Jimmy, Hawaii, Terra Andina

I have Jimmy Buffett on the iPod, Hawaiian chicken on the dinner table, and Terra Andina Sauvignon Blanc in my glass. Welcome to spring!

It’s a rare, warm evening that makes me crave a crisp sauvignon blanc. I’m more of a buttery chardonnay fan or even a fruity pinot grigio if I’m really feeling whimsical. But what the hell, it’s the first truly warm evening of spring, and Jimmy Buffett’s duet with Zac Brown is driving me to something crazy… like pair a sauvignon blanc with Hawaiian chicken.

The Terra Andina pours crystal-clear with just a tinge of yellow. It’s nearly colorless. The aroma is full of pear and apple and a friendly layer of moss. Hmmm, this doesn’t sound like a sauvignon blanc to me! Or perhaps I’ve misjudged other sauvignon blancs!

The flavors of apple, grapefruit and mild vanilla are the perfect complement to the smoky/sweet Hawaiian marinade on my chicken.

terra andinaThe wine is light and bright, but not overly tart. The citrus is refreshing, and the earthy spice is just evident enough to reflect the heat of the marinade but not weighty.

Terra Andina is a South American label, designed to reflect the ethos of the region: free spirited, spontaneous, friendly, energetic, and laid-back. Its Argentinian and Chilean wines are not to be cellared, but to be enjoyed on any occasion where you need a dose of South American fun.

Who knew that a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Hawaiian chicken, and islander music could transport me from my kitchen and into my Happy Place… at least until the kids get home?

(Terra Andina is available in select stores in California and across the U.S. The Sauvignon Blanc retails for around $10.)


Insolia, my new favorite white varietal

I’m feeling adventurous tonight, so I thought I’d open a wine that I’ve never heard of: Insolia. I thought I knew most varietals, or at least enough to not be surprised when I see something Imageunfamiliar, but I admit that this grape threw me for a loop. I have truly never heard of Insolia. What the hell is it?

Well a quick perusal of Wikipedia tells me it’s an white grape indigenous to Italy, primarily grown in Sicily, and and in Tuscany under the name of Ansonica. There are lots of other names it’s known by, but for our purposes, I’ll stick to Insolia.

I’ve read that it can be light and bright, like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, but the one I’m tasting tonight strikes me more like a mellow chardonnay. The grape is often used in blends to make Marsala, a fortified wine.

This Feudo Principi di Butera — part of the Zonin family of wineries, which is the largest privately owned wine group in Italy — is so gentle I almost don’t want to breathe lest I upset its reverie. Just a touch of tingle on the tongue reminds me that this indeed made from a fruit; every other note is just pure silk. The dry grass with a nutty tone is balanced with a spray of tropical fruits, almost a creamy pineapple. Yes, I know “creamy” and “pineapple” don’t generally go together, but that’s just what this wine makes me think of.

Feudo Principi di Butera ferments its Insolia in steel barrels and allows it to age in the bottle, which likely accounts for the hint of fizz on the palate. What I find interesting is that this wine retains its dry, spry features (thanks to the steel barrels) while somehow achieving the creamy quality common in oak-aged wines. It is not smoky or oaky, but is somehow still smooth and almost buttery without the butter flavor.

Confused yet? Yes, that’s because this is a wine the likes of which you have probably never tasted.


The tasting notes recommend pairing it with vegetable-based soups, pasta dishes, fish soups, shellfish, or white meats. I am craving shrimp lightly sauteed in garlic butter with my glass of Insolia.

It took some Googling to find an average price for this wine in the U.S., but you can find it in the $14 vicinity at various online retailers.

Live tasting of roses and whites

New wine/winery every 10 minutes! Holy cow! No time for great editing, so here’s the rough draft! (and notice that it gets progressively messier as the tasting goes on… that’s totally due to the time constraints, NOT to the amount of wine I’ve consumed!)

Johan 2009 Chardonnay Reserve

Oooh, first round of speed-dating-tasting is a Willamette Valley chard! Ah, love the lemon and vanilla aroma! The winery is biodynamic- and organic-certified, and this particular chard is on oak 18 months. But it doesn’t have a terribly strong oak flavor, definitely more steel than oak. The flavors are lemony and fresh. It is unfiltered to retain all the flavors in the wine. 

