'Tasted: American Bordeaux-style, red'

United Slurps of America: North Carolina

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week ten: It’s North Carolina.

Well, actually it’s week eleven. Last week We took a bye. This week’s edition of our Slurpin’ America had a couple of hiccups (namely that our original co-blogger, who will remain unnamed, went MIA), but We’re back into the project with our palates fresh and eager to taste the states.

Thank you, Twitter friends and Facebook fans (or “likes” as FB now refers to you–weird) for hooking Us up with our (new, improved, and non-flakey) North Carolina co-blogger, Joshua Sweeney of Wine(Explored). He’s a cool dude with a fun and informative blog to add to your wine-related reads. When We were scrambling to find a new friend he stepped up with enthusiasm. But really, who wouldn’t want to try McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks?

After hearing such positive (downright effusive) reviews of McRitichie’s wine and cider we cold-emailed them in hopes of getting some wine shipped to Us in California. Patricia McRitchie replied within a few days,”We did our due diligence and read excerpts from your blog.  We were highly entertained and would enjoy reading your thoughts on NC wines.” Awesome. Our big thanks to Patricia and her family for playing along with Us.

Check out McRitchie’s jealousy-inducing website to find out more about this family run business in the bucolic hills of Yadkin Valley. Not just grapevines. Chickens! Bees! Horses! Cute kids! And We knew We were going to especially enjoy this tasting when We saw this picture of the father/son wine-making team. Here are our collective reviews.

Dry Hard Cider, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $14)

She said: The bubbles are very fine, even scarce–looks like a Moscato d’Asti in the glass. Very pale green yellow in color. Very subtle on the nose as well–barely a hint of apples with some yeasty, bready scents. After months (well, years really) of paying very close attention to wine scents and flavors, the cider is a refreshing change, but I can’t help but compare it to wine: it reminds me of a Txakolina. Super dry and refreshing with very quiet and elegant apple notes (but completely dry–more like a Granny Smith than a Fuji). I imagine the cider would be excellent with food and also an aperitif. Makes me want to be outside and cook on the grill. Love it.

He said: In Her notebook she wrote, “He is going to love this.” She’s right. The cider is a shiny gold-green (reminder: I’m colorblind, could always be wrong on this) with tiny little bubbles. Yeast and bread initially on the nose giving way to green apple…a green apple Jolly Rancher™. In the mouth it is very dry with more sour apple. It tastes like an apple Jolly Rancher™ too. I love it. So, good. I want a case(s) of this. It would be such a great thing to take to daytime summer parties. I will seek this out again.

Wine(Explored) said: It’s much, much lighter than most hard ciders I’ve seen. I cheered inwardly a bit when I noticed the carbonation in the glass. It’s very fine, frizzante, not aggressive like the more common hard ciders. It has a musty, Champagne-like nose with a very subdued apple scent. I honestly don’t know what to expect just from the smell. The flavor is very subtle, and, as the name states, very dry. The apple flavor is pure, but not sweet, like apple juice. If it weren’t for the warming sensation in my throat and stomach, I wouldn’t even be sure there was alcohol here. It barely comes through on the finish, but there’s just enough there to give it a bite. Its got a great balance. 7/10

Fallingwater, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2009 (sample, $16)

She said: Very pale yellow. The nose has a funky chemical smell mixed in with honeysuckle, tangerine, and other tropical notes. There is a citrus peel bitterness on the finish and a strong acidity, yet the wine is also very full and rich, almost overly luxurious in the mid-palate. Seems out of balance. Not for me, but very interesting to taste and ponder.

He said: Slightly cloudy and pale yellow-gold in the glass. The nose is weird; citrus, tropical and scents that I can’t really describe. I actually wrote “indescribable” in my notebook. Strong acidity with very light fruit. There is something woody about it to me, or like carbonated water. I don’t really like it. 

