St. Patty’s Day Salud

So it’s been awhile since I posted and for that I apologize.  Sadly, nowadays, free time is a precious commodity and while I would love to spend it sipping wine and cooking some tasty treats, I have a nursery and preggers wife to take care of.  Luckily our friend Robby came into town over St. Patrick’s Day weekend and all those projects had to go on hold.  I mean, I wanted to be a good host and all, so out came the wine, ribeyes and cigars.  Hosting takes such a toll so I had Robby help me out and we reviewed 2009 Newton Claret.

I had picked up this wine while in Winston-Salem at a Chef’s Conference.  The store where I bought the Newton was a superstore of wine consisting of aisles and aisles of wines divided by region, varietal and cooler cases holding some of the best wines of the world at a perfect humidity and temperature.  As a lover of fortified grape juice, it was nice to see such care and instruction put into a store.  Friendly staff and free tastings, I would recommend Total Wine and More to anyone in the Winston-Salem area.  If I remember correctly, it’s actually a chain that dots the East Coast.

Now on to the wine…

In my wrap-up of the Blend Trend Series, I will conclude with a Claret.  This type of wine is a blend with an English name.  It’s a Bordeaux blend that went through a name change to appeal to the British upper class back in the day.  The French put the name, Claret, on the bottles that were exported to boosts sales and distinguish the finer Bordeaux from more generic.  Nowadays, Claret doesn’t always mean a finer wine so buyer beware.  California producers are now using the vocabulary to separate their unique blends from other Bordeaux blends coming out of the West Coast.


Consumers – James and Robby

Name – Newton Claret

Vintage – 2009

Varietal – 52% Merlot / 38% Cabernet Savignon / 5% Syrah / 3% Petite Verdot / 2% Cabernet Franc

Region – Napa County

Price – $20

Alcohol by Volume – 13.5%

Color/Appearance – Dark red, touches of rust on the rim, translucent

Nose/Aroma – White Pepper, Leather, Hints of Vanilla, Complex with a robust nose

Mouth/Taste – Dried Cherry and Fruit, Soft Finish, Dry with spices

Rating – 7.1 initial / 8.4 with food and letting it open up

Food Pairings – Grilled Ribeye paired with Cajun Zucchini & Squash, Irish Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Impressions – This was a nice wine worth visiting again.  I think it would make a nice gift as it is something most people wouldn’t drink but would enjoy.  Definitely needs decanting and little time to open up.  Paired well with the steak.




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Sunday, February 19th, 2012 – No steak for Lent, but still plenty of Wine

Sunday, February 19, 2012 found us three days before Lent – which is the Christian season where there is a Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday.  During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury as a form of penitence, mostly observed in the Catholic church as well as in the Episcapol church, which shares many of the same traditions as the Catholic church.

This Lenten season, Amy and I have decided to give up some of our favorite foods: steak and fried foods for myself and chocolate for Amy.  As of this reading, we have both held strong.

So with our last meal before austerity towards meats, french fires and bon, bons, we decided to dig in on our last piece of red meat and a bold wine to boot…

Alas, technology has failed us once again (as it is technology that has prevented us for posting on a regular basis).  In preparation for this Sunday Salud, my iPhone which housed all notes for this weeks post had to be erased and restored.  I was able to retrieve the photos taken as well as a brief memory of the wine…

Our First Sonoma Cabernet

As the caption professes, this was a Cab from Sonoma from the Clos Du Bois Winery, which is in fact in Sonoma County.  Sonoma County is just west of Napa Valley and like Napa is very popular for their Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  Cabernet is the second most grown grape in the Sonoma region, just behind Chardonnay.  The reverse is true in Napa with Cabernet #1 and Chardonnay #2. As we discussed before, this was my last opportunity to enjoy a big steak; and when we enjoy a big steak, a Cabernet must be in toe.  Wanted to do something middle of the road, nothing over the top.  Clos Du Bois fit the bill nicely. This was their Reserve Cabernet from Alexander Valley.  Side note, I am beginning to be leary of the term Reserve, in that we should automatically think that the wine should be somehow better, just because the bottle says – reserve.  None the less, while I am certain my unrefined pallet couldnt tell the diffrence between Reserve or otherwise, there is in fact a difference.  The2008  bottle ran us about $23.00 at the local Publix, and chances are had an alcohol content of around 14.9%.  It was a full bodied Cabernet, but was not over the top in color or flavor; not too inky (as Sara has been known to say) or thick, but was complex in its varying flavors.  It had the customary Cabernet taste that I so truly love, but yet can never pin point the actual taste.  Someone with a much better pallet and broader vocabulary should let me what it is that I am tasting.      

