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Pinot Noir

Behind The Wine: Tasting Clos Pepe With Winemaker Wes Hagen

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Coast’s Sta Rita Hills AVA sits Clos Pepe Estate. Purchased in 1994 as a horse ranch by Steve and Cathy Pepe, Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen began at the Estate full-time in 1994 as well. The estate was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 1996 to 1998, and made the first commercially available vintage of Clos Pepe in 2000. I had the chance to “talk” to Wes Hagen during a Twitter Tasting, where a group of bloggers received samples of the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009, tasted, and tweeted about it with Wes. A cerebral straight shooter, Wes had a lot to say about a lot of things!

“Sta Rita Hills has poor soil, wind, fog, cool temps, long hang time and passionate explorers of flavor” was one of Wes’ first tweets during the tasting. That was soon followed by “And not to be topical or anything. Dirt Does NOT Lie, and this AVA is a testament to that.” Of note is the Hashtag used during our tasting, #DirtDontLie. A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a way to aggregate tweets (or status updates) by a subject. With all of us adding the same hashtag to each tweet about the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot, you should able to pull together the entire virtual conversation, and follow along. The hashtag speaks volumes about Wes, and his thoughts on where the wine is made, the vineyard!

Speaking of the vineyard, The Concise World Atlas of Wine describes the poor soil of the Sta Rita Hills AVA as “a patchwork of sand, silt, and clay.” The diurnal winds and fog keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season to help the grapes reach peak maturity, and ripeness. However, Sta Rita Hills is one of the coolest wine grape growing regions, lending itself to that bracing acidity.

I noticed Wes tweeting about decanting his Pinot Noir about an hour before the tasting began. When I asked about it, he said

I decant everything I drink 5 years and younger, whites pink and red. Decanting whites and then laying the decanter on ice is a new thing for me…and it’s revelatory.

Oh, revelatory in a sentence. I feared I would need to break out my dictionary, as I do when tweet with Randall Grahm. I digress. Few Americans I know are patient enough to decant a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, no less a normally approachable and easy to drink Pinot Noir. I tried the Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir right after I pulled the cork, and was punched in the face with ripping acidity. I grabbed a decanter and gave it an hour of air.

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

My first taste of the Clos Pepe 09 Pinot was strawberry, smoked bacon and the ripping acid I mentioned previously. Masculine on the palate, there is firm, assertive fruit and acidity. Think of it as a dapper, but manly James Bond. 007, in your glass. As the wine opened, flavors evolved into dark red berries, smoked bacon, great baking spices, with sea smoke on a long-lasting finish. This wine, which was four years from vintage when sampled, has the potential to age and develop nicely, in part because of the acidity. Experts like Parker/Galloni and Laube give this delicious red wine a drink window through 2020, though Wes himself feels you should enjoy your Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir by 2016!

Speaking of drink windows, I recently came across a tasting note from March 2013 discussing Wes’ 1999 vintage. The wine was a his first at Clos Pepe, a year before their commercial launch, and was unlabeled. Nearly 14 years after harvest, the reviewer said the wine was “holding up remarkable well, with primary fruit still in evidence.” This speaks not only to Wes’ wine making prowess, but also the quality of the grapes grown at the estate.

The Clos Pepe vineyard practices are sustainable, and quite straight forward: Take care of the vineyard, and the people working in it. They try to “Encourage a healthy, diverse vineyard environment by using sheep, chickens, owl boxes, raptor perches and policies that guarantee a healthy farm. Promote soil health by composting and organic fertilization, but only enough to make the vines able to support a small crop”

Likely written by Wes, Clos Pepe does “believe that organic practices that help improve our wine are worth implementing, but we do not believe in organic for organic’s sake, nor do we practice Biodynamics, which we consider (mostly) the ravings of a charlatan, and voodoo fluff/marketing fodder.”

I read somewhere that many of the grapes grown on the estate are sold to other wine makers, keeping only a fraction of what Clos Pepe grow. Only 900 cases of the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir were made. With a suggested retail price of $54, the 2009 vintage is likely sold out. The wine is mostly available online.  The current Pinot Noir release, 2010, was given 93 points by Robert Parker/Antonio Galloni.

Joe Roberts of 1winedude asked Wes for the geeky productions details on the wine. Wes replied

Geeky production details: I didn’t fuck up a perfect vintage. That’s it. I’m a farmer.

