Three Unusual Reds

Three Unusual Reds

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10, unless noted otherwise.

I’m calling these reds unusual because either they’re niche reds (one distributor) or their hard-to-find reds (perhaps closeouts).

Four Vines 2009 Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel Sonoma County, California Alcohol 14.4% by volume. $8.99 at BevMo! on sale.

On the Label:  “Old vines lend depth and character to layers of silky berry fruit and spice. The wine begins with a rich fruit, then glides into a lingering sexy oak finish. Enjoy with candlelight and a friend…” Christian Tietje Winemaker

My Take: First off, I have never seen this in the grocery store. In order to find it (what’s left of it, that is), you’ll have to go to BevMo or another big box wine and spirits store. That said: This wine is made by one of my favorite winemakers, who actually sold the Four Vines label a year or so ago and is now making wines under the Cypher label. When we saw the Zin going for only $8.99 (30% off sale at BevMo!), we had it that same day to see if we should rush back and get a bunch of bottles.

The wine was good, I will say that. However, it wasn’t the stellar wine that I’ve become so spoiled with from Cypher (at 3 times the cost, I might add).  Even though its only a 2009, I’m thinking it was a wine that was made to drink young and, therefore, it has already lost some oomph for me. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a terrific bottle of wine.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And it is a very good price.

Chessman Vineyards Reserve North Coast Pinot Noir 2009 Alcohol 14.3% by volume $10.04 on a “get rid of” sale at Vons.

On the Label: “In chess, choosing the right chessman and placing it on the right space maximizes the force of the move.  Likewise, choosing hte right vineyard that produces the highest expression of a particular varietal is the key to great wine.

Chessman Vineyards has found the perfect vineyard sites, from renowned North Coast, California, with the perfect varietal, Pinot Noir.  with its favorable exposure, climate, and soil, our North Coast Pinot Noir is the highest expression of this wonderful grape. Maximize your next move by enjoying a glass of Chessman Vineyard’s Pinot Noir.”

My Take: Okay. This label goes too far, especially since I read it after I tasted the wine. And trust me, it is NOT the “highest expression of this wonderful grape”.  I found it young, lacking in complexity (that may develop over time) and rather thin, which some pinot noirs can be. It is a cranberry color, reminiscent of a fruity Beaujolais Nouveau. I don’t know if this wine will get better over time (well, with each successive glass it does, lol). I’ve been waiting to try Chessman Vineyards, since they are usually priced above $15; now I realize I don’t need to worry about it. Note: This vineyard doesn’t have a website. I find that exceedingly strange.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ It went fine with pasta and garlic bread, even though it kinda got lost amongst the garlic.

Pacific Coast Highway Vintage 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol 14.5% by volume – around $8 at Fresh N Easy Markets.

On the Label: “The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the coastline of California and provides one of the most scenic drives in the world. It has inspired songs, poems, books; and now a wine. Enjoy the ride.

My Take: I admit, I was hesitant to try this wine as it was the third bottle I’d bought at Fresh N Easy  and the first two didn’t fare well in the Christine Rating System (the other two were reviewed here).  But dinner was almost ready and I needed to open something that befits a Wednesday night’s Mexican Plate Special. Besides, I love the name. Hubby and I got to drive PCH way up around Big Sur last March, and it was a magical, wonderful time. (Of course, after we got home, part of the highway fell into the sea…but I digress.)

So anyway, I opened, I poured, I sipped, I was surprised. The wine was drinkable straight from the get-go, no need to wait for it to air. The color is a deep purple-black and the taste, juicy and smooth. It almost tasted like a merlot, it was so mellow. It is a 2009; my guess is you’d better snap up bottles of this before it turns, and drink them now. (Does anyone other than the mega-rich or mega-snooty keep wine for more than a few months? Just wondering…)  It’s definitely an any-day wine and perfect for Wednesdays.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ A good all-around meal wine that won’t break your pocketbook.

That’s it for this week, thanks so much for stopping by! Remember these are my opinions based on my mood, the color of the sky, and whether the cat is purring or hissing. Your taste buds will vary.

I love your comments and wine suggestions, so please feel free to give me suggestions. (I’m still working on Reislings, Kathy!)

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

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

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

Some Uh-oh Reds…

Some Uh-oh Reds…

I like being a positive person. I don’t like saying bad things about people, but I can get riled up and curse with the best of them. But when it comes to wine, I give it to you straight.  After all, who’s got the money to waste on bad wine? Not me! So here we go…some uh-oh reds.

