Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trying too Hard to Stay Cool

Remember when we bemused the heat index in Eau Claire last summer? 
"Local temperature for Eau Claire, Wisconsin: 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Local heat index: 105."

We're rethinking our complaints. 

After a staggering 109 degree reading on Nick's Sentra, a few couples' spats about our air conditioning, and a desperate trip to Maggie's parents' pool in search of relief, we've decided to accept the heat's intensity and adjust our lives accordingly. For two winos without a wine cellar or refrigerator, a heat wave like this summer's can be kind of a bummer. Due to Maggie's (un)employment status, we've tried to live without air conditioning for as long as is humanly possible. About three days ago, we finally succumbed to the heat and cranked up our tiny air conditioning unit. But it might not have been soon enough . . . 

We were, as any self-respecting wine lovers would be, worried about the well-being of our vino.  Wine can cook if left in hot temps (for example, in your car in the summer).  Not to mention, red wine should be served at room temperature: but keep in mind, this adage was established before the creation of central heating and air, when typical room temperature was between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Tonight, we opened our 2008 Turley Hayne Vineyard Petite Syrah with trepidation. Would the heat have affected our beloved grape juice in a negative way? Would all be lost? And, further down the line, would our 2008 Napa Angel, which we recieved as a wedding gift, be ruined because of our stinginess during this heat wave?

Our entertainment tonight came from Japandroid's album "Celebration Rock." Despite the vague title, we were intrigued by the band's fun namesake and animosity.

After letting our wine decant for about half an hour, we plunged into our tasting. We have to admit that we've really missed our AudioVino nights. Our crazy schedules and new environment have kept our tastings at bay, but we're excited to get back into the swing of things.

At first, our Turley was extremely hot on the nose. So hot, in fact, that Nick had a hard time detecting any scents or intricacies of the vino. Our first sniffs revealed a ton of heat (this wine rocks steady at 15.4%), some charred, meaty flavors and a hint of dark fruit. The heat was so overbearing that we decided to put our wine into the fridge for a few minutes. Yes, you read that correctly - in essence, we chilled our red wine. But in a mostly un-air conditioned apartment, we were hardly "chilling" our wine. We were bringing it back to it's natural room temperature. After about two minutes in the fridge, this vino was much easier to handle. It's scent of light honey gram and raspberries become much easier to grasp.

As we sipped, we tasted a delicious, well-balanced, and incredibly elegant virtuoso of a wine. For the high amounts of alcohol and flavor, this Turley impressed us with it's velvety tony and easy-to-drink nature.

As for our audio, we weren't blown away by the Japandroids (despite their incredibly awesome name). The group tried a little too hard to be cool with their nods to early 2000's pop-punk bands and Owl City-like lyrics.

Nick's Review


Japandroids (no, this is not a the bad guys from Power Rangers) is a mash potato of early punk pop with a peppering of old school garage punk that has been dowsed in a gravy of feedback.

The album starts out with the sound of fireworks (fitting for the Fourth of July) and some cool vocal harmonies.  I immediately was reminded that I need to call and reminisce with some of my old high school friends.  Some of you may be reminded of watching American Pie late one night in college on TBS while trying to avoid the dreaded spins associated with light night drinking!

The album continues with more of the same with a few mix ins of garage punk slash country rock influenced tracks like "For the Love of Ivy".  The only track that stood out for me was the final one, "Continuous Thunder," with its enveloping sound and driving anthem.

This isn't a bad album by any means.  I feel this is a band meant to be seen live, I need to be up and moving while listening to this.  It would put me into the mood for moshing, if I were a slightly larger man and not afraid of physical contact.



Turley!  Who hasn't heard the name?  A famous zinfandel and petite syrah producer from California.  Turley zinfandel is an American classic and, just like Japandroid's opening fireworks, Turley embodies a sense of Americana.

Turley's zinfandel wines, made by the famous Helen Turley, are definitely their most popular varietals.  I highly recommend the brand (if you can find any) for someone looking for great wines and approachable price points.

This petite syrah wouldn't have been my first choice on this 105 degree day, weighing in at 15.4% alcohol. I was a bit intimidated before even taking my first sip.

As previously mentioned, our wine has attained some heat from this treacherous summer scorcher, but we placed the bottle in the fridge for a few minutes to make it more manageable.  Despite this attempt at taming the beast that is California petite syrah, we still had a bit of heat on the nose.  At first it was too much for me, but upon allowing the wine to breathe I welcomed the hints of raspberry, pork belly, smoke and graham cracker.

Wine of the caliber of Turley has a tendency to be high alcohol and big on style, yet balanced and restrained.  This wine was no exception. Although it is 15.4%, it never burned or turned me away.  Elegant in its own right, the wine displayed flavors of  pork belly/bacon fat, blackberry and tea.  The mouth feel was medium to full-bodied and the finish was delicate with a touch of alcohol.

I would definitely consume this wine with food in the future and am excited to try it again (a friend of mine has a 2005 vintage of the same wine and I'm hoping I can sit in on it!).

91 pts

Maggie's Review


Japandriod's music shows variety without ever transcending genre. While I'm usually a fan of genre transcendence, I give these guys credit for their creativity and virtuosity within their specific sound.

