every once in awhile I like to write about something other than wine - I know ... impossible, right? It's true, so here we go! Well, since it is currently the holiday season and (like many of you, I'm sure) the recession's hit more than just your local TV syndicate. I know it's certainly hit my wallet and, therefore, my Christmas budget. So I'm looking to save money this holiday season by making presents for my family and friends. And as I go through this adventure of making presents, I wanted to share my discoveries with you ... you know, if you're looking to shave off a few bucks on presents this year.
I've been making Christmas presents for the past few years. I do this for two reasons: 1) it's a lot cheaper than buying stuff, and 2) it's much more personal and meaningful, since you're putting more of yourself into the gifts. Here's a list of the things I made last year, and how you can make them yourself:

1. For the women in my family: charm bracelets. I made individualized old-fashioned charm bracelets using materials from Michaels. I also bought charms from Michaels, as well as Target and Claire's (at the mall). The charms I bought were individualized for each person in my family, and everybody got a huge kick out of them. The total cost: $10 for each bracelet, including gift-wrapping.

2. For other family and friends (i.e. the people you're required to give gifts to but have no idea what to give them, like work friends and such): 1) specialized wine presents. Yes, I did use wine last year to make my presents! Heller Estate, the winery I work at, was selling vintage bottles of Pinot Noir at $20 per bottle (with my 50% discount that amounted to $10). I gave them those wine bottles as presents, but that wasn't all! I found these amazing little glass toppers that you use to turn a wine bottle into an oil lamp. It had a wick and everything. So I presented those with the wine bottles so that, after they drank the wine, they could turn the bottle (which was super adorable) into an oil lamp! Those cost about $5 each and are from Winelight. Total cost? $15 per couple (I gave them as couple gifts), or $7.50 per person. And everybody loved them! Here's a Link to the Winelights Product Site for more information.


Now onto this year's selection of handmade gifts. Not sure yet what I'm going to do for my distant family and friends (probably something wine related again, any suggestions?). But for the women in my family and close friends I'm going to make chic headbands! They're all the rage this season and are so much better (and cheaper!) to make than they are to buy. Plus, my sisters look so cute in headbands :). I found this article online and loved the idea, which gave the inspiration to do it for Christmas. Here's the Link to the article: DIY Hair Accessories. Here's a couple pics of what I have in mind - feathers for my older sister, bows for my younger and then modifying them for all the other women in my life:

For the men in my family and friends, not quite sure yet. I know I'm making at least one of them a specialized mix CD (already in the works, will post song selection when it's finished) but not quite sure for the others. Any suggestions?
If you have anything special you're making (or buying) for your family and friends this holiday season, post a comment letting me know about them! I always love to hear people's fantastic ideas for holiday gifts. Hope you're having a Happy December!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ebony and ivory - the elements of harmony

So let's say you've got yourself a dilemma: Napa or Sonoma? They're both excellent areas for wine, and you just can't choose between the two. Well now you don't have to, thanks to Artesa Winery! They've come up with the perfect solution ... simply combine the two!

The wine is called 2005 elements ($25), and yes, it's lowercase on purpose :). It's a red blend that puts together 65% Sonoma County and 35% Napa Valley in a mysterious combination true to the European style of winemaking, i.e. you have no idea what's in there but it's probably going to taste pretty good.
And yes, the result is, overall, pretty good. It was nothing outstanding but I did enjoy drinking it. The color is a deeper burgundy with a light fuschia halo. The nose has traces of pine, elderberry, fig and a bit of musk (almost like a stick of incense). The taste, though having few too many traces of balsamic, was actually quite pleasant. Again, there was lots of fig in it, as well as red cherry and vanilla bean.
I did enjoy drinking this wine, but I probably wouldn't actively search for it again.
On another note, I barely survived a huge wine glass spilling incident from aforementioned wine. Note to self (and all others out there): 1) DO NOT put your full wine glass (especially if it's a red) on the wood arm of your couch, because it probably will get knocked over, and 2) a combination of San Pelligrino, Spot Shot and gentle blotting with a bunch of paper towels DOES get the stain out, for the most part ... just make sure to do it right away.
Well, I'm off to go play some more Assassin's Creed II before finishing my paper that's due tomorrow! Thank heavens I have an excellent idea of what my teacher is looking for ... I've gotten A's (and super A's) on all my papers in his class and most of my papers have each been written in a day! Fantastique!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

i'm loving it

Just found the nicest looking Safeway wine section ever at their store in Seaside. Picked up a bottle of 2005 Elements red blend, which I will be reviewing soon. With all their deals on hand, I'm pretty sure I will be back.
On another note, I think the Safeway employees were either pissed or confused that I was taking photos of the wine section. Not sure which, they just stared and gave me weird faces. Oh well!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 29, 2009

moving up!

Hey everybody, just wanted to let you know that in approximately 12 hours, this blog will be host to its own domain name: winorhino.net! Hopefully this will lead to a fully independent Web site in the future, but for now it's just gonna link to this one. I don't have the software yet to make my own and I didn't want to pay a monthly subscription fee to have some hosting site do it for me. Making baby steps, people! One day at a time. I'll let you know when it's fully operational.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

what i did for thanksgiving

Pretty self-explanatory, right? After recuperating for a couple days from the wine, the food and, yes, the turkey (I temporarily broke from my vegetarian streak to try some of Julien's mom's delicious turkey), I'm back to relatively normal. First, I do want to show off my most recent delicacy that I created for the night ... a root vegetable stew presented inside of a baked pumpkin!

I found the recipe on NPR and it worked out perfectly, although I did make a couple of small changes to it. Mainly, I boiled the canned chickpeas for 30 minutes before adding them to the recipe and I added green beans and basil to the finished product. Needless to say, my stew was a big hit. I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking to make a nice impression (and presentation!) for their next dinner party.

  I tried some excellent wines that night, including a 2007 Jermann Chardonnay from Venezia Giulia (tasted remarkably of bananas with some mineral notes), 2006 Lucia Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands (a full bodied Chardonnay with an excellent bouquet of tropical fruit with a hint of butter), 2007 Wrath Syrah from Santa Lucia Highlands (a heavy but smooth Syrah, went great with the turkey and stuffing) and finally, the big guns, 2001 Zenato Amarone from Della Valpolicella. This wine, which clocked in at a whopping 16% alcohol, tasted like the harmonious middle between a Cab and a Port. It was smooth and sweet, which Julien's dad said was very characteristic of this wine. It tasted fantastic with the hazelnut and chocolate cake that Julien's sister brought.
I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. What wines did you all try? Let me know!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

blog award!

