Posts Tagged ‘Healdsburg’

How I Roll

June 22, 2013

Last night, I was heading over to a friend’s house for a little get-together.

He asked everybody to brink an appetizer and a bottle of wine.

Now…

Some folks stress out about what to bring, but not me.

This is how I roll.

Earlier in the day, I stopped by Trader Joe’s to get some apps and wine.

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I got two types of frozen samosas, and tossed ’em in the freezer.

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I also got me a bottle of Trader Joe’s Reserve 2009 Lot #72 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and put it in the fridge.

Now…

Some folks may question why I would put a red wine in the fridge, but it totally makes sense.  First, it had been sitting at room temperature for a couple of weeks in a grocery store.  That, coupled with the fact that it was pretty hot yesterday, meant that I had to bring the temp of the wine down.

Let’s keep going…

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About an hour before the party, I pre-heated the oven…

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While the oven was getting to temp, I took my dog for a walk.

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After I got back, I was ready to throw the samosas in the oven.

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While the samosas were cooking, I took the wine out of the fridge.

By the time I got to the party, the wine was at perfect cellar temperature.

So…

Now let’s talk about the wine…

You know that I’m a fan of the Trader Joe’s Reserve wines.  It’s tough to go wrong with quality juice at $10.  This Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced by Mazzocco Winery (a great Zinfandel-heavy winery in Healdsburg).

Color: Dark ruby.

Nose: Chalky raspberry, blueberry, and plum with hints of leather.

Taste: There are some aggressive (yet chalky) tannins on this wine.  Great fruit notes of raspberries and blueberries.

Score: This is a solid, solid wine.  I love the fruit to this wine, but there is not a whole lot more to it.  Still… at $10, this wine totally over-delivers.  88+

The next time you have to bring apps and wine to a party.  Don’t stress… roll like me.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

What’s your wine-of-choice to bring to a dinner party?  Leave a comment, and let us know.

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The Wine Road in Pictures… and a few words.

February 27, 2012

Kara and I had the last week off, so we decided take a trip to Healdsburg and its surrounding wine country.

This is not our first trip up that way, and you’ve seen me write a bunch about this region before (Check it out).

So, this time, I’ve decided to show you what our trip was like with pictures (and a few words).

Enjoy…

Our first stop was Martinelli in the Russian River Valley…

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It was okay.

Next stop, Wilson Winery in Dry Creek Valley…

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Much better.

Staying in the Dry Creek Valley, we headed up Lytton Springs Road to visit Ridge…

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You know I love Ridge.

We also hit up Mazzocco next door to taste a little wine, and to take advantage of their picnic tables…

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Good times.

Next, we took a quick trip over to the Alexander Valley to visit Francis Ford Coppola’s Winery…

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If only I had brought my electric car…

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The wine was okay…

We had a little bit of time before we had to check in to our hotel, so we doubled back to Truett Hurst in Dry Creek Valley…

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If you ever get a chance, you should totally hit this winery up.

A beautiful property.

Fantastic wine.

I especially loved their Biodynamic red field blend, Balance.

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It came complete with a manure packed cow horn!

After our day of tasting, we checked in to our hotel… The H2Hotel.

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This is a beautiful eco-friendly hotel!

With time to kill before dinner, we headed over to the Bear Republic Brewery for a beer…

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And SpoonBar for cocktails…

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And apps…

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Then it was off to dinner at Scopa…

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After a great day and night in Healdsburg, we decided to make one more stop before heading home the next morning…

La Crema…

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What a great get-away.

Stay Rad, Healdsburg…

Jeff

Still Facing My Fear… and ready to #CrushIt!

July 23, 2011

A while back, you read about my life-long hatred of eggs.

What’s that?

You didn’t?

How dare you!

Click here to catch up.

Now as gung-ho as I was about attacking all of the recipes in Jodi Liano’s “Egg” book

"Eggs" by Jodi Liano. You know what time it is! Yeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh Boooooooooyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

writing the post about it, and reliving the Hulkster’s Powerful Protein Shake experience was really tough for me. The more I wrote, the sicker I felt.  After I published the entry, I avoided eggs for about a week.

