Halloween Worthy Labels

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It is Halloween! Time to get spooky and scary. We’ve got just the wine to do it with, too. Some very Halloween style labels to get you started for the holiday. 

evilEvil – great label for easy-drinking Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Australia.

diablo Casillero del Diablo from Concha y Toro – Meaning, “Cellar of the Devil",” these are fantastic wines from Chile – the Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere are particularly good values. And the Reserva Privada tastes like a $30 wine for only $15! Great fall wines.

tj wild witch Trevor Jones Wild Witch Shiraz 2005 – Go Wild Witch – Trevor Jones makes excellent wine and this Shiraz is a full-bodied treat – rich, ripe, dense… it’s a big wine, but with lovely structure. Well done.

dead arm d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2005 – Such a killer deal right now! $35 for a $65 wine. This is one of my favorite wines from Australia. Very concentrated and dense,  but with excellent backbone. Awesome wine for the price we have it right now and it’s a perfect wine for winter – warms the soul. Stock up!

devil Devils Lair Margaret River Chardonnay 2006 – Classic Chardonnay from Margaret River, mineral driven acidity balanced by ripe fruits. Devilishly good.

zins7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel 2007 – a sinful pleasure! BIG fruit, sweet oak and silky smooth tannins. Easy drinking wine for Halloween.

What are you favorite Halloween wine labels?

Tasting the Kenwood Artist Series

Last night I had the pleasure of tasting the 2004 Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Excellent wine. Excellent story.

The Story Behind the Wine:  Each year, a different artist draws the label for Kenwood’s Artist Series, hence the name Artist Series. For the 2004 vintage, a man named Shepard Fairey kenwood labelwas chosen to draw the label. You may recognize the name – Fairey is the man responsible for taking an existing photo of Barack Obama and putting it in color, creating the iconic HOPE poster that became synonymous with the campaign. He is hailed as one of the most influential “street artists” of our time. The label he created for the Artist Series portrays a “Peace Woman.” Says Kenwood, “the "Peace Woman" is a symbolic representation of the peaceful, nurturing side of humanity. Fairey feels that the female trait of empathy should be embraced to maintain a balanced society.” Sounds good to me! 

The Wine: The 2004 marks the 30th release of the Artist Series from Kenwood, which is a blend of the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon from the vintage, with 3% of Malbec mixed into the blend this year. Almost 80% of the grapes hail from Sonoma Valley, the remainder coming from Dry Creek Valley. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and receives 30 months of barrel aging. It hangs out in bottle another year and a half before release. Those are the technical details, now for the taste.

Deep garnet color, with concentrated ripe blackberry, current and some vanilla on the nose. While rich normally describes texture and mouthfeel, I couldn’t help but want to label the aromas as rich. Kind of like blackberry pie. Drinking it confirmed all in the nose, as well as a touch of cedar. Tannins were ripe and silky and the finish lingering. Good structure and intense, but not one I’d throw in the cellar for very long. Everything was so silky smooth already, I didn’t get that extra kick behind the structure that suggests improvement with significant cellar age. Though it could easily withstand a few more years in the cellar, I don’t know how much it would change, or if I would like it better after cellar evolution. Which is not necessarily a bad thing! It’s a drink-it-now style of Cabernet. And it paired great with my steak.

6th Annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries Event

09100 wineries plus one 110-pound woman equals one enormous challenge.  Wednesday night oenophiles packed the Galleria at the San Francisco Design Center for the 6th Annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries event.  I wish I could say I tried everything, but with so many wines, I am ashamed to say that I only scratched the surface.  But, if anyone has ever had crème brûlée, the surface can be pretty sweet.
The event was in full swing by the time I arrived and grabbed my Riedel glass. I swiped a map of the layout and planned my attack.  Knowing that time and body weight, rather than gusto, were going to be my limitations, I decided to try two of every category.  I was able to stick with that plan, more or less, and leave the place sober and content.  Luckily, t he wineries were arranged by category and each category arranged in a logical tasting order.  

