Don Simón Seleccion Shiraz

Here is another budget-priced wine from the shelves of Whole Foods.  I haven’t seen this line of wines (there are several in the Don Simón Seleccion series) at my local Whole Foods previously.  Either I haven’t been paying attention, or they are a new addition.  Either way, just the other day the Don Simón wines were conspicuously placed right in front of the check-out area.  How could I pass them by?

Winemaker:  Don Simón Seleccion (by J. Garcia Carrión)
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Castilla, Spain
Price:  $3.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  In the glass this Spanish red was deep ruby in color.  On the nose I got berries and a dry earthy scent.  It’s a light-bodied Shiraz with very light tannins and good acidity.  On the palate I tasted primarily black raspberry and currant with a sprinkling of pepper.  There was tea leaf near the finish, and the currant flavor lingered on the tongue for quite awhile.  At this price, the long finish surprised me.  Alcohol is at 12.5%.  This is not one of those big, spicy, robust Shiraz selections from Australia.  On the contrary, it’s a simple, straightforward, soft and lightly sweet wine from Spain.  Is that bad?  Well, no.  Unless you’re unreasonably anticipating the same experience you’d expect from a $20-30 Australian Shiraz!  Personally, I think they should have labeled this as Syrah – which is what vintners usually call this grape in the “old world.”  Even some Australian producers who are making wines from these grapes in a more European style are using the Syrah name.  But enough of that!  I could imagine this pairing well with grilled veggies or perhaps chicken and veggie kebabs.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.


First Colony Chardonnay 2011

This is the first of the two selections I brought back with me from the Vintage Virginia 2013 wine festival a few weeks ago.  This is a winery that was new to me, and I was intrigued enough by a quick sip or two of their wines to want to experience more.  I probably would have purchased more than just one bottle then if I’d had the room to tote them home with me.

First Colony makes a couple of Chardonnays.  One is labeled Estate Reserve and spends some eighteen months in a combination of new American and neutral French oak barrels.  This one, on the other hand, is unoaked.

Winemaker:  First Colony Winery
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Monticello, Virginia AVA
Price:  $14.00

Notes:  This Virginia Chardonnay was a medium yellow in the glass with a tinge of goldenrod.  On the nose I detected light fig and citrus with some floral hints.  It was a medium-bodied Chardonnay, and the acidity was fairly lively.  On the palate I tasted fig, citrus, brown spice, and the slightest touch of butter with a nice grassy finish.  Alcohol is at 11.4%, but it didn’t present as a sweet wine.  I definitely enjoyed the fact that the flavor profile was just a tad outside the “usual” for Chardonnays I run across.  I liked it.   By the way, the winemaker says this wine presents with banana, lime and kiwi flavors.  Maybe my taster was off this go-round, but I’m sticking with my notes.  If you give it a try, please post a comment and let me know what you think.  Either way, I thought it was a pleasant Chardonnay that would pair very nicely with some succulent summer barbecue – chicken or pork, your choice.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

La Bastarda Bianco di Toscana 2012

Here is a light, refreshing white blend from Tuscany by Renzo Masi.  I had this at the pub I’ve mentioned before where they have a lot of live music.  The establishment is called Iota Club & Cafe.  It’s a very popular spot in the local area and attracts a lot of fine musicians.  The club has very recently retooled it’s wine list, and this was a new addition.   I look forward to trying some of the other new items as well.  Although I did get some odd looks from a few folks who saw me drinking a light white wine in what is generally a beer-swigging joint, I lifted my wine glass with pride and confidence.  Of course, nobody but the bartender saw the label on the bottle!

