Primitivo – in Wine and Life

Primitivo – in Wine and Life

While I was at Cypher a couple of weekends ago, the sexy ex-computer-geek-turned-tasting-room-guru T, let me in on the secret of Primitivo. Primitivo is a grape identical to Zinfandel and grown mostly in Italy, Argentina, and Chile.

Bells went off in my head. No WONDER I was drawn to Primitivo! I’d found it at Fresh & Easy, for $5.99 a bottle, and couldn’t understand how I could so love that wine. But it was hiding its true colors; and now that I know it’s a Zinfandel by another name, I’m SO on board. (Of course, the last time I went to Fresh & Easy, they didn’t have Primitivo any longer. Sigh.)

Tuesday night at Casa Ashworth, the Santa Ana winds blew. Hard. They blew hard enough to force our double front doors open wide; they blew hard enough to take lots of white picket fencing off my front fence, leaving an already-worn fence looking like an old woman’s mouth with teeth missing. The winds blew so hard, that it toppled – and split – a 30+ year old tree, narrowly missing landing on the corner of my bedroom. The power went out. I was late to work, disoriented by the winds I could hear in my sleep, and grumpy from lack of coffee.

Landscape with Windblown Trees, by Vincent Van Gogh

That afternoon, with the power still out, I found true parafin lamp oil (the other stuff is crap, don’t buy it unless it says PARAFIN lamp oil) and some new wicks for our many oil lamps. My boss, sensing my uneasiness, let me go while it was still light out, so the hubby and I could get our act together before darkness descended.

Yes, we have battery lanterns. But which would you rather gather around – the mellow yellow light of an oil lamp, or the harsh, blue light of a flourescent camping light? Yeah, us too.

By the time darkness descended, I was happily puttering about in the kitchen with three lamps burning so I could see what I was chopping, what was going into the pot on the stove, and what I needed out of the fridge. (Thank goodness for gas stoves!) I made soup from leftover veggies in the fridge, plus the rest of a Costco chicken.  For those who want to know, I sipped on the last of a bottle of La Gioiosia Pinot Grigio ($7.99 a bottle at Fresh & Easy, tiny bubbles but it’s NOT a prosecco), and we opened a bottle of Rose from Adelaida  to go with the soup – and that was yummy!

But there was the sense of primitivo about our night. Every room I went into, I flipped on the light – only to remember, too late. We made sure we had flashlights with fresh batteries easily available (our family’s prediliction lately is for headlamps – keeps your hands free), we charged our phones in our cars as we drove during the day, and used them as our morning alarms. It was nice, if slightly surreal. It wasn’t cold and we had water and gas; we weren’t that disabled by lack of electricity (except the hubby and the youngest didn’t get their NaNo words in, and grumped about it all night).

To revel in the winds and the darkness, at about ten I went outside. The winds had died to mere puffs of air; the stars were half-obscured by the bright quarter-moon.  And the silence I’d been expecting?

Filled with the hum of generators. I much preferred my lamps.

Next week I promise I’ll get a wine blog together – this week, life’s been kinda crazy!

~ Cheers – and remember to Drink Responsibly! ~



The Girls’ Weekend in Paso Robles

The Girls’ Weekend in Paso Robles

For those of you not from California, Paso Robles is the next in line of the big wine counties here. First on the map was Napa Valley; then came Sonoma County. Now Paso Robles is lifting its head and making itself known after being there and growing grapes for umpety years.

Two weekends ago, my boss let me have a half-day off and I went up to Paso with two girlfriends. We got on the road around 2pm and headed north; not a good thing on a Friday. I don’t remember how long it took us to get to Santa Barbara, but we stopped there for burritos at Freebirds, the local hangout on Isla Vista for all the UCSB kids. And yes, we were SURROUNDED by kids. I haven’t felt that old in years.

The youngling with us powered down a huge burrito while the driver and I, of a similar age and body type, split nachos – which we couldn’t finish. And then we were onward.

It was a bit of an awkward drive for me. I sat in the back seat, thinking I would write on the way (HAH!); what that did was put a sound barrier between me and the front seat gals, especially since I only hear out of one ear now. But we did okay.

We finally hit Atascadero, found our hotel room, and settled in – but just for a moment. We needed provisions. We were still full from our late lunch, but a bottle of wine and some snackies wouldn’t go amiss.

We found a Food 4 Less down the highway a bit. By the time we got a cart and made our way in, we were giggling helplessly over something or other. I don’t remember what, I only remember how delicious it was to giggle a tad uncontrollably. All through the store we were that way – and we hadn’t had a SINGLE sip of wine. Not ONE. Amazing, but true!

Finally provisioned with salami, bread, cheeses, and grapes (not to mention a bottle of Eberle Merlot and Barefoot Cellars Rose Champagne), we headed back to our hotel room, did battle with the ice machine and the ice chest, and finally were able to get into our jammies and have girl talk.

I’m going to skip the girl talk. It was fabulous, it was full of the good stuff, and you’ll just have to use your imagination.

The next day, we hit up seven wineries. SEVEN WINERIES from 10am to 5pm. SEVEN. Hubby and I usually only can manage three, four TOPS before we’re too giddy. So I am definitely proud of our prowess. Of course, it didn’t hurt that our driver preferred sweet white wines, and there weren’t a lot of those to taste.

Briefly, here are my notes from the seven wineries:

Eberle – Really enjoyed the whites, not so the reds. Bought a viognier for the hubby. Nice cave tour, but our tour guide had less personality than a grape.  The picture to the left? Eberle is German for swine – hence the statue of the pig out front.

Adelaida – Became a club member. Sigh. 3 bottles, 4 times a year; must be a member for 1 year prior to canceling. Bought four bottles here – a white, a rose, and two reds.

Tablas Creek – We’re here because our youngling wanted to pick up some wine for her dad, but they’re all sold out of the wine she wanted. I bought a present here for my brother, and it’s not wine.  We had a picnic out front before we went in – two wineries and we’re feeling like we forgot to eat breakfast (which, since it was free, and filling, we most assuredly DID NOT forget to do).

Jada – Pretty winery. I think we’re on the Old Vineyard Road but I’m not sure. I bought olive oil and a zinfandel vinegar here as much for the bottles as for their contents.

Dover – Great dog! A huge St. Bernard is lolling on the grass out front, and there’s a rope swing. Too, too romantic. Bought a port here for Tom but it’s a huge 750ml bottle. Not what I’m used to.

Terri Hoag! Fell in love with their tasting glasses, and bought 4. Also bought a bottle of wine. Don’t remember what it was. Tasted good though I think. Um…

Ecluse Winery We had just an hour left before tasting rooms started to close down, so we hit up Ecluse, which was just up the road from Terry Hoag. They had Blind Dog Wine – one of the owners’ sons had a guide dog because he was deaf as well as a bit autistic I think (not totally sure). The dog was with the son for so long, that it went blind with age. I not only bought 2 bottles of the Blind Dog Wine without tasting it, but I also got a hat. Because a percentage of the proceeds went to Dogs for the Deaf. I also bought a bottle of something else – not that I remember what at this point…

(Did you notice how the more I tasted wine, the less notes on the wine I actually took? Hilarious!)

Sunday  We had a great dinner last night at McPhee’s Grill. I had filet mignon in a bordelaise sauce, and we had wine with dinner…I think it was an Eberle. Not sure. I do know we didn’t finish it.

It’s overcast today – we just had breakfast. Soon we’ll head out to Cypher where I’ll spend far too much, and then on to Harmony.

And so it went… We did make it to Cypher, and I did spend too much money. Then we went to Harmony, where I spent more money. All in all, I shouldn’t buy another bottle of wine for at least 3 months…but since they were all over $10 a bottle, I’ll have to, won’t I, in order to keep up the blog?

In retrospect it was the perfect trip. We laughed ourselves silly, we sipped, we ate, we talked about deep and important things. We snored and cleaned our faces with interesting products and slept in and cursed the bad hotel coffee. We drank wine, and we bonded.

When I asked my hubby if he was sure I should go (because it was just weird, thinking about going to ANY wine country without him), he said of course. I needed time with women, he said. I work with 5 men. I live with 3 men. I need the bonding time.

And he was right. Thanks, Adina and Debbie, for a weekend I’ll never forget. Hugs!

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! ~

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Wine Friday, Post One

Today I’m talking about the Naked Grape wines. Specifically, their Pinot Noir. Again, it’s on special at my local Vons grocery for $5.99 but usually retails for close to $10.  They have a gamut of wines, which I’m sure I’ll get to, as long as the price stays below my $10 mark.

By the way – every now and then I will pull out a good to great bottle of wine, either one given to us, drunk with friends, or in our stash from dashing up to wine country. And occasionally I may highlight a $15 bottle of wine – but in this economy and with the current income level of all my friends, I’ll be keeping it mostly under $10.

So, to get back to the Naked Grape. I’m not sure why they came up with this name, unless this is the company that bought the name of Naked Chardonnay from the then Four Vines Winery (now it’s Cypher and they’re located on highway 46 in central California, Paso Robles – not that they’re one of my FAVORITE wineries or anything – ahem). If so, then all right, I understand. At any rate, their label says they are “Vinted and bottled by Grape Valley Wine Company in Modesto, California”. So it sounds like they don’t have their own vineyards but buy grapes and make wine.

Hey, they’re not alone.

Their Pinot Noir, according to the label, is “medium bodied and rich with aromas of black cherry and blueberry”.

Excuse me while I inhale.

Um, I’m getting nothing but cold waftings. Pardon me while I go test the wine that I opened 30 minutes ago rather than the dregs left over from last night’s dinner.

Ahh, that’s better…now as soon as someone can tell me how to get my wine glasses clean WITHOUT the scent of dishwasher soap in it, I’ll be grateful.

Back to the scent of the wine…okay, I admit, I smell fruit. And yes, I know what a blueberry and what a black cherry smells like. This just smells like – fruit. Not even especially grape.

My take on the wine? It’s drinkable. (taking a quick taste…) Yep, drinkable. Not, maybe, as good an all around sipping wine as the Smoking Loon, but definitely drinkable and fine with food (we had it with dinner last night, and since there’s a new bottle open and dinner is in the oven…my guess is we’ll have it with dinner tonight).

So if you’re looking for a wine that doesn’t break the bank, try the Naked Grape Pinot Noir. If you like it enough, it might even make a good bottle to take when you’ve been invited over to a friend’s house for dinner.

At any rate, it couldn’t hurt!

My Rating:  The Naked Grape Pinot Noir (not dated) is >Drinkable<

My Rating System:


Barely Drinkable  (best if it’s the second or third bottle of the night)


Very Drinkable

This is MY wine, you slut! Stay away!