Cava’s Little Sister, Summer White!

Just when you think Spain can’t get anymore ingenious after inventing sangria, they share yet another one of their long standing traditions: vi d’agulla from Avinyó

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In Catalan, the name means ‘prickly wine.’ But despite it’s Spanish origins, this label reads ‘Petillant,’ which is a French wine designation meaning ‘slightly sparking.’

Avinyó’s Petillant white wine is produced in Catalonia Spain, with 80% Petit Grain Muscat and 20% Macabeu grapes. After being fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is given its light bubbles from the Charmat Method (tank method)  in a secondary tank.

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Why is it Catalonia’s summer drink of choice? Probably because it’s everything you need from a summer white. Crisp, lightly acidic, blooming with lychee and green apple flavors, floral, with tiny almost metallic bubbles that are a match made in heaven for summer seafood pairings – as if the tiny silver fishes on the label didn’t give it away.

If you happen to come across any petillant or vi d’agulla wines in your travels this summer PLEASE take the opportunity to taste them ice cold with all your summer food choices.

¡Salud!

Rare find! – Ancient Peaks Winery

Picture owning a large cattle ranch in central California…and one day some big wine conglomerate comes by and wants to buy patches of your land to grow grapes. Three years later, the grapes are finally ready to be turned into wine, but the conglomerate wants to leave – What luck! Buy the land back, and now you have perfectly managed wine fields that are yours for production. This is the lucky story of Ancient Peaks Winery at the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Don’t worry: they are still a cattle ranch too,but now produce a line up of over 8 different wines each growing in 5 different kinds of soils. Each bottle specifies which soil the grapes were grown in the back label. Did I mention that one of their soil types in an ancient sea bed? Picture massive fossilized oyster shells popping up among the grape vines!

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Why is this winery a rare find? The inside scoop is that only 6 different wine shops in the whole state of MA have been presented with the Ancient Peaks wines. We don’t have any information about other states, but so far the number of places to possibly purchase this wine is limited.

So stay on the lookout! If the search doesn’t prove fruitful, check out their online store to see if they ship to your state. Kristen was lucky enough to try their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Zinfandel.

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Cabernet Sauvignon  

It’s a rare day where I enjoy all of the wines that I try in one sitting. This cabernet was a perfect balance of everything we love about the grape. It wasn’t overly fruity or tart, it was smooth with softer tannins with medium body weight. Showing flavors of dark berries and even very subtle hints of cocoa on the mid palate. Perfect for dinner or just stand alone drinking.

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Merlot 

Now, Merlot I am very skeptical off because normally it is not my favorite grape. But this bottle was wonderfully produced.  It was velvety, rich, with black cherry and plummy notes and it included that signature mocha smell that you can expect from the grape. This bottle advertises that it was grown in the ancient sea bed, which might have something to do with its subdued quality. It’s a must for red meats or even game meats if you want to take the flavor up a notch.

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Zinfandel 

This has to be one of my favorite zinfandels yet. It was juicy, refreshing, quenching, and yet the fruit flavor was controlled in a way that made it enjoyable sip after sip. With bright berry notes in the front and a slight tart and pepper zing at the finish, this wine is a fun ride for your palate and I hope you get the chance to nab this bottle.

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Just in case giant sea shells wasn’t enough of a draw, the next time you are in CA I would recommend stopping by their site. Not only are there cows, a cafe, tasting room, and tours but they now host a 2.5 hour long zip line experience across their property!

Happy Wine Hunting!

Vineyard Header Photo from ancientpeaks.com

Nobilo: Not Your Average Sauv Blanc

We recently went to the store to pick up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Knowing we couldn’t go wrong with wines from Marlborough, New Zealand, we picked a random bottle and expected a traditional experience. But this wine – Nobilo Regional Selection – was anything but ordinary!

 

The difference was noticeable with just one waft. Nobilo has a blossoming nose with full, floral notes. It was deliciously enticing and aromatic. We almost couldn’t stop smelling it to try a taste! (Do they sell this as candles yet? Take our money!)

The taste was just as unique, a delicate balance of citrus with a hint of acid in the finish. While the wine was smooth and light on the pallet, its flavors hold its own. We noticed flavors of pears and oranges, with just a vague hint of something sweeter, like vanilla. It was perfect for a casual glass (or two, or three!).

And to make things even better, we snagged a bottle for just $7.99!

You can find more about the wine here: http://www.nobilowines.com/us/our-wines/regional-collection-sauvignon-blanc

Featured image: http://oakmontpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Nobilo-Sauvignon-Blanc-M.jpg

 

 

 

Wine & Cider

We know you have already been bombarded with pumpkin, apples, spice, and everything nice. But what if there was a way to combine your love for the season and wine?

