Wine Review: Big Red Blend, Dark Horse

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My friend, Kricket, says that she avoids California wine because she doesn’t like the way the ground tastes.

I’m not sure I can relate but let’s run with it anyway. Every time I’ve been to California it leaves me with a renewed light in my heart for New Mexico. Visiting California makes me glad to go home.

But what does California taste like?

Some may argue that it smacks of Botox and carbon monoxide, I would suggest that the benefit to holding such an opinion is in being overheard expressing it by an impressionable fool.

Kricket is not a fool but she thinks what she thinks so I decided to conduct an experiment by trying a wine that is mostly not from California.

Still being on my Dark Horse kick, Big Red Blend was my choice for venturing out into the world of unfamiliar grapes. That’s right, foreign grapes in serious danger of being deported, were brought together in a harmonious blend proving that, despite the varying color of our grape skins, we can in fact all get along.  There is Spanish Tempranillo, Chilean Cab, and Argentinean Malbec in this mix. Coupled with Merlot, Syrah, and Petite Verdot, Dark Horse Big Red Blend is a tall glass of feisty wine ready to pair up with any meal.

We had it with salmon burgers and giant heaps of steamed broccoli.

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I enjoyed the Big Red Blend.  It’s a little bolder than the Pinot Noir (which is my reigning favorite) but still has an enjoyable flavor once you figure out how to drink it.

Xavier and I used our round glasses with the green stems. We bought them at Goodwill for the purpose of enjoying a cold glass of Moscato on the patio during the hot and steamy summer nights here in Easterville. To me, they vaguely resemble cacti and are tacky for sure but they are not the right shape for optimizing a bold red wine.

What I mean by that is if you allow this wine to splash up into the ceiling of your mouth it delivers a bit of an upper cut to the upper pallet. This is really easy to do in a glass of this shape.  If you use a glass with a more narrow opening, it facilitates taking a sip as opposed to a swig.  In this instance, the Big Red Blend goes down smooth like butter.

When asked what he thought of it, Xavier said, “It is reminiscent of DayQuil but if you bought it again I would still drink it.”

Hey, I can’t control what the Hubz says but I thought it was pretty good and never once considered using it as a substitute for cold medicine. As for whether or not it tastes “un-Californian”, I honestly couldn’t say but I would certainly buy it again and would be happy if I went to a party where it was being served.

 

 

Wine Review: 2014 Merlot, Dark Horse

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Dark Horse Merlot: The Yum Continues…

I’m not sure what they mean by “jammy” but if it means chunks of grape residue stuck to the inside of the bottle and settled at the bottom of my glass then, yes, it’s “jammy”.

Tasty? Absolutely.

Goes well with pizza?  Damn skippy!

Penguin-mouth factor? Low, it did not turn my teeth blue.

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I would describe Dark Horse Merlot as a lightweight Merlot.  Not that it’s intended for amateurs but that it’s not as heavy feeling and flavored as other Merlot wines that I’ve sampled. As previously mentioned, it did not give me penguin mouth. Additionally, it didn’t give me a headache either.

Am I supposed to be using terms with universally agreed upon definitions?

Sorry.

It’s a little dark-fruity, a little oaky and, if you squint real hard, maybe a vague notion of molasses. Honestly though, “molasses” is a bit of a stretch.

I am rapidly becoming a fan of Dark Horse wine and, possessing a certain proclivity for being a creature of habit, would probably resort to buying it all the time except for the certain inevitability of running out of stuff to write about.

But not to worry. I’m not in panic mode, yet. There are still a few Dark Horses yet to be explored and, for a wine that continues to be on sale for $8.99, you can’t go wrong here.

 

 

 

Wine Review: 2015 Pinot Noir, Dark Horse

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Always a sucker for cool names and labels, I just had to try some wine from Dark Horse.

While this method of selecting wine frequently does not work out in my favor, this time I got lucky.

After doing some research on their website, I decided to try the Pinot Noir and it did not disappoint!

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This is a velvety smooth and creamy Pinot Noir that actually does bring to mind rose petals and lavender, cherry and just the right amount of oak. (Y’all know I wouldn’t normally say something like that, right?) Give it 30 minutes or so to breathe and get ready to be impressed.

Xavier and I both got home late on this evening, didn’t much feel like cooking, and we paired this wine with popcorn which is not proper or sophisticated but is the reality of real people out there in the real world.

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I think the wine did more for the popcorn than the popcorn did for the wine but in any case we were out of both by the end of the night.

