Wine Awesomeness “Women in Wine” Month: a tale of two reds

Oye! It’s almost November. How did that happen?! I bring to you today a tale of two reds that hail from the bros over at Wine Awesomeness. Errr… well, in the spirit of disclosure, I write for these fellas at their site The Back Label, and have for years. So while I’m not their employee, I do have a vested interest in talking to you about these wines. Mostly because I’m quite fond of these dudes, and also because every time a blue box from WA shows up at my door, I am surprised and delighted at the quality of wine they’ve been able to pull together. More on that later.

The cat clearly enjoys blue box day, too.

The cat clearly enjoys blue box day, too.

First! A little information on the Women in Wine month that I helped (a little) put together for October. I’ve been jacked up on the idea of a Women in Wine theme for quite a while. Like probably over a year. I consider myself a feminist in most regards, although that word is a bit out of fashion. I studied feminist theory a little in school, and it interested me because taking a historical look at the “strings” that connect the way women are have been perceived, treated, marginalized and boxed in over the course of history is eye-opening. Things that you might not think of: the idea of “the male gaze” and things being visually geared towards a (straight) man. Once someone points that out to you, you can’t not see it everywhere. And then there are obvious little annoyances like gender pay inequality that still baffle me and make me declare myself a feminist.

I would like those chicken & waffles delivered, please.

I would like those chicken & waffles delivered, please.

All that aside, when I first chatted with Hayes over at WA about this theme, what we agreed on is this: Women in Wine really shouldn’t be a thing. Yes, women can and do make wine. What makes anyone think they can’t or don’t? Why do we need to point this out? If someone did a “Men in Wine” month it would encounter many a puzzled look.

But therein lies the point, in a way. Women in Wine is something cool to showcase. Still. Will women always be the other? And with that, we end the soapbox portion of this entry. If you like hearing me on a soapbox, check out my piece on gendered wine descriptions.

So! Now we get to the real reason you clicked on this: the wine! Lets talk about a two of the reds that came in the Women in Wine shipment…

Three Rivers Winery “River’s Red”, 2012 Washington, Columbia Valley

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When you live in Oregon and are surrounded by amazing Oregon wine, you can become entrenched in the Oregon wine bubble. That’s why its so refreshing to visit a wine like this, from our neighbor to the North. This is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Lemberger (no shit!) The Sangio lends a bright red berry component to this wine, but the nice hints of dark chocolate are all Merlot. The Lemberger (aka Blaufrankisch) threw me for a loop, but I have seen drops of it trickle down here to Oregon, so I know its out there. Winemaker Holly Turner is from McMinnville- holla! All in all, a solid little bottle perfect for weeknight consumption with just about everything. Like a weeks worth of The Daily Show episodes.

Pellegrini “Susan’s Vineyard” Zinfandel, 12 California, Russian River Valley

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Confession: I’m not typically a huge fan of Zinfandel in this price range. Give me a $50 bottle of Turley and I’ll be Zin’s biggest fan. But a lot of times I find them a one-note symphony of over the top jam/berry pie/cooked fruit/pepper/etc. and I’m just not captivated.

But this little guy? Delicious! Again, maybe I’ve been in the Oregon bubble too long, but I’m all about this big California nose right now. True to its nature, this wine is full of boysenberry, raspberry, black cherry and vanilla on the nose. The palate is where you see this wine’s self-discipline: a vein of acid carries the big fruit along, accentuating with spicy notes of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Its just a touch more polished than it has to be. I love Zins with a burger or braised short ribs, and with winter almost here, the latter sounds pretty gd great.

Another fun thing for you to check out in Women in Wine month: a wonderful article about Leah Jorgensen and her brilliant Loiregon wines (these are a favorite discovery of mine since I’ve been out here). Don’t miss that one.

For real though, and no one is paying me to say this, I take my hat off to the WA team. They kill it with the wine selections and with the creative themes. Its easy to dismiss the idea of these web-based wine clubs. I’m sure there are plenty out there that just try to grab closeouts, off-vintages, bankrupt wineries, whatever- and they throw the wines out there for a high markup. That’s never been the case here, and it really shows. They seek out interesting wines and try like hell every month to make you see what’s cool about them. I have fun with it, and I’m someone who’s worked with wine for almost a decade. Yeesh, I’m old. And on that note, it’s almost 8:00pm, which means my eyes are about to give out.

Side notes: a.) no, no one paid me to write this or suggested I write this. I wanted to, and b.) these wines are received as “samples”? I guess. Whatever.

