Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mini Wine Classes with great info!

When I was exploring a new blog I just found called "Indie WineMakers", I came across a link to the Terlato Wines International site, which has a "knowledge" page that I found very informative and fun! I Thought I'd share for the fellow beginning-ish winos out there...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Disgusting "Deals" to avoid!

Because I'm legitimately skint, I generally gravitate towards the excessively cheap wines, which, as you probably have guessed, aren't always terrible. Well, here's a few that you can just go ahead and pass on... yuck!

Schmitt Sohne Fünf Sweet Red, NV
I really enjoyed the cheapy Fünf Riesling, so I decided, against my better judgement, to try this one as well. It is, as expected, exceedingly strange and is only really palatable when it's ice cold. This reminds me of Boone's Farm mixed with grape juice, and would only be useful for playing drinking games ... which isn't actually a terrible idea!

Wine: Schmitt Sohne Fünf Sweet Red, NV
Cost: $6.99
Place Purchased: ACME Supermarket, Easton

Frisk Prickly Riesling, Vintage 2009

I bought this wine because I had the fleeting hope that it would be called "prickly" because it tasted like prickly pear ... not the case. This is another crappy Riesling that has undergone an unintentional secondary fermentation in the bottle as a result of the extra residual sugars, so it tastes bubbly when it shouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't kick this Riesling out of bed if I wanted to have a fun night, but this bottle just doesn't deliver what it promises... that being said, I still finished the bottle when I couldn't sleep the other night!

Wine: Frisk Prickly Riesling, Vintage 2009
Cost: $9
Place Purchased: Town & Country Liquors, St. Michaels

I have a few more, but I'll update this when I'm feeling less drained. Physical therapy kicked my ass today!!

Splurge: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2005

As I learned today, apparently 2005 was an amazing year for the Napa vineyards. While I'm not very familiar with many Cabernet Sauvignon styles (at least by taste, though I can describe them thoroughly by the book!), I was told this wine is very typical to both the vineyard and the growing region. If this is true, I'm a California Cab fan for life!

Initial Impression: Mmmm...Jammy! This was a full-bodied, juicy Cabernet that, admittedly, I didn't nail immediately when tasting it blindly. I could describe the bouquet of aromas and the complete palate (even the nuances came to me immediately, despite its complexity), but as I'm not a Cab drinker and had only experienced one (very NON-memorable) California Cab, I didn't recognize the tell-tale signs. *sigh* I'm such a newb!

Verdict: Run, do not walk to your nearest quality wine source (like that plug?) and buy this wine. With its almost overwhelmingly rich dark cherry and blackcurrant flavors, peppered with a smokey/vanilla-y undercurrent and spicy anise notes to balance out the sweetness. The acidity is powerful, but bright, and the tannins are smooth and blended making this wine extremely integrated in spite of its complexity.

Pairing: This would go amazingly with a hearty beef stew or even a big ass t-bone steak. My Dad, a true meat-and-potatoes man, would love this wine ... and you will too!

Wine: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2005
Cost: Around $40 (can order it here)
Place Purchased: I did a tasting at Sherwood's Landing, but see link from above for online ordering at one of the best prices I could find...

Few days rest there... a reward for passing the Level II exam! Now, as an additional reward, I'm going to review a few GOOD wines this evening, as well as two not-so-good wines I had over the weekend, and one that I haven't tried yet, but I'm assured by my friend (and ACTUAL sommelier) Dave is comparable to an Inniskillin Icewines (read about them here), which is something I'm looking forward to very much!

Yay for wine knowledge!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Château Rocher Cap de Merle Bordeaux Superieur, Vintage 2006

I know the name is a mouthful, but this is a seriously interesting wine.

For the wine beginners like I was fairly recently, Bordeaux refers to a region in France that produces very high quality wines. This particular wine is from Pomerol, a sub-region on the right bank within Bordeaux, where the main grape grown is the Cabernet Franc. While a typical top-quality Château blend is usually 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Merlot (referred to as the "Bordeaux Blend"), this wine's composition is 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, which is more typical of a right bank wine.

I had the opportunity to try this wine at a wine tasting done by my boss at Sherwood's Landing. While it's on the lower-end, price-wise and quality wise, in comparison to some of the Bordeaux blends on our wine list, I think this is a good starter for someone who would like to get into French wine.

