Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!




Friday, August 31, 2012

Washington County Highlight: Hawks View Cellars

"We are geographically agnostic, just because we can't grow doesn't mean we shouldn't produce it" ~ AJ Kemp Hawks View Cellars.

Sometimes you never know what to expect when as a writer, walking into the doors of a winery. Because they know that you're there to get a story and they are there to put as pretty of a bow on it, as much as they possibly can. It's kind of like when you attempt to sell your car to a dealer, you may shine it up, vacuum it out and clean up all those fast-food wrappers that you may have forgotten about.

But none of that was the case walking into the professionally appointed and comfortable tasting room of Hawks View Cellars, I got the feeling immediately that it looked as nice for each and every thirsty vino-sapien walking through their doors, like it did when a bus-full of wine-writers came tromping in from the Washington County excursion bus just a couple weeks ago. All visits to the their tasting room is done by appointment. Although the tasting room has a professional feel, our host General Manager and founding Partner Mr. AJ Kemp, felt rather comfortable wearing shorts, flannel shirt and flip-flops, what I call "California Casual". A style btw, which indelibly communicates to the consumer, "hey come as you are and spend a great afternoon with us."

But this was not going to be just another some what hallow presentation from a hired-gun known to some folks as PR-flacks, no in fact our welcoming intro was given by their GM AJ Kemp [a guy not afraid to get his hands dirty]. What I heard as he was speaking was good old fashion "passion" the kind that comes from the heart, as I said earlier, there was no teleprompter needed and you could sense the loyalty of other employees and see the pride on their face as they poured their wines for us.

Trust me folks; I'm just as jaded as the next guy, it's like "blah-blah okay, uh-huh, been there and seen that" but as I tasted their wines and listened to them speak about how they "do-things" [technical term] at their winery. I was impressed by the over-all quality and the dedication to doing things right. In fact looking up their Mission Statement just today, "At Hawks View, we don't define success in conventional terms. We define it on your terms." I'd have to conclude from the small amount of time I spent with them that afternoon, that their success is not conventional, but is translated into each and every experience for the consumer. I'm saying this winery is going to make some folks heads turn, they are the right track in this wine-writers opinion for producing high-caliber wines at reasonable prices that deserve a place in your cellar and in your glass.

Because I'm now starting to sound like I'm on the payroll [which I'm not] and with no further ado, I present to you my tasting note on each wine I had the pleasure of swirling about in my glass, slurping and yes eventually spitting out. I know for many reading this the whole concept of "spitting" is at the very least odd. But for me to maintain my senses, it's essential wine writing etiquette.

2011 HV Pinot Gris: Weighing at 13% abv, grapes picked mid November, I found abundant floral notes and the scent of nectar easily escaping from the glass. While on the palate, subtle white pepper, layers of honey, white flowers, and nectarines danced on my tongue. One of the better PG wines I experienced in while in Oregon. It sells for $26 and I scored it 89 points.


2011 HV White Pinot Noir: This style of PN is a relatively new trend on the Orgundian wine scene. This vintage is currently sold out. This wine was really multi-dimensional. Nerd Notes: >Blended from two different blocks, rested a bit in a French-Oak [6 months], experiences no Mal, and the grapes are grown on the Wadenswil clone. In the glass you won't find the color as like the very light-hay colored PG, in fact you it gives a bit of a light copper color. A wine fermented dry. Woody, honey and floral aromas dominate and easily find their way to the palate as well. This wine had nice weight and balance. It sells for $26 and I scored 89 points.
 
2010 SLH Syrah: I really didn't expect to see a Syrah at Oregon producers, but when I later learned the grapes came up from the Santa Lucia Highlands, I was excited to give it a swirl. Loads of white and dark pepper, like taking a whiff from a container of pepper corns that were infused with, tar, black cherries and black berries, that had been freshly dug out from a pit in the vineyard. The tannins were well integrated and the mouth feel was plush. This wine rested in a combo of French and Hungarian oak before being bottled and only 80% of the stems were removed before fermentation. This wine sell for $40, I scored it an immediate on the spot 92 points and took home a bottle for myself. Nicely done.
 
