Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What will you be popping open this New Year’s Eve?

The things I have to drink for my readers sometimes is just torture. Lucky for me my love of sparkling wine and Champagne made this one review I looked forward too. Plus it gave me the opportunity to open a bottle of Sparkling Wine when ever I wanted in the name of providing the information to you.

In all honesty I probably would have opened the bottles anyway. I don’t know why but the months of October to December find me popping open a bottle of bubbly at least once a week. This time of year just seems ripe for those little bubbles tickling my nose. Sparkling wine and Champagne are just fun and festive and I love to drink it for no reason at all.

Sparkling wine is a wine with high levels of carbon dioxide which make it fizzy when exposed to air. Sparkling wine and Champagne are produced in the same way but in order for a bottle of bubbly to be classified as Champagne, it must be produced within the Champagne region of France. In Portugal you’ll see the word Espumante to describe the effervescent drink, Spain uses Cava and Asti in Italy.

When choosing a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne, there are a few cues to look for on the label to determine the sweetness of the wine.
Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter) will be on the dry side.
Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter) A little less dry but still not overly sweet.
Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter) This one will be sweet and they only get sweeter from this point.
Extra Sec or Extra Dry (12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter)
Sec (17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter)
Demi-sec (33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter)
Doux (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter)

Most of the wines listed here are California sparkling wines made in the Champagne method as my budget does not allow for a bottle of true Champagne.

Totts Brut – This sparkling wine has a cork and cage which I think adds to the sparkling wine experience. You can get that slight little pop when you uncork. Be sure to remove the cork slowly so you don’t have a way ward cork and wine flowing all over the floor. Nice and fruity with a slight sweetness and not too dry. $8.99

Cooks Brut – Lots of bubbles, a tad on the sweet side but light and fruity. $6.99

Beringer Sparkling White Zinfandel – What can I say, it’s White Zinfandel with bubbles. Very sweet and tastes of peaches, did I mention very sweet. $8.99

Korbel Extra Brut – By far my favorite of these tastings. Dry and well balanced, very nice flavor with lots of tiny bubbles. It is on the higher end for my budget but it can be found on sale for $10 or less.

Andre Pink – This is for the frugal sparkling wine drinker when you just need some pink bubbly and you’re not as concerned about the quality. Maybe this is something you buy for New Years when you’ve already consumed the good stuff but just want to keep celebrating. It’s cheap at just $4.99 and little pink and some bubbles go a long way.

Depreville Sparkling Wine Brut – Crisp flavor, good bubbles and only $8.99. It has a good balance of sweetness and dry. This is one I had not tasted before and found it to be very drinkable.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry Cava Spain – Wow, tons of tiny bubbles, not too sweet and very refreshing all in an elegant black opaque bottle. Found this one for $8.99.

However you choose to ring in the New Year, I hope it’s a happy and prosperous one.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Screw Kappa Napa comes to the rescue

What does one do after scheduling a routine AC maintenance only to be told there is mold through out the system and will be costly to clean and prevent, drink some Screw Kappa Napa Merlot of course.

The wine is just another wine from Don Sebastiani’s Three Loose Screws winery and is another score for wines under $9.99. The name obviously comes from the screw cap closure. The wine is a deep ruby color and as I smell beyond the sanitizer just pumped into the AC ducts, I detect blackberries and cherries. Flavors consist of strawberries, cinnamon and a hint of vanilla.

I’ve written about several of Don Sebastiani’s wines so I won’t bore you with the same details but I did learn Sebastiani served in the California State Assembly from 1980 until 1986. In 1986, he ran in the primary for California State Controller but lost. He then returned to Sonoma to run the family's wine business, taking production from just 200,000 cases to 8 million cases. He headed the family business for 15 years at the helm. In 1986, he and brother-in-law Roy Cecchetti, Cecchetti Sebastiani Cellar (CSC) and developed the label Pepperwood Grove.

In the Spring of 2001 he started Don Sebastiani & Sons with labels such as Smoking Loon and Plungerhead. In 2008 the wine company reported they had reached 2 million cases in sales and it appears there is no slowing down, at least not if I keep buying the wines.

After the work is completed tomorrow I think I’ll turn on the AC even if the high is only 74 degrees.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa’s Reindeer have arrived, at least in the form of wine anyway

Just like Vampire wine is my standard go to Halloween wine, Comet & Cupid Cabernet Sauvignon and Dasher & Dancer Merlot are two of my must have wines during the Holiday Season. Since Florida is finally feeling like Christmas, it’s time to let the reindeer loose.

Comet & Cupid Cabernet Sauvignon
Garnet purple hues fill the glass and the nose is filled with black cherries and currants. The wine has a nice mouth feel as the berry flavors wash over the palate finishing with a nice hint of oak. The wine doesn’t just have a cute holiday name, it really is very enjoyable.

Dasher & Dancer Merlot
Lighter in color than the Cabernet and lighter berry aromas as well. The flavors are a little thinner than the Comet & Cupid and tastes more like a Zinfandel than a Merlot but is light and easy to drink. Would pair well with light appetizers or ham.

The wines are part of the Reindeer line produced under the Eight Tiny Reindeer label. The story goes that not only is Santa busy during the Fall months getting ready for Christmas but is also busy harvesting and making his Christmas wines. The Reindeer watch and wait for the grapes to grow and when they are smiling Santa knows the grapes are mature. Because everyone knows, happy reindeer make good wine.

Eight Tiny Reindeer
National Control Label
Product Tier:
California Premium
California Appellation
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, White Zinfandel

If you’re looking for a fun gift or a holiday hostess gift, grab a bottle of Comet & Cupid Cabernet or Dasher & Dancer Merlot, if it makes the reindeer happy; imagine what it can do for people.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chalone Vineyard Monterey County Merlot 2006

The house is decorated; linens ready and waiting for guests and the first holiday guests will be arriving tonight. Along with the guests arrival, looks like we’ll be getting several days of cooler air; finally it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Since I ventured to the mall today in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops, the cooler temps will be a welcome change. Another welcoming change is another great tasting inexpensive wine, Chalone Vineyard Merlot.

Deep crimson colors with loads of berries on the nose along with hints of leather. Tastes of oak and red berries wash over the tongue; flavors are a little thin but have a nice dry finish.

Chalone Vineyards is the oldest bonded vineyard in Monterey County California and the only vineyard in the Chalone appellation. They are also one of the few US vineyards growing grapes in limestone allowing them to produce Burgundy style wines with high tannins and a velvet smooth feel. Chalone is located in an arid environment, where temperatures can vary as much as 60F° in one day. Average rainfall is only 12 to 14 inches of rain fall per year. These factors combine to create the signature profile of a wine growing region. The grape yield is low but the limestone and decomposing granite provide intense flavors that can pack a punch.

I found this wine for $8.99 and like the dropping temperatures; it was a welcome change.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 worst of the worst inexpensive wines

For the past few months I’ve been tasting wines that are priced at less than $9.99 in hopes of finding some great inexpensive but wonderful tasting wines. I have found several that have now become some of my favorite go to wines but I also tasted some that were so vial I couldn’t even come up with enough material to write about. Here are some of the 2009 worst of the worst tastings I encountered.

Oak Leaf Merlot – When I found this wine at Wal-Mart (a store I avoid like the plaque) I couldn’t believe it, wine for just $2.99…yippee. I should have known better, not all $2.99 wines are created equal. It was like drinking grape Tang with a touch of turpentine. I swear this could double as a cleaning solvent, perhaps used in the removal of rust or paint but use caution, too much and I truly think it could eat right through metal.