Wine(Explored) said: The Fallingwater has a very light yellow color, with just a tinge of green, and it has a lower viscosity than I would have expected. The nose consists of overly ripe tropical notes, apricot and a sweetness like honey, and a bit of vinyl. Rather dry, with a detectable alcohol flavor and a hot scent. Flavor of apricot preserves, pineapple, and there is that slight vinyl flavor. It’s got a very luxurious, tropical medley on the finish that’s hard to pin down but still very enjoyable.  Has a very strong acidity that becomes prominent on the finish. Balance isn’t quite there for me. 6/10

Ring of Fire, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: Very deep purpley ruby color. Oak on the nose, but also chocolate, coffee, dark berries. The wine is lush on the palate–almost syrupy. Medium tannin and alcohol is in balance with the fruit–the structure is strong but doesn’t overwhelm the flavors. Rich and creamy finish, like chocolate milk. With a fresh blueberry garnish. Very enjoyable and easy drinking wine. Tried it again later with a turkey meatball sandwich (from Locali–love that place) and it paired wonderfully.

He said: Actually drinking it as I type this post. I had it last night and my notes are fairly negative, but I am enjoying it right now. Light nose with coffee and dark fruit. Maybe a little licorice too. Nice weight and very rich in the mouth, but maybe a little too much oak for me. Some heat in mid-palate and finish. Not great, but a nice, drinkable wine.

Wine(Explored) said: Color’s a very deep, almost opaque reddish purple. Rich scent of redcurrant and coffee. It has a very smooth, very full texture, evidence of a very good amount of time in oak. Flavor is a very rich mocha with a bit of cherry. Tannins are chalky, not quite chewy, and the sensation lingers on the finish. Good balance on the alcohol here; it contributes to the structure without coming forward. Though simple, this one is my favorite of their wines. 7/10

Merlot, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: A very dark/opaque garnet with a translucent purple rim. There is obvious oak on the nose, but more than anything else: chocolate. Pleasant, soft and chalky tannin and more coca on the palate. Also sense dried herbs (lavender?), coffee, and stewed tart cherries. The wine finishes a bit harshly with high acid and an almost burnt, bitter flavor (in this way it is similar to the white we tasted). Another interesting wine to taste; it challenged my palate.

He said: Deep Purple. Chocolate, anise, and more chocolate on the nose. I wrote “Really nice smelling wine” in my notebook. A little light in the mouth but very tasty. Coffee, chocolate, a little bit of heat and licorice in the finish. The flavors are great in this wine, but the composition seems a little “funny”. Good not great.

Wine(Explored) said: Before I even get to the color, I can smell the chocolate. My exact words: “mmmm, chocolatey.” Anyway, the color is a wonderful, deep, rich red with a very, very light purple tint that becomes noticeable on the swirl.  In addition to the chocolate on the nose, there’s a jammy cherry scent. I also, and I think I’m a bit crazy, get a hint of both burlap and maple syrup. Was this aged in French oak? I can definitely detect the oak influence in the flavor, contributing a powdery vanilla-sugar flavor. I also get a tart cherry and coffee and a bit of chocolate on the finish, which is long and clean. There’s also a certain sort of baking spice flavor like cloves or cinnamon. Mouthfeel is a bit stringy and the alcohol/acidity balance is a bit harsh, but the overall experience is a clean, medium-bodied, classic Merlot flavor. 6/10

10 down, 40 to go…

Summary:

We said: This was a real treat and We give a big, glass clinking “Cheers!” to the McRitichie family and Wine(Explored) for expanding and tantalizing our national palate. Also, love, love, love the little diagrams on the back labels.

Yesterday afternoon We stepped out onto Her usually lovely porch to enjoy our last few sips of McRitichie’s delicious cider and were greeted with this not-so-lovely view:

A big hole, an even bigger tractor, and a construction worker’s butt. And the noise. Suddenly big-city life felt a lot less glamorous. We took our glasses back inside, turned up the music, and daydreamed about being elsewhere…the lush, quiet splendor of North Carolina, sipping McRitchie cider.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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Wines of Note: wowsa Washington

Unlike other states We’ve encountered (We’re talking about you: Florida and South Dakota), when We were searching for wine for the United Slurps of America: Washington edition there was no shortage of appealing bottles to be found locally here in Hollywood. So much so, that She bought five different wines even though We had arranged with DrinkNectar.com to taste only two. Impulse buys.

