Is That A Red Wine In Your Champagne Glass?

The other night I was feeling very experimental.  I’d had a few surprises at work that all turned out really well, so I figured I’d keep testing my luck.  I admit, it was probably a mistake. 

My WSET instructor mentioned in class that Australians love red sparkling wine and that one of their favorite wine tricks to play on Americans is to hand them a glass and watch for a  reaction, since our palates aren’t really used to red sparklers—rose, sure, full-bodied red, not so much.  That should probably have been my hint to stay away from the sparkling red wines, but I was too intrigued by the idea to say no when I saw the bottle of Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz.

The grapes for Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz (vineyard, snooth) were grown in South Australia, specifically in the McLaren Vale and Padthaway.  The wine was a deep, inky purple, so it was difficult to see the bubbles, but when I looked closely, the glass was full of rapidly rising, small bubbles.  The wine had a deep, fruit stew smell that was dominated by plums.  In the mouth, the wine was surprisingly light feeling and the bubbles were ver persistent.  The pluminess on the nose was just as strong in the mouth.   The plum flavors were followed by a by a hint of menthol, which gave the wine a very medicinal taste.  All together, the wine tasted like thick Dr. Pepper, with tiny champagne-type bubbles instead of the big, soda carbonation-type bubbles.

Is this worth a glass after work?  Eh…I think that depends on whether or not sparkling red wines are your thing.  At $19, buying a bottle of Hardy’s Sparkling Shiraz was a worthwhile experiment, but it confirmed that I prefer my bubbly to be light and refreshing, not heavy and dense.  I tried judging the wine on its merits as a shiraz rather than on my bubbly taste preference, since that was the purpose of this experiment, but even doing that, I think this sparkler was just OK.  It was too stewy to be anything more than that.   

Overall: 2 corks

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! 

New Zealand For The First Time…

I know I’ve mentioned it already, but this week was the beginning of my busy season at work. Partly, things are busy because it’s “conference season,” which means people come to DC and want to meet while they’re here, and partly things are busy because people are in the process of putting together budgets for next year, which means they need input before they can finalize those plans.  Either way, this means they want to meet with me, which in turn means that I have days filled with back-to-back 30-minute meetings and lots of caffeine to make sure I’m awake in these meetings.  By the time the marathon workday is over, my brain is full, my palate is on overload, and I crave a light wine and episodes of Heros or 30 Rock.  So, yesterday after work, I opened a bottle of Kim Crawford 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and settled in to Monday’s episode of Heros  

Recently, I read about a guy who shied away from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because of his dislike for wines that tasted like asparagus (I wish I could remember where I read it—maybe Food & Wine or maybe on a blog), but as he’s gotten older, he has started to appreciate these flavors in a  wine.  The Kim Crawford 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was my first foray into the world of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and the timing of reading that article and tasting this wine, while accidental, couldn’t have been more perfect.  I was prepared for the vegetal aromas and tastes, while being open-minded about having those be pleasant dominant flavors in my Sauvignon Blanc wine. 

Kim Crawford winery is a mass-market wine, so they do a significant amount of advertising, although, as you can see from the write-up at The Good Grape, they try to take a different approach.  I think that’s interesting, and speaks to my overall experience with the wine–reliable, with a little bit of unexpected.

The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (vineyardsnooth) is made of grapes from Marlborough and had a clear, greenish-yellow color that just screamed “refreshing white wine” when I looked at it.  As I swirled the glass before smelling it, I could caught a wiff of the wine and was very excited by both the pronounced smell and what that smell offered.  On the nose, I found a strong green bell pepper and asaparagus aroma, followed by white flowers and citrus.  There were strong bell pepper and asparagus flavors when tasting the wine, as well, but the flowers did not appear in the mouth.  Instead, there was a nice blend of grass, lime, and peach.  Overall, the acidity made for a nice, crisp wine that lingered in the mouth.  

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. For $18, this wine would be great with a salad or some shrimp cocktail, as the fresh crispness of the veggies and the shellfish will accentuate those characterisitcs in the wine without overwhelming it.  I happened to have paired the wine with some salty cashews, which was a great pairing as the saltiness of the nuts added an almost creamy texture to the Sauvignon Blanc.  The guest blogger, Britt, over on The Wine Whore paired the Kim Crawford with  sushi.  The paring completely changed his impression of the wine, and “the sushi mixed with a touch of wasabi followed by the Sauvignon Blanc was unbelievable.”  With all of this in mind, if you like a fruit-forward wine, this one  isn’t for you.  However, if you’re opening to explore whites that offer a little something extra, you can’t go wrong with the Kim Crawford 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.   

Overall: 4 corks

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.