Hot Rod Red leaves us cold — and bitter

The bottle proclaims that this red table wine from Cold Springs Winery is “So Good, It’s Bad.” Well, they got it half right.

To be fair, this wine isn’t exactly “bad.” (And trust me, we’ve had bad wine.) It’s just not very good. In fact, it’s not much of anything. Swallow this wine and by the time it reaches your stomach, your mouth has already forgotten it was there.

All revved up, but nowhere to go.Apparently the winery has forgotten as well. Hot Rod Red doesn’t even show up on the Cold Springs website. The label itself offers no clue about what to expect from this blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It’s a popular wine, according to other reviews, but we’re hard-pressed to explain why. At $8.99 (on sale at Fred Meyer), this wine was near the top of our usual price range, but as we’ve found time and again, spending a few extra dollars rarely improves a wine.

We wanted to like this wine. We really did. After all, it’s got a hot car and little devil horns worked into the label. And we dig local products. Cold Springs is just an hour away, near the tiny hamlet of Hammett in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. It has a good rep, and we’ll definitely try their wines again — just not this one.

We found the flavors to be indistinct. The wine’s a bit sharp on the front end, but not overly so. I imagine this is the sort of thing Catholics get at communion, to go along with those bland little wafers that are supposed to be the body of Jesus. You can tell it’s wine, but you’re really not supposed to enjoy it.

Speaking of gods (note the segue), Cold Springs has this clever little marketing tool where they put a printed collar-tag on the bottle’s capsule that has an “ology” word on it – like bi/ology, entom/ology, epistem/ology — you get the idea. And the card gives a definition of the word and ties it into the wine somehow. The idea is that science is at the root of good winemaking, and the folks at Cold Springs would rather educate than pontificate about the wine.

So how to explain the collar tag on this bottle, which is the/ology?. Pretty sure that’s the opposite of science, so we’re not sure how that fits into the stated goal to “inform you about the sciences that are involved in winemaking.”

The god on the card is Dagon, which Cold Springs says is the god of Earth and Agriculture. He looks kinda like a merman with a cool hat. He’s an old Babylonian god later adopted by the Philistines who was more into fish and grain than grapes. He’d probably be a good candidate to rep beer.

A better choice would have been Dionysus, the Greek god of the grape harvest. He was the original party animal, and was drawn in a chariot by lions and tigers. Now THAT is a hot rod. This wine could use some of his divine charisma. As it is, this Hot Rod is more like a family sedan. It runs well enough, but its not likely to get anyone excited.

Aromatique: Fairly strong, especially given the taste, with scents more akin to a shiraz or syrah.

Sip Quips: Surprisingly bland, with no clear flavor profile and a weak finish.

Kitchen Couplings: One thing would work as well as the next, but any savory meat dish or something with strong flavors would quickly overwhelm this forgettable wine.

Posted in Red on September 25, 2011 – 10:54 pm | Comments (0)

The Mad Housewife

It still feels like the middle of the night when the alarm goes off and she tumbles out of bed. Gently she wipes the sleep from her eyes and begins her morning ritual of brewing coffee and making lunches for children still fast asleep. The laundry left in the dryer needs folding, the cat wants to be fed, and the man in her life is bellowing from the bathroom because he can’t find his razor and asks if their teenage daughter has stolen it yet again. One by one she wakes the children for a quick bowl of sugary cereal (as if they aren’t hyper enough). But what of it? In another hour, they will be safely dropped at school where their teachers are paid to deal with them.

Mad Housewives commiseratingShe jots down a few necessities needed from the store. The last bit of milk and bread had been used up between breakfast and lunch. Her husband emerges from the bathroom filling the kitchen with the scent of Irish Spring and aftershave. He takes a few sips of her coffee, and in an instant, he is out the door.

Empty bowls with splashes of sticky milk line the countertop where her children sleepily sat just moments before. “What now?!” she mutters on her way down the hall to break up an argument between the teenage girl and boy fighting over precious bathroom time, and it’s barely 6:30 a.m. The second-grader has proudly dressed himself in summer shorts, a sweater and his favorite cowboy boots. It almost breaks his heart when informed he must change. Half an hour later, the family van is loaded with backpacks, lunches, children in clothes that match, a plastic dinosaur and one pet hamster. Ten minutes later, with the hamster safely back in its cage she speeds out of the driveway, backs over a skateboard and without missing a beat, drops each one off at school, wiping away second-grade tears with promises of a new skateboard and a trip to the skate park by the weekend.

Mad Housewife CabBy 8 a.m. she has cleaned the kitchen right down to the last cereal bowl and by noon she has made all the beds, washed, folded and put away four loads of laundry, drank half the pot of coffee and ate the last bit of last night’s leftovers. By the middle of the afternoon, the floors have been vacuumed, rugs have been shaken, litter box cleaned and the bathrooms are respectable once more. She can finally get ready for the day. By 9 p.m. her family has been fed, another load of laundry started, and the kitchen has been cleaned for the second time. She has helped with homework, heard about her children’s adventures, conquered a quick trip to the grocery store and listened to her husband complain about the traffic. Finally, her tidy house is quiet and she is able to relax on the sofa with her thoughts and a much-needed glass of wine.

Are you a “Mad Housewife?”  Does your day resemble that of the woman in this story?  Are you mad that your children don’t pick up after themselves, are constantly fighting, the man in your life can’t find even the simplest of things that are seemingly right in front of him? Are you mad that the cat can’t remember that he was just fed? Are you angry that dishes seem to dirty themselves and that the laundry breeds in the shadows of the night? Does it piss you off to no end that you are the only one who sees that the garbage needs taken out and that skateboards belong in the garage? Are you incensed  that everything you do seems unappreciated and unimportant? Are you seriously regretting not marrying better so you could hire a nanny and a housekeeper?

Or are you just MAD because each and every day you do what needs doing because you are a lovely person who adores her family in spite of it all? We live in a mad world. Crazy isn’t it? Many of us go to work each day on top of all the daily rituals for the sake of our families. And this is why we must drink.

We drink to relax, we drink to cope, we drink to be social, but most of all we drink because on occasion we find a great wine like “Mad Housewife” that keeps us coming back for more. We found this Cabernet Sauvignon at our local Fred Meyer on sale for $6.79 and it was worth every last cent. In fact, we love everything about it. We tried this wine with and without our aerator. This wine is better the longer it has time to breathe. If you don’t own an aerator, get one!  We cannot stress how much it improves the flavor without having to fondle your glass while it breathes. Who has time for that with so much to do?! This wine tends to be sweet on the tip of the tongue, but gradually mellows into a mild and smooth flavor of cherries with a hint of chocolate. It goes down easy with its lush and silky texture. In fact, it goes down a little too easily!

Since 2007, the Mad Housewife Cabernet Sauvignon from California has won several medals in various wine competitions, and after enjoying a bottle we can understand why. From the fun label, corks with humorous sayings (ours says, “I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”) to the distinct but not easily categorized flavor, this wine has it all. So whether you’re a mad housewife, a single dad or mother trying to do it all, or if you are just mad about wine, we encourage you to find a special spot on your sofa and enjoy a glass — or four.

Aromatique: Sweet and pungent (especially strong before it breathes).

SipQuips: Ripe cherries and a hint of chocolate.

Kitchen Couplings: Spicy grilled chicken with new potatoes and fresh green beans; pasta, pizza or chocolate of any kind.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Red on September 22, 2011 – 12:48 am | Comments (3)

’Tis a bargain, indeed

This one earned a half glass.The Tisdale Wineries’ Cabernet Sauvignon of California is pretty good right out of the bottle, and better once it breathes a bit. In fact “pretty good” — especially on sale for $3.99 — is an excellent description of this middle-of-the-road vino from Modesto. After all, you can’t spell Modesto without “modest.”

The first sniff of this dark cranberry colored cab is fruity, heavy with blackberry and plum, but the taste is mild. This is no sweet red, nor does Tisdale bear the spice of its more full-bodied cousins. It’s like the ordinary bird resting in the unremarkable tree on the label: pleasant and unassuming.

Tisdale Cabernet SauvignonDeb bought this bottle at Smith’s Food and Drug on a recent trip to her parents’ place, and that seems like just the right place to pick it up. This is an unpretentious, everyday wine that will come in handy for numerous situations.

The nervous (and broke) young beau trying to impress his date with a home-cooked meal will do well to pick up a bottle while cruising the grocer’s deli for a precooked pot roast and mashed potatoes. It’s an ideal starting point for mulled holiday wine or a girl’s-night-in sangria.

Keep some on-hand for that dinner party where one of the attendees always invites himself to the wine rack after the main course. It makes a good second (or third) bottle for those “sit at home after the breakup” nights, after the Häagen-Dazs is gone and before the second Lifetime movie begins.

Like the label says: “Life is full of quality experiences.” Well, it can be full of suck, too, and long stretches of soul-crushing boredom. Fortunately, this wine won’t bring memories of either. It’s more like a nice quiet evening on the patio, with a good book and a minimum of flying insects.

In our view, that’s pretty good.

Aromatique: Ripe plums and sweet berries that mellow as the wine rests.

SipQuips: Medium-bodied, not too sweet, very smooth finish.

Kitchen couplings: Leftover spaghetti, garlic bread, deli pot roast and mashed potatoes.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon on September 19, 2011 – 10:27 pm | Comments (0)

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.

Posted in Merlot on September 7, 2011 – 10:57 pm | Comments (0)

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.

Posted in Red, Shiraz on September 1, 2011 – 12:05 pm | Comments (1)

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


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!


Posted in Pinot Grigio, White on August 29, 2011 – 12:14 am | Comments (0)

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.

Posted in Chardonnay, White on August 2, 2011 – 11:21 pm | Comments (0)

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

Posted in Red on May 22, 2011 – 11:33 pm | Comments (0)

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,, 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)

Posted in White on May 16, 2011 – 11:55 pm | Comments (0)

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.

Posted in Merlot, Red on April 27, 2011 – 10:26 pm | Comments (2)