While at the time the big purchase seemed excessive (although there was never a doubt the wine would go to waste, duh) We’re both happy to have had the extra bottles to taste, especially in light of our only so-so reviews for USA: WA.

We knew the state could shine and these two examples did just that. Right on, Washington.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Fidélita 2006 ($21.99)

She said: Deep, nearly opaque garnet. Licorice, baker’s cocoa, sandalwood, and deep berry fruit in the nose. Luscious, velvety mouthfeel. Flavors of dark cherry, licorice, cocoa, hint of tar and black olive. Very ripe, but maintains its balance by remaining both bright and earthy. Truly delicious and elegant. I love it–very sexy stuff. And for $21.99 it feels like a bargain–watch out premier Napa cabs.

He said: Opaque and Kevin Garnet. Licorice, dark fruit and something minty in the nose. So creamy and good in the mouth. Dark cherry and licorice. Really, really like it and will buy more of this.

Subplot No.23, Columbia Valley, Bookwalter Winery NV ($13.99)

She said: Deep garnet with a translucent edge. On the nose: red currants, some brambly earthiness. Also reminds me of a warm Dr. Pepper– a kind of cola/spice blend of sweetness. The wine has really nice acidity, making it fresh and bright. Dried flowers (not rose, but maybe violet and lavender) candied cherries, unripe plums–the flavors are fruity and lively. On the finish there is lingering cocoa powder, giving it great texture and flavor. Very enjoyable, not overly serious. With it’s nice acidity imagine it as a great food wine–from pizza to bbq. Another nice deal too.

He said: This one is more Paul Pierce than Garnet. Dirty, in a good way, on the nose, with some spice. I was thinking “cola” and just read that She said “Dr. Pepper” and I couldn’t agree more. Flavors of plum and prune. A nice acidic finish. I really like this one too, and for $13.99 it’s a steal.

We said: As an aside: Great packaging. Both bottles are one of the few that We don’t immediately want to re-design. (We’re designers, our eyes can’t help themselves.) Coincidentally they have similar color palettes and feature a circle on the front label–maybe We were in sunny mood that day.

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Silverlake Wine Blue Monday

On Monday night we met our pal Corina Weibel, chef of Canelé in Atwater Village, for Silverlake Wine‘s Blue Monday tasting. (When your favorite chef has the night off and invites you to join her at a wine tasting, well, of course you say yes.)

Silverlake Wine is our neighborhood wine shop so we’re frequent patrons, but it had been quiet a while since we participated in a tasting. In fact, the last time had been at the invitation of Valerie and Stanley of Valerie Confections (geez, we have some talented friends). SLW put together a terrific lineup to compliment VC’s sweets on a Sunday. It was a fun and tasty afternoon with some antics thrown in. Between sips we got a few of the tasters (including Val and Stan) to play a little game: Just an Eyeful. (Read what it’s all about and see the whole series of pictures here.)

Unlike the vendor specific food pairings on Sunday afternoons, on Monday nights SLW offers three wines, a selection of farmhouse cheeses, olives, and La Brea Bakery bread in an atmosphere SLW’s website describes as “blatant low-key relaxation.” The shop’s  Tweets and Facebook updates about this particular Monday night’s line-up, however, were anything but mellow:

Really, a $20 bottle of wine. Although this may not sound too expensive, Blue Monday’s tastings cost only $12 for three generous pours of three different wines and lots of delicious snacks, so having a $20 bottle poured makes for a great deal.

We were also super intrigued about the “perfectly perfect” label art of their new proprietary wine. Could it be by the “Awesome Bears” artist Phil Lumbang? The happy bears have popped up all over the Silverlake, waving hello, smiling, giving a wink. They feel like as much a part of the neighborhood as SLW is. The wine shop is a huge fan of the bears…so much so they got Lumbang to paint their bathrooms. What could be more “perfectly perfect?”

Living up to the hype, when we arrived at 7 p.m. the place was packed and lively, full of happy people nibbling on cheese and lucques olives and sipping wine. We made our way through the crowd to the bar for the first pour. It was a delightful, perfumey Torrontes with a hint of sweetness in the finish that complimented the rich blue on the cheese board. Corina joined us and quickly caught up. We all agreed the wine was a bargain for just $10. Next up was a quenchable Tempranillo, also reasonably priced at $15.75. So what was this $20 bottle going to be?

