Tag Archives: Wine Bloggers

An Epic Day, or, Where the Heck We’ve Been for Nearly Two Months

Have you missed us? Or did you even notice we’ve been gone? As most bloggers know, life ebbs and flows and often the blog is the first thing to get put on the back burner when the pace becomes frenetic. But we have a very good excuse. Really. 

A little over three weeks ago, we tied the knot! It was a beautiful, outdoor wedding. Even the Northern California weather cooperated. In late June, it is not uncommon to have temperatures in the 100’s, sometimes topping 110F. Yet we enjoyed the mid-80’s with a cooling evening breeze. The setting, at our good friends’ home in Lincoln, CA, was perfect. Thank you Marguerite and Joe! 

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Ours was a DIY wedding, making the pace of life even crazier as the day approached. Sure, it was easy, three months out, to call the party rental vendor and reserve tables, chairs, and glassware. Yet when we say DIY, we really mean it! The day before the wedding, the party rental vendor delivered the goods, and left. With the help of a team of family and friends, we set up the tables, put cushions on chairs, laid the table cloths and runners, and set out the silverware and glasses. What’s more, we found a terrific local florist who gathered our flowers, but we and that same team of friends and family had to assemble and install them. It was all worth the effort, as the resulting venue was exactly what we wanted, made even more special with our personal touch and efforts. 

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As you can imagine, all this planning and work consumed our time. Thus, a major case of gaposis for Appetite for Wine. After the wedding, we had family from the East Coast who didn’t come all the way to California for a mere wedding! There were days of after-party, and naturally, a jaunt to wine country; Amador County this time around. 

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Even after family left, the pace of newlywed life seemed to continue. There was the 4th of July golf tournament and pool party, followed by more wine tasting and bar hopping with friends, and seemingly endless outdoor activities; kayaking, more pool parties, concerts, and thank you dinners. 

Once the pace started to settle down, we had to start planning our Big, Fat Greek Honeymoon. In a few weeks, when the fall weather will be less scorching, we will embark on the trip of a lifetime. We’ll start in Athens, then head off to Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete, for catamaran-dinner cruises, Greek wine tasting, and relaxing days on the beach. 

As we said, the wedding was beautiful. While Robyn was coordinating flowers and decorations, Kent curated the wine and beer list. Robyn’s son and his best friend, a bonafide Chef, provided the food, and brought along a couple more friends to serve dinner and tend bar. 

Robyn was breathtaking in her gorgeous dress, and Kent was looking sharp in his shirt and slacks. Notice the succulents in the floral arrangements? Stunning!

We are so grateful that friends and family were able to share the day with us. It was truly epic. 

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Now that we’re back to work and life has resumed a bit more normal pace, we’ll write more often. And, of course, stay tuned to follow along with our Greek adventures! 

As always, thanks for your support.

Cheers! 

Book Review: Root Cause

I’m not a big reader. I’ve gone through phases when I was; I’d curl up with a good Victorian detective novel and disappear into the fog-shrouded back alleys of Old London Town for hours on end. But these days, I’m busier with more live-action adventures, and have less time for the literary kind.

Not long ago, we were wine tasting, and the topic of this blog came up. Our server asked if I’d read this or that wine-related book. I told him I had not; that I’m really not much of a reader. He replied, with genuine and obvious disdain, “how can you be a writer if you don’t read?”

I pondered this for some time, and finally concluded that I write short articles, (usually fewer than 1,000 words) that readers can get through in a couple of minutes. Novels can take me weeks to get through, especially if their chapters are long. I prefer shorter, smaller bites when it comes to reading. Given today’s busy pace of life, I think a lot of readers agree.

About this same time, we were contacted by a publishing rep, offering us a complimentary copy of a new, wine-related novel. We read the excerpt and thought it sounded pretty good, so we agreed. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to read more, since it clearly will increase my street cred with judgy tasting room servers.

Root Cause is an action packed, entertaining story. Written by Steven Laine, it is his first published novel. I must say, it’s a pretty good debut!

