No Leap of Faith Needed Here: Stag’s Leap Napa Valley

It is not unusual to see minus (insert number) temps in Minnesota during Christmas week. This is one of those weeks.

photo-97Nothing pairs better with snow, Christmas trees and steak dinners like a big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. (Wine is the new black–in this case, black wearable sleeping bag to warm the insides).  This week the wine was: Stag’s Leap Napa Valley 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Stag’s Leap is one of my favorites–maybe because the first time I had it (Artemis) I was on a beautiful veranda eating a great steak dinner with my friend Melissa as we prepared ourselves for a duathlon in the beautiful backyard of Ashburn, NC.  The sun was setting, we had the glow of tanned fitness on our faces, and the air was silent.  Sometimes, wine is the punctuation that helps us remember those important, quiet times.  In this case, Stag’s Leap is a comma, a breath and pause when you want it to go on.

This wine, Stag’s Leap Napa Valley, is another marker in a line of great wines.  Notes of blackberry, baked black cherry with a drizzle of chocolate on top, slight pepper and smokey hints, it is a big wine that likes to be paired with food.  (I loved looking at the leg’s on the glass, thinking this one could debut at Radio City). With 13.9% alcohol and a 2010 vintage, there was also a slight bit of herbaceous undertones–it is a younger wine that might need some air before serving, or perhaps a decanter,  as it tipped toward tannin and alcohol right out of the bottle. (My guess is that I would have loved, loved, loved this if consumed on night #2 as it started to open up with time and a bit of warmth.) That said, it was great when it started to open up-and showed a window on it’s potential.  It’s a drink now, or even perhaps, wait a bit wine.

If you ever see a bottle on sale, as I did with this one (retail $49.99, sale at $35), grab one–just to try your own take at creating a new memory.

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Easing the Pain: Ca’DiPian

I often say I want to run away to Italy to live on a vineyard in Piedmont.

Today, I ran away to a wine from the region, the Barbera D’Asti. You know it’s a “day” when the Italians living in Minnesota start to open Italian wine. I had to look twice to see that DiPian really wasn’t “of pain.”  It was a tough week of moving culture shock and of bottling all workouts into this weekend. Pain seemed appros pos.

I’ve often shied away from opening Italian wine just for drinking–the high acids and tannins often leave me feeling like tumbleweeds-have-blown-through-my-mouth dry.  This wine: La Spinetta Ca’Di Pian Barbera D’Asti 2008 was really well balanced and fruit forward of red and black berries, balanced with vanilla, oak and earthy undertones, coupled with a nice medium finish.  Although the label came in at 14% alcohol, it felt much like a younger version of its big, bold Italian sister, balancing the high acid with the low tannin. It was lovely, as if a young Al Pacino came to my apartment to wish me a good night.

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After Sangiovese and Montepulciano, the Barbera grape is the third most planted grape in Italy.  And if the interwebs is accurate, the wine must be made by March 1, immediately following the harvest.  Who knew?

This bottle averages $23.  Go buy one.  The beautiful part of this hard week is that I get to share it with my first friend in life (outside of the family, as we say).

Godere! (I think, or hope rather, the interwebs helped me translate this correctly).  Enjoy!

I am still going to make a workout in the morning, but wanted to celebrate the 4 workouts in 3 days I did make.  To the Pain!

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Blanket in a bottle: Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir

This summer I was driving from San Diego to Las Vegas, when after a two week stint in the capital of US wines I realized: I hadn’t gone to a single vineyard.

The realization hit me in San Lois Obispo County–it was hot and it was a desert.  I thought, as I frantically looked up vineyard names I didn’t recognize, it might be okay this time to ‘not seize the day’ and pass on something you might not want to discover.  The heat was cloying, and a coke sounded better in the arid air.

Fast forward to this week when the first snow in Minnesota hit, and a white blanket–and darkness from daylight savings time–dampened our spirits.  In a word, this week was hard, and as I headed home to unwrap even more boxes from my endless move, I thought: I need wine.

The wine: Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley 2011 sung to me on the shelf of Whole Foods, North Loop, MSP.  Simple packaging, a sales price and a description that said, “Coastal Terrace 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean” I started to rethink my image of “dry and brown” from this summer’s jaunt.  That close to a coastal region, the cooling effects of the Pacific would have a cooling and softening effect.  It did.

