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Archive for May, 2010

Can You Find Love in the Dark?

Strip away marketing, perception, pricing and reputation, and all you’re left with is the bare naked truth.  A few weekends ago, my wife and I got together with some friends for some outstanding food and a little wine.  However, this particular evening, we decided to mix things up a little by “bagging” all of the wine to see how many would find “love in the dark”.

The criteria for this particular evening:

  1. Bring a bottle of Pinot Noir from anywhere on the planet priced less than $30.
  2. After getting “bagged”, our judges were to utilize two scoring methods to give each Pinot Noir a fair shot at finding love in the dark:  The WL365 method and a 25 Point Wine Scorecard to evaluate each wine based on appearance, aroma, body, taste, and finish.
  3. We combined the scores of each one to find out who got some love and who got the cold shoulder from the panel.

 Our panel sure looks raring to go!

Our lovely hostess Candice showed off her dazzling cooking skills with several scrumptious Pinot Noir friendly recipes.  A few were from the book titled, “Oregon Bounty Recipes”, and one was an old family recipe of lollipop lamb chops with fresh rosemary, parsley and garlic  that was simply out of this world GOOD!

Lamb Chops:

Oregon Dungeness Crab Cakes:

Baked Foreleg Pears with Proscuitto and Blue Cheese:

And no wine tasting party would complete without a little cheese – we had several fancy–shmancy selections to choose from:  Tomme Aydius (France), Kunik (Nettle Meadow) (US), Fontina Val d’Aosta D.O.C, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

And to top things off, we had a magnificent mascarpone cheesecake to ensure that our daily dairy requirements would be fully met by the end of the night.  Unfortunately my photographer called it quits by this point in the evening, so I don’t have a picture of the cheesecake.

Now back to the wine!  It’s just you, an empty glass, and 9 brown-bagged Pinot Noirs!  Here were some of the comments:

Brown Bag #1 – Our tasters said: “I liked it. One of my favorites!” “Low.” “Peppery, tannic.” “It’s ok…kind of tarry and smoky tasting.”

Brown Bag #2 – Our tasters said: “More balance of fruit and pepper than Brown Bag #1.” “Stinky Feet.” “Smoky, a bit veg. Crazy stuff, interesting.”

Brown Bag #3 – Our tasters said: “Fresh berry nose. Tart berry taste.  Absolutely no finish.  It’s like drinking stale Kool-Aid.” “Licorice, sweet aroma.” “Did not like at all.  Weak.  No flavors to mention.” “Everyday drinking type of Pinot Noir.”

Brown Bag #4 – Our tasters said: “Black pepper, spices and berries. It’s ok in every way.” “Sugary, sweet aroma.” “Almost watery appearance. No real legs running down the glass.” “Peppery on the finish.  Great wine!”

Brown Bag #5 – Our tasters said: “Burnt tar, very tannic, nice berry flavors, a bit hot on the alcohol.” “Dry.” “Pinkish color, upfront strawberry flavors, low pepper and spice.”

Brown Bag #6 – Our tasters said: “Slight tannin, no fruit flavors”. “Light from start to finish. Flowery strawberry and licorice notes”. “Bright aroma, medium length, dry”.

Brown Bag #7 – Our tasters said: “Good everyday Pinot Noir.  Good Thanksgiving wine.” “My favorite.” “Pretty, nice balance of fruit and spices.” “My 2nd favorite of the bunch.” “I like this wine a lot, good combo of fruit and oak, super long finish.”

Brown Bag #8 – Our tasters said: “Very enjoyable Pinot Noir.”  “Big on the nose, I like it.” “Peppery notes on the nose.” “Peppery, smooth, great with food.” 

Brown Bag #9 – Our tasters said: “Astringent, leggy, brown, tannic, pepper, little fruit.” “Long finish.” “Peppery notes on the nose.” “A bit veg on the nose, brownish tint, very disappointing, bad.” 

