Category: Ask the Cellar Mistress


This is a delicious zinfandel (I know, “wait, what?” Right?) from Applegate Valley Southern Oregon. The most delicious zin that I’ve had in years! It was an early Christmas present from my oldest friend, Morgan.

This wine is welcoming, greeting the guest with warm cherries, raspberries, and delightful sage, that opens to red plums, rich, old forest floor earth, and a lastingly pleasing strawberry finish.

I really love the balance of this wine’s acid and tannin. It changes, as the wine opens in the glass, but somehow, that perfect balance is never tipped.

This wine isn’t a dance, it’s not a velvet gown. This magnificent zinfandel is the slow, ponderous changing of the seasons, with loved one’s. It’s like nostalgia that people dream of.  This wine is a perfect wine to  remember Morgan and my friendship, really; long lived, strong, slow and steady, with any leaves of drama just blowing over the surface, but never halting. Cheers, old friend!

The sight of someone swirling a wine glass and burying their nose in it is a fairly common sight at any wine tasting event. Grapes are one of the only fruits, if not the only fruit, that can develop aromas that remind us of other fruit, wood and earthy scents, without actually having been in contact with them.

It is said that we, as humans, can only distinguish between five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and “umami” (a Japanese word, loosely translated as “pleasant savory”). Scent accounts for around 80 percent of taste. We can differentiate between roughly 10,000 aromas!

I was once told, “Kat, you’re supposed to drink wine, not snort it!”

In the world of retail, there are a variety of glasses that are available to the consumer. One of the largest considerations in purchasing glasses is the price vs. how fast it will break. The worst culprit of wine-glass destruction is the dishwasher. There are a few wine glasses that are sturdy enough to withstand mechanical washing, but I do not recommend that any wine glasses be washed in the dishwasher.

Riedel (pronounced Ree-dle) is a brand of glass that has become popular in the last decade or so.. There are many different lines of Riedel glasses available. The most basic of which, can be found in big box stores, and the more delicate, varietal-specific lines can be found in wine and liquor retailers, and in use in fine dining restaurants.

The largest protest that I can make about Riedel, is the price. They’re expensive for a reason, though. The grape varietal specific lines of Riedel, the Vinum, the Veritas and the hand-blown Sommelier lines, are all shaped to specifically enhance the different varietals of grapes in wine.

I wanted to experience the difference between glasses for myself, so I set up an experiment using a standard, thick, sparkling wine flute, and a Riedel Degustazione restaurant champagne flute. I poured the same amount of a Spanish sparkling wine called “Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut” into each glass, and waited for it to settle.

A Quick aside: I should mention at this point that there was a large Champagne house that went exclusively to the use of Riedel Pinot Noir glasses for their Champagnes. This worked excellently for them because the grapes in Champagne are sometimes a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier or exclusively Chardonnay. The glass created to showcase the Pinots works perfectly for it.

I did not mention this in the article in the paper because I wasn’t drinking Champagne. I was drinking Cava, which is often made with Pedro Ximenez.

The aromas that came from the standard glass were simple lemon, citrus acid, fresh and kind of fruity. The bubbles stayed on the surface of the wine, like soda, and dissipated quickly.

The Degustazione flute started similarly, but in a few moments, the wine’s more delicate flavors and aromas came through. I would attribute this to the shape of the glass. While the thicker glass is simply straight edges that taper, like a tube that has been pinched, the Degustazione glass has more of a curve at the bottom, and a slightly rounded in lip.

The Riedel glass performed excellently, showing off the wine’s green apple aromas, golden pears and toasted almond slivers, and highlighted its nut and Christmas fruit nuances. The presentation of the bubbles was fun. They moved from the bottom of the glass in swirling lines to the top.

Whether you’re sipping a barely past grape juice mixer, or a break-the-bank burgundy this holiday season, I recommend experiencing them in the glassware that best suits your drink.

Plungerhead Cabernet 2011, by The Other Guys, is their first vintage of Cabernet. It’s comprised  of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and blended with 5% Merlot. This new wine is 100% Lodi grapes, and is an excellent first vintage.

This wine is full of boysenberry, sage, thyme, big, BIG fruit, jammy raspberries, and is deliciously fruit forward with hints of musk and overtones of oceanic freshness.

It was a really neat experience to get to try the very first vintage of a brand new Cabernet!

This lovely wine accompanied dessert, though in retrospect it would have been better to allow it to stand alone in its glory. This Petite Sirah is full of cinnamon bark, black cherries, red plum flesh, boysenberries, anise seed, and sage. It opens to blackberries, dried figs, with a spice box that fizzles across the palate, with the round fullness of warm stretched black velvet over a warm embrace. McManis Petite Sirah comes from McManis Vinyards in California and is aged in used and new French oak.

McManis Petite Sirah was recommended to me by one of the patrons, (a very dear gal) of the wine section I attend to, who was waiting on myself and a guest. She was dead on when she said that the McManis was drinking very well. It  brought the whole evening together, to have a recommendation from a customer in a different setting.

Note: Wine isn’t just juice in a bottle, it’s about the experience accompanying said nectar.

tradioSanta Julia’s Tardio, the late harvest Torrontes from Argentina sparkles with guava, melon, pear, dried fruits, crisp golden delicious, and candied pears. his wine is a swim in clear water with the sun sparkling down through the water over sun kissed skin. Tardio offers up a lasting apple and warm melon finish that sparkles across the palate.

Santa Julia is a “collection” named for the daughter of the Zuccardi family. The wines under this label, the Santa Julia name, are mostly organic in my experience. They are decently straight forward, but luscious and welcoming. I have also found them to be decent representations of the grapes that they represent, though , as always, that is up for personal opinion.

I was impressed by Tardio, and purchased it on several occasions, finding it a delicious pairing with lamb biryani and chicken curry. As a fruit forward, and honeyed wine, it complements both aromatic and intense spicy dishes. This is my go-to wine for Indian night with friends.