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Root Cause tells the tale of flying winemaker, Corvina Guerra, and the associates she befriends during the adventure. While visiting a vineyard in Italy, Corvina discovers the pest that all vineyard owners fear the most: Phylloxera. The very louse that nearly wiped out wine production in Europe in the mid-19th century. Concerned that this new infestation may affect her own family vineyards in Italy, she begins an investigation. She soon discovers that this new strain of Phylloxera is actually genetically engineered. Someone is infesting the world’s vineyards intentionally!

Corvina soon connects with two unlikely allies; Bryan Lawless, a disgraced Master of Wine candidate, expelled for misconduct, and Malcomb Goldberg, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who picked up the story, and through his trust in auto-correct, coined a humorous new name for this threatening pest.

Brian saw that by helping to stop the new outbreak, he could redeem his name in the wine community, and perhaps be allowed to take the Master of Wine exam. Corvina was motivated by her desire to save the family vineyard and the entire wine industry. While ——- saw this as an opportunity to make a name for himself in the journalism world. The three embark on a fast-paced, globe-trotting adventure, covering four continents in just a matter of days! (Oh, how I wish I had that kind of youthful energy again!)

Through highs and lows, danger and adventure, and often at odds with the Interpol detectives working the case, the trio must work to find out who is behind this, and how to stop it. Will they solve the mystery in time?

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Pick up a copy of Root Cause to find out. It’s available on Amazon.com in Kindle, paperback, or hardback, or at your favorite local bookstore.  Root Cause is a great summer read, especially paired with a refreshing glass of your favorite wine.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds

Big, Bold Reds from De Angelis Wines

Paso Robles has come into its own as a wine region. It wasn’t too many years ago that hardly anybody had heard of this area. Now, the wines from “Paso” have gained notoriety and prestige. Recently, we were offered samples of some small batch, boutique red wines from De Angelis Wines. Naturally, we said YES!

The De Angelis Wines story began in 1999, when owners Jerry and Marsha De Angelis planted a small vineyard on their property. It started as a private venture, just to make wines to enjoy with family and friends. As their winemaking skill improved, a neighbor, who had a 30 acre vineyard, asked them to become his winemakers. So in 2004, Jerry and Marsha found themselves employed as full time winemakers.

In 2006, Jerry and Marsha participated in establishing, designing, and building a co-op winery. Once it opened, they were recruited as the chief winemakers, making wines for several growers. During that same year, they decided to launch their own brand, and De Angelis Wines, the label, was born. Even with all their success, Jerry and Marsha remain committed to hand-crafting very small lots each year. They have slowly increased production over the years, but will never make more than 1,200 cases per year.

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The De Angelis Wines portfolio includes some whites; Chardonnay and Viognier, but is predominantly red. We received samples of their 2007 Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, 2009 Syrah, Santa Barbara County, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County, and the 2012 Elena Catherine, San Luis Obispo County, a red blend.

The Elena Catherine is homage to the family matriarch, to celebrate her 100th birthday! Here’s how Jerry and Marsha tell the story on the website:

“Who is Elena Catherine? Elena is our Mom, and this wine was developed for her 100th birthday.  (She passed away at 102 Years old!) We wanted a wine that reflects the feisty, peppery, Italian Mom that she was!  The 2012 Elena Catherine is a 13.6% alcohol wine blend containing 50% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Syrah. All of these wines are Estate fruit harvested from the Dry Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, CA.”

The following wines were provided as a media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

2007 Pinot Noir

 

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Brick red color. The nose is bursting with bright cherry notes, with raspberry and smoke present, also. We decanted for several hours, as suggested by a colleague. Upon pouring, there are flavors of black cherry, and ripe raspberry, with clove, baking spice, and earth. Hints of mushroom and forest floor round out the complex profile of this wine. Soft tannins and bright, lively acidity. Rich flavors and medium body, with a bold finish of red fruit, smoke, and spice. Paired well with grilled pork sausage.

