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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