Thursday, July 30, 2009

August Asssignment

Swheeze hit upon it in her inaugural post earlier this week -- I've got myself convinced that wine that comes in a box is crap...... screw top wine too (I know, I've got some issues), but for now, let's stick to wine in a box.

Cognitively, I know that boxed wine is perfectly fine -- some of it is high quality, even expensive -- yet I can't seem to bring myself to pull the trigger and buy a box. I walk by them, read the labels.... and then saunter back over to the traditional bottles.

After some reflection, I think it's because once upon a time, my mother drank Riunite and her best friend drank Paul Masson.... from what I recall, both of these wines were both simply awful. My Mom's friend switched to wine-in-a-box, I can't remember what kind it was -- just that it was terrible and took up half a shelf in her fridge.

Anyway, it's time to get past this boxed-wine-phobia I have -- so, join me won't you?

August's assignment is to try and review wine that comes in a box (or some alternative packaging).

If you are dead-set against the boxed wine idea..... how about a wine with a screw top, although I've had them and it appears to be the "wave of the future"-- I'm still skeptical about that too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

Perhaps it is not a great idea to have my very first post be about something as taboo as boxed wine, but it’s what’s on my mind right now.

Boxed wine has a not so nice reputation, with good reason. If you have ever tried Franzia, you know why. I do recall our local wine seller talking about the idea of boxed wine actually being a good one—you open the wine but it never has contact with air so it stays “fresh” for much longer than an open bottle of wine. He also explained that in France and Australia, boxed wine did not have the same reputation that it does in the U.S. and that boxed wine was widely accepted and there were currently several very good options on the market. I noted that he did not have any boxed wine for sale, we laughed, and that was the end of that.

Until now. My father-in-law has consumed boxed wine for several years. I think he started out with Almaden in a box—it was not very good. He’s now moved to Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon. He has a glass every day with lunch for his health—seriously, I think a doctor recommended it. Of course we have all heard that red wine, in moderation, is good for you. Apparently, there are beneficial anti-oxidants in the skin of the grapes—not to mention, sitting down with a glass of wine to unwind has its benefits, as well. So, for those who drink wine for their health, wine becomes almost like a medication, and therefore the wine box is just the “easy open cap” version.

I noticed this year that there was more and more boxed wine to choose from at our local liquor store. I had to walk right by it on my way to the beer cooler in the back. Then my husband noticed it, too. We bought a box. I think we went with Black Box. It was fine. Really. I mean, nothing special, but it was a far cry from the Franzia or Almaden crap that was served at neighborhood parties when I was a kid. (Or, as Mr. Big Dubya noted in November, the kind of wine that woo-girls drink.)

Okay, so my point is, boxed wine might be worth some exploration. I have done some myself. I really like Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel—I like bolder flavors in my wine and this one in particular stands up to spicier and heavier foods. It is surprisingly complex. I’ve tried the Bota Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Shiraz. All are pretty good and are worth a try. Amazingly enough, Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel, along with all the others I mentioned, also fits with July’s tasting assignment—it’s made it the U.S.—Cali, of course.

Boxed wines are not what they used to be. I am curious to know if anyone else has tried boxed wines and found some hits? I am seriously considering have a tasting with only boxed wines and sharing the results here, but, that’s a lot of wine (most boxes are equivalent to three to four 750ml bottles—or about 20 glasses of wine). I’d need to have a lot of guests, not to mention a lot of glasses. I’ll keep thinking about this. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on boxed wine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome Swheeze!

I am so excited to announce our newest contributor..... the gorgeous Swheeze (don't let the name fool you!)

Not only is she a career woman -- she's also a great friend, a fabulous cook and a lover of wine.... actually, she loves all kinds of adult beverages.

I'm confident that she and Mr Swheeze will not only be sharing their wine reviews, but will also be injecting their fabulous humor into our little wine club.

Please join me in welcoming Swheeze!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sangria Anyone?

Recently, a friend of ours posted his sangria recipe on Facebook and I'll confess, I was immediately intrigued.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should probably offer two points of information

1. I am not a sangria drinker -- have maybe had it once or twice in my life..... if at all -- so I honestly have no frame of reference whatsoever.

2. This friend is, like myself, insanely competitive. He would never post a recipe as his own unless it was tried & true and in his opinion.... damn near perfect. This is a "go big or go home" kind of guy, he plays to win.

I think it was the latter point that put me on a mission..... a mission to try this baby out.

The recipe:
1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja, Zinfandel, Shiraz)
1 Lemon cut into wedges
1 Orange cut into wedges
1 Lime cut into wedges
2 Tbsp sugar (use more sugar if using a Cab or Shiraz)
Splash of orange juice or lemonade
2 Shots of gin
1 Cup of raspberries or strawberries (may use thawed or frozen)
1 Small can of diced pineapples (with juice)
4 Cups ginger ale
Chill overnight

So, last Friday I went and grabbed all the necessaries and set about assembling a big ole pitcher of Sangria. I went with a bottle of Little Penguin Merlot we already had on the wine rack (not bottom of the barrel, but good enough to drink -- should work okay, right?) I used orange juice (not lemonade) and raspberries (not strawberries).