Other BRIEF geeky production details include the Clos Pepe 2009 used all 4 Pinot Noir clones grown on the estate, 667, 115, Pommard 4, and 777. The wine aged 11 months in oak, very loose filtration, no racking or fining, picked at 23.2-24.7 brix at 3.26 to 3.38 pH final TA is 6.8 g/l, 14.1% ABV

We went on about where and when terroir exists and other cerebral, wine geekery. And just plain geekery, as I believe Wes mentioned if he wasn’t making wine, he’d still be an English teacher. It was an awesome evening with a great wine lover, who happens to make great wine. You can see what Pamela, Melanie, and Dezel thought about the Clos Pepe #DirtDontLie Twitter tasting. Wes also has his own blog, definitely worth checking out!

 

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!

Harry and David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Gifts For You

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

“What’s in the box?” No, it wasn’t Brad Pitt’s scene from Seven, but the scene unfolding in my living room. A gift had arrived from Harry & David, and Robin was dying to know what we got. Ever since I partnered with gift great Harry & David to review their Fruit and Cheese of the Month club, and pair it with wine of course, we’ve been on pins and needles to see what was coming. We couldn’t wait to try everything out, as well as offer one of their fantastic gifts of fruit and cheese to you as a giveaway.  I’ve always been a fan and customer of their delicious fruits and goodies, but after visiting Harry & David’s orchards and operations in October, I feel even more strongly about the company.

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

It’s no secret that Harry & David offer some of the most delicious pears you’ll ever sink your teeth into. They are not only the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever tasted, but their color and texture is amazing. Their other fruit gifts are equally as delicious, and they’ve partnered with great cheese companies to give you amazing wine pairing options. Couple that with the new line of wine from Harry & David and you’ve got amazing gift options, or a perfect picnic or party delivered right to your door.

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

The gift I received was a sample of what you can expect when you order a gift of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month. The giveaway, details are below, will be three months of their fantastic fruit, paired with an artisan cheese delivered to your door. It’s an amazing gift idea, something new and exciting each month it arrives. From their Royal Riviera Pears to their Honeycrisp Apples, my favorite apples ever, you will savor each and every bite. The cheeses are amazing options like Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese or their own Cheddar cheese which is creamy and delicious.

While this is a sponsored post, I’ve always been a put your money where your mouth is kind of person. I couldn’t in good conscious recommend and write about something I wouldn’t pay my own money for. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, sending their pears and other gifts to people all the time. The nurses who’ve been helping my sister recover for the last year have been delighted to recieve a gift of Harry & David’s fresh fruit, and of course go wild over the MooseMunch. I even sent a bunch of goodies to Robin’s mom this past Thanksgiving, including two boxes of Harry & David’s Royal Riviera Pears.

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

I first paired the Harry & David Honeycrisp apple, topped with a slice of their delicious aged cheddar with the 2011 Rogue Valley Chardonnay, also from Harry & David. Chardonnay pairs so nicely with cheddar cheese, and of course the apples topped with the delicious creamy cheddar is a perfect pairing too. However, the apple was a tad too sweet for the chardonnay! So, I ate the apple, then the cheese separately and finished with the delicious, crisp white wine and was very happy. The Harry & David chardonnay is bursting with fresh crisp flavors of pear and apple, has a nice body and enough acidity to make it food friendly. You can order three white wines from Harry and David, and I think the Gewurztraminer would work perfectly with the sweet apples as well as the cheddar.

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

The Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears were super sweet and super juicy. I put a slice of the Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese on top, and it was an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The pears were WAY too sweet for the chardonnay, and would have gone much better with their viognier, or even the gewurztraminer. The fruit needs a sweeter, more fruit forward wine. The cheese was very smokey, even the tip of it was a dark smoked color. It was very unique, and it paired nicely with the Chardonnay as well.

And now, you have the chance to win three months of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month club! A $130 value, you will receive their Royal Riviera Pears and Mascarpone cheese for the December shipment. Then the January Shipment will be Cushman’s HoneyBells and Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese. Finally, your great gift wraps up with Royal Oranges and Beechers Flagship Cheese.  The Pears and Mascarpone will pair perfectly with a Moscato d’Asti, or even a sweeter, Oregon Riesling. The Honeybell Oranges will also pair well with sweeter wines, riesling, moscato or even Sauternes, while the Seastack cheese should match nicely with pinot noir or chardonnay. Finally, your Royal Oranges pair with the same wines the Honeybell will, and the Beechers Flagship should be nice with Syrah or Chardonnay.

