I’m Liking What Everyone Else is Liking – Some Silver Oak Love

One of the biggest questions that I get asked, as a wine professional, is my opinion on the wines that have secured their feet in the sand as “wine fan” favorites. I am here to admit that I do not regularly drink Sassicaia, Tignanello, Penfolds Grange (that may be a lie), Caymus – you get it  – the icons that are thought of to be the definition of what is good, great, and expensive. Why don’t I indulge in a wine that is deemed worthy by your creepy neighbor that happens to take on “wine guy” status in your tribe? He is the guy that created the Saturday night “Let’s drink a lot of expensive wine” dinner parties you are slightly scared to attend for the chance you may look stupid.  I’m cheap – that’s the honest reason I don’t hang with that guy. I am also inquisitive and desire that experience of not knowing. What can my level of involvement be if you are already telling me it has to be good? And, by the way, thanks for not giving me an option…

That last statement was a little bitchy, but I get offended when the status of a wine is more important than the end product. Let me fall in love on my own time.

And just like a child’s thrill of Santa, I do get a rush when asked to go to a fancy wine dinner. What is fancy to me? Yeah, the wine counts – main component here. However, there are few times I can stop,  be part of the scene, ENJOY a five course meal, and become a participant in something special. A wine and chef can create all the magic possible – but it’s the vibe, the electricity of the landscape, and the arena the crowd constructs with their opinions, their laughter, and the ohs and ahs that come from filling your belly and palate with abundant flavors.

Thanks Fascino Restaurant http://www.fascinorestaurant.com and Silver Oak https://www.silveroak.com for hosting a night full of food and wine greatness, that really happens every so often. It takes skill, of course, to produce a successful wine and food pairing. However, it also takes thoughtfulness, precision, imagination, cleverness; being obvious is easy, but being creative is memorable. 

Every course – yes, every course – was memorable. Is it horrible to say that one of my favorites was the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna paired with Twomey Cellars Pinot Noir? (Twomey being from the Silver Oak family tree) Obviously California in nature, yet balanced with a pretty earthiness and rounded fruit paired well with the eggplant caponata under the fish.

When the “star” (and I’m being obvious, because all the wines were great) of the evening arrived – the Alexander and Napa Cabs – the crowd began to buzz. Was this what they were waiting for? Was this the only reason they put up with Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot as mistresses before the master? If so, shame on you. But, with a swish of the bottle from the ever so elusive server, we got to compare the two Cabs. Wine and food pairing champion – the Alexander Valley. More acidity was present, the concentration of fruit played with a lingering finish, and a spice was present; important trigger to the short rib braising jus surrounding my sexy polenta. The Napa Cab was typical (not a jab, more of a “definition”) Napa Cab with a life span. You could wear this wine like a fur coat; warming, alluring, silky and pressing on the palate. Thank GOODNESS for the chocolate fudge cake and bravo for that decision. Even though it kept me up all night, it was worth it.

Am I a “sell out” for indulging in the crowd favorite – absolutely not. Bravo to Silver Oak for continuing status in the wine world. How much good juice, and new juice, is out there? Here is an example of a recipe for success, a passion to make something – year after year – that works. I applaud you Silver Oak, and will continue this lovely journey with you. And Ryan DePersio of Fascino – please be my best friend. Your culinary vision is now on my stalking list.

And what the hell, throw in Stags’ Leap Winery Cab as a ringer at the end of the night. It was cold, I was contemplating on becoming an Uber driver, all during the buzz of “save the world” conversations – just needed to continue…

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Forcing A Holiday Feeling – And Few Wine Suggestions

I have been drinking everything in sight lately.

Now hold on. I haven’t been drinking in excess, or carrying on like an idiot. I’ve just been indulging much more than I have in months. Well, one sip would be more than I’ve had in months being I had a little stand off with wine for awhile. I highly recommend a break, from so many things – but taking a break from something you study, admire, pontificate, crave, yearn for and have a true affection for is telling.  I don’t need a glass of wine to “take the edge off”, or finish the day, or for help in understanding my crappy attitude. I’m not going to judge if this is you, because, we all run our own lives. However, for me, new suggestions on how and what I drink started to emerge, and my approach in expressing my thoughts on flavors have changed. I’ve begun this study on where your thoughts on flavors are actually coming from.  Why did I have leftover Tres Leches for breakfast this morning instead of a protein shake (this actually happened), why do I seem to date guys that drink beer (known fact), and why do I seem to want a balanced chardonnay every day around 6pm? Where are these feelings coming from? I am starting to recognize they are not so much flavor choices, but rather notions of comfort, satisfaction, and yes love.

