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It’s Just So…Easy!: 2008 Hugel & Fils- Gentil “Hugel”

I cannot begin to praise the wines from the Alsace region enough. After a long, hectic day, I opened a bottle of Hugle & Fils Gentil “Hugel”. It is a lovely blend of the white grapes grown there: Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Sylvaner, and it is like the warm, gentle hug you need after a trying day. Spiced pear and honey on the nose; fresh and crisp on the palate with a zinger of lemon zest and minerality. It’s light, it’s refreshing, and much like Lionel Richie and the Commodores, it’s ‘Easy.’ It would be so perfect with sushi, or any type of shellfish, but tonight, it’s just perfect company as I unwind from the day.

If you are not familiar with the Alsace region of France and their wines (and I was guilty of the same until just recently) you need to be. Let me repeat, you NEED to make yourself familiar with them. Some of the greatest jewels of the wine world are buried there, and you won’t have to pay a king’s ransom to enjoy them. Even if you’re not a white wine fan (and I have been a confirmed red drinker for YEARS), you will not be able to put your glass down.

Which reminds me…it’s time for me to pick up my glass again and enjoy…cheers!

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Roses, The Perfect Summertime ‘Flower’: 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec

After a long, productive, and exciting week of wine education, I arrived home just in time for the weekend with so many thoughts and ideas pouring through my mind that I knew there was only one thing I could do…

…and that was to set it all aside and relax with a little BBQ.

I arrived at our friends’ home armed with a few bottles of 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose Malbec out of the Mendoza region of Argentina. As I opened the bottle and asked who would like a glass, I was met with resistance on all sides.

The men assured me they would never in a million years drink, let alone enjoy, a ‘pink chick drink.’ The women of the group objected with a resounding, ‘we don’t like those heavy, dry, red wines.’ I simply smiled, poured a mouthful into a glass for each of them and said, ‘You don’t like this type of wine? Prove it.’

Both men and women peered into their glasses, suspiciously eyeing the deep rose color/faded red color, and caught the scent of fresh strawberries and mild spice on the nose. Then came the moment of truth, the sip of strawberries and bright cherries mixing with that same subtle spice. Not too dry, not too sweet…balanced and refreshing. Not some thin, fruity little beverage. Not a heavyweight that bullies your tongue into submission. Just a perfectly wonderful companion in a glass.

The women smiled and said, ‘hey this is pretty good.’ The men, shocked, and trying to maintain their manly composure quietly commented that it wasn’t what they expected…while pouring more into their glasses.

Once I knew I had their interest, it was time to hook them.

I encouraged them to take a bite of the smoked brisket followed by a sip of the Rose. The men’s faces lit up with a smile; the women took a second helping. Then I encouraged them to take a sip along with a bite of the ham for a completely different experience. More smiles appeared, along with plates full of bbq and glasses being filled with the Crios.

By the end of the evening, three bottles had been emptied, all parties were asking for more and leaving the other bottles of wine untouched, and all wanted to know how difficult it would be to find it.

That’s what makes this wine even more special. The 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec is available pretty much everywhere, and you can find it between $10-13.

This is such a perfect number for the summer…it lends itself so well to summer fare of bbq, grilled chicken, salmon…as well as being an easy chilled sipper on the boat or on the back deck with friends.

With the hectic pace we find ourselves in so often, sometimes it’s good to literally ‘take time to smell the Roses.’ And in this particular case, to sip them often as well.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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Countdown to Canforrales!: a Candid Interview with Bodegas Canforrales Senior Winemaker, Jose Hidalgo

Waiting for something new, exciting, vibrant, and fun! The wait is almost over! I had the good fortune of meeting with Van Potts of Preston-Layne & Partners, Ashley Olbrys of Magnum Wines International, and Senior Winemaker, Jose Hidalgo of Bodegas Canforralles near Madrid, Spain. This Tempranillo will be introduced to the U.S. in the VERY near future. Check out the video interview, then be on the lookout for more info regarding the Official Release Party here at CorkedCowgirl.com or on my Facebook page and Twiiter account!

