#WineStudio: The Italian Battalion

Hello and happy fall! I have been a bit M.I.A. on this blog for a couple of months as I acclimated to law school. In between reading, re-reading, outlining, making flashcards, and occasionally having a few sips of wine, I didn’t have any time to write about it. However, I finally set aside some time to catch up and hope to have a blog post every other week. Up first, my experience with Montefioralle Wine.

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While I have tried many Italian wines in my time since I practically grew up in an Italian restaurant, I haven’t studied the wine with the vigor that this area demands. If you are like me, here are some things to know before diving it: Chianti and Chianti Classico are two distinct DOCGs with the Classico being a smaller sub-region, the area stretches between Siena and Firenze, and the black rooster has come to represent wines from this area. A wine associated with a cute critter without being a cute critter wine.

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As far as the winery owners themselves, they were a joy to experience throughout this #WineStudio session. Our first interaction with them was on Facebook, and trust me, there’s nothing sweeter and more fun than seeing an Italian grandpa and his family lead a discussion about their passion for wine. They also discussed why it’s important to them to be family run, their sustainable measures, and what it means to be a small winery among a powerhouse like Chianti. Sure, we all drink wine because it tastes good and it makes us feel lighthearted, but the stories are what help you remember the bottles. I’ve had a number of fantastic wines off a restaurant menu, but I probably could only name one or two of them off the top of my head. However, the wines friends have brought to BYOs or ones that I’ve experienced after getting to know a winemaker are much more memorable. That’s part of what makes wine fun.

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First up, the 2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG with an SRP of $19. Made up of mostly Sangiovese, this was a fruit-forward ruby colored wine. Now, when I say fruit forward, I don’t necessarily mean overly fruity or light and fruit-forward like some Pinot Noir. It had a lot of mature fruit flavors, but they were layered. It had depth and body to it, yet was still incredibly smooth. If you’re new to Italian wine, this is the perfect one to buy if you’re settling in for some pasta and want something that will please many palates.

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For those who might be craving a step up from that, we also tasted the 2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG at $30. This one should be able to age for about 15 years, so save it for a special occasion and see just how far $30 can take you in the world of wine. Right now, the wine has a lot of complex fruit flavors, mostly ripe red berries and currant. Alongside the fruit notes ran a woodsy element. The mouthfeel had a bit more oomph to it than the first bottle with a textured aspect that made it pleasing to come back to. If you like some linger, this is the bottle for you.

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For the finale, the dessert wine. I don’t usually open too many dessert wines, but during a girls night I opened the Vin Santo. With just a little bit of chill, this was an option with tons of caramel notes. Every sip reminded me of molasses, and in a small dessert wine glass, those few sips were all I needed to end the evening right. Yet even the great flavors weren’t enough; dessert wine is one I always need to enjoy alongside food. Normally, it’s with the cheese boards I put together because I find dessert wine with dessert to be a bit too much. With this one, I did both. Although wine and cheese almost never goes wrong, I was nervous to taste it alongside the Corn Cookie from Milk Bar. Since the cookie wasn’t overly sweet, it actually worked. The intensity of the wine and depth of it contrasted against the funky flavors of the soft and buttery cookie. Although I’ll probably always prefer a cheese board, this pairing opened up my eyes to other options. With an SRP of $35, I think this one could be too much for a first timer to dessert wines, but if you are a tried and true dessert wine lover (not just Harveys Bristol), I think this one is well worth the price tag.

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Have you tried these wines? Do you love all things Italian wine? If you haven’t tried it, I think these are a great introduction to Italian wines and the winery itself is one that I encourage supporting. A good wine is good, but a good wine with a great team behind it is significantly better. Cheers!

