2014 Stellina Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi. 14.5% ABV, $32.

Looking for a Valentine’s Day wine? Oh, is THIS ever delicious.

Every year, Lodi hosts its Wine & Chocolate Weekend. This year, their 22nd, the event is happening this weekend, Feb 9-10. I can’t attend, but the hosts sent me a bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel that is just one of the myriad of wines available from the 50 Lodi wineries that will be open to tours during the event. It is delicious.

The wine has a beautiful, rich, deep yet bright color, and the nose is spectacular. It’s juicy and mouth-watering, despite the healthy but not overpowering tannin; full of flavors of berries and cherry, with overtones of cloves; and despite its richness, it feels politely fresh and medium-bodied despite its 14.5% alcohol content.

In searching for information about the winemakers, Bob and Ali Colarossi, I learned that they operate Estate Crush, where custom wines are made. It’s a great concept, enabling startup winemakers and others to make their own “high-end wine without the investment of building and staffing your own winemaking facility.” The Stellina Zin is available for purchase through Estate Crush.

This stellar (bad pun, sorry/not sorry) wine was sent to me along with a brick of BRIX Chocolate —  literally a brick — of 60% (medium dark) chocolate made by, appropriately, BRIX Chocolate for Wine. (“Brix” is the technical term for the percentage of sugar in the grapes prior to picking.)

Chocolate and wine often don’t play well together, despite the romantic idea. Often, chocolate’s sweetness alters the taste of the wine, creating the illusion that it’s bitter, and the combination can cause a frowny case of dry-mouth.

I was a little surprised, but the pairing of this Zin with this 60% chocolate works.

BRIX Chocolate was developed by Dr. Nick Proia, M.D., an Ohio pulmonologist and wine connoisseur who sought an alternative to wine and cheese pairings. He created four chocolates that pair well with a variety of wine styles — from milk chocolate (40%) to extra dark (80%). Cacao is sourced from Ghana and mixed with confectionery chocolate.

If you can make it to the Lodi Wine & Chocolate weekend, please go. I’ve been on Lodi vineyard trips twice and the appellation is marvelous. You will meet the winemakers and learn tons of stuff that you’ll never forget. And if you can’t attend, fortunately this wine is available from the winery.

As I poured the last glass from this bottle, I SWEAR I heard a musical note: F#. I’ve never experienced that before, so I’m noting it. I do know that F# is the third of the major D chord, and D, Solfeggio 528, is the frequency of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

LABEL: Stellina, “Little Star,” is from the Colarossi Family Vineyard in Lodi where the warm summer days and cool evening Delta breezes create the ideal grape growing climate. Our fines are head-trained and deficit irrigated to preserve the flavors of the fruit, and the wine is handcrafted with great attention to detail. Salute! —  Bob & Ali Colarossi

WEB:
www.LodiWineandChocolate.com
www.EstateCrush.com (Stellina)
www.brixchocolate.com/
www.LodiWine.com

Posted in California, Chocolate, Zinfandel | Leave a comment

New Address

For several years, we’ve rented a PO box at a shipping store so that wine shipments requiring an adult signature can be received during business hours without my having to be present. However, when I went to pick up our latest shipment today, I was informed that this is their last day, as they’re closing the business (poor customer service much?).

Anyhow, our new address is:
Carolyn Blakeslee
The Frugal Wine Snob
817 SE 34th Terrace
Ocala, FL 34471

Thanks.

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2017 Due Mari Sangiovese I.G.T., Puglia, Italy. 12.5% ABV.

Through a Groupon deal, I paid $54 for a 15-bottle case of red wines from Wine Insiders, plus shipping ($29.95).

At an average of $5.60 per bottle including shipping, I expected some “weeknight wines” among the mix, but I didn’t expect a wine as extraordinary as this Sangiovese.

With a color of dark but clear magenta, its mouthfeel is equally clear and smooth. It’s round mid-palate, but it’s also fruit-forward, juicy, and mouth-watering. The elegant aromas of vanilla and baking spices offer hints of the lovely, dry, balanced, elegant wine to follow with cherry, white pepper, violets, and plum added to the flavors promised by the intriguing aromas.

This is the third wine I’ve sampled from my Wine Insiders box of surprises and it’s a winner. I would be proud to serve this at a dinner party or give it as a gift — but honestly, you could drink it by itself and enjoy it from start to finish. According to Wine-Searcher.com, it was available last year at $24/bottle. The Wine Insiders web site shows it as retailing for $17.49, and available from them for $11.99/bottle.

