Chianti #3 – Fontella 2015

It has been seven years since my last fake wine review column, but I figure it’s high time I start it up again, mainly because the last year or so has given me plenty of ammunition to drink heavily. So here goes.

One doesn’t oft think of a wine as being “aged” with a label date of 2015. I use the term aged to describe this wine because it’s been sitting in my kitchen for a few hours since I purchased it on clearance to use as the celebratory wine after the Indians won their first World Series championship in almost 70 years. So really, this wine is aged with 70 years of expectations and hopes. And how does it hold up?

It is a full-bodied wine, and yes, I’m calling this wine fat. The dark mulberry hue of the liquor reminds me of the blood pouring from Trevor Bauer’s hand early in the postseason which perhaps cost the Indians at least one critical win. The label is blue, like my mood.

One can’t help but notice the unmistakable aroma upon loosing the cork, that of disappointment. A gentle swirl of the glass, something taught to me by watching movies of pretentious people, proves to do nothing to alter this overwhelming assault on the olfactory nerves. The first taste, like that of most chiantis, is bold and effluvient (which I realize, after a quick google search, means partially treated sewage water and, while not the most accurate description of this otherwise drinkable wine, I’m keeping in because it’s been that kind of day). The palette would be wise to savor the initial burst of flavor, with its hints of heartache, shattered dreams, and plum.

Really, though, the joy of this wine is not in the savoring, but in the drinking of it as quickly as is reasonably safe. This achieves two important things: 1) forgetting the events that preceded it in the last hour or so, and 2) it won’t let the robust aftertaste of pine tar and failure overwhelm the taste buds.

This is, without a doubt, a wine that will probably be even better next year, when it will have matured as a cohesive unit, and when it won’t have lost two of it’s three top starting pitchers to injury in the penultimate month of the season.

Rating: 6/10. Drinkable, but hopefully forgettable.


My Trip East – Part 3 (Diet)

Well, let me start off by saying I’ve made it through my six week initial period. How did I keep with my diet? Well, that has very much to do with my trip back east. The night before we left, we went out to dinner, and I had a dressing that had a bit of cheese in it. It was by mistake – I just poured the wrong one on my salad. So that was a minor slip-up, but so far I hadn’t really deviated from my diet in any substantial way. But then the trip came. Let’s break it down.

Gluten – I am pretty sure I kept gluten free the entire time. I have realized that I’m not so stringent on my eating foods that are processed in plants that processed gluten, or on that equipment. The fact of the matter is that my intolerance is not super severe and I don’t think that that’s the worst thing in the world. Even having said that, I only broke that convention only once or twice.

Caffeine – Haven’t touched the stuff since. I miss the taste of Mountain Dew, but I don’t think I’ve had any caffeine withdrawls. I really think monitored myself pretty closely BEFORE the diet (rarely having more than a single can a day), so that helped. I think in a few weeks I’m going to have a can of Amp before a round of doubles or a mini-tournament to see how it affect my play. Then, if it seems to go okay, I’ll add a can of Amp before tournaments. It always seemed to give me a boost. But yeah, this has been no problem.

Dairy – I’m trying to think, but aside from that small slip-up with the dressing, and eating the chicken at Qdoba (which is not dairy-free), I’ve kept pretty good here. At the 6 week mark, I’ve put diary back into my diet. I’ll talk about that briefly.

Alcohol – This is where I did not make it 6 weeks. To be fair to myself, I excluded alcohol NOT because I felt I had an allergy to it or because I felt I was drinking too much (I probably average a bottle of wine every two weeks). I excluded it just as a system cleanse kind of thing. When I heard the news of Gavin on Thursday morning, I didn’t drink on Thursday, or Friday, but Saturday night (the day before driving up to see him), my emotions started swirling. I had a single glass of wine that night at my sister’s house.

Then we drove up and went out for drinks with Jay and Jen that night. I had two drinks. At that point, I felt there was no point for the last few days going back on the wagon, and I had a drink or two over the next few days. Then, of course, I hung out with my two bosses, and they plied me with liquor, so I guess that fortunate that I had already stepped off the wagon. In fact, I might be drinking a glass of wine now. However, like gambling, I know I enjoy it, so I feel I monitor myself quite well. I’ve had no adverse effects from drinking, probably because I’m keeping it pretty moderate.


Anyway, the six weeks has come and gone. How do I feel? Well, Ash pointed out that I haven’t been complaining as much of Reynaud’s symptoms (cold hands and feet even if I’m sweating hot) – that’s true, but it also has been 100 the last week. So hard to really point to causation, but that’s at least a bit encouraging.

My skin has been back and forth – my rosacea has come back worse than ever, and I’m not really sure why. I DO know that I’ve been pretty lousy with my medications in general. I started supplements a while ago, and I end up taking them only 1x a day (instead of two) if at all. Not good. I have to get into a habit there.

My stomach has only had the one issue, although I still have frequent urgency with my digestive system. I was hoping some of that would go away.

