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

February 5, 2012

Recent Bottles

Filed under: California,Cheep wine,pinot noir — Tags: , — Dex Wineslacker @ 4:38 pm

Once again the Wineslacker is checking in after a long absence.  But wine writing is not what feeds the stomach…the soul, but not, unfortunately, the body.   However, he has not been entirely idle.  Here are a few notations on the current available value wines.

Poppy Pinot Noir: Poppy’s been the subject of both ridicule and hype. It’s popular, because it’s cheap, has a great looking label, a snappy name and in all honesty, non-objectionable taste. For $12 it fits into a great price point and it looks great in your cute, little wrought iron wine bottle rack. Serious Pinot, it is not.  Which is not to say that one can’t get really pleasant and hold-your-head-up Pinot for that price or something close. While Poppy is not gonna impress your wine snob co-workers, it’s a fine every day drinker and dinner companion. Which brings us to a few other Pinots in that range.

Trader Joe’s continues to carry some of the nicest varieties of inexpensive Pinot Noir available. This week the Wineslacker picked up a Pinot by Buena Vista the local Trader has brought in. It’s a 2008 vintage from Carneros and, best guess is, it was excess wine getting to the age where BV just didn’t want to see it start to deteriorate.  It’s in a screw-top bottle and is under the BV name (look for Buena Vista Carneros) so the ‘slacker figured it’s gonna taste, at the very least, OK.  And for the happy price of $9.99; it’s very OK.  Get there quick, because this is real Pinot, with reasonable fruit, nice structure and that unmistakeable bacon-y finish, and it won’t stay on the shelves long.  BTW, they are still carrying the nice little Caretaker Pinot (a little fruity for the ‘slacker, but tasty), San Simeon Pinot, MacMurray Ranch Pinot, and La Crema Pinot; priced at between $10 and $21, quite a nice way to serve Pinot Noir without scouring the bank account (nooooo, Trader Joe does NOT pay the Wineslacker, or even give him a frigging discount).

Just a nod also to a great little Zin blend from the small but notable Vines on the Marycrest, introduced to the Wineslacker by Wineshark Mark and Sommelier Sam. My Generation is; 58% Zin, 21%Syrah,14% Mourvedre and 7% Petite Sirah (2007) – another Rhone inspired red blend from the Paso Robles area. About $26 on their website, less if you find it at your local wine specialist. Chin Chin.

August 29, 2011

NAKED WINES! Now that I have your attention…

Filed under: Buy o' the Month,Cheep wine,wine blogs — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:43 am

The Wineslacker and Patient Companion enjoyed an afternoon of unusual wines and gracious gab with wine critic and activist Alice Feiring today, at the small but elegant wine shop, Domaine LA, in Hollyweird, CA. Ms. Feiring was in sunny L.A., instead of storm-lashed New York, talking about her newest book, the just released Naked Wine, Letting Grapes do What Comes Naturally. Her book describes her recent venture into the wine making world in the spirit of wine made the old fashioned way; without chemicals, flavors, designer yeasts…just grapes and the yeast that came in on them.

The shop had eight of the wines mentioned in the book and soon, very soon patient readers, the Wineslacker will divulge his notes and descriptions of each (who knew there was a wine that actually tastes like salt and pepper!). He would add that these wines were hand crafted, all out of the norm…not available in large supermarkets or Big Lots; yet none were more than $38, and there was only one of them. Several were $20 or less. Therefore the Wineslacker adds to this post the tag, Cheep Wine. 

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.

September 6, 2010

Sippin’ Our Way Into Fall…

Filed under: California,Cheep wine,pinot noir,Port,Summer Bubblies — Dex Wineslacker @ 5:12 pm

Veggies on da Barbie

Summer is waning fast and Labor Day marks the psychological start of Fall.  Here in the Golden State, how-some-ever, we play on. The Pinot season keeps rolling out, with new, inexpensive bottlings showing up on everybody’s shelves.  Couple of worthwhile mentions go out to Caretaker Pinot, 2009, from the Santa Maria Valley, $9.99 at Trader Joes, Carmel Road Pinot, 2008, from Monterey, at Vons, the fabulous Melville Pinot, Estate – Verna’s, 2007, about $27 at BevMo, if you can still find it, and Steven Bannus Pinot Noir, 2008, from the Russian River Valley, $13.99 with the BevMo card at BevMo.  This beauty is rated a 91 by BevMo’s in house wine critic, Wilfred Wong, and the Wineslacker thinks he’s right on.

One wine we did not mention in our last blog on bubblies is one ‘slackers should not overlook. Sparkling Moscato from Italy.  For a sweet change of pace, nothing beats this on a torrid September day.  The Moscato we like is Oltrepo Pavese, Moscato Dulce, available at Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck, as some cynics might sneer) for an affordable $11.99.  Get several bottles, ’cause this is a light (about 8% alcohol), creamy, slightly sweet quaffer that everyone will want more of.

Looking toward the cooler realms of fall and winter, it’s not too early to think about stocking up on dessert wines that will go well next to the fire on those windswept nights in the mountains or on the coastal bluffs. We were recently turned on (by slackerette Susan) to Ficklin Tawny Port; California Port from Southern Madera County. Ficklin is a family owned vineyard that ‘s been making serious Port for the last sixty-some years. This is a hand made fortified wine, made with Portuguese methods, from people dedicated to their art for generations. While their Tawny Port may seem expensive at $28 a bottle, when you think about what goes into it, it’s a real bargain.  This wine is aged for ten years in small oak casks and that fact in itself means an investment and a vision toward the future, rather than a quick turn around profit. Ficklin Vineyards grows and uses only Portuguese varietals, originally purchased from U.C. Davis in 1946. Click on the link to their website and find out more about this under the radar California gem.

Moscato in the Back Yard

June 27, 2010

Tired of All That Champagne?

Filed under: Cheep wine,pinot noir,Summer Bubblies,summer wine — Dex Wineslacker @ 6:42 pm

Three Summer Bubblies That Aren't French

Tired of all that old Champagne?  Lost everything in the crash?  Your bank failed? You can still enjoy bubbles in the swingin’ summertime.  Here are three inexpensive sparklers that not only don’t hurtcha in the hip pocket, but give you something different and interesting.

First in line is the illustrious  Prosecco Balbinot (NV) (about $17 at Wine Expo in Santa Monica) the frizzante, the basic wine of a distinguished winemaker from San Pietro di Feletto, it’s soft, creamy, fully delightful; if you typically buy middle brow California sparklers like Piper-Sonoma, Gloria Ferrar Brut, etc., try this for a change of pace. Second, an organic sparkling Chardonnay from Argentina, no less. Vida organica, 2007, from Familia Zucccardi at Whole Foods is a more substantial wine, with a unique character, clean and round. The ‘Slacker likes it and it stands up to a garlicy roast chicken or grilled salmon just fine. Last but far from least is the familiar (to TJ’s fans) Zonin Prosecco Brut, a lovely, everyday bubbly at about $6 a bottle. Fruity, but dry and soft, it’s just the thing at the end of a warm summer evening on the patio.

2007-2008 are the Pinot Years!  Great Pinot Noir is comin’ out our ears, here in California.  For as little as $8.99 you can enjoy a  casual little Pinot from the Central Coast or the Russian River Valley. The Trader called Joe is currently keeping a very respectable stock of Pinot Noir, including the very tasty Lane Tanner, Block 4 at 19.99, MacMurray Ranch 2007 Pinot at $13.99, but also the well regarded Castle Rock Pinot and two low end, but excellent buys, Inslay Peak, 2007,($9.99) from Edna Valley Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County, and Hamilton-Steven’s, 2008, ($8.99)from the Russian River Valley.  In the bargain arena this week at Von’s, the ‘Slacker picked up Lockwood Vineyard, Block 7, Monterey County Pinot, rated a respectable 87 by WineSpectator for 2007, for $13.39.  BTW, Lockwood’s winemaker, Larry Gomez makes an interesting statement on their website as follows, “We’re backing away from oak and un-masking the grapes to really show off this vineyard and the unique terroir.” Maybe a trend???