2010 Washington Cabernet Sauvignon: The grapes were harvested from the Double Canyon vineyard just across the Oregon border. Which is an 88 acre site located in Alderdale Washington, that falls within the Horse Heaven Hills American Viticulture Area and the vine rows are two miles longs, just above the Columbia Gorge. This wine has not been released at the moment, but they were generous enough to sell me a bottle at the tasting room price of $40. At the time I tasted this wine it had only been in the bottle for just 75 days. The wine is big bold and brooding in the glass leaning toward a PS in color. You'll find loads of black berry, dark rich ripe plum, pulsate on the palate, plush integrated tannins and a silky long finish. This wine folks is a bit more Washington State Merlot for me in style, but if you like this style of big meaty wines, than this beauty is built to please. Grab some for yourself, once it's released, I scored it 92 points. Again, well done.
 
2009 Hawks View Pinot Noir: Hello Chehalem Mountains AVA. A wine weighing in at %15.57, it's a big 09 style of Pinot, most of the PN which I tasted while recently in Oregon fell into this category. [Editors Note: It's the kind of PN that folks in the anti flavor league will not like or appreciate.] For me the fact that this wine is produced from Pommard and Dijon clone 777 and 667 really brings home for me this wines elegance, which balances its opulent fruit. This wine is in a word plush. Asked by one of the bloggers in the groups, "uh, does it have Syrah blended in?" an emphatic, but polite "no". This wine has a long lingering finish, plumbed with baking spices and rich dark and red fruits. It's a steal at $35, I scored this wine 93 points. So grab some for yourself before they disappear.
 
Until next time folks sip long and prosper cheers!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Wine and Food Pairing of the Week: Chicken Marsala and Pinot Noir


“Like I said before, your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” ― Anthony Bourdain
 
You know I like that idea, so many folks are so, so concerned with how they look and what they eat everyday, that they have forgotten how to have fun. I mean you talk with them for a few minutes, they tell you "oh I've given up this and that" blah-blah blah, which always leaves me thinking, 'um okay, so do you want a cookie?". Think about it this way; we all have an defined amount of time on this mortal coil, do you want to be known as person who only lived fast, died young and left a good-looking corpse? I for one don't, I want to take this body on a few amusement rides before it's all said and done. C'mon people live a little, it won't kill you. While I agree that abuse is useless, proper use, other wise known as moderation is the key to hitting life's trail in comfort and style.
 
This food and wine pairing was partially inspired thanks to the bottle that Don and Sons Pinot Noir that made its way into many of my fellow wine bloggers swag-bags, otherwise known as samples. Who knew at the time that this wine was a double-gold award winner at the San Francisco Wine Competition earlier this summer.
 
Now unfortunately the 2010 Don & Sons Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is currently sold out, I'm sure providing this as a sample to 300 plus wine bloggers may have had something to do with that. But that said, I can see why it scored so nicely with the judges, having been a judge at competition here in San Diego, where our panel of judges sampled over 40 different Pinot Noirs under $10, this PN that sells for just under $20 would have merited a double gold from our table as well. If you still happen to have a bottle of this wine or you are able to some how get your hands on a bottle, you can expect to find a light bodied, mellow tannins, elegant wine that makes food pairing far less challenging than you would think.
 
Thinking back about this wine, I popped the cork on just the other night, I found the texture and mouth-feel of this wine quite impressive. It was rich and velvety and infused with typical Pinot Noir fruit flavors coming through each and every long slurp, but restrained finish told me this is no cocktail wine. Once you pop the cork, nice bright clear crimson-red core; a fragrant bouquet slaps your nose with gently spicy berries and wet earth, these aromas easily make their way over to your palate. I scored this wine 90 points, it pairs ever so nicely with a dish like Chicken Marsala. I thought I was going to go for white Rhone blend, but having none chilled, I opted for the PN and I'm so glad I did.
 
Here's the link to the recipe I used, it's so easy. Trust me if I can make this anyone can and remember the recipe is just guideline, I read it and then went with my own interpretation. It turned out pretty nicely, even though I forgot to plate the pasta before I shot the picture. This is the kind of dish that easily impress even the fussiest foodie, Mrs. Cuvee even liked it, saying it was good.
 
If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time than you know hearing "good" from Mrs. Cuvee is a big-time compliment. I threw a handful of capers in there just for giggles, which woke up the dish nicely in my estimation. Even if you don't have Marsala wine, you can use a Tawny Port, most folks won't even know the difference. But a Marsala wine is a good one to keep in the pantry at all times, it really comes in handy on more than a variety of recipes. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: Ten Observations



"The winemaking is heartfelt. The wineries are small, independent and taking on the world.” ~ National Geographic Traveler commenting on the Carlton Winemakers Studio.
 