I’m not so bloody tired, and I do think that’s the caffeine. But man, I miss Mountain Dew’s sweet savory taste.

So I’ve put dairy back into my diet. Originally, I was only supposed to incorporate one thing at a time (butter for a few days, cheese for a few days), but that kinda went out the window. I had potatoes with butter and milk in my first night, but then had MILK with my breakfast the next day (I grabbed the wrong carton and didn’t just want to throw out the bowl of cereal), and I’ve also had a little bit of cheese in one meal. None of that has seemed to have too much of an effect (save a bit of urgency), but I still think I’m going to try to be more methodical. If I eat cheese, I’m not going to have any dairy the next day to see what happens.

Anyway, I plan on staying with the GF. I have no reason not to, other than I really miss regular pasta. But life goes on. I’m learning how to cook other stuff, I’m perfecting the art of sweet potato fries, and I made it through.

I’ll still occasionally post about the diet. If I find any good recipes or if you have any, let’s post ’em.

Oh, and by the way, these chips rule and are GF (and available at Costco) – they’re the new staple in our house.


My Trip East – Part 2 (What Went Wrong)

Note: this is probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Forgive the typos and tense-shifting, I’m not proofreading.

By now, you’ve probably read why I went east. The reason wasn’t fun, but I was looking forward to it. However, Ash was going with me on the flight, and as you know, when Ash flies anywhere, things just go wrong. Not only was this trip not an exception, it might have set the standard for all future shitty trips.

This is as comprehensive a list as I could remember of what went wrong. I’m leaving off minor things like the food we ordered not coming out right (which happened a few times during the trip) or the muggy weather. This is everything else, broken down by day.


We heard the bad news and booked a flight. Landen had less than 24 hours notice, but he handled it like a champion. While not totally packed, we were pretty good that night. Our flight left Friday at 10:40, enough time for me to get an hour or two of work in.


After a little more packing (but not everything), I head to the office to work. Landen comes in a few minutes later saying, “Mommy needs your help.” I go to her and she says “Call 9-1-1.” Duncan had been choking and vomiting and crying for about 20 seconds by this point. I call them and the responders show up almost immediately. This is a little over 3 hours before our flight. By the time they arrived, whatever he’d swallowed made it past and he was okay, though shaken up. Ash had found an envelope with some coins and he had a penny in his hand. We assumed it was a coin, but we weren’t sure.

Because we weren’t sure, they recommended going to the ER to get an X-Ray, make sure it wasn’t a) anything sharp or b) a quarter. Ash says she still needs to pack, but I tell her to take Duncan to the ER and I will get Landen ready and we’ll go. At worst, Landen and I would still make the trip, but Ash and Duncan might not. Turns out they did make it (after security, we were there about 45 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off – our flight was actually late anyway, but we didn’t know that at the time.)

But in my haste to pack, which I wasn’t ready for, I left some stuff at home: Landen’s blankie and stuffed monkey Buddy, Duncan’s birth certificate, and some berries. Most of these would actually be irrelevant, but not all. In the process of packing, my back gave out. It would continue to get worse every day of the trip.

The flights were fine, and the airline didn’t ask for Duncan’s birth certificate at all, so we dodged a bullet there. Actually, somehow (and I’m still not 100% sure of how this happened), Landen managed to flush his underwear down the airplane toilet, and for the rest of the trip, every time he went to the bathroom he was deathly afraid of losing his underwear.


This was a day where we were just going to take it easy. For the most part we did. We even managed to sneak away and see some friends so they could meet the boys. Landen and Nathaniel (Aaron’s son) got along great and played with cars and trains until they were well-past bedtime. It was this night that I broke my diet. I will have more about that in Part 3 of this journey.


Because of the last-minute nature of this trip, we didn’t work out many logistics. Thankfully, Tracy and Jerry were AWESOME and flexible and extremely accommodating. They let us use their car to drive to CT for the wake and burial, for which we were extremely grateful, and they even watched Landen for two days while we did it. The drive up was rather uneventful, though we later heard we just missed a mega accident that forced Aaron and Julia to turn around and not make it. That might have been the one bit of luck that actually found its way to us.

A second thing we didn’t have planned was where we were going to sleep while in CT. Worst came to worst, we’d get a hotel. But Jaymar had given me the # of a buddy of his. I never got ahold of him, but while at the viewing, Jay and Jen hooked us up with this lovely couple (very good family friends of Jen’s) who volunteered to put us – total strangers – up for the night. They even gave us their GPS to find their place. They simply said “punch in HOME and you’re good to go.” Maybe things WERE looking up.

After the very painful viewing, Jay and Jen invited anyone who wanted to to come out for dinner and drinks and just some camaraderie. During dinner Duncan started getting fussy, so we made new plans. Ash would take the car to get Duncan back to Gail and Kevin’s (the very nice couple). I would hang with Jay, have a drink or two, and mooch a ride from somewhere back to their place. Great.

