Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Bubbly Report Part 2

My favorite season is coming to a close. Sure the jolly fat guy in the red suit is fine for some and the lighting of eight candles may do for others but for me, it’s Sparkling Wine Season. It’s the most wonderful time of year, the bubbles are flowing and glasses are clinking and I’m in good cheer…. sorry, got carried away. Without further adieu, bubbly report 2010, part 2

Nice dry aroma with a subtle hint of honey. Flavors of apricot and peach are clean and delicate with a dry finish. A little fewer bubbles than other sparkling wines but still nice beads swimming happily to the top of my glass.
The J.P. Chenet website claims the wine was the forerunner of French-style “world wine”, rising to the challenge to make wine more affordable. Great wine for the masses I say! I paired this French wine with Italian cuisine, homemade eggplant lasagna.
A quick online search for prices listed this wine less than $10. Wow, a sparkler under $10 that is truly yummy.

Abundance of fine bubbles, hint of floral in the aroma. Flavors of strawberry and cherry and a touch of spice make this my big surprise find of the season. I stumbled upon this at my local Publix. Like many others, I fell into the Yellow Tail trap set back in the late 90’s. Since then my palate evolved and I left the overly sweet wine behind. However, since I’m a sucker for the pink bubbly, I had to pick up a bottle and give it a try. Even comes with a resalable cap, although I rarely have left over sparkling. Priced at $8.99 I went back and picked up another bottle!

2006 Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs
Creamy honey and golden apple aromas, flavors are crisp and clean with an abundance of citrus in the finish. Great balance between sweet and dry. Made up of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Gris the wine is drinkable now or can be cellared for several years. Priced at $30, this is a great sparkler to enjoy on special occasions or if you’ve got the pockets for it, one of those just because occasions.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Brut
This was another one of my curiosity purchases and it was the most disappointing. In all fairness I do have a cold but also had it when tasting the Yellow Tail. The only distinguishable flavor I picked up was honey. Otherwise, the wine lacked personality and with bubbly the more character, the better. Was priced at $9.99 so it’s not a total waste, just wouldn’t bother with purchasing in the future.

So there you have it, my 2010 bubbly report, something for everyone to enjoy while ringing in the 2011 New Year. If you’re not a wine lover and were lucky enough to get your hands on Sam Adams Infinium (all stores I went to sold out within a day or two) let me know how it was. Next year, I’ll be one of the first in line to get my taste buds on it.

Keep in mind, while drinking and enjoying adult beverages is great fun and I highly advocate the practice, drinking and driving is not something that should be practiced. So either save those beverages for when you’re safely at home or designate a non-drinking driver to shuttle you safely home. Also, a lot of cab and towing companies offer free or discounted services to those who have imbibed in a little too many holiday spirits.

Happy New Year, see you in 2011!

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Bubbly Report Part 1 – Cupcake and Mumm Napa

Seems I was on Santa’s naughty list this year since he gave me a cold for Christmas. I won’t let it bother me, I had the opportunity to taste some great sparkling wines prior to this little annoying gift and I’m still enjoying new wines. I don’t believe in saving sparkling wines for special occasions, I like to hear that pop for a variety of reasons; it’s dark outside, it’s Wednesday, I woke up that morning, etc. On to my 2010 Bubbly report

The first two wines are both from the Loire Valley, France made the same way as Champagne, using the Methode Traditionnelle.

Cupcake Brut Rosé Pinot Noir N.V.
Aromas carry floral notes of rose petals. Hint of strawberry and a nice creamy mouthfeel provide a delicious lingering finish. A collaboration between Cupcake winemaker Adam Richardson and Paul Epistalie from Lacheteau winery in France’s Loire Valley. I paired this sparkling with a Dry Monterey Jack cheese found at Whole Foods.
Region - Loire Valley, France
Varietal - 100% Pinot Noir
Alcohol – 12.5%
TA - 0.71g/100mL
RS - .97g/100mL
pH – 3.14
Case Production – 10,000
SRP - $15.99
I love pink sparkling wines, so fun and festive shooting their tiny little bubbles from the bottom of my glass and enticing me to take another sip.I received this bottle as a sample but did see it in Publix for the same price. Can also be found at Total Wine stores.

Cupcake Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay N.V.
100% Chardonnay the aromas are a bit like fresh bread with hints of floral and apple. Crisp flavors made up of white fruits and almonds. Nice smooth finish has me tipping the glass back for another sip.
Varietal – 100% Chardonnay
Region – Loire Valley, France
Alcohol – 12.5%
TA - .69g/100mL
RS – 1.02g/100mL
pH – 3.03
Case Production – 5,000 cases
SRP - $15.99
Check your local wine retailer for purchase.

N.V. Cupcake Prosecco D.O.C.
Slight hint of peach and melon aromas. Medium sized beads combine with refreshing citrus flavors in a nice creamy mouthfeel. Made from 100% Glera grapes, this sparkling is a true Prosecco.
Varietal – 100% Pinot Noir
Region – Italy
Alcohol – 11.2%
TA – 0.58g/100mL
RS – 1.50g/100mL
pH – 3.3
Case Production – 20,000 cases
SRP - $13.99
This was also received as a sample but I did see this at my local Total Wine store for the same price.

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé
One word….mmm, if that even is a word. This sparkler had to be my favorite. Not only did it have those fun pink bubbles swimming to the top of my glass but the flavors were exquisite. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay provide an array of flavors of strawberries, plums and dark red fruits. With slight tart flavors and spectacular finish, the wine is a true delight for any occasion. We paired with homemade pizza after all the pre-Christmas cooking was completed. That in itself was cause enough for celebration.
Region – Napa Valley
Varietal – 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay
Alcohol – 12.7%
TA – 8.1/100mL
pH – 3.06
SRP - $22

More Mumm Napa and other sparkling wines coming on Thursday Dec. 30. Still plenty of time to go out and pick up some great sparklers for that midnight toast on New Year’s Eve.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Teldeschi Single Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Frank Teldeschi
 A recent trip to Sonoma provided me with many wonderful experiences and memories I’ll carry for years to come. One of my favorite experiences was a family style lunch at a Teldeschi son’s home in Dry Creek Valley overlooking the 97 year old vineyards. The lunch followed a helicopter tour providing a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Sonoma and Napa Valley. I spent a few short hours with the Teldeschi family where the Ravenswood Teldeschi Single Vineyard Zinfandel flowed freely and I had the opportunity to enjoy a vertical tasting of Teldeschi wines.

