Tag Archives: Wine

New Worldly Red Wines to Taste this Spring

3 RedsI was surprised with a phone call from The Wine Feed off Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, NC on Friday, February 14th. Wine had been selected for me and was available for pick-up. I was grinning into the phone, filled with the same jubilation as a child who has just found out school is cancelled tomorrow, and it’s the Friday, of a three day weekend… Get my drift?

Come to find out – it was three wines. (Kid – school cancelled – giant chocolate cake)

Lyric by Etude – Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, CA 2012
Lyric was enjoyable without food. I opened it simply to taste before going out for a meal and loved how lively the wine tasted. Young as it is, Lyric’s fruitful aroma certainly was not lost. Notes of spice and toasted nuts were a nice addition to the soft tannins. Certainly this wine could be paired well with food, though I used it as my “getting ready” aperitif.

Ripasso by Corte Majoli – Valpolicella, Verona, Italy 2010
Valpolicella is fantastic. I’ve always liked it, even if it isn’t as well know as Montelpulciano or Chianti. Valpolicella is known for strong cherry notes on the palate and this one from Corte Majoli did not let me down. I love how fruit forward Italian wines can be. This wine was fairly low in tannins, so would be a great choice for anyone who hasn’t come around to the big, bold reds. (Corvina is the variety of grape for Valpolicella)

Domaine de Fenouillet – Ventoux, Rhone, France 2012
Ventoux is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. The Ventoux appellation is in the Rhone, France. This red blend was bigger than the other two.  The dark fruits and herbal flavors stand up well to luscious, well-prepared meats with herb marinades. This 2012 could stand to stay in the bottle a few years longer, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it even at just two years old.

Hope you had a wonderful February! Keep the red wines coming, it’s not spring yet. And perhaps try some of these appellations/regions/grapes that you haven’t heard of – they will surprise you.


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Frei Brothers and Lionel Vatinet

Hors d'OeuvresTuesday night last week, my dad and I went to La Farm Bakery for the new book promotion and signing for Lionel Vatinet, the master baker at La Farm in Cary. Lionel (Lee-uhn-nell) is a fabulous baker and now has given us all his secrets from the bakery and restaurant! On Friday, I had a housewarming party that I wanted to attend with hors d’oeuvres and chose a recipe from Lionel’s new book, “A Passion for Bread.” I found the perfect treat, the Asparagus Tartin. From all the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I decided not to do a Sunday night dinner, but will reflect on the process and taste of this tartin and the wine I had at the party.

The asparagus tartin started with asiago – parmesan bread; with giant chunks of parmesan sticking in and through the bread I knew it was a good start. The bread was then to be spread with softened, sautéed shallots full of garlicky-oniony flavour. (Those are scientific descriptions by the way!) Atop the shallots, torn fresh mozzarella was laid with dollops of olive tapenade bursting with saltiness to help boost the mozzarella. Then the recipe called for two small stalks of blanched asparagus bound to the tartin with wonderful 15 month aged Comté cheese (a French version of Swiss Gruyere, hard by light and nutty). These ingredients were broiled until the cheese was bubbling and the bread was crispy on the edges. BUT WAIT… we were not done… oh no. On top of this I was to add dollops of goat cheese, torn prosciutto, a quartered marinated artichoke, a roasted tomato and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Ok now I’m done. It was a work of art and really. dang. good.

I brought a bottle of Prosecco with me as I could think of nothing else to accompany all of the flavours and ingredients as well. Though I never got to taste my creation with the Prosecco, I knew it would have been fabulous. Instead, I was served Frei Brothers Zinfandel 2010; not a bad substitute I must admit. I’d only ever had the Chardonnay and knew Frei Brothers made reputable wine. The Zinfandel was just as lovely with deep notes of dark fruited jam and spice. The tannin dried the mouth just enough and all the food around was a nice escape. This wine is a great fall/winter wine; it’s warm and inviting and loved by many preferences of red drinkers. In short, great for a party.

So even though there was no Sunday night dinner, I know I enjoyed making something new. I hope you’ll find yourself diving into a new recipe too. Just to try it! Why not… you never know what kind of magic you’ll make.

Bring on the holidays!

(Clicking on the underlined link leads to the website and more information)

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Grove Winery and Vineyards – Red, White and Blues Festival

Grove Winery FestivalIf you know anything about North Carolina you know it’s riddled with the smallest towns you’ve ever driven through, making you buckle your seatbelt, roll up the windows and re-lock the doors (just to be sure). Before GPS, you’d have asked yourself if your final destination was worth it and “maybe we should turn back?” After GPS, you’re still wondering if your iPhone isn’t just playing a joke (certainly this road isn’t a highway?). However, if we had turned back we would have missed a little gem situated amongst cow pastures and corn fields; Grove Winery and Vineyards – Gibsonville, NC.

