Red Blend

Review: 2013 Morgan Winery Cotes du Crowes Grenache Syrah

I’ve had my share of GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourevadre), but it wasn’t until my birthday earlier this week when I tasted just a GS.

Distinctively missing the high tannin, rich Mourevadre, this unique blend of 52% Grenache and 48% Syrah really caught my attention. Let the wine breathe for a bit if you don’t want a high kick to the cheek. This wine, featuring two prominent Rhone varietals, is not a shy wine at first sip.


Full of plum and other dark fruit flavor, the wine smells delicious. The scent is very inviting and just a hint of smokiness near the finish makes your lips magnets for the glass. It’s a nice pairing of the lighter Grenache and the plummy Syrah, which gave it some upfront flavor.


I had this blend at my birthday dinner in Atwater Village with one of my best friends that I’ve known for 10 years and my fiance. My friend wanted a red and I was vacillating between picking a pure Syrah and the GS. But a little nudge from our waiter at All’Acqua, and we were sold. (By the way, we were first-timers at All’Acqua and it was great. That silk handkerchief pesto pasta…yum!)

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Morgan Winery
Type: Grenach Syrah blend (52% Grenache, 48% Syrah)
Origin: Salinas, CA
Vintage: 2013
Price: $44 at the restaurant, $14 retail, according to
Alcohol content: 14.2%
When to drink: Surrounded by good friends in the midst of good conversation. Seriously, if it wasn’t a Monday night, I think the three of us could have kept on gabbing and finished a second bottle.

Review: 2011 Leoness Limited Selection Ten

Spending a weekend up in the mountains? Bring some nice reds (or if you’re like me also pack a cheap Rose for the hot tub. I brought along a 2013 Josephine Rose).

I brought along the 2011 Leoness Limited Selection Ten, a supple blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cinsaut, Grenache and Mourevadre to pair with a special “family” dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.The spicy meatballs and sauce, which took hours to make, paired well with this red wine with soft tannins. You could taste a hint of vanilla from the French oak, but the blackberry took center stage.

This smoky wine was a nice dinnertime compliment, although not as good as the 2010 Leoness Limited Selection Nine. And I don’t think this red blend lives up to the hefty price.

I forgot to snap a pic, so enjoy the beautiful sunset from our cabin’s deck, instead ūüôā


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Leoness
  • Type: Red blend
  • Origin: Temecula Valley
  • Price: $55, so definitely a budget breaker (But came in Wine Club three-pack that comes every quarter)
  • Alcohol content: 15.2%
  • When to drink: With a nice spicy dinner, I liked it with the meatballs.

Review: 2010 Tablas Creek En Gobelet

Friday night was frustrating. On my way to pick up the other half from the train station, I get pulled over by a cop who gives me a ticket. Then my car won’t start and the cop just drives off. Triple A comes and saves me and lover drives home.

What a sucky start to the evening.

So sucky that we decided to pull out our Valentine’s Day wine and drink it with our Matzoh pizza–what Jews eat during Passover, imagine mushroom, spinach, goat cheese, mozzarella, and pizza sauce over a thin, crackery crust. We missed out on the Valentine’s Day wine, which we had been saving since our Paso Robles trip Valentine’s 2013 because we were traveling in Argentina this past February, drinking lots of Malbec.

We had picked up the 2010 Tablas Creek En Gobelet while wine tasting and with the happy memories of our first trip to Paso Robles flowing, we uncorked the bottle. On first sip, though, I was disappointed. The wine had this unpleasant alcoholic burn. After letting it air for a bit, though, the burn mostly disappeared and was replaced by a pleasant warmth.


This red was pungent, bold and definitely had characteristics of Grenache and Mourevadre, the two big players in the blend. The Grenache gave it this long-lasting flavor and full-mouth feel, while the Mourevadre gave it a gaminess of sorts, which was hard to get used to. It wasn’t too fruity, as I’d expect from a Grenache, and it wasn’t jammy like Mourevadre blends I’ve had in the past. The Syrah and Tannat made it dark and smoky.

