A quick bevvy and quick post as I prepare for a Thanksgiving with the extended family. This was a Trader Joe’s grab.
Winemaker: Chateau Des Seraphin
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Cotes du Rhone AOC, France
Notes: This French blend was a mix of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre. It was an intense deep red in the glass with scents of red berries and pepper on the nose. It was light-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins. Flavors I found included cassis, benzine, chlorophyll, and pepper with touches of oak. The finish was unfortunately very bitter and, for me, that was a deal-breaker. I had it with a steak for dinner which seemed like a potentially good pairing. Although it’s quite inexpensive at $5.99, I don’t think I will be going back for seconds.
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!
Winemaker: Chateau Souverain
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.
This is another of the wines I grabbed to have on hand across the holiday season. And by that I mean Thanksgiving through the New Year. I picked this Pinot up at Whole Foods fully expecting that we’d bake a turkey at some point, and it’s conventional wisdom that Pinots go pretty well with a holiday bird. Turns out, however, that we didn’t do a bird because a) we went visiting on Thanksgiving and b) we decided on something different for Xmas. Even so, somehow we managed to pop the cork on this bottle and sample the goods.
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: First thing you gotta know about this selection is — let it breathe. I know this is a Pinot Noir, but I just about spat out my first sip right after uncorking. With some time to oxidize, however, I found pleasant flavors of ripe strawberry, currant, pepper, a hint of coffee along with woody tannins in a light-bodied wine. The color was a very pretty jewel-tone red, and I smelled tangy berries and a touch of cedar in the bouquet. It was a little weak in the mid-palate but then packed a punch on the back end.
This year my sweetie and I decided to stay home for the holiday season and make a few holiday memories of our own. It isn’t that we don’t love to see family and friends, but there are times when one-on-one quality time is warranted. Know what I mean? After the 2016 we had, this was definitely our time for staycation holidays.
Although we did lots of staying in on Xmas Eve and Xmas Day, on New Year’s Eve we decided to let somebody else do the cooking. Hoping for an “experience,” we headed to a tiny Filipino restaurant in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. The restaurant, Bad Saint, was selected as the #2 best new restaurant in the USA in 2016 by Bon Appetit magazine. That’s in the entire U.S. of A!
First, you should know they don’t take reservations. And the restaurant only seats about 24 guests. So that meant on a cold, blustery day, we had to stand in line to get a place at the table (or counter, etc.). Guess what? We had a blast! Took metro to the neighborhood, then stood for 2.5 hours on the sidewalk outside. We were NOT alone by any means. Luckily we were among the first in line – 5th or 6th group, I believe. So we’d definitely make the first seating. That accomplished, so to speak, we passed the time chatting with our fellow line standers and took turns going to a nearby coffee shop to grab coffee, snacks, and warmth for a few minutes. By the time the doors opened, the line stretched to the end of the block.
Reviews aside, when the staff counted down – 1, 2, 3 – and then pulled up the shades on the windows, we knew this was going to be a fun evening. The menu was brief but complete – something tasty for everybody. We decided to share four dishes that were just amazing. They included a rice salad, kale, cauliflower, and a beautifully prepared and presented whole bronzino. They had one dessert which we were more than happy to enjoy – what I would describe as apple pie spring rolls with a caramel reduction.
I realize this post is an aberration for this blog, but our evening was not about the wine. It was all about the food and the experience. We did have a cocktail to start called a Chili Manilli. It was spicy and savory, made with chili-infused tequila, campari, and some other ingredients I don’t remember. With dessert we also had a rainwater Madeira.
We went for an experience, and we had a fantastic one! The staff – to a person – was welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, helpful. Every morsel was incredibly tasty. I honestly think we could have ordered anything on the menu and been very happy. This outing will definitely be one of those memories we can talk about in years to come. Remember New Year’s Eve at the Bad Saint? Yes. Yes, indeed!
Will we go back? You bet! For what it’s worth, I highly recommend the restaurant. We’ve already had some friends get in on their own Bad Saint experience with the same positive impressions.
As I said before, it’s never a bad idea to plan ahead for the holidays. Many of us forget due to our excitement over the “majors”, though, that the spooky holiday comes first. Let’s face it, I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I went to a party in costume. [OK, I won’t tell you.] Why has it been so long? No, it’s not because I’ve completely lost the fun in my life. Mostly it’s due to a lack of advance prep work.
So, if you’re thinking of having a get-together (with or without costumes) on Halloween, I have another candidate for you to audition for the beverage table. This one is also for a casual affair not for the wine aficionados. And this wine, too, has a Halloween-appropriate label. And name! In fact, the wrapper that comes with each bottle is even more Halloweeny than the label. If you serve it at Halloween, make sure your guests get to see and appreciate the wrapper art as well.
Winemaker: Curious Beasts (by Truett Hurst)
Wine: Blood Red Wine
Varietal: Red Blend
Notes: With a name like Blood Red Wine, this selection is appropriately dark ruby in the glass. On the nose I caught scents of red berries, sous bois, and a hint of caramel. At 14.7% alcohol, it had little to no tannins that I could detect. Still, there was plenty of flavor in this light-bodied selection. I tasted lots of cherry and blackberry with some raisin and caramel along with a touch of eucalyptus. It was certainly pleasant enough to drink. Since there’s not much in the way of structure, it is a drink now kind of wine. I think it would be decent with a pasta dish or with Mexican cuisine.