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Entering the giveaway is simple. You have from Thursday December 13th through Sunday December 16th 11:59 pm EST  to enter. Each person can enter up to three times, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, and one for Pinterest. For each entry, you must leave a SEPARATE COMMENT below. Make sure I have your email address, as the winner will be selected at random based on the comments below, and notified by email only.

How To Win This Delicious Fruit and Cheese Gift from Harry & David

1 – Tweet the following then comment below: Winning a @HarryandDavid Fruit & Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadgift

2- Post the following on Facebook and comment: Winning this Harry & David Fruit and Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious  http://budurl.com/hadgift

3- Repin your favorite Harry and David item from http://pinterest.com/harryanddavid/ and comment below where we can see your pin

This contest is open to US residents only, and if you live in a state where Harry & David can not ship wine, an alternate gift will be made available as necessary.

You can see more of what Harry & David offer, just

Follow Harry & David on Twitter
Like Harry & David on Facebook
Follow Harry & David on Pinterest

Disclaimer – I was provided a Fruit and Cheese gift to review and a stipend for my time and any materials invested in writing this sponsored post.  I was not asked for a positive review, but for an honest one.  All opinions are my own

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

In the mean time, I have some delicious fruit to enjoy. Cheers!

 

Oregon Photo Recap… and Who Won The Harry and David Basket

 

Thank you all for entering the Harry & David Cheese & Salami gift basket giveaway. It was awesome to be able to share the delicious treats I was able to sample on my media trip. Rebecca Graham was selected at random using random.org’s third-party random drawing program, and I’ll be  excited to hear her thoughts  on the delicious gift. I’ll also talk about some wine that will pair with the delicious treats in an upcoming article.

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Harry & David media tour starts with 12 bloggers meeting at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn, a fantastic Bed & Breakfast in Jacksonville, Oregon. We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and of course, some great Oregon wine.

wine and nibbles at the JV Magnolia Inn

wine and nibbles at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn

Delicious Oregon Wine

Delicious Oregon Wine

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

My room had a great “Manly” feel to it with the cigar band photos and the various musical instruments. The flowers would have made Robin happy.

Our first night in Oregon, we went over to Sandy Coughlin’s home for dinner. Sandy and her husband Paul were amazing hosts, and put on an absolutely wonderful welcome meal for us. The evening was capped off with their very talented daughter playing the violin for us. It was a captivating moment.

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin's home

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin’s home

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Sandy used a number of Harry & David products, all of which were fantastic. She also used a few of their new “Easy Entertaining” items, including the lobster risotto, which was superb. It was so good, that we’ve decided to place an order of several of the items for our Thanksgiving dinner. Of note, the Crab Quattro Formaggio mac and cheese was to die for.

Sandy made a great appetizer with Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears, Sweet Potato Butter, Goat cheese and flat bread. It was delicious!

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One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

Our next day started with a tour of the Harry & David Royal Riviera pear orchards. Orchard Director Matt Borman spoke to us about everything from the method Harry & David uses to graft the pear trees on to quince rootstock to maintain a reasonable tree height, to the use of gravity flow and reservoir water to irrigate the orchards. The views were spectacular, as was the fruit!

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Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

A few fun facts about the Harry & David orchards:

  • There are 40 degree temperature swings during the Royal Riviera pear growing season
  • These pears are winter harvest, unlike Bartlett pears which are summer harvest
  • There is a team of 300 people that hand harvest the 14,000 tons of Royal Riviera pears annually
  • The quince rootstock that the pear trees are gown on limit their height to about 8 feet
  • The Harry & David team puts out about 1,300 bee hives annually

The next day we had the opportunity to tour the Harry & David operations. From their chocolate factory (and yes, Charlie is in the chocolate factory) to their production lines to their basket assembly lines, Harry & David was a high quality shop through and through. Of all the things that I was impressed by, the longevity of employees was remarkable. Two of our tour guides had 25 years with the company, and during the visit we watched a 50 year employee be celebrated by their coworkers.

