Wines for Fall

Wines for Fall

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.

Finally, in my neck of the woods it is chilly in the mornings, pleasant during the day, and chilly again at night.  Here are a couple of red wines to get you in the mood for cold nights and hearty meals.

Label of Discoveries Vineyards 09 CabernetDiscoveries Vineyards, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; under $10 at Pavilions. Vinted and bottled by Firestone Vineyard, Sonoma, California

On The Label: “It’s not always the journey that changes our lives. It’s often the discoveries we make along the way. Our first discovery is a strategically placed chair and two reclining surf boards at Pierpont Beach in Ventura. Our second discovery is this Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are calm and peaceful. Only one has black currants and cassis in the finish. Front Label: Red Chair Lookin’ South by California artist Steve Cook.”

My Take:  This was an easy-going wine, which was a surprise for a Cabernet Sauvignon. I like BIG cabs – this wasn’t. As the label said, it’s a calm and peaceful cab, good for sipping (which is rare) and goes well with food. Is it the first bottle of Cabernet I’d reach for if I had a hearty stew or steaks on the grill? No. But it’s a solid wine – the ’09, at any rate.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ But nothing to write home about.

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Meritage 2007 Red Wine Yountville, Napa Valleylabel for trader joe's grand reserve meritage Alcohol 14.3% by Volume. $9.99 at Trader Joe’s

On The Label: (Not much!) “Cellared & bottled by Behind The Scene Wine Company, Napa, California.”

My Take: Some wines deserve the “Grand Reserve” label, and others don’t. In my opinion, this one didn’t, though it was a very tasty wine, indeed.  I will say I LOVED the label and it’s total lack of pretension, lol. But then, that’s par for the course for Trader Joe’s. I’m glad they are putting their own wines out.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ I’d have rated it higher, but that “Grand Reserve” title got to me.

bottle of stickleback redHeartland Stickleback Red, 2009, South Australia Alcohol 14.5% by Volume – $22 in a restaurant.

On The Label: “Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) Shiraz (38%) Dolcetto (9%) LaGrein (8%)  A dry, full-bodied red with wonderful depth of flavor, chocolate, sweet plums and blackcurrant on the palate are complemented by smooth, fine-grain tannina. Invite this fruit driven wine to your next barbecue and serve with char-grilled lamb or a juicy steak.”

My Take: Okay. Imagine this. Hubby and I are walking along in Carlsbad, headed to our favorite Italian restaurant even though neither one of us is in the mood for Italian. A cute young Aussie stops us, says they just opened their restaurant (The Australian Grill) two days earlier, and would we at least look at the menu?

We did, we sat, we ate. Hubby a lamb burger, and me a beef burger. Excellent food, excellent fries, and this wine which our waitress recommended as being “very Shirazzy”, lol.

The wine went very well with the food after it had some time to air. (Or maybe it was the second glass just tasted better, lol!) We sat on the patio, and true to our usual affect, we soon attracted other customers who didn’t know the place existed.

The restaurant was the dream of three women, all in their twenties. One was the chef, the other the Aussie hawker out front, and I’m not sure what the third did but she was bright and bubbly. I do hope they survive but I have my doubts! The next time we hit up Carlsbad, you can bet we’ll drop by and have another burger, if they’re still in business. (They also serve kangaroo burgers, but I just couldn’t take that leap of faith.)

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Okay, so I’m as susceptible to atmosphere as anyone else. I’d love to find this wine locally and give it another try, to see if it is still “Shirazzy”, lol. If you try it, let me know what you think!

As usual, these are my honest opinions and will 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, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


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



Cameron Hughes Wines

Cameron Hughes Wines

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 either under $10 or close to it.

As we’re always looking for a bargain, when hubby stumbled on a Cameron Hughes wine in the 50% off bin at Vons, he promptly picked it up. Then a day later, there was a spread on Cameron Hughes wines at Costco, with a spokesperson there hawking the wines. He said basically that Hughes gets “first pick” of grapes from many different growers across the world, and then makes his wines based on the grapes he buys. So he doesn’t actually grow his own grapes (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

One of the issues, however, is that he doesn’t produce in quantity in any one year. So the wine at Costco was running low – and Costco likes volume. So Costco was selling the wines at a discount.

Below is my take on two of the wines of Cameron Hughes.

Cameron Hughes Evergreen Series 2006 Chardonnay Carneros Alcohol 14.5% by Volume; $4.50 at half price sale from Vons.

On The Label: “Cameron Hughes Wine is a trading company sourcing ultra premium wines from wineries and growers around the globe. Our Evergreen Series represents year-round availability and demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability.

“Our Carneros Chardonnay is sourced from the finest growers and winery partners. Because they produce wines for much more expensive projects they must remain anonymous. A rich multifaceted Chardonnay featuring bright layers of pear, apricot and honeysuckle flabors. Hints of toasted hazelnut and holiday spice complete this elegant wine.

“Through our partnership with, we purchase carbon offsets to ensure our Evergreen Series has zero net carbon impact on our environment. For more information visit”

My Take: I find the label high in the snob factor (“Our Carneros Chardonnay is sourced from the finest growers and winery partners. Because they produce wines for much more expensive projects they must remain anonymous.), plus the lack of commas is appalling. I guess they didn’t think to have anyone look at the label from a grammar standpoint. I guess you could say I’m a label snob; the less on the label, the more I like it. This label gets a huge D- from me.

That said, six years is about the limit you want to take a Chardonnay, especially one under $10 not on sale. This was just on the line of a respectable Chardonnay. I am not sure, though, if I’d waited even a week, that the wine would have been any good.  It was an acceptable accompaniment to the panko-fried fish we had for dinner.

However, I was very surprised at the high alcohol content of this wine. I prefer my whites in the 13% range, and did find this wine a bit astringent.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~  Though I suggest finding a 2009 Chardonnay, and avoiding the 2006 at this point. The good reviews I found were from 2008.

Cameron Hughes Lot 234 2009 Meritage Atlas Peak, Napa Valley Alcohol 14.2% by Volume; $11.99 at Costco.

On The Label: “Cameron Hughes is an international negociant, sourcing and producing small lots of high quality wine from the world’s best regions. Cameron offers a diverse range of wines uniquely represented by the Lot number on this label.

“Lot 234 is rich with wild berries, violet and herbacious flavors. Exotic fruit and savory notes compete for attention. True Atlas Peak. Outstanding.”

My Take: Regarding the label, the snob factor is still there. Plus I’m irritated that they didn’t list the types of grapes melded in this “meritage”. Just because they say it’s one doesn’t mean it is, especially if they don’t name the grapes. Makes me suspicious, but that’s me I guess.

That said, I did enjoy this wine. It’s got a nice flavor, is juicy and big, and went perfectly with our grilled steaks and corn on the cob. I bought two bottles, thinking this is a wine I’ll like, and I’m glad I did as there aren’t any more in Costco.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Overall, regarding Cameron Hughes wines, I will not go out of my way to find, or consume, any more. The labels with their snobbish attitude were a huge turnoff. I’d much rather press the hand of the winery owner as I stand in their tasting room, and hear his stories of the latest harvest. I’d much rather stroll the vineyards on a chilly spring morning.  Maybe that’s the California girl in me, but I like having that connection, even when buying wines in the grocery store. Cameron Hughes wines doesn’t go out of their way to reach me as a consumer. They’re targeting someone with a bigger wallet, I guess. And that is totally their prerogative.

Cameron Hughes feels like a big wine corporation, not a person. I prefer my wines to be personable. Am I being unreasonable? Perhaps. But I doubt my opinion will matter that much in the grander scheme of things.

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, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the KindleHave you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

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

A Quartet of Red Blends

A Quartet of Red Blends

I drink cheap wines so you don’t have to. In these strange economic times, you still need a good wine to either serve guests, take to a host, or just enjoy with a loved one, but you don’t want to break the checkbook, shelling out for a $40 bottle of wine that you might not actually like. That’s where I come in. There are some terrific wines out there under $10. I’m searching them out, and reporting back to you. Enjoy! ~~

In California, red wine blends are often called a “Meritage”. This just means that it’s more than one grape varietal in the wine, but it sounds sexy. Meritage. See? Sexy!

I am a huge red wine fan. I love my reds with a passion, and don’t much care who knows. Often, a red blend (labeled anything from “meritage” to “red”  to “table wine” is less expensive than their varietal cousins, but not always.  Some blends have vintages; others don’t.

