Monday, November 10, 2008


x-fact ~ the first 5 years of my life were spent in mendocino county. and i love sangiovese. i may be biased.

sangiovese mendocino county 2006
paid 9.99
reg. @13

I! LOVE! THIS! WINE! and i'm not biased. i'm not. this is great wine.

the forever designated driver brought this home weeks ago. and the moment i saw it i thought of my dear friend, jeni-o, who's sipping at the great wine bar beyond. the cheerful yellow label, her signature flower, a california coast wine. plus, her birthday was coming up and i had been thinking about her a LOT lately. so, i just couldn't drink it. yet.

i put the bottle aside, where i could still see it, but didn't open it.

i even put it out at our dia de los muertos gathering. but, um, sort of in the back. sort of behind the other bottles of cider and wine. and it lasted! no one opened it! which, um, may or may not have to do with the fact that halfway through the gathering i may or may not have stuffed it behind the recycling basket.

anyway, at first sip it's juicy and jammy and fresh. it just has this really fresh taste. crisp, even. and yet it's deep. and yet, yet, bear with me here, it's really drinkable.

i don't know if it's because this wine is from possibly one of the most amazing places on earth AND it's organic (oh, did i mention it's organic? no? well, it's organic. and not only is it organic, the label says it's VEGAN. really? okay. and yes, they put it in bold on the label. VEGAN wine. huh? who knew?) or not, but there's just something so fresh picked and accessible and yet divine about this wine. like all truly good food it's at once simple and sumptuous.

and it's such a pretty wine. actually, it's an absolutely gorgeous wine. all ruby jewel tone in the glass that breaks into a million glassy pieces on the top.

and like the wine, the day was gorgeous. today was a perfect fall day. i raked leaves and dead headed the last of the lavender and some other perennials that i didn't get to before.

and as i worked i thought about my friend jeni-o and what a gardener she was. gardener, crafter, cook. good lord if she saw the space i have and how i just let it go to pot. well, not let it. busy with kids and home schooling and life. but she knew that. she always listened, she would understand my plight, she would understand the state of this yard.

and as i wheeled the leaves to the back pasture i thought about how next spring might be different. another new start. the boys older. more able to help. a group effort. a gorgeous yard.

and perhaps come next fall, a whole swath of it filled with gorgeous sunflowers reaching towards the sky on a sunny crisp autumn day. not unlike today.

later, as i headed in the house and pulled off my boots and washed my hands the promise of being in the yard began to fade with being within four walls. as it is want to do, no?

ah, who knows if next year will yield a more gorgeous with the group effort yard or not?

i do know that an afternoon of yard work on a crisp day gives one a certain satisfaction that cannot be named, the four walls be damned. it however can be celebrated with, among other things, a glass of wine.

so i retrieved the bottle from behind the recycling basket (yes, i forgot about it until just then) and poured a glass.

and as i stood there with a sweaty brow and muddy pant legs i was happy with this delicious wine. and i thought about the day and the effort. and the more i sipped the more i warmed to the idea that yes, maybe, just maybe, next year will be different. that by next fall my yard will be weed free and gorgeous and awash in sunflowers.

it's possible. sip sip, indeed.

and then, again, i thought of my friend, jeni-o. how much she would have loved this wine, and how she would have probably picked up this very bottle in the store based on the label alone. and i thought about how much she would have loved this day. despite the lack of sunflowers, unruly yard, prolific weeds, and all. she would just bask in the beauty of fall and appreciate all it had to offer.

so here's to you, jeni-o.

i raise my glass in your honor tonight. you left us far too soon, my friend, and yet you are never far from the squishiest parts of my heart. especially so when i see a sunflower, each of which i believe blooms in your very name.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

cabernet merlot.

x-fact ~ south australia not only has some really good wines, they have some really good wines at really great prices.

little boomey cabernet merlot south australia 2004
paid 3.97
reg @7

that's some crazy pic, huh? i haven't seen pink like that since the mid 80's. but what's this? less than 4 bucks? you don't say!

well, not only does australia have good wines at great prices, cost plus world market gathers a bunch of these wines and a bunch of other wines from all over and offers all of them at even greater every day prices than your average store.

granted, this is a really good sale price, but on the average i find that cost plus consistently seeks out lesser known value wines to offer at great deals in their stores. in addition, they have a lot of more popular and better known labels at great every day prices as well.

now. knowing nothing about this wine except that the name and the label are hokey and would not be given a second glance except for the price, did i get what i paid for? is this swill and i'm not out too much, or is this in the same league as the two buck chuck and i have in fact found another great deal?

it's good. it's no two buck chuck, it's not earth shattering, but it's good enough to write home to you about.

i'm not sure at its true retail price i'd be a regular customer, but it's good.

it starts off a little thin. and it doesn't really recover from that. which is to say, it neither gets worse, nor does it markedly improve.

the most measurable taste is right at the first few sips. there's a bit of a cracked peppercorn taste right at the back of the throat. i know i know i don't know anything about wine and therefore reeeeeeeely try to stay away, BY CHOICE, from the fruity (pardon the pun) descriptions.

BUT, as jesus (who knew a thing or two about wine thankya very much) is my witness it's cracked black pepper, it's only a bit on the back of the throat, it's not offensive, and it goes away after a few sips.

so. that's it. it never got bolder or more flavorful, but, like i said above, it didn't get worse either. in fact, if i could describe it in the most flattering light i'd say it was pleasant and soft.

above all, it remained drinkable. in a pleasant and soft kinda way. if this wine were a person this wine is me at 37, definitely not me at 24. not that i've ever been soft and pleasant at 24 or now. but there's that edge that i've managed to sorta soften and beat into something more resembling pleasant over the years. at least in public around other actual adults.

that being said, if other actual adults invited me and my soft and pleasant self over i could definitely see bringing this wine to a barbecue or serving it at one. (if you could get over the label. but hey, for the price, i dare say i could)

all that grilled meat and snacky foods and condiments. oh, the condiments. the pickle relish would have nothing to fear because this wine would be perfect in that it wouldn't add to the gluttony, nor would it overpower any of the flavors you really want to enjoy.

now that's soft and pleasant. in a wine, or in a girl, at least you know you're gonna make it home in one piece. without pissing off the pickle relish.

and, let's not forget all those salads left too long in the sun. nothing like a little red wine to kill any forming bacteria colonies. good times.

plus, you know when people gather around the grill salivating over the meat and having a few too many sips of something they start breaking into an australian accent. shrimp on the barbie and all that.

well, then, here you go. you can thank me next summer. i hope it's still on sale.

you know, i have to say, further in this wine's defense, there are times when you find yourself dining at a certain kind of restaurant that offers "house wines" by the half or full carafe. generally at a pretty good value.

oh, to order wine simply by one color or the other, "do you want the red or white?" reminds me of my grandma billie. eternal cocktail waitress, hell on wheels, and loved her some half carafe with a side of ice. restaurants with her ALWAYS meant red or white. oh, not for me, i was too young, but let's just say it's a pleasant memory and i don't need to look too far to figure out some of those little, ah, idiosyncrasies i might posses.

anyway, don't get me wrong, i've had some good house wines, but boy howdy have i had my share of crap, too. more crap than good, but it's nearly like it's expected, so you sip away and don't think too much about it. and i'm not being snobby because i do enjoy a good wine value and there are times when beggars can't be choosers and should just sit back and sip happily.

this wine would be an excellent house wine by the full carafe.

and that is a complement.

so sometimes it's better to be a beggar than a chooser. less money, more variety, and a little something to write home about.

cheers! mate!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008


x-fact ~ i stole this picture. i hope they don't come after me. oh, and malbec is a thin skinned grape. perfect for how i feel today. seriously, i hope they don't come after me about the picture. oy.

gouguenheim malbec 2006 argentina
paid 7.99
reg. 12.99

i know the picture doesn't do it much justice, but this is a HANDSOME bottle, no? this is like the pierce brosnan, no! the george clooney, of wine bottles.

