Raising The Flag For This Flagship Wine

After two weeks in the bullpen, life is calming down a little.  The room is loud, like people on the other end of the phone ask me if I’m paying attention because there is so much noise in the background type of loud.  However, I have my own little space, so no one is looking over my shoulder at the computer screen, and I have a window behind me with a view of a tree that has beautiful pink flowers, so I can enjoy Spring (although without my beloved balcony).  I admit that with yesterday’s warm weather, I spent a lot of time longingly looking at those pink flowers. 

I think it was the feeling that spring had finally arrived that made me remember there was a bottle of Chrysalis Vineyard’s 2006 Viognier in the refrigerator.  Since I walked in the door before Hubby, I opened the bottle, poured a glass, sliced a chunk from the block of NY Sharp Cheddar in the fridge, grabbed my latest issue of Food & Wine, and settled-in at the little bistro table in our sunroom.  The windows were all open, so there was a nice breeze, and the afternoon sun was beating down on me.  It was perfect!

Chrysalis Vineyard is about an hour outside of DC and sits on the Loudoun and Fauquier County line in Middleburg, VA.  The website calls the Viognier Chrysalis’ “flagship” wine, and after tasting it, I’m not surprised.  The wine has a clear, medium gold color, and in a characteristic Viognier style, the strong fruity aromas rise temptingly out of the glass.  Immediately, I smelled stone fruits—peach and apricot—followed by a slightly less intense honeydew and pineapple.  There was also the smallest hint of lime and of flowers.

Upon first tasting the wine, I was struck by how the fruitiness faded in the mouth and there were only hints of the stone fruits that I found on the nose.  The tartness from the lime was surprisingly strong, although not unpleasant, and the perfume from the flowers disappeared completely.  I thought it was fresh and enjoyable, just crisper and more dominated by citrus flavors than I was expecting.

After a few more tastes and some note writing, I took a bite of my cheddar, opened my magazine, and settled in to read and sip away.  All I can say is WOW!  The sharp cheddar brought out such amazing flavors in the wine that I was surprised it was the same pour.  Suddenly, my mouth was full of white blossoms and ripe peaches.  The tart, citrusy wine from a few sips ago turned into an aromatic, full-bodied mouthful.  A smile spread across my face as I went in for another nibble of cheese and another sip of wine. 

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  At $30 a bottle, and a few more dollars for a nice sharp cheddar cheese, your money will be well spent.  Admittedly, on its own, the Chrysalis Viognier isn’t out of the ordinary, although still decent and reliable, but with the right food pairing, the wine catapulted to a glass that I just couldn’t put down.  Plus, any glass of wine that pairs well with cheese is a wine worth having in the house.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

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.

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Sparkling wine is often seen as a purely celebratory drink, but why do you need something special to happen in order to open up some bubbly?  Sure, you might want to keep your $150 bottle of Dom Perignon for a nicer occasion, but there are some wonderful, everyday sparklers that won’t break your wallet and are worth exploring.  Granted, not everyone agrees with me. but they don’t know what they’re missing! 

There is something contagiously happy about having the bubbles dance in your mouth, which is why sparkling wine is my go-to choice both when I’ve had a rough day at work and need a pick-me-up, as well as when I’ve had one of those days where everything went right and want to have my own personal celebration.  The Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (snooth) is the perfect choice for either of these reasons.  This Italian sparkler has a clear, lemony-yellow color.  The bubbles are large, persistent, and inviting.  In the photo, you can see how clear the wine is, as that’s my countertop that you can be seen through the liquid.  You can also get a feeling for how fast the bubbles race to the top by the streaking lines inside the glass.

The Canella Prosecco has a clean smell that hints of yeast and dough.  These aromas are followed by strong, refreshing fruit smells—mostly lime, apple, and pear.  When tasting the wine, the crisp bubbles pop off the tongue.  The sparkler has a high acidity, which complements the lime and green apple flavors that fill the mouth.  Those two strong fruit flavors are followed closely with hints of grapefruit.    

Monday nights are hectic in my household, as I head to my wine class right after work.  Sometimes I can grab a quick bite of dinner beforehand, but most of the time, I don’t eat until 10pm while standing in my kitchen.  Admittedly, this past Monday night after class, I drank a glass (ok, maybe two) of this Prosecco while I was eating an American cheese sandwich.  It was a surprisingly good pairing.  The salt and creaminess of the cheese was complimented by the acidity, fruitiness, and bubbles in the wine.

Is this worth a glass after work?  It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  For $16, the Canella Prosecco di Conegliano is a crisp, refreshing sparkling wine that is enjoyable on its own or with food.  If you’re looking to eat something other than cheese (or a cheese sandwich) while drinking a glass of the Canella Prosecco, you can’t go wrong with a some seafood–maybe a pan-fried flounder or a shrimp scampi.  Either way, you should consider popping a cork, pouring a glass, and settling in for a delightful treat.

Overall: 4.5 corks

Four Bottles of Wine for Passover…Let the Holiday Week Begin!

When I got home from work yesterday, I had a package waiting for me…four bottles of kosher wine for Passover! The timing is perfect because Passover starts tonight, and wine is a big part of the Jewish holiday as not only are four glasses consumed as part of the sedar, but also wine is used to prepare one of my favorite Passover foods—charoset (chopped apples, ground walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and wine).

Historically, kosher wines have a bad reputation, but there has been significant discussion about how it has improved, moving past the days of the Concord-grape based Manischewitz. While I don’t keep kosher year round, and admittedly have passed over kosher wines in the past out of fear of drinking the nasty, sweet stuff of my childhood, finding a decent, fine kosher wine would be perfect for occasions such as the upcoming holiday.

So, what better time to explore the world of kosher wine than during Passover? At least, that’s what I asked myself when purchasing my four bottles of wine from KosherWine.com. The wines I final decided to try are:

  • Bartenura Prosecco ($14.56)—An Italian sparkling wine
  • 2005 Domaine Saint Benoit Laureline Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($32.72)—A French Southern Rhone Blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, and Clairette
  • 2006 Bazelet haGolan Cabernet Sauvignon ($27)—An Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)—A Central Coast California Cabernet Sauvignon

To add to the fun, the latest Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced over on The Corkdork, which means on the last day of Passover (Wednesday, April 15th), a number of wine bloggers, including yours truly, will be posting kosher wine reviews. So, check back to read about how my wine selections turned out.

In the meantime, chag sameach!  Happy Passover!

My Rating System

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been trying out a rating system at the end of each post.  As the point of this blog isn’t just to taste and rate wines, but to find excellent everyday wines, it seems most appropriate to ask whether the wine I’m reviewing “is worth a glass after work.”  So, I’ve started asking that question of every bottle I open.  I’m trying to give a quick summary that includes the price I paid for the wine.  I may include food pairings, as well as any last minute thoughts.  Finally, each post will end with an “overall” rating of 1-5 corks—1 cork being the lowest and 5 corks being the highest.  

Generally speaking, this is what the ratings will look like:
Is this worth a glass after work?
No…it’s not worth dirtying a perfectly clean wine glass. (0-1.5 Corks)
Eh…if you have a bottle on hand, drink it, but I wouldn’t go searching it out either. (2-2.5 Corks)
Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine. (3 Corks)
Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. (3.5-4 Corks)
It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? (4.5-5 Corks)

If you have any questions about the system or suggestions on how to improve it, just let me know!