Some wines are refined and well-behaved. Others are a bold mouthful of flavors sometimes striking out in unexpected directions. Still others are one-dimensional and boring. Then you have what I’ll call the pinballers that bounce around on your taste buds like a rabbit with it’s tail on fire. The last was my experience with this white from down under.
Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: In the glass this Aussie Chardonnay was a pretty light shade of gold. Scents that rose from the glass were pineapple, oak and pepper. Alcohol was at 13% in this medium-bodied wine. Acidity was moving toward high, and there was a definite sense of viscosity on the tongue. I thought it was an unsophisticated white with flavors of sweet pineapple, grass, oak, and a note of hot peppers. It is, of course, a very inexpensive bottle of wine. Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical.
I was first introduced to the Cline family of wines by a friend. He had grown up not too far from the winery and was a true hometown fan. If I remember correctly, he insisted on sharing the Cline Conundrum white blend with me. I wasn’t recording tasting notes back then – just experiencing everything I could. Even so, it was evidently a good experience, because I continue to purchase and enjoy Cline wines.
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $8.50 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: In the bouquet I found boisterous berry, violets, cedar, and hints of spice. It was a dark, murky red with good acidity. Medium-bodied with medium tannins, this Cline Zin was at 14% alcohol. For me the flavors were dark cherry, piquant pepper, rubber, dried green herbs, and woody tannins. I enjoyed the flavor of this wine, but the bouquet was just as rewarding as the taste.
You may have seen my recent post titled “A Peek Into the Past” in which I explored what happened to the Italian Swiss Colony winery. As I mentioned in that post, the descendant of the Italian Swiss Colony (at least physically) is now called Chateau Souverain. Shortly after publishing that post, I saw this Chardonnay in my local store. Of course I had to give it a try!
Notes: On the nose I smelled citrus, peach and lots of grass. The color of this inexpensive Chardonnay was a pale yellow. It was medium-bodied with high acidity and alcohol at 13.7%. Flavors my tongue detected included peach, toasty oak, citrus, and grass with a faint hint of caramel. It was pleasant and will make a nice partner with light fare.
What to drink as accompaniment to a turkey burger at home? If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may note that turkey burgers are pretty common in my home. They’re easy and quick to make and have less of the cholestrol-upping fats that doctors and dieticians keep telling us are bad for longevity. Not that I don’t splurge on a beef burger once in awhile.
On one particular evening, this Australian Pinot Noir won the toss to pair with a turkey burger. After all, if Pinot Noir goes so well with Thanksgiving turkey …. Of course, the right beverage may also depend on what condiments you plan on adding to the turkey burger. That night I wasn’t in an especially adventurous mood, so I wasn’t expecting any great disturbances in the flavor force on my palate.
Wine: Bin 99
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: The Bin 99 was light-bodied with good acidity. I thought tannins were around medium while alcohol clocked in at 13.5%. Regarding flavors, I tasted strawberry, green bell pepper, and black pepper along with bitter brambles. Fairly simple but ok for the task at hand.
My family has an interesting story about butter. My grandfather grew up on a farm, and they did, indeed, churn their own butter. One day when he was a young fellow, my grandfather and his siblings decided it would be fun to see who could eat the most butter in one sitting. Can you believe it? What seems to a level-headed adult a questionable pursuit at best was to my future grandfather a grand dare. Until, of course, he had ingested as much of the butter as he could handle. Unfortunately, all that buttery goodness at one time was truly too much of a good thing. It left a lasting impression because, after that day, my grandfather never ate another pad of butter. But my mother and her siblings came up with their own butter dare. Just to tease my grandfather, they would sneakily pass the butter around the table during dinner until they managed to have it sitting right in front of him. Once he noticed, of course, he would insist on it’s immediate removal from his close proximity. Ah, kids!
Winemaker: Big Churn
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This inexpensive California white was light yellow with scents of lemon verbena and butterscotch on the nose. Dry at 14.5% alcohol, the Big Churn was medium-bodied with what I would describe as perky acidity. Flavors I tasted were lemon pudding, oak, hints of butterscotch and lingering grass. With a name like Big Churn – not to mention the label art – you would expect a big buttery Chardonnay. I don’t think it quite lived up to it’s moniker, but I thought it was still a respectable glass of white wine for the price.
Here is another set of tasting notes from my archive which has heretofore not been posted on oenophilogical.com. I haven’t checked the Trader Joe’s shelves to see what vintage my local store is carrying right now. Even if it’s another year, this might give folks a sense of what has gone before.
