WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 5): Last Day in Livermore Valley

Las Positas Vineyard

Las Positas Vineyard

The final vineyard stop on the Livermore Valley pre-wine bloggers’ conference excursion was to Las Positas Vineyard. The gracious hosts not only had space for us to taste their wine, but also the wines from several other wineries in the area. There were also several booths from local businesses. Our schedule up until this point had been crammed full and a little rushed (although I wouldn’t have wanted to cut anything off the schedule!), so it was nice to have a little bit of time to relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – At $68, this California red wine is very non-intrusive. It has medium body, a mix of fruit and spice characteristics, and is definitely meant for food. Rating: 3 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2012 Las Positas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (winery)
Price $68
Dark ruby color
Plums, cherries, and a hint of spice on the nose
Plums, cherries, tobacco, and hints of clove in the mouth
Medium body and tannins, high acid
I know this wine won the Double Gold at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Silver at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but I was really underwhelmed, particularly at such a high price point.
3 Corks

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company – At $48, this California red wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful. Just give it a little time to breath and the wine will be one to spend an entire evening getting to know. Rating 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company

2013 Heine Petite Sirah by Vasco Urbano Wine Company (winery)
Price: $48
Grapes: 100% Petit Sirah
Cases produced: 100
Dark inky purple
Blueberry, blackberry, and boysenberry syrup on the nose
Add chocolate to that in the mouth
Big, grippy tannins, full body, and good acid
This wine is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful once it has a little time to breath. There is a lot going on, but its so well balanced that it’s the type of wine I want to spend an entire evening getting to know.
4.5 Corks

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah – At $38, this California red wine is one that is a food-friendly wine that you should feel comfortable ordering at a restaurant or grabbing in the store. Nothing crazy different, but solidly enjoyable. Rating 3.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah

2013 Dante Robere Estate Syrah (winery)
Price: $38
Grapes: 100% syrah
Cases produced: 115
Medium-to-dark ruby color
Blackberries, smoke, and cedar on the nose
Blackberries, dark plums, smoke, cedar and baking spices in the mouth.
Medium-to-full body, tannins, and acid.
3.5 Corks

And with that, my final thoughts on Livermore Valley…

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

Collin Cranor, the winemaker for Vasco Urbano Wine Comapny and Nottingham Cellars

WOW! There is no doubt, I’ve fallen in love with wine from the area. Admittedly, my favorites were Murrieta’s Well, which I reviewed here, and Vasco Urbano Wine Company, which we didn’t visit, although we tasted their wines at a variety of stops throughout the Livermore Valley trip (my thoughts on their wines are here). Vasco Urbano specializes in Rhone styles (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, and the delicious blends that can be made from those grapes), so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed their wines as those tend to be the grapes I gravitate towards. That said, their winemaker, Collin Cranor, does amazing things with grapes, as I also really enjoyed the wines we tasted from Nottingham Cellars—Vasco Urbano’s sister winery. Nottingham Cellars wines are all Bordeaux-style red blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

All that said, if you aren’t drinking wine from the Livermore Valley, you should be. Whether it’s the larger producers or the smaller producers, the wines are mostly reasonably priced and they are ridiculously good.

Question of the day: When you pick wine for yourself, would you go for the Rhone styles or the Bordeaux styles?

A Friday Night of Cookies, Pizza, and a Montes Syrah

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

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah – At $20, this big, bold, and beautiful red wine from Chile is a great choice for unwinding on a Friday night. Enjoy it on its own or drink it with a dinner of lamb chops, BBQ ribs, or even a juicy burger. Either way, you won’t be sorry you opened it. Ratings 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah

On the left is the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough and on the right is the regular dough.

On the left is the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough and on the right is the regular dough.

Friday, February 5 was the last day I had to prepare for Hubby’s birthday, so there were a number of things I needed to accomplish but, considering it was a workday, the time I had to do everything was very limited.  Friday started with a conference call and a couple of meetings downtown, after which, instead of heading to lunch, I ran to Harris Teeter to get a few last minute supplies to make homemade birthday ice cream sandwiches.

After the store, I went home to make cookie dough — regular chocolate chip for Hubby and gluten-free dough for me.  Since the cookies were really just the vehicle to eat the ice cream, I decided to use the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with a few minor tweaks.  I halved the whole thing because Hubby and I didn’t need 10 dozen cookies, then doubled the vanilla and halved the butter.  For my cookies, I used my batch of Minimalist Baker’s gluten-free flour blend (without xanthan gum) instead of all-purpose flour.  Amazingly, whipping together the cookie dough and getting everything chilling didn’t take much time.  And, as soon as I was done, I headed back to work for my afternoon of marathon meetings on Capitol Hill.

