#WineStudio: New Year, New Jersey

Raise your hand if you’ve made a joke about New Jersey sometime in recent memory. I cannot be the only one, I’m sure. The Real Housewives franchise, Jersey Shore, and pretty much any other mainstream thing to do with the state has cemented this. It might not be okay, but it’s just how it is. So what does Jersey have to offer the world of wine? It turns out, quite a lot. During a recent #WineStudio, we got to learn about the Outer Coastal Plain of New Jersey, an area that I knew nothing about. Located in the southern part of Jersey, the area has sandy soils, a decent growing period, and a passionate set of vintners who made it clear that making Jersey wine is nothing of which to be ashamed. In fact, the wineries we encountered over this month were secure in their beliefs about their wine, what New Jersey has to offer, and the fact that the wines are more of a representation of their state than any trashy TV show. After tasting these bottles, I’m inclined to believe them.

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The first I tried was the one that blew my mind. That’s not to say that the following wines were bad, but this one was a ‘woah’ wine that I would stock up on and enjoy until the end of days. The 2013 Palmaris Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Tomasello Winery was full of dark fruit with floral lavender notes I have come to associate with Petit Verdot, which makes sense because 20% of the bottle was made up of that varietal. Smoke was another prevalent characteristic that did not dull at all as the wine opened up. It’s a great one to buy while we’re still in the midst of frigid winter months. For your first experience, I suggest opening it in front of a fireplace, with someone you like. It was one of my favorite wines of 2017, and it might be one of your favorites of 2018. It clocks in at $40, so it’s not the everyday affordable wine for most, but it’s a great investment for those who appreciate something a little darker with a lot of depth.

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The 2016 Sharrott Winery Barrel Reserve Chardonnay was a bottle that clearly feels like the Chardonnay you probably grew up around, yet with a smarter hand. It does have the oak aspect to it; however, it also has an elegant balance between the roundness of the oak and the general flavor profile of the grape. It feels more elevated and certainly more approachable for haters like me that used to scream ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It admittedly still has too much oak for me, but my mom happily finished off a glass. If you like the big names like Sonoma Cutrer or Kendall Jackson like her, I’d encourage you to give this bottle a try. One of the other participants compared it to a Pina Colada too, so if coconuts and tropical fruits are your idea of a good time, open this one up. The SRP of $25 certainly makes it more accessible to a broader range of people, and it might just be the perfect gateway for you into how New Jersey is making a name for itself in the wine world.

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After the tropical notes of the Chardonnay, I was ready for a red again and opened the 2013 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Syrah from Unionville Vineyards, which was a brighter option compared to the broody Palmaris wine. More red fruit, particularly cherry, a mouthwatering touch of acid, and hints of oak and earthiness all created this balanced wine. It was not quite as nuanced as the Cabernet we tried, but I’d imagine it’ll age well and that might give it more ‘oomph’ over the coming years. This wine was approachable and flavorful, the best option for a red wine lover who generally likes Pinot Noir or Merlot that wants to break into something new.

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The final two wines were from William Heritage Winery. The first was the uber pale 2016 Outer Coastal Plain Chenin Blanc and was a bit sweet for my taste, but I could imagine this pairing fantastically with some spicy Indian food. I ate it with a half of a buttered biscuit, and even that made the wine friendlier as the acidity in it cut all the fat in my choice. This is one that clearly needs food. For friends and family who like moscato, this is a great option to open them up to other grapes, and it’s one you can make confidently. The notes I found here were apples, sweet citrus fruits, and a touch of lemongrass. At $18, it’s the perfect price point to take to a BYO and give these wines a chance.

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The sparkling wine I saved for last. After two months of all things bubbly, I needed a bit of a break, yet this bottle was very different than the prosecco we dove into in the latter part of 2017. Effervescent but with an incredibly soft texture, this 2014 Outer Coastal Plain Estate Reserve Vintage Brut was like slipping on a pair of silky pajamas, hopping on the couch, and watching your favorite series for the twentieth time. Or maybe instead of your favorite show, you could sip this while you reread The Great Gatsby since the logo on this bottle seemed very reminiscent of the 1920s to me. Either way, you won’t be going wrong once you pop this cork.  The SRP here is $40, so I say buy a bottle or two and put it away for a fun occasion. After your first try, I’m sure the $40 will make sense and you’ll invest in a few more to stash away.

