Rainy days & rosé

It’s one week before my next trip –and race –in Malibu, and the rainy Sunday pouring over Philadelphia is getting me down.

Last weekend, I went to the Moore Brothers wine shop and purchased a few French wines. This weekend, I opened the rosé, “Le Fruit Défendu” from Magellan.It seems right that any weekend where one may need a biblical ark, one may also want to skirt temptation and dive into the forbidden fruit.  

This 100% Cinsault wine ($14) comes from Provence, the south of France, where all things are beautiful (except me completing the Ironman there.  It was not beautiful, or nice, as the region may have you believe).

An aside: Looking up some trivia regarding Provence, it has more than 3000 hours of sunlight a year.  And, during it’s wrought-after history–lots of people wanted it, including the Romans–where ultimately the name came from. They called it “nostra provincia” or “our province”–so according or contrary to, Shakespeare, there’s a lot at stake in a name.

Okay, back at the wine.  In a word, it’s lovely.  Full of lush strawberry fruit, and because of the rocky region, the minerals (think Evian water full of strawberries poured over jagged, grey, wet rocks) shine through on this wine.  Super great balance with acid–this wine can pair up nicely with fragrant food.  Or a rainy, Philadelphia Sunday morning with eggs.  Your pick.  Today, am going to call it “Nostra dia” or my day….cause I’m drinking this as long as I want.

And if you must know, I skipped the workout.  It’s that kind of day.  And…that kind of wine. You can drink whenever–not only on the happy, hot summer days.


Homecoming: Going with the Boxed Return

I opened up the site to my blog today (on a work and 4th of July holiday break), and much like the wines that sit near me every day, it has gathered dust. Like, lots of it. (But the benefit is that my wine has also grown in numbers, so there’s that…)

A friend recently asked me, upon looking at my rack (wine, that is), “You’re apartment is so clean, yet there is dust on your wine? I think it’s because you want it to look aged. Yes?”

It was a great question, actually, and brought me to quick attention—why haven’t I been drinking my collection? Am I a poser? Am I on the wagon? (Um, hardly). Without venturing into TMI territory, I realized might need to actually start to dust off that wine, this blog, and maybe a little bit of myself.

And as I searched for the elusive WordPress password, I heard Josh Ritter sing “Homecoming” and that felt like the right sentiment for today: ”I first tasted the universe on a night like this/A box of wine, and I’ll abide…”

So here I am. Abiding my drinking hobby from one of the two boxes of wines in my fridge. (Or maybe both. But I apparently have to tell you, since I’m going to mention both wines. And since I’m hanging solo during a hot, holiday weekend, am not yet prepared to dust off the other bottles).

Why a box? Many reasons. Convenience. It says fresher for longer (read: maybe three weeks vs. three days of opening a bottle). Boxed wines are meant to be consumed soon after “bagging,” –like within a year— because the bags allow oxygen to pass through which will ultimately make them less fresh over time. Please don’t buy box wines with the purpose of stockpiling—I won’t be coming to dinner if you are serving a vintage 2000 from cardboard. I may even defriend you on Facebook, but I digress.

The Wines:

The Bota Box Chardonnay is a little lackluster for the varietal in that it showcases neither oak nor mineral…but just is, and sometimes, that’s okay. It’s cold, tasty in a non-descript, unoffensive way with hints of the tropical fruits it boasts and goes with anything. This is a fine wine, and for $18/box (which is about 3 liters or 4 bottles of wine), you’d be fine serving to friends, the jersey shore crowd that’s currently packed around my apartment-complex pool sporting cans of beer, or yourself after a bikeride, run or long day on the sofa.

(The pool/party/people in the picture are why: 1. I don’t mind drinking in my apartment 2. Have box wine at the avail).

The Alverdi Pinot Grigio is a deviation from my normal boxed PG, but it still holds the flavor profile of the Pinot Grigio grape quite nicely. High acidity, crisp notes of green fruit and a hint of flowers, I’d say this is a win—in a bottle or a box. The added benefit is that this box runs around $22 for 3 liters.

If buying only one boxed wine to start out, I’d lean toward a Pinot Grigio (even if you can’t find this brand). I find it’s a little harder to mess up a more straight-forward varietal like a Pinot Grigio than the Chardonnay—where these wines can display high elegance and $$$ if you happen on the right one. (Translation: You are probably not going to find the best representation of Burgandy in a box. Just a guess on my part, but there’s more tasting to be done!!)

Both have won awards from Wine Enthusiast and for good reason—these are completely drinkable, affordable and won’t embarrass the posse or yourself if you pull this out to serve…or hide away from the crowds.  (Wines purchased at the Wine & Spirits store).

What/Why I’m drinking these: These wines pair with the HEAT that is 4th of July weekend in Philadelphia; exhausting bike rides and runs around the city, and a general disdain of shopping for cold bottles from the Wine & Spirits shop that has grown to great distances during “Construction Season” in the city. PLUS, I’m hanging solo (completely +0) for the weekend, and the boxed wine allows me flexibility of not finishing the 6 or so bottles cumulatively within. My goal is to still make the workout in the a.m. (And I’ve succeeded the past four days during this long weekend!)

(According the above description, it also pairs nicely with plans to go into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection Program, but if you hit that stage of the game, spring for a nice bottle or two. See: Burgandy, White. You don’t have storage needs.)


They Drink In Ireland on Monday, and other tales from biking around the City

It’s finally October, a chill is creeping around the corner, but the enthusiasm for outdoor sports has not waned in Philadelphia.  The half marathon, marathon and Rocky Balboa run are coming up. The Eagles are winning. The cyclists are getting as many miles on the pavement before the sunset fades back to 4:00 pm. My ride home was chock full of runners and cyclists and I couldn’t wait to make it to my apartment.

It’s only Monday, but this week has been rough. My good friend Jill tells me Angels are all around me–I need to just pay attention.

I open my refrigerator and look on my shelf to find one cold bottle of Rose left in there.  The only bottle.  And of course, the name is “Whispering Angel” Caves d’Esclans.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Fate, right? I think, but it’s only Monday, and then I think to my time in Ireland.  I think back to the tales of angels in and around whiskey, and realize all of these cultures and signs are telling me to open the bottle.  Even the bottle is telling me this, as the backside reads:

“In the Esclans Valley angels whisper.  If you drink this wine, you might hear them.” Uh, yeah–what’s not to love about that?

I’ll tell you.  You will not love the wine.  (At least I didn’t).  Provence, France, has produced some of the best roses I have ever had–this is not one of them.  High astringency replaces the thirsty notes of high acidity, masking the fruit and coming off more like musk.

Purchased in a good ol’ Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia (maybe around the $16-$19 mark), I might give the Angels back their share.



“Taken”: an island drinking wine experience

Islands in northern Minnesota are great places to visit and are a complicated way to get to a simple life.

When stopping in Roseau, MN, I thought, “Why not” when looking at the most expensive wine in the liquor store.  At $38 a bottle, I knew the Trefethen and Phelps’s names would lend a certain something to this remote location and liquor store selection.  I expected something interesting to the wine, and a 90 pts rating by The Wine Enthusiast meant maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

The setting. Of course, Lake of the Woods is a wide open, magnificent place for its vastness and ruggedness.  On the colder and windy days, it calls for a big, robust red to match the temperament of the North.



The Wine. Taken is a collaboration between two great names in wine.  I won’t bury the lede–sadly, I was underwhelmed upon opening.

With 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot from 2013, it is a big wine.  And it is young.  It’s like putting Paul Bunyon on a small puppy instead of Babe the Blue Ox.  I decanted the wine in the style that is reminiscent of “old school” (as pictured with the canning jar), but the green pepper and strong  but austere blackberry fruit stripped the wine of any elegant nuances for me that make this style so fun to drink.  It was fine for the food-it holds up to steak; however, it is not a sipper or even a relaxing wine.

I know this opinion is not going to be popular–it was like bringing an ax to a birthday cake lighting–but I, for one, wish I had taken a different wine off the shelf.  Leave it there–at least for a few years still.



Welcome Back!

After a brief hiatus, I’m in the process of discovering in the City of Brotherly Love.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” I intend to find happiness in Philadelphia!

What I won’t be drinking again-Syrah & Riesling non-picks

I like wine, and a lot of my posts are positively slanted toward my reviews. However, there comes a time when I drink something–often that has had a rave review–that I tend not to like.   This is one of those times.  And rather than label this as a “What not to drink” post, I admit, it might just be me.

On the heels of drinking a very good Côte-Rôtie, I opened a Zaca Mesa 2008 Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley (14.5%).  I also recently described my love of the Santa Barbara region, and so I thought, this might be a no brainer pick.  It wasn’t.

The $21.99 wine drank like a cherry cough syrup that had been soaking in fake oak.  The pepper–doused with a heavy hand–finished each drink.  Had I been hunting with the flu (eating beef jerky and downing it with said cough syrup) this would have been the same experience as drinking the wine.

The other dislike of the day, and I admit it pains me more than the Syrah, is the 2010 Brooks’ Riesling from Willamette Valley ($17.99). This is the wine that brought me into to the store to buy Brooks wine in the first place, and while I loved, loved, loved the elegant Pinot Noir sampled a few days ago, this one just didn’t do it for me.  At 11.5% abv, I was looking for a dry, refined Riesling in a style I love of its German counterparts.  But the highly acidic (which is good) prevalently sweet green apple taste of a Jolly Rancher candy bite (which is not good in my opinion–but don’t get me wrong; it is a dry wine), make me rethink Riesling from places other than Germany and Austria (I do have an upstate New York Riesling on my shelf that I’m keeping my eye on, however, so stay tuned).

Try if you like, but on my shelf these wines nevermore will go.

(But please take the poll below to help me give these wines a second chance).

1 out of 5



Côte-Rôtie: How to find love on Valentines Day (2000 E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis)

Transitions have a way of focusing the attention on what’s important. Three weeks ago I gave notice at the University, and once again, will leave my home state of Minnesota for a job out East.  My thoughtful coworkers gave me a gift certificate to one of my favorite vineyards, Surdyks, and because I thought it was a milestone, I wanted to buy a memorable wine (Note: singular, not plural.  Sometimes, you just gotta).

The wine was a 2000 E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie (cote ro TEE for those, like me, who don’t pronounce French).  I’ve had one or two other Côte-Rôties in my day (and I was going for a third, but the Bacchus Wine Cellar in Georgetown apparently didn’t want to help this chick in yoga gear on a Friday night get one off of the shelf–they were too busy helping the women in heels with the done-up faces pick out $12.99 Pinot Grigios, but I digress.)  Before that long aside, I was going to say that my experience has been limited with this wine due to lack of knowledge and price point.  Today, however, I was going to jump in and get my feet wet, albeit in the shallow end of the pool.

One more aside: the wine is some of the most prized Syrah’s in the wine world.  Translated into “roasted slope” the region is one of very steep, south facing slopes with an ideal exposure to sun. DSC_0513

Back to the wine.  I decanted to the wine to bring some air into this, 13% abv and some 15 years worth of, bottled wine.  A few swirls and air sucking sips later, I was in deep like of this wine and the region.  Deep notes of dark cherry and blackberry fruit, the sweetness took a back seat to more savory and smoky notes of bacon and hickory wood lightly peppered with faint licorice and punctuated with wisps of vanilla.  The tannins were a great support in the third row of this wine, as well; tt wasn’t overpowering but was significantly better with the smoked porked served with dinner. It was a heavyweight fighter masquerading as a gentleman in an elegant tux.

The wine was listed at $170, but I snagged for $111.  The brilliance seemed to have been slightly muted, but it was only just on this side of a gentle downward trend. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls strikes a note for comparison: “There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow.”   Sometimes you just need a quiet day, light snow and relaxing night sheltered from the winter cold and be around family and friends to find love and live life–a day on the calendar does not love make (said as this was drunk on Valentine’s Day).

The same with wine: find what you like and celebrate it, even apart fro4of5m the celebrity status of certain wines, vineyards and years.  Thanks, dear friends, for the push and gift that enabled this great memory.