the shape, the label, the graphics! (granted, again in the picture the graphics really don't come out, but trust me) i think this is the best looking bottle i've seen in a long time.

this bottle belongs on a beautifully set table. good china, tall candlesticks, a chafing dish or two if you will.

yeah yeah yeah, that's all well and good, you say, but handsome is as handsome does. how does it taste, you ask?

well, i'm glad you asked! i could use a drink right about now!

this is a great wine, but not for the faint of heart. it isn't dry and it isn't dainty. it's a deep and dark and jammy taste, and it's big and gooey and chewy.

i know, i know. but please allow me the completely accurate if not completely overblown descriptions as it's been a looooonnnnngggg day.

this wine is a bit bracing right at the first, right at the top of the mouth at the back of the throat. like a lot of wines of this caliber i assumed this would go away with a bit of warming in the glass and i was right. after awhile it was smooth smooth smooth.

it looks great in the glass, too. a rich ruby tinging to a liquid deep pink at the top, where incidentally the legs start after each sip, trail down the glass, and just don't go away.

darlings, this is a big wine.

this is a wine to pair with food for sure. drink it alone and "suffer" the consequences. i put suffer in quotes as i do believe the last time i reviewed a malbec i mentioned that it was "potential debauchery in a bottle."

though suffer is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

so if you're drinking this with food, what do you pair it with? i'd say a heavier dish or a bigger meal. perfect if you've been invited somewhere and know the dinner will include the full complement of starters, entrees, and sides, a fabulous dessert at the end. you know the hosts, foodies to the core, will go all out. and what will you do? bring this bottle. you'll arrive as a guest, but this wine will ensure that you leave as family.

conversely, this wine also complements a deeply flavored, but simple and quiet fireside meal for two. think individual french onion soups with rosemary rolls, or the one dish wonder that is cassoulet paired with a simply dressed butter lettuce salad. sitting on the rug in front of the fire with napkins on laps, food in hand, and a glass of wine set on the floor beside you.

either way, this is a welcome wine for an autumn evening, perfect after coming in from the cold, and sharing with whomever you are dining with.

tonight there wasn't a fancy dinner or an intimate meal for two, but it was a long day and none of that mattered. debauchery notwithstanding, tonight i'm just glad to have a glass of it and my feet finally up.

and with many an enjoyable sip i ignored the televised debate in favor of watching my youngest create art at the dining room table. i admired his use of color, the imagination that had a bowl of fruit flying through space towards the moon, and fielded questions that included but were not limited to, "mama, do you think the soul looks like a pickle?"

i don't know if the soul looks like a pickle.

but i do know what happy looks like. happy is some wine in your glass, a quiet and engaged and entertaining child at your dining room table, and the close of a long and arduous day. you're not saving the world or just trying to get through the day, you're just being. at last.

the label on the back of this bottle suggests that upon drinking there is a secret that will be revealed and shared regarding the wine's "unique terrior."

the only secret here isn't a secret at all.

do what you love, especially after a trying day. do what you love and the rest comes.



Tuesday, September 30, 2008

red wine.

x-fact ~ the label says to serve this red slightly chilled to "enjoy its soft and expressive array of ripe red and black fruits." yeah, i'll let you know how that pans out.

colombelle red wine 2006
paid 7.99
reg. 9.99

vin de pays des cotes de gascogne is a region in france. not the name of the wine. this wine is made mostly of the tannat grape, 60%, blended with 20% merlot, and another 20% cabernet.

okay, so let's cut to the chase with the slightly chilling.

yes, it worked.

it was round and smooth and smacky and juicy and syrupy right at the first sip. darlings, it's delicious.

after the second and subsequent sips it mellows out a bit, it's still round and juicy, but even smoother and the smacky and the juicy gives way to simple, unadorned lush.

this is more than a sexy wine. this is a come hither wine. this wine not only turns your head but it beckons you forth as well.

if this wine was a person it would be a stranger who stops you in the supermarket, drugstore, hardware store and says "i know we've never met, but you have to know that my whole life has come to this and i need to take you for a drink and to sit across the table and flirt with you mercilessly for an hour straight. truly, that's all i need and my life is complete. say yes."

actually if this wine was a person it would be you, because you would say yes.

this wine has a beautiful color. swirly girly color with legs for miles down the glass.

i am enjoying this wine so much solo, i don't know what i would drink this wine with food wise. something simple and snacky? yet, polished. please god, not sliced cheddar and a triscuit.

better, the trite but true brie and grapes with a water cracker, perhaps a firm blue cheese with a sour cherry pomegranate spread, or a creamy blue with some fresh honeycomb alongside.

oddly enough, the exact cheese pairings i served when i catered a big birthday party for a friend this weekend. the only difference is i'm not working right now. i actually have time to sit and have a bite and a sip. not a needy guest in sight or the three inch heeled boots i insisted on wearing while working for 8 hours straight (makes all the difference in the world when you are sweaty and working your ass off) on my feet.

life. is. good.

and i can walk again! hallelujah!

and had this wine been at that party i may have had no choice but to abandon my duties in favor of the siren call of this wine. a bottle tucked under one arm and platter of cheese in the other hand, i'd find the quietest corner and go to work. and by work i mean sipping and nibbling and leaning against the wall in satisfaction.

thankfully for my friend and her party guests (though not for my feet) this wine was not at the party.

but i needed only to wait a few days and now i have a party of my own. and not a loud drunk overly made up and underly equipped with anything resembling the ability to act remotely like a lady with any amount of alcohol in her system and smells like an unventilated hair salon on a hot day girl. in. sight.

well, i do have a few glasses to go...

uh, and, buh dump bump.

throw a party for two with a few posh nibbles and your own "stranger." and a bottle of this wine, mais oui.

beware, it is a screw top, the color is all kinds of wrong, and the label is cheesy. so don't serve it from the bottle. better to chill it slightly first in the bottle and then decant it to a different serving vessel.

it needn't be fancy, a simple glass carafe will do. or if you want fancy, bust out and dust off that fancy pants decanter that's been hanging around at the back of the cupboard and you never thought you'd use in a million years.

however it gets served it will be well received.

and the praise and adoration, the worship, will be yours to do with what you wish.

(as will, perhaps, the stranger. non?)

tendres baisers!


Thursday, July 31, 2008


x-fact ~ this wine is from lodi. yes, that lodi. and no, i wouldn't mind being stuck in lodi again thank you very much.

abundantly rich red california 2005
paid 10.99
reg. @15-18

we made a special stop in lodi for this wine. you can order it on the interwebs or ask your store to order it for you. the store we like in lodi has it at 10.99 a bottle (steal! yeah, um, except it's like two tanks of gas and a day down to lodi from here so....) but regularly it's anywhere from 14.99 to 17.99 on the interwebs or in a store.

we actually first had this bottle last year on my birthday at this fabulous local restaurant. one sip and this girl was hooked! not since i first layed my eyes on michael hutchence have i been as easily smitten!

well, okay, to be fair, there was bono and then johnny depp, most recently colin firth and so many countless others... but! i digress. and more importantly, though sweet elixirs in their own right, they weren't wine.

okay, where was i? oh yeah, so we asked about it at the restaurant and where to acquire it locally, and the sommelier said oh they don't sell it locally and blah blah blah.

well, it just so happens that the forever designated driver had a business trip in lodi the. very. next. week! i know, right?!?! what are the odds?!?

i say there aren't any odds because this was fate. and for a year now this has been my absolute favorite wine. i know i know, i do love the flirty grenache. sigh.

but sometimes a girl just wants to let her hair down without having to wash and style it first. and sometimes a girl just wants to not feel the need to suck in her stomach, even at a flirty memory. sometimes a girl just wants to drink the wine. so as far as just a straight red wine goes that's as fabulous as all that but you don't have to be, this is it.

can i just say, drinking this wine is just like drowning in the sea of love where everyone would love to drown. (thank you, stevie nicks)

it's rich and smooth and juicy all at once on the first sip. it pops on your tongue and pulls at the roof of your mouth. it's got the innocence of the best grape juice you ever had as a kid and the experience to make you put the glass down and look at it and say, "wow. "

it just takes over. with the mouth feel at first and then hits the stomach gradually and firmly. it stays smooth and juicy, but the flavor gets a bit more layered and complex after a time.

