What the Heck is Malbec?

What the Heck is Malbec?

Happy Friday, everyone!  Malbecs have been making their way into my shopping cart lately. As I’m not entirely sure what the heck a Malbec is, or if I enjoy them, I thought I’d turn to my handy-dandy EVERYTHING GUIDE TO WINE by Peter Alig, the Wine Educator at Robert Mondavi Winery (or at least, he was when the book was published).

Peter says that Malbec is the fifth of the five noble Bordeaux varieties, but heck – the grapes are finicky in their native land of France, and usually fall ill to some disease or another which makes planting that grape a risky business, indeed. But apparently Argentina has taken up some of France’s slack, with California also sticking its toe into Malbec (eh – so to speak, lol). The Malbec grape is known “for its density, dark fruit, and backbone of tannins” according to Peter Alig. It’s also used primarily as a blending grape in France and California.

I managed to find two under ten dollars – let me tell you about them.

Picture of the Gascon Malbec and the Reserve MalbecDon Miguel Gascon Malbec 2010 Mendoza, Argentina Alcohol 13.9% by volume $9.99 at Fresh & Easy Markets

On the Label:  “Since 1884, the wines of Don Miguel Gascon have been recognized for the rich, smooth flavors that come from Argentina’s Mendoza wine region. High altitude vineyards situated along the Cordillera of the Andes Mountains produce full mature grapes for this classic Malbec. It is full bodied and elegant with soft, round tannins, layered with favors of blackberry, blueberry, dark cherry, and a hint of mocha.” Visit the winery here.

My Take:  For me, this is a young wine. It’s still really bright, and the tannins are a bit harsh. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it, though, next year; hopefully that aging will have smoothed out the bite and kept the nicely juicy flavors.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ But it’ll be better in a year.

Red Rock Winery Malbec Reserve 2010 Healdsburg, California Alcohol 13.6% by Photo of a bottle of Red Rock Malbec 2010Volume  Regularly $11.99; on sale at Vons for $8.39.

On the Label: “Inspired by the hand stacked rocks that help you find your way along a trail, RED ROCK Winery wants to inspire you to Find True Balance. Our winemaker believes that “Making a great wine is all about finding balance. It’s about fitting the fruit characteristics together in a harmonious way, so that no single element overpowers another.” In our Malbec, ripe berry aromas yield to fresh flavors of boysenberry, currants, and cherries creating a smooth wine that is truly balanced.”

My Take: Okay, I confess. Once I read that this winery is all about Find(ing) True Balance, I giggled the rest of the way through the label. If you drink wine, inevitably your balance will leave you at some point. Even a sip or two on an empty stomach (MAINLY for us FEMALES) can send you reeling a bit. So, yeah. That struck me as truly (unintentionally) hilarious. These people seriously need a normal person to check their writing. Just saying.

Oh yeah – about the wine. Young. Meh. Not bad, just nothing to get too excited about. If I’m drinking reds, I prefer Pinot Noirs or Zinfandels. So…maybe this will be better in 2013?

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Note: Their website says that the 2009 was blended with other grapes for more depth. If you can find it, try that one first.

That’s it today folks. My back is killing me and I’ve still got edits to do. While you’re here, check out Demon Soul and the Caine Brothers Series page of my website – reviews are up, too.

Remember, this is all just my opinion and will be colored by how many political calls I’ve dodged, whether or not I’ve donated blood in the past week, and if my cat is meowing to be fed. Your taste buds will differ.

Thanks for stopping by – and remember to Drink Responsibly!


Goats In Villages Wine. No, Really.

Goats In Villages Wine. No, Really.

It’s Friday, YAY! Once again I’m filling you in on wines that are under $10 at your local grocery stores. Okay, to be honest, they’re MY local grocery stores – but I’m pretty sure they’re generic enough that you’ll be able to find the wines wherever you may be (at least, if you’re in the U.S.) Today I step outside of the West Coast of the United States, however, and venture abroad. But first…

To Swirl, or Not to Swirl? Lettie Teague fills you in on the art of the swirl – she’s got a video and everything!  Go here for more info.  Now…on to the wine!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico, 2008 Product of Italy Alcohol, 13.%% by Volume. Under $10 (according to my husband)

On the Label: “In 1124, Castello di Gabbiano was extablished in the heart of the renowned Chianti Classico region. During the Middle Ages, a courageous Italian knight, Il Cavaliere, dedicated himself to protecting our castle and vineyards. His code of honor came to embody our philosophy that the finest things in life deserve our fiercest commitment – estate vineyards, Old World traditions, and the enjoyment of robust wines. Our Gabbiano Chianti Classico has rich flavors of berry and pepper. Salute.”

