2008 Zolo Malbec – Gaucho Select – Selected!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on 2008 Zolo Malbec – Gaucho Select – Selected!

One of the funny things about Google is how it sends traffic around the web. In the last couple of weeks I suddenly received a lot of traffic for the keywords “zolo malbec” “zolo gaucho select” etc. Except I'd never heard of the wine, tried the wine, and certainly never written about the wine. Except, and you may have noticed, we include a feed from Wineass.com over there on the right side of this blog (we think their reviews are hilarious and helpful)… and THEY reviewed a Zolo wine (the Merlot). So, that at least explained why Google was sending people to this blog (a little) for that search term. It didn't really explain the explosion of traffic interested in those wines, though.

Yummy goodness

Yummy goodness

I did a little research and discovered the wines are included in BevMo!'s famous 5-cent wine sale! (For those of you who don't know about it, they take a large selection of their wines and put them on sale for Buy-one-get-one-for-a-nickel. I don't live near a BevMo! (in terms of time travelled to get to it) so I rarely go. But with all the interest in this wine, I figured I'd check it out.

Yesterday, around 2:30pm, Mitch and I wandered into the BevMo! in Valencia (we were up visiting friends near there), and picked up a couple bottles of the 2008 Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec, a couple bottles of Dry Creek Chardonnay (a long-time favorite of mine), and a couple bottles of Shiloh Road Shiraz. We headed over to our friends' house and promptly opened the Zolo Malbec with the caveat that it was an experiment…

WE ALL LOVED IT! What a wonderfully present surprise! It's young but it had a smooth mouthfeel, medium body, lovely plum and blueberry flavors, and a nice medium finish. It, to me, tastes like a Malbec, particularly a Malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina (which is good, because that's where it's from).

We had a little time to kill between dinner and the fireworks so we ran back over to BevMo! and bought six more bottles… and the friends bought some, too.

Right now, you can get it at BevMo! for $15.99 for the first bottle and $0.05 for the second (around $8 a bottle) which makes it an unbelievably great wine for under $10.

When it's no longer on sale at BevMo! (or they run out), we recommend purchasing it from DrinkUpForLess.com ($13.99 for the 2007) or Wine.comWine.com (they carried older vintages so maybe they'll get it back in stock).


I was in a restaurant last night and I almost ordered a bottle of this wine for our table. Or to be more specific, not THIS wine, but one called Zolo Malbec (not the Gaucho Select). They were kind enough to bring me a taste before they cracked the bottle since the waitress could see I was concerned about it not being the Gaucho Select and sure enough, this Zolo Malbec was not as good as the Gaucho Select! It was grapey and overly cherry, not well-balanced like the Zolo Malbec Gauch Select. New lesson, read the labels carefully, sometimes there are multiple versions of a wine and not all of them are created equally!

The Weekly (almost) Wine Tasting @ Literati

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on The Weekly (almost) Wine Tasting @ Literati

Gordon and I live near each other, and there's a cafe at the intersection of the busy streets where he goes home in one direction and I go home in the other. And they have lovely food and a nice wine list at very reasonable prices. So, guess where we have our semi-weekly meetings? It's called Literati2 (a spin-off of the very successful Literati Cafe next door).

Literat2's history is lackluster. When they first opened a few years ago the food tasted like the cafe food next door but at 3 times the price. This is a restaurant with very bad parking, so they need to be providing great food and great value if they want to sustain themselves. I think they figured this out about a year ago and did a huge remodel and reworked their entire menu, too. The only thing they seem to have forgotten is to promote this massive transition in the neighborhood (where people can walk to the restaurant and skip the parking hassle) since we all thought it was that stuffy old over-priced joint it used to be. At any rate, the food is yummy and VERY reasonably priced… as are the wines! They pick great wines for the list (which they offer by the glass and carafe) and it gets refreshed every so often.

