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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stay Classy San Diego, visit the Gourmet Experience

Hey San Diego, here's a great event for all you foodies and cork-dorks out there, looking for something to do next weekend. I've been given an invite to check it out for you, before you make up your minds.  So tomorrow a bunch of other wine blogging folks and foodie bloggers will take a sneak-peek, a preview if you will of the upcoming "Gourmet Experience" and from what I've read, it sounds like it would thrill just about any "foodie" or wine geek in the "local" San Diego Market place. Like I mentioned earlier this event will be held right here in San Diego on October 9-10, 2010 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds [even though you're not suppose to call it that any more], the event features countless exhibitors showcasing and selling gourmet cuisine, products and services crafted for the everyday gourmand, "foodie" or just plain everyday folks who love a decent [well made] pile of chow on their plates. So after the preview-event is over I will be back on my keyboard to let you know the skinny, so stay tuned. 

My Recommendation: As I said, last Tuesday I would get back here in time before you make your plans for the upcoming weekend. Which according to the weather report I looked at, should be bright, warm and sunny! Okay, so I went to the "Preview" event last Tuesday night fantastic and it was something everyone should definitely check out! Make sure you say "hello" to the great folks at Sip,Smoke and Savor if you like Cigars, Chocolate and Scotch [and who doesn't] and the food samples alone are going to hit your palate with a bomb of great flavors, definitely worth the price of admission. So there you have it, go check the Gourmet Experience this weekend and enjoy, cheers everyone!

Defined: The Gourmet Experience is a food, luxury and lifestyle event showcasing the best in gourmet products and services. From professional cookware to epicurean travel tours to home entertaining, The Gourmet Experience is the ultimate lifestyle event for those with refined and sophisticated tastes.

What else: Find some of  the hottest trends of the season in kitchen appliances and culinary products to the newest mouthwatering chocolates, sauces, snacks and cheeses, The Gourmet Experience is the place for enthusiasts to discover the latest in epicurean trends sweeping the country.

~ Tasting from among the newest gourmet foods available today

~ Evaluating the latest in home and outdoor entertaining products

Testing out kitchen equipment

~ Planning their next dinner party

~ Learning new trends in casual and fine china, flatware and crystal

~ Getting up close culinary instruction from some of San Diego’s most celebrated chefs

~ Researching new destinations, resorts and hotels catering to gourmet  aficionados

~ Sipping on a selection of luxury wines, spirits and craft beer

~ Exploring large appliance purchases and kitchen remodeling options

Gourmet In Action Stage: The Gourmet Experience features daily cooking demonstrations led by San Diego’s top celebrity chefs. Attendees will get the chance to see their favorite chefs light up the stage as they whip up gourmet delicacies using products found at The Gourmet Experience.

Beer Goggles Please: Just beer me, “That’s the Spirit” Beer & Wine Pavilion is the place for age appropriate foodies, wine and beer lovers in attendance will be invited to enter the “That’s the Spirit” Pavilion, where they will have the opportunity to get a sip of “the good life” [don't we all want that?] as they taste and explore fine wines, craft beer and spirits produced by award-winning producers.

The Exhibitors: So wondering what to expect? Well you'll find brands you are already familiar with and some you should definitely get to know. So it will be folks that have products or services in the Gourmet Accessories, Gourmet Foods & Beverages, Dining & Entertaining, Gourmet Education, Interior Design, Kitchenware, Outdoor Entertaining, and Travel industries among others are exhibiting at The Gourmet Experience.

Celebrity Chefs: See Chef Jeff Rossman cooking live on the Gourmet "Action Stage" look out the food will be flying and perhaps get a signed copy of his new cookbook! Also you don't want to miss award-winning Executive Chef, Brian Malarkey who also will be demonstrating [watch him on the Gourmet Action Stage] his passion for cooking and entertaining as someone who has become the driving force behind the pursuits in both the culinary entertainment industry. See his video below.

Okay now that I've hopefully wet your appetite, here's the 411 on the where, when and how much:

Single Day Passes: Gourmands [foodie/corkdorks] looking to satisfy their hunger for a single day of The Gourmet Experience may purchase a Single Day Pass, good from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on either one of the action-packed days. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

The Weekend Gourmet: Oh so you want the whole enchilada do ya, then this would be your ticket to ride, go for the “The Weekend Gourmet” pass, which will give you access to the expo for the entire weekend. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.

Bonus: Free Admission for Children 12 Years of Age and Under

Bring the whole family: The Gourmet Experience is perfect for those up-and-coming gourmands looking to get a sample of the gourmet lifestyle. Children under the12 years of age are admitted into the expo at no cost. Tickets: Click Here

Time to Stop and Smell the 2009 Centine Banfi Rosé

Get 1/2 off shipping at check-out with code "corner12" when you purchase 6 or more wines


Well folks it appears some of that heat that has been held off most of the summer has finally arrived here in San Diego, c'mon did ya really think we would avoid it?  Uhh, don't think so, even while our normal steamy-hot August weather came and went with a whimper. I was thinking huh, where did our heat go, were we going to escape our long overdue summer heat wave?

C'mon this is San Diego and we know heat like Eskimos know ice, and like Ned in the show Pushing Daises, who quickly learned that if something is revived for more than exactly one minute, something of similar "life value" in the vicinity drops dead, as a form of balance in our causal universe. With that said I think it's high time to get out and "smell the roses" or Rosé wines while our weather is cooperating with a nice heat wave, that just screams for sipping freshly chilled Rosé pool-side or on the bay!

Thus it's with our weather, we all know our summer in San Diego was for the most part dreary thanks to some guy [wet blanket] named Coastal Eddy, while the rest of the country [at the time] was baking in very high uncomfortable temps.
So while some of you may have enjoyed our local cool temps, just remember our hottest and driest times of the year are typically in October and it's with that in mind that I wanted to bring to your attention Banfi's Centine Rosé, perfect for quaffing on what will ultimately prove to be a long warm week [I'm no weather man, but I know San Diego] thus it's the perfect time to add a cool rosy glow to a hot day with the 2009 Centine Banfi Rosé.

Don't Despair: I did take a look at the 10 day forecast and it looks like a cool down is on the way. But in the mean time grab some of this bright sunny weather while you can and a bottle or two [or even a case] of this wonderful rosé which is sure to bring a smile to your face and get you back in the pink.

Not your Mother's White Zin: The heat is on here in San Diego and it's time to "Think-Pink"! No, not the low alcohol, sickeningly sweet “white” zinfandel brought to you by bulk-wine producers like Sutter Home, Gallo and Beringer, strangely tasting more like a soda only without the straw. It's also not the Portuguese Mateus and or  Lancer’s you blew your cookies on in your teens. Oh no, these wines are an entirely different animal, by contrast you will find most Rosé wines today to be surprisingly bone dry – though this is usually offset by the refreshing acidity, they tend to be full-bodied, rich, sometimes spicy, carrying a hint of alcoholic clout in tow.

This Banfi Rosé Sangiovese dominated blend is made in a distinctively bright, modern style – dry and a little savory, with mouth-filling red fruit flavors, crisp acidity, delivering refreshing finish and low in ABV at 12.5% under a Screw Cap closure which helps to maintain freshness and vibrancy in the bottle even if you don't polish it off that day.

The Grapes: So ya wanna know the blend recipe? Well word has it that it's made from 60 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or as it's sometimes commonly referred to as a "Super Tuscan"

Food Pairings: It can be thought of as "ideal" as an aperitif type of wine, [just before dinner] but I find this wine to be the perfect picnic partner or pool-side companion, so grab yourself some fresh cheeses, charcuterie and some ripe fruit like strawberries or plums. I think you will find this fan-freaking-tastic pairing as long as you keep it chilled, but not too cold or you'll lose the flavor.

Price and Where to Find: This drink now and drink often wine sells for a measly SRP of $11 most places and you can find this wine widely distributed to many grocery type stores in your specific neighborhood.

Maximize your Rosé experience:

1) Always buy the youngest vintage available. Despite possessing both acidity and tannins, the fruit disappears quickly from a rosé style wines. So drink now and often for best results.

2) Chill out please and keep them chilled [easily done with a frozen sleeve]. You'd be amazed how rapidly a perfectly fruity rosé  can lose its appeal and turns alcoholic as it warms up in the glass or in the bottle.

Full Disclosure: Hello FTC and anyone else who could be interested, yes this wine was a sample sent to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for the "review" process.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 90 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale. An enticing introduction to the fine quality wines of Tuscany and more specifically Banfi and [IMHO] represents a great quaff for very few bucks!

Other Voices: Just in case you don't want take my word for it, I found some other folks around the web who have oddly echoed my own opinion, that this wine is a QPR champ!

Then: A pleasant, barely off-dry rosé made of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot. The soft strawberry flavors are a welcome summer relief from the ponderous cabernets and chardonnays of late. Pairings: with spicy and grilled foods, prosciutto. * * * * (Fine) Michael Lonsford - The Houston Chronicle - June, 2007

And Now: You really can't beat the brightness, overall freshness and low price of this very satisfying rose. Best Buy ~ Wine Enthusiast - July, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love and Meritage: Presents Blackstone 2007 Sonoma Reserve Rubric

Does anyone remember that song "Love and marriage" sung by Frank Sinatra, which introduced America to the concept of dysfunction in the form a of a sitcom in the late eighties called  Married... with Children.? While this wine has nothing to do with that show, it does have something in common with that theme kind of, because what is true in marriage is true in wine as well. The marriage of or the bringing together two different varietals to form a blend that in many cases rival the mono varietal based wines. See even wine is okay by itself as a single entity, but when correctly brought together with other varietals to form a single but multi-layered thing of beauty, let the quaffing begin.

The song goes, "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage," but in this case it's love and Meritage, that could make for the operative phrase in your life, Married with Children. What do I mean my that, well the biological imperative could be absolutely enabled by a good Meritage type wine and this easy drinking wine could put you in the right frame of mind rather easily if you get my drift. "wink~wink"

According to good old Wikipedia: Um what the bleep is a rubric anyways? Survey says, "A rubric is a word or section of text which is traditionally written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The word derives from the Latin: rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk." Little did I know that the rubric method is one I've been using on my blog since I started writing over two years ago.

The Winery: Blackstone Winery has had some ubiquitous selections on store shelves for many years now. Their everyday priced offerings have [thankfully] recently been augmented with the addition of a Sonoma County "reserve" series of wines. This winery lays in the heart of Sonoma, I drove past it twice just a couple weeks ago but didn't go in as my travels had other destinations in mind. For nearly 20 years, they’ve cultivated close ties with grape growers and viticulturists throughout Sonoma County. Sonoma is their inspiration and their home, Sonoma remains the heart of Blackstone wines.

Danger, Will Robinson: Okay wine-rangers this is a warning, a shot across the bow if you will. Even though I loved, loved the Rubric, don't read into my review as a blanket endorsement for their other cellar dweller wines. Meaning the wines with the brown label selling for $7 just about everywhere are no where near the same quality as their Sonoma Reserve wines, you've been warned. Step up to just $9.99 [at TJ's] and you've hit pay dirt! I'm not like many wine-bloggers, I don't "gush" over every wine that comes across this desk, in fact there's mucho amounts of vino that will never see the light of day on this blog.

Composition: This red blend is Blackstone winemaker Gary Sitton's take on a Meritage-style Cabernet-based blend which leads the way at 55%. The winemaker really threw in the proverbial kitchen sink with this blend. So rounding out the blend the other varietals in the mix are Malbec; Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot; Tannat; Merlot; and Petite Sirah.  The fruit was sourced from the following areas, Dry Creek Valley (59%), Sonoma County (20%), Sonoma Valley (15%), and Alexander Valley (6%).

Treatment and Case size: Oak [most likely 2nd use French] aging occurred over 20 months in combination of new and older barrels. 7,000 cases of this wine were produced. The reason I mention the case size is that while the case size is large the quality is also large and readily available.

What's a Meritage: Well according to the Meritage Alliance "red meritage wines historically have been among the world’s most highly rated wines." Very true, think about Bordeaux, which is the model for Meritage wines here in the states. And why are meritage wines so good? Because of "their smooth, silky texture and complex, robust structure coupled with the ability to age beautifully" — often for decades, while most are also very drinkable in their younger years. Like the Blackstone Winery Sonoma Reserve Rubric Sonoma County 2007 I will be reviewing today. Another word of advice, for god's sake don't pronounce it like a French word, folks will just roll their eyes and shake their heads in disbelief, it's Mer-it-tige! I really don't mind how you say it, as long as you find yourself of these wonderful wines.

Blend Rules: According to the Meritage Alliance, "a red meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère." The kicker, "If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage!" Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. So technically this wine broke the rules and like Reggie Bush, will have to hand in its title or trophy status, sadly it's not a meritage. But it is darn close!

Full Disclosure: Hey FTC and anyone who may care, this wine was sent as a sample to Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for the review process over 4 weeks ago and has a SRP of $20.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 92 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale. The QPR is off the charts, stupid good for the $9.99 price tag.

First Swirl: I did decant this wine, frankly it didn't really need it [contrary to what you've read on other blogs]. Sorry Gabe, you're just wrong. A bright shiny clean purple core, most likely the Malbec kicking in some blue tones and a pale cerise colored rim.

