Pour it on me!

Chronicling my transition from wine novice to oenophile (sort of).


Review: 2014 Trader Joe’s Coastal Sauvignon Blanc

I find myself saying this more often than not to my friends who buy two-buck chuck, which is actually three-buck chuck, spend the extra $1.49 and just get a Trader Joe’s Coastal wine instead.

The Coastal brand never seems to disappoint for $4.49. The Sauvignon Blanc smells and tastes like a traditional Sauvignon Blanc: You’ve got your grassy, tropical fruit scent and your crisp, citrus taste. This wine will leave a bubbly feeling on your tongue as you taste the subtle lime and pear and green apples. It’s just a fresh wine, perfect for a lazy summer night.

Looking for a cheap find? TJ's Coastal brand is always solid

A photo posted by Wine For The Win (@wineforthewin) on

Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a winery, really. The Coastal brand is bottled and vinted by Castoro Cellars, a well-liked winery in Paso Robles (I say that based on their Yelp review; I haven’t visited myself). Trader Joe’s puts its name on the bottle, but Castoro does the work, getting the grapes from throughout the Central Coast.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Trader Joe’s Coastal
Type: Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Central Coast
Vintage: 2014
Price: $4.49
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: No need to drink this with dinner! Pop open a bottle on a hot, summer night (but then keep it in a cooler to stay chilled!) and enjoy a moment on the porch, or in your yard, or wherever you can see some nature. Alternatively, pop this baby open while watching the latest Bridget Jones movie or whatever so-bad-it’s-good movie you are craving.

Review: 2014 Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir

I found this wine on the wine rack, but I have no idea how it got into the house! It may have come from a birthday party or been left over when we had guests. We really don’t know! But I’m glad this Pinot Noir entered our lives.

This is one smooth Pinot 🍷

A photo posted by Wine For The Win (@wineforthewin) on

When my husband and I started drinking we almost in unison said “This is so good.” It’s true! This smooth, delicious red is an easy drinker with ripe plum and flowery flavors.

This is from Sean Minor’s Four Bears brand. The grapes are gathered from several wine growers along the Central Coast. The bottle doesn’t get more specific than that.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Sean Minor
Type: Pinot Noir
Origin: Central Coast
Vintage: 2014
Price: $16
Alcohol content: 13.5%
When to drink: This is an everyday wine sure to please a variety of folks. Bring it over to a friend’s house for a party or better yet, throw a party at your place and buy a couple bottles of this Pinot and celebrate.

Review: 2013 Sculpterra Mourevadre

Oh man, do I love a good a good Syrah/Mourevadre blend. While visiting Sculpterra in Paso Robles (highly recommend a visit; the wine is delicious, but they also have an awesome sculpture garden and often have music out in the back), I picked up their Mourevadre, which actually was blended with a bit of Petit Sirah.

This dry red wine has a bit of vanilla in there, making it sweeter than expected. Some fig and plum also pop out. The wine is aged in oak for 10 months, 25% in French Oak.

I brought it along to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Santa Monica called Fritto Misto. It has a cheap corkage fee ($2 a person, not bad!).

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Sculpterra
Type: 88% Mourevadre, 12% Petit Sirah
Origin: Paso Robles
Vintage: 2013
Price: $36
Alcohol content: 15.3%
When to drink: Have a few friends or family over for spaghetti and meatballs and pop open this Cab (remember to give it plenty of time to breathe first).

Review: 2012 Fratelli Perata Cabernet Sauvignon

Tomatoes! I don’t think I’ve ever had wine with a deep, roasted tomato taste, but the 2012 Fratelli Perata Cabernet Suvignon does. And it’s yummy. Not a weird tomato taste, but it’s an almost Earthy quality that makes this wine pair well with spaghetti and meatballs!

I picked up this unfiltered wine on a trip to Paso Robles. A fellow wine lover had recommended it while I was visiting Midnight Cellars with my husband. “If you like Italian wines,” he said, “go there, now!” So we did. The wine tasting room was very small and a few old timers were already there drinking at the bar. This is a very quaint winery that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like many others now. If you want cheese plates and corn hole, this wine tasting room isn’t for you.

