Thursday, April 29, 2010

Toad Hollow Concinnity Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Ever have one of those pieces of useless knowledge and every time you see the trigger, you have to share this useless knowledge with who ever is around you? Well, one of my many useless knowledge facts is based on Toad Hollow wine. Did you know Toad Hollow’s founder, Todd, Dr. Toad, Williams is Robin William’s half-brother. Yep, there you have it, just one of my many pieces of useless knowledge.

I heard years ago the name Toad Hollow comes from a nick name Todd had as a kid, Toad. The story I heard was Robin couldn’t say Todd and the name came out more like Toad. I wasn’t able to back this up in my research but sounds good, so that’s what I’m going with for now. Robert Todd Williams died in 2007 from heart complications but his Toad Hollow winery is still going strong.

Aromas are delightful, notes of bark, earth and leather notes wafting out of the glass. Flavors of earth, a touch of herbal and oak swirl around the palate. High tannins and rich bold flavors provide for a well balanced finish. I think this is one of the most well structured wines I’ve had in a while.

The wine is limited (bummer!) as Cabernet Sauvignon production was avoided for years. The winery itself does not grow the varietal and couldn’t find quality grapes to put into their juice but seems like this obstacle has been overcome. The wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvingon, 10% Petit Sirah, 4% Sryah, 4% Cabernet Franc and 7% Field blend.

Robert Todd, Dr. Toad, Williams learned wine through a string of jobs, including the 17 saloons and taverns he worked in before starting his own winery. His goal was to strip away the mystique and snobbery equated with wine and make it interesting and inclusive. Sounds like what I try to do too.

In 1993 Todd partnered with Rodney Strong to start his own winery. The legend of Toad Hollow revolves around Dr. Toad and The Dancing Badger, two friends who decided to retire to the peace and tranquility of the hollow. While viewing the vineyards one day, the two began reminiscing about the good times and good people they had known over the years. They thought a way to repay would be to make great tasting wines in an affordable manner to be shared by all.

I think that about sums up my thoughts on wine. It’s something to be enjoyed with friends and family(not that you can’t enjoy it singularly as well). It’s not just a drink, it’s an experience, something to share and even discuss while enjoying your glass. Given that, it’s not very different from a group watching a football game. Ok, well maybe we don’t swear at the winemakers if the wine didn’t play out the way we hoped but you get the point.

Just in case some of you are wondering what Concinnity means:
1. pleasing stylistic artistic harmony: a balanced, graceful, polished quality, especially in a literary work
2. generally harmonious structure: a harmonious structuring of all the parts of something

My rating - Too good to put down

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sin Zin Alexander Valley Vineyards Zinfandel

Months ago, I tried Seven Deadly Zins and found it most scrumptious. While I can’t afford the other wines in that line, I can afford Sin Zin, an Alexander Valley Vineyard (AVV), Zinfandel. Not sure of the vintage on this one but assume it was between 2006-2008 and purchased for around $12.99.

Leather notes, black cherries, spice and smoky oak waft out of the glass. Bold blackberry flavors up front, tasty vanilla and plum hit mid-palate and strong oak flavors in the end. Tannins, slightly dry create a luscious and well balanced finish. While Zinfandel wines can be chameleons with flavors ranging from spicy fruit bombs and high tannins to tart or soft and smooth flavors, this zin has the classic spicy, bold tannins Zinfandels are known and loved for.

Wine info:
Appellation - Alexander Valley
Grape Varietal - Zinfandel
Barrel Regimen - Aged for 10 months in American oak including 25% new
Alcohol (by volume) - 14%

Produced in California’s Alexander Valley, the land the vineyard occupies was actually once owned by Cyrus Alexander, for who the appellation is named. Purchased by Maggie and Harry Wetzel from the Alexander heirs in 1962, this section of Sonoma County was predominantly prune orchards and pastures. Originally set on raising livestock, the Wetzels began planting grape vines and opened their winery for business in 1975. Today the winery and vineyards are still family owned and run.

