Posts Tagged ‘Merlot’

Stay Rad Wine Blog TV Episode 93

April 11, 2013

In this episode, Jeff does another blind tasting…

Wine Tasted:


C’mon foo! You know this is a blind tasting. If you really want to see what it is, watch the video, or scroll down.


Domaine La Milliere 2009 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse

After the Facts:

1. This wine was a GV Special.

2. This wine is available for $15 on various online retailers.

3. Vaucluse is in the Southern Rhone of France.

4. This Vin de Pays is not made of a typical Rhone grape.  It’s Merlot!

Stay Rad,


What is your go-to value region for old world wines?  Leave a comment and let us know.

Find wine and wine-related products on Amazon.


Prospecting and Mining for Gold: The Component Tasting at Ridge Vineyards

March 9, 2013

You know I love me some Ridge Vineyards.

In 2011, Kara and I became members of their Monte Bello Collector program.

Along with being able to purchase their epic Monte Bello Bordeaux blend at a deep discount, as members, Kara and I get to go to some pretty awesome events.  Saturday, we went to the First Assemblage and Component Tasting at their Monte Bello estate in Cupertino.  It’s a chance for prospective Monte Bello buyers to taste the individual varietal components of the blend, as well as a sneak peek at the 2012 vintage before it gets bottled up.

Here’s how it all went down…


At check in, we were treated to a glass of the 2011 Estate Chardonnay. It’s loaded with lemon and minerals, all wrapped up in a cloud of creamy goodness.

Onto the components of the Ridge 2012 Monte Bello…


This is the 2012 Petit Verdot. It’s got coffee and cocoa on the nose. The mouthfeel is mad grippy. Some initial green flavors transition to fruit of cranberry and orange zest.


Here’s the 2012 Merlot. Super mocha and espresso on the nose. Big fruits of cherry and cranberry, with just a touch of grapefruit. Wow.

While sipping on this killer Merlot, we took some time to check out the food…


Charcuterie from Fatted Calf, Bread from Gayle’s Bakery, and Cheese Selections by Kirstin Jackson (Author of It’s Not You, It’s Brie)

More components…


The 2012 Cabernet Franc had a super espresso and toffee nose. The wine was bright and fun, with a whole lot of raspberry and cranberry fruit.


On the nose, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon gave notes of chocolate candy oranges. The palate was super bright with orange and raspberry fruit. Hella tasty!

After tasting the components, I was excited to be among the first civilians to taste the primary assemblage of the 2012 Monte Bello.


Here it is. This is the Ridge 2012 Monte Bello, poured by one Paul Draper. I asked Paul if he was excited about this vintage. He said he was very happy with the big fruit notes on this wine. According to Paul, this wine will rival the 1997 and 2001 vintages of Monte Bello (That is a REALLY good thing). The wine is composed of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot. Of course, this young Monte Bello has espresso on the nose from the toast of the American Oak. There is some massive bright red fruit on this wine, evened out with notes of tobacco and menthol. This wine is great.

The Component Tasting is also the first chance for the public to taste the 2010 Monte Bello.  If you bought futures for this wine in 2011 (like we did), this is also an opportunity to pick up your wine.


The 2010 Monte Bello has aromas of blackberry and plum. The wine has a great acidity, tasty cranberry fruit, and herbaceous tobacco notes. Mad sophisticated.


Kara and I took our time enjoying this one.

Back in the tasting room, Ridge had more treats for us…


The 2010 Estate Merlot shows aromas of bright red fruit and baking spices. The palate has bright cranberry and raspberry fruit with some nice herbs.


Here’s the 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Big. Bright. Great mouthfeel. Pound for pound, this is one of the best Cabs around.


The 2007 Monte Bello has menthol and tobacco herbs, along with tomato and cranberry fruit. Very good.


The 2008 Jimsomare Zinfandel is a rare treat. Bright and concentrated fruits of cranberry, blackberry, and raspberry, with an earthy balance. Good stuff.

What a great event.

I even brought some gold back from the mountain…


This magnum of Ridge 2010 Monte Bello fits perfectly in my wine fridge. Check back in 2035, and I’ll tell you how it turns out.

Stay Rad,


What’s your favorite wine event?  Have you ever purchased wine on futures?  Leave a comment, and tell us what you think.

Find wine and wine-related products on Amazon.

Stay Rad Wine Blog TV Episode 75: Oops is Right

December 10, 2012

In this episode, Jeff does a Chilean wine by request…

Wine Tasted:

Stay Rad,


Wine and Burritos

September 19, 2012

Tonight, Kara and I were in a burrito type of mood…

You know the feeling.