In tunes like 'Night of Wine and Roses' and 'Adrenaline Nightshift,' the group showcases their ability to build on already-established pop-punk features. Their Owl City-esque lyric themes can be a bit much, and they  seem to cater to the tweens of yesteryear. Nick and my peers will find similarities to Weezer, while today's tweens will relate to songs like "Continuous Thunder." All in all, this group tries to match up to nostalgic favorites from the early 2000's (think Sum 41) while adding 'deeper' elements of more classic punk and country-rock. They don't really succeed.

I will admit that in a mosh pit, I might be more apt to give them a second listen. This is not sitting-down music, and it would be much better appreciated in a concert setting among 1,000 16-year-olds.



Despite my love of wine and my knack for writing astoundingly amazing AudioVino blog posts, I don't know as much as Nick does about the intricacies of wine. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to detect any difference in our vino after it had been sitting in less-than-ideal temperatures for three weeks. I'm still not sure I'd be able to detect a marked difference, but after sampling this petite syrah from Turley, I think I have a better grasp on how temperature can effect wine.

This wine was quite fragrant, balanced, and pleasant. It smelled of honey graham, rich raspberry, and dark chocolate, but its flavors were slightly muted by its alcohol content and strong potency. I think our lack of temperature control affected our tasting experience, but its important to note that not only does the temperature of the wine itself affect a tasting, the temperature of the room affects the tasting as well. In other words, Nick and I would probably have been more apt to fall in love with this wine if we were seated in a room that was 78 degrees and conducive to wine tasting. The wine pulled its weight and managed to impress  us despite the less-than-comfortable conditions, leaving me to believe that it'd be a crowd-pleaser in most social settings and a pleasant wine for a cool autumn evening.

92 pts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Simple Better?

We thought we'd post this very interesting article by Will Lyons from the Wall Street Journal. We think the highlighted section pertains to wine bloggers and wine professionals.

Nick: I can't tell you how many times I have tried to explain common tasting notes (apple, peach, cherry, current, flint, etc.) to a guest at my store only to have them confusedly tells me they don't want a fruity wine. Please keep in mind that people who don't grasp tasting notes are the newest of newcomers to wine. Still, maybe Will is on to something. Maybe we should "dumb it down," keep it simple . . . after all, the overwhelming majority drinks wine for one simple reason: to relax. The average consumer doesn't really want to think about their wine and dissect it bit by bit. They just want to pop, pour and sip.

That being said, we here at AudioVino do not plan on dumbing down our tasting notes. In fact, this article makes us feel like we should maintain creativity in tasting notes, look for the extremes and find the wines that have ultimate personality. After all, the people who follow blogs like AudioVino are the ones who do dissect their wine and are looking for an adventure in every glass.

Enjoy (BTW new AudioVino to come soon):

A New Wave of Chardonnay Down Under
Source: WSJ
Feb 3rd
A few eyebrows were raised last month when disgruntled Liverpool cinemagoers to the Oscar-nominated "The Artist" demanded their money back, saying they weren't told it was a silent film. While their actions are a little strong, as a wine writer, I can empathize. When was the last time you bought a bottle of wine only for it to taste nothing like you thought it was going to? Only the other day, a collector of Burgundy's wine was lamenting to me how he can spend as much as ?20 on a bottle and still get it "very wrong."
Wine labels are often extremely confusing. Yes, they can be graceful, charming and, in some cases, works of art, but when compared to the labeling of other foodstuffs, they are rarely credited as informative. Of course, there are exceptions. The widespread practice in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the U.S. of placing the name of the grape variety and tasting notes on the back label has helped the consumer enormously. But sometimes, I wonder whether anybody outside of the rarefied circles of the wine world really understands what the descriptors on the back label actually mean.
It is a question wine professional Robert Joseph, of U.K. wine-research company DoILikeIt?, has been investigating. In surveys he has conducted, consumers rarely come up with fruit descriptors to describe wine, he says. This is revealing, as that is the common language used by wine professionals (myself included). So where a wine critic might describe a white wine as possessing notes of apple, lemon or orange peel, according to Mr. Joseph's research, consumers prefer words like dry, smooth, fruity, mellow, rich, crisp, fresh, full-bodied and zesty. Similarly with red wine: spicy, intense, smooth and oaky are preferred to red cherry, balsamic, cedar and black currant.
In a separate survey conducted by DoILikeIt?, around 3,000 British supermarket consumers were given a set of descriptors and asked: "Which words do you associate with wine you like?" The results show that 20% to 25% liked oaky white wine, while 40% didn't. Again, these are revealing, as in European wine circles, the overuse of ageing wine in new oak barrels is often derided by critics. Admittedly, 40% is a large number, but it is not by any stretch a majority.
Which brings us to Australian Chardonnay. In the mid 1980s, Australia took the export markets by storm when they produced easy-to-drink, fruit-driven Chardonnay, with a distinctive, creamy oakiness. "Sunshine in a bottle," was what some critics called it, and it worked. It was a huge success and, in many ways, Australian Chardonnay became a brand within its own right.
Back then, Australian wine producers told us that the concepts of terroir and different regional styles didn't matter, as it was the grape variety that was the main driver of flavor. But in recent years, there has been a revolution in Australian winemaking that has seen a change in the style of Chardonnay produced. It is, says Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Clare Valley wine producer Wakefield, a style that is heading toward less wood.
Wine producers in Australia have started to produce Chardonnays that have a crisp, lean style-in some cases with no oak at all. Moreover, when you talk to Australian wine producers, you now regularly hear words such as regionality and cool climate.
But, as Mr. Joseph asks, who is dictating the style change? He questions whether the new Australian Chardonnays have a sufficient point of difference to make him want to buy them over, say, a Macon-Villages. Moreover, if he were offered an unoaked Australian Chardonnay in a restaurant, why would he choose that against a similar style of wine from a European region such as an Albariño from Spain or a Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Are there any conclusions we can draw from these findings?
Of course, any survey is just a snapshot. But it is interesting to note that when I asked Mr. Eggins which of his Chardonnays sold best, he immediately pointed to the oily rich Chardonnay, which, you've guessed it, was aged in oak.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Comfort Zones be Damned

