Category Archives: White

It Ain’t Easy Taming a Shrew

This one earned a half glass.Act I

Loaded down with soft-sided coolers, a bag of blankets and cushions, I approached the will-call booth to pick up our tickets. Can I just say how much I adore the attending outdoor plays at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival?  My daughter and I made haste getting through the line to the hillside. It  was opening night and getting a prime spot  that was shaded and somewhat flat is always a bit of an endeavor. We had stopped at Fred Meyer to pick up snack packs of hummus, sandwiches, fruit and sweet treats from the bakery. Have you seen their chocolate covered strawberries, and mini tarts?  Heavenly!

Our friends arrived and in no time we were plundering our coolers, pulling out bits to eat, laughing, talking and my favorite – people watching. I had no idea I was supposed to wear a sundress, oversized southern style hat and spiked red heels to the event!  My friend and I rolled our eyes watching the bleached blonde southern belle doing her best not to plant herself in the dirt as we gnawed on sandwiches and brushed away crumbs.  Did I mention the lady in blue with the tennis bracelet and diamond ring that almost blinded us?

Act II

Although sparkling jewelry and high heels are not overly abundant at the festival, one thing is: Wine!  One glance around the amphitheater is proof enough. Everywhere you look, patrons are sharing a bottle and sometimes two while they dine and anxiously wait to soak up a little culture. I dug through our beverage cooler in search of my latest wine find. I pushed past the peach iced tea and lifted the ice pack I’d stolen from my freezer. I wasn’t looking for a bottle, rather a box. That’s right, a box of wine. This isn’t your mother’s standard Franzia occupying a permanent spot in the refrigerator with enough booze in the bladder to serve eight comfortably. Instead, it is a rather small, extremely portable box which promises three glasses. I chose the Bota Box Pinot Grigio as the perfect accompaniment to my ham and Swiss on a baguette.  A few twists of the plastic cap and within seconds it poured freely into my newly acquired plastic wine glass.

Pinot Grigio

Act III

Indeed, great things do come in aseptic packages! I paid just $3.99 at Fred Meyer for this little glorified Californian juice box and it was worth every penny.  And, for all you environmentalists at heart, the box is not only fully recyclable, the package manufacturing is also green!  Green shmeen … how does it taste?  That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it?  It’s good. Nothing earth-shattering, not great, but it is good. The taste-bud teaser of sniffing the cork is lost with this form of packaging. One must simply pour and allow the wine to breathe before the ritualistic nostril plunge. This wine has a touch of floral and a heavy dose of citrus. It is sharp on the tongue with hues of crisp lemon and green apple with a spicy warmth.  If you are looking for a dessert wine, continue the search.  This wine is quite tart.

Final Act

If you don’t know anything about the classic, “Taming of the Shrew,” it is about an ill-tempered woman named Katherine who must be married off before her enchanting sister Bianca.  Because of her vial temper and childish antics the task proves extremely difficult. Eventually, a brazen young man named Petruchio agrees to marry her sight unseen, aware her family’s wealth will bring him fortune.  Unhappy about the decision, Katherine is all but forced to go through with it.  Petruchio uses garish tactics to tame his new bride, which in the end prove to be successful.  With a newfound love and appreciation for her husband’s brazen actions to make her a dutiful wife, Katherine wholeheartedly accedes to his perspective.

Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater

Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s Amphitheater

“Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please.
And if you please to call it a rush candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.”  – Katherine

Although, I did not fall in love with this wine, nor did it tame my lust for glass bottles and corks, but when an occasion, such as outdoor plays or overnight camping trips, the Bota Box Pinot Grigio shall be what pleases me.

Aromatique: Floral and citrus scent

SipQuips: Tart on the tongue. Flavors of lemon and green apple. Definately not sweet.

Kitchen Couplings: Sharp cheeses, light pasta dishes, poultry, fish or seafood. Don’t forget the ham and Swiss sandwich!

 


Up, Up and Chardonnay!

It's getting hot in here!Once again I found myself wedged into a cramped Alaska Airlines seat on a quick weekend trip to groovy Eugene, Oregon.  If you’ve flown on the Q-400 you know exactly what I’m talking about.   And you also know that the only thing that makes up for the less than ideal seating arrangements is the free in-flight wine!   It also helps to have a couple of good-humored flight attendants from Montana, who  believe one glass is never sufficient.  After the third sampling, it became clear it was a good thing I wasn’t seated in the exit row.  Before takeoff, our comical attendants taught us how to buckle the seat belt we had already managed just fine and how to show them off as if they were prizes in a rodeo when they passed by.
Flight-Attendant Barbie serving chardonnay

We’d barely reached altitude and it was time for beverages and snacks. I have yet to figure out why they call those minuscule packets of pretzels and crackers with flax seeds, “snacks”.  Seriously, I consider anything less than a handful, a bite. Brad is convinced they are simply to cleanse the palate after chewing gum. Although he also described them as frequent flyer communion wafers. “Forgive me father, for I have chosen to fly coach.”

Three “Hail Naomis” for our flight attendant with the wine.  I glanced out the tiny oval frame at the breathtaking pinky peach sunset flecked with lavender and gold while listening to the constant hum of propellers and low conversation, broken by the occasional displeasure from the infant four rows back. Naomi and Diana made the rounds with a trash bag while I maintained a death grip on my mile-high plastic wine cup.  My lips were getting numb and fingers more nimble as my pen drifted across the lines of Brad’s steno pad.   My toes tingled.  This wine and I were feelin’ fine.

I swirled my cup as if it were my favorite wine glass and took another sip of my Sycamore Lane Chardonnay.  Holding it up to the window, it resembled a urine sample more than anything else through the milky plastic.  But with its mild spice, it was bright and smooth with a soft finish.   This chardonnay is a melody of crisp tart apples, with hints of peach and pear.  The flavor floods the palate with instant gratification and a burst of citrus.  Unlike the poorly recycled air in the cabin, this wine isn’t dry or stale.

Sycamore Lane Chardonnay hails from Trinchero Family Estates and is made from grapes found in California’s most prolific wine regions.  These are the fine folks who purchased Sutter Home in 1947 and went on to develop the ever popular White Zinfandel.  This family’s wine making legacy has rapidly expanded over the last 60 years and to date, they represent over 27 wine brands in the United States and Australia.  Despite the overwhelming success, they have tried to stay true to Sutter Home’s fundamental value to offer “a great product for a fair price.”   Although their website states you cannot find this wine in your local supermarket, I was able to find it online through various wine exchanges ranging from $4.99 to around $14 a bottle.

A couple of hours and a connecting flight later, the view from my window had dramatically changed from the brilliantly colored sunset to snowy mountaintops and blankets of cotton clouds resting gently on evergreens much like a layer of batting from one of my grandmother’s handmade quilts.

With the final tip of my cup, the last rush of fruity intensity gave way to a flickering city with rope-light roadways cutting through the grid below. It was the end of another short journey, but the start to a budding new weekend and a fruitful relationship with a certain chardonnay.

SipQuip:  Melody of crisp tart apples, peach and pear with a burst of citrus. Clean and bright with mild spicy flavor. Fruity with a soft finish.

Aromatique:   Light fruity scent.  Intensity in the flavor not in the smell.

Kitchen Couplings:  Pasta, fish, poultry, Swiss or other flavorful white cheeses — or frequent flyer communion wafers.


This Argentinian white wine’s all right for sipping

three-fourths fullWell, this is the mystery wine of the month. We only know a little about where it comes from, nothing about the grapes from which it’s made, and no idea where you can get some. But it’s good. Take our word for it.

Suá — say it like the cheap shampoo — is a wine that will remind you of warm spring days even if you’ve forgotten what those are like. It’s typical of South American white wines, with a touch of fizz and a refreshing crispness that makes it a nice accompaniment to a light meal or a gathering of friends.

When we espied the Suá Blanco at the Grocery Outlet, Debbie said we’d better grab some because, well, it’s pretty and she doubted there would be any left when we returned.

Sure enough, subsequent trips to our little Cheap Wine Nirvana for refills of this spritely little vintage have proven fruitless. The wine itself, however, is anything but fruitless. You’d never guess from the rather unremarkable aroma … remove the screw top, pour a little and give it a sniff — not much happening.

But once this lightly effervescent wine hits your tongue, the clear melon flavor is a pleasant surprise. It’s dry without being tart. Let the wine breathe for a few minutes, and the flavor matures into an intense, crisp apple. Do they even have apples in Argentina?

That’s where this $4.99 bottle of deliciousness hails from. Argentina’s a big country. There’s some place called Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, mentioned on the bottle. It’s about a thousand meters up the imposing Andes mountains, and the sunny, dry summers combined with cool winters lend themselves to crisp, fruity grapes that give South American wines their distinctive character.

Specifics about this particular vintage are impossible to come by, given that the importer, Tri Star Marketing of Walnut Creek, Calif., has apparently let its website, bluemoonwines.com, disappear.

Whatever. How do you expect to market a decent cheap wine without the Internet. It’s practically FREE! At this price, you can’t afford to send samples all over or grease the palms of a “real” reviewer. You gotta rely on word of mouth, and that’s what the Internet’s all about.

Yummy!Then again, we haven’t been able to find any more bottles of this, so maybe they know something we don’t. Oh well. Que Suá Suá.

Aromatique: Unremarkable. A little citrus-y, which offers little clue as to the wine’s flavor.

SipQuips: Surprisingly fruity. Sweeter the longer it breathes. Unlike some whites, this is tasty at room temperature or chilled. Heavy melon and peach flavor to start, ripening to intense, sweet apple.

Kitchen Couplings: We enjoyed this wine with margherita panini sandwiches … a classic grilled sandwich with a terrific combination of fresh veggies and savory cheeses. (recipe, photo here)


12 Apostles: A heavenly chardonnay

three-fourths fullWe spotted this Aussie wine while shopping for Easter Sunday dinner fixin’s. It might have been the carefee surfer dudes on the label, or maybe the season just had us in a New Testament frame of mind, but the appearance of this $2.99 bottle of 2009 South Eastern Australia Chardonnay seemed like a sign from above. After all, Jesus saves, too.

Original oil painting by Grandma B. Happy Easter. RIP.

It turns out, the 12 Apostles don’t have anything to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. There’s no reference on the label to Jesus turning water into wine. (Pretty sure he was more of a red-wine guy anyway.) But if you’ve ever met a devout surfer, you know that they liken a ride on the perfect wave to a religious experience, so maybe the biblical tie-in isn’t as tenuous as it first appears. The 12 Apostles are actually some tall rocks off the southeast coast of Australia. And, to tell the truth, there aren’t even 12. As of 2005, there were exactly eight of these distinctive limestone stacks jutting from the water in Port Campbell National Park. But who’s counting? It’s still a hot tourist attraction; one wonders if they ought to serve this refreshing vintage to some of those weary travelers.

Speaking of weary travelers, the original Apostles probably could have benefited from a glass or two after shuffling along the dusty Middle Eastern roads. This wine is full of crisp, refreshing flavor and is worthy of any table, whether it’s your first supper or your last. The sweet, floral aroma hints at a lush, fruity flavor led by crisp, tart apple followed by a citrus and melon finish. The maritime climate that makes Australia a popular wine-growing region isn’t all that different from what those original Apostles experienced while schlepping around the east coast of the Mediterranean back in the day. The connections are truly endless.

For just three bucks, this lightly effervescent, not-to-sweet wine is great to have on hand for when friends drop by. The screw-top makes it perfect for warm-weather outings or to keep in the fridge for a quick splash while whipping up dinner. We served ours with an Easter meal of roast chicken Holy cow! We mean "chicken"with rosemary-orange butter and maple-dill carrots. And instant mashed potatoes. (What? You expected hand-mashed after all that work on the bird and two glasses of wine?)

And lest you think this wine isn’t versatile, we finished the bottle with some Easter chocolate. So put on your best sandals and hoof it down to your local Grocery Outlet for a bottle — or three — of this bargain vintage. Put on a comfy robe (white, of course) and enjoy this with a bit of ice and a good book — or maybe THE good book. It’s good enough to make even the most doubting Thomas a true believer.

Aromatique: Fruity and sweet but not intense.

SipQuips: Not overly sweet, but definitely not dry. Tart apple with citrus undertones. Crisp, with a clean finish.

Kitchen couplings: Great with fish or poultry dishes, or with cheese and crackers.


The Dawning of a New Age

If the title impels you to sing the Age of Aquarius, drag out your meditation or yoga mat along with a few John Tesh CDs (you know it’s in your playlist of shame), this sprightly Argentinian wine might bring you to your senses.

We don’t care if this wine is served in the seventh house or when Jupiter aligns with Mars, just as long as it is served at our house.

From the moment you screw off the top, this wine is a party in your mouth! Kinda like the ideal date … sparkling personality, crisp wit, not overly expensive, but a sufficiently snappy dresser that you could take home to mom. What? Where did you think we were going with that? Please stay on topic…

“New Age” is Argentina’s most popular white wine. Blended from 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 90% Torrontes, this lightly bubbly wine is perfect alone or as the base for fruity cocktails. It might be called “New Age,” but it is produced by one of the oldest wineries in one of the world’s great grape-growing regions (try and say that 3 times really fast). Argentina is the fifth most important wine producer in the world, with annual per capita consumption among the highest.

The Bodega Valentin Bianchi winery was founded in 1928 by Italian immigrant Valentin Bianchi. His grandson, “Tincho,” turned his grandfather’s legacy into one of the country’s most popular cocktails by serving it on the rocks with a slice of lime or lemon. (For an added kick, we added fresh, grated ginger.) This is commonly enjoyed by groups of friends in restaurants and night clubs in Buenos Aires, one of South America’s most cosmopolitan cities, and by middle-aged couples blogging from their bedroom in an Idaho suburb surrounded by farmland. Not bad for a bottle you can pick up for $8.99 (on sale) at Fred Meyer.

We loved this wine from the first glass to the last. From its ginger-ale color to the taste reminiscent of hard cider. The unexpected effervescence was festive, but this wine is no dry champagne. It’s a versatile beginning for a variety of light drinks that will be welcome at your next party of two or twenty. Click here for recipes.

Nine months from now, we’ll be twisting caps rather than popping corks, as we ring in yet another New Age.

SipQuips: Light, crisp, sweet, refreshing, fruity/citrus

Aromatique: Fresh floral citrus with hint of apple

Kitchen Couplings: Spicy Asian or Thai cuisine.


Kinda plain on the plane

Cup o WineEven when you’re drinking cheap wine, ambiance matters, and crammed into the window seat of an Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 isn’t exactly the ideal spot for enjoying a glass. The experts tell me wine glass size and shape matter, too. I’ve never seen small plastic cups recommended, and I don’t know what the perfect pairing would be for those tiny parcels of stale chips and pretzels the flight attendants toss in your lap.

Nevertheless, those were the circumstances of my recent tasting of Trinity Oaks 2009 Chardonnay. Despite the less-than-ideal setting, the price was perfect: free. (Yes, I know. I did have to buy the plane ticket, but I would have been on the plane anyway, so props to Alaska for their complementary beer and wine, even on short flights like the one I was on, between Seattle and Boise.) On the ground, this wine sells for more than $8 per bottle.

Trinity Oaks ChardonnayI’m more of a red wine guy, but I enjoy a glass of white now and then. This particular variety was a little fruity for my taste, and served not quite as chilled as I like my whites. I guess that’s what I get for sitting toward the back of the plane.

While the wine itself was strictly ordinary, I was interested to learn that the Trinity Oaks Winery, part of the huge Trinchero Family Estates group (Sutter Home, Newman’s Own, Napa Cellars), is among the leaders in environmentally-friendly winemaking. They even plant a tree for every bottle of Trinity Oaks sold.

On balance, I’d call this a decent wine for the price. And the cool three-oak label certainly meets The Wineslobs© criteria for cool-looking bottles.

Aromatique: Quite fruity and lush.

SipQuips: Citrus-y with sweeter pineapple notes; not terribly crisp.

Kitchen Couplings: Maybe this should have been “cabin couplings.” Anyway, I’d serve this with milder cheeses or fish, salads or not-too-salty snacks.

 


Should have had the salmon…

Instead, we opted for leftover pizza and chocolate peanut butter eggs. Our long talked about first “official” wine review, and we blew it.  But, when the wine selection process consists of one party covering their eyes with a pillow while the other places four bottles in their lap, it’s left to the fates to decide.  And so, with underwhelming prudence, the Josmeyer Alsace 2005 Gewürztraminer Les Folastries® was selected to be our maiden wine. We purchased the Gewurz for a mere $3.99 at our local Grocery Outlet.  It was a stretch, but we spent a little more than we would on a gallon of unleaded gasoline.  We’re all about cheap wine. Many of our selections are based on bottle appeal alone. This particular bottle was reminiscent of the famed 1967 Marilyn Monroe painting by Andy Warhol, colorful with the exception of the tacky bridesmaid peach capsule.   It was a must-have.  We wasted little time allowing the wine to breathe, but gave it a swish or two in the glass prior to a good sniffing.  Describing how a wine smells is a bit of a challenge for wine novices like us, and relating to expert descriptions can be somewhat intimidating for most, so let’s stick to the basics.

Aromatique: Fairly pungent and not terribly fruity.  (which could also be used to describe Brad)

SipQuips:  Primarily dry, especially at the beginning.  Gained fruity flavor.

Kitchen Couplings:  While pizza with Serrano peppers may have been a little much for this wine, a light Asian stir-fry, grilled salmon, fish sticks or a tuna sandwich would be safe bets.