Category Archives: What We’re Drinking

A drink with the Crowleys

downtonbottle2They are here. And almost gone. I speak of the Downton Abbey wines, a white and a red from Bordeaux of which even Carson would approve.

We tasted these wines yesterday and were quite impressed. Though some wines that latch on to a celebrity name or brand are not stellar quality, others look for good wine at the right price to associate with a well-respected image. For Downton Abbey, the situation is the latter.

The Downton Abbey Blanc hails from the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, a region that excels in white wine production from the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. It shows bright citrus and stone fruits on the nose and the palate is ripe apple – we may even call it fruity – with vibrant acidity and a soft texture. Nice balance and a wine I think would be ideal for a seafood dish or even a pasta with a rich sauce. If you like California Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll enjoy this wine.

As for the Claret, it’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec and definitely calls out for some protein. It is balanced overall with dark berries and black currant, touch of spice, touch of floral notes and great acidity and good structure. But I do highly recommend with food!

So stock up to sip on these two wines for the January premiere! We’ve heard fans will need a strong drink!

Goulish wines for Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching (as in 3 days from now!). The evening is full of spooky revelry for both kids and adults. In my neighborhood, after the kiddos are in bed and the masses have subsided, the adults get together for their own version of candy – wine & cocktails! This is a fun time to choose wines for their label, and we have some spooky – and delicious – picks.

velvetdevil

The Velvet Devil Merlot – with a pitch fork and everything! From eccentric winemaker, Charles Smith, this is a supple red from Washington State.

Ghost Pines –  The winery produces Chardonnay,  Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend. The wines are smooth and supple, with lots of ripe fruit.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo – “Cellar of the devil” – got to have these wines on hand for any Halloween festivities as they are great value and actually named for a haunted cellar!

Razor’s Edge – Choose from Shiraz or Shiraz-Grenache. The label harks back to movies with Freddy Kruger or Jason from “Halloween.” What’s inside is that ripe Aussie fruit style – easy drinking and good for watching the kiddos go door-to-door.

Zinfandel. A History

May is National BBQ month, and what better wine to go with BBQ than Zinfandel!  So with that, a little history of Zinfandel

Origin: Croatia
Hot Spot: California, Southern Italy
SynonymsPrimitivo, Plavac Mali

Zinfandel is often touted as the ideal grape for 4th of July BBQs and even Thanksgiving dinner as it is the quintessential “California” grape. So how did a grape variety from Croatia come to be known as the “California Varietal?” Wine grape historians (not their technical name but we’ll call them that) traced the variety back to the 1820s, when it was imported from an Austrian nursery and found a home somewhere on the east coast of the US.  About the time of the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, Zinfandel found its way to the west coast.  By the late 1800s was the “it” grape, partly due to its productivity and sturdy constitution. Even during prohibition, Zinfandel remained popular for home winemakers, which is one reason you see such very old Zinfandel vines.

In the 1960s, researchers recognized that Zinfandel and Primitivo contained the same “grape” DNA. Then in 2001, researchers did some “fingerprinting” on a few old vines in Croatia. Turns out that Zinfandel is a version of an ancient grape called “Crljenak Kaštelanski.”  And yet, it is still known as the classic California grape. You may see some plantings in Australia and even Europe, but for the most part, Zinfandel has stayed true to its California base.

And what about White Zinfandel? Zinfandel is a red grape – always has been – but in the 1960s and 70s, Americans preferred white wine. So in 1972, Bob Trinchero launched what turned out to be one of the largest successes in the wine business. Using free run Zinfandel juice, with a little added sweetness and occasionally some more aromatic white varieties, White Zinfandel skyrocketed in popularity and sales.  The craze for this slightly sweet, lightly pink wine brought awareness to Zinfandel, even the original red kind. Advocates of the grape began to protect the vineyards, particularly the old vines from before prohibition.

Defining Traits: Big, bold, jammy, spicy, brambly
Depending on where it is grown, the age of the vines, and the methods of the winemaker, Zinfandel can vary in its flavor profile. It’s a sturdy grape, so its rare to find a “light-bodied” Zinfandel, but you’ll find a range of styles, from elegant to spicy to brawny to jammy. Typical characteristics include spice, jam, all sort of wild berry flavors, pepper, leather and sometimes a bit of oak notes.

So we raise or glass to the American grape from Croatia – To Zinfandel!

12 wines to buy on 12-12-12 for the 12 days of Christmas

It’s 12-12-12, the last time the month, day and year will perfectly align until the next century. Since most of us won’t be around then, for those who find luck in numbers, it’s a big day. We like it because we can do fun things like offer 12% off 12 bottles and other 12 combinations.

So I’m pulling out my top 12 bottles for the holidays here. For MY 12 bottles, I’d choose these, each with a purpose for this holiday season.

The white splurge:  Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2009 – this Margaret River wine is like Australia’s Montrachet (I know, don’t you hate it when people compare wine to Burgundy?). Hands down one of my favorite Chardonnay and perfect for a holiday splurge.

The red splurge: Antinori Tignanello 2009 – okay, so if you drink this now, you’d have to decant it for a long time… but everyone should try a “Tig” and the ’09 was a beautiful vintage.

The bubble splurge:Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee – I could drink Krug everyday and twice on Sundays and claim a very happy life. A rich and full-bodied bubbly, this is the wine to buy should you be able to drop the dough on bubbles 🙂

The perfect dinner whiteChehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Gris 2011 – It holds up to savory and spice as well as rich and creamy. With a perfect balance of racy acidity, floral notes and sweet fruit, this wine is a great match for the dinner table.

The perfect dinner red: Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir 2010 – Thank goodness it’s easier to find a Pinot Noir under $20 these days. Artesa consistently delivers, with rich fruit and bright acid, a palate-pleaser and food-friendly of course.

The perfect party bubbly: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava – I could try to be creative, but won’t bother -this bubbly is a go-to for parties. It’s great year after year, always a top-seller and always a great value. Can’t beat it.

The perfect party white: La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc 2011 – my parents buy this by the case as it’s a perfect everyday or party sipper. It has no fake oak or sweet aftertaste, just clean, crisp and easy-drinking.

The perfect party redd’Arenberg Stump Jump Red 2010 – easy going and easy drinking. That’s what you want in a party wine, and the Stump Jump is perfect for that. It’s an all-season wine (great for summer, winter and all if it in-between).

Date night wine:  Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 – it’s a sexy bottle, a seductive wine and needs nothing to pair with it but a little romance.

Hostess gift wine: Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut – bubbles are perfect for the hostess-with-the-mostest, and Schramsberg Mirabelle is a delicious wine that is perfect to serve at a party or with a meal.

Wine for toasting: Canard-Duchene Authentic Brut Rose – I had to make up a subject to get this bottle of bubbles in – one of my favorites, especially for the price. It’s lovely in the glass, great bubbles and flavors from start to finish.

The wine that goes with everything: Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling 2011 – obviously it has to be a Riesling… and this particular bottle, which marries fruit, acidity and sweet in delicious harmony, can go on any table and in any glass and be well-suited there.

Pick out your 12 for 12-12-12. It’s a day to celebrate and wine is certainly the way to go.