Now look…

I’m not one to give up so easily.  All I needed was a little BREAK from the EGGS (You like that one?).

A few days ago, I decided to jump back on the egg wagon.  Here’s what I made…

Jeff and Kara in a Hole.

I really liked this one.  The letters that I cut out of the bread were a little too small.  As the egg was frying in the hole, a lot of it piled on top of the bread.  This increased the cooking time, and made for a messy presentation… But… It was delicious.

Kara would have liked it to be a little more runny, but I’m beginning to like mine over hard.

This morning, I made this…

Egg, Bacon, and Smoked Mozzarella Panini

Now, in the book, Jodi uses brie, but I had some smoked mozzarella that I wanted to finish off… so I did.  I got the ciabatta and bacon from Trader Joe’s.  One problem was that the ciabatta loaf was too fat, so the panini could not get as flat as I would have liked.  Another issue was the bacon.  Trader Joe’s is a nice store.  I love it.  Their bacon selection, however, is HORRIBLE.  I got this crappy turkey bacon that did not get anywhere as crisp as I would have liked.  Next time, I’m going to Safeway to get me some real crispy pork action.

By the way, the sandwich was f-ing AWESOME!  I can only imagine how good it would have been with better ingredients.

Okay…

So…

Here’s the deal…

Since we returned from Healdsburg, I haven’t tasted any new wines… but I have been reading a lot recently.  I wanted to share some of these books with you.

I know.  I know.  This is a wine blog, so let’s see if we can tie in some wine…

When I was in high school, I was in a punk rock band called The Willies.

I'm the skinny kid, practicing my punk rock jumps with a mic in my hand.

A few weeks back, my old friend and drummer, Nick Thedrummer, suggested that I read “Crush It!” by Gary Vaynerchuk.

“I know Gary!” I wrote back to Nick.  “I’m a huge fan of his video blogs Wine Library TV and Daily Grape.  He even follows me on Twitter.  I just don’t know if I want to read a book about business.”

“Just read it, dude.”

A few days later, I was kicking it with my buddy Dave Thevegetarian when I meantioned Gary’s book.  Dave was all, “I’ve got Crush It right here.  You want to borrow it?”

"Crush It!" by Gary Vaynerchuk... and you should too.

I was all like, “Sure.”

The book is a quick 142 page read (including two appendices).  It’s all about tapping into things that you are passionate about, creating blogs, and using social media to build your personal brand.  This book is very entertaining, and… dare I say it… inspiring.  I was just a few weeks into this blog when I read Crush It, and have since been inspired to take on the world.  If you like blogs…  If you have a Facebook or Twitter account…  If you are passionate about anything… You must read this book!

One of the things that Gary preaches in his book is to become an expert on your passion, by reading as much as you can on the topic.  So last week, I picked up this…

"Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course" next to some spheres inside some cubes.

This well-written 338 page textbook is the number one selling book about wine in the world.  Kevin takes the reader through a step-by-step guide on getting to know all the wines on the planet.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Class One: The White Wines of France.  I am stoked on the way he presents information in this book.  Zraly makes wine a whole lot easier to understand.  If you like wine, and want to know more about it… Grab this book!

As interesting as Windows on the World is, I’m realizing how much more I have to learn about the subject of French wine (and wine in general).  The good news, according to Zraly, is that the best way to understand wine is to TASTE it.

Looks like someone’s gonna have to make a run to the wine shop and make a raid on the Alsace section.  Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris better watch out… None of them are getting out alive!

Stay Rad,

Jeff

We followed the Wine Road and wound up at a dive bar. Happy Anniversary!

July 21, 2011

Does it get any better than this?

Sit down.  This may take a while…

My wife’s name is Kara.  This past Sunday, July 17th, was our first wedding anniversary.  In total, Kara and I have been in a relationship for almost nine years.  As familiar as we are with each other, in the last year, being married, our love has grown to heights I could have never imagined.  She is my best friend.  She is my heart.  She is my everything.