Welcome back to the Half Past Wine O’clock wine lab where we enjoy experimenting and inventing simple drinks for you to try!

This time we played with the obvious fall superstar: apple cider. Some love it cold and smooth and others prefer and it hot and spicy. Fear not: you can have both.

 

Cold:

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Cider Shivers

3/4 c cold apple cider

1/2 c cold white fruity wine

top off with orange flavored seltzer

This drink was not so precise when we came up with it. Take a mason cup and fill the bottom quarter of it with white wine, add in as much cider as you like, and then top it off with some bubbly seltzer to give it some flare. Simple yet not your average cider. Experiment and tell us what you liked!

 

 

Hot:

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Cider Cinders

3/4c hot mulled cider

1/2c room temp white wine

1 tbsp rum (half a shot)

cinnamon stick for flavor while you drink

Mull the cider by infusing mulling spiced into apple cider on the stove. 2 cups of cider with a tablespoon of mulling spices at a low simmer for 15 minutes should do the trick for you and a friend. Strain the spices out of the cider and then add the other alcohols to the pot to heat up. This should only take about a minute or so. Remember you do not want the alcohol to cook off so heat it just barely! Pour your spiked cider into a mug and then throw in a cinnamon stick to flavor while you drink. Try this recipe with cinnamon or spiced liquors like fireball!

 

Stay warm and drink up!

Cheers!

feature image credit (apple photo) – ‘Taxonomy’ by Rebecca Siegel

Move over Pinot, Here Comes Tino

Pinot Grigio lovers: get ready,  because your world is about to change.

Have you heard of Vermentino? It’s a grape famously grown in Sicily, Italy but you can find it in other countries like France. Check out Wine Folly for an in depth description of the grape!

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Kristen got to try Groppolo from the Colli di Luni region in Italy produced by the Il Monticello winery. Most websites say it’s similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but this bottle screamed that it was the more successful yet underrated cousin of Pinot Grigio. The slightly lower acidity level made it a smooth glass of wine that smelled of green pears. It was fresh, fruity, but very light with a small yeasty presence that made very tiny bubbles around the rim.

Have you ever had a wine that could float across your palate but quench your vino craving? Kristen did!

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This particular bottle might be a little harder to find than most others we post about. Kristen nabbed it from her European wine shop job but you may have luck at some of the larger wine shops like Wegmans and Total Wine. If you cannot find this particular bottle we hope you have the opportunity to try the Vermentino grape by another producer at least! It’s SO worth the taste! You also might want to buy two bottles instead of one; Kristen drank hers in a blink.

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Saluté!

 

Skipping Stone White: A New England Must-Have

I happened upon Skipping Stone White at Pamplemousse’s spring wine tasting in Reading, MA. It awaited me at the last tasting table and immediately proved itself to be the best white of the day. I didn’t hesitate to order a bottle, and merely had to hold myself back from buying two (or three, or four or five!)

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It’s hard to explain this wine past simply saying that everything in it is just right, the kind of wine Goldilocks would only find on the third try. The wine hails from Greenvale Vineyards in Rhode Island, and boasts of crisp tastes and floral hints. It’s smooth, easy-drinking with just enough body to distinguish it without overbearing.

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The wine consists of 90% Cayuga and 10% Vidal Blanc, two grapes local to the Northeastern region of America. The vineyard takes great pride in this – and the fact that these local grapes produce their best-selling wine!

At around $12.99-$14.99, it’s a fair price for a perfect bottle.

 

How Low Can You Go – Cheap Whites

So we found you the best cheap reds under $10, but what about whites?  We find it a lot easier to find good cheap whites than reds or rosés. Mainly because white wines are more flexible with production. Good reds or even roses can take a long time to macerate/age before they are considered “drinkable” but white wines can have shorter production times which means less money on the price tag but not necessarily less quality.

But that doesn’t mean all cheap whites are good. Don’t worry, reader – we’ve done the hard work of taste-testing several inexpensive whites. Here are popular, low-cost whites and whether or not they’re worth a shot!

Avia Pinot Grigio – $4.99

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This is our favorite cheap white yet! It’s a great table wine and is a popular low-cost choice at restaurants.

The wine is smooth on the palate with crisp apple tastes but none of the tartness that can make a Pinot too powerful for casual drinking. We highly recommend it; definitely a great white to have on store for guests or back-up for a dinner.

Tip: While we’re in love with Avia’s Pinot Grigio, but we’d strongly suggest avoiding the Pinot Noir.

El Sancho Escudero White Blend – $4.99

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Found this one at Whole Foods and figured it was worth a shot. Unfortunately…it wasn’t even worth finishing the bottle.

Despite a beautiful nose and color, the wine tasted like lemon-infused water. I managed one glass but had to discard of the rest of it. Wasn’t worth the calories or the pain it placed on my palate.