Thanks to Robust Wine Bar in St. Louis for hosting the tasting event!

~CC

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The California “Love Child” of Bordeaux and Piedmont: 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Winery

Ever have one of those days that was so dreadful even Murphy’s Law wouldn’t get near it?  Where you had the Midas Touch, except things didn’t turn to gold, it turned to…well, you get the idea.

Today was one of those amazing days.  I’m not sure which stung more: the arm covered in blisters from stinging nettle, or the 8 year old explaining that I look like one of the Angry Birds when I’m scolding her.

I know I’m probably showing my age here (for you young little darlings, you’ll have to Google this), but today has been a day where, if I had Calgon, I would throw the whole damn box into the tub and scream at it to not only take me away, but to make it one way, and lose the passport afterward.

Sadly…I have no Calgon.

But I do have something better.

I have France and Italy uncorked.  I have California Dreamin’ in my hands…

…I have the 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Vineyards in my glass.

I’ll admit it, I had no idea what this wine was about.  I’ll even confess, I had not heard of this winery before (I live with an 8 year old that shames me, cut me some slack).  But with the stress and humiliation I have endured the past few days, those two magical words caught my eye: Valeriano and Jacuzzi.

I figured Valeriano should maybe be the Italian name for Valerian, an herbal relaxant, and we all know what a Jacuzzi is.  I know, it’s not terribly intellectual, but in my overworked mind, it equaled a stress-free nirvana in a bottle.  I took the bait.

It turns out that Valeriano is the first name of Valeriano Jacuzzi, the man responsible for the much coveted Jacuzzi tub.  He and his family also grew wine, and did it well…Valeriano is the Grandfather of Fred Cline of the highly regarded Cline Cellars.  They actually run Jacuzzi Winery in the Carneros area of Sonoma and make this red beauty.  All in all, with all of this new found information, I figure things were looking good where this wine was concerned.

‘Valeriano’ takes the best of Bordeaux by using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot grapes, then adds that renowned California ‘creativity’ by blending it with the Italian grape Barbera.  The ‘love child’ produced is truly spectacular!

In the glass, deep ruby with a mix of dark cherry, blackberry, basil, cocoa, and what I refer to as ‘dusty soil’ (which I find pretty typical of Italian wines) on the nose.

The taste is enough to make me do a little happy dance.  Blackberry pie and cherry fruits mix with mocha, spice, and even a little black olive on the finish.  I know, it’s not something you’d whip together in the kitchen, but trust me, IT WORKS!  It has enough tannin to give die-hard red fans something to hang on to, but they are smooth and soft on the tongue to appease those that like a lighter red.  Just a great mouth feel…and a great taste…on a great deal of a wine.

Now when I say great deal, it is not one of my ‘Around the Wine World for Under $20′ finds.  This one you’ll find around $35-40, so it’s not what I would call an everyday wine.  But given the great expense of California Cabernets, Bordeaux, and the finer wines of Piedmont, this is a steal!  You don’t find a wine of this quality at a bargain like this every day.

Pair it up with Italian (that’s a no-brainer), a big ol’ steak, brisket (BBQ season is upon us), pulled pork, venison, and, if you’re a heathen like me, the biggest bacon and blue cheese burger you can wrap your hands around.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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Sweet and Sassy in a Glass: 2011 Frisk Prickly Riesling

With the studying portion of my wine adventures finally done (for now at least), I can get back to the really IMPORTANT part of wine education…THE DRINKING! I can not begin to tell you how happy I am to be back to the glass after a very long sabbatical. I’m feeling refreshed and rowdy…which reminds me very much of my latest find from Australia in my Around the Wine World for Under $20 tour.

I stumbled across the 2011 Frisk Prickly Riesling and was immediately taken by the name. I admit, it’s not necessarily the most orthodox way to pick a wine, but let’s face it, most frisky, prickly things are anything but boring, so I figured it should also apply to wine.

