Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Electric Reindeer is here ~ The holiday season is officially open!

I love Electric Reindeer! Every year I buy one of each varietal and take them home for a little taste test to see which one I’ll buy a few cases of. One year it was the Cabernet, the next year was the Merlot, the next year the Cab, but each year I stash away some Chardonnay and one of the reds. If you’ve never had the Electric Reindeer you owe it to yourself to buy a couple bottles and check them out yourself.

These wines are made for World Market by Adler Fels – a private label winery in Santa Rosa, California that has won more than 20 awards or medals in the last decade for their private label wines. Each year the winemaker gives us something a little different, but always good, and always a terrific buy.

Dressed up in spiffy new foil labels, this year’s release is a must-have for the holiday season.

Top 10 ways to enjoy Electric Reindeer:

• Tie an ornament around the neck of the bottle and you’ve got yourself a nifty little host gift for your next event!

• Having a party at your place but don't want to break the bank on wine? Electric Reindeer is the perfect party pour - it's tasty, looks festive on your bar, and it's easy on your wallet!
• Line up a few cases by your front door and when your party ends hand each guest a bottle of Electric Reindeer as a party favor.

• If your neighborhood does a “knock and run” gift exchange leave a bottle of Electric Reindeer on doorsteps - you’re sure to be invited over to share it!

• Struggling for a gift for the service people on your list? Your mailman will drop his letters when he opens the mailbox to find a bottle of Electric Reindeer in there!


• Does your nail salon serve box wine while you're being pampered? Take along a bottle of Electric Reindeer to spread some holiday cheer to everyone in the salon, they'll all thank you for it!
• Teachers get tired of coffee mugs… Try some Electric Reindeer and you’re certain to brighten their day!

• Need three inexpensive gifts for your Secret Santa at work? Gift them with the Chardonnay, then Merlot, then the Cab – overall the price is right around $17.

• Great Aunt Martha only drinks White Zinfandel? Splurge by buying her a case of Electric Reindeer White Zin – you’re sure to be on her ‘good list’ next year!

• Buy a few cases for YOURSELF ~ after all… it IS a great little wine for sipping by the fireplace with your honey.

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud` KathyD



Cabernet and Merlot $5.98 Chardonnay and White Zinfandel $4.98





Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cool Weather + Long Hang-Time + Late Harvest = Awesome WA Trip!

Washington wine growers spent the month of October in the vineyards praying for a growing season long enough to appropriately ripen the fruit, and still get the fruit off the vine and into the winery. I'm sure they felt like the old adage, "A watched pot never boils." 

Bad for them, but great for me since I had scheduled a trip to Washington wine country for the last week in October. Driving along the highway deeper into Yakima with ladies from my wine group, we were surprised and delighted to see fruit still hanging in the vineyards despite the cooler temperatures being experienced in the region. 
Day 1  -  Horse Heaven Hills, the small pumpkin-colored area to the north of Oregon

The first full day of our trip we were greeted at the gates of Canoe Ridge by Minnie Knife, the winery's vineyard manager. She smiled as she told us that their harvest was in full throttle and asked us if we'd like to see it up close... (Was she kidding?! This is the stuff dreams are made of!) We hopped into our SUV and followed her pickup along the winding dirt road to the crest of a hill and jumped out. We stood there, surrounded by the most amazingly beautiful vineyard scene, abuzz with harvest workers, equipment and the smell of freshly picked fruit in the air. The early morning sun was shining upon the perfect rows of vines angling down the hill before us and beside us, as far as the eye could see. 



Here, while talking about the differences in Cabernet and Merlot vines, Minnie is illustrating the
 spooky face that Merlot leaves form when the sections of the leaves are held together.



Minnie led us down a row of vines and encouraged us to pick berries from the clusters of Merlot hanging there. As I bit down tentatively on a grape, I was pleasantly surprised to taste the sweetness of the fruit - I had tasted Cabernet grapes straight from the vine before on a trip to Napa Cab country and they had been extremely bitter and harsh. (Of course, it was August - maybe a month before harvest - so they were definitely not ripe.) I snatched a few more and popped them into my mouth as I commented to Minnie on their sweetness. She said they were ready for harvest, asked us to step out of the row and made a motion to a worker who then swung his harvester around the end of the row of vines we had just vacated.


We watched in awe as the harvester fit narrowly down "our" row, with the huge "V" of machinery fitting down over the row of vines and mechanically removed the fruit from each vine.


We could see the clusters being pulled up to the top of the machine and toppling over the edge and down into a waiting bin on the opposite side of the vineyard row, which was being pushed by more workers and moved parallel down the row in tandem with the harvester. Having never seen this part of the winemaking process before, we were captivated by the picture before us, seemingly choreographed in its simplicity and economy of motion.


On the opposite side of the dirt road stood another portion of the vineyard, with fruit still hanging; these were all labeled Cabernet and Minnie indicated that they still had another few days or so of hang-time before they would be harvested. She asked us to follow her further up the road, commenting positively on our rented SUV. We piled back into our vehicle and trailed the dust from her pickup around several steep bends until reaching the top of the hill and parked behind Minnie. We gasped as we clambered out and onto the top of the hill - as beautiful as the previous scenes were, we were stunned by the view from the pinnacle we now stood upon.