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A few fun facts about Harry & David treats

  • Tankers deliver 40,000 pounds of liquid chocolate to Harry & David each week
  • Harry & David uses 4-5 million pounds of chocolate a year
  • They make their own chocolate for Harry & David gifts

The team at Harry & David works hard to deliver quality gifts to their customers every day. It was a lot of fun to meet the people behind the company, and have a back stage pass to all the delicious goodies. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, and this sponsored media trip strengthened that relationship. There is no doubt Harry & David will be on my holiday table this year.

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Holiday Elves

Harry & David Holiday Elves?

Other bloggers/writers who attended this media trip:
Aggie
MaggyDaraBrenda, Brian, Sommer, Heather, Gaby, Julie, CarrieKelly (from Martha Stuart Living), and Sandy

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

We had some great Oregon wines during this trip, aside from the new line of Harry & David wines. I did not take many tasting notes, but a few that we sipped on are:

  • Cowhorn 2011 Spiral 36 – white wine blend of viognier marsanne and roussanne
  • Trium 2006 Grower’s Cuvee – red wine blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc
  • Brandborg 2011 Gewurztraminer
  • Slagle Creek 2008  Farmstead Red – red wine blend
  • Domaine Paradox pinot noir
  • Dr Bergstrom 2008 Late Harvest Riesling dessert wine
  • Merrill Cellars Cotes du Rogue Blanc 2010. 50% Viognier 50% Marsanne

Do you have a favorite Oregon wine? Have you tried any? Let me know below!

Mushroom Soup, Red Wine & A Giveaway

using Harry & David soup mix for a great meal

Harry & David soup mix gets doctored

I learned about Harry & David’s new wine collection during a media trip with 12 other food writers. One of them was Sandy Coughlin, of Reluctant Entertainer. While Sandy is anything but a reluctant entertainer, her site and book are focused on helping those who are. Sandy offers tips and tricks to make even the most novice entertainer look like Martha Stewart. Sandy made our first night in Oregon spectacular, since hosting 12 people who write about food or wine can’t be easy. Using products from Harry & David’s store, she threw an amazing dinner party. One of my favorite items of the night was her mushroom soup, and I was blown away to learn it came from a bag, with some added love. I could not wait to come home and make the soup myself, and pair some wines with it. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how Sandy kicked up this soup, talk about the wines that pair, and tell you how you can win a gift basket from Harry & David.

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

Mushrooms go well with many dishes, and many wines. People saute mushrooms for burgers or steaks, fold them into omelets, or grill them and eat them on their own. In terms of wines, mushrooms will go well with a host of them, including cabernet sauvignon, unoaked chardonnay, malbec, zinfandel, and of course pinot noir. In fact, there are some who think that the perfect mushroom pairing is pinot noir, whether from Oregon or Burgundy, or even California. I happen to be in that camp, and decided to buy two bottles of pinot noir at the grocery store while picking up the fixings for the soup.

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

The first grocery store pinot noir I picked to pair with the mushroom soup was the Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut, Sonoma Coast, California. The lighter of the two options for the pairing, the Coppola ’10 Director’s Cut pinot noir has a bouquet of field strawberries, with earthy notes surrounding the red fruit. The acidity was noticeable on the nose, along with some smoky scents. The palate was a bit more fruit forward, more red raspberries on the palate than the strawberries on the nose, with a nice mix of smoke and cooking spices. The soup tames the fruit a little, and works very nicely. For $18.99, this was a well made, fresh pinot noir with nice length and good acid for food without being noticeable.

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

The second grocery store pinot noir was the $21.99 Laetitia 2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, California. Not a very expressive bouquet, dusty red raspberries mix with faint scents of cocoa. The palate shows round red raspberries, fresher than the notes on the nose. There is a good bit of sweet spice from the oak used to age the wine, but it’s well integrated. The finish is long lasting, with those sweet spices turning into a dusting of black pepper. There are medium tannins, noticeable but not gripping.  With the soup, the red fruit tastes a little darker, with some earthy notes more prominent.

