Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2008 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah Livermore Valley

In the next few months my world will be a little up in the air. My husband and I have some exciting and good changes (to be covered later) on the horizon but for now we’re in limbo. Seeking a little stability I reached for a recent sample I received, 2008 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah. Concannon is currently celebrating 50 years since planting the first Petite Sirah not only in California but in America.

The color is a deep dark inky purple. Aromas bursting of ripe and lush berries. Flavors are rustic and full of black berries, plums, chocolate and earth. Smooth and dry finish with hints of oak.

Varital – Petite Sirah
Appellation – Livermore Valley
TA – 0.65g/100ml
pH – 3.65
RS – 0.20g/100ml
Alcohol – 13.5%
SRP - $15

Jim and Joe Concannon planted the first American Petite Sirah back in 1911. Up until 1961 the wine was used primarily for blending. In 1964 Jim released the wine as Petite Sirah and the rest is history. Petite Sirah may well be the red headed step child of California wines but its popularity is increasing. While some vintners choose to spell the varietal as “Petite Sirah”, others "Petite Syrah", and finally "Petit Syrah” they are one in the same.

With four generations of winemaking you can say it’s a family affair. I almost feel like a member of the Concannon family. Though I’ve never met them, I received a Christmas card and have received invitations to visit their winery and share lunch with the current winemakers. Maybe someday I’ll be able to meet my “Concannon Family”. Until then, I’ll continue sampling and sharing my findings on all those great Concannon wines.

John Concannon, 4th Generation Vintner will be hosting 50 Petite Sirah tastings across the country. Like Concannon Vineyard on Facebook and follow the events. Maybe they’ll be coming to your city. Concannon wines can be found nationally at your local supermarkets as well as wine retailers.

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava Rosé

Go ahead; reach for that glass of sparkling wine, you deserve it. Why you ask, what’s the special occasion? How about it’s Thursday, the sun came up, the sun set, the bills are paid, you’re paying bills, or for no reason at all. Who says you need a special occasion to drink sparkling wine…no one. My latest venture in inexpensive bubbles; Spain’s Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava Rosé.

Fruity and yeasty nose. Flavors are full pear, sweet black and red fruits. Don’t let the amazing brilliant ruby color in the bottle scare you, it’s quite lovely. I found it at Publix for just $9.99.

In 2010 a court ruled Cristalino appeared too similar in name and label to the $300 sparkling wine you see being consumed by the bathtub full in rappers videos, Cristal. After four years of court proceedings, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen barred the makers of Cristalino from “using any mark, word, or name similar to the Cristalino name that is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception with Roederer’s Cristal marks.” The brand was also to change their name, color and font on the label. Note the disclaimer now added to the label.

Hmm, so let me get this right, the makers of Cristal, a $300 bottle of bubbly, think Cristalino, at $9.99 bottle is trying to fool people into thinking they are the pricy wine? Does anyone else see this as a huge waste of court time or is it just me?

Well, I can tell you this, I can’t afford to spend $300 on a single bottle of sparkling wine. In my world, that could get me 30 bottles and if it taste decent, who cares if they only cost $10 each. By the way, Cristalino has been voted Value Brand of the Year by Wine and Spirits for the past several years.

So go ahead, it’s Thursday, you remembered to take the trash out, The Office is on, or whatever you want to celebrate. Raise your glass, cheers!

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

2009 Flip Flop Pinot Grigio California

Spring is coming, spring is coming, time to break out the shorts, t-shirts and flip flops! Not to rub it in, but I’m already wearing my flippie floppies, shorts and t-shirts. But while the rest of you dig out from winter, put on your spring attire and brave the outdoors to pick up a few bottles of flipflop Pinot Grigio. I must admit, when I received the sample, I wondered how I would feel about the wine. The name reminded me of another wine that is better left to the younger beginner wine drinkers. Much to my pleasant surprise the wine was extremely tasty and will appeal to both the young, inexperienced wine drinker as well as the budget minded wine lover.

Aromas are filled with green apple and grass. Light bodied flavors are medium sweet with mango, tropical fruits and well balanced acidity with a nice tart clean finish.

TA – 0.63 g/100ml
RS – 0.05 g/100ml
pH – 3.63
Alcohol – 12%
SRP - $7

Flipflop is new on the wine scene and has dedicated themselves to breaking free of the cookie cutter mass produced wines and focusing on individualistic expression in their wines. They not only focus on crafting tasty affordable wines but have a sense of community involvement. With every bottle of flipflop wine purchased, Soles4Souls distributes a pair of shoes to someone in need. Now how often do you get the chance to enjoy a bottle of wine and help a community?

Flipflops motto; “to each their own” sums up how I feel about wine. It’s time to take the pretentiousness out of wine and get back to reality. I don’t know many people, myself included, who can regularly spend $20 on a bottle of wine let alone $60 and upwards. I’m not suggesting anyone go and purchase a bottle of Thunderbird but don’t be afraid to try the wines that may be on the lower end of the price spectrum or look like they’re geared toward the younger wine generation. Finding wines you love really is about trial and error. Sometimes you hit a homerun, like the Flip Flop Pinot, sometimes you strike out.

Purchasing bottles of flipflop wines can provide shoes and relief for the earthquake and tsunami victims:
Soles4Souls is preparing to distribute shoes to the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. If you’re interested in supporting Soles4Souls’ relief efforts visit to find the nearest shoe drop-off location in your area or to financially sponsor pairs of new shoes to be sent. Individuals can also text the word SHOES to 20222 to donate $5.

