Thursday, May 27, 2010

Concannon Livermore Valley Vineyard Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Some weeks it seems I just can’t get a break with new wines. It gets a little disappointing when three nights in a row, the wines have been disappointing at best. Tonight’s wine, Concannon Cabernet, finally broke my losing streak.

Aromas are full of cherry, plum and loaded with vanilla. Bold cherries, tobacco and black cassis lead to a bold and dry finish. The wine is medium to full bodied with high tannins.

Wine info:
Varietal – Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation – Central Coast
PH – 3.60
Residual Sugar - .30g/100ml
Alcohol – 13.5%

Founded in 1883 in Livermore Valley, CA, James Concannon was the first to plant Bordeaux cuttings and produce Bordeaux style wines in California. It was James’ dream to create world class Bordeaux and Rhone style wines. As a founding family of California wine and four generations of family involvement, Concannon is the oldest continually operating winery in California under the same family name.

Like many Irish immigrants, James Concannon first arrived in New York and made his way West to California. He came across Livermore Valley where the rocky soil and east-west orientation resembled the wine regions of southern France. During the days of Prohibition the winery was given special permission to make sacramental wines, allowing the winery to continue their operations. Four generations later, the family mixes modern innovations and techniques with the family’s core commitment to create impeccable wines.
Concannon reminds me of what wine should be, it takes you away to another place. While sipping this lovely red, I was taken to a place with less traffic, more greenery and mountains instead of concrete overpasses. Too bad the bottle ran dry and I had to return to reality. But it is comforting to know, there are more just like it ready to be enjoyed.

My rating – too good to put down

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lakeridge Southern White Table Wine

Being an avid wine lover and living in Florida sometimes just doesn’t add up. Really, I’m on the wrong side of the country to immerse myself in the wine world the way I would like. However, Florida does have a several wineries and a number of them are in the Tampa Bay area, so I thought it was time I give these wines a try. Publix and other local retailers now carry Lakeridge wines located in Clermont, FL, just outside of the Orlando area.

Since the big varietal grapes don’t grow well in the Florida heat, Southerner’s turn to the Muscadine grape. I must tell you, I am very biased against the Muscadine. I feel it produces overly sweet wines with little to no character and Lakeridge’s Southern White Table Wine, did not dispel my thoughts on this grape.

The color is a very pronounced yellow, candied apple aromas are the first indication the wine could possibly put me in a sugar coma. First sip, and yes, I’m hit with a sugary overly sweet juice that may be good as a dessert wine or even a Popsicle. As I swirl the wine in the glass, the liquid is heavy and syrupy and I detect particles floating in my glass. I re-washed the glass and poured again, and yes folks there are bits of fruit (I hope) floating in my glass.

Lakeridge Winery opened in 1989 and occupies 127 acres. Located on beautiful rolling hills, you really could imagine you were in Napa Valley or Dundee Hills, OR. The winery uses hybrid and muscadine grapes grown in Florida as they are disease resistant and adapt to the warm, humid climate.

Muscadine grapes are native to this country and have been cultivated since the 1500’s. Due to their ability to adapt to heat and requiring little chilling hours, the grape is primarily used in the south and parts of the mid-west. The grape produces a tough skin that requires puncturing a small hole in the fruit and then removing the pulp. Mmm, yum!

The wine isn’t that terrible, just way too sweet for me and I was put off by the particles in the glass but I did pair this with 5 year aged Gouda from Whole Foods. The dry, salty flavor in the Gouda paired beautifully with the sweetness from the wine.

Tampa wine lovers, you can sample this wine for yourself. Available either at the winery or local retailers like Publix and Sweetbay price it at $7.99.

Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards is located at 19239 US Hwy 27, Clermont, FL 34715

May have to create a new rating for this one:
My rating – we’ll drink it sparingly for the next few days.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

In many ways the wine industry is similar to the entertainment industry. You have your “it” and “now” people, you know the ones that are all over the red carpet and in the spot light and a few years later, they’re lucky to get a role in a Jennifer Lopez film. I can think of a few wines that have that same “career”, there’s your flashy or cute little critter labels,with good price points and sometimes the stuff ain’t half bad.

A few years later you drink the same wine and wonder, where’s that stellar performance I’ve come to love and expect? Thankfully Chateau Ste. Michelle is not one of those wines but is more along the lines of an Audrey Hepburn, classic tastes that deliver elegance with each vintage.

Aromas of leather and vanilla seduce you into your first sip. Berry flavored fruits, a spicy earthiness combine with dry high tannins and finish with a slight semi bitter chocolate flavor. I think this calls for another take, um, make that another partaking in my glass.

Blend Info:
76% Cabernet Sauvignon
20% Syrah
2% Merlot
1% Cabernet Franc
1% Malbec

Washington’s oldest winery, the estate was built in 1912 and the winery dates back to the days following Prohibition when two then prominent wine companies merged to form American Wine Growers. 1967 saw the birth of their new premium line, Ste. Michelle Vintners and planted their first vines at Cold Creek Vineyards, located in Eastern Washington.

