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February 28, 2006

Pepperwood Grove Syrah Hurrah!

All three of us - me, my Partner in Tasting (PIT) and my visiting mom - liked this wine, a 2003 Pepperwood Grove California Syrah. It paired nicely with the hot and sour soup, which really brought out the fruit and the spice of the wine. YUM. This wine had a peppery nose and a nice bit of spice, juicy berries in the mouth and a soft finish. Wine Spectator wrote that this wine has "chewy sage." My mom had a hoot over that one. "CHEWY SAGE?????" she said. Phttttt.
"I tasted parsnip," howled the PIT. I am still trying to figure out what a beam is ..as in "a pretty beam of fluid berry" (This is Wine Spectator describing how this wine tastes) At first I thought he was talking about a blood transfusion after a head injury but I am sure that, as with the word quaffable, this is a wine word that I have only begun to understand. This bottle cost $6.99 at the local Rainbow Market co-op in San Francisco. Cheap!!!! Or should I say very affordable.

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February 27, 2006

Que Syrah Syrah


What will be....a cliche! OK, so the second monthly tasting at chez CheapFunWines is a Syrah-fest. I picked Syrah for selfish reasons: because I like them!!! I like them because they are peppery and feisty and fruity and fun to drink. Again, we found TWO we all really loved. Two is turning out to be our magic number. When we tasted Cabs last month the group also agreed that two bottles were superior to the rest of the lot. Spooky.
This time, we tasted six Syrahs and one rogue Zin. Hey, how did a Zin slip into the Syrah tasting? Outta here!!!
Check the next blog for our results and some comments from the peanut gallery or enthusiastic but completely unprofessional tasters.

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February 27, 2006

It's just E-Moshin....wine!

Gosh that reference to 1970s Saturday Night Fever music was corny but I couldn't help myself. Moshin, located at 10295 Westside Road in Healdsburg, CA., was the next winery we tried, about nine long winding miles away from the Family Vineyards. Cellar Rat Alan Baker, who seems to have about nine million times more wine knowledge than I do, recommended Moshin, so we thought we'd do the drive and make it the last tasting of the day. I'm glad we did it. Moshin, unfortunately, only makes two wines under $20, the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles (made from a blend of 88% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc grapes. $20 a bottle) and a
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles (Made from a blend of 88% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc grapes. $16 a bottle.) I tasted the 2000 and thought it was a nice mac and cheese Cabernet with balanced fruit and oak. A great table wine.

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February 27, 2006

Five Papapietro Pinots for Tasting


I should probably just leave Papapietro-Perry (Healdsburg, CA) out of the blog altogether because the woman pouring treated me like Hillary Clinton at the Cheney family barbeque. Besides, their wines start at $45, which is way too expensive for our Cheapfunwines purposes. But for a $5 cover charge I like to try the expensive ones. That way you can find cheap bottles that taste just as good.

ArrowContinue reading: "Five Papapietro Pinots for Tasting"

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February 27, 2006

Speaking of Sangiovese

After visiting Amphora, we were off to Petersons Winery, located about 20 feet away. We could have rolled there. Peterson was hosting a luncheon for its wine club members so the vibe was a bit crazy, kind of like Costco on a Saturday except a lot happier. We managed to muscle up to a little table and get our hands on a few clean glasses for tastings with self-proclaimed Cellar Rat Alan Baker, who when he's not pouring, blogs about wine and does accompanying Podcasts, too, for NPR. Busy guy. Alan poured a bunch of wines, a select few that squeaked under the $20 mark.
First was a 2002 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, which my Partner In Tasting (PIT) tried and liked but I didn't taste because I wanted to go straight to the 2001 Sangiovese (yum and $15). I found this wine (100 percent Sangiovese) an elegant and pretty straight-ahead, well-crafted California Sangiovese. Here's how the winemakers describe it: Aromas of toast, ripe cherry and dried strawberries mingle with hints of dusty leather, bacon and smoke to create an alluring blend. I think I missed the toast and smoked bacon. Add a tomato and I could have had a late lunch, too. Peterson also makes a Zero Manipulation red table wine that's $12.50. It's 78% Carignane, Tollini Vineyard, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County 14% Syrah, Gravity Flow Block, Bradford Mountain, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
8% Mourvedre, Norton Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.