Stemmari Moscato – $6.99

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Discovered at Kappy’s Liquors produced in sunny Sicily! So it’s  easily found and from a reputable wi making country!

This spritzy (yes it’s got tiny bubbles!) white wine was refreshing, sweet, and light on the palate despite the sweetness. It tastes like white peaches and lychee fruit got together and wanted to be like Champagne. PERFECT summer chilled wine on a budget. I even cooked with it and it creates an AMAZING sweet wine sauce for sautéed scallops.

Three Buck Chuck – $2.99 

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This famous Trader Joes brand portfolio covers many different varieties all at affordable prices. I randomly grabbed the Chardonnay to try for this post’s purposes since I’m always on the look out for a good one.

I was a bit surprised and confused by the result. If you love Pinot Gris then this wine is for you. It was acidic, medium bodied, and almost lemon like. It was as if the two grapes tried to have a love child. Buttery lemons would be this wine’s new name. I leave this wine up to your palate for critiquing because mine was very confused.

Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – $7.99

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Trusting a Bogle brand wine seems easy because their label is seen everywhere. This bottle comes specially from Trader Joes but you can find it at almost any liquor store. I, however, was hesitant since a well-known label doesn’t always mean great product.

My fears were put to rest the minute I opened the bottle (screw top yay!). The aroma was beautiful, floral, and smelled like fresh-cut pears. The taste was perfect for me who enjoys the tang of the grape but prefers a slight sweet to help cut the acidity. This Sav Blanc tasted like green apples with a slight hint of pear juice. The acidity has a bite of fresh lemon or lime but not enough that it has you running for a glass of water. I most definitely recommend this affordable white for you!

Steeple Jack Chardonnay – $6.99

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We’ve written about this gem before! We found it at Whole Foods and were attracted to the unwooded chardonnay, preferring the less buttery taste in steel barrel fermentation.

From a family owned vineyard, the wine boasts of its fruitful tastes on the back of the bottle. It lived up to expectation, pleasing our palates with hints of peaches and citrus.

The Curator White Blend – $7.99

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Found at Whole Foods, this South African white blend does the job of a decent white without exactly wow-ing the drinker. With a lighter body and a subtle taste, there’s nothing in particular about this wine that stands out. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; while the wine doesn’t have many memorable qualities, it was a bottle worth finishing, though perhaps not buying again.

While we wouldn’t recommend this wine, it’s not a bad choice, either, and will certainly do the trick!

Do you have any favorite cheap whites, or any you’d like to warn others against? Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!

Image Credit Avia 

Image Credit The Curator

 

City Wines: Brooklyn Oenology

When you think of Brooklyn, wine isn’t likely to be the first thing to pop into your mind. You’re probably imagining busy city sidewalks, a community of urban culture, or a land of creative writers and artists. Well, Brooklyn Oenology manages to combine all of these things into their vibrant wine collection, representing the local culture of Brooklyn through their variety of NY-grown wines.

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We had the pleasure of meeting BOE at the Boston Wine Expo, and later sampling two of their wines: their 2014 Cabernet Franc Rosé and 2014 Social Club Wine (both perfect for the spring and summer!). We were intrigued by the idea of a wine from the center of a city – and the way the wine labels represented the local culture.

The BOE Story

BOE’s wines are like a love song to New York: the grapes are all grown in the Finger Lakes and Long Island (yes, Long Island makes wine – who knew?) regions, and the labels feature artwork from local Brooklyn artists. The labels are not only gorgeous representations of local talent, but also provide information on the artist and the medium they used, serving to promote local creative work.

 

But now let’s talk about the wines!

Social Club White

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We had the pleasure of tasting BOE’s popular white blend, coming in at around 50% Chardonnay, 15% Riesling (there’s that Finger Lakes taste we love!), and 35% other assorted whites. Stainless steel barrels maintained the body and taste of Chardonnay without the buttery flavors that could possibly overpower the other whites. The wine offers a delicious experience on the pallet, transitioning from a slightly sweeter taste to a medium-acidic finish.

The wine was named for its “easy-drinking,” making it a wine you can sip on socially with friends either with or without food. Social Club White boasts flavors of pear, pineapple and light citrus. We recommend this wine for exactly what its title suggests: casual, social drinking!

Cabernet Franc Rosé

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This rosé has an interesting story: the unusually cold weather of 2014 caused a much lower yield of the Cabernet Franc grapes than anticipated. These bottles are the surviving grapes! The rosé is light, crisp, and dry, proving to be an ideal drink for the warmer days to come. This salmon-colored wine gives a sweet berry aroma and is fruit-forward.

We detected flavors of watermelon and lime, proving to be a perfect pair for a summer BBQ. Don’t forget to chill it for that refreshing acidic pop on the palate.

