WINESLACKER..the lazy drinker's guide. Another 'slacker yammering on about drinking.

June 17, 2011

Total Wine, now in Torrance, CA

Hopefully, you ‘slackers and ‘slackettes will be more encouraged to contribute comments now that the Wineslacker has ponied up for some outside gunslingers to waylay them pesky Robo-spammers.

The ol’ Wineslacker visited the new mega-store in town this past weekend and reports that Total Wine does, indeed, have a bunch a wine. He was encouraged that you need not sign away any privacy to get a discount card. Their prices are what they are. Whataconcept. They also provide a soft-bound catalog of what they have in stock and that is free and you can take that home for more leisurely perusing. He likes that. He also appreciates that the high priced vino is afforded a temperature controlled rack. Makes ya more comfortable about buying that $100 bottle, a little more confident that it has not been sitting upright in a hot warehouse shelf in the back of the store.

They have on-going tastings in the middle of the store; which means that you’re gonna be standing around in the midst of staring shoppers, slurping down your freebee, as the shopping carts go clattering by. OK. They seem to have a lot of help that are at least somewhat educated and actually may have tasted the wine they’re talking about at some point.

They make a point of putting their faces on recommendations of wine that you may never have heard of….and they seem to have a lot of that. Which may not be a bad thing, but will take time and experience (and cash) to judge.

The Wineslacker picked up the Rose de Provence they were recommending, Domaine Fontanyl, 2009, their recommended $10 Pinot Noir, Montoya Monterey County, 2009, a very well priced bottle of Silver Oak, 2006 Alexander Valley Cab ($54.99) and a big, friendly bottle of Bombay Sapphire, 1.75 liters, for the best price he’s seen in a long while, $27.99.

He can report that the Rose did live up to their description as “lively” very; and fragrant…the strawberry literally floats out of the bottle when the cork is pulled. The flavors move through several levels and leave with a dry, dry minerality that some might find takes getting used to. Quite a wine for $12.99. Likewise, the Montoya Pinot is one of the best $10 Pinots around and tests out at the level of a much more expensive wine. Montoya has had a good name as a value wine for a while, and this is a slightly smoky, medium weight, fruity Pinot of the cool climate variety. The Silver Oak, will go into storage for a while, as being only 5 years old, it’s got some growing up to do, but could not resist the price and the 92 rating.

They also carry an excellent selection of Ridge Zins, the royalty of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Lytton Springs (see the ‘slacker’s post on Ridge from last year).

So. If you’ve got one close by, drop in and see what you think. The Wineslacker is generally not in favor of giant stores for anything and he would not be happy to see Total Wine drop a store in the neighborhood of a small, established place like Hi Time or Wine Country or your local stop and chat wine merchant. But.. that’s a fight that will go on, and ‘slackers everywhere will have to choose between price and home town service. For the stalkers of the perfect wine buy, well, we hope for both.

May 9, 2011

Remember $10 Wines? They’re Back…

Filed under: $10 wines,Buy o' the Month,Cabernet Sauvignon,California,Justin Winery — Dex Wineslacker @ 2:07 am

OK, let’s see if the Wineslacker remembers how to do this now. Oh, yeah. Got it.  Spring is sprug…or sprung. Ah, faithful reader, there lay many, only slightly hidden treasures in the wine sections of the retail world to be had. Yes, there are still $10 wines worth buying out there. The greatest deal the ‘slacker has found in the neighborhood is Beringer (yes, what, the oldest winery in California, or close, 1876, they claim.). For whatever reason, probably a huge over stock, Trader Joes has pulled off one of their majorly slick deals and landed Beringer Knights Valley Alluvium, 2007, which they are turning over for a spectacular $9.99. And friends, it’s worth it. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot; very Bordeaux-like, with real structure, something often processed out of California Reds.  OK, there are better Bordeaux blends out there, if you must spend $35 or $40 bucks, but BABY, $10! Stock up while they got it.

And while you’re there, try some Hogue Genesis Meritage, 2007 (again. That magic year!). A lot of T.J.s have it for an absurd $7.99. Despite the grandiose name, this is garage sale gold. Its another red blend, all Washington State Columbia Valley fruit; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and just a touch of Cabernet Franc. Now, this wine is great right out of the bottle, but don’t plan on sipping it over the next week, ’cause by tomorrow, this baby is flab city. Forgetsville. But remember, you just paid $8 for it. Don’t be greedy.

T.J.s still has a great selection of inexpensive Pinot Noirs. Been hankering for that La Crema Pinot? Less than $20 at the Traders. While the ‘slacker hasn’t tasted Picket Fence Pinot, other wine bloggers have and give it high marks.

Wineslacker’s been back to BevMo, lately. They had the good sense to build one much closer to the ‘slacker’s H.Q. He picked up a a little red just for the nostalgia of the name; Ventana (window) Rubystone, a Grenache/Syrah blend from Arroyo Seco, 2007 (are ya getting the hint?).  It too was a paltry $9.99.  This needs a bit o’ air, but once opened up it springs right atcha with spice and a complex little trunk of flavors.  We like it and this one has been hanging around the crowded Wineslacker kitchen for several days while a number of other wines were tested. After all that time, it stays surprisingly drinkable. “Kitchen Survivors” is what Andrea Robinson calls ’em.

