Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

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(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Bubbling over work

I have side gigs to help fund my travel and wine rack. One of them is working wine tastings. I had one yesterday afternoon, New Year’s Eve, at Bassin’s/MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC. And, oh darn, I had to pour bubbly! One was sparkling wine from CA the other three were veritable Champagne.

#1 Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley. This is the an estate/winery Louis Reoderer (next on the list) opened in the US. $20. It’s a sparkling wine, since it’s CA vs. France. This is roughly 60% Chard, 40% Pinot Noir. Some nice fruit notes for bubbly, especially compared to other bubblies (aka champagnes). And, at least half the cost.

#2 Louis Roederer Champagne, Brut Premier. $40. This is a blend of roughly 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier. Traditional Champagne taste. I would put it ‘medium’ toast, nice and soft.

#3 Taittinger Champagne. $40. This is a blend of roughly 40% Chardonnay, 60% of Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. Medium bubbles, soft toast taste, just rolls around the mouth and down your tongue to give you pure happiness.  I am partial because it’s one of my favorites.

#4 Comtes de Champagnes, Taittinger, Blanc de Blanc 2006. $129 (yes, that price is correct). 100% Chardonnay. Very nice taste all around, and while it was definitely a better taste than the prior 3, it would be tough (for me) to spend that much. However, 3 people did buy bottles. All personal choice.

Cheers to 2017!

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Blinder than Blind

Wine tasting on weekends are some of the best things to attend.  Recently a wine shop in DC presented a blind tasting.  They admitted when we got there that maybe they could have made it a bit easier and made it one region, one varietal or narrowed it down in some fashion.  Why?  Because we felt like we were taking the test for a Master Somm.  It was awesome.

IMG_3693We had one bubbly, 3 whites and 3 reds.  This store sells mostly old world wines and everything we tasted was sold in house.  It was tough for me because I lean new world.

All I can say is I got a huge F on this test.  I was writing/spelling wrong at some points because I was confused and failing so badly! I was close on some, region-wise.

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Does that mean I need to take it again and taste more wine?  I was definitely blinder than blind is this one.

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Wild Horses

Over the past several months I have started a part-time job as a wine taster/pourer.  So, 1-2 times a week I get to go to a variety of locations and be that person who pours different wines for the customers to sample, while of course sampling them myself to be educated about them to properly inform the shoppers.  It’s a win-win situation — learn more about the wine and talk to people about it!  It occurred to me the other day — why don’t I write a blog about all my tastings?  It has to start sometime, right?

Ok, so Friday night I was doing a tasting for Wild Horse Winery, which is located in the Central Coast of CA.  Very nice, affordable wines.  I had 3 varietals.

1) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Oaked, but not overkill on it.  Very smooth, green apple, pear and vanilla notes.  Perfect with fish.  Price is around $15-$18.

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2) Wild Horse Pinot Noir.  Light Pinot, smooth, had both fruit and earth notes, with some mushroom in there.  Pretty nice.  Would pair well with salmon, grilled vegetables, chicken.  Price is around $16-$20.  (for some reason they don’t have this one on their site).

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3) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Hello happiness, where have you been?  The body, the flavor…cherry, berry, cocao.  WOW!  Wow.  Go find one, buy it, open it, drink it.  Would be great served with a pizza made on the grill or some steak.

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If you go pick any of these up or have had them in the past, let me know what you think.  Cheers!

 

 

Annual Champagne Expo

Last year I accidentally found out about an annual champagne event that takes place at a wine/liquor store in DC when I was just walking by the store.  It’s Magruder’s Annual Champagne Expo that features 15-20 bubblies for you to sample/taste/enjoy/leave with or without.  People call in advance to find out when this event takes place, bring their own glasses, and have quite the afternoon.

This year there were five table and a total of 18 champagnes.  When you walk in, you get your tasting card for the vendors to mark and you’re off!

Table 1

Trouillard Brut — creamy

Roland Champion Aramis — ‘chunkier,’ earthy, mineral, (ugh)

Roland Champion Grand Cru Brut — softer

Roland Champion Grand Cru Rose — unique, nice

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Table 2

Perrier-Jouet Brut — apple, citrus, light, crisp (on sale for $32.99 — I know this because I left with a bottle).  The box is great!  White case.

Mumm Cordon Rouge — less fun

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Nicolas Feuillatte Brut — marginal

Domaine Carneros Brut — NICE (on sale for $22.99 — yes, proud owner)

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Table 3

Laurent-Perrier Brut — smooth yet sharp, bottled 3 years

Delamotte Brut — chardonnay, good, but not great

Schramsbert Blanc de Blanc — sweet, Napa

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Table 4

Andre Clouet Brut Rose — NO!

Voirin Jumel Blanc de Blanc Cramant — unique, nice, 100% Chardonnay

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Andre Clouet Grand Reserve Brut — GREAT!  #1

Chapuy Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc — 100% Chardonnay, ugh (keep in mind these are my own tastes)

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Table 5

Ruinart Blanc de Blanc — ok

Ruinart Rose — smooth, perfect, if only it wasn’t (on sale for) $79

Pommery Brut — high carbonation, true champagne

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So come the end, the taste buds were happy and overwhelmed, I left with two amazing bottles and learned more about many bubblies.  Until next year.

International Pinot Noir Tasting

For Thanksgiving we opted to do an international Pinot Noir tasting.  Since the varietal is one that has been rumored to pair well with turkey, we thought it  would be fun to see how different country’s respective grapes compared.  We went for three continents — get everybody to join the party!

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Hob Nob, 2011, Languedoc, France:  Smooth, oh so smooth.  I could taste chocolate.  Not a great pairing for turkey, but we took one for the team and still enjoyed it!  Hand me some chocolate covered pretzels and this wine…oh yes! Very reasonable — about $10-$12.

Nobilo Icon, 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand:  More acidic than Hob Nob, much better pairing for turkey, traditional Pinot taste.  I say that as nothing jumped out about it but still very nice.  About $15.

Schug, 2010, Carneros, California:  Same as above…more acidic than Hob Nob, much better pairing for turkey.  Taste of cherries then a bit of smoke at end.  About $17-$20.

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Definitely a fun element to add to Thanksgiving dinner and it was great listening to all the comments at the table on people’s specific tastes, likes, distinctions, characteristics they took from each wine.  Go Pinot!

Wine Class/School

Last week I has my first, of five, classes with the Capital Wine School for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award.  Going to school for wine?  What more could one ask?  There are a variety of people in the class, from wine distributors looking to learn about products, caterers, retirees pursuing their passions of wine and getting background for potential work in wine stores and others of us just learning more about wine for kicks.

During the first session, we learned about various elements of wine, from environment to storage.  But the primary focus was the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine.  Before you taste the wine, you have to analyze several aspects of it, with specific, pre-identified terms for each level.

Appearance — clarity, intensity, color.  For this, you always want to have the wine against a white background.

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Nose — condition, intensity, aroma characteristics (you use the characteristics below).  Swirling is optional, personal preference, but what do you have to lose?

Next, the fun part — tasting the wine!  They like to call it palate. There are several areas to determine/analyze here — sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavor characteristics, finish.

For the Aroma and flavor characteristics, there are many of them to base it/them on:

Floral/fruit — floral, green fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit

Spice/Vegetable — underripeness, herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice

Oak/other — simplicity/neutrality, autolytic, dairy, oak, kernel, animal, maturity, mineral

Conclusions — quality

What was interesting to learn while doing this is that you have a blank palate — you do not lean a certain way.  It is what is present in the wine.  You might not like the wine, but it’s the flavor, aromas, characteristics, x,y,z that are there.  You analyze that wine to present it to the innocent bystander who is looking for a ‘wine that will pair with ‘this” or a wine with ‘x flavors.’

We tasted 6 wines last week.  They provide you with spit/dump buckets and water so you could keep going strong.

#1  2012 Mara White Grass Sauvignon Blanc

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#2 2010 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay

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#3  2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

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#4 2011 Henry Fessy Morgon Cru Beaujolais

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#5  2010 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon

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#6 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Mourvedre (Monastrell)

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As mentioned earlier, it was tough to say, ‘this was a good wine,’ because there are a few that I put personal notes about what NOT buy at the store.  But it is so neat to start learning about what goes into what sommeliers learn when they provide you all the info on the grapes we enjoy.

