Whither Wine Fridays?

Whither Wine Fridays?

Whither Wine Fridays?

I like Wine. I like Fridays. So it seemed a perfect match, to blog about Wine on Fridays. But…maybe it’s time to branch out in another direction. The question is, which direction?

Label for the Smoking Loon Pinot NoirIt’s not like the world is rushing to my door, giving me wine to taste and begging me for my decidedly plebian opinion. Just because I find Smoking Loon Pinot Noir to be tasty and at an under-$6 a bottle a total bargain, doesn’t mean others will find that interesting. Or that they’ll like the wine.

Just because I think some wine labels are ridiculously over-written and seriously in need of a good copy editor who can write while NOT imbibing doesn’t mean there’s an audience for that.

And because I salivate for a bottle of Cristal champagne, and I look forward to those days I can offer guestsPhoto of Cristal Champagne that sippage and not count the cost, doesn’t mean others share my lust for the bubbles.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining here – I’m just wondering if maybe its time to go in a different direction.

Part of that is my change in diet. Note, I said my change in diet, not that I’m ON a diet. Major difference. I’ve been living in a Crazy Sexy Kitchen world since January 20th, when a lovely woman named Erin Shachory introduced me to Kris Carr and her plant-based way of eating. Personally, I LOVE the term “plant-based” instead of vegan or vegetarian – it seems much less IN YOUR FACE, MEATEATER. But maybe that’s just me?

At any rate, the book has me sipping lemon water after I get up, then getting my greens in with some AWESOME green juice. I’m feeling the love – balancing my eating 60/40, and heaping the salads and the veggie love on my plate. I wake up happier, clear-headed, and I don’t hurt as much. ??? Interesting.

If you’re interested, here’s the book.

The book that Erin Shachory introduced me to. Thank you, Erin!

But this post isn’t about that!

This post is kind of a heads-up that things are shifting at Chez Christine’s – and maybe even the title of the blog (because while I am wicked, and saucy, the blog isn’t so much, am I right?). But we shall see. I’m taking an author branding class with Kristen Lamb, the WANA Mama; she’s helping me to dig into ME and what I want out of this life I’ve got, and I can feel my priorities shifting under my feet. It’s a good thing! 

I am swimming in possibilities as well as lots of projects, all writing but not all novels. So things are changing and churning and being utterly fascinating. I’ve been having second thoughts about Wine Fridays for some time now, and I thought I’d clue you in, too. 

What do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down for Wine Fridays? I’d love to know!


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are both available for both the Kindle and KoboHave you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

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!

Some Uh-oh Reds…

Some Uh-oh Reds…

I like being a positive person. I don’t like saying bad things about people, but I can get riled up and curse with the best of them. But when it comes to wine, I give it to you straight.  After all, who’s got the money to waste on bad wine? Not me! So here we go…some uh-oh reds.

Jenica Peak Pinot Noir 2008 Coastal Series Jenica Peak Vineyards, Graton, California  Alcohol 12.5% by volume. Under $10 at Vons (sorry – don’t remember the exact amount!)

On the Label: “Expressing California’s penchant for fine ingredients and abundant flavors, Jenica Peak brings forth esteemed wines from our coastal vineyards. Harvesting in cool, Coastal conditions for optimum flavor, we produce wines of pure varietal character. Jenica Peak. Capture the essence of California in each savory sip.

“Aromas of Bing cherries and Italian plums are brought to the nose of this outstanding wine. Soft tannins provide a gentle backbone to the rich and elegant fruit. Pair this wine with roast quail and fingerling potatoes.”

My Take:  Um. Roast quail? Seriously?? Do normal lower middle class people roast quail for their Sunday supper? Sheesh! Okay. You all know that I’m not one for chatty labels. Let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t read that label in the store – I probably wouldn’t have bought the wine. (QUAIL?!! Seriously!)

That said, this was an inoffensive wine. Absolutely drinkable, and needed a bit of chilling in the fridge to be honest. To the hubby’s taste buds, it was a bland wine, and absolutely nothing to write home about, even for a 2008. I liked it more than that. And if you go to their website, it shows that this wine had won some awards. Maybe it was better a  year ago? Not sure.

