Creative Juices Wine Blog

Summertime, and the pairing’s easy.

In case you haven’t been outside recently, it’s hot. I’m not just speaking on behalf of where we are, but the majority of the country is feeling exactly what I’m talking about every day. Many of us are experiencing 100 degree plus temperatures on a regular basis, and with it comes a sense of being overwhelmed by drink choices.

It’s too easy to reach for a cold domestic brew after 15 minutes in this heat, which inevitably lead to sweating through two shirts, and virtually passing out. Here are some recommendations for you that don’t start with ‘Bud’, or end in ‘Light’.

If there is on thing we have learned about serving wine, it’s that exploration (for the most part) died with Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. “I know what I like” is a common phrase from many consumers. That’s not to say that knowing what one likes is a bad thing, but let’s face it, Napa isn’t the only place making wine. Hence, a need for the revival of exploration. This time, with better navigational tools.

For us, hot summertime weather means a break from Cabernet, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, and anything else that could be used as a club in the event a riot breaks out due to frost-bitten nerve endings during the winter months. It’s a well deserved hiatus for us and all of the abuser friendly wines we love so much. During the separation months, these varietals still see periodic visitation on rainy days, or cool(ish) evenings. In some cases, we get to visit them in the form of Rosés, which is nice. Speaking of Rosés, I feel the need to call men out briefly. It’s ok to drink pink wines. They’re not all sweet. They’re not White Zinfandel or White Merlots. And it by no means makes you look feminine. All you’re really doing is saying, ‘I have a sophisticated palate, and I don’t buy into stereotypes.’ The next time you’re at a wine tasting, give the pink one a go. You may be surprised.

That being said, here are some more heat friendly wines for you to enjoy. The first thing you’ll want to do is avoid heavy oaking. Sorry Cali Chards. Think White Burgundy (Chablis, Côte de Beaune) are great choices, or possibly Viognier from further south in Rhone. Try Sancerre, Alsacian Riesling, Pinot Gris, or Gewürztraminer. These are amazing choices this time of year. Looking for something a bit more crisp, and tropical? Perhaps more floral? How about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, or some Mendoza Torrontes? If you’ve never heard of some of these, that’s okay. That’s why wine professionals exist. If you’re at a restaurant, ask your server or sommelier what they suggest. We still ask for recommendations when we go out. I frequently ask questions like, “what would you pair with 100 degree heat, a pulled muscle, and the shrimp scampi?” If someone can answer a question like that without looking at you like you’re clinically insane, drink what they recommend. They know what they’re doing. You will also find luck with Grüner Veltliner from Austria, and in a multitude of German Rieslings. Try to avoid a lot of sugar though. Lean towards the dry or Troken end of the spectrum. Don’t let me forget sparkling wine, or Champagne. A little bubbly on a hot day is always the right choice. Celebration or not, bubbles will make you smile. On that note, something a little fizzy that we find does the trick is Vinho Verde. They’re usually pretty inexpensive, and tasty.

If you can’t get over your winter Red kick, that’s okay too. Just back it off a notch. Just switch the regions around a bit. If you’re a Cab or Merlot drinker that only drinks Cali stuff, think Bordeaux for a change. If you’re a big Zinfandel drinker that loves the spiciness and high alcohol content the Zin carries, try going with a Spanish Garnacha, or Côtes du Rhône. You may find a new friend that you never knew existed. Tempranillo or Mencia may also be valid options. Malbec from Argentina or Cahors, France are quality picks for this time of year, though, I find myself avoiding  them for the most part. Pinot drinker? Love California, or Oregon? Try Central Otago, New Zealand. More good options for Pinot fans would be a Beaujolais Cru, or a Dolcetto d’Alba. You’ll find a sense of home with these lighter style reds.

All of these wines are pretty easy to find. In most wine shops, and restaurants around the country, there is someone waiting for you to come in and just ask questions. That’s what we live for. We have answers, and it’s rewarding on both ends. We get to talk about wine, which we love to do, and you get to enjoy something new. Worst case scenario, just go online and check out wine.com, 2020wines.com, winelibrary.com, or any number of other online resources. This is, of course, if you cannot find it locally.

