There is snow on the mountains in Aspen, Colorado – and here in my neck of southern California, the temps are expected to hit in the triple digits (because the weather people prefer to say “triple digits” than “the hundreds”). So what to drink?
Here are two wines that are eminently drinkable, no matter the temperature outside.
Fat Cat Merlot, 2012 Napa, California Alcohol 12.5% by Volume; $6.99 on sale at Vons. 95 POINTS | GOLD MEDAL California State Fair Wine Competition 2012
On the Label: “At Fat Cat Cellers, we’re into wines that hit all the right notes, right now. Take our mellow Merlot. The deep ruby red color is prelude to a rich cherry and berry melody, accompanied by mild tannins and oak that close on a palate-pleasing, silky smooth chord. It’s a ballad in a glass. A-dee-dot, a-dew-dot, a skittley-dot-mer-lot. You dig?”
My Take: The color is good in the glass, and the taste works when the temps drop outside. The low alcohol content, however, also make it a good summer night, burgers on the barbecue-type wine as well. Or just sipping while you watch the bats come out at dusk, or while counting snowflakes as they hit the deck.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ and at this price, it’s easy to share with friends for an end-of-summer barbecue or a damn-winter’s-here-early party around the fire.
Beringer Simply Sophisticated Chardonnay California, 2013 Alcohol 13% by Volume; regularly $6.99 at Vons, on sale for $4.99
On the Label: “This carefully crafted wine has subtle aromas of peach, apricot and golden delicious apples. It is balanced, juicy and layered with ripe flavors. If you enjoy our Chardonnay, make sure to try our Pinot Grigio. Serve chilled. Please visit us at beringer.com.
My Take: This is Beringer’s low cost alternative to their Founder’s Reserve selection, which runs $10 to $15 more per bottle. Frankly, this is an excellent Chardonnay for the price and the Beringer name brings a certain comfort when buying an inexpensive wine. You know you’re going to enjoy the product. This wine would work wonderfully with the chowders and soups that come along with winter, and works just as well when grilling fish on the barbecue. (I have barbecue on the brain. Does it show?)
My Rating ~ Drinkable ~ And a good value, to boot. I’ve also tried their Pinot Grigio, and enjoy it just as much.
So whatever type of weather is out there, there’s a wine for that! May your October be one of peace, prosperity, and pumpkins.
Oh – and two weeks from today, CHRISTMAS STAR releases, my new holiday short story from Boroughs Publishing Group! Yeah, I’m a tad excited…*bouncety*
My Rating System: Undrinkable; Barely Drinkable; Drinkable; Very Drinkable; and the ever-popular “Stay Away! This is MY wine, you Slut!”
Thanks so much for stopping by. Now that it’s autumn, the blog is getting up to speed again. If you like what you read, please go on and click on that “subscribe” button, up there on the right hand side. I’d love to get to know you, too, so let me know if you have a favorite wine that I should try!
Wine for the Audience
It’s a thing out here in the Los Angeles area small theaters, to have wine available for a “donation” before the show, and again at intermission. This post is for those Small Theater Producers who regularly commit all sorts of wine crimes against their audience; but the rest of you feel free to listen in.
Dear, wonderful, brave Small Theater Producers. We really need to talk. I know your love for theater is why you put up with having no budget, actors who go missing because they’re getting a day’s pay by working in a commercial or (more frequently) doing background work (because you can’t afford union contracts), and basically worry about paying the bills.
I also know you serve wine to patrons of your theater in the hopes that you’ll make money (and quite often, you do – because only half of the 56-seat theater actually has butts in the seats, but half of those folks didn’t pay squat to get in because your cast is desperate for an audience and no one can find your theater without Siri barking directions at them plus lets not even get into the no parking situation, or the dicey neighborhood you’ve chosen). When patrons arrive at your place, they’re tired, cranky, their feet hurt and they would much rather be home but instead they’re standing in front of you, staring doubtfully at your wine selection and praying it’s not total dreck. A little wine can loosen up a cranky audience. I get it. Truly.
Don’t Go Cheap!
But please, if you’re going to serve wine, please don’t get the cheapest wine you can (that you wouldn’t drink for love nor money) and then charge a $5 donation for three measly ounces. First, three ounces of wine isn’t going to make us like your production more. Second, cheap wine leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which we’re going to unconsciously equate with your production. Which means we’re not going to tell anyone we saw your show, thus killing that much-needed word-of-mouth advertising.
So here’s my white wine choice for you. Don’t think, just go buy, and thank me later.
Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay, 2012 1.5L bottle Alcohol 13% by Volume; under $10 at CostCo
On the Label: “Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay is a classic Chardonnay with vibrant tropical flavors of pineapple and mango surrounded by fresh notes of peach, brisk green apple and sweet citrus which is polished to a finish with hints of oak, honey and butterscotch.”
