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Kudos to Kudos

If you’re a Pinot Noir fan, or want to try it but are intimidated by the cost, you owe it to yourself to give Kudos Pinot Noir a try. From Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley growing region, this wine tastes absolutely incredible, especially when you consider the price point.  We paid a mere fifteen bucks for this baby, and I’m here to tell you it tastes nothing like you’d expect a $15 Pinot Noir to taste. It’s complex and not watery and insipid like some lower range Pinots tend to be. If you’re a fan of sweet wines, you’ll find this one a little dry for your taste.

I drank it alongside chicken fried rice from our local Asian restaurant, and the Pinot’s earthy flavor really complemented the smokiness of the fried rice. It didn’t taste that great with the egg drop soup, but was fabulous with the fortune cookie…which was not MUCH of a fortune cookie. Unfortunately, I threw the fortune away so I can’t recall exactly what it said, but it was more of a statement and definitely not a fortune. I hate it when they do that!

Anyway…. Kudos is an amazingly friendly wine when it comes to food pairing. I really think it could match well with most anything. Hell, give it a whirl. Try the Kudos, and then tell your friends.

2007 Kunde Cabernet Sonoma and more

2007 Kunde CabernetThe 2007 Kunde Cabernet Sonoma is one of the best under $20 bottles of cabernet you’ll put in your face (We paid $17.99 at Total Wine in Georgia).

Tasting like a far more expensive wine, it’s complex, and has a depth of flavor you don’t usually get at this price point. We highly recommend this one as a wine to take to a tasting or when you’re asked to pick up the wine for dinner. Or, you know, when you’re having frozen pizza like we had for dinner last night. It’s a pretty versatile wine. Four thumbs up!

On the home crafting front, we’re progressing nicely. So far, we’ve made The Pasha’s Rye and we’ve got a savory akvavit in the works. The Pashsa’s Rye is an amazingly intricate infusion of dates, cardamom, rosebuds (!!) and star anise in rye whiskey.  It reminds me of kheer, the Indian  rice pudding…minus the rice, of course. That would be pretty nasty. It’s supposed to be drunk on its own, but we found that the cardamom overwhelmed the blend a bit. I think a solution would be to add more rye. But then again, isn’t that ALWAYS the solution? MOAR BOOZE!

The savory akvavit is another super complex blend, which is currently in the infusion stage with one more week to go before it’s ready. This one required 100 proof vodka, a couple of dill sprigs, toasted caraway, cumin, and dill seeds. Mike says it smells like really drunk pickle juice, and I have to agree. We’re going to use it in a drink called The Harry Caray (unfortunately misspelled in The Seasonal Cocktail Companion as “Carey”) once we figure out where to source organic dandelion leaves and flowers to make the celery bitters that also make up that concoction. We’ll try to have it ready by the time the Braves play the Cubs in July.

We’re making our own stuff!

“Hello, yeah, it’s been a while.
Not much, how about you?
I’m not sure why I called.
I guess I really just wanted to talk to you.
And I was thinking maybe later on.
We could get together for a while.
It’s been such a long time.
And I really do miss your smile.”

So, yeah…it has been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that (and sorry for the ear worm)!

I think with the advent of warm weather (at least in our neck of the woods), we’re going to start this thing up again. I’m also going to give mad credit to H. Harper Station in the Reynoldstown neighborhood of Atlanta, for our renewed focus. Never have we experienced such a fine level of libation creation in our lives. The detail those bartenders put into the craft of the cocktail is absolutely unbelievable (think ice hand cracked with little hammers, and homemade bitters of all varieties made by a kid who used to work at a compounding pharmacy). It’s obvious that they love what they do. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a trip.

The cocktail that kicked my ass into Boozelovers gear was The Boundary, a delightful concoction crafted with Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Averna Amaro, Oloroso Sherry, Regan’s orange bitters, and an orange peel twist.

I was intrigued by the ingredients, and asked Julian, our bartender (and aforementioned pharmacy kid), what Averna Amaro is. This is where our education began. Amaro is a digestif (as opposed to an apéritif, and is used in a few cocktails in the U.S., but it’s a pretty unusual ingredient. Julian totally got in his groove, and it’s obvious he gets a kick out of it when people ask him about what he does; he’s definitely a Boozelover! We learned all about many of their ingredients, and discovered that most of their adjuncts (bitters, syrups, etc.) and tinctures are handcrafted at the bar. And this is where the title of this post came from.

Today, I placed an order with Mountain Rose Herbs for Dandelion Root, Horehound, Sarsaparilla Root and Allspice. And another order with Penzeys Spices for Mace Blades, Cardamom Pods, Star Anise and Mexican Vanilla Beans. Why, you ask? Well, we’ve decided to try our hand at crafting our very own tinctures and bitters. Julian introduced us to the book, The Seasonal Cocktail Companion – 100 Recipes for 4 Seasons of Drinking by Maggie Savarino, which they use at H. Harper. I’m anticipating the arrival of the herbs and spices in a couple weeks, and once they’re here, it’s ON! We’ll be posting our thoughts on the recipes as we go along, as well as tempting you with the cocktails we make with them.

In the meantime, while we’re busy mixing, watch this space for more reviews…

Georgia Wine Country 2011

We decided that it just ain’t right to write about California Wine Country when, hey, there’s a wine country right here in our own backyard, so we decided to hop in the Jeep and head up the Georgia Wine Trail. Having experienced Arkansas wineries in the past, we set our expectations low…VERY low. We wouldn’t really be disappointed much then, right?

Our first stop was Wolf Mountain Vineyards. Wolfy, isn’t it? Just a tip if you go: Don’t park at the very first lot you pull into. Drive up the hill with the sign that says “Visitor Entrance,”  don’t walk it like we did. Noob mistake!

20110730-013933.jpgAfter a trudge up the hill in 95-degree heat, we finally made it to the top and walked in to the reception area where you can either ask for a table in the restaurant or the hostess will direct you to the tasting room. We opted for the tasting first and were taken to the stairs leading down.  Were we ever in for a pleasant surprise!

First of all, the room was packed with young couples, older couples, girls’ day out groups, couple friend groups…. I had no idea this was such a destination! And the views of the north Georgia mountains from every vantage were spectacular.

The tasting room is open Thursday – Sunday from noon until 5:00, and you can choose from two tastings:

  • The Estate Tasting Flight – $10 (includes a tasting of eight estate wines) or the Reserve Tasting Flight – $20 (includes a tasting of eight reserve and sparkling wines). We opted for the reserve tasting so we could try some of that north Georgia sparkler, threw some elbows into the crowd, and bellied up to the bar.

To say we were surprised by the wines would be an understatement. Blown away, no, but I would put a couple of those wines against some mid-range California wines in a blind tasting and dare you to identify which one came from Georgia. Ten bucks says you couldn’t do it.

Of particular note were:

2009 Sparkling Demi-Sec, which presented a very subtle apricot sweetness on the tip of the tongue that was balanced out by a nice dry finish.

2008 Instinct, their Rhone-style red, blended with Syrah, Mourvedre,  Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional. This was a really tasty, complex wine that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve with dinner or bring to a friend’s house. We each had a glass with lunch.

2008  Claret, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre blend, which was pretty amazing. Just the right amount of tannins and spice made this one a pretty damn fine tasting wine. And we almost didn’t get to taste it! Apparently, they weren’t serving that one at the tasting. However….when I expressed my disappointment and said that was the one I was really looking forward to, Stephen, our pourer, said someone happened to open a bottle by accident and he gave us a taste. Lucky us! It was an extremely tasty accident.

After our tasting, we decided to head back upstairs and grab a bite to eat. Although the website says you must make reservations, that’s not necessarily the case. I’m sure the place is packed for Sunday brunch, but it was 2:30-ish when we showed up, so they seated us right away. Again, the views are awesome, and if it hadn’t been raining we would have eaten outside on the expansive veranda.

Lunch consisted of a trio of sliders for me (crab cake with lettuce, tomato, and remoulade; shredded braised short rib with a claret reduction and fried onions; pulled pork with Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and a pickle). The crab cake was pretty unremarkable but the other two are definitely worthy of getting the full sandwich next time (and there will be a next time). The 2008 Instinct tasted absolutely amazing when paired with the braised short rib meat. The cold avocado and corn soup was okay, but I think it would have benefited by a stronger corn presence, perhaps roasted with some kernels sprinkled on top. Mike’s lunch was the Apple Basil Chicken Salad Sandwich (with Granny Smith apples, toasted almonds, fresh basil, on a croissant). I’m somewhat of a chicken salad purist and really only like the occasional tarragon in mine. He says the sandwich was tasty, though.

After our adventure at Wolf Mountain, we decided to continue the fun and headed over to Frogtown Cellars. Their tasting room is open Monday -Friday noon until 5:00, Saturday noon until 6:00, and Sunday 12:30 until 5:00, and you have three tasting options: Dry white wine tasting (Nine dry white wines for $15; Dry red wine tasting (Nine dry red wines for $15); Off dry and sweet wine tasting (Six wines for $8). You can also combine the first two tastings for $24. We stuck with the reds, and I have to say after sampling Wolf Mountain’s wares, we were pretty disappointed. The ’06 Sangiovese was really the only wine of note, but I would hesitate to pay $19 for it. They have a fun logo, and the schwag they sell in their gift shop is fun, but the wine wasn’t all that impressive.