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket on agoodtimewithwine.com

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket

I am a “put your money where your mouth is” kind of person. While my expenses for this trip were paid by Harry & David, I purchased quite a bit of their products before being invited on the trip. I only write about products, wine or businesses I believe in. I’ve long believed in the quality that Harry & David offers, and now Harry & David wants to make a believer out of you. I am excited to offer a giveaway of one of Harry & David’s gift baskets, one focused on pairing with wine. The rules of the giveaway are simple:

  • Giveaway Open to US Residents Only, employees of Harry & David and their relatives are not eligible
  • Giveaway runs from Monday October 22nd 7:00am EST through Wednesday October 24th 11:59:59 pm EST
  • Enter by leaving a comment below stating why you want to win this Harry & David cheese and salami basket
  • Bonus Entries are available for the following (each require a separate comment)
  • Tweet the following then comment below: Wine, Mushroom Soup & a @HarryandDavid gift basket giveaway by @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadsalm
  • Like then comment below: Like both A Good Time With Wine on Facebook and Harry and David on Facebook
  • From the A Good Time With Wine Facebook page, share this post then comment below
  • Limit 4 entries per person

The description of this Harry and David gift basket is fantastic. Two gourmet new world Beehive cheeses and two handcrafted old world Creminelli salamis make this gift a savory delight for any meat and cheese lover. Award winning cheese coupled with some of the finest gluten and dairy free salami out there make for a lovely anytime gift. I’ll post a few wines to pair with it in the near future.

leeks for Harry and David soup

Add most of one leek to the soup

Sandy inspired me to doctor up the soup, not that it needed it. For one bag of Harry & David Wild Mushroom & Leek soup mix, you need two tablespoons of butter (in addition to the package directions), one leek, and two medium portobello mushrooms. Slice and rinse the leek with water, and pat dry. Melt the butter in a large skillet on a medium heat, then add the leek. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until they are tender.

saute leeks until tender

Saute leeks until tender

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice the portobello mushroom in half-inch pieces, and add to the tender leeks. Saute for another 5-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Then, add to the soup mix in your 5 quart pot or bigger, and cook according to the package instructions.

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Harry & David will ship the winner the basket directly, and you’ll have a good time with wine!

 

 

Budget Wines For Everyday

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

I’m often asked to recommend cheap wines that can be found in grocery stores. Many people hear about Two Buck Chuck, which now sells for $3 or so, and wonder if it’s any good. During my trip to Oregon, someone asked me about Two Buck Chuck right before the Harry and David wine dinner. I’ve not had Two Buck Chuck in recent years, and my first taste was a long time ago. However, I took a run to the local Total Wine, which has a much bigger selection of good wines under $10 than the grocery store, and have eight wine options that wont break your budget.

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Our first budget wine is a $7 option from Italy. The Conte Priola Pinot Grigio – Veneto 2011 has a fragrant nose of spiced pear and yellow apples. There is a smokey, spicy note that translates from the bouquet to the palate. There is very nice acidity, which comes across as citrus notes. An easy drinking, simple wine. Not very complex, just a back yard sipper.

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Moving to Marlborough, New Zealand, we have the $9.99 Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is bursting, big kumquat and tangerine and lime on the nose, mixed with herbal notes. The palate is very refreshing, great citrus notes like pink grapefruit, mixed with tangerine and even apricot flavors. Very fresh fruit, that may come across a touch tart from the acidity. Good structure, and well made for under $10.

Generation Green Chardonnay

Generation Green Chardonnay

Vying with the Two Buck Chuck line is Generation Green Chardonnay, costing a scant $3.99. The nose show scallions and apricots, and the palate is smooth and light. There are toasty apple flavors mixed with toasted breads and vanilla creme. There is a good bit of green and spice on the mid-palate and finish, showing the oak that the wine is aged in. This wine is in a bottle made from lighter weight glass, helping to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Definitely a bit more green than our next option, but also half the price!

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Our next white wine also comes from California. The Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011,  costs $7.99 at Total Wine and is one of their big sellers. The bouquet is fresh pears and yellow apples. The mouth feel is fuller, showing toasty bread topped with a nice pear and yellow apple compote. There is a good bit of warming spice on the finish, that shows the oak aging and barrel fermentation. It’s not over oaked, however. Don’t fear splinters when you sip this budget friendly white wine.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

For those who love a more fruity, almost sweet tasting wine, this $5.99 bottle is for you. I used to jokingly say “I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine.” That was, until I met Barefoot Cellars long time winemaker Jennifer Wall! She had me taste the Barefoot line again, and I had to retract my comment. The entire Barefoot line is fruit focused, and clearly people like that style. Barefoot sells millions of cases of wine a year. So, while it may not be the most complex wine you’ll put in your glass, for $6 or so per bottle, this is an easy drinking, back yard, feet up and relax kind of wine. The chardonnay will show fresh fruit salad, pears and apples, and have just the slightest hint of spice and vanilla.

