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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