So, two vineyards down on the Georgia Wine Trail. We’ll definitely head back to Wolf Mountain and hit some of the others the next time we’re up in that neck of the woods.

 

 

Napa and Sonoma 2011

The original intent of this trip was to run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon. Unfortunately, I injured my foot about a month before the race and it sidelined me from running 13.1 miles. So, we made the best of it (since we had already paid for everything), sucked it up, and spent a couple days touring wine country instead. The sacrifices we make for you people….

We hit some really great tasting rooms (skipped the tours since wine making probably hasn’t changed much in the six years since we’ve been there). Here are the highlights:

Napa

Friday night we went to a place called Fish Story (my Yelp review), and I had some absolutely amazing scallops. I need to figure out how to replicate the recipe.

Saturday morning we went for a run and then headed over to Soscol Cafe for a hearty breakfast before a day of tastings. Here’s my Yelp review and a couple of photos. YUM! We didn’t eat the rest of the day!

V. Sattui – This winery in St. Helena has amazing picnic grounds. It was surprisingly crowded for a wine I’ve never heard of. The day we were there they were having a barbecue with pulled pork and it actually smelled southern! They were also serving up BBQ oysters. We didn’t partake and hit the tasting room instead. Our little hottie server had her scripts down pat for their wines, although she didn’t really strike me as much of a wine drinker! Standouts were: ’08 Sattui Family Red, ’09 Pinot Noir, and the ’07 Napa Valley Cab.

Domaine Chandon – Since we were in the ‘hood of Yountville we had to stop here for some afternoon bubbly! We got the standard tasting and then I got the étoile Rosé and Mike got a glass of the étoile Brut and we went outside to enjoy the grounds. What a lovely place to wander about! The patio was absolutely fantastic and the views were beautiful. Domaine Carneros has better wine, for sure, but the wine here was definitely tasty and the area is amazing.

Bell - Exceptional experience in Yountville. We got there at 3:00 and they asked if we had a reservation. We said we didn’t and the guys said, “Well, it looks like you’re right on time for your 3:00 appointment! Come on back!” We got a private, one-on-one tasting with one of their experts (the guy on the far left in the photo on the right. Shoulda got his name). Their ’07 Clone 6 Cab was fantastic! We were also a fan of the ’06 Cab and the ’07 Merlot.

Sonoma

On Sunday we got up and ran four or so and then headed out to Sonoma. We got the opportunity to see a lot of the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon race finishers as we were coming in to town, which was bittersweet. I really wanted that medal!!

So, to dull the pain, we ate brunch at The Girl & The Fig, which I liked more than Mike did. We probably could have eaten at Soscol Cafe again and been perfectly content.

Afterward, we hit another few wineries:

Audelssa (Glen Ellen) – This was, by far, my favorite stop. An old friend, who’s really knowledgeable when it comes to wine, told me if we didn’t go we were missing out on some really great wines, and he was right. He also told me if I shared his secret, he’d kill me, so…. don’t tell! Their chardonnay is truly unique. As Vanessa, our tasting expert said, “It’s a white wine for red wine lovers.” It was extremely complex for a chard. Not as complex as the Chateau Musar white that we had at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival a few years ago, but close. It was hard to choose which wines to take home so we picked the ’08 Zinfandel and the ’07 Cab.

Speaking of Vanessa, that girl knows more about wine than probably anyone I’ve ever met. When she heard that we’re pinot noir fans (and she’s an expert) she wrote down her personal recommendations to try the next time we’re in the area: Sojurn, Domaine Carneros (we went there last time we were in the area. The Front Gate pinot is amazing), Joseph Swan, Williams Selyem, Rochioli, Arista (specifically Longbow), C. Donatiello (terrible website, but hey! That’s Vanessa! She particularly recommends Hervey and Floodgate),and Freestone.

Landmark (Kenwood) – Was recommended to us by another friend. I would say this one was pretty unremarkable and would skip it. $40 for a marginal Chardonnay? No, thanks. We didn’t take anything home.

Ferrari-Carano (Healdsburg) – You know them, you love them. No surprises, just a good solid wine tasting. The grounds were absolutely gorgeous.

For lunch, we stopped at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria in Geyserville. Yelp review and pics here!

And then we went to Robert Young Estate in Geyserville, which was an okay tasting. The room was VERY tiny and, while the ladies running it were knowledgeable, it wasn’t a fun one…We picked up a bottle of their ’06 Alexander Valley Scion Cab that was quite tasty and moved on to Wilson. We just popped in here to pick up a few bottles because we went last time and loved their Dry Creek Zin. We’ll see how the ’09 tastes in a few years.

