Monthly Archives: January 2014

Middle Sister Wild One Malbec (3 out of 5)



This was a nice little surprise. I found it at Target- D and I had looked at it thousands of times but something about the word sister in the title killed it for me. (not sure why, maybe family doesn’t belong in wine, rather the wine belongs in the family?). Sunday night while prepping for Chi-Chill 2014 Part 2, I spotted it again. It was also on sale, which usually seals the deal. I liked the jauntiness in the label character’s walk, plus she looked hellbent on ignoring the siblings and getting smashed. That sold it for me a second time. Bear in mind, I headed over to Target because Aldi would not sell me a pink moscato at 11:58am. The cashier also would not let me wait a minute and half to ring it up. Rules are rules, but she was snarky, and she denied me the wine, so she can go saw a log in the forest with that Bigfoot they found.

Anyhow, this little wine is a 13.5alcohol content, so be careful guzzling freely. The mood I was in, the more potent, the better, so I got, what I believe, is a newer bottle. I love Malbec anyway, but once in a while, I really yearn for the spicier red wines, so this was perfect in every sense. Except it didn’t completely win me over. The fragrance when uncorked was a bit strong, but nowhere near as strong as the wine once I let it breathe for a hour and then aerated it. Holy hell, that sucker is strong. I had one glass, I felt a whirling dervish of heat envelop my entire being, and I felt really lightheaded- in my world these days, that means it messed me up a bit. That’s good, that means I don’t have to drink another glass. I stopped at one. Last night, after the day of all eternal annoyance and subarctic wind chills, I had another glass. Holy crap! It was more potent after being chilled a day Potency- 9+ kids Beware the alcohol content.

Taste itself? Pretty nice. I have had better Malbecs, but this one is a nice surprise. There is a lot of blackberry flavor in this wine, and since I love blackberries, there was love at first taste. It’s heavy on the spice, there are a lot of black pepper notes throughout. I keep thinking there are other fruit flavors in there, but the blackberry overload kind of kills the overall flavor of the wine. There may be some plum in there, but it is so hard to tell here. It’s like peppered blackberry wine, which is alright, but when I hear Malbec, I expect a few different fruits in there, and that’s not the case here. It’s very blackberry. If you had a crow in the neighborhood, you would be all set. I took some points off for lack of variety in the varietal.

Tannins are even balanced, not much going here. It’s a nice finish, but doesn’t linger very long. That makes me happy and sad at the same time. When you’re eating gluten-free pasta to make your calorie intake for the day, this is the perfect wine to drink with it. However, the blackberry jungle took something away from the pasta. I think this wine would pair better with any kind of BBQ meat. I can’t wait to try it again soon. If you wanted a spicy wine for BBQ, this is a good one to start with. It usually retails for $11.99 and Target had it for $7.99, so it was a steal. And I did enjoye it, just hoped for a little more variety to swish around ye palette.


Pop Crush (4 out of 5)



Why is it so hard to find a good image for this wine? It’s deserving of more than this little Jpeg image. I found this when Holly and I were at Target bra shopping (I know, details). I was a little stunned that the 49ers were not winning the game this past Sunday, so I decided to pick up a bottle of wine. This one not only got my attention because of the bright weirdly colored, psychedelically attempted label, but because it had a blurb on the shelf saying it was Tyler Florence approved. Any wine that passes muster with a chef usually has some chops to it. That was indeed the case with Pop Crush.

When I uncorked it, wow, what a fragrance it had. It was full-on heady delight. After it was exposed to air for a hour and half, the smell had significantly declined, meaning just that it wasn’t full-court press, but rather, a nice floral aroma. When I finally had a glass, wow. I had to stop and have another sip. It is delicious. It is incredibly tasty, with a bouquet of cherries, raspberries, and a little bit of caramel. Caramel. First time I’ve run into that in a wine, and I hope I run into it again sometime soon. The taste did not diminish, in fact, it got more delicious as I drank the glass.