The sweetheart over at My Life is Purple nominated me for my first-ever blog award! I feel so happy and warm and fuzzy right now. Definitely makes up for the week of long school hours and stupid malfunctioning cell phones. Here are the rules:

List 10 things that make you happy
Try and do at least one of them today
Tag 10 bloggers that brighten your day
Make sure to link back to the person that tagged you


1. Of course, the obvious: wine! Wine (and writing about wine) makes me happy because it's something I love and it's something I know.
2. Walking in the rain with an umbrella. You feel invincible ... take that, Mother Nature!
3. Waking up to my boyfriend spooning me. It's the ultimate romantic gesture, and I love how he can sleep while holding me.
4. Finding something awesome and cheap at a thrift store. I get this odd feeling of accomplishment when I find a bargain deal that's totally worth it, like a Buffalo New York sweater for $14 or Italian skinny jeans for $10. I also once found New York and Co riding boots for $2. True story!
5. Hearing someone compliment the drinks I make when I bartend at work. Someone once told me that I make the best margaritas in the whole restaurant, and it totally made my day.
6. Dare I say it? Yes I do. Sex. Sex makes me happy.
7. Reading someone's comments on my blog :).
8. Shopping at the grocery store. For some reason I've always associated shopping at the grocery store with being a mature, independent adult. Knowing that I can buy (and eat!) whatever I want.
9. Sitting on the beach and watching the waves crash on rocks.
10. Life.

Now here comes the best part, passing the award on to others! So here we go, ten bloggers that brighten my day!
1. The darling and hilarious wine blogger Shana over at Funny By Accident.
2. The insightful and informative wine blogger Ms. Drinkwell over at Ms. Drinkwell.
3. The cute and cuddly wine blogger ZinfanGirl at The World Is My Vineyard.
4. The fashion-forward Josephine over at Aubergine.
5. The way-too-adorable (and bilingual!) cutiepie over at Faux Naif.
6. The 'Trader Joe's Guy' over at Jason's Wine Blog.
7. The self-proclaimed Wannabe Wino.
8. The hilarious and adorable Washington girl Stevie at Allow Myself to Introduce ... Myself.
9. The fabulous, hilarious and sophisticated wine bloggers at Young Winos of LA.
10. The no-longer-writing-in-English (but still fashion awesome!) chica at Helmi Otsalla.

my weapon is a wine key

I'm sorry I haven't written all week. I just decided to lay it low for a little while and disconnect from the world after all the events from Saturday. By the way, last Saturday was fun, except for a few key things. My phone decided to up and crash on me right after I posted that last post. Like, completely die. It had full battery, full bars, full everything and still it decided to completely die. Which meant all the pictures I had taken before were lost, and I couldn't take any more for the rest of the day. So I'm sorry, no pics from the wine tasting.
Afterwards, since I didn't have my phone, I couldn't call my boyfriend to pick me up. I called him a few times on my manager's phone, but he didn't answer. Deciding I couldn't wait, I decided to walk home. 12 blocks. I realize I probably should've waited, but it was one of those impatient "hell with the world" kind of things. Then I went to the Apple store, got my phone fixed and here we are. Not to mention the 7-page paper I had to write in 2 days. I wasn't really up for wine writing after all of that.
But alas, here we are. Luckily I have all my notes from the wine tasting in a cute little black book that I got for free from this company called Andy Boy that sells vinaigrettes and such. So I'm gonna go ahead and detail some of the wines I tasted (by the way, SWAG is awesome, I got so much free stuff, including 3 new wine glasses!). Here we go!

~ The first one was a 2008 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc. The color was light and had more of a yellow tint to it. The nose had strong characteristics of banana, along with lime/lemon rind and heavy mineral notes. The mouth was sharp and acidic, with heavy minerals, bitter herbs and lime. The banana wasn't so much in the mouth as it was in the nose, which was surprising. Overall, I thought it was okay. Not Bernardus's strongest, but still drinkable.

~ I also tried a 2007 Mission Trail Sauvignon Blanc (I was kind of in a white wine fix that day, though I did try a few reds for variety). This wine smelled and tasted like cat pee with a little bit of pineapple. Yes, I know that's a distinguishing characteristic, but nothing else? Just cat pee? No thanks. I gave this one a Meh.

~ The next one was probably one of my favorite whites of the day. It was a 2008 Loredone Pinot Grigio. It was blended with 2% Muscato, and you could really tell if you were really looking for it. Though characterized as a dry P.G., I thought it had some sweet notes that were actually quite enjoyable. The nose had hints of mineral and limestone, and the mouth was drier with a hint of pear. Overall, I thought this wine was fun and easy to dry. Definite :).

~ The next white was a 2008 Marin's Vineyard Viogner. It had a sweet floral nose and had flavors of hyacinth and some light herbal notes ... but the finish was rather bitter. Kind of ruined the experience of the wine for me. I thought it was okay, but it would've been a lot better without the bitter finish.

~ The next one was fun. It was a non-vintage McIntyre 'L'homme qui ris' Sparkling Wine from Santa Lucia Highlands. In case you don't know, 'l'homme qui ris' means' The man who laughs' (which would've explained the clown on the label). This was a blend of 60% Pinot Noir grapes and 40% Chardonnay grapes, and it was a really fun sparkling to drink. It started off tart and finished with a little custard. I thought it was great and gave it a :) on my review.

~ The first red I tried was a 2007 J. Lohr Pinot Noir. I think this was the only :( I gave that day, because this wine was way too berry heavy. It had a warm smoky nose, but the flavor was way too strong of berries and, like, nothing else. Did not enjoy this wine, I'm sorry to say.

~ Next I tried the 2007 Otter Cove Syrah - this was a pre-release, and won't be out for a couple of months. The owner, Richard Oh, is an acquaintance and facebook-friend of mine as we often see each other at these shindigs (usually if I'm there, he's there, as he's a very motivated guy). The nose had hints of white pepper and cinnamon. You could smell the alcohol on the nose, which was a little alarming. The mouth had flavors of berry, chocolate and a little white pepper as well. Luckily when you tasted it the alcohol wasn't as noticeable. Overall, I thought this wine was all right. I much prefer his Oh Pinot Noir.

~ Next, out of pure curiosity, I tired the 2006 Chateau Julien Black Nova, a blend of 60% Zinfandel and 40% Syrah. It clocked in at a whopping 15.9% alcohol, yikes! The nose had hints of sweet peppers and black fruit, and the mouth was dry, with bell peppers and a floral/acidic finish. You could really taste the alcohol on this wine, which kind of ruined it for me. Sad to say, because the wine did had some interesting flavors to it. It was okay.