My Take: I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed Gabbiano before, but that I guess doesn’t matter. This is a lovely wine, and as advertised is rich with berry and that peppery taste I adore. We had it with parmesan mustard chicken, and it was a delightful accompaniment. It won’t rock anyone’s world, but it’s a solid player in the red wine department.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ 

Picton Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 Product of New Zealand Alcohol 13.0% by volume; $7.99 at Trader Joe’s. (This was a screwtop bottle.)

On the Label: This wine is made from grapes grown in Marlborough and Nelson. Picton Bay Pinot Noir is fresh with delicious red fruit flavours, enticing spicy aromas and a smooth, fine texture. Drink now or cellar until 2015.

My Take: I was thrilled to find a red from New Zealand, and surprised to see it was a 2011. All the latest reds in the States have been 2010s, so I was a bit worried about drinking this obviously very young wine. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. The wine was smooth – young, yes, but eminently drinkable right now. I may have to put a couple bottles aside and see how they taste a year from now…except, you know. I’ll never manage to hang onto them that long!

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~  especially at this price!

Goats in Villages Shiraz Pinotage 2008  The Goats Do Roam Wine Company, South Africa Alcohol 14% by Volume  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s. (Yes, that’s a screwtop.)

On the Label: “Africa has a way of bringing out the best in people. With its magnitude and raw beauty, and the intensity of day to day living, Africa draws on one’s deepest spiritual resources. Rebecca and Gary Mink moved from the United States to the wilds of the Caprivi in Northern Namibia, where they founded the Children of Zion Village to care for children orphaned by AIDS. Their immense courage and spirit however, could not fully offset their limited financial resources, and they were soon overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. An urgent appeal was sent for goats – and immediately a group of young does and bucks from our Goats do Roam herd volunteered, rushing north to supply our nutritious milk and gentle company. Our caprine colleagues who stayed behind in the Western Cape have carefully selected the finest grapes from which to make this complex wine. Rich, spicy Shiraz and ripe, robust Pinotage are carefully blended to emphasize the fruit, whilst judicious oaking adds elegance and structure, befitting the noble gesture made by the Goats who roam in African Villages. Enjoy this wine with barbecued meats and full flavored dishes.”

My Take: Wow, what a story! We had it with our corned beef on St. Patty’s day; and the wine was surprisingly superb. When my hubby tasted it (without knowing its name or where it had been made), he said there was something unusual – earthy, maybe  – about the wine, and he quite liked it. I did, too – and am planning on going back and getting more.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ I mean, come on. When was the last time you consumed anything from South Africa?!!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

My award-winning novel, Demon Soul, is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?  If you’ve read it, have you reviewed it on Amazon?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!




What Happened to Being Kind?

What Happened to Being Kind?

I’m seeing a lot of posts about this topic lately. How kindness and consideration for others seems to have gone by the wayside. Why is that, do you think? Is it because we’re so inward focused? The “Me Generation” overly concerned with getting “their fair share”? I even saw somewhere that, politically, kindness is considered “weakness”. Um, EXCUSE ME?!!! And that helping those less fortunate than ourselves is a political quagmire and politicians should stay away from it. Uh, WHAT THE HECK? (Sorry. Backing away now from the politics.)

Photo of a traffic jam

Thanks to journeyetc.com for the photo

I find rudeness and lack of courtesy everywhere. On the freeway, where other drivers speed up to prevent you from changing lanes in front of them. In grocery stores, where carts bump into you and the “drivers” of those carts glare, as if you’d jumped in front of them and forced them to hit you. In sports – bounty, anyone? Rudeness on the internet is big business, as well.

Bloggers will slam something – whether it be a book, a political figure (okay, that’s too easy), a TV show, a movie or their neighborhood – and it will go viral. Others will get on the slam-wagon and write things in a blog comment they would never say to someone’s face. That blogger will then get their 15 minutes of blog fame, which was most likely their total intent. But will it last? (Does it ever last?)

Where’s the love? Where’s the joy?

Since I started commuting to work again, I have gone out of my way to do an experiment. I used to be a Type A driver when I commuted, 12 or so years ago – swearing and honking and speeding and tailgating and damn the consequences. I found out a few months ago that I don’t react well to that any more – it makes me angry and my stomach gets tied up in knots. So now, I go out of my way to be kind.

I make sure now to leave a lot of room between me and the car in front of me, so other cars

A photo of yellow, white and pink daisies and red roses

Thanks to flowerstore.com for the photo

can merge onto the freeway. I put fun music on, not the news – news makes me tense. Country music or hard-driving rock n’ roll will allow me to relax. I’ve been doing this for 7 months, and I find I can enjoy my drive home now.

This experiment has bled into other areas of my life. I let people go in front of me at the grocery store when they only have a couple of items, and I’ve got a full basket. I smile at people I accidently bump into – or almost bump into – and usually get a smile back. I hold doors open at my local coffee shop for men or women with kids and two or three drinks to juggle.

Chores that my boys usually do, I’ll do every now and then to lighten their load. I try to corral my shoes and put them in my closet, rather than sprinkle them all over the house. I pay bills when no one else is around, so I can whimper in private and not disturb anyone. I make breakfasts for whomever is up, and I do my best to make dinner every night – cooking and feeding my family is one of my ways of showing my love. Most of the home stuff is second nature, but every now and then I have to really concentrate on being kind.

It’s not much to ask, really. We can never know the circumstances of someone else’s life; what they’re going through, whether good or bad. We’re all in basically the same boat, after all. Say please and thank you, especially to those you love. Give a smile, a few extra car lengths in front of you, stop to let someone cross the street. It’s not much and yet, it can mean a lot to a complete stranger.

I have one story that illustrates this vividly. It happened to me about ten years ago; I was newly-laid off during the whole dot com bust, and the hubby had taken a day job down in Santa Monica. I had the time, was in the area, so I parked and was going to meet him for lunch.

I wasn’t anything special – I think I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt, maybe a blazer. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze – it was a beautiful autumn day and I was going to see my beloved husband. I guess I was smiling.

I was in the Wilshire Boulevard crosswalk when I noticed a man a half-block north of me. He was staring at me; as I crossed the street, he walked toward me, picking up his pace. I had just turned to go up the steps of my husband’s office building, when he stopped me.

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you.” He looked me in the eyes – an attractive man in his late 30s, business attire -and he said, “But I just had to tell you – you are a beautiful woman.” Then he hurried on his way.

Now, cold reflection says he probably thought I was someone else; but his statement that day made me feel like a beautiful woman. He didn’t have to say it; he could easily have just gone past me without a word. But he took the time to make me – a complete stranger – feel like a million bucks. I absolutely floated the rest of the day, and the memory of that encounter is crystal clear. (I’m interesting – I have “good energy” – but I am Not Beautiful in the classical sense and never have been. And I’m okay with that!)

Being kind should be second nature. It isn’t.  How much would the world (or at least our own little corner of it) improve, if we all started being kind? (I am talking about deliberate acts of kindness, not random ones.) I’m certainly not perfect; but I am trying, very hard, to change my ways. Kindness, and with my eyes open (on the one hand, I tend to be overly suspicious; on the other hand, I get sucked in very easily).

What act of kindness impacted your life, that you remember to this day?  I’d really love to hear them! Hugs, everyone – hugs!

A couple bloggers that go out of their way to help those around them: check out Jennifer Louden at Dispatches of Love & Insight; and Susannah Conway’s Blog . I’m new to Susannah, but I’m loving what I see.

Coming up this Friday – wine reviews – New Zealand, Italy and South Africa!

