Top Hat Pinot Grigio 2012

So … here’s the question.  Do you think California Pinot Grigio’s are generally as good as their Italian counterparts?

I took the time to look back and review my tasting notes of PGs to see if they might give me a clue as to my own thinking.  Remembering that I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog, it seems my experience suggests that the Californians still have some catching up to do.  That isn’t to say California wineries don’t make good Pinot Grigios.  In the value priced selections, however, I have evidently preferred the Italians.

Of course, that’s just one man’s limited experience.  If you have some suggestions for me as to Pinot Grigios I should sample, I’d be more than happy to hear about them.

Oenophilogical_TopHatPinotGrigio2012Winemaker: Top Hat
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $11.99

Notes: The wine was an extremely pale straw color with good acidity and 13.9% alcohol.  On the nose I encountered scents of citrus with warm spice notes.  It was very light-bodied, almost thin.  On the palate I tasted citrus, grass and touches of warm spice.  It was an okay PG, but I think there are less expensive options that are equal to this Top Hat and much more interesting selections in the same price range.

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La Vielle Ferme Blanc 2014

Some time ago I shared a little story of my sojourns through France when I was a young boy.  In that instance, we had stopped on the south coast of France (Mediterranean) and spent a day at the beach.  At the time, we were living in Germany, so that was not the only trip we made into France. We also made our way to Paris.

Although I was only 6 years old at the time.  Paris left a lasting mark on my soul.  While my father did his best to herd the family from museum to museum, some of the most vivid memories are from the city itself.  For instance, I was fascinated by the hotel we stayed in because it wasn’t at all like the American hotels and motels we had stayed in.  It was a small pension hotel in a bustling residential neighborhood.  Not far from our hotel, there was an outdoor market where people where produce of every kind straight from the farm was available.  We bought some cherries at the market that I can still taste by memory today.  They were SO amazing.  And although I was very impressed with the art works in the Louvre, I found the Arc de Triomphe infinitely more appealing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since that trip.  Yup, more travel for my bucket list.  I really would like to experience the City of Light as an adult.  Know what I mean?  I didn’t have a single sip of wine when I was in Paris last!

Oenophilogical_LaVielleFermeBlanc2014Winemaker: La Vieille Ferme
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: France
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes: This French white was medium yellow in color with lots of yellow (golden delicous) apple along with citrus notes in the nose.  Acidity was good in this medium-bodied blend which had a slight coat-the-tongue quotient.  Flavors I detected were kiwi, cream, and hints of toasty oak.  I liked it.  I have had other vintages that I didn’t enjoy as well, but this bottle was fine by me.

It’s A Headsnapper Chardonnay Sonoma 2014

Where does the term headsnapper come from?  What does it mean?  Does anybody know?

I’ve come upon three possible meanings thus far.  1. something so shocking, unexpected or interesting that it makes you whip your head around to look at it; 2. something that is too expensive or a bad deal (perhaps surprisingly so); 3. fish bait (red snapper heads are evidently often used as bait).

If the label art is any clue as to what the folks at It’s A Headsnapper mean when they use the term, it is likely to be something akin to the first definition.  Then again, there is a fourth possibility that occurs to me.  The woman on the label looks as though she might be dancing while squeezing the juice from grapes into a glass.  So maybe she’s a dancer who likes to whip her head about.

Oenophilogical_HeadsnapperChardonnaySonoma2014Winemaker: It’s A Headsnapper
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Sonoma County, California
Price: $10.99

Notes: This Sonoma Chardonnay brought citrus, grass and turpentine to the nose.  With bright acidity, it’s heft on the palate was on the light side of medium.  Alcohol at 13.9%, the flavor profile I found included citrus (lemon turning to grapefruit), grass, and chalk with some turpentine and woody notes.  Speaking of the label once again, my tasting notes bear almost no resemblance to the description of this wine on the back of the bottle.  All I can do is share what I tasted!

Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2015

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.

Oenophilogical_YellowTailChardonnay2015Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2015
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $5.99

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.

Big Churn Chardonnay 2014

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!

Oenophilogical_BigChurnChardonnay2014Winemaker: Big Churn
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: California
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.

Nine Points Chardonnay 2015

For my return to the trenches, I decided to start with a celebratory Chardonnay.  Honestly, any glass of wine would have been a joyous experience.  Of course, after over half a year as a teetotaler, I knew I wasn’t ready for a big chewy red.

Oenophilogical_NinePointsChardonnay2015Winemaker: Nine Points
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2015
Appellation: Napa Valley
Price: $15.99

Notes: This Napa Chardonnay was a pretty light yellow in the glass with scents of citrus, grass and warm spices.  It was medium bodied with a decent amount of viscosity to it.  Acidity was quite high and alcohol was at 14.2%.  As for flavors, I found apple, citrus, grass, hot pepper, hints of warm spices and lanolin.  Not a bad pick at all for my first glass back.

A Homespun Home-fun Xmas Eve

My sweetheart and I celebrated the holidays quietly at home this year.  Thus, we decided to make it a full-fledged staycation featuring plenty of food and time together.

oenophilogical_xmaseve16Our Xmas Eve celebration, then, began around noon with preparations for an early homestyle dinner – 5:00 ish.   Our kitchen is very small: we are not. Since we were sharing the responsibility for dishes, we had to work out a kitchen schedule.  What a fun challenge for us and a test of our collaborative skills.  I’m happy to say we passed the test!

The dinner was a simple one consisting of crab cakes (from our local Whole Foods seafood section), pearl couscous with mixed bell peppers, and a cucumber/radish salad.  It doesn’t seem that difficult at first blush till you factor in the substitutions we had to make (because we really are follow-the-recipe cooks) plus our “make ahead” work on dishes for Xmas Day dinner.  After much excitement, we finally got the meal on the table around 6:00 … maybe 6:30.  I confess the delay was mostly my fault.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Vermentino from Trader Joe’s under the VINTJS  label.

After dinner, we finished watching the first season of “The Crown.”  This TV show is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen.  If you like the genre, you should see it.  Sumptuous cinematography and solid performances across the board.

Then we put together a little snack tray of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and nuts.  After all, we’d worked hard on the couch helping get Queen Elizabeth through the trials and tribulations of her early reign.  Next we turned out all the lights except the tree and sang our favorite Xmas carols.  And that was that!  Time to hit the hay and rest up for our Xmas Day festivities.

oenophilogical_vintjsvermintino2015Winemaker:  VINTJS
Varietal:  Vermentino
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  For me, this light white had a strong, zingy bouquet of citrus, peach and spice.  On the tongue I tasted orange, grass, and citrus zest.  It had a surprisingly long and pleasant finish as the orange lingered on the palate.  I liked this VINTJS Vermentino.  I was a little surprised that the piquancy of the bouquet didn’t translate fully to the tongue, but perhaps that’s just part of it’s character.