What I Did This Summer Part 2: Redemption, a Star Turn and a Little French Kiss 💋

Jordan Winery and Vineyard

After a busy few weeks of getting my daughter moved and relatively settled in at college, I’m back to my studies. Here’s the second half of my ‘what I did this summer’ report.

The second day of our excellent wine adventure took Hubby Doug and I to three vastly different wineries. One had a home-spun vibe, one had a very cinematic feel and the last took us back in time to a beautiful french chateau.

Alexander Valley Vineyard (AVV) ~ In 1961, Harry and Maggie Wetzel purchased the homestead of Cyrus Alexander (the valley’s namesake). In 1963, they planted their first grapes, and In 1968, with perseverance and resolve, their first Cabernet was bottled and a lifetime love of winemaking was born. Winemaker Kevin Hall along with three generations of the Wetzel family are continuing the family legacy of winemaking and farming.

The winery has a cosy tasting room, and an underground cave where we learned about how wines are barrel aged. Very cool (literally). 🙂
When we arrived at AVV, it was just after they’d opened for the day. And while it seemed a bit early to sample, in the name of research we summoned the ‘five-o’clock-somewhere’ rule and tried a couple of small samples. Our two favorite were the 2013 Redemption Zinfandel and the 2012 Cyrus. Both were beautifully nuanced, yet full-bodied.

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Francis Ford Coppola ~ Driving through the archway gave us the feel of what it must have been like to drive on to a movie lot (without the guard asking if you’re ‘on the list’). Coppola winery was one of the most unique I’ve experienced. It had a img_5614picturesque pool area with cabine where you can spend the day with your family. Most water areas at wineries are reservoirs, overflow basins or decorative ponds that they always kick me out of. Bocce courts and lazy hammocks overlooking the valley give a chill vibe that invite you to grab a glass and relax.

Inside the winery is the main tasting room and movie museum with select memorabilia from several Coppola classics including Apocalypse Now, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the giant neon martini glass from One From The Heart. Our tasting experience was the Sonoma Inclusive at the main tasting bar. Our pick of the flight was the 2012 Director’s Cut Cinema blend of Cab Sauv, Zin, Petit Syrah and Syrah, and the 2012 1Mille Cab Franc.

One of the coolest wine tasting experiences that I’d love to return for is Tasting in the Dark. Small groups are led to the Coppola tasting labs, then blindfolded and led through a variety of sensory appreciation activities designed to fine tune the senses. Hoby Wedler, a UC Davis graduate, who is himself without sight, leads each group to the discovery of flavor and essence; allowing other senses to become stronger in the absence of sight. As we know when one sense is gone, others take over, and this experience would be amazing to help one begin sharpening their palate.

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Jordan Vineyard and Winery ~ our final stop of the day took us up a winding road to another world. This by appointment only winery made me think a little of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon – beautiful, elegant and very regal.

When Jordan was established in 1972, the choice was deliberate to focus on creating only singular varietals, but doing them very well. Their Cab Sauv is produced from the Alexander Valley, and Chardonnay exclusively from the Russian River Valley. The philosophy being that by focussing on singular wines, a better continuity of style will be achieved, and a consistent realization of balance between fruit, acidity, tannin, and alcohol. Each vintage you open will generally have the same qualities time after time.

We chose the Library Tasting, a one hour tasting. The Chardonnay tasting was paired with an Ahi Poke with Quinoa and Heirloom Tomatoes. Usually I’m not into raw tuna but this was a lovely combination that beautifully enhanced the subtle notes of the wine.

On to the private tasting room where we sampled three older vintage Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a variety of artisan cheeses and a Jordan Estate Olive Oil.

Our pick? If you guessed Cab Sauv, grab yourself a glass of wine because you are very smart! Our vintage was the 2007~ something very special indeed.

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It was an amazing day of touring and tasting and I hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to go back.


©TheWineStudent, 2016


The C-Word

Baby Berries

Baby Berries

Chardonnay! ~What word did you think I meant? Probably one of the most ubiquitous and popular varieties, Chardonnay is being celebrated today. So in honor of Chardonnay Day, I wanted highlight some of the wonders of this familiar, yet kicky little grape.

One of the seven ‘noble’ varieties, Chardonnay, with it’s higher alcohol and low acidity makes it very easy to drink ~ refreshing with maximum buzz. Its flavours can range from green apple, pear, and citrus (cooler climates) to stone fruits like peach, apricot and nectarine. Cultivated in warmer climates, it tends towards tastes of tropical fruits such as banana, pineapple, mango and kiwi. An oaked Chard may reveal essences of vanilla or coconut if lightly oaked. Heavier oak gives flavours of toast, smoke, and yeast. Malolactic processes bring out the attributes of butter, cream and hazelnut. Mmmhmmm, that’s a lot of taste sensations to pack into one medium sized glass. Maybe we should have two. When paired with the playful and talented Pinot Noir grape, it’s the basis for Champagne.