Winemaker:   Il Bastardo by Renzo Masi
Wine:  La Bastarda Bianco di Toscana
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Toscana, Italy IGT
Price:  $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   This Italian white blend was very pale yellow in the glass.  On the nose I caught floral scents and pear.  On the palate I found flavors of pear, peach, young honeydew melon, grass and peach pit.    The finish is extremely quick, ending with what I can only describe as a sip from a mountain stream – you know, cool water with a slight mineral taste to it.  It was light bodied, acidity is good, and alcohol is at 12.5%.   The mix of grapes here is 70% Trebbiano and 30% Chardonnay.  I think it’s a nice, light, brisk summer cooler.  Actually it’s a lot like a wine cooler.  And this is one to definitely serve chilled.  As it warmed to room temperature it developed a chalkiness that became a little distracting.  So ice it down, and serve it up.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Three Wishes Merlot

First, let me say that the Three Wishes selections provided a mystery from the outset.  Now, I love a mystery.  When I read books for personal entertainment, that’s the genre I gravitate toward.  The mystery in question here was, “Who makes the line of Three Wishes wines for Whole Foods?”  Queries on all the major internet search engines turned up nothing about the winery, until ….  I found that Three Wishes Vineyards shares the exact same address as Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, CA.  Ta da!

Winemaker:  Three Wishes Vineyards (by Concannon? for Whole Foods)
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  America
Price:  $3.29 at Whole Foods

Notes:  Starting with the appellation “America,” I listed it that way because there is no indication of grape source other than the words “American Merlot” on the back label of this wine.  In the glass this inexpensive Merlot was a medium garnet color.  It definitely had that brownish tinge around the edges like a garnet has.  On the nose I got very faint scents of berries, pepper, and a musty earthiness.  On the palate it was pretty thin.  By that I mean that it was extremely light-bodied, and the flavors weren’t very intense.  After it breathed awhile, the flavors  I found were cherry with raspberry notes, some slight hints of pepper and spice, and a cream of tartar zip of … tartness.  At 12.5% alcohol there is a bit of sweetness there to offset the tartness, but it isn’t a sweet wine in the main.  There were no tannins to speak of, and acidity was good.  Overall, I didn’t think this was a great wine.  Of course, at $3.29 a bottle I wasn’t expecting it to be a blockbuster.  It isn’t a typical Merlot – it’s lighter and a bit more tart that most.  But it’s entirely drinkable.  Actually, I feel this wine is the perfect candidate for Sangria.  So grab several bottles!  Get some fruit, etc. and enjoy it at your next patio party.  If you don’t have a Sangria Recipe, the one at this link looks pretty great.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Wine Trivia Wednesday–6/5/2013

What a great idea!!  The Drunken Cyclist has been doing these Wine Trivia Wednesdays for awhile. I only recently started reading them and have found them entertaining and highly informational.  As I have made clear, I am a wine enthusiast not a sommelier; thus, I have plenty to learn. This week was the first time I decided to give the answers a go.  And, yes, I did do some web searching to find the answers.  What better way to learn?  Anyway, I’m enjoying this weekly quiz series.  I hope you do,too.  Check it out!

BTW, I didn’t read the other responses before I posted mine. lol

the drunken cyclist

It is Wednesday again and it is time for another installment of Wine Trivia Wednesday. Before we get to this week’s quiz, we need to get to the answers from last week:

  1. What are the two most common ways to prevent a wine going through malolactic fermentation? You can prevent malolactic fermentation through either the addition of SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) or through cold stabilization. You can also introduce additives to kill the bacteria, but this is not as common as the first two.
  2. Other than the stylistic changes to the wine (e.g., flavor profile), what is the main advantage to having a wine go through malolactic fermentation? The answer I was looking for here: It serves to stabilize the wine–otherwise it still might happen in the bottle and then you will have a real mess on your hands. It also can help to make a wine more approachable (drinkable) sooner.

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365 Trackers Crossing Chardonnay 2012

Continuing my recent run of Australians, I picked up this Trackers Crossing Chardonnay at Whole Foods.  Always interested in understanding more about the wines I quaff, I looked up the name Trackers Crossing.  I found that there is, in fact, a Trackers Crossing Road in the area of St. George, Queensland, Australia.  Although this isn’t in very close proximity to the McLaren Vale area outside of Adelaide where Thomas Hardy started his wine-making back in 1853, it is still very much in the South Eastern area of the country.  A little deductive reasoning might suggest that the vineyards where the grapes for this wine were grown lie in the vicinity of Trackers Crossing Road.  That, of course, would only be a guess on my part.

