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.

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Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2014

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.

Oenophilogical_OldMoon_OldVineZinfandel2014Winemaker: Old Moon
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: California
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.

A Peek Into the Past

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Barefoot Zinfandel

Among the selections I bought to have handy for holiday celebrations, I grabbed a bottle of this very inexpensive red.  It was on sale at my local grocery.  I’ve had a number of other selections by Barefoot cellars.  Originally started by two folks with no wine industry experience, this brand (now under the auspices of E&J Gallo) has reportedly become the largest wine brand in the world.

oenophilogical_barefootzinfandelWinemaker:  Barefoot
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $5.99

Notes:  It had a dark red color and scents of sous bois, berries and dirt.  Acidity was pretty good and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I found in this medium-bodied Zin were blackberry, moss, blueberry, and a touch of pepper.  Tannins were very light.  Decent for the price.  Could have done with more structure, especially given the tease of a Lodi appellation.

 

Alexander & Fitch Merlot 2013

Here’s an interesting fact: according to Wikipedia -and who doesn’t rely on Wikipedia these days – Merlot is the third most-grown grape varietal globally.  Take that! Miles Raymond (from the movie Sideways).

Winemaker:  Alexander & Fitch
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Dark burgundy in the glass, this A&F Merlot exhibited earth, moss and berries in the bouquet.  Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has what I would call “medium-ish” tannins.  Flavors I detected included earth, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (without the vinegar), cherries, and bitters.  Another solid performer from the inexpensive selections at Trader Joe’s.