There You Go Making Me Blush Again

I mean the summer weather, of course.  With the high humidity and high temperatures in my area – we’re talking nineties on both counts – I  have definitely been in the hunt for refreshing beverages to cool off with.  As far as wine goes, I’ve been buying plenty of light whites, but I’ve also been branching out into new territory.  Pink territory.  Not that I haven’t done pink before.  I used to have a pink tie, and I even had a pink polo shirt for awhile.    And, yes, I’ve had some blush wines previously.  But – until recently – I’d never had a Pink Moscato.  And until this bottle of inexpensive blush, I’d never had a White Merlot.

Winemaker:  Sutter Home
Wine:  White Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.49

Notes:   I’d call the color of this wine a light rose.  In the bouquet I detected scents of berries and biscuits.  It was a light-to-medium-bodied wine with some viscosity and decent acidity.  The tannins were quite light, and alcohol was at 11.5%.  Flavors I caught were sweet cherries, grass, some pepper, and biscuits.  The last lingering into the finish.  It was different that what I had been expecting.  Somehow I thought it would be another dessert wine.  It is sweet, but not heavily so.  Honestly, I don’t know what this might be best with/as/for.  Again, this was my first flirtation with a White Merlot.  If White Merlot is one of your preferred selections, maybe you can help me think that through.  How do you serve it?

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Barefootin’ In July – How Sweet It Is

It’s summer, summer, summertime!  Well, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, anyway.  For those of us north of the equater, this warm weather season is the perfect time to enjoy light, refreshing wines.  Not that we can’t drink them whenever we like, of course, but I feel the experience and enjoyment of these lighter selections is heighted in contrast to the often sweltering heat at this time of year.  Don’t you think so?  In light of that, I thought I’d experiment with my first Pink Moscato.

Winemaker:   Barefoot
Wine: Pink Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $7.99

Notes:  The color of this sweet California Moscato was a pale . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . pink!  Shocking, no?  On the nose I caught scents of roses and sweet berries.  Acidity was quite lively.  It was a fairly light-bodied selection, albeit sweet at 9% alcohol.  Flavors consisted of an underlying foundation of apricot with an overlay veneer of cherry, some candied melon rind, and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.  This is definitely a dessert wine in my opinion.  Then again, I’m a savory over sweet kind of guy, so my natural preference is for items – foods and drinks – that are less sweet.  For me, then, this Barefoot was quite sweet, even syrupy at times.  As I said, however, it might be a good choice for a summer dessert.  I could totally imagine enjoying a strawberry shortcake with this as a complement or a bowl of fresh berries with a dash of it over the top instead of sugar or whipped cream.  If you like your wine on the sweet side, you may well enjoy this inexpensive blush.

Screwtop Wine Bar: Worthwhile Waiting

The Wine Rangers headed out to another nearby watering hole to sample some vino.  I was the first to arrive at this very popular spot on a Thursday evening.  Not wanting to waste the time, I succumbed to the friendly staff’s offer to serve me a little something while I hovered – with quite a few other folks – waiting for a spot.

One thing I really like about this establishment is that their menu offers wines by the bottle, glass, and sip (half glass).  That provides almost an incentive (not that I need one – lol) to experiment.

After perusing the list, I ordered a half glass of the Early Mountain Viognier 2011 from Charlottesville, VA.  This Viognier was pale straw color.  On the nose I found spiced apple cider.  It was light-bodied with the characteristic touch of viscosity, and acidity was bright.  Flavors were a solid core of apple (no pun intended) with hints of spice and a touch of fig.  It was a pleasant sipper, and disappeared all too quickly.

As my fellow Wine Ranger, Heather, was running late, I had another look at the wine list.  Unable to resist the temptation, I ordered a half glass (aka sip) of the Villa Wolf Rosé 2012 from Pfalz, Germany.  The Villa Wolf was a pretty salmon color with a floral bouquet.  Although a light-bodied wine, it  had good acidity and a fun, almost flirty flavor profile of bing cherry and lemon/lime.  Flavors weren’t heavy but light and lively.

Eventually, the Wine Rangers were reunited, and the evening began in earnest.  But a report on that adventure will have to wait for another post.  In the meantime, I wish you worthwhile waiting, too.

 

25 Inexpensive Wines From Whole Foods

Every journey has it’s milestones, and marking the trail is an important part of any notable sojourn.  Whether or not this particular trip is notable can no doubt be debated.  Even so, a little under a year ago I began this blog.  Since then, I’ve managed to drink a few glasses of wine.  Along the way some 25 selections from the Whole Foods shelves – all very modestly priced to boot – have passed my way.  25 being an auspicious number – silver anniversary, for example – I’ve decided it’s time for a marker.

photo by jameson fink

Commemorating this occasion and serving as my own recap of this wine tasting “trip,” I’m going to identify my 5 favorites from among these Whole Food selections.  I won’t be giving them a numbered score or tell you whether it’s a buy/don’t buy.  We all have different palates; different likes and dislikes.  You decide if you want to give any of them a try or pass on the whole lot.  I’ll simply list my top 5 in order of personal preference, summarize my own tasting experience, and provide a link to my original post on each where you can find some additional info.  Remember, I’m a wine enthusiast.  My own tasting notes may or may not agree with yours and those of the bonafide experts.

Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignong Blanc 2012
A balanced Sauvignong Blanc, I found flavors of lemon, peach and honey with hints of pear and kiwi, a light dusting of green bell pepper, and a nice zip of grass on the finish.

Cupcake Red Velvet
A dinner party fave, to me this enjoyable red blend was fruity with plenty of blackberry and plum along with purple clover, earth and hints of carob.

Tres Ojos Garnacha 2011
Dark raspberry, bread and spice flavors almost brought to mind a berry muffin, but at 14.5% alcohol it wasn’t sugary.  Additional notes I caught included pepper, a hint of licorice and eucalyptus as the moderate tannins kicked in on the finish.

Château Millegrand Minervois Rosé 2012
Peck_TresOjosGarnacha2011A light coral in color, this dry rosé was also light on the palate bringing me gentle flavors of tart cherry, a green herbaceousness, floral notes, some minerality, and a touch of quinine on the end.

365 Trackers Crossing Chardonnay 2012
This Chardonnay gave good oak in what I consider the epitome of the Australian style.  I tasted honey, pineapple, a touch of guava, light citrus notes, generous oak, some hints of spice, and a final bite of bitter melon.

It was very difficult narrowing it down to just five.  There are certainly other tasty wines among those I’ve sampled.  So for those of you who are Whole Food shoppers, the full list of the 20 additional wines I’ve sampled so far is below – in no particular order.  If I’ve missed your favorite(s), please drop me a note here.  I’m always grateful for recommendations!

  Piccolo Fiore Bianco di Sicilia 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Chardonnay 2011
  Three Wishes Merlot
  Don Simón Seleccion Rosé
  Lello Douro Vinho Tinto 2010
  Big House White 2011
  Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  Riven Rock Moscato 2012
  Harthill Farm Chardonnay
  365 DiFlora Moscato
  Three Wishes Chardonnay
  Bricco Dei Tati Barbera 2011
   Domaine Carpy Les Pins 2009
  Bubo Pinot Noir 2011
  Don Simón Seleccion Shiraz
  Cupcake Riesling 2011
  La Bastarda Bianco di Toscana 2012
   Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012
  J.M. Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde

One more quick caveat.  I didn’t drink these all in one day, one week, or even one month – it took me just under one year.  [Admittedly, I have also been drinking other wines. lol]  Retail being a dynamic industry in which stores regularly update and change their stock, some of these wines may no longer be available at your local Whole Foods.

Wherever your wine trail leads you … as always, here’s wishing you many happy wine adventures!

Château Millegrand Minervois Rosé 2012

This blush wine from the Minervois area in the Languedoc region of France is a blend of Syrah, Grenache Gris and Mourvèdre grapes.  Château Millegrand is located outside the village of Trèbes.  Since 2003 it has been owned by Jean-Michel Bonfils and his sons who have undertaken significant renovations there.  Interestingly enough, less than a third of Millegrand’s vineyards are in the Minervois AC.

Winemaker:  Château Millegrand
Wine:  Minervois Rosé Table Wine
Varietal:  Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:   Minervois AC, France
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   I would describe the color of this wine as a pale coral.  On the nose I got lightly sweet floral scents including chrysanthemum.  On the tongue, this dry French rosé was light-bodied with decent acidity.  Flavors were very gentle on the palate.  They included tart cherry, a green herbaceousness, floral notes, some minerality, and a touch of quinine on the finish.  Alcohol is at 13%.  It’s dry, it’s moderately complex, and it’s subtle.  No doubt this would, indeed, go nicely with those summer salads everyone says these blush wines should be paired with or with a seafood dish (pasta with shrimp, perhaps).  I have to say that I … I liked it!  Finally, a rosé I can say that about unequivocally.  Well, I’m just tickled pink!!  [I’m sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.]

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Vintage Virginia 2013 – Where Vintners Battled At Bull Run

This past weekend I went out into the Northern Virginia countryside (not so country anymore, really) to taste what the Virginia wineries had to offer at Vintage Virginia 2013.  Held at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA, this year’s wine festival hosted some 40 wineries along with an assortment of food and goods vendors.