Since we're meeting to talk about our wine blog, we incorporate a wine tasting into each meeting, and I've been remisce in uploading the results of the tastings… so here goes! (What's very interesting to me is how different my palate is from Gordon's. We always try the same wines and rarely have the same flavor profiles jump out at us.)

  1. 2007 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay
    Jess: Tingly, oaky on the nose. Very oaky in the mouth with a hint of fruit/citrus (specifically apple and grapefruit). This is a “safe wine” for me. I know I can order it, any vintage, and get a decent but oaky chardonnay.
    Gordon: Acidic nose. Dry start, sweet finish. Nice finish, long.
  2. 2006 Bex Riesling
    Jess: Light nose, appley and sweet but not too sweet. I would consider buying this, and I'm not a fan of sweet wines.
    Gordon: Tangy, honey, fruit on the nose. Viscous, sweet silky mouthfeel. Apricot. Gordon said he would buy this.
  3. 2006 Trefethen Chardonnay
    Jess: Woody and the smell of shrimp on the nose (I sometimes smell “ocean” in my wines). Balanced, fresh, medium-length finish.
    Gordon: Acidic, bright on the nose. Dry at first, has a sweet finish with licorice and lemon.
  4. 2007 Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
    Jess: Green fruit on the nose and tangy grapefruit in the mouth. A mild Sauvignon Blanc which makes me like it more than an average Sauvignon Blanc.
    Gordon: Light nose. Lingering bitter and citrus finish.
  5. 2007 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
    Jess: I have a love-hate relationship with this wine. It was one of my favorites in my early wine-drinking days but seems to have gone downhill in quality/taste as its product volumes have risen. Good for their business in general, but not great for me. I ordered a glass for tasting anyway… Pineapple and apple on the nose. Light and bright taste, open at the front of the palate, sweet in the mid-palate, and a rounded but acidic finish (which is where my love affair ends).
    Gordon: I seem to have lost Gordon's notes from here out… hazard of drinking too much wine! Oh darn!
  6. D'Arenberg Grenache (a red!)
    Jess: Smells like a cabernet. Red fruit (is there such a thing?) and earthy. A little mushroomy at the back of the mouth and a bit gritty. I thought it was okay, but better with food.
  7. 2007 Brander Sauvignon Blanc
    Jess: I REALLY liked this wine. I'm going to hunt it down at the grocery store on my next wine-buying trip. Very bright, apple on the nose with a little bit of lemon. Smooth mouthfeel and I tasted watermelon in the well-balanced finish. There was a hint of zest or rind at the back of my mouth, but that went away when the Tiger Shrimp, Pesto, and Sun-dried tomato pizza arrived. And then I ordered a second glass!
  8. 2006 Bridlewood Viogner
    Jess: I'm a fan of Bridlewood wines, despite the fact that they're owned by Gallo. It's good wine at a good price. I've been drinking their Syrahs for a few years, I like their Syrah Port (which isn't truly a Port), and now, I like their Viognier. I smelled lavendar and oak on the nose. The wine was vanilla and spice with a touch of oak. It had a gentle love-bite and a smooth finish. Yum. I'll be looking for this at the grocery store, too.

I'll keep updating this post as time goes by. Maybe next time we'll get to some more reds!

Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – From Costco… Really!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

So, I recently wrote about my last trip to Costco, which accidentally ended up including buying more wine. No, no one is shocked by this. My impulse purchases are no longer clothing, shoes, and jewelry–they're now wine, gourmet food stuffs, and more wine. I restocked on the Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (because the label says it's from Alexander Valley) and I didn't recall NOT liking it. Couldn't really remember specifically liking it or anything, but cheap wine I don't dislike is grounds for a closer inspection.