and if you let it sit a bit after pouring and before sipping you will be rewarded with the most beautiful of aromas. like a juicy berry kiss all grown up and right on the nose.

when i had it before it was with a very wonderful meal full of complementing flavors and expertly executed dishes. it was just as enjoyable with the starters, through the main, to the dessert. except, i guess, technically, the rest of the bottle was dessert! happy birthday to me!

it's just bold enough to be drunk with food, but subtle enough to be enjoyed on its own or paired with small bites rather than a big meal.

i love that in a wine. and i guess that's why i love a red table wine or red blend so much. but you knew that. i love to fold things into my life. i don't have time to do it any other way right now.

that being said, i intended to review this bottle with a wonderful meal of my own construction. i had it planned down to the fresh thyme and last pool of melting compound butter.

alas, the best laid plans of sillymortals and all that.

an extra play date here, another day of a young visiting house guest there, an overheating car and subsequent 11th hour vehicle swap in a parking lot to get to the ferry on time here, and a summer cold ridden minor child there, and all ideas of a complicated dinner went out the door with the young guests back to their respective homes and the car to the mechanic.

instead, i sip this wine on a quiet afternoon, sans the fabulous and complimenting meal, but no less enjoyable. instead of lit candles and clinking glasses and cloth napkins i'm sipping to the sounds of spongebob in the background, fielding questions and random thoughts that plague the 7 to 11 year old set, and refilling juice and soup requests.

not too hot! can i have a different straw? he got more crackers! sip sip. happy happy.

the thing about enjoying wine, though, is the thing about living life. be flexible and you will see the world bend to your will.

and hell, everyone needs a day off from being fabulous. even the house chef can be happy to heat up a can of soup. and voila! it still tastes like love. even the drove 600 miles to get you wine can sit unceremoniously on a messy desk and be sipped in the middle of the afternoon by the girl who still hasn't gotten a shower from morning yoga. and voila! it still tastes like a million bucks!

don't wait for the perfect moment to fully enjoy your life. overheating cars, canned soup, and all.

and if you're in an imperfect moment, pour a glass of red and pretend that you aren't. and pretty soon, there's no more pretending.

trust me.



Tuesday, July 1, 2008


x-fact ~ garnacha is grenache in spain. and from wikipedia; In Oaxaca, it is an actual cuisine: a small corn tortilla fried with shreded meat, cheese, lettuce or a prepared type of cabbage topping.

tapena garnacha spain 2006
paid; gift!
reg. @12

yes, another gift! and not only was this bottle a gift strictly for the blog, it was one of TWO bottles gifted. one to drink right then, one to review later. you know this girl does love a gift of wine, but TWO bottles? my heart is bursting. if there was a little grinning icon i'd insert it here.

well, you all know how much i love a grenache. so flirty! so fun! a date in a bottle!

i really do.

though i don't know that i've had a spanish grenache before that wasn't blended in a rose. but i have now and it's delicious!

it's smooth and jammy and lush right at first. and it just fills your whole mouth with flavor, bursting on the tongue at the finish.

it's light and juicy, yet commands complete attention at first sip and doesn't let go. in fact it very much reminds me of my new favorite wine of the year which i will review for you closer to my birthday. just that juicy, shamelessly bursting quality that one usually reserves for the ripest of stone fruits and sun warmed berries.

grenache also looks great in the glass. if a wine could be called sexy, this would be it. beautiful legs that start at the top and slowly make their way down the sides. the smell is luscious, nearly perfumed in its hit to your nose, yet in a good way. the best kind of way. like you remember it from somewhere and the memory is good, yet you can't place it. a sweet ache follows as you attempt at recall.

and the color is perfect. rich, deep, ruby red, with a just pink enough tone. all glossy and gorgeous.

in fact, there's this wonderful nail color called prudence and the prune. god i loved that nail polish. it was perfect. deep red and yet a kiss of pink, it was gorgeous. and perfect. no matter the season or the outfit or the mood, it suited.

this wine is that color.

and as sips give way to a second glass, the flavor only gets deeper and rounder. it practically begs you to drink more.

and that's the magic of grenache. subtle, yet intense, definitely not coy. like a prince song liquefied and bottled and poured right into your glass.

and that's what i love most about this wine. there is a quality to it that brings one's mind elsewhere, a transportation to the decadent memories of our past, or to desires yet unfulfilled. to sunnier climes on distant shores, to more romantic pursuits if you will.

a small table street side where perhaps your language is not the native tongue but it couldn't matter less. the fluttering market umbrella above you, a warm day, perhaps a new love. or better yet, an ancient one.

the hours of an afternoon pass and you hardly have noticed. the wine makes the light just right, the sun just right, all the colors seem brighter, time stills, gazes could be a painting.

a grenache pairs well with small plates and a long meal. a little nibble of this, a nibble of that. a sip. disparate flavors that enmesh on the tongue in gastronomic consummation, you hardly notice where one stops and the other begins. the grenache finishing it off nicely to the end.

it's a slow wine meant to be adored at each sip.

i did not have the luxury of a romantic lunch al fresco while drinking this wine.

but at 2:30 on a tuesday afternoon, in the back pasture under the aspens, just a girl and a glass, well, i couldn't be happier.

the aspens whispering above me in the slightest breeze while i rest atop their roots. imagining all the while them holding hands and playing footsies below, those most connected and entertwined of trees.

this is a bottle i'd keep around if a bottle could actually survive in this house.

though, i cannot say this would be a house wine, per se. for if you've ever read one of those stories or seen one of those movies where the soul and the spirit and the innermost desire of the food and its chef bleeds into the finished product, well then you'd know why.

this is a dangerous wine, a vixen if you will, eager in its attempt to seduce you away from what you should be doing and encourage you to while away the afternoon, either avec amour or solo, watching the sun and entertaining thoughts that rarely get entertained in the workaday world.

and all the better for it.

and that's why, whether shared or appreciated alone, grenache is a date in a bottle. and this is a particularly good one if i do say so myself.

so if you haven't, try a grenache. find a sunny spot and invite a friend, or clear off the couch and put in a movie for one.

do, and you won't regret it. i guarantee you will be most satisfied either way.

just remember, you have been forewarned of the magic of grenache and of its charms. the rest is up to you.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008



x-fact ~ champagne comes from france. sparkling wine comes from everywhere else. it's all delicious.

paid ???
reg. @ 20

yes, this is the same guy that's behind the scharffen berger chocolates. he made champagne in anderson valley in northern california. then years ago he sold the winery to make chocolate in the bay area. damn fine chocolate, too. some of the world's best chocolate.

but what of my favorite champagne? (well, my first favorite. it's like choosing between children)

he sold it and it became pacific echo. i think i remember them saying "oh, it will stay the same." but it didn't. not in my opinion. maybe at first. but over time i remember not being impressed. at. all.

then! he bought it back! the scharffenberger guy (yeah, there's really a scharffenberger) and some big french company with a buncha money bought it back! and brought back the old name! and it tastes just delicious! just like always!

it might just be in my head. but i don't care. i'm happy.

so champagne. yes, there is a grape called a champagne grape. in fact we've got some growing on our weed farm. (no not that weed, cheech. weeds. as in they are tall and big and fast growing. as in i need to garden and dig and, you know, weeds)

but no, sparkling wine is not made of them. but that is the last time i'll use the term sparkling wine. because champagne is what i call it and champagne it will be.

this champagne is made roughly of a 60/30 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.

i don't know what we paid for this bottle. the forever designated driver bought it nearly six months ago. on sale though, that much i remember. i know i know it lasted that long in my house? i must have forgotten about it, right?

really, i was saving it because not long after that bottle was purchased some people who shall remain nameless suddenly had no more work. self-employed and no more projects.

and then continued to have no more no more work.

and as the months went on and job prospects dead ended i realized that the only way that bottle of my favorite champagne was going to be drunk was by me on the porch with the bottle, weeping and swigging while the mortgage company tacked a foreclosure notice to the fence and the sheriff tossed our belongings in the yard, OR if someone who previously remained nameless got more work, a job, won the lottery, etc.

you will be happy to know this bottle was consumed right and proper like, in glasses, at our own dining room table. no sheriff or pink notices in sight.

