Wine Reviews: Sancerre

I love Sancerre. 

Actually, that is kind of an understatement. We're involved. (Shout out to the awesome one-liners of "10 Things I Hate About You," anyone... anyone... no? - ok moving on).

But seriously, Sancerre is the reason I started to really enjoy the details of wine. I was a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan and I was looking to experiment with different styles. But remember, when it comes to France, the wine is named by the location where its made, not the grape. So I learned that a well known style of Sauvignon Blanc was made in Sancerre, a region within the Loire Valley.

And the rest is History. Check out my review of the latest Sancerre I tasted below!


Where it's from? Upper Loire, France.

Grapes? Sauvignon Blanc.

My Thoughts.

What I loved about this wine is that it had some body to it. It wasn't too light, like some Pinot Grigios can be, but the mouth feel was definitely medium bodied. This gave the wine a smooth start, opening up with a  surprisingly fresh and tart finish. 

This wine had a beautiful aroma. It was bursting with fruit and floral smells - lemon, white peach, fresh grass, lettuce and even some white pepper. All those fruity and fresh scents that just scream - bright summer. Yet surprisingly, the taste was relatively mild, in a good way. The wine was smooth and tasted of herbs and lettuce. It was a perfect contrast to the smell. Very indicative of more subtle european styles.


Overall, this wine is delicious, it's one of my favorites, and I can't say enough good things about this style. 

Basically, you should go grab a bottle as soon as possible. 

Seriously, why are you still reading? 



Wine Reviews: Galer Estate Albariño

Happy Friday Friends!

Have you ever cleaned our your closet during those transition seasons and stumbled upon that perfect statement piece that has been missing from your life for way too long? Well, I was searching through my old drafts and found the blog equivalent of those perfect statement knee high leather boots for fall. (Or for the boys, that perfect plaid shirt. Or maybe an unopened bottle of bourbon that you put away to "age" and accidentally forgot about...)

For this post I want you to think back to almost a year and a half ago. It was April, after that insanely harsh winter. We were celebrating warm winds, spring flowers, and the hope of fun fresh white wine. I give you a post I drafted after visiting another great Pennsylvania winery.

Galer Estate.


Spring has finally sprung folks! And I could not be more excited! Warm weather, sunshine and wine tastings! Tons of wine tastings actually! A while back, I had the opportunity to visit several wineries in Pennsylvania and taste some delicious wine. It was a really special day for me because when I'm at my favorite winery, I usually spend my time pouring from behind the bar rather than in front tasting wine - so it was great to see what other local wineries had to offer. Two in particular were especially interesting: (1) Stargazers Vineyard and Winery (interesting post on sustainable winemaking to follow), and (2) Galer Estate Winery.

I believe I have said it before, but I will say it again, wineries are definitely the unsung heroes of happy hour! Now that I am no longer a student, but a full time employee, I have come to appreciate happy hour that much more. For me, a great happy hour has a great location, ambiance and drinks. Once location that definitely has all three (and then some) is Galer Estate Winery.

Galer Estate Winery is located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania - close to Longwood Gardens! ThIs tasting room had a great vibe. The space has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating overlooks a field of beautiful grape vines. Inside there is a great bar in the middle of the room where you can try the wine, check out the wine tanks, and even listen to live music. The owners also display art made by local artists on the wall, which is ever changing, and really brightens the space.

The wine was definitely just as fun, if not even more fun, than the great atmosphere. I tried several of their wines and all were delicious. However, I walked away with a bottle of their Albariño. 

The 2012 vintage was 100% Albariño aged in steel tank for approximately five months. This wine smelled super fresh, with aromas of herbs, fresh cut grass and a hint of citrus. This wine was definitely what I was looking for in a Albariño, it smelled like putting your face in a tropical fruit bowl. I particularly noticed notices of grapefruit, lemon and lime.

The taste was surprisingly smooth. With most Albariños, I expect almost tingling acidity. Kind of like licking a lemon (which is something I like!). But the Albariño at Galer was super smooth, it almost reminded me of Chardonnay, until I hit the slight tang of acidity on the finish. It left my mouth watering. I think it would have paired nicely with a fish dish, like ceviche!

