May 13, 2010
Josh Cellars Amber Knolls Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
REGION: North Coast, California
I have a dear cousin named Josh. Growing up he was more like brother to me and though it seems a bit silly to associate a wine with a human personality, I could not help thinking of my Josh while enjoying this one. There must be something about the name. This seemingly unassuming and straightforward cab has something of a hidden personality, a surprising richness of character and interest that draws you in and makes you feel at home. But this cab is beyond smooth. It is quite the charmer. Bold cassis and sweet tobacco notes add layers of intrigue to the warmth and familiarity of ripe and dried berry fruit essences. The Josh Cellars is a lovely $20-$30 cabernet--except that it is not. This is truly a stunner for only $15... a thoroughly enjoyable drink-on-its-own gem. But if you must, please enjoy responsibly with a neatly seared filet mignon, perhaps finished with a pat of thyme butter.
Image from Joseph Car Wine
January 21, 2009
Bangin' Red 2005
<REGION: Napa Valley, California
VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec & Zinfandel
I sooo wanted to HATE this wine, recommended to me by an incredibly irritating sales associate who tried pretty hard to sound knowledgeable, but it was painfully evident, by his descriptions, that he hadn't bothered to learn the basics before taking the sales floor. Add to that, a cutesy name/label and I certainly feared the worse. I kept hearing a little voice in my head, 'Cheap red wine with a cute story on the back. . . It can't possibly be good... All story, no substance'
But I was compelled--as I am most wines under $10--to give it a shot. So imagine my surprise when, on its journey from the glass to my lips, wafts of ripe, dark berry and spice scents tickled my nose. It smelled lovely, lush and inviting. And I must confess, it tasted pretty good too. Definitely not as lush as it smelled, but medium bodied, warm and spicy with lots of plum and berry flavors strung along with with a fine oak-y undercurrent and hints of coffee.
A pleasant surprise and a great bargain wine that is pretty food friendly, but also an easy, everyday red to enjoy with nothing at all. It is tough to find online, so check your local shops.
December 15, 2008
Langhorne Crossing Red 2005
VARIETAL(S): Shiraz 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 37%, Petit Verdot 15%
REGION: Langhorne Creek, Australia
From the folks at Bleasdale Winery comes this interesting Aussie red blend. I loved the warm and spicy berry aromas and the smooth supple texture. Very warm and inviting. You get lots of ripe and bold fruit from the shiraz and a sturdy backbone from the cab. However, the more I sipped, the more I was underwhelmed. I would definitely try the new vintage--I'm a fan of many of the Bleasdale wines--but this one faded pretty quickly on the palate. Generally good, but lacking just a little something. Not sure if the 2006 has been released yet, but if you see it, it is probably a good bet. Overall I think a new vintage would be a food-friendly crowd-pleasing red.
October 26, 2008
Newman's Own - A Legacy Worth Celebrating
I have been trying to decide how best to remember the gentleman and legend, Mr. Paul Newman. As it happens, I've had a few bottles of Newman's Own wine kicking around, just begging to be reviewed. So to honor the man, the philanthropist and the actor, I decided to throw a Newman's Own party. A little corny, I know, but what can I say?
I invited about twelve friends who were either Newman fans or just along for the free booze and grub. In lieu of background music, we fired up the DVD player and played a continuous loop of my four favorite Paul Newman films--The Sting, The Long Hot Summer, The Hustler and A New Kind of Love.
I tried to keep it simple and I wanted to use as many Newman's Own products as I could:
Chicken and shrimp skewers marinated in the Lemon Pepper Marinade
Beef skewers marinated in Steak Sauce
Potatoes, onions, peppers tossed in Balsamic Vinaigrette and roasted
Tossed salad with classic Italian dressing
Chips and Salsa for snacking
Bowls of Spelt and Honey Wheat pretzels
Lots of NO popcorn placed strategically near the TV
Newman's Own Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon
House cocktail - The Fast Eddie (vodka and NO Lemonade with perfect rounds of thinly sliced red chile peppers floating in it... a real kick in the pants!)
Assorted NO cookies and organic k-cup coffee for dessert
Before the eating and official boozing began, I decided to hold a quick, mini wine tasting to get everyone's thoughts on the wines. I'm always a little skeptical of celebrity wines, but I did my due diligence and found that Newman's Own wines are produced by Three Thieves.
Newman's Own Chardonnay - Very lush and fragrant with scents of ripe tropical fruits... mainly pineapple. Lush and full on the palate as well. More tropical fruit woven with bright pear, golden apple and a thread of creamy vanilla oak lending flavor to its viscosity, all tempered by enough acidity to provide a crisp finish. Chardonnay haters thought it was too fruity and too creamy, but otherwise it was well received and a true indication of its worth--there was not a drop left at the end of the evening.
