Thursday, May 28, 2009

Drinking Our Way Through Disney

So, the Big Dubya & I are on vacation in Walt Disney World -- we are having a fabulous time and are dreading the prospect of tomorrow's flight home (have I mentioned that we have 3, yes 3 children under 4, yes under 4?).

Although the trip has been chock full of fun and adventure, there has been a certain amount of angst & strife.... and how do the Dubyas deal with strife? Yes, my friends.... we drink our way through it.

Let us begin..... our resort has an awesome pool..... and what makes the pool so awesome? I'm glad you asked.... you ask very good questions. Well, in addition to a kick-ass waterslide, it has a kick-ass bar. Yes, dear friends we spent Monday (and part of today) drinking over-priced cocktails by the pool. On this trip, our drinks of choice were the Orange Dream (
Skyy Orange Vodka and Monin Candied Orange blended with ice cream) and Poolside Lemonade (Bacardi O Rum, Bacardi Razz Rum, Sweet & Sour and Sprite with a splash of Grenadin) both of which were delicious, but let's face it -- Disney is no different than any other bar.... the bartender doing the mixing makes a big difference. The first bartender made us feel like we were getting our $7 worth (a.k.a stiff drinks) -- the subsequent ones..... ahhhh, no. But, all in all the drinks were still delicious and fully enjoyable.

On Tuesday, we went to Animal Kingdom -- and because, as my son kept reminding us, we were "in Africa", we opted for some beer from Kenya (Tusker Lager), South Africa (Windhoek Lager) and another faux African beer (Safari Amber)

The Tusker Lager was good -- light, but flavorful -- I can't say that I loved it, but it was refreshing and given the 85° weather, it hit the spot in a big way.

Bob, our Boston-bred bartender, told us that the Windhoek Lager was reminiscent of Heineken. Apparently he's never actually had Heineken, cuz.... uhm not-so-much. It had a little more flavor than the Tusker, but definitely not as hoppy as or edgy as Heineken. It was good -- but I wouldn't seek it out, and I certainly wouldn't mistake it for Heineken.

Safari Amber.... at the time, I thought I was drinking something from a far off land.... only now that I'm typing do I discover that I was bamboozled..... it's actually a product of St Louis, Missouri, as in Anhesuer Busch, St Louis, Missouri. It was much lighter than the typical amber, it had a red coloring, but like Kilian's it was really just a true Amber's weaker younger brother.

On Wednesday we stuck with what we know.... and we know Irish. We spent the morning in The Magic Kingdom (which is woefully dry) and wrapped up the day at Epcot where the Rose & Crown pours a decent Harp. You might ask why we weren't drinking Guinness.... well, it was 85° and in addition to not being all that refreshing....the last time I had Guinness at the Rose & Crown it was absolutely AWFUL, so we opted for Harp, which at least on this visit was decent.

I know reviews on this site are supposed to be of wine, but..... it's my site and I'll break the rules if I want to :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Review of a Wine I Can't Spell

This assignment was hard for me. I have been struggling to find a good wine to pair with barbecue for three summers now. It seems to me like a good Carolina or Texas barbecue sauce will really kill a wine.

So, I did what any wino would do. I asked my wine guy.

I asked him what I should get to drink with a big Texas style barbecued brisket.

He suggested this.

He said it was a big red.

The problem is, this particular wine guy and I don't always agree on what is a good pairing.

And in this case I thought the barbecue killed the wine completely. I really couldn't taste it. I has to switch back to beer for the meal.

After the meal was over I went back to my glass of wine and surprise, surprise.

Still nothing.

It was a very mild, old world red. I believe it was a Grenache and Syrah blend. Those are two of my very favorite grapes. I love a big, bold, fruity wine.

But this wine (insert long French words here. Dude, I took a picture, I wasn't smart enough to write it down too) tasted watered down.

I think it was $12.99.

It wasn't gross, like the cheaper bottles of wine. It didn't have that paint thinner aftertaste, it was just completely meh.

And there you have it.

(Stay tuned for EVIL - the post where I buy a bottle of wine based soley on the label. Just like a girl.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This post is brought to you by the letter "Y"

That's right — it's your old pal TwoBusy, back for another exercise in suck. "But why," you ask. "Why would he do such a thing? Why, Santy Claus, why?" A reasonable question, my young Who friend. And I shall answer it thusly:
  1. Because blogmistress Mrs. Big Dubya failed to break me off at the knees when I tried this last time. This'll learn her.
  2. Because nobody else has bothered to fulfill the demands of this month's assignment. (That's right. Nobody. I'm looking at you... and you... and you.)
  3. Because we happened to drink a bottle last night that met this month's requirements.
  4. Because I haven't thought of anything to write for DadCentric this week. (Speaking of unfulfilled obligations.) But hey: don't let that stop you from heading over there! Here... read what this old guy had to say!
And that's why I'm here. Sitting on the other side of your screen. Staring at you. Always, always watching.

