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.

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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.

 

Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Some wines are so full of flavors and nuance, I almost feel like I can’t do them justice with a description.  In fact, I probably can’t.  Still, I do my best and enjoy trying.  Other wines are so amazingly straightforward, it takes only a word or two to express the essence of their character.  That isn’t a judgement, by the way.  Sometimes the right wine for a particular occasion is the kind that makes a singular impact.

Winemaker:   Santa Rita
Wine:  120 Sauvignon Blanc
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Valle Central DO, Chile
Price: $9.69

Notes:  Grapefruit

 

Viña Maipo Chardonnay 2015

Some wines I remember for their impact on my senses – their bouquet, their flavors.  Others I remember as part of what I was doing when I drank them – at a birthday party, concert, special restaurant, etc.  When I popped the cork on this bottle, my sweetie and I had decided to catch up on our pop culture and begin watching Season 1 of the show True Detective via HBO Now.  I truly didn’t realize how dark the story line would be, or I might have opted for something else.  The juxtaposition of a light white wine and the grim crimes being investigated on the screen, however, may have made both more memorable.

Winemaker:  Viña Maipo
Wine:  Mi Pueblo
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Central Valley, Chile
Price:  $5.00

Notes:  This light-bodied, light-hued Chardonnay had bright acidity and a bouquet consisting of lemon, pineapple and spice.  Alcohol was at 13%.  On the palate I tasted lemon, pineapple, grass and a very forward kerosene note.  I’d suggest pairing this with food as (for me) the kerosene note was a bit off-putting.  Maybe that’s why it was marked down from $12 to $5.

Fontana Candida Frascati 2013

I love the name of this winery – a member of the Banfi family of brands – because it elicits in me personal memories/connections.

I have only had one other selection from this vintner – their Pinot Grigio delle Venezie.  At the time, I had just finished reading a biography of the modernist composer John Cage who wrote a piece called “Fontana Mix”, composed while he was living in a flat in Italy.

But the second part of their name – Candida – which can mean white, pale, naive or innocent – reminds me of the satire Candide written by Voltaire and the derivative operetta of the same name with music by Leonard Bernstein and libretto by Lillian Hellman.  What memories that word brings to the fore!!

You see, some years ago I had the honor of being a swing for a professional production of the operetta Candide here in my local town.  The production began elsewhere and then transferred to my town for a couple of months.  When they arrived, they had everyone in tow but their swings – understudies who learn and cover chorus and small roles (usually 5 or 6 roles at a time).  They called me to audition, I got the part, and then I had just over 2 weeks to learn music, lines, blocking (placement/movement on stage) and dance.  Holy cow!  Even more enjoyable was the fact that the dance captain who was supposed to be teaching the swings (2 male, one female) their movement and dance, didn’t actually know the dances. Oh, he knew HIS movement and dance.  But he didn’t know OUR movement and dance.  So we spent quite a bit of time watching him watch the archival recordings of the show in order to then be able to teach us.  Not surprisingly, we all felt a little behind when opening night came around.  Eventually I did get to go on for one of the roles, and it went well.  Whew!

Oenophilogical_FontanaCandidaFrascati2013Winemaker:  Fontana Candida
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Frascati DOC, Italy
Price:  $11.41

Notes:  According to the Fontana Candida website, this Frascati is made from Malvasia Bianca Di Candia, Trebbiano Toscano, and Malvasia del Lazio grapes.  At 12.5% alcohol, it was light-bodied and brisk in it’s acidity.  Light yellow in the glass, it exhibited plenty of lemon and chrysanthemum in the bouquet.  On the tongue I tasted lemon, grass, some citrus zest near the close and a nutty note on the finish. I enjoyed it quite a bit (despite the memories it may have dredged up) and think this wine’s overarching citrus will make it a great companion for many fish and seafood dishes.

* The video trailer above is not from the production in which I participated.