Articles from November 2009

Wine Web Wednesdays


domaine LA, a new store in Hollywood that has good design and wine, definitely in concert with our approach.

Will Blog for Blag.

McSweeney’s has a wine column, err, sort of.

The Future of wine writing: no we don’t want your job. Umm, but out of curiosity, how much does it pay?

Happy Chianti: Visual comparison of wine education in Italy and the US.

But do we get to kill anyone and steal their car? Another new wine video game.

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Note to Sine Qua Non: Next Time Provide Tools

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What a lovely package arrived in the mail today.

But…what’s this. Screws?

Hey there, wait a minute, Mr. Postman: how am I supposed to open this big box of wine?

It’s oh-so-pretty with it’s stars and fancy gothic type. And look, look– it comes with a rusty nail. Be careful. Don’t step on the box while barefoot: tetanus shot.

Must open, see pretty bottles.

But…where’s the screwdriver? Mine is buried behind my shoes or who knows where.

Open, open, open.

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Sauvignon Blanc, While It’s Still Hot

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Each Monday (well, nearly everyday, actually) We trek down the hill to a favorite neighborhood liquor store to buy a bottle or two. In our quest to learn about and taste wine that is accessible and inexpensive We’ve found Big Mac’s to be a great place to spend our money. (We’re also regulars at the many local wine shops in our neighborhoods–and you should be too.)

Here are our weekly tasting notes from a bottle purchased at Big Mac’s. Although We don’t do background checks, some facts about the wine can be useful, so We provide some notes at the end of our review. As usual, We follow a basic tasting method: swirl, smell, slurp…and savor.

We pick out bottles based on price and what We’re in the mood for. It was a hot afternoon–We went for something cool. (But it didn’t turn out to be that crisp.)

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Simi, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, 2007 ($12.99)

She said: Very pale and translucent appearance with a tinge of green in the yellow. No golden hue here. In the nose a hint of oak, suggesting some tropical flavors. If just smelling the wine would not guess sauvignon blanc–maybe something more floral from South America? In the mouth the wine is clean and fresh with a silky texture. Flavors of pear and light citrus, also some nuttiness and sharpness that reminds me of a young Parmesan cheese. There is a long finish with some tropical notes. The wood detected in the nose is not overwhelming in the mouth, but does say hello. This is not a style I typically go for in the grape, but it is pleasant. Lychee? Pair with shellfish (obvs) and maybe a bright, young goat cheese.

He said: Very clear yellow gold in color. On the nose I am getting lemon and candy. Maybe lemon Sweet Tarts and a Lemon Drop cocktail, and a hint of honey. Very high acid throughout, I can feel it in my nose. Apricot in the finish. Drinks just fine alone, but would be good with fish. All in all, an OK wine, I think I need to drink it again because the notes I have are a little vague. Which leads to a point: take good notes no matter what you think you will remember.

Facts: The history of Simi is interesting (no, they didn’t pay us to say this–but please, please: send free samples). The winery started in the late 1800′s in San Francisco by an Italian family that had immigrated to the United States during the Gold Rush. They soon bought land and moved to Healdsburg in Sonoma County. The founder’s daughter, Isabel, saw the winery through prohibition and there was a succession of women winemakers–a rarity at the time. Simi survived prohibition, but it forced the winery to sell off most of its vineyards. In 1970 Isabel sold the winery but continued to work there, influencing its practices and marketing. In the early 80′s Simi was sold again, this time to the big guys: LVMH. During the conglomerate’s ownership the winery began to buy back the land it had been forced to sell during tough times. LVMH sold what was now a famous label for $50 million in the late ’90′s to biggest wine distributor in the world: Constellation Brands. Once again, like the past wines we’ve had from Big Mac’s, this is a big hitter in terms production, popularity, and…making money.

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Big Mac’s Sommelier

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We have become so hooked on our local liquor store, Big Mac’s, that we have even become somewhat of experts on their wine selection. We were thrown a bit of a curve by the question about red wine; we don’t venture beyond the fridges much. Yet. It’s beginning to be red wine season.

The clerks at Big Mac’s are funny. We are 35 and 39 and we still get ID’d every time we go, which is every day. Also, any wine over $16.99, is greeted with a “Ah, that’s expensive!”

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Field Trip Fridays: Palm Springs Boozy, Not So Wine-y

Sometimes Field Trip Fridays last the whole weekend..We’ve just returned from a lazy, hazy, boozy three days in the desert oasis of Palm Springs.

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Our intentions (beyond relaxing in the sun and checking out all the Mid-Century Modern goodness) was to continue The Wine Education, but, it turns out, Palm Springs wasn’t a wine destination for Us.

Parched and hungry from the drive (wonderfully close, under two hours), our first stop was The Parker, a swanky, kitschy hotel just down the road from where We were staying. What to drink? The wine list offered at Norma’s, the hotel’s daytime dining spot, was tiny and uneventful.