(for now...this is still america, one nation, under w.)

this is a great champagne. it really is.

it's dry and crisp. a little appley at the edges, a little bite of sweet at the back of the tongue.

and it's a great looking pour, too.

tons and tons of perfect. tiny. bubbles. swirling gracefully all the way from the bottom up of the glass through the very middle of the glass and breaking continuously at the top of the glass. (that's why you use a proper glass. give those bubbles room to groove.)

the color is absolutely classic. pale and pretty and classic.

this is a real celebration champagne. not only delicious, but photogenic and ready for a close up.

but a celebration need not be all pomp and circumstance. celebration can just be a sigh of relief on a weekday evening.

in this case, the celebration consisted of a glass of champagne and a huge platter of macho nachos. crisp tortilla chips covered with melting cheese, spicy ground beef, saucy beans, topped with fresh red onions, sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and juicy red tomatoes. and to finish it off, because it wouldn't quite be "macho" without them, home made guacamole, chipotle salsa, and cold and creamy sour cream.

champagne and nachos? are you mad? high? "weed" farm, indeed.

oh, but it's a classic.

as a young lass with daily dramas and disposable income, champagne was always an integral part of therapeutic practices.

when i was sad or morose, dumped or feeling blue for whatever manufactured reason the young feel is important, i would drink champagne and eat boxed chocolates. in bed. at home.

and when i was feeling happy, ecstatic, in love or lust or whatever manufactured emotion the young feel is important, i would go to this place on capitol hill, in the mall (not a "mall", they just called in that) and order a huge platter of macho nachos and a glass of champagne. by myself. happy.

both were perfect pairings both gastronomically and soul wise.

in this case, the champagne was perfect with the homemade version of the macho nachos. the crisp and cool cutting right through the crunchy and melty. the bubbly rounding out the salty and spicy.

to me, champagne is a live food. all moving around in the glass and then the blood stream. there's just a happiness that cannot be described with the mention of and even more so with the POP! and pour of champagne.

and saving a bottle for a special day, or a rainy day, or any day is a wonderful idea.

but even better is to just pick up a bottle and have it that very evening just because. or bust out one you've been "saving" for a "special occasion because otherwise it would be wasted on the ordinary and we can't have that" just because.

because you can. because it's fun. because it's frivolous. because it's just not done.

pishaw! i say! it is done and it's fun.

and if you don't have the ingredients for the "perfect" meal, or fixin's for nachos, macho or otherwise, just see what's in the fridge, the cupboard, the drive thru.

because a celebration isn't made of what you have on the table, it's made of what you have in your heart.

cheers! and congratulations to the forever designated driver!!

(and, um, whew.)


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

“All things in moderation, with a few glorious exceptions.”

RIP Robert Mondavi

from the robert mondavi winery website;

Robert Mondavi of Napa Valley, the founder of the modern US fine wine industry and a global symbol of American wine and food, passed away the morning of May 16, 2008. He was 94. The Mondavi family stated that the legendary vintner died peacefully at his home in Napa Valley.

robert mondavi was a pioneer and a maverick. he was larger than life. he believed in wine and its rightful place on the table, in the diet, in life. i have enjoyed many of his wines, and the winery's more value priced label, woodbridge, has long been a house wine here.

in honor of his passing, i would like to share a bottle of his with you.

x-fact ~ another quote from mondavi, "drink what you like, like what you drink." amen.

robert mondavi private selection 2005 vinetta
paid 9.99
reg. 11

vinetta? this is a bordeaux inspired wine. technically you cannot call a wine a bordeaux unless it comes from the bordeaux region of france. this is mondavi's answer to that.

what it is is 68% cabernet sauvignon 14% merlot 11% petit verdot 5% malbec 2% cabernet franc.

and 100% delicious.

it's smooth and dry, yet slightly juicy. it's not overly sweet, pretty balanced, with just a little ooch of sweet at the finish.

it's a beautiful color and has great legs. the flavor gets deeper, a bit of a plum taste, and stays just as complex a few sips in. it really seems to fill the mouth with flavor even after you've swallowed.

even so, it remains light and drinkable.

i had this wine outside in the waning afternoon of a long day. gonzo gardening, a long drive, a walk in the wetlands, a lot of sun.

sitting outside under the dense shade of the four apples trees that escaped the drastic pruning of 2008 with some wine, a few crackers found in the cupboard, some cheese off the end of the block, an olive or two leftover in the jar, and i finally felt at peace with the heat, the aching legs, the world.

a few sips in, and life seems so simple. a little nosh when you feel the need, the breeze just at the right moment, carrying the smell of the lilacs that are just now blooming, another sip. i couldn't be happier.

i am in the right place at the right time with the right wine.

enjoying life and all that it offers.

ah, the good life. it does exist. sip, munch, sniff, lean, relax. rinse and repeat.

thank you, mr. mondavi, for your contribution to the world of wine, the world of food and wine, and overall for your tireless dedication to promoting the good life.

this girl found it at 4:18 pm on a sunday in her backyard.

where do you find the good life?


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

red table wine.

Vin Ordinaire Ltd.

x-fact ~ this is another of those don't judge a bottle by its label deals.

red table wine california
paid 4.99
reg. @5

yes, you red that right. cheap red wine is the name of the wine. and yes, you read that right, i bought this for 4.99 on sale, and listed the regular price as @5. aren't those the same, you say. sure, but not really because it's anywhere from 4.50 to 5.50 depending on where you purchase it.

so, i've seen this wine for awhile now. another one of those "ironic" wine labels that made me just look away without even picking it up or checking the price.

cheap red wine stamped in stenciled lettering on a plain brown label, like a box marked for shipping. or a cheap grocery bag. frankly, it irritated me.

whatever, i said.

oh, and as an aside, i do talk to myself OUT LOUD in the wine aisle. i've come to terms with it.

and that whatever meant i've missed out all this time! all this time i could have been enjoying something so delicious! so smooth! so CHEAP!

this is a great wine for the price. even for a pricier price. and it took the forever designated driver bringing it home to me for me to try it.

"here's a cheap wine for your blog."

i waited until he left the room to roll my eyes.

oh, the eyerolling! i was so wrong! forgive me, cheap red wine. i will make it up to you. mainly by continuing to drink you. which really just benefits me. but...where was i?

this wine is smooth from first sip throughout. it's got a bit of the jam, but around the edges at first and then really rounds out and blooms on the tongue a few more sips in.

it's deep and rich. the kind of deep and rich you'd expect from a pricier wine. and it's not that heavy or cloying that you sometimes get in a cheaper wine to mask the well, cheap. and did i mention how smooth it is? i did? well, it is.

and you know how i do love a red table wine. and this is just the red table wine i'm talking about when i describe what i love about a red table wine.

straightforward good taste, drinkable, affordable.

i'd say unpretentious, but that would make me pretentious.

it's just damn good.

there's this thing about being snobby about wines. not with price even, just with the look of a bottle. when you've decided they're trying too hard to appeal. or not appeal, and that's the appeal.

so much lately in the marketing of wine are the twists on the names, the clever and snarky descriptions, the ironic labels.

and if you're gonna be weird about that you're gonna miss out. trust me.

it's like NOT trying the 1.00 hot dog at the little league snack shack because it's a 1.00 hot dog at the little league snack shack.

but one day, you're sitting out there on those cold metal bleachers for the umpteenth time that week, wondering where in the sam hell spring is for the umpteenth time that month until you can stand the cold and the hunger no longer.

you cobble together a buck in change and head to the snack shack. feeling foolish, knowing your disappointment before it comes, plunking down the change and rolling your eyes in your head because it would be rude to do so to the parent volunteer.

and then they put that puppy, oh sorry, dog, in your hands and you slather on the ketchup and mustard and take a bite and it's the best thing you've had in so long you can't remember enjoying a hot dog more.

the hot dog is hot and snaps when you bite into it, the bun is warm and a bit toasty on the top. the ketchup is sweet and the mustard bright yellow and tangy just the way it should be.

it's delicious and you hardly believe it when it's already gone. too soon! you wish there was more.

as you toss the napkins and that little white paper tray in the trash you think to yourself how satisfying that was. how damned good that hot dog was.

all for one dollar.

right there at the snack shack all along.

it really is a good idea to put aside what we think might be and see what actually is.

sure, not every dollar will bring a damned good hot dog, nor will every bottle of wine we pick up be something to blog home about.

BUT, life would not be living if we didn't find that out for ourselves.

(or have a fairy blogmother to tap us on the shoulder and tip us off)

bippity boppity boo!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


California 2006

x-fact ~ this wine is one of several from the same winery that brought you "two buck chuck."

bears' lair california merlot 2006
paid; it was a gift!!
reg. 4.99

i know, i know. ANOTHER gift!! again, my big sister brought me with this bottle along with the two buck chuck. i asked for this special, though, on a recommendation from my friend mis!

this is her house wine and she was interested to know what i thought of it.

well, i wish i could show you a label, but, as you might have guessed, many of the cheaper bottles don't have a lot to offer on the web in terms of pr and shelf talkers and reproducible labels.

but, it is a handsome bottle to be sure. in fact, out of all the cheap wines thus far this month, this is the best looking bottle by far.

and, i just realized this is the very first merlot i've reviewed! what's up with that? i LOVE merlot, and yet no merlot on the blog?

at first pour it's beautiful in the glass. deep and rich in color and with beautiful legs.

at first sip it is not smooth. it's got a real sting around the edges, the kind that envelops the sides of the tongue and creates a bit of salivating. oh sure, there's probably a term for that! but you know what i mean! right?

at second and third sip, though, it lost the sting and got a bit more jammy. more complex. but not in a big way, just slightly. and just right.

and then near the end of the first glass it really got its smooth on. it became light on the tongue, gained considerable sophistication, and practically floated down the throat. it's just delicious.

i think it was just the matter of a bit of warming in the glass, and it was really worth the wait.

again, what a delicious flavor.

this is a great wine for the price. it's really more than worth it.

it just needs a bit of time and patience.

which makes me think this would be perfect with a good meal. nothing real intense, like big salt or big spice or big hot, just something good.

a merlot is a subtle flavor that needs a subtle dish to really complement it.

but good lord we all know subtle does not mean boring. right?

a good long cooked risotto, or a simple but flavorful soup with bread and a salad, or a wonderful pork tenderloin with couscous and sauteed green beans on the side. how good do those sound?

i like this wine. i like how it smooths out and stays there. it's a wine that's easy to dismiss at the beginning, but ends up being completely enjoyable and immensely drinkable. all that with just a little patience.

and really, isn't that what we'd like in all things?

the idea that with a little effort and openness you can actually get everything you want?

at the very least, a good cheap wine.

however you measure it, it's the bees knees.

or the bears' lair.



Monday, April 28, 2008

cabernet sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon

x-fact ~ yes this wine is only 2 bucks. and yes, it's good!

charles shaw california cabernet 2004
paid; it was a gift!
reg. 1.99

well, you knew it couldn't be cheap wine month here on the blog without "two buck chuck!"

and in full disclosure, it's one dollar higher outside of california. and. still. worth. every. penny.

because my big sister wanted to support my project, she brought this to me. yea! this girl loves a gift of wine!

what can i say? it's cheap and it's good. it's not the best wine in the world, and neither is it the worst.

and for 2 bucks? it's surprisingly good!

it's real smooth going down at first. it gets more tanningy later on, but generally stays pretty smooth throughout. it's got a nice rich taste without being too sweet. and even as it gets more tanningny, it does in a good way. with a real nice bite.

there comes a point wherein it gets that kinda rotten fruit note to it. eeewww! you say. but! it's not a bad taste when kept in context of the larger sip. and that kinda rotten fruit note has some kind of special technical term and really isn't a bad thing. but i wouldn't know about any of that and hope that you trust me that it's not disgusting.

and, if you think it is, just drink more of it quickly. trust me, it goes away.

now, because this wine is so cheap and sold mainly at trader joe's (i've never seen it anywhere else) people may discount it as just a cheap wine for the college kids.

and it is. but, it's also a fine choice for a house wine for the old folks, too. something to have on hand for casual drinking without spending a lot. and it this day and age, any day and age, that's a good thing.

there's a lot of history around this wine. headed up by some reclusive maverick from a famous wine family, the stuff of a few urban legends, real life wine wars, etc.

but really what it boils down to is someone figured out how to make good wine accessible to the masses. and that's only a good thing for everyone involved.

and, as i hope i've shown, cheap wine need not be bad wine. it can be, but it doesn't have to be.

i've been drinking this wine on and off for years. the lack of a trader joe's where i live is the only thing standing between me and this bottle on a more regular basis. it really is that good.

now, i know i promised y'all a special wine blog with sis in the city, but sadly it was not to be. she went to sleep early and i drank the wine by myself reading a trashy magazine. which was just as wonderful as it sounds. as much as i would have loved to do a blog with my sister, this was a fine way to pass a saturday night.

but really, in retrospect, she and i are pretty well versed and used to the cheap wines. it would be fun and interesting to get a really expensive bottle and let 'er rip!

now, i just need a patron for that! don't all great artists have patrons? is there some sort of i can log on to to find one?

no matter, i can wait for the "good" stuff. because this wine is perfect just as is. for dinner, a picnic, hanging out. surfing the internets for an enabl-, i mean PATRON! a patron, yeah.

BUT i think a fine use for this wine is as the stunt double at a big gathering. stunt double? ah, yes. and it would be a fine one indeed.

so you're having a big party. housewarming, landmark birthday, engagement, wedding.

you start the evening off with a few good bottles at the bar and one on each table.

and then, once the party gets going the good bottles are gone and have slowly been replaced by the two buck chuck.

nobody is going to notice. and if they do, nobody is going to care. and if they do? eeewww!

and if you want to go one step further to the clever, and who doesn't, right? steam off the labels and put your own on. you know, your names and date for a wedding, a cute pic for an engagement, a picture of your new house for a housewarming, and hey for any landmark birthday only your very WORST grade school picture.

any way you slice it, it's a good deal and a good wine.

so go buy a case and plan a party. times are gettin' tough all over and apparently are only going to get worse.

why not treat yourself and your friends to a low cost, enjoyable time?

or just put a case in your Y2K2.0 shelter and save it up for that rainy day that's on its way.



Thursday, April 17, 2008


x-fact ~ you can find "cheap" wine in a wine shop. honest.

vina borgia campo de borja 2006
reg. 4.99
paid 7

yeah. you read that right. BUT in my wallet's defense, my research that yielded this bottle at 4.99 suggested i had to purchase this on those pesky internets from any number of discount places and then pay shipping and then wait for said bottle.

this bottle i bought this very afternoon on a delightful walk through the "old town" of our neighboring town whilst killing time waiting for the minors to be done with their art class. i stopped by a wine shop i had seen for the past ten years whenever i had cause to be in the area, and yet had never been in.

so i popped in and met a snarky, charming, funny, down to earth woman, the owner of the shop no less, who just happens to be a neighbor! well, she lives a mile from me. that's neighbor enough out here in the wilds.

i asked "what do you have for 7 or under NOT on sale?" and good lord if she didn't show me at least 6 bottles, more probably if i had included whites in that price!

score one for the wine shop! just one more reason to not be afraid of the wine shop. they aren't all precious, and pretentious, and overpriced, and in fact can quite often be the opposite. wine shop owners are wine drinkers, too. and wine drinkers are nothing if not enablers at heart. plus, they're small business owners. so in this spirit, they're generally gonna offer a wide selection at many different price points.

i knew i liked this woman when she agreed with my assessment of when a rose' should be drunk and went so far to call it a "porch" wine. grin. porch wine. i love it!

and yes, people, rose' is back. has been for a few years. and yes, people drink them. and yes, people also like them.