But… I was also in a wine type of mood…

You know the feeling.

Finding the right wine to pair with a burrito is kinda tough though…

I mean…

When’s the last time you ordered wine at a Mexican restaurant?

After picking up a couple burritos at La Choza Taqueria in Morgan Hill I took a look in the wine cabinet to see if any of my GV Specials would work.  After a few minutes, I came up with this one…


Estampa 2007 Assemblage

The Estampa 2007 Assemblage is a Chilean wine composed of 63% Syrah, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot.  This wine retails for $10.  I picked it because Chilean wines always come off as tasting a little green and spicy… The perfect complement for a big, savory burrito.

Here’s how it went down…

Color: This wine is a dark and dull reddish purple.

Nose: For a ten dollar wine, I was surprised by the big, decadent aroma of juicy plums, blackberries, and blueberries.  There was a nice chalkiness to the nose… And you know I love chalk.  This wine smells expensive.

Taste: Woah!  This wine has big, aggressive tannins.  For a 2007, this wine strikes me as tasting very young… But it’s gonna be a beast one day.  Good fruit of plum and fig.  Nice notes of green bell pepper.

Score: The only thing that is holding me back about this wine are those big tannins.  I mean… They are big.  I’m giving it an 89 today, but I think it has potential to knock some socks off in about five years.

Now, let’s try it with the burrito…


Un Super Burrito de Carne Asada

I love the burritos at La Choza.

I love them.

Chewy tortillas.

Juicy chunks of beef.

Sour cream… So creamy and sour.

I love ’em.

I just don’t love them with the Estampa.


The greenness of the wine did compliment the burrito, but those tannins… Those tannins are just too overwhelming.

Here’s what you should do.

Get you a burrito and a beer.

Enjoy the wine later.

Stay Rad,


Sparkling Merlot, Yo!

April 21, 2012


The other night, Kara and I hung out with our ol’ buddy John Terra Savia…

But you already knew that.

John sells wine for Terra Savia…

But you already knew that.

What you may not know is that Terra Savia, along with making some great Cabernet Sauvignon, makes a sparkling wine from 100% Merlot.

Have you ever had a Merlot-based sparkling wine?

I haven’t…

Until John let us sample some…


Terra Savia 2010 Brut Rouge well chilled with an edemame salad. Perfect for a hot day.

Color: Dull copper/salmon pink.

Nose: Up front, the aroma is unmistakably that of strawberries.  Squeeze in a little bit of lime.  Pour it over a slice of brioche.  This wine has a great nose.

Taste: Fruit flavors of peach and tangerine mixed with yeast.  There is a big, long acid finish, sprinkled with mineral flavors.

Score: This is THEE wine to have on a hot day.  Refreshing and complex.  Give it a 90+, and enjoy.

Stay Rad,


I’ll Bordeaux when the Sauternes

November 7, 2011

This past Saturday, Kara and I headed over to Cin-Cin Wine Bar for another tasting event…

This time... Bordeaux!

Bordeaux France is one of the premier wine appellations in the world.  Although there are 57 regions within Bordeaux, there are really only four that you would need to become familiar with in order to sound like a wine geek:

Graves (including Pessac-Leognan, and Sauternes): Found on the “Left Bank” of the Garonne River, Graves is known for reds, dry whites, and some of the best dessert wine in the world (Sauternes).

Medoc: This is a wide-spread region found along the “Left Bank” of the Gironde River.  There are seven major sub-appellations of the Medoc (Haut Medoc, St-Estephe, Paullac, St-Julien, Margaux, Moulis, and Listrac), all producing reds.  In 1855, sixty-one of the chateaux were classified under the Grand Cru Classe (5 of which were of such high quality to be called Premiers Cru).

St-Emilion: Found on the “Right Bank” of the Dordogne River, the wines of St-Emilion are always red.  Piggy-backing off of the Medoc, St-Emilion also has a Grand Cru Classe ranking for their chateaux.

Pomerol: This is the smallest of the top red wine regions in Bordeaux.  Pomerol, also on the “Right Bank” of the Dordogne, makes about 15% as much wine as St-Emilion.  Though Pomerol does not have a ranking system, one can almost be assured (since they are so scarce) that most Pomerols are the bomb.

As far as grape varietals go, you will rarely see the breakdown of grapes listed on the bottle.  Bordeaux does, however, follow rules in terms of which grapes are allowed in their wines.  The whites of Graves (including the dessert wine of Sauternes) is primarily made of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.  As far as reds go, Bordeaux can be made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.  To figure out what is the predominant grape, just look at the rivers.  Wines from the “Left Bank” are Cabernet Sauvignon based, while those from the “Right Bank” are mostly Merlot.