My Rating:  ~ Drinkable ~ but nothing to get really excited about.

Small Wonders Paso Robles Zinfandel 2010 Small Wonders Wines, Graton, California – Alcohol 13% by volume. $7.88 at Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Industrious winemaker and esteemed connoisseur Richard Mansfield tirelessly searches all of the tiny, tucked-away niches of the world for our hand-selected small lot wines. He has expertly blended and hand picked our Small Wonders wines to provoke admiration and marvel  for the appellations from which they hail.  Indulge your senses while sipping Small Wonders for the best offerings come in the smallest packages.

“Aromas of brilliant dark cherry and ripe raspberry envelop subtle nuances of earthy wild mountain herb. A bright acidity is the perfect accent to lusciously rich flavors for a magnificent Zinfandel sure to please your palate. Enjoy alongside roast leg of lamb sauced with a cherry reduction and paired with roasted root vegetables.”

My Take: Well, damn. We’ve gone from quail to lamb! Sigh. But enough about the ill-advised verbiage on the label…what did the wine taste like?

I wanted to like this wine. I really, really did – inexpensive, it was a Pinot Noir (one of my faves), and it has a terrific front-of-label look – plus, hello. Paso Robles. But…it committed the worst sin of any wine. It had a thick, raisiny taste – not what you want your wine to taste like. My hubby really didn’t like this wine – he switched to beer at dinner time. And while I won’t say I hated it, I sure as heck won’t rush out to buy another bottle any time soon. I always thought the raisiny taste came from a wine on its way out – but this is a 2010, so…fairly newly released. I can’t imagine it’ll get any better, but I’ve been wrong before. We did finish the bottle, however; so it must not have been a “bad” wine.

After checking out the website, it looks like 2010 is the first vintage, which makes me feel better. I’ll be watching this company and see how they do in the future. In the meantime, maybe there’s a white that is more suited to my tastes…I’ll check it out.

My Take: ~ Drinkable – Barely ~

Our Daily Red – 2009 California Table Wine ORGANIC – No Sulfites Detected Organic since 1989 Alcohol 12.5% by volume $5.99 at Fresh & Easy

On the Label: “Vinted and bottled by Our Daily Red American Canyon, CA Certified Organic by: California Certified Organic Farmers. Vegan friendly.”

My Take:  Well, the label has that famous picture of the two hands reaching out to touch each other (Sistine Chapel), only one of the hands has a glass of wine in it. I had high hopes for this wine, since it was labeled organic and had no sulfites.

However – this wine was bad. Hubby refused flat out to drink it (I opened a bottle of Smoking Loon Pinot Noir for him). As I was cooking, I didn’t mind it so much, but we barely cracked the bottle.

The next night I went to pour myself some to sip while I cooked, and low and behold – the wine was nasty. It had been properly stored; most wines will keep at least 36 hours when taken care of after opening – but this wine? Bad. Pure and simple. I poured it down the drain (and I can drink almost anything!).

My Take: ~ Undrinkable ~ Please, don’t waste your money!

Mabon, and Zinfandel

Mabon, and Zinfandel

Mabon was September 21st; the Autumn Equinox is today. Since they celebrate the same thing, the balance of light and dark in the sky, it’s strange they aren’t celebrated on the same day, but there you go.

According to Scott Cunningham and his Wicca – A Guide for the Solitary Practicioner, Mabon is the completion of the Harvest begun at Lughnasadh, or Lammas. As he puts it – “Nature declines, draws back its bounty, readying for winter and its time of rest.”

One of three Harvest celebrations in Wicca, the name Mabon to delineate this neopagan festival of the autumn equinox was invented by Aiden Kelly in the 1970s as part of a religious study. Considered to be an American invention, few Briton pagans use it; but as more American Neopagan publications are sold in Britain, the term is gaining in popularity.

“Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life.” For more on Mabon and all Autumn celebrations around the world, drop by a fantastic website called Crystal Links.

