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!***


Attention Whore: Christmas in June!


I admit it, this is simply one of those posts where I’m dancing around my little office space saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” I feel like I’ve arrived as a wine blogger, and only 3 ½ months after my first post. Yesterday was a very exciting day for A Glass After Work because (drum roll please) I received my first wine sample! The concierge in my condo building had to be laughing at me because I was positively giddy when I went to pick up my package. It was like having Santa Claus deliver presents in the middle of the year.

I’m flattered that Dan Friedman asked me to review the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles (vineyard,snooth). Thank you, Dan, for the wine, and thank you, readers, for joining me and reading! Don’t forget to check back next week for my review of this Australian wine.


Samples? Samples? Who Accepts the Samples?

Accepting samples and how to handle samples once they’re received is a somewhat controversial topic in the wine-blogging world, and a post on LennDevours started the latest round of discussions.  In the past, the discussions were more “information gathering” for me, but this time, I have enough background to respond.  As I commented on Lenn’s blog, I want to share my thoughts with you.

As someone with a wine blog that is only a little over two months old, it’s not surprising that I haven’t been approached about accepting samples; however, I’ve given the matter a significant amount of thought.  When setting things up here on “A Glass After Work,” I researched the policies of wine blogs I respect and followed the on-again-off-again debate. 

Outside of the wine/wine-blogging arena, I asked friends and other bloggers who read my blog how they would view my credibility if I reviewed samples.  It led to some interesting discussions, and in some cases, I learned how bloggers in other areas (books, cooking, fitness, make-up, etc.) handle the question.  Interestingly, everyone accepted and reviewed samples, and no one felt they would disregard a review of mine simply because I received the wine as a sample.

Obviously, throughout this process, I figured out how I would handle the situation if it came up.  However, I decided not to post my policy because it made me feel like I was begging for free wine, figuring that I would explain it through e-mail if I was ever contacted. After reading this recent round of blog/Twitter posts and comments on those posts, particularly ones from a few brave wineries and PR folks who entered the conversation, I realized that posting my policy will make this easier for everyone—me, my readers, and potential PR/marketing/winery folks.  So, here it is:

I will happily accept samples that you want to send.  Once the samples arrive, I will let you know and will review the wine in a timely manner.  Be aware, though, that I will include my own pictures of the wine, I will review it honestly, and I will include whether I think the wine is a good fit for having “A Glass After Work.”  Once the review is posted, I will be sure to notify you.  As long as you’re comfortable with my style and this arrangement, please e-mail me for my mailing contact information.

With all that said, do I want ALL of my posts to be about samples? No, as that would take away some of the creativity and exploration that goes into my picking wines to begin with, but I think samples would add an interesting dynamic.  I hope as my readers that you agree!