Category Archives: Red

Red wine in general.

Enter the Apothic Darkness

‘Tis the season of darkness and mystery, when the air turns chill and the days grow dark, leaving more time to curl up next to warm fire with a glass of wine. This is the season for rich, dark reds with complex flavors. Apothic Dark, a red blend from Modesto, California’s Apothic Winery suits the mood of the season.

It pours dark, a deep inky glass with just a hint of translucent purple around the edge. The nose opens with a blast of sweet grape — an almost jammy aroma that, frankly, left me prepared for disappointment, expecting a shallow, juicy wine. Instead, I was treated to a rich, full-bodied wine loaded with blueberry and blackberry flavors. Some time out of the bottle revealed more subtle notes of currant and coffee with a hint of dark chocolate at the finish.

 Apothic Dark The specifics of the blend are a bit of a mystery, in keeping with the Apothic name. It derives, according to, from the word apotheca, a secretive place where 13-century European vintners kept their most prized blends — and their most closely kept recipes. Deeper history extends to ancient Greece, where apotheke meant repository, or warehouse. That seems like a pretty plebian beginning for a name meant to conjure deeper, darker images from a past where All Hallow’s Eve was an ominous precursor to winter rather than an excuse for a costume party.

Apothic Dark would stand up well in either case, whether you are reading The Telltale Heart by candlelight or wearing your favorite gypsy costume to the neighborhood Halloween gala. Speaking of gypsies, the fortune-teller on Apothic’s website is an interesting touch. A hand-selfie is all she needs for a palm reading, which is entertaining, even though her interpretation of my lifeline was much less on-point than the wine.

We nearly passed on this wine ($11.99 at Fred Meyer) after being underwhelmed by the ubiquitous Apothic Red. But the bottle, which looks like it came from Count Dracula’s wine cellar (even the cork is black), speaks to the spirit of the season, and brought a treat better than anything likely to be discovered by the little goblins knocking at our door in search of candy.

Aromatique: Sweet grape to start, warming to dark berries.

Sip quips: Full-bodied, ripe blackberries, blueberries and black currant. Hints of coffee and dark chocolate.

Kitchen couplings: Subtantial enough to stand up to meaty dishes or sharp cheese, but smooth enough to accompany pasta or chicken. Or a mystery novel.

Apothic Dark

Don’t be afraid of the Dark.

No One Expects The Dark Horse


Notice the wine glass hidden in on the label and cork?

wineglass_fullHe wants you to underestimate him. Mysterious, confident, stealthy and sleek, the dark horse is a force to be reckoned with. Skilled at flying under the radar, he waits for the perfect opportunity; to break from the pack, take the lead and silence the naysayers.  His fans find him elusive; disappearing as quickly as he arrived. He doesn’t crave pithy accolades, a ring of roses or a sash. The win was his all along. Quietly, the dark horse stands alone, waiting for the next occasion, the next assuming opponent, to let him run…

Will you be the next to liberate the Dark Horse? Go ahead and pull the cork. Let it flow freely into your glass and across your palate with reckless abandon. We dare you. Pretentious wine drinkers beware, for no mercy will be given. If the juicy essence of ripe blackberries doesn’t get you right out of the bottle, the warm flavor of vanilla, black cherry, chocolate and smoky spice will. Unbridled by expectation, Dark Horse lunges gracefully to a mild, but winning finish!


Blackberry plucked from our garden

A portion of the wine was fermented on oak staves or planks, this process helps impart the flavor of the oak, especially notes of vanilla and smoke in a matter of weeks versus years. Following fermentation, it was ultra-filtered to refine the tannins and a portion aged underground in oak casks.

Dark Horse isn’t a complicated cab. Life’s already complicated, why must our wine be too? Pleasure is simple, and this vino is quite gratifying; especially at less than ten dollars a bottle. What it lacks in complexity, The Original Dark Horse 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon makes up for as an easy-going, moderately-priced, drinkable wine.  We’ve found it at both our local Fred Meyer and Walgreens store for $7.99, but have heard it’s available at Trader Joe’s for slightly less.

The next time your hosting gathering, attending a dinner party or simply wanting to soften the day with a nice Cabernet, you’ll find a winner in Dark Horse. Cheers!

Aromatique: Juicy blackberries and black cherries with hints of vanilla, chocolate and smoky-spice.