One unexpected highlight was disgorging my own bottle of sparkling wine. Movia’s winemaker Alec Kristancic was on hand to show me how.  Movia’s Puro sparkler comes with the lees still in the bottle, so upside down storage is necessary.  I was a bit nervous for my fellow attendees and not sure they knew what I was doing, I sure didn’t.  But all projectiles landed safely in a water bucket and I spilled only a little bit (ok, ok, I did spill some on the table).  I am not sure how I would do this at home because he uses a special tool to rest the cork in while you turn the upside-down bottle slowly.  Once it pops you quickly turn the bottle upright and there you have it!  

In the interests of time and space here are my favorites in several categories:

Sparkling: Schloss Gobelsberg NV Brut Reserve (Austria)

Not only do they make phenomenal Gruner Veltliner still wines, but they also make this sparkling wine made by the traditional méthode champenoise, complete with hand riddling.  The wine is made from 70% Gruner Veltliner and accompanied by Pinot Noir and Riesling.  Subtle aromas of crushed stones and slight citrus notes preceded a disarmingly smooth mouth-feel.

Crisp Whites
: Boutari Santorini 2008 (Greece)

Made with 100% Assyrtiko, Boutari’s Santorini is a steal at around $20.  I really enjoyed the unique aroma.  The rep hit the nail on the head and pinned down the aroma as that of oxidized fruit.  Think of the aroma of an apple or pear that’s been sliced and left out in the air.  I didn’t find it particularly acidic or crisp, but then again, I think it was served a bit warm.  At a cooler temperature I think the acidity would have jumped out a bit more.

Rich Whites
: E. Guigal Condrieu 2007 (France)

This wine does not need any alcohol to be intoxicating. Honeysuckle, orange blossoms and a hint of spiced bread predominated. Weighty without being heavy handed, it’s a luxurious wine.

Pinot Noir
: Louis Jadot Corton-Grèves Grand Cru 2007 (France)

One winemaker for 150 labels?  Yes, Jacques Lardière has the privilege of this Herculean task.  His rep at the event said he exudes energy and passion.  She described how at harvest he is a man possessed and even over the telephone she can hear his anxiousness to get off the phone and get back to work.  And what a marvelous fruit his labor bore. Possessing a gorgeous ruby red color, aromas of tart red fruit and the subtle scent of smoke and cloves hovering in the background. Good thing for Jacques, at the end of his work, he created something worthy of quite contemplation.

Rhone Family
: Delas-Frères Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 2005 (France)

Hermitage truly is a beast and I mean that as a compliment.   Spicy, tannic and just plain immense, this wine should really come in a bigger bottle.  Black fruit and pepper lead the way to long and sumptuous finish.

Cabernet Family
Henschke Eden Valley Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Australia)

This was a bit of a preview, as the wine is not yet available.  A phenomenal year for Australian wines, Eden Valley is more known for Riesling than Cabernet.  This particular hillside is planted with old vine Cabernet and small strips of Cabernet Franc and Merlot for blending.  Cassis and pitted black fruit aromas prevailed. Most impressive was the mouth-feel, walking the razor thin edge between elegance and tannic, cellar worthy structure, I loved every second of it.  
Runner-up: Ridge Monte Bello 2005:  Straight-forward and precise.

Port
: Niepoort 1991 Porto Colheita (Portugal)

Simply delightful.  This wine was the life of the party and conveniently located next to the Brix Chocolate table.  Bright red fruit flavors melted away into a rich consistency.  

Sherry: Lustau Jerez-Xérès-Palo Cortado VOS 20 (Spain)

This dry sherry made me wonder why it’s so hard to find them.  Complex and refined, with incredible depth of color and flavor.  It reminded me of the smell of the ocean and perhaps some toasted hazelnuts. 

Crisp weather = warmer wines

SA fall vinesSome people are seasonal drinkers, choosing wines that match the weather. I tend to be one of those people. Summer = crisp whites; Winter = hearty reds. Granted, I mix it up a bit as there is never a bad time for most wines. This past couple of weeks, it’s clearly become a new season. Fall is here – the changing colors, the blowing leaves, the brisk winds and of course, college football. For all but the last, which I still love to watch with a good beer, this means a change in my wine choices as well.  Out with the summer wines – I need something to go with this sudden chill down. Nothing too hearty, but a little something to take the cool nip away.