Though I didn’t know it until now, I’m a sucker for those real North Carolinian events; the ones that make me proud to live here, maybe even to be called ‘Southern’ *gasp*. Wondering what constitutes a “real” North Carolinian event?

  • Beards (there were many, see photo above)
  • BBQ (a smoker full of ribs and chicken, collards and hushpuppies on the side)
  • Music (any instrument with strings)
  • Tasty Beverages (Wine, beer, shine? not here)
  • Outdoor Venues

The Red, White and Blues Festival at Grove Winery though an hour and a half’s drive from Raleigh opened before us with grape vines, seating area, tasting room and the best weather we could ask for. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, Grove Winery is actually the winery I volunteered for during the Great Grapes festival in Cary 3 years ago. Grove Winery has great wine and they have won loads of awards for them! We sat down to listen to Blues music from some terrific artists, drink a couple bottles and eat some local snacks. Some folks brought their own food items, including cheeses, fruit and a whole
lasagna… Yea, that happened.

We tried Roanoke River Red and Haw River White. The Roanoke River Red is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Grove Winery WinesSauvignon, Nebbiolo and Merlot – tannin-y dark fruits with a hint of spice on the palate, nice with cheese to soften. The Haw River White was 100% Chardonel – an interesting varietal tasting more like Viognier than what you may think would have been Chardonnay. Full and heavy mouthfeel, with a medium-high sugar content. It was a nice aperitif to begin with because it was chilled and easy to drink on its own.

We finished the evening with Traminette (Riesling-esque) flavoured sorbet. Dumping the last of the red in our glasses on top of the sorbet was like icing on the cake! What a brilliant evening with my parents and sister. Chalk up another point for North Carolina wine/wineries!

Traminette SorbetTraminette Sorbet

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Boordy Vineyards – Maryland

boordy grapesThere were a few things that made my trip to DC/Maryland special. For one, I was able to bike to and through the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was a beautiful hot August day and there’s nothing that makes you feel young again like the wind in your air as you race along the gravel road. Although I didn’t think it possible, the weekend got even better as my family strode through Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. The scenery is breathtaking and if you’re daring enough to do rock-climbing over rushing water, they have that too.

Anyway, let’s get to the point, Boordy Vineyards near Towson, Maryland.

Boordy Vineyards sits tucked in the center of rolling hills filled with vines and vines of grapes. They have another area in Maryland they call the “South Mountain” where there keep even more vines and grow Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot as a few examples. The main house is a giant barn serving as a type of venue; they have an underground store with another event area in the back (you feel like you’re in the cellars). Also, an element I am very fond of, they had a seperate tasting area. This structure had many employees inside where they were able to open at least 5 windows for group tastings. We didn’t have to wait at all to get going on our tasting and some places with just a bar fill up pretty quickly.

You can choose between two series of wine: The Standard Tasting and the Landmark Tasting.  The woman told us that the Boordy WinesStandard Tasting is for those who like sweeter wine as the tasting includes many of their fruit wines, blushes, semi-sweets, Rieslings and sweet reds. This tasting is $5. The Landmark tasting was more our style, not that I don’t like sweet wine, I do, but the call of the Cabernet Franc Reserve and something called the Landmark Reserve were too much for me. We paid the $10 a piece for 10 1-ounce pours of each in the Landmark Series.

Something fun to mention, I fell in love with the art on the bottles. You can see from the picture, the Landmark Series has their rustic picteresque label showing Boordy vineyards (we are told it was taken with a disposable camera!). The Icons of Maryland Series is probably my favourite showing sketches of Maryland’s wild life beside an artsy typeface.  And if art is your thing, beware the colors and images of the Just for Fun Series – Jazz Berry makes me feel like a trip to New Orleans.

Landmark Series - Boordy Wines

Landmark Series

Icons of Maryland Series - Boordy Wines

Icons of Maryland Series









Oh yea! The wine!

Pinot Grigio – Dry with a round aftertaste. Flavours of citrus splash out of the glass.

Chardonnay – Steel tank and oak mix. Hint of melon pulls out the crispness nicely.

Chardonnay Reserve 2011 – Fermented in new oak barrels resulting in a semi-sweet toasty taste on the tongue. Balanced, dry and one of the best Chardonnay’s I’ve had in a while.

Dry Rose – Only made from free-run juices, made from a mix of red grapes harvested from the South Mountain, delicate and light.

South Mountain Red – Easy drinking red for an afternoon or afterwork drink without food. Fresh cherry on the palate, a little astringent on the nose.