On the real, though… I’m tired of getting my nerd on.  Let’s get some drink!

There were three distributors at the event; James, Luke, and Jon.  Each had their own table with hella different styles of Bordeaux to choose from.  To make sure we started with whites, moved to reds, and finished with Sauternes, Kara and I had to bounce around a bit from one table to the next.

First… The Whites!

Chateau Ducasse 2010 Bordeaux Blanc ($18): We started at Luke’s table with this white wine made of 60% Semillon.  It had a crisp, flowery finish.  A great way to start the day.  86

Chateau Hout Rian 2010 Bordeaux Blanc ($11): Over at Jon’s table, we picked up this white made of primarily Semillon.  Again, this one had flowery notes, but with a hint of honeysuckle.  It was crisp and dry.  85

Once we got our palates primed, we headed moved into the reds at James’ table.


Chateau Petit Manou 2007 Medoc ($21): So, here I am telling you the Left Vs Right Bank rules, and the first red I show you just shatters them.  This is a Left Bank wine that is made like a Right-Banker.  The Petit Manou is 70% Merlot.  The fruit is bright cherry and cranberry with a soft, buttery finish.  Good stuff.  87

Chateau Picque Caillou 2007 Pessac-Leognan ($26): A Left-Banker with 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc, the Picque Caillou had a dusty nose with a green palate.  87+

Chateau Mongravey 2008 Margaux ($33): A true Left Bank Bordeaux made of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, the Chateau Mongravey falls under the Cru Bourgeois (just under Grand Cru) classification.  This one brought lots of dusty cranberry and Earth notes.  89

Chateau Pipeau 2007 St-Emilion ($34): A Grand Cru from the Right Bank, the Pipeau is 90% Merlot.  Now, don’t get it twisted.  This is a Merlot with balls.  There is a BIG barnyard funk on the nose.  The palate brings BIG leather and minerality.  It is both juicy and Earthy.  Nice!  90

To the next table…


Lafleur Gazin 2007 Pomerol ($45): 80% Merlot.  This Right Bank wine brings bright cranberry and cherry fruit.  A smooth wine.  89+

Chateau Hout Beausejour 2007 St-Estephe ($25): Barnyard.  Raspberry.  Dry palate.  Good acid.  There is a growing note of mushroom the longer the wine stays in the glass.  88+

Chateau Paveil de Luze 2008 Margaux ($30): This is a Left Bank red made of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon  The Paveil de Luze has some nice cranberry fruit, but it is more texture driven than anything else.  There is a nice acidity on this.  89-

Chateau Gloria 2008 St-Julien($63): 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot from the Left Bank.  This wine is silky smooth with leathery tannins and raspberry fruit.  Lovely!  91+  G-L-O-R-I-A!

Croix du Trale 2009 Haut-Medoc ($16): We were just about to move on to the last table, when I realized that we missed one of the wines.  Considering that the Gloria was so dope, it’s hard to go back to the Croix.  Dusty raspberry with butter.  Nice, but no Gloria.  88+

With that, we moved on to the last table…


Chateau Belles Graves 2007 Lalande-de-Pomerol ($28): Though not from the actual Pomerol appellation (Lalande-de-Pomerol is on the other side of the train tracks), Belles Graves is well-known for a different reason.  This is the wine that Jacques-Yves Cousteau would take on all of his adventures.  A Right Bank wine primarilly made from Merlot, this wine was hella tart and dry with fruit of cherries.  Not my cup of tea.  86

To make up for the Belles Graves, Luke provided the only vertical of the day with two (real) Pomerols…

Chateau Gombaude Guillot 2005 Pomerol ($67): Now this is why I love these tastings!  I’ve heard plenty of folks rave about the 2005 vintage of Bordeaux, but until now I’ve never had the opportunity to taste any 2005 that would be considered more than just a table wine.  This Pomerol is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc.  On the palate, this right-banker was one smooth criminal.  Beautiful cranberry fruit, and a good hit of oak.  This wine has the body to last another 15 – 20 years, but is elegant enough to enjoy right now.  92.