Let’s reveal their identities and find out who found love in the dark and who didn’t:

9th Place – Brown Bag #9 – 2005 Cambria Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard ($25)

8th Place – Brown Bag #6 – 2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards “Whole Cluster Fermented” Pinot Noir (Received as a sample. $19 SRP)

7th Place – Brown Bag #3 – 2008 Domaine Cornu-Camus Pernand-Vergelesses ($25)  

6th Place – Brown Bag #4 – 2008 Wild Rock Pinot Noir ($17)

5th Place – Brown Bag #2 – 2007 Valdivieso Reserva Pinot Noir ($15.50)

4th Place – Brown Bag #5 – 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Received as a sample. $25 SRP)   

3rd Place – Brown Bag #1 – 2007 Orogeny Pinot Noir Green Valley ($25)

2nd Place – Brown Bag #8 – 2008 Fess Parker “Santa Barbara County” Pinot Noir ($23)    

1st Place and the Winner of this tasting was Brown Bag #7 – 2007 Acacia “Carneros” Pinot Noir ($20)

A very special thanks to Candice and Rob Holden for hosting and to all that participated in this blind tasting.  Looking forward to the next one…Cheers!

A Most ‘Unctuous’ Wine

Words like “exceptional”, “superb”, “finesse”, and “powerful” have been thrown around by many wine critics and French producers to describe the 2007 Rhone Valley vintage.  After trying a few 2007 Cotes Du Rhone red blends this past week, I’d say they were all pretty harmonious, fit for a king, and scrumpdillyicious.

However, there was one in particular that stood out from the others.  It was the 2007 Chateau Beauchene Grand ReserveThe tasting notes on the label of the 2007 Chateau Beauchene Grand Reserve describe this wine as “rounded and unctuous”.


Unctuous – 1. (adj.) buttery, fulsome, oily, oleaginous, smarmy, soapy, unctuous
Unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech.
“buttery praise”; “gave him a fulsome introduction”; “an oily sycophantic press agent”; “oleaginous hypocrisy”; “smarmy self-importance”; “the unctuous Uriah Heep”; “soapy compliments” 

I’m not sure I would want to drink something based on that definition, but in “wine-speak” it sounds much better:

“Rich, lush, intense wines with layers of concentrated, soft, velvety fruit are said to be unctuous.”

Composed of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah grapes, the 2007 Chateau Beauchene Grand Reserve was thumping with vibrant and youthful red fruit, florally violet notes, and a punch of black pepper on the finish.  It was a naughty-good nightcap with some pita bread and a tub of roasted red pepper hummus.  I bet it would also be right at home with a variety of different meats and cheeses as well.

3 Stars out of 4.  The 2007 Chateau Beauchene Grand Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Red earned the right to call itself ‘unctuous’ or anything else in the dictionary that means, “really good”…and that’s not just buttery praise!


BYOB: Meghan Brings Tempranillo From An Unexpected Place

Quick What’s the first place you think of when you hear or see the word Tempranillo?  Spain…right?!  Ok, now give me another place….click, click, click.  That’s the buzzer – time’s up!!  If you need a hint, Meghan from the lip-smacking, finger-lickin-good blog, called Travel Eat Love offers up a tasty suggestion worth considering!    

Tell us about it Meghan…

On my very first trip to Northern California this past September (there have been 3 since, I guess I kinda liked it!), the very first winery that we visited was Gundlach Bundschu.  We were actually staying in San Francisco and decided to drive up to Sonoma last minute, so we had no plan in mind at all.  A guidebook lent to me by a coworker had Gundlach Bundschu, or GunBun as one of the best and oldest wineries to visit, and since it was close by we decided to visit.

GunBun was a lucky first choice, and between the delicious wines that we tasted and the very friendly tasting room staff, we were wine club members by the time we left.  One of my favorite things about the wine clubs that we belong to (currently GunBun, Castello di Amorosa, and Travessia) is the element of surprise. I often forget when wine is coming, and it is always a treat to come back from a meeting to an unexpected box of wine in my office!  I tend to open the box of wine right away and enjoy reading the labels and any correspondence included from the winery, in addition to looking up the wines online so I can know what to expect.

