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!

Two Wines from Trader Joe’s

Two Wines from Trader Joe’s

In these tough economic times, it can be difficult deciding which wine to buy, and how much to spend.  But no worries – I’m your guide through this interesting dilemma, showcasing wines that can be purchased (usually) for under $10.

Today I’m looking at two Trader Joe’s wines. Both are under $6.00 a bottle – both deserve a second look.

Trader Joe’s Coastal Chardonnay 2009 – Central Coast. Alcohol 13.5% by volume, $4.99 regular price. Vinted and bottled for Trader Joe’s by Castoro Cellars, San Miguel, California

On the Label:  “Located in the beautiful valleys of the Central Coast, Trader Joe’s presents this lush Chardonnay. Tropical hints of melon and peaches give way to a crisp and clean finish.”

My Take: This is an interesting wine. It’s not an oaky chardonnay by any means, but neither does it have the steel-infused flavor of a non-oaked chardonnay. It’s as the label says – tropical, crisp, clean. It almost tasted like a cross between a Pinot Grigio and a Chenin Blanc, with the crispness of the Grigio and the hint of sweetness of the Chenin Blanc. I really enjoyed it, to my total surprise. We had it as a sipping wine before dinner, and then with the meal – a lovely Moroccan-inspired dish my Hubby made. With the Hubby off to a big movie shoot late last night, and with me on carpool duty at 9:30pm, we didn’t imbibe the whole bottle – there was enough this morning for hubby to have a glass before he collapsed into bed at 5:15am, and enough for me to have a post-dirty kitchen cleanup glass when I got home this evening. And you know what? It was still a lovely wine.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Especially for the price!

Tuscan Moon Sangiovese 2009 California – Alcohol 13.4% by volume. Vinted and bottled by Trader Moon Wine Co. Manteca, California $4.99 a bottle (or maybe $5.99 – not too sure! But UNDER $6.00)

On the Label:  “Sangiovese, the star of the Tuscan wine varieties, is a luscious, full-flavored grape with a shape reminiscent of the full moon in autumn. Tuscan Moon Sangiovese celebrates a lovers rondesvous in the vineyards by the light of the full autumn moon.

“Tuscan Moon Sangiovese is a smooth textured, medium-bodied wine. Enticing aromas of black cherries and plums with flavors of juicy blackberries, ripe blueberries with a hint of spice. Pairs well with a wide variety of foods including pork, beef, duck, creamy pasta dishes or just a plate of olives.”

My Take:  This is a nice wine, straight after opening. Do not let it air; instead pour heartily for your guests. Unlike the Chardonnay, this wine did not age well in my refrigerator (even with the proper technology to keep it from spoiling). However, that said, that first day it was a nice wine, big but not too big.

I bought it because a couple days earlier the Hubby and I had gone to see the Kings and the Ducks in a pre-season hockey game. We got to Staples Center so early that we had plenty of time to eat at Wolfgang Puck’s Grill across the street. I chose a pricy Sangiovese to go with our meal, and we thoroughly enjoyed both while people-watching in the common area.

Does this wine match up to the fancy bottle of wine from Wolfgang Puck’s? No. Of course not. But the same Sangiovese grape flavor was there,  you could tell they were kissing cousins, and because of that, I was not disappointed.

Plus, I’m a sucker for Moon in the title of just about anything. (Hmmm…must put Moon in the title of my next book…)

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Or maybe I just have higher standards for red wines? At any rate, of all the Trader Moon wines I’ve tried, I’d willingly drink all of them again. And at under $6 a bottle, it’s a bargain.

~  ~  ~

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and it definitely depends upon my mood, whether my kids have done the dishes, 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?

Today it’s Chardonnay

Today it’s Chardonnay

I know that last week I promised you three Chardonnays today, but I’m only hitting one. Hubby was skeptical that I’d find three under my $10 price range, but BevMo! came up trumps – they were having a good sale. I’m still only giving you one, though, lol!

Liberty School Chardonnay, 2008, Central Coast Regularly $12.99, on sale at BevMo! for $7.99

The Label: “Partially barrell fermented, this Chardonnay is rich in character and is a skilled example of what the Central Coast has to offer. While pleasing to the connoisseur, it’s fruit-driven style makes it purely unpretentious, gratifying and easy to enjoy with food or by itself.” Paso Robles, CA Hope Family Wines since 1978.

My take: If you’re looking for a big, oaky Chardonnay (I’ll get into THAT subject later), this isn’t it. It’s slightly fruity and not offensive on first taste. It had no real mid-taste, and it had a weak and inoffensive aftertaste. My hubby thought it went slightly sour at the end. What’s funny is their website says they age their Chardonnay in 50% French Oak and 50% American Oak. I didn’t get the slightest hint of oak in this wine.

We drank it with a dinner of chicken burgers (Costco – very yummy!) and citrus-roasted veggies. The wine went well with the meal, but it could have been so much better.

I rate this wine ~Drinkable~ . But find a nice Port or digestif to finish off your meal.

Regarding the trend away from big, oaky Chardonnays, I’ll stick my neck out and say, I don’t like it. I don’t like a limp Chardonnay that may as well be a Pinot Grigio. I don’t like thin Chardonnays, I never have. I adore the big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays that will go with any chicken or fish dish and do well with fruit and cheese after the meal, too. A Chardonnay like that will stand up to winter, as well as make you feel chill in the depths of summer.

The last couple of times we’ve been wine tasting in the Central Coast, we’ve been very disappointed in the thin “nakedness” of the Chardonnays. Aging them in steel isn’t doing the wine any favors, winemakers. If you must fool around with wine, fool with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc or even, help me, a nice Chenin Blanc (very underrated and very hard to find).

If ANYONE still makes a nice, big, oaky buttery Chardonnay that doesn’t cost the earth, please let me know. I’ve been woefully disappointed in what I’m finding in the stores as well as at the wineries.

That’s all for now – more Chardonnay next week!