Screwtop Wine Bar: Worthwhile Waiting

The Wine Rangers headed out to another nearby watering hole to sample some vino.  I was the first to arrive at this very popular spot on a Thursday evening.  Not wanting to waste the time, I succumbed to the friendly staff’s offer to serve me a little something while I hovered – with quite a few other folks – waiting for a spot.

One thing I really like about this establishment is that their menu offers wines by the bottle, glass, and sip (half glass).  That provides almost an incentive (not that I need one – lol) to experiment.

After perusing the list, I ordered a half glass of the Early Mountain Viognier 2011 from Charlottesville, VA.  This Viognier was pale straw color.  On the nose I found spiced apple cider.  It was light-bodied with the characteristic touch of viscosity, and acidity was bright.  Flavors were a solid core of apple (no pun intended) with hints of spice and a touch of fig.  It was a pleasant sipper, and disappeared all too quickly.

As my fellow Wine Ranger, Heather, was running late, I had another look at the wine list.  Unable to resist the temptation, I ordered a half glass (aka sip) of the Villa Wolf Rosé 2012 from Pfalz, Germany.  The Villa Wolf was a pretty salmon color with a floral bouquet.  Although a light-bodied wine, it  had good acidity and a fun, almost flirty flavor profile of bing cherry and lemon/lime.  Flavors weren’t heavy but light and lively.

Eventually, the Wine Rangers were reunited, and the evening began in earnest.  But a report on that adventure will have to wait for another post.  In the meantime, I wish you worthwhile waiting, too.


Rex-Goliath Pinot Noir

I have to admit that the first time I saw a Rex-Goliath wine, I was curious about the reason for naming a wine label after a big rooster.  After reading at the winery’s website that HRM Rex-Goliath was billed as the “World’s Largest Rooster” in a Texas circus at the turn of the 20th century, I was confused.  Texas?  A giant chicken?  Circus?  What do they have to do with a winery in California?

But their website goes on to say, “Our wines are a tribute to Rex’s larger-than-life personality, with bold, fruit-forward flavors that are sure to please. In essence, Rex is all about letting BOLD fruit flavors express themselves in an easy-to-drink, worry-free fashion. Bold Wines. Fun Times.”  Oh …  I suppose I see now.

Winemaker:  Rex-Goliath
Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  America
Price:  $5.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this non-vintage Pinot Noir was a medium garnet.  On the nose I caught whiffs of oak, earth, red plum, and pepper.  It was medium-bodied with bright but not racy acidity and medium tannins.  The tannins were pretty aggressive in attack and long in duration, but they did settle some with time to breathe.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Flavors I tasted were cola, sweet plum, lots of pepper and oak, and a green herbal note on the finish.  This was an unusually feisty selection for a Pinot Noir and a surprisingly interesting bottle of wine for the price.  Yes, I would call this a good value.

Alamos Chardonnay 2012

This is just a quick post about an Argentinian Chardonnay I recently had.  In the immortal words of the character Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) from the radio and television show Dragnet, I’ll be sticking to “just the facts.”

Winemaker:  Alamos
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Mendoza, Argentina
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  The color of this South American white wine was a pale shade of Maize.  On the nose I found lemon, toasty oak, some pineapple, and a zing of paint thinner.  Acidity was good but on the lower end of what I think of as typical for the varietal.  Alcohol was at 13.5%, and it was a medium-bodied selection.  Flavors?  Well, I tasted citrus (mainly lemon, some grapefruit), butter, pineapple, and grass.  It had quite a long finish that held copious toasty oak along with hints of spice and butter. I enjoyed this selection.  It does have a fair amount of oak which gives me no pause but isn’t to everyone’s liking.  With the buttery undertones, maybe this would be a good accompaniment to a lobster dish or chicken with mushrooms.  

Jellybean Red Blend 2011

Just one look at the packaging of this wine and you’d think you were getting a full-on dessert wine.  After all, jellybeans are basically sugar, food coloring and flavoring.  Add to the Jellybean name the candy stripes at the top of the bottle, and there’s no doubt it’s a dessert wine!  But wait . . .  the wine is called Berry Smooth.  So, does that mean it tastes like a fruit smoothie?  Only one way to find out.  Twist off that cap and pour!!

Winemaker:  Jellybean Wines
Wine:  Berry Smooth Red Wine Blend
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Catalunya DDO, Spain
Price:  $14.99

Notes:  The color of this Spanish blend made with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes was a very pretty dark red.  On the nose I smelled musty dark berries and eucalyptus.  Acidity was good, and the weight on the tongue was medium with a decided silkiness to it.  Tannins were faint but present.  On the palate I tasted sweet blueberry and boysenberry, a touch of pepper and pomegranate on the very quick finish.  Alcohol was at 12.5% which, along with the lack of tannic acid, probably accounts for the omnipresent sweetness.  If you like your wines on the fruity and sweet side, this could be a good, easy-drinking choice for you.  In addition, it might also do fine with a spicy meal – Thai barbecue, for instance.  And while it isn’t a dessert wine, per se, I suppose you could serve it with a dessert like a deep dark chocolate peppermint cake or a wild berry bread pudding.  I’m just sayin’.  Anyway, in my opinion, the flavor profile is a little on the simple side for a retail price of $14.99.  Happily, I grabbed it on sale for $8.40 which also seems to be closer to the average price I saw online.