~ The next red was the 2004 Bernardus Marinus. I loved the 2002 (bought a couple before they sold out a few months ago) and wanted to see how the 2004 measured up. Not so much. The nose had strong notes of currant and coffee, with some blackberry and spice. The mouth tasted strongly of black pepper and blackberry with a tannic finish. It tasted rather young, which was surprising, since it was a 2004. It was okay.

~ Next I tried two reds from Pierre Ranch. The first was a 2006 Tempranillo, which had flavors of sharp red cherries. He had just opened the bottle and it was pretty obvious, as the nose had hints of barnyard (what?). He told me it needed to open a bit and I totally agreed. Next I tried the 2005 Vinho Doce Port. Let me just put it this way: TOO MUCH BLACK LICORICE! Oh my gosh this was way too strong of black licorice. If that's your thing, more power to you, but I can't stand black licorice. Gave this a :(.

~ Having to get the taste of that Port out of my mouth, I finished the day with a 2007 Scheid Grenache, which was a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. The nose had hints of cream and caramel, with noticeable alcohol as well as black cherry and vanilla. The mouth tasted strongly of black berry, vanilla and had a sweet/acidic finish. This wine was all right, but was a little too fruity and sweet.

So ... TA DA! Those were the wines I tasted. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did (well, some of them anyway). Much like with anywhere else in the wine producing world, you're gonna find only a few pieces of gold in the river. Everything else is just gonna be a bunch of rocks. Not that rocks are bad ... they're just not gold :). Hope you're having a fantastic day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm here at the annual Monterey Great Wine Escape Finals. Lots of wine and food everywhere! Will continue to update with pics and wines.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, November 14, 2009

will work for wine

Me at work today for the Monterey wine escape weekend. Some photographers from wine mags and blogs took photos of me, inspiring an impromptu photo session with 3 or more phoographers having me pose and shooting me like a model! Was exciting. I'll try and find one of the pics.
Tomorrow I get to go to the finals at the Clement hotel. Should be exciting. Will post for sure!!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 12, 2009

atw - vines are old, wine is new

Last night I had the pleasure of trying a pretty exciting wine. One of those wines that are good to the last drop ... yum yum yum tasty. I tried it during a game of Balderdash on Julien's parents' boat, and it was fantastic. What was the wine, you ask?

Well, it was the Atteca Old Vines Garnacha 2007. At $15.99 a pop, you wouldn't immediately expect this wine to be such a knockout - but alas, it was. It clocks in at a whopping 14.5% alcohol by volume, so again, you wouldn't immediately expect this wine to be such a knockout - but again, it was. It's a Spanish red from the city of Calatayud in Spain, in the province of Zaragoze in Aragon. Sounds so exotic, doesn't it?
Anyway, so the color on this wine was dark. I mean, really really really dark. Full purple and deep burgundy, which was quite interesting. The first thing that hit me when smelling this wine was burnt popcorn. In other words, a lot of smoke and butter. There were also hints of blueberry, tobacco and chocolate.
The mouth - oh my gosh the mouth on this thing. It's so smooth and luscious, with just the slightest hint of acidity. It had quite a bit of blueberry, with some jammy berry fruit and pretty noticeable smoke and oak. Something I especially loved about this wine was the finish. For some inexplicable reason (which is often the case with wine, of course!) the wine finished with a sort of cleansing eucalyptus/menthol. It seemed to open my throat and refresh my senses as it lingered on my palate. Extraordinary! I was really pleased to have tried this wine - it was sublime. I'd recommend it for anybody looking for a great tasting, but affordable, Spanish red to try. You'll probably have to find it online, though. I don't know if it's offered in any major stores. If you find out it is, let me know! I'll have to go pick a couple of bottles up for myself!
Certified grade AWESOME.

Monday, November 9, 2009

who am i?

Found this on A Day In the Life, and while this is mainly a wine blog, I can never resist the tempting call of a mini survey. It makes you look at your life from a completely different angle. Plus, they're fun!

I am:

Reading… "American Political Thought: Four-Hundred Years of Ideas and Ideologies" by Sue Davis. Required reading for my Amer Poli Sci class. Interesting stuff, but can be a little droll at times.

Keeping… my socks on in bed. It's getting pretty chilly here at night, and my toes are always the first to feel the effects.

Baking… mini muffins! I plan on making some mini muffins today to try out my new mini muffin pans I got at Goodwill - 4 for $2!

Watching… the newest episode of The Office. Geez, Michael Scott is really an ass.

Trying… to work up enough energy to get out of my bed and actually start doing stuff.

Making… the most out of my blogging experiences, seeing what I can do and how fun I can make it!

Congratulating… both of my sisters, one for recently getting engaged, and the other for finally getting an apartment so she's no longer living with her boyfriend's mom. Ooh, I so could not imagine living with anyone's parents right now. My independence is WAY too valued ;).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

atw - don't pass the pork

I hope you like my first ever video wine blog entry! 
Decided to try something different - let me know what you think.
P.S. sorry about the weird face thing ... I keep trying to change it but stupid Youtube
won't let me.

Basic Wine Info:
Mount Hernon 2006
Yarden Winery
Galilee, Israel
$14, Cost Plus

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

atw - cruising the doons

The next area I wanted to explore for my wine experience is a little closer to home. It's the Santa Cruz mountains, in California (of course), which stretch from Half Moon Bay all the way to the edge of Monterey Bay, where I live! The Santa Cruz mountains are host to over 80 wineries, several of which are smaller boutique vineyards that only produce a few thousand cases per year. The cooler climate, constant fog and ocean breeze serve to produce some excellent wines that aren't too spicy, fruity or warm. Personally, that's exactly how I like 'em. I'm a huge fan of wines that are a little more laid back and don't pack too much of a punch in the first sip.