We ended up having a few beers that evening, so the sangria would have to wait.... and wait, and wait some more. On Thursday night we put the kids to bed and poured a couple of glasses. The Big Dubya thought it was good -- but there was some underlying flavor that was distracting him -- he just couldn't put his finger on what it was. I asked -- is it the lime? maybe.... the lemon? maybe..... the gin -- yeah, that's it!

I found my glass a bit too strong for me -- I added some more ginger ale to see if that helped -- but it was still just really strong, I was tired and not in the mood to experiment. We kind of walked away a little unsure of whether or not we liked it..... but, neither of us was ready to discount it either.

On Saturday night we had a small dinner party and, as is par for the course at casa Dubya, the cocktails were flowing. I pulled out the pitcher of sangria and everybody tried some. We got some mixed reviews.... one fellow came looking for another glass saying that he couldn't say that he loved it -- but did find it oddly compelling. Another fellow coined the term gin-gria, noting that the gin was most certainly a detectable undertone.

In fairness, the above recipe is a little loosey-goosey so it's entirely possible that I screwed it up. The size of the fruits, the definition of a splash.... all subject to interpretation.

Bottom line, this is a good solid base-recipe that I'll probably tweak a bit to make it more my own.... but I'm interested to hear -- anybody got a good sangria recipe they'd like to share?

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Got the Blues

Since Mr. Big Dubya opened up the door to beer reviews on this site, I'll toss one in too.

I went out today to pick up Sierra Nevada's Torpedo that Dubya posted about last month. No luck. I learned instead that the IPA has become so popular (due solely to this website's review I'm sure) that it quickly sold out. I also learned that the brewery used some hard-to-find hops and has to wait for more to grow before it can brew more.

I was out to buy a new beer though, so I did pick up something I hadn't tried before.

I have had blueberry beers, and I've liked them. I'm usually a fan of dark beers and stout, but I occassionally like something sweeter too. The time seemed right for a blueberry beer.

Wild Blue blueberry lager from Blue Dawg Brewing in upstate New York seemed worth a shot. I hadn't heard of the brewery before, but I'm sure there are hundreds of great breweries I haven't heard of. I wasn't going to let that stop me.

I poured the beer to check out the look of it too. It was bluish red in color with a foamy purplish pink head. "My daughter would like this color," I thought. Still, I didn't let the look of it stop me; it wasn't really surprising from a blueberry lager anyway.

Then I tasted it.

Crap. Seriously. Crap. And I don't use that word lightly. It tasted like someone poured fake blueberry flavoring and artificial sweetener into a bad beer. And the color was probably fake too.

Only then did I do a little Googling to learn that my Blue Dawg Brewery was actually Anheuser-Busch. I don't have anything against that company (although I don't normally buy their beer), but their name isn't even on the damn bottle. If it were, I would have picked a different blueberry beer.

According to the Anheuser-Busch press release about Wild Blue, it's a full-bodied beer "not suited for timid or reserved beer drinkers." I don't think it's suited for anyone. Not even the dog on the bottle.

Has anyone else tried this? Anyone else been tricked by a major brewer? Now, I'm off to try a new beer from Magic Hat. At least I know where those really come from.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome Mrs Gnu!

We have a new contributor!!!

I'm so excited to have Mrs Gnu in our little group -- not only is she simply lovely, but she loves wine with reckless abandon!

Wife, mother, successful career woman, a fabulous hostess and... she's been known to get tipsy at wine tastings and order bottles & bottles of wine unbeknownst to Mr Gnu!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Eye of the Hawk Select Ale

I have been touting Sierra Nevada's Torpedo to anyone who will listen lately. Apparently, it's in short supply so I must not be far off the mark. Anyway, I picked up another six-pack a few days back and while I was doing some shopping, I decided to grab something else to review. This particular liquor store has a vast array of micros and independent breweries - enough to satisfy the most discriminate drinker like yours truly. However, with so many to choose from, it's not hard to begin feeling like a stoner in the snack aisle. Decisions, decisions. I opted for Medocino Brewing Company's Eye of the Hawk Select Ale.

Eye of the Hawk can be categorized as an American Strong Ale, those ales which come in at greater than 7.0% ABV (alcohol by volume). This offering pours a rich amber with little head - this is something I am really not that much of a stickler for: lacing, heavy lacing, light lacing, it's not a deal breaker for me. Anyway, the aroma is sweet and bready and faintly malty - can I add any more -y's? There is also a good dose of fruits - some have said raisins, but I'm not sure that's it. The taste is definitely of malts and yeast which is to be expected given that it is bottle conditioned, a process which introduces actively fermenting yeast to the mature beer right before bottling. There is a slight taste of hops, but this should not be confused with a "hopbomb." The 8.0% ABV is barely noticeable, which makes it a rather devious and dangerous beer: tasty enough to enjoy a few at a sitting, but be careful when you stand up as you may have lost the use of your legs.

