Local grapes by the Amana Colonies

Kristen took a trip to Iowa last month and discovered a large community of people called the Amana Colonies who are helping locally grown grapes make a major come back!

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Amana, not Amish: 

At first glance, the Amana community seems to highly resemble the famous Amish settlers. However, the people of the Amana colonies are of German descent and highly value innovation and advancement in technology. After breaking away from the Luthern church in 1714, the Amana group has thrived and how stands as 7 large colonies. To our joyous surprise, Amana is famous for their Oktoberfest celebration and supports 4 wineries and 1 incredibly German-style brewery.

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Show me the wine

While visiting, Kristen managed to visit 2 of the wineries and got to learn a great deal about delicious local blends.

Stop 1: Fireside Winery –

**Currently being sold in the Heritage Haus in Amana.

Though these wines are sold to Amana like a winery in Napa would sell them to you local liquor store, the winery grows grape varieties that we have never heard of before!

Wines to try:

Hearthstone: It was a beautiful, light, and semi-dry red wine made with the local Marquette grape. It’s aroma screams fresh cherry and the palate finishes with smokey oak flavors. It’s wine that is elegant enough for short ribs but yet approachable enough for pizza.

Blu: This white blend of Geisenheim and local Iowa Seyval grapes, is a lightly sweet wine with crisp apple notes and and orange fruit aromas. It’s the perfect pair for your spicy taco night or BYOB to your favorite Indian restaurant. Seyval is also a MA local grape and the Iowa expression is elegant in comparison.

Glow: This dessert sweet wine is made with Iowa grown Brianna grapes. Expect this wine to take you away to a tropical destination with its pineapple, peach, and roasted apricot flavors. It’s the perfect sweet wine for the white sangria lovers in your life or even better on ice as a summer porch sipper.

 

Brave enough to try?

Fireside wines can be purchased on their website and shipped to your house! Explore their large portfolio and let us know what you think!

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Stop 2: Ackerman Winery

Established in 1956, it’s one of the oldest wineries in Iowa and has won awards for it’s fruit wine such as rhubarb and dandelion wine. Their unique selection of wines alone was stunning before we even to got taste them!

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wines to try:

Catawba: This native American grape varietal is the parent grape of the famous Concord variety. It produces a gorgeous pink wine that we swear will be your new summer fav! It’s hints of fresh strawberry and red apple will go down so easy it can be dangerous.

Edelweiss: This juicy Iowa grown white grape reminded us of a Gewurztraminer. It’s soft and floral body is easy drinking with pear and lemon notes. Serve ice cold while waiting for toe nails to dry in the hot summer sun.

Try the fruit wines – we dare you! Choosing a top fruit wine is too hard. All of their fruits are grown across america and boast about their health benefits as listed below. The Rhubarb and Dandelion have won awards but the Blackberry and Pomegranate were some of our favs. We recommend joining the wine club so you can taste them all!

Ackerman wines can also be purchased on their website!

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Happy Drinking Wineos!!!

 

 

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2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Winos

Happy Holidays Winos!

We know how hard it can be to find creative presents this time of year. What do you get for that wino who already has everything? Let your fave wine bloggers help you out. Here’s our 2017 wino gift guide to help with all your holiday shopping! (Click the word links for buying options!)

Merchandise:

Wino T-shirts from Francesca’s!

Burgundy Labeled Bottle Umbrella

Wine bottle umbrellas from Vinrella 

 I%27m Real Holiday Red Wine Face Mask  Unwined Red Wine 10 In 1 Leave-In Spray

Wine/Grape health benefit beauty products from TonyMoly and HASK sold at ULTA

Sonoma Mulled Zin...Sonoma Cabernet Iced...Sonoma Rosé...Sonoma Chardonnay...Organic Milk Thistle...

Sonoma Wine Teas for the season and Milk Thistle Tea to CLEANSE THE LIVER from Republic of Tea

Wine Folly’s Guide to Wine Book

Wine Tools:

Kristen’s Favorite adjustable wine aerator from HOST

Cat Wine Bottle Opener

Rose Gold Cat Wine Opener from Kohls

Emergency Kit Wine Stain Remover

Emergency Wine Stain Remover sold by True

Simpkins Hangover Drops 200g Tin - 3 Pack

Simpkins Hangover Sweet Drops from the UK! Sold as an import on Ebay

  

Adorable wine stopper sets from Modcloth.com 

Experience:

Fall Harvest Wine Fest

DISCOUNT tickets to Boston Wicked Wine Fest from Groupon. Selling Fast!