Well, it turns out there was no $20 wine (it really was just hype), but the third wine was a treat: Para Silverlake Red from Monterey Country, featuring on the label…an Awesome Bear. The jubilant wine pourer explained it was a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet and Merlot. It was a soft, friendly wine (just like those lovable bears). As we finished our last sips of Para Silverlake, the shop continued to buzz. We all remarked on how great it was to have SLW in the neighborhood and to see so many happy faces at the tasting. It was a truly delightful way to spend a Monday evening. On the way out grabbed a bottle of the bears and Tempranillo, thirsty for more. We headed up the hill to Corina’s to continue our tasting ways, vowing to be more serious and take some notes this time.

First up was a bottle of L. Preston Red which Canelé has just started to pour it by the glass. Corina explained she had been looking for a replacement for the popular Donkey and a Goat Rhône style red they had been pouring. “I wanted a Rhône style wine, but not something that was 100% syrah or French…I like the jamminess that the California wines offer.” She recommends it with the lamb with roasted eggplant, capers, olives, and garlic they serve at dinner. Sounded good to us.

There was really just enough for a serious sip left in the L. Preston, which had been opened the night before, so Corina decided to pop open a bottle a friend had left at her house. We did not protest. The Murtas, San Michelea Torri was an older vintage: 2001. The generous friend who left the bottle was on a “peak frequency” diet, which has something to do with old wine and enzymes. Our bewilderment was erased by the delicious wine.

Not quiet ready to call it quits, and because we did want some notes about at least one of the wines we tasted at SLW, we popped open the Tempranillo, Ardales we had picked up on the way out.

In between discussions about Awesome Bears (She had seen one during our trip to New York), movies (“the story was insulting…they should have been more responsible…”), and music (“Maps is a way better song than Sweet Child O’ Mine, but Modern Romance is still the best…”) we jotted down some notes.

L. Preston, 2007 (Healdsburg)

She said: The nose is raspberries, candy, and some earthiness. For being open a day it still has a lot of heat. Flavors of cola, pepper, and mixed berry jam. It has a really lovely mouthfeel; not too rich but intense with refined tannin and a kind of freshness. Does that make sense? It is both richly flavored and austere. Completely agree with Corina that it would go great with lamb.

He said: First things first, love this label design. Cherry and raspberries on the nose and very earthy. Taste is strongest in the finish. Medium bodied, I agree it has a great “mouthfeel” but that term still gives me weird brainfeel. Front of tongue feels it right away and it’s dirty with some spice. Some heat in the finish. A little tart, but I really like it.

Murtas, San Michelea Torri, 2001 (Tuscany)

She said: Very little fruit on the nose, rather it is minerals, salt, and a bit of earth. Drinks like a large, refined Chianti. Lots of bright cherry fruit, high tannin, and very dry finish. Very elegant and quenching. Could stand up to all kinds of food, including strong flavors like bbq–are those foods allowed in the “peak frequency” diet? Whatevs…it’s delicious.

He said: My notes are bad, wait, I mean they don’t exist. I was busy making my point that Maps is to the 2000′s what Sweet Child O’ Mine was to the 1980′s. And then Corina told me that Karen O is a regular at Canelé and I was like “whoa.” Because as I have said before, if She were to die in a tragic wigwam accident, I would want Karen O to be my girlfriend. Back to the wine, I wrote “some heat.”

Tempranillo, Ardales, 2007 (Spain, $15.75)

She said: Soft tannin, cherries, youthful acidity…similar flavors to the Murtas we tasted earlier, but not quiet as refined. Enjoy Tempranillo and this is an example, truly lovely and at fifteen bucks, a bargain. I’m buying more. (the price on the bottle includes the tax…this is how SLW does their pricing).

He said: I got nothing. Was I even there anymore?

We decided to save the Para Silverlake for another time…enough bottles had been popped for the night. Before we left Corina’s house we vowed to come to Canelé soon for dinner. Must try the L.Preston with the lamb.


(The Awesome Bear spied near Cooper Union in New York last week.)

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