Due Mari is produced by Castellani Spa, a family winery that started producing in the late 19th century and started exporting in 1903; their wines are produced from their six Tuscany estates.

For the Due Mari line, they seem to be working mostly if not exclusively through wine clubs. Besides Wine Insiders, Kroger offers a half-case of Molto Bene Reds that include two bottles of this Sangiovese as well as two bottles of 2016 Due Mari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C. (https://wine.kroger.com/packs/molto-bene-reds)

WEB: https://www.castelwine.com
https://wineinsiders.com/products/2017-due-mari-sangiovese-igt

Posted in Italy, Sangiovese, Wine Clubs | Leave a comment

2016 Simi Chardonnay, Sonoma County. 13.5% ABV, $9

Sonoma County, adjacent to Napa Valley, is well known for its excellent wines. Simi Chardonnay is no exception; it’s a tremendous wine, particularly at its price point, just $9. We enjoyed its terrific flavors of apple, pear, light oak, vanilla, and — most of all — its lemony bite, making it the perfect accompaniment to oysters and other rich seafood. Delicious — enjoy!

WEB: www.SimiWinery.com

Posted in California, Chardonnay | Leave a comment

My Three Favorite Scotches

Lagavulin 12-year-old. Single malt, Islay. Usually about 57% ABV, $75-100.

Lagavulin was my first single malt love. It’s really strong — and tall, dark, and seriously handsome — mysteriously smoky, peaty, wild. Makes you think of a flat moor on a cold day and everything is brown. Makes you want to drink it in front of a fireplace. People either love it or hate it. I think it’s magnificent. I wouldn’t call it smooth, yet it’s dangerously drinkable — neat, of course.

In the 1990s, I lived on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We enjoyed 360-degree water views of the Bay, Tangier Sound, and Rumbley Harbor. The place was on an island called Frenchtown that was inhabited by 13 families, mostly fishermen and artists. In Maryland, Frenchtown was the island after the second or third bridge at the end of the peninsula between Crisfield and Cambridge.

That place was like Lagavulin: mysterious, wild; beautiful, wild; flat, brown; aromatic, attractive, wild. I did several oil paintings and pastel drawings when I lived there. I usually title my artworks after I finish them, and this one, a 30″x30″ oil painting, I named “Twilight Zone” for many reasons: the lone, old-school telephone pole at the very end of the gravel lane, such as the telephone poles that appeared in the credits at the beginning of the old TV show of the same name; the fact that obviously the time of day was twilight; and the synesthesia I felt while working on the painting — I could hear the sound of the wind rushing through the marsh grasses.

Ledaig 10-year-old. Single malt, Mull. Usually about 50% ABV, $50.

Another great Scotch akin to Lagavulin is Ledaig (pronounced led-chig). It’s still peaty, but not as extremely so — and it’s quite a bit smoother, with a touch of caramel, malt, and creaminess. This one’s my go-to for home consumption and serving to guests. Lagavulin I enjoy on rare occasions when it’s available on an after-dinner drinks menu — no more case purchases for me, as it has become too expensive.

But back to Ledaig. If Lagavulin went to he-man charm school, it would be turned out as Ledaig, all dressed up and ready for a Broadway performance. The maritime and moor roots are still there, but the refinement shows up from the taste to the clear, golden color.

Drambuie. Liqueur. Usually about 40% ABV, $35.

Drambuie is a delicious, syrupy, warming blend of aged Scotch with a proprietary combination of spices, heather honey, and herbs. Its origins can be traced to a secret recipe created for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the mid-1700s. Since 2014, it has been made by the makers of Glenfiddich, William Grant & Son.

I’d more or less forgotten about Drambuie until November 2017, when I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. One night I was in the hotel bar with my conference roommate, Mary Mihaly, publisher of the blog, Big Sexy Reds. We were there just after the California fires had hit the area, and at that moment we were discussing the fallout with our bartender, who had lost her home, as had I two months before during Hurricane Irma. Drambuie popped into my mind, and so I ordered one — and then one more. It has to be one of the most satisfying drinks on the planet — SO flavorful and delicious. Here in Florida, I’ve enjoyed wild orange honey, which is unique and delicious, and Drambuie has heather honey as one of its ingredients, also unique and delicious.

 

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God with Skin On

You Just Never Know.

Like the rest of the country, I’ve been watching the news in horror as fires consume parts of California wine country and thousands of people’s homes. And all this after the summer wildfires hit Oregon/Washington/Montana, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and the Las Vegas shooter hit concertgoers.

