Category Archives: What I’m Drinking

Wine Discoveries: Vingt Vertus

Months ago now, I took a spontaneous trip with a friend to the best place in France: Collioure. On the French-Spanish border, situated right on the Mediterranean coast, this town is my absolute favorite spot in the world.

On the way back, we made a stop at a market in Rivesalte, where we had the happy chance to stumble upon Julian Galabert’s stand for his small winery Vingt Vertus. We had a long chat with him, about his old vines that he revived, his family history in wine, and his unusual decision to make 100% varietal wines in this area of France.

With a 100% Carignan, 100% Mourvedre, 100% Grenache, and a blend of the three, Julian’s line-up is impeccable from start to finish. My favorite was the Carignan, from old vines, spicy, with dark fruit notes, and so very drinkable. I shared a bottle with a friend who doesn’t know much about wine, and can confirm that it’s a fabulous wine for anyone, wine nerd to wine newbie. And a steal! We bought a 6-bottle pack between us, so the wine ended up at 8 euros a bottle with a half-case discount, and we kicked ourselves later for not buying a case (a case each, even!). Luckily, he will ship to Bordeaux, so we’ll be able to get our hands on more.

Out of all the wines I’ve tried in France so far, this is the one that has grabbed me the most. Partly the packaging, which is catchier than the typical French “let’s slap a picture of the chateau on the label” tactic, and partly the authenticity of his story and the way he talked about wine.

The wines themselves are so approachable, so round and rich, that they seem like they were tailor made for the American palate, although I think they’d succeed in any market. Rustic, but so very drinkable, I’d recommend them to anyone.

7 Awesome Inexpensive Sparkling Wines

What, did you think we were done talking about sparkling wines? Nope! If you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking for some inexpensive sparkling wines that are maybe a step or two above Andre’s or Cook’s; that stuff remains firmly in my college days, and I hope it stays that way for you as well because there are some really awesome and interesting sparkling wines out there that will fit your budget. I promise. In my opinion, a really good value sparkling wine that is really tasty and festive for less than $15, and a pretty good value sparkling wine will be under $20. Sometimes I’ll splurge on something a little pricier, there are so many sparkling wines in my value price range, that I haven’t even tried all of the ones I want to.

Here are seven really awesome and inexpensive sparkling wines that I’ve been drinking.

Segura Viudas Cava This is one of the first sparkling wines I started buying when I stepped out of my Cook’s comfort zone. Seriously low price for a really decent sparkling wine; I don’t think you can get away paying this little for such a nice wine anywhere else. Good in cocktails, good on its own. I’d drink this one at a party; anywhere you need a people-pleasing sparkling wine for a crowd. Also, you can find this everywhere; I’ve seen it in a bunch of grocery stores, and it’s rarely over ten dollars. $8

Antech Blanquette de Limoux “Brut Nature” This sparkling wine (which I already talked about here) is seriously bright and festive; there’s absolutely no sugar added to this wine, so it won’t sit heavy at all. Light, with great acidity, made of Mauzac (90%), Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. I have a soft spot for Limoux wines because I took a little day trip there on a whim when I was hanging out in the southwest of France and had a great time sitting in the town square by myself, drinking sparkling wine in the sun. $13

German Gilabert Cava Rosat A deep pink sparkling rosé, this wine might trick you into thinking it’s sweet until you taste it. Trepat and Garnacha make for a fruity, kind of floral sparkling wine. Looks great on the dinner table (or appetizers table, etc). $14

Treveri Brut “Blanc de Blanc” Treveri is a local sparkling wine house located in Yakima (a couple hours west of Walla Walla) that produces only sparkling wine, and produces them at great prices! I tried the Blanc de Blanc (meaning a white sparkling wine from white grapes) on New Year’s Eve, and it was really nice. Strong apple and citrus notes, bright acidity. We also tried mixing it with limoncello to bring out the lemon notes, and it made for a tasty cocktail! $14

Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux Another Limoux sparkler! The Domaine Collin is more minerally and kind of yeasty compared to the Antech, which I like a lot. Still great acidity, with a lot of character. This is a sparkling wine I wouldn’t mix in a cocktail; drink it on its own! Unlike Blanquette de Limoux, Cremants don’t have to be mostly Mauzac. This one is Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Noir. $15

M. Plouzeau Perles Fines This is a sparkling light-pink rosé from the Loire valley in France; softer than the other wines on this list, with some orange, strawberry, and chocolatey notes. While it’s a little over my limit for a great value sparkling wine, I like it so much that I’m going to rate it as a great value anyways. This is one of the few sparkling wines I go back to over and over again. If I could pick any wine on this list to buy a case of as my go-to sparkling wine, this would be it. $17

Okay, and if you were going to splurge on one really nice bottle of sparkling wine?

