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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2006 Blackstone Merlot

After my not so fond reunion with Blackstone Cabernet, I decided it was time to meet up again with the flagship wine that started it all; Blackstone Merlot. Here’s something interesting, the 2007 Blackstone Cab had a synthetic cork but this vintage still has the natural cork. Here goes, aromas earthy, spicy and cherries. First sip and the flavor feels flat and flabby. I do get the berries and oak some fine flavors but it’s still missing that little something. It feels like when you talk to someone you used to be great friends with and now all you can do is make awkward idol chit chat.

At least I found the man that started Blackstone, Derek Benham and discovered the latest wine under his leadership, Mark West. I also now know you can find it at BJ's Wholesale for $7.99 or Total Wine for $8.99, such Wine Chick budget friendly prices.

Chickadee word of the day:
Flabby – wine that is heavy on the palate, caused by a serious deficiency in acidity and subsequently affecting flavor.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2005 R.H. Phillips Night Harvest Merlot

As Fall officially begins at 5:18 p.m. EST, it seems only fitting to talk about R.H. Phillips Night Harvest Merlot. The wine in the glass has a deep Ruby color and shows medium viscosity, indicating high alcohol content (somewhere around 13%). The wine was aged in oak barrels for 14 months making it silky and full-bodied with layers of strawberries, oak and a hint of coffee. The grapes actually were harvested under the stars at night between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. allowing the cool California air to chill the fruit and preserve the acidity.

The label is eye catching with its black back ground, a man standing on a ladder picking a large grape bunch, a brilliant moon on one side, a star on the other. It truly does make me think of fall and cooler nights, the perfect wine drinking weather.

R.H. Phillips opened in 1983 and started selling wine in 1984. The company’s founders originally set their sights on sheep herding but quickly changed direction and began planting grapes. The company was founded by John and Lane Giguiere, and John Giguiere’s brother, Karl. The brothers then named the winery after their grandfather, R.H. Phillips. The winery was sold in 2000 and the Giguiere’s now have a new winery called Crew Wine Company LLC.

Sadly on 09/01 of this year, the winery’s parent company, Constellation Brands, closed the winery. Production of the winery’s Toasted Head label and other R.H. Phillips wines will continue in Acampo at Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge winery. Two of the R.H. Phillips winemakers are also moving to Woodbridge. In recent years R.H. Phillips has become my “go to” wine. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into another Blackstone. Woodbridge winery hopes to maintain the same quality and passion that has made this wine so enjoyable....we’ll see………

You can find this wine and other R.H. Phillips wines at Total Wine and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.

Chickadee word of the day:
Silky – Wine that is incredibly smooth, lush and finely textured.
Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 21, 2009

2005 Surf Point Merlot

Thanks to some computer geeks who think it’s fun to create viruses that infect your PC, block you from accessing anything, cost you time and money….the Wine Chick was only able to get 4 blogs out last week. I’ll try to make it up to you this week though. Thanks to the good folks at Citrus Park Computers, virus has been removed and PC is up and running.

After another long emotional rollercoaster at work, Hubby returned home with a bottle of 2005 Surf Point Merlot. I love when he buys the wine since it really is more of a blind tasting for me and for you too. The color in the glass is a deep red. The aromas are faint but I detect blackberries and currants. The flavors are soft with hints of oak, vanilla and cherries.
Surf Point grapes are grown along the warm inland valleys of California’s north and central coastal regions, providing longer growing seasons resulting in fruit-intense wines true to varietal character. Surf Point Merlot was night harvested so the grapes reach an optimal temperature for fermentation.

In my research I find Surf Point is Food Lion’s private label wine. We found this at Sweetbay for $5.99 which makes sense since Food Lion and Sweetbay are both under the Delhaize banner. I also learn Surf Point, recently received recognition at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Surf Point’s Pinot Grigio received the gold medal, Surf Point Merlot (silver medal) and Surf Point Chardonnay (bronze medal). While I wouldn’t consider this my go to wine, it was very drinkable and priced right.

Wine quote for the day:
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world, that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly any other purely sensory thing.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon.

Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2008 – Alamos Malbec

Looking for a great tasting Malbec, well I found one! One of my big wine scores at BJ’s Wholesale was an Alamos Malbec purchased for $7.99. Alamos is produced by the Cantena Family in Mendoza, Argentina. The history of the family and their wine making goes back to 1898 when Nicola Catena came from Italy to Argentina. Nicola believed Mendoza was the promised land and planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. After generations of changes, disappointments and perseverance the winery is now lead by Nicolas Cantena, the grandson of the original founder.

This Malbec blend contains 90% Malbec, 5% Cabernet and 5% Bonarda. The aroma is a combination of ripe berries, spice and black pepper. The flavors are fruit forward and well balanced with the perfect amount of tannins to sugar. Notes of blackberries intertwine with spice. The wine is aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels.

2008 Alamos Malbec scored 87 points and is very drinkable and enjoyable wine at a very good price. I will definitely put this on my list of wines to drink again.

Chickadee word of the day:
Bondarda – the shortened name given to Bondarda Piemontese, a red-wine grape grown in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Copyright ©2009 by Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2003 Covey Run Syrah

Wine Chicks hubby contributed to this blog today by bringing home a 2003 Covey Run Syrah found at Sweetbay for $5.99. I’m surprised a grocery store would have a 2003 vintage of anything.
Covey Run is a Washington States Columbia and Yakima valleys and uses grapes from several different regions. The winery makes two tiers of wines, Quail Series which provides quality wines at affordable prices and the Columbia Valley Reserve. Columbia Valley Reserve wines are hand-crafted from the finest grapes. I’m sure you can tell which tier hubby chose to purchase from.

The 2002 Covey Run Syrah took Grand Prize the Seattle Wine Society’s 30th Judging in 2004. Covey Run has also been awarded more than 20 “Best Value” awards from Wine Spectator. Hmm, I’ll have to see what other wines they have out there. I’m always looking for value wines!

The wine is a deep dark purple in the glass. The aromas consist of smoky oak and mixed berries. I taste plums and spice. The wine is smooth and easy drinking. Syrah is a relatively new grape variety for eastern Washington and it shows great promise. The Syrah grape thrives in the summer heat and ripens fully by mid- October, taking advantage of the warm summer days and cool nights. In order to get the highest quality fruit, Covey Run thins its crop aggressively and lets it hang on the vines until the grapes begin to shrivel and the juice of a crushed berry appears slightly pink. The wine is then aged in French and American oak barrels for about 9 months.

Blend: 95.6% Syrah,
4.2% Malbec, 0.2% Viognier
Cases Produced: ...25,227
Released: .........June 2005
Alcohol: ................13.5%
T.A.: .........................0.54
pH: ...........................3.

Wine fact for the day:Some afflictions of old age can be relieved by a glass of wine. The majority of hospitals in California have wine on their menu. It really can reduce the dependence on “heavies” like Thorazine. It's amazing what a glass of wine can do for patients. Their faces light up. They feel like socializing. Their appetite improves. Their self-esteem rises. They have a flood of happy memories. In short, life is worth living.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2005 Rosemount Cabernet Merlot

After sipping a Mark West Pinot Noir, what could possibly follow…..luckily the Rosemount Cabernet Merlot I chose was a great follow up. It’s Sunday night and I’m set to return to work tomorrow as a full time temp, feel like getting my drink on….hell yeah!

The wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot. The color in the glass is a deep red with hints of purple. The wine presents complex aromas ranging from plums, berries with a hint of oak. Spicy flavors and the oak aroma carry over to the taste. The tannins are smooth and leave a lingering finish making this a very easy drinking wine.

Rosemount is located in the Hunter Valley region of Australia and has been in the winemaking business since 1969 and is one of Australia’s leading wines. Their wines represent the Australian climate as well as their dedication to quality and style.

We paired this wine with a hearty spaghetti sauce made from short rib and roast meat, tomatoes and a blend of left over cabernets from the previous week.

I found this wine at BJ’s Wholesale for $7.99.

