Posts Tagged ‘Trader Joe’s’

Don’t hold your head so high. You won’t see the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

November 20, 2011

Did you read my post about the Bordeaux tasting I did at Cin-Cin Wine Bar the other day?

If not, you can read it here.

Now, you gotta know that Kara and I really did have a blast at that tasting.  It’s also nice just to have an excuse to spend a day in downtown Los Gatos, CA.


(There’s always a big but.)

There was one problem…

The people.

Not all the people.

Not most of the people.

Not even one percent of the people.


The interactions that we had with just a few of the people at the tasting really put a sour note on an otherwise sweet day.

The one thing that I hate about wine is the show that some people feel like they have to put on.  You have a lot of people at these events dressing as if they are going to the opera.  Now, there is nothing wrong with dressing nice.  Nothing at all.  The problem comes when people bring along an attitude of self-importance with their freshly pressed suits… their diamonds… and their pearls.  People trying to prove how classy they are, and failing miserably.

Not long after we entered the wine bar, and had begun our tasting, Cin-Cin became quite crowded with people.  As is always the case in crowds, people will occasionally bump into each other.  It’s almost expected.  While talking to Kara, I noticed a tall gentleman in a fine suit walking in our direction while looking for his wife on the other side of the room.  As I scooted over to the left, I motioned for Kara to move with me, but it was too late…  The man walked right through Kara… almost knocking her over and spilling her glass.

Kara was not happy to be bumped so hard, but what made it worse was the reaction (or lack of reaction) of the man.  After bumping her, this “classy” older gentleman did not even break his stride.  He continued on to the other side of the room, head held high, to join his wife.  Never mind the fact that if he took the time to look around he would have avoided Kara all together.  Never mind the fact that he nearly knocked my wife to the ground.  Never mind the fact that he did not apologize for the incident.  This guy didn’t even acknowledge that the event even happened!  He was so much in his own world…  He felt that he was so much more important that everyone else, that he didn’t even recognize that we existed!  Just writing about this now makes me want to start kickpunching!

It took a few minutes for us to cool down, but Kara and I decided to move on from the incident and continue with our tasting…

Later on, I got into talking to one of the distributors about some Pomerol when an older couple broke into the conversation…

“Do you know where I can find any Chateauneuf-du-Pape?” the older gentleman asked the distributor.

“We mainly focus on Bordeaux,” the distributor responded, “so I wouldn’t really know.  I’m not from here.”

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the best!” the woman broke in, “I can’t believe you don’t carry it!”

“Sorry,” he replied.

As the distributor moved over to help another couple, I leaned over to the couple and said, “You can find Chateauneuef-du-Papes almost anywhere.  I’ve seen plenty at BevMo, CostCo, even some at Trader Joe’s on occasion.”

“Sure they do,” the gentleman said in a very sarcastic tone as he grabbed his wife by the hand and moved over to a different table.

“Was I out of line?” I asked Kara, “I was just trying to be nice.”

The distributor looked over at me and shook his head in a way to tell me, “I feel you, brother.”

You’ve gotta know that the majority of our interactions with folks at the tasting were very pleasant.  But the bumping incident and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape episode really got to me.  Especially the Chateauneuf-du-Pape thing.

Especially the Chateauneuf-du-Pape

So, the next day, Kara and I went to CostCo.  Look what I found…


Kirkland Signature 2009 Cuvee de Nalys Chateauneuf-du-Pape!

Last night, the Thevegetarians invited us over to a dinner party, so I decided to bring the Kirkland Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I wanted to get another bottle to bring as well, so I swung by Trader Joe’s on the way.  Guess what I saw?


Quinson 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Well, what do you know?

It was almost too perfect!

So I decided to taste these two bad boys side-by-side…


Hey, snooty couple at the Bordeaux tasting! This one’s for you! Go sit on a tack!