The wine photo-95couldn’t have been better for what I wanted: a sigh of relief in a bottle–that was on sale for $15.99 (Kinda like Calgon, take me away, circa 1982 prices for wine).  The taste sung of deep red cherries, clove, light oak singed with smoke,  slight pepper, and herbaceous, earthy undertones.  It entices as you lift it up to your mouth to taste–great, leaning smells of fruit and libraries.

This was beautifully balanced, fruity, complex, delicate–and a blanket all in one.  You know the day–every pore is screaming, “stop–I can’t take another moment of being wrung out.”  This blanket is a nice blend of cashmere–it wafts softly around the stress, versus a Richard Simmons “let’s get moving!!” Cabernet Sauvignon from Cali.

This wine is worth it. Buy it for a friend, your next party, or a viewing of desert pictures online–it will be a good friend for the night, and after the day I’ve had, I might very well skip the workout in the morning. Ole, dude.

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I beat Comcast! Wine by Joe helped me win.

Newsflash: Moving sucks.

I know you know this, but it’s hard to move things in.  Set things up.  Get boxes down to a manageable size.  Re-wash things.  And then, there is the electronics world.

Comcast–land of the automated voice that keeps replaying on a circuit with a fake computer noise that wants you to believe it’s registering your concerns, even when you keep asking joefor customer service, only to be rerouted to the circuit or led to a representative that said you called the wrong number, “I’ll have to transfer you, but our transfer system is broken.  You gotta pen?” Tonight was that night where the automated demons walked the earth to foil all startup tech projects and eat the living for a snack. In a rush of frustration, I threw caution to the wind, threw the directions to the side, and managed to connect a TV, Internet modem and router, sync the TV with the remote, and change passwords without becoming one of the undead.  In a word, or few, I rocked the tech (knock on wood a thousand times here).

The Wine: With my new-found skills, and time on hold, I opened a bottle of “Wine by Joe” –a 2010 Pinot Noir from Oregon. Unlike a common plumber’s name, the wine was less than common, but like it’s description, not pretentious.  Good, in fact, for a light bodied, light-rubied pinot.

On the nose were earthy, aged cherries, spice of white pepper and a hint of black in the background, a touch of freshly rained on earth mixed with a hint of oak (the edge of the forest, if you will).  On the palette, the fruit came through, as did more of the spice as if an unexpected “welcome basket” showed up at your front door.  It carries with it a gift in a bottle, as It is extremely well-balanced, medium-low on the tannin and medium-high on the finish length and taste.

Bringing joe2joy down to the simplest denominator, it’s taste is like being on the childhood playground and equally balancing the teeter-totter with your best friend opposite you on a spring day.  Cue: rainbows and unicorns, this wine was that for me during a Comcast phone maze contest.

I have to miss the workout in the morning, because, as stated earlier, moving makes you her bitch and you are owned by a force greater than the sum of your zip code.  But, I would definitely pick up this bottle the next time I battle Comcast.  Or even just because I want a nice,  light, enjoyable wine.  If you would like to be rerouted to a red, press 1…or ask for Joe.

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Oveja Negra: A wine wanting to be a little more bad-assed than it is.

After a hefty day of lawn care in the SoMo (South Minneapolis) and a cold afternoon at that, I was as tired as if I were training for an Ironman. Lawn bags were filled and carried; dead patches were raked and seeded, and just a general, “get it done” mandate was given by current roommate.

Steak and cabernet sauvignon, like a heavy training day, seemed to be called for.  I was like the wet wash cloth by the side of the tub that was cold, tired, and rung out.

Said roommate, however, being the master cook she is, decided to whip up pizza, and I wanted to try the wine I purchased from “Elevated.”–The wine: Oveja Negra, 2011 blend of Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.

It was a wine from Maule Valley, Chile, and while a narrow country, it has a lot of diversity–depending on which side of the Aphoto-91ndes one is on.

“Meh” not “Ahhh” greeted by upon opening.  It was earthy, but not fruity on the nose, with slightly green hints of capsicum.  On the palette it was light fruit in taste, black current, capsicum, smokey wood-chip oaked (just a guess since the taste seemed to linger on the surface rather than rooted in the wine), and was a young, spicy, peppery wine. 13.5% in booze, medium-high tannin and some balance, but I’ve seen pictures of goats (I know, not a sheep) and this wine was not going to balance on any steep mountain tops.

I forgot how much I paid for it, but I like to think a little Black Sheep is good to change up the dynamics of staid and boring.  This wine would never be confused with Yahtzee on the scale of shaking things up.  Will finish the bottle, but put it down after a glass and a half to make the run this morning.  It was a little less blah with some pizza, but attribute that more to the talents of my roommate than the wine.  Make a sweater and move on.

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slightly green, earthy hints, fruit is lost on the nose, earthy,

light, black current, capsicum, smoky–wood chips, young, spicy as in pepper, cedar, light on the fruti

13.5%; med high tannin, some balance

maule valley, coastal and mediterranean temps,

B is for…Bonarda.

It’s been awhile since I moved from DC, but without a place to live and lots of new job stress, I woke up today noting my body didn’t want to be limber and move freely.  Lots of sitting since the drive from DC and one untrained-for 10 mile run later, I decided I was stiff as a straight up whiskey shot (what? this is a blog abbonardaout alcohol, not a forum for tired cliches).

I decided to go to yoga, and wanted to go to the first yoga place I started at 10 years ago: BKS Iyengar  in Minneapolis.  By far, my favorite structure of yoga.  However, tonight the instructor was controlling and not very tolerant–she kept calling on and picking on an elderly man who had a hard time with the poses. And she equated us to her forth graders.   Why we were there then, ostensibly, if not because we were imperfect?   The instructor was part Amy Poehler in “Parks and Recreation,” part Kathy Bates in “Misery,” and part bitchy-out-of-this-world “Portlandia” sketch.  Can you say B…onarda?

One could say she drove me to drink.

Or, one could say my great roommate had great pizza that required wine.

Whichever reason, I opened a nice, mildly-bold red wine from Mendoza, Agentina (Not just about the Malbecs, okay?)  The wine: Tercos, 2009 Bonarda.

On the nose, it was fruit forward cherries and black cherries, but not very ripe flavors on the latter.  There was smoke-on-leather notes as if lingering cigarette ash in the library, and all that translated to a lovely, balanced taste–again, fruit forward with smoky leather (not overwhelming), with a medium tannin, medium finish and medium acidity that paired nicely with a tomato-rich deep dish pizza.   Not perfect, but hell, neither are zen masters these days.   I feel like I can appreciate a little rough around the edges tonight more than most.  This is a GREAT wine for Monday melancholia.

I already had the workout, but for $7.99 (on sale, but still a great price from “Elevated”) I would open this bottle up just to enjoy a glass.  Or two.  And all the while, strike an imperfect pose and fidget worse than a forth grader.  Ole!

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Easy like Sunday Morning-And St. Supery

Today is the unicorn fall day in Minnesota: those days that are so beautiful-crisp air, blue skies, fluffy clouds hovering over crimson, gold,  and green-leafed rainbows, verdant lawns and sunlight sure pure, it’s like its been strained through a filter for any lingering debris. But hard to believe they (these kinds of days) are real.

I took advantage of it in full force. (Side note: didn’t know my current roommate substituted real coffee with decaf. I’ve been sad all week.  I had full strength this morning, and think I could have built Hoover Dam.  Glad the day and the jolt coincided).  I first went for a run of 7.5  miles, then a bike ride around town and took in the sites against the many neighborhoods I traveled through.  (Then, I bought the new iPhone and went to Whole foods, and felt bphoto-87roke.)

The day, however, and a good wine, is something that can all of us feel rich.

This is that wine.  St. Supery, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Napa Valley is full of pomp and circumstance.  Or should I say plump and circumstance? It is big.

On the nose, rich cassis that feels like it was liquored in the sun,  blackberry and vanilla.  It is a potpourri of all the best a Cabernet Sauv can offer.  On the palette, it is big–and slightly drowned out by the alcohol at 14.7%, but with a little cheese and some rosemary crackers–it numbed down the alcohol and became much smoother.  The length was a good medium length and medium-full on the tannins. The fruit came out and with a little food, was nice and balanced.

I recommend no more than half a bottle–especially on a Sunday.  But if you can call in sick to work, have at it!

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