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

WBW: “And just like the ocean under the moon, well, that’s the same emotion that I get from you…”

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

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just received my first wine sample. I was nervous about reviewing my first sample because I didn’t want to have to post something negative coming right out of the gate, but at the same time, I wanted to be honest in my thoughts. The moment I smelled the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles (vineyard, snooth), I knew that I not only had nothing to fear, but also that this would be a great wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday (#58).

This month’s WBW, which is hosted over at Gonzo Gastronomy, is about how music can influence the wine drinking experience. As a music lover who has played the piano since she was 5 years old and the saxophone since middle school, music has always been a part of my life. I played both instruments throughout college and graduate school, and still have a piano in my home, even though Hubby and I live in less than 800 sq ft. These days, my iPod is chock-full of everything from Rachmaninoff to Lady Gaga. That’s part of what made this WBW both exciting and daunting. In the end, I found myself with an enjoyable wine on a sing-along treasure hunt in my iTunes library.

Before I could start tasting the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles with music, though, I wanted to set a baseline. So, I read the materials that accompanied the wine and tasted it without any music. The background information explained that Dave Powell, founder of Torbreck Wines, was inspired by a glass of Beaujolais he had while at Tim Johnston’s Juveniles Wine Bar in Paris. Powell left wanting to make a Beaujolais-esque wine at Torbreck, but since Gamay grapes are not easily available in the Barossa Valley, he opted for a blend of 60% Grenache grapes, 20% Syrah grapes, and 20% Mataro grapes.

The wine was a medium purplish ruby with very noticeable legs. On the nose, there were luscious, ripe red fruits—strawberries and raspberries—followed by a hint of cinnamon. In the mouth, the first taste had the hotness I’ve come to expected from Australian red wines. After the initial surprise of hotness, juicy red fruits—strawberries, raspberries, and cherries—emerged, followed by a touch of white pepper and cinnamon. The wine had lower tannins and acid, which makes it nice and light, and it was definitely reminiscent of a Beaujolais.

I actually drank this wine on two different nights, and the second night tasted very different. With a little more time, the Cuvée Juveniles was more jammy than juicy, and the raspberries were more prominent than the strawberries. On the second night, the wine actually reminded me more of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape than a Beaujolais. Readers who have been with me since the beginning know my love for C-d-P, so even though I really enjoyed the wine on the first night, the second night with the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles was nearer to my heart.

Once I had tasted the wine on its own and with dinner, I started trying to find different songs to listen to while drinking the wine. Darker finds, like Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats, and sultry songs, like Chris Issak’s Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, dominated because the wine seemed to fit so naturally with these more moody musical choices. I could listen to them and just sink deeper and deeper into the flavors of the wine and the music.

Then I made the mistake of organizing my list by year. Before I knew it, I found finding myself detouring through the 80’s hair band section singing to Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, and Poison’s Fallen Angel. Of course, a look at the hair bands also meant some quality time bopping with Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Stacy Q’s Two of Hearts, as well as with boy bands Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up and New Kids on the Block. I listened to far too many NKTOB songs, both from back in the day and from this year. Admittedly, though, while fun, none of the songs made the wine speak, or vice versa. G. Love & Special Sauce’s Baby’s Got Sauce got me back on track, as the song mixed with the strengths of the wine—hot and a bit spicy, which helps bring out a little bit of attitude.

While most of the evening was bits and pieces of songs, the following 5 songs are the ones that I really sat and listened to while trying to experience both the wine and the music together. In order of level of success (from least successful to most successful), here was my evening of music and wine:

Shaggy
Ok, I don’t know what wine would go with Shaggy—I actually tried several of his songs (Mr. Boombastic, It Wasn’t Me, That Girl, Angel)—and I just couldn’t get the wine and the music to meld in my mind. I enjoyed the wine and the music individually, but I felt I was experiencing each one its own and that the two were entirely disconnected from each other.