Life has a way of throwing curve balls.  Either you can step up to bat and swing your heart out, or you can jump back from the plate.

Nick recently accepted a position at Binny's Beverage in the Loop of Chicago, Ill.  Nick will be working as a wine consultant in a much bigger city, and will be able to work with so many new types of wine (and people!)  Moving to Chicago is going to be a big change for us two little Wisconsin kids.  Before we leave Eau Claire, we wanted to be sure to do a guest tasting with our two friends, Joel and Steph Peterson.  Joel works in the beverage industry with Nick (you'll find the two of them at Famous Dave's happy hour every Monday) and while Joel and Steph love wine, they are new to some of the terminology and tasting practices.

Joel and Steph weren't the only ones stepping out of their comfort zones tonight.  With the (persistant) recommendation of Maggie's coworker Cameron Lien, we decided to review hard-rock band Trivium's album "In Waves."  Any heavy-metal recommendation from an inked-up Buckle employee should be taken with a grain of salt (or so we predicted), but true to our promise to give every recommendation a fair chance, we decided to take on the heavy-metal challenge.  This is where Joel and Steph came in ... as longtime rock fans, they were much more in their musical element than we were.

On our first sniff, Steph and Joel (as well as we) noted that our 2007 Cab from Hess's Allomi Vinyard was quite hot.  As we allowed the vino to breathe a little, the Petersons' descriptions of "rubbing alcohol" started to give way into some very jammy and sweet smells.  As Nick so eloquently put it, the vino smelled "like the little Smuckers containers you get at a restaurant."  As Joel and Steph began to catch on to our sniffing notes, we moved on to give the Cab a taste.

Steph immediately picked up on notes of clove, while we noted the decent acidic balance.  Florals, clove, and honey made the wine beautiful to taste, and we all took a second to relax.  We were sure that our peace was about to be disrupted by some crazy, satanic, screamo-style tool music.  Nevertheless, we turned up the volume and cranked the tunage.

The album began with "Capsizing the Sea," and intro track of dissonant rock reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails, consisting of layered guitar themes.  "In Waves," the album's title track, began with percussive guitar (though it got a little "Through the Fire and Flames" at some points), but was altogether more melodic than expected.  With no shortage of cheesy hard-rock songs (with equally cheesy titles like 'A Skyline's Severance' and 'Leave this World Behind'), there were also a lot of basic melodic elements that were built upon to create a surprisingly listenable album.  However, the album showcased little true complexity, with basic rhythmic guitar, stagnant chords, and predictable builds on subdivided melodies.  "In Waves" was nothing to write home about, but certainly wasn't the satanical, crazy-loud screamo album we had been fearing.

As for the wine, we were disappointed to find that some of those beautiful fruits and herbs had melted into a syrupy, jammy concoction of drinkable but saturatedly-sweet wine.  The amount of acidity just didn't hold its weight, and the wine turned into a melting pot of fruit and jam.  We all had our own opinions on the wine, but it didn't follow through on its promise from the first taste.

All in all, Joel and Steph learned a lot about critiquing wine, and we learned a lot about metal-namely, that you can't judge a book (or album) by its cover.

Nick's Review


I have a pretty diverse taste in music and can usually find something I like in any album ... even heavier stuff.  I'm a fan of bands like "Dream Theater" and "Underoath," but only in spurts and I usually gravitate towards their more melodic songs.

I have a good friend who loves heavy metal and screamo.  To my friend it is a way to release frustration and clear his head.  For me, I like to listen to music to relax and feel enlightened.  "In Waves" had moments of melody that broke up the heavier stuff and was much appreciated.  One thing I look for in bands that utilize "screaming" (sorry if that isn't the technical term) is their ability to switch from screaming to singing.  I think Trivium was successful at this and I would be interested to listen to some of their other offerings to see if this resonates more.

I probably won't listen to this album again, but I would check out some more Trivium given the chance and probably wouldn't mind seeing them live if they were on a billing at a rock festival.



When I first go into wine I drank a lot of Cabernet.  It seemed to be the most popular varietal and it was definitely the varietal I sold the most of.  However, I began to get bogged down by the big fruit, high alcohol content and excess oak of a lot of the California Cabs (admittedly inexpensive) that I was drinking.  So I switched to other varietals and only drank Cabernet when offered.

