Affordable Wine at a Restaurant

When I go to a restaurant and want wine, I pretty much expect to get ripped off. Really. I often go in and see crappy bottles of wines on lists that I KNOW sell for $6-10 going for $30-$50. So I’m always pleased when I see something on a wine list for a price that isn’t out of this world high. We went to dinner at Bilbo Baggins Green Dragon Pub in Alexandria, VA the other night and I saw a table card announcing a partnership with the Wine House in Fairfax to bring 2 wines from Lil Rippa at a reasonable price to the restaurant–the Sauvignon Blanc for $15 a bottle and the Pinot Noir for $18. We chose the 2008 Lil Rippa Sauvignon Blanc which had a screw cap closure and clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume.

The bottle tells me it comes from Marlborough, New Zealand and is produced by Shoestring Wines.  Apparently Lil Rippa is a joint effort of two families to produce affordable wines. I see from a little research that one of the families is the Pearces, who own the Wine House. I don’t know what the wine retails for outside of restaurants, but it was certainly excellent for a $15 wine off  restaurant list!

On the nose I got lime, grapefruit, citrus, grass, and lemon. It smelled tart. In the mouth I got grapefruit, citrus, hay, grass, lemon, and green apple. While I found it tart, it wasn’t nearly as sharp and acidic as some Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, which I know some folks complain about!




Built on the Cornerstone

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Cornerstone Cellars.

Ah Cornerstone, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. One, your wines are delicious. Two, your Cabernets are elegant and refined. Three, your wines are delicious….wait, I already said that…but t deserves to be said again. I do need to write a post about visiting Cornerstone’s new tasting room this past summer, but for the moment you’ll have be content drooling over this lovely wine I drank the other night. After I finally felt better and had given my palate a couple extra days to recover, we popped open the 2005 Cornerstone Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t think it has been officially released yet, but it will likely retail for $100, clocks in at 14.8% alcohol by volume, and had a real cork closure.

The nose, ah the nose. You know those wines where you want to dive in and go swimming in your glass? This is one of those. Except I don’t really want to swim in it, I want to drink it…and drink it, and drink it. I got chocolate, caramel, more chocolate, chocolate black cherries, dark expensive chocolate, spice, herbs, black currants, earth, and almost a scent of pine needles. My notes say “scrumptious nose.” In the mouth I got chocolate, currants, blackberries, chocolate covered cherries (but fresh cherries, not those gross candied ones), earth, leather, and dark juicy fruit. I found the wine to be silky. I served this with petite fillet mignon right off the grill, and the tannins and structure of this wine thanked me for giving it a nice juicy steak. You should grill a steak and get a bottle of this wine….but hold the wine for 5+ years…I suggest you wait to buy the steak til then too.

WBW #63-Find Your Wine Muse

Oh dear, this month WBW really crept up on me. If you don’t follow me on Twitter (and WHY don’t you follow me?) you may not have seen that I’ve been pretty sick and even had to cancel the trip to Portugal that I was so looking forward to.  I’ve only been tasting wine again for a couple of days and here it is WBW. I’m generally always up for a challenge and a challenge is what my friend Rob, of RB Wine Post, our WBW host, set us to this month.

Rob asks us to find our wine muse. He set us to the task of going to a wine we know well and have had many times or a wine from a wine shop that we’ve been meaning to try. Additionally, he wanted us to time how long we enjoyed the wine and then spend that many hours writing our post on the wine and to edit and find something we might not know about the wine. AND (man, he’s a demanding task master) he wanted us to give our writing some flare. I’m not sure he’s talking about flair in the adding bright colors or shiny objects sense either, though I could easily do that…I even have a pretty picture of a butterfly I recently took that I could distract you with….Thea, look, butterfly! You can read ALL the details over at Rob’s WBW post.

The easy part: I popped my bottle of wine open at exactly 7:42 and enjoyed the very last sip out of my glass at 10:37. Two hours 55 minutes. Rob is going to have to excuse me, but I don’t have 5 hours and 50 minutes to write this post. I can show you a doctor’s note….cut me some slack, we’re lucky I’m even sitting here writing now as I was out of work for over 2 weeks! However, I did spend much more time on this post than I usually do, so that should count for something.

I also need some slack on the wine I chose. It’s a wine I’ve been wanting to try for a long time…but it didn’t come from a wine shop, it came from my own cellar. I had the plague, no one wanted me in a wine shop. And it also isn’t a wine I’m all the familiar with, in fact, I’d never had it before, not even a taste. But I really really really wanted to try it, so does that count? I’m a big fan of Bill Wertzberger’s wines. He makes a Grenache that is to.die.for. Because I like his wines so much, I am willing to buy them untasted…which says a lot…outside of my club shipments I rarely, rarely buy a wine without tasting it first. I picked the 2006 Wertzberger Syrah from the McDowell Valley Vineyard’s Y Block. I think paid about $25ish for this, though I see it’s retailing for $30 on Bill’s website.

Something I didn’t know about the wines: Bill paints all his own labels. How cool is that?

The production on this wine is extremely low…the back label says 24 cases, though the website says 50 cases. Either way, it’s handcrafted by Bill and you can pretty much only find it on his website.

I’ve thought for some time now on how to make this different than my normal review, to add ‘flare.” And I finally came to the conclusion that I would borrow from an ancient 😉 WBW #42-from Spittoon, Just Seven Words.

Liquid velvet cherries sprinkled with crushed violets.

Thanks to Rob for hosting and as always a virtual tip of the hat to Lenn, our founder.

Expect a full review of this wine in the next week or so.

Back on the Wine Train

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample in order to participate in the online Wines of Chile Carmenere Tasting.

As you may or may not know from my Twitter feed, I’ve been pretty sick the last few weeks. I hadn’t tasted any wine in weeks, so I was excited that I felt well enough to participate at least partially in the extremely cool online video Wines of Chile tasting. Although I only felt up to tasting two of the bottles that night. I chose the 2007 Viu Manent Reserva Carmenere as one of my two. The wine had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $14.

On the nose I got green pepper, florals,
black pepper, black plum, black currants, brambly fruit, leather, herb cabinet, and spice. In the mouth I found green pepper, pepper, spice, then my notes say “holy pepper!”, black fruit, blackberries. Overall I thought the wine seemed pretty tight at first and then juicier later in the evening when I went back to taste.

Visiting Corison Winery

IMG_2293Ages ago after I wrote a piece about the appellation St. Helena tasting I attended last year, I received an email from Cathy Corison. One of her wines was among the offerings at the media tasting that day and she offered to have me stop by her winery on my next visit to CA. Due to very conflicting schedules I missed out on visiting her on my next two CA trips, but was finally able to catch up with her on my final day in Napa after the 2009 Wine Blogger Conference.


My friend Loweeel is a HUGE Corison fan (though he bemoans the fact that the Petite Sirah vines were removed from the property), so I’d heard much about the wines, but had only tasted the one Cabernet Sauvignon involved in the St. Helena media tasting. Thea, Ashley, & I arrived at Corison in the midst of bottling day, wow, what a busy place! And Cathy took time out of the madness to give us a tour of the facility and taste some wines with us.


Cathy has been bottling wine under her own name for 24 years. She makes 2 Cabernet Sauvignons, a Gewurztraminer, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé for fun. Her winery sits on 8 acres of vineyards representing some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Napa Valley at between 36-37 years old.  This is the Kronos vineyard where the extremely small lot Kronos Cabernet comes from. The grapes for the rest of her wines are sourced from various vineyards Cathy had become familiar with over her years in Northern California. Cathy held the position of winemaker at several well-known Napa wineries from pretty much the day she left college and has been in the business in area for over 30 years now.


2006 Corazón Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley: Spice, white pepper, lime, orange blossom, lychee, citrus.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé: Strawberry, lime, currants, dry, floral, bright red fruit, bone dry.

(The really fun part…a vertical of Kronos Cab!)

1996 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: Amazing nose, currant, blackberry, strawberry, herbs black cherry, red cherries, plums, raspberries, gorgeous structure and acidity.

1997 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: Raspberry cream, chocolate spice, tarts, leather, spice, cedar, raspberries, little black fruit, blueberry, violets, rose petals.

1998 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: A little funk, saddle leather, raspberry, spice, cream, anise, tannic, more blackberry, darker.

My favorite of these was the 1997, but they all seemed still so young with so much life left in them. I would love to go back and taste the 1997 in another 5 years or so.

2004 Kronos Cabernet Sauvingon: Pomegranate, red fruit, cranberry, red cherry, bright red fruit, spice, red berries, cinnamon, plums, little brown sugar.

2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Mint, eucalyptus, spice, spicy berries, red fruit, cinnamon, peppermint, pepper, blueberry, more fruit forward, tannins.


Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to Corison. The wines are pricey, but if you have the patience and a love of Cabernet Sauvignon, they are well worth your time and dollars to lay down in your cellar. Not to mention, go meet Cathy Corison…who after being up and running around the winery all day for bottling seemed to me to possess enough energy to go run a marathon. Plus, talk about someone with a passion for what she does!

Los Alamos

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Gallo Family Wines.

After giving you a little break from all things Argentina (seeing as how I reviewed about 24 Argentinian wines in a row during the Twitter Taste Live Wines of Argentina events….) I am back in an Argentinian kind of mood!  Tonight we opened the 2008 Alamos Torrontes. It had a Diam closure, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for under $9.  (I like that price point!)

On the nose I found white flowers, tropical spices, honeysuckle, apricot, pineapple, and lemon. Typical of many Torrontes the nose was very aromatic.  In the mouth I got spice, citrus, lemon tart, sweet tarts, and some tropical notes. I thought that at $9 this showed all the hallmarks of a solid Torrontes.


Pinot Grigio

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Gallo Family Wines

I don’t drink much Pinot Grigio, if any. I bet I’ve reviewed less than 5 bottles of it since I started the wine blog 3 years ago. I tend to make the association between it and putting ice cubes in your wine to sip by the pool. That’s certainly not a fair assessment, but a lot of what I’ve had over the years is boring and flat.  Tonight we tried the 2007 Maso Canali Pinot Grigio from Italy. It clocks in at 13% alcohol by volume and retails for around $16. Matt opened the bottle and I forgot to ask him what kind of closure it had.

On the nose I found lemon, spice, and melon. It had a very faint nose. In the mouth I got lemon, tropical notes, melon, and citrus. Overall it was smooth and refreshing, very easy to drink.


Down these fine Halls

Tasting Room Ceiling!

I must admit, I am EXTREMELY late in finishing up my last few posts from my trip in Napa after the Wine Blogger Conference.  On our last very very busy day in Napa, Thea, Ashley, and I had signed up to attend a blogger event at Hall Winery. Now, I’ve written about some of the Hall Wines in the past, you can read those posts here and here. I really enjoyed the wines and couldn’t wait to visit the winery to taste the other offerings. After an extremely restful night at the Napa Valley Marriott (which by the way, I loved, but that’s for another post) we headed out bright and early to Hall.

We arrived first and explored the tasting room and started the day with a taste of the 2008 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Wine at 9am? Sure!

2008 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Citrus, melon, tropical notes, grapefruit, white pepper, lemon, tart crisp, lemon grass, orange zest, nice structure and acidity.

The remainder of the bloggers arrived via shuttle and we were off for a tour of the winery. We climbed up on the catwalk, went into the barrel rooms….omg, SO many barrels and learned all about how Hall makes wines.  Hall Winery recently became the first Gold LEED certified winery in CA and are making progress toward achieving organic certification. I liked that most of the winery is covered in solar panels, supplying about 35% of the winery’s energy needs.

After touring the facility, we headed to the vineyards that surround the Hall home in Rutherford. The vineyard manager walked us through the wines and talked to us about owl boxes, pruning, decisions on when to pick, and pretty much anything we wanted to ask about the vineyard practices.

We settled in for a wonderful lunch, of which I will leave you with pictures, and a tasting of two more Hall wines.







2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherry milk chocolate, roses, perfume, black currants, spice, earth, cocoa powder, espresso notes, pepper, spice, and dark fruit.

2006 Hall Napa River Ranch Merlot: Bright plum, spice, herbs, some red berries, pepper, tannins, anise, soft plum fruit, pepper, dark chocolate, red berry edges.

Following lunch, we descended into the wine caves where we were joined by

Ambassador Hall

Ambassador Hall as we played winemaker in a blending experiment. Ambassador Hall impressed me. She was really interested in us, and seemed to have done her homework on who we were, our blogs, and our backgrounds. In a previous career, Ambassador Hall was an attorney, so she spoke at some length with Amy and me about our work, and also talked to the group about being raised in a California wine family and the work she does with charitable organizations in Napa.



Although we took our leave before the end of the blending, I came away fully impressed with Hall Winery and I hope to visit again when they have completed the restoration of the original Bergfeld building on the Winery property. Also, the art all over the winery was extremely cool…the Hall’s are avid patrons of the arts and everywhere from the caves to the tasting room you could find unique and interesting pieces!


Wannabe Wino Turns 3!

1096 days old. 1076 posts in that time.

I’m prolific, if nothing else.

In the last year I attended the second annual Wine Blogger Conference, made another yearly trek to Northern CA in addition to the conference, and tasted a heck of a lot of wine.

I’ve made a lot of friends, for whom I’m very thankful. They make me feel less like a wino and more “normal.”

In the 3rd year of ye olde wine blog, look for my upcoming trip to Portugal (hopefully being rescheduled for January), updates on my wine making adventures with Thea, Amy, and others, and more wine than you can shake two sticks at.

My wine blog is a labor of love, and I appreciate each and every one of you who continues to read and comment and encourage me. It’s been a funtastic 3 years and I look forward to many more.

Today is November 11.

Not November 18. I thought today was WBW. I spent the last 4 hours or so writing my WBW post, posted it, and then realized I was a week early. I have completely and totally lost track of time since I’ve been sick.

Today is Veterans’ Day. Go hug your nearest Veteran. I’d hug my dad, but he’s 400 miles away.