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#WineStudio: Drink Pink

Before I started participating in #WineStudio, I have to say that I didn’t drink much rosé. Despite the alluring color, many of the rosés I came across seemed dull, flabby, and more of a marketing ploy than anything else. I think I’ve shared all of this before, but despite having good things to say about some rosés in recent years, I always had that thought nagging me in the back of my mind. However, #WineStudio, the interactive wine education program which I participate in, recently changed that. No session highlighted the diversity of rosé more than the one from earlier this summer. If you are like how I used to be and just don’t get the obsession behind this wine, read on and see how distinct each bottle I opened was. It changed my mind, and I think if you take the plunge and try one or two of these, it’ll change yours too.

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The first wine we opened was made up of Mourvedre grown in the shale soils of South Africa. The 2017 Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rosé had a lot of big citrus fruits like grapefruit and tangelo on the nose, which came through on the palate as well. Additionally, there were notes of wet stone, lemon, and a touch of fresh strawberry. Robin, who blogs at Wine and Wonder, opened this alongside a flatbread topped with steak, blue cheese, onions, and other potent flavors.

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Unlike a shy rosé meant for lighter flavors, the Babylonstoren held up against such an intense food choice. Encased in a simple bottle meant to highlight the earth that produced this wine, this pink drink took everything I thought about the basic rosé and amped it up. I suggest buying a bottle to share with friends, no matter what food is on hand, or maybe even two to be safe since the SRP is only around $19. We were able to try ours through Red Wolf Imports, which just goes to show that making the wine is just the first step to getting it on our tables. There’s a whole world behind the bottle that can be explored. But that’s a blog post for another day.

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If you’re looking for something more homegrown (assuming you’re from the United States), the 2017 Eric Kent Rosé we opened up was pleasing to the eye and palate. From my experience, most wine nerds are also nerds about something else. In the case of Eric Kent‘s owners Kent and Colleen, it’s art. The winery produces bottles with captivating labels created by artists they admire. It’s a multi-step process where Kent tastes the barrel samples, really gets a feel for the production, and then chooses art that looks like the wine tastes. In the case of this bottle, it was a colorful and intricate piece that highlighted the vibrancy on the inside. On the nose, watermelon, strawberries, and other red berries came through more than anything else.  Also, the hibiscus notes were very pronounced, which I can’t say I would have been able to put my finger on if I hadn’t been drinking hibiscus juice by the gallon while in Mexico last summer. It was good cold, but those assertive berry notes were even better as it warmed. It was one of those wines I wanted to keep revisiting. So, if you’re looking for something that tastes fruit-forward yet powerful, looks beautiful in the glass, and is produced by people you can admire, this rosé is for you.

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If the Babylonstoren was the mature version of the rosé you’re probably used to and the Eric Kent was the bottle that captured how fruity and fun can also mean depth, the 2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rosé from Long Island was the edgy rock star. First founded in 1980 and then purchased in 2000 by an art collector, Bedell Cellars is the opposite of a winery that adheres to Old World norms. It’s a solidly American operation that embraces the modern. Hoping to produce wines low in alcohol with a crispness and bright aromatics, here the winemaker created a creative wine that jumped out of the glass. Full of strawberry notes, acidity, and salinity, this one had a lot of energy behind it, which seemed captured by the stark black and white label adorning the outside. At $18, it’s an option for someone who wants to pop open a bottle with lunch, sit back, and let the day pass by.

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Although I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve tasted a decent variety of wine, it’s sessions like this that reinforce why wine is so cool. Each winemaker approaches the craft in a different way. Give the same grapes to any of these wineries, and they would all put their own unique stamp on them. Wine is kind of like going to a live show. Every performance is distinct, the audience enjoying it influences the experience, and every so often the band knows when they just created their next big hit. That’s why I keep coming back to wine. How about you?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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A Toast to Left Coast

Sometime around the end of May or early June I received samples from Left Coast, a wine estate located in the Willamette Valley. I’ve had the opportunity to try wines from this winery once before, but this time I was opening bottles ideal for spring and summer sipping that seemed a bit more off the beaten path than the usual summer fare. As I board a flight to Vegas today, these seem like they could be perfect choices for the hundred degree weather I am about to subject myself to. Read on and see if you agree!

