WBW #48: Back to Your Roots

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 | Bordeaux, France, Wine Blogging Wednesday, Wines Under $20 | 2 Comments

Four years ago Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS had a neat idea called Wine Blogging Wednesday. It was essentially a virtual wine-tasting event. These days most wine bloggers are familiar with it, but 48 months ago it was just starting out – a tiny grape on the vine, if you will. It is only fitting that Lenn hosts this special anniversary edition: Back to Your Roots.

We’re all wine lovers, but we have gotten where we are today in a variety of ways on a variety of paths. These long, windy paths are littered with wines the world over. I just want you to pick one of the wines from the beginning of your journey, taste it again for the first time in a while, and tell us about it.

I turned 21 during my senior year at UMass, a school well-known for its… erm… appreciation of potent potables. Even back then, however, I was eager to learn about wine and every couple of weeks treated myself to a bottle of something “nice” in between the jugs of Carlo Rossi Burgundy. One evening a couple friends and I stopped at a package store in Sunderland, MA near our apartment and I picked out a Bordeaux: 1994 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet. A friend of mine who had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America had at one point talked to me about Rothschild wines and I’m sure that’s why I bought it — the name stuck out.

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, circa 1997 (the year consumed, not the vintage)Back then I would soak wine bottles in a sink full of cold water (after the wine had been consumed, of course), and then carefully peel off the label. After it dried, I’d make notes on the back: the date, who I was with, food, and any other pertinent information. Who knew it would come in handy someday? I drank this particular bottle (in its entirety, yes), on March 1, 1997 while feasting on Pasta Roni (I believe it was the white cheddar and broccoli flavored version), round about 2 AM. I’d been out with some friends and while one promptly fell asleep upon our return home, the rest of us stayed up laughing, talking, and of course enjoying some wine and beer.

I suppose that’s part of the reason I chose this particular wine for WBW. Wine is as much about the company and the experience as it is the wine itself. You can have a crappy bottle of wine and still have a good night out with friends. However, even the right bottle of wine can’t always reconcile an evening with people you can’t stand. That’s not to say I didn’t like the wine because I do remember enjoying it very much, and it set me on my way to explore the region of Bordeaux, which is one of my favorite wine regions today.

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, circa 2008 (the year consumed, not the vintage)It had been ages since I had last tasted this wine. I wasn’t even sure what to expect. While out and about on Saturday, I swung by Liquorama in Hyde Park, NY hoping they’d have my sought-after Mouton Cadet. And they did. Since it was pretty much impossible to recreate the exact circumstances under which I’d originally had this wine (Stay up until 2 AM? Yeah, right!), I set about instead to focus on the taste. The 2005 vintage is a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Franc. It is 13% APV. The wine was predominantly woody all around from the nose to the flavors. I also detected some cherry. It’s a dry, earthy, “Old World” style Bordeaux. While I didn’t find it to be anything really special, for $8.99 it is certainly decent. Perhaps decanting it would have brought out more of its nuances. Or perhaps I just needed to pair it with some Pasta Roni. ;-)

I’m not sure I’ll be picking up another bottle anytime soon as there are other inexpensive Bordeaux wines that I prefer, but in a pinch I’d grab it. I think that back then I did OK when choosing it, considering all I knew about wine was what I liked!

I can’t wait to see what everyone else chose (and learn about what we all were drinking in our salad days). I’ll be sure to post a link to Lenn’s round-up once he’s completed it.


Sunday, August 10th, 2008 | Beer | 1 Comment

This summer my brother and my dad decided to attempt growing hops in their gardens. The last time I was up in Western Massachusetts (at the very end of June) one of my dad’s plants was nearly 10 feet high! I noticed these photos on my brother’s Flickr account and thought I’d share them. (Nah… he doesn’t mind. I hope ;-) )



He’s the homebrew guy so I really don’t know what he’ll do with them next, but I’m excited to find out!

