Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Embocadero Tempranillo 2009

Oh my god, I'm so LATE!! The holiday season just caught up to me folks, and I've spent the day in a scramble of present wrapping, clothes laundering and fancy cheese buying. Which has all left me very little time for wine drinking. And so here it is, 4:30, and I'm just now cracking open a bottle to tell you about. On the plus side, this is the first Tasting Tuesday that hasn't started before noon in I'm-embarrassed-to-tell-you how long.

This week, I'm drinking the 2009 Embocadero Tempranillo*, a very flavorful Spanish red, and great sipper for this time of year.

In the glass the Embocadero Tempranillo is a deep red, nearly purple, and it does not cling to the side of the glass when swirled. When you first open the bottle, you'll notice a sweet, grapey smell that is a bit misleading. Let it air for a bit, and you'll get some floral scents in there, which are more accurate to the flavor.

The sip packs a punch of dark fruit and vanilla, with some oak, smoke and baking spices (think spice of the nutmeg/clove variety, not peppers). It's really nice to drink on its own, but I am considering pairing this with some of the hors d'oeuvres (I can NEVER spell that without google) I have planned for our holiday meal. I'm thinking prosciutto and smoked mozzarella would be happy companions to this wine.

just because my leg broke off
doesn't mean I'm not delicious.
For today, since I'm running so far behind, I had the Embocadero with...reject Christmas cookies. Other than that being a truly sorry excuse for an afternoon snack, I rather enjoyed the combination.

Price: $

My Rating: B+

*Spellcheck sez this should actually read: Embroider Temporary.

As a side note: Next Tuesday is Christmas, so I won't be posting a blog. Maybe if I'm feeling some particular gusto about whatever we have with our Christmas dinner I'll put something together for Wednesday or Thursday. More than likely though, I will return afresh in 2013. Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adventures in Mulling Wine

It's just about mid-December and a frigid 49.6 degrees outside. I know you're thinking: "S#it, I'm freezing! I wish I had something warm and alcoholic to drink. But I don't really want to go to the bar to get it, and my car is out of gas, so that's right out."
Friends, I aim to please. Over the weekend, I experimented with mulling wine, and I've got my hand-crafted (I made it up), time-tested (it was still good the next day) recipe for you!

This guy needs all the mulled
wine he can get...

But first, some info-tainment...
Mulled wine goes waaaaaay back to medieval times as a health drink (think Ensure for the peasantry). It's basically just red wine, spices and fruits served hot or warm. Since winters were cold and water disgusting, mulled wine got many a medieval peep through a long, hard winter. 

Mulling wine is pretty easy, and it's a great weekend activity for you and yours. Even if you don't want to drink it, it smells fantastic and will fill your house with holiday spirit(s).

Here are the simple instructions that I just now made up...

Casually Mulled Wine-

You will need:

And sugar. And brandy or cognac. Oh, and a crock pot. The happy, decorative star is optional.


1.) Buy 1.5 liters of cheap red wine. Or good red wine, if you want, but you're just going to add stuff to it, so it doesn't need to be top shelf. Dry is better for this venture. I chose Liberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. At $8.99 a bottle, it was a small dent to the wallet.

2.) Pour wine into the crock pot. Place on low heat.

3.) Incompetently shred one medium sized orange. Add to wine.

4.) While you're at it, throw in 10 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons of ground allspice, and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.

5.) Stir that bad boy up!

6.) Add 30 oz. of Crapple juice (cran-apple). This is best accomplished buy purchasing a 32 oz. bottle and "tasting" approximately two ounces of juice, then dumping the rest in.

7.) Add 4 oz. of cognac or brandy. If you have a truly awesome cognac that someone gave you as a gift, but you don't drink cognac so it just sits there, all the better. Use that one.

8.) Mix it up, cover, and leave it alone for at least 3.5 hours. 

You'll notice it starts to smell fantastic, and really, as long as it's heated through you are good to go. Garnish with an orange slice and/or cinnamon stick and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Capoccia Vineyards and Winery Noiret 2011

This picture is meant to show you
what a great local holiday gift a
bottle of Capoccia wine would be.
If you're like me and wanted to shop local for gifts this holiday season but haven't even started yet, here's a good tidbit for you-- this week's wine is a true local, and it's available (along with a couple of others from the same vineyard) at PWC.

Made in good ol' Nisky.
Capoccia Vineyards and Winery is located in Niskayuna, NY (which is just more than a stone's throw from my house...in fact I could probably even walk there without being knifed). There are so many reasons why I think this winery is cool. Firstly, it's the only one (that I know of) in Schenectady County. All grapes are either grown on site or shipped from growers in the Finger Lakes area. The family has been making wines for generations, so their dedication to quality is evident-- they are a chemical-free operation. Lastly, for a brand-spanking-new venture (they opened their doors this past July) their wines are quite good.

At PWC you can shop
AND drink local
For today's post I tried their Noiret, which is a pleasingly spicy red. You'll notice its deep red color and warm fragrance right away. I thought I detected a hint of chocolate when I inhaled, but I am still congested so maybe it's just me.

The sip is a little peppery, with some raisin and plum worked in there as well. The bottle says there is a mint aroma, and while I didn't necessarily detect the scent or flavor, my mouth felt oddly refreshed after I sipped*.

The folks at Capoccia Winery recommend that you serve the Noiret with beef, pasta or sharp cheeses. I agree that those all sound delicious. I had a glass with some chef-created ravioli in a light tomato sauce...

don't judge me.
Sorry to disappoint any of you who might have expected the culinary genius you usually find here on the Casual Wine Taster blog, but I'm a grad student and it's the end of the semester, so I don't have time to cook for a few weeks. Thank you, Mr. Boiardi.

*Seriously, if you come to PWC on Thursday for our free tasting, try taking a sip and then inhale deeply through your mouth. Totally wild!

Price: $

My Rating: B+

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Altos del Plata Malbec 2011

Even though I haven't yet had my fill of turkey (or ham. Or pie. Or crab oobie doobies.), I'm glad to be moving away from the Pinot Grigio's and Sauvignon Blanc's of Thanksgiving meals and back into my favorite territory: the wonderful world of reds. Which by the way, are perfectly OK to drink with Thanksgiving meals; I just didn't.

and I would've gotten away with it
if it wasn't for you rotten kids!
So, on this lovely Tuesday I am sampling the 2011 Altos del Plata Malbec, a delightfully predictable offering for all you other Malbec fans out there. By the way, I think the word "predictable" takes a lot of crap from people. We roll our eyes when Grandpa tells us the same story for the umpteenth time. We cringe at stories with a "Scooby-Doo" ending. But there's something to be said for predictability. As far as wine goes, it's nice to know what you're getting before you even open the bottle.

The Altos del Plata Malbec delivers a reliable, strong, fruity flavor, with aromas of plum and blueberry (I think...my nose is pretty stuffed up today). The sip provides a powerful slap of jam, more than just-a-hint of vanilla and a bit of oak. I know, I know; I keep saying I don't like oak, but then telling you I like such-and-such wine and THAT'S oaked...I don't mind it when it's not overdone. And when I say strong fruity flavor, I mean it; elements of the sip hang around long after you've finished it. To summarize: the Altos del Plata is a Malbec. It tastes like a Malbec.

Also: let this one open up for a bit; give it 20-30 minutes after you pop the cork to aerate.

We're pretty much out of food in our house, so I'm not going to tell you what I ate with this wine. Suffice it to say that it involved American cheese, Stove Top stuffing and a chicken patty. The rest is up to your imagination, and I'm unfortunately unable to recommend pairing the Altos with whatever-it-is you can find in your kitchen. That being said, I think it will taste GREAT with the pork chops I plan to make for dinner.

That's all for this week; I'm trying to keep things short and sweet. Like me :o)

Price: $

My Rating: B+

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Excitement Abounds!!
Do you know what today is???? Besides Thursday??? It's Beaujolais Nouveau Day! A magical day that happens once a year on the third Thursday in November. For the uninitiated, Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine of the new vintage, so the 2012 Nouveau was harvested just a few short months ago. As you might imagine this doesn't leave a lot of time for ageing and often results in a sub-par wine, which we are allowed to imbibe for the first time on the Thursday before Turkey Day. However, I like to believe that BN Day is more about celebrating the end of a successful harvest than it is about the BN itself.

Beaujolais Nouveau tends to pair well with traditional Thanksgiving meals, so its release coincides nicely with the holiday. But since we're being honest-- while I appreciate the Beaujolais Nouveau I don't usually like it, and I can't tell you that this particular vintage is any different for me. Bummer.

I promised I would try not to use descriptors like "toe jam" or "sweat" to describe its flavor, so I'll just tell you its youth is evident. It has a deep ruby color and a juicy smell, but doesn't provide a lot of varied flavor or growth with the sip. Really, I think it's more fun just to have a glass to toast the harvest and the hopes of a great year of wines to come.

