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Getting Your Viggy On

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In recent years the Virginia wine industry has adopted Viognier as the state grape. And, as we are wont to do, wine bloggers took to exploring it, and giving it a nickname – “viggy”. (Hattip to Lenn Thompson, SwirlSipSnark and Drink What You Like – not sure which of you coined the term – claim it in the comments, y’all!)

Many of my favorite wineries down south are producing beautiful viogniers, and MissWineOH loves to share so that others will fall in love with all this slightly misunderstood grape has to offer. While this wine originates in the Rhone Valley and is best known as the grape found in Condrieu, Virginia is where I first experienced the floral nuances and bright acidity reminiscent of evenings with a glass of chilled white wine in a garden of southern flowers. You should not confuse this with midnights in gardens of good and evil, though there may have been some of that as well in the distant past. On this particular evening on a Cleveland rooftop, we gathered a group of  friends and colleagues, and 6 viogniers from around the world, and then paired them with some great summer dishes – and it was very good.

The Line Up:

Pillitteri 2010 (Canada)
Tarara Winery 2010 (Virginia)
Gerard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale 2010 (France)
Ferrandiere NV (France)
D’Arenburg 2006 – The Last Ditch (Australia)
White Knight 2008 (California)

The Menu:

All of these dishes were selected to pair with Viognier, without pairing with a specific wine’s flavor profile. I would also recommend seafood (shellfish or meaty fish), pork, or pasta dishes. These crisper wines would be beautiful with an alfredo sauce. The talented Caitlin Ziegler (@thatcaity) is a budding chef, and my daughter – and she did all the hard work that went into creating the food for this event.

Brie with Apricot Marmalade (if I can coerce the marmelade recipe from @thatcaity, you’ll get it on WineOH recipes!) 

Spinach Dip with Chunked Challah Bread

Fruit Infused Pasta Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Curry Chicken Appetizers

White Chocolate Lemon Cupcakes – with lemon garnish.

My thoughts: 

This tasting was inspired by finding a bottle of D’Arenburg, 2006 The Last Ditch at Viaduct Lounge in the cooler case, which I promptly absconded with at a decent price on an evening out with friends. This wine was probably the least viognier like of all of them – crisp with oak and cedar undertones and very little floral on the nose – almost like an unoaked chardonnay in profile. I wondered at first if I was tasting a pinot gris. Perhaps the age played a part in that flavor profile, but it was a very different style than the other wines. Try newer releases of this one. (2008 – $17)

The White Knight was playful and yet crisp – delicious lavender, orange and peach on the nose, with a smooth mouthfeel and bright acidity. I like the honeysuckle and slightly spicy finish on this wine. Its unique as a viognier on my palate, but a great wine. ($12)

Tarara showed as what I’d call “classic viognier” to me, but I’ll acknowledge a bias toward Virginia wines. It was one of the three I could identify immediately. (the other two being those above) The floral notes on the nose call to me, with melon and a buttery mouthfeel rounding out a pleasing finish with just a hint of wood. I wouldn’t call it an oaky finish, the taste is too subtle for that. I would say it was a stand out for me – very pleasing. (not sure this is still available)

Gerard Bertrand was a label I found at a trade tasting a few months ago and is readily available at an under $13 price point. It brings strong hyacinth and orange on the nose, with continuing citrus mid palate. Dry, with a bit of a short finish, not complex, but a great sipping or dinner wine at the price.

Pilletteri produces a viognier that was all pear and melon and then a slightly spicy finish. I expected a bit more oak based on some of the other Pilletteri wines I’d tasted – but this one is a perfectly beautiful specimen. A buttery mouthfeel and some vanilla on the nose, but I found no notes indicating aging in oak. ($18.20 CAN)

Ferrandier was a last minute addition to the party, and I was happy that I added it. This viognier from Domaine de la Ferrandier is out of the Pays de’Oc region of France. Its aged two to three months on the lees with a highly aromatic floral nose, full mouthfeel and strong pineapple and peach finish. Beautiful classic viognier which rightfully earned its place at the top of the lineup. It also comes in at $11.99 retail. 

All of the wines were served at about 65, and were wrapped in opaque plastic and numbered. While I knew what the lineup was, they were randomly numbered, so not even I knew which was which without tasting first.

The Results:

Our guests were asked to taste each one and then vote on each with a chip. Green (like) Red (don’t like) and White (on the fence).

And the winner, well…. that turned into a tie – with a very close second.

Ferrandiere and Pillitteri took top honors – with Tarara coming in close (by 1 vote)  – the others did well, as in none fell solidly into the “omg, I won’t drink this now, much less ever again” category – and all received at least 2 don’t likes. There were a few minds changed as participants went back and tasted a second time – there may have been an attempt at ballot stuffing, but that was promptly halted by one of our felines chasing a shadow, instead of playing with the chips.