New feature, wine quotes:
“Wines are like people. Some are perfect but boring, some are precocious but fail to live up to their promise, but the way they may develop is endlessly fascinating.” - Michael Broadbent, British Wine Critic

Monday, September 14, 2009

2007 Ass Kisser Shiraz

First week complete after my status change from full time permanent employee to part time temp. Time for a glass of wine and I think this evening calls for a big glass of Ass Kisser Shiraz. Fitting since I think it was a lack of ass kissing that got me into this predicament.

Black currants and an oaky aroma make this a promising wine. Tasty vanilla, chocolate and spice provide an intense lingering finish. The flavors are not complicated but it is full bodied and I’m a happy wine chick now.

Ass Kisser is made by Rocland Estates, a family owned winery in South Australia. The grapes are grown in premium vineyards and picked once they reach optimum maturity. After the grapes are crushed into open fermenters and monitored for 7-10 days they spend 12 months in aged and new French and American barrels.

While I don’t know what the following week will bring at work, I do know I have some more tasty wines to sample and tell you about. I started this evening out with a glass of Little Black Dress Pinot Noir. It was so dry and one dimensional, I couldn’t drink it without making a face. Love the bottle but not the wine…..

I found this wine at the Wine Warehouse at 5571 4th St N, St Petersburg for $8.99

Chickadee word of the day:
Fermenter – A vessel used to ferment grape juice. This can be in the form of barrels, vats of oak, concrete or steel. Wow, didn’t need a dictionary to figure that one out……

Friday, September 11, 2009

Biltmore Cabernet Sauvignon

Will drinking this wine make me feel like a Vanderbilt? I don’t know about that but it does make me feel good about my wine choice tonight. While hubby works on his FarmVille crops and I patiently wait to go to work in YoVille, I sit and enjoy a nice glass of Biltmore Cabernet. I take in the oaky aromas and spicy black pepper. The wine is slightly dry with a medium body and has smooth lingering finish. It’s easy to see why this wine won Gold in 2007 New World International Wine Competition.

Here’s something interesting, did you know the most visited winery in the US is the Biltmore’s Winery. The vineyards were established in 1971 in an area below Biltmore House. French-American hybrids were planted initially. The vineyard has 94 acres and plants 6 varieties of grapes. The harvest begins in mid-September and continues through October when the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are picked.

I’m glad I discovered this wine and I think it will be making a few appearances during the holidays this year. This wine can be found at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits for $8.99

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hob Nob Vineyards Shiraz – 2006

Whew, with all of the Wine Chicks schmoozing lately and getting various blogs out to the masses, I think it’s only fitting to open a bottle of Hob Nob Vineyards Shiraz. The Hob Nob Shiraz has a deep purple appearance and shows long legs in the glass. In the aroma I detect a grapy jam, plum and peppery. It smells great, the taste however is somewhat of a let down after the aroma. It has harsh tannins and it tastes a little like lemons. As it slides across my tongue, it doesn’t have any of that great wrap around and feels like a thin sheet.
The only real info I can find on this one is the grapes are from France. I have no idea if this is where it is bottled as I find another address for Hob Nob in New York. The website is horrible with cutesy little descriptions as you “Meet the wines” like this is the dating game or something. I hate that, don’t wineries know some of us actually want to learn about the history of the wine and the vineyards. How is the Wine Chick supposed to inform people if the wineries don’t make this info available! Ok, enough of my ranting, maybe I need another glass of wine…..
This wine wasn’t horrible but it’s not as good as some of the others I have tasted recently. After all, that’s the whole point, to weed out the bad inexpensive wines and find the gems hidden among all those bottles and shelves.
I found this wine at the Wine Warehouse at 5571 4th St North, St. Petersburg for $4.99
Chickadee word of the day:
Peppery – A trait found in wines with spicy, black-pepper characteristics, sometimes accompanied by high alcohol.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2007 ForestVille Merlot

On a rainy night the Wine Chick hears faint meows. Grabbing an umbrella I set outside looking for the source of the cries. I see a cat dart out of the bushes but I still hear the cries. As I dive into the bushes, I find five wet and cold kittens. Only days old and eyes still closed, these kitties need some place warm and dry. Wine Chicks hubby emerges with an IKEA bin and warm towels. We place each kitten in the bin and put them in a dry safe spot and hope mama comes back.