Hubby's homemade birthday ice cream sandwich

Hubby’s homemade birthday ice cream sandwich

Once my meetings finished and the workday was over, I walked home, told Hubby what I was up to, opened my wine, and popped the cookies in the oven.  I made a few extra, this way we could both taste a couple on Friday night, but the goal was really to get the cookies baked and let them cool so I could make the ice cream sandwiches first thing Saturday morning.

The 2012 Montes Alpha Syrah (winery, snooth) was from the Colchagua region of Chile and was a blend of 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Viognier grapes.  The wine had a dark purple color with a bright ruby rim and big, drippy legs.  On the nose, there were blackberries and black currants mixed with tobacco and a hint of vanilla and black pepper.  In the mouth, there were blackberries, blueberries, and mocha mixed with hints of vanilla, black pepper, and baking spices.  The wine was full-bodied with good acidity and velvety tannins.

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah – At $20, this big, bold, and beautiful red wine from Chile is a great choice for unwinding on a Friday night. Enjoy it on its own or drink it with a dinner of lamb chops, BBQ ribs, or even a juicy burger. Either way, you won’t be sorry you opened it. Ratings 4 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah

Is this worth a glass after work?  Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. A t a $20 SRP, this wine is a great choice for a Friday night when you’re more likely to have a couple of glasses.  It was beautiful on its own while I was waiting for the cookies to bake, went nicely with the homemade white, gluten-free pizza Hubby and I had for dinner, and was amazing with the chocolate chip cookie.  The only problem with this wine was that it goes down very easily, so before I knew it, the bottle was almost empty.

Question of the Day: Do you generally have the same thing for dinner on Friday nights (like beer & pizza night) or do you generally mix things up every week?

Suggested Retail Price: $20
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

A Syrah for Olive Lovers

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah -- This is a wine for the olive lover! At $35, it's a bit pricey, but perfect for a romantic night in front of a crackling fire or paired with good conversation and a delicious cheese and charcuterie board. Rating = 4 out of 5 corks | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah

Happy New Year! I’m clearly a bit behind in blogging, and while I’ve decided to mostly start fresh in 2016 because I know I’ll never truly catch up, there are a couple wines and beers I don’t want to miss sharing with you, so please excuse my hanging onto the holidays for a little longer.

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah corkOn Christmas Eve, Hubby and I ended up staying home. The long story made very short is I’ve had some health issues (I will be fine!), so the doctor has put me on a very strict, short term diet (it’s the low-FODMAP elimination diet, although I suspect that I will always look to eat low-FODMAP foods going forward). Thankful, I’m still allowed one glass of wine or beer a day. However, because of these restrictions, we thought it was better to stay in and cook rather than risk my getting sick from eating something accidentally that is on the “avoid” list. With the weather being an unusual 70-degrees in DC, Hubby decided to grill burgers–so he modified his special recipe for me, bought our favorite soft applewood smoked cheddar, and roasted rosemary potatoes while I opened up a bottle of wine I’d been eager to try.

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah

The 2013 Piedrasassi Syrah (winery) is from Central Coast, California. The wine had a deep inky purple color. On the nose, there were blackberries mixed with earth and hints of black pepper, cinnamon, and leather. In the mouth, there was olive tapenade mixed with blackberries, leather, and hints of cinnamon and black pepper. The wine had a full body, medium tannins, and medium acid.

Is this worth a glass after work? At $35, it is a bit pricey for an everyday wine, but you should definitely open a bottle if you’re a fan of olive tapenade. I, unfortunately, am not. This was one of those rare times where I recognized the great quality of the wine, but I just couldn’t drink it. I dislike olives, in general, and while I occasionally will eat olive tapenade, I do it very sparingly. This wine was all about the olives, which was too much for me.

So, recognizing that this wine wasn’t my style, I still think it was worth searching out. It’s small production, with only 480 cases available, and it offers something very different that makes it worth the price point…if olives are your thing. It’s the type of wine that would be great on a cold night in front of a crackling fire or with a cheese and Charcuterie board and good conversation.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had a wine that you recognize was good quality, but just really disliked it yourself? Did you end up drinking it anyway or did you dump it out? Have you tired any of the Piedrassassi wines?

Price: $35
Purchased at DCanter: A Wine Boutique
Overall: 4 Corks

What are you waiting for…it’s Open That Bottle Night!

Most of the wines I open for an everyday drinking are $20 or less.  However, since the move, I’ve found myself opening wines that I’ve been holding onto for unknown reasons.  I think packing everything up and seeing some of the great wines that I was holding onto for an unknown reasons left me wanting to just open and enjoy them all just for the sheer joy of enjoying fantastic wine.  Four out of the five wines I’ve reviewed since the big move have cost more than $30.  The most expensive one was an $80 bottle that I had been saving for almost five years.

Let’s be honest with each other, though…not only do I not normally open an $80 Malbec on a random Sunday night while I was baking cookies…neither do you.  But, there is something liberating and fun about throwing caution to the wind and opening that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a yet-to-be-determined “special event.”  And, that is why Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher started Open That Bottle Night.

