Valentine’s Day Sparkling Wine Picks

Truth be told, I am not a huge Valentine’s Day fan, (no presents, no overpriced dinners…my husband is a lucky man!), but I definitely won’t pass up the chance to cook a delicious meal at home and open a nice bottle of bubbly.  Here are a few suggestions that are sure to make your Valentine’s Day romantic and special.

Something Sophisticated- Champagne Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blancs Prestige NV

This is definitely a great bottle for a Valentine that loves Champagne.  All of the grapes come from a single vineyard in the French village of Cramant.  With every sip, this sparkler reveals new layers of flavors.  Creamy notes of lemon, apple, and peach are followed by sharper notes of ginger and anise.  Complex and well worth the price!  (A-, $70, perfect with shellfish or brie cheese)

Somthing Frugal- 2007 Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Nature Vintage Cava

If you are looking for a bottle of bubbly that will impress your Valentine but won’t drain your bank account, this is a great choice.  Dry with tastes of orange, lime, toasted nuts, and vanilla.  This sparkler really over-delivers for the price.  ($14, B+, pair with sushi, d’Affinois cheese, or oysters)

Something Different- Biltmore Pas de Deux

If you really want to score big this Valentine’s Day, spend it at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  If you can’t make it there, try a bottle of their sparkling wine.  Sweet and full of fruit, this bubbly has tastes of honey, oranges, and peaches with a citrus-filled finish.  A great pick for someone who is just getting into wine and wants a sparkler that is easy to sip! (B, $18.99, perfect with dessert or as an apéritif, media sample)

 

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Unique Blends from the Sierra Foothills Part 3- Avanguardia 2007 Cristallo

The last wine I uncorked from Avanguardia was their 2007 Cristallo.  The wine is made from more than 90% of the Rkatsiteli grape.  Rkatsiteli originated in the country of Georgia and is one of the oldest grape varieties.  It is rarely planted in the US so I was super excited to be able to try a California version of this wine. 

About the Wine- From the Winery

Avanguardia 2007 Cristallo is a blend of over 90% Rkatsiteli with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Melon de Bourgogne.  It has 12.5% alcohol and retails for $14.  For more information see www.avanguardiawines.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Cristallo pours a pale yellow in the glass.  Pear, talc, slate, and floral aromas make for an interesting nose.  The palate is bold and crisp.  Pear, apple, lemon, and mineral notes are surrounded by zesty, age-worthy acidity.  The finish is zingy and long.  Definitely not for those wanting a buttery, oaky mouthful but perfect for those wanting to awaken and refresh their taste buds.  For $14, I would definitely recommend giving this grape a try.  And don’t be afraid to cellar it for a bit, it should age nicely!

My Wine Rating- B+

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair with fried oysters, a seafood salad, or grilled chicken

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Unique Blends from the Sierra Foothills Part 2- Avanguardia 2008 Premiato

In continuing my reviews on Avanguardia Wines unique blends, I want to move on to another one of their interesting proprietary blends.  The 2008 Premiato is a blend of 55% Dolcetto and 45% Barbera.  Both are native to the Italian Piedmont wine region and the combination makes for a spicy, balanced wine.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Avanguardia 2008 Premiato is a blend of Dolcetto and Barbera from the Sierra Foothills region of California.  It has 14.%4 alcohol and retails for $20.  For more information visit www.avanguardiawines.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Premiato pours a dark garnet in the glass.  The nose has spicy aromas of cherry, plum, and cedar.  Nothing about this wine is timid…spicy black cherry, cedar, and sweet tobacco invade your palate.  The long and peppery finish continues to stimulate your taste buds long after the sip of wine is gone.  A complex and unique blend that leaves a memorable impression!

My Wine Rating- B

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this blend with bison burgers, grilled steak, or sausage and mushroom ravioli. 

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Unique Blends from the Sierra Foothills- Avanguardia 2008 Ampio

I was really intrigued when I was approached by Avanguardia Wines, a Sierra Foothills winery, to do a tasting of some of their current releases.  Avanguardia specializes in crafting proprietary blends from unusual grape varieties.  Around 70% of the grapes they grow (they have 23 varietals) are of Italian origin. 