Initial Impression: As I tasted this over a month ago, I'm just going off my tasting notes, but I really liked this one from what I wrote. Because my palate wasn't as refined (I was still going through my wine classes!), I wrote things like "yummy!" and "a bit sour" (probably referring to the astringent nature of the tannins). Still, I liked this wine then, and I'm confident that I'd like it even more now.

Verdict: Nice starter for French wine exploration! My tasting notes are a combination of my own ideas and those given to me by my boss during the lesson, but I have written: ripe fruit, sweet spices like cinnamon and clove, and cedar wood. I also have words like "chewy" and "strong" likely referring to the full bodied nature of this wine - it is practically a meal in a bottle!

Pairing: Bordeaux blends are STEAK wines. It would be great with a burger or even a lamb dish, but this meaty wine pairs perfectly with a meaty meal.

Wine: Châteaux Rocher Cap de Merle Bordeaux Superieur, Vintage 2006
Cost: Around $15
Place Purchased: Available at two of the three liquor stores where I live, I'm pretty sure you can get this one anywhere there's a decent wine selection. It's also on the wine list at Sherwood's Landing, if anyone wants to come visit me at work...

"Bitten By the Wine Bug"

I love wine.woot! While I can rarely afford their selections (and have no reason to buy six of the SAME bottle of wine), I think it's great that there's the option, should I ever marry rich or strike gold or something... anyway, check out this neat story about how Scott Harvey of Scott Harvey Wines was "Bitten By the Wine Bug". Picture perfect, isn't it?

Polka Dot Pfalz Riesling, Vintage 2008

Disclaimer: I know I've already done a Riesling, but in my defense, I've been injured and so I've been drinking what I've already bought! Since I'm only drinking a glass or so at a time, it's hard to open so many bottles and not worry about wasting them - anyone want to come over and help me finish some of these beauties?

Initial Impression: I bought this wine last Sunday before the Ravens game, and took it to my friend's house in anticipation of drinking quite a bit of it while watching the game. The bottle was not super chilled, and I'm pretty sure that Logan would back me up on the fact that I made a horrible face after taking a sip of this wine. It was almost bubbly, which made me think it was an "off" wine, and I could only stomach half of a glass before we abandoned her house in favor of Plaza Tapatia and margaritas (do I sound like an alcholic yet?). Since I was so put off by the first sip, I didn't do a proper tasting, and screwed the cap back on and put it in my car to revisit later.

Verdict: Ok. After letting it breathe, I realized that it wasn't so much "off" as just a mediocre wine. Considering it's a Pfalz Riesling (a German region, subject to wine laws and restrictions for quality control), in my opinion it's pretty average. This is a great example of why we don't buy wine because of cute labels *cough* Ellen *cough*! Still, if you'd like to know what to expect, this wine is a little too sweet to be called a "medium-dry Riesling" with a heavy floral nose mixed with pear and green apple. With it chilled and sufficient time to breathe, it's much more palatable with hints of vanilla and licorice behind an overall green fruit/citrus fruit profile. Not terrible, but it's probably better with some type of food.

Pairing: This wine would go with a lot of different types of meals, which works in its favor. I would probably drink this wine with spicy food to bring out that undercurrent of herbs and spices that's hiding behind all the crispy fruit. Personally, I think you'll find that the Fünf Riesling is exponentially better - and $3 cheaper - but this one will do in a pinch (just make sure it's COLD).

Wine: Polka Dot Pfalz Riesling, Vintage 2008
Cost: $9
Place Purchased: Grohl's Market, St. Michael's MD

To learn more about wines from this vineyard, click here: Polka Dot Wines

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red Blend, Vintage 2008

A friend of mine posted on Facebook about her love of the South Australian d'Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz a few months back, so I recognized the name when I saw the lable. But, while Shiraz is pretty much my favorite red, I opted for a red blend of 42% Grenache/ 36% Shiraz/ 22% Mourvedre because of the sticker on it that read "Wine Spectator 90 Points Best Value". You might think that this is contrary to what I posted about the purpose of this blog, but while I do maintain that experts don't know everything, I also find it helpful on occasion to attempt to understand WHY some low-cost wines are rated so highly.