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

2006 Erath Niederberger Vineyard Pinot Noir Dundee Hills

R-u-t…rut, that’s what I’m in. It’s the same routine everyday; work, write, drink wine. I know, rough life huh but I feel like I need to shake things up a bit. Craving something new, exciting and different, I decided it was time to reach for a wine that was a little older, dependable and consistent; 2006 Erath Niederberger Vineyard Pinot Noir Dundee Hills. It’s a bottle my husband and I picked up on our honeymoon in Oregon.

Black berries and hints of earth and spice in the nose. Medium bodied with flavors of vanilla, spice and an abundance of blue berries that carry through to a lingering finish. The bottle was purchased from the Erath tasting room in Willamette Valley for around $35.

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 region is similar to France’s Burgundy with its iron rich soils, cool nights and warming sunshine giving Dundee the perfect climate to perfect Pinto Noirs, the wine this area of Oregon is most well known.

The Niederberger Vineyard, planted in 1988, is located on a southern slope of Dundee Hills. The intense flavor of the Pinot Noir is the result of surrounding firs that create a warm pocket on the hillside. What makes Oregon so conducive to Pinot Noir grape growing? Growers like Dick Erath realized the cool climate of Oregon could produce world-class wines with varietals like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Pinot Noir makes up the biggest planting at 9,858 acres of all the grapes grown in Oregon. Most of the wineries are centered around or in the Willamette Valley and if you’re ever in the area, you have to stop and do some tastings.

Over the past week I saw two shows on Travel Channel profiling Portland, OR and I’m itching to go back. I even went so far as to look up housing pricing in Portland. Well let’s just say the housing market doesn’t seem to have fallen much in that area. I do have a vacation planned to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the near future. Hoping I can get out of my funky rut well before then and just enjoy some time at some Georgia wineries.

If you’re looking for more affordable Erath wines they do make an Oregon Wine selection which can be found nationally for around $16.

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

2007 Icon Ravenswood Mixed Blacks Sonoma

Icon, Icon, how I love thee Icon. I love the curves of your bottle, I love your flavors and their seductive ways as they wash over my palate and I love how you make me feel oh so special and fancy free. But Icon, Icon, why do you always leave me with such a yearning of wanting more of you.

Ok, enough of me trying to be poetic but if ever I were to write a poem, it would surely be about 2007 Ravenswood Icon Mixed Blacks. I first tasted this wine at the Ravenswood winery. Not in the tasting room but in a room adjacent to where a piece of the magic happens. It was during a blending session where I had the opportunity to blend my own wine. The blends were the same Carignane, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Alicante Bouschet used in Icon. I recently received my very own sample of Icon, which made me a very happy wine drinker.

The Alicante Bouschet provides the deep ink color in the glass. A perfumey nose and an abundance of juicy blueberries entice the senses. Flavors are full of ripe black fruits, spicy black pepper and cassis. High acidity and tannins combine with a long and oaky finish. If I had to come up with one descriptor to sum up the wine, one word comes to mind; beautiful. Icon is truly a very beautiful and well crafted wine.

Blend – 36% Carignane, 27% Petite Sirah, 25% Zinfandel, 12% Mixed Blacks
Appellation – Sonoma County
TA – 6.25g/L
pH – 3.60
RS – 0.7g/L
Alcohol – 14.9%
Price - $75
Production – 1,070 cases
Agebility – Drink between now and 7-10 years.

Icon is a throwback to before the Prohibition era when blending grapes to make a wine was king. The Alicante Bouschet was planted heavily during Prohibition in California for export to the East Coast. The grape’s thick skin made it resistant to rot during transportation and the intense red color made it easy to dilute the wine without taking away from its appearance.

As I listen to Mardi Gras jazz playing in the background, I’m almost be taken away to the time of prohibition, jazz clubs and bootleg liquor and wine. I’m grateful these wonderful old vines survived and wine growers persevered with innovative ways to keep making that wonderful and beautiful juice.

Congratulations go out to Joel Peterson who was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame on February 21, 2011. Cheers to Joel!

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wines I Wouldn’t Recommend, Summerfield Cabernet Sauvignon and Yalumba Y Merlot

It happens, in my effort to find great tasting affordable wines, I come across some that are better left on the shelf. My latest disappointment in affordable wine purchases are Summerfield and Yalumba both were found at my local Total Wine. One was definitely worse than the other and the price tag will tell you immediately which one.

2009 Summerfield Cabernet Sauvignon - $4.99
I had some hopes this would go well, the aromas were full spicy and zesty black pepper but there was also something in the background, some sort of chemical smell. Still, I had to take that first sip. More of the chemical taste, like cleaning products or mimeograph paper. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that smell from when your teacher brought in freshly made “copies” and told you to leave them on your desk until they dried. Yep, that’s the flavor coming through. There’s also lemon and a lot of jamminess in the flavors. This wine quickly went down the drain.

Yalumba Y Merlot South Australia - $12.99
I was really disappointed in this one. I mean $12.99, not exactly on the really cheap side. It wasn’t as bad as the Summerfield but was still a big disappointment. Aromas of blackberry and currant are fine but there’s something vegetative in the background. It’s actually reminiscent of rotting vegetables, not a good aroma or flavor in wine or anywhere else. Flavors are faint but I think I pick up something leafy. I call this the Gardenia leaf smell. No I’ve never eaten a Gardenia leaf or mimeograph ink but smell accounts for the majority of what you taste.

I’m not even going to bother with information on these wineries other than for Australia’s oldest family owned winery, you’d think the Yalumba Y Merlot would have been better. Maybe I’ll try another varietal for the Yalumba but I won’t bother going near the Summerfield again.

2011© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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