First Sniff: Bold dark and red fruits dominate the pronounced but wonderfully clean nose, while subtle well integrated notes of oak and vanilla dance delightfully together, while wafting gently from the glass. Isn't that a pretty scene?

First Slurp: Holding the goblet up to my mouth, I gave this wine a good [proper technique and all] swirl in that large cavity, sometimes called my mouth. This exercise confirmed the impressions I had upon putting my fat half Irish wine loving nose into the glass. This wine taste freaking fantastic, I was utterly amazed at its complexity and the overall flavor profile, dark red fruits, leather, mocha and trace minerality. The tannins were smooth as a babies ass [ohh, he said a bad word] and glided about nicely into a rather nice finish. Good Job, Blackstone!

Price and Where to Find: Okay Chula Vista this is your opportunity, I found a huge cache of this vino at my local Trader Joe's in East Lake and they are selling it for $9.99 each. You can also buy it from the Blackstone Winery website for a suggested retail price [SRP] of $22 each. C'mon this wine is just stupid good at the TJ price, so why would ya get it anywhere else?

My Recommendation: This wine is already sold out at a few TJ's around town, but you folks in the South Bay obviously need to put down that Two-buck upchuck and step up to something truly palatable for a few dollars more, your liver will thank you. I'm telling you once this review is posted it will not last long, I've called the over to this store and inquired about the status of this wine, they have something like twenty cases left and at this price you have my run don't walk recommendation. So hustle your buns down there now, buy a case or two and please tell them the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog sent ya.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The winds of change are blowing at Anaba Wines, Sonoma

My wife and I just took a wonderful trip to Sonoma and Napa, where we tasted some fantastic wine, made some new friends, met up with folks I only knew through Twitter and talked with winemakers, growers and the folks who meet and greet ya in the tasting rooms.

These are the stories I've been waiting to write, since I returned late just this last Thursday. The first winery I wanted to bring to your attention is Anaba Wines in Sonoma, in the heart of the Carneros Appellation. This winery is a new kid on the block relatively speaking.

One of the great wineries in Sonoma to visit especially if you're a fan of  Rhone varietals, something for everyone in their line up. A visit to this winery was recommended to by a fine gentlemen [cork-dork] friend, who really has his finger on the pulse of the Sonoma Valley. His name is William Allen and you can read his excellent work over at Simple Hedonism, which  I highly recommend you do before you plan your next trip.

Anaba Wines is just down the street from Gloria Ferrer [which I'll write up soon]. One reason I wanted to talk about this winery so soon is that their Chardonnay, which I totally loved is heading over to the big wine publications [the glossy page folks] for review, so I wanted to scoop them. By doing so, to me it demonstrates the power of the Wine Blogging Community [the New Media], we don't have to wait for "our" articles to come out in print, there's no editor standing over my keyboard telling me what or who to write a story about. Could I use an editor to go over my work before I hit the the big "publish button", umm without a doubt.

But that's beside the point I'm attempting to make, that point is why Wine Blogs are your key to finding the best values and where to purchase it, before the big boys get their grimy mitts on it. This article demonstrates this point so succinctly, because WS just came out with their article and score on the Anaba Chardonnay. This was the prediction I made back in September of 2010 about this wine, "This wine is one I know will score big with folks over at WE or WS, this wine is one you will want to grab before it's all gone. Because once they review the wine, it will be gone in a flash." So do you think bloggers still don't have credibility to review wine and make recommendations. I think those questions are now put to rest.

Other Voices: Okay folks this just in from the folks at the Wine-Speculator who have just reviewed the Anaba Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2008 and gave it a score of score of 92 points nearly echoing my own take this wonderful wine and fulfilling my prediction that the WS folks would also be gaga over this very balanced Chardonnay. They had this to say about the 2008 Anaba Chardonnay; "Rich and layered, with a mix of honeydew melon, fig, apricot and spiced apple flavors. Full-bodied and intense, without being heavy." Which they recommend drinking now through 2017.—J.L

About Anaba: Interesting name huh? Curious, I asked where the name came from? The answer, "The winds of Sonoma lent us our name" [my first thought, um okay]. Check out their landing page, where you can be treated to a sample of the Anabatic winds which are a blessing to the grapes. Their description of the prevailing winds, "Wafting softly, with some gusts and gales, they glide through the vineyard rows. As they encounter steeper slopes and drift upward, they become anabatic winds." The Japanese word Anaba, means "hidden spot" or "special place", but their wines and the quality they have achieved cannot be hidden any longer and with the other reviews I've seen it looks like the cat is out of the bag! By they way they have a laptop set up in the tasting room, showing exactly how these winds flow through the area.