But the big-flavored reds were satisfying. This cab was well-rounded with intense fruit and that’s why I bought it. I will say the label advises to decant for an hour and I would highly recommend doing so. Otherwise, you’re going to get an alcoholic burn that masks the majesty of this drinking Cab. Even after decanting though, you can still expect this wine to have a tart dryness from the tannins.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Fratelli Perata
Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: Paso Robles
Vintage: 2012
Price: $36
Alcohol content: 13.6%
When to drink: Put some steak rubbed with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper on the BBQ and then indulge. (Remember to give it plenty of time to breathe first).

Review: 2014 Lenz Moser Gruner Vetliner

Light, fresh, limes, easy drinking: Those are the notes I jotted down on my phone before I saw my friends try to cheers and then drop a glass of beer at a bar. It was a birthday after all. Mazel Tov!

Lenz Moser is an Austrian winery and I hadn’t heard of it before. But it was a hot summer day, I was out for a friend’s birthday and I wanted something fresh and crisp. I got what I ordered. This spritzy wine has a bit of creaminess in there, too. Truly was a pleasure to drink.

Hot summer night, cool Lenz Moser Gruner Vetliner

A photo posted by Wine For The Win (@wineforthewin) on

If you want to order it with a fried chicken sandwich, head on over to Hermosillo in the Highland Park neighborhood of LA.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Lenz Moser
Type: Gruner Vetliner
Origin: Austria
Vintage: 2014
Price: It was $8 for the glass. A bottle is about that much too, according to wine-searcher.com
Alcohol content: 12%
When to drink: When it’s hot outside and you need something to cool ya down.

Review: 2013 Zenaida Cellars Zephyr

We came across Zenaida Cellars towards the end of a recent Paso Robles trip. It was supposed to be our last winery of the stay as we made our way out of town, but upon the recommendation of the woman serving us 10:30 a.m., we headed up the road to Ecluse. We are now members at Ecluse and I am always so grateful for the recommendation.

In addition to the wonderful recommendation, Zenaida had solid wines of its own. The 2013 Zephyr, especially. This blend is 55% Syrah, 40% Zin, 5% Viognier (!!!, more on the !!! later).

It’s smooth, velvety and just lovely. The meaty red blend has notes of cherry (it’s fruit-forward no doubt), too. Now you may ask, what’s with all those exclamation points? Well I was surprised to see Viognier, a white varietal, mixed in with the predominantly Syrah/Zin blend. Not only was this a yummy wine, but it provided a teaching moment. File under: TIL!

The white grape once was commonly blended with Syrah in France as the varietals grow alongside each other in a region in the northern Rhone Valley. The practice still occurs in France, but not as often as back in the day. You will also see it done in Australia.

As an aside, Zenaida also has a cute little loft on the property where you can stay. The room was out of our budget, but if you’ve got the dough, it’s a good location.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Zenaida Cellars
Type: Syrah (55%), Zin (40%), Viognier (5%)
Origin: Paso Robles
Vintage: 2013
Price: $42
Alcohol content: 15.8%
When to drink: With a juicy, rear steak.

Review: 2015 A to Z Rose

The first time I had an A to Z wine, my husband and I were in Vegas. We were hungry, walking through Ceasar’s Palace and stopped at a restaurant that would take us right away. We weren’t in the mood to spend a lot, but wanted wine, so picked a Pinot Gris. It was from A to Z in Oregon and we were pleasantly surprised.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was in a grocery store hunting for a rose for one of our outdoor movie nights. I was trying to spend $12 or under and then what do I see but another A to Z wine, the 2015 Rose.

I popped this baby in the fridge as soon as we got home and enjoyed while we were watching “Big Trouble in Little China.” (Yes, both the movie and wine were crowd favorites, so much so I didn’t get a pic until most of the bottle was finished!)


This dark rose is a bit tart up front, but an easy drinker. Lots of cherry, smooth finish, very juicy.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: A to Z Midnight Cellars
Type: Rose
Origin: Oregon
Vintage: 2015
Price: $10 (on sale)
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: Rose all day! Jk, jk. This one’s nice for sitting in a hammock as you race through a summer novel.

Review: 2015 Midnight Cellars Aurora

We almost didn’t go to Midnight Cellars on out last trip to Paso Robles. We had already been to three wineries and I had made a rule that this time, we would cut ourselves off after three. That didn’t happen. We slid right back into our 4 to 5 wineries a day bit. Oh, well.

Walking into Midnight Cellars, it was just half an hour before most of the wineries were shutting down for the day. The winery was down the street from a few others we had visited (Caliza, Grey Wolf, Niner — no worries, I’ll talk about them all in future posts) and I had seen it when I was googling around for new places to visit during our anniversary trip to Paso.

We walk in and our greeted by a very, very old cat. Chardonnay has been around for 17 years! We were the only ones there and ordered up two tastings. The woman who helped us was very sweet. She had grown up in Paso and many of the winemakers in the area were her her childhood friends’ dads. Outside the window we caught a group of ducklings running around with mama out of sight. It was all very quaint on the 28-acre estate.

"Oh yea, that's from the winery with the 1,000 year old cat." Sipping @midnightcellars' 💫Aurora 💫 tonight

A photo posted by Wine For The Win (@wineforthewin) on

We took home the Aurora and the winery kindly waived both our tasting fees. We cracked open the bottle a few days after returning home. It’s been hot outside and we were craving a white. Right away, the wine emits a sweet smell, but it doesn’t taste saccharine. Instead, it tastes tart with tropical fruit flavors shining through. Grapefruit!

This is a crisp wine that’s a quarter each Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. Rhone varietals represent! I’m a fan of rich, dry Rousannes and I was surprised to see it quite a bit while we were in Paso this time around (Paso tends to be a red-loyal town with few wineries that I’ve seen offering a healthy white wine tasting. One winery even told us that they stopped putting whites in their wine club shipments because so many people complained that they wanted all reds!) You could taste the citrus of the Marsanne shining through and the mixture made for a flavored dance bopping around in your mouth.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Midnight Cellars
Type: Aurora
Origin: Paso Robles
Vintage: 2015
Price: $29
Alcohol content: 13.6%
When to drink: We drank this while watching the 2nd Harry Potter as we are revisiting the entire series, but I can see this as a perfect wine for sunny picnic days. Would be great even sitting out in the yard, munching on a citrusy ceviche.

WTF is blue wine?

Blue wine is a thing. And we can all thank a Spanish winery for bringing this Windex-colored alcohol into our lives.

The self-described sweet wine is made from red and white grapes. But how does it get that color? Anthocyanin (colored pigments) and indigo pigments. A good amount of sweeteners are tossed in there, too. Gik Winery developed the wine along with professors at University of the Basque Country and the food research arm of the Basque government. Gik is marketing the blue brew as a way to break from the norm; a wine revolution if you will.

First things that come to mind when scrolling through the company’s Instagram page:

1) Will this wine turn my teeth blue?
2) Do you drink it cold?
3) Stella Rosa must be kicking itself for not doing this first!

#GikLive y @softonic se unen para el #MobileWorldCongress 👌 #JustUnwine #VinoAzul #BlueWine #VinBleu

A photo posted by Gïk Live! Vino Azul (@giklive) on

Ok, I’ll bite. Expect a review here as soon as I can figure out how to order a bottle on the company’s website.

Review: 2013 Riven Rock Cabernet Sauvignon

Before heading to an outdoor movie event at a Hollywood cemetery where 1920s stars are buried (Yes, we do that in Los Angeles and like it), my husband and I went to check out the new Whole Foods 365 near us. It’s Whole Foods’ attempt at a smaller neighborhood market. We were lookin for some wine to bring to see “Singin’ in the Rain.” But we didn’t want to spend a bundle, so I picked up the least expensive red I could find.

That would be the 2013 Riven Rock Cabernet Sauvignon.


This is the wine that gives meaning to you get what you pay for. This cherry-flavored red tastes watered down. It’s a lame-version of Trader Joe’s 2-buck Chuck. Maybe this could pass for a Sangria wine? That’s probably it’s only redeeming quality: It’ll taste better when you mix it with a lot of booze.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Riven Rock
Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: McFarland, Calif.
Vintage: 2013
Price: $6
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: Never.