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: 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 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 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.

Wine Review: Pink Moscato, Beringer

Not everything cheap is bad…

At this point in our wine experimentation careers, Xavier and I have tried just about all of the cheap Moscato wines from our neighborhood liquor store. We’ve run the gamut of yellowtail, Fish Eye and Barefoot and we’ve also tried some of the less cheap varieties such as Cupcake and Sea Glass. Incidentally, from this list, you’ll want to avoid the Fish Eye and the Barefoot. If they’re the only options on the shelf, save the $6 and just buy yourself a packet of Kool-Aid.

I’ve always lumped Beringer in with what I considered to be “the cheap wines”, mostly because of the $7 price tag, but I must say that I found this Moscato to be notably better than the others in the same price range.

If I were a guerilla that only knew 1000 words in sign language, I would name this wine Oak Nectar for it’s pleasantly sweet and surprisingly woody taste. It is currently my favorite Moscato and hummingbirds would stab each other in the eye to claim the feeder filled with this wine.

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Editors note: Never feed wine to hummingbirds, it kills them.

While I have no idea how to pair wine with food, I do recommend having wine with food because drinking wine without food looks a lot like being an alcoholic.

This particular evening we enjoyed our wine with my favorite dinner. This post is not about cooking but I am a damn fine cook if I do say so myself. Pictured below is my baked/broiled chicken with Brussels sprouts, tiny potatoes and red onion.

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Dinner Of Champions

In summary, Pink Moscato from Beringer is quite tasty and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring it to a party or to serve it to my friends.  Additionally, it did not give me a headache and, at 11.5% alcohol, it delivers a bit more bang for the buck than most of its similarly priced competitors.

2014 Chardonnay, A Visit To Linganore Winecellars

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Wine barn. Linganore Winecellars. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

2014 Chardonnay from Linganore Winecellars

“It has a looonnnnggg buttery finish”. The bartender pursed her lips while making a socket puppet shape with her hand.

I would feel like an idiot saying that, with accompanying gesticulation, but what I will say is that if grapes and butter had a baby, it would be this wine.

 

Linganore Winecellars is located in Mt. Airy, Maryland.

Xavier and I drove out for a visit this past Sunday. We wanted to taste the dry wine list; specifically looking for a Chardonnay and a Cabernet-esque dry red.

I wanted to like the one called White Raven because the name is cool, and I expected to like the Chardonnay Reserve 2015 because it’s expensive. Neither of these things came to pass.

Apparently cool names and high prices do not necessarily mean better. As far as I’m concerned they hit us with their best shot right out of the gate. The Chardonnay 2014 is everything they claim it to be.  It has zero percent residual sugar and is quite literally smooth like butta’, which makes it deliciously dangerous because it is also 11.5% alcohol.

We bought a bottle and, at check out, they asked if we would like for them to open it for us so we could enjoy it there.  I said, “Only if we can stay the night.”

Lightweights…

Pro tip: If you put a straw in the bottle, you can claim to have had “only one drink.”

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Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD

I specialize in making nice places look like run down abandoned buildings but Linganore Winecellars is, in fact, quite lovely.

Lucky for me, the weather was cold and there were not many people milling around outside but, inside on a Sunday afternoon, the scene is warm and bustling with thirsty wine connoisseurs.

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Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD

As previously mentioned, I was looking for a Chardonnay and a dry red. We didn’t buy a red but the one I liked the most was the Chambourcin. It’s very dry, with zero percent residual sugar, super smooth, pleasantly oaky, and likely the topic of a separate blog post. 🙂

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Xavier in his new Mini Cooper Clubman. Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD
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Sleeping baby grape vines. Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD