This Malbec Should Be Arrested For Assault!

It is with great pride I share my very first video post – the first of many near-masterpieces to come! If you had the pleasure of experiencing my prior VideoPress technical difficulties, I deeply apologize. I know my very public pleas to the WP support team were uncomfortable for all of us. Well, the issue was resolved after I called Uncle Dick – he’s from the Cheney side of the family, very very very distant cousins, but none the less, helpful in a pinch. So magically my video post worked unexplainably, but if there are WP execs on an extended leave to Guantanamo Bay, I hope they are enjoying the ocean breeze, cigars and water sports. With a humiliating spectacle behind us, I send my deepest appreciation to all who choose to read my posts. I know you have a multitude of options for your viewing pleasure and I value your patronage…if you would like to see my desperate cries for help on the WP support forum click this . With out further adieu – here’s to a day in the office on a Malbec safari!

( Video is best viewed NOT through a Safari browser.)

Stay curious!

loie

Let’s Party Like It’s 5775!

“Are you wondering why all your Jewish friends got to play hooky from work and school yesterday and today? Well, the answer is Rosh Hashanah…a magical Jewish holiday that you probably know nothing about.”

—Jeff Wysaski http://www.pleated-jeans.com/

This is not an homage to Manischewitz although I have received multitudes of requests for me to post a review. Not going to touch that! This is a genuine wine review brought to you graciously by my friend @kosherreview.

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Being a newbie blogger and tweeter, one of the very first people to engage with me directly was @kosherreview. “Kosh” and I clicked right aways as we share a common love for the Trader Joe’s wine department. Moreover, my enjoyment of the intellectual pursuits of philosophy and the cultural practices of world religions, left me yearning to know more. What are kosher wines and why was “Kosh” sending me recommendations to try? Why was I the chosen one? Where was this going? Ah-ha! Many of the Judeo-Christian religions take great pleasure in wine and it was now my responsibility to proselytize the democratization of this sacred nectar and it’s deeper meaning beyond pure leisure and getting knockered. It is about family, gathering, love and ritual…and I’m down with that.

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First things first, what is this holiday and why should it influence our wine selections? Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s role in God’s world. Too bad they had the cider – oopsie! As I was exploring my intellectual curiosities about the holiday I came across the most excellent of memes to break it down for us gentiles:

Second things second, what is kosher? According to Jewish law, the three basic elements of keeping kosher are: 1.avoiding any non-kosher animals  such as fish that don’t have fins and scales – egads no lobster, 2. land animals that do not both chew their cud and have cleft hooves – that means NO BACON? Mon Dieu! 3. Most birds so no pheasant-soup for the soul, 4. NEVER eat meat and dairy together – that’s fine, I can keep my charcuterie and cheese boards from commingling, check. 5. Finally, only eat meat that was slaughtered in a certain way, and drained of blood but hopefully not embalmed. I have gastronomic concerns, but let’s not question a people who are 3,761 years ahead. The upside is more pork buns and lobster rolls for the rest of us!

“Kosh” elaborated eloquently in the following Q&A I imposed upon her:

CWC: What year is this on the Hebrew calendar?

KWR: We will be starting the 5775th year according to the Jewish Calendar!

CWC: What do you eat and drink for the holiday?

KWR: It is customary to eat symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”, the head of a fish (to symbolize the prayer “let us be the head and not the tail”. On Rosh Hashanah eve there is a special dinner which usually includes greetings and a lot of wine.

CWC: What are your favorite kosher wines and do you have any notes?

KWR: This question was the hardest for me as I have many, however, I tried to select those who will be most adequate to Rosh Hashana’s dinner so I was able to narrow the list to 4 wines, one for each course.

My first selection will be the Sara Bee Moscato NV. Sweet white wine from Puglia region, full with playful aromas of spring flower, almond blossom and lemon mousse. It is a rich and lively aperitif or a dessert wine, will be perfect for the “Kidush” before eating the apple with honey (the greeting in the beginning of the dinner).

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For  the first course, which is usually a gefilte (sugar added) fish I would go with Baron Herzog Chardonnay 2013. This Chardonnay is crisp and refreshing, smooth -textured yet lively on the palate. A very complex wine with notes of tropical fruit, apple and with a hint of vanilla on the finish. It pairs perfectly with fish or chicken.

