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Grape Discrimination: “I don’t like that type because…”

It happens without fail that, at least once a month, I run into it at a tasting event.  Heck, I’ve even done it myself in the past.  But in the past month alone (TWICE just yesterday), I’ve come across the “I don’t like (insert Cab Sauv, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc here) because it’s too (insert ONE descriptor here…”too fruity, too thin, too buttery”, etc).  And typically I just hide gritted teeth behind a thin smile and say, “Really?  How unfortunate.  Have you tried every single wine made with that same grape?”, knowing that the cynicism has just passed unnoticed by them, much like the complexity of the wine they were currently tasting has passed unnoticed by their tastebuds as they guzzle whatever free pour has been placed in front of them.  Sometimes, I get the “Yes I have tried them all” to which my eyes widen and jaw drops incredulously, given that there are THOUSANDS produced…just in that ONE varietal type alone…across the globe.  The standard answer I get is “No, but I know what I like and don’t like.”  Do you?  Do you really?

At that point, I typically smile a little wider…perhaps a little too condescendingly…but not from a snob perspective…more from an “oh child, I’ve been exACTly where you are right now…and I’m about to give you the same wake up call I received years ago”.  I then say, “here, try this”, not telling them what they are drinking.  Blind tasting is the great equalizer and the destroyer of preconceived notions.  The majority of the time, they will sip the unknown wine, sing its praises, only to be left stunned when I reveal that the wine they are currently professing their undying love for is the same varietal they were just moments earlier telling me how much they hated.

Friends, as hard as this might be to swallow (pardon the pun), the majority of you are “wine bigots”.  You’ve been told that each varietal tastes a specific way.  You’ve been given one or two examples of that varietal that fit the profile, and you turned it into your doctrine.  The problem is, wine grapes are much like people.  Even identical twins aren’t exactly the same.  Neither are wine grapes.  A Chardonnay grown in Burgundy will NOT taste the same way as it does in Washington…or Oregon…or Australia.  Even within the same area, you’ll find big differences.  Let’s stick with Chardonnay for a moment:  A Napa Chard isn’t going to taste like a Chard from Santa Lucia Highlands in the Central Coast.  Even within Napa, an unoaked Chardonnay from Toad Hollow is going to be comPLETEly different from one of Rombauer’s oaked beauties.  Both Chardonnay…both with their own wonderful merits and loyal followers…both comPLETEly on the opposite side of the spectrum from one another!  See where I’m going here?

What makes wine such a magical thing is that,… depending on where it’s grown, the type of clone used, the climate, the particular weather conditions of that growing season, the ripeness when picked, the oak used (or not used), the aging regimen, whether certain processes like malolactic fermentation have occurred, the vision of the winemaker, etc, etc,…it can taste completely different.  Even if it is the same brand/producer, the taste can change from vintage to vintage!  That’s like walking into your closet and having one pair of shoes that matches EVERY SINGLE OUTFIT YOU HAVE AND EVER WILL PURCHASE!!!  Isn’t that fantastic???

My own experience came with Sauvignon Blanc (Wine industry people, don’t judge…don’t hate me..I already know…).  Try as I might, for years I could not stomach the grape…mostly because I was overloaded with those big grapefruity styles from New Zealand.  Although I can tell when it is varietally correct, when it has perfect typicity, the nose alone made me want to hurl, let alone the actual TASTE.  California Sauvignon Blancs weren’t much better for me with lemongrass and citrus assaulting me at every turn.  Still, I sojourned on, knowing that somewhere, from some producer, I would find one.  Because that’s the thing…there are a bazillion to choose from if you’re willing to keep an open mind.  Fortunately, I did.  Not only did I discover I liked the femininity and minerality of the Loire Valley’s Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, but just recently, I determined that I am IN LOVE with the Sauvignon Blanc Musque clone in…CALIFORNIA SAUV BLANCS (well some of them anyway)!  Success!!!  It is one of my favorites.  I would have TOTALLY missed out if I hadn’t kept an open mind and had not just kept trying different producers and areas.