She already knows all this…  I tell her every day.

When searching for a way to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we knew we wanted to do a wine vacation.  We just weren’t sure where to go…

A while back, Kara’s aunt and uncle introduced us to a neat little book called Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns.  This reference book from American Historic Inns Inc. lists over 1,400 bed and breks from across the country, plus it comes with a one night free gift certificate.

We cracked open the book and started to browse the California section, when it came to us…

Healdsburg!

Healdsburg is a small little town at the center of a BIG wine region… Sonoma County.  Northern Sonoma County is home the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley AVA’s.  These appellations play host to some of the greatest wineries in the world (Ridge anyone?).  As an added bonus, the area is only a two-hour drive from our doorstep.

Once we decided on Healdsburg, I called up the Camellia Inn (from the B&B book), and booked us two nights for the price of one.  Next, I had to pick out which wineries to visit…

Not being familiar with the area, I dove into the internet and stumbled upon a great nugget of information.  It appears that many of the great wineries are members of an organization called Wine Road.  On their website, you will find a bunch of info on the region, the wineries, and lodging.  The best part is that you can also buy passes for tasting online.  A one-day pass is 25 bucks, and three days is $50.  Since we were staying for two nights, we opted for the 3-day pass.

And now, ladies and gentlemen… A trip down the Wine Road!

Day One:

Kara and I got up at the butt crack of dawn to get our clothes packed, drop off the dog at her mom’s house, and hit the road to our first destination… Sonoma-Cutrer.

Outdoor tasting at Sonoma-Cutrer.

We got to this Russian River Valley winery in Windsor just a little bit after 11:00 am.  Apparently, although Sonoma-Cutrer has been making wine for decades, the tasting room is just about a year and a half old.  I’m glad that this place is now open.  The grounds are beautiful!  Upon our arrival, our server asked us to pick a seat on the patio where he would bring us our wine.

Just below where we sat there was a gigantic croquet court packed full of locals dressed in their Sunday whites to play a tournament.

See!

Here’s what we tasted…

2009 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay ($23): A light style chardonnay with a nice acidity and tropical fruit.  A solid 88.

2007 The Cutrer Chardonnay ($35): For me, this was the pick of the litter.  A classic, rich and viscous, creamy chardonnay.  This guy was big, but not goopy.  The Cutrer showed balance and restraint.  You must try this 91-pointer.

2007 Les Pierres Chardonnay ($32): Plenty of fruit and minerality.  More of an old world style.  Give it 89.

2007 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley ($34): A nice juicy Pinot Noir loaded with cherry cola.  Good cool climate fruit.  89.

Sonoma-Cutrer is an amazing winery, and a MUST-visit.

Next stop…

Rodney Strong. Not Rodney Weak.

Okay…

So, a few years ago we went on a wine tour with Dave and Kara Thevegetarian and the bus stopped at Rodney Strong.  Since we’d been there before, I thought it would be a good place to revisit.  The last time around, I purchased a bottle of 2005 Symmetry (their Meritage).

This time around, Kara and I each had separate flights.  I did an estate tasting, while Kara tried out the reserves (including the 2007 Symmetry).  She LOVED all the wines she tasted.  I was kind-of like, “Meh”.  Please remind me to do the reserve tasting next time.  Please!

After a quick minute at the Strong, we took a few back roads over to Twomey Cellars…

Twomey? More like For Me! Am I right?

Twomey Cellars is a winery in the Silver Oak family.  They have a winery in the Napa Valley and on Westside Road in Healdsburg.  These guys are most known for their Pinot Noir and Merlot (as opposed to Silver Oak’s Cabernet Sauvignon).

It was a pretty slow Sunday in Healdsburg, so when we got to this tasting room our server lined us up a few verticals of their Pinot Noir and their Merlot.

Here’s what it looked like…

Pinot vertical. Hear no complaints.

Here’s what we tasted…

2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25): Grassy apple sauce.  Lemons.  Limes.

2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($50): Musty (in a good way).  Cinnamon.  Leather.  Light bacon fat.  Bell pepper.

