Down Under Shiraz, plus a California Chardonnay

Down Under Shiraz, plus a California Chardonnay

Happy Friday!!!  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 picked up a couple of Australia’s best last week. Here they are:

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz, 2008  Barossa Region, Australia   Alcohol, 13.8% by volume. Regularly $14.99 at Vons, on sale for $10.49

On the front Label: “South Australia’s Barossa region is famous for producing outstanding Shiraz wines. Our Reserve Barossa Shiraz is no exception with its full body, dark berry and rich chocolate characters.”

On the back Label: “For this wine, we reserved selected parcels of grapes grown int he Barossa region in South Australia, a region famous for producing high quality Shiraz wines. Here the warm days and cool  nights allow for optimal development of intense flvor and complexity.

“2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz exhibits typical regional characteristics with fruitcake and plum aromas with a hint of spice and oak.  The palate has complex flavors of mulberry, plum, chocolate and spice with excellent fruit length.

“Excellent drinking now and will continue to improve over the next five to ten years.”

My Take: What a lovely wine. Juicy and with that spice kick, it made a perfect accompaniment to our steak dinner. I’ve had Jacob’s Creek in restaurants before, and was delighted to find it in my local grocery store and at a reasonable price as well. I will definitely be buying more Jacob’s Creek Shiraz (on sale, of course).

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Anthropology Shiraz 2009  Pure Estate, Central Ranges, Australia  Alcohol, 13.9% by Volume Regularly $14.99 at Vons, on sale for $8.99

On the Label: “Anthropology, by definition, is the study of culture and traditions. Remarkably, one of the oldest social customs on record is the enjoyment of a great glass of wine. With this in mind, we use sustainable vineyard practices to craft a rich, elegant Shiraz which is perfect for all occasions.

“Anthropology Shiraz shows rich berry and plum flavors layered with a hint of mocha and spice.”

My Take: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine, too, and have come to believe that Australia makes terrific Shiraz. It was a tad lighter in weight from the Jacob’s Creek, but that also suited the meal – I believe that night was a melange of leftovers (chicken tikka masala and rice, salad, pasta, peas and corn plus a good Italian bread), so this wine paired really well.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Especially if you like a bold wine but with a lighter touch. Plus the price – Nice!

Benziger Family Winery 2009 Chardonnay Carneros, California  Alcohol 13.9% by Volume On Sale at Vons for $8.99

On the Label: Chardonnay, Carneros  For more than 25 years, our family has sought to capture the distinctiveness of Carneros by handcrafting wines of authentic varietal character. We use a sustainable grape-growing program with certified standards to cultivate intensely flavorful grapes. Our methods enhance soil vitality, increase biodiversity and create healthy vineyards. The result is an exceptional Chardonnay, rich and with ripe peach and pear flavors, and soft notes of vanilla oak from barrel aging. Learn more on our website at, or better yet, come visit our Sonoma Mountain estate.

My Take: Three for three. I really enjoyed this Chardonnay. Last week, when the sky was impossibly blue here and the sun warm on our backs, after we did some gardening we rewarded ourselves with a glass of Chardonnay. A lively, lovely wine terrific for sipping or to go with a meal of bacon seared scallops (that’s how we finished the bottle, lol). This is a good bottle to keep on hand for you Chard drinkers.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ I’ve put this on my summer to-buy list!

Well, there you have it, this week’s wine roundup. My hubby is happy because I can now recycle the empties!

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?

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

Concannon, Flock, and Getting Primal

Concannon, Flock, and Getting Primal

Happy weekend, everyone! 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.

Concannon Central Coast Pinot Noir 2009 Alcohol 13.5% by volume; $6.99 on sale 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: This wine has come into its own. At a reasonable price, it is now as much a go-to wine for me as the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir. The wine is an easy-to-drink, light-to mid-weight taste; not too heavy, and not demanding food. I’m guessing a part of that is the 2009 date; if you can find that vintage, grab it. I haven’t tasted the 2010 yet (I don’t think) but my guess is it’s still a bit young.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ This wine will be perfect for upcoming summer meals, picnics, or just enjoying snacks with friends. At $7 a bottle, you can’t go wrong.

Primal Roots – 2010 Red Blend, California Alcohol 13.5% by volume $6.99 at Costcowine bottle

On the Label: “Sensual and beautiful wines rooted in the art of winemaking. The true essence of our wine begins with the raw qualities of Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel that are artfully blended to create a smooth, full bodied, sensual wine. Aromas of mocha, vanilla, and spice give way to a silky texture and rich flavors of raspberries and chocolate that are truly uninhibited.”

My Take: Pretty bottle. I know, but that’s what caught my eye in the overwhelming panorama that is the wine section in Costco. The wine? It’s not bad. I think it’s still a little young – I’m finding the 2010s are, which is why I will do my best to not judge those wines too harshly. The price is good, certainly; there’s a punch to this wine that I think just needs some mellowing out. If you do grab a bottle, get two and save one for six months or so. Just to see if it’s better, later. Find them at .

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ And I’ll be keeping an eye out on this wine. I think I’ll hit up BevMo! and see if they have any 2009s.

Flock by Smoking Loon 2008 Monterey Pinot Noir Alcohol 13.5% by volume $18.99 at Vons

On the Label: “Of all the world’s greatest appellations to grow Pinot Noir, Monterey approaches perfection; it has the right balance of sun and cool marine influence, great weather during harvest, and diverse soils to coax out the delicate flavors that Pinot Noir lovers crave.

Usually he’d work alone, but sometimes the Smoking Loon would bring colleagues – his Flock.” Jake continued, pushing the ashtray across the table. “The Flock, now they were somethin’ else. They’d descend all at once, with this sound, like a thousan’ birds just flew in yer windo’, and carry out their mission in perfect formation, with a class an’ style that you just don’t see now a days.”

My Take: I resisted purchasing this wine. I resisted hard. Almost two, maybe even three years. But I finally weakened and gave in (hey, I’m a working woman, yay!).  We happened to have a bit of the regular Smoking Loon Pinot Noir open, so we were able to taste test the two together.

Flock is like the Smoking Loon, only deeper. Richer. More.  It’s everything I love about the Loon and oh, so much more. This is definitely my new go-to special Pinot Noir; its under $20 and I know I’ll LOVE the wine. For me, it’s a can’t miss (and if you’re up to it, there’s always Valentine’s Day…) and if you like red wine at all, I do urge you to try this.

My Rating: ~ Stay away. This is MY wine, you slut! ~ Need I say more?

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and will depend on life, the universe, and everything else that has happened that day. 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?

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

Three Wildly Different Reds…

Three Wildly Different Reds…

These are not my normal wine-tasting wines. The first is from a wine tasting at my office – no, I’m not kidding. That’s one of the perks of working with a small, intelligent batch of scientifically-inclined gentlemen. Every now and then, on a Friday, the boss will bring some wildly expensive (to me) wine for us to taste.

The second wine was send to me by the winery – its a new wine, and try as I might to find it in my neighborhood, I haven’t been able to. So there’s that.  And the third wine – well, it’s label tells the story, so I’ll wait on that. None of these were below $10; but it’s been an interesting couple of weeks, tasting-wise.

Summerland Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Monterey  County Alcohol 14.1% by volume. Found online for $40 a bottle. (Remember folks, I didn’t pay a dime for this one.)

On the Label: “Summerland Winery finds its inspiration in the relaxed, friendly lifestyle enjoyed throughout California’s serene coastal towns. We offer a line of stylish wines that reflect the best of the Central Coast’s diverse growing regions. This well-balanced Pinot Noir exhibits an array of aromas and flavors, showcasing black cherry and clove, with a distinctively smooth texture enhanced by aging in small French oak barrels.”

My Take: I was expecting fireworks from this. Or at least, a yummy, juicy late-afternoon tipple. I got neither, unfortunately. This wine was thin in taste, and it had a sharp, almost astringent aftertaste. Not juicy in the slightest. Could it be too old? Perhaps. Did I enjoy a few ounces of this wine? Of course. Did it pass the Smoking Loon test? Um. No…I prefer to drink my $6.99 bottle of Smoking Loon Pinot Noir than to shell out $40 for this vintage. Maybe a later vintage is better. I do not know. And for the record, the gentleman who brought this for the tasting couldn’t remember how he came about it. So there you go.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ but hugely overpriced.

Concannon Conservancy Crimson & Clover, 2010 Livermore Valley Red Table Wine Alcohol, 13.7% by volume. Price: $18, but hey – I got it for free from the winery to review. Full disclosure! Releases Spring, 2012

On the Label: “My dad, James Concannon, began his winemaking career over 50 years ago. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he remains one of California’s most innovative and inspiring winemakers. This velvety wine is a living tribute to my father, who was the first to bottle Petite Sirah which continues to thrive in the gravelly soil of the Livermore Valley.

A vibrant red blend of signature Livermore Valley varietals, Crimson & Clover honors my dad’s enduring spirit that runs deep in the Irish roots of our family. This lush wine has deep flavors of blackberries and rich chocolate balanced by a long, silky finish. Pair with black pepper crusted filet mignon or grilled artichoke with tarragon aioli.”

My Take: Okay. At first, I thought it was a scam – so when the delightful young lady approached me via Facebook and asked me if I’d like a free bottle of wine to taste and review, I said but of course! and I told her I couldn’t guarantee a positive review – not really expecting her to send it to me. But she did. (Um – and not wild about the name, but sentiment rules in families, so I’ll not really quibble.)

Okay, all that said – this is a 2010. There’s a lot of Petite Sirah in this wine; after checking the marketing materials they sent me, it’s 50% Petite Sirah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah and 10% Zinfandel.  Which actually got me to thinking…okay, okay. About the wine.

At first taste, it’s a bit brash. Young. It needed considerable airing before it mellowed out enough even for me; I like to be able to drink it straight from the bottle without too much fuss. However, I will say before the bottle was done, I wished I had another bottle to hold for six or seven months. I even looked in the grocery stores, not realizing until right now that it’s not released yet. (Okay – how cool is THAT?!!) Upshot? I enjoyed the wine. The next day, hubby and I were still talking about it – so that means something, right?

My Take: ~Very Drinkable~ With the possibility, after a bit of age on it, of it moving to the top tier ranking of a Slut Wine. I am looking forward to having this wine again.

The Winemakers Winner’s Wine 2007 California Red Wine Crushpad, Napa, CA  Alcohol 14.5% by volume $12.99 at BevMo!

On the Label: “Wine. Man, I love the stuff. I love pairing it with food. I love enjoying it with friends. I love talking about it. What about making wine? Well there’s an idea. Winemaker. I can’t think of a better job. But winemaking is tough enough when you’re born in wine country with loads of money. For an outsider like me, it seemed like a distant dream. Then The Winemakers comes along. Here’s a chance to see if I’ve got what it takes! If I can outdo11 other wine lovers and prove my place is in the winery, my dream becomes reality. The challenges and the challengers were fierce. Now you hold the prize in your hands. I hope you enjoy drinking it as much as I did making it.”

My Take: This is a reality series I’ve never heard of. When I googled it, it came up as a web-based series…? At any rate, I couldn’t get the damned label off, didn’t watch the thing to begin with, and only bought the bottle because it was the only one in the BevMo like it and I considered it a novelty. To my utter surprise, I enjoyed the wine. Until this morning, and the rest of the day, when I had the headache from hell and yes, I’m blaming the wine for it. Deal.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ This was a red blend that had enough age behind it so that the flavors all jelled, mellowed out, and became more than the sum of its parts. I did enjoy this wine very much – I just hated the headache that came with it. I also don’t like the fact I can’t buy more of it. Nor will I ever know (unless someone out there in Blog Comment Land tells me) which person won, and whose wine I drank (and can blame for said headache, lol).

So, there you have it – three wines you can’t run out and grab at your local grocery store today. But keep your eye out for the Concannon – pick up a bottle maybe if its on sale below $10, and then stash it somewhere for a few months. You might be surprised!

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?

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

Luxuries, Big and Small

Luxuries, Big and Small

This past weekend, the Hubby and I spent a few hours at Laguna Beach. We visited Vladimir Kush’s art gallery – he does lovely surrealistic glicee´s that all cost way too much for my wallet, but are lovely to look at (one of the little luxuries), so do please go look!  We wandered around other galleries, too, and enjoyed the sun, the scent of the sea, and the joy of a beach town on a warm winter day.

At lunch, we hit up Ocean Avenue Brewery and had some craft beers and a fantastic lunch. Thus fortified, we went on to the boardwalk to take photos – of the sand, the beachgoers, the paddle boarders, and the ever-present pelicans. Needless to say, my pelican shots didn’t come out too good. The day was beautiful – warm, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. We walked, giggled, held hands, took photos and had a wonderful time, feeling it must be July and not January. After about three hours, we were ready to continue our journey south.

Our final destination was the Pelican Cove Inn Bed and Breakfast, in the village of Carlsbad. A lovely place, it’s more like an exclusive hotel than a typical B&B – private entrances to all the rooms; ours had a bath (SPA TUB!!! WOO!!!) and a shower, a queen-sized FEATHER bed with a net canopy overhead, a fireplace, a sitting area, a small dining area. I could easily see myself living there while frantically trying to finish up my 100th novel, lol…very much a big luxury. But – considering that the last time we were there to celebrate our life together just six days before I had brain surgery, well…lets just say, this time around we were relaxed, happy, and ready to enjoy the weekend.

When we got to our room, the same one we had the first time, it felt like home. Stretching out on that bed and realizing I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to – little luxury. Taking a spa tub before dinner, then again at six in the morning – little luxury. Stirring coffee over breakfast at the B&B (artichoke quiche, fresh melon, fresh croissant, boysenberry jam, orange juice…), another small luxury. (Usually we don’t have time to stir our cream into the coffee, it’s splash, pour, shove the travel lid on and go.)

Saturday night, we went back to Vigilucci’s Cucina, a fabulous Italian restaurant on State Street in Carlsbad. We had a lovely wine (which I’ll talk about later) with dinner – I had a fabulous ribeye steak in a gorgonzola-mushroom cream sauce…totally a big luxury! Hubby had wide egg noodles and seared scallops in a multi-mushroom medley sauce. Both dishes were fantastic – the night magical, as we sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air.

Dessert capped the night – three baby cannoli that we split. Oh my – truly a luxury!

Sunday after breakfast (already described, above) we went back to our room and lolled. I curled up in the feather bed and read some, hubby took a nap, played guitar, and finally encouraged me to get going. Even though our hostess Nancy said we didn’t have to leave at noon, we did end up checking out about then – which meant it was time for wine tasting at the Witch’s Winery (I think…I didn’t buy anything. What I liked was over priced…) and then finally, brunch at Vigilucci’s. Because we could, I guess…

At any rate, the eggs benedict was wonderful, the Bellini (usually champagne and chambord unless its a Peach Bellini) was just so so (champagne quality not the best) but the coffee and the ambiance, magnifico.  We dawdled over breakfast, another little luxury, until finally it was time to leave. After a long, barefoot beach walk (another luxury!) and perusing some antique shops, and Hubby finding the washboard of his dreams, we finally loaded up the car and headed out of town, back to home and to the young men who didn’t even miss us – and the cat who did.

So we came back after our weekend of big and small luxuries physically tired but emotionally refreshed and relaxed. I didn’t read email, or write. Instead, I refilled my creative well at the hands of others’ creativity, truly a treat.

What are some of your favorite luxuries, big or small?

In the Garden

Today was the perfect gardening day. We headed out about 3pm, a bag of 65 bulbs in hand and trowels at the ready. Within 3 minutes, we realized we had a bigger problem – weeds.

Weeds, and the I-can’t-believe-I-planted-it-because-it-takes-over-the-whole-yard morning glory. The twice-damned vine was EVERYWHERE. In the apple tree. Twining around the berry bushes. Hiding behind the tomato pots in the weeds, and making plans for taking over the center of the yard. (Some of my tomato plants have wintered over…I ate a cherry tomato yesterday, fresh from the vine and bursting with flavor. Yum!)

Anyway – back to the weeds. Being the enterprising couple that we are, we roused our boys from their hermit-like hiding in their rooms, and put them to work. We have two “official” garden cans, and two cans we use to put the leftovers that we can’t stuff into the official cans. The boys (young men?) pitched in and filled both sets of cans while weeding out empty planting beds, and taking care of the weeds trying to hide the artichoke plants. (We’re up to six on artichoke plants, if anyone is keeping track.)

While waiting for the opportunity to plant, and to stay out of the guys’ way, I got the big clippers out and de-branched the christmas tree. The trunk now waits for one of the kids to saw it up, and the branches await the fireplace. Plus, the yard is a little bit cleaner.

Once the weeds were taken care of, we could plant. Out of the 65 bulbs, hubby planted probably 35. Don’t ask me what they were – I know he planted 10 purple Echinacea, but I don’t remember the other two…and of course, two of the three weren’t bulbs, they were rhizomes. The third was definitely a bulb, however.  So all of the rhizomes got planted – but we’ve got 30 of the bulbs to still scatter. I’ll do my best to get them in the ground in the front this coming week…

The air was crisp, cool but not cold. The sky was impossibly blue, and the sun gentle on my face. Doing the work – weeding, planting, getting my fingers deep into the soil (which I did!) – was somehow life-affirming. Rejuvenating. Not to mention, damned good exercise. I didn’t get the writing done that I had wanted, but the time outside in the sunshine was very well spent.

SPEAKING OF WINE…(weren’t we?)

The other thing I did this weekend was to taste some Rieslings. I’ve got one more to go, but to my surprise I’m enjoying them. I thought they would be too sweet for me – but for sipping wine, they are spot on. I look forward to the discussion on them this week!

Another wine note – a winery contacted me and asked me if I’d like to taste and review a bottle of wine they’re just putting out – a new blend. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I answered back but of course! And they have sent me a bottle of the wine, without me paying a dime. Very cool, what? Unfortunately I haven’t had time to taste it, what with this weekend being dedicated to tasting Riesling (thanks to Kathy Bennett, lol). However, I got to taste another wine on Friday that will go well review-wise with the donated bottle, so I look forward to bringing those thoughts to you.

Now, its almost time for dinner. The NY and San Francisco game is 17 to 17 with 30 seconds left in the game. JoePa has died. Hubby is gearing up for another week on Christian Slater’s new show, BREAKING IN, which also stars Megan Mullaly.

May your coming week hold love and laughter, and – as a dear friend of mine always says – “seek joy, y’all”.  Seek joy, indeed!

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