Wine For the Price of a Frappuccino

That’s right, I’m talking about cheap, cheap wine.  Tisdale is a label that competes at around the same price point as the Whole Foods Three Wishes wines and Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw.  Made by E&J Gallo, Tisdale has a full line of California Table Wine that includes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sweet Red (a blend), and White Zinfandel.  It’s sold at grocery stores and drug stores in my area at very low prices – sometimes available on sale for just over $3.00.

Winemaker:  Tisdale
Varietal:  Pinot Grigio
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $5.49

Notes:  The color of this low-budget PG was very pale yellow with a slight green tinge.  The bouquet was faint with scents of peach and lemon oil.  What do I mean by lemon oil? I mean that lemony, bitter – almost chemical – smell that results when you squeeze lemon peel and express a liquid.  Isn’t that lemon oil?  Anyway, the acidity was OK, and alcohol was at 11.5%.  It was light-bodied with some of the expected varietal viscosity.  Flavors I detected were faint as well, including sweet melon and peach.  As it wound down, this Tisdale also brought peach pit to the palate.  It was all right, but to me the overall experience was a bit lackluster.

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Barefootin’ In July – How Sweet It Is

It’s summer, summer, summertime!  Well, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, anyway.  For those of us north of the equater, this warm weather season is the perfect time to enjoy light, refreshing wines.  Not that we can’t drink them whenever we like, of course, but I feel the experience and enjoyment of these lighter selections is heighted in contrast to the often sweltering heat at this time of year.  Don’t you think so?  In light of that, I thought I’d experiment with my first Pink Moscato.

Winemaker:   Barefoot
Wine: Pink Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $7.99

Notes:  The color of this sweet California Moscato was a pale . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . pink!  Shocking, no?  On the nose I caught scents of roses and sweet berries.  Acidity was quite lively.  It was a fairly light-bodied selection, albeit sweet at 9% alcohol.  Flavors consisted of an underlying foundation of apricot with an overlay veneer of cherry, some candied melon rind, and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.  This is definitely a dessert wine in my opinion.  Then again, I’m a savory over sweet kind of guy, so my natural preference is for items – foods and drinks – that are less sweet.  For me, then, this Barefoot was quite sweet, even syrupy at times.  As I said, however, it might be a good choice for a summer dessert.  I could totally imagine enjoying a strawberry shortcake with this as a complement or a bowl of fresh berries with a dash of it over the top instead of sugar or whipped cream.  If you like your wine on the sweet side, you may well enjoy this inexpensive blush.

Monkeying Around With A Kiwi White

In a recent post I pondered whether some of the wine labels chose their names to suggest a certain kind of terrain and terroir in consumers’ minds irrespective of where the winery is located or where the grapes are grown.  But, of course, that is not necessarily the case.  There are plenty of wineries that do, indeed, assume a name from their locale.  For instance, Dry Creek Winery is near a stream called Dry Creek.  Mayacamas Vineyards is located in the Mayacamas Mountains.  And, in the case of Monkey Bay, the winery assumes it’s name from a bay not far from the winery – north of Blenheim and west of Wellington on the coast of Marlborough.

Winemaker:  Monkey Bay
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  New Zealand
Price: $12.99

Notes:  The color of this New Zealand white was a pale lemon yellow.  The bouquet was really quite a heady experience with scents of tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya), honey, citrus zest and floral notes.  Acidity was fine; it was light-bodied; alcohol was at 12.5%.  On the palate I found lime, some hints of sweet pineapple, and grapefruit.  The grapefruit hits late and lingers long on the finish.  Overall, it’s a tart glass of wine that I found enjoyably refreshing.  This is another Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc that, though not particularly refined, delivers on flavor.

Inexpensive Lodi Zin – Sphere 2012

As folks probably know, Lodi is known for it’s outstanding Zinfandel.  So when I ran across this Sphere selection at Trader Joe’s for under $6.00, I wanted to try it.  Seeing that I’d picked it up to read the label, a friendly staffer stopped to tell me he thought it was one of their best values for the money.  Well, then I simply HAD to try it.

Winemaker:  Sphere
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this Lodi Zin was a medium garnet.  On the nose I caught whiffs of topsoil, blackberries and copious pecan shell (that’s what it smelled like to me).  Acidity was bright and active.  Both the body and the tannins were light on this Sphere selection, and alcohol was at 13%.  As far as flavors go, I thought it was an interesting glass of Zinfandel.  At first it was unexpectedly bitter but then settled after a very brief time to breathe.  Once settled, I caught flavors of blackberries, pepper, some darker prune notes and a touch of bitter wood.  Like I said, it was an interesting glass of Zin and would probably make a nice complement to a casual beef dish – pot roast or the like – but not for that thick, juicy steak.