So what do the results tell you?

Everyone’s palate is different. It’s a combination of good food, good wine and good company that makes your experience a memorable one!

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What to do when you have too many strawberries, and a bottle of Viognier

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On a hot summer evening, I’m loathe to make anything too complicated for dinner. But on an evening when it is cool enough, I have no choice but to get creative. I just can’t seem to help myself.

That’s how I came to pull a bottle of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc|Viognier from the cooler. There was a crate of strawberries in the refrigerator from the Tremont Farmers Market, one of the best neighborhood markets I’ve seen, and they were calling out for attention, paticularly once the Viognier had a chance to sit in the glass for a bit.

Pine Ridge Vineyards is located in the Central Valley region of California – they’ve been making wines since 1978, and are known for their Bordeaux blends. Today, the Estate’s 200-acres span over five renowned Napa Valley appellations – Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville, Carneros and Howell Mountain.

This is one you don’t want to serve too cold – at about 55-60 degrees you find bright aromas of citrus and flowers, a somewhat creamy mouthfeel, with bright acidity. I was impressed with the lasting finish with tropical citrus and a hint of honey. And the $13 price is right in the sweet spot. This bottle came from Wine and Design in Tremont.

The strawberries came in with the meal I prepared to go with. Pan baked chicken tenderloins, seasoned with lemon and garlic and topped with a strawberry and fig chutney – accompanied by roasted cauliflower and red pepper was the meal of the night.

With the crisp acidityof the Chenin Blanc and the floral and light honey notes of the Viognier, the wine blended seamlessly with the flavors of the food. You can find the recipe for the strawberry and fig chutney here.

When you walk the aisles of your local wine shop in search of a crisp, but full white wine for your summer dinner. Look at the chenin blancs, or viogniers (or a blend of the two, like this one!) Great summer sipper.

White Wines for Spring – TOWC Notes

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On a gorgeous Cleveland Spring evening, wine lovers gathered at The Olde Wine Cellar for an Ode to Spring, White Wines and Cupcakes on the deck of the wine shop. We were not disappointed with warm weather and a slowly setting sun. So what were we oohing and ahhing over on this beautiful evening with friends and strangers gathered to taste?

Wine and Cupcakes Selection

Brut D’Argent Blanc de Blancs

 Paired with White cake, custard and fresh strawberries with buttercream

How can one resist the urge to begin a tasting on one of the earliest warm days Cleveland has seen by sipping on some sparkling wine? We toasted to a new season with the very affordable and tasty Blac de Blancs from the Jura region on France.

This 100% Chardonnay has light effervescence, slight hints of crisp green apple and pear, a bit of mineral and some touches of buttered brioche at the finish.  Nice value.We paired this with the strawberry custard as a pleasing blend of light fruits. Champagne (or sparking, because even though French, this is not from the Champagne region) blends beautifully with fruits of all kinds. Think strawberry, apple, kiwi, peach… and of course you can easily add in the chocolate!

NV New Age Torrontes  – ArgentinaTorrontes Sauvignon Blanc blend

 Paired with Almond cake with roquefort icing

From one of Argentina’s most famous wineries – Bodega Valentin Bianchi, 90% Torrontes, 10% Sauvignon Blanc.

 Torrontes is the signature wine grape of Argentina. Aromas of fresh flowers and fruit, crisp, yet soft in the finish. Halfway through the fermentation process, the wine is centrifuged (spun) to halt fermentation, creating a slightly sweet, semi-sparkling wine. 9% ABV

The New Age is not your typical Torrontes, so if you are a huge fan, the effervescence may be a little shocking on your palate. That being said, for inexperienced wine drinkers, it is a great way to introduce your palate to a new grape. And if you like sparklings in general, you will probably find this to be a budget friendly one off from your usual bubbly.

Schloss Zell Mosel2007 Mosel Piersporter Michelsberg Kabinett Riesling – Germany

 Paired with Granny Smith Apple cake with Apple Cream Cheese and Caramel

Honestly, this cupcake could have paired with either the bubbly or the riesling. This wine and cupcake together just seemed like grandma’s apple strudel. Piesporter Michelsberg Kabinett is a very crisp moderately light bodied wine reminiscent of granny smith apples. The lively acidity results in a juicy clean palate feel that is ideal for a wide range of foods from cheese and appetizers to shellfish and meat.

There are so many variations on the theme when it comes to Riesling, this is your slightly off dry, slightly more acidity version. And it was a crowd favorite on our Spring evening!

