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Tag Archives: Wine Lover

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

A New Tradition at Harney Lane Winery

When a wine region captures the imagination, and worldwide attention, wineries seem to pop up from nowhere. Don’t get us wrong, We’re fully in favor of more wine! Still, there’s something special and intriguing about a multi-generational, family owned winery that has been growing wine grapes for more than 100 years. And so it is at Harney Lane Winery in Lodi, California.

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Recently, we had the opportunity accompany our friends and fellow bloggers, John and Irene Ingersoll, for a tour and tasting at Harney Lane Winery. On our arrival, we were greeted by Kyle Lerner. Kyle is an engaging and friendly man, with a wealth of knowledge, wit, and humor. A business major in college, with no farming background, he married into the family, and was mentored by Patriarch George Mettler. Now, Kyle calls the vineyard his office, and with more than 25 years of farming, couldn’t be happier.

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Harney Lane Winery is a 5th generation farm. The family originally purchased the farmhouse on the property in 1900, and started growing grapes in 1907. For 99 years, the family sold all the grapes they produced. In 2006, they decided to put their produce into their own line of wine. That year, they produced 1,000 cases of wine. Today, they produce between 8,000 and 9,000 cases. Their wines are produced from 100% estate grown fruit, and despite the increase in production in the past 13 years, they use only about 10% of the grapes they farm. The other 90% are sold to other wineries. The entire estate is 100% certified sustainable under the Lodi Rules.

After pouring us each a sample of their now sold-out Chardonnay, Kyle escorted us on a tour of the park-like grounds, into one of the vineyards, and then to the barrel room for more tasting. The Chardonnay was delightful; crisp and light, just the way we like it, with only a hint of oak influence. The front grounds of the property are amazing! It’s like wandering through a fairy tale, with centuries-old trees, manicured flower beds, and meandering paths. Fountains, benches, and tables with chairs punctuate the walk, giving visitors the opportunity to sit and really relax while enjoying the beauty.

 

Wandering from the garden to the vineyard, Kyle explained the family commitment to sustainability. As we were there in early spring, we got to see early bud break in the Primitivo vineyard. From the vineyard, Kyle led us to the barrel room and more tasting. We were met along the way by Jorja Lerner, Kyle’s wife and daughter of George and Kathy Mettler.

 

As Kyle led us through a flight of reds, he talked about the family history and commitment to crafting exceptional, estate wines, balancing winemaker vision with consumer demand. If you think of Lodi wines, specifically Zinfandel, as being big, jammy, fruit-bombs, think again. While definitely exhibiting the local terroir, Harney Lane wines are elegant, restrained, and delicious. These are wines that are at home at both a fine-dining restaurant, and a backyard barbecue.

 

We started with a taste of the 2016 Tempranillo. Here’s a grape that most people don’t associate with Lodi, but Harney Lane does it right. The grapes for this wine come from 20-year-old vines, and it is excellent. Next, we tasted the 2016 Zinfandel, a well-balanced example of what Lodi can do with this iconic grape. Moving on, we tasted the Primitivo, Lot 18. Kyle explained that the Primitvio is a Non-Vintage wine, blended from a number of recent vintages. Lot 18 is a rustic and tasty blend of the ‘14, ‘15, and ‘16 vintages. Next up was Harney Lane’s Old Vines Zinfandel offering, and their flagship wine. The name, Lizzie James Old Vines Zinfandel, conjures up images of the Wild West, and such heroines as Calamity Jane and the Unsinkable Molly Brown. In reality, though no less inspiring, Lizzie James comes from the middle names of Kyle and Jorja’s children, Kirsten Elizabeth and Ian James. They opted for Lizzie instead of Elizabeth, since the former sounded more rustic and adventurous than “Elizabeth James.” Don’t you agree?

Finally, Kyle shared with us the Patriarch’s Promise Red Blend. First released in 2012, this proprietary red wine is made to honor George Mettler. George was only able to enjoy the first vintage of this wine, before losing his battle with cancer in 2013. Today, 10% of sales from this wine are donated to the American Cancer Society. The recipe for this wine is a closely guarded family secret. Always up for a challenge, we each sipped, evaluated, and tried to determine the blend. My first guess was a right-bank Bordeaux-style blend; Merlot dominated, based on the cherry and pencil shaving notes. However, Kyle confided to us that the current vintage is, in fact, a single varietal wine, from a rather obscure grape. Despite our best efforts to guess, cajole, and entice Kyle to spill the beans, none of us could identify the source of this deep, rich, delicious wine. Or did we? Kyle would never tell.

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We returned to the tasting room for one final treat: a taste of the Lizzie James Old Vine Zinfandel dessert wine. For those of you in the know, you are aware that there are strict rules around the naming of wines, and that U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) must approve any wine names in the U.S. So, for example, with few exceptions, any wine called “Champagne” must come from Champagne, France, and any wine with “Port” in the name, can only come from Porto, Portugal. Wanting to stay compliant, while still letting consumers know what they were getting, Harney Lane designed their label in a unique way, that the TTB approved, thus ensuring that Port fans everywhere would know they were in for a treat! Bravo, Harney Lane!

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After the tasting and tour, the four of us returned to the garden where we found a comfortable table in the sun, and enjoyed a final glass of Harney Lane wine, while relaxing and enjoying the new tradition that is Harney Lane Winery.

Next time you’re in Lodi, be sure to stop by for some outstanding wine, the tradition of five generations, and the relaxing surroundings that invite you to relax and enjoy.

Cheers!

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

It’s in the Bag!

Wine. Travel. Wine and travel. The two just seem to go together. Sometimes, the travel can be as simple as a picnic at a local park. Other times, it’s a trans-ocean, international dream trip. Depending on your journey, you may need different wine transport options. Fortunately, our friends at I Love Wine have compiled a list and review of a number of different Wine Travel Bags for your consideration. From a single-bottle picnic tote, complete with glassware and corkscrew, to a full-blown 12-bottle wine suitcase, they have you covered.

We’ve used bubble wrap wine sleeves when travelling, similar to No. 9 in the featured article below, and we’ve been very happy with the results. No breakage, no leaks, and no problems with packing – as long as you keep your suitcase under the weight limit! Remember, a bottle of wine weighs an average of about three pounds! Whether we’re bringing wine with us on our trip, or planning to buy some at our destination to bring home…or both…these sleeves are practical and affordable.

Now’s the time to start planning your 2019 getaways. Don’t forget to consider the wine! Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these bags, or something similar!

Cheers!

We love wine more than anything. Traveling comes in a close second, so traveling with wine is nearly perfect. It presents some challenges depending on how far you’re traveling and whether you need to keep the wine chilled in transit. Wine travel bags with insulated interiors solve part of the problem, but they vary in quality. Wine bags are also available in a variety of styles, so you need a carrier that reflects your taste as well as the formality of the event. Here we share ten of the best wine travel bags. Whether you’re carrying wine for a picnic on the beach, a train ride through Napa Valley, or a plane trip across the Atlantic, we have the perfect options for you.

1. OPUX Insulated 2-Bottle Wine Tote: $17

This insulated wine tote from OPUX is perfect for an afternoon picnic. The wine compartment is insulated to keep the bottles cool and has a divider to protect them from clinking together. It has convenient dual zippers, plus a front pocket for carrying other accessories. For a wine tote under $20, we’re impressed with its durability. It has a handle at the top, plus a detachable shoulder strap, offering a few transit options. We also love that it’s available in so many colors. For the price point, you can easily pick up a few of these to match the mood of the occasion. As a bonus, it comes with a free corkscrew.

2. Picnic at Ascot Deluxe Insulated Wine Tote: $24

This kit from Picnic at Ascot is an even more complete picnic kit. It includes two acrylic wine glasses, a wine opener, and a pair of napkins. With the goblets in place it holds just one bottle of wine. Remove the goblets and you can carry two bottles. The panel that holds your wine opener folds neatly between them so they won’t collide. The tote is made of sturdy canvas and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Although it’s and extremely durable carrier, we love that it comes with a lifetime guarantee from the company.

3. KOVOT 9-Piece Wine Travel Bag and Picnic Set: $25

KOVOT boasts one of the most complete picnic kits on the market, including accessories you might not have thought about. It includes an insulated compartment to hold two bottles of wine with a divider in between. The side pocket holds two acrylic wine glasses, cloth napkins, a corkscrew, and a bottle stopper. The surprise accessory is a pair of stakes so you can secure your wine glasses on uneven ground. At first blush, this might seem like overkill, but it’s perfect if you need to set your glass down on the beach. This picnic set would make a wonderful impression on a first date and also makes a marvelous gift for any wine lover.