Want to learn more about BOE and their wines?

Check out BOE at facebook.com/pages/BrooklynOenology or on Twitter @bklynoenology.

If you’re wondering where to find BOE near you, you can contact BOE at 718-599-1259 or info@brooklynoenology.com

Cheers!

 

 

Getting cold? – Warm Wine Drinks

It’s January!

….. AND we are all starting to feel frosty. When the ‘alcohol blanket’ isn’t enough and you actually need to get warm fast, here’s the post dedicated to you.


 

Warm Wine Drinks 

Kuhano Vino – from Saveur Magazine

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  1. Heat 10 whole cloves and 4 star anise until toasted in a 2 quart pan over med-high heat (1 – 2 min)
  2. Add 4 cups of your favorite red wine, 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg, the peel of 2 oranges and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  4. Serve in mugs with orange slices and star anise
  5. Serves 2-4 people
  6. *fruity red wine works best according to the magazine and the flavor is richly spiced* 

 

 

 

 

The Wassail – from Saveur Magazine (WARNING this recipe takes a little over an HOUR to make) 

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F
  2. Place 6 cored apples into a baking dish with 2 1/2 tablespoons of light brown sugar in each apple center.
  3. Pour 1 cup of water into the baking dish and bake the apples for 1 hour.
  4. In the meantime, toast 15 allspice berries, 15 cloves, and 6 cinnamon sticks in an 8 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
  5. Add 1 cup of madeira wine, 1 cup unsweetened apple cider, 2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon of ground ginger, Three 16oz cans of ale, one 750ml bottle of hard cider, and the peels of 2 oranges.
  6. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour.
  8. Add the apples from the oven and whatever leftover liquid is in the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  9. Serves 12

 

Mulled White wine and Pear – from Food 52 

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  1. Add 1 bottle (750ml) of dry or off-dry white wine (ex: Riesling), 1 piece of star anise, two 1-4 in slices of fresh ginger, 3 green cardamom pods, 3 whole cloves, and 3 to 4 tablespoons of honey into a saucepan.
  2. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat then turn off the heat and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes
  3. taste the mixture to see if it needs more honey ( add what you like) then re-heat until just steaming
  4. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of pear brandy
  5. garnish each drink with a slice(s) of an asian pear.
  6. Serves 4

 

Classic Mulled Wine – from Gimme some Oven 

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  1. Combine all of the following ingredients into a large non-aluminum saucepan:
  2. 1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine
    1 orange, sliced into rounds
    1/4 cup brandy (optional)
    1/4 cup honey or sugar
    8 whole cloves
    2 cinnamon sticks
    2 star anise
  3. Bring mixture to a simmer over med-high heat (don’t boil you will evaporate the alcohol!)
  4. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 15min to 3 hours. Strain and serve with whatever garnishes you like.
  5. Serves 4 to 5

Hot Glögg from Saveur Magazine (Warning this recipes takes 2 hours) 

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  1. Combine all of the following ingredients into a large saucepan:
  2. 2 bottles dry red wine
    12 bottle of Port wine
    1 cup vodka
    14 lb. dried figs, sliced
    14 lb. raisins
    2 oranges, peel ribbons and juice
    8 oz. light brown sugar
    2 star anise
    4 Indonesian long peppers
    5 cloves
    7 cardamom pods
    3 cinnamon sticks
  3. Bring mixture to a simmer and stir occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and let sit for 2 hours
  5. Strain and re-heat to serve
  6. Serves 8 to 10

 

Hot Honey-Pomegranate Wine – from Food 52 

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  1. Combine all of the following into a saucepan, crockpot, or dutch oven:
  2. Bottle of Red Wine (low-mid range Zinfindels and Cabs work well)
  3. cups pomegranate juice
  4. 1/4 cup honey
  5. Cinnamon Stick (Mexican cinnamon is particularly nice)
  6. teaspoon whole clove
  7. Warm over low heat but do not boil! Stir well to dissolve the honey
  8. Serve warm and garnish with a cinnamon stick

 


The Grand Finalé drink!

Bittersweet Red Wine Hot Chocolate – from Saveur Magazine 

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  1. Bring 6oz of chopped bittersweet chocolate and 1/3 cup of fruity red wine (like Pinot Noir) to a simmer in a 1 quart saucepan over low heat.
  2. Whisk until chocolate is melted (about 3 minutes)
  3. Add 2/3 cup of water, 1 cup of milk, and 1 pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Bring to a boil while whisking for 3 minutes
  5. Serve in mugs with sugar on the side in case you want it sweeter.
  6. Serves 2

 

 

 

 

Let us know what you think about our warm wine recipe finds!

Stay warm my Wineos!

Feature Image Credit – CC aya padrón