Spicy pepper aromas, flavors of lush berry, cherry, tobacco and earth intermingle with traditional vanilla and plum. All layers come together and make for a very pretty and perfumed wine. Truly a delight, my only regret is the sample bottle I received at home is now empty. This wine is really worth the $35, you may not find in your local wine store but you can order directly from the Ravenswood website.

Varietal - 76% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane
TA – 6.12g/L
pH – 3.59
Alcohol - 4.5%
Production – 3,500 cases
SRP - $35

Mama & Frank Teldeschi
The sign in the driveway reads Parking for Italians only, hmm, I’m not Italian but that’s ok, the helicopter I arrived in, isn’t staying long anyway. As I crouched low and made my way to the porch of the Teldeschi home, I and my fellow travelers were greeted by John and Dan Teldeschi who now run the vineyards. Their sister, Nancy, and mother, Caterina or better known as Mama Teldeschi, were also in attendance. Following a quick history of the Teldeschi Vineyards we headed inside for a family style lunch, reminiscent of Thanksgiving but oh so much better. All dishes were based off Mama Teldeschi’s Italian recipes creating a feast fit for a king or at least twenty hungry food and wine lovers.

We were told stories of the family’s Patriarch, Frank, and his immigration from Italy in 1929, how he entered the family into the wine growing business in the 1950’s and finally how the family began making great wines for Ravenswood. When Frank agreed to sell grapes to Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery, Frank was already selling grapes exclusively to Gallo. Knowing his arrangement with another winemaker could bring about a difficult situation, he sold grapes to Joel but only if he picked them in the pre-dawn hours. This arrangement helped to put Ravenswood and Teldeschi on the Zinfandel map.

As the food, wine and conversation flowed freely and the Teldeschi’s sharing of more family stories reminded me of my thoughts on wine; wine is something to be shared and enjoyes with good food, family and friends both old and new. Their sharing of family pictures and memories even if for one afternoon was such a wonderful treat. I hope this holiday season brings you much joy and happiness with good friends, family and of course good wine.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2008 Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Goldies’s Vineyard

When Mother Nature begins to unfurl her fury there are tried and true methods of finding comfort. Some people curl up with a good book, others prefer a nice soak in the tub but I find comfort from the howling icy winds in a nice glass of wine. Last nights sample, 2008 Toad Hollow Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, Goldies’s Vineyard was a nice diversion from the dropping temps.

Spicy black cherry aromas, flavors of green pepper, earth and a hint of oak at the front of the palate. More of that wonderful spice hits mid-palate and finish is full of juicy raspberry providing for a long and lovely finish.

Alcohol - 14.5
TA - 0.51
pH - 3.45
RS - 0.03
2,000 cases produced
SRP - $12.99

I’m lukewarm towards Pinot Noir, they’re a difficult grape to grow and craft into a wine worthy of mentioning but Toad Hollow has hit the nail on the head. While winemaking abilities are important, geography is crucial. If you’ve read my previous Toad Hollow reviews (click here) you’ll recall Toad Hollow is the collaboration between Todd Williams and Rodney Strong. Named after Rodney’s mother, Goldie’s Vines Vineyard sits in the Russian River Valley AVA.

Located one hour north of San Francisco the Russian River Valley region is known for it cool climate and ability to successfully grow finicky cool climate varietals like Pinot Noir. The river provides cooling fog in the hot summers and the swelling river bank serves as a natural irrigation system in the spring.

Along with the stellar geographical factors, Goldie’s Vines Vineyards contains six different clones, three root stocks and a southeast slope above the Russian River. Low yield and concentrated flavors make this Pinot Noir purely elegant.

Unfortunately both Todd (Dr. Toad) and Rodney (The Dancing Badger) have gone to that big pond in the sky but their legacy lives on thanks to Todd’s wife, Frankie, who carries on the tradition at Toad Hollow Vineyard.

Maybe it’s time to remember where real comfort can be found, it’s with family and friends. Those are the people we lean on to provide us the most comforting feelings of all. Something to keep in mind this holiday season as our fuses are short, gift lists long and wallets strained. Remember to take time to slow down and enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family, or just by yourself.

Cheers to Toad and Badger!

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Méthode Champenoise Brut

I made a deal with myself this year, to watch the holiday specials I watched as a kid with a glass of sparkling wine. Suddenly I find myself watching every holiday special known to man…ok, just kidding. The holidays are steeped in tradition and are meant to be celebrated and what better way to celebrate than with a glass of bubbly. My recent sample of Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Méthode Champenoise Brut is steeped in tradition dating back to Christmas Eve 1895.

Tiny fine bubbles burst to the top of the glass. Aromas carry faint honey and citrus notes. Flavors are full of floral, apricot and a hint of yeast. Nice acidity and well balanced, not too sweet and not too dry.

Varietal – 100% Chardonnay
Origin – California Russian River Valley
pH – 2.96
TA – 0.91
RS – 1.4%
Alcohol – 12.2%
SRP - $25.

The Biltmore Estate Vineyards located in Asheville, NC were planted in 1971 and are visited by more than 1 million visitors annually, making them the most visited vineyards in the US. But the Biltmore history and tradition goes back much further; to 1895 to be exact. In that year George Vanderbilt’s 250 room country retreat was completed and on Christmas Eve, Vanderbilt opened his bachelor pad (yes he was single with a 250 room chateau) to family and friends for the first time. The first Christmas tree was placed in the Banquet Hall which has remained the focal point for Christmas celebrations since.

In 1889 George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and continued to retreat to the Estate until his sudden death in 1914. Edith stayed on at the Estate and made the decision to sell 80,000 acres of Pisgah Forest, later becoming America’s first national forest. The decision to sell, not only allowed the Estate to remain financially stable but also ensured the land would be preserved and untouched for future generations. This desire to promote sustainability coupled with George’s love of wines marries well with the decision to add the vineyards.

Well I better start plotting my holiday specials for the evening and make sure I have plenty more bottles of bubbly on hand. Stayed tuned, many more to come.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2008 Chateau Monestier la Tour White Bordeaux

I know we Floridians complain about the incessant heat but the cold temps throw our bodies into shock. I mean seriously, a high of 52 and freeze warnings when the calendar indicates it’s still Fall, cause me to bid Adieu to my hopes of a mild winter. Thinking back to blistering days of summer, I decided to look through my list of summer wines stumbling across one from August, Tour de Montestier White Bordeaux from France’s Château Monestier La Tour.

The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and provide for a mix of flavors and aromas. Color in the glass is similar to butter. Aromas consist of pear and a slight hint of Eucalypts. Flavors of grapefruit and green apple provide a nice tartness. A touch of banana rounds out the palate. Finish was a bit overwhelming and carried a high alcohol burn.

