Wine Review: Beyond the Arc Ice Wine

  It’s the final days of National Novel Writing Month! Congrats to all those who participated this month. No matter what your word count, it’s time to celebrate! Mill Lane Winery out of Tenino, Washington has you covered on that front with their Beyond the Arc ice wine.

Since it’s an ice wine, it is very, very sweet and also at its best well chilled. It loses a bit of it’s “oh!” as it warms up, so keep it cold for as long as possible. But when you have it well chilled, oh, it’s a treat.

I discovered this one a few months back when a friend and I went to a mushroom festival down in Hawk’s Prairie that happened to feature a wine tasting. (I’d say it was a total coincidence, but we did know of the tasting well in advance, and since we both love wine and mushrooms…well, attending was kind of a no-brainer.) Right at that tasting, I knew I’d have to buy a bottle and save it to cap off my NaNoWriMo wine review fun.

It’s almost too sweet for me. Almost. It means my 50K celebration stretches out over multiple nights, because one glass is about all I can handle. (In fact, what I show in the photo ended up being a tad too much for me.) I make out hints of apple beneath all the sweet.

I’m sure it’s equally as tasty in summer, but it’s quite satisfying on a chilly and rainy night. It’s so sweet and rich, and the warm yellow color (and maybe the alcohol content) makes me all cheery even in the face of Western Washington’s rainy season.

It also makes me excited to tackle the revision on my NaNo project. But that can come in December. Or during NaNoEdMo.

Wine Review: A to Z 2014 Oregon Rosé

My introduction to rosé wine came through a sweet rosé, and it took me a little while to come to appreciate dry and off-dry rosé wines. A to Z offers up a dry rosé that’s delightfully tart and citrusy.

A to Z 2014 rose

A light and crisp rosé with hints of cirtus and strawberry.

It pairs well with creamy cheeses and sauces, basically anything where you want something crisp and acidic to cleanse the palate. I had it with both a sage cheddar (yum!) and also seafood chili. It did a great job of clearing away the residue spiciness of the chili, which ended up being perfect for me, because as tasty as the chili was, it was right on the cusp of being too spicy for me. The wine kept the heat from building up to too hot levels.

The wine also has noted of strawberry and plum. It has a bit of a lingering finish, but it’s not heavy-handed. I found this rosé to be the kind where each sip invites you to take the next. I’d buy it again, especially given its price (about $12), and I’ll go on to try other A to Z wines a try (perhaps in April for Camp NaNo 😉 ).

As for how helpful it is in getting all those A to Z words down for NaNo…well, I have had a productive week. Taking some time off work has done wonders for my word count. So has the reward of a nice, chilled glass of this rosé when I make my daily goal. Cheers and happy writing!

Upcoming November Wine Reviews

 Hello! I know it’s been months and months, but I am (somewhat) back to blogging about wine.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or my absolute favorite month of the year, because I always have a blast, even when I socialize a bit too much and have to go recharge my batteries.

So in honor of NaNoWriMo, I’m going to be posting a wine review each Friday, and each selection follows a writerly theme:

4 wines in honor of National Novel Writing Month

First up will be A to Z’s 2014 rosé, because the point of NaNoWriMo is to get those first draft words down (from A to Z)! (Yes, I know, I’m only funny in my head.)

The second week will feature Black Ink, a 2013 red wine blend, because sometimes, switching things up and writing longhand helps the words flow.

In the third week, I’ll visit Subplot No. 29, another red wine blend. This is the week where I’m usually in the thwarty middle of my story and struggling to think of interesting challenges to move my characters forward, so thinking about subplots (and resolving them) seems like a wise move. Now I’ll have a wine for it. 😉

And finally, I’ll end with an ice wine, Beyond the Arc, because we’ll be at the end of the mad rush to 50K and deserve a sweet treat to carry us into December and (yay!) revision mode.

So good luck to my fellow NaNoers. I’m kbrown on the NaNo site if you want a wine geek buddy/cheerleader. 


(Mini) Wine Review: Rivata Casa Rossa

casa rossa

Hello, my new summer crush! You are so fizzy and flirty and sweet.

This is a sweet (but not too sweet) Italian red with a touch of carbonation, so it’s refreshingly fizzy and delightful chilled. It’s fresh and crisp with a hint of blackberry and a strong plum finish.

It’s the perfect wine to sip on a gorgeous summer day when you’re out on the back porch with a good book and a cloudless sky. I’m going to be forced, forced I tell you, to pick up another bottle for to celebrate that first perfect summer day. And at $11.99, it’s a wine that’s going into my gift rotation. I know a few folks who will enjoy it as much (if not more than) me.

Wine Review: Northwest Cellars 12th Man Viognier

a toast to the Seahawks

Wine totally goes with Super Bowl pizza, especially when it’s 12th Man wine. GO HAWKS!

So. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. And since I live in Seahawks country, I am obligated to tune in. Okay, the for real true story is that I fully intended to follow the Hawk’s performance through my neighbor’s fireworks, Facebook, and Twitter, but then my parents invited me over for pizza, and mom said I should make honey walnut ricotta baked apples for them, and then I saw 12th Man wine in the grocery store, and. Well. I know my own personal version of Beast Mode when I see it.

I told my parents I’d happily come eat pizza, watch the Hawks trounce the Patriots (I know; it’s tied at halftime, but GO HAWKS!), and make baked apples if they’d do a special Brown Family Review of Northwest Cellars’ 12th Man wine, To further encourage mom’s participation, I even opted for the white.

This is a 2012 Viognier, hone grown in Washington (specifically Upland Vineyards at Snipes Mountain, in the Yakima region). Now, I am not a huge fan of whites, and Viogniers are hit and miss for me. This one’s a miss for me. All I can taste is the alcohol.

Luckily, my parents are around to pick up the slack for me. Here’s what mom has to say:

It truly compliments my pizza…yes, I would drink it again.

And dad:

I think it has a nice aroma, and the first taste is slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so. It has a fruity taste to me, and it has a nice finish, no unpleasant aftertaste at all.

Like mom, my dad would have it again.

The pizza, for the record, was bacon, black olives, and mushrooms. I can see why mom, who likes whites more than I do, said it compliments the pizza. The sharpness of it was effective at cutting through the lingering (yummy) taste of bacon.

End result: if you’re a fan of sweeter whites, this might be a good try. As for me, I think I’ll be sticking to late harvest Viogniers.

And if the Hawks make it to the Super Bowl next year? That will be an excuse to try the 12th Man red. 😀 GO HAWKS!

Wine Review: Fish Eye 2013 Merlot

One of the shows I’m enjoying this season is Fox’s Gotham, because I have a weakness for All Things Batman. And over the course of this season, I’ve developed a weakness for one of the main antagonists, Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith.

(I may also have a weakness for All Things Jada Pinkett Smith.)

(I definitely have a weakness for smart, scheming women looking to head up criminal empires. And when they look as fabulous as Fish Mooney and have sidekicks like Butch, hello special place in my heart.)

Without being too spoilery, I knew coming into this week’s episode that I might need some wine-infused courage.

(Yes, Fish, I feel the same way.)

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to try a new-to-me wine. Either way, I was on the lookout at the grocery store this weekend, and Fish Eye’s 2012 Merlot all but jumped off the shelf at me. I mean, really. It was a sign from the DC-FOX gods, or something. (And also, the bottle was under $10. That’s two and a half mochas, which made it an even easier sell. But I digress.)

Fish Eye Merlot

I can see Fish Mooney giving folks the fish eye with a glass of this in hand.

Fish Eye wines come out of south eastern Australia. I haven’t had a lot of Australian wines (south eastern or otherwise), so I can’t say how this Merlot compares to others from the region. I can say that this one tastes young. It’s got an up front bite that’s harsh and a bit hard for me to get past. The tasting notes say ripe plum, currants, and a nose of smoky oak. I can definitely smell that. In fact, the wine smells delicious. So delicious, that I’d like to snag another bottle and stick it in the back of the pantry for another year or two to see if the taste mellows out a bit, because with a little less up front bite, this would most likely be one of those wines I’d regularly have on hand.