First, let me say that my experience was a little different than most.  Why?  Well (he said sheepishly), because I decided to bike to the event.  Ha!!  Never having been out to the venue before, I placed my trust in an online maps program to get me there safely via bicycle.  Unfortunately, the maps aren’t quite complete for bikers.  By that I mean I discovered on my trek out that the directions I had were missing large chunks of the route.  So what was slated to take me 1.5 hours in one direction took 3 as I wended my way through the streets of Northern Virginia looking for bicycle-friendly passages to get me to my destination.

Peck_VintageVA2013_3

Once I got there, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  It was well-planned.  As this was the 32nd iteration, I suppose they’ve had the chance to work out all the kinks.  For those who drove, there was ample parking with parking attendants helping people get to and from their spots in an organized fashion.  Check-in was a snap, in part because I had purchased my ticket online and printed it at home.  But the will-call and ticket purchase booths didn’t have extensive lines either.  The wineries and vendors were located in tents, stalls and trucks (food trucks!) thoughtfully arranged across a hillside that overlooked a big stage where music acts entertained while festival-goers tasted, sampled, drank, ate, learned, and bought.  They even had an awesome service allowing those who were buying in bulk (too much to carry around or through the festival grounds) to pick up their wine in a tent right in the parking area.

Of course, I didn’t get a chance to taste all the wines or even wines from all the wineries.  Still, I did my best to get to as many as I could reasonably sample.  It was great to see that the festival attracted a mix of old and new wineries – big and small.  Prince Michel of Leon, VA was there along with Williamsburg Winery (sharing a very yummy pre-release Merlot) and Horton Vineyards, too.  New to me were First Colony Winery (with two nice Chardonnays and a refreshing white blend called Zephry), Oak Crest Vineyards (using Symphony grapes to good effect in almost a Gewürtztraminer style and whose unexpectedly fun selection called  Hot Jazz is fortified with jalapeno peppers), Rosemont Vineyards (with a red blend of note called Kilravock), Trump Winery (their Blanc de Blanc was by far the best sparkling wine I tasted that day) and Lake Anna Winery (whose Cab Franc and Claret were both enjoyable wines and whose staff I found to be among the most knowledgeable at the tasting tables).

Since I was there at Vintage Virginia under one humanpower and no horsepower, I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of the bulk buying service.  Instead, I had to content myself with carrying away a mild sunburn along with  just a couple of select bottles and the wine glass I was issued for my day of tasting.  The glass was included in my entrance fee.  I promise to share my thoughts on those two wines when I have the chance to pop the cork on each.

Again, I had a very good time at the festival.  Kudos to everyone involved in putting Vintage Virginia 2013 together, and a special thanks to my fellow wine enthusiasts who kindly gave me plenty of clearance as they zipped past me on the road out of Bull Run Park.  One last note: I got completely soaked in a summer rain shower on the way home.  Well, it was a MEMORABLE day!!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Arrowine – A Trove of Bottled Treasures

Arrowine has been selling the fruit of the vine in the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA for many years now.

I can remember discovering the store myself quite some time ago, and it wasn’t new then.  In fact, I believe it was opened in 1985.  Despite having found my way there long ago, I haven’t been there in years … literally years.  Why?  Well, I don’t have any really good excuses.  Laziness, perhaps?  There are many wine merchants closer – in and near my own neighborhood.  So … this weekend I made my way back to Arrowine to refresh my memory.

OMG!  Why did I wait so long to return?  Their website says they are a neighborhood wine shop with a national reputation.  I think that’s a great summation of what they do.  They are a big shop, but not a huge big-box type store.  They stock a very large selection of wines from around the world with quite a few unusual, unexpected, hard-to-find wines.

On Saturday afternoons they have a free wine tasting, and I planned my visit accordingly.  That place was humming with activity when I arrived!  There were folks crowded around the wine tasting table where they were pouring six different wines.  There was also quite a bit of hub-bub around the cheese counter.  On the main floor across a sea of wine racks, I heard people greeting old friends and catching up.  I guess it really IS a neighborhood establishment.

As far as the tasting went, I was impressed.  The gentleman pouring was friendly and very knowledgeable about the wines he had on hand.  In fact, he clearly had been involved in finding those particular selections because he had some fun personal anecdotes about a couple of the boutique wineries represented.  He wasn’t pushy in the least.  But when asked a question, he was very forthcoming with pertinent and interesting info that he was excited to chat about.  His was not a dry regurgitation of memorized wine facts nor a hard-sell pitch.

I had a good time.  Browsing their inventory for a bit, I grabbed a couple of bottles while I was there.  Of course!  I could see how the store might seem a bit daunting if you aren’t comfortable in the world of wine.  Because they have a world of wine on hand, let me tell you.  But the staff is friendly and helpful, so there is no reason not to dive right on in.  I’m glad to have rediscovered Arrowine for myself.  I know I’ll be back soon.