Well-well it's time to say "See ya later, Alligator" to the wonderful 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference. For me personally I had a great time, Mrs. Cuvee to a lesser extent [wilted a bit in the heat] and the lack of sleep caught up with her and I both a bit on Saturday night. But, wow it was so much fun catching up with so many friends from the International Wine Tourism Conference & Workshop, the very recent Rioja Top-Bloggers road-trip folks and last years wonderful Navarre discovery tour.
 
I've made so many wonderful friends over the years, I've traveled with many of these same folks [who I had only known from a distance on Twitter or Facebook] to distant vine-covered destinations and I'm proud to call them my friends. So to each and everyone; who I met at this conference for the first time, during this year's Wine Bloggers Conference, if I've not said it loud or often enough it was great to meet you. For everyone else, who I've come to know over the years, it was fantastic seeing you all again and I look forward to seeing you again soon in the future.

Now I know I've waited a bit before releasing my observations about this recent Wine Bloggers Conference. For many, they like to strike while the iron is hot and honestly who can blame them. But I wanted to take a few more days to think about the experience. And yes, it was an experience to take it all in and then let it all go, oozing all over an unsuspecting drooling herd of vino-sapiens [as if there was such a thing]. But that said, I've think I have at least ten observations that I hope will inspire others to attend in the future, makes me think about what could have been and perhaps encourage others to take a deeper look into the Oregon wine-scene, so here we go.

 
1. This great [well-oiled-machine] event we've all come to know and appreciate as the Wine Bloggers Conference, gave Oregon wine a well-deserved spot-light over a four-day period. But this region, like so many others is like pulling out an old vinyl record, you have to get the deep-cuts to see what really is going on, to fully absorb the culture of great winemaking in Oregon and not just in the Willamette Valley.
 
2. For me, I was surprised and humbled by many who counted me as inspiration, a helping hand or as a blogger cited as "doing-it" right. Wow, thanks so much to everyone for publicly stating those favorable impressions. It's with big thanks and mucho gratitude to Shawn Burgert [aka, A Wandering Wino], Kim Johnson [aka, D’ Vine Wine Time] and Heather Unwin, representing the Red Mountain AVA that I say, thank you and to everyone else who has given me a virtual-high five over the years.
 
3. Having been to the Oregon Wine Scene once before this conference, more than a few years back, there have been many changes and many new producers who have joined the fray. All of which I'm so glad to see. But that said, I'd have to say that while I appreciated sampling the efforts of many new producers, a few of the old guard as well, some of my favorites, what I call the "heavy-hitters' were absent from the conversation. So for you folks who possibly are wondering "what did I miss" or you're relatively new to Oregon wine, may I suggest checking out the likes of Ken Wright Cellars, Beaux Freres, Patricia Green Cellars, Bergstrom Wines and lastly a trip to the Carlton Winemakers Studio is a must for any vino-sapien in the audience. If I left any off of this very short list please feel free to mention them in the comments below.
 
4. Again, like I said before in contrast to where I live here in San Diego, the folks who call Oregon home have an over-whelming friendliness, not typically encountered in my own home town. That’s not to say it doesn't happen here, it just doesn't happen that often. Take for instant the story of town of Carlton, a community which was jumping up and down about the many wild-eyed wine bloggers about to descend upon their relatively small town, they even sent a police escort to vigorously welcome them. Mrs. Cuvee and I met a very nice lady who was from San Diego, waiting-on-tables who enthusiastically confirmed our conclusions, you should have seen the smile on her face, it told us everything.
 
5. Wow, Portland a town I've only visited a couple of times before attending the conference; what really impressed me is the Public Transportation. In Portland, they take it to the Max with Pub-Trans and by all means, feel free to bring your bike on-board. The average Portlander dedication to recycling; the only thing that is missing are compost bins in each hotel room. But seriously, the public-transpo is in my estimation very cool, far better than the silly, barely goes anywhere San Diego Trolley [oh, did I say that out loud?]. But where I live out here in the burbs, perhaps having Pub-Trans to that same degree, would have in hind-sight have been a good idea, but now its a too little-too late proposition.
 
