Category Archives: Dribbles and drivel

Just general stuff that isn’t necessarily all about the wine.

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

Chalk It Up To Change

wineglass_fullI have a little chalk board I use to celebrate special moments; Spring, Christmas, family photos, Mother’s  Day, birthdays and this year… graduations. It might seem silly to break out my little Land O Lakes butter container full of old chalk to make note of a certain day, but ‘wiping the slate clean’ and starting anew is quite significant. Another year, another season, another moment of growth, love and experience comes with each new scribble. Just as in life, my chalkboard is ever changing.

Although, more frequent are the days I wish things weren’t changing quite so quickly. Our ‘Brady Bunch’ family has grown up in the blink of an eye, our once stray wisps of gray are becoming more dominant, our parents have grown older, and our crazy-busy life will begin to slow… just a little, but noticeably so. There are moments (more often than not) I find myself wanting to scream, “STOP!” and live in the moment, THIS moment for just a little while longer.  It’s futile, I know, for just as the vibrant magenta peonies in our garden burst into bloom, they wither and slowly fade away.  Change and transformation are inevitable; nothing lasts forever, so drink it in while you can.  IMG_2434

Wine is grace in a glass; patient, resilient and unassuming. It’s an expert when it comes to change. The sheer process of vine to wine is astounding and yet, despite the trauma and captivity each grape must endure during its transformation, once uncorked it breathes deeply, releasing all its pent up aromas and flavors before whispering, “Change can be good.”

It isn’t any wonder I was immediately drawn to the display of Chalk Board Chardonnay at our local Fred Meyer, for I knew it would be a wine to ponder and celebrate. From the label it promises fresh aromas of pineapple, melon and notes of vanilla and spice, and I would have to agree it delivered on all but the spice. It is packed full of juicy fruit flavor with a hint of sweetness on the tongue and low acidity.  It’s definitely an easy going, ‘roll with the changes’ kind of wine and at less than ten dollars a bottle, a wine I would buy again and again.

This summer we will have celebrated two daughters; one graduating from high school and one from college, a son becoming a man, and another entering his adolescent years.  However unsettling and exciting theses glorious moments might be, we will all gracefully embrace and grow from them as they happen.  In the meantime, we’ll just chalk it up to change. Here’s to all the changes happening in your life! Cheers!

Aromatique: Very fruity. Melon, juicy pineapple with notes of vanilla

Sip Quips: Mild acidity, slightly sweet

Kitchen Couplings: Any white meat, fish, grilled veggies and summer salads

P.S. Chalk Board wine is available exclusively at Kroger stores. 😉

A sleepover for seven

It's getting hot in here!A couple of months ago, the door burst open and, without so much as a knock, a wave of giddy 16-year-old girls bounced through the living room. Soon they were clad in their favorite pajama bottoms and chattering a mile a minute; our house was anything but quiet.“Hi mom!”, “Hey, mom!” some called out as they plopped on the couch. What a joy to have all seven of my “daughters” over for the night. The standard request for pizza, popcorn, soda and junk food was right on cue. “Can you get grapes too?”Grapes!? It was already high on my list but would not be found in the produce department. Before my sprint to the checkout line, I ordered pizza on the fly and veered my cart to the wine aisle. CIMG0403 - Copy2I made a single pass before a bottle of white nearly leaped off the shelf and into my cart. The name, “Seven Daughters” immediately resonated with me. After all the countless trips to that same aisle at Fred Meyer, I hadn’t noticed it before, but there it was, as perfectly matched as my evening with my daughter and her friends.

Being a parent is hectic. Between work, school, sports and trips to the grocery store, there are days I’m not sure whether to get out of my car or sleep in it. It’s the weekend and at this moment, it’s quiet. A candle flickers across the room and to my right our old cat is doing what she does best, napping in her favorite spot. While I welcome the tranquil interlude, the silence is deafening. As a parent, it’s the soundless moments that really grab your attention. What parent hasn’t thought, “It’s much too quiet”? Rarely does our parental Spidey-sense fail us completely.

I am sad to report, in a few short years those deafening moments of silence will steadily increase at the same rate my daughter matures. When she was 2 and when she was 10, it seemed like I had an abundance of time to spend with her. But now, that she is in high school, I am painfully aware how quickly the minutes pass. I still have so much to give her, show her, and teach her before she goes out into the big bad world on her own. It is because of my acute awareness that time is fleeting, I try to be involved the world she currently lives in, even when it means hosting sleepovers for a passel of teen girls.

They plowed through pizza, snacks, pop and grapes as if they hadn’t eaten in days. The movie, “27 Dresses” played on in the background as multiple conversations rose over and above it. I retired to my room, door wide open, relaxed on the bed and caught sentences ev27 Dressesery now and again.They chatted about boys, other girls, school, boys, preps and boys. They did hair and makeup and would occasionally pop in to show off their look or chat for a few minutes. I sipped my wine, thankful for the night, my life, and the moment. What a joy to be part of such a wonderful evening with my beautiful daughter and her equally beautiful friends.

By the way, the wine was great! I knew it would be. It’s a little tart on the tongue but mellows with a hint of sweetness. With notes of orange blossom, tangerine and a little spice, this California blend is very well balanced.Labeled as NV (and no, that doesn’t stand for Nevada) but rather a non-vintage wine. This usually means the grapes used are from different years as well as different varietals and/or vineyards.This is no way indicates the wine is “bad.” Seven Daughters White, is a blend of seven different grapes; Pinot Gris, Orange Muscat, Symphony, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

I had to research the Symphony grape because quite frankly, I had never heard of it.Turns out it isn’t just music to my tongue, but rather a California cross between two grapes developed in 1948, but not commercially released until 1982. Its intent was more for the hotter climate of California’s central valley, but is now grown mostly in the Lodi and Sierra Foothills region. These grapes are typically used in off-dry or late harvest wines.Can you believe I managed to get a little wine information amongst my drivel? Although this vino cost a little more than what we typically purchase to review, it was worth it. Fred Meyer currently has it on sale for $11.99, so hurry in and pick up your bottle! Especially if you will be hosting the next big sleepover. Cheers to parenthood! GULP!

Aromatique: Fresh melon packed with orange blossom and a hint of vanilla.

Sip quips: A little tart at first, but full of juicy fruit flavor. Not overly sweet or spicy. Has a nice creamy finish.

Kitchen couplings: Mild fish or chicken dishes would do well. Mild cheeses and any Asian cuisine pairing would be fantastic along with a little fresh fruit or salad.

Ooh la la … Lots to like about this wine!

Today’s French lesson is brought to you by someone who lasted exactly two weeks in French 101.  Lucky for you dear reader, I have mad Google skills. You’re welcome. According to “The French phrase ooh là là isn’t so much an expression as an interjection. It can indicate surprise, disappointment, commiseration, distress, annoyance … any moderately strong reaction to something that was just said or done. It can be strengthened with additional ‘s, always in pairs.” Examples of such an interjection could include, “Oh dear!”  “Oh my!” or “Oh no!” Although, the literal translation is, “Oh there there.”

I see London, I see France, I see you’re wearing granny underpants.  And frankly, my dear, those just won’t do if you’re planning to break open a bottle of Ooh La La 2011 Pinot Grigio. Trust me on this.  I’m feeling slightly under-dressed in an oversized sweatshirt and my favorite pair of granny panties.  Need a little boost of estrogen? All you need to do is hold the bottle in your hand. Bust out those frilly polka-dot undergarments ladies, we just might have found THE most girly wine yet!  

I read somewhere its innovative and unique packaging appeals to the “millennial female.”  Okay. Sure. Sign me up! I’ll be the new face of the millennial female, even if I might have been born a few years too early.

I wouldn’t say I have fetish, but I do have a black and white polka dot purse. Actually, my family has corrected me many times, because it’s actually a lunch bag. But since it seems to hold my wallet, car keys and enough crap to save the day at any given moment, I call it my purse.  So, it only seems natural that I would be drawn to the bottle without a second thought.  After all, when hasn’t a bottle of wine saved the day?