Before we begin, a few nerdy facts about the region…

Chateauneuf-du-Pape (New Castle of the Pope) is one of the premier winemaking regions on the southern end of the Rhone Valley.  Mainly consisting of Grenache and Syrah, these wines can also have Mourvedre, Cinsault, Picpoul, Terret, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picardin, Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc.  The best Chateauneuf-du-Papes should contain higher amounts of Grenache and Syrah.   If you are looking for this stuff at the store, just keep an eye out for the bottle.  Most of them will have a  really cool coat of arms etched into it.

To start, we tried out Quinson 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Trader Joe’s…

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Cranberry, chalk, and rubber.

Taste: On the initial attack, there is a big hit of sour cherries.  There is a big acidity to this wine that would make it great to pair with a variety of foods.  There was also a nice green spinach characteristic.  Nice!

Score: Pick it up!  89

Next, we hit up the Kirkland Signature 2009 Cuvee de Nalys Chateauneuf-du-Pape from CostCo.  A blend of 59% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 4% Vaccarese, 4% Counoise, 3% Mourvedre, 3% Muscardin, and 2% Cinsault, the Cuvee de Nalys is sourced from 3 of the premier vineyards of the region.

Color: Dark ruby red.  Darker than the Quinson.

Nose: Big chalk, raspberry, and orange zest.

Taste: There are some nice powdery tannins that coat the whole mouth.  It’s hella smooth.  The fruit is cranberry and orange.  I’ve never really experienced orange as a flavor profile on a red wine before.  Though it was unexpected, I loved it!  There are some spices of clove and nutmeg on the back-end.  I’m getting some tires as well.

Score: This would be the perfect wine for a festive holiday meal (if only there were one of those days coming up soon… if only).  Rad!  91

Now, of course, you can’t go to the Thevegetarians’ house without getting some food…


Warm Cerignola olives with thyme and sesame. Fantastic!


Peperonata. As Dave would say, “Hecka Italian!”


I made my way into the kitchen to find Dave grilling up some pumpkin…


A couple of minutes later, it turned into this… Zucca in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Pumpkin). Gnarly!


Lasagna. Fa sho, fa sho!

Lesson learned:

Don’t hold your head so high.  You won’t see the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Take it away, boys…

Stay Rad,


What I drink when I’m thinking about what I’m gonna drink…

October 3, 2011

Full disclosure…

Sometimes I have trouble thinking about what I’m gonna write for this blog.

Lucky for me, this is a wine blog.  So when in doubt, I just pop open a bottle and start tasting.

It’s a win-win, if you think about it.

I found this one at Trader Joe’s for $5.99…

Grifone 2008 Chianti Riserva and some flowers.

By law, all Chianti must be made of at least 80% Sangiovese.  True to form, the Grifone 2008 Chianti Riserva is made of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  By the way… The fact that this bottle says “Riserva” on the label means absolutely nothing.  A Chianti Classico Riserva, on the other hand, is said to be the good stuff.  If you plan on opening one of those up, please let me know.

Anyways… Let’s get back to the Grifone.

Here’s how it went down…

Color: Dark brick-red.

Nose: Dark cherries, plum, and cellar dust.  Nice!

Taste: Dang!  This wine is ultra-tart.  It’s got lots of dried cherry fruit, but the palate is dominated by a skunky barnyard flavor.  I should have decanted this for a bit before diving in.

Score: Here’s where it gets interesting.  On first taste, I was not a huge fan of this wine… BUT… I respect it.  It does not taste cheap (if that means anything to you).  It is very well made.  This wine has structure and backbone, and I think would go well with big foods.  Steak, pasta, and burgers come to mind.  The problem was that I didn’t have any food with me at the time.  Give this wine and 86, and save it for something meaty.

Now, I just have to figure out what I’m gonna drink when I think about what to drink next…

Stay Rad,


That’s right… I barbecue pizzas. What’s it to you?

September 24, 2011


I’m not saying I make pizza with barbecue sauce on it…

I make regular pizzas on my barbecue.

Here’s how…

Make sure your pizza dough is resting at room temperature before you start working with it.  Leave it on the counter, and start prepping your toppings…

The key is to pre-cook your veggies... Here I caramelized some onion with olive oil and garlic.

And here are some portabella mushrooms, sliced thinly and cooked to release their meaty flavor...

