You know that phrase ‘Every picture tells a story’ ?

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This one just about sums up an entire weekend.

And oh if you could have tasted this wine, this Pinot Noir so full of itself and yet as unpretentious as they come, true to its roots, it’s heritage and the complete embodiment of all things Willamette Pinot Noirs can offer. Pinot from Oregon is one of my most treasured experiences. When it’s good, it can send you to the moon and this one left me soaring. I was truly sad to see the last drop fall from it’s lip.

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This bottle, a 2005 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from the oldest and highest vines that Panther Creek Winery owns, and 2005 was considered a fairly traditional year for growing in Oregon; no scorching heat like the area experienced the two previous years, but a more normal pattern of sun and rain that brought good flavor development to the grapes along with good tannins and a balanced alcohol level. Temperance Hill wines are aged in oak for about 16 months before bottling and the Pinot Noir is chock full of a deep dark blue smokey flavor pouring in from the strong scent of earthy tar. It’s a medium bodied wine but smooth and supple, with complex tannins and acidity, lots of ripe cherry and a bit of licorice.

Bottom line- it was delicious, and on a sun soaked screen porch overlooking the bobbing boat, the rippled lake and washing down grilled pork shoulder with lots of extras, it was as complimentary to its surroundings as a wine could be. A good Pinot Noir should set you back somewhere in the $30-$60 range, this one falls right in the middle and is worth every penny.

Wine Details:
Vintage: 2005
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Winery: Panther Creek Cellars, Temperance Hill
Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Price Point: ~$35


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The standard Pavao Vinho Verde is no stranger to the Nutz, or my lips. I love it’s slightly effervescent easy sipping, a light and refreshing summer flavor that isn’t heavy or overwhelming or even tough on the pocketbook. A superb sipping wine for a hot day if there ever was one.

So when I spotted this bottle of Pavao Vinho Verde Rosado, I was immediately intrigued. See, I love a good Rose, but NOT one that tastes syrupy and sweet like a strawberry jam. That taste has a place all it’s own, and it would be on my toast, not in my wine glass, and the wine merchant assured me this bottle was no Boone’s Farm. With a comforting price range (complete with 20% off due to a sale), it was a no brainer.

He was right. The pale rosy pink wine seemed to shimmer as I poured it from my glass and there was the tiny taste of bubbles on the first sip which was a little bit cherry, a little bit strawberry and a nice undertone of almond. The wine is very light and refreshing, just like it’s pale green relative and a good dry Rose to add to the ever-expanding collection of good pink bottles for the upcoming warm days. A steal in the $10 and Under Category.

NV Pavao Vinho Verde Rosado
Agrela, Santo Tirso, Portugal
10% alcohol, approx. $8


I first met Viognier in 2006 in our Wine Professionals certification course and I fell in love, like head over heels, can’t stop thinking about it, flush and flirty knocked out of normal in love with this wine. The powerful one-two punch of floral and fruit covers your tongue with a rich lush flavor; it’s a dry wine but it’s liquid gold, an experience of tropical sensations, a drink that engages your senses. I’ve been ga-ga over it ever since and it’s my top selection on the first nice day of Spring when I can sip a glass on the patio, the soft breeze around me and the earth bursting out green at my feet.

My very first viognier was a classic Condrieu from the Northern Rhone; it literally danced in my mouth. Other subsequent bottles were just as gorgeous, delectable in their own way but with a more manageable price point. A true Condrieu won’t be cheap, but it won’t strip your wallet either. The dollars that pass through your hands will be well worth it, but there is so much more to love about this lush white grape without going in to debt.

The viognier grape, just for a smidge of history, was considered extinct as near as 1965, and was endangered in the 1980’s. It’s a difficult grape to cultivate as it can be prone to powdery mildew, can have low and unpredictable yields and needs to be picked when fully ripe in order to have all it’s aromas and flavors fully developed. Two strains of viognier grape have been identified; the ‘Old World’ that is primarily found in the Condrieu region, and a ‘New World’ strain that grows in the Languedoc, among other areas. They will produce remarkably different wines.