Class #2 is later this week.  So, more to come.

Aussie Wine Tasting

Last night there was a call from Down Under to taste their wine.  One must answer!  How can you go wrong?  It was taking place at Bin 201 in Annapolis, MD.  For $10 you taste(d) 8 wines and then you could apply those 10 bucks towards the purchase of a bottle.  And, if more than one person goes, you can combine your ‘credits.’  The two of us who went walked out with a ‘free’ bottle of wine.  Score!  They also serve cheese and crackers at the tasting.

So the night began:

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#1:  Pewsey Vale Riesling.  That was originally to be the 2nd in the tasting but turned out to be best as first as some previous tasters decided the notes made it best to go first.  Nice and dry.  You’re not drinking sugar.  The nose was flowery, the taste was lime.

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#2:  Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc.  Hand me the green peppers.  Or, if your recipe calls for some and you’re out, you could easily sip some of this instead.  Wow, very poignant, yet nice, nose and taste of them.  Also had some grapefruit notes.

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#3:  Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir.  Yes, it’s from New Zealand but they are pretty close together, yet so far away from here.  There was a light note of cranberries in the nose.   For taste, I found some ash and bit of cranberry.

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#4:  Misfit Brujeria.  I felt it was ‘thick and chewy’ and couldn’t pick up a flavor.  If I had to put something to it, the most I could say is chocolate, but that’s me.

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#5:  Tournon Mathilda.  Light wine with some eucalyptus on the nose.  Also carried the eucalyptus in the taste with a hint of jam.

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#6:  Tir Na N’og ‘Old Vines’ Grenache.   What a nose — chocolate and molasses.  Then it was like drinking molasses cookies with a hint of black licorice.

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#7:  Yalumba “The Scribbler” Shiraz/Cabernet.  I love their Shiraz/Viognier blend so was excited about this.  I could not pick up a taste from it though, unfortunately.

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#8:  Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon.  The most I can give is mint!

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And the entire menu/notes from Bin 201 were interesting.  I always try to sniff and taste before reading these to avoid the ‘brainwash.’  The Aussie tasting was great and can’t wait to see/taste what’s next.

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Whole Food(s) & Wine

Had to get that great Before & After thought in there again as much as possible.  So a couple weeks ago, I saw this amazing sign outside of the Whole Foods in Glover Park/Georgetown (DC) for their Wednesday night $5 for 5 wines and 5 food bites.  What, what, did I read that wrong?  Really, I know I just walked out of the gym, I’m tired, dehydrated, want some food (and likely wine) but what did that say?  But I did read it right!  Every Wednesday from 5:30-7pm they feature 5 wines (in two ounce pours) accompanied with a nice snack for five bucks!  Whoa!  Bring…it…on!  I am proud, yet almost ashamed, that I finally (only finally) made it down there this week.

And the night began.  So as the first timer, I walk in, see wine in the non-wine section (aka produce) and see people with glasses and paper.  Of course I have to ask who/what/when/why/where??  Deer in headlights.  Simple…go to the express lane, pay five bucks and get the (take home!) wine glass (that you can bring back, or any wine glass, for a dollar off…four dollars!) and summary/rundown sheet for the five tasting stations.  Money paid, game plan set.

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Station #1:  Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier.  Ok, every nose and palette is different.  It smelled like swiss cheese to me…yes, you read that right, but oh, oh, oh, down so smooth, with some berries then smoke, in a nice, clean sense.  The even better thing?  It was on sale from it’s normal X price (don’t what that is) to $10, then we got an extra buck off!  I CAN NOT wait to go to South Africa next year to taste this stuff on site!  This was served with breaded eggplant (couldn’t have it because of cheese…heard it was good).

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Station #2:  Another visit to Sugarloaf with the Sugarloaf Mountain Pinot Grigio.  They are just north of DC and offer a great escape for a day.  Crisp, citrus-y with a hint of peach.  A great summer white, cool and refreshing!  Retail price around $17 or so.  This was served with shrimp prepared in coconut oil.

