Category Archives: Wine

Thanks for the Memories – #MWWC34

I am certainly glad I read Jeff The Drunken Cyclist’s Saturday Reminders post this morning. In his post, Jeff offers an ominous warning that the deadline for this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC34), is this Monday! The theme for the challenge this month is “Memory.” Had it not been for Jeff’s nudge, I may have forgotten to write my entry! (See what I did there?)memoryHow embarrassing would it have been for me to forget to write my post, since the theme, Memory, was my idea! As the winner of last month’s challenge (a heartfelt thank you to all who voted for my entry), I had the honor and distinction of selecting this month’s theme. I had originally proposed “Memories”, because I have many fond memories of many great wines, and I was interested to hear about the wine memories of other bloggers. However in a discussion with Jeff he floated the idea of broadening the theme to “Memory” as this expands the interpretation, and accordingly, the fun! Hopefully. Since Jeff is a smart man (he has a Ph. D, after all) and a very successful blogger, I agreed with his idea. (Hey, it never hurts to suck up a little.) With the revised theme, I’m anticipating entries that will range from describing the medicinal benefits of wine, to poetic waxing of fond memories of wines, to humorous stories anecdotes about wine’s ability to affect one’s memory in, shall we say, not so favorable ways. (Disclaimer: I do not encourage or support the overindulgence of any alcoholic beverage. But we all know it happens once in a while, and sometimes the results can be rather hysterical!)

When it comes to memories about wine, I’m something of a savant. I can remember, with vivid clarity that is often annoying to my companions, the exact setting in which we enjoyed a particular bottle. Even if it was several years ago, when I see a familiar label, I can recall where we were, and with whom we enjoyed the wine. That, however, is where this uncanny, photographic memory ends. The name of the restaurant? The answer is hazy. (Especially the further back in the memory banks I must go!) What food we paired with the wine? Not a clue. The weather? What we wore? The music playing? Nope, nope, and nope.

Hook & Ladder

Well, there is one exception to the music part. Several years ago, when my son was in high school, he was a member of the Jazz Choir. The Folsom High School Jazz Choir is highly regarded, and has won multiple awards from Downbeat Magazine, as well as Grammy awards. During his time in the Jazz Choir, my son had the opportunity to meet Julia Dollison, a professional jazz singer and, at the time, co-director of the Jazz Program at nearby California State University, Sacramento. One particular evening, Ms. Dollison was to perform at a restaurant across town. So we made reservations, piled into the car, and went off to enjoy an evening of dinner and jazz. The restaurant has since gone under, and the location has changed names a number of times, so the possibility of ever recovering the name from my memory bank is next to nil. However, the meal was delicious…I think. The jazz was exquisite…I specifically recall. And the wine…oh, the wine! On that memorable evening, the adults at the table enjoyed a delightful bottle of Hook & Ladder “The Tillerman” Red Blend. This was in the days before I had a smart phone, and I wasn’t quite so into wine as I am now, so I didn’t take notes, so I don’t recall the vintage or the details of the wine, except that it was tasty and memorable. But the point is, even after all these years, I can recall the when and the where of this particular wine. Whenever I see a bottle of Hook & Ladder wine, I go back to that evening.

Oh, I have other examples of this freak-show ability; too many to count, in fact. As I mentioned, I’ve been told this superpower can be annoying, but I don’t understand why. Who wouldn’t want a companion who can store useless information, and have it readily available, so you can use your grey cells for more important things, like knowing the square root of 3,479 (its 58.983 in case you’re wondering) or remembering to pick up wine on the way home from work. Now that’s important!

