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Tag Archives: Wine Lovers

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
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Odfjell Vineyards Organic Wines

What do a Norwegian ship owner, a verdant Chilean valley, and sustainable farming  have in common?

Wine!

What did you think we were going to say? This is a wine blog, afterall.

More than 25 years ago, Norwegian Armador (that’s “ship owner” in case you were wondering) Dan Odfjell discovered the Maipo Valley in Chile. Well, not discovered in the Viking explorer sense; he found it for himself. Dan fell in love with this little corner of the planet, far from home both in distance and climate. He settled in the valley, and began pursuing his passion for wine.

Today, sons Laurence and Dan Jr. are at the helm, managing 284 acres of 100% certified organic and biodynamic vineyards in the heart of the Chilean wine country. They carry on the family mission of  producing unique quality wines in a sustainable way.

Recently, we were given the opportunity to experience their craft. Odfjell Premium Organic Wines are offered in three different tiers, with labels representing Land, Water, and Fire. We were fortunate to receive samples of each.  

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

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I really don’t know what happened to our photos. Sorry, but it’s your loss. The marinated flat iron steak was delicious with this Cabernet!

2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $15)

From the website: In the bygone days of sailing ships, wine was the drink of choice on long voyages. Today Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipowner, perpetuates his legacy by making wines to sail from Chile across the seven seas.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Ruby-red in color with a hint of violet. Red-fruit aromas recall strawberries and plums, along with notes of licorice and anise. Perfectly balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and a long, refreshing nish.

Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, bramble, and cassis. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe blackberry, raspberry, bramble, black currant, and cherry, with oak, cedar, tobacco, and black pepper, with earthy notes mid-palate. Tannins are firm and chewy, balanced with bright acidity. Full bodied with a long, spicy finish of black fruit, earth, and smoke. Outstanding paired with balsamic marinated flat iron steak.

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2017 Odfjell Orzada Carignan (SRP $23)

From the website: When the Norwegian shipowner Dan Odfjell founded our winery, he embarked upon adventure filled with challenge and promise. Orzada is a nautical term for sailing up against the wind before setting a direction. Our Orzada wines reflect our staking a course in pursuit of a beautiful and memorable wine.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Dark red in color. Intense and complex on the nose, with spices and ripe red fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and plums mixed with aromas of blackberries and anise. The palate is juicy and powerful with velvety-soft tannins and a long finish.

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Now we’re talking!

Here’s what we thought:

Deep purple color with a brick rim. Aromas of fresh-picked cherry, oak wood, and spice. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, boysenberry, tart cherry, licorice, cedar, and black pepper. Soft tannins, medium body, and bright, lively acidity. The finish is long, with red and black fruit, oak, and spice. We paired this with grilled, chili-rubbed pork chops and it really complemented the meal nicely.

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2013 Odfjell Aliara (SRP $44)

From the website: In the age of sail ships, safe and healthy provisions were crucial for the success of the adventure. A “liara” was a tin cup measurement for the crew´s daily ration of wine. Our Aliara is an assemblage made in small and precios quantitites as a tribute to this tradition.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Concentrated deep violet in color. The nose is attractive and intense with a range of aromas from the different varieties in the blend, including nuts such as hazelnuts, dates, and dried figs, as well as floral notes recalling jasmine and roses. The palate is sophisticated, intense, and juicy and complemented by chocolate, coffee, and tobacco leaves. The finish is long with ripe and velvety tannins. An unforgettable experience.

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That’s some dark, inky wine.

Here’s what we thought:

A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 5% Malbec. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of blackberry bramble and plum. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and plum, with white pepper and cedar. Tannins are big and chewy. Medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and black pepper. Outstanding with spice-rubbed grilled steak tacos.

​The Odfjell is doing some remarkable things with organic, biodynamic wines in Chile. If you get the opportunity to try these wines, don’t let it pass you by!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Creative Inspiration by Robyn Raphael

The Day Pacific’O Saved us from Hurricane Lane, a Restaurant Review

You simply can’t go to Hawaii without attending a Luau. This past August, we were very excited to be heading to the 50th state for 10 days of sun, beaches, snorkeling, wine tasting (what, you missed our blog about MauiWine? You can fix that by clicking here), and of course, a proper Hawaiian Luau on the beach.

For weeks, we had read reviews of the various Luaus around Ka’anapali, Maui, where we would be staying. We finally selected The Feast at Lele. It promised authentic food, including a pit-roasted pig, music, dancers, and the all around romance of a sunset dinner on the beach. We were really looking forward to it!

Upon our arrival on Maui, we were alerted to the impending doom that would be Hurricane Lane. Honestly, we’d had no idea. Our three days on Oahu had been stunning, with brilliant sunshine, and warm tropical waters. Though apprehensive, we were committed to enjoy our stay no matter what the weather brought. Afterall, we were in Maui!

Hurricane Lane

Yea, that’s a pretty big deal.

As Hurricane Lane churned toward the Islands, it became apparent that, although she would not make landfall on Maui, the outer bands of the hurricane would affect the island. Hawaii, the Big Island, took the brunt of the damage, but the storm skirted Maui to the south. Nevertheless, all necessary precautions were taken. The staff at the Westin Ka’anapali were amazing in their diligence, keeping us updated several times a day with voicemail messages, and literally going door-to-door handing out flyers with the latest storm conditions, forecasts, and precautions. Our parasailing trip was cancelled. We dutifully filled our bathtub, and ventured out the the market to stock up on provisions for what could be several days without power.

The town of Lahaina pretty much shut down, including most of the restaurants. This is understandable, considering many of the people who work in the town commute some 45 minutes to and from the north side of the Island, on a sometimes narrow, twisting road. Still, the resort bars remained open, so we got our fair share of Mai Tai’s! And the Feast at Lele held out, determined to treat their guests to an experience of a lifetime, despite an approaching Hurricane.

The day of our scheduled Luau arrived. We called to confirm, and the Feast of Lele said the Luau will go on, unless we were otherwise notified. With winds increasing in intensity, we grabbed a Resort Shuttle into Lahaina. Our driver informed us that, depending on conditions, the shuttles may stop running before we were done for the evening, so we should be prepared to catch an Uber or Lyft back to the resort.

We arrived at the venue about a half hour before they were ready to receive guests. So, naturally, we set out to find somewhere to relax with a glass of wine before the Luau. As luck would have it, right across the walkway, we spotted Pacific’O restaurant. As we found two seats at the bar, we were greeted by Manager Cory Brownfield, who was manning the bar that evening. A very personable man, we enjoyed chatting with Cory as we sipped our wine and waited for the Luau. Cory gave us the inside scoop: don’t rush over right when they open the doors. We’d be crammed into a “holding pen” until they were ready for us to go down our tables on the beach. There would be plenty of complimentary Mai Tai’s and Pina Coladas to go around, so we sat and visited with Cory a bit longer.

Finally the time came. We left Pacific’O and walked across to the Luau. We could see the nervousness on the faces of some of the staff, as the winds continued to build, and rain clouds loomed overhead. We grabbed a Mai Tai and waited for our turn to walk down the ramp to the beach. Despite the tension of the impending Hurricane, the vibe was energetic. At last, we took our places in line and walked down the ramp. As we reached the bottom, literally at the moment we were adorned with our lei’s, the skies opened up! This was it! Hurricane Lane was upon us!

The staff hustled us back inside. For a few minutes there was confusion, and it was unclear if they would try to hold the Luau indoors. After a few passing moments, however, we saw one of the most horrific sights we’ve seen in our lives: the barbacks started dumping Mai Tai after Pina Colada down the drain! It was clear the Luau was cancelled. Kent tried to rush the bar in a quest for a to-go cup, but the staff held firm. Our money would be refunded, and the Luau was cancelled.

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Oh, the humanity!

As Kent waited a moment for the details on the refund (hey, he is an accountant) Robyn, always forward-thinking in times of crisis, made a dash back over to Pacific’O to secure us a table before the throngs of other disappointed cancelled-Luau guests got the same idea. Although there were no tables available, there was still room at the bar, so we took our seats and resumed our pleasant interaction with Cory.

