Celebrating #CabernetDay

Happy #CabernetDay! Yes, if you’re a Twitter nerd, you’ll hear that name screaming “social media event!” But hey, social media and wine — what could be better? All around the Twitterverse and blogosphere, and all around the physical world too, people are drinking cabernet sauvignon and tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and maybe even Google+ing about it.

My pick tonight is a 2008 Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a mossy aroma with a hint of black cherry. It’s earthy but not heavy. While the initial mouthfeel is thick and smooth, the taste is a fresh mix of black cherry and green beans. There’s also a toasty quality, that lends a beautiful balance to the cherry and bean flavors.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to plan a gourmet dinner to complement this wine, so I threw together some pasta, parmesan and broccoli. Not gourmet, but damn tasty. The cab went well with the pasta, but absolutely rocked with my ice cream sandwich dessert! Believe me, I never claimed to be a chef, and with two young kids swarming me as I made dinner, pasta and ice cream were about all I could muster. Thank god for good wine on nights like this!

Ok, enough about the chaos… back to the wine. This cab sells in the $15 range, so it’s a tad more than my usual weeknight wine, but won’t break the bank. It’s a bottle I’d serve to guests, and perhaps keep a bottle on hand for myself.

Happy #CabernetDay!

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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.

McWilliam’s Cabernet

Ok, ok, I promise to start writing about white wines eventually. I just really, really like my reds! So bear with me: one more red before I bring some white back into my blog. (Note to reader: I will probably never write about a pink wine. I suppose a rosé might be in my future, but don’t ever expect me to taste a white zin and have anything nice to say about it. I’m a white or red girl, no pink.)

A friend recommended McWilliam’s 2008 Cabernet, a label I’ve never tried, so I was excited to try something new. I was greeted by a ripe bouquet of black cherries and vanilla. I want to say I detect a hint of sandlewood too.

This cab is heavy on the tannins, but not so much your mouth puckers, just enough to make you feel the wine you’re drinking. I may not have been too off the mark with the hint of sandlewood – there is definitely something aromatically woody about this wine. (I hate to mention oak, because that carries such a pre-defined description. This woody taste is more vanilla or almond than oak). Tart berries nip on the tongue but are chased away by a whisper of black pepper.

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate is an Australian winery, established in 1877. I’d venture to say that they’ve perfected the craft in the six generations of growing grapes and making wine. The 2008 cab retails for about $12, but I’ve found it in several stores on sale for $8-$9. It would be delicious paired with a peppercorn steak or bacon-wrapped meatloaf, which was on my plate tonight. It’s also a wine you could proudly serve to guests without worrying that they will go home wishing they’d brought their own bottle.

Constant Conquista

Move over, Concannon, I’ve found a new stand-by wine: Conquista. I’ve tried the Conquista de Argentina Malbec before and liked it, so it’s not surprising that the cabernet is good too. But I was surprised by just how good it is.

It has a mellow black pepper aroma while the bouquet brings together black cherry, espresso and a hint of cocoa. It’s playfully tart without evoking that sour-wine pucker. It’s sturdy enough to drink alone and feel fulfilled, but not so heavy that it could replace dinner. It would pair well with a peppercorn steak or chocolate cake — what? I’m hungry!

Regular price is about $10 for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’ve found it several times on sale for $6.99. This is definitely getting a permanent place on my wine rack!

Spicy Sebeka

The cheetah leaping across the blazing yellow label stopped my eye. Hmmm, I don’t recognize this one. Sebeka — how do you pronounce that? Cabernet pinotage — what is that? Only $5.99, on sale from $8.99 — ok, I’ll try it!

Sebeka is pronounced “se-BEEK-a” and is named after an orphaned cheetah taken in by wildlife conservationist Lente Roode. “Sebeka Wines aim to share with wine lovers the same sentiment of awe and excitement that one experiences when in the presence of a cheetah’s speed and prowess.” (from the Sebeka website)

Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape (re: wikipedia) and is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault (hermitage). Hmm, didn’t know that! But now that we know the basics, let’s get to the tasting.

I tasted it immediately after the pour, and it made me pucker; too much alcohol, too tart. But after about 10 minutes of mellowing in the glass, the second taste was much better. It still had a heavy alcohol bite, but the alcohol melded well with the earthy coffee taste. I think I taste fresh green beans and green pepper, but it’s hard to pinpoint the flavors because I can’t quite get past the pucker.

This wine would be a fantastic base for a spritzer if  you’re like me and don’t like sweet, fruity drinks. I like the occasional spritzer, but they tend to be too sweet. The alcohol and peppery taste would stand up well mixed with seltzer (NOT 7-Up) over ice, and it make a great grown-up spritzer.

It should be clear that I don’t LOVE this wine, but I am intrigued by the varietals and appellation and will be trying more with the Sebeka label.