The viognier grape has made quite the comeback, now being planted more extensively around the world since the ’90’s, primarily in California, Australia- heavily in the Yalumba area where it is often blended with shiraz- with Chile and Argentina staking down the viognier vines in South America. This bottle I had- a 2008 Miguel Torres Tormenta Viognier from Chile, opened on a truly gorgeous spring day in Minnesota, was an organic offering from that country. I’ve been indulging in California viognier and felt it worthy to step to another continent to explore this treasured white.

The wine was an eye-opening change from the rich and lush California viognier. My first sip was so different from what I expected that I set the glass down for a moment, pondering the bottle in front of me. With more swirling, and time to allow the wine to open up, it began to offer up it’s fruits- ripe white peach and crisp pear with hints of pineapple and papaya- but with a distinctively different approach, almost minerally and far more noteworthy of a chenin blanc or a very dry pinot grigio, pulling at my mouth with slight acidity but also leaving me flush with that viognier spirit, the one that makes me dream of white sand, hammocks and heartbreaking blue skies touched with sunlight. A well-worthy side road from the norm, the chilean viognier was full of flavor that was far more subtle but still grasping the essence of the grape. With a price tag below $15, it’s a terrific option for those of us helplessly in love.

Well I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth; it just seems that way and I profusely apologize. I blame the economy. That’s a pretty safe fallback, but in truth, it’s totally the reason why this blog has been silent for so long. Wine costs money, and I haven’t been spending much on wine because those dollars are needed elsewhere. A bottle to review here and there simply got lost in the shuffle.

We did have a recent Grape Nutz event, but there are no pictures to prove it. Just trust me. It was grand, and resplendent with good wine, good company and the ever-important good food. I mean, you can’t go wrong when the first bottle opened upon the guests’ arrival heralds the familiar yellow label of Veuve Clicqout champagne. The presence of such goodness always bodes well for the remainder of the evening.

There was another oh-so-light sparkler that night; the Cresta Azul Cava. The blue-label one on the right.


The Vino de Aguja Afrutado, from Catalogne Spain, a blend of macabeo, moscatel, parellada and xarel-lo was fruity, soft and almost shimmered; it was delightfully spritzy, fresh and invigorating. It was like a good spring rain, or a cool drink on a hot day. And it was ridiculously easy to drink. Way too easy.

We were able to try two wines from the Pecorino grape. Pecorino is a white wine grape that brough back from the brink of extinction and thought to be the unproven parent to all white Pinot varieties. It’s a thin-skinned grape with a medium yield and is somewhat inconsisten from harvest to harvest, ripening early in the season sometime in September. The two bottles we sampled held vastly different flavors and were beautiful representations of the nature of this grape. The 2006 Barone di Valforte, Abruzzo was full-bodied with moderate acidity and a whisper of minerality; it was yellow fruits with some ginger and white pepper notes, and also nut flavors like almond and hazelnut.  The second variation, a 2006 Aires Pecorino, Colline Pescaresi, Ciavolich was the richer of the two, golden yellow with the pronounced taste of ripe peaches, elegant floral notes and definite hazelnut qualities. The taste was smooth and velvety, rich with honey.

The other white we sampled was Molly Dooker’s only white varietal, ‘The Violinist’ a 2008 Verdelho from McClaren Vale in Australia.


It was fresh and lively, aromatic with the ripe taste of pineapple and citrus with a creamy easy texture. It’s definitely a good summer wine.

There was a dessert white too, which I bravely partook despite my known disdain for the mouth clenching sweetness of them. It was a 2004 Chateau Fayau Cadillac (not like the car…more like CA-de-YAY)  from the Gironde in France, a blend of 90% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. Although it was not a true Sauternes, it held it’s own against the acclaimed dessert wines of the area, showing a bold brilliant gold color with a characteristic botrytis nose of honeyed apricots and spice alongside the ripest peach flavor. It had a rich and lustrous taste in the mouth, but alas, was still much too sweet for this girls tongue. Other Nutz who love the sweet stuff were swooning.