Suddenly, with the purchase of a bottle of Mouton Cadet, I discovered old world style cabs.  This wine was more elegant and structured, often lower in alcohol and not overpowered with oak.  These new style of wines I was trying were balanced and I was able to drink more than one glass.  Time and time again I would get a craving for a big extracted Cabernet.  The kind that reminds one of eating fruit roll-ups on the swings during recess!

Hess Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon is a nice marriage of both new world and old world cabernet.  While the wine is big and fruity, the body is light and mouth-watering.  While there is some alcohol on the nose the wine doesn't come packaged with it's own two-by-four of oak.  It's like taking a child to the playground. You're too grown up to go on the swings ... but you're not too adult to steal a bite of their fruit roll-up!

The wine has an interesting nose of black currant and clove, not much on the front end and finishes fruity with a bit of tea on the back of the pallet.

88 pts

Maggie's Reviews


At certain points in this album (such as the foreign-inspired "Ensnare the Sun") I was pleasantly surprised with the group's ability to branch out into other musical ideas - that is, until I realized that although the group imitated different musical styles, they didn't create any musical style of their own.

The band built on very basic chords and rhythms, although the guitar was actually pretty impressive.  While the band seemed to have a lot of technical talent, they also didn't seem to create anything particularly new and interesting.

While I am certainly glad I gave this album a try, I highly doubt I would listen to it again (mainly because so many songs seem to run on and on without any real variety).  I give Trivium props for playing with melodies, but they need to work a little harder on expanding their musicality in order to make anything truly remarkable.



This wine had so much promise on the nose - the idea of clove, honey, florals, and berries married together was a perfect recipe for loveliness and appeal.

I usually love wines that evolve, but this wine evolved too much, too quickly.  It was hot immediately on pouring, but then it opened up to showcase the beautiful tastes and textures that characterize a good Cab.  However, by the end of the bottle (which didn't take long with four glasses to fill!) the wine had turned flabby without being oaky.  It wasn't that is was heavy, so much as it became syrupy-sweet, undefined, loose, and jammy.  The heaviness of the fruit became unbalanced, and made the wine uninspiring and thick to drink.

86 pts.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As Primitive as Disco

All of you Hungarian vino history experts can tune out the next couple of sentences. 

Everyone else, raise your hand if you drink zinfandel.  Do you ever ask yourself where this delicious, jammy concoction comes from?  Like most of the grapes that get turned into wine, zinfandel has siblings, more commonly known as clones.  One clone of zinfandel is primitivo.  Primitivo is similar to zinfandel and is popular in the Puglia region of Italy (the "heel of the boot," if you were wondering).  It is thought to have originated in Hungary and than made it's way to Italy.

Now that you're all a little smarter, lets move on to this week's wine, which was a 2008 Primitivo by Feudi di San Marzano.  This is their ICG label that goes under the SUD moniker.  With enough fruit to keep all you zinheads out there happy, it was a fun little wine with a nice price tag at about $10.00 a bottle.

The wine seemed to pair well with our music.  What kind of music did we spin this week?  Get ready for a surprise.  Disco.  Nu-disco, to be artistically correct.  Now, don't think disco duck or falsetto-filled anthems like those of The Bee Gees.  This was a tasteful CD by the nu-disco band Fitz and the Tantrums, entitled "Pickin' Up The Pieces."  It really showcased more of a classic sound similar to Gloria Gaynor or The Jackson Five.  We hope this music can pick up some more air time as it is a fresh sound that leaves you feeling nostalgic and audibly satisfied.

Nick's Review

Audio -

Everyone, think about your favorite playlist.  I bet it was a "feel-good" mix, most likely created to make you feel better as the end of summer was rolling in, or for a long car trip you took when you were twenty-one.  Maybe it was the soundtrack for your drinking games in college.  I'm willing to bet most of our readers listen to a diversified list of music, and I would bet that at least one track was performed by James Brown, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, or The Jackson Five.  Fitz and the Tantrums may just be a band to add to some of these lists.

With catchy songs like MoneyGrabber (yes, one word), L.O.V. and Rich Girls you'll want to give this album a couple spins.  Before you get turned off and possibly even throw up in your mouth at the thought of goldfish shoes, bell bottoms, disco balls and a 20-something John Travolta, be sure to give this album a fair chance.

The flashy disco nuances are quite subtle, and the hot organ, 6/8 time signatures and fun duets were really pleasant to listen to. 

I have a feeling you will be hearing Fitz and the Tantrums on the radio whether or not you're ready for a little 70's revival.


Vino - 

What's not to like about zin?  Maybe it can get really jammy, sometimes.  Maybe it can get so jammy it's like the syrupy goop left at the bottom of a smuckers jar.  Well, not to fear.  This isn't zin it's Primitivo.  Don't let me fool you, I love zin (as you could guess if you look at my favorite wines list and see that Haraszthy zin is near the top).  However, I also like subtle wines with good balance that start off as one thing and open up over time in my glass.

Feudi di San Marzano Primitivo may be more popular in it's DOC classification, but I was definitely impressed with the ICGs bang for your buck factor.  Initially I could smell violet (or some sort of flower that seemed purple in my minds' eye), a bit of tobacco and bacon fat and a touch of green.