“I feel an Oregon chardonnay is something special… it still has has some weight and mouthfeel and elegance to it,” Don Rinke, winemaker and vineyard manager at Johan. Rinke says that there’s such a difference between in vintages in Oregon, making each year a surprise; 2009 was a hot year, making a great chardonnay right out the door. 

2011 Benton Lane Pinot Gris (@benton_lane)

Typically a pinot noir producer (95 percent of their wine is pinot noir), so this is a fun diversion from their usual production. Pinot gris is “a great summer wine, perkiness, awesome barbecue wine,” says Lorne Mews, VP of the winery.

Benton Lane is right on the county line between Lane and Benton counties in Willamette Valley. It was all-pinot noir until 2003, and pinot gris is now the largest production of white wine at the winery.

The aroma is very fresh and light, as is the taste. It’s acidic but not overly so, with just a ouch of floral.

Maryhill winery, 2009 washington winery of the year. @Maryhillwinery

2011 rose of sangiovese

This wine has not been revealed until today and not released to public until later this fall!!! Was at the West Coast Wine Competition in Santa Rose in July and won Best of Show in Rose category. Rich Marshall with the winery says it’s the balance of the wine that won the prize, about 1 percent residual sugar. 

Very fruit-forward and floral, but ends dry. Very pink. 

The winery’s flagship is a zinfandel and grow more than half the zin in the state. 

 Dr. Loosen 2011 Rieseling Dry – German wine

“Doing more and more dry rieselings these days, largely thanks to the warm climate.” 

Quite fruity, aromatic, but quite dry. 2011 was a fantastic vinatage in Germany, particularly for rieseling. 105 days of hangtime, and usually get 110-120 days. 

Entry-level dry wine, available throughout the U.S. for about $15. 

Recuerdo Wines Torrontes 2011, Argentina @recuerdowines

Retails for $15

Pairs well with wide variety of food. I understand why the winery jokes (um, ok, not a joke, they’re serious!) that we should all switch out our sauvignon blancs for torrontes. Opening a resort and spa next year!

Herdade Do Esporao 2011 Duas Castas Semillon Viasinho (Portugal)

Every year, the Duas Castas, “two grapes,” features two different white grapes, depending on what produces best that year. This year,i it’s semillon and viasinho. The red version is four grapes, Quatro Castas. Retails for $14.99.


WInemaker is Australian, so that’s why he does semillon. 

Viasinho comes from northern Portugal, which you don’t see much because it’s mostly used for white port. 

2011 Pepi Sauvignon Blanc, Napa

Took out cabernet in the 1960s and put in sauvignon blanc. 

Very grassy and green pepper. That’s due to the cool climate. 100 percent s.b., steel fermented, from Clarksburg and Lake Counties. Retails for $8.99 on the shelf. 

Decibel sauvignon blanc, Marlborough, NZ. Daniel @decibeldan

Sweeter than expected. Distributed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, California. 

Va de Vi “It’s about the wine!” Gloria Ferrer, Sonoma/Carneros @vinegrl, @gloriaferrer

Aged 18 months on the yeast, bubbly wine, first sparkling wine house in the Carneros region. 89 percent pinot noirr, 8 pecent chard, 3 percent muscat. “We wanted to bring more attention to it. This is different than anything we’ve produced because of the muscat. It’s still kind of an unknown.” – CIndy Friedman

2010 Cornerstone Chardonnay, Shehala mountain, Oregon @craigcamp

Fantastic popcorn effect! 100 percent barrel fermented, 25 percent new oak. “I want to make the best wine I can right right now.” On why he uses more than one vineyard for his wines, not a single vineyard. $30 retail.


Chameleon Semillon

This year’s post-Thanksgiving festivities involved leftover pumpkin pie and a father-son-grandpa-uncle pheasant hunt. Planned killing of (yummy) birds gives Black Friday a whole new meaning, huh? While I stalked one-day-only markdowns, my husband stalked brilliantly feathered birds. And tonight we reaped the rewards from his hunt. (I’m still trying to convince him we’ll reap the rewards of my hunt when my credit-card bill arrives. Wish me luck!)

He skinned the birds and stuffed them with green onion and oranges, rubbed them with “kick’n chicken” seasoning and wrapped them in bacon. He basted the pheasants throughout the hour-and-a-half cooking time with teriyaki sauce and garnished the finished product with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I decided to pair his wild game with a wild deal… 2011 Bungan Head Semillon-Chardonnay (Australia), $5.99 from Wine Insiders. Have you noticed a trend in this blog? More and more of my wines are coming from either WineInsiders.com or BarclaysWine.com, two discount wine websites that I discovered through Groupon. I’ve been having a lot of fun trying wines I don’t ordinarily see in my local grocery store. (and for unbelievable prices!)

I’m not very familiar with semillon wines, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle or how it would pair with the pheasant. The color coming out of the bottle was sunshine yellow, a clear yet deep shade of gold. I don’t know if this is due to the semillon or chardonnay, or perhaps the blend of both.

The aroma is almost like poached pears, lightly fruity with a wonderful hint of vanilla and nutmeg. Likewise, the flavor is not overly tart or citrusy, just a calm, mellow stone fruit toned with vanilla. It has a hint of earthy spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps cardamom.

This is definitely a white wine I could sip on with or without food, but tonight it’s all about the pheasant dinner! And this is where I have to mention the chameleon nature of this wine. It goes well with everything! The buttery French bread brought out hints of yeast and butter in the wine. The chipotle-ranch dressing on my salad brought out the spice notes. The seasoning on the bird and the tinge of bacon brought out the heavier, earthier flavors in the wine. And when dinner was over and I poured my second glass, it was still perfectly mellow and soft with just the slightest kick of lemon all on its own.

This is the white wine to pour for those who think they don’t like whites. It is so easygoing without being buttery, oaky or heavy. It’s good with a main dish and would be outstanding with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or chocolate-chip cookies. It would be good with a plate of fruit and crackers or a grilled fillet of fish (a mild white fish like mahi-mahi).

I will be adding Bungan Head Semillon-Chardonnay to my permanent wine rack to use when I just don’t quite know what else would be better.

A New Age of summer wine

Some of the best finds are ones that you hear about through the grapevine (um, no pun intended). My husband’s aunt’s mail carrier recommended New Age white with the instructions to squeeze a slice of lime into the glass and pour the wine over ice.

A squeeze of lime makes all the difference!

Hmmm, interesting combo. I’m not a purist, I like lemon in my hefeweizen, why not lime in my white wine? So I marched into the closest BevMo (fabulous liquor store chain in California) and handed the cashier the name of the wine with the warning that I’ve heard it’s hard to find. He looked at me like I’m crazy and said it’s a regularly stocked item at BevMo, meaning they always have it.

The cashier promptly found a bottle ($9.99) and instructed me to try it chilled with a squeeze of lime, as crazy as that sounds. He swore that’s how they serve it in the wine’s homeland of Argentina. Well, who am I to argue with my aunt-in-law’s mail carrier, the BevMo guy AND Argentinian winos?

I chilled the wine, barked at my husband for leaving the trays empty, made more ice, and sliced a lime. The time finally arrived to bask in the warm summer sun and try my new find. It fizzed in the glass, a fun surprise, and set a festive mood for the upcoming tasting.

The flavor bursts onto the palate with pear and honey. I immediately appreciated the tip to add lime, because the sweetness would be too heavy without a spritz of citrus. I actually added a second lime slice and then it was perfect — sweet and fruity without tasting artificial, and just the right spray of tart lime to wipe it clean from the tongue.

I’m not a huge white fan, but it’s summer and time to bring on the ice-cold chards and fruity pinot grigios. And my new find, the New Age white.

Clif climbs to new heights with Climber White

While I’m not big on trends or fads (will someone PLEASE tell me who this Justin Bieber character is? I have no clue!), there are a few bandwagons I’m happy to hop on. Organic, sustainable farming is one of them. I’m guilty of feeding my children processed macaroni-and-cheese more often than I care to admit, but I try very hard to fill them with healthy foods, preferably from a source I know. I know my garden and what it took to grow our carrots there. I like buying fair-trade coffee (not always organic, but that’s another story of its own) and knowing that the earrings I bought my sister for her birthday were made by a fellow mom in her own home. I can’t always stick to these ideals, but it means a lot to me to try.

That’s a very long-winded way of introducing tonight’s wine: Clif Family Winery & Farm’s 2008 Climber White. Yes, we all know Clif for the delicious snack bars, (Oh my god, the carrot cake bars are to die for!) but I have a feeling we’ll soon know the Clif Family even better for its wine.

A little bit about the Climber White: I tasted it without reading the description and found a fascinating blend of tastes that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. Fruity and melony like the sauvignon blanc I suspected made up most of the blend, but with a delicate note of honey and flowers that I just couldn’t quite figure out. So I cheated. I read the description and found that it’s primarily sauvignon blanc (88 percent) with 4 percent muscat, 3 percent riesling, 4 percent chardonnay and 2 percent chenin blanc.

My palate isn’t trained well enough to pick up the minute presence of chenin blanc or to differentiate the chenin blanc from the chardonnay. But I KNEW there was something delicately floral in it, and that’s the muscat.

Clif Family owners Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford have been making Clif bars for, well, a long time. But they opened their St. Helena, Calif., winery in 2008 with the mission to “craft unique, regional wine and foods using practices that care for our earth; to support growers who use sustainable, organic farming methods; and to contribute to a more vibrant, healthy food community.”

Clif sources its grapes from local growers that raise organic or sustainable grapes. While the winery doesn’t yet grow its own grapes, it supports farmers that mirror the winery’s own dedication to good-earth practices. Besides wine, Clif Family runs a farm that raises turkey and chickens and grows olives, fruits and vegetables — all organic, naturally. AND all the farm vehicles are bio-diesel. Yeah, baby!  And they sent the wine (bottled in lighter-weight glass bottles) to me in recyclable, not-excessive packaging.

Sure, you could say this is just a fad, but isn’t it a smart one? (and I’d argue that it’s NOT a fad, it’s a smart business choice) Shouldn’t we support local farmers whose kids we help send to college by buying their produce? When we eat an apple, wouldn’t it be nice to know we’re only eating an apple, not chemicals and dyes?

Ok, I’ll get off my biodegradable soapbox. And I’ll drive my admittedly not-so-eco-friendly SUV (hey, I can’t do it all!) to the store and stock up on the Climber White for my next family barbecue. My family may not know they’re drinking my philosophical statement, but I’ll smile knowing that my $14 is supporting another family and protecting our earth. Who knew you could get all that in a bottle of wine?

Hannah Nicole in my glass and on my plate

Ahhh, there are few things better in life than a husband who makes a killer dinner while I entertain the kids. I sipped a Hannah Nicole 2007 Le Melange Blanc (a mix of varietals) and played “Olympic ice skater” with my 3-year-old while my husband played in the kitchen. If you’ve never heard of this game, don’t worry, we made it up. My daughter holds onto my hand and jumps and prances around the living room like a figure skater, or runs back and forth across the living room yelling “speed skate!” She was quite pleased to win the gold in both disciplines.

Anyway, I saw my husband usurp my wine and toss a splash of the Hannah Nicole into his mystery dish on the stove, and I almost protested, but it smelled so damn good, I couldn’t interrupt his genius. Turns out he made a chicken alfredo, adding white wine and cream cheese to the bottled alfredo sauce. He sauteed red peppers, onion and garlic and added that for garnish. I love that he can cook! (I’m a pretty good cook myself, but I’m just good at following a recipe, he INVENTS dishes!)

The Hannah Nicole added a wonderful depth to the alfredo sauce, although I am philosophically opposed to using good wine in cooking. Wine is meant to be drunk (drinken? Where’s Grammar Girl when I need her?) and should only be used in food when it’s either that or pour it down the drain.

So I regained possession of the bottle and enjoyed as it was meant to be enjoyed — out of a glass!

It has a crisp, fruity taste but isn’t too watery and light. Almost a melon tinge, but not heavy (I hate melon, so I’m particularly sensitive to it in wines) — more pear and apple than melon. And it has just a hint of a buttery finish without being weighed down.

I found this selection at Ben’s Fine Wine & Liquor, which I believe is local to northern Nevada, for $8.99. A great value wine! This will become a regular on my wine rack this summer, and probably in my husband’s recipes.