About twenty minutes later, I get a call. Ash says there’s a problem. She’d already been driving 20 minutes and the next direction on the GPS was to follow that road for 25 miles. Knowing something was wrong, she pulled over. Just then, she notices the AC in the car stopped. And the hood started smoking. GET OUT OF THE CAR! She pulled Duncan to safety, but now she had two problems. She was lost despite having a GPS and her car was leaking fluids in a not-at-all-good way. The next twenty minutes are spent in a mad game of Operator. Ash can’t reach Gail. She calls Triple A. Gail’s daughter (who happens to be at the bar – one of Jen’s close friends) is trying to reach Kevin, her dad, who is both a firefighter and a mechanic (convenient!) Finally, we make new plans. Kevin and Gail will take two cars to pick Ash up (she is probably 40 minutes from their house). Gail will drive Ash and Duncan back to their house, Kevin will wait for AAA to tow the car back to a VW dealership in the same town as the burial the next day.

We found out what happened with the GPS too – they have a summer home in Vermont, and they still had that address set at “home”, and Ash who is not from the area, didn’t realize it until too late. Yeah, that actually happened.

Meanwhile, at the bar, I decide to order one more very stiff drink, knock it back quickly, and head out with Gail and Kevin’s two kids and Jen’s sister to get back. I finally do make it back (before Ash) and at last we all arrive at Gail and Kevin’s house. The car was towed to the dealership, we hoped it wouldn’t be bad, and we tried to sleep. Nobody really succeeded, though. Duncan barely slept and Ash hardly slept because the only way Duncan would sleep is if they shared their (single) bed. I had a tough time sleeping because of my back.

MONDAY – After Gail made breakfast (seriously, they went ABOVE AND BEYOND the call of duty for complete strangers) and we finally determined that our car would be looked at that day, we went to the burial. After the burial and before lunch, Kevin took us to the dealership, where they told us they had no news. Ash told them that we’d need to rent a car soon and we needed to know as soon as possible. They said they’d try.

After lunch, at Jay and Jen’s insistence, we headed back to their house for a few hours. This was to buy us time so hopefully we would get news of the car. We DID get a call saying it was a hose or belt, and that it wasn’t too big a deal, but they were going to replace it and run it a while to make sure nothing else had gone. Best case scenario (ha!!) Ash would be on her way with Duncan that night – Landen was getting very antsy without us by then – and she would drop me off at my boss’ place in south CT to stay with him.

They called back to say that the water pump had also gone and that would take a long time. Kevin agreed that that was a definite possibility given what he saw, and there’s NO WAY it would get done (they told us this news at 2). We begged and pleaded and explained our situation, and he said he’d try, but no promises. Ash gave up and just ordered a rental car. She and Duncan left and I was to wait for the car. Either I would be staying with Jay and Jen (which I had wanted to avoid – to give them their space) or I would have a car and would drive down to my boss’ house.

Jay and some friends decide he needs a walk, so we take a 2-3 mile walk at a nearby park. It was nice when we got there. With about 1/2 mile left, the winds pick up and the sky darkens. Suddenly, THROUGH THE WOODS we see a storm moving in. Someone’s phone rings – it’s a relative saying that the area is basically getting hurricane conditions. The skies open up. DOWNPOUR. Hail, lightning directly overhead. We assumed it was Gavin who had just found the weather control console and REALLY liked pushing the red button. Over and over again. We get back to the car drenched but okay. Just before the walk I had gotten confirmation that the maintenance crew busted their ass and the car was ready. Following a change into dry clothes, Jay and I have dinner and he drops me off to get it.

I bid farewell to my friend, pack up, and head to south CT. I meet my boss there and explain what has happened so far. I needed two drinks in me to even get it all out.


My company asked me to come in for one day during the trip to meet some new employees. Also, Ken, the original boss, was celebrating his last day with the company at his upper west side home that night, so it just made sense. But now we had a problem. Ash was supposed to drop off her rental car in NJ, then wouldn’t have a way to get her, Landen, Duncan, two car seats, and a stroller into NYC, and Tracy wouldn’t be able to drive her because it was Knox’ first day of  daycare. I was in the city with Tracy’s now-fixed car, but had no way of getting to Jersey. After many many many phone calls and planning, Ash changes her location to drop-off the car to a Hertz in NYC, not far from Ken’s, and that’s that.

However, at work, I spent an hour fighting with my computer, as it isn’t working properly. The IT team does a fix that works for about twenty minutes. Bear in mind, I hadn’t worked much of the last few days because of Gavin’s funeral, so I’m very far behind and need every minute I can get (particularly because the office was closing early for the party and 4th of July). Another hour passes and I give up and go to another computer. THAT one isn’t working properly either. We end up having a 2 hour conference call, further reducing the time I have to get stuff done. Add to that my cell phone stopped placing calls while in the city. I was not a happy camper.