6. I discovered what I know will become a favorite to anyone else who experiences their wine; a new favorite producer on the Orgundian Wine Trail and that producer is Hawks View Cellars. After our bus load of bloggers finished piling into their well-appointed and comfortable tasting room, located in Carlton, OR our group was met by GM and Co-Founder A.J. Kemp. He's a fantastic brand ambassador who made each and everyone of feel as welcomed as an old friend, giving us a great introduction into the all the how's and why's of Hawks View Cellar, all without the aide of a teleprompter. The wine here is dressed to impress, it jumps from the bottle ready to slake the thirst right of you. Please stay tuned, as there are more details to come when I high-light this winery and its wines on an in-depth review. Just remember keep an eye on this place; they are going places [don't doubt me] and yes I purchased wine here.


7. Most of know that the No. 1 Oregon varietal by far is Pinot Noir, making up 60 percent of total acreage and wine production, closely followed by Pinot Gris. But not only is Oregon known for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, but now there's also a relatively new kid on the block, known as white Pinot Noir, which has the appearance of Pinot Blanc. A wine made from the same Pinot Noir grapes, but it now being used to make a white wine, called White Pinot Noir. A wine you'll find many producers are now adding to expand their portfolios along with other cool climate favorites like Viognier and stand-by Chardonnay. What you'll find in most of these wines is that White Pinot Noir is often very refreshing; buoyed by good acidity, while offering up delicate and sometimes shy aromas of apples, pears, wet-river stone and a slap on a honey-bees ass.

8. The excursions, oh the pre-conference excursions, folks honestly if you go to these conferences and you don't take the excursions, you're missing the boat. Nearly everyone I spoke with and nearly every conversation I overheard was super positive about the pre-conference excursions. Are they perfect, umm no, but do the positives far out-weigh the negatives, hell yeah they do. I only wish there had been a post conference excursion as well, like the one to Red Mountain in 2010. I've chosen to do an excursion for each and every conference and I'm always glad I have, the intimate nature of these trips, makes peeling back the layers of the onion, so much more delightful. You can discover so much more by participating and geez the cost is what I would call stupid-good. I went on the Washington County excursion, the folks who sponsored it, planned and executed this trip were fabulous and professional every step of the way.

9. Many [not all] the wineries were on the ball with invites to bloggers for extracurricular activities, before during and after the conference. A hardy round of virtual applause to you all, I'm sorry I was not able to attend all the many wonderful events that were planned. Now that said, one of the events I was able to attend was what I have dubbed as "Blend Camp" at R. Stuart and Co. and thank you Maria. Why, well I like to name things, I like to give folks, friends, events and other stuff in my life nick names. Anyway, a group of about 25 bloggers attended a post conference event where we had a very tasty lunch and then were invited to work with a group of other bloggers to come up with our very own blend to have shipped home. This was a highly fascinating and fun event that involved what it really takes to come up with a blend, no easy task, as many other teams found out.

10. "We don't need no stinking badges" sorry to disagree with the pot-prophets from the eighties, but we really need to change the badge format in my opinion. The name badges are so small and could have really emphasized the twitter handles a lot more prominently than they did. For me, I really only know most folks by their twitter handle; it would have made recognizing most folks much easier.

The writing was pretty small and obscured by the background image, so small in fact, I really had to look at each one more than once to know who I was talking with, a bit embarrassing. Second, geez I hope those badges will get steam-cleaned or something, because I know those badges went places most folks may not want to talk about.

Well folk that’s it for today, but after creating a list like this, it leaves me wondering what your own observations were. I'd really like to hear from many as you as possible, about your own experiences, positive or negative no matter. I really enjoyed seeing everyone again this year and I can't wait to see some of you again next year or hopefully before that if at all possible. If any of you find yourself in my wonderful little town of San Diego, please give me a holler, love to grab a glass with you ya and hang out. Until next time folks, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Euro Style McMenamins Grand Lodge


"Life is not a dress rehearsal for somthing else" ~ Rose Tremain

Having recently been a guest with McMendamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon, I was surprised by its theme, making me immediately think that the Beatles may have taken part of their inspiration for the Magical Mystical Tour by staying here.

As one walks down the hallways of this 1930's era hotel on the way to the room you're greeted by whimsy and mysterious characters on just about every wall, door and even the plumbing stare back at you with a sense of odd, nonsensical humor.


