WBW: “And just like the ocean under the moon, well, that’s the same emotion that I get from you…”

*** I received this wine as a sample***

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just received my first wine sample. I was nervous about reviewing my first sample because I didn’t want to have to post something negative coming right out of the gate, but at the same time, I wanted to be honest in my thoughts. The moment I smelled the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles (vineyard, snooth), I knew that I not only had nothing to fear, but also that this would be a great wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday (#58).

This month’s WBW, which is hosted over at Gonzo Gastronomy, is about how music can influence the wine drinking experience. As a music lover who has played the piano since she was 5 years old and the saxophone since middle school, music has always been a part of my life. I played both instruments throughout college and graduate school, and still have a piano in my home, even though Hubby and I live in less than 800 sq ft. These days, my iPod is chock-full of everything from Rachmaninoff to Lady Gaga. That’s part of what made this WBW both exciting and daunting. In the end, I found myself with an enjoyable wine on a sing-along treasure hunt in my iTunes library.

Before I could start tasting the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles with music, though, I wanted to set a baseline. So, I read the materials that accompanied the wine and tasted it without any music. The background information explained that Dave Powell, founder of Torbreck Wines, was inspired by a glass of Beaujolais he had while at Tim Johnston’s Juveniles Wine Bar in Paris. Powell left wanting to make a Beaujolais-esque wine at Torbreck, but since Gamay grapes are not easily available in the Barossa Valley, he opted for a blend of 60% Grenache grapes, 20% Syrah grapes, and 20% Mataro grapes.

The wine was a medium purplish ruby with very noticeable legs. On the nose, there were luscious, ripe red fruits—strawberries and raspberries—followed by a hint of cinnamon. In the mouth, the first taste had the hotness I’ve come to expected from Australian red wines. After the initial surprise of hotness, juicy red fruits—strawberries, raspberries, and cherries—emerged, followed by a touch of white pepper and cinnamon. The wine had lower tannins and acid, which makes it nice and light, and it was definitely reminiscent of a Beaujolais.

I actually drank this wine on two different nights, and the second night tasted very different. With a little more time, the Cuvée Juveniles was more jammy than juicy, and the raspberries were more prominent than the strawberries. On the second night, the wine actually reminded me more of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape than a Beaujolais. Readers who have been with me since the beginning know my love for C-d-P, so even though I really enjoyed the wine on the first night, the second night with the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles was nearer to my heart.

Once I had tasted the wine on its own and with dinner, I started trying to find different songs to listen to while drinking the wine. Darker finds, like Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats, and sultry songs, like Chris Issak’s Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, dominated because the wine seemed to fit so naturally with these more moody musical choices. I could listen to them and just sink deeper and deeper into the flavors of the wine and the music.

Then I made the mistake of organizing my list by year. Before I knew it, I found finding myself detouring through the 80’s hair band section singing to Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, and Poison’s Fallen Angel. Of course, a look at the hair bands also meant some quality time bopping with Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Stacy Q’s Two of Hearts, as well as with boy bands Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up and New Kids on the Block. I listened to far too many NKTOB songs, both from back in the day and from this year. Admittedly, though, while fun, none of the songs made the wine speak, or vice versa. G. Love & Special Sauce’s Baby’s Got Sauce got me back on track, as the song mixed with the strengths of the wine—hot and a bit spicy, which helps bring out a little bit of attitude.

While most of the evening was bits and pieces of songs, the following 5 songs are the ones that I really sat and listened to while trying to experience both the wine and the music together. In order of level of success (from least successful to most successful), here was my evening of music and wine:

Shaggy
Ok, I don’t know what wine would go with Shaggy—I actually tried several of his songs (Mr. Boombastic, It Wasn’t Me, That Girl, Angel)—and I just couldn’t get the wine and the music to meld in my mind. I enjoyed the wine and the music individually, but I felt I was experiencing each one its own and that the two were entirely disconnected from each other.