Um. What I meant to say was: we drank a bottle that meets the May requirements — less than $15/bottle, and appropriate for grilling. And now I'm gonna talk about it! The it, in this case, is a bottle of Australian white with the horrifyingly long name of Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay "The Y Series" 2007. That's about six words too long, if you ask me, but nevertheless that's what's on the label.

Yalumba is - per their promotional materials - Australia's oldest family-owned winery. Which is cool. I've actually been familiar with them since the dawn of time and/or the moment when I first began to explore the world of wine and discover that it was, in fact, a potentially pleasurable pursuit even for an uncultured simp (not chimp, mind you) like me. To be specific: the Boston Wine Expo of 1995. If you've been to the Boston Wine Expo at any point in the past seven or eight years, you know what an overcrowded logistical nightmare it's become... but back in '95, when I was but a pup, it was a completely different experience.

I went at the behest of one of my roommates at the time, and brought along TheGirlfriend (who would subsequently become TheWife) for laughs... none of us knew jack about wine, but we'd heard second-hand that you paid an entrance fee, walked around, drank a bunch of stuff, and generally had a great time. Given that there's not a whole lot else to do in Boston in mid-February when you're two years out of college and living off of a luxurious $24k/year in salary, we decided to give it a go.

What a great decision that turned out to be. There were plenty of distributors and wineries there, eager to share their wares with connoisseurs, restaurateurs and feckless simpletons like us. And to be truthful, it wasn't an impressive crowd — we had the full run of the place, and weren't shy about stopping at every booth to sample a glass of this, a sip of that, a snort of something else. To be clear... we got pretty sauced. But even as we sauced like sauciers, we also found ourselves discovering that we actually had preferences: there were some things we enjoyed more than others, and some specific wine styles we were enjoying consistently from booth to booth.

It was a great experience, but my fondest memory of the whole thing is the Yalumba booth. I know they had some reds and whites, but what really made an impression on me was their Tawny Port – from my first sip, I was hooked. It was beyond delicious: just a sumptuous, rich, throat-coating and belly-warming glass of amber wonderful. I couldn't believe how good it tasted, and felt compelled to prove and re-prove to myself how good it was by visiting and revisiting the table multiple times.

When we finally stumbled... I mean, walked... out of the old World Trade Center in Southie and into a February snowstorm, there were two things I knew: 1) we needed to hail a cab; and 2) I needed to find and buy a bottle of Yalumba Tawny Port.

So. That was 1995. Now, it's 2009 and I'm ancient, decrepit, and far more well-versed in the ways of wine. Still, when TheWife and I stopped by our favorite wine shop in Boston's majestic MetroWest last weekend, and the owner suggested we take a look at a few of the cheaper bottles he had on display - all of which, he claimed, were far better than the price suggested - my eye was immediately caught by the Yalumba name. Granted, I've had a few of their wines over the years (to varying levels of good and indifferent), but when I saw the bottle of Chardonnay for $12 even... I had to give it a try.

Which leads us to last night. As a quick dinner, I grilled up some chorizo, cut a whole slew of slices off a block of Vermont cheddar, threw a ton of fresh strawberries and raspberries into a bowl... and pulled this Yalumba Chard out of the fridge.

I have to take a moment here to offer a disclaimer: we're not Chardonnay drinkers. As I noted in last week's award-winning Whinery post, we're not really white wine drinkers at all... but Chardonnay, in particular, has always been something we've made a point of avoiding. Why? Because Chardonnay is what you always get when you go to catered events and there are waitstaff walking around offering you wine, and your choices are reduced to "Red or white?" And the white is almost always a Chardonnay. And it's always bland. Just... dull. Lifeless. Boring. A semi-chilled alcohol delivery system, and nothing more.

Granted, we've had a few high-end Chards that were pretty amazing - Grgich Hills leaps to mind as one example - but whenever we've picked one up with a price in the teens or even low twenties... it's served as a reminder of why we avoid Chardonnay in the first place. In short, we'd come to the conclusion that in order to get a good one, you had to drop a bundle. And for us, it just wasn't worth it.