Nerves frazzled, I think it’s time for a glass of wine. I opt for ForestVille Merlot that I found at The Wine Warehouse on 4th street in St Pete for $5.99. At first I have high hopes for this wine but the wine has a generic taste that I can’t quite place. The taste is harsh on my tongue but somehow has a smooth finish. The wine tastes of plums, cherry, and a hint of pepper.

I find a website for Noble Estates Wine & Spirits out of Canada. It appears they represent the wines and spirits but they don’t necessarily make the wine. I do learn the ForestVille Vinyard was started in the northern interior region of California. The climate and geography makes for fully ripened grapes, which are harvested in early September (perfect timing for this article) the juice then ferments at controlled temperatures.

The website does not mention whether the fermenting takes place in oak or steel. In fact it really does not speak to the wine itself but rather promotes Noble Estates awards such as the VinCambridge Award. In 2005 they were awarded the Cambridge Food and Wine Society "College of Builders Award" in Toronto recognizing the contribution they made in the promotion of fine dining in Toronto. Also to their commitment in helping to maintain culinary standards in the community. Well, isn’t that nice, but what about their wine and spirits??? Maybe if they were more focused on the wine, it could have been a really fabulous wine instead of just ok. Why don’t wineries offer more info about the actual wines they produce???….I’m done ranting now.

All in all, this wine was not too bad for $5.99 and I may give it another try.

Chickadee word of the day:
Noble – a term used to describe a superior wine of remarkable character and great breed.

BTW, mama did come back and took all kittens away in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2007 Menage a Trois red wine and new chapters

After a long 4 day weekend, the return to work on Tuesday brings a new era to my life. While enjoying a glass of Folie a Deux Winery’s Menage a Trois red, it made me think of three things I’m currently facing, leaving me with mixed emotions:
1 - After nearly 10 years at the same company, I am now a part time temp employee.
2 - The company has changed so much in the past 10 years, maybe it is a good time to part ways.
3 – The possibility and the opportunity to do something new and enjoyable with my life. It’s this third thought that excites me and prompted me to start writing about wine.

Menage a Trois literally translates to “household of three” and is a romantic relationship between three people. The name is fitting as the wine is a blend of three varietals: Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet. The grapes are fermented on their own and then blended prior to bottling. I take in aromas of berry jam, chocolate and oak. The flavors are bold and after a few minutes of aeration, take on even bolder jam flavors. Even with the bold flavors, the wine is smooth and low in tannins provide a lush lingering finish. We paired this wine with bratwurst and grilled corn. The smokiness from the grilled foods worked well with this easy drinking wine.

While I mourn the loss of one chapter in my life, a toast to the future and the wonderful blend of new experiences, knowledge and opportunities it may bring.

Wine Information:
Composition: Zinfandel, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Oak Aged
Alcohol: 13.5%
I found this wine at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits for $8.99

Chickadee word of the day:
Blending – the process of combining different wines with the goal of creating a composite that’s better than any of the wines separately.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day grilling doesn’t mean wine can’t be on the menu too

Most Labor Day food gatherings revolve around the grill and mark the end of summer.While many may not think of pairing traditional Labor Day foods like hamburgers, bratwurst and sausage with wine, ask why not? Hamburger is red meat and we know wine goes great with red meat. Brats and sausage are generally pork or chicken and again, we know wine pairs very well with white meats. The trick is pairing these foods with the right wine, especially for those of us in Florida where summer will be with us for a bit longer.
So what’s on the menu for today? If you starting with chips and dip, try pairing with a sparkling wine. The saltiness of the chip goes great with the crisp taste of sparkling wine. If hamburgers are on the menu, try a Zinfandel. If brats or sausage are on your menu, pair with a Pinot Noir or Riesling.
2006 Reds from the Lodi region of northern coastal California is a perfect compliment to any gilled item. The grapes are actually harvested in mid-August so hopefully the good folks at Laurel Glen Vineyard can enjoy some time off and enjoy the fruits of their labor, so to speak. The wine is a blend of Zinfandel (60%), Carignane (30%) and Petite Sirah (10%). The aromas were bold and more like a Bordeaux or Tempranillo. I take in the smell of oak and leather. The flavor is a black pepper, Cassia and a smoky finish. The Carignane grape is traditionally grown in Spain and France which explains why this Zinfandel takes on much bolder aromas and flavors. The label states this a wine for the people making it even more fitting on this day.
While enjoying your cookout and bottle of wine, keep in mind all the efforts countless people put into bringing you that wine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Vine – wines-tini’s-tapas