2008 Syrah

 

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Inky nearly black color. Aromas of blueberry, blackberry, and black plum, with hints of oak. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, with vanilla, tobacco, smoke, cedar, and oak, with baking spice and black pepper on the finish. Big, bold, and full bodied with chewy tannins and medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and spice, with tertiary notes of worn leather, earth, and smoke. Drinking well now, and will continue to soften and improve for at least another 5 years. This wine would pair well with game and savory dishes.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Rich, inky purple color, with a brick rim. On the nose there is ripe blackberry, black cherry and plum, and clove. The aromas are rich, full, and inviting. Taking a sip, flavors of blackberry, black cherry, big cassis, and chocolate, with baking spice, tobacco smoke, and black pepper. The tannins are big, but soft, and soften even more with air. There is medium acidity. The finish is long with blackberry and mocha notes. Pick your meat; beef, lamb, pork…this one goes with all.

2012 Elena Catherine Red Blend

 

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Deep, brick red color. Aromas of ripe raspberry, cherry, and blackberry. On the palate, bright blueberry, cherry, blackberry, cassis, cedar, and tobacco. Huge tannins! Even after an hour in the decanter, but balanced and approachable. This wine deserves a slab of Prime Rib now, and could lay down for 10 more years. Medium acidity and a long, long finish of black and red fruit, cedar, and white pepper.

De Angelis Wines has discontinued online sales, but if these beauties sound like your kind of wine, drop Jerry and Marsha an email. As long as you are in a state to which they can ship, they’ll hook you up!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Andis Wines – Block to Bottle Vineyard Tour

Full disclosure: Kent has been a big fan of Andis Wines, in Amador County, Sierra Foothills, for nearly 10 years. Their then-winemaker hosted a tasting at the local Total Wine & More store, and Andis quickly became one of Kent’s favorite wineries. Not just in the Foothills, but anywhere! We finally became members of Club Andis about a year and a half ago.  

Membership, as they say, has its privileges. Like complimentary admission to the monthly Block to Bottle Vineyard Tour. (Psst, it’s only $10 for non-members!) The tour starts just outside the tasting room, where Nick Pilatti, the Cellar Master himself, leads the group through the vineyards, tasting the wines produced from the vines right at your feet.

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Joining us on the excursion this fine, spring day, was co-founder, Janis Akuna. The name, Andis, is an amalgamation of the first names of the founders: Andy Friedlander and Janis Akuna. Clever, eh? 

Andy and Janis founded Andis Wines in 2009. The pair had lived part time in the Napa Valley in the 1990’s. While working in high-pressure careers, they had a vision of a winery as a new challenge, in a quieter setting. However, upon returning to Napa after several years away, they found it busier and more crowded than they had remembered. A friend invited them to Amador County, and they found the home for their winery.

Andis Wines is situated on approximately 25 acres, of which 21 are farmed. There are nine different grape varieties planted, including Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Barbera, and Sauvignon Blanc. Other than irrigation for newly planted vines, Andis practices dry farming, as well as sustainable practices. They also source fruit from other vineyards in the area, including Semillon, and Zinfandel from the Original Grandpère Vineyard; planted in 1869, it is the oldest documented Zinfandel vineyard in the United States! (Read our blogs about the OGP Vineyard here, and here.) Andis Wines is one of only a small handful wineries with access to these grapes. 

In 2010, their modern, state-of-the-art winery was completed and opened to the public. A striking, modern edifice, perched atop a hill with an amazing view, the winery is like no other we’ve seen. When you get closer, you see that the front of the building is covered with grey barrel staves, engraved with the names of club members. (Ours will be up there soon!) The Andis winery is unpretentious and inviting, with an open, airy tasting room with plenty of windows to drink in the view as much as the wines.lrg_dsc00286-1

lrg_dsc00289-1On a sunny Sunday in late March, 2019, we gathered in the Andis Wines tasting room. The previous day had been cold and rainy, so there was much relief that this day dawned bright, clear, and warm. At noon, on the dot, Nick and his assistant, Vanessa, greeted us to begin the tour. As mentioned, Janis herself was to join in as well!