Finally Ash comes in with the boys a little late and we start to head over in 90+ degree heat. We divert our trip a bit so we can hit the subway (Landen was promised a train ride). He had a great time on the trains, though they were too loud for his liking. The party itself was quite enjoyable, and I think I ate more red meat than I had in the past two years combined. Scrumptious.

By the time we finally made it back to West Milford, it was after 9. I had to lay down immediately because my back (remember that?) was in so much pain that basically utilizing the muscles hurt so so much. I had a glass of wine and went to bed, hoping it would be better in the morning.


Fourth of July. And my back was worse than ever. I took two ibuprofen in the morning just to make it through the morning. After some pictures and last-minute packing, we head out to the airport about 1.5 hours early. When we check in, the guy asks us for Duncan’s birth certificate. We don’t have it. He says he can’t go on the flight. Ash and I don’t quite realize right away that he’s totally serious. He asks again and we tell him we really don’t have it – it’s in Reno. Ash points out that he has no teeth, can’t talk, and can’t stand. The guy replies: “I know old people that don’t have any teeth. I need proof of his date of birth. It’s on our website.” He tells us to have it faxed. By the time someone were to go to our house and get it and fax it over, we would have missed the flight. Ash breaks down while I try to get the hospital on the phone. (The Doctor’s office is closed, mind you, because it’s a holiday).

After two calls and speaking to 4 people, Ash gets this unpleasant woman who won’t help us – it’s against company policy to give out that information. Finally, the Southwest guy asks to speak to her. He runs around in circles for more than five minutes. The hospital wants authorization – we’re right here! We give it! – and then says that won’t work, they aren’t allowed to give that out. Finally, the Southwest guy says “Just say yes or no. Was Duncan born on 10/12/11? And she keeps fighting him, though at one point she says “yes, but I can’t fax you anything.” After more than five minutes of fighting (we’d probably been in line 25 minutes at this point), the guy instructs me to just hang up on her. He is willing to accept that very unofficial acknowledgment of his date of birth. He (fortunately) ushers us to the front of the security line and we make it through with about 15 minutes before our flight boards.

The flights themselves were okay – Duncan wouldn’t sleep unless he was being nursed, so Ash basically fed him for four hours. Landen did great on all the flights, but he’s still a 3-year-old and that’s draining.

At our layover, my back hurt now so much that I laid on the floor to try to fix it. And when I tried to get up, I couldn’t. I tried three times and I literally couldn’t use my back muscles to help me up. Ash brings more ibuprofen and I suck them down. We instruct Granny to meet us at the Reno airport with something stronger. It is probably the most (prolonged) pain I’ve ever been in.

The rest of the trip went without too much hassle and we made it home.

The results? My back is better now. Duncan DID swallow a penny (it came out during the wake), and all our hosts rocked our socks. We  were able to be there for Jay and Jen, a few friends got to meet our kids, I got to have a send-off for the one-time boss who basically enabled me to move across country and marry Ashley… it wasn’t all bad.

But most of it sucked.

Picture Blast, Pt. 1

I’m just gonna throw up a bunch of random “Earth” pictures I’ve taken over the last few weeks (or, in one case, years).  They’re not the usual cute baby pictures, but I think you’ll enjoy them nonetheless.  The first four are from our trip to Michigan last month.  They’re also with the fancy new camera, so I was trying some nifty stuff there.  Click to make them bigger.

Lake Michigan at sunset

This little guy did not like staying still for me

A different sunset on Lake Michigan

Artsy and/or fartsy

The next two photos were from the balloon races today – this is an annual event that’s one of the largest in the world.  And, while I don’t consider myself a patriotic person, I was very happy to have snapped the last photo as I was walking with Landen around the disc golf course today.  That it happened on 9/11 isn’t the reason why, either.  I’m fine with patriotism, as long as it’s not manufactured.

Uhhh, I think you’re in my fairway

More in the next day or two.

My online vow

Inspire by Susan’s online vow of intent, I am making a public vow that I’m not going to have alcohol or soda until the end of May as an experiment (with the only exception being an energy drink on mornings of disc golf tournaments).  Going east, and even trying to eat healthier, I still felt kinda run down a few days, particularly after drinking liquor – even in moderation.  I had had more soda than normal, so that might have been it.

So I want to give it 6 weeks to see if I feel better.  No Dew, no Pibb, no Vodka, no wine.  I don’t think it’s a matter of being able to do it or not.  Let’s see if it helps my body feel better in general.  If it does, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to give up both permanently, but it’s certainly going to make me rethink doing anything silly more than occasionally.

You Can’t Spell Disappointment without the word “ointment”

I went out yesterday with a friend from OkCupid, and we went to this very posh wine bar in Brooklyn that tossed around phrases like “traces of raspberry flavor”, “on the nose” and often the word “palatte.”  In addition to wines (including a delightful Malbec), they also served specialty cocktails for a reasoable price.  One of them included bacon-infused bourbon and syrup.  It’s been said (mostly by me) that bacon makes everything better.  It’s like cheese in that respect.   So I had to give it a try.