Winc: Four Bottles of Wine Customized to Your Palate with Shipping from Winc (56% Off)

DISCOUNT on your first WINC home delivery wine club from Groupon.

Luggage:

Rhino Wineo double bottle tote bag from Red and Wolf Paper Co.

Insulated Tote Papaya by Blush

Concealed wine totes! Secretly holds up to 3L wine bag (boxed wine) in the bottom! Sold by True

 

Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays Winos!! Stay Thirsty!

 

Feature Image credit: ‘Happy 2013, World’ created by Asral

Scribe Winery – Sonoma Superhero

Just in case you didn’t read our post on how to help with the CA Fire Relief, click here for why we added Scribe Winery in Sonoma to the list of local heroes. Their special release of Nouveau Pinot Noir was designed to benefit local charities that are helping with the fire aid.

We at Half-Past ordered a bottle in support of the charity. It was our first time trying wine from this vineyard, and you can find our take of the drink below.

 

Wine Review Summary: Worth every penny!

Nouveau Pinot Noir cost us $32 a bottle plus shipping to MA which ended up at around $50. Normally, we never buy blind but since this winery was producing for relief purposes, we couldn’t resist.

2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir

First, let us just say that the sheer color of this wine is STUNNING. It’s a vibrant and practically neon-magenta shade of pink. We stared at the bottle for a good 10 minutes before opening. It drinks like a deep rose but looks like a sangria.

Styled after the famous french Nouveau Beaujolais, the nose of the wine was bright with fresh summer berry perfume. The body was light yet coated the palate with grapefruit citrus and strawberry leaves. Though the fruit is subtle at first, it ripens throughout and leaves a clean almost lime finish. It was dangerously smooth which allows for easy drinking and infinite food pairing opportunities.

 

Now we will warn you that this bottle is unfilteredIf you want every last drop, you will have to strain it for debris and sediment. We used two coffee filters….. Why? Drinking the sediment will result in a glass that is filled with tannins, grape skins, and dead yeast from fermentation.  That combination is great for wine color, but not so great for tasting in concentrated doses. It will be strong and bitter with a mineral and sandy mouthfeel.

 

This Pinot Noir was so beautifully light yet complex that we are excited to see what comes next for this Sonoma winery. Have you tried Scribe? We want to know!

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Stay thirsty wineos!

Feature image Credit – Scribe Winery Facebook 

Vineyard ending photo credit – Scribe Winery Facebook

 

Celebrating Local Varietals

New England is known for its foliage and fall character. Fall in the northeast provokes thoughts of colorful leaves, fresh apples, and hayrides. We think it should also include thoughts of our regional varietals and wine flavors. Some of our favorite local wineries (including ones we’ve reviewed in the past, like White Mountain Winery or Moonlight Meadery) are known for their lush, fruit-based flavors: perfect for fall!

But there are still plenty of festive, fall and winter varietals for wine lovers who aren’t fans of sweet or fruity wines. We recently tasted two local bottles from Massachusetts wineries: a Frontenac from Mill River Winery and a Pinot Menier from Westport Wineries.

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The Pinot Menier surprised us with cherry and vanilla notes – almost like a cola but with a more complex body and taste. This varietal is rarely bottled on its own, and was a treat to enjoy!

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The Frontenac – harvested in 2014 and sold in a half-bottle – offered soft tannins and a soft finish. We noted flavors of oak and dark fruit, such as plums. It had a silky finish, but with just a bit of a bite.

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For other wineries to watch, check out Sweet Baby Vineyard, Sakkonet Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyards, Alfalfa Farm Winery, and pretty much the entire finger lakes region in NY State. Drink up your favorite local ‘foliage’ and let us know what your favorite is!

Cheers!

 

CA Fire Relief- How you can help!

 

Hey Wineos,

Our renowned wine capitals Napa and Sonoma have been hit with terrible wild fires that have displaced families and damaged many of the wineries we all love. For detailed information about which wineries were affected and which counties have been burned please read here.

