Celebrating Chardonnay

Celebrating Chardonnay

Wow – after cover reveals and guests this week, I’m finally back with some tasty wines. Spring is here, and the weather is warming up where I live. It must be time for some Chardonnay! Today I’ve got three, and they’re all from California…and they were all on sale.

photo of Edna Valley Vineyards 2009 ChardonnayEdna Valley Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay Paragon ~ San Luis Obispo County  Alcohol 13.9% by Volume. Regularly $13.98; on sale at Vons for $9.97

On the Label: “Our vineyards enjoy one of California’s longest and coolest growing seasons, thanks to sea breezes funneled inland through Edna Valley. Our Chardonnay has amazing flavors of lush white peach and sweet spice with a crisp, clean finish. You will love our Chardonnay with fresh seafood, grilled chicken or roasted pork.”

My Take: Edna Valley wines can be in the upper teens, so when I saw this one for under $10 I grabbed it. It was actually a chilly day and I wasn’t in the mood to cook; luckily Ocean Fresh, our local seafood monger, had sent me an ad for freshly made clam chowder and crab cakes ready to pop into a pan or the oven.  (The food was divine!) This Chardonnay stood up well to both the creaminess of the chowder and the spice of the crab cakes. It was not a big, oaky Chardonnay, but it had the clean finish of a Pinot Grigio as well as the lush fruit, and it handled the seafood brilliantly.

My Rating:  ~ Very Drinkable ~  I shall have to check out more of Edna Valley’s wines.

Simi 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay Alcohol 13.5% by volume; regularly $17.49, on sale for $12.59 at Vons

On the Label: “Simi Chardonnay reflects the diversity of flavors found throughout Sonoma County. The area to the west gives pear and a luscious mouthfeel. The southern region brings citrus and crisp acidity, and vineyards in the north add tropical notes. These combine into complex fruit aromas, a creamy and toasty round mouthfeel with a brilliant balance that makes this Chardonnay delicious with cream-sauced chicken, salmon and mild cheeses.”

My Take: This was a lovely Chardonnay. It had that creaminess that I like, but it wasn’t over-oaked – in fact, oak was almost impossible to detect. I really enjoyed this wine, which we had with our “I doan wanna cook” meal of a rotisserie chicken from Costco and smashed potatoes.  Add some fresh green beans to that, and you’ve got a delicious meal. Anyway – the wine went beautifully.

My Rating: ~  Very Drinkable  ~ But a bit on the pricey side.

label for Geyser Peak ChardonnayGeyser Peak Winery 2009 Chardonnay Alexander Valley  Alcohol 13.5% by Volume $11.12 regular price (HA!) at Vons, on sale for $7.78

On the Label: “At our winery in the heart of the famed Alexander Valley, our winemakers are impassioned to create wines that engage the senses and inspire the soul. To ensure the bottle you open delivers all the delicate aromatics captured here at the winery, we seal our Chardonnay with a screwcap closure.

Taste profile: Ripe pear and tropical fruit flavors with a hint of vanillin oak. Creamy and elegant with a crisp finish.

Enjoy with: Light pastas, roast chicken and light veal dishes.”

My Take: I really enjoyed this wine, but a part of that could be that I am partial to Geyser Peak. We visited the winery back in the late 1980s, on our first-ever wine tour, and had a blast, so the wine is suffused with rosy memories. I will say, though, I’ve never been disappointed in a Geyser Peak wine. This one has that hint of oak that I so adore.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

So there you have it, three Very Drinkable California Chardonnays. Go forth, and stock up for the ever-changeable weather to come!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and whether the cat has tried to kill me that day. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

BLOOD DREAMS, a Caine Brothers Short Story, will be out June 1st.   DEMON SOUL is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet? Catch up, because soon DEMON HUNT will be out (summer 2012)!

Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Cold? Reach for a Red Wine!

Cold? Reach for a Red Wine!

Whether you’re dealing with snow, or sleet, hail, or Arctic rainstorms, red wine is the ticket. Toss some spices in it, put it on the stove and heat gently – and you’ve got mulled wine. Recipes here. photo of a large cauldron of mulled wine over a fire.

