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.

Posted in Chardonnay on April 24, 2011 – 10:24 pm | Comments (5)

New York City…Famous for Broadway and BBQ?

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

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

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

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

Aromatique: Spicy and bold, full/round.

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

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

Posted in Red on April 24, 2011 – 8:56 pm | Comments (5)

Bear Flag’s dark RED HOT MESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Couplings: Grilled chipotle chicken tacos with cabbage salsa

 

Posted in Red on April 24, 2011 – 12:39 am | Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aromatique: Sweet & Spicy

SipQuips: Nice finish, ripe blackberry, blueberry and plum

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

Posted in Red on March 30, 2011 – 8:14 pm | Comments (7)

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.

Posted in White on March 29, 2011 – 10:14 pm | Comments (3)

Oh ‘Wirra Wirra’ art thou Mrs. Wigley?

The cat takes the cheese. The neighbor gets the tail.

And the wine drinker gets a tale as well, by way of the label.  This Aussie vintner’s creations are conceived from little slices of reality. Tonight’s bottle, a 2008 Grenache Rosé (a mere $3.99 at our local Grocery Outlet), was no exception. From the label: “Mrs. Wigley (1977-1993) was not the wife of Wirra Wirra founder Bob Wigley, but a particular pussycat who was born at the neighbouring Petrucci residence. Within days, she had settled in our open fermenters and from then on Mrs. Wigley became a permanent feature of the cellars. Raised exclusively on Myponga Cheddar from the cheese board in cellar door; she was black in colour and sported a trimmed tail courtesy of an accident with some galvanized iron and some emergency surgery from Joe Petrucci’s pruning snips.”

Mrs. WigleyThis may sound like a charming animated Disney throwback from half a century ago, but after a glass or three, we determined there was more to this Aristocat than met the eye.  Perception is reality and it is our perception, Mrs. Wigley was a lush and a bit of a vineyard floozy. Many a Tom fell victim to the saucy kitten, skilled in the art of theft and persuasion.  To this end, she birthed multiple litters from any unattached Tom within a 10-mile radius. Animal welfare workers repeatedly removed the innocent spawn of her drunken alleycat ways.  And as for the loss of her tail, it was no accident by any stretch.  It was during a wine tasting one sultry summer evening when the inebriated cat burglar stole Joe Petrucci’s toupee, mistaking it for a late night lover.  Mortified, he lit after Mrs. Wigley with a pair of kitchen shears and a venomous rage in his heart.  Thankfully she was only on her 6th life and managed to slip through a broken board in the vineyard fence just as Petrucci’s snipping blades caught the end of her tail.

Luckily for us, Mrs. Wigley went on to inspire some really flirty, screw-top wine.  The first pour revealed a gorgeous red plum color. We enjoyed our bottle with Sabra Roasted Pine Nut Hummus, carrots, Beechers No Woman Cheese and slices of Fuji apple.  It left us yearning for a second bottle, hopefully to be enjoyed on a warm summer evening with fresh food and old friends. How will you enjoy yours?

Aromatique: Fresh floral

SipQuips: Strawberries and a hint of spiced apple (Brad thinks I’m high on Spice) Smooth on the tongue.

Kitchen Couplings: Serve chilled with grilled Mahi Mahi, Caesar salad or chilled pasta salad with fresh dill. Perfect with a light summer meal.

Changing Emily by Special Patrol. Check out their MySpace page for more.

Posted in Grenache, Rose on March 24, 2011 – 9:29 pm | Comments (0)

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.

 

Posted in Chardonnay on March 22, 2011 – 6:23 pm | Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aromatique: Spicy and bold. Full, round flavor.

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

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

Taco Soup Recipe (bonus! No extra charge!)

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

Toppers

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

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

¡buen provecho

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

Posted in Red on March 17, 2011 – 8:28 pm | Comments (2)

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.

 

Posted in Gewurtztraminer, White on March 13, 2011 – 7:00 pm | Comments (2)

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.

*cheers*

Posted in Dribbles and drivel on March 12, 2011 – 7:36 pm | Comments (0)