Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

Canadian White Wine: Inniskillin Pinot Grigio

20130825-135140.jpgSo, I’m finally getting around to posting wine reviews from my trip to the Okanagan Valley to participate in the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference.

This was my first taste of Canadian wine above the border, selected as a “surprise” by an enthusiastic and friendly sommelier at the White Spot Restaurant inside Kelowna airport. The lovely young lady asked if I wanted to see the wine list, or if she could surprise me; naturally, I opted for the surprise. She “guaranteed” that I’d enjoy the wine — and I did. It’s always great to find someone with a similar palate to guide you.

One caveat: it was served too cold — due to the white wines being stored in the refrigerator next to the beer. My personal somm explained, “most people who come in here want their white wine ice cold.” Yes, we have that problem in the USA as well. In any case, initially, the wine wasn’t impressive — not bad, just not impressive. But, my trusty infrared thermometer (yes, I’m a James Bond wannabe) registered 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so how could the wine possibly show any character? Once it warmed up to a more drinkable 52, then 55, the lovely mineral took over the aroma, which also boasted ripe pear and a hint of white peach. It had excellent acidity — again, only after warming up — and was nice enough drinking on its own, with a well-balanced finish of green apple. I would guess it would also go well with an array of foods. If you see it, give it a try.

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See more reviews for Inniskillin Pinot Grigio from Wines in Niagara, Tony Aspler, and John Schreiner on Wine.

White Wine Review: Luna Mater

Fontana Candida Frascati “Luna Mater” 2009 | Lazio, Italy

fontana-candida-luna-materThis is one of those wines for that rare person who enjoys drinking wine with food, and/or considers wine as food.

OK, I’m being a little facetious / condescending. The truth is, like most Italian wines, this is food — at least, as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t — under ANY circumstances — attempt to [Read more...]

Spirits Kick: Limoncello

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Meletti Limoncello

This thick limoncello follows with the Meletti house style, which tends to be sweeter, lighter, and more candied than others. As with this lemony digestivo, newbies will find their Amaro, Sambuca, and Anisette more approachable and an easier entry into those respective categories. Though the flavor is sweet and texture is really thick — seriously, you could chew on it — it’s not cloying and the finish is very clean and pleasing. Also surprising, it’s not that strong in alcohol (30% / 60 proof) and so there’s no heat or “bite” to knock your socks off. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you intend to go with your drink. Maybe the best part of this product is the package; the bottle is tall, with a long, skinny neck, and the label is worthy of putting on your wall in poster size, looking like an old-fashioned spirits ad from the late 1800s / early 1900s. I would call the package “retro” if not for the fact that I think they simply haven’t changed it in a hundred years. Worth seeking.

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Disclosure: I used to work for the importer of this product, and tasted it free of charge.

White Wine Review for Thanksgiving: Macari Early Wine 2012 Chardonnay

Macari Vineyards Early Wine Chardonnay 2012 | North Fork, Long Island, NY, USA

Macari Vineyards Early Wine ChardonnayWho needs Beaujolais Nouveau when you can “get local” with a luscious white wine from Long Island?

The truth is, I enjoy the hoopla, celebration, and tradition around Beaujolais Nouveau. Not to mention, the grape-jelly-like wine pairs mighty well with nearly everything on the Thanksgiving table. Just make sure you drink it before Valentine’s Day, OK?

Now, what if you’re one of those people who is anti-French? Or a staunch locavore? Or what if you feel that the American tradition of Thanksgiving should be celebrated with an American wine? There’s more to America than Zinfandel, and though Chardonnay is technically a French varietal, Macari’s is 100% grown and bottled in ‘merica, the good ol’ U-S-of-A. Most importantly, Macari Early Wine Chardonnay is guaranteed to pair well with the traditional turkey as well as nearly every trimming on the table. And, if you’re one of those who does something other than turkey, this wine will also go very well with roast pork, spiral ham, duck, chicken, or game fowl.

The nose has an understated aroma of pear – like pear nectar that you might drink from a Goya bottle or can. In the mouth, though, it explodes with bright, juicy flavors that remind me of fruit salad: sweet pear, peach, pineapple, guava, green seedless grapes, and white cherry. It has mild acidity and a healthy dose of residual sugar that pushes all the fruit forward and makes for a delectable foil to hot and spicy foods; think sausage stuffing. It finishes with a pleasant, clean taste of pure fresh apple juice. This is a truly enjoyable, lovely wine that will be hugely popular with people who normally don’t drink wine. The snobs will eschew it for its r.s. level but watch them as they take surreptitious sips in between their condescending comments.

If you can get a bottle for Thanksgiving, by all means do so. And if you can’t get it in time for Thursday’s feast, pick it up anyway and enjoy it later with Chinese take-out, spicy Thai, Indian cuisine, buffalo wings, or on its own as an aperitif.

Find this wine at a retailer near you using Wine-Searcher

Alternatively, purchase it directly from the winery by visiting the Macari website

This wine was also reviewed by New York Cork Report and The V.I.P. Table.

Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample

Red Wine Review: Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 | Napa Valley, California, USA

On first whiff the nose expresses enticing black and red berry fruits — both fresh and mature, but then as it sits in the glass it’s chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. In the mouth it is similarly dominated by a milk chocolate flavor mixed with blackberry and sweet black raspberry. It has a pleasant finish of more chocolate, vanilla, sweet red berry, black cherry, and boysenberry flavors that linger. There is ample, mouth-puckering acidity and mild tannins. Texture is smooth, with good weight, feeling almost syrupy.

I’m not sure what to make of this wine. It’s clearly complex with enough acidity to match with food, but when I drank it with a juicy ribeye, all I got from the wine was chocolate. Sometimes I like the taste of chocolate, but not when I’m eating steak, so perhaps it should be more of an after-dinner wine with a cheese plate. Though the acidity was ample, the tannins were surprisingly mild. Despite all the ripe fruit upfront, there was no heat on the finish, which was nice.

Also surprising was the sediment; generally I don’t expect that from a 4-year-old wine. Sediment doesn’t bother me and I don’t consider it a flaw, but I do find it curious.

My thought is this wine was going through a “dumb phase” when I poured it — a time in its evolution when it wasn’t integrated, and showing less than its full potential. I say this because there is clearly a ton of fruit, complexity, and attractive aromas and flavors, but for whatever reason it isn’t hitting on all cylinders. If you have a bottle of this vintage, keep it in the cellar for at least another 6 months to a year before giving it a try. How long can it age? Hard to say, as the acidity will hold it together, but the lack of tannin — which with acid is also a preservative — suggests that this isn’t a wine for decade-holding. On the other hand, maybe I don’t understand what this wine is — which is possible (probable?) as I consider myself a novice when it comes to California wine.

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Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample

This wine was also reviewed by Drinkhacker, Bigger Than Your Head (2009 vintage), Pull that Cork, and The Wine Cask Blog, among others (if you’ve seen another review or written one yourself, let us know in the comments).

Red Wine Review: Murrieta’s Well The Spur

Murrieta’s Well The Spur 2009 | Livermore Valley, California, USA

A few months back, I reviewed the 2008 vintage of Murrieta’s Well The Spur. Now, the 2009.

The suggestion was to enjoy this wine with food from the grill. Unfortunately, I live in a place where grills are verboten — which kills me, because I love grilling — so I had to improvise.

Since I don’t have a grill, I instead turned the toaster oven on “broil” and popped in a sliced vidalia onion and small filet mignon. Those two items were joined by fresh kale sauteed with bacon and onions and a sweet potato. Guess what? The Spur was a wonderful match with everything. As you might expect, it was particularly tasty with the beef, as it unlocked delicious flavors of sweet red raspberry, some black fruits, licorice, and cocoa.

The fruity nose and juicy, almost jammy upfront flavors of this wine threw me off, because my initial impression was one of “typical sweet California blend.” However, that thought flew out the window quickly, as the midpalate and finish whacked me with ample acidity and firm tannins — so much so that this wine became difficult to enjoy on its own. For me, that’s a good thing, because in my mind, wine belongs on the table, to be drunk with food.

The PR kit suggested barbecue, and I agree. The screwcap closure certainly makes it especially BBQ / picnic friendly. Would I buy this and bring it to an outdoor dinner party / picnic / barbecue? Absolutely — and I’d expect it to be a crowd-pleaser.

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Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample

This wine was also reviewed by The Frugal Wine Snob, Drinkhacker, and Pull That Cork, among others (if you reviewed it, or see another review, let me know in the comments).

Red Wine Review: Torres Celeste Crianza

Miguel Torres “Celeste” Crianza Ribera del Duero 2007 | Spain

No, this is not a wine made by the mixed-martial arts fighter — though it is similarly intense and packs a punch.

“Celeste” Crianza is made by Miguel Torres the wine producer — a diverse family-owned company that makes wine in Spain, Chile, and California. This particular bottle comes from the Ribera del Duero region in Spain (the company also owns vineyards in Penedes, Jumilla, Priorat, Toro, Conca de Barbera, and Priorat). Torres has the largest winery in Spain and is its largest producer, exporting to 140 countries.

This wine is the family’s first foray into Ribera del Duero. The name “Celeste” is translated from Spanish as “celestial”, “heavenly”, or simply, “sky”, and refers to the fact that the vineyards are located 895 meters above sea level — in other words, way up in the sky and close to the heavens. To me this 100% Tempranillo wine is more like a modern Rioja than a Ribera del Duero, because it is clean, has upfront juicy red berry fruit, and has a distinctive vanilla oak element. But then again, I haven’t really been “into” Ribera del Duero in a while, so maybe that region is modernizing their wine as well.

The nose has an opulent floral fragrance with ripe red fruits and a hint of cassis. Rose petals, cherry, sweet blueberry, and boysenberry. In the mouth it is ripe and juicy with flavors of blueberry and boysenberry. The texture is creamy smooth. Tannins are mild as is the acidity; this is borderline “fat”. The finish is a bit hot, but that’s what you get with such a ripe flavor profile.

Due to the fatness and heat this is a little difficult to match with food. But, I like it as a “cocktail” wine or “fireside” wine; something to drink on its own.

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Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample