'Big Mac’s Mondays'

Pleasure seeking at Pla Boy Liquor

Drinking wine while lying in bed, flat on your back is messy and stains the sheets. And to make things worse, laughing about it just hurts.

Poor boy, He’s been laid out all week with back pain. Unfortunately, His spine isn’t the only thing suffering: so has our wine-blogging. There has been some drinking (of course), but after a few disastrous attempts at sipping wine and note-taking in bed, for Him it has since consisted of grimacing through shots of Jamesons in hopes of some pain relief.

I’ve been playing nurse as best as I can (and I really do hate to see Him suffer), but the truth is when I have a cute boy lying naked in my bed, feeding him soup and holding His hand isn’t really what I want to do.

This afternoon I got out of the house and took a walk around the neighborhood. Somehow I found myself at Pla Boy Liquor. Somehow. Okay, I was in the mood for a stiff…drink.

Actually, We’ve been talking about making Pla Boy the new Big Mac’s: wherein We buy wine from a (very unfancy) local liquor store in one of our neighborhoods. Big Mac’s Mondays was a super fun feature for Us on the blog, but since I’ve moved away from Silver Lake I haven’t found an equivalently scuzzy-yet-great corner liquor store near my new Hollywood digs. Shocking, but there aren’t a lot of liquor stores in the ‘hood.

Pla Boy is a candidate. First of all: the name. The puns seem deliciously endless (soft core neighborhood liquor store) and they actually have a pretty extensive wine selection (as well as malt liquor and canned cheese products). And I dig the Victorian flocked red velvet wallpaper (which is slowly peeling from the store’s walls). But there are some draw backs, like I wouldn’t go there after dark. Or maybe even at twilight. Despite the bullet proof glass  and the barbed razor wire around the parking lot, I get the opposite feeling of safety.

But this afternoon, in the bright Hollywood sunshine, Pla Boy seemed perfectly cheery and cheesy and just what I needed: boozy. I picked up a split of vodka and two bottles of cleverly-labeled wine. I decided that today would not be a big thinking, thoughtful slurping wine drinking kind of day, but rather a “I’ll buy this wine because it’s cheap and has clever packaging” kind day. And the vodka purchase was just because I really wanted a drink.

Back home, I’m sipping a V&T and looking at these two wines: White Wine Blend #1, Bear Flag, NV ($8.99) and Pinot Evil, Pinot Noir, vin de Pays de l’ile de Beauté, NV ($8.99). I may rouse Him from my bed and get Him to taste with me. Or I may just have a few slurps alone.

(Postscript: The Bear Flag website is worth clicking over to: it’s probably the best wine website I’ve seen. Eduardo Bertone’s art is terrific and has a Beautiful Losers quality that gets me excited. And if you haven’t seen Beautiful Losers–do so immediately.)

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Bordeaux a go-go

Alright, it’s Tuesday. We bought a bottle from Big Mac’s yesterday with the intention of popping it open and taking some notes. But then the neighbor came down to Her place with a bottle of Hendricks gin. We’re not just wine lovers, We like spirits too and couldn’t resist a couple of g&t’s. So We pulled the cork tonight on an inexpensive Bordeaux.

By way of background, four or five times a week We find ourselves at Big Mac’s, a neighborhood liquor store on Sunset Blvd. We’re not always shopping for wine ($14.99 for a big bottle of Skyy, oh my), but on Monday’s We make a point of it. The store fits the bill for our quest to learn about and taste accessible wine. (We’ve said this before, but it’s worth restating: We’re also regulars at the many local wine shops–and you should be too.)

We always keep price in mind when We pick out a bottle and this week We also decided to choose a Bordeaux, the area We are reading about in Zraly’s excellent book for beginners like Him: Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2009 Edition.

As usual, we follow a basic tasting method: swirl, smell, slurp…and savor.

Chateau Les Rosiers (Patrick Jolivet), 2005 ($8.99)

She said: It’s dark outside, where we’re tasting, so the color is a bit hard to distinguish. It’s dark and reddish and a bit translucent. On the nose I get currants and subtle wood, with a little bit of pepper and a chemically smell. Tannins are initially soft but linger long on the palate. Way more structure than I would expect from a Bordeaux of this class and price. And it’s the kind that I like: a bit taught with long lasting, tannic finish. Pepper again in the mouth. No real fruit characteristics, per se, but nothing flabby or soft about it. Really good value for the price. I’m impressed, I may buy a case of this. Can imagine all kinds of grilled meats and hearty flavored dishes with the wine as well as stinky cheeses. Makes me hungry.