You know you've got to use simple fresh ingredients, so I snipped some basil from my garden.

So the thing about barbecuing a pizza is that you have to work quickly once the dough is on the grill.  Because of this, you must make sure that all of your toppings are ready to go before you throw anything over the fire.  I made two pizzas the other night, so I prepped my toppings like so…

Caramelized onions, portabella mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella for pizza number one...

Tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella for pizza number two.

Now time to bring out the dough!

I bought this stuff at Trader Joe’s for a few bucks, but you can make your own for a few cents…

Using hella flour on a cutting board, I prefer to stretch my dough by hand instead of rolling it. That's right. My hand is blurry. Don't judge me!

Be sure to preheat the grill to medium for 10 minutes while you are working the dough, then use your trusty pizza peel to transport the pizza to the fire…

Brush the dough with olive oil, and place it on the grill (oil side down) for 3 - 5 minutes. Brush the exposed side of the dough with olive oil while you are waiting.

Use the pizza peel to flip the dough. Immediately place all of the toppings on your pizza except for the cheese. I put tomatoes and fresh basil on this one...

This mutant pizza was topped with caramelized onion and portabella mushrooms.

Let the pizzas cook for another 5 – 7 minutes to get them all blistered and crunchy.  Throw on your cheese and slam down the lid with anger for the last minute.

Here’s how they turned out…

Tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella... Bright and whimsical.

Caramelized onion, portabella mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella... Earthy and refined.

These pizzas were so delicious, they put me into a food coma.  When I awoke, I realized that I had tasting notes for a wine I had already reviewed before.  The results of which were surprising…

Trader Joe's 2010 Grower's Reserve Zinfandel from Paso Robles... Again!

The first time I reviewed the Trader Joe’s 2010 Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel I was not stoked.  This was a five dollar wine that I decanted for three hours… Just long enough for it to fall apart.  I paired it with a pulled pork sandwich, and it just didn’t work.  You can read the post yourself, or you can just trust me that I gave it an 84.

But this time…

This time it was different…

This time I popped and poured the wine immediately.

This time I paired it with two dope barbecued pizzas.

This time…

This time it worked!

Color: Red to purple.

Nose: Bright cherry and raspberry fruit.

Taste: Nice dark plums with bright cranberry and raspberry.  This medium weight wine gave a nice chalky (You know I’m ’bout it!) plum skin finnish, and paired nicely with both pizzas.

Score: I was hella stoked on this wine… this time.  It doesn’t have the backbone to age for a long time, but what it is bringing right now is dope.  Buy this wine for a green back at TJ’s, and drink it NOW… unless you’re driving… Why you are driving while reading this blog, I’ll never know… Pull over!  Give it an 89+ foo.

So… Here I am telling you to how much I loved a wine that I hated a few months ago…

Has this ever happened to you?

Was it bottle variation?

Has my palate changed?

Was it the difference in how long the wine was open?

Was it the food pairing?

Was it the food coma?

Was it some combination of these factors?

What do you think?

Leave a comment, and let me know…

Stay Rad,


This is how we Chablis…

September 7, 2011

On a hot ass day, not too long ago, Kara and I decided to do a little hangin’ out on the front patio.

When the weather heats up, you’ve got to chill your wine down, so it was the perfect time to bust open this sucker…

Jacques Bourguignon 2009 Chablis

We picked up the Jacques Bourguignon 2009 Chablis from Trader Joe’s for 8 bucks.  I’ve been meaning to try some REAL Chablis for a while.  I say real, because in California the name “Chablis” is used for generic white wine… Usually from a jug.  In France, Chablis is a region located in the Northern-most area of Burgundy.  French Chablis are always 100% Chardonnay.  Don’t get it twisted.  Chablis are not gonna be big and buttery like the Chards from Cali.  These bad boys are known for their acidity.

Before popping the bottle, Kara whipped up a dope cheese plate…

Told you... Dope!

Now, on to the wine…

Color: This JB Chablis is a pale straw yellow.