But what does this have to do with wine? It’s also a time of winemaking, the first crush, the picking of the grapes. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that?

So by the beautiful Lynne Marshall’s request last week, here are some under $10, juicy Old Vine Zinfandels that you can sink into to help you enjoy the changing of the seasons.

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin Lodi Zinfandel, Vintage 2009 Alcohol 14.5% by volume – $9.99 at Vons and other fine establishments.

On the Label: “As the truck pulled up to the 80 year old Zinfandel vineyard, my first impression was, “wow, those vines sure have some gnarly heads!” Thus began my love affair with Old Vine Zinfandel. Lodi has some of the oldest vines in Caliofrnia. Unlike modern rows of trellised vines, these old Zinfandel vines were grown as free standing “head trained” vines. Today they resemble wild bushes with twisted old trunks and branches that spread out in all directions sprouting leaves like unruly umbrellas – truly “Gnarly Heads”.

“Our grapes are hand-selected from some of the oldest and most respected vineyards in Lodi. Older vines produce fewer grape clusters, but the small berries yield concentrated fruit flavors characteristic of great Old Vine Zinfandel. Rich, dark berry flavors from the small grape clusters are balanced with French and American oak, which creates layers of licorice, plum, pepper and vanilla. This luscious combination provides a lingering and spicy finish. This wine pairs well with barbecue, pizza, hearty pasta, chili and ribs.”

My Take: Wow, what a label. I enjoyed it, lol…and I don’t always, but this one had just enough information to intrigue me.  As to the wine? My first impression was big – thick. Sweeter than I prefer (heads up to those of you who like sweet wines).  Lots of dark fruit, with a nice balance of pepper, the first taste was good but the aftertaste even nicer.  I quite enjoyed this wine, which means I’ll have to keep checking out Gnarly Head.

My Rating:  ~ Drinkable ~ But on the sweeter side. Not my absolute favorite, but a solid wine that didn’t disappoint.

Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel 2009 California 13.9% Alcohol by volume. $9.99; on sale fairly regularly for $5.99 at Vons – from the Sebastiani family

My Take:  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m a fan of Smoking Loon. Quality wines at reasonable prices – what’s not to like?  The Old Vine Zin tastes expensive. It’s big, bold, nicely fruity but with complexity – not a sweet wine at all. Give it some time to open up in your glass, and pair it with hearty, autumn dishes, and it’ll be a wine you will return to again and again. After all, there is much to be said for consistency.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~


Big House Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vines 2010, California $9.99 at Vons

On the Label: “It’s the Cardinal Zin who consoles the straying souls of The Big House. Proud of these dark berries that evoke a sense of envy for their blackberry and peppery flavors, this Zin has been known to elicit lustful feelings and cause mere mortals to covet those long silky legs as they drip down the glass. To avoid the ire of your guests, this wine should be served with a gluttonous feast that includes sloth. Hallowed be thy zin.”

My Take: Love in a glass. I opened it, I poured it, and I fell in love. Big, peppery, warm and comforting, it was the perfect glass to drink with the ever-popular roasted chicken, and broccoli and cauliflower in a rich garlic Alfredo sauce. Plus, with a screw top, you don’t have to fuss too much before you actually get to the wine. It’s a fun wine to give, to serve, or to savor by yourself by the fire on a chilly night.

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable! ~

~  ~  ~

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and will totally depend upon my mood, the weather, and how much sleep I’m getting. 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! Give yourself a present – buy it now, lol!

My go-to Pinot Noir, under $10

My go-to Pinot Noir, under $10

Welcome back to Wine Friday! It’s Memorial Day weekend and you’ll probably have something on the grill at some point, unless it’s still snowing/raining where you live. I’m currently loving the So Cal sunshine! So let’s get to it.

Talking about wine…It cracks me up to read Food & Wine Magazine, and see what they recommend to drink. The May 2011 issue touts “discovering fantastic pinot noir” on the cover. As it turns out, that article is about some great winemaker in Italy making Patagonian Pinot Noir. Not, I think, something I’ll find at Vons for under $10.

Looking further in the magazine, I think maybe I’m going to get lucky – there’s an article on page 70 about “Finding Tasty Wine on a Public-TV Budget”, so I head over there to check it out.

The article is well written but I skim it, looking for the prices…aHA! Found them! To my surprise, all the wines are at the $15 or lower price range. Hmmm. There’s a 2009 Bibi Graetz Bianco Di Casamatta for $11 – apparently it’s a vibrant, citrusy Vermentino.

Um. What? Any wine that makes me think of rats and cockroaches isn’t on my radar (Vermentino – vermin – get it? lol…).

The next one is a 2008 Argiolas Perdera at $12, from the Monica grape (who knew?), and this is a juicy red that’s now grown in Sardinia. Ooookay.

Well now here’s one that I understand. More or less. It’s a 2008 Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera D’Asti for $12. This is an aromatic, berry-rich wine, which according to the author has a fantastic price tag.

Okay now I’m just tired, lol! I’m a busy woman. I pick up my wines at the grocery store, and I search out those well under $10 a bottle. Am I the only one? Don’t think so. All the above wines can be found in several NY City wine shops which is great if you live in NY City. We don’t have a wine shop where I live. Oh, WAIT – we DO! BevMo! Okay, consider this whine cut short.

Still…when I get dinner, and need to pick up wine to go with, I really don’t want to hop on the freeway at rush hour and question the BevMo staff about wines made from the Monica grape that are in my price range.  I buy 95% of my wine at my local grocery store, so getting a well-made wine for as little as possible is always my goal.

(Before I go further, I do adore Trader Joe’s and still shop there for wine, but I outgrew Two Buck Chuck about ten years ago. I still try $2 bottles of wine, though. You never know when you’ll hit on a winner.)

I have a definite go-to wine that I buy when I don’t want to think and don’t want to spend over $6. My go-to wine is the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir. It’s usually $5.99 at Vons, sometimes it goes up to $6.99 – but even when it’s NOT on “special”, it’s a $9.99 bottle of wine – at least, it is in California.

As a matter of fact, when I go wine tasting up in Paso Robles, if a wine isn’t considerably better in my mouth than a Smoking Loon Pinot, I won’t buy it. I really don’t want to spend the money, especially now.

Why Smoking Loon Pinot Noir? It’s consistent over vintages. It’s an easy sipping wine that goes with a lot of different foods. It’s got depth, flavor, and a nice lingering taste (plus, goes great with either a campfire or at the beach). It’s perfect with an elegant chicken dish, vegetarian offerings, or hamburgers and dogs off the grill. It’s unpretentious, a nice bottle of wine. Kind of like the unspoiled girl next door.

Okay – I understand that I’m not talking of the taste of the wine, the aromas, the flavors that I sense – I guess because my tastebuds will vary from yours. I will include those things when I write while I sip, and that’s not the case currently – but always remember, when it comes to wine? Your mileage may vary.

Oops, and I forgot! I rate the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir as ~Very Drinkable~ mainly because it has been consistent over the past five years. Plus – I just discovered that Smoking Loon is owned by the Sebastiani family, and has been in existence since 2000. So there are their bona fides!

Anyway – to further my wine education (which began many years ago with a trip to Napa Valley), I will continue to read Food & Wine Magazine (as they highlight expensive wine and fouffy food, for the most part, also NOT CHEAP to make, tho in their defense they never promised CHEAP dishes, now did they?) and stop by at BevMo for tastings. Plus have tastings with friends – that way, you get more opinions than just mine.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a wine you like that’s under $10 a bottle (and I’m not talking box or jug wines – I’ll get to those in a year or so), give me a holler!

Coming next week (probably): Three different Chardonnays, under $10

P.S. Oh, one thing I should mention – these wines are mostly grown in California, and I live in California – so my prices will be lower than yours if you’re in the Central states or on the other coast. I can tell you that every time I visit my friend Tammy in Snowmass, Colorado, I am shocked at the wine prices – one bottle of Smoking Loon there is around $15!