It is not the recommendation of this author for two people to kill entire bottles of wine in one sitting but, you know, sometimes shit happens.  Let’s call it a science experiment.

Here are some other relevant facts.

For those of you who fear the dreaded red wine headache, after three hefty glasses of Dark Horse Pinot Noir I slept like a (comatose) baby and woke up with no headache or hangover. In my personal experience, I have found that higher quality red wines do not give me the ice-pick-through-the-temple, while lesser quality wines leave me reeling from what feels like an open head wound.

For me, taste and headache factor are the measure of money well spent.

Speaking of money, Dark Horse wine is very reasonably priced. I think I paid $8.50 for this bottle. Normally I would consider that a big yellow CAUTION flag but their website claims that renegade wine maker, Beth Liston, has mastered the method of producing top quality wine at affordable prices.

All I can say is: Claim Substantiated.

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Dark Horse Pinot Noir is Murphy dog approved!

Wine Review: 2015 Silk Soft Red Blend, Menage A Trois

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Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

Love. Love. Love.

There’s a new sheriff in town.

This wine is ecstatically delicious.

Seriously, it’s not even fair to the other winemakers of the world.

While Xavier was switched on by the Menage A Trois Gold Chardonnay, in my opinion there is nothing finer than the Silk Soft Red.

This wine is rated at 90 points.  No arguments here.

70% Pinot Noir. 20% Malbec. 10% Petite Sirah

Alchemy in a barrel.

But nothing is simple. To be human is to be caught in moments of conflicting emotions and events.

Earlier in the day Xavier was in a car accident.

Less than a mile from home, on his way to buy me fancy popcorn, Xavier was stopped in traffic when a distracted old lady plowed into the back of his car at 35 miles an hour.

Apparently Mrs. Too Old To Be Driving looked up from her knitting just in time to see to see his taillights and say “Oh Shit!”

She had longer skid marks in her Depends than she left on the road trying not to hit my husband.

She pushed his car 20 feet and into the next lane. Fortunately other drivers were paying attention and no one else hit him during his slide across the road.

Xavier was so excited about this car and had only bought it three weeks prior.  It still had the temporary plates and he had not even made the first payment yet.

While not dead or paralyzed, he is definitely hurt and this situation is a long way from being resolved.

In a real time example of yin and yang, we sat on the couch drinking the most delicious wine in the world while he told me the story and showed me the police report and the photos. Being human, in all it’s conflicting glory.

Two of the most important questions in life are: What will you focus on? and What does it mean?

Could something good come of this seemingly unfortunate turn of events?

Without overplaying my hand, I believe there will be a positive outcome and, when that day arrives, we’ll celebrate with another bottle of Silk Soft Red Blend.

Wine Review: 2015 Chardonnay Gold, Menage A Trois

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Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

Rich. Indulgent. Lavish.

That’s one way to put it.

Xavier and I needed a new wine to try and I chose this one because the picture on the label reminded me of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep video.

Xavier was unimpressed by the comparison and even more unimpressed with Adele.

To be fair, most of her songs make me want to jump out a window but I do enjoy Rolling In The Deep just a teeny tiny bit every now and then.

Remembering a lesson learned from our previous bottle of Chardonnay, I decided to store it outside on the balcony until Xavier got home from the studio.  This way, it would be cool, but not too cold.

When Xavier got home, I showed him the bottle and without missing a beat he said, “Do we have to share it with someone else?”

He’s funny like that.

Menage A Trois Gold is not a wine for the weak of heart or the repressed in spirit.

14.8% alcohol.

Time to pull up the big girl pants.

I liked it but Xavier really liked it.

He is not usually the one repeatedly interrupting the conversation to say, “This is really good!”  But we couldn’t hardly talk about anything else with his constant commentary.

As we finished the last drops in the bottle I heard him say, “Can I get a god DAMN?!?!”

Later, as we were taking our little dog on the final poo-run of the night, I asked him to describe how he thought it tasted.

“Tastes like liquid sex,” he said, “My tongue feels like it needs a cigarette.”

What more is there to say?

Wine Review: 2014 Pinot Noir, Robert Mondavi Private Selection

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“Will stay in a situation well past the point when a sane person would have quit.”

That’s (always been) me, in a nutshell.

I don’t know if the picture on the label is supposed to be light house or a church but either one seems appropriate for pondering a moral dilemma.