Nose: There’s some oakiness to the nose, but it’s mainly packed with mushrooms and minerals.

Taste: There’s a big grassiness up front, followed by melon fruit, firm acid, and some sweet oaky tannins.

Score: This wine was nice.  That’s it.  Just nice.  For 8 bucks, it’s nothing I would ever run out to buy again… But… It was nice.  I give it an 85.


Though the wine was uninspiring, sometimes you don’t need to be blown away to enjoy your wine experience.

It was a beautiful day, with my beautiful wife.

We had some nice treats with some nice cold wine.

As the Chablis continued to flow, so did our conversations.

And that’s pretty cool.

Stay Rad,


My new diet: When I seafood, I drink wine.

August 7, 2011

Yesterday, Kara and I had a hankerin’ for some fish.

I thought it would be really neat to prepare it two ways, so I decided to make a Tilapia Ceviche and some Barbecued Shrimp.

Before heading out to get some groceries, I opened up Kevin Zraly’s wine book to get an idea for what types of wine go well with seafood.  After flipping through his chapter on the white wines of France, I left for the store with the intention of getting either a Loire Valley white (like Sancerre or Muscadet) or a white Burgundy (Chablis perhaps).

While at Trader Joe’s, I spotted this gem…

Chateau Des Cleons 2010 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine

The Muscadet region is on the Eastern end of the Loire Valley of France where the Loire River meets the Atlantic Ocean.  These wines are made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne grapes.  They should always be dry and light in style.  See how it says “Sur Lie” on the label?  That means that it was fermented on its skins (not really… see the comments below), so it should have a bit more body than a Muscadet that does not read as such.  The book says that Muscadet is good with shellfish and fishfish, so I was more than happy to pick this bad boy up for only $6.99.

I’ll get back to the wine in a bit.

But first…

The food!

Here’s how I make my Tilapia Ceviche…

Cube up about a pound of fresh Tilapia and throw it in a non-reactive bowl.

The key to Ceviche is to layer the flavors.

Here’s a fun game…

Take a sip of wine for each new layer.

Dice up half a large red onion and throw it on top of the fish.

Mince up one clove of garlic and throw it on the onion.

I added a small green bell pepper from my garden. Diced, of course.

Next I put in one quarter of a jumbo yellow bell pepper that Kara picked up from the farmers' market.

Here, I piled in a third of a large cucumber which was cut into little pizza wedges. So whimsical!

Add one small diced avocado. California love!

Open up a small can of diced chillies and dump it on top.

Chop up some cilantro. Add it in with some salt n' peppa. Stop to bust a move while humming the music to "Push it!".

The secret ingredient is carne asada seasoning. Shhhhhhhhh!!!!! Don't tell anybody.

Zest one lime over the top. Squeeze in the juice of three limes. The acid from the lime juice will "cook" the fish.

Stir, but do not mush it. Cover with plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge for a few hours.

While the Ceviche is marinating, we move on to the Shrimp…

These are large peeled shrimp from the seafood counter at Safeway. I marinated the pound of shrimp in a shallow glass dish with olive oil, salt n' peppa, fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and the juice of one lime for about 20 minutes.

While the shrimp is marinating in the fridge, preheat the grill with the burners on high.  After ten minutes, set to medium indirect heat.


Arrange the shrimp on pre-soaked bamboo skewers, making sure that all the shrimp are facing the same direction.

Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes a side on indirect heat with the lid closed.  Be sure to baste the shrimp in the marinade.

The only thing left is to serve,

But let’s get back to the wine…

Hip hop hurray... Muscadet!

Chateau Des Cleons 2010 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine:

Color: A nice straw yellow.  I was pleasantly surprised by a tiny bit of frizzante action.

Nose: Lemon/lime spritzer with a touch of grass and minerality.  Nice.

Taste: I see now why this wine is recommended for lighter fare.  It is dominated by its acidity, which pairs well with food.  There is a nice floral component, mouth cleansing lime, and a dancing minerality.  There is a nice touch of spice.  The skins give it a medium to light body.  Very cool.