If you prefer your wine unspiced, but you want it to warm you up from the inside, take a nice big red – a Zinfandel, Syrah, or Cabernet – and put it with a bowl of chili, or a hearty minestrone soup. Pasta, or steak and potatoes also work to bring your internal body temp up. If you’re calorie counting, go with a clear broth – a chicken or vegetable-based soup, with an Asian flair. I like adding sliced ginger to my clear soups – gives a kick of heat, and the red wine works with the heat nicely.

So today, here are two Syrahs, purchased at Vons during their amazing 30% off sale (and I say that totally tongue-in-cheek), and a French red blend that I’m still remembering happily.

label for Alexander Vineyards Syrah 2008Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah 2008  Sonoma County, CA, Wetzel Family Estate Regularly $16.70; on sale for $10.99    Alcohol 14% by Volume

On the Label: “This 2008 Estate Syrah shows the value of having an experienced winemaker with a deft hand for knowing how to best compliment what the vineyard delivers. Intense work in the vineyard, particularly necessary to get the best from this varietal, yielded lush fruit. In the tradition of the great wines of the Rhone, Wiinemaker Kevin Hall then blended in a good dose of old vine Grenache, adding some breadth to the wine, and a small amount of Viognier to soften the tannins and brighten the aromas.

“This wine exhibits and expressive nose of black cherries and violets and flavors of blackberry jam, strawberry and vanilla. Uncork a bottle to serve with a hearty beef stew and discover why our historic family-owned winery on the homestead of pioneer Cyrus Alexander continues to be recognized for producing superb estate wines that are superbly priced.”

My Take: I had been wanting to try an Alexander Valley wine for awhile, but it was too expensive – usually much closer to the $20 mark than the $10 mark. So finding it at $10.99 seemed like a good deal.

It was better than a good deal. This was a delicious wine, full in the mouth, nice and juicy and complex. The age on it added depth that I am sorely missing in all the 2010 wines I’ve been tasting lately. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any more of the 2008, otherwise I’d have bought some more!

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~  Why didn’t this get the  “Slut” label? I’m not sure, but my notes say VVD so there you go!

Qupe Syrah 2009 Central Coast, California Alcohol 13.5% by Volume;  Regularly label for the 2009 Qupe Syrah$16.99 at Vons, on sale for $11.89

On the Label:  Qupe. Syrah. Central Coast. www.qupe.com (and no, I’m not kidding! LOVE it!).

My Take: This was a lush wine. Not as quite as deep as the Alexander, it did have more of a spiciness to it, which I personally love. It smelled nice and juicy but the fruit didn’t hit you in the face – it was much more subdued than that.  If you can find it on sale, definitely give it a try.

My Rating:  ~ Very Drinkable ~ 

photo of Bon Midi Red Wine

thanks to http://cheapwinesnobs.wordpress.com for the photo!

Bon Midi RED 2010  South of France Pays d’Herault  55% Merlot, 45% Grenache Alcohol 12% by Volume Regularly priced at $3.99 at Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Producing some of France’s finest modern wines, the Midi region has everything French winegrowers need to make great wines. This is Cezanne country, the land of great artists and great wines, where the landscape is covered with sunflowers, rows of lavender and lush vineyards.

“A rich, full bodied red with blackcurrant fruit, chocolate and pepper aromas. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy  on its own, or with barbecued meat dishes or spicy pasta. Made from Merlot and Grenache grapes grown in the premium vineyards across the Midi region. Enjoy now or store carefully for up to 2 years after purchase.”

My Take: I loved this wine. We had Bison burgers at home, and this wine was the perfect accompaniment. It also reminded me of driving in the Netherlands and stopping at a gas station – we picked up two bottles of French wine for about $3 a piece, and they were some of the best wines we had all trip.

This is a wine to share. To keep around on the off chance you’ll have company, or to open when nothing else seems quite right. It’s a warm, ready, willing and easy wine to drink right now, no matter what the weather, and considering its a 2010, that shocked me.