Which brings me to my point.  Wine types are not like every McDonald’s mass-produced item.  They aren’t like those potato chips you might have in your hands RIGHT NOW.  They aren’t consistently the same regardless of which bottle you pick up.  Just like my next door neighbor and I aren’t the same.  Don’t make assumptions that all wines of the same type are going to be exactly the same based on your experience with ONE bottle.  Take a chance on that same grape once again. Strike up a conversation with a new bottle from a different area or producer. Get to know it before you proclaim what it is and isn’t based on a bias you have from some OTHER bottle/area/producer.  DON’T…I repeat…DON’T be a wine bigot…

 

 

 

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Enjoying my ‘Tropical Vacation’ In A Bottle From Alsace: 2006 Pierre Sparr ‘One’

Okay, I decided to go out on a limb here and do a VERY out of the box set of pairings with my Alsatian wine. Typically, a bottle of wine from the Alsace region of France will set you back a pretty penny, and often you will pair it with Foie Gras, cheese dishes, duck, grilled fish and seafood, sushi, buttery shellfish.  Me? I paired a 2006 Pierre Sparr “One” (a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Muscatel with both ‘Tater Tot Hot Dish’ and Coconut Gelato (yes, I don’t deny I’m a bit of a redneck eccentric).

The wine is off-dry with wonderful floral, mineral, and spice notes and a definite taste of exotic, tropical fruits, along with that ever familiar peach and melon flavor I’ve come to love from the wines of this French region.  It actually paired well with the casserole (or hot dish) but where it shone was with the gelato.  Okay, that’s an understatement…it was the most mind-blowing, creamy, mouth-filling, better than sex and winning the lottery, buttery Pina Colada explosion my mind could not even DARE to imagine!  My fear is finishing this entire bottle with this entire pint of gelato in a single sitting and needing to do at least 2 hours on the elliptical machine every day for the next 2 weeks to burn it all off…and even then, it might be worth it!  The wine was about $13.50; the gelato $5.  For under $20 I got ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, ‘Magic Mike’, the Super Bowl, World Series, and a year’s worth of house cleaning all in one single spoon and glass combination.

I feel like I’ve gone to Hawaii, or Belize, or…straight to heaven!  You will too.  Kick off your shoes, pull out your loudest floral print shirt, and let this incredible value wine blow away both your cares and your tastebuds.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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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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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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Summer’s Last Hurrah: Flip Flop Moscato

The kids have been back in school for a bit now, I’ve been enjoying several nights of roasting s’mores over the fire pit in the back yard, there’s a chill in the air in the evenings and mornings…and yet I haven’t been quite able to let go of summer as I jaunt about in my flip-flops.

So with that mindset, and the fact that several of my Corked Cowgirl followers on Facebook have mentioned a certain cheap Moscato from FlipFlop wines that I needed to try, I caved and picked up a bottle.

The first thing I noticed was the screw top cap. Back in the day, that might have made me cringe and back away, but no longer. Lots of quality wines are now found in bottles adorned with a screw cap top. I moved forward.

Next I noticed where it was from: California. No specific region, no lauded appellation; simply California. Still, I was not dissuaded. There’s a lot of decent table wine out there that isn’t from a specific AVA…especially in California.

Then I looked at the price…$4.49 with my Price Chopper grocery card. I paused. Thoughts of countless cheap Moscatos that I’ve poured, all like liquid cotton candy in a glass with little other discerning qualities came to mind. My life is enough of a circus without adding a cloying beverage to my itinerary. I set the bottle back down.

Then I thought about the Corkies who INSISTED it was a great bottle of wine at an even better price. I sighed, brought it home, and decided to try it just because I have always told them I’m open to new adventures, and wine is NEVER supposed to be a snooty thing.

As I poured it into my glass, the pale, straw colored wine almost skipped into my glass…much like the summer sun skipping along the waters of the lake I love to hang out on.

On the nose, honeysuckle, pineapple, hints of lemon, and peaches…definitely summertime smells. So far so good, but now, I braced for what inevitably would be that syrupy, sickeningly sweet taste that would stick in my throat.

Except it didn’t happen.

At first taste, it’s like biting into a ginormous honeyed peach. Mid-palate comes a refreshing zing of pineapple. The finish, is a wonderfully creamy taste of lemon curd. But the surprising thing about this wine is that it is crisp and refreshing! There is enough acidity in it to keep it balanced…it isn’t the cotton candy sugar bomb I expected.

All in a screw cap topped bottle for $4.49. Who’d a thunk it?

Excited by the prospect, I paired it up with a slightly spicy Thom Yum soup with seafood for lunch. Absolutely perfect! This little number would work well with mildly spicy dishes, pad thai, General Tso’s chicken, or just as a fun little sipper.

It definitely deserves to be in my ‘summer’ portfolio.

And with the weatherman promising 80 degree weather and sunshine tomorrow, I think I’ll find it paired up with one last cruise on the boat…in my flip flops no less.

FlipFlop Winery has also paired up with Soles4Soles and is donating a pair of shoes to those in need for every bottle of wine sold. They have several other varietals available as well, and I am certain I will be trying them in the near future…you should do the same!

