Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Wine (...and Craft Beer)

Another good year spent drinking tasty wines and craft beers, getting a little travel in and adding varietals to my Wine Century Club list and another state to our 50 States Of Wine project. Besides traveling to drink, many great opportunities presented themselves to us right here in Chicago, truly a great opportunity to taste great libations and meet people from all over the world. Here are a few of the highlights.

Wine video of Noboleis and Montelle

In conjunction with a trip to St Louis, we also got the chance to visit a few Missouri wineries, making this our 6th state since we started keeping track again.

Provence in the City 2014 - Chicago

What better, in winter with the cold and snow, than to attend the Provence in the City 2014 - Chicago, and imagine myself beachside, sipping dry Rosé? Though slightly crowded, the Pump Room restaurant was a classic and classy place to hold this wine tasting. While we were uncertain where to get started, it turned out that it didn't matter - the Provencal winemakers are a friendly bunch, and held to strict standards in the production of Rosé, so every wine was pretty much amazing.

Michigan Wine Showcase

We were so excited that the wineries of Michigan were coming to the City Winery in Chicago. While we've tasted quite a bit of wine from the Southwest corner of the state, we've not had many chances to try those further from home. Having them come to us was quite a treat. With more than 20 wineries represented, each pouring at least 4 wines, there was the possibility of over-doing it, so we decided to divide and conquer, limiting our tasting to Pinot Noir, rosés and sparklers. It's both a blessing and a curse to have so much to choose from, because we missed some wines we really wanted to try.

#NZSipsChicago

You might find a nicer group of winemakers, but I doubt it. Walking into the bar of Brixen Ivy, a rooftop restaurant built specifically to watch the Chicago Cubs, we were approached immediately by the vintners, introductions soon followed by glasses of sparkling wine in our hands (yes, NZ has sparkling wine!). This was the beginning of two days spent in the company of the Kiwis, courtesy of Complexity, a group dedicated to getting the word out on how great New Zealand wines are. The next day we met up again in more formal circumstances, sitting down for a masterclass at Rebar, a beautiful bar overlooking the river in the Trump Chicago Hotel. The focus of the class was to demonstrate the ageability of New Zealand wines. Aging? New Zealand wines? I had honestly never considered it.

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. invited every craft brewery in the country – more than 2,700 – to take part in a multi-weekend traveling beer festival this summer. Beer Camp Across America is a celebration for the entire craft beer community, bringing together brewers and the fans who have buoyed their success. The Midwest Edition took place on July 27th, on Navy Pier, under a full sun and blue skies. Partly indoors, partly outside, this was a well-designed event that, while crowded, never felt uncomfortable. It was awesome to be able to walk in and out as desired. Food trucks parked at the end of the Pier offered lunch with a view and plenty of opportunities to try a variety of beer and food pairings. As always, too many beers to drink, so much good stuff had to be bypassed in the name of health.

Berghoff Taste of Oktoberfest

An invitation to the The Berghoff's media preview of their Taste of Oktoberfest menu was a no-brainer. I work nearby and stop in occasionally for lunch at this true Chicago classic. Why wouldn't I want the opportunity to preview Chicago's largest, longest-running Oktoberfest celebration - Berghoff Beer and good food, can't be beat. Good food and good beers, great combination.

United Wines of Veneto Master Class

I was doubly excited to attend the United Wines of Veneto Master Class last week. One, I love the wines from that area (a Soave Master Class some time ago was another recent highlight). Two, I'd never visited the venue, Eataly Chicago, where the seminar was being held. 8 consortiums, 8 wines, with 3 small bites to accompany - sounded pretty good.

Pretty great year, and this does not include all the virtual wine tastings I participated in this year, from Lodi Old Vine Zins to saké to wines from Uruguay, it was an unbelievable year for tasting some amazing things, often paired with fun and/or unusual foods. Here's hoping your 2015 is full of good food, good drinks, and good people to share it with!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Sparklers from Oregon, Spain, and Italy

New Year's Sparkling Wines

Don't limit yourself to sparkling wines from France (Champagne or otherwise) as you ring in the New Year! Wonderful sparklers are available from Oregon (yes, Oregon), Spain, and Italy - there is sure to be one that both fits your palate and your checkbook.

