Was in a New Zealand state of mind recently when I ran across this selection at a local store. You see, I write some songs from time to time. Nothing you’ll hear on the top 40 stations any time soon. I call them my little ditties. LOL Even so, I have recorded some of them.
Last month I was doing a yearly overview of published playlists and found that one of my songs had been getting spins fairly frequently on a radio station in New Zealand all year (2015). Surprised and elated, that put me in the mood to celebrate. So what better way than with a nice Kiwi wine!
Winemaker: Clifford Bay
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Notes: Another pungent New Zealand SB, the Clifford Bay smelled pretty much like a big glass of ripe pink grapefruit juice. Pale yellow in color with a distinct greenish tinge, it was light-bodied with brisk acidity. Alcohol was at 13%. What did it taste like? To me it tasted like the bouquet suggested it would. Is this a Sauvignon Blanc to serve with Sunday brunch? Perhaps so! Or lounging somewhere under a hot tropical sun? If you find yourself in that situation … Yes! I found it a straight-forward and enjoyably refreshing glass of wine.
As you know, I’m always on the lookout for a good value in wine. A few weeks ago I was at my local Giant grocery store and spotted a fellow at a table giving out tastes of wine. When I strode over to see what was up, I found he had several selections from The Monterey Vineyards by Chalone Vineyards at a special super-low, closeout price. I tried them and decided I liked the Chardonnay best.
Interestingly enough, the name “Monterey” struck a chord with me. I don’t have any history or personal connection with Monterey, California or Monterrey, Mexico. However … my grandmother grew up in Monterey, Tennessee – what she called Monkeytown. Believe me, that nickname was by no means meant in disrespect. It was a term of endearment she and her siblings used in referring to their childhood home. Some remained in Monterey their entire lives. My grandmother, however, was swept off her feet and away by a handsome young mailman.
Whether it was the great price (got it for $7.99) or some sentimental impulse, I bought and enjoyed a bottle of their Chardonnay.
Winemaker: The Monterey Vineyards
Appellation: Monterey County, CA
Notes: This Monterey white was pretty pale yellow in color. On the nose I got a tart lemon-lime scent. It was medium-bodied with high acidity. Alcohol was at 13%. It had plenty of flavor – abundant citrus, toasty oak, butterscotch notes, and green herbs. It had a nice long finish, too. Pretty darned good in my book. Will look for it again.
This Soave is made from 100% Garganega grapes. The varietal produces a light white wine. According to Jancis Robinson it is a “Veneto vine capable of making fine, lemon and almond-scented wines, notably but not exclusively from low-yielding vines in Soave, also Gambellara, Bianco di Custoza etc.” It is also called Grecanico in Sicily where it is late-ripening and can result in a tangy vino.
Winemaker: La Cappuccina
Appellation: Soave DOC, Italy
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This light-bodied Italian white was very pale yellow with an abundant bouquet of citrus and spice. I thought acidity quite vibrant, and alcohol was off-dry a 12%. Flavors I tasted were a bracing citrus with honey and grass. It was a refreshing glass of wine. I enjoyed it and can certainly see this with hearty seafood dishes or perhaps contrapuntal to a rich cheese.
I have to be honest: when I first started drinking wine, I didn’t particularly care for Pinot Grigio. I think that may well have been because – as my wine-tasting palate was unaccustomed to finding the flavors in a wine – it was easier to detect the bigger, bolder, badder flavors in a Chardonnay, for example. Now that I’ve had some years of sipping experience and exploration, I find myself enjoying many different varieties and styles of wine for what they bring to the table – whether a big mouthful of craziness or a more restrained expression of flavor. Thus, I’ve made my peace with Pinot Grigio and the lighter whites. In fact, I think I drink more PG than Chardonnay these days!
Notes: At 13.9% alcohol, this Artisan PG can truly be considered dry. It was characteristically light-bodied with nice bright acidity and a lovely lemon yellow in the glass. Flavors I detected were tart citrus, toasty oak and some hints of spice. It was a simple wine but enjoyable. I can imagine it would make a nice choice to accompany a light meal – an entree salad?
Viognier seems to be enjoying quite a rise in popularity in the U.S. In part, that may be because the grape can be grown successfully in areas and climates that are outside the well-known wine-growing regions. For instance, Viognier is widely found among vintners in Virginia. Virginia Viognier evidently first gained national notice in 1993 when a Horton Vineyards Viognier won top honors at a California wine tasting. In fact, Viognier is the state grape of Virginia, and is grown by roughly forty percent of the State’s vineyards. No surprise, I suppose, that my first Viognier was a Virginia wine. Terroir being what it is and an integral part of the wine-making process, I was keen to see what this Trader Joe’s Viognier from the greater Sacramento area might be like.
Winemaker: Trader Joe’s (ASV Wines for Trader Joe’s)
Wine: Petit Reserve Viognier
Appellation: Clarksburg, CA
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: A bright lemon yellow, this TJ offering was light-bodied with scents of honey, citrus and fig on the nose. Acidity was quite high – racey, even – and alcohol was at 13.7%. On the tongue, I found this Viognier to be largely focused on one flavor – copious bitter orange. I thought it was an interesting light white. I didn’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t serve it at a cocktail reception. I think it should be paired with something. What to pair it with, though, that’s the question. If you’ve found a successful match for this selection, please drop a note and let me know. With all that bitter orange, I wonder if something sweet and chocolaty might work?
My work is sort of boom or bust. By that I mean that when it is quiet, you can hear the grass grow. But when it gets busy, it can be key-ray-zee! Thus, after a 12+ hours day of work recently, I stumbled into a Kroger store and grabbed a bottle of wine to accompany my very late dinner. And let me say, this Kroger had the best wine selection I have ever seen in one of their stores. I mean they even had a Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelves. In my state, however, I knew anything that potentially complex and lovely would be wasted on me that evening. Instead, my tired digits wrapped themselves around this Chilean white.
Notes: The color was straw, and it’s bouquet held scents of citrus and tropical fruit. It was light-bodied with decent acidity and 12.5% alcohol. I tasted primarily citrus flavors with a hint of melon here and there. It finished on a bracing citrus zest note. It went fairly well with the frozen chicken strips I microwaved, but I think it might have been better with a nice seafood dish. By the way, I did have the next day off. Thank goodness!
Awhile back I had the 2011 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürtztraminer, so I wanted to compare the experiences. But upon closer inspection, I realized this one is from Monterey County not the broader California appellation. Even so, I decided to taste and see how the two vintages compare. Notes from my first Fetzer Gewürtztraminer can be found by clicking here.
Appellation: Monterey County, CA
Notes: This selection was a golden yellow in the glass with a bouquet of peach and warm spices. It’s a medium-bodied wine with good acidity. The flavors for me were sweet – almost syrupy – peach with spice, a touch of grass, and a tart citrusy finish. Alcohol was at 12%. I think this would serve well as an accompaniment to a light cake or as a sweet sip at a warm-weather outdoor reception.
So how do they compare? Well, in my opinion this selection seems a bit more in the typical varietal style – medium-bodied and a tad sweeter to the taste buds – than the 2011. Even so, both were perfectly fine wines.