The first stop was the Sauvignon Blanc block. Vanessa poured each of us a taste of the 2018 vintage, and we sipped among the very vines from which the juice had come. One of our favorite domestic Sauvignon Blancs, it is crisp and fresh, with citrus, stone fruit, and honeysuckle. This is a great wine for sipping all summer.lrg_dsc00301-1Next we moved to the Grenache block. We have a particular fondness for Grenache, so we were excited to try this one. The 2016 Akuna Block Grenache is the first vintage from this vineyard block, which was planted in 2012. Elegant and restrained, this is everything we hope for in a quality Grenache; lighter bodied, with cherry, strawberry, and cranberry, bright acidity and grippy tannins. Nick suggests this wine as an alternative to Pinot Noir. 

Moving up the hill, off in the distance, we spotted the next stop: the Barbera block, where Andis grows the grapes for their Barbera d’Amador wine. Our favorite Barbera’s come from Amador County, and Andis’ selections are always at the top of our list. We tasted the 2016, the grapes harvested from vines planted in 2012. A lighter-bodied Barbera, this wine is bursting with fresh cherry and cranberry. It’d be so good with pizza or pasta! 

As we headed to our next tasting sample, we passed by another block that has really piqued our interest. All along the way thus far, all the vines had been pruned in preparation for the new season of growth. This block still had last year’s shoots. Nothing more than timing, Nick said. These would be pruned the following week. The interesting part is the variety of grape these vines produce: Schioppettino. Never heard of it? Neither had we! If you have read Appetite for Wine very long, you know Kent’s quest for unusual and obscure grape varieties. (He’s a proud member of the Century Wine Club, having tasted more than 100 different varieties!) 

Nick explained that Schioppettino is an obscure red grape, native to northwestern Italy. It produces light to medium bodied wines that are fruit forward and spicy. The first vintage is in barrel, not expected to be bottled for awhile. No, sadly there was no barrel tasting on this tour. Rest assured, however, when it is released and we get our hands on a bottle, we’ll be sure to tell you about it!

From there, we circled down the far side of the property, into one of the Zinfandel Blocks. Like the Barbera, Andis Wines Estate Zinfandel is always one of our favorites. The 2015 that we tasted this day is no exception. Rich, blackberry and black cherry fruit flavors, with chocolate, baking spice, and black pepper.

Making our way to the winery, we stopped on the crush pad for our final tour taste. Painted Fields is Andis Wines’ signature red blend. It is a field blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, with a bit of Zinfandel and Mourvèdre to round it out. Velvety smooth, with bold fruit and soft oak influences, it is at home at a barbecue or fine dining table.  This wine is a perennial crowd favorite.

Our last stop was the barrel room (seriously, can you ever see too many barrel rooms? We think not!) before we returned to the tasting room where we started. After sampling a few more of Andis Wines portfolio, including their exquisite Semillon, Rosé of Barbera, Primitivo, and more, we made our selections and headed out. 

This was a fun and educational day at one of our all-time favorite wineries. We highly recommend the Block to Bottle Vineyard Walk. You can get more information or make reservations on the Andis Wines website.

Cheers!  

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Old World Style at Sosie Wines

According to Google Translate, the French word Sosie is translated to English as Doppelganger. As you may know, a doppelganger is a look-alike; a body double; a twin.

Sosie Wines founders, Scott MacFiggen and Regina Bustamonte, have appreciated good wine and food for years. Regina recalls her grandmother mixing a bit of wine with some fizzy water for the kids during Sunday lunches. Scott’s grandfather owned a farm in Upstate New York. It was there that Scott learned how amazing farm-fresh produce tastes. These early experiences provided the inspiration for Sosie wines.

As adults, Scott and Regina traveled to France and became enamoured with the French countryside, the wines, and the Old World traditions that make the wines so great. So when they decided to launch their own wine brand, Scott and Regina wanted to bridge the gap between New World vineyards and Old World style wines.

Sosie Wines uses a minimal intervention winemaking style. They want the fruit to speak for itself, using native fermentation, and letting the natural aromas, flavors, and acidity shine through. Made in very small batches, with lower alcohol and higher acidity, in the Old World style, these wines are food friendly, with deep, complex character.

They were so committed to creating French-inspired, Old World-style wines, they chose their name, Sosie, as an indication that their wines are look-alikes to their French counterparts. They even designed their logo as a marriage of French and Californian influences: the California grizzly bear, featured on the state flag, with a proud French rooster standing upon the bear’s back.