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Some Cool Red Picks

Next up on the first Wine Tour of 2006 is Amphora Winery at 4791 Dry Creek Road. Amphora, like the other three wineries that share a block of nondescript buildings within the Family Vineyards compound, is nothing to look at from the outside. There's also nothing under $20 among their current batch of wine, so for our purposes, I won't cover any of them here. Their wines run between $24 for a 2004 Zin to $45 for a 2003 bottle of Jacob's Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, which won an SF Chronicle gold medal award. I did luck out though and get a few recommendations from Brigette, who poured during our tasting, for a few bottles that ARE under $20. I am starting to believe that anyone you ask up here has a few affordable favorites to share. Here they are and I hope to try and review them soon:
1) Noceto Sangiovese. I love Sangiovese, so this is definitely on the shopping list.
Here's something from the website about this wine.
2003 Noceto Sangiovese Shenandoah Valley, CA ($9 to $14)
The twelfth vintage, this is a fruit-packed, pleasant, easy-drinking Sangiovese. As usual, it’s 100% Sangiovese, with medium body, cherry-red color, and dark cherry flavors throughout, accented by subtle oak and a dash of peppery spice. Drink now to several years.

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February 24, 2006

Sauvignon Blanc, but no Bob


(Yes, this picture stinks but it's better than nothing. Apologies.)
Next stop on our February 2006 wine tour (oops, I just wrote 2004. What happened to the last two years????) was Mauritson Winery, 2859 Dry Creek Road.
The Mauritson family has been around these parts forever, growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley since the 1870s. They sold their fruit to Sonoma County wineries until 1998, when they decided to start making wines themsevels. They produced their first vintage that year: a Dry Creek Zinfandel
We tasted a 2002 Dry Creek Zin while we were there (at $24 it doesn't cut our $20 and under rule) and I found it pretty nice. I tasted some jam and vanilla and blackberry. It was a pretty balanced wine, too.
The 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, ($16) a hit with a couple of people we talked to that day, was not my favorite. I found it lemony and crisp, which I like, but too sweet. Jim liked it. He agreed with the winery's description: the bright pink grapefruit aromas in the nose are accented by dried apricot and fresh cut hay. The vibrant mouth feel gives way to clean balanced acidity in the back of the palate.
Before we left, a woman sitting on a stool next to us brought up her favorite Mauritson's employee, Bob. Bob is apparently a lot of fun, so next time ask for him by name!

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A Pink Merlot???

It's a pinky girly wine!
Splish, splash.

So the PIT (Partner in Tasting) and I headed to Healdsburg for the night recently with a plan to hit a bunch of new wineries......Initially my idea was to head back to the ones I've tried and liked, but then thought better of that idea. Why not try a bunch of new places? So that's what we did and I'm glad for it. We tried a lot of great, new wines from seven (count em) SEVEN wineries. It's a good thing I wasn't driving. I'm going to have to learn the fine art of the spit when tasting.
One thing that I am learning about tasting is that the fun places to stop aren't necessarily the places that make the best wine. But somehow, when the people are friendly and nice it makes the faults in the wine a little bit easier to ignore. When the person pouring is pissy, as one woman was to me on this tour, skipping their wines becomes a lot easier!!! You just associate the label with the mean face.


Anyhow, I'll get to the point: the tastings.

1) Our first stop was Wilson Winery, 1960 Dry Creek Road. We'd never heard of this place, but the huge San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner banner flying outside (Um, not very subtle, but smart marketing!!) inspired us to turn left and take a peek It was worth it. WIlson's is a warm and inviting place to taste. They've got a woodstove running (a nice touch on a raw day like ours) and a table for splitting a bottle. The patio also has chairs and small tables and overlooks the vineyards. The view is gorgeous. Unfortunately, my camera died so I didn't get any photos. DOH

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The Best of the Blogpire

Tvsnob 125 Macnn-2Another week and another Best of the Blogpire! Exciting things are happening at TV SNOB - we've just run a TVSnob Logo Contest so expect a new look and new stuff over at TV SNOB very soon. Also if you've seen the new Gillette Fusion Razor - Shaving Stuff has a review of the new Gillette Fusion Razor. Are you into Poker? If so and you've got your own home game going you may want to check out our review of the new Apache Poker Chips - Paulson Clay Poker Chips For Your Home Poker Game. Okay - now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Single Serve Coffee
Review: Black & Decker Home Café One Cup Coffee Maker GT300 from Single Serve Coffee.com
Save 10% On All Single Serve Coffee Makers

Just The Chips
Casino Server for Poker Night
Beyond Tells: Power Poker Psychology

Kitchen Contraptions
Magnetic Fridge Clock
Fizz Keeper Pump & Pour

Shaving Stuff
The Art of Shaving - Now in Book Form
How To Say Moustache in Albanian
L'Oreal for Men

What's All the Racquet
Volkl's DNX Technology - Cool S#%&
James Blake is working with Prince to design a racquet

TV Snob
First Look: Toshiba's TDP-T95U XGA projector
TV-B-Gone: A Tool for the TV Vigilante

Shirt Snob
Wood Tank by Vince
New at Busted Tees

GPS Lodge
In-Car Navigation Systems; Dangerous?
Mio 350 and Mio 550

The Cooking News
Recipe News: Join the Mardi Gras fun with Cajun recipes
Coffee News: Coffee before exercise won't kill you

Liquor Snob
Are You Gonna Drink Vodka My Way?
Bar Bets You're Sure to Win

Really Natural
Is Organic Always a Good Thing?
Eating Organic Foods Eliminates Pesticides from Children's Bodies

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February 18, 2006

Who loves Cabernet Sauvignon? We DO!

The Cheapfunwines gang had a blast at our first monthly wine tasting. Aside from getting a bit tipsy, we all learned a bit more about why we love Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our group, which included a trained chef, a photographer, a computer programmer, a pharmacist, my retired neighbor and a handful of semi-boozy journalists, tasted 10 Cabernet Sauvignons from around the world that cost under $20.

We are no experts, just wine lovers on a mission to evolve our palates. Marlo had just went to a huge Zinfandel tasting here in San Francisco the day before my soiree so she was right up there with the descriptions.

Before we tasted we hid the labels on all 10. (This is good to do because I recall reading somewhere that women tend to buy more bottles of wines with blue labels...and people also tend to have preconceived notions about what a wine is supposed to taste like if it's a certain brand.) Thankfully, there weren't a lot of household names among the wines people brought. No Bogle, Ravenswood or Rodney Strongs among the pack, thank you.

After we finished trying all 10 bottles (eek!) some of us went back and tried the ones we were unsure of again. We found a few had opened up and improved. Others were still nice.

ArrowContinue reading: "Who loves Cabernet Sauvignon? We DO!"

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February 17, 2006

Another Chilean Chardonnay, but not as nice

My mom, my Partner in Tasting (PIT) and I tried another Chilean Chardonnay, a 2003 Calina, the other night and I have to say that it didn't make me as happy as the Yelcho did. I prefer the cooler, crisper, dryer whites and this wine was more of a traditional big Chardonnay. It had a flowery nose, apple and tropical fruit in the mouth, and an OK finish, but overall I found it too sweet and heavy on the fruit and alcohol. "It's pleasing," my mom said. She is more tolerant of bigger Chardonnay. "Not a distinct taste to grab you between the toes," she added. (Hunh???? I guess we will add that to the beam description. Not a taste that grabbed you on the beam.)
My husband, not big on the words this night, called the wine harmless. I had a half glass. They finished the bottle.
Eh, if I am going to justify a second it's got to curl my toes just a little (even grab them!)

I do, however, want to go back for some more Yelcho, which was cheaper and much more quaffable (HA!)

ArrowContinue reading: "Another Chilean Chardonnay, but not as nice"

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Time to Get A Wine Wheel

I think it's finally time for me to invest in a few wine aroma wheels. It can be particularly difficult to nail down what I am tasting in a glass of wine aside from the obvious stuff (oak, butter, cherry, berry, poop, and yes, alcohol!). Was that cat pee or a Salem light? HMMMMM. Time to get a wine wheel, I think, the equivalent of the wine world's Cliff Notes. The wine aroma wheel was developed during the mid-1980s by Ann C. Noble, a professor at UC Davis, Emerita. Noble is a Sensory Scientist/Flavor Chemist who today travels around the world as a wine judge, attending meetings about sensometrics, wine, sensory science and such. In 1997, Jane Robichaud, director of sensory research at Napa Valley's Beringer Vineyards, updated the wheel. Here's another site that offers a sensory user's manual.
You can buy a wine wheel on Noble's site for $6 (.75 shipping) Here's a food and wine wheel that promises to link a wine with any food "from Chinese to chocolate." It costs $4.99. Maybe I'll order one of those, too.

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The Best of the Blogpire & ReallyNatural.com

Reallynatural Blogad-1We're pretty excited here around the Blogpire. Over the past few months we've been cooking up a new site to bring to you - ReallyNatural.com. If you need tips on living naturally (Birkenstocks not required) - then this is the site for you. ReallyNatural.com is your resource for product reviews of all of those consumer food, health and beauty, and household goods marketed as 'natural', 'organic' and 'environmentally friendly'.

You'll learn as Liesel and Mikko test the waters and offer tips on what it means to 'live naturally.' And where else are you going to find a review on Ecover Ecological Toilet Bowl Cleaner or a nice Organic Wine: 2004 Jelu Malbec and perhaps your didn't buy the right gift on Valentine's Day and should have looked into Chocolate Bars For Your Eco-Conscious Honey. Whatever you're need to be more natural - ReallyNatural.com will have it.

Now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Liquor Snob
Don Eduardo Silver Tequila Review
Cocktail Parties 101

Single Serve Coffee
Review: Tully's French Roast & Kona Blend K-Cups from Single Serve Coffee.com
Four New K-Cups from Green Mountain Coffee

Kitchen Contraptions
Folding Cutting Board
Pig Baking Dish

Shaving Stuff
"Buzzed" - a Shaving DVD
It's The Microfins, Not The Blades

TV Snob
Philips RC9800i Touchscreen Remote Control Review
American Idol Crushes the Winter Olympics in TV Ratings

Shirt Snob
Threadless
Kimono Top by Geren Ford

GPS Lodge
TomTom now #2 in US for Mobile GPS
Magellan eXplorist 210 Outdoor Bundle

The Cooking News
Wine News: Selecting the Perfect Red Wine
Recipe News: Heart-healthy recipes

Just The Chips
The Book of Bluffs - How to Bluff at Poker
Small Stakes Hold 'em

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February 15, 2006

A Vote for Chilean Chardonnay

What a revelation! I've tasted and spat more California Chardonnays then I care to count. They are just so big and boozy and fruity-full of everything. Give me something cold and dry and bright with a grassy nose and I am a happy girl. That's just what we sipped on Valentine's Day with some grilled pork chops and sweet potatoes. No, that might not have been the most perfect Valentine's day dinner or the most perfect wine match, but we went for it anyway, since we had no Merlot in the house and we wanted to raid the fridge of the whites I had bought for my mom to try (oops, sorry mom). Note: I did some research and not only are whites fine with pork chops,the other white meat, but perfect if you grill and serve a little pineapple or fruit with them. I typically squeeze a lemon on my chops and then hit them with a little pepper before grilling.
Guilt drove me out to replace a bottle this morning so we can try even MORE Chards for review in future blogs. Anyhow, this Chardonnay we polished off last night is a 2004 Yelcho from Rapel Valley, Chile. (One of scads of wines from this area) I bought it for $6.99 at Whole Foods, along with another bottle of Chilean to try. I've not drank many bottles of Chilean white so i felt it was darn time to try.
Jim and I both liked this wine. I liked it a lot. "It's crisp," he said. "I taste the pear and it has a nice finish." I agreed. I love a Chardonnay that is bright, crisp and balanced with a light pear taste and a grassy fresh nose.
Very quaffable, I say (God, did I say that?) and very worth the $6.99. We'll see how the $10 bottle fares tonight. DUM DUMDUM DUM.

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February 14, 2006

A Little About Loxton Winery

Last year, my partner in tasting (PIT) and I stopped by a relatively new winery called Loxton in Sonoma Valley. The best part of our visit was meeting Chris Loxton, who let us taste his Syrah and Zinfandel, both which were pretty good. Chris, who holds a doctorate in physics, was super friendly and SO enthusiastic about finally having his own business. He worked at Wellington Vineyards as a co-winemaker until the summer of 2001, when he left to start Loxton Cellars.
For our purposes, wines under 20 bucks, just one of his bottles this year fits the Cheapfunwines bill: the 2003 Shiraz, which is $16. (Chris also makes a 2003 Hillside Zinfandel, ($25) a 2002 Hillside Vineyards Syrah, ($24) and a 2004 Syrah Port, EnglandCrest Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. ($25)
Here's what he has to say about the Shiraz on his website:
With my father and grandfather as growers of Shiraz is Australia, isn’t this the wine I have to make? Perhaps a little more in synch with Australian Shiraz; it has great color, spiciness, blackberry aromas and a rich, ripe and jammy finish that reminds me of cherry cordial. Easily the best Shiraz I’ve made. Primarily made with the Australian Shiraz cuttings planted in the Rubaiyat Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, with some fruit from the Timbervine Ranch in Russian River Valley. While tasting great now, this wine should be even better in 2006. Drink over the next 3-4 years. 246 cases produced.
I'm planning on stopping by Loxton when we head to Sonoma this weekend. (Ugh, it's supposed to rain!!)

