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

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