2010 Tortoise Creek Wines Viognier – FranceViognier Tortoise Creek Winery France

Paired with Ginger Cake with Lemon Icing

 This Viognier, “Le Verger” is completely unoaked and therefore bright with lovely aromas of peaches, pears and honeysuckle that lead to a palate that is fresh and crisp but packed with fruit. Viognier can easily be paired with spiced dishes. I love a viognier with a sushi or fish. So I give you ginger and lemon… two of my favorite flavors with those dishes.

Viognier is meant to be consumed young, and typically will lose its perfume as it ages in the bottle, so don’t hold on to this one too long – not that you’d want to – its yummy (that’s a technical term), open it now!

2010 YardDog White Blend – Australia

Yard Dog White Blend South AustraliaPaired with Olive oil and sweet white wine cake with Basil Icing

55% Chardonnay, 18% Gewurztraminer, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Viognier, and 3% Semillon. from South Eastern Australia.

 This wine is barreled in old oak and stainless steel, so that the oak mellows the edges of the wine, but does not impart huge amounts of oak flavor – and its aged for 2-5 years, depending on the varietal, then blended prior to bottling. This one will cellar for a few years, so be sure to give it some air before sipping.

 The YardDog made me think of fish, pork, chicken… white meat dinners on a summer day. So its paired with a sweetened cake (to balance the semillion and gewurtztriminer – traditionally sweeter wines) with basil icing – one of the herbs commonly used on summer white meat dishes.

2010 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay – CaliforniaDave Matthews Band wine label Chardonnay

 Paired with Fig cupcake with Brie

Steve Reeder partnered with Dave Matthews to create this wine. They wanted to bring the traditional Central Coast flavors of spice and big fruit to their Chardonnay. This wine was aged for 9 months in oak and stainless steel, so you will get American oak on the nose.. which will calm after getting some air.

 At 13.5 % this is not a heavy Chard, nor is it a fruit bomb… this is, with some air, a lovely dinner chardonnay.

 It reminds me of sipping white wine on the deck with fruit and cheese, so I give you fruit and cheese.

If these pairings sound like fun, join us for our next public tasting on April 28 – tickets are available for the East Side tasting at The Wine Spot. Or give me a call, and we can put together a private tasting for your friends, family, company or civic group! 


Selection Sunday demands Craft Brew and Cupcakes

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There was Beer and Cupcakes at Market Garden Brewery on Sunday, March 11. We had a rockin’ time. Here are the notes. I sat with Andy Tveekrem to get information about his beers. If any of these notes are incorrect – this is my fault – and not his.

The Ohio City Room

Friar Power Belgian Tripel with a Saffron and orange cake, topped with Cardamom icing.

This strong light golden ale is the product of belgian history. Originally produced by monks – they developed the distinctive yeast that gives the belgian tripel its ester profile. (Volatile flavor compound naturally created in fermentation. Often fruity, flowery or spicy.) At 8%, the alcohol can sneak up on you. This is Andy’s stealth beer.

The profile of this beer – very floral, slightly bitter, with a lovely citrus kick is paired with the complementary subtle flavors of saffron and cardamom – with a little orange to draw out the citrus.

Pearl Street Wheat with an Almond cake, topped with lemon/orange icing.

The phenolics (Flavor and aroma of smoke, or cloves; caused by wild yeast or bacteria) from the yeasts in this Hefeweisen are nutmeg and clove. Its slightly tart or acidic – the banana nose is characteristic of the yeasts as well. The beer is brewed with about a 65% wheat base in addition to malted barley. This makes for a sweeter beer – but lower alchohol than the first, coming in at 5.5%.

We are pairing this one with almond – in complement to the banana (think banana bread) and the lemon/orange icing is a nod to the tradition of serving this beer with a lemon or orange slice.

Boss Amber Lager with a roasted garlic cake and sundried tomato icing.

Possibly the beer from Market Garden that is most suited for food due to the toasted malt. This one would pair with any roasted meat dish. Its fermented colder and slower than ales – for about six weeks. Andy utilizes a Vienna Malt for this traditional Vienna Lager. A great Session beer, it comes in at 5% – a perfect example of how to make a good lager. This is probably my favorite.

Obviously the roasted garlic and sundried tomato come together to give you a sweet treat reminiscent of your Sunday dinner of roast chicken – without trying to create a meat cupcake!

 

 

This beer is named after Andy – the “Striking Viking” – an American Pale Ale produced with Cascade hops and English yeasts. These yeast typically produce a butter or butterscotch flavor. And he uses a crystal malt for color and body. This one comes in at 5.5% – another easy drinker.

We bring creaminess to this pairing with white chocolate to sooth the hops, and bacon and jalapeno demonstrate an easy pairing with burgers or spicy foods.

Wallace Tavern Scotch Ale with a Five Flavor Cake and Salted Caramel icing.