This is a wine you want to let breathe (and breathe), and one to have with food. I had it with some cream of mushroom soup while watching Gotham, and I think it would have gone better with something more substantial, like a nice roast beef or a thick slice of meatloaf, or even lasagna with lots and lots of garlicy red sauce. Basically, food with a lot of bite on its own, so the bite of the wine feels refreshing.

Fish Eye has a number of other wines, all at affordable prices, so I’ll be tasting my way through their offerings. I’m particularly interested in their Pinot Noir. Merlots will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first varietal I realized I liked when I started tasting wines, but it’s not one of my current go-to favorites. That may have worked against this Fish Eye.

On the other hand, that harsh up front bite was a good pairing with the Gotham episode. 😉

(Oh, Fish Mooney! I do adore you!)

Animated gifs from & Fox TV, both found on

Wine Review: Sun Garden 2012 Riesling

I’ve come to learn that I approach wine buying much like I approach book buying. I have my favorite “genre” (reds) and “subgenres” (Sangiovese, Malbec, Pinot Noir…), and my tried and true “authors” (Airfield Estates, Brian Carter Cellars…), but sometimes I want something new. And a catchy cover bottle and the right price point will get my attention.

sun garden 2012 riesling

Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling is a little like having a glass of early spring sunshine.

That’s how I came to try Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling. It is a gorgeous bottle (I love turquoise), and while this winter hasn’t been as gray and dreary as past winters, I am starting to give the clouds the stinkeye. The sun on the label immediately perked me up, and the price was right. And I do like (the right) Rieslings.

This is an off-dry Riesling, and any off-dry white is a hard sell for me. I generally like my whites to commit to the sweet or dry end of the spectrum and tend to be underwhelmed by anything in between. Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling, however, has enough fruitiness to hold my interest. It starts nice and tart and then opens up to a nice, crisp melony-peachy note.

I had it with my baked apples with honey walnut ricotta this past weekend, and it was a perfect compliment to the dessert. The apple really highlighted the tartness of the wine, and the wine, in turn, brought out the sweetness in the dessert. I also had it the next day with some cream of mushroom soup, and while it wasn’t quite as dazzling when paired with the soup, it was nice and light and a good counterweight to the heaviness of the cream.

I’ll likely pick it up again, especially when I want to offset a sweet dessert.

Wine Review: Airfield Estates 2013 Sangiovese

One of my friends introduced me to Airfield Estates. We were wine tasting up in Woodinville and were fresh off a tasting of some nice reds when she turned to me and said, “I’m going to make you try some whites. Let’s go to Airfield.”

Airfield Estate's 2013 Sangiovese

You say “Sangiovese”. I say “GIMME!”

I figured it was only fair since she’s more of a white wine fan. So we crossed the street and had a delightful tasting at Airfield. I’m more of a fan of red wines, but some of Airfield’s whites, especially their Riesling, rank up among my favorite wines. In fact, I joined their wine club on the strength of their whites.

But Airfield also makes some darn good reds. And at their winter release party this past December, I had the pleasure of tasting their 2013 Sangiovese.

I love Sangiovese. When I’m wine tasting, if someone is offering up a Sangiovese or mentions a red blend contains Sangiovese, I’m handing over my tickets or tokens and thrusting out my glass before they’ve finished saying, “Sangiovese.” (I’m classy like that.)