Sip quips: Full berry flavor, mild spice. Refreshingly tart, with moderate finish.

Kitchen couplings: Do not pair with McDonald’s chicken nuggets (trust us, it wasn’t pretty). That whole “pairing” thing is serious business. Would be better suited, with beef, pork or lamb; a meaty salad or hearty stew.


His pace is patient, his gallop is rote,

His hoofwork is sure, yet no one takes note.

He follows the inside track of the course,

Persisting in silence, running with grace,

Unknown by the masses minding the race,

For no one expects the distant dark horse. – Shane Hubbard

Charles Shaw-shank Redemption

It's getting hot in here!Cheap wine sometimes gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s nothing like serving two life sentences for killing your wife and her lover, but at the very least, it deserves a fair trial.  Trials don’t come cheap; just ask any attorney, but with a public defender like Trader Joe’s in your corner, you can bet it will cost you less than five bucks — which is admittedly much less than one would pay for a two-minute phone call with counsel.

Charles Shaw wine, warmly known by its legions of fans as “Two Buck Chuck,” is a cheap wine. From 2002 to 2013 the cost was just $1.99 per bottle in most states. After 11 years, the price swelled to a staggering $2.99 due to the winery’s cost increases. It seems like it might be due for a new nickname as well. I was thinking something along the lines of “Three Bill Thrill or Three Bone Bender.” Remind me to write some big marketing exec about that. Charles Shaw Cab

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me Dionysus! Listen; there are a few naysayers out there who will testify you cannot make a decent Cabernet Sauvignon for less than eight or 10 bucks, and to those people I must say, “I object!” Wine snobs we are not. Sommeliers, well … we aren’t that either. However, we are lovers of good ol’ cheap wine. I cross-examined the case of the Charles Shaw 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (not the entire case, just a bottle or two) and my findings are this: it’s good. Actually, it’s better than good for the price!

For those who love a rich and hearty cab, I will say you might be a little disappointed. It doesn’t have a long finish, and it is much thinner than what you are accustomed to. But overall it’s a decent wine. Right out of the bottle it is a little heavy on the alcohol, but in its defense, if you aerate — or at the very least let it linger in the glass a little while — it will mellow with notes of cherry, blueberry and raspberry. Think Smuckers infused with booze, a little black pepper, citrus, mild acidity and a smooth finish. It’s mildly tart, not overly sweet but the fruit is there. And for around three dollars, you won’t get shanked at the cash register. So raise your glass, raise your right hand and lower your standards when it comes to giving cheap wine a swirl. You might end up finding a little extra cash in your wallet and a nice addition to your wine rack. Case closed!

Aromatique: Very fruity. Cherry, blueberry, raspberry and citrus

Sip Quips: Mild acidity, slightly peppered with smooth but moderate finish

Kitchen Couplings: Lighter fare; summer pasta, veggie pizza, mild cheeses, beef kebabs/satay

19 Crimes: Going Rogue Down Under

It's getting hot in here!Making bad wine isn’t a crime, but it probably should be. How many times have you dropped some hard-earned cash for a bottle advertised as a fine vintage that turned out to be useful for nothing more than marinating tough meat? It’s like stealing, damnit!

Turns out that stealing used to get you a one-way ticket from England to Australia, back when the latter was considered one step above Purgatory rather than a vacation destination.

19Crimes_0725Petty theft was just one of the 19 crimes for which bad guys and gals could get sent to the British Empire’s furthest corner in the late 18th Century. Stealing fish and bigamy were also “transportable” crimes. America had recently earned its independence, so the colonies were no longer a dumping ground for British baddies, leaving the Land Down Under as the preferred destination.

The handsome, but scowling, young lad on the bottle is Mr. John Boyle O’Reilly, an Irish-born poet and novelist who was shipped to Australia after being given a reprieve from the death penalty. His troubles began when he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and eventually was convicted of supporting an armed uprising against the British government. Apparently being a Republican in those days was a severe crime. Hmmm.

It’s not clear from the winery’s website exactly how the scion of the Bailey’s of Glenrowan winery, Mr. Richard Bailey, ended up down under. But we can be glad that he did. And we can be glad that his descendants have a sense of history — and a knack for making good wine.

