#WineStudio: Drinking Like an Heir with Achaval Ferrer

I am a red wine girl. I will enjoy a zippy white and sip rosé during a summer picnic, but I always come home to a glass of red. In the month of April, I was lucky enough to open up five bottles of Achaval Ferrer wines through #WineStudio. Located in Argentina, this winery has been around since 1995 and focuses on terroir-driven wines. This session was all about the land, the grapes, and how the winery allows the bottle to speak for itself. From the elegant yet simple labels to discussing a debut wine for them, we touched on everything over the course of the month, and this was certainly one #WineStudio that focused on the balance between drinking wine and understanding it.


Beginning with the 2015 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, I found a wine full with aromas of tobacco. While I sipped, there were black fruits, some smokiness, and enough acid to balance out the fuller flavors of the wine. This was heavier than the Ordaz Malbec I mentioned a few months ago and it paired wonderfully with the peppery beef jerky I was snacking on. Oftentimes on my day off, I open up a bottle of wine, snack all day, and abuse my Netflix subscription. It was the perfect blend of my snobby interest in wine and my lowbrow interests in jerky. If you are a fan of these things as well, this may be the bottle for you.


Following the Malbec, we moved onto the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle that gave me woodsy vibes. There were the usual bursting flavors of ripe red and dark tart fruits, but there was also a touch of stone and cedar. As one other #WineStudio participant described it, the “Cab tastes like a barrel room smells.” This wine knows what it is with a lush texture and a lingering finish. Like most Archaval Ferrer wines, this is a product made with low intervention, allowing the grape to express itself and the consumer to really understand what this lush wine is all about. The only thing it did that was bad was make me spill half a glass on my favorite Spider-Man shirt, but that probably has more to do with my own clumsiness than with any fault in the wine itself.


A varietal I consistently label a beast, with this one being no exception, we tasted the 2015 Cabernet Franc at the end of April, a debut of this wine in their lineup. This one was robust having lots of cherry and red berry flavors with a nice dry finish to it. For those of you out there that like broody wines that taste like someone opened up a cigar and dumped all of its insides into the bottle, this is the one to try. It’s the kind of wine to drink with a book, in a leather chair, surrounded by a library and fireplacce. The SRP on this one, like all of the wines I’ve already mentioned, is $24.99, which is a great value for all of the layers to be found within each bottle. I know everyone talks about Malbec from this neck of the woods, but take a risk and try this one, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. This bottle also has the added benefit of being available at Morton’s, so you can dive into it during your next elaborate steak dinner.


After a few weeks of being in the know, we did something a little different for #WineStudio and did a blind tasting. Now, I could probably tell a red from a white and a Pinot Noir from a Petit Verdot, but blind tastings are intimidating! You go in knowing nothing, everyone makes different guesses, and then everything is revealed and you learn just how far away from the truth you were. Well, that’s how I imagine they generally go. This was my first one. Although I usually try my #WineStudio wines a few days before the event itself, these two mysterious ones I made sure to save for the day of.


Opening up each bottle, the corks revealed that these wines were from 2012 and 2013, but that was it. As I tried both, I immediately thought these were Cabernet Sauvignon. The friend with whom I tasted guessed Malbec or Merlot. The 2012 was a much deeper purple color and on the nose it gave off aromas of violet and dark berries. The 2013 was fruitier on the nose with a bit of earthiness, but still had some crisp floral qualities to it. When we tasted, both were full of black berries, cherry, and plum flavors with a bit of a spicy, peppery edge. Between the two, the 2012 was more intense and had a rotund aspect that came through while the 2013 was a touch softer with the fruity levels coming about more aggressively. After some sips and guesses, we unveiled the 2012 Quimera and 2013 Quimera. Both a blend of 50% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, and smaller percentages of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, these wines are a product of the year in which they were made. Unlike the other bottles we tasted, which are obviously crafted with love, these bottles are even above that, the best of the best. They are all about the terroir and are meant to highlight Argentina in a unique way, an experiment in love. For those who love bold wine, the 2012 is the way to go, while the 2013 is for those that love a decadent yet still fruity juice in their glass. It was actually a lot of fun to see what everyone thought before the big reveal and it definitely warmed me up to the idea of more blind tastings in the future.