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Moving on to red wines, our first option is one of Suzanne’s picks. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir is $6.99 in Publix grocery stores. This pinot noir has bright fresh strawberries and red raspberries on both the nose and the palate. There is a little bit of tannin, which dries the mouth and offers the slightest hint of smoke.  The finish seems very long. If you are a fan of more fruit forward red wines, this $7 option would be right up your alley.

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Moving to France, we have the Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010 for $9.99. The bouquet shows dried strawberries that are earthy and subdued. The palate is very dry, and the earthiness and old world flavors come through. There may be a little too much oak for some on this wine, which shows in the tannin and spice on the finish. The oak is not overwhelming, as the fruit still shows. However, the spice from the toasty oak definitely makes a firm showing. This could use some food, whether that be a host of cheeses, some nice grilled salmon, or even a breast of duck dish.

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finally, we have the Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Washington state. The nose is bright red cherry, and highlights the super simple, super fruit forward nature of this wine. Not complex at all, there are fresh ripe cherries and raspberries, with just a hint of spice and tannin on the finish. This wine is all about young, fresh, vibrant fruit, and is a super easy sipper. There is no food necessary for this $8.99 porch wine.

This list is by no means a complete resource of budget focused wines under $10. As a matter of fact, I plan on highlighting more options in the coming months. I’m not the only person focusing on these value wines, however. Jay, the store manager at the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Total Wine put up signs in each of the grape variety sections in the store, highlighting their under $10 wine options. The big pink signs are hard to miss, but customers find them very helpful.

What is your everyday budget wine?

Wine Gift Ideas For The Holidays Part 1

Great Wine Gift Ideas

Great Wine Gift Ideas

I’m sure you’re making your last minute rush to get gifts for everyone on your list as I write this.  I’m sorry this didn’t get to you sooner, but I’m here to offer three great ideas for wine gifts for everyone on your list.  I’ll post the video, which has all of the information you’ll need. However, I’ll also put some quick highlights below the video for you to cut and paste into your wish list.

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

First up was a $9.99 option from California. The Seven Peaks Pinot Noir was one of my Thanksgiving recommendations, and it carried over to the Holidays. I feel for $10, it offers a nice, fruit driven pinot noir that most wine drinkers and non wine drinkers alike will enjoy. I mentioned previously that this wine was made by Deloach Vineyards. The Seven Peaks label is owned Jean-Charles Boisset, also the owner of Deloach vineyards. The winemakers are Bill Arbios (Lyeth – Sonoma County) and Dan Cederquist, and are not tied to Deloach that I can see.

Pascal Jolivet 2010 Sancerre

Pascal Jolivet 2010 Sancerre

The next option for $20-25 was Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2010. This wine can be found in most retail shops, and like the other two options here today, can be found at most Total Wine stores. A great white wine for any time of the year, this crisp, lean expression of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, France is fantastic. It has excellent citrus notes and good acidity  with nice minerality. It’s perfect with seafood, salads, appetizers or just sipping alone.

Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape

Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape

Finally, an incredible wine for $50-55, the Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This wine is a gift for anyone who likes wine, loves wine, or wants to love wine. From one of the oldest Chateau’s on record in the area, with evidence dating back to 12th century, this historic winery produces amazing options. This wine shows beautiful dried fruits with amazing earthy and leathery mid palate notes. The wine is perfectly balanced, with nice acidity, restrained fruit, and perfect earthiness that typifies the region. While this will harmonize perfectly with your beef, lamb or any roast meat dish for the holidays, it’s perfect to sip on alone. It’s a definite great gift for the holidays.

Whether you need a gift for Christmas, a gift of Hanukkah/Chanukah , or just a gift for someone who deserves something special this holiday season, these three wines will make perfect options.  I’ll be back shortly with a few more options at various prices making your holiday wine gift ideas simple!

