It’s House Time! We need Champagne!

In 2 hours we close on our house and sign our lives away to our mortgage. Regardless of that fact, we are very excited! We had the final walk-through yesterday and everything was as it should be. The keys will be ours at 3pm!

I know the first part of this has nothing to do with wine, but I wanted to share. The second part is asking you to recommend a Champagne for us to buy to celebrate! I don’t know much about Champagne, having stuck to mostly California Sparkling wine, but we really want to get a nice bottle of actual Champagne to celebrate becoming homeowners. I’m willing to spend up to about $100 to get a really tasty bottle, so what would you suggest? Any and all recommendations are welcome!

I apologize for my slow posting and slow response to comments, but I did think, and was correct in that thought, that things would slow down a bit here as we got to closing and moving. We take the first of many loads of our stuff over after the closing this afternoon!


A Lovely Personal Touch

On this visit to the Vintage Towers, waiting for us in our room was this bottle of wine with a nice note welcoming us back to the Inn. I appreciate small things like this immensely and thought it was a great touch, and not something that was offered on our last visit. The wine was a 2004 Sonoma County Chardonnay, bottled by Windsor Vineyards of Geyserville and Kenwood. It also had a label depicting the outside of the Vintage Towers.

14.2% alcohol, with a real cork closure, the wine was closer to the buttery oaky Chardonnay style than I would normally like at first, but on letting it sit a bit, most of that disappeared, though it is barrel fermented.

On the nose it was oaky, with vanilla and slight citrus. In the mouth I found lemons and oak, with good acidity that cut through the bit of buttery flavor, allowing the fruit to show through. I would describe it overall as creamy with a big mouthfeel. Perfectly quaffable as a nice touch to put in a room and I appreciated the gesture.

Cat House Cabernet

As I mentioned before, we happened to be sitting at the wine blending table with two men who own a vineyard. They are the only custom crush client of Nelson Family Vineyards at the moment and they are currently awaiting the bottling of their second custom crush, a 2006. They were kind enough to break out a bottle of their 2005 Trixie’s Cat House Cabernet, and while I’m not usually one for cutesy labels, I must admit, the play on words in this one makes me chuckle. The grapes are sourced from their vineyards, the vineyards at Miralago and are completely Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the glass the wine was a dark garnet color. Now, I know I don’t normally note color, but I do when it stands out, and this one struck me as a really pretty color. On the nose there were raisins with a little toasty oak and dark dried chaerries. Later, as the glass sat out, I could get hints of strawberries and bitter chocolate.

In the mouth it was fruity and smooth with raisins and red currents. The wine had an excellent balance to it, with tannins that seemed to suggest to me it could age for a while. I certainly enjoyed my glass (or two) as it aired over the course of an hour. This was the first custom crush wine I have had and I wish I could get a bottle or two, as I really liked it!

A Rose by Any Other Name

I almost missed the boat on this wine event, the Catavino Virtual Rose tasting, which Dr.Debs told me to write up the Preston Vin Gris I was twittering about the other night for. However, I had already reviewed that one and didn’t take any notes. But the weather is inspiring me to dig into my lighter wines, so another rose tonight. This one just arrived in a club shipment last week and only managed to make it into my Cellartracker on Sunday.

The wine is a 2006 Quivira Grenache Rose. It had a real cork closure and clocks in at 14.1% alcohol by volume, a lot stronger than I am used to in a Rose. Unfortunately, I can’t find a price for it anywhere and my packing slip is gone, but judging by the amount billed to my credit card and the cost of the other wines in the shipment, my educated guess is that it is no more than $16.

I served this with a beef stroganoff over wheat egg noodles. I think it would have paired better with the pasta and fresh tomato sauce I served the other night and the Syrah I drank with that would have been even better with this meal (that review will be up soon!).

The first notable thing about this Rose is the color. It’s very unusual, though I’m not sure my photo does it much justice. It’s almost an orangey-salmon color, and very lightly colored, you can see right through it when it’s in the glass.

