Message in a Bottle

When you think Malbec, what country immediately comes to mind? Argentina. And it’s true, they make some amazing Malbec.

But today, on this particular Malbec Monday, I’m sipping a kicky Malbec from Arizona: Caduceus Cellars’ 2013 VSC Malbec.

This offering is 100% Malbec from Deep Sky Vineyards in Cochise County, AZ. In order for Malbec to thrive it needs hot, dry days with cooler nights and little to no risk of frost or mildew. Considering that todays temps were topping 102F, there’s probably no frost on the horizon.

Aged 18 months in cask and puncheon (a short, portly 500l cask made from thick staves of American Oak) this Malbec rivals its Mendoza counterpart.

The bold, rich, deep flavors of black cherry, raisin, dark plum, cocoa, with a hint of black pepper, and medium tannin can stand up really well to red meats. But it can dial it back for lighter fair like pork and veal. It paired beautifully with our grilled fish with garlic brown rice.

The price point on this treasure is about $65 and is sold online as part of Caduceus’ exclusive Velvet Slippers Club.

It’s a good expression of the varietal, so don’t shy away from domestic Malbec from Arizona.

Message received. ☺️

Cheers! 🍷💋🍷


Everything’s Coming Up Rosé!


With spring finally here, our thoughts turn to all things fun and rosy. Especially when it comes to wine. Some of us want a bit lighter fare but not necessarily white (not that there’s anything wrong with it). And like wearing white after Memorial Day, it’s now safe to say ok to rosé.

Rosé is a little enigmatic. It had an infamously bad rep for only being cloyingly sweet or watered down red in your glass. Not anymore. Many are made from red grapes but with much shorter amount of skin contact (the amount of time the wine is allowed to rest before the skins are removed). Skin contact gives a red wine its tannin, depth of flavor and color. Typically, most rosé is on the skins for between two and twenty hours, picking up color and a little tannin. Red wine typically rests on skins for a few days to two weeks or longer.

Four Main Methods of Making Rosé:

Saignee ~ the byproduct of making red wine, some of the wine is drained off after a quick time in contact with the skins.

Short Maceration ~ the most straightforward way to make rosé. Grapes are crushed and skins soak in cool temperature juice 2-20 hours. juice is then drained off and skins gently pressed prior to fermentation.

Direct Press ~ S-L-O-W press of whole red grapes which give the broken skins time to give some of their color to juice before fermentation.

Blending ~ While not generally done, even though it seems like a no-brainer, there are a few rules if this is how you want to make rosé:

*usually done with champagne; adding a bit of red wine to white, for a blush

*raw red and white grapes are mixed together in the same tank prior to fermentation

*adding lees (yeast sediment) from a white wine to fermenting pink juice. The lees sometimes take away some pigment and flavor so it’s not a method that’s widely used.

Also known as the ‘cold soak’, the maceration time for rosé isn’t always necessary but does give the best chance to extract the most color and character from the skins. fermentation vats are chilled to 50˚F (10˚C) ~ this works best for a pale wine. For a rosé with a richer blush, 55 to 65˚F (13 to 18˚C) is preferred.

According to Katherine Cole, most rosé is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, especially those that have a brighter, crisper vibe. Others are given time in larger, neutral barrels. Barrels that are smaller and new/toasted impart too much smokey, or woody flavors to the wine. Rosé is favored for its delicate, lightly silky nature– no one wants a campfire in their glass. Barrel-aged rosé is full-bodied and best with hardier foods.

Pretty in Pink


The color of rosé can tell you a lot about where it comes from. Just looking at the hue can tell you something about the varietal, region, and winemaker decisions. For instance, a Tempranillo rosé from Spain can be a light salmon pink, a Sangiovese has a bright, sparkly copper red, the deepest ruby color belongs to Cab Sauv, and Tavel rosé from the Côtes du Rhône. Rosé from Provence is a delicate pink.

Varietals in rosé are many, and it is also produced in exotic locations such as: Sardinia, Greece, Canary Islands, and Israel.

As for flavor, winemakers are spending more time and expertise in coaxing out aromas and tastes that are excellent expressions of the varietals, and regions from which they originate. For instance, a Pinot Noir rosé can have subtle aromas of crabapple, watermelon, strawberry, raspberry and wet stone. Zinfandel (the most popular varietal for rosé) is off-dry, and moderately sweet with flavors of green melon, lemon, cotton candy, and strawberry. Its sweet nature makes it a great entrée to those new to rosé.

