Fishing for Riesling: Smith-Madrone 2008

Strangely I find that I love fishing.

A born-again city girl (I grew up on a cattle farm), it took me 10 years to go up to my parents’ lake cabin in the Lake of the Woods (since the drive is one that measures between 9 and 10 hours), and anytime I came back from DC, all I wanted to do was to relax away from the noise, traffic and ladder climbers.

Having gone up twice in one summer, I recognize I was missing out. Serene, beautiful and pristine, it’s exactly where one should go to escape. And with any good escape, one should bring wine. In the past I brought wine in case it had to substitute for the lack of fish; here, one brings wine to accentuate the beauty, enjoy silence around conversation and punctuate the fish. (Catching fish is always a given here).DSC_0078

Smith Madrone Riesling, Napa Valley 2008 (12.5%) was the wine for freshly caught, paprika-seasoned walleye, broccoli and kale salad.

The flavors of Smith Madrone Riesling included apple, stone fruit and melon. It was a dry, medium acid wine with a good amount of minerality that helped tame the could-be harsh smells and tastes of fish and vegetables. It was nice—like a nap on Sunday one takes inadvertently watching a round of golf on T.V., but it was short lived. I liked it, but could take a pass if a Riesling with a German background came along.DSC_0080

Purchased at Cork Dork for just under $20, I would say buy it if in doubt, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it, unless it’s a few minutes for a nap.3of5

Taking it down a few $ pegs: Ipsus, Pantelleria, Passito 2011 dessert wine

Trying wines under $10 from different parts of the world (translation: outside of the world of California) is a no brainer for me. A cheap tasting will easily take the place of movie night, happy hour in Minnesota in January (translation: I don’t have to go outside) and doing work at home.
Ipsus, Pantelleria, Passito 2011 dessert wine (15% abv) was one of these $9 picks from Trader Joe’s. Great color (that of a bronzed sunset) and exotic location (the island of Pantelleria is in the middle of the MediterraneanDSC_0018 between Sicily and Africa), its name was reminiscent of Icarus, the boy from Greek mythology, who flew too close to the sun.

This wine does not exhibit same hubris as the boy–it’s not that aspiring or far reaching, but because of the lack of ambition, it doesn’t fully crash and burn, either.

On the plus side, this affordable wine had great notes of raisiny apricots, honey, and nuts; but on the reverse, it possessed a thick, lingering taste that was a few steps away from a Mr. Clean cousin (it didn’t taste of cleaner, but tasted thick-necked and as if it could rough you up in a dark alley.)

Perhaps I was ultimately swayed by my sweet tooth (the same one that likes Twinkies) but there was a flavor and sweetness combination I enjoyed, as if this was the wine version of “trail mix”—there was a little something of the earth to take the sweetness down a couple of pegs.

If you like sweet wines and are adventurous, I say give this a whirl! It adds a nice finish to dinner, without breaking the bank, and it’s nice to have a small glass to transition to night.  I may not serve it at a dinner party with wine connoisseurs, however.  You will crash and burn.


Miró: A Petite Syrah work a “look”

My parents are 7X years old (ages have been changed to protect the innocent), and while my father of the German farmer background will drink almost anything I pour into his glass, it takes something pretty special for my Italian mother to raise her eyebrows, purse her lips into thought and approval, and ask, “What is this?” as she goes for another sip.

An appropriately named wine, “Miro” for “look,” I think it might be shorthand for “Miro uno vez mas” for a zealous, “look again!” Or from a painting of Joan Miró–surrealistically portraying fruit in wine forDSC_0013m.

Miró’s 2012 Petite Syrah from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County is a work of art, if you like that sort of thing. The fruit forward, jammy plum wine has depths of oak, vanilla and embodies warmth. The medium tannin wine is beautifully balanced, with luscious richness and a medium-long finish—its richness dances as if Venetian glass were being blown into existence in the glass.

Purchased at Cork Dork in South Minneapolis for something in the low $30s (it was their remaining stock) I highly recommend this bottle, and would need a serious alarm clock to help wake me. Luckily, I shared this bottle with my parents at the lake, and ended the bottle on a tranquil note.


Spandex Surprise: Finding Exceptional Champagne (and wines) by bike

In a few reviews out there on Claude Alexander wines (Fredericksburg, Texas), one of the first things you’ll read about it is the enticing sign posted in front of a trailer (not even a double wide), “Our tasting room may suck, but our wines don’t.”  I had to go in, if nothing else but to mock the audacity of bold Texans.


The sign didn’t lie.  Owner (from Montreal, not Hill Country, Tx) Claude poured the entire line up of wines himself, humoring my cycling entourage as we tasted French varietals in the shade. After a week of turbulent weather, bold bbq, and sharing the good ol’ Hotel 6 with three other people, the delicacy of a wide spectrum of delicate and complex wines was a treat.

Seamus Heaney wrote “The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself.” I would slightly slow Heaney’s assertion and say the arrival of the unexpected is sometimes poetry itself. In life, in wine and in friends.  This wine was one of those times; as are dear friends.

One such friend–a co-worker in MN–was about to jet off to another life, and I brought the Alexander Valley Extra Brut Grand Cru Champagne by Robert Moncuit to a private dinner.


Delicate, complex and balanced, as is my friend, the wine paired well with a mix of gratitude, sadness, celebration and crisp Minnesota night.  The wine was dry, light fruit flavors of pear and green apple, but has the signature taste of lees–which translates to brioche in the most delicious ways.

You’re right, this wine is not from Texas (conjuring some Lyle Lovett), but it is from the Champagne region in France, having undergone a second fermentation in the bottle, and so it can sport the label of “Champagne”–(trust me, I asked a few times).


I would give up a morning workout for this wine–and another night with now relocated friends.  If you have the ability, try out this wine; order it (it’s a great deal in the $50s) from Claude Alexander wines, but better yet–roll up on a bike and try out the entire line of wines from the unassuming wine tasting room.