And, as I’m sure those astute readers who bothered to read the topic of this blog have already figured out, it wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.  The first sip certainly had that promised smokey taste, and it wasn’t all bad.  By maybe the fifth sip, however, it sorta tasted like somebody had put out their cigar in my drink.  It was too much for me.  Perhaps I was thinking it would be like an appletini with a piece of cooked bacon sticking out like a stirrer.  Which actually sounds like a brilliant idea.  But, as for this drink, I’m not sure what I expected. 

All I know is I was disappointed.  I took a picture of it too.  I’m disappointed because I can’t appear to post it, but also disappointed because, even if I did post it, it would be a very dark cup with a dark liquid in it sitting on a dark counter in a dark bar. 


Cabernet Sauvignon #2

Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon (? Year) – I have been told in the past that I’m not the best wine reviewer in the world.  That’s a lie – people have never told me that because it’s more or less implied by the very nature of this column.  And it’s been well documented that I’ve had some bizarre and embarassing wine faux pases (faux pai?) with wine.  And this wine was no different.

I will go on record as saying Smoking Loon Cab is the strongest wine I have ever tasted.  I am not talking strictly taste here.  It did not, as some “experts” have probably said, leave you with the taste of smoked pine, or of eurethane or some other assinine comparison for a potable treat.  In fact, I am not even referring to the taste of the wine.  I’m pretty much just referring to the bottling.  Heck, I’m talking about the cork.  It has a REALLY strong cork.

cork1cork2That’s right.  It broke my corkscrew.  At first I realized that this was both good and bad.  I mean, it’s good because its cork is highly protective, embottling the ashen pine/eurethane taste for all to enjoy.  It’s bad because I had to use my backup corkscrew, which was, until that moment, not as effective.  I came to realize that there was another plus to this whole incident:

cork32I created an awesome weapon that, if held properly, looks just like you are holding a useless old cork and, if held another way, can slowly bore into a person’s kidneys.

I suppose this wouldn’t be a typical review if I didn’t actual mention the wine itself, even if briefly.  It is certainly not the best cab in the world, but it has one thing going for it: price.  At about $6 a bottle, it gets the job done.  And really, you can’t buy anything else that strong at such a cheap price.  It’s a steal.  6.5/10 (the .5 is for weaponry.)

Chardonnay #1 – Ravenswood (year unknown)

I try never to listen to the advice of ex-girlfriends.  In fact, the last time I tried, her advice was “go jump off a cliff”, and after a few attempts at ‘building up to it’ by hurling myself down a flight of stairs, I just couldn’t do it.  But there are rare occasions that I do listen to them.  My ex (because of whom this silly column even begun) had once told me that anything by the winery Frog’s Leap was excellent, and in a pinch, Ravenswood winery was also a pretty sure bet.  Why I remember that years later I’ll never know.  But when it comes to wine, she knows almost as much as I do.  And what I do know is this:

I do not like Chardonnays.  I’ve made that abundantly clear on this website.  Whereas some wine enthusiasts may say you can taste the “smokey pine” in a wine, to me, Chardonnay normally tastes like sucking on a sapling.  If I wanted smokey pine, I would stop forest fires with my tongue.  So when I went to visit friends and they had bought me a bottle of Chardonnay (“because you like white wines, we thought”), I was tempted to resist, claiming I had stopped drinking (all liquids.)  But I happen to like them as people, and in addition, I noticed it was a Ravenswood wine, so I gave it the old college try, ready to pretend to fall asleep after a few sips if it was that bad.

This is a good wine.  I’m not saying that in a “this is good for a Chardonnay, which means it’s probably good enough to clean dishes with,” but it’s a genuinely good wine.  It doesn’t have the achingly tart sensation that some Chardonnays do, and further it didn’t make me think I was drinking flavored mulch puree like others do.  I don’t know if I typically have a problem with the “dryness” of Chardonnays (as it’s hard to classify anything that’s a liquid as dry), but there is some quality that I do not enjoy that this wine clearly lacked.  In short, perhaps because it tasted less like Chardonnays I’ve had in past, this was a very good wine.

I suppose one can’t discount the fact that, after all this time, I might be becoming acclimated to wine and have ‘expanded my palatte’, so to speak.  Bollocks.  I still don’t like crap that stinks.  But this authoritatively did not stink.  Ravenswood winery does not traditionally make the cheapest wine out there, but if it got me to drink (and even praise) a Chardonnay, they’re doing something right, and I recommend you try it.  Since I’m not sure of the year, I’ll give all Ravenswood Chardonnay’s a 7.5/10 (except 2001.  STAY AWAY FROM THAT YEAR FOR PETE’S SAKE!!!!)

Shiraz #4

Black Opal Shiraz 2007 – Like the last Shiraz I reviewed, this one is exemplary of what wine should be: liquid and alcoholic.  The comparisons do not stop there.  This is a splendid wine in all aspects: taste, smell, and a twist-cap.  Truthfully, I used to be leery about twist caps.  Actually, I still am.  However, after my last debacle with a real cork, I have found that I heartily embrace plastic corks, and will even reluctantly purchase wines with a screw-cap.  It doesn’t make them ‘ghetto’ as I once thought, it makes them ‘able to be imbibed without straining it through a paper towel first.’  That’s a major plus.