He said: Like She said, it’s dark outside (and, I repeat, I’m colorblind) so I guess that this wine looks very red and probably opaque. On the nose I am getting very light strawberry, that chemical-balloon-y thing I still can’t pinpoint, sharpie/magic marker–it stings a little bit. In the mouth I get strawberry again and a little blackberry. The flavors are very light, I don’t find this to be a bold wine at all. Nothing is jumping out at me, soft tannins, easy to drink, not much aftertaste. Earlier this week I proclaimed that the cheap Bordeaux I was drinking paired well with Peanut Butter. I don’t know why, and my education in reds is just beginning. Whites are much easier for me to understand, but I really enjoy learning about (and drinking) reds. I initially thought this wine was very coy, and didn’t much care for it. But, it is opening up and I am liking it more and more.

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Hail a Cab?


Each Monday (well, nearly everyday, actually) We trek down the hill to our 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–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.

Granted, it’s Tuesday. Yesterday We were caught in a tropical downpour here in LA and too busy putting up tarps and moving outdoor furniture to higher ground. Her patio is now what He refers to as “The Shanty Café”. Also, We were really enjoying two days worth of Hot Buttered Rum Toddy Un-exact Whatevs.

Today She sent Him to Big Mac’s for a bottle of wine and some stopgap olive oil. He saw the weird shaped bottle of FFC’s Encyclopedia Cabernet Sauvignon for $9.99 and thought it would be the perfect bottle for a Big Mac’s Mondays. Away We go.

Francis Coppola Encyclopedia, Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux) 2006 ($9.99)

She Said: When He brought home the wine I thought it was a gigantic bottle of balsamic vinegar (to go with the olive oil that was also on the shopping list). Ugh, the packaging is bad, bad. Hideous, actually. And it’s hard to pour because the mouth is so big. But not to judge a wine by it’s looks…here’s the straight review. Color: deep purple, almost opaque but swirling shows it is fairly thin. Nose: burnt wood (American oak?), licorice, prunes, burnt raisins. Nothing bright or fresh about it. First sip: yuck. Just nothing going for it. Tastes stewed or cooked. No obvious fruit flavors. Light tannin in the finish but otherwise light bodied and very little structure. Could it be oxidized? Tastes like the bottle was unscrewed five days ago. Could only manage two slurps. The rest of the bottle is all His.

He Said: Deep purplish in color with anise, tart cherry and old wood on the nose. There is also a weird aroma, like someone getting a perm or dying their hair. Totally uncomplicated in the mouth, a little chalky with a nice level of tannin; hits me right away in the middle of my tongue and the top of my mouth. Kind of a weird hot aftertaste. I don’t love it and wouldn’t buy it again (and really couldn’t recommend it) but I don’t hate it at all. (Her first response when she took a sip was “Ugh!”. Ha! That’s for making me drink hot wet trash last week.)

Facts: From the FFC site: “From how it’s made and where it’s made to why we drink it when we do, wine is not just wine. With this in mind, our winemaking team traveled the world in search of varietals that best represent the culture and traditions of different winegrowing regions. Packaged in a custom shaped bottle with an oversized screw cap, Encyclopedia Wines begins a journey into understanding how geography, history, food and religion, to name a few, all determine how and why wine is made and enjoyed.” She says: whooey.

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Red-y to go

We’ve been hooked on bright, crisp whites for months. It’s easy to do this in L.A.; three days ago it was 75 degrees. We were sipping rosé poolside in December, I kid you not. But with the change in the weather (Storm Watch Winter 2009) it seems like the perfect time to move on to some reds.

As if He was reading my mind, yesterday He came over with a bottle of 100% Tempranillo Rioja by Viña Santurnia from Silverlake Wine. Truly delicious and a great buy for under $15.00.

Looking forward to trying a whole bunch more while We wait out the storm. Big Mac’s Mondays is going to be fun.

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Er, Sort of

This isn’t exactly Big Mac’s Mondays. We are still on vacation in Santa Cruz (Aptos, actually), but decided to go to the local liquor store to keep up our schedule. It’s a working vacation.

Deer Park Wine & Spirits is the local liquor store, but it is actually a little fancier than Big Mac’s. Unlike Big Mac’s, you cannot buy Wonder Bread, Folger’s in a can, Cheez-Whiz or Bubbleicious; although you can rent or buy a boogie board. And the Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuissé costs $5 more.

As for wine, We went for a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine reviewed is actually the 2nd SB we had today (or, actually, His 3rd…wink wink).

The first (second) SB was at Seascape Resort, but only after We tended to a tween boy who had just fallen from a bike and had apparently broken his wrist. We sat with him and told him funny stories while We waited for his mom to arrive and take him to the hospital. He was cute. Really cute. He said “Oh no, this is my writing arm.” We told stories about our own broken bones and to each story he replied with sympathy, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” And then he asked for Vicodin.

Anonymous, newly pubescent boy, whomever you are: get well soon.