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Credit: Sosie Wines

We recently received two bottles of Sosie wines as media samples for review; their 2015 Roussanne, Vivio Vineyards, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, and the 2015 Pinot Noir, Spring Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.

The following wines were provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

Roussanne is a white grape from the Rhone Valley in France. It is traditionally blended with Marsanne, to make tasty Rhone white wines. A 100% Roussanne is relatively uncommon.

I’m not gonna lie, when I (Kent) saw the Roussanne, I was skeptical. I’ve only had a couple of 100% Roussanne wines before, and neither one impressed. Both had a distinct “funky” smell and taste, almost metallic or chemical in nature. The first bottle I tried, I returned and got a replacement. The replacement bottle tasted the same. I tried a different producer, and while it was slightly better, it still ranks as one of fewer than 10 wines I’ve ever poured down the drain. So, you can see why I was skeptical. I really thought that the day I found a Roussanne I liked, would be the day that pigs fly!

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Well, that skepticism was blown away with the Sosie Roussanne. Hold on to your hats because that might be a Berkshire flying overhead! On initial pour, it did have just a momentary, slight funkiness (making Kent nervous), but that faded within seconds, leaving a clean, bright, fruity, and delicious wine that most definitely impressed! Here are our tasting notes:

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The first 100% Roussanne we’ve actually enjoyed! Golden color in the glass. Initial aromas are ripe apricot and nectarine. As it open up, there is some floral and herbal notes. On the palate, flavors of pear, honeysuckle, apricot, and some black tea notes. Medium body with a soft mouthfeel and bright acidity. Paired with turkey-stuffed grilled bell peppers, an amazing combination.

Only four barrels produced. Now that’s small batch! SRP: $38.00

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We’re kinda particular about our Pinot Noir. Many these days are overripe, overly extracted, and just too heavy. Almost like they’re trying to make it taste like Cabernet Sauvignon. We think Pinot Noir is meant to be balanced and elegant. The Sosie Pinot Noir is exactly that! Reminiscent of a Burgundian wine, as would be expected from a wine crafted in the Old World style, this wine has fresh fruit, balanced with earthy notes, smooth tannins, and soft acidity.

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An exquisite, elegant Pinot Noir. Brick red color. On the palate, there are aromas of raspberry, clove, and tobacco smoke, with hints of earth. On the palate, flavors of raspberry, dark cherry, baking spice, smoke, and forest floor. Velvety smooth tannins with bright, perfect for food pairing. Long finish of red fruit, earth, and smoke. Paired with grilled marinated pork chop and Brussels sprouts with pancetta, it was a match made in heaven!

Five barrels produced. SRP: $43.00

Sosie also produces a Syrah, a Rosé of Syrah, and a Cabernet Franc. I have no doubt that all are outstanding, and we hope to try them all! Sosie wines are available for purchase on their website. They care enough about your satisfaction, that they only ship when weather conditions warrant.

Give Sosie wines a try. Let us know, in the comments, how you enjoyed them.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo credit: Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Review: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard View Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

For a lot of people, Cabernet Sauvignon means Napa. Yet, as many people know, when you buy Napa, much of your dollar goes toward the name. There are many other regions producing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon at a fraction of the price of Napa. Recently, when we were offered a sample of the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard View Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, from Santa Barbara County, we jumped at the chance!

 

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

Lucas & Lewellen started as a partnership between Louis Lucas and Royce Lewellen in 1975. Mr. Lucas was a third generation grape grower. Mr. Lewellen was a Superior Court Judge. The two met through the Santa Maria Wine & Food Society. The two men shared a passion for fine wine and the Santa Barbara wine industry. Through their partnership, Lucas & Lewellen has established itself as a highly respected winery, with more than 400 acres of estate vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

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We were not disappointed with this Cabernet Sauvignon! With a SRP of $27, this Santa Barbara wine is a QPR champion. We’d expect to pay as much as 3x this much for a comparable Napa Cabernet. Readers, let this serve as notice that Santa Barbara County produces stand-alone Cabernet Sauvignon, beyond comparison.

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Deep, inky color. Aromas of blackberry, black currant, and vanilla notes. On he palate, big, bold flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, black cherry, black plum, vanilla, and hints of smoke and spice. Tannins are big and chewy, and the acidity is well balanced. The finish is long, with black fruit and pepper. Drinking very well now, and the tannin structure would allow this wine to cellar for another 10 years. Paired with New York steak, grilled asparagus, and caprese salad, it was pure perfection.

 

Next time you are looking for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that will “wow” your friends, neighbors, or dinner guests, consider Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard View Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. We are convinced that everyone will be impressed!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credit: Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Warm Reds for Cold Nights, Part 3

Well, we’ll admit that as we write this, it’s sunny and 72 degrees at our home in Northern California. Spring is definitely upon us here. However, other parts of the country as still in the harsh grip of winter. Besides, it was a couple of weeks ago when we opened and enjoyed this sample; on a cold, rainy, winter’s night. Plus, readers in the Southern Hemisphere are headed into winter, and will be needing some Warm Reds for their Cold Nights, soon.

For the third in our four part series of Warm Reds for Cold Nights, we travel to France. When most people think of big red wines from France, they think Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Rhone. Yet in our ongoing quest for the lesser-known, our travels today take us to the Loire Valley, specifically to the communes that make up the region of Chinon.

The red wines of Chinon are crafted from Cabernet Franc grapes. Many of you may know Cabernet Franc as one of the two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. (The other half of the greatest marriage in viticulture is Sauvignon Blanc.) Used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and other regions, Cabernet Franc stands, and shines, on its own in Chinon wines.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Chateau Courday-Montpensier dates back to 1090 AD, though the current castle on the site was built in the 14th century. There are 30 hectares of vineyards at the chateau, all planted to Cabernet Franc. The Chateau du Courday-Montpensier Chinon Rouge 2016 is 100% Cabernet Franc, that spent between 6 and 12 months in barrel before bottling. It is a classic representation of Chinon, quite delicious and food friendly.

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Rather than going with a more traditional food pairing with this Cabernet Franc, we opted for more of a Franco-Asian fusion menu: homemade Thai Basil Beef. The pairing was exceptional, with the exotic, savory beef complementing the rich, hearty wine, and vice-versa.

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Inky purple color. Aromas of ripe blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. On the palate, fruit forward with blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry, with secondary notes of licorice, black pepper, and vanilla. Tannins are big and chewy, but melt away with food. Brisk acidity livens the senses and further enhances the food pairing. Excellent this winter’s evening with Thai Basil Beef. Definitely warming and satisfying. Wine Searcher average price: $16.00.

Even if spring has sprung in your neighborhood, don’t overlook the opportunity to enjoy a big, warming red wine with your BBQ or other hearty meal. Until next time…

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo credit: Robyn Raphael

Warm Reds for Cold Nights, Part 1

While the East Coast is being blasted by yet another major winter storm, and the Pacific Northwest is experiencing record snowfall, here in Northern California, it’s, well, pouring rain. But I mean really pouring! We’re expecting 3-6 inches of rain in the next 48 hours. The winds are also howling, up to 40 mph. And it’s cold…by NorCal standards. Overnight lows in the 30’s, and highs only in the 50’s. Brrr. By NorCal standards. 

So in light of winter’s harsh punch to the Northern Hemisphere, what better way to stay warm than to enjoy some big, bold, warming red wines on these cold winter nights? This is the first of a four-part mini-series, featuring reds from around the world that were provided as media samples.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

What better place to start this journey than South America? Afterall, there, it’s summer! From the Maule Valley in Chile, comes the Erasmo Barbera-Grenache 2016, a unique and delicious blend of 60% Barbera, 30% Grenache, and 10% Carignan. Using all organic grapes and wild yeast for fermentation, this wine captures the essence of the Maule Valley terroir.

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The original cellar at what is now Erasmo winery was built at the end of the 19th century. The mud-wall construction provided excellent insulation for maintaining a proper wine cellar temperature. In 2005, after years of neglect and inactivity,  Count Francesco Marone Cinzano set out to restore this historic building. Now complete, and filled with modern winemaking equipment, “La Reserva de Caliboro” lives on, and is the home to high quality, organic wines.

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Before…

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and After. Photo Credit Erasmo Organic Vineyard and Winery http://erasmo.bio/en/

On one particularly cold and stormy night, we paired this delightful, warming wine with a seared Garlic-Butter Brazilian Skirt Steak and Garden Salad. (You can’t forego your greens just because it’s cold out!) What an amazing pairing! Sheer perfection!

Deep purple color with brick rim. Aromas of ripe raspberry, blackberry, and clove. On the palate, there are flavors of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, and cranberry, with baking spice, cedar, and vanilla notes. Tannins are firm but balanced, with lively acidity and a long finish of black and red fruit and white pepper.

Vivino Average Price: $22.99

Stay tuned for the next in this Warming Reds for Cold Nights series. In the meantime, tell us, in the comments below, what you are enjoying to stay warm during these cold winter nights.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credit, unless otherwise noted, Kent Reynolds

Getting Cozy with Mulled Wine

I think most would agree that a crisp, refreshing, chilled white wine just isn’t what we’re looking for on a cold winter’s day. Those big, bold red wines are more suitable for this time of year, and there are plenty to choose from for all the different occasions.

But what happens if you’re just relaxing by the fire, wrapped in a blanket, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show, and you want something to warm you up? Enter Mulled Wine.

What? You’ve never heard of Mulled Wine? Or you only think of Mulled Wine as something they drank in Dickens’ time? Well, it’s time to re-think this tasty winter’s drink. (Hey, I rhymed!) Mulled Wine is essentially warmed, spiced wine, often revved up with some type of spirit; brandy, rum, etc.

You can often find pre-made bottles at your wine shop. I found this bottle, and it’s ready to go; just warm it up and start sipping, or add some addtional spices, fresh fruit, or spirit to suit your taste.

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If you have a more time, and are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can gather up the ingredients, and make your own Mulled Wine. Our friends at I Love Wine prepared this informative post on Mulled Wine, (scroll down to read it) complete with history, and several delcious recipes your can make at home for family and friends this holiday season. Check it out, and if you make any of the recipes, let us know how you liked them!

Happy Holidays, and Cheers!

Tis the Season to be Jolly: Fa-La-Fall in Love with Mulled Wine

Not that we ever need a reason (or a season!) to sample delicious new wines, but the holidays are particularly a treat when it comes to trying different traditional vinos from around the world. While wine is typically best served room temperature red or perfectly chilled white, hot wine is also a “thing.” Yes, HOT WINE! If you have never tried mulled wine, do yourself a favor and put that on your list of holiday season must-do’s.

What is Mulled Wine?

Mulled wine is a spice-infused red wine served warm and best enjoyed in the colder months. It goes by different names in various regions; such as Glogg in Sweden, Glühwein in Germany or Vin Chaud in France. Ingredients for this comforting beverage depend on the region, but typically consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, vanilla and allspice. Bitter orange, figs, apples, raisins or ginger can be added as well for additional sweetness. Other liquors are often added to the mix; with vodka, rum, brandy, sherry and cognac popular choices for an extra kick. The ingredients for mulled wine are simmered, allowing flavors to infuse, and then strained and served immediately. The wine can also be refrigerated for 24 hours to allow for further infusion then reheated before serving.

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History of Mulled Wine

The origin of mulled wine came about in pre-refrigeration days, where the purpose was to use wine on the verge of spoilage and not let it go to waste. The addition of other liquor, spices, fruit and sugar made it more pleasant to drink.

The history of mulled wine dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Said to be invented by Greek scientist and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates; the wine (red or white) was spiced and sweetened with honey and not always served hot. The drink gained its name from the Old English word meaning “muddled” and has been popular throughout Europe for centuries.

The oldest recipe dates back to 1834 and was found in a recipe collection in the State Archives in Dresden, Germany. The collection belonged to Count of Wackerbarth, Augustus Christopher. However, wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the 2nd century. The Romans traveled all across Europe, bringing wine and their recipes with them to the Rhine and Danube rivers, and to the Scottish border.