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Qupé Marsanne, 2013 Santa Barbara

It’s ANOTHER “Summer’s Swan Song” post on this balmy Friday! We had a bit of an Indian Summer here in Oregon and it was actually really lovely. Well, maybe not so lovely for the fruit-pickers that are currently working their @ss’s off all over the Valley, but for me? Divine. It made me want to eat all the Summer produce one last time. Tomatoes, watermelon, squash- all of it! So I’m somewhat glad I saved this bottle of Marsanne from Qupé until now. It’s perfect for a Summer Friday afternoon.

Kyoo-PAY. It means "poppy".

Kyoo-PAY. It means “poppy”.

Founder and winemaker Bob Lindquist is an original “Rhone Ranger”; he started Qupé in 1982 making Syrah, Chardonnay and dry Rosé in California’s Central Coast. He subsequently teamed up with Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clenenden and the two built a shared facility in 1989. The rest is, as they say, history. Both Au Bon Climat and Qupé have great reputations, and I’m currently being reminded of how badly I need to get to this part of California. I’ll go ahead and add it to my list… which is pretty long. Le sigh.

This wine is made from 75% Marsanne and 25% Roussanne. These two French varieties are bros from way back. Most commonly found in the Northern Rhone, they play off each other beautifully; Marsanne produces wines of great color and depth and are intensely perfumed. Roussanne is a bit stingier, more of a bastard to grow, and usually packs a solid punch of acid, making them great agers. Both these fellas enjoy the Coastal California vibe, basking in the afternoon ocean breezes and morning fog, which helps them maintain their acidity.

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Both grapes for this wine are whole cluster pressed. The Marsanne, which comes from roughly 28-year old vines on the Ibarra-Young Vineyard, is chilled in tank for 48 hours before it goes to neutral French oak barrels. The Roussane, interestingly, heads straight to barrel with the lees after an evening chilling. (Literally). Bob prefers the use of once filled Francois Freres barrels previously used for Chardonnay with the Roussanne. I love these little facts. The Roussanne comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area for all grapes Rhone.

Now! We gotta talk about what this wine tastes like before I get too much wordier. Its a dark golden strawish color and the nose is a nice combination of slightly tropical with ripe stone fruit. Nectarine, apricot, a touch of pineapple. Once it warms up a bit, you can detect its oak content a bit- hints of baking spice and creamy lemon. You might think it was a flab-fest, but the finish really clenches with pleasant acid and even a drying sensation which leads me to think this wine will age nicely. There’s something that reminds me of menthol lingering in there as well. The texture is viscous and slightly oily, but in a luscious way. Oily is a strange word to use to describe wine, and its connotation would seem negative, but its not intended as such. Its one of those descriptors that makes perfect sense once you identify it.

This is the first California wine I’ve written about in Lord only knows how long! Its been fun. I sometimes forget California exists. Not really. But almost. Hope you enjoyed this little trip to Cali and are as ready for Fall as the rest of America seems to be.

This wine was received as a sample. Its suggested retail cost is $20.

Sunday Funday: “The G Spot” White Blend

Time for some Sunday Funday reading! And drinking. And maybe a pun here and there about G-spots. Are you feeling okay about all this? Good. Let’s go!

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The Dirty Pure Project “The G Spot” White, 2012 Lodi

Meet The Dirty Pure Project! They make some cool wines, to which I have only recently been introduced. It seems like the oldest trick in the book, to make a wine and give it a vaguely sexual name so that people will buy it. But get this! This wine is really tasty. A blend of mostly Vermentino and a touch of Roussanne from the Lodi region of California. I ought to preface this by saying Lodi has not *traditionally* been my all-time fave place for white wine. The area has boatloads of sunshine that are mediated by cooling effects from the SF Bay and the Pacific, and make it well-suited for mostly red varietals. However, this wine boasts such a pleasant burst of acidity that it’s easy to see that this “cool breeze” that supposedly comes from a gap in the Coastal range is not just a myth.

Moving on! Have you had Vermentino before? If so, perhaps not from California. A mostly Mediterranean grape, there are some truly tasty renditions in Italy and Southern France. Some crazy wahoos in other parts of California (ahem, Matthiasson) are also playing around with the grape, among other Italian varietals. But this one is sort of in a world of it’s own.

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So this little guy, as I mentioned, sports some lovely acidic balance. The slightly punchy kind that you’ll sometimes find in a California Chard. It’s somewhat sneaky, as it’s hidden in a nice richly textured package such as this. But fear not, unlike actual G-Spots, this little bright pop of acid is quite easy to find! *ding ding ding! one point for me* But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to the initial aromas, which are pretty enticing: tangerines, ripe pears, honeydew melon, fresh flowers and wafts of perfume. The finish is a little pop of orange peel and spice. There’s also some earthiness that is hard to pinpoint, but definitely present. Peetmoss? Dunno.