Chateau Gombaude Guillot 1996 Pomerol ($60): Oh my!  The nose this wine is just dope!  Loads of juicy blackberry get smoothed out with tannins of delicious cigar tobacco leaf.  Wow!  Sometimes I wish you could taste these things with me.  Wow!  93

We finished off the tasting with two Sauternes dessert wines…

L’Alliance 2009 Sauternes ($27 Half-Bottle): Luke served us this Sauternes made of 90% Semillon.  There is a BIG nose of apricot and gapefruit.  On the palate the SWEET dride apricot overpowers the typical yeasty finish.  Good, but not what I think of when it comes to Sauternes.  90

Chateau Haut-Peyraguey 2005 Sauternes ($56): Jon capped off our tasting with this Permier Cru chateau from the epic 2005 vintage.  In comparison to the L’Alliance, the Haut-Peyraguey is much more reserved with its fruit.  This is a yeast-driven Sauternes (the way I think it should be).  This dessert wine has a good sweetness, but it is not obnoxious.  91

And there you have it…

16 wines…

One good time.

Stay Rad,


“Oh! I get it, now… Merlot is a grape!”

November 2, 2011

Do you remember your first experience with wine?

I remember when I was in sixth grade, and my neighbor and I dared each other to take a sip of the box wine in my parents’ fridge…


Let’s just say that box wine is the perfect way to get your kid to not ever start drinking.  I thank my folks for that box wine…

It kept me on the straight and narrow until I was out of high school (almost).

I remember going to college and starting to become familiar with alcohol…

My idea of a good wine back then was Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill (Come to think of it… It was pretty rad!)…  I was more of a beer guy.

The thing that really got me turned on to wine…  The reason why I ever did anything ever since I was in the fourth grade…

A girl.

I was at a bar, one night… and had hit it off with a nice young woman, so I figured I’d buy her a drink.

“What are you drinking?”

She held up the glass of red juice in her right had, and showed it to me.  “Merlot!”

“I’ll be right back!”

I muscled my way up to the bar (cash in hand), and made eye contact with the bar tender.  “Two Merlows!”

The bar tender looked back at me and asked, “What kind?”

I was confused by the question…

If I were to order a Bud, or a Sierra Nevada, I would have never gotten that question.  “I don’t understand.  That girl said she got a Merlow here… I want two of ’em.”

“I know you want two.  But what kind of Merlot do you want?” she asked again.

I looked back at her, defeated, and said, “Large!”

The bar tender turned back around to get my order… When she returned, she placed two bottles of wine on the bar.

“That’ll be thirty-five dollars.”

Confused, I handed her two twenty-dollar bills.  I grabbed the bottles and some glasses.  As I turned to walk away, I heard the bartender shout back, “Enjoy your two large Merots!  Hahahahahahaha!”

When I made it back to the girl that I had met earlier, she looked at the two bottles and said, “Sutter Home?  I hate that stuff!”

I looked at the label to find that it read “Sutter Home Merlot“.  “Oh!”  I thought to myself, “I get it, now… Merlot is a grape!”

After she filled the rest of her glass, she walked away.

And there I was… All alone… With almost two full bottles of Sutter Home Merlot.

Don’t ask me how the wine tasted…

I don’t remember…

In fact… I don’t remember much of anything from that night…

But a lesson was learned…

There is more to wine than just Red, White, and boxes.

Speaking of Merlot…  Check out the bottle I opened up the other night!

Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Indian Wells Merlot

I picked up this large Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Indian Wells Merlot from BevMo for $12.99.  Chateau Ste Michelle is a well-established, fairly priced winery from Washington state.  The Indian Wells series of wines are sourced from several of their estate vineyards.  Here’s how this one went down…

Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Good explosion of plum, cranberry, and blackberry fruit.  There is a nice hint of crushed rock that ties all the big fruit together.

Taste: Nice soft tannins of vanilla and spice.  This is a big juicy wine.  There is a palate-coating flavor of blackberry jam.  There is a nice transition from bright acid, to dry cranberry, to a rich, medium-short finish.

Score: This is the perfect wine for a fancy Tuesday night at home.  It’s a 13 dollar Merlot that can rival those in the 20 – 25 dollar range.  Give it an 89+, and pick this one up.

So that’s it.

I’m leaving you with the same question that I started with…

Do you remember your first experience with wine?  What was it?

Let me know…

Leave a comment below.

Stay Rad,


Going Sideways: The Ultimate 2-hour Pinot Noir Tasting

October 13, 2011

Have you seen the movie Sideways?

I know some of you may think it’s a silly question, considering that this is a blog about wine.


I ask again…

Have you seen it?


Released in 2004, the Academy Award Winner (best adapted screenplay in 2005) follows two buddies as they go on a road trip through Santa Barbara’s wine country.  Miles, the main character, is obsessed with Pinot Noir.  Obsessed!  He won’t shut up about it.

That being said, probably the most famous line from the movie can be found here (edited for the purposes of keeping this blog family friendly)…

In the following months and years, many a wine folk began to speculate that Miles’ love of Pinot Noir and disdain for Merlot had changed consumers’ perceptions of the two grapes.  They believed that the average wine buyer would go into a store thinking, “If Miles isn’t drinking any F-ing Merlot, then I ain’t either.”

Then, in 2008 The American Association of Wine Economists published this paper from Sonoma State University, showing that the “Sideways Effect” was a real thing.  Not speculation.  Not a belief.  A real phenomenon.

Truth be told, The Sideways Effect didn’t have much of an impact on Merlot sales declining… though they have gone down.  The greatest impact was on the increase in Pinot Noir price and case sales.

That makes sense to me.

To a new wine drinker, Merlot has a bigger name.  Pinot Noir, on the other hand, was for a long time a lesser-known hipster type of varietal.  Once Sideways opened the door to Pinot Noir, and people began to realize how delicious it was, sales went through the roof… Along with the price of the delicate grape.

Today, it is tough to find a good bottle of Pinot Noir under 15 bucks.  And, dare I say it, not even worth your money to gamble on a bottle under 10.  Today, the “value” is found in the 15 – 25 dollar range.  Even nuttier than that, the big boys of Pinot Noir are in the 45 – 80 dollar range.

We are talking about Pinot Noir, right?  The “Black Pine” (translated from French) is one of the lightest, most delicate red wines that you could possibly drink.  Most are ready to drink the day you bring it home, and you wouldn’t want to cellar any of ’em for longer than 5-7 years (and that’s pushing it).

But I have to say…

Pinot Noir is delicious.

It’s one of my favorite grapes.

The problem is that they are so expensive, it would cost a fortune to taste ’em all.

At least…

That’s what I thought…

Now THAT's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Last Saturday, Kara and I hit up Cin-Cin Wine Bar in Los Gatos to do a little Pinot Noir tasting.  For 35 bucks, we got to taste the best Pinot Noirs from several distributors in the area…

Folks lined up to get their Pinot On.

Plus there was food!

See? Food!

Here’s how it all went down…

Table One

Pelerin 2008 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $29): This is an EARTHY pinot.  Lots of mushroom with a hint of rosemarry and bacon.  90 points.

Pfendler 2008 Pinot Noir (Petaluma Gap, Sonoma $40): Right away, you get to know how versitle a grape this is.  The Pfendler tastes nothing like the Pelerin.  This has loads of bright red fruit on the palate with a smokey finish.   89+ points.

Ryan 2009 Silacci Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Range $42): This is a well structured, well made Pinot Noir.  It tastes expensive.  The problem is that it’s not my cup of tea.  Unlit cigar (nice) with bright red fruit (nice).  It just didn’t work for me.  Still a good Pinot… Just not what I’m into.  88+ points.

Cipaiaux Cellars 2009 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $44): Bell pepper and leather.  Nice.  89 points.

Table Two

Chateau de Beauregard Bourgogne Rouge 2007 Memoire du Terrior (France $24): The more I get into all these big, bold, wines, the more I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of a nice, light, Burgundy.  Light strawberry fruit, with good acidity and minerality.  88+ points.

Firesteed 2007 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley $25): Sweet tarts and nerds for days.  This is a fun one.  89 points.

Mohua Pinot Noir (Didn’t catch the vintage = (  Central Otago, New Zealand $23): Bright fruit with good acidity.  88+ points.

Papapietro Perry 2007 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $46): Candied strawberries and smoke.  Very balanced.  90 points.

Emeritus Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley $32): This is loaded with DEEP fruit flavors.  Bright red fruit and berries.  Hella smoke.  This is a very nice bottle of wine.  Very nice!  91 points.

Table Three

Easton 2008 Pinot Noir (Sierra Foothills $28): A light Pinot Noir with hints of bacon smoke.  88+ points.

Paoul Hobbs 2009 Crossbarn Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $34): This wine has a smokey nose with tons of ham on the palate.  Very nice.  89+ points.

La Follette 2009 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $28): Smokey nose (there’s something about table 3).  There is a nice sugary strawberry fruit with pork and tomatoes.  Dope!  90 points.

Soter 2009 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton $45): Sugary bright fruit.  Mushrooms.  Bacon fat.  This wine was delicious!  92 points.

Table Four


Table four, here…

This is my jam!

Louis Latour Santenay Rouge 2005 (France $23): This was a fun bottle.  You are not going to find many 2005 Pinots just lying around.  Bright cherry fruit with a lively acidity and cinnamon and clove spice.  90 points.

Faiveley Mercurey Rouge 2008 (France $24): This was one of the more tannic Pinots of the day.  Good strawberry fruit.  A very laid back wine.  89 points.