The wine I tasted from this region is the 2006 Bonny Doon Vineyards Ca' del Solo Sangiovese ($12). It's a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Nero d'Avola, 3% Cinasult and 2% Colorino. The result of this rather eccentric blend is a sweet, jammy wine with a blueberry, red cherry and floral nose with just the slightest scent of roasted walnut. The wine tasted of rich berry fruit, red cherry and a small touch of bell pepper with an acidic finish.
I tried it at a birthday dinner last night with my parents and my older sister with her new fiance! Yep, he finally proposed! About darn time too ;). Anyway, that's why I don't have a picture of the wine bottle. But I have to say ... I do love the whole white-on-white thing that the background's got going on with the pic of this bottle. Anyway, so I tried it with a mushroom and pesto penne with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. I wouldn't say the pairing was the best (the food really called for a Cabernet or Merlot), but it was all right.
Overall, the wine was okay. I've tried other Bonny Doon Vineyards wines that were far better than this one. This one's more of an everyday wine, versus their other higher quality wines. So I wouldn't recommend NOT trying this wine, I just would recommend it not being the only Bonny Doon Vineyards wine that you try. It's good, but it's not great. And there are some Bonny Doon wines that are really, really great. Plus, their Web site is so gosh darn cute! I'd recommend checking it out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

post halloween recovery program

I hope everybody had a nice Halloween! I spent it working mornings at Heller Estate (selling and drinking wine, of course!) and nights at the restaurant all weekend long. My feet are killing me today! Halloween itself was fun. I dressed up as Sultry Buttons from a Homestar Runner cartoon. Not sure if you've heard of it, not many people have. Anyway, they were having a costume contest so I entered. I'll let you know what happens with that.
As far as drinking, mostly had tequila that night. Margaritas and such. Yep ... didn't enjoy the next morning. I'll try to do a wine post tonight, but I can't guarantee it. I have a midterm tomorrow, a paper due which I'm only halfway through and a bunch of other homework due. Plus I work today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

liquor license

If you're a young(er) wine/beer/cocktail blogger who wants to get more exposure, then come join the newest blog pack/social network Liquor License! I started this group as a way to bring us "beverage experts" together, to both increase our readership and get to know other fantastic blogs!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

another day, another year

Celebrating 24 years of life on our fantastic planet of ours! How, you ask? Of course by not working, drinking mimosas with Friexenet Cordon Negro Brut ($10), and taking silly pictures with my iPhone. The scarf was a gift from my mom, isn't it beeaootiful???

Oh yes, I really love my mimosas. Will post more bday bash pics later!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

weird wine fact of the day

Did you know?

According to Persian mythology, wine was discovered by women. She drank the fermented juice from grapes stored in a jar, went to sleep, and surprisingly woke up cured of a headache.
(source - Wine Snob)

Way to rock it, ladies! Who says wine is a man's world?

On another note, I'm getting ready for my 24th birthday tomorrow. It's a surprisingly weird combination of hooray and oh-my-gosh-the-reaper's-getting-closer. My plan is to relax all day, let my boyfriend spoil me rotten, then have dinner with his family. Oh, and drinking lots and lots of wine.
Also getting ready for All Hallow's Eve. Should be a fun night.
Sorry I haven't written on a wine in the past couple of days. Julien's dad gave us 7 half-empty bottles (count 'em, 7!) from an exclusive tasting he went to, and asked us to taste them all. I've been sampling them all over the past couple of days, getting a sense of the winery. I plan on writing a detailed article about the winery and writing a quick memo on each wine. I should be posting that tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

atw - answer the question

For my first entry into my 'around the world in every wine' series, I decided to go with a California wine. Not just any California wine, but a complete California mystery wine. Think of it like the game Mystery Date ... only with wine instead of, um, boys or whoever. And yes, that is south park in the background.

This wine is a non-vintage California red from Oreana Winery with no specific varietals and no name - it's only known by the giant orange question mark on the front of the bottle. This wine is specifically promoted as being a complete accident. According to the winemaker, this wine was due to an accidental hose incident that combined two different batches together, which they then decided was good enough to sell for $4.99 at Trader Joe's. I bought this wine under the complete impression that it was going to be horrible.
Well, I wasn't entirely wrong ... but I wasn't entirely right, either.
The nose has hints of sweetness with a touch of caramel, chocolate and rich berry fruit. The color is a deep red/burgundy with rather thick legs (remember, the lines running down the sides of the glass?). It actually smells rather nice.
It tastes young and, though not exceptional, definitely not terrible. It tastes like a combo of Pinot Noir, Cabernet and maybe a little Syrah. I can't say what the exact grapes are though because there are absolutely no indications of what they could be. The finish is more on the acidic side with a touch of tannin. I enjoy the start of the wine more than the finish. The first note of the wine has a hint of caramel, plum and blackberry fruit. The lingering flavor, however, has a little too much vegetable, as well as a hint of balsamic. Not the way I particularly enjoy remembering my wines.
I don't suppose I should assume it's a compliment that I didn't consider this wine a complete disaster - but I'm going to, so you can take that as you will. Though I don't plan on finishing the bottle, I do plan on making a rather delectable red wine tomato sauce with it tonight. Pasta, anyone?
On to the next adventure!

palatepress.com article is posted!

Hey everybody! Just wanted to let you know that my article for PalatePress.com, titled 'Too Young For Wine?' is now posted on their Web site! Here's the direct link: Too Young For Wine? Hope you like it - leave a comment letting me know what you think!

isee your iphone

Since it's a little too early to be writing about wine (I don't want to seem like one of "those" people!), I decided to write a little snippet about the iPhone wine apps that I like. Be sure to look for a wine entry this afternoon, by the way.
I don't know how many of you out there have iPhones (or a comparable smart phone), but for those of you who do, I would definitely recommend checking out the options for a good wine app. Wine apps are like the little notepad of the future - instead of scribbling little notes onto a napkin or a piece of paper, only to lose it later, you can store every wine you ever taste FOR ALL ETERNITY. There are also countless searches and databases which not only show you excellent wines, but can also separate them based on country, cost, varietal ... anything you want, they can do.

Here are the ones I use:
1. Wine Snob ($3.99) - I freaking LOVE THIS APP. I bought it last week and have used it at least once a day ever since. It's the perfect note-taking app, in my opinion. I know a lot of people swear by Drync Wines (free or $4.99), but I gave that one a try and while it was informative, honestly, the style and structure of the app was a little droll for me. I really enjoy Wine Snob because it's fun, sleek and very inviting. You fill in a small entry about what wine you're tasting and, unless it's the occasional oddball or vintage, it will fill in the blanks for you to create the entire database for the wine, including cost, varietal(s), etc. There's a notes section where you can write everything you enjoy (or don't) about the wine. Another thing I love about it is the rating system, which instead of the boring 1-10 by-the-numbers rule, it goes from Undrinkable (1) to Orgasmic (7). Definitely a lot more fun to rate wines when you're going by their Orgasmic principle rather than their closest proximity to a 10, whatever the hell that means (boring).
2. Hello Vino (free) - What I love about this app, despite the fact that it's FREE, is the highly comprehensive format that it takes to help you find a way. You can search for a perfect wine based on about any main option you can think of: food, occasion, taste/style or country/origin. Granted, you can't search based on cost, which is unfortunate, but hopefully that's something they'll be repairing soon. As a 24-year-old bartender, I don't have a lot of funds, and searching based on cost is a very very good thing. Anyway, I've used this app many times to find wines based on my specific needs. Another more expensive option is the Wine Enthusiast Guide ($4.99), but I haven't heard that many great things about it. It's basically chock full of "expert" reviews on the wines in their rather huge database - but, as a wine writer, it gets tricky when someone else's review becomes involved with the wine you want to try out. They might put ideas (or, heaven forbid, taste suggestions) into my head! Oh, the horror! The tragedy! Yes, I can be a bit dramatic.

So those are my two favorites. I wouldn't recommend putting too many into your iPhone because having too many apps can kill the memory. And we all need that extra bit of room to add the FMyLife app or the Family Guy Uncensored game, right? Well, at least I do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

atw - california

The first country/state/region I'm going to cover for my new 'around the world in every wine' project is the state of California in the United States. Yes, I know that California is not technically a country, but I've decided to divide the United States based on states, because of its unique political landscape. I also plan on dividing up California based on several of its winemaking regions, in addition to France, Italy and perhaps Spain and Australia.
California is one of the most unique winemaking platforms in the world due to several different factors, the first being that the California winemaking industry only really took flight about 30 years ago. Compared to the hundreds (or thousands) of years that places like France and Italy have had in order to make their wine, the success of Californian wines is a sight to behold.
The first vineyard was planted in California in 1779 by monks at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Diego. Gotta hand it to those monks to know what a person really wants, right? Over the next 100 years winemaking grew in California, due largely in part to the California independence movement, as well as the California Gold Rush in the mid 19th century. By 1920 the wine industry was serious wounded, due to both a plague of phylloxera as well as the Prohibition movement, which halted all production and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
However, the years since then have allowed California to blossom and grow as one of the world's leading winemaking platforms for the modern wine industry. California's wines are inherently unique with high elements of berry and warmth. Yummy yummy fruit.
California is divided into three main wine regions: North Coast, Central Coast (where I live) and the Interior/Central Valley. Those sections are also divided up into several sub-regions, including Monterey County (again, where I live), Alexander Valley, Mendocino, Santa Barbara County and, of course, Napa Valley and Sonoma.
California is known for growing a wide variety of grapes, due to the wide variety of climate that California has - however, it's best known for great Cabernets, Chardonnays, Merlots and Pinot Noirs. It can also grow a mean Sauvignon Blanc.
Our first wine entry into the 'atw' will be a mystery California red, from parts unknown and grapes highly speculative. See what happens.

* most of my historical information provided by Exploring Wine, 2nd edition by Koplan, Smith and Weiss ... and, of course, a bit of Wikipedia (but only a bit, I swear!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

around the world in every wine

I recently heard about these two young men from Europe who decided to travel the entire world without ever using an airplane. They are currently at least one year into their voyage, hardly a penny in their pockets, depending on the kindness of strangers to carry them through. I admire that sort of reckless abandon, the commitment to doing something extraordinary, instead of relying on the easy road. Job applications, car payments, the occasional weekend luncheon. It's all so ... I don't know ... supple. Rich in texture but lacking in real warmth.
I've been thinking a lot lately about commitment versus safety. How we make so many decisions based on comfort, safety and security. We live our lives in this tiny little bubble of here-to-there, and for what? To accomplish something eventually? I can no longer wait for that. I need to commit to something real, something valuable and something utterly bizarre. It's my turn to do something different.
I'm going to travel the world.
Now, before you throw me a ticket and wish me a bon voyage, I don't mean a physical trip around the globe (at least not yet!). I mean the wine world. I've spent so much of my time focusing on random wines - something I see, something I like, when I could be doing so much more with this wine experience. I could be tasting things I've never experienced, and through that it'll be like I'm there in those countries, tasting their soil, wind and sky in their wines.
I'm going to do something concrete, something real. I've got a list of all the wine-producing countries in the world - some with only one region, some with several. I want to visit them all.
My goal is to taste a wine from every wine-producing country in the world - and, with some of the major countries (like France, Italy and the U.S.) several, if not all, of their regions.
My plan is to visit one per week. I will start by writing one or more blog entries about the region in question, perhaps highlighting a specific vineyard or two, and then we will get to the wine.
I know it's going to take a long time - and yes, it's not going to be cheap. But I'm going to rely on my gut for this, and perhaps even the kindness of strangers to help see it through. So if you know of any bottles, wineries or regions that I have to visit, please let me know.
I'm turning 24 next week. I know I'm not a full-fledged adult yet but the time is coming really fast. Which means that time is going, too. I need to create something that I can be proud of. I really feel like this could be it. I hope all of you enjoy it.
The journey starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

little italy - 1

Lucky for me, Julien's dad is a sommelier at a restaurant in Carmel, CA. However, the restaurant traditionally serves Italian wines (it is, after all, an italian restaurant!). So whenever Julien and I enjoy some wines with his parents, they're usually Italian. So I've decided to start a little mini-series inside this blog that consists of my "little italy" wine experiences, since they seem to be pretty common.
Today I got the chance to try not one, but TWO Italian wines.

The first one was a 2007 Tormaresca Chardonnay from Puglia ($13). It's a nice light and acidic wine that's best served near room temperature - something that is basically true for most Chardonnays, since keeping them too chilled will lessen the intensity and focus of the flavor. The color is a nice yellow with a slight greenish tint as well as some golden highlights. The nose is light and tart, hints of lemon curd, lime and a slight hint of mango.
The taste is rather acidic for a Chardonnay (there are also a few bubbles in the wine, too, which kind of give that hint as well). The flavor has notes of pear, green apple, citrus and a finish of light white peach. The acidity tends to overwhelm these flavors, however, and I found it difficult to really enjoy. It wasn't bad, by all means it certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't a Chardonnay I would overtly choose to purchase myself (the bottle was free, so it was kind of a why not situation *smile*).
The second was a 2007 Guido Porro Barbera d'Alba from Vigna Santa Caterina ($13). It was a surprisingly acidic red wine with a medium ruby-red color. The nose had hints of red berry, tangerine peel, cedar and bacon fat. You could practically smell the acidity on the wine, it was so noticeable.
The mouth had a spicy beginning, notes of citrus peel, raspberry and red cherry very detected. Again, the strong acidity played a very important part in the taste and quality of this wine. It did have a clean finish with incredibly light tannins. According to Julien's dad, these are all noticeable qualities in a Barbera, since they're traditionally highly acidity with only the slightest hint of tannins on the body.
This was definitely a pleasant start to my "little italy" series. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

link it

Sorry I haven't been able to post a wine review in the past few days - I've been working on a paper for school and it's kicking my ass, to be frank. In the meantime, here's a link to a really good article about Best Budget U.S. Wines that will hopefully hold you over for the next day or two while I finish up this darned paper.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

le prof est ici!