Alas, the deluge was not the fearsome Hurricane itself; only a passing squall from an outer band. In fact, within 10 minutes, the rain had stopped, the clouds thinned, and we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets we got the see during our trip!

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Cory continued to be the consummate host. He gave us recommendations, and we were treated to an exquisite meal. Of all the Mai Tai’s we had during our time on Maui, the one at Pacific’O was far and away the best!

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The one on the right was their Farm Cocktail of the Day. It was delicious, but I don’t remember what was in it; I didn’t think to bring my notebook.

The pictures really don’t do justice. The portions look small in the photos, but they were more than enough for the two of us! Exquisite ceviche – the fish can’t get any fresher! Buttery seared scallops and prawns with mushrooms and rice. Everything was delicious, and more than made up for our missed roast pig and poi. (Do they still serve that at Luaus?)

We survived the hurricane, obviously. There was some damage as you can see, but thankfully, Hurricane Lane wasn’t as destructive as early predictions suggested; at least on Maui. Hurricane Lane did put a damper on our vacation, but they way we see it, it’s hard to be disappointed when you’re in Maui. Besides, it gives us an opportunity for a mulligan!

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Hurricane Lane Damage! The Struggle was Real!

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If you happen to be in Lahaina, be sure to stop in at Pacific’O. They’re located on the beach, at 505 Front Street, Suite 114, Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761. If Cory’s working, tell him Kent and Robyn from the night Hurricane Lane almost destroyed the Island, say “Aloha!”

Review: Toccata Classico 2015

I first learned about Toccata wines several years ago, when one of their sales reps was hosting a tasting at a wine bar near my home. I happened in, by happy coincidence, and was immediately impressed by the quality, complexity, and character of the wines. Alas, the wines are not widely distributed, so Toccata was difficult to find and enjoy regularly.

The Toccata label is owned by Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, a family owned estate in Santa Barbara County. I’m fairly certain the Toccata tasting all those years ago was the first Santa Barbara wine I had experienced. Lucas & Lewellen is fairly well known to travellers along Highway 101 south of Paso Robles, as their large estate vineyards are adjacent to the highway, and are well marked with signs identifying ownership and often the variety of grape.

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Photo Credit: llwine.com

Years after that original Toccata tasting, my son started college at U.C. Santa Barbara; another happy coincidence. During the hours-long drives from Northern California to visit, as I passed the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards, I was reminded of the Toccata wines I had enjoyed. When I discovered that Toccata has a tasting room, just a few miles off Highway 101 in the quaint village of Solvang, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy these wines again while also enjoying time with my son, and the beauty of Santa Barbara. Still, once he graduated, and my regular trips to Santa Barbara came to an end, so did my ready access to Toccata.

To my sheer delight, I was recently offered a sample of the Toccata Classico 2015. There was no hesitation in my affirmative response to the offer!  

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Toccata wines are all Italian varieties and styles. Toccata Classico is a red blend made in the Super Tuscan style. The fruit comes from two estate vineyards; Los Alamos Vineyard in the Santa Barbara AVA and Valley View Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The 2015 is composed of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Freisa, and Petit Verdot. Here’s what we thought of it:

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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Rich, deep purple with ruby rim. Initial nose is vanilla, with ripe red berry. On the palate, flavors of ripe raspberry, blackberry, and cassis, with baking spice, vanilla, tobacco, white pepper, and toasty oak. Firm, chewy tannins, with medium acidity. Rich and full bodied. The finish is long with red and black fruit, oak, and black pepper.

SRP $29.00 per bottle

Perfect for Italian cuisine, and also fantastic with other genres of food, too. We loved it with Pan Seared Filet Steaks with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions. Sheer delight! img_2349

If you are in the Santa Barbara area, be sure to take a detour out to Solvang and visit the Toccata tasting room. It’s well worth the trip!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo credit, except where noted, and inspiration by Robyn Raphael

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

Down Home with Farmhouse Wines

More and more wine producers are embracing environmental consciousness. Whether out of concern for conserving our planet and its resources, or reacting to consumer and market demands, there is no doubt that organic, sustainable, natural, and biodynamic wines are on the rise and here to stay.