Now supposedly there's a haunted element to this place, it's rumored that if you suddenly get an unexplainable whiff of lavender, that you are perhaps in the presence of the Lavender Lady. Stories abound of various locations throughout the property that folks have been witness to alleged paranormal and unexplained activities. I should have been, I did stay in the Lavender Lady's room.

Her image painted on the wall in "her" guest room, is one which I forgot to photograph. But it's one that seems burns a hole in your head, as she stares right at you, no matter where you move about in the room. It's something which is more than a little creepy. I remember waking in the middle of night, thinking "what the bleep was that?" But I nodded-off right back to dream-land, but I don't recall any lavender aromas or seeing whisps of smoke floating about in the room. But if you've been reading this blog for awhile, then you know I'm pretty skeptical, so I really didn't give it another thought to be honest.

Here above you can see the ramp that leads up to the second story rooms, where there's a nice sized movie theatre and the only air conditioned room in the entire building. Just below and to the right is the main lobby and front desk. There's also a great bar, just behind the front desk, just incase you get thirsty.

For the ladies in particular, there's a cozy spa to melt away the stress of travel. I didn't go in for a visit myself, but as you can see from the hallway the whimsical nature of the lodge is everywhere. In the picture below is a typical room, which only has a sink, the toilets and showers are "Euro-Style" meaning it's a shared space down the hall from your room. But hey not to worry, each room is
furnished with a deluxe fluffy-white bathrobe, to help you get-about without too much embarrassment. But it strikes me as funny seeing others roaming about the hallways in their bath-robes, it kind of conjures up for me images from the movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" I kept looking over my shoulder for Nurse Ratched.


In the picture above is what you can expect to find in a typical room. Now on a hot day, like the one I experienced, when visiting just last weekend, these rooms are pretty uncomfortable on warm weather days. There's no A/C in any of the rooms, but you do get a deluxe box-fan to put in the window. You can find it stashed in the musty closet. Be careful when placing the fan, as there is nothing to really restrain it from falling out of the window and crashing against the side of building at 2:00 am oh-my. Also there are no screens on the windows to keep unwanted visitors [mosquitoes] from reaching you while you sleep.

And not to worry kids yes, they do have a pool one which they call the wonderful Euro soaking-pool. While not so great on a hot-summers day, because unlike most pools this one is heated to well-over 90 degrees, leaving one feeling like the proverbial frog in the pan of water. I could see on a cold-cold winters day; that a pool such as this would be a welcome relief for sore muscles after a long day on the wine-trail.
While they do have a couple dining destinations right there on the property; may I recommend one which does have A/C if you dine inside, just a few blocks from McMenamins. Where I experienced a superb dining menu, they also have a large comfortable patio dining area if you need room for a large groups. It's called 1910 Main American Bistro [with a nice wine list]. But if you wanted to do BYOB before dining or you just wanted to get your wine-on before hand, then in the next image below you will find a great little wine-bar, which unfortunately I was not able to visit, but again is just blocks from 1910.
It's called the Urban Decanter, a great place to stop by for lunch or even a light dinner. If wine is not your thing, no problem they have a great selection of Orgundian craft beer waiting to tempt you. This place looks like it has it all and too bad I missed the opportunity for a visit. But if you live in the area or you happen to be staying at the supposedly haunted McMenamins Grand Lodge in  Forest Grove be sure to stop in, say hello and chat with the locals about what's hot and what's not.

Well that's all I have for you today, I hope that what ever you do in life, that you always make allowance for the opportunity to travel. It will change your perspective and help you see the world we live in a whole new way. At the very least that has been my experience over the last nine years, but I've just begun to wet my appetite for travel and have barely scratched the surface of what the world has to offer. I look forward to hearing from you about your own experience via the comment section below. Until next folk, please continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: The Orgundian Wine Trail

 
"The friendliness is natural, it's regional and it's contagious.”It's a little bit of Oregon culture, it's in our DNA" Jim Bernau, founder of the Willamette Valley Vineyards as quoted in Oregon Wine Country and he went on to say regarding folks who may be visiting for the first time, "You'll have a down-to-earth, personal experience here"

I hope the state of Oregon; especially Portland is prepared for the hundreds of wild-eyed vino-sapiens also known as wine bloggers, who will be visiting in just seven days. Woot, it's time once again for the Wine Bloggers Conference and this year it's in Portland, Oregon. Of course it goes without saying that I'm pretty excited about the event, especially for this great opportunity to re-visit the Oregon wine scene.