The wine was clean and full on the pallet and eventually opened up with a bit more fruit.  After letting it sit the most pronounced tasting note was the skin of blueberries.  Not the meaty fruit inside the berry so much as the dark almost tannic flavor of the skins.

Fun wine, and I'm sure the higher classifications under this line would bring even more complexity which always brings along more intrigue.

87 pts.

Maggie's Reviews

Audio -

I'm a sucker for anything retro.  I know that retro's relatively "in" at the moment, but I'm no fair-weather retro fan.  From dragging my 17-year old-sister to antique stores, to going through an unfortunate straight-bangs phase last year, to making my husband listen to Melanie, I certainly think I was born in the wrong decade.  Seriously . . . my Netflix suggestions are Dick van Dyke and Andy Griffith.

There is, however, one decade of recent American history that turns me off.  I can appreciate the semi-gaudy cat-eye glasses and floral wallpaper of the 60's.  Big hair and leg warmers from the 80's are positively awesome.  The 70's, on the other hand, hold almost no appeal to me.  I tend to believe that the marijuana smokers and political activists of the 1960's, while enviable, created an impossible standard for the kids of the '70s.  The 70's kids got left with the more dangerous drugs, the second-rate music, and the bad pants.

Needless to say, when I embarrass myself by cranking up the retro-tunage in my car, it is never disco.  I have to disagree with my husband - I have never included James Brown, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, or The Jackson Five on any playlists.

Fitz and the Tantrums, while not my style, was a great record.  The music is creative, feel-good, and very respectably authentic.  MoneyGrabber is my personal favorite track, although the chords sound slightly ripped-off from Cyndi Lauper.  The beats and bass are catchy, and I love how the stylistic aspects (vocals, rhythms, instrumentation, and chords) were nearly identical to those of the disco period.  Even the tone quality sounded somewhat old.  It felt like we'd came home and dropped a needle to vinyl.


Vino -

When Nick compares this primitivo to zin, I can definitely see where he's coming from.  As I first sniffed this wine, I got a great sense of downplayed exoticism.  Greens, coffee, and sultry florals made me want to taste, and I had a feeling that this wine would be evolutionary.  For those that know my wine preferences, I get extremely bored when my wine tastes the same throughout the entire bottle.  I have been quoted as saying "a wine's quality can be determined by the conversation it inspires."  I was ready to talk a lot about this wine.

As I sipped, I noticed the tannic quality of the wine, and was happy that the green smell was carried from the nose to the tongue (right on the back of the palate.)  And that was all.

After a few tracks, I characteristically sipped again.  I was right: the primitivo had evolved, and was now more jammy and fruit-forward, though not at all overpowering or flowery.  The tannins were still present, giving the wine a nice, well-rounded palate.  It didn't evolve any further throughout the tasting, but it was certainly pleasant to drink.

I noticed that this wine would be great for food pairings, mainly because of the more savory notes.  I would love to try this wine again with dinner.

How did the vino pair with the audio?  Ehh . . . but both were enjoyable in their own right.  Separately.

89 pts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pop the Cherry

Alright, so the title made this evening sound a lot more heart-racing than it actually was . . .

Let's start off with an impressive note: this wine was aesthetically beautiful.  On this cool summers' eve, after a filling dinner at the always-delicious Pad Thai, we sat down to sample Domaine de la Petite Cassagne's Costières de Nîmes (a rosé from the Rhone region of France.)  The color of this rosé was absolutely fantastic - a bold, brazen red with extraordinary clarity and beautiful opalescence.  But, as beautiful woman, wine's red lips deceive. (We thought you'd appreciate a little cheese with your wine.)

To preface, let us first say that it has become our mission to educate wine-loving friends on the pleasures of the rosé.  Ever since our entry on El Coto Riojo Rosado, (read here) we have been on a mission to show people that blush wines can be complex, pleasant, and intriguing.  Domaine de la Petite certainly did not help us make our case.

On the nose, the vino was cherry-packed and slightly effervescent, reminiscent of kiddie cocktails and cherry bombs.  On the front palate, we noticed the fruity and robust cherry tones, and took them with a dose of acidity.  On the back of our tongues, we noted the slight musk and complimentary darker notes.  The wine was pleasant enough to drink (we wouldn't still be sipping on it if it wasn't).  While we both had some strong opinions on the wine, it was much different than we were expecting. 

Foster the People, an indie pop-rock group, provided our entertainment for this evening (pop music + cherry-bomb wine = blog title . . . get it?).  The first track, Helena Beat, had us in a positive mindset.  The music was upbeat and original, the falsetto vocals were unique, and the pop-driven beats were reminiscent of the 80's in the way that only indie music can reference a decade.  However, by the third track, the method was tried and tired.  Sure, there were some cool, fast, and complex keyboards on "I Would Do Anything For You."  And yes, the beats in "Houdini" had us wanting to go out dancing.  But that doesn't mean the album did anything for our minds or musical itches.  All in all, we were left wanting more . . . again.

