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Breaking out of a Wine Rut

I’ve been in a wine rut.  Our travel this year hasn’t been wine focused, so we haven’t sampled very many new wines during tasting room visits.  In looking at the wine we have around the house, most of it is higher end Washington wines and Oregon Pinot Noirs.  While I love Pinots, it isn’t every random Wednesday that I want to open a more expensive bottle.  And trips to the grocery store leave me wandering the wine aisles, not able to get excited about all of the wines I’ve had before, and uncertain about trying something new.

So I had an idea.  I popped down to the local wine shop this afternoon and told the owner that I had a challenge for him, should he choose to accept.  I have been pleased with all the recommendations he has given me before, so why not trust him again?  The challenge?  Put together a mixed case of wines I have never tried.

The parameters:

  • Value wines – nothing over $15.00, closer to $10.00 is better
  • No Pinot Noir (while I love them, we have plenty already)
  • 8 or 9 reds, 3 or 4 whites.

That’s it – no other rules.  If he offered it, and it fit within the parameters, it went into the case.  Of course he accepted, because what wine aficionado wouldn’t?  Here’s what I ended up with.

My Mixed Case of Wine - my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

My Mixed Case of Wine – my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

Scaia – 2013.  This wine is a 60% Garganega, 40% Chardonnay blend; an Italian wine from the Veneto region.  Garganega will be a new grape for my Wine Century Club efforts! – $10.99

Atteca – 2012 Old Vines Garnacha.  This Spanish red is 100% Garnacha, and is the one wine I have tried.  They were tasting it this afternoon, and I loved it.  I’ll be curious to see what Jon thinks!  – $14.99

Trentadue – 2012 Old Patch Red.  This red blend from the North Coast of California is 85% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, and 4% Syrah.  – $10.99

Oinos Les Cardères – 2012.  This red blend from the Corbières region of France is 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 25% Carignan. – $11.99

La Playa Block Selection Reserve Red Blend Claret – 2012.  Wow, that’s a mouthful for this red blend from the Colchagua Valley of Chile.  60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. – $11.99

Pelassa Mario’s – 2012.  A red blend of 50% Barbera, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Piedmont region of Italy. – $12.99

H-Henriques – 2011.  This French wine from the Côtes du Roussillon region is 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 15% Syrah. – $7.99

Gerald Talmard Chardonnay – 2013.  French labels are hard…  This wine is from the Mâcon Uchizy region in France.  – $11.99

Torre Gajo Pinot Grigio – 2013.  This wine is from the Delle Venezie region of Italy and comes in a 1000 ML bottle – extra!  – $11.99

Linen Sauvignon Blanc – 2013.  This Columbia Valley wine is produced by Bergevin Lane Vineyards in Walla Walla, WA. – $10.99

Scaia Corvina – 2012.  We are going to try the Scaia white wine, so why not the red?  This one also comes from the Veneto region of Italy and is 100% Corvina. – $10.99

Sagemoor Farms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013.  This wine is produced by The House of Independent Producers (HIP); it is a second label for Hedges Family Estate in Benton City, WA. – $12.49

So there’s the line up.  I can’t wait to start sampling.

Have you had any of these wines?  Which one do you think we should open first?

 

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Winter Day in Woodinville: Dusted Valley

A few weekends ago it was another rainy, windy weekend, so Jon and I decided to spend the day tasting down in Woodinville, WA.  It had been awhile since we were there, and we didn’t have anything else going on, so we piled in the car and hit the road.

Ninety minutes later we had reached our destination, and after a stop at Panera Bread for lunch, we were ready to taste.  We decided to try some wineries that we had never been to before, and we ended up near the historic Schoolhouse building.  On the other side of the roundabout are several tasting rooms in a retail development that has only been there a few years.

We started our day at Dusted Valley.  The Dusted Valley winery facility is located in Walla Walla, but they have a tasting room in Woodinville as well.  We were greeted warmly by the server, and started off on the 2010 Cinsaut.  It is a light blend of 80% Cinsaut and 20% Syrah, from the Stoney Vine Estate in the Walla Walla Valley.  It is a excellent light, acidic wine, perfect for drinking now.

Next we had the 2011 Rachis Syrah, a wine containing 98% Syrah with 2% Petite Sirah blended in.  The grapes are sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard in the Red Heaven area of the Columbia Valley.  After that we tried the 2011 Cabernet Franc – a Columbia Valley wine with 91% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot.  It is a big, smooth red wine.

The 2011 V.R. Special Cabernet Sauvignon was next – it is a 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with just 1% of Petit Verdot blended in.  It is named for the V.R. Special Chocolate Chip Cookie created by the winemaker’s grandfather Vernon Rhodes in the Midwest.  The 2011 Petite Sirah contained 95% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah.  It is a dark, inky red color with strong balanced tannins.