Having been on a red binge in 2008, I must say that, if this were my last wine of the year, I’d be happy to have left on such a good note.  From the first glass to the third, it was a joy throughout.  As for the proper matching, it goes exquisitely with microwaved popcorn, and (not surprisingly) it seems to partner well with an empty stomach.  Caution: not recommended for people under 80 lbs to drink on an empty stomach.  Or if you do, send me pictures.

I originally bought this wine because of the fashionable label and color scheme (something which I think may detract from my credibility), but I ended up stumbling on a gem.  It is, like most wines I purchase, a great idea for someone on a tight budget.  8/10.

Pinot Noir #3

Arrow Creek 2006 – I have this tendency when drinking certain reds to have absolutely no idea what they’re supposed to taste like.  From my memory, Pinots tasted more like a merlot or a cab, something that doesn’t bitch-slap the tongue.  So when I first drank this $6 bottle of wine (yes, you read that right, times are tough here in NV), I figured it was sharp because it was, after all, a cheap bottle of wine.  Then I reread some of my past entries of Pinots, and they are a bit beefier than other reds.  On a scale of beef, with 0 being a guy whose idea of working out is playing Madden on Xbox, and 100 being a guy who sleeps on a moving treadmill, this one is around 60.  Not Zinfandel strong, but certainly enough to rattle your cage a bit.  (I don’t compare this to other reds – Zins – to be snobby and pretend like I know everything, it’s actually so I remember for later that Zins can kick your tongue’s patoot.)

Anyway, now that I’ve completely discredited myself as a reviewer, onto the review.  This was surprisingly good.  I daresay, it was one of the best wines I’ve had for under $7.  Truthfully, when you look at the competition, that isn’t saying much.  But I did a little reviewing, and the Arrow Creek Pinot Noir has gotten great reviews across the board, one person even commenting how it’s better than some of the $20 or $30 bottles of Pinot Noir.  I couldn’t agree more.  Well, I probably could – it’s not like I wrote the person to tell them how accurate their statement was.  This is a great wine for the price.  Wine enthusiasts may swirl their wine glass at me snootily, but it’s true.  It’s a darn fine cheap wine.

I ended up drinking it quicker than I had planned (I was planning on having some, not liking it much, writing a sardonic review, and then using the rest in my pasta sauce) but it was that good.  It was certainly the best Pinot I’ve had (out of 3), but hey, I bet there’s at least two or three others out there to compare it to.  Hopefully you can find this one for under $9, and I’d say grab it!  Good alone or with food, but probably not with cereal.  Can’t imagine that would be right.  7.5/10

Red Blend #1

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Ménage à Trois 2006 – Of course I purchased this relatively inexpensive wine as soon as I saw it, and almost specifically with the intent to drink it with two girls and then blog about it. Things don’t always happen like you plan, though, and this never came to fruition. But this wine had more in common with a sexual threesome than would originally have been thought.

Like any good ménage à trois’, the first thing you’ll notice is the strong aroma. It isn’t a flimsy red, that’s for sure. It is more of a burgundy (the color, not the wine) than a rose (again, the color). It continues to be like a ménage à trois by its taste, which is not overly sweet, vaguely bitter, and just feels comfortable in your mouth. Which makes sense – it says it is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet, and that is the order I’d put them in. The strength and stubbornness of a zin, the aloofness of a merlot, and the just-thereness of a cab are all evident.

Because of the fighting of the three ingredients, though, it lacks the smoothness that I prefer an evening red to have. It’s like your tongue is caught in the midst of a war between three very dangerous and fruity nations. What ends up happening is that your tongue surrenders for a while until it just gets used to the feeling and ultimately tries to stave all three off.

And like many of the best ménage à trois’, it ended up on the floor and ultimately created quite the clean-up. Thankfully, there’s a fourth red which makes the perfect compliment to this concoction, and it’s called ‘Resolve’, in a convenient red spray-bottle. Fortunately, losing a quarter of the bottle made me appreciate the rest a little more, perhaps upping the score a half point. 6.5/10.

Shiraz #3

Camelot Shiraz 2003 – I have been red-heavy of late, and for the few white purists out there, I have this to say: I’m a lazy lazy person. Reds require no preparation other than a corkscrew. Whites require such massive preparation as KNOWING WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE IT so you can have it refrigerated. I don’t premeditate my wine-drinking, so you are out of luck.

In rereading some old entries, I see I have been pretty hard on Shiraz’. One would imagine that I would stop buying them. But no, I am loyal to those who come here for my review columns (mainly because I believe you to have some mental illness and I feel bad). Finally, the mantle of bad Shiraz’ has been cast aside. This is a delicious wine. Although the exact circumstances of purchasing this wine are now cloudy, I can pretty safely assume it was because it was cheap. And that should be reason enough, provided you can find this California red.

