Three Winter Whites

Three Winter Whites

Everyone I know has a budget that’s shrinking. Even at Chez Christine’s, our dollar doesn’t stretch as far as I wish it would. I won’t buy wine before I buy food, but I AM being even more careful than I used to be in putting my money down for a bottle of vino.

Today I’ve got three white wines that are really tasty. With the southern California weather warming up, then cooling down, you never know when it’ll be the right time for a white. I’ve had all of these in the past week or so.

Fetzer Valley Oaks Pinot Grigio 2010 Mendocino, California – Alcohol 12.5% by volume – $5.99 at Vons on sale

On the Label: “Pioneers in Sustainability. Established in 1968. 14% less carbon emissions. The Earth Friendly Winery. Crowd pleaser. Whether you say Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, which are synonyms, I try and make this wine in a modern style that will please the gathered crowd.  This wine is lightly floral and an easy drinking wine. The wine shows aromas of fig, melon, and flavors of Honeydew melons and Granny Smith apples and is a good drink with pleasant racy bright acidity. A versatile wine that pairs well with many salads and lighter fare. I love to serve it with appetizers when I have house guests over.”

“Fetzer now uses lighter glass bottles, runs the winery from mostly green energy, recycles, the list goes on…enhancing our heritage of sustainability.”

My Take: From working with hydrogeologists, I’ve learned to be wary of any winery that calls itself “sustainable”.   (Apparently its a huge buzz word in the industry but no one really knows what that means, the above list notwithstanding.) However, this wine is a good wine (chatty label aside). Its bright, crisp, clean and perfect with appetizers, or just to sip after a hard day’s work. Plus – cheap!

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ At this price, if you can, pick up a half-case so you’re ready for the hot weather to come. It’s a 2010, so it’ll last in the bottle for at least a year.

Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Chardonnay 2010  Monterey County, California 2010 –  Alcohol 13.5% by volume. $7.99 at Vons on Sale.

On the Label: Our Blackstone Chardonnay is sourced from California’s finest grape growing regions, with a focus on Monterey County. This wine offers luscious tropical fruit flavors complemented with light spice and toasted vanilla characteristics.

My Take: I like this wine. I fell in love with it when we were in Monterey this past March/April; we drank this wine while eating the best clam chowder in town, while watching the seals on the beach. Probably the best beach-side meal I’ve ever eaten…the wine was clean, crisp, cold, and probably a 2009; but good news. The 2010 is just as good – it’s a solid performer and one of my go-to wineries for Chardonnay. Not overly oaky, but not too steely either – a good balance between the old and the new style Chard. It’s also hard to find anything other than the 2010s out right now. They’re flooding the market as they usually do when the calendar flips to a new year. If you can find the older bottles, buy them first.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And at this price, you can afford a couple bottles – or more! (Do take advantage of the six bottle, 10% on top of the sale price discounts that most grocery stores have!)

Newman’s Own Chardonnay 2008 California Alcohol 13.5% by volume. Vinted and bottled by Rebel Wine, St. Helena, Napa County, California Exclusively for Newman’s Own, Inc. $8.99 on sale at Albertson’s.

On the Label: “The Legend: From the mountains to the bay, we searched for the perfect Chardonnay. We thought we found one at Hollywood and Vine but it turned out to be apple juice – not even wine. We were just about ready to give up the hunt when Wee Willie Wine, a cute winged runt said, ‘Since you’re the guys who give all your profits away, I’ll take you to my secret Chardonnay.’ And so here from the hilltops where Wee Willie trods is a Chardonnay that is truly a gift from the Gods.

” Newman’s Own Foundation continues Paul Newman’s commitment to donate all royalties and after tax profits from this product for educational and charitable purposes. Paul Newman and the Newman’s Own Foundation have given over $250 Million to thousands of charities since 1982.”

My Take: (Yes, I know, that’s a bottle of cabernet over there. I couldn’t find a picture of the Chardonnay.) I was quite surprised to see a Newman’s Own wine last week as we perused the Albertson’s after a three mile jog-walk (not our usual grocery store).  As the wine was priced under $10, I grabbed it and after a thorough chilling,  we had it with dinner that night. Tasty, easy going, fine for sipping. It handled the roast chicken but would have handled a chowder, a pork dish, anything really. It was an easy-drinking wine – and with the knowledge that the profit goes to charity, it also makes it an easy-to-buy wine. And as a 2008, if you can find it in your local store, grab it. Drink it by July. It may keep longer, but whites generally don’t lay down as well as reds so drink those 2008s up!

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Plus you get the high of having donated to charity. It’s a win/win!

Well, there you go, the first wine blog of 2012. Remember this is my opinion based upon my taste buds, the cycle of the moon, and how many hours of writing I’ve gotten in this week. Your tastes will vary!

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Looking Forward

Looking Forward

Happy Day 1 of 2012!

I’m not one for goals. I don’t do resolutions anymore. Why? I don’t want to feel like an abject failure when I look back, 12 months from now, to see my goals and resolutions as I had originally set them, not yet crossed-off my list.

I much prefer looking forward. So in that frame of mind, here’s what I’m looking forward to for 2012.

