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red wine

Travels

Uncorked

Following the ‘finally getting around to using gifts I’ve been given’ theme, this past weekend I finally broke out a gift I got for my birthday: a board game called Uncorked.

[According to its website this game also goes by the name Read Between the Wines, but the version I have is called Uncorked so we’re going with that for the purposes of this post.]

 

Uncorked Materials

The makings of Uncorked! A scoresheet, tasting note sheets, theme cards. Not pictured: adorable little wine charms that we didn’t use because we were drinking out of stemless glasses. Next time!

 

Uncorked

You are joining Uncorked already in progress…

 

I invited some friends over to try it out and, of course, drink lots of wine. There were nine of us and we each contributed a bottle, so there was plenty to go around.

 

wine bottles

We really had our work cut out for us.

 

How It Works

The game is fairly simple. Each round the players sip a wine and then, based on their impression of the wine, respond to the theme. For example, one theme was to compare the wine to a celebrity. Then one person collects all the answers and the players take turns guessing who said what. It’s like Things in a Box, except with wine, so infinitely better.

 

Uncorked theme cards

Different theme cards.

 

You really don’t need to know anything about wine or board games to play – it’s really just a great party game.

 

How Did It Go?

In short, it was a really fun night. My friends are a funny bunch so it didn’t take long for the responses to hit all our respective funny bones. Wine was sampled, guesses were made, and everyone left my apartment happy. I especially like that it wasn’t a very competitive game. We kept score but never got around to crowning a winner – I think we were all more interested in enjoying the wine and just hanging out.

 

empty wine bottles

So many dead soldiers…

 

Final Observations

Uncorked is really two games in one. On the one hand there is this element of tasting and enjoying wine and learning about that, and then on the other hand there is this element of guessing who said what. Even more amusingly, the tracking sheets used for each round became these sort of logic puzzles where I would mark down who guessed what and who said what to make educated (well, less educated as the night went on…) guesses as the round progressed. As a fan of games like Clue I thought this was a great aspect of the game.

Interestingly, of nine bottles only three countries had multiple wines, which wasn’t planned. It would be interesting to play it with a list of suggested wines. You could have each player bring a different country, or the same country, the same or different varietals, all whites, all reds, all sparklings… There are so many ways to play this game.
So, anyone want to come over and play?

Red Wine

Adventures in the LCBO

I picked up some wines at my local LCBO yesterday and I thought where better to share my finds than right here.

I bought two reds (on impulse, really) while wandering the aisles. This is often how I make my purchases – I’ll float in and out of the racks, perusing bottles, reading labels and picking up the ones that are that sweet combination of interesting and not-too-expensive.

 

The Finds

Campo Viejo Guardian Reserva

Looking good, you two!

This time around I picked up a bottle of Guardian Reserva 2012 (a blend) and Campo Viejo 2013 Tempranillo.

 

Campo Viejo 2013 Tempranillo

Campo Viejo 2013

Love that yellow.

I’ll admit, I chose this one mainly because of advertising. I’ve recently seen campaigns for this wine, both in print ads and in social media campaigns, and they totally wore me down. Ok, Campo Viejo, OK! I’ll buy your freaking wine, IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? (… of course it’s what you want…)

I did have some other reasons besides my weak will. Campo Viejo is a maker whose wines I’ve had and enjoyed before. On top of that, I know I like reds from the Rioja region of Spain, especially Tempranillos. Plus, it was on sale! Win-win.

 

Guardian Reserva 2012 Blend

Guardian Reserva 2012

I only realized there is a face on the label when taking this photo. My observation skills could use some work.

With this wine it was the label that originally drew me in. I was shopping with a friend and we both thought this label was super pretty. I challenged her to try it and decided I should too so that we could compare our impressions.

I also like that it’s from 2012 – age x affordability = a winner in my books. Despite being a blend (and we all know my feelings about blends) the grapes used are listed on the back, which I very much appreciate. Beyond that I noticed that this wine is from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, a region I know I like. So even though this particular wine is new to me, I made an educated guess in choosing to buy it.

Guardian Reserva 2012

Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere and Merlot and Cabernet Franc, YUM!

Plus, it was also on sale. How can you go wrong??