The reds were well represented too. We had a Red Guitar Tempranillo Garnacha blend that I’ve had before. It’s a good balance of the two grapes in a reasonable bottle, but nothing special to write home about. There was a beautiful Blaufrankisch, also known as Lemberger, a medium bodied red wine with low tannins and light acidity. The grape originated in Austria but some of it’s best representation these days is coming from Washington State in the Yakima Valley. We sampled the 2004 Facelli Winery Lemberger.

lbl-lemberger-07The wine is a lovely reddish purple with warm tastes of plums and raspberries, a short finish that tastes a bit like a sour cherry. This is the second Lemberger we’ve had at a Nutz gathering. The very first meeting where we convened we shared a Shooting Star Lemberger that impressed me a great deal. There’s lots more to be found with this delightful red.

The last red was a 2005 Dos Por Ciente, First Drop from South Australia, a blend of 98% Shiraz and 2% Albarino- a most unusual combination. The presence of the Albarino, like another of Australia’s common blends of Shiraz and Viognier, helps to soften the edges of the red grape and offer a bit of fruitiness to the dark berry profile. This wine has a strong cherry nose with a soft tannin that isn’t at all heavy and a hearty blackberry flavor. To sip it with a sweet bite of strawberry made the Albarino shine; a bite of something more savory brought out the Shiraz. You wouldn’t think that 2% of something would even be noticeable, but we were all pleasantly surprised to discover that we could all taste it with the right accompaniment.

Hopefully I’ll be a little more verbose on the blog in the coming months; it isn’t for lack of desire. I’m wishing to be drinking and enjoying the Nutz far more than I am. Damn economy.


The original posting of this bottle was slightly more than a year ago on my food blog, Kate in the Kitchen. Nikki from the Nutz introduced me to this at her house one chilly Fall evening and I promptly bought three bottles, one of which I shared with other wine lovers right away. The other two have hung out happily in the basement ever since, and I think have improved over time.

This is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The initial flavor on the tongue was one of deep rich black cherry, sweet and lush. The merlot mellows it out and the cab offers up its tannins to give the wine a nice body without being too overpowering. Syrah gives it some depth and a sense of earthiness. It’s a dark inky reddish purple with just a hint of oak on the finish and a superb wine for a cool evening. It would pair well with meats and a dry aged cheese such as Manchego. It also matches perfectly with chocolate!!!

I think the price point is in the $20-25 range but don’t quote me. Nikki sold it to me wholesale last year.

Quick Note too- Byerlys is having a Wine Sale starting November 6th and going until the 22nd. All bottles, all varieties are buy one, get one half off. Check your local Byerlys for more details. The time to buy is now!!

Petit Grealo 2002,
Sero Costers Del Segre Subzona Artesa
Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend
Estate bottled Spanish red wine

From Grape Nutz member Randy, who works at the Woodbury Cellars location:

If you are interested in tasting and learning about wine(s) feel free to come to any or all of these wine seminars. They are all FREE except the Top 8 on Dec. 13. Last year during the Top 8 we tasted a $175 Hermitage. 🙂 These are held at the Woodbury Cellars from 12n-1p and 1p-2p.

If you want to eat before or after the seminar, there is an Asian Buffet, Famous Daves, Acapulco Mexico, Panera, Leann Chinn and O’Malleys Irish Pub, all within 100-400 yds of the store.

Nov. 8th – Any Port In A Storm – plus Chocolate Extraviganza info and in-store pairings!
This seminar always draws a big crowd – don’t miss this opportunity to taste and learn about one of the worlds most popular wines.

Nov. 15th – Meritage and blends
Taste why more than one grape can make fantastic wines. Reds and whites!

Nov. 22nd – Thanksgiving Wines
What to have with the feast! Recipe ideas too.

Nov. 29th – Sandwich Wines
One of the most popular seminars of the year. Most attendees bring a sandwich and we’ll help you pair wines with it. A wide variety of wines to taste!

Dec 6th – Wine Lunch

Dec. 13th – Top 8
Taste the top wines of the year in 8 categories. The only seminar we charge for all year (but it is SO worth it!).

Dec. 20th – Holiday Wines
Whether you’re entertaining or just having a dinner for two, we’ll offer some tasty treats for the Holidays.

Dec. 27th – Bubbles!
One of the years most effervescent tastings! Bubbly from around the world!

What a way to wine!

