March 24, 2009

Hermanos de Villar Ipsum Verdejo 2007

ipsumverdejo.jpgVARIETAL: Verdejo
REGION: Rueda, Spain
PRICE: $13

After a lovely morning hike through a desert preserve, the dashing Mr. CheapFunWines and I decided to spend our rare, kid-less Saturday afternoon meandering through Central Phoenix, exploring the fun and funky shops we would otherwise avoid with our 3-year-old in tow. And so we decided early on that our afternoon pilgrimage of all things "grown-up" must end at a wine bar.

We chose Postino--mostly because I was hungry for good panini--but were disappointed that the Postino Central location had yet to open. So, bellies rumbling we headed for Arcadia and the original Postino location, located in the old Arcadia post office building.

Since this isn't CheapFunRestaurants, I'll skip the lengthy description of the atmosphere and menu, except to note that we loved the casual vibe and lovely patio (where we found our perch) and though the menu is limited to panini, bruschetta, salads and a few appetizers, everything we tasted is excellent. As for the wine list, the by-the-glass list is diverse and interesting, and the bottle selections are displayed on racks as you enter the restaurant. You can browse those at your leisure and the knowledgeable and friendly wait staff is eager to assist in decision making. Glass prices are a little steep for my taste, unless you go between 11 am and 4 pm (every day) when glasses are only $5.

I chose the verdejo because it was a hot day and I thought it might be a lovely complement to the vegetarian panini... And I was not disappointed. In the glass it has a clear green-gold hue. Grass and citrus blossom and lime are the initial aromas that yield to crisp green-apple freshness and soft stone fruit and melon undertones on the palate. I love how the clean, vibrant energy of the Ipsum plays with soft, fruity delicacy and finishes with a clean, herbaceous zing. Pretty refined for a simple Spanish white.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

March 11, 2009

Wine Cube South Australia Shiraz 2007

Once again, the dashing Mr. CheapFunWines and I were enticed by the lure of novelty and a cheap price tag. Since our previous experience with the Wine Cube (the Sauvignon Blanc) was pretty positive, we decided to give a red a try. In deciding which red to try, it was mutually understood that often cheap shiraz is marginally more appealing than say, cheap cab or merlot (why, I don't know... I think we were trying to give purpose to something rather arbitrary). And there ends our agreement on the subject.

While Mr. CFW found the shiraz to be bold and spicy with generous fruit, I rather found it to be a bit lacking. I'll admit it smelled pretty good... the promise of ripe dried berries and spice, but the little flavor I got when I first tasted it, virtually disappeared on on my palate before I could identify any interesting characteristics. I kept trying, though... sip after sip, swirling, slurping and praying for something even remotely distinctive to report. I gave up when my first glass was empty.

I will concede that it wasn't unpleasant. It just wasn't particularly flavorful, which is something I find desirable, even in cheap wine. The price tag, $14.99 for the equivalent of 4 bottles, is certainly a great selling point and I think for a big bash, or for the novice wine drinker this is a good buy. Perhaps we should have tried a blend.

If you're interested, you can find it--and an assortment of other flavors-- at your local Target. I think I'll let Mr. CFW polish this one off while I dig into my order from My Wines Direct.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

February 2, 2009

Primarius Pinot Noir 2006

primariusPNoir.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Noir
REGION: Oregon (sourced)
PRICE: $11

My expectations were exceedingly low for this pinot... I haven't had too much luck finding good wines at Fresh & Easy, but sometimes you just have to go with what's convenient. Primarius makes two wines, a pinot noir and a pinot gris, that are produced and bottled in Mattawa, WA but the grapes are sourced from Oregon. The first thing you'll notice about the pinot noir its lightness and clarity in the glass. The color is brick, but quite pale and really looks watery. The pleasant surprise comes when you hesitantly take a sip and realize that is isn't watery, just incredibly delicate. Very Burgundian, the Primarius is layered with subtle dried fruit and spice flavors that evolve on your palate. This wine is not for everyone. If you are a fan of the bolder, new-world pinots that are more obvious (and sometimes oblivious) in every way, please stay away from this one. You will hate it. But I find the Primarius' subtlety refreshing and the perfect pairing for a simple grilled salmon fillet. Stay tuned for more on the pinot gris...

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

January 21, 2009

Bangin' Red 2005

banginred.JPG<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.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

January 1, 2009

A Mano Chianti DOCG 2006

amanochianti.jpgWell this one is definitely more of a food wine. Lots of currant on the nose, but it is all red cherry and sour cherry in the palate. Vibrant acidity makes it a natural match for anything in red sauce. I liked it, I enjoyed it with linguine in puttanesca, and I suppose I would recommend it... but with food. If you just want to kick back with a glass of vino, I think I'd steer you elsewhere, but generally this is a classic Italian red that remains true to its roots and works beautifully with regional cuisine. $11

I found mine at a local shop, but you can also find it here: A Mano Chianti 2006

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

December 15, 2008

Langhorne Crossing Red 2005

langhornered.jpgVARIETAL(S): Shiraz 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 37%, Petit Verdot 15%
REGION: Langhorne Creek, Australia
PRICE: $11
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.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

November 20, 2008

I Think I've Lost My Beaujo Mojo - Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2008

beaujolais1.jpgToday is the day... the cry heard by tout le monde, "Le Beaujolais est arrivé!!!"

It makes me want to cringe. I used to celebrate the Nouveau and all of its quaint history because I thought it tied in so well with our nation's first celebration of the harvest, Thanksgiving. But over the years it has become a ridiculous spectacle that barely resembles its origins. And the thing that REALLY put me over the edge this year is the claim that Georges Duboeuf has gone "green" (so said Reuters a month ago). A lot of posturing about carbon footprint--blah, blah, blah. In actuality, it seems Duboeuf has only gone green--with a special Cuvee in a plastic bottle--for Whole Foods. Everyone else gets traditional glass. Really? We're supposed to be impressed? If they really want to go green they should do it right. Across the board.duboeufnouveau2008.jpg

So although I am a little curious as to what wine-in-a-soda-bottle tastes like. I was too fired up to deal with Whole Foods today. I settled for the unenlightened, traditional bottle, which you can find at just about every store that sells wine, for anywhere from $8 - $12. When I cool off and make my way to WF, I'll let you know.

And aside from my personal bitterness, the wine tastes much as it does every other year. Since it is pressed and bottled quickly, it is typically vibrant and fruity, exhibiting all the qualities of youth. Lots of bright strawberry, cherry and red currant, both on the nose and on the palate. If you're a Nouveau newbie, it is best served slightly chilled (at about 55 degrees F) and within 6 months of bottling.

Image header from Whole Foods

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September 30, 2008

Cleaning out the Wine Cooler

On day ten of our collective mourning we decided it might be prudent to clean out the wine cooler to make room for the home made malbec that will need to rest on its side for the next four months (at least) at a constant 70 degrees. Any straggling bottles--mostly forgotten dessert wines--were relocated and just as I was reaching in to check the temperature gauge, something way in the back caught my eye. I recognized the bottle instantly and held my breath. Fully expecting to find a more current vintage, I slid the bottle out and rotated it until my eyes beheld a wondrous surprise. I was holding a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut Vintage 1988. A great year in Champagne.
Another gasp. Could it possibly be good? Was it stored properly? Did he receive it as a gift? These were questions that could never be answered and so at my urging, we decided that this bottle, divine or vinegar, would be our celebration of life.

We popped the top rather unceremoniously and proceeded, in silence to take in the color, the aroma and the expectation we each had for this wine. In all honesty, I assumed it was probably cooked. In my mind, this find was too good to be true.

But what I experienced was intensely golden-hued, and at first, remarkably tropical. Lots of creamy pineapple and coconut, which mellowed after a few minutes into less fruity, more yeasty. The thread of minerality was still quite present as well as a very subtle hint of citrus. An altogether sublime experience, I had refilled my glass three times before I remembered I had to share.

My one great take-away from that evening was: if you've been holding on to a special bottle/vintage, or you come across one that you think might be past its prime but you're afraid to try, OPEN IT! Pour it. Share it with friends. Life is too short to keep it stashed away for the "right" time. The right time is now. Enjoy it.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 28, 2008

FAZI BATTAGLIA TITULUS - Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico 2007


In 1953, Fazi Battaglia announced a national competition to create a new bottle in order to personalize its extraordinary production of Verdicchio. Architect Antonio Maiocchi, inspired by the ancient Etruscan amphora, created the acclaimed Fazi Battaglia emerald green "amphora", in 1954 recognized throughout the world as the ultimate icon for Verdicchio.

Ahhh, the beautiful Adriatic Coast. I remember fondly early summer days driving east from Bologna, bobbing from seaside town to seaside town... Rimini... Riccione... Eating piadini and almost-frozen lemon yogurt at the beach by day and enjoying a bounty of fresh local seafood at night. The wine of choice was decidedly light and crisp and of course, fish friendly.

A little further down the coast lies the Marches region. Fazi-Battaglia is a renowned producer in this area and this verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a prime example of their pursuit of excellence. The Titulus is 100% verdicchio, hand harvested and then fermented in stainless steel tanks prior to additional time in the bottle. The resulting wine is quite a pale yellow-green. Gossamer light with hints of almond shell and golden apple on the nose, then softly fruity with a fresh, clean mineral finish. You'll want to slurp it with a straw, but control yourself. Practice a little decorum. A lovely aperitif, or as mentioned, ideal with light seafood (particularly shellfish). Mi piace molto.

VARIETAL: Verdicchio
REGION: Marches, Italy
PRICE: $11

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 25, 2008

Terruzzi e Puthod Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2005

t&pvernaccia.jpgVARIETAL: Vernaccia
REGION: San Gimignano (Tuscany), Italy
PRICE: $10

Blech. Ick. Yuk. Phooey. Lemonheads meet Pixie Stix with an undercurrent of Smarties.

But here is why: In my haste to pick up milk, yogurt and wine (my staples) in under three minutes, I mistakenly purchased this foul bottle of vernaccia. What should have been lovely and light with a floral nose and succulent pear-apple notes, turned into an unpleasant, sickly sweet and sour mess.

Here is a little piece of advice: don't buy wine when you're really rushed. Or if you do, remember to check the vintage! I feel like I've picked up quite a few bum bottles lately and every single mis-pick could have been avoided if I had just taken a breath and looked at the vintage. If you're buying a light Italian white--or any light bodied white--the vintage should be within 2 years, ideally within one year of the current date. Anything older is likely to bring disappointment. And, don't assume your favorite wine shop is on the ball. I bought this bottle at Whole Foods and though I feel they are a trusted purveyor, I also believe they do not want to get stuck with a bunch of old, fairly obscure Italian wines. Shame on them for over-buying and shame on me for not paying attention.

I do love vernaccia, so check back for the real review of this wine... Coming soon, I hope!

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking
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