Okay, so once again I'm reviewing a pretty cheap wine and once again, I've poured myself a slightly overfilled glass.
It's some weird subconscious thing. Cheap wine = drinking more. And I know, it makes it hard to swirl, sniff, and all that formal wine jazz. But hey, it's cheap wine so who cares. Anyway...
Not too long ago I reviewed the Rex Goliath Free Range Red wine (link is here) which I found a bit underwhelming. I was hoping their Shiraz would fare better, so I bought another bottle with that giant 47 pound Texan circus rooster and saddled up.
Yes, you read correctly.
The rooster on the label is of a giant rooster that was in a circus in Texas. Why a California winery chose this as their icon? And for a wine, no less? I haven't a clue.
The Rex Goliath Shiraz pours a deep purple and smells of blackberries and oak. Tasting brings surprisingly dry raspberries, plum, black licorice, and a good deal of oak. The finish is short, yet smooth, with relatively mild tannins.
This really isn't a bad wine at all. And for the price ($5), it's a pretty damn good California Shiraz. Overall, the Rex Goliath Shiraz is considerably better than their Free Range Red.
Rex Goliath, you have redeemed yourself!
*For other Shiraz reviews click here. There are also a few write-ups about the differences (or lack thereof) between Shiraz and Syrah.
Drink This: if you want a well above average Shiraz around the $5 price point. This would easily make a good everyday type of wine.
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a cheap, sweet red wine. Like I said in the tasting notes, this was surprisingly dry, especially for a budget wine.
Campo Viejo Rioja
See that bottle up there?
The 2007 Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza?
Well, they don't make it anymore.
Okay, technically they just changed the labeling. Apparently the word Crianza scared buyers away (I can hear Fran Drescher's voice saying, "I don't want CRIANZA"), even though Crianza just means a wine produced in Spain that has been aged for a minimum of one year. The Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza has always been Tempranillo (Well, Tempranillo-based anyway), but now they just label it Tempranillo. Apparently it sells better that way.
I'll figure there's still some of these bottles around since they just changed the labeling this year, so that's where my review comes in handy!
The 2007 Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza pours a deep ruby color that does let some pink/purple light through. It has aromas of sweet red cherries, raspberries, leather, and a touch of spice. It tastes of semi-dry ripe red berries, cranberries, vanilla, fennel, hints of tobacco, and a fair bit of oak followed by a strong tannic finish.
For the $10 price tag, it's a great deal. I'm not going to say it's the best Tempranillo I've ever had, but it's definitely good at this price point. Find a bottle before they're all gone! I'm hoping the newer Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillos are as tasty.
Drink This: if you want a good Tempranillo for the price.
Don't Drink This: if you can't find it. Like I said, I hope the newer vintages are equally as good.
Origin: Central Coast of California
It's been awhile since I reviewed any wines from Cupcake Vineyards. The last one was their Red Velvet wine (follow the link for the review), which I found "oddly alluring and pleasantly drinkable." And that's no joke. Even though it's a silly name and concept, the Red Velvet wine is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I'm man enough to admit it.
But now, we have the Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, being one of the big red wine varieties.
Who drinks red wine and doesn't enjoy a nice Cabernet?
That's right, no one.
The 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon pours a dark ruby color and has aromas of cherries and currants. It tastes like (surprise!) juicy cherries, tart plums, and a hint of vague spice and mocha followed by a sweet, soft tannic finish.
Make no mistake, it's a decent everyday type of Cabernet. A bit sweet, but hey, it's freaking Cupcake Vineyards. What do you expect?!
Personally, I still prefer their Red Velvet over this. But hey, this isn't bad either. I look forward to tasting the 2010 vintage soon.
Drink This: if you want a decent, sweet everyday type of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a big, burly Cab.
Okay, so here's another cheap wine.
We're talking like $4 or $5 a bottle cheap. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that. It just lowers my expectations a little.
