2013 #TGTaste with thirstygirl® and Villa Maria Estate

#TGTaste with Villa Maria Estate
#TGTaste with Villa Maria Estate

Last year I was fortunate to taste Villa Maria Estate‘s 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with thirstygirl®. This year I was invited to taste the 2012 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Sauvignon Blanc and the 2011 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Pinot Noir and asked a friend to join me. The 2012 vintage of wines marked Villa Maria Estate’s 50th anniversary vintage.

2012 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Sauvignon Blanc

2012 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (Average SRP $13.00, wine-searcher.com)
As a child, I was one of those kids who loved eating lemons and limes. I also ate grapefruit without sugar. In retrospect, I believe I was destined to love Sauvignon Blanc. This wine took me back to those childhood memories of grapefruit, lemon, and lime running down my chin. The wine is a very pale, greenish straw color with medium body. I love the bright, crisp tart flavors and acidity. My friend and I paired it with salty, aged cheddar and fresh bread dipped in olive oil with kosher salt. Both appetizers brought the fruit flavors to the forefront. Today I paired a glass with a puff pastry-like appetizer filled with spicy risotto and cheese. This wine would also pair well with chicken, shellfish, grilled veggies, and spicy Asian foods.

2011 Reserve Bin Villa Maria Estate Pinot Noir
2011 Reserve Bin Villa Maria Estate Pinot Noir

2011 Reserve Bin Villa Maria Estate Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand (Average SRP $18.00, wine-searcher.com)
Most Pinots that I have sampled lately tend more towards the bright, red-fruit style. Not this Pinot. It is ruby red in color with a medium body. It is earthy and spicy with dark fruit and savory mushroom flavors. My immediate thought for a meal pairing was Holy Shiitake Pie from Mellow Mushroom, whose primary toppings are Shiitake, button, and portobell0 mushrooms. Of course, I will use any excuse to have that pizza, but in my mind this would have been the consummate pairing. Alas, my friend’s olive oil and kosher salt dip and aged cheddar served as substitute pairings. Last night I sipped the remainder of this wine without food, so I could further explore its funkiness.

#WIYG: The December 2012 #TGTaste Edition

In a forthcoming, end-of-the-year post, I will be detailing some of what has happened to me in 2012, which has caused me to be somewhat remiss in my reviews. For now, here are some of the wines I’ve tasted in the last two ThirstyGirl #TGTaste events, one in partnership with Whole Foods, and the other in partnership with Domaine Ste. Michelle.

2011 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc
2011 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc

2011 Ferrari-Carano Fumé (Sauvignon) Blanc, Sonoma County, $15.00
I love a warmer-climate Sauvignon Blanc like this one, which boasts a combination of citrus, melon, and tropical fruits, like guava, kiwi, and mango. With a cooperage of 65% stainless steel, 35% older French oak barrels, it is crisp, yet has a substantial mouthfeel and a nice finish.

2010 H&G Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
2010 H&G Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

2010 H&G Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, $14.00
According to the website, the grapes for this wine are hand-picked from small lots. This wine is surprisingly smooth for an inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon, with lots of cherry and plum flavors and mild tannins, which makes it very easy to drink, with or without food.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé and Brut
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé and Brut

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut and Brut Rosé, $8-$12
The Brut (88% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Noir) and Brut Rosé (100% Pinot Noir), both made in the traditional (champenoise) method, are both fantastic price-to-quality sparklers. A friend and I paired them with a variety of foods, such as fresh raspberries, Gouda and crackers, and crusty bread dipped in a choice of three olive oil blends: balsamic vinegar, Italian spices, and Kosher salt. The Brut has zesty citrus and tart crabapple flavors and paired well with the Gouda and crackers and the bread dipped in olive oil-Kosher salt. The Brut Rosé has raspberry and strawberry flavors, and paired perfectly with our fresh raspberries. In fact, we even dropped a few in our glasses.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé and fresh raspberries
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé and fresh raspberries

As noted above, all of these wines are well under $20. They would be great additions to your holiday dinner tables and celebrations without breaking the bank, and should be readily available at local wine stores, shops, or grocery stores. All of these wines were graciously provided to me as media samples from Whole Foods and Domaine Ste. Michelle. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Getting the skinny on Skinny Vine

Skinny Vine Wines
Skinny Vine Wines

I have to admit, I am probably not the target market for Skinny Vine, although it might not be a bad idea to indulge in these wines occasionally to save some calories for more food. However, I am always open to explore new ideas in wine, so I said yes to #TGTaste with Skinny Vine. Skinny Vine is a new line of wines with 25-30% fewer calories. The lower caloric content is due to lower alcohol content. In the production process, some of the alcohol is filtered away, leaving a full-flavored, lower-alcohol, lower-calorie wine. Once released nationally, the wines will retail for $11.00 per bottle, so they will also be lower in price than many regular wines.

I wasn’t sure which wine to try first. I read the tech sheets and decided upon order of perceived sweetness, from drier to sweeter. I opened the Slim Chardonnay first (86 calories per 5 oz. pour). It was very flavorful, with decent acidity and lots of citrus, melon, stone fruit, and a hint of vanilla from a bit of oak integration. It was light bodied, yet full of flavor. I tried the Thin Zin next (89 calories per 5 oz. pour). Also light bodied, it was sweeter with flavors such as black and red berries, candy, and spices. Lastly, I tried the Mini Moscato (96 calories per 5 oz. pour), which is made from a combination of Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, and Orange Muscat. It was the sweetest of the three, with flavors of apple, honey, pear, and stone fruit.