2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($50): Cinnamon toast crunch.  S’mores.  Cranberry.

2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($55): Ham.  Raspberry.  Smoke.  Tomato.

2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($55): Sugar.  Tomato.  Bacon.  Hickory Smoke.

2006 Napa Valley Merlot ($50): Cherry.  Mustard.  Black Tea.  Bell Pepper.

2005 Napa Valley Merlot ($55): Eucalyptus.  Black cherry.  BIG black tea.  Wood.

Here’s what I thought about Twomey…

It’s pretty cool.

It was time for lunch, so we drove up to Lytton Springs Road to another place we’d been to before with the Thevegetarians…

Mazzocco!

They’ve got a nice picnic area, and they ain’t afraid to share it, so Kara and I pulled out the cooler and went to town.

Smoked mozzarella panini, olive oil, vinegar, and a few paper plates.

After lunch, we headed inside for a tasting…

I'm pretty sure that's a Zinfandel.

Mazzocco is a very chill winery in the Dry Creek Valley that specializes in single vineyard Zinfandels.  They remind me a whole lot of Ridge (their next door neighbor).

We got to talking to our server about other wineries we had already visited.  In passing, we mentioned the Pinot Noir vertical we had earlier.  Not to be outdone, he did the same thing with their Zins…

Boom!

Some 14 wines later, we had to purchase their 2009 Thurow Zinfandel.  It has just a touch of Petite Sirah.  In a world of goopy fruit bomb zins, the Thurow shows true restraint and good vegetal characteristics.  Nice!

The last winery of the day was next door at the Ridge Lytton Springs tasting room.  Being members of Ridge, it was nice to finally see where all of their awesome Zinfandels come from.  And, my goodness, did we like what we saw…

Lytton Springs through the looking-glass.

Here’s what we had…

Lookin' good!

2009 Estate Chardonnay ($40): Buttery apple pie.  Peaches.

2009 East Bench Zinfandel ($26): White pepper.  Bell pepper.

2007 Lytton Estate Zinfandel ($30): Tasty new bike tire.  Zippy peppers.

2006 Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache ($28): Bright tires (I don’t know how else to name it.  Taste it head to head with the 2007 Lytton Estate Zin, and you’ll see what I mean).  Restrained.  Yummy.

2006 Monte Bello ($150): Deep purple tires.  Chalky (I love chalk).  Rich.  Ripe.  Delicious.

I’ve said it before.

I’ll say it again.

I love me some Ridge.  After experiencing the Lytton Springs tasting room, I just love it a little more.

Although we had finished tasting for the day, the fun was just beginning…

Checking in at the Camellia Inn.

We checked in to the Camellia Inn around 5:30.  We went up to our beautiful room and unpacked our junk.

After freshening up, we went downstairs to the pool for their wine and cheese reception.  We had a great time kicking it with the other guests.  The wine wasn’t bad either.

The Camellia Inn is a two block walk from the downtown Healdsburg Plaza, so we were able to walk to our dinner destination…

BarnDiva!

Shakers can't contain this salt and pepper combo.

I must say that this place is the bomb.  This restaurant’s focus is American cuisine featuring only the freshest local ingredients, served in a hip atmosphere.  BarnDiva is all about detail.  Not just detail in the preparation and presentation of the food, but also detail in the way they treat their customers.  I mentioned that it was our anniversary when I made the reservation, and from the time we entered until the time we left EVERYONE (from host to waiter to busser) made sure to congratulate us.

We began our BarnDiva experience with one of their specialty cocktails.  Delish!  We each had an Heirloom Beet and Endive salad…

Just a dope salad.

This is possibly the best salad I have ever had.  You see those brown balls on diagonal corners of the plate?  Those are warm croquettes of chevre.  They were so f-ing good.  So good!

For the main course…

Local beef filet with lobster risotto and deep-fried squash blossoms for Jeff. Rad!

Some fresh ass pasta for Kara. Rad!

Did we save room for dessert, you ask?

A big mound of chocolate awesome with a scoop of lemon ice cream.

