Toasted Head Chardonnay

Toasted Head



(Dunnighan Hills, California)

On Bottle/Website:

*Brilliant, gold straw color

* Pears, citrus, apple blossoms, lemon, toasty coconut, peach, pineapple and cinnamon

* Barrel fermentation and aging on the lees contribute a creamy mouth feel and toasty finish

* Tastes great with poultry, seafood in a lemon-butter sauce and creamy pasta

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, gold, low concentration, no rim variation, low viscosity

Nose: clean, medium intensity, youthful, oak, white flowers, peach, nuts, honey, spices, mushroom

Palate: dry, medium bodied, peach, red apple, banana, honey, spices, mushroom, medium alcohol, medium acidity, medium plus finish, medium plus complexity

This is a solid wine that was smooth, mild and enjoyable.  It did not pair well with seared rare ahi tuna (which I assumed would be the case!), but I perceived a hint of honey and sweetness in the wine after eating.


Layer Cake Chardonnay

Layer Cake



(Central Coast, California)

On Bottle/Website:

* Described wine as a layer cake, if properly made with fruit, mocha and chocolate, hits of spice and rich

* 14.1% alcohol


My Notes:

Appearance: clear, straw, bright, low concentration, no rim variation, medium plus viscosity

Nose: clean, lemon, grapefruit, grass, cinnamon, autumn spices, almonds

Palate: dry, medium bodied, fruit confirms nose, medium plus alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium plus finish, medium plus complexity

This wine was an exceptional value, ringing in under $20.  It was soft and pleasing on the palate with complex flavors and a nice finish.  I would definitely purchase this wine again for a nice chicken dinner.

Tasting Exercise: Barrel Presence

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about barrel presence in wine.

* Pour a Chardonnay with no oak (AOP Chablis from a producer known to utilize stainless steel or older oak) versus a Chardonnay with oak (Premier or Grand Cru Puligny-Montrachet from a producer known to utilize oak).

* Taste side by side, knowing which one is which.  Describe any notes that remind you of smells related to oak in wine: cinnamon, vanilla, cedar, coconut, dill, etc.)

*Blind taste the two wines in a “Lazy Susan” fashion five times.  Repeat five days in a row.

* Repeat the same exercise with other grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Syrah, etc.

Tasting Exercise: Earth Presence

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about earth presence in wine.


* Pour a Chardonnay from Australia, California, Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet. Blind smell and taste them in a “Lazy Susan” fashion- in different order each time, trying to pick out which ones have “earth” notes.

* Repeat this exercise with wines in a different order five times in a day.

* Repeat the entire exercise for five days straight, at different times of the day.

*Start to try to define earth: chalk, slate, clay, schist, potting soil, dusty road, gravel.  Make notes.  Certain earth will start to define wine regions within countries with certain grape varieties.

Repeat with other grape varieties:

* Rieslings from Clare Valley, Washington State, Mosel and Alsace.

* Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Central Otago/Santa Barbara, Voinay and Gevrey-Chamberlin.

* Syrah from Australia, Washington State/Sonoma Valley, Cornas and Crozes-Hermitage.

* Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Chile, Coonawarra and Paullac.

* Extend to other grapes as you get more comfortable.


Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Herbs

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

The summer is a perfect time to use a plethora of fresh herbs in every day cooking.  The following tips work for either fresh or dried herbs.

* Fragrant herbs (such as chervil, dill and tarragon) pair best with whites like Riesling and Chardonnay

* More pungent herbs (such as basil, thyme and rosemary) pair best with Sauvignon Blanc and many reds, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay

Chateau St. Jean



(Sonoma County)


On Bottle:


* Pear, lemon cream and hazelnut

* 13.4% ABV

My notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, yellow, medium concentration, medium viscosity

Nose: clean, medium intensity, aroma/youthful, citrus, lemon, golden apple, pear, cream, butter, almond, subtle oak

Palate: dry, light to medium bodied, confirmed fruit and non-fruit, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, medium finish, medium complexity

Christian Moreau Chablis

Christian Moreau



(Chablis, France)


On Bottle/Website:

* Ripe, yet bone dry

* Chardonnay grapes

* Crisp green apple, mineral and a touch of saline

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, low intensity, watery/straw, medium viscosity

Nose: sound/clean, low intensity, aroma/youthful, peaches, melon, apple, pear, mushroom, asparagus, sea shell, white flowers

Palate: dry, medium bodied, citrus, apple, hay, mushroom, medium alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium complexity, medium plus length

Tasting Exercise: Body

I read a wonderful article in Food and Wine Magazine last Autumn about different tasting procedures you can go through to help yourself understand the different properties of wine tasting. I found the exercises to be extremely insightful and it was easier for me to remember these properties after physically testing them myself.  I wanted to save these exercises and the wines used and recommended to be able to go through them with friends in the future. I think this would make a fun little educational wine gathering!


Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson defines body as “the sense of weight or richness or heaviness, or even the feeling of viscosity that a wine leaves in your mouth.”

I have often used the analogy of comparing the body of wine to the difference in thickness with milk.  Skim milk is thinner and doesn’t have the richness of 2% milk, and that thickness/richness of milk grows as it reaches whole milk.  A light bodied wine would be comparable to the skim milk while the fuller bodied wines are comparable to whole milk.

Typically, if a wine has a higher alcohol content it will have more body.  Often times wines from warmer climates, which produce grapes with more sugar (that eventually turns into alcohol), tend to have more body.  Other factors in determining the body of a wine include sugar, oak and the concentration.

Food Pairings

One of the most common wine and food pairing tips is to pair white meat with white wine and red meat with red wine.  This concept refers to one of the most commonly used approaches when pairing food and wine: choosing wine based on its body.


Tasting Exercise

Equipment:  4 glasses, 1/4 cup each of skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk and heavy cream

Begin with the skim milk and taste in the order of richness until the heavy cream.  Pay attention to the texture of each variation on your tongue and the sensation in your mouth.  The skim milk should dissipate quickly, which the cream will coat your tongue.


The following wines will help illustrate the concept of body.  A type of wine is listed, followed by a specific vintage and brand that would work well. Each are listed in order from least to most full-bodied.


* Northern Italian Pinot Grigio (2011 Tiefenbrunner)

* New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (2011 Kim Crawford Marlborough)

* White Burgundy (2010 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc)

* Barrel-fermented Chardonnay (2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County)


* Valpolicella (2011 Tedeschi Lucchine)

* California Pinot Noir (2010 Dutton Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard)

* Chianti Classico (2009 La Maialina)

* Zinfandel (2010 Ridge East Bench)

The wines in parenthesis were not necessarily the wines I found and used when first doing this experiment. They are wines suggested in Food and Wine Magazine. I used the ones I could find locally and if I could not find the specific brand they recommended or didn’t have the budget for the one they recommended, I used one that fit their category. I did these exercises before starting this blog so I did not record each brand and vintage I used.

Talbott Logan Chardonnay

Talbott Logan



(Central Coast, California)


On Bottle/Website:

* Sleepy Hollow Vineyard

* Santa Lucia Highlands

* Estate Grown

* Combination of barrel and tank fermentation

* Balance fruit and oak

* Melon, pear and pineapple enhanced by rich, toasty oak

* Long finish

* 14.9% alcohol

My Notes:

* Appearance: clear, bright, yellow color, medium plus viscosity

* Nose: sound/clean, medium/medium plus intensity, bouquet/aged, grapefruit, yellow apple, asparagus, mushroom, vanilla, butter

* Palate: dry, medium to full body, yellow apple, vanilla, medium plus alcohol, medium acidity, medium complexity, medium plus length

Riedel Wine Glasses

Financially, I am in no position to own a complete set of Riedel wine glasses.  But if I were given the opportunity to win the lottery and prove all of the doubts about money not buying happiness wrong, I would be enjoying fabulous wine every evening out of a proper Riedel wine glass.


Riedel wine glasses are shaped according to the characteristic of the wine.  Each glass is hand-crafted and made from crystal.  According to, the luxury Riedel Sommeliers collection is the benchmark against which all other wine glasses are measured.  “The upper bowls are blown into a mold customized to concentrate the wine’s aromas and direct the flow of the wine to the optimal areas of the mouth.”

I still remember the first time I tasted wine out of a Riedel wine glass.  I was hesitant to believe that a simple wine glass could make a significant difference in the taste of the wine, but I was proven wrong.

Within the next year, I would like to start a basic set and collect The Key to Wine Tasting Set.  It seems like the best investment for me, mostly because it is the most economical.


This set includes one chardonnay glass, one riesling/sauvignon blanc glass, one pinot noir glass, one cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass and one shiraz/syrah glass.  Clearly I would be buying this set simply for myself, so it feels a bit selfish because I would never pull any of these out with guests because I would only have one glass for each type of wine.  So I’m not really sold yet.  Also, I like having a stem on my wine glasses, but the Riedel stemless glasses are much less expensive so I would have to compromise.

I love reading the descriptions online about how the shape of the glass aids the tasting process.  For example, the Riedel website states that the cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass is “perfect for young, full-bodied, complex red wines that are high in tannin.  This glass smoothes out the rough edges, emphasizing the fruit, allowing wines to achieve a balance that would normally take years of aging to acquire.  The generous size of the glass allows the bouquet to develop fully.  The shape directs the flow of wine onto the zone of the tongue which perceives sweetness, thus accentuating the fruit and de-emphasizing the bitter qualities of the tannin.”  Doesn’t that make you just want to go out and buy the glasses immediately to test it out?