Something Wicked…

Drink up, witches! It’s haunting time again. This year, I found three wines that will scare up some yummy vibes in your goblet.

Each year when I look for wines to celebrate the season, I’m drawn to those with interesting labels. On my hunt, I found there was one with a distinct tv show tie-in (eg The Walking Dead Red Blend ~ I can only imagine what’s in it…).

Many wineries put together red blends just for the holiday, which is an excellent way to conjure new fans. This year, I was possessed by wines that have singular qualities that consistently haunt my mind like a spirit.

Ok, one was a blend. 👻

Here they are, in no particularly earthly order:

Darkness Falls Red Blend

Spellbound 2016 Petite Syrah

Seven Deadly Zins 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel

Click the video below to see more about the tasting profiles, pairing options, and price points of my Halloween wine picks for 2018!

 

These are all enjoyable offerings that will look bewitching in your Halloween display, won’t behead your budget, and will pair well with any spooky party fare.

I hope you all have a ghoulishly safe and happy Halloween! 🎃

Cheers!

Copyright©️TheWineStudent, 2018

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Treats Before Tricks!

Chocolate. Red wine. Chocolate. A perfect pairing especially at Halloween. 🎃

I been gifted a bottle of Chocolate Shop wine a while ago but I was a little skeptical. I’ve tasted chocolate flavored wine that was basically a bottle of Bailey’s Irish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but when you want a glass of red…

This wine was very different, especially when you first open it; an immediate chocolate vibe was instantly on the nose. Ok, it passed the first test- it smelled amazing- but I was still not convinced.

Right off the bat it was very sweet, a lot more than I normally like. But as I sipped further rounder, full-bodied notes of dark cherry, stewed blackberry emerged, melding with the chocolate vibe. I experimented with it by leaving the wine to aerate for about an hour, and found the flavor evolved into a rich, pleasing dark chocolate covered cherry.

This was a very different wine for me: My preferences are for earthier, beefy red wines that have a slight whisper of chocolate, as part of their fermentation but aren’t necessarily chocolate fortified. A fortified wine has an extra element added (in this case chocolate essence) that adds sweetness or additional alcohol. This wine was a cool, decadent combination treat.

It helps to keep an open mind – and to let it breathe for a while! My only caveat is to not pair this wine with anything too sweet. Most experts agree that sweet wines paired with sweet treats can be overwhelming ~ I ate a handmade sea salt caramel with this wine, and the sugar level was way over top! Stick to some mild, slightly savory cheeses.

Finally, the best way to enjoy any wine during Halloween is with a good scary movie. I paired this wine with ‘The Lost Boys‘, a neo-classic 80’s vampire movie. 🧛‍♂️🦇

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Next post: My Halloween picks for 2018! 👻🎃

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2018

Wine Wednesday: Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir 🍷😊

One of the best things about summer is getting together with friends for an amazing dinner and trying a new Pinot Noir! Featured for the evening: 2014 Maysara Jamsheed.

Cultivated in the Momtazi Vineyard located in the foothills of Oregon’s Coastal Range, these grapes have been given much TLC that is necessary produce top quality pinot. The temperatures in this particular region separates them from impact from the valley. Here, there are warmer days, cooler nights and lower precipitation during their harvest. Because pinot is a delicate grape to cultivate, this gentler microclimate is best especially in the days leading up to harvest.

Tea Time

Maysara’s philosophy is that “90% of winemaking takes place in the vineyard.” They believe in truly biodynamic cultivation – a ‘nature to nature’ credo. They shun the chemical approach  by the use of compost tea, made through the propagation of an assortment of medicinal flowers and herbs that are brewed into a steeped tea. Steeping extracts the most beneficial elements which are then worked back into the vineyard soil. This boosts optimum health for the soil, vines, and then the grapes.

What a Pair

Our wine was paired with an incredible dinner of fragrant lamb tangine, grilled root vegetables, and roasted cauliflower with yogurt mint sauce. The delicate balance of sweet and spice played beautifully with the spritely cherry, luscious blackberry, and light cracked pepper vibe of the wine. Since this was a ’14 vintage, it had just the right amount of aging to truly release its tender nuances. This pairing was outstanding.

I would like to eat this picture.

My thanks again to our friends, Judy and Greg, for a wonderful evening of fun, incredible food, and an amazing wine that is one of my new favorites of the summer.

Cheers! 🍷

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! 🍷💋🍷

Skin Deep ~ The Beauty of Wine

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The glow of the candle sets the mood. You breathe deeply, then relax. You know there will be wine…except it’s going on your face.

