New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Take 2

When I reviewed the 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which was my indoctrination into the world of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Courtney and Mark mentioned that I should try the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (here is Mark’s review on Wine Life 365). While it’s taken me a couple of months to follow-up on the suggestion, I’m glad I did…and I found the perfect day to try it, too.

Tuesday was one of those days those typical DC summer days—hot and humid—and, for the first time in what feels like weeks, it didn’t rain. After a day of playing the “hurry up and wait” game at work and dealing with the hassles of the Metro commute after Monday’s tragedy, when I walked in the door of our condo, I could hardly wait to open a cold, white wine. Thankfully, the Oyster Bay SB was chilled, so I poured a glass, put my feet up, and spent some time decompressing with Hubby and watching some trashy TV. It was the Oyster Bay SB was the well-suited for a quiet, relaxing evening.

The 2008 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth) was a clear, light-to-medium lemon color and had slow forming legs. On the nose, the wine had nice, classic New Zealand SB aromas—green bell peppers and green apples—followed by some pineapple and a touch of fresh cut grass. In the mouth, the green peppers were the most pronounced, but blended nicely with the granny smith apple and pineapple flavors. There were also very light gooseberry and grass flavors. The wine was had a crisp acidity that was well balanced with the alcohol and body, which made for a refreshing and enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $12, this wine is surprisingly good. It drinks very well on its own, but if you’re looking for food to go with it, I think that it would pair well with a salad, chicken stir-fry, or, ironically, oysters. Also, while it still has the classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bell pepper flavors, it offers more fruity and less vegetal characteristics than the Kim Crawford does. And, for the money-conscious, it was also less expensive.

Overall: 4 Corks

Did I Just Drink Bourbon or Chardonnay?

My office generally has 3 interns a semester and, usually, they’re very willing to help in any way they can, regardless of whether or not the project is exciting. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I regaled my friends with stories of outrageous intern behavior—the intern who would sit at his desk in his wife-beater instead of his suit, the interns who were caught smoking pot during lunch and subsequently dismissed, and the intern who would put his head on his desk after lunch to take a 30-minute nap every day—but those types of interns tend to be the exceptions, not the rule. Our 2009 summer interns are memorable in a different way. Last Thursday was a busy day, as big projects must be completed by June 26th or wait until after the July 4th holiday. There are several projects, one of which is mine, that have been fast-tracked to be finished before the break, and I found out about this last Thursday. Last Thursday also happened to be the annual staff appreciation ice cream social for the three office buildings where I work. So, while others went out to get bowls full of ice cream on a ridiculously hot day, several of us were stuck at our desks in the bull pen. Our amazing interns, though, brought ice cream back to the office for those of us who were missing the social, and they brought back enough for us to have flavor options! That, combined with the significant progress I made on my work project, left me feeling like Thursday was an auspicious day.

Since I was so lucky, I thought it was the perfect day to try the 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay (winery, snooth) from the Russian River Valley. Generally, I’m not a Clos Du Bois fan, even though I feel like I should like the wine, but this wine was given to me by a friend so, I was hoping that the luck from the rest of my day would continue into the evening. Plus, with The Wine Spectator describing the wine as “elegant, refined and focused,” I thought this might be the wine to change my mind about Clos Du Bois.

The 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire is 100% Chardonnay grapes and was aged in French oak. The French oak made the wine lighter and less complex than the oaky 2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay, but gave it more body than the unoaked 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis. The wine was a medium yellow with slow forming legs. On the nose, I initially found green apple, lemon, ginger, and a light toasty-oakiness. The more the wine breathed, though, the more it developed boozy aromas that overpowered the fruit scents. In the mouth, I found green apple, lime, and ginger, which had perfumey undertones that became more pronounced and overpowering as the wine breathed.

Is this worth a glass after work? This is a hard question to answer because on Night 1 the wine was just “eh”, but by Night 2, it was almost undrinkable. Some Internet searching shows the average price to be around $24. At that price, it’s not worth dirtying a perfectly clean wine glass. When drinking the wine on its own didn’t work, I tried to pair it with pan-seared shrimp in chipotle sauce from Cooking for Two: 2009, The Year’s Best Recipes Cut Down to Size. Unfortunately, that didn’t make the wine any better. The best I can say for the 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire is that it tasted more like drinking a watered down Bourbon than it did like drinking a Chardonnay, but that was just not working for me.

Overall: 1.5 Corks

Spain, On My Mind

Writing Monday’s post for the Catavino Wine Education Scholarship to attend the Wine Academy of Spain’s 3-day Spanish wine course in DC left me thinking about the Spanish wines in my wine rack—a white Rioja and a red Rioja. Unfortunately, things have still been a bit busy at work and I’m still coming down from the test craziness, so Hubby and I aren’t getting as many home-cooked, sit-down dinners as we would like, but we’re trying. All of that combined with the humidity hitting the DC area with full force and the white Rioja—a 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja—was calling to me as I put together dinner the other night.

The 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja (vineyard, snooth) was made with 100% Viura grapes. The wine had a light gold color with legs. On the nose, all of the aromas were fairly light, but I found grapefruit, green apple, and floral scents, with the smallest hint of peaches. In the mouth, the wine was more flavorful than the aromas let on. I found white blossoms, grapefruit, lime, and apple mixed with some mineraliness. The wine was light bodied and neutral tasting with a medium acidity, so it was pleasant and refreshing without being overpowering.