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) takes place on the last Saturday in February, and it’s all about opening a bottle of wine that is special.  It could be a bottle that you bought on a  special vacation or it may be the most expensive bottle you’ve ever purchased.  Regardless, it’s that wine that stares at you every time you look at your wine rack and leaves you thinking “is today the perfect day?”

For me, I’m ending my crazy run of opening expensive, non-everyday wines on OTBN (and before I drink all of the special bottles I own).  I’m also participating in a blog hop with several other fantastic wine bloggers that I met last summer at the Wine Bloggers Conference (special thanks to Anne at Odd Ball Grape for organizing!).  With that in mind, it seemed only appropriate to open a wonderful wine that I bought in Santa Ynez, California at Bridlewood Estate Winery on the last day of the conference.

2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Syrah

2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Reserve Syrah

The 2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Reserve Syrah (winery, snooth) is from Santa Ynez, California and is made with 100% Syrah grapes.  The wine was a deep clear purple with a bright ruby rim.  On the nose, there were black cherries, black licorice, and nutmeg mixed with the slightest hint of violets, black pepper, and earthiness.  In the mouth, there were black cherries, black licorice, dark chocolate, and hints of espresso, leather, and violets.  The wine had a full-body, good acidity, and strong tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $50 a bottle, this wine is not cheap, but it’s worth the extra price if you’re looking for a wine that is a little extra special.  It’s what I look for in a big, bold red wine.  It has a nice complexity that makes it enjoyable to drink on its own, but also is wine that pairs nicely food, particularly with Hubby’s pork chops.

Question of the Day:  Did you participate in Open That Bottle Night?  If so, what did you indulge in?

Price: $50
Purchased at Bridlewood Estate Winery
Overall: 5 Corks

Christmas Eve Wine Indulgences

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

Wow…it’s been a month since I’ve blogged, and boy have I missed it.  It’s a sign of how busy the holiday season was for me.  Or, really, it’s a sign of how busy the last quarter of  2012 was, as I’m very far behind in my blogging.  It’s a new year, though, and while I’ll definitely try to go back and post what I missed writing about in 2012, I also want to get 2013 off to the right start.  So, let’ get started…

Hubby had to work Christmas Eve, but I was fortunate enough to have the day off.  I was hit with some last minute present inspiration, so I braved the fray of other last minute shoppers and spent the day buying and wrapping my late acquisitions.  As the last present was tucked into place under the tree, Hubby walked in the door and our holiday was underway.

Several years ago, Hubby and I started going to one of our favorite locally-owned restaurants—Ray’s the Steaks—for Christmas Eve.  This year, one of our favorite couples joined us in our traditional Christmas Eve feast.  We ordered a bottle of Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge before deciding on our dinners, and the night was off to a fabulous start.  We indulged in sherried crab bisque; filets topped with Ray’s secret spicy Diablo sauce and blue cheese crumbles; New York strips seared with cracked black peppercorns in a port wine-peppercorn cream; and enough garlic mashed potatoes and homemade macaroni and cheese to satisfy even the biggest of carb fiends.  The four of us ate, drank, and were merry, celebrating both Christmas Eve and our friend’s new job, and I think we all rolled out of the restaurant feeling full of good food, wonderful friendship, and festive cheer.

2010 Trivento Syrah

2010 Trivento Syrah

By the time Hubby and I got home, we were ready to open our one Christmas Eve present (another one of our Christmas Eve traditions—opening a new pair of pajamas), relax for a little, and head to bed in time for Santa’s visit.  Of course, some wine was needed while presents were opened, so Hubby turned on the Christmas music while I opened a bottle of red that I thought would be a nice follow-up to the earlier wine and food orgy.

The 2010 Trivento Reserve Syrah (winery) was from Mendoza, Argentina and had a deep ruby color with hints of bright purple.  On the nose, there were plums, nutmeg, and hints of dark chocolate dust.  In the mouth, there were plums and black pepper with hints of nutmeg, chocolate, and cedar.  The wine had medium tannins, medium body, and medium alcohol.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At an SRP of $8, this wine has an amazing quality price ratio.  It’s smooth and enjoyable, has nice balance, and is very food-friendly.  Admittedly, it tasted a bit young, so I think it could probably age in the bottle for another year or two.  But, at this price, you could grab two bottles—one to enjoy now and one to open next year.  It looks, though, like it might be a little hard to come by, so if you see this gem of a wine, grab it and don’t look back!

Question of the Day: What’s are your Christmas Eve traditions—celebrate with family or friends, dine in or go out, travel to exotic places or stay put?  Give us the scoop, as I love hearing about other people’s holiday traditions.   

Suggested Retail Price: $8
Received as a sample.
Overall: 3.5 Corks