Jenica Peak Pinot Noir 2008 Coastal Series Jenica Peak Vineyards, Graton, California  Alcohol 12.5% by volume. Under $10 at Vons (sorry – don’t remember the exact amount!)

On the Label: “Expressing California’s penchant for fine ingredients and abundant flavors, Jenica Peak brings forth esteemed wines from our coastal vineyards. Harvesting in cool, Coastal conditions for optimum flavor, we produce wines of pure varietal character. Jenica Peak. Capture the essence of California in each savory sip.

“Aromas of Bing cherries and Italian plums are brought to the nose of this outstanding wine. Soft tannins provide a gentle backbone to the rich and elegant fruit. Pair this wine with roast quail and fingerling potatoes.”

My Take:  Um. Roast quail? Seriously?? Do normal lower middle class people roast quail for their Sunday supper? Sheesh! Okay. You all know that I’m not one for chatty labels. Let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t read that label in the store – I probably wouldn’t have bought the wine. (QUAIL?!! Seriously!)

That said, this was an inoffensive wine. Absolutely drinkable, and needed a bit of chilling in the fridge to be honest. To the hubby’s taste buds, it was a bland wine, and absolutely nothing to write home about, even for a 2008. I liked it more than that. And if you go to their website, it shows that this wine had won some awards. Maybe it was better a  year ago? Not sure.

My Rating:  ~ Drinkable ~ but nothing to get really excited about.

Small Wonders Paso Robles Zinfandel 2010 Small Wonders Wines, Graton, California – Alcohol 13% by volume. $7.88 at Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Industrious winemaker and esteemed connoisseur Richard Mansfield tirelessly searches all of the tiny, tucked-away niches of the world for our hand-selected small lot wines. He has expertly blended and hand picked our Small Wonders wines to provoke admiration and marvel  for the appellations from which they hail.  Indulge your senses while sipping Small Wonders for the best offerings come in the smallest packages.

“Aromas of brilliant dark cherry and ripe raspberry envelop subtle nuances of earthy wild mountain herb. A bright acidity is the perfect accent to lusciously rich flavors for a magnificent Zinfandel sure to please your palate. Enjoy alongside roast leg of lamb sauced with a cherry reduction and paired with roasted root vegetables.”

My Take: Well, damn. We’ve gone from quail to lamb! Sigh. But enough about the ill-advised verbiage on the label…what did the wine taste like?

I wanted to like this wine. I really, really did – inexpensive, it was a Pinot Noir (one of my faves), and it has a terrific front-of-label look – plus, hello. Paso Robles. But…it committed the worst sin of any wine. It had a thick, raisiny taste – not what you want your wine to taste like. My hubby really didn’t like this wine – he switched to beer at dinner time. And while I won’t say I hated it, I sure as heck won’t rush out to buy another bottle any time soon. I always thought the raisiny taste came from a wine on its way out – but this is a 2010, so…fairly newly released. I can’t imagine it’ll get any better, but I’ve been wrong before. We did finish the bottle, however; so it must not have been a “bad” wine.

After checking out the website, it looks like 2010 is the first vintage, which makes me feel better. I’ll be watching this company and see how they do in the future. In the meantime, maybe there’s a white that is more suited to my tastes…I’ll check it out.

My Take: ~ Drinkable – Barely ~

Our Daily Red – 2009 California Table Wine ORGANIC – No Sulfites Detected Organic since 1989 Alcohol 12.5% by volume $5.99 at Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Vinted and bottled by Our Daily Red American Canyon, CA Certified Organic by: California Certified Organic Farmers. Vegan friendly.”

My Take:  Well, the label has that famous picture of the two hands reaching out to touch each other (Sistine Chapel), only one of the hands has a glass of wine in it. I had high hopes for this wine, since it was labeled organic and had no sulfites.

However – this wine was bad. Hubby refused flat out to drink it (I opened a bottle of Smoking Loon Pinot Noir for him). As I was cooking, I didn’t mind it so much, but we barely cracked the bottle.

The next night I went to pour myself some to sip while I cooked, and low and behold – the wine was nasty. It had been properly stored; most wines will keep at least 36 hours when taken care of after opening – but this wine? Bad. Pure and simple. I poured it down the drain (and I can drink almost anything!).

My Take: ~ Undrinkable ~ Please, don’t waste your money!