And because I enjoy making crap up, I've been thinking while I sip the BN that there should be more to it than just "Huzzah! New wine!" So I came up with this: You know how on Groundhog Day we look for the groundhog's shadow to decide if we're getting 6 more weeks of winter or not? Well, on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, we should taste the new wine to decide if wines this season are going to be any good. My theory? The sweatier-tasting the Beaujolais, the better the wines coming down the pike (it probably has more to do with the weather, but I'm making up some lore here so just play along). If that is the case, I'm really glad I don't like Beaujolais Nouveau, because that means I'll be tasting some really good stuff soon.


Price: $

My Rating: I plead the fifth

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MacMurray Pinot Noir 2009

Wow, it's Tuesday already. The past few weeks have felt like minutes...you know, the kind of minutes that drag on forever and ever...okay, let me rephrase: the past few weeks have felt like minutes that feel like weeks. I don't know how else to explain it. Looking back it's like a blur of "meh" stippled with some of what makes life great. In between the mundane in and outs of everyday life I've gotten to play some good music, spend time with good friends and (as always) drink some good wine.

This week was a throwback to one of my standbys: MacMurray Pinot Noir. This wine is seriously good. It embodies all of what I love about reds. It's dry yet fruity, rich and soft (like a mouth full of satin, which, by the by, I do not recommend tasting for comparison), a little bit spicy and great with food.

a little on the dark side... sooo many
reasons why this image is funny...
Unlike many Pinots, which can be bright and nearly translucent in color, the MacMurray Pinot is a little on the dark side. If you're familiar with wine, you might notice a distinctly Zin scent when you smell it. Myself being a fan of Zinfandel, this just adds to the appeal.

A lesser Pinot can be watery and taste mostly like spice. Pepper in particular. This one's more layered, with a punch of dark fruit and vanilla and some of the sweeter spices-- like the kind you'd put in an apple pie (note to self: make an apple pie). Reading some online reviews, others have detected cola, smoke and crushed rocks. Yeah, I don't get that last one.

I paired the MacMurray Pinot Noir with chicken tikka masala and garlic naan from my favorite Indian restaurant. While probably not an ideal match, I won't tell you that it wasn't delicious. Really, the MacMurray Pinot Noir is, in what has become a catch phrase for me, a "Raisin Bran" wine: it tastes good with pretty much anything. Enjoy it folks; this one is as good as they get.

Price: $$

My Rating: A

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Johnson Estate Sparkling Traminette

Not to brag, but I make a pretty
awesome apple pie.
Let's talk TURKEY!! Later this month is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving-- a time for good food and good wine with family and friends. I can't wait!

In the spirit of the season, this week's Wine 101 class at Personal Wine Cellar will be dedicated to pairing wines with Thanksgiving meals. We'll be sampling four different wines that pair well with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Dr. Frank Gewurtztraminer, 90+ Cellars Mosel Riesling, Johnson Estates Sparkling Traminette, and Folie a Deux Zinfandel. 

Honestly, if I had to pick just one to recommend to you, I'd probably cry. Cause I can't do it. So, simply because I had it most recently, I'll tell you a little more about the Johnson Estate Sparking Traminette...

alternate label:
Golden Sparkles
This wine has BUBBLES, and here's an interesting fact about that: the Johnson Estates Sparkling Traminette is the only one made in the US using the traditional champagne method. Basically, that means the bubbles don't come from a carbon dioxide injection. Instead, they're created naturally in the bottle during a second fermentation process. While the traditional method comes straight out of the Champagne region of France, Johnson Estate puts it to good use right here in New York State.

 The Sparkling Traminette is also notable for it's great flavors. It's crisp and a little fruity, with some light citrus (maybe lychee) and floral accents. It's not super acidic, like some champagnes, but it's also not lip-puckering sweet, so it's great in a spritzer (you may recall that two weeks ago I mentioned splashing a bit of Chambord in there) and also makes one BOSS mimosa. 

Oh, and another thing: one of the "official" recommended pairings is TURKEY. But personally, I'd pair this one with my Thanksgiving leftovers. I mean, Thanksgiving dinner is great and all, but if you're family's like mine you've been snacking on beer-basted kielbasa and crab oobie doobies* all day, so when actual dinner happens around 2:30-3:00, you're kinda stuffed. And let's be honest: that sandwich you're gonna make at 9:00 Thanksgiving night, you know, the one with the congealed gravy, scooped stuffing and slices of jellied cranberry sauce on top...THAT's gonna taste awesome with some Sparkling Traminette. You're welcome.