Smetana— Má Vlast: Die Moldau
Má Vlast is a symphony made of 6 pieces about Bohemia.
Die Moldau is one of these movements and is about the Moldau River and its growth from two small springs into a single river as the water travels through woods, meadows, and farmland of the Bohemian country side, over rocks, past the castles, and finally swirls and widens as it reaches Prague before vanishing into the Elbe River.

What I found most interesting during this listening experience was that Die Moldau followed my experiences with the wine. The melody started off light and flowing, while hinting at the dramatic, which is how the Cuvée Juveniles tasted. The fruit forwardness matched the playfulness of the melody, but the spicy, richer flavors in the wine’s finish match the fuller, serious tones of the music as both continued unfold.

Meat Loaf—Paradise by the Dashboard Light
I was surprised how my attitude towards the wine changed with this song. I actually put this song on because I saw it in my playlist and it reminded me of 8th grade dances where the boys stood on one side of the gym singing the boy’s part and the girls stood on the other singing the girl’s part. The song is fairly bee-bop with a honky-tonk piano, some drums, and a guitar—typical Meat Loaf. The wine translated from the serious brooding music I’d been listening to, to the zippy, flirtatious feel really well.

Ani DiFranco—Not A Pretty Girl
The wine fit nicely with the dark and stormy mood of DiFranco’s aggressive guitar.
Both the music and the wine really allowed for relaxation combined with a little bit of contemplation. The music isn’t sexy, so it doesn’t emphasizes that part of the wine, but the emotions of the song match the wine without either being too intense or too depressing.

Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)—Smooth
When I tasted the Cuvée Juveniles, it screamed of a sexiness, so I immediately thought of pairing the wine with Santana. I actually started with this song and backtracked from there because this wine just tasted like the warm, sensuous atmosphere I associate with Santana’s music. Both the wine and the music make you want to light some candles, close your eyes, and breathe deeply before bringing out your best Latin moves and sinking into a steamy evening.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At the suggested retail price of $25, you will have a good, versatile bottle of wine. The 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles is a good summer red, and I drank it with a grilled chicken marinated in a red wine and herbs, as well as with pepperoni and sausage pizza. Both pairings were good, although, all you really need to enjoy this wine is a bottle of it, a glass to drink it out of, and some Santana to complete the atmosphere.

Overall: 4 corks

***Special thanks to Katie for hosting a great WBW!***


Come On Oregon, Light My Fire

Between Hubby’s classes two nights a week, my class one night a week, and both of us working long-ish hours, we’re lucky if we sit down to dinner before 8pm and even luckier if we sit down together.  Since we eat so late, our weekday dinners tend to be fairly simple—marinated chicken/fish/steak made on the George Forman grill, some starch or veggie, and a glass or two of wine (for me, since Hubby doesn’t drink).  Clearly, this means there isn’t a lot of variety in the food, but that also means that I like some diversity and personality in my wine.  Oregon’s R.Stuart & Co. 2007 Big Fire Pinot Noir looked like it could a wine to provide the variety I needed.

The Big Fire Pinot Noir (vineyard, snooth) comes with a screw top, although, unfortunately, mine was stripped.  I’m sure watching me figure out how to open the bottle was very amusing.  Let’s just say that I was becoming increasingly aggressive with the poultry scissors.  Finally, though, I was able to get the top off, and my efforts were rewarded with my first sip.

The wine was a medium-to-light ruby that resembled the color and intensity of cranberry juice.  On the nose, there were red fruits—mostly cranberry and plums, with a hint of strawberry—followed by a surprising, although not unpleasant, amount of spicy white pepper.  In the mouth, the spiciness was stronger than the fruit flavors, although the types flavors all matched the types aromas.  The wine could have used more body, as it felt little watery in my mouth, but, in general, the low tannins provided a nice counter to the spiciness, giving the wine enough flavor to be enjoyable. 

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine.  At $22 a bottle, the 2007 Big Fire Pinot Noir is a good wine to pick up and drink now, particularly as I don’t think it will benefit from any aging.  The wine would work well with a casual weekday meal like grilled chicken breast or a pizza, depending on if it’s an eat-in or order-out night. 