3 Good Reds – and a Chameleon

3 Good Reds – and a Chameleon

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

Peachy Canyon Winery Incredible Red Zinfandel 2008 Central Coast – Paso Robles, California Alcochol 13.9% by volume – $8.49 at Vons

On the Label: “Incredible Red is a great Zinfandel for everyday enjoyment. Excellent with a variety of foods from peppered stead to pasta. Consume this wine with pleasure.”

My Take: I was so astounded to see a bottle of Peachy Canyon in the store, that I reached for it, quite forgetting that the last time I’d been to Peachy Canyon Winery, I hadn’t been impressed with the wines at all. Also, the Incredible Red part of the label is big – I thought it was a blend. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was a Zinfandel blend. But I like Zins, so I was pleased.

The wine itself was also pleasing. There is truth in advertising on this label – it is, indeed,  “a great Zinfandel for everyday enjoyment”. It’s not too deep, not very thought-provoking – just tasty and welcoming. I might have to stop at Peachy Canyon, the next time I’m in Paso Robles.

My Take ~ Very Drinkable ~ Plus it has the added benefit of being a California wine that isn’t often on the grocery store shelves. A nice little tidbit to share when you arrive at your Holiday party.

Folie a Deux Menage a Trois 2010 California Red Wine Napa County, California Alcohol 13.5% by volume Under $10 at Vons

On the Label: “A delightful blend based on three varietals – Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

My Take: I’ve been a fan of Folie a Deux since I first found them a few years ago. Their red blends, however, do vary from year to year. 2009 was not Hubby’s favorite year; 2010 seems to be faring better, taste-wise. The label is nicely brief, and the name will give a certain panache to both the giver and the giftee, especially when presented with a wink and a smile in front of a wide-eyed audience. It is not, however, my favorite red blend.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~  Hubby liked this one better than I did, and would rate it higher on the Christine scale. So be it!

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 Sonoma County, California Alcohol 14.5% by volume. $11.69 on sale at Vons – normally $16.99

On the Label: “Sonoma County has been our home for nearly twenty years, and we take great pride in crafting these wines from the County’s top growers and appellations. They represent the very essence of the finest vineyards from our own back yard. Our Sonoma County Pinot Noir explodes with dried cherry, vanilla, and cranberry flavors, followed by a velvety palate. Lovely with roast chicken, salmon, or ribs.”

My Take: Despite the chatty label, this is one wine you want to spend the extra cash on. It’s a step above their normal line (hence the “reserve” in the title) and it shows in a luscious feel in your mouth. This is definitely a wine to save for dinner; that first sip will allow you to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Complex, but not too complex (it is a Pinot Noir, after all), it’s a satisfying wine with an elegant label.

My Rating: Very, Very Drinkable This is one wine you will never be ashamed to give, and will be delighted to receive.

On to France…

La Vieille Ferme Recolte 2010 Rhone Valley Vineyards Red Wine 1.5 L; Alcohol 13.5% by volume $9.99 at Costco La Vieille Ferme online.

On the Label: “This full-bodied and fruity wine comes from vines grown high on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, one of the best vineyards in the Rhone Valley. It has been meticulously selected and blended by the Perrin Family, who also produce one of Frances most acclaimed wines: Chateau de Beaucastel. The blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault grapes has produced a typical Rhone valley style full of fruit and spice aromas, it has soft tannins and good body. Winemaker interviews, recipe ideasl, for all details: .

My Take: Well. This is the Chameleon wine. I must warn you my friends, Chameleon wines don’t always change for the better. I cannot swear this wine changed for the better. But I digress.

I was off at a party last Saturday night, without the hubby (all-girl party); Hubby opened this big bottle sitting on the counter. When I came home a couple hours later, he was still complaining about it. “Thick and viscous” were the words he used. The next morning, he made me take a sip of it before we went off to my company holiday brunch – it was not a good way to start my morning.

The next day, however, I had a glass while cooking. Well, I had half a glass – I couldn’t finish it. It was like the wine hadn’t made up its mind what it wanted to be. It started to open up, but it was also getting watery. Very strange.

The third day, we had nothing else open so I had another glass. This time, I finished it. And poured myself another. The taste still wasn’t the best – hubby could only drink it by adding water to it. If we had mulled it, I’m not entirely sure it wouldn’t have been a waste of brandy. Times being what they are, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pour it out.

By the end of the week, it had become a more or less presentable table wine. Something fine for us, but nothing I’d want to press on anyone else.  Which is really too bad – it’s a nice-looking bottle, and at $10 for 1.5 L, a bargain and a nice presentation to a host/hostess – but the taste rendered it ungiftable. I am VERY glad I didn’t take that bottle to the Saturday night party, as originally planned!

