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Winning Wines by Shuford and Mary Helen Smith


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March 21, 2012

We’ll skip a wine entry as we’re striving to get ready 25+ photos for Saturday’s Art Trot. In the unlikely event that any of you are in the Tryon, NC area, drop by and see us at Bravo Interior Design Studios between 5 and 8pm.


March 9, 2012

It’s hard not to like a winery that has been banned from the state of Alabama for having a label that’s too sexy. Cycles Gladiator is known for having quality wines in addition to their exciting label designs. We chose the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon for an Italian dinner. One word summarized the experience: luscious! It received a composite score in Winning Wines of 89.5 - a very respectable showing.


February 28, 2012

Even though not in the current Winning Wines, we have to congratulate Trader Joe’s on the 10th anniversary of their Charles Shaw label (2-buck Chuck). Over that time, they have sold 600 million bottles. They’ve also helped lower the price of drinkable wines.


February 10, 2012

An old friend dropped by a few days ago with a wine listed in Winning Wines: The Complete List. That book is the large database containing all the multiple-medal winners no matter what the price. The Shannon Ridge 2009 Merlot received a score of 87.3 and is priced around $19.00. We found it had surprisingly good body and complexity for a Merlot, as well as being smooth!


February 2, 2012

We ran across a suggestion for a wine pairing, combine a Ravenswood Zinfandel with baked brie and a ripe pear. We purchased a Ravenswood from Winning Wines, a 2009 Old Vine Zin, so we could give it a try. The combination of the fruit, cheese, and wine was absolutely incredible.


January 23, 2012

We’re compiling the results from the first major wine competition of 2012. One of the fascinating tidbits so far is that one of the wines from the current edition of Winning Wines received a “Best of Class” award. This Double Gold winner is Lucky Star’s 2010 Pinot Noir. See if you agree with the judges the same way tasters did at our local wine store.


January 15, 2012

Occasionally, we hear requests for a light red that can be enjoyed chilled. One candidate is J Lohr’s 2010 Valdiguié named Wildflower. This is the first Valdiguié entry ever to qualify for Winning Wines. The judges gave it a score of 86.5. The Valdiguié grape is old and has fallen out of favor with the world’s producers. But the California winemakers use carbonic maceration to give the wine a more fruity, smooth taste. We’ve served it at two different samplings and the vast majority love it as an alternative red.
(Find how to pronounce Valdiguié here.)


January 1, 2012

For the holiday festivities, we selected a sparkling from Winning Wines, Ballatore’s Grand Spumante. This year it received a score of 86.0, and priced at $7.99, it's an excellent deal. Through the years, we note it consistently scores well with the judges. Ford likes the fuller taste compared to champagne, while Mara comments, “My favorite sparkling wine - it’s ALWAYS good!”


December 22, 2011

Whenever the word Riesling is mentioned, we often hear, “I don’t like sweet wines.” Well, believe it or not, dry Rieslings can be made. They make a crisp addition to the white wine cellar. We found one of the entries in Winning Wines, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Harvest Select Dry, would fill this niche.


December 12, 2011

We did a “Wine and Sign” at our local wine shop where the owner picked four bottles for tasting from the Winning Wines list. The Lucky Star 2010 Pinot Noir was a big hit for being not only drinkable but possessing a definitive characteristic not expected in the $9 range.


November 28, 2011

We took a case of assorted wines from the Winning Wines list to our Thanksgiving celebration. Two to six others joined us in the various tasting opportunities over the four days. The overall favorite was McManis Family Vineyard’s 2009 Petite Sirah. This wine impressed the judges also, as it was the top-rated Petite Sirah this year in the $12 and under category.

November 21, 2011

We were in the mood for a chardonnay and a local store had the Tisdale for $4.99! While the judges’ combined score was 85.6 — barely making it into Winning Wines, we thought it would be a good test for an inexpensive wine. We were delighted! The tastes were clean with a bit of butter, medium body, and a perfect finish. It was yummy (technical wine-tasting term)!

The Spartanburg duo added that it was outstanding, not too dry – just right!

November 10, 2011

As turkey day approaches, we tasted a Pinot Grigio since that wine can match nicely with the big bird. We selected an Australian entry that made the Winning Wines list: a 2010 Black Swan Pinot Grigio priced at $8.00.

Mara found it surprisingly sweet and wondered what was the amount of Residual Sugar (RS). It certainly would be helpful for the consumer to have the RS percentage on the label — especially for the wines that very greatly in this key component.

Ford also thought it was a bit sweet, though still a decent representative of this type of grape. The Spartanburg contingent found the wine very light, almost effervescent, and very easy to drink.


November 3, 2011

To celebrate Ford’s disappearing back pain, we opened Bogle’s 2008 Petite Sirah. Over the years, this wine has never disappointed us (we love Petite Sirah). The 2008 scored a solid 88.0 in the wine competitions (second highest score in the $12 and under group). We found it well-balanced, rich, clean, and a joy to drink. Our local retail price was $9.99.


October 28, 2011

Most have never tasted a wine made with muscadine grapes. For those of us who grew up in the South, the muscadine/scuppernong grape juice is sweet, distinctive, and often served cold on a hot summer day.

For the first time this year, a vintner won multiple medals from the judges for two different muscadine wines. We tried the less sweet offering. The Electric Pelican from Hinnant Family in North Carolina claims to be smooth with some acidity to balance the sweetness.The price was $9.00.

Ford found it an acceptable sweet wine, though he was less impressed than the judges. Mara found it too sweet and thought it did not go with barbecue (the suggestion was to pair it with local foods). One of the Spartanburg tasters liked it with fresh fruit as a dessert.

The other Spartanburg taster reported, “What a delightful surprise. I didn't think it was too sweet (as Mara did). I tasted mostly grape and I imagine that if we had the freshly picked grapes from which it came, I would have pigged out on them. It lived up to its name, as it delivered such a pleasant tingle of a buzz !!!!”


October 12, 2011

We’ve paired up with friends from nearby Spartanburg, each couple buying identical cases of 12 different wines from Winning Wines. Our goal is to taste one wine per week to see how our palates match up with those of the expert judges.

First out of the box was Redwood Creek’s 2009 Pinot Noir with a combined score of 87.0. Both couples concurred that this offering is smooth, almost sensual, and an incredible value at $4.49 locally.


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