Oh! Baby: A Sexy Valentine Vino

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovely readers! Today, it’s all about pretty flowers, teddy bears, cute cards, candy hearts, and sticky sugar-coated sentimentality all around. La la la!

But it’s also a day (and night) for naughty lingerie, sensuous chocolates, alluring red roses, and one of the greatest aphrodisiacs of all, red wine! (Sorry, white wine, you’re far too tame for a night like tonight).

Oh! Orgasmic Barbera is exotic and erotic, and just what the Love Doctor ordered.

Oh! my, what a big red you are. Photo courtesy Naked Winery.

Oh! my, what a big red you are. Photo courtesy Naked Winery.

This is a deep, dark, hefty, serious, muscular wine you pull out Valentine’s night to drink alongside a perfectly seasoned and cooked steak. It might not all get consumed in one sitting, if you know what I mean (wink wink).

This is another wine my husband and I tried in Hood River, OR at Naked Winery. It’s a pricey bottle, but it’s worth it. See my other post on Virgin Chardonnay for one of their whites. Sorry, the wine is only figuratively orgasmic.

The folks at Naked Winery have fun. “This dry Italian wine greets you with aromas of toasted brown sugar and finishes dry with hints of cherry sweet tarts. Aged for 15 months in new American Oak barrels, this wine will lie down for you and wait until you are ready to uncork its full potential. Aromatic mixed berry fruit with underlying toast and roasted fennel on the nose.”

This wine also exhibits “full ripeness, concentrated flavors and balance.”

It’s a strong wine that’s remarkably tart and sour, so if you like a wine with that flavor profile this is definitely for you. Because it’s still quite tart while drinking, it’s one that will benefit from a few more years of cellaring (the 2010 can be aged now through 2019).

Still, it’s a sumptuous red wine that is up to the task of making your Valentine’s Day most memorable and fun.

How about you? Are you enjoying a nice wine tonight?

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Luck of the Draw: Ultra-Premium Red Wine

Quilceda Creek 2006 Columbia Valley Red Wine

It was one of those extremely lucky nights, the kind where you go home with a nearly $300

Put on your fancy pants when you imbibe this beauty!

bottle of ultra-premium wine… like that happens, ever. Well, it did! At a friend’s auction, I paid a few bucks for the opportunity to draw a paper bag off of a mystery bottle of wine and whaddya know, I pick the most expensive bottle of wine on the table! Our friends were next in line, and they drew the second most valuable bottle of the night, a magnum of wine (aka 1.5 liters of wine in one ginormous bottle).

On a side note, did you know that a double magnum is called a jeroboam? There are some pretty funky names for wine measurements.

Anyway, while wine tasting in Woodinville one day, I mentioned this to someone next to me who – whaddya know – happens to be the wine buyer for a major grocer in the area. He said that the wine I had on my hands could easily be cellared for 12-14 years.

So, yeah. We didn’t wait that long. We opened it on a Monday night when we had a friend over for dinner who’d had a particularly bad day. It tasted perfect!

Sometimes, when you have a super special bottle of wine, you risk building up too much hype around it and overvaluing it for yourself and perhaps never opening it, instead of opening it up and drinking it! I was reading the other day that 90-95% of wines made in this day and age are intended to be consumed within the year of purchase… did you realize this? Crazy! Only a very small percentage of wines are created with the need for prolonged aging in the bottle to develop the flavors, let the tannins soothe, etc. With that in mind, I feel less guilty for not having a fancy climate-controlled wine cellar.

The moral of the story is buy wine you like, and drink it soon. Share it with friends and family, ideally. Don’t worry so much about preserving it and never enjoying it. That’s what some single-malt Scotch collectors do and then they never actually enjoy this precious liquid they’ve been storing for decades. Don’t be that guy.

Now, turning our attention to this lovely wine. This blend consists of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

From the winemaker’s notes: “The Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine Columbia Valley is a blend of declassified lots which reflect the richness and complexity of the vintage. This is one of our favorite Red Wine offerings to date. This medium bodied wine displays black cherry fruit, cedar, spice, vanilla and minerals. Approachable now, this blend will be best enjoyed over the next 15 years.”

And critical acclaim from the Wine Advocate, which gave this wine 92 points: “Dark ruby-colored, it displays a bouquet of cigar box, pencil lead, violets, black currant, and a hint of licorice. Medium to full-bodied, intensely fruited, and with enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years, this lengthy effort will drink well from 2011 to 2018.”

This wine is so so unbelievably smooth, it takes smooth to a whole other
level. The alcohol, sugars, tannins, are all in perfect harmony. Because it was so jarringly smooth and different, I missed the backbone, the bite, from a wine that has more tannins or acid. Other than that very minor complaint, it was truly excellent wine. Try to have some at least once in your life.