It’s not just the small, boutique, dare I say “hippie” or “hipster” wineries that are turning toward Earth-friendly farming practices. Many well known, large production producers are getting on board, and at converting at least a small percentage of production to sustainable farming, most with an eye toward long-range growth and conversion.

Recently, we received an invitation to sample two natural wines, Farmhouse Wines, produced by Cline Family Cellars. If you don’t know Cline, you really ought to get out more. Fred Cline founded Cline Family Cellars in 1982. He started in Oakley, California, in the Delta region, east of San Francisco. In 1989, he moved the winery to Sonoma County. One of the original Rhone Rangers, Fred Cline helped establish Northern California as a serious producer of Rhone varieties like Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Cline Family Cellars has gone on to expand their portfolio to include a plethora of grape varieties, and produces some stellar wines.

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Fred Cline and his Soil Manager, Bobby Cannard (aka The Soil Whisperer) have developed biodynamic practices they dubbed the Green String method. A significantly environmentally friendly farming process, it minimizes pollution of the air, soil, and water, and minimizes the overall environmental footprint. Utilizing natural weed control (sheep and goats), cover crops, aviary pest control (owls and hawks), and ar power, they have made big inroads in sustainable farming. They established a farm, the Green String Farm, in Petaluma, CA, to foster these practices, producing a variety of crops for consumers. They even established an internship program to expose farming students to these practices.

There are two Farmhouse wines; a white blend and a red blend. Both are natural, sustainably produced wines. They are unpretentious, user-friendly, sealed with screwcap, and easy drinking. Oh, and they retail for just $10.99! That’s wallet friendly, too!

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos wants the grapes to take center stage in these wines. He uses minimal oak, and incorporates blending to bring out the best of each variety and vintage.

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

The 2017 Farmhouse White is a blend of Palomino (41%), Muscat Calelli (25%), Rousanne (22%), Marsanne (6%), Viognier (5%), and Riesling (1%). Cold fermented in stainless steel tanks, the resulting wine is light and fruity, with balance and finesse. Here’s what we thought of it:

A very interesting white blend. Don’t serve too cold or the bouquet and flavors will be muted. Pale peach color. Aromas of peach, honeysuckle, mango, and tangerine. On the palate, there are flavors lemon curd, guava, mango, and peach, with a touch of honey on the finish. That’d be the Muscat! Medium body and acidity. Fruity, mildly sweet. Pleasant for sipping, structured enough of fish, chicken, or spicy Thai.

The 2017 Farmhouse Red leads with a punch of Zinfandel (59%), followed by Syran (15%), Carignane (9%), Mourvèdre (6%), Petite Sirah (5%), and the remaining 6%, splashes of other red varieties. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is racked into 40% new French oak to enhance the flavors as it ages. Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color. On the palate, aromas of raspberry, fresh blackberry, clove, and spice. On the palate, boldly fruit forward; bordering on jammy but there is enough complexity to bring some balance. Flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and black plum, with licorice, baking spice, black pepper, and caramel. Rich and full bodied with round mouthfeel and bright acidity. The finish is very long with black fruit, ripe plum, and black pepper.

For more on the Farmhouse line, check out their video from the Farmhouse Wines website:  

Both Farmhouse wines would be at home on your Thanksgiving or other holiday table, and equally comfortable snuggled up on the couch in front of a warming fire, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show.

Let us know, in the comments, what you paired it with, and what you’re binging on Netflix!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Size Does Matter!

Anybody who has purchased a bottle of wine is familiar with the standard, 750 ml bottle. The vast majority of wine is sold in these bottles. Some may be familar with the Magnum bottle; at 1.5 liters, it is equivalent to two standard bottles. These are great for parties and other group gatherings, but what if you are alone and don’t want to drink a whole 750 ml bottle? You could grab a half-bottle, 375 ml, which is about 2 glasses. All fine options, depending on your circumstaces.

But did you know there are at least 17 different size bottles for wine? Yes, seventeen! From the “split” – about 1/4 bottle at 187 ml, to the massive “Midas”, holding 30 liters – about 40 standard bottles!

To read more about these various bottle sizes, and the stories behind them, check out this article from our new friends at I Love Wine: Understanding Wine Bottle Sizes. We hope you enjoy the article! Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael