Under $10

Review: 2012 Red Tree Pinot Noir

Get ready for some complaining. I wouldn’t buy this wine, again and unfortunately I have another bottle since I got two at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale.

When I think Pinot, I think smoky, and while this wine had somewhat of a smokiness to it, it was lacking. It tastes like fake smoke. My other half called it “diet smoke.”

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It was pink for a Pinot and had a tart flavor throughout. It wasn’t a fruit bomb, although the label described it as “fruit forward.” The wine finishes sour and after leaving it out to breathe for a bit, takes on a leathery texture. I don’t usually mind that furry tongue feeling when it’s a good, bold wine, but this time, the prerequisites weren’t there.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Red Tree
  • Type: Pinot Noir
  • Origin: Sonoma County
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $9 (2nd bottle for 5 cents)
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: Not again.

Review: 2012 Planeta Syrah/Nero d’Avola

Tangerines! That’s the first thing I thought of when I sipped this rose that look more orange than pink. I’ve been on a rose kick since I had the La Ferme Julien Rose and decided to order a glass of this sucker after waiting in a very long line at a pizza place that was having a Pi Day deal ($3.14 for a pizza) only to get out of line in frustration and hunger and go to a fancy Neopolitan pizza joint across the street.

I had this lovely pizza with mascarpone, mozzarella, roasted fennel and onions. Yum! I also had a glass of the 2012 Planeta Syrah/Nero d’Avola. Now this is a blend of Syrah, which is a varietal you probably recognize, and Nero d’Avola, a varietal I had no clue existed.

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Nero d’Avola is largely grown in Sicily (which is where Planeta is based) and also goes by the name Calabrese. It comes from a dark grape (nero means black) and according to wine-searcher.com “younger wines show plum and juicy red-fruit flavors, while more complex examples offer chocolate and dark raspberry flavors.Nero d’Avola typically has high tannins, medium acid and a strong body. However, it can also be very smooth if grown at higher elevations where the air is cooler and alcohol levels are restricted.”

This orangey wine, due to its citrus flavors, reminded me of brunch. It’s tart and slightly tingly from the acidity. After it warms up a bit, it makes your tongue want to rub up against the roof of your mouth because of the lingering flavor, kind of like a dog licking peanut butter off a spoon.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Planeta
  • Type: Syrah/Nero d’Avola blend
  • Origin: Sicily
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $8 for a glass at Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in Pasadena
  • Alcohol content: unknown
  • When to drink: I imagine drinking this during a summer lunch featuring lots of Italian antipasti dishes at a garden cafe–in Sicily preferentially–but your hometown will do. 

Review: 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec

OK, I only have a few more Malbec posts from Argentina. So bear with me! I mean, you have to drink Malbec when you’re in Buenos Aires and we drank a lot.

Dialing back the clock a bit, we drank this 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec on our second night in Buenos Aires. It was actually our first try at Malbec on the trip and the journey to find it tested our resolve!

We started out the evening with craft beer and then headed to a 9:30 p.m. futbol game for a team my uncle wasn’t too happy we went to see. Buenos Aires has many soccer clubs, but only one game was on during our vacation and it was at the River Plate stadium, which is one of the biggest in the city. But most of my family are Boca Juniors fans, who rival River Plate, so they were disappointed when I told them my fiancee and I cheered for the team they detested. But for us visitors, all the teams were the same, so we didn’t mind.

1966720_10102350613628294_841957291_nGetting into the stadium was crazy. There were about 80,000 people crowding the streets, which had been closed off for security. Guys and girls were separated for security and nothing was allowed in: no Chapstick, no Purell, no lighters and one girl had to leave her favorite necklace behind that had a little tiny whistle–whistles are contraband. We went with a tour group to the game and I’m glad we did because you need club tickets to get into the stadium and it would have been quite difficult to figure out the security system and lines without our helpful guides.

The game was amazing. Spectators were bopping around and singing fight songs all night. There was a team band in the bleachers that led the songs and only home team fans were allowed in, so there was a sea of red and black shirts throughout the stadium.

After the game, we got back to the hotel after midnight and quickly dropped our stuff and went in search of a wine bar around 1 a.m. We didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, but earlier that evening we had passed by a street lined with shops and restaurants and figured that would be a good place to look. On the way we stopped and watched the tail end of a Carnaval event. So much pink! So many drums!

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Then we got lost on our way back to the restaurant street. Once we found our bearings though, all the restaurants were closed! I was so surprised because Buenos Aires nightlife goes deep into the morning. We were sad and defeated. I wanted wine! Despite the whomp whompiness of that moment, we decided to push on. I’m glad we did, because like an oasis in a dessert, a few blocks away we found a circular plaza lined with bars.

Too bad the Malbec menu wasn’t too selective–these weren’t fancy bars, so all the wines were pretty cheap. We ended up getting a 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec.

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Later my cousin told me the deep purple Trapiche was considered a so-so wine in Argentine and that’s how we felt when we drank it. But my other half and I still stayed out until the bar closed around 3:30 a.m. drinking the cherry-licious wine, talking and making googly-eyes at each other.

The Malbec had a warmness to it and left a dry, leathery feeling on your tongue. It almost felt like it was making my tongue sweat, it activated my salivating glands that much. It did have an alcohol tinge, which could have been from the quality or the youth of the wine. I mean it was a 2013 wine and we were drinking it in February 2014.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Trapiche Alaris
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Price: It was probably about $9 for the bottle after conversion
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • When to drink: I wouldn’t recommend buying this one, but it was fun to top off our night with a cheap bottle of Malbec amidst a crowd of bar-goers.