It has no thorax-strangling punch that puts you off at first, and it just coats your entire mouth as if each grape is trying to french kiss you individually. Each glass fresh out of the bottle is delightful in terms of smell, taste, and color (it is not blue). And I saved some of it for later, and it works well as a refrigerated leftover wine as well. With food or on an empty stomach, this is a must-have for those who like shiraz’, or those who, like me, don’t like them but feel they should.


Chianti #2

Ruffino Chianti 2006 – I don’t know that I can say anything about chiantis that hasn’t been said before.  I don’t know because I’ve done no research on what’s been said before.  I’ll give it a go, though.  This wine didn’t taste like a shuttlecock in any way.  I imagine.  I’ve not liquified a shuttlecock and drank it, so I’m not sure of the taste (I had it injected intravenously).  Chiantis are red wines that tend to not sit on the tongue, but to wiggle its flavorful butt there and grind its flavor into your tongue.  And that’s certainly a good thing.

Ruffino is a good, cheap wine.  At $10 (at a generally expensive corner store), it’s a wine that would go well with any meal that traditionally goes well with read wines, and it would probably go well with many other things (except vodka, the thought of which which makes me shiver.)  Perhaps I’m easy to win over, as my tongue is as discriminating as Dennys (post 1985).  I’d highly recommend it.  7.5/10.

Malbec #6

El Portillo Malbec 2006 – It’s been a while, but like so many things on this website, such as the Dirty Dozen Lists, the Fake Wine Review Column is making a comeback. And we start today with an old standby, the malbec; that fruity Argentinian treat. I’ve reviewed quite a few of these in my day, and this one is no different, except in every area.

Malbecs are hard to come by in the West, I’ve noticed, so when I saw this one for $9, I jumped on it. Truthfully, this is a full-bodied wine. Wait, I shouldn’t say that – the esoderek wine series is no place for political correctness. This is an outright overweight, fat, blubbery wine. That’s not a bad thing. It’s certainly a step up from the only other malbec I’ve had in NV, which was not fit to review in public.

While nothing to write home about, this red is certainly something to blog about, with a nice taste going down, and no ugly aftertaste to cloud it. While there are others out there that are just as good and even better, if you see this one, don’t be afraid to buy it. It’s great for the price.

The final score for this obese wine is a 7/10. 2006 was a good year for many things, and this wine is no exception. Drink up – 2008 seems pretty good too.

Pinot Grigio #7

Werewolf Pinot Grigio 2005 – I’ve heard of Pinots that the good ones are very good, but the bad ones are abysmal. I didn’t bother with that sort of poppycock since even the ‘bad’ pinots I’d had were more appetizing than, say, the best cup of coffee. Well, I’ve found the stinker in the group. Now, I immediately expect to hear, “Well, you dink, it’s a gimmicky bottle of wine. It’s called Werewolf!” I will of course shoot back that one of my all-time favorite wines, Undead Red, is as gimmicky as it gets. In fact, perhaps the biggest problem with Werewolf is that there isn’t fake blood dripping down the cork.

Anyway, for wine purists, I would say ‘don’t drink this wine’. For a newbie who thinks that Pinot Grigio might be palatte-pleasing, I would say, “Don’t say terms like palatte-pleasing because you sound like a pretentious twit.” Werewolf was a weird combination of tart and unsmooth. I don’t use words like ‘smooth’ to describe wine, but if that was my normal vernacular, I would say this particular wine is “sandpaper”. It didn’t even taste like a Pinot, truthfully. It tasted like someone had a third of a bottle of Pinot laying around, and a third of a bottle of an old riesling that wasn’t very sweet, and a third of a bottle of chalk resin, and they mixed it with a rusty hand-held eggbeater.

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever put into my mouth, as I still have coffee and tequila that dubitably take that honor, and it narrowly escaped the title of worst wine because of that one glass of Diner Wine I had, but it wasn’t good at all. Don’t be fooled by the picturesque moon on the label, or the fake ‘wolf’ scratch marks, or even the fact that it’s made in Romania and, therefore, might be ‘exotic’. It’s crap. 1.5/10.

Merlot #1

twin fin Merlot 2003 – This is just bizarre.  Countless wines into my column and I’ve only NOW picked out a Merlot.  It was out of desperation, I assure you – I was headed to a poker game where the only beverage there was this chocolate beer that tasted rather like licking the moss of a damp inactive turtle.  At a small store like I went to, I wasn’t thinking of finding a malbec, and I still will shun the Yellow Tail brand of wine, since I like good flavors.
I paid $9 for this wine at a not-so-cheap liquor joint adjacent to a bar, so I wasn’t expecting much (I imagine this California wine retails for about $6 in a normal wine store).  I was pleasantly surprised, or rather, I was NOT unpleasantly surprised.  I expected very little, and I got a little, which is better than I had thought.