Shelly recommended the Pinot Noir from Robert Mondavi and it did not disappoint.

Xavier and I killed a bottle of this dark and swirling smooth red wine while debating the following situation.

For the past two years I have been teaching a group fitness class called Strength And Balance For Seniors. After all that time I still only have three regular participants. They each only pay $35 a month for the class and it meets twice a week.

Of the three participants, I like two of them well enough but one of them, a women named Sally, pushes me like a sore tooth. Every conversation with her is like chewing on tin foil.

Further complicating matters is that I’ve recently started a new job which is consuming quite a bit of my time and making it increasingly inconvenient to keep the class going, in part, because that class time comes out of the precious few hours I have left of “me time”.

Hold on, let me pour another glass wine.

The problem isn’t that she’s not nice and it’s not that we have opposing political views. She is a nice person who agrees with me on most things. She even loves animals but this is not the problem.

The problem is two-fold, well, actually three-fold if we’re being honest.

The #1 problem is that she likes me a little too much. She stalks me on facebook, digging back through years of my photos and posts, and then announces her findings during class as if she has solved some great mystery. This habit alone makes it hard to keep my cool.

Problem #2 is that, bless her heart, but she’s just a god damned idiot. Literally every word that escapes her mouth is without forethought or reason. I have often wondered how it is that husband hasn’t drowned her in the tub – not for the life insurance money but just to shut her up.

Problem #3 is that, after working on the same exercises with the same simple explanations twice a week for two years, she still stumbles through them like a drunk baboon.

Honestly, by now I could’ve taught monkeys to do these exercises better than she does them.

I spoke to my life coach about it. Kim is pretty blunt. She said, “You need to work smarter, not harder. Cut ’em loose.”

And I had just about decided to do that when….

Wait, need more wine.

I had just about decided to end this class when the Sally’s 38 year old son died of a drug overdose.

Well, fuck.

How am I supposed to fuel this decision with righteous indignation when now all of a sudden I am forced to consider her as a real person with real feelings? Forced to consider what she lives with on a day to day basis, terrified that her worst fears will come true and she will have to bury her own son. Remembering a conservation from the previous week where she shared with the class that her disoriented brother-in-law had called her the night before to ask for her sister’s phone number.  Her sister died five years prior and he is the widower.

An old woman trying to make the best of her remaining years, latched on to me as someone she sees as wise and brave, maybe like the daughter she wished she had instead of a drug addict son.

Maybe the most difficult people in our lives are the ones who need the most compassion. Maybe each of us is the most difficult person in someone else’s life and we don’t even realize because we’re just trying to show affection in the only way we know how. Maybe someday we too will be old and sad.

Maybe I allow guilt to cloud my judgement.

About this latest update Kim said, “Showing support for her situation and keeping the class going are two different issues.”

Xavier said, “This is not what you signed up for. Your job is to teach the class, not to get sucked into these personal situations. If you want to stop teaching the class then stop. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Due largely to it’s deliciousness, the Pinot Noir from Robert Mondavi is a wise and gentle wine, allowing my mind relax just enough to be reasoned with. Shelly’s recommendation was spot on and I would absolutely serve a glass of this delectable wisdom to my mother and to all of my friends.

I canceled the class.

Wine Review: 2014 Chardonnay, Cupcake Vineyards.

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Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

So many wines.

So few nights of the week…..

There is a McDonald’s in the same parking lot as my office. I am always starving when I leave work and have the same argument with myself over and over again. Playing like a broken record in the soundtrack of my own personal hell, the internal conflict goes something like this, “Let’s stop at McDonald’s. I know it’s overpriced and poisonous but can’t we do it just this once? Please…..”

Immediately countered by my condescending Jiminy Cricket, “So you want to be fat and sick? You’re trying to get diabetes? No, absolutely not, we have food at home. Besides, if you want to waste money on something unhealthy, spend it on wine.”

I’m not a slob after all, I have standards when it comes to choosing a poison.

Some of you may wonder why I couldn’t be kinder and gentler to myself and splurge on both?

Can’t a hardworking gal have a Royale With Cheese and tasty glass of Chardonnay?

No.

Mixing wine with McDonald’s is like dropping Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke.

Very, very bad.

Speaking of wine…

Cuteness in a bottle, that is Cupcake Vineyards.

Xavier and I sat on the couch watching Wine For The Confused with John Cleese and sipping our ice cold glasses of Chardonnay.

It didn’t taste the way I expected.  A little harsh, a little tart, a little not like the description on the product label.