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So have I convinced you to give this part of the east coast a try? The first bottle I mentioned was all I needed to change my mind. Not all the bottles were ones that fit in with my preferred flavors. Still, what I can say is that this session highlighted how Jersey has a wine to suit every need. Girls night? Pop the bubbles I mentioned. Visiting mom and dad for a holiday? Take that Chardonnay. Want to impress a date? Bring the Cabernet. Yeah, you could wait a few years to see if everyone else is as impressed with New Jersey as I am, but you’ll be missing out in the meantime. That would be a shame.

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

 

 

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Thirsty Thursday: Brash Bloody

When I was 21, I did not understand the appeal of Bloody Marys. Tomato juice, vodka, and celery did not sounds like a good time to me. Now, I’m obsessed. They are packed with flavor, are a great savory option when gin or bourbon wont cut it, and they don’t clash with many foods. As I’ve discovered a new love for them, I’ve also played around with my own recipe. I enjoy a variety of spices in mine, but the only non-negotiable is the Old Bay. The glass needs to be rimmed with Old Bay, and there needs to be a hefty dose of it in the drink itself. The spicier the better. My tried and true recipe is below, but what’s yours? That’s the one great thing about a Bloody Mary, it can be adapted to your tastes so it never disappoints.

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Brash Bloody

Yield: 1 glass

4 oz. of Bloody Mary mix (We like McClure’s. You can also use tomato juice since we doctor it up a bit.)

2 oz. of vodka (We love Tito’s or Tower Hill)

1/2 oz. of Worcestershire sauce

2-3 dashes of your favorite hot sauce (We use Crystal)

1 tsp. of horseradish 

1 tsp. of Old Bay seasoning, plus extra for rimming the glass

1/2 tsp. of lemon-pepper seasoning

1/2 tsp. of celery salt

 

1. Wet the rim of a tall glass. Pour some Old Bay onto a plate. Take the wet glass and rim it with that seasoning. 

2. Fill glass with ice. Layer ingredients directly into glass, saving the dry seasonings for last. Top with Old Bay, lemon-pepper, and celery salt. Use a swizzle stick or even your straw to mix well (this is a Bloody, not anything fancy). Enjoy. DO NOT top with fried chicken, a sandwich, or any other ridiculous thing you’ve seen on Instagram.  

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#WineStudio: In Puddles of Bubbles

Now that we’ve just finished the holiday season, Champagne is no longer on everyone’s mind. Of course, when people think Champagne it also often includes bottles that are technically cava, prosecco, or just plain old sparkling wine. Either way, after Thanksgiving most people think it’s time for sparkly dresses, sparkly ornaments, and sparkly wine. Then, on January second they promptly forget all about that. I love that people carve out a time to enjoy these wines, but I held off on the second part of my bubbly #WineStudio post for that reason. Bubbles are for every month! To illustrate that, this covers five more of the wines we tried during the session all about the Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG wines. Try saying that three times fast. Also, try reading this post and saying you think these wines are still only meant for the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. I don’t think you’ll be able to do either.

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Before this session, I knew next to nothing about Valdobbiadene or the Glera grape that stars in so many of these bottles. Sure, it’s always easy in the wine world to come across a new region, producer, or grape, and it’s easy to buy that wine, drink it, decide if you like it enough to buy again, and end there. Sometimes there’s something that makes it all more special though, and it makes you delve deeper into what the wine is all about. For me, besides these wines being a part of #WineStudio, it was the sheer variety of what these bubbles offered up and the point that they were made in the first sparkling wine district in Italy.

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If you’re anything like me or my friends, your first few bottles of sparkling wine were overly sweet, opened to celebrate an occasion before a meal, and no one asked for a second glass. After the sound of the cork being popped faded, the beauty of the bubbles went with it, and it was forgotten on the wayside until the remaining juice was poured down a drain. That’s not the experience these wines warrant. Between photos we saw of the majestic area and the passion behind the wine, this area seems surreal as if it was plucked right out of the imagination and created for a movie. Anyone want to go on a trip there now? I’ll tag along!

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In this lineup, the first bottle I popped was the Colesel Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, a bottle that probably wouldn’t pop out at you in a wine aisle due to its simplicity. Yet not picking this one up would be a mistake. Apple and pear notes abounded in this glass, while it still had some complex brioche and nutty notes. Next, I dove into the  ​Le Colture Dry Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, another winner for Italy. This wine had an electric buzz to it with notes of petrol on the nose and a round, sweet lemon linger on the palate. I liked the jump to it, although it still had some sweetness that appealed to the moscato lovers in my group. If you want something structured yet fun, this is what you need to buy. These were both mineral wines, an aspect I crave when picking up sparklers, so if you’re anything like me, add these to your repertoire and see what Italy has to offer.

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After those stunners, I tried the 2016 Masottina Extra Dry Rive di Ogliano Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. This very pale wine had more floral notes and citrus than the previous two. It might not appeal to people who always crave zing, but it was refined and had a lot of layers to explore as the wine warmed. The Masottina runs about $16 to $20 a bottle, making it the ideal price for a wine to pick up for dinner with friends. Drink it before dinner, or while you’re eating sushi, or after dinner, or whenever you feel like it. The 2016 Bortolomiol Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato “Banda Rossa” was up after this, and it was a bottle that demonstrated how “extra dry” can actually be sweet. Pale gold in color, the best part of this bottle was the millions of soft, tiny bubbles it produced. This was my grandmother’s favorite that she tried. It was a touch too sweet for my taste, but this is the wine that I know exactly which friends would appreciate as a gift.

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The final bottle was that one that admittedly wasn’t for me, but that I could still appreciate. The 2015 Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG “Sei Uno” Rive di Carpesica, which I took to our beach house to enjoy with my cousin and her husband, had a hint of yeast, a touch of wet stone, and some flavors of green apples. This one wasn’t too sweet, which was an element I appreciated, but the overwhelming sense of white fruits in the glass toned the wine down for me and left me wanting something more. This was also the weekend I got to meet some of my fellow #WineStudio participants. I was a bit shy, but it was a fun evening that resulted in most of us trying a few grapes we’d never had before. But back to the prosecco. At around $15 a bottle, I will say it’s a good purchase for parties, especially since this wine would pair well with a wide range of foods. It might not be the bottle that I stock up on for everyday use, but I could see this one being a crowd pleaser, and sometimes that’s exactly what an occasion can call for.

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Still, this isn’t the end! I still have a few more wines from this session to discuss. Look for that post in February after one about wines from (*GASP*) New Jersey. Until then, pick one of these bottles to open when you’re sick of the cold and just want to relax in front of the fireplace. I’ve already recommended one to my boss, and that won’t be the last suggestion I make this year. Cheers.

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Thirsty Thursday: Celebration Sangria

Although most of my Thirsty Thursday posts are recipes I came up with off the cuff, I was recently sent two bottles from Bodega Ruca Malen of 2016 Aimé Sweet Moscato for National Sangria Day on December 20th. Made in Mendoza with 100% Muscat de Alexandria and boasting a price tag of $8.99, there’s nothing here to turn white sangria lovers off. It’s citrusy, it’s sweet, and it’s easy enough to drink at any time of day. Some of you may have read about my previous superb experience with Ruca Malen, so I was totally on board with receiving this bottle. This new collection from them is the party version of the grown up wine I previously tried and while it seems geared a bit towards millennials, if you use it in sangria, both the young and young at heart are sure to enjoy it. I made a tester glass for myself on the 20th, but I saved a majority of the bottles for Christmas Day, so I could enjoy this mixture with my family as we opened gifts. So whether you’re celebrating a food holiday, a religious holiday, or you just want to celebrate a Thursday, this wine is perfect for sharing with people you appreciate. Check out the recipe below! I tweaked the one I was sent based on what I had on hand, and you should feel free to do so too. Sangria is not serious, so have some fun with it and let me know how yours turns out. I’m going to have to make a red one next!

