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I’ve moved my wine reviewing to my new blog, http://kimandtonic.com/, where you can read all the wine, beer and cocktail reviews I can write. Please come visit me over there!


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Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling

We’ll consider this post as a two-fer on recommendations/requests – the Chateau Ste Michelle rec from Steph (do you have any favorite reds from them I should check out?), and the Riesling request from Dr. B (who might be happy to know that there are a few more Riesling reviews coming soon).

Also good to note is that I think I’m beginning a major love affair with Riesling. I hadn’t had too too many before I started this whole project under the mistaken impression that they were superduper sweet. Turns out that this isn’t the case. We’ll leave superduper sweet to the world of Muscato. Riesling has this lovely brightness to it that Muscato seems not to – Muscato seems to go more the way of near-dessert/ice wine sweetness.

Wine: Chateau Saint Michelle Riesling
Vintage: 2009
Region: Columbia Valley, WA
Grapes involved: Riesling
Color: fairly clear with light golden hints
Cost: $11.99
Food pairings: Seriously, I could see all kinds of things working here – Riesling seems like a really good wine for pairing. Specifically, I’d hit Thai, Indian, or some other spicy Asian food in a heartbeat, or any variety of soft cheese/bread/fruit, some kind of fruit dessert, chocolate, Nutella, anything you could dream of with chicken or tofu or whatever.

Sorry for the tinytiny pic, everyone! The label is pretty standard – name of the winery, name of the wine, pic of the estate. Functional.

Onwards to the wine itself then, shall we?

The nose on this is amazing – one of those “must have perfume of this” wines. My notes include pear, lemon, a possible hint of peach (which I then crossed out and changed to nectarine), orange blossom and a touch of sugarcane (not sweet so much as, well, it said sugarcane at me – like unprocessed form).

Flavor-wise, it’s pear, nectarine, melon, a touch of honey, some acidic, citrus-y brightness and peach. It has wonderfully bright acidity with a medium (I’m guessing) body and a shorter finish.

Notes from the label: The label mentions ripe peach, juicy pear, and racy acidity in the tasting notes. It also mentions that they use a long, cool fermentation to preserve the fruitiness and crispness of the wine.

Would I order again? Definitely yes, especially if Frisk Riesling isn’t available. Good stuff. I’m dying to pair it with some kind of Thai curry.
For that matter, this would be a good wine to enjoy even without food.

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2008 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir

You know what sounds good right now? Chocolate chip cookies.

Wine: A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2008
Region: Oregon. Apparently all over Oregon, from what Wine Spectator said in a write up
Grapes involved: Pinot Noir
Color: clear deep ruby red with a very slight purple undertone
Cost: $17.99-$19.99 or so
Notes from the label: I forgot to write them down before getting rid of the bottle. I’ll check at work – if there’s anything major, I’ll edit this post to reflect.
Food pairings: Chocolate would be super awesome. Or pasta in a meat sauce – like a bolognese or a pork/rosemary sauce (there’s a recipe for one in one of Lidia’s cookbooks that is pretty much tear-inducing good). I think a whole bunch of things would be good as long as they didn’t go super-duper spicy (that’s what we have Rieslings for, yes?)
Also good to know: this wine got 90 points from Wine Spectator.

My notes: I had fun with this one because there were a millionbillion things going on that were all clamoring for attention – it was overwhelming at first. Once I got settled and let it wash over me a bit, here’s what I came up with.

The nose is largely red and purple berries, pink pepper and a touch of leather.* Flavor-wise, my notes are all over the place. I finally settled on berry, cherry, a hint of pepper, a little bit of leather, and a hint of orris no paperwhite no star jasmine.** So, earthy-spicy basenotes with central fruity notes of berry and cheery and a faint topnote of star jasmine.

This wine would make a kickass perfume.

This was a medium-bodied (maybe? still sorting through that) wine with a fairly light tannin level – the tannins were there and contributing to the earthy feel, but weren’t by any means going crazy. The finish was pleasant in that sort of way wherein “pleasant” is pretty much the perfect word to describe it. It wasn’t overpoweringly strong, nor did it last forever, but it was quite enjoyable while it visited. The tannins came across more strongly in the finish than they did in the initial sip, something that surprised me and may have been one of my favorite things about this wine.

Would I buy again? Oh, hell yes. Come to mama.

Other thoughts: I’ve been on a pretty big Zinfandel (please note: NOT WHITE ZIN – the red stuff) kick lately, so I kept mentally comparing the Pinot Noir to the Zins I’ve had. The Zins are a decidedly more “red” feeling, whereas the PN came across as slightly more “purple.” The Zins are also very “jammy,” by which I mean that there’s something about them that reminds me forcibly of a jelly to be smeared all over a biscuit. Pinot Noirs, at least based on the ones I’ve had, don’t seem to have that sort of upfront WOAH FRUIT SPREAD feeling. I have no idea if that’s what other people mean when they say “jammy” in regards to wine, but it makes sense to me so I’m going with it.

Random thing I learned while reading Wine Spectator at work during my lunch break: Apparently the 2008 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir is like the bestest of all best Oregon Pinot Noir vintages EVER GROWN EVAR so far. Given Oregon Pinot Noirs are supposed to be some of the bestest of all best Pinot Noirs, I’m throwing out there that it’s probably worth checking out a bottle or two soon. The 2008s are pretty much the fillers of the store wine racks right now, so finding a bottle shouldn’t be difficult.

*Leather is one of those notes that I had a “ZOMG TOAST” reaction with. I know the smell of leather really well – the sort of comforting, dry, earthy-paper scent of an old leather jacket is wonderful. I’ve found it translated into perfume really well, but had never really figured out what to look for in wine. I assumed it would be something wonky or different or, well, something. Not leather-jacket leather.
However, it turns out that it is *exactly* the same sort of dry earthy-paper sort of worn brown jacket-style leather. It’s there, and when it clicked, I sat straight up and stared at the glass for a solid ten seconds. (I did get made fun of.)

Reader, I squealed.

**Seriously, specifically star jasmine. I’m sticking with star jasmine because there was something in the flavor of the wine that was strongly mimicking the scent of the perfume I had been wearing the day before, and star jasmine is a major component in that perfume. I maybe squealed a bit when I finally figured out why I recognized the scent.

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2008 Kunde Chardonnay

Wine: Kunde Chardonnay
Vintage: 2008
Region: Sonoma Valley, California
Grapes involved: Chardonnay
Color: a sort of nice, slightly buttery golden yellow
Cost: $12.99-$17.99 or so
Notes from the label: tastes of ripe pears, crisp apples and toasty oak; pairs with fresh green salads, seafood*, or roast chicken and veggies.
Food pairings: as suggested above, really – this is definitely a “chicken” wine to me.


My notes: The Kunde Chardonnay has a nose of oak, toast,** pear, and apple. Here’s the thing with this list, though – I don’t know for sure that this is what I would have come up with without the label notes. With the label notes, I could smell the wine and think “okay, that all makes sense.” I feel like I was sort of biased ahead of time, like I was playing hide and seek with the flavors rather than making my own judgments, and I don’t really like that. I think what I’m going to do is only allow myself to look at label notes once I’ve finished with my own reviewing notes, so that I can overlay what I think onto what the amorphous “they” thinks and see how my guesses stand up to expert opinions. Long story short: the label notes work for me here. I agree.

Flavor-wise, there’s an initial hit of what I suppose is “toasty oak,” now that I know that’s what they call it, along with pear and/or apple (I have the hardest time distinguishing those sometimes – this is some sort of apple-pear mélange, maybe). And maybe there’s a touch of something slightly peachy. It’s dry, with a medium, smooth mouthfeel. Not a ton of acidity. Very long finish.

I had this with the chicken stew that was made with the Nathanson Creek Chard, among other things. The stew was fantastic with the Kunde Chard, so I’m thinking I’ll post the recipe. After all, it wouldn’t be a wine blog without foodiebits, would it?

Would I order it again? Absolutely, if I were making something similar to chicken stew for dinner, because it was a really good pairing. I’m not sure I’m all that big on Chardonnays, however – I got to taste my first Sauvignon Blanc in roughly four months today at work and was forcibly reminded that Sauvignon Blanc has this happy citrus-y zing!*** that I adore beyond all reason, a zing! which Chardonnay lacks and which I find myself missing. However, I can also say that the Kunde is one of the best Chards I’ve ever had (not that it has a ton of competition), so this is definitely something I would go for were a Chard what I was going for.

Fun Tidbit: this wine won a Best Buy tag and 90 Points from Wine & Spirits, along with some other awards. The winery has gotten all kinds of recognition for being environmentally friendly and using sustainable growing practices. Yay!


*This is the point where I got sick of transcribing the “insert adjective before noun” part of the marketing copy. Putting an adjective before *every* noun is flat-out bad writing.
**It had for seriously never occurred to me before this that when a label tells me something smells/tastes like “toasty oak” or “toast” anything, they really do mean toast. Like, toast-for-breakfast toast. Real toast. Bread toast. I’m used to finding toasty notes in beer, but that’s always made sense to me because beer vaguely resembles bread in my mind. Toast was never anything I expected to find in wine. I don’t know what I thought I was looking for, but toast-like-actually-toast wasn’t it.
I’m kind of a dumbass sometimes.
***Long-time readers of my beer blog will know something of my irritation with what I refer to as Extraneous Exclamation Point Syndrome. I recognize that by adding the extraneous exclamation point to my zing, I am in fact adding to the problem. However, Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t just zing, it zings WITH JAZZ HANDS. The extraneous exclamation point is therefore necessary. Deal.

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Nathanson Creek Chardonnay

Wine: Nathanson Creek Chardonnay
Grapes involved: Chardonnay
Color: is actually well-represented in the pic, for once!
Cost: $7.99
Region: California (no more specific than that, though)





So. I generally think of myself as not a particularly big fan of Chardonnay. Most of the time, I’d rather have a Sauvignon Blanc. I’m doing an experiment today – I’m trying this right now, having just dumped half a bottle into some chicken stew I’m making – and I’ll be trying the 2008 Kunde Sonoma Valley Chardonnay tonight with dinner. The goal is to start getting a better sense of Chards in general.

So let’s start here. The nose is a combination of something sort of slightly woodsy vanilla (I’m taking it this is an oaked Chardonnay, then – the label doesn’t say, and so I’m assuming oak because oak is the appropriate default assumption to make with California Chards, yes?) and some grapes and alcohol. It’s all pretty faint – I keep huffing the wine like I’m trying to get high on it and I’m not smelling much of anything.

In the realm of taste, this has a bit of bright acidity, some flavors of vanilla and wood, and some sort of bright fruit* like a very tart pear. Maybe a hint of green apple. It’s a very smooth wine, maybe (I’m totally guessing here) medium- to full-bodied?

The aftertaste is a lot of alcohol with hints of caramel, wood, and really tart apple.

Would I get this again? It’s not that bad, really. It’s not great, however, and I’d at the moment be much more likely to grab something I know I like better (like a Sauv Blanc). For the price, however, it could be *much* worse. Like this winery’s Merlot.

*Here’s the thing: I don’t eat tons of fruit. So I kind of suck at differentiating between which fruits it is that I’m tasting. I’m getting better at it with red wines – like I’m starting to get the differences between “plum” v “cherry” v “black cherry” v “cranberry” v “currant” etc. White wines, however, not so much. I think it’s because it is (as evident by the background of the picture I took of this wine) the dead of winter, meaning I’m generally in a red wine mood moreso than a white. We’ll see. Maybe this whole experiment will end in me eating much more fruit in an attempt to describe wine flavors with a greater degree of accuracy.
Wood, however, I’m all over being able to describe. My beer and perfume learnings have prepared me quite well for that.

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Nathanson Creek Merlot

Wine: Nathanson Creek Merlot*
Grapes involved: Merlot
Color: deep red with a hint of a brownish tone
Cost: $7.99
Region: vinted and bottled in California, but no clue where the grapes are grown
Label-provided tasting notes: It’s all marketing wharblegarble. I’ll spare you unless the Chard also sucks.

So. Here’s the wine:

Like, it looks like wine (albeit not in a pretty glass)(but I kinda like wine in tumblers).