Score: All I’m thinking about this wine is how clean it was.  It was fresh.  It was vibrant.  Every sip made me thirst for another.  This wine is a solid 88.  Way to go, Chateau Des Cleons!

Back to the food…

Duo of Seafood: Grilled Shrimp and Tilapia Ceviche a la Jeffrey w/ a light Spinach and Shallot Salad

The spinach and shallot salad was prepared by Kara.  A very clean, palate cleansing bite.

The ceviche was very fresh, with a perfect balance between the acidity of the lime and the fattiness of the tilapia.

But the shrimp…

The shrimp…

The SHRIMP was Tha BOMB!

Juicy.  Rich.  The flesh just pops when you bite into it.


And with the wine?

Hella Dope!

The clean flavors of the wine just rounded out the fatty richness of the seafood.

But wait!

There’s more!

Morgan Hill Cellars Blackberry Wine with a long-lost friend.

Kara and I have been sitting on this Blackberry Wine from Morgan Hill Cellars for about a year.

I’ve been dying for some vanilla ice cream for the last few weeks.


Vanilla Ice Cream with Blackberry Wine... I got my just deserts.


Stay Rad,


PS – If you ever make ceviche, do yourself a favor…  After you serve the ceviche, save the leftover juice from the bowl you marinated the fish in.  Peruvians refer to it as Leche de Tigre, and it is known to be a cure for hangovers.  I just drink it ’cause it’s awesome!

Farewell indeed!

This changes everything!

July 28, 2011

Remember The NeverEnding Story?

Remember when Bastian first starts reading?

There’s this troll-looking dude that flies around on a bat, and he’s hanging out with a guy in a top hat who rides a racing snail.  So they’re chillin’ in the woods, when they hear a rumbling in the distance.  It gets louder and louder and LOUDER.

Eventually, out from the trees comes a giant dude made of rocks riding a tricycle.

See? I told you!

They called him the Rock Biter, since his diet consisted of rocks.  I guess you are what you eat.


The Rock Biter starts hanging out with the other dudes, and they get to talking about this thing called The Nothing (an entity that is threatening to destroy their world of Fantasia).  The dude on the racing snail and the troll begin to tell of the things they had heard second-hand, but the Rock Biter had an actual run-in with The Nothing.

He told them about this beautiful lake that was in the center of his home town.  It was loaded with plenty of delicious lime stone rocks (which would be important to a rock biter).  But one day… One day The Nothing came, and then the lake was gone.

“What do you mean it was gone?  Did it dry up?” the racing snail dude asked.

“No.  It was just not there anymore.” the Rock Biter responded.

“What?  Like there was a hole instead of a lake?” the troll dude asked.

“No.  A hole would have been something.  There was NOTHING there!” the Rock Biter explained.

I totally understand what the Rock Biter was saying.  You can talk about The Nothing as much as you want, but there is no way you could ever understand it unless you experienced it.  In the movie, the Rock Biter moves with just a little more urgency because he knows what The Nothing is all about.  He wants everyone to understand what The Nothing is.

I started thinking about The NeverEnding Story last night while tasting some wine.

I started to think about The Nothing.

I’ve always been a fan of Riesling.  I’ve especially been into the Rieslings of Washington state.  I’ve never been afraid to bring a 6 dollar Riesling to a dinner party, because they are always crowd-pleasing.  They always have a nice balance of acidity and a little residual sugar.  Perfect with food.

Recently, I’ve been reading through Kevin Zraly’s wine book, and he spends quite a bit of time talking about the wines of Alsace (specifically Riesling).  While reading it, I was all like, “I know about Riesling.  I know that the stuff from France is gonna be a bit more dry.  I know it’s gonna have nice mineral notes.  I know it’s gonna have some good acid.  I know it all.”

Apparently, I had no clue.

It turns out that Alsatian Riesling is my Nothing.

Here’s what went down…

Alsace (France) vs Washington State

I picked up two completely different Rieslings from two different stores for two different reasons, and decided to taste them side-by-side…

F.E. Trimbach 2008 Riesling from Alsace, France

I picked up the Trimbach 2008 Riesling at BevMo for $21.99.  Easily, the most I’ve ever paid for a Riesling, but this is the first wine that Zraly suggests you taste in his book.  If I am to know about the Rieslings of Alsace, I’ve got to taste them.