Good luck, stay cool, and have fun.

Cheers!

-Zak

Creative Juices Wine Show: Episode 8

Posted in California, Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, rulis international kitchen, wine, Wine Reviews, wine shop, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on March 13, 2010

After a short hiatus from the Creative Juices Wine Show, we have returned in a new location, with a much more appealing ‘set’.  In Episode 8, we taste a 2008 Thomas Henry Pinot Noir with special guest Chef Rulis. Cheers!!!

Zak & Olena

Valentine’s Wine

Posted in Bubbly, Pinot Noir, Valentine's Day by CreativeJuicesWine on February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Day. This isn’t the best holiday, but a lot of people seem to like it. You would think this would be our favorite holiday, however, we treat every day like Valentine’s Day, so this is no big deal. We tend to enjoy holidays that are centered around food, because it’s a great excuse to eat a ton of things we don’t normally eat, and drink a bunch of vino.

No matter how you celebrate this ‘holiday’, you should do it with wine. There is no better way to set the mood than a nice bottle of bubbly, or a sexy, smooth Pinot Noir. Follow these simple instructions, and you’re in for a very special evening.

In the event that you’re celebrating alone, or not celebrating at all, you should still be drinking wine. Go out and buy a bottle of something nice (no, we don’t have recommendations) and drink it. Since this is a holiday that revolves around doing something nice for someone, make that someone you.

Cheers!!

Zak & Olena

Pinot Noir Tasting

What better way to start a week than with a Pinot Noir tasting? You nailed it…there is no better way to start a week!
Last night we went out to Billy Crews’ for his weekly Monday night tasting. They were tasting 12 different Pinots, which they had arranged by price. Maybe not the best tasting order, but it worked nevertheless.

These are the tasting notes from our Pinot Tasting at Billy Crews Monday evening. Sorry for the delay, but without further adieu, here we go. For your sake, we’ve kept our notes to a minimum. Cheers!

First up was Wild Rock Cupid’s Arrow Pinot Noir 2008 from Central Otago, New Zealand. This wine had solid acidity, and a nice distribution of cherry, mineral, vanilla, pepper, and currants. It was lacking on a finish, and left us high and dry overall. This was not the best representation from Central Otago in our opinion, and we gave it 84 points. At $16.45, this was a disappointment, and a pass.

Pinot #2 was Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 from Oregon. This wine was a bit over-oaked, and had a big vanilla nose, but then fizzled out, and was rather thin in the end. This was another 84 point wine. $$18.81 price tag, and a pass.

Pinot #3 was the 2007Acacia Pinot Noir from Carneros. This wine had a little bit more going on, and exhibited nice strawberry aromas and flavors in combination with a well-distributed balance of oak, and smokiness. At $19.99, this wasn’t a terrible wine. We gave it 87 points, but it didn’t overly impress us.

Pinot #4 was the 2005 Galante Almond Felt Pinot Noir From California. This was pretty acidic, and had a bit of fruit, though none of it really stood out. As the price stands, this wine is not worth it. Galante is a miss at $22.34. This wine was kind of meh, and we waived 83 points at it, and moved on.

Pinot #5 was the Willamette Valley Vineyards Founders Pinot Noir from 2007 (Oregon). This wine felt a little bit more put together, and represented Oregon Pinot fairly well. The one thing that stood out most about this wine was a peculiar pickled peppers aspect that we couldn’t quite get passed. If not peppers, it was definitely something pickled. That being said, we enjoyed this wine enough to score it 88 points. At $24.69, this fits a price point that a lot of people can be happy with. There may be better Oregon Pinot Noirs out there, but this one isn’t stinking up the joint, and is probably worth a quarter Benjamin.

