Cannery Row Chardonnay

Thanks to Groupon, I’ve been able to try some new wines much cheaper and more easily than browsing the wine aisle at the grocery store. As much as I love reading labels and looking at the selection on the shelves, shopping online is fitting my hectic schedule much better. My latest online find was through WineInsiders.com’s Groupon offer: $75 of wine for only $25. Yeah, baby!

I browsed the WineInsiders site and found several great deals, including tonight’s pick, Cannery Row 2007 Chardonnay.  It has a delightful aroma of buttery pear. It has a creamy mouthfeel with a clean finish. The pear is soft and smooth without a hint of syrupy sugar. This is truly the perfect chardonnay for me. I despise sweet, overly tart wines. While I have an affinity for heavy oak in my chardonnays, I’m discovering how tasty a buttery layer can be in the absense of oak.

This wine would pair really nicely with a fatty salmon steak or pasta and lemony alfredo sauce. I expected it to be more tart, so I made Betty Crocker’s spicy peanut chicken stir-fry, something I thought would pair well with a bright, lively white wine. I should have opened a sauvignon blanc to go with dinner, but I enjoyed the chardonnay despite the poor pairing.

While we’re on the subject of Cannery Row, I’m dying to check out the Wine Walk there. Has anyone done this? Monterey, on the coast of California south of San Francisco, is an adorable little town with tons to do (my last time there was for a family camping trip, but we spent plenty of time wandering the shops in downtown and digging for shells on the beach). But I didn’t know they have so much wine there! Add another line on my To-Do List!

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Great finds on Barclay’s Wines

Several weeks ago I bought a Groupon for $75 of Barclay’s wine for only $25 (plus shipping). Barclay’s is a wine shop/club, best described on its website: “The internet and the information age have changed all of that in a very exciting way. It is now possible for the passionate winemaker to tell his story (that is actually the easy part) and get his wines to the enthusiastic consumer (which is still a difficult task) without the filter of an overbearing bureaucracy. Put simply, that is how we fit in. Not to make the wine or write the story but just to be the conduit that allows the winemaker and the consumer to meet.”

I quickly redeemed my Groupon and got to pick any wines I wanted from the Barclay’s stock that added up to $75. Since I’m all about the deals, I stuck with the $12 bottles and got a selection of six wines for only $25, plus about $8 shipping.

This is a good time to talk about customer service. I stupidly used my home address for shipping, not thinking about the fact I’d need to be home to sign for the delivery, but my 9-5, Monday-Friday, job kind of makes that an impossible task. Barclay’s failed to send me a shipping notice with tracking number, so I was surprised when FedEx attempted to delivery just a few days after I placed my order. I missed three attempted deliveries by FedEx, then left for a work trip and didn’t do anything about the delivery for an entire week. When I got home I e-mailed Barclay’s asking for a confirmation number and a way to track where the package was because I was sure I missed it. They didn’t return my e-mail until the next day, so in the meantime I got impatient and called.

The Barclay’s rep didn’t make me go through my well-practice speech on why the failed delivery was their fault (not mine, of course, for providing an address where no one would be). The rep quickly and nicely tracked the package, allowed me to change the delivery address and informed FedEx of the change. My package arrived the next day. That, my friends, is customer service!

Tonight I’m trying the Washington Hills 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (no longer listed on the website, but was available for $12.95). It’s from the Columbia Valley in Washington state, and those northwesterners know their wine! The wine is a dark cherry red, but not thick — swirling leaves no legs on the edge of the glass.

The aroma is a gentle blend of berry and cigar, so the subtle flavor of dark cherry, tobacco and coffee is no surprise. It has a great mouthfeel, just a touch of bright tingle without inducing a pucker.

I’m looking forward to trying my other Barclay’s finds. If they’re as good as tonight’s wine, I’ll be singing the praises of Groupon and Barclay’s from the rooftops.

Acre to savor

There’s a certain level of snobbery that goes along with wine tasting. C’mon, we can all admit it. We look a little snooty sticking our beaks into a glass and inhaling like it’s incense from the gods. And that damn swirl! Do you know how many near-accidents I’ve had from swirling my glass a little too zealously? Swish it in the mouth, a sharp inhale, slow exhale… it’s such a process! And then the big dilemma – spit it out or drink it like you know you want to.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s OH SO IMPORTANT! But sometimes it just feels so pretentious.

And then we open a bottle that reminds us why the process is important. Why anything worth doing is worth doing right. Why it’s not wise to cut corners.

That reminder came in the form of Acre 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I found it on sale for $10.99, so why not? Let’s give it a go. I wasn’t paying attention to the first swig and a sharp tang snapped me back into focus. Slow down, Beth, let’s try this again.

I swirled and mixed the air into the glass. Open that wine up, get it good and oxygenated. I stuck my nose in the glass and inhaled, snobbery be damned. Oh the aroma! The vanilla and oak! Mmmm, yeah! Then I swished a small sip, letting the wine play on my palate. Inhale, bringing the full gamut of flavors to the back of the tongue. Slow exhale, savoring the perk of tannins on the tongue. Ah yes, THAT’S why we do this song and dance.

What at first tasted like a tart, fermented grape juice turned into a complex, beautiful mix of flavors by putting it through the process. The oak balanced the fruit, producing a lightly lingering vanilla aftertaste.

Let me make it clear that this wine is delicious to just drink, but why rob yourself of the joy of discovery? Why rush something that is supposed to be savored? It’s like walking through a rose garden in bloom with a stuffy nose. What’s the point? Sure, the flowers are pretty and you’ll enjoy the stroll, but good god, go blow your nose and come back when you appreciate the amazing scents wafting from the petals.

Hedgeline Merlot

I love a good sale! I’m a pro at Black Friday sales and get absolutely a’flutter when I find a great deal. So today I’m on Cloud Nine because I scored an $18 bottle of merlot for $10.99. Hedgeline Vineyards 2007 Merlot is on sale at Smith’s (Kroger), and I’m telling you, go out and get your own bottle ’cause I ain’t sharing!

Hedgeline is in Washington, but to be honest, I can’t find much else about the winery than that. The Web site doesn’t specify a region or location of tasting room or anything. But hey, I choose to believe that the good people at Hedgeline are focusing their resources on making great wine, not on fine-tuning their Web site.

The merlot is a nice, smooth, easy-to-drink red. A touch of coffee and maybe a little chocolate, but no heavy oak. I actually prefer a dry oaky red, but this merlot is very nicely balanced between fruity and earthy without the intrusion of oak. It’s easy to drink on its own, but went very nicely with our barbecued chicken, artichoke, garlic bread dinner (God love a husband who can cook!).