Brrr….Pass Me a Red Wine, Please!

Brrr….Pass Me a Red Wine, Please!

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.

It’s winter – bring on the reds!

Unruly Red 2011 – California Red Wine Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $14.99 per bottle, bought on a 5cent Sale at BevMo!

On the Label: “Unruly Red has massive red fruit aromas with colossal flavors of plum, black cherry, and blackberry.

“Not just for the weekend warrior, relish during the week with a juicy ostrich burger, zesty buffalo back ribs, venison steaks or wild boar sausage.”

My Take: Well, the label is at least a brief attempt at being humorous. Either that, or they put the Australian label on the American release – not sure which. At any rate, it is much as advertised – a relatively big wine that is on the lighter alcohol content side of things. It would go well with chili. Spicy curry. Any food that needs cutting through with alcohol. Because while this is a fairly big wine, it’s not an easily classified wine – my tongue can’t pick out the dominant grape (okay, not that I’m that good because I’m not but still…) and it’s what I would classify as a fairly good all-around red blend on the hearty side. Not a good wine with delicate foods.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ but not one I’ll likely buy again, at least not at full price.

[yellow tail] Shiraz Cabernet Casella Wines – Product of Australia
13% Alcohol by Volume $7.99 at Vons

On the Label: “Flavors: plum, blackcurrant & raspberries. Enjoy: with your favorite pasta dish & good conversation.

“For 3 generations the Casella family has been making wine at their winery in the small town of Yenda, situated in South Eastern Australia. It is here that [yellow tail] is created with a simple purpose in mind: to make great wine that everyone can enjoy.

“[yellow tail] is everything a great wine should be. It’s approachable, fresh, flavorsome and has a personality all its own.”

My Take: I am coming to really enjoy Shirazzy wines. If you like the Shiraz style, it’s my bet you will like this wine. Went great with steak.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ especially for the price.

Layer Cake One Hundred Percent Pure Pinot Noir Vintage 2011 Central Coast ~ California Alcohol 13.5% by Volume  $14.99 at my butcher shop/fish monger, Green Acres.

On the Label: “My old grandfather made and enjoyed wine for 80 years. He told me the soil in which the vines lived were a layer cake. He said the wine, if properly made, was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha and chocolate, hints of spine and rich, always rich. “Never pass up a layer cake,” he would say. I have always loved those words.” A. Orlando Tribute to Jayson Woodbridge’s Grandfather.”

“Caution: This wine may cause Pinot envy. Winemaking by Jayson Woodbridge Bottled by One True Wine, American Canyon, Napa County, CA”

My Take: I’ve been wanting to try Layer Cake. When I was in the fishmonger part of Green Acres last night, picking up my two pounds of Ocean Fresh, freshly made clam chowder, I checked around for a wine to go with the steak we were also having. I saw this and, even though a bit out of my normal price range, decided to splurge. I am SO glad I did. The wine had a beautiful Pinot nose on it and the flavor was delicious. It definitely passed the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir test by miles. (Is this wine better than the $5.99 bottle of Smoking Loon Pinot Noir?)

My Rating: ~ Very Very Drinkable ~ I’m looking forward to trying more Layer Cake wines.

Today I’m also over at Kate Evangelista’s blog, talking about my five favorite Christmas songs – feel free to hop on over, and join in the giveaway! Hope to see you there!

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 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!

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!

Girl’s Night Wine Tasting

Girl’s Night Wine Tasting

My good friend Kat was kind enough to invite me to her girl’s wine night a few weeks ago. Since I’d just started this feature here at the blog, I commandeered the night and suggested we each bring a bottle of red wine, under $10 of course. (The next day, I apologized – but the die had been cast and all was set.)

These gals are old friends, and have been gathering on a semi-regular basis for a few years to drink wine and eat nibbles and talk about everything under the sun. I was the beginner infiltrating their ranks.  While I had some surprises in store, I think it went very well in the end.

I arrived at 4:30 sharp with my bottle to find Patti there before me and Kat dealing with a passel of kids (Patti and Kat’s daughters are in dance class together). Soon Kelly arrived (who was Kat’s daughter’s kindergarten teacher, if I’ve got this straight…) and all the wine was there. Four bottles. Four women. Lots and lots of yummy finger foods spread out on the table in front of us.  I suggested to Kat that we open all the bottles and allow the oxygen to at least start the airing process. I glanced at the clock – almost five.

At any rate – let’s get to the wine, shall we? We went from the lightest to the heaviest.

Wine #1: Estancia Pinot Noir, 2009 Monterey County, Pinnacles Ranches Normally $14.99, on sale at Vons for $9.99

On the Label: “Displays luscious berry flavors, spice and a rich, supple finish.” The winery’s website here.