I look forward to an active, healthy life and lifestyle. I look forward to writing, and publishing several books. I look forward to hearing the plays I wrote read aloud this year.

I look forward to meeting new people and making new friends, whether in person or online; for I firmly believe you can never have too many friends. I look forward to opportunities to expand my knowledge – of myself, of writing, of the mysteries in the world.

I look forward to celebrating my friends’ successes and to watching my sons spread their wings.  I look forward to laughing, and reading, and watching the fire in my hearth. I look forward to another year of a deepening love, one I couldn’t have imagined 35 years ago.

And I’m really looking forward to dealing with whatever life decides to dish out to me this year.  Now, to begin my year on a solid note, I shall go for a jog. And when I return, I shall make healthy pancakes for the family.

Happy New Year.  Sending much love and many hugs from my home to yours. What are you looking forward to this year?

3 Good Reds – and a Chameleon

3 Good Reds – and a Chameleon

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.

Peachy Canyon Winery Incredible Red Zinfandel 2008 Central Coast – Paso Robles, California Alcochol 13.9% by volume – $8.49 at Vons

On the Label: “Incredible Red is a great Zinfandel for everyday enjoyment. Excellent with a variety of foods from peppered stead to pasta. Consume this wine with pleasure.”

My Take: I was so astounded to see a bottle of Peachy Canyon in the store, that I reached for it, quite forgetting that the last time I’d been to Peachy Canyon Winery, I hadn’t been impressed with the wines at all. Also, the Incredible Red part of the label is big – I thought it was a blend. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was a Zinfandel blend. But I like Zins, so I was pleased.

The wine itself was also pleasing. There is truth in advertising on this label – it is, indeed,  “a great Zinfandel for everyday enjoyment”. It’s not too deep, not very thought-provoking – just tasty and welcoming. I might have to stop at Peachy Canyon, the next time I’m in Paso Robles.

My Take ~ Very Drinkable ~ Plus it has the added benefit of being a California wine that isn’t often on the grocery store shelves. A nice little tidbit to share when you arrive at your Holiday party.

Folie a Deux Menage a Trois 2010 California Red Wine Napa County, California Alcohol 13.5% by volume Under $10 at Vons

On the Label: “A delightful blend based on three varietals – Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

My Take: I’ve been a fan of Folie a Deux since I first found them a few years ago. Their red blends, however, do vary from year to year. 2009 was not Hubby’s favorite year; 2010 seems to be faring better, taste-wise. The label is nicely brief, and the name will give a certain panache to both the giver and the giftee, especially when presented with a wink and a smile in front of a wide-eyed audience. It is not, however, my favorite red blend.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~  Hubby liked this one better than I did, and would rate it higher on the Christine scale. So be it!

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 Sonoma County, California Alcohol 14.5% by volume. $11.69 on sale at Vons – normally $16.99

On the Label: “Sonoma County has been our home for nearly twenty years, and we take great pride in crafting these wines from the County’s top growers and appellations. They represent the very essence of the finest vineyards from our own back yard. Our Sonoma County Pinot Noir explodes with dried cherry, vanilla, and cranberry flavors, followed by a velvety palate. Lovely with roast chicken, salmon, or ribs.”

My Take: Despite the chatty label, this is one wine you want to spend the extra cash on. It’s a step above their normal line (hence the “reserve” in the title) and it shows in a luscious feel in your mouth. This is definitely a wine to save for dinner; that first sip will allow you to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Complex, but not too complex (it is a Pinot Noir, after all), it’s a satisfying wine with an elegant label.

My Rating: Very, Very Drinkable This is one wine you will never be ashamed to give, and will be delighted to receive.

On to France…

La Vieille Ferme Recolte 2010 Rhone Valley Vineyards Red Wine 1.5 L; Alcohol 13.5% by volume $9.99 at Costco La Vieille Ferme online.

On the Label: “This full-bodied and fruity wine comes from vines grown high on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, one of the best vineyards in the Rhone Valley. It has been meticulously selected and blended by the Perrin Family, who also produce one of Frances most acclaimed wines: Chateau de Beaucastel. The blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault grapes has produced a typical Rhone valley style full of fruit and spice aromas, it has soft tannins and good body. Winemaker interviews, recipe ideasl, for all details: .

My Take: Well. This is the Chameleon wine. I must warn you my friends, Chameleon wines don’t always change for the better. I cannot swear this wine changed for the better. But I digress.

I was off at a party last Saturday night, without the hubby (all-girl party); Hubby opened this big bottle sitting on the counter. When I came home a couple hours later, he was still complaining about it. “Thick and viscous” were the words he used. The next morning, he made me take a sip of it before we went off to my company holiday brunch – it was not a good way to start my morning.

The next day, however, I had a glass while cooking. Well, I had half a glass – I couldn’t finish it. It was like the wine hadn’t made up its mind what it wanted to be. It started to open up, but it was also getting watery. Very strange.

The third day, we had nothing else open so I had another glass. This time, I finished it. And poured myself another. The taste still wasn’t the best – hubby could only drink it by adding water to it. If we had mulled it, I’m not entirely sure it wouldn’t have been a waste of brandy. Times being what they are, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pour it out.