Airfield’s 2013 Sangiovese is a fun, flirty wine. It smells like sweet cherries and has a bit of a gingery bite beneath the cherry notes when you taste it. I had it tonight with a tenderloin steak and candy brussel sprouts with fig balsamic, and oh my. I pretty much had the perfect meal with the perfect wine to complement it.

a meal taunt

I didn’t believe my coworker when she said brussel sprouts roasted in fig balsamic come out like candy. I was wrong. So very wrong.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how often Airfield will offer up a Sangiovese. According to the winemaker’s notes on the bottle, Sangiovese is typically used as component in their blends, but “this vintage produced fruit of such high quality that it warranted being bottled as a stand-alone varietal.” I walked out of the release event with the three bottle maximum Airfield was imposing, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think I have the willpower to save them for extra special occasions.

This weekend isn’t a special occasion, and I popped open a bottle because I knew it would go well with my dinner. So I suppose I’ll just have to look forward to the next high quality crop that warrants being bottled as a stand-alone varietal. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the bottles I have.

Wine Review: Anakena 2012 Late Harvest Viognier

I’m mainly a fan of red wine, though I go to a number of wine tasting with a friend who’s a huge fan whites, specifically sweet whites, and over the years, we’ve slowly convinced each other to expand our palates. And now I do admit a certain fondness for sweet, fruity whites.

Anakena's 2012 Late Harvest Viognier

Look at that gorgeous golden color!

Anakena’s 2012 Late Harvest Viognier is sweet. It’s a Chilean wine, and I’ve had good luck with Chilean reds, so I picked it up on a whim for when I was in the mood for a sweet white. At $11.99, it’s on the cheaper end of the late harvest wines I like, and it’s one I’ll definitely get again for my own pleasure, but if I’m looking to give someone (like my friend who keeps corrupting expanding my palate, or, my mother, who also likes sweet whites), I’ll stick to my tried and true Airfield and Kestrel picks.

I really like the color and scent of this late harvest. It looks and smells sweet, but not cloyingly sweet. It doesn’t taste cloyingly sweet, either, but I don’t taste many fruity notes. Some are hiding there, but the sweetness overpowers them, and the wine ends on a crisp, almost harsh, note for me. I like wines that have a bit of a bite, so it’s a good ending note for me.

End result: I’d like to try it again, but I’ll wait and get it when I need one more bottle to get a bulk discount. I’ll also be on the lookout for other Anakena wines, especially their reds.

Wine Review: Piaggia’s 2009 Poggio de’Colli Cabernet Franc

Back in the summer of 2013, I met up with a friend for wine tasting at Capri Cellars. I forget what flight I had, but I do remember the wine flight my friend got, a Top Shelf flight that included a Tuscan red, Piaggia’s 2009 Poggio de Colli. My friend took one sip, handed the glass to me, and said, “Here. Taste the wine you’re buying.”

Poggio deColli

Why, yes, I would like some cheese with this gorgeous, tasty wine.

I did indeed walk out of the store with one bottle. At $50, it’s at the upper end of what I’m willing to spend on a special occasion wine, but it was too good to resist. I’m a fan of bold reds, and this one delivers. My New Year’s Eve tradition is to stay in and prepare a nice dinner, make a new-to-me dessert, and open a bottle of Very Special Occasion wine. This has been the wine for the past two years.

It’s a gorgeous deep red. To me, it smells sweet and fruity with a hint of chocolate. The product sheet offers these tasting notes:

Deep and intense ruby red colour with purplish highlights. Aromatic elegance in balsamic overtones and hints of mint, fruits of the forest and a slight smoke finish. Full-bodied and soft, well- balanced thanks to the fine tannins. The finish is long, meaty and chewy. It goes well with traditional Italian dishes, red meat and game.

I mainly taste blackberries and cherry with a bite at the end I’ve been at a loss to describe, but slight smoke finish works well. The wine does indeed go well with red meat. I paired it with lamb in 2013 and steak in 2014, and it also goes very well with a nice creamy cheese. (The one in the photo is Mt Tam a triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery. Closer to room temperature, it’s beautifully creamy and decadent, and with a glass of Poggio de’Colli, pretty much the perfect way to ring in the new year.)

So Happy New Year from my house to yours. May your 2015 be filled with good company, good food, and, of course, good wine.