Why Anaba: According to the website their were a few contributing factors that drove John Sweazey to open the doors at Anaba, "I created Anaba Wines because, quite simply, I just love the wine business." He never wanted to become a winemaker. John explains, his answer to the question what is wine? "My desire to get into the business was fueled by my long-time interest in production, making the best possible wine from the finest grapes, then marketing and selling it. To me, that's the romance of wine."

Why Sonoma: According to Anaba Wines,in 2003 John Sweazey [Proprietor] was finally able to begin his search for a premium wine growing property in Sonoma, finding a serendipitous spot in Western Carneros, where cool winds temper the summer heat, allowing for a longer growing season for his chosen grape varieties.

Mr. Sweazey explains further, "Sonoma is more attuned to my personality — and is the best place to grow the Rhône Blends and Burgundian varietals that I love." To that I say, you made a brilliant choice the wine is quite fabulous and although they've ripped up all the Pinot Noir plantings they previously had on their small 10 acre property, they've contracted with none other than Gary Pisoni to continue their Pinot Noir program. If you're at all familiar with Pisoni fruit, than your mouth should be watering just about now.

The Wine Maker: At Anaba, Jennifer Marion is director of both winemaking and vineyard operations, enabling her to put her [their words]distinct fingerprint on the wine. Anaba winemaker Jennifer Marion believes the art of winemaking finds its soul in the vineyard. When asked about her winemaking approach she said, "I've always said you cannot trust a winemaker with clean shoes and soft hands," which is similar to the well known saying, "You can't trust a skinny chef" and she went on to say "My winemaking philosophy is defined by attention to the details in the vineyard as well as the winery."

Full Disclosure: Hey FTC and anyone who may care, yes my tasting fees were waived and I did receive a discount on my purchases, but I was given no samples or other special treatment. Just another bloke stopping by the tasting room to see what was new and there is plenty to see.

I had the opportunity to try many of their wines last week when I visited, but the one that really caught my attention [and came home with me] is the wine I will highlight in this review.

2008 Anaba Sonoma Coast Chardonnay: This is wine I was referring to earlier, which is on its way to be reviewed and I predict will be one of those run don't walk recommendations, just remember you saw it here first.

Fruit Source: The fruit was sourced from Sonoma growers: Bacigalupi, Fallen Leaf, Sangiacomo, Bonneau, and Haddad.

Treatment: 60% of the fruit was fermented in stainless steel tanks at 50 degrees without malolactic fermentation. 40% of our wine was barrel fermented for 11 months in new French oak.

Swirly-Swirl: In the glass just brimming with a near golden core and a pale rim.

Big Sniff: Pronounced aromas of bright crisp pear, green apple leaps from the glass, with a dollop of custard wafting about.

Sip and Slurp: Had the taste of crème brulée, lovely Carneros Fruit, a fresh clean wine with a good backbone of acidity, and I picked up some rich tropical notes, threaded through toasty oak notes.

Price and Purchase: This wine can be purchased online through their website or in the tasting room for $28 and in my mind represents a great value for the caliber of wine in the bottle.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if you're interested: This was really good juice and scored 93 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale, please tell them the CCWB sent you.

2007 Anaba 'J Mc K' Carneros Pinot Noir This Pinot was fantastic, highly recommended. But this is the last of it, they ripped out this vineyard so get these while you can.  $32 and 91 points

2008 Anaba 'Coriol' White, Sonoma Valley A wonderful Rhone blend, 30% Viognier, 12% Marsanne and 10% Grenache. Very delightful! $28 and 89 Points

2007 Anaba 'Coriol' Red, Sonoma Valley Here's another wine from the Rhone Zone with 38% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre, 25% Petite Sirah and round it out with 10% Counoise. $28 and 89 Points

Anaba Red "Aero Port" Wine, Sonoma Valley, NV A ruby stlye port made with 100% Syrah grapes and fortified with the same grapes. Anaba goes the extra step and takes their grapes to be distilled, so the spirits added is from the very same Syrah grapes. $28 and 90 Points

Anaba White "Aero Port" Wine, Sonoma Valley, NV Made from 100% Viognier grapes and fortified with distilled from their Viognier Grapes. This was one the very best White Ports that I've had the pleasure to taste. Alcohol: 18.4% ABV and the residual sugar: 9.4%  selling for $28, 89 Points.

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