This beer is named for George Wallace, a Scottish settler to Cleveland from 1806. He owned a Distillery and brewery in the area, and later moved to Brandywine. So this is an homage to Cleveland’s beer history. This ale’s malts are actively caramelized utilizing a prolonged boil. The strong heavy malt is balanced by the addition of other flavors to reduce bitterness. Typically the Scots would use heather or other wild ingredients, though Andy doesn’t hold THAT closely to the tradition. He utilizes a slightly higher alcohol percentage (between 6.5 and 7% depending on the batch) to balance the malt – so that the caramel becomes noticeable in the flavor and neutralizes much of the bitterness.

The obvious pairing on this beer is salted caramel, one of my favorite flavors – we added in the five flavor cake to show the diversity of pairing possibilities. A traditional southern dessert, this has lemon, butter, rum, coconut and vanilla in the cake. Any rich saucy dish would pair up nicely with the Wallace Tavern.

Forest City Brown Ale with a nutty carrot cake and cream cheese icing.

This beer is named after Cleveland’s moniker – back when it was all about the lumber here. This brown ale is born from the roasted flavors of a coffee malt which literally can be roasted like coffee beans, providing the brewmaster with differing degrees of flavor to work with. This English style beer is bold and expressive, coming in at 5.8% – and is Andy’s favorite.

When I first tasted this beer, all I could think about was roasted vegetables. Pair this one up with any roasted veg – like a lasagna. The pasta will sooth the bitterness on the finish. We give you a nutty carrot cake with cream cheese to attain the desired affect.

A Cookie and a Cupcake made these incredible treats. Visit them in Tremont. 

Crop’s Minor Delight – a Pinot Noir

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On a very chilly evening MrWineOH and I ventured out to Crop Bistro to see what the talk was all about. One of the new additions to the restaurant scene in Ohio City – we were excited to sit at the chef’s table and partake of some delicacies.

I want to hit the highlights on the food, because the real story was a beautiful pinot noir I encountered. When we were seated at the Chef’s Table, which is a beautiful granite bar in front of the kitchen – we weren’t sure what to expect. But we were quickly treated to a gift from the kitchen. As an amuse bouche, we received this gorgeous egg on a little plate. The Chile Deviled Egg ($4 for 3 or $8 for 6) is a taste bud delight! I highly recommend them. Did I mention that sometimes they are pink? Yeah, you’d think that’d be a little freaky, but the flavor is incredible.

Another highlight was the Cherry Bomb – a little culinary genius that closely resembles a deep fried onion, but in reality is a wonton wrapped combination of plum tomato, chorizo sausage, jack cheese, and corn. This appetizer as shown is $8 and worth every penny. Cutting into it is a beautiful sight and the flavors blend beautifully.

One great thing we found is that a few appetizers a piece were filling and the perfect way to taste several of their signature dishes. I would not recommend the chef’s table though. The way you are seated makes the waitstaff reach around you to set plates or refill a wine glass. Its awkward.

Speaking of wine!

Sean Minor Carneros 2010 Pinot NoirAfter much consternation over the wine list, and the obvious frustration of MrWineOH and our server… I selected the 2010 Sean Minor Carneros Pinot Noir. List price is $42 there.

All I can tell you is – its absolutely lovely! Cherry, plum, a bit of blueberry – and nicely balanced spice and earthiness on the finish. While this pinot noir is aged 10 months in 100% French oak of which 20% is new – there isn’t overwhelming oak on the palate. I could smell the oak – but it was beautifully integrated into the flavors.

For my wine geek readers, this is a blend of Pommard and Dijon clones sourced from Carneros vineyards.

And at 13.5% abv (alcohol by volume) it isn’t overwhelming on the alcohol, even at this young age. Don’t get me wrong – it is a bit hot – but it mellowed nicely on day two –  after the server was nice enough to recork the half bottle I had remaining. This is definitely one I’d decant, or at least let sit in the glass for a while before sipping.

I see this paired with many dishes, but its not light enough for seafood – definitely a medium bodied wine for heavier white meat dishes or pasta. Don’t go crazy with italian spices with this – you will lose the beautiful subtlety of the fruit.

The winery sells this for $22 – I haven’t seen it in local shops, but the distributors have it in Ohio, so ask for it! Its a good buy at retail.

Now, will we be returning to Crop Bistro for a full meal? The jury is out on that. The other apps we had were okay, but not fabulous – and even though we spent what we’d typically spend for a night out – the great wine and the company made the evening, not the location. For a business dinner – I think it works – for a regular night out? Maybe not.

*** We’ve got some great events coming soon! Beer and Cupcakes THIS Sunday – tickets still available. And Wine and Cupcakes – West Side – White Wines for Spring – on March 22 - tickets available here!