The 19 Crimes 2012 Red Blend is an excellent table wine with balanced berry and spice notes. It’s strong enough to stand up to a hearty meal, but smooth enough to be enjoyed while impersonating an Egyptian (another of the 19 crimes punishable by “transportation”). This medium-bodied blend of Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon manages to retain its unique character despite its mutt origins — kinda like the place where it’s born.

The winery is located in Victoria, in southeastern Australia. It was established in 1870 when Mr. Bailey, a former shopkeeper, needed to find a new gig after the gold rush dried up and took much of his mercantile business with it.

Just as well. Nobody remembers the guy who sold salt pork and dungarees to ex-cons-turned-gold-miners. But plant some grapes, and you can grow a legacy that extends for generations.

That alone ought to make up for whatever crime ol’ Richard Bailey — or his forebears committed — to get a one-way ticket to Aussie Land. Was he the child of a clandestine marriage? Was his old man a riverboat captain who carried too many passengers on the Thames? Or was he just an incorrigible rogue? Any of the above was enough to get banished from Britain proper.

Whatever the case, it is well that he ended up in what has become one of the world’s finest wine regions, and that we can pick up one of his family’s wines for around $10 at the local Fred Meyer. 19 Crimes has a 2012 shiraz and shiraz grenache on shelves now. It would be a crime not to give them a try.

Aromatique: Spicy with berry and plum undertones.

Sip Quips: In the glass, the berry comes to the fore, with a hint of spice, and round finish.

Kitchen Couplings: Pork, seafood, lamb chops. Medium cheeses.

Hills, horses and heaven

It's getting hot in here!Few images evoke the romance of the West more strongly than a herd of wild horses roaming grassy hills, steam from their collective breath diffusing the sunrise into a golden mist. This symbol of fierce independence and perseverance descended from horses brought to North America by Spanish conquistadors 400 years ago.

Wine grapes established themselves much more recently but have just as assuredly become a fixture in the western landscape. Washington’s Columbia Crest vineyard unites both bits of regional history in the 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Les Chevaux red wine.

“Les Chevaux,” for those of you whose knowledge of French is limited to fries, toast and whatever you learned in the back seat of first car, means “the horses.” The “hills” refer to the dry-but-fertile ground in eastern Washington where Columbia Crest grows grapes of consistent quality and intensity. The terrain and ever-present winds challenge vintners here, but the result in this case is an interesting, affordable wine.

We picked up a bottle for $11.99 at Fred Meyer on a co-worker’s recommendation. That’s a little more than we usually spend, but there’s value in knowing that someone’s already taken the wine out for a spin and enjoyed it. To be honest, we were so busy enjoying the first bottle that we had to buy a second to review. (This happens more often than we’d like to admit.)

The dark cranberry color and fairly unremarkable nose don’t immediately reveal this wine’s complexity. It brings a combination of berry and earthy oak flavors, with a hint of smokiness. The winemaker also claims notes of licorice, chocolate and mocha. Hmmm. Chocolate, maybe, but this wine doesn’t seem to aspire to those darker regions of the palate. The finish is slightly acidic, with tannins that excite the tongue without lingering.

This vintage is 80% merlot, 13% cabernet sauvignon and 7% syrah. According to Columbia Crest’s website, the 2010 growing season was cooler than previous years, and fruit was generally less plentiful. A consistently warm autumn ripening season resulted in grapes that produced wines of fairly low alcohol content and balanced acidity.

This is no sweet summer sipper, nor is it a heavy red best paired with beef or hearty pasta meals. It’s a delightful middle-of-the road blend that doesn’t skimp on drinkability or flavor.

Overall, this wine pairs nicely with the creamy Finnish summer soup we were enjoying in the dead of winter. There aren’t many things that are better on a cold winter night (it’s down around 0° as this is being written) than a warm bowl of homemade soup — unless it’s a warm bowl of soup and a glass of wine. And a vision of a wild stallion roaming the rolling hills of the upper Columbia River Valley.

Aromatique: The thin, almost watery nose is deceiving. It hints at a much lighter wine.

Sip quips: Intense blueberry and dark cherry backed by a hint of earthiness, oak and distinct tannins.

Kitchen couplings: Mild fish or chicken dishes would do well, as did our version of this creamy Finnish summer soup. Apparently summer in Finland is a lot like winter in Idaho.

No need to pinch pennies on this pinot

It's getting hot in here!Abraham Lincoln has always been America’s coolest president. Sure, Teddy Roosevelt was a “Rough Rider” before it sounded like the most popular guy at a gay bachelor party. And Ron Reagan was a bad actor, Bill Clinton blew a sax and Barack Obama started hosting jam sessions at the White House.

Bitch, please.

The guy wore a stovepipe hat, ended slavery and kept the union together before getting shot at a play. The 16th President was a Renaissance man! And that was before Hollywood revealed him as a badass vampire hunter.

Let’s face it. Lincoln had more character in his beard than most POTUSes can find in a cabinet. So when his face turned up on this bottle of 2010 Pennywise Pinot Noir, it gave some instant credit.

Now, Honest Abe was a known teetotaler. (Some reports say that he drank beer for a while, on his doctor’s advice, but I suspect that excuse didn’t work for him any more than it has for me.) But I digress. Truth is, Lincoln’s profile on the penny is the centerpiece of a decidedly understated label that masks a very respectable wine. This “California Smart Wine,” as the label promises, is not intended to increase your IQ, but to harken back to Honest Abe’s era when folks knew the value of a penny.

Of course, there’s no virtue in being penny wise and pound foolish. The Wine Slobs might scrimp on the payout, but we’re not interested in buying cheap wine just for the sake of cheap wine. It’s got to be good — or at least have a cool label or an interesting story.

But we do know the value of a $10 bill, and we gladly surrendered one after tasting this Pinot at our local Rosauer’s. Now, if you are familiar with Rosauer’s, you know that you can easily spend 10 bucks on a bunch of arugula, some capellini mushrooms and an organic, free-range chicken breast. So getting a bottle of tasty vino for $9.99 seemed an especially good deal.

It wasn’t just the price that appealed to us. Even the tiny plastic cups at the tasting table revealed a fruity but robust pinot. The color’s actually a little thin, which makes the flavors seem that much more dramatic. The aroma is somewhat unique, with cherry cola and light cinnamon coming to mind, just like the vintner’s website says. They also claim “sassafras,” but frankly, I don’t know what that smells like, so I’m gonna take their word.

When it comes to flavors, cherry is the obvious leader here, but there are plenty of berry notes in the middle and a cranberry-infused finish that combine to make this a very well-rounded wine. The makers also claim wild strawberry, candy cap mushroom and sandalwood. Mushrooms and sandalwood sound like the beginnings of a good Saturday night for sure, but I can’t confirm the connection to this wine.

The Other Guys,” makers of Pennywise, take themselves pretty seriously, it seems. But they come by it honestly as the fourth generation of winemakers in a family that began growing grapes near Sonoma, Calif., in the late 1890s. The “laid-back guys” make “stand-out wines” under a half-dozen labels. This particular blend combines 60% Clarksburg Pinot grapes, 39% Monterey grapes and a touch of Paso Robles sirah for a pleasing, middle-of-the-road wine that would pair well with a wide range of dishes — brie and crusty bread, chicken, pasta with white sauce, a salad laden with herbed croutons and slivered almonds.

No matter what you prefer as accompaniment, this is an all-purpose wine that, once tried, is sure to keep turning up in your wine rack. Kind of like a bad penny.

Aromatique: Surprisingly complex, with hints of cherry cola, raspberry and cinnamon.
SipQuips: Cherry, not overly tart, with sweet berries and just a touch of oak.
Kitchen couplings: Would pair well with a wide range of foods, including Finnish summer soup, which is what I enjoyed it with. Soft cheeses, good bread. Vegetable dishes, light pasta and chicken would all be good choices.

Zany Zin … it’s crazy good. Seriously.

Gotta say  it — I’m crazy about this wine.

While I won’t turn down a tasty white wine, give me a hearty, complex red any time — something bold with rich flavors that grow as the glass warms in your hand. Despite the flippant name, this 2007 Zinfandel from California’s Lodi wine-growing region is a serious wine, a good wine. Buying it for under $7 (at Grocery Outlet) almost seems like stealing.

It’s hard to say what makes any wine a “good” wine. If you like it, I guess it’s good. Maybe you like Night Train. I got no problem with that. (And, truth be told, Zinfandel’s Italian cousin, Primitivo, is used to make fortified wine in that country.) But for me, the best wines spur more than the physical senses, bringing out a memory, real or imagined. Like a good book, a good wine can transport you to a different time and place.

Imagine yourself staring down into long-abandoned cellar in a forgotten farmhouse outside a nameless Greek village. The temperature falls with each step as you descend the old stone staircase, curling into the darkness. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, you see row after row of dusty oak barrels and a few unlabeled bottles. Grab a couple and carry them upstairs. Imagine gazing into the dark mystery of that first pour and wondering just what history that bottle contains.

In the case of Zany Zin, that history probably trumps your imagination. During the revolution that won Greece its independence from the Ottoman Turks, a Greek fellow named Stamatopolous was captured and chained to a wall, presumably in a dark, musty cellar.

Facing death by fire, Stamatopolous earned a place in a long line of legendary Greek heroes by breaking free from his chains and escaping. His story is still told in his native village, and half a world away, where his great-great-grandson, Gus Kapiniaris oversees the Stama Winery in honor of his ancestor.

“My blood is in this vineyard,” he told California Country Magazine in 2007. “All of my life, all my work, all my blood is lying in these vineyards.”

It’s blood well-spent, indeed.

Gus Kapiniaris with his award-winning zin.

Gus Kapiniaris poses with his award-winning Zany Zin.

In old war movies, there’s often a scene where exhausted Allied soldiers, hiding, hopelessly outnumbered in a bombed-out building in some ruined European city, discover a stash of vino and start passing the bottle. It’s never Chardonnay.

I imagine this zin to be something that might be found in such a place — full-bodied and earthy with enough character to hold its own under the weight of expectation befitting the winner of the 2009 Gold Medal at the Beverage Institute’s World Wine Championship.

The first whiff of this wine is almost overpowering, with heavy scents of cigar and damp wood, like you might expect in an old wine cellar — perfect for an old-vine red from one of the most notable wine regions in the U.S. Further exploration reveals a fruity undertone with a hint of oak. The finish is round and satisfying, with just a trace of pepper. It lingers like the memory of campfire smoke on an unforgettable vacation.

This wine also is not soon forgotten. It’s a worthy toast to trusted comrades and legendary ancestors.

Aromatique: Strong, but not sharp. Smoky with a hint of mustiness like damp wood.

SipQuips: Full-flavored, black currant or dark cherry … a bit sweeter as it mellows … with hints of oak and cigar.

Kitchen Couplings: Start with a Greek salad with lots of feta; garlic pork roast or, on a chilly evening, a hearty minestrone. Lasagna or a baked zit dish.


A Cellar Full of Noise

It's getting hot in here!How’s that for a catchy title? While we were both drawn to the name, I gravitated to the image on the label. It reminded me of Anne Taintor’s humor, which left me wondering what this vintage Archie and Edith Bunker might be singing. “Those Were The Days?” Or perhaps it was something more appropriate like, “The Days of Wine and Roses?” Which, by the way, I have played and sung (not well, mind you) with my late grandmother. I still have the sheet music in my piano bench. Perhaps I should tinkle those ivories and take it out for a spin … or not, out of respect for the innocent victims in my home and the neighbor’s dog.Those really were the days. *smile* Whatever the tune, the label is meant to remind wine drinkers of happiness and good times shared between friends over a great bottle of vino. Now, I’m quite certain there are a few of us out there who have downed a bottle or two during some not-so-happy times, in which case the noise in the cellar might be the screams of whomever did us wrong. Which reminds me, I need to pick up another roll of duct tape and some baling twine.

No matter the reason for consumption, the vintner of our latest wine find believes purchasing and drinking wine should be enjoyable, unpretentious and never intimidating. A Cellar Full of Noise winery is located in the Paso Robles appellation halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, near California’s Central Coast. The 40-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is in San Miguel, just 25 miles from the ocean. The vineyard is on a mostly flat piece of land with gentle rolling hills to the east which block most of the morning sunlight. More often that not, this vineyard and the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards surrounding it are covered by the coastal fog. It is because of these conditions, the region is said to be the premier location for growing this type of grape.

Like a few other vineyards we have researched, A Cellar Full of Noise grows its grapes in blocks or sections. This helps maximize individualized maintenance of the vines through pruning, irrigation and harvesting. Who knew grapes could be such attention whores? The vineyard keeps about 15 to 20% of its grapes to produce its own brand of lush wines and sells the rest to other vineyards, who want to keep fruit local, but don’t have the patience or the means to grow certain types of demanding varietals.

The winemakers, James B. Judd and Eric R. Alvaraz founded the winery in 2002. James Judd isn’t new to the wine biz. He also partnered with this father back in the mid-70s on their  their sister vineyard, James Judd and Son Vineyard, which is still going strong. James and Eric share their philosophy about wine at every opportunity. Eric Álvarez: “When I tell people I’m in the wine business, they almost invariably say, ‘I don’t know anything about wine.’ I always say to those people, ‘You already know everything you’ll ever need to know about wine. If you like it, it’s good. If you don’t like it, it’s not good. Your opinion is the only opinion that matters. Wine should be a fun experience,” insists Álvarez. “There is no right or wrong. Just keep tasting until you find what you like.” Indeed!

And hopefully our little blog continues to encourage readers to experience and explore various wines until you too find something you like that won’t break the budget. We found this clever bottle of 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon at our local Grocery Outlet for less than $7, and I have to say, it was worth it. If you like intense tart cherry with a hint of chocolate and a relatively mild peppery feel, this definitely is a wine you should check out! This particular vintage was harvested in 2005 and bottled in 2008 after spending 29 months aging in American, French and Hungarian oak barrels. The winemaker suggests the best time to partake of this bottle is between 2009 and 2015. Finally, I’m on time for something!

I want to add a little fun fact if I may with regard to the name. During my research, I found an autobiography titled, “A Cellarful of Noise” by Brian Epstein. Did you know he discovered and managed the Beatles until his death from a drug overdose in 1967? It seems Epstein was a child no school would consent to having, a would-be aspiring dress-maker, and a record store clerk with a bleak future prior to managing the most famous group in music history. How’s that for a long and winding road? If you are a Beatles fan and haven’t had the opportunity to read his personal account it sounds quite interesting! Cheers!

Aromatique: Intense Cherry, with a hint of chocolate and mint

SipQuips: Fairly tart on the tongue, gives way to a mild peppery but smooth finish. Not overpowering.

Kitchen Couplings: Would be great with savory meats; pork roast, juicy cuts of meat like prime rib, a hearty beef stew, or hamburgers smothered in blue cheese!

Pretty In Pink

Remember the old douche ads from the late 70s and early 80s (now considered “vintage” I’m sure), before the Summer’s Eve “Hail to the V” campaign? Where marketing moguls depicted a woman strolling along a pristine beach clad in yards of flowing white gauze or wandering a field blanketed with wildflowers, carrying a thoughtful smile?   I know now that her outward expression of happiness was not because her freshly cleansed va-jay-jay had the lingering scent of newly cut lilacs, but because she was remembering the fabulous new wine she’d enjoyed the night before. A wine like Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir: romantic, clean, refreshing and packed with floral aromas.

We discovered this wine across a crowded room at Boise’s own, “Sippin’ in the City” a few months back. It was love at first sight. After all, it’s a pretty wine in a pretty bottle and sells for less than $10, which makes for a pretty sweet deal. We found this bottle at our local Fred Meyer on sale for $7.99.

So what made me fall head over heels in love with this wine?  Let me count the ways…

It’s local.  At least it’s local for us. It has been a long time coming, but Idaho is finally making its way up the grapevine.  The Snake River Valley is home to at least 34 of the more than 40 wineries in Idaho. This appellation is historically known for its volcanic and glacial activity and, although this is typically an arid region, the river provides irrigation and much-needed air currents that moderate the often intense weather during the summer and winter months. Lucky for us, grapes dig it.  Indian Creek Winery is located on the west end of the Snake River Valley, in Kuna, Idaho, and open every weekend from noon to five.

It’s pink. And who, pray tell, doesn’t like pink?  At this point, you might be wondering why a wine called, “White Pinot Noir” is pink at all. To this, I implore you not to judge a grape by the color of its skin.  Almost all wine made from the Pinot Noir grape is red, due to its deep purplish color. But if the skins are not allowed to “get jiggy” with the juice, the result is a quite lovely shade of pink oftentimes referred to as a rosé.

Indian Creek White Pinot Noir

Did you know Indian Creek's 2009 White Pinot Noir took Gold and was voted "Idaho's Best Rose?" Photo:

It’s a winner. The Idaho Wine Competition is a bit like an Olympic event for Idaho vino, with more than a hundred contestants in various categories, and arduous standards. Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir took silver last fall (2011). Clearly, even wine slobs recognize a winner when they taste it.

It rocks.Let’s face it, the most important aspect of any wine is, taste. If you don’t enjoy the flavor, what’s the point really? If you love wine (and I assume you do, or you wouldn’t be wasting life’s precious moments reading our drivel) I feel quite confident Indian Creek’s White Pinot Noir will find its way into your heart, too.

The intense aroma of cherry blossom and honey are absolutely intoxicating. At first glance it could be compared to plum wine, but with only 2.5% residual sweetness, it is far from being sickeningly sweet.  Instead, it’s relatively tart on the tongue, boasting well balanced acidity and notes of juicy strawberry, melon and a burst of mouth watering citrus.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to a light snack or meal, decadent desserts, a single square of chocolate to be savored by you and you, alone.  Rarely, do the wine slobs purchase the same bottle of wine more than once or twice (okay four is all I’m admitting to), but this one my friends will always have a spot in our wine rack.

Enjoying a glass at Mai Thai in downtown Boise!

Aromatique: It’s all about the floral, baby! Bring on the Cherry blossom!

SipQuips:   A wonderful meld of honey, strawberries, melon, and citrus give way to loads of juicy flavor! Not overly sweet.

Kitchen Couplings: Asian cuisine (spring rolls, sushi, jasmine rice), cheesecake, white chocolate dipped strawberries or mild white cheeses.

Hail to the “V”, people! I promise this is worth watching. It’s a least good for a smile. 😉

This ‘Bodega’ begs for something more

This one earned a half glass.

Even if my eyesight was good enough to read the tiny italic letters on the label of the Bodega Privada 2010 syrah, my Español probably wouldn’t be good enough to translate. I’d like to think it says something like “a dark, mysterious wine that is an interesting departure from traditional reds.”

To be honest, I didn’t fall in love with this Argentinian wine from the first sip. It’s a bit standoffish right out of the bottle, with an initial bite and relatively little fruit to invite exploration.

Captain Jack Sparrow likes him some syrah

The cool piratey bottle may be the best part of this wine.

The aroma betrays every bit of the 13.9% ABV, making this a very heady wine that seems almost unapproachable at first. But a little time in the glass reveals a rounder nose that, quite frankly, offered more than this wine could deliver.

The color is nearly black, with a rim of cranberry. It has long legs, and a dry, peppery finish that only grows slightly more complex as the bottle empties. Currant would be the closest thing to a berry flavor that I would impute to this wine. It carries more of an earthy flavor that may disappoint those accustomed to the more varied notes expected from a syrah.

We picked up this bottle at Grocery Outlet during their 20% wine sale a while back for under $6. The frosted black bottle and scroll-inspired label combined for an interesting presence on the wine rack. It looks like a prop from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and how can that not be cool?

But despite the exclusive sounding name — Private Cellar (hey, my Español isn’t THAT bad) — this is really just your basic table wine, a vino tinto for the masses. It’s made by RPB S.A. of Mendoza, Argentina, a winery started in 1959 by Rufino Baggio. It has become one of the three largest wine producers in the country, but wine is only part of Baggio’s business empire. He’s like the Argentinian love child of Julio Gallo and Joe Albertson. The guy has more products than Paul Newman.

Turns out that mass production of consumer commodities like jugo de naranja and soda pop might not be the best path to making excellent wine. The 2010 Bodega Privada syrah isn’t bad, but the next time I venture out for some Argentinian vino, I might stick with the malbec that country is best known for.

Aromatique: Berry notes, but one-dimensional.

SipQuips: Earthy, with hints of dry currant; sharp at first, but mellows a bit.

Kitchen Couplings: Something hearty — beef, strong cheese perhaps, but nothing overly spicy as the wine is peppery enough. One reviewer recommended serving with lamp. I assume they meant lamb, although it’s a Thai website, so that could be short for lamprey, I suppose. Or maybe they meant you should leave the light on.