[Photo credit: My brother Mike]

Crazy Wines and Crazy Good Cheese

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 | Dessert Wine, Hudson Valley, New York | 1 Comment

Although Pazdar Winerywas one of the first booths we saw, we decided to save it until the end because we noted that they were offering up sweet wines for tasting. With names like “Hot Sin” and ”Eden’s Pleasure” (both of which we tasted and ultimately purchased), I think Pazdar gets the star for most creative wine names. They create unique dessert wines from grapes, fruit juices, and herbs and spices. Eden’s Pleasure ($15), for example, has a very distinct chocolate-banana flavor. The chocolate is no coincidence, as the cocoa is ground at the winery to ensure its quality and then it is added to the wine. Similarly, the winemaker grinds the cinnamon that goes into Hot Sin ($12) which I purchased specifically to serve with apple pie this Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the winery is closed to the public, but you can order online or else catch them at wine events around the region. Their interesting wines are definitely worth a taste.

sprout creek farm

Also worth seeking out if you’re in the Hudson Valley is Sprout Creek Farm. They were offering samples of their delicious cheeses at Bounty of the Hudson and I am not one to ever pass up cheese. We ended up purchasing their goat cheese, Doe Re Mi, which might be the creamiest, most delicious goat cheese I’ve ever tasted. It is slightly tart and wonderfully fresh. We’ve simply been enjoying it spread on fresh baguette, but I’m sure there are more creative ways you could use this chevre. We also bought a chunk of smoked Ouray, which is a raw, cow’s milk cheese that has a slightly sharp yet buttery flavor. It has a firm texture and the smoked version has and extra dimension of flavor. It has an edible rind and we’ve enjoyed it as a snack with dry sausage and olives. We enjoyed everything they offered, but these two stood out for us.

Benmarl Winery: Baco Noir & Traminette

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

benmarl winery

This year Benmarl Winerywas host to the Bounty of the Hudson Food & Wine Festival. The winery is situated on a beautiful piece of property overlooking the Hudson River. As you drive up you see grapevines and barns and it’s all quite lovely to look at. I was really looking forward to trying their wines, as I am not sure I had in the past. Benmarl had four of their wines available for tasting: 2006 Estate Baco Noir, 2007 Zinfandel, 2007 Slate Hill White, and 2007 Traminette. Of these four wines, I think their Baco Noir and their Traminette were not only my favorites at their booth, but my favorites of the whole show.

Baco Noir is a French hybrid grape. It is a cross between Folle Blanche (a French grape), and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia (a North American species). Maurice Baco hybridized the grapes, hence the name. Baco Noir is widely grown in New York and it produces a light-to-medium bodied wine, rich in color and flavor. The 2006 Benmarl Baco Noir was an excellent example of this wine — flavors of pepper and dark cherry filled my mouth and the wine had great body to it. It seemed fuller than Baco Noir I’ve had in the past, produced by other wineries. However, at $28, it was over my wine budget for the day and I had to resist buying a bottle.

The Traminette grape is another hybrid. It is a cross between Joannes Seyve and Gewürztraminer. It is characteristically dry and spicy. My taste of the 2006 Benmarl Traminette was my first (known) taste of this grape. I immediately was reminded of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Goose Bay, in particular). The winemaker told me that he also thought it had some Sauv Blanc characteristics. It was dry, but not bone-dry — plenty of fruit was apparent including gooseberry and citrus. The finish was clean. At $15, there was no way I was leaving the event without a bottle of this. I thought it was a great price for some amazing local wine.

Bounty of the Hudson 2008

Monday, July 28th, 2008 | Hudson Valley, New York | 1 Comment

bounty-watercolor.jpgWhat an amazing time we had at the 2008 Bounty of the Hudson Food & Wine Festival yesterday! I’ll be writing about some of the great wines in detail as the week goes on, but I just wanted to say how impressed I was with many of the wineries that attended. I kind of feel like the Hudson Valley is the Rodney Dangerfield of the New York wine world. You know — “We don’t get no respect!” And it is true that in the past, some of the wines have been less-than-great. But I think that these local wineries are really stepping it up and producing some great wines. We held back a bit and only came home with six bottles from the festival, but if we had a slightly bigger budget, there are a few more that I would have loved to add to our cellar. Stay tuned for details!