The only downside to this wine is that I had to cork it and not drink the whole bottle. Four days later, I had a glass. Whoa. Whole different wine after it was re-corked. It lost a lot of the oomph that I experienced having that unforgettable glass on Sunday night. I’ve had many great wines that maintained their tastes after being corked and drank several days later; this was not the case here. In fact, it seemed to have bottomed out. Those fruits that were pleasantly popping days ago suddenly turned into a dull, flat attempt at a rose’ or a Lambrusco. I would have likened it to a stronger Lambrusco (hello, 13.9% alcohol content on this baby), but it lost it after sitting there in its natural element for several days. All of the reviews I had read were complaining of the same thing, so not quite sure how to advise one, except it’s delicious if you drink it all the first night. That’s not something I really want to advocate, but going from delicious to deadsy days later, is also disappointing for a wine lover, so I’ll leave that decision on your doorsteps.

This retails for $10.99 normally, but it was on sale at Target (is, actually, until Feb 1) for $7.99. Your label instructs you to pair it with meats and pork. I would say BBQ anything, or in my case, grilled chicken breast worked well with it. I had some dark chocolate too, and that really went well with the wine- before. If I had dark chocolate with the wine- after a few days of rest- it likely would not have garned the same praise. I was disappointed that it didn’t retain that fruity, delicious flavor it had the first night it was opened, but there are more wines to be tried and savored. Overall, I give this 4 stars because it was really a pleasant surprise, I just wish it had stayed around past the first act.

Wine Cube Vintner’s Red (4 out of 5)




This is another Target exclusive. I continue on my path to not drinking much at all, and if I do, I buy the small individual bottles of wine. One small box of Le Wine Cube yields 3 glasses. Perfect for someone who has one and is rewriting the Old Testament with pizza metaphors (me, for the record). The smallest wine cube available at Target is this size, and it retails for $4.99. The last time I checked out the Wine Cube brand, it was the disappointing Pinot Noir. I fared much better with this blend.

The Vintner’s Red Blend got my attention because it’s a blend. You know from perusing this blog that I like blends- a lot. If I’m not drinking straight up strong mamma jamma (chianti, I shall marry thee), then a blend of several different varietals is usually my gig. I was afraid this was a sweeter red, until I read the box. It’s got some sweet to it, due to the presence of zinfandel, but the merlot and cabernet sauvignon joining in overpowers the sweet. Not too much, though- there is a light tang to this wine. It is a refreshing switch from the dastardly disappointing Pinot Noir. 

The blend is zin, merlot, and cabernet. As I said, a light tang, because the zinfandel cancels out whatever acidity that the merlot and cabernet combo might have. It also gives it a sweet bouquet. There’s not a lot of nose crunching with this one, more like, you can let the glass sit by your computer as you type up, well, a review for a blog, and inhale it and it’s a pleasant experience. The taste? A lot of fruity goodness- cherry, berry, plum, and some spice with candied vanilla overtones. Sort of a bear claw with tons of marmalade on top. That’s what it reminds me of. Again, no stink, the tannins stay with you but not too long, just enough for you to savor the essence and the flavors of the blend, and then it’s gone. There is no lingering bitterness, and that’s a pleasant change, especially for a box wine. 

I paired this with quite the unlikely feast- with lemon pepper tuna, gluten free mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes. And it worked! It should not have worked, this is the crystalline wine that would really be set off like the 4th of July if paired with BBQ anything (sexy, sexy brisket, I’m calling you!) or a killer meatloaf (the dish with some spice, not the singer of “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” with an agenda). It did alright with dinner, but the true splendor and clash of the flavors really came to flamenco when I drank some of this wine with the Dark Chocolate Fudge Filled Truffles I got earlier. THAT was the best thing to set off how delicious this wine is.

Next time, make mine the big old Wine Cube! This is a stellar blend. If you want more flavor than flair, this is your blend. 

Gallo Family Vineyards Merlot (1 out of 5)



Well, after my last glowing post about the wonderful Cooper’s Hawk wine that I received for Christmas, I had to fall down into the wine ghetto again. Last Thursday while shopping with Nancy, she spotted these cute little bottles of wine- and of course, they were on sale (they usually are at Walgreen’s, for anyone interested). So she got the Moscato, and of course, I got the Merlot. I used to hear these things said that if something is on sale for quite a while, there’s a reason. And I figured out what it was. The wine was not impressive, and I would have been firing off a complaint letter to the Gallo Vineyards if more than one buck was paid for this lot.

I have had Gallo wine before; I don’t remember that being a particularly memorable or horrifying experience, either way. It didn’t stay with me. Not the case this time. I opened the cap (bottle cap wine, another blog post, children) and took a whiff. It was not a particularly pleasant smell, nor did it smell like formaldehyde. It smelled like merlot, but musty merlot. The type that I used to buy back at Kay’s Food & Liquor, in the Willow, where I was wiping the dust off the bottle and wondering how many years Dave the proprietor had it there (but not caring b/c all I wanted to do was drink). Now that I don’t drink like a bar patron who watches old episodes of General Hospital, I have gained more appreciation for wine and what good and bad are, in terms of bouquet, tasting notes, tannins, etc. I care now. So much that I’m pretty certain Gallo Merlot will never grace the wine table in my casa again.

As I said, the fragrance was older merlot, the type you can imagine JR Ewing may have chugged back at Southfork in the 80’s. I left it to sit out for a bit, thinking exposure to air may make it less of a virulent odor. Instead, it got worse. After a hour, it smelled like formaldehyde. I pinched my nostrils together and took a drink. Uneventful. I waited a while, had my gluten free pasta with turkey meatballs, and didn’t pinch my nostrils this time, and then I could fully taste what I was drinking..You get your black cherry, plum, and oaky taste, as is the norm with most merlots, but it is smoky. I am not quite enough of a saveur to discern whether that is normal, but I don’t recall that being a typical merlot characteristic in most of the ones I have tried. I was not impressed with the flavor, nostril pinching or not.

As much as I didn’t dig the taste, I REALLY lost what indifference I had when the flavor lingered. Most wines have flavor that will linger, as most people who wear sandals to the beach will retain some sand between their toes if they don’t wash their feet completely. I don’t know how long Gallo Merlot is supposed to linger, but I doubt it’s supposed to still be lingering 3 HOURS after you finish. I know they want to leave their mark on the wine drinkers of the world, but it was ridiculous. I swished with blackberry iced tea. I swished with cold water. I swished with lemon ginger tea. I swished with ginger ale. Nothing! I could still taste the merlot, and believe me, after 3 hours, it did not taste chocolate cake glorious. It tasted “gross, I ate a helium balloon for no reason”. I am not kidding. Only after I brushed my teeth twice and swished with mouthwash, did I not taste the merlot. If it were a wine I loved, I likely would have complained, but I did not remotely bond with this wine, so still having it around after the fact, was annoying.

I would advise you to avoid if you can. I think I have had the Gallo cab, and it wasn’t that bad- nor did it linger like a foot full of wet sand. There are cheaper merlots out there, I would advise you not to drink this. If you’re going Gallo, the cabernet sauvignon is a preferable choice.

Cooper’s Hawk Tempranillo Sangiovese (5 out of 5)




A little explanation for those who may or may not have Coopers Hawk wineries/restaurants in their state. I think it may be locally based in Illinois and a select few other states. For that, I am sorry, for they are a truly great winery. I love their wines and their food rocks. I usually can’t afford to buy myself bottles of their wines, but once in a while, my wonderful friends gift me with great wine. My friend Nicole got me this bottle for Christmas. Oh, do I love it. I work near a Cooper’s Hawk and have had the pleasure of going there a number of times. Usually with my friend who got me the wine reviewed here, or when my friends are in from out of town; this is the first restaurant stop. They have never left my out-of-town guests with anything but a favorable impression. 

