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Friday, December 19, 2014

Flora Springs Gamut, NV First Release

Gamut NV

Flora Springs is located at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in the far northwest corner of the Rutherford AVA in the heart of Napa Valley. Natural springs on the property have flowed continuously even in times of drought.

The winery is also very good in making sure people don’t go thirsty. Their Trilogy blend has been delighting wine lovers since 1984 and their single vineyard wines range from $100 to $125 a bottle.

My wine budget is a bit more modest than that, so when I spotted Gamut online for about $20 a bottle, I jumped. Gamut is a proprietary estate-grown Cabernet blend of the 2011 and 2012 vintages.

Non-vintage indicates that the grapes do not come from just one year’s harvest. But in this case, the blending of the two year’s fruit pays off deliciously.The 2011 grapes come from the hillside vineyards while the 2012 come from the valley floor.

The blend is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Malbec and Petite Verdot. It was aged in a combination of French and American oak.

We sampled this wine on its own, but I would suggest pairing it with a nice steak or a selection of cheeses to soften the tannins. It offers a flourish of juicy raspberry and blueberry. Interest is created by dabs of spice and coffee sewn together with a hint of oak.

Gamut, as far as I can tell, is only available through Invino and possibly some other online retailers. A second bottling combines fruit from the 2011 and 2012 harvests and it has a different label.

This a wine from a great neighborhood, crafted by premier winemaker Paul Steinauer into a blend that is head and shoulders above others in its price range. Buy multiple bottles if you can find it.

Rating: 3.5 of 5  Value: 5 of 5

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ordering Wine In Restaurants: A Survival Guide

We hope you are enjoying the holiday season. Relax, put your feet up and enjoy one of our most popular posts...

Many an evening of fine dining at a great restaurant can be marred by anxiety about selecting and ordering wine. With some kathleen conklin bottle prices at $60 to $100 or more, the anxiety is understandable. You want to be sure to select a wine that complements your meal, look somewhat like a sophisticate and finish the night with some green left in your wallet. Here are some suggestions that are certain to help:


Understand Your Taste -- You should have a handle on your own wine tastes before venturing forth. Do you enjoy a nice Columbia Crest Chardonnay or Rutherford Hill Merlot? Or perhaps you really enjoy Italian wines from Tuscany or Pinot Noirs. This gives you a great starting point when surveying a wine list. You can search for grapes you enjoy (such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Merlot), brands you trust (such as Rutherford Hill or Columbia Crest) or a country. By knowing your wine style, it also provides important information to your waiter or sommelier so they can provide proper guidance. This helps you avoid buying what might be a great wine for someone else, but a complete mismatch for you.


Do Some Advance Scouting -- I sometimes have to make group dinner reservations for out of town meetings. The internet is a lifesaver. I can go on-line, view photos of the restaurants, see a map, check out the menu and -- certainly crucial to the dining decision -- view the wine list. If the restaurant you're going to has an online wine list, check it out. At your leisure you'll be able to get an idea of the prices and your options. You can go in prepared with several choices. This will avoid having your eyes glaze over when you are handed a four-inch thick wine list. You can even research some of the wines on the internet by doing a Google search. Some restaurants even have suggested wine pairings.

Find Your Style Wine -- When viewing the wine list, you should first determine how it is organized. Traditional wine lists are organized by categories, such as wines by the glass, white wines, sparkling wines and red wines. More progressive wine lists organize wines by the grape variety used to make the wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Merlot, for example. More recently some restaurants and wine bars organize their wines by the taste of the wine: "crisp, dry whites," "fruit forward reds" or "full bodied."

Zip to the category that sounds like it best suits your taste. If you are not sure what that is, look for your favorite wines or wineries on the list and use that category as a starting point.

Find the Sweet Spot in the Wine List -- A quick glance at the wine list will reveal that you'll have a few inexpensive selections, a number of costly options, but that most wines will be clustered in one price range. This is the "sweet spot" where you'll be able to locate a great wine at a reasonable cost.


The wine cost is usually benchmarked against the highest priced entree. At national chain restaurants, the cost is usually $5 to $10 more than the highest entree. At fine dining or destination restaurants, it is usually $10 to $20 more. So, if you are at casual dining restaurant, and the highest priced entree is $22, you can expect a nice selection of wines in the $27 to $32 range.

Can You Get A Bargain? -- Every restaurant has a supply of usually mediocre red and white wines to offer as their house wines. If someone doesn't specify their wine beyond "red" or "white," this is what they'll get. My advice is to steer clear of this.