Always on the leading edge of wine development, in 1984 Chateau Ste. Michelle was a leader in obtaining federal recognition of the Columbia Valley as a unique wine region thus naming it an American Viticulture Area (AVA). Combining Old World winemaking traditions with New World techniques, Chateau Ste. Michelle continually receives some of the highest accolades in the industry, including Wine Brand of the Year in 2008.

Chateau Ste. Michelle while priced at $12.99 at Total Wine may top my usual $9.99 price point but the elegance provides for a wonderful wine experience no matter the occasion. Whether you’re watching the latest scandal on TMZ or just sitting in your back yard the wine rises to the occasion.
Try pairing this with a nice blue cheese and crusty bread or even backyard hamburgers with spicy mustard.

My rating – Too good to put down.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sebastiani & Son's The Crusher Petit Sirah 2007

Ah, The Crusher, no it’s not a wrestling figure, it’s a wonderfully delicious wine produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons. My first experience with The Crusher was at local wine bar, The Vine. I immediately fell in love with its velvety smooth yet complex structure and its $12.99 price tag isn’t too shabby either. Add Image

The deep dark purple colors swirling in the glass along with aromas boasting of toasted nuts, blackberrry and spice lure one in for the first sip. Ah, the first sip and an immediate calming effect takes a hold of the body. Smooth flavors of oak and chocolate wash over the palate, velvety tannins, soft plums and a hint of black licorice finish out the party and all is right in the world.

Don’s family has been making wine since the early 1900’s when his grandfather Samuele Sebastiani emigrated from Italy. August Sebastiani, Samuele’s youngest son took over the winery in 1944. In the mid 1970’s the winery was run by the August’s son, Sam. By 1986 the baton was passed to Don who took the winery from 2 million cases per year to 8 million, leading to the sale of its Central Valley Assets in the year 2000. The sale allowed Don to develop a new winery with his sons and provided them the freedom to create new concepts and additional portfolios.

The grapes for The Crusher are grown in the Clarksburg appellation of the Bay Area Delta. Poor drainage and loam rich soil provide for a nutrient packed growing soil. Warm days and cool nights allow the grapes to retain more acidity than grapes grown in other regions.

With vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma, Sebastiani & Sons continue to offer quality wines under their many portfolios at reasonable prices for the masses to enjoy.

The wine pairs well with any type of back yard grilling, perfect for summer. My favorite is a buffalo burger with all the fixings.
Just in case you’re wondering where the wine gets its name; a crusher is the mechanical device that breaks the grape berries and extracts the juice.
My rating - Too good to put down

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

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Erath Pinot Gris 2008

This upcoming weekend marks my hubby and my one year wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been a year since we were standing in Portland Oregon’s VooDoo Doughnuts saying our “I do’s” in front of Cat Daddy and then off for a pub crawl. While in the Portland area we took advantage of the many wineries and one of those wineries was Erath located in Dundee, OR.

Upon returning to Tampa, I was delighted to find Erath in the local wine stores and even at Publix. Since we brought several bottles of the yummy Pinot Noir home, I haven’t purchased any others until recently, Erath Pinot Gris. In keeping with my summer whites, I snatched it up and knew the wine would be spectacular.

Pale yellow in the glass; notes of floral, honeydew and pear tickle the senses. Palate is overcome by boastful flavors of lemon, floral and pear. Nice finish and easy sipping for those lazy summer nights. This wine would pair well with just about any shellfish. Blackend shrimp or white fish on the grill would also be superbly paired with the lemon flavors in the wine.

Erath wines have been around for 40 years, longer than any other winery in the Dundee Hills area. Dick Erath, engineer turned viticulturist began winemaking in 1965 when he re-located his family from California to the Dundee Hills area of Oregon. Using an old logger’s cabin as his home on 49 acres of land he planted 23 varieties of grapes, the first wine grapes in Dundee Hills. The iron rich soils and warming sunshine give Dundee the perfect climate to perfect Pinto Noirs, the wine this area of Oregon is most well known.

While my husband and I sip our wine, we reminisce about the great times we had and the wonderful family and friends who made the trek to Portland, OR with us. Not only did they fly across the country to celebrate our wedding day but they went along with the flow, not once thinking (or at least not saying it) that they thought we were crazy for getting married at VooDoo Doughtnut, by someone named Cat Daddy, or how we hiked through Portland as we went from BridgePort Brew Company, Rogue Public Ale House and the many other microbrews we visited that day.

I’m delighted that I can find a little piece of that celebrated moment in my life, right here in my back yard.

I found this at the Bottle Rack located at 5725 Gunn Hwy, Tampa for $11.99.

My rating – Too good to put down.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cardinal Zin Zinfandel 2006

A lot of Zinfandel wine labels catch my eye just based on the playful and alluring use of the word Zin. Cardinal Zin, was no exception. The quirky label left over from it’s days as part of the Bonny Doon Vineyard portfolio, the wine is now produced under The Wine Group, Inc, and its “Beastly old vines” statement is too tempting to pass over.