It paired pretty nicely with THIS:

SEASON TWO.

SEASON. TWO. BINGE.

I may not be willing to admit exactly how many episodes of Orange is the New Black I watched today… but, I mean, it did RAIN, so it’s not THAT sinful. Also I did take a break and go to the gym. So there. Are we not entitled to a good old-fashioned binge watch now and then? I think so.

So this is a short n’ sweet Sunday Funday post, so I’m gonna leave it there, and just recommend you stop in and sample this one. It’s fun and different. It’s by-the-glass at Cellar and also will be present at this Saturday (June 14th’s) wine sale from 12-2. Retail cost? $16! 

Plus, it’s also time for Game of Thrones. Priorities, people.

I’ve never played around with polls, so here’s one! I think it’s kinda fun… Please play!

This Week’s Whites to Watch Out For!

It finally feels like we better strap in and enjoy the ride folks- Summer is almost here! Spring was sort of a temptress this year, no? Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. And the last few days have been downright Summery. Complete with a forecast full of rain and… no accumulation. So what better time than to preview a few fun exciting new whites?

mmm.. WHITES

mmm.. WHITES

 

Folk Machine Tocai Friulano, 13 California, Mendocino. Retail $15. 

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OKAY OKAY- so THIS one is hands-down one of the coolest whites I’ve had this year! For a lot of reasons, some nerdier than others. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first I must regale you with details about how delicious this stuff is! If you’re after a flowery-citrus-bomb that’ll leave you feeling like you licked a grapefruit peel, this one might not be your jam. Because it is a study in understated, if you will. It’s an effortless little wine, made from a cool grape that you don’t see a lot of in California, and dollar for dollar, it absolutely owns some of it’s closest “competitors”, style-wise. Yes, I’m speaking of the “New California” category. But anyway, let us first get back to the wine itself: this wine has an irresistible freshness straight out of the bottle. I hesitate to call it “petillant”, but there’s definitely a touch of fizz on this wine when you first crack it. It’s a lean and fresh palate that you’ll find when you sip this guy. Slightly saline with green hints. Think an underripe pear, green grapes straight outta the fridge, lime pit, and fresh herbs. The nose is not terribly forthcoming, but that’s just kinda how it rolls. It hits the thirst-quenching note quite precisely, and the finish is dry and a bit chalky. This wine is like Vinho Verde’s slightly more evolved cousin, in my opinion. Meant to be taken just a bit more seriously than your average poolside-crusher, but still falls into the everyday category. Would be genius with a fresh tomato salad with plenty of herbage and some tangy goat cheese. This wine was written up by The New California Wine author Jon Bonne in SFGate. Check it out!

 

Anne Amie “Cuvee A” Muller-Thurgau, 2012 Oregon, Willamette. Retail $16.

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So if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’ve written about this wine before. But… it’s just SO. DURN. GOOD. And this is a new vintage! I can’t resist a revisit. Especially since I have been to Oregon and Anne Amie Vineyards since the last time I wrote about this wine, so my appreciation has only deepened. I’ll skip the part where I explain to you what Muller-Thurgau is in great detail; suffice to say, it’s a grape you should be drinking. It originated in Germany but has found a happy home in Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley. And you can call it MULL-er, or MEW-ler, depending on your mood. I go with MULL-er because I find the alternative awkward. I may be remiss in that, but I am okay with the consequences. I have heard pros say it both ways. So there.

It goes without saying that this wine has been delicious and consistent every year that I’ve tasted it, and this one is no exception. It’s aromas are downright intoxicating. Sweet honeydew melon, honeysuckle, peaches and fresh spring flowers. The palate offers a touch of tartness (green apple, lime) and minerality. But it finishes up with an oh-so-silky mouthfeel that will make you squeeeeee. I can’t think of a more perfect wine for Pad Thai (yeah, probably even the kind you can get at Food Lion), a Spicy Tuna Roll &/or a Shrimp Summer Roll with sweet thai chile sauce! (I gotta pause and drool now….) LOVE. IT. You need it in your mouth.

 

Vina Tobia Blanco, 12 Spain, Rioja. Retail $14. 

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Yet another funsie! I love a good, zippy Spanish white. If you’ve been in an Albarino phase, let this one be your next fling! It is a blend of 50% Viura, 20% Verdejo, 10% Malvasia, 10% Tempranillo Blanco and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Note: there will be a quiz. You may or may not be familiar with many of those, but Verdejo and Viura are fairly common in the world of Spanish whites and you may have had them before. An energetic and vibrant white, it has a rounder texture than an Albarino typically does, but all the lovely bright citrus flavors you probably love. You’ll also find some exciting hints of pineapple, passionfruit and and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is fresh and clean, but with the aforementioned touch of texture and “waxiness”. Kind of an odd word, but it will make more sense once you try it.