On the nose there are crisp strawberries and the slightest hint of watermelon. Also, a spicy note that I can’t quite place. The alcohol is there a bit too, it’s not offensive and blows off quickly, but to me it was odd for that to be there on a Rose. In the mouth, this a tart and incredibly dry wine. Quite possibly the driest Rose I have ever had. The mouth is full of strawberries, but the strawberries are heavy. If the makes any sense at all. Overall, I liked this Rose, though I’ve had others made from different grapes that I’ve enjoyed more, most notably a Merlot based Rose from Wilson Winery.

Now, I probably have 3 or 4 other roses hanging around in my collection at the moment, all of which I’ve reviewed already. I don’t have any from locations other than California, so I hope to get to the wine shop before April 30 so I can do a full comparison. Thanks for hosting this Catavino!

A Gift from Farley

You know that we met Farley of Wine Outlook on trip to California. What you might not know is that she was absolutely darling and brought Matt and I wine as a house-warming present on account of our new home. In addition to the two bottles she brought that we took home with us, she also had this bottle of Thomas Fogarty 2002 Lexington Meritage that she had opened in the tasting room earlier that day. Hardy any was gone from the bottle and she brought the rest of it for Matt and I to enjoy that evening. And, we even got our very own Thomas Fogarty glasses to drink it out of. I don’t think I can thank Farley enough for her very thoughful and delicious gifts!

You should go get some. This was an absolutely delicious blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14.5% alcohol by volume with a real cork closure. The nose on the wine was incredibly complex. Layers of currants, blackberries, plums, a toasty note with cedar, spices also coming though. In the mouth this wine was tart and juicy, with raspberries, currants and blackberries.

Overall this wine was smooth and drinking incredibly well right now. Though, admittedly, that could have been due to the fact that it was open for at least 4 hours before we drank it since it had to travel an hour or more with Farley to the restaurant, then it sat for over two hours while we ate and chatted and then had to travel an hour back to our inn! I pictured serving it with the bacon-wrapped cornish hens I made earlier this year.

Thanks again Farley for sharing this incredibly tasty wine with us!

Meet Up Virginia: Piola Again

The Virginia Wine Club Meet-Up is having a gathering again at Piola in Rosslyn. April 30, from 5:30 pm on. Last time we all stayed for dinner and made a night out of it.

Matt and I are closing on our house that day, or else we’d be there for sure. I loved the last happy hour we had and it was great to see many new wine club members. Happy Hour runs from 4 pm through 7 pm and includes a variety of great (free!) appetizers. Last time we got pasta salad, pizza, various bruschettas, cheeses, crackers….lots of stuff and it was all tasty. You could pretty much make a meal on all the appetizers the restaurant provides. Also, their house red is pretty tasty and is half price by the glass during Happy Hour.

If you haven’t gone to a VA Wine Club event, I urge you to check it out. For the events I have attended, there’s been a great turn-out and each time it seems that more people come!

We’ll attempt to make it, but I can’t make any promises. I have no idea how long a house closing takes to be honest and I fear I am going to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off that day. (Who knew that you don’t find out the exact amount of your closing costs until the morning of your closing?? What a pain, it means I have to dash to the bank to get a certified check right before the closing.)

Revisiting Trentadue

We first happened upon Trentadue last summer. And I quite literally mean happened upon. Besides the idea that we wanted to go to the Bodega Bay Wine and Seafood Festival at least one day, we had no plans on our first trip to Sonoma. That would mainly be a result of the fact that in a few short months (May 2006-August 2006) I graduated from law school, studied for and took the bar, moved to the DC area and got married. All I wanted to do on our honeymoon was relax and have as little in the way of structure as possible. When we arrived in CA, we basically grabbed a map of the Russian River/Dry Creek/Alexander Valley area, listened to our innkeeper and headed out on our merry way. And one of those tops was Trentadue, where Matt fell in love with the Chocolate Amore Port. While eating a delicious breakfast of Dutch pancakes and fresh berries on this trip, our innkeeper was chatting with us and asking where we planned to go. I had a list this time, and one appointment to make, but all the places I wanted to get to didn’t open until 11. The innkeeper suggested Trentadue, and got Matt thinking that he wanted more Chocolate Port. So off we went.