This is a low alcohol Riesling, at 9.8% alcohol, so I figured it was going to be a sweet one. Being that it’s from the cooler growing region of Victoria, Australia, I was hoping it would have enough acid in it to balance it out nicely so it wouldn’t taste like a big glass of sugar water. I was not disappointed…in fact, it came with a few VERY pleasant surprises.

This little darling is intoxicating perfume on the nose. Floral notes, green apple, pear. The scent alone takes you to springtime fields. The absolutely fun surprise for me was the ‘fizz’. As the name ‘Prickly’ implies, it’s slightly frizzante, and the gentle sparkle tickles the tongue before hitting you with a sassy BANG of flavor. Bright lemon and citrus with notes of exotic lychee march out first, delivering a delicate, almost mocato-like sweetness, but then the sweetness gives way to a hint of smoke and lovely structure and balance. It finishes dry, with a crisp acidity and minerality that is wonderfully refreshing.

This little number has something for everyone and is about as versatile as they come. This would pair up perfectly with both sweet and spicy dishes, as well as being insanely good on its own. I’m seeing this one as a MUST HAVE in my ‘summer sippers.’

This is a killer bargain too! Found it for under $11. Don’t walk, run to stock up on this one. You’ll find yourself reaching for it time and time again for nearly every occasion.

~CC

 
 

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Around the Wine World for $20 and Under: Welcome to Australia, Pt. 2

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to the wonderful world of Australian wine with some incredible white wines that are a STEAL when you consider the quality. St. Hallett Winery in the Barossa Valley has some of the most delicious and versatile whites I’ve tried at a value that won’t put a whooping on your wallet.

Their reds are every bit as amazing. Valentine’s Day will come every single time you pour one of these wonderful wines…I guarantee, ‘liquid love.’

The first red on the list is the ‘Gamekeeper’s Reserve’. As senior winemaker Stewart Blackwell informed me, ‘if you’re going to have a Poacher (wonderful white blend), then you NEED to have a gamekeeper.’ And trust me, you NEED this red on hand ALWAYS.

This is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, and a splash of Touriga Nacional, which is a traditional Portuguese variety. A color I like to refer to as ‘Lover Red’ splashes into the glass on the pour, with a slightly smoky, slightly cherry, and definitely rosy perfume on the nose. If you’re a fan of French wines, let me just say, this one is ‘Cote du Rhone on speed!’

Mouthwatering, juicy, strawberries and raspberries seduce the tongue with just a slight smoky taste on the finish. This one is a light one with very few tannins, so you don’t have to worry about that ‘sweater on the tongue’ feeling. Pinot Noir lovers will want to hug this sweetheart of a wine, and those that are shy about trying red wines will want to make this one their first. You could even chill this one like a rose and drink it during the summer months. Pair it up with a good bacon cheeseburger, roasted chicken, or even a steak. This is truly an every day wine! At $12.00, you’ll most DEFINITELY want to drink it every day!

Next on the list is the Gamekeeper’s Shiraz, made from 100% Shiraz grapes. This one sort of took me by surprise. Deep, inky, red color was pretty, but I took a whiff, and the only thing I could think of was that it smelled like a West Texas dust storm. There was a little hint of cocoa, but that dusty smell was a powerhouse. I was hesitant to take that sip, but when I did, GOOD GOD THAT’S GOT AWESOME FRUIT! I didn’t see it coming. It has the most amazing cherry, plum, and raspberry flavor with ribbons of smooth vanilla dancing in your mouth. This wine is like your Grandma’s homemade berry pie in liquid form. This may very well be my new favorite BBQ wine. The two together are most definitely soul mates. This wine could be paired with most anything, but I’m telling you right now, this is the wine to go to for burnt ends and short ribs. At $15.00, I’m going to be doing barbecuing a WHOLE lot more.

Finally, I jumped into the St Hallett Faith Shiraz, another wine made of 100% Shiraz grapes, but a whole different personality than the Gamekeeper’s Shiraz. Referred to by Stewart as a ‘young’ Shiraz (from 50 year old vines), it looks like a jewel in the glass with its purplish-garnet color.

