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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

The Great Grapes! Wine, Art & Food Festival was last Saturday, April 16th.  I had been checking the weather the week before and it was looking like rain would hit.  The day of, it looked like it would be raining on and off until about 4pm, when the thunderstorms would really hit, so we stopped by at about 12:30pm.  We brought umbrellas and raincoats just in case. The format was typical for a Koka Booth wine/food event, except this one had free parking!  We were on the will-call list because I ordered tickets ahead of time, and all the lines were really short because of the threat of rain.  We picked up our glasses, and entered the festival.

Live music was playing about every other hour, so when we got there it was 30 minutes before the next act would start.  My husband hadn’t had anything to eat yet, but the “Food” part of the festival looked a bit scarce.  There were some typical concession-type stands selling gyros, cheese steaks, hot dogs and the like, and a pizza stand, and some kettle corn.  I didn’t really see much else.  I ended up getting a chicken gyro, and my husband got a lamb gyro.  Not great, but edible.  I was disappointed there wasn’t a better food selection there.

My son went down near the lake to play in the bouncy inflatable slide thing.  He loves these sorts of things at Monkey Joe’s.  It was a bit wet when he started from the rain, but with the high winds and the sun peeking out now and then, it dried off soon.  I would go to the booths trying out a few different wines, and bring back the sweetest dessert ones for my husband to try.

The flyer we got wasn’t very helpful.  I liked some of the booklets I’ve gotten at other events that list each wine that each vendor has.  This one only had a list of vendors.  The total was 25, and I think I tried at least one wine at nearly all of them.  For NC wines, I try to just stick to the sweeter muscadine wines.  I figure if I’m going to try a chardonnay, I’ll get a Napa one.  If I want a Riesling, I’ll get a German one.  If I wanted a Shiraz, I would look for something Australian.  But it’s been my experience that North Carolina doesn’t have the right type of grapes or climates for those types of wines.

The Cypress Bend Vineyards had some nice wines.  I tried the Daniel, To-morrow, and McNeil, and they were all pleasant.  The Allison Oaks Allie’s Choice was a fairly sweet dessert wine, but my husband didn’t like it very much.  The Carolina Heritage Traminette was a surprisingly good take on a gewurztraminer that would go excellent with a good dinner.  The Chatham Hill Winery (that oddly prides itself as being the Triangle’s only urban winery) had some pretty odd-tasting Blackberry wine, but I actually found the Peach to be quite tasty.  I think it’s something my mom would enjoy, she likes the girly, wine-cooler type wines.  Seriously though, I really liked the peach.

The Southern Charm Winery had quite a few excellent sweet wines.  My favorite was the Summer Mist, which is probably the best strawberry wine I’ve ever had.  I really should have picked up a bottle.  I also liked their Hummingbird, Carolina Sunset and Edisto Black.  The Edisto Black had a very good take on the blackberry wine, but it wasn’t quite as good as the strawberry.

The “Art” part of the festival really wasn’t there.  I saw some small booths with crafts for sale, but I was really expecting more.  I think there were more booths for businesses and charities outnumbered the art booths by about 4:1.

We left the festival by about 2:30pm, as it was sprinkling on and off and I didn’t know how much longer the weather would hold.  By about 3:30pm the storms came down hard, and soon after there were tornado warnings and hail, and things like insulation and plywood flying around the neighborhood.  I imagine the festival didn’t last long after that.  Such a pity that the worst storm in years happened to coincide with the Great Grapes! festival.

For next year they could make a few improvements.  More food booths, more art booths, and live music throughout the 11am-7pm festival would have made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.  As it was though, it was a good time at a fairly cheap price.  At only $20 per ticket though, I really can’t have too many complaints.  I look forward to attending next year.

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I went to Southern Season looking for some good wine.  I asked if they had ever heard of Il Duca Stella Rosa, or had any other sweet blush wines.  They didn’t have the one I was looking for, but it was suggested I try this Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Rose des Glacieres.  I was told it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet, but would be similar in flavor.  I figured at $15.99 it couldn’t hurt to try.

I found the wine to be quite sweet, despite what I was told.  I think it would probably make a good dessert wine, or movie-watching-sipping wine.  It has some delicious sweet fruit flavors like fresh ripe apples or berries.  I don’t think it was as good as the Il Duca Stella Rosa, but it was still really good.

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The 6th Annual Triangle Uncorked was Sept. 26th this year at Koka Booth Amphitheater from 2pm-6pm.  The pricing was about $32 depending upon where or when you bought your ticket for regular admission, and about $80 for the VIP ticket.  I only went for the regular ticket, because I didn’t think there would be that many extra perks with the VIP ticket.  But I was surprised to see how many extra booths there were for the VIP-only people.  We got there at about 4pm to avoid the heat of the midday sun, but it was still pretty hot and miserable out.  Some of the booths were empty by 5:30pm, so late arrival for next year is not recommended.

The VIP booths were all near the stage, and the regular booths were around the outside under the shade.  Unlike the beer festival, there were no food booths, and very little going on out in the lawn.

When I entered I was given a Tasting & Order Book and a swag bag.  The swag bag didn’t get used at all, there was no swag at this event.  But I used my Tasting & Order book to write little notes about all the wines I tried.  I stuck mostly with the Chardonnays and Rieslings, but I did try a couple reds too.  Here are my thoughts on the varieties:

2009 Excelsior Chardonnay – not very good, I didn’t like it

St. Kilda Chardonnay – very light and sweet, I liked this one quite a bit

Ironberry Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot – very good for a red, drinkable and pleasant

Revelry Vintners 2007 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley – it was a dry wine, well made but not to my liking

BV Chardonnay, Caneros – it had a bad aftertaste,  I didn’t like it at all

Yellowtail “tree free” Chardonnay – I liked unoaked Chardonnays, but this one was still surprisingly harsh.  I didn’t like it.

2008 Alma de los Andes Bonarda – this was a red that tasted a lot like the Estancia Pinot Noir, one of my favorite reds

2009 Lazzaro Torrontes – a sweet white wine with a strong citrus taste, like pineapple.

2009 Marino Semillon – deep white with a strong aftertaste, like vanilla.  I didn’t like this one so much.

2007 Stoller Vineyards “S.V.” Estate Chardonnay, Dundee Hills – very unique taste, almost like a bubblegum or tutti frutti.

2008 Brutocao Cellars Sauvingnon Blanc, Mednocino – had a very strange taste, like an acidic cheeseburger.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it, it was just too weird.

2008 Cameron Hughes Lot 145 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara – very bitter and oaky, yuck

2008 One Hope Chardonnay, California – had a really interesting “cultured” flavor to it.  I imagine it would go wonderfully with just about any kind of cheese.

2009 Kiona Riesling, Washington State – this wine was AMAZING!  Made me remember why I used to like Rieslings so much.

Maycas del Limari Syrah – had a beefy flavor and was quite powerful, not necessarily in a bad way but it would take a delicate matching.

Markham Vineyards Chardonnay, California – was fruity and acidic.

Summit Estates Riesling – really good, almost as good as the Kiona.

Kitchen Sink White Blend – also a pretty good white.

Il Duca Stella Rosa – I don’t often try blush wines, but this one was spectacular.  Very, very good, deliciously sweet and could be a fantastic dessert wine.

Chaltan Chardonnay – strangely ham flavored.  I guess it would go good with a bacon/ham/pork dish, but very oddly flavored for a white wine.

2009 Dr. Beckerman Auslese, Germany – this one was fantastic, it’s been so long since I’ve found a good Auslese.

2009 Panilonco Chardonnay/Viognier, Chile – very oaky, yuck

My 3 favorites of the day were the 2009 Kiona Rieling, the Il Duca Stella Rosa, and the 2009 Dr. Beckerman Auslese.  I was very happy to find out the Auslese is available at Trader Joe’s for a very cheap price of less than $6.

I wish the festival could have been later in the year.  I’m sure the wines would have tasted better at about 60 degrees, instead of the 90 degrees some of the reds were served at.  They could also use some water available at booths for rinsing glasses and small crackers for cleansing the palate.  Still, it was a fun time, and I’m looking forward to attending next year.

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Covey Run 2007 Chardonnay

I was unable to find any more unoaked chardonnays to try at my local Kroger, so I decided this Covey Run looked decent.  I think I had had this brand before, but at the time I couldn’t recall for sure.  After checking their site when I got home, I realized I had tried their ice wine before.  I can’t remember what I thought of it, so it probably wasn’t bad.

This chardonnay, though oaked, had a very light and refreshing flavor.  It was also incredibly smooth to drink, and went well with my brie.  I think it could be a good cooking wine as well, as it could really add a lot of good flavor to any dish without overpowering it.

As an experiment, I poured out a small glass of my Estancia chardonnay so I could compare the two.  Estancia has long been one of my favorite cheese chardonnays.  The Estancia still has a flavor I like, but compared to the Covey Run, it comes across as more harsh and less smooth.  But the Estancia does seem to have a more warm, homey flavor to it.  Honestly, I’m not sure which I like better.  I’m just really impressed that the Covey Run performed so well, and I think when the Columbia Reserve becomes available I’d like to see if it’s even better.

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My local Kroger started carrying Fromager D’Affinois so I’ll be trying out more Chardonnays to go with my brie.  This one caught my attention as it’s not treated with oak, which is what I prefer with my wines.  It’s a screw-off cap, which I’ve found isn’t always a bad thing, and can be helpful when on vacation.

I tried it by itself first, then later with my cheese.  It comes on rather strong with a bitey acidity to it.  Very fruity, but almost harshly so.  I really prefer the Layer Cake Chardonnay over this one, it didn’t appeal to me.  It’s not the worst Chardonnay, and I’ll certainly drink it and eventually finish the bottle, but I probably won’t buy it again.  I imagine it might go well with some sort of citrus food, like lemon marinaded salmon or orange peel chicken.

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2009 Layer Cake Virgin Chardonnay

I purchased this Layer Cake Virgin Chardonnay at my local Kroger the other day.  It was decently priced, and since I had just gotten done making a chocolate cake, the label grabbed my attention.  I read the back and found that they use no oak.  I don’t know why making wine in oak barrels is still so popular.  I don’t think it adds anything positive to the flavor of the wine to store it in wood.  Other than the Turner & Cole Lot 3 Chardonnay it’s been really hard to find others like this.

I went to uncork it and it was a screw-off cap!  No cork!   That’s usually not a good sign, but since I paid a reasonable price for it, it shouldn’t be too bad.

This wine is actually really, really good!  Because it has no oak, it’s even more delicious with other foods like my cheesecake, cranberries, or plain ol’ Fromager d’Affinois.  Honestly I think it would go well with just about anything.  This is a fantastic wine for hot weather, all clean and fresh and crisp like a lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

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SpanishVines.com 2008 Tempranillo

My local Kroger had a few wines out for tasting the other day and this one caught my attention.  I brought home a bottle and I thought I’d try out my first wine review.  I’m still a wine nub yet, but I’ll try to be honest.

I chilled the wine in the fridge for a day, then let it air in the glass 30 minutes at room temperature before drinking.  The color is extremely dark, even for a red wine.  If this wine were a variety of coffee, it’d be an espresso.  It was rich, solid, and dark.  At first you taste something a bit sour and tingly like a light sparkling wine, but then you get hit by some really rich, deep flavors of black cherry, chocolate and coffee.  At first I thought it was just like a pinot noir but the after-flavors really hit you a lot harder.  Honestly I don’t know if I liked it.  I had a hard time trying to think of what it could possibly be matched with.  Certainly not cheese or fruit, not dessert, and far to deep to match most meals.  I suppose the kind of person who likes coffee and cigarettes for breakfast would like the SpanishVines.com Tempranillo for dinner.

I’d like to try some other Tempranillos if I can find them.  The idea that the bottle of wine has a “.com” at the end of the name puts me off a little.

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A Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC

My first experience with A Southern Season was through their gift basket orders.  Our first year in North Carolina, I ordered Christmas gift baskets for my parents and the in-laws which featured NC-specific foods, such as cheese straws and Moravian spice cookies.

Then, on a trip to a Chapel Hill shopping center, I discovered that there actually was a physical Southern Season store, and that there were a delightful amount of European foods I could find there.  Ever since spending a semester in Bonn I’ve gotten tastes for certain chocolates and candies that can’t be found in most places in the US, as well as some of the soft cheeses.

A Southern Season also has a small restaurant called The Weathervane connected to the store, though I haven’t had an opportunity to visit it yet.  In the future I’ll give a review of this restaurant.

When you first enter (from the outside, not the mall side) you’re greeted by a wonderful scent of various coffee flavors.  I would love to buy their coffee sometime if we ever get a coffee machine that is not a Keurig (single cup serving).   They also have many teas, but I usually just drink pretty cheap tea.  That’s one thing you need to know about A Southern Season.  It’s pretty easy, without realizing, to rack up a $200 food bill when you start just grabbing things without looking at the price.  There are some very expensive items in this store.

Then they usually have a seasonal section along the next left wall corner, which features rum cakes much of the time, and around Christmas you’ll find all sorts of Stollens.  I love the Cherry Marzipan Stollen, which is something like a cross between a coffee cake and a fruitcake.  They also feature various liquor cakes (Kalua, Strawberry Daquiri, ect), pound cakes, panettone (very dry Italian cake, usually has raisins), and other boxed baked goods.

On the right as you proceed through the store, there will be cooking supplies.  I’ve picked up pancake molds (they have a star one for making star pancakes), assorted meat pounders to make nice, thin tonkatsu or schnitzel, aprons, and Wüsthof knives.  Again, everything here is quite pricey, but I’ve always been satisfied with the equipment I’ve purchased.

On the left as you go through the store, you’ll see the pastries.  I’ve had pastries at Guglhupf in Durham that are better, and less expensive, so I usually skip these.

My favorite part is the cheese section.  They offer all different kinds of cheese, and the selection rotates over time so you’ll always be able to find something new.  My favorite cheese is the triple creme brie called Fromager d’Affinois.  This is also offered in a herb variety which I haven’t tried yet.  I also like the Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and the Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc.  The Fromage Blanc is excellent for cooking.  Sometimes in this area they also feature items such as fig cake and quince paste, each are wonderful to try at least once.

I’ve always skipped their deli/meat section, though certainly if I ever need prosciutto, this would be the place to buy it.  The kitchen supply section continues to the right for a while.
Next up on the left will be the chocolate section.  I love the Ritter Sports from the time I spent in Germany, and occasionally they’ll offer some Côte d’Or chocolate as well.  They sell some truffles as well, though I haven’t tried any yet.

Further on through the store will be the cookies and candy section.  I’ll usually get some Dare maple cookies from Canada, which always remind me of road trips to Ontario, and some Moravian spice cookies.  They come in so many different flavors now.  They’ve got some Haribo gummi candies, though not my favorite, Tropi Frutti.  I’ll settle for some of the raspberry gummies instead.

The wine here is pretty expensive, though if the mood strikes I’ll spring for some Niagara Icewine.  It’s hard to find elsewhere.  The rest of the store I pretty much skim through, since many of the other food items offered such as mustard from England and sauces from India, I can find elsewhere for cheaper.

Again, it’s a very expensive store, but when you’re craving some good brie there’s just no place else in the triangle to go.  It’s also a good place for me to buy holiday boxes for my family in Wisconsin, since they like a lot of ethnic German food.

A Southern Season is located in the University Mall in Chapel Hill, NC.  You can visit the site at http://www.southernseason.com/

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Klara’s is a Czech restaurant in Cary, NC.  The first time I went there last summer was for lunch.  It was busy, typical business crowd for the area.  The service was slow if you’re in a rush to get back to work, but reasonable otherwise.  I had the pork goulash and it was delicious.  I love dishes with lots of sauce, and this had plenty of delicious soupy, cabbagey sauce to eat up with the tender slices of dumplings.

Since then, I’ve been back many, many times.  Mostly for dinner on the weekends, usually early enough so my son doesn’t interrupt anyone trying to have a romantic evening.  I would recommend reservations if you’ve got more than 4 people, or if you’re going after about 6pm or so.

So far I’ve had the fried mozzarella, fried brie, pork schnitzel, cabbage soup, the crepes with vanilla ice cream, apple strudel, and strawberry dumplings.  Of all I’ve tried, the fried brie is the best.  It goes really well with the Turner and Cole Lot 3 Chardonnay, though I’m no wine expert.  It disappointed me when they changed the appetizer from 3 slices of brie to just 2, but I suppose that leaves me more room to get an actual entree as well.  The potato salad here is also wonderful, I’ve never had one so fresh and diverse in ingredients.  The only dish I didn’t like so well was the garlic soup.  You can’t possibly be within 4 feet of people for 8 hours after eating this dish, it’s just way too strong.

Klara’s is located at 200 S. Academy Street in Cary, NC, and the phone number is (919) 319-5656‎.  I recommend calling ahead both because they frequently get a lot of large parties later and night, and also because there are often events.  Their site is here: http://www.klarasrestaurant.com/

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