Just got these questions in from wino rhino reader 3dees, so I decided it would be fun to answer them right here:

1. What's the halo? The stain/mark left by the wine? - Excellent question! Actually, the halo is going to be the "ring" of wine that's touching the wine glass. If you look down at a glass with wine inside of it, it's in the shape of a circle, yes? Well, the rim of that circle, where the wine and the glass touch, is what's called the halo. Think of an angel's halo (hallelujah and all that!). The halo really helps you define the body and density of the wine before you even put it to your lips. It's fascinating! The lighter the halo, the lighter you can expect the wine to be.
Oh, and to answer your other question, the stain/mark left by the wine, running down the glass? Those are called "legs". They also help to determine the texture and body of the wine. The heavier the legs, the stronger the wine.

2. How can you tell that all those flavors are in there i.e. plum, blackberry and vanilla? - Let me start by saying that the flavors detected in wine are, above all, completely subjective. It's what YOU think is in the wine, what YOU think the wine tastes like. There's no all-powerful expert that determines what every wine is supposed to taste like. I mean, if you get sawdust in a wine, then there's sawdust (flavor) in the wine! I mean, I tasted a wine today (look for the review later on) that had a hint of cotton candy! Doesn't mean anybody else is going to taste that, but it's what I got out of it. What you need to do is taste and taste and taste ... and know that nothing you say is going to be wrong!

Granted, there are some people with more sensitive palates than others. There are some things you can do to assist the strength and sensitivity of your palate so that it's easier to detect different flavors. First, DO NOT SMOKE. Smoking kills your taste buds very easily. I'd also recommend avoiding drinking brown liquors whenever possible. Also, try to avoid extremely spicy foods, as well as foods like wasabi and, yes, even Skittles (my former fave) - they make your palate grow accustomed to the strength of those flavors, so it ends up being harder to detect other ones.
One more thing - the only reason I can detect things like blackberry and vanilla is because I'm familiar with what those taste like. The only way you can compare is to know what to compare with. Start broadening your taste horizons altogether - try some lycee, mango, cinnamon, boysenberry, molasses ... the possibilities are endless! It just takes some practice, a bit of luck and a lot of fun!

3. What does medium-bodied mean? - The body of the wine means the density of the wine in your mouth and in the glass. The heavier the wine feels and tastes in your mouth, the heavier the wine's body. Try and think of it like this: light-bodied feels more like water, and heavy-bodied feels more like vitamin-d milk, or even half-and-half. It's a pretty rough analogy and doesn't nearly encompass the true feeling of wine in your mouth, but I thought it might help a bit. Medium-bodied means that it had a strong consistency, but that it's on the lighter, smoother side. Kind of like a 2% milk! Merlots and stronger Pinot Noirs are most often leaning toward the medium-body, although a light Cabernet can often be put into that bracket.

There you go, friend! I hope that helped!

p.s. I love the iPhone! I snapped, cropped and Polarized the pick above in a study room of my school's library in one sitting ... all on my iPhone! Blogging has entered a new era of awesomeness.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

feels like falling for the first wine

Let me start by saying that I have had a seriously intense and oftentimes depressing couple of weeks. First I sprained my ankle, leading to me getting sick with the flu (maybe even the you-know-what flu), followed by losing my voice completely ... which leads me up to now. I haven't been writing much about wine because, honestly, I haven't really been able to drink any until now.
Well, today I celebrated (mostly) getting over my illness by opening up a nice light bottle of Riesling to enjoy with some sauteed macadamia nut-crusted tofu and roasted red bell peppers in a nice Peanut Ginger sauce.
Oh, by the way, I've recently decided to go vegetarian for awhile. Yippee! So pretty much all the food pairings on here are going to be sans meat.

Anyway, the wine I picked was a non-vintage "American Riesling" Pacific Rim Dry Riesling ($8.99, Trader Joe's). Yes, it was a gutsy choice, but I'd heard many good things about it so I decided to give it a try. My boyfriend Julien didn't care for it much (he's not a fan of sweet whites, I think), but I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
The nose on this wine has hints of sweet watermelon, green apple and a hint of pear and orange peel. Its color is a nice green-tinted yellow with a very light halo. It feels very soft and sweet in my mouth, yet it has a bit of spritz and a touch of acidity as well. It tastes very strongly of green apple, with some sweet lime as well. I also got a taste of grass with a touch of barnyard in the beginning. It drops out pretty smoothly in the end, but it does have a bit of bitter tart lingering that is not all that enjoyable. It's not a bad finish, per se, but it's not something I particularly expected from a Riesling. Was a little more reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio.
However, when push comes to shove, this wine was much better than I expected, and served as a nice pairing for the meal I had with it. I really did like it ... and I definitely could see myself having it again, under the right circumstances, i.e. with spicy food, like Thai cuisine or maybe some good veggie sushi.

I also had another mimosa breakfast this morning, this time with a bottle of Mumm Napa Cuvee M from (you guessed it) Napa Valley ($20, sale $13.95 at Safeway). It was an excellent choice, once that I would definitely enjoy again - a nice light Cuvee that complimented the orange juice exceptionally. Here's to another delicious mimosa weekend! Huzzah!

Speaking of Huzzah, here's a pic of me and my sister at the Renaissance Faire last week. I'm on the right, dressed as a gypsy belly dancer. Fun times! I love the Ren Faire. Oh, and good mead :).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

wino rhino interview - jesse porter, the young winos

I haven't been able to drink wine this week because I've been very sick (darned sprained ankle made me a walking disease receptor). So instead I had the pleasure of interview Young Winos (http://www.youngwinos.com) founder Jesse Porter, 26. For those of you who don't know, the Young Winos is a social networking group of young 20-something wine drinkers with branches all across California (and one in NY too). Jesse was kind enough to let me pester him with questions about wine, his group and how he feels young 20-somethings are treated in the wine industry. 

p.s. this interview was conducted for my PalatePress.com article, out next week. this is the entire, unabridged interview.

1. Name - Jesse Porter
2. Age - 26
3. Location - Los Angeles
4. Occupation - director's assistant

5. How long have you been drinking wine for? - Since age 20... my first summer bartending at a German restaurant in Upstate New York, when I learned the meanings of unpronounceable words like "Gewurztraminer" and "Liebfraumilch."