Ooh La La 2011 Pinot Grigio was just as I imagined it would be. It was crisp, and light on the palate, with hints of green apple and pear.  It’s fermented clean and cold versus using oak barrels, which ensure a slow fermentation. This method is used to preserve the virginal flavor of the fruit. This slightly effervescent wine did have one surprise: a bottle cap.  That’s right. No cork, no twist-off cap, just a simple bottle cap. You might be thinking, “That’s not wine! That’s just a very large beer minus the hops!”  But, it’s the truth and nothing but the truth.  Two Wine Slobs’ honor! (What little honor there is in being a wine slob.)

The Purse…or the lunch bag.
Depending on who you ask.

I did have one complaint, however.  Not about the wine, but about the website. It’s still under construction, much like Franklin Road in Idaho.  Will they ever finish it?  I hope so.  Millennial females like to be in the know. You know? But, “Oh there there,” don’t you fret.  They did manage to launch a Facebook page in August.  Which you can find here:

And there you have it; a little French lesson, a new use for your favorite lunch bag, an occasion to wear polka-dot panties, and a fresh perspective on cold fermentation — all in one blog post. Ooh La La 2011 Pinot Grigio would be a great addition to any casual gathering with the girls whether you’re into polka dots or not. Ciao, wine lovers!

Aromatique: Fresh and fruity

SipQuips:  Crisp green apple and pears.  Very light on the palate.  Refreshing and fun!

Kitchen Coupling: Fresh green salad, white fish, light cheeses and fruit, pasta with white sauce.

Fishy fingers and goat’s breath

Have you ever hoarded a bottle of wine because you knew it was going to be absolutely fabulous? Not that you were saving it for a special occasion, per se, but because you wanted to serve it with a mouthwatering spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit and perhaps a little smoked salmon?

You cue up your favorite British comedy (okay, so it’s not for everyone), plate some tasty nibbles and finally, the piece de resistance! Anxiously, you pour the wine, knowing you are on the verge of being insanely amazed by its fruity goodness. And then, you sniff, sip, pause, swallow and almost in the same moment, become utterly disenchanted. Welcome to our Monday night.

Thankfully, we still had our sitcom and tasty nibbles, but the wine. Oh, the wine! How you let us down! It wasn’t bad enough for the drain. We did finish it after all, mostly because I think we were hoping it would get better. That somehow, we might warm up to it if it warmed to room temperature.

We found our bottle of Charonge, a California wine, on an end cap at our local Fred Meyer and on sale for $7.99. The bottle was cool, and in the midst of one of the hottest summers on record in Idaho, naturally a white wine spiked with oranges would be a refreshing treat once chilled. Right? Wrong.

After our less than perfect new wine adventure. I thought I would check out the website, in case there might be a taste disclaimer. Instead, this is what I read:

It’s a white wine, but like no other. Its sun kissed with a twist. The flavors are so mouth-watering & refreshing, you’d swear citrus mermaids from far-off Orangeopia just hand-squeezed their magical nectar of refreshment into your mouth. No sniffing, no swirling. We buried the pretentions in a sandy spot along the warm coastline. We return from time to time just to throw a party full of kicking back and relaxing. That’s what Charonge is all about. Lift your glasses to the sky. Your thirst will thank you & so will your taste buds.”

Gag. Citrus mermaids from Orangeopia? Really?

I seriously doubt the wordsmith who crafted that little ditty has actually sampled this wine at all, because if they had they would have written something more like this:

It’s a white wine, but like no other. The flavor is so bitter, it’s like eating an orange rind and the aftertaste akin to a bad sunburn that won’t end. You’d swear incontinent mermaids from Pirates of the Caribbean just pissed in your mouth. No sniffing, no swirling. We buried the pretentions, along with our integrity in a sandy spot along the warm coastline. We return from time to time, just to kick sand in the faces of all the hopeful patrons who purchased our product and to roll around in our profits. That’s what Charonge is all about. Open your wallets and buy something else! Your thirst will thank you and so will your taste buds.”

A little harsh? Perhaps. (Especially if you actually enjoy a tart white wine with a finish of bitter orange rind.)

Yet, even though our love affair with Charonge was over just as soon as it began, we will purchase a second bottle. That’s right. We are willing give it a second chance. Think of it like a bad first date. Maybe, the expectation was a little high and it didn’t go as planned, but the evening wasn’t a total loss because you remembered you had a bottle of coconut rum in the pantry. And coconut rum makes everything better. And so, our next date will be with a Charonge Sunset. A little coconut rum, orange juice, Charonge, a splash of raspberry liquor and garnished with a slice of fresh orange. Shaken, not stirred of course. Cheers wine lovers!

Aromatique: Fresh oranges and peaches. Very fruity.

SipQuips: Slightly effervescent feel.Tart flavor, even when served with salty food. Unfavorable bitter finish of orange rind.

Kitchen Couplings: Served with strawberries, nectarines, grapes, herbed goat cheese, Oregonzola (gorgonzola from Oregon – AWESOME), dill Triscuits and smoked salmon.

Be. Flirty and a punctuation rebel. Just don’t forget to wear lip gloss.

The cork rolled across the counter exposing these words: Be. Radiant, Be. Bright, Be. Fresh, Be. Flirty.  I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m in. But what about ‘Be. Pissy’ or ‘Be. Medicated’ and what’s with all the periods?”  I really think this wine line could be expanded to encompass several other adjectives if we were being honest. Don’t you? Let me get right to the point.  This is a wine for chicks with poor punctuation.  Twenty something chicks, thirty somethings, eighty somethings and every something in between.  Wine dudes, this is not an invitation for you to leave because chances are good you either have a chick in your life or will have, in one form or the other.  We’re not here to judge anything but the wine, people!  Just the wine, only the wine.

Who among us does not adore an enormous bouquet of flowers and a smelly bottle of perfume?  (unless your are allergic – in which case, I apologize in advance)  This wine is absolute floral. So, it’s kinda funny  I decided to plop this insanely cute bottle in the middle of one of my flower pots before opening the bottle.  Once in the glass, a single whiff transported me to the middle of a flower garden. It was the Summer’s Eve commercial all over again!  (no period pun intended) Hell, I might be tempted to douche with it later…or not. But, seriously ladies (and wine dudes), Be. Flirty Pink Moscato 2011 isn’t as much flirty as it is girlie.  So much in fact, it would leave the most butch girl I know screaming to wear pink ruffled panties and Bonne Bell’s Lip Smacker.  Don’t believe me?  I double-dog-dare ya to try it!

From the website: “Inspired by a perfect blend of confidence and playfulness with a delightful finish of fun, Be.Flirty Pink Moscato beckons you to pull out the stilettos, and maybe dab a little of that expensive, special-occasion perfume on your neck as you head out the door to share some wine with the girls.” For the record, stilettos aren’t flirty, they’re sexy (and evil, if your arches are shot like mine) if not a bit trashy when paired with the wrong outfit.    Your far better off to leave the hooker heals stashed in the dark corner of the closet and opt for a pair of fluffy pink bunny slippers if your going to girl-up and drink this vino.

All kidding aside, Beringer vineyards the makers of Be. Flirty are really quite serious about wine.  It is a winery steeped in a rich heritage.  In 1868, Jacob Beringer left Germany to continue his passion for wine making in California.  He purchased land in Napa Valley with his brother Frederick in 1875 and a year later, Beringer winery was born.  During the construction of the winery, Frederick wanted to create a California villa similar to that of his families estate at Mainz-on-the-rhine in Germany.  The 17 bedroom mansion boasting 40 stained glass windows cost just $28,000 to build at the time. Roughly $6,000 of that cost was for windows alone. In 2001, the entire winery site was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was also one of the few wineries to survive prohibition in the 1920’s.  Beringer had received the proper permits to continue making wine for medicinal and sacramental purposes. (yeah right) It is also the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley.

The Rhine House – I took this photo a few years back while touring the Napa Valley with my friend, Amy G. It was a fantastic adventure. I miss you, Amy!

Another  interesting find during my research is related to storage and aging. The brothers employed Chinese workers to hand-chisel rock tunnels totaling 1,200 linear feet for this purpose.  The tunnels, maintain a modest temperature of 58 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round.  It was an incredibly long project, taking 10 years to complete, but those same tunnels are still used to this very day.  Take that, Gaza!