4. Kato Insulated 2-Bottle Wine Carrier: $20

If you want a 2-bottle carrier that looks more like a regular tote, Kato makes this stylish wine bag. It keeps wine chilled for hours thanks to its internal padding and insulation, plus it has a flexible divider to protect the bottles in transit. We love the zippered side compartment for carrying your phone, keys, or wine accessories. Like some of the other kits, it also comes with a free corkscrew. Above all, we love the variety of colors and patterns available, making this one of the most versatile and stylish totes at this price point.

5. Vina 3-Bottle Insulated Wine Carrier: $18

The Vina is our favorite 3-bottle wine tote. The bottles are held in place by dividers and the insulation does well in keeping chilled bottles cool until you get to your destination. One thing we especially love is how easy this carrier is to clean. The high-quality polyester is just a wipe down from looking perfect again, making it the ideal carrier for picnics, festivals, and other outdoor events. It has a convenient side pocket for storing the free corkscrew and any other items you need handy.

6. Kato 4-Bottle Insulated Wine Tote: $22

We love the styling of this 4-bottle carrier from Kato, with its leather accents and stainless steel hardware. The tote is made of canvas and comes in gray or a cute navy and white striped pattern. It doesn’t have side pockets, but we love that the divider inside is removable, which gives some storage flexibility. For such a stylish bag, we love the affordability. The quality of insulation is also impressive, keeping chilled wines cold for hours.

7. Wine Enthusiast 6-Bottle Weekend Wine Carrier: $69

For higher-capacity totes, sturdy construction becomes critical. If the carrier isn’t built to handle the weight of the bottles, it will wear out quickly. Worse, it might break while you’re carrying it. For transporting up to 6-bottles, our favorite is this canvas wine carrier from Wine Enthusiast. It has a padded divider which leaves space to carry up to six Bordeaux bottles, plus a side pocket for accessories. The insulation and padding are both excellent and the exterior construction is just as impressive. The forest green canvas is durable and we love the chocolate brown trim. There’s also a monogrammable leather hang tag in case you’d like to personalize it.

8. Wine Enthusiast 6-Bottle Leather Wine Bag: $300

For a 6-bottle tote that doesn’t look like a standard wine carrier, Wine Enthusiast offers this gorgeous leather weekend bag. It’s much more expensive than a simple canvas carrier, but you won’t find a classier wine travel bag. It’s 100% handcrafted and the attention to detail is apparent in all aspects of the bag, both inside and out. It holds up to six bottles upright, separated with padded dividers, and has an outer pocket for small accessories. It’s the perfect bag to accompany you on that train trip through wine country you’ve always dreamt of.

9. Wine Wings Wine Bottle Protector Sleeve: $20 for 4

Planning a longer journey? If you’re traveling by plane, Wine Wings are an inexpensive way to safely pack your wine. These bags completely seal the wine bottle inside with Ziplocks and velcro to keep any leaks contained. The bags are also padded internally with bubble-wrap and have a stronger exterior to prevent piercing by other items in your bag. They’re durable and reusable, so investing in these means your only worry will be keeping your suitcase under the weight limit.

10. VinGardeValise 12-Bottle Wine Travel Suitcase: $209

Finally planning that wine vacation through Europe and plan to bring a lot of bottles home? VinGardeValise makes suitcases specifically designed to keep your wine safe during its journey. This suitcase holds 12 bottles and weighs between 43 and 49 lbs when filled to capacity. This keeps it safely under the checked bag weight limit for most airlines, though be sure to doublecheck when you buy your tickets. The suitcase meets TSA, FAA, and airline luggage standards and is a sturdy piece of luggage, as well. It has double channel zippers, a reinforced internal frame, and wheels that spin 360 degrees for easy mobility. We also love that it has a TSA-compliant lock to keep the wine even more secure.

 

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!