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.

October 27, 2009

More Great Cheap Wine…

Filed under: Buy o' the Month,Cheep wine,Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:50 am
Katharines Grapes 2 06

Katharine's Summer Grapes

Quickly now, two great, cheap wines…

1.  5Mile Bridge Serpent’s Path, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, available at Whole Foods.  $11.  Wow. Beautiful, medium body, warm climate Pinot.  Black cherry, hint of cedar, tiny bitta mushroomy, long finish.  We went on about the other 5Mile Bridge wines, this one’s maybe the best. 2006.

2.  Guenoc, Victorian Claret, North Coast, 2006.  Can’t, can’t, can’t go wrong with these little Guenoc wines.  This is slightly dramatic, dry, not over-fruited blend.  It doesn’t say, but I’d bet Cab, Cabernet Franc, petite verdot… guessing!!! This is a loss leader at BevMo.   $7 (yah, $7)

December 10, 2006

Chablis at Costco

Filed under: Cheep wine,classic Chablis,good white wine — Dex Wineslacker @ 10:49 pm

It’s out of season for white wine, supposedly, but the ‘slacker just needs to let his loyal readers (he says sooo bitterly) know about two of the nicest white’s he’s come across this year, as the year is quickly fading into ignomy. First, he’s been meaning to mention this Southern France rarity since he popped the cork many months ago. He found this little gem at Long Beach’s little gem of a store, Vin De Pays. It’s a place that really cares about wine and it’s fans that don’t have so much money that they can just look in those slick, expensive magazines (you know the ones) and order a case or two. So, you can imagine that they click with the Wineslacker. No wines over $15 a bottle. Let the ‘slacker say that again. No wines over $15 a bottle. The store is just barely visable in the block South of Third and Elm in the East Village Arts district of downtown Long Beach, California. Give ’em some business, folks, we need them! Telephone: 562-495-4499.The wine the ‘slacker is pushing is from the Languedoc region of Southern France, along the French Mediterranean coast. It’s made by Domaine Des Lauriers in the small commune of Castelnau di Guers, and it is made from the Picpoul de Pinet grape. See, you learned something by logging on to the Wineslacker. Now, if you’ve never heard of the Picpoul variety or of Coteaux Du Languedoc, you are not alone. Even Robert Parker had only two minor references to Picpoul in his voluminous Wine Buyer’s Guide, 5th edition, published in 1999. We’re talkin’ 1657 pages of information about wine. But it is an old, if not considered nobel, wine, long established in the torrid Mediterranean area. This inexpensive, but lovely, wine was made to sip chilled, on the patio, in the hot Summer days anywhere along the Equator to the Tropic of Capricorn. And dollars to donuts, this will be a delicious pair up with delicate white fishes or oysters, half-shell.

The other white wine the ‘slacker quaffed this week was about as well known as the last was obscure. La Chablisienne advertises itself as 2002 “Grande Cuvee, Chablis Premier Cru”. Awfully big words in French. Well, we couldn’t find it in Parker, but, as always, we saw, we sniffed, we drank, and, by god, it was good. The Wineslacker wouldn’t drink this with anything else. Maybe some nice, white, seeded bagette. But this is a layered and subtley delicious wine that you’d just rather not cover up with food. It was undoubtedly Chablis, real French Chablis, from Chardonnay with no oak within a hundred meters, and the neatest mineral finish. It’s a real wine experience that we picked up at Costco, in Torrance, California for a mere $16. Have at it. Do somebody a favor and give it for Christmas, Kwaansa, whatever… maybe just because you like them.

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