Tiny piece of meat on the far left

The wine was paried with two large bone in Ribeyes with beautiful marbling, roasted red potatoes (seasoned with thyme, black pepper and kosher salt.  In addition we had broiled cherry tomotos and asparagus (seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil).  The meal was rounded out with a green salad with Balsamic Vinegrette dressing.  The meal plus the wine, gave us a 8 out of 10 heading into Lent!

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Zin Blend Trend…Amen!!!

So to continue the post from two weeks ago we are reviewing a Zinfandel Blend from Bogle.  Bogle is best known for its Petite Syrah and Old Vine Zinfandel, but this is a blend of those varietals with a dash of Mourvedre.  Mourvedre is a varietal that hails originally from Spain but the French latched onto its balancing ability and it can be found in many blended wines from the Rhone region in France.  A fun fact that coincidentally ties into Phil’s post from last week is that the Mourvedre grape is usually added with Grenache to balance and soften the blend.

Homework for the Week : Down in my post you’ll notice the lower rating on this wine and I think it is due to poor management of the wine once it left the warehouse.  So, for an experiment, I want all our thousands of loyal followers to go out and buy two identical bottles of wine.  Place one with all your other wine, which is hopefully in a temperature constant location away from the sun.  The other, place either outside on a table directly in the sun, on top of the hot water heater, near the dryer or any place that the temperature changes daily.  The point of this experiment is to see firsthand how improper care of wine can change its flavor and complexity to the negative.  If you try this, please post your results so everyone can see.  Thanks in advance for your participation.


Consumer:  James

Name:  Bogle Phantom

Region: Clarksburg, Lodi, Amador, California

Grape Varietal:  Old Vine Zinfandel – 51%, Petite Syrah – 47%, Old Vine Mourvedre – 2%

Vintage:  2008

Price:  $15-$20

Alcohol content:  14.5%

Food pairing: Slow Cooked Pot Roast with Root and Garden Vegetables

Slow Cooked Pot Roast

Color & Appearance:  Translucent Crimson/Red

Nose/Aroma:  Oak, Dried Raspberry, Alcohol, Hints of Cocoa and Leather

Mouth/Flavors: Sweet Sun Dried Berries, Big on the front, not a lot on the back, hints of smoke and tabacco

Rating: 6/10, not as impressed with this vintage as I have in the past.  I believe the 2007 was far superior to this vintage.  It could also be that the purveyor of the wine did not take the care necessary to protect the wine. 

Impressions:  This wine was one of my favorite blends but after drinking this vintage, my mind has changed a little.  I will revisit the wine once the 2009 vintage is available an make my final decision then.  If you are looking for a economical wine from Bogle Vineyards I would try the Petite Syrah, or Old Vine Zin, instead of the Phantom.  After a bit of research, you might want to purchase this wine and cellar it for a year or two.  I might do this and report back in two years.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012 – Super Bowl Sunday – A Little Flavor and Spice…

…with a little football mixed in.  Super Bowl Sunday is always filled with a blend of alcohol and food, why not make it  a Sunday Salud.  Spicy food always seems to be on the menu for the Super Bowl so why not for Sunday Salud.  I had an itch for some Mexican and Amy had the dish to scratch it – good ole Huevos Rancheros (I think that is spanish for Egg Rancheros).

So, I needed a complementary bottle of wine.  Went to Western, because I knew my guy could help me out.  During our end of the year review, we touched on the Garnacha grape, which is common to the Southern Rhone Valley of France as well as Spain.  Since we are enjoying a Hispanic dish, we decided to stay with a wine from a Spanish-speaking country (could have gone with a South American wine, but chose to go back to Spain).

Tres Picos – Three Peaks

Consumer:  Amy and Phil Croft

Name:  Borsao Tres Picos

Region:  North West area of the Zaragoza province in Spain

Grape Varietal:  Garnacha

Vintage:  2009

Price:  $14.99

Alcohol content:  14.5%

Food pairing: Homemade Huevos Rancheros

It doesn't look like much, but it was decent.

Color & Appearance:  Creamy red color pouring out of the bottle, thin bright red, almost garnet in the glass

Nose/Aroma:  Mushrooms, smoke, some earthiness, sweet but not overbearing

Mouth/Flavors:  Good texture, not too heavy, very complex, lots of flavor (hard for us to distinguish – need Sara/James to figure it out for us)

Rating: 8.5

Impressions:  Spice for spice. Matched well together.  The wine would have been well suited with a lot of Spanish/Mexican dishes.  This Garnacha is similar to other Garnachas/Syrahs we have had in the past. Full, but not to thick or heavy.  Reminds us of California Bordeauxs in that it is complex; however, the taste is not similar at all, which would be expected.  Really like the wine, and was a bonus that this was priced at only $14.99.