Dating back to the thirteenth century, Château Monestier La Tour dominates the village of Monesteir. Partly destroyed during the One Hundred Years War the Château is a testimony to time and determination. The remains of the original building blend with pieces from the Renaissance period, the façade was rebuilt in the seventeenth century and the tower built in the nineteenth century.

When Philip Haseth-Möller bought the property in the late 1990’s, he found the old building abandoned and the vineyards in a state of neglect. He immediately set to restoring both the old castle and the vineyards and began producing wine. The vineyard make up is Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red wine, and Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle for the white.

The wine was priced at just $8.99. While it wasn’t terrible it was a little disappointing and I don’t think I’ll purchase a second time. Still worth a try, maybe it was an off day or off bottle.

Meanwhile, think I’ll break out some Port to stay warm. Hey, this cold weather snap could turn out to be a lot more fun than I thought.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

2007 Ravenswood County Series Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Holy snowflakes Batman, temperature highs in my area of Florida fell 23 degrees in the last 24 hours. Think it’s time to whip up some chili and pair with a sample bottle of Ravenswood County Series Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel.
Aromas of ripe berries and plum, mix with well balanced flavors consisting of vanilla, cocoa and a lingering spicy finish. Along for the ride is the slightest hint of fresh plump blueberries. Tannins are well balanced and smooth. I know, usually you would pair chili with beer, but I made this chili with a few surprise ingredients….wine and cinnamon. I have to say it was a stellar bowl of red.

Varietal – 76% Zinfandel, 24% Petite Sirah
Appellation – Lodi
TA - .59g100ml
pH – 3.60
Alcohol – 14.5%
Price - $14

Ravenswood County Series represents the winery’s middle tier wine. Grapes are sourced from old vine vineyards located in the Lodi region. Low yielding vines allow the flavors in the grape clusters to produce condensed and tight flavors. The less fruit the vine produces, the more flavor, color and tannin the grapes gain while ripening.

There’s something magical about those gnarled old vines. Twisted and arthritic looking, they give the impression of wise old souls that have endured and weathered the good the bad and the ugly. Ravenswood’s slogan is “No Wimpy Wines”,. When I think of this and envision the twisted and knotted looking vines, I can almost see them coming to life and duking it out with younger “prettier” looking vines.

Maybe I’ve had enough wine and chili for the evening, seems to be making me hallucinate. Oh what the heck, a good wine should take you away to a different world. Mine just happens to be a mix of Tim Burton and Bugs Bunny.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Toad Hollow Vineyards Sparkling Wines, Ooh La La it’s holiday time

Risqué, Methode Ancestral, Sparkling Wine
Looking for a fun and tasty sparkling wine for this holiday season? Found in most mega-mart wine retailers, Toad Hollow’s Risqué fits that bill nicely and a price tag of $12 makes it even more appealing. The flip top and naughty Can-Can girl on the label would have won me over immediately. However, I had the pleasure of receiving as a sample and boy am I glad I did.
Faint yeasty and apple aromas mix with creamy apple and sweet peach flavors. Crisp and clean with a nice level of natural sweetness made from 100% Mauzac. The low alcohol (6%) makes this a safer bubbly to serve to guest that may sometimes imbibe in the holiday “spirit” a little too much. The lack of alcohol does not indicate this is a “shy” or mellow sparkling. It’s bold with intense bubbles that wash over the palate. Nothing more to do at this point than fill the glass again.
Methode Ancestral is pretty much as it sounds, an ancient method of making sparkling wines. Risqué is bottled and produced in by Les Vignerons du Sieur d’Arques in Limoux, France and imported by Toad Hollow. The method has had a French resurgence over the past ten years. When produced in this method, the fermentation process takes place in the bottle. This process is what causes the carbon dioxide or those fun, tiny bubbles.
This would pair well with a spicy Indian Curry or spicy BBQ. Me, I’m feeling like I need to escape the Urban Concrete Jungle, so I’m going to grab a French Baquette, my Risqué, a bicycle with a basket and pretend like I’m riding in the French countryside.

Amplexus Crémant Brut Sparkling Wine, Limoux, France
A lot of you already know, I’m a sucker for labels, well not only does Amplexus Cremant Brut sparkling wine have a great label but also a wax seal of Dr. Toad, which really makes me happy. Not only does it have great bottle appeal but the juice is quite tasty too. Priced at $15.99, still very affordable for holiday enjoyment.
Flavors are a bit tart at first with a hint of Granny Smith apple, dry with a smooth and elegant finish. Tiny bubbles that go on forever just scream holiday festivities. The blend of grapes are Chardonnay, Mauzac and Chenin Blanc.
The Limoux region of France has been producing sparkling wine in 1531, prior to production in the Champagne region.
My only complaint with this wine is my husband who normally does not care for sparkling wine, enjoyed this bubbly and shared the bottle with me so I didn’t get to have it all to myself this time.
I have a lot more bubbly reviews for the upcoming holiday season. It’s a tough gig I have here, all that sparkling wine to drink and share but I’ll get through it somehow.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cupcake Vineyards

2009 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley

2008 Shiraz Barossa Valley
2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Cupcake Vineyards, it’s the wine people want to ignore because of the cutesy name but they just can’t because of the wonderful taste. Cupcake really has started winning over wine lovers across the country as my last two Cupcake Vineyards write ups saw record traffic to this blog. So, people may have been looking for cupcake recipes….I’ll take it.

2008 Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia
Aromas of spice, plum and blackberries make for a delectable nose. Rather dry for a Shiraz but very pleasant. Ripe red fruits upfront are followed by powerful and bold tannins. Lingering chocolate finish has me wanting more.
Varietal – 100% Shiraz
Alcohol – 14.5%
TA – 0.66g/100ml
pH – 3.35
Price – Suggested $13.99 but I’ve seen this retail for less than $10.

2009 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley
Perfumed aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and green apple. Tropical fruit flavors carry over from the bouquet. Flavors are creamy and carry a hint of herbal in the finish. Long and lingering finish.
Varietal – 100% Riesling
Alcohol – 13.2%
TA – 0.83g/100ml
pH – 3.10
Price - $12
The wine was left on its lees and stirred on a regular basis. This process led to the creamy mid palate and the long finish.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand
Eucalyptus and intense citrus aromas abound. Upfront intense lemon flavors with a hint of sweetness remind me of a giant Sweet Tart. High acidity mid palate but creamy and smooth finish. The wine was good but a little too young for my taste. I purchased a second bottle that I’m storing until late next year to compare it to.
Varietal – 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol – 13%
TA – 0.90g/100ml
pH– 3.13
Price - $13.99, I picked mine up during a BOGO promotion for $9.99.