Argyle Winery Blanc de Blancs Oh man, this wine is awesome. I had a glass of it out at a restaurant one evening, and it really blew me away. I never knew that you could get so many flavors out of sparkling wine. The glass price on this wine was not too bad, but when I went to look up the bottle price online, I realized that this would have to be a very-special-occasion-only wine. But so worth it, even if you just buy it once for a birthday or wedding. The winery’s in Oregon, so if you happen to be down that way, I would suggest popping in and doing a little tasting. $50

If you have other inexpensive bubbly suggestions, I would love to hear them! Suggest away in the comments!

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone’s holiday season has been great! In the past 10 days, I have driven across a mountain pass at night in the snow, drank more sparkling wine in one week than I have in the last few months, given a lot of gifts, gotten a lot of gifts, seen more of my relatives than I have in two years, lost a cocktail contest, been invited on a trip to Napa in 2014, gotten lost on the way to a tea shop thanks to my sister, and read two murder mysteries, and it’s not even New Year’s yet!

Wines I tried at least a sip of over Christmas:

2008 Owen Roe Pinot Noir

2010 Soos Creek Artist Series

NV Lini Lambrusco Rosso

2004 Canoe Ridge Merlot

2008 Rotie VdP

2009 Rotie Southern Blend

NV Torre Oria Cava

NV Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux

NV German Gilbert Cava Rosat

2010 Fielding Hills Cab Franc

2009 Olsen Estates Edythe May Syrah

2009 (?) Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay

and an unidentified Italian white wine that we found hiding in my mom’s cellar, after she claimed to have no white wines at all

And now I’m back in Walla Walla and waking up to the residue of freezing fog all over the trees and vines! Now, what’s everyone drinking for New Year’s?

Kicking off the Bubbly Season: Blanquette de Limoux

antech blanquette de limoux

Remember when I jumped on the bandwagon and paired sparkling wine with everything? I’m doing it again! I’ve been buying (and drinking) quite a bit of sparkling wine recently; during the holidays, every wine store and grocery store beefs up their sparkling wine section. Apparently, the holiday season is when the majority of sparkling wine sales happen; Champagne did such a good job convincing everyone that they were the go-to celebration wine that they forgot to market themselves year round! That’s changing now, with a little push from sparkling wine producers,  but clearly the stores expect everyone to buy their bubbly now.

One of my favorite inexpensive sparkling wines is Blanquette de Limoux, which is a sparkling wine made from the Mauzac grape in the Limoux region in southwest France. A fraction of the price of true Champagne, Blanquette de Limoux is tasty and festive, with a range of different producers to try out!

We went to a bubbly tasting recently, and picked up this nice little bottle of Antech Blanquette de Limoux “Nature” Brut, which was their driest style. It set us back about $13, and while it wasn’t quite as good as the $45 bottles of Champagne we tasted, we thought that it was a great bang for your buck. It went really well with our spaghetti squash dinner, for an easy, but festive meal. The lightness of this super dry bubbly really offset the garlicky, olive-oily spaghetti squash (delicious), and made this super-easy dinner feel kind of special!

 

Easy Spaghetti Squash Dinner

Cut your spaghetti Squash in half. Scoop out the layer of seeds.

Drizzle with olive oil and springle with chopped garlic

Roast the squash at 375 degrees for an hour or so, until soft and slightly browning

Use a fork to fluff out the spaghetti-like strands, scoop them into a bowl, drizzle with more olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste

Pop the Blanquette!

Tasting Group: Syrahs from All Over

syrahs

I’ve recently started a tasting group with a few other wine industry folks interested in tasting and learning about all sorts of wine, and especially interested in expanding our palates beyond just Walla Walla wines: something I’ve been interested in for awhile now. We recently had our first real tasting, and we decided to theme it around Syrah; it’s a Walla Walla favorite, is grown in many very different wine regions around the world, and is extremely easy to get your hands on in Walla Walla. 

We ended up with three different Syrahs from three different regions. This tasting was awesome because each wine was so incredibly distinct (and also one of them was faintly corked and started smelling mustier and mustier the longer it was open).