I enjoyed Gassier Rosé recently that was a dry style with moderate acid and good fruitiness, with hints of green melon, ripe strawberry, essence of rose petals, and a little spice on the finish that gradually increased as it warmed up.

In general, most range from fruity and floral to savory and rich, which makes them so interesting to pair with a variety of foods.

Hands down, my favorite rosé pairing is with grilled strawberries over angel food cake (with a little sweetened creme fraîche!). Magnifique!

Here’s my handy serve & save chart for you!

Rosé Type




40-45˚F (5-7˚C)

ice bath (the wine, not you)

Silicone stopper x 2 days


55-60˚F (13-18˚C)

leave bottle out 30 mins prior to serving

Recork, refrigerate -drink

w/5 days

Deep Pink

45-55˚F (7-13˚C)

leave chilling, but taste as it warms

Recork, refrigerate – drink

w/ 3 days

Light & Lively

35-40˚F (3-5˚C)

ice bath

You must drink it all that night

Battle of the Celebrity Rosé!


Since so many celebs are getting into the wine game, I wanted to try some star-studded offerings to see what they were like.

Let’s get ready to rumble…!!

The challengers:

Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Sophia~ a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Noir. Swellegant bottle, too!

Miraval ~ the couple formerly known as Brangelina... (Mmmkay, so they don’t own the winery that produces it anymore but whatever, they’re in) ~

• He gives Rosé a good name? Jon Bon Jovi’s Diving into Hampton Water~ produced in France in the Languedoc region, it combines 60% Grenache with 15% Cinsault, Mourvédre and 10% Syrah.


• Just to shake things up we threw in a couple of non-celeb rosé: Chalk Hill, and Ménage á Trois.

Let’s see what the a blind tasting revealed the video below to see how the wines measured up!





Full disclosure, while I purchased the wine, I didn’t see the wines when they were placed in the burlap bags, and I didn’t pour them, so I was in the dark as to which was which. And I was really amazed at the big reveal. I admit, I had some preconceptions as to what I figured I would pick. I thought that, for sure, my number one choice would be Coppola’s Sophia; I loved the gorgeous bottle and the beautiful color. And I thought its color would be an indicator of what I would taste. To my surprise, it offered little in terms of flavour and aroma. It tasted as though the grapes were picked in a very rainy harvest; it was very watery despite the beautiful color.

Our big pick had a pretty, amber-pink color with a nice white peach vibe and pleasing mouthfeel. It paired well with a creamy brie and fresh strawberry. With just a little sweetness (surprising because I’m not usually a sweet wine fan). It was a nice sipper and played well with others. If you checked out the video, you’ll know what it is! 😉

Sparkling or still, deep pink or rosy amber, celeb/non-celeb, rosé is one of the big wine trends that’s cool for the summer. It’s refreshing and right for a season of relaxing, reconnecting, and enjoying the summer sun.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

Cheers! 🍷

©️TheWineStudent, 2018

MmmmmMonastrell Monday! 

Taking a break from my studying, I caught myself in a little daydream; thinking back to not long ago and a trip to Jerome, AZ. 

I’d heard of Caduceus Cellars from my nephew, Aaron, who’s really into the bands Tool and Puscifer. What does this have to do with wine? Caduceus was founded by Maynard James Keenan, frontman and songwriter of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. Established in 2004, Caduceus is described as a ‘small production family owned winery’. Unlike some celebrity winemakers, Keenan likes to get his hands dirty in all aspects of the business; from planting and harvesting to winemaking and marketing.  

From our wine flights, HubbyDoug and our friends Carl and Deb picked the 2013 VSC Anubis (50% Cab, 30% Cab Franc, 20%Petit Syrah). My pick: the 2014 VSC Monastrell (100% Cochise County Monastrell). 

Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) is a thick skinned grape that provides color, fruit and tannic structure especially when blended with Grenache and Syrah; it is the ‘M’ in GSM wines. On its own, it has intense perfume notes and blackberry flavours along with hints of meat. Age brings out more leather and gingerbread aromas and flavour. 

The wine in my glass had a beautiful garnet colour with sage on the nose (what I imagine the scent a desert flower would have). It had light-medium body with neutral oak, and flavors of basil, thyme, juniper with a kick of licorice and olive. It made me think of a fragrant, lush herb garden. Normally with reds, I expect to have more of a jammy, fruit forward experience, anything herbaceous I associate with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t sweet wine, far from it. But, much like it’s winemaker, its juxtaposition from what I thought it should be, and what it was, I found a true expression of where it was cultivated. 

This Monastrell is hand-picked (by Keenan himself), sorted, submerged cap fermented and puncheon aged for 18 months. Puncheon is an extra large oak barrel (70-100 gallons). The larger size allows for stronger/ stricter controls in the wine’s development due to the higher inner barrel surface – wine ratio. 

I’d only had this varietal before as part of the GSM blend but on its own it was a wonderful surprise to add to my list of exceptional wines with a twist. 


Dream a Little Dream

Red, robust, and resplendent. I kept these words in the back of my mind when I was searching for an enjoyable wine to serve with dinner. And it’s a nice surprise when you find it. 

We’d enjoyed the Dreaming Tree‘s Crush Red Blend a couple of weeks ago while on vacation in Muskoka, and really enjoyed its rich flavors. So when I happened across their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, into my shopping cart it went. 

Dreaming Tree Wines is the California based collaboration of Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews) and Kiwi winemaker Sean McKenzie.

 A widely sustainable winery, Dreaming Tree is part of a solar initiative including four wineries that are collectively powered by  17,000 solar panels; the largest solar footprint in the U.S. wine industry. The bottles are made of a lighter-weight glass, and labels are recycled kraft brown paper. 

I’m not one to be swayed by the fact that a wine is affiliated with a big name; if I like the wine, it’s because I enjoy what’s inside. But this wine, paired with our grilled tenderloin, buttery mashed potatoes, steamed seasoned green beans and spinach salad was a good match. The dark bouquet had hints of black cherry and swirled flavors of rich raspberry compote, and a whisper of chocolate and oak that tasted like… more. 

Moderately priced (around $14.99) ~ it was a tasty, easy drinking wine that paired well with a relaxed dinner on the patio. 


Hollywood and Vines: Top 5 Wine Movies

Action! Coppola's Director's Cut Zin

Action! Coppola’s Director’s Cut Zin

I love movies. I love them almost as much as I love wine. And with this being Oscar weekend, I thought I’d list a few that I enjoyed this past week ~ two documentaries and three dramatic.  I paired one of the movies with a rich and beautiful 09 Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel. I’d never tried it before and gave it two thumbs up.

So, for your consideration, and in no particular order:

Blood Into Wine (2010) ~ 90% documentary and 10% great marketing, Blood Into Wine stylishly illustrates Maynard James Keenan and winemaker Eric Glomski’s journey and struggles in the world of making Arizona wine. Keenan, drummer and frontman to some great bands such as Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, discusses how something ‘clicked’ for him about wine, leading him on a journey of ‘self-discovery’ and compelled him, ‘to know more…and see how far I can take this as an artist.” For Eric Glomski, a background in river ecology and early experiments with apple wine, made it clear how winemaking “helps us understand our relationship with the earth. And how wine is an expression of home.” The doc explains the growing seasons, the trials and tribulations of being a frontier winemaker in a rough northern Arizona terrain. From the political issues of water rights, to Javelina stripping one-third of their Sangiovese crop, to winter frost (which happens in higher elevation AZ vineyards), winemaking in Arizona is not for poseurs. For the entry-level wine drinker, it educates about the process and history of winemaking in a way that is entertaining and cool. Keenan is a rare celebrity winemaker who knows what he’s talking about, admits that he’s still learning and, literally, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. His story about his mother and the pride he has for Caduceus Cellars‘ ’07 Nagual de Judith Cab Sav (named in her honor) is very touching. While it occasionally had the subtle feel of a marketing video, that’s okay. I have no problem with promoting awareness and generating buzz for a burgeoning wine region.

Mondovino (2004) ~ This documentary by Jonathan Nossiter examines the conflict between big wine, in this case Mondavi, and the smaller European winemaking families trying to preserve their land and culture. It’s a whirlwind flight from Brazil, into the vineyards of Burgundy, and Sardinia, on to the gilded drawing rooms of Italy, and finally the sprawling colossus of the Mondavi vineyards in Napa. Early on, Nossiter introduces you to Michel Rolland, a wine consultant, who advises an international array of wineries in making their wines to suit a more “uniform, Mondavi style.” He uses the term ‘micro-oxygenation’ which such frequency and at almost every vinery he visits, you’d think it was his middle name. When asked about ‘diversity’ in winemaking, he replies, “That’s why there are so many bad wines.” Ouch. It goes on to illustrate the power of the Mondavi marketing machine and how the smaller ‘generation’ winemakers must, in essence, conform or be cast out. I think the point Nossiter is trying to make is that in order for the smaller wineries to compete at all in an ever expanding market, they have to allow Mondavi and it’s marketing power to take over, which means selling out their own expression, or terroir, to a standardized style of wine. It’s referred to as ‘globalization’ of wine and the narrative raises some very interesting points, to be sure. If there’s no diversity or personal expression/signature in wine, what’s the point?

A Good Year (2006) ~ Hmmm, my best nutshell description: icy Master of the Universe-inherits vineyard-meets and falls for sexy French chick-life dramatically changes. Russell Crowe plays Max Skinner, a British financier who, in the midst of his chaotic life, finds out he is the only living relative of his beloved, yet forgotten, Uncle Henry (Albert Finney). He becomes the default owner of his uncle’s French Chateau and adjoining vineyard. At the start, he sees it as just a piece of real estate, to be cashed in and sold off. What he doesn’t expect is that his life will be transformed (voila!) in a mere 7 days. Told partially through flashbacks to sunnier days of fun and wine with Uncle Henry, it’s nicely romantic but predictable ~ there’s even a mention of… Mondavi (ha). Still, it’s good to see Russell Crowe in something a little lighter and no phones were thrown. There’s a quick, ironic scene where Max makes a Lance Armstrong reference, which is funny, but now for a very different reason.The loose ends tie up a little too neatly but the beautiful shots of the Chateau and vineyard make up for that. The point is more than hit home that, try as you might, you can’t ever really outrun the ties that truly bind; for memories, love and wine will inevitably stand the test of time. Oh, the sexy French chick? Marion Cotillard.

Sideways (2004) ~ Starring the great Paul Giamatti, it’s probably one of the most famous movies about wine so I don’t think I need to go into a plot synopsis. Suffice to say,  it probably cast the most light on the whole Merlot vs. Pinot debate. My favorite scene is when Virginia Madsen’s character, Maya, waxes poetic on what she loves about wine; how wine continues to evolve over time, gaining complexity and how it is, actually, alive. Much like love. Amid the comedy and chaos of the movie, this is the scene that distills what it is to be a true lover of wine.

Bottle Shock (2008) ~ If you can get past the really bad wig that Chris Pine has to wear, Bottle Shock is an interesting look at the fledgling California wine industry in the mid-’70’s. Loosely based on a true story, it follows two tales. The first is the struggle between a failing California winemaker Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his slacker son, Bo (Pine) to produce the perfect wine. The second, British wine educator Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), living in Paris, trying to find a bold way to promote his (at the time) unremarkable business. On the advice of an American friend, Spurrier creates an international wine competition to find the best of California to compete with the French. It illustrates the beginning of the globalization of wine and how a snubbed wine region can rise to the occasion and triumph. The message: sometimes you can make something too perfect; and that letting go is when perfection can truly be achieved. Woah. I think I need a drink.

This week, I watched some great wine movies, and enjoyed a new favorite wine. I’m ready for the big night with a chilled bottle of Chandon.

For those of you who, like me, are still waiting for that lost invite to the Governor’s Ball, I hope you enjoy the show.


©TheWineStudent, 2013

Celebrity Skins: The Grapes of RUSH

Finally! I had to take a step away from working on my aeration post to give a hearty congratulations to RUSH on their Rock Hall nomination. After so many years of not even being a bridesmaid ~ much less the bride, they are being recognized. And it’s about time.

While their reputation as a preeminent rock band is legend, it’s the commitment that both Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson have to Grapes for Humanity Global Foundation that’s very cool indeed.

Founded in 2001 by Arlene Willis, who lost a brother to a land mine accident, GFHGF works to support land mine survivors by  building prosthetic clinics and aiding survivors in welfare issues. Their chief means of fundraising is putting on wine related activites such as wine tastings, wine pairings and wine auctions. Over the years, their philanthropic endevours have expanded and direct proceeds of the events go to specially selected projects that strive to make the world a better place.

It was seeing the direct effect of the money raised from the events that appealed most to Lee. He tells Samaritan magazine (via ultimateclassicrock and noisecreep), “I was very drawn to it because we did small projects. If we raised $50,000, we’d go to Honduras, build a clinic, and you saw the direct result of that money in action.  And that’s something, to me, that makes you feel really good because you know there’s no waste there.”

Geddy sortin' da grapes @ Tawse Winery, Grimsby ON ~ image via John Gundy

Geddy sortin’ da grapes @ Tawse Winery, Grimsby ON ~ image via John Gundy

He and Lifeson hosted the maiden “Excellent Adventure ~ Grapes Under Pressure Tour”  in 2009 at Tawse Winery in the Niagara region. The excursion featured a day trip to the winery in a private car generously supplied by VIA rail. There, participants spent the day out in the vineyard picking and sorting grapes, then enjoyed a luscious lunch with wine while bidding on items in the silent auction that featured RUSH memorabilia. The event raised $37,500.

The venue changes each time to feature a different local winery in a different Canadian wine region. Huff Estate Winery in Prince Edward County played host in 2011. The Excellent Adventures have raised over $350,000 for Grapes for Humanity Canada which is awesome. Touring this way is a great way for the GFHGF to gain more exposure to a wide variety of communities, and for the participating wineries to gain new visitors.

I’ll definitely keep good thoughts for RUSH next spring for the Rock Hall induction. I’ll keep even better ones for the their continued success raising funds and awareness for Grapes for Humanity.


Celebrity Skins 101~ Muscat Love

Drake with Martini Moscato D'Asti (Photo credit: David Becker/ Wire Image)

Drake with Martini Moscato D'Asti (Photo credit: David Becker/ Wire Image)

I have to admit, when I think of Muscat I think of soda pop: One that goes to your head quicker than a fast roll down a hill. I know that’s making an uneducated assumption because lately, you can’t escape the fact that Muscato D’Asti’s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds. That’s thanks, in part, to the constant references by artists like Kanye West, Drake, Lil Kim and others singing about its sweet charms and how it makes them feel. It also seems to have helped christen it as a bonafide brand. Muscato is now what Cristal used to be in rap songs: the wine of choice for a new generation of trend setters rolling to the club and chilling in the VIP.

It’s an interesting pick, but not surprising when you think about it. Muscato is a good, easy drinking, entry level wine: sweet but not overpowering, light and refreshing. And the price point of between $12-14 a bottle makes it an attractive alternative to white zinfandel.

According to a recent article in New York Magazine, the demand for Muscato is far outweighing the supply, with wineries scrambling to increase its cultivation and production.Most of the bigger producers of wine are now introducing or heavily promoting their Muscato offerings.  A big push is being felt even here in the Cleve. Heinen’s Strongsville wine manager Paul Hoefke says he’s seen a steady increase in sales over the last eight months and doesn’t expect it to dip any time soon. He suggested an ‘11 Galilee Muscato from Golan Heights, an Israeli winery. It’s one that is difficult to come by and once gone, can’t be found again for at least a year.  The price point on this was about $17.99 as compared to most Moscato I saw that ranged between $9.99 and $14.99.

'11 Galilee Moscato from Golan Heights

'11 Galilee Moscato from Golan Heights

One of the oldest known varietals, Muscat thrives in warmer climates. You won’t see any grown here in Ohio, it’s too damn cold.  The largest producer in the US is California, which makes perfect sense. There are more than 200 types of Muscat and range in color (from white to  blush to a black); some are sparkling, while other less so. The main distinction with Muscato is in the fermentation process,Golan Heights states that it is the stopping of fermentation early that makes it sweeter. It has a relatively low alcohol content that makes it lighter and more refreshing. Since it has a strong, sweet base, Muscat generally pairs well with light cheeses like Parmiagiano-Reggiano, goat cheese, triple creams, desserts with Marscapone;  spongy cakes and cookies. Yet, contrary to some opinions, a dryer offering in the style of  Muscat d’Alsace apparently pairs nicely with shellfish such as lobster or shrimp. Drake was right!

In the past, I’ve found Muscat to be a heady, sweet confection of a wine (although different from a late harvest or ice wine).  Since I was researching it, an experiment was necessary. It looked like fun as it poured into my glass; bubbles raced to the rim and released an effervescent scent of citrus and honey. While it was, as promised, sweet on the top, it wasn’t sickly or cloying. It was very light, very refreshing and very enjoyable. I could enjoy a glass on a hot summer day but only one small glass. Any more, and it would be a quick ride to headache city, a place where there is no VIP room.

Fizzy fun

Fizzy fun

It’s always good to try something a little different and fun, and this certainly was. As for what to pair it with, I think that has more to do with what an individual likes, as opposed to any hard and fast rules. That game, appears to be changing. Rapidly.