Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Cabernet and all its Tannins

Last night, after enjoying two remarkably well-priced pints of a local microbrew in downtown Eugene, I wandered over to the 5th Street Market and into some specialty shops with chic displays, a whole lot of local wines and, to the chagrin of my wallet, an entire stock of Riedel glasses. It is my dream to one day own a set of their  “Extreme” Cabernet/Merlot/Bordeaux glasses. I suppose I could buy one (at $60 a glass, maybe not) and savor my wine alone in bed watching bad TV but that seems depressing. I guess that I’ll have to wait to experience the joy that is a specifically engineered glass (volume that allows the wine to aerate and a rim designed to direct the wine to the front of the palate so as to enhance sweetness) until I actually have a job and am buying wines more expensive than the glasses themselves.

Abandoning my lofty aspirations to true wine-snobbery, I gave my Target red glasses a little rinse off and opened a Vintage 2009 Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon (for $10.99 at Fred Meyer). Since the Bogle Petite Syrah is one of my favorite wines, I decided to branch out and try their other varietals. Their Cabernet, luckily, did not disappoint. This wine was a beautiful deep maroon and smelled smoky (my boyfriend suggested that it smelled of “tobacco smoke, but not overpoweringly so”). Before I taste wine I usually follow a process I learned at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, WA. As part of their winery tour and tasting, they taught me the following steps to taste wine: aerate your wine by swirling it in the glass, then take a deep smell, swirl it again, take a small sip to cleanse your palate and finally taste the wine by sucking the wine over your tongue (yes, it’s a loud and pretentious process). This sucking motion allows the wine to flow over your tongue in a way that highlights a fruity flavor at the front of the sip (since the tip of your tongue is where you taste sweet flavors) and then opens up into a riper “bouquet” as the wine passes over the rest of the tongue. It is using this process that I get to fully experience the taste of the wine. And this Cabernet lent itself well to it. The first sip had a hint of cherry but was followed by a smooth and unmistakable oaky flavor, unsurprising since this wine aged for 14 months in American oak barrels before bottling. A long, smooth finish and structured tannins* completed the sip. All in all this Bogle was a delicious wine with just enough body to compliment rich meals (grilled meats or steak) and just enough smoothness to make it a perfectly drinkable wine. Bogle’s website suggests that this wine can be enjoyed right now but can also be stored for 6-8 years.

*The first time I heard the term “structured tannins,” I laughed, but the tannins were particularly noticeable in this wine. Tannins are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and act as a natural preservative and antioxidant (as if we needed a reason to drink wine). They give red wines their structure and their texture. If you notice the feeling on your teeth and tongue after a full-bodied glass of wine, or the bitterness to a sip of wine, that’s where the tannins come into play. Red wines with lots of tannins often improve with age, the tannins softening over time. To read more about tannins visit this helpful website:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

With Peppery Notes...

I’m spending the weekend alone, as my boyfriend is in Kentucky for a wedding, and it’s becoming pathetically evident that left to my own devices, I am liable only to eat dinners of cold tomato salads and a red wine. So, mourning my inability to attend a nice Southern wedding and stuck with some bad reality TV instead, I opened a bottle of 2006 Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza and poured a gorgeous, deep maroon glass of wine. I picked up the wine at Fred Meyer (it's easily accessible!) after seeing it on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010 list. At number forty-four on the list with 90 points, this wine was, surprisingly, only $10.99. I was initially drawn to it because I haven’t seen an $11 wine on the list since the Barnard and Griffin Rosé appeared on the list last year (another excellent wine if you like Rosés). The LAN is yet another Spanish wine made from 100% tempranillo grapes but unlike the other two I previously tried, the LAN embodied the proclaimed “rustic” element of the tempranillo grape. The first smell, rather than evoking a fruitiness like the Tapena I sampled, was very peppery. Though it offered a hint of cherry at the beginning of the sip, the finish was full with spicy notes, the most noticeable of which was pepper. This wine left no sharp aftertaste in my mouth, finishing very smoothly. The rustic, spicy elements of this wine made it extremely delicious and though the Bodegas website suggests it best paired with “cold starters, pasta, poultry,” the spicy notes of the wine and the full finish would certainly work with more hearty and more heavily spiced meals. Due to its rather boring label and even more unremarkable name, LAN, this wine only serves as further testament that you shouldn’t pick wines based on labels. Of the tempranillo wines I’ve been trying lately, this LAN is certainly the most enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spanish Table Wines - Exploring the Tempranillo grape

