OK. I had a family gathering to attend – a birthday party. This would be the “extended” family which includes many people who partake in the fruit of the vine, some who do not, and some for whom it has been legal to imbibe for a very short time. We had a reservation in the party room at a casual Italian BYOB restaurant. Question was: what bottle should I bring to the celebration? I thought about being the “wine guy” and really going out of my way to pull a wine that would match the food perfectly. Then I remembered that a) these were people who had already been subjected to my enthusiasm about wine and food pairing, and b) I didn’t have anything to prove because these folks all know me too well.
So, I decided to look for something that would accompany most Italian dishes reasonably well … BUT that wouldn’t be too taxing for nor offensive to anyone’s palate (or as close as I could get). Considering there were going to be quite a few folks in attendance, it had to be fairly easy on the wallet, too. After all, there was no doubt that the focus of the evening would not be the food and drink – it would be all about togetherness and having a good time. With those thoughts in mind, I ended up with this inexpensive Gallo brand red.
Notes: The color of this Merlot was a medium garnet. It’s bouquet had a pleasant figgy aroma. Tannins were light, acidity was good, and alcohol was at 11.5%. On the tongue I caught flavors of sweet cherry (lots of it) as well as a touch of pepper, a fig note, chlorophyll and coffee grounds as it came to a finish. Not too bad. And I know it wasn’t the ultimate wine to accompany the pasta and pizza we had. But, hey, at least I didn’t get any complaints.
What do you do when the weather turns fierce, and you’re stuck indoors for two-and-a-half days?
A couple of weeks ago, my area was blessed with 30 inches of snow. Not an event that occurs frequently in my town, it brought things to a screeching halt. Everything, I mean everything shut down. I’ll give the meteorologists their kudos, we were forewarned. So I put together a plan to wile away the hours by watching movies on my bucket list and enjoying some wine along with them. I’m happy to say that is precisely what I did! I ended up watching 5 movies and binge-watching a couple of TV shows to boot. As for the wines, I started with a California Cabernet from Artisan Winery on the evening the storm arrived.
Notes: This was a dark Cab with scents of earth, pepper, currant and cedar. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and fairly light tannins for the varietal. Alcohol was at 13.9%. It was a very flavorful wine. I’d call it “fruit forward” with flavors of dark berries along with notes of cedar, pepper, tobacco, and a hint of dry herbs. It also came across a little sweeter than it’s 13.9% alcohol would suggest. The finish was nice and long for a wine in this price range. I liked it. Made a nice wine to enjoy on it’s own, but I’m sure it will pair nicely with a variety of dishes.
Here is another of those red wines I had recently. It was an interesting blend – a Meritage – using grape varieties common in red blends from the Bordeaux region in France. In fact, Meritage is a name invented by American wine growers as a way of recognizing their efforts to make New World wines in the Bordeaux tradition. According to meritagealliance.com, “A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage.” This particular selection was made from 49% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Paso Robles, California
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this Roustabout was a very dark red with a nose of dusty berries and turpentine. Acidity was quite bright, tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.8%. Flavors were dark but not heavy – dark berries, cedar, pepper, a touch of sweet cola and a rubber not near the finish. I liked it, especially given the price. Good for sipping or serving with a casual meat dish. I’ll definitely be headed back to the store for more. In fact, I’m in search of a wine to serve for a family style birthday celebration at a BYOB Italian restaurant. It’s a candidate for sure.
These Casella wines are everywhere in my area. I can find them just about anywhere I can buy wine. And I see them at a lot of house parties, too. Maybe that’s because they are so easy to find. Maybe that’s because they are so easy on the wallet. Or maybe it’s because folks like their approachability. That’s definitely a term I would use for this Shiraz – approachable. It even says so on the label!
You may have noticed that I have strayed from using my usual photo style for this post. Instead, I’m trying a slightly more artistic (I think) treatment in an effort to add a little more fun and interest to my posts. I hope you can still recognize the label sufficiently to be able to pick it out at a store. Everything is basically the same except the coloring.
Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: It was an easy-drinking wine. Medium-bodied with a smooth feel across the palate, it had good acidity and 13% alcohol. Flavors were not overly complex – largely dark cherry and ripe red plum fruit, some vanilla, a dash of pepper, a tad of bitter woodiness as the light tannins kicked in.
What an interesting label this wine has. It’s a picture of a bunch of rocks. That’s all – just rocks. Are they not-so-subtly telling us something about the “tierra” or terroir in the area? Could be. This red wine hails from the area known as Castilla – La Mancha and is categorized in the “Vino de la Tierra” classification which is just below Denominación de Origen or DO and above plain old table wine.
The vineyard’s name, also interesting to me, is another name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom OR a form of the Spanish verb pallar. Pallar means to extract or glean. Which is the basis for the vineyard name? Heck if I know! Maybe both inasmuch as a person with wisdom is able to extract or glean pertinent information from raw data and make it useful. Yes, I know I’m a bit of a word geek. Can’t help myself: I love language. Of course, I also love wine which is the purpose of this blog. So I’ll get on with it.
Winemaker: Pallas by Finca Las Cruces
Appellation: Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain
Price: $8.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: The color was very dark garnet with tinges of purple. It had an earthy bouquet with scents of pine, blackberry and quinine. Medium-bodied, this Tempranillo had good acidity and medium tannins. At 14% alcohol it was what I consider dry. On the palate, the flavors I tasted were woodiness aplenty, blackberry, some pepper and quinine. I thought it had a fairly bitter affect overall, so I would recommend pairing this wine with a meat dish rather than serving it at a cocktail party.
Although you can’t tell it from my posts on this blog, I’ve been drinking mostly reds for weeks now. Perhaps it would help if I were better about getting my posts up in a timely manner. Then you might know I’ve been enjoying reds of late. And that is one of my New Year’s resolutions – to be more diligent about posting my wine experiences here. Not doing too well so far, but there is time (and room) for improvement. Ha!
Anyway, I was in the store the other day browsing and found myself drawn to the white wine shelves. I even commented to the staff that I seemed to have a hankering for a white wine despite the chilly weather and piles of snow hanging around. Having given voice to my thoughts, I decided to take action.
Varietal: Sauvignion Blanc
Appellation: Curicó Valley, Chile
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was light-bodied and a light yellow in the glass. On the nose I found plenty of citrus and a touch of pear. Flavors basically mirrored the bouquet with the addition of warm spice notes. Acidity was fairly bright, and alcohol was at 13%. Quite pleasant overall.