Lizard Flat Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2002 – Chandra, this one was for you. It’s a 1 liter boxed wine priced at just $1.99 at a reputable wine store. The owner of the store said her husband tried it and thought it was fine. I thought it tasted like Listerine and leather making it taste like old boots. After the 3rd sip, my palate was numb. I noticed the wine had a long and lingering finish but I just wanted it to go away, much like a house guest that has stayed four weeks longer than planned. Even worse, I picked up two of these 1 liter boxes…..

Two Oceans Shiraz – This one showed promise, it was a South African Shiraz. It wasn’t undrinkable unlike the first two and had a really great smoky flavor. The problem with this wine was it was like drinking a grape Jolly Rancher with Chipolte flavoring. Loved the Chipolte, didn’t love the Jolly Rancher.

Milton Park Shiraz – This South Australian Shiraz tasted like someone poured Pixie Sticks in the bottle. Overly bold frontend and too thin of a finish and a high taste of alcohol.

Here’s to hoping I find more great tasting wines in 2010.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiger Woods may be stuck in a sand trap but Greg Norman’s Australian Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2007 is a hole in one

At a time when everyone seems fixated on Tiger Woods and his alleged extra-curricular affairs, perhaps it’s time to focus on another golfer’s extra-curricular interests, Greg Norman’s Estate Wines.

The wine focus for today is Norman’s Australian Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2007. The wine is a ruby red color with aromas full of spice, red berries and cinnamon. Flavored with plums, spice and oak with nice tannins that create a slightly dry wine but provide for a nice lingering finish. While Merlot seems to be under attack lately, the blend of Cabernet and Merlot made for a smooth and velvety wine.

Upon Greg Norman’s first US trip while playing in the 1976 World Cup, he soaked up as much of the California culture as he could, including the growing wine culture. After years of traveling and tasting wines from various regions of the world Greg was finally able to build off his passion and started the Greg Norman Estates in Victoria, Australia.

While Norman is not the wine maker and does not own the vineyards he knows what he likes in a wine and oversees the bottling of each varietal. The grapes for Norman’s Australian Estates are grown in Limestone Coast, located in the southeastern corner in the state of South Australia. The region is one of the most significant wine zones in the country with producing almost one third of all wines in the state.

Norman also has produces California wines with grapes grown in Napa and Sonoma along with some of the lesser known wine regions, Lake County, Mendocino County and Santa Barbara. It’s the southern counties of California that typically produce grapes that appeal to mainstream America’s tastes for full fruit wines.

While we all know being a celebrity and having your dirty laundry aired to the public is par for the course, no pun intended, here’s to hoping the Tiger Woods news will blow over quickly and we can focus on more important things, like finding great tasting, inexpensive wines.

This wine can be found at your local wine retailer. I was able to find this wine at Total wine for $9.99. Easy drinking and affordable equals a perfect score for me.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The weather outside is frightful but the Gnarled Vine is so delightful

As the winds whip around outside, the wind chimes have been taken down, aluminum cans set out for recycling are weighed down with heavy wine bottles, As the winds whip around outside, we’ve battened down the hatches and prepare to ride out the wild night of storms. May as well enjoy a nice bottle of Gnarled Vine Zinfandel while we watch the lighting flash across the darken sky.

The colors are a deep dark purple in the glass, aromas are very oaky and smell divine. Slightly dry with lots of oak and a nice finish with a hint of sweetness at the end. Gnarled Vine is almost as good as Seven Deadly Zins but cost only $8.99.

Gnarled Vine is produced by Oak Ridge Winery and is located in the Lodi appellation, between the Sierra Nevada foothills and San Francisco Bay. The winery was founded in 1934 and was purchased by Rudy Maggio and Don and Rocky Reynolds in 2001 and contains Lodi’s first tasting room. In addition to their own wines the winery also offers custom winemaking to other wineries as well as custom brands. If you live in Lodi and are part of the Rotary Club, they apparently meet every Wednesday at 7:00. Have to wonder if they’re doing a little taste sampling during the meeting.

Turns out once the storm hit us it wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be, which is a good thing. The other good thing is finding yet another affordable wine that I would be proud to serve to any of my holiday guests.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Since my budget does not allow for Cakebread, I’ll have to settle for Cupcake Cabernet

We’ve all heard the hype on Cakebread but who can afford to spend $100 on one bottle of wine. This inexpensive wine drinker would rather stretch my wine dollars, so tonight I reach for a bottle of Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 priced less than $10.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly greeted with oak and vanilla aromas. Full-bodied with soft tannins, blackberries and plums make for an easy drinking and very enjoyable wine.

Cupcake Vineyard is located in Monterey County, CA and benefits from the cool nights thanks to the proximity of the ocean and the warm days, slowing the growing process and allowing more time on the vine. This temperate weather provides balanced acids and sugars making for a well rounded wine. The grapes are then pressed and spend time aging in oak barrels.

Cupcake is a delightful wine and I will be sure to add it into my wine rotation. Maybe some day I can taste the hyped up Cakebread Cabernet for myself, but only when sold by the glass.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Looking for something different to do with your turkey this Thanksgiving, how about Drunken Bird

As so many other families, my family has a traditional way of cooking our Thanksgiving turkey. It’s cooked on the grill and basted in red wine. It amazes me how many people never thought to cook a turkey on the grill. It’s a great way to reduce the amount of heat the oven puts out, especially here in Florida, and if you’re the one tending to the bird, gives you just a little bit of alone time. It’s just you, the bird and a bottle of wine.

We don’t use any particular wine, just something on the dry side and make sure you get enough for the basting of the bird as well as a few glasses for yourself. It’s really an easy process, put the turkey in a roasting pan, get the coals or gas up to temperature, pour enough wine in the pan to cover the bottom plus some additional to use for basting, close the lid and check back in about twenty minutes to baste. I’m not truly convinced the constant basting keeps the turkey any moister than if you didn’t baste that often but it does give you a few moments to clear your head. Let the turkey get to the appropriate cooking temperature and voila! Drunken Bird.

Speaking of Thanksgiving and wine, this is a great time to open a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. Since the wine may have experienced a little bottle shock, the additional week allowing the wine to settle may bring out some additional flavors that were not detected on last weeks release date.

When picking a wine for Thanksgiving you want to think about the side dishes you will be serving since these have the more complex flavors, textures and aromas. I prefer something a little on the light side like a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, a big, bold Cabernet or Merlot may be just a little too heavy for this meal. A Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio is a good choice for white wine lovers. Sparkling wine is also a great choice and can be a phenomenal in food pairing.

How ever you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, take some time to reflect on all the wonderful things, big or small, you have to be thankful for in your life. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview with Mark Adams from Amber Crest Winery

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Mark Adams owner of Amber Crest Winery located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amber Crest was North Carolina’s first MicroWinery but recently made an innovative move in closing their tasting room and instead offering their own wines with your personalized wine labels. Mark also has fun with a webcast entitled Really Fun Wine Show.

Wine Chicks Guide - How did you get started in the wine business?
Mark Adams - I had made wine as a hobby for several years. One holiday season I gave wine with personalized labels to all of my family. Everyone seemed to really like the wine and especially the labels. In the next few days, I got requests to make wine with a custom business logo that could be used as staff gifts, wine for a wedding and requests for birthday and anniversary gifts. It wasn’t hard to see that personalized wine was fun to give and to get. I opened Amber Crest Winery about 3 months later.

