Tasting Notes: Valserrano Rioja Crianza

It has been a BUSY last couple of weeks for Kevin and me. We celebrated Thanksgiving across the pond in London, and then last weekend, I got to visit my best friend in New York City! I've been on the go, and it doesn't look like the holiday time will slow down for me much, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some good wine, right? This week, I decided to get back to the 2017 Total Wine Top 20 list with this red from Rioja.

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The Facts

  • Producer: Valserrano
  • Region: Rioja, Spain
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $16.99

For those not familiar with Spanish wines, particularly those from Rioja, the region's star grapes is Tempranillo and the region has a board that controls the quality of wine. This is similar to France and Italy. You can read Wine Folly's more detailed post here, but I'll summarize some key facts. There are four levels of Rioja, starting from base to top quality: Rioja, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva. Each level has longer aging requirements in both barrel and bottle, and each level gets more expensive. So, for a wine in the Crianza level, the Rioja board requires 1 year of aging in barrel (usually used oak) and 1 year in bottle. Why does that matter? The flavors that come from oak won't be as strong on a Crianza, and the wine will be more affordable than those with longer oak aging.

I'd say that sets up this wine pretty well. The bottle stated that it was cask aged over 16 months, and I bought the 2013 vintage, so it's been in the bottle for a couple of years. Overall, the wine smelled very nice -- like dark red fruit, pepper, and some smoke or earthiness. This all translated to the palate, too. It's very fruit-forward with black cherry and maybe even some blackberry with a hint of spice. The wine was not very tannic, which surprised me for Tempranillo, but the acid makes it very food friendly. We paired it with this wild rice casserole by Budget Bytes, and I thought the flavors went well together. I think it could stand to "open up a bit" because the flavors developed over time. So, if you can remember to do this, open the bottle about an hour in advance, or even better, decant it! Great flavor, good price point, and overall, a nice wine to have with dinner. 


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Tasting Notes: Reference Point Pinot Noir

I can't believe another week has slipped by. I am looking forward to "busy season" ending next week, but in the meantime, I'm trying to take some time to myself to do the things I love like watch a movie with my husband, walk my dog, and drink some wine! Last week was hectic for the both of us, which meant that most of our meals consisted of grabbing something quick. Today, however, we were able to cook a nice meal which just begged for a good glass of wine.

We purchased the Reference Point from a local "fine foods" shop during its grand opening of a second location. They had tastings of lots of different things, from beer cheese to charcuterie to ginger beer to wine. The store had two different distributors there with about 8 or 10 different wines to try. When I tried this particular wine, I am so glad I said I liked it because the distributor was actually the producer of Reference Point! He had a small plot of land in Oregon, but also had a lake house in the area, which is what brought him to North Carolina. I liked the wine and he was friendly, so I bought a bottle.

The Facts

  • Producer: A very small producer. Their bottle indicates Maren LLC.
  • Region: Willamette Valley, OR
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Reid's Fine Foods
  • Price: $24.99
  • Eyes: Not uncommon for Pinot Noirs, this wine was a translucent, garnet color. It was definitely light, but not as light as some of the other Pinots I have seen. 
  • Nose: I thought this wine had a great nose. I definitely got a strong raspberry aroma as well as a hint of something earthy and maybe even vanilla.
  • Mouth: The flavor profile of this wine was definitely more on the feminine side, with red berry and a cola flavor. However, the vanilla aspect added some depth to the wine that sometimes I think is lacking from light bodied Pinot Noirs. 
  • Thoughts: As I thought at Reid's, I really like this Pinot Noir. It has more body than some of the other Willamette Valley Pinots we've had, but it's also toward the lighter end so it pairs well with a lot of food. We served halibut with roasted veggies, and I personally thought it went well with that meal. But then again, I drink red with more than I probably should! Overall conclusion is that I would definitely recommend this wine to anyone who enjoys Pinot Noir. For those in the Charlotte area, stop by Reid's to grab a bottle (or have a glass). If you're not, I worry that you may not be able to find a bottle, but please let me know if you do! 



Tasting Notes: Happy Camper Cabernet

The Facts

  • Producer: Happy Camper Vineyards
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $8.99

This is the first wine from my Total Wine 2015 Challenge.

  • Eyes: Deep red color. Seems like a medium body wine based on the pour and look of wine the glass. Wine was less opaque than others I have had.
  • Nose: Fruit forward, red fruit. Definitely some cherry. Hint of spice, maybe pepper. 
  • Mouth: Fairly smooth for an inexpensive cab, but also some tannin which provides a "depth" that I find most inexpensive cabs lack. Medium body; lighter viscosity than other cabs.
  • Thoughts: Very surprised by this cab, especially considering it was less than $9 after my coupon. Another note about this wine is that it was a screwtop which is VERY convenient if you're out and about somewhere... say, camping! If your taste preferences lean toward full-bodied, bold cabs, then I would shy away. However, if you like something lighter and cheap for "every day" wines, or if you're new to cabs, then I would definitely add this one to your "to try" list!


Tasting Notes: Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Noir

The Facts

  • Producer: Cardwell Hill Cellars
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Washington State, USA
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $30
  • Eyes: Almost a raspberry red color. Darker than the majority of pinot noirs I have seen. Had a beautiful maroon color while pouring into my glass.
  • Nose: I had difficulty getting much of a nose on this one. I should probably invest in a pinot noir glass mentioned in my glassware post. Anyway, I smelled red berries first, something akin to strawberries, and then something I deemed "unidentfiable". My nose was familiar with the smell, but I couldn't pin point the word to associate with it. It was earthy, but not musty. Maybe iron? Or wet rocks? That is the closest I came to recognizing it.
  • Mouth: Full bodied for a pinot noir. Fruit forward with a hint of sourness.
  • Thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine, especially for a pinot noir as I typically shy away from the varietal. I'm glad this blog is forcing me to try new things and to broaden my wine horizons beyond big, bold cabs and red blends. Anyway, I enjoyed it, but not sure if I'd get it again as an everyday wine at its price point, but I will definitely be looking to try more Pinots from the Willamette Valley region.

I compared my notes to what Total Wine had out of curiosity and was surprised to find that I had hit some of the same things they had published, likely from the producer. Their notes were: Raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, green tomato & mineral notes on finish. Other descriptors were: elegant, raspberry, cherry, full-bodied.

Disclaimer: This is the first "tasting notes" I have done both on the blog and personally. I have never kept track of what I drink beyond maybe writing the name of the wine in my Notes on my iPhone and then never referencing it again. I have never had any formal training on how to taste beyond a Wine 101 class at my local Corkbuzz (post on this place to come later) and the tasting section was pretty generic, so needless to say, this will not be even close to perfect. But the trick to getting to perfect? Practice! So that is what I'm doing.