Yeah, it’s almost Halloween and I’m posting about last month’s gathering. We all know that I tend towards slacker sometimes, I admit it. Now get over it.

I took a chance and hosted the September Nutz at my house- a far drive for anyone in the Twins- but still I was rewarded with almost a dozen delightful oenophiles who descended on my house with wine in hand. Copious wine in hand, I might add. I decided we would do some blind tasting so there were about 10 bottles all carefully wrapped up in brown bags and we took turns sipping, sampling and dissecting flavors.

We started the evening, as usual, with sparklers. Plenty of sparklers.

I have to say though, if I could have just sat and sipped this bubbly all evening, I would have deemed the event a smashing success. This was one of the prettiest pinkest and frilliest sparklers I have met recently and the color in my glass was almost too pretty to sip. But you know me, like that stopped me?? What-Evuh! It was so crisp and light and refreshing- a smattering of yeasty goodness with a fresh fruity mouth. The perlage was absolutely gorgeous, and so active that we all had to marvel it in our raised glasses.

We had a fair amount of red and white, but it being a rather cool early Fall evening, the tendencies definitely leaned toward the red.

I probably broke the blind testing rule by offering the Greener Planet Tempranillo-Garnacha blend but I’m just not that inclined to follow convention, we know that, and besides, it’s a Southern Hemisphere offer. That’s kinda my weakness. That and it was in my forever-favorite price point of under $15.00. It was also really, really good. Tha Matzin Old Vines Zin was standard OV Zin….killer hearty red with a ton of flavor and gutsy chutzpah. A glass of that with a tiny wedge of really dark chocolate and I would be yours for the asking. Well, to an extent.

The Pinotage was a delighful surprise that everyone loved, and Gail guessed correctly that it was South African. The Merlot, although from Argentina and not a domestic, still did nothing to really raise my hair follicles. I’m not against Merlot, especially from Argentina as I have had a few really delicious bottles of it, but it’s one of those wines that is either stellar or it’s superbly disappointing. It rarely has a middle ground and this one, as I said, didn’t excite me much.

This Dolcetto, rusty red and as forward as a young Italian man, did raise the ol’ hair on the neck.

And gave me the resolve to explore more of this offering. This and Barbera are a few reds that I’ve had limited experience with but really wish to change that. Every time I have had one I have been left impressed.

One of the best choices of the night was Nicole’s homemade wine.

Nicole owns a nice chunk of land in Buffalo and last year I offered muscle and sweat to help her plant the first of several plots of grape vines for her future winery. While these fruit wines were not a result of those vines, they were delicious and flavorful, and a really nice treat to have. The apricot wine was so subtle and wonderfully flavored; we all agreed that on a hot day in July, this would be a dangerously easy wine to drink. And to make you fall down. I was very glad that Nicole joined us, not just because she brought her terrific wines, but since she’s happily expecting Baby #2, she’s not indulging so the trip was purely social for her and it’s always nice to have her around.

As per the norm, Randy supplied the bulk of the guests bringing out not only his totally hip and cool daughter Doni but two co-workers as well who are now fully initiated into all things Grape Nutz. And Chuck made an appearance, always a good thing as he is so social and engaging. Nikki arrived later in the evening but with plenty of time to sample before our curiousity forced us to unveil all the offerings.

The best part?? No one took any wine home, and yikes did I score! I had to freeze several selections for cooking use because, well as much of a wine lover as I am, I would totally turn the corner to a dribbling incoherent lush if I had to consume all that leftover wine by myself. One bottle of bubbly sits content in the fridge for a future occasion- thanks Doni!! I love Cava!- and my cooking prowess in the near future will be greatly enhanced by my chilled stash. What?!!? You’ve never heard of freezing wine?? Gads…..do this: Clean out your ice cube trays well, then pour leftover wine into them. It won’t freeze solid but it will get hard enough to then transfer into a plastic bag. Throw a few cubes or spoonfuls into whatever dish you desire. In my house, as I am the only wine drinker, it’s the best option besides opening a great bottle to splash into the pot and then attempting to consume the rest without going blind.

Onwards and upwards Nutz! The holidays are coming and our meetings may be limited. Drop me an email if you want an impromptu wine appreciation night.