Don’t forget to check Von’s wine sections. They are just coming off one of their big wine sales and the ‘slacker spied Justin (Paso Robles) Cab, usually $27-28 bucks for the 2008, at an affordable $20 with the magic Von’s plastic card. Justin Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular Cabs served in California restaurants and deservedly so. Take an occasional peek, especially in their upgraded stores, for their 30% off premium label wines sales. There’s a deeper discount for case buys as well. Vons also carries a good selection of solid wine at the $10 level. Ya gotta have their discount card, though.

There. Drink some wine. More later…

April 4, 2010

New Finds…

Filed under: $10 wines,California,Cheep wine,rose,summer wine,Zinfandel — Dex Wineslacker @ 11:32 pm

Here are some value suggestions for the summer soon to come.

The Wineslacker trailed through several markets this week, including Bristol Farms, after quite a long absence.  Bristol Farms has had a fine wine department for many years (check out their “Grapevine Gazette”, see link) and has paid a lot of attention to the quality and marketing of wine.  Their price points are a bit higher than the ‘slacker generally looks for, but they carry a better variety of wines and generally a better quality of labels than most chain markets, more on a par with Gelson’s Markets. Still, with wine sales feeling the pinch of recession, even Bristol Farms has built a display of value wines, strategically placed at the entrance, at least at the Manhattan Beach store.  The ‘slacker picked two which looked promising from a well stocked display, all under $10 a bottle. The first, Mas de Lavail, Tradition, 2006, a Côte Du Roussillon Villages red blend, 40% Carignan, 40% Shiraz (yes! the bottle says, “Shiraz”) and 20% Black Grenache, priced at an astounding $8.99.  This is a keeper and a fine value.  As flavorful and big as you’d suspect with these grapes, the wine has some structure and richness and while lacking subtlety , it’s a barbecue wine with class.  The second was a Tempranillo from Castillo called La Cocina, 2008.  This is a more rustic wine with with some acidity and structure.  It’s still a fruit forward red wine with a little less alcohol than the Tradition, with 13% compared to the other with 14%.  The La Cocina, at $9.99 is also a great buy and would be a great match up with hearty meat dishes, sausages and grilled meats.

Back to Whole Foods, again, despite the affectionate razzing given W.F. by that overachieving L.A. culture critic, Sandra Tsing Loh.  The ‘slacker regularly slinks through W.F. at lunch hour, sniffing the air in the unparalleled prepared food section, giving in to the aroma of freshly roasted extra dark French Roast and rarely able to pass the wine section without getting SOMETHING pleasant and not tooo expensive.  The Wineslacker’s latest weakness from the Whole Foods wine department is their delicious choice for an inexpensive sparkling Brut Rosé (just in time for Spring, the season of rosé), Duc De Raybaud, an unprepossessing French sparkler without a vintage, without even a place of origin or a hint of what it’s made of.  But, at $9.99, it comes on like a $25 bottle of summer kisses.  It’s a light pink sparkling wine with the flavor of sweetened rose petals when you first open the bottle.  With a fine mousse it has a slightly rounder mouth feel than Champagne.  It’s beautiful, chilled, with sea food, with chicken, with cheeses and fruit…or all by it’s little lonesome on the patio at dusk.

And, the ‘slacker gives a nod to Vons once again; a huge chain store with a nice selection of wine, and if you get their plastic coupon card, quite a nice price point.  This weekend the Wineslacker roared through, the day before Easter, pausing long enough to snap up one of his long time favs, Ten Mile, The Broken Road, red blend, 2006, a field blend of different varietals from Oakville, California.  This is usually about $10, but with the Von’s plastic, the ‘slacker paid about $8. This is a tremendous wine for the price.  Also at Von’s we stocked up on De Loach Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 2008, regularly $16.49, on sale for a thrifty $10.99.  De Loach is a vintner the Wineslacker has a lot of respect for.  They don’t disappoint, they’re now certified organic, and any time you can get De Loach on sale, you gotta value.


December 10, 2009

New at the Trader’s

Filed under: $10 wines,Cheep wine,pinot noir,Wine Websites — Dex Wineslacker @ 2:15 am

We have to say, the ‘slacker really likes the newest Pinot at Trader Joes.  Look for Windbreak, Santa Lucia Highlands, Sarmento Vineyard, 2006, an incredible $9.99.  Slightly smoky, with spiced crab apple in the nose.  It’s a lighter, cool climate Pinot, slightly acidic, from Burgundian clones.  Probably great with lamb.  Those beautiful, thick, little chops from New Zealand.  Probably love the wine just because it comes from that incredible part of the golden state; the wild Sur.  Somebody stop t he ‘slacker before he gets going.  And there is the great package it comes in.  Nah,we mean the bottle!  Yeah, it’s heavy glass, comes with a proper cork, not plastic or one of those cheap, composite things that get all fungusy so quickly.  It’s got a solid, long (length really does matter), slightly waxy cork, that makes a nice little pop when you pull it. A real nice, classy label.  You could give this baby for a gift, be sure they’ll like it and never know you only paid $9.99 for it! From Riboli Wines, the family that owns the old San Antonio Winery, one of the last (if not the last) big wineries of Los Angeles.