…And try it you will! Or can, at least, at TOMORROW’S Wine Sale! All these babies will be open for the tasting from 12-2. I picked three off-beat wines today for a reason- my new catch phrase at the wine sales is going to be “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” Cause I love y’all mean it, but sometimes I feel as though I sell the same wines to the same people every week. We gotta shake it up! Try new stuff! That’s what we’re here for.

Come visit tomorrow, have a great, wine-filled weekend, and thanks for reading! 

 

 

Beast of the Week- Orin Swift Abstract, 2012

It’s cold out, y’all.  What does that mean?  It’s time for a beast of a red wine!  Stop looking, because you’ve just found it.  After all, who does beast better than Orin Swift?  Maybe a few.  But not with the same kind of finesse.  So, I write to you today from under a fleece blanket, wearing a hoodie, having refused to turn on the heat last night.  House is a balmy 66 degrees.  It’s mornings like today’s that cause conversations like this to take place:

hash tag- bed tweet.

hash tag- bed tweet.

So now that I’ve managed to get out of bed without the assistance of a wifi-enabled thermostat that also makes coffee (speaking of which- I would marry this gadget if it existed), we can talk about this gigantic beast of a wine!  Yep, it’s early, but it’s okay.  You need this wine in your life to get through these first painful days of “winter”.  Been itching to build that first fire of the year?  Plan on it, plan on a bottle of this to go with it, and you’ll be a happy camper.  This wine is good for sipping on it’s own after dinner- not that it wouldn’t be good with food, but it’s rich palate makes it great as a stand-alone.

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Look at that!  A way cool label.  Something Orin Swift Wines also excels at.  The last vintage of the Abstact was an all-black label, with raised, textured pictures on it.  Also pretty cool, but this one is a little more eye-catching.  So the 2012 is a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah of undisclosed percentages.  The fruit was sourced from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Amador and El Dorado.  The nose has a nice California Grenache-y wildness- some high notes of herbs, red raspberry and a hint of fresh flowers.  Give the glass a swirl, however, and be prepared for vanilla, vanilla, vanilla- and some intense blackberry liqueur, black cherry, dark chocolate and black licorice.  Sage, pepper and a touch of clove are hiding in there, too.  I should also mention that this wine is a whopping 15.7% alcohol- heat is definitely a trademark of Orin Swift wines, but the booze is carried here gracefully and without awkwardness.  Like this:

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She’s in a chariot, in case you can’t tell.  I searched long and hard for a better image, but no luck.  AND in case you don’t know who this is- ONLY one of the greatest, most deliciously vile female characters ever written- Atia of the Julii.  Love. Her.  

This wine greets you with flashy, dark fruit and leaves you with a brooding spice content and a bit of tannin.  That’s always what I’ve liked about the Abstract, in particular- it’s pensive and dark and a little closed.  The Prisoner is eager to meet you and smiles a toothy grin; the Abstract stares you down for a few minutes before agreeing to shake your hand.  Once it does, it is generous, hangs on firmly, and does not disappoint.  I consider this wine to be a steal at $28 retail.  It is for sale at Cellar on Greene as we speak, so I suggest hopping to it before it’s too late!  Orin Swift wines are almost always scantily available, and once November and December roll around, even more so.  Happy drinking!

 

 

Vaughn Duffy Rose, 12 Sonoma

So this is a new thing for me, and I feel like a bit of a celebrity.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this wine was received as a sample from one of my Twitter followers, @wineclubguy, aka Mark Aseltine.  Turns out, upon inspection, that he is a co-founder of Uncorked Ventures, a site that in addition to having several convenient wine club options, offers pretty neat lookin’ wine gift baskets.

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#goesgreatwith… Sriracha?

So this is a Rose of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Syrah from Sonoma County.  I’m fairly certain that @wineclubguy saw one of my many tweets about my love for Rose, and that was how this sample bottle ended up in my life.  Did a little research, and I’m pretty impressed with some of the buzz about this wine.  Evidently not a lot of it makes it out of California (not too surprising given that it’s just 600 cases made). Sarah Vaughn and Matt Duffy were named  on a list of Seven Winemakers to Watch in 2012 by the Insider’s Guide to San Francisco in 2012.  Their 2010 Rose of Pinot was listed as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2011.  There are also some impressive scores for several of their Pinot Noirs- here is where I got this info- worth checking out.  Could they be the next members of the “new school” of California winemakers?  Matthiasson, Lioco, Arnot-Roberts?  Perhaps.

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So a bit more about the wine, as I’m trying to keep this post short n’ sweet; it’s a pretty delicious little quaff, and price-wise ($17 is looking like average retail), it is very decent for a small-production, boutique-y Cali Rose.  I would pay it.  It has a bright nose of freshly grated orange peel, wild strawberry, watermelon and tropical fruit.  Nice acid is combined with a juicy mouthfeel, and a nice thirst quenching, easy-going palate.  They describe it on their website as a porch sipper, and it’s pretty darn hard to argue with that.  Who doesn’t need a porch-sipper?  Or in my case, a couch-sipper?  A Monday night watching Jurassic Park-sipper?  (this movie is fantastic by the way.  don’t even argue with me.)

Truth be told, I’m pretty impressed with the quality of this wine, and I can only assume it is representative of the wines available through Uncorked Ventures (note- this wine was included in their “Explorations” wine club shipment). Since I am super-spoiled and hardly ever have to purchase wine in a retail capacity, I’d say my trust-factor isn’t terribly high on internet wine purchases.  But this might have earned my trust, and in my opinion that’s about 75% of the battle.  Kudos, fellas.

I don’t think I’ll be making the switch to big-time-online-wine-reviewer anytime soon, but this was a fun departure from my norm.

NoCo Pinot Noir, 2010 California, Chalone

“One of these things is not like the others…”

“one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

“…can you tell me which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song?”

Doesn’t everyone remember that song from Sesame Street?  As a child of the 80’s, I often find myself spontaneously remembering songs from Sesame Street and parroting them out at random times.  (exhibit B: “one!  two!…. AH-AH-AH!!”)  The only KEY to this time is that this wine definitely DOES BELONG!  But it’s not like the others!  And by others, I mean so many other California Pinot Noirs out there in the market.  And for this, I applaud it.  And love it.

So the NoCo label is owned by two hella’ cool dudes that also own LIOCO wines.  I’ve written about their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (remains gorgeous with every vintage) and their microscopically produced (and alas- not to be made again) Pinot Blanc in past posts.  Without going in to too much detail, they focus on site-specific, non-interventionalist winemaking- AKA, they like to let the grapes be themselves and reflect from whence they come, rather than trying to make them into something else.  You could also call that terroir, if you wanted to be fancy.

Back to my point; here’s why I like this wine, in a nutshell: it’s unique AND delicious!  It’s bright, radiant and really pops more than most Cali Pinots I taste in an average week, or month.  It is sort of a palate/mind-expander.  This is crucial, in my opinion, if you’re gonna be a wine nerd.  You have to periodically taste things that stretch and expand your palate’s ability to recognize flavors.  I believe there’s some science behind that, actually.  Remember how when you were a kid you hated beets? (or insert some other food you hated as a kid).  And then one day you tried them when you were in your 20’s and you realized they were delicious?  It’s because your taste buds mature, and become more responsive to different tastes as you get older.  Same is true of wine.  When you first start drinking reds, you might find too much tannin to be, literally, offensive to your taste buds.  But just keep drinkin’, folks.  As your buds get used to tannins, they won’t offend as much.  Then you’ll start to like them.  Of course, it’s always possible that you just don’t like some things, and never will- but the important thing is to keep trying!  Plus, it’s fun.

But let’s move back to the wine itself.  It has a very bright, tangy and pronounced palate of pomegranate, redcurrant, sour cherry, black tea, five spice, rhubarb, orange peel, and a touch of flintiness and cherry pits.  Finishes with a push of minerality, a bit of soft fruit, girly flowers, and a pleasant ZING of acid- it’s low in alcohol at just 13.5%.  It’s a truly fantastic representation of the Chalone AVA- which is a unique little spot.  High in elevation, with soil rich with limestone and granite, the grapey grapes come of age in low humidity and intense bouts of unfiltered sunlight.  This really comes across in this wine, because there is a definitive quality of purity and unrestrained clarity in this juice.  I would even go so far as to say this wine is verging on the precipice of genius, and at the forefront of what it means to make wine and appreciate wine.  Feel free to disagree with me; but I gave that a lot of thought and I stand by it.

This juice is currently by the glass at Cellar, or you can stop in and buy a bottle to take home for $21.  I also heard Noah over at Sam’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Lexington is holding onto some, if you’re from that side of town.  Oh, and this wine also got 89 Points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar!  Woop woop!  Get you some!

Oh and go Gamecocks.  or whatever.  I’m over it.