(SHOP:  Fun, Trendy & Cute Wine Accessories and Clothing. Get in Style!  SHOP HERE)

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Review: Ardente Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009

Do you believe in miracles? How about angels? Or mythical creatures? I do. I believe in all three. You see, not long ago, I met a Unicorn…

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Not my actual Unicorn

She told me about a wondrous land populated with angels, cherubs, and cheerful leprechauns. But no trolls. There are no trolls in this land, which, as my fellow bloggers and anyone who participates in social media will agree, is the second best part about this marvelous place. The best part is that spectacular, world class wines are available for miraculous prices. Pennies on the dollar in some instances! Intrigued?

No, this is not fantasy. I have not delved into the realm of fictional novels. This place is real. The name of this land should be “Winevana.” Perhaps it is, but only to “The Chosen.” To the rest of the world, this place is known as: Grocery Outlet.

Grocery Outlet

Okay, okay, I know. Until about six months ago I had never thought of Grocery Outlet as being a reliable source of quality wines. However, I wisely trusted my Unicorn, and ventured in. There, I was introduced to the local wine genie, Jerry. Jerry is the wine buyer for our local Grocery Outlet. Jerry is quite a character, and Jerry knows his wine! He has some amazing connections with distributors and producers, and has an uncanny ability to score some amazing deals on some amazing wines. I don’t know how he does it, but he knows his stuff. He’s tasted almost every wine in the store, so when you ask him for a recommendation, he can provide you solid choices.

A couple of weeks ago, Jerry sent out his weekly e-mail, touting his latest screaming finds. Angelic wines at fantastic prices! I scurried in to fill my cart. Jerry handed me a bottle, and told me I just had to try it. Who am I do argue with a mythical wine genie?

The wine? Ardente Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009. Not just Napa Valley, though. Atlas Peak Napa Valley! Online sources price this bottle at as much as $55.00. Jerry’s Winevana price? $11.99. Score!

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Ardente Estate Winery was established in 1996, on 20 acres in the hills of Atlas Peak. Their website proclaims: “ardente [ar’ dεnte]From the latin for pyre; a burning desire, passionate, flaming. This is the word that Carlo Di Ruocco felt best described his relationship to the land and the wine that is his “Ardente”.”

Information about the 2009 vintage is scarce; that was the last year the webpage was updated; but sometimes all you need to know about a wine is how it tastes. Euphoric. Heavenly. Otherworldly. Spectacular! If you enjoy a solid, rich, full-bodied Napa Cabernet, seek out this angelic being. Here are my notes:

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This is a spectacular Napa Cab. Deep purple color with slight ruby rim. On the nose, enticing aromas of creme de cassis, blackberry, and soft oak. After a quick 30 minute decant, the flavors exploded on the palate: ripe blackberry, black cherry, plum, cassis, and chocolate melding with vanilla, oak, and hints of ripe raspberry. The tannins are velvety smooth, and the acidity medium and balanced. The rich, full mouthfeel complemented our grilled NY strip steak to perfection. The long finish of blackberry, cassis, and black pepper. Outstanding!

If you have a Winevana…I mean Grocery Outlet…store in your town, I encourage you to stop in. Your wine genie may not be named Jerry, but I’ll bet he or she is just as miraculous!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds

Want Great Wines? Head South.

For excellent wines at great values, head south. For interesting takes on your favorite varietals, head south. To expand your understanding of terroir and its influence on wine, head south. Wines from South America, specifically Chile and Argentina, define all these statements. I recently had the opportunity to experience three outstanding South American wines: Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2014, Montes Twins Red Blend 2014, and KAIKEN Terroir Series Torrontés 2016.

The Three

For many years, right or wrong, Chile had the reputation of creating bulk wines of inferior quality. In 1988, Aurelio Montes, Sr. and Douglas Murray set out to challenge that notion, when they founded Viña Montes. These two pioneers believed that the unique conditions and terroir in Chile could produce world-class wines. Their first project was a Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In 1998, the first vintage of Montes Alpha M was released. Subsequent lines, including Folly and Purple Angel, followed, with great success and popularity. Over the past 29 years, additional labels were introduced, at various price points, including Montes Limited Selection, the Classic Series, Cherub Rose, and the Montes Twins.