I figured that if I really wanted to get to know this wine, I had to compare it with something I was familiar with.  So yesterday I picked up this…

Chateau Ste Michelle 2010 Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington

The Chateau Ste Michelle 2010 Riesling will set you back $5.99 at Trader Joe’s.  This is my go to Riesling.  This is the one that I bring to parties.  This is the one that is just delicious.

And now…

The tasting.

Sing along with me! "Feelin' so fine. Tasting some wine... Side-by-side!"

Color: The Trimbach was a straw yellow.  It was considerably darker than the Chateau Ste Michelle’s pale yellow hue.

Nose: The Trimbach was hella complex on the nose.  Tons of small, not quite ripe, green apples.  White raisins.  There’s this crushed vitamin C characteristic that is really cool.  There’s also a little lime, fig, and motor oil.  The Rock Biter would also appreciate the lime stone minerality of it.

The Chateau Ste Michelle smells EXTREMELY sweet, in comparison.  There’s lots of fruit on the nose.  Pear.  Apple pie.  Peaches.

Taste: This is where it gets fun.  The Trimbach is RAZOR SHARP in its acidity.  I never understood the whole “Razor blades on the tongue” description that Gary Vaynerchuk talks about until I tasted this Riesling.  This is intense!  There’s a ton of lime and grapefruit on the palate.  There are also hints of green apple skin and walnut.  But really… the star of this wine is the dry, sharp, mouth-watering acidity.

The Chateau Ste Michelle, in comparison, is almost dessert-like in its approach.  I never felt that way about it before.  This thing is SWEET.  It has light peach and mango fruit on the palate.  There is a nice, clean acidity to this wine, but the fruit wins out.

Score: By all accounts, the Trimbach was everything I’ve read about Alsatian Rieslings, but nothing I could have ever expected.  This wine is a game changer for me.  I could write about this wine until my fingers fall off, and you still wouldn’t understand it.  Much like The Nothing, I need you to know how great this is.  Give it a 91.  Buy it.  Save it as an aperitif to a fancy seafood dinner at home.

The Chateau Ste Michelle is a good Riesling.  It is a respectable 87, and a real value.  I have no problem with popping this open with some Tuesday night Tai food.

But that Trimbach…

That Trimbach was something.

And since we had plenty of the bottle left after the tasting, Kara and I had the rest with dinner…

Meatless Mediterranean cabbage wraps and romaine salad of cucumber and dill by KaraIsRad. Entertainment by Dish Network.

The Nothing teaching me about Riesling?

Ain’t that something!

Stay Rad,


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.



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,


Two wines. Two days. Can you dig it?

July 11, 2011

Sometimes, you decant a Trader Joe’s 2010 Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel for 3 hours.

Sometimes, that’s a bad idea.

Sometimes, you use the word “sometimes” at the beginning of a sentence, to set a mood.

Trader Joe's 2010 Grower's Reserve Zinfandel. Sometimes, you just gotta.

Look.  We got this Paso Robles zinfandel on Sunday afternoon for $4.99.  Kara asked if she should decant it.  I was like, “Sure”.  She popped it and poured it into the decanter.  Then I looked at my watch.

It was 2 o’clock.

We weren’t planning on having dinner until 5 at the earliest.

Listen.  I know that it never hurts to decant a wine.  It always helps.  Many times I’ll leave a bottle open overnight, and see improvement the next day.

But if you don’t know the wine…  It’s structure…  How it changes….  If you’re not sure about how it will last…  I would never go longer than an hour.

Eventually, all wines will fall apart.  The better the wine, the longer it takes for that to happen.

Do you feel me?

After making a T-Joe’s type of dinner, I sat down to try the wine.

BBQ pulled chicken w/ dijon broccoli slaw. Montel Jordan would be all, "Shadadada dap dabadahhhh. This is how we do it!"