The Luck Of The Draw

Trying out a new grape varietal is always a draw for me when I’m perusing my local store shelves.  In this case, I saw that the majority of this white blend was made from the Italian grape Cortese.  Never having tasted a Cortese wine, I was willing to test my luck and gamble on a new wine experience.  After all, the stakes (ante up at $6.99) weren’t too bad.

Vineyard: Azienda Giribaldi
Wine:  Winemaker’s Selection White Blend
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: NV
Appellation: Italy
Price: $6.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   This blended white is made from 80% Cortese and 20% Chardonnay.  At 11.5% alcohol, it was moving toward sweet yet didn’t strike my palate as heavy or syrupy.  The color was a very pale lemon yellow, acidity was OK, and the body was quite light.  On the nose I found primarily citrus with hints of peach and floral notes.  Flavors consisted of citrus once again, some peach, and a fleeting hint of butter with a biting, grassy finish that also echoed the floral notes (think wild flowers or daisies).  Honestly, I can’t say that I enjoyed this selection.  It didn’t taste like gasoline or road tar, but the balance of flavors across the palate didn’t create an extremely pleasant experience for me, either.

Even so, I’m not giving up on Cortese.  I may have had an off day.  This may have been an off bottling for Azienda Giribaldi.  I certainly can’t say that I lost anything, because I did get what I was looking for – a new wine experience.  If I didn’t find a selection to fall in love with on the first draw, well what are the odds?  So I’m undeterred and will keep my eyes open for another opportunity with the Cortese grape.  Who knows?  I could get lucky next time.

This post is an entry into the 8th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC8).  Originated by The Drunken Cyclist, this month’s challenge – to write around the theme of “luck” – was issued by last month’s winner, The Sweet Sommelier.  Click on the MWWC logo at the top of this post to see details for this month’s challenge.

Meatless Monday: Best of 2013

A recent study quoted by a number of online media sources, including the New York Daily News, shows that a diet high in animal protein helps stave off cognitive decline in elderly individuals. HOWEVER, you have to get there first. And to do that … “The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality,” said … Eileen Crimmins, AARP Chair in Gerontology at USC.” I read that and immediately thought of A Crust Eaten’s tasty-looking recipes in the Meatless Monday posts. Which of these will I try first? Don’t know yet, but I am definitely aiming to make it to senior status! lol  I look forward to finding the right wines to pair with these and other veggy dishes.

A Crust Eaten

2013-07-13 10.56.12

Over the past six months or so, I’ve tried to post one vegetarian recipe a week to encourage people to think outside the meat and potatoes box when it comes to dinner. All of the recipes are listed under the Meatless Monday section on the Food page, but below are some of my favorites and ones that we come back to again and again.

I hope that 2014 will bring even more inspiring vegetarian recipes for me to share with you as I try to be even more creative with vegetables. Happy New Year!

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Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011

According to the Oxford Dictionaries a revelation is “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.”  In some ways you might say that’s what my journey through wine is all about – the search for a surprisingly good wine at a dramatically inexpensive price.  Yes, it just might take a miracle.  But I have faith.

Winemaker:  Révélation by Badet, Clément & Cie
Wine:  Cabernet-Merlot
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot was very dark red with a bouquet of earth, cherry, and hints of spice.  Alcohol was at 13.5% on this medium-bodied Vin de Pays d’Oc while acidity was moderately high and tannins were medium and grippy.  To me the flavor profile came across as fairly dark with black cherry, oak, menthol, and pepper.  I didn’t have a religious experience while drinking this wine, but I wasn’t especially disappointed for $5.99.  While this selection wasn’t a true revelation for me as it’s name might suggest, I bet it would add some inexpensive enlightenment to a nice chuck steak or some beef ribs.

Like The Corners Of My Mind …

Memories, that is.  Yeah, I’m referencing the theme song from an old Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford movie (1973).  Why?  First, it won the Oscar for best song.  Second, it’s apropos because …

J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon holds a special place along my journey in wine.  See, I remember several years ago — no, not 1973 — when my wine mentors were telling me about red wines that had flavors of cocoa and chocolate in them.  As a neophyte at the time, I didn’t really believe them.  I mean, I listened, nodded, and made appropriately excited and amazed rejoinders to keep them sharing their knowledge with me.  But deep in my heart of hearts, I just didn’t buy it – not completely. After all, I hadn’t as yet tasted a wine that had such a non-grapey flavor.  Until, that is, I popped the cork on a bottle of a J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon.  I don’t remember the exact vintage.  I want to say it was 1992 which, as folks know, was a pretty good year for California Cabs.  I can’t be absolutely certain because I wasn’t recording tasting notes, so it’s all just misty water-colored memories.

