Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more! Website: http://agoodtimewithwine.com
Matt.mmwine has written 199 articles so far, you can find them below.
Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!
It’s no secret that I am having a spring love affair. I’m loving wines from Chile and they’re loving me back! I of course thank Rob Bralow from Wines of Chile for sending me 12 wines to review at my leisure and this wine is one of those wines. Rob made it clear that I was free to discuss whether or not I enjoyed the wines, or not blog about them at all. I appreciate his understanding that there is a chance some of the wines wouldn’t be to my liking.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that while many people start out with easy drinking fruit forward red wines, I went for socks rockin’ Chilean Carmenere. I love the body, the intensity and the flavors. So, when I was given a bottle of 2007 Santa Carolina Carmenere Reserva, I was excited to dive into it. I tried this wine three ways, before decanting, with some pasta, and after decanting. This wine is 85% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon according to the website, or 100% Carmenere according to the downloadable data sheet on the same site, and is aged for 9 months in 1 and 2 year old French and American oak barrels.
Right out of the bottle, the color in the glass was a ruby red on the edges, having a deep blood red in the center. The nose was extremely fragrant, and from 6 or so inches away from my nose, I was getting dried cranberry scents wafting up from the glass. Sampling the bouquet direct from the glass showed a little gamey, with dark red fruits covering something underneath that was trying to poke through. It could have been spice, but I’m not yet sure.
Without decanting, the palate of the Santa Carolina Carmenere was dry and a little oaky, and there was not a lot of fruit forward. There was a good bit of smoke and spice, on the mid-palate and finish, but it was very short lived. Tasting the wine with pasta, the palate shows a bit better. There’s some fruit showing now, or the oak is making less of a showing. However, there’s definitely still some wood there, and it’s more like eating berries with a bit of the branches mixed in.
Now, I’m a proponent of decanting most, if not all red wine. Some, though very few in my experience, are fine “Pop and Pour”, where you just open and drink. So, after 40-50 minutes of decanting this red wine, I was curious to see what transformations occured. The nose grew a bit darker in terms of the berries, the gamey scent was gone, but the brambles were definitely showing in the bouquet. It was almost as if someone took a hunk of bark, and used it to mix a berry cocktail. The palate had opened up a little, showing a bit more fruit. Unfortunately this wine was still wielding the oak bat, and beating my mouth up a little. Some sour cherry came into the palate, and the wine had an overall medium mouth feel. If Yoda were talking about this red wine, he’d simply say “The Oak is strong with this one.”
Before I write off this wine, let me say that the oak wasn’t so overbearing it was undrinkable. Additionally, people LOVE oak nuances in their wine, and those people would probably love this wine. Finally, I feel this wine truly calls for some food to tame it’s wild ways. A bit of beef, or even some cheese, would probably be a good start. So, while not a glowing writeup, please remember that everyone’s palate is different, and you may absolutely LOVE this wine! The Santa Carolina Carmenere Reserva 2007 retails for about $11, so why not give it a try and let me know what you think. Leave some comments.
Oh, and for the record, as I wrote this blog post, I drank an AMAZING Chilean Pinot Noir that I’ll write about soon. And no, it wasn’t a sample from my friend Rob Bralow!
It’s time for another Wine Blogging Wednesday installment. This month’s topic comes from The Cork Dork, and he’s picked Kosher Wines, to coincide with month’s celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover. For those of you who aren’t Jewish, please don’t turn away as these wines are not just Kosher, they’re pretty darned good. And with all of them coming in under $15, they’re pretty decent value wines, or good Quality to Price ratio (QPR) wines. And while Kosher wine may evoke thoughts of sickeningly sweet grape juice for some, I assure you none of these wines are of that caliber. The video, which had poor sound so please turn your speakers up, will have my tasting notes on the four wines. I tasted these wines prior to really doing in depth research on any of them. I was hoping to provide more information on each wine in the text part of the wine blog post itself. However, some information is lacking or non-existent, so please forgive me. If I find reliable sources for information, I’ll amend the post.
Alfasi Chardonnay 2007
I am not going to try and educate people on what it means to be Kosher. I will simply say it’s the dietary law that some people of Jewish faith observe. It includes “rules” about dairy and meat products not mixing at a meal, the proper slaughter of animals, and animals that should not be consumed. People of the Jewish religion can observe various levels of “keeping Kosher”, from a complete Kosher diet inside as well as outside the home, to keeping a Kosher home but not eating Kosher outside the home, to not observing at all. There is usually Rabbinical supervision over the processing of foods that are Kosher, including a blessing over the food. That’s about as deep as I care to delve into the subject, and I hope you understand.
