Wine Dictionary: #1.5 Earthy

It’s wine term time!  Mainly because I need something to keep me occupied for a few minutes before the Jeopardy! online test begins!  It’s supposed to start at 8pm and I’m supposed to be able to login 30min prior to the start of the test.  It’s 7:42pm and I’m getting an error message that says I’m too early.  The Jeopardy! people might be good at trivia, but apparently they suck at math and basic time telling skills.  Anyway…

Earthy – A term used to describe aromas and flavors that have a certain soil-like quality, that is, with organic qualities like “barnyard,” “forest floor,” “merde,” and tree bark.”  May be associated with brettanomyces but can also result from oak aging or the nature of specific grapes.  Mourvedre, for instance, imparts a characteristic earthy aroma.  A bit of earthiness can be appealing; too much makes the wine course.

I had to look up some of the words in the definition.  Like “merde” which, wait for it, means “shit” or “crap” in French.  It is also listed as “dung” if you want the rated G definition.  Umm…so far I’m thinking I don’t want anything that tastes like barnyard shit in my mouth.  Just a personal preference…

Brettanomyces – a genus of molds (family Moniliaceae) that are sometimes included in the genus Candida.  Wait what?  Seriously?  No…I must investigate further.  Thank you Merriam Webster, but allow me to find a more reputable source.  Wikipedia here I come!   Brettanomyices is a non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae, and is often colloquially referred to as “Brett“.  Ok, still not sounding appealing, but I can call it Brett.  I feel like I’m more ok with it because we’re on a more familiar nickname basis.

Mourvedre is a red wine grape variety in case you were curious.  I was.

Let’s hope wine terminology or grape growing regions are part of the Jeopardy! test!!!

2010 Garnet Gracenote Carneros/Sonoma County Pinot Noir



Wine Club Notes:

The name of this wine was inspired by composer Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach.

In the world of music, a grace note is an ornament or embellishment to a composition that’s “not only useful, but indispensable.  They connect the notes; they give them life. They emphasize them, and illustrate the sentiments, be they sad or merry.  The best melody without them may seem obscure and meaningless.”

In the world of wine, the concept that can be applied to the specific grapes utilized, the type of vessels used for aging, and the length of aging prior to bottling and release.  FOr the 2010 Gracenote Pinot Noir, winemaker Reed Renaudin selected grapes from two vineyards in the Carneros area of Sonoma County, and then aged the cuvee in a mix of French and Hungarian oak barrels.

The wine is perfectly balanced, nicely concentrated, and both floral and fruitful.  In a word, it’s a wine that truly is inspired.

My Thoughts:

I tried this one while at my mom’s house for Christmas.  My brother was furiously cooking Christmas dinner and my mother and I were furiously drinking wine and watching him move through the kitchen as if conducting an orchestra.

I picked up very subtle scents from the wine that I couldn’t quite place.  It was hard to tell with the aromas of bacon and braised red cabbage swirling through the air as I swirled wine in my glass.  It was very light tasting at first.  I was thrown off and a bit disappointed because I was expecting a fuller bodied Pinot Noir.  Then is snuck up on me.  Rich notes of cherry and spice with a pleasant subtle finish.  Nothing overpowering here.  Just enough flavor in the middle to make you say, Oh!  Not bad!  Not bad at all!

On a scale of “this tastes like piss” to “oops, I just drank the whole bottle” I would give this a “We emptied this bottle and it paired well with the 2010 San/Gio Sangiovese that we emptied shortly after it.” Would I buy it again?  Maybe…maybe not.  I don’t love it.  I don’t dislike it.  It was good at the moment.  Maybe not memorable enough.

Final Grade: B


Malbec and Cider and Moscato! Oh My!


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I know, I know.  It’s been way too long since I’ve posted a review.  Not to fear, I have been drinking wine steadily.  I have just been unable to post about them.  So this post will be a bit different.  I am going to briefly highlight a few wines that were good enough and/or memorable enough to remember over the last couple of weeks.  So here they are, in no particular order:


JC van Staden 2012 Malbec

This came from  This was a smooth, not overly complex Malbec that was exceptionally easy to drink.  I was expecting a more intense flavor profile from this wine, but was pleasantly surprised by the subtle tones that would come through with every sip.  I drank this over two evenings while catching up on tv shows that I had DVR’d.  At 13.5% I’d say a great buy!


DLC Ciderworks Scrumpy – Hard Cider Estate Bottled

This is a fabulously smooth, non-carbonated hard cider from a local cidery in Jefferson, MD.  For horror film fans, the orchard and cidery are footsteps away from Burkittsville, MD of Blair Witch Project fame.  And yes, the little town of Burkittsville is creepy as fuck.  Go ahead, drive through and tell me you don’t get a weird feeling.  Anyway…this light, refreshing hard cider is reminiscent of an exceptionally well-made unfiltered apple juice, but with a healthy kick to it.  I polished this off in one night while doing research for my final project for my documentary photography class on photography of abandoned mental hospitals.  And yes, by “doing research” I mean “accidentally getting drunk while watching DVR’d episodes of Ghost Hunters.”  It was the Peoria, IL episode!  Great episode chronicling an abandoned hospital paired with a great, smooth hard cider.  The whole evening was very fall themed.  So take your pumpkin spice latte and stick it.  This is what fall is all about.  Only 9%, but I love this orchard/cidery, and the cloudy, crisp, clean tasting Scrumpy absolutely made my evening.  It comes in an adorable little glass jug, which just gives it a few more bonus points to make up for the low alcohol content.  I’m pretty sure the jug was meant to be a single serving.  I’ll be visiting and picking up more.


Semilla Moscato – Sierra Foothills 2012 by Jessica Tomei

It’s pink?  What?! Are you sure this is a Moscato?  Ok, typically I find Moscatos to be far too sweet for me.  This one was a bit dryer than the average Moscato making it very refreshing and easy to drink.  This rapidly disappeared one evening while I was putting slides together for a presentation.  This would be a great addition to a warm summer evening sitting out on the back porch and watching the sunset.  12.6% ABV, this offering also came from  I would definitely add this to my to order again from Naked Wines.

Orchid Cellar Lumberjack

Orchid Cellar Winery was one of our stops on our winery/meadery/cidery/brewery tour over Memorial Day weekend.  When we pulled into the driveway of Orchid Cellar we thought we had made a wrong turn as we approached someone’s home.  Nope!  We were in the right spot.  Their tasting room is right inside the rear entrance to the home and gave it a nice warm, welcoming atmosphere as we were guided through the winery’s tasty offerings.  The mother/son duo were incredibly knowledgable and hospitable during our visit.  Their dog even came out to say hello and play a bit.

Winery Background:
Orchid Cellar Winery is located in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains in Middletown, MD just between Frederick and Hagerstown. With a few acres under vines, the view here is picturesque. At Orchid Cellar, we are focused on bringing history and tradition together with innovative ideas and technologies to produce the finest quality wines, producing Maryland’s premier meads and traditional Merlots.”

Tasting Notes:
A beautifully deep, golden color, this mead, or more specifically, honey apple wine, greets you with strong aromas of fresh honey and peppery spices.  I think Lumberjack is the perfect name for this because the flavors twist themselves together into a soothing woodsy flavor.  The first tastes that come across are of honey with a slight hint of apple before being taken over by a spicy warming taste and sensation.  Usually meads are way too sweet for me after about a half a glass, but the spiciness of this one definitely helps to balance that out.  At 16-18% it packs a pretty powerful punch and is definitely made for sipping.  Being bottled in 375ml bottles also encourages a more relaxed enjoyment.

This would be best enjoyed on a cold evening in front of a fire.  Perhaps even after a long day of lumberjacking…is that even a word?  Well, you know what I mean.  This would be best paired with cuddling since it gives the warm snuggly feeling on the inside. This would also be really good for a sore throat or the onset of a cold.  You know…in case  you were looking for a medicinal excuse to enjoy something different!

On a scale of “this tastes like piss” to “oops, I just drank the whole bottle” I would give this a “Fetch me a flannel shirt and an axe!  Or at least build me a fire and pour me a glass.” Would I buy it again? I’m glad I picked up that second bottle.

Final Grade: A-

Wine Dictionary: #1.4 Dark

Good news!  My head cold turned chest cold turned wicked sinus infection is beginning to subside!  I went out to dinner with a friend last night and the Riesling tasted like Riesling!  I am headed to a birthday party for my friend’s 5 year old today and she excitedly told me she has some wine for me to try.  I’m excited I’ll be able to actually taste them!  I shall fill you in if there is anything notable.

Dark – A visual term, a red wine of intense color.  As a flavor term, akin to “brooding”, a robust wine with depth and texture.

Random thought:  I like words with multiple uses.  Like “dark” being able to explain color and flavor.

Wine Dictionary: #1.3 Cabernet Franc

My apologies for the lack of posts lately.  I have been hit with the horrendous head cold that has been circulating around work.  I’ve been battling that for the past week or so and everything has been tasting a bit off.  Last night I tried to drink a glass of Camden Place Chardonnay and it tasted like old nails to me.  Tonight I tried to have a glass of the F. Stephen Miller Angel’s Reserve Shiraz with dinner and it tasted way off.  Even my salad of fresh, locally grown, organic lettuce, kale, heirloom tomatoes and fresh garlic from Stony Ridge Farms tasted like a big bag of crap.  So until I regain my sense of taste, it’ll be crackers, chicken noodle soup and hot toddies for me!  And wine dictionary entries for you.

Cabernet Franc – A red grape common to Bordeaux; characteristics include an herbal, leafy flavor and a soft, fleshy texture.

Random thought:  Cabernet Franc is a good solid red wine for those who have recently ventured their way into red wines and are feeling adventurous and want to tip toe to something besides a Merlot or a Pinot Noir.  Not knocking Merlot or Pinot Noir at all.  We all know that at times I am not opposed to getting “Merloaded.”

Fix a Fail with a WIN!

Alright, last night was an epic wine FAIL.  How?  See my previous post about the Stella Rosa Sparkling Red.  Follow that up with the bottle of 2007 Weingut Jager Achleiten Wachau White Table Wine that I opened.  What was wrong with this you ask?  I carefully cut away the foil to expose a giant clump of mold now acting as a cork.  I was hoping maybe it was just the top of the cork that had been exposed and that the contents of the bottle were still intact.  No, no no…no no no no…I attempted to put the corkscrew in and the whole cork, or what was left of it, just disintegrated into the bottle.    After that fail I opened up a miscellaneous chardonnay that was so meh it’s not even worth mentioning.

So what is this fixing a fail with a win I speak of?  Well, my shitty wine night paired with my new friends at Naked Wines equals free wine for you!  How?  The first 3 people to comment on this post will win a $50 gift card to Naked Wines!  (Gift card good for $50 off a minimum $51 wine purchase with $9.99 shipping for orders under $100.)  So get to commenting!  And don’t worry, if you don’t win this time around there will be more giveaways in the future!

In other news, I will be volunteering with Terrapin Station Winery this Saturday, September 21st, at the Maryland Wine Festival.  So if you’re headed to the festival stop by and say hi!

Stella Rosa – Piedmont, Italy Sparkling Red Wine

Wine Club Notes:

Year in and year out, one of the most popular wines among Vinesse club members is Stella Rosa.

That’s why we secure a supply each time a new bottling is released.  Stella Rosa is grown near the beautiful village of Santo Stefano Belbo in the Piedmont region of Italy.  There, it’s crafted into a bright and refreshing sparkling wine.

Many people are surprised to learn that sparkling wine is made in Italy, and they’re downright shocked when they hear about a red sparkler from Italy.  The northern Piedmont is the sparkling wine capital of Italy, its cool climate being conducive to growing the grape varieties that make good sparklers.

This is the home of Stella Rosa, a red sparkler meant to be served well chilled and enjoyed with fresh fruit, cheese or brunch fare.  Not as “bubbly” as French Champagne, its effervescence is no less enjoyable, and the wine is simply delightful to drink.  No wonder our members love it so much.

Grape composition: 100% Stella Rosa

Grape Source: Santo Stefano Belbo Area of Italy’s Piedmont Region

Aromas and Flavors: Pomegranate, Crisp Red Pear and a Note of Apple-Rhubarb Pie

My Thoughts:

Ok, I’ll be honest, I blindly reached into the back of the fridge hoping to pull out a Pinot Grigio or a Riesling.  I forgot I had this back there.  So when I opened this my immediate reaction was, “shit, how did a bottle of red end up in the fridge?  Dammit.”  Thinking maybe I thought it was a rose or something I looked closer and this definitely poured a beautifully dark ruby color.  Oh what is that?  Bubbles?  Hmm…interesting.  I wasn’t expecting that.  Alright, maybe this won’t be a complete fail.  And then the first sip, that magical first sip where my immediate thoughts were, “what bubbly fucking Kool-aid bullshit is this?”  Nope, I was not impressed.  Even though I was expecting something totally different, my palate was not braced for this.  I glance at the bottle again where the words “semi-sweet” taunted me.  No, just no.  There are plenty of semi-sweet wines that I find drinkable.  This is most definitely not one of them.

Perhaps if it were 97 degrees out and I was at a party in someone’s backyard I could…no…not even then.  Nope.  Sorry.  The syrupy sweetness is just too much for me.  If super sweet red wines are your thing, then by all means, grab a bottle, make some french toast, throw some fresh fruit on that, and enjoy.  Will I judge you for drinking the sparkling red wine equivalent of Juicy Juice?  Absolutely.

On a scale of “this tastes like piss” to “oops, I just drank the whole bottle” I would give this a “It tastes like a fizzy over-sugared children’s drink and it makes my teeth feel fuzzy.” Would I buy it again? NO.  Just…no.  And if someone ever got this for me as a gift I’d immediately assume they hate me.

Final Grade: C-

Memorial Day Weekend Tour Time!

So my friend Frankie and I decided to make this past Saturday “-ery” day. We hit a cidery, meadery, winery and brewery. Ok, well Gordon Biersch is technically a “brew pub,” but they make beer, therefore, a brewery.  I’ll give you a brief rundown of our day and will have more in-depth product reviews coming later.

Our first stop was Distillery Lane Ciderworks ( where we took a self-guided tour of the orchard.  We were immediately bumped up to VIP status when our self-guided tour turned into a fully guided tour by the director of orchard security, Ruby.  Ruby is a Jack Russell Terrier who is in charge of keeping away deer and other critters from the apple trees.

In the shadow of the Appalaichian Trail, the cidery is home to over 40 varieties of European cider apples, heritage, and other hard-to-find apples.  They produce sparkling, still and premium hard ciders.

Did you know, that prior to prohibition, all ciders had an alcohol content?  During prohibition “ciders” were produced without alcohol.  Before prohibition they were just called “juice.”

Our next stop was Orchid Cellar ( which was a short drive from out first stop of the day.  We were greeted warmly by a loving black labrador retriever just before a hearty hello from the winery/meadery’s tasting crew for the day.

A fine producer of mead and Merlot, enjoy the meticulous recreation of some old family recipes using modern knowledge of chemistry and microbiology only to understand the process of winemaking, not to interfere with it.

Who would have thought that mead recipes from thousands of years ago would still be mindblowingly delicious?!

After stopping for lunch we took a quick detour through Old Town Frederick, which is a charming little part of Frederick, MD with an abundance of cute little shops and restaurants.  As we were parking we spotted a wine shop called Spin The Bottle (  I mean, how can you pass by a wine shop with such a cute name?