 

Campo Viejo Guardian Reserva

Woop woop, wine buys!

I haven’t tried either wine yet, but if you want to know my thoughts when I do you can follow me on Vivino, where I log most of the wines I drink.

 

Campo Viejo Guardian Reserva

I am excited about these wines!

Travels

Visiting Grgich

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I only made it to one winery during my Californian adventure. But! I made up for it by going to a pretty special one.

We stayed two days in Napa for a wedding and on our way out of town my aunt and I stopped in at Grgich Hills Estate Winery. Don’t know about Grgich? Don’t worry, besides vaguely recognizing the labels I didn’t either. My only frame of reference was having it once or twice with my parents and feeling like it was a fancy (read: expensive) California wine.

I soon learned when I got there is that Mike Grgich, the man who started Grgich winery, is pretty much California wine royalty.

Oh, hey Mike, nice to meet you!

Oh, hey Mike, nice to meet you!

Let me take you back. The year is 1976, and this guy named Steven Spurrier decides that even though California is taking it on the chin in terms of wine discrimination, he doesn’t think the wine is all that bad. In fact, he thinks it might give French wines a run for their money. So, to test that thought, he decides to hold a blind tasting of French and California wines and has fancy-pants wine experts (all French, no less) come and taste. The whole thing becomes known as the Judgement of Paris and causes quite the upset since American wines took the top spot for both red and white wines. While the competition put a lot of French noses out of joint, it was also a big confidence boost for Californian wine-makers, and (in my opinion) was a watershed moment for the California wine industry.

What does this have to do with Grgich Winery, you might ask? Well! It turns out that the person who made the winning white wine, a Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay, was none other than Mike Grgich.

Clearly this guy knows how to make good wine.

So! Back to the tasting at hand. I tried their Napa Valley Flight, which consisted of six wines – three white and three red.

FullSizeRender

Yep, looks like a wine list.

 

Pretty setup, now let’s get to tasting!

Pretty setup, now let’s get to tasting!

The Chard was solid, and tasted just like a classic California Chardonnay – full bodied, grassy, buttery, delicious.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the Fumé Blanc until my wine-pouring friend told me that it’s mostly composed of Sauvignon Blanc, and that Fumé Blanc is just what California wine-makers have decided to call it. Sneaky! It was crisp and citrus-y and I loved it, which was exactly what I expected once I learned it was really a Sauv Blanc in disguise.

The Plavac Mali is where things got interesting. Mike Grgich was born and raised in Croatia and has done a lot of work in the wine industry there, even while living and working in the US. This wine is actually from a winery he owns out there, and my wine-pouring friend told me that they like to include it in this tasting flight to educate people about Croatian wine and to give some history about their own winery. This wine was sharp and tangy, and had a chemical kind of flavour that I hadn’t really tasted before. If you’ve ever had Retsina, it had a similar quality. It grew on me as I drank it, but it took time to get used to because the flavour was so different from what I normally drink.

Of course they have their own branded spitting bucket - what kind of shabby place do you think this is?

Of course they have their own branded spitting bucket – what kind of shabby place do you think this is?

The Zinfandel was light and smooth and confident and friendly. That might make me sound like a weirdo, but it’s true! It was really approachable, easy to sip. A great transition as I moved from the whites to the reds.

The Merlot was heavenly. Medium-bodied, smooth, inviting, velvety – like easing into a hot bath after a long day. I could drink this wine every day and be happy.

The Cab Sauv was the biggie of the bunch, which isn’t surprising considering Cabs are big boy grapes, and one of the jewels in the crown that is California wine. It was fuller bodied but well balanced, meaning no one flavour overpowered my taste buds. You know those people who just have effortless confidence, who can walk into a room and be well-liked by everyone? That’s what this wine was like.

Thanks for the tasting, Mike! Yes yes, your barrels look lovely.

Thanks for the tasting, Mike! Yes yes, your barrels look lovely.

Sadly, after meeting these six wonderful wines we had to leave Napa to get on the road (to drive the coast to LA – it’s a hard life, isn’t it?) but I did take a moment to enjoy the scenery as we left.

Kind of a humdrum view, don't you think?