Yes, I say Oregon, because while many folks think of Pinot Noir and the wonderful Willamette Valley, many folks are missing the boat if they think that Oregon is only about Pinot Noir. Mrs. Cuvee and I spent a week in Oregon back in 2005, visiting many wineries, seeing many vineyards, speaking with winemakers and producers, so for us and me in particular revisiting Oregon is going to be a great refresher course, to get caught up with all of our "old" favorites, check-out all the new hot-shot producers and others making a splash in purple-colored pool.

Going back to the first paragraph regarding the "friendliness" to be found while traveling through the Oregon wine-scene, he's so right on point, it should be said with an exclamation point. When Mrs. Cuvee and I first traveled to Oregon to get our Pinot-on, it wasn't long before we remarked to each other, "Wow, this place is really friendly" in a Mayberry kind of way. We were strangers and we were from the Californication down south, but no matter we were treated like welcomed guests and it's a memory that lives with my wife and I every time, we pop the cork on one of the many Orgundian gems we brought home from that trip.

While many folks who have never visited Oregon or more specifically the wonderful Willamette Wine Scene, the great wines that you'll ultimately discover are just the tip of the proverbial "iceberg". There's so much to see and do, that you'll need to book another trip to peel back the rest of the onion. This is especially true if you fancy yourself a bike-riding fan, because in Oregon they love bicycles. They love them so much in fact that they've created the 132 mile state-designed Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, where you can scoot down a nicely set-aside scenic bicycle trail, that will take-ya from Wilsonville in the north, to Armitage Park in the south. If you'd like to learn more about the many easy to ride trails and fun day trips awaiting the adventurous wandering-wino and even the garden-variety vino-sapien, then may I suggest you plug www.OregonWineCountry into your browser and let the thrill of exploration begin.


Lastly I wanted to highlight a great producer who graciously shipped me a couple samples of what's new [or at least new to me] on the Orgundian wine scene. These wines come to me from a producer of whom I was not familiar with and one of the very first producers from Oregon to send samples for the review process.

Now that said, it's with no further ado, that I introduce you to R. Stuart and Co. Winery and Winebar located in the delightful town of McMinnville, Oregon. I should have published this review much sooner, because the wines sent for review were pretty fabulous, the kind of Pinot Noir that gets my highly coveted recommendation, "drink now and drink often". In fact I had to go to the bottom of my wines to-be-reviewed stack to find the welcoming note from Maria Stuart and my notes about the wines I tasted during #winechat a few months back.

 2009 Big Fire Pinot Noir: Once in the glass you'll find a lightly colored garnet core, which fades effortlessly to the rim. Sticking my fat nose in the glass, I easily found wafting up out of the glass, inviting aromas of raspberry, dried cherries with a hint of gentle spices. Taking in my first big-gulp, warm rich-earth, dark plum, ripe strawberry and just a splash of cranberry, spills across my palate with nice length and precision. This PN weighs in 13.4% abv, has a palate pleasing fruit to acid balance, representing wonderful Oregundian effort for the budget-conscious vino-sapien. This wine sells for SRP of $19 and I scored this wine 90 points.

2008 Autograph Pinot Noir: Wowsers, this wine is multi-layered, a Pinot Noir reminding me of my newly found love for the "Blues" via Buddy Guy and other similar super-stars. This is the kind of music and the kind of wine, that gives you time to think, as you watch the wine evolve, the music will strike a deep chord in your thirsty soul. This is the kind of wine that puts me in my ambitious-boy recliner, with over-sized head-phones on, melting away all the days’ activities. This wine, this Pinot Noir is a blend of too-many to name here relatively young vineyards [exciting].

Once you pop the glass-closure off the top of the bottle and pour yourself a glass, you'll find a bit more here than may be anticipated. This wine sells for $38 and I scored it 92 points.

Look: This Pinot Noir glistened and shimmered in the glass like gentle rose petals falling upon a silk-pillow, conjures vic-secret commercials [oh-my] and staring back at me from the glass; a lithe shade of crimson in the core fading to a silky cerise rim [no really].

Smell: The aromas of barnyard type rustic smells wafted effortlessly from my glass, with a strong under currant of rich spices and fragrant red berries enveloping my senses and tempting my palate, like the coming attractions of summer blockbuster.

