Soft Tempranillo

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the PR folks representing this brand.

Tonight we pulled the 2006 Campo Viejo Crianza Tempranillo from the racks. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and I see it retails for about $9. I served this with leftover lamb pie and was desperately glad I did so. I found it a lot better with the lamb than without, but overall, I wasn’t a big fan.

On the nose I got herbs, spice, strawberry, blackberry, perfumed wood, oak, and cherry. I thought it smelled sweet. In the mouth I found soft berries, mostly blackberries, slight red edges, and soft tannins. The sweet note I found on the nose followed through in the mouth. It tasted candied. This wine just didn’t hold up for me. NMS.


Walla Walla Washington Wine

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from L’Ecole.

As some of you may know, this year’s North American Wine Blogger Conference is in Walla Walla, Washington. I’m still working out the details to see if it will be a possibility for me to attend this time, but in the meantime, I’m trying out some wines from Walla Walla, this month thanks to the folks at L’Ecole. I’ve only had a few Washington State wines, and even fewer from Walla Walla, so I’m happy to be able to expand my tasting a bit and bring you something different. First up is the 2007 L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Syrah.  The wine retails for $36, had a real cork closure, and clocked in at 14.8% alcohol by volume.

Big meaty pepper dark fruit wrapped in some smoke tinged with herbs. Yum. Meat, pepper, spice, black fruit, plums, blackberries, earth, and herbs showed on the nose for me. In the mouth plum and blackberry fought for attention with spice, pepper, leather, anise, earth, and some creamy notes rounding out the palate. At first this showed really tight for me and it needed a couple hours in the glass to really open up into juicy big fruits.

Busting into club shipments

We buy a lot of wine. No lie. I belong to 8 wine clubs. I buy wine regularly from local merchants and from internet sources as well as on our visits to local vineyards and our trips to Napa/Sonoma. In any given year I easily buy 20+ cases of wine which even if we were to exclusively consume those would be more than we could taste at home in one year. Wine is a major part of our lives. It has been since before I ever knew what a blog was and will continue to be in the future, with or without the wine blog.

One of the clubs we belong to is De La Montanya. We discovered De La Montanya on our very first trip to Sonoma nearly 4 years ago. We were out for a drive one afternoon, thinking we’d just enjoy the scenery for the day when we stumbled upon a tiny sign directing us to De La Montanya. While we weren’t looking for tasting rooms that afternoon, we couldn’t resist checking it out once we followed the signs to the small, well-hidden tasting room.  That day we attempted to join the wine club, as these weren’t wines we were going to find in any local shop back home. Much to our dismay, they had a waiting list as the club had no further capacity at the time. We signed up anyway, and indicated that they should simply add us when they could and start shipping the wine. Our first club shipment arrived about 3 months later and we were delighted to be members and have been enjoying the wines ever since. I even served all De La Montanya selections at Christmas last year after a fantastic shipping/discount offer that came in my fall club shipment. As we watch our wine overfill our racks at an alarming rate, I decided it was time to jump back in and start tasting them. We plucked the 2007 De la Montanya Viognier out of a previously unopened box. The wine had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.2% alcohol by volume, and I think it ran about $20 in the club shipment.

On the nose I found the wine to be very perfumey, like I expect from a Viognier. (I just had a Viognier tonight at Bistro Bis that simply smelled and tasted like fresh honey, and nothing else, not at all what I was anticipating and I was disappointed that it lacked the aroma and characteristics I expect from Viognier, a grape I’ve come to expect great things from.) This was not the case at all with the De La Montanya, thankfully.  I got white flowers, orange spice, honeysuckle, orange spice cake, and citrus. In the moth I found citrus, lemon, spice, orange, lemon zest, and honeysuckle. I enjoyed this Viognier quite a bit and intend to savor my second bottle this summer while sitting on my deck and soaking up the sun.

It’s that time of year again!

My annual spring trip to the Sonoma/Napa area!

We’ll be in town the week after Easter.

I’ve got a few things on my list of must sees for this trip, but have a lot of time open over 5 days for suggestions.

So tell me your favorite things to do and see, both wine related and not…we do enjoy spending some time on non-wine related pursuits on our annual trip.

Would love to hear what’s on your must do/see/visit list!

Sparkling Gruner Veltliner

As I march along in my goal of drinking more bubbly in 2010 (I’m kicking ass at this goal by the way!) I thought I’d bring you something totally different. Matt and I wandered over to the Curious Grape in Shirlington a few weeks ago for a tasting (sadly, we had trouble finding parking due to the snow and arrived a few minutes late and they had already started and wouldn’t let us join in) so we just grabbed a couple bottles of wine and ran. Like I’ve said before, I have trouble going into a wine shop and not buying something. It’s a good thing wine is consumable, otherwise I’d probably be on my way to being on that “Hoarders” tv show. What caught my eye this time was a sparkling Gruner Veltliner. I had to pick up this oddball and give it a shot! The NV Steininger Sparkling Gruner Veltliner clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, had a typical Champagne closure, and cost me $25.

