I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that my parents never threw anything away. While that may be an overstatement, it isn’t too far from the truth. Thus, they had a four bedroom house filled to the brim even in retirement. They weren’t hoarders, but they were definitely savers.
When my sister and I were cleaning out the house a few years back, I packed up a number of boxes of “stuff” that was somehow connected to me. There were photos, of course. But they had also managed to hold onto, among other things, all of my school report cards. All the way back to kindergarten! K-12. Ha! Imagine how surprised I was when I found included with my fifth grade records a certificate of distinction for my efforts in Spanish. What?! I would love to remember now even as much (little) as I knew back in fifth grade. Unfortunately, if the label on this Alamos red blend weren’t translated into English, I would have had to use “Google translate” to understand it.
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Mendoza, Argentina
Notes: This blend of Malbec, Bonarda, and Tempranillo was dark garnet in the glass with red berries in the nose. Alcohol was at 13.9%, tannins were medium, and the flavor profile was primarily a very pleasant cherry.
According to Merriam Webster, a dark horse is a “little known competitor that makes an unexpectedly good showing.” Interesting how the idea of a dark horse has been inspiration for artists (and politicians) for … well, a long time.
Winemaker: Dark Horse
Notes: In the bouquet this Dark Horse presented jammy dark fruit, cedar, and damp loam. At 13.5% alcohol, it was medium-bodied with moderate tannins. Acidity was good as well. On the palate I found dark berries and plum with touches of cinnamon and molasses. Of course it wasn’t as sweet as molasses. I thought this Merlot might be good served with game fowl, but it was fine to sip alone.
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!
Winemaker: La Vieille Ferme
Varietal: White Blend
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.
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.
Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
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.
What to drink as accompaniment to a turkey burger at home? If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may note that turkey burgers are pretty common in my home. They’re easy and quick to make and have less of the cholestrol-upping fats that doctors and dieticians keep telling us are bad for longevity. Not that I don’t splurge on a beef burger once in awhile.
On one particular evening, this Australian Pinot Noir won the toss to pair with a turkey burger. After all, if Pinot Noir goes so well with Thanksgiving turkey …. Of course, the right beverage may also depend on what condiments you plan on adding to the turkey burger. That night I wasn’t in an especially adventurous mood, so I wasn’t expecting any great disturbances in the flavor force on my palate.
Wine: Bin 99
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: The Bin 99 was light-bodied with good acidity. I thought tannins were around medium while alcohol clocked in at 13.5%. Regarding flavors, I tasted strawberry, green bell pepper, and black pepper along with bitter brambles. Fairly simple but ok for the task at hand.
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!
Winemaker: Big Churn
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.
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.
Winemaker: Old Moon
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
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.
Balatonboglár, Hungary is a resort town located roughly 90 miles southwest of Budapest on Lake Balaton. Wikipedia says it’s also called the “town of grapes and wine” because it is the center of the Balatonboglár wine region which is one of six sub-sectors of the Balaton wine region around Lake Balaton. While the greater Balaton wine region is best known for it’s Riesling, it clearly produces other varietal wines such as this Merlot.
Notes: The color of the St. Donatus Merlot was quite dark. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and almost no tannins at all. Alcohol was at 12%. Flavors were simple – sweet plum with touches of spice. This wine was quite pleasant and easy to sip. I think it’s a prime candidate for mulled wine or sangria.
I may have said this before, but I’ll say it again. I would love to travel to Spain! Some day, I sincerely hope to make that wish a reality. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with looking at photos online, reading blog posts by others who have managed the trek, and drinking Spanish wines when I get that urge. Clearly, I was overcome by that urge recently because for my second wine experience back, I chose this Spanish Rioja.
Winemaker: Javier San Pedro (Bodegas Vallobera)
Wine: Randez (Crianza)
Appellation: Rioja DDO
Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s
Notes: With a bouquet of berries, cedar, and tobacco, this Spanish red was a dark ruby in the glass. On the palate, the weight was on the light side of medium with good acidity and fairly aggressive tannins. Alcohol came in at 13.5%. Flavors for me included cherry, red currant, and quite a lot of pepper with green herbal notes and woody tannins. It finished with a lingering note of bitters. I should have been drinking this with a beef dish given it’s structure, but it was pleasant enough on it’s own if you like a red with a little bite.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be taking it slow these days. In other words, I won’t be tasting as many wines as I might otherwise. Luckily, I do have some notes left from prior experiences, so I think I’ll go ahead and publish those now as well. While the particular vintage may no longer be available, the wine producers will surely have something on store shelves currently for our consumption. Here is one of those notes.
Notes: This lovely Italian reminded me of a Bordeaux. A blend of 33.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.3% Merlot, and 33.4% Montepulciano, this wine had a distinct purplish hue in the glass with a very present bouquet of forest floor (sous bois). It was on the cusp of medium-bodied with good acidity and gentle tannins. Alcohol was at 14%. Flavors I detected included brambly blackberry, leather and tea leaf. I think I see another bottle of the Trentatre in my future.
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my photo of the bottle. So instead the photo above is of a town (or more precisely a portion thereof) called Castro in the Apulia region – the area in southern Italy where this wine comes from.