Overall: 3

 

Move Over Manischewitz, There Are New Kosher Wines In Town (WBW #56)

Between the mention of kosher and the mention of Passover, you may ready to click the “x” on your computer screen to close the window, but don’t! I have some wine reviews that may surprise you…they definitely surprised me. As I mentioned in my post last week, The Cork Dork picked fine kosher wines for the Wine Blogging Wednesday topic. Since I liked the idea of finding good wines for this year’s holiday, I decided to taste “Kosher for Passover” wines—four, to be exact.


  • 2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Mevushal)
  • 2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bartenura Prosecco (Mevushal)
  • 2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon

For those new to kosher wines, it’s worth a quick look at what it means for a wine to be kosher, as there are two methods and the wines I tasted are a sampling of both. The first method for making kosher wine dictates how the wine is handled—throughout the entire wine making process, the materials can be handled only by an observant, orthodox Jew. The other method dictates how the wine is prepared—it must go through boiling or flash pasteurization. This method is necessary for strict kosher laws and the result is mevushal wine. Mevushal wine can be handled by anyone. With either method, in order for a wine to be “kosher for Passover,” it not only must be made using one of these two processes, but also must not come into contact with chametz (bread, grains, or leavened products). Once made, a rabbi must certify that the wine has been prepared in accordance with Jewish law (one of these two methods).

Now, onto the wines…


2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Mevushal)

When I saw that there was a kosher Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is among my favorite wines, I could barely contain my excitement. It’s also probably no surprise that it was the first wine I opened, both with the purpose of having a glass and making charoset—a traditional Passover dish made with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and, of course, wine.

The 2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape was a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Clairette grapes and was a mevushal wine. It had a nice, deep ruby color. Unfortunately, the great color did not match the rest of the wine. I was hit in the face with pungent medicinal strawberry and blueberry aromas, a smell that I did not enjoy. In the mouth, I was overwhelmed by a sour cherry flavor, which was followed by a hint of leather and a long finish of cherry cough syrup. For as little as I enjoyed the smell, I thought the taste was far worse.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? No…it’s not worth dirtying a perfectly clean wine glass.At almost $33, this wine is only a small step up from drinking Manischewitz and significantly more expensive.

Overall:
½ cork


Needless to say, this first wine made me a bit apprehensive about the remaining three wines.

2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon

As I couldn’t use the Domaine Saint Benoit for my charoset, I opened bottle number 2—the 2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth). This Israeli wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and is not a mevushal wine.

The Bazelet HaGolan had a deep ruby color, with hints of garnet showing on the rim. The black fruit, particularly blackberry, aromas were delicious and were followed with a touch of toastiness. In the mouth, the black fruit flavors were intense and balanced with a hint of vanilla and olives, and nice tannins.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Definitely!  Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for a kosher wine, if you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. For $27, you might actually want to grab two bottles—one to enjoy now and one to let age a little, since I think this wine has some good development potential.

Overall:
4 corks


Bartenura Prosecco (Mevushal)

Several days into the holiday, I opened my one kosher sparkling wine—a Bartenura Prosecco. This mevushal Italian sparkler had a clear, gold color with large bubbles, although there weren’t a lot of them. On the nose, a pleasant medium-to-light yeasty smell was followed by a hint of fresh oranges. In the mouth, the Prosecco was more fizzy than bubbly. This sparkler was high in acid, which was exaggerated by the lime and grapefruit tastes. It’s a fairly simple tasting sparkling wine, but well-balanced and refreshing.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine. For $14.50, this wine could be a good choice to accompany any tomato sauce-based dish. On its own, it was just ok, the type of wine that I would recommend if you were looking for a kosher sparkler. However, when paired with the high acidity of my matzo lasagna, the wine showed its true, vibrant colors. It was an enjoyable pairing that increased my opinion of the wine.

