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“Taken” Me Away …

I’ve been looking for a wine at a fair price to “take me away” … and I’ve found it! I’d heard of the Bordeaux blend Taken, but had yet to find a bottle to purchase. Well the other day I was fortunate enough to find a bottle and I grabbed it. Now I wish I’d grabbed a case!

Taken is the brainchild of two childhood friends, both of whom are from Napa wine families. Josh Phelps is the son of Chris Phelps (former winemaker for Dominus, Caymus & Swanson) and Carlo Trinchero’s family runs Trinchero Family Estates. Let me tell you something, these two young men have got it going on!

The 2012 Taken is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. It is already drinking so well, and some time in the bottle will only bring out more of its earthy qualities.

The wine’s color is deep garnet red with a rim variation of bright purple. On the nose are blackberry and black cherry. The velvety mouth feel provides flavors of chocolate covered cherry, blackberry and coffee. The fruit isn’t overbearing, and there is a wonderful earthiness that follows with smooth tannins on the finish. This wine has nice complexity and rocks, especially for the $30 price tag. Now I just need to find more!

Phelps and Trinchero have two brands under the Taken Label (Taken and another called Complicated) and are about to launch a third, which they’ve named Available! I sure am looking forward to trying them as well.

So … if YOU’RE ready to be Taken away … give this lovely wine a try. Here’s their website:


Opus One’s Second Wine/Take 2

Top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be as complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big time price tag.

Opus One is a winery in Napa that produces a second wine.  Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used.  They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa.  The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux.  This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines.

While their signature wine is called Opus One, their second wine is appropriately (especially if you’re a music enthusiast) called Overture. Overture is only available at the winery or on their website.  We had a tasting at Opus One a couple of years ago, and had purchased a bottle then. We cracked it open the other night.

I decanted this wine for about an hour before pouring.  The color is a medium purple and has a wonderful aroma of chocolate-covered cherries.  On the palate are some nice dark fruit, specifically black cherry and currant, as well as some tobacco.  It is well balanced with some earthiness and a hint of baking spices.

Yes, the vintage Opus One is a fabulous wine with a lot going on.  I wouldn’t mind having cases upon cases of it resting in my cellar.  With the going rate of about $235 a bottle, not many people can afford that.  Overture isn’t cheap, but at about $80 a bottle most of us are a lot more likely to be able to afford multiples.  If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with a price tag over a couple of hundred bucks, but you’d like to splurge a bit, Overture is a very nice option.

2007 Sprecher Barley Wine (A Beer For Your Wine Cellar!)

I’m obviously a huge wine lover, but I’m a beer lover too! I’ve been all over the world tasting wine, but I also drink a lot of beer along the way. I’ve tasted wonderful beers in Belgium, France, Italy and Germany, but my favorite beer in the world comes from right here in the good ‘ole U. S. of A.!

Sprecher Brewery is located in Glendale, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee) and was founded in 1985 by former Pabst employee Randal Sprecher. They make an award winning Root Beer, as well as many other sodas. They also make some fabulous award winning beers, with my favorite being their seasonal Dopple Bock, which is only released in the winter. Since this is a wine blog though, I thought that I’d talk about their Barley Wine. Okay, so it’s not wine, but it’s REALLY tasty!!!

I buy a couple cases of beer at their brewery whenever I get to Milwaukee. A few years back I bought a few bottles of the Barley Wine brewed in 2007 and stored them in my wine cellar. I pulled out the last one yesterday to enjoy with Sunday football. It currently has a golden orange, copper color. On the nose are caramel, butterscotch and some Christmas spices. The palate has the caramel and spices, along with sweet burnt brown sugar and toffee.  It tastes a bit oxidized, but not in a bad way. It is almost like Sherry. My husband made me share, and we both really enjoyed it.

Although not widely distributed enough for me, some of Sprecher’s beers can be found out there. I’ve found their Oktoberfest, Mai Bock, Abbey Triple and Black Bavarian at Total Wine here in Orlando. I also find them at a few brewpubs in the area. Luckily I’m headed to Milwaukee this week, so I’ll be stocking up on some of my favorites!

The next time you’re anywhere near Milwaukee, put a visit to Sprecher Brewery on your list of things to do. They have tours and tastings too, but you’ll need a reservation for those. Be sure to get directions or put it in your GPS, because you’ll be surprised to find that it’s located in a residential neighborhood!

Meanwhile, if you see Sprecher anything at your local retailer, grab it.  I have a feeling that you’ll love their beers as much as I do!

Here’s their website:

Spend Your Bones on Three Sticks, Not Stones!

I get to Napa and Sonoma often. It’s common knowledge that this part of our country has some wonderful wines, but the area is also well known for some exquisite food! I’ve had some of my very favorite meals in Northern California.

My husband and I adore the charming town of Healdsburg, located in the northern part of Sonoma County. Surrounded by world class AVAs such as Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley, the town of Healdsburg has a delightful town square. Shops, art galleries, wine tasting rooms and some fabulous places to dine surround this quaint downtown plaza area.

A year or so ago my husband and I were chatting with some people while tasting at Thumbprint Cellars’ tasting room in the square. The gal with whom we were talking was headed to her shift just down the street at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, and suggested we head there for dinner and sit at her table. I’d always wanted to dine there, so we took her up on the offer!

The experience was fabulous!!! The food was wonderful and the wine list sublime. They were also pouring a special wine that night, and the kind sommelier made sure our glasses weren’t left out! The wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Three Sticks Winery. This Cab was so velvety and flavorful, with lots of fruit, but some earth too. My husband and I knew that we’d found a gem! When we returned home I got on their mailing list! With our first allocation I ordered some of their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. 

We opened a bottle last night with some friends, and it was definitely the wine of the night. With a dark ruby color, this aromatic wine has smoke, licorice and black currant on the nose. On the palate are cassis, blackberry, black cherry, soft tannins and a long and lovely finish. This wine is definitely a winner! It’s drinking well now, and will only get better with some time in the bottle. I’m glad I still have a couple in my cellar, and wish I had more.

Three Sticks Winery now has a tasting room in downtown Sonoma. I haven’t been there yet, but you know that it’ll be on my list for my next Sonoma County visit. Find out more here:


Do You Love Italy???

Lo amo l’Italia!  I love Italy!  I love the Italians!  And I love their wines!!!!!

The times I’ve visited Italy have been delightful.  It’s a spectacularly beautiful country with the nicest people and fabulous wine!!!

Shopping at my favorite wine shop in Orlando last week, I was introduced to a really fun (and not overpriced) Italian wine.  The 2012 Torre d’Orti Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is from the Veneto region, located in northeast Italy.

What is a Ripasso wine?  It is from the Valpolicella region north of the picturesque hometown of Romeo and Juliet, Verona.  “Ripasso” is Italian for “repassed”, and it refers to the process of fermented Valpolicella wine being “repassed” over the skins and lees left over from the fermentation process of Amarone wines.   This imparts extra color, texture and flavor to the Valoplicella wine!  This process also increases the alcohol content, because a second fermentation is induced.  This produces a wine that is bigger, darker and more flavorful and complex than the original Valpolicella.   Ripasso della Volpolicella received its own DOC designation in 2009.

This 2012 Torre d’Orti Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is a blend of three varietals, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.  The color is bright ruby red.  On the nose are dried plum, black cherry and chocolate.  The juicy palate is loaded with the black cherry and dark berries and is soft, with an almost creamy texture.

If you like big, juicy, fruity wines (for example, are you a California Zinfandel lover???) you’ll definitely enjoy this.  Check this one out!!!  I think that you’ll love it!

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