There are bargains to be had, though. Some restaurants will have featured wines. Recently at an upscale Italian restaurant in Denver, they featured cuisine from a different Italian region each month along with a wine selection from that region. This was a nice way to sample a unique wine at a reasonable price. Other restaurants offer featured wines selected by the chef. Since they have ordered a large quantity of the wine they will offer it at a lower bottle or by the glass price. There is so much good wine out there these days, you can certainly find an enjoyable glass for a reasonable price.

You can also find bargains by being a bit unconventional. Instead of the standard Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, you can try different varietals or countries. For example, for a white, try a Riesling, Fume Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. For a red try a California Zinfandel or anything from Chile.

Advice From Your Server -- Should you ask for guidance from your server? I must admit that for many years I lived up to the stereotype of men who refused to ask for directions (thank goodness for GPS) and would not ask for suggestions from servers. I've changed my tune.

First try to determine whether the restaurant and the server are tuned in to wine. If my server doesn't know the difference between Pinot Noir and Cabernet, for example, I figure there isn't much to be gained from him or her. Others, however are eager to share their knowledge and since they know the dishes can provide good guidance on pairings. If the restaurant has a sommelier, it is always nice to get their suggestions. If you follow their advice and enjoy the bottle, be sure to give them a tip.

The Very Best Tip for Ordering Wine -- This is a little trick I started using a few years ago. If you want a suggestion in a particular price range, you can say, "We are considering this wine. What do you think?" When you show the list to the waiter, point to the price. This allows you to indicate your price ceiling without losing dignity. Usually the server will pick up on your cue.

Glass or Bottle -- If you and a guest are each planning on having two glasses of wine with your meal, your best bet price-wise is a bottle. Those high per glass prices add up quickly. However, if you want variety -- especially at a wine bar or a restaurant with an extensive per glass list -- going by the glass is the ticket. Some wine-centered restaurants offer flights of wine (Poco Piatti at Levis Commons, for example) and this is a fun way to test a variety of wines. Another option is a half bottle, although the choice is usually limited.


Top photo by Kathleen Conklin
Bottom photo by Robert S. Donovan

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: December 17-20, 2014

Bottles of the California wine Stag's Leap Win...
Bottles of the California wine Stag's Leap Wine Cellars from Napa Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Wednesday, December 17
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. A Tasty Champagne and Some Great Reds for Holiday Dining: 1. Mousse Fils Blanc de Noirs Brut, 2. J. Lohr 2013 Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir, 3. Mariana Vinho Tinto, 4. Casaeda 2012 Syrah. Nominal fee per sample or $12 per flight.

Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Wine tasting featuring 90+ point rated wines: 1. Stags' Leap Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2. Etude Carneros Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, 3. Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet/Shiraz, South Australia, 4. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 5. -Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia. $15 flight. Come out with friends, have fun, taste good juice!

Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 6-8 PM. World of Wine: Porto, Portugal. One-hour seminar with a tasting of two or more wines. $15 per person. Seating is limited.
 
Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville, 5:30 – 8 PM. Stock your Holiday Cellar Wine Tasting: Bubbles, Port, & Cabernet Sauvignon ! Everything you need for Christmas through New Year. Special guest Tricia Rasar from Vintner Select. The cost is $20 per person. 1. Marc Hebrart Brut Rose-Champagne, 2. Mousse & Fils Brut Noire Reserve-Champagne, 3. Sean Minor Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-Napa, 4. Elyse Tietjan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon-Napa, 5. Kopke 2007 LBV Port, 6. Kopke 20 Year Tawny Port.

Thursday, December 18
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. Our Showcase Christmas Wines (Don't miss this one!) 1. 2010 Pride Mountain Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2. 2007 Silver Oak – Cabernet Sauvignon, 3. 2005 Stags Leap Wine Cellars – Fay Cabernet Sauvignon, 4. 2004 Joseph Phelps – Insignia – Red Blend. Premium tasting. Nominal fee per sample or $36 per flight.

Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Let's Party! Lively Wines for Party Time: 1. Toast Sparkling Wine, 2. Cuvaison Chardonnay, 3. Force of Nature Pinot Gris, 4. Cryptic Red, 5. Bogle Phantom, 6. Andronicus Red, 7. Earthquake Cabernet, 8. Dr. Loosen Beerenauslese. Nominal fee per sample.

Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting: Big reds, mostly cabernet, and a sparkling cocktail. Special guest: Tricia Rasar. 1. Gruet Blanc de Noir Brut, 2. Tre Leoni Whitehall Lane Red Blend, 3. Vinum Cellars Napa Cabernet, 4. Whitehall Lane Napa Cabernet, 5. Storybook Cellars Napa Cabernet, 6. Revelry Red Mountain Cabernet. Nominal fee per sample.
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.

TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville, 5:30 – 8 PM. Maggie Smith of Wine Trends will be the special guest for a tasting of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Friday, December 19
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.

Saturday, December 20
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Perfect Pairings for Christmas Dinner. Austin Beeman and Jim Krusinski offer up their picks for the very best wines to adorn your Christmas table. This tasting will feature both great values and premium superstars. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 1:00 – 4:00 PM. Kenwood wine tasting.

AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville.



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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:
Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines.  Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar). 

New Year’s EveMaumee Wines, (419) 893-2525, 2556, Parkway Plaza, Maumee. 6:30 – 9:30 PM Join us as we ring in the New Year. Featuring grower/producer Champagnes. Hors d’oeuvres include smoked Scottish salmon, imported cheeses and finger foods. $50 per person. Limited seating. Call for reservations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Zinful Wine Bar in Waterville Reopens for Holiday Season

Riesling Blind Tasting 003The holiday season got merrier for Toledo area wine lovers this week as Joyce Franzblau, owner of Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville, announced that the wine bar will reopen for the holiday season. Zinful closed back in March, disappointing scores of patrons.

Zinful will be open in December through at least the end of January for wine tastings, wine flights, beer, and cheese, crackers, and light snacks (nuts, meats, chocolates). Nick Kubiak, formerly of Andersons and Veritas, is serving as the wine expert for Zinful during its limited engagement. Nick has extensive wine knowledge and is a well-known wine figure in the Toledo area. Zinful will be offering wine classes during January.

The announcement is welcome news after a string of closures due to the economy. Aficionado Wine and Cigars closed in Perrysburg. The Bistro at Maumee Wines closed (although the wine shop remains open and tastings are periodically scheduled). The closing of Belle Wine and Martini Lounge at Levis Commons was also recently announced.

A special holiday wine tasting is scheduled at Zinful on Wednesday, December 17, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM with Tricia Rasar from Vintner Select. The cost is $20 per person. Featured will be a nice selection of quality Champagnes, Cabernets and Ports:

* Marc Hebrart Brut Rose-Champagne
* Mousse & Fils Brut Noire Reserve-Champagne
* Sean Minor Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-Napa
*Elyse Tietjan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon-Napa
*Kopke 2007 LBV Port
* Kopke 20 Year Tawny Port

On Thursday, December 18, Maggie Smith of Wine Trends will be the special guest for a tasting of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The tasting will also be from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. For beer lovers, a Maumee Bay Brewery Tap takeover is scheduled on Saturday.

Zinful will be closed on Sundays, but will be open the rest of the week into January (with the exception of Christmas Day and New Years Day). Their Facebook page carries full information on events and hours.

It’s time to visit an old friend for the holidays: Zinful Wine Bar!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Menu Inspiration from Sustainable Winegrowing Book

Looking for new recipes to transform your traditional holiday fare this year? These delicious and sustainably-minded dishes from Wine Institute's new book,"Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California," will set the stage – and your table – for a holiday to remember.

Your celebration can have a festive start with Grilled Oysters with Creamy Chipotle Sauce. The creamy texture of the oysters and spiciness of the chipotle sauce are a luscious combination with California Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. Sparkling wine always works with oysters too.

A hearty soup makes an easy first course when serving a crowd. This Wild Mushroom Soup with Parmesan Croutons offers up earthy, woodsy flavors that pair with California Pinot Noir or Merlot.

The main attraction? Try a flavorful Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Carrots and Fresh Herbs. Serve it hot with roasted carrots and savory pan drippings. Thin-sliced leftovers make great day-after sandwiches. Pair this dish with California Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Explore an alternative to holiday turkey this year with Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Pinot Noir Sauce. Pair it with Pinot Noir or a favoriteCalifornia Zinfandel.

End the meal on a sweet high note with a Silky Vanilla, Chocolate and Caramel Custard Trio. This dessert is a match with California late-harvest Riesling.

You can visit www.discovercaliforniawines.com for more exciting California recipes, fun wine country events, and information about Wine Institute's new book,"Down to Earth,” which also makes a great holiday gift for wine lovers.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room Opens Second Location in Royal Oak

MBTB 3The founders of Michigan By The Bottle, a website/online community promoting the Michigan wine industry, have teamed up with eight wineries from throughout the state to establish a second collaborative wine tasting room in Royal Oak.

