Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Susana Balbo Crios Rosé of Malbec

It is amazing how some days seem to be unending, but when you look back how quickly time has gone by. We've now had Beatrice with us for a full month! It seems like just yesterday when she arrived. I remember the first few weeks of Ben's life seemed to go by so much slower. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas had never gone by so quickly before! Maybe having a four-year old around just makes time fly faster! Or maybe it was just the business of the holiday season. Having all of our families over to our house for the holidays was a nice way to spend Beatrice's first Christmas. Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles all enjoyed spending time with the little girl! And as nice as seeing everyone was, a quieter house in 2016 will be a welcome change.

Crios 2014 Rosé of Malbec
This week we twisted opened a fun bottle of Susana Balbo 2014 Crios Rosé of Malbec (14.5% abv. Sample $13). Crios is Susana Balbo's fruit-forward value line brand and this rosé definitely delivers both. The grapes for this wine come from the Uco Valley in the southwest part of the Mendoza wine region in Argentina. The clear bottle shows off the deep vermilion color - almost more like a very light red than a lightly tinted rosé. It is extremely quaffable. Bright red fruit dominates the nose with aromas of raspberries, cherries and strawberries. It comes across slightly more serious on the palate with a backbone of spice and a medium body rounding out the generous red fruit flavors that keep the wine playful. At $13, this wine is a good value that should please many palates.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: J Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay and Parker Station Pinot Noir

Holidays are usually filled with family, food and wine and this past week was no exception. A few bottles of whiskey also saw their demise (though I didn't even have even a dram). It was fun having my family in town, even for only just a few days. We drank well and ate well; Bison prime rib roast, roasted pheasant and applewood-smoked ham all found their way on to the dinner table.

Interestingly, it just so happened that all of the wine we opened came from California. We opened a few hard-to-find small production wines: we finished off the remaining bottles of Cameron Hughes Private Selection (notes coming) and had a selection of Zinfandels from Scherrer. However, some widely available Chardonnay and Pinot noir found their way in to our glasses, too.

J Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay
J Vineyards & Winery 2013 Chardonnay (14.3% abv. Sample $28)

This Chardonnay was opened while we waited for the bison rib roast to cook. 2013 was a year of abundance in northern California. The growing conditions were ideal and a lot of high-quality fruit was grown. This Chardonnay hails from the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. Harvest started in August (yes, that is early) for the grapes in this bottle. This entry-level J Chardonnay is medium yellow in color. Aromas of ripe pears and peaches waft up from the glass. The barrel ageing and malolactic fermentation so common in California Chardonnays became more pronounced on the palate as toasted marshmallows, spiced pears and dried pineapple flavors were complemented by a silky creaminess. This is a very nice Chardonnay that is not overdone and that lovers of the richer California-style Chardonnay will enjoy.

Parker Station 2014 Pinot Noir
Parker Station 2014 Pinot Noir (13.8% abv. Sample $15)

I was quite surprised with this Pinot noir from Fess Parker Winery that is a blend of grapes from California's Central Coast (Monterey County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County). Finding a high quality Pinot noir below $25 is not an easy task, yet this is textbook Pinot noir. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't Pulitzer Prize worthy, but it has a beginning, middle and end along with genuine Pinot noir varietal character that is often lost in less expensive Pinots. Some really good aromas of cherry, strawberry, earth, forest floor, cinnamon and vanilla can be detected. Cranberry and fruit punch flavors come across in the mouth. It went down easy and would surely be a crowd-pleasing wine at parties or with dinner. For the price, this is hard to beat in the California Pinot noir realm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Donnafugata Sedàra

The wine bug bit me when I started drinking Spanish wine back in college. As I got in deeper I found myself reading books on France and its various wine regions. With the fundamentals down, I felt more comfortable exploring the more adventurous and irregular American wine regions. Sadly, I've only really dipped my toes in the sea that is Italian wine. I love the intricacies and nuances of Italian wine, but it really can be a confusing minefield. One of my goals this coming year is to dive deeper into the Italian wine world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Reichsrat von Buhl Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken

Anyone who has had children knows the first few weeks of the child's life is pretty monotonous. Sleeping, feeding and diaper changing. Repeat, but not necessarily in that order. That has pretty much been our lives for the past few weeks. One thing that we haven't had a lot of is fussing. Beatrice has been easygoing and really only fusses when I change her diapers with my cold hands. Now that her stomach is growing and she is eating more, she is starting to have a bit more gas and discomfort. However, that is usually quickly and easily resolved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Ruby Trust Cellars Gunslinger

The red-wine blend category has been quite popular with consumers of late. According to market research firm IRI, the red blend category has increased sales by value 14% over the past year. I don't know why it has taken Americans so long to realize that most wine in traditional wine regions (i.e., those in Europe) were created from blending grapes. A broad palette of grapes allows winemakers to create a beautiful piece of art every year when certain varieties may make varietal wine difficult, if not impossible. However, this tiny shift in the U.S. away from the focus on varietal wines to blends is probably mostly due to clever marketing and American's sweet-tooth palate. Varietal wines aren't going anywhere, but it is nice to see more creativity in the wine industry to reach a broader audience. Many of the most popular red blends are produced from lesser-known (and less expensive) grapes and with a hint (or sometimes more) of residual sugar, but there are plenty made without any sweetness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Old Westminster Winery Alius

These first two weeks with Beatrice have been quite different from life as we knew it. She has been exceptionally easygoing, but taking care of two children is a whole new ballgame. Ben adores his sister more than anything, but he also now has competition for our attention. He gets his lack of patience from me, and I think having  to wait for attention has been difficult for him. For the most part he has done very well with this major change, but there have been a few issues at school. Interestingly, one of his classmates that he got in trouble with also has a brand new baby sister. Those two should have a fun-filled year ahead of them with watching their little sisters grow up!

Old Westminster Winery 2014 'Alius'
This week's Beatrice's Blushes is also something different from the usual. A skin-fermented Pinot Gris from Maryland that Old Westminster Winery calls Alius (11.3% abv, Sample). I first tasted Old Westminster's wine two years ago at the Drink Local Wine conference in Baltimore. The Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc I tasted were top notch. I was really impressed with a number of other Maryland wineries, but Old Westminster is near the head of the class.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Loscano Torrontés and Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

One thing that a wine blog should be about more than anything is else wine. In the past, I've gotten away from that. So, today I'm starting Wednesday's Wines. These posts will short, sweet and to the point. I'll write a little bit about the wine and my thoughts on how it smelled and tasted. I want to explicitly mention the aroma because to me, much of the pleasure from wine comes from just smelling it. A wine can have little aroma and still taste good, but I find that a wine's true character and complexity shines through in the nose.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé

Welcoming a new child into a family is an awesome experience. For over four years, we've been a family of just three, but now we get to share the world with Beatrice. Big brother Ben is just completely enamored with his new little sister. He loves holding her and comforting her when she cries - which is not very often. He talks about things he wants to do with her when she is old enough. It brings a smile to my face to just think about the adventures that the future holds.

Just as my family is welcoming Beatrice into existence, the Colorado wine family is saying goodbye to one of its brightest stars. Sadly, Boulder Creek Winery is shutting down operations at the end of the year. Grape supplies and building lease issues convinced Mike and Jackie Thompson it was time to retire from their retirement project. They've been great people to get to know over the years and I've always enjoyed their wines. I'm glad that I have a small collection of Boulder Creek in my wine cellar to enjoy after they're gone. As my family starts off on this new journey, we decided to start the Beatrice's Blushes series with the only bottle of Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé that we had.

This 2011 Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé is everything I like in a pink wine. It is bone dry with tart red fruit flavors - admittedly starting to fade. There is a savory component that makes you pause for a moment to consider what types of herbs come to mind and what cured meat would be the perfect accompaniment. Thinking about how Mike and Jackie always wanted to promote dry rosés brought a smile to my face as the last drop passed from the glass, to my mouth and then down my throat to its final resting place. Thank you for all the memories and wonderful wines, Mike and Jackie (and of course Will, too). I wish you all the best of times with whatever you decide to do after you walk out of the winery building one last time.
2011 Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Curious Case of the Private Reserve

As many wine lovers know, Cameron Hughes is both a man and a brand synonymous with deals in wine sold at a discount and cloaked in anonymity. Hughes buys wine from producers that can't (or don't want to) sell all the wine they produce (in high-yielding vintages or to keep supply low). He's also known for getting wine that doesn't quite make the cut for high-end releases which the producer wants to quietly remove from the books and away from their reputation. Non-disclosure agreements ensure producers' reputations aren't harmed by Hughes selling $100 wine for $20. Hughes labels the wines with a generic Lot number with little identifying info as to the wines' origins. He does offer hints (maybe a few embellishments) in his Cam's Confidential.
Cameron Hughes Private Reserve Collection Wooden Case
Well, not too long ago Hughes announced his greatest score ever as a négociant; "a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-seen-again opportunity to own a six-bottle, six-vintage vertical of Cabernet from one of the most iconoclastic cult producers in the history of Napa Valley." That does sound like quite the score. Super bloggers Steve Heimoff and W. Blake Gray both tasted (separately) the wines with Hughes and published their opinions here and here. Speculation also abounds on the Wineberserkers online forum (I have participated in the discussion) as to the true identity of the shrouded wine collection.
Cameron Hughes Lot 2006

Last week, Hughes sent me the six-bottle vertical to try for myself. I'm honored to be considered a peer to Messieurs Heimoff and Gray, though I do wish I could have tasted them with Mr. Hughes himself. I've been a bit busy with the arrival of baby number two last week, but curiosity got the better of me and I popped open the 2006 the other night. I hope to open the rest and conduct a proper vertical in the near future (Christmas dinner??).