'wines of note'

Wines of Note: Last Rites

Despite all the wine and liquor We enjoy each week, my recycling bin has virtually no glass in it. I’m not a bad, anti-green citizen: all plastic gets recycled (tonic water, various juices, and other plastic encased mixers are regular visitors to the bin). And all fruit and vegetable waste gets composted. (Limes are of particular popularity in the compost pile.) The lack of glass is because We don’t recycle empty bottles…We plant them upside down in my back yard.  Slowly a beautiful, Gaudi-esque border for the plants and pathways is emerging in what was a big dirt patch.

If there is a particular bottle of wine We especially enjoyed We’ll hold back the empty, as a reminder to write about it on Swirl. Needless to say, as Our posts have slowed the last couple of months but our consumption has not, there are quite a few empties littering my kitchen, waiting for their time to shine as “Wines of Note…” Here are four to mention before they get the burial treatment:

White X, North Coast, XWinery 2009 (sample, winery sells for $14.99):

An interesting blend (49% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Albarino, 20% Muscat Blanc, 6% Chardonnay) that offers both refreshing acidity, with limey, grassy notes but also a very lush, tropical palate. He enjoyed its richness (likely from the Muscat Blanc and Chardonnay), favoring wines that are not overly acidic. I found it a little unrefined, but highly enjoyable and food friendly. Ripe apricots, tropical flowers, and zing of citrus. We both agreed the price was right and it was a great match for the salmon roasted with veggies We made for dinner. Despite the fact We think their label design is a bit meh (nice type, but the mosaic is hokey), We’re endeared to XWinery. They are doing cool things philanthropically, practice sustainability in the vineyard and winery, and seem like overall good corporate citizen and folks. These things matter.

Beaujolais Blanc, Jean-Paul Brun 2009 ($16.99 at domaineLA)

If you’re friends with Us on Facebook you no doubt have seen a few pictures of His very new, very mod, very awesome Vespa. Suddenly quick trips to the store are so much fun…and He’s always volunteering to pick something up on the way over. The other day He showed up with a bottle of white from a favorite local wine shop, domaineLA. After a tough day of riding around in the sun with a buddy (who happens to have a matching bike–so cute), He was ready for a glass of wine. We popped it open and wow, it was great. The chardonnay is unoaked but there is an almondy toastiness on the nose with peaches and fragrant blossoms. Nice structure (no flabbiness here) with that licking-a-wet-stone minerality I really enjoy. A delightful, complex wine, making $17 a great price. (It’s worth noting that over the years winemaker Jean-Paul Brun has gotten all kinds of flak from the French government for making wine the way he wants to. We say: eff The Man, keep on doing what you do.) A bonus: Jill at domaineLA made Him customer-of-the-day. Vespa/wine/helmet hair glamor shot here.

Riesling, Helfrich 2008 (sample, retails for about $12)

An enjoyable dry Riesling (and the end to his Riesling phobia?). Fragrant, grapey and somewhat musty nose leading to ripe pear, peach, golden delicious apple ––late summer/early fall fruit flavors that is aromatic and full without being overwhelming. A backbone of minerals keeps the fruit from becoming overly cloying and gives the wine a nice long finish. Hints of spice and ginger add some complexity, but overall the wine is on the easy drinking simple side. Enjoy it, don’t ramble on about it (so I won’t). Priced right at $12.

Grüner Veltliner, “Lois,” Fred Loimer 2009 (sample, retails for about $12)

We drank a lot of Grüner over the hot summer months–it’s perfect quencher on a scorcher day, generally inexpensive but of good quality, great with oysters and seafood (which We eat a lot of), and when at a restaurant/bar with a sketchy wine list, usually a sure thing. But why is it a restaurant/bar with a sketchy wine list? Is Grüner going through its Pinot Grigio phase wherein as the popularity of the wine grows, the quality suffers? Our non-scientific poll says: Yes. Increasingly We’ve been tasting Grüners that lack freshness and structure. The Lois bucks the trend, remaining affordable and highly drinkable. It is sprtizy, limey, minerally, “fun” wine. Lots of grapefruit, some unripe pear, and a fresh, clean finish. Twelve bucks is the right price.


Wines of Note: When Raccoons Attack!