The first wine I had the chance to taste was their 2008 Ampio, a blend of 67% Refosco and 33% Carmine.  The Refosco is an indigenous red variety from the Friuli region of Italy.  Carmine is a University of California two-generation cross of Carignane and Cabernet, which is then crossed again with Merlot.  The Refosco and Carmine combined made for an interesting blend.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Avanguardia 2008 Ampio is a blend from the Sierra Foothills region of California.  It has 14.1% alcohol and retails for $22.  For more information visit www.avanguadiawines.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Ampio pours a deep garnet in the glass.  Aromas of cherry cola, liquorice, and spice invite you to take a sip.  Tastes of sweet tobacco and sage mingle with candied cherry and crisp acidity.  This unique, medium bodied wine finishes dry with a little bit of lingering spice.  An unconventional journey for your taste buds!

My Wine Rating- B

Food Pairing Suggestions- This wine pairs well with grilled pork, pizza with mushrooms and sausage, or linguine with cherry tomatoes and herbs. 

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Weekend Mini-Review- 2009 Marquee Organic Shiraz/Cabernet

I am rounding out a week of organic wines with a new release from Marquee Selections.  Their 2009 Organic Shiraz/Cabernet is a single vineyard wine grown in South Australia.  The region is hot and the climate definitely shines through in this blend that features an abundance of ripe, dark fruit. 

The wine is a blend of 55% Shiraz and 45% Cabernet.  The warm nose has aromas of sweet tobacco, berries, and spice.  The palate is smooth and slightly jammy with tastes of dark berries, black cherries, and tobacco.  The fruitiness is followed by a slightly spicy finish.  This blend isn’t complex, but it is a solid, easy sipper that is well-priced at just under $15.  A great mid-week wine!  (B, $14.99, 13.5% alcohol)

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this wine with a sausage pizza, a grilled sirloin, or pork chop

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

 

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Organic Sophistication- 2010 Caligiore Organic Reserve Bonarda

Bonarda…it’s definitely not the first wine most people think of when they think Argentina.  Although it is the second most planted red grape in Argentina, in America, we tend to only think about Malbec.  I have had a few different bottles of Bonarda over the last couple of months and I have found great value in each glass.  The latest Bonarda I uncorked, Caligiore Organic Reserve Bonarda, definitely delivered in taste and in value.

About the Wine- From the Winery

2010 Caligiore Organic Reserve Bonarda is 100% Old Vine Bonarda from the Mendoza region of Argentina.  It has 13.9% alcohol and retails for $14.99.  For more information visit www.marquee.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Caligiore Organic Reserve Bonarda pours a deep plum color in the glass.  The nose immediately got my attention with smokey notes of blackberries, cherries, and cinnamon.  The palate is earthy and rich with tastes of blackberries, blueberries, and sweet fig.  The wine has light tannins and a spicy finish.  Balanced and sophisticated, this wine really won me over.  If you have any negative impressions of organic wines, they will be washed away with your first sip.  Grab a bottle of this incredibly priced Bonarda and enjoy!

My Wine Rating- A-

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this Bonarda with osso bucco, rack of lamb, or a grilled steak.

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Light and Refreshing- 2011 Grazioso Organic Torrontes

Every time I sip a Torrontes, I wonder why I don’t have a case of it around at all times.  Generally a melody of wonderful, refreshing flavors, I can see why it is gaining popularity in the US.  The Torrontes grape is the most widely planted white grape in Argentina and it thrives in Mendoza’s warm days and cool nights.  Last weekend, I uncorked a bottle of 2011 Grazioso Organic Torrontes and it was the perfect wine for the warm afternoon I was enjoying.

About the Wine- From the Winery

2011 Grazioso Organic Torrontes is 100% Torrontes from the Mendoza region of Argentina.  It has 13.5% alcohol and retails for $9.99.  For more information visit www.marquee.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Grazioso’s Torrontes pours a pale straw color in the glass.  I was intrigued by its tropical nose full of aromas of sweet melon, lychee, and citrus fruits.  The palate was light and fruity with bright flavors of pineapple, tangy lemon, and peach.  An overall enjoyable wine and great value that will take your palate to a warm paradise with its tropical fruit melody. 

My Wine Rating- B

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pairs nicely with goat’s milk brie, a seafood salad, or mahi mahi with mango salsa

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Weekend Mini-Review- 2007 Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs

I have had the chance to taste several wines from Biltmore Wines in North Carolina over the past several months.  The 2007 Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs is the latest on the list.  This sparkling wine hails from the Russian River Valley instead of their North Carolina vineyards, which I must admit was a little disappointing to find out.  It is still a nice wine to try, especially if you are visiting the beautiful estate.

This Brut is 100% Chardonnay with 12.2% alcohol.  The nose has lively notes of citrus and yeast.  Tart lemons and pear mingle in your mouth and are followed with a semi-dry finish.  This sparkler packs plenty of lively acidity and is a perfect match for shellfish, brie, or d’Affinois cheese.  (B, $24.99)

For more info visit www.biltmore.com

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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A Los Olivos Tasting Room You Don’t Want to Miss- Andrew Murray Vineyards

Last weekend, my husband and I planned a trip to Paso Robles to do a little wine tasting.  On the beautiful ride up the 101, we decided to take a detour into Los Olivos, a quaint little town in Santa Barbara’s wine country.  It’s a beautiful area decorated with wineries, tasting rooms, and restaurants.  We decided to make a stop into Andrew Murray Vineyards’ tasting room at the invitation of the winery.  I had heard a lot of great buzz about Andrew’s wines and his rock star wine making abilities.

Tracy hosted our tasting and was very knowledgable about Andrew and the wines he passionately makes.  She took us on a fantastic journey through eight of Andrew’s wines.  Seven of the eight wines were Syrah and each bottle was unique and intricately different. 

We started with one of the winery’s latest releases, the 2009 Syrah Tous les Jours. The grapes for this vintage come from vineyards in both the Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles.  This Syrah tasted of a melody of dark cherries, cranberries, and spices.  Incredibly smooth and only $16.  It is undoubtedly one of the best Syrahs I have had in this price range.

As we moved through the tasting, we discovered one Syrah that was better than the next.  The stand out of the tasting for me was the 2009 Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard.  The wine hails from the west side of Paso Robles.  It poured a striking and beautifully intense violet.  Flavors of rich berries, toasted oak, spice, and vanilla were followed by a long, dry finish.  This wine was both big and balanced, showing lots of elegant personality.  My favorite wine of the tasting and a great value at $36. 

If you are spending some time in the Santa Barbara area, this is a tasting room you don’t want to miss.  Andrew Murray lives up to his rock star winemaker reputation and I am now a groupie.

(for more information visit www.andrewmurrayvineyards.com)

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A Silky Sangiovese from Cimarone- 2007 Gran Premio Sangiovese

Last week I wrote about a Cilla’s Blend, a wine from 3CV, which is part of the Cimarone Estate Wines family.  I also had the chance to try their 2007 Cimarone Gran Premio Sangiovese.  The Cimarone line represents the best wine grown on their Three Creek Vineyard estate.  After a few sips, I was blown away by this silky Sangiovese.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Cimarone 2007 Gran Premio Sangiovese is 100% Sangiovese from the Happy Valley AVA in Santa Barbara.  It has 14.5% alcohol and retails for $40.  Only 925 bottles were produced.  For more information see www.Cimarone.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Cimarone’s Sangiovese has a bright, fruit forward nose.  It is packed with cherries, blackberries, and a hint of vanilla.  The rich palate explodes with currants and cherries surrounded by earthy undertones.  A dry, spicy finale makes for a perfect ending to your sip.  This is an excellent showing from Cimarone…an approachable Sangiovese that begs you to have another glass.

My Wine Rating- A-

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this wine with a meat lasagna, a burger topped with mozzarella, or a veal chop.

*This wine was sent to me as a sample for review

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