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Celebration Sangria

Yield: Roughly 6 full glasses

2 bottles of 2016 Aimé Sweet Moscato

2 oz. of orange liqueur (we used Grand Imperial)

1/2 an orange, juiced

1 Granny Smith apple, cut into small pieces

1 ripe pear, cut into small pieces

1/2 an orange, cut into quarter chunks

1 cup of pomegranate seeds

handful of raspberries

1. Add the moscato, orange liqueur, and the orange juice to a large pitcher. Slowly add in fruits. Place in fridge overnight or for at a minimum of 3 hours. Find a glass, fill with ice, top with sangria, and enjoy. Pour some out for everyone. 

 

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

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Thirsty Thursday: Sometimes All You Need is a Glass

I’ve been posting Thirsty Thursday posts for a while on this blog. On a day off, my mind conjures up many kinds of mixed drinks, from simple to complex. Sometimes they’re boozier and other times they are sweet enough to enjoy on a beach. However, there are times when all I want to do is open a bottle and pour something directly into a glass. This normally results in my drinking some wine. When I don’t want that, Hum botanical spirit comes in.

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I first tried this liqueur at Michael’s Cafe in Timonium. It was a dusty bottle somehow given primary real estate at the front of the bar. Never having noticed it before, I inquired about it. The bartender then reached over, grabbed a small water glass and poured a sip or two out. It smelled like the hibiscus juice I had in Mexico, then citrus, then full of herbaceous qualities. This is how it drank too. I was obsessed. It packed a punch yet the hibiscus and lime flavors made it soft enough to enjoy on its own.

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While the bottle suggests adding this to Champagne or remaking the traditional gin and tonic, I am going to stick with my title for this post and tell you to pour it over some nice ice and drink. This is a sipping spirit for gin lovers. Though I warn you to be careful since it’s 70 proof. Also, another warning: it took me forever to hunt this down after my first taste of the luxury, so be sure to check their locations on the website before running out to Total Wine and only finding disappointment. Hopefully, this will end up saving you a lot of the time I spent hunting this down. Now what are you waiting for? Go out. Find it. Drink it down.

 

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Is the Left Coast the Best Coast?

I am an East Coast girl at heart. I went to the opposite coast once, and I was not into it. There was too much traffic, too many people on juice cleanses, and way too many people trying to become actors or models. I am much more comfortable on my coast where people are always rushing around, drinking coffee, and layering up once December hits.

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However, there may be one thing I really enjoy about the West Coast…the wine. Sure, everyone says California puts out some good juice, but I’m more interested in the lively, crisp bottles I’ve found from the Northwest. Recently, I tried the 2015 Latitude 45° Pinot Noir from Left Coast Cellars. Hailing from the Willamette Valley and named after the 45th parallel which runs through the vineyard, this wine poured a soft ruby color and had aromas of maraschino cherry, smoke, and some earthiness. While those aromas may not seem like they mesh, in the glass they sang. There was a nice acid to balance out the leathery, tobacco heft to this one. It certainly wasn’t a fruit bomb of a Pinot; it had a bit of character to it. I paired it with a spinach ravioli covered in meat sauce, and although those pictures didn’t turn out well enough to include here, I promise you the wine held up against the big flavors. The look of the bottle itself was simple yet sleek, which is exactly how I picture Oregon to be. I’ll have to visit one day to confirm this. If you crave a wine that is comfortable, dependable, and yummy to boot, give this one a go.

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So, while I may not be trading in easy access to N.Y.C., Philly, or D.C. for San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, I’m willing to give the Left Coast a go. What about you? If you live in the area, you may know all that it has to offer, but if not, I suggest skipping the standard California picks and swinging up north the next time you’re in the liquor store. It’ll be worth it.