With this in mind, we opened and poured the Yalumba with a little apprehension. The good part, of course, was that if it sucked or had little/no flavor at all, we were only out $12. The bad part was that we had nothing else chilled and ready to roll if this was a flop.

Good news: not a flop. I won't go to the extent of claiming that the Yalumba Y Series Chardonnay was anything close to a match for a true, high-end Chardonnay... but it had legitimate flavor and character. The back label goes into all kinds of absurd levels of detail in describing what we were supposed to be tasting - " aromas of melon, grapefruit and honey... fresh tropical fruit flavours of peach, pineapple and fig give this wine texture and palate weight" - but to be honest, I wouldn't recognize a fig outside of its natural newton habitat if one came up and bit me, so I can't truthfully say whether or not I pulled any of those specific flavours (to adopt the Aussie idiom) from my glass.

But. It was a decent bottle. There were legit fruit overtones to the wine, and what's more it offered a sense of subtlety and layering that I've never before tasted in a cheaper Chardonnay. I actually - to my surprise - found myself enjoying it. Does that mean I'll be foresaking my beloved NZ Sauv Blancs in favor of the Yalumba Y Series Chardonnay? Nope. For a couple of extra bucks, I can still pick up an Allan Scott Sauv Blanc that will blow this Chard out of the water. But that being said, I wouldn't be opposed to picking this up again. And if you've got more of a taste for Chardonnay than I do, I'd say it's well worth checking out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Go back to your homes. Nothing to see here.

Okay... so this is my first post for The Whinery, and I guarantee I'm going to screw it up on multiple levels. In fact, I'm going to flub this assignment so badly that I have little doubt Mrs. Big Dubya is going to break both of my knees in an act of great vengeance and fuuuuurious anger (and I have no doubt that she could do it, too. She scares the hell out of me.). Nevertheless, onward I press — guided by blind faith in the righteousness of my mission as well as my liver's ongoing attempt to metabolize half a bottle of white.

What? (you ask) Good question, you. Very perceptive that you should pick up on that incredibly subtle hint I just dropped. (If you missed it, feel free to go back and reread the previous paragraph. We'll wait here until you're ready. (Whistling) (losing patience) (Fuck it. They're dead to us anyhow. Let's move onward.) That's right! I drank half - well, okay; it was closer to 2/3 - of a bottle of white tonight, and as such I feel emboldened to reviewify it for Das Whinery!

Subsequently: I present to you... the 2006 Don Oligario AlbariƱo.IMG_0125

Before we go any further, however, let's review the multiple levels of the assignment proper. First off, there's parameter #1: bottles should cost less that $15 apiece.

Well, terrific. We've already fucked up... but there's a caveat! According to the sticker on the back of the bottle, we paid $23 bucks for this particular bottle of Spanish white — and in fact, I recall precisely the conversation we had with the weird surfer dude at the cool little kitchen/wine shop in Portsmouth, NH where we bought it, in which the dude in question sold us on what a spectacular bottle this was. And you know what? As TheWife and I were drinking it tonight, and I glanced over and saw the $23 price tag staring back at me, I said to her, "If I told you this was an $11 bottle, what would you say?" Her response: "I don't think we need to spend $11 on it again." "Well, bad news: it cost $23." "Goddammit!"

(Please note that our unnatural number of children had vacated the dining area by this point to the living room, where they were knee-deep in a DVD viewing of Pinocchio and, therefore, unsullied by this particular burst of invective on the part of my wife. Just for the record.)

So yes: technically, this bottle shouldn't qualify for this site because it cost too much. But in spirit, we felt that at less than half the price it still wouldn't be worth the cost... so in some sense - quite possibly, in a very spiritual and elevated sense - it actually goes several steps beyond qualification. So there.

Onward. Element #2 of the May assignment claims that this is to be a bottle to be enjoyed with grilled food. Well, okay... here's the thing: we ate it with takeout Chinese. Granted, it was really, really good takeout Chinese - and, in fact, the takeout Chinese in question may have involved some grilling in the course of preparation - but technically, we did not drink the Don Olegario AlbariƱo 2006 alongside food that I actually prepared on my grill.

But! But! Don't fret, Mrs. Big Dubya. Because once again, in the spirit of intent if not execution, we're right on target. The reason we bought this wine in the first place was so that we'd have something to drink as an accoutrement (that's right: I just busted out the French on yr ass. Take that.) to some nicely grilled & marinated chicken. As I noted here (go ahead, check it out: I'm fascinating) we've been drinking lots of NZ Sauvignon Blanc recently... and as this field of exploration had yielded so much unexpected pleasure, we figured we'd branch out and boldly explore the wide, wide world of whites. The Don Olegario was the first of these ventures... and, perhaps, the last.