Trentadue’s tasting room reminds of a Spanish villa from the outside, with the yellow stucco walls and the burnt red roof. The gardens were looking gorgeous with plenty of new flowers blooming and if it were a little later in the day I would have wanted to stop there and picnic at some of the tables. Inside is a decent sized tasting bar with a very friendly tasting room attendant who was modeling the newest in Trentadue merchandise. Upstairs is an art gallery and in the tasting room are many different special bottlings, Magnums, wine gifts sets, posters, etc.

Our server chatted away with us about houses and trying to buy a house and moving and all such things as she poured 6 regular offerings and 3 Port offerings off a special menu. Additionally, they offer a reserve menu, but the above was quite enough for us. The 6 regular offerings were all great values, with only one bottle breaching the $20 mark, and several under the $15 mark. Following is a run-down of what we tasted:

2005 Sauvignon Blanc- $14. Pear aromas with pear and citrus in the mouth. Light and crisp, perfect for summer and for the beautiful weather that day. We bought 2 bottles.

NV Grand Cuvee California Champagne- $12. A very light sparkler with the scent and flavor of green apples, good structure and lots of tiny bubbles. We brought home 3 bottles.

2004 Petite Sirah-$18. Blueberry cobbler and blackberries on the nose, and intense aroma. In the mouth it was lighter than I expected and I thought it needed to age.

2004 Sangiovese-$18. Raspberries and spice on the nose, currants and cherries in the mouth. Drinking well now, but could age longer.

2004 Old Patch Red-$14. Spicy, oaky and dark berries on the nose. Raspberries, dark fruit and spicy inthe mouth, I liked this blend a lot. We took home 1 bottle.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon-$22. Vanilla and blackberries on the nose, blackberries and currants in the mouth. I liked this one too.

Special port tasting:
2005 Viognier Port- 375mL $25. Peach, pear and spice on the nose, citrus and orange in the mouth. A little sweet for me, but Matt liked it.

2004 Petite Sirah Port-500mL $25. Blackberries, dark spicy and smooth in the mouth. I loved this one and picked up a bottle for my dad as he loves port. A small thank you for the help he’s giving us fixing up our house.

NV Chocolate Amore-375mL $25. A perennial favorite in our house. Chocolate and raspberries on the nose, more of the same in the mouth. This wine is infused with chocolate. A lot of fun and great for something different. We bought 2 bottles.

What’s in a Name?

I haven’t seen a lot of writing about this particular win some free wine contest, so I thought I’d bring it to the attention of anyone who might be interested.

Wine Weekly posted an article last week about a winery in Washington State that is running a contest to name their winery. The Winery is slated to open in 2008 and will be a part of the Woodinville Wine Village. According to a Seattle Times article, the wine village will be home to four wineries, shops, restaurants, hotels, condos, etc.

The idea behind the contest is that you submit your entry through the website of the Washington Wine Company, and if your name is chosen you win 2 cases of their wine every year for a decade. From what Wine Weekly says, you have until May 30 to submit your ideas for a name.

Other details seem to be scant, though it appears they make 3 red wines and currently have a few (virtual?) pictures of what the tasting room will look like when completed. Free wine seems like a good idea to me, and I always think it’s interesting to see how wineries create buzz about themselves among consumers, so I pass this along to all you creative geniuses out there in case you have a brilliant idea!

Winemaker, Winemaker Make Me a Wine!

While out in the Sonoma area we had the chance to play winemaker for a day at Nelson Family Vineyards. We are members of the Nelson Wine Club and several months ago, winemaker Chris Nelson had told me that this event was coming up. I knew we were planning to head to CA to visit my in-laws this spring, but wasn’t sure of the dates yet, so I tucked the information into the back of my head. Fast forward, and we start thinking more about going to visit the in-laws. I mention the event to Matt, as we had now received the official date and information and after a little haggling, convinced him we could combine the in-law visit with a trip up to Northern CA. And thus we arrived on Saturday at Nelson to make our own wine blend and enter in their Barn Blend competition, the idea being that they will then bottle the blend and sell it.

We were the first to arrive as I am not all that familiar with the area and wasn’t sure how long it would take us to get to Nelson, which is in Ukiah. Shortly after getting there, a dog bounded up to greet us and soon some of the Nelson family appeared, bearing wine and appetizers. While waiting for the event to begin, we were able to sample many of the current Nelson releases and chat with other club members. We discovered that we came from the furthest distance of anyone to be there this year. Standing outside the barn I tasted the 2006 Viognier, which in my quick notes is described as having pear, lemon and orange zest flavors, light and would make a nice apertif wine. I also tried the 2006 Orange Muscat, the 2005 was one of my favorites from Nelson last year, and as always, I found it to be very aromatic with honey and orange blossoms, but good structure to hold the sweet flavors in check.

On moving into the barn, we had lunch, which consisted of 6 or 7 different kinds of sausage, salad, curried rice…lots of good food. Mr. Nelson, father of Chris the winemaker, joined us at our table and I pestered him with a few questions about the vineyard. He told me that his father had moved the family to the farm in 1951. They have been growing grapes for 56 years, but only started selling their own wine in 2003.
After lunch, we got to play winemaker! The Nelsons had set out 4 small barrels of wine for us to draw from, a Zinfandel, a Merlot and 2 Cabernets. You were paired with your table to create a blend, the rules being that it had to have at least 3 of the varietals in it. My favorites from the barrels were the Zinfandel and the Merlot. I didn’t much take to the Cabernet 2, it had a sour barnyard note that just didn’t appeal to me. Our group made 5 or 6 different blends before settling on what we thought was a sure winner: 60% Zinfandel, 20% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. My notes on our blend say that I really liked the nose, it was fruit forward with berries and violets.

Sadly, we did not win. The blends that were the final contenders were very Cabernet heavy, and looking back, I guess the fact that there were 2 barrels of Cabernet out should have clued me into the fact that they were looking for a Cabernet heavy blend. Oh well, we had a lot of fun trying and talking with our tablemates. One of the sets of people we were sitting with turned out to be the only custom crush client of the winery and they opened a bottle of their wine, Trixie’s Cat House Cabernet, for us to try. Look for a post on that soon! Not to mention the man on the left was an alum of the college both Matt and I attended!

We were also given vanilla ice cream for dessert with their Ice Wine-style dessert wine poured all over it. I was full and only had a few bites, but Matt gladly ate my portion! We spent a few more minutes walking around the vineyards attempting to get a close-up of the interesting Guinea Fowl that inhabit the winery, but alas, they were camera-shy (or maybe it was the fact that Matt kept chasing them….). All in all a really fun event and I’m glad we attended.

Drinking the Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel

I picked this bottle up from Goudas and Vines in Montrose, California. I recognized it from the series that Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 has going on, her profiles of wineries from the Family Winemakers tasting she attended.

The bottle is 2004 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel from Amador County. It cost $19.95, had a real cork closure and was 14.9% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found cloves, black pepper, dark fruit and blackberries. In the mouth there were currants, black berries, black cherries and a black pepper kick. Overall, I would describe the flavor as juicy blackberries with a black pepper bite.

I served this with steaks topped with currant jelly zinfandel sauce over a bed of 3 cheese risotto. I offered to cook one of the evening we were out visiting the in-laws and Matt seems to think the steak/risotto dish is my specialty, if I don’t have a pizza stone to make pizza with. It was a nice match to the steaks, which I had rubbed with black pepper and salt before grilling them, so that probably contributed to bringing out the pepper note in the wine. As always, I like making the sauce out of whatever wine we will be drinking as the flavors complement each other nicely. Definitely a steak or bbq wine in my opinion!