In saying all of that, I was thinking what my wine choice would be at Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you where I am coming from – I’m the invited guest. Don’t feel bad for me, I’m used to it. My family has other plans (and for good reasons-another blog), and I usually find myself as the orphan at your table. I also have the worst digestive system.  My 40’s have brought rough and tumble tummy issues that I’m still learning how to handle. That’s a lot of drama, I know.  But, what can cure the awkward non-family dinner/toasting to nothing you understand/eat till you puke wine event?  Check out these three choices:

  • The Grape: Grillo
  • Where is it from?: Sicily, Italy. Yes, you heard that correctly. And…it’s a white wine. Hold on…
  • Why, why and why?: This wine was a gift brought to my annual Friendsgiving Party. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE brings wine to my house – EVER.  So, imagine my surprise when not only did this wine appear, but it was actually good! It was the perfect white as a starter when first arriving somewhere where you are the “new guy” and feel a little out of place. Crisp, bright, with bountiful citrus flavors – very similar to your sauvignon blanc, but with a mineral backbone. We stood in my front room and quickly finished this bottle – giggling, exchanging kisses, realizing my house had become a safe zone and feeling like we belonged. Corny, but that is the memory – and I love it.
  • The grape(s); Tinta Roriz Alfocheiro, Touriga Nacional – yeah, there you go…
  • Where is it from?: The Dao area of Portugal. So many of my wine friends have been oohing and ahing over wines from the Dao, and I have been ignoring them. Not only am I beginning to expand my mind on this area, but am willing to open my wallet to the area – very affordable!
  • Why, why, and why?: Honestly, because it is easy. Medium body, plump, full of lush flavors of raspberries, plums, and any other round red fruit. Great “I’m in a conversation” wine – like a let’s chat about nothing while we sip wine. There is a sweetness that usually turns me off, but it is bearable in a way that is reassuring and soothing. Give hugs with this wine, be surface with your thoughts and filter what you say. You know, normal holiday conversation…
  • The Grape: Good Ole’ Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where is it from?: Good Ole’ Napa Valley California
  • Why, why, and why?: This is my wine dinner choice because I KNOW it will be not only good, but appreciated by everyone that drinks it. Is it a sell out to bring a bottle of Beringer? This is always the conversation that surrounds a brand like this. There will always be the comment; “Oh Susan – did you bring me a jug of White Zinfandel from Beringer as well?” If that was what you were thinking, then I feel bad for you. If you don’t want a glass because of that notion, I feel worse for you. Is it nice to have the greatest example of not only the grape choice, but the area it is grown in? Is it not a wise choice to drink a wine from one of the first wineries created in a country you live in? Think about it. Don’t screw with my Beringer Knights Valley Cab. This wine will over deliver on what you love about a Cab – deep rich black fruit that is just silky and sexy, spicy oak, integrated tannins, and something that lingers. Don’t drink it, I dare you.

However you celebrate within the next two months – do it. If that means scrambled eggs and a bunch of candles on your couch, or something overly boushy – you do you.  I’ve done both and enjoy both almost equally. The truth that has come to me is that whether I am alone, or in a room full of people, I will almost definitely have a hole deep in my being a bit. Don’t fill it with booze – just a suggestion. Fill it with phone call from someone you keep thinking of, fill it with a new pair of shoes, or a really good movie on Netflix. Or suck it up and accept that invitation to a dinner you feel you don’t belong at. Because, you do.

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…

 

Drink This: Provenance Vineyards

Quite often, at a wine tasting, a consumer will ask me what my favorite wine on the table is.  I never have a good answer for this mainly because I see wine differently than you do.  The bottle has been researched, studied, atheistically torn apart, put back together with a pretty marketing bow, and sold – in my head.  When I choose to DRINK something, it is all about the moment, the company, my mood.  When I am pouring at a three hour event, I’m not in the mood.

