Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What’s in a Name? Everything for These 29 Wines!

Happy Leap Year Day!  In honor of those who only get to celebrate their birthdays once every four years, and for the rest of us with an extra day on our hands – let’s celebrate with some weird and wacky wines.  Need some ideas?  Glad you asked… ; )

Those #@!*&%# Wine Names

Le Vin de Merde – This brand name was launched in 2008 as a toss back to critics who labeled the wines of this French region as crap. Cute name, but a serious wine, produced as a Grenache Noir and a Syrah.  (Sorry, available only in France.)

Fat Bastard –Created by Thierry (Boudinard) & Guy (Anderson), Fat Bastard is another French wine with a sense of humor.  The story goes that Thierry offered an experimental batch of wine to his good friend Guy saying, “Now zat iz what you call eh phat bast-ard,” and the rest is history!  Once again, a quality product that has sold over 400,000 cases in the U.S. alone.  Varieties include Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Bitch – R Wines winemakers, Chris Ringland and Lisa Wetherell, use fruit from the Barossa Valley in South Australia to produce their Bitch wines.  Both fun and approachable, the wines available include a Grenache, a Bubbly, and Sweet Bitch Chardonnay. I love the tag line: “It's so darn hard to bitch about the heat, when there is so much lip-smackingly good fruit!”   (No designated website.)

Sassy Bitch – Made from grapes coming from Chile’s Casablanca and Central Valley regions.  The Sassy Bitch lineup includes Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. Distributed in select states throughout the U.S.  More of a generic GNO (Girls Night Out) wine than an earth shattering find.

Bastardo – This is actually a type of grape grown in Western Europe in small amounts.  The grape is mainly used in Port wines. Il Bastardo Winery, located in Tuscany, crafts this brand using Sangiovese grapes.
(No designated website.)


Fat Cat –Fat Cat Cellars in California offers five catty wines to choose from; Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.  All of their wines revolve around the jazz scene theme.  Pour a glass of Fat Cat, put on some Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk, and you’re back in time at a late-night jam session.

Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush – Coopers Creek Vineyard of New Zealand produces a Sauvignon Blanc by this apt descriptive name. Touted as “A youthful, kittenish wine full of zing and zip,”  I was grateful they didn’t say “full of piss and vinegar….”  But I find them to be a purr-fect winery because they support the New Zealand SPCA (Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.) (No designated website.)

And in the same vein -

Frog’s Piss – A French wine created for Cheers Booze Cruise in Calais.  After reading several reviews, this appears to be one that holds true to its name. (No designated website.)

Elephant on a Tight Rope – A French wine from the Languedoc region.  Considered to be an everyday wine with balance.  This is a wine with a social conscience – they support the African Wildlife Foundation and the studies into elephant behaviors and protecting habitats.  Wines available include Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Grenache Rose’, and a Syrah Rouge Blend.

Eye of the Toad – Wines crafted by Toad Hollow Vineyards in Sonoma County, California.  It came about when two friends retired from the ‘real world’ and decided to shake up the wine world, and have some fun.  Their tag line of “Fine Wines at Reasonable Prices” says it all.  Wines include Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, a Pinot Noir Reserve, a Proprietary Red, a Dry Rose’ of Pinot Noir and two Sparkling French wines.

Fish Eye – An Australian winery with a nice line up of wines including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz.  With a tag line like: “This wine jumps put of your glass!”  How can you resist?

3 Blind Moose – From 3 Blind Moose Winery in Lodi, California.  Wines available include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. (No designated website.)

Bulls Blood – This is Hungary’s most famous red wine, and comes from the Eger region.  Legend has it that bulls blood was mixed into the red wine to give the Turkish soldiers strength in order to protect the town and castle of Eger in the 1500’s.  Now a new generation of winemakers takes advantage of the legend to tout their wines. (No designated website.)

The Dogs Bollocks – This is a very popular name for wine, beer, restaurants and pubs in England, Canada and South Africa. The wine by this name is a product of France and available in a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet. (No designated website.)

Types of People:

Vampire – Produced by Vampire Vineyards, near Paso Robles, California.  Wines include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and White Zinfandel.  Other vamp-related lines are available including Dracula, Chateau du Vampire and Trueblood.  Great tag line: “Sip the blood of the vine!”

Mad Housewife – A California wine that caters to women and the retro sixties. With the philosophy that wine should be fun and relaxing, how could you resist?  Wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, White Zinfandel and a Besitos Sweet White and Red vintage.  Their tag line: "What's domestic bliss without a little wine?”   I’ll drink to that!

Marilyn Merlot – Nova wines of California licensed the image of Marilyn Monroe from her estate backing 1986 and each vintage features a different photo of her.  Enjoy Marilyn Merlot, Blonde de Noirs, Norma Jean, Sauvignon Blonde, Red Dresss, Marilyn Cabernet, and four wines from the Velvet Collection.

Mommy’s Time out – Wines from Italy that offer fruity flavor and a lasting finish.  Wines include Pinot Grigio and Rosso Primitivo.

Naughty Girl – Crafted by Von Stiehl Winery in arched limestone caverns in Wisconsin.  Naughty Girl is a red wine listed among ten other red wines made there.  Check out their listings of white wines, which include a White Stiletto.

Old Fart – This is a blend of Syrah and Grenache made from old vines, some up to 45 years old. Crafted in France, using traditional French winemaking methods, the result is a robust and spicy red wine with unforgettable character – what any Old Fart should be! (No designated website.)

This Could Be Heaven or This Could Be Hell –

7 Deadly Zins – Created by Michael David Winery in California, 7 Deadly Zins is aged in French and American oak.  This wine is a blend of Zinfandel with Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot.  Complete with a 90 point wine rating, and all seven sins are listed on the label: sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, greed, anger and pride.

Cardinal Zin – A product from Big House Wine Company of California.  Not only do they offer this Zinfandel but also other humorously named wines such as The Usual Suspect Cabernet, The Birdman Pinot Grigio, The Slammer Syrah, and Unchained Naked Chardonnay.

Pinot Evil – A wine of Hungary, grown in an area known as Hungary’s Riviera.  Cold fermentation and barrel aging optimize the fruit intensity.  Not bad for such “a guilty pleasure.”

Blasted Church – Blasted Church Vineyards is located in the Okanogan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. There are six offerings in their Revered Series of wines including, Swear to God Chardonnay, OMG Sparkling Wine, Nothing Sacred Meritage, Holy Moly Petit Verdot, Cross to Bear Malbec Syrah, and Amen non-vintage Port de Merlot. Twelve more are offered in their storytelling series of wines. Great name, great story, great graphics and labels, great website – All I can say is “You had me at ….. Blasted Church!”

Sex Sells:

Hot to Trot – 14 Hands of Washington State offers two Hot to Trot wines, a red and a white.  The red is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah from the Columbia Valley.  The white is crafted from Chardonnay, Pinto Gris, and Viognier. I’m just surprised a winery in Kentucky didn’t think of this name for the horsy set.

Sloppy Seconds – And speaking of Kentucky - Lovers Leap Vineyard and Winery of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky decided to play up on the love aspect in their name with wines such as Amore Red & White.  But, what to do with the remains?  Ah…that sounds like Sloppy Seconds!  The red version is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin.
Sloppy White is blended of Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.  Regardless of what you call it, just think of it as “Passion, Bottled!”

Ménage a’ Trois – Called a playful blend of three grapes in one bottle.  Wines include a California Red blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Merlot, and a white blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Moscato.  Also offered is a Moscato, Chardonnay, and Rose,’ each featuring three like grapes from three different counties. Regardless of how they’re blended, these grapes make the perfect threesome.

Fourplay – Dievole offers us Fourplay from Sicily.  A red wine blended from four Italian grapes; Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese, Nero D”Avola and Frappato Nero.  Actually, all you need to remember is this is a less expensive alternative to those higher end Chiantis – more bang for less buck.  (And isn’t that Fourplay is all about?)

Big Pecker – Big Pecker Wines from the Florida Keys offers a Cabernet blend and a Chardonnay blend.  The Cabernet is crafted by adding a light blend of Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Merlot.  The Chardonnay is blended with a touch of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Late Harvest Viognier. Big Pecker wines would probably make a great gift for any parrot-head in your life.

And there are so many more!  Have a favorite?  Speak up and let us know what we’ve been missing!  Because, as these names show -
Wine should be FUN!!

So ……Go on already, and

~ Joy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book’em Wino – Thoughts on Keeping a Wine Journal

We’ve all done it, stood in the wine aisle of a store, looking over all of the bottles and labels competing for our attention and wondered, “Where do I even begin?  How do I choose a wine I’LL like?” 

Keeping a journal of the wines you enjoy and your winery adventures might be just the answer.  A wine journal makes it easier for you to locate that special bottle again, and keeping good notes will remind you of the special places you’ve visited.

Maintaining a wine journal does not have to be complicated.  Any notebook will do, or you can opt for one that is specially made for this purpose. You can keep one on your computer, iPad, or download a phone app and take it with you! There are even wine cards that allow you to log your information for later review.

Your real goal is to keep track of your impressions, observations and thoughts about a wine.  List just one wine per page so that you can be as detailed as you wish.  It also makes finding those notes easier.

Keep your journal handy when you taste the wine.  (If you haven’t yet, check out the post on How to Taste Wine )  Besides the basic wine information you need to remember, (appearance, aroma, body, and taste,) write down where you purchased the bottle, how much it cost, if it had a wine rating, and what you did or did not like about it, overall.

Now for your impressions, write down the date you opened and drank the wine and the circumstances; friends over for dinner, a nice quiet evening by the fire, summer BBQ with family…. Keep track of your first impressions.  Then note how it evolves during the time you drink it.  What did you serve with it?  Did it go well or would you now pair something different? Be as detailed as you wish.  This information will help you when purchasing other wines. 

Remember to remove the label from the wine and paste it in your  physical journal.  This label will provide solid information as to the type of wine, where it was crafted, vintage, alcohol content, and possibly tasting notes on the back.  There are several products on the market to assist in label removal. Research them and select what works best for you. Or do a Google image search for the label and add it to your computer journal.

If you purchased the wine at a winery, you can include photos of the tasting room, tours you went on, even the winery’s tasting notes to compare with your own.  And many wineries with wine shops will have not only wine journals, but also label removers for sale.

Another use for a wine journal is when you are making wine at home.  This book then becomes essential for keeping track of what you are crafting, what nutrients and yeast you’re adding, and different readings taken during fermentation.  (But this is for another blog...)

Keeping a journal of the wines you’ve tried, what you thought of them and the experiences you had with them is a fun, yet practical way to keep track of your wine life.  Favorites are easy to find again and you’ll also remember what you didn’t like and why.

So if a wine journal or wine journal app makes sense to you, start taking notes with your next bottle.  And the next time you want to remember what that fantastic 2007 Shiraz was – you’ll have it at your fingertips!   Just remember to …


~ Joy

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The New Dessert Wine Darlings - Chocolate Wine

The month of February just seems to lend itself to talk about chocolate and wine, (See last Wednesday’s post for pairing ideas.) But what about chocolate wine? 

Chocolate Dessert Wines
To start off with, yes, it is a wine, (if it’s crafted in the port-style.) Chocolate wine is designated as a dessert wine because of its sweetness and alcohol content.  Think of a Port or Sherry and you have an idea how sweet we’re talking.  While fairly new on the wine scene, chocolate wine has been available at small wineries for several years.  When ChocoVine released it’s original dessert wine, it became a big hit with the ladies, showing up at GNO (Girls Night Out) events all over the country.  But as we enjoyed the novelty of a chocolate wine, many of us still wanted a balanced wine, one with a smooth flavor but without a chemical aftertaste. 

Now, chocolate wines are claiming the dessert wine spotlight – at least around holidays where chocolate is a main ingredient, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas.

Styles of Chocolate Wine
There are two types of chocolate wine – the wine-based, port-style that is infused with rich, dark chocolate, and has a dark red color.  And there is also the chocolate and cream version with just a bit of wine added for fortification, making it something like an adult milk shake.

Port-Style Chocolate Wines

The port-style wines are made just like a port wine but chocolate is added as an emulsifying agent.  There are several port-style options including:

Rosenblum Cellars of California, offers Desiree, a chocolate dessert wine crafted from Zinfandel, Syrah and Touriga Nacional red grapes. The wine is fortified with grape brandy and made in the Tawny Port style. The rich chocolate comes from Wisconsin. Prevalent flavors include chocolate, coconut and vanilla.  A 375ml bottle sells for $18 and has an alcohol content of 18%.

Black Mesa Winery’s Black Beauty is a product of New Mexico.  It is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel grapes instilled with artificial chocolate flavors.  The main flavors you taste are chocolate and black cherries.  It sells for $17 for a 375ml bottle and has an alcohol content of 12.5%

Precept Wine Company of Seattle makes Chocolate Shop Red.  It contains a proprietary blend of red vinifera grapes, blended with dark chocolate, and a touch of oak.  The flavor has been described as a hit of Hershey’s syrup.  Chocolate Shop now offers two more chocolate wines in Crème de Cocoa and Chocolate Strawberry.  Alcohol content is 12.5% and they retail for around $11 for a 375ml bottle.

Coco Rosso, also made by Precept Wine of Seattle, is a blend of vinifera red wine grapes with natural dark chocolate and a trace of oak.  The flavors revolve around chocolate and cherry.  With an alcohol content of 11.5%, a 375ml bottle retails for around $11.00.
And yet another Precept Wine product, The Chocolate Cellar is also crafted from red vinifera grapes infused with dark chocolate, pulling out the flavors of candied cherries and a deep, dark chocolate. It sells for around $12.

Cream-Based Wines
Cream and chocolate concoctions have just a dash of wine/brandy added to fortify them. Since real cream is used, you will need to  ‘Shake well before serving.’

Opici Wines produces Cocoa di Vine, which is crafted from white grapes, Moscato, Pedro Ximenez and Torrontes from Argentina. The cocoa beans are also from South America, and the cream is from Wisconsin.  The main flavors are chocolate, vanilla and caramel.  The alcohol content is 14% and the 750ml bottle sells for $12.00 retail. Opici Wines has also unveiled Chocolate Cherry and Chocolate Expresso versions. They are distributed nationally.

Cocoa Vino is described as “a marriage of red wine, milk chocolate and cream.” Crafted by Temperance Distilling Company in Michigan, the 750ml bottle sells for $12 and has an alcohol content of 14%.  Cocoa Vino is also available in a Mint and a Yumberry(?) version.

The current ruler of the chocolate wine market is De Kuyper’s ChocoVine.  It is marketed as a fine French Cabernet combined with Dutch chocolate and cream. ChocoVine also offers a Raspberry Chocolate wine, along with an Expresso version and, new this year, Whipped Cream with vanilla and Dutch chocolate.  All are available nationwide in 750ml bottles, with 14% alcohol. All four retail for around $10.00.  De Kuyper expects to ship more than a million cases in 2012.

Other Chocolate Wines
Although still in its infancy, the chocolate dessert wine market is already changing it up a bit with different chocolate options.

Shallon Winery in Astoria, Oregon offers a Chocolate Orange wine.  Paul van der Veldtl, the winemaker, says it is made from “six rich chocolates from four countries, with no artificial flavorings or materials.”   It retails for $32 for a 375ml bottle and is available only by ordering from the winery.

De Kuyper, maker of ChocoVine, will release a new fruit cream-based wine this spring called VineSmoothie.  This dessert wine is made from French Chardonnay and cream, with a fruit base, either strawberry, peach, berry or pineapple coconut.  The wine is 14% alcohol and will retail for around $10 when it hits store shelves in April.

Also up and coming this year, Chocolate Valley Vines from White Rock Distilleries, a Gallo product called ChocolatRouge, and Chocolais to be unveiled in April at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. All three are cream-based chocolate dessert wines.

Pairing Suggestions

So what do you pair with these sweet chocolate wines?  It seems that cookies, cakes and ice cream are the top three choices. (I immediately thought that Danish butter cookies seemed like a good match with all of that Dutch chocolate.)  And, I’ve heard rumors that chocolate wine with chocolate is, well, amazing! 

Your Mission – 
Find some chocolate wines.

Hold a weekend tasting with friends.

Pair the wines with whatever occurs to you as a good match,

And let us know what you thought of these new dessert wine darlings!


~ Joy