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For the main dish I always like to choose red wine which pairs up perfectly with meat, so I chose the Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Spain. This wine has a nice tannic backbone and a pleasant mid-palate full of plum and cherry flavors, hints of spices and a note of chocolate highlighting blackberry and black cherry fruits.

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Last but not least – the desert wine. The Porto Cordovero 2005. This wine was fully matured in wood,  it has aroma of sweet black currant fruit, raspberry and dark chocolate. Will pair wonderfully with sorbet or fruits.

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CWC: Are any of them under $10?

KWR: Unfortunately the price of the Porto Cordovero and Baron Herzog Chardonnay are above 10 dollar.

However, the price of the Terrenal is only 4.99 dollar!!! But the taste is like a 15 dollar wine , as far as I know under this brand you can find kosher wines from Spain , Chile and Argentina.

The Sara Bee is also below $10, I bought it in Trdaer Joes for $6.99. it’s definitely my favorite Moscato!

CWC: Why did you start tweeting about Kosher Wines and do you have a blog or other venue for your reviews etc? (Opportunity to shamelessly plug yourself)

KWR: I always loved to try new wines, every time I see new Kosher wine I hadn’t tried yet I have to taste it! When my friends are looking for a bottle of wine they always call me to hear my recommendations. This is why I started twitting. It’s not always easy to find Kosher wine in the States, many times the store doesn’t sell the wine as Kosher and you need to know in advance which wine you are looking for (for example when I go to Trader Joes the wine sales person never knows that the Terrenal is Kosher….) so I thought my experience can help others as well. I also publish my recommendation and other wine related stories in my Facebook page – Kosher Wine Review.

CWC: If you had one wine region you would pick as a dream vacation where would it be?
KWR: Tuscany Italy is certainly my dream vacation. I can only imagine walking in those medieval towns and viewing the robust red wines, works of art, and the rolling picturesque views that inspired painters throughout centuries.

CWC: I think you meant to say Sonoma, but that’s ok, Italy is cool too. We’re still besties. 

Stay curious!

loie

Get your keys to the castle! A Guest-Worthy Pinot Noir for $8.99 – For Reals…

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2012 Castle Rock, Cuvée Pinot Noir, CA (cellared and bottled in St. Helena)

I am always scared to taste a Pinot Noir under $10. Why? Because a good Pinot under $10 cannot be done. Can-not! No way. No. Not ever. Never. Well you know what they say about saying never. Never.

Wincing, I opened the bottle. My victim that day was a local chef and presumably someone who would unfriend me for exposing him to this swill. I prefaced my tasting with apologies and gratitude for his bravery. We uncorked, poured and the rest is surprising. We are still friends.

It smelled like a Pinot to me, fresh, light, young, with notes of cherry and hibicus. First sip was peppery, baking spices, dark fruit, currant, medium bodied and very mild tannins with a pleasant woody finish. Very drinkable. Wow, what a delight. I have yet to meet a Pinot for this price point that I could take home to momma – this passed the sniff & sip test…with flying colors.

Who is Castle Rock? I like to research the makers of these fine wines of “Cheapeaux” and often you find a barrel load of corporate drivel laced with fabrications about growers, makers and wineries you will never visit because they in a warehouse in Commerce, California. Ok, I am verging on snobby which is not my style, but let’s keep it 100. How is it possible for these wines to be priced so freakin cheap? Yes, we have all heard the machinations about Two Buck Chuck consisting of high percentages of gopher guts and pesticides (my friends at Trader Joe’s HQ vehemently deny these rumors and I believe them.) But when a wine is actually good and as guest worthy as this one, I’d like to understand how they pulled it off. I mean, bravo, they actually made a ridiculously cheap bottle of wine truly enjoyable.

Moreover, Castle Rock wines are widely available. I believe this one was acquired at a Safeway. So after poking around, I discovered they offer wines from Napa/Sonoma in California, Willamette Valley, Oregon, and Columbia Valley, Washington but they are HQ in Rancho Palos Verdes in Southern California. What exactly does “bottled and cellared in St. Helena” mean anyways? The plot thickens. Go to the source – their website. Ah-ha – this is how they do it.

“After the harvest, the wines are made in accordance with Castle Rock’s winemaking standards, and are bottled at wineries, boasting state-of-the-art equipment, located in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Washington’s Columbia Valley. Castle Rock’s business model aims to please, lovely on the palate, easy on the wallet. By virtue of having a low overhead, (no nagging real estate mortgages, no marketing teams or large staff to employ, and no elaborate facilities) Castle Rock is able to funnel all their capital into making the best possible wine for the best possible price.”