So…how to be polite with this question.  I answer honestly; I’ll tell you what is in my fridge.  What is waiting for me when I get home is the answer.  Are you like me; at the end of the day is when you truly become yourself? There is Work Susan, Gym Susan, Sister Susan, Aunt Susan, Let’s Go On A Date Susan, and then the real Susan.  Real Susan and I need to check in when the day is done; wash your face, put on the comfy clothes, “slay the demons” (that bit totally borrowed from my coach – thanks big guy, well put),  and pour yourself a little relaxation.

My go to lately is Provenance Sauvignon Blanc.  Not because it’s summer; I would drink this in the dead of winter.  Mainly because this wine is not that grassy, acidic, enamel wrenching Sauvignon Blanc my friends seem to love.  I need a little roundness.  I need some smooth lovely soul reaching real talk.  However, don’t get to deep with me.  It’s the end of the day in this picture I am painting, and we don’t need to fix the world’s problems.  (by the way, we all know wine doesn’t do that, right?).  For a winery known for reds, it’s amazing to me a white like this can stand out like it does.  There is some barrel fermentation (slight) on this wine; that is what is changing the game for me.  And don’t sit in judgement with your stainless steel animal of a wine that you swear by.  Remember; complexity, layers of flavors, journey of a wine.  That is what holds the mystery.

I took this  wine and the Cabernet Sauvignon to Sla Thai – my favorite Thai restaurant.  With this winery located in the heart of Napa Valley California (Rutherford to be exact), I thought the two expressions of this vineyard would make sense with the rustic quality of Thai food. The Rutherford Appellation is a pretty warm place; grapes can reach their full maturity while producing deep and and richly flavored wines.  That is what stood up to the complex flavors of our meal.  There is a LONG ripening period in this specific area of California = wines with great acidity, balance, interest and all out love.

Where can I find these wines; Just about anywhere.  They MAY not be stacked on the floor of a wine shop; take a trip to the shelf. You can do this, I promise.  Don’t be scared.  It’s time to stop that “grab and go” – take a tour.

What should I have in my purse; The Sauvignon Blanc will run you about $17-$20 and the Cab around $40 – $45.

The Sleeper; The Merlot from Provenance Vineyards is stellar.  Deep red fruit, dusted cocoa, followed by warm oak at the end.  Delish.

Holiday Wine Haul – Noble Vines 337

This is the time of year I get the most questions on what to buy, consume, serve your family (don’t spend money on these people when it comes to alcoholic consumption), and everything in between…

I thought I would break it down, get out of my OWN snobbish wine box, and taste new wines under 20$!  Yes, the luxury wine girl is stepping aside and looking into her own pockets; which are bare and depressing.  In reflection of my bank account, my partner in crime (you may see him in a few of my WGGW videos) and I picked up a few bottles that are popular enough to find in your favorite wine shop. (or grocery – who are we kidding)  These are wines that I have never tasted.  You are getting a snap shot of what I think, what my reactions are, what would be good to serve now, and what I may like or may not like.  So, onto the first victim.

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I’ve been seeing Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon all over the place.  It’s a play on words; noble grapes consist of the seven major grapes that are most recognizable in production of quality wine.  So, Noble Vines must be from exceptional vines and provide kick ass flavors, right?  Well, it does to some degree.  I really liked it. Maybe because of the fact it comes from Lodi California.  Lodi fruit is textural; you feel it and then taste it. That may not make sense, but do me a favor; close your eyes and take a sip. Don’t think WHAT you should be tasting, but rather WHAT is happening on a sensory level.  Feel this wine; I know – sexy, right?

Classic Cab in style; black cherry and a little roasted coffee on the flavor profile, deep and rich.  Everything you want in the grape and slightly more.  Does it linger and set my world on fire: nope.  Is it supposed to; maybe.  I only paid 10$ for this wine which blows my mind.  At 10$ I wasn’t expecting integration of fruit flavors, balance of body, and textural foreplay.  I was, quite frankly, expecting a dud.

I had pasta with this.  I don’t like pasta.  I never eat the stuff.  However, last night I was feeling a little, well, cranky.  You need hearty, but not to over the top hearty with this wine.  Remember, wine should be the pedestal for the food, not the other way around.  You don’t want to mask flavors. My mother always makes a spiral ham on Christmas Day which would pair up nicely; Cinnamon and nutmeg flavors love this kind of Cab.  Side dishes will thank you later.

Stay tuned for the rest of the haul!