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The first bottle I opened was the 2017 White Pinot Noir, which I thought of as the most unique offering from the winery. This poured almost clear into the glass and was one of the fruitiest whites I’ve ever opened. The notes of early season peaches, donut peaches, clementines, sweet lemons, and pear all abounded both on the nose and on the palate. I craved a touch more acidity with this one, but there was a salinity that was very enticing with each sip. This wine first began in 2011 as a small experiment, and Left Coast liked it so much they have continued to create this very distinctive option since then. At $24, it is one to at least experiment with and form your own opinions on. I’d certainly buy another bottle, especially for a cook out with friends!

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In the height of pink season, the second bottle was the 2017 Rosé, which was a blend of 54% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 6% Pinot Blanc. Fermented and aged in 100% neutral French oak, this sunrise-colored wine was crisp with notes of cherry, ripe red berries, and orange zest. Despite these flavors, it didn’t have a particularly fruity feel and gave off the impression of a more mature rosé. It wasn’t something you would want to turn into frosé, but rather pop open during a book club after finishing Nana. It had a long linger and paired perfectly with the goat cheese and crackers I snacked on alongside this bottle. With an SRP of $24, it’s a solid choice that would pair well with a variety of foods and could easily become a summer staple.

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The third bottle I opened was the 2017 The Orchard Pinot Gris, a grape that has intrigued me much more since trying the Adorada with #WineStudio all those months ago. Comprised of 91% Pinot Gris and 9% Pinot Blanc, this was a very fragrant choice that gave off aromas of pineapple, tropical fruits, and lemon verbena. On the palate, it was a full wine that provided notes of melon, juicy pears, lemon curd, and just the slightest touch of stone. I drank this while I ate some lox on rosemary bread with chive cream cheese and fresh tomatoes. While I wouldn’t say the wine was essential to have with food, it was a great choice for easy sipping. Clocking in at $18, it’s a wine I suggest associating yourself with.

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After my two experiences with Left Coast, I feel confident in saying they make quality wines for a good price. If you come across a bottle in a store or decide to check out their website, please pick up a bottle or two! These wines aren’t going to break the bank, are great for sharing, and all offer up interesting flavors to explore alongside food or on their own. I can’t think of anything better than a good wine to invest in for these dog days of summer, can you?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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Feeling Swell with Murrieta’s Well

Not too long ago I was contacted by Snooth to participate in a virtual tasting. A week after that, five wines from Murrieta’s Well showed up on my doorstep to be tasted on July 10th. Now, I enjoy wine, but five bottles in one evening is pushing it a little bit as a solo drinker. In order to not be entirely sloshed by the time we opened the third bottle, I decided to throw a girls night. I put together one of the best cheese boards I’ve ever made and put out a ton of other small bites, including a little bruschetta with shrimp and other options that were light and easy for a summer night. So, we sat outside, tasted our wines, and I played the poor host who had her computer open the entire time to follow along with the tasting.

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With a bunch of wine before us, as soon as my guests showed up I opened the 2017 Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc, which runs for $35. One of the first varietials picked on the estate every season and picked during the first non-drought year since 2011, these grapes produced a weighty wine that was unlike many Sauvignon Blanc I’ve previously tasted. On the nose, this was bursting with notes of tropical fruits with a small touch of white florals. On the palate, it followed through with fruits like pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and early season peaches. It was a very full wine that was light on the acidity. I will say this: it was my least favorite bottle of the evening. But that’s fine! I’ve said this a million times on this blog, but just because a wine might not be for me, it could still be for you. Do you love tropical fruits? French style Sauvignon Blanc? Aromatics for days? Then you may enjoy this one. It’s not a poorly made wine; it’s just not gonna end up back in my fridge any time soon.

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Sticking with the whites, the second bottle we tried was the 2016 The Whip White Wine Blend, which consisted of 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Semillon, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Orange Muscat, and 10% Viognier. This blend had a more mixed reaction than the first; only one of my girlfriends was not a fan while one said that she would definitely buy a bottle. On both the nose and palate, there were strong notes of stone fruits like apricot and white peaches, as well as a nice light acidity the provided a crisp yet not lingering finish. I could imagine this going well with grilled chicken, sushi, and other light meats. With an SRP of $24, I say buy at least two bottles and open them among friends. This one is a crowd-pleaser that I could imagine working well at both holiday parties and BYOBs. It’s a fun option that should be enjoyed now.

