Saturday, June 30, 2007

July's Assignments

July's Assignments are posted!!!!! (over there on the right).

If you haven't finished the June assignment, don't fret -- skip June and move on to July or skip July and work on June -- if you're feeling particularly thirsty..... do both, it's a long month.

You'll notice that the July assignment was suggested by Sarah, so if you have a suggestion for a future assignment -- please feel free.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vitamin Water? or Welch's Purple Grape Juice?

The Big Dubya picked a bottle of red from a local vineyard, as the extra credit assignment instructed. In this case, he selected Sachem's Picnic from the Hopkins Vineyard in nearby Warren, CT.

I'm a girl, I know -- but the label looked fun and happy to me -- I love sunflowers and the description reminded me of summer, it reads as follows:

"Sachem's Picnic is a semi-sweet, low-tannin wine, light in color with bright raspberry, blackberry, and plum fruit. It is best enjoyed within a year or two. Food pairings: Picnic basket fried chicken, Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, a classic burger with the "works" or a good dog (we like ours with caramelized onions and mustard)."

The Big Guy opened the bottle, poured a couple of glasses and let them "breath" for a little bit. I asked him to bring me my glass and read the bottle to me. After he read the description, I held it up to my nose..... FRUIT PUNCH! I smell........ fruit punch.

I took a sip, the Big Dubya must have seen something on my face because he said "Oh, no... not good?"

I said nothing and he took a sip..... he exclaimed VITAMIN WATER!

I had hoped the second taste would improve, but...... no -- it tastes like a bitter Welch's Grape Juice and I'm not sure I can finish the glass.... never mind the bottle. I was embarrassed to suggest it, but he was relieved when I asked him to pour it down the drain.

The label is true, you can indeed taste the berry flavors -- however, for $11.99 I was hoping for something more than spiked Hawaiian Punch.

Sorry, but thumbs down, way down -- this bottle could easily be confused with one of the illustrious "Wines of the Fenway".... I can almost smell the pee.

Wine Friends

I'll be posting July's assignments shortly (I know, you are on the edge of your seats in thirsty anticipation) -- but, in the meantime.... I wanted to draw your attention to a comment we got on Aunt P's review of the barnyard wine... oh, sorry.... I mean, Bonarda.

Commenter Sean mentioned some wine recommendations along with a shameless plug for his buddy's site InterWined (very cool and clever name by the way).

I checked it out briefly this morning and it's a pretty neat site (I know, it's much fancier than this one, but...) -- "The Tasting Room" features some basic wine lessons as well as some tips on how to serve and store wine.

So, to Sean -- thanks for the tip

And, I've added a list of like-minded-blogs over on the right..... please feel free to refer us to others and I'll add them.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another one from Argentina

The bottle I choose is from the Trapiche vineyard from their Broguel line of wines. Rather than a Malbec, I decided (ok, I was advised) to try a wine from a grape I never heard of -- Bonarda. The Bonarda grape is actually the most widely planted in Argentina, but is lesser known outside of Argentina. Most of the Bonarda wine is consumed in Argentina. Not much of it is exported mostly because the wine they make with the Bonarda grape tastes they way it was made -- cheap! In fact it is known to have a bouquet similar to a barnyard and therefore has a nickname of Barnarda. Now why did I decide to try this wine knowing this? Well first, I didn't know any of this until Friday. I went to this great liquor store near to wear I work and gave the assistant wine manager our assignment. That's where I got this fascinating history lesson as well as the bottle to try. This place really is great, so I decided to take him up on his recommendation.

Much to my delight this particular bottle did not exhibit the barnyard scent. It wasn't an overly strong scent, but it certainly wasn't unpleasant. It had a scent of berries with a hint of oak. The taste, I believe, was of blackberries, but I'm not great at identifying these types of things. The wine was smooth to drink and had a bit of a smoky finish that left my mouth a tad dry. This must be the reason that I drank the entire bottle myself. I would definitely buy this wine again. It would be great with a steak (I had it with a cheeseburger) I paid $13.99, so even with tax I was still under guideline of being under $15.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Polo, Nazis and Malbec

Since Big Dubya used the Evita reference in his review of an Argentine Malbec, I figured I'd throw everything else I knew about Argentina into the title of this review. Except before buying a 2005 Doña Paula Los Cardos Malbec from the Mendoza province, I didn't know anything about Argentine wines. (I also didn't know that los cardos means the thistles, which are pictured on the bottle.)