Disclaimer: OK, I exaggerated… I honestly was under the impression this wine cost way more than it did… it is sold out but retails at $65, not $300. Sigh. The $300 one is the Cabernet Sauvignon, not the Red Blend, which I got. Anyway, I kept the price at $300 for dramatic effect, and since I was under the impression that was what it cost anyway. It’s still an amazing wine!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wine Tasting in a Secret Garden

The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection at Weyerhaeuser. Photo courtesy http://www.weyerhaeuser.com

In Which Two Tasty Woodinville Wines Are Sampled Amidst a Bonsai Collection

It’s September – scratch that – mere hours from October, and I need to play major catch up here, so consider this a two-for-one special! It’s a Rambling Vine Groupon! Read one wine review for free, read another in the same post, also for free. Er…. anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of pouring wine for Woodinville Wine Cellars at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser at the Weyerhauser Bonsai Gardens in Federal Way. A wonderful gal I know roped me in to volunteering for this event, and am I glad I did! I love chatting up people and gabbing about wine, so this was the perfect gig for me. It was a hot summer day, fantastic event, extremely worthy cause, and an ideal, relaxing setting in which to savor some wines. Everyone who tried the wines I poured liked them.

I have never seen bonsais like these in my life! Each tree has its own staging area, platform and backdrop. It’s just amazing. You could spend hours contemplating just one. I have lived in Western Washington my entire life and had never been to this beautiful, extravagant garden! Check this place out soon! And don’t just look at the photos, use your own eyes and go enjoy the garden yourself. Who knows how many more glorious warm days we have until darkness/cold/the evil dead of winter creeps up on us? (Me, biased? Nah.)

Here are the wines I got to pour and my takes on them. I haven’t yet been to Woodinville Wine Cellars, but after tasting these I think I would like to go out there sometime and try some of their other varieties! Have you tried any of their wines?

Woodinville Wine Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley

$18 or so. Delicious! A great Sauvignon Blanc, perfect for a hot summer day. Sophisticated and very drinkable. It has bright fruit flavors balanced out by a
clean mineral dimension that doesn’t make it too tart. This was perhaps the
most popular white wine that night (and there were two other wineries there).

From the tasting notes: “This wine jumps from the bottle in a sophisticated and complex style. The aromas are floral and mouth­watering, with hints of pineapple and citrus and some subtle mineral highlights. In the mouth it is rich and well balanced, showing a hint of grapefruit, citrus and tropical tastes on a long finish. A great  complement to seafood, chicken, or your favorite soft cheese.”

Woodinville Wine Cellars Little Bear Creek Columbia Valley Red Wine

Wine Spectator awarded Little Bear Creek 90 points (that’s high!). This Bordeaux-style blend is only $20. Not bad for the price. The tasting notes point out the “warm spices and rich black cherry scents in the glass” and “concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry and mocha complete the finish, lending balanced acidity with a zing!” LBC (I think Snoop Dogg even likes LBC 😉 ) consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec. I liked it for its warm fruitiness and spice notes.

While double-fisting it is not recommended here (start with the whites and move to the reds, generally speaking), these wines are perfect to toss together for a little impromptu wine party. And if the weather is still nice a bit longer, take it outdoors. Happy sipping!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re “Hot to Trot”

Reader, meet the smoothest red wine you’ll ever drink! Photo courtesy 14 Hands Vineyards. http://www.14hands.com

In honor of everyone who is engaged to be married right now, especially my sister. Congratulations Jocelyn and Conor on your romantic Irish engagement!

Being newly engaged can be hazardous to your health… at least it was for me. When the love of my life popped the question and subsequently put a gorgeous carat on my finger, I was inordinately obsessed with MY sparkly object. I would roll my car window down every time I drove, rest my arm out the window and gaze all gooey-like at the diamond, the summation of my happiness. I can’t tell you how many auto accidents I narrowly avoided in those early weeks. I’m still obsessed with my rock, but eventually I mellowed.

But isn’t it wonderful when you’re wallowing in the throes of “just engaged” bliss? When you’re “hot to trot” with the one you love, you’re caught up in a love whirlwind that thrusts you toward the altar with smoldering passion and whiffs of eternal commitment. It’s a red torrent of unflinching romance! With your eye on the prize, nothing can stop you. “Going to the Chapel” is on constant loop in your subconscience. Yes, you fit all the criteria; you’re hot to trot! Here is a celebratory red blend wine that epitomizes the recently engaged state.

I insist you try 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend. For around $10, it will shock you. Everyone to whom I have introduced this wine has raved about it! The 14 Hands label, like Red Diamond, has quickly become a hot Washington wine buy, and for good reason. Smooth, fruity, yet poised and so drinkable. From the tasting notes: “This approachable and easy drinking red wine offers generous aromas of berries, cherries and currants. A plush framework of soft tannins supports the red and dark fruit flavors that leisurely give way to subtle notes of baking spice and mocha on the finish.” It’s a blend predominantly of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with hints of Mourvedre and other select red varieties.

