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Wine and Dine: Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel and Stacey Ribs

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Cooler weather typically means people find themselves reaching for cozy food and wine pairings. While you may not live in a cool climate, you still may change your eating and drinking habits in fall and winter. One dish that really works in warm or cool climates is BBQ baby back ribs. They’re hearty and delicious, and can be made indoors or out. And, since Zinfandel works so nicely with barbeque, I’d recommend pairing BBQ ribs with Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009.

Napa Cellars is part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio. They own or market a host of labels, from Sutter Home to Newman’s Own to Napa Cellars, and even Fre alcohol free wines. I received several samples from this past vintage release of Napa Cellars wines to review. Since I’ve already written about Napa Cellars Chardonnay when pairing with shrimp,, I thought I’d take this opportunity to focus on one of their reds.  Coming in at $22, this Napa Zinfandel has powerful, big fruit without being over the top jammy.

The Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel is 88% Zinfandel and 12% Petite Sirah, and is aged 14 months in French and American oak, 10% of which is new. The bouquet and palate are very similar, with chocolate and raspberries on the very inviting nose. The palate is fresh red berries surrounded by baking spices, cinnamon and a herbaceous note as well. The finish is very long, with a predominantly spice and pepper note. There’s a little cocoa that dances around that fruit and spice, adding a layer of complexity that was nice. Letting it breathe for 15 or 20 minutes did not tame this powerful wine, which was 14.7% ABV. However, it’s big without being jammy or hot, and that makes it worth trying.

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Now, the ribs part requires a story. Our family loves to grill, smoke, and cook in general. I respect vegans and vegetarians, and apologize to my plant eating friends. This recipe is not going to please your palate.  However, PLEASE feel free to post your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe below, and I’ll try it, pairing it with some delicious wines.

One thing that makes it to the table at almost every cookout is ribs. I have several recipes, from a 6 plus hour smoke, to a 1 hour grill, to baking them in the oven. All of them are tasty, but Stacey Ribs have all but cemented their place as our favorite. Stacey is Robin’s cousin, who is an amazing hunter. The man lives to hunt. And he’s apparently equally as good at cooking what he hunts. In eight years, Stacey has only been to two or three events at the same time as us, but this year at the lake house was the best. He rolled out his trailer barbeque and fired up the coals. He then cooked some of the best baby back ribs I had ever had, earning the name “Stacey Ribs”. The preparation was simple, and the results were divine.

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

While the coals were heating the BBQ pit up to 325 degrees, Stacey peeled off the silver membrane from the ribs, and seasoned both sides with Everglades All Purpose seasoning, salt, and pepper. He tossed the ribs onto the grates, indirect heat, and let them cook for an hour and a half, turning two or three times. Then, during the next 20 minutes he basted each side with some BBQ sauce, mentioned below. He pulled the ribs off the grill, let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then cut and served. They were tender, moist, and flavorful. The simple preparation was very exciting, and the sauce was some of the best I’d had in ages.

Smoked Ribs on my Traeger SmokerI did the exact same preparation with my Traeger grill, and it was incredible. The Trager holds the heat constant, and produced a nice smokey flavor. I used apple wood pellets, as I light a lighter, sweeter smoke. And while the seasoning and smoking are important, I think the finishing touch was the sauce that Stacey used. He picked it up at  gas station in Kenansville, FL. From what I gathered, the company was small and just sold locally to the gas station. Stacey picked up a bottle while driving by once, and swore by it. I looked the shop up online, ordered a few small bottles, and the rest is culinary history.

Jimmy Bear's BarBerQ Sauce

Jimmy Bear’s BarBerQ Sauce

The sauce is Jimmy Bear’s Original BarBerQ sauce. They sell it online, and accept paypal. I ordered two of the 16 oz bottles, and cooking two racks of ribs used about 1/3 of a bottle. I didn’t dissect the flavors, but it seems to be a mustard base with honey flavors. The spices are excellent, and it’s a great balance between savory and sweet that worked perfectly on the pork ribs. I think the sauce, the ribs, and wine all made a perfect pairing for a good time with wine.

In addition to your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipes, what foods do you find yourself making and eating more of as summer ends? What’s on your table these days? I’d love to know, so comment below.