In latest news, the majority of the fires have been contained for the time being. Many organizations in the area are looking for donations to help rebuild wine country and support the families.

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So how can you help?

The Winemakers and Sommeliers For California Wildfire Relief group is hosting fundraising events, taking donations, and taking donated quality vintage wine bottles to use as auction items for funds.

The American Red Cross is taking applications for volunteers to help bring aid to the area as well as donations on their website. Donations can be directed to all general disaster relief which covers the CA fires, Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Maria. You can choose which disaster you want to donate to.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank is also taking monetary donations and food donations if you live locally. The money goes to help feeding the displaced families.

Gloria Ferrer winery in Sonoma is doing a special where $1 from every purchase goes towards the fire relief. Check out their website for fundraising events or shop online to make a difference. Every bottle counts!

Scribe Winery in Sonoma County has opened a pre-sale for their special edition Pinot Noir where the proceeds from the sales will go to local aid forces. The wine will ship on November 1st and this limited edition bottle costs $32 dollars. We here at half-past just purchased a bottle and will be reviewing it soon for you!

2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir Presale // Ships Nov 1st

For even more ways to help like donating to the local firefighters in the area or clothing donations check out PBS.org

Please do your part to help support the vineyards and the people that work hard to provide you with USA made wine every day. #CAwinestrong

Stay Wine Strong and Cheers

Feature Image Credit – Santa Cruise Mountains Winegrowers Association

Love in the Air Image Credit – Two-Way Breaking News NPR

Pinor Noir Wine Bottle Image Credit – Scribe Winery 

 

 

CA Wine That’s Worth the Flight – Ferrari Carano

‘Dead Palate’ is a real issue many wine drinkers face after simply tasting too many different wines in a short amount of time. After spending a week in wine country, I hate to admit this, but many of the wines were starting to taste the same and lacked personality. It was a delightful surprise to discover that the wines at Ferrari Carano truly stood apart from the rest I had tried in CA thus far.

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This Italian inspired mansion in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma is quite the sight to behold on your way down their Tuscan driveway. The entrance to the wine shop and tasting rooms is actually on the left side of the mansion. Here, witness a view of the grape vines that will have you scrambling for the perfect selfie.

Unlike many vineyards in Sonoma, Ferrari-Carano has many affordable tasting options. The upstairs tasting bar (Villa Fiore Bar) is only $10 for a flight of 5 wines that you can choose from a lengthy menu.

The outdoor patio tasting is where you can relax and drink your favorite bottle or sample a seasonal wine flight which can be on the more expensive side.

Finally, in the wine cellar there’s a private wine bar and a public bar which hosts the higher end wines. Enjoy a flight of four wines for $25 dollars or book a private tasting in the Enotrica wine room.

Ferrari-Carano produces a wide variety of grapes which makes it great for a crowd. My brother and I did the Villa Fiore Bar, each of us chose different wines. Of the ten we tried, the Pinot Noir made a major impression. The 2015 Anderson Valley ‘Lazy Day’ Pinot was an amazing quality for an affordable price. This borderline medium bodied wine was smooth, bright with a cranberry and raspberry bite that slowly evolved into rich blackberry and oaked cherry finish. It was unlike any pinot that I had tasted before and it was only $24 a bottle!

Your trip to Sonoma would not be complete without relaxing in the warm breeze with a glass of Ferrari-Carano. I promise you will find your new favorite CA wine after one visit. Wine Up Wineos!

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Plan Your Visit to Matanza Creek Winery

Kristen here! I’m not overly proud of the fact that I tried to fit all on Sonoma County into a single day, but I feel that it is my duty to tell you about one of the wineries in this region that really blew my mind.

Matanza Creek Winery

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Start the morning with one of the most visually stunning vineyards in Sonoma. When I heard that Matanza Creek was not only a thriving vineyard but also a fresh lavender producer, I just HAD to see how the two industries commingled in a single estate. The love child I saw did not disappoint.

