365 DiFlora Moscato

And speaking of exploration and experimentation ….  This is the last of my tastings from the inexpensive Moscatos available in my area.  There are more, of course.  Many more, in fact.  But I had to cut myself off somewhere or I’d have permanent high blood sugar.  I saw some pink Moscatos and some sparkling Moscatos on the shelves that looked very interesting.  After awhile, perhaps I’ll pull a few of those for sampling.  For now, though, I’ll call this Moscato “tour” at an end with this interesting non-vintage offering imported from Italy by Whole Foods.

Winemaker:  Elledi (Cantina Levorato S.R.L.) for Whole Foods
Wine:  365 DiFlora Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Puglia IGT, Italy
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  In the glass, the color of this somewhat drier Moscato (11% alcohol) was a light yellow.  The bouquet on this Italian was surprisingly faint with only light suggestions of citrus and peach.  The body was light and acidity was fine.  On the tongue, I found mostly floral notes with honey and herbs .  I did taste an underlying apricot, but it was definitely second (or third) fiddle.  I’d say that makes this Moscato quite different from the main.

This Thanksgiving: Some Things Old and Some Things New

This Thanksgiving was a quiet one for me.  I stayed home and co-produced a meal.  I’m not much of a cook.  I prefer to ask what’s for dinner and then go find the right wine for the job.  But this year I got to experiment.

First, we decided to buck the turkey trend and go with pork as a main dish.  That was because I suggested a quasi-southern theme for this Thanksgiving.  As I’ve mentioned before, my parents were both from Tennessee.  I know what it means to have a southern Thanksgiving.

Since it was a co-production, there were some negotiations that had to be completed before we came up with a menu for the day.  We decided on a bone-in pork loin, dressing (not cornbread – a concession on my part, lol), cranberry sauce, fried okra, mustard greens, mixed green salad, and a multigrain loaf of bread on the side.  I agreed/negotiated to prepare the okra, greens and cranberry sauce as well as select the wine.

I had never made fried okra or mustard greens before.  I have loved both dishes since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but I’d never tried making them myself.  Therefore, I hit the internet and looked up some recipes.  I am not a cook, but I can follow recipes – usually.  You shouldn’t be surprised that I found my fried okra recipe at Southern Living magazine.  In addition, I added a sweet chile sauce which was part of one of the okra recipes in Food & Wine for okra dipping.  For the mustard greens I tried an approach available from a site called Simply Recipes.  Cranberry sauce I have made before.  Still, I followed a cranberry sauce recipe that I have used successfully in the past from a web site called allrecipes.com while adding orange zest and spices to give it some personal flair.  And, as promised, I chose a wine for the dinner.  I went with a Pinot Noir because I have found PNs to be very good at Thanksgiving in the past.  In addition, I’ve enjoyed them with pork chops and pork roasts on prior occasions.  But, in the spirit of exploration, I chose to try a Pinot that I’ve never had before.  What a risk taker I can be!  Ha!!

I won’t comment on the dishes I didn’t prepare because that wouldn’t be fair.  I will say the dinner was a rousing success.  The cranberry sauce was – once again – very nice.  It’s the perfect dish for me to prepare – really, really, really simple and straightforward.  I always worry about whether it will thicken.  This time I made it the night before, and it thickened nicely in the refrigerator overnight.  The mustard greens were pretty good, too.  The fried okra (the dish that actually inspired this Thanksgiving menu) was also darned tasty although a little clumpy due to my lack of a slotted spoon.  Having the right tools for the job is important.  The dipping sauce for the okra was fine if maybe a bit sweet for my taste buds.  And, finally, the wine …

Vineyard: Bubo
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The bouquet on this budget Pinot Noir was quite fragrant and on the pour wafted to the nose redolent with strawberry and a light earthiness.  Color in the glass was a pretty ruby red.  The body of this Bubo selection was light, acidity was very nice, and the tannins gave a light bite on the finish.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  The flavors I found in this pretty California glass of wine centered around a core of strawberry – young strawberry.  In addition there were notes of earth and strawberry leaf with some pepper on the quick finish.  I found it a fun glass of wine – somewhat tart but not at all bitter.  I think this could be a pleasant inexpensive glass of vino to just sip before dinner over light hors d’oeuvres.  It also complemented the pork we had quite well. It wasn’t as good, however, when mixing with the sweet and savory glaze (apple cider, brown mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, etc.) covering the pork.  But you live and learn, and half the fun is in the exploration of things previously unknown.