Initial Impression: I have to admit that this wine was a bit of a turn-off upon first whiff because the pepper and VERY ripe fruit aromas were so strong. After I let it breathe a bit (I forgot, of course, that this blend is now a few years old - always breathe wines when you have the opportunity because more often than not, they open up), the aroma mellowed and I got a nice earthy/fruity nose.

Verdict: I am SO glad I selected this wine. Also a cheapy, it is a tiny bit spicy and definitely sweeter than a straight Shiraz (likely because of the Grenache). The tannins are fairly smooth and even though the alcohol is 14%, there is little heat on the palate, which adds to the balance of this wine. Some strong flavors I get are dark red fruits (cherry/plum/cassis) and even a little floral note (maybe rose or violet?). There an undercurrent of licorice and pepper which adds to the complexity and the finish is lovely, if not a bit earthy.

Pairing: This is a great red for someone who doesn't love red wine! Lighter than a traditional Shiraz, this would go very nicely with meats and smokier cheeses (I had a bit of aged Wisconsin cheddar with it and it was heavenly!). I would also pair it with pasta and red sauce - the acidity in the wine will balance the acidity in tomato sauce quite nicely.

Wine: d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red Blend, Vintage 2008
Cost: $10
Place Purchased: Town & Country Liquors, Easton, MD

For more d'Arengberg wines, check out their vineyard sites at: d'Arenberg vineyard.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First up: Schmitt Söhne Fünf 5 Riesling,Vintage 2009

Riesling is, admittedly, my favorite white wine. Some are too sweet, some are too "gassy"(seriously, one of the markers of a German Riesling is a strong "petrol" smell/taste), but some are just perfect with a lot of different types of meals. What I like about the Riesling grape is that it's rarely grown in other parts of the world, so it's easier to find better quality German wine. So, despite the fact that Fünf is a Tafelwein Rhein (Germany's way of saying "cheap table wine made from grapes of the Rhein region"), it still meets the higher standards set for German wine production, which goes a longer way to ensuring relative quality.

Verdict: What I love about this wine is that it is marketed as a bottle of fun! The bottle's label actually reads: "translated from German, Fünf literally means "five" because, after all, most fun starts at five o'clock, right?" Fünf is a well-balanced, light bodied wine with lots of citrus fruit and a refreshing, clean finish. This Riesling went will with a wide variety of meals, ranging from leftover Chinese food, to a cookie slathered in nutella (all right several...), to potato gnocchi with shrimp, to linguine with clam sauce and it was delightful with the asparagus & pea risotto with panko-breaded chicken I cooked for dinner tonight.

Pairing: Fünf is what I like to call a "little black dress" wine because it goes with almost everything*! I will be purchasing several more bottles of this wine to have on hand for any surprise fun(f) times!
*A disclaimer for the more beginner wine drinkers that might stumble across this post: while most things go great with this wine, be sure to pair a fuller-bodied, heavier (read: red) wine with steaks or other fatty meats.

Wine: Schmitt Söhne Fünf 5 Riesling, Vintage 2009
$6 (I KNOW!)
Place Purchased: ACME Supermarket, Easton, MD

For more Schmitt Sohne wines, check out their really fun vineyard sites at: Schmitt Söhne and Schmitt Söhne USA

Too poor to be a wine snob?

The great thing about wine is that tasting it is a completely subjective process. One can go through years of blind tasting and sommelier certification courses to have the palate and the knowledge to be considered an "expert" ... but ultimately, the only one who can decide whether a wine is "good" or not, is you - with or without years of training.

As I have begun the sommelier certification process (currently waiting on my scores for the WSET Intermediate Certification exam), I've been desperate to try as many wines as possible... BUT, my meager hourly wage puts a severe damper on my ability to buy the bottles that those "experts" deem worthy to learn.

That's where the "skint sommelier" comes in. I promise to try all the cheap-y, "unrated" wines you can buy in your local grocery store and let you know which wines are enjoyable, which wines are better used for cooking ... and which wines are better left on the store shelf. Questions and requests are welcome - and to any distributors or vineyards that want to send me samples to, er, sample... shoot me an email at!