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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Forlorn Hope “Ost-Intrigen” St. Laurent, 13 California

So, I’ve had a total wine crush on the Forlorn Hope wines for MONTHS.

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Maybe it was because (at the time) in South Carolina, they were not available. Maybe it was because they were literally all I saw on Delectable for months. Maybe it was because I went to the website to tempt myself into ordering some and most (almost all) were sold out. Maybe it was because the “another rare creature” line is so. damn. alluring. Whatever it was, I had to have one of these. I would stop at nothing.

I figured I’d come across some in Portland, because Portland is, well- Portland. And has great distribution. And just my luck- I went to a tasting on 12/12 at Storyteller Wine Co and stumbled into several Forlorn Hope options. I was very torn. I wanted them all. But I settled on the St. Laurent. I know I’ll be going back for the Picpoul at some point, if its still available.

You rare little bastard, you!

You rare little bastard, you!

So, the rarity factor with these wines is what makes them impossible to resist. At least for us wine people. When I hear that someone is producing St. Laurent in Carneros, my ears perk up. Must have. Need. So, the biggest question is; when you have a faraway crush for so long, will it live up to the hype? Certainly when these crushes are in human form, they almost never do. That’s why I’ve switched to wine crushes, FYI.

Right off the bat, I am enamored of the nose on this wine. Its bright and fun and flirty. Almost like a Pinot Noir. But there’s something far more savory at work here…

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Color & density-wise, this wine seems very varietally correct. I’ve written about St. Laurent in the past and found a few that I genuinely loved. This one is a bit leaner, more chiseled than past Austrian incarnations I’ve experienced. The nose is all sour cherry, but perhaps a cross between a raw sour cherry and a sour cherry compote. Some enigmatic red floral notes are hiding in the background, as well as deeper, earthier tones of peat moss, lavender, thyme, and sage. All of this is set off by a bright streak of citrus peel. Low alcohol (11.43%) make this a very buoyant wine, on the palate. Frisky and accessible, but with enough complexity to keep you interested. It drinks with frightening ease.

Balls of meat.

Balls of meat.

I made lamb meatballs this evening, and I think the high acid in this wine and its savory elements will be quite delightful with them. I’m about to find out.

Its fun to mention that Forlorn Hope winemaker Matthew Rorick makes the *only* 100% St. Laurent in California. The grapes are sourced from the Ricci Vineyard, owned by Dale Ricci, and originally planted as something of an experiment. Whole cluster fermented with 10 months in (old) barrels. Just 24 cases were produced in the 2012 vintage; in 2013, it jumped to 237- probably the only reason I got to have any.

For what its worth, a far more creative and brilliant individual than I, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, has written much about the 2012 vintage of this wine here and here. Do yourself a favor and go check them out. Speaking of crushes… I love everything Elaine does. Spend a few hours on her site and you’ll see why.

Before I sign off, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all friends near and far! My first Christmas Eve in Oregon has been wonderful. The sun came out, and I went tasting at Adelsheim….

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It didn’t suck at all. I dropped in on the O’Donnell’s and was treated to a dozen freshly lain eggs from the farm. Now I sit in my flannel pants listening to Vince Guaraldi while my meatballs simmer.

Quite content, I am.

 

This wine was purchased at Storyteller Wine Company for $28. 

If you go see James at Morganelli’s in Columbia SC, he may have some Forlorn Hope wines available. No promises, though.

 

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!

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!