A few of my favorite fall wines and why:

Pinot Noir Okay, so this is a year round favorite, but it’s especially great for fall. Pinot Noir is like the light jacket of wine – bright fruit and smooth tannins vermonte pinotslowly ease you into this cooler weather. Right now some favorite Pinot Noir include:
Pessagno Winery Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir 2007 – delicious silky smooth Californian Pinot – ripe and rich, yet elegant. Awesome value right now at $28.00
Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva 2007 – a bit of spice and earth quality match well with the bright cherry fruit. Great Pinot from Chile for $13!

 

Tempranillo – Spicy and earthy, but lighter bodied, Tempranillo is perfect to celebrate the change of season. Spain is the go-to country for this grape, which is extremely food friendly. Lots of values these days, including:
Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2003 – More traditional style of Rioja, with the typical age notes of tobacco and toasted oak. But also still full of delicious fruit. $20
Abadia Retuerta Rivola 2007 – This is the more modern style of Tempranillo, with ripe fruits and smooth, silky tannins. Still great with food, though! $17

Italian Blends – Italy has so many

varietals, regions and styles, you can certainly find a wine to fit any season. For fall I love fuller bodied Barberas and the viettigems of Southern Italy. A few favorites include:

Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne 2006 – medium-bodied, concentrated red fruits, a bit of and spice, great acid, mild tannins and a lingering finish. A perfect food wine. $19

Nero d’Avola – Try a wine made from this grape, because it’s got depth and character. Kind of like what you want in a friend or colleague. Typical descriptors include: dark berry fruit, exotic

spice, licorice, pepper, long finish. The grape has potential to age, but depends on the producer.

Carmenere – A Chilean specialty! With a smoky and meaty quality, this grape makes wine that is a lovely match to fall foods. Or just sitting by the first fire of the season.  Also, South America is known for its value, and these two well-priced Carmeneres are excellent. 
Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere 2008 – Easy-drinking, full of dark plum and smoky character typical of Carmenere – and under $10
Chono Carmenere Reserva Maipo Valley 2006 – Recently tasted this wine and thought, wow. THIS is a good Carmenere. While I love the smoky, meaty characteristics of Carmenere, sometimes they can also have a green pepper edge that is overpowering. Not in this wine! Balanced and focused on the fruit, a great value at $13.

Enjoy the wines, enjoy the leaves and the changing colors… and enjoy the crisp air before it gets frigid and you’re longing for summer already!

Introducing Wine.com’s Eco Wine Trio

ecowinetrio People are going green, wineries are going green, wine packaging is going green. Green is the new black as they say. So Wine.com is thrilled to introduce our new Eco Wine Trio, a package that is green in so many ways.

First, let’s talk about what the Eco Wine Trio is… It is a collection of red wines from Boisset Family Estates:

· Fog Mountain 2006 California Merlot: 100% Merlot sourced from prime growing areas throughout California result in black cherry, dusty chocolate and blackberry flavors finishing soft with ripe plum notes. This wine is packaged in the first 1 liter PET bottle for wine in the US. One liter offers 33 percent more wine than a standard 750ml bottle.

· Louis Bernard 2007 Bonus Passus Côtes du Rhône AOC: a spicy, Grenache-based red from the Rhône Valley that is well-balanced with red-berry fruit flavors and a long finish.

· Yellow Jersey 2007 Pinot Noir: a fruity red from the South of France with blackcurrant aromas, soft tannins and a silky finish.

And these three wines are all packaged in PET bottles. PET stands for Polyethylene terephthalate, a BPA-free lightweight plastic. The newest form of alternative packaging for wine, a PET bottle has 50% less carbon footprint than glass and is much more environment-friendly than glass. It takes less energy to produce, less energy to ship and is easily recyclable. What’s not to love about that?

Second, Wine.com and Boisset are partnering with EarthEra, a unique program that provides businesses, institutions and consumers the opportunity to build new renewable energy facilities in the United States. Wine.com will direct 10 percent of the retail price of the Eco Wine Trio (which is only $29.99) to the Some super green stuff going on here!

Finally, the wine is good! I’d admit I was skeptical when tasting Burgundy Pinot Noir from a plastic bottle with a bright label, but the wine was juicy, fruity and balanced. All three wines are well-done and easy-drinking.

So sit back and enjoy your wine knowing you are helping the planet!

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