Yes we did!

Was it good?

Mmmmmmmmmmm...

Yes it was!

Kara and I were having such a great time, we decided we should go out somewhere to get a drink.  The problem with Healdsburg is that the town kind of shuts down around 7:00 pm each night.  I decided to ask our waiter for a suggestion of where to catch a drink as we were settling the bill.  He started talking about a sports bar, but I really wanted to experience the local flair of the city.

“Are there any dive bars around here?” I asked him.

“Well, I always like to hit up the B & B Lounge.”

“Perfect!”

The only picture I took at the B & B, and it's a bad one. It was a long day.

The B & B Lounge was a great bar, complete with a pool table, red leather booths, and cheap drinks.  The best part, however, was the same thing that we had experienced all day… the locals.  From the bar tender, to a group of field workers, to a dog named Marley.  We made plenty of friends in the brief amount of time we spent there.

Once they found out it was our anniversary, it was on.  We didn’t pay for a single drink the rest of the night.  See those wooden nickles in the picture?  Think about it.

Then we walked back to the Camellia Inn.

Then we went to bed.

Day Two:

We woke up at 12:00 pm the next day.

We missed breakfast.

No breakfast, but we did have coffee.

We didn’t leave out the front door until 1 o’clock, so we walked right over to the Healdsburg Plaza to have some lunch.  We decided to eat at Bovolo.  At first glance, the restaurant looks like a cafeteria in the back of a book store.  Looks can, however, fool you.  Bovolo specializes in the “Slow food… fast” concept.  After we placed our order at the counter, we made our way to the back patio.

Here’s what I had…

Half-order of Caesar Salad. No joke. Those are the best croutons I've ever had.

The world-famous pork cheek sandwich. Amazing!

After lunch, we made our way around the Healdsburg Plaza.  We checked out a few shops and boutique tasting rooms.  Here’s where we went…

Topel Winery: A cute little tasting room with a very nice staff.  I just didn’t like their wine.  Any of it.

Vintage Wine Estates: Another cute boutique tasting room.  These guys carry wines from several small wineries, including Windsor Sonoma, Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Stonefly Vineyards.  The wine was okay, but nothing  special.

Trying some Windsor Sonoma at Vintage Wine Estates.

Kendall-Jackson: You’ve heard of these guys.  You’ve seen it in your local grocery store.  They make some good chardonnay.  As far as the experience at their tasting room, they gave off an attitude like they are doing you a favor by letting you taste their wines.  Look… It was interesting to taste some of their single-vineyard chardonnays.  They are not available anywhere else.  A wine, however, can only be as good as the time you have while drinking it.  In spite of some huge scores they had printed for some of their wines, I was not impressed.  Not at all.

Seco Highlands Chardonnay by Kendall-Jackson. Would have tasted better without the attitude.

In all, I’d say that I wasn’t very stoked on the tasting rooms around the plaza.  Maybe it’s a little premature, but it seems to me that most of these boutique tasting rooms are not worth your time (especially when there are amazing wineries just a few miles away).

Planning dinner in Healdsburg on a Monday can be tricky.  Many restaurants are not open on Monday nights.  We decided to hit up the Healdsburg Bar and Grill.  This is not your typical bar food.  Word on the street is that the HBG is owned by the folks that brought you Cyrus (A fancy schmancy restaurant with two Michelin Stars).  This restaurant also made the Food and Wine Magazine’s list of the 25 best burgers in the United States.  Guess what I ordered…

HBG Burger. A delicious burger with these amazing pickles. The best pickles in the world!

We both had cold cucumber soup to start. Yum!

Kara got a seared tuna sandwich... That basically means I got half of that sandwich. Double yum!

It's not only recommended that you share the truffle oil and Parmigianno-Reggiano fries. It's mandatory.

The HBG was amazing.  You should go.  Now.

After dinner we walked back to the Camellia Inn.

Then we went to bed.

Day Three:

There was no way we were going to miss breakfast again, so the next day we woke up EARLY.  I sure was glad we did.