Kind of a humdrum view, don’t you think?

All in all, a good first visit to Napa. The only thing left to do is plan another trip.

Noble Grape Challenge, Red Wine

Getting to Know the Nebbiolo

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we jumped into the world of Sangiovese, and today we stay a little while longer in Italy to get to know the Nebbiolo.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Characteristics

First of all, can we just take a second to appreciate the name, Nebbiolo? Say it with me now – nnnnnneeebiooooooooolooooooo. So good.

Nebbiolos are most commonly from the Piedmont region in Italy. But what we do we know about Italy? They like to blend! So, Nebbiolo is commonly used in blends like Barolo, one of the more famous Italian wines out there. Also, I find it interesting that Nebbiolo is considered a noble grape when other regions have had trouble creating high quality wines from it – but I guess being noble is about how great the wine is, not how easy the grapes are to grow.

 

To try out Nebbiolo I tasted Enrico Serafino Barbaresco.

(I want to note that I found it very tough to find a wine that was purely a Nebbiolo and not some sort of Italian blend. I eventually found this bottle which, admittedly, is out of my everyday wine price range. But, in the interests of fully committing to the Noble Grape Challenge, I decided to splurge. Plus, it looked like a good wine and a nice treat.)

IMG_1076

IMG_1079

Tasting Notes

I’ve never had a Nebbiolo before, so this is a complete adventure for me. I’ll have to use the other things I know about wine, along with the research I’ve done, and trust my palate and my own tastes, which is what you should do every time you taste too.

My first observation: wow, is this ever light in colour! You can see the entire glass under the wine! This wine is super transparent, which isn’t something I usually see outside of a Pinot Noir, though, to be honest, I tend to favour big reds that often look like ink in my glass.

This wine also looks a little brownish at the edges, which isn’t surprising considering the only Nebbiolo I could find was from 2010, and wines start to get some brown in colour as they age, especially around the edges.

The wine had been in the glass for a while before I got to smell or drink it, and I’m happy it had a chance to open up. I found the nose to be earthy, with a bit of spice and some vanilla. Overall very soft and smooth.

I found the flavour pretty similar to the nose – smooth, spicy on the finish, with some tang/tannin/acidity, which is a common neb trait. I also found it quite big and full-bodied, which isn’t surprising knowing that Nebbiolos are common players in a Barolo, but was surprising given how lightly coloured the wine is. This wine is definitely keeping me on my toes. I was disappointed not to get any smoke from this particular Nebbiolo, knowing that’s also a common trait. I love me a smoky wine.

 

Bottom Line

So, what do I think of this wine? I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I drank it over a few nights and was disappointed that it didn’t mellow much over that time – I think I was hoping the tannins would settle down, which they didn’t. I liked the full body in the flavour but the acidity got in the way of true enjoyment. If I’m going to buy a big red I’ll steer more toward something from Chile or Argentina. That being said, if you like Italian wine (and can afford $20 a bottle) then I would recommend this wine.

I do want to note the cork. The wine had crept halfway up – wow! This is a often another sign of age, or sometimes of a bad seal. I’m happy this bottle found its way to me before the wine crept all the way up, since it would have meant the end of the cork and therefore the end of the wine. Luckily I managed to save it first and give it a good home.

IMG_1078

 

Are you familiar with Nebbiolo? What do you think of it?

 

Next up – Tempranillo! Olè!

Red Wine

The Elevated Experience of Wine and Friendship

My friend Cori came over the other night. Our plan was to have some dinner and watch some tv and, wonderful friend that she is, she supplied a bottle of red wine that she’d brought back from a trip to Italy last fall.

She and her husband had been traipsing the Italian countryside and found a resort in Tuscany to stay at for a couple nights. Since it was November the resort was mostly deserted (turns out people don’t usually stay in Tuscany in the rainy autumn), which worked out for the best because Cori and husband were treated to a lovely time by the Italian couple who run the place. Neither owner spoke English so things like ordering dinner and general conversation proved challenging. But! One thing they did manage to work out is the buying and consumption of good, cheap red wine and made on the premises. At four euros a bottle, who could resist?

And so Cori brought a bottle home. And shared it with me. And it was awesome.