Mission Bell Pinot Grigio

Where do all these different wine brands come from?  Has there been a proliferation of new wineries in California recently?  It seems every time I walk into a store, I find another new label.  Then again, perhaps I’m not that good at remembering what I’ve seen on the shelves before.  lol  You know that movie “Fifty First Dates” with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler?  The one where Drew Barrymore’s character has had an accident and keeps losing her short term memory?  Every day she wakes up and has no memory of the last 24 hours.  So when Adam Sandler decides he wants to pursue Drew romantically … you get it, right?  Well, maybe I’m having “Fifty First Sips.” Good thing I’m posting my wine experiences on this blog.  That way I can check and see if I’ve had a wine previously.  In this case, however, I’m certain I haven’t had a Mission Bell Pinot Grigio before … or a Mission Bell wine of any kind, for that matter.  So this really was my first sip.

Winemaker:  Mission Bell
Varietal:  Pinot Grigio
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $8.49

Notes:  The color of this Mission Bell selection was a light straw. The bouquet brought me scents of apple, lime and honey. Acidity was fine but perhaps a tad on the low side for a Pinot Grigio. It was light-bodied with a tad of the typical PG viscosity. On the palate it was pretty sweet – perhaps even sweeter than it’s 12.5% alcohol might suggest. Flavors included pear, some citrus, apple notes and a touch of a green herbal. It was OK, but for me it came across as a little on the heavy side due to the perceived sweetness and lower acidity.  What can I say?  That’s what I got – first sip to the last.  (I didn’t count, but probably not quite fifty).

The Hills Are Alive ….

I’ve recently run into a number of wines all from wineries with “mountain” in their name.  Coincidence?  Well, when you do a web search, there are quite a few results that pop up – quite a few.  Not surprising, then, that not long ago I had an Early Mountain Viognier at an area wine bar.  Then on the 4th  I had that Glass Mountain Chardonnay.  And, to boot, this past week I bought a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a local watering hole and live music venue – Iota Club and Cafe – from the folks at Sunday Mountain.

I realize, of course, that terroir (soil, topography and climate) is important in growing grapes that can be turned into good wine.  So I can see how some wineries would naturally incorporate the name of the major nearby topographical feature into their own moniker.   Or maybe it’s just a marketing ploy by big beverage conglomerates to suggest a certain type of terroir by choosing a name with “mountain” in it.  Either way, it seems the hills are, indeed, alive with wine for me right now.  That doesn’t mean you’ll hear me singing from the peaks, but I just might be belting out a tune from the bottom of a bottle.  (Well, it was an attempt at a joke.)  Ha!

Winemaker:   Sunday Mountain
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  New Zealand
Price:  $11.99

Notes:  Color in the glass was a light straw.  The bouquet was quite pungent with scents of ripe melon and grass.  It has good, even bright, acidity.  Flavors included melon, pear, and lots of grapefruit.  Alcohol was at 12.6%.  I thought it was pretty darned OK, especially for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc served in what is primarily a local, live music venue.  I’m impressed with the folks at Iota.  I also had a barbecue pork sandwich which was tasty and so darned stuffed with pork and fixins that I couldn’t hold it together.  I just hate generous portions.  Psyche!  lol   The Sunday Mountain was OK with the sandwich, but I think it might be even better with a hearty seafood dish.  It isn’t a refined glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but it is most definitely flavorful.

A Fairly Casual Celebration for July 4th

If you live in the United States and are of a mind, July 4th is a time to embrace and celebrate the cultural melting pot the country has become.  Personally, I’ve celebrated Independence Day in lots of different ways – from all-day-barbecues to attending parades to watching fireworks over the National Mall to sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.  This year my celebration was a little more active than sitting on the couch, but certainly still casual.  I decided on a day of biking with friends.  We rode just over 50 miles (which is a lot for me in one day).  My derrière is still sore.  lol  To help us recuperate, we headed to dinner at an area restaurant called Stone Cove and had our meal at the bar.  Actually, the whole restaurant was designed as a kitchen surrounded by various seating stations all facing inward, so diners get to “sit at the bar” and watch their food being prepared.  Interesting concept and decent food.  I enjoyed their take on shrimp and grits which was most definitely inspired by a southern recipe.  The grits had cheese and plenty of salt in them – not dissimilar to the grits casserole my mother (born and raised in TN) used to make.  It may not be great for your blood pressure, but it tasted like home cooking to me.  To go along with my shrimp I decided on this California Chardonnay, thus making the meal an enjoyable bi-coastal experience.

Winemaker:   Glass Mountain
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  California
Price: $8.99 at Total Wine

Notes:  This Glass Mountain Chardonnay was a pretty golden color in the glass.  It was medium bodied and had good acidity.  On the nose I caught citrus and a hint of pineapple.  Flavors for me were citrus, some buttery/toasty oak notes, touches of pineapple and honey.  That last a bit was surprising as it’s pretty dry at 13.5% alcohol.  The finish was a bit quick, though, with just a hint of grass before it disappeared.  Well, you can’t have everything for $8.99 a bottle.  Still, not a bad accompaniment to a casual meal at a fun and friendly casual restaurant.