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 patrons.com 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.