Breaking out of my West Coast wine persuasion, I bought a Spanish wine the other night at Kiva, the quintessential Eugene, Oregon health-food store. Including their aisle of beeswax products and a line of patchouli-scented everything, they have a great wine selection. Nearly every single bottle comes with a recommendation or, at the least, an index card covered in tasting notes. What was supposed to be a quick trip turned into an hour’s worth of reading and selecting a wine. I finally settled on a 2008 Protocolo Tinto (a traditional red table wine from Spain made of 100% Tempranillo grapes). At only $7.99 I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the rave reviews from the Kiva staff seemed recommendation enough. It turned out to be a delicious wine and a really great deal. The wine was medium-bodied which made it perfect for drinking before, with and after dinner. Without being sweet, the Protocolo was fruit-forward with hints of berry and the finish was smooth. Though I had my wine with fresh pesto on penne pasta and a side salad of fresh tomatoes, I would have loved it paired with lasagna or a red sauce on pasta. I'd definitely recommend giving this wine a try (especially at such a low price).
Happy with the Protocolo Tinto, I picked up another tempranillo at Fred Meyer, a Vintage 2009 Tapeña Tempranillo ($8.99) from Spain. The Tapeña, however, had a totally different taste. Opening up the bottle, the cork came out dripping with bright purple wine which turned out to be indicative of the bright, juicy taste. It smelled faintly of berries and the taste was even sweeter. The most noticeable flavor was of strawberry, followed by a smooth fruity finish. I had this wine before dinner and then after dinner so as to avoid overpowering the wine with my meal. For those less inclined to sweeter, fruiter wines but still interested in trying this Spanish grape, I would recommend the Protocolo Tinto. But if you’re in the market for a sweeter red and a fun summer wine then give the Tapeña a try!
Having never tried a wine made from tempranillo grapes before and finding myself stumbling over the pronunciation, I did a little bit of research about the grape. The traditional Spanish grape (there are only tiny amounts of it in Oregon and California) has a short growing season, ripens early and prefers a colder climate. According to the Tapeña website, tempranillo is pronounced “temp-rah-NEE-yo” and is considered (by their winery at least) as “Pinot Noir in blue jeans.” This isn't surprising given that the tempranillo wines I tried had a strong fruit aroma and taste, yet lacked the spicy, earthy flavors that Pinot Noir is known for.
Keep reading, as I’ll be tasting the 2006 Lan Rioja Crianza next!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Columbia Crest's Horse Heaven Hills 2008 Merlot

For $11.99 at your local grocery store (I found mine at Fred Meyer), Columbia Crest's Horse Heaven Hills 2008 Merlot is a full-bodied and yet drinkably smooth merlot. This merlot smells heavily of tobacco and pepper with just a hint of cherry and, at first taste, is fruit-forward (opening with "aromas of raspberries" according to the Columbia Crest website) with a very smooth finish. I paired mine, ashamedly, with pizza and some streaming Netflix - a testament to the drinkability of the wine. Though this wine would likely be delicious with smoky/grilled red meats or even chicken, it is also a great table wine. As a big fan of merlots, this is one of the more full-bodied merlots I have had lately. At the end of the sip, the fullness leaves nothing to be desired, but, perhaps, another glass. Receiving 90 points from the Wine Spectator and consistently appearing on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines list, this wine is a great buy! Columbia Crest's Horse Heaven Hills wines have all earned high ratings in Wine Spectator (between 89-91 points) and come from the prolific Columbia Valley in Eastern Washington state. Though I haven't yet had a chance to taste the rest of the Horse Heaven Hills wines, I would recommend giving them a taste!

Interested in more official information about this wine? Check out the Columbia Crest website:

And look forward to the next post where I'll be sampling and reviewing a Tapeña Vintage 2009 Tempranillo.

Getting Started

Standing in the Fred Meyer wine section this evening witnessing my desire for a bottle of wine overcome my evident unemployment, I was struck by the intense need to start a wine blog. The search for good wine on a budget can be tedious, frustrating, and, on occasion, a great waste of money (like the time I discovered I didn't care for Shiraz by buying two bottles at the recommendation of the in-store wine guy). Having recently graduated from college with little but a box of red wine glasses to my name, I feel well equipped to address the ever-pertinent question: Is this a good bottle of wine? Due to limited resources I'll be focusing primarily on wines under $20, more often under $15 and usually around $10. I'm primarily a red-drinker (Merlots, Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignon top the favorites list), but I'll also look for some great whites since it is summer after all.