 

 

But not like this…

Over the years we’ve read much about the health benefits of drinking wine, especially resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red grape skins. In the earliest days of the Tour de France, riders would occasionally stop to swig some red wine (or beer) in order to thin the blood to help them through the tougher sections of the race. How they managed to get back on their bikes to finish the climb tho…

Heart Smart

Moderate, regular consumption of red wine, which contains the highest levels of resveratrol, can help lower blood pressure,and has anti-inflammatory properties. By decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), resveratrol helps to improve overall cardiac health, as well as protecting both the heart tissue, and arteries.

A recent study by the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry showed that high doses of resveratrol improved physical performance, heart function and muscle strength in lab models. Did they chug massive amounts of wine before hitting the gym? That would just make me fall off the treadmill. The subjects took it in pill form, which is much safer. All of the performance, none of the buzz.

Check out my video below for more info! 💆🏼‍♀️

Wine Skin

While much focus is placed on resveratrol in grape skins and wine, it is produced within the stalk and leaves as well as the mature grape skins. It acts like sunscreen for grape vines and other plant life, working to safeguard plants from UV rays of the sun, as well as other environmental stressors such as atmospheric toxins, and fluctuations in climate and temperature.

For humans, environmental stress from weather, sun damage, worry/anxiety, and poor diet can all lead to skin aging; free radicals are produced naturally as we age. Resveratrol, when applied topically to the skin, acts as an antioxidant, protecting the skin against exposure to harmful UVA rays, as well as providing anti-aging properties. According to Dermatology Times, a recent clinical trial of a stabilized resveratrol and vitamin E serum demonstrated improvement in elements of skin aging, including firmness and elasticity. When skin products containing resveratrol are combined with hyaluronic acid and peptides, stimulation of collagen and elastin are improved. By stimulating proteins, known as sirtuins (these repair DNA and decrease inflammation), resveratrol can increase cell life in the body, heightening skin’s defense systems to fight disease, therefore prolonging cell life. Gentle exfoliation of old, dead skin cells, and hydration are also benefits.

Much like the exercise study, resveratrol in these skin formulations is in usually high doses. Sadly, the benefits to the skin don’t usually happen if you just drink a lot of red wine. I’ve tried it.

Vinotherapy in spas utilize resveratrol in facial and body masks and creams.

It can take many forms, from having ground up skins and pulp kneaded into the skin, to the application of concentrated grapeseed oil in massage, to mud masks combining powdered grape products and mineralized clay.

Two leading vinotherapy spa products are:

Caudalie ~

* founded in France in 1993, Caudalie was one of the first companies to cultivate resveratrol in cosmetic applications in 2001.

* in 2006, made the commitment to use no parabens and create products that are natural and environmentally conscious.

Vine Vera ~

* released in 2012, Vine Vera uses resveratrol in all products, combining it with essential oils, vitamins and minerals to keep it as natural as possible.

* since not everyone has the same issues with their skin, there are 10 varied collections to address individual skin care needs.

So, to unlock the secrets of youthful skin, look no further than the humble grape. And make sure to enjoy a nice glass of wine while you’re at it.

Cheers! 🍷🍇

©TheWineStudent, 2018

Texas: A Lone Star State of Wine

On a trip last year to San Antonio, I was fixin’ to find a bottle of Texas wine. Way better than a cowboy hat, this was a way to, literally, bring home a taste of Texas. Yee Haw! I decided to save it for a special night back in Ohio, when I would plan out a great dinner to make me think of the yelluh rose sunsets, warm evening breezes, and the scent of sagebrush. Perhaps the only way to recreate all of that would be to fly back to Texas, But maybe a sip or two of the wine would help…

(Be sure to check out the video below for more facts on Texas wine!🤠)

 

 

 

 

Holy Crop

The first known vineyards in North America were planted by Franciscan priests in Texas in 1662. They accompanied the earliest explorers, chronicling the journey, and serving the Church as protectors of the Native Americans of Texas. Their task was to spread Christianity to Native culture and to extend Spanish culture to whatever lands the Crown granted them as their field.

Farming was the main occupation of the new communities in order to become self-sufficient. Included in the crops of corn, beans, squash, melon and sugar cane, was grapes; the earliest vineyards. Orchards were also planted, producing apples, peaches and other fruits.

In the 1800’s, when European settlers arrived, they brought cuttings which progressed the domestic growing of vines, and winemaking. As time went on, though, winemaking was eclipsed by other agricultural pursuits.

Test Run

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that modern winemaking in Texas took hold, spear-headed by Texas Tech University chemistry professor Clinton ‘Doc’ McPherson, and business partner Bob Reed. Experimenting with approximately 140 grape varieties, they wanted to see which would flourish in the local climate and soil. Lesser known varieties such as Grenache, Temperanillo, Muscat and Chenin Blanc were found to grow very well.