This wine gave me a handle on the women I sipped with. One loved it – it was light in flavor and easy for her to drink. Another one was so so about it – neither loving nor hating it. The third found it unremarkable, and easy to forget. Me? It made a nice sipping wine. It didn’t need food. All in all, a nice, undemanding wine to start the evening.

My Rating: ~Drinkable~

Wine #2: Clos du Bois, 2007 Shiraz, North Coast Regularly $14.99, on sale for $7.49 at Vons.

On the Label: “This spicy, peppery Shiraz tastes of wild raspberries and blackberries with expressive layers of ground pepper and licorice. An approachable wine that pairs well with grilled pork or roast duck.”

The pepper was there, the color was gorgeous – a nice, deep ruby. We didn’t taste the berries in the wine, but it went great with cheese and crackers. A good food wine.

The consensus: Three of us really liked it, especially at almost half price. The fourth found it too big and bold a wine.

My Rating: ~Very Drinkable~

Wine #3: Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Do. Valle Del Maipo – Chile, 2008 I don’t have a cost on this, but I know it was under the $10 limit.

On the Label: “Superb quality and craftsmanship are the hallmarks of Santa Rita, one of Chile’s most admired and innovative wine estates. Ripe black fruit, plums and herbs.”

By this time we’d gotten comfy. Shoes were kicked off, hair let down, and we were chatting nine to the dozen. The wine got a critical reception and I’m not sure if it was because I kept dragging the conversation back to it, or because of the topic I’d interrupted (something about men, of course). At any rate, it wasn’t as well received as the Shiraz. It needed more airing, said one person. It had a funny aftertaste, said another. It’s better with food – especially meat, I said after stuffing a slice of salami in my mouth.

The consensus? Perhaps it needed a couple more years, or an aerator, or a big meal of steaks and potatoes and candlelight. But I got the feeling that none of us would necessarily rush out and buy a bottle.

My rating: ~Drinkable~

It wasn’t until after that third wine that I looked around. Six p.m. Kat’s hubby had come and gone, wrangling their sons. Patti’s hubby came to take the girls to dance, and vowed to be back to pick her up so she didn’t have to drive. We were even more comfy, dug deep into cushiony couches or chairs, sipping and nibbling for all we were worth. I sent out a tentative feeler. “So how late does this go? I’ll need to make dinner for my family tonight.”

Three people sent me shocked looks. “Dinner?” “No way.” “They can fend for themselves for one night.” “We’re here until about nine.”

Gulp. Nine? As in p.m.? I’d told my family I’d be home around 6:30p. Seriously? These were hard core wine night gals, for sure! I knew then I couldn’t begin to keep up. I also felt like I’d stepped in it, but as I poured the last wine I was totally forgiven as the conversations started up again.

The fourth wine we tasted was from Kat’s special stock and I believe was the reason they got together to drink wines to begin with, to share the wine. She belongs to a couple of wine clubs, and a good bottle of wine is a terrific reason to have a wine night. Can’t say I disagree with her! So, for the first time I will profile a wine that is over – WAY over – $10 a bottle.

Wine #4 Bridlewood Zinfandel 2005 Santa Ynez Valley – approx $40

On the Label: “Located in the emerging Santa Ynez Valley, Bridlewood Estate Winery is an artisan winemaking facility focused on making award-winning, Rhone-style wines.”

My first taste of the wine was heaven. I stopped writing words down. Everyone, even the gal who prefers lighter wines, liked this wine. Maybe it was the years on it – a 2005 bottle is hard to find in the grocery store. Maybe it was the Rhone-style production. Maybe it was because by this point, I’d had a full glass of wine? I’m not sure. But we all loved it. LOVED it. The expensive wine got the Wine of the Night designation.

It was a wowser and unfortunately, since I didn’t write down any distinguishing characteristics of it, I can’t pass those on to you. I don’t think you can even find Bridlewood at the local wine shop. I believe it’s one of those boutique wineries, the wines available at the winery or through their wine club exclusively.

While this was a very very good wine, it was not yet in the “slut” category for me (as in, “This is MY wine you slut, get your own!), but I’ve got a post coming up on wines that do hit that category so be on the lookout!

My Rating: ~Very, very drinkable!~ I guess I now have a new category, lol!

Recap: It was wonderful if a bit overwhelming to share four totally different bottles of wine with four totally different personalities. I think, if I’m ever lucky enough to be allowed back, that I won’t schedule anything silly like dinner for the family. And I’ll never again suggest we each bring a bottle of wine – my mouth went on overload.

As usual, this is my opinion and my taste buds. Your taste buds may vary. If you do choose to pick up a bottle on my recommendation, please remember to drink responsibly!

~ Christine ~

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