Located on Woodward Ave., just south of Webster, Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room-Royal Oak opened its doors on Wednesday, Dec. 10. The tasting room offers tasting flights paired with small bites for a nominal fee, plus take-home wine sales by the bottle and case. The facility also carries various Michigan-made snacks and products, and will host events like winemaker meet-and-greets, art exhibits, food and wine pairing sessions, wine education classes and more.

While the tasting room opened for business Dec. 10, an official Grand Opening Celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015.

With the opening of the original location in Shelby Township in December 2012, MBTB Tasting Room became the first such establishment in the state to embrace this collaborative concept, which links multiple previously unaffiliated wineries under a single roof. The Shelby location has been extremely successful and warmly welcomed by the community, prompting the expansion into Oakland County.

MBTB 2At the Royal Oak location, MBTB is welcoming two additional partner wineries to the six already involved in the Shelby Township site. The eight partner wineries are excellent examples of Michigan viticulture and viniculture, all using estate-grown and/or locally sourced fruit. They are:

  • 2 Lads Winery (Traverse City)
  • Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson)
  • Chateau de Leelanau (Suttons Bay)
  • Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs)
  • Gill's Pier Vineyard & Winery (Northport)
  • Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City)
  • Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson)
  • Verterra Winery (Leland)

MBTB 1Cortney and Shannon Casey of Michigan By The Bottle are available for interviews, as are representatives from the partner wineries and representatives from the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council, who can speak about the Michigan wine industry as a whole and MBTB’s involvement in it. For more information, please contact Cortney at (586) 567-3033 or cort@michiganbythebottle.com.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A to Z 2013 Oregon Pinot Gris

A-Z Pinot Gris

I was looking forward to sampling this A to Z Pinot Gris during our Thanksgiving feast. Green Dragon and I had travelled to North Carolina to share the holiday with her family.

I packed all of the essentials: six bottles of wine and a corkscrew – I also brought some clothes. Imagine my surprise when Green Dragon told me that her family members probably wouldn’t want to drink wine with their Thanksgiving meal. What! She mentioned something about the meal taking place in the early afternoon.

As a result, five of the six wines I carted across three state borders came home with me, including this one. I’m glad it made it.

Upon our return from Thanksgiving, Green Dragon announced we needed new flooring in the kitchen and family room and started tearing up the floor. Instead of leisurely watching sporting events while sipping fine wine, I entered a week of forced labor sawing notches into flooring and tapping them in place. This is what happens when someone watches too much HGTV.

In the midst of the chaos, I chilled down this wine. I needed what the A to Z Wineworks promises: “aristocratic wines at democratic prices.” It did not disappoint.

This is a mouthwatering wine that has impeccable balance between lush fruit and acidity. It has lemon along with honeysuckle flavor notes. Excellent minerality rounds out the package.

A to Z aims at capturing the essence of Oregon through this cuvee of grapes from 30 different vineyards. It brings a “full orchestra” of flavors. Malolactic fermentation ensures a full body.

It’s a regular “best value” and “best buy” pick from the major wine magazines. I can see why. At only $14, I’d also give it a high QPR (quality-price ratio) rating. Wines under $15 can often disappoint, but this is one that outperforms and leaves you smiling.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Toledo Area Wine events & Tastings: December 10-13, 2014

English: Wine glasses from the tasting room at...
Wine glasses from the tasting room at Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Wednesday, December 10
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Festive Sparkling Wines: 1. Toad Hollow Risqué, 2. Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blanc, 3. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, 4. Pehu-Simonet Brut. Nominal fee per sample or $10 per flight.

Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 – 7:30 PM. American Holiday Wine Tasting: 1. Argyle Brut, Willamette Valley, 2. Parducci Pinot Gris, Mendocino County, 3. Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 4. Argyle Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, 5. Parducci Pinot Noir, California Grown, 6. Parducci Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, 7. Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 8. Conundrum Red, Rutherford. $15 flight. Come out with friends, have fun, taste good juice!

Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 6-8 PM. World of Wine: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France. One-hour seminar with a tasting of two or more wines. $15 per person. Seating is limited.

Thursday, December 11
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. A Tasting with Trisha from Vintner Select: 1. 2013 Hexamer – Spätburgunder Weissherbst – Germany, 2. 2013 Prieler – Rosé – Burgenland, Austria, 3. 2011 Darting – St. Laurent – Germany, 4. NV Kopke – 10 Year Old Tawny Port – Portugal. Nominal fee per sample or $10 per flight.

Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Our Annual Affordable Cabernet Night. What is the best value? This year you get to vote for your three favorite Cabernets of the tasting. 1. Columbia Crest H3 (Horse Heaven Hills) Washington, 2. Vinaceous Raconteur, Australia, 3. Yalumba, Australia, 4. Wellington, California, 5. Smith & Hook, California, 6. Michael David Freakshow, California, 7. Decoy, Sonoma, 8. Susana Balbo, Argentina, 8. Penfolds Bin 9, Australia, 9. Amavi, Washington, 10. Mondavi Napa, 10. St. Jean Anderson Valley,  California, 11. Carpe Diem, California, 12. Mollydooker Maitre D', Australia. Dessert: 1. Fonseca Port, 2. Dow 10 Year Tawny. Nominal fee per sample.

Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting. Wines from the Berman portfolio with special guest Nicki Mulholland. 1. Stags Leap Chardonnay, 2. Etude Pinot Noir, 3. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 4. Pepperjack Barossa Red, 5. Penfolds Bin8 Cab/Shiraz. Nominal fee per sample.
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.

TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.

Friday, December 12
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.

Saturday, December 13
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Vertical French Madness. A vertical tasting is when you taste the same wine from multiple vintages and we’ve got some of Southern France’s best ready. The amazing 100-point Hermitages of Jean-Louis Chave and the cult Gigondas of Saint-Cosme. Plus maybe a surprise Chateauneuf-du-Pape thrown in for kicks.

AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.

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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:
Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines.  Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar).  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Carmen 2011 Gran Reserva Apalta Vineyard Carmenère, Chile

Carmen

Chile has an ideal climate for grapes with the Andes Mountains protecting the vineyards along with cooling ocean breezes and unique mesoclimates. Carmen Gran Reserva originates in the heart of Colchagua Valley, known for its red wines. It is Chile’s trendiest wine region.

While taking a break from a home flooring project, we relaxed with this bottle of Carmenère. While Carmenère is wildly popular in Chile, it is still relatively undiscovered in the United States.  It has the complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon in structure, but the soft roundness of a Merlot.

In the glass this is an intense dark color. The Gran Reserva is aged for 10 months in oak barrels, and so the tannins were more up front than I expected. As the wine opened up, it mellowed into a silky texture.

It offers a delicious tapestry of flavors. Against a background of ripe red berries, there was mocha, graphite and later, fresh mushrooms. This is a wine to sip and savor, or pair with a special meal.

Carmen, Chile’s oldest winery, is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the rediscovery of Carmenère, a variety that has become the signature wine of Chile.  Thought to be extinct, the treasured grape was rediscovered on November 24, 1994, in one of Carmen’s estate vineyards. 

Carmen’s 2011 Gran Reserva Carmenère comes from the winery’s “Los Peñascos” vineyard, which means “the rocks,” a nod to the rocky soils where Carmenère thrives.  It is cultivated and harvested entirely by hand in the Apalta Valley, a smaller, elite valley within Chile’s Colchagua Valley. 

If you are looking for a holiday gift for a wine lover, let me humbly suggest this Gran Reserva Carmenère from Carmen. It packs an ensemble of unique flavors at a tasty price: under $20.

Full disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Valdinera 2013 Roero Arneis, Piemonte

Valdinera Roero ArneisArneis is my favorite Italian white wine. Until recently I had all but given up – Verdicchio and Trebbiano weren’t getting it done for me. They seemed rather bland – and I veered away from Pinot Grigio quite some time ago.

A couple years ago I arranged an evening meal at a great Italian restaurant in San Diego for our board of directors. We opened with a selection of cheeses and seafood appetizers. Upon recommendation of the manager, I went with an eye-opening Arneis.

Arneis is full-bodied and dry in style with a perfumed aroma of melon, pears and almonds. It is mostly grown in the Piemonte region of northwest Italy. The best come from the rolling hills of Roero.

I like Arneis because has the same striking power as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but in a distinctly Italian way. It matches beautifully with seafood or can be drunk by itself as an aperitif.

I encountered the Valdinera Roero Arneis at the Wine Affair fundraising, which benefits the Northwest Ohio Kidney Foundation. It’s made available locally through Bowling Green Beverage. This was my favorite white of the evening – and there were plenty of others from which to choose.

The Valdinera estate is located near the city of Alba and has been farmed by the Careglio family for four generations. They use no artificial fertilizer, herbicide or pesticide. The grapes are finished in steel tanks so the bright flavors are unmasked by oak.

The Valdinera Arneis is light and crisp with a tingle of minerality. There are flavors of peach laced with hints of honey.

At $16.99, this is unique and flavorful white. Experience Arneis instead of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay for a change of pace with your next chicken or fish entrée.