AND when i asked for any bottles at that what some might deem ridiculously low price she didn't flinch but rather first said "red or white." then, "what do you like to drink?"

and when i said, "it'd be easier to say what i don't like to drink" and she laughed. a real laugh.

i do love it when people find me funny. sigh.

anyhow. so. oh, yeah! the wine!

it's good. but then i do love a grenache. the color the smell the legs. it's a sexy pour, that grenache.

it's fruity and jammy and syrupy. but not in a big overpowering way. the flavor is deep and true, to be sure. but it still dances a bit on the tongue and goes down with a little bump. that bump that says, here. i. am. but not in an obvious way.

i always think of grenache as a date wine. it's so flirty! but it is most definitely not coy. some dates just don't need the coy. coy is so 1985. coy is for when you have more money than sense. coy is trying just too hard. say no to the coy!

in this case it was me and my laptop and the all music channel on the television because i couldn't figure out how to get a cd to play on our stereo. all right, all right, in my defense, it's a new and rather complicated system. well. new "ish"

okay, hell, we've had it a long time now and i couldn't play the damn cd! ever since i stopped using that pink radio i got for my 16th birthday it's been nothing but downhill in trying to figure out any stereo system thus far.

it's a good thing i have kids. they always know how to work that electronics nonsense. plus you can make them pick stuff up if you drop it and don't want to bend over. and make them feed the cats the smelly wet food. and get your glasses from upstairs when you're downstairs and don't want to get up from the recliner.

so this music channel? one minute i've got the shins and the next it's the talking heads. go figure. i can't figure out who the demographic they're trying for is? if it's for those of us pushing 40 (in a few years, but still) but who still feel 12, well then i'd say they nailed it. pre-menopausal aging 12 year olds LOVE it!

bet they don't put that on the ads.

anyhow, so the rest of the family is fullfilling yet one more evening of baseball duties while i sit here with a bottle of wine and a big mac.

WHAAAT!?! don't be hatin' on the mac! a girl needs a grease fix every now and again, and i gotta tell ya, some wines are just. so. good. with greasy foods. the tannins just cut right through the grease and provide the perfect complement. mmm.

okay, i'm lying. oh, not about the beauty that is the wine and grease combo. that part's true. every smacky greasy salty hot sip sip sippy morsel of it. i'm lying about the big mac.

first of all, the big mac is NEVER my grease of choice as far as manufactured burgers go, it just fit better in that turn of phrase. so i'm a writer. writers lie. sue me.

and second of all, that's just what i wanted this evening. what we want and what we allow ourselves, well, hell, you know how that goes.

so, good health, and more importantly a healthy fear of gas prices, prevailed. i chose a home cooked whole bean with a little onion and cheddar quesadilla wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

plus, it would probably cost about 11 dollars and some change just to drive my vehicle, which i no longer "ironically" refer to as "the beast", to acquire the aforementioned burger.

so i stayed home. and now i'll live longer (it had better be worth it is all i'm sayin') and maybe get a love letter or some sort of plaque from al gore in the process.

no worries, though. the quesadilla was good and this wine is even better.

so a fast food burger can pair beautifully with wine and a wine shop can yield a delicious bargain.

the world is a constant miracle people. you've just gotta believe.

better yet, in the spirit of the aforementioned wine/grease combo, sometimes you've just gotta make your own miracle.



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

cabernet sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon

x-fact ~ you know this wine. with the footprint on the label. check the very bottom shelf. it's been there for years.

barefoot california cabernet sauvignon
paid 4.49
reg. 4.49-5.99

you may be wondering why there is no vintage on this wine. generally a vintage is a year in which the grapes are grown and the wine produced. near as i can figure, if a wine is grown and produced in a fairly stable region that doesn't change a lot weather wise and is pretty much produced consistently in mass quantities the same way all the time, then a vintage isn't particularly necessary.

but, possessing no "real" knowledge about wine, your guess is as good as mine.

so you've seen this wine before. used to be called barefoot cab, or barefoot chard, or barefoot zin? is it coming back to you now?

so this wine is THE FIRST wine wherein i thought the label was "cute." PLUS it was always good and always cheap. (or, a good value if you must)

so to kick off cheap wine month here on the blog, i've decided to start with the first cheap wine i loved.

okay, i know some of you might be thinking "but wait! her first cheap wine love is boone's! she said so! what about the boone's?"

see now, you would be technically correct. BUT, only technically. first of all, only some boone's can actually be called "wine." and then, only barely. they call it citrus wine or apple wine. basically a step up from a wine cooler. then there are the other boone's labels i wouldn't mess with if you paid me. and are most definitely NOT wines. not even slightly. they are malt beverages. so the the neon colored boone's with the crazy names, no thanks. gag. strawberry hill fo' sho'. maybe the apple if i'm feeling particularly appley, though the apple wasn't really my thing. BUT i'm just not a malt beverage kinda girl.

plus i'm not 19. that helps.

because while i enjoyed the boone's at the time as much as any underaged and therefore perpetually financially challenged girl does, as with many things of great importance in one's life, i did not FULLY appreciate all that is boone's until much later in life. when it was gone.

oh, it's still there. only a few dollars more, but worlds away. there is a time and place for boone's. a trip down that memory lane is a "special" journey indeed.

okay, so back to the barefoot. in fact the barefoot of today is actually closer to the price it was back in the day than boone's is! remarkably, it has grown hugely in its amount of medals and accolades and only marginally in price.

i've got to tell you, i love this wine. nostalgia and a good value, sure. but there's more. a reason to love it. it's got a nice layered flavor, it's smooth, and it's got great legs.

now, it takes a sip or two to get to the layers, the smooth, and the legs.

but hell, all good things come to those who wait, right? and what's a sip or two in the grand scheme of a great wine for under 5 bucks?

it's not a big sturdy cabernet, more jammy and punchy. syrupy, but not too sweet. it's got a nice color in the glass. in all fairness there are two slight detractions. the nose, the bouquet, the SMELL, can be a bit alcoholy at the beginning. that goes away after a bit. and i have to say, there's just a teeny teeny teeny dry streak that goes through it here and there.

what!?! dry streak? i know. i told you i don't know a thing about wine! okay, so just slightly, so much as you wouldn't know it unless you had to think about it then blog about it, there is a bit at the top back of the mouth that gets a bit dry. i don't know what that is, but it's there.

i doubt you would notice it, though. i have been drinking this wine for years off and on here and there and only today did i notice it.

the hazards of a wine critic. ha ha ha ha ha okay, the hazards of an accomplished drinker who's trying to legitimize her "hobby."

this is a great "good" wine. this is a wine for a picnic. to bring to someone's house for a bbq. this wine is just fine to bring for dinner and put right out on the table.

this is a cabernet so yadda yadda yadda with the big sauces and red meats and whatnot. BUT, it's refreshingly light as well, and wine drinking is all about what you like.

drink it with a lightly sauteed filet of tilapia topped with a bit of lemon butter parsley sauce and served over a bed of whole wheat couscous with steamed broccoli on the side as we did tonight.

or, with a two fisted mess of ribs and a platter stacked with buttery corn and a pile of fried potatoes which is what i REALLY wanted tonight.

i have carried this bottle in a backpack for a day hike to a mountain lake and back. mmm, just the reward for what turned out to be a few miles longer than planned. and i have also served it at my first and ONLY vegan/vegetarian thanksgiving. bleh. the wine was the saving grace. well, and the mushroom gravy, which was exceptionally good. the rest? well, there was wine.

