Category Archives: Red

Red wine in general.

Where will it take you?

It's getting hot in here!Pedaling along a stretch of country road in the south of France is a glorious way to spend a summer’s eve. The gentle breeze flowed though my hair and the warmth of the setting sun was at my back. I could ride for hours on my red bicycle gazing at the stone cottages and the lush landscape speckled with lavender. Perhaps I shall stop off and pick up a few bars of French milled Lavender soap before heading back to the bed and breakfast. They would make lovely stocking stuffers for my family back home…

“Earth to Debbie, come in Debbie,” I heard myself say. I stood in my mother’s kitchen as my brother opened his latest wine find on a visit back home. We children and our brood had flocked to our birthplace for the long holiday weekend. My parents love having us all in one place, though we were minus one. Nonetheless, it was an occasion to BBQ costly cuts of meat and feast on fresh vegetables from the garden. There isn’t a finer restaurant where I would rather be. My dad had opened the “Bloody Mary bar” a couple of hours prior, but that didn’t stop us from opening the lone bottle of Red Bicyclette Merlot sitting on the counter.

I found a small crystal goblet in my mother’s cabinet and poured a glass. I passed it to my brother and asked him to tell me what it smelled like. He tasted it. I said, “Nooooo. What does it SMELL like? Do you smell berries or pepper?” My pseudo sister-in-law, piped up. “Leading the sniffer!” … or something like that. He took a good whiff and said, “It smells like rotten grapes!” I laughed. He tried again. “It smells like pine and kinda peppery.” I laughed again. “Okay, so pine needles? Well, we all smell things differently!” I replied. I passed it to the sis-in-law. She changed her voice to that of a very stuffy wine snob and said, “This wine has been aged in 100-year-old oak barrels and has well balanced tannins.” … or something like that. My mother came in, so naturally I made her smell it too. “I can’t smell a thing … allergies.”

At last it was my turn to take it for a swirl. “I smell cherries and maybe blackberries?” I said. I took a sip and WOW! It was quite tart and didn’t finish well. This wine needed to breathe! We talked about how long you should allow wine to breathe. Depending on the age and type of wine, you should let it “hang out” for about twenty to thirty minutes. This is fairly typical of most reds. A young wine could take up to an hour. This doesn’t mean in the bottle, according to various wine experts. One should either pour it into a glass or a decanter in order to let the air get to it. For a more immediate solution, a wine aerator is your best bet. Unfortunately, mine was at home. So, I allowed my little glass some space while we had dinner. Eventually, we reunited and the difference was quite noticeable. It had the familiar spicy warmth and I could easily discern the berry flavor. The strong finish was more pleasant than my earlier sip. My brother thought it was pretty good, although that could have been the Bloody Marys talking. My sis-in-law was not a fan, but she isn’t too fond of Merlot in general.

I filled my miniature goblet several times. This wine was growing on me. I know what you’re thinking. If you can handle a few glasses of any wine, they all start to grow on you! As it turns out, the vintner describes this wine has having a red berry jam flavor with blackberry and cherry. I guess my first sniff wasn’t too far off. I might actually have a knack for this wine thing! At a mere $6.99 on sale at Smith’s Food and Drug, I recommend any fan of Merlot take this little gem out for a spin. Just remember, if you happen to ride solo and finish the bottle, cycle safe and wear a helmet!

Here’s a little something from the vintner, “From vine to wine, Red Bicyclette starts with special fruit.

Since 2003, Red Bicyclette wines have captured the spirit and flavor of the Southern French countryside. Every bottle comes from Languedoc-Roussillon, a beautiful region on France’s Western Mediterranean coast. With a legacy of winemaking that dates back more than 2,000 years to the Romans, the 700,000 acres of Languedoc produce more vin than any other region in France.

The Languedoc’s ideal grape growing conditions – warm, sunshiny days and cool nights – mingle with mountains and valley, rivers, plateaus and coastline. No other wine is quite like the wines made from the grapes of Southern France… and no wine embodies the French Countryside quite like Red Bicyclette. Try it and see where it takes you!”

Aromatique: Peppery, with hints of blackberry and vanilla

SipQuips: Warm on the tongue, full dark berry flavor, strong finish

Kitchen Couplings: BBQ beef or pork, hearty stews, dark chocolate.

No Treasure Trove at Buckley’s Cove

We were very high on AU Vineyards after enjoying their 12 Apostles chardonnay, so when we spotted the Buckley’s Cove 2009 Shiraz/Cab blend at Grocery Outlet for $3, we grabbed a bottle.

The wine’s namesake, at least according to the bottle, was a little bonkers, but we weren’t crazy about this wine. In fact, we didn’t even finish it.

It’s pretty rare that an open bottle of wine last more than an hour or two in our house, even if we’re just finishing so we can move on to the next. After all, the fact that we generally consider $10 wine “overpriced” means we aren’t apt to waste it.

But a glass of this wine was plenty. We put it in the fridge thinking that maybe we’d give it another shot in a day or two. Never happened. It languished in there until we decided we needed the aerator for another bottle, and the second half of this red went *gasp* down the drain.

Now we hate to see decent wine go to waste, but this didn’t even measure up to that fairly low standard. It’s not that we didn’t give it a shot; it just wasn’t very good.

Like the aforementioned 12 Apostles, this wine offers a rollicking tale of its origins, full of clever Aussie-isms on the label. Unfortunately, the tale of little Billy Buckley, a “bit of a larrikin” who favors “five-finger discounts” is the best part of this bottle.

The promised “bountiful fruit” on the nose played out well enough, but “balanced tannins” on the palate is a bit of a stretch. The wine had some sweet berry notes but little of the pepper expected from a shiraz. The finish was too astringent and did not warm up much even when allowed to breathe.

Aussie Vineyards is still batting .500 in our wine cellar, so we’ll probably give their other vintages a swirl when we see them on the shelf, but this is one wine they should send to the showers.

Aromatique: Grape and berry notes.

SipQuips: Sweet grapey flavor up front followed by an acidic, sharp finish.

Kitchen Couplings: Chili or anything spicy enough to cover up the flavor.

There were no teardrops on this guitar …

It's getting hot in here!… for we made Swift work of this wine. It was Taylor-made for an evening spent watching the mighty Snake River roll past the front door of our rented cabin. This hearty Spanish blend of old-vine Tempranillo and Granache hails from a the Navarra region near the Spanish-French border.

Red Guitar wine commemorates the Spanish invention of the six-string guitar and its place in the country’s joyous, laid-back lifestyle. We were feeling that vibe, even without musical accompaniment as workaday cares faded into the evening.

Long shadows spread across the sage-covered hills on the far bank. Towering cottonwoods shaded our table as we sat in the lush grass and watched pelicans and cormorants skim the water en route to their evening perches. A light breeze stirred the leaves, adding an aural backdrop to an idyllic Friday evening.

Red GuitarAny wine poured on an evening such as this is bound to be enjoyed, and the Red Guitar ($8.99 at Fred Meyer) was no exception. Actually, there was one exception, or maybe a half-dozen.

The densely-populated pod of cabins set just to the east was filled with children well-versed in their geometric understanding that the shortest distance between their cabin and the restroom was right past our front door. Thankfully, this wine enhanced the mellow mood necessary to tolerate the ignorance of their parents. Well almost. After we vocalized a recommendation — or five — to the precious little beings (we mean holy terrors), the boundaries seemed to be respected. That is until a noisy game of hide-and-seek in the dark with flashlights and a whistle began. Did we mention the dog?

Let’s be clear, we are parents and realize the value in those rare opportunities when one is able to release their children into the wild so they are out of your hair for a little while, but it is the conscious parent that does not release them into someone else’s wild. The more we sipped, the more we began to dream up plans to sabotage their merriment, and with the river just a stone’s throw away, it wasn’t that difficult.

An interesting sidenote, not far away, just across the river, a raspy screech like that of an angry monkey could be heard. Perhaps it feeds on sweet little children. Nah. We could never be that lucky. (For the record, the camp host told us the next day that it was likely a screech owl, but we’re sticking with the angry monkey theory until proven otherwise.)

P.S. Thanks to regular reader Michelle for recommending this wine.

Aromatique: Scents of blackberries, blueberries, sweet.

SipQuips: Peppery, berry flavor, warm, hearty, earthy.

Kitchen Couplings: Grilled beef or pork, chevre, Mexican foods

Rainier Ridge merlot — fine at 30,000 feet

This one earned a half glass.What to say about this wine, which I tasted twice over a weekend, courtesy of Alaska/Horizon Airlines? I don’t expect much when the flight attendant hands me that little plastic cup, three-fourths full. I’m just grateful there’s no sudden turbulence, sending my gratis vino all over my seatmate’s lap.

Actually, I was lucky on the return flight, because the stewardess emptied the bottle filling my glass only half full. She handed it to me with the promise of a top-off once she uncorked the next bottle. I was sure to get in a few long sips before she hit me with the refill.

Rainier Ridge 2006 MerlotAnd really, what do you want in an in-flight wine anyway other than something you can drink quickly and which helps you nod off? Mostly, I was glad the airline’s wine of the month was a red and not a forgettable chardonnay like the last time.

The Rainier Ridge Winery’s 2006 Merlot was actually pretty good … not too sweet with a soft, almost clean finish. It could have benefited from a longer breathing period to bring out the oak flavors, I think, but the primary dark cherry flavors were a nice accompaniment to the little packet of salty snacks.

This wine is not a full merlot, but rather a blend, with 16% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Franc. It comes from Washington’s Columbia Valley, on the dry side of the Cascades. touts this winery’s reds as delivering “grandiose flavors at a modest price.”

Grandiose? Merriam-Webster says grandiose is “characterized by affectation of grandeur or splendor or by absurd exaggeration.” That’s probably about right. This is a decent little wine, but I don’t know that I would attribute much grandeur or splendor.

As for modest price, it’s available online for $6.54 per bottle and probably about the same on your local grocery shelves. Rainier Ridge is distributed by Precept Wine Brands of Seattle. If you’re looking for a serviceable red to have as a table wine for a reasonable price, you could do worse.

Aromatique: Not terribly complex. Grape and cherry aromas that probably were muted by the fact that the wine was served a little cold.

SipQuips: Again, not very complex. Mostly dark cherry and maybe a little plum, followed by an even acidity that did not stay on the tongue for long.

Kitchen couplings: Went fine with salty snacks. It would be good with cheese or with pasta dishes.

New York City…Famous for Broadway and BBQ?

This one earned a half glass.We ought to write a play about two frustrated cheap-wine lovers who find a vintage that seems only to exist in an empty bottle.

Notebook in hand, they set off on a worldwide web adventure that takes them right back to … well … here.  And while we were anxious to start “Spreadin’ the news…” about our latest wine find, it would appear that outside of this review there isn’t a lot of additional information. On a recent jaunt to the Grocery Outlet, amongst the several selections that caught our eye was the 2008 Bar-B-Q Red.  The label was up to par, the $4.99 price agreed with our bottom line and we had just picked up a package of tasty free-range ground beef at our local co-op.  There’s just something about a wine originating from the Rhône Valley in the south of France and imported by a wine distributor in New York City that makes us want to get our ‘grill’ on. And so, by way of propane and propane accessories (yes, a little King of The Hill reference for all our hickabilly cartoon wine lovin’ friends) we grilled up a couple of savory ranch burgers piled high with feta cheese and drizzled with horseradish mustard. This wine was the perfect accompaniment to the robust flavor of our main course alongside a helping of seasoned tots and Some Dude’s Fry Sauce.

We’d like to say that this wine is redolent with Big Apple flavor, but it’s not. At least we don’t think so; we don’t really know what redolent means. The wine is a flavorful, hearty red full of spice with a smooth finish. But it does little to distinguish itself from the other reds out there.

We like to research our wine, share links to websites and give props where props is due, but quite frankly, we hit a lot of dead ends on this exploration. Simply put, no news is NEVER good news when you are trying to market or sell a product, and in the age of digital technology it’s important to keep your website current and functional. We can’t share the link to this wine, because it no longer exists.  And that’s too bad, because the label boasts we would find great BBQ recipe ideas based on their “Cook it low and slow” motto.  What we did find was the importer’s single-page snippet announcing the launch of a new site in January of 2011.  It seems the folks over at Biagio Cru and Estate Wines in New York are a bit slow cooking up more than just BBQ, which is a little surprising considering they are so close to a city that never sleeps.   We won’t be too harsh on the wine itself, because we’d purchase this vagabond vino again given the opportunity.  Bon Appe-Yee Haw folks!

Aromatique: Spicy and bold, full/round.

SipQuips:  Spicy intense flavor, not terribly fruity. Fairly dry.

Kitchen Couplings:  Robust BBQ meats, grilled burgers with feta or blue cheese. Food with equally bold flavor.

Bear Flag’s dark RED HOT MESS

Wines are like books — you can’t always pick a good one based on the cover, or the label. But how else are you going to pick, unless it’s a wine you’ve had before, or it’s been recommended by someone you trust? And can you really trust selections from someone who drinks low-brow booze like we do? Really?

So, we’re left with labels, and we admittedly picked Bear Flag winery‘s dark red blend based on the funky bottle artwork by Eduardo Bertone that features a couple of hands pulling the label apart and a bizarre collection of seemingly unrelated images. What worked for the bottle didn’t really work for the wine, unfortunately. The blend of Petite Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo turned out to be a bit of a carnival, with so much going on that it was hard to get a handle on just exactly what we were smelling and tasting. Complex is one thing. Confused is another.

We paid $7.99 for this at the Boise Co-op. It was a splurge. We picked up some free-range chicken, fresh cabbage and local hand-made tortillas for some fab tacos. (Check out Deb’s homemade cabbage salsa recipe.) We needed a wine that would stand strong without overwhelming the meal. Bear Flag’s Dark Red Blend proclaimed itself to be a sweet red. If by “sweet” they mean rather plain with a finish reminiscent of the scent of wet bark, well, then mission accomplished. But frankly, we found the aroma to be very nondescript. There were no distinct fruit flavors that we could discern. In fact, it was a little dry for a red. It was robust, to be sure, but pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of overall flavor.

Maybe five different grape varieties in one bottle is too many — kind of like having that last corn dog at the carnival and taking one last ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl leaves you a little woozy and not really certain you’re still having a good time. Judging by the wacked-out label, having a good time is what the folks at this Modesto, Calif., winemaker are all about, and that’s a good thing. But this bottle, in our estimation, might have been just a little too much … and that’s not good thing.

Aromatique: No distinguishable aroma. Surprisingly nondescript for a relatively strong wine.

Sip Quips: Strong, but not sweet; earthy finish (think about the way bark smells after heavy rain)

Kitchen Couplings: Grilled chipotle chicken tacos with cabbage salsa


Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 years old

three-fourths fullAnd the odds of that person being a red wine drinker are extraordinarily high. Maybe not extraordinarily, but we are pretty confident the odds are high. That’s right folks, wine (well red anyway) is GOOD for you and can benefit your health in all sorts of ways. Take fatty foods like French fries for instance. If you drink, say…a glass of wine while you eat them, you will actually lose weight and all your wildest dreams will come true! Amazing! You know what else is amazing? Nutmeg. Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously. You have been warned. But, seriously, while drinking wine most likely won’t shrink your waistline, it can help limit the damage fatty foods cause, and the alcohol it contains can help produce good cholesterol.

This is a totally random photoIt’s also lofty in flavonoids. This is a noid you don’t want to avoid. Did you know dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors? Now that I would avoid, it sounds dangerous.

So, flavonoids are a type of polyphenol which is an antioxidant which is really nothing more than a fancy term for a good cell freedom fighter. And one of the most notable members of this rebel alliance is Resveratrol (res•ver•a•trol), or as we like to call it, “The Res.” The Res is derived from several plants, notably grapes and grape seeds. Basically, the Res and all the other freedom fighters keep free radicals of The Dark Side from damaging good cells and (wait for it…wait for it…) The Res can help prevent cancer by restricting tumor growth! Wow. That almost got complicated. Thankfully, we have no shortage of Star Wars analogies to get the job done. Interesting stuff, huh?

And speaking of interesting, check this out: It was discovered on a space mission that a frog can throw up. The frog throws up its stomach first, so the stomach is dangling out of its mouth. The frog then uses its forearms to dig out all of the stomach’s contents and then swallows the stomach back down again. Now there’s a diet plan!

Need another random fact? Our wine selection was “Totally Random.” We were cruising Winco on a Sunday afternoon, when we nearly knocked over the display at the end of the frozen turkey aisle after coming across this selection from the Adelfels Winery in Santa Rosa, Calif.

We weren’t even shopping for wine. The priority was toilet paper. So, running into this bargain was totally random. The $8.99 price tag was on the high end of our unofficial cheap wine limit, but we knew we’d be taking one of these bottles home even before we read “Sweet Red Wine” on the label. This wine is sweet, but it is not “dessert wine” sweet. It would make a great table wine if you prefer your reds with intense ripe blackberry and plum flavors. The rich berry essence deepens the longer the wine is allowed to breathe.

This wine paired perfectly with Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese. We didn’t order it frozen from their website for two reasons. 1. They charge more than we pay the city for a month of water 2. We’re saving up to pay next month’s internet access. Ultimately, we followed the website recipe and made it at home. Make no mistake about it: This is the best mac & cheese either of us has ever eaten. Click here for the recipe.

When drinking this wine always remember: To escape the jaws of a crocodile, push your thumbs into its eyes – it will release you instantly. Note: This does not work for zombies.

On a final note, red wine has been known to prevent the common cold. What did your last doctor’s office visit or trip to the drugstore cost you? We’ll bet it was more than $8.99.

Aromatique: Sweet & Spicy

SipQuips: Nice finish, ripe blackberry, blueberry and plum

Kitchen Couplings: Beecher’s Mac & Cheese, other pasta dishes, cheese and crackers, pizza and dark chocolate

Vi(v)a (Las) Vega(s)

OK, so Paso Robles is nowhere near Las Vegas. But we took a gamble on  Via Vega Vineyard’s 2005 red wine after spotting the sombrero-sporting skeleton on the label. Never mind that he’s also wearing a flower held up only by his non-existent ear. Flowers, skeletons and all for just $4.99? We were sure we had hit the jackpot. Grocery Outlet may be a long way from the uptown wine shop, but Paso Robles is 240 miles from Napa, too, so there.Via Vega 2005 with taco soup

We picked this wine because taco soup was on the menu, and what better accompaniment than some Dia De Los Muertos character from someplace that, loosely translated from Spanish and Latin, means “by way of the fertile valley?”

From the label: “The October series by Via Vega is a tribute and celebration of the harvest season. Growers, winemakers, and you with your glass, share the lovely October glow of the Harvest Moon. So enjoy our wines as you taste these vines.”

Wow. Dead guys and bad poetry! This wine just gets better and better!

And you don’t have to take the Wine Slobs’© word for it: This wine won the bronze at the 2010 Central Coast Wine Competition. Now, award-winning wines aren’t exactly our forté, but we know a winner when we taste it, and this hearty red and some spicy taco soup really hit the spot on a cold, damp night.

Aromatique: Spicy and bold. Full, round flavor.

SipQuips: Sweet on the tongue, followed by warm, spicy, intense flavor with a hint of black cherry.

Kitchen Couplings: Mexican food (have antacid handy); burger with bleu cheese; crackers and goat cheese (an acquired taste, according to Debbie). This wine needs food that can stand up to an equally bold flavor.

Taco Soup Recipe (bonus! No extra charge!)

  • 1 lb. ground buffalo or beef (free range, please)
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. Hidden Valley seasoning mix
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • 1 large pasilla pepper, chopped
  • 6 cans of beans (kidney, white, pinto, black, chili – mix and match your favorites)
  • 1 large can stewed or chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • water (add to desired consistency)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheese
  • sliced olives (unless you’re Brad)
  • chopped jalapeños

In one large pot, brown and sauté meat, onions and garlic. Add all other ingredients (except Toppers). Heat thoroughly over medium to medium-low heat. Serve over tortilla chips. Add Toppers as desired.

¡buen provecho

Bonus factoid: “Paso Robles” translates as “Pass of the Oaks” which seems like a pretty good place for a winery, eh?