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 – A perfect Cab Franc. Less smokiness than others, yet good white pepperiness, the taste of black pepper can be strong. It’s cedar flavours and  long finish is rich. Certainly one of the favourites still.

Landmark Reserve 2010 – Boasting $40 a bottle, we hoped this had a lot to offer. It did. 69% Merlot, 19% Syrah 6% Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Petit Verdot. Close to a Bordeaux, but softer. Still full bodied with its oak aging. More dark fruits than the South Mountain Red.

Eisling – Almost a Riesling, but not. Not overly sweet, still contains the nice fruit flavours of a Riesling. Honeysuckle breaks through at the finish.

Veritas Vintage Port 2008 – The Port is 18% alcohol and 16% residual sugar. It was light and nice to drink without a dessert companion. Aged in barrels for 2 years.

Well, that’s all for Boordy! The drive up is beautiful, the vineyards have so much to offer and I hear they do parties in the summer each Friday or so. Try and make it up there, we don’t think vineyards in places other than California have anything to offer, but the east coast is full of them if you just know where to look.

Boordy VineyardsWine Tasting - Boordy Vineyards

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Great Grapes Wine Festival (Abridged)

ImageAll right, all right… I know. It’s been forever. Good wine takes time – and that’s all I have to say about my lack of focus and contribution to my own blog. I am, however, back in the United States and still looking for the next break-through in wine, beer, spirits and food. It’s nice being back just for the selection and craft breweries here in North Carolina alone. That’s a different post though. This one is strictly about the wine festival about a month ago. A month! What? My assistant didn’t tell me this at all! Who’s in charge here? Oh.

Moving on. Two years ago when I attended the Great Grapes festival – it tornadoed. Or tried to. People ran to their cars! It was a false alarm and my sister and I reaped the benefits of an empty, slightly rainy wine festival area. We calmly walked up to the booths and were able to talk to the owners, winemakers, visitors, volunteers. This year I had to work at 4pm, I got there at 2 and we basically ran around trying what we could. This is serious stuff people. The Needle’s don’t mess around when it comes to trying new wine. So instead of going through the wine I tasted with notes and comments, I’m going to just make a list of the wineries I was able to visit with the name of the wines I like the best. Here goes…

Oh wait… some quick things to know before we proceed. Chambourcin: A grape hybrid, like new hybrid cars with a little more zip. Flavours of Cab Franc, Merlot etc. Traminette: Viognier-like, another grape hybrid, a cross between Gewurtztraminer and grape 4344566 or something like that. It’s good, just know that.

Old Stone Winery (Salisbury, NC) – What She Said Red (Blend), 2010 Cab Franc, 2009 Chambourcin

Southern Charm Winery (Lincolnton, NC) – Edisto Black

Skull Camp (Mount Airy, NC) – Anticipation, Euphoria, Confusion, Flirtation, Dedication

Shadow Springs Vineyard (Hamptonville, NC) – Meritage, Cherry Smash, Apple Mead, Ratafia, Dark Shadow

Owl’s Eye Vineyard and Winery (Shelby, NC) – Traminette, Celebration, Chambourcin

Stonefield Cellars (Stokesdale, NC) – Synchronicity, Dread Pirate Robert’s Bloody Red Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Midnight Moonlight

Rocky River Vineyards (Midland, NC) – Scarlet

Old North State Winery (Mount Airy, NC) – Bare Bones, 2010 Fish Hippie Merlot, Restless Soul

Chatham Hill Winery (Cary, NC) – 2009 Cabernet Sauv, All of their fruit infused wines, Cab Franc, 2011 Riesling

Treehouse Vineyards (Monroe, NC) – “Her Way” Cabernet Sauv.

Slightly Askew WInery (Elkin, NC) – Slut Dog Sin, Numb Knutz, Spiker Dude, Nasty Bastard

Stony Mountain Vineyards (Albermarle, NC) – Sangiovese/Syrah

Grove Winery (Greensboro, NC) – Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Nebbiolo

Herrera Vineyards (Dobson, NC)Tannat, Malbec Rose, Sangria

Hope you can make it next year to see what else North Carolina based wineries have to offer!! A little something more than muscadine!




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A Valley to Fall in Love With


Torbreck Vineyards

The Barossa Valley in South Australia near Adelaide. What’s different about this valley? Simply that Torbreck vineyards can be found nestled, safely located in the Barossa Valley. This vineyard is something to talk about, I’ve had a few different selections and the name has always stood out, but it was only after drinking Cuvee Juveniles that I knew I’d never forget about Torbreck.

Down to it’s differently distinct label, this wine is pretty unique, especially when it comes to taste. You can read up on Torbreck Vineyards as well as Cuvee Juveniles, by clicking on the two names. The abridged story goes like this, Tim Johnston opened a wine bar in Paris called Juveniles. Tim asked David to make a wine especially for the wine bar and David Powell (winemaker of Torbreck wines) did. David also ask Tim’s daughter, Carolyn, to design the label as her other paintings hung on the walls of the wine bar.  Simple, yet captivating.