While it can be served throughout the winter months, mulled wine is more traditionally a Christmas beverage. Charles Dickens is credited with making mulled wine synonymous with the holidays, thanks in part to his mention of the beverage (a mulled wine punch known as the Smoking Bishop) in his timeless classic, A Christmas Carol.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

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Recipes for Mulled Wine

There are quite a few recipes for mulled wine floating about. We will list a few of the traditional favorites here, should you wish to whip up a batch of this delicious winter treat:

Smoking Bishop:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles of strong red wine
  • 1 bottle of port wine
  • 5 sweet oranges, unpeeled
  • 1 large grapefruit, unpeeled
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 30 cloves

Directions: Wash the fruit and bake it on a foil lined baking sheet until it becomes light brown, turning once. Heat a large earthenware bowl and add the fruit. Stud each fruit with five cloves. Add the sugar and the red wine, and store covered in a warm place for about a day.

Squeeze the fruit to extract the juice, and strain into a saucepan. Add the port and warm thoroughly, but don’t boil.

Serve in heated glasses.

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(NOTE: Download our Free Wine & Food Pairing Guide. Enhance the Enjoyment of Your Meals!CLICK HERE) 

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Clarence’s Mulled Wine:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 glass of brandy
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sugar, to taste

Directions: In a saucepan, gently heat the wine and spirit. Using a speed peeler, remove large parts of rind of the lemon and the lime. Be careful not to remove the pith. Toss peels into the saucepan.

Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange slices and sugar.

Simmer for 15 minutes then ladle into glasses and enjoy.

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A Modern British Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles of fruity, unoaked wine
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • 2 un-waxed oranges
  • 1 lemon, peel only
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
  • 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions: Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until it turns into a thick syrup.

If you are serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.

Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish.

Alternatively, there are several good options available for purchase in your local store if you don’t feel up to the task of mulling your own. A notable, tasty and affordable option is Mrs. Beachley’s Mulled Wine, at a cost of about $10.

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Enjoy Après-ski after a day out on the slopes, warm up while strolling Christmas markets on a chilly night, or heck…indulge to make those holiday family gatherings a bit more bearable. Mulled wine is sure to comfort and warm you from the inside-out during this festive season!

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Review: Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Just in time for the holidays, bubbles! Who doesn’t love to celebrate with sparkling wine? From Champagne, to Cava, Prosecco, or California Sparkling Wine, a bottle of bubbles is at home on every holiday table. And with such variety as we have today, bubbles don’t have to break the bank. Take, for example, this Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut. It is rich, creamy, and delicious, and retails for just $23 per bottle.

Crémant refers to a French sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, but from other parts of the country. In case you didn’t know, because of an 1891 law, “Champagne” can only come from the Champagne region of France. (Yes, there are a few California sparklers that, thanks to loopholes and lawsuits, can still use the name on their labels.) Anyway, as I was saying, Crémant is made using the méthode tranditionalle, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing those fine bubbles we all know and love. Though made in the same way, Crémant does not have the panache, the swagger, the reputation, or the price tag as Champagne. That doesn’t mean it is any lower in quality, in my humble opinion. Call it marketing prowess.

Lucien Albrecht is one of the preeminent wine producers in the Alsace region, located in northeast France. Dating back to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in the area, the family has been making high quality wines, widely renown and recognized. Predominantly a still-wine producer, with the familiar slender bottles with the yellow labels, Lucien Albrecht makes Alsatian standards like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. In 1971, Lucien Albrecht, the 8th generation of this wine growing family, became one of the pioneers of Crémant d’Alsace, when he introduced this sparkling wine. Available in both Brut and Rosé, Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace is sure to please.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Terrific! Golden straw color. Vigorous tiny bubbles as the wine fills the glass, and the bubbles continue throughout. Aromas of apricot and pear. On the palate, luscious flavors of brioche, almond, pear, apple, and a hint of pineapple. Bone dry, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and a long clean finish.

With Thanksgiving approaching, and more holidays on the way, consider a bottle of Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace to grace your table and accompany your meal. Heck, at just $23 per bottle, grab two. You don’t want to run out mid-celebration, do you?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo Credit: Robyn Raphael