Tasting with Ken of Ala Wine

As I’ve mentioned at least a few times now, Matt and I did some excellent wine tasting with Ken of Ala Wine and his wife while we were in the Sonoma area (which I probably should have been more clear about as I think many people, including Ken, thought we were actually in Sonoma, rather we were staying just outside of Healdsburg). While visiting the in-laws I received an email from Ken inquiring about our schedule and asking if we would like to do some tasting with him and his wife Cori (sorry if I didn’t get the spelling on that right!). I quickly said we would be delighted and thus we headed to their home on Thursday. Sadly, I underestimated the traffic and we were a touch late, but we eventually made it! You can head on over to Ken’s blog to read full details of all the wines we tasted, I’ll just give you some brief tasting notes here.

But first, Ken and Cori are wonderful people and we had the best time with them (and their really active cat, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat move that fast!). Their home is lovely and it was so incredibly kind of them to have us over. This was Matt’s first experience in actually talking about wines and writing notes while he tasted, he usually leaves it up to me and will occassionally offer an opinion if I prod him enough, but he enjoyed it and is already talking about getting tasting sheets and hosting a tasting at our house. After we finished tasting Cori suggested we all go grab dinner and we went to a great Italian place where I just had to get fettucini alfredo as we had been talking about how a cream based sauce would be great with one of the wines we tasted and the craving stuck in my head. We got to taste some great wines and meet some interesting new people, all in all a fantastic evening in my book! Thanks again for having us!

Onto the notes:

First up, a 2005 Unionville Vineyards Chardonnay, from New Jersey. Now, I know you must be thinking, Huh? New Jersey? But actually this isn’t the first wine I’ve had from New Jersey as I had a friend in law school in that area and she would frequently bring back wines from various vineyards. The Unionville Chardonnay could best be described as having a damp nose with a slight hint of oak and undertones of lemons. In the mouth there were lemons and pears. It had a short finish, but was smooth with a good mouthfeel. The wine was slightly tart and left a clean feeling in the mouth. We discussed having this wine with an herbed chicken or a pasta with cream sauce and decided it would be really food friendly. It doesn’t appear on their website, but the last 2 vintages were $19.99 a bottle.

Second on the list was a 2004 Cliff Creek Syrah. The nose of this wine was full of dark fruits, specifically black cherries and blueberries with a touch of maple syrup, as odd as that sounds, but it worked and was a very pleasing nose. The wine clocks in at 14.6% alcohol by volume and I can see from their website runs for $35. In the mouth there were black cherries and the wine was fairly smooth but appeared to have tannins that would allow it to age, and hopefully bring out more of the flavors we found in the nose.

Next up was a 2002 Meola Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. On those nose of this one we found oak, black currants and peppers. In the mouth there was a distinct taste of dried fruits, mostly currants and raisins. We all liked this wine, but thought that it would be even better if we decanted, so Ken did so and we went back to it later. After an hour or so decanting, this wine was much better. It had opened up and the powerful impression of dried fruit was gone, as were the peppers, showing a sweet nose with strawberries and more strawberries in the mouth. I would venture to guess you should age this one and it will be an excellent wine in a few years. Looks like the winery is sold out, but it goes for $50 and has 14% alcohol by volume.

Fourth bottle of the evening found us drinking a 2004 EOS Reserve Petite Sirah from Paso Robles. I love Petite Sirah, so I may be biased, but this was my favorite wine of the evening. The wine does not appear on the website, but the 2003 vintage does, which was also a big award winner and goes for $25 a bottle. If that’s the price of the 2004, I say run and get some. On the nose was an enticing aroma of raspberries, plums and pipe tobacco. In the mouth, gobs of raspberries, strawberry jam and a bit of blackberry, plus a note of the tobacco from the nose. The finish was long and very pleasant, overall this was just a lovely wine.

Finally we tried what would be my first ice wine and my first Fingerlakes wine, a 2005 Casa Larga Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Ice Wine. It appears to cost $25/375 ml and was 11.5% alcohol by volume with 17% residual sugar. I can’t find a website for the winery. On the nose there was peach, honey, apricots, with honey, mandarin oranges (yes, like the ones in the can), pear and green apple to be found in the mouth. The wine was tart, not cloying or palate coating at all. It was well balanced with excellent structure. It really was a dessert in and of itself. I may now be spoiled to all other dessert wines but ice wine.

Tag! I’m It!

I was tagged by Farley of Wine Outlook the other day to participate in my first meme. Farley in turn was tagged by Winehiker, which leads back to this tree showing who tagged whom and where the meme has been. The question at hand is: Why do I blog? From checking around, it appears the popular format is to answer in a list of 5 reasons. Why 5? Color me clueless, but I’ll play along!

Why do I blog?

1.) A long time wino: I spent the first part of my 21st birthday celebration(or maybe the second, give me a break, it was my 21st birthday and the night is a bit foggy) with my best college girlfriends, Lindsay, Mer, Sarah(who shares my exact birthday and thus was my only 21-year-old buddy at the time as we were quite a bit older than our classmates) and Sonja, drinking flights of wine at Zins, a wine bar in our sleeply little college town. It was more an indication of our habits at the time than a harbringer of things to come, but it became the official place for our little group to begin our 21st birthday celebrations and served at the time as a great place to try lots of different wines and my first experiences in an “official” tasting setting. From my college beginnings I’ve only grown to love wine more and the blog is an extension of that love.