It’s because of wineries like Achaval Ferrer that Argentinian wine and Malbec are now things that fly off of shelves and appear on most restaurant menus. They’re reliable, tasty, and the producers are clearly just as passionate about their product as the winemakers wherever you reside. The best thing about these Twitter talks every month is you never know what you’ll discover, so join us in September and see what this is all about. I haven’t regretted it since the first session I joined, and you won’t either.

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#WineStudio: Being a Drinker with Meeker

At the end of the day, I want a wine that I enjoy. I think everyone does. Even those people out there stocked up on YellowTail in case there is ever a wine shortage in the world. This is the common thread that brings all wine drinkers together. No one goes out thinking they want to try a crummy wine or spend money on something awful. However, there are also some bottles that clearly have more thought and effort put into them than others. Those are the ones that the real enthusiasts gravitate towards and they result in the best value for people looking for something different.


In order to bring these kinds of wine lovers together, there are programs like #WineStudio, and then there are also places like Meeker Vineyard that cater precisely to the people I mentioned above. While #WineStudio results in geeking out about wine over Twitter, it’s the wineries, companies, and people who participate in the program that keep me coming back for more. Over the course of the month chatting with Meeker Vineyard, we learned about how they have been producing wines since the 1980’s, how brother/sister duo Lucas and Kelly have taken over the reins from their parents, and how they were the 8th post prohibition winery to snag a license in the Dry Creek Valley. That last fact makes me want to go back and rewatch the Ken Burns documentary on the prohibition right now. Still, while I love all the things that make this family business one which I want to support, the wine matters too.


Starting off with bright fruit, we first enjoyed the 2013 Hoskins Vineyard Grenache. This had a soft, silky texture, lots of cherry flavors, and was the ultimate summer wine. Now that it’s hot, humid, and generally disgusting outside, this full-flavored lightness is something that I still seek out. While we did originally taste these back in March (I am nothing if not a procrastinator) and it’s an all-year kind of bottle, this is the one to buy now and drink now once you’re over any wine that comes in shades of yellow and pink. The SRP of this one is $37, which is a splurge for some and pennies for others, but worth the investment for anyone who wants a little more Grenache in their life.


Pretty much on the opposite end of things was the 2013 Cabernet Franc from Dry Creek Valley. While we do try a wide range of wines with every new #WineStudio, what I immediately loved about the selection from Meeker was that they didn’t send the usual suspects. If there is one thing I know about drinking, it’s that you can find Pinot Noir, the other Cab, and Merlot by the glass on every menu in America. Oftentimes when I am at home, I crave something just a little different. This wine was intense in color and flavor. Looking ink-colored in the glass, every sip was silky with an edge, like a ballerina in a biker club. There was a lot of character, some green pepper, and like most things, the more time I spent with it, the more it softened and opened up. Although this was a monster wine, it was not unstructured. That being said, I gave my grandmother one sip and she looked as if she was going to pass out, so newbies tread lightly. The SRP at $45 is a bit higher than I know most of my twentysomething friends are willing to go, but buy one or two bottles and save it for the nights when you know someone will appreciate it. That’s how this one will reward you.


If I haven’t bored you with my rambling yet, I saved the best for last. The coolest bottle, one that I am going to repurpose as an olive oil dispenser, was covered in colorful handprints. Aptly named, the 2013 Handprint Merlot from Sonoma County was stunning on the outside. Admittedly, this doesn’t always mean anything about the inside, but this one did not disappoint. Over the course of the month, we learned that the handprints always belong to one of the winemakers in the father/son team and the wine itself is usually a blend of a Merlot vineyard in Dry Creek and one in Alexander Valley. Produced since 1992 and just as old as I am, this one was the best of both worlds. Lighter than the Cabernet Franc and darker than the Grenache, this wine had rich fruit flavors, a nice dash of acidity, and a touch of leathery feeling to it. The deep ruby wine was perfect for the snow day and the red beans and rice with which I paired it. The layers to be found here stood up to the Sideways stigma, and although they produce 2000 cases annually, buy all that you can at the SRP of $45.