Pinot #6 was from a familiar label, Roessler. This was the Roessler Laurelwood Pinot Noir 2007 out of Willamette Valley. Almost sweet on the attack, this Pinot leads into a smoked meat and red fruit collision on the palate. Very interesting stuff. We scored this wine 89 points, and would probably pick this up at $27. Oregon Pinots are just worth a little bit of extra jingle.

Pinot #7 was the 2007 Craggy Range Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. This was a nice spicy, peppery pinot with plenty of fruit, and wood backing it up. This pinot has been on our to taste list for a while now, and we weren’t disappointed upon finally getting around to it. This is a pretty solid pinot, and we rated it 90 points. There are probably better $34 pinots out there, but the Craggy Range is worth giving a try if you’re in the market for a big Central Otago Pinot.

Pinot #8 was from Caymus in Santa Barbara, CA. It was the Caymus Belle Gloss 2007 Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir, and really represented the brand well. This wine had a lot of fruit, and exploded with strawberry and cherry flavors that lasted for days. This wine is very tasty, and worth every penny at $39 per 750ml. We rated this pinot 92 points, and would love to revisit this wine in the future. We settled for a second taste, which we definitely didn’t spit.

Pinot #9 Was the 2007 Cakebread Pinot Noir. There’s not much to say about this wine. The Caymus was a tough act to follow, but come on! The Cakebread didn’t even make a showing on this one. This wine has a very confused, awkward palate, and a $50 price tag that makes it an easy pass. This wine, although not having anything going for it, caused the biggest separation in scoring of the evening. So much so that we will give you both scores from Olena (87 points) and Zak (81-83 points). No thanks.

Pinot #10 had the coolest name of the night: Hartford Court Fog Dance Pinot Noir 2006 from Russian River Valley. It had rugged tannins (which we didn’t see coming), a lot of pepper, and strawberry on the nose (which were also evident on the palate). We liked this wine, but didn’t love it. This was an 88 point wine, but at $50, is a pass. There are better bottles out there for $25-40.

Pinot #11 was the Ponzi RSV 2007 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. This has well integrated vanilla flavors, but then picks up a sour, pickled aspect–which was unexpected, but not unwelcomed. It was a kind of watery on the palate, and overall left us hanging. Once again, the big price tag ($53) hurts the value of the wine. We gave this pinot 86 points, and obviously, a pass. It’s just not worth that kind of dough.

Pinot #12 was La Crema 9 Barrel Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. We’ve had La Crema before, but not the 9 Barrel, so this was a bottle we were looking forward to at the beginning of the tasting. We were not impressed. It was over-oaked, and lacked in complexity. You won’t find us spending $59 on an 87 point bottle that should be wrapped in a $18 package. Cool label though.

So that’s it. 12 Pinot Noirs. This wasn’t the best showing of Pinot we’ve seen, but there were definitely some highlights. We wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of them again. Thank for reading. Cheers!!!

Thanks for reading. Cheers!!!
Zak & Olena

Thanksgiving Dinner with Wine

Posted in Austria, Beaujolais, Champagne, France, Gamay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews, Zinfandel by CreativeJuicesWine on November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! Time to spend 7 hours making a meal that gets consumed in 20 minutes. Yay! Thanksgiving is the official kickoff of the holiday season, which means that we’re all going to eat and drink too much from now until 2010.  That being said, let’s talk a little about Thursday’s meal.

From a traditional standpoint, families all across the country are going to be preparing a turkey. There are a number of preparations that we could get into, but, we’re not going to. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask. Popular sides for Thanksgiving include potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc.

A lot of people have been asking us lately what to pair with their dinner on the 26th. We are happy to give our advice, and are actually really looking forward to doing some pairing experiments of our own. However, to be safe, here is a brief list of wines that we recommend with your Thanksgiving dinner this year. We have shared some amazing bottles of wine this year that we feel would be appropriate on Thursday afternoon.