But ya see? The bottle was purchased with the intent of being served with grillified poultry! That counts, right? (Good lord. She's grabbing a crowbar. I think she's gonna go Tonya Harding on me.)

Dammit. I suck.

Anyhow: the wine itself... well, in case you haven't picked up on the cues I've hidden so carefully throughout the length of this post: it was disappointing. Not terrible, but fully, wholly and completely unremarkable. Not much of an aroma to it at all, and the taste matched. It was an exercise in bland. It was, in fact, an abject reminder of why we generally avoid whites in the first place — the cheaper ones tend to suck. And this was a $23 bottle! Damn you, Don Olegario. Damn you straight to hell.

The truth is that despite having downed approximately 2/3 of a bottle, I can't even say that this wine left me with a healthy buzz. Just a vague sense of disappointment, and a wish that we'd opened something else instead.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How do you spell blecch?

We weren't doing anything "special" for Mother's Day -- just some pizza with salad, so I thought something described as an " everyday red table wine" would fit the bill. I purchased this wine some time ago at a wine shop that I've always had great luck with. Good wine, good selection, good price -- haven't been let down yet -- well.... until today.

il vino del lunedi -- Biso Biso Rosso -- The name is Italian and translates into "Monday's Wine" -- well, I couldn't drink this wine on Monday, a Mother's Day or any other day for that matter. The Big Dubya took a sip and said.... hmmm, it's o-kay. I took a sip and thought that maybe it had interacted really badly with a peice of pepperoni. I tried a second sip and it only got worse. At this point, I asked him if he was going to finish his glass -- he said he was, but wouldn't be having a second. I asked what it was he didn't like about it and he said he couldn't put his finger on it -- the first sip was smooth enough, but it's been down hill since.

I took yet another sip and determined that not only would I not be having a second glass, but this glass was going to be poured down the drain.... something I do not do lightly.

The Big Dubya asked me what I thought -- I told him I felt like my toungue was getting a chemical peel -- he laughed and then laughed some more when I cracked a can of Guinness to cleanse my palate. He ended up dumping his glass too. I can't really begin to describe what it was I didn't like about it - there wasn't just one thing wrong with it -- it was just terrible on every level.

Bottom line -- this wine is a stinker -- steer clear!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Welcome Wine-O

I'm thrilled to welcome Wine-O as our newest contributor.

Wine-O is a fantastic addition to The Whinery.

New to the blogging world -- she's a wife, a mother, a successful marketing executive -- and she juggles it all effortlessly. Oh, and did I mention she's an amazing cook? I'm hoping she'll be writing about some of her fabulous recipes too.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Guinness 250th Anniversary Edition

Did I expect fireworks and a little leprechaun to leap out of the bottle as soon as I removed the cap? No. But I did expect something spectacular to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the "dark stuff." And while it was definitely a good beer and worthy of the Guinness label, I was underwhelmed with the Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout.

It pours almost black, similar to the Draught. However, the head, a creamy white on the Draught, was a dirty white and didn't last very long on the Guinness Anniversary. One should expect a more robust head if poured like a Draught, but given this beer's carbonation (not nitrogenation) the pour is more in keeping with other beers - angled glass, pour slowly down the side. The maltiness is noticeable right from the start - it smells like a Guinness. I metioned Friday night when I tweeted my first impressions, the carbonation really does take you by surprise, however, it does mellow in subsequent sips. You can taste the malt and some sweet dark chocolate, as well as some dark fruity undertones, but the triple hops are definitely evident as is this beer's higher alcohol content. Don't get confused, however, this is not an IPA. It's more a watered-down Imperial Stout with less alcohol.

All in all it's a good beer, not a great beer, and left me feeling, "meh." I had hoped for (and expected) something truly kick ass for such a significant anniversary, but was disappointed. I'm not sure I'll pay the $10 for another six-pack of 11.2 oz. bottles - I'd rather pay the $13 for a 8-pack of the Draught cans. And, why 11.2 oz.? Can someone explain this to me? I have pint glasses. Pint. 16 oz. I gave up pony bottles around the same time I gave up drinking Bud. Read: a long, loooong time ago. Note to Guinness: please consider adding another few ounces please. It's only neighborly.