These wines were fun, and while you can see the care that goes into each new bottle, they are ones to open with wine friends and not take too seriously. Sure, you can unpack all the elements and the heart of the wine, but all of that comes secondary to enjoying it. This was one of my favorite #WineStudio’s this year, and it was great to chat with a family unit that clearly takes its wine seriously, yet also ultimately just wants to make something for others to share and enjoy. I think that’s something all wine lovers should remember every time they open up a bottle. Sure, points matter when trying to market and sell a wine, but what matter more is the experience that comes with it, and Meeker delivers with that.

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#WineStudio: Ordaz Wines. I Can’t Rhyme.

So, breaking with my (probably unappreciated) tradition of trying to rhyme all my wine blog posts, this one doesn’t sound like my sixth grade attempts at poetry. Ninety percent of that has to do with the fact that the only thing I could think of to rhyme with Ordaz is spazz. The other ten percent is due to my inability to post any blogs on a reasonable timeline. I tried these wines at the end of winter, and it is now June. I’m trying, but the struggle between work life and writing is real.


Do you know what cuts the edge off though? Wine. Between pouring glasses for book club, family members, and the occasional evening alone, I’ve upped my consumption of wine this year while maintaining quality. Part of that is thanks to #WineStudio. I know I talk about this program once a month or so, but it really has had an impact on my understanding of wine and my ability to enjoy it. There are other twentysomethings into wine, but I always feel like a novice when I attempt to bridge the gap between myself and the more seasoned winos. I can’t name every grape out there; I would most likely fail miserably at a blind tasting; I also feel like the girl always asking the dumb questions. If you ever feel the same way, tune into a #WineStudio on Twitter on a Tuesday night around 9 p.m. It helps.


Going along with the way I always question myself about wine, usually I don’t include too much about the wineries in my posts. I’ll throw out a fact like when it was established or how the winery is run, but from my experience with my friends, they don’t ask many questions about what makes a wine special. It’s not that they don’t care, but more often than not, the top two factors in picking a wine is price and taste. In that order. However, I know there are others out there like me who geek out over the little details, so I’m switching things up from now on, and I’m going to share those tidbits that make the wine exciting to me.


A few months ago, we explored the offerings of Ordaz Family Wines, a company that is committed to producing single vineyard wines. From our discussions, it appeared that Eppie, the son of founder Chuy Ordaz, really took over the reins of the business, growing it into a family-run operation dedicated to the grape. They are the wine, and you can sense the emotion put into each bottle when chatting with this family that hails from Mexico. It’s about terroir and letting the vineyard speak for itself. They’re following through on what they think is best for their wines, and it’s paying off in big ways.


Pinot Noir is one of those wines of which I wish I always drank more. It’s light and fun while retaining personality. Luckily, this winter I was forced into trying more with the jewel-colored 2014 Pinot Noir from the Placida Vineyard with Ordaz. Normally Pinot brings up ideas of fruit-driven wines, but this bottle had nuance to it. There was that telltale flavor of ripe red berries, but there was also an earthiness to be found. The silky mouthfeel helped it all go down faster than I intended, although you’ll hear no complaints from me. The SRP is $38, which maybe isn’t an everyday wine price, but still a steal enough for me to invest in a handful of bottles. I’m going to be adding this one to my line up; it’s one you can pull out during any season, which I appreciate in the summer when my body thinks it will reject one more sip of something golden or pink.


For those who like something a little spicier, the 2012 Malbec from the Sandoval Vineyard offered up a bit of variety to this #WineStudio session. Sharing a name with my favorite drama queen on Vanderpump Rules, this vineyard helped Ordaz craft some interesting juice. There were fruits to be found, but all of that was underscored by the slate and coffee flavors that kept this wine robust. It was heavy, yet reminded me of those hippos from Fantasia with the tutus that balance out the otherwise rotund appearance of the animals. There were a lot of flavors to unpack with just an edge of refinement. With an SRP of $25, it’s one to invest in and enjoy once the weather cools off and you need a glass to warm you from the inside out.


Two very different wines from one consistent winery- I’ll take it! We didn’t get to experience the breadth of offerings, but we did dive deep with two standout options. If it’s a testament to what else they offer, it all seems promising. They are on their A-game right now, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for this family-run operation.

