Monthly Archives: January 2012


Devils Ridge Lane

Pleasures of Devils Ridge

Does wine taste better on vacation?

Ghost Pines 2008  – Cabernet Sauvignon / Santa Rita Reserva 2008 – Cabernet Sauvignon /  Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 – Riesling

I think the fast and easy answer to this quandary would be an easy yes. But the more I analyze and ponder about it,  the answer is still yes! Although I should clarify because I honestly think the same feeling and or joy can be attained even when not on vacation.

Think of it, appreciating wine can take you away from your current worries. It can be a form of escaping just as a vacation is. We’re not talking about guzzling here but actual wine appreciation; setting the atmosphere, picking your stemware, presentation, pairing wine with accoutrements, taking notes, sharing the experience, etc.  I truly think this pleasure can be attained or cloned whether at home, vacationing half way around the world or as I am, sitting before a roaring fire in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I am lucky to say; wine is one of my pleasures in life, no matter where I am, just NO plastic cups please!!  Salud.

Santa Rita Reserva 2008 – Cabernet Sauvignon: $10-12.00 notes of [on the nose] dark/black fruit [plum, fig], leather, wood [cedar/oak], minerality [earth].  Flavors detected; grape, leather, earthy barnyard minerality, pepper, dark chocolate, cherry on the finish.

Ghost Pines 2008  – Cabernet Sauvignon: $17-20.00 An elegantly tasting wine that tastes as if at a higher price point. A winemakers blend using grapes from two different California areas [Napa/Sonoma]. Scents/tastes detected; dark fruit [cherry, blackberry], vanilla, smokey wood [cedar/oak], moist underbrush and believe it or not I get the taste of cotton candy at the finish.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 – Riesling: $8-10.00 This value wine comes in between being medium dry and medium sweet. A perfect choice for those of us who avoid “sweet wines”. Nicely fresh and crisp with flowery flavors of; peach, apple, pineapple and lychee.

Does wine taste better on vacation? My vacation with: Ghost Pines / Santa Rita Reserva / Chateau Ste. Michelle

What I learned in wine class this week; WINE 101

A box of corks

Image by hey mr glen via Flickr

The one question I decided not to ask in class:

So if a bad or turned wine with a cork closure is referred to as CORKED would a turned wine with a screw cap be classified as SCREWED? I guess this would unfortunately better describe the wine bottle owner….

Seriously though, there are always a lot of details when it comes to wine appreciation and even though it is easy to just skim over them lightly the more you scratch at the surface the more we get to learn. Below are my highlights from this weeks class.

STELVIN = screw top closures.

The majority of wine consumers drink white wine too cold and red wine too warm. RED wine should be served at 65-68F, WHITE wine between 48-53F [just above standard refrigerator temperature], CHAMPAGNE 40-45F.

80% of what we taste is attributed to our sense of smell.

What is BODY? Body is the weight of the wine on the palate. A good measuring trick would be the following scale: Light [skim milk], Medium [ 2% to whole milk], Full [whole to half & half].

White Wine Styles: CRISP unoaked, refreshing, higher in acidity. ELEGANT seamless balance of acidity with an oak component. OAKY lush, round, creamy, buttery and lower in acidity. SWEET usually fuller in body, lower in alcohol and acidity.

Red Wine Tanin Levels: EASY DRINKING no drying sensation, smooth. SOFT mostly aged wines, barely noticeable. RIPE not overpowering but definitely detectable, in balance with fruit intensity.  FIRM: drying sensation is apparent, most prevalent in higher end young wines.


My wine varietal discoveries of 2011

Early stages of veraison of Pinot noir in late...

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Wine Varietal discoveries of 2011

2011 was a very good year for discoveries, considering mostly all but the very well-known varietals were new to this wine novice.  As I review my wine diary of 2011 including 130+ wines, a handful of “discoveries” come to mind.  A handful that we found ourselves going back to again and again [okay and again], confirming we really did like them the first time around and checking their consistency.

Luckily the world was our oyster as we discovered wines from Oregon [Pinot Noir/ Pinot Gris],  Chile [Carmenere], Uruguay [Tanat], Argentina [Bonarda], France [White Bordeaux], Spain  [Garnacha] and even Italy [Primitivo].

BONARDA- Argentina; peppery, earthy aroma. Great out of the bottle but we always decant. Rich dark fruit taste; plum, raisins, casis. Suggestion; Maipe Reserve approx. $12-15.00.  They also have a non Reserve, I say splurge the $2-3.00 it is well worth it. Also; Durrigutti 2008 Bonarda at $13.00 is worthy. Mr. Durrigutti has the midas touch these days in Argentina. Co-owner of Lamadrid winery a personal favorite of our household.

CARMENERE- Chile; earthy, leather aroma. Sweet dark fruit taste with plum, blackberry, and cherry. Mellows after 20 minutes of decanting. Suggestion; Porta Reserva 2009 approx. $12.00. Also Santa Rita Reserve Santa Rita Reserva 2008 approx. $8-14.00 [usually good sales out there].

TANAT- Uruguay; fruity, smokey and buttery on the nose. A rustic and robust deep garnet colored wine that must be decanted, heavy tannins.  Dry yet sweet finish. Suggestion; Pisano Cisplatino 2009 blend approx. $9.99!

White BORDEAUX- France; White? Really? I am maybe the only one in the world who thought all Bordeaux was red. Go figure. This is now considered a staple at our house. Suggestion; Chateau Montet 2009, 2010 approx. $8-9.00.  BTW stay away from their red!

GARNACHA- Spain; purple almost black in color. Peppery on the nose, jammy taste with plum, ripe raisin in there too. The tannins seem to grow at the finish for a nice finale.  This is the first time I have ever been able to detect strawberry[!] while tasting a wine. It just jumped out at me. Although this varietal is blended in many if not most Rhone wines it is quite distinctive on its own too. Suggestion; Evodia  Altovinum Old Vine Garnacha 2009 approx. $12.00.

PRIMITIVO- Italy; related to America’s Zinfandel. Dark, rich and peppery tasting, fruit forward and woody. We also detected a clove taste. It is smooth on the tongue. Suggestion; Il Primitivo Puglia 2009 approx. $12-15.00. Pillastro Primitivo Negro Amaro Selezione de Oro approx. $20.00.

PINOT GRIS/NOIR- Oregon;  nose and flavors of apple, pear, honey, grapefruit, pineapple. Very crisp. Suggestion; Kudos Pinot Gris 2009 approx. $8-10.00. NOIR is where I have discovered price does make a difference. The lower end variety have a light viscosity as most Pinot Noir’s do but the higher end ones in the $40.00 range coming from Oregon’s small production vineyards are actually rich and Port like. Making me want to drink the entire bottle.  Purple/ruby in color, smooth flavorful lingering dark fruit throughout and finish. Suggestions; Lachini 2007 from Chehalem Mountains  and Coehlio 2006 from Willamette Valley. Both in the $35-45.00 range.


Our Wednesday night choice; Santa Rita Reserva Carménère 2008


Santa Rita Reserva Carmenere (2006)

Our Wednesday night choice; Santa Rita Reserva Carménère 2008

We discovered Carménère about a year ago in a South American wine class and it has become one of our favorite and go-to wines. The Reserve always being somewhat better than the non.  In fact while in Nova Scotia and Canada [PEI] this last spring this varietal was our saving grace and actually made us look good in the eyes of our gracious hosts who had never imbibed such a delicacy. At this point I should tell you that this grape from Chile usually has a strong and robust taste almost comparable to a Cabernet Sauvignon but slightly mellower. It also mellows and opens nicely when decanted. Just 20 minutes will make a difference.

I refer to this as our Wednesday night choice because of its price point. As priced at about $8-9.00 it is the perfect non-guilty pleasure and can easily impress guests in a pinch. We had ours with spaghetti and garlic bread. I could also see this working well with grilled meats and other hearty dishes.

At opening the nose was of; leather, earth/dirt, sweet dark fruits [blackberry, plum, cherry]. My better half detected aromas of; grass, chocolate and malt. As the wine mellowed I tasted an after taste of almonds.

We had never tried the Santa Rita Reserva Carménère and I was attracted to it because of its price.  Having been impressed we will definitely be coming back to this one and it may even make my 2012 best value wine list.  This will be entry #1 in my 2012 wine diary; not a bad way to start the year. Good wine AND a great value.

Ended 2011 with a BANG: 2007 Stags Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon

07 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon

Image by iamvhl via Flickr

Ended 2011  with a BANG: 2007 Stags Leap Artemis Cabernet  Sauvignon

As our year-long wine diary came to an end this New Years Eve we decided to splurge and pull out this 2010 Christmas gift  from our fellow wine aficionado and classmate.  We were actually able to sit on it for a year. Not bad coming from members of the instant gratification generation.  That said, we are pretty good about saving our better wines for future appreciation but I at least am not so good about deciding when the future is now,  why wait?  But that sounds like the instant gratification within talking again.  The proverbial fork in the road….

All the reviews I have found are favorable and almost all refer to the pedigree of this wine maker; the judgment in Paris Tasting of May 1976, where Stags Leap beat out the best classified Bordeaux. Most reviewers described it as “rich”, “bold”, “massive” and “sensational”. After all the 2007 vintage was considered to have been an outstanding one.  I agree with these statements and other references to holding and drinking after 2012 [lets not go there]. After decanting for an hour, and to be honest in hindsight it should have been more like 2 hours, I found this wine to be explosive on the tongue, flavorful with dark fruits detected [blackberries, currant], peppery [black], strong oak flavor and nose, yet still holding back somewhat.

By some standards a year or two would have most likely improved this already good tasting wine but as we end 2011 and begin 2012 I say:

Why wait? The future is now.