Our choices limited, it was a mimosa for Him, Bloody Mary for me. The Bloody was spicy and delicious. The mimosa, not so much. The oj appeared to be from concentrate and the bubbly had a dull, indistinguishable flavor–our guess was an inexpensive Cava or Prosecco. The lunch itself was lovely and large. I asked to take my half eaten Lox and Bagel plate with me and was very disappointed to later discover they had only included the bagel–what’s the point of that?

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Surprised that a reputable boutique hotel would have such a mediocre wine list, I later looked up that of  their fine dining restaurant. I was delighted to see they had an excellent, somewhat eclectic selection. Was it not available at Norma’s?

Although the mimosa was middling, We were in good spirits–who cares, it was vacation. We drove down the road and checked into our hotel and were instantly charmed by The Ace. We surveyed our retro-camping-army/navy-chic room, unpacked, and headed out. He had read about a wine shop downtown that was supposed to be good–we needed supplies.

PS Wine gets positive, three and four star reviews on Yelp, but We found it dark and depressing. The wine selection was nice (included some favorite California producers like Paul Hobbs and Patz and Hall), but the sports on tv, upended tables and chairs, and bizarre displays (like the Cupcake Vineyards rack featuring a gigantic plastic cupcake) turned Us off. We politely browsed and then got back out into the Palm Springs sunshine.

Next stop: a liquor store. We decided to follow Julia Child’s advice who, when asked what was her favorite wine, replied “gin.” It was a big bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur for Us. A bartender told me once it was gin for beginners, but I love its limey and smooth flavors.

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We drove around a bit and then got back to the hotel for some relaxing and gin drinking, poolside. The sun went down, the temperature cooled and We opted for dinner in our cool room–delicious burgers while watching the Lakers (sadly) lose a basketball game.

The next day We planned our architecture and design tour over breakfast at a popular spot downtown: Pinocchio’s. The place is lively, loud, and friendly. We recognized several (and equally hungover) fellow Ace Hotel-ers. And…Hello, what’s this: $3.95 bottomless “Champagne.” I mixed my “fresh squeezed” from concentrate grapefruit juice into the overly sweet Wycliffe sparkling wine and had a few palatable glasses from the screwcap bottle.

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Breakfast itself is basic diner fair. Nothing fancy, just good.

After breakfast We had a terrific self-guided architecture tour of the city. (See the pictures posted at our design site’s blog.)

We got back to hotel mid-afternoon for more poolside lounging (and gin and naps). Then it was time to clean up (what, oh what to wear– yes all those choices and for our two night stay).

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We were off to Viceroy, another sweet boutique hotel, for dinner. This time We planned on ordering a nice bottle of wine. But again We we’re not wowed by the selection, especially since they were out of our first two choices. We settled on a bottle of Casa LaPostelle Merlot from Chile. We did not take notes, We did argue about Mid-Century Modern architecture and wolf down our delicious meal.

The next morning came too soon. We turned on some football and hastily packed. For breakfast it was The Ace’s own King’s Hwy, which looks like a fancy Howard Johnson’s (which it actually was) with way better fare. We drank water. After the great meal We hit the road and headed back to the normal daily slice of paradise in Silverlake. It was a terrific trip. Next time we’ll try harder on The Wine Education. And there is definitely going to be a next time. Very soon.

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(A Post Script: Coincidently NotCot was staying a few doors down from us…she has some great pictures of The Ace on her site. Check them out.)

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It’s the Little Things

Serving wine is harder than slurping it. No matter how terrific the place, the staff, and the wine we’re slurping these three things put a damper on my tasting experience:

  1. The server nor the wine list should tell me what a wine smells or tastes like before I’ve had the chance to decide on my own.
  2. White wine should not be served ice cold–how am I deduce the above?
  3. Water should not come with ice cubes and/or garnish unless requested. The point is no flavor.

Petty? Not meant to be. Just three little pet peeves that I usually forget after the first few sips anyway.

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Field Trip Fridays: Culver City Crawl

We typically enjoy wine at our homes, at friends’, or at a handful of our favorite dining spots. It’s a routine we love, but we decided we should branch out–there’s a whole lot of wine to drink out there and a whole bunch of places to slurp it. And it’s a perfect excuse for Field Trip Fridays.

Last Friday we did a Culver City crawl, starting at Bottle Rock. It was about 2p when we got there and the place only had two other tables occupied. The interior is a bit stark and reminded Her of a chain restaurant, like Chili’s or Red Lobster or something like that (not that she has ever been to those places); a bit too clean and generic. But the server was all smiles and sunshine and immediately made us feel welcome and let us know how the place works. It’s really a great idea: Bottle Rock will open any bottle they sell and serve it by the glass, you just have to order two glasses. Cameo (our sunny server) also offered to discount wines which had been opened the night before. We enjoyed two different whites (reviews below), a delicious butter lettuce salad with candied kumquats (misspelled on their menu), a good truffle grilled cheese sandwich (more truffles, please), and a Reuben (Her first ever).

