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Your first wine flight for 2018

or ... Dry January is over, so let's start tasting!

Hello! Hello! Hello! And a great big Happy New Year to all of you Wine Old Owl watchers out there!

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve graced you with my wine picks and their descriptions, but it has been a very (very) slow start to this year. You folks really took the “Dry January” seriously this year. That, and a Super Bowl with teams not many on the West Coast cared about, have made it a quiet start to 2018. But now I’m back with my weekly installments.

First up this year is a flight of wines—with the exception of the Longhand Chardonnay—I hadn’t tried before. All of these wines were crowd pleasers, and the last one was a huge (wine geeky) surprise to me.

So, without further ado, let’s get tasting!

First up is the Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal.

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Now, before I go any further, I want to clarify that Vinho Verde, Alvariño and Albariño are all the same grape. It just depends on where it is planted (Portugal or Spain). Vinho Verde literally means “Green Wine.” And one look at this wine in a glass makes it clear, that it truly is a green (tinted) wine. It’s young, fresh and has vibrant acidity that makes your mouth water. On the nose, this wine exudes notes of kiwi fruit, honeydew melon, white flowers, lime and citrus. One sip and the bright acidity is evident. This wine has a slight effervescence about it. The flavors of lime and green melon dance in perfect harmony on your palate. This light, slightly effervescent wine is a perfect pairing for seafood dishes like muscles, shrimp and fish. It can even be paired with dishes such as shrimp, chicken, or pork paella.

Price range: $9-$16

Our second white wine is one of my favorite Chardonnays, and my all time favorite Chardonnay to pair with grilled or rotisserie chicken.

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The Longhand Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast has a golden yellow hue and a nose of yellow apples and pears, vanilla, butterscotch, and oak. On the palate, the wine is silky smooth, with flavors of apple and pear, with a smokey oak and toffee note. Like I said before, this is my all-time favorite to pair with grilled or rotisserie chicken, but it can easily be paired with turkey sandwiches and many grilled fish, such as, Halibut, Mahi Mahi, Red Snapper, Swordfish and Sea Bass.

Price range: $8-$12

Now for our first red of 2018—an all-star right off the bat—the Matchbook “Tinto Rey” red blend.

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Normally I don’t make a big deal about the grapes that go into red blends, but this is a unique creation that has yielded a delicious, big, bold yet silky smooth red wine. It is comprised of 43% Syrah, 40% Tempranillo, 7% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Graciano. The deep dark plum fruit of Syrah is married with the bright cherry fruit notes of Tempranillo, and tempered by the Malbec, Petit Verdot and Graciano. The wine has big round tannins, and a silky smooth, long finish of dark fruit. Pair it with grilled meats of just about any kind. Personally, I think the wild flavors of grilled alligator, snake, venison, buffalo and salmon will bring out the best in this wine. Be daring, try it with something imaginative and let me know what you think.

Price range: $10-$15

Our next Red has become one of my instant favorites. It’s big and bold, and has layers of juicy dark fruit, and just enough oak aging to add a smooth vanilla tobacco finish to it. I’m talking about the Trailhead Paso Robles Zinfandel. (Sorry, my lazy webmaster is still looking for a picture)

This wine has classic California Zinfandel aromas of Blackberry, Black Cherry, leather and baking spices. I’ve come to know Paso Robles wines as big and bold, layered, and containing just enough oak influence to put a nice finish on the wines. This one is no exception. The wine exudes flavors of deep, rich black fruits, baking spices of clove and cinnamon and just a hint of oaky vanilla on the finish. If you’re having braised, smoked or grilled ribs, you NEED to have this wine with them. It’s dark, jammy fruit notes will pair with several smoked or grilled meats. Grab a couple of bottles, fire up that smoker, invite some friends over, and create a meal experience to remember.

Price range: $10-$16

As usual, I saved the best for last.

The last red wine in this week’s lineup was a huge surprise to me. Now I’ve had wines that have had “unique” aromas or tastes before, and I’ve picked out hints of this and that, but never have I opened a bottle, decanted it, poured a glass and smelled it and thought I made some kind of mistake.

Let me explain.

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When I opened this particular bottle of Triton Tinta de Toro from Spain, it was early in the morning and I had my coffee thermos right next to the bottle. So, when I poured myself a glass of wine, and raised it to my nose, and smelled the aroma of rich dark coffee, I did a double take, thinking I had mistakenly poured my coffee into my wine glass. Nope! It was a dark red liquid in my wine glass. I smelled it again... and again, and yet again. Each time, there were no notes of fruit at all, only the rich dark aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans. All I could do was smile, and I wondered what it would taste like? I was blown away! It smelled like roasted coffee beans, but tasted like deep, dark stewed plums. The texture was silky smooth, almost creamy, but the taste was distinctly that of stewed dark plums.


Right away I thought, “This would be great with Santa Maria Tri Tip!” So I bought a bottle, stopped at the store on the way home, bought a big Tri Tip, prepared it the next day, cooked and ate it (not all of it!) with this wine. Yep, the perfect match! I hope you will give it a try. The aroma is nothing like the palate, and pairing it with Tri Tip is more than a rewarding experience. Cheers!

Price range: $22-$30

I’m glad to be back! I truly hope you enjoyed this first flight of 2018, and that you will try all of these wines. They are all delicious in their own right, and are all worthy of pairing with some of your favorite dishes.

Cheers to a promising 2018! See you back here next week.