In spite of being lower in alcohol and calories, these wines packed a nice flavor punch. They would be be perfect for warm-weather sipping, making wine spritzers and cocktails, or anytime you just want to indulge with fewer calories. The wines will be distributed nationally after the holidays, just in time for our New Year’s resolution diets.

#TGTaste with Bonterra Organic Vineyards

Tonight I am trying something new, blogging immediately after ThirstyGirl #TGTaste with Bonterra Organic Vineyards, while the aromas and flavors are immediate to my memory.

2011 Bonterra Chardonnay

2011 Bonterra Chardonnay
I tasted this wine stone cold out of my refrigerator. Very cold, this wine smelled and tasted like lots of citrus. This wine is 70% malolactic fermentation, but very balanced. As it warmed up, I began to taste more complexity, including butter and vanilla coupled with pineapple, tropical fruits, and citrus. It was creamy in texture, yet also had nice acidity and fruit. I could not believe this wine was only $13-$14 retail.

2010 Bonterra Merlot

2010 Bonterra Merlot
I was dying to taste this Merlot with my leftover Mellow Mushroom Holy Shiitake Pie and I was not disappointed. The earthiness of the mushrooms worked wonderfully with the Merlot, which was very fruit forward with black cherry, plum, and soft tannins. I only wished I had more pizza. This wine was also another amazing value at around $16/bottle.

#TGTaste with Columbia Crest

The Columbia Crest #TGTaste Lineup

It’s true. I am in a love affair with Washington wines. Ever since my trip to Seattle and Woodinville in August, I seize every opportunity to taste as many as I can. Because of this, I just couldn’t say no to this ThirstyGirl #TGTaste with Columbia Crest.

It’s also true that this post is a bit tardy, but I have embarked on a formal wine education journey and am deep into an online course as I write this. Therefore, if my reviews seem a bit formal (and tardy), then you know that this education is having an impact. This is a good thing, because the more I learn and taste, the more I want to learn and taste. This journey will last the rest of my life.

2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Chardonnay

2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Chardonnay

Aromas: Apple, baking, spices, butter
Flavors: Apple, butter, cream, pineapple, vanilla

This buttery, creamy, yet fruity wine, with 75% malolactic fermentation, paired perfectly with aged cheddar and fontina cheeses, accentuating the apple and pineapple flavors.

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2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas: Black cherry and blackcurrant
Flavors: Blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, and vanilla

A perfect accompaniment to a juicy, medium-rare steak. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Les Chevaux

2010 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Les Chevaux
(80% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah)

Aromas: Blackberry, black cherry, blueberry
Flavors: Black cherry and chocolate

You had me at 80% Merlot. Paired with a hearty Italian sausage and meat pasta, this luscious wine went down silky smooth.

#TGTaste with HandCraft Wines and Vintner Cheryl Indelicato

HandCraft Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir

ThirstyGirl #TGTaste events are usually monthly and just keep getting better. This event on September 19 with HandCraft Artisan Collection Wines and Vintner Cheryl Indelicato was no exception. The last two events have been so popular that the hashtag #TGTaste trended as a hot topic on Twitter. I think this is a testament to ThirstyGirl’s great organization and growing beverage company relationships.

2010 HandCraft Pinot Noir
(around $12.99 retail, sample graciously provided by HandCraft Artisan Collection Wines)

As a more educated wine consumer and enthusiast, I have become more aware of my taste preferences with regard to wine and food. I have discovered a preference for those that are more acidic and flavorful. Therefore, my favorite red wines are those that are food-friendly and often have higher acidity, like Pinot Noir. What I really loved about this wine was its blend of 76% Pinot Noir, 9% Tempranillo, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Petite Sirah. It had gorgeous, balanced flavors of red berries, chocolate, and vanilla. I personally enjoyed it without food, but imagined the endless food pairing possibilities due to the unique blend, such as pasta and meat dishes.

2010 HandCraft Petite Sirah
(around $12.99 retail, sample graciously provided by HandCraft Artisan Wines)

HandCraft Petite Sirah

The Petite Sirah was also a unique blend of 82% Petite Sirah, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Sangiovese, 3% Syrah, and 3% Zinfandel. Another favorite of my tolerant taster palate, it was very fruit-forward with lots of dark berries and fruits, baking spices, and pepper. I tasted this wine without food as well, but wished I had a hearty meat dish or cheese platter.

#TGTaste with thirstygirl® and Villa Maria Estate

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc with my shrimp and scallop scampi
2011 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin with my shrimp and scallop scampi

If you’ve read my past #TGTaste posts, you’ll often find that I was a bit nervous stepping out of my tasting “comfort zone,” but always found myself pleasantly surprised. With regard to this #TGTaste on May 16, this was not the case at all. I love Sauvignon Blanc, so I was very excited to participate.

Since I live and often taste alone, I decided to focus on the 2011 Villa Maria Estate Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin, Marlborough. I tried the wine cold and at that point, the flavors were predominantly gooseberry, lemon, and lime. That’s OK with me, because I love tart citrus. Before this tasting,  I thought that was how New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was supposed to taste. However, once the wine warmed to nearly room temperature, it was much more complex. I could taste the sweeter fruits such as papaya and passionfruit, along with some great acidity, perfect for food pairing. I prepared a shrimp and scallop scampi pasta and bell pepper dish, which turned out to be a nice pairing because the buttery, garlic sauce, bell peppers, and shellfish brought out the fruit flavor variety even more.

The specs:
2011 Villa Maria Estate Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Varieties: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 13.0%
SRP: $14.99

AWARDS & ACCOLADES
Silver – Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2012 (NZ)
Silver – International Wine & Spirits Competition 2011 (UK)
Silver – Marlborough Wine Show 2011 (NZ)