Sipping Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

When people talk about Napa Valley wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, they often talk about lofty prices of hard to get wines like Screaming Eagle and Scarecrow. And while there are definitely great wines at lower prices in Napa, California, like Hartwell which can come in around $80, that is still above some people’s wine budget. That’s when a wine like the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon fits perfectly in your glass. It’s a great expression of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, at a price that doesn’t make you feel like you just bought a whole vineyard.

Stepping Stone is the sister label to Cornerstone Cellars, a venture with managing partner Craig Camp and Drs. Michael Dragutsky and David Sloas who started the label in 1991. I had the chance to try the Cornerstone Cellars 2004 Howell Mountain Cab Sauv a year or so back. While I didn’t write up a review, I thought it was delicious, and I was quite sad I opened it when I did. I felt it could have aged for another 2-3 years, if not 10. So, when I was given a shot to try the 2008 Stepping Stone Cab Sauv, bottled in May 2010 after spending 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels and released 9 months after bottling in early 2011, I was quite excited. At just $35 a bottle, I believed we’d have a great Napa wine under $40 to talk about.

Get a Wine Decanter

Get a Wine Decanter

First, a word about decanting, or just aerating wine. Do it. Stop being so impatient. It’s not rocket science, and will improve the taste of just about any red, and even some white wines you’ll drink.  If you don’t have a formal decanter, which my God, if you’re a regular wine drinker, get one, then just pop the cork, and pour out a smidge of wine into a glass. That will allow air to get into the neck of the bottle and start oxidizing the wine. I won’t get into why decanting works, just know you should. Some wines need more air than others to “open up”, and that part sort of IS rocket science. Just know that 10-20 minutes sitting and breathing is almost always the right thing to do.

Tasting the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, the nose was a sweet cherry, with some notes of blueberry and brambles. Yes, I taste with my nose first. Some 80% of what things taste like are based on smell, so taking a nice sniff of the wine will start producing taste patterns. The palate was big fruit up front, dark cherry and blueberry, followed by a nice earthiness. I let this decant for about an hour after my initial taste. I noticed the mouthfeel was full but silky, round flavors of dark cherry, mocha and a beautiful herb and forest floor note. There were fine, well integrated tannin, and this wine was just a pleasure to sip. Even at 14.9% ABV, there was no heat on the finish, and it was a well made wine. At $35, I’d say it was worth every penny. Tim Lemke of Cheap Wine Ratings wrote up a number of the Stepping Stone wines, and agrees the Cabernet Sauvignon is a good wine.

Cabot Coop Private Stock Cheddar and wine

Cabot Coop Private Stock Cheddar and wine

Food pairings for this Cabernet Sauvignon would be the typical red meat such as steaks, as well as lamb or veal. We enjoyed it with some amazing Cabot Coop Cheddar cheese, and think it’s a perfect pairing. The two dance together in a delicious harmony. The Stepping Stones 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine on it’s own however, and you can enjoy it just sipping on a glass with friends. I know I did.

 

Sipping Chardonnay – Franciscan 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

For over thirty years, the Franciscan Estate winery has been making small lots of wine and blending them together to bring to market what they believe is a fantastic wine. They offer multiple lines of wine, including the Signature Wines, as well as the Limited Selection Magnificat and Cuvee Sauvage lines. Their main line, Signature Wines, offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and the wine I’ll discuss now, the 2009 Franciscan Napa Valley Chardonnay.

I receive many press samples of Franciscan wines, and have thought they were all nice wines. This chardonnay is the first I’ve written about, because I feel for the price, it offers a solid wine. For $18, this offers a taste of a Napa chardonnay without paying exorbitant prices. This white wine needed to breathe, something I’m finding more and more whites can benefit from. As soon as it was uncorked, the bouquet was pears slathered in buttered popcorn, and the palate was light to medium, with a very round mouth feel. The acidity seemed a little off and the fruit seemed over ripe.  However, after about 15 minutes open in the glass, the wine was much different.

After breathing, the palate was much more round, a function of the malolactic fermentation as well as the 8 months sur lie in a mix of American and French Oak. Sur lie means the lees, or expired yeast left after fermentation, stays in the barrel with the wine, which gives it a rounder, softer mouth feel.  There were notes of pear, vanilla and buttered popcorn on the palate, and the acidity was much more subtle.