So if you have some time to get out of the City, Galer Estate is definitely a worthwhile stop!



Wine Reviews: Australian Riesling from Barossa Valley

It's wine wednesday! And what better way to celebrate than with a wine review! This time I had the opportunity to taste a Riesling from an unexpected area - Australia! More specifically, from Barossa Valley in the southern region of Australia.

Are you as surprised as I am that I picked up a Riesling from Australia?! Honestly, I have always been a huge advocate for Riesling. Too many of us assume that all forms of Riesling are sweetness bombs. While some are pretty sweet, there are tons of Riesling styles made in Germany and the U.S. that have great acidity and fruit flavors without the overwhelming sweetness. Plus, some even argue that Riesling is one of the best food pairing wines. But my passion for German Rieslings aside, I did not know that they made decedent Riesling in Australia! 

After I heard about Australian Rieslings, I have been looking for them for a while - they are surprisingly hard to find. But when I moved to my new apartment and stopped in what is now my neighborhood wine shop, I found one! It is made by Chateau Tanunda in Barossa Valley.

Barossa Valley is located in South Australia, around the city of Adelaide. Barossa Valley, along with Coonawarra, are two of the best wine growing regions in the whole country. The wine making style in Barossa Valley has been heavily influenced by the British.


Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Riesling 2010

Where it's From?  Barossa Valley region of South Australia.

Grapes?  100% Riesling.

Winemaker Notes.  The wine has a subtle yellow color with delicate aromas of lime blossom and citrus fruit. The flavor features lemon, lime, passion fruit and a juicy finish. The finish has a touch of minerality and refreshing acidity. Forty percent of this wine comes from old vines planted on the Château Tanunda Estate in the 1920s.

My Thoughts.  Every time I try a Riesling like this, I wonder when Americans will understand the versatility of this grape! It's delicious. Especially when it is made in this dry and refreshing style. I could not agree with the winemaker's notes more - I loved the minerality, acidity, and bright citrus flavors. I look forward to more delicious Rieslings out of Australia.



Wine Reviews: California Unoaked Chardonnay

Hey there wine nerds! I have been tasting a ton of wine this week (tough life right?!) so I have another wine review for you! This time I tasted an unoaked Chardonnay by Mer Soleil.

First things first. Let's review the white wine powerhouse that is Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the most widely planted white wine grape in the world - every body grows it. As a result, there is a ton of information and many different styles of wine made with Chardonnay. The grape originated in the Burgundy wine region of France, but is also grown most notably in Chablis, Champagne and California. Depending on the grape ripeness and the terroir, wines made with Chardonnay can be crisp with strong fruit flavors or buttery with notes of vanilla and baking spices. It is always interesting to be reminded that Chardonnay also is a major player in Champagne (as evidence of how versatile the grape really is)!

When it comes to California style Chardonnay, they couldn't be more different from it's Old World counterparts. Initially, California winemakers tried to mimic the Burgundy style of Chardonnay, which is more refined, fruit forward and restrains the emphasis of the oak. We can't talk Californian Chardonnay history without mentioning Chateau Montelena and the Judgment of Paris victory in 1976. This event put California Chardonnays on the map when Chateau Montelena beat out it's French competitors in a blind tasting. With this increase in demand, there was also a shift in style, where many California wine producers were harvesting riper grapes, using new oak barrels and aiming for a finished product with bold flavors. (Welcome the "butter bombs.")

If you like the heavily oaked styles of Chardonnay - more power to you - but I prefer the unoaked styles. Without the oak, the fruit flavors of the grape are more prominent and it generally pairs better with food. So let's check this individual review!

"C" is for Chardonnay!

"C" is for Chardonnay!

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2012.

Where it's from. Monterey, California. Specifically, the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is known for it's coastal climate.

Label says. Bright minerality, pink grapefruit and key lime on the nose with flavors of lemon zest and stone-fruit. This wine would pair well with salads, seafood or tomato-based dishes.