Taste: So after I finally take a sinfully huge gulp, my palate is struck by rich black cherry, raspberry, dusted rich vineyard earthiness. The key word on this wine is seamless, immediately expressive rich sandalwood spice, black cherry, fruit tart explosion and a really nice balance, acidity and elegant mouth-feel, departing with a wondrously long finish. A fab wine, that will make a believer out of you, enjoy.

Mrs. Cuvee and I are super excited about the upcoming conference and I can't wait to meet all our new friends, especially the many folks I only know through twitter, get reacquainted with others, hob-nob with great producers, thank all the folks that helped make this years event possible, listen to some great talks from folks I admire in the wine-biz, mingle with old-friends who've known for years now, seeing this is going to be my fourth conference, let's light this candle.

I hope all the folks who can't make it this year will tune-in on the #WBC12 hashtag to see all fun conversations and impressions from this years attendees. For everyone else who will be there, I look forward to seeing you all very soon, cheers!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Heat: Agreeable Grigio to the Rescue


“When the sun gets hot and the moon gets hazy
good girls go bad... and it gets crazy!” ― Rachel Thompson

Well summer is still here folks, what many call the "dog-days" and I know many of you're still reeling from the unforgiving summer heat, but being in San Diego, we've staved off most of the nasty awful tropical moisture exported to us from our friends in the south until just this week. But now that August has peeked its head in the door, with a bit of dragons breath, it's high-time to think about wines to help you keep your cool in the last official month of summer, although here in San Diego our summer tends to stretch far into November.

So what do I have on deck for today's review, two entirely different bottles of Pinot Grigio, both sent to me as samples, both from Italy and both come from easily recognized producers. The first one in the review spotlight is from the folks at Attems. This wine rests nicely in glass, sporting a light hay-colored core. I'd drink this wine at cool 57 degrees to keep it from becoming nearly monolithic at warmer temps. After the first slurp, crisp and edgy minerality, wet stone, a touch of ripe apple and fresh almonds, await the thirsty vino-sapiens who dig this style of Pinot Grigio.

Many find this style of wine to be "An innocuous, uninteresting wine, that lends itself for easy pairings with pasta, chicken and fish" ~ Lettie Teague and I would have to say in the case of this wine, I too must concur with that statement. Ms. Teague does however go onto defend this often maligned grape variety rather nicely, so feel free to click over to this article to get the rest of the story.

Regarding my impressions of the Attems Pinot Grigio, [this is my second sample] it's a well made wine, comes under cork, with no apparent flaws. It's an high acid wine, thin yet very delicate white wine. It does surprisingly sell quite well and is very similar in style to what I believe is another over-priced Pinot Grigio, Santa Margarita. A wine that ironically even most in folks in Italy don't like, [or so I've heard] but for some reason these wines have become nearly "cult" faves for many die-hard fans here in the U.S. proving that this wine is obviously floating someones boat.

Especially, on many restaurants wine lists where wines like this will fetch a pretty-price [$50] and retails for about $20 in most Costco locations and maybe higher elsewhere. Again not a wine made in a style that's appealing to me, but one that folks in the Anti-flavor league would find very interesting. I scored this wine 86 points, good but not compelling enough for me to part with $20.
For folks not familiar with Pinot Grigio, [aka, Pinot Gris] it’s a white wine grape variety of the species known as Vitis vinifera [aka, the wine bearing grape]. In wondering how in the world this grape came into being in the first place, many believe it’s a “mutant” clone of the Pinot Noir grape. Now this may come as a shock to you, but it’s a grape which normally has a grayish-blue, pink or some cases leaning toward light yellow fruit. If you want to learn more about this grape and its many different styles, please check out a piece I wrote "To Gris or not to Grigio" where I generalize just a bit, on the differences please feel free to click here.

The next wine in today’s Summer White Wine Spotlight, a tasty wine from the great folks at Banfi, the 2010 San Angelo Pinot Grigio. A mouth watering example in my book, about how utterly tasty a Pinot Grigio can be, especially on a warm summer evening, it's quite refreshing.

After pouring it my glass and allowing it to warm a bit, I found it to have a pale straw colored core with greenish hues reaching out toward a watery rim. The nose is big, bright and beaming with tropical fruit and flowery aromas, just delightful.

After taking a big slurp of this lightly chilled Pinot Grigio, I found it brimming with green apple and tropical fruit flavors, a wine which nicely quenched my thirst, the low-hanging fruit is plumbed with firm acidity, white flowers and citrus give it nice overall balance.