I was really excited to get samples from Oregon's Kramer Vineyards, because any place that makes great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like Oregon should also be able to make great sparkling wine (not that sparkling wine needs to be made from those 2 grapes, but you get the idea). In fact, the wines I tasted have neither of those grapes, and are still fantastic.
2013 Celebrate Pinot Gris: grapes hand harvested from 27 year old vines; whole cluster pressed; fermented in stainless steel and aged sur lie for 5 months; bubbles added though a diffusion stone; pear, kiwi, and citrus aromas; pear, white floral, and melon flavors into a mineral finish; plentiful bubbles; 12.5% ABV; cork closure; 99 cases produced; SRP $22.
2013 Celebrate Müller-Thurgau: grapes hand harvested; whole cluster pressed; fermented in stainless steel and aged sur lie for 5 months; bubbles added though a diffusion stone; tropical, citrus blossom, lychee and stone fruit aromas; pear, stone fruit, and starfruit flavors; smooth mouthfeel with bubbles coming on late; tart, almost sour finish; 11% ABV; cork closure; 325 cases produced; SRP $22.
Sparkling Moscato
Mia Moscato is available in regular and mini single-serve bottles and this slightly sweet wine is fun to drink on its own or pairs well with pretty much every food. Fermented in stainless steel; 7% ABV. Pack a few bottles of this, along with a lunch, and enjoy an al fresco winter picnic.
Prosecco
New Year's Resolutions? VOVETI Prosecco, whose name has origins in the Latin word “voveo” (to vow), is the perfect choice to toast to new resolutions, and the year to come. Hand picked, whole berry pressed grapes; fermented in stainless then aged sur lie; honey and floral aromas lead into green apple, melon and stone fruit flavors, with small, long-lasting bubbles; 11% ABV; cork closure.
Cava
The “Black Bottle Bubbly,” Cordon Negro Brut, is the classic Freixenet Cava, sure to please every one's palate. For something a little different, mix their Sweet Cuvée (lower acidity) with orange juice for a mighty tasty Mimosa. 35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel-lo, 40% Parellada grapes; stone fruit and subtle citrus aromas; tropical and stone fruit flavors; 12% ABV; cork closure.

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad is a Spanish Cava made in the traditional méthode champenoise. The pewter-embellished bottle bears the crest of the Segura Viudas family, and houses the estate’s top cuvée. Hand harvested grapes (67% Macabeo, 33% Parellada); 9 wines vinified in stainless feel; aged sur lie for 30+ months; yeasty, with a touch of honey and stone fruit; 12% ABV; cork closure. The only thing more festive than this bottle of cava is a magnum of it - something about large-format bottles really feels luxurious!
So go ahead and open that bottle of Champagne if you want, but know there is a whole other world of sparklers out there just clamoring for your attention. All these bottles are food-friendly, pocketbook-friendly, and will cheer you and your guests not only New Year's Eve, but the next morning's brunch as well.

Cheers - Happy New Year!

Wines were provided as media samples - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Turkish Wines

Every time I think I have even the smallest handle on some infinitesimal part of the wine world, something comes along that shows me just how more is out there. In this case, Turkish wines. I'm not sure why Turkish wines haven't come across my radar beyond being mere blips, but it turns out that Turkey is (according to some sources) the fourth largest wine grape producer in the world. Huh? Why are they not better known then? Shane Rai of VinoRai is out to change that. Founded in 2012, VinoRai is a fine wine importer that is focused on emerging wine regions, with exclusive rights to represent Turkey’s finest wineries.

The Turkish wine renaissance continues its momentum in the U.S. with the introduction of four new and distinctive wines by VinoRai, national importer of quality Turkish wines. Shane provided me with samples from two wineries who are working with both indigenous and international varieties. Located in Cappadocia, Turasan has been owned and operated by three generations of the family spanning 70 years. The Turasan family is the region’s first modern wine-making family, where wine-making history and tradition goes back 7,000 years to the Hittites and Byzantines. Diren is located in Tokat, Mid-Eastern Anatolia, a region famous for its unique white Narince grape, and was established in 1958. It is well respected for its focus and excellence in producing wines from regional indigenous varietals.

Turkish Wines

Tasting Notes
2013 Turasan Emir: vinified in stainless then aged sur lie in stainless for 6 months; light straw color; citrus, orchard fruit, floral, and fennel aromas; citrus, floral, orchard fruit, and mineral flavors; 13.5% ABV; agglomerate cork; 20,000 bottles produced; SRP $14.