Several times I’ve started to respond to my California friends’ Facebook evacuation posts with a statement like, “I have a spare room in Florida if anyone wants to evacuate from California.”

But then I remember — I don’t have a home either.

Exactly one month ago, on 9/11, I got the phone call from my landlady. My home had been lost to Hurricane Irma’s flooding during the night. (I had evacuated to stay with my Dad and his wife in West Virginia. I left my home with three flats of bottled water, some clothing, and my passport, my kids’ birth certificates, and other important papers.) It was hard for my landlady and her manfriend to get into the neighborhood because of all the downed trees and power lines, but they came in to survey the damage, and found a foot of water in the house.

Trouble is, it wasn’t hurricane rain water or blown water — it was sewage.

A month ago, I’d never heard of a lift station, but since then, I’ve learned that the County operates 170 of them in our tiny city (Ocala, FL), and the City operates another 131. Lift stations lift sewage from local neighborhoods and pump it to the main sewage stations. Turns out that City Lift Station #129 up the street, like most of the mini-stations citywide, was without power for several hours during the storm. #129 overflowed, as the City expected it would, and flooded my home and at least three of my neighbors’ homes. A “sewer force main break” occurred nearby as well and probably contributed to the flood.

I collected a sample of the sludge-water in my home and had it tested. The fecal count was 2,000 parts per 100ml. (To put it into perspective, 100ml is a fraction, about 1/5th, of a 16.9-ounce soft drink.) One of my neighbor’s samples tested at a whopping 37,000, but their house has a slightly lower elevation than mine — I guess shit stinks AND sinks.

After the 12-hour drive home, then came the renting of storage space — and the instant move-out of my salvageable stuff while I was still in shock — and moving into a friend’s spare room, and filling his living room with my artwork and boxes of my must-access things.

Although I lost $80,000 worth of belongings, from valuable homeopathic medicines to big, heavy, expensive reference books to Oriental rugs to furniture to musical instruments, I was able to save many things, and that is one of the differences between my loss and my California friends’ fire losses — they lost everything. Another difference is that I got to say good-bye. I photographed each rug, my pastel paintings that melted in the sludge, the pedals on my late mother’s grand piano that were destroyed — and I cried every day over something, particularly the drenched-with-shit tote bag full of photographs from my children’s younger years. Some things are irreplaceable. But at least I got to say good-bye.

On to the friends and people part, speaking of irreplaceable.

One of my four children set up a GoFundMe account on my behalf, and Facebook friends contributed, even a few people I wasn’t “friends” with — and most of them I haven’t met in person. I’m floored by this.

I’m staying with a dear friend and have been here for a month, since returning from my evacuation in the wee hours of late Wednesday night/Thursday morning, 9/13-14. I have a big bed, two kitties, and good people here. I’ve been helping out some around the house and have been paying my share toward rent and expenses.

Being a human being is a wild ride. You just never know what is going to happen. Never in my craziest dreams did I ever think my home would be flooded with a foot of sewage. I’m sure that none of those concertgoers ever imagined they would be faced with machine gun fire or have to leap over bloody bodies to get out of there — and I am sure my friends who are winemakers, grape growers, and winery workers and writers never thought they would ever have to evacuate, let alone lose everything to fires. Making wine is already not for the faint of heart with the expenses of property, equipment, employees, and licenses and taxes — and the risks of pests, diseases, weather, cultural fads (you saw the film “Sideways,” yes?), and economic and legal changes and challenges.

Most of us pray for help from God, but I swear that my friends, whether personally known or never met, are indeed God incarnate, “God with skin on.” When my children were growing up, I told them, never be afraid to ask for help, accept a hug, or accept a prayer — and never be afraid to offer same. In my vulnerable condition, I’m very thankful for my family and friends and hopefully I’ve sufficiently shared my appreciation with them. Be a friend, accept and cherish your friendships, and drink good wine, together.

SONG PAIRING: With a Little Help from My Friends, The Beatles

Posted in California, Family | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

2014 Augey Bordeaux Blanc. 11.5% ABV, $7

Augey 2014 Blanc BordeauxThis is a classic white Bordeaux blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. It is softer than many of the popular, in-your-face Sauvignon Blancs out there, so it’s a good wine to share with friends who aren’t totally in love with SB yet.

It’s a light, refreshing wine with a bit of a floral nose. It’s crisp with apple and lemon (instead of grapefruit) — with its slight sweetness, this would be delicious paired with Thai food or seafood.

Available in the grocery store for around $7, I would call this a best buy!

WINEMAKER’S NOTES:

The grapes are grown in a combination of clay and limestone soils.