So there you have it, three great tasting and inexpensive Cupcake Vineyard wines. You may already have all your wines for Thanksgiving but do you have any for those post shopping or tree trimming? After fighting with the strands of lights and placing hundreds of ornaments on the tree, I’m usually ready for a glass of wine when it’s all send and done.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Columbia Crest Merlot & Pinot Gris Columbia Valley

If you’re still looking for Thanksgiving wines for the big turkey day, I recently sampled three from Columbia Crest that pair beautifully with all those savory Thanksgiving flavors. The two Merlots are loaded with wonderful aromatic spices. The Pinot Gris has delightful tropical fruit flavors and for some of you in the frigid North, you may want to bring a little more summer flavors to your table. Here in Florida, I’m just hoping I don’t have to turn the AC on for the day.

Stemming back to their first release in 1984, Columbia Crest is perhaps the most popular wine label out of Washington state. With four tiers in their portfolio, there’s a wine to match a range of budgets and tastes. Grand Estates, the second tier is priced between $8 - $10 and the highest line, Reserve, varies in price but the Merlot can be found for around $25. The 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was named Wine Spectator’s, the Best Wine in the World in 2009. Now scarce and priced at $50 range, I’ll settle for tasting the Merlot.

2007 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley
Aromas bursting of vanilla, spice, black pepper and black fruits. Creamy and smooth texture and mild tannins make the wine medium bodied. Licorice and blackberry wash over the palate, flavors and tannins are well balanced with a delicate and smooth finish. Pairs superbly with Thanksgiving flavors and its wonderful aromatic side dishes.
Varietal – 82.5% Merlot, 16.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.8% Cabernet Franc
Alcohol – 14.4%
TA – 0.54g/100ml
pH – 3.72
Price - $25
The grapes were crushed with 30% whole berries and aged in 70% French oak and 30% American oak for 25 months.

2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot, Columbia Valley
Aromas of clove and spices remind me of the delightful scents coming from my spice cabinet. Short burst of fruit in the front of the palate is followed by more spice flavors. Medium bodied and can definitely stand on it’s own but it’s not a powerhouse red. It’s like Thanksgiving in a glass, would pair well with hard cheeses for appetizers as well the main dish and dessert.
Varietal – 96% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.5% Cabernet Franc
Alcohol – 13.5%
TA – 0.52g/100ml
pH – 3.70
Price – Suggested $12 but can find at most retailers priced between $8 & $10.
Grapes harvested from the Horse Heaven Hills vineyards contribute to texture and body. Grapes from the Wahluke Slope bring aromas and complexity to the table.

2009 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley
Aromas of melon, pineapple and mandarin orange. Flavors burst through with mango, passion fruit, peach and a hint of lime in the finish. Nice, clean and refreshing finish. Would pair wonderfully with appetizers or dessert.
Varietal -91% Pinot Gris, 9% Pinot Blanc
Alcohol – 12.5%
TA – 0.51g/100ml
pH – 3.27
Price – Suggested $12 but again, I’ve seen this in stores priced between $8-$10.
Pinot Gris grapes were picked at around 22 Brix to capture the wines bright, juicy style.
Adding Pinot Blanc to the blend provided more aromatics and enhanced the mouthfeel.

However you choose to celebrate Turkey Day remember to drink what you like. Gone are the days when you pair whites with poultry and reds with red meat only. There are no rights or wrongs, it’s all a matter of taste. I’m serving primarily whites this season, a first actually, but will have a smattering of reds to choose from as well to please all my guests. Cheers!

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend and Single Vineyard Old Hill

Did you know Friday, Nov. 19 is Global Zinfandel Day? No, I didn’t think so but I’ve got two great Zins to help you celebrate.

It’s not too often I have the opportunity to showcase two great wines appealing to a very wide range of wallets. Great thing about Ravenswood (one of many in my book) is the varied level of price tiers in their portfolio. During my recent trip to the Ravenswood vineyards, I had the opportunity to taste wines from each level. For those budget minded wine lovers there’s the tasty Vintners Blend and for those with deeper pockets, Ravenswood Old Hill Single Vineyard.

2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend
Spicy oak, pepper and red berries create an intoxicating aroma. Zesty berries and Bing cherries intermingle with medium and well balanced tannins. The wine is medium bodied with minimal complexity.
The grapes are sourced from carefully chosen vineyards located throughout Sonoma. They are then blended with grapes grown for the Vintners Blend Series. At $10, this is a true crowd pleaser for the holidays.
Varietal – 84% Zinfandel, 8% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Mixed Blacks
Total Acidity - .56g/ml
pH – 3.60
Alcohol Content – 13.5%

2007 Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel Sonoma Valley
Multitude of aromas consisting of black berry, black pepper, earth and mint. Silky smooth flavors of coffee, plum, vanilla and a hint of herb in the finish. Exceptional balance and complexity. Rhone like in style, this wine will age beautifully for years to come.
Varietal – 76% Zinfandel, 24% Mixed Blacks
Total Acidity – 5.84g/ml
pH – 3.58
Alcohol Content – 14.8%
I had the great pleasure of visiting the Old Hill vineyards and hearing the history of the vineyard, Sonoma’s oldest dating back to 1885, as well as the current history of the Bucklin’s, the vineyard’s current owners.
I have to admit, this wine is one of my favorites in the Single Vineyard series. With just 1,180 cases produced, you can taste the care and devotion that goes into each bottle. That being said, this wine isn’t priced in everyone’s range but at $60, you truly get what you pay for and this is a beautifully crafted wine.

Ravenswood news
Looks like I’m not the only one being inducted into a new order. I’m referring to my recent Order of the Raven induction, headed by none other than head Raven, Joel Peterson. But this really isn’t about me, the big news is Joel Peterson is to be inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s 2011 Vintners Hall of Fame. Known as the Godfather of Zin, Peterson is just one of the two living vintners to be inducted into the Pioneer category. The official ceremony will take place February 21st, 2011 at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, CA.

Don’t forget about Global Zinfandel Day, go out and buy a couple bottles now so you can make the celebration last longer. With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s a great time to celebrate the one of, if not the oldest planted vines in United States.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Ponzi’s

2007 Ponzi Dolcetto Willamette Valley
2008 Ponzi Arneis Willamette Valley

I have one very guilty pleasure, my membership to Ponzi Vineyards wine club. My husband and I discovered Ponzi while on our honeymoon and our visit to Oregon’s Willamette Valley wineries. Since our summer shipment was held over due to the heat and will be sent with the fall offerings, it’s time to make some more space.

