Desert Island Grape

What’s your desert island grape? You know the question, you’re on an island and you can only pick one grape to drink for the rest of your life. For me, hands down, it’s Merlot. The movie from 2004, Sideways, may have negatively impacted Merlot’s popularity for a short period and increased Pinot Noir’s but I have always loved Merlot. Merlot can be incredibly elegant and very versatile from being planted all around the world as well as blended with several different grapes. In fact, it is one of the world’s most planted grapes.

I was reminded of my love for Merlot when I tasted Sierra Vista El Dorado Merlot, 2010 – Mountain Ridge Reserve. Family owned and operated, the winery is on Red Rock Ridge near the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This sexy medium-bodied Merlot had alluring aromas of blueberry compote, blackberries, New York cherries, finishing off with a hint of oak. The palate follows suit with soft tannins, juicy dark fruits, with hints of cocoa and cherry cola. From the bouquet through flavor you can detect the 6 years it aged and it did wonderfully. This is a great example of what Merlot can be as a varietal. I loved this Merlot so much I ended up picking up a case soon after.

So yeah, if by some highly unlikely chance I end up on a desert island all alone and there happens to be a wine fairy granting me 1 grape for the rest of my life I would chose Merlot (and of course be specific with the region and vineyard). Well, that’s my choice, what’s your desert island grape?
Sláinte! TCW 

3 Cabs, 2 Regions, 1 Year

How’s this for fun? I went to a friend’s house for a dinner party and decided to bring over two 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons, a Lewelling and Ramey. After seeing the bottles I brought over, my friend pulled out a 2006 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon from her stash. BAM! We had an impromptu, and what the business calls, a Horizontal Wine Tasting. We tried 3 different cabs from 2 different regions all from the same year.

The first bottle we opened, Lewelling (97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc) was a marriage of dark berries, black cherries, exotic spice, earth and tobacco flavors. The tannins were velvety and the finish was long. We then tasted the second bottle, Ramey (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec). This stood up strong with notes of prunes, dried figs, currants and oak. It was a deliciously well-rounded wine. Finally we got to our third bottle, Don Melchor (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), with bold flavors of dark chocolate, tobacco, leather and cedar. It was a rather voluptuous wine. We were all very impressed with each wine’s characteristics. Although we had different favorites, we really enjoyed them all immensely.
You don’t have to go to a formal wine tasting, just have one at your dining room table. Invite some friends and have them bring a bottle fitting your theme. It can be as simple as Pinot Noirs from around the globe to different grapes from the same region, or something like what I just did, with a specific year. However you do it, have some fun with friends and hopefully you’ll learn a little something new along the way.
Sláinte! TCW

Let’s get bubbly!

It’s a brand new year and I always love kicking it off with bubbles – crisp, clean, and alive! Is there a better sound than popping open a bottle of some sparkling wine? It makes me giddy. No matter what region you prefer; sparkling wine from the states, Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, or Champagne from France, it’s generally all good. Although I usually prefer mine from France, Champagne can get pricey. What’s nice though is that I can still get that French profile I like from other regions that are far less expensive. For instance, The Languedoc in Southern France is a great choice.

One of my favorites is the Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Brut NV (that was a mouthful). It is artfully crafted with a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin, 10% Pinot Noir, and 10% Mauzac. It has alluring notes of citrus, honey, green apple, and peach and it finishes with just a hint of graphite. This bottle has great power and structure coupled with crisp bubbles, making for a delicious party in your glass!

Flaunting a price point of $15.99 for the quality of juice you’re getting, you can’t go wrong picking up a bottle. After enjoying a glass or two of this sparkling wine, I’m feeling rather bubbly myself! Happy New Year and
Sláinte! TCW

Back Away from the Cabernet

Can you believe it’s already December…the month of countless parties, gift giving, and dare I say drinking?? Who doesn’t love a Cabernet on a cold winter’s night or at a holiday party? I get it, it’s comfortable and familiar, but why not take a few risks when you need to bring a bottle to a party or as a last minute gift to give to your second cousin twice removed that you didn’t think you would get to see this month? Dare to be different this holiday season and back away from the Cabernet!

Ever hear of a Brachetto d’ Acqui? It’s a party in your glass! This is such a charming wine that few people know about. It is named for the Brachetto grape as well the Acqui district in southern Piedmont not far from the town of Asti in Italy. The trick here is to drink this young (within a year of vintage is ideal) to maintain its super freshness and brightness. The wine is generally medium-bodied and tends to be sweet. It is usually lightly sparkling or what the Italians call “frizzante.” I opened a bottle of Cavallero Brachetto d’ Acqui 2014 DOCG. They did a beautiful job representing what the grape is capable of. This had an appealing cranberry color with aromas of strawberries, black raspberries, violets, and orchids. This Brachetto had delicious flavors of black cherry, strawberries, and watermelon. It was incredibly refreshing and perfect to pair with roasted nuts, amaretto cake, or chocolate. Being only 6% alcohol content you can easily put this down - but I’d enjoy it. Unfortunately the one I tasted is not imported in the states but they sell Brachetto d’ Acqui at larger wine shops.
If you don’t think everyone on your holiday gift list appreciates bubby, here are some honorable mentions that impress without breaking the bank. Try a Vranac from Bosnia or a Plavac Mali from Croatia. These red wines are super interesting, delicious, and sure to please!
Sláinte! TCW

Raptor Ridge and their Pinots

Thanksgiving is deep rooted with traditions. Traditions that started perhaps just a few years ago intertwined with some that dates back hundreds of years. Although this time of year can be stressful for many it’s always a good idea to relax when you can and contemplate all of the things in life you are grateful for. I’m sure your thoughts will lean towards the simple things in life; your family, friends, Chicago construction (because who doesn’t love driving in that during rush hour), or perhaps a good bottle of wine.

Raptor Ridge has some lovely bottles of wine while you’re contemplating. Named for their location on a ridge in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, Raptor Ridge (and their neighbors) is a haven for their native raptors. I opened up their Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, 2013 (Willamette Valley). Barrel Select had blended aromas of cherry, spice, and tobacco with classic but delicious flavors of sour cherry, raspberries, black tea, followed by this specific and unique earthiness only gained in Oregon. I’d decant this bottle as the aromas and flavors will soften up and the wine will become even more expressive. Given the fact a good Pinot will cost you upwards of $30 plus (easy) this retailing for $30 is a great deal!

Feeling very grateful at this point I felt the need to open up their next bottle of Pinot Noir - Estate, Chehalem Mountains, 2012 ($45). With fewer than 500 cases produced I knew I was in for a treat or at least lucky to taste it. This is a Pinot with a turbo....A huge nose of ripe plum, bold black cherries, and nutmeg but as this opens up so much more is offered. I noted a fuller bodied wine with seductive flavors of juicy light red fruits, lavender, and sweet spices. This wine will leave you wanting more (and I did!).

Raptor Ridge crafted two very fine Pinot Noirs that would pair well with your Thanksgiving dinner or just some good company.
Sláinte! TCW