*in case any non-relatives are wondering, this just means "hors d'oeuvres" in Craig.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc (2009)

This isn't a lovable
looking cat. I wanna
drink that smirk
right off his face.
It's stuff like this that keeps me up at night: Someone will give you something to eat/drink/sniff and say to you, "Try this; it tastes/smells like $h!t," and for some stupid reason YOU DO. Why?!?! Perhaps it is as simple as saying to yourself, well it can't be THAT bad, can it?  I admit, that's pretty much the reason I brought home a bottle of Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc last night. Because it can't REALLY smell or taste like cat pee, right?

RIGHT. I mean listen, I know my cat pee (sad but true). I have cats. Three of them. I am well aware of what that smells like. And I just didn't get it from this Sauv Blanc. My nose is no expert when it comes to wine, though, so I guess I'll just have to go along with the fancy scientists on this one. Sure. It's in there...

This blog is becoming as much
about what I make for dinner as it is
about what I drink WITH dinner.
Anyway, I will be the first to tell you that I judged a book by it's cover with this one, and brought home the Cat's Pee because of the label. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but when I got a fairly straightforward-- albeit powerful-- Sauv Blanc, I was a little surprised. This wine is a punch in the kisser, from the first scent to the tail-end of the swallow. It's super strong and citrus-y, even for a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. Example: if most NZ Sauvs are Sprite, then this one is Mountain Dew (weeeeee!). I definitely tasted lime, maybe some lychee, and some general herbiness (that's a word). Tart and acidic, it was sharp on my tongue and I felt reverberations from my sip long after it was over. I served the CPoGbB with chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, and peas. The combo was "meh" at best. This wine is just so flavorful that it is difficult for me to picture enjoying it with a meal. Several online reviews suggest seafood or citrus flavored chicken, but for me I think I'd fly this one solo.

Rating: C

Sidenote: I'm REALLY disliking these ads that now show up as links in my posts. I do enjoy posting appropriate (and random) links, but none of the ones I post are little pocket-sized ads that have NOTHING to do with the highlighted words. Just in case you are wondering.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Aftermath...

This is a really good picture of me...
Wow, what a weekend! It's Tuesday and I am still thoroughly exhausted from the madness of the PWC One Year Anniversary Extravaganza. Lots of people stopped by, but there was so much going on for such a long span of time that it would have been nearly impossible to catch it all. So here's a run down of the awesome day we had:

PWC's Chef in Residence Hillary whipped up some awesome cheese fondue with bread and veggie dippers, then put together a decadent brandy-soaked strawberry trifle.

Yup, these were a hot-ticket item.
John Randazzo from Via Fresca in Guilderland made a scrumptious chicken cacciatore that also made the store smell fantastic for the rest of the day.

We gave away a ton of merchandise...for some reason the Hpnotiq emery boards were the big winner, and we ran out of those first (I would not have ever in a million years seen THAT coming).

Most importantly, we sampled some great wines from around the world:

From Spain:
Casajus Vendimia Seleccionada
Abad Dom Bueno Mencia
Abad Dome Bueno Godello
Cellar Bellsum Red Blend
You may recall my fondness
for the Sassy Bitch Sauvignon
Monta Hiniesta Tinta de Toro-- which is this week's Thirsty Thursday selection, though I don't have time to try it beforehand...

Sassy Bitch-- all of them.
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia
Ritual Sauvignon Blanc

Dolia Vermentino
Doli Frizante
Villa Fiorita Chardonay
Villa Firorita Pinot Nero
Villa Fiorita Barbera
Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo
Cantina Zaccagnini Pinto Grigio (a new favorite!)

Bogle Chardonnay
Bogle Sauvignon Blanc
Bogle Petite Sirah
Bogle Phantom (a luscious red blend)

New York:
Johnson Estate Sparkling Traminette


Not to mention the Chambord. We served that up a few ways:
all on it's own,
on top of the Sparkling Traminette as a delicious spritzer
and in yummy Chambord Vodka French Martinis.

PHEW. That's a lot of tastings.

Back to my regularly scheduled drinking and blogging next week!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Party Time!!!

That's right ladies and gents, I'm going to beat you over the head with this thing because it's just that awesome.

This Saturday, October 20th, will be Personal Wine Cellar's One Year Anniversary Bash!

And there's a lot going on to be excited about.

