Fire Breathin’ Southern Belle


WARNING: This wine is not for everyone. I innocently picked up a bottle of 2008 Southern Belle, Shiraz (McLaren Vale) produced and bottled by R Wines thinking nothing of it. Whoever came up with the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” was probably drinking this wine. The label features an ornate charming Southern Belle implying that this will be a graceful wine. From color, aromas, and taste this was anything but subtle. Don’t get me wrong, this wine is delicious and given the $20 price point I was even happier.

Southern Belle was partially aged in American Oak barrels for 18 months that were previously used for Kentucky Bourbon. Yeah, you heard that right…and with 17.6% alcohol content, some would even call this a manly wine. I’ve never had a wine like this and quite honestly, it was pretty awesome. The color is very dark and deep. Notes of confection, blackberry preserves, molasses, coffee, and spice make this a very rich and smooth glass. This is not an everyday wine, nor is it for the faint of heart as there are complex flavors of wine and whiskey involved. This bottle is best paired with a cigar and barbequed ribs or any red meat with barbeque sauce but the cigar is key. Don’t be deceived by the pretty southern belle – this is a stogie-smokin’ rib-eatin’ fire breathing Shiraz! Sláinte! TCW

Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose, 2014

Summer in Chicagoland…is there anything better?? Whether you are going to a graduation party, Fourth of July BBQ, or maybe even attending a wedding on Naperville’s Riverwalk, you will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy wines perfectly paired with this warmer weather. Outdoor parties notoriously feature coolers of beer and hard lemonades. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good malt and hops once in a while, but there are also so many good grapes to quench your summer thirst. Take a Rosé for instance – It’s light, crisp, and super refreshing, like me.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose, 2014 is a delicious representation of Rosé although there are many different styles, bodies, and flavors. This particular one is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre. Subtle hints of peach, watermelon, and rose petal on the nose with beautiful flavors of raspberries, strawberries, and cherries. It had a delicious creaminess about it as it sat in my glass a little longer. Good acidity and great mouthfeel. This is easy to drink on its own but can be easily paired with cheeses, fish, and vegetarian fare. 

So the next time you’re invited to that summer party and you want to bring a bottle, pick from the many different options there are of Rosé.
Sláinte! TCW

Happy Belated World Malbec Day!

There is a National/International Day for just about anything; Doughnuts, Nurses, No Socks, (OK, that’s a little weird) so yes, why not an International Malbec Day which was on April 17th. With that in mind it’s often people either love or dislike Malbec - I rarely find someone in the middle. I have tasted some pretty awful and some amazing Malbec in my day.

Malbec grapes generally has an inky dark color and robust tannins. The Malbec grape is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either the Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot for it t mature. It ripens mid-season and can bring a very deep color, ample tannin with a particular plum-like flavor. The wines are rich, dark, and can be juicy. Doing my due diligence I tasted two that were different in styles.
Trumpeter Malbec, 2012 (SRP $10.99): For those who like it a little dirty… This has aromas of earth, tobacco, dark spice, a bit of funk (don’t let that scare you) and flavors of intense tannins, cherry, and oak.

Rutini Encuetro Malbec, 2011 (SRP $18.99): For those who like it a little cleaner (softer)… Beautiful aromas of violet floral notes, cassis, ink, blackberries and flavors of dark chocolate, Asian spices, and just a hint of orange marmalade. 

Depending my mood, I’d drink both and be perfectly OK but truth be told I did prefer the later. Both being from Mendoza, Argentina (pros at Malbec) I’d have to say they did a good job!

Sláinte! TCW

Shatter, 2011

In 1998 some pretty memorable events occurred…my first daughter was born, Bill Clinton denied he had “relations” with a certain someone, and Dave Phinney founded Orin Swift Cellars. Orin Swift produced some amazing and rather famous wines including The Prisoner, Saldo, Papillon, etc. He was looking for a new wine project and when visiting Maury in the Roussillon region of France in 2008 he quickly recognized the area’s potential. Dave eventually had a conversation with Joel Gott, another force in wine, regarding the terroir in Maury. After further investigation, these two powerhouses joined forces like Batman and Superman to create a pretty commanding wine.

They created a wine named Shatter and with it being 100% Grenache and 15.9% alcohol content, I knew this would be big! At first aromas were ink, oak, spice and smoke with flavors of fig, charred oak, and dark chocolate, finishing up with a chalky mouth feel. Don’t let this wine fool you. You must decant and let this breathe for at least 30 minutes, but I found if you letting it air almost an hour is when it’s at its peak. It evolved into aromas of blueberry, while the other aromas toned down and became softer, not so dominant. The flavors softened up as well, noting blackberry and roasted coffee. Be forewarned, this is a food wine through and through. Big hearty red meat dishes, sausages, or lamb would be great accompaniments, or just noshing on some cheddar and gouda cheeses would work with this wine as well.
Like you’d expect with Batman and Superman, Dave and Joel prevailed in the end and won with this bottle. Shatter, 2011 was a pretty delicious wine and an experience in itself.

Sláinte!TCW

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