The Franciscan Napa Chardonnay is fermented in oak barrels, using wild yeast which results in lively, fruit and mineral flavors with some layers of complexity. When fermenting wine, some winemakers use specific yeasts to achieve specific notes. Using whatever yeasts are in the air and vineyard naturally is thought to allow nature to guide the wine’s outcome. If you are a fan of oaky, buttery chardonnays then for $18 this is one to try. However, if you prefer a crisp chardonnay, or one with more fruit, then you’d skip the Franciscan. While the pear and fruit notes are definitely present on the wine, I feel with even such a light oak aging of 8 months, the vanilla, butter, and oak takes center stage.  If you’re looking for a nice chardonnay food and wine pairing, this wine will pair nicely with a roast chicken and side dishes such as mashed potato or macaroni and cheese.

Drinking for a good cause – Charity Case Rose

Charity Case 2008 Rose Wine

Charity Case 2008 Rose Wine

It’s always exciting when you can take what you love doing, and find a way to do good things with it. That’s exactly what the team at Charity Case Wines has done. Jayson Woodbridge, of Layer Cake and Hundred Acre, has lent his name to the project, teaming with vineyards and wineries around Napa, and together create budget friendly wines with a good cause.

Taking grapes donated from Napa vineyards, Charity Case created a rose wine out of mostly cabernet sauvignon, along with zinfandel, merlot and syrah. In 2008, about 305 cases were made, and about 2,000 cases in 2009, a very generous year. The 2010 vintage will see about 300 cases again, as obviously the yields and market will dictate how much participating vineyards can offer.

All of the proceeds from sales of the Charity Case wine go towards those in need at several charities, including Aldea Children & Family Services, Cope Family Center, Foster Kids Receiving Center and Wolfe Center Teen Drug & Alcohol Treatment program. That alone is a good reason to buy some Charity Case Rose and drink the wine.

I’ve long been a fan of rose wines, it was the topic of one of my early television segments on Daytime. I love the refreshing flavors that rose wine can offer, especially on a hot summer day. At $12 per bottle, the Charity Case Rose 2008 was an easy drinking wine. It had some red fruit on the nose and palate, though there was no acidity to balance that out on the finish. It was a simple, straightforward wine, easy to sip on. Notes from the winemaker indicated that 2008 was a very rainy year, and that caused the fruit not to be super concentrated, thus offering this style of wine.

Pairing sweet smoked ribs with rose wine

Pairing sweet smoked ribs with rose wine

I’m curious to follow Charity Case through 2009 and 2010, to see how, if at all, the wines change. I would love to see some brighter fruit and some more acidity on the finish, to help the wine pair better with foods. It couldn’t stand up to my smoked ribs, as the sweet and savory sauce overpowered the wine. The Charity Case Rose did, however, pair nicely with cheddar and manchego cheeses on the second day, and I would pair it with cheese and fruit next time.

Some fellow wine writers had some great things to say about Charity Case Rose. Dan, The Iowa Wino thought the Charity Case 2008 Rose was outstanding. The La Jolla Mom picked it as her 3rd favorite out of 12 rose wines. The Miami Wine Guide liked it as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think about Charity Case wines, or rose in general?

 

St Patrick’s Day – It’s not just for beer anymore

Irish Clover for St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Though St. Patrick’s Day is a religious celebration, enjoying a drink has long been a part of that celebration. And while it’s customary to have a beer or cocktail on St Patrick’s Day, enjoying a glass of wine is certainly an option. To put together a food and wine pairing piece,  I asked an Irish friend what she would eat on St Patrick’s Day. With Irish Eyes Smiling, she said “Mum would fix corned beef and cabbage, Irish lamb stew, and bread pudding.” I took Mum’s menu, and went to pairing wines perfect for Irish food and St Patrick’s Day.

Since I didn’t have Mum here to cook for me, and I was short on time to create the dishes myself, I went over to Oshea’s Irish Pub on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. It’s been recommended for it’s food before, and it’s  menu was just what I was looking for. I picked up two main dishes, as they didn’t have bread pudding, and scurried home.  The food was still hot when we plated it, which wasn’t surprising since I live only 2 miles away. We started with the corned beef and cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick's Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick’s Day

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

The briny flavors of the corned beef and cabbage worked very nicely with the German wine I selected. I wanted one with a little sweetness, and the Valckenberg Madonna Kabinett 2009 was perfect. From the Rheinhessen, the largest German wine region in both area and production, the Madonna is a blend of the grapes riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Kerner.  The bouquet on the Valckenberg Madonna  initially was tight, though it opened to a sweet, fruity bouquet. The palate was delicious ripe honeydew melon, with just a touch of acidity. The wine paired perfectly with the corned beef and cabbage, and for about $12.00 it’s a nice value.