We tasted:

2002 The Gate, McLaren Vale, Australia (very plummy, more dried fruit than fresh fruit, but definitely still drinkable. I thought for sure this would be way past its prime, but I very much enjoyed it. Less savory than the other two)

2011 Saint Cosmes, Cotes du Rhone, France (this was the corked one; it tasted pretty good for the first few minutes, and then it started smelling like musty basement. When it was first opened, it had some nice cherry and wet stone notes)

2011 Sleight of Hand “The Funkadelic”, Walla Walla Valley (funky, earthy, meaty; I love Syrahs like these that have some great savory notes to them. Definitely the boldest of the three)

I also really enjoyed getting to taste the difference between old and young Syrah; the 2002 was more dried cherry and plum, while the younger ones were brighter fruit and some really nice smoked meat and olive notes (particularly the Funkadelic, which is made from an area of vineyards known for being earthy and funky and was designed to be that way during the winemaking process). All in all, it was really fun to get to experience three completely different wines made from the same grape.

Our next varietal will be Temperanillo! Can anyone recommend a good Temperanillo for me to bring to the next tasting?

Screwcap Action: 5 Awesome Wines Uncorked!

photo by Derek Gavey via flickr
photo by Derek Gavey via flickr

So, last week I talked about using screwcaps versus corks, and now I’m back with a list of wines that I LOVE that use screwcaps!

1. Rulo. All of Rulo’s wines have screwcaps, and as I’ve gushed about, they are all pretty awesome. Some of the best wine at the best prices in Walla Walla, and pretty much all of the people that I take there agree. I like everything they offer, but their Syrah and their Silo Syrah are to die for. $25-$35, depending on the wine

2. Lou Ventou. I heard about this delicious little Rhone blend from Full Pull (where else?), and haven’t looked back. I’m drinking a glass of it AS I WRITE THIS, and I’m loving it to bits. Easy and fruity, with some super nice minerally/rocky/dusty notes. $10

3. Va Piano Bruno’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Va Piano has their Bruno line, which is less expensive than their single vineyard offerings. My favorite is almost always the Bruno’s Cabernet Sauvignon, which is fruity and spicy and cedary. We opened a bottle at a party, and it was roundly praised by everyone. $23

4. Saviah Cellars The Jack. Full disclosure: I work for Saviah, but that doesn’t mean that my opinion of The Jack line is biased. I, and many, many other, am a huge fan of these easy reds. I give them as gifts and take them to parties. My favorite is The Jack Syrah, followed closely by The Jack Cabernet Sauvignon. $18

5. Dusted Valley Squirrel Tooth Alice. Oh, how I love Dusted Valley, but oh how they are mostly out of my price range! Even this delicious blend is pretty spendy, but I went ahead and splurged on it anyways. I like how even pricier wines are using screwcaps these days. It used to be a marker of the cheapie bottom shelf stuff, but Squirrel Tooth Alice high quality, even if the name implies otherwise. $39

There you have it: five awesome reds that rock the screwcap! There are a bunch of screwcapped whites that I love, but that is a list for another day. Until then, I hope you can get your hands on one of these guys!

What is your favorite wine with a screwcap?

Mid-Week Cocktail: Le Petit Bourbon

cocktail

I don’t know about you, but I like to make strong cocktails, where the booze really gets to show off and isn’t overwhelmed by too much juice. This means that one cocktail will put me out of commission for the evening, and I don’t get to experiment with multiple variations as I’m trying new cocktails. That is, until I realized that I can make mini cocktails in these adorable aperitif glasses; this way, everyone can have a few sips of each version!

Last night, I was feeling a creative cocktail impulse coming on, so I started pulling bottles out of the liquor cabinet and fridge and seeing what I might concoct. I ended up with a bourbon base, but not much to mix it with until I realized that I could try mixing it with the Lillet rosé that I picked up on a whim at the local wine shop. Lillet rosé is an aperitif wine made from Bordeaux varietals and orange liqueur, and has a pleasantly fruity and citrusy taste. I like my cocktails tart, so I tossed in some lemon juice, and then a little cranberry juice to round out the fruitiness, and what I ended up with was a pretty delicious sipper.

 

Le Petit Bourbon

(makes 2 mini cocktails or 1 regular cocktail)

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz cranberry juice

.5 oz lemon juice

.5 oz Lillet Rosé

 

Shake the bourbon, cranberry juice, and lemon juice with ice and strain into cocktail glasses. Gently stir in the Lillet, and enjoy!