This wine goes down your gullet very easily… yeah, just be careful and don’t overdo it! Perfect to share with friends, and toast the future happiness of loved ones!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Taking Center Stage: Single Varietal Cabernet Franc Shines


In an orchestra, every musician is important and must play his part fully, but it is the principal of each instrumental section that garners the most attention and praise. Although Cabernet Franc may frequently play second fiddle to virtuoso Cabernet Sauvignon, it has been emerging lately and more frequently in starring solo performances such as this. It’s gaining credibility and standing on its own two feet.

Cabernet Franc is traditionally a blending grape used in Bordeaux blends (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and occasionally Carmenere). Because of its tartness, tight structure, and other qualities, it is not normally featured as a “soloist” in a wine or wine blend. Cabernet Sauvignon is more commonly consumed as a single varietal than Cabernet Franc. But there are some wonderful, compelling Cabernet Francs, and this, I think, is one of them.

Corvidae The Keeper 2010 Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley is a bold and precocious soloist. This wine has an interesting aroma: tobacco, floral – rose, pepper. The flavor is so big at the very end it’s almost like you literally have to chew it. It’s tart, but with a big, explosive plush mouth feel at the finish. This wine will shine at its best when paired with the right foods. In its review, it proves itself a versatile and highly competent contender with other varietals.

From the tasting notes: “Plush and velvety, full-bodied and easy drinking. The scent and flavors knock you out – spice joins black tea, fresh tobacco, thyme, sweet cedar chips, blackberries and cassis. When Cabernet Franc is made from well ripened fruit (as this wine is), it combines plush fruit and interesting accent notes with body that stands well with rich roasted and grilled meats. This deliciously large version of Cab Franc is smoother than Cabernet Sauvignon, less earthy than Merlot, approachable like Aussie Syrah and spicy like a smooth Zinfandel. There’s few options to pair this wine incorrectly, but try these especially: green peppercorn roasted pork tenderloin, hearty lasagna, or braised chicken with wild mushroom ragout.”

This is a wine I would put in the “very interesting, worth trying” category. It is made by a very talented and acclaimed Washington winemaker, David O’Reilly, whose wineries are under the names O’Reilly’s and Owen Roe. You can read more about him here. The Keeper might not be for everybody, but I know many of you will enjoy it… or at least be surprised by what it can do!

So, give overlooked Cabernet Franc a fighting chance! Take a break from Cabernet Sauvignon and sit back and indulge in this dazzling, delightful Cabernet Franc.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The People’s Choice Award: Cellarmaster’s Riesling Takes the Cake

C’mon, admit it, you love you some N’ Sync, don’t ya?

The other day I was listening to some bubblegum pop music on the radio. It’s upbeat, catchy music that makes me move, smile, sing along, and look insane while driving. It may be sappy, but it sure makes me happy! Nothing overly analytical about it, it is what it is: straight forward goodness that does its job well with a predictable song structure in two and a half minutes. I can’t listen to it all day, but it definitely has a special place in my audio library. (And heaven knows I would never burn as many calories on the elliptical without it).

The same thing applies to certain wines. Every wine lover can fondly recollect wines that grabbed their attention and subsequently went down in history as all-time favorites. These are the wines you rave about to your friends, and they like them so much they immediately tell their friends, and so on and so forth. I can’t count how many times I have recommended this wine to both friends and strangers who were looking for something great yet affordable to drink.

Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling Columbia Valley is that wine. Sweet, not dry, with fruit and honey notes. Perfect for when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is the ideal wine to introduce to someone who perhaps has never tried wine before or who prefers sweet wines. It’s even fun to spring on a wine connoisseur and have them try pairing it with the recommended “strong cheeses, desserts, or extremely spicy foods.” And it’s well under $10 at most Washington grocery stores.

According to their website, “Columbia Winery is Washington’s first premium winery, producing distinctive Washington wines from European vinifera grapes since 1962.” They introduced “new varietals to the state, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Gris.” As you can see, they have been making wine in Washington for a long time and really know their stuff.

Just what makes this Riesling so exceptional? From the tasting notes: “Floral aroma with hints of peach, quince, lime and clove delight the nose. Rich and full-flavored fruit on the palate is balanced by refreshing, crisp acidity. Sweet wine. A beautifully balanced wine that has classic floral, Riesling aromas…. These grapes are selected for this wine because of their higher acidity. This excellent acidity emphasizes the apricot, peachy flavors and creates a good match for strong cheeses, desserts or extremely spicy foods. This wine has a long finish.”

Some seasoned oenophiles may lose their preference for Riesling as their palates develop. They might shrug their shoulders, quickly write one off as just another sweet Riesling, and channel surf in search of something more complex and compelling. Again, I don’t expect you to agree with me on every wine; taste for yourself and be your own judge. But I think even the most opinionated will fall for this sweet, delicious Riesling. It is a special bundle of great taste, affordability, and “shareability.” Even if we hate to admit it, the reason we like things like Riesling and pop music is because deep down, they hit the spot.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.