6. Describe your first wine tasting experience. - On a trip to the Bay Area, I stopped off in Sonoma to check out the cheese factory that I'd remembered visiting with my family when I was six.  The place has since been remodeled, but at that time, there was a tiny little wine tasting booth tucked into the corner.  I tried a lineup of Dry Creek wines, and wound leaving with an $18 Sangiovese that I absolutely loved (at age 21, eighteen dollars was by far the most I'd ever spent on a bottle of wine).

7. Does your career involve wine at all? If so, how? - No.

8. Are you one of the original founders of Young Winos? If so, what were the origins of the group? If not, when did you join and why? - I am actually the (only!) original founder of the Young Winos.  I started a beginners' wine tasting group at college that was very similar to the Young Winos: we'd meet once a week, I'd pick a specific theme and send out some reading material, and everyone would bring a bottle.  When I graduated in 2005 and moved to LA, I figured that a weekly wine tasting group would be a great way to educate myself more about wine and meet cool people in the process.

9. Tell me about your club and what it represents. - The Young Winos is a wine education organization for 20-somethings that aims to give our members a more thoughtful and informed drinking experience.  Our basic philosophy is this: while we're definitely experts at consuming alcohol to excess, we reject the wanton indifference often endemic of yesterday’s twenty-something wine consumer. Meanwhile, we simultaneously reject the exclusionary attitudes espoused by some of the more closed-minded veterans of the wine world. We’re drunks, but we’re not philistines; we’re enthusiasts, but we’re not elitists; we’re discriminating, but we’re not prejudiced.

10. As a young wine drinker, do you feel respected? Have you ever felt looked down upon because of your age? Please explain. - In a way, people almost respect you more once they realize that you know your stuff.  There's this expectation that 20-somethings are inherently less serious about wine, so when you start talking about Brix and malolactic fermentation, they kind of do a double take, and then they get really excited and want to talk to you.

11. Have you ever had any negative tasting room experiences where you feel the staff treated you differently because of your age? If so, please describe. If not, why do you feel this hasn't happened to you? - There have been times when a group of us Young Winos will walk into a tasting room, and this disapproving pallor suddenly falls over the whole place, like, "oh great, here comes the party bus."  As 20-something wine drinkers continue to educate themselves, however, the prejudices that exist in the industry will hopefully begin to breeze off... like a bad funk on a glass of Syrah.

12. How "developed" is your palate? How often do you drink wines less than $20 verses wines more than $20? - After more than four years of careful, deliberate "edutoxication," I'd say that my palate is extremely developed.  As for the $20 over/under split, I drink a lot of $20-and-over wines when I'm at tasting events and such things.  When I'm purchasing wine for my own consumption, however, probably 90% of the bottles I buy are $12 or less.  The nice thing about drinking with other 20-somethings is that there's a great urgency and desire to find the excellent bottles in the budget range, because that's all that most of us can afford to drink on a regular basis.  There's obviously a correlation between price and quality in the very broadest sense, but I also think there are many more excellent bottles in the $6-$12 range than people realize.  You just have to know where to look.

13. How does modern social networking (i.e. networking groups, Facebook, Twitter, etc) help your online club expand? What are 'Young Winos' plans for the future? - Social networking has become a huge part of the Winos experience.  Our dedicated social network, youngwinos.com, is the platform upon which we plan events, start new chapters, and allow our 1200+ members nationwide to interact with one another.

14. How do you feel about people claiming that young people "only drink to get drunk"? What would be your response to that? - I applaud the younger generation for not yet having forgotten that wine is an inebriant, something meant to provide us with pleasure -- a fact that seems to have been lost on much of the older crowd.  Drinking wine is a layered, multi-sensual experience, and while we definitely don't condone indifference to (or detachment from) the liquid in the glass, we also don't approve of the rather puritanical practice of spitting.  Wine is not just supposed to taste great, it's also supposed to inebriate you... that's part of the experience.  Gourmands don't spit out their food to avoid getting "full," and wine lovers shouldn't spit out their wine to avoid getting drunk.  It misses the point.

15. What advice would you have for new young wine drinkers? - Try new things.  Every time you have the opportunity to taste a new grape, or to drink wine from a region with which you're not familiar, do it.  Take notes -- keep track of which wines you like, and why, and what the environment was like when you drank it (with food, without food, your location, whether or not you were already drunk... all these things are important).  Introduce your friends to wines that you don't think they've had before.  Drink wine more often.  And most of all, never be scared of wine.  There's a lot to know, for sure, but that just makes it more interesting.  At the end of the day, wine is meant to give us pleasure, and the more we know about what we're drinking, the richer and more satisfying our enjoyment becomes.

16. What advice would you have for older "wine experts" who may look down on 20-something wine consumers? - As you might imagine, I'd encourage members of the older wine tasting crowd to take this younger generation seriously.  No doubt they may well have quite fairly been jaded by the indifferent 20-something boozers of years past, but I think it's clear to anyone paying attention that this generation is serious about wine in a way that previous ones don't seem to have been.  Everything I've read leads me to believe that never before has there been a demographic of young wine consumers who are as dedicated to the pursuit of thoughtful, deliberate wine consumption as ours.  I'd also encourage them not to be put off by the idea that young people are drinking both to enjoy wines complexities and to get drunk; indeed, there might be something in our bacchanalian approach worth taking to heart.  It's never too late, I'm inclined to believe, to embrace the full extent of the pleasure that wine can offer us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

too young for wine?

I'm working on an article for PalatePress.com* about being a young wine drinker and I was wondering if anybody on here has ever had a negative experience buying wine, drinking wine or visiting a tasting room based on their age. I want to know what you feel it's like as a young wine consumer. Do you ever feel looked down upon because you're young? Spare no details!

* please note that by contributing to this discussion you are granting permission for your quotes and basic identity (i.e. your username) to be used for this article.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

let go of the sulfites ... and everything else

Yeah, so there's no way I'm showing you my face today. I'm stuck at home with a twisted ankle from slipping and falling on my butt yesterday at work. So instead I'm lying on the couch with my mismatched socks playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. And, of course, tasting wine.
Today I'm trying the next stage in organic winemaking: sulfite-free wines. Well, more specifically, no sulfites added wines. It's near impossible to guarantee that there are no sulfites whatsoever nowadays. These wines have been produced without adding any sulfites to the mix, which makes them USDA-certified organic wine. The only problem with sulfite-free wines is that you cannot age them, since sulfites are one of the primary assistants in making sure a wine ages without going sour.
Well, too late. This wine is abysmal.