To be honest, we chose the wine because we thought we'd be different. We had heard of Chilean wines and thought that other people would buy those. To be more honest, I'm not sure if we've even had a Chilean or any South American wine before this. But, I learned that Argentine wines are becoming more popular, and we did like this one.

The label describes the wine as "a spice wine with a touch of dried herbs that are well combined with mature fruits as dry plums and black cherries." (I know it seems like there's a word missing in that quote, but, even though I'm typing this right after we've drunk the wine, I've checked twice and it's like that on the bottle.) The wine also describes itself as having a hint of mint.

Sue and I both liked this wine. It was slighty spicy, dry and fruity as the label suggested, but we didn't get the hint of mint. I'm sure it would be great paired with steaks or any heavier South American or Mediterranean food. We didn't have it with a meal though; we had it with some bread and gorgonzola dip from a local bakery that we bought downtown at the farmers' market today. (That reference is mostly for the Dubyas.)

So, we've found another wine that we'd buy again. But, since we're usually not knocking back that many bottles a month, our next purchase will probably be July's assignment instead. That's the beauty of this project—that we're trying wines that we probably wouldn't have otherwise.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Vino del pais de Evita

I'm not one to claim that I have a refined palate. To put it bluntly, I'm the type of guy who would go to a poetry reading and offer up some naughty limericks or some Andrew "Dice" Clay takes on some nursery rhymes. For years I abused my taste buds with "Wines of the Fenway" - MD 20/20, (What's the word?) Thunderbird!, Wild Irish Rose, Boone's - you know, stuff that will take off paint.

But, as I've aged and matured, so has my appreciation for better tasting wines. I'm not able to discern all the distinct flavors of any given wine, but I can recognize some things. And, at the very least, I recognize when I like a bottle or not. Mrs. Big Dubya sent me out last weekend to pick up some things for the bar and also asked me to pick up a bottle of wine from South America and a local vineyard. Not being familiar with the wines of S.A. - I know something about California, Australia, Italy - I just looked at bottles and any descriptions the liquor store provided. I settled on a Malbec from (Don't Cry for Me) Argentina (sorry, I just had to). I grabbed the $11.99 bottle of Punto Final Malbec 2006 which comes from Bodegas Renacer located in Perdiel in the Mendoza region of Argentina. Malbec is planted all over Argentina, but the Mendoza region is widely regarded as the best.

We opened the bottle Monday night to complement our pasta dinner that evening.Mrs. Big Dubya used a little bit of it in the sauce prior to anyone even taking the first sip. She was hesitant at first, having read on the label that "This wine is unfiltered in order to preserve its distinct varietals qualities." "Does that mean chunks," she asked. I was intrigued by the "unfiltered" quality -- I am a huge fan of unfiltered wheat beers -- and I replied, "Yep, floaties." I poured us each a glass; let it breathe for a moment or two; gave it a nice deep sniff and took a sip. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It was very, very mellow and left barely any aftertaste. There was a slight tannin quality to it but nothing that would be off-putting. Mrs. Big Dubya, a little overwhelmed by the initial "nose," found it to be a nice, refreshing wine -- not as heavy or as bold as some reds can be.

The bottle went very well with the pasta we had that evening, bringing forth the flavors of the tomatoes, garlic, onions and Italian seasoned turkey. It was another bottle Mrs. Big Dubya wished I had bought two of.

All in all, a very nice buy. Fruity and refreshing and I think the unfiltered quality only added to its complexity. (Do I sound remotely like I know what I'm talking about? Maybe just a little?) Definitely a buy again.

The Problem With The South American Wine Thing

I had several problems (all of them personal - not like I won't share them with you, but like I am a moron problems) with the South American wine assignment.

1) I thought we were supposed to pick a South African wine at first. I'm just bad at reading. But seriously, South Africa has great wines, we should do that sometime.