Then John Cleese said that wine is often served too cold and I remembered the label on the Chardonnay from Linganore Winery.  It read “serve at 55-60 degrees”.

Hmmm.

I decided to let my glass sit for awhile, you know, for science.

As it turns out, Chardonnay is not Bud Light and ice cold is not it’s ideal state.

I wouldn’t have thought that it should make any difference but as the wine warmed an incredible transformation began to take place.

A wine that I initially didn’t care for suddenly became full of delicious flavor.

I’ve read the official tasting notes including the description of what this wine is supposed to taste like. Maybe some people can actually pick out all of those things, caramel and caterpillar legs, but for me the dominant flavors were apple, butter, and oak.

The apple was quite prominent and it reminded me of a fancy, wine-esque, apple cider that I tried recently when I attended a party at Blue Bee Cider in Richmond, VA. It is called Charred Ordinary, an obvious play on the word Chardonnay, and it was hands down the best apple cider I’ve ever had. Blue Bee makes a cider that almost tastes like Chardonnay and Cupcake Vineyards makes a Chardonnay that almost tastes like cider. I would love to do a side by side comparison some day.

My thoughts: I enjoyed the 2014 Chardonnay from Cupcake Vineyards, especially after allowing it to warm up a bit.  For best results serve at just slightly cooler than room temperature.  Additionally, during the 2nd glass watch the Top Gear episode featuring the Reliant Robin.
At 13.5% alcohol, everything is funnier is wine.

Watch here -> https://youtu.be/QQh56geU0X8

Wine Review: 2013 Vinters Blend Merlot, Ravens Wood

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Indigo The Crow. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

Three ways not to get away with murder.

  1. Ensure that you are the beneficiary of the victim’s life insurance policy.
  2. Drug victim before drowning them in the bathtub. Wait two hours then call 911.
  3. Marry jail bait girlfriend less than a week later.

Xavier and I watch Forensic Files while enjoying our wine in the evenings. It is our new favorite show and from it we have learned some valuable tips such as: killing someone for life insurance money is a bad plan and that most murders can be avoided simply by getting divorced.

Why is divorce so expensive?  Because it’s worth it.

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Xavier brought home this bottle of Ravens Wood Merlot as a surprise and, it was indeed surprising.

I had never tried a Merlot because for some reason I thought I wouldn’t like it. Somewhere along the way someone probably told me that they didn’t like Merlot and I just took their word for it.

Ever find yourself in possession of an opinion that is completely unsubstantiated? You know, something along the lines of believing the Earth to be flat or that Jesus rode a pet dinosaur? Yeah, it’s just like that.

So he brings home this bottle of Merlot that I think I won’t like but agree to try anyway and, low-and-behold, turns out to be completely delicious!

Who knew?

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Merlot is the proverbial garlic and Corn-Nuts of wine in the sense that if you have some, your date better have some too.  This is a thick and juicy dark red wine, smooth and positively decadent, and it actually does taste just a very tiny bit like black olives.  I found myself greedily slurping it down like eating grape jelly straight from the jar with a spoon BUT, and pay close attention to this part, it turned the entire inside of my mouth purple.

Not realizing that such a thing would occur, you could imagine my surprise when I went to brush my teeth and found myself looking like Danny DeVito in Batman Returns.

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Dude, nothing says “Kiss Me”, like penguin mouth.

Now, this purple teeth business, I don’t mean to portray it as a deterrent but just some useful information for deciding when and where to enjoy a fine bottle of Merlot.

I say at home and preferably in the dark.

NOT in the car on the way to a first date.

My recommendation: Just like not wanting to be featured in an episode of Forensic Files, exercise a bit of discretion before uncorking the plan and everything will be just fine.

 

 

Wine Review: 2014 Cabernet Franc, Elk Run Vineyard and Winery

 

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Cabernet Franc, Elk Run Vineyards

This Sunday’s field trip was to Elk Run Vineyards and Winery in Mt. Airy, MD.

Elk Run is much smaller than the previous two wineries Xavier and I have visited.  It is privately owned and operated and the owners live in a normal house at the other end of the driveway. The tasting room is unpretentious in every way; small and cozy and inhabited by an elderly gray cat.

On the surface nothing is fancy.

Until they pour the wine.

Thriving on a diet of magic dirt and unicorn tears, these are some exuberantly happy grapes. “That is fer-damn delicious.”, I said to Xavier while tasting the Cabernet Franc and the bartender let out a little involuntary snort.

