Review: 2011 Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec Collecion Privada

Malbec is one of my favorite wines. Originally a French grape, Malbec has become synonymous with Argentine wines as the country hosts most of the acres the purple fruit is grown on.

Malbec is usually a smoky, spicy wine that brings on the fruit flavors right away–usually cherry, plum, or blackberry. Some Malbecs can smell like blueberry if they’ve been aged in oak for a year or so.

The 2011 Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec Collecion Privada is one of those. Forty percent of the bottle is aged in French Oak for 12 months, bringing on that blueberry smell.


The Argentine wine seems to fill up your mouth, but it’s not overwhelming on the tongue thanks to its silky finish. It tastes like plum and has a violety flavor, which I felt left a perfume-like residue on my tongue, although I was the only one in the dinner party who sensed that. It’s not super complex, but it’s likable.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Bodega Navarro-Correas
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $8
  • Alcohol content: 13.9%
  • When to drink: If you want to share a bottle of Malbec with a friend who is not a fan of smoky bold reds, pull out the Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec to ease them into it. After that, bring on the spice and spend a few bucks more on Fournier Urban Uco Malbec/ Tempranillo blend ($10).

Review: 2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

With a rear beef roast and mashed potatoes swimming in garlic and butter on my plate, I sipped more than a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Mondavi Vineyard Saturday night.

Mondavi, aka the godfather of Napa Valley, made a name for himself boosting the reputation of the famed California wine region and improving wine techniques. It’s no surprise then that Mondavi wines are so popular. The 2010 bottle was well-received around our table of six.


This a bold, deep purple wine that fills your mouth with flavors of tobacco, dark cherry and dark chocolate. It has a brisk feeling on the way in, but a leathery finish.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Robert Mondavi Vineyard
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Napa Valley
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $39
  • Alcohol content: 15%
  • When to drink: This is definitely a wine for a special occasion, not only due to the price, but also the quality.

Review: 2011 Sincera Zinfandel



Berries! Berries! Berries! If the 2011 Sincera Zinfandel could talk, it’s first word would be berries. If you’re a fan of earthy, spicy zinfandel’s, this isn’t for you. But if you like fruity reds, give this one a try. But for the price, $16.95, there are better zins out there. Wilfred Wong from BevMo gave it 91 points, but I think he was being way too generous.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sincera
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: California
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content: I didn’t write it down! Whoops!
  • When to drink: When you’re trying to please a big, fruity red wine lover, whip a bottle of Sincera Zinfandel out onto the table.

Review: 2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is soft on the way down. It’s oaky, fruity–blackberries, mostly– spicy and has a hint of coffee. It’s a solid Cabernet Suavignon. Drinking this at a party, a friend of mine said it’s a perfect red to loosen up a crowd. I totally agree.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Edna Valley Vineyard
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Central Coast; Paso Robles
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $9.99
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • When to drink: At a business mixer when you need to loosen up the crowd.

Review: 2010 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon; Kosher Wine

My dad is what I like to call a cafeteria Jew. He picks and chooses what he wants to follow. Same goes for how kosher he is. He’ll eat lobster, but when it comes to wine, he’ll only buy kosher wine.

Celebrating Hanukah at my parent’s house, he brought out his favorite Kosher wine: Terrenal’s Cabernet Sauvignon.


It’s a simple, dry Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted a bitter grapefruit flavor, but I was the only one. Other guests described it as a tart berry. Not overly special, but great quality for the price. It’s not bad for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s! Speaking of under $5 wines, it beats the Green Fin.

So what makes a wine kosher?

According to Wine Spectator:

Kosher wine is made just like other table wine, with an extra set of rules to make it consistent with Jewish dietary law. In order for a wine to be deemed kosher (Yiddish for “proper” or “fit”), it must be made under the supervision of a rabbi. The wine must contain only kosher ingredients (including yeast and fining agents), and it must be processed using equipment rabbinically certified to make kosher wines. No preservatives or artificial colors may be added. The wine can only be handled — from the vine to the wineglass — by Sabbath-observant Jews, unless the wine is mevushal.