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Moving on from the white wines, we opened the 2017 Dry Rosé. Boasting 42% Grenache, 39% Counoise, and 19% Mourvedre, this was in my top two of the five wines we tried. Even though rosé was a trend everyone thought might die, I believe that the rosé I’ve tasted over the past year have been significantly more exciting, flavorful, and engaging that the ones I opened when I was twenty-one. This bottle was outstanding with good balance, well integrated alcohol, a touch of strawberry on the palate, and a depth not often found in California rosé. One of my friends tasted it alongside a crostini topped with Gouda and strawberry jam and raved about the pairing. Food friendly and relatively affordable with an SRP of $30, this is the wine that I would say is for everyone. Buy as many bottles as you can and drink it all throughout the year.

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Next up was the 2015 The Spur Red Wine Blend. Very fruit forward with a hint of vanilla, there was cherry on the nose and dark fruits, dried berries, and versatility on the palate that kept each sip interesting. Despite the complexity, I wouldn’t spend too much time searching for tasting notes. It would be perfect for an easy night in the winter when you’ve rushed home from work or a small gathering of friends where you crave good wine but want to focus on the conversation more than what’s in your glass. So what made up this blend? The varietal composition was 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. If that makes you perk your ears up, the SRP is $35 and it’s still available on their website, so don’t sleep on it.

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Finally, we got to the 2015 Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon, which poured a lovely ruby color into the glass and, as I joked with my friend The AZ Wine Monk on Instagram, it seemed like the kind of wine that Sherlock Holmes would open. Comprised of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec, I loved it. I thought it had layers and it was the standout of the evening. The wine was incredibly expressive in a way that made me want to leave my nose in the glass for the rest of the night. There were peppery notes, black fruit, cocoa, tobacco, and a velvety mouthfeel that kept everything interesting. Although the wine was certainly powerful, it wasn’t too aggressive, making it strong yet approachable. Two of us were all about this bottle. I wished I had a coffee encrusted steak in front of me to dig into alongside the wine. If you can’t tell, I don’t want to stop talking about it. With the highest SRP of $58, I think the best thing to do with this wine is to either open it for yourself first and see if you love it as much as I did, or to save it for a day among friends who really go ga-ga for broody Cabernets. We tasted this one as an early release, yet the 2014 is sold out on their website, so keep an eye out and grab as many as you can once it is available.

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One takeaway from this tasting with Snooth and Murrieta’s Well is that this winery has a variety of options for every wine lover. If you don’t believe me, just remember that many loved the Cabernet, while it was too much for some of my friends, and that none of us were fans of the Sauvignon Blanc, though many of the other wine bloggers that were participating in the virtual tasting adored it. What else make Murrieta’s Well unique? Located in the Livermore Valley and founded in the late 1800s, this winery is one of California’s original wine estates. All of the wine is sourced exclusively from said estate. For the French wine fans, the vineyard was started with cuttings from the Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux vineyards. There are plenty of cool things to discover about this estate and every new fact makes the passion behind the wine clear. If you’ve tried any of their other wines (particularly their Petit Verdot which I now have my eye on), let me know your favorites. If you participated in the tasting, did your thoughts line up with mine? Let’s start a discussion!

 

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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Drink Away on Bastille Day

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I am a Francophile. Paris was the best city I visited while studying abroad, I’m practicing my (very horrendous) French on Duolingo every morning, and I think I’ve watched most of the French language options on Netflix. One French thing I haven’t experienced is Bastille Day. For those of you not in the know, Bastille Day which is also called la Fête nationale is the national holiday that celebrates both the turning point of the French revolution on July 14th, 1789 and the unity of the French people exactly a year later. It’s like our 4th of July except from what I’ve heard, the French party a little harder than we do. My cousin went several years ago and said people stayed up late into the night, the subways were overflowing, and everyone was in a great yet kind mood. It’s something I’d like to see one day, but until then, I’ll just open a bottle of French wine on July 14th every year. 