(oh calm down all you veggies. this was way before i knew much about cooking and long before my then hippie palate got exposed to that which lies beyond the bland that passed for vegetarian and aack! vegan recipes readily available and being cooked in the early nineties)

the thing about serving a bottle of wine that costs less than most 6 packs of beer is that you can more than afford to be adventurous. and generous. that the "rules" about wine don't really apply.

nor should they.

look, wine is beautiful. it is proof that there is a god/dess, likely more than one, and that they ALL love me and want me to be very, very happy. and you! they want you to be happy, too!

and there is a lot of really good wine out there. value wine. fancy wine. expensive wine. and there's a lot of ideas out there about how to and why to and where and with what to drink this wine.

but you know what? pretty much in the grand scheme of life none of that matters.

life is short. too short for stuffy rules that are less about true enjoyment and more about how we look in front of others.

drink this or any other wine you want with what you want. sure, you may find this one or that one isn't the one you like with this dish or that dish.

but that's life. the tasting and the figuring it out and the carrying on with the evening. with life.

AND, this wine has siblings. there's whites, other reds, bubbly. i've tried many, but not all. but i want you to know the ones i have had have been just as good, and just as much a "value."

so i say grab the 4.50 bottle and break out the good glasses. set the table with the good tablecloth and the candlesticks you never use.

life just is what it is and it generally isn't perfect and doesn't follow any rules. so why wait for the "special occasion?"

i say enjoy your life as much as you can as soon as you can.

and for god's sake, use the good china.

especially if it's just fish and couscous and a wednesday evening at home.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

red burgundy table wine.


x-fact ~ a bottle of wine wrapped simply with a ribbon tied in a bow is a gift that can never go wrong. and will always be appreciated.

red burgundy table wine france 2006
paid gift...priceless
reg. @9-10

sis in the city brought this to me on easter. the bottle is so very familiar and i know i've had it before. though i cannot remember it for the life of me. regardless, it wouldn't have mattered. i was happy for the gift.

again, about bringing wine as a hostess gift, the host/ess is not required to set it out for consumption that evening. and if he or she chooses to set it aside and serve another bottle, this is not considered rude!

chances could be that there is a set wine the host/ess has chosen for the food being served, or that others before you have arrived with bottle in hand and there is more than enough, OR the bottle you are giving is of a way better quality/label than the one he or she is serving and so it is being put aside for another time.

in this case, my dear sister who is also quite hip to the art of the hostess gift and my love of wine, not only brought this bottle bedecked in a fetching and jaunty red grosgrain ribbon as a gift for me, but she also brought another bottle for sharing at the easter feast.

folks, this is a good woman. if you have friends or relatives like this, treat them well. there should be more people like this in the world. or at least a statue or wall somewhere dedicated to people like this.

i chose to save this particular bottle because we had more than enough for the feast and because i knew there would be an evening this week that it would come in "handy."

in. deed.

and it did tonight. oh, i could go on about the joys of teaching one's young son the art and madness that is borrowing and carrying in subtraction and addition, the havoc that is wreaked on one's calves after two full days of standing at stove and counter chopping and cooking and assembling for a family holiday meal, or the fact that turning on the news these days is about as much fun re-reading one hundred years of solitude or re-watching american beauty.

oh keep your tomatoes! i hated them both and nobody and nothing can make me feel different.

anyhow, where was i?

oh yes. the gift of wine. ah, there is reprieve from the longest presidential race in history and the fact that this country has perfected the art of and as a result is now offering customized one way trips to hell in a hand basket.

this is a beautiful wine. garnet colored and gorgeous in the waning light of a green and wet early spring day.

it had a very nice first sip. needs some warming, but smooth enough for the wine it is. at second and third sip whilst trying to tie up some loose ends on e-mail i didn't notice anything but how much i enjoyed sipping it.

it's got a nice light feel. easy. it doesn't try too hard to be anything other than the red table wine it is and i appreciate that immensely. this is a non-thinking wine.

as i've mentioned before, oftentimes i don't want to have to think about what i'm drinking. am i appreciating this enough? have i paid too much for this bottle? what would i say about this wine if someone asked? how come a 90210 spin-off and not dawson's creek?

oh. wait. where was i?

this is a wine for people who know and love wine, or for people who don't know wine but they like to drink it.

this wine would pair well with eating. hey, i know that sounds weird, but it's a fact that while people think of wine with food as a norm, actually there are a lot of wines i wouldn't think of drinking with food. too soft, too overpowering, too ??? to pair with food.

but not this wine. this wine is a red table wine! all purpose! made for the table! perhaps an afternoon filled with family and friends, a gang of kids, a table groaning with food.

even in this day and age the women all gathered in the kitchen kvetching, laughing, sharing, moving from table to counter to stove to fridge plating and arranging and loading the table with delicious hors d'oeuvre.

generous mushroom caps stuffed to bursting, soft cheeses and crusty baguette slices, small teacups filled with spring pea soup, cheesy olive bread hot and salty and straight from the oven.

sipping and visiting and nibbling and working this wine would pair well with the hors d'oeuvre. a perfect match to such disparate flavors. but the meal is the main event is it not? and yet, this wine, again the admirable hallmark of the red table wine, is just as good with the meal as with the starters.

and what a meal.

fresh ham slow cooked and enrobed in a brown sugar, dijon mustard, and ground clove glaze sliced hot and fresh at table, zucchini gratin artfully arranged, baby carrots steamed and served with a ginger hollandaise, creamy, cheesy, browned just right scalloped potatoes, and a home baked portuguese sweet bread complete with decorative hard cooked eggs nestled in the braid of the loaf.

in and out as the rain allows, it still being very early spring in the pacific northwest, the eggs are hidden and hunted between bouts of showers.

ah, this was easter here at the big red house. and while i kept this bottle to myself and we didn't drink it that day, the fact is it would have been perfect.

a wine like this works so very well for a meal like that. everyone bringing something to contribute, you can't fully coordinate the flavors, you want a real easy going wine to drink alongside.

and you just can't go wrong with a red table wine. going to a picnic or a barbecue or a winter drinks party and you don't know what to bring? bring a red table wine. and trust me, you. really. can't. go. wrong.

it's meant to be neutral in that it just is, and the price is generally pretty easy on any budget. what more could you ask for in a wine?

wrap that puppy in a ribbon tied in a bow and i tell you, watch a girl swoon. or a boy. however it works out in your world, you just can't go wrong.

here's a tip. you want to be a real bad ass when it's a housewarming party? pick one wine and buy two bottles. give one bottle for "drinking together to celebrate your new home tonight!" and one "for drinking on your first year in your new home anniversary!" be really great and label that bottle prettily and definitely with the 1st year anniversary date. (and your name of course)

aannnddd you're a peach! a peach who will likely get an invitation to share said bottle on said anniversary, perhaps with a meal alongside.

people do love a peach. people do love to feed a peach.

wine. the gift that just keeps on giving.

spread the joy. share the wine. be generous.

these are tough times for everyone and i tell ya, it's gonna be the little things that matter most.

so don't skimp when it comes to manners and generosity when you've been invited over to share in someone's home, someone's meal at their table, made with their hands and love. ever.

it doesn't take much, much less than you think, and goes farther than you'll ever know.

because we're all in this together.

and better yet, what you put out, you get back in spades.

better than a one way customized trip to hell in a hand basket, no?

friendship's the wine of life! lets drink of it and to it!

a votre sante!