(And you thought you wouldn’t learn something fantastically educational in this post!)

All in all, I really enjoyed this wine and the price.   We picked up this dainty bottle for under $ 10.00 at our local Albertsons. It was a wonderful reminder that being a little girlie and flirty from time to time is okay.  We can be whatever or whomever we want to be, are destined to be or need to be as long as we are able to just, Be.

*Note:  Fred Meyer is running a sale on Be. Flirty for $6.99 right now!  We picked up a second bottle on 6/21/12. Hurry in before the sale ends!


Just for fun:  What awesome adjective would you use to create your own “Be.” label?  Leave a comment.  We would love to see what you come up with!


Aromatique: Juicy berry with an intense floral aroma.

SipQuips: Very sweet flowery flavor with strawberry notes.

Kitchen Couplings:  I enjoyed this vino with a of Finnish Summer soup (potatoes, leeks , carrots and peas), but I would recommend pairing it with dessert rather than a meal.  Perhaps strawberry shortcake or a decadent frosted chocolate brownie?  A sweet dessert will diminish the sweetness of the wine.

There’s gonna be a Hardy-ache tonight

My grandma used to have this pair of diamond earrings she called her “Canardlys.”  When you would ask what Canardlys were, she would say, “They’re so small, you can hardly see them!”  This weekend, the family and I broke out one of the nine newly acquired bottles from last week’s Gross Out Winopalooza.

This cool vino was a clear pick when compared to the other dozen or so blasé bottles occupying the rack. The tattoo design on the label is hip and edgy with what appears to be one seriously pissed off eagle keen on  ripping someone’s lungs out, quite possibly in mid-flight.  But after several sips,  I “Canardly” understand why this wine would have any popularity at all if it weren’t for the funky design on the bottle.

The 2008 Ed Hardy Cabernet Sauvingnon can only be described as unremarkable.  I must confess I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for this vino from the get-go.  Brad had a co-worker purchase the same variety at the Grocery Outlet a few days back; she described it as tasting like “rotten fruit.” I don’t know that I concur with rotten fruit, because honestly it didn’t taste like much of anything.  We did however, find  at least one reviewer who likened the smell to “asparagus piss.”  We tried aerating the wine, letting it hang out for awhile and I personally swirled it until I was dizzy, but after all that, the only thing to linger in my mouth was the taste of bitter disappointment.  This promising Cab had no body, no real flavor and ended on a very flat note. I had hoped this wine would be more in tune with the label and that somehow I would experience a provocative, robust explosion of spicy structured goodness the moment it hit my tongue.  And that somehow, the screaming eagle and lightning bolt from the label would propel itself onto my taste buds! But, it never happened. It’s a dirty rotten shame too, because everything that bears the name Ed Hardy seems to turn to gold.  Make that, almost everything.

However, something good did come from my less than pleasant tasting experience that you fine readers might find interesting.  After a little research, I read that Don Ed Hardy, the renowned tattoo, graphic artist and author from California, had been fascinated with the art of tattooing as a young boy. By the age of 11 he was drawing complex tattoos on friends with colored pencils.  Colored pencils? I wonder what cancer causing agent could be found in those back in the 1950s?

As an adult he spent time in Japan where he studied tattooing with the classical tattoo master, Kazuo Oguri (known by his tattooing name, Horihide) in 1973 and throughout the 1980s.  It was highly unusual for a person of non-Asian decent to gain access to the art of traditional Asian tattooing. As a matter of fact, prior to World War II, tattooing was forbidden in Japan. Horihide began his rigorous training with a tattoo master right after the war ended at a time when apprenticeships lasted five years and pupils were nothing more than house servants to their masters, given little food and in the case of Horihide, sometimes beaten for the first two. Pupils would learn the ancient art and meanings little by little.

Ed Hardy was able to fuse his newly acquired techniques with his classic American style, and create a uniqueness  all his own. His designs exploded in popularity. In 2004, a gentleman by the name of Christian Audigier walked into Hardy’s shop looking to buy his entire portfolio and later licensed the rights to produce the Ed Hardy clothing line, which is based on his imagery. And what do you suppose Hardy’s commission check was after the first year of sales?  You’ll want to sit down for this one. Go ahead. I’ll wait… Hardy’s proceeds ended up being around 50 Million. That would buy a LOT of colored pencils!

How's about a little Spam Sushi to go with that fine wine? It's all the rage. Promise.

A French native, Audigier left school to start a career at the age of 14 with fantasies of  living the American dream.  In 2000, the accomplished fashion designer moved to L.A. with just $500 in his pocket, quickly gaining a clientele of celebrities eager to strut around in his fashions. This master of marketing paid paparazzi to photograph celebs like Brittany Spears and Madonna emerging from his shops wearing his clothing and hats, but Audigier had a broader vision. He made certain the Ed Hardy brand is plastered on everything from something called “structured water” to belts, sunglasses, shoes, lighters, stemware, trendy night clubs and pricey vodka. Not only is he a marketing genius, he’s attractive, tan and every word he mutters is sexy as hell because he’s French. Circa 2008, Audigier teamed up with Nicholas Wines, an importer of French vino, to bring us his very own line of Ed Hardy wine.  And this, my friends, is where I think he should have stopped at just making vodka. But what do I know, he is worth over $250 million,  and just this year he sold the Ed Hardy brand for a cool 62 mil. We bought his wine for $3.99 at Grocery Outlet.

Personally, I think a little vino can only help some of us be more artistic. But rarely does the artist help to make a good wine. Anyone up for a free tattoo and swanky new outfit?  I’m feeling artistic, have a can-do attitude and plenty of cheap wine on hand!  Better yet,  I’ll just stick to sampling vino and rub-on Ed Hardy tats.  C’est la vie!

Aromatique: Nondescript aroma. Mild spice. Described by one reviewer as smelling like “asparagus piss.”

SipQuips: Probably won’t be the worst wine you’ll ever taste (see review for Buckley’s Cove). But it will be the worst wine you have today.

Kitchen Couplings: Asparagus. Rotting fruit. Anything strong enough to cover up the flavor of the wine. Anchovies, etc.

Dare we try the Rose’ ?  Click the pic! We are still laughing! Enjoy!

Wild horses and campfire smoke

This one earned a half glass.

14 Hands

After a long day of work, a two hour choir concert and the promise to pick up a vehicle afterward at the airport, nothing’s better than enjoying a meal you didn’t have to prepare, especially if it includes a much needed glass of wine! We were fortunate enough to find a restaurant for which we could both agree at a relatively late dining hour on a rather frazzling Thursday evening and were thrilled to find the wine list front and center on McGrath’s Fish House menu.  We spent little time making our individual selections, thus giving us a few extra moments to check out the food options.   Our waiter was most accommodating, delivering our wine in short order. (we must have looked as though we really needed it!)   Despite being a chain, there is something wonderful about white linen napkins, tidy wait staff, interesting décor and the ever popular mood lighting.   Honestly, even blackberry colored water would seem appealing if served in an oversized wine glass with that kind of atmosphere.   I selected the 2009 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, while Brad chose a 2007 Cab by Geyser Peak.

Wine, yes. Spring rolls, no.

Poised with my pen and the little notebook I had pulled from my purse, we started our swirling and sniffing ritual.  For those that know us, this is just about as uppity as we get. But, it is a necessary task if one is to capture the entire wine experience even while wearing faded jeans and flip-flops.  While my Cab had a very fruity and mild peppery aroma, Brad’s exhibited the extremely distinct scent of charred or smoked wood with  a very earthy quality that neither of us could seem to get enough of.  It was warm and pleasant, reminiscent of sitting around a campfire on a cool fall night, which left me thinking I might have made a poor decision with my selection.    Not that mine was bad by any means, after all who could not like a wine named after little wild mustangs that ran free amongst the hills of Eastern Washington?  Measuring just a little over 4 ½ feet tall (fourteen hands) at the shoulder, these tenacious steeds would race to the mighty Columbia to drink and graze upon the vast vegetation and hide in the hills to cool off in the evenings.     The vintner describes the soil as “loamy-sand and gravel” requiring a “strong and determined vine.”  Their Cabernet Sauvingnon is big and bold, much like the legend of the 14 Hands region.  If you like your wine to have notes of tart cherries and dark spicy chocolate, take a ride on the wild side with this vino!

It's getting hot in here!

Geyser Peak

Perhaps you like your wine to smolder on your taste buds rather than run rampant in your mouth.  If this is the case, the 2007 Geyser Peak Cabernet might just be the wine you’ve been looking for!  Founded in 1880, Geyser Peak Winery sits high on a hillside just across from Geyser Peak Mountain in Sonoma County overlooking Geyserville and the Alexander Valley.   It is one of the oldest wineries in California coveting honors such as Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the year.   They pay special attention to the Cabernet vineyards picking the fruit in blocks and then fermenting them separately.   This allows the wine to be made from grapes plucked at their prime, ensuring suburb quality and well balanced flavor. Through tedious labor and timing, this vintner delivers an intense fruit forward wine with notes of blackberry, black cherry with hints of spice, vanilla and mocha.   Its lush tannins allow this wine to linger without being overpowering.

We savored our wine over freshly caught sturgeon, steak, stuffed prawns and effortless conversation.  All in all, it was a relaxing end to yet another crazy weekday and we owe it all to McGrath’s wonderful service, good food and a nice selection of new wines for us to try!  But do yourself a favor and pass on the seafood spring roll appetizer.  Trust us on this one!  Cheers!

Aromatique:  14 Hands – Tart cherries, mild spice and chocolate! Geyser Peak – Dark berry scent with loads of woodsy smoke.

SipQuips:  14 Hands – Very tart on the tongue, lingering chocolate notes and mild peppery flavor.  Geyser Peak – Earthy warmth, mocha with hints of vanilla and a hearty dose of blackberry and black cherry. YUM!

Kitchen Couplings:  Both went very well with our freshly caught seafood dinners.  Either would be great with steak, a piping hot bowl of homemade beef stew or a simple plate of cheese and fruit.

Cheap is good; cheaper’s better

We make no bones about the fact that we drink — and enjoy — cheap wine. We aren’t part of the 1% that the folks at Occupy Wall Street keep talking about. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally splurge on a vintage that goes beyond our usual $10 ceiling, especially if we’re at a nice restaurant. It’s pretty hard to buy a bottle for $8.99 when you’re out on the town, unless you plan on dining at the local 7-11. What wine pairs best with those nasty all-day-on-the-rollers hot dogs, I wonder.

Gross Out wines

Pretty wines, all in a row...

So, it kinda goes without saying that we jump at the chance to get our inexpensive vino on sale. I mean, who doesn’t love a sale?

Double-plus good if the sale is at our fave wine outlet. Grocery Outlet’s 20%-off sale only lasts for five days; we made sure to show up on Day 1 so the shelves wouldn’t be picked over. Of course, buying wine on a work-week Wednesday kinda precludes us from sampling too many of the vintages right away. We do both have real jobs. Honest.

So, by way of preview, here’s a look at what we bought, just in case any of you actually give any credence to our opinions. If you like wine — and we know you do, unless your name is Nick M. — then get thee, to the Grocery … Outlet, for some bargains.

NOTE: Prices here are the shelf prices; actual price paid is 20% less. (You’ll have to do your own math. And show your work!)

Pine and Post 2006 Chardonnay — $2.99: We’ve had the P&P 2009 Merlot and loved it, so picking up a bottle of this Washington Chard for under $3 seemed like a no-brainer.

Sawtooth Winery 2006 Ice Wine Gewurtztraminer — $4.99: It’s unlikely that Nampa will ever be confused with Napa, but this local winery has a rep for good whites. And this skinny little 375 ml bottle with an image of a dry fly (that’s a fishin’ term for you easterners) will make an awesome vase when we’re done.

Speaking of small bottles with flies on them, we also picked up Sawtooth’s 2006 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc for $4.99. This will be a nice wine for a weeknight when we want to spend a little extra time on dinner and enjoy a single glass of crisp fall flavor.

Our final Sawtooth Winery selection is the 2006 Merlot ($7.99). All of the Sawtooth picks are from their “Reserve” line, which will make us sound a lot more impressive when we review them.

From the Treasure Valley to far-off Tuscany, our next pick is a Corte Mura 2010 Chianti ($5.99). I’m not sure either of us has actually drank a chianti, which is a dry red wine, but we are looking forward to making that little thup-thup-thup sound with our tongues when we serve it with some fava beans.

Continuing our world tour, we picked up the Shingleback 2006 Merlot ($6.99), from Australia’s McLaren Vale, known for its hearty reds. I confess to first picking up the bottle out of curiosity over why anyone would name a wine for a popular rock band, but then I realized this wine actually gets its name from one of the local lizards. You can’t go wrong with reptiles.

Speaking of rock and roll, we couldn’t resist picking up the Ed Hardy ’77 Tattoo Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.99), a red table wine from France. France. Really. A wine that looks like it was bottled by a Hell’s Angel doing 20-to-life for stabbing someone in a bar fight, made in France. OK, then. The fellow cheap-wine fan who tipped us to the Gross Out sale has taken this one for a ride, and her review was less than glowing. We’ll reserve judgment, but we probably won’t serve this in mixed company.

Next, we get to the Turn Me Sweet 2010 Tempranillo ($5.99) from Spain. We’ve had good luck with sweet reds that feature women on the bottle (think Mad Housewife), so this seems like a good bet. For the record, Brad did not pick this one out despite the busty pin-up-girl label.

Finally, the only wine that was (sort of) actually recommended by someone is the 2010 Bodega Privada Syrah from Argentina ($5.99). The wine guy at Grocery Outlet was telling anyone who would listen that this was the best red on the shelf. The smoked-glass bottle and the distinguished label kinda set it apart on our new wine rack (more about that later), but the price was right. The tiny italic font — and the fact that it’s in Spanish — makes the label a bit hard to read. The website indicates that this wine is best with barbecued “lamp” or steak. Hmmm. A “light” meal, perhaps?

OK … that’s the lineup. Nine new wines to go with the half-dozen still awaiting the corkscrew. And an impressive variety … three locals, plus wines from France, Argentina, Spain, Italy and Australia. Here at, we span the globe to bring you the best in cheap wine.

We’d be interested to hear from others who take advantage of the Grocery Outlet sale. Tell us which wines you picked and which ones you liked or disliked. We’re always looking for suggestions!

Welcome winos and wannabes!

Let’s just start with the fact that we are poor and don’t know anything about wine. We don’t even know how to pronounce “sommelier” or “Gewürtztraminer.” But we know what we like. We like good food, good coffee (although, isn’t just about any coffee good the morning after a three-bottles-of-wine dinner?) and tasty wine. We aren’t averse to wandering the aisles of the local bottle shop or checking out a wine tasting or even having a glass (or three) on the patio of the froo-froo wine shop downtown.

But like a lot of folks, we’ve figured out that you can get plenty of enjoyment out of a $4.99 bottle of Aussie shiraz from Safeway, especially since you’ll still have plenty of cash left over to buy pizza and breadsticks.

Oh… and we’re in love. Not just with wine. With each other. We’re 40-somethings who have been through a lot of life’s ups and downs: careers, children and long, beautiful marriages that continue to bring color and perspective, the way a hearty red leaves memories on the tongue even after the bottle has gone dry.

A lifetime ago, we graduated high school together, but it took two decades, several relocations, a set of remarkable coincidences and this thing called the Internet to bring us together. It’s a love story that has always had as its backdrop an appreciation of simple pleasures and grand adventures … and wine. Whether it’s a bottle of house red shared in crystal at an upscale restaurant or overpriced single servings of merlot in a trendy club or a bottle of fruity, inexpensive cab passed back and forth beneath a beach blanket while watching a beautiful sunset, wine has been a constant accompaniment.

And wine, like life’s best moments, is better when shared. That’s why we’re here … to share a few laughs, a recipe or two, and everything we know about wine … which shouldn’t take too long.