Lavender Ridge

Sometimes, when the event is more recent, my wine memory is much more detailed. Most recently, my friend and I had been out wine tasting in Murphys, California, in the heart of Calaveras wine country. Among other tasting rooms, we stopped in at Lavender Ridge Vineyard, where we fell in love with their white blend, Cotes du Calaveras Blanc. It is an enticing and refreshing blend of 51% Marsanne, 25% Rolle, 12% Roussanne, and 12% Grenache Blanc. We had to have it, so we bought a bottle, among our other purchases. A few weeks later, we took my dad to lunch for Father’s Day. Yes, mom came along, too! My friend suggested we bring the Lavender Ridge bottle to share.Manderes As luck would have it, the restaurant, Manderes, waives corkage if all at the table order a full entrée. No problem there! I had the Steak Salad, one of my favorite entrées there. My friend and my mom both had the Asian Chicken Salad. And dad? He had the Angus Burger with Onion Rings, thank you very much! Despite my dad and me violating the cardinal rule mandating red wine with beef (of course, I spurn silly wine-pairing rules, but that’s a topic for another post.), the entire meal was amazing and the white blend complemented every bite! It was a fun, fantastic meal, and the creation of fond memories for all of us.

What are some of your wine memories? Share your tale in the comments, or better yet, write a blog post about them!

Cheers!

 

Longing for Some Summertime Red Wine

It’s only the first week of July, but it already feels like a long, hot summer. Here in NorCal we’ve seen near-record heat including a week-long heatwave (seemed more like a month) with temperatures pushing, or exceeding 110°F…and that just was in June!

Naturally, when the mercury rises this high, we all gravitate to the cold, crisp wines. But seriously, one can only drink so much Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé. (Yes, I know the more adventurous among you are cracking refreshing Albariño, Picpoul, and Torrontés. I’ve had my share of those, too!)

What I’m really craving right now is a nice, juicy red wine. But it’s just too hot for a big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Malbec. What is one to do???

Beaujolais.

No, not the young, fun, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau released in November. You should have finished all of that by now. I’m referring to the grown-up, big brother: Beaujolais Villages wines. Made from the same Gamay grape as the youthful Nouveau wines, “standard” Beaujolais is often aged in oak before release, giving it more depth of character while still retaining that light, refreshing flavor that can satisfy your red wine craving in the heat of summer.

The Beaujolais region is located just south of Burgundy, but is actually part of the Rhone region of France. With a warm growing season, the resulting wines tend to be fruity, yet with proper care and aging, can develop complex flavors. The most prized Beaujolais wines are those from the 10 “crus”; those vineyards recognized as the best in the region.

Wandering through my local Total Wine & More store the other day, I was in search of a  red wine that I could pair with a grilled, New York strip steak that wouldn’t be too heavy in the sweltering heat. In a momentary flash of inspiration, I asked the store associate to direct me to the Beaujolais section. He gladly did so, but as I reached for the familiar label of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais (Retail $11.99), the clerk suggested I up my game.Jadot

While there’s nothing wrong with the Jadot (and I bought a bottle for a BBQ that would be attended by less-discerning palates), for a mere $3 more, we could enjoy one of the best-of-the-best…a cru Beaujolais Villages wine. Powerless to resist, a bottle of Jean La Perriere Belles Grives Morgon 2014 landed in my cart. Morgon is one of the cru vineyards, producing superior Gamay. As you can see, the best quality can be had for a bargain price!

As expected, my craving for red wine and red meat was satisfied that night. The steak was cooked to perfection, and with wine was magnificent; fruity and light, yet deep and complex.

 

Belles Grives

Good price point for a Cru Beaujolais. Brick red with garnet rim. Aromas of raspberries and black pepper. Flavors of ripe raspberry, earth, and smoke, with medium body and super soft tannins. Finish is long with red berry, plum, and baking spice.

Retail: $14.99 ($13.49 with the six-bottle discount.)

 

That’s not the end of the story, however. A few days later, we popped open the Jadot at the BBQ party. It was a huge hit, and complemented the Tri-Tip very nicely! Fruit-forward with raspberry and cherry, but less of the oak influence and depth, everyone loved it. That bottle didn’t last long!

If you are already growing weary of summer, and can’t bear the thought of one more Rosé or crisp white, head down to your favorite wine shop and grab a bottle or three of a wallet-friendly Beaujolais Villages red wine. It’ll help you through until Cabernet season!

Cheers!