We knew we had wandered into the right place when we walked in and a mere 27 seconds later we were asked by the shop’s owner, “Are you thirsty?  I have some wines to taste.”  Our response in unison was of course, “yes!”  To which he replied, “Good!  And I think I’ll join you in the tastings.”  Aside from a fantastic wine selection, there was also an entire room dedicated to craft beers.

Our next stop was Viniferous (, also located in downtown Frederick.  We walked in to a huge area with hundreds of styles of wine from wall to wall.  We were welcomed by the owner and a moment later a tall long haired gentleman, who I now refer to as Wine Jesus, emerged from the back room and invited us back for a tasting of some beer and wines he had chosen to sample for the day.

I chose a bottle of Malbec that needed to come home with me before we left Viniferous. If you find yourself wandering Market St. in Frederick, MD definitely pop in and say hi.  They are ridiculously knowledgeable.

The last major stop on our tour for the day was The Winery at Olney ( where Dale expertly guided us through our round of tastings…and our second round of tastings…  A tasting here consists of choosing 5 wines from their list of 54984651.  Ok…it was a list of 25, but still, it was a lot to choose from and I was suffering from wine choice overload.

Frankie is friends with the owners of Noni Bacca Winery ( in Wilmington, NC, who helped open The Winery at Olney.  So in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of way she was kind of a big deal when we got there.  She struck up a conversation with their winemakers while Dale helped us work our way through their extensive tasting list.

Such a fun little place and who would have thought that a winery in a strip mall could produce such fantastic wines!  Definitely a neat place to stop by if you are passing though, or if you live locally and you’re doing your grocery shopping go ahead and take a stroll across the parking lot and grab yourself a glass of goodness before finishing the day’s errands.

2011 Tapena Tempranillo

Notes from the Winemaker:
The quintessential red wine grape from Spain, Tempranillo (temp-rah-NEE-yo), the little early one, adapts well to varied growing conditions. We think of this Tempranillo as Pinot Noir in blue jeans.

Tasting Notes
Intense ruby red colour with violet-blue undertones characteristic of young red wines. This is a classic Tempranillo, showing intense flavors of earth, plums and violets over a hint of orange peel. It is full and luscious in the palate, rich in ripe fruits and fine tannins, with a great balance and lingering finish.

Food Pairings
Tapeña Tempranillo is truly a food-friendly wine pairing well with a broad spectrum of dishes. Try it with paella, grilled lamb skewers, garlic prawns and broiled salmon.

Best Buy – Wine Enthusiast, July 2012
Gold Medal – 2011 Monterey Wine Competition

Appellation: Tierra de Castilla, Spain

Composition: 100% Tempranillo
Acidity: 3.3 g/L
Alcohol: 14%
Vintage: 2011
– See more at:

My thoughts:
I was surprised at the deep deep red of this wine as I poured it. So dark I couldn’t see my fingers wrapped around the opposite side of the glass. I took a deep sniff and was greeted with a strong yet pleasant blend of super ripe grapes, spices, plums and a slight hint of citrus. The first sip brought…hang on…the first couple of sips….wait a minute…the first half a glass had strong notes of freshly picked fruits with a hint of…give me a second…what is that?! I can’t quite figure out what that lingering flavor is in the finish. But it has a very flavorful finish that lingers without being overpowering.

I initially paired this with penne in a homemade summer vegetable sauce. Freshly picked zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil with a touch of cane sugar. When I finished off the bottle I found it also paired well with some Tangy Zangy Twisties – Sour Wild Fruit Gummy candy. Judge all you want. I love gummy candy.

On a scale of “this tastes like piss” to “oops, I just drank the whole bottle” I would give this a “It still bothers me that I can’t quite pinpoint those last couple of flavors, but this is quite tasty and easy to drink. A little bold for the beginning red wine drinker, but for someone who is rapidly learning to love reds, a definite try.” Would I buy it again? I’d pick up another bottle.

Final Grade: A-