Wine & Food

Snooth User: Really Big Al

Weekday Wines

Posted by Really Big Al, May 15.

Hey everyone, what are some of your favorite 'everyday' or M-F types of wines to accompany a regular dinner?  I personally have enjoyed the Montoya Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, and I usually pick it up from Total Wines out here in Virginia.  This is one of those fruit-forward cabs that isn't too complex for me to appreciate, and it usually costs just under $20.  What do you like for pairing with something simple, even a hamburger?

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Replies

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Reply by EMark, May 15.

Big Al, I thought you were retired.  Since I retired, the only way I can tell M-F from S or S is by checking the TV schedule.  There are more races on Saturdays and Sundays.

I have had one or two Montoya's (we have Total Wines out here) and there is no denying that they are darned reliable wines for a darned good price.  Another label I have found at Total Wines that I think is equally reliable is River Road. 

Since I have started to participate on Snooth though, I find that these guys (and gals) have upgraded my "everyday" wines.  I like Zinfandel a lot.  So, I am always eager to pull out a Ridge or a Seghesio.  Mrs. EMark is, pretty much, a white wine drinker, and, in the last year, or so, it has been Chardonnay.  We always have La Crema and Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnays on hand for her, but she also likes Bogle and the BV Coastal Estates, both of which are very easy on the wallet. 

Oh, I admit that I am a California bigot.  I am happy to try anything, but I'm sure that my inventory is more than 85% California.

If you check the "Whatcha drinking tonight?" thread, (and, BTW, I still can't post a link, did you ever figure that out?) you'll get a good hint of what some of us are having for both "everyday" drinkers and for special drinkers.  If you skip to the very end, the last post I made there is pretty embarrassing.

Are those azaleas in the background of your pic?  Whatever they are, they are pretty.

 

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Reply by EMark, May 15.

Oh, I just thought of a couple low-dollar wines that are very easy to drink.  I've seen these at both Total Wines and at Cost+ World Market:  Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red and Rene Barbier Mediterranean White.  These are Spanish wines.  Both of them are non-vintage blends of various grapes and I assume that the blend varies from year to year.  The tariff on these is about $5.  We have them all the time. 

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 15.

EM - The flowers behind the bottle are rhododendrons.  We have purple and white ones that we planted about 23 years ago behind the house (mostly a shaded area).  We too have mostly California wines in our cellar.  Did you mean Paradise Ridge when you said you liked Ridge?  We were members of their wine club for a few years but we had to cut back (we are still members of 8 wine clubs) because we were running out of storage capacity.  We do like Bogle and BV Coastal Estates too.  Thanks for your recommendations.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 15.

"Ridge" is the only Ridge you need to know in CA Al. They do excellent Zin, Cabernet blends, among others. Probably the most internationally respected producer out of California.

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Reply by dmcker, May 15.

Happy sights...

 

 

Where some of those grapes were grown:

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Reply by dmcker, May 15.

And here's a *very* good source for daily drinkers, or special bottles. K&L has brick&mortar locations in Redwood City and San Francisco in NorCal and L.A. in SoCal. But their online business is even more convenient.

I don't know if the results will come through properly but I did a search for Cotes du Rhone. Very good dailies, in many cases down closer to $10 than $20.

Here's a slightly pricier daily from Waterstone. If you hunt around for their Cab it's often hovering around the $20 mark on specials. Plus a cheaper 'Cab' (more field blend-like) from Louis Martini.

And following upon EMark's remarks,  here is a search for zinfandels. Besides the Ridge offerings on it, this one from the son of the founder of Ravenswood isn't too shabby, and is good value to boot.

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Reply by outthere, May 15.

This was very enjoyable and you can't beat free. My Secret Santa gift from Lucha!

Left coast picture ;)

 

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Reply by napagirl68, May 16.

OT, I commend your restraint for not commenting on the "cab/complexity" statement :-) :-)

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Reply by gregt, May 16.

isn't too complex for me to appreciate

That one? Had me wondering too.

This week so far I've had 2001 Roda Reserva, 2009 Tallulah Shake Ranch Syrah, 2009 Pujanza Hado, 2001 Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, 2004 Jocelyn Lonen Reserve Chardonnay Carneros, and 2010 Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Crianza.

Best of the lot? the Pujanza by a long shot based on the price to value ratio. Cheap and flat out delicious. Wish that there were wines like that made in the US. Second would be the Riesling, but I think it was better back when it was younger - I far prefer young to old when it comes to Riesling. Basically weekdays are like any other day - you have to decide what you want to drink at some point in the evening.

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 16.

Oh you guys / gals are gonna tear me a new one when you hear this - I have a very hard time describing all the various sorts of flavors I taste in a wine.  When an educated wine drinker says that they taste toasted almond, essence of plum and just a hint of nutmeg, I take another sip and well maybe I do taste a bit of almond or just a hint of plum.  But I could be convinced I taste all sorts of things in a wine just by another person 'pointing' them out to me.  I think if my life depended on it, I could not identify the top 3 flavors in any particular glass.  It's almost as if my tasting memory has been erased and I'm learning what tastes like what all over again.  I generally can pick out many of the varietals - cabernet sauvignon, merlot, etc.  With that in mind, perhaps you can see now why asking me to describe the complexity of a wine is like asking me to pull some things out of the air - I just can't distinguish subtle things but I generally know if I like the wine.

So - I decided against a 2nd career as a Sommelier!  I am getting some good recommendations on wines to try, especially the Ridge series.  I had see one of those at the store in the past, but I ignored it mostly due to the silly label they use.  That big lettering doesn't float my boat I suppose.  I will try one though!

 

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Reply by outthere, May 16.

So you buy by label?

 

This one is pretty, catchy name, complexity is not an issue, $8...

 

Heck, if you really like it you can get the tattoo!

 

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 16.

Oh, I've tried that one, and I do like the label.  I bet there are plenty of folks that look at the labels when shopping for wine.  Of course, that's after I arrive in the right section, like California red wines for example.  Then I look for the varietal, and appellation too before getting serious of my evaluation of the labels. 

Hey, have you tried any Barnett wines from Napa yet?  They have nice labels too. (http://www.barnettvineyards.com/wines/archive/2006/details/23)

 

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Reply by dvogler, May 16.

OT, you're a meanie!  :)

Big Al, if you like Ridge labels, try the Penfold's Grange.  Roughly 5-6 hundred dollars for what looks like a page out of the old TV Guide?  Ridge is nice.  I've only had Geyserville (2005, 6, 7).  I've been trying to get my mitts on a Monte Bello, but alas, the auction site has too many snipers and I won't outbid when I know I can get it here for nearly the same, except that I couldn't drink it for a while.  I don't normally drink much during the week, but if I want something I usually go for a $13 Spanish or sub-20 Aussie, I actually got a Gabbiano Chianti Classico last week ($19) for a change. 

Not everyone has the ability to distinguish accurately the real smells.  It goes along with our taste preferences too.  Even Somms together will throw out differing descriptions.  Ultimately, when you're with friends enjoying a good bottle, I hardly consider it impressive if one says he's getting some saddle-leather and old-shaving-cream-brush-knob.

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Reply by gregt, May 16.

"I have a very hard time describing all the various sorts of flavors I taste in a wine.  When an educated wine drinker says that they taste toasted almond, essence of plum and just a hint of nutmeg, I "

. . .just move along?

Great response! Why would anyone hate you for that? Thank God you don't feel some compulsion to go on about this or that nuance. More people should relax and just enjoy their wine like that! It's very baffling to me that people seem to feel some urge to go on about every wine they drink while ignoring everything else they eat and drink. Well, not dmucker, based on the pics he's posting for pairings . . .

Tasting wine, or dianything else for that matter, isn't about trying to pick out this flavor or that one. If that's what blows your hair back, OK, but for me that becomes tedious - both trying to do it and hearing others bang on about it.

Plus I don't think it's all that rewarding or helpful anyway. I think you get an overall sense of the wine by taking in the larger picture. It's like glancing at a person and then completely ignoring their face but paying attention to the spot right behind their left ear. How will that help you recognize the person on the street? We pick people out through pattern recognition, which means we need to have many data points all at once. We don't usually consciously note the distance between their eyes, between nose and upper lip, etc., unless those happen to be really unusual.

Same with wine. We taste exactly the same way - a whole bunch of data points at once come rushing in and that's what allows us to pick out one wine from another, at least if we pay attention. Some people write really detailed tasting notes. For many years I tasted with lots of those people and most are just bad tasters IMO, in that they can't remember the wine two days later. The people who DON'T try to pick out this or that flavor usually do a better job.

As far as Ridge goes - why do you think the labels are silly? I think they're among the best in the business by a long shot. Clear, uncluttered, distinctive, and the back labels give you more information about the wine than any other label you're going to find.

Labels aside, Ridge is also one of the finest producers in the US by a long shot as well. Their Cab is consistently world-class and not overpriced for what you get. Mondavi's Opus One was a marketing product that was good enough, although never as good as it was supposed to be. Monte Bello OTOH, was simply consistently a good to great wine that never followed trends. In addition, Ridge is probably the main reason Zinfandel is taken seriously at all. It's not a French grape so it was dismissed by many, but Ridge simply went about making a serious wine out of it for many years.

Just as importantly, Ridge is one of the few wineries that always focused on the vineyard rather than the variety. Today, largely because of producers like Mondavi, people in the US think that they have to buy wine by variety - Merlot, Cab, Zin, etc. Sometimes varieties matter to the taster, particularly those that have strong dominating personalities like Cab and Pinot Noir and Riesling. But some varieties are not as overwhelming by themselves and they become very different depending on where they're grown. Chardonnay and Zin come to mind, and I'd put Syrah into that same camp. People have hang ups about blending Chardonnay because it's not done in Burgundy, but it can be a fine blending grape, while Zin and Syrah are routinely blended, often for the better. The distinction between the various Ridge Zin-based bottlings comes from the vineyards, which is something that they did for a long time before other people started picking up on that idea. Today you have all kinds of single-vineyard bottlings, and IMO it's bedoming counter-productive, but back in the 1970s and 80s that wasn't quite as important as the variety named on the bottle.

Not every wine by Ridge is a success and they've had some really uneven products over the years, but at this point, they're certainly a "classic" American producer. They're one of the few that I will regularly buy without having tasted the wine first.

Sorry for the long post. Cheers!

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 16.

GT - Good post, and I sense you agree with my perspective on tasting the wine.  I think the Ridge wine label is lacking a picture of the winery, right below the lettering.  There is a big blank area there that is wasted space.  That's just my opinion on the label appeal, which I shall refer to henceforth as "LA", not to be confused with Los Angeles where I lived many of my years before taking a transfer to Virginia. 

Ok, time for another picture, taken in profile view on the iPhone, but this time I used MSPaint to reduce it in size and then I cropped it and saved the picture as a new JPEG.  I bet it's not rotated sideways on OT's iPad this time.  This is a wine we picked up a month ago from Cheesetique, a wine/cheese shop in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, Virginia.  I might try it soon, as in tonight.  It's from Georgia, meaning the country near Turkey and Russia.  The grape varietal is Saperavi - produces substantial deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging, perhaps up to fifty years.  Saperavi has the potential to produce high alcohol levels and is used extensively for blending with other lesser varieties.  It is the most important grape variety used to make Georgian red wines.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 16.

RBA-  there is a difference between appreciating a wine that is "complex" and being able to describe the complexities in terms.  I, personally, have a hard time describing what I am tasting in a wine.  I have certain nose/palate notes down, but not others.   Oftentimes I will read the winemaker's spec sheet and really concentrate- see if I can get some of what they are getting-  many times I can get a few, but never all of them.  And that doesn't really matter to me either because I drink wine for enjoyment, not as a person in the industry.

However, I totally appreciate the nose and flavor of more complex wines.  One-dimensional wines that don't develop through the palate bore me.  I guess the only point I am trying to make is that you don't have to be able to describe something to appreciate it. 

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Reply by EMark, May 16.

I love the Ridge labels.  They are the most informative labels around.  GregT made reference to Ridge "single vineyard" bottliings and "Zin-based" bottlings.  Very few of the Ridge bottlings will have "Zinfandel" prominently displayed on the front label.  In the United States in order for a wine to be identified by a grape variety, it must contain at least 75% of that variety.  In the case of most Ridge bottlings, the Zinfandel content does not reach that 75% level.  That is because most of their bottlings are "field blends."  In most of the vineyards from which the source grapes (some of which they own, some not), there is a mixture of grape varieties growing next to each other.  If you look towards the bottom of the front label, they will generally display the grape variety content.  For example, you may see something like 72% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 6% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Carignane.  (Does that add up to 100%?)

My favorite Ridge bottling is from their Lytton Springs vineyard.  The last time I was in Total Wines (about 3 weeks ago) they still had the 2011 bottling on the shelf.  The 2011 LS is OUTSTANDING.  Get in you car, right now, hustle over to your Total Wines store and see if they have it.

While I have bragged about Ridge Lytton Springs many times here on the Forum, I agree with others here that the other Ridge bottlings are in the same ballpark--some years a tad behind LS, and some years a tad ahead.  So, don't shy away from Geyserville, Pagani, Dusi, or any of the others.

Interesting that you are asking about the Barnett Cab.  I have 3 or 4 bottles in my inventory, but have never tried one.  Another of my prejudices is red wines from the Spring Mountain District.  The ones I've had--from Chateau Chevalier, Keenan (a lot), Pride, Smith-Madrone, and Terra Valentine--have ranged from good to outstanding.  I even like Spring Mountain Merlots.  Red wines from Spring Mountain are very age-worthy and they are very tannic.  If tannin puts you off, then you might be discouraged.  They are not terribly fruity.  Another Spring Mountain Cab that I have in my inventory is Phillip Togni which I have now learned can take as long as 30 years to fully develop.  Believe me when I tell you that this Social Security pensioner is not going to wait 30 years to open up that one.

Also on the Barnett topic, Mrs. EMark and I both very much like their Chardonnay.  They source their grapes from the Sangiacomo Vineyard which is in, I believe, the Sonoma Coast AVA.

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 16.

NG & EM - To me the feel of complexity in wine is that I sense more than one flavor, but describing the flavors or layers of flavor/taste as I swish it around my mouth is very hard.  I have a much easier time with pieces of food though.  I don't know why I have such a hard time with a liquid vs a solid.

Now I have a rescue cat event to attend tonight, so I decided to open up that Georgia wine and give it a taste.  It did seem a bit tannic initially, but that sense diminished after 30 minutes - so I would say it benefited from being able to breath.  It tastes a bit like a Cabernet Frac from Virginia to me.  Perhaps it is complex in a way, but I cannot pick up specific fruits or vegetables from swirling it under my nose or swishing it around my tongue.   If I can repeat my basic description of the same wine over time in blind tastings this year then I will consider myself one more rung up the ladder of success.

Regarding the Barnett cabs, I've only tasted a few.  My wife won't let me near them - she wants to lay them down for a long time.  This is why we have over 200 bottles in our basement, aka 'wine cellar'.  I am a bit put off by heavy tannins but this is another thing to develop an appreciation for over time.  I know the best wines have a balance of many things, including tannins.  I generally find Merlots not to be tannic, but Malbecs can be somewhat tannic to me.

 

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Reply by EMark, May 16.

I forgot to comment on the Rhododendrons.  It's hard for me to distinguish Rhododendron flowers from Azalea flowers.  If I'm not mistaken, though, aren't Azalea plants "bush" sized, whereas Rhododendron can grow much bigger.  With luck, GregT will jump back in here and straighten me out.

On the Merlot topic, which I guess I introduced, many feel that the movie "Sideways" killed popular demand for Merlot.  Maybe yes and maybe no.  It definitely eliminated a lot of marginal producers, but it did get the more respectable makers to "up their game."  I was never a big fan of Merlot.  Now, however, I think there are some very good domestic producers.  My Merlot bias is towards Napa Valley, but there are some truly great ones coming from Washington.  Actually, even in the "bad old days" (before "Sideways"), I was noticing some very good and very attractively priced Merlot from Washington.  Of course, I won't dispute the quality of right-bank Bordeaux.  The ones that I have had were very good, but it's been many years since I've had a St. Emilion or a Pomerol.

If you don't care for tannin, then I don't think I can encourage you to try a Spring Mountain Merlot.  Although Keenan has a good one that is labeled "Carneros."  Some of the fruit for that one comes from their Spring Mountain estate vineyard, but most of it is from a partner vineyard in the Carneros region.

Let me take a stab at "complexity."  To me that means that a wine displays multiple dimensions.  You might detect fruit flavors at the tip of the tongue, as the wine flows over more of your tongue and past your palate, you may detect other flavors which may or may not be described as fruit, I mostly detect tannin--not as a "taste" or "flavor" but as a puckeriness--on the sides of my tongue. Towards the back of the tongue and palate I often detect the acid.  The back of the throat I sometimes detect bitterness, and, rarely, alcohol.  (I am not a low-alcohol Nazi.  I think ABV is a pretty useless datum on the label.)  So, that may not define "complexity" in wine, but that is how I would characterize it.  I would enjoy reading others' definitions or characterizations.

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Reply by vin0vin0, May 16.

First off, week day wine - this is a ~$20 bottle of white burgundy (i.e., chardonnay) that tastes like twice its price.

 

If you can find it near you, buy it and let me know what you think.

Now, as far as "complexity" in a wine, what I've been taught is somewhat simplified, the more things you can say about a wine you're tasting, e.g. tannins, plums, leather, earthiness, tar, ... the better quality the wine "probably" is.  This goes along with the one dimensional aspect, if you can only say a wine is lemony, or fruity  but can't go any further, then you have a more simple, less complex wine in your glass.

I'm very interested to hear other opinions.

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