Wine Questions Answered, Part 4

Saturday, July 26th, 2008 | General Wine News | 1 Comment

Last, but not least, I am finally getting to answer Dawn’s question. She wants to know about wine glasses and writes:

Is it important to serve different types of wine in different glasses? What would be the most versatile style to purchase to serve a variety of wines?

Wine glasses can certainly add to the enjoyment of wine. Their special shapes are designed to get the most aroma and flavor out of a particular wine. I don’t know too many people who have a glass for each type of wine (for example, Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Rose, Riesling). If you browse around the Riedel site, you’ll note that there is a dizzying array of glasses. I suppose if you had unlimited storage space, it would be cool to have them all, but I don’t know too many people who have that kind of space (or money).

You will do just fine with three types of wine glasses:

  • A red wine glass – taller and wider
  • A white wine glass – similar to red wine glasses, but smaller
  • A flute – tall and slender glass for sparkling wines

You might also want a specific glass for Ports and sweet dessert wines, but I use a brandy snifter. Not everyone will agree with me. There is a good piece at Avenue Vine that offers some great advice and does a fantastic job of explaining the different glasses.

While expensive stemware like Riedel is wonderful, you also should keep in mind your budget and lifestyle. For example, I’m a klutz and have two small boys. I’ll admire Riedel from their catalog. But my glasses come from Bed, Bath, and Beyond in a party pack ;-)

Wine Questions Answered, Part 3

Saturday, July 26th, 2008 | Wines Under $20 | 3 Comments

My poor friend Paula has been so patient as I finally get to answering her questions. Here they are!

What are your recommendations for good wines under $10? We typically go for Yellowtail’s line and especially like their chardonnay – how does that rate in the wine world?

First let me say that you can’t always let popular (or unpopular for that matter) dictate what you buy. Yellow Tail is often the butt of jokes in wine circles because it’s mass-market wine, it is inexpensive, and honestly — a lot of people are really snobby and have high expectations. While it is true that as you learn more about wine, stuff like Yellow Tail will become less interesting to you, if you like it – drink it! Personally, I don’t have a big problem with Yellow Tail. It’s not my “go to” wine, even in the budget price range, but I have certainly tasted worse (and often they cost more money). My favorite wine in the under $10 category (and go ahead fellow wine bloggers — laugh all you want) is Crane Lake. I have only tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Chardonnay, but I find it to be a great value brand. Perhaps the wine is not particularly nuanced, but for an everyday red or white it fits the bill. (In fact, we have a case of the Cab in our basement.) Columbia Crest is great for around the $10 range (it might be more like $12 in some places — as you know, New York and Connecticut prices tend to skew higher). And I think that Stimson Chardonnay is respectable as well. When we had the store, it was probably our most popular wine in magnum-sized bottles. And don’t be afraid to ask someone at the wine shop for a recommendation. I was always happy to show people that there is good wine out there for every price range!

Can you explain basic wine terms, like “nose”, “bouquet”, etc. and why they are important?
Every industry has its own jargon and the wine world is no different. Instead of listing all the important wine terms, I’m just going to point you to an online glossary of terms. They’re important because some of the terms relate to specific aspects of wine tasting. But you don’t need to know them to enjoy the experience.

I think I recall a rumor that you are not to wash wine glasses with soap, just hot water – is there any truth to that?
I’ve heard that too and I’m sure there are people who don’t use soap, but as someone who is slightly germophobic, I do. I don’t do anything special. I use my regular dishwashing soap, but I do make sure they are rinsed well. Soap can leave a residue which may alter the way a wine tastes (thus the advise to avoid it). I’ve also heard that you should always let your glasses drip dry because laundry soap residue from a towel could transfer to the glass. When I am tasting a wine and taking notes, I do take care to make sure my glasses are free from potential residue, but I don’t worry about it for day-to-day drinking.

For Real, Millbrook?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008 | Hudson Valley, New York | 2 Comments

Shame on Millbrook I am one of those people who believes in doing something to the fullest. If you claim to be something, then be it with all your heart. Don’t try to dilute it by saying you’re just like something else.

Sunday night after the boys were in bed, I was relaxing while reading the newspaper. As I made my way through the front section, I noticed this ad for Millbrook Vineyards & Winery on page 6A of the Poughkeepsie Journal. Immediately I became annoyed. Check out the headline (which I circled in yellow) and maybe you’ll understand why. Millbrook enjoys the distinction of being probably the most recognized name in the Hudson Valley wine region. And although wines from this region are not as celebrated as those from Long Island or the Finger Lakes, I think that overall Millbrook makes a good showing as a New York winery in general.

Why then, did they choose that headline for their ad? “All the beauty of France, all the taste of California…” First let’s tackle “all the beauty of France.” Naturally, as a Hudson Valley resident, I am quite partial to this area and I think it is beautiful. I would agree that France is just as beautiful. But why make the comparison? Do people really think that quaint, little Millbrook is a dump? I seriously doubt it. This area gets plenty of “leafers” (to borrow a term from “The Family Guy”). There are many people from the city who have weekend homes up this way in order to get away from it all. So I think it’s safe to say that you don’t need to lure people with “the beauty of France.”

Next, and more important, let’s think about “the taste of California.” If I didn’t know better, that headline would make me think that all of Millbrook’s wines are made with juice shipped from California. Now, that’s true to an extent. Some of their wines aremade with California grapes. Millbrook’s Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, and Hunt Country White are all made with grapes grown on California’s Central Coast. But their Tocai Friulano, their Castle Hill Chardonnay, Chardonnay Proprietor’s Special Reserve, and their Hunt Country Rosé are made with New York grapes. Besides, Millbrook likes to make a big deal over their trellis system and the grape vines are first things you see as you drive up to the winery. They’re not making jam with all those grapes! 

Are Hudson Valley wines so bad that even the Hudson Valley wineries themselves feel the need to lure people here with promises of a California wine experience? If that’s true, people will be disappointed because wines from New York generally don’t taste very much like wines from the West Coast. Personally, I think the ad gives the wrong message. I’d hope that in the future Millbrook will use its status to do what it can to show people how to appreciate Hudson Valley wines for their unique character. After all, if I want a California wine, I’m going to drink a California wine. When I want something different, I’m going to look to other wine regions (like New York) to broaden my palate and create new wine experiences.

Around Town: Alison Winery

Saturday, July 12th, 2008 | Hudson Valley, New York | No Comments

This morning I decided I wanted to make blueberry cobbler, so bright and early we headed over to Greig Farm to pick some berries. Alison Winery is located there as well, and although it wasn’t open for tasting yet (this was all of 9:30 a.m., mind you), we hung around to enjoy the scenery. So, in lieu of actual wine content, I hope you’ll enjoy looking at a few photos of one of the nearby Hudson Valley wineries.

entrance to alison

wine barrels


barn at alison winery / greig farm

barn door

Might Be A Slow Three Weeks ‘Round Here…

Saturday, July 5th, 2008 | Wine Blogs | No Comments

Just a little administrative note to let you know that the next three weeks might be quiet ’round these parts. Thursday I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and I’m on a three-week course of strong antibiotics. While neither my doctor nor the information that came with the medication said anything about avoiding alcohol, I have heard various things about mixing alcohol and antibiotics. Some say it reduces their effectiveness. Others say it can cause side effects. And still others say nothing at all happens. Well, I’m just not taking any chances. I was lucky to have caught it quickly and after a few days of feeling probably the most awful in my lifetime, I think I am on the upswing now and want to keep it that way :-)

I’ll try to fill in with any news of interest that comes my way, and I still have two posts in my “wine questions” series left to answer, but obviously I won’t be posting any tasting notes until the 21 days are over. Maybe I can convince Drew to write a post or two while I’m teetotalling ;-)

About Me

I'm Carol, mom to three, knitter, crocheter, writer, and oenophile. I used to co-own a wine shop but discovered that I prefer drinking wine to selling it.

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