Get your blend on

Maybe I’m a snob, or maybe I’m irrational (or both, according to my husband). But I just can’t wrap my mind around blended wines. Cabernet-merlot, zinfandel-pinot noir (ugh, do they make that?) — it just doesn’t seem right. It conjurs up thoughts of chicken nuggets made out of chicken bits (you know those bits are the parts that aren’t appetizing enough to make it into “real” food) or fruit cocktail made from the bruised fruit that only looks good soaked in nectar.  Blended wines must be made from the grapes that don’t look or taste good enough on their own, right?

But as is wont to happen, the thrill of a sale beat out my snobbery last week when I saw Rosemount and Ravenswood wines on sale at Smith’s (Kroger). Buy one, get one for a penny. Not bad, eh? I decided that at that price, I could afford to revisit my preconceived notions and try a blend.

I picked a 2008 Rosemount shiraz-cabernet and a 2008 Shiraz. Those Aussies know a thing or two about shiraz, after all. Tonight I opened the shiraz-cab with low expectations, really just hoping it’d be good enough to drink. (nothing against Rosemount, I just didn’t know what to expect from a blend at a close-out price)

The aroma has a hint of tobacco, but overall scent is actually very light, barely there. Deep, dark berry taste with a hint of smokiness, but again, a very subtle taste. The light taste actually belies the heavier mouthfeel. You can feel the tannins, but they don’t make the mouth pucker like some tannin-heavy wines do.

My mind tells me I’d pair this with a spicy-sausage spaghetti and buttery garlic bread. But when I stole some of my daughter’s M&Ms, I discovered they’re a wonderful complement to this wine. Huh.

Bottom line, I like it. There. I said it. I like a blended wine. Now I have to rethink everything I assumed about blended wines and chicken nuggets. (But I stand by my claim that fruit cocktail is just bruised fruit masked with sugar-water.)

Can’t resist a Fat Bastard

Ok, ok. I admit it. I bought tonight’s wine for the name. I couldn’t help it. I just can’t resist a Fat Bastard.

I like people (and companies) that don’t take themselves too seriously, so when I saw this bottle of 2007 cabernet on the shelf, I had to try it. You know a winery that can bottle Fat Bastard wine is probably a fun place to work, fun people to work for and probably produces a good wine. (tongue-in-cheek can only get you so far, you’d better have a decent product or you just end up looking like, well, a fat bastard.) Thierry & Guy, the names behind this wine, obviously have fun with their product while creating a solid drinkable cab.

It smells fresh and green-peppery and has a crisp grassy taste. (Can you tell I’ve been rereading my college wine-tasting text book?) Pretty dry without a trace of oak or vanilla or cocoa or anything rich and earthy. That’s not to say it’s weak. No, this is a round, well-structured wine, it’s just not weighed down with heavy oak.

There is still snow on the ground and I look longingly at the calendar wishing for May to get here quickly. And drinking this wine almost transports me outside to my patio on a sunny spring day before it gets too hot for red wine. It’s a good Mother’s Day or Easter wine when the weather is warming up but still has a slight chill to the evening breeze. The wine must be refreshing, not heavy. It must stand up on its own so I can sip it while my husband barbecues and the kids run in the grass. Yes, this is an Easter wine. Is it sacriligious to drink Fat Bastard on Easter, though? Perhaps it’s better suited to President’s Day than Easter.

(Oh yes, the price! I found it at Raley’s for $7.99, regular price.)

Friday Cupcake

I don’t have a lot of energy on Fridays. I try to make dinner that involves more than frozen burritos, but I also don’t get as fancy as steak and twice-baked potatoes. C’mon, fancy dinners are for holidays and Sunday when I have nothing better to do than plan a three-hour meal.

Anyway, back to the point…

Tonight I decided to use whatever ingredients I could scrounge up in the fridge and make an “everything but the kitchen sink casserole.” Lucky for my family, the fridge didn’t have good casserole ingredients, so I made spaghetti topped with leftover sauce and some mild Italian sausage that I had to squeeze out of their casings. Yes, it’s just as disgusting a task as it sounds.

So what does one drink with leftovers?

A few days ago I bought some Cupcake Vineyard cabernet based soley on the label design and description on the back. Sophisticated, ain’t it? The label described it as having decadent fruits, molten mocha and toasty oak. Who can resist that? I decided that leftovers night deserved a tasty wine. I can’t guarantee how good the spaghetti will turn out, but I was figured the wine was a pretty sure bet.

I was right. The first taste of fruit almost made me question my choice, but then it hit me. The molten mocha. Oh yes! The toasty oak. There it is! Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!

Ok, so the spaghetti wasn’t half bad, but the Cupcake cabernet is just divine. And, proving my theory that a smart shopper can find good wine for less than $10, it rang up at a nice $9.49 (or some sort of change). I think that was the sale price, but even the full price in the ballpark of $15 isn’t bad.

Want to know what goes well with leftovers? Or at least makes up the difference if the leftovers are less than delectable? Just try a Cupcake.