Here's an artist's rendition of what
Shelly might look like...
aaand...that's me.
There will be wine and spirit tastings from noon until pretty much the end of time (or...well into the evening. I'm not sure what time exactly, but there are A LOT of tastings booked), including Chambord Vodka French Martinis with the incomparable Shelly (if you've been in the store, you've probably seen her doing her thang) and  Johnson Estate wines with Yours Truly! Me...in case you didn't know. I'm not sure what I'll open yet, but to get an idea of what will be on the table check out this post from my pilgrimage trip to the winery this past August.

As if wall-to-wall free wine and spirit tastings weren't enough, we're also doing totally free cooking demonstrations (with samples of course) throughout the day with some of our awesome chef friends.

Here's Brad finishing up
the Shrimp and Scallop
Orecchiette with Tomato
Butter Sauce...
We're kicking it off at noon with executive chef Brad Schmidt from The Gourmet Cafe in Glens Falls, NY. Brad's become a bit of a regular with our Cooking with Spirit classes, which are held the second Sunday of each month at PWC. This past week he made a wonderful scallop and shrimp dish with a white wine sauce. It was soooo good!

At 2:00 pm we have PWC's chef in residence Hillary Seaburg, who makes all of the delicious treats we serve up for Munchie Mondays. So if you've come in on a Monday or Tuesday and tried a spirit-themed dessert, that was made by Hillary. And seriously, that screwdriver cake was A.MAZ. ING.

And then rounding out the lineup at 4:00 pm is longtime friend and fantastic chef John Randazzo from Via Fresca in Guilderland, NY. John makes some seriously yummy gourmet Italian food. This guy catered my rehearsal dinner in 2008 and I am STILL dreaming about that penne ala vodka. His desserts are pretty darn delish too.

So, we've got free wine and spirit tastings, and free cooking demos and samples all day. As if that wasn't enough, you get a 10% discount of any wine you purchase (ANY WINE. Any bottle, any size, any price.). We'll also be giving away some door prizes throughout the day. If you're still reading this and saying to yourself, "eh..." there may be something seriously wrong with you*.

So to summarize:
Free Wine Tasting
Free Liquor Tasting
Free Cooking demos
Free Food tasting
Door Prizes
10% discount all day on ANY and EVERY wine purchase.

*consult your physician for details.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jorge Ordonez & Co. Bontani Moscatel Seco 2010

I've discovered a bit of a milestone today at CWT: I crossed the 1100 views threshold since starting this blog. Neat-o! It doesn't sound like much, but I am thrilled that more people than my husband and my mom are reading. So thanks!!

Anyway, to celebrate I decided to DRINK SOME WINE. Even though it's not super warm out I went with a light white that is perfect for "Haf Bach Mihangel" -- you know, when you get summer-like weather in the fall. In case you're wondering, "haf bach Mihangel" is the PC, less offensive, Welsh term for this phenomenon. But I digress.

Looks like water and tastes
like wine:
a great party trick.
With dinner I had a glass (okay, okay, two glasses) of Jorge Ordonez & Co. Botani Moscatel Seco. Boy is that a mouthful! You might think because of the grape varietal (Moscatel and Moscato are essentially the same grape, just grown in different places) that this would be a sweet wine. It's really not.

Sadly, my kitchen is not a
"super clean" one...
When poured into your glass you'll notice first off that it is very light in color. It ALMOST looks like a glass of water. But don't be fooled. Give it a whiff and you'll smell a refreshing, albeit misleading sweetness. It's also a clean smell-- crisp and citrus-y, like something you'd scrub your kitchen with. There's nothing like a super clean kitchen.

An interesting thing to note: the
cork has the vintage printed on
the top-- 2010.
The flavor was a bit difficult to nail down, as the Botani is the sort of wine that changes depending on what you're ingesting with it. It's all around acidic, with some mineral qualities and a cheek tweak at the end, courtesy of that citrus-y acid. For dinner we had seasoned pork chops and saffron rice, and while I ate I kept tasting butter in the sip. Without the saffron rice accompaniment I tasted grass, dry and tangy minerality. And might I recommend, stop drinking it by the time you get to eating your pumpkin pie. This wine does NOT go well with pumpkin pie.

The bottle suggests pairing the Botani Moscatel with seafood, sushi (aka seafood) or company. This wine would be great with a spider roll (flash-fried soft shell crab with spicy mayo). Yummy! But Reader, please, don't chow down on your dinner guests.

The Jorge Ordonez & Co. Botani Moscatel is best served cool, not cold. So throw a bottle in the fridge but be sure to give the temp a little time to come up before drinking.