LABEL:

Augey White Bordeaux is a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillion with fresh aromas of citrus, apples and a hint of gooseberry. The crisp fruity flavors pair well with fish, chicken, salads, or goat cheese.

REVIEWS:

The Wine Connection ( Vol. 16, Nov. 2, 2011) gave the 2009 87 points. “Haven’t tasted this one for a few years. Even better than before. Fairly light and crisp, but stands up with foods like fish and chicken. A great value.”

In September 2012, Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the 2010 an Online Exclusive Best Buy. “This is a wine that brings out a soft, tropical character allied to a citrus and a herbaceous element. It’s open, attractive and soft and its ready to drink.”

Posted in France, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, White Blend | 2 Comments

Avalon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, California. 13.8% ABV, $12

I haven’t blogged in a while. Yesterday, Tim Edison at WineTurtle.com sent me a link to his blog post about the 103 Best Wine Blogs. We’re on it. Smart guy—that’s a good lesson on how to get 103 top bloggers to re-post and tweet links to one’s blog, to add him to our blogrolls, and to inspire some of us to catch up. It’s a good blog, have a look.

2012_Avalon_CABTonight, as I work up my piano version of Leon Russell’s classic “A Song for You,” I’m enjoying the 2012 Avalon Cab. Like the song, it starts out light in the soprano range, with an amazingly clear dark magenta color, opening quickly into the depths of a pure expression of warmth, honesty, and experience. I love the cherry.

As expected from the color, this wine is a blend (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 7% Zinfandel, 4% Merlot), although technically in the U.S. a wine can be called a single variety as long as it is made of 75% or more of that variety.

In November 2014, Wine Enthusiast awarded it a Best Buy and 88 points. “Very fruity, fresh and easy to enjoy, this has the smoothness of barrel age but little overt oak flavor. It features bright red cherry and raspberry aromas, juicy berry flavors and a texture with just enough bite to be appetizing.”

TECH SHEET:
* Napa Valley: Where Cab is King. We blend grapes from our partner growers throughout the Napa Valley to create the core of our C A B. From the valley floor, to mountain vineyards, these grapes add backbone and complexity to our final blend.
* Lodi Appellation: This appellation adds what we call the “Yum Factor” that is represented in wines produced from this warmer growing region. Lodi’s “East Side” vineyard’s red soil and climate are perfect for producing rich, lush Cabernet Sauvignon that sets the stage for our final blend.
* Paso Robles Appellation: Our Paso Robles vineyard selections add a powerful elegance to the wine and shows prominently in the final blend with its dark fruit flavors, deep color and bright acidity.
* Monterey County: Monterey’s cooler climate adds bright fruit and light herbal tones that bring the final blend together. This brightness makes
C A B more versatile with a wide selection of foods which is why we refer to this wine as your “Go-To CAB”.

LABEL: Avalon Winery produces only Cabernet Sauvignon. C A B is made from grapes grown in vineyards from appellations with optimum growing conditions for Cabernet and aged a minimum of eight months in French and American oak barrels. C: Complex dark berry fruit flavors. A: Aromatic anise, spice and vanilla. B: Barrel aged for richness and toastiness. ~ Derek Benham, Proprietor.

WEB: www.AvalonWinery.com

SONG: A Song for You, by Leon Russell

Sample sent for review.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Music | 2 Comments

“So, are you opening anything special for Thanksgiving?”

chin-chinLast night, a Facebook friend and fellow wine blogger asked me, “So, are you opening anything special for Thanksgiving?” Here is what I wrote in response:

Life is quite strange sometimes. The short answer is, Yes and No. The long answer is as follows.

My ex-husband recently married a Jehovah’s Witness, which means they do not celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.

He has become somewhat estranged from his mother, who is, of course, my former mother-in-law. She is 80 years old.

Through our two children, I learned that she was feeling bereft due to the lack of celebrations, and on the occasion of my son’s 13th birthday in September, I felt compassion for her, called her, and invited her to meet us for dinner to celebrate. She did, and it was definitely the right thing to do.

So I again invited her to join us for Thanksgiving. We are going to a restaurant for our mid-afternoon supper (her request), and going to her house for dessert, wine, and Scrabble afterwards (again her request).

Her favorite wine is white Zinfandel. So that is what we will be drinking tomorrow. Is it special? Yes and no!

I hope you slept in. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving and drink whatever you want with the people you call “family and friends.” Today I’m grateful for the relationships that have transcended circumstances and remain intact and meaningful anyway.