Your St Patrick’s Day party may not consist of corned beef and cabbage. Or, white wine may not be your preference, and you’d like an alternative idea for your festival. I’d highly recommend finding a recipe for Irish Lamb Stew, or a Irish Beef Stew if you prefer. And then I’d recommend pairing it with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick's Day

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick’s Day

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards has a history dating back to 1884 in Napa Valley, California. They produce a wide variety of wines, from Zinfandel to a Sparkling Rouge, and their Cabernet Sauvignon. The Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is a big Napa Cab. Right out of the bottle, the nose of the Frank Family Cabernet was tart cherries with notes of spice and leather. The palate was silky, with nice fruit and firm tannins, showing the tart cherry all over the palate. After about about 30 minutes decanting, the nose is more a stewed cherry and baking spice, with blackberry and bramble notes.  The palate was a full, rich red berry with warming spice. There was a green note as well, such as bell pepper, but it was a undercurrent and not a prominent taste.

However, the wine really shined when it was paired with food. With each bite of the stew, the wine took on this soft, silky approach and gained complexity. The fruit was less tart, and took on a black cherry note with cocoa flavors and warm baking spice. The wine spends 24 months in french oak, about 35% new, the remainder 1 and 2 years old. The oak is well integrated, though the tannin is firm as I said. You can order the wine from the Frank Family website as well as select stores, and it comes in at $45 from the winery, though you can find it for less shopping online.

If you want to skip the main course and head right to dessert, I have some great options for you. Rich and heavy, bread pudding is not only perfect St Patrick’s Day dessert, it’s delicious. It can be served hot, or cold, and with any number of toppings from whipped cream to a bourbon sauce. We served it cold, and paired it with an Italian white wine that can only be described as beautiful. The Saracco Moscao d’Asti is an amazing wine on it’s own, and really harmonized with the bread pudding.

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick's Day

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick’s Day

Saracco Moscato d'Asti

Saracco Moscato d’Asti

Moscato is all the rage now, being one of the trendy wines that people ask for in restaurants, clubs, and of course, wine shops. I don’t reach for Moscato often, as many expressions are just a bit too sweet and syrupy for me. However, the Saracco Moscato d’Asti is fantastic. The wine in the glass is a beautiful light yellow hue, and you’ll immediately notice it’s slightly frizzanti, or sparkling.  The nose is a wonderful white floral and peach bouquet, and it’s just gorgeous. The palate opens up with a sweet floral and apricot or peach note, and I can only describe it as delicious, refreshing, and sweet without being sugary. You can find it for around $16, and it’s worth buying! I’d serve this alone as an aperitif, or with dessert, or to sip on during a lovely evening with friends.

I’d love to hear how you celebrate St Patrick’s Day!

Pairing Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay with Sauteed Shrimp

Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay

Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay

I’ve always been of the opinion that two things enhance the enjoyment of drinking wine, food and friends. The mission of my writing has always been to make wine more approachable, which includes helping my friends make well informed choices in their wine selections. When my twitter friend Richard Auffrey issued a call to action for wine writers to step up our game in 2011, my response was to post more relevant food and wine pairing to help you have a good time with wine.

A tweet from the folks at Food Network inspired a mid-week quick and easy meal of sauteed shrimp.  Their idea was to saute shrimp with garlic, and deglaze the pan with Champagne.  A simple enough idea, and one that included wine or Champagne, so I was quite excited.  I knew I had a host of wines to pair with such a dish, so I prepared the following recipe:

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup of Sparkling wine (you can use a California Sparkling Wine or Italian Prosecco, Cava, or a Champagne)

In a large saute pan, I heated the olive oil on medium for about 4 minutes, then added the chopped garlic to saute for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring the entire time.  I then added the cleaned shrimp, and sauteed them until pink, about 5 minutes. You want to ensure you don’t over cook the shrimp, or they’re rubbery. Cut one open and ensure the inside is pink and no longer the translucent white. Once they’re done, take them out of the pan and put them in a serving dish. Pour the sparkling wine into the pan, and deglaze, ensuring the crusty bits come off the bottom of the pan.  Stir for about three minutes, as the wine will reduce and thicken, mixing nicely with the flavors in the pan.  Pour over the shrimp, serve over pasta, rice or on it’s own, and pop a cork.