According to Jancis Robinson, Chardonnay can be aged from between 2-6 years. Chards with that buttery, malolactic vibe have a shorter life span, so it’s best to consume quickly, about a year or so after the vintage date. The ideal serving temperature is lightly chilled; 10-13C (50-55F).

It’s a tough little berry but because of its early bud break, it runs the risk of frost damage in the cooler regions of  Canada, New York and Ohio. So tender loving care must be used in nurturing this noble grape.

Although not generally a Chard drinker, I didn’t want the day to pass by without paying a little homage .After reading about the interesting tastes headed my way, I may have been a bit hasty in my bias. A little attitude adjustment can be a good thing. I found a ’10 Cameron Hughes Chard from Napa tucked away in my cellar.  It boasts ‘riveting aromatics and unctuous textures of orange blossom, lemon curd, toasted almond and honeysuckle.”  It’s the wine that drinks like a meal! But I’m really looking forward to what I experience  in my glass.'10 Cameron Hughes Chardonnay

Happy Chardonnay Day!


©TheWineStudent, 2013

Workin’ it in Washington

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

Bubbly and fun, this lovely girl was serving a Pink Prosecco Party Punch. She was working an event I attended this past weekend in DC. While it wasn’t specifically a wine event, there was always a glass of fermented fun nearby. Which is good, since it usually helps to loosen the tie of even the stuffiest stuffed shirt.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine from, most notably,  the region of Veneto in North Eastern Italy.  Pink Prosecco is just what it sounds like. What makes it pink? Skin contact with the Pinot Nero (Noir) grape.  According to WineSearcher.com the varietal blend is: 85% Prosecco (Glera) ~ the 15% remaining may include: Bianchetta Trevigana, Perera, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir (if you want it pink). Some notable brands worth sampling: Ruffino ($12), Canella ($17), Bisol Bel Star ($20). For mixing in punch, you might want to stick with the lower priced offerings. If you’re going to spend $20 on a bottle, it’s best to keep it the star of the show.

I find that sparklers like Prosecco go right to my head, so my rule of thumb is: One glass to feel dreamy ~ two or more and it’s lights out. But when combined with one of the first warm evenings of spring, it prompted me to start thinking, and anticipating, a great season ~ alfresco and under the stars.


©TheWineStudent, 2013

Cool Yule

It’s Christmas Eve! And this year I’m giving a nod to my Canadian roots by making a traditional homemade Tortiere. Since it’s a pie that combines both ground beef and pork, I had to think about the type of wine I wanted to pair it with. We’re also going to have steamed crab and caramelized brussels sprouts, so there are going to be a few taste sensations going on. To my way of thinking, ground beef isn’t heavy enough to warrant cracking a brawny Cabernet. And coupling it with the ground pork would steer me to a lighter but flavourful Pinot. Throw the crab into the mix and you see my dilemma. Some might say that Chardonnay would be de rigueur.

I’m generally not one to stick to the rules so I looked at our little collection and chose…an 07 Chateau Bianca Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. It was a thoughtful gift from our friend Jeff and 07 was a good year for Pinot in the valley. I have a difficult time drinking white wine this time of year. And it may be because I associate whites with summer (narrow-minded, I know). Or maybe there’s enough white on the ground without it being in my glass.

I want to take this time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you are able to gather close to those you love and share the joy of the season.  And if there are those you love who have left for more heavenly places, I’ll join you in raising a glass to them.


Sweet Treats and a Sunny Day

Okay, this post hasn’t much to do with wine. First of all, it’s not 5 o’clock in the Cleve yet -though I know it is somewhere- and I’m enjoying a little sweetie I wanted to photograph and share with you. It’s Cake Balls. I know, for most gourmands, I’m coming into the game a little late. And go ahead, feel free to make the inevitable double entendre. Actually, it’s difficult to choose words to describe them without having to hit delete a few times.

I found this treat at The Cute Little Cake Shop here in Cleveland. I could go on about how delightfully tasty and wonderful they are but pictures speak louder than words. As for a nice pairing, it might be cool to venture back into the world of white: A tasty Chardonnay or Riesling, or maybe a little of both. And I think it might be more fun for a girls’ wine night ~ balls out ~ so to speak.

Until then, I’m going to sit outside, bask in a glorious afternoon and savor my cake balls. One at a time.