The front of the bottle

The front label. So fancy, so Italian!

Back label, complete with impeccable English description. Intriguing, considering the couple who made the wine didn't speak a lick of English!

Back label, complete with impeccable English description. Intriguing considering the couple who made the wine didn’t speak a lick of English.

The wine was a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, and Malvasia and produced in the Chianti region. To my knowledge I’ve only ever had Sangiovese, so this wine was an exciting introduction to some new varietals.

Cori had some trepidation about drinking this wine again, which I completely understood – the last time she had this wine was so special and different from her normal life. I’m a big believer in how the circumstances of enjoying a bottle affect your impression of it. Whether the wine is new to you or not, what you ate (or didn’t) as you drank it, whether you had a good or bad day, who you drank the wine with – all these things can change what you think of a wine.

Yep, looks like red wine...

Yep, looks like red wine…

Luckily for us, this bottle delivered. It was an interesting new experience with Chiantis – I found it fairly light in terms of body, and had a great soft flavour.. It was so soft and mellow, with some vanilla and something giving it some fruitiness, though I couldn’t tell which fruit (more homework is obviously needed where chantis are concerned!). It’s interesting to note that the flavours and texture I got from the wine aren’t typical Chianti flavours. I wonder if that’s because there was some Malvasia in there mixing around with the more common Chianti varietals of Sangiovese and Colorino.

Despite the slight deviation in flavour, I really loved this little bottle and am now indebted to Cori for sharing such a great experience with me. Knowing the story behind the wine made it special, as did knowing Cori wanted to share it with me because she knew I’d appreciate it.

Wine + friends = <3

Wine + friends = <3

Thanks Cori! Next time I’ll have to share a wine that has special meaning for me.

Red Wine, Sparkling Wine

There’s No Place Like Home

I recently went home for the weekend to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. She’s celebrating a milestone birthday this year so I made an extra effort to go home – and also because I had a feeling that my Stepdad would pull out some delicious wines from his cellar to mark the occasion!

Weekends like these are always a treat – it’s great to see my family, nice to celebrate a special occasion, and a big treat to taste wines from the cellar. My stepdad has been collecting for years and has great taste, which means I have the great pleasure of tasting amazing wines I would not at all be able to afford, even if I found them.

We kicked off the weekend in fine fashion with these lovely wines:

image

double our pleasure!

double our pleasure!

We didn’t make it to that second bottle of La Playa, but believe me that both wines were delicious and went very well with the cheese and baguette we noshed on and the hoisin-glazed salmon we had for dinner.

Of course, this was all preamble to the big celebration the next night.

We started the party off with some Champagne – ooh la la!

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Despite singing the praises of other sparklings I do have to admit that I love Champagne – the bubbles are smaller, which makes the wine positively effervescent on my tongue. Seriously, there is truth to this famous quote about Champagne, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”*

From there we moved on to a lovely sparkling from Kew winery in Niagara. I thought this wine was quite lovely and plan to add the winery to my list of places to visit on my next Niagara trip.

adorable label

adorable label

A couple of glasses of bubbly in and it was time to move into the dining room for the main event!

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even our table decor is wine-y

On deck was shrimp remoulade to start and then roast lamb, cauliflower gratin, roast potatoes, and broccoli, all to be accompanied with three French reds pulled from the cellar.

not pictured - my drool

not pictured – my drool

On further label inspection we noticed that all three wines were GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) which worked out very well – this blend is my mom’s favourite! Happy birthday to her!

DELICIOUS

DELICIOUS

The first red was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it was my favourite of the night. The flavour was so smooth that it had a velvety quality to it – something I don’t taste a lot in wines I come across, but a trait I love.

image

The second red was another Frenchie, and I thought this one tasted more like a typical GSM. It was hearty and confident in flavour and I found it slightly tannic but not so much that it gave me that mouth-puckering sensation. My mom and I compared the first two wines a bit and realized that, while I favoured the first one, she liked this one better. Just goes to show how personal wine can be – different strokes and all that!

Even though I don’t have an individual pic of it, we did manage to open the third bottle. However, after the Champagne and the sparkling and the two other reds and the delicious food (including birthday cake!) I don’t remember much from this wine except that it had good body and that I liked it. This might possibly a shame, but at the end of the day it was still enjoyed!