The link to Cuvee Juveniles gives tasting notes, the break down of the grapes and all the stats. I can only agree that the wine was velvety and full, with a touch of sweet flavour from an overly ripe piece of fruit. Rounded like a nice mulled wine, Cuvee Juveniles had added spice and texture.  Enjoy with game and hard cheeses.

So if you’re bored of the same old Rioja and you’re looking for a new wine or a new region to be excited over, I highly suggest Torbreck Vineyards in the Barossa Valley.


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Wine Tasting Tweetup

Say that three times fast! Well, it’s almost been a week and I’ve finally collated all the information that Simon Tyrrell provided. I’ll leave out a lot of the bits about what the vineyards look like so that you can view them for yourselves!

I suppose I should start from the beginning. At the end of July a good friend of mine, @nmcgivney gave me the idea of doing a tweetup including wine. A tweetup is when twitter users get together to socialise and chat. Seems ironic, but honestly it’s great to actually meet the people you’re exchanging tweets with! Either way, I contacted Emma Tyrrell from @the_WineStore (specialising in Rhone Valley wines)  to see if she would be interested in hosting such an evening. In just a few weeks with the help of @ElyWineBars and @IBrosnan (Ian Brosnan is the Wine manager at Ely) we were upon a very special evening. This was the first evening of its kind and I think we were all kind of wondering what was going to happen!

The deal: Wine tasting with 5 wines and a few bits of bread. A wonderfully in-depth talk from Emma’s other half, Simon and a main course with 2 glasses of wine for just 30 euro.

The wine:
Ventoux ‘Persia 2010, Domain de Fondreche
A wine from the Southern Rhone region, vines in limestone and clay, this wine had medium body and was medium-high in alcohol. Flavours from this wine were honey, stone and salty. The wine smelled as it tasted and though salty seems like a strange smell, it did come through on the palate. Only 10% Viognier, the wine was crisp and delicious.

Viognier de Rosine 2010, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis
Viognier is one of my favourite varieties of wine. It always has so much to offer and is loved by so many. This winery begun in the West Rhone region. Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes means ‘Country Wine from the Rhone Hills.’ The wine has low acidity and medium body with flavours of apricot and fruit. Interestingly enough the wine-makers keep 1/3 of the wine in a tank and 2/3 in barrels. When brought back together, the wine’s characteristics shine through.   We were also able to try the 2007 vintage as well and found it to be too oxidized, lighter and the alcohol stuck out a little too much. White wine doesn’t age too well and we found that was the case here.

Syrah ‘L’Ame Soeur’ 2007, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis
‘L’Ame Soeur’ or ‘Kindred Spirit’ was probably my favorite. Aged 18 months, this wine from the Southwest side strictly slate and rock, was almost like a Cabernet Franc. The tastes on the palate were black pepper and black currant. There was smoke and less fruit on the nose. The skin of the grape holds the tannin and here the skins were macerated more to release more tannin. This Syrah was so drinkable I wish I had it all to myself!

Chateauneuf du Pape 2008, Clos des Papes
We all recognise this name, but do we all know the background? Simon told us that when the French pope came to be, he decided he wanted to move the Vatican to a new site in France. Now Chateauneuf is the 3rd largest produced wine in France, but you should really know the producer or you could end up with a bad wine. Chateauneuf uses 13 varietals of which 5 are white. Not all varietals need to be used in making of the wine, but there does have to be a minimum amount of Grenache used.  This wine had lower tannin, lower acidity and was higher in alcohol. The nose smelled of bright fruit and Indian spice (that came from Simon and he hit that smell right on the nose.. ba da chi!) The palate was raisin, dark fruit, black cherry and plum and incidentally enough… Indian spice. Aged in oak casks for 18-24 months, the wine was very nice and round. These wines can be expensive so know what you buying!

Wine with dinner:
Vacqueyras ‘Un Sang Blanc’ 2006, Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
Flavours: Peach, vanilla and honey. The wine was light and refreshing and went very well with my main course of chicken thigh with potatoes and green beans in a creamy olive sauce. Lots of flavour and acidity from the wine went together nicely.

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Equisse’ 2010, Domaine des Hauts Chassis
Flavours: Dark fruit, vanilla, pepper, soil, smoke. The wine was bright and full of dark fruit with low acidity and low alcohol. Very easy to drink 🙂

Too give you an idea of the locations…
South in Green from what we tasted: Vacqueyras, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Ventoux
North in orange/red: Crozes-Hermitage, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes

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