2012 Diren Öküzgözü: 85% Öküzgözü, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; vinified in stainless steel; aged  1.5 years in stainless; dark garnet with ruby edges; dark cherry, pomegranate, plum, and spice aromas; stewed plum, red berry, forest and herb flavors; typically a high acid grape, this is very smooth and balanced; luscious mouthfeel; 13.3% ABV; cork closure; 1,000 cases produced; SRP $15.

2011 Diren Karmena Red: Öküzgözü, Boğazkere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot; vinified in stainless steel; aged 12 months in French oak, then 1.5 years in stainless; sparkling ruby red color; cassis, dark cherry, and green pepper aromas; rhubarb, smoke, red berry and herbal flavors; light bodied, balanced, with a tannic finish; 13.5% ABV; cork closure; 2,500 cases produced; SRP $13.
These are truly one of a kind wines, both in flavor and in texture. Pleasant on their own, these wines exhibit more characteristics when paired with a variety of food - these wines would be great at any special occasion, when their quality and uniqueness will have your guests amazed they are drinking wines from Turkey. Also, if you're interested in new varietals, these three bottles afford three new entries into your Wine Century Club list.

Wines provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Holidays are a great time, not just because often people are more cheerful, but also because we get and receive presents! From this year, here are some things that have made me happy and that I can suggest with the knowledge that the recipient of one of these gifts will be overjoyed.

Mionetto Prosecco

This has been my year for Prosecco (and I'm not alone). One brand you can't go wrong with is Mionetto Prosecco. Founded in 1887 by Francesco Mionetto in the small village of Valdobbiadene, Mionetto has an established reputation for quality, tradition and innovation. One thing I really appreciate is that quality extends across all their price points - these are great QPR! Add in that they have an organic Prosecco (hooray!) and I'm one happy sipper.

World Vision Prosperity Cinnamon

What's a better gift than helping someone in need? Donate to World Vision, they'll help someone in need, and you'll receive a gift to commemorate your action. You could help out a family and receive Prosperity Cinnamon: Each beautifully-carved cinnamon bark box contains 3 oz. of cinnamon and bears a common Asian character for prosperity. Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon is a renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree, sold to benefit generations of hard-working families. Not interested in cinnamon? Plenty of other options to choose from.


The Joseph Carr Winery in California works with small growers, coopers, and winemakers making tasty wines from across California, including Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties and the Central Coast. Josh Cellars is Joseph Carr’s ‘Vin de Garage’ project, named in honor of his father. Josh Cellars doesn't just honor Carr's father, but actively supports our heroes through organizations like Operation Homefront and the Gary Sinise Foundation - drink wine and help others, a great combination!



Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

"The Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship was founded in 2009 to provide well established “citizen bloggers” with a stipend so they can attend the wine bloggers conference, further their knowledge, their network, the wine blogging community and the wine industry as a whole." I was a recipient of a Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship in 2013 and it was an amazing experience! I met so many people I'd only read before, was inspired to continue the blog, and traveled to a far off wine destination I didn't know existed and probably wouldn't have visited otherwise. That's where you come in - DONATE to the fund and send a blogger to the Conference. Even if we don't end up being chosen, from my experience last year I know it's an amazing opportunity, but it only happens from generous donors. Donate what you can - in previous years Tom Wark (Fermentation) and Amy Gross (VineSleuth) each matched donations, which was a huge boon. Every little bit helps.

Lodi Native Project

One of the coolest wine experiences of the year was tasting 6 Zinfandels from the The Lodi Native Project. This is a collaborative vision, with 6 winegrowers from the Lodi Wine Mokelumne River sub-AVA. The spotlight is on the region’s heritage plantings – minimalist winemaking, native yeasts, and no new oak. The initial focus has been on Zinfandel, though discussions are underway on other possibilities. Buying this 6 pack of wine will make any Old Vine Zin lover swoon and everybody else gain an appreciation for these wines.


Underground Cellar is a wine club, but not a wine club. Join for free, no monthly dues, yup, not a wine club. Underground Cellar offers limited-time deals on wines in an unusual way: pay one price, get wines of varying values. A twist is that every bottle of wine you order is eligible for a free random upgrade to a higher quality bottle of wine. If you're an active member and get lots of friends to join Underground Cellar, you have a better chance of getting an upgraded bottle of wine in your shipment.