Also – Our very first East Side Wine and Cupcakes will be April 28 at The Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights – those tickets will be up soon!  ***

Wine and Design – the OHBlogging Notes

Here are the tasting notes for the OH Bloggers Association Meeting. (These are so much better than meeting notes, don’t you think?)

Wines for OBA Meeting

The white wines we tasted are a bit of a study in malolactic fermentation. This is the secondary fermentation wines go through. The tart malic acid from the first fermentation is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Remember, wine is a bit like laws and sausage… you probably don’t want to know what goes into it, but you know it tastes lovely when its done! You may be familiar with this process if you drink Chardonnay.The malo is what brings out the butter or butterscotch flavors of Chard.

2010 Monmousseau Champagne (FR) $14.99

Brut Etoile – “methode champenoise” – secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Bubbles are refined and persistent and acidity is well-balanced on the palate. Ever so slight sweetness on the finish of this beautiful and inexpensive champagne.

2010 Argiolas Vermintino (IT) $14.99

Vermintino grape from Sardenia. This wine is fermented in stainless steel, and then put through partial malolactic fermentation in the tank which gives this wine a fuller body.You will find orange and vanilla flavors and a zesty acidity (making it a crisp wine). This one is great with Asian food.

2010 Burgáns Albariño (SP) $14.99

Rias Baixas, Spain

Bodegas Martín Códax – a cooperative of 270 growers and the winery.

This wine has good minerality with lemon, peach, tropical fruit flavors and full malolactic fermentation, smoothing the edges of this wine and providing a full mouthfeel.

White Wine Appetizers

Cheddar Cubes, Brie with pepper jelly

Our reds are in the theme of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – these are some of the darker red wines with a lighter body, in varietals many people are really unfamiliar with, but are priced well for the budget. Each of them runs $12.99.

2010 Domaine Aime Cabernet Franc (FR) $12.99

Languedoc-Roussillon – Minervois appellation

No oak aging – dark cherry and cassis fruit flavors, slightly spicy and a bit of cocoa.

This is one of my favorite “middle of the road” reds – warm climate doesn’t create the vegetative or green pepper notes that Cab Franc can be known for. Pair it with anything from chicken to pork to vegetarian dishes.

2005 Crianza Camparron (SP) $12.99

The tinta de toro or tempranillo grape. Cherry notes and light oak aging. This is a fruit forward wine with well-integrated wood flavors.

6 months on American oak, 24 months in the bottle before release.

We put this with spanish dishes, of course…although we pair this one with chili and spaghetti quite a bit.

2010 Stella Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (IT) $12.99

Eastern coast of Italy. Montepulciano grapes have also been introduced to Australia, so you may be finding this varietal from there as well.

Aromas of black cherries and herbs. Dry and mellow with concentrated structure.

Best enjoyed young, in order to fully appreciate its fruity character.

Enjoyed with typical Italian dishes, red meats, pizza, and cheese.

Red Wine Appetizer Pairings

The Cleveland Crostini, Southside Hummus and Dichotomy Popcorn

The recipe for the Cleveland Crostini is here.

Many thanks to Greg at Wine and Design for letting the bloggers invade your beautiful space. To Southside in Tremont for the rock star hummus – and to the Ohio Blogging Association for inviting me to put this tasting together for them. It was a lot of fun to meet some of the bloggers who’s work I read regularly, and to see some friends!

We’ve got Beer and Cupcakes at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City on March 11. And Wine and Cupcakes at The Olde Wine Cellar on March 22. Please join us for more great pairing adventures!

Tiny Bubbles, in my wine….

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pardon the Don Ho flashbacks….

Mr WineOH and I headed over to Lago for a Bubbles tasting with a Northeast Ohio wine group. What better way to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon than sipping on some bubbles and meeting new friends!

Our hosts were Mindy and Alice from WineTrends, an Ohio distributor – so all of the sparklings we tasted are available in the Cleveland Metro area. John from Lago was gracious enough to open the doors early for the group – and provide us with appetizers. This restaurant specializes in northern italian cuisine and has a nice by the glass list. They also have a lovely patio with live music on warm days.

Now, on the the Bubbles!

zardetto prosecco label We started with Zardetto Prosecco – this one is aged in stainless steel.  Any sparklings produced in Italy after 2009 must be from Prosecco to be CALLED Prosecco, otherwise, it is called Glara –  much like the limitations placed on french wines, including Champagne. See more about that here.

The Zardetto is 95% Prosecco and 5% Chardonnay – we found crisp acidity and green apple flavors. Its floral on the nose, and soft on the palate. We got to this one a bit warm, which presented as flat. This one is bone dry, compared to other proseccos you’ll find. At $12.99 – I place it high on the QPR scale.