Yet in the ’70’s many of these vines were pulled out in favor of more recognizable varieties. The focus began to center on selling the big names, like Cab Sauv, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, even though they didn’t necessarily produce the best wine.

In 2005, real growth occurred in the Texas wine industry when the state passed a direct shipping bill, allowing Texas wineries to ship directly to both in and out-of-state customers.

State laws also allowed wines to be labeled ‘Texas’ if 75 percent of the fruit that went into the bottle came from the state; 25 percent could come from anywhere else. This happened because more wine was being produced than grapes were grown to support the process. Now that there is more vigor in the industry; more agriculture is available to supply the winemaking needs, producers are working to change the law, requiring Texas-labeled wine to be made from 100 percent Texas fruit within the next five years.

Under the Texan Sun

While Texas boasts big, beautiful, warm summers similar in climate to Spain, central Italy and Portugal, the greatest challenges are hail, late spring frost, lack of water (in some areas) and Pierce’s Disease, a bacterium spread by the glassy-winged sharp shooter. Kinda sounds like a bad hombre from an old Western, “I seen ‘im, Pa. It was a glassy-winged sharp shooter terrorizin’ the town!” This critter feeds on infected vegetation, then injects the bacteria into the sap of nearby grapevines, blocking the movement of water into the vine, thereby killing it. The main effect is on the vine’s ability to produce a crop, and it doesn’t affect the wine quality, nor does it produce any health risk to consumers. But it is a significant pest, and surfaces in Texas because of the mild winters.

There are a total of eight American Viticulture Area (AVA) appellations, the two largest being Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains.

Texas Hill Country ~

• At 9 million acres, the largest AVA in Texas.

• Bell Mountain and Fredricksburg are two unique microclimates w/ this blanket AVA.

• Comprised of low, rolling hills, steep canyons, and the highest elevations drought is not an issue.

• Primarily made up of limestone soil, producing well-structured wines with low acidity.

• Variable weather, and bitter frosts make winegrowing a challenge.

• Top aromatics, especially in blends, less focussed fruit than Texas High Plains.

Texas High Plains ~

The second largest AVA in Texas.

Is located west of the elevation line, elevation rises from 3,000 to 4100 feet.

Climate is semi-arid with average rainfall of just 18’, so irrigation is necessary

Well drained soils and intense winds dry out the vineyards and help guard against frost and disease.

One of the only Texas wine regions with varying daytime temperatures during ripening season, which is integral to balancing ripe flavors and acidity.

Viewed by many as the likely hub of Texas’ future premier winemaking.

Movin’ On

According to Courtney Schiessl of VinePair, while Cabernet and Merlot had generally been seen as the go-to red wines, Mouvédre is the grape that will likely put Texas wines on the map. It is easier to grow, and because it buds late in the season, misses the danger of late frosts. Other varieties, including Tannat, Italian grape varieties Tempranillo, and Sangiovese, handle the Texan heat well without losing their acidity during the hot spikes of the summer.

The wine I brought home was a 2014 Texas Hills Vineyard Kick Butt Cabernet. Paired with a dinner of Texas dry-rub barbecue ribs, homemade cole slaw, bourbon baked beans and corn bread from scratch, this Cab was a little different than many I have sampled. It had a nice nose of dark cherry, HubbyDoug thought it had a bourbon-y undertone that gave a nice complexity. While it had the same black cherry fruity vibe, it tasted much earthier, had less acidity, and was not as boldly fruit forward as some Napa Cabs. But that’s ok. Part of what I look for when tasting wines from diverse areas is tasting the differences between growing regions; I don’t want them all to taste the same. The beauty, though, was that it developed a nice little spicy bite when paired with the ribs.

Given the long history of Texas vineyards, I was curious about the age of the vines of this Cab. Lisa Lang, from Texas Hill Vineyard said [via email] that the Cabernet vines were “the second vines we planted; they are 21 years old.” Relatively speaking, this is a young’un. 🤠

Texas Hills Vineyard produces a wide range of wines, both white and red that are a good representation of their unique growing region.

Paul Ozbirn, an advanced sommelier at Parkside Projects of Austin, said [via texasmonthly.com ] “The quality of Texas wine is steadily increasing. While there will always be some producers that lag behind the curve, which is true of any wine-growing region, most are refining their viniculture and expressing varietal character. Less oak, lower alcohols, and attention to detail in the wineries are beginning to speak volumes with varietals that may sound obscure to most, but their response to our dry Texas climate is indisputable. Aglianico, Sangiovese, and even Tinta Cão are thriving here, and present quite the exciting potential for the future of Texas wine.”

The future of the wine industry in Texas is very bright. And it seems to be positioning itself to produce some great wines that express the unique aspects of both the varietal, and appellation. By moving away from familiar varieties, and cultivating lesser-known grapes that are well suited to its particular climate and soil, they’re on their way to producing something truly exceptional, and outstanding. And very Texan.

Cheers, y’all! 🍷🤠

©️TheWineStudent, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for a Pot of Gold: My Hunt for Irish Wines

Like trying to find a leprechaun hiding in fields of green, Irish wine can be almost impossible to locate. A few years ago, I wrote about the existence of wine from Ireland; curious at the time if there even was such a thing. I hadn’t seen any bottles locally or read very much in wine magazines about them. Each year, as St. Patty’s Day approached, I’d talk to several local wine merchants about trying to find them, and each year I would hear, “If you’d only asked a little earlier, we might’ve been able to find some for you!” Arrrgh! My bad. My timing was always off.

This year, I was determined. I began my quest in mid-January, searching, not only for the wine itself, but how to get a bottle. Short of flying to Ireland to buy it, I was told that because of small shipment sizes, and varied state-to-state legalities/constraints regarding shipping international wine, my request would be incredibly difficult and expensive to fulfill. Dauntless, and into the wee small hours, I searched and found two Irish wineries: Thomas Walk Vineyard, and Lusca Irish Wine.

Be sure to click the embedded video for some more information about the wineries and cool pics of how the vines are grown!

 

Thomas Walk Vineyard ~

Originating in 1980, Thomas Walk was one of the first wine makers to successfully, and organically, grow red grapes outdoors in Ireland. Hailing from Germany, and enjoying a good challenge, he chose to bring German wine-making techniques to the Emerald Isle and its cool, damp climate. Years of perseverance and research led to the discovery that the ‘Vitis Amurensis’ (Amurensis Walk) or ‘Rondo’ varietal could thrive. Located in the Kinsale region, their vineyards eventually expanded to include south-facing microclimates, planted entirely with Rondo.

Organic and sustainable are key components in the cultivation of this wine, with most of the process done by hand. Minimal pruning ensures that grapes can be harvested from ergonomically safe and comfortable standing positions. The distance travelled to the winery from the vineyard is short, ensuring optimum freshness of the grapes which are de-stemmed and crushed the same day. No sitting around for these berries. All grapes used in the wine are cultivated only from Thomas Walk vineyards. After fermentation, the wine rests with occasional removal of any sediments, without using any additional filtering methods. Occasionally, there may be some sediment in the bottles, but this is normal and shows that the wine was clarified organically, without filters or centrifuge.

Some of the wines produced include:

• Rosé

• Velvet ~ similar to Pinot Noir

• Exubérance Clairet | Exubérance Rosé ~ sparklers made in the méthode traditionnelle’

Lusca Irish Wine ~

Named for the village of Lusk, where it is located, Lusca Irish Wine has been cultivated since 2002. To grow within the challenges of Ireland’s climate, David Llewellyn adapted a way around this: he grows his vines in ‘tunnels’ ~ metal hoops that are assembled up over the rows and draped with a polythene cover. Both fruit and foliage are well-protected from rain, thereby keeping disease and pests at bay without the use of pesticides. As well, temperature inside the cover is raised to help late-ripening fruit mature during typical cool summers. The combined effects of the tunnel and using the disease-resistant Rondo varietal has proven to be most successful.

Their wine grapes consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dunkfelder and Rondo for red wine. Until recently, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer were cultivated but have since been pulled to focus on red varietals. Like Thomas Walk, Lusca’s total wine-making process, from vine to bottle, is accomplished entirely on site. And only simple, traditional methods are used; allowing the wine to clear naturally, without complex filtration. The wine is fermented and finished dry in the bottle, without any back-sweetening during bottling. All wine is hand bottled and labelled. Currently, they have a production of around 500 bottles per year, but with the additional plantings of reds, they are hoping to increase production to 2,000 bottles in the future.

As well as making wine, Llewellyn cultivates a functioning orchard producing:

• Apple Juice

• Pear juice

• Vinegar

• Cider

• Mulled Cider

Ah, luck, (with a wee bit of persistence), was on my side. With the kind help of Saileog and Rutherson from Wines on the Green | Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin, my bottle of 2015 Lusca Irish Wine Cab | Merlot arrived here in the Cleve, safe and sound, within a week.

But alas! I will not open it this year. When I asked David Llewellyn via email how long I should cellar it, he said, “ I think it should improve over the next 2-3 years or so, and remain very good for a further 2-3 years at least.”

I look forward to it!

With that, I’ll leave you with a wee Irish blessing:

“‘Tis better by far at the rainbows end to find not a pot of gold, but the heart of a friend.”

Tis also better to share a bottle of wine with that friend! 😉

Whatever drinkable you choose to celebrate St. Patty’s Day, please pace yourself, and imbibe safely.

Sláinte!🍷🍀

©TheWineStudent, 2018