Sadly the kiddie pool We so enjoyed during the last LA heatwave has succumbed to the raucous ways of the critters of the Hollywood Hills. Let’s hope they enjoyed it as much as We did. Before my backyard was flooded with a gazillion gallons of water (upside: I didn’t have to water for a couple of days), We did enjoy another couple of bottles of Albariño while floating around in it. (We had so much fun with the Paco in the Pool post, We thought it worthy of a repeat.)

We donned our swimming costumes, popped open two different bottles from Rias Baixas that We had received as samples, and gave them a taste test while floating around in the somewhat ridiculous, but highly satisfying kiddie pool. Both wines were divine.

I’ve had several vintages of Martin Códax Burgáns Albariño over the years and have found it consistently delicious and well priced at around $ 15. The 2009 was bright and clear with a golden hue. It was very fruity in the nose and I sensed Granny Smith apple and almonds. The wine has high acid, but is round in structure. Lots of minerals, very crisp and refreshing on the palate. A long, lingering finish. I enjoy it when a wine, like this one, is lush and round, but also tangy and acidic. I’ve noticed Albariños are becoming increasingly popular (especially in these summer months) on wine shop shelves. This one is easy to find, the right price, and lovely, year after year.

Although I am familiar with several of the wines in Eric Solomon’s book, I had never tried the Pazo de Senorans Albariño. In general I think of Albariños as being an excellent bargain, but this wine is priced at $25 a bottle. What distinguishes it from others? In color the wine is similar to the Burgáns: bright and golden in hue. The nose is more floral and tropical. I sensed lemon curd, almonds, and honeysuckle. Lots of minerals again and a soft, round structure with the tang of acid. The Pazo de Senorans offers a greater concentration and almost syrupy quality with a long lingering finish that I loved. Truly wonderful. I would pay $25…and hope to very soon. Researching where to buy this wine in L.A. now.

With the pool now in the recycling bin, We will be enjoying crisp wines on hot days while sitting in loungers under an umbrella, rather than while floating in the water. Oh well. There’s always the spray of the hose for a quick cool down.

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Wines of Note: Paco in the Pool

We had a little (umm, big) heatwave here in Hollywood over the past few days. On Thursday We decided to get a pool for Her backyard. It’s part of the California Dream right? Movie stars and a pool in every backyard. This pool is decidedly less glamorous than the imaginary Hollywood idea, but it has done the trick. When We got back from the inflatable-above-ground-36-inches-deep pool store, there was a package waiting for Us on Her porch.

We knew it was wine, and We were really hoping for a nice refreshing white. Thankfully it was and We were anxious to get water in the pool and wine in Our mouths; counting on the wine being chilled by the time we got 1018 gallons of water in the pool.

The bottle was aesthetically pleasing; a nice, fun design. We also appreciated the detail of the cork being screened to match the perforated appearance of the bottle. Now it’s time to float around in our silly inter-tubes (with cup holders, of course) in our silly pool and drink some wine. Finally some relief.

Albarino, Rias Baixas, Paco & Lola 2009 (sample, retails for around $18)

She said: A delightful, refreshing hot-day-floating-in-the-kiddie-pool wine. The initial mineral-infused sips lead to rich peach blossom, honeydew melon, and citrus notes. There is an ever present acidity throughout, without which I think the wine would fall apart, but its presence holds everything together and kept me sipping. If P&L retailed for five or six bucks cheaper I’d buy it by the case for the kiddie-pool days (aka: everyday since I bought it). 

He said: A pretty intense nose from which I would have a difficult time pinning down the varietal. Definitely citrus, some floral notes and some green apple. A nice minerality and then peaches in the mouth. Very nice, crisp acidity. Nothing spectacular, but a very refreshing drinkable wine that We finished in less than 45 minutes, whilst floating around the pool. We were thirsty.

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An Evening of International Delights

Date night: a meal (pseudo-Indian), a movie (Italian), and a bottle of wine (Spanish).

To stay in or go out? Despite the innumerable options in Our fine city, We chose the former, opting for an evening at my sweet Hollywood home.