Before I go into the review, let me tell you my favorite Cooper’s Hawk reds: their Holiday Red(I thought that’s what it was called; it’s been awhile), Petite Syrah, The Coopers Hawk Red blend, Malbec, and the Lux Pinot Noir. I honestly could drink any of their reds and love them, but that’s the top 5. The Tempranillo/Sangiovese is in a class all its own. Two of my favorites normally- in a blend? Oh yes, I was stoked. 

After letting it breathe for a hour and half, you get quite the fragrance. The bouquet is strong, yet pleasant. I picked up some hints of black currant, plum, cherry, and something else, maybe chocolate? Hue is a dark shade of violet, which could be explained if there indeed hints of black currant and plum present (I’m pretty sure on that). The taste is divine- I can definitely taste cherry, spice, chocolate, and blackberries. Not sure what spice it may be, but whatever it is, it’s damn delicious. I paired the wine with pasta first; the next couple of days, I had black bean burgers with it, and potato skins the next night. Before you scoff at those choices, realize I am a goofy gourmand. I mix wine with weird foods all the time. This was no exception. It went rather well with the black bean burgers (perhaps because I dumped salsa on the black bean burgers, that gave it some interesting food mixtures on the palate). It did not go so well with the potato skins, although I had doused those in marinara (hey, points for trying!). I do not think this robust, righteous blend would work well with lighter fare (chicken, seafood, lamb). It would definitely rock the house with steak, pork, and burgers. 

To finish, if you have a Cooper’s Hawk near you, check them out. They are fantastic. 


Rosso Grande Alberone Red Wine (4 out of 5)




This was a nice surprise. I had to get wine for the holidays for dinner guests (my sister brought the old Reliable, Barefoot Merlot, but I wanted something different). This retailed for $8.99 and was purchased at Whole Foods with the help of Jen, my friend who hardly ever drinks. I think she’s going to have to buy wine with me more often if I find winners like this. In typical fashion, we were looking at all the wines and discussing Sting and why he’s still around (why he hasn’t opened a tantric yoga studio on the Nile or something..). I told her that I was trying to think of a Police song that didn’t drive me fucking nuts when I hear it and her answer was (no surprise here) “Roxanne.” I cringed and told her she ruined that song for me for life (truth) and she said “Message in A Bottle.” At the same time I was ready to protest that choice, we both spotted the bottle and said “This is a bottle that would have a message in it.” It was as if Mr Yoga Penis himself was there and approved our choice of this wine, so we got it. It was definitely a win. I have also spotted this wine at Walmart and Aldi in the past week, so thinking it may be a new hit. It certainly was a hit with myself and my guests. 

There is a very strong fragrance from this wine when opened and aerated (for a hour). After one hour, it still had a strong fragrance going to it. The color is darkest magenta and the taste is ripe, rich cherry, blackberries, and raisin. I haven’t tasted raisin in wine in a long time, but the combination here really worked to the positive column. I paired it with turkey, and it didn’t shine. However, I made a pot of gluten-free pasta on NYE and had a glass, and then, oh boy, you really could taste the true colors of the wine. It has a wonderful rich taste to it, very full bodied, but not at all a vinegarish aftertaste at all. There is a hint of an aftertaste, but overall, holy crap, it’s a delicious wine, even after you’ve had it exposed to air for awhile. I had some tonight with some dark chocolate mints, and I thought I died and had an orgasm. Truly fabulous. 

Grande Alberone carries a 14.5 alcohol content, and holy crap, do you feel it quick. I had a good amount of food in my gullet before I drank this wine twice, and it still packs quite a wallop. A tasty, satisfying wallop. I can’t say too much how much i enjoyed this wine, and I encourage you to find a bottle and give it a shot. It is truly divine.