Price: $$

My Rating: B

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looking for Wine or Liquor Themed things to do in October?

Earlier today I had the first migraine I've had in a long time. It was the sort of headache where I could no longer read, let alone look at the computer screen. So I'm about 11 hours late posting this review. And what's more...I'm not reviewing a wine this week.
But before you start booing and throwing tomatoes, I do have some fun stuff to share with you...if you're looking to expand your knowledge of wine and spirits and love freebies (I love freebies, who doesn't love freebies?), there are a few upcoming and recurring events you should check out at Personal Wine Cellar:

Event Number One-

Wine 101 with Greg Giorgio was
a blast!
Wine 101! Or, as I like to call it: Be Your Own Casual Wine Taster!
The second Thursday of every month at PWC you can take Wine 101, a wine tasting class with wine expert Greg Giorgio, who is a sommelier and cool guy to boot. For $10 (or $8 in advance) you get to sample three wines in your very own Personal Wine Cellar glass. It's a lot of fun!
The next one is Thursday October 16th at 6:30 pm and the focus will be on a fall favorite: hearty reds from Spain (yum!).

Event Number Two-
Cooking With Spirit!
Chef Brad is cooking up a storm!
I like this photo because you can
actually see the smoke heading
 toward the sprinkler system...
The second Sunday of every month PWC offers Cooking with Spirit, a FREE cooking demonstration that either utilizes wine or spirits in the recipe, or pairs a meal with a particular wine. After the demo you get to taste the recipe for yourself. The next installment of Cooking with Spirit will be on Sunday October 14th at 2:00pm with executive chef Brad Schmidt from the Gourmet Cafe in Glens Falls. I don't know what he'll be cooking, but I do know that it will be delish!
Here's the finished product from September's
Cooking With Spirit...
feel free to drool.

If you actually want to read
the ad, just click it.
Event Number Three-
Personal Wine Cellar's One Year Anniversary Extravaganza!
Yeah, that's right, it's an extravaganza. You know how I know? Because it's gonna be like Wine 101 and Cooking with Spirit all rolled into one, all day long, with extra prizes and stuff. So it'll be like Cooking-with-Wine-101-Spirit-Tasting-Discount-Fest. God I'm good at naming things.
All this is happening on Saturday October 20th.

So there you go, I've given you three great wine-and-spirit themed events that are going on in the next few weeks at PWC. Bring a date, bring your mom, bring a friend, bring yourself. I'll see you there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Abad Dom Bueno Mencia 2009

 Happy Autumn everyone! It's finally here! That magical time of year where we break out our jackets and crock pots, sip red wine and toddies, and listen to the rustling of a crisp breeze through the dying leaves. Say it with me now: aaahhhhhhhhh...

culinary genius.
This weekend I went all-out fall with a crock of slow-cooker beef stew, pumpkin cupcakes with spiced cream cheese frosting, and a few hearty glasses of 2009 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia. Normally I would go for a drier red with beef stew, but the PWC family has really been digging Spanish reds lately, so we went with the less traditional (at least as far as beef stew is concerned) Mencia. I bet you didn't know that Mencia was even a grape-- unless you actually know about wine, in which case you must be reading this blog solely for access to my wit and charm.

The first thing I noticed about the wine was that the bottle is sooooo pretty. I'm not usually a victim of this kind of book-by-its-cover marketing, but look at it!

I'm completely drawn to the shimmery blue lettering with that enigmatic seal that a quick Google search informs me is a window of the Monastery of Carracedo (located near the Abad Dom Bueno bodega), which used to be a stop on the Camino de Santiago.

I want to go to there.
This wine looks great in the glass as well. It's a surprisingly dark purple, somewhere between blueberry and blackberry in color. The look is definitely heavier than the smell or taste though. The aroma of the Mencia is warm and inviting as well as a bit fruity. The sip is characterized by dark fruit: blackberry jam is right on the money. It's a bit sweeter than one might expect from a cursory glance, but that's okay-- it's not overwhelming and I definitely wouldn't call the Mencia a sweet wine. With a little bit of that red warmth, this is a great wine for those cool evenings I so look forward to this time of year.

I took this picture NOT in
front of the microwave, just
to keep you on your toes.
The Mencia was great with our meal, however I'd understand if you'd prefer a spicier, drier red with beef stew (perhaps a Chianti). If this sounds like you, I also think it would be great with marinated pork loin. Additionally the Internet suggests game meat, which I hadn't thought of.

Price: $

Rating: B+

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maison Nicolas Chardonnay 2010

CWT sez: Oak is for deers, not people.
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but Chardonnay is not generally my white of choice because I'm not a fan of oak. Or rather, I'm not a fan of being slapped in the mouth by a Chardonnay that makes you feel like you're chewing on a tree.
However my opinion of Chardonnay has been challenged recently by my realization that not all Chards are oaked until they are a crusty brown in color and that is all you can taste. Since starting the CWT blog I have found not one, but two Chards that I actually really enjoy, and I'll have one of them open for you at PWC this Thursday: Maison Nicolas.

I like taking pictures of things
in front of my microwave.
What I like most about the Nicolas Chard shouldn't much surprise you: it's not oak-y. It's fermented in stainless steel vats, then aged six months in barrels. This process is evident when you look at the wine as well as when you taste it: It's light in color, though a bit less green than some whites that are aged in steel. And, there is only a small amount oak in the flavor-- in fact I'm not 100% sure it's even oak I'm tasting. It's a little like toast at first and then that hint is completely overwhelmed by refreshing citrus flavors. Both the scent and the flavor are light and refreshing as well as fleeting. This wine won't overload your senses, so it's great with a light meal.

That's right I said "with my lunch."
I have the day off, okay?
In fact, this wine was perfect for today because the weather is totally cooperating. It's cool and a little rainy. There's just that hint of fall in the air and while it's no longer hot out, it's not precisely cold either. It's REFRESHING outside! The Nicolas Chardonnay went very well with my lunch of a grilled chicken sandwich with Munster and BBQ sauce, Saratoga chips, and that light autumnal breeze drifting through my living room window...ahhh... I drank it slightly chilled, but it is definitely still good at room temperature, it will just lose some of its crispness. Which is no biggie.

Price: $

Rating: B+

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Casajus Vendimia Seleccionada 2006

So today, to make things easier, I have a slight CWT adjustment I'd like to announce. Starting with this post, each wine I blog about will be PWC's selection for Thirsty Thursdays. That means on Thursdays from 5:30-9, you can come in to Personal Wine Cellar and try whatever wine I reviewed on the previous Tuesday. How do I know this? Because I'll be the one pouring the samples. Boo-yeah!

This week I have a really nice wine for you. It's a Tempranillo with a great rating (The Wine Advocate gives it 91 points) and some fun facts to boot: Casajus Vendimia Seleccionada 2006.

unless you want this guy
 spitting in your food, I
 would recommend NOT
calling him "Garcon"
Looking at the label, I came up with this whole story (in my head of course) based on a loose translation of what I think "Casajus" would mean in English. That would be either "house juice," as in: "Excuse me, Garcon, but what is your house juice this evening?"
"juice house," as in: "Here is the house where we make our juice." (ta-da!)

Neither, surprisingly enough, is the case. Upon doing a little research I discovered that the wine is named for Jose Alberto Casajus, the owner of the Bodega Casajus vineyards where the wine is produced. What's more, Jose Alberto is the only employee of Bodega Casajus AND the town's baker! So he bakes bread until 9:00am, then heads across the street to the Bodega and makes some wines. You cannot make this stuff up.

Ghost approves.
And, as it turns out, Casajus Vendimia Seleccionada is an excellent wine. When you pour a glass, the first thing you'll notice is the heavy color-- deep red, bordering on purple (as Tempranillo tends to be). The scent is very juicy with strong aromas of grape and cherry. The taste is not nearly as fruity as the smell though. There is a pretty high mineral concentration and you can taste and feel it as it travels in your mouth. You can definitely detect the soil where the grapes are grown in the wine (which I think is very cool). There is an earthy quality in the finish that some tasters might be on the fence about, depending on if you like that sort of thing...I do.

I paired the wine with homemade baked mac n' cheese and ham. It wasn't a great match, and I didn't go for a second glass with my meal. I'd recommend pairing the Casajus with something more complex and/or spicy, like jambalaya.

This wine's a little more expensive than many I review here, so all the better if you come in and try it (for free, of course) before you buy it.

Price: $$

Rating: B+

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Root:1 Cellars Pinot Noir 2009

It's September and despite it being the end of summer and over a month since my birthday, we are rapidly approaching my favorite time of year: autumn! Apple picking, cider donuts, leaf peeping, bonfires, cool nights, back to school, my wedding anniversary and of course, red wine season! Hooray! All the more reason(s) to have a drink, am I right?