Winemaker: Old Moon
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: In the bouquet I caught whiffs of cherry, spice, moss and pine tar. At 13.5% alcohol, this California Zin was a lovely ruby color in the glass. I found it to be medium-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins that were quick on the attack. The flavor profile I tasted included cherry, green herbs, a soupçon of pine tar, along with earth and leather notes. The finish brought toasty oak and leather. It wasn’t a particularly well integrated wine, but I felt it sufficient in structure and flavor to make it a bargain (not just cheap) at the price.
Balatonboglár, Hungary is a resort town located roughly 90 miles southwest of Budapest on Lake Balaton. Wikipedia says it’s also called the “town of grapes and wine” because it is the center of the Balatonboglár wine region which is one of six sub-sectors of the Balaton wine region around Lake Balaton. While the greater Balaton wine region is best known for it’s Riesling, it clearly produces other varietal wines such as this Merlot.
Notes: The color of the St. Donatus Merlot was quite dark. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and almost no tannins at all. Alcohol was at 12%. Flavors were simple – sweet plum with touches of spice. This wine was quite pleasant and easy to sip. I think it’s a prime candidate for mulled wine or sangria.
I may have said this before, but I’ll say it again. I would love to travel to Spain! Some day, I sincerely hope to make that wish a reality. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with looking at photos online, reading blog posts by others who have managed the trek, and drinking Spanish wines when I get that urge. Clearly, I was overcome by that urge recently because for my second wine experience back, I chose this Spanish Rioja.
Winemaker: Javier San Pedro (Bodegas Vallobera)
Wine: Randez (Crianza)
Appellation: Rioja DDO
Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s
Notes: With a bouquet of berries, cedar, and tobacco, this Spanish red was a dark ruby in the glass. On the palate, the weight was on the light side of medium with good acidity and fairly aggressive tannins. Alcohol came in at 13.5%. Flavors for me included cherry, red currant, and quite a lot of pepper with green herbal notes and woody tannins. It finished with a lingering note of bitters. I should have been drinking this with a beef dish given it’s structure, but it was pleasant enough on it’s own if you like a red with a little bite.
I’ve recently been spending some time going through old pictures my parents had collected over their 52 years of marriage. Seems my parents didn’t throw anything away … I mean ANYTHING.
The photos are of family events mostly but also some from trips here and there. In among the boxes of photos were other mementos of trips my parents had taken over the years. For instance, there were many road maps because my father was a road warrior on vacation. Quite a few of the maps were from Esso gas stations which gives you a sense of when the trips occurred. In addition to the maps, there were a number of random post cards. One set of six post cards were from a winery I don’t remember visiting called Italian Swiss Colony. My parents did manage to do some things without us kids once in awhile, so …. Anyway, what’s fascinating is that the Italian Swiss Colony is definitely a part of the California wine industry’s history.
According to Wikipedia, the business was founded in 1881 by Andrea Sbarboro as an agricultural colony at Asti, California to help provide work for the many Italians who had migrated to the San Francisco area. Asti is in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County. Initially, the members of the colony were from Ticino (a largely Italian ethnic region in Switzerland), thus giving the colony it’s moniker.
Soon after it’s founding (1887), a dip in grape prices led the colony to establish it’s own winery and begin selling it’s product first in the U.S. and then Europe, South America and Asia. Over the years the winery has changed hands – National Distillers, Petri Wine, United Vintners, Heublein, Allied Growers, Erly Industries, etc. In 2015 the winery (or it’s descendant), known at the time as Asti Winery and selling under the Souverain brand, was purchased by E&J Gallo from it’s then owner Treasury Wine Estates. Today it’s known as Chateau Souverain. Interestingly enough, the Souverain or Chateau Souverain brand dates back to the 1940’s, but the winery itself goes back to 1881 and the Italian Swiss Colony.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be taking it slow these days. In other words, I won’t be tasting as many wines as I might otherwise. Luckily, I do have some notes left from prior experiences, so I think I’ll go ahead and publish those now as well. While the particular vintage may no longer be available, the wine producers will surely have something on store shelves currently for our consumption. Here is one of those notes.
Notes: This lovely Italian reminded me of a Bordeaux. A blend of 33.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.3% Merlot, and 33.4% Montepulciano, this wine had a distinct purplish hue in the glass with a very present bouquet of forest floor (sous bois). It was on the cusp of medium-bodied with good acidity and gentle tannins. Alcohol was at 14%. Flavors I detected included brambly blackberry, leather and tea leaf. I think I see another bottle of the Trentatre in my future.
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my photo of the bottle. So instead the photo above is of a town (or more precisely a portion thereof) called Castro in the Apulia region – the area in southern Italy where this wine comes from.