 
From our viewpoint, we could see the Columbia River, separating us from Oregon, but between it and us was acre after acre of vines, spread like a blanket on the undulating hills, and bordered on the sides by tree-lines, beautiful in themselves with golden and red fall leaves. Breath-taking! Down there in the midst of everthing was a cute little house, also surrounded by fall trees, and looking up the hills at the vines. We asked Minnie who lived in the house.  Of course - it was hers... Now how fantastic is that? Waking up each morning with that amazing view, and surrounded by your passion masquerading as a job. OMGosh ~ JEALOUS!


We stood on the ridge, able to overlook vineyards on both sides of the hill (the north facing vineyards were planted in Chardonnay which requires cooler temperatures, hence, the shady side of the hill) listening to Minnie explain to us about the ancient floods coursing through the area, cutting chasms and valleys into the landscape and dropping different types of rocks, stone and soils along the way.  At her feet was a pile of rocks that had been taken from various areas of the vineyard; she used them to illustrate the different types of rocks and soil found at Canoe Ridge, and told us how far away these rocks had originated, and been carried along with the floods thousands of years ago.




The soils of the Canoe Ridge vineyards were sandy, as are the other vineyards of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, and as Minnie explained, this results in softer tannins than in other AVAs in Washington wine country. (I reflected back on this conversation more than a few times during the trip while tasting copious amounts of HHH AVA wines - all with soft finishes and easy, fine, tannins.)

The sounds of harvest were interrupted by Minnie's cell phone and a short conversation after which she said her time with us was up and that we were to follow her over to the winery to meet Michelle, our guide for the rest of our tour of Canoe Ridge.  I sighed and took one last look around before getting back into the SUV with my wine ladies, thinking that nothing else we would see could compare with this.  Ahhh, what a life Minnie, what a life.




Beautiful, huh?

Salud! KathyD

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Merlot can be mesmerizing ~ Despite what Miles said in Sideways...

When was the last time you had a Merlot (willingly!)? I'm here to tell you that it ain't bad, ain't bad at all.

In fact, Merlot is darn good and it's probably a result of the fact that a lot of producers got out of the Merlot business when the varietal's reputation took a horrific beating in 2004 after Sideways came out. And, just what was the problem with Merlot at that time...?

Whenever any wine (or style of wine) gets a bit too hip, or hyped, or becomes the new IN thing, the market will be flooded with low-end, poorly made, plonky renditions of its original self. And that's what happened to Merlot after its meteoric rise in popularity in the early 80's and 90's when it became the the nation's top red wine varietal--a title that it held until, you guessed it - the debut in 2004 of Sideways.

The demand for Merlot was so high that winegrowers planted Merlot vines like there was no tomorrow, not caring if those vines were suited to the vineyard sites. Merlot went from 5,000 acres in 1990 to more than 50,000 in the year 2000, causing a flood of flabby, lifeless Merlot to be released in the marketplace. No wonder Miles said,



Ahhh, you don't believe me that Merlot was once the darling of the wine world? Of course it was...

You just need to go backwards in the world of wine and revisit the genesis of wine on America's dinner table. That didn't happen overnight, but when it did happen, Merlot was there - bridging the gap between the White Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons of the era. White Zin was too fruity and not sophisticated enough, yet Cabernet was too harsh and "bitter" for America's rookie wine palates - but sexy, silky Merlot? Well, it was the Goldilocks effect - Merlot was just right - and everyone jumped on that bandwagon and rode Merlot into the world of plonky wine, hence - the Sideways phenomenon.



But, I digress.  The point I was trying to make, was that Merlot needs to be, and should be, revisited by all of you that call yourselves serious wine drinkers.  There are two styles of Merlot: one a fruity, lightweight and semi-plonky version. The other? Well, I call it Cab-lover's Merlot.  Now, that's what I'm talking about!

A big, bold wine with a hit of silky fruit in the front, great acidity and body in the mid-palate and the grip of some decent tannins on the finish.

'Nuff said.
I've had a few of them in the last month - one just this week and it was spectacular. You owe it to yourself to find one of these wines and taste it for yourself. You'll be glad you did...

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

PS ~ Check out Merlove...

Here are a few Merlot that I think are worth visiting:

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2007 Indian Wells Merlot Columbia Valley - 92 pts Wine & Spirits "This simple, wonderfully balanced merlot from vineyards throughout the Wahluke Slope melds oak, soft cherry and tobacco leaf into a seamless aroma. On the palate it's lightly spicy, the flavors of plum and black cherry dense, with a savory bottom note of cedar and gold leaf tobacco. A terrific value and plenty of wine to set against a grilled sirloin." 10/1/2010

Clos DuVal - 2005 - Napa Valley Merlot  Very highly recommended - "Medium ruby; attractive, elegant, complex, plummy, sweet black cherry fruit aroma with hints of cassis and black olive; medium-full to full body; rich, refined, dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavors; well balanced and structured; medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Showing some elegance and finesse, this wine is eminently drinkable and should also continue to develop with several more years of bottle aging. (April/May 2008)"

Chateau Teyssier (St Emilion) 2005: 90 pts - Wine Spectator: "Pure black cherry and berry aromas lead to a full body, with silky tannins and a concentrated, fruity finish. A pretty young red. Best after 2011. 11,665 cases made." –JS

"A melange of dark forest berries, overlaid with a layer of youthful oak which still needs to be shed to gain maximum enjoyment here I think. On the palate though, there is plenty of promise. Richly textured, weighty, in keeping with the vintage, but carried along by a fine substance and acidity. Rich, somewhat savoury, and firm in the finish, this is a young wine from a very reliable estate which has plenty of promise for the future. Nevertheless, after some time in the glass, I found it worked very well with food." 17+/20 (July 2009)

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