So, you'd think that since we went away over the weekend (to celebrate the aforementioned anniversary) I would have tried a new wine on my travels so I could share it with you today. But, no. I waited to share my favorite back-to-school, fall-is-coming wine pick with you. Sort of. Okay, so in reality we were in Vermont, and it was kinda cold out, so...I had spiked cocoa instead of wine. And for the record, it was GOOOOOOD.

Anyway, a good pick for early fall (in my humble opinion) is a Pinot Noir; it won't turn your cheeks red (I know I'm not the only one out there with this affliction), though if you drink a lot of it, it might stain your teeth a little. It's generally purplish in color and translucent, with a light smooth flavor that makes it an ideal companion for pretty much any meal. This week I tried a Chilean Pinot I've not had before, Root:1 Cellars Pinot Noir.
very cool label.
Unless you've spent the last several years living under a rock, you're probably aware that there are a lot of excellent wines coming out of Chile. In particular there are some really great, smooth reds that have some interesting qualities when compared to their European counterparts. The Root:1 Pinot is not spicy or peppery like some Pinots, but it has a smooth cherry flavor with a hint of vanilla that stays true throughout the sip; a steady and reliable go-to wine. It's light enough and smooth enough that it works with some meals you wouldn't normally think of for a red; like chicken or fish. I had it with garlic-parmesan chicken pangrattato (made from scratch) with saffron rice and carrots.

Why yes, that IS Lionel Richie
in the background.
A Bride and Her Flask:
in case you had any doubts
about my classiness...
Oh, relax, "pangrattato" is just a fancy word for "bread crumbs." Yeah, so I baked some chicken with 4C Italian style breadcrumbs*, grated Parmesan cheese and minced garlic. In my toaster oven. Because I am CLASSY. You know what, it was delicious too. The Root:1 Pinot complimented my meal perfectly. I would not, however, recommend it with an accompanying bowl of chocolate ice cream. Raisin Bran, on the other hand...

Price: $

Rating: B+

*I've yet to determine what the difference between 4C breadcrumbs and 4C iced tea mix is. Anyone?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero

Did anyone else feel a perceptible shift in the universe as it aligned in my favor on Sunday, August 26th 2012 at approximately 2:15pm? It was only a matter of time until this day came, the day that Ernie asked me, "what do you think we should taste at PWC this week?"

insert beams of light, angelic
choir-like sounds and maybe  a
verse or two of We are the Champions-- for effect...
Of course y'all know what my answer was...

Riondo Prosecco is probably my favorite white wine. Ever. In fact, I am sad that I am not sipping a glass right now as I tell you about its merits (I checked, there's none in the wine rack at the moment. Boo.).
It's hard to put my finger on what I like best about it. What makes Prosecco in general a delectable treat: it's light and effervescent. It's fruity and aromatic, but not super sweet. The word "fresh" comes to mind. Exciting on the front (what with the bright flavors and the heavy bubbles) with a slight mineral finish, it's a great wine to drink cold, with a light meal, before and/or after a light meal, or completely on its own (entirely sans a meal of any proportion). My favorite way to indulge: lounging in a camp chair (pinky down, solo cup style) with some good company and snacks (I like triscuits and easy cheese...).

don't knock it 'til you try it...
So that's what I like about Proseccos. Now, you might be wondering why I like Riondo's more than any others I have tried. The answer: well, I just do. It just suits my style as well as my tastebuds. But, since I feel like I owe you a story, I'll tell you of the first time I tried a Prosecco that was NOT Riondo...

It was Spring of 2008, and my friend Trish and I were headed to France for a week plus of crepes, medieval churches, crepes, art, crepes, culture and crepes. We were thrilled to discover that on our Air Swiss flight there was a pretty nice selection of wine, and both decided to have a glass of Prosecco (I don't recall the label). It was ok; not great but drinkable.
Here's me, enjoying a
delicious dessert-type-thing
in Brest, France. It's not a
crepe, but you get the idea...
Just after I finished mine, we began making our descent into Zurich. There was a pretty serious rain storm, and the turbulence was really rough. It got so bad that people on the plane were screaming, crying and praying as the plane was tossed around. I just squeezed my eyes closed and focused on not yacking all over myself. FINALLY, we hit the runway, fishtailed for a minute or two and came to a stop. One of the flight attendants stood up and said over the loudspeaker, "thank you, captain," at which point the entire plane errupted into cheering and applause at having not just then died.

Riondo Prosecco: lovely afternoons with family and friends. Non-Riondo Prosecco: near-death or near-vomit experience. Coincidence? You be the judge...

Price: $

My Rating: A+