Winemaker:   Thomas Hardy & Sons for Whole Foods
Wine: 365 Trackers Crossing Chardonnay
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $6.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  In the glass this Chardonnay was a light yellow (straw-colored).  In the bouquet I smelled lots of citrus, some pineapple and hints of spice.  It was what I would consider a medium-bodied white.  Flavors for me were honey, pineapple, a touch of guava, light citrus notes, generous oak, some hints of spice, and a bite of bitter melon on the finish.  As I mentioned, this wine gives good oak in the Australian style and may be too much for those who prefer a lighter touch.  I felt it took me right to the edge of my personal “oak limit,” but always stayed just a half step back.  And let me say of the bitterness at the finish – I found it lingered but didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the wine.  I understand that some believe bitter flavors can stimulate the appetite.    Whether or not that’s true, I do believe that particular flavor component in this wine will allow it to stand up well to foods.    Acidity was good, and alcohol is at 13.5%.   Not a bad drink at $6.99 a bottle!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Vintage Virginia 2013 – Where Vintners Battled At Bull Run

This past weekend I went out into the Northern Virginia countryside (not so country anymore, really) to taste what the Virginia wineries had to offer at Vintage Virginia 2013.  Held at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA, this year’s wine festival hosted some 40 wineries along with an assortment of food and goods vendors.

First, let me say that my experience was a little different than most.  Why?  Well (he said sheepishly), because I decided to bike to the event.  Ha!!  Never having been out to the venue before, I placed my trust in an online maps program to get me there safely via bicycle.  Unfortunately, the maps aren’t quite complete for bikers.  By that I mean I discovered on my trek out that the directions I had were missing large chunks of the route.  So what was slated to take me 1.5 hours in one direction took 3 as I wended my way through the streets of Northern Virginia looking for bicycle-friendly passages to get me to my destination.


Once I got there, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  It was well-planned.  As this was the 32nd iteration, I suppose they’ve had the chance to work out all the kinks.  For those who drove, there was ample parking with parking attendants helping people get to and from their spots in an organized fashion.  Check-in was a snap, in part because I had purchased my ticket online and printed it at home.  But the will-call and ticket purchase booths didn’t have extensive lines either.  The wineries and vendors were located in tents, stalls and trucks (food trucks!) thoughtfully arranged across a hillside that overlooked a big stage where music acts entertained while festival-goers tasted, sampled, drank, ate, learned, and bought.  They even had an awesome service allowing those who were buying in bulk (too much to carry around or through the festival grounds) to pick up their wine in a tent right in the parking area.

Of course, I didn’t get a chance to taste all the wines or even wines from all the wineries.  Still, I did my best to get to as many as I could reasonably sample.  It was great to see that the festival attracted a mix of old and new wineries – big and small.  Prince Michel of Leon, VA was there along with Williamsburg Winery (sharing a very yummy pre-release Merlot) and Horton Vineyards, too.  New to me were First Colony Winery (with two nice Chardonnays and a refreshing white blend called Zephry), Oak Crest Vineyards (using Symphony grapes to good effect in almost a Gewürtztraminer style and whose unexpectedly fun selection called  Hot Jazz is fortified with jalapeno peppers), Rosemont Vineyards (with a red blend of note called Kilravock), Trump Winery (their Blanc de Blanc was by far the best sparkling wine I tasted that day) and Lake Anna Winery (whose Cab Franc and Claret were both enjoyable wines and whose staff I found to be among the most knowledgeable at the tasting tables).

Since I was there at Vintage Virginia under one humanpower and no horsepower, I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of the bulk buying service.  Instead, I had to content myself with carrying away a mild sunburn along with  just a couple of select bottles and the wine glass I was issued for my day of tasting.  The glass was included in my entrance fee.  I promise to share my thoughts on those two wines when I have the chance to pop the cork on each.

Again, I had a very good time at the festival.  Kudos to everyone involved in putting Vintage Virginia 2013 together, and a special thanks to my fellow wine enthusiasts who kindly gave me plenty of clearance as they zipped past me on the road out of Bull Run Park.  One last note: I got completely soaked in a summer rain shower on the way home.  Well, it was a MEMORABLE day!!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.