My Thoughts. I was so excited to try an unoaked Chardonnay that I may not have given this wine it's credit where credit is due. (Plus the bottle is so interesting - it's not glass but more like ceramic). Overall, this was a wonderfully drinkable wine. It was a bit strange to see California on the label but not get that bold, in your face, flavor that you might typically expect from California - but that is definitely a good thing. The flavor was fresh and definitely had fruit on the finish. The oak was not missed. :)

I would love to hear about your favorite producers of unoaked Chardonnay, especially those from the new world! Happy wining!



Wine Reviews: Pinotage

A few months back, I mentioned Pinotage in a post on Meritage. As a refresher, remember the two terms are completely unrelated! Meritage is an American term that refers to red wine made with grapes from the traditional Bordeaux style blend. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec). Pinotage, on the other hand, is the name of a grape! Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Plus, it is most notably grown in South Africa. Check out the details and my review on my lasting Pinotage tasting below!

My Thursday Night Pinotage Tasting.

My Thursday Night Pinotage Tasting.

To understand Pinotage, it may be helpful to understand it's "parent grapes." Cinsault is commonly found in the South of France or in red blends produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. On it's own, Cinsault makes some low quality wines but brings some distinct savory characteristics to red blends. Some common flavors include: cherry, pepper and even a
"meaty" aspect. In comparison, Pinot Noir definitely "wears the pants" in this relationship. It's a noble grape, known for it's light bodied flavors of cranberry, cherry or raspberry, medium high acidity and low tannin. It is also high maintenance on the vine and sometimes problematic to grow.

Together, they create Pinotage, which has hints of berry fruit up front with a spicy, almost meaty finish, moderate acidity and moderate tannin. Check out my tasting notes below:

Fairview Pinotage 2012

Where it's from. Paarl, South Africa. (Approximately 20 miles from Cape Town)

My thoughts. Overall, this was a fun wine with some interesting flavors. The color was beautiful, a deep, almost slightly burnt, magenta. The aroma was stong, but  not overwhelming, and including dark berry scents. Finally, the taste was super smooth with mild acidity and moderate tannin. Flavors of black pepper and earth were most notable. This wine is not for timid wine drinkers, but it's not as adventurous as orange wines or bold Bordeaux blends. (Orange wines do exist and are definitely a conversation for another day).



Benchmark Wine Tasting Class: Other Classic Whites

Hey there wine nerds! Welcome to the second installment of the benchmark wine series. For the newbies, I previously introduced a benchmark wine tasting series based on a tasting I did at Penn State University. Last time, I provided an overview on aromatic whites. Now, I will be discussing "other classic whites," or more specifically Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We also tasted an Albariño just to mix things up.

This tasting couldn't be more interesting because I considered these grapes extremely different in flavor and character. When I think of Sauvignon Blanc, I think of bright citrus, spicy green pepper and high acidity. When I think Chardonnay, I think smooth vanilla, stone fruit flavors and full-body. However, now that I think a little more, the two grapes are similar in one curious way -- they are both very versatile. Both have adapted to a variety of locations and styles, resulting in a variety of selection for consumers.

Sauvignon Blanc.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite grape! If you drink Sauvignon Blanc, then you know it has those awesome citrus, herbaceous, or even grassy green pepper flavors. Thanks to the world wide web, I learned a fun new principle when it comes to the flavors of Sauvignon Blanc: the ripeness of the grapes plays a major role in the flavor profile. (Duh, but listen to this!) If the grapes are LESS ripe, the wine is more likely to taste like lime or green apple. While, if the grapes are MORE ripe, the wine will likely taste like flowery peach or citrus. The best regions for Sauvignon Blanc are Bordeaux, Loire Valley (specifically Sancerre), New Zealand, and California. When surfing the aisles at the wine store, you can also look for the following synonyms: Fume Blanc or Pouilly-fume and you will most likely be drinking Sauvignon Blanc. Looking for food pairing tips? A good general rule is "go green," since the herbaceous qualities of the wine will pair well with salads, but any herb based sauce would pair well also. Now that we have covered the Sauvignon Blanc basics, let's check out the wines I tried at the benchmark wine tasting:


Where it's from. Marlborough, New Zealand.