Montes Pantone

Those familiar with the Montes name will recognize the iconic angel on the label. That angel was inspired by Douglas Murray, who developed an abiding faith in angels after surviving two different near-fatal auto accidents. Montes adopted the angel icon to symbolize their commitment to be a positive force and influence. In keeping with that mission, Montes is a leader in environmental sustainability. Since 2009, Montes has implemented strategies to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 30%, and use of fertilizers by 50%. Sheep now help with weed control, and the winery has begun covering water reservoirs with geomembranes that reduce water leakage from two gallons per second to zero!

The Montes family of wines has certainly succeeded in breaking the mold and improving the quality and reputation of Chilean wines. So it follows that Aurelio Montes, Sr., would seek to expand his influence beyond the Chilean borders. In 2001, Montes, Sr., founded KAIKEN Winery on the other side of the Andes mountains, in Mendoza, Argentina. The Kaiken is a near-extinct bird, native to the region, known for soaring over the high, mountain peaks. Now run by son, Aurelio Montes, Jr., KAIKEN’s logo features a representation of “birds in flight” travelling over the Andes mountains. In keeping with the environmental commitment at Montes, in 2011 KAIKEN started managing its vineyards with biodynamic principles. They are pursuing a goal of being 100% biodynamic by the end of this year (2017.)

Kaiken Site Logo

Seeking to take Argentinian wines beyond just Malbec, the KAIKEN wine portfolio includes four labels: Mai, Ultra, Terroir Series, and Reserve. Malbec is featured in the Mai line, and is represented in others, but the Ultra, Terroir Series, and Reserve lines include reds composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Bonarda, along with Malbec. White wines are produced from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the more Argentine-associated Torrontés.

So how do they taste? Well, here’s what I thought of them:

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2014 

100% Pinot Noir from the Acongagua Coast, aged 6-7 months in French Oak and Stainless Steel barrels.  

This is a complex, well-balanced Pinot Noir. Ruby red color with a slightly brick rim. On the nose there are aromas of soft earth and ripe raspberry. The complexity is evident from the initial sniff. On the palate, soft, supple tannins and light acidity dance on the tongue with earthy influences mingling with raspberry, cherry, plum, and red currant flavors. Medium body, with a lingering finish of red fruit and a hint of cola at the end.

I find some Pinot Noir to be too earthy, with the soil and mushroom flavors overpowering the fruit. The Montes Pinot Noir has just the right amount of earthiness, that enhances the fruit and makes this a very enjoyable wine. Paired with grilled salmon, it was truly delightful. It would also go nicely with other foods, including pork or mushroom risotto.

Average Price: $13 (Wine Searcher)

Montes Twins Red Blend 2014 

35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 25% Carmenère, 10% Tempranillo, from the Colchagua Valley. 50% of the wine was aged for 10 months in first, second, and third-use French Oak barrels. 

Very impressive red blend. Deep purple color in the glass. On the nose, aromas of Black Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry, and a hint of soft vanilla. After several swirls and minutes to open up, the palate offers juicy flavors of Blackberry, Black Currant, Black Cherry, and Dark Chocolate, with soft oak and vanilla influences. Rich and full-bodied, with a complex character and soft, velvety tannins and fresh acidity, the wine finishes with a flourish of dark berry, chocolate, and hints of licorice and spice. This is an intriguing, sexy wine that pairs well with anything from the grill: beef, lamb, pork…we had it with grilled Sweet Italian Sausages and the pairing was spectacular!

Average Price: $12 (Wine Searcher)

KAIKEN Terroir Series Torrontés 2016 

100% Torrontés from Salta, Argentina. Fermented and aged 6 months on the lees.  

Pale golden color in the glass. There are aromas of lemon-lime and citrus, with a hint of elderflower. On the palate, there are flavors of lemon and lime, with grapefruit, quince, and mandarin. There is bright, lively acidity, but the wine has a soft, smooth mouthfeel – evidence of aging on the lees. On the finish, the citrus notes continue, and some pear joins the party.

This is a delightfully refreshing wine, especially on the blistering hot day we tasted it. It paired magically with grilled Mahi-Mahi tacos, taking our simple, mid-week meal to a whole new level.

Average Price: $13 (Wine Searcher)

 

Delicious, food-friendly, and budget-friendly, I highly recommend that you seek out and try these wines. They are widely distributed and available, so you won’t even have to go to South America to find them!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: These wines were submitted to me as samples for review. I received no other compensation or incentive. Technical information was provided with the samples. All opinions and descriptions are my own.