All-in-all, this beer did not disappoint, nor did it break the bank as I picked up this six-pack for $7.49 - a great value for a good to great beer.

The Devil is in the Details

If you were to judge this wine by its label (which I never, ever do...ever), you wouldn't be faulted for instantly thinking about the generic products in the supermarket or on television with their austere black and white labels marked "Beer" or "Rice". No, it looks like someone booted Microsoft Publisher and got all minimalist on the oenophiles of the world. However, to say the Velvet Devil Merlot is generic or minimalist is to do it a great disservice.

Vinted and bottled by Charles Smith Wines (I guess it's a tad less generic than John Smith Wines, although he is anything but), this Columbia Valley Merlot pours a nice, deep ruby red in the glass and has a rich nose of spice, plums, smoke and cocoa. I must say, however, my first sip or two were not favorable. The tannins were a bit overwhelming and masked and overpowered the flavors I should have been tasting - I chalk this up to mixing poorly with the acidity of the tomato sauce on the pizza we were enjoying and maybe not breathing enough. But, with subsequent sips, I found the "velvet" in the name was more than accurate and not misrepresentation. It was bold and proved to be very smooth and robust - I could taste the plums and a hint of cedar with every mouthful. After a rather underwhelming start, this wine really did come through and, you know what? We are all the better for it.

Mrs. Big Dubya picked up this particular bottle (as well as the Kung Fu Girl Riesling) at bin ends for about $12. I suggest you go grab a bottle or two. As they say, "The Devil you know..."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stem, No Stem, -- Decanter, No Decanter

A friend & I were chatting about making good on our promise to go for a glass of wine after work some night soon and she suggested a place near the office that sounds fabulous. I don't see it on the menu, but apparently they have something called truffle fries..... hand cut steak fries drizzled with a blue cheese sauce of some description -- my God, I'd be in heaven.

Anyway, my friend mentioned that the only downside to this place was they serve the wine in stemless glasses -- her feeling is that she drinks the wine too fast in this type of glass, as opposed to the traditional wine glass. I actually like the stemless glasses.... but the set I have came with a decanter and I mentioned that I have never actually used a decanter..... do people actually do that? Maybe it's that my budget wines don't call for a decanter.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Pink Truck

I drink the wine, I just don’t usually post. Lazy I guess. And I hadn’t even checked the website for the July assignment when, luckily for me, Clare picked out this wine when we were at the package store. (What? You don’t let your seven year old choose your wine? I won’t judge). Since she’s a girly girl, she chose a pink wine. Pink Truck wine to be exact. The wine sells for $8.99 on the website, and I paid $9.99 at the package store.

Now Darren and I like the other truck wines (Red Truck and White Truck), so we had high expectations for the Pink Truck. Cline Vineyard is the originator of the Truck wines (they’ve since sold the brand to the current owners – check out the website for more info) and the Red and White Truck wines have been pretty consistent in their appeal and value.

As I said, high expectations. This will come back to haunt us. I placed the Pink Truck in the refrigerator to chill and we opened it the night of 4th of July while watching fireworks on tv (first from DC, then NYC). The wine’s color is reminiscent of pink Hi-C lemonade in the glass…and the smell was fruity. Zinfandel, Grenache and Mourverde are blended to make this wine.

The Red Truck website describes the Pink Truck wine as “a classic wine with a very sophisticated twist. This exceptional blend exhibits berry and citrus aromas and strawberry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors that tantalize the palate. Juicy orange notes make for a delicious, bright finish - a refreshingly complex wine crafted in a balanced off-dry style.”

Fruity smell – check. First sip (still pretty chilled at this point) similar to Bartles and Jaymes (those of you in college in the 80’s with me will know of what I speak). Not entirely bad – we’re thinking this could be a nice picnic wine; definitely summery.

However, as the wine warms, things take a turn for the worse. Cough medicine might be one way to describe it – very heavy and syrupy. I couldn’t finish my glass of wine (yes, I will be confessing this sin next time I go), and Darren actually dumped the rest of the bottle down the drain. This is one truck we won’t be picking up again (but do try the Red or White Trucks).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Motherhood, Applepie & Wine.....

In honor of the 4th of July, this month's assignment is to select a wine (red, white, something-in-between) from the good old USA.

The United States has plenty of quality wines to choose from -- and no, not just from California -- so, I know this will be an easy one.

For extra credit.... write a post about your favorite wine shop (shoppe for those of you who are pretentious). Tell us why you like it -- link to it if you want to give them some props.