Review: 2012 La Ferme Julien Rose

Simple, but good. Those were the first words out of my mouth when I sipped the 2012 La Ferme Julien Rose while watching “True Detective” and twirling some spaghetti squash with pesto and peas onto my fork earlier this week.

It was such an easy-drinker I had to refrain myself from finishing more than half the bottle on my own. I believe my other half was skipping out on wine that night because he had to work late into the evening. The kind, generous fiancee I am, I twisted back the screw top and put some of this dry, fruity rose back in the fridge so he could enjoy it, too.

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And enjoy it he did. The next night we finished off the bottle I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

Grapes for La Ferme are grown on vines that sit atop the slopes of Mont-Ventoux in the Rhone Valley in France by the Perrin family. The Perrins are known for their Roussannes as well as their collaboration with Tablas Creek in Paso Robles.

This cherry blossom pink wine doesn’t smell like much at first, but the aromas come in the longer it’s out. It has strawberry flavors in there, but most of the fruitiness is muted. It’s dry, but not too dry. On a 1 to 10 scale of dryness, with 1 being really, really dry, I’d give this a 4. There’s not a leathery feeling on the tongue, in fact the wine is pretty refreshing. Some may call it watery, but I disagree. I think it has just the right amount of lightness. It’s cool and refreshing.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: La Ferme Julien
  • Type: Rose
  • Origin: Rhone Valley, France 
  • Price: $5.99
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: On a hot, hot summer day, possibly while switching off from lounging in a beach chair to hitting a slip and slide.

Review: Berenda Road Cabernet Sauvignon

My other half’s family lives on property in Temecula fit with a donkey, a mule, turtles, barn cats, a Great Dane, a Border Collie, cockatiels and chickens. They don’t have vineyards, but there are plenty in nearby wine country.

The last time he went up to visit he brought me back wine from some local wineries. One of them was Berenda Road Cabernet Sauvignon.

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The wine, which is made by South Coast Winery, was a hit with several friends who came over to our place for an advanced screening of “Girls.” Drinking wine is to sipping a cosmopolitan as “Girls” is to watching “Sex and The City” eight years ago. If that SAT-style comparison gave you a headache, you’ll be glad to know that Berenda Road Cabernet Sauvignon won’t.

The herby, rich Cabernet tasted like ripe berries. Although the bottle descries it as having a “warm oak character” it didn’t taste too oaky to me. It was hard to describe during intermissions between episodes, but I was trying to get across to my fellow wine drinkers that to me it tasted tightly-wound. All the flavors were packed together. At $10 or less a bottle, it’s a great value.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Berenda Road, South Coast Winery
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Temecula
  • Vintage: Didn’t see it on the bottle, but I could have missed it…
  • Price: $10
  • Alcohol content: 14.3%
  • When to drink: This Cabernet is a good one to bring to a dinner party. It’s inexpensive, but will taste like it costs more. it’s very “approachable” as the label says. Everyone who drank it at my house enjoyed it. So, definitely a crowd-pleaser.

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.

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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.

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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: 2012 Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon

After two-buck chuck became three-buck chuck, I shucked my allegiance to the wine on the cheap for a $4 bottle of Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet Suavignon, a quality inexpensive red to have lying around the kitchen.

For just a smidge more than its more famous neighbor in the wine aisle, The 2012 Coastal is quite a good QPR wine (quality price ratio). It doesn’t have any special tricks, but it does have all the tenets of a traditional Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s got a full-mouth, oaky feel, a toasty dry finish and a bold fruity flavor that can veer into bitter cranberry at times (the one down side).

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Overall, this is a good buy for the wino on a budget!

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Coastal
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Central Coast
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $4.49
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: During the week, when your wearing your pajamas and slippers to dinner at home, preferably one featuring tri tip.

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.

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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.

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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 😉

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.

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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.

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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).

Hiking through deep snow to get wine

Remember that mile-long trek in the snow for wine I mentioned, well here’s the scoop on that adventure:

After playing many rounds of “Things” and “Cards Against Humanity,” we were running low on wine and vodka, so we decided to make a trip to the liquor store. The snow had piled too high to drive a car down the long driveway of our friend’s woodsy lodge near Zion National Park, where we spent the weekend, so we donned hats, gloves and boots and went on a liquor run by foot.

As our fearless leader pushed a shovel through the thick white blanket of snow to create a path, we passed cows, sheep and horses along the way.

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I even saw a snow-covered teepee for the first time.

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Finally making it to the liquor store, which doubles as a gift and sundries shop–I’ve always liked that word, sundries, it just has a certain elfish quality about it–there wasn’t much variety. There was a lot of Sutter Home and Barefoot Wines. I ended up picking up a 2011 Malbec by Bodego Navarro-Correas and a Tisdale Cabernet Sauvignon. Neither of which are really wines to write home about and both were overpriced by about double.

The Tisdale Cabernet Sauvignon was too watery for my taste. I felt like it was too open. It couldn’t hold its attempt at berry and plum flavors together, so the wine just fella part and  tasted like a glorified grape juice. But, it turned out to be perfect for Sangria! I’ll share the recipe in another post. Here’s a picture teaser:

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You’ll also have to wait until later this week for my review of the Malbec.