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Although now seems to be the season where more white and rosé wine end up on the dinner table, I am always happy to open a Pinot Noir. All the way back in December, I received a bottle of the 2016 Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir as well as a cute little frog statue to sit on my desk while I type away. Comprised of 100% Pinot Noir, this inky wine was full of dark red berries like black cherries and raspberries. In addition to the fruity nose, on the palate it had some hint of spice to it and a firm backbone of acidity. While I wouldn’t necessarily liken this wine to an arrogant frog, I could totally imagine sitting outside around noon by a creek in the late autumn as frogs croak in the background. If that doesn’t sound appealing, just think of your ideal scenario to open a bottle with wine friends and regular friends alike. That’s where you should open this bottle. From my experience with Arrogant Frog, these are meant to be fun, and at $9.99, the price point makes these wines easily accessible to anyone of legal drinking age. Go out and buy a bottle already.

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The other bottle I opened more recently was the 2017 Côté Mas Rosé Aurore. This wine was part of a #WineStudio session, and as we discussed the wine, we also spoke about the concept of luxe rural. The idea behind it is to find the simple pleasures in life. For the winemaker Jean-Claude, that means wine, cuisine, art, and nature. For me, it’s probably food, wine, a good book, and maybe some ice cream. That’s what this wine embodies; it’s like a friend who may not be the prettiest, smartest, or quickest person in the room, yet has an easy and confident demeanor that trumps everything else. Made up of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 20% Syrah, on the palate this had very forward flavors of berries, particularly strawberry, hints of white aromatic flowers, and a touch of minerality that gave it some personality and jump. Undeniably a house wine, it is still a simple yet wholly satisfying rosé from Languedoc that is meant for pouring out a glass for friends. That’s the whole reason it boasts an affordable SRP of $12.99 for a 1-liter bottle. If you’re not sharing, the bottle holds up well if placed in the fridge for around a week after opening it.

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So, if you’re not in France today (or if you are!), open up a bottle of wine to share with friends and enjoy the rest of your evening. Assuming either of these two bottles caught your eye, check out Les Domains Paul Mas website, which makes both of the ones I mentioned above or check out some of my older posts about these brands here and here. Cheers!

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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#WineStudio: Walking the Line with Orange Wine

I consider myself someone open to trying new things, whether that be food, wine, travel, or just a new theme park ride where I don’t know what to expect. Recently, I feel like I’ve been in a rut when it comes to wine. I’ve been sticking to the things I know I like, and I haven’t really explored anything very different this year. That changed with a recent #WineStudio. This particular session highlighted two parts of the wine world with which I have very little experience: Vermont wines and orange wines. I was able to familiarize myself with both through Iapetus Wine and its winemaker Ethan Joseph.

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With vineyards located in the Champlain Valley, the land that Iapetus utilizes is characterized by mixed precipitation, cold winters, and warm summers. In addition to the land, the wine itself was fermented in stainless steel tanks, went through pressing after a 50-day maceration on skins, and was unfiltered before bottling. Ethan is all about the land, crafting a good wine, and being creative to boot. My favorite take away from this session was when Ethan said he doesn’t need everyone to love orange wine. Oftentimes, I feel like wine is pitched as a one size fits all bottle, but this winery understands that while not every style will appeal to every person, at the end of the day the most important question is: Is this a well-made wine?