This dish could have gone with quite a few wine options, but I selected a bottle of Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay, which cost around $24. After giving the bottle a few minutes to open and breathe, the bouquet of ripe pears pops out of the glass, followed by a little creme brulee.  There are even scents of sweet white floral mixed in with those pears, and it’s a great nose. The palate is light to medium body, and is a good mix of buttery and crisp. Some of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation, which will produce the buttery, heavy mouth feel in a white wine like chardonnay. However since not all of the wine went through “malo”, it retains some of the crispness chardonnay can show. There is good fruit, apples and pears,  and spice right up front, with some nice toast, but not over done as you can find in “Over Oaked” chardonnay. There’s a lingering smokey spice flavor on the finish, but it’s warm and inviting, not overbearing.

There are some great examples of Napa chardonnay on the market, and I truly believe that this Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonny is one of them. Winemaker Joe Shirley, head winemaker since 2007, is a California native who’s doing some nice things at Napa Cellars. He worked at Sonoma Cutrer in the late 90′s, which almost typifies buttery California Chardonnay. At $24 for the Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay, it’s quite nice when compared to chardonnay in the same price range, such as Paraiso’s Chardonnay, which I also enjoy and have brought to various TV segments to recommend.

Don’t think that chardonnay only pairs with foods prepared with Shrimp. I love chardonnay with chicken, from baked to fried to roasted. As a matter of fact, this Napa Cellars Chardonnay sample came with a recipe for Chicken Saffron Brochettes with Spanish Chorizo. YUM, we’ll have to make that and discuss in the future! And of course, lobster, whether boiled and dipped in drawn butter, or in a lobster roll, is a natural pair for most California chardonnay. What is your favorite food and wine pairing with chardonnay? Leave a comment below, I’m dying to know.

Sparkling Wine Selections for Your Holiday Party


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Conventional wine wisdom dictates you should always have a bottle of bubbly on hand, as you never know when cause for celebration will arise. That wine wisdom holds especially true at this time of the year, as we celebrate holidays, family gatherings, and of course, ringing in the New Year. Fortunately, there are a number of options available in every price range, so serving your family and friends a delicious sparkling wine is nearly foolproof. Whether a Champagne, a Cava, or a sparkling wine from Napa, pouring the perfect bubbly is simply a cork pop away.

Champagnes , and sparkling wines made in areas other than Champagne, France,  come in a number of sweetness levels. The most common levels are Brut, Extra Dry, and Sec, with Demi-Sec and Doux rounding out the five levels. Each denotes how much sugar is in the sparkling wine, with Brut being the most dry with less than 1.5% sugar and Doux being the most sweet with over 5% sugar. Today we’ll discuss Brut,  Extra Dry, and Sec options.

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Sparkling Wine

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Sparkling Wine

Our first selection comes from J Vineyards & Winery, the Cuvee 20 which is a Brut sparkling wine from the Russian River Valley appellation in Sonoma California. A blend of the three grapes Champagne can be made from, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this dry sparkling wine has great flavors.  Dry on the palate, there are crisp lemon citrus flavors with a typical yeasty, doughy note. There’s a light floral and nut note as well, and the sparkling wine is fresh, crisp and clean. Perfect on it’s own, the J Cuvee 20 will pair nicely with appetizers or little bites, whether smoked salmon and caviar or popcorn and french fries. This wine can be found relatively easily, and retails for about $22.

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

Our next selection is the affordable Lamberti Prosecco from Vento, Italy. For about $14, the Lamberti Extra Dry Prosecco has a fabulous crisp palate, with flavors of lemon zest and amazing bubbles. Even though it’s an Extra Dry, there’s very little sweetness, and it must be on the cusp of Brut / Extra Dry. This is definitely a great option to offer as an aperitif, a little bubbly to serve to your guests as they arrive and get comfortable at your gathering. Perhaps a little less widely available, you should be able to go into any reputable wine store and ask them to order this, as the importers Frederick Wildman are fairly well known.

Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine

Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine

Rounding out our sparkling wine selections is the Mumm Napa Cuvee M. The sweetest option offered today, the sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier. You’ll taste fresh peaches and tangerines on the palate. There are also secondary notes of vanilla and honey, yet for all of it’s sweet flavors, this wine is far from cloying.  Perfect for the holidays, your guests will want to toast you again and again with this sparkling wine in their glass. Also perfect as an aperitif, the Mumm Napa Cuvee M is flexible enough to pair with spicy foods as well as creamy desserts.  This wine can be found in a broad range of stores, and retails for approximately $20.

Looking for the best sparkling wines for the holidays, whether a Champagne such as Pol Roger, or a Cava such as Rondel? While these certainly will fit the bill,  I’ll have a few additional selections available on my website in the coming days.  Cheers.

No Bottleshock here – Chateau Montelena 2007 Chardonnay video wine review

Chateau Montelena 2007 Chardonnay

Chateau Montelena 2007 Chardonnay

These days, most people are on a budget, and watch their spending closely. And while very few of my friends cut wine out of their monthly expenses, they always ask me to find good, budget friendly wines for them to enjoy. However, it’s my opinion that now and then, it’s ok to splurge and treat yourself, so long as you do it in moderation. For Robin & I, that day came last week when we opened up a bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from Napa, CA.  It’s not what I would call a Budget Wine, but rather a wine for a nice occasion. For us, that occasion was celebrating the end of a work week!

If you’ve seen the movie Bottle Shock you know the impact Chateau Montelena had on the wine world in 1976. The movie definitely endears you to the struggle California wine makers had, and have, gaining respect for the hard work and love that goes into each bottle. It also will make you want to run out and buy a bottle of Chateau Montelena, whether you’ve had it in the past or not. For us, this Chardonnay was not our first experience with their wines. We had a bottle of their Zinfandel with a lovely dinner out in West Palm Beach a few months ago, and their Cab some time prior to that. However, we did indeed go out and buy a bottle of the Chard days after seeing the movie, and kept it in the back of the wine cellar for a while. However, the time came to open, and enjoy it. Of course, I’d like to share this wine with you, so please watch the short two minute video, then scroll down to read more of my thoughts on this wine.

Tasting Chateau Montelena 2007 Chardonnay from Matthew Scott on Vimeo.

I actually misspoke on the video and said that oak aging typically gives Chardonnay a buttery mouth feel. It’s actually the malolactic fermentation that gives it that lush mouth feel. The oak aging can, however, impart notes of toast, spice, and vanilla, for example. The Chateau Montelena Chardonnay spends eight to nine months in oak. However, the oak influence is beautiful, not overwhelming the flavors of fruit.

The wine was wonderful, and we enjoyed it very much. Frankly, I think we drank it too quickly, and needed to take some more time with this wine. The wine evolved over the hour we ate, and I feel we missed some of the changes it went through. I plan on getting a second bottle soon, with the expectation of sipping it, slowly, and really taking care to see how it changes sip to sip. The subtle oak aging provides Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay with complex layers of flavor, from the tropical notes I mentioned before to subtle hints of vanilla and spice. There’s a nice balance of acidity and fruit, and this is a crisp, and delicious, white wine.

I mentioned a food pairing in the video, and we paired this with Fettuccine Alfredo topped with shrimp. While it was a “nice enough” pairing, it was by no means perfect. Frankly, the beautiful tropical flavors the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay offers would have gone much better with a grilled chicken or fish dish. The fish could have been grilled sea bass or grilled salmon, as either would have paired with this wine wonderfully.  Likewise, a simple grilled chicken, seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper, would have been a spectacular food and wine pairing with this Chardonnay. There are many food and wine pairings that this wine would have worked with, and perhaps we’ll make one or two of them in the future, and share our tasting with you.

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena

I must admit I have not yet visited Chateau Montelena. However, as this beautiful Eve Andersson photo illustrates, there is a lot of history and beauty at the winery. I look forward to visiting the Chateau one day soon. The rich history on that land, from the Chateau itself to Jade Lake, would make a great piece for future TweetMeTV segments. I’ll have to talk with the folks at Daytime morning show and see about another Napa visit, soon!

Your adventure in wine doesn’t need to stop here. You can follow the folks from Chateau Montelena on Twitter. The folks from the movie Bottle Shock are on twitter as well. Of course, you can find me on Twitter or Facebook, and we can continue having a good time with wine. Cheers!