All You Need is a Little Patience…

I admit that before taking my wine class, I’d only had a few Zinfandels, and this unfamiliarity caused me to shy away from them.  I had no idea what I was missing.  As winter comes to a close, and with it my desire to drink heavy red wines, I decided to do some last minute exploring of California’s Zinfandels.  I chose California, as the majority of Zins come from this area of the US.  I opened the first of these recent Zin purchases last week—a 2006 Paso Creek.

The deep color of the 2006 Paso Creek Zinfandel was very inviting.  When smelling the wine, I found hints of black pepper, semi-sweet chocolate, and a heavy fruit smell that I couldn’t quite place.  The smell was very pleasant. 

As for tasting the wine, the first night didn’t live up to the expectations I had from the smell.  The taste seemed very muddled and chewy.  Itreminded me of a fruit stew. 

On the second night, after the wine had time to breathe, the stewy taste transformed into spicy, warm fruit pie flavors that were enjoyable.  The wine still felt thick in my mouth, but with the change in flavors, it was very pleasant.  Finally, as you can see from the label, the wine is high in alcohol.  

Is this worth a glass after work?  Definitely. For $17, the wine offers something a little different from your usual, everyday red wine, but the difference is still a pleasant, enjoyable flavor, as long as you have the patience to either decanter it or let it breathe for a little.  Paso Creek’s website describes the wine as “a big, full-bodied, frank, and forthright wine that somehow manages to retain a touch of its wild side,” and I think that is a fitting description.  I drank the wine with a grilled steak marinated in Worcestershire sauce, and this was a wonderful pairing.  You could also eat it with other any bold flavor food,though, especially something like lamb or dark chocolate.

Overall: 3 1/2 corks

2005 Red Bicyclette Merlot

While it doesn’t happen often, I occasionally am attracted to a bottle purely because of its label.  A couple of weeks ago, my mind must have been particularly “fun label” focused because I actually grabbed two wines because of their label (hanging my head in shame).  With the 2005 Red Bicyclette Merlot, Hubby actually cracked a joke saying that he could have picked it out and he hasn’t taken my wine classes.  Still, there is something to be said for marketing.  The bottle looks fun and fresh, so it grabbed my attention…the big question was whether the taste would hold up.

Even knowing that it’s a mass produced wine, I was hopeful, but the first night of drinking the 2005 Red Bicyclette Merlot was somewhat disappointing.  By the second night, the wine had definitely improved, but I still didn’t love it.

The RB Merlot is 100% Merlot grapes and has a nice, deep ruby color.  The wine has a strong plum aroma with hints of vanilla.  When you sip it, the wine feels a little thick in your mouth, which when combined with the blackberry and cherry flavors, creates a very fruity, “jammy” taste. 

Is this worth a glass after work? Eh…if you have a bottle on hand, drink it, but I wouldn’t go searching it out either.  Even at $9 a bottle, you can find more enjoyable Merlots.  It shouldn’t be hard to find a bottle, though, if you want to taste it.  If that’s the case, definitely let the wine breathe before drinking it.  You can probably pair it with something like meatloaf or stew.

Overall: 2 corks 

Celebrate Spring with the 2006 Governor’s White!

Spring has definitely arrived—it’s the busy season at work, as at a lot of people are coming into town for meetings to set the year’s agenda and make special requests.  This means a lot of talking, a lot of memo writing, and a lot of negotiating.   It’s a fun time, but it’s also so demanding that I come home from work physically and mentally exhausted.  This doesn’t bode well for poor Hubby who craves “real” food after a few weeks because we basically live off of take-out during these few hectic months (yes, he could cook, but he doesn’t, so take-out it is).  This year, though, it gives me a chance to experiment with wine & take-out pairings, which is definitely an added bonus for me.

One great pairing from this week was eating Chinese food with The Williamsburg Winery’s 2006 Governor’s White.  The Governor’s White is a pale, lemon color with a strong pineapple and grapefruit smell.  As a non-drinker, Hubby doesn’t really like the smell of wine, but he’s a huge pineapple fan.  So, I asked him just to sniff my glass and tell me if there was a flavor that really “hit” him.  As skeptical as he was, he was a good sport.  He took a whiff and said “Mmmm!  That smells like a ripe, fresh pineapple.”  Clearly, the smell was something we both enjoyed. 