Are you wondering, what’s my score for this wine? I gave it 90 thirst quenching points, a great wine to have while sitting pool-side with the family or friends. This wines pairs harmoniously with many food choices [like Sushi] and easy on the wallet at $12.95. So honestly what are you waiting for; pick up those keys and head down to your favorite wine store to score a few bottles, you can thank me later, until next times cheers everyone!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chill Out: Bottle Bubble Freeze

So are you thinking of a BYOB evening at your favorite restaurant? Or perhaps you just want to keep those tasty bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and crisp while chilling out at the beach. Then this new wine-purse is probably is a great item to add to your collection of must-have wine related accessories. It comes in many attractive colors; it can be easily thrown into the freezer to achieve that maxim chill effect. Now I've not taken the time to test out this product for myself, nor did I receive it as a sample, but I snapped this picture of this product while I was in Paso Robles last week, sold at The Pithy Little Wine Company. You can also get it here for $20 plus shipping. The weekend is here, I hope everyone has a great one, until next sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wine of the Week: Bonny Doon Vineyard, 2010 Le Cigare Blanc


Time for another wine of the week and this time it's a fantastic Rhone style white wine from Bonny Doon Vineyards. But before I launch into a review of the wine, I wanted to share with you a quote from this wonderfully iconic winemaker Randall Graham [someone I admire greatly], from his own book, "Been Doon So Long". This quote is from page 260 in a chapter entitled; Doon to Earth.

This quote from the book comes in the context where he's attempting to explain the sale of the Big House and Cardinal Zin brands that went down in 2009; a sale which caused no small amount of confusion to many familiar with Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Mr. Graham explained his lament about many folks confusion over the sale and the new direction of the Bonny Doon brand explained it this way in the book; "Been Doon So Long" [one I highly recommend reading] "The wines we are now producing are much better and more “serious” – if by that we mean as winegrowers we are more focused and attentive – but I fear my reputation as a jocular marketer may forever-doom (or doon) my chances of the world ever taking the wines themselves seriously." Not in my book, Mr. Graham, not in my book.

I for one, having recently received a sample of the 2010 Le Cigare Blanc, a true Rhone style white wine from planet Earth, I can emphatically say with absolutely no reservation, folks you need to take this wine serious. This is some very tasty juice, a great white wine which I highly recommend to you. But for those of you in the anti-flavor league, [you know who you are =p] you may just want to skip this wine, as you'll be more than overwhelmed by a deft-palate of flavors and enticing aromas, that far exceed the stony minerality and uber high acid style many point to as the pinnacle of all things great in white wines.

This wine is produced from the grape of the Beeswax Vineyard, proudly announced on the label, the wine which comes under a screw-cap for ultra-easy access is a blend of 55% Rousanne and 45% Grenache Blanc. This wine has great body, superb structure and is complimented with a zippy acidity that is plumbed into the fruit, made in a style which is immediately approachable. So if you are sick of oakey-dokey California Chardonnay, looking for a departure from the ordinary-everyday ho-hum Sauvignon Blanc, than folks this wine is for you.
 
Tasting Note: This wine grace your glass with hay-colored finesse, easily finds that great balance on the hire-wire act between tension and lavishness. Flat-out fun beeswax flavors, this wine has real Roussanne depth, gobs-smacks of honey, ripe peach and tropical flavors dancing with overripe sliced mango, wrapped in some nice floral flavors. This wine has some great acidity and a wound-up minerality that ties the whole thing up in a pretty package and yet a wine that pushes the limits, and succeeds at every turn.

Pairing Questions: If you’re like me; I'm always on the prowl for recommendations on what to pair, so if you're are looking for some great pairing ideas, I think I've found just the place for finding that perfect pairing with this wine, just click over here to find one that will work for you.

Price and Points: It sells for just $18 -$20 most places, that I've seen online and it looks like I may have been one of the first to review this new vintage. I scored this wine a delicious 91 points and I further award it the highly coveted "drink now and drink often" recommendation. So what are you waiting for? Order some today, you won't be disappointed.

If you consider yourself a cork-dork of any stripe or you're just the average vino-sapien looking for a great read, you'll also want to get a copy of his book, Been Doon So Long. Until next time folks, please sip long and prosper. By the way, please remember not to drink this wine too cold, or you'll miss out on all the wonderful layers of complexity just waiting to unfold in your glass. Cheers!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...