Being “Basic” With Sterling Vintners Sauvignon Blanc

In my “who am I” caption for Instagram, I write that I am a Blogger, Influencer, Greatest Aunt Ever, and a Professional Scrapbooker.  I wrote that for obvious reasons; I wanted to catch your eye and show you a human side.  However, it’s all true.  Most of the time you will find me, sitting in my house among my many crafting supplies, creating picture books for hours.  Strange, somewhat farty, an excuse to why I am single, but all true. Is being a simple woman, wanting straight forward and honest dialog, no frills conversation, a beer and a pizza – and maybe a Netflix marathon – something I shouldn’t be doing?

Can’t I just be “basic”?

Urban Dictionary  – disclosing to people, like my mother, what I’m talking about:

TOP DEFINITION
only interested in things mainstream, popular, and trending
Omg BAE is so basic. all she wants to do is drink pumpkin spice lattes and play candy crush.
“Basic”, in the wine world, may mean you are not educated, scared of the unknown, have a boring palate, or just comfortable in the human portfolio you have created. Noses go up, judgements are thrown, and you may be axed by the Wine Mean Girls that are politely spitting into a dirty bucket. When studying anything at all, we learn to pull apart every aspect, become a true internal detective of sorts.  When you spy into the life of a wine, be ready with overwhelming thoughts of geography, science, stories of generations of families, and so much more.  Sensory overload at its best.
The other night I just wanted a white wine that would not talk back.  Give me citrus, a little acidity, balance it all out in a bright bow, and call it a night.  Here is what happened:
  • The Wine: Sterling Vintners Sauvignon Blanc, California
  • Why: I know I wanted a pretty fruit to the wine; hence the choice from Cali.  However, with the tropical fruit, melon, and other stone fruits I received on my palate, it WAS balanced with a nice acidity.  I didn’t want to go over the top with bracing acidity with something like a Riesling, or find layers of oak with something like a Chardonnay.  What I figured this wine would deliver was that lovely melange of citrusy fruit, while crisping up the edges a bit.
  • It could have gone horribly wrong; Without acidity, this wine would have been a complete failure. I can’t stand when I open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and get complete grassy grapefruit bombs.  This is attractive to some, and maybe nice on a hot as hell day in the sun, but not when paired with food.  I want to TASTE my food while enjoying my wine, and I want the wine to elevate my experience.
  • A deeper into the “why”; I’ve been craving sushi for weeks.  If you follow me on any social, you know sushi is a diet staple.  When wine and food becomes physically tangible, I’m in heaven. Sexy fattiness on my palate comes alive with acidity in a wine. Spicy wasabi becomes balanced and almost sweet with the fruit of Sauvignon Blanc.  The weight of the body of the wine is perfect; not to transparent, but not putting me to sleep.
  • Secret Sushi Heaven; Takara Asian Bistro in Montclair.  I may be blowing up my spot, but this place is solid.

This blog is about why we make choices; in wine, life, or what may stir your mind. Are those choices always complicated? Are the elementary actions we all do every day something to dismiss, or something to celebrate? Do life behaviours always need to be extreme? Your wine choices definitely do not. Sure, this “simple” wine was great, but can we find the “basic” in the small production, expensive as hell, highly allocated and sought after wines?  Well, guess who is going to try to make that happen…

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Wine Girl Gone Wild Quickie: Chardonnay Throw Down

If everything remained the same, my life would be a lot easier, right?  I wouldn’t need to explain myself, stress about the unknown, come up with a plan that may fail, come up with the cover up plan, and re-do all of this next week. So, why can’t the same grape taste the same way, even if it is grown in a different place?  Just give me what I want – why must I think so hard!

Well, so many reasons and so much to discuss with such a simple statement. However, this is a quickie, so check out below what happened when I tasted two chardonnay wines from two different regions.  My opinion is just that – a conclusion from a girl that was tired, not feeling great, absorbed in flirtatious texts, and arguing about the state of the world. Yeah, typical Sunday night dinner at home amongst friends…

Char Lyric and St Veran

 

Wine Girl Gone Wild Quickie – Chardonnay

Who thought this area would be so popular! (I kind of did!)