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Thirsty Thursday: Loot of Fruit

Greetings from Disney! As you read this, I am currently in the Happiest Place on Earth. I’m probably rocking some obnoxious ears, a pair of sunglasses just as obnoxious, and some sort of clothing to indicate that I am a Mouseketeer at heart. Before I left, I passed the time I should have been packing by playing around with alcohol. I’ve also been on a mini health kick, and decided to blend the two as much as possible. So in addition to fun spirits, I pulled out my Beauty Chef antioxidant booster to make something that tasted good while also making me feel (slightly) better about my afternoon concoction. This isn’t a particularly sweet cocktail despite the fruit components, but if you want something a little more decadent, add a half shot of your favorite juice or flavored simple syrup- that should perk it up just enough for you!


Loot of Fruit

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 oz. American Fruits Bartlett Pear Liqueur

1 oz. Belvedere Citrus

1 oz. Beauty Chef Antioxidant Inner Beauty Boost

half a lime, cut in half


1. Fill your favorite cocktail glass (one that’s tumbler sized) and fill it with ice.

3. Measure out and pour liqueur, Belvedere, and antioxidant boost directly into cocktail glass. Stir well for five to ten seconds.

4. Top off with freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir again. Use the other quarter of the lime as garnish. Enjoy.

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Food with Padma Lakshmi

In an effort to watch less TV and feel marginally more intellectual, a few of my friends and I started a book club. Once every month or so we get together after work, order some drinks, and talk about a book. We’ve done everything from the more highbrow All the Light We Cannot See to a one called Retail Hell. I can relate to the latter more than I would care to admit. Falling somewhere in the middle is Padma Lakshmi’s relatively new book Love, Loss, and What We Ate. As a Top Chef fan, self-labeled foodie, and a person who occasionally craves a quick read, I was a fan of this choice even though it wasn’t mine. I devoured it in two days and have left my favorite quotes below for you all to enjoy as well.


“I have always associated cooking with womanhood. At that moment, in August 2007, when I did not feel so womanly, with my insides carved out and my marriage a failure, the only thing I could take pleasure in was that golden sauce.”


“The decision to consume my placenta was not an easy one.”


“Just a hunk of cheese with good bread and olives were all I needed. Cheese and olives smashed between flanks of crisp baguette was the perfect combination of umami and chaatpati in one starchy, crumbly bite.”


In regards to the concept behind Top Chef: “She loved Julia Child but had no interest in adding to the pile of imitators already on TV.”


“Indeed, food and femininity were intertwined for me from very early on. Cooking was the domain not of girls, but of women.”


Padma Lakshmi is not the kind of writer that makes you think “Pulitzer Prize!,” but this was an engaging glimpse into her life. Salman Rushdie, modeling around Europe, and a very public baby daddy drama make this a page turner, while her descriptions of growing up between two cultures is what make it real. Pick it up if any of that piques your interest; you won’t regret it.

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WineStudio: Chilling with Some Riesling

My family is one of those that likes sweet wine. Moscato, bubbles that give you cavities, and any other white wine that has more sweetness in it than a cheesecake is one that my grandmother is guaranteed to enjoy. At work, I’m also frequently asked what my favorite sweet red wine is. Therefore, I rarely buy them. Any responses I give to wine queries generally result in blank stares or a shake of the head. My friends don’t care about the work or the vineyard or the bottling date. They just want something that they like. Period.


That being said, despite my general desire to turn up my nose at anything too popular, I have a soft spot for Riesling. I’m a bit of an acid junkie (in wine, not in drugs), and I can find that in my favorite German grape. So a few months ago when #WineStudio’s focus was all on Karthäuserhof and Richter, two producers that Massanois Imports brings in for us Americans, I was into it.


#WineStudio, which I’m sure most of you have heard of many times through my blog, is still around and kicking. If there is one thing all wine enthusiasts can agree on, it’s that you can never know everything about wine. However, #WineStudio is here to help with that. Bringing together wine makers, importers, and drinkers, this twitter session occurs weekly, delving deep into the world of wine knowledge and tasting, and you never have to leave your couch to participate. Isn’t that the millennial dream?


Kicking off January the right way, the first bottle I opened was a refined wine that still hit my sweet tooth. This 2015 Karthäuserhof Riesling Ruwer lead with sweetness, yet still contained a freshness that kept the bottle from being cloying. Against the simple labeling, there was complexity within the bottle. The crisp green apple flavors and the touch of acid added more dimension to this option, and it’s one I would buy again. In an effort to really experiment with this grape, I played with my pairings this month. With this bottle, I went more traditional and ordered up some Chinese food. Playing against the fattiness of egg rolls, I was digging this, but it admittedly held up less well alongside the meatier pork dumplings. So, maybe save this one for the fried veggie options over others.

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The second bottle I opened was the special one. The 2015 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett from Richter was my jam. The persistent sweetness was balanced well by the forceful acid, and it all came together to sing beautifully with the salty Polish sausage I made for dinner that evening. Everything from the crisp pale gold color to the bold zingy flavors to the fresh lemon zest aromas reminded me of an episode of the defunct series Magic City. It wasn’t a balmy January day in Baltimore. I was in Miami in the late fifties by a pool. I count that bottle as a win. You could age this one until 2030, but you could also be like me and go after the pleasure now.


Stepping away from the sweeter first wines, with an bottle from Karthäuserhof I dove into more tropical territory. The 2011 Riesling Grosses Gewächs featured intense tropics including pineapple, with the acid factor coming up toward the end. There was nuance to it with just a hint of sweetness, although this wasn’t the bottle for me. While I can appreciate a nice vacation on the beach, tropical flavors are about as exciting to me as the idea of more Fast and the Furious films. Much like caramel, Snapchatting, and high heels, some people get the appeal, but I am not one of them. However, if that description makes your mouth water, ignore everything I’ve just said and go out and buy a bottle. Don’t listen to me. I’m just here to satisfy my own ego.

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Demonstrating that not all Mosel wines are the same and that things like terroir, barrels, and the winery itself actually matter, we ended our session with the 2015 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett. Lemon rind, lime, and wet stone was found inside rustic looking bottle. This offered up a lot initially, neither being too coy nor too simple, and still lingered long enough. This didn’t burst with acid like I usually prefer, but the acid to be found balanced out the sweetness well. Light enough for a picnic or to pull out early on in a dinner party, this isn’t a bad one to consistently have on hand. There’s nothing wrong with a decent crowd pleaser.


As the weather gets warmer, or you’re craving something sweet, or you just want to enjoy a tasty wine, these Mosel wines are the ones to hunt down. They each have something a little different to offer, but they also offer up a universality that ensures everyone can find something to love inside each bottle. They’re ones that I would share with my friends who don’t “get” wine, but also ones I could confidently open up for my fellow winos. Heck, I may have just talked myself into opening up another bottle right now. Cin cin.

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Taking Some Sips Alongside Politics

When I was in high school, I was in a program focused on law and public policy. At the ripe age of 14, my life was filled with political debates, mock congress, and interning at a local courthouse. By college, I was a little burned out. I was sick of talking about amendments and lobbyists. I craved a simpler time where diving into the legal side of my country meant singing along to “I’m Just a Bill.”


Around election time, I was offered the opportunity to try the 2014 The Federalist Dueling Pistols. Now several years away from high school, my interest in politics has been revived, and I jumped at the opportunity to try this one. Inspired by Alexander Hamilton and his duel with Aaron Burr, this wine features “dual” grapes from the Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley and cheekily suggests opening up a bottle to resolve problems instead of readying muskets.


Made up of 50% Syrah and 50% Zinfandel, this plum colored wine started off dark and fruity, but immediately sparked to life with tons of dry peppery flavors. I got cherry, blackberry, plum, and tons of spice both in aroma and on the palate. This was the Law and Order: SVU of wine, big, bold, and a little surprising. With a SRP of $29.00, it’s one to buy a few of and bring out for friends who want something more intense than Pinot Noir. If you’ve checked this one out, let me know if you agree!


In honor of seeing Hamilton in 2018, I’ll be buying another one of these babies to open up that evening…though I may not finish the whole bottle. After all the waiting to see one of the most buzzed about shows, it’s not one I want to sleep through.

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