 

Review: Franc Dusak Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016

​Franc Dusak has been one of my favorite winemakers for some time, and he continues to impress. Under the umbrella of NakedWines.com, Franc produces excellent wines from a number of different varieties of grape, and some out-of-this-world blends, too. One of my favorite wines in his portfolio is his Viognier. I’ve reviewed Franc’s Viognier before; the 2015 vintage. I recently acquired a bottle of his 2016 vintage, and I was so impressed I simply had to share about it!

Franc Dusak Viognier 2016

Sporting a brand new label design, Franc’s Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016 is just as enticing, refreshing, and delicious as 2015…maybe more so! Franc reaffirms my newfound love for Viognier with this creation. In addition to being tasty and satisfying on a hot, late-spring day, it is quite versatile with food pairing and makes a terrific addition to a variety of dishes.

Currently the Head Winemaker for NakesWines.com, Franc is a third generation winemaker. The family hails from Slovenia, and Franc honors his family heritage and the original family winery on the label. In Franc’s Instagram and Facebook posts announcing the release of the 2016 Viognier, he explains:

“The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey.”

Today we released my 2016 Sonoma Valley Viognier with my new label! This label really encompasses everything I have wanted and worked for since I started this journey so many years ago! The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey. I hope you all get a chance to try the new wine! Thanks for all your support and helping me to make this dream happen! Cheers! #francdusakwines #nakedwines #sonomavalley #viognier Photo Cred @anid13

A post shared by Franc Dusak (@francdusakwines) on

I contacted Franc via Instagram chat, and asked him about his vision as a third-generation winemaker. Here’s what he said:

Franc Dusak

Photo Credit: NakedWines.com

“I think the most important thing for me is that I carry on the tradition of winemaking in my family. I make wine to enjoy and share with your family and friends. I am pleased when enthusiasts see the passion that I put into my wines, but my hope is that everyone can enjoy them. There is so much work and thought that goes into each wine, hopefully those who taste them can feel that.”

Personally, I clearly see the passion in Franc’s wines. Here’s my review of this amazing Viognier. I’ll be buying a case of this to get me through the long, hot summer!

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Another Franc Dusak hit! Franc’s Viognier is always delicious and this vintage is no exception.

Golden straw color. Aromas of nectarine and honeysuckle. This wine is florally aromatic; it smells so delightful it could be perfume. On the palate, flavors of nectarine and peach, elderflower, pear, and floral notes. Started well chilled, as it warmed some apricot started to emerge. With a round mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and medium body, this is a great wine for food. We had it with grilled miso shrimp and asparagus, with spinach salad and it was amazing!

Make no mistake: this is not a “sweet” wine. It is fruit forward and floral, which may be perceived as sweetness. But it is a dry, delicious white wine. Franc, I tip my hat to you, sir!

Available exclusively from NakedWines.com.

Angel Price $12.99

This wine is still available from NakedWines.com. If you aren’t already a NakedWines.com Angelclick here, or the banner below, for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more! You’ll be glad you did!

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Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #33–The Results

I am truly and deeply honored to have won this month’s challenge. This is my first time winning the MWWC, and I appreciate everyone who read and enjoyed my entry, and who voted for me. Thank you!

the drunken cyclist

The results are in

Well, for the first time in what seems like a long time, I am announcing the winner of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge by pounding away at my desktop keyboard and not sitting in a hotel bed in a far-flung wine region. Why is that important? It isn’t. Not even slightly, but I feel the need to fill this space with some sort of drivel so that I can justify being the curator (is that what I am?) of this writing challenge.

This was a strange month by a few measures. First, there were only eight entries, the second lowest amount since the Challenge began over three years ago (and we only got to eight after I extended the deadline by a week). On top of that, the number of votes cast to determine the winner was the lowest total since I took over the full-time administration of the Challenge…

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Once Upon a Time #MWWC33

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Once upon a time, there was a charming prince who lived in an enchanted land. Yes, I know. Fairy tales are supposed to be about princesses. This is an equal opportunity story.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Anyway, there was this charming prince, living in an enchanted land. When he was young, each day he would ride about the kingdom, enjoying the beauty and wonder around him. He and his friends were well known for their kindness, as well as their laughter. To be sure, the prince had his mischievous side, playing practical jokes on friends and strangers alike. Always harmless jokes, though. There’s no charm in being hurtful.

As the prince grew older, his roaming expanded and he began exploring and experiencing surrounding kingdoms. One day, he entered a neighboring land where the people were demure and quiet. The prince wondered what was wrong. As he inquired and spoke with the people of the land, he learned that there was a Fun-Sucking Dragon terrorizing the land. The prince discovered that before the Fun-Sucking Dragon’s arrival, the people were just as happy as the citizens in his land. However, the Fun-Sucking Dragon imposed upon the people a law preventing anything fun. No singing, no dancing, no running, no galloping horses, and worst of all, no wine! No wonder the people of this land were sad!

Dragon

Some of the people were actually sympathetic to the Fun-Sucking Dragon, and took pleasure in seeing the quiet and melancholy that descended upon the land. Not that these people were mean, or possessed ill intent. They actually believed that temperance in all things, imposed by this prohibition on fun, was healthy and good; that the people would live healthier, safer, more productive lives. Admittedly, before the prohibition, some of the people did overindulge in fun, and would hurt themselves or miss work. Nevertheless, those people were in the minority. Most of the fun-lovers engaged with moderation, and felt the fun enhanced their quality of life. The prince didn’t think it didn’t seem fair that the entire land should be penalized for the actions of the few people who lacked self-control. So he set about trying to find a way to defeat the Fun-Sucking Dragon.

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The prince learned that, despite the best motivations of the temperance groups, the prohibition on fun had unintended consequences. The loss of jobs in the entertainment and libation industries created a financial burden in the land. In addition, many people missed having fun, so they would gather in secret; singing, dancing, and drinking wine and other banned drinks. This resulted in a rise in criminal activity, as unscrupulous people took control of these hidden locations, and demanded money to keep quiet and not turn in the fun-lovers. And clearly, all the otherwise honest and law abiding citizens who engaged in illicit fun were now, themselves, criminals!

The prince organized a group of brave citizens to battle the Fun-Sucking Dragon. The fight lasted several years, and there were many casualties on both sides. Finally, the Fun-Sucking Dragon surrendered and repealed the law prohibiting fun. The people rejoiced, and fun and happiness once again reigned in the land.  Mostly.

Dragon Surrender

Despite the victory, the Fun-Sucking Dragon had only surrendered. The prince was unable to slay him entirely. There have been long-lasting effects of the fun prohibition, even to this day. On the one hand, the people became more aware of the risks of overindulging in fun, so this is seen as a positive. Yet nearly 100 years later, there are still residual impediments to fun in the land. Some parts of the country retained portions of the archaic law, making it difficult for the citizens in those regions to engage in as much fun as others.

The prince was happy that he could restore fun and happiness to his neighbors, but knew there was still much more work to do. Slowly, the prince’s influence continues to remove barriers to fun. The fun-lovers in the land are hopeful that one day, all the people will be permitted to engage in all the fun activities equally.

And there will be much rejoicing.

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This is a work of fiction. All characters are made up and any resemblance to actual people or dragons is purely coincidental. It is also my entry into this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC33), the theme of which is “Once Upon a Time” as selected by last month’s winner, Mel of Wining with Mel. No dragons were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

BottleRock Napa 2017

If you’ve never been to a three-day music festival before, BottleRock Napa is a good place to start. I wasn’t sure what to think when I decided to go, and I certainly didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to hold up for the entire weekend! I’m no spring chicken, you know! Still, the idea of spending the Memorial Day Weekend enjoying great wines, delicious food, and listening to awesome live music – at four different stages – sounded fun, so away I went. I’m glad I did!

BottleRock Napa is an amazing, high-energy event. The organizers did a great job of planning and preparing, creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for guests. The main stage area was laid with fresh sod for the comfort of concert goers, and there were plenty of places to sit and relax. The staff were all amazing, and everyone there was in a great mood all weekend. And why wouldn’t they be?