Argyle 2009 Nuthouse Pinot Noir (Dundee $61): Quite possibly the best Pinot Noir I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  The gentleman serving the wine informed us that the Nuthouse vineyard used to be a nut farm.  In the wine, you can definitely taste the earthy flavors from the soil.  There is a bigtime macadamia and marcona almond presence in the mid-palate of this wine.  Plenty of herbaceous notes on the finish… particularly rosemary.  You have to try this.  93 big ass points.

Thomas George 2009 Pinot Noir (Russian River $41): This wine was a real crowd pleaser.  Sun-dried tomato with tons of herbs.  I loved this one too.  It reminds me quite a bit of the Pinot Noir of Willams-Selyem.  Very awesome!  92+ points.

Paraiso 2009 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $23): This is a DARK Pinot.  Smokey and rich.  88+ points.

Table Five

This is the La Rochelle table.

This is also when time started to run out for the event, so we had to speed up our tasting…

La Rochelle 2010 Pinot Noir Rose ($19): Grapefruit.  Nice.  88+ points.

La Rochelle 2008 Dutton-Campbell Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45): Buttery.  90 points.

La Rochelle 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($72): Buttery with balance.  The most expensive wine of the day.  Good, but NOT worth it.  90 points.

With one minute left, we skipped table six.


Table Seven

Au Bon Climat 2009 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County $25): This was the only wine left at table seven, but I am glad we got to try it.  The Au Bon Climat is exactly what I expect a Pinot Noir to taste like.  Light, bright strawberry fruit.  Dope acidity.  Balance for days.  Nothing major.  Just goodness.  Get yourself this 9o point wine.  Enjoy it now with someone you care about… like I did.

For those counting, that was 22 wines we tasted… all Pinot Noirs.

After that much wine, the only thing left to do is lay down on the couch…


Stay Rad,


The Good Charlotte of Wine: Results for the Stay Rad Interactive Wine Tasting Vol. 1

October 8, 2011

Warning: What you will find below are my results for the Stay Rad Interactive Wine Tasting Volume 1.  If you would like to participate, please read my previous post and get a hold of the Folie a Deux 2009 Menage a Trois first. 

If you have the wine, please decant it for 30 minutes before tasting.

Don’t worry…

I’ll wait…



Now, feel free to taste and make notes before you read on OR taste along with me as I attempt to guide you through this wine.

C’mon everybody… Let’s have a “Menage a Trois”!

A long time ago, Kara and I were prepping for a day trip to Napa.  As I often do, the day before the trip I printed of some coupons from Wine Country this Week and  Cheers 2 Wine.  One of the coupons was for a free tasting at Folie a Deux, a small tasting room that sits right along Highway 29 on the South end of Oakville.  We had driven by that place several times in the past (you really can’t miss it), so we decided to give it a go.

On the way into Napa, we made our regular pit stop at the Napa-Sonoma Visitor Center in American Canyon to have a morning wine tasting and to ask for some recommendations…

“Where are you guys planning on going?” the gentleman behind the counter asked us, as he poured me a taste of Riesling.

“We’ve got a coupon for free tasting at Folie a Deux…” I responded.

“Well… I guess that’s a reason to stop there,” he responded as he shook his head in disapproval.

I’ll never forget those words.  I’ll never forget the look on his face.  It was all I needed to know.  Folie a Deux get’s NO respect in Napa.

No respect.

You can’t call it the Rodney Dangerfield of wine.  Although Rodney always claimed that he got none of it… He was, in fact, a well-respected comedian.

So, let’s compare it to punk rock…

Let’s imagine that Napa was the punk rock capital of the planet.  Let’s say Napa was home to the Ramones, the Stooges, X, and The Clash.

The Stooges = The Ridge Vineyards of Punk Rock

If the wine of Napa is punk rock, Folie a Deux would be Good Charlotte…



I don’t hate Good Charlotte.  They’ve recorded some catchy tunes.

Remember the time they ripped of this Steve Miller song…

and made this steaming pile of crap?

(By the way, if you are wondering where Steve Miller is on the wine spectrum… He’s Two-Buck Chuck.)

What I am saying is this…

No fan of music would ever consider Good Charlotte to be a punk band.  They have a lot of fans.  A lot!  Way more fans than I have on Facebook.  But… They are not respected as a punk band.  You know… ‘Cause they’re not punk.  They’re about as punk as discussing who is punk and who isn’t (which ain’t punk at all… Or is it?).

Did I ever mention to you that I used to work for a record store when I was in college?  Well I did…

So, one day I was at the store on an early Sunday morning, filing CD’s in the punk section.  As I was organizing the Dickies row, I looked over to my right to see the singer (or the guitar player… They’re twins right?) of Good Charlotte spending a lot of time in the G’s of punk.  A lot of time!

At first I was all, “Maybe the guy from Good Charlotte really likes Good Riddance”.  But then it came to me… “This fool thinks that we are filing his album in the punk section!”  I approached with caution, and asked if he needed any help.

“Nope.  Just browsing, bro.”  He then quickly ducked his head in shame and walked out the door.

Now look… If the guy from Good Charlotte doesn’t know that his own band isn’t punk, then how can any of us know how do define and classify music… or wine, for that matter.


In spite of the wine guy’s disapproval, we headed over to Folie a Deux to do some free tasting…

The first thing you will notice is that the tasting room is home to two wineries… Folie a Deux and Napa Cellars.  On top of that, Folie a Deux has a side label called Menage a Trois.  So if you think about it, there are THREE wineries in one tasting room!  And if you want to add to the confusion, all of these wines are owned by Trinchero Family Estates.  So really, in spite of all the different labels, it is all just ONE winery.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the wines we tasted.  It was a long time ago, and I didn’t take any notes.  The one thing that did stick in my mind was that they did have a red blend that they were pushing pretty hard… and it had a pretty cute name…

Menage a Trois!

The Folie a Deux 2009 Menage a Trois is a blend of three red grapes; Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Get it?  It’s called Menage a Trois ’cause there are three grapes in it!  As you read in my last post, I got this wine for $7.97 at Wal-Mart.


Let’s give her a taste!

Folie a Deux 2009 Menage a Trois in the decanter.

Don’t Forget: This wine was decanted for half of an hour.  You should do this too.

Color: This is a dark red.  When you hold your glass up to the light, you’ll see a red brick color around the edge of the rim.  Do you see it?

Nose: As far as fruit goes, there are some tart cherries and raspberries on the nose.  This wine is a little tight, so if you really want to smell what’s going down, jam your nose right in the glass.  After a bit, you will pick up some blueberry fruit.  There is a minerality to this nose.  Think of green tea and chalk (I love chalk!).  Do you smell it?

Taste: When you give this wine a whirl, swish this baby around in your mouth for a good thirty seconds.  There is a medium weight to this wine that may remind you of milk in its density…  You should get some strawberry and cherry fruit.  There is a tart acidity on the mid-palate that reminds Kara of a cheap sort of wine.  I tend to agree with her, but it is quite pleasant overall.  There is a little bit of smokey ham and bell pepper on the back end.

Score: Look… This is a gimmicky wine.  It’s like Weird Al and the Offspring did a guest spot on The Simpsons.  But… For what it is… At eight bucks a bottle, it works.  Give it an 87+.  Bring it to a party.  You may not get rave reviews, but you may not get dissed either.

So, there it is…

What did you think about the wine?

How would you make this better?

Leave a comment, and let me know.

You have the power…

Raw Power!

Stay Rad,


The House of Thevegetarian: A Bordeaux Vertical w/ Enough Food to Make a Man Grow Horizontally.

July 10, 2011

Remember when I asked you to pick which wine I should drink?

Fine then!  Go here to refresh your memory.

One of the wines I featured was this guy…

Chateau Ballan-Larquette 2006 Bordeaux

At the end of the post, this guy (the winemaker for Chateau Ballan-Larquette) asked me to let him know what I thought about it.


The other day at BevMo, I was checking out the wines for the 5 Cent Sale (again… a total scam), and I found that they had the 2007 and 2009 vintages of the exact same wine I already had.  I decided right then that I had to purchase those other vintages and do a vertical tasting.

The problem is, 3 bottles of wine is just too much for one man to drink alone (1 bottle is too much).  So I needed to make an event out of it.

That’s where the Thevegetarians come in.

Dave Thevegetarian has been my best friend ever since we were in third grade.  Third grade, man!  If you want to figure out how long we’ve been friends, take the age that you are supposed to be when you’re in third grade (I’m too lazy to ask my Kara.  She teaches third grade.) and subtract that from 33.  That’s about how many years we’ve known each other, or something.

Dave and his wife, Kara Thevegetarian, both happen to be vegetarians, coincidentally.  They love throwing dinner parties.  I would invite the Thevegetarians over for dinner at my house more often, but I doubt they would eat my Blue Cheese Burgers.  They had us over for dinner last Friday.

“You bring the wine,” Dave told me, “and I’ll make some dope food for you, home boy.”  In spite of Dave Thevegetarian’s odd choice of words, I pulled my three bottles from the old wine fridge along with a little bubbly, grabbed Kara by the hand, and headed over to the House of Thevegetarian.