Let’s see. Initially, it smelled like stale mansweat. Then it added a layer of smoke. Then a layer of berry, which quickly devolved into berry-flavored candy. It’s a complex, layered scent, people. Stale berry-flavor smoky mansweat.

YUMM-O, as Rachel Ray would say.**

Flavor wise, it starts with a definite hit of black pepper, then berry cherry plum, then tannins, then something that I can pretty much only describe as sweat. The aftertaste is roughly the same, plus burny alcohol. And it hangs out FOREVER.

To sum up:


Food pairing guesses: Don’t. Like, don’t pair food with this, because you shouldn’t drink this wine. Seriously. It’s not even the Merlot’s fault, because I’ve had good Merlot. Like the Hunter Ashby release right now. That was good.

This is horrifying. Stay far, far away.


*notice the lack of vintage? Yeah, that didn’t strike me as a good sign either.
**I am not a Rachel Ray fan.

And as a final, parting note: if I think a wine sucks, it doesn’t mean the wine sucks. It just means I don’t like it. Well, usually, anyway. I’m pretty sure this just objectively sucks.

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2009 Punto Final Malbec

Wine: 2009 Punto Final Malbec – this wine has a kickass black label. My camera isn’t dealing well with dark dark colors yet, so there’s no pic
Grapes involved: Malbec, which is apparently a super-close cousin to Merlot, and (so far as I can tell, anyway) almost the only grape they grow in Argentina
Color: deep red, not quite into purple territory
Cost: $15.99
Region: Argentina (Mendoza, maybe)
Label-provided tasting notes: Nothing about taste, but it did tell me that this is unfiltered wine from 50+ year old, low-yield vines. Again, apparently low yield is what you want – torturing grapes makes for good wine. I still think this whole concept seems super emo, but if it means my wine tastes yummy, well, I’ll leave it to the experts.
Food pairing guesses: not sure. Tapas, maybe? It could definitely stand up to red meat, but would overwhelm any fish I can come up with except for cedar-planked salmon (which I am convinced needs a red, but maybe more a Pinot)

First of all, this wine needs to be popped and decanted/poured at least a solid half hour before you’re planning on drinking it. It took 30 minutes from pour to having *any* discernible, worthwhile nose. So plan ahead with this one: this is a wine to pop before you start making dinner, not right when you’re ready to serve.

When it did finally develop a smell, it was a tannic, mineral-y, herbal, woodsy, plummy type smell. I’m not sure this sounds great, but it’s actually nice. The plum smell develops more over time – by the 45 minute point, it’s heavier on the plum and wood and has developed a bit of a peppery bite as well.

Flavor-wise, this has a very tart cranberry note, a plum note, something that tastes woodsy but which doesn’t necessarily mean that I think they aged this in oak (I haven’t the foggiest idea if Malbecs are generally oak-aged), along with lots of pepper and spice and a touch of some sort of purple floral*. And maybe a touch of cherry. The tannins are medium-to-sorta high, the level where they leave a bit of a film on your teeth and make the roof of your mouth non-slippery for a few seconds after swallowing.

The aftertaste is really long, all woodsy plum/cranberry/cherry with a nice warming feeling from the alcohol .

Would I get this again?: Definitely. This is actually my second go-round with the Punto Final Malbec. I had a glass of it at 715 in Lawrence a week or so before I came up with the idea to do this blog, so I knew I liked it but I hadn’t taken the notes down to try to figure out why. When I decided to start blogging wine, I was sort of doing it as an excuse to get a bottle and figure out why I liked it. So anyway, I like it because I like the complexity but don’t feel super overwhelmed by it, either.

*I’m really big into synethesia as a method of describing things, synethesia being the idea that smells and tastes can be described in terms of colors and so on and so forth. Floral flavors are especially prone to get color treatment from me. I’m blaming this on perfume. Every now and then I will smell something and think “that smells yellow” – with wine, apparently I’m prone to tasting and thinking “purple flower” or “white flower” or whatever. Hopefully there’s at least one other perfume-obsessed wine dork out there who will read this and know what I mean. I hope.

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