For our kindness the resort gave Us each a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, bracing, refreshing. On the way back, We stopped at Deer Park Wine & Spirits to continue that taste profile. Our reviews of what We bought are below. As usual, We didn’t do any background research on picking out the wine…We just bought what we were in the mood for that wasn’t too pricey. Later We did a little internet snooping and provide a few facts about the winery after our reviews.

tangentTangent, Edna Valley, Paragon Vineyard, San Luis Obisbo, California. ($11.99)

She Said: Pale, yellow-green color; very bright and clear. On the nose: no hint of wood but smell grass, gooseberry, wet stones, and flint. The acid of the wine is apparent just in its smell: sharp and strong. The mouth is richer than I anticipated. There is a mild creaminess, but overall it is very characteristic (or what I think as being characteristic):  bracing acid, unripe pear, gooseberry, grass, lychee. No petrol. Has a New World profile. A really good value at $11.99. Seems perfectly suited for fish, etc., goat cheese, avoid cream or heavy butter. Had a second taste (or fourth or fifth) and sensed green apple, riper fruit flavors, pineapple, stone, mineral, asparagus, green bean–seems more fresh green veg than fruit. Keep thinking about it. And this means I like it… a lot.

He Said: Very clear-watery, gold-green color. On the nose it is very grassy with light citrus and some new carpet (edit: she says that is a chemical thing I am smelling and I also crossed out floral. In the mouth there are strong flavors of pineapple and gooseberry, It’s clear, crisp and tangy with very nice acidity, which all last for a nice minute in the aftertaste. All in all, a terrific SB for the price. If I was rating on pure value it would be a 4/5. I don’t think of this as a typical SB, I may not have guessed it instantly.

Facts: It’s easy to find out about Tanget, the winery has a slick, informative website that gives all kinds of facts and accolades.Their focus is “offering fresh, crisp and vibrant wines of true varietal character… [they are the] first California winery to focus solely on alternative white wines.”

About the winemaker: “Tanget wines are made by veteran winemaker Christian Roguenant, who brings more than 20 years of winemaking experience, encompassing many countries and five continents. Born in Burgundy and educated in Dijon, Christian cut his winemaking teeth on Champagne, then California sparkling wine…”

About the vineyard: “Both of our estate vineyards, Paragon and Firepeak, have earned the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyeard Certification. Farmed by our Pacific Vineyard Company, we have owned these vineyards since Jack Niven, the winegrape planting pioneer, began planting them in the early 1970s. Certification of these vineyards proves our collective commitment to environmental stewardship, economic viability, and equitable treatment of employees.”

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


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.)


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 Mondays: a Bordeaux Blanc Bargin

As We’ve posted in the past, an essential part of The Wine Education is buying and drinking simple and accessible wines. Luckily for Us, a favorite corner liquor store, Big Mac’s, offers a wide range of exactly these kinds of bottles (and a really good deal on Skyy vodka for when a martini is what you’re craving).

Each Monday We’ll be reviewing a wine purchased from Big Mac’s, following our basic tasting format. We’ll take note of the wine’s color, smell, taste, and finish and then add any other thoughts the wine evokes (She said: “Perfect for sipping poolside, lounging in a bikini in the hot sun.”)

Although We are studying specific regions and grapes, We tend not to read anything about particular bottles before We drink them–We want our reactions to be as honest as possible. But this information can be useful for comparison purposes and just getting some of basic facts of the wine, so We will provide some proprietary background information at the end of our own notes. (He said: “They say it smells like Tellicherry Black Pepper–what the hell does that smell like?”)

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux blanc (Baron Philipe de Rothschild) 2007. ($9.99)


She said: Clear and golden yellow in color. The nose is grassy, petrol, some cat pee, lemony citrus. In the mouth there is a slight frizzante sensation at the front of the palate. Flavors of grass, lychee, lemon again. No significant hints of oak. Rich in the mid palate and finish, giving it a nice mouthfeel. Very drinkable, strong acid, refreshing. The wine stood up to our spicy dinner.
Final slurp: A good value, refreshing, citrusy, and easy drinking wine of little complexity–don’t have to think about it too much, just drink it.

He said: Color, oh color.  It’s nighttime, I’m colorblind but I will guess yellow-gold. I get oak and butter on the nose.  Initially I am tasting butterscotch.  The acidity feels like the right amount, not overbearing.  Oops, eating a mouthful of roasted almonds makes concentrating on the taste of wine difficult.  Don’t do that again, though it went well together.  I get citrus in the finish with maybe a little sour apple.
Final slurp: This wine was always refreshing on warm summer days and nights, an excellent value.  Nice accompaniment to a light salad.  I like this wine.

Facts: Produced by the esteemed Bordeaux maker, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the Mouton Cadet is the brand’s less expensive, lower quality wine label. Cadet is the French term meaning “junior,” which is fitting for these declassified wines. In the America Mouton Cadet is distributed by Constellation Brands, the biggest distributor in the world. Bottomline: they make a lot of it, sell a lot of it, and make a lot of money. (Think: Donna Karan diversifying to DKNY–you can sell more jeans than couture.) The blend: 40% sauvignon blanc, 50% semillon, 10% muscadelle. Aged three to six months.

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