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Color is the first thing that will catch the eye of any shopper that comes across the 2016 Tectonic. It poured a cloudy sunset color that was unlike any wine I’ve come across before. Although the shade was eye catching, it took me some time to figure out what I actually thought of the flavor. There was a lot of citrus zest, orange blossom, and musk that came through with just the mildest touch of acidity. As it warmed, the flavors seemed to become rounder, so I suggest trying it at a variety of temperatures. While those notes don’t necessarily scream alternative, this was a funky wine that made me feel like I should be opening it among a Claude Lorrain pastoral landscape. It reminded me a lot of a wheat beer. I have never experienced anything like this before and am still not entirely sure if I’m ready for a second bottle, but I do think anyone who considers wine an interesting subject should buy one to try, especially with the price clocking in around $24. Go check out the website I linked above, and if the orange wine still scares you a bit, feel free to try their other bottles before you take the plunge on this one.

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This entire session reminded me of a story that Virginia Made once shared. While at her local Total Wine, a hipster millennial went up to an associate and asked for that cool orange wine everyone was now drinking. The employee responded by saying that they did not carry wine made from oranges, but they did have wine made from blueberries. That little experience highlights just how misunderstood orange wine is. I don’t think this is a wine for everyone, but I do think it’s the kind of wine you have to experience at least once to truly call yourself an oenophile. Have you tried orange wine before? What were your thoughts?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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#WineStudio: I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends

If you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention Pedroncelli, a winery that has had a great relationship with #WineStudio and all of its participants. However, this time around we viewed this winery through the lens of the women owned wineries of Sonoma County. As a twentysomething woman, it’s encouraging to see wineries owned by other women that both produce good juice and are supported by the community. It’s even better to realize that as a woman who is not only someone passionate about wine, but also as someone who believes that women should have a strong voice in all industries.

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Julie Pedroncelli St. John is the 3rd generation owner of Pedroncelli, a winery which originally was started by her grandparents in 1927, and we learned that she has opinions about the wine, growing it, and how she wants to continue to promote the winery. She isn’t just standing on the sidelines and letting her husband make all the decisions (although her husband seems great!). As far as the actual wine goes, about half of the grapes used are farmed by the family and its employees, while the other half are sourced from within 12 miles of where they make their wine. Not only is this winery run by a woman, it is also focused on locally sourced grapes. It’s a hipster millennials dream.

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The 2015 Mother Clone Zinfandel, which clocks in at a reasonable $19, was the perfect wine to open all the way back in February. The dark cherry colored wine was full of those dark fruit flavors. I picked up on blackberries and cherries as well as some smoky, peppery notes. Another blogger, Dezel who tweets from @myvinespot, also mentioned black tea, which I totally understood. Each sip had that slightly bitter, intense, and drying taste that I associate with my morning cup of tea. Despite all these aphotic words I’ve thrown out, this wine still had a fun brightness of acidity to it that balanced out all of the depth. Buy a few bottles now and open them all at different points over the next 5 years to enjoy everything it has to offer.

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When I first opened the box housing these wines and saw the Friends. White, the White Stripes song “We’re Going to Be Friends” popped right into my head. I’m not one who often associates wine with music, but every time I think of this wine now, it’s immediately what I think of. It’s my inspiration for the title of this post, and I suggest you click the link above to listen to it after reading. The wine itself is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer. It was incredibly aromatic on the nose and very heavy on the tropical notes. Pineapple, mango, white peach, and some white flowers were the flavors that immediately came to mind.

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Considering I was sipping this during a long, oddly warm weekend at our beach place, I could have just been imaging those notes, but wine is almost always influenced by the way in which you experience it. I’m sure this was no exception as my sister and a few of us duked it out over a monopoly board with the waves crashing in the background. The SRP of $13 makes it one of the most approachable and affordable wines that I’ve opened this year. It’s the kind of wine to share with friends, pour into whatever glass you have on hand (as you can see I did above), and just enjoy without thinking too much. It’s aptly named and if you doubt that, all you need to notice is the cheeky winky face on the screw cap to change your mind.

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I have had a lot of encounters with Pedroncelli wines through #WineStudio and it is consistently one of the best affordable wines that I buy. It’s also the first one I recommend to my work friends, most of whom are looking to spend $10 to $20 on a bottle. Their inventory is diverse enough to appeal to many drinkers, so the price is certainly not the only selling point. On my list to try are their vintage port and their petit sirah. What’s on yours?

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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