When life hands you grapes make wine

We’ve all heard the old adage when life hands you lemons, make lemonade…or in my case, when life throws grapes at you, make some wine! Life doesn’t always follow the blueprint we planned for ourselves, because as we know, even the best-laid plans often go awry!  I was having one of those roller-coaster kind of days recently so when the chaos was finally setting with the sun, I decided to relax and treat myself to a bottle I had tucked away.

I opened a bottle of Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 (Lail Vineyards) from Napa Valley. It boasted beautiful aromas of mixed berry preserves, cassis, pencil lead and a hint of green pepper. Upon tasting, I noted juicy dark fruits, blueberry pie and some oak. It was rounded, ever-evolving and absolutely delicious. This bottle had great structure, generous tannins, and was rather hard to articulate as it changed when it breathed so I really enjoyed savoring it slowly.

That’s what I love about wine. I have so much fun pairing the right bottle with the food I am enjoying, the weather outside and my mood on any given day.  So even though it felt like life pelted me with some grapes today, this bottle helped ease the pain by reminding me that even when the blueprint of our life gets wrinkled once in a while, things generally work out. Sláinte! TCW

Finger Lakes Rieslings (I’m in love…)

Several decades ago, before California is what they are in the wine industry, there is this little known state that produced and exported really good wines. You may have heard it, the little state of New York? OK a bit of sarcasm there but really over time, unfortunately, California took over and New York was pushed aside. Don’t get me wrong, you can find New York wines in the Chicagoland area but they are nowhere near the presence of California. One of my favorite regions in New York is Finger Lakes. Finger Lakes Rieslings are some of my favorites without a doubt and they are hard not to fall in love with.

I’m not saying they are unheard of but rather minimally represented in our area. The Finger Lakes is the largest and most acclaimed winemaking region in the Eastern United States and it owes much of its success to the lakes themselves. Steep slopes provide a natural means for rainwater and air drainage during the growing season. Cool autumns and warming fog extends the growing season.
Bellangelo produces some excellent Rieslings from the Finger Lakes. Although that vineyard is not represented in Chicago yet Christopher Missick from Bellangelo states “The lack of availability of Finger Lakes wines in the Chicago market, and our wines in particular, is something I intend to spend a great deal of time in 2015.”

I tasted 3 good examples of Finger Lakes Rieslings from Bellangelo and was reminded, yet again, why I love them!


Dry Riesling 2013: Aromas of fruit cocktail apple, and stone. Flavors of lime, lemon peel, tart apple and as it warms up to the right temperature it becomes soft and succulent.

Semi-Dry Riesling 2013: Aromas of stone fruit and candied lemon. Flavors of tangerine and grapefruit. It had an excellent mouth feel and was super rounded.
1866 Reserve 2013: One that was more difficult to articulate but that’s because it is so balanced. Notes of mild oak, bright and light fruits, very silky and soft. I really enjoyed this one!

Sláinte! TCW

Taken, 2011

“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career…” Admittedly one of my favorite movie quotes of all time and Liam Neeson executed it flawlessly. It’s hard to not think of that movie (but easy to forget parts 2 and 3) when opening this wine.

Taken, 2011 Red Wine (60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, a rather simple but traditional blend) opened up with aromas of fresh plum, blackberries, and some oak. As it decanted it evolved adding leather and currants. This soft and very approachable wine has flavors of blueberries, chocolate, leather, balsamic, finishing with just a hint of vanilla. Taken, 2011 has great structure and is sure to be a crowd pleaser! I opened this wine with a few friends (some not even regular wine drinkers) and everyone loved it.

So what’s with the name? Childhood comrades, Trinchero (whom I reviewed before) and Phelps created Taken Wine Company with the philosophy “to craft great wines to share with our friends.” The name was originally chosen when they were having difficulty finding a name for their wines that wasn’t already “taken.” They released their first wine under the Taken label in 2010, and the brand has continued to evolve. Retails for about $30 but from the reaction I received from my friends – it’s worth it. 

Sláinte! TCW

Italy’s Most Exported White Wine (that we may have forgotten about)

Look, I love a good Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, (amongst several other popular whites) just like the rest of you but sometimes I just want to taste something different. I am always on the hunt to taste a grape and/or region I’ve not had to further expand my palate. I came across two Soave (pronounced So-Ah-Ve) wines which I’ve not had in such a long time. Seems silly though since it is Italy’s most exported white wine. Soave is a dry white wine from the Veneto region in Northeast Italy. Typically they are made with the native grape, Garanega, but Pinot Bianco, Trebbiano di Soave, and Chardonnay in varying percentages.
It was great to taste these two Soave wines in particular because they were both 100% Gaganega grape and 2012’s. It led to a more interesting comparison.

Rocca Soave D.O.C. 2012 ($15): Aromas of bright fruit, cantaloupe, minerals, and stone fruits. Flavors of apples, honeydew melon, minerals. Although it has some nice acidity, it was deliciously rounded. This is very approachable!

Dalcero Vigneto D.O.C.G. 2012 ($28): Aromas of oak and butter. Flavors of tart green apple and minerals. It is very crisp but definitely fuller bodied than the first one. It kinda’ reminded me of a Chardonnay. Please note that this should left out a bit as it’s much more expressive being warmer than the usual temp.

They were both tasty wines but different styles, Rocca being a lighter, more approachable wine verses Dalcero being a fuller, more complex wine. Depending on my mood or what I’m serving I would easily drink these both! Don’t get stuck in a rut, try some new wines. With over 10,000 different wine grapes in the world it’s not hard to do.
Sláinte! TCW   

Don’t fear the Darkness

When I tasted the recent and limited release of Apothic Dark, 2013 I can’t help but think of what Katasai Rakshasa stated “Those who fear the darkness have no idea what the light can do.” Apothic has two other lines, “White” and “Red” but their “Dark” is very different and in my opinion, their best. It’s a blend of Petite Sirah, Teroldego, and Merlot. The aromas were prominent of hickory smoke, cured meats, all spice, and a hint of tobacco. When I tasted, I noted chewy tannins, fig, coffee, and dark chocolate covered cherries on the finish. Although this did not need any food you could easily pair a meal with it, I’m thinking a Monte Cristo sandwich… I had some fun with pairing the wine with dark chocolate infused with hickory smoked uncured bacon. It was delicious! With a $12 price point it’s very affordable. At the end of the day this wine is not meant to be super complicated – this is something to uncork, drink with friends, and have fun. Don’t fear the dark, have fun with it. Sláinte! TCW