Smetana— Má Vlast: Die Moldau
Má Vlast is a symphony made of 6 pieces about Bohemia.
Die Moldau is one of these movements and is about the Moldau River and its growth from two small springs into a single river as the water travels through woods, meadows, and farmland of the Bohemian country side, over rocks, past the castles, and finally swirls and widens as it reaches Prague before vanishing into the Elbe River.

What I found most interesting during this listening experience was that Die Moldau followed my experiences with the wine. The melody started off light and flowing, while hinting at the dramatic, which is how the Cuvée Juveniles tasted. The fruit forwardness matched the playfulness of the melody, but the spicy, richer flavors in the wine’s finish match the fuller, serious tones of the music as both continued unfold.

Meat Loaf—Paradise by the Dashboard Light
I was surprised how my attitude towards the wine changed with this song. I actually put this song on because I saw it in my playlist and it reminded me of 8th grade dances where the boys stood on one side of the gym singing the boy’s part and the girls stood on the other singing the girl’s part. The song is fairly bee-bop with a honky-tonk piano, some drums, and a guitar—typical Meat Loaf. The wine translated from the serious brooding music I’d been listening to, to the zippy, flirtatious feel really well.

Ani DiFranco—Not A Pretty Girl
The wine fit nicely with the dark and stormy mood of DiFranco’s aggressive guitar.
Both the music and the wine really allowed for relaxation combined with a little bit of contemplation. The music isn’t sexy, so it doesn’t emphasizes that part of the wine, but the emotions of the song match the wine without either being too intense or too depressing.

Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)—Smooth
When I tasted the Cuvée Juveniles, it screamed of a sexiness, so I immediately thought of pairing the wine with Santana. I actually started with this song and backtracked from there because this wine just tasted like the warm, sensuous atmosphere I associate with Santana’s music. Both the wine and the music make you want to light some candles, close your eyes, and breathe deeply before bringing out your best Latin moves and sinking into a steamy evening.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At the suggested retail price of $25, you will have a good, versatile bottle of wine. The 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles is a good summer red, and I drank it with a grilled chicken marinated in a red wine and herbs, as well as with pepperoni and sausage pizza. Both pairings were good, although, all you really need to enjoy this wine is a bottle of it, a glass to drink it out of, and some Santana to complete the atmosphere.

Overall: 4 corks

***Special thanks to Katie for hosting a great WBW!***


Celebrations, Carvel, and Carmenère

Even though this week is a quieter week at work, both with shorter hours and only 4 days, it’s been oddly hectic. There’s been lots of non-work chatter in the bullpen, which creates a general, constant hum in my office space. I took several long work lunches that probably involved an equal amount of work and non-work talk. There was the extra condo association meeting to discuss modernizing the elevators. And, there was my birthday!! I love birthdays. It could be mine or someone else’s, it doesn’t matter, I just think birthday’s are fun. Admittedly, Hubby and I didn’t do anything too special, since my birthday and the condo meeting were the same night, but he picked up a Carvel ice cream cake and a singing birthday candle to make sure that we celebrated properly. There’s nothing like some wine and ice cream to get the party started!

Following the Wines of Chile May 20th live online tasting, the blogging world has been buzzing about how Chilean wines have an amazing quality-price ratio, and the Carmenère seemed to be the favorite among the participating wine bloggers. While MontGras wines weren’t tasted during the event, all of the discussions about wines of Chile, in general, and Carmenère in particular, left me excited about opening my bottle of 2008 MontGras Reserve Carmenère (vineyard, snooth). My excitement for the wine combined with the fact that my birthday was on a work night, made my not-too-fancy choice absolutely perfect.

The 2008 MontGras Reserve Carmenère is 90% Carmenère grapes and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The wine had a luscious, deep purple color and very visible legs. On the nose, there was an abundance of black fruit and baking spices aromas—mostly all-spice and cinnamon. There was also just the slightest hint of vanilla. In the mouth, the black fruit flavors took a back seat to the spice cabinet, with nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla being the most prominent. As the flavors lingered, a toastiness emerged to round out and bind the flavors together. The wine’s thick, velvety texture screamed to me of luxury and relaxation.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $12 a bottle, you might want to grab a few, as this wine is not only a great deal for something to drink now, but also a wine that I think will age nicely over the next few years. In general, the Carmenère isn’t overly complex, yet the aromas and flavors were varied enough to be interesting and enjoyable. I drank the Carmenère with my chocolate & vanilla Carvel cake, which is an odd pairing, but it actually worked with the crunchy cookie separating the two ice cream flavors. (Don’t judge…it’s my party, so I can drink what I want to. You’d drink it too, if you had the Carmenère with you).

Overall: 3.5 corks

Shopping & Chardonnay Make a Perfect Pairing

Last week was a short work week because Hubby and I took the Friday before Memorial Day off for our biannual “shop ‘til you drop” adventure at the outlet malls. Even though it was a vacation day, it was still 8 hours of craziness! The whole point of going shopping the Friday before Memorial Day is to be able to take advantage of the amazing sales, but doing it before the crowds and before everything is picked over. To say that it was a successful excursion would be an understatement. I’m not sure which epitomizes the day best—the credit card company calling 1/3 of the way through the trip to make sure the card hadn’t been stolen, the 4 shopping bag “drop-off” trips to the car, or Hubby telling me that I was wearing my shirt inside out…30 minutes after I came out of the last dressing room. We arrived at the outlets early, took a 20-minute break for lunch and to rehydrate, and then were back to shopping until our feet couldn’t take any more. By the time we were done, all we wanted was a nice dinner…and of course a glass, or several glasses, of wine.

As soon as we walked into the condo, I put a bottle of the 2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay (vineyard, snooth) into the refrigerator to chill. We had to get all of the bags out of the car, and I knew I needed to make dinner before sitting down and relaxing, otherwise, it was going to be an order-delivery night. It was the perfect amount of time. The wine was well-chilled, with a beautiful pale gold color, and big, drippy legs. The wine had a nice, smooth complexity. On the nose, I found peach, green apples, and a touch of lime and coconut. In the mouth, there was buttery peach, green apples, and pineapple, with a touch of blossoms and honey. The wine was oaky and beautiful, with a well-balanced flavor.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $17, if you like oaky chardonnays, you will love the 2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay. After our shopping adventure, we had tequila lime salmon for dinner, which was perfect with the chardonnay. Both were very flavorful, but neither dominated over the other. Once dinner was done, I poured myself another glass, as the wine was also delicious on it’s own, and just put my feet up to relax after a hot, exhausting day at the outlets. On night number 2 with the bottle,we had fettuccine alfredo, which was a good, smooth pairing, although it enhanced the oaky flavors.


Overall: 4 corks

Reds, Whites, and Bios! Oh, My!


As if working full time in a 50-60 hour a week job and taking wine classes isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m also on the Board of Directors for my condo association. One of my BOD responsibilities is chairing the social committee, which clearly meant organizing a wine tasting! After contacting almost all of the wine stores in Arlington about holding the event, I only received responses from two—Grand Cru Wine Bar & Euro Café was by far the easier store to work with. I outlined the association’s budget, and they worked with Republic National Distributing Company wine specialist Andy Hoyle to pick out wine options for our tasting. The BOD decided on 4 wines, although Andy surprised us with several extras, including the Signaterra wines by Benziger.


While I’ll share short overviews of all the wines we tasted, I can’t help but focus on the Signaterra wines. According to Andy, Benziger has been selling limited quantities of these wines onsite, but it’s only recently that they’re appearing in restaurants and wine stores. Therefore, while the wines may not be available at your wine store yet, start asking for them. Besides being unique and tasty, Andy explained that attendees at last night’s wine tasting were among the first in Virginia to try these wines. That was a double bonus for us!


Signaterra uses organic and biodynamic viticulture methods. Biodynamic viticulture is based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher/scientist Rudolf Steiner, and The Wine Anorak has an interesting and thorough explanation of the process, if you’re looking for more information. The Signaterra website describes the philosophy well, though, as they say the wines are about “integrating the right resources of the Earth, the inescapable forces of Nature, and the attentiveness of Man into a distinctive wine. Admittedly, I’m skeptical about the idea that biodynamic methods produce better quality wine, but regardless, all three of these are delicious. I actually ended up buying a bottle of each at the event.