Chardonnay gets a bad rap. Oak in chardonnay gets a bad rap. This grape is always a roll of the eye from a wine snob. I happen to LOVE IT. What I learned, from my time with winemakers, is that they LOVE IT TOO! It is a fabulous grape to put an impression on. I never knew that, and now it makes sense. Basically because chardonnay represents the area of production, the vintage, the people making it… and so many other great things.  Truly a grape to study and drink drink drink.

Check out the low down on chardonnay:

quickie card - chardonnay

Not Being Normal Is The New Normal; Drinking Quintessa

Ever feel like you just don’t fit.

You don’t fit because you are not “wrong”, you are just not like everyone else. This is not ego-centric, this is not an excuse for your misfortune, this is not coming from a bitter and sour core. I am talking to the people that cannot shut off their minds at night, but are told it’s stress, or that you are “over doing” it. You are the one 30 minutes early “just in case” you missed something on your check list for the meeting.  You have a plan B, C and D. You have outlined your goals on a beverage napkin. Your closet is color coded.  Your friends think you are “unique”, your family thinks you are crazy and are concerned, and your new boyfriend is a little fed up with your “Type A” ways.

Guilty.

Guilty and now proud.  I never use to think my over organized life would lead to something positive. I’m still unsure, but have safety knowing that this personality tick has helped my cause along the way. How can all these particulars in my mind build to a crescendo…and I am witnessing it coming in waves.

I was reassured, and felt a sense of release, the other night when I tasted Quintessa again.  I can’t tell you how many vintages I’ve been through with this wine.  I want to say this was the first “iconic” Napa Valley wine I tasted, and was moved by. Yes, so many years ago, because of this wine, I first felt a shift in the way I perceived flavors, I understood how geography can alter a wine’s perception, and I began to appreciate sensory details that I never felt before. It is a compilation of so many things, and all at once. This is what has given me a kinship to this wine; I can see the vision, I can understand the quirky tones and edges, all while concentrating on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape – just to make it as great as it can be.

Ugh, this makes me so happy.  Let’s break it down:

Grape(s): The focus here is Cabernet Sauvignon. If you need a little more about this grape, check out my quickie notes here; Wine Girl Gone Wild Quickie – Cabernet Sauvignon. There are four other grapes in this blend that will support the beauty of Cab; Merlot, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot and a grape called Carmenere.  I like the addition of Carmenere; there is a new depth that I don’t remember before that I attribute to this grape. Quintessa always grabbed my attention, but now I’m pulled in.

Where specifically in Napa, California; Rutherford, oh Rutherford.  Rich and elegant all at the same time, while also conveying dusty tannins and integrated oak details.  A fav place to visit, and a fav place to drink.

What did it taste like; Before telling you that, let’s talk about the aromas.  I know the wine will be splendid when I can’t stop smelling it. It is so nice to taste with ALL of your senses burning and sending messages to the brain.  There are the obvious flavors of dark and broad red fruit, but also an underlining spicy note I couldn’t put my finger on.  Everything ends with a warmth from the oak components – that just comforts the hell out of me.

Why am I so jazzed; It’s nice to see a winery known and respected STILL produce something so freaking good.  We had the 2014 vintage; major drought going on in the beginning of the growing cycle, but a pretty nice summer and fall – great timing for ripening of the grapes.  I have had some expensive dogs from this vintage.  You never know, right? Mother nature is in charge, and don’t side eye her.  Cabernet Sauvignon was the winner in 2014 – smaller amount produced, but what a prize. Dark and Intense; exactly what we need from this grape.

This wine is a little like me, and I think that is why I connect with it. I’m glad to drink wine that shows us the normal is not normal.  Quintessa will always be a power house, but has a sensibility about it.  It shows me you can be that idiosyncratic persona while still maintaining grace. You can go beyond where you think you should stop and make qualitative impressions upon the world.  So I salute all you misfit-want-to-be yet extraordinary wines out there, and will join in your march towards greatness.  We only have each other, right?

