Right after I graduated from college, I spent two years in Munich (München), Germany. It was an eventful time in my life. It was the first time I’d ever lived in a metropolitan area. Turns out I’m a city dweller at heart. Also, my first son was born. Yeah, that was a big one. It was an amazing time in many ways. It seemed there was a surprise, a new experience around every corner. One of the most beautiful was seeing the Kristkindlmarkt on Marienplatz. There had been snow early and often our first year, so there was a frosting of snow on the buildings and some of the stalls as we wandered the market looking at the handicrafts – we bought crystal tree ornaments. All the while the pungent aromas of glühwein and roasted chestnuts filled the air.
Despite the fact that it wasn’t Münchener Glühwein, I was excited when I saw this on the shelf of a local supermarket in January. Even though the holidays had passed, it was still cold enough to warrant a nice warm beverage.
Winemaker: Gerstacker Weinkellerei
Wine: Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt Glühwein
Varietal: Red Spiced Wine
Price: $8.99 per Liter
Notes: The color of this spiced red was a pale garnet. Not surprisingly, the bouquet held scents of winter spices – esp. clove – and dark fruit. Directions on the bottle instructed me to heat the wine to 170 degrees Fahrenheit without boiling. Once that was done, we were able to pour it into our holiday mugs. Yes, we have holiday mugs! I found this wine light-bodied with good acidity and no noticeable tannins. Sweet at 10% alcohol, the Gerstacker Glühwein was a mug full of plummy, berry, spicy goodness. It was simple, pleasant, warming enjoyment on a very cold night. Temperatures outside were in the teens, but the warmth of this spiced wine and the memories it brought to mind kept us cozy inside. For an hour or two, it was the holidays all over again.
Guenoc Vineyards has an interesting history steeped in the glamorous world of actors and high society. Oh, yes! Guenoc started life as the Langtry Farms or Langtry Estate Vineyard. Lily Langtry (also spelled Lillie) was an international star of the stage and belle of society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was also possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit which led her to found her own acting company, involve herself in thoroughbred racing, and to become a California vintner. Born in the UK, Ms. Langtry became an American citizen in 1887 during one of her tours through the U.S. In 1888, she bought the winery in Lake County, California and reportedly began making claret. Although she sold the vineyard in the early 1900’s, the farm is today being used to produce the many selections available from Guenoc and Langtry Estate.
Notes: This Guenoc Chardonnay was a medium yellow in the glass. On the nose I caught whiffs of honey, kiwi, and banana. Acidity was good, and alcohol was at 13.5%. On the tongue I found tropical fruit – kiwi, banana, even a touch of guava – and quinine. On the whole, however, it wasn’t my cup of wine in large part due to the prevalence of the quinine flavor. If that flavor had taken a back seat to the fruit, it could have added interest to this Chardonnay. For me, though, the bitter quinine was just too much. You, of course, may disagree. As Guenoc does make a full range of offerings, this won’t stop me giving their other products a go.
I hope my wine blogging friends didn’t think I’d forgotten my desire and intention to experience and learn more about this venerable wine varietal! Not by a long shot. Oh, there may have been a hiatus, but the break has only whetted my thirst for more. I picked this bottle up at a boutique wine shop not too far down the road.
Notes: Scents wafting from this dark garnet glass of wine included violets, berries, and dry earth. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins. A dry Sangiovese at 14% alcohol, it brought flavors of red plum, violets, dried green herbs, and a hint of carob to the tongue. In addition, the finish was quite tart. I found it an interesting drink. No doubt it’d be a nice accompaniment for a variety of meat dishes.
You may have heard that a lawsuit has been filed in California against some 28 vintners involving around 83 of their wines. Because the wines named are primarily inexpensive wines, this issue is of considerable importance to people – like me – who buy the lower-priced labels.
The first question is, of course, whether the reportedly elevated levels of arsenic are truly a problem. The Wine Institute has called the lawsuit “irresponsible,” but the Institute is an industry group. Folks know that industry groups represent the industry first and consumers second inasmuch as said consumers want the industry’s product. So I’d say that at face value the Institute’s position doesn’t give me full assurance. I’d like additional info.
According to the AP, the lawsuit alleges that tests by three independent labs found some wines had arsenic levels 500 percent higher than considered safe in drinking water. That sounds pretty bad! Is, however, that the right measure to use – a drinking water comparison? I imagine all wine contains any number of chemicals, minerals and compounds above the levels permitted in drinking water … alcohol is an obvious one. While the U.S. hasn’t set permitted arsenic levels for wines, other countries have. Maybe we should be looking at those and the medical/scientific justifications for them?
I am not going to stop drinking inexpensive wine (under $10 a bottle) just yet. On the other hand, I will be watching this issue and looking for more facts about the health risks. If the idea of consuming some extra arsenic in your vino causes you a great deal of agitation, perhaps you’ll want to read the list of wines named in the lawsuit at this link – NYDailyNews Article.
On a personal level, it looks as though my own exposure to the allegedly offending selections has been limited to these wines over the past couple of years.
Wine from the slightly depressing drug store at the subway stop? I’ve bought tubes of toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. there as a convenience. Saw the wines located near the sodas but never stopped to look – for years – until a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t actually think I’d find anything I hadn’t seen at the wine shops and grocery stores in my neighborhood. Largely that was true … until I spied this bottle of Argentinian red.
Winemaker: Bodega Elena de Mendoza
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Mendoza, Argentina
Notes: The bouquet of this pretty dark ruby blend was fairly pungent with what I call barnyard and tangy berries. Made with 64% Malbec, 20% Syrah and 16% Bonarda, it was medium-bodied with good acidity and light tannins. Flavors I found included sweet currant and black raspberry, leather, a dash of pepper, an oak note and menthol. Alcohol was at 13%. I thought it was a fun wine – perhaps for a relaxing evening of chewing the fat with friends.
What do you sip to help you wine down from a busy Saint Patrick’s Day? I’m not talking about a day spent celebrating dear old Paddy, but a long day at the grindstone after which you are in no shape to play bar games into the wee hours! Well, how about popping the cork on a bottle of something from another island nation but round the other side of the globe for a quieter celebration at home?
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: In the glass this Australian Cab was a deep dark red – almost murky. The bouquet was quite loud with scents of dark berries, oak, menthol and earth. Acidity was good, the body was medium, and I felt the tannins were medium as well. Alcohol was at 13.5%. On the tongue I tasted plenty of oak, menthol (at times minty), dark cherry, tea leaf and tar. Fun stuff, but the flavors are not well integrated at all. Perhaps it needs some cellaring. Even so, this McWilliam’s Cab was an acceptably decent wine experience for the $8.99 sale price I paid for the bottle.
[Brief Aside: My spell check tells me cellaring is not a word. Ha!]
Notes: Here is another varietal that I’ve just barely stuck my big toe into. I.e., I’ve had limited experience with these wines and am still learning as I trundle along my circuitous wine journey. The last one I tasted brought a very dark flavor profile to the palate. This selection, however, was quite a different experience. The color was dark — a deep garnet. In the bouquet I found earth, oak, ripe berries and a touch of smoke. The body was on the lighter edge of medium. It had high acidity, moderate tannins and 12.5% alcohol. Flavors for me included boysenberry, oak and eucalyptus. I felt it was a simple, pleasant, easy-drinking glass of wine. Absolutely nothing to complain about here in my book, especially given it’s bargain price. Thanks, Lulu, for the recommendation!