August 5, 2009

Under $10 Bargains, But First of All, Good Wine.

Ten dollars seems to be some kind of speed bump for a lot of people.  We think this might be people of a certain age….who remember when two bucks was not a particularly cheap bottle of wine.  “Yeeessss (we recall aging relatives to say), “five bucks for a bottle of wine could get ya a loooong way in 1968!”.  Well, yeeeahhhh.   Get over it!  It’s 2009 and despite a record busting recession, we ain’t going back there.  Still, nostalgia waxes large among the winesoaked.  OK,  what can you get for a ten-spot these days?

Aaron Logan, attribution

Napa Valley, Photo by Aaron Logan

Actually, you can do pretty darned well.  Running around town the last couple of weeks has reinforced the Wineslacker’s intuitive sense that, indeed, there is a glut of gluggable wine out there in the yet to wither wine producer world. (What do you think of that sentence, Kennedy??)

Here is a sample of what the Wineslacker has purchased and sucked through his teeth in the last month, for under ten smackaroos (although, in most cases, not much under).

Salento, Italian seacoast

Salento, Italian seacoast

1. Despite what he felt was the doldrums for old faithful, Trader Joes, seems they have snapped out of it and have pushed out some real winners for the late summer barbecue season.  First off, they have a real winner in the Italian table wine Trentatre Rosso, 2007, Salento.  $5.99, we believe it’s only at T.J.’s.  The label says 1/3 Cabernet, 1/3 Merlot, and 1/3 Montepulciano (Trentatre seems to be Italian for 33).  Whatever, it is a beautiful buy at that price.  It’s been on the shelf for a while; we saw a review from San Francisco from April, this year, so waste no time in grabbing some of this very pleasant BBQ red at a recession-busting price.

2. As we have related before, the Trader likes to have his own label on stuff he sells.  He may have over-stepped the bounds of good sense in the next selection.  The label says VINTJS.  Supposed to be something like “Vintahs”, we think.  Hunhhh? BUT, it also says it’s Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, and it’s only $8.99.  So, why not try it?  So, we did and guess what?  Well, we wouldn’t be writing about it here if it stank, so, yeah, its very, very GOOD!  We got a case, and the Wineslacker ain’t got that much room, what with two wine coolers stashed in the living room.  Very much the fruity, smooth, light mouth feel and color of the cooler region Pinots, and very fine with salmon, salads, seared Ahi, pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, etc, etc… And

3. They’ve got a matching white, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, for a really cheap $5.99, that is a fruity (grapefruit, limey, like that), lovely hot weather cooler-offer. VINTJS 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

4. Now, the ‘slacker knows there are other places that sell wine around here.  One of his favorite stops for cheese and fresh roasted coffee and recycled toilet tissue (made from recycled paper, you high school minded dolts) is Whole Foods.  And, while Whole Foods is not known as a discount grocer, the usual haunt of  true ‘slackers, they do have a rather refined wine department.  They almost always have boxes of reasonably priced table wine sitting in the aisles, so you’ll notice them.  This season they’ve got a big bunch of wine from 5 Mile Bridge. Their reds are a Zin, a Syrah and a Pinot.  Now the Pinot falls just outside of our arbitrary limit of $10, but we got to say, the Zin and the Syrah, from the Paso Robles area are a great buy at a very reasonable $8.95.  These are 2005 vintages from the Margarita vineyard.  So, go for it!  And stop by the cheese bar for some Italian Pepato.

5. Another winner from Trader J’s that skims right under the $10 wire is Hunter Ashby Napa Valley Cabernet, 2005, from 2Sons Vineyards.  It’s a lighter Cab, with a slightly uncharacteristic black cherryness, which is nevertheless, very, very drinkable.  For some, even preferable; with a nice acidity.  A nice, pleasant party wine, good with cheeses, appetizers and BBQ goodies. Sorry, we have no link for 2sons wines.

6. Not to pass over the World Market (Cost Plus) where we have picked up many a cart full of pleasant juice, and where we found an old favorite, Las Rocas de San Alejandro, 2005 Garnacha  from Calatayud, Espana for a skinflinty $8.99.  AND, World Market is also the only place, outside of Costco and the Internet, where you can find the Cameron Hughes label (although it’s a limited selection).

7. The last mentionable in this little blurb is something we picked up while dashing through our closest Costco, (did we mention, largest wine retailer in the whole damned country) a whole MAGNUM of French Cotes du Ventoux rouge, under the label of La Vieille Ferme (2007) for $9.99!  Now, this stuff is NOT vin du table, but actual Appellation Controlee, Produit de France! Produced by one of the outstanding families in French wine production, the Perrins of Chateau de Beaucastel.  And while we have not broken the seal on this 1.5 liter bag-buster, we have to at least let our faithful know about what appears to be QUITE a bargain.  The ‘slacker’s got to have a party so he won’t feel bad about opening such a large bottle…

Later, whites and sparklers.

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