Kendall-Jackson Summation Red

Today I found a Kendall-Jackson red on sale – $9.99, originally $16.99 – so I thought I’d give it a try. Kendall-Jackson is reliably good, but usually out of my  weeknight wine budget, so this was a treat!

The 2008 Vintner’s Reserve Summation is a blend of red varietals, “inspired by Bordeaux style wines,” according to the label. It also purports to be “smoother than cabernet sauvignon, richer than merlot, more balanced than zinfandel.”

I will attest to all these claims and more. I poured it alongside a heaping dish of savory pot roast with vegetables and garlic bread. This pairing was perfect! A buttery quality of the wine balanced well with onion and garlic in the pot roast and with the weight of the gravy. The meat’s natural smokiness brought out a hint of tobacco and chocolate in the wine.

This Summation is a wine I would gladly drink by itself, but that would be doing it an injustice. It is the perfect complement to a hearty meat dish. I’d like to try it again with an antelope meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I think I’d steer clear of spicy rubs or marinades and stick with savory, herbal pairings.

The 2008 Summation red is on sale at CVS, snatch it up while it lingers in the under-$10 crowd.

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Sacre Sangre (de Toro)!

Ok, so the miniature bull hanging off the bottle is what first grabbed my attention, then the price tag ($7.99), then the description. Sangre de Toro 2007 Red Wine, hailing from the Bodega Torres family winery in Catalonia, Spain. So exotic! Such a nice way to warm my cold December night!

The aroma is tart, mostly berries and green pepper. The color is such a deep purple, I’d believe this is sangre de something! The taste is like the smell, heavy with tart berries and spicy yet fresh green pepper. While the color implies a thick wine, it’s freshingly light on the palate, the flavor wisked away leaving the mouth asking for more. Well, ok, more it is! There is just a hint of floral taste to complement the tart fruit.

A worthy side note: the winery bottles into lightweight glass, lowering its CO2 emissions (yay!). It was the international winner of The Drinks Business Green Awards and even goes so far to include as the tagline on its website: “The more we care for the earth, the better our wine.” Gotta give kudos to a winery that appreciates the earth that provides its bounty.

2009 Climber Red

I saved my 2009 Clif Climber Red and Climber Sauvignon Blanc for Thanksgiving to go with my quasi-sustainable meal. I won’t repeat all my reasons for why the Climbers were a great fit for the meal, all the reasons like how the winery sources its grapes from local, organic growers, and how the winery is activly reducing its carbon footprint. You can read all about that on the Clif website, but now let’s get to the to fun part — tasting the wine!

I know that white wines go best with turkey, but I’m such a sucker for reds. So I gave hearty thanks for the folks at Clif Winery, and I twisted open the Climber Red. The aroma is fruity and slightly peppery. The blend is primarily zinfandel, then cabernet, rounded out with syrah, merlot and petite sirah. The flavor is a nice, round berry — not jammy or sweet, but perfectly tart, fresh and mild — with a smoky finish. The smoke isn’t quite as prominent as in the 2008 blend; rather than making a strong statement, it is now a barely-there nuance in a very complex wine.

Clif hasn’t let me down yet, so I will surely continue to seek their every release with excitement. At $14.99, it’s a wine I’ll proudly serve to guests — guests who know their wine and guests who just want something that tastes good. It’s a sure-bet wine, and this busy mom can’t afford to waste time on anything less.

Placer County wineries: Mt. Vernon

My freshman year in college, I met a fellow dorm-dweller named Ryan. He was from a little California town named Auburn and said that his family owned a vineyard. After graduation, he was going into the wine business with his dad… he said I thought he had to be crazy, or maybe exaggerating — there’s no wine in Auburn!

Oh, how little I knew! Ryan graduated and indeed worked the family winery with his dad. My husband’s family lives in Auburn, so over the years I’ve seen the little winery grow into a regional wine leader. Auburn now has many wineries, and one might argue that Mt. Vernon Winery was the catalyst in putting the region on the map.

Mt. Vernon Winery tasting room

A few weeks ago I went wine tasting in Auburn with a friend, and we finally tried Mt. Vernon’s — Ryan’s — wine. The tasting room is small but on gorgeous grounds in the lush Sierra Nevada foothills. We tried several wines, and I took home a bottle of Mountain Red, a blend of five grapes from the 2000 to 2002 vintages.

I opened that bottle tonight and now know why the winery has received much acclaim since its inception in the 1990s. The aroma is true-to-taste: chocolatey, oaky, a nice dose of cigar and a bright burst of fruit. The smoky, oaky taste would be overpowering if it were just a touch stronger, but Ryan and his dad worked their magic to keep the flavors in balance and present a well-crafted red that is begging to be paired with a hearty barbecued steak and mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t pair anything too spicy with this — spice would sour the smoke of the wine — but a brown-sugar barbecue sauce and a side of grilled asparagus would be Heaven with this wine.

Auburn — and Placer County — was actually one of the first wine-producing regions in California, established during the Gold Rush but abandoned during Prohibition. When Mt. Vernon burst onto the scene, it reestablished Placer County as a notable wine region. A well-mapped route links the dozen or so wineries in the region, and it’s now a viable competitor to the famous — and packed — Napa, 95 miles to the southwest.

I’ll never turn my nose up at Napa, but I might not make it that far when I can stop in Auburn along the way.

p.s. a great resource for all things Placer County wine is Carpe Vino, a delightful wine shop in downtown Auburn.