Check out the other wines and food consumed at dinner with Quintessa.  Thanks Stamna in Little Falls for another amazing meal…

 

Wine Girl Gone Wild Quickie – Cabernet Sauvignon

This section is for the reader that doesn’t want to read my blog, could care less what I’m eating and drinking, would not like to look at pretty pictures of random-ness, or that does not care what I do with my life.

I hear you.

You just want to know what the hell to drink when you are in the mood you are in, or need to buy a gift, or need to impress your boss, or forgot your anniversary, or want to drown out the screaming kids in the background… you just want to drink a Cab!

Again, I hear you.

Check this out…

Quickie Card - Cab

More quickies to come! (and yes, I went there)

Drink This; Luzon, Petit Verdot

Don’t ask me to tell you about myself.

Do you know why I say that?  Because you know exactly what you want from me.  You KNOW what your are going to get before I answer the question.  And, I don’t even know how to answer that question.  Do you want the run down of my resume, do you want to know my career ambitions, do you want to know if I’m dating anyone?  Should I share just a little or go insane with my life notes?  I’m betting that honesty and credibility are gone from our conversations, personal or professional. Instead we just peck around each other and come up with really rude judgements.

On top of all this, I probably know what you want to hear.  I can size up the situation pretty quickly.  You want to know if I’m going to compliment your style, make you money, be engaged – but only to a limit, build your atheistic business, tell you you are pretty, pick up and satisfy your dropped promises, and smile the entire time.  I do all of that better than anyone you have ever met.

Wine choices are similar.  (a stretch, but do you like how I am connecting everything?)  We make wine choices for many reasons – we know the wine will deliver because we’ve had it before, the grape choice is our favorite, or the label is really attractive.  We want to impress our friends with our wine knowledge or lack of, maybe we want to get drunk, or just maybe we want to spice up an evening.  All valid thoughts, and all things we already know.

So why would I bring a wine to a pizza party where no-one has ever heard of the grape?  How am I winning here?  You know it’s not because I am trying to show off – my friends could care less about what I know about wine, and barley listen to my wine rhetoric.  The reason; I’m turned on by Spanish wine lately.

Just am.  I worked in Spanish wine years ago for a hot minute, and the romance never left me.  There is something about the fruit components, the spice, the line in the sand it draws, the feeling that lingers with me after I drink it…  This is what I wanted to share.  And that’s it isn’t it.  I just want to have my close friends get the goosebumps I do about a wine. (and life) Here is the low down on what we drank:

  • Name of the wine: Luzon, Petite Verdot
  • Where it is from: Jumila, Spain.  It is a continental climate with hills, valleys, a mountain range – but it is also hot as hell and a very harsh place to make a grape for wine.  What you get – very full bodied wines full of abundant fruit flavors, baking spices and coffee.
  • Grape: Petite Verdot; This area grows A LOT of the grape Monastrell – another WGGW fav and will be reviewed shortly.  Petite Verdot is a grape we find in the Bordeaux region of France where it is important in the final blend.  What I like about this grape, when hailed from Spain, is that it is courageous and daring, bold right from the first sip and dark as tar.  It’s like a chocolate covered deep black cherry, dipped in cuban coffee, and rolled around my tongue.  If that doesn’t make you want to drink this wine…
  • What to do next; Just buy it -it’s under $12.  I purchased this bottle at Fairway Market in Woodland Park.  Beyond the notion that I’m obsessed with Spanish wine lately, I knew we were having food from the grill.  I was going to a pizza party where you add your own toppings, throw it on the grill, and enjoy your pizza venture as well as everyone else’s.  First of all, genius party shtick.  Now think of that char you get from smoky grilling, dripping cheese, something spicy like chorizo toppings…it’s giving me heartburn, but pairing perfectly.

And yes, I drank this wine while eating a bag of cheese doodles.

 

Eat This: Dinner at South and Pine With A Little Pinot Noir

Categorizing an area for restaurant reviews on my website, and calling that category “Eat This”, should just happen. Mood noted.