2014 Chicago Food Bloggers Gift Guide

Need even more ideas? Check out the 2014 Chicago Food Bloggers Gift Guide!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bareburger, Columbus

I try to eat healthy every day, to the fullest extent possible. When I travel, I really make an effort, though, to be honest, it's pretty tough to find restaurants that really care within a reasonable distance. I was excited to discover Columbus' Bareburger, which was walking distance to my hotel. All of Bareburger's organic and all-natural, free-range meats are grass-fed and pasture raised. They also source organically grown fruits and vegetables. Right up my alley!

Bare Burger Columbus

They have other things on the menu, but if you're going to a place with burger in the name, why would you order anything else? Decently sized, they can be ordered on a variety of breads or as a "salad" topping (one suggestion to them would be to chop both the lettuce underneath and on top if someone doesn't order bread - would have made it a LOT easier to eat everything together). They also carry local craft beers, which is my go-to if there aren't local wines or if beer would go better with the meal.  In this case it was definitely the right choice. I don't often eat onion rings anymore, but these are worth ordering for sure, as are the sweet potato fries. Order the Supreme and you'll get both as toppings. For dessert, the flour less chocolate cake was really tasty, but the cherry compote on the side elevated it well beyond others I've tried.

Bare Burger Columbus

The restaurant sits in what appears to be an old space, with tall ceilings of pressed tin (or a facsimile). It's comfortable, with tables, booths, and bar stools for sitting.
"Almost everything in our Bareburger restaurants are built from a sustainable and reclaimed material. The tabletops are crafted from trees felled by storms. Our booths are made from recycled, post consumer vinyl. Our ceilings are paneled with reclaimed tin siding from deconstructed barns. Most of our takeout products are made with plant resin or recycled paper products, and all of them (even the bags) are biodegradable. We are proud the animals that supply our meat have been treated humanely and with respect.
Bareburger is a chain with locations in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Ohio. If I find myself in any of those locations, Bareburger will be an option I'll definitely search out.

Bareburger on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Almost 30 years ago, when I first became interested in wine, there were not a lot of wine books around, especially for a complete neophyte like myself. Like many others, I turned to Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (2014, Sterling Epicure), not only reading the book for education, but also dreaming of eating in the restaurant stop the World Trade Center. Alas, the horrific events of 9/11 made that dream unreachable.

With the World Trade Centers Memorial opening this year, Zraly created a special 30th Anniversary Edition of his resourceful tome, updating it with newer information and adding a special section in remembrance of that famous restaurant, Windows on the World.

Chock full of useful information, maps, labels, and so much more, this book deserves a place in your wine library. If you own it, consider giving this as a gift to one who doesn't, especially a beginning wine enthusiast, who would certainly spend many pleasant hours tipping a glass and turning these pages.

This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour

This summer, I was invited to, but missed, the Wines of Uruguay tasting tour. Happily, the good folks at Charles Communications sent me some wines to taste after the fact. It’s taken us some time to taste through the selections, red and white, but haste makes waste, and we definitely wanted to give these wines their due.

Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour

Uruguay is located in the same latitudes as winegrowing regions in Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Producing 10 million cases of wine annually (from i22,000 acres of vines). Uruguayan wine is not well-known for its wines internationally, due to the fact that 95% of the wine is consumed domestically.

Many Uruguayan vineyards are small in size, allowing careful attention both during the growing season, when many are dry farmed, through to the harvest, when many of the grapes are picked by hand. When I think of Uruguayan wines, I think of Tannat. since the country is the world’s largest producer of Tannat with approximately 7,200 acres planted. Red varietals make up the bulk of plantings, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon the most popular after Tannat. Other reds include Cabernet Franc,Tempranillo, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and Marselan. Though not as commonly planted, white varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillón, with Viognier, Albariño, Petit Manseng, and Roussanne also represented.

After having tasted a few wines at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference, I had hoped to get a chance to taste more, so this was an amazing opportunity. Having tasted through the dozen bottles sent to us, I can see that a lot more tasting is in order. From those two sampling opportunities, I can say a few generalities about Uruguayan wines. The reds show plenty of dark fruit, forest and earth components, with flashes of both dark and red berries. There are plenty of tannins, though usually soft and integrated, so these reds drink respectably now and should reward cellaring for a few years or more. In either case, I highly recommend decanting these wines to allow them to open more quickly. If you haven't had the opportunity to taste wines of Uruguay, they are well worth searching out for their unique qualities and good taste.

For more information on the wineries represented on the tour, check out the Wines of Uruguay tour website.

Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

Founded in 2003, Charles Communications Associates, LLC is an independent creative marketing communications and public relations firm based in San Francisco, California, that helps local and global companies create, build and launch brands.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

United Wines of Veneto Master Class

I was doubly excited to attend the United Wines of Veneto Master Class last week. One, I love the wines from that area (a Soave Master Class some time ago was another recent highlight). Two, I'd never visited the venue, Eataly Chicago, where the seminar was being held. 8 consortiums, 8 wines, with 3 small bites to accompany - sounded pretty good.

United Wines of Veneto Master Class

First off, Eataly. This is a huge place, but totally unlike I had imagined. Kind of antiseptic, really, and holy cow, expensive. That being said, it's a good location for this sort of thing, the service was quite good, and the food made in-house was really tasty.

The wines were served in 3 flights: sparklers, still white wines, and then reds. The 3 sparkling wines were served with a "Fruco con Crudo di Salmone" (salmon tartare), so I missed out on that pairing as I can't abide seafood. The wines were quite good though, lots of citrus, tropical notes, and endless small bubbles. The 3 white wines were served with "Risotto al Raddichio," one of the best risottos I've ever had, no small feat when making enough for a crowd that large. More tropical, stone fruit, floral, and citrus goodness. The 2 reds were paired with a "Polpettine Veneziane," an unusual meatball that had a strange texture due to the inclusion of mashed potatoes. A lemon zest component kept things interesting, though. The reds had so many fruit components it was hard to take notes, one note after another rolling over the palate - outstanding.

United Wines of Veneto Master Class

Beyond the tasty wine and food pairings, this tasting also added 9 new varietals to my Wine Century Club Doppel list - new grapes are always a good thing.

This tasting was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

VAWineChat: Fabbioli Cellars

Several weeks ago, we gathered both virtually and in situ (for the lucky ones), to taste the wines of Doug Fabbioli and to hear his thoughts on the state of winemaking in Loudoun County, Virginia.

VAWinechat: Fabbioli Cellars

Fabbioli Cellars is a small, family owned and operated vineyard and winery that focuses on growing and making high quality wines using traditional methods and 21st century knowledge. The vineyard was originally planted in 2001, on a 25 acre parcel in the southern Lucketts area, just north of Leesburg in Loudoun County. Fabbioli makes wines from both hybrid and vinifera grapes.

"Real people. Earth friendly. Fabulous wines."

Tasting Notes:
2012 Cabernet Franc: hand harvested grapes with 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Tannat; aged 11 months in Hungarian and American oak; dark ruby red color; cherry, cassis, and vanilla aromas; pomegranate, tea, cranberry, cherry and baking spice flavors; 13.2% ABV; synthetic cork closure; 447 cases produced; SRP $24.
2012 Tannat: 75% Tannat, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot; aged 20 months in American, Virginian, and Pennsylvanian oak; cherry,  cedar, vanilla, and spice aromas; dark and bright red fruit, vanilla, earth, and spice flavors; plenty of tannins for this wine to improve in the cellar; 13.7% ABV; cork closure; 174 cases produced; SRP $45.
NV Pear Wine: Asian, Bosc, Bartlett pears; fermented, portion is distilled into pear brandy, then new vintage is added to a solera system of French oak barrels, established 2009; butterscotch, tone fruit, vanilla, and pears (!) on the nose; pears, ginger, and vanilla flavors; sweet but balanced, not cloying; 17.2% ABV; 93 cases produced; SRP $35.
These wines were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

December's #VAWineChat will feature 4 wines from Trump Winery - join in on December 11th at 7:30 PM ET via Twitter and UStream.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wine That's Fun

It's easy to get caught up in the serious side of wine, drinking only top flight wines and bemoaning the fools with their Two Buck Chuck. I'm actually not one of those wine enthusiasts, enjoying my Charles Shaw on occasion (it ranges from sublime to ridiculous, depending on the bottling). While I'm not comparing these as equal experiences, sometimes it's okay to find the fun and humor in wine, for it to be about enjoying what's in the glass and not thinking too much about it. Lately, I've been receiving wine samples that fall along this end of the spectrum. Here are a few of them.