WCG - The Amber Crest website states you are a custom winery and the first “virtual only” winery, can you explain what that means?
MA - Our wines are only available online at We make our wines specifically for personalization. The “virtual” part means that means you can sit at your computer in the comfort of your own home and design you labels using our custom label maker without ever setting foot in our winery. You then choose your variety. We then print and apply your labels and then ship your wine to you. It’s kind of like Build-A-Bear for adults…

WCG - Where does the name Amber Crest come from?
MA - From the high point on a family farm. Every fall the leaves in that area would turn gold first. So it became know as the “Amber Crest”

WCG - Any advice to people thinking about getting into winemaking, or the wine industry?
MA - I see the industry continuing to grow rapidly, so there is plenty of room for people to come into the industry. But in most states the biggest niches have already been filled. I think the opportunities will be in businesses that support the existing industry. For instance that could be in starting a company that specializes in wine tours, companies that specialize in marketing wineries or even companies that make barrels.

WCG - What wine trends to you see for the future?
MA - I think you will start to see an emphasis on local wines. You see many restaurants support and use local produce and other local products. But when it comes to wine, they still only offer wine from Europe or the west coast. I believe when people will start to discover how much fun it is to drink their local wines, this will change.

WCG - What were the deciding factors for closing down your tasting room and focusing on custom wine labels?
MA - We operated our winery as a traditional winery for over two years. But, by the end of the first year over 90% of our business had developed into custom labels. We had definitely found a niche. We were getting calls from all over the country asking if we could ship wine to them for weddings and special events. It was easy to see our future. Since those 90% of our customers were outside our area and were never going to set foot in our tasting room, I decided to shift our business to meet the demand. We are still working out a few things, but the shift has gone very well and business continues to grow rapidly. I am looking forward to 2010. We have many projects and improvements in development.

WCG - Do you still make the wine for the custom wine label bottles?
MA - Absolutely, that part has not changed. We import our grapes from major grape growing areas from around the world such as the Napa Valley, Spain, France, Italy and others. We then ferment and produce our wine in our Charlotte winery. This method not only allows us to offer custom wine at under $10 a bottle in many cases, but it allows us to use the very best grapes available and make some really good tasting wine.

WCG - What type of response have you received to your webcasts?
MA - Fortunately, we have received nothing but positive responses from our viewers on our web TV show, the Our audience is growing by double digit percentages each week. It has certainly been fun to do. I think people are responding to the idea that you can learn about wine and laugh a little, too. Where else are you going to find references to wine and Elvis in one place!

WCG - Do you ever look for value wines ($9.99 and under) for everyday drinking, if so what do you recommend?
MA - There are many excellent wines available in this price range. BTW, California is not the only place that makes excellent wine. Every state has some really good wineries, now. The first place I would go would be your local winery and do a tasting. I bet they will have a wine you’ll like. You can find many bottles under $10 and have an experience that no national wine can match.

WCG - Anything else you want to let the readers know?
MA - Thank you for drinking wine! I hope you can take a look at our website and if you have any questions about custom wine, please feel free to give us a call at 704-708-9463.

Checkout the Amber Crest Winery and design your own labels for that special occasion or just for fun wine!

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon, the perfect accompany for the New Moon release

Before you and your girlfriends or significant other head out to the latest Twilight saga, New Moon, start off with a bottle of Vampire wine. Vampire — like its counterpart, Dracula Wine — was at one time made in Transylvania, but has now moved operations to Paso Robles; that just bites, no pun intended.
Half the fun of drinking Vampire was the storied location where it was made. Thankfully, the change in venue has not resulted in ghastly juice.
I’m first enticed by the aromas of blood-red, ripe fruit. The scent calls to me and I can’t resist taking a small nibble, er, sip of the garnet colored liquid swirling in the glass. On the first taste I’m hit with a lip smacking, succulent flavor, with a finish leaving me wanting more. Just one thing to do: Join the ranks of the other vampires and finish the glass.
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Paso Robles region of California’s Central Coast. Moderate day time temperatures and cool night time temperatures provide for an extended growing season. Mix in the perfect soil composition, and the region provides optimum growing conditions.
The winery’s head bloodsucker is entertainment attorney Michael Machat, who began branding the Vampire label in 1985 as a syrah. In 1989, the first 500 bottles were sold to Alice Cooper and MCA records in London. Sangiovese (Italian for blood of Jove) grapes were planted as well, and more than 600 bottles were shipped to the Anne Rice Fan Club in New Orleans.
Since 1985 Vampire has continued to expand and now produces eight different varietals. In addition to the cabernet sauvignon, Goth wine fans can suck on merlot, pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, pinot grigio, and white or regular zinfandel. The winery doesn’t divulge the lead winemaker’s name, but one of its wines recently received an impressive 96 rating from the Wine Spectator.
Location of production moved several times from France to Italy, then to Transylvania, and finally to its present home in Paso Robles, CA. The most recent move has made the wine available year round, but I must confess I save Vampire for Halloween.
Pair this wine with steak and garlic knots and I’m sure you’ll survive to see the sun another day, if you can wake up in time for work if attending the midnight showing.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Celebrate the day with the release of Beaujolais Nouveau

While everyone knows the 4th Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, how many know the 3rd Thursday of November signifies the release of France's Beaujolais Nouveau? This is the week Beaujolais wine producers and distributors race to be the first to get their vintages to various markets for the official release date, this year that date is Thursday November 19.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made with Gamay grapes and must come from the Beaujolais region. The wine is the most popular nouveau (young wine) and is the first wine release of the season. The flavors are light with very little tannins as they were only fermented for a few weeks. The wine is intended to be consumed immediately but most experts say good wines can survive up to a year or a little longer in proper storage. This is definitely not a wine you buy as an investment and put in your cellar for a decade or so.

Beaujolais Nouveau has been around for some time but the frenzy and hype that follows the release is a relatively recent trend. The marketing can be attributed to William Deutsch, a wine importer who paired up with Beaujolais wine maker, Georges Duboeuf.
In 1982 Deutsch imported just 55 cases of Beaujolais Nouveau, by the 2007 he imported 200,000 cases of Duboueuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau.

Look in your area and there may be many events focused on the release of these young wines. Wine Hubby and I are spending the evening at Toasted Pheasant (813) 265-6700) for their Beaujolais Nouveau release dinner consisting of a 3 course meal and a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau for $20 per person. Reservations are required and yesterday there was still some availability.

So raise your glass and enjoy the new releases as this day only comes around once a year.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twists and turns in the road of life

Tonight’s wine selection, Turner Road Shiraz 2003, reminds me of all the twists and turns my life has taken this year. I got married in May at a doughnut shop (it was great!), hours at work reduced to part time and I took up writing about wine. As I make my way down this new path, I take time to reflect on not only my past experiences but what new ones lie ahead. In the next few weeks, be sure to check out the new Wine Chicks Guide website (assuming I can figure out how to set it up) and all the new info that will be part of the site.

I promise I’m not scouting these wines out but Turner Road was once a division of Sebastiani Vineyards prior to being sold to Constellation Brands. This is just getting scary, what winery hasn’t a member of the Sebastiani family run? Constellation acquired the brand in 2001. Unfortunately Constellation does not provide any info on how the wine was produced or where the vineyards are located.

The aromas consist of oak and blackberries. The flavors are uncharacteristically dry for a Shiraz. Generally I find Shiraz to be a little sweet and sometimes taste like grape jam. This Shiraz was closer to an Italian wine and was quite pleasing to drink.

I was surprised to see a Lodi, California wine with the Shiraz label as the US along with many other countries typically use the name Syrah for this grape varietal. Shiraz is generally used by Australians even though they are the same grape. I can tell you Wine Specator gave the 2003 vintage 79 points.

This is one wine I’ll definitely add to my regular rotation of great tasting inexpensive wines.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon

Last week as the banana leaves were shredded due to Hurricane Ida’s passing by, we were forced to stay indoors; not because of any rain as that was much appreciated and needed in the Bay area but rather we may have been blown away, kind of how I feel about Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon, blown away.