I always considered Merlot’s the Minnesota Twins of the wine community – sure, everyone knows what it is and everyone’s seen it at some point, but does anyone actually LIKE it?  It’s the generic wine.  This was indeed generic, but I have to rate it slightly above a middle grade because, although I could not taste the advertised “dark cherry fruit, mocha, and smoky oak”, I could taste a slightly above average red wine with no punch to the face and no aftermath.  Just a solid wine.  5.5/10

Gewürztraminer #1

Hogue Gewürztraminer 2005 – Before I dip into this flavorful white wine, I will need to make a concession.  I will not be typing out Gewürztraminer again.  In fact, I have been cutting-and-pasting it just so I didn’t need to figure out the shortcut to an umlaut.  Instead, I will call this wine something more palatable on the keyboard: Pauline.  That’s right, I sampled some fine Pauline the other day.

She was not entirely unlike another German favorite, Reisling.  This particular Pauline, however, was imported from…. what the…. from WASHINGTON STATE!?  There’s a bloody umlaut in the name!  How is it from the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington State?  Bollocks!

Anyhow, this is not your typical dry Pinot-type wine.  No, this is definitely a fruity beverage, as if the better portion of an exotic garden had an orgy and you are enjoying the remnants.  Further, the bottle goes on to say that it is a “perfect match for hors d’oeuvres or spicy pan-Asian cuisine.”  I believe I drank it with some popcorn as I watched a baseball game, and I gotta say, pan-Asian or not, it seemed to wash down the popcorn just fine.

The alcoholic effects, like the Reisling, seemed to be non-existent even after a few glasses, despite boasting (warning of?) a 12.7% content.  However, this appears to be as close to a desert wine as any Pauline might be, so it’s probably not the type of liquor you’re going to drink to make the girl you’re dating seem any more attractive.  This might be the one you’ll ply her with if you want her to sleep a little sounder so you can get on with paint-detailing your Star Trek miniatures.

It gets a 6.5/10.  This may seem low, but I’m wary of anything from Germanshington State.

Chianti #1

Piccini Chianti 2005 – Aside from being a fantastic name for an eccentric Italian film producer, this wine, featuring a distracingly bright orange label, conjures up many images.  For me, it basically reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, growing up and getting tiny samples of wine as a treat.  I’m pretty convinced that chianti was my father’s red wine of choice, and at $8.99 a bottle (pre-discount), it would fit right in with my father’s overall “Dutch spending” (I mean that fondly – I haven’t paid more than $14 for a bottle of wine yet.)

Anyway, chianti itself is an interesting red; it’ll slap you in the face like a zinfindel, yet gently caress you afterwards like a merlot afterwards.  Yup, chianti is the overbearing yet apologetic mother (not necessarily yours).  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you like getting slapped around.  Variety is the spice of life.

This particular chianti was middle of the road for me – I didn’t want to throw out the glass, but I wasn’t rushing to get a second.  Therefore, it gets a middle of the road rating.  5/10

Cabernet Sauvignon #1

Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – I have been quoted before as saying I don’t like Cabs, and I, of course, was talking about taxis.  But the same holds true for wine: I’m not a fan of that particular red.  UNTIL…  Red Diamond is easily the best Cabernet I’ve ever had in my life (having only had one other one that I enjoyed at all, and several which were the liquid equivalents of neausea.)  When I bought it, the clerk said: “Oh, that stuff is GOOD!” (they apparently had just had a tasting at the store)  He was right.  It’s good.  I think I normally don’t like Cabs because of the laziness implied by hailing one, and also by the cold detachment with which you are often transported.  The same hold true for the wine – it’s cold and lazy normally – BAD for a red wine.  But this Washington state wine was delicious (who knew ANYTHING interesting came out of Washington state?)  It was sweet, but not the point of facial recall, which does happen with certain Cabs.

At $13 (pre-discount), it is certainly affordable and definitely recommended for someone who wants to try a Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time, or for true Cab lovers who haven’t picked it up yet.  I bet it has a rating somewhere in a real wine book.  I’ll assume it matches my rating: 7.5/10.

Zinfandel #1

Gnarly Heady Old Vine Zin 2005 – Yes, I bought this wine solely for the name, Gnarly Head, named for the gnarly heads of the vines and not, I would assume, because it’s just a great name for anything.  Zinfandels are wine that I like to say punches you in the taste buds.”  This one was no exception.  It’s got a full flavor, which is much better (in wine terms) than containing partial flavor.  I had this without food, and in fact, it was while playing Wii Bowling, so that may have increased the potential taste value (it is well documented that drinking wine while doing something active does alter taste.)  I can’t compare this to many other zins, as I’ve only had one since starting this column.  This was one was better, though I’d be at a loss to explain how.  It’s quite a drinkable wine if you like something with more flavor and less down-ability.  Definitely a wine you could have one glass of and call it a night.

At $13 (or $9 with my discount) it certainly is worth it, without being spectacular.  It passes with a 6/10.