Newman's Own Cabernet Sauvingon - Bold and berry filled, this cab suprised all of us with its layered intensity. Rich and warm with scents of macerated berry, spice and sweet tobacco. Dried berries, plums and cassis round out the flavor profile and add a certain chewiness to the texture. This wine begs for a fire in the fireplace and bowl of stew in hand. Like Mr. Newman, this cab was adored by all.
Both the Cab and the Chard are quintessentially California wines. All sunshine and smiles. Infinitely like-able. You can find them at many large grocery chains as well as Cost Plus World Market in the $10 - $13 range.
June 17, 2008
Vinum Cellars Rose - It's Okay! 2006
VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
REGION: Napa, California
In general, I dig what the folks at Vinum Cellars have going on. Slightly irreverant brand personality, but backed up by solid fruit and stellar winemaking. The resulting wines are what we're all about: lovingly crafted and easy on the pocketbook. That said, I don't LOVE the 2006 Rose. It is bright and crisp with decent berry notes and hint of watermelon. But it is not as layered as previous vintages that I so relished summers past. It is perfectly fine, certainly OKAY, just not as great as I remember and even a little hot on the finish. I picked mine up at World Market, but if you don't have one near you, it is also available on Wine.com.
May 23, 2008
Fire up the grill - Wines for Steak
Steak is probably one of the easiest things to grill. . . a little pepper, generous salt, other spices or marinade if you desire, and a good sear makes for an easy and infinitely enjoyable meal. Red meat is also pretty simple to pair with wine so you have a lot more room to play around. Pretty much any big bold red will complement a hearty steak.
A pretty traditional pairing would be a big cab. A cabernet sauvignon, or a cab blend, will have the structure and fortitude to cut through the protein and fat. I like the Cousino Macul because it is big and dusty with the darker berry fruit flavors as well as dried fruit, sweet tobacco and saddle leather aromas. Totally warm and inviting.
Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $11
Opaque purple in colour, this Estate Cabernet offers aromatics of ripe blackberries, plum, herbs and cacao. Medium in body and light tannin, it captures the essence of Maipo Valley fruit. In the mouth, the flavors continue the blackberry-blueberry themes with hints of cassis and black olives. Its lingering finish echoes the black fruits and ends on a tangy cherry brightness. With time in the glass, this Cabernet unfolds beautifully, suggesting it can be enjoyed in its youth or cellared for 2 to 5 years. (from Wine.com)
My personal favorite with red meat (at least my cheap and fun fave) is malbec. One of the five Bordeaux blending grapes, Malbec is widely planted varietal in Argentina and is served with just about every type of meat you can imagine. The style is a little more loose and round than a cabernet, but still maintains a good bit of structure and spice to balance it out.
Gascon Malbec 2006 $12
This wine is made by blending Malbec from the three best growing areas in Mendoza. In these areas, the grapes develop sweet tannins, intense fruit and good acidity/sugar balance, combining the characteristics of each area. Red purple color. Intense black fruits and red plum aromas. Smooth and concentrated tannins in the mouth. (from Wine.com)
If you're feeling a little adventurous, check out a pinotage. It is the signature grape of South Africa and a cross between cinsault (a Rhone blending grape) and pinot noir. What you get is a totally original flavor that has nice cherry and red berry fruit flavors and aromas from the pinot, but is laced with twinges of cut herbs, smoke and roasted meat. Often when you first open the bottle is smells oddly antiseptic and a little like a band-aid, but if you give a few minutes to open up, you're in for an interesting wine experience. A natural match for meat.
Beyerskloof Pinotage 2005 $12
A medium to full bodied pinotage with a deep red colour. A complex Pinotage with plum and red berry flavours well integrated with the oak aromas. A balanced wine that could be enjoyed now or age in the bottle for a few years longer. In summer to go with seafood or light meat dishes. It also goes well with any red meat, pasta and spicy food. (from Beyerskloof)
February 19, 2008
Inca Cabernet Malbec 2005
I am a sucker for Argentine wines, malbec in particular. In fact, I had such a fantastic sojourn through the Mendoza Valley just after the harvest that I often choose malbec in hopes that it will trigger those now fading memories of the dusty terrain and sweeping views of the Andes. This wine just did not do it for me.
The Inca Cabernet (80%) Malbec (20%) blend is from quite a different region altogether: the Calchaqui Valley, nestled high in the mountains in the Salta Region of northern Argentina. But the climate isn't the problem. I think they just spent more time manipulating this wine rather than giving it the structure to come into its own. Had it been bagged or its label disguised, I might have described it as a fruit forward, smooth, round red with ripe berry flavors and a vegetal twist--green pepper and dill--quite reminiscent of a California Cabernet Franc. Were it not for the far-too-creamy mouth-feel I might have mistaken it for a merlot. It just wasn't what it purported to be. A perfectly decent wine for $10, but I probably won't buy it again.
January 29, 2008
Is a Bottle of Cabernet Worth $500?
We think some wines may be worth $500, but it's always hard to justify a bottle that expensive when a wine at $30-50 will score just as high. Last week, a study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology reported that the price of a bottle of wine can influence a drinkers' palate.
According to the study:
"If a person is told they are tasting two different wines and that one costs $5 and the other $45 when they actually are the same wine, the part of the brain that experiences pleasure will become more active when the drinker thinks they are enjoying the more expensive vintage.".
You can get the full read
here. Photo credit Eric Risber/AP 2006.
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October 31, 2007
Halloween Wine: Casillero del Diablo Cabernet
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
We Paid: $10
From the Concha y Toro Winery in Chile comes a series of wines featuring a devilish legend. The Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep (dare we say it?), blood red color. Its spicy currant fruit and velvety texture are devilishly seductive. It is a concentrated and elegant wine available for about $10 a bottle. We're pretty sure this wine is from, "the house of the devil." It's perfect for a Halloween wine and the website alone is worth a look.
Concha y Toro 2006 Casillero Del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon - Red Wine at Wine.com
August 10, 2007
Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon
Here's another one for the list of wines we haven't tried yet but we're itching to (OK, not literally itching - maybe just a bit tingly). We've heard good things from friends and found good write-ups - looks like we're going to have to get on getting a bottle, eh? Plus, one customer reviewer had us at "spicy, smoky, wonderful."
Deep, dark cherry color, with an expressive bouquet of currants, vanilla, black and red berry fruits. Toffee, tobacco and bittersweet chocolate also stand out on the nose. Soft and supple in the mouth, the ripe fruit is balanced by smooth oak and its creamy texture is dominated by rich, ripe berries and a dark chocolate finish.
Pair this wine with ripe cheeses, like Emmental or Brie. Artfully accompanies grilled meats, spicy dishes and savory flavors of pepper, sage and thyme.
at Root 1 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
May 24, 2007
Clos du Bois 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
We've just finished a bottle of this wine and at $19+ bucks a bottle, it's just making it under the Cheap Fun Wines radar. We think it's good - but at $19 you've got to love a wine right? Well, several of us did really love it. It has a very deep flavor with big spicy flavor. Not bad and worth a try if you like a bigger wine.
This Cabernet has a black, deep, ruby red color. Its scents of ripe blackberry and cassis are followed by intense and powerful flavors of spice and black cherry on the rich and juicy palate. Concentrated blackberry and cassis fruit mingle with hints baking spice, licorice, and smooth tannins on the back palate and persist through the lingering finish.
At Clos du Bois 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - Red Wine
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May 8, 2007
September 21, 2006
Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Origination: South Africa
We Paid: $9 (MSRP: $9)
We picked up a bottle of Cabernet last night as we headed over to game night with our friends. We weren't looking for anything too high shelf - in fact we set a price cap of ten bucks. We were there to play games, not review wine, so we didn't want to take over the focus. We figured we'd share a bottle, get some notes from our friends, and share them with you. Turned out the bottle got more attention than we'd expected, and people were pleasantly surprised with what they found in this South African red.
They Say: We found some tasting notes that describe Excelsior Cabernet as "dark plum red in color with a nose of black currant, plum, earth and spice. Medium-full in body, it is dry with moderate acidity and soft, ripe tannins. It offers rich, intense flavors of plums, black currant and toasty oak."
We Say: After the requisite calls of "Excelsior" from our nerdy brethren at game night (y'know, from when Bart joins the nerd club) we sat down to sipping. We all were struck by how the high alcohol content came through in the nose, followed by plum and berries. The initial taste was a tart plum, with berries and cherries and a slightly bitter finish. After it sat in the glass for a few minutes it definitely mellowed out and lost the bitterness, replacing it with a smokey flavor that impressed us.
Bottom Line: For nine bucks, this was a great deal. You don't have to worry about decanting it but you'll do well to let it sit in the glass for a few minutes. Everyone was shocked that it cost less than ten dollars, and we all thought it was a great value for what we paid. If you can find it, we recommend you pick up a couple bottles.
September 20, 2006
Cabernet Could Help Fight Alzheimer's
Reports have gone out recently that drinking as little as a glass or two a day of Cabernet Sauvignon could help fight Alzheimer's Disease. No report on how high quality the wine has to be so we'll stick to our cheap fun ones, but we'll definitely be upping our intake.
The authors of the study said, "This study supports epidemiological evidence indicating that moderate wine consumption, within the range recommended by the FDA dietary guidelines of one drink per day for women and two for men, may help reduce the relative risk for AD clinical dementia."
The researchers used 11-month-old transgenic mice with AD-type в-amyloid (Aв) neuropathology, to look for improvements in cognitive loss and AD-type neuropathology after red wine consumption.
from All Headline News
OK, so they did their research on mice - at least you have an excuse for a couple glasses of wine a day right?