Is this 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 $9, a bottle of the 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja provides a good quality-price-ratio. The wine won’t knock your socks off, but if you’re looking to save a little money without sacrificing quality, this is definitely a wine worth considering. The Rioja is a nice sipping wine while sitting around outside on a hot summer day, as well as a good wine to have with food. I paired the wine with Chicken Curry, and while both the food and the wine were good, they didn’t go well together. However, because of the high acidity and neutral flavors, if you paired the 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja with seared scallops, grilled fish, or shrimp cocktail, I think you’ll have a nice match.

Overall: 3 corks

Should This Be My Secret Wine?

I know I skipped TTT&T yesterday (sorry!), but my brain was fried. I had my WSET Advanced test on Monday night, so I spent all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday studying. By the time Tuesday rolled around, my head felt like mush and I was exhausted. Unfortunately, it was also a fairly busy day at work, so I couldn’t sit at my desk trying to lay low and recover, but rather had a lot of reading, several meetings, and some e-mails all hanging over me. When I finally walked into the condo last night, Hubby looked up at me and just laughed, asking “What happened?” Clearly, I was a pitiful sight. He immediately suggested that we go out for dinner, which I greedily accepted. You would think that after dinner and with all the wine studying that I wanted anything but another glass of wine. However, I couldn’t help myself. I was craving something refreshing and light, almost like a palette cleanser to wash away the memories of studying like a madwoman.

The 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis (vineyard, snooth) was exactly what I needed. The Chablis is 100% Chardonnay grapes and is unoaked, so there is a light, fresh feel to the wine. It had a clear, medium lemon color and immediately visible legs. On the nose, there were medium-intensity aromas that spoke to the wine’s youthfulness—limes and lemons mixed with stones. There was also just the slightest hint of white peaches. In the mouth, the lemony-lime flavors dominated, followed by the pleasant stony-mineraliness. The wine had a crisp acidity that was balanced with the alcohol, and there was surprisingly long finish.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $26, the 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis offers classic Chablis refreshment without the high prices. Honestly, I think the wine is a steal and am a little concerned about sharing it because I would hate to drive up the price. It’s a wine that drinks well on its own, but probably could pair well with food—think traditional white wine foods like seafood and chicken, maybe even some goat cheese.

Overall: 4

Wanting To Learn More About Spanish Wine (& Win The Catavino Scholarship)

Two and half years ago, Hubby and I were married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  As part of the planning process, I participated on The Knot’s Destination Weddings message board hoping to find some creative ideas and learn about other people’s experiences with destination weddings.  When I first started posting on the DW board, I had no idea that I would meet an amazing group of women from all of the world.  The wedding is long over, but I still keep in touch with more than 40 of those women—most through email, some as a group on e-mail threads, some on a private discussion board, some through Facebook and Twitter, and some on The Nest.  Amazingly enough, I’ve even met most of these women.  With only a handful living in the DC area, the fact that we’ve met is a testament to how close the group has become over the last 4 years.

These ladies have been very supportive as I started my wine education. Next to Hubby, they were the first to know that I was taking the WSET certification courses.  When I started my blog, they were my first readers—one friend actually offered to send me her favorite wine from a local Kentucky winery because I can’t find it Virginia, but she wants to know my opinion.  Because these ladies and I are so close, once I saw the Catavino Spanish Wine Education Scholarship competition, which would cover tuition expenses to attend the Wine Academy of Spain’s 3-day Spanish Wine Education course in DC, I started sending out e-mails and posting on messages boards to ask my girlfriends why they thought I would want to learn about Spanish Wine.  I explained what they already knew—that I’m loving learning about wine, that my thirst for wine knowledge has become insatiable, and that the idea of an immersion course in one country’s production sounds like fun, but I also admitted that writing a post with these reasons for wanting a scholarship seemed unoriginal, trite, and unexciting. 

I was stunned at the responses.  Instead of crazy ideas for blog posts, most of the women said that they had little-to-no experience with Spanish wine and that they didn’t associate Spain with winemaking.

Courtney (in Canada) said, “I was going to say that I am not a fan of Spanish wines, so I’d skip.”

Carmen (in DC-Metro area) said, “I def don’t recall having any Spanish wines that were very memorable….when I think of wine, CA and France originally come to mind.

Emily (in Maryland) verbalized what I was discovering, “that there’s so much attention given to French wines that places like Spain get skipped right over.”

Although Marcie offered a bright spot by boosting my ego a little when she said, “Girl…you and your wines make my mouth water!”

After some personal reflection on my own experiences with Spanish wine, while fairly limited, they have been positive.  However, I’m certainly not as comfortable with Spanish wine as I am with French, Californian, or Virginian wines.  Part of that is probably because the WSET advanced certificate book covers Spanish still wines in 9 pages, while French still wines are covered in 40 pages.  Part of that is also because until taking the WSET course, I’m not sure that I ever had a Spanish wine.

The fact that my girlfriends (and I) had such little exposure to Spanish wine makes me think that they’re probably not the only ones who read “A Glass After Work” who that are missing out on Spanish wines.  It’s natural to gravitate towards our comfort zone.  Since starting my blog, I’ve tried to push past the wine regions I’m familiar with and explore wines from all over the world, and I’ve discovered a couple of exciting and enjoyable Spanish wines available at very reasonable prices—some of which I’ve already reviewed.  Ultimately, though, my Spanish wine knowledge is still fairly introductory.  I would love to know more so I can find the Spanish wine “gems” and be a better resource for my readers.  As my friend Amanda said when I asked for ideas, Me, I know NOTHING about Spanish wines, and seriously probably would never try one without some direction/education.  I like the idea that you want to learn so you can pass on knowledge to the rest of us.”  And, what better way for me to gain that knowledge than to learn from the best and earn the “Spanish Wine Educators” and “Certificate on Andalusia and its Wines” through the Spanish Wine Education Program.