Anyway, I do remember the experience.  I took my first sip and let it run the palate.  “Wait,” I thought, “What was that?”  I took another sip.  Holy cow!  It was there!  It wasn’t a heavy-handed one-note thing, but there was a definite chocolatey flavor.  Those tall tales of wines from my friends’ pasts – they were true!  It was a moment that made me realize I needed to be just a bit more open-minded about the kinds of flavors vintners could coax out of grapes.

They say you can never go back, and in many ways that’s true.  Certainly, I don’t expect every vintage of a wine to taste exactly like the previous.  Part of what I enjoy about exploring wines is that changes in the weather or changes in the wine-making process can produce noticeable and notable differences in the final result.  Thus, not expecting to repeat my previous experience, I recently popped the cork on another bottle of J. Lohr’s Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles to see what was in store this time around.

Winemaker:  J. Lohr
Wine: Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: Paso Robles, California
Price: $19.98

Notes:  Color on pour was very purple; in the glass it was a deep red plum.  The bouquet was really very enjoyable with loads of barnyard (sous bois), tangy plum, earth and a touch of cedar.  Acidity was high and the body was on the lighter side of medium.  Alcohol was at 13.5%, and I’d say the tannins were in the medium range.  On the palate I tasted lots of plum, oak, black pepper, coffee grounds, a little tar and some green bell pepper.  It was pretty good.  As you may know, I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog with a splurge here and there.  This was a splurge but not a very big one since I snagged it on sale for $13.99.  I think this would be a nice compliment to just about any beef or game dish.  It isn’t so expensive that you shouldn’t serve it with a casual meal, but it could also do fine with a juicy steak.

The Four Graces Pinot Noir 2011

Work receptions and dinners are often disappointing when it comes to the wines being served.  Know what I mean?  I suppose it’s understandable.  Everyone has a budget, and businesses have to concern themselves with the bottom line.  No surprise, then, that at a recent business function I was offered a glass of red wine (Merlot) from a winery that was clearly a “house wine” for the hotel we were in.  The Chardonnay and Rosé they were serving were from the same vintner.  To be honest, the Merlot was OK but not at all remarkable.  Finishing our dinner, the group at my table lingered to chat.  Having not really been bowled over by the Merlot, I pondered whether to bother with a second glass.  But as the conversation continued in lively fashion, I decided I would go ahead with another glass to keep up with my colleagues.  lol  When I went back to the bar, they didn’t have a bottle of the Merlot available without going to the stock room (which they were willing to do, but wasn’t worth the effort in my opinion).  So I asked what else they had on hand that was open.  I was rewarded with a different experience altogether.  More serendipity, I suppose.

Vineyard: The Four Graces
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Price: $24.99

Notes:  The color of this Oregonian was a pretty cranberry red.  On the nose I smelled redolent dusty earth and red berries.  Acidity was quite bright and the body was very light.  [I almost feel like I should write a poem the way things are starting to rhyme!]  Back to the wine ….  It had moderate tannins, and alcohol was at 13.8%.  Flavors that I managed to catch were a gentle ripe strawberry underlying pepper and oak with a zing of quinine on the finish.  This Pinot Noir had a controlled, refined style to it.  I enjoyed it as I was enjoying the company of my colleagues – all of us in a downright great mood.  So the night ended on a very good note.  Now that’s nice!

Since I didn’t buy this at the store, I did a little research online.  I found the prices varied, but $24.99 repeated a few times and was listed as what I would pay at the Total Wine in my area.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2012

No experiment is valid without a control.  Right?  Something to compare the experiment’s results to.  So after having tried that Penfolds Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cab that I happened upon recently, I decided to grab another Australian blend of the same grape varietals for a comparison.  Admittedly, they aren’t from the same vintage and the wines aren’t blended in the same percentages.  Not exactly a true scientific method.  Still, I was curious.

Winemaker:  Jacob’s Creek
Wine: Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $6.99

Notes:  Jacob’s Creek has blended 56% Shiraz and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon for this selection.  Color was a … drum roll, please … dark garnet.  OK, no real surprise there.  The bouquet?  Well, it held aromas of earth, mushroom, eucalyptus and dark plum.  Body – medium; acidity – fairly high; tannins – medium with an aggressive attack (some use the term grippy); alcohol – 13.9%.  Flavors?  Yes.  LOL  No, seriously, the major player on the palate was oak.  It’s what hit me first and kept on coming.  In addition there were plum and pepper with hints of cocoa and bitter coffee bean on the finish.  Bottom line – it was OK, but I would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the preponderance of oak.  Of course, that’s based on my own personal preferences.  You may enjoy the starring role that oak plays at the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabaret – I mean, Cabernet.  Then again, maybe this is a wine that needs a little time in the bottle for the flavors to balance out.