My thoughts. I love NZ style Sauvignon Blanc because it's so distinct. The flavors can be grassy, spicey, or peppery. This particular bottle had a lighter style than I have experienced with most NZ Sauvignon Blancs, which was fine. It definitely had the spicey finished and white pepper notes tha I expected. Overall, this wine was delicious but, as the only NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the tasting, I was hoping for a bolder style. The room thought it would be hard to pair with food - but I argue it would go great with an arugula salad. (Don't knock it before you try it!)


Chardonnay and I have a love-hate relationship. Generally, I am not a fan of most those "butter-bomb" styles. But, the unoaked styles, generally out of the Old World, are quite lovely. Like our discussion above, the ripeness of the Chardonnay grape also changes dramatically with ripeness. MORE ripe and you may notice flavors of pineapple and other tropical fruit, LESS ripe and you may notice strong notes of lemon or green apple. Similar varietals include: Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Semillion and Fiano (Italy). Check out the wines I tasted below:


Where it's from. California.

My thoughts.  Definitely not a favorite. If you like the buttery styles, you may like this, but it's definitely not for me.


Where it's from. Pouilly-Fuisse, France

My thoughts. This wine could give any ABCer a run for their money. (Anything But Chardonnay). It had a pungent aroma that I was sure would mirror the taste - but I was so wrong. The flavors were subtle and sweet. Definitely an interesting wine.


Where it's from. Côte-d'Or, Burgundy, France.

My thoughts. This wine may have been my favorite white, maybe even my favorite wine of the tasting. This producer is just awesome. Yes, it is a bit more expensive - around $40 a bottle - but arguably worth every penny. The wine had a very refreshing aroma, including aloe or mint. However, it had a smooth and round taste, with an almost tart finish. I loved the complexities.


This grape is lovely. If you are ever in the wine store looking for something a bit different in the white wine aisle, Albariño is a great option. It is most commonly grown in northern Spain, specifically the Rías Baixas region. This grape is interesting because it has a pronounced fruit-forward aroma. For our benchmark wine tasting, we tasted the 2010 Mar de Vinas Albariño from Spain. Another great wine! It had the fruit aromas and bright acidity that I was hoping for - so check this wine out!

That is all for this post on benchmark wine - classic whites!



Grape Tales: Rousanne

Dear fellow wine nerds, I have made a terrible discovery.

I think I finally found a grape that I do not like. Sure, it's really not a shocking discovery, nor particularly newsworthy but, it saddens mean nonetheless. Before this discovery, I prided myself as an "all-inclusive wine drinker," who loved all wines (well, except port/sherry, but I never counted them). Yet, my palette has proved me wrong. No worries I will still try anything once and keep trying to find a style of Rousanne that I enjoy. 

Now, for those of you that are thinking, "what is Rousanne anyway?" Let me fill you in! Rousanne is the name of a grape. I first came in contact with it while making wine at home - it was used in a white blend. That is when I discovered that it is traditionally grown in the Rhone wine region of France and is typically blended with another white grape called Marsanne. (The names sound pretty, right?) You may also see Rousanne blended with several other grapes in the white wine styles made in Chateauneuf-de-Pape, a region of southern Rhone. At this point, it seemed Rousanne was used in some big names in France, so I was definitely interested to try it on its own.

According to my usual wine references, Rousanne is a interesting grape. The grape skins are not clearly white or red, but a reddish brown color. It is known for its herbal tea aroma. When grown in warm regions, it can e full-bodied with rich honey flavors. When brown in cooler regions, it can have a lighter-body and higher acidity. Most commentaries suggest that the flavor mimics it's herbal aroma. Luckily, I had the opportunity to tasted a wine that featured Rousanne at my Benchmark Wine Tasting event back in January. Unluckily, however, the wine was corked. So when I saw a bottle in the store, I eagerly grabbed it once and for all to confirm he typically flavors of Rousanne - like I said above the results were mostly negative.


Where it's from. Amador County, California.

My Thougts. This wine did not taste good. But I am not sure it was undrinkable or corked -- it smelled nice. It had a strong aroma of smooth butterscotch, plus it just smelled heavy, no citrus or minerality. But it just tasted oily, maybe even like petroleum -- which may be how it is supposed to taste -- but it just wasn't for me. (I couldn't even finish the glass). I would be interested in hear if someone had a Rousanne and thought something different. Overall, I was not a fan.


Until next time, Cheers!