Loosen Sparkling Riesling label Dr. L Dr. L Sparkling Riesling was next on the menu – 100% pure Riesling from one of the most accessible German producers. The Dr. L is another stainless steel sparkling, called “Sekt” in Germany and is produced using the Charmat method. The secondary fermentation is done in a pressurized tank, producing smaller, longer-lasting bubbles; as opposed to Methode Champenoise, where secondary fermentation is in the bottle. If you are curious about this process, read more here.

The Dr. L was definitely bubble heavy, almost too heavy on my palate. Even the finish had a strong effervescence. I got stone fruit on the nose, and some banana on the palate. It is an interesting and affordable sparkling at $11.99.

Laetitia Pink Sparkling labelWe then headed to the Arroyo Grande Valley in California, tasting Laetitia Brut Rosé – this one is produced in small batch tanks – medium bubbles and elegant fruit, mostly strawberry – showing off the Pinot Noir base, and a niggle (that’s a technical term) of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. If you like pink bubbles, you’ll like this one, as it’s an easy sipper, though I could see it an easy pairing with chicken or fish. Selling at $19.99, I’d put it midrange on the QPR scale.

Taltarni Brut Tache label Next on the trip was Victoria,  Australia, with Taltarni Brut Taché. Made from 54% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier – this sparkling is elegant, floral and has just the right amount of bubbles for me. according to the winemaker’s notes, the pink hue is achieved by adding a hint of red wine liqueur to the finished wine at disgorgement. Strawberry and floral on the nose, I got less of the Pinot Noir in this one. The mouthfeel was luscious and the complex yeast characters typical of well made sparklings were obvious. At a local price of $29.99, its a bit lower on the QPR scale, but I found it online for around $23. I think its worth that price.

We had to spend some time with the French bubbles of course, which means the prices get well…. pricey!

ayala zero dosage brut champagne

The Ayala Brut Zero Dosage was the first of the French champagnes, and is a lesson in how champagne is made. Champagne spends many months, sometimes years maturing in bottle on its yeast lees.  At the end of this time, the wine is ‘disgorged’, meaning the yeast lees are removed.  A final ‘dosage’ – a wine/sugar solution – is added immediately afterwards, which gives the wine the level of dryness/sweetness required by the cellar master.

This is a zero dosage champagne and with no residual sugar, an extremely dry wine.

40% pinot noir; 40% chardonnay; 20% pinot meunier – a delicate effervescence, distinct fruitiness and a long finish.

This was my favorite of the tasting… but as MamaWineOH would remind me. I can walk into a store and fall in love with the most expensive item, without looking at the pricetags.

This champagne retails at $49.99.

champagne j lassalle

The Champagne J Lassalle was the grower champagne of the event. It is grown and produced by three women at this family owned Champagne house in Chigny-Les-Roses in the heart of the Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France. This is a Kermit Lynch import selection, and one of impeccable taste. A blend of 60/40 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it is a distinctive Premier Cru Champagne. Fruity and soft, dry and beautifully structured with a long finish – a champagne to truly sip and enjoy. This bottle would work perfectly for any special occasion and is available from fine wine merchants in Cleveland. It retails for $49.99.

The tasting was lovely, and bubbles are a great way to spend an afternoon. I love Lago Restaurant in Tremont – but there was not a lot of thought put into the pairings on the appetizers. One of the apps was heavy onion – which can do some serious damage to the palate, particularly when tasting the delicate flavors in champagne.

The price was right at $30 for this tasting. I’d just as soon have had a bit of brie and crackers to nibble with the bubbles though.

WOTW – Pennywise, but not pound foolish

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I’ve been a fan of The Other Guys for a while now. I first had their wines back in 2006 when I was just exploring all that my local wine shops had to offer. There are 5 wines made under the Pennywise label – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah. I’ve had the Petite Syrah and the Pinot Noir.

2009 Pennywise Pinot Noir

The Pinot is what we opened as a pre-dinner sipper. You must understand that we are pinot lovers, and we typically don’t spend our mortgage money on cult pinot,s much to the chagrin of Rex Pickett’s character in Sideways. We are looking for “affordable and delicious”. That is what you will find in the 2009 Pennywise Pinot Noir.

The Other Guys is a wine producer run by one of California’s oldest winemaking families. August Sebastiani is a 4th generation wine maker, and president of TOG. They’ve been doing this for a while, and I haven’t had a wine from TOG that I didn’t like.

The Pinot Noir is blended from the grapes of several vineyards and that blending provides a flavor profile that is pleasing to the nose and to palate. Cherries and a the slightest smell of cotton candy greet your olfactory sense, while strawberry and a hint of vanilla add to those aromas on your palate. Its smooth, with mild tannins and a lingering finish.