Naturally the wine was amazing! What I didn’t expect is that nearly all the food was from Napa area restaurants. This was no corn-dog-and-funnel-cake festival, folks. No, this was gourmet! (I only wish I had taken pics of the food before I devoured it!)

I had an amazing time at BottleRock Napa 2017. I’m looking forward to going again. Yet, rather than prattle on about the experience, allow me to share it in pictures; both Instagram posts and individual photos. I hope you enjoy them!

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis poppin’ some tags!

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No, we weren’t that close. This is a pic of the Jumbotron. But still…

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Happy people enjoying wine, food, and music!

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Tom Petty, rock icon

Winning Wine: A Review of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003

Some days you lose.

Some days you win.

Some days you win wine!

Back in December, Sauska Wines US and the wine blog Wine Esquire sponsored an Instagram contest. The winner would receive a bottle of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003, 6 puttonyos.  Entry was simple: follow SauskaWineUS on Instagram. Boom. Done. Of course, I wouldn’t win. I never win contests.

On December 27, 2016, my luck changed. (It’s been continually improving since then, but that’s another story.) I received a private Instagram message from SauskaWinesUS informing me I was the winner of the Tokaji contest! A bottle of this golden nectar would soon be on its way to me. The bottle arrived at my office a few weeks later, with much fanfare (Well, in my head anyway. My coworkers couldn’t have cared much less. Silly coworkers.)

This would be my first excursion into Hungarian wines. Ever since the winning bottle’s arrival, I’ve been waiting for just the right time to open it. Last night was that right time.

Before we get into my description of just how incredibly decadent this wine is, let’s explore the story behind the wine…

Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian wine. It hails from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. The primary grape varieties used in Tokaji wines are Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc. Tokaji is known for its rich, nectar-like flavors and sweetness. This characteristic is the result of the use of botrytized grapes. Botrytis is a type of fungus that affects grapes. When controlled and allowed to develop, it is known as Noble Rot, and dries the grapes which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Not all Tokaji wines use botrytized grapes. Those that do are labeled as Aszú, and are further categorized by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos, with 25 grams of residual sugar per liter, to 6 puttonyos, with 150+ grams per liter. The bottle I received was at the top of that scale, with 6 puttonyos.

Sauska Wines is a family owned winery, with vineyards in Tokaj and Villany. Using indigenous and international varietals, they produce a varied portfolio of wines, including sparkling, whites, rosés, and reds. The Tokaji Aszú 2003 that I received was crafted from hand-picked Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes. Barrel fermented with only indigenous yeasts, it spent 36 months in new oak before bottling. At 222 grams of sugar per liter, it’s definitely sweet, but at only 10% ABV, you can sip and enjoy it all evening.

Tokaji wines have a royal history. Kings and noblemen throughout history, including King Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great have coveted the golden elixir. With such an impressive following, I knew this must be a wine of elegance and distinction.

However, in the interest of full confession, neither my guest nor I are fans of super sweet wines. Although we were excited to experience such a majestic and noble wine, we were also a little apprehensive when opening the bottle. As soon as I pulled the cork and took my first sniff, all apprehension evaporated. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sugar bomb. This wine has depth, character, and complexity beyond anything I’ve experienced in a dessert wine.

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Rich, golden color in the glass. Opened cold (+/- 40F) and allowed to open as it warmed. Initial aromas on ripe apricot and honey. While sweet, this is so much more. There is an incredible complexity on the nose that entices and invites one in. On the palate, the mouthfeel is rich and creamy, almost syrupy, with flavors of apricot nectar, honey, overripe peach and pineapple, and golden raisin. This wine is dessert unto itself. The finish is sweet and lingers for several minutes. Very impressive, indeed!

I’d once again like to thank Sauska Wines US for their generosity in offering this incredible wine prize, and Wine Esquire for sponsoring and promoting this contest. For those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of Tokaji Aszú, I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. Even if you think you don’t like sweet dessert wines, I think you’ll like this!

Cheers!

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