My Rating: ~Very Good ~ Excellent Price~ Run, don’t walk, and stock up on some of this. You never know when I’ll be dropping by!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Demon HUNT coming soon!

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, Very Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Reds to Warm You

Reds to Warm You

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

In the Northern Hemisphere, December means Winter. This year, even here in sunny So Cal it’s been chilly. We’re used to 70 degree days, not 52 degree days. And  nights below 40 degrees? Get out of town! So here are three red wines to warm you up on those chilly nights.

Found Object Carmenere, 2010 Colchagua Valley, Chile Under $10 at Trader Joe’s. 13.5% alcohol by volume

On the Label: “Context, it can change everything. Consider, for a moment, a wine among the crowd – yet not of the crowd What could be taken for granted (grape juice) becomes special when repurposed into something thought provoking. Consider this Carmenere worthy of your consideration.”

My Take: Okay, the label’s kinda weird. Like maybe the translator missed out on a few words. But at least it doesn’t tell us what to taste in the wine, and I like it for that reason.

If you’re not familiar with the varietal Carmenere, I can tell you that it was originally planted in the Medoc region of Bordeaux in France; but little of it remains there now. The largest producer of Carmenere is Chile, with a few acres planted in other places such as California, Walla Walla, Washington,  and eastern Italy.

The wine – silky. Not as easy a wine as a Pinot Noir, but not as in-your-face as a Zin or a Cabernet can be. It was the right wine, and went well with Turkey Pot Pie. This is my first time with this varietal (okay – that I can remember), and I really enjoyed it. It’s going on my list. The good part? Chilean wines are still low in price, and the quality is usually very high.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ It’s something a little different, and any discerning hostess would be pleased to receive this as a gift when you go to your holiday party this year.

Viriato 2008  Tinta de Toro, product of Spain. Under $8 at Trader Joe’s. Alcohol 14.5% by volume.

On the Label: “A modern well balanced Toro wine, aged for three months in French oak barrels with hints of mature red berries and notes of leather.”

My Take: Viriato is a Tempranillo – and (for my sake) translating again, similar to a Zinfandel. This wine is a lovely wine, great for sipping (would go fabulous with cheese and dips!) or with a juicy steak.  This is not a “thinker’s” wine – not a wine you want to contemplate too much. It’s easy on the palate (but doesn’t “tease” your tastebuds) and has a high alcohol content – what more do you want to stir up your party? (Just sayin’.)

My Rating: ~ Good ~ Again, something a little different for your party-giving friends.

Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Alexander Valley Alcohol 13.5% by volume Regularly $17.00; $11.49 at Vons on Sale.

On the Label: “In the heart of Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley we blend our wins from small lots to fully express the essence of the varietal in each particular vineyard block. Winemaker Mich Schroeter and his team are passionate about crafting wines that engage the senses and inspire the soul. Taste profile: Black cherry and blackbery flavors and mocha nuances with a long, rich finish.  Enjoy with: Grilled or roasted beef, sauteed mushrooms and mature cheeses.”

My Take: I’m an unabashed fan of Geyser Peak, and have been since my travels to Sonoma County in the late 1980’s. We had this wine with steak, smashed potatoes and tiny asparagus and it was a lovely accompaniment to the meal. If you can get this at under $12 in your neighborhood, do – it’s a great price for a really lovely wine.

My Rating: ~Very Good~ Take this to a party only if you need to make a good impression. Otherwise, keep it at home and enjoy it with those you love. Or, you know – open it at the party and keep the bottle for yourself and one or two select friends!

Thanks so much for dropping in. Remember, these are my experiences based on my taste buds, how many near-misses the Eldest son had while driving that day, and how high the tides were. Your wine-drinking experience will undoubtedly vary. Remember – drink responsibly! Make sure you take along a designated driver to your holiday party.

~  ~  ~

The Holidays are here – time to buy your copy of DEMON SOUL! Makes a great gift for that reader in the family, lol!