The aromas are full of oak, plums, bing cherry and a hint of floral. The palate is hit with spicy pepper, raspberry and leather. Light tannins and really well balanced finish. The wine is light and refreshing and not too heavy in alcohol flavors.

A little trivia for you; in 2001 this wine was banned in Ohio because of its label. Ohio’s code on wine labeling does not allow for pictures of children or religious subjects on wine labels. How crazy is that, wine was originally and still is produced by monks and nuns and is still served in churches. Wine also played a huge part in religious art and history. The Puritans in the United States are way too uptight about alcohol. Not sure about the rest of you but as soon as I hear an alcohol or book or whatever was banned, I have to get my hands on it immediately. When will this country learn?

No real website yet for Cardinal Zin and also couldn’t find a working website for The Wine Group, Inc. The website I did find seems to have taken a little break and just says, Hello World. So I’d love to tell you more about the wine itself but since it’s acquisition by the big conglomerate, information seems sparse.

Here’s what I can tell you, this Zinfandel was truly delightful to drink and with the warm summer months is an easy drinking outdoor wine.

My wine rating – too good to put down.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lighten up the summer with Bougrier’s Chenin Blanc 2008 Alfio Moriconi selection

Every year around this time my house enters what I call the “dark ages”. By that I mean, this is the time of year we begin closing the blinds on the west side of the house in an effort to block the afternoon sun and sweltering Florida summer heat both which cause the poor AC to work double time. So how do you lighten up the summer, that’s easy, those light and crisp summer white wines. Lucky for you, I’ve finally found plenty of tasty and affordable whites, to share with you through the summer months. My latest great white wine find is Chenin Blanc 2008 by Bougrier from the Anjou appellation of Loire Valley, France.

The color in the glass is a pale yellow, aromas of pear, peach and green apple signal the start of something good to come. Soft fruit forward flavors packed with pear, honey, apple. The wine is light and refreshing, perfect balance between sweet and dry. The 100% Chenin Blanc grapes used in the wine provide for a champagne or sparkling wine taste minus the fizzy little bubbles.

An ideal wine for sipping and sitting outside in those warm Florida summer evenings. Noticed the website mentioned this meal pairs well with a tropical meal, and any meal consumed outdoors in Florida from May to October automatically qualifies as a tropical meal.

Many of you may be wondering who Alfio Moriconi is, he’s the Vice President of European Buying of Total Wine & More. I have mixed feelings about this one. While I do much of my wine shopping at Total Wine, due to their low prices and my quest to find inexpensive wines, this man represents big conglomerates. While Bougrier’s vineyards is family owned, this bit of information creates a conflict within me. Is he putting his name on the label to sell more wine at his big box retail store? Do all labels contain this info or just the ones that end up at Total Wine & More?

Well, the wine is delicious so I won’t dwell on this inner conflict any further. Many of you know, I’m not much of a white wine drinker but I have found several French white wines to be truly delicious and perfect outdoor wine drinking.

If anyone has any whites you recommend, please contact me, I love to experiment.

My rating – Too good to put down

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rosemount Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

I frequently find myself having one of those nights where I don’t want to analyze wine, I don’t want to have to think about it, decipher what I’m picking up or how it makes me feel, I just want to drink wine. One recent evening this very feeling hit me, I just want to drink the juice! So I reached for a bottle of Rosemount 60% Shiraz 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. No frills, no thrills, no thinking involved. But then I figured what the heck, I paid for the bottle, I may as well write about it.

Aromas of raspberry, black berry and a hint of oak. Rich ripe red berries, plums, light bodied and a decent finish but not fabulous round out the wine. The website claims the wine has delicious fruitcake notes, not sure I want my wine described with flavors of fruitcake.

They must like fruitcake in Australia and not realize how many people in the US would rather use it as a doorstop (I’ve had a few in my time that could serve this very purpose) than actually eat it let alone drink something with this descriptor. Now before you go throwing fruitcakes at me, it just isn’t something my palate appreciates. If this is something you enjoy then so be it.

Rosemount has been making wine for over 40 years and located in the Hunter Valley region of Australia. Moving from the coffee industry to the wine industry founder Bob Oatley wanted all employees to feel they were part of something special and to strive for the best. Now a leading Australian winery, their wines represent the Australian climate as well as their dedication to quality and style.

Up until 2001 Rosemount was Australia's largest family owned winery, it then merged with Southcorp Wines and in 2005 merged with Foster’s Group. I think most of you know I value family owned and run wineries. I feel there is more love and care put into the wines, since this truly is their livelihood. Does this mean the wines that fall under big conglomerates don’t give a hoot. Of course not, there are still dedicated winemakers and people who work with the vines from the time they’re planted until the time they’re juiced, bottled and sent to you and me to enjoy.

I’ve had other Rosemount wines and they weren’t so bad, this it may have just been this blend so I’ll continue to reach for them when I just want to drink an affordable wine that I don’t have to think about.

My rating – We’ll drink the rest tomorrow.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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