“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.

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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.

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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

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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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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