It reminded me of a dark chocolate flourless cake,which I’m not a super fan of. Not in the flavors, there was some chocalatyness to it, but that was in the background; rather in the hit or miss quality. Flourless chocolate cakes always sound so good to me, but then the intense flavors can overwhelm. This is a slow-drinker; not a gulpable wine.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Tablas Creek
  • Type: Blend (37% Grenache, 28% Mourevadre, ¬†13% Syrah, 12% Counoise, 10% Tannat)
  • Origin: Paso Robles
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $40
  • Alcohol content: 14.5%
  • When to drink: After you let this wine aerate for a bit, drink it while reading on your tablet. This is a slow-drinking wine, perfect for swigs every now and then.

Review: 2012 Ceibo Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon

If I had to pick one word to describe this Malbec, it would be tart. The wine has a lot of structure and a zesty flavor at the end, but I felt like the tart, pomegranate flavor was distracting. There’s also a flowery essence to the drink, which I tasted, but my fellow drinker did not. Overall, I’d skip this wine if you’re going down the aisles in search of a new Malbec to try. I think I’ll probably use the leftover wine in the bottle for cooking, perhaps for an Arrabbiata style red tomato sauce.



Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Ceibo
  • Type: Malbec (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: Gifted
  • Alcohol content: 13.8%
  • When to drink: I can’t think of an appropriate situation for this one because I didn’t like it much.

Review: 2012 Apothic Red Winemaker’s Blend

After a day full of skiing in Big Bear, your body craves Alleve and warmth. Apothic Red is the next best thing.

The sweet, vanilla-y red blend will soothe what ails you and warm you right up, especially if you have a glass or three.


The mixture of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is an easy-drinker, minus the alcohol tinge at the end. But the major fruitiness of the blend makes up for that negative. If you like your fruity reds bold and smoky though, I’d stay away from this saccharine libation.

Making the drinking experience all the better, I got to hang out with this fine Australian Shepherd.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Apothic Red
  • Type: Winemaker’s blend (Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Origin: Modesto
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $7
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: After a day of skiing the slopes!

Review: 2011 Cocobon Red Wine Blend

For some reason, whenever I say Cocobon it makes me think of big band music, dancers with big feather headdresses, Miami Beach in the 1960s and that scene in “The Mask” when Jim Carrey does a crazy dance number. Remember that one? If not, here’s a refresher:

The 2011 Cocobon, sold at Trader Joe’s, is a stand-up red blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petit Syrah.


Apologize for the blurriness, but that’s what happens when you stand in the main artery of the kitchen at a party. You get bumped, run into someone you want to talk to and then forget that you took a crappy photo until it’s too late.

It’s lusciously smooth with a vanilla essence. I usually enjoy spicier, bold reds, but I liked this sweet blend with its caramel and dark cherry flavors. The wine doesn’t linger too long on your tongue after a gulp, which makes you want to sip pretty quickly, a dangerous situation.

Although Cocobon is one of Trader Joe’s best sellers, I enjoyed it for the first time at a Christmas party, fit with views of downtown Los Angeles skylines and what I’ve dubbed the #millenialtree.



Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Cocobon
  • Type: Red blend (Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petit Syrah)
  • Origin: California
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $8
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: On a rooftop deck with views of downtown Los Angeles, or Miami Beach, I’m not picky ūüėČ

Review: 2012 Green Fin Red Table Wine

At a Friendsgiving dinner this weekend, I was told that the Green Fin Red Table Wine from Trader Joe’s would be the best under $5 wine I’ve ever had.

This red blend is pretty simple. It’s drinkable, but not great.¬†It’s got tart berry and a hint of vanilla, but not much else and the bottle doesn’t let you know what kind of red grapes were used to make the blend. Can I think of a better under $5 wine that I’ve had? Not off the top of my head, but if I did an under $5 wine tasting night (party idea!), I think this would come in with the middle of the pack.


An interesting notable about this blend: it’s certified organic by CCOF, a USDA-accredited certifier. According to CCOF:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering (GMOs),  or ionizing radiation.

Another interesting fact: Green Fin is a brand from the makers of Franzia, the boxed wine best known as the staple of sorority mixers.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Green Fin
  • Type: Red blend
  • Origin: Madera, Calif.
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price:¬†$3.99
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: This cheap red blend would be great for sipping around a bonfire before snuggling up in a sleeping bag for a night of camping in the crisp outdoors.

Review: Casa Agricola HMR Varal Tinto

Portugal is known for port, duh, but it’s also got blended table wines going on.

I picked up a delicious red blend from Vintage Berkeley¬†when I was visiting a friend. It’s from Casa Agricola, a winery in Alentejano, which is in the southeast area of Portugal. This wine tasted like plums, strawberry and cinnamon and had a soft feel in your mouth. It’s a gulpable blend, that’s for sure.


According to the guys at Vintage Berkeley, it’s reminiscent of a “Dry Creek Zin without the gobs overly-jammy fruit.” It’s fruity, but not mouth-puckery, sticky, jammy.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Casa Agricola HMR
  • Type: Red Blend (Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro–try to say that three times fast)
  • Origin: Alentejano, Portugal
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $11.75
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • When to drink: Give this as a gift when you go celebrate a friend’s housewarming party. Make sure you’re close by when it gets uncorked and poured, because it will go fast at a soiree.



Wine in a can? Wine in paper bottles? What’s up with that?

For those of us who went to college in the past 10 years, we’ve had our fair share of wine in a box. Who can forget slap the bag?¬†

But wine in paper bottles and wine in cans? These are new and intriguing entries to the U.S. wine market.

First, the paper bottle:

It’s made by a U.K company called GreenBottle and the eco-friendly company’s first U.S. partner is California-based Truett-Hurst. Inside this interesting container will be Paperboy, a 2012 red blend from Paso Robles. What’s in the blend doesn’t seem to be portrayed on the bottle, but it does clock in at 14.5% alcohol and it’s coming to a Safeway stores soon. The paper bottle has already been used by Kingsland Wines on the other side of the pond. That winery used the¬†label Thirsty Earth for its paper bottle wines, which included a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Shiraz.



Much like boxed wines, paper bottles are lined with a plastic bladder to hold the liquid. According to Fox News, you can put it in ice for up to three hours without the paper disintegrating. I feel like I need to test this out myself before believing that one. I don’t know how much it will cost, but once I figure that out, I’ll update.

Now, the can:

An Oregon winery has canned Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in 8 ounce containers! Union Wine Co., which cans the wine under the label Underwood, wanted to reverse the craft beer trend, where beer has been elevated out of Miller and Bud territory and into the world of tastings and fancy glasses, much like wine.

Photo: Union Wine Co.

Photo: Union Wine Co.

‚ÄúWe wanted to come up with a product that embodied our company‚Äôs philosophy of making great craft wine minus all the fuss,‚ÄĚ Ryan Harms, owner of Union Wine Co., told Fast Company.‚ÄúThere is a ‚Äėwinification’ of beer trend going on and Union Wine Co. is at the forefront of a new trend, the ‚Äėbeerification‚Äô of wine.‚ÄĚ

It’s about taking the snobbery out of wine and making it more accessible, which seems to be the trend du jour. The cans even feature the Twitter hashtag #pinkiesdown.

They’ll be available next year; $5 for an 8-ounce can.

Review: Area 5.1 Majestic 12

Remember how I raved about Area 5.1’s White Light?¬†Well, I liked the winery’s Majestic 12 just as much, if not more.

This red wine blend is jammm-my.  Playing along with the alien theme throughout the whole wine tasting room, Majestic 12 is named after a secret committee allegedly formed in 1947 to recover a UFO that intelligence officials have called bogus and a hoax. But some believers still hold fast to the conspiracy.


Area 5.1’s owners went with the alien theme because they’re…drumroll please…”resident aliens” from Australia living in the U.S.

One of the owners, Martin Brown, told the Santa Barbara Independent that the grapes used in Majestic 12, Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo, pull from different areas in Italy.

‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a little Piedmont, a little Tuscany, and a little Po River,” Brown said.


Now let’s check out the anatomy of the wine:

  • Sangiovese¬†can be tart, smoky and leathery and have a cherry flavor. It’s one of the top grapes grown in Tuscany.
  • Barbera, as I’ve written about before, tends to be crisp due to its high acidity and you can feel the briskness in the Majestic 12. Barbera, also an Italian grape, is lesser known than Nebbiolo. The Barbera wines I’ve had have mostly been blends, many with Nebbiolo, and tasted like cherry and a deep anise. Blending the two tends to soften the punch of Nebbiolo.
  • Nebbiolo, like the other two, can have a strawberry flavor and like Barbera have give a wine a crisp kick due to the acidity. The grapes grow primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Area 5.1
  • Type: Blend of Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo
  • Origin: Santa Ynez
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: While sitting on a porch at night, preferably somewhere far away from light pollution so you can see the stars and ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything.