Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Announcing the CWT "Field Trip" series!

Today I'm excited to introduce a new feature on the blog which I hope to continue on a semi-regular basis: the CWT Field Trip Series! Every now and again instead of reviewing a wine, I'll use my descriptive powers (and a little imagination) to take you with me on a tour of a great New York State winery. If you've never been to one, winery tours and tastings are a great way to spend time learning about and trying the great wines our region has to offer. 

There are literally hundreds of vineyards and wineries around the Empire State, many (most?) of which offer tastings, tours and in some cases restaurant fare for your gastronomic pleasure. If you live in the tri-city area, there are many that would make easy morning/afternoon jaunts or day trips. For weekend trips and longer, you can drive one of New York's regional wine trails to check out what each area has to offer. If you like wine and/or want to learn more about it, trips like these are a blast. Check out Uncork New York for a list of NYS wineries (or grab a FREE brochure next time you're in Personal Wine Cellar), then just hop in the car and go! For a worry-free --though less wallet-friendly-- wine-tasting adventure, rent a limo and cruise to your destinations in style. The built-in designated driver is handy if you'll be hitting up several wineries in one day.

Check out the Casual Wine Taster this Friday for a virtual visit to our first destination: Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield, NY—and don’t forget your signed permission slip (kidding). To whet your whistle, here are some photographic highlights of our visit...

New York's oldest estate winery, Johnson Estate has been going
strong since 1961, and the farm has been in the family since 1911.
Pretty impressive!

We did a whole lotta tastin'! 29 wines to be exact; that's almost
as many wines as I am years old. I said almost...

We took a 2.5 mile tour of the vineyard...

we "ooohed" and "aaahed" at the gorgeous panoramic views that my
camera phone just does not capture well...

we saw this awesome Firebird with a giant luggage carrier resting
on a zebra-print blanket being held in place by a hand stuck out the passenger's side window.
(side note: we did NOT see this at the winery.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that my visit to Johnson Estate was also a business-related excursion; soon I will be representing their fantastic wine portfolio in the Capital District as their brand ambassador (how cool is that?!). But I won’t lie to you; I had more fun visiting them than any working stiff has any right to have on the job. Oh, and their wines are top notch. Several are highly rated and have won awards. Deets (or as human beings call them: “details”) coming Friday...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flipflop Left Coast Malbec 2010

Oh good, I was beginning to wonder when I was going to get to review a Malbec! In our house, Malbecs rule. If Ernie and I were Joanie, Malbec would be Chachi. On Iron Chef, Malbec’s cuisine would reign supreme. If we starred in the movie Sideways, Malbec would be our Pinot Noir... 

On second thought: we probably wouldn’t star in Sideways because Thomas Hayden Church's character is a jerk, Paul Giamatti's is a whiner, and we'd argue about who had to be the jerk and who had to be the whiner. Many a marriage has hit the rocks due to debates of this magnitude.

Anyway, in case you can’t tell, I’m really excited to be blogging about one of my favorite red varietals. My thoughts on Malbec in general: I love how bold it is. It's the kind of wine that takes a bouquet of fruit, backhands you with it and yells: "snap out of it!" Maybe your mouth smarts a bit after, but you're a better person for it.

This is a scrumcap, by the way...
yeah, it wasn't what I pictured either.
Yet another screwcap offering that Microsoft Word has hilariously suggested I change to “scrumcap,” the Flipflop Malbec may sound and appear a little like a “bargain bin" brand, but it’s really quite good.

The Flipflop Malbec looks, smells and tastes rich and earthy. The internet appears divided on whether Chilean or Argentinian Malbecs have more tannins, but I think Chilean Malbecs like the Flipflop tend to have less fruit and more earthy flavors compared to their Argentinian counterparts-- at least based on my dry mouth. However, don't think for a minute that there isn't depth to this wine; like many other Malbecs, the Flipflop is also plummy in color, scent AND flavor. The plum-ness is omnipresent, deep and juicy. It smells like a plum dust cloud, tastes like a plum-fisted handshake and finishes like smooth, warm, plum pudding. Also present: figs and dirt. Can't forget the dirt.

If you're skeptical about that last bit I assure you, in a wine, dirt is a nice flavor. It's not like sticking your tongue in a dried up mud puddle-- it's inhaling where a wine is from as the traces evaporate on your tongue; it's a neat way to connect with the wine's regional qualities.

Lip-smacking good, the Flipflop Malbec is a great tasting medium-dry red that's easy on the pocket. The bottle suggests you pair it with pork empanadas, and while that sounds delicious I didn't think of that while drinking it, nor do I know how to MAKE empanadas. A nice pork chop would do the trick. Maybe next time...

Price: $

My Rating: A

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tutidi Moscato

Well folks, I have some good news and some bad news today on the blog-front...

The good news is: I have emerged victorious from my Robitussin-induced, sleep-deprived delirium and fully intended on making sure today's offering is a.) in English, b.) free of technical difficulties and c.) coherent.

The bad new is: I didn't have time to taste a wine this weekend. I know you're thinking "that's preposterous, how can you not find time to DRINK WINE, since it is in part what you are paid to do at Personal Wine Cellar?"
I know, I know; you're right. And as a special gift to you, I'm going to let you use your imagination to answer that question and call it a day.

Lucky for me, the wines we'll be tasting at PWC this Friday are some old favorites; three delicious Italian sparklers, great for chilling while you're chillin' and/or grillin' (see what I did there?).
"Tutidi," as the bottle will tell you, is Piedmontese for "everyday." Not fussy or frilly, all three wines are great tasting and reasonably priced. The Cortese is a light, drier white and the Bracetto is a bubbly red with pleasing dark fruit and berry flavors.
Yup, only one photo today.
Since I tend to favor sweeter whites (and remember what it tastes like), I'll tell you a little more about the Moscato-- the Ultimate Summer White*:

The Tutidi Moscato is a great party wine. By that, I mean it's great just chilled and in a glass, but it's also versatile enough that you could do other things with it; add some schnapps or a cordial to make a delish carbonated cocktail. There's already a decent amount of light fruit flavors in the Moscato, so you can add some fresh fruit to make a fantastic (I wanted to say slammin', but had some last-minute reservations committing to yet another silly apostrophe) white sangria-- I'd go with peaches and or pears.

If you're the type of person who's ever said "I'm celebrating something and want to participate in/give a toast, but I don't like champagne" (or something to that effect), give one of the Tutidi sparkling wines a try for your next toast-worthy event. And if you need a reason to celebrate and don't have any impending festivities, I do have a birthday coming up...

Price: $

My Rating: A

* Tied with Riondo Prosecco. And up for debate, if the mood strikes. But it is really good, I promise!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jellybean Blueberry Pie Merlot 2010

Today's blog entry (complete with non-addressed technical difficulties) brought to you by Robitussin and the letter Weeeeeee!

my cell phone doesn't quite capture
the "dazzle" the way I'd hoped.

When sampling any wine for the first time, I generally try not to let what's written on the bottle dictate what I taste. While it isn't actually flavored with blueberries, the 2010 Jellybean Blueberry Pie Merlot really does seem to have some of the characteristics of fresh blueberry pie-- minus the flaky crust. It smells sweet and delicious-- and a lot like BLUEBERRIES-- but between the assault on my senses from the cold I have been fighting this week and the honey-lemon cough drops I've been sucking on like they're going out of style, I'm not 100% sure if the scents and flavors I'm detecting are really in there, or if in my current state of tastebud overload/exhaustion I am tasting what the label wants me to taste (does that even make sense? I don't know; I've been awake for 37 hours. I really need to go to bed). The Jellybean Blueberry Pie Merlot, another fine, screw-top offering, begs the question: which came first, the flavor or the name?

So now that we’ve established that the Jellybean Blueberry Pie Merlot (possibly) really does (maybe) smell and taste a bit like actual blueberry pie (I think), I should probably touch on its other notable qualities. It has a luxuriously deep ruby color, and in the right light (my living room ceiling fan does the trick) it’s quite dazzling. It appears bright and rich, and tastes that way too. Juicy, dark and dare I say invigorating fruit flavors abound with each sip—intense cherry, ripe plum and of course the ever-present tartness of blueberries. There’s also a hint of vanilla, but that’s more of a legume, so I’m leaving it off my list of fruit flavors (I’m definitely starting to  exhibit the effects of being overtired).

A fairly uncomplicated wine, the aroma starts out bold and then recedes quickly, making the Jellybean Merlot an excellent go-to sipper. If I had to place a wager I’d say this newcomer* has a promising future ahead of it. And since I can no longer feel my tongue, that’s all I’ve got for you today!

Remember these? Gross.

Price: $

*Seriously, the website is "coming soon."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris 2011


I said it in my first post and I meant it: you CAN get really great wine with a screw top!

For the bottle-opener impaired, I bring you the Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris—a fantastic New Zealand white. Now, since all seven of you have committed my previous blog posts to memory, I don’t need to remind you that I’m a bit picky about white wines. I don’t, as a rule (or a guideline, I suppose), enjoy the drier ones. This wine is different.  It surprised me from start to finish.

I hope none of the anonymous people
in this photo are angry that I used it here...

First the smell: New Year’s Eve, before midnight. That is to say, the Mt Beautiful Pinot smelled like champagne. I also smelled the alcohol; to me, it brought back images of wiping the excess polish off of my hastily painted fingernails with a Sally-Hansen-covered Q-tip. A little nail polish remover never hurt anyone, right?
Thankfully, the Mt Beautiful doesn’t taste like nail polish remover, although the alcohol smell does translate into its flavor, and no wonder—it’s 14.5%.  If you’re strictly a wine drinker, you’ll notice right away; if you generally prefer liquor, this won’t be a quality that'll much impress you. However be aware that this one could pack a punch.
Drunk-texters beware!

Besides being able to easily taste the alcohol content, this wine dealt a few other surprises—depending on what I ate, the flavors changed. After a bite of salad with ranch dressing, it was smooth and fruit-salad flavored. Maybe that sounds generic, but I detected many fruits in there: apple, pear, peach, perhaps some grapefruit and pineapple. After a bite of lemon-pepper chicken it was like drinking an entirely different wine. Much spicier and a little bitter, much of the fruit flavors were no longer detectable. As fun as it was to try and guess what flavors would present themselves depending on what I ate, I eventually went back to my salad; it paired best with the wine.

Hands down the best part of drinking the Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris was how varied it was; besides the chameleon-like flavors, it reads on your tongue like an EKG—there’s a definite spike toward the middle of the sip, where the flavor hits hardest before fading again.

So kids, today’s takeaways for the Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris:

Tastes like desert animals AND electrocardiograms
Avoid lemon pepper marinade
Screwcaps= YAY!!

Don’t forget you can try it yourself on Friday 7/6 at Personal Wine Cellar. See you there?

Price: $$