Three Wishes Chardonnay (c. 2013)

Having recently tasted and posted about a Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw white, I thought I’d grab a bottle from the Three Wishes line of wines at Whole Foods – priced suspiciously toe-to-toe with the TJ wines.  This is a Chardonnay and the Chuck was a Pinot Grigio.  Not the same thing at all.  So this can’t be considered a comparison.

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

Notes:  The color of this inexpensive Chardonnay was – big surprise – yellow.  The hue did seem to have more “color value” than most Chardonnays I’ve seen.  Well, on second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be throwing around terms like that.  I’m certainly no graphic artist, but I’ve heard them talking about Pantone color, hue, color value, etc. at work.  I can’t give you an exact PMS (Pantone Matching System) number for it.  Let’s just say it was colorful and cheery to look at.  On the nose I caught scents of citrus, honey, white pepper and hints of wildflowers.  The body was in the medium range with a bit of a coat-the-tongue feel to it.  I thought the acidity was a little low, and the alcohol was at 12.5%.  I usually prefer Chardonnays a little drier.  On the tongue, I tasted some citrus, oak, honey, white pepper, and green herbs with floral notes.  Overall, this wasn’t a terrible cheap white.  It wasn’t offensive.  Even so, I think it could definitely use some tweaking to get the balance of flavors, acidity and sweetness in sync.  But again, it’s $3.29 a bottle.  While I wouldn’t personally serve this at a dinner party, you may like it well enough to use it as your house white.

Pantone [Color] Matching System

Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio 2012

This well-known Trader Joe’s brand simply must be a part of my tastings.  After all, this is a blog focusing on inexpensive wines.  While Charles Shaw can no longer be called Two Buck Chuck, it still sells at a very low price point.

Winemaker: Charles Shaw for Trader Joe’s
Varietal:  Pinot Grigio
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $3.29 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  In the glass, this California PG was a light yellow color.  The bouquet was extremely faint – as in almost none.  So I’m not going to articulate specific scents this time around.  If you decide to take a whiff yourself, let me know what you think.  Alcohol was at 12.5%, the body was light with a pleasant gentle viscosity to it.  Acidity was fine.  Flavors I tasted included sweet pear and melon, grass, touches of oak, and a tad of a stony mineral to boot.  I thought it was pretty decent on the front side, but the finish was long.  That could be good except that the finish brought very present bitter grass and quinine to my palate.  Even the light sweetness couldn’t mitigate the bitter finish.  As a result, I will give this selection from the Charles Shaw shelves a pass next time I’m looking for a cheap Pinot Grigio.  I like bitter flavors but appreciate them in moderation.  If you like bitter flavors in abundance, this might work for you.  Especially considering the price.


Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2011

I love it when life imitates art and vice versa.  What am I rambling on about now?  Well, I’ve been reading (am still reading) a book about the modernist composer John Cage.  He was an interesting guy.  I suppose he’s best known for composing a piece of music that is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence called 4′ 33″.  Of course, that wasn’t his only composition.  He explored lots of new avenues, including electronic music when electronic music was brand new.  And he is credited as the inventor of the prepared piano.  A prepared piano is one in which the strings have been manipulated with additional items being attached to the strings to create very different sounds.  But the sounds are carefully planned and created.  Some of his pieces also rely on what he called indeterminacy – and that’s a whole other ball of wax I won’t get into here.

rigio2011Anyway, Mr. Cage did a lot of traveling during his career.  At one point he spent some time in Italy and rented a flat from a woman named Fontana.  While in residence there, he composed one of his more famous pieces and named it after his landlady, calling it Fontana Mix.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I recently found this bottle of Pinot Grigio on the shelves of my local grocer!

Winemaker:  Fontana Candida
Wine:  Pinot Grigio delle Venezie
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Venezie IGT, Italy
Price:  $10.99

Notes:  Bottled in the winemaker’s cellars at Monte Porzio Catone, this Pinot Grigio was a pale straw color in the glass.  On the nose I smelled citrus (lemon), grass, honey and floral notes.  The body was light and acidity was good.  At 12% alcohol, this Italian white is a little off dry, but the acidity helps give it balance.  On the palate I tasted light flavors of lemon, grass and artichoke with a touch of honey.  There is also lemon zest which lingers on the fairly long finish.  I liked it.  I’ll have to look for the 2012 on the shelves as this was on half price markdown – to move the last few bottles in stock, I assume.  Yep, that means I paid $5.49 this time around.  But I’d gladly pay full price if the next vintage is anything like this one.  Thank you, John Cage, for giving me the inspiration to try this bottle of Italian vino.

