Tag Archives: varietal

Drink Me: Petit Verdot


Happy Wine Wednesday!

Most people have heard of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. But unless you have been around the wine world for a while, very few people have heard of Petit Verdot.

It’s a varietal that hails from from Bordeaux, France and is often used as a blending grape to make wines from that region. Very rarely do you see it on its own. I have had a few Petit Verdot wines in the past, but I found that they weren’t very well balanced at all. Because it is a grape that ripens late, it’s hard to get it right. On the other hand, the addition of this varietal to other blends can give a wine depth and a little more tannin. {Which helps in the aging process – perfect for Bordeaux reds!}

But last night, we were able to try a Petit Verdot from our new Reds Wine Club from South Coast Winery in Temecula, California.

South Coast Petit VerdotAnd I just have to say that this is one of the best wines I’ve had in a really, really long time.

I am so over that sweet, generic taste you find in so many restaurant reds. This wine had depth, character and, surprisingly, was well-balanced, too. The flavors were subtle: mostly berries and mocha. The tannins weren’t too sharp, but provided what I like to call a “dusty” quality to the wine. I adore that! The finish was long. It tasted elegant and refined. I trust that this wine could even age a few more years.

And I actually learned something from the back of the bottle!

Read the label!

South Coast Petit Verdot - backI love how it states the date the grapes were harvested and from where!

A little off topic… Despite turning one, Shamrock is still in his puppy stage. Maybe I’ll call him my little Petit Verdot until he “ripens.” Well, he isn’t green, but his name is Shamrock after all.

Have you had a Petit Verdot before?

If so, which one?

Any other unique wines out there you’ve tried?


Wine Bible {A Giveaway}


I was cleaning out my office the other day and came across a second Wine Bible! Have you seen this book before?

Wine Bible

It’s a thick {900-page!} book that I’ve referred to over a thousand times. I’ve never read it cover to cover, but it has been a great source of reference when I was first learning about wine. There is no reason for me to have two of these books, so I’m offering one up to one of you!

This book covers everything from how wine is made, to particular varietals, to wine regions around the world to wine pairings and much more.

I remember being confused at the beginning of my research on wine because I’d search the label of the bottles I was marketing for The Traveling Vineyard and couldn’t find what kindย of wine that was. Back then, I didn’t know that some wines were labeled by the region and others were labeled by the varietal.

A particularly confusing wine for me that the company once carried was the Roero Arneis. Was this a Chardonnay? A Sauvignon Blanc? I had no clue!

After referring to my trusty Wine Bible, I learned that arneis is the name of the grape. I just had never heard of it before. Most people haven’t. Roero is the specific area in the Piedmont region of Italy where said grapes for that bottling were grown. While Traveling Vineyard doesn’t currently carry this type of wine, I still don’t see it very often. Sometimes I’ll find it at an Italian restaurant that has an extensive Italian wine list. When I do, I smile. I feel like I know a secret that not everyone knows. And now you do, too!

So what’s arneis like? Well, I remember it being crisp, with hints of mineral and pear. I remember it going well with spinach and artichoke dip at my tastings. However, I’m not really sure if that’s a pairing that would please wine critics! As I open to page 333 of the Wine Bible, I read that arneis goes in and out of style, pairs well with seafood, means rascal in the dialect of Piedmont, and that it’s “dry, lively, and fairly full in body with light pear and apricot flavors.”

These days, you can wiki such things. However, having the information available at my fingertips by a reputable wine expert, Karen MacNeil, in a perfectly laid-out fashion does not even compare.

Understanding the difference between region and varietal was a pivotal point in my wine education. Add that to learning that the terroir can affect the final product of the same grape being grown in one region versus another opened up my entire wine world.

Still, you can’t know everything about wine. Styles, trends and even climates are constantly changing. That’s one of the things that makes wine so interesting. This book is a great reference tool whenever you have a question about wine. It’s the perfect gift for a wine lover, too.

Enter to win this book by commenting below on the #1 thing you’d like to learn about wine!

The giveaway will close on Tuesday, September 10th at 12:01am.

The winner will be announced on that week’s Wine Wednesday.


What’s Your Wine Style?


Happy Wine Wednesday!

Yesterday, I received my Food & Wine Magazine for July:


The blonde on the cover is Jamie Malone from St. Paul, current chef at Sea Change in Minneapolis. I love when locals earn these accolades! I haven’t been to Sea Change yet. Have you? It’s not a brand new restaurant, but the fact that it’s seafood focused makes it a little difficult to venture there with my husband. I’ll have to check to see if they have any food for carnivores. Otherwise, it might be a girls’ night destination.


However, this isn’t a Twin Cities Restaurant Impression post. It’s Wine Wednesday and an article in this month’s Food and Wine Magazine intrigued me. When teaching at Wine Tastings, I find that people usually follow a general progression across the spectrum when they try and learn to enjoy new wines. We often start at the sweets and slowly work our way to the fruit forward reds. Somewhere after that comes the appreciation of more earthy and acidic wines.

But this chart got me thinking more about that.


(source: FoodandWine.com)

Unlike most people, however, when I first started drinking wine, I started with the reds. {Unless you want to count the Boones Farm I drank my first year of college. Yes, that is now in print.} Thanks to my friend Sally, I was introduced to the fruitier, mellower, more approachable Lambruscos, as well as Zinfandels. {I’m talking the red kind, of course. None of the silly pink stuff!} I did drink an occasional sweet Riesling from time to time. And if I was in a restaurant, as a new and young wine drinker, I knew that ordering Merlot was a safe bet without showing that I really didn’t know anything about wine. {And it still is. Merlot is a pretty easy-going middle-of-the-road wine that can go with most foods.}

When I became a Wine Consultant, I tasted different wines extensively because I had company. I also had focus. When we met for “classes” {aka drink wine together and discuss} and when I did Tastings, I was really focused on the wine, unlike when I’m out having dinner when I’m focused on the conversation. I concentrated on the color, the body, the aromas and the flavors. Tasting wines side-by-side or one after another in small quantities allowed me to understand the differences and nuances in different types of wine.

What I learned in the those first few months was that I enjoyed fruit forward reds with a hint of vanilla. This almost always meant a New World wine. {Read: Not European.} However, with such extensive tasting, fast forward almost ten years later and I’ve found that my palate range has grown. I’ve learned to appreciate many different varietals for what they are, rather than favoring just a few. Now I often find wines with too much vanilla and fruit-forwardness to be a bit “generic”. They lack character and uniqueness. I still like my zins, but they have to have to have some complexity and heft.

But this is what I’ve come to discover over time. You, however, may be able to determine what you like more simply. Read this article from Food and Wine that corresponds with the above chart to discover on what part of the spectrum you fall. Do you like light or rich wines? Do you want something rounder or tangier? What foods do you prefer? I think it’s genius. You might, too.

What types of wines are your favorite?

Are you willing to try something new?


How do you like them apples? A Guide to Wine Varietals for Beginners…


When the leaves of the trees begin to change from emerald green to autumn colors of bright orange, pale yellow, burgundy and brown, we know that the end of summer has truly approached.

We take those last opportunities to dine out on the patio. We layer our clothing, never knowing if we’ll need that sweatshirt or coat or not. We head off to the apple orchards to begin picking our favorites at their peak.

“But, Carrie, it’s Wine Wednesday,” you say.

“Why apples?”

Well, because… You can learn a thing or two about grapes from apples!

When I’m doing a Wine Tasting for a group of beginners, my #1 goal is to take the intimidation out of wine. I never really know how much the tasters in the room know until I start talking with them. From time to time, I find myself haphazardly talking about Chardonnay versus Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot versus Zinfandel. Sometimes the tasters in the room seem to be following me. Other times I get blank stares. But I’m happiest when someone isn’t afraid to speak up and asks,

“But what IS a Chardonnay? I don’t understand. I hear these names all the time, but I don’t know what know what that means!”

You see, grapes are like apples.

Well, you know how there are different varieties of apples? Most people are familiar with Red Delicious, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and the ever popular Honey Crisp. You probably have a favorite of these or prefer to use a particular one in a favorite dish. {That reminds me, it’s been years since I’ve made a Baked German Apple Pancake. Digging out that recipe is now on my to-do list!} You might even prefer green to red apples. In any case, there areย  hundreds of different varieties and each tastes different from one another.

Grapes are the same way.

There are white (green) and red (purple) grapes. And some are much better for wine-making than others! The grapes you see in the grocery store are generally reserved for eating, not for wine-making.

Then they are different varieties of grapes. Here are some of the most well-known:

  • Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel (FYI – This is a RED grape!)

Many bottles of wine are labeled this way – by the grape variety, or varietal. Others, well… that’s for another post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Still, the one thing that makes grapes different from any other fruit is that it can take on the flavors of other fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, etc. At my tastings, another question I often get after we read the tasting notes is if they actually put the fruit or herbs or tobacco or {insert other descriptive aroma or flavor here} in the wine.

The answer is, “No.”

The wine varietal and wine-making technique both have a huge contribution to the finished product; but, generally speaking, no other fruits or flavors are added to fine wines. Terroir plays a major role as well. In addition to the weather each and every growing season, the grape vines may pick up hints of other vegetation growing in the same soil.

And if you aren’t sure how to describe wine now {i.e. people tell me they just smell wine or alcohol}, that’s perfectly fine! You have to start somewhere. It just means that you need to drink more some practice. Remember, The Importance of Company. By listening to others and tasting different wine varietals, you’ll be picking up those aromas and flavors on your own in no time!

Speaking of apples, I signed up for my first ever 5-mile race and it takes place at an apple orchard this fall! I’ve only run five miles twice before. What have I gotten myself in to?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Whether it’s apples or grapes, it’s almost time for harvest.

What is your favorite fall activity?