Some of the wines presented here were offered as media samples. That, however, does not influence my decision to include them in posts, television segments, or recommendations. I only recommend wines I believe offer great quality for the price, and stand behind each offering as something I would, and usually do, spend my own money on.

Talking Turkey – and Wine

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

With the cornucopia of food on your Thanksgiving table, finding one wine that works with everything being served is impossible. As I mentioned in my previous Thanksgiving wine article, drink what you like is a popular response to “what’s the best wine for Thanksgiving”. However, I have some additional recommendations that will work not only with a typical holiday meal, but any food or occasion. In the video that follows, I chat with CBS12 anchors Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby about three wines, with more detail on each below the video.

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewürztraminer is a grape often recommended on Thanksgiving. The palate is typically light to medium bodied, and the flavors work well with not only Turkey, but much of the side dishes you’ll find at a holiday feast. While grown around the world, I prefer gewurztraminer from the Alsace, such as the Hugel 2009 Gewürztraminer. For about $15, this white wine offers fantastic value. What I love about this wine is its light palate, dominated by white floral notes such as jasmine and honeysuckle. The finish brings a nice spice flavor, and leaves soft peach and apricot notes that linger. However, the acidity is firm, lending a tiny citrus note to the palate, and that works perfect with turkey, yams, and even fresh fruit. It is important to note that this wine will change as it warms and gets air while in your glass. You’ll notice the flavors more prominent and it becomes a little less crisp and a little fuller bodied. I recommend popping the cork 5 or 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, and letting it breathe just a little bit.

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Pinot noir makes an appearance twice in my holiday recommendations, as I feel it’s a versatile, food friendly wine. Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir delivers a stunning red wine for only $20. A beautiful, light garnet color in the glass, this is a wine that wasn’t over extracted or over concentrated. With fruit from estate vineyards, meaning the fruit is from Rodney Strong Vineyards or from vineyards they control, manage the growing practices, and have long term contracts with, this Pinot is every bit old world in style as it is new. There is big flavor in the bottle, with tons of raspberry and dried strawberry. However, the palate is a mix of California and Burgundy, as it delivers the right amount of new world fruit perfectly balanced with old world earth and tobacco. This pinot noir will benefit from some breathing time, so pull the cork and let the bottle sit for about 20 minutes before serving, or decant and let aerate for 10 minutes. This will allow the wine to open a little, allow you to more fully enjoy the wine. While I was quite happy sipping this on it’s own, look for this wine to pair with almost any meat you put on your thanksgiving table. From turkey to pork to beef, this Pinot rocks them all.

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Finally, though I have absolutely no love for Beaujolais Nouveau, I’m a fan of wines from many of the 10 Cru Beaujolais areas. These areas are designated due to their superior conditions for growing grapes in comparison to other areas within Beaujolais. While both are made from the gamay grape, Cru Beaujolais wines are more structured, typically aged before release, and are nothing like their bubblegum Nouveau wine cousins. Each of the 10 Crus brings something different to the wines, and this wine from Julienas is no exception. The wines of this area tend to have a rich, spicy character coupled with fruity qualities of gamay. The palate of the  Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas had notes of dried dark cherry, with an old world, earthy component as well. This wine definitely needed to decant for about an hour before serving, and could age for a year or two and still show nicely. For fans of old world wines, created to pair with a meal, this $25 wine will be a treat.

Dr  Loosen 2006 BA

Dr Loosen 2006 BA

At the end of the TV segment, Eric and Suzanne ask about dessert wines. I’m a big fan of port, but believe beerenauslese riesling is a better pick for Thanksgiving. This riesling is a little lighter than a port, and after a big meal, is the right wine for that touch of sweetness you may crave. A lover of Dr Loosen wines, their 2006 Beerenauslese will offer the rich, sweet honeyed apricots and nectarine flavors that end the evening perfectly. It will pair with many of the fruit pie desserts served during Thanksgiving, or be perfect on it’s own. This high quality, low quantity wine will fetch about $25 for a 187ml bottle or $50 for a 375ml bottle, which is half the size of a “normal” wine bottle. There are many late harvest riesling option available at a lower price, but they won’t necessarily be the same the quality of Dr Loosen’s BA.

I look forward to hearing what wines you pick for your Thanksgiving day meal. And no matter what you drink, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

 

-These wines were provided as media samples for review. However, my opinions are my own, and not influenced by samples or the people who provide them -