Friday, August 14, 2009

So we bought a box of Bota Box

In keeping with the August Assignment, the Big Dubya went out and bought-a-box of Bota Box Shiraz (2008) (sorry, couldn't help myself).

It was really hot this afternoon and after a day chasing kids and catching up on housework, the thought of firing up the stove or even the grill was more than I could bear.... so the Big Dubya agreed to grab a couple of pizzas on his way home and what better Friday-night pizza cocktail than a good old glass of red wine.... in this case, a 2008 Shiraz.

The Big Dubya and I agree that we were both pleasantly surprised by the first glass. It didn't taste like what I would expect a boxed-wine to taste like. It was full flavored, not over powering -- there were distinctive fruit undertones.... the tannins weren't at all severe. The Big Dubya noticed a definite cherry influence, whereas I thought the oak flavor was more present. It paired well with pizza, I think it would also stand up well to steak or a grilled dinner.

The typical bottle of wine is supposed to yield 5 glasses -- we usually get 2 glasses each (4 glasses). The box is supposed to yield the equivalent of 4 bottles/20 glasses (well, 16 in the Dubya house) and I'd say at this point we are probably ¼ of the way through it...... the night is still young!

Bottom line, I think this is a decent (and fairly versatile) table wine. The Big Dubya seemed to like it a little more than I did -- I wouldn't rush out and buy it again, but I wouldn't caution anybody against it either -- at $20ish for 16-20 glasses, it's certainly a good value.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Too Hot, Too Cold--Am I Goldie Locks?

We made friends with the guy who orders wines and beers at our local shop—his card reads “Wine & Spirit Educator”—but let’s just call him Ken. He called the other day to say that a wine that we requested was in, and I said “No Torpedo though, huh?” “The customer comes first,” he muttered and confessed that he had five bottles—not quite a six-pack. I said I’d be there that afternoon to pick it up. Score! We brought home four bottles and gave Ken the fifth. Apparently, he’s yet to enjoy a Sierra Nevada Torpedo himself—they can’t keep it on the shelf long enough for him to get to it.

In any case, along with the Torpedo, a bottle of
Strong Arms Shiraz 2007 came home with us, too. It's a screw top from South Australia which I will be reviewing for this month’s assignment a bit later. Before I do, however, I wanted to share a little something about wine temperature. I am not a wine snob, I mean, I drink wine from a box, so I can’t be, can I? A few years back, my husband and I decided to sign up for a single evening wine class at the wine shop, and the one thing that has stuck with me from the two hours of trying all kinds of wine (we’re lucky I retained anything useful from the evening!) is that temperature matters. White wine should be served chilled, but not at 38 degrees, as I had previously thought. White wine is best served a bit warmer than right out the fridge, say, about 20 minutes warmer. Red wine, on the other hand, should be served cooler than room temperature, about 20 minutes in the fridge cooler. Why does it matter? I asked that very same question. My answer to you is to try it. Get two identical bottles of wine and try one as you normally would--fresh out of the fridge for a white or straight from the wine rack for a red, and the other, pour it a bit chilled or warmed, depending on the color. Try both side-by-side and I promise you'll notice a difference in taste. In fact, you might even question that both glasses contain the same exact wine.

I tried this myself, with a red wine I quite like, but don’t love. Even a wiff of the stuff at room temperature smelled off to me. It smelled “dirty” according to my husband and that's a fitting description. It had a strong alcohol odor, as well as a strong alcohol taste. The chilled red wine, however, smelled fruity and tasted nothing like the warm wine, and had alcohol burn on the back of my tongue. In the room temperature glass I couldn't find a hint of the cherries I tasted in the cooled wine.

Generally, a white that’s served too cold or a red served too warm can cause certain unsavory aspects of a wine to overpower more favorable characteristics. Now, if I were a real wine snob, I might be able to tell you that your chardonnay should be enjoyed at 48 degrees Fahrenheit, but your sparkling wine could stand to be a bit cooler and I won’t tell you that port should be served closer to room temperature, unless it’s vintage. I don’t test the temperature of my wine before I drink it, but I do drink my reds a bit colder than most folks I know, and if I happen to have a white, I generally drink that a bit warmer. Give it a try and tell me how it works out.

The Perfect "10"?

The other night my hubby and I stopped at a local eatery for a quick bite to eat after a movie. I had wanted to try this particular restaurant because they tout themselves as a haven for localvores—which I try to be—and I was not disappointed. Even the draft beer was local. I ordered my first Ten Penny Ale, the debut brew of the Olde Burnside Brewing Company in East Hartford, Connecticut. I've just recently returned to Connecticut after a 20-year-long hiatus, so if you have already discovered the gold-mine that is Ten Penny or any of the other brews from Olde Burnside, please just bear with me.

I did not even finish reading the beer descriptions on the menu before I made my selection. I chose this particular beer because I am pretty familiar with Burnside Avenue in East Hartford. My mom is from East Hartford and my uncle still lives in the house that they grew up in, which is not far from Burnside Avenue. My sentimentality took over and I’m glad it did.

The beer arrived and although I did not take a lot of time to admire how it looked, it did display a short, fairly dense head and a strong amber hue. It looked good enough to drink—so I did—the first word that came to mind with my first sip of Ten Penny was clean. This is not a light beer, however. It has a good malty body and a smooth caramelized taste. The menu description categorized it as a Scottish ale, but it’s not quite a full Scottish ale in my opinion, but still quite tasty. Not surprisingly, Ten Penny’s ABV is 5.5%, which accounts for some of its smoothness.

In preparation of writing this review, I visited the Burnside Brewing Company’s website. You’d think I stole my review from them: Ten Penny “is a smooth, amber-hued mellow version of a Scottish Ale.” But then again, how many words are there to describe a good beer—and Ten Penny is a straight forward beer—it does not have tremendous depth, but it is neither flat nor thin. It paired perfectly with our tomato pizza with mozzarella, roasted garlic and basil pesto.

Ten Penny and several of Burnside’s other brews, including Dirty Penny Ale, are sold only in growlers at your local (if you’re in Connecticut) liquor store. You can’t buy a six, but the ½ gallon gives you enough to share with a friend or two. It’ll run you a bit more than a six, but you're paying for local and it’s worth it.