Posted in Family | 1 Comment

Three Fine Tempranillos

ThreeTempranillosNov2014Thanksgiving is a busy time for wine geeks, with Tempranillo Day on the second Thursday in the month (today!), Beaujolais Nouveau Day on the third Thursday, and, of course, Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday. Here’s what I enjoyed for Tempranillo Day this year.

1. 2012 Valdubón Cosecha, Ribera del Duero. 13% ABV. $15.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the 2007 Valdubon Reserva, so I was excited to try this one. Unlike “Reserva,” though, “Cosecha” doesn’t mean much when it comes to aging time in barrels–in fact, it simply means that 85% or more of the grapes that went into that particular bottle must be from the year stated. (Reserva red wines must be aged for at least three years, with at least one year in oak.)

Dark garnet. Bright, cedar, cigar box, slightly medicinal nose with a surprisingly round, fruity, gentle (almost soft, but in a nice way), powerful taste. Mouth-watering, then a mildly tannic finish. I was surprised to learn that it spent zero time in oak.

OTHER REVIEWS:

“Bright fruit flavors of black cherry and boysenberry, with vanilla accents, are supported by light, firm tannins and citrusy acidity in this round red.”
Wine Spectator, November 2014

88 POINTS
“Dark violet, blueberry and earthy black plummy fruit greets the nose along with streaks of licorice and medicinal spice. Tight, focused and just a bit tart on entry, this open nicely on the palate featuring soft, almost plush fruit underpinned with firm, slight rustic tannins. There’s some nice fruit here, blueberry and plum toned, but the emerging savory nuance adds attractive complexity. It’s a pretty well behaved wine showing a hint of sophistication yet retaining the rugged character of Ribera.”
Snooth, March 2014

WEB: www.HeredadCollection.com

2. 2011 Vaza Rioja Crianza, Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa. 14% ABV. $19.

I’ve tasted two other incarnations of Vaza Rioja, both in Spain last April when I visited Barcelona and the Priorat region courtesy of Freixenet. One experience of it, the 2010 Crianza, was in connection with a cooking class in Barcelona. The other experience, the 2011 Cosecha, was during our first dinner of the trip.

Deep violet garnet. Dusky fruit and oak, vanilla. Blackberry, licorice, spice and everything nice; a complex acidity that is mouth-watering first and then dry on the finish. Aged in French and American oak for 12 or more months, as is required in order to be a Crianza.

ANOTHER REVIEW: “The Vaza Crianza is fresh and fruit forward with attractive dark red fruit notes. While modestly concentrated, it is very pleasant drinking, with dry firm tannins on the finish.”
International Wine Review, July 2014

WEB: www.HeredadCollection.com

3. Mia Red, NV, Spain. 14% ABV. $12.

This summer, I attended winemaker Gloria Collell’s launch of her Mia brand in Ft. Lauderdale, and I tried a number of sparkling and still wines that evening that were all marvelous and approachable. And this one is another Tempranillo that wasn’t aged in oak! However, in this case, unlike the Cosecha (#1), I wasn’t surprised–it has a softness and purity that is appealing.

Dark violet. Clean cherry aroma. Full of fruit and brilliance. Mouth-filling, beautifully soft wine with the most pleasant and rich cherry taste ever. With 14 g/l residual sugar, this would be characterized as off-dry, although it doesn’t come across as “sweet” at all.

Winemaker Gloria Collell writes:

“Mia red highlights all the qualities of Spain’s classic grape variety–Tempranillo. As I wanted the pureness of the grape to shine through, the wine isn’t barrelled in oak.

“The colour of the wine is a deep ruby red with a slightly violet blue touch, which is typical of a young Tempranillo. And if you put a glass of our red to your nose, you can smell a real earthiness, plus hints of plums, violets and even orange.

“When you come to taste it, I think you’ll find the wine rich and fruity, with hints of plum and red berries. It’s a little spicy as well and has a taste that lingers in the mouth.

“I think my Mia red is perfect to drink with white meat, beef and lamb, as well as pasta and vegetables. You can also enjoy drinking it slightly chilled if you prefer.”

WEB: www.MiaWines.com

Of these three Tempranillos that I enjoyed last night and tonight, it was difficult to select a favorite, as all of them had tremendous appeal and differences. And if you can’t find any of these three wines, I would also recommend any vintage of Marques de Riscal, because every vintage has been delicious and a little different, and the wine is easy to find anywhere, even in higher-end grocery stores. Samples sent for review.

 

Posted in Spain, Tempranillo, Uncategorized | 1 Comment