2007 Ponzi Dolcetto
Spicy black pepper, plum and a hint of lilac aromas. Baking spices, dark chocolate and juicy blueberries combine with nice bold tannins. Finish is moderate with a hint of bitter dark chocolate. Complex wine, lots going on and each sip unearths something new. We paired with thick cut bacon and eggs a top a round of crusty bread. The 2007 is sold out but the 2008 is available for $25 through the Ponzi website.

2008 Ponzi Arneis
Herbal green hay aromas float out of the bowl. Flavors are similar to sparkling wine just minus the bubbles. Crisp and light flavors of peach and pear with moderate residual sugars. This one paired superbly with pâté and spicy grainy mustard on a baguette. Looks like both 2008 & 2009 are sold out.

Founded in 1970 in Oregon's Willamette Valley by Dick and Nancy Ponzi, the vineyards have led the way for Oregon’s viticultural revolution while staying course in their commitment to traditional winemaking. Second generation, winemaker Luisa Ponzi now carries on that tradition using classic Burgundy methods.

The winery is still family owned and contracts with growers matching the varietal to the terroir and climate. The valley affords a moderate climate and provides ideal sites for the culture and cultivation of cool climate wine varietals.

Stay tuned for more on Ponzi Vineyards as I make room for the next two shipments to arrive.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Wine Picks 2010

If you’re like me, your friend’s and families’ wine preferences vary greatly. Here I’ve put together some recent samples that are sure to please a multitude of palates. From sweet to drier, none of the wines are offensive and should be a hit in any group.
2008 Helfrich Riesling A.O.C. Alsace
For an appetizer try pairing salty or rind cheeses with a nice Riesling such as 2008 Helfrich Riesling priced right at $14.99. I try to keep the appetizers a little light. Try pairing this wine with Big Ed’s cheese, I found mine at Whole Foods. You could also serve this wine with the main course or dessert, it lends itself beautifully to a multitude of food flavors.
Aromas are full of honey, citrus and orange blossoms. Flavors are crisp and clean with more citrus, green apple and a hint of mineral. Flavors are off dry so this isn’t a really sweet Riesling.
Harvest Brix 24
Alcohol 12.5%
TA 8.3 g/L
pH 3.05
RS 6.0 g/L
For more Helfrich reviews, click here.

2009 Wild Rock Vin Gris Rosé Hawke’s Bay
I have to admit, I was almost afraid to try the Wild Rock Vin Gris Rosé. I’ve had so many disappointing Rosé wines this summer, I wasn’t sure if I could face another. I ws very pleasantly surprised, this one was delicious. Priced very affordable at just $9.99, you can go for a little bigger turkey now.
Aromas are perfect for Thanksgiving bursting with cranberry, cherry and a hint of citrus. Flavors are crisp, fresh and still slightly dry with residual sugars at 6.0. Well balanced acidity throughout, only complaint was the creamy finish was a little too short. I wanted to keep on enjoying. I solved that problem by tipping the glass back once more.
Harvest Brix 23.1
Alcohol 13.72%
TA 6.2 g/L
pH 3.07
RS 6.0 g/L

2006 St. Francis Winery Merlot Sonoma County
Not everyone is a fan of Rosé, offer other choices for your guests. I know the old adage, white meat, white wine. I find that very old school and feel there really are no rules when it comes to wine and food pairings. Drink what you like so go ahead and put that red wine on the table. The wine will hold up well with all the spices in those side dishes. St. Francis Merlot is fruit forward and packs loads of lush plum and black pepper aromas. Spicy herbal flavors, bold tannins and a hint of chocolate in the finish will make this a must serve on any Holiday table.
Alcohol 15%

Total Acidity .065 g/L
pH 3.49
Price $22

2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages Red Burgundy
Founded in 1859, this old world classic is light and easy drinking, critical when you’re filling up on carbs and hitting the food wall. Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages Burgundy is 100% Gamay grapes. Aromatic raspberry and black plum pair beautifully with fresh cranberry sauce and turkey. Flavors are light and not overpowering with just a hint of spice and black pepper. Meant to be consumed when bottled but can be cellared for up to five years. Pairs great with leftover turkey sandwiches.
Fonesco Porto Bin 27
Don’t put down that fork or wineglass yet, we still have dessert. Port is one of the most delightful and guilty pleasures in my little world. Coming in a wide range of prices Fonesco Porto Bin 27, priced at $19, is geared toward the budget minded Port drinker. While it will age some, Bin 27 is meant to be consumed directly after bottling.
Color still shows the deep red and plum colors of a red wine but looks can be deceiving. Sweet, fruity plum aromas, sweet and velvet smooth flavors wash over the palate. Pairs wonderfully with apple or pecan pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Remember to consume this one in moderation as alcohol content is 20%.

W & J Graham’s Porto Tawny Aged 20 Years Douro Valley Portugal
I’ve saved the best for last with Graham’s Tawny 20 year old Port. Priced around $52, this was a Christmas gift last year from my father-in-law. The Port is a blend of older more complex wines and younger wines. Light amber in color, nutty and orange aromas intermingles with smooth, rich concentrated flavors of honey, almonds and caramel. Finish is warm and lingering. This would be truly magnificent with homemade pumpkin pie. My only problem is, at best we have about two sips left in the bottle so I’ll have to just imagine what the two would really taste like.

So there you have it, my Thanksgiving picks. Regardless of what you serve, enjoy the day and remember when things get a little tense, grab your wine glass, take a sip and just breathe.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blackstone Winery teams up with the Rally Foundation and forms Corks Against Cancer

How often are you actually ordering wine in a restaurant for a cause? Now through the end of the year, when  you purchase Blackstone wines from participating Florida restaurants, Blackstone will donate up to $30,000. The funds will benefit three Florida research hospitals: Nemours Hospital in Jacksonville, Miami Children’s Hospital and Moffitt Hospital in Tampa.

Florida restaurant goers will have more than 100 restaurants to choose from and they’re not just located in the cities with the Cancer Hospitals. With a wide range of cuisines, I saw yummy alligator on some of the menus, and prices it’s a cinch to get your Blackstone wine drink on for a good cause. Go ahead, take one for the team!

Just so you know the funds are going where they should all participating restaurants along with Rally will add up the final tally and ensure all funds go to the three chosen childhood cancer programs.