I don’t go to Morristown for two reasons; (1) I have a destructive ex, in the industry, that trolls the land, and (2) I never think of Morristown as a qualitative “foodie” place.  Great bars, young pretentious hipsters, younger girls vomiting in the corners of bars around 2 AM…

Not judging, but I totally am.  Last night, I found South and Pine in Morristown – changed my mind on what I thought was going on in this busting at the seams town.  Where there is a bar/restaurant/meeting place on every corner, I dare you to search for an eclectic and direct outline of someone else’s vision of true culinary art-forms.  Cookie cutter “lets get drunk”, “how weird can I make the wine list”, and “I’m so trendy” cocktail locations have dominated and sickened the overly ambitious crowds.  Time to take a breathe, realize we are mature human beings and not animals ready to choke on cheap booze, and relish in a true, clean expression of “farm to table’ and in the moment design of a restaurant.

And yes, it’s a BYOB.  Glory BE!  When I go out to eat I want the server to run the show, make me feel like the queen I am, and tell me I am a genius wine goddess for owning such beautiful specimens I have brought to the table.

But I screwed up.  The wine I brought sucked.  Just sucked.  Thank goodness my dining partner thought deeper into the menu and what wines made sense; he saved the day. (whew, that could have been a tragedy!)

What do I mean by this?  As noted, the menu is consistently changing to match foods that are seasonly appropriate.  Right now, you will find pumpkin soup, pork belly, lamb sirloin, and just wait… Braised Bison.  You heard it, and I cannot lie, this made me loose my mind.  One of the BEST grapes for the Fall, and for this menu, is Pinot Noir – hands down.  This grape shows an abundant cranberry fruit, fall sweet spice, and a structure to hold up to a cornucopia of autumn flavors.  Our Pinot Noir choice, and this may be a surprise to you: Celine et Vincent Dureuil, Rully 1er Cru ,”Vauvry”.  Yes, your wine girl is drinking Pinot Noir AND a Frenchy; two things I’m not a fan of.  Let’s break this down and tell you why it worked:

  • Fruit for this wine is sourced from a Premier Cru Vineyard (pretty freaking good) located at the top of a hill.  Lots of sunshine giving this wine a plumpness and bountiful fruit expression without being over the top in candied flavors.
  • Aged 18 months in French Oak, picked from 40 year old vines, and one of the best producers in this region. The oak gives this wine oomph to the structure, and the older vines add a complexity to the fruit composition.  Basically, making everything I hate about Pinot Noir sing a different song.
  • Rully is a village in the larger area of Burgundy, France called Cote Chalonnaise.  Not a lot is written about this area of Burgundy, mostly because they are not known for wines of an elegant nature. I am not elegant in nature, so we have something in common.  Instead, you will get a rustic wine approach with earthy tones, black pepper and spice; and maybe not the best focus.  However, these wines are affordable, have a sound framework, and pair generously with the season.

Recap; go pick some apples, drink a few Octoberfest beers, and finish your day at South and Pine with a bowl of steaming Mussels.  Let the staff smile and wipe your chin, watch through the open kitchen all the hustling and bustling, and bring a bottle of Pinot Noir with you.  Ignore the 20 somethings passing by the window, but do flirt with your dining companion. (and maybe the cutie floor manager!)

Side note; surprise starter was a split bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial Champagne.  Just the right amount and just the right bubble to clean your palate for the fatty flavors of Fall.  Check out this review/sales pitch from my friends  @ Drizzly if you need some more info!

Deep Reflections and Crappy Montepulciano

What to do if, when walking into a dinner party, a deep conversation is taking place and there is little or no interest in your opinion.

Harsh, honest, but what do I mean by that?  I think we all choose who we want the best advice from; consciously or unconsciously.  There is always that better voice, amongst a group of friends, that raises the best pros and cons.  Said person has more life experience, or a deeper awareness about the way the world ticks.  In truth, maybe they don’t know squat about what path is the right one to take, but they sound the best in a conversation.  I always want to be this person; the mentor, the non judgmental figure head – however, it never seems to work out that way.  My thoughts and advice come out like my nephew’s building block sets; a jumble of shapes and ideas that never stack very high, and usually come crashing into a heap.  Instead, I’m the girl that opens the wine.