On the Web: “I have previously stated that I am not a fan of heavy oak, buttery chardonnay. On the other hand, chardonnays fermented only in stainless steel are often taste like lemons to me. I most like a chardonnay that has been aged in neutral, older oak. The Kirkland Sonoma County Chardonnay always fits in this middle ground. I think the current version is even more fruit flavored with less oak than last year and to me, that makes it better.” ~ South Carolina Wine Joe
(I know. Sonoma County Chardonnay and the Signature California Chardonnay aren’t the same, and yet they are because. I haven’t had the Sonoma County Chardonnay, but I have had the Signature California Chardonnay. TASTY.)
“Vineyards and Vintages
“Chardonnay, the most widely grown grape varietal in the world, flourishes in Sonoma County, one of the greatest producers of wine in California – even surpassing Napa Valley AVA! Sonoma County is home to 13 different American Viticultural Areas. The wine from this 100% Chardonnay is blended from a variety of the top AVAs throughout Sonoma County, including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros and Russian River Valley. Each region offers different flavors and aromas that merge to produce a flawless combination. Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, known for its natural expression of terroir. This Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay reflects the Burgundian ancestry while still harmonious with the style of California and specifically Sonoma County.” ~ CostCo.com
Yes, I said don’t go cheap. Yes, this bottle is under $10, which qualifies in the cheap range. But no. Cheap, to me, is any bottle of wine that you wouldn’t happily drink yourself. This wine is inexpensive, true, but it is TASTY. So, 1.5 liters of wine at under $10 a bottle means you, dear Theater Producer, can fill that plastic cup to the brim. Make that theater goer happy, and they might grab another glass of wine. Or two. They may even buy their ticket price in wine. You can “accidentally” make enough on wine sales to make it look like you actually had a full, paying house! Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Plus, two people buying a glass of wine, and that bottle has been paid for.
Oh, and please – by all that is holy – keep the Chardonnay COLD. Yes, grab a big ice bucket. Have a cooler somewhere. Get all classy. Because warm Chardonnay is almost a worse crime than a short pour of bad Chardonnay.
Next week, I’ll talk about red wines for you Small Theater Producers (because I’m running out of time and need to get to work). Until then, stock up on the Kirkland Chardonnay and fill those cups, people! Your patrons will thank you, and they in turn will appreciate the show much more. Who knows? You may even get some positive word-of-mouth advertising out of it!
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and while I’m not suggesting to run out and buy her wine (I’m suspecting she’d prefer your company more than a bottle of wine), here are a couple that would go great with brunch or dinner, depending.
Would you describe life as a Cabernet, or a Chardonnay? Me, I rather prefer to think of life as an Adventure movie. With maybe a shot of whiskey for the heroine now and then, lol. Anyway, here are two wines that don’t break the pocketbook.
La Crema Sonoma Coast 2012 Chardonnay, Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; Regularly 19.99, on Sale for $11.99 at Vons
On the Label: “Cool climate vineyards. Artisan Winemaking. Exquisite Chardonnay.”
My Take: As far as labels go, I like this one. Just the facts and under 10 words. As for the wine? Smooth. Creamy, but not oaked; neither does it have a steely taste. This is a rare Chardonnay that hearkens back to the bigger, buttery, oaky Chards without being big, buttery, or oaky. It was fantastic with roasted chicken this week.
My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Normally, this is an $18 or $19 bottle of wine; so if you can get it on sale, do so. Perfect for a Mother’s Day picnic or lunch.
Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Est’d 1888; Contains less than 15% Guenoc Valley Grapes. Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; Regularly 10.99, on Sale at Vons for $8.99
On the Label: “Cabernet Sauvignon is the noblest of grape varieties and Guenoc California Cabernet shows ‘respect’ by putting the fruit front and center. Classic red and black cherry are surrounded by cushiony tannins. The coronation is a whisper of vanilla oak on the finish…all hail king Cab!”
My Take: Um, really? “cushiony tannins”? This is another winemaker that needs a hand in their label copy. Less is more, people, unless you go over the top (like Smoking Loon, still my favorite label of all time). Once again I’m glad that I don’t read the back labels of wine bottles (unlike the back cover of books – those I DO read before I buy). Still and all, label aside, this was a tasty but not overly memorable wine.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ and like I said, not overly memorable. Still, not every sip has to be swooning ecstasy, just like every kiss doesn’t need to be swooning ecstasy. Am I right?
~ Until the next time, cheers! ~
Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are available for the Kindle and Kobo! 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!”
Me again. Wines that won’t break your pocketbook but that are tasty. (Or that you should really stay away from.) These are both under $10, though I don’t recall the actual price. And I’m talking California prices, so if it’s a California wine and you’re elsewhere in the country, so sorry. You’re probably paying more.