Shiraz is famously grown in Australia, but this bottle is from California. And as I've said before, Shiraz is technically the same grape as Syrah. However, since the grape was historically grown in two different climates (France and Australia) which produced different flavor profiles and were subsequently named differently for each place, wineries outside of these regions tend to name their wines depending on whether their wine has Shiraz (heavier, jammy) or Syrah (lighter, peppery, acidic) characteristics.
Does that make sense?
Back to this bottle. This is from Barefoot Cellars, a California winery known for making affordable/budget wines which can be found just about anywhere. They also produce pretty much all of the major varietals. This is their Shiraz, which unfortunately has no vintage.
The Barefoot Shiraz pours a dark garnet verging on purple and has aromas of grape jam, grape jam, and oh yeah, more grape jam. It tastes moderately sweet and predominantly of blackberries with a hint of spice. It is a bit too thin, mild, and short-lived. Nothing really interesting or all that tasty going on here.
Drink This: if you've already had a few drinks and you don't really care what you drink. This could be good to serve to drunken house guests so they don't guzzle down all of your good stuff. And hey, it's SUPER CHEAP!
Don't Drink This: if you want something interesting, or tasty, or complex. Not to be harsh, but this wine is a bit too much of nothing at all. I really wish it had a vintage so they could tweak the blending yearly. I've had considerably better wines from Barefoot... oh well.
Old Vine Malbec
Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
Malbec. Malbec. Malbec.
Big, earthy, rustic Malbec.
Malbec is one of those polarizing wines. People either love 'em or hate 'em. And yet, for the money, they can't be beat. There are MANY great Malbecs under $20 a bottle.
This is the 2010 Diseño Old Vine Malbec and like a good deal of Malbecs, it's from the Mendoza region of Argentina, of course. Specifically, this is made from grapes grown in Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valleys, if you were wondering. The grapes are grown from "old vines," which lead to a better tasting, more flavorful and complex end product.
Okay, enough backstory, on to the wine!
Diseño Old Vine Malbec pours a deep, dark violet verging on black. It has aromas of raspberries, vanilla, and leather. Tasting gives you dry blackberries, stone, black licorice, and a long earthy, bitter finish with moderate tannins.
This is a full-bodied, earthy and dry Malbec. While it certainly isn't for everyone, I loved it. There are a lot of different and interesting things going on here. I believe this costs between $10-14 most places.
Drink This: if you like 'em big and dirty... okay, that sounds naughty...
Don't Drink This: if you want a sweet or restrained wine.
I'm not a housewife.
I'm a man.
BUT in order to drink this wine in the mindset of its intended audience (the disgruntled housewife stuck at home, chasing children, changing diapers, constant crying, laundry, and all that other fun stuff), I decided to pour half the bottle into my glass...
Yep, HALF THE BOTTLE. Check out that picture!
That'll improve any tasting!
Alright, so here's another wine obviously targeted toward the female wine drinkers out there (much like the Little Black Dress wines). And I kind of like the retro housewife picture on the label... in some weird, borderline creepy kind of way. But, that's another topic altogether.
The Mad Housewife Cabernet Sauvignon is another cheap California wine ($6). It pours a dark purple and smells of fairly subdued cherries and a hint of nondescript herbs, with a bit of harsh alcohol. It primarily tastes of black cherry with hints of chocolate and pepper in the finish. Tannins and oak are not really present here, leaving a soft, short finish.
Mad Housewife Cabernet Sauvignon is fairly simple and fairly bland, but remarkably easy drinking and I guess when you're a mad housewife, easy-drinking is what you want...
Drink This: if just want to drink red wine. Granted, there's nothing off-putting or bad about this wine. It's just simple and easy, which ironically is also how I like my women. (Just kidding, Honey! I love you!)
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a flavorful, complex, or challenging wine.
Cheers to all the mad housewives out there! Drink up!
Layer Cake Shiraz
Pure Love Wines
Origin: Southern Australia
Awhile back I reviewed the Layer Cake Malbec (yes, that's a link to the review, go check it out) and was utterly surprised with how tasty it was.
Granted, I'm a Malbec lover.
But seriously, it was good.
That was my first tasting of a Layer Cake wine and I said I would try to track down their other varietals.
