Silly Name… Serious Wine

Screw Kappa Napa

I used to see this wine on the shelves at the grocery store and crack up laughing. I thought the name of it, Screw Kappa Napa, was so funny that it couldn’t possibly be anything actually drinkable. It wasn’t until one day when I was playing around on the Sebastiani website that I realized that this silly sounding wine was actually one of theirs… Sebastiani has a division called Three Loose Screws and under that label they have several wines, one being the Screw Kappa Napa. Once I realized that this wine did in fact come from a reputable place my curiosity got the best of me and I bought my first bottle of SKN Cabernet Sauvignon. Lo and behold the wine was great! It’s somewhat similar to its cousin (see previous post) the Sebastiani Cabernet but a little less aggressive. The regular Sebastiani Cab is one I go to when I’m looking for something serious… a big, bold wine that doesn’t mess around. The SKN has just as much to offer but is a little bit more mellow. It offers the same smoky tobacco aromas and is dark ruby in color. It tastes of blackberries and black pepper. This would be a great wine to enjoy with a steak dinner but also gets the job done as an after work cocktail! So don’t let the funny name throw you… this wine means business.

If You Like Licorice…

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet SauvignonVery rarely (and I mean rarely) do I meet a wine that I absolutely just can not drink. I didn’t even make it through half a glass of this and neither did Andrew (my boyfriend and wine drinking partner). Although there are times when we say, “Eh… this is alright,” we still drink it. We poured this down the sink. The first thing that I noticed was how dark the wine was. It was almost black in the glass and it smelled a little bit like tar. That should have been my first clue. I let it sit for a while because I thought that this might be one that needed some air. Obviously I didn’t give it enough. I’m not saying that this is a bottle that no one would enjoy. The flavors were just all flavors I really dislike. It tasted like a mix of rasperry liqueur (think Chambord) and black licorice (think Jagermeister). I literally shivered. This is not a bottle I will buy again. The best part about this bottle is the pretty label.

Smooth & Sultry From Sonoma

What a sexy little bottle this was. It was complex and alluring and definitely got my attention. This was a wine that actually made me sit down and evaluate what was going on with it. This Sonoma County Cabernet has something to say. “Drink me.” Sebastiani used grapes from three different sub-appelations to create this California beauty: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley. While it is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, it also features small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. This blend adds to the astounding complexity that this wine offers.Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

What first struck me was the depth of the garnet color as I poured it into my glass. I’d forgotten how dark a Cab can be. Before I even lifted the glass I was getting whiffs of rich black cherry and cedar (cigar box as the winery notes called it). I could tell that this was a wine I would need to let breathe for a bit. It was worth the wait. Firm in tannins and structure, it was a teensy bit tart on the tongue giving off flavors of black cherry and even a little bit of hazlenut from the oak but had a smooth and creamy finish. It also had flavors of smoke and black tea. So many wines I’m just indifferent about… this was not one of them. This was a wine that really made me think. My boyfriend and I enjoyed it so much and would definitely buy it again. I bought this one at Spec’s in Houston (Old Farm location) for around $16. This would be a perfect wine for a night when you felt like grilling steaks. It could definitely hold its own against hearty food but I think it would be just as enjoyable with a salad dressed with balsamic vinegar. Great… now I want a steak.

Wine As Interesting As Its Label

I don’t have too much to say about Educated Guess other than it was one of the most interesting Cabernets I have ever had the pleasure to drink. It was incredibly smooth with flavors of juicy blackberries, boysenberries and creamy vanilla. I think it may have been the creaminess that made it so unique. That’s not a texture I’m used to in a Cabernet. I wanted to hold each sip in my mouth, close my eyes and savor it. It was jammy without being overly sweet. It was a true delight.

I will say this, however. I ordered this wine at a tapas and wine and tapas bar called Oporto which specializes in Portuguese wines and foods. They offer other Educated Guess Cabernetoptions, of course, or I would never have ended up with this lovely Californian variety from Roots Run Deep winery. I just didn’t love the wine as much with any of the foods that we ordered. The wine was ordered before the food (obviously first priority). We ate curried lamb meatballs, lump crab meat crepes with bechamel sauce, a marinated portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and cheese and finally baked brie with fig preserves, strawberries and sliced pears. Does that sound like a delicious meal or what? Oh it was. The Educated Guess didn’t taste unpleasant with the food… it just didn’t add anything to the meal and the meal didn’t accent the wine, either. This is definitely a wine I would buy again, but perhaps just to enjoy on its own. I have not found this wine in a store yet but am keeping my eyes open for it. After doing a little research I learned that all the chaos on the label is actually meaningful. Those are five different formulas that are used in winemaking. Who knew?

If you are in Houston and happen to make it over to Oporto on Richmond (which I would highly recommend) you should try the Estampa Cabernet/Syrah blend from Chile. This was my companion’s order and upon first sip I was certain I had once again out-ordered him. It was almost too dry but once it had a second to open up and breathe in the glass it was absolutely gorgeous and it was even better with everything we ordered. I am always impressed with a wine that can pair beautifully with so many different types of foods. That is no easy task. It was definitely much drier than the Educated Guess and had flavors of cherries and black pepper but still had a very slight hint of vanilla on the finish… very seductive. My second glass of the night was a 2004 Barahonda that was also smooth and dry but, like the Educated Guess, did not pair as well with the foods as the Estampa.

A Gift From The Wine Gods

If you have ever found yourself enjoying a scrumptious glass of wine only to find bits of what looks like dirty, dried fruit specks lingering in the bottom of your glass consider yourself lucky! While sediment may not look very appealing (I mean who likes dirty wine, right?) it actually usually means that you’re drinking some pretty good stuff. Wine sediment can be an indicator of several things: the wine is quite old (lucky you) and great care was put into creating that bottle. Over time, the tannins and pigments in the wine start to break down and thus create the sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It often means that little or no filtration was used during the winemaking process which allows a wine’s personality and flavors to develop over time. Due to this, sediment can be found in some newer vintages as well. If you happen to imbibe a bit of the good stuff don’t worry, it won’t hurt you. While it may not taste all that great, it is believed to be full of antioxidants. While sediment is usually associated with red wine, it can sometimes be found in white wine as well in the form of tartrate crystals. This just means that the wine was once exposed to very cold temperatures, perhaps while being cold stabilized.

If you can see the sediment in the bottle but would prefer to keep it out of your glass there are a few things you can do. First, stand the bottle upright rather than keeping it over on its side before serving. If you can do this a full day in advance, that will give the sediment plenty of time to make its way to the bottom of the bottle. To take this one step further, you can also decant the wine, which just means pouring it into a separate serving container. Not only does this prevent sediment from making its way into your glass but it also allows the wine to open up and breathe. When pouring the wine from its original bottle into the decanter, watch the neck of the bottle closely to make sure you don’t let any sediment flow through.

The moral of the story is that if you find a few speckles in your glass go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back because obviously you know how to pick ’em! Consider it a little gift from the wine gods!