We did the general tasting, which is six pre-selected wines for $6 per person.

The thing about a wine tasting is that it seems like just a few harmless sips but by the 6th taste the grapes have started talking and I ordered a glass of Cabernet Franc while engaging our friendly bartender in what she must have thought was a ridiculous conversation comparing the economic efficiency of a custom built tiny house VS. buying a less tiny manufactured home and tested her vast knowledge of viniculture with thoughtful and intelligent questions such as “How long does a grape vine live?”

Of the six wines that were served, there were three that I was particularly taken with: Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Sweet Katherine. I could be perfectly happy drinking those three wines for the rest of forever but, if I had to pick just one, it would be the Cabernet Franc.

Made with grapes grown in their Cold Friday Vineyard, the Cabernet Franc is a tall glass of deep red silk.  Identifying all the subtle flavors could take time, lasting well into the dark hours of the night, so I recommend saving this bottle for an evening when you’ve got nowhere to be and can sleep-in the next morning.

They say the Cabernet Franc tastes of German Chocolate cake, ripe olives and black pepper, which I absolutely don’t recommend eating on the same plate, but when the subtleties of the flavors come together in the alchemy of a wine barrel the end result is impressive to say the least.

My recommendation: Have another glass. 🙂

 

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Elk Run Vineyard and Winery
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Elk Run Vineyard and Winery

On the way to Elk Run, we drove through Libertytown; home of many photo-worthy abandoned houses. A word to wise, be mindful of barriers like fences and No Trespassing signs. Gun-happy residents are often living nearby.

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Abandoned house in Libertytown, MD. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent.
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Photo by d.Nelle Vincent. Libertytown, MD
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Photo by d.Nelle Vincent. Libertytown, MD

Wine Review: #SocialSecret White 2012, A Visit To Tarara Winery

 

There are a couple things that drive me to drink:

  1. Children.
  2. When customers think that the fax machine sends actual pieces of paper through the phone lines.

Sunday is indeed the Sabbath and a day for seeking refuge from the general public. During the winter months, Tarara Winery is the perfect gateway for disappearing into the world at large.

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Located either on the set of The Walking Dead or on the way to grandmother’s house,

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Tarara Winery is a sprawling estate nestled deep in the woods of Leesburg, VA.  It’s got a bad case of the creepy trees, sparking a discussion in the car regarding the high probably of the woods being inhabited by witches. Xavier says no but I say he just can’t see them.

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In the summer, this place would no doubt have the vibe of a lavish country club, complete with lots of high-roller wine-drinkers, but in the winter we felt compelled to ask the receptionist if they were open as it seemed like we were the only ones there.

In other words, it was perfect!

At the bar, we sampled six different wines.  As usual, my imagination got the best of me and I insisted on trying the one called Magic Dragons from the Boneyard Collection. Unfortunately, I found the name preferable to the wine.

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To be clear, I’m not saying the Magic Dragons was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the #SocialSecret White 2012.  Now, that – my friends, was the bomb diggity ding dang.  If you’re going to spend $30 on a bottle of white wine, get this one!

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Fruity, but still smooth and definitely dry, this is a Chardonnay-esque white wine that I highly recommend drinking while sitting in a big chair by the fire because, at 12.5% alcohol, you won’t feel like getting up anytime soon.

With regard to socializing, the secret is, that after the first glass, your guests will feel like Alice In Wonderland. While they may hear voices, walk funny, and smile at imaginary cats, they will most certainly tell their friends that you have thrown the best. party. ever. 

Who doesn’t want to throw the best party ever?

I wanted to talk about the #SocialSecret because I have already reviewed a red wine from Tarara in a previous post. That being said, it is absolutely worth mentioning that the Tranquility 2014 is outstanding and will probably make your clothes fall off. No joke, if there is a such a thing as a wine erection this wine would cause it and, at $45 a bottle, it is money well spent.

The Tranquility is very, very good.

Let’s walk around the grounds and sober up a bit before getting back in the car.

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Shadow Lake. Tarara Winery.

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I was looking for grape vines but found these fruit tree orchards instead.

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The shot of the day is this abandoned house that we passed on the way back to civilization.

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Abandoned house. Leesburg, VA. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

I got snagged in a barbed wire fence to get the photo below. I have no idea what this structure used to be. Let’s call it Mystery Of The Day.

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Abandoned building. Leesburg, VA. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent.