Tag Archives: weekend

concha y toro carmenere

Soccer Mom Sommelier: 2013 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Riserva Carmenere

Have you ever planned out a blog post, only to have it end up going in a completely different direction that you had originally intended?

A while back my mom suggested I pick a Malbec to taste. With Argentina effectively adopting Malbec as it’s national wine and amping up production in the past couple decades, this grape has become widely popular while maintaining an affordable price.  That being said, I’m not a huge fan.

I was game though, and figured I could find a Malbec I actually liked.  Instead, while at the grocery store (yes, I was in a grocery store) I spotted a bottle of Carmenere (which is essentially Chile’s national grape), and thought perhaps I could offer a Malbec alternative.  At $9 a bottle, it would be quite the bargain if was pleasant to drink.  This was detour number one from my original post vision.

On Wednesday night (don’t judge!) I decided to have a glass of wine and draft the blog post in advance.  Usually I do my wine tastings on the weekend, but this week had been insanely busy and the weekend looked fully scheduled, so I didn’t want to put off my writing and find later that I didn’t have the time or was too tired.

I polished my crystal, poured a glass, photographed the bottle, got out my trusty tasting notebook, and sat down to enjoy.  Except I didn’t.  The wine was a beautiful deep hue of ruby-purple in my glass.  It begged to be drank and promised rich, fruity, and exotic flavors.  But it didn’t deliver.  I did taste fruit, but it was tart: cranberries and not-quite-ripe blueberries.  There was an overwhelming spice of black pepper.  Where were the raspberries, blackberries, and hints of chocolates the label had described?

The next day when mom came to visit I showed her the bottle and explained my dilemma.  I remembered loving Carmenere the first time I had tried the varietal– had I just picked the wrong brand?  What was I going to write about this week?

Mom made herself a little tasting glass. “I like it.” she said, “Have you tried it a second time?”  Seeing as it was only 3pm the next day, I hadn’t.  But as she pointed out, some wines need to be opened for a while to mellow and develop their flavors.  I had been planning on giving it a second chance (who throws away a practically full bottle anyway?) but now I would do so with a more open mind.

And you know what?  It WAS better the next day.  Not just drinkable, but enjoyable.  Gone was the harsh pepper that bludgeoned the other flavors into submission.  The fruits had “ripened,” and now my glass was full of jammy raspberries, blackberries, and even a little pomegranate.  There was still a spice component, but it was a compliment to the rest of the elements.

What I hope you will take away from this post is not just a solid bottle of Chilean wine, but that some wines may need to “air out” before drinking.  We’ve all been taught that red wine needs to be enjoyed as soon as possible or it will start to get a vinegary taste (the official term = oxidization.)  But counterintuitively, some wines can actually use a little air.

So if you open a bottle and the first glass seems harsh, try a couple things:

  1. Leave your glass on the counter for 30 minutes and come back to it.  Red wine glasses are designed to have a large surface area, so this is almost as effective as a decanter.
  2. Decant the bottle.  If you have company and know you’ll finish the bottle that night and maybe have some fancy glassware you want to show, why not?  Again, you should be good to start drinking in 30 minutes.
  3. Cork the bottle and revisit in a day or two like I did.  Low surface area and a cork mean that you have a little extra time to get back to it.
  4. They do have a fancy gadget called an aerator that you can pour the wine through and speed up the process.  It’s not a necessity–I’ve shown you some ways that don’t require buying anything– but it is a neat party trick and could be a unique gift for that difficult person on your Christmas list.

I didn’t set out to write an educational post, but nothing about this one went the way I had planned. However, this offered an opportunity to share some simple advice for saving “bad” wine.  Maybe the wine isn’t bad after all, but just needs a little extra TLC.  If you’re like me and cringe at wasting wine (or any food/beverage– a value instilled in me by Depression-era grandparents), you can worry less when trying a new wine– if it’s not thrilling at first sip, a second chance could change everything.

Cheers to saving money and wine!

Sunday Funday — How Weekends Have Changed Since Becoming a Mom

Today was family day in the Rodriguez house.  The four of us spent the day together, all day, just us.

We started the day with breakfast, well, brunch if you consider it was around noon.  Grandma stayed with us last night, so Matt and I were extremely lucky to be able to sleep in for once!  (Good thing because Annabelle decided to get up and play for an hour around 6am–a nap was much needed!)  I made chocolate chip pancakes– yes you read that right, I COOKED– and we all started our day together around the table with a treat.

By this time, Annabelle was ready for her nap.  Mateo sent Lilu and I off to the salon for pedicures, something I haven’t spoiled myself with since I quit my job.  What a relaxing hour!  Lilu had brought an American Girl book (yes, our six year old wanted to READ at the salon) and she was so cute sitting next to me quietly immersed in her new chapter book, occasionally giggling when her feet were tickled.  I even let her pick my nail color– metallic lime green– because, why not?

When we returned home, Annabelle was up and ready to go, so we headed off to the mall to get Lilu’s bangs trimmed and a new dress for school picture day this week.  Nothing too exciting, but so much fun for the four of us to be together.  I gave Lilu a few options from Gap Kids– great sales going on– and she asked if she could try them on.  Grandma usually buys most of the girls’ clothes– it is just something she loves to do– so Lilu never gets to choose.  This was probably the first time she’s been in a changing room for herself, and she WORKED it!  She transformed into a little diva, twirling and posing.  In the end she didn’t really care which dress I picked, it was modeling them that was the fun part.

Before we headed back to the car, Lilu pleaded to stop in Barnes and Noble.  How do you say no to a kid that begs to go to the bookstore??  Even Annabelle has developed a love of books (I never believed babies would sit still for a story, but she is fascinated and knows which ones are hers.)  We let Lilu pick out a new adventure in the Frozen saga (of course they are still milking this thing) and got Annabelle a new peek-a-boo book since she can actually lift the flaps herself, and delights in doing so.

There are so many things that can make it difficult for us to spend an entire day together as a family: school, work, naps, Lilu’s weekends with her mom.  It is so easy to get caught up in life that you forget to slow down and just enjoy it and the people that are most important.  Today was such a simple day, but it was one of the best I’ve had in a while.  Kids want nothing more that to just BE with their family, and honestly, there is nowhere else I would rather be either.

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva

Soccer Mom Sommelier: Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

This is another favorite of the hubby’s from his days at an Italian restaurant.  Maybe you’ve heard of it already.  Ruffino is a well known Italian winemaker, and their Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva sets the standard for everyday Italian reds, specifically Chiantis.  If you’ve yet to try this grocery store gem, rest assured that like all of my other wine picks, you can usually find it for under $15.

As a classic example of an Italian red, Ruffino Riserva Ducale is rich and earthy.  You’ll taste smooth Oak (it’s aged for 24 months), supple leather, and fall leaves.  Don’t believe that these could be good things to have in your glass?  Just trust me and give it a try.  Ripe cherries and dried fruits like figs add brightness and balance.  It will definitely have a different profile than your usual California red (see last week’s “lesson” on Old Word vs. New), but simply put, this is a great introduction to Italian wines.

The weekend is just about here, and if you even need an excuse to pick up a bottle of wine, you can always say that you are broadening your horizons and going global.  I’ll toast to that!

Tenuta Ca'Bolani Pinot Grigio

Soccer Mom Sommelier: 2013 Tenuta Ca’Bolani Pinot Grigio

I recently hosted a family game night at my house with my sister, brother, brother’s girlfriend, mom, and mom’s “friend” as Lilu likes to say while making exaggerated finger quotes.  I thought for sure that this would provide ample material for an upcoming blog post, but the evening was surprisingly uneventful.  However, mom and her “friend” are fans of the Soccer Mom Sommelier, so they brought a couple bottles of wine to try.  They instructed the wine salesman at a local specialty shop to recommend his favorite red and white under $15 a bottle.  Out of the two, the white was more to my liking, and a definite departure from my last two reviews, so I thought it would be a good one to share.

Last week’s Pinot Noir (MacMurray Estate Vineyards) and the week prior’s Chenin Blanc/Viognier (Pine Ridge) were both made in California, and as is common with American (especially Californian) wines, they were full of bold flavor.  Tonight’s pick, a 2013 bottling of Tenuta Ca’Bolani Pinot Grigio from Italy could not be more different, and provides a great lead-in for my first official Soccer Mom Sommelier “wine lesson”– Old World vs. New World.

Experienced wine drinkers can skip down to my tasting notes.  If you are a casual drinker (like I was before I decided to formally study wine) and your knowledge is just enough that you can tell red from white, then this is a great introduction to wine lingo.  You’ll be able to more easily select wines you like at the store AND impress your friends with your newfound “culture” at the next get-together 😉

When it comes to wines, it is easy to remember Old World and New World, as they are divided much like history.  Old World is Europe, including all the traditional wine countries (France, Italy, Spain, Germany).  The New World is North and South America and Australia, and basically anywhere else outside of Europe.

New World wines, like I touched upon at the beginning of this entry, will likely be BOLD and in-your-face.  Up and coming winemakers wanted to make sure that their offerings got attention when first entering the market.  New world wines are generally very fruit forward and many make liberal use of American oak which is more intense than European breeds– you can literally taste the wood!

Old World wines are known for being subdued and nuanced in their palate.  If there is oak used, it is usually aged and/or French barrels for a subtle effect.  Fruit is not as prominent, and there are often strong earthy or mineral notes.

So the gist of it is, if you like bold, fruity, and/or oaky wines, go for New World.  If you prefer subtle and earthy, choose a classic Old World style.  This Pinot Grigio from Italy is a great example of an Old World white.  When tasting (my whole family enthusiastically offered their input as well), it was difficult to pick out more than just a few specific fruits.  Though there was definitely pear and hints of lemon, what really stood out were it’s mineral characteristics: wet dirt, stone, gravel, etc (it tastes a whole lot better than it sounds…but if you try it you’ll know what I mean.)  The alcohol content is on the high end for white wine at 13% (bonus!), but it is very light on the mouth and would pair well with a wide variety of foods.  Or you can drink on its own, as we did during an intense game of Boggle!

And so concludes my first wine lesson– you’ve now learned one of the most basic ways of distinguishing wines, or you already knew that (heck you could be more knowledgeable than me) and simply found a new bottle to add to your list of ones to try.  Whatever the case, what I want to emphasize most is that learning is FUN–especially when there is wine involved!  Cheers!

The Soccer Mom Sommelier: 2013 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier

It’s Friday night so you know what that means– mommy gets to have a glass of wine after the kids are in bed!  I generally prefer red, but I recently stumbled upon a deliciously drinkable white (hubby took note and grabbed a bottle for me for the weekend– definitely earned himself some brownie points!)  Pine Ridge 2013 Chenin Blanc + Viognier is an interesting, non-traditional combination of varietals (80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Viognier).  It’s really affordable too– I got it for around ten bucks.  What’s not to love?

In my “past life” as a working mom I did some time as a sommelier, so while I’m no expert, I do know a little about wine.  I’ll provide my unofficial tasting notes–basically what the wine tasted like to me– this may or may not be how the wine is described on the winemaker’s website.  I’m not a wine snob (if it’s not total garbage or spoiled I’ll drink it), so I like to keep it basic.

The wine has a smooth mouth-feel, with a pop of effervescence, which especially after just poured gives it a hint of “sparkle.”  The nose is bright and citrusy; on the palate I get apple, golden pear, peach, and lemon with a hint of floral.  To keep it super simple: it tastes and smells really good and I like that it has a few bubbles– it does not have that flat taste that some whites do.

So, if you’re like me and treat yourself occasionally after a long week– go get this wine!  It would also be great if you’re having company over– it’s so easy to drink that it will definitely be a crowd pleaser.

Happy Friday mamas!