I almost couldn’t take my nose out of the glass, it smelled like heaven. The most intoxicating aromas of cocoa and raspberry were almost hypnotic…yes, it’s THAT good…and the taste lives up to the reviews from your nose, with the most delicious cocoa streak running over a sea of raspberry and a cherry slide into the finish.

This wine would be perfect with pizza or pasta….in fact it would be GREAT on spaghetti night, but I say grab your favorite chocolate and indulge yourself. It’s okay, at $15.00 you can definitely pamper yourself.

Again, a big thank you to Stewart Blackwell for the delightful conversation and the most delicious introduction to the wines of St Hallett. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more…and at this value, you’ll be enjoying them for a long time to come as well.

Cheers!

CC

 

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Oh What A Difference A Day Makes: 2007 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

I love the fall and winter for one reason and one reason only….BOLD RED WINES. It is the ONLY reason I can think of to enjoy cold, blustery, frozen weather. A glass of that red, liquid jewel in my glass as I don enough clothing to overwhelm an eskimo and huddle next to the fireplace, pretending I’m off in some tropical locale.

Fortunately for me, Chile provides me with that exotic escape in the form of the Casillero del Diablo winery. It’s the ‘little mischievous brother’ winery owned by Concha y Toro, the powerhouse winery that puts out the top rated Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, but at a fraction of the price. This bottle ran me a whopping $9…how could I pass it up?

2007 was considered a historic year for the Carmenere grape, and quite frankly, I was feeling rather historic myself…or perhaps the proper word was ancient…the kids have been taking a toll on me lately, so I could’t wait to open up the bottle and sip my first ‘history lesson.’

For those of you who have no clue what Carmenere is, think of it as a grape that falls somewhere between a nice, silky Merlot and a big, bad Cabernet Sauvignon. All the rich flavor, but smoother tannins so you don’t get the dry mouth effect, but you also don’t have the thin ‘grape juice’ effect you sometimes get with the other two grapes. It was one of the original six grapes of Bordeaux, but the French pretty much chucked it, and, like the celebrated pawn stars of reality tv, the Chileans took it and turned it into treasure, making it the country’s rock star wine grape.

Okay, enough history, let’s taste it.

In the glass, this ‘devil’ is as dark and brooding as you’d expect. Dark, crimson red, looking almost black, much like the color of a Syrah/Shiraz.

On the nose, you get a whole care package of currants, dark plum, chocolate, spice, cigars, and bell pepper.

Knowing how much I love both Casillero del Diablo and Concha y Toro wines, I rushed in for the taste…

…I should have sauntered in slowly.

I was immediately overpowered by the bell peppers to the point where I nearly couldn’t finish the glass.

Now, before jumping to the conclusion that this was a bad wine, I had to remind myself that I gave the opened bottle NO time whatsoever to breathe. I’m an impatient, impetuous woman at times. I have needs, dammit, and I needed that glass of wine STAT. I decided maybe I just needed to give it a little time to adjust to its new home. After all, who wants to rush the charms of a Latin lover, right? So I decanted it and counted the hours until the next day.

And OH what a difference a day made!

Instead of the bell pepper, my tastebuds were greeted with flavors of plum, blackberry, and blueberry…maybe even a hit of cranberry on the initial sip. As it glided across my tongue, dark chocolate and spice took over. The finish serenaded me with hints of coffee, toffee, slivers of vanilla, and that smoky goodness of toasted American Oak.

Yes, that is what I was dreaming of…and it was most DEFINITELY worth the wait.

Casillero del Diablo/Concha y Toro never fails to titillate and seduce my palate. It’s why it’s been in my favorites list for so long.

All of the complexities, all of that amazing goodness, all in a bottle price around $10.

This 2007 Carmenere demands to be paired with steak and mushroom dishes, perhaps serve it with prime rib at your holiday gatherings. It can subdue it like a matador at a bullfight. Keep it handy always for those ‘fireplace’ kind of nights. At this price, you’ll wish winter would never end.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Carmenere, Chilean Wines, Red Wines

 

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