12/27/2012

Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Wine Tasting


Hello Friends,

I recently had a chance to join @BeAThirstyGirl and the rest of the Thirsty Girl Twitter family (which includes a few bros) for a special holiday tasting featuring two selections from Domain Ste. Michelle. Known on Twitter as @DSMsparkling, Domaine Ste. Michelle is Chateau Ste. Michelle’s sparkling wine division and has been producing sparkling wine from Columbia Valley, Washington fruit for over 30 years. They are one of the largest producers of sparkling wine in the US and offer a variety of selections made in the traditional method (as they do in Champagne) for $12 with the exception of their Luxe, which is priced at $23. And don’t let the low price point of this bubbly fool you; Domaine Ste. Michelle’s sparkling wines have repeatedly shown well against more expensive selections in blind tastings with average consumers.

 Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Line-up


For this tasting, I sampled the Domaine Ste. Michelle Rosé and Brut Rosé (both non-vintage). Both wines are clean and refreshing with pleasant and bright fruit characteristics, yet have minimal complexity (see my notes below) with a myriad of medium sized bubbles that dissipate quickly. These wines offer good every day value in the sparkling wine category and with New Year’s celebrations around the corner you should consider picking up a few bottles. Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wines are nationally available, so check with your local wine shop or grocer for pricing and availability. In closing, while sparkling wine is a natural partner to special occasions and holiday celebrations, keep in mind that they are also affordable, diverse, and extremely food-friendly. I highly recommend enjoying bubbly on a regular basis – don’t wait for a special occasion – make one! I keep a bottle in my weekly rotation and enjoy them with everything from breakfast, lunch, or dinner to popcorn. Drink well and have a grape New Year, my friends. Cheers!

1) Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut (SRP $12): The sparkling Brut is a blend of 88% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Noir. It offers vibrant green apple, light impressions of pear, and a touch of citrus blossom. The palate is dry with medium weight, mouth-watering acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles that lead to a crisp, refreshing medium-length finish. Click here to find this wine.

2) Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut Rosé (SRP $12): The Brut Rosé displays a nice pale salmon color with aromas suggestive of fresh summer berries and delicate citrus notes with a slender texture and racy acidity. This is a nice, reasonably priced sparkling wine that would pair well with Sunday brunch among a wide variety of other foods. Click here to find this wine.

Click here to visit the Domaine Ste. Michelle website.


My backyard feathered friend: The Northern Cardinal


Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come. Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample. Thoughts are my own. Happy Sipping, my friends!


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12/20/2012

Quick Sip: Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc


Hello Friends,

Chenin Blanc is a French white-wine grape variety known for its wonderful diversity and high acid levels. It’s the liquid gem of Vouvray [Loire Valley, France], where it dates back to the 4th century and is capable of producing long-lived and expressive still to sparkling wines that range from crisp and dry to rich, sweet, and balanced. Chenin Blanc has several other vacation spots (South Africa, Washington State, California), but the Clarksburg AVA, an appellation just below Sacramento, is making a push to be its second home. In his book, A Vineyard in My Glass, wine writer Gerald Asher wrote, “Clarksburg: The right grape in the right place,” referencing Chenin Blanc. The region’s soil and warm/dry climate that is moderated by coastal influence, have welcomed both the successes of Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah among other varieties.

Clarksburg Wine Company 2010 Chenin Blanc


The President of Clarksburg Wine Company, Jon Beckman, is rolling out the red carpet for the Chenin Blanc grape, producing three different styles (stainless, barrel fermented/matured, and a Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend). His Clarksburg Wine Company produces wine under its own name and also doubles as a custom crush facility for area vintners. I recently had an opportunity to share and enjoy two of the three Chenin Blanc wines they produce and invite you to review my notes below. My guests found the wines to be well-made, pleasant, and very food-friendly. Check out the link below to visit the Clarksburg Wine Company website. Their wines are currently available in Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Washington DC, North Carolina, and here in Virginia. Cheers!

 The Clarksburg Wine Company



1) Clarksburg Wine Company 2010 Clarksburg Chenin Blanc (SRP $16): We enjoyed this selection with a grilled chicken salad and on its own. This ‘stainless’ selection is 100% Chenin Blanc and offers bright and fresh green apple, citrus blossom, and pear aromas accented by floral notes that extend through to the [lean] palate with snappy acidity and a lively citrus finish. This is a nice and refreshing bottle of wine that’s food friendly and won’t break the bank. Click here to find this wine.

2) Clarksburg Wine Company 2010 VS (Vouvray Style) Clarksburg [100%] Chenin Blanc (SRP $24): A percentage of this wine is barrel fermented in neutral oak and sur lie aged for 8 months. Vibrant [lemon] citrus, tree fruit with subtle honey and hay aromas fill the nose with a hint of lanolin and a [very] fine dusting of spice. There is lots of tangy citrus on the palate with a mild fleshiness to the texture with fresh, food-friendly acidity and a pleasant medium-length finish. This is a pleasing example that offers heightened complexities and mouth-feel that can stand up to something slightly more substantial like grilled seafood or mussels in a lightly spiced cream sauce. Nice job, Mr. Gaudy. Click here to find this wine.