Thursday, March 6, 2008


x-fact ~ pronounced san-joh-vay-say or san-joh-vez. i've heard both. but, since i'm not an expert, pick the one you like! or the one that sounds the best after a glass or two.

ali sangiovese di toscana 2006
paid ??
reg. 9.99

i've had this before, but the forever designated driver was responsible for procuring this particular bottle. if memory serves, i do believe this has been at my store for 8.99 or something like that for the last bit of time.

it's a pretty bottle, the shape and the label. but, if you look carefully, the character/angel/peter frampton on halloween on the front is a bit creepy. there's a lot going on in that sketch. from afar, however, it is attractive and fetching. fabulous evenings have been built on this premise and even less, so i just say go for it.

this wine is good. a really rich color and smell in the glass. it's light on the tongue and real smooth going down.

despite it's lightness and smoothness, it's got a nice hit to it. it benefits from a bit of time in the glass being held. you know me, i like a wine that's had some body contact.

the thing is though, it's a bit of a lonely wine. meaning, i think it doesn't really like drinking alone.

perhaps it's because it's tuscan, perhaps it's just social by nature, but it seems like it would be a better sip if sipped with food.

in fact, and i could be making this up because i'm a writer and accomplished drinker and therefore given to my own reality, BUT if my addled memory serves me correctly i do believe the other time i had this wine it was with a wonderful italian dish i made awhile ago.

though i do gas on about the benefits of boxed wine in the post that contained the recipe, i do believe the wine i had with the meal was this one.

why do i remember that? how do i remember that? (i remember nothing. the original blank slate)

no matter! a crispy polenta round topped with a delectable and deeply and richly layered in flavor sausage and mushroom sauce. mmmm, boy was that good. oh, and so. very. easy.

just like this wine. it's so unobtrusive, but not in the way the forgettable wines are. but in the way a good companion wine is. a delicious wine, but one that can not only pair well with intense foods, but practically begs to be.

a true tuscan! that most romantic and yet overexposed patch of land. ah! tuscany! like the lindsey lohan or paris hilton or britney spears of vacation destinations, there is such a thing as overexposure even for the classics.

but what tuscany has that none of those other come and gone flavors of the moment have is actual beauty, endless grace, and an unrivaled sense of place.

i imagine tuscany to be the sophia loren of the business. timeless, gorgeous, the start and the end. and everything in between.

bathed in sun and olive oil and wine, tuscany is the gold standard. and when all the hoopla dies down, it will still be as gorgeous and relevant and magical as it was before. century after century.

and so goes the pairing of a wonderful red wine with a fabulous meal.

and yet, not always a given. just because you have a good wine and a good meal it doesn't mean they will pair well.

like most pairs in life, chemistry is key.

without that chemistry, you get harrison ford and anne heche in 6 days, 7 nights. /shudder.

with that chemistry, you get harrison ford and melanie griffith in working girl. /grin.

and if you are very very lucky, you will get meryl streep and clint eastwood in bridges of madison county.

never ever underestimate the lasting power and the lifelong impetus of a great wine and food pairing.

i'm not one of those who say this wine is the only wine for this food. BUT, like each. and. every. one. of. us. good food and good wine both deserve to shine. to be appreciated for their fabulousness.

drowning your meal with overpowering wine or overpowering your wine with an intense meal doesn't do anyone any favors.

appreciating flavor is one of the greatest gifts we are given. let us celebrate that in as many ways as we can.

i wish you great meals and even better wine to drink with them!

chin chin!


Saturday, March 1, 2008


Central Coast

x-fact ~ wine is emotional.

firefly ridge central coast syrah 2005
paid 7.99
reg. 14.99

(i KNOW, huh? 7 bucks off?)

i do wish i had a label to share. alas.

i saw this wine at safeway several months ago. i noticed the label and couldn't decide if i thought it was sweet or swill. perfect.

but, at 14.99 i passed it by. natch.

today as i went about my errands that concerned the acquiring of provisions for a feverish and throw-upping child and a forever designated driver wracked by body aches and timidness of stomach, i was also thinking of a dear friend who had passed on this weekend 4 years ago.

my mood was somewhat somber, not helped by my trip to safeway. a store i don't frequent a lot and frequently doesn't stock a lot of what i would buy. and let's just let the snob out of the bag and say these are not my people.

oh hell, who am i kidding!?! if there were such a place populated by my people you know i'd probably never visit anyway. /shudder.

BUT, safeway has a respectable wine selection that more than frequently has more than a few good deals.

so, oddly on this day i was drawn to the back wall. a section of fancier and more pricey labels that i don't really check out. ever. and there it was, a bottle i recognized and never really considered. and right then i thought how my dear friend who had passed would have very much liked the label. so i picked it up just to look.

and wouldn't you know it, it was 7.99 down from 14.99? (i never see deals like this at safeway!) so i grabbed it up. the only bottle left.

you know, i like it. at first i was a bit concerned. it went down really easy, but without any kind of real flavor. or body. but very pleasant nonetheless. a great color, though. it looks really inviting in the glass.

at second and third sip it remains just as pleasant, but doesn't gain a lot in flavor. it practically floats on the tongue and feels like nothing at the back of the throat. oftentimes a good tasting wine on the tongue can give the throat a bit of a bracing pass through. this wine didn't. nor did it become any more flavorful.

it had a good smell and wonderful legs too, but pretty much stayed the same taste wise throughout.

i couldn't help but think of my friend while drinking it, though. how much she loved the central coast of california where this wine comes from, something we shared but something she partook of more than i was able to. and too, how she loved the sweet that i usually found swill. isn't the love of friendship grand in that the really good ones can sustain complete chasms of similar taste?

oddly, though, the fact that if she were here with me, we'd BOTH be enjoying this bottle with nary a thought. and so, you know, i wasn't really concerned with all of that other *wine business*. i didn't need the big body and the juice of flavor, i was content in my reverie.

wine is relationship for me. i'm at the age now wherein i have trouble remembering some friends and lovers, but there is cellular memory in wine. like a song or a smell, wine will take me back.

to this day i can't drink a montepulciano d'abruzzo without remembering that it was my first ever sip of a "good" wine. and a better memory. courtesy of a cloudless day, a bend in a nameless river, and a beautiful boy who brought it to my lips. sigh double sigh.

i can't drink a chardonnay without thinking of my first AND ONLY purchase of alcohol with a fake i.d.! HA! so fitting that it would be wine!

oh, and the lazy hazy afternoon that followed with the illicit purchases in my favorite small town with good friends and that endlessly endless way early incarnation of mazzy star as background music. sadly, and you never see it coming because you will always be friends forever, none of them exist in my own universe anymore, except when i have that first cold and perfect sip of chardonnay. sigh.

and lord, did my dear friend who passed love a port. i can't sip port without thinking of her. when she died her childhood best friend who grew into my forever best friend and i shared a bottle of her favorite port. but only 2/3 of the bottle. when she was cremated, the last 1/3 of the bottle, her share, bottle and all was tossed in with her.

yes. you can do that. and mixed in with her ashes you will see these beautiful, "unexplainable" unless you knew better, green *crystals*.

a fine and everlasting tribute to a wonderful wonderful and sorely sorely missed friend.

i can see drinking this wine while having lunch al fresco. a simple table set in someone's garden. a bit too hot. the flies never leave you alone. but the fresh grown tomatoes still warm from the sun they were growing in not an hour earlier mixed with the gorgeous green of the olive oil and the crisp and creamy white of a fresh mozzarella means nothing else matters. not the flies. not the heat.

this wine is a fabulous complement to the lovely yet simple elements of a classically beautiful meal. it's not too bold to disturb the wonderful flavors, nor does it need anything else to hold it up to being deliciously drinkable.

and seriously, who needs remarkable when you have homegrown tomatoes and the company of a good friend?

light and floating, this wine could take you all the way from the lingering lunch to a sliced up watermelon plunked on the table in a great heavy platter. slices are grabbed without benefit of plates while more wine is poured.

and i can say on good authority that i know my dear friend would have really enjoyed this wine, and better yet would have kept the empty bottle long after our lunch and my departure and indeed would have put some odd garden bouquet in it later in the summer. more than once.

while i wouldn't pay full price for this bottle, i'm glad i got to experience it. it's a good if not great wine, but what it lacks in anything it more than makes up for in the fact that it can kinda just go with the flow and be okay.

hey, that's not a bad thing. it's not gonna make you stupid or mask your meal. it's a handsome bottle for the table and the label invokes a playful spirit. plus, it brings to mind wonderful memories of a wonderful friend.

friendship is a moment. to be cherished and celebrated as. much. as. possible.

because it can be fleeting and short lived and all of that.

love your friends. drink wine.

drink wine with your friends and make your own touchstones. life is such that you just may need them more than you know.

all these places had their moments
with lovers and friends
i still can recall
some are dead and some are living
in my life i've loved them all