Better explanation is that I find a job to do.  A distraction.  I may give my acute observations here and there, but I never actually get heard.  Instead, investing in the “what physically to do at this moment” helps balance out my desire to grab someone and shake them into a new perception.  Usually, wine is involved.  This is where I can become your expert, and you listen to my opinion.  I become Queen for a minute, “Queen of Wine in New Jersey” (don’t be jealous), and tsk tsk at my subject’s inabilities to grasp a simple tasting note.  Silly barbarian folk.

That night I was again lost, mainly because I couldn’t create a tasting note.  The wine we were drinking was that boring!  The idea was a good one: Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo with spaghetti and meatballs.  What a great grape from Italy; Montepulciano.  I’ve always loved the herbal quality you can find in this wine while also getting consistent fruit flavors such as prune, red plum, and at times licorice.  This style of wine, coming from the best area (Abruzzo) in Italy, can come in two styles; soft and approachable, or balls to the wall rich and powerful.  Guess which one I prefer…

Key here is to know your producers.  Some will blend Sangiovese into the final product (15% of what is allowed), which would give you that more aggressive and spicy end game.  This is what I would have preferred, but didn’t receive.  Familiarity of European producers, specifically French and Italian, will help you make decisions on who you bring to the party.  Taking a risk is ok, but like that evening, a risk may be a dirty diaper.  Puro Desio was not the producer for me, or seems like anyone else; I can’t find them anywhere on the world wide web!  There may have been a label change, and they now go by “Platinum”, but I can’t really figure that out.  Who can say.  I can only show you the label I drank, and didn’t care for. Great thing is, this wine didn’t cost my friend more than $12.

Knowing who makes the wine is like knowing who you want to listen to when asking for advice; what outstanding, thought provoking conversation has you alter your own attitude.  There are tons of producers and tons of coaches that can build you up or squash your dreams.  Your gut is all you have in the end.  Slow down, open your eyes, breathe, and trust – and also be patient.  That is all you can do.  But please pass on this wine, and maybe, just maybe,  listen to the unassuming girl sitting next to you…

What I Didn’t Want To Drink But Did

I sat down at a very empty restaurant yesterday and was served the wrong wine.

I decided to be daring; an Argentinian red blend of Cabernet Franc and Malbec was my original choice.  A ten dollar delight.  Didn’t have high hopes, but wanted to risk it.  That was not what I was given.

The disgusting thing is, on my part, was that I didn’t realize it until I got home.  As the freaky, “type A” personality blogger I am, I shot a picture of the wines by the glass list.  You know, for future reference because that is what people do.  I also asked the server to bring out the bottle so I could have a feature image for all of you.  Um – that’s a blend from Italy fool.

I knew, as soon as I tasted the wine, that it either was a horrible version or a very bad impersonation of Cabernet Franc.  There was little black pepper on the entry, no bell pepper at all (what I love about the grape), and the plum flavors died very quickly. I set it aside, and told my dining companion that I’ll wait for the food – it had to get better. When paired with food, the wine completely expired. All I could get from the glass was burning alcohol.  BURNING alcohol – that needs to be repeated. With the addition of food, the wine should have come alive; allegedly. How good does an Argentinian red blend with steak tacos sound? I thought this was done for a reason; what a great thought to choose wines by the glass that blend with the thematic journey of the restaurant.  I wish more people thought this way, and turns out, I was dreaming of grandeur.

What was I really drinking?  Borgonero, Borgo Scopeto; a “Super Tuscan” blend of Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A complete departure from what I actually wanted. Click on the link and read the descriptor; go ahead, but don’t believe it. It was not elegant, it did not have great structure, there was no harmony. Great marketing does wonders. I’ve written wine descriptor sheets before; I can make you believe that the wine was produced from a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Listen, it was ok, but “ok” is not what we want. Especially when you know that you are having ONE DRINK and ONE DRINK ONLY – you want it to be a good one.  Not to mention, it was two dollars more than my original choice. I am an Italian wine lover, and would usually not care about the cost, or the error. But, when things are not what you expect, you feel a little jostled. That feeds into your meal, your mood, your attitude.

High point – the food was amazing.  Simple and fresh, beautiful presentation, lovely atmosphere. And mistakes happen, they sure do. Mistakes shouldn’t happen when you are one of two tables in a restaurant on a Thursday afternoon at 12 pm.  Ugh.