The Vine is serving up great tapas, wines and more at budget friendly prices. The Vine is currently offering a 5 for $5 at 5 menu. The times are actually 4-7, 7 days a week and feature 5 wines and 5 appetizers for $5. The Vine is committed to serving quality food and wines at affordable prices.
We started with The Crusher, a Napa Valley Cabernet. The wine takes its name from the mechanical device that breaks the grapes and extracts the juice. The Crusher had a velvety smooth feel with a long and fabulous finish. It was just slightly dry with a multitude of complex flavors. I pick up a slight dusty oak flavor as well as black pepper. In speaking with The Vine’s Liquid Manager, Michael Casey, he feels this is the best Cab your money can buy right now. We paired this wine with one of the $5 appetizers, Tenderloin Tips with asparagus (I ate around this just incase it affected the taste of the wine) and lemongrass Teriyaki. This dish was divine, the meat so tender and the sauce superb, reminded me why I was not a vegetarian.

The next wine was another Napa Valley wine called Dynamite. Let me tell you, this wine really was dynamite!!! The wine is a Zinfandel/Shiraz/Cabernet blend and I’m told this is not yet available in stores. The wine was so enjoyable, I ordered a second glass instead of tasting something new. Sorry readers, I guess I’ll just have to go back and taste some more yummy and affordable wines later. I don’t know why but my husband and I both tasted a slight hint of coconut. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that flavor but it was there. I also picked up cherries, raspberries and an oaky flavor. We paired this with the Truffle Pommes Frites - seasoned parmesan, garlic and a white truffle essence. Who knew French Fries could be so divine.

Other notable food items on the 5 for $5 menu:
18 Spice Handcrafted Slider – crispy onions, wasabi dill sauce on a toasted pita.
Roasted Clams – covered with a melon, curry and served with a toasted crostini. I wasn’t sure how the melon and curry would work but it was wonderful. It tasted like pureed butternut squash, smooth and delicate.

During our visit, I was able to take a peek at The Vine’s impressive Wine Cellar. This is where I learned the current trend for The Vine is to buy for affordability and pass that savings on to the customer. I hope more restaurants and wine bars take this approach.

In speaking with the General Manager, Juan Rodriquez, and Michael Casey, Liquid Director, they understand the current economy and the need to provide quality service at a budget friendly price.

The Vine is located at 17667 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Lutz FL 33548

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coyote Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 - California

Since the Wine Chick has been spending so much time on her home computer lately, it’s time to get some wrists pads for my aching joints. While at my local Office Depot, I couldn’t believe the price for a piece of covered gel…$15.99 - $27.99…are you kidding me…do you know how many bottles of inexpensive wine I could get for that amount. So I promptly left and headed to the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits conveniently located in the same strip mall. I found so many great buys; it was hard to find a wine for tonight. Hmm, I’m feeling a bit like a Coyote tonight. Do Coyote’s make careful plans of attack??? I don’t know if they do but I know I am!

I wasn’t sure what to expect, the Coyote Creek was on sale for $6.50 and was definitely in the Wine Chick’s budget. Hubby is at a BEERS meeting tonight so this bad boy is all mine. The color is a deep ruby red in the glass. I take in the aroma of ripe plums, leather and rich berries. This could be promising….oh please don’t let this taste like pesticides, I’ve had those wines but couldn’t bring myself to write about them. Ah, the first sip and all the aromas have carried over to the taste. It’s a full bodied wine but light enough on the tongue and continues with a strong and lingering finish.

Through my research I learn Coyote Creek is one of the many wines handcrafted in the traditional wine style at Adler Fels Winery. Adler Fels winery was founded in Sonoma Valley in 1979 by David and Ayn Coleman. David Coleman, developed innovations in production that became industry standards. Coleman created the first gold foil label to be used on California wine bottles. The winery is owned by Adams Wine Group and consists of a collection of premium wineries.

While at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, I spoke with Glen Witherbee the stores Wine Consultant. Glen and a co-worker Carol, advised me of an upcoming Wine Tasting this Thursday September 3 from 6:00 – 8:00. The cost is $10 and includes a souvenir tasting glass, $5 coupon for night of event purchase and will profile only about 75 wines….only about, these are the words Glen used. I’ll be there probably right at 6:00, if you’re in the area join me at the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits at 14729 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.

I give this wine, 3 out of 5 glasses.

Winemaking Analysis Varietal composition: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% other red varietals

Appellation: California

Alcohol: 13.5%

Total Acid: 0.58 g/100ml

pH: 3.72

Chickadee word of the day:
Stealth – secret, surreptitious or clandestine activity. I know this doesn’t have anything to do with wine but it does have to do with my plan of attack. I’ll try to fill everyone in when I can. For now, this is a covert mission.... wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blackstone Cabernet – 2007, has Blackstone lost that loving feeling?

After my recent discovery of Mark West wines and former Blackstone owner, Derek Benham, I thought maybe it was time to revisit my old friend Blackstone. Blackstone really was the wine that started my love affair with wine. I think previous to Blackstone my only wine experience had been with Boone’s Farm and some Rose…don’t judge me, I was young. It all started when I was invited to a friend’s home for a wine tasting. The night before I was at a bar and somehow started talking to a local wine distributor. I asked him to recommend some wines to take to the tasting. He told me hands down, purchase Blackstone and I did.

The night of the tasting, Blackstone not only hooked me but also several other people became followers and would buy cases to stock their wine cellar. Blackstone became one of those great comforting friends who would never let you down and you knew the taste would always be fabulous. The wine had a way of wrapping its arms around you like a velvet blanket. Then something changed, Blackstone had lost that loving’ feeling’ and I couldn’t figure out what had changed between the two of us. I finally learned, it wasn’t me, it was Blackstone. It seems once the brand changed hands, the love was gone.

So I muster up my courage and agree to face my old friend once again. Before I even open the bottle I can tell Blackstone is different, the cork is no longer a natural cork but synthetic. There’s nothing wrong with a synthetic cork, but the wine will never soften due to natural bottle aging. I take in the aromas of plums, oak and a slight pepper. When I taste the wine, I’m immediately disappointed, the wine feels flat and thin as it hits my palate making the wine very one dimensional. What happened to the fruit forward, complex wine that had so many followers in the early part of the decade? I think I actually had tears, I was really hoping we could mend our differences and pick up right where we left off.

I can’t help notice Cabernet profiled on the Blackstone website is a 2004. Well if I remember correctly, the 2004 vintage was still delightful. Derek Benham sold Blackstone in 2001; did the winemaker leave shortly after? The current Blackstone winemaker has been making wine for 10 years, but there’s no mention whether he got his start at Blackstone of if he came on board later. Does anyone know??? I’m actually thinking of calling the winery and asking them this very question.

Before I completely break up with Blackstone, I think I need to give the Merlot another chance. This is after all the wine that put Blackstone on the map. In listening to a podcast with Gary Sitton, Blackstone winemaker, he has piqued my interest enough to give the Merlot a chance. He talks the Blackstone concept of providing quality and wine drinker friendly wines at affordable prices. Maybe there’s hope for reconciliation after all. Stay tuned for the Merlot report.

I found Blackstone on sale at Publix for $8.99. It normally retails for $10.99-$12.99

Chickadee word of the day:
Winemaker – An expert at making wine, who’s usually in charge of all steps of the wine production at the winery.