2) I drank the bottle of wine and forgot to write down what it was.

Judging from this wonderful picture that I took with my cell phone it is a 2005 Malbec. I'm pretty sure it $12.99 and from Argentina. Also judging from this picture I am pretty sloppy when it comes to pouring.

I think I liked it. I think we drank it with some sort of chicken tacos. I'm pretty sure that I enjoyed it and it was spicy, and I am certain that I caught a nice buzz off of it and then threw away the bottle without writing anything down.

Next time I'll try to be more specific.

- Sarah

We Cheated a Little

Sue and I went for the extra credit assignment even though we hadn’t separately completed the May and June assignments. (We still have another bottle of South American wine waiting to be tasted though.) I think that’ll we’ll just take it month by month to see whether we’ll each review a bottle of wine each month or just take turns writing about one bottle.

We also cheated on the extra credit assignment itself. There are wineries that are more local (we actually have two that are just one town away), but we went to a liquor store and bought one from a vineyard that’s in southeast Connecticut. Stonington Vineyards had the best selection of our state’s wines and choices other than blends. We also spent $16.99, which is a little more than the $15 we were limited to.

We’re not huge fans of white wines, but we picked a 2003 Chardonnay. According to the vineyard’s site, the wine “has been fermented and aged in both French and American oak barrels. This adds to its complexities, and gives an up front yet not overpowering oak finish. There are also wonderful tones of pear and butter. This wine is wonderful with classic French cuisine.”

We didn’t have our Chardonnay with French cuisine. There may have been some French bread involved though. If we had thrown some French fries into the oven and gotten some French dressing, we’d have created “dinner mon dieu.” (We’re good with the John Cusack movie references too—even though we totally missed the boat on appropriately titling that last review of the Peruvian wine “And to drink…”)

Sue liked the wine more than I did, but I didn’t hate it. Actually, it’s a wine that I’d try again—especially if we’re ever at the vineyard to get it. It wasn’t too dry, wasn’t too fruity, and who could resist “tones of butter.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Extra Credit

When I posted June's assignment, I mentioned the possibility of a mid-month second assignment...... May featured so many reviews, I wasn't sure if one assignment per month would be enough.

Well, as summer gets into full swing, reviews have been a little less frequent -- so I'm not sure we need a second assignment (Even the Big Dubya & I haven't had a chance to complete the June assignment yet), but for those who are interested..... I've posted an "extra credit" assigment.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Marsala, Anyone?

So, last night the Big Dubya and I were trying to decide what to have for dinner.... we'd fallen into a bit of a dinner rut and wanted to shake it up a bit instead of eating the same old thing again.

I remembered that a new seafood shop opened up nearby and suggested he go get some scallops -- we could have them with a Caesar salad. He was a little incredulous about the pairing, but being a scallop lover -- he went and picked up a gorgeous pound of freshly caught sea scallops.

While he was out, I did a quick internet search -- looking for a new way to cook them. I've done baked with breading.... sauteed in butter & garlic.... wrapped in bacon, but this time, I wanted to do something different.

I came across this recipe and decided to give it a whirl. I think I can speak for both of us when I say THUMBS UP!!! The only draw back was that the recipe calls for Marsala wine (see, it all comes back to whine). The only Marsala I had in the house was cheap supermarket wine, it had been in for a while.... and of course, liquor stores here in CT are closed on Sunday.

I didn't want to let that hold me back, so I figured.... hey, how bad could it be?

To be honest, it was delicious -- but I'm wondering if a better quality Marsala would have taken this recipe to the next level.
Anyone have a Marsala they'd like to recommend?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Only $7.99??


You heard me -- a mere $7.99 for this 2006 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Just passing through the wine store on Saturday afternoon and this one looked like it was a good candidate for this challenge!

And the verdict?

Terra Andina
is definitely a great sipping wine for the summertime, especially at this price!

Light, crisp and refreshing and it had some major grapefruit flavors which makes it a great one for drinking on the deck on a warm, summer night.

It reminded us very much of the more expensive New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and would definitely be quite tasty with fish or cheese and crackers.

So, enjoy!