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A Jersey Girl who loves Jersey wine ...and the fermented fruits of the tri-state area.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bud's Picks: Callia Malbec 2014

Just when you think you have covered the bases, another one comes in and you are back in the game!

The management of Hopewell Buy Rite where I work decided we should have Callia Alta Malbec 2014 from Argentina. I looked at it and did the usual eyeball evaluation - "label looks pretty good, so it much be okay." The Boss said, "Try one, you will like it."

I was hesitant, but broke down and bought one. He was right! A nice, everyday table wine, good fruit, lingers on the palate for just the right amount of time, soft drinker. It's got everything I want in a Malbec and the some. The "then some" is the price! Get this - $8.99 on sale at Hopewell Buy Rite. $6.97 with your club card. I'm taking one for each hand today. It's a winner!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bud's Picks: Spanish Red

Yet another Bud's pick, this time a Spanish Red to rock your Labor Day:

Hacienda Lopez de Haro Riga Reserva ‘05
Rated 92 Wine Advocate
90% Tempranillo 5% Graciano 5% Garnacha

It’s a nice one!  At first sip I knew it was going to be good.  It went down soft and easy with no burn. The tannins are really mild.  It’s very fruit forward and lingers nicely, but not too long.  This is one to keep in the rack, if you can leave it alone.  I bought it at Hopewell Buy Rite, on sale, for $11.49.  At that price it’s a “must” have.  At least it is for me!  Another fine Spanish Red at a great price!

Okay, now I'm excited. I served 2 Bud's Picks at my last wine party, Protocolo and Bodegas Borsao Garnacha, both of which received rave reviews from the crowd. With their grace and strength, Spanish grapes tango the thrill of the Mediterranean across the palate, enticing you to give yourself over to the temptation of exploration and discover the thrill of a new terroir. This wine will be making an appearance at the next WineGirl Wine Party. Stay tuned for the full review!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bud's Picks: Voga Pinot Grigio

We're back with another installment of Bud's Picks! Local wine enthusiast, WineGirl's Uncle Bud, picks his favorites from the stash at Hopewell Buy Rite in Hopewell, NJ

Voga Pinot Grigio
Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Looking for something a little different in Pinot Grigio? You need to try Voga Pinot Grigio! Take a step up in flavor and body. It combines the soft flavors of Veneto and the structure of Trentino to produce what I call “a little more in your mouth”. Not overbearing, but a noticeable pleasant flavor you don’t usually get in a Pinot Grigio. 
Great package too! Tell me it doesn’t look like a perfume bottle! 
I’m buying it for $9.99, on sale, at Hopewell Buy Rite.
Uncle Bud isn't the only one drinking Voga Pinot Grigio. Tim at Cheap Wine Ratings agrees:
This wine has some really nice pear and floral aromatics, with moderate intensity.  The flavors are mostly pear and apple, but it also offers some lime and subtle peach notes.  The acidity is sufficient, but not dramatic.  The finish is nice and long.  Overall, it’s a pretty nice wine.  And it will look stylish sitting on your shelf before you drink it.
Just in time for summer, this refreshing wine should be enjoyed chilled at a picnic or poolside.

A fan of "Bang for your Buck" wines, Uncle Bud has worked in wine shops for over a decade, sampling the best from around the world and the states. Bud's wine travels have encompassed the Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes, and a few wine adventures in Arizona.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bud's Picks v NJ: Grenache/Tempranillo

We're starting a new feature here at WineGirl Blog: Bud's Picks. A taste for wine runs in my family, so every once in a while we'll feature a comparison post to see how my Uncle Bud's wine picks hold up against my own. This week, we're comparing Spanish varietals: grenache and tempranillo.

Grenache, or Garnacha, is a widely planted vinifera varietal that dwells best in hot, dry climates. Grown in the south of France and southern California, the grape is most popular in Spain, its region of origin. Generally lacking tannin and acid, it's soft on the palate, proffering strong berry flavors and spicy nodes. What does that boil down to? An incredibly easy to drink red wine that functions simultaneously as a cocktail and a dinner drink (think tapas and saltier meat dishes).

Grenache on its own doesn't have that much color to it, so it is often mixed with any number of grapes, including Tempranillo, a rich black grape loaded with body that is often referred to as Spain's noble grape. Common nodes include plums, tobacco and leather.

Bud's Picks: 

Protocolo (100% tempranillo) - Rates 89 points on the Wine Enthusiast scale and ranked #2 on their list of Best Buys from 2011, this is a wine that defines the word "structure". It hits every node on the tempranillo list, proffering fruit, herb and leather in equal measure, balancing on its tannin like an Olympic gymnast. Speaking of which, the guys in the room did full flips for this dry wine, adding it to their Vivino collections without a second thought.