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For Wine Bargain Hunters

So we're all looking for a bargain, particularly if we find a bottle of wine we really like and want to get it by the case. And don't you hate it when you buy a bottle for $20 and turn around and see it somewhere else for $14.99?
Here's a website that tracks the prices of different wines from places around the web. Forbes picked this site for its Best of the Web feature.

Here's some info from the website.

The largest and most up-to-date resource for wine availability and pricing.
An impartial medium independent of any retailer, wholesaler, or distributor.

The site answers questions like:
Where can I buy 1990 Cheval Blanc, and at what price?
What DRC vintages are available in; Europe, USA, or anywhere.
Which wines from 1956 are selling now?

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For all you Wine Tasting Novices (Like Me!!)

Here's an interesting article about tasting for beginners from the Houston Chronicle. It's a bit dated (from 1998, eek! Holy Clinton Administration) but has some interesting tips on wine basics and tasting. As an aside, I bought a few Chardonnays that I will be reviewing over the next few days while my mom visits. (I'll let her chime in, too) My mom, like many moms, is a big Chardonnay fan and has become a bit of a Chardonnay snob, though she will not admit it. She won't drink red, so I need to stock up on the whites before her visit. Her favorite is Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, which I couldn't find at the Whole Foods. (A bottle of 2003 Chalk Hill costs $16.99 at Wine.com, not on the cheaper side of the wine scale, but hey, mom likes it.)
Instead, I bought a 2003 Calina Reserva from Chile ($10) and a 2004 Yelcho Chard,($6.99) also from Chile. So we will try the Chilean chards and pass on the results.

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February 10, 2006

Quaffable Awfable


PIT's (Partner in Tasting's) look when I mention the word quaffable.
OK. There's something about this word quaffable (meaning easy and pleasant to drink a lot of, as it applies to wine. For example, "This Bogle is intensively quaffable!") The expression really wigs me out. I just don't like it. For starters, it doesn't roll off the tongue. It kind of sits back there with the molars, forming an awkward O in the place where you'd normally choke on an olive. Second, it sounds vaguely obscene. (Or just snotty, as my friend Stefanie said when I mentioned the word to her) Thirdly, I see it used in reference to wine and know that it's one of those words that everyone in the wine can use with confidence and with a very straight face except me because I am not really part of the wine world. That said, I do plan to take a few more introductory tasting classes soon in which I might attempt to use the word without choking. (I've had a few taste coachings, for the record, so I am not completely clueless, and keep tripping on corks from nice bottles all over my house to prove it) Again, this site is for people who are learning, so don't spam me telling me I am an idiot.

Anyhow, in my research I found a really fun well-written blog called Quaffability.com, which is why I bring up the word in the first place. This guy writes about wine, largely bottles that cost $12 or under, from Trader Joes. He's worked in the restaurant industry and seems quite knowledgable so he describes wines a lot better than I do. I find myself going back to his website often because he's a lovely writer and has some great new recommendations, like a recent bit on Dehlinger, a small wine producer in Sebastopol, CA. He recommends their wines but the only way to get a bottle is to get on their mailing list. (They don't do tastings and they sell in very few places)
I'm sending a request in today.

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Wine For Dummies


I'll admit it. I've been reading Wine For Dummies lately. I never read this book straight through when I got it from my brother in law a few years ago. It sat on a table collecting dust. But lately I've been using it to try to get up to speed about French wine, of which I know very little. For those of us with rudimentary knowledge of wine and winemaking the first couple of chapters aren't very helpful, but a few of the later chapters on Italian, Spanish, German and French wines are easy to read and informative. (Tips on drinking Burgundy, identifying the Super Tuscans, Cracking the code of German wines, etc) The writers, Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, seemed to have fun writing this book. This is from Amazon:
Amazon.com
In Wine for Dummies, Mary Ewing-Mulligan teams up with hubby and fellow wine educator Ed McCarthy to guide us on an exhaustive, entertaining trip around the enological--that's right, enological--world. Though clearly experts themselves (Ewing-Mulligan is one of a handful of Americans holding the rare title Master of Wine), the authors assure us that even the most basic knowledge will undermine the very notion of wine pretension. It's as simple as this: "This wine is named for a grape variety. This wine is named for a geographical region. When they make this kind of wine, it goes into this kind of bottle." And so on.

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The Best of the Blogpire

Shaving Stuff 125 Macnn-2You'll need to remember only one thing for the week ahead - VALENTINE'S DAY. Many of our blogs will be feature some tips and tricks for Valentine's Day so check them out. If you're looking to be nice and smooth - Shaving Stuff already has posted Valentine's Day Shaving Specials. Now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Liquor Snob
Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur Review
Ivanabitch Vodka: Yes, It's Called 'Ivanabitch'

Single Serve Coffee
Revisiting Tassimo: Suchard's Hot Chocolate Part III
Revisiting Tassimo: Making a Cappuccino Tassimo Style
Revisiting Tassimo: Hot Beverage System Part I

Just The Chips
Tri-fold Texas Hold'em pro poker top
Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide

Kitchen Contraptions
Shabu-Shabu and B.B.Q. Pan
Can Colander

Shaving Stuff
The Official Gillette Fusion Website
Gillette Fusion - What's in the Box?

TV Snob
Turn your Flat into the Star Trek Enterprise: Go Bankrupt
Archos AV500 Mobile DVR Review

Shirt Snob
More at Threadless
Nailhead Cami by Ella Moss

GPS Lodge
TomTom Map Upgrades - Here's the story
GPS Review: Lowrance iWay 350c by GPS Lodge

The Cooking News
Coffee News: Starbucks Plans to Launch Iced Coffee
Wine News: 'Three Kisses of Wine' For Your Valentine

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The Best of the Blogpire

Shaving Stuff 125 Macnn-2You'll need to remember only one thing for the week ahead - VALENTINE'S DAY. Many of our blogs will be feature some tips and tricks for Valentine's Day so check them out. If you're looking to be nice and smooth - Shaving Stuff already has posted Valentine's Day Shaving Specials. Now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Liquor Snob
Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur Review
Ivanabitch Vodka: Yes, It's Called 'Ivanabitch'

Single Serve Coffee
Revisiting Tassimo: Suchard's Hot Chocolate Part III
Revisiting Tassimo: Making a Cappuccino Tassimo Style
Revisiting Tassimo: Hot Beverage System Part I

Just The Chips
Tri-fold Texas Hold'em pro poker top
Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide

Kitchen Contraptions
Shabu-Shabu and B.B.Q. Pan
Can Colander

Shaving Stuff
The Official Gillette Fusion Website
Gillette Fusion - What's in the Box?

TV Snob
Turn your Flat into the Star Trek Enterprise: Go Bankrupt
Archos AV500 Mobile DVR Review

Shirt Snob
More at Threadless
Nailhead Cami by Ella Moss

GPS Lodge
TomTom Map Upgrades - Here's the story
GPS Review: Lowrance iWay 350c by GPS Lodge

The Cooking News
Coffee News: Starbucks Plans to Launch Iced Coffee
Wine News: 'Three Kisses of Wine' For Your Valentine

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February 9, 2006

Sonoma Wineries Here We Come!!!!

Yes, I am heading to Sonoma with the husband for a night in a week or so. I've not planned the vineyards we are going to hit yet, but I will most certainly come back with a slew of reviews for the blog. We'll probably stop by Unti, a cool little place run by a dad and his son out of a small shed in Sonoma. We also love Ridge, Quivira, Dry Creek, Raymond Burr, Ferrari-Carano (AAHHHHH those tulips are lovely in spring!) and Hanna wineries. (What am I missing???) Maybe we'll even hit J and do some sparkling white tastings and I hope to maybe swing by Buena Vista in out of the way Sonoma because I love their wine, particularly this fantastic Zinfandel I tasted there last year. (The only problem with Buena Vista is that they only sell their reserve wines at the winery and through their wine club) Although I typically thumb my nose at a lot of Zin, (my tongue! It's evolving!!) Buena Vista crafted this lovely one that we bought and I drank by myself accidentally mistaking it for a cheap Trader Joe's bottle one night while giving my daughter a bath and booking dinner at the same time. OOPS. "This is a great bottle for just $6.99," I said to myself as I took another gulp. I didn't realize I'd been drinking an expensive bottle that I was saving for a nice occassion (It cost about $38) until I looked at the label the next day. DuH! S.O. wasn't happy.

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More Affordable Wine Recommendations

Here's a list of some cool affordable wines from the SF Chronicle (from freelancer and wine writer Leslie Sbrocco, the author of "Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine" Here's her recommendations, some whites and some reds, for under $20. Other than the Barefoot Cellars, I've not tried any of these (Barefoot Cellars is a Trader Joe's staple) but will try to hunt down a few for a future review.

NV Korbel California Brut Rosé ($11)

NV Lorikeet South Eastern Australia Sparkling Shiraz ($10)

2004 Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti ($9 for 375 ml)

NV Pommery Pink POP Champagne Rosé ($12 for 187 ml)

NV Segura Viudas Aria Pinot Noir Cava Brut ($12)

Whites

2004 Oroya Tierra de Castilla ($8)

2005 Yelcho Reserva Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

Reds

NV Barefoot Cellars California Cabernet Sauvignon ($6)

2004 Five Rivers Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($12)

2003 Vina Chocalan Maipo Valley Carmenere ($12)


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February 8, 2006

Sipping Wine with your Valentine...

My local wineshop, Plumpjack, which is co-owned by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, (he of the shellac-headed cuteness) puts out a newsletter that I've just started getting. The recent issue had a list of some juicy romantic wines for Valentines Day. I figured it might be well worth trying some if they weren't so darn expensive. Just two were under $20, recommended by Plumpjack wine expert Debbie Brown. The 2003 Fresh Oyster Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99) and the 2004 Miner Rosato ($14.99). But since it's a special day and you might want to splurge on a more expensive bottle here are a few others on the list - 2004 Foxen Chardonnay, Tinaquaic Vineyard ($25.99 )and the 2003 Cascina Val de Prete, Barbera d'Alba "Carolina." ($29.99)

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Cabs Part Deux

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Here are five more Cabernet Sauvignon's under $20 we tasted at the monthly wine tastings.


6) 2003 Pedroncelli, $14 Sonoma
A fruity, drinkable solid wine.
“Pleasant, mellow cherry,” writes John.
Aimee writes that this wine is fragrant, smells earthy and tastes of cherry/raspberry.
“Fruity and sweet,” Stef says. “It’s OK.”

7) 2003 Veramonte, Chile $7
I thought this wine had a sharp nose and was a bit acidic. A nice finish. “Meaty, gamey,” Marlo writes.
“Nice fuit,” says Aimee. Alorie tasted some licorice and pepper. John says this wine had a thin berry nose and a sweetness that disappearsand leaves tanins.

8) 2003 Ring Bolt, Australia, $15
I liked this red. In fact, we all liked this one.
I tasted some mint and big berries. John found this wine sour at first but said it was chocolately smooth when it opened up. Aimee found it well-balanced. Marlo liked it, too.

9) 2002 Castle Rock, Sonoma, $9. OK, we’re slowing down by this one. It’s hard to taste this many wines in a row John found it “tinny,” with some slight chocolate on the tongue. Marlo also tasted some chocolate in this wine and called it “dessert smooth.” The majority of us liked it. But who knows....we might have liked Boone's Farm at this point.
Speaking of Boone's Farm, these reviews crack me up. Even this wine has its fans, as loony as they might be.

10) 2002 Hawk Crest, Napa. $15
I liked this wine a lot more once it opened up. It’s dry and nicely balanced and fruity. Hawk Crest is made by the Stag's Leap folks. When I was younger Stag's Leap was the holy grail of wine to me, for some reason. I had just heard about how swanky it was among the dot com crowd. A friend got really angry when she had to split the bill for dinner and someone at the table had ordered a few bottles of the stuff. As a joke, I got her a bottle of Stag's Leap as an engagement present. I think I had Stag's Leap once, but cannot remember it so it might not have been all that memorable. Anyhow, back to Hawk Crest. I think we were all pretty tapped out by the time we got to this wine. It's hard on the average tongue to taste 10 wines in one night. By this time, our crackers and cheese were gone, the olives mere pits and the tortilla chips just crumbs in a bowl. It was time to call it a night.


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An Odd Little Tip Top Shiraz

Tip Top 2004 Shiraz, a wine recommended by my local shop, Plumpjack, is a strange wine. I think I really should start articulating my needs to the locals because this is the second bum recommendation in a row.
Tiip Top wasn't all bad. I found it juicy in the mouth - a big raspberry, fruity taste -- but the finish just ruined the wine for me. Every swallow came with a bitter, acrid aftertaste. I kept tasting it over and over to see if the aftertaste would disappear because I liked having the wine in my mouth. It didn't.
Tip Top is from the Limestone Coast of Australia. It has a screw top (My husband, more of a wine snob than I, hates the whole screw top thing). I probably won't buy this one again.