Well, I did.
So, here we are.
This is the 2010 Layer Cake Shiraz. Go check out my other Shiraz reviews to see my write-ups about the differences between Shiraz and Syrah (*Hint, they're the same grape, but different style due to growing conditions). Like many Shiraz wines, this is made from grapes grown in Southern Australia. According to Layer Cake (owned by Pure Love Wines):
For our Shiraz, we pull from vineyards in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley; from the sandy soiled blocks on the sea coast of Gulf St. Vincent, to the Terra Rosa based, tiny-berried wind-blown rolling hills in the Barossa Zone. The microclimates give us a broad array of flavors to blend into a complex, rich, full wine.
Anyone who drinks enough wine knows that where grapes are grown does play a huge role in a wine's characteristics (this concept is called terroir). This is likely why I have yet to try a great wine from the mountains of Idaho (Dear Idaho winemakers, send me tasting samples to prove me wrong!). Regardless, I've had most of the Layer Cake wines now (reviews coming soon) and they consistently seem to source great grapes.
The 2010 Layer Cake Shiraz pours a deep, dark purple and has aromas of spiced plums, blackberry jam, and vanilla. It tastes quite jammy with more of the blackberry jam, plums, black cherry, dark chocolate, and a good bit of oak and pepper. The tannins and moderate and the finish is relatively smooth.
Like the Layer Cake Malbec, I would have liked a bit more tannins. But as it stands, this wine is a tasty, dark fruit-forward, jammy (without being overly sweet) Shiraz.
One thing is for sure, the Layer Cake wines are not subtle nor are they lacking in flavor. Personally, I prefer that approach over a wine that's so subtle you think it may have been watered down with, well, water.
I like this wine, but not nearly as much as the Layer Cake Malbec (which, by the way, is one of the few bottles of wine I have bought more than once this year).
Drink This: if you want a flavorful, dark-fruit bomb of a Shiraz. This is not subtle. Like most Layer Cake wines, you should be able to find it for around $12-15 a bottle if you check around, although I've seen it priced at $19 before.
Don't Drink This: if you want a subtle, dry, subdued wine (how did you know I was going to say that?! Hahaha).
Cheers, my friends!
Origin: Salta, Argentina
I have a weird obsession with wines from Argentina, particularly Malbec.
There's something intriguing about their rustic nature. Something I find much more interesting than a refined, classic Italian or French wine.
Maybe it's their unpredictability.
Sometimes they are amazing and sometimes they are downright off and/or dirty tasting.
Perhaps the thrill of not knowing if it will be great or awful is what makes them interesting. I'm not sure, but that's not really the point here. I'm just rambling and psychoanalyzing myself.
So, this is the 2009 Alamos Torrontes. If you're unfamiliar, Torrontes is a variety of white grape from Argentina. Technically there are three distinct varieties of Torrontes grapes, yet this bottle does not say which particular one it is, so perhaps it is a blend.
The 2009 Alamos Torrontes pours a... well, look at the picture up top. No need for me to describe what you can see! Ha! Anyway, it smells of grapefruit, lemon, apricot, and a bit of floral. It tastes very bright, lemony, and tart, with hints of white tea and herbs. There is definitely lingering citrus and tartness in the finish and aftertaste.
It is certainly interesting, and I'm certainly glad it's not overly sweet like many white wines.
Drink This: if you want an interesting and different white wine. This is easily one of the better white wines I've had in months, and I'm usually a red wine type of guy.
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a super sweet or super dry white wine. This is somewhere between the two extremes, but I definitely enjoyed it. I will be picking up another bottle for sure...
Origin: California, USA
Alright, let's make this short and sweet.
If you've bought wine just about anywhere in the US (grocery stores, gas stations, wine shops, etc.) you've probably encountered Beringer's wines.
And it's not as if they only produce cheap wines either, they have plenty $50+ and even $100+ a bottle wines, but odds are you won't find those in your regular everyday grocery store. But regardless of their wide array of wines, most people are going to be picking up their lower end bottles simply out of convenience and affordability. Well, this is the 2010 Beringer's California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. This isn't their cheapest offering, it's more like one step up, but still costs under $10 a bottle. But unlike some of their other, more expensive wines, it doesn't list exact locations in California where the grapes are from, leading me to believe it's a blend from several less prestige California growing locations.
The 2010 Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon pours a deep, ruby red and smells predominantly of sweet red berries, raspberries, and a bit of blackberry. It has flavors of smooth raspberry, vanilla, and a touch of stone, followed by a sweet yet short cherry-like finish that reminds me of those cherry nib Twizzlers candies. The tannins here are considerably weak.
This Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth, fairly sweet (not overly so), and drinkable, but unfortunately also not very interesting. It's considerably better than many other Cabs in the sub $10 a bottle range. For the price, it's good, not great. I would certainly drink this on a weekday with a nice piece of red meat or Italian food, but it's not a special occasion wine.
Drink This: if you want a better than average, fairly sweet, sub-$10 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a special occasion wine.
Homemade Bacon & Wild Crawdads
Okay, so this isn't an alcohol review like usual.
I just want to share a couple cool pictures I took.
Yes, that's a slab of homemade bacon, dry-cured and hickory smoked, by me!
I did slice it later, of course, but I thought this was an amazingly drool-inducing picture. This is classic hickory, but my last couple pounds of bacon were peach wood smoked.
And just FYI, this was dry-cured which is the old school artisinal method, whereas most modern produced bacon is wet-cured. This lends a slightly different flavor profile and a different texture when cooked, which I happen to prefer over the mainstream store-bought bacon. The people who don't understand others' love of bacon have never tried it homemade.
But I digress....
Anyway, here is a pic of some wild crawdads (aka crawfish) I caught within 15 minutes of my house, then cooked in a Cajun-style boil and served with melted butter. Kind of like lobster.
Also delicious. :)
More alcohol reviews on the way.
If you can find it, try it.
This blog has been lacking on formal reviews of Hefeweizens, which is kind of odd now that I think about it. I drink plenty of Hefeweizen, especially during the summer. Well regardless, here is something brand spanking NEW...
Amstel Wheat Bier.
That's right, the makers of the famous Amstel Light are releasing a new beer in America! Okay, so they've already released it a week ago in certain parts of the U.S., but for portions of the country it's still not available. So be on the look out! I was fortunate enough to get a sample before it has released in my state, thank goodness!
So, for those of you who don't know, Amstel is a Dutch beer brand founded in the almighty Amsterdam, Holland in 1870. By 1886, they were Amsterdam's largest brewer of lager. Their famous Amstel Light was first imported to the U.S. in 1982. So they've really not been selling their brew very long in America, at least in relation to their 140+ years of brewing.
Amstel Wheat is made in a classic Hefeweizen style using at least 50% wheat malt, barley malt, Weizen yeast, Saaz hops, and water. No additives, no flavoring, no chemicals. Just old fashioned, delicious beer. Like any classic Hefeweizen, it is left unfiltered, giving it that distinct look.
Amstel Wheat pours a rather hazy, golden straw color with a thick, yet light and airy white head. It smells predominantly of light wheat malt, a hint of apricot, and a touch of sweetness almost like a Belgian-style beer, but not as tart. It tastes of wheat bread, light-roasted malts, a touch of lemony citrus, and more of the apricot notes that were in the aroma. The mouthfeel is surprisingly in that it's really almost silky. It's not watery like a domestic mass market beer, yet it's not heavy and overly bready like Hefeweizens can be. It somehow has what I would call a perfect mouthfeel for the style.
This brew strikes, for me, the perfect balance for a Hefeweizen. Not only is it tasty, but it's exceedingly drinkable and silky smooth. I could easily drink a couple of these in a sitting. Unfortunately, I did not have any citrus slices (lemon, orange, etc.) to try in the beer, but I realize that's how many people prefer their Hefeweizens. I'm willing to bet the citrus would only accentuate the apricot notes present here.
Bottom line, this is now easily in my top 5 favorite Hefeweizens of all time, perhaps even top 3.
