Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wine Labels We Like

Last post we looked at wine labels that were light on facts but heavy on fun. Cute, but not very informative. Some wineries use labels to tell a story that can help you decide if what's in the bottle is right for your preferences or occasion.

Take a look at the back label of Zolo 2005 Malbec (click on the image to enlarge and catch the details). The snapshot plants you in the Mendoza terroir of this 100% Argentine Malbec. It's been aged for 14 months in new oaks, a tip-off to this wine's toasty flavors. In case you missed that clue, the description of the wine's aromas spells it out for you. Read on and you can picture the wine's deep color and imagine how your first sip will taste and feel.

Fans of this silky smooth and totally delicious Malbec know these wine words are accurate. The proof is in the tasting and, truth is, you can't know for sure until you pop the cork. Even so, if you enjoy this flavor profile, the label may help land this wine in your shopping basket. We snagged one of the last bottles at LA Wine Company for $15, a total steal for such a big, balanced wine.

Another type of helpful label tells you when and how to drink what's in the bottle. We saw this label on the back of an Austrian red wine at Johannes in Palm Springs.

At a glance, the three-panel graphic tells you the wine's ideal serving temperature of 18º C (64º F), how long to decant it (2 to 4 hours) and perhaps best of all, when this wine should be ready to drink (from 2006 to 2010). No subjective flavor descriptors here, just the facts. Very helpful, indeed.

Other winemakers use the label to express a philosophy, often about winemaking itself. Here, a bottle of Petite Sirah from Trinitas describes the winemaking family's spiritual connection to their wines.

Three wines, three very different labels. Let us know about labels that make you want to drink their words. Or not.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cute Wine Labels, Pretty Bottles

Have you ever bought a wine because the label or the bottle was just plain irresistible? What about Antinori's white wine that came in a green, fish-shaped bottle complete with scales? We'll admit it if you will too.

Wine buyers aren't immune to clever marketing ploys. Fact is, some wine label designers are pretty savvy cats who work the label or bottle design as prime wine-selling real estate.

A label's design can raise or lower a wine's shelf-appeal, regardless of what's actually in the bottle. At their best, clever or beautiful labels can trump a wine's price barrier and trigger sales. A dull label on a terrific wine might cause shoppers unfamiliar with the wine's quality to bypass it in favor of one with a snazzier label. On the other hand, a label with fetching colors, captivating design or sex appeal can land the sale – after all, you might subconsciously figure, how can you not enjoy a wine whose label promises so much?

Lately, a couple of messages-in-a-bottle worked their subliminal magic on us. We were hooked by one look at the label of Mad Housewife 2007 Chardonnay. What better bottle could we bring to girlfriends' weekend on Balboa? Or, as the winery asks on its Web site, What's Domestic Bliss Without a Little Wine?

In the glass, Mad Housewife was drinkable but hardly complex. Fruity flavors of apples and pears were mixed with a moderate amount of oakiness. With only a $4 price-tag, the goofy front and back labels alone gave us our monies worth in pleasure.

More recently, we couldn't resist a Languedoc wine in a pretty green bottle. Made from the obscure Picpoul grape, the 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet takes root from fruit grown in clay and limestone soils known for producing light white wines that pair well with the region's marine-based cuisine. Of course, we didn't know any of that when we saw Pretty Green Bottle that hot day. Instead, it had the come-hither look of a thirst-quencher. At around $9 at LA Wine Company and with Patrick's endorsement, we took the chance.

This time, what was inside the bottle mattered. The 100% Picpoul delivered clean flavors of juicy apple and green melon with refreshing acidity and enough complexity to keep our interest. Choose it as an aperitif or enjoy it with light summer fare or shellfish. At 12.5% alcohol, you'll stay cool through the dog days of August.

What pretty bottles or cool labels have you come across this summer? Did the wine deliver or was it just a pretty face? Either way, we hope it was fun.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rutherford Rocks The River

Our August 28th Night at the River event at Piero's Acqua Pazza is nearly sold-out already, which is great news for our charity, S.O.S. (Soldiers' Organized Services), Piero's and B Cellars, our featured winery.

Napa's B Cellars wines are known for combining different grape varieties to create their signature blends. Winemakers compose B Cellars' varietal wines with juice from vineyards around the Napa Valley Appellation. You'll find them tastefully balanced and intriguing palate-pleasers.

Among the Killer Bs we're slated to sip is the 2006 George III Cabernet. This limited-production Cab is sourced from a Rutherford Bench vineyard plot originally planted by George de Latour III, founder of Beaulieu Vineyards (BV), in 1933.

The low-elevation Rutherford AVA is characterized by gravelly and loamy earth where grapes grow in alluvial soils between Napa's two main mountain ranges. Intense summer sunlight allows steady ripening of the fruit followed by brisk cool-downs as temperatures begin falling soon after sunset. This distinctive terroir has made the Rutherford site known throughout the world as Cab Central.

None other than André Tchelistcheff, one of the fathers of California wine, recognized the beauty and power of the region to make great Cabernet, which he nicknamed Rutherford Dust. We can't wait to start rolling in it.

Also on deck on the 28th are two blends. The 2007 Blend 23 of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier is artful, complex and refreshing. We think you'll enjoy its luscious mouthfeel and unique flavor profile of white peaches, mineral and fresh citrus.

Go pazza with your first sip of 2005 Blend 24 as you smell and taste Italy in your glass. This Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and a smidge of Petite Sirah wowed us a few months back at the Friends of James Beard Benefit dinner at Spencer's.

Finally, you'll be juiced by B Cellars 2006 Petite Sirah. We're expecting a big-on mouthful of dark fruit, perhaps with hints of mocha or mint. Piero's is serving it with their flourless triple chocolate cake, which means the wine should deliver broad-shouldered heft to sail from glass to fork and back.

Topping it all off, B Cellars has special offers in store for us, along with our usual WinewomenPSP festivities. Grab one of the few remaining reservations today by calling Kathleen at 760.799.7076 or you'll be eating, rather than tasting, Rutherford Dust.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chef Nicolas

We were very saddened to read about the passing of Chef Nicolas Klontz in today's Desert Sun. Together with his wife and partner Mindy, Chef Nicolas created masterful food and wine experiences at Zin American Bistro in Palm Springs. Chef Nicolas' passion and flair for food found expression in the spirit of the dishes he served, which Mindy always honored with her amazing and exotic wine service.

We logged a few unforgettable dining experiences here and on our Web site. One special treat was the night our band of locals brought out-of-town guests and one high-palate child there for dinner. Determined to taste our way through as much of the tantalizing menu as we could, we all ordered different appetizers, entrees and desserts so everyone could try each dish – every bite delivered deliciousness, with not a mediocre morsel passing anyone's lips.

Another evening, we were surprised when Chef Nicolas sat down at our table to grab some late-night dinner for himself. Thinking perhaps we'd lingered too long, Chef Nicolas instead put us at ease by rattling off funny stories over more wine and fantastic food late into the night.

Tomorrow night's memorial service will be held at Zin from 5 to 7 PM. Stop by to honor a master chef, a terrific homme and to express your condolences to Mindy. Support this lovely lady with your continued patronage. Chef's spirit will live on in his food.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer of Love

What's hotter than July in the desert? Nada, niente, zero baby. We gave July the kiss-off at That's Amore, our July event benefiting the Stroke Recovery Center. Our hosts at Amorè Ristorante Italiano served a top-notch dinner for nearly sixty Winewomen (and a few brave men) as seamlessly as a cooked-to-perfection dinner for two.

Phil Molnar chose four outstanding wines from Creative Wines International's boutique portfolio. We eased in with Sandholdt 2006 Pinot Grigio from the Central Coast. Its soft nose and medium body paired well with appetizers of baby spinach and mozzarella caprese. Next, Godwin 2006 "Floral Clone" Russian River Chardonnay proved a perfect pairing with Tuscan rigatoni served in bianco with sausage and white beans. Its gentle oak had us smiling and sipping as we lapped up pasta in white wine-butter sauce.

The two whites proved so popular, many of you stayed with them through the chicken marsala and mushroom main course. We hope you didn't miss another winner from Mettler, the family vineyard whose Zinfandel sent us over the top at April's Spring Fling at La Quinta Resort. This time it was their 2006 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon – wow, Lodi is definitely on our wine map! The winery goes organic in 2010. Perhaps we'll try their Petite Sirah before then (many times, we hope).

Phil was a prince for rolling out a great finale: Mendelson 2000 Muscat Canelli dessert wine. Winemaker Richard Mendelson, who's also a lawyer and artist provoked this closing argument: Which dessert from Amorè's trio was the favorite? Our vote went to the Sicilian mini-cannoli with fresh ricotta stuffing and crisp pastry shells. There was love in the kitchen that night!

We learned Stroke Recovery Center dishes out the loving all year round with their menu of free services for clients living with the aftermath of stroke. Contact James Martinez and give these great folks your support so they can begin their good work where others leave off.

As though we weren't having enough fun, Amorè's Jerry Ring closed out the evening with an operatic Happy Birthday serenade to Margi in his rich baritone voice. She won't be forgetting that anytime soon – bravo, Jerry! We hope you won't forget to pick up some of these terrific wines at Dan's Wine Shop in Palm Desert. Give Dan a call at 760.674.0305 and ask for WinewomenPSP's special pricing, courtesy of Prince Phil. Grazie a tutti!

Since we believe you can never have enough summer love Italian-style, we have more in store for you on Friday, August 28th at Piero's Acqua Pazza at the River in Rancho Mirage. Don't miss this one – make your reservation today. Arrivederci!