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A Few Red Jewels

We've had a few affordable bottles lately that should be recommended. The first is a Jewel Collection 2003 Petit Syrah ($7.99) that I thought was pretty well balanced, jammy in the mouth with a nice soft, light finish.
I found this wine overall quite drinkable. Jim didn't like it as much as I did. "It's OK."
The second was a hit with both of us. A 2001 Mazzocco Cabernet, Sonoma. ($10.99) This wine had a nice balance of blackberry, vanilla and oak. Nice smooth, soft finish. It tastes a lot more $$$ than it is and I'd definitely buy a case of this.
A 2003 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet, S. Australia, however, was not as pleasing. I found this wine jammy and full, but too sweet and candy-ish. It had a metallic finish that I didn't like, either. My PIT (Partner in Tasting) found it unoffensive but too sweet.

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OK, So I Tried the Boxed Wine.....

It's time to taste the Three Thieves' Bandit, a wine that comes in a Tetra box and is blended at Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, CA. My husband laughed when he pulled the foil off the top and smelled it. "It smells like nothing," he said of the wine, which for the sake of this tasting was a Cabernet Sauvignon. Well, the guy at the wine shop hadn't told me much about it when I bought it aside from the fact that it was a Cab. "No oak," he said. Insightful.
I smelled a little fruit and a lot of alcohol in this wine.
Honestly, it wasn't the worst wine I've ever tasted. I liked it just fine with the pizza I was chowing and would have considered bringing it on a picnic for convenience sake. Not the Partner in Tasting (PIT). "It's just not very good," he said. "It would be very good for embalming, though."
We tossed most of the box.
Bandit costs $6.99 for the one liter Tetra brick at my local wineshop.

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February 3, 2006

February 2, 2006

Boxed Wines and Screw tops, Oh My!


I am finally ready to try wine in the box. To come clean, I've always thought of wine in a box as totally trailer park -- the stuff that your red-nosed aunt pours into a pink tumbler with ice cubes before parking it in front of Days of Our Lives. Well, my friend Anne, who has Gucci good taste, says Joel Gott in a box is pretty darn good. So I have decided to take her word and investigate further. The wine, a joint production of Joel Gott and a couple of buddies, is called Three Thieves (A brassy enough name) and it comes in a 1-literTetra box....you know those soft sided boxes they use for chicken broth and your kids' juice boxes. MSNBC reports that these wine boxes have been big in Europe for years. Vive La France! Anyway, Three Thieves got a lot of press when the company introduced its screw cap jug wines in 2004. I never bought any, largely because I never saw it at the store, though now I picture myself slugging it down while attempting some dance of my Celtic roots.The 2002 Napa Valley Cabernet jug was priced pretty fine at $11 a liter. Wine Spectator gave it an 87 out of 100 points, too, not bad for a jug.
Wine Spectator says the Bandit Tetra box quality is a couple notches below the jug.
The Tetra pack comes in California Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sangiovese. I am going to hunt down a few Tetra packs this week to review on the blog soon. Unfortunately, it has rained constantly here in SF so there will be no picnic with the Tetra boxes, though I promise to have an open mind and to not drink it from a Dixie Cup.

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February 1, 2006

A Wine Preservation System That Works?

OK, so I've got six quarter-full bottles of good Cabernet sitting on my dining room table. I am in denial about tossing them out. I opened them four days ago for our wine party so they're probably all nasty by now. But I can't quite bring myself to toss them. Unfortunately, I've not tried anything that works when it comes to saving a bottle of wine and end up crying as I pour it down the sink. I've tried stoppers. They are pretty lame. Those plastic vaccuums don't do much either. I'm too cheap to invest in some nitrogen pump that looks like it might blow up my house. Some say sticking a bottle of red in the refridgerator for a day or two will help preserve it. That's not worked very well for me.
Anyway, I was listening to NPR's interminable fund drive this morning and they were gabbing about a device called the ReServe Preservation system. (Give NPR $30 a month and you get the ReServe system and a tote bag free!!!)
According to the company's website, ReServe pumps Argon, the most neutral gas -- a gas that won't react with wine -- into your bottle. The website says that wiinemakers have used Argon for decades to top off barrels during the winemaking process because it safely displaces oxygen from the bottle to reduce oxidation of the wine. (Oxidation spoils the bottle.) Here's what the ReServe people have to say about the system, which looks like a microphone stuck to a pumping device that you stick on a bottle. It actually looks pretty easy to use. "In tests with recognized wine experts, ReServe preserved over sixty wines at "restaurant quality" by an average of over 6 days, a significant improvement over other preservation systems." A quick surf netted prices between $125 to $200 for ReServe, which is sold by Williams Sonoma and Marshall Fields. I hope to review the system in a future post.

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