The Wetzel Family Estate vineyards stretch from the banks of the Russian River up on to south facing hillsides. AVV produces nearly 20 wines from the 11 estate grown varieties. The estate has approximately 25,000 sq ft of caves where the wine is aged in French and American oak barrels. Current annual wine production is over 100,000 cases.

I firmly believe you can taste the difference between a family owned and run winery versus one of the big conglomerates. Too many times, my favorite wine has been sold to the big guys and my ever so dependable wine fails to deliver the love and caress as it once had.

Here’s to the family owned winerys….cheers.

My rating – Too good to put down.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day with organic Releaf wine

What better way to celebrate Earth Day then sitting by the Koi pond sipping a glass of South Africa’s Releaf wine. My husband and I try to be as Earth friendly as we can. We recycle more than we put in the trash, have a rain barrel to catch rain for our thirsty Florida friendly plants, compost to reduce waste and provide nutrient rich soil to plants and vegetable garden and use a micro-irrigation system to reduce the use of water in our gardens. Today we can add one more Earth friendly act to our list, drinking Releaf wine, made in an organic manner.

I have to admit, I had my reservations on how this wine would taste. I’ve had some other organic wines and even beers and they usually taste like, well…pesticides. I know, exactly the thing organic grown fruits don’t use but still, they have not been very pleasant. Imagine my delight when I found this wine not only did not taste like pesticides but actually tasted pretty darn good.

Black Cassis, spice, vanilla and oak tickle the senses. High tannins and astringent on the first sip and not much else that I can detect but after a little aeration, bold vanilla, a hint of capsicum, black cherry and cassis leave the palate with a delicious and supple mouthfeel. The wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Shiraz. Each grape lending to the concentrated flavors and balanced complexity.

Releaf is produced in the Swartland region of the Western Cape, South Africa. Formerly a cattle pasture, the land had been uncultivated for 17 years, making it ideal for growing organic grapes. Each grape is 100% hand harvested and grown in organic soil certified by Soil Association Certification Ltd., the oldest and most recognized organic certifier in the world. The bottle is made from partially recycled glass and the labels are made from recycled paper, and printed with sustainable inks.

Now let me just say, Releaf is not alone in their efforts. Most wine makers realize the importance of sustainable land. If they ruin the land, they ruin their livelihood and ruin the land for future generations. This means reducing or eliminating the use of harsh chemicals and finding alternate methods to protect their vineyards. Many vineyards are now looking to harnessing the wind to offset power use for their facilities. Unfortunately many wineries face too much red tape and are unable to install wind turbines or windspire turbines. Even collectors are reducing their carbon footprint and outfitting their cellars with products that have minimal impact on the environmental.

This Earth Day, raise your wine glass to Mother Nature and throw caution to the wind knowing somewhere, a winery may be harnessing that wind to make you delicious wine.

Tampa Bay, looking for a way to do your part. ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Whole Foods both have cork recycling programs. Bring in your corks so they can be recycled and given second lives.

My rating - We’ll drink the rest tomorrow.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cypress Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Found this wine at a local wine/liquor store. I’m always looking for wines in my price range that are new to me. So I jumped at the chance to try Cypress Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. Imagine my surprise when I find out this “new” to me wine, is actually produced by J Lohr Vineyards, who is not new to me.

Ruby red in color, aromas chock full of cherry, spice and oak. Flavors don’t have a lot going on. High tannins, some fruit flavors, very dry and astringent. Definitely not one of the J Lohr better wines.

Cypress Vineyards harvests grapes from the California Central Coast. The area is influenced by the breezes off the Pacific Ocean cooling the coastal and inland valleys. This allows the grape to maintain its natural acidity (I can attest to this fact). As with most grapes, temperature is critical to the development of the flavor and aromas of the grape.

The J Lohr website states the Cypress Vineyard wines taste as if they were kissed by sun and sea. Well, if that translates to dried up wine then they hit the nail on the head. In all seriousness, we did eventually finish the bottle but it took a few nights.

Since this wasn’t one of my favorite wines, I don’t think I’ll spend much more time on it. My opinion on this one, purchase one of the other wines in the J Lohr line, leave this one alone.

My rating: - use the rest in sauce

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Something for you white wine lovers, Chateau de Nages la Reserve White 2008

For the past several months people ask, “when are you going to write about white wines?” Well, there’s a reason why I focus on red wines, I typically don’t like white wines that fall under the $9.99 range. I find them too sweet, too buttery and just not enjoyable. Doesn’t mean they’re bad, just means my palate doesn’t appreciate them as much as it does red wines. On my last trip to my Tampa Total Wine store, I wandered down the French wine aisle hoping inexpensive French white wines would be more palatable than their US counterparts. I also was able to sample from their wine bar and even received a $1 off coupon when I decided to purchase one of the wines, Chateau de Nages La Reserve White 2008, offered up for sampling. Free wine samples and $1 off coupon, has that for budget wine drinking.

Color is a pale yellow, aromas are promising, crisp apple, pineapple and a hint of butter. Flavors boasting of green apple, pear and citrus, smooth and light acids. It’s actually pretty tasty for a white wine, especially now that we’re coming into the outdoor wine drinking season here in the Tampa Bay area.

Wine Info:
Terroir: " Grès ", rolled pebbles and red clay.Varietals: 60% Grenache Blanc, 40% Roussanne.Chateau de Nages vineyards, Costières de Nîmes, is the southern most vineyard of the Rhone Valley. Four generations of winemakers, the family takes pride in working in harmony with nature and preserving the land for future generations. Their conviction to giving back to the land has the family committed to finding alternate resources that will not damage the ecology, such as finding an alternate to the use of copper which has devastating effects on the land.

Of late there has been a concern for ecological practices in French vineyards. Winegrowers are shying away from chemical fertilizers and turning to compost and finding alternatives to chemical weeding because of its effects on the soil. The consequences can sometimes be devastating: soil erosion, biological retrogradation of soil or bacteria that can destroy vine roots.

Copper salts are the only efficient fungicides shown to reduce downy mildew (peronospora) in organic farming. While highly efficient the copper can accumulate in the soils causing them to loose fertility.
The challenge winegrowers face is trying to reduce the use of copper while still maintaining healthy vines and soil.

The Michel Gassier website goes above the typical wine food pairing, including cheese, meats, herbs, garden, seafood, cooking method, sauces and dessert recommendations. Got to love the French for always thinking about food and wine.

While I favor reds, I’m going to start incorporating more white wine reviews and hopefully I can do them justice. If there are some white wines you think I should try, priced under $9.99, let me know.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fat Bastard Merlot 2007

Fat Bastard wines have been around for several years and I’ve had it more times than I can count. When it first hit the shelves, I really enjoyed the wine but then I think I had a bad vintage and pretty much walked away from the wine. Well, I decided it was time to give it another go.

Aromas consist of oak, vanilla and a slight rubbing alcohol smell. Prior to aeration, the wine was light and almost too thin. Detect cherry cola and some faint plum smell along a tart and astringent quick finish. After aeration, berry aromas are detected but the rubbing alcohol smell remains. Smooth mouthfeel yet still a little tart. Can it be smooth and tart at the same time? Sort of reminds me of grape cough syrup.

The Fat Bastard story begins in the cellar of Frenchman, Thierry Boudinaud, a renowned winemaker who had crafted wines around the world. Guy Anderson, a friend from London arrived to sample a recent vintage. After a night of sampling decent but not superb wines, Thierry remembered an experimental wine he had in a few barrels. The wine in the barrels was left on the lees (yeast cells) resulting in a wonderful color and rich, round palate.

The name comes from Theirry’s expression “now zat iz what you call eh phet bast-ard”. Fat Bastard being an expression describing things that were great. After deciding to release the wine to the public the name Fat Bastard stuck and as they say, the rest is history. Both Europeans and Americans flocked to stores to pick up a bottle. Most purchased based on the cheeky name and then returned to buy more because of the great taste. I remember this wine as being very tasty in the early 2000’s, maybe I just got another bad vintage.

I won’t swear off Fat Bastard wines completely, I think maybe I’ll try the Cabernet Sauvignon next and see if that fairs any better.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Santa CarolinaCarmenere Reserva 2007, bad bottle or just plain old bad wine?