Mevushal wines, unlike ordinary kosher wines, can be handled and served by non-Jews. To be considered mevushal, a wine must be heated to 185 degrees F.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Terrenal
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Yecla, Spain
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $3.99
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: When you’re off to a Passover Seder, be thoughtful and bring along this Kosher for Passover wine.

Review: 2012 Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon

This is another Friendsgiving wine, because what makes Friendgiving better than regular Thanksgiving? You get drunk with your friends because you’re having fun, rather than getting drunk with your family to forget the dysfunction.


The 2012 Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, like the name, is smooth throughout. It is sweeter than most Cabs I’ve had, but that’s not a bad thing. A caramel flavor takes over after the initial tart cherry floats away when the wine breathes for a bit. It’s a good Cab for the price–if you’re a fan of smooth over bold– and can be found at Trader Joe’s.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Velvet Moon
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Manteca, Calif.
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $6
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • When to drink: When you’re with a traditional white wine drinker who wants to venture into a red for the evening.

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: 2010 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel

Crowded around a six-person table at one of our favorite Italian joints in Santa Monica last week, the Zinfandel kept pouring. Partially because that favorite Italian joint, Fritto Misto, only charges $2 a person for corkage, and partially because a friend who loves Zinfandel and brought several bottles to dinner, is also a generous pour. He’s the guy at the table that wants to make sure everyone’s glass is full and smiles abound–you know the type.


First up was a 2010 Ravenwood Old Vine Zinfandel. And lo and behold, what came up in dinner conversation: the difference between Old Vine Zinfandel and Zinfandel. I had the chance to speak to a few Zin experts about this very topic a few months ago and could break it down for the curious drinkers.

The Ravenswood emitted one of the classic tenets of Old Vine Zinfandel: intense flavor. A rule of thumb with Old Vine Zinfandel: the older the vines, the fewer the grapes, the more intense the flavor.

The wine was spicy–another typical Zinfandel quality– bold–Ravenswood’s tagline is “No wimpy wines”– fruity–think cherry–and truly a stand-up Zinfandel. It’s flavors stick with you for a long finish. It’s a wine I’d definitely recommend purchasing.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Ravenswood
  • Type: Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Origin: Lodi
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $11-$13
  • Alcohol content: 14.5%
  • When to drink: Pour a hefty glass of this Zinfandel as you sit down to a dinner of pizza or roasted foods.

Review: 2009 Kunin Roussanne

Kunin Wines is small on production, but big on quality. I stopped by the bungalow that houses the winery on the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara when I was there this summer. The tasting room is fresh and airy, a perfect locale to sip a flight of whites.

My favorite Kunin was the 2009 Roussanne, so I brought a bottle home with me. I finally had a chance to open it a few months later.


The wine smells grassy, but there’s honey there, as well. When you sip it, it’s tart. Pineapple is there, too.  It’s crisp and kind of oily, so the flavors stick with you, even after you’ve swallowed. This isn’t a gulpable wine. It’s complex–it’s got a lot of layers to it, but it’s not chewy. In fact, this French grape makes for a quite thin drink. It’s lean and mean, but honestly, it’s not for everyone. This wine is not for the flowery white wine lovers.

Kunin makes their Roussanne in stainless steel, while traditional winemakers put this Rhone varietal in oak. Roussanne is often blended, but Kunin lets it stand on its own. The winery only produced 210 cases of the 2009, so it’s definitely a special find. Oh, and it’s a screw top!


Seth Kunin opened his namesake winery in 1998 and believes in letting the wine speak for itself, rather than manipulating it with fancy vintner tricks. His message on is clear: let Mother Nature do the heavy lifting:

If the weather was a bit warmer one year, and the wine from that vintage shows more ripe fruit and less acid, then this is an accurate representation of the fruit and its terroir. If the next vintage is cooler, with more earthy flavors and tart acidity, then so be it. That is what Mother Nature intended for you to taste. The process should not be blurred by invasive winemaking techniques.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Kunin
  • Type: Roussanne
  • Origin: Central Coast
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 14.2%
  • When to drink: When you want to have a deep discussion of philosophy and literature with a dear friend, you know like the French do.

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.