The Estate is massive with rolling hills of beautiful purple lavender plants (if you visit in the spring/early summer). The aromas were far from overpowering and instead attributed the ‘freshest’ air I had breathed all trip. As you wander past the gardens, the next stop is a high end promenade area filled with lanterns, corn hole, bocce ball courts, wine bottle ring toss, wooden tables, and manicured lawn area for an old fashioned picnic.

Impressed? That’s only the beginning. Travel up the stairs to the luxurious patio for a cheese and local wine tasting that will change the way you view the words ‘Food Pairing.’

Kristen’s wine tasting speed notes: (first the wine then what it was paired with)

Glass one: 2014 Helena Bench Sav Blanc – ‘Foggy morning’  3-4 week old soft cheese with Yuzu fruit jelly

The Sav Blanc was mineral, rocky, almost volcanic with white peach notes. Acidity that cut through the creamy and rich cheese and balanced the sweet ‘pop’ of the yuzu jelly. 

Glass two: 2013 Journey Chardonnay – ‘Mt tam’ triple cream brie with orange glazed Marcona almond

The Chard was surprisingly crisp with green apple subtleties but still full thanks to the malolatic fermentation and french oak aging process.  Hints of pineapple mix with the orange almond and brie mimic a deconstructed tropical mixed. 

Glass three: 2013 Malbec, Cabernet Savignon, Cabernet Franc Blend – ‘Midnight Moon’ Sheep milk gouda with dried cherry jam

This blend was medium to heavy in body, bright in cranberry and pomegranate flavor that stood up equally to the dense gouda cheese. Cherry jam on top gives wine a whole new layer of depth, that caramelized the cheese. 

Glass four: 2012  Estate Merlot Bennett Valley, Jackson Park – aged dried Jack with cocoa rind with fig and onion marmalade

Rich merlot reconstitues dried cheese yet cocoa enhances the mocha from the merlot. Red onions and figs from the jam give pairing a holiday feel of brandied chocolate fruits for xmas. 

Surprize glass five: Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Dessert wine – White chocolate and Estate Lavender truffle

Exclusive wine not for purchase on company website and not normally poured with this tasting. Sweet enough to warrant ‘dessert wine’ classification but no where near intensity of Port or Sauternes. Closer to sweet moscato but kept refreshing tang of sav blanc, gave balance to waxy white chocolate and was perfumed by the floral lavender. 

 

Finally after a relaxing patio tasting, the tasting bar inside the large main building is available along with the wine shop, lavender products room, clothing swag table, rentable conference room, and walk down the hill to the lavender barn to witness how the plant is processed into products.

*Fun Fact* there are two types of lavender, one is edible (Grosso) and one is only used for its smell in bath products (Provence)

Please if you are ever in Sonoma, you must visit this vineyard not only for grounds but the wine and food pairing truly is something out of a dream. Don’t forget the chamomile lavender hand cream on the way out!

Cheers!

Feature Image from www.matanzascreek.com

Love at first Sip-CA Wine Country

California Wine Country is famous for proving that America could make great wine back in the 1976 Paris tasting. California shocked the world when judges decided in a blind taste test that American wine tasted better than the French contestants. Though the entire state of CA produces wine, there are two valleys that are known the world over for their wine: Napa and Sonoma.

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I (Kristen) got to visit the American wine mecca for the first time a few weeks ago and I’ve got some tips to help you with your next wine vacation.

  1. It’s not all beautiful hotels and glittering patio set ups. First the foremost, Napa and Sonoma are farm lands. If you’re providing your own transportation, it’s a lot of driving though endless fields with more cow sightings than people. Be prepared for winding roads, little to no street signs, and lots of food stalls selling fresh produce on the side of the road.My Tip: GPS is your best friend so bring a car charger and make sure you have a good phone provider if you are using your phone.

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  2. Contrary to popular belief, don’t go hard or you will go home. Most tasting flights are at least 4 wines and drinking them quickly on top of the hot weather will get you tipsy fast. So bring water and try to pick wineries that serve food that way you can get to more than one winery a day.Pro Tip: you don’t have to finish all of the wine samples. Bring friends to help you finish. Though its frowned upon, some places will let you share a tasting if you ask.

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  3. Okay so its a HUGE place, with lots to see in both valleys. Where do you start? Do some research! Look into the most popular wineries in the area and don’t forget to leave room in your schedule for when a local gives you a good recommendation. We started at 9am and finished most days at 6 – 8pm.Hotel tip: Get a hotel in the middle of one of the valleys. We got one slightly south in Sonoma valley. It takes about an hour to two hours to get to the top of the valley for exploring.

So where did I go?

Napa:

We started in Yountville for a walking tour of the town. It’s an adorable town toward the bottom of the valley. The little town looks modern with new architecture, unique shopping plazas, and outdoor art displays.

What’s the best part? It’s a culinary paradise with gourmet shops and restaurants everywhere. My favorite was the fabulous desserts from Kollar chocolates with their chocolate sushi and the rose wine macaroons from Bouchon Bakery.  Yountville also happens to be the home of Bell Wine Cellars. Click here for my article about Bell Wine Cellars.

Next we moved on to Domaine Chandon which was literally 2 driveways away for a flight of California made bubbles. The property is beautiful and great views from their picnic area that is perched on top of a hill. The valley below is breathtaking, and here you have two options: purchase a flight to taste or purchase a bottle and drink it on the hill with family and friends. Both options are fabulous and don’t forget the glittering gift shop on the way out.

Haven you ever had an Italian California BBQ? The V.Sattui winery is an Italian winery with a rather large property covering in flowers, fountains, and the smell of brick oven pizza. Wait, why pizza? Because on Saturdays they do an outdoor BBQ that would put your fourth of July party to shame. It’s got pizzas, salmon fillets, fresh mozzarella salads made to order, ribs, short ribs, steak tips, and so many varieties of vegetables to put on the side. Beware because the place will be packed with peoplem, but the food is great and worth the wait. Don’t want to wait? Check out their authentic deli, pastry shop, gift shop, and oh yea the massive wine bar.

Last but not least, if you really want to be dazzled visit the Tuscan inspired castle in Calistoga. Click here to read my review of the castle.  It’s worth the entrance fee I promise.

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Stay tuned for my review on sonoma!

 

Tuscany Meets Napa: Castello Di Amorosa

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Resting near the top of Napa Valley is a Tuscan-inspired castle called Castello Di Amorosa (Castle of Love) in Calistoga, CA.

The castle – built only using materials available over 700 years ago for authenticity – is surrounded by gorgeous property with 30 acres just for grapes. If that’s not impressive enough, the wines are only sold at the winery or on the online website.

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The castle maintains a medieval vibe with rooms including a drinking well, church, stable, and torture chamber, as well as outdoor features such as a moat, drawbridge, and five towers.

 

 

There are different options for admission.

You can book a tour which gets you into the private rooms and entire secret floors for $40 dollars a person and includes a tasting in the barrel room. General admission is $25 which lets you walk around the open grounds like the great hall, chapel, stables, and many courtyards with a tasting of 5 wines in the main tasting hall.

I did not pay the extra to grab a tour because the grounds I saw were stunning enough but by all mean go for it if you get the chance to visit. The other options go up from $40 which are their food and wine private tasting, cheese and wine tasting, or their deluxe tour.

 

 

But what about the wine?

They produce over 30 wines a year including pinot bianco, pinot grigio, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and many other tuscan native grapes.

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My tasting menu alone let me choose from over 24 wines and one non-alcoholic grape juice made from muscat grapes which was delicious.

My favorites?

  1. The Gioia- a sangiovese rose that was rich in berry flavor yet bright and lighter on the palate than I expected. ‘Summer porch pounder’ would be a great use for this lovely pink drink.
  2. The Dolcino – slightly sweet Gewurztraminer that was also a perfect summer wine. It had just a hint of sweetness that made it quench my thirst in the warm castle cellar. Put it on ice and pair with the sunshine.
  3. Now best for last: La Fantasia, a dark slightly sparkling rose wine that was juicy and fruity. It tasted exactly like the sweet sparklings I drank in Italy years prior.  It was refreshing and perfect for any sweet wine lover with a bottle price of $30.

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The wines range from $23 to $98 per bottle. That may not scare some of you, but after a week in wine country it adds up fast. Luckily, there’s a discount on 12 bottles.

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If you ever want to feel royal and drink great wine at the same time, I highly recommend giving at least most of your day to exploring this work of art.

Ciao Bella!