Even if you don’t live in Florida, you can still enjoy the many varietals Blackstone offers. My latest is the Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Merlot. The Sonoma Reserve isn’t the typical Blackstone seen on the retailer shelves, this one retails for around $20 and has a night and day difference between the $9.99 version.

Aromas are full of spicy vanilla and oak. Plum, coffee and chocolate flavors combine with well structured tannins with a dry finish.

So my love hate relationship with Blackstone continues. For more on that see some of my archive articles here. Seems my relationship may be rekindled thanks to the more gentle and smoother sophisticated Sonoma Reserve line.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2005 Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz South Eastern Australia

Visions of pumpkins, scarecrows, fire pits and beautiful red colors surround me. Of course in Florida, the pumpkins are kept inside so they don’t rot in the heat, the scarecrows are purchased from a local craft store and the beautiful reds come in wine, not leaves. Well I do have that fire pit and I have lots of red wine. Tonight I’m drinking 2005 Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz South Eastern Australia Think I’ll take that red wine sit outside by the firepit while relaxing and enjoying the homestead after two intense weeks of travel.

Dark red and black fruit and spice aromas, hint of jammy flavor up front, black licorice and spices hit mid-palate. Full to medium bodied, well structured and soft tannins hit mid-palate. Finishes with a nice balance between oak, residual sugar and tannins.

Varietal - Shiraz
Region – South Eastern Australia
Alcohol - 14.5%
TA - 5.7g/L
pH - 3.6

George Wyndham was born, raised and educated in England in the early 1800’s. After emigrating to Canada in 1824 and later emigrating to Australia in 1827, George settled down with his wife, Letitia and farmed. Wyndham started with the usual livestock, planting the vineyards in 1830 that would become the first commercial Shiraz vineyard and the second largest in New South Wales, Australia. The Shiraz vines planted have been said to be some of the oldest still producing wine vines in the world.

Wyndham Estate BIN wines are multiregional blends, the fruit is sourced from amongst Australia’s premium viticulture regions. The BIN wines were not created for long term keeping but are meant to be enjoyed now. Good thing since I think this only lasted about one month between purchase time and consumption at my house.

While sitting outside enjoying the first fire pit of the season, I felt that first little rush of panic thinking how soon Thanksgiving is coming. Most people would think of the enormous dinner they have to cook, not me, I’m the dishwasher, not the cook. For me, I’m thinking of those whites and reds I have that will pair great with your Thanksgiving dinners. Tough job but someone has to do it.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir Hungary

In my quest for Halloween wines, I received a sample of Pinot Evil Pinot Noir in the cool Octavin Home Wine Bar. Looking at the label with it’s familiar Three Wise Monkey Proverb, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, I find I have an evil confession to make; I don’t love Pinot Noir wines, ok I said it. And while I’m at it, I didn’t like the movie Sideways. I wanted to, but I just didn’t.
So now that it’s out in the open here’s why I don’t like all Pinot Noirs. I find too many of them to be a little thin and lackluster. I give kudos to any grape grower who takes on the daunting task of growing and cultivating these finicky little grapes. I give even bigger kudos to those who can turn those grapes into a fabulous tasting wine. I have had some of those fabulous bold Pinot Noirs but unfortunately I find many to be just too light for my palate.

So where does that leave me and my feelings on Pinot Evil’s Pinot Noir?

Aromas are light but I detect cranberry and blackberry. The flavors are a little tart, almost like cranberries and the body is very light. I found the wine was better with food and after sitting in the glass for awhile.

Appellation - Hungary
Inaugural Release - Over 40,000 cases produced
Alcohol - 12.0%

I do think this would be a good wine for people who haven’t embraced the big bold reds just yet. I’m also curious to see if the wine softens a bit since the Octavin is the equivalent of 4 bottles and I’ll have it around for awhile.

I don’t know how the rest of you spend your Halloween while passing out candy but in my neighborhood, those of us without kids sit out in the driveways while enjoying some adult beverages. Any of the Octavin Home Wine Bars would be perfect for such an occasion. I use plastic wine goblets so I don’t have to worry about glass in the driveway but I always kept the bottle inside. With this set up, I can just keep it on the driveway or on the back of the car….now that is a treat!

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir retails for $21.99, remember the Octavin Home Wine Bar is the equivalent of 4 750ml bottles. Now time for some ghoulish times.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Barricia Single Vineyard Sonoma

The last few days have been more than surreal. Ranging from sitting across Ravenswood’s winemaker, Joel Peterson, talking about wine, meeting the Ravenswood Single Vineyard growers and their families, to an aerial tour of Sonoma and Napa Valley, I feel I have had some once in a lifetime experiences. When I started writing about wine a year ago, I never imagined the places it would take me or the wonderful people and paths I would cross.

It’s a magical time in Sonoma as harvest is all but complete. There are still berries hanging allowing me to sample straight from those great old gnarled vines. There is something to be said about grape vines as far as the eye can see, the dirt beneath your feet and the smell of the terroir as you sip a beautifully crafted glass of wine.

This past week saw some much needed rain to the dry and crispy grass but rot threatens the remaining fruits. I’m told 2010 has been a challenging growing season and wine production will be strikingly low. Cooler temps in the summer forced growers to thin the clusters in an attempt to allow more sunlight to kiss the grapes. No sooner had thinning been completed, the sun came out big and bright and fried the berries. As with any agricultural industry, the growers and winemakers soldier on.

California Zin vines conjure up many images in my mind. From the beauty of the old heritage vines basking in the sunlight to the spooky images of a moonlit night, shadowy figures and ominous big black birds in the back ground. My latest sample of 2007 Ravenswood Barricia Single Vineyard is a reminder of how much history those wonderful old vines hold.

Aromatic spices combine with blackberry preserves, more spice and a hint of smoky flavors. The berry flavors hit the front of the palate with a burst of flavors but seem reigned in for the duration of the finish. The tannins and fruit are well balanced and finish lingers with a nice spicy punch.

Blend – 76% Zinfandel, 24% Petite Sirah
Appellation – Sonoma
TA – 6.35g/l
pH – 3.53
RS – 1.0g/l
Alcohol – 14.5%
Price - $35
Drink now or hold up to 10 years

Located in Sonoma, the Barrica vineyard is known for old vine Zinfandel. Due to age of the vines and the dry farming practices, the Barricia vineyards yield low crops leading to intense wine flavors. The vineyard uses sustainable farming practices and is hand-harvested each year. The 2007 vintage produced just 1,845 cases.

On the flight home I reminisce on the winemakers and growers I’ve met over the past few days and try to sum up my thoughts. They’re dedication to the land, the tradition and history of the old vines shines through in the meticulous care and nurture they give to the vineyards. Like any other farmer, there are good years and bad years, they persevere and continue doing what they love.