So here is my advice dear reader; wake the hell up. If I can do it, I’m sure you are doing it to; trusting our servers. Servers are great people and tasked with many things at once; hence the anxiety dreams that haunt me. I will probably be cursed by all servers out there, but let’s just get this right! Servers have a responsibility to give the diner what they asked for, and we have the responsibility to call them out on their mistakes. I didn’t like the wine from the first sip, knew something was askew, and should have said something. Instead, I sat there disconcerted with my choice, wondering what was wrong with me, when all the time it was the wrong damn wine. I will return to Egan and Sons in Montclair, but just for a beer.  Maybe that Argentinian red blend will find me somehow.

All The Feels and Unfortunate Wine Choices

I”ve been working with a nutritional therapy practitioner in hoping I can clean up my dirty little secret – my lifestyle.  This is someone I know, someone that I am comfortable with, and someone that I can be completely honest with what I have been putting my body through that last few years.  It’s been a mess.  My sugar handling was out of control, I felt nauseous after I would eat, I craved food ALL DAY, and was loosing a sense of my self within all of this ugly behavior.

I’m going to share the outcome (a few TMI moments, but you can stop reading); my gums stopped bleeding when brushing my teeth (I can’t remember a time when they haven’t), my face “changed”, my belly stopped gurgling at every moment, my nails look pretty, my skin is glowing…and, yes, I lost some weight.  Not pounds and pounds (thank you hormones of a 47 year old woman), but my pooch has diminished, I can fit into my dresses, and I feel more comfortable going to bed at night.  Tons of work went into this – a blog post soon to follow on my plan.  What was the main culprit to my demise?  Yes, you guessed it, alcohol.

And let’s just put this out there, as it has been put out there before; I am not a big drinker.  I am actually a terrible drinker.  So when I was told alcohol had to leave my life for a stint, I wasn’t to broken up about it.  You don’t need to guzzle a bottle of wine and still be in the wine business.  I’m not out to judge those whom indulge either – you do you.  I became compliant, and did what was asked of me.  However, there may have been a little slip…

Something else to put out there; I love my time alone.  Even on a weekend evening when I could be with friends, family, dates; I would rather be on my couch.  Thank god for that big brown couch. It’s not the most comfortable thing, and is in a room that is slightly awkward and bizarre, but it works.  Last weekend I turned my back on this great nutrition plan and opened a bottle on said couch.  A bottle I know would top off the evening, comfort, love, and satisfy the hell out of my slightly down mood. I’ve said it before; Stags’ Leap Winery will bring immediate delight.  It doesn’t matter where I am, what I am doing or whom I am with – this is my anchor winery, my “it will be ok” friend, and an all over warming moment shared with just me.

I always open a bottle when I have a desire to taste the wine; not on my mood.  I never feel like I “need a drink”.  That evening, I felt like I needed Petite Sirah to solve my problems – first mistake.  I expected the wine to float me to a place of amenity – what the hell was I doing.  On an empty stomach, I opened the bottle.  Here is a wine that is big (or huge) in flavors, tannic as all hell, with a palate full of crushed blueberries and chocolate, and a high – bracing –  acidity.  All I tasted was that acidity and bitterness in the back of my throat, and then into my belly.  If I had to guess, stomach acids came to play.  I’ve been keeping them at bay, and they now realized they had a chance to shine once again.  The bottle, upon half a glass consumed, went down the drain.

This blog isn’t much of a review, teaching agent, judgement, or guide.  This blog is also not a bash on Stags’ Leap Winery, even though I may be emotionally a little mad at them. This blog is more of an investigation of why we drink wine, why we make the wine choices we do, and do we need to make them at all.  I’m not telling you to stop drinking wine; I’ll be out of a job.  What I think I am examining is how to serve you better choices, and better outcomes to those choices.

I’m thinking of teaching/facilitating/enjoying a few in home wine classes.  Maybe a guided wine dinner?  Maybe a wine focused/led holiday party?  What do you think?

A small documented history of myself and Stags’ Leap Winery….