Celebration in a Bottle

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I was doing “the happy dance” on Tuesday because I received my WSET Level 2 Intermediate Certificate in Wines and Spirits test results, and I passed with distinction.  You could probably tell from my discussions about work that my current career is not within the wine industry.  My boss, however, is nice enough to allow me to leave the office early, once a week, so that I can attend wine classes.  Granted, that means school nights are particularly long days for me, since I leave my house around 7:30am and don’t walk back in until after 10pm, but it’s worth it, particularly when I receive good test results! 

Once I had my results, the big question was what I should open to celebrate.  Tuesday night was a busy one because immediately after work, I had a condo association board meeting.  As I’m a member of the board, I not only had to stay for the open session that residents could attend, but also the closed executive session that occurred afterwards.  It was an intense night, as there was significant disagreement between board members on a few hot-button issues.  Ultimately, I didn’t get home until almost 9:30pm, but that wasn’t going to stop my personal celebration.

During the first course, I was introduced to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and my love affair with this Southern Rhône Appellation bloomed.  Because of that, it seemed only appropriate for me to celebrate my results by opening a bottle of 2005 Perrin & Fils “Les Sinards” Chateauneuf-du-Pape (vineyard site, vineyard blog, snooth).  This blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre had a beautiful ruby color.  On the nose, there were strong red fruit aromas, mostly strawberry and raspberry, followed by a nice savoriness—a mixture of leather and sweet cooking spices.  In the mouth, the raspberry flavors were more prominent than the strawberry, but they both blended nicely with the taste of cloves and leather.  There was also a hint of spicy white pepper that helped give the wine character without dominating or becoming distracting.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $38 a bottle, this wine might push the limits of what some readers may be willing to spend on an everyday wine.  However, it’s a nice, maturing wine that will offer a solid flavor that you can sink into without being overwhelmed by it.  Plus, while I did open this bottle up for a special occasion, I can attest to its ability to be enjoyable after a long, tiring day.  In terms of food pairings, while I didn’t actually drink the wine with dinner, I think it would make go well with a roasted chicken or a seasoned pork tenderloin.

Overall: 4 Corks

Bliss with Barefoot & Bubbles

If you follow me on Twitter (@Alleigh), you know that last week was a ridiculously busy week in my office.  Every year, we hold a breakfast reception for people who come into DC, and we choose the date by looking at the popular Spring Break weeks for K-12 schools.  The purpose of picking the date this way is because there will be more families travelling, so we can see more people.  This year’s reception was last Wednesday, and it was the biggest one my office has ever had—over 250 people!  Now, that may not seem like a lot to people who are used to those types of big events, but as this is only a one-time-a-year reception, it is not something that my officemates and I are used to. 

For me, the reception meant a lot of talking, a lot of standing on my feet, and a lot of just “being on” all the time.  It also meant an overall increase in meetings, since people who attend the reception usually want to set up private meetings at another time.   All in all, it was a very successful week, but I was ready to collapse on Friday night when I got home.  I walked in the door, chilled a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee (vineyard, snooth), and plopped down on the couch to decompress w/ Hubby. 

Admittedly, I’m not the first to review the Barefoot Bubbly.  In fact, some of the blogs that I read regularly, like Wines by Benito, 1 Wine Dude, Brix Chicks, and The Wine Whore, have great thoughts to share on this sparkler.  Despite the diverse coverage, I still wanted to share my thoughts because, well, this wine fits perfectly into what A Glass After Work is all about.  As I read through the posts by other bloggers, what was most interesting to me is that while the wine was consistently described as not complicated, everyone gave it a thumbs-up—and I completely agree. 

The sparkling wine had a nice, medium lemon color, with big, strong bubbles rising to the top of the glass.  On the nose, there were pleasant green apple aromas.  In the mouth, the bubbles just danced off my tongue.  Again, there were green apple flavors.  There was also the slightest hint kiwi. 

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $8.99, this wine is pure, uncomplicated happiness in a bottle.  It’s the type of wine that doesn’t require a lot of studying, but rather is just meant to drink up and enjoy.  The Barefoot Bubbly is very drinkable on its own, although I paired it with a tortellini and shrimp in an alfredo sauce, and it was a great match.  The Barefoot Bubbly wasn’t anything fancy, and certainly not something that I would say was a special occasion sparkler, but it was perfect to open after a crazy day (or week) at work and just settle into and relax while you sip.   

Overall: 3.5 Corks

This Time, A French Sauvignon Blanc

Since I just posted about my first experience with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I thought it would be a fun experiment to open a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé while the thoughts about the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc were still fresh on my mind.  So, on Friday evening, I chilled a bottle of 2006 Domain du Bouchot Pouilly-Fumé (vineyard; snooth) before Hubby and I ordered some Thai delivery.  Because I’m a soy sauce addict, I ordered my favorites—crab rangoon and chicken pad see ew.

Pouilly-Fumé is a Sauvignon Blanc from, you guessed it, Pouilly-Fumé, which is in the Loire Valley of France.  Typically, the wines are known for their smoky (fumé means “smoked” in French) and mineral flavors, and the Domain du Bouchot didn’t disappoint.  The wine was a nice, medium, gold color.  On the nose, there were lime and lemon aromas blended with hints of green apple and flowers.  There was also the anticipated smoke and stone-like aromas.  In the mouth, there was a nice mixture of lime and wet-stone flavors.  I know…you’re thinking that the idea of drinking something that tastes like licking a wet stone does not sound enticing, but I promise that when done well, as it is with this Pouilly-Fumé, it’s very enjoyable!  

The French Sauvignon Blanc was very different from the New Zealand wine from the same grape.  In appearance, the Domain du Bouchot had a more golden color than the Kim Crawford, which still was very young and yellow-green.  On the nose, the Domain du Bouchot was dominated by citrus and mineral flavors, while the Kim Crawford had strong vegetal (green pepper and asparagus) flavors with only a hint of citrus.  Those differences on the nose translated to similar differences on the palate.  Overall, though, while very different in appearance, smell, and taste, both wines had a crisp, refreshing acidity that brought out different, yet enjoyable characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. 

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $14 a bottle, this wine has great food pairing potential or can be enjoyed on its own, especially on a hot, 90-degree day.  The combination of the Pouilly-Fumé with both the seafood and the chicken in my Thai dishes worked perfectly; plus, the fried aspect of crab rangoon and the salty taste of the pad see ew helped cut the high acidity in the wine, while enhancing the flavors.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter to eat, I think the wine would also pair well with a nice goat cheese or a grilled shrimp dish.  No matter how you look at it, Domain du Bouchot’s 2006 Pouilly-Fumé was the perfect wine to kick off the heat wave that hit the DC area over the weekend!

Overall:4 Corks

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

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.