And we finished off the tasting with the 2009 Late Harvest Syrah.  It is not a fortified wine, but is a heavy, syrupy wine with a strong alcohol content.  Jon really liked this wine.

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

All of the wines were excellent – there weren’t any that I didn’t like.  That said, my favorites were the Cinsaut and the Petite Syrah.

Dusted Valley also produces a second, value label – Boomtown.  They don’t taste or sell it at the tasting room, but I purchased a bottle later in the day that I found at Cost Plus World Market – given how much I liked the Dusted Valley wines that we tried, I am looking forward to tasting the Boomtown wine we bought.

Our next stop was Trust Cellars – I’ll blog about that next!

Have you tried Dusted Valley wines?  What did you think?

 

California Road Trip: A Day in San Francisco

In my last two posts, I described our morning at Alcatraz Island.  Once we got back on the ferry to the mainland after our trip to Alcatraz, it wasn’t even noon yet.  The day was still young!  We walked over to Ghiradelli Square so I could get some chocolates for my co-workers, and we took a couple of photos there.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure why Ghiradelli Square always tops the tourist lists of things to do.  I had trouble finding chocolate there that I couldn’t find at the grocery store back home…  Neither Jon nor I were feeling in the mood for a sundae, so that was a brief stop and then we were on our way again.

Ghiradelli Square - Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

Ghiradelli Square – Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

We hiked up the hill to our next destination – Lombard Street, aka “the Crookedest Street.”  We were there four years ago, on our first-ever vacation as a couple.  This section of the street has 8 switchbacks in one block, in order to make the 51% grade manageable for vehicles!  I’m not sure who ever thought that would be a good idea!  Apparently there is some dispute about whether it really is the crookedest street – it seems insane that some other city planner somewhere created something similar!  It was fun to get pictures at the same place at the base of the street.  Strangely, I was even wearing the same jacket!

Me at Lombard Street - the Crookedest Street

Me at Lombard Street – the Crookedest Street

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 - 4 Years Younger!

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 – 4 Years Younger!

After Lombard Street we walked over to Coit Tower – another place that we visited on our 2009 trip.  Coit Tower was built to honor the memory of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was a wealthy socialite who lived from 1843 to 1929.  She often pitched in to help firefighters of the day get their engines up the steep hills of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, and was well known for wearing trousers and gambling when it was not appropriate for women to do so.  When she died in 1929, she left about a third of her wealth (about $118,000) to the City of San Francisco, with instructions to use it for civic beautification.  Coit Tower was the selected design from a contest that was held for ideas for a memorial on Telegraph Hill.

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Coit Tower From Below

Coit Tower From Below

When you go inside Coit Tower, you find that the entire base is decorated with a series of murals, painted as a part of a New Deal employment project by the Public Works Administration during the Great Depression.  The murals are amazing – very detailed and well done, and they provide a thought-provoking social commentary that is still relevant today.  We spent quite a while going all around the base looking at the murals, but decided not to take the elevator up to the top of the tower on this trip.

Coit Tower Mural - Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Coit Tower Mural – Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower - And a Cow, But It's Awesome Because of the Horse!

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower – And a Cow, But It’s Awesome Because of the Horse!

After Coit Tower, we walked back to the hotel, through Chinatown, and rested our legs and feet for a little while.  Then we navigated the bus system so Jon could make the trip over to the Haight-Ashbury district for a stop at his favorite record store – Amoeba.  The bus driver was really patient with us as we fumbled around trying to figure out which bus to get on, and she even gave us free fares!  It is nice to find people who are so helpful in big cities.  And Jon loved his record store visit as well (as if you had any doubts!).

After our Haight-Ashbury excursion, we had intended to head to North Beach to find a nice little Italian restaurant that we had been to before.  But there wasn’t a bus that would take us directly from Haight-Ashbury to North Beach, and we would end up in the vicinity of our hotel again and then have to transfer.  As we had been walking all day, and had probably been at least 8 miles at that point, we decided to find something near our hotel.  I had seen an Asian fusion restaurant around the corner from the hotel and we decided to check it out.  We were not disappointed!

We walked into E&O Asian Kitchen about 7, and it was just getting busy.  Even though we didn’t have a reservation, they were able to seat us right away at a small pub-style table near the bar.  We checked out the wine list and made our selections.  I ordered a French Rosé called Triennes, from Provence, which is made primarily from Cinsault with small amounts of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blended in.  It was very tart and citrusy, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Jon ordered a 2010 Cristom Pinot Gris, an Oregon winemaker – his was good too, with more pear flavor, but I liked mine better.