This is an easy drinker, but will pair well with burgers or chicken for your mid-week dinner. I could easily pair this with a chicken pot pie, or a homemade meatloaf – as well as a more upscale meal. Even a little acidity wouldn’t bother this wine.

It is (usually) widely available in Cleveland wine shops and comes in at a pleasant $10.99 in our area.

On another note, since I mentioned Rex Pickett – if you enjoy a good novel about wine, pick up Sideways, or the new sequel Vertical.

Excellent reads. You can click on the images below for more information about the books.

Pairing Adventure – Butternut and Bordeaux

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We picked up a new bordeaux the other night. The 2008 Chartron La Fleur Bordeaux – 70%/30%, Merlot and Cabernet from Maison Schroeder and Schyler. The man wanted french wine for dinner, so I went hunting for a new appropriate recipe – it had to include butternut squash, since there was one glaring at me to be cooked from the corner of the produce pile. Velvety and berry on the palate, this wine has balanced tannins and acidity. Its not a cru – but it is a great blend and budget friendly sipping. High QPR wine at $11.99.

I modified this dish from one found on allrecipes.com

Chicken Pasta with Sage Roasted Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 2/3 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 3-5 chicken tenderloins
  • italian dressing
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat a roasting pan with the olive oil. Place the squash and onion in the pan, and season with salt, pepper and sage. Roast 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place penne pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the tenderloins, covered in italian seasoning, until done. Remove chicken and cut into bite size pieces, then transfer back to your skillet. Transfer the cooked squash and onion and the cooked pasta to the skillet. Gradually pour in the cream. Season mixture with sage. Continue cooking until heated through. Mix in garlic. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with balsamic vinegar to serve.

I realize you may look at this and say OMG, that’s a LOT of balsamic. You might even think that again as you are portioning it out into the bowl. I know I did, and it scared me just a bit. Trust me when I say that it does not taste like its overly vinegary. The balsamic brightens the recipe substantially. Also, you only want to turn the squash once when its baking, and get it out of the oven when its just done, otherwise you get a squash that looks less appetizing than it tastes.

This wine was pleasing, balanced this dish well, and I recommend them together, separately, or paired with others.

We loved this adventure – and they are definitely a wine and a dish we will go back to. (as evidenced by multiple bottle purchasing on this one)

Enjoy!

Pairing Adventure – The Olde Wine Cellar – Tasting Notes

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On a beautifully warm and sunny day in January MissWineOH heads to The Olde Wine Cellar in Olmsted Falls, OH for the first Wine and Cupcakes event for 2012. By the time we arrived to prep and set up, it had turned into a day out of the Wizard of Oz  (think “Auntie Em… Auntie Em” – the wind and rains were so strong…) Fortunately this did not deter our guests and we all gathered at 6pm for the first taste.

Olde Wine Cellar Tasting

Love those big wine glasses!

Chateau Belair Moustet White Bordeaux2010 Chateau Belair Moustet White Bordeaux (FR) paired with an Olive oil and Peach Cake with Herbed Marscapone icing from Indulgence.

They call this a Bordeaux Sauvignon

Simple and fresh, cleansing citric flavors make it a decent food wine at 12% alcohol.

Budget friendly white wine at 9.99 retail.

If you are making a dish with clean, but complex flavors (like a chicken with a sauce, salsa or herb crust) this wine will not compete with your food, but provide a pleasant citrus compliment.

2009 Bonny Doon Albariño Ca’ del Solo Estate (CA) paired with White Chocolate Wasabi and a plum sake cake base from Indulgence.

This Spanish grape has become popular in vineyards throughout the US. California, North Carolina, New York and Virginia are growing it increasing numbers. You will see a difference in the grape depending on its origins (or terroir).

Ca’ del Solo is  one of Bonny Doon’s estate vineyards. They farm using Biodynamic® practice, exceptionally light-handed, with with minimal intervention and manipulation. This winery is known for putting EVERY ingredient on their labels – not something you see on many wine labels.

label ingredients

The 2009 Varietal Blend is  91.8% albariño, 8.2% loureiro [loh-RAY-roo](Portuguese grape usually found in Vinho Verde wines)

Alcohol by Volume: 12.8%    Production: 3,350 cases   $15.99 retail

Root 1 pinot noir2009 Root 1: Pinot Noir (Chile) paired with a dark chocolate cake with buttercream bacon frosting from A Cookie and a Cupcake.

We always pair our Pinot Noirs with bacon, because EVERYTHING is better with bacon… and this lively budget friendly wine is no exception.

APPELLATION: Casablanca Valley, Chile   WINERY: Viña Ventisquero  VARIETAL(S): 100% Pinot Noir  ALCOHOL: 13.5%

Fermentation in barrels and stainless steel tanks, and malolactic fermentation with native yeasts. Aged for 10 months: 70% in French oak barrels, 30% in tank.