Panic in the Kitchen with Wine from NZ

Panic in the Kitchen with Wine from NZ

The news lately is depressing. Red meat kills you faster than anyone had thought (Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, March 13, 2012). You’re not supposed to drink coffee prior to donating blood, as coffee lowers your iron count. (This is new!)

According to heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell, our years of eating highly processed carbohydrates and the excess consumption of omega 6 vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oil is the #1 major cause of heart disease, and not cholesterol (Sott.net, March 1, 2012). Here’s a quote from the Sott article: “Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped. ”  It’s a fascinating article, and I highly recommend you read all of it.

PANIC TIME All this news, though, has caused me to panic in the kitchen. I enjoy making bread, and feeding steak and smashed potatoes to my boys. But at the same time, I want my family to stay healthy. What’s an omnivore who has no interest in changing her stripes to do?

I reached for a bottle of wine, natch!

Photo of the label for Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand Alcohol 13% by volume.  Regularly $12.84 at Vons; on 30% off special for $8.99. (DON’T get me started on that phony $12.84 pricing.)

On the Label: “New Zealand’s South Island is home to the Marlborough wine growing region, known for its natural beauty and some of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc.  Marlborough’s favourable climate and diverse geography develop wines with a unique character, making them as flavourful as they are refreshing.

“Our Sauvignon Blanc delivers all of the refreshing citrus aromas and lively acidity that characterizes the Marlborough region. Our goal is to take the Starborough experience even further; with a layered testure and long, crisp finish that truly epitomizes the character of New Zealand itself.”

My Take: I liked this wine a lot. I’d come home from work and was in a bit of a panic about dinner; found a healthy recipe and scooted off to the store. Found this wine – and felt my panic recede a bit. The wine was crisp, clean, and yet had a hint of sweetness. Refreshing and very easy to drink. After my first sip, I felt panic slip away and I began to cook.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ I think I may just start buying NZ Sauvignon Blancs when I’m in an S. Blancish mood.

Recipe: Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms via MyRecipes.com

This recipe is one of my favorites – I didn’t list it here, because I didn’t create it, but do photo of a grilled stuffed portobello mushroomcheck it out. Grilled mushrooms, chopped tomato, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, olive oil and mozzarella cheese – what’s not to love?

Ahhh…I was sipping wine though, remember. And I was a bit panicked about life and eating. So where the recipe called for 2/3 cup of chopped tomato, I tossed in three chopped tomatoes. And where the recipe called for 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella, I threw in a pound. (Oh, a handful at a time – but by the time I was done, the whole 16 oz bag had gone in. Whoops!)

The only bad thing was, I had made enough filling for twelve portobellos, instead of four. Sigh. If any of us had remembered to put up the extra, it would have made terrific topping for pizza!  I did follow the rest of the recipe to the letter – grilling, basting, filling, and melting – and the mushrooms turned out spectacular (by far my favorite way to have them).

I paired this with a lovely chopped salad of bell pepper, zucchini, cucumber, spring onions, feta, three different types of lettuce (butter, red, and some crinkly artisanal lettuce), fresh basil, fresh parsley, and shredded carrot; squeezed one Meyer lemon over it all and added a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, and mixed the heck out of it all. Tasted wonderful (and there were leftovers for lunch the next day).

On to the next bottle! After a full day of gardening, I came inside and opened another NZ bottle of wine…

Label of an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc

thanks to http://www.wine.com

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand Alcohol 13% by Volume – on sale for $8.99 at Vons

On the Label: “Oyster Bay captures the special character of New Zealand’s cool climate viticulture…elegant, assertive wines with glorious fruit flavors.”

My Take: Nice and brief label – love it. I enjoyed this wine, too…it had a slightly more acidic flavor to it, which held up beautifully when paired with a robust chicken/mushroom soup I made and doctored the family with this past week.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Honestly, I was very pleased with the quality of both these wines. I will go out of my way to search for more New Zealand wines – hopefully I can find some yummy reds, too!

Well, that’s it for this week. Do you have any recommendations for wine under $10? I’m always looking for new ones to try! Remember the ratings are based on my taste buds (and sometimes those of my hubby), and will be influenced by how much the media has managed to panic me that week, how much gardening I’ve done, and the phase of the moon. Your taste buds will be different.

Thanks for dropping by – and remember to Drink Responsibly!


St. Patty’s PAR-TAY with Mimi Barbour!

St. Patty’s PAR-TAY with Mimi Barbour!

My good friend Mimi Barbour is celebrating the first in her Angel series – plus there’s a BIG BOOK GIVEAWAY, so keep reading!

Cover of My Cheeky Angel by Mimi Barbour

My Cheeky Angel

(1st book in the Angels with Attitudes series) by Mimi Barbour

 Annie is naïve and love-starved and she’ll soon to be celebrating her big 3-0. Something needs to be done! Celi, her ‘down-to-earth’ guardian angel appears to help kick-start Annie’s big change—her looks, her job, her whole life. By taking a managerial position with a sophisticated shoe manufacturer, Annie becomes embroiled with her new associates and hooked on the power of big business. Unfortunately, her exhaustion from overwork forces her to ignore old friends, and her lapse places someone she cares about in terrible danger.

Tyler, a Social Worker and a woman-hater previously hurt in two relationships, only wants Annie in his life as a good buddy. Oh yeah! And to help with his mixed-up street kids. Perversely, once her life alters, he misses her like hell. In one sweet night of loving everything changes. But, due to an overabundance of nightcaps, she doesn’t remember the night he can’t forget.

That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? I’m also promoing a big giveaway – all the authors are aiming for maximum exposure, so check out the promo below and download FREE BOOKS the rest of this week!

Graphic for the Lucky Days Free ParTay


Lucky Days Free Par-Tay!!! 


Discover over 40 amazing ebooks: Romances, Thrillers, Mysteries, Humor, Fantasies, and more!  All FREE at Amazon.com   Fantastic ebooks, many by award-winning and best-selling authors.  There’s a genre for every reader’s taste. Romance from sweet to HOT, suspense, paranormal, humorous, historical…we have an awesome range. If Mysteries and Thrillers are your thing you can’t go wrong. Police action, murderous mayhem, amateur sleuths and more.  You’ll also find Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Woman’s Fiction…. A fantastic selection!

Got kids? We have books for elementary school age and teens alike.

Don’t miss out! Soon these amazing ebooks will be back to their usual prices. Grab them while they’re FREE! March 14th-18th.  Who says you can have too much of a good thing? You can never have too many great books. Load up your Kindle and tell your neighbors to do the same.

The FREE Par-Tay is a BLAST!  Some Examples of the Great Books Available:

You like Romance? Find them here.  Don’t miss Mimi Barbour’s “My Cheeky Angel” or Virna DePaul’s “Chosen by Sin.” Rita Herron will make you smile with “Marry Me Maddie.” Stephanie Bond’s “I think I Love You” and Denise Domning’s “Almost Perfect” are perfect for the addicted romance reader. Debra Burroughs “Three Days in Seattle” and Nina Bruhns’s “The French Detective’s Woman” add a splash of mystery and suspense to their romance.

Excited by Thrillers? Ecstatic for Mysteries? Scared by Horror? Tweaked by Sci-Fi? You’re in the right place!

Ron Kierkegaard’s “The God Particle” stretches the boundaries and Michael Shean’s “Shadow of a Dark Star” will open your eyes to new worlds. Michael Paneush’s “The Stein and Candle Detective Agency” is a fantastical take on mystery and fantasy abounds in Jack Albrecht’s “Osric’s Wand” and Vicki Keirie’s “Worlds Burn Through.”

“Liquid Lies” By Lois Lavrisa dives into secrets, lies and murder, while Shannon Mayer will lead you through ten Horrifying stories in “Ingredients of a Caldron.” Nathan Yocum investigates a post-apocalyptic future in “The Zona” and Katherine Owen digs deep in a story of love and loss in “Seeing Julia.”

And don’t forget to sign up for our Newsletter. You’ll automatically be entered to WIN $100 in Amazon Gift Cards.

~ ~ ~

That’s it for today, folks. I’m so very grateful to Mimi for having this promo as I’m sicker n’ a dog and the wine blog is calling! Have a great week, y’all, and remember as you sip your Irish Whiskey or your Guinness, to Drink Responsibly!