The wine has a surprisingly complex taste.  The pineapple and grapefruit appeared when I tasted the wine, and they were accompanied by some honey, floral, lemon, and honeydew notes.  The wine itself is a refreshing semi-dry wine, so it’s sweeter than what I normally drink, but the sweetness is part of what made it a perfect match for my crab rangoon and my very spicy garlic chicken & broccoli.  The seafood and spiciness help keep the sweetness in check. 

Is this worth A Glass After Work? Definitely. At $7 a bottle, this is an unexpected sweet treat. You can undoubtedly sit down and drink a glass when you’re unwinding after you eat or enjoy a glass with some spicy or seafood dishes. If you don’t live near VA, you might have trouble finding this wine, but don’t fret, you can grab a bottle or two or three online. Overall: 3 1/2 corks (keep a lookout for a post explaining my new rating system)

One of My Favorites…2006 Rémy Pannier Vouvray

I admit it…the warm weather has given me Spring fever.  It’s even worse (or better) because my office space has a 20ft ceiling and a balcony with a 12ft door.  When the weather is nice, my 5 officemates and I leave the balcony door open, so all day we get a warm breeze, smell the spring air, hear the city bustle, and at least comfort ourselves about being inside by breathing the fresh air.  The weather earlier this week was particularly warm for the DC area, so I couldn’t help but long for Spring to be here. What better way to celebrate the nice weather than with my favorite warm-weather white wine?

I first learned about Vouvray from a Food & Wine Magazine article about summer white wines.  At the time, I knew very little about wine, but I was intrigued by the idea of a white wine that was being touted by people who normally favored the character of red wine.  So, on my first trip to the store after reading the article, I grabbed my first Vouvray—the Rémy Pannier.  While the particular producer wasn’t mentioned in F&W’s article, it turned out to be a perfect pick, and it has remained a staple in my white wine collection.  It’s because of this that it’s no surprise that this was the wine I opened to start of the warm weather season.

Vouvray is located in France’s Loire Valley, and the grapes are almost entirely Chenin Blanc.  The 2006 Rémy Pannier Vouvray has a beautiful, clear gold color.  The nose is full of citrus and green apple. There is flowery perfume smell that is thankfully not overpowering, but rather just a hint that follows behind the fruit and adds to the summery feel of the wine. 

The moment you put the wine in your mouth, it jumps off your tongue in way that almost tickles.  The wine brings a crisp feel to your mouth and has a nice apple taste that is followed by the sweetness of honey and a touch of grass.  A second taste yields the pear flavor that is touted on the bottle’s label, and the general citrusy smell develops into a sweet, ripe grapefruit.  The taste lingers in your mouth for a pleasurable medium-to-long finish. 

I haven’t had a glass of this wine since last fall, but it was as good and refreshing as I remembered.  This is not only a perfect bottle to open after work, but also a great option to bring with you to a BBQ, on a picnic, or anyplace where you will be sitting around enjoying the weather, the company, and the wine. It’s an all-around delightful bottle of wine, and for just under $10, you can’t beat the price.

Let’s talk about labels.

I know this isn’t about a specific wine, but as the next wine I’m going to write about is French and I know there are a few “new” winos among us, I thought that it might be good to have a quick look on how to read European wine labels. So, here’s the 411—

Generally, European (or “Old World”) wines do not have the type of grape on the label, so you really wouldn’t refer to an Old World wine as drinking a Chardonnay and you will almost never see a bottle that says “Burgundy Pinot Noir” (Pinot Noir being a type of grape and Burgundy being the region in France where the grape was grown). Instead, Old World wines are identified by where the grape is grown and, legally, you can only grow certain grapes in certain regions. So, for example, the wine on the left is not a Rioja grape, but rather a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan), and Granacha (Grenache) grapes that were grown in the Rioja region of Spain. Tempranillo is the main red varietal grown in Rioja, and the wine is referred to as Rioja. A notable exception to this rule is Riesling, which is a type of grape and is almost always labeled as a Riesling rather than as the region it was grown.

New world wines, such as those grown here in the US or in Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa, will name the type of grape on the bottle, this way you know you’re drinking a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir. You can see the difference with the California wine on the right, which is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were grown in the Alexander Valley.

I hope that made sense…and I’ll definitely put your skills to the test in my next review. Keep your eyes open for one of my favorite white wines.