If you can find it, try it.
Drink This: if you want an exceptionally drinkable, classic-style Wheat Beer.
Don't Drink This: if you abhor Hefeweizens, and I know some people who do. Although... I'm willing to bet this could easily convert a few Wheat Beer haters into Amstel Wheat lovers...
By the way, go check out Amstel Light's Facebook page. Tell 'em Bob sent ya!
End of Summer Cocktails
and Where I've Been
If you follow this review blog at all, you'll notice the amount of reviews I have been doing has gone down drastically over the past few months.
Well... life happens.
I thought I would give everyone a taste of what I've been doing in addition to a few end of summer cocktails. The first day of Fall is September 22, after all! Only two weeks away!
So, where have I been?
Lots and lots of fishing, while visiting some gorgeous places. I'm really trying to hone my fly fishing skills, but it definitely takes practice. Savor these pictures of the places I've been lately...
You get bonus points if you can name any of these rivers or lakes!!! One of which is world famous for its fly fishing!
Despite all my fishing and adventures, it's amazing how quickly the days are shortening with Fall on its way. So, soak up the sun for the final two weeks of Summer and enjoy these tasty cocktails. Old Man Winter will be here before you know it!
Jacob's Creek Sparkling Sangria
4 parts Jacob's Creek Sparkling Moscato Rose'
1 part Hiram Walker Triple Sec
.75 parts Fresh Lemon Juice
5 Cinnamon sticks
3 Strawberries, halved
1 Whole Green Apple and 1 Whole Lime, sliced
Build in a pitcher or punch bowl, and stir.
Float slices of apple and lime.
I Spirit Vodka Sour
1 part I Spirit Vodka
0.25 parts Fresh Lemon Juice
Pinch of sugar
1 Slice of Orange
Combine, shake with ice, and strain into glass.
Float orange slice, and garnish with lemon peel.
Disaronno Cranberry Cooler
1 part Disaronno Amaretto
1 part Vodka
3 parts Cranberry Juice
2 parts Orange Juice
Serve over ice.
1 part Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka
6+ parts Fresh Orange Juice
Serve over ice. Easy!
Little Black Dress
Sometimes I have to just set my manhood aside and drink something a little... girly.
This is the 2010 Little Black Dress Merlot which comes out of Mendocino County California. Judging by the label, this is obviously geared toward the female wine drinkers out there. The issue I have with this is that regardless of whatever they put on the label, it's still a Merlot, which in the wine world isn't really gender stereotypical like something such as White Zinfandel. And even with White Zin, who is to say a guy can't enjoy it? Sure, it's sweet, but it's intended to be. That's the style. My point is, they could have put skulls and scantily clad women on this label, but it'll still be the same Merlot inside!
But back to Little Black Dress Merlot, which is obviously marketed toward the females out there. I find it interesting, if not a tad clever, that the label does not actually have a little black dress on it, just a clothes hanger and a pair of heels. So, is this really an effeminate wine? Well, let's see..
Little Black Dress Merlot pours a deep maroon and has aromas of sweet black cherries and soft vanilla. Tasting brings predominant black cherry, a touch of plum, and a hint of oak. It's a bit thinner than I prefer my merlots, but not bad overall, just simple.
This is exactly the kind of merlot I could see a group of girls drinking in the evening while they sit around talking. It's not too heavy, not heavily oaked, and fairly sweet. It's a straightforward Merlot, for sure, and fits its target market. Were the label to be more gender neutral, maybe even a touch manly, I'd say it was just okay, but for its intended female drinkers (who tend to prefer a lighter style), it's decent and only costs $9-11 per bottle depending on where you buy it.
This paired well enough with my grilled ribeye even though I, personally, would have preferred something a bit heavier and tannic. Oh well, it at least was worth tasting.
Drink This: if you want a straightforward, cherry-forward Merlot.
Don't Drink This: if you're looking for a heavily oaked, complex Merlot. Not that some girls don't like that kind of wine, but I'm willing to bet the label will scare away many a male wine drinker. Just not this guy!