Photo Courtesy of Travel Eat Love

One of our most recent wine club “surprises” was a bottle of 2007 Estate Grown Tempranillo.  Here’s a little information about the 2007 Tempranillo from the GunBun website:

Vineyard Rhinefarm Estate Vineyard
Estate grown, produced and bottled
Huichica clay-loam topsoil with light stream gravel deposits
One 4.6-acre vineyard block of Tempranillo
Clone UC Davis 2
Yield 2.4 tons/acre
Harvest Date: September 2007
Brix at Harvest: 24.5°
Vinification: Harvested by hand in the cool morning hours
Yeast strain EC1118
Concurrent primary and malolactic fermentation
Fermented 14 days with twice-daily, gentle pump-overs
Lightly filtered to bottle
Oak Regimen: 14 months in 100% American oak (35% new)

Photo Courtesy of Travel Eat Love

We opened this wine on a recent weekend evening and immediately noticed the pop of juiciness and the dark berry red color.  Like all of the Gundlach Bundschu wines I have tasted, the Tempranillo was full of concentrated flavor.  This wine offers smooth but noticeable tannins and a little bit of smokiness along with the dark berry flavors that give it a lovely lingering finish.  It was remarkably MORE delicious about 24 hours after opening, a great sipping wine and one that would also likely go well with grilled meats at a summer barbeque.

If you have the chance to try Gundlach Bundschu wines, I am also a huge fan of their Gewurztraminer, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and their Mountain Cuvée.

Happy wine drinking! 

For more of Meghan’s wine and food adventures, visit Travel Eat Love.  Just don’t go there too hungry! ;)

Win 4 Tickets to the NJ Blues & Wine Festival!

Like wine?  Like The Blues?  Why not enjoy both this Memorial Day Weekend! 
The Garden State Wine Growers Association is celebrating its annual Blues & Wine Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30 at Natirar Park in the scenic hills of Somerset County, New Jersey.  Thanks to our nice Jersey friends, WineLife365 is giving you and your three closest buddies an opportunity to taste some Garden State vino, and a chance to kick back and enjoy a little Blues!  
This year’s festival will bring together a weekend celebration of 23 New Jersey wineries, hundreds of award winning wines, live Blues music, artisan vendors, gourmet food and activities for the kids.
On Saturday, the Billy Hector Band will be performing.  Hector has twice received the Best Guitarist Award from music critic Bob Makin of the East Coast Rocker, and he recently took home 3 Asbury Park Music Awards for “Best Guitarist”, “Best Blues Band”, and the “Living Legend Award”.  Billy and his band have also shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Tribute to Muddy Waters”. 
On Sunday, The Tom Larsen Band will be taking the stage.  Larsen has been a major player on the East Coast music scene for the last twenty-five years.  Originally a solo performer, Larsen specialized in the acoustic blues of the 1920’s and 1930’s covering such artists as Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell.  Tom’s expanding love of blues music soon moved him to add the electric styling of Muddy Waters, Guitar Slim and B.B. King.
Wanna Go? 
Here’s how:
All you have to do to win the complimentary passes is make a guess on the total number of wine closures that I’ve got stashed in my WineLife365 “Estimation Station” shown below.  That’s it!
The closest person to guess without going over wins all 4 tickets!
To Enter:

  • The contest starts now and is only open to WineLife365 Facebook Fans.  So, if you want to play, you’ve got to “Like” the page!
  • Place your guess in the Comment area of this post on the Fan Page.  Please limit to 2 guesses.
  • This contest will close at 11:59pm ET on May 21st.
    I will announce the correct number and the lucky winner on May 22nd.  
    Good luck and happy guessing!

    Container is 19 in. tall with a 5 in. diameter opening.

    Please note:  Travel arrangements are not included.

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