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.
What exactly IS a top hat? Where did top hats come from?
Well, as far as what it is … you can look at the art on the wine label to work that out. Where they come from – that’s an interesting question. Looks like they started out in the 1500’s in what is today the Netherlands. Those hats – predecessors to today’s top hat – are commonly known as sugar loaf hats and were worn by men and women. They also became part of the stereotypical dress of the Puritans who emigrated from England to America (many via Holland). It was in the late 1700’s that someone got the idea to cover them with silk. And so the version we see in the picture here came into being – and fashion. Primarily worn by men, the silk top hat was considered a statement of elegance in it’s heyday. No longer a part of everyday attire, the silk top hat still retains an upper class vibe. It has become associated with magic as well. Stage magicians commonly use them to pull rabbits, doves, flowers, etc. out of. Looks to me as though this Top Hat label might be suggesting a touch of viniferous magic.
Winemaker: Top Hat
Notes: This Top Hat was pale yellow in the glass. It had a pleasant bouquet with scents of golden apple and citrus accompanied by floral notes. It was light-bodied, and I thought acidity fairly high. Flavors were straightforward – toasty oak, citrus and wildflowers. I was surprised the apple in the nose wasn’t reflected on the palate, but that may well have been a function of the acidity. On the whole, I found it to be a pretty decent bottle of inexpensive Chardonnay.
Earlier today my sweetie and I decided to head out on our bikes. We rode about 9 miles out (uphill mostly), stopped to rehydrate in a cute little cafe, then rode back at a brisk but not withering pace. The day was beautiful if a little warm and muggy. We had a great time. What a nice experience! This evening as we entered full-on relaxation mode (after having taken showers, of course), I popped the cork on this inexpensive Chardonnay. Rutz is a winemaker I’d never tried before, so I was interested in seeing what it might be like. Now, I realize it’s cheap because … well, because I bought it. But as many of you already know about me, I am not at all averse to inexpensive table wines.
Winemaker: Rutz Cellars
Appellation: Sonoma County, California
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: A light-bodied Chardonnay, the Rutz had good acidity and 13.5% alcohol. On the palate I tasted mainly grapefruit with a hint of buttered toast and a bitter prickly-tongue finish. That was surprising to me because the flavors didn’t match the scents I thought I encountered in the bouquet. Didn’t hate it; didn’t love it. Anyway, I think I want to buy another bottle and see how that goes. Have any of you tried this selection? If yes, what was your experience?
Guenoc Vineyards has an interesting history steeped in the glamorous world of actors and high society. Oh, yes! Guenoc started life as the Langtry Farms or Langtry Estate Vineyard. Lily Langtry (also spelled Lillie) was an international star of the stage and belle of society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was also possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit which led her to found her own acting company, involve herself in thoroughbred racing, and to become a California vintner. Born in the UK, Ms. Langtry became an American citizen in 1887 during one of her tours through the U.S. In 1888, she bought the winery in Lake County, California and reportedly began making claret. Although she sold the vineyard in the early 1900’s, the farm is today being used to produce the many selections available from Guenoc and Langtry Estate.
Notes: This Guenoc Chardonnay was a medium yellow in the glass. On the nose I caught whiffs of honey, kiwi, and banana. Acidity was good, and alcohol was at 13.5%. On the tongue I found tropical fruit – kiwi, banana, even a touch of guava – and quinine. On the whole, however, it wasn’t my cup of wine in large part due to the prevalence of the quinine flavor. If that flavor had taken a back seat to the fruit, it could have added interest to this Chardonnay. For me, though, the bitter quinine was just too much. You, of course, may disagree. As Guenoc does make a full range of offerings, this won’t stop me giving their other products a go.
For the folks who may be dropping by this blog for the first time, I’d like to reiterate that the mission here is to explore budget-friendly wines – aka inexpensive. That doesn’t mean all the selections I write about cost less than $5, less than $10, less than $15, etc. After all, everyone splurges from time to time. Nor does it mean that all the wines are bad – far from it. Not all cheap wines are bad, and not all expensive wines are good. There are times when you discover a wine in which there seems to be an inverse relationship between price and quality (or at least price and enjoyment). Thus, I’ve had expensive wine that I didn’t enjoy at all, and I’ve had inexpensive wine that I thought was quite nice. I’m always hoping to find the latter.
Winemaker: Frontera (by Concha Y Toro)
Appellation: Central Valley – Chile
Notes: The color was a pale yellow. It’s bouquet was quite perfumey, reminiscent of orange jello. Body was medium with a definite coat-the-tongue quotient. Acidity was fine, and alcohol was at 13%. Core flavors for me were orange, grass and citrus zest. I thought this wine was surprisingly decent considering it’s very low price. It was simple, but it was likeable.
If you live in the United States and are of a mind, July 4th is a time to embrace and celebrate the cultural melting pot the country has become. Personally, I’ve celebrated Independence Day in lots of different ways – from all-day-barbecues to attending parades to watching fireworks over the National Mall to sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. This year my celebration was a little more active than sitting on the couch, but certainly still casual. I decided on a day of biking with friends. We rode just over 50 miles (which is a lot for me in one day). My derrière is still sore. lol To help us recuperate, we headed to dinner at an area restaurant called Stone Cove and had our meal at the bar. Actually, the whole restaurant was designed as a kitchen surrounded by various seating stations all facing inward, so diners get to “sit at the bar” and watch their food being prepared. Interesting concept and decent food. I enjoyed their take on shrimp and grits which was most definitely inspired by a southern recipe. The grits had cheese and plenty of salt in them – not dissimilar to the grits casserole my mother (born and raised in TN) used to make. It may not be great for your blood pressure, but it tasted like home cooking to me. To go along with my shrimp I decided on this California Chardonnay, thus making the meal an enjoyable bi-coastal experience.
Winemaker: Glass Mountain
Price: $8.99 at Total Wine
Notes: This Glass Mountain Chardonnay was a pretty golden color in the glass. It was medium bodied and had good acidity. On the nose I caught citrus and a hint of pineapple. Flavors for me were citrus, some buttery/toasty oak notes, touches of pineapple and honey. That last a bit was surprising as it’s pretty dry at 13.5% alcohol. The finish was a bit quick, though, with just a hint of grass before it disappeared. Well, you can’t have everything for $8.99 a bottle. Still, not a bad accompaniment to a casual meal at a fun and friendly casual restaurant.