Hubby and I spent a week in Rome, Italy during a February with rain, sleet, and wind. We had a marvelous time in the relatively tourist-free city, and in every restaurant we went to, we stuck with the house wine. Invariably this would come to us from a cask, or a big jug (no label), and served in what looked like jelly glasses (no stemware anywhere). I can say without a doubt that we did not have a bad glass of wine in any restaurant we went to. I can also say with certainty that all the wine we’d been served were blended wines. What a discovery!

Thanks to for the photo.

Today I’m bringing you four red blends that I think you red wine drinkers will like. White wine fans, check back next week for some goodies, okay?

pro.mis.Q.ous <California red table wine> Santa Rosa, California Regularly $16.99; on sale for $9.99 at Vons.

On The Label: “[referring to many partners.] The act of blending multiple, mutually attractive grape varieties in an assortment of unorthodox combinations. Implies a wanton disregard for convention. May result in an intense sensory experience. Practice safe sipping.”

This wine is a Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Syrah blend. It’s color is deep red. The taste is big and bold, with a hint of the Zin pepper coming through. Terrific with a traditional steak dinner, or any hearty fare – bbq in the summer to lavish Italian dishes in the winter. (Not, however, a wine that goes well with sweets.)

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ especially at the sale price! Plus the label is fun, lol.

Red Velvet 2009 Cupcake Vineyards $11.99; on sale for $7.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Our Red Velvet is made up of grapes from some of the finest vineyards in California. This wine shows a heady nose of chocolate, deep rich blackberries, red fruits, and a creamy mocha finish that is unmistakeable in its intensity and length. Its reminiscent of a blackberry chocolate cupcake with a mocha coulis. Enjoy with a sweet and spicy Hoisin steak, a bbq bacon cheeseburger, or even dark chocolate fondue.”

Hubby and I were divided about this wine. I believe the wine lived up to its label; hubby wasn’t as enthusiastic, but I have to add in his preference for lighter wines. I found it smooth, straight from the bottle (no fussy airing needed). The blackberry, the chocolate, the mocha finish – all were there for me. It’s got a big-mouth feel for a price I’d expect to be three times what I paid for.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

The House Wine, 2007 Red Wine The Magnificent Wine Company, Walla Walla, Washington $10.99; on sale for $7.69 at Vons

On the Label: Not too much, actually. But here’s the breakdown for you: 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Zinfandel, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot

Upon first, straight-from-the-bottle taste, it’s big, full of tannins. After it mellowed for an hour in a pitcher, it settled nicely into a terrific food wine.

I personally like sipping big, chewy wines where many people won’t do it without food. In this wine, the Cab. Sauv. and the Syrah blend to make it a robust wine, and even though there’s almost the same amount of Merlot in it, the Merlot doesn’t have much of a mellowing influence. Waiting for this wine to settle made me itchy. If you are a timid red wine drinker, this one isn’t for you.

We had this with bratwurst fresh from the butcher, corn on the cob, melted onions, and cucumbers and lime.

My Rating: ~Drinkable~ But for goodness sakes, don’t pay over $10 for it!

Hey Mambo 2008 Bistro Style Wine $8.99; on sale for $6.49 at Vons. Vinted and bottled by The Other Guys, Napa, California Part of the Sebastiani Family of Wines Alcohol 13.5% by volume.

On the Label: A blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Syrah, and Alicante Bouchet grapes.

I loved this wine. I loved this wine so much that I went back to the store the next day and bought two more bottles of it, just to make sure I loved it. My first crack at it came when the family was all in a good mood – home made pizza on the table, hubby telling stories about how he chewed his arm off that day for a movie shoot. The wine had aired in my glass for about 15 minutes, and as the night grew later and the laughter kept coming, the more I appreciated the wine. Big in my mouth, but gentle and luscious, too – with hints of smoke and berries. I deliberately set my notebook aside, and just enjoyed the wine.

There’s a lot to be said for blends – they can give you a more complex and enjoyable time than a varietal can, and yet the quality can vary wildly. This blend is three years old, and my guess is with one more year under its belt, this will be an absolute wow of a wine.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut! ~

Plus, I’m really digging on the Sebastiani family – now they’ve got two labels under their umbrella (Hey Mambo plus Smoking Loon) that I’m totally gaga over. Thanks, folks!

Remember, this is my wine experience, with my moods, phases of the moon, taste buds, and all that jazz. Your tastes will undoubtedly vary. Cheers, and remember to drink responsibly!

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Have you read DEMON SOUL yet? You can find it at Crescent Moon Press or Happy Reading!