La Vieille Ferme Recolte 2012 Rose Wine Alcohol 13.5% by Volume – Southern Rhone Valley
On the Label: “The Perrin family are the producers of this excellent rose wine. The vines from the appellation are planted on the hills of the renowned Mont Ventoux, and benefit from great sunlight and fairly cool temperatures for the Southern Rhone Valley. The Blend is made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and the wines have a beautiful rose color, a floral nose with hints of aniseed and brown sugar. The mouth is on notes of white flowers, cherries and fruit drops. The finish is fresh and balanced. Winemakers reviews, recipe ideas, for all details, go here.” (My thanks to Pull The Cork for the photo. Go check them out!)
My Take: Okay, well – the label is obnoxious. Really? You’re gonna tell me how it smells AND tastes? Maybe it’s the translation, but when I read this I got irritated. (As if you couldn’t tell, lol!) But it’s a French wine from the Rhone Valley. I usually like those wines, and this fit into my price range, so I tried it.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Though I will say its not that different from a stringent (i.e., no oak) white wine. Fine when well-chilled – just don’t expect sweet from this wine.
[Noble Vines] 337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Lodi, California 14.5% Alcohol by Volume
On the Label: “Born in France…Raised in America. Not all wines are created equal. Noble Vines 337 is the most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon vine stock in Bordeaux, France. These rare vines are prized for their concentrated flavor and thrive in the red soils and cobblestones of our Lodi vineyard.
“This wine exudes seductive atoms of mocha and dark cherry followed by intense flavors of ripe blackberry and spice. Enjoy with savory pasta, pot roast, thick steaks and creamy cheeses.”
My Take: Richer than I had suspected it would be. I’ll definitely try this wine again. It has a bunch of potential, even if it’s a bit pretentious. I wanted to try a Lodi wine, and I’m glad I chose this one.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ I keep searching for the Very Drinkable wines for you, my dears! But this will definitely do, in the meantime.
What’s your favorite?
Good wines without breaking the bank. I’m all about that. I believe that a good bottle of wine can be had for under $10, and I’ve appointed myself the job to sniff those out. (I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s MORE than $10, because every now and then I taste those, too.) If YOU have a favorite wine, I’d love to know – so please leave a comment!
As the title says, I’m mad for red wines. I mostly prefer Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels, but there are some surprisingly good red blends out there, too. So sit back and enjoy!
Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel 2012 Paso Robles, California Lot # 84 Alcohol 14.5% by Volume
On the Label: “Juicy raspberry, boysenberry and black cherry notes lead to vanilla oak and spice notes with a smooth, jammy finish.”
My Take: First off, a bit of snark. I’m really, really tired of wineries saying their wines taste “jammy”. I’ve never tasted a wine and said to myself, gee, that tastes like jam! I should dip my toast into it with breakfast! (Okay, so that IS a good idea – but you get my meaning.) On the positive side, that’s it for label chat. Boom. Done. LOVE it.
A bit of wisdom for you – when Trader Joe’s puts out a reserve with a Lot # on it, you can almost guarantee that it’s a good winery wine in that bottle. I met a wonderful guy who works at Letitia when Tom and I were up in Cambria; he told us that Letitia wine was in one of these bottles (I’d tell you which one, but TJ’s doesn’t stock it any more so there’s that). We grabbed two bottles and wish we’d grabbed more, as they were $9.99, and I don’t think you can find much Letitia wine under $10.
Oh, and the wine – yes, tasty. TASTY. Not “jammy” to my tastebuds at all, but definitely full of flavor and perfect with steak and potatoes or maybe a hearty lasagna. No, I don’t know which winery it’s from. If you find out, please let me know! BTW, here’s an article on it from Trader Joe’s online Fearless Flyer.
My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ The only danger is having a love affair with this type of wine can lead to heartbreak when they – suddenly – no longer carry it. Sigh.
With every conservative bottle of wine (see above), there is its wicked cousin who comes to dinner (below).
Stark Raving RED by Rosenblum Cellars Sonoma, California Alcohol 12.5% by Volume $8.99 at Vons
On the Label: “Some might think quitting your day job to pursue your passion for winemaking is crazy – even stark raving mad. Stark Raving ™ from Rosenblum Cellars is a tribute to our founder’s maniacal obsession with experimentation, which still inspires us today. Our Red Wine is a playful and bold blend of plum and bright red fruit flavors, proving that a little dose of madness can lead to extraordinary things.”
My Take: I loved this wine. I picked it up for the label – I bought it for the fact that it came from Rosenblum Cellars, and I can tell you I’ll definitely be buying it again. It’s a big wine, and does better with a little airing. It’s also got a screwtop, which I love (makes it fit in my fridge easier).
My Rating: ~ Drinkable Plus ~ I did love this wine, but I didn’t LOVE it. There are some who won’t like it – it might be a bit too brash. It’s DEFINITELY a food wine – not a sipper, in my opinion – but that’s okay because I like to eat when I drink wine, lol! But do give it a shot and let me know what you think. Here’s a link to a YouTube video that’s really fun – give it a shot!
So, what do you think?