Nick's Reviews


Purchasing this CD, I didn't know that it was one of the break-out albums of the summer.  The cover art reminded me of a good friend, and the name reminded me that show on Cartoon Network five or six years ago.

The album itself reminded me of being five or six years old.  Most of you have probably heard the song "Pumped Up Kicks" by now, it's catchy beat, simple vocals and cool electronics make it an easy track to add to the play list.  The music seems very kid-friendly until you take a minute to listen to the lyrics.  Dark, mysterious and very to the point, "Pumped Up Kicks" appears to be about a kid finding a gun and the wrath that is entailed afterward.

Enough about that, the album is fun and is a nice blend of electric and hip hop instrumentals with fun arena vocals that are easy to sing along too (or whistle to)!

My favorite track is probably "Call It What You Want" which features the male vocals.  If anyone has seen the movie "Music and Lyrics" it reminds me of the song from the beginning.

Perfect spin to have in the car with the windows down during the "indian summer" that I'm hoping we have this fall!



Domaine de la Petite Cassagne is a great summer wine for those wishing to experiment with new varietals and not your everyday grocery wine.  This Rhone rose which retails most places around $10 is a HUGE cherry bomb!

Not just a note of cherry - this wine was as if someone blended up some twizzlers (the pull and peal variety) and poured it into a glass.   That being said, I love Twizzlers, but I hate the flavor of the pull-and-peals type.

Despite tasting of merachino cherry juice I still enjoyed the wine.  It was light, straightforward and different.  Which as anyone reading our blog can probably tell, we love things different, new and fun.

I really was craving some dark chocolate and I think it would have been a great pair with this wine.

Branch out today and pick up some Rhone Rose, in particular something form La Cassagne if you have a hankering for cherry!

86 pts

Maggie's Reviews


"Pumped up Kicks" was my favorite track on this album, but only because its melody was particularly catchy.   To be honest, I am left uninspired and completely underwhelmed by this album.

Firstly, this album showcased absolutely no diversity.  It wasn't that the music was bad - actually, the funky synthesizer-pop was relatively fresh and catchy.  The keyboard and synthesizer techniques were actually pretty impressive.  The vocals were a little too "Owl City" for me, but they stood up well and held their own against the harmonies and funky background music.

The problem was that every single song sounded the same.

From "Helena Beat" to "Warrant,"  every single song showcased the group's strong suits: interesting percussion, decent songwriting, and thoughtful lyrics.  Unfortunately, every song also showcased the group's weak points: monotone melodies, repetitive motifs, and diversity-free songwriting.



I tried.  Really, I did.  I have tried so hard to convince my friends that rosé isn't just a wine to ween ourselves off of cosmos and onto the vine.  Unfortunately, Domaine de la Petite Cassagne didn't give me much to work with . . .

Like Nick said, the wine tasted strongly and happily of cherry.  I have really appreciated musk in the rosé wines I've had thus far, and I still tasted that lovely, feminine musk on the finish tonight . . . but rather than a rounded, curvy, musky femininity, I got an immature and freshly-popped cherry.  This wine was pleasant enough . . . its only problem was that it was so reliant on the fruit flavors.  In the end, the wine tasted a bit like a cherry cocktail.  If I was in the mood for a fruity cocktail, I'd fix myself a Tanqueray and cranberry juice.  I guess I prefer older women.

On the plus side, this wine was balanced, slightly acidic, fruity, and smooth.  Most guests at your parties and gatherings aren't going to complain, and the price is decent enough.  I'd drink it again, but I wouldn't seek it out.

86 pts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Local temperature for Eau Claire, Wisconsin: 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
Local heat index: 105.
Tonight, we considered drinking our wine on the porch while listening to our music through the window.
We reconsidered.

Needless to say, we find ourselves inside our cool, air-conditioned loft sipping on some chilled Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc and listening to The Civil Wars' musky, sweaty album, "Barton Hollow."
Our wine and music combo tonight was not only refreshing, but also intensely reflective of the hot and still summer sky.

Fume Blanc (a title coined by Robert Mondavi), is a savignon blanc which has been aged in oak barrels.  This particular one was brothy and slightly vegetal to the nose, and wonderfully balanced.  The wine was incredibly double-planed with significant highs and lows (we'll explain later).

As for the tunage, we can't stop listening to The Civil Wars.  Seriously.  Maggie would never want to side with Taylor Swift on the topic of music (she tweeted about the bands' music in 2010), but this album was fantastic.

The first song, "20 Years", was a perfect example of the duo's marriage of dark folk and sweet melody.  With musical techniques ranging from pentatonic arpeggios to Eastern-inspired guitar, and from Romantic Period Polonaise style to inverted melodies, the musicality of this album is difficult to find in today's musical artists (particularly the high-reaching yet uninspired indie folk scene).  The second track, "I've Got this Friend" showcased the potential sweetness of the band's music, with childlike melodies overlaying syncopation and dark musical effects.  "C'est La Mort," a dark examination of death and love, was made light and listenable by the sweet effervescence of musical clocks and light melody.  Many dark, folk-laden melodies ensued, but were happily broken up by the title track, "Barton Hollow," a kick-ass spiritual rock melody inspired by both salvation and the devil himself.

The music was Western, complex, gritty and spiritual, but refreshed us with its light vocals, pleasant melodies and superb vocal harmonies.  The wine was savory and sweaty, but had an overlay of well-balanced acidity.  On this sultry day we definitely appreciated its touch of effervescence.  We think our internal temperatures finally cooled down to 99 degrees.  At least, we hope so.

Nick's Review

Audio - 
Maybe it's a sign of music culture today,  but for some reason we keep pulling albums of indie folk bands; not that this is a bad thing (we loved "Hayes Carl" and were early followers of "Mumford and Sons") but repetition is dull for the mind and the soul.  Fortunately for us (and hopefully for you) this was a new type of indie folk.  At times it was bright and childish like an old Raffi album (most likely listened to on tape cassett), and other times it was dark and ghostly, with haunting lyrics that left you feeling as melancholy as Ebenezer Schrooge.

The album starts out with "20 Years," a very meditative song featuring pentatonic scales and eastern harmonies.  This leads into a second track "I've Got This Friend" which is bright and syncopated.  A style of music I would love to play for a young child.  The third song "C'est La Mort" features male vocals reminiscent of Harry Connick Jr. and makes me wonder if the male singer, John Paul White, got his chops in the music scene of The French Quarter.

One of the great things about this music was it's ability to flow from bright to dark, choppy to fluid.  I especially liked how the album was broken up with track eight "The Violet Hour", which was an all-instrumental track featuring beautiful yet haunting cello.

I would put the musical exploration of this group far above the currently popular "Mumford and Sons".  Even if they don't see the success that M and S has had in recent months, I will really look forward to another drop from this band.


Vino - 
Ferrari-Carano, just say the name and you feel like a more "established" person.  This wine comes in a beautiful silver, gold and white bottle and just screams summer time sipping.  As we mentioned earlier, it's hot outside and we needed something crisp, white and acidic to cool us off.  This Fume Blanc didn't let us down.

Pour it in the glass and you see the inviting bubbles of effervescence.  The wine is very pale and has an almost watered-down appearance.  The nose has hints of oak but what really stands out are the savory notes.  Flavors of cooked carrots and chicken broth emanate from the glass.  The great thing is that despite it's savory bold beginning this wine finishes with a full mouth feel that covers the back of your lips and tongue.  This fullness is slowly burned away, like a sulfur match, by bright acidity back with candied apple flavor.  Think of those green apple suckers with a slab of caramel on top!
With her slick screw-top, this wine just begs to be popped and poured, which we did and certainly will do again.

90 pts (little thin on the mid pallet, otherwise extremely pleasing)

Maggie's Reviews

I am a fan of truely good, creative, and appealing alternative pop.  While this music wasn't bubbly by any stretch of the imagination, it was certainly melodic, musically interesting, easy to listen to, and all-together delightful.

My favorite track was "C'est La Mort."  Not only the parallel of "C'est La Vie" ('that's life', for those who haven't heard the phrase), "that's death" was not only beautifully lyrical and musically interesting, it was almost comically lighthearted in its musical attributes, considering the incredibly serious subject matter.  The guitar intervals, reminiscent of clocks, investigate the passage of time on the planes of love and death, and the historic music tropes extend far beyond this particular track.

In the dark tune "Falling," describing the stagnancy of a long-overdue breakup, the melody which accompanies the lyrics "I can't help falling out of love with you" are reminiscent of the melody to the classic "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You."  Little innuendos like this are popular in both Broadway and classical music genres.

The Polonaise in "Girl with the Red Ballon" was masterful and indicative of the subject matter (balloons, parties, carnivals . . . you get it), and the western musical cliches show up in most of the hauntingly beautiful tracks of the album,  such as "My Father's Father."  Just try listening to that one without feeling the presence of a ghost.

This album is a thinkers' album.  Musical ideas are utilized (rare in today's music industry) and carried out beautifully.  Real harmonies are created.  Interesting instrumentals provide the bones of the album, while real, creative basics provide the flesh.



I'm finally feeling cool.

Seriously, this wine was the perfect wine for a hot and steamy summer day.  It's savory and tart affixes provide the perfect means for refreshment, like a savory pork with a tart pear.

The savory layers and the crisp acidity provide savory lows and acidic highs, and the separation of the two flavors is extremely clear in this particular vino.  With the top and bottom palates being so pronounced, my only complaint is that the two layers are so separated.  I wish there were a middle ground, with which to unite the two planes and create a unified product like a savory and sweet pork-and-apple stew.

91 pts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'd Rather Have Caramel Corn than Candy Corn

Why do you drink wine?

People have been drinking vino for thousands of years and for fabulously varied reasons.  Some drink wine to appreciate culture and history.  Some use wine's classy persona to mask their alcoholism.  Others drink it to forget that they are living in their parents' basement (more on that later . . . ), and still others drink it to complement food.

The foodie crowd has long appreciated the relationship between wine and food, with its complicated disagreements, occasional perfect unions, and long search for the ultimate marriage of flavor and texture.  When we were approached by Serena Pelowski to do a pairing with Angie's Kettle Corn and Carmel Corn, we were psyched.  As most of our friends know, there are very few people on the planet who eat more popcorn than we do.  Not kidding. 

So, we sat down in our temporary digs in Nick's parents basement (our new apartment is still under construction) with two white wine glasses, a bowl of Angie's Kettle Corn, a bowl of Angie's Carmel Corn, a bottle of Beaulieu Vineyard's 2008 Carneros Chardonnay, and a copy of Arcade Fire's "The Subrubs" album.

There were so many fascets to our tasting tonight!  Not only did we have to critique our audio/vino experience, we also had to pair the two types of popcorn with the vino! 

Nick's Review


Remember the "new kid in class"?  The kid that got up in front of everyone and told them that they had just moved here last summer 'cause their dad got a new job?  "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire reminds me of the constantly-moving kid.  Track one "The Suburbs" will make you think of riding your bike to a friends house on a hot summer day, with nothing to worry about except for getting home on time.  Tracks three and four take on an industrial feel (the point when the kid moves to the city and is trying to fit in at PS 101).  Track five "Rococco" has a cool coo-coo part and ends with some industrial power.  This mixes into some ethereal strings in track six and this ethereal sound comes back in track eight "Half Light II".  This is the point when the kid moves to the country.  The kid gets along fine in the Suburbs and the City, but what about the country?  He must have done alright, because the ethereal sounds where some of my favorite parts on this album.  My favorite song is track ten "Month of May" which has a spooky, driven, 80's-esque sound.



Everyone probably knows about the "anything but Chardonnay" movement.  It started before I became involved in the wine industry and before I even began enjoying wine.  Now, I think that we are starting to reach the end of this attitude, but we are going to need some decent three-dimensional chardonnays to get there.  Unfortunately, BV Carneros Chard isn't very three-dimensional.  This wine has gotten some decent reviews in past vintages and I would probably be willing to try this wine again someday.  However the '08 tasted as if someone glued some candy corn to a two by four and shoved it down my throat.  Flabbier than my high school drivers' ed teacher, I was yearning for some acidity . . . any acidity . . . even a blip of acidity.  The nose had some nice honeydew, vanilla, peach and nutmeg, but it also smelled of cigarellos dipped in peach flavoring.

The saving grace of this experience was Angie's Kettle Corn.  I paired the Chard with some of Angie's Caramel Corn.  This caramel corn is made just the way I like it, lightly covered yet packed with caramel flavor.  We're not talking cracker jacks kettle corn that causes your back molars to stick together.  No sir, this is light and airy and to top it off it's delicious with chardonnay.  The best part of this experience was that the kettle corn saved the chardonnay.  Nobody is happy to open up a bottle of $20-30 chardonnay only to have three sips and dump it out.  The kettle corn added dimension to the chardonnay and kept me coming back, crunch, sip, crunch, sip, this is a pairing I will definitely be trying again and soon.

So even if this chardonnay never reached that third dimension, I want you to forget about the "anything but chardonnay" mentality.  Pick up that bottle of Chardonnay that you have been eyeing up but were afraid to purchase because of the sneers of clerks and peers!  Pick up some Angie's Kettle Corn to enjoy with it, because I guarantee you will have a new found respect for Chardonnay once you give this pairing a try!

80 pts 

Maggie's Review


Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" managed to be both refreshing and disappointing.  In the end, I really enjoyed the album . . . but I was hoping to enjoy it a little more based on the recommendations of some friends.

The marriage of etherealism and industrialism was interesting and managed to give the album an edge.  The way that these two themes played off one another was well-done and not at all repetitive, and and really reflected the marriage of country and city (hence - the Suburbs).  

Usually, albums begin interestingly and move into repetitiveness and pure boredom.  Not so for The Suburbs, which impressed me more and more as the album went on.  The title track wasn't much to write home about (although it provided a great backdrop for the personality of the album), and the second track, "Ready to Start," was pretty unimaginitive, despite it's 80's-pop sound and departure from the first track.  As the album went on, though, the contrasts between the industrial and the ethereal kept me intrigued, and Half Light II (a futuristic and haunting canon) really sucked me in.  

My biggest complaint?  Every song on the album ran together, which can potentially give an album a very unified and artistic tone.  In this case, the album grew stagnant.  Relying on interesting syncopations to give dimension to the album, Arcade Fire neglected to give us any variation on the tempo!  That's right - despite some interesting rhythms, the tempo of the album was flat, constant, and droning.  Constant tempos throughout a modern album are hardly a way to get the listener's blood pumping.



-Basset hounds
-Kirstie Alley
-Britney Spears post-Kevin Federline
-the contents of a plastic surgeon's garbage can

Seriously, this wine was really disappointing.  Even as a novice, I was able to figure out what this wine was missing (acidity).  We both found peach, vanilla, and even a bit of melon on the nose, but as we went to try the wine we both tasted two things: candy corn and sugar.  

We tasted both the Kettle Corn and the Carmel Corn with the Chardonnay.  The popcorn was fabulous - the wine, sadly, was not.  When we tried the Kettle Corn, we realized that it didn't find a great compliment in the wine, mainly because they tasted so similar.  The Carmel Corn, however, complimented the wine fabulously.  The buttery, sweet carmel brought out the hint of nutmeg in the wine and gave it an ever-so-small sliver of dimension.  I would love to try this Carmel Corn again with a better wine.

75 pts.