TASTING NOTES: Deep ruby in color with bright, intense aromas of cherry and raspberry, with hints of vanilla. Soft and mouthwatering on the palate with medium body, and ripe red berry flavors. Lively acidity coupled with elegant, soft tannins and a long and clean finish.

This is known as a pre-phylloxera wine. Phylloxera vastatrix (its Latin name) is thought to be indigenous to the eastern United States, and the thick, strong, native American rootstocks are reasonably resistant to this parasite. Much more vulnerable to phylloxera is the vitis vinifera rootstock – a species native to Europe and Central Asia and responsible for a majority of the world’s wine production. In the 1860s, vine cuttings from the eastern United States transmitted phylloxera to Europe, and eventually most of the vineyards in France and many in other parts of Europe were totally devastated. The parasite eventually spread, causing grave problems in California and other parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The solution was to graft Vitis vinifera vines to native American rootstocks, a remedy that worked for the better part of a century. There are a few places around the world that phylloxera has never invaded either because of the remote location of the vineyards or the inhospitable soil makeup. Many of these vineyards are planted on Vitis vinifera rootstock. Some parts of Australia, Argentina, Chile are phylloxera free as are island vineyards on Crete, Cyprus – Root 1 Wines are one of those original, ungrafted rootstock vineyards.

$12.99 retail

Hey Mambo and a cupcake2008 Hey Mambo Sultry Red (CA) paired with Five Flavor Pound Cake with Lemon icing and crystalized blueberry from A Cookie and a Cupcake.   (Vanilla, Lemon, Butter, Rum, & Coconut)

VARIETAL 41% Syrah, 33% Zinfandel, 10% Barbera, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Alicante Bouchet    ALCOHOL 14.0%

Deep purple in color, the 2008 blend shows aromas of berry spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg. Raspberry/strawberry flavors present in the mouth, which slowly meld into cedar, dark plums, and molassas. bright acidity.

This wine pairs well with italian, sausage or red sauce dishes. We’ve paired it with a cake of many flavors to show you the versatility of the wine. I can also see pumpkin easily with this easy drinking blend.

Currently (1/17/12) not available in the store due to overwhelming popularity. But it can be found for about $11.99 retail and will be available at The Olde Wine Cellar in mid-February.



Amberhill Secret Red2010 Amberhill Secret Blend (CA) paired with Roasted Garlic with Smoked Gouda cheese icing.

This cupcake combination always strikes folks as strange, until they taste it and put it together with a great wine. A Cookie and a Cupcake filled this one with a bit of roasted garlic buttercream. A lovely little surprise on the inside of your bite.

The 2010 California Secret Blend Red Wine is a mix of varietals that delivers a fruit-forward style. Expressive aromatics of  cherry and strawberry blend with subtle notes of cedar, pepper and espresso bean.

A versatile blend like the Amberhill can pair with most savory meals. I pull a lot of the Zinfandel and Syrah notes out of this one, so garlic and smokey gouda would be up there in the flavor profiles.

The blend consists of Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Malbec

ALCOHOL: 13.5% by vol     Budget friendly at $9.99 retail

2007 InZINerator (CA) paired with Cherry Chocolate cake and Salted Caramel icing

InZinerator is blended with Zinfandel, Syrah and port varieties. New world extraction methods and richness with old world acidity and structure.

Scott Harvey has been the winemaker at Santino Winery, and then partner, winemaker and president of Folie a Deux Winery. He opened Scott Harvey wines in 2004. Scott Harvey wines gained some notoriety when the InZINerator was banned in the state of North Carolina and at ComicCON because some thought the Superhero label would encourage minors to drink it. Read more about that here.

Tasting Notes: Full of big, bold black cherry flavors, Oak aging contributes to the rounded complexity, with just a hint of sweetness. Try this wine with any grilled meat or chicken, or pair with pizza, pasta and burgers

The 2008 is a blend of – 78% Zinfandel 16% Syrah 5% Mixed Port 1% Barbera – the 2007 notes are not available, but the blend is similar.

Alcohol: 15.5% RS: .8%

A great Zin for $14.99 retail.

This blend was crowd sourced. Scott, an active member of the Woot community, asked the InZINerator fans for input on this wine.

See the video here:

We all had a great time at #WineandCupcakes. We’ll be back at The Olde Wine Cellar on March 22. And on the east side in February. Many thanks to @indulgenceCLE and A Cookie and a Cupcake for providing amazing cupcakes, and @theotherguys for getting me out of a wine jam. Incredible customer service from these three companies, and I can’t thank them enough. The Olde Wine Cellar is THE place to get small volume wines and they do great casual wine tastings on Friday and Saturday nights.

If you attended this event, please leave any comments or feedback. We’d all love to hear what you thought!

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