Cheers!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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A Star Has Fallen: 2009 Newman’s Own Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ll admit, Mommy’s frazzled and she needs…I mean NEEDS her ‘sippie cup’ of wine. Between marching band practice, flute lessons, and Girl Scouts, how is a woman supposed to properly study for her Certified Specialist of Wine exam that is happening in only three days?

Well, you pray a lot to God, Bacchus, your pets, anyone that might listen, you cut corners for time in any way you can think of, and you drink whatever wine you can get your hands on.

I decided to combine the last two options and asked my daughters’ father to not only grab dinner options from the grocery store around the corner from me, but asked if he would please pick me up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to help calm my frazzled nerves. I did not think that request through, fully, as he knows wines about as well as Lady Gaga knows how to be subdued.

Along with a variety of frozen pizzas, sandwich meats, bags of pre-made salad, and Newman’s Own Ranch dressing, he also presented me with a bottle of 2009 Newman’s Own Cabernet Sauvignon.

Another ‘celebrity’ wine…just what I needed.

As I stared at the bottle, I started thinking to myself, ‘well, the pasta sauces and salad dressings are good, and Paul Newman was an absolute winner, how bad can this be?’

So I started to do my homework. $10 for the bottle; I’ve had pretty decent wines for that price, actually. Like his other products, all the profits, after taxes, are donated to charity. I love that! Looked at the winery that produced it. Rebel Winery…hmmmm…I knew nothing about them.
Turns out they’re from Napa, California. That’s always a good sign as Napa is KNOWN for their Cabernet Sauvignons. Also owned by Trinchero Estates, pretty big name in wine. I figured that was another great sign. So, I opened the bottle and poured.

The color was a bit of a purplish red…pretty in the glass…definitely looked like a young wine. As I shoved my nose into the glass to take that first perfumed whiff, I was almost overwhelmed by the smell of cherries. Once I backed off and took another sniff, I caught vanilla and oak, with a peppery smell to it. Thought it smelled a little TOO fruity to be a Cabernet, but hey, I’m stressed, maybe my nose is off.

So, the most important part finally arrived (especially after the past few days of kids, studying, and work). I took that first sip and…

…it wasn’t ‘Butch and Sundance’ quality to me.

It’s really not a bad wine. You taste exactly what you get on the nose: an overwhelming profusion of cherries, maybe a touch of blackberry, a hint of vanilla and oak, and almost TOO much black pepper at the end. OH…the end. What happened to the end? It just sort of disappeared…rode off into the sunset without so much as a word…at a full gallop, no less. There really was no finish. Just the initial wallop of cherry and pepper flavors then…’poof’…gone.

I have kept tasting it over and over, because I SO wanted this wine to be a favorite…I really did. I admit it (and I know this dates me), I wanted it to have all of the sex appeal that Paul Newman had…even at 83. I wanted this wine to cause me to melt like the gaze from Newman’s blue eyes, but sadly, it didn’t.

This wine reminds me more of a big fruit bomb Shiraz with lots of pepper thrown in an attempt to make it interesting. It doesn’t remind me of a California Cabernet at all; especially a Napa Cab.

I know, I shouldn’t have expected much from a $10 bottle of Cabernet. Except I did. And I’ve had some lovely cheap priced Cabernets. The Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet immediately pops into my mind. In fact, it is still in my mind. I’m thinking I may have to go down into my mini wine-cellar (I’m a mom, not a wine collector) and grab it just to get my fix.

Like I said, this really isn’t a bad wine. It sure beats anything in a box, I’ll tell you that! But even at a $10 price, I think I can do better.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Ahhhh….the SWEET Taste of Summer: 2008 Jakob Demmer Auslese

Forgive me ‘Corkies’ for not posting over the past few days. It’s been a stressful few days studying for my Certified Specialist of Wine designation. I have NOT forgone finding great summer wines at cheap prices, however. After studying German wine regions, I was inspired and found a FABULOUS sweet German Riesling for right around $10. 2008 Jakob Demmer Auslese out of the Rheinhessen wine region. It, along with the Mosel region, is world renowned for their Riesling, and this one is a fine example. Pale honeyed gold shimmers in the glass. Take a big whiff and your nose is overjoyed with aromas of pears and honey. Then, as your taste buds water, don’t wade…DIVE IN!!! Flavors of peaches, honey, pears, and a slight hint of ginger wash you away in divine dessert ecstasy! Sit out on the back deck with what’s left of this brutal summer heat and let your cares melt away in SEVERAL glasses of this one!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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