I'm trying the 2008 Well Red Organic Wine from, well, California ($5.99, Trader Joe's). Or at least the organic parts of California, anyway, since all the grapes are required to be 100% Certified Organically Grown. The nose on the wine is pleasant enough, a little chalky but with a nice fruit and jam bouquet. But the taste. Oh God, the taste. It's sour and undeveloped, almost tastes like cough syrup.
All I took was a small sample and I've tasted enough. Do not buy this wine.
I don't recommend giving up on sulfite-free wines entirely, especially if you believe you have an allergy to them. I've heard that Frey Vineyards in Mendocino makes acceptable no sulfites added wines, but I haven't seen them in stores. You can go to www.FreyWine.com if you'd like more information on them.
Well, I'm going to make sure to open up a nice, quality red tonight for dinner with Julien. But first, a nice appetizer of chips and salsa. I have to get the taste of that wine out of my mouth. Sheesh.

Friday, September 18, 2009

charmingly organic(ally grown)

I recently checked out a blog entry by Lindsey of Flickers of Memories, which described in detail a problem I've heard many people talk about before - not being able to drink wine.
More specifically, people who get headaches or nauseous from drinking wine, which makes it very difficult  for anyone to enjoy the experience at all. I've heard every explanation in the book: allergic to wine, just doesn't agree with me, etc.
In truth, a lot of the time it can be boiled down to one of three things: pesticides, histamines or sulfites. It's pretty difficult to be allergic to wine, but it sure as heck is possible to be allergic to any of the mentioned ingredients, which are quite common in everyday wines.
So I decided to write a series of articles over the next week talking about the different types of wine that are best suited for individuals who may have never had a chance to really enjoy wine.

The first wine: organic

Let me start by saying that most wines are not organic (after all, sulfites are not an organic matter), they are organically grown. Meaning that the grapes used to create the wines were made without any pesticides or herbicides in the production. There are several natural alternatives that can be used instead, such as releasing ladybugs, dry farming, keeping owls and many others that can help to create a natural ecosystem in one's vineyard.
That also doesn't guarantee that the wine is vegan. As you may not know, wines are allowed to use certain amounts of egg whites or gelatin in the wines in order to create a proper consistency.
One organic and vegan vineyard that I know very well, since I've worked there for a year and a half, is Heller Estate Organic Vineyards in Carmel Valley. The winemaker, Rich Tanguay, is vegan, so he treats all his wines in a way that he would want them to taste.
A lot of their wines are on the more expensive side ($25 for 2007 Chardonnay, $40 for 2004 Estate Cabernet, $100 for their 2003 Meritage Celebration), but are a great option if you're vegan or have a problem drinking normal wines. A lot of people I've talked to said that they can only drink organic because they get headaches from drinking wines whose grapes have been treated with pesticides.

However, since I've worked there and have tried every single wine they have (including some of the 2008 futures), I decided to review someone else's wine. This time, I went south of the border and tried the 2008 Santa Julia Organica Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina ($7.99, Cost Plus). This wine was made with organically grown grapes, and you can instantly notice a difference. The taste is smooth, yet has a raw texture that's unique to the organic varietal.
The color is very light for a Cabernet (thought not surprising, considering it's so young), a soft burgundy with a salmon pink halo. The nose is full and sharp with notes of bright red cherry, black currant and a hint of pine needle.
The taste, oh man, it's hard to believe this is a Cabernet. It's incredibly light and smooth on the beginning, with flavors of black currant, red cherry, chocolate and raspberry ... but it finishes with a kick, a lingering flavor of salt and spice. I enjoyed it with a kalamata olive and feta cheese pizza, which actually didn't taste that bad - although, to be honest, the kalamata olives kind of killed the sweetness of the wine for a little while.
I really enjoyed this wine. It isn't one to hold on to, it's obviously meant to be drunk right away, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend anyone doing so. It's also a great way to impress your friends with all your new knowledge on organically grown wines!
Next I'll be taking the next step down the road to organic enlightenment - sulfite-free wine. Ooh ... should be interesting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

that old black magic

It seems that in our society we're always celebrating our holidays way too early. Christmas in October, Back To School in June, Valentine's Day before New Year's. Well, right now it's Halloween, and even the wine industry is getting in on the action.
Last week I stopped by Cost Plus to pick up a couple everyday bottles for my tiny little wine collection - I like to try new things that won't break my bank and Cost Plus is the perfect venue for that. Right in the front of the store was a big display showing the latest in .... Halloween wines?

That's right, Halloween is no longer just about candy corn and costumes ... it can also be about wine pairing, with that special magical (or zombie!) touch. Now, most of these I wouldn't touch with a 6-inch cork screw. Any wine that states its region as California, like the Trick and Treat ones up front (see above), are pretty much a guaranteed Russian Roulette of drinking - those grapes could come from anywhere, gosh darn it!
Well, one bottle I couldn't resist was the little black cat. Specifically, the 2007 Zeller Schwarze Katz (translates to Zeller Black Cat), a German Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, a famous wine region with "roots" dating back to Roman expansion of the European continent. I know it's taboo (pun intended) to purchase a bottle mainly for its packaging ... but when you find a bottle in the shape of an adorable black cat that could serve as a perfect vase for that stray daisy you find on the side of the road, you can't say no, right? Especially when that wine is $8.99.

(let's have a look at that bottle again, so cute!)

Not to mention the fact that I've traditionally had good luck with German Rieslings ... light and sweet whites generally respond well to the cooler climates that Germany has to offer.
Well, the wine was surprisingly pleasant, for the relatively short amount of time that I was able to drink it without turning into Shirley Temple. The color's an incredibly light yellow, almost like an evening sunbeam shining through glass, with tiny bubbles popping up periodically. The nose has a pleasing combination of sweetness and acidity, a slight lemongrass crispness overshadowed by the overwhelming scent of sweet white peach.
The white peach continues into the flavor of the wine, which is very, very sweet ... almost like a dessert wine. It also has notes of well-ripened green apple, with a little spritz on the tongue. It's pretty easy to drink by itself in small doses, but honestly, after awhile it becomes a little too much of the same sticky-sweet thing and I couldn't drink it anymore. It's not a wine meant to be by itself, unless you're the type of drinker who can't stand anything that's not sweet or blush.
As far as a food pairing, I didn't create one this evening (too late to cook!), but I could easily imagine this with some spicy Indian or Thai cuisine, preferably with a bit of nice red curry and bay leaves. It would also work well in a cheese fondue, which I plan on writing an article on in the next week or two ... so be on the lookout for that!
I would definitely recommend this wine for a novice who's trying to get into wine for the first time - it clocks in at 9.5% alcohol and it's perfectly sweet enough for people who may not like the red wines so much.
And now I have a perfect little bottle of a naughty black cat to keep around the house. Delightful!