Color:  This wine was straight purple.  When pouring it into the glass, I noticed that it was almost a light pink.

Nose:  Dusty strawberries and wood.  Hmmmmm.

Taste:  Jammy fruit.  There were these mouth-coating smooth tannins, a sharp cranberry, and a touch of cherry fruit roll-up.  Not bad.

But then…

I started diving into the food…

The dish I made was quite sweat in nature.  A Texas style, if you will.  After going back to the wine, the sweetness of the BBQ wiped out the jammy fruit.  What was left of the wine was this unpleasant acidity.  I figured that maybe it was just a bad food pairing, but after the meal, I went back to the wine and all I could taste was that same hollow gross acidity.

Score:  I was gonna give it an 86, but had to change it to an 84.

Sometimes, decanting is a good thing.

Sometimes, food and wine go together.

Sometimes, a wine falls apart on you.

Sometimes, food reveals flaws.

Shall we move on?

Today, Kara whipped together a really neat looking and tasting dinner…

Tabouleh cucumber romaine split and a simple salad w/ goat cheese. Pee Wee Herman would be all, "Mmmmmmm. Vegetably."

With it, she served up the Bruzzone 2009 Estate Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  This wine was a gift from Thevegetarians for Kara’s birthday, so I didn’t bother looking up the price (that’s rude).  I’m sure you can find out how much it was by clicking the link on the wine.

Bruzzone 2009 Estate Chardonnay next to some balls.

Color:  Light gold.  This wine looks like chardonnay.

Nose:  Pear.  Apple.  Petrol.  Toast.  Not bad.

Taste:  The first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel.  This wine is THICK!  Very viscous.  It’s almost oily.  Also… this wine is a spicy oak bomb.  There are nice notes of apple and peach.  Like the zin from yesterday, I’m also noticing a fruit roll-up flavor in there.  There is a little custard on this wine.

This is a BIG chardonnay.  Almost too big, but not.

It did not pair well with the tabouleh.  I would love to try it with some vanilla ice cream.

Score:  I’m not going to give this wine a score, since it was a gift.  I did like it, however.  If I were going to score it, I’d give it an 87.

So there you have it.

Two wines in two days.

Sometimes, that’s how I roll.

Stay Rad,


And the winner is… Me!

June 26, 2011

The other day, I asked you to help me pick which wine to taste next.  After tallying the votes (all two of them), I decided to go with the Cocobon 2009 California Red Table Wine.

The winner is... Cocobon!

This wine cost me 7 bucks at Trader Joe’s.  Bottled by Cocobon in Livermore, and distributed by Underdog Wine Merchants (also from Livermore), this wine is a blend of 61% Zin, 17% Cab Franc, 12% Merlot, 6% Petite Verdot, and 4% Petite Sirah.

I decanted the Cocobon in two Cuvaison glasses for about 2 hours. I didn't think it needed to be decanted that long... I just forgot about it.

Color:  A nice and bright cherry wood.

Nose:  I got a lot of plum, chocolate, and dust.  I noticed little hints of wood and orange peel as well.

Taste:  Up front, there is a very aggressive flavor of cherry, chocolate, and cranberry.  Those initial flavors give way to a hollow finish of chocolate and smoke that lingers for a while.  There is not a lot of depth to this wine, but it was tasty.  I give it a solid 88.

The back label says the wine, “Pairs nicely with a dark chocolate walnut cake with a cherry coulis.”  I didn’t have one of those, but I did have a chocolate chip cookie on hand.  I don’t know what “Coulis” is, but if it’s anything like a chocolate chip, I can see why it works.

Good stuff!

Stay Rad,


Everything’s coming up Rosés: A three bottle throwdown.

June 16, 2011

Yesterday, Kara and I did a little tasting at Guglielmo Winery.  I originally went there with the intention of tasting and scoring EVERY wine we tasted.  Things did not go as planned.  The problem was that a tasting room is not an ideal space to score wines.  Too many people.  Too many wines.  Too many distractions.  That, and it’s embarrassing to write down a score in front of people working for the winery you are scoring.

I will say that I had a great time there.  None of their wines felt like must-haves, but Guglielmo is a fun place to be.  All of their wines fall in that 83 – 89 point range for me.  All of the people that work there are more like 92’s.  Great, great folks and a neat place to visit if you are ever visiting the Santa Clara Valley.

The wine that stuck out the most to me was the 2010 Estate Grown Rosatello.  It was an interesting rosé wine made from the grignolino grape (a super nerdy varietal from Italy).  Guglielmo claims to be one of only two wineries in California to grow the grape in any significant quantities.  The wine seemed food-friendly enough, so I purchased a bottle for $16.

I’m not a HUGE rosé drinker, so it is a tough category for me to score (It’s tough to type too.  Alt + 0233 = é).  Part of this blog experience is to try new things.  So how do I transition from a novice into an expert on pink wines?


This morning, I picked up two more bottles of Rosé from Trader Joe’s to compare against the Rosatello.  One from the Rioja of Spain ($6.99) and one from the Rhone of France ($4.99).  I know what wines I have purchased, but I will not know which of the three I am drinking until after I take my notes.  I had Kara pour the wines into three different glasses…

The three Rosés were labeled with wine charms: "Red", "White", and "Blue". In the battle between Spain, France, and the USA, I think we all know who should win... or do we?

After I taste the wines, I’ll see which one is which.  Wish me luck…

Wine #1:

"Red": You know what time it is!

Color:  This is the darkest wine of the bunch.  It haa a cool blood-orange type of color.

Nose:  There is a really pretty nose to this one.  Peach skin, oranges, and licorice dominate the nose.  There is a strong minerality that is rounded out with a hint of strawberry.

Taste:  This is what I would expect a Rosé to taste like.  Very dry.  There’s a nice orange and peach fruit to this, but the wine is much more driven by its minerality and acidity.  There is a long rubbery finish that I really like.  My guess is that this is the French Rose.

Wine #2:

"White": More like orange! Heyohhhhhh!!!!!!

Color:  The color is a very dull, very light, orange tint.

Nose:  The nose is very tight.  There are hints of sugar and salt.  There’s a subtle touch of peach.

Taste:  The first second of the taste was salty minerality.  This flavor gave way in an instant to a beautiful mouth full of cream and licorice.  It has some oak notes that remind me of a California red wine.  I really like this!  I’m thinking that this is the Spanish Rose.

Wine #3:

"Blue": The candle is for Evan.

Color:  The color on this wine is almost identical to that of the second (“White”) wine.  Light, dull, and orange.

Nose:  The nose is giving subtle hints of peach and minerals.

Taste:  All I can think of when tasting this wine is the viscosity.  This wine is the thickest of them all.  There’s a light acidity and minerality.  This wine would go well with food, but mostly because it would not get in the way of the food.  I doubt, however, that it would do anything to enhance the food experience.  This wine confused me.  It’s not bad.  It’s pleasant.  It just doesn’t bring much to the table.


The scores have been tallied, and the I’ve seen what’s what.  Here are the results from worst to first.

In last place…

Marques de Caceres 2009 Dry Rose Wine. Rioja, Spain. This wine made me "Blue".

I originally gave the Marques de Caceres an 85+, but the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it.  Again, it is not bad.  The problem is that for 7 bucks, I can find at least two wines that are significantly better in a similar price range.  Give it an 82 with shrugged shoulders.

In second…

Cellier du Rhone 2009 Cotes du Rhone Rose. "Red" and Rad!

The Cellier du Rhone is a steal at 5 bucks a bottle!  Give it an 86.  This is what I want from a summer time rosé.

And in First Place…

Guglielmo Private Reserve 2010 Estate Grown Rosatello. Santa Clara Valley, California. In spite of the look, this is NOT a crappy "White" zin.

The Guglielmo Rosatello is not your typical rose.  I am, however, in love with the creaminess of this wine.  Give it an 88 and save it for a hot summer afternoon.

So, there you have it.  I don’t know if I’m an expert yet, but I think I learned a lot today.

Take it away, Ethel.

Stay Rad,


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