Well, I like a straight shooter, especially when it’s about what’s going in my Riedels. Moreover, their wines have won several awards of distinction, this 2012 Pinot Noir was awarded a double gold medal and 92 pts from the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Oh-la-la! Pas mal.

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Adding further confidence, their wine makers/growers are both very established and respected in Washington and California. Greg Powers was recognized as a “Rising Star” by Wine Spectator and as one of the “50 Great U.S. Cabernet Producers” by Wine Enthusiast. He started his esteemed career very young by helping his father plant 80 acres of grapes on the family vineyard, Badger Mountain in the Columbia Valley which under his supervision, transitioned the farming from conventional to organic. The California grower and maker, Vic Roberts, is the owner and winemaker at Victor Hugo Vineyards and Winery in the heart of California’s Paso Robles wine country. In 1985 he pursued his dream of being a wine maker by planting 15 acres of grapes on his property which now stands at 78 acres, with the winery located in a picturesque, recently renovated 100 year old barn.

I believe the care and expertise that is put into these widely distributed value wines is fascinating and obviously yields impressive results. This is the dawning of the era of good cheap wine in the US. With producers like Castle Rock, I look forward to trying more….although I cannot guarantee I won’t wince before the first sip.

Stay curious!
loie

A Jammy Whammy! $9.99

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Line 39 2013 Petit Sirah California $9.99
Available at WholeFoods

It was my night to cook, so I was planning on al fresco dining with a menu consisting of an appetizer of cheese, main course of cheese, and a dessert of cheese. The perfect accompaniment would be a full bodied red and a crusty baguette. Bon appetit! Although this meal may not seem well rounded, I think displays of culinary acumen are highly overrated and should be supplanted by consumption and enjoyment. After drinking a green juice, eating a dry chicken breast and doing 50 burpees, I was ready for a heaping serving of self gratification. (I embellished my penance – I actually drank a green juice while spying on a crow rummage through my neighbor’s trash, that’s cheese worthy right?)

The cheese department at my neighborhood WholeFoods is conveniently adjacent to the wine department, wow, how ingenious. I selected three cow’s milk cheeses. First course was a mild nutty Gouda, next a strong, sharp English Seaside Cheddar, and finished the meal with a Dolcelatte (fattier cousin of Grogonzola, if you can believe that.) I pivoted 5 feet to the wine aisle and searched for a bold red to meet the challenge. Looking at the bottom shelf, the hang tags screaming “sale” caught my eye and I found a Petit Sirah for a deal – $8.99 which was a buck off retail of $9.99. Score!

Petit Sirah is actually the Durif variety of red wine grape. It is called “Petit Sirah” because the fruit is recognizably smaller and it is a hybrid of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin plant. It’s a full bodied grape that is often used as a blending partner to strengthen other wines.

Once home, I opened the bottle to let it breathe. My expectations were not high as I know all too well the dangers of this job. Once poured, I was optimistic as the nose was immediately a delightful plummy spice, very aromatic. First sip, was very jammy, full bodied, dark cherries, ripe plum, balanced tannins not much acid and a satisfying finish. By golly, this wine is thoroughly enjoyable. Perfect to drink right now with rich Italian foods, pasta, tomato sauce, BBQ and my triumvirate of cheese. It tamed the richness of the Dolcelatte and gave the simplicity of the Gouda a kick. I believe the best accompaniment was the English cheddar, where the sharp saltiness was perfectly match with the fruit of the wine. Add that crunch from the baguette – heaven!

This wine is highly quaffable, a great price and widely available through Whole Foods in the US.  It’s not a wine for a sophisticated palate to perseverate over the complexities but that’s not always the point either. It’s very fruit forward, ripe berries with a jammy boldness that pairs best with stronger flavors. Would be the perfect companion to a prime rib, or an Alfredo cream sauce but not a delicate terrine. It’s definitely guest worthy and nearly case worthy!

Another upside to this wine is the label. It is as tasteful as the wine and has an interesting story about the origin of the name which is derived from the 39th parallel that runs through the wine country of California. This is a great bottle to bring as a guest to dinner. No cutesy name and anthropomorphic mascots, just a clever story behind the wine to make it memorable. The host and other guests will have no idea you spend 1/3 of what they thought you did, how generous of you!

Stay curious,

loie