What to eat? In my scrappy home-chef kind of way I opened opened the cupboards, riffled through the refrigerator, plucked some things from the garden, and got to work. Onions, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, cumin seed, and thyme were sauteed in olive oil. We added leftover Indian take-out (Rajma and Dal Makhni), grilled sausage-less sausages, jasmine rice, fresh corn from the garden (whose cobs looked like a hillbilly’s teeth), and a box of vegetable stock (a staple I always have for these “I’ll just make soup” occasions). The result was an amazingly fragrant stew.

What to drink? Something rich and red seemed appropriate. We received a random sample a couple of weeks ago: a Tempranillo by Campo Viejo. We popped open the bottle while the stew was stewing. He took a deep sniff and declared His love for the grape. “This is one of those wines I can tell what it is just by smelling it.” I love this. For a novice wine drinker I think being able to differentiate between grape varieties is a wonderful “aha” moment. We poured a bit into the stew, served it up with a dollop of Fagé yogurt and headed to the sofa.

What to watch? Netflix had delivered L’Eclisse to my door that day, a film I had last seen as a moody teenager. The specifics were gone from my memory, but I remembered thinking Antonioni’s world was one I wanted to live in, despite its despondent themes (lovers exhausted in their relationship, the stock market crashing, urban isolation). It is beautifully shot, emphasizing the stark landscape of Rome’s modern architecture. Monica Vitti is a stunning beauty and wears a perfect little black dress. Longing looks, platinum hair, and the deep dark eyes of Alain Delon. Yes, please.

We feasted, We sipped, We watched. Before delving into, er, dessert We jotted a few notes about the wine:

Rioja, Campo Viejo 2006 (sample, retails for about $8.99)

She Said: Deep rich ruby color. On the nose an earthy woodsy-ness, red fruit, some vanilla. The flavors remind me of a blueberry bush and the earth it’s planted in: funky a bit sweet. Dusty tannins, and a sharp acidity which leads to a warm, rather flabby mouthfeel. Enjoyable, but not great. For the price (the $8.99, not the free sample price), seems like a good bargain. But I would go for a young Bordeaux with more structure, tannin, and fresher flavors.

He said: Very nice nose of dark fruit, spice and light vanilla. Earthy, spicy and flavors of dark fruit in the mouth. It has that certain spice that I am really starting to associate (and love) with Spanish reds. The finish is long, creamy and the vanilla shows up again. Medium-bodied with wood throughout and tannins that were a bit much in the first few sips but mellowed as the wine opened up. My love affair with Spanish wine continues and this bottle is a great value for $9.

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Wines of Note: Way to go, Trader Joe

We were pretty sure that Trader Joe’s picks their store locations based on three factors: dense neighborhoods, terrible parking lots, and difficult left-hand turns into said parking lots. And then…We went shopping at the Sunset 5 location. Wow. A left hand turn signal off Sunset, pull into the large parking garage and simply drive down to the third level. Spots galore. The elevator takes you directly into the store (and is decorated with original album covers from the 80′s. Aw…John Cougar Mellencamp was so cute.)  And where is everybody? There have been maybe ten people shopping the three or four times We’ve been there. Shhh…don’t tell anybody, but this store is a dream. Wide aisles, friendly staff, $9.99 Vodka, beautiful California grown tulips, and those meatless Italian sausages She likes so much. TJ’s is not our go to wine place ($6.99 Prosecco is usually the extent of our purchases), but being lazy shoppers We’ll each pick up a bottle or two when shopping. The prices are usually so reasonable it seems like a low risk.

The other night, post an awesome Trader Joe’s shopping experience, We cooked an impromptu dinner at Her place, popped open a bottle of cheap red, and watched the NBA playoffs: our beloved Lakers vs. the dreaded Utah Jazz. The evening was a delight on all fronts (up 3-0, suckers). Here’s the wine We thoroughly enjoyed:

Monastrell, Albero 2008 ($5.99)

She said: Deep brownish ruby in color. Plums, coffee, and a faint chemically whiff of something on the nose. In the mouth the wine is very fresh with nice bright acid. Dark cherries, some Mexican chocolate spice, soft and chalky texture. Went great with the spicy Penne a la Vodka We made for dinner (when in doubt: add booze!). Had half a glass the next day and the wine had kept it’s structure and the chemical-like smell in the nose had blown off. An incredible bargain at $5.99. Perfect casual drinking while eating boozy pasta and enjoying the Lakers kick the Jazz’ ass–it’s that kind of wine. Because of the low price and high drinkability:

He said: Also, it’s worth noting that there is a Fugazi sticker on the managers station at this TJ’s. How awesome is that? Ok, the wine. Deep, dark red in color. Red fruit, coffee and spice on the nose. Something chemically here too (strange for an organic wine?). The mouth is pepper, bell pepper, dark cherries and spice. Soft, medium bodied, light tannins and a nice balance of acid. I can’t believe this is a $6 bottle of wine. I think it’s fantastic. Very drinkable wine and for the value it’s a steal. It probably isn’t as great a bottle as the other wines I have rated 4/5, but based on value:

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Wines of Note: Our 150th Post

Before We became so focused on Our United Slurps of America project, Our wine consumption was roughly 50% France, 45% California and 5% everywhere else. Over the past few weeks, France and California have been replaced with places like Kentucky and Iowa. While We have mostly enjoyed the wines We have tasted from these lesser known wine-producing states, We are both thirsty for Our go-tos.

While grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, She picked up several bottles of wine and some whiskey, vodka, and gin. The check-out chick asked Her if She was having a party or just stocking up. The question confused Her, as the answer was neither.

After having the Gruet for our NM post, We were curious to taste a California counterpart. Having lived in Yountville for years, She has consumed copious quantities of the local sparkler, Domaine Chandon, so We chose a Sonoma bubbly. And, oh to have some red Bordeaux…

Sonoma Brut, Gloria Ferrer NV ($19)

She said: Pale translucent yellow with fine bubbles. On the nose: yeast, golden delicious apples, hint of vanilla, hazelnuts. Has flavors of Granny Smith apple, lemon, pear, and a hint of lychee. The finish is long and creamy, like lemon curd. No overwhelming sensations of yeast or toast in the finish, but rather clean and citrusy fresh. Lovely and light, like a Spring day.

He said: Little bubbles give way to scents of Apple, pear and white grapes. Crisp, getting flavors of raisin. Long, tongue-numbing finish. Still not the best at articulating my sparkling wine notes. I’m able to note if I love or hate a Champagne or sparkling wine, and this one for me is neither of us. It’s a just-fine, drinkable bottle.

Médoc, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, Château Meric 2007 ($10)

She said: Very opaque purple garnet color. On the nose a hint of eucalyptus, tar, mushroom, and sour blackberries. The wine tastes very fresh and has obvious but unobtrusive acid. Fresh berries, licorice, long finish with vanilla, soft tannin, cassis. There is a slight sharpness that lingers in the mouth (burnt wood?) but other than this an elegant wine. Would be excellent with grilled meats. A terrific bargain and a very worthy everyday-whenever-right now table wine.

He said: Very dark and purpley. On the nose there is vanilla, cherry, toast, blackberry, maybe some butter and floral (almost soapy) notes. Light tannins and a creamy vanilla-tinged feel and taste in the mouth. Not a super heavy or full wine, but hints of fruit with a little too much heat in the finish. Yeah, it has a strange finish. Despite the finish, this is a very nice wine for 10 bucks.

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Wines of Note: Guerrillas in Our Midst

First thing first, how beautiful are the Wine Guerrilla labels. We know…pretty surfaces say nothing about the juice inside, but really, you can’t help but ooh and ahh over the dreamy, feminine Paul Klee-inspired paintings of semi-nude muses. And such lovely images for a grape that is often described as meaty, over-bearing, too alcoholic, masculine. Are the clever folks at Wine Guerrilla trying to tell us a different story?

Recently We enjoyed two different Wine Guerrilla zins over a perfectly grilled sirloin with a few friends. The smokiness of the meat and the deep, earthy, dark berry flavors of the wine were a fantastic compliment. We didn’t take notes, but a common comment was, “Is there more wine?”

No, We answered, secretly holding back two bottles to taste side by side, in a more serious-taking-notes setting. We were curious if We could taste the difference between two wines from the same region: Dry Creek Valley. One of the wines was labeled as such and the other from “Cofffaro Vineyards, Old Vines.” We asked our wine novice friend G Zamora to taste with Us. Or rather, he asked to be a part of our tasting.

A cool thing about Our young friend Zamora is his openness to trying new things…especially booze. Lately he’s been exploring wine. Just a few months ago he brought a bottle of Jameson’s to a party, but the last two gatherings it’s been wine. And not wine from the corner store (although We have nothing against this…Hello, Big Mac’s Mondays), but from a wine shop. Not only that, He asked for help with selecting a wine. This can be intimidating stuff for a young man who up until a year ago drank nothing but Corona Light and will probably be carded for another decade. Needless to say, We said, Of course…taste with Us.

So here are Our takes on two zinfandels, both from Dry Creek Valley, both from Wine Guerrilla, both FANTASTIC (oops…spoiler).

Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Wine Guerrilla 2008 (sample, retails for about $22)

She said: The color is deep, opaque purple-y garnet. On the nose blackberry juice with a hint of spice and wood. Quenching with medium tannin. Not hot, despite the 15.7% alcohol, rather the wine is fresh and lively and also not over burdened by fruit. Some tar and coffee with the tartness of raspberry and boysenberries. Really terrific and easy to drink alone, but imagine it would be a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats and be a good food wine in general. Greatly enjoyed it.

He said: Deep purple, glassy and opaque. Much more zing and fruit on the nose than the “Old Vine” reviewed below. Cherry, earth, tobacco, cola, cedar and tar on the nose. In the mouth it’s tart and a little chalky. Like the “bottlecaps” candy. Also some wood texture, like chewing on a toothpick and a waxy lipstick-y feeling and taste, even. Really good.

Zamora said: It’s a purpley-red color. The smell is more fruity than the old, but is still intense. It was light and easy.

Zinfandel, Coffaro Vineyards “Old Vine,” Dry Creek Valley, Wine Guerrilla 2008 (sample, retails for about $35)

She said: The color is identical to me to the Dry Creek, but in the nose has more intense blackberry flavors, like a syrup to pour over pancakes; also cassis and cedar. On the palate there is intense fruit in the beginning that leads to medium/high tannin–lots of structure. Some bramble/earthy flavors mixed with blueberries, mushroom, and vanilla bean. Really great, again. Not sure I prefer one over the other, but they are different: the straight Dry Creek is more fresh, the Coffaro more mellow and earthy. Both a delight.

He said: Same color as the above. Cola, maybe prune juice-Dr. Pepper, earthy, cherry and musty on the nose. (I also agree with Her on the pancake syrup.) In the mouth it’s creamy cola with a little vanilla. This one is 15.6% alcohol, but not high heat. I can, however, feel it on the roof of my mouth which I burned on pizza at the W Hotel last night. Full-bodied, tannins throughout with some weight on the mid-palate. Really, really good.

Zamora said: The same purpley-red. At first smell was just intense. Later the smell reminded me of butterscotch. The taste reminded me of incense. It tingled the tip of my tongue.

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Wines of Note: not lost in translation

Poor boy, He’s sitting in some bland, beige windowless room with seventy-four strangers waiting to not get picked for jury duty. Or hoping not to get picked. I had to dissuade Him from wearing the vintage NWA t-shirt to the courthouse. Although it is the 15 year anniversary of Easy-E’s death, so I guess it would be appropriate. (R.I.P. Easy.)

He gave me permission to look through His notebooks for a Wines of Note post. Must admit this made me a bit giddy–love the voyeurism of looking through other’s notebooks. The thing is He has about nine Moleskine notebooks lying around my house that are half written in and I ended up having to look through them all to find the right tasting notes. I just had to look through them all. And I totally got distracted. And then I started Tweeting and Facebooking about it. And then I felt guilty.

But not so guilty that I stopped snooping, er…reading. The tasting notes were finally found. Let the translating begin (my architecting boyfriend does not have architect handwriting).

We reviewed two wines from Penns Woods Winery in our first United Slurps of America post, Pennsylvania edition. We held back the bottle of Traminette We received to taste at a later date. It was a grape neither one of Us had heard of and We both felt a bit apprehensive.

Our USA co-blogger Joe Roberts of 1WineDude had a nice story about the wine: “I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees…Gino [winemaker] told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing…I was like “Gino… if you were trying to make a simple wine, you failed spectacularly. This is one of most complex takes on Traminette I’ve ever tasted – you’re INCAPABLE of making a simple wine, man!!!” We had a good laugh over that.”

We were intrigued.

Traminette, Penns Woods 2008 (sample)

She said: Golden yellow, bright and clear. On the nose there is honeysuckle, plumeria, and hay. Or is that wheat? Complex. Rich up front: creamy and lush. Taste oyster shell and minerals. Very dry in the finish–long and lean with great acid. I love the mix of sensations and flavors. Beautiful wine.

He said: Bright gold in color. Strong scent. Minerally with some stardust [? hard to read]. Fruit. Like a German Dunkel. Shells-oyster-y, minerally. Floral wheat beer. No heat. Good acid. 11%…nice and refreshing. Not a “get drunk” wine. [He didn't leave a rating.] [Him here, editing from the courtroom, is this legal?] I give it a

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] What a terrific surprise this wine was. We regret We didn’t include it in the USA: PA edition, but sometimes delayed satisfaction is a good thing.

And now for a red. We recently received a package from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Included were some promo material and a nice note which asked Us to wait two weeks before tasting the wine to allow the bottles to recover from travel. We’ve both had jetlag, but that seemed like an awfully long time to acclimate. We’ve wanted to uncork the bottles several times, but waited. We lasted ten days.

Pinot Noir, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Wilamette Valley Vineyards 2007 (sample, retails for around $40)

She said: Translucent brownish ruby in color–quite thin. On the nose lots of dark cherry, ripe plums, pomegrante, raspberries and some spice (allspice?). On the palate most of the power is in the finish; very quiet upfront and then kind of explodes with flavor. Subsequent sniffs also reveal some mintiness. The tannins are soft. There is a fresh acidity, keeping the wine bright. Really enjoy it–glad We opened it four days early and wish We had more. (To help me pinpoint the flavors I wrote in my notes “what it is NOT: meaty, earthy, syrupy, tar, too tight, bacon, tobacco.”)

He said: Dark-like cherry juice with a deep red transluscense [sic]. Nose: tart cherry cola. Graham Cracker. Mouth fresh bread [draws arrow to space before "Graham Cracker"]/pastry. Tart. Graham Cracker. Pomegranate. Spice throughout. Maybe some cinnamon/nutmeg. Plum. Juicy. One of my fav PN’s I have ever tasted. I want more.

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] The back label of the WVV pinot is one the best We’ve seen. No tasting notes are provided (a pet peeve of both of Us–We can make our own decisions, thank you), rather there is technical info, an offer for a 10cent refund when the bottle is returned to the winery, and symbols indicating that the winery is sustainable, Salmon Safe, and part of LIVE: low input viticulture and eneology. Not only do We admire the pro-environment aspect of this, all that information is presented in a clean, easy to read grid. Nice work.

(Side note: the pictures above are not of the wine We reviewed, but they are from the winery’s website. I couldn’t find any good bottle shots and got sick of searching the internet. And also…a plea: Wineries, offer Hi Res bottle shots on your website. We’re not singling Penns Woods or Wilamette Valley Vineyards out–so many miss out on this opportunity to have pretty pictures of their wines on display here. Thank you, your fans He and She.)

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Wines of Note: wowsa Washington

Unlike other states We’ve encountered (We’re talking about you: Florida and South Dakota), when We were searching for wine for the United Slurps of America: Washington edition there was no shortage of appealing bottles to be found locally here in Hollywood. So much so, that She bought five different wines even though We had arranged with DrinkNectar.com to taste only two. Impulse buys.

While at the time the big purchase seemed excessive (although there was never a doubt the wine would go to waste, duh) We’re both happy to have had the extra bottles to taste, especially in light of our only so-so reviews for USA: WA.

We knew the state could shine and these two examples did just that. Right on, Washington.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Fidélita 2006 ($21.99)

She said: Deep, nearly opaque garnet. Licorice, baker’s cocoa, sandalwood, and deep berry fruit in the nose. Luscious, velvety mouthfeel. Flavors of dark cherry, licorice, cocoa, hint of tar and black olive. Very ripe, but maintains its balance by remaining both bright and earthy. Truly delicious and elegant. I love it–very sexy stuff. And for $21.99 it feels like a bargain–watch out premier Napa cabs.

He said: Opaque and Kevin Garnet. Licorice, dark fruit and something minty in the nose. So creamy and good in the mouth. Dark cherry and licorice. Really, really like it and will buy more of this.

Subplot No.23, Columbia Valley, Bookwalter Winery NV ($13.99)

She said: Deep garnet with a translucent edge. On the nose: red currants, some brambly earthiness. Also reminds me of a warm Dr. Pepper– a kind of cola/spice blend of sweetness. The wine has really nice acidity, making it fresh and bright. Dried flowers (not rose, but maybe violet and lavender) candied cherries, unripe plums–the flavors are fruity and lively. On the finish there is lingering cocoa powder, giving it great texture and flavor. Very enjoyable, not overly serious. With it’s nice acidity imagine it as a great food wine–from pizza to bbq. Another nice deal too.

He said: This one is more Paul Pierce than Garnet. Dirty, in a good way, on the nose, with some spice. I was thinking “cola” and just read that She said “Dr. Pepper” and I couldn’t agree more. Flavors of plum and prune. A nice acidic finish. I really like this one too, and for $13.99 it’s a steal.

We said: As an aside: Great packaging. Both bottles are one of the few that We don’t immediately want to re-design. (We’re designers, our eyes can’t help themselves.) Coincidentally they have similar color palettes and feature a circle on the front label–maybe We were in sunny mood that day.

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Red Bordeaux a no-no

Red Bordeaux (or shall We be fancy Français about it and say Bordeaux Rouge) is the topic of our upcoming Swirl Smell Slurp Sunday Salon. This time around We’re asking our guests to bring a bottle of the Frenchy stuff, keeping the cost at $20 or under. (We provide everything else: meet-and-greet bubbly to start the afternoon off right, glassware, informative notes, a tasting notebook, and light snacks.)

It occurred to Us that We should try and find and drink a few Bordeaux before next weekend’s Salon, to whet our palate… and also to make sure that finding one under twenty bucks that doesn’t suck is possible. Turns out We had found one already. The blog is becoming a great reference for Us to keep track of what We tasted when and what We thought about it. (Beats all those misc. notebooks, cocktail napkins, and back of receipt reviews We used to try to keep track of.). Clicking the Bordeaux Reds category under Tasted brings up a very favorable review of an $8.99 Bordeaux We bought at the local corner liquor store. Oh, how we love Big Mac’s.

While we encourage our guests to go to their local, independent wine shop to buy wine, We found that a few of our guests at the last Salon were intimidated by wine shops. “No, no,” We told them, but the snobby reputation of wine, is just that, a reputation. But it is tough for some people to brush aside this perception. We’re doing our part to persuade such folks that this is simply not so. And if they encounter such a place, hell yeah, never go back and tell all your friends to do the same.

If there is not a local wine shop in our fellow Salon-er’s neighborhood or they simple decide to buy their wine the last minute, We recommend these shops that are on the way to SSS headquarters (depending on what direction they’re coming from) to purchase the day’s theme wine: DomaineLA, Silverlake Wine, City Sip, Palate, and Rosso Wine Shop. And if wine shops are really just not their thing, well, there is always Big Mac’s.

The place We do not recommend our friends stop at before the upcoming Salon to pick-up a red Bordeaux is our neighborhood Gelson’s. Here’s why: they only have one Bordeaux under $20 and it is very meh. Our review:

Montagne Saint-Emilion, Château Forlouis, 2006 (François Janouerx, $15.99)

She said: Deep garnet in color, cloudy/muddy/opaque. In the nose are barnyard and dirt aromas with a background of plums and misc. red fruit. Very sharp in the mouth. Tannins are ripe and very vocal: there is very little fruit or any other flavors to distinguish. Finish is sour. The wine may benefit from some oxidation. Tasted it immediately after popping the cork and an hour later, but there was little change. Perhaps leaving it open overnight (tomorrow’s breakfast wine?) will help dissipate the harshness. Would not consider the wine a bargain, even priced at $15.99, because it lacks fruit and balance.

He said: Well, actually He took a quick sip and said: “Gross.” And then He went back to His architecting. He’s too busy to write a real review, but the drawings He’s working on sure look good. She guesses His rating would be the same as Her’s (if He knows what’s good for Him).

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