Fun Wines

2012 Downton Abbey Bordeaux Claret - I'll admit off the bat that I've never seen this show, nor wanted to, though I was a huge fan of Masterpiece Theater growing up and it should be right up my alley. This Bordeaux blend, made up of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec grapes sourced from the Entre-Deux-Mers region in France is a nice, simple blend. Earth and bright berry aromas lead into a dark fruit and forest floor palate, well-balanced and easy to drink. Okay on its own, better with food. At a SRP of $17, this is a decent buy. Cork closure and 13% ABV.

Stack Wines is a bottle of wine separated into four unbreakable, stemless wine "glasses." Each is 187ml of wine and available in Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Blend. I received the Chardonnay and the Red Blend and was amazed at how light each 4 pack was. The plastic cover keeps the glasses together, along with each glass being stuck to the one(s) next to it. The wines were decent, on the sweeter side for my palate, and, at a SRP of $13, not bad for a bottle of wine that is so portable. Stack Wines are ideal for picnics, hiking, or camping.

Fifty Shades of Grey Red Satin: Primarily Petite Sirah and Syrah; aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak barrels; dark fruit, vanilla, and spice aromas; cherry, cocoa, vanilla, and spice flavors; 13.5% ABV; cork closure; SRP $18.

VOGA Italia's Red Fusion: 65% Zinfandel and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon; earth, dark fruit, and subtle floral aromas;  dark berry, cherry, bright red fruit, and floral flavors; plenty of tannins mean a dry finish; twist-off closure; SRP $12. I'll admit the packaging was off-putting to me, as the bottle resembles a can of hair spray, in my opinion (maybe I'm just showing my age).

So I promise you some people will look down on these wines as gimmicks or unworthy of your attention, but sometimes wine should just be fun, and these wines fit the bill.

These wines were received for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WineStudio: Willamette Valley Chardonnays (Week IV)

The Importance of Being a Willamette Valley Chardonnay
#WineStudio Tuesdays 6:00pm – 7:00pm PDT

When you think of the Willamette Valley (it's Willamette, dammit!), you probably think of world-class Pinot Noir, and you wouldn't be wrong. With 11,053 acres planted, fabulous Pinots come out every vintage, year after year. But the Valley has a lighter side as well, with over 3,400 acres of white grape varietals planted, 684 of which are Chardonnay. Yes, Chardonnay. The November WineStudio gets into the Chardonnay renaissance in Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, citing terroir, sustainability, biodynamics, philosophy, adventure and the future of Oregon Chardonnay.

Westrey 2012 Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Amy and David of the Westrey Wine Company strive to grow their grapes and make their wines sustainably; the vineyard is LIVE certified, a credential that is earned by taking into account not only organic approaches to farming but also by considering the inputs and outputs of the farm as a whole. They make Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay with fruit sources from long-time friends in the Willamette Valley and their own Oracle Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Vineyard-designated bottlings are designed to showcase the connection between the individual farms where the grapes are grown and the final personality of the wine. Westrey wines are styled to showcase fruit in a context of balanced texture, acidity and alcohol, and grapes are harvested at the peak of balance between acidity and ripe flavors.

Tasting Notes

2012 Willamette Valley Reserve Chardonnay
Grapes from non-irrigated 35-year-old Draper vines in their Oracle Vineyard; six month extended fermentation, including complete malolactic fermentation; aged in one new barrel and two one-year-old French oak barrels; bottled without filtration after 12 months; beautiful golden straw color; orchard fruit, subtle floral and spice aromas; stone fruit, pear, subtle citrus, vanilla, yeast, and stone flavors; rich mounthfeel wrapped around an acid spine; surprisingly short finish; 12.9% ABV; cork closure; 142 cases and 4 cases of magnums produced; SRP $32. This wine really opened up as it warmed up, constantly evolving and displaying new attributes. Stood up to spicy chicken drumsticks, which wasn't an obvious pairing but still worked out okay.
PROTOCOL #WineStudio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.

December's #WineStudio, Session XIX – Bubbles, starts tonight December 2, and runs Tuesdays at 9:00 PM ET until December 16. Join in the fun!

Wine was provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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