2.) A trip to Sonoma: By a set of circumstances mostly beyond my control, Matt and I had to rearrange honeymoon plans that were initially set to take us to Ireland and Scotland. For practical travel reasons we ended up looking to North America for our honeymoon and set our sites on the Northern West Coast: Vancouver, Seattle and Sonoma. I had always wanted to visit wine country and our honeymoon suddenly presented the perfect opportunity. I already loved wine and had by that time instilled a taste for wine in Matt, so off we went. We visited 26 wineries. We talked to many winemakers. We toured barrel rooms and vineyard facilities. I was more and more intrigued by wine, the process of making it and the people behind it. I use the blog to learn more about all those aspects of wine and others.

3.) Abject boredom (we’re being honest here, right?): During long periods of crushing boredom at my new job when they first hired me and then cut my entire department within days of me arriving, yet kept me on and simply shuffled me into a corner for a few months, I had very little (read:absolutely nothing) to do. And I discovered wine blogs, Wine Blog Watch and a wealth of wine information on the internet. As I explored these blogs, I realized that I drank just as much, if not more, wine than some of the authors, and I was drinking a lot of wines that I didn’t see reviewed anywhere. I may not be terribly computer savvy, but I figured I had something to add to the wine conversation, and thus Wannabe Wino was born.

4.) Continuing education: I keep blogging for several reasons, one of which is that I truly believe wine to be a subject I will never stop learning about. The next new wine region is always popping up, there are new values to be found and varietals to explore. The blog helps me keep track of where I’ve been with wine and where I’m going. Even in the short 6ish months that I’ve been keeping Wannabe Wino as a record, I can already see how far I’ve come in developing a palate and in my general knowledge about wine.

5.) Wine bloggers and wine blog readers rock: I still marvel at the fact that anyone reads what I write. Really, I do. And that so many people leave comments on things and indulge my seemingly never-ending stream of questions about how you drink wine, what I should drink with a certain dinner, where I should go in Sonoma, etc. Plus, everyone I’ve interacted with is so willing to share their knowledge or their time (we so wished we could have connected with Russ for a hike!) or even their wine. Just on this recent Sonoma trip, I had dinner with Farley who was so friendly and even brought us wine and Ken and his wife opened their home to Matt and I and had us over for a delightful evening of wine tasting. Not to mention the many recommendations I’ve gotten for wines that turn out to be great, recipes that are fabulous (have you checked David or Leah’s blogs for recipes lately??) fun contests to enter, such as El Jefe’s, vineyards to visit (thanks Tim, John and others!) or even wine shops to visit when I leave my own area (thanks Dr.Debs!). So I keep writing because people read, I’ve met some great folks, hope to meet many more in the future and I simply enjoy the culture that exists among this population.

Okay, that turned out longer than I anticipated. But now I get to tag people to tell us why they blog.

David of Cooking Chat
Sarah of August and Everything After (Best wishes to her too, as my newest engaged friend!)
Rob of 365 Corks
Huevos Con Vino
Joe of Joe’s Wine

Tag! You’re it!

Meeting Farley

Now, I know all of you who haven’t yet had the absolute pleasure of meeting Farley of Wine Outlook will be jealous, but Matt and I got to have dinner with her during our Sonoma area trip. At first it was a little hard to pin down a place…Farley’s not too familiar with the area that was half-way between our Inn and her winery and clearly I was lost as anything trying to find something. I finally settled on Novato, a little over an hour for each of us and a brewery called Moylans.

I think it turned out to be a decent choice, Matt and I arrived a bit early as the night before we had hit some brutal traffic driving in the same direction, but that gave me some time to flesh out the meager notes I had made during our whirlwind tastings during the day.

We were seated relatively quickly at a nice big table and soon had, gasp!, beers in front of us. Though we did talk blogs and wine quite a bit!

In any case, Farley was just as cute as could be and has the most darling Southern accent. She was also incredibly sweet and easy to talk to. We chatted all evening about wine, her moving to CA, how I manage to read and post on so many blogs every day, how awful Uhaul can be, etc. She even brought Matt and I some housewarming wine, including the famous Fogarty Gewurztraminer she is always raving about! I can’t wait to try it in our very own Thomas Fogarty wine glasses! We had a lovely dinner and I was sad when I realized it was after 9 and we should probably wrap it up as we had fairly long drives ahead of us. It was just great to meet one of the people behind a blog I read all the time and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future.

Stay tuned for a post about the lovely evening we spent with Ken of Ala Wine and his wife.

Just a quick update!

It’s been a busy few days here what with traveling and all, but fear not, I have been drinking lots of wine and enjoying the break from work.

I have many great things to tell you about, including a wonderful visit for tasting with Ken of Ala Wine and his lovely wife.

Tonight we are heading to meet Farley of Wine Outlook for dinner. It’s been great to actually meet the people behind the blogs!

We’ve already been to Seghesio and will be heading to several other vineyards today.

Not to mention a stellar $6.95 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that I found at Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena, on the recommendation of Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20.

So stay tuned for some great reviews and hopefully beautiful pictures from the vineyards. It’s a gorgeous day in the Sonoma area and we are certainly ready to taste after the delicious breakfast here at the Vintage Towers.

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