On the nose I found lemon, stone, honey, cream, pineapple, wax, lychee, and white pepper. In the mouth, this wine struck me as very tropical. I got notes of lychee, white pepper (tons of white pepper), exotic spices, and a slight citrusy feel. I kept thinking I had a mouthful of Pop Rocks as I could hear the wine fizzing in my mouth as I drank it. I really enjoyed this sparkler, I would definitely get it again, especially to toss in at a sparkling tasting for something completely different.

Wine with Lamb Pie

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

A few years ago I was bored at work and roaming around the 3 pages on the internet I can actually get to. Back in the day, I had a job where no one talked to me for months on end and never gave me any work to do, even when I begged. Needless to say, it makes for a very long day when no one talks to you, you don’t have any work, and you can get to pretty much CNN, the NYT, and Google. Anywho, I was reading an article on the NYT about great classic cookbooks and one struck my fancy so I bought it from a used book store. We’ve been slowly making our way through the recipes in that book and settled on Hunter’s Pie for the other night. It’s a lamb based dish, and I thought a Cab would be a great match. Lucky for me I had a bottle of the 2006 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Cabernet Sauvignon just waiting for me to taste. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $59 a bottle from the winery.

I first had to note the color on the wine…it’s a beautifully dark and inky purple, impossible to see any light through this one.  On the nose I found earth, cedar, cherry, leather, plum, blackberry, herbs, spice, mint, and powdered chocolate. I often find myself lost in the aromas of the Cornerstone wines. In the mouth I got black cherry, blackberry, black fruit, plum, espresso, milk chocolate, almost a hint of raspberry. Of Cornerstone’s flagship wines, I find the Napa Valley Cab to be more approachable at a younger age, though it has miles to go before it rests.

Sun Kissed Peaches

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Rodney Strong.

I’m not a huge Chardonnay person. When I do like them, I tend to pick out the unoaked, stainless steel fermented ones. I’ve had just one to many chewing on a bunch of toothpicks covered in a stick of butter experiences to not be wary of oaked Chardonnay. However, a Chard where oak is used with restraint can be a thing of beauty and I love finding ones where the oak actually complements the juice rather overpowering it. That’s what I found in the 2007 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, a light use of oak that let the fruit shine through, but gave the wine some structure. The wine clocked in at 14.3% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and retails for around $16.

On the nose I found pear, apple, yellow apple, tropical notes, and peach. I loved the peach note. Have you ever picked peaches from the tree after they’ve been warming in the sun all afternoon? That’s what I smelled in this wine, sun kissed peach. In the mouth I got apple, pear, peach, spice, lemon edges, and a hint of apple pie a la mode. The fruit showed as crisp to me with just a touch of oak and good acidity. I served this with a creamy chicken casserole, which worked wonderfully.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Pasternak Imports.

I couldn’t resist. Pinocchio wine, long nose label. Yep. Cheap jokes, I love them. Several months ago the folks from Pasternak Imports sent a 6 pack of value wines to me and a bunch of other bloggers. However, when I was sick it was weeks where I wasn’t drinking wine and I got a bit backed up on my wine tasting, so I’m just getting around to some wines that have been chilling in the basement for a while. I plucked the 2008 Dievole Pinocchio Nero D’Avola from the sample bin the other night to go with an eye of the round roast. It clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, had a plasticl cork closure, and retails for about $10.

On the nose I found sweet raspberries, plums, sweet cherry, rhubarb, some spice, and herbs. It smelled quite a bit like strawberry rhubarb pie without the strawberries. In the mouth I got black raspberry, cherry, black cherry, strawberry, and a little spice. I found it to be jammy and smooth, I wish it had just a bit more acidity and tannic structure to it.

Exploring New Grapes

I’m making slow but steady strides toward our new goal of tasting 200 different grapes. I think this makes grape 103.  It took quite some time to reach 100 grapes, so I imagine it will be at least another 2 full years to make 200, but it should be a fun journey given the relative obscurity of the grapes left. I picked up this bottle of 2008 Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris at the Curious Grape. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14% alcohol by volume, and I thought I paid around $11, but I see it online for about $9.

On first whiff the wine smelled of alcohol. Yes, I realize wine is alcohol, but I don’t like when my wine smells like alcohol. Otherwise I found pineapple, citrus, white flowers, lime, lemon, and spice. After the alcohol smell blew off, this was a very aromatic wine. In the mouth I got citrus, lemon, pineapple, lime, and flowers. I found it to be lighter than a Sauvignon Blanc and crisp, but it was a touch on the alcoholic side.

Pretending it’s Spring

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

Despite nearly all evidence to the contrary at the moment, spring is coming. Yes, I realize we currently have about 40 inches of snow on the ground, but it will melt. Eventually. And before it all fell I saw my Irises and Daffodils coming up! Poor flowers. I’m ignoring all the snow in my yard and drinking white wines. It helps to get me in a spring frame of mind. Or perhaps I’m just delusional, it could really go either way. We popped open the 2007 Martin Codax Albariño the other night. The wine had a plastic cork, clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, and I see it available online for as low as $10.

On the nose I found sweet peach, apricot, pear, honey, apple, lemon, and other citrus. I also got an overall “tropical” sense from the wine.  In the mouth I found the citrus to be more pronounced along with the apple. Pear, peach, and a little spice rounded out the palate. I thought the wine was crisp and refreshing, but definitely one to be served very chilly.