Click here to visit the Clarksburg Wine Company website.


Clarksburg Wine Company 2010 VS Chenin Blanc


Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come. Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample. Thoughts are my own. Happy Sipping, my friends!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas @NationalHarbor


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12/12/2012

Don Sebastiani & Sons Appellation Brands Tasting


Hello Friends,

I recently had an opportunity to participate in Don Sebastiani & Sons’ appellations/brands virtual [Twitter] tasting. The tasting was broadcast live and led by fourth-generation family member and Executive Director Donny Sebastiani and winemaker Greg Kitchens. The tasting focused on several Don Sebastiani & Sons’ brands (Don & Sons, B-Side, Aquinas, Project Paso, and The Crusher) as well as several California appellations (Sonoma Coast, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, and Clarksburg).

The Tasting Line-up


A little about Don & Sons: The Sebastiani family first made their mark in the California wine industry in the early 1900’s when Samuel Sebastiani opened a winery in Sonoma. Today, Don & Sons is a large [production] family-owned wine négociant responsible for popular brands such as Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove, and Aquinas. For the tasting, I received a special tasting kit, containing six 50ml bottles, from tastingroom.com. Besides all of the wines being red, I found they had a few common characteristics. In my opinion, they all were very approachable [i.e. enjoyed young] and probably would not benefit from extended aging, had a [crowd] pleasing fruit-forward character, and fairly moderate alcohol levels. See my tasting notes on the wines we tasted through below and click here to review the web broadcast of Donny Sebastiani and Greg Kitchens talking about everything from the wines and the 2012 vintage, to a little Sebastiani history. I would like to thank @mwangbickler of Balzac Communications & Marketing for the invite and putting together an informative and enjoyable virtual tasting. Cheers!

Aquinas 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine Blend 



1) Don & Sons 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (SRP $21): This medium bodied wine is composed of fruit from Sonoma Coasts’ two sub-appellations, the Petaluma Gap and Carneros. The wine offers raspberry, black cherry, and pie spice aromas/flavors with a touch of cedar, a smooth texture and good balancing acidity. With Pinot Noir, you typically get what you pay for [in my view], and this is a decent entry-level example for the monies. Click here to find this wine.

2) B Side 2010 Napa Valley Red Wine Blend (SRP $30): 2010 B-Side Red Wine Blend: This wine is composed of five different grape varieties from seven sub-appellations blended together to create a fruit forward and luscious wine with red jam and wild berry aromas with hints of cracked pepper and  sweet spice. The palate is soft and round with smooth tannins and a velvety texture ending in a fruit-driven medium length finish. Click here to find this wine.

Project Paso 2010 Paso Robles Red Wine Blend 



3) B Side 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $30): Medium bodied, easy-drinking example of Cabernet Sauvignon exhibiting black cherry, and blackberry aromas with a hint of sweet spice and a touch of mocha. Overall, a pleasing, well-balanced wine with soft tannins, a balanced acidic structure and a medium length finish. Click here to find this wine. 

4) Aquinas 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine Blend (SRP $40): A tasty Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine blended with small amounts of Merlot and Petite Sirah that’s displays a deep color with an inviting nose of brambly berry fruit, black cherry, a dusting of cocoa, and cedar. The palate is rich and round with a nice depth of flavor, supple tannins, a silky texture, and a long, smooth finish. This wine is only made when the Napa Valley fruit the producer sourced is deemed exceptional. Click here to find this wine. 

The Crusher 2011 Clarksburg Petite Sirah 



5) Project Paso 2010 Paso Robles Red Wine Blend (SRP $15): 2010 Paso Robles Red: This is a kitchen sink red blend of 22% Grenache, 17% Petite Sirah, 16% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 9% Zinfandel, 8% Tempranillo, 7% Malbec, 4% Barbera and a splash of Touriga Nacional that has a red fruit core with scents of berry jam and sweet baking spices. The palate is medium bodied and easy drinking and front loaded with a decent splash of ripe-like fruit with soft tannins, middling acidity, and a short-medium finish. In my view, this is a decent (house red) easy-drinking red for every day enjoyment that will partner well with burgers, pizza, and red sauce dishes. Click here to find this wine.

6) The Crusher 2011 Clarksburg Petite Sirah (SRP $18): Petite Sirah is anything but petite (usually) and very much capable of making big, assertive red wines that are inky (color) and chewy. Add to that, a name like “The Crusher” – and you’d think this wine was a big tanninic monster that’s not for the faint of heart. The name is actually a tribute to the process of crushing grapes and those families whose grapes were crushed to produce this wine. The wine itself is rather tame for a Petite Sirah. It displays a deep color with dark and blue fruit, a touch of vanilla, and a hint of smoked meat with noteworthy acidity. It's smooth and round on the palate ending with a medium length finish. This is a nice entry-level Petite Sirah in my opinion with lush fruit flavors that won’t break the bank and will pair nicely with grilled or smoked meats. Click here to find this wine. 