Bodegas Borsao Garnacha (85% grenache, 15% tempranillo) - hailed by Robert Parker as "Possibly the single greatest dry red wine value in the world, this is an unbelievable wine." With a powerful fruit flair, this was described by one taster as "a party in my mouth." Semi-sweet drinkers favored this fruitier version, embracing the gift of the grenache.
My Pick:

Barcelona Red - Billed as a "grenache style" wine from Laurita Winery in New Egypt, NJ, this fruit-forward wine is billed as a medium-sweet on the Laurita scale. Laurita tends towards dryer wines in general, so for this Jersey palate, I'd dub Barcelona Red a semi-dry. Leather to the left, ripe berries to the right slip down your palate leaving a tannic finish in the wake. It is a nice compromise between the rich fruitiness of the Borsao and the definitive structure of the Protocolo.

What Won?
As always, it depends on the drinker. The dry fans in the crowd devoured the Protocolo while the sweeter fans aimed towards the Borsao. My husband and I, who range in the middle, devoured the Barcelona Red with ease.  At $6 - $9/bottle, and available practically anywhere, the Protocolo and Borsao are amazing deals to be appreciated. At $19, the incredibly quaffable Barcelona Red should be actively sought out by local winery fans and encouraged onto store shelves, a move that would hopefully help to lower the price a few bucks and bring it into the playing field where it rightfully belongs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Imperfect Pairings is the Perfect Match for Your Wine Reading List

I am grotesquely late in publishing this review, but such is life - we sneak in our pleasures in the sparest of spare moments and revel in the opportunity to share them when the time arises.

Jackie Townsend was kind enough to send an autographed copy of her latest novel Imperfect Pairings my way last year. Billed as "not your typical Italian love story" I was pleased to find the antithesis of the typical saccharine, unimaginable plot that has come to define paperback novels geared towards a female audience. Light on sex and deep in thought, Imperfect Pairings is, in fact, a romance novel for women who despise romance novels.

The plot revolves around Jamie, a high-paced American junior executive, and Giovanni, a brilliant Italian engineer who falls for Jamie at first sight. A fling quickly turns into a romance, and when Jamie is swept off to Italy to attend a cousin's wedding at the family vineyard she encounters a life she never could have imagined in more ways than one.

The book hits all the right notes for wine lovers. Barolo, a Northern Italian wine based in the Nebbiolo grape, plays a deft supporting role triggering well paced character and plot development. A quick decision creates an elegant plot twist forcing Jamie to grow in profound ways, not unlike a fine wine reaching maturity with each passing day in the barrel. And as the story grows, so does Jamie's taste in wine; it is a clever move on the part of a writer obviously well versed in the wine scene.

Imperfect Pairings reads like a full-bodied dry red; well balanced, emotionally rich with just a hint of sweetness, this novel pairs well with snowed-in days, quiet evenings, and a glass of your favorite wine. An enjoyable read that will also motivate your interest in the vine, Imperfect Pairings should find a place at your reading table.

Rambling Along the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail

Ever just need to get away for a weekend? Consider the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail for your next adventure in short-term relaxation.

The association of 8 wineries sweeping a radius that ranges from the natural beauty of Jim Thorpe, PA in the north to the city life of Allentown, PA in the south is easily navigated. Follow your GPS as you ride the back roads to take in the beauty of PA Dutch farmlands and small towns like Kutztown (of Kutztown University fame) home to the Renninger's Antique Market and a sweet downtown shopping area.

Our favorite wineries along the trail featured a number of excellent varietals with a focus on vinifera. Most wineries charged a $5 fee for 6 tastings that was reimbursed with a bottle purchase. With barely 20 minutes between wineries along the western side of the trail, the day moves quickly - plan to stop and shop (and eat!) along the way.

Now, as for the wine, these were our favorites on the trail:

Galen Glen Winery Andreas, PA Located atop a mountain a short drive from Jim Thorpe, Galen Glen should be a mandatory stop just for the view from the tasting room. Inside a friendly staff proffers a full list from which you may select 6 wines for the tasting. Galen Glen specializes in award winning German varietals; do not miss the Gewurztraminer 2012, Stone Cellar, a dry white with an excellent nose and crisp finish, accurately described as "boasting sweet rose and honeysuckle" nodes. From the many rieslings on the list I preferred the Riesling 2012 Semi-Dry, a golden rich brew with a creamy texture and crisp yellow apple flavor. Erin's Auslese is Galen Glen's unique semi-sweet blend of Riesling and Vidal Blanc, described as "the essence of Germanic wine" with its floral fragrance and green apple finish. Galah, the whitest blush I've seen to date, has a fruity, not sugary sweetness making it a pleasurable sweet wine for the sipping.