“It’s on!” I shouted.

“Oh brother!” Kara responded.

We arrived at 6:30 pm to a table loaded with vegetarian hors d’oeuvres and a cork screw.  I opened up the three bottles of Chateau Ballan-Larquette and arranged them thusly…

Chateau Ballan-Larquette 2006, 2007, 2009, and vegetarian goodness.

While waiting for the wine to breathe a little, Kara Thevegetarian poured us each a glass of this…

Clos La Chance 2009 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc. Why it was kept in the vegetable crisper is beyond me.

I’ve always been a fan of Clos La Chance.  So much so, that KaraIsRad and I were married there.

See! I told you!

The Clos La Chance 2009 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc is a grassy lemon/lime machine.  The perfect aperitif on a hot summer day.  I’m not giving you a score for this one, ’cause I didn’t take any notes on it.  Let me just say that I recommend it.

On to the vertical tasting…

The Cateau Ballan-Larquette is a “value” Bordeaux.  The list price for this one is $19.99.  At BevMo, you will pay that much for it during the 5 Cent Sale, but when it’s not on “sale” you should be able to get it for about 15 bucks.  This wine is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc.  It spends 12 to 18 months in steel and cement tanks.

Up first…


Color:  Ruby red with a little rust.

Nose:  Chalk (I love chalk), Cola, Green Bell Pepper.

Taste:  This wine is GREEN!  Bell peppers for days!  There is also a spicy black pepper component.  Good acidity.  There is a little bit of bacon fat in this one which really brings the whole thing together.

Score:  A solid 88.  Solid!

How about some food?

Roasted Asparagus Soup by Dave Thevegetarian.

Up next…


Color: Same ruby color as the first.  Maybe a little darker.

Nose:  Bright Cherry.  A little wood shop action too (Strange, since to my knowledge this wine is not oaked).

Taste:  Very green with some SHARP tannins.  Sour Cherry.  Acid.  A little rubbery bike tire thing.

Score:  I originally gave this one an 87, but after the tasting was completed I gave it a retaste.  It just doesn’t hold up to the other two wines.  I now give it an 86-.

Note:  I bought this wine two weeks ago at the 5 Cent Sale.  All of the vintages at Bev Mo were 2009, but I found this one tucked in the bin.  At Bev Mo, they display their wines upright at room temperature.  There is a strong possibility that this bottle was sitting around the store for two years before I bought it.  Not being stored properly, this bottle may not represent the 2007 vintage properly.  Two questions:  A) Have any of you tried the 2007 Ch. Ballan-Larquette and have notes to share?  B) Would any of you ever buy an odd-vintaged wine that was not stored properly?

What?  You want more food?  Okay…

Stuffed Zucchini Crumble. It tasted WAY better than it looks.

Alright.  More wine…


Color:  Same as the rest.

Nose:  Blueberry.  Cocoa.  Chalk (I love chalk).  I’m looking at my notes from Friday.  It says “DOPE!”

Taste:  Bell Pepper.  There is this sweet lacquered wood taste to it.  See that table in the picture above.  Imagine taking a bite out of that, but in a good way.  There is also a cranberry and white pepper component.

Score:  The 09 was my favorite.  It edged out the 06 because it was a little more complex.  Give it an 89+.

For fun, I also had the other folks rank the wines before I revealed my scores.  Here’s what they said…

KaraIsRad: She liked the 07 the best.  It was followed closely by the 09 which barely edged out the 06.

Kara Thevegetarian: She also thought the 07 was the best, but she liked the 06 better than the 09.

Dave Thevegetarian:  He was very much in my camp, scoring the 09 as the top wine (followed by the 06 and 07).

The takeaway for me was that this is a wine that can be consumed young.  If you are going to hold it for a while (I had mine for 3 years), make sure that you store it properly.  Put it in a cool place if you do not have a wine fridge, and keep them on their sides.  Decanting for 15 minutes to a half and hour is a good idea.  The 07 did start tasting off after a few hours, but again… I think it was doomed from the start.  I am looking forward to tasting more wines from Ch. Ballan-Larquette.

What?  MORE FOOD?!?!?

Baked ziti of smoked mozzarella. Like a circus, this dish was "in tents"!

After the business of the night was done with, we had a really fun time hanging out.  We even had a dance off.

Here is what my camera saw…

Sparkling white wine paired with sparkling bon fire.

Emile's California Champagne by Guglielmo.

Croatian Fig Brandy. Yikes!

Good times, but now I’m hungry…

Dave called my bluff and brought me some fruit. What a sweetheart.

Stay Rad,


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