Overall:
3 corks


2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon

As Passover is coming to the end, I opened my last bottle of kosher wine last night—the 2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon. This California Cabernet is not a mevushal wine. Appearance wise, it had a medium-to-light purplish-ruby color. My bottle was slightly reduced, so the sulfur smells were unpleasant and overpowering. Behind the sulfur, I had a hint of black cherry. I tried decanting the wine, which helped a little, but not enough to make the wine anything other than just passable. In the mouth, there were stronger black cherry flavors, which were accompanied by spice, tobacco, and cedar.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Eh…if you have a bottle on hand, drink it, but if not, I wouldn’t go searching it out. The wine is only $14, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive kosher wine and your choices are limited, this probably could work. However, if you can afford the upgrade, it’s worth paying a little extra for a wine like the Bazelet HaGolan.

Overall:
2 corks


**Special thanks to The Cork Dork for hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday! Clearly, there are some enjoyable fine kosher wines out there for Jews and non-Jews alike.

A Predictable, Yet Playful Nymph

The medium-ruby colored Tranquility is a blend of Mouvedre, Syrah, & Grenache grapes, so it was no surprise that there was a spicy, white pepper smell on the nose.  Behind the pepper smell, there was grape and raspberry.  As far as taste, the wine felt a little light in the mouth, particularly because the spiciness was even stronger on the palate.  As the spiciness gave way, a nice raspberry jam and hint of cherry flavor emerged.  The wine has a long finish that focuses the fruit flavors, although there is a touch of cough syrup right at the end.  Some people might enjoy that, although I could have done without it.  The balance of the spiciness and fruitiness might be a little off, but overall the wine was good. 

It turns out that Flying Nymph is a second label for Cass Vineyards and Winery, and after having tasted the second label wine for the vineyard, I’m excited about trying one of their first label wines.  What’s interesting about the 2005 Tranquility is that when I tried to do a little research about it on the Internet, very little showed up.  Most of what I found, though, linked to three restaurants in the DC-Metro area that have it on their wine list.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…For $20, you know what you’re going to get when you open the bottle—a spicy wine with a long finish.  The medicinal taste at the end means that it’s probably done aging, so if you see a bottle, grab it now and drink it.

Overall: 3 corks

Dark Moods and Dark Wines

This week is moving week in my office, which is quite depressing really.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my current space is wonderful.  The new space has a gorgeous conference room and about half the office, including my boss, will definitely have an upgrade in everyday workspace.  I, on the other hand, will be moving with the other half of the office to what has nicknamed “the bullpen.”  15 of us will be put in one room, and while I’ll have a small 5 ft wall to enclose my little space, there are only three of us fortunate enough to be even semi-closed off.  That leaves everyone else sitting desk to desk in a big open space, with 20 ft ceilings.  I can only imagine how loud it’s going to be, not to mention how much I’ll miss my balcony.

As you can imagine, preparing for the move has made for a long, busy, and tiring week, which obviously called for a deep, brooding wine.  The 2006 Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (vineyard; snooth) proved to be the perfect match for my mood.

This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and its intense ruby color is very inviting.  The nose on this Cabernet was very pronounced—dominated by dark plums and vanilla, with a slight hint of anise.  As soon as you taste this wine, you’ll feel the high tannins pull at your gums, and when mixed with the spicy, ripe blackberry and black cherry flavors, it’s very enjoyable.  The flavors are very lively and can even lift the spirits of someone who is mourning her impending loss of wonderful space and hating every moment of packing up her files and books.

Is this worth A Glass After Work? Definitely. For $20, the 2006 Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon has a nice, long finish that makes it easy to really savor the delicious smell and taste.  It’s perfect for drinking alone while putting your feet up at the end of the day and sinking your teeth into a good book.  If you’re going to eat it with food, I recommend something that is equally strong in flavor—roasted beef and lamb would both pair nicely—this way the vibrant flavor of the wine doesn’t overpower the food.

Overall: 4 Corks