Classically we would like to recommend Champagne.
This bottle of Chartogne-Talliet was a bottle given to us on our wedding night by a friend that we enjoyed a great deal. ($42)

Secondly, we would recommend drinking a nice Pinot Noir with your dinner this year. This bottle of  2006 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir from Sonoma County is one of our fondest wine drinking memories together, and we would like you to make your own special memories with this bottle. ($68)

Beaujolais Nouveau is a traditional pairing which is released on the third Thursday of every November right before Thanksgiving. We have never paired it, but we will tell you that we will be this year, just to see how it goes. This wine separates wine snobs from wine lovers. It’s about $8 a bottle, and easy to find.

Might we also recommend an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. This is a bottle that was on our by-the-glass list at the wine bar where we met, and eventually worked together in New York. Our decision to pair a Gruner is primarily based on its compatibility, but also in honor of our friends in NY who we miss. ($18)

Finally, we would like to offer up another twist on tradition, and recommend a Zinfandel blend that we were given as a gift from another friend back in March of this year. We are recommending the 2006 vintage (for nostalgic value), though the 2007 vintage is equally as impressive. Ridge 2006 California Geyserville- Zinfandel Blend. ($42)

These are our recommendations this year. Being that this is our first Thanksgiving as a family, we are thankful that we have a lot of wine at our fingertips in case dinner doesn’t turn out like we hope it does. Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

Domaine Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2006

Posted in France, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on November 19, 2009

Sometimes you lose some.

Such was the case with the 2006 vintage of the Domaine Robert Chevillon red Burgundy from Cote d’Or. Let’s just say we’ve had better bottles. Not to say that there was anything technically wrong with this bottle, but it left a lot do be desired.

The nose was barely existent. What it did put off were typical Burgundian smells of the terroir, and light red fruit notes. The same blandness carried over onto the palate, and ultimately the wine finished weakly. Again, we were not impressed.

This wine is to be drunk with food, but there is also a possibility that it could benefit from a little aging. This is certainly not true of all Pinot Noirs, but with Burgundy, there is a definite aging potential. Before you spend the $38 that this bottle costs, look around the store for something else.

We rate this wine 85 points, and do not recommend it unless you have the perfect meal, or cellar lined up for it.  Cheers!

DeLoach Russian River Pinot Noir 2007

Posted in California, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on October 26, 2009

This evening we enjoyed a bottle of DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with our meals at Mesa Street Grill here in El Paso. This was most likely an effort to make up for last night’s debacle. In the end, it proved worth it.

The following is a description directly from the DeLoach website:
The cool, foggy Russian River Valley climate allows for slow ripening, enabling grapes to develop full flavor maturation over an extended time. The fruit for our 2007 blend was hand-harvested from select vineyards around the valley and crafted using traditional Burgundian techniques: fermentation in small, wooden, open-top vats; hand punch-downs; basket-pressing; and French oak barrel aging.
Ripe raspberries lift from the glass and mingle with tempting aromas of strawberry-rhubarb tart and cola.  Delicate notes of anise, cardamom and gingerbread spice lace the fruit to unfold a rich palate of black cherries supported by medium-fine-grained tannins. The finish lingers with attractive, subtle, toasty undertones, fine acid and excellent balance.  Pairs beautifully with barbecued leg of lamb or braised pork tenderloin.

We ordered the bottle, and our waiter Marc, decanted it for us. By this point, we had ordered our meals, and as per usual, there was a distance between them.
Olena’s Order: An unorthodox one that included Salmon, Chilean Sea Bass, Big Eyed Tuna, Shrimp and Scallops. She’s more adventurous in her pairings.
Zak’s Order: Rack of Lamb served over mashed potatoes with asparagus (An obviously more traditional order).
Although neither of the pairings were perfect, Zak’s was the safe choice that proved to be a friendlier match.
The only thing that really stood out about this wine was that it was spicier than most Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley in California. This can’t be said of all domestic Pinots, but in this case, it was definitely a factor. By no means does this insinuate the wine that was substandard, or varietally inaccurate. This was an excellent pinot that we ranked a 91.
We highly recommend this bottle that we bought at a restaurant for $40. At retail, you should be able to find it for around $19. Go out, and try this wine. Cheers!

Zak & Olena