The wine is a deep rich red with plum hues. Aromas are full of ripe fruits, spice and oak. Flavors of cassis, coffee and black currant along with a lingering finish make this wine smooth and very easy drinking.

Aquinas is produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons who established the Three Loose Screws winery. Don Sebastiani and his family were profiled in the Green Acres review last week. Don along with sons Donny and August, run Three Loose Screws as well as The Other Guys winery. Three Loose Screws was established in 2004 and caters to upscale yet moderately priced wines while The Other Guys portfolio is focused on a direct and personal approach to the consumers and wine. The grapes used for Aquinas are grown in one of their Napa Valley vineyards.

It was purely accidental that I selected this wine after just having written about the Sebastiani’s family and the demise of their 100 year old winery. The first two wines have been memorable and as I look at the Three Loose Screws portfolio, I notice I have another Don Sebastiani & Sons wine just waiting to be consumed. I’m truly looking forward to that tasting too.

This wine can be found at your local wine shop for around $8.99.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Diabetes and red wine

Are you wine lover who is looking to reduce your sugar intake? Try dry red wines which metabolize the sugar more and have little to no residual sugar as the sugar in red dry wines has been eaten by the yeasts during fermentation and converted into alcohol. White wines, Dessert, Ice, or Late Harvest wines tend to have more sugar as the yeasts are killed prior to the sugar being used, leaving more residual sugars.

Sugars in wine are not an added product but rather are stored in the grape itself. The varietal of grape and environment dictates how much sugar is in the grape. The primary sugars found in grapes are glucose and fructose. There are no US regulations on labeling sugar content in wine but you can look for some key words to determine which wines have more or less sugar. “Dry” indicates less sugar while “semi-dry” will be sweeter. If the wine is European, up to 4 grams of sugar per liter of wine can use the label “dry” or “sec”. Wines with sugar levels between 4 and 12 g/L are labeled “medium-dry” or “demi-dry”.

Always check with your doctor or nutritionist before making changes to your diet, especially if you are a diabetic. Luckily there is good news for type 2 diabetics who are wine lovers. Researchers have found the Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, not only improves cardiac health and cholesterol levels but has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in mice. The antioxidants may slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and into the blood stream. This finding has prompted researchers to try to replicate Resveratrol in a drug form.

If you are diabetic frequent blood sugar testing can tell you if red wine affects your insulin levels. After checking with your doctor, you may be able to enjoy a glass or two a day with no ill effects.

For more information on wine and sugars, you can search by Red Wine on the USDA website.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Acres Ranch is the place for me

Halloween has just passed but you would be hard pressed to find many traces of the remaining fall season and the still to come Thanksgiving. The stores have already decked the halls, Digital Music is playing holiday music but I’m still looking at pumpkins.

Since I’m in no hurry to rush through the season, think I’ll linger awhile in the present with a bottle of Green Acres Zinfandel. Colors in the glass are dark red with purple hues. The aromas burst of oak, black pepper and spice. The flavors are smooth and well balanced with plums, raspberry, black pepper with easy, pronounced tannins. As I read the label, I realize I just read about the wine’s makers, the Sebastiani family, today in Wine Spectator.

The winery was founded by Samuel Sebastiani who left Northern Italy in 1895 at the age of 21 and set off for America arriving first in New York and making his way to California. Green Acres Ranch is located in Lodi, CA and was originally used as an aviary. Samuel established the winery in 1904 and began selling wine door-to-door for a nickel a ladle.

Shockwaves rocked the wine community last December when the family announced the winery had been sold. The winery is among the oldest wineries in continuous operation in California making the news of the sale even more stunning. Seems none of the Sebastiani heirs wanted to continue in the business and none of the other family members wanted in, or they were unable to buy out the heirs out. Some of the wineries better known wines, Vendange and Talus had already been sold in 2000.

Since the death of their father, August Sebastiani, siblings Don, Sam and Mary Ann have each had their turn at running the winery. A much publicized squabble ousted Sam from the helm and Don stepped in but later stepped down allowing Mary Ann to take control. The family concedes they did not want to let the family business go but this does give family members the opportunity to redirect their focuses.

The sale went to William Foley Wine Group who has added the acquisition to his collection of wineries. It saddens me to hear of so many California wineries being sold to either big conglomerates or individuals to put another feather in their cap. Unfortunately it seems to be a trend as wine maker’s age, economic shifts affect sales and a multitude of other reasons that I think will be saved for another article.

I recommend grabbing a couple of bottles of Green Acres Ranch while you can. I found this at a local wine & liquor store for $7.99. Check local stores to see if they carry.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forgive me Father, for I have Zinned

The Hedonism of Halloween has subsided and the gluttony of the upcoming holidays is before us but before any repenting is done, I think it’s time to take part in some 7 Deadly Zins.

Who can resist the naughty label with its blood red almost Devilish lettering and Angel’s halo. First sip, there are no regrets or guilt, this wine is all good, with not an ounce of evil to be found.
Aromas boasting of rich plums, black pepper and oak tantalize the senses. Lustful fruit forward and complex flavors consisting of raspberry, cinnamon and pepper lazily glide down the palate leaving me wanting more. Not just another glass, I want another bottle, just for myself. If my husband knows what’s good for him, he would be wise to step away from the bottle.

7 Deadly Zins is produced in Lodi, CA by Michael~David Winery. Brothers, Michael and David Phillips, represent the fifth generation of growers, specializing in Rhone varietals as well as Old Vine Zinfandels. The Phillips originally planted a variety of fruit which included 15 wine varietals. During Prohibition the grapes were shipped throughout the country with instructions on “how not to have the grapes turn into wine”. This method helped the Phillips to sell their grapes as many families continued the tradition of making wine at home to be consumed with meals.

The wine’s name is a combination of the brother’s Catholic upbringing and the seven Old Vine Zinfandels blended in the wine. While the vineyard is not completely Organic, the brothers do strive towards Green Growing using natural methods for pest management, trellising, leaf pulling and using natural methods to control mildew.

The only sin committed here is my inability to enjoy this wine more often. With a price tag of $17.99 this wine is out of my everyday drinking wine price range.

I paired this wine with an extra large pizza with a double order of breadsticks.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir 2008

I can’t seem to get used to how dark it gets before 6:30 P.M. even rolls around. It really is putting a damper on my ability to sit by the Koi pond and drink some wine and just when the temps are getting tolerable. It’s time to grab the cat and head inside for tonight’s wine offering a bottle of Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir.

The aromas are very fruity and a little on the grapey side. Flavors feel thin, dry and I’m picking up a hint of metallic. May just be my taste buds are off tonight as Wine Hubby seems to really enjoy his glass.

Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir is produced by Les Vignerons du Val d'Orbieu, one of the largest wine producers in the world. The winery located in France plants over 37,050 acres has 17 cooperative cellars and produces 3.5m cases. After the grapes are harvested they are crushed but not de-stalked. They are then fermented in temperature controlled vats for 12 days.

Grape Varieties : 100% Pinot Noir
Finished Alcohol: 13%
Residual Sugar: 4 g/L
Acidity: 3.25 g/L
pH: 3.66

Looks like the early darkness and this wine have something in common, both leave me wanting a little more sunshine and brightness. I will give this wine another try just to see if it was me that was off tonight versus the wine.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tall Horse Cabernet

A recent quest for wine had two requirements; one is must be inexpensive, two it has to have a screw cap. The screw cap requirement was actually for wine hubby’s brewing venture. Wine hubby brews his own beer and is bottling hard cider this week. With one beer batch fermenting, one ready to be bottled along with the hard cider, we are in need of bottles. I spy Tall Horse Cabernet on my local retailer's shelf and the bottle will be perfect for the hard cider.

The wine in the glass is a deep purple color with great berry and spicy aromas. The fruity berries carry over to the flavors along with vanilla and oak making for a smooth and well rounded finish. The screw cap indicates the wine is drinkable from the time bottled for up to two years. I find I never store anything with a screw cap and rarely store synthetic corked wines. Synthetic corks don’t expand like natural corks and over time can allow oxygen in the wine.

Tall Horse is produced in South Africa where the grapes are grown in a variety of macroclimates from warmer temperatures on the Southern slopes, with long hours of sunlight to cooler regions where the African breezes off the ocean provide optimum growing climates. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere where the majority of grapes are harvested July through September, depending upon relation of the equator, the grapes in the Southern Hemisphere are harvested in February through April. After harvest the grapes are fermented for seven days then pressed. After pressing the wine is placed on French oak staves for three months then filtered before bottling.

Oak Staves:
Alternative to oak barrels, less expensive oak staves can be used in stainless steel tanks to give wine exposure to oak.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seven deadly wine sins

1) Don’t cook your wine. Wine retailers will always tell you save your wine shopping as your last errand and don’t place the wine in your trunk. This always makes me wonder, well how did the wine make it to the store? To my knowledge most wines are not shipped on special refrigerated trucks and then there are the non-climate controlled warehouses where many wines spend time before being placed on another truck before arriving at your local wine retailer. Still as a wine lover, do try to be kind to the wine once purchased. For wine moving tips check out Mayflower Moving company’s website regarding the moving and transporting of wine.

2) Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink. We’ve all been there, you open a bottle of wine and just can’t palate the taste yet this is not the opportunity to use the wine in recipes. Close your eyes and pour the offending wine down the sink and find an inexpensive wine you don’t mind drinking to use in your dish.

3) Don’t send wine back at a restaurant only because you don’t like the taste. The only reason one should ever send wine back is if it’s truly flawed. Then you should ask the sommelier or waiter to see if they detect any flaws in the wine. A service has been provided to you and under no other circumstances should you send the wine back.
In addition when the wine is presented at the table, do not sniff the cork. There is absolutely nothing you will learn about the wine from the cork.

4) Don’t buy fancy, over complicated corkscrews. How many of us have fallen victim to seeing the latest and greatest corkscrew, purchasing said corkscrew, fighting and eventually tossing the thing in the trash. One such experiment was with the Co2 cartridge opener, the wine stains are still on the ceiling, don’t ask. One wine club membership included a monstrosity that sat on the counter top taking up much needed space and broke within a month or two. The plastic opener that you position on top of the wine bottle and turn, works to some extent but the synthetic corks always got stuck and required needle nose pliers to extract. Seems the Winged corkscrew may be one of the more popular in homes but this will mutilate your cork and leave bits of cork floating in your wine. The Rabbit seems like a good choice, my budget only allows me to purchase the knock off and they are pretty reliable but you have to replace the corkscrew periodically. Best bet, the simple waiters friend also known as a sommelier knife. No muss, no fuss and nothing to ever replace. My favorite of these is the one with the hinged handle-lever.

5) Don’t think white wine has to go with fish and white meat and red wine with red meat. This is an old school belief and the wine should be chosen on your individual tastes, not something dictated. So drink what you like and what tastes good to you.

6) Don’t serve wine at the wrong temperature. This also covers not storing wine in your refrigerator, near a window with direct light near a fireplace or any other source of heat. Wine Enthusiast recommends storing all wines at 55 degrees and serving red wines at 65 and whites at 47 degrees. These are not the temperatures to use for long term storing but for consumption in a few months this should be fine.

7) Don’t expect the wine you bring to a dinner party or as a hostess gift to be served that night. When invited to a home whether for a dinner party or just a get together, many hosts will already have the wine menu planned. If bringing a bottle of wine, don’t expect and don’t be upset if that wine is not served that night. Many wine enthusiasts will incorporate the wine menu into the dinner menu or just want to serve their guests some of their favorite wines. The wine is always welcomed but may be served at a later time.
I hope these tips help you to enjoy wine even more.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Facing and conquering my wine fears….Chardonnay

If it’s not an Ice Wine or Sparkling I just can’t seem to drink and enjoy white wines. The mere thought of drinking a white wine leaves my taste buds screaming in terror, my palms sweating and a knot in the pit of my stomach. This comes after years of wine tastings, where a tiny sip of wine does not truly reveal itself, buying said bottle, opening at home only to discover the wine is not to my liking.Tonight I face the bane of all my wine drinking experiences, the Chardonnay.

I chose Oak Grove Chardonnay, knowing how well balanced their line of reds taste. As I hesitantly bring the glass to my lips, I’m not sure if I can go through with my wine experiment but I’m determined to press on. The aromas are filled with tropical fruit flavors and sweet apples. The flavors are surprisingly smooth and not a hint of that buttery Chardonnay flavor that typically leaves me running for the nearest bottle of red. The balance between the sweetness and the taste of apple reminds me of an adult version of apple juice.

Appellation - 100% California
Alcohol - 13.8%
pH - 3.53
T.A. - 0.66
R.S. - 0.6%
Case production - 30,000 cases

Since most people prefer whites in the heat of the summer, I think I’m a little off since this is the first of November. While I only managed to drink two small glasses before switching to a red, I will continue to face my fears and hope to bring you a variety of white wine reviews in the future.
I picked up my bottle of Oak Grove Chardonnay at Total Wine for $7.99.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tempted by the label of 2006 Temptation Zinfandel and hooked on the taste

This Halloween season has presented itself with a delightful and sometimes frightful challenge, finding the perfect Halloween wines. Let’s hope 2006 Temptation Zinfandel won’t be another fright night wine. In the store, the first thing that draws you to the wine is the label, with an Elizabethan area lady in a near embrace with a skeleton holding a bottle of wine.

The bright red crimson colors in the glass and the multitude of aromas with citrus and berry notes wafting out of the glass prepare my taste buds for whatever the wine can bring. Flavors of Bing cherries, plums and ginger hit the palate along with smooth tannins making this a very nice drinking wine.

Temptation Zinfandel is produced by Alexander Valley Vineyard in Sonoma County. Maggie and Henry Wetzel purchased the property in 1962 and in 1975 their eldest son, Hank, produced the first wine. The vineyard now grows fourteen varietals from the Russian River banks to the hillsides. Temptation is the third Zinfandel addition that also includes Sin Zin and Redemption Zin.

Wine info:
Appellation: Californian
Grape Varietal: 96% Zinfandel, 4% Sangiovese
Alcohol: 14.5%

Happy not to face another night of under developed, flabby wines; Temptation will definitely be on my list of wines to purchase and drink with joy again.

This wine can be found at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits for $9.99.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Evil 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon really lives up to its name

I’m sitting by the Koi pond watching a squirrel who, seems to be very disturbed by our cat while she is lazing on the grass. Maybe he’s heard what an evil cat she can be and this gets me thinking about my next wine, Evil 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I had high hopes for this wine, with it’s red and black artsy label and a price tag of $8.99, the wine seems to be a perfect choice. Rich red hues in the glass and aromas exploding with cherries, oak and plum, I think this could truly be a great wine. As the wine washes over the palate my hopes are quickly dashed. The flavors have flat lined and there’s very little dimension. The wine does have a nice smooth finish but I’m still waiting for the beginning and the middle. The wine is a 2008 and it could maybe benefit from a bit more aging in the bottle.

Evil is produced by Grateful Palate Imports out of Australia and is just one of the dozens of labels housed under this line, touting the finest portfolio of wines in the world. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Riverland, Barossa Valley. I’ve had some of the other labels and they are fine wines, I just wish Evil added a little more “good” to the flavors. The company’s slogan is “It’s just wrong” and I tend to be in agreement.

Not quite a wine experiment gone awry but the wine’s not as alive as I hoped. I’ll continue tinkering with looking for those wines that won’t leave me feeling ghastly.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Think I’m walking the plank with tonight’s Black Vines wine

Will Wine Hubby make me walk the plank tonight due to my Black Vines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon wine pairing with dinner tonight? He may and I wouldn’t blame him. Let’s start with the dinner he made, Julia Child’s famous Boeuf Bourguignon, you know the one Julie Powell in Julie and Julia attempted cook. The Boeuf Bourguignon was cooked in the Dutch Oven my mother gave us this weekend. No telling how many fabulous meals were cooked in this vessel and this one was no exception. If only the wine could match up to the meal.

Black Vines is based on the legend of Maddy aka ‘Black Vine’ Smith a notorious swash-buckling, jewel stealing, wine lover who emptied some of the finest wine cellars throughout the world. I could find no info on this wine thief or this Vineyard and there may be a reason for the absence of information.

The wine is flat and one dimensional and no match for the dinner. Sip after sip I await the bounty of flavors to arrive but am left high and dry. Upon completion of the meal, the wine presents a little more flavor but is still like a one armed, two peg legged Pirate; disembodied. All this is leaving me feeling like I don’t have two legs to stand on with my wine decision. The flavor reminds me of a grape Jolly Rancher, not a good taste in a wine. Here’s hoping tomorrows wine adventure yields a higher wine booty value. I found this wine at Total Wine for $5.99 but even at that price, I will not be purchasing again.

Interesting Fact:
From the 15th -18th centuries ships carrying wine to regions of the world were often sacked by Pirates, allowing the Pirates to drink some of the finest wines available.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.
Image provided by K. Stargaard.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looking for a wine that won’t fly off with your hard earned cash; Grab a bottle of 2008 Crow Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon.

Looking for a wine that won’t fly off with your hard earned cash; Grab a bottle of 2008 Crow Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon.

In following my Halloween themed wines, Crow Canyon sounds a little scary but I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite lovely. Strong black currants, ripe cherries and plums make for a great nose. These carry over to the flavors and combined smooth tannins, this medium bodied wine has a fine finish.

Who’s Crow Canyon? Well, that’s what I would like to know but as far as I can tell it’s just a label. I found some info stating there was no winery and no winemaker dinners but someone still had to make the wine. Many times wineries create labels to provide an inexpensive offer in the marketplace. I did find where the 2005 Cabernet one the Silver for the up to $14.99 category in the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Sadly I’m unable to find any additional info but for the price, the flavors of this wine will not leave you caw-cawing foul (couldn’t resist).

Interesting wine fact:
Bones are more dense in both men and women with moderate wine consumption. After menopause, osteoporosis becomes a very serious problem in women. Hip fractures are notorious. Dense bones are resistant to fractures. (I should have bones of steel - ks) - David Bruce, M.D.

I found this wine at Total Wine for $5.99.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.
You can contact Kellie at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spooktacular Vampire wine

Ghosts, witches and scary tales abound this time of year but don’t let all the witches brew distract you from great inexpensive wines. Halloween screams for some scary and spooktacular wines, one of my all time favorites to drink on Halloween night is Vampire wine. Vampire like its counterpart, Dracula wine, was at one time made in Transylvania, but has now moved operations to Paso Robles, no pun intended but that just bites. Half the fun of drinking Vampire wine, a side from the great taste, was the name and location of where it was made. Let’s hope the change in venue does not bring ghastly tastes.

I’m first enticed by the aromas of not so forgotten blood red ripened fruits. The aromas call to me and one can not resist taking a small nibble; make that small sip of the garnet colored liquid swirling in the glass. First sip and you’re hit with a lip smacking, succulent taste with a finish leaving one wanting more. Just one thing to do, join the ranks of the other Vampires and finish the glass.

The winery’s head Vampire is entertainment attorney, Michael Machat, who began branding the Vampire label in 1985 as a Syrah varietal. In 1989 the first 500 bottles of Syrah were sold to Alice Cooper and MCA records in London. Sangiovese (Italian for blood of Jove) grapes were planted as well and more than 600 bottles were shipped to the Anne Rice Fan Club in New Orleans. Location of production moved several times from France to Italy then to Transylvania and finally its present home, Paso Robles, CA. The most recent move has made the wine available year round but I must confess, I save this wine for drinking around Halloween.

We paired this wine with steak and garlic knots and survived to see the sun another day.-

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2006 Ashwood Grove Merlot

Today seemed to just slip away from me as I spent the day joining more blog sites, sending out interview questions to a wine maker and working at the job that actually pays me. Glad this day is over and now I’m looking forward to a nice glass of wine. Seems there are only 2 new to me bottles in the wine fridge both of which are from Australia, looks the choice is a 2006 Ashwood Grove Merlot.

The aromas consist of black currants and plums. Flavors of rich berries and smooth tannins provide for a well balanced and lingering finish. The wine is slightly on the sweet side but pairs will with our spicy Indian curry dinner.

Ashwood is owned by Alliance Brands and is located in Victoria, Australia where the grapes are primarily grown. Ashwood Grove strives for intense, rich flavors that are designed to enjoyed upon opening and pair well with food.

Interesting wine stats:
As of September 2009, Australian wine export volumes increased by 8% to 758 million
litres valued at A$2.4 billion. All figures are in Australian currency.
Growth was achieved in the value of Australian wine shipped to:
• China (up A$50 million to A$115 million),
• Germany (A$10 million to A$56 million),
• Hong Kong (A$9 million to A$44 million),
• the US (A$7 million to A$727 million),
• Japan (A$4 million to A$51 million), and
• Sweden (A$2 million to A$40 million).
- Australian Government – Austrailain Wine and Brandy Corporation.
I found this wine at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits for $6.00.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Camelot wines and wine season

The word Camelot brings to mind beauty and goodness and with the arrival of some much needed Fall air to Florida it makes me think of all goodness that comes from this time of year. The start of fire pit season, the midst of football season (go Bulls) and an all time favorite, wine season. Wine season falls between Labor Day and New Years Day; many winemakers use these months to determine a winery’s success for the year. During this crucial time for a winery’s success go out and support some of the smaller U.S. wineries.

Crafted from superior grapes in California, Camelot’s 2006 Merlot, seems like a good choice of wines to support. The nose is oaky and spicy with lots of plum and cherry flavors. The taste is slightly dry, medium bodied with a nice finish. The wine is blended using grapes from three regions with a combination of cool and warm climates. By doing so, the wine has ripe flavors and smooth tannins providing for a well balanced wine.

Appellation – California
Region – North Coast, Central Coast and Lodi
Fermentation – Stainless Steel
Barrel Aging – 3 months in French and American oak
Alcohol – 13.5%
TA. – 0.57g/100ml
pH – 3.63

Camelot winery was established in 1993 and since 1996 Camelot has been awarded over 425 medals in wine competitions. The winery believes in providing good tasting wines at an affordable price to enhance their customer’s lifestyles.
This wine season, be sure to do your part and enjoy those great tasting and inexpensive wines.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pack me up and send me to Hayes Ranch

I’m in a quandary and I don’t know what to do, seems like a perfect time to open a bottle of wine and mull over my options. I’m finally happy with the number of hours I’m working and am able to spend the extra time working on the Wine Chick gig, a co-worker wants me to take additional duties off their plate but I’m afraid it will just put the stress back on my plate. I’m not sure there’s a solution to this one that will make everyone happy.

I found this 2006 Hayes Ranch ‘In the Saddle’ Cabernet Sauvignon to be great tasting and affordable. The aromas are delicious, with notes of cherry, dark berry and oak. The wine is fruit forward with a lingering finish and very well balanced. I’m unable to find any info on the winery other than it’s a California wine with a western spirit. I’ll definitely buy this one again.

This wine can be found at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits for $7.99.

Interesting fact:
Did you know the discount chain Costco is the largest wine retailer in the U.S.? In 2008 alcohol sales topped $2.3 billion with 50% coming from wine. The average Costco store carries 180 alcohol SKUs, wine averages around 145 SKUs per store.

Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

So why was I avoiding Fisheye wines?

Wine hubby contributed to my side line again and presented me with 2 bottles of Fisheye wine found at Sweetbay for $4.99, how can I refuse. Tonight’s trial will be the Fisheye Cabernet. Fisheye has been one of those wines I see at the supermarket but always seem to pass over, no reason that I know of, just one of those wines.

The wine in the glass is light and almost transparent when held at an angle. The aroma is full of fruit with hints of blackberry, currants and a touch of pepper. Flavors are fruit forward, light with a slight lingering finish. It’s not something I would serve at a dinner party but for not bad for everyday drinking.

We’re doing a Thanksgiving “dry run” tonight using a chicken in place of the turkey that will be dressed in his finest herbs, butter and seasonings before being placed on the grill for all to enjoy. It’s still around 90 degrees so we’re doing this one in the oven versus the grill, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Interesting wine fact:
There are approximately 400 species of oak, though only about 20 are used in making oak barrels. Of the those, only 5% is suitable for making high grade wine barrels. The average age of a French oak tree harvested for use in wine barrels is 170 years.

P.S. Chicken wasn’t that great in the oven, next run will be on the grill.

Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2007 Levata Montepulciano d’Abruzzo more than a lot of words

Wine hubby is at a B.E.E.R.S. meeting so I ponder over my wine choices for the evening and hope I pick a winner. I chose a bottle of 2007 Levata Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The name isn’t all that intimidating once you break it down:
Levata – winemakers name
Montepulciano – type of grape
D’Abruzzo – region in east central Italy

The wine smells delicious with spicy notes, fruit and oak. The aromas carry over to the taste with dryness and light tannins. Typically the wine is consumed young after 2 years of aging the wine is labeled “Risvera” and must spend at least 6 of those months in oak barrels. Abruzzo is just east of Rome and the culture is centered more around hard workers and was designated as a DOC in 1968. The wines are at least 85% Montepulciano with some blending of Sangiovese. As I spend another evening relaxing at home, it feels great not dreading going to work tomorrow. Once again, life is good…..

Chickadees word of the day:
DOC – The abbreviation for the Appellation system of Italy (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and Portugal (Denominacao de Origem Contralada). I think we should cover these in depth at a later date. Be on the lookout.

Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stonehaven and my field trip to SoHo

It was the end to a great week, having worked only half a day on Friday, lunch in SoHo, an hour walking around Hyde Park (even if most shops have packed up and left) then finding an unknown value wine, 2006 Stonehaven Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, at the Publix Greenwise Market.

Stonehaven Vineyard is located in Australia's Limestone Coast. The winery uses computer technology providing the winemaker with total control over the winemaking process. I’m not sure how I feel about using computers to make wine, it makes it impersonal. I mean why bother even having a winemaker if all you have to do is key some information into a computer. The website speaks a little to the vineyards and the barrel hall but I couldn’t find any information from the vineyard regarding their wines.

The aroma is soft but fruity. The soft fruit flavors carry over with spice and peppers from the Shiraz. The wine was well balanced and definitely not bad for $7.99.

Here’s to hoping this week is as wonderful as last week!

Chickadee word of the day:
Barrel Hall - After crushing and fermentation wines requiring barrel maturation are pumped to a hall and decanted into oak barrels. The maturation in oak allows the wine to develop structure and further.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is Oak Grove the new Blackstone?

With all the ups and downs I’ve experienced at work and my wine trials lately I decide it’s time to break out my latest “go to wine”, Oak Grove. I remember the first time I picked up at bottle was at Total Wine where I saw a little sign stating Oak Grove Merlot was preferred over Blackstone Merlot in blind tastings. As that was a few years ago, I’m unable to find where the tastings occurred, I did come across one webcast that said Blackstone Merlot was the worst in their tastings….ouch. I can tell you after that day, Oak Grove was a new found friend to me, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon which is what I’m enjoying tonight.

The flavors are well balanced with ripe fruits consisting of cherries, black berries, currants and mild tannins. It does taste a little grapy but still better than some of the other wines I’ve had lately.

I consider this wine my and wine hubby’s signature wine since this is the wine we put our save the date labels on and handed out to those who were in our local area. For those of you who don’t know, we got married at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR, hence the VooDoo doll, doughnuts and micro-brew bottle caps.

I finally feel relaxed and know I’m in control for now. I’m going to take the time I need to rejoin the world of happy people and in a few weeks I’ll start adding hours to make workload but for now I’m enjoying the freedom of leaving early and taking time for myself, hubby and house.

Wine Info:
Appellation - California
Alcohol - 13.1%
pH - 3.55
T.A. - .59
R.S. - .3%

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I need to be more like Rex Goliath

I wish I could say the past few days have been relaxing but with the uncertainty lurking around my former position I’ve been extremely stressed. I’m submitting my revised part time work hours and hoping my boss takes the hint that I can no longer spend any serious amount of time on that account as it not worth the money, the stress or the misery it’s causing me and wine hubby (only because he has to put up with me). Time to puff myself up and prepare for the fight that lies ahead. Seems only fitting to break out the Rex Goliath Pinot Noir. Legend has it Rex Goliath was a 47 pound chicken who traveled with a Texas circus at the turn of the 20th century. It’s said people came from miles just to see the largest rooster in the world. I’ve had Rex Goliath Cabernet and Merlot but the Pinot Noir is something new for me and unfortunately it presented itself like so many Pinot Noirs do, not much going on with flavors and a flat finish. The aroma was full of blackberries and oak but not much of that seemed to carry over to the tastes. The wine can be found at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and other retailers for around $8.99.Seems like so many of the wines I’ve tasted lately have been disappointing, maybe it’s my mood. I am hopeful there will be good news coming my way soon and I’ll be sure to share it with all of you. Interesting info: Did you know Coq au vin means "rooster with wine. 2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What I need to do right now is Relax

While at my local ABC Fine Wine & Spirits I spied a wine section I generally don’t spend a lot of time in; German wines but while in my experimental wine phase I pick up a bottle of Relax Cool Red.

Tonight that’s what I’m hoping it helps me to do, Relax. My week started with elated feelings of gaining control over my work situation only to find out my replacement gave one week notice and is refusing to stay any longer. This isn’t someone hired off the streets, this is someone who had been an employee for a few years, hmm, maybe it wasn’t me that was the problem could it be the account?

The wine is light enough in color to see through the glass; blackberries and a touch of sweetness make this a nice sipping wine. I think this would be great for hot summer days in the back yard. The wine is from the Rheinhessen region with the Nahe river on the west and the Rhine river on the east. I learned quite a bit from the Schmitt Sohne website like, German wine categories reflect degrees of ripeness in the grape when harvested. This is also reflected in the German wine laws.
Alcohol – 11.5-12%
T.A - 5-7

I have to keep telling myself I am still in control as I am no longer on that account or a full time permanent employee. I have the power to say no since this was their choice, not mine but I’m actually glad it happened. Stay tuned…….

