Monday, September 4, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - French White - 2009 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

Typically, my more expensive "splurge" wine purchases are red wine and more red wine.  A lot of my cooking also skews toward red wine pairing (red meat!), and my wife and I consume considerably more red wine than white or rosé.  When it comes to purchasing white wine, I am very value conscious. I want a good quality wine, but am not looking to spend more than $25 a bottle and in most cases closer to $15.  At a recent tasting at our wine storage facility (living in Arizona, and having had our air conditioner go out in July will make one look for wine storage facilities!), we tried this special cuvée Trimbach Riesling and it tasted very nicely.  So nice in fact that even though it carried a splurge wine level price tag I picked up a bottle to pair with the right dish that needed that extra special white wine.  The dish turned out to be a meal kit from for Miso Glazed Scallops with a Soba Noodle Salad.  The sweetness of scallops, the umami of the miso, the herbal/vegetal taste of the edamame in the salad needed a complex wine, so I turned to this 8 year old Alsatian to see if it had the right stuff.

Wine: 2009 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

Region: Alsace, France
Grape Varieties: Riesling

Obtained from: Purchased at Vinum 55
Price: $68
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, light yellow.
Aroma: Peach, apple, honey and a nice amount of the aged Riesling petrol aroma that intensified as the wine warmed in the glass.  This may sound strange if you've never experienced it, but it is my very favorite part of older Rieslings.

Taste: Super dry like you should expect with an Alsace wine, but a fruitiness that gives you the sensation of sweetness.  A nice bit of minerality as part of a very pleasant, long finish. How about the pairing you ask? A home run in my semi-humble opinion.  The scallops were great quality and I managed to get a nice dark sear on them.  The miso glaze made them savory and slightly sweet at the same time, and the crispness and fruitiness of the wine went along nicely. Good food and good wine, but the two together was even better - my definition of a perfect pairing!

The Grade: I give this one an A+. Sometimes you come across a wine that makes you reevaluate how you think about white wine versus reds. This wine is one of those that may even lead me to cook more dishes that need a complex, quality white as a partner.  Well... maybe a few more anyway! Cheers!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wino4Life Product Review: Avina Wine Accessories Rhino Corkscrew

**DISCLAIMER** The corkscrew reviewed in this post was provided to me free of charge by Avina Wine Accessories.

The fine folks at Avina Wine Accessories gave me the opportunity to select one of their products to review for I browsed their online store, and one item from their line of corkscrews immediately stood out to me.  I do appreciate a classic looking corkscrew, but even more I appreciate something with a different look - so I opted for the Rhino Corkscrew and Bottle Opener.  It has an almost Craftman tool aesthetic to it that I really like. I feel more manly already!
The Rhino!

From my Wine Lover's Toolkit post, you'll see that a good corkscrew is the first item on my list.  There are lots of wine related gizmos and gadgets out there, some crucially important while others are just cool to include in your toolkit (no shame in stocking up on the cool ones... I have plenty!)  A really good corkscrew is definitely one of those crucial items.  You must be able to efficiently and effectively release the wonder-filled contents of those cork sealed bottles of wine.  You could very happily subsist on only screw top bottles or boxed wines - but chances are you will eventually come across a cork that stands between you and your swirl and sip of delicious wine. Be prepared people!!!

Before we get to the Rhino, let me first address what you should be looking for in your go-to corkscrew.  Although there are other types available, for now I'll stick to just the "waiter's helper" or "wine key" version.  

Here is my current go-to corkscrew from Le Creuset, which gets a workout several times a week in our house (and occasionally accompanies us on wine country vacations!).  Like this one, your corkscrew should have a curved blade to cut the foil from the wine bottle.  I prefer a good serrated edge so you don't ever have to worry about sharpening.  Next up is the arm of the corkscrew that you place on the lip of the bottle to give leverage for opening (for you wine trivia buffs, this is called the "fulcrum").  You want to find a corkscrew with a two part, hinged fulcrum as it makes opening the bottle much easier than a one piece fulcrum, and will save you from breaking many corks. The screw component or "worm" should have a sharp pointed tip, and spirals around vs. looking like a drill bit. You want to grab hold of the cork, not drill a hole in it. Last up is a feature that is not mandatory, but it is convenient to also have a bottle opener for those times you opt for a non-wine beverage. OK, so now that we know what we want in a corkscrew, let's see what the Rhino has to offer. Here's a look at the boxed product:

Along with the corkscrew, there is a special bonus of a bottle cap for your leftover wine.  This item will not get much use in our household, as leftover wine is a rarity.  To store extra wine for any length of time, it is best to remove the excess air in the bottle by pumping it out or replacing it with argon gas, but for an easy to use quick way to keep some extra wine for a short time, the cap is a nice bonus.  This cap has a locking lever and appears to provide an excellent seal on a bottle.

Now for the corkscrew itself. It feels hefty in the hand - very sturdy.  It is a bit heavier than my Le Creuset.  Everything on the corkscrew looks and feels like quality. Opening it up to take a closer look, I very much like the design just like when I first saw it on the Avina website.  It has a hinged fulcrum, sharp tip on the worm, and a substantial serrated blade for cutting the foil.

OK, now we know the Rhino has all the features we're looking, it's time for the main event. Let's put it to the most important test and open up a bottle of wine. The first thing I notice is the serrated blade. It has a more distinct curve to it than I've ever seen on a corkscrew, and it is a hefty little blade.  Definitely the best foil cutter I've ever used. 

The worm has a groove that runs all the way down to the tip, which could be to provide a better grip on the cork - nice touch.  The corkscrew was easy to use, and the best part is at the end we had an open bottle of Martian Vineyards Grenache to enjoy on a Sunday evening.

Just to give the Rhino it's full workout, let's also crack open a beer.  As with most corkscrews, the fulcrum has a bottle opener groove, but I opted for the Rhino horn end and voila!

Overall the Rhino is a very impressive product.  If you are in the market for a good corkscrew I would definitely suggest the Rhino and also suggest checking out the Avina website to see what else they have to offer.  I'm going to keep on using the Rhino, and I'll get back to you with an update after we've popped a few more corks (and the occasional beer).

If you are interested in purchasing a Rhino, or another Avina product, you can use the discount code AVINA15A which will give you 15% off any order. All you have to do is purchase from their website ( or and use the promotional code during the checkout process. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Central California Red - 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir, John Sebastian Vineyard

When in doubt, ask a local. Great advice in general, but you might not think about it when visiting a winery.  You may think it would be like asking your local cars salesman who offers good cars in the area...but you'd be wrong!  On a recent trip to Santa Barbara wine country with some great wino friends, we asked at several wineries we visited for suggestions - and more than one recommended Dragonette. Let's see if they knew what they were talking about!

Wine: 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir, John Sebastian Vineyard

Region: Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County California
Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir

Obtained from: Purchased at winery
Price: $57
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine+ (A bit over the $50 weekend limit, but close enough!)

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.

Appearance: Dark red, translucent.
Aroma: Red fruit, earth, spices.
Taste: Good acidity, spices really come through in the taste. Nicely balanced with a nice earthy finish.

The Grade: I give this one a B+. A bit spend-y nearing the $60 mark, but overall a really nice wine. Looks like the locals knew what they were talking about!  Try some Dragonette if you get a chance!  Cheers!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2014 Tentenublo Rioja Xerico

This week I read with great sadness about the late frosts in Europe that may have ravaged the 2017 crops in France and Spain.  In an ode to the hardworking growers throughout Europe facing this challenge, I wanted to open a bottle of Rioja. Many, many thanks to all those growers who face the challenges of nature on a regular basis, even when there is a risk of losing an entire year's grapes.

Wine: 2014 Tentenublo Rioja Xerico

Region: Rioja, Spain
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo with a bit of Viura

Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More

Price: $30
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.

Appearance: Great dark purple.
Aroma: Restrained, some black fruit and a hint of oak.
Taste: Also fairly restrained, well balanced with a good amount of acidity.

The Grade: I give this one a B-.  More of an old world version of Rioja with less fruit, and while it was a good wine, I would expect more at the $30 price point.  The acidity level would make a great companion to food, especially some aged Manchego cheese.  Join me in wishing the best for the growers in Europe after the tragic late frost.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2013 Linne Calodo Outsider

Breaking up is hard to do. My wine refrigerators at home are full. I've rented space in a temperature controlled wine storage facility. Still, I have joined far too many wine clubs. Initially I cancelled a few that were not too painful, but eventually there were some painful choices.  One of those was Linne Calodo from Paso Robles.  Really nice wines, interesting blends, but wines that need some time to age.  Sadly, I cancelled my membership, but I would highly recommend visiting, trying, and buying their wines.  As a consolation, I decided to taste their Zinfandel based blend - Outsider.
Wine: 2013 Linne Calodo Outsider

Region: Paso Robles, California
Grape Varieties: Zinfandel 78%, Syrah 20%, Mourvedre 2%

Obtained from: Purchased at Winery
Price: $60
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, dark purple.
Aroma: Wow! Dark and red fruit, pepper, cola, and Mmmmm...licorice!
Taste: Big fruit, great balance. Lots of smooth tannins.
The Grade: I give this one a solid A.  Enough tannins to age for 10 years or more, but give it a decant for a few hours and it will be great. So good! Ugh! I miss you already.  Can we still be friends??? Luckily I have a few bottles of Linne Calodo in my stash to enjoy and reminisce. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Napa Red - 2011 Cade Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

We have been experimenting with some of the food services that send you fresh ingredients and recipes on a weekly basis - like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Home Fresh.  I have been very impressed by the quality of the ingredients and the variety of recipes.  On the downside from a wine paring perspective, there is very seldom steak in those boxes that arrive each week.  When a New York strip with balsamic glaze did show up recently, it was time for some Napa cab! Yes!

Wine: 2011 Cade Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Region: Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon

Obtained from: Purchased at winery
Price: $80
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine
Aeration before tasting: Decanted for 4 hours.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, purple in color.
Aroma: Lots of fruit, some herbal notes, and darker coffee or smoky elements as well.

Taste: Great tannins to hold up to a steak, nice acidity, well balanced.  

The Grade: I give this one an A. Enough tannins to age a few more years, but after decanting was definitely ready to drink.  Very Napa in style, no complaints here. I would put this up against many more expensive Napa Cabs and I think it would hold up quite well.  I wonder how it would be taste with a Kale salad?  I hope another steak shows up before I have to find out! Cheers!!!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - French White Burgundy - 2008 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine

To say the least, the name of this wine is a mouthful and a half, but don't be intimidated - it's just a really (really) long name. The appellation of Macon-Villages will tell you this a white burgundy wine, and that tells you that this is 100% Chardonnay.   Whew - now that we know what we have in the bottle - let's give it a try!                                                                                                                                        

Wine: 2008 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine

Region: Burgundy, France
Grape Varieties: Chardonnay

Obtained from: Purchased at Last Bottle
Price: $15
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, light straw color.
Aroma: Somewhat surprising for a Burgundy - some tropical fruit aromas, and wet rock minerality.
Taste: Very nice level of acidity, creamy mouthfeel, mineral comes through on the taste as well.

The Grade: I give this one a B+.  A nice creamy mouthfeel without being too big and buttery.  Very interesting with mineral, tropical fruit, creaminess - all leading to a very long, pleasant finish. A very nice wine for a very nice price. Not the most glamorous pairing, but I think this would be a great one for a big bowl of popcorn.