Does anyone else have a good cocktail recipe for Lillet? I’m looking for more things to do with my bottle!

 

What I’m Drinking: Italian Wine Style!

I recently had the opportunity to attend an Italian wine pairing dinner through a wine group that I attend. The dinner featured the wines of Zerba Cellars, which is right across the border into Oregon (although it’s seriously a hop, skip, and a jump from many of the southern Walla Walla wineries. Maybe just a hop, even). We started with a dry Sangiovese rosé, paired with bruschetta, then moved on to a beautiful, light Dolcetto (traditionally a variety grown in the Piedmont region of Italy) with the bruschetta. Dinner was lasagna (one meaty kind and one vegetarian kind), garlic bread (of course), salad, and Barbera, which was nice and bright and paired really well with food, followed by a Sangiovese, whose earthiness really complemented the veggie lasagna.

I’ve tasted Zerba’s wines before, and liked most of them without being really wowed by them, but I really enjoyed all of them with food. In particular, the Dolcetto and Barbera were really stand-out wines when we had them with appetizers and the meal, enough that I’ll swing by Zerba and pick up some bottles before they sell out. The Dolcetto, specifically, because I think the case production was pretty limited; there isn’t a whole lot of Dolcetto planted around Walla Walla, to my knowledge!

 

I don’t really know much about Italian wines, except that I really enjoyed some Valpolicella and Chianti Classico when I was in Tuscany a few years back, just discovering red wines. I think I’ll have to do some research (and “research” by means of drinking wine) on Italian varieties pretty soon!

 

Does anyone have any recommendations for Italian wines for me to try? 

What I’m Drinking, 4th of July Edition: CAVU Rosé

photo(27)

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually been to CAVU and I hadn’t tasted any of their wines before drinking this DEE-LICIOUS rosé. CAVU is one of the Incubator wineries, which is an area of small winery spaces located near the Walla Walla airport. Start-up wineries can lease these spaces short-term while they get started, and then they typically move to a better/bigger/different location. CAVU is just about to move to a different space in the airport area, which means that they must be doing pretty well. And this rosé was pretty awesome, so I’m not going to disagree.

This is a Barbera rosé, which I haven’t seen too much of; I’ve seen a lot of Sangiovese rosés, and even some Sangiovese/Barbera ones, but not many 100% Barbera. It gives it a nice acidity, with some good oomph to it. Lots of strawberry/raspberry flavor, dry and refreshing. In this kind of heat, I’m not looking for a big or heavy wine. This rosé has enough body to feel like you’re drinking wine, but it’s not going to weigh you down in the hot weather!

To be honest, part of the reason why I wanted to drink this particular wine for 4th of July was because of the blue and white label, which looks like an American flag with the rosé in the bottle and made me feel celebratory! We paired it with our 4th of July dinner: pasta salad and a tomato-basil salad in a balsamic and wine vinaigrette.

After dinner, we switched to gin and tonics, which is my other preferred hot-weather drink.

Check out CAVU online!

 

 

Friday Cocktail: Orange-Sage-Ginger Rum Punch

rum punch 2

Okay, it’s the weekend, you’re having people over for a party, and you have a bunch of rum that you just need to get rid of. What do you do?

Make rum punch; what else? I was inspired by this punch recipe after inviting a bunch of people over and deciding that I needed a non-wine beverage to serve alongside all the wine (and believe me, there was a lot of wine). It turned out delicious: sweet, with an edge.

rum punch

You will need:

1 1/2 cup of rum (I used spiced, and it was tasty, but you could probably use almost any kind of rum, except black rum. That, you should save for Dark and Stormies)

1/2 cup of orange juice (I just bought some no-pulp juice from the store; I bet it’s even better hand-squeezed)

2 bottles of ginger beer (Because this is Walla Walla, I couldn’t find ginger beer, so I went with some fancy ginger ale in bottles)

sage leaves

1 oz agave nectar (I used less than an ounce, but I don’t like my cocktails very sweet)

blueberries

Muddle the blueberries and sage in the bottom of a pitcher, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Enjoy. I put my pitchers into the fridge to let the flavors meld for about an hour, but it was delicious right off the bat.

BOOM! Party pleaser. You are now the best host or hostess.

Have a good weekend!