Each vineyard tells a story, it’s sometimes a sad tale but still a story. Like those vineyards, each bottle you share with friends or family can lead to a well beloved story or even a new tradition. So raise those glasses to some great Ravenswood Single Vineyard Zinfandels and let your story begin.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

2006 St Francis Winery RED

Halloween is the perfect time to have some fun with those red wines. Not that any wine can’t be fun no matter what the time of year but winemakers and marketers are creative folks and have a way with taking those innocent looking reds and giving them a menacing look. Halloween is the perfect time to have some fun shopping by label and name. Take for instance my sample of St Francis Winery’s Red. The label shows what appear to be red splashes of blood, although I suppose it could be the result of a sloppy wine drinker too.

Aromas of oak, vanilla and spice mix with flavors of blackberry, cassis, more oak and spices. As soon as the first sip washes over my palate, I know there is no turning back, I’m now on a mission. Tannins are well structured and bold leading to a haunting finish.

When I finally come to my senses and put the glass down, I’m surrounded by red stains, the color of blood. The flavor and adrenal linger and just won’t die. I’m forced to pick up the glass again and again until finally I have fulfilled my mission; I’ve killed the bottle.

I feel no remorse as I spy one last drop perched on the rim of my glass. As I watch it slowly drip down the curve of the glass, I have to cave to my temptation…slurp. All evidence of has now been eradicated.

Blend make up – 48% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 3% Zinfandel and 6% Mixed Blacks.

Don’t be confused if you see this wine in store with different labels. There are currently twelve labels, all designed by Jeffery Caldewey but the only difference to the wine may be the vintage.

This wine retails for around $9.99.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

2009 Cupcake Vineyard Central Coast Chardonnay

It must be fate, first I receive a sample of Cupcake Central Coast Chardonnay and now, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee wine lovers can BOGO Cupcake Vineyards at Publix until Wednesday. I picked up my bottles already and may go back for a few more today.

Aromas of banana and honey mix with flavors of apple. Creamy floral notes filled with jasmine trigger a familiar and comforting feeling. Malolactic fermentation in oak barrels provides a nice smooth finish. Borderline high residual sugars make this an easy sipping wine for summer or fall nights. The wine is not overly complex, just smooth which is nice after a hectic day.

Varietal – 100% Chardonnay
Appellation - Central Coast
TA - 0.65g/100mL
pH – 3.76
RS – 0.48g/100mL
Production – 100,000 cases
Retail price - $9.49

Located in California’s Central coast, the Cupcake vineyards benefit from the cooling breezes coming off the Pacific Ocean which allow the grapes to flourish in the sun filled days. Combined with the nutrient rich soil both provide optimum growing conditions to produce well balanced Chardonnay.

I was recently asked if I had a list of go to wines, meaning the ones I just want to drink and not have to note on. I do and Cupcake Vineyards is on that list. So even though I receive samples of the wines, I do still buy them to enjoy at my leisure.

We paired the wine with homemade smoked Sockeye salmon fish spread and a baguette.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

2008 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Merlot

The name Horse Heaven Hills invokes images of rolling green pastures where both horses and people can run free. I can almost feel the wind in my mane, err I mean hair and smell the grassy scents as I run up and down the hills. I’m tired after all that running and I’m thirsty. Good thing I brought a picnic basket to my fantasy world and it contains a sample bottle of 2008 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Merlot.

Aromas of earthy berries, vanilla and tobacco tantalize the senses. Flavors are full of blackberries and chocolate, loads of berry flavors lends itself to a slightly sweet finish. A very nice, easy drinking wine.

Blend - 92% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, A "kiss" of Syrah
Total Acidity - 0.56 g/100ml
pH - 3.70
Alcohol - 14.5%
Barrel Aging - French & American oak (14-18 months)
33% new, 67% older
Price - $15

My vision of Horse Heaven Hills, known as H3, was slightly off, there are no longer horses roaming freely but the region does have 30% more wind than any other Washington State appellation. That wind is helpful in controlling the vine canopy as well as cooling temps in the hot summers. The H3 vineyards are located east of the Cascade Mountain range, providing another benefit as the high mountains block most of the wet weather systems moving in from the east.

The region was first discovered by James Kinney in 1857. After finding his horse grazing on the grassy hillside, he dubbed the area Horse Heaven. Home to Columbia Crest since the 1980’s, the H3 tier is the winery’s contemporary interpretation of the classic varietals grown in the H3 region.

I look forward to sampling the rest of the Columbia Crest line and reporting my findings and wine fantasies to you soon, so stay tuned.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect Halloween wine if you like embalming fluid, Gnarled Vines Zinfandel

So what’s the scariest Halloween wine you can think of? I’ve got one, it’s the one I thought would provide a great Halloween wine but instead turned out tasting like embalming fluid, 2008 Gnarled Vines Zinfindel.

The color is a deep almost blackish Garnet; aromas are red berries and candied fruit. Flavors of cheap hard cherry candy mixed with some Robitussin. Thin and not much going on other than artificial blackberry in the end. Seriously it tasted like someone tried to make wine out of Welch’s Red Grape Juice.

I did a write up on 2007 Gnarled Vines Zinfandel just last year and thought it was just fine. Has my palate evolved that much, was 2008 just a really bad vintage, did I get a bad bottle. How could I have enjoyed this wine so much last year, yet now I find it undrinkable.

I think my palate is evolving, I’ve had a lot of wines that are in the $20 and up price range in the past few months and I think I’m now able to tell the difference between those wines and those priced under $10. It’s sad but I do think it’s true.

I’ll continue digging around for some great tasting Halloween wines. In the meantime, check out some of my articles from last Halloween by clicking on the links below.

2009 Halloween Wines
2006 Temptation Zinfandel
2008 EVIL Cabernet
2007 Black Vines Cabernet
2008 Crow Canyon Cabernet
2007 Vampire Merlot

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel

Can you feel it, that hint of cool crisp air coming across in the autumn breeze? Makes me want to start the fire pit and grab a glass of wine. While it’s still too warm for the fire, wine doesn’t care what the temp is outside but when temperatures drop I do tend to change my wine choice to those bold reds. To celebrate the arrival of fall, I’m reaching for another sample of Ravenswood, this time the 2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel.
Aromas of black pepper and blackberries carry over to the flavors. Red ripe fruit up front, well structured tannins rounding out with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.