It’s never too early to begin planning ahead for the fall holiday season. I know some of you have already begun to think about holiday presents! But before we get to the big November and December holidays, there is one we mustn’t forget – Halloween.
Now, Halloween isn’t really a big foodie holiday – unless you consider candy to be a food group. On second thought, maybe it IS a food group…. Setting that debate aside, Halloween is definitely a holiday for fun and frolick, parties, costumes and trick-or-treating. If you’re planning a bash to celebrate All Hallows Eve, you may want to give this Australian Chardonnay consideration. Although I personally lean toward more red wines in the autumn and winter, you will no doubt have guests who want a glass of white wine. And this selection from Benefactor Cellars has the perfect label for celebrating Halloween.
Winemaker: Benefactor Cellars
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This Aussie Chardonnay was pale yellow in color with a perfumey bouquet. At 13.2% alcohol, it had good acidity. Surprisingly, the Benefactor Cellars was light-bodied in the continental style. On the palate I found a fairly simple, straight-forward flavor profile consisting of citrus with toasty oak notes. I’d say this is not a selection for the wine connoisseurs, but I think it could work for a casual celebration where the focus was on friends and costumes rather than on the food and drink.
I like a good Cabernet Franc. So, when I see one on the shelves of my local store, I tend to gravitate toward it like a little rocket ship sucked in by Gorath. Gorath, for those who haven’t been watching old science fiction movies, is a super dense “wandering” star featured in an eponymous 1960’s Japanese movie. In addition to this wine being a varietal very frequently used in blending rather than a single star in the bottle, it was made by a vintner in Virginia. OMG! The gravitational pull just doubled.
Winemaker: White Hall Vineyards
Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Appellation: Monticello, Virginia
Price: $14.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This White Hall offering was a pretty ruby in color with scents of red berries, menthol and turpentine in the bouquet. The body was light and acidity fairly high while tannins were medium. Alcohol was at 13%. I got quite a bit of pepper on the palate along with currant, pomegranate and turpentine. In a perfect world, I would have enjoyed it all the more with less turpentine and more body. Even so, it was certainly no plonk, especially if you like a racier style of red.
Here we are at the beginning of yet another year. I’m elated to have made it through, and I’m excited about opportunities that may lie just around the corner.
Here’s wishing everyone a fabulous 2016 with much success, happiness and wonderful wine enjoyment.
Virginia is for Wine Lovers! I’m not joking. According to the Virginia Wine Board’s website there are 251 wineries in the State.
Recently, I trekked to the Richmond area where I managed to have a Virginia wine experience. While there are a number of wineries within a reasonable driving distance from Richmond proper, the closest is probably James River Cellars just north of Richmond in Glen Allen.
The winery is easy to get to – a short way off I-95 on US Route 1. The winery is set back from the road, and the drive up to the tasting room takes you past a driving range. When I stepped in the front door, I was immediately greeted by the winery staff. Friendly and knowledgeable, the staff took me through a full range of wine options for the very modest fee of $5. Normally, the fiver gets you samples of 13 different selections. If you’re lucky – like I was on my visit – they may have an additional selection or two open which they will share as well. Below are the wines I got to try.
2013 Reserve Chardonnay
2014 Chardonnay (un-oaked)
2014 Petit Manseng
2013 Vidal Blanc
2013 Rad Red – 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Petit Verdot, 20% Chancellor, 7% Sangiovese
2012 Cabernet Franc
2012 Monitor vs CSS Virginia – 47% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot, 9% Tannat
2012 Meritage – 45% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 11% Peti Verdot
2014 Montpelier – 63% Pinot Gris, 20% Chardonel, 17% Chambourcin
2014 Hanover White – 45% Chardonel, 45% Pinot Gris, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Muscat
2013 Real Santa Red – 58% Merlot, 42% Touriga Nacional
2012 Petit Verdot
2012 Hanover Red – Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Touriga Nacional
There was a lot to take in during this tasting. Even so, I thought they had a number of selections I might like to buy. The Reserve Chardonnay had bright acidity, a silky mouthfeel and citrus flavors including lemon and grapefruit.; the Petit Manseng had flavors of spiced stone fruits; their Petit Verdot was smoky and earthy; and there are two wines I’d call specialty wines which would make great additions to holiday celebrations.
Those specialty wines are the Chambourcin and Real Santa Red – a blend of Merlot and Touriga Nacional. The winemaker has added sugar to the Chambourcin which for me makes it a bit like berry (cranberry?) sauce in a bottle. It is definitely a dessert wine, in my opinion. Then there is the Real Santa Red to which they have added cinnamon. Although not dessert-wine sweet like the Chambourcin, I think Real Santa Red would be a nice accompaniment to holiday pies (apple, pumpkin, cherry, etc.) and cakes.
If you find yourself in the area, you should definitely stop by the winery. If you can’t make it to the folks at James River, their wines can be purchased from the winery and shipped or at a number of retailers in Central Virginia. See their website at jamesrivercellars.com for details.