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Station #3:  Take me to Italy for some Cesanese Lazio Volepetti.  Nice medium bodied-red.  I kept trying and trying, and trying and trying to nail down a nose or flavor and couldn’t do it.  It was a nice wine.  I drank it, I would drink it again, but I’m only writing home about it for my blog.  Apparently they couldn’t keep it in stock after the tasting.  I bought the bottles of #1, not for the price (score!) but for the wine/taste proper.  Each one to their own…more for me!  Side note, retail price for this one is around $12 or so.  This was served with salami, (hard parmesan), and french bread.

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Station #4:  Parlez vous francais?  Avez-vous un peu de vin?  Merci beacoup.  Yes, I speak French and I had French wine.  Rose, to be exact.  We tasted Aime Roquesante Rose.  If you want the site in French, check it out.  Pink is about the most I could say about it.  It was a dry vs. a sweet rose which was nice but I couldn’t equate it to anything, really, flavor-wise.  Would be good to have handy as a light wine for summer.  It did have a cool bottle, as in the non-uniform shape.  Overall, it was nothing to write home about again just good info to write (on) a blog about.  Retail price around $13 or so.  And as I note this, I must say again everybody has totally totally different wine taste, go please go try it!  We had roasted chicken and rice with this one.

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Station #5:  Pop! Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux.  Bubbly.  Great way for the tour end.  Nice fizz, nice light taste.  Retail price around $14 or so.  This was served with a little protein smoothie with huge chunks of delicious peaches.

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This was yet another great was to just learn about new wines and expand the palette.  And for five bucks?  Can’t go wrong.  Happy happy hour!  And again, I am giving my tasting notes.  Everybody has different tastes and can like different wines.  Go out to your local store(s) for tastings or buy a bottle to share with friends.  Have a tasting party.  You will only learn more by exploring and socializing.  Sip on, sip on.

Saturday Wine Tasting

Saturday is a great day.  It’s the weekend, (hopefully) you don’t have to work, and many wine shops have tastings.  It provides the opportunity to sample a new wine — you can explore new regions, new varietals, new everything.  You tempt your palette and might realize there is a whole world of grapes out there you never knew about!

Right down the street from me I visited Cork & Fork this weekend for their wonderful sampling.  We had five to enjoy.

#1 Kaltern Pinot Grigio.  *Note – this is the closest site I could find to link to for info because they don’t have their one.  Pretty sharp and heavier than most Pinot Grigio.  Very good.  You could serve this alone, with appetizers or chicken, shrimp or pasta for dinner.

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#2  Bebe Sparkling Rose (scroll to bottom).  While seeing it in the bottle I had my doubts about the sparkle.  But once it’s poured, wow.  Those bubbles were definitely there.  The first thing I tasted was strawberries.  After that ‘just’ berries.  Perfect for summer.  And, it’s in a great bottle that doesn’t have a traditional champagne cork, you just flip it off, so you can easily re-use the bottle for olive oil in the kitchen or something of the like.

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#3  Barnard Griffin 2013 Rose of Sangiovese.  Need to serve very cold.  Crisp, fresh with citrus notes.  This might be a bit too heavy to drink just alone.  Would definitely need something to pair it with, even if just some simple appetizers.

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#4 Les Allies Sauvignon Blanc.  *Note – no site available to provide more info.  This white was so light, its color was close to water vs. some other whites (Chardonnays) that are very dark yellow.  Crazy how clear it was.  All I can say about it is give me a peach, then a peach, then can you please hand me another peach.  Very nice!

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#5  Maestrale Barbera D’Alba.  Save the best for last — red.  Start with some currants then finish off with some black licorice.  Interesting how the flavors changed as it went down/through the palette.  Very, very nice red.

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Another great wine tasting to expand knowledge of wine, taste new varietals and see what else is out there to fill the wine rack.  I love going to these because I have my love of Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah and I have become so much more educated about what is out there with a simple sip.  All is takes is a walk down the street or a couple mile drive to expand the love of wine.  Sip on my friends, sip on.