Composition – 76% Zinfandel, 8% Petit Sirah, 8% Carignane, 8% Mixed Blacks
Appellation – Sonoma County
Aging – 18 months in 100% French oak
Total Acidity - .63g/100ml
pH – 3.58
Alcohol – 14.5%
Price - $17

"No Wimpy Wines” is Ravenswood’s motto and a common thread in their wine series. The County Series sources grapes from Sonoma, Napa and Lodi regions with a focus on the Sonoma County heritage. Ravenswood joined with UC Davis and ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) to preserve California Zinfandel heritage selections, the oldest vines planted in California.

Thought to originate in Croatia, Zinfandel was once “king” in California vineyards but now represents approximately 10% of the planted vineyards. Those that have remained are there for a reason: location, location, location. Susceptible to rot if too much rain falls, the Zinfandel vineyards that have survived are planted in the perfect micro-climate and farmed well.

As I enjoy the cool autumn air with the breeze flowing through the open windows as I type, I’m dismayed it’s too early in the morning (even I have drinking standards) to enjoy another bottle of Ravenswood.

Ravenswood is hosting me and a handful of others at the end of October to be inducted into The Order of the Raven. Be on the lookout for more Ravenswood wine write ups.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2008 Henry’s Drive Vignerons Morse Code Shiraz Padthaway Australia

A few months ago I stumbled upon a wine in which I was not familiar, Henry’s Drive Morse Code from Australia. The label with its little Morse code dots and the attractive price tag of $7.99 drew me in. After keeping it around for sometime, I finally got around to cracking it open.

Aromas of spicy black pepper and dark red fruits carry over to the flavor. Black pepper on the front of the palate is followed by a gamey mineral taste. Mouthfeel is a little rough with some high unrefined tannins and the finish is a bit on the jammy side.

The winery takes its name from the proprietor of the 19th century mail coach which once ran through the Padthaway, Australia property. Mark and Kim Longbottom planted their first vineyards in 1992, bottling their first vintage four years later. In 2008 Mark passed away and Kim has kept up the tradition of winemaking to honor his memory.

Located on the Limestone Coast in South Australia and known for its rich red loamy soil, the area has six wine regions. The region benefits from the winter rains and the warm sunny summers which all work in combo to produce well structured grapes.

The wine’s not horrible and at least there’s no little critter on the label. Now that we’ve been formally introduced, I don’t think I need to re-visit this wine.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley

I think I’ve developed a new wine love affair with Chateau Ste. Michelle. I’ve had several varieties in the past months and have not been disappointed to date. This weeks offering was the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley.
Floral notes mixed with herbs waft out of the glass. Flavors are crisp and light with green apple and a touch of banana in the finish. Finish isn’t crazy long but lingers enough for me to appreciate the subtleness.

Acidity – 0.64g/100ml
PH 3.13
Alcohol 13%
Varietal – 100% Sauvignon Blanc

2008 was a banner growing season in Washington’s Columbia Valley with full ripening crops and in check sugar levels. Grapes were sourced primarily from the winery’s Horse Heaven Vineyard located in Columbia Valley, WA. Receiving just six to eight inches of rain per year, the sandy soil’s inability to hold water allows for a more controlled vine growth. The region also benefits from the additional sunlight during the growing season. Receiving two hours more per day than California, the grapes are able to ripen fully creating exceptional aroma and flavors.

For more information on Chateau Ste. Michelle, click here.

Chateau Ste. Michelle brings a little more sunshine into my world. If only all my decisions were as hard as deciding which varietal to drink tonight.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2008 Helfrich Vin D’ Alsace Gewurztraminer

What do France’s Alsace region and Korea have in common? I don’t know all the shared commonalities, if any, but I can tell you, they make for a kick ass food and wine pairing. My latest wine sample shipment contained three wines from the Alsace region. I paired a 2008 Helfrich Vin D’ Alsace Gewurztraminer with spicy Korean BBQ and it was a match made in heaven.

A classic Alsatian grape, the color is straw yellow in the glass. Rose petal aromas and spice intermingle with flavors of honey, floral, cream and a hint of perfume. Full bodied and creamy, the finish is long with a touch of acidity.

With six generations of growers behind him, Frederick Helfrich is now at the head of the Helfrich family and on the forefront of the Alsatian revival. In Alsace the grape and vineyard location are of the utmost importance. The flavor of the grape and the terroir must come through in the wine. Helfrich’s wines represent the past and the future. The past being the centuries old vineyards and the future referrting to the Nobel Varieties line of wines. The Nobel Varieties are light in style, easy to drink and topped with a screw cap versus cork, it’s old school versus new school. Just 5,000 cases of the Gewurztraminer were produced.

Back to the food and wine pairing, the star combo was the Kimchi with the Gewurztraminer. Wow, flavor explosion from the spicy Kimchi and the creamy sweet feel of the wine, was like a tango in my mouth.

The wine is available around the country and is priced at $14.99. If you haven’t tried Gewurztraminer this is a nice one to cut your teeth on. It’s not overly sweet nor is it too acidic.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

2007 Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Have I mentioned lately what a great gig I have going. Not only do I get to sample great tasting wine (for the most part) but I get to sample wines that I may not find in my local wine store or big box retailer. This week I sampled a 2007 Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and I have to say this wine is quite a gem.
The color in the glass is deep brick red with aromas of black pepper, wild berries and spice. A flavor explosion of black berry, vanilla and plums washes over the palate. Well balanced layering of fruits, spices and oak. Tannins are moderate and create an enjoyable dry finish with a lingering fruits. A very sophisticated wine and still priced affordable.

Varietal – 93% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah
Aging – 10 mos French oak barrel, 15% new
Alcohol – 14.9%
Production – 3,900 cases
Price - $20

Located in the Dry Creek Valley, Quivira focuses on small-lot wines, matching varietals specifically suited to the terroir. Versed in the practice of Biodynamic agriculture the methods at times may seem a little unusual. Take for example the annual event where the vineyard buries cow horns filled with a Biodynamic prep material. This method is commonly referred to as preparation 500. The horns are typically buried on the Autumnal Equinox and recovered on the Spring Equinox. The material or fermented manure is thought to revive degraded soil.

Biodynamic viticulture is a source of controversy combining both agricultural and spiritual aspects. Despite the controversy in blind tastings made up of wine experts and Masters of Wine, the biodynamic wines have generally been judged as superior to other wines. I can tell you from my personal experience, this wine had personality that a lot of other wines lack.

I did some research online for this bottling and did find it available throughout the US in local wine stores as well as for online purchase. If you’re lucky enough to find, you may want to hold for a few years. I have a feeling this one will do nothing but improve with age.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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