The first kosher wine reviewed in the video was the 2007 Alfasi Chardonnay, from Maule Valley, Chile. I’ve been enjoying various Chilean wines recently, and was excited to find a Kosher wine from Chile. Unfortunately, similar to another blog’s review of an Alfasi wine, I find very little information about the wine or the producing winery online. It’s bottled by Carta Vieja, but they do not list Alfasi as one of the wines they offer on their website. This wine is Mevushal, which according to the importer of wine, means it’s fit for even the most Orthodox wine lover. The Alfasi Chardonnay had a very fruit forward palate, with “Tree Fruits” such as pear and apple, though there was certainly some tropical fruits, pineapple perhaps, present. There was a good bit of acid on the back end, and I believe that’s where the citrus flavor I found came from. While certainly a Chardonnay, it reminded me, very much so, of a Sauvignon Blanc with the citrus and acid on the palate. It’s a nice wine, definitely worth a shot at $11 retail. Another good value wine from Chile!
Ben Ami Chardonnay 2006
The second kosher wine for the Wine Blogging Wednesday review that I tasted was Ben ami Chardonnay, 2006, from Galil, Israel. The wine was made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Another disappointment when it came to searching for producer information. Nothing shows up about the winery. While I was able to find various stores selling the wine, and less than the $13 I paid in a local store, with shipping, it’ll net out to about the same price. You may notice that in the video, I was quite underwhelmed by this wine. The bouquet was uninviting, almost unpleasant and really didn’t start the tasting off on the right foot. This wine had plenty of tropical fruit on the palate, something I don’t normally look for in a Chardonnay. It had a heavy mouth feel, with that buttery quality to it. However, to me, it’s a pretty boring wine. The finish left me wanting something more, and I was disappointed. That being said, when we talk about Kosher wines, and the fact that this is under $14, I would be able to bring it somewhere without feeling like I brought white grape juice. It’s definitely an attempt at a serious, structured wine, just not one that is to my palate. However, it’s inexpensive enough to give a try and make your own opinions of.
Baron Herzog Chardonnay 2007
This brings us to our third Kosher chardonnay of the evening, The Baron Herzog 2006 Chardonnay. Thankfully, there is a website for Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, with information about their 2006 Chardonnay. I had thought there was perhaps some Viognier blended into the wine to give it the floral component I noted in the video. However, there is no mention of blending of grapes on the website. That leads me to believe it’s 100% Chardonnay, though I am not positive. The producer website says the wine could age well for two to four years, and given the fact that this retails for $13, I may put a bottle in the cellar to open in 2011 and re-review. This wine was certainly my favorite of the Kosher chardonnay wines, as the bouquet was quite inviting and aromatic, with a very interesting and enjoyable palate. The Herzog Wine Cellar website has some very interesting information on it, about the history of the winery, their sustainable wine growing efforts, and even a nice, detailed education on what Kosher wine is. A nice wine with fruit and floral notes, definitely a wine I’d serve during a summer backyard party, Kosher or not. Of course, my tasting notes are in the video, but I’ll say that if you’re looking for a fruit forward, almost floral summer white, give the Baron Herzog Chardonnay a try. I think you’ll find that it’s an interesting wine that offers pretty good quality for the price.
While that wraps up the three Kosher wines I tasted for the Wine Blogging Wednesday installment, it does not complete our world tour. While the mission of finding a well made, enjoyable Kosher wine was successful, certainly in the Alfasi and Baron Herzog wines, how did they stack up to a non-kosher wine? Trying to stay within the price range, I selected a South African Chardonnay, the Graham Beck 2007.
Graham Beck Chardonnay 2007
Hailing from Robertson, Cape, South Africa, this Chardonnay has a lot to offer. Definitely my preference of the tasting, it certainly was a high QPR wine. With it’s darker color, approaching a light golden hue, the nose on this chard is typical butter and vanilla. While a portion, about 30% of the wine, is fermented in various stages of French Oak, the balance is in stainless steel with malolactic fermentation not encouraged. This allows some of the butter and vanilla from the oak to show, without making it over oaky or masking the fruit, and offering crisp flavors in conjunction to the buttery nose, and palate. There’s also a nice finish with some acid on it, that balances it all very well, and is a nice finish to a nice wine. This wine is going to be splendid on its own, or great with a nice chicken dish, summer salad selection, and even fish of various types. I wouldn’t hesitate to break out a case of this at my next summer bash, and just might!
The Graham Beck Wines website is also chock full of interesting information. Like many wineries, they’re taking a responsible stance towards conservation and preservation of nature and the lands they use. They talk about their biodiversity drive, and what they’re doing to try and help the environment while still making quality wines. While this is very noteworthy, as is the various technological methods Graham Beck uses to ensure the quality of their wines is up to their high standards, I saw nothing about being a “green” or “organic” operation.
Thank you for visiting, and please let me know what you think of the video, and the blog post itself. I really threw all of this together within the last hour of my day, and apologize for the audio not being so hot, and the lack of techincal data on the wines. Let me know how I can improve my posts in the future, to make your wine experiences better!
Walking into the house, Robin’s first comment was not “Hi Honey” or even “Welcome home”. Her first comment of the evening was “This wine is great.” Backing up an hour, Robin called me while I was still at work, asking which wine she should open for the evening. I told her to grab any one of the 10 bottles of Chilean wine still in our wine cellar from the PR folks at “Wines of Chile”. She apparently picked the Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from Vina Mar, and was quite glad that she did.
As you my have already noticed, I am definitely a fan of Chilean wines, and believe they offer great value for the price. Last week I did a video wine review of Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, also from Chile, and have written about Chilean wines a few other times. This white wine also hails from the Casablanca Valley of Chile, as the previous wines I reviewed did, with the Mar de Casablanca (Or Vina Mar, depending on where you look on the web) winery is 11 miles from the Pacific ocean and 25 miles from the port of Valporaiso. The ocean influence through the valley creates a huge concentration of fruit in the wine, which in my opinion is quite pleasant.
The vinification of the Mar Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (2008) was 30 days in stainless steel vats, with 2% of the wine aged in a mixture of French and American oak for 4 months. The label says the ABV is 14%, though the winery fact sheet lists it at 13.5% Alcohol by Volume. Either way, the alcohol doesn’t show through at all. All you will find in the bottle is a crisp, clean wine that goes down nicely.
Mar Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Though it doesn’t show well against the background, the color of this wine is nearly clear. I had first poured it against a white table cloth, and honestly thought Robin had finished the bottle and refilled it with water. However, the nose was so fragrant, I knew she hadn’t. There were tremendous amounts of grapefruit on the nose, at the peak of ripeness. Think sweet grapefruit, perhaps with just a hint of sugar sprinkled on top. Surround that grapefruit by flowers, subtle flowers, and you get the nose of this wine. Truly aromatic and magnificent. I could only hope it taste as beautiful as it smelled.
The first sip of this wine was a powerful as Robin’s welcome home statement earlier. Tremendously fruit forward, with ripe melon and light citrus notes, this wine danced in my mouth as gracefully as Fred Astaire in all of his movies. The transition to the finish was smooth, and the acid was moderate, but perfect for the wine. The finish went on forever, with passion fruit lingering on long past the last swallow.
We paired this wine with a “Smoked Chicken and Pasta” dish that had a subtle sauce that contained a little bit of tomato basil cream sauce. While I wouldn’t say it was a perfect pair, it was quite pleasant. This wine is fantastic on its own, a great summer sipper. It would also pair nicely with a cheese plate, or a host of appetizers. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve shrimp or other seafood with it either. Really, it’s pretty versatile. Order this with a nice salad, and you’ll have a complete meal.
While I wouldn’t say it’s a cheap wine, at $16 suggested retail it’s an affordable, reasonable white wine that shouldn’t be passed by. I think that in the $14-18 price range, this wine stands out nicely. I still have some other samples of Chilean wines to taste and review, but this is one that will definitely make an appearance at a backyard party this summer!
There is no doubt that I feel wines from Chile offer tremendous value. While many of you probably cut your “Red Wine Teeth” on Merlot or Zinfandel as first red wines, I was purchasing Chilean Carmenere two or three times a week when I first started drinking red wine. I always felt that for the money, you got a great wine with complex flavors while being very approachable. That’s why I am very excited that I’ve got a shipment of 12 different wines from Chile to drink and discuss with you. The first wine I had was Caliterra‘s Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2008, and I’m excited to talk about it!
With me, there is no joking when it comes to wine, so don’t look for the punch line in this wine blog post. All too often people select things based on their looks. People select their football picks based on who has the better uniform, or which quarterback looks cuter. Some select houses based on the looks of the yard or the view from the porch. And I am sure some of you select your wines based on the bottles and labels. Well, here’s one wine you MIGHT pass over based on it’s label, and I’m here to make sure you don’t. When I received this bottle of wine, it came with the idea of playing a joke on my friends and readers. Present them with a “goofy looking” bottle of wine (my words, not the words of the person giving me the wine), and surprise them with a value driven, quality wine instead. While the label on the Secreto 2008 sauvignon blanc is artistic and almost whimsical, the wine inside is nothing but serious.
Hopefully you read my blog often, or subscribe to it via RSS. If that is the case, you probably saw that I’ve had a hankering for Zinfandel wines lately. You’ll also know that while not bad wines, neither of the wines in that first review really knocked my socks off. Therefore, it’s time to talk about the next Zin, and see how my socks end up after it’s reviewed.
Robin and her friend Susan had been going to Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico for 15 plus years before I was invited to join them in 2005. Along with the typical advice I was given by the two well traveled ladies of “Don’t drink the water”, I was told to not drink the wine. Apparently, their experience showed them that while the ceviche was second to none, and a fresh margarita could be found anywhere, drinkable wine was a rare treat on the Island.
Since I wasn’t crazy about either of the Syrah wines I had for Wine Blogging Wednesday #55, I decided to open a third. I was hopeful to end the night on a positive note, so I opened up a Dry Creek Valley wine, since I would soon be there. The Taft Street Syrah 2006, about $20 retail, got the call and I chose to save the Longboard for my return from California. The question is, did I pick the right wine to end the night?