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

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Back to School and Feelin’ Cool

A few of you may know this, but I am in the process of applying to law school. Nerve-wracking, stressful, and exciting are all words that come to mind as I reflect on going through the application process. The other thing that comes up is that it also costs money. Between the holidays, applying, and actually trying to save some finances to pay for three more years in school, my wine habit has taken a hit. I am fortunate enough to receive samples, but pricey bottles stay out of my shopping cart. Now, I’m seeking out more affordable wines that are approachable and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of food. When I was offered the opportunity to try out the Domaines Paul Mas wines, I jumped at the chance. It was a test to see if affordable wines can also taste good.

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The first bottle I opened was the 2016 Côté Mas Rouge Intense. A fruity wine with a touch of tobacco, this was all cherries and dark red berries on the nose with a nice dose of acid. I tried a rosé from Côté Mas over the summer, and while the pink was decent, this wine had more complexity to it and was easily my favorite of the three I tried. Some wine bloggers I know don’t like to say “oh, this was the best one,” and while I understand this thinking because most of the wines we try have some great qualities to them, I pick favorites. If I try three wines back to back, I’m going to like on the best and I will share that with you. It might not be your favorite in the long run, but it might just help you when you’re picking out your next bottle, and that’s important to me.

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For these wines, I wanted to try them the way the typical college student would. For this wine, I paired it with Hot Pockets. Although I am a snob, I have a soft spot for frozen breading filled with pizza stuff. It was admittedly disgusting with the cheeseburger flavor, but that may have had something to do with the fact that the Hot Pocket itself was gross. Seriously, if you are also a Hot Pocket aficionado, stay away from the burger one. However, pop a pepperoni in the microwave for two minutes, and you’ll have an easy pairing that works. On its own or with this pairing, the bottle feels affordable but it is far from cheap. Over the two days I had it open, it certainly softened. So, with an SRP of $10.99, buy a couple and bring them out while watching trashy TV, or studying for an exam, or just when you need something reliable to drink on a night it. This one shouldn’t disappoint, especially since it comes in a larger bottle with more wine inside.

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Staying in the Languedoc region, the second bottle I opened was the 2016 Côté Mas Blanc Méditerranée. All citrus and tropical fruits and lemon curd, this oversized bottle was the color of leaves just as they start to turn yellow in September. The somewhat creamy, mellow impact of the wine reminded me of some of the Albariño we tried several months ago on #WineStudio. 

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Since my goal was to try these with college foods, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pair this with Ramen. I only touch this stuff on the rarest of occasions and doctor it up with some hot sauce, but the fruity quality of this wine paired surprisingly well with my lunch. I wasn’t expecting much and the fullness of the wine was still a touch too heavy to make it a perfect pairing, but it was certainly one I’d be willing to do again. Overall, it’s not the type of white wine that suits my desire for high acid whites, but it is one that I wouldn’t mind having on hand in the summertime to share with friends. At $10.99 a bottle, I might even buy a few to whip out whenever the occasion calls for something fun and fruity.

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The third and final wine I tried was the 2016 Arrogant Frog Cabernet-Merlot. Made up of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot, this was an uber smooth wine. On the nose, this reminded me of a mulled cider with some bramble berries. The taste was juicy, and while it did lack some of the complexity that the average Cabernet has, this meant it paired well with a larger variety of foods. I paired the critter wine with a real cheeseburger to much better success than with the Hot Pocket flavor. Topped with mushrooms and fontina cheese, the wine gave it a smokier edge. I tried it with and without caramelized onions, and the pairing sans onions was definitely the winner. Overall, the wine was a bit blah to be honest, but working on this one alongside a pairing helped it out immensely. The SRP is $9.99, so although it might not blow you away with layers of flavor, it will be an affordable option for anyone who wants a critter wine with a bit of dependability.

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Throughout my years of blogging, I have tried wines that I would drink every day, some I would never touch again, and a few bottles that weren’t for me that still had some real style behind them. These budget-friendly wines are not blockbusters, but they are great for parties or your average weekday wine. The two blends from Côté Mas are really where it’s at. You can buy all three for less than $40, and if that isn’t a deal, I don’t know what is. As I make this transition from work to going back to school, I’ll be keeping my eye on these options and a few of them will make their way into my regular rotation. Let me know if it makes it into yours too!

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

 

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