For food, E&O does a lot of small plates, like tapas that are meant for sharing.  We ordered the Satay Platter, which came with four different types of kebabs, and you got two of each.  They were:

  • Hangar Steak – marinated with ginger, garlic and soy
  • Chicken – free-range chicken marinated with lemongrass, tumeric and peanut sauce
  • Shrimp – marinated in Thai basil and mango
  • Portobello mushroom – with a soy glaze

The dish came with pickled vegetables – carrots and cucumbers, which were a nice accompaniment to the rich meats and sauces.  We also ordered the local asparagus, which was seasoned with sesame, ginger, miso and egg and grilled.  And we had the wood roasted edamame with shiso fumi furikake and maldon salt.  To be honest, I don’t even know what that means, but they were amazing edamame!  This meal was one of the best of our trip!

E&O Asian Kitchen - Satay Platter and Local Asparagus - YUM!

E&O Asian Kitchen – Satay Platter and Local Asparagus – YUM!

If you think you might want to check it out, here’s their website: http://www.eosanfrancisco.com/.  My only word of caution would be that the dress code is a bit dressy/stylish/yuppie (as might be expected in San Francisco).  Jon was wearing a college hoodie sweatshirt and felt underdressed.  But don’t worry, nobody looked at him funny or said anything either…

And with the glow from that amazing meal, we wrapped up another day in San Francisco.  I took a bath in the clawfoot tub of the hotel to pamper my overused feet, and reflected on a fantastic day!

And you if you are interested in checking out what I wrote about our 2009 San Francisco trip, back when I first started this blog:

Who Knew Jon Would Be Craving a Rosé…

The recent days of sunny weather put Jon in the mood for more Rosé, so we opened up a bottle of Syncline Wine Cellars 2010 Rosé.  Syncline is a small family owned winery in Lyle, Washington, on the Washington side of the Columbia River, right along the border with Oregon.  We had stopped there for a visit on our 2012 President’s Day Weekend Wine Tour.  For more information on that visit…

The Syncline Wine Cellars owner and winemaker tends toward the science of winemaking, and it is apparent when you read the tasting notes on their website.  It is made in the Saignée style, where the skins remain on the grape for a short period of time to impart some color, but the juice (the must) is drained off before it darkens to the color of a red wine.  Syncline uses a different blend for their Rosé each year, sampling some of the best grapes of the year from around the region.  This year they sourced their fruit from the Columbia River Gorge (Pinot), Horse Heaven Hills (Grenache and Mourvedre), and McKinley Springs (Grenache, Cinsault, Couniose and Carignan).  And throw in a bit of Red Mountain for good measure.

Syncline 2011 Rosé Label - a Different Blend than the 2010

The 2010 Syncline Rosé is a blend of 33% Pinot Nor, 17% Grenache, 17% Cinsault, 15% Carignan, 9% Mourvedre, and 9% Counoise.  Other than the Pinot Noir, these are all relatively rare grape varieties, and all ones that I have really enjoyed in other wines.  This blend  has a melon nose, with bit of grapefruit.  It is a dry wine which has a brief taste of strawberry, but a lingering taste of honeydew and grapefruit.  It has a very dry finish. Jon announced that it is one of the more complex Rosés he has tried.  On a hot day, this wine will really hit the spot.  I recommend it for when you are in the mood for a dry Rosé.

The Recommendation….

Yesterday we went to a new grocery store in town for the first time. It has touted itself as having an extensive selection of high quality wine, so I wanted to see if they had the goods. Whenever I check out a wine store, I always want to know if it has wines that I can’t find other places. Wines I haven’t already seen in every other shop in town.

The layout is a little unusual – when you go into the wine section, there is a small walled off entrance with one way in and out. Good thing I’m not severely claustrophobic, because that might pose a problem. After he helped another customer, Mark the Wine Steward came over to Jon and I to see if we needed any help. So, I decided to try him out. I asked if he had any single varietal Chenin Blanc. He pointed to an empty spot on the shelf and explained that the previous customers had just purchased the last bottle. He told me that it is a French Vouvray, and told me that Vouvray is the French name for Chenin Blanc. Off to a pretty good start, but when I looked it up online I learned that Vouvray is actually the region in France – but it is planted almost exclusively with Chenin Blanc.  So… he was close enough. Mark also showed me a couple of run of the mill Chenin Blancs from Sutter Home and Hogue, but told me that they were known for being sweeter wines. He didn’t say it out loud, but you could tell he wasn’t a fan – and neither are we.

Jon and I usually know what we are looking for, but we know far more about domestic wines than European ones. Mark mentioned that he lived in France for a year, so I asked him to recommend a nice dry Rose. He showed me three French Roses with price points of $10, $11 and $20. I picked the $11 wine, the 2010 Recolte Rose by Domaine Sainte-Eugenie, because it is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvedre. When we tried it last night, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little light, but the perfect end for a very hot day.   For $11, I will certainly take Mark’s recommendation again.