Click here to visit the Don Sebastiani & Sons website.

Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come. Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample. Thoughts are my own. Happy Sipping, my friends!


Happy Sipping from the Nation's Capitol! #DC



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12/05/2012

Wente Vineyards Holiday Wine Tasting


Hello Friends,

I was recently invited to participate in a live, virtual wine tasting with Carolyn Wente, CEO of Wente Family Estates. Wente, founded by Carl H. Wente in 1883, is located in the Livermore Valley [CA] and is the oldest continuously running family-owned and operated winery in the US. Nowadays, Wente is run by fourth and fifth generation family members. I’ve participated in a number of enjoyable tastings with fifth generation winemaker Karl D. Wente. And in just about every tasting that I can think of, Karl has mentioned his aunt Carolyn when talking about matching the right food with whichever wine we were tasting at the time. 

#WenteHoliday Tasting Line-up


Carolyn, as my friends at @CharlesComm put it, “is the driving force behind local wine country cuisine dines and drinks during the holidays.” And based on some of the appetizing dishes that Karl has described during previous tastings, I can certainly believe it. Carolyn co-authored Sharing the Vineyard Table [A Celebration of Wine and Food from the Wente Vineyards Restaurant], as well as The Casual Vineyard Table. In 1986, she opened The Wente Restaurant, which I had a chance to visit during a trip to Livermore, CA, this past summer. Our tasting, called #WenteHoliday in Twitter speak, was Carolyn’s first virtual wine tasting and she handled it like a pro. For the tasting, four Wente wines were selected for us to taste which, to no one’s surprise, were all food friendly. See my tasting notes on the wines below and click here to see the short video series from our #WenteHoliday tasting with Carolyn – you just may find a new wine pairing idea for the holidays. Cheers!

2011 Murrieta's Well The Whip


1) 2011 Murrieta's Well The Whip (SRP $21): White-wine blend from Murrieta’s Well consisting of 39% Chardonnay, 26% Semillon, 13% Gewurztraminer, 9% Orange Muscat, 7% Viognier, and 6% Sauvignon Blanc. Murrieta’s Well is a historic (circa 1883) wine property in Livermore, California that the Wente Vineyards family revived in 1990 that specializes in estate-grown blended wines. The 2011 The Whip is fruit forward and bright wine with stone fruit, floral blossom and citrus aromas/flavors with light tropical overtones and a touch of almond that extends through to the (med length) finish. The Gewurztraminer and Orange Muscat really come through in my opinion considering their percentages. While a percentage of the wine was aged in neutral barrels, it only comes through in the texture. It’s light, bright and capable of partnering up with a wide variety of foods. Click here to find this wine.

2011 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay


2) 2011 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay (SRP $12.99): Wente Vineyards was the first California winery to produce a wine labeled as Chardonnay in 1936. They also have their own [Wente] clone (circa 1950’s I think) of Chardonnay that’s planted throughout California. The 2011 Morning Fog, a new release, is one of several different styles of Chardonnay wines Wente produces. The 2011 offers vibrant tree fruit, melon, pie crust, a touch of baking spice and lightly toasted almonds with a smooth texture and good balancing acidity. This wine shouldn’t be too hard to find and makes for a nice every day Chardonnay whose acidity keeps it refreshing and food-friendly. Click here to find this wine.

2010 Double Decker Red Blend


3) 2010 Double Decker Red Blend (SRP $9.99): Double Decker is the replacement for Wente's Tamas Estates label; which in the past, has offered fun, affordable and approachable [dry] table wines. The Double Decker 2010 Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Barbera that’s fresh and fruity with [front-loaded] mixed berry and sweet plum aromas/flavors that's easy-drinking and smooth throughout. Overall, an uncomplicated, affordable, every day wine to enjoy with burgers, pizza, red sauce dishes, a big bowl of chili, or just on its own. Click here to find this wine.

2009 Wente Vineyards The Nth Degree Merlot


4) 2009 Wente Vineyards The Nth Degree Merlot (SRP $55): The Nth Degree is Wente Vineyards’ label for its limited production, handcrafted wines. They describe these wines as “ultra-farmed” (aka meticulous vineyard practices). The 09 Merlot is composed of 75% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Barbera. A mélange of black and purple fruits fill the nose with cedar accents, coffee beans, and toasty notes. The Cabernet provides some plumpness in the mouth and oomph. Not a fruit bomb, but one that flirts with elegance, yet has noticeable barrel character throughout and good balancing acidity -- ending with a touch of dark bitter cocoa in the lengthy finish. I enjoyed this wine with rosemary-crusted pork tenderloin which melted the wine’s ripe up-front tannins and paired nicely. Considering the influence Cabernet and oak maturation (to a lesser degree) have on this wine, even a hardliner like Miles may find some enjoyment in a glass. Click here to find this wine.

Click here to learn more about Wente Family Estates.

Wente Family Estates Corks (aka Memories)


Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come. Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample. Thoughts are my own. Happy Sipping, my friends!

Holiday Poinsettia Plants! #IGotMine



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