September 29, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - White after Labor Day?

Just because you're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day doesn't mean you can't drink white after Labor Day! I hope so, because this really is an excellent wine... and let's face it... who wants summer to end? It's still warm out, and we can still enjoy the last few days of summer. There is a unique story behind Conundrum White Wine.

Conundrum was first produced by Caymus Vineyards in 1989. It started as an experiment... if wineries blend red wines, why not white? So Caymus set out and started exploring 11 different white wine varietals and settled on the following -- Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Sémillon and Viognier. Each year, the exact percentages of each grape change, depending on the quality of grapes at harvest. In 2001, Conundrum spun off and started it's own brand. While it is still owned by the owners of Caymus Vineyards, it is indeed it's own brand.

2007 Conundrum Wines White Table Wine - USA, California
Straw-yellow in color. I love the nose on this wine... every vintage. Just wonderful tropical scents. Peach, Mango, Pineapple, honeysuckle, melon and hints of flowers. More of the same on the palate with the peach and mango really taking center stage. On the end, the wine picks up a sour, almost grassy note that takes away from the overall experience. Still, this is pretty enjoyable.

My Take: Very Good

September 28, 2009

The Essence of Italy: Antinori Bianco & Panzanella

Being Italian I feel its my civic duty to let you know that tomato season is at its peak. And as a foodie, why not put them to good use with a delectable Tuscan dish?
Panzanella is a Tuscan Bread Salad which uses typical Italian ingredients like day-old bread, tomatoes, basil, onion, and olive oil. The reason I like this recipe is not only because it pairs well with wine, but because its seriously the most fuss-free recipe you'll ever put together. Don't believe me? Check this...
  • Step #1: In the morning, grab the above listed items.
  • Step #2: Grab a mixing bowl.
  • Step #3: Throw all the items in and hand toss.
  • Step #4: Let it sit for most of the day so it can soak in the flavors.
  • Step #5: Done!
Now on to the best part... the wine pairing! Given all the flavors in the recipe, its going to be best to complement with a light to medium body aromatic white. When I whipped this up during a our monthly Wine Down Wednesday (#winedownwednesday) party the other day, I served with Villa Antinori Bianco 2008, which is made of a blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. Its golden in hue, fresh and very soft. It has a very refined aroma with floral and aromatic notes of yellow rose. Retails for just $13.

If you're looking for a pricier option, try their Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2008 from Bolgheri. Its made with 100% Vermentino grapes which are grown on the coast of Italy (bet you never heard of that varietal, huh?) which offer notes of summer fruits, like apricot and nectarine. It also has some slightly mineralistic attributes combined with a zest of citrus. Its medium body parlays well with the fare. Retails for $25.

September 18, 2009

Critter Wine Week: Bald Eagle

Our next Critter wine gives the term, "majestic flight" (meaning tasting flight) new meaning:

Bald Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Chosen from some of the best soil, the Bald Eagle selections are great options for those looking to get true California quality at a modest price. For under $10 a bottle, you’ll get all the finesse of a standard cabernet – ripe currants, hints of spice, and a toasted oak finish complete with a tiny bite, but overall well-balanced structure.

Pairing Suggestion: London Broil

Retails For: $8.99/bottle

Where to Buy: Sherry-Lehman

September 17, 2009

Critter Wine Week: Goats Do Roam

Our next Critter selection is sure to give you a chuckle, as it mocks that of your prestigious Cote du Rhone wines:

Goats Do Roam Red 2005

This South African primarily Shiraz-based blend tastes as purple as the deep color it holds. Its definitely a fruit-driven blend, with hints of blackberry, but also combines with a nice peppery undertone. It has a strong nose and a silky finish.

Pairing Suggestion: Tender Braised Beef

Retails For: $8.99

Where to Buy:

September 16, 2009

Critter Wine Week: Little Penguin

Another classic Critter you're sure to dive belly first into:

The Aussies may do things backwards, but it clearly does wonders for their winemaking. In addition to the Kangaroo, Australia is known for the Penguin… Little Penguin that is. Like many reds, this Merlot has a potent berry aroma which parlay into an overall taste complete with dark fruits, like blackberries, blueberries and spice that will leave a long finish on the palette.

Pairing Suggestion: Berkshire Pulled Pork Sandwich

Retails For: $11.99

Where to Buy: BevMo

September 15, 2009

Critter Wine Week: Yellowtail

When it comes to fantasy football pools, if you're anything like me, you probably chose your players based of their team colors and mascots. Fact is, there are always “those” people who choose winning picks this way, so its only natural we apply that same strategy with wine at times, too!

Forget variety, region and vintage… some of us simply like to classify our wines based off the furry little animal present on the label. And whether you consider it a marketing gimmick, clever packaging ploy or just a “furry” frenzy, the critter craze is still running rampant.

So, what's a Critter Wine?

  • Definition of a “Critter Wine”: A mass-market wine bearing a cutsy animal-related name that tend not to matter to the affluent (cough, pretentious, cough) wine consumer (well, with the exception maybe of the $1,500 Screaming Eagle).

Fact of the matter is that sales of these barking dogs, cuddly cats, and pretty lil’ birds have prompted an entire new category of wine…and this week, we’re helping you choose the best budget-friendly of pets worth bringing home (hey, you know how much we like themes!)