Ugh, there are nights when my inexpensive wine trials are disappointing and then there are others that are down right torture. My latest wine, Santa Carolina Carmenere Reserva 2007, was just wrong. In an effort to continue to highlight Chilean wines, I purchased this bottle at the Bottle Rack for under $8. Wines like this should be outlawed.

I won’t even refer to it as an aroma but let’s just call it the odor. Which was that of rotting vegetables. The flavor was even worse, at first it was just a chemical taste but within seconds the back of the palate is smacked with what I can only describe as bad composte. This wine was just awful, probably one of the worst I’ve had in the months I’ve been writing these reviews and I’ve had some pretty bad wines.

Generally even the ones that aren’t so great can be used for some other method other than drinking, but not this one. Down the drain it’s going.

So, this review will be short and not so sweet. Just want to give you enough info so you know to avoid this wine. If you see this wine in the store, run…run fast and run far away. I don’t know if it was just a bad bottle or the wine really is that horrible but I don’t think I’ll buy this one again. I don’t think my stomach can take it.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

I don’t know any way to impress friends faster then to casually mention you just cracked open a bottle of Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon. Even those not in the know have heard a little of the buzz on this “it” wine. Thanks to Kobrand Wine & Spirits Corporation, Cakebread Cellar’s marketing firm, I had the pure joy and excitement of sampling my very own bottle in my home. It truly was a lovely and delightful evening.

I’m first enticed by the fruit forward aromas of black berry and cassis along with oak and vanilla wafting out of the glass. First sip and my palate immediately picks up the bold tannins, intense berries, plums and spice. A long lingering finish and lush mouthfeel which gets smoother as the wine has a little more time to open up.

Grape Variety:87% Cabernet Sauvignon6% Merlot4% Cabernet Franc2% Petit Verdot1% Malbec

Cakebread Cellars history began more than 30 years ago with Jack Cakebread’s, casual mention to friends, he wanted to someday own a vineyard. Later that day, Jack received a call that would change the direction of his life, the friends were offering to sell their ranch located in Rutherford, CA. Jack jumped at the chance and the Cakebread Cellars story begins.

Located in Napa Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of grapes harvested from multiple vineyards, allowing the winery to create an opulent and high quality wine. In addition to producing fabulous wines, the family is committed to educating the public about the health benefits of wine and a healthy lifestyle. Did you know the FDA has included wine in their Diet Guidelines?

Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon was a delectable wine priced will over my general $9.99 price point but for those with a tight wallet (whose isn’t right now) this wine can still be enjoyed and savored by the glass at many restaurants offering a nice wine list.

We paired the wine with Danish Castello blue cheese and then with some wonderful steaks. Each sip was pure pleasure and such a joy, I was sad to see the bottle run dry.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Sometimes you just have to step out of your usual price range and treat yourself to some nice wine. Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $13.00 at Total Wine is one of those occasions.

Wonderful bouquet of oak, vanilla and earthiness wafts out of the glass. Intense flavors full of ripe black cherry, cassis and smoky oak intermingle with bold but well structured tannins all creating a smooth and luscious mouthfeel.

Alcohol – 13.8%
Residual Sugar - .05%
Ph – 3.75
Appellation – Sonoma County
Cellar & Fermentation – 17 mos in oak, 85% American, 15% French

Rodney Strong, founder and namesake, founded the winery over 30 years ago in Sonoma County. Quickly realizing the weather conditions around the winery were not ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Rodney looked to Alexander Valley. There the warmer days and cooler nights are ideal for the grape.

Alexander Valley is the largest and most planted wine region in Sonoma producing a wide array of quality Cabernets. The winery currently farms over 250 acres of cabernet sauvignon in the well drained alluvial and volcanic soils in this region.

The winery believes in finding the perfect growing region for each grape, allowing for both to influence the character in the special wines they create. This is just one reason for the winery farming grapes from over ten wineries located in Sonoma County.

While this wine may be over the $9.99 price point, sometimes you have to reach higher. Whether it’s a special occasion or not, hell, we drank this wine just because it was Wednesday.

Hey, it's also my 100th blog! Cheers!!!!

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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