The red wines were pleasurable, most notably the Cabernet Franc 2012 Stone Cellar, a dry, light bodied red with strong pepper nodes, and the fruit-forward Chambourcin 2012 Stone Cellar. The Crooked Stick Red made for an interesting offering on the red list, a blend of Cab Franc, Zweigelt and Chambourcin producing a mildly peppery, balanced dry red that brings out the best in all 3 varietals.

Blue Mountain Vineyards New Tripoli, PA is the creation of a local winemaker with a California wineducation. A gorgeous tasting room that hosts live music and events offers a bird's eye view of a cellar loaded with tanks. Many of their wines favor the dry end of vinifera. The 2012 Vidal Blanc had a citrus edge, the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc possessed good acidic balance, and the 2012 Riesling was bright and tangy. I found the 2012 Vignoles light and refreshing. The 2011 Petite Syrah was a full bodied offering that packed a pepper punch. The winner here was the 2008 Merlot, a gorgeous medium bodied wine with a distinctive plum on ruby color, this wine offered a balanced flavor with just a hair of oak intensity. A smooth drinking wine, this blend attests to the winemaker's California influences and will be easily consumed by the bottle.

Pinnacle Ridge Winery Kutztown, PA is located in the basement of a huge red barn that backs up to the vines. Bringing a new, fresh attitude to winemaking, Pinnacle Ridge is a friendly place to explore the power of the grape. The 2012 Naked Chardonnay, unoaked like I like it, has a great nose and the perfect balance of butter and citrus on the palate. Their 2012 Traminette had a gorgeous perfume more noticeable to the taste than the smell. At 1.3% RS, it is billed as a semi-sweet wine for its reliance on tropical fruit flavors. The 2012 Vidal Blanc, a gorgeously wet wine, was the perfect balance of mineral on the palate and fruit on the finish.

The phenomenal part of the Pinnacle Ridge experience, however, comes with the tasting of two of their Rose wines. The 2013 Oasis is, indeed, a magical isle of flavor; this gorgeous fruit with a smack of acid on the finish is an addictive Pinot Noir brew. Down this elixir by the bottle. The 2012 Chambourcin Rose will convince even the strongest haters of the peppery labrusca grape that Chambourcin really is a gift of the vine. This gorgeous wine is an Olympian strutting the balance beam, crisp and refreshing, loaded with strawberry aromas for the picking.

At this point in your trip, you'll wind your way through Kutztown. As you near the town a blue sign pointing you to "Winery 2.0 miles" will appear; follow it! You do not want to miss the off-the-trail experience of:

Blair Vineyards Kutztown, PA This is gorgeous vinifera at its finest atop a beautiful ridge. With a great outdoor space for events, the tasting room also boasts a full open kitchen at which the winemaker hosts a variety of culinary pairing events. The lovely staff welcome you with an education on each wine and enjoyable conversation in-between. We left with four fabulous wines: The Savuignon Blanc, Metamorphosis, 2010 Pinot Noir, and 2010 Off-Dry Gewurztraminer. These folks know their wines, especially their Pinot Noirs, bottled based on the varying farm fields on which they were grown throughout the county. Each has its own unique terroir, providing an opportunity for a wineducation as well as the chance to taste some amazing eastern-U.S. pinot noir.

Both Pinnacle Ridge and Blair Vineyards are members of the Berks County Wine Trail. Two of the best on the ride, we plan to make both regular stops when we're out that way again.

Back on the trail....

Franklin Hill Vineyards Bangor, PA also has a tasting room in downtown Bethlehem, PA. This was the location we were able to visit, giving us a great opportunity to sample more wines from a winery we'd first encountered at the York, PA Wine and Beer Fest in spring. These folks know wine well enough to have some fun. Traditional offerings like Seyval Blanc, with its fresh, crisp flavor and Vidal Blanc with its gorgeous perfume make for award-winning wines. While Redhead, a dry blend of Chambourcin and Merlot flavored with a tinge of creme brulee that both softens the tannin and compliments the oak, proves to be an unique treat to the palate. Fruit wines include Thin, an acai berry wine sweetened with stevia, and Bliss, a blueberry wine that is electric blue in color - bring these bottles to parties with non-wine friends to prove that wine is, indeed, a fun thing to drink and easy to enjoy.

For a great sampling of vinifera wines fortified in American terroir, check out the wineries of the Lehigh Valley. Whether you're looking for a sweet sip on a summer day, or a Pinot that would make Miles proud, these wineries can't be missed.