Why did the wine change so much? Well, wine can do that. Maybe it had rough handling crossing the Atlantic from France. Or maybe the 2010 vintage just needs more down time, and next year it’ll be a lot better. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I won’t go down this path with this wine again.

My Rating: ~ Undrinkable Chameleon Wine – Stay Away ~  Don’t let the nice bottle, the cheap price, and the French on the label change your mind. Bad wine is bad wine at any price.

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! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

Two Rose´s For Thanksgiving

Two Rose´s For Thanksgiving

Unemployment is still high, the politicians are still wrangling, and Friday comes as we all breathe a sigh of relief. I’m here to talk about wines – the good, the bad, the truly awful – and better yet, they’re affordable. Most are under $10 and can be found in your local grocery store.

With Thanksgiving coming up, and a weekend of wine tasting under my belt (that’s another post…), I’ve got a couple of Rose´s to discuss. It was a hot topic at the wineries, with many wineries featured a Rose´ to my surprise, because those same wineries didn’t have the Rose´s out in March. So between now and Thanksgiving, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Rose´s both from the grocery store, and from the wineries. Because it’s never too early to plan the wine for the meal.

Cypher Pistil Paso Robles, 2010, $17.60 at the winery Alcohol 14.8% by volume – pre-released only for club members due to limited production (I’m a Freak Club Member)

On the Label: “Eclectic Rose Wine Produced & Bottled by Cypher Winery Paso Robles, CA

My Take: I loved this wine this past weekend, when I visted the winery. And maybe a tiny part of me bought it because my hubby likes Rose´ and he wasn’t with me.  OR, maybe I bought it because it was the first of only two wineries on Sunday, and I was still drunk from the day and night before. Whatever….

The bottle is cool; the front “label” is on the inside, pink snakeskin with the word CYPHER down the middle (what you see in the picture above is the back label).  The color of the wine is a pale pink – the blush of a fair-skinned bride, or the color of dawn on a cold winter morning. The scent – is vaguely flowery and alcoholic. The taste? Um…like a steel-casked Chardonnay. Kind of. Maybe.

We had it with turkey-sage meatloafettes and smashed potatoes. The hubby raved about the potatoes, liked the meatloafettes, and didn’t comment on the wine until I asked him. And he said it did its job – cleaned his palate between bites, but otherwise kind of bland. And I couldn’t disagree. Maybe it’s the high alcohol content that is overpowering the delicacy of this wine? I don’t know.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Such a disappointment overall. I don’t believe Rose´ improves with age (but I don’t know that for a fact); if I head out to Cypher next spring, I’ll definitely give it another taste, since I have a pre-release bottle.  If I’d been totally aware of that, I’d have suggested to hubby that we wait to open this bottle. But then again, life’s too short to save the good wine.

Penrosa Tempranillo Rose´2009,  product of Spain. Fresh and Easy, on closeout at $3.99. Alcohol 11.5% by volume.

On the Label: “Spain is producing some of the finest rose´wines in the world due to their beautifully ripe grapes and new modern winemaking practices. This rose has been made to be the perfect al fresco refresher on long hot summer days.”

My Take: I’m a fan of this wine, and yet – having it side by side with the Cypher, I have to admit that this is a juvenile wine. Young, bursting with fruit, flirty, it is unpretentious and – as advertised – perfect on a hot summer day when you’re sitting by the pool. It makes the Cypher taste much more sophisticated, but some days you just want to sip strawberries in a glass, you know? The low alcohol content is nice, too.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~

Um…it just dawned on me that I might have reviewed this wine earlier. If so, well then…there you go!

All in all, I don’t think either of these is a good wine for Turkey Day. I much prefer white to start with as I cook, and then switching to a good Pinot Noir – my comfort wine, if you will – to sip with the meal.

But luckily there are a few weeks to go before that all important Thanksgiving meal. I’ll fling some more choices your way as we go along.

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and will totally depend upon my mood, the songs hubby is playing on the guitar as I write, and what bills I’ve just paid. Your taste buds will differ.

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

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Get your copy today!

Wine Weekend Plus Nifty Garlic Bread

Wine Weekend Plus Nifty Garlic Bread

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10.