Wine info for the day:
Although Germany is known for its sweet wines 2/3 of the wine production is dry to very dry.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2008 Opi Malbec and nail polish remover.....

Fall has arrived in Florida, at least for the next day or two. Tonight is the first night since May where we can enjoy sitting on our deck overlooking our Koi pond while sipping a glass of wine. Even Wine Kitty is outside enjoying the dry and cooler temps. Tonight’s wine selection is 2008 Opi Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

It smells familiar but I can’t put my finger on it, later I realize, it’s nail polish remover or acetone. Thankfully it doesn’t taste like nail polish remover but it is medium to even light in body style. The flavor doesn’t linger very long either. I take in lots of berry, oak and spice flavors but as soon as it hits the palate all I’m left with is an alcohol taste.

I tried to find more info on the wine and the winery but I was unable to find a website. All I can tell you is what I get off the bottle. The grapes are handpicked from the vineyard in the Maipu region of Mendoza and the winemaker is Rudolfo Sadler. I did have some left in the bottle the next day and was curious to see if the nail polish scent disappeared. I’m happy to report it has dissipated but when I take another sip the flavors are still there but still not much of a finish.

Oh well, on to the next wine in our wine adventure.

Chickadee word of the day:
Acetone – a wine with a sharp but slightly sweet and somewhat fruity smell typically caused by ethyl acetate.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fetzer Cabernet and my avoidance wines

There are a few wines that for whatever reason during my wine drinking years I have avoided. Some are for obvious reasons, Sutter Home, Gallo and Paul Masson fit under this category as they’re starter wines in my book. These are the wines the non-drinking American house frau picks up for a dinner party. She has no idea these wines are terrible, she just knows she’s heard of them. Then there’s the other category where I would list tonight’s wine, the “I don’t know why I avoid this wine” category.

Maybe it’s the name, Fetzer sounds too much like fester but to my surprise it wasn’t all that bad. The aromas smell like other wines with ripe berries, plums, spice and oak. Flavors consist of oak more berries and vanilla. The tannins are firm but balanced making this a medium bodied wine.

Fetzer Winery started in 1968 in Mendocino County and began growing their own grapes in 1984. Fetzer has a commitment to the environment and sustainability through green packaging, solar energy and waste reduction. Through these efforts the winery has won many Environmental accolades.

This is the second “avoidance” wine I’ve tried, first being Barefoot wine and it is something I will try again. Stepping outside of your comfort zone whether it be in the wine you drink or the life you live, isn’t always a bad thing….who knows something good just my come of it.

Alcohol – 13.49%
T.A. - .63gms
pH - 3.47
R.S. - .06gms

Phrase of the day:
“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance” – Benjamin Franklin
Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2008 Phebus Malbec

I better write this quick as the sun is going down and our area is experiencing a power outage. We’re approaching the second hour of the outage and yes I paid the bill. I was just about to do some farming on Farmville when the whole house powered down. Good thing wine opening and drinking doesn’t require electricity.

I feel around in the wine refrigerator and grab the first bottle, ah Phebus Malbec, a wine I have not yet had. Berries, strawberries and oak hit my nose, the wine is fruit forward with a smooth finish. I can’t tell you anything about the color or viscosity other than it’s dark, much like the rest of the house. Here’s something interesting, the bottle states 70% Malbec, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet however the website lists the wine as 100% Malbec. Not sure which is correct but I can tell you the winery is located in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. Grapes are hand sortted prior to the destemming. With a second hand sorting table for the grapes as they come out of the destemmer. This process ensures only the highest quality grapes go into the wines.

Lights are back on and we don’t have to worry about stumbling anymore (at least not due to darkness). Whether the wine is 100% Malbec or a blend, it was very drinkable and I would purchase again. I picked this wine up at Total Wine for $6.99.

Wine info:
Mendoza, Argentina produces 70-75% of Argentina’s wine and 85% of its quality wine.
Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 28, 2009

2007 Oak Grove Petite Sirah

After three months of being dragged through the mud, strung along, benefits stripped earlier this month, I’m still on the same account 100%, full time…..this has to stop. I sent an email to my boss and advised her as of Monday, my new hours will be 8-2:30 and I will no longer be the point person on said account, she said, “ok”. After suggesting she draft an email to sales advising them of the change, I’m finally feeling in control of my life again. I decided to celebrate with one of my new “go to” wines, Oak Grove and in honor of new beginnings, I chose to try something new, the 2007 Reserve Petite Sirah.

In staying with trying something new, I decide to experiment with using a wine aerator.
Prior to aeration, the aromas are earthy and lots of oak but I detect only a hint of fruit. Flavors are floral and oaky with soft almost delicate tannins. After aeration, the aromas come alive, I still pick up on the oak but I swear I detect orange blossoms. Flavors have increased with cherries, raspberries and spicy, tannins are more pronounced and the wine has much more body. The wine in the glass shows thick viscosity, deep crimson red with hues of purple.

Oak Grove was founded in 1999 by proprietor Jeffrey Dye and the grapes are grown in the cool California appellations of Monterey County, Arroyo Seco and Paso Robles. The wine make up is 13.6% alcohol, 3.72 pH, .65 T.A., .3 R.S.

While the cabernet is still my #1 “go to” wine, I need to branch out and try new things. Accept what life throws at me and be prepared to throw some inexpensive empty wine bottles back. I must tell you this weekend I had one of the most relaxing weekends since my honeymoon in May. Sunday evening I sipped on a bottle of Sparkling Wine and felt all was right again.

Wine Chikadees words of the day (bonus word)
Residual Sugar (R.S.) – also called reducing sugar natural grape sugar fermented at the end of the fermentation process or added back into the wine.
Titratable Acidity (T.A.) – also called total acidity is the sum of the fixed and volatile acids which is determined by a chemical process called titrable (very scientific words!)
Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine aeration, how and why

Why should you aerate your wine before drinking? The reason for aerating or letting a wine breath is to allow the wine to be exposed to the air and thereby softening the wine characteristics, the oxygen brings the wine back to live so to speak. Aerated wines release more aromas, have a softer feel, and are better balanced versus a wine that is poured straight from the bottle. There are several methods you can use to aerate your wine making them more enjoyable.

Decanter – you don’t have to go out and buy a fancy decanter, although they can be found for as little as $10. Use a vase, clean please, juice pitcher or anything with a wide enough opening that will allow the air to mingle with the wine. Most wines will typically begin to soften within an hour so decant well before sitting down to enjoy your wine.

Wine glass- you can simply pour the wine in the glass and let it sit for a while but then you have to do this with each glass. Another wine glass option is to swirl, everyone has seen this at some point in time. It does work but you really have to get a good swirl going and if you are unaccustomed to swirling the wine can come too close to the rim of the glass and that’s just bad form.

Aerators – these little contraptions are great and come in a variety of forms. They also work immediately so you can enjoy your wine as soon as you uncork. There are aerators that fit in the spout of the wine bottle and aerate as the wine passes through into the glass. Most of these are simple to use but there some that are a little complicated. Other aerators you hold over the glass as you pour the wine, the wine is then pushed through a small mesh screen creating bubbles in the wine. These can be a little cumbersome since you have to hold the aerator in one hand over the glass all the while pouring the wine into the aerator but can make a noticeable difference versus spout attached.

Some purist say you shouldn’t rush the natural opening of the wine and opt for decanting only. I think this is personal preference so use what works best for you and allows you to enjoy your wine the most.