Sunday night dinner was at Downtown Joe’s Restaurant and Microbrewery, saga on Yelp.

2006 La Cuvée du Président Vacqueyras

Label – There’s a lot of shit going on with this label, but the best thing is the embossed bottle. Somebody has dollar bills, y’all!

Location – Southern Rhône Valley, France

Alcohol Content – 14%

Snob factor – Snob, snob, snobbity, snob-tastic! This is the younger sibling of Chateauneuf du Pape, so you can let everyone know that when you bring it to a party. P.S. If you say “Chateauneuf du Pape” with a French accent and then do that “huh huh huh” thing afterward, you’ll be sure to come across as all class.

Price – $16.99

Chris – I had high hopes for this wine based on my typical MO of judging a wine by its label. Faaaancy! When I first tasted it, I thought it was weak yet sharp if that makes sense. Not very full but a bite on the front end. My comment was, “I’ll bet this tastes much better with food.” I was right. We had it with pizza and it turned out to be a tastier wine.

Mike – Not much here. Nothing offensive about it, but it’s pretty flat and thin leaning toward tannic. Not very much to drink by itself but drank better with pizza.

Where we’d serve it – We’d decant this wine and see what happens. I’m betting it would taste really good with a lamb dish or a hearty beef stew.

Rating

2007 TOHU Marlborough Pinot Noir

Label – Nice Mod-art label. Very eye-catching!

Location – New Zealand

Alcohol Content – 13%

Price – $24

Beth – I like Pinots in the summer and this one isn’t cheap but it’s good. It has some oak but with a good red fruit finish. I could sit on the deck and eat a burger with this wine and be very happy. I could also see it with a plate of mild cheese, yum!

Where we’d serve it – I’d bring this to a family get together, supper club, and maybe my book club later this week.

Rating

2008 Vicious Zin

Label – Love this label! Great graphics and really fun. (Please note guest appearance by Roxanne the Princess Puppy.)

Location – Plymouth, CA

Alcohol Content – 14.2%

Snob factor – This is a fun inexpensive wine; no snobs allowed!

Price – $9.99

Chris – On its own this is not an impressive wine. A little cloying; on the sweet side for a zin. It’s not as powerful as most zins I’ve tasted…definitely on the softer side. I’m interested to see what it tastes like with a bowl of the Texas chili that’s in the slow cooker. Fast forward: Unfortunately, the wine didn’t improve much. It was a nice foil to the spice of the chili, but it’s still too sweet for my taste.

Mike – This zin is SWEET and fruity. Not my bag, baby. I’m not going to dis this wine too much other than to say that it’s worth what we paid for it…barely

Where we’d serve it – This wine definitely needs a spicy food to combat the sweet. Might be good with BBQ or Indian food.

Rating

2008 Line Shack Petite Sirah

Label – Nicely done. This looks like it could be a pricier wine

Location – San Antonio Valley, CA

Alcohol Content – 14.9%

Snob factor –Not terribly snobby, but it’s a nice looking wine. Until you taste it.

Price – $15.99

Chris – I absolutely hated this wine. Horrible, no redeeming qualities. It was so ridiculously sweet I couldn’t drink it. I’m not surprised at all that the vineyard does not have this wine for sale on its own website. They must have pawned it off on unsuspecting bargain stores like Total Wine & More (which we love by the way. Not bashing Total Wine in the least! It’s not their fault they got snookered.) For almost $16 I expected a little more out of this bottle.

Mike – This wine is very syrupy. If you like the blueberry syrup at IHOP, you’ll love this wine. Couldn’t tasting anything but sweeeeet. Kack.

Where we’d serve it – Might make a good prison or communion wine.

Rating – ZERO

2006 Pisano Tannat

Label – Plain and understated. Looks elegant.

Location – Uruguay

Alcohol Content – 14%

Snob factor – We’ll just bet that if you bring a wine from Uruguay to the party, everyone will want to try it. And they’ll think you know your shit.

Price – $15.99

Chris – This is a grape I’ve never had before. The wine is super dark, almost opaque. It smells like the outside after it rains – wet earth, grass and cement. Seriously. If you stick your nose in the glass, I swear this is what you’ll smell. It’s got a really nice flavor, but it’s a little harsh. Kind of minerally and sharp. I imagine this would taste better with food, but alas… We’re just drinking tonight. Don’t worry, mom. We ate an early dinner.

Mike – When I poured the wine it looked like dye it was so thick and opaque. The nose was earthy but not overly so. The wine had a vanilla top on the front and the tannins came in quickly on the back. This has a pretty refined taste for a wine from Uruguay. I liked it.

Where we’d serve it – With a steak dinner. At the chili cookoff!

Rating