Breakfast was great.  The inn had set up a serve-yourself spread.  Water.  Tea.  Coffee.  Coffee cake.  Orange juice.  Breakfast smoothies.  Toast.  There was an amazing farmer’s souffle with egg, potatoes, and sausage.  Great.  Just great.  It was all great.

After our checkout, we hit the road.

On our way down 101, we were all like, “Look.  We’ve got one last day of free tasting on our pass.  Let’s use it!”  So…

We had to make one last stop.

Can you guess where?

De Loach Vineyards!

We arrived at this Russian River Valley winery at 9:45 am.  Since the tasting room wasn’t scheduled to open until 10, we took some time to enjoy the view (That’s what Whoopi always says).

De Loach... De Lish!

Much like our first day of tasting, we were very stoked on the folks that worked at De Loach.  Our server poured us a bunch of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs side-by-side.

Double vision.

The highlight of our stop at De Loach was their Zinfandels.  We didn’t even know they made those.  After buying a bottle, we got back on the road.

We returned to Morgan Hill around 1:00.

Hungry, we decided to get sandwiches at Ricatoni’s and have a picnic at Guglielmo

Taking a vacation from the vacation.

After lunch we came home to find our first ripe cherry tomato of the season in our garden…

A tomato built for two.

Does it get any better than this?

No.  No it does not.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

When the wife’s away, I drink her wine. Go Giants!

July 15, 2011

So…

Tonight, my wife went out to dinner with a few of her sorority friends from San Jose State.  I was invited, but it just seems more like a “girls night” type of thing.  I decided to skip it.

Tomorrow, she’s going to Napa with some other friends.  Again… it’s a girl thing, so I’m out.  Don’t trip, though.  Come Sunday, Kara and I will be heading up to Healdsburg for a few days in celebration of our first wedding anniversary.  Believe me… I will have my wine time.  I will have my food time.  I will have my Kara time.

There are three things I must do when Kara is away.

1)  I must eat greasy food.

2)  I must watch tv that she rather would not.

3)  I must open up her wine and have a taste.

So, earlier I made myself a greasy plate of red, white, and blue potato hash (She took the camera with her, so you’ll have to trust that it looked delicious).  Right now, I’m watching the Giants beating the Padres 2 to 0.  And here’s the wine…

Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. When the wife takes the camera, I steal pictures from the interweb.

Kara decided to pick up the Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon at the BevMo 5 Cent Sale.  Cecchetti Wine Company, the producer of this California red wine, gives a suggested retail price of $8 a bottle.  BevMo is selling it for $10 during the 5 Cent Sale.  My guess is that you would normally be able to get the wine for 6 or 7 bucks (Let’s all check BevMo.com after the sale is over).

Wilfred Wong (the resident wine taster for BevMo) gave the 08 vintage of this wine 88 points.  The Wine Enthusiast gives the current vintage an 85, calling it “A great wine to buy by the case for a house red.”  The wine maker pitches this screw-top cab as being both fruit-forward and food-friendly (They are also, apparently, fans of alliteration).

On the real, though… We both know you’re reading this to know how I feel about it…

Color:  Rose bush red.  It is light in color.  I can see my fingers through the wine.

Nose:  Chalk dust (I do love chalk!), orange peel, cocoa, and a little bit of tomato.  Not bad at all.

Taste:  There is some fruit at the beginning, but not what you’d expect.  It tastes a little like a cranberry, orange, and lime zest cocktail.  There is some nice acidity that would go nice with pasta, pizza, and pistachios (I can do it too, Redtree).  The only drawback with this wine is that it is extremely thin.  There is not much of a backbone at all.  I would drink it now if I were to buy it again…  I mean… If Kara buys it again.

Score:  83.  Pitched as a value red table wine, I can’t see the value in spending any more that $6 a bottle for it.  I’ve paid less for better (L’Authentique anyone?).  Again… It’s not bad.  It just ain’t that great either.

Well, look what happened…

I start writing, and the Giants extend their lead to 4 – 1.  I should do this more often.

Did I mention that the wife will be away tomorrow?

Stay Rad,

Jeff


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