With that introduction…let’s talk about the Signaterra wines—the 2007 Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc, the 2007 Bella Luna Pinot Noir, and the 2006 Three Blocks.

2007 Benziger Signaterra Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc
$35
This Sauvignon Blanc had a clean, medium lemon color. On the nose, there were strong fruit aromas—particularly grapefruit, although there was also some lime, peach, and apricot. I found the same fruits when tasting the wine, and they were joined with a hint of wet stone mineraliness that kept the wine from being dominated by fruit. The wine also had a bright, pleasing acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $35 a bottle, this wine is not only environmentally friendly, but also palate and food friendly.

Overall: 4 corks


2007 Benziger Signaterra Bella Luna Pinot Noir
$55
The Pinot Noir was hands-down the favorite wine of the night.
Several people came up to me to say that they normally don’t drink Pinots, but that this one was very flavorful and enjoyable. At the same time, I also had a couple of people tell me that they were big Pinot fans and that this was among the best they’d tasted. I thought it was interesting that the Bella Luna was able to straddle the Pinot/Non-Pinot lover line.

The color of the wine was a nice intensity that matched the robust strawberry and red cherry aromas. The red fruit was followed by a hint of white pepper and an earthy depth that gave the wine character overpowering the other aromas. In the mouth, the flavors matched what I found on the nose. The medium tannins and low acidity resembled what you would expect from a Pinot, although the wine had a slightly more substantial body and finish than I anticipated.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $55, this wine is a little more expensive than many of the “every day” wines that I review, however, it’s worth every penny. This wine is so smooth and inviting that it’s great for drinking on its own, but also would pair nicely with seasoned meat like a pork tenderloin or with a grilled salmon.

Overall: 5 corks



2006 Benziger Signaterra Three Blocks Bordeaux blend
$55
The Three Blocks Bordeaux blend was my least favorite of the Signaterra wines, although I wonder if I needed more time to really sit and think about the wine, as there was a lot happening with it. The Three Blocks is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot, with a deep purplish-ruby color. The wine had strong dark fruit aromas—mostly plums—followed by the smell of powdered cocoa. In the mouth, I found similar plumy flavors, although the cocoa turned into more of a sweet spice taste. The wine had strong tannins, although it was well-balanced. There were some tartrates in my glass, which had some attendees concerned, but, as I mentioned in this week’s TT&T post, tartrates are nothing to worry about.

Overall: 3.5 Corks


The other wines we tasted:

2006 Paso Creek Zinfandel, which I reviewed in March.

2006 Valley of the Moon Barbera (vineyard; snooth), which I will review in a separate post, as I was able to take a leftover bottle home with me.
$18

2006 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon (vineyard; snooth)
$13
This wine had aromas of burnt tar and blackberry. In the mouth, there were strong tannins that pulled on your gums, but helped contribute to the balance between the bitterness of the tar flavors and the sweetness of the blackberries. This was a big, juicy Cab and would be great with a steak and potato dinner.

Planeta La Segreta Rosso (vineyard; snooth)
$14
This wine had an interesting mix of flavors and aromas, as there was a mix of red and black fruits. The wine is a blend of 50% Nero d’Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah,5% Cabernet Franc, and had medium tannins and a nice body. Overall, it was good. Not the best wine of the night, but something that is definitely drinkable.

Erath Pinot Gris (vineyard; snooth)
$15
This Pinot Gris smelled and tasted of ripe melons and grapefruit. In the mouth, there was also a hint of mineral. Overall, it wasn’t terribly complex, but it was enjoyable.

2007 Vaca Chardonnay
$14
The Vaca Chardonnay had a strong buttery, tropical fruit smell and tasted like buttered, ripe banana and vanilla. There was a hint of green apple in the finish, but it was very faint. Oaky chardonnay is NMS, so I wasn’t a huge fan. However, the wine was a good quality and had a nice balance, so if it’s a style you like, this is a wine you should check out.