All in all it was a very enjoyable (and delicious) visit home. It’s always good to take some time to enjoy the things you love – in my case, food, family, and wine!

one of the corks from the weekend - great colour!

one of the corks from the weekend – great colour!

 


Have you treated yourself to any special wines lately?

Noble Grape Challenge, Red Wine

A Noble Trip to Italy

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we got to know Merlot, and today we’ll get acquainted with that old Italian grape, Sangiovese.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Characteristics

Before we talk about the wine, let’s talk about the word – Sangiovese. It doesn’t look English, does it? In fact, you might think it looks straight-up Italian – and you would be right. This is your first clue that Sangiovese is a special varietal.

Sangiovese is really only grown in Italy. It’s one of the few varietals that is so scarce beyond its ‘home’ location. But! Before you go feeling all sorry for the little Sangiovese grape, let me tell you that there’s actually a big variety of it within Italy, which means its bouquet and flavour can vary quite a bit depending where in Italy it’s found. That’s the second clue that the Sangiovese varietal is a special one.

 

To try out Sangiovese I tasted Farnese Fantini Sangiovese IGT.

Very New World style label - I like!

Very New World style label – I like!

IMG_0881

Tasting notes

As you can see, it colour is pretty gentle. It’s not super clear like a Pinot, nor is it completely opaque like a Malbec. It’s got a nice red colour and is a little orange-y along the edge, which I’ve read is a typical marker of a Sangiovese.

I found it difficult to get much off the nose of this wine, which I always find disappointing. After I left it in my glass for a while (almost an hour!) I started to smell some candied fruit, and a bit of cookie, actually. You know the classic vanilla Girl Guide cookies? I smelled those. Weird, I know.

The flavour was quite full. I got a fair amount of fruit (cherry, I think) off the top and a bunch of oak on the finish. In fact, the aftertaste was a bit like lickin a tree. Jury’s still out on that sensation.

 

Bottom Line

Despite being disappointed by the nose I quite like this wine. It goes down easy, and might just be my next go-to pick for a party or dinner with a friend. And, the best part, it was under $8! I was wary of the price and but decided to take a chance, and I’m glad it paid off.

 

Have you tried Sangiovese lately? What did you think?

 

Next up in the NGC: Nebbiolo – if I can find it!

Noble Grape Challenge, Red Wine

I Say Grenache, You Say Garnacha, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Wine

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we explored the delicious world of Pinot Noirs, the lightest red wine on the spectrum. Today we take a step up in terms of body and meet our new friend, Grenache.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Step up and meet Grenache!

Grenache (aka Garnacha en Español) is grown mostly in Spain and France and is used more often in blends than on its own. In fact, I had a tough time finding a solely Grenache wine to do this tasting! I found lots of Grenache/Syrah and a fair bit of Grenache/Syrah/Mouvedre (good old GSMs!), by far the two most common Grenache blends I come across. I actually quite like Grenache blends but wanted to isolate it for the purposes of the Challenge.

Grenache wines are a step up from Pinot Noirs in terms of body, but is similar in colour, often looking quite red and ruby-ish. Common flavours include strawberry and cherry and can be a good introduction to tannin – the thing in wine that makes your mouth pucker and leaves it feeling dry – because it has some but not so much that it would be off-putting to a newbie. As far as what to drink it with goes, I would pair it with anything you would have candied strawberries or cherries with.

 

To try out Grenache I tasted Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha.

IMG_0789Cute label!

 

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Tasting notes

It certainly looks like a Grenache, I can actually see the design of my curtains through the wine! My novice nose smells cherries and something else with some weight or earthiness that I can’t name. The flavour is definitely a step up in terms of body from our old friend Pinot Noir, and I definitely taste those mouth-puckering tannins, though not as strong as I’ve tasted in other wines. I also taste a bit of cherry, but find it a bit tough to get to other flavours because of the tannins.

 

Bottom Line

It seems representative of the Grenache varietal, but I think the flavour could be more well balanced. A decent if not truly satisfying buy.

 

Have you tried the Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha? What did you think of it?


(Next up in the NGC – Merlot!)