By the end of the week, it had become a more or less presentable table wine. Something fine for us, but nothing I’d want to press on anyone else.  Which is really too bad – it’s a nice-looking bottle, and at $10 for 1.5 L, a bargain and a nice presentation to a host/hostess – but the taste rendered it ungiftable. I am VERY glad I didn’t take that bottle to the Saturday night party, as originally planned!

Why did the wine change so much? Well, wine can do that. Maybe it had rough handling crossing the Atlantic from France. Or maybe the 2010 vintage just needs more down time, and next year it’ll be a lot better. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I won’t go down this path with this wine again.

My Rating: ~ Undrinkable Chameleon Wine – Stay Away ~  Don’t let the nice bottle, the cheap price, and the French on the label change your mind. Bad wine is bad wine at any price.

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?

Mulled Wine – In Time for the Holidays

Mulled Wine – In Time for the Holidays

A couple weekends ago, Hubby texted me from his movie shoot. “I’m freezing. It’s been sleeting/snowing/raining/snowing/hailing/snowing and I’ve been outside all day…I’ll be home in an hour, give me something HOT and ALCOHOLIC to drink.”

I had a couple open bottles of red wine in the fridge. Without bothering to look up a recipe, I tossed them into a pan, threw in a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and a cup of water (because I remembered that, somewhere in the back of my brain). After it heated (NOT boiled), I tasted it – bitter. So I added some brown sugar – about 3 tablespoons’ worth, I believe.

It did the trick. He came home only half frozen – a hot bath and a mug of mulled wine unfroze him the rest of the way.

I got to thinking, though. Who “invented” mulled wine? Why? What’s supposed to go in it, and what type of wine should you use?  All the sites I found on the internet seemed to crib off each other. To distill it for you, basically mulled wine has been around as long as wine has been around. It warmed people up in winter (and some people said it was to make bad wine taste better – a winter version of Sangria, I suppose) as well as gave them something “healthy” to drink (because water – well, it wasn’t very clean “way back when”). It can be found in almost every European country, and is often called “boiled” or “burned” wine.  Of course, you don’t want to boil or burn the wine! (Boiling burns off all the alcohol.)


First off, start with a hearty red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel will work nicely. If you’re making enough for a crowd, use two bottles – pour into a non-reactive pan (or hey, use that crock pot you got for your wedding and has that thick layer of dust on it – make sure to clean it first). If just for two to four people, use one bottle. DON’T use the cheapest wine you can find (although if you must, go ahead…); but likewise, don’t waste an expensive bottle. Anything that you like the taste of non-heated should be fine.

Next, add the spices. This will totally depend on your tastebuds. I like two cinnamon sticks – hubby likes only one. I generally put six to a dozen whole cloves, and if I had allspice, I’d toss that in, too. You can add ginger – either 1/2 teaspoon grated, or a small slice; or you could put in 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (but fresh is much better). I’ve seen recipes that include cardamom pods, star anise, even bay leaves. Experiment!

Your next addition should be another liquid. Amounts kind of depend. You can add up to a cup of plain water, a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of apple cider; many recipes call for adding 4 ounces of brandy (some say cherry brandy).  I started with water; next time, I think I’ll add brandy AND some OJ.

Then comes the sweetener. The amount depends on how much wine you start with. So you can add anything from 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar to 1 and 1/4 cup of honey;  start on the stingy side, and taste as you go. Add more if you need to. My guess is if you’re using Agave syrup or Stevia for your sweetener, you can use them here, too; just be VERY stingy with your amounts until it’s where you want it.

Lastly comes the fruit. Whether or not you’ve already used orange or apple juice, you might want to add strips of orange zest or lemon zest; thin slices of orange and lemon; either in the pot, or in the bottom of the mug.

Let everything sit on low; either on the back of your stove, or in your crockpot. As the day goes on, the spices and the fruit really open up into the wine, and turn it into something magical. Plus, it leaves your house smelling really festive.

Recipe Heaven! Here are a couple of recipes, for those of you who don’t want to guess at amounts.


2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 1/4 cups honey, 4 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 cup sugar, 8 pieces cloves, 1 qt. strained fresh orange juice.

Cook to nearly boiling, then add 8 ounces brandy. Cut ingredients in half to serve six.

From Just Hungry:

1 bottle inexpensive yet tasty dry red wine, 2/3 cup of raw cane sugar or white sugar, or non-artificial sweetener of your choice, juice and peel of one small lemon, 2 cardamom pods, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks.

Put everything in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sitr to melt the sugar. Heat the mixture over low heat, and leave for about an hour; it should never boil, just sort of seethe. Serve in small mugs (straining out the peel and spices), with optional shot of brandy, kirsch or other liquor.

Of course, if you Google mulled wine, you’ll get a ton of recipes – but you have the basics with what I’ve given you here. Play around, and do share if you come up with a new, tasty mulled wine treat!

From my house to yours, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Come on back the day after Turkey Day, as I’m participating in a Black Friday Blog Hop!

~ 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?

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! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Get your copy today!