Here is a rendition of John Cage’s Fontana Mix for your entertainment and edification.  If you have the time and inclination, head over to Youtube and read the text accompanying this video which explains the piece and it’s “indeterminate” composition.

Bricco Dei Tati Barbera 2011

Another light red opened in recognition of the cooling clime.  While this was not drunk at the Pumpkin Patch Party, I did have it soon thereafter.  With the memory of the Shiraz-Grenache blend still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but make a comparison.  Both were light.  Both were fairly fruity and not overly complex.  Both were inexpensive yet entirely drinkable.  Still, although just by a hair, I come out in favor of this simple Italian over the Australian offering.

Winemaker: Bricco Dei Tati
Wine: Barbera
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Piemonte, Italy DDO
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The Bricco Dei Tati was purple with the slightest garnet tinge around the edges.  The bouquet brought me blackberry, cherry, and winter spices.  The body was quite light, tannins were light, acidity was fine, and alcohol was at 13%.  When first opened, this Piedmont vino presented blackberry and cherry fruit flavors along with hints of oak and some eucalyptus on the finish.  With a bit of time to breathe, the blackberry dissipated and settled into a core of dark cherry.  I thought it was simple and pleasant.  There are more interesting reds, to be sure, but I got it for $6.99 on sale.   What have I got to complain about?

Yellow Tail Shiraz-Grenache 2012

There is a tradition that’s been going on for years now among some of my extended family around Halloween time.  It’s called the Pumpkin Patch Party.  [Gotta love the alliteration, right?]   I’ve heard about it year after year, but this was the first time I was able to attend.  What fun!

Attendees all carve pumpkins – some freehand, some using stencils, some talented folks using designs they have drawn up themselves.  As this was my first time, I chose to play it safe and do the usual triangular eyes, etc.  But I did mine freehand — no stencils for me!  One of the artists in the group drew a symbol for the Decepticons from the Transformers and his brother used it on his pumpkin.  Now that’s cool: a Decepticon jack-o-lantern!  Wish  I’d gotten a good picture of that one.

Since it was a party, I brought along some liquid refreshment for the adults to enjoy.  This is what we had (in cautious moderation, of course, since folks were wielding sharp implements) in the Pumpkin Patch.

Winemaker:  Yellow Tail by Casella Wines
Wine:  Shiraz-Grenache
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Australia
Price:  $9.49

Notes:   Color in the glass was a deep purple.  On the nose I smelled berries, barnyard and menthol.  It was light-bodied, tannins were quite light and alcohol was at 13%.  Flavors I found while sipping this inexpensive red blend from Down Under included dark raspberry and bell pepper with menthol on the finish.  It was a very simple wine yet drinkable.  By the way, I managed to snap up the bottle on sale for only $6.99.  Even so, I always quote the store’s retail price in my summary just in case folks don’t happen to run across a similar sale.

Domaine Carpy Les Pins 2009

As the weather begins to cool, my tastes always begin to shift toward the reds.  Not that I won’t drink a white when the mood strikes, but something about a nip in the air makes me hanker after du vin rouge.  And so … I popped the cork on this red blend from the Fitou appellation in France.  Les Pins is made from 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Carignan, and 15% Mourvedre grapes.

Winemaker:  Domaine Carpy by Maison Maurel Vedeau
Wine:  Les Pins
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2009
Appellation:  Fitou AOC, France (Languedoc)
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This inexpensive French import was an attractive dark purple in the glass.  The bouquet held gentle scents of dark red fruits and spice.  The body was medium/light and had a slight silkiness to it on the tongue.  Acidity was fairly high. tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  I found flavors of dark cherry and tart plum that were present but secondary to cedar and tea leaf with subtle hints of licorice.  It was an AOK cheap red and should pair fairly well with a variety of dishes.  I’m thinking I could enjoy this with a helping of leftover turkey … especially the dark meat.

Castello di Gabbiano Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2012

Back to the Italians for a pleasant, brisk white wine.  Yes, it’s a Pinot Grigio!

Winemaker:  Castello di Gabbiano
Wine:  Pinot Grigio delle Venezie
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Venezie IGT, Italy
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  On the nose I found citrus, pear and spice.  It was fairly light-bodied – appropriately so.  Flavors for me were an abundance of citrus, some creamy pear, spice notes and even a little hint of apple here and there.  On the finish I found a very present bitter grass with an underlying minerality.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Acidity was very good.  I can totally see this wine served up with a fish dish in a light sauce or perhaps a nice chicken piccata.