We moved down the street to Ford’s Filling Station. It was the first time either of us had been there. She knows Ben Ford from way back when he was a newbie at Campanile and sees him at the Farmer’s Market. The place is very comfortable, like the hotel lobby of western hotel, complete with upright piano. Were we on the set of Deadwood? The menu looked really delightful, be we were still stuffed from Bottle Rock sandwiches. We decided bubbly would be perfect and enjoyed a glass of Schramsberg. Refreshing. We didn’t take notes, we just sipped and smiled.

Next door is Fraiche, but unfortunately (and why, why?) they close in between lunch and dinner service. So we stopped in at Kay ‘n Dave’s, a Mexican joint down the street. Time to regroup…with a margarita. It was happy hour, after all. And how good did those free, warm chips and a delicious fresh salsa taste. The bartenders were incredibly nice and eager to keep the tequila coming. We indulged in a few and then decided a walk around the neighborhood would do us some good.

On the drive back to the Eastside She said, “Wouldn’t caviar be nice? Let’s go to the Hungry Cat.” So we did. It was early still (how could this be? felt like mindnight) so there were stools available at the bar. Danielle is one of our favorite bartenders in L.A. and lucky for us–she was there. Oh, the greyhounds are gorgeous. We started with this refreshing cocktail and moved on to a carafe of Muscadet to compliment the caviar. We were feeling good. This is a nice ritual we’re starting, Field Trip Fridays.

Saturday morning came too soon. Advil was consumed. Here’s what we tasted:

Maipe Torrontés, Salt, Argentina 2007 $27/9 (Bottle Rock)

She said: The  color is a pale yellow with a hint of green. Very tropical in the nose. If the tasting was blind I would have guessed a viognier, marsanne, roussanne blend. No significant hints of oak, but the fullness and richness of nose and mouthfeel may indicate it. Lovely tropical flavors of mango, guava, and pineapple, some peach. Ultimately light and refreshing on the palate although I initially thought it would be too cloying. Nice long finish–really a lovely wine.

He said: Very apparent pineapple on the nose, but I think I “forgot” to look at the color.  I wonder why?  Light tropical flavors and full-bodied in the mouth. I’m also getting some vanilla and something flowery. To my knowledge, this is my first taste of this grape. Getting a long finish in my mouth (that’s what she said).  I have “nice” written twice in my notes.  You would think I never studied architecture; if you ever said “nice”, “good”, or “I like it” in a presentation it was suicide.  “Nice” means absolutely nothing when you review your notes, I need to know why I thought it was “nice”.  Anyhow, I liked it, it was nice and good. 

Sans Liege, “Cotes du Coast,” 2006 $34/11 (Bottle Rock)

She said: Very golden and rich in color. Tons of peach and heft in front palate. Finish not as long as I would think for such umpf up front. Oak on nose and everywhere. Not very well balanced–a bit too rich in the mouth with a lack of acid, but this is characteristic of the blend. When comparing to the Maipe Torrontés, prefer the Argentinian wine.

He said: I have an inexplicable aversion to Viognier. I don’t mind the taste so much, there is just something about the feeling that reminds me of drinking Boone’s Farm in the late 1980′s. Like maybe I’m going to have a fucking piercing migraine very soon.  But I refuse to give up on it, because I hear people rave about it. I got a lot of peach on the nose.  In the mouth I can definitely make out the Viognier, plus peach and pear.  The other grapes balance it, but still very sweet, bring on the headache.

Muscadet, Domaine de la Pépiére, 2007 $31/16/8 (The Hungry Cat)

She said: Took no notes but ordered it purposefully to go with shrimps and caviar. Which I think I remember it did. Of course it did–it’s a crisp, dry, stony white. That goes down really easy.

He said: Did we go to The Hungry Cat?  This was after many bottles of wine, some bubbly, a margarita or few… I may have to review this wine later because I have no notes or taste recollection.  The trials and tribulations of having a wine blog; sometimes you get really drunk.

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This One Isn’t Fair

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Were you mad at me when you made this quiz?  I feel like I haven’t learned any of this yet.  Really?  The four grapes of Alsace and the grapes of Sauternes?  I might need some help from our readers in the comments.

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Wine Web Wednesdays


Bottles on the table at our favorite restaurant.

We agree, stop saying “trading down”.

The natural wine dialog continues via texting and tweeting.

Hey, nice package.  And nice typography.

Phonetic wine labeling:  we reel-e luv this deezine.

Tastemaker George Cossette:  Our favorite neighborhood pusher.

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Here’s Another One For You, Smarty

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(Correct answers are in the Comments of His response.)

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