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The Blend is the Trend

So it might look as though we have gone to one post a month but I assure you this is not the case.  As Phil hinted to in the 2011 Recap, Sara is pregnant so the wine tasting duties have fallen to me.  With my schedule, and now care-taking duties added on, it’s been a little tricky to find the time to enjoy a glass of wine.   But alas, it has come and I am excited to share something that I see going on the wine world today.  The Blend.

Blends are nothing new but the traditional way of doing it is being tweaked and perfected to showcase some great varietals from the around the world.  Duckhorn Vineyard’s off shoot Paraduxx had been making blends with a Zinfandel backbone for years now.  I know Phil enjoyed one last weekend and I recommend it to everyone.  Normally Zinfandel is added to provide a little depth or character but it is normally not the star.  So this brings me to your homework for the weekend.  Go to your favorite wine store and find a blend.  It shouldn’t be too hard to do.  For extra credit, find a blend with a atypical star.  Be it a Zinfandel like in Paraduxx, a French Bordeaux (which is mostly always a blend) or for a real challenge try Conundrum, a Californian White Blend.  The winemakers are Conundrum never release the percentages so try to figure out what grapes and how much they put in.  Even if you get it wrong, you’ll probably feel like a winner when the bottle is done.

So on to the wine.  This is a wine that was just introduced to me.  A blend of Italian grapes grown in Californian soil, it consists of smooth flavors with nice balance.

Name – Quadriga

Region – Hopland Ranches, Mendocino County, California

Grape – Sangiovese, Primitivo, Barbera and Dolcetto

Price – $22.00

Alcohol by Volume – 13.5%

Vintage – 2008

Color and Appearance – Crimson and purple with a rusty brown edge, clear

Nose – Hints of oak, ripe berry, floral aromatics, hints of earthy smell but it goes away after being opened for a bit

Mouth – Smooth but full with flavors of cherry, leather, and spice with hints of pepper and tobacco.  Nice finish.

Rating (out of 10) – 8, a really nice drinkable wine.  I think this would be a crowd pleaser at any dinner party in which it would be a nice wine and a conversation starter.  Enjoy!!!




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A Look Back at Last Year as we look towards a New Year!

 Ok, with the holidays out of the way and resolutions intack, we make a commitment to be more fervent in our posting efforts.  God knows that we have been just that in our consumption of wine!

With a move into the New Year, instead of doing a full blown post, we wanted to do a quick look back on some of the wines that we consumed that didn’t make into a post. 

Scheduling note before we begin, with the big cabin weekend coming up for January 13-16, we would like for the Allen’s to do a post this coming up weekend and the Croft’s will do a post the weekend of the cabin so that James and Sara are not too overwelmed.  I know Sara and James to a less extent have a lot going on as we move full force in 2012, but I will let them tell you! Is that ok?

On to the photos…

This is a Syrah wine from the South African winery The Wolftrap.  We bought this wine in November looking for an inexpensive red that we were somewhat familiar with.  We had tried the Pinotage from Wolftrap before and been satisfied with it as with the price.  Pinotage is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsant (also known as Hermitage – french grape similar to Syrah) grapes and is almost exclusive to the South African wine region. 

Syrah wines originated from the Rhone Valley of France and have been made popular over the past number of years by both Australian and South African growers.  This is due to the syrah grapes affinity to hot climates.  In both the Australian and South African regions the syrah grapes are also know as Shiraz.

This bottle was around $10 or $11 a bottle, and wasn’t one to write home about.  The pinotage maybe something to think about trying.  I believe The Wolftrap Pinotage, depending on the vintage will run from $13 to $20 a bottle.

One of our mainstays and go to bottles of wine.  Despite the enormity and its place on the mainstream (sometimes too big for their britches) the Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon is always a solid bottle of wine that can be enjoyed by itself or with a nice piece of steak or other grilled meats.  This was paired and consumed with a number of large reds over the summer at my parents house.  At $20 – $25 a bottle (you will pay to much at a Publix) it is a wine that can hold its own.

This is their standard bearer Napa Valley Cabernet.  The Cabernets only go up from there both in price, taste and complexity when you start looking at their reserve wines and their single vineyard wines.  I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to trying both the standard bearer as well as some of the reserve bottles.  Even their “private select” which is the Mondavi entry level wine is not bad for those on a tight budget.

This picture represents how we consume most of our wines…in front of the TV with dinner.  We set a grand example for our 2 year old (almost 3) daughter.

This was another Cabernet from Smoking Loon.  Beleive it our not, we actually enjoyed this bottle of wine.  We would have no trouble drinking again.  We purchased the wine at a premium from our local market just 2 minutes from our house.  I guess you have to pay a premium for such convenience (the market certainly thinks so).  We paid about $11 or so for the wine. It can probably be found reasonably for about $8 to $10 a bottle.

In mid-November Amy and I went to Costa Rica for a little vacation.  We stayed on the pacific coast about an 1-1/2 drive southwest of the capital of Costa Rica –  San Jose.  We stayed at the Los Suenos Marriott Resort and Spa.  Before our trip we decided to get in the mood, by drinking some relavent wine.  The only relavent wine we could think of was from Spain.

Oour wine of choice was from the Las Rocas winery which is located in the Spanish province of Zaragoza.  This province is home to the Calatayud wine region, which is famous for the red wines, of which 85% is the Grenache grape.  Grenache grape is one of the most widely planted red wine grapes varieties in the world.  It too grows well in hot, dry climates and is similar to the Syrah grape.  It is common for Syrah and Grenache grapes to be blended.  Grenache is also commonly found in the Southern Rhone region of France.

This was an average bottle of Spanish Red wine, that left a lot to be desired.  We found it at the local Piggly Wiggly for about $11 a bottle.

With our arrival back from Costa Rica we were greeted with a large family contigency, not necessarily for our arrival back in the states, but probably becuase it was Thanksgiving.  One of our guests at Thanksgiving was my jet-set Aunt who is a travel agent by trade, but does almost as much travelling as she does selling travel.

Her favorite spot – Tuscany. She travels there at least once a year and has friends abound in the region.  Here last visit to Tuscany found her in Val d’Orcia a region within Tuscany south of Sienna and Florence.  Val d’Orcia is home to a small family winery by the name of Capitoni (visit the website… 

My Aunt Mary was gracious enough to bring this wine back with her and share it with us a appetizer to Thanksgiving dinner.  This was a Sangiovese wine with a small percentage of merlot to round out the wine.  It reminded me of the Andrew Will Sangiovese we had over the summer that I spoke of back in August.  As has been disucssed, we have found Sangiovese, particularly Chianti, uninviting; however, my recent experiences, mostly with American wineries which add a little from Bordeaux grapes have been very pleaseing.

The Capitoni did not disappoint.  Sadly, good luck getting this wine right now with out asking you local wine guy to buy you at least a case.  In the long run, it might be a good investment.  Do I have any takers?

Another wine at Thanksgiving.  A wine that needs no introduction with this crowd.  We have reviewed the entry level and we have reviewed the next step up (in Charleston).  We had the opportunity to drink again the top notch of the Cain winery – the Cain Five.  I do not need to wax poetically about this wine. It stands alone and continues to bring us back to what was my favorite winery to visit and wine to taste.  To think that lady thought she was punishing us by banishing us to the barrel room.  A word of advice, should she stumble upon this blog….do more wine tasting in the barrel room!

It is tough to consume this wine on a routine basis, which is why it is nice to have a father that has a larger budget and the afinity towards California Bordeauxs!  Thanks again, dad!


This was a christmas present from my in-laws in Ohio.  Thus the Ohio wine.  This is a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Ohio River Valley.  It wasn’t bad for a Bordeaux from Ohio.

Well, that’s it folks for now.  Here’s to a successful and “fertile” 2012 – with the hopes of many more bottles of wine, shared with good food and friends!

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Bila Haut 2008 – Wine for the Blind

All I can say is thank goodness summer is over.  While it was great summer with awesome weather, mini vacations, sun burns, and friends (along with a busy event calendar at the club, trust me, I ain’t complaining) all my free time was taken up and none was left for enjoying one of my favorite Sunday activities…reviewing wines.  Ever since the Taste of Charleston Summer Wine Dinner I have been chomping at the bit to review again.  And here we go…

Our choosing this Sunday comes from France.  I recently hosted a five course wine dinner and this one’s cousin made the dinner because of price point but we opened this for our wine club members to enjoy before the feast.  Bila Haut is produced about 60 miles south of Lyon which is in Southeast France.  While the liquid inside is what matters, one interesting note about this wine is the label has braille on it.  The story goes that the winemaker’s blind friend knew which side of the cellar was red and which was white but was unable to distinguish the vintages and varietals.  To remedy this they put the raised braille on the label of each vintage so their friend could enjoy the wine as much as we can.  Salud!!!

Please note the braille.

Name: Domaine de Bila-Haut, Occoltum Lapidem

Region: Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France

Grape: Blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Old Vine Carignan

Price: $18.95

Alcohol by Volume: 14%

Vintage: 2008


              1st Course – Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Oven Roasted Yukon Potatoes paired with a Steamed Artichoke

2nd Course – Sweet Potato and Apple Crème Brulee (could be leftover from the wine dinner…)

Color: Clear edges, Deep dark plum color

Nose: Cassis, Dried Cherries, Soft hints of Leather, Very Dry Smell with not a lot going on.  Has been breathing for an hour.

Mouth: Rather flat but better with food, touch of minerality, very French in flavor, very faint hints of licorice,

Rating: 6.5, definitely better with food but still a little underwhelming

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