Our first selection from Down Under continues to be one of our all-time favorites, even at just $7/bottle:

Yellowtail Shiraz

  • Perhaps the “Alpha” critter and most ubiquitous critter wine on the market, this kangaroo has become an icon representing a wine which has never lacked great flavor. Medium-bodied, this Shiraz is perfectly balanced. It boasts a variety of berry aromas – you’ll likely taste some cherry and strawberry, but nothing too fruity. The underpinnings of both spice and vanilla help to even out the overall taste.

Pairing Suggestion: Chicken Cordon Bleu

Retails For: $6.99/bottle

Where to Buy: Jericho Wines

September 12, 2009

Event Buzz: St. Supery's 20th Anniversary

Calling all Napa Winos and WinoBees!! One of my favorite wineries is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in just 2 weeks, and this little wino is lucky to attend... and so can you! Details for St. Supery's 80's themed party are below (Seriously, feathered bangs, torn jeans, Rick Springfield and free-flowing wine? What could be any better in life?)

Celebrate St. Supery's 20th Anniversary

When: Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where: St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery

Time: 2 - 5 pm

  • Dance like it's 1989 to live music by fasttimes80s

  • Friendly competitions include wine varietal identification, petanque ball target toss and the popular ring toss

  • Dress to express
  • Taste a range of Napa Valley estate wines all paired with food popular in the 80s

Tickets are $60 for the public and $48 for St.Supery wine club members. Part of the proceeds will benefit Napa Valley Unified School District. For tickets, click here.

Event Buzz: Virginia Wine Events

For those of you South of the Mason Dixon, be sure to check out the following events in your area (this WinoBee is aiming to be at the Alexandria F&W Festival - leave a comment if you're planning to as well!)

Alexandria Virginia Food & Wine Festival -- Alexandria VA

This weekend-long festival consists of 50+ events, including Vintner Dinners in numerous restaurants, the King Street Sip ‘n Stroll, tastings of Virginia ’s locally grown wine, and tasty food seminars in grand tasting ballrooms at the Old Town Alexandria Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Hotels

  • When: Friday, October 9 through Sunday, October 11
  • Time: 11:00am to 6:00pm.
  • Cost: Admission is $35 online, ($45 at door)
  • For more, visit:

Harvest Celebration Festival-- Oak Grove , VA

This year Ingleside Vineyards will celebrate its 29th Harvest. Visitors can view winemaking demonstrations, stomp grapes and tour the vineyards.

  • When:Saturday, October 17, 2009
  • Cost: Admission is $15 (reservations recommended). Admission includes music, tours, tastings and a free souvenir glass
  • For more, visit:

September 2, 2009

Best of Labor Day: Robert Skalli Cabernet Reserve

Just because you're going to be out in the sun doesn't mean you need to bypass full-bodied red wines this Labor Day. In fact, varietals like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are a perfect match for big meaty burgers and thick juicy steaks.

Robert Skalli's Cabernet Sauvignon Sud de France Reserve is a viable and delicious option for these sorts of pairings. Its uniquely produced in not one, but two Languedoc terroirs -- the Western site where the temperate climate and clay-like soils produce very dense, aromatic wines, and the Eastern side where the warmer climate garners wines with more tannic properties.

The grapes in both regions are picked at the peak of their ripeness and carefully destemmed, which helps to make it bust with strong dark fruit flavors and peppery notes. If you decant this wine, you'll be more apt to taste (and appreciate) its black currant and dark berry notes. The spice slightly overpowers the fruit, which gives it such a rich character. The end product is complex, yet inviting!

Cost: $15/bottle
Pairing Suggestion: Grill meats and firm, salty cheeses

September 1, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - A Classic Napa Cab

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I started out enjoying Italian wines and their "old world" complexity with floral, earthy notes. However, over the past few years, I have been enjoying more of the "new world" wines with their fruit forward styles.

One of the ultimate "new world" wines are Napa Cabs. There are an abundant number of Napa cabs on the market... and a majority of them are overpriced and (unfortunately) simply average wines. Either that, or they are so good that they carry price tags of over $150.

With that being said, there are a few producers that make outstanding Napa Cabs, and do so at "reasonable" prices. Now, you won't be drinking these everyday, but they make excellent "special occasion" wines. And that's exactly why I cracked this Napa cab from Neal (yes, yours truly celebrated a birthday a few days ago and it was a good excuse to open something good).

Neal Vineyards is a smaller, family run operation that produces wonderful Napa cabs. The Neal story begins in the late 1960's with Jack Neal, who started his own vineyard management company. Jack's son, Mark, worked closely with his father until Jack's passing in the early 1990's. In 2001, Mark decided to fullfill his dream (one he shared with his father) and started his own winery. Neal Vineyards makes a handful of Napa cabs, all excellent, and all at reasonable prices. If you're looking for a fantastic Napa Cab at a reasonable price, look no further than Neal.

2003 Neal Family Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Dust - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford

Decanted for 90 minutes prior to consuming. Even after an hour, this wine didn't show much fruit. Instead, I got scents of menthol/eucalyptus, dirt/dust (no wonder they call it 'Rutherford Dust') and smoke. It wasn't until around the second hour that some fruit started to emerge. A lot of red fruits here including cassis, cherry and a hint of raisins and oak. The tannins seemed smooth, so the only reason to decant would be to bring out the fruit. The finish was long, and left you wanting more. It really brought the entire package together.

My Take: Outstanding
Cost: $66/bottle (purchased from mailing list)