So, last weekend, while the hubby was away auditioning for the Utah Shakespeare Festival and one Young Man was off to spend the night prior to a day of LARPing and the other furiously writing for his critique group, I decided to try some wines I hadn’t tried yet. Three days, three bottles. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, I started with Jargon Pinot Noir 2009, St. Helena, California Alcohol 13.5% by volume $8.99 at Vons

On the Label: “We can go on and on and tell you about our Terroir (it’s incredible) and about the quality of our PINOT NOIR fruit (it’s awesome), but we won’t. We let our Pinot Noir speak for itself. So cut through all the complicated wine speak and enjoy…JUST GOOD WINE.”

My Take: It has a fun label. It has a screw top. It’s a Pinot Noir. What’s not to like? There’s a lovely feel to this wine in my mouth – it’s got some cherry in it, some of the pepper I like, it’s not meek but it’s not a big, huge, bold wine either (because, you know, Pinot just isn’t that way). It’s a great kick-off-your-shoes, hi-honey-I’m-home, and TGIF wine. I had to really pace myself and only drink two glasses of it on Friday night. Not sure what I made to go with it … I do remember that I ate alone, which gave me visions of an empty nest. Interesting…

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Now, on to Saturday.

Cline Zinfandel 2010 California   Alcohol 14% by volume  $9.99 at Vons on Sale

On the Label: “CLINE Family owned and operated since 1982.  From meticulous farming to master winemaking, we still do it all the old fashioned way and it shows. Bright, jammy cherry, dark berry fruit and spice with a touch of warm vanilla define this complex yet approachable Cline Zin. Supple tannins and a smooth finish lend structure and ageability. Try with grilled steak, chili con carne or spaghetti and red sauce.”

My Take: I was perfectly prepared to love this wine, so imagine my surprise when, serving it with garlic chicken, it left me…wanting. I didn’t taste the bright cherry or the spice…I tasted minerals.  Heavy minerals that left a heavy taste in my mouth. Maybe it was the high alcohol content?

I duly drank my first glass, and then switched back to the Jargon from the night before. Ahhhh….much better. Also better was the company at dinner – I wasn’t completely alone. However, when the boys and I eat sans their papa, we tend to read at dinner…all three of us reading a different, yet very thick novel of some sort or another. I always shed a tiny tear of pride at those meals…

My Take ~ Drinkable, if you like the minerally taste. ~ I don’t know. Maybe it needs more time – it WAS a 2010. But if it needs more time, why is it on the shelves now? I can only roll my eyes…

Which brings me to Sunday…

Concannon Central Coast Pinot Noir  Established 1883 in the Livermore Valley   Alcohol 13.5% by volume   $9.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Roots. Rocks. Intrigue. Since 1883, Concannon Vineyard has been handcrafting fine varietal wines from grapes grown along the Central Coast of California, a diverse region that stretches north from Santa Barbara to the San Francisco Bay. We carefully select the most ideal vineyards for growing each varietal and craft this expressive fruit into superb wines.

Our medium-bodied Pinot Noir is bursting with aromas of violet, cherry, earth and spice with an elegant and supple finish. Enjoy our Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir with dishes like herb-crusted lamb chops or plank-grilled salmon.”

My Take: Prior to starting dinner, I didn’t really want to open this bottle so I had a small glass of the Cline Zinfandel. And as soon as I was done with that, I opened the Concannon with a sigh of relief.

It smells lovely in the glass.  It bursts on the tongue with bright flavors and a mellowness that allows you to relax – this is not a demanding wine, but rather a pleasure wine, asking only that you enjoy it. I’m thinking now that maybe all Pinot Noirs are of this variety – undemanding of the consumer. But I digress…

Again, a reading dinner, this time with a fall veggie mix and whole-wheat pasta with fresh parmesan on top and – of course – garlic bread, made the Sicilian way. Which is…toast a baguette sliced in half until well toasted, then rub a large clove of garlic into the toasted side. The garlic kind of melts into the bread. Top it off with a sprinkling of olive oil (and pepper if you desire, which I do!), and you’ve got a feast fit for a king, even if you’re just serving the garlic bread and the wine. And the wine? Mmmmm.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ But of these three, the Jargon is my hands-down favorite.

So, I survived my weekend alone. And on Monday, the hubby very kindly finished up all my open bottles – even the Cline. After all, he’d been in Mormon Country for the past three days.

Now…Tomorrow, the lovely New Day Job is letting me off half a day early to drive up to Paso Robles for Wine Release Weekend. Three girls on the open road, ready to taste wine. I promise I’ll bring my notepad…

~   ~   ~

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and whether there’s a full moon or not. Your taste buds will differ.

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

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook, not to mention in paperback!! Get your copy today!