And inspect I did! I read the back of the label this time, seeing as when I opened the bottle and smelled the cork it was lovely. Just what I like in

my Cabernet's… a hint of red fruit, some blueberries, and something I can only describe as purple. Maybe someday I'll have the flavor word for purple, but for now, purple will have to do. It's good I inspected the label because it SAYS Cabernet Sauvignon on the front, but when I turn her around, I find it out she's all slutty (in a good way of course). From the back of the label,

“Alexander Valley's gravel and  loam soils create dense, dark blackberry fruit with a sweet hint of wild cherries. 20 months in American oak barrels add toasted spice layers, vanilla, and cinnamon. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Petite Sirah and Merlot create a complex mid-palate of black cherry and currant. The long finish shows depth and concentration with lifting acidity. Drink now through 2012.”

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Yeah, what they said. Exactly. But can you believe how many different grapes are in there? It's like that six-hour spaghetti & meat-sauce I made last weekend that had really complicated flavor profiles in the sauce because of the six million ingredients (six-hours is not an exaggeration… six million may be a little).

Moral of the story: PromisQuous Red could have been MUCH better if it were more about winemaking and less about marketing… and I have to go buy more of the 2006 Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco!


The Costco Cabernet Saga Continues

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

One of the best ways to get value in wine is to buy it on sale. Even more value happens when a big retailer buys so much of it they got it at a great price, which they pass onto you, and then they add coupons to it! For this reason, I pay special attention to Costco Wine Coupon Sale time… which, coincidentally happened last week.

This time, I restocked on the Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, the Kirkland brand Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, and the J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. I also tried an experiment from the sale wines because the price seemed right for experimenting… $10.49 with coupon. It was the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

I ate it with a spaghetti & meat sauce recipe that I spent all day cooking (six hours, to be precise) figuring it would pair nicely with a hearty meaty dish. It left me flat. It wasn't bad, but it was tannic and very very dry… too dry… and I usually prefer very dry wines. Then again, so was the food. Well, not tannic, but dry. I'll blame the chef for that.

2005 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvingon

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on 2005 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvingon

Being a girl who likes her Cabernet from Alexander Valley (which is Sonoma), I'm always wondering what all the fuss is about Napa Cabs. I think people just like saying “Napa Cabs.” Reminds me of Napa Cabbage…

At any rate, to celebrate our anniversary Mitch and I planned a night of yummy pork at a local restaurant, Jiraffe, in Santa Monica. Since we knew what we'd be eating ahead of time, I did some wine research to find out what to drink with dinner.

I picked out a Pinot Noir off their list, and then some others as well. I've been to too many restaurants where the wine list on the website isn't the same as the one in the restaurant. I used my standard method of picking regions and vintages for backup, and we settled on the 2005 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was fantastic! Beautiful color, fruity nose, dry (14.5% alcohol) and smooth, nice long finish… I couldn't have picked better if I'd tried. Oh wait, I did.

I found this great wine under $25 at K&L Wines. If you live near one (San Francisco Bay Area – Peninsula, or Hollywood), I'd recommend grabbing a bottle or two.

Wines we don’t think you should buy

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 4 Comments

It's unfortunate, but every now and again we come across a wine that's just not worth drinking. In recent memory there have been very few. Here are the ones that make the list (and why):

  • 2006 BV Coastal Estates Pinot Noir
    Even at $5 a bottle (it was on sale and we had a coupon) it was undrinkable. Don't waste your money on this one, whatever you do.
  • PromisQuous Red
    Sigh… I had so much hope for this one. It's regular retail price was $16.99, it had snazzy marketing and an expensively-printed label. Honestly, it's only a little better than the BV Pinot. I'll finish the bottle, though Mitch has said “no thanks, it's all yours.” It's a little too sweet for me and has nothing to offer my mouth but sweet. It almost tastes like they hoped all the different reds would cover each other up.
  • 2005 Keltie Brook Merlot
    Yet another example of why when prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. I'm not generally a Merlot fan, but I thought I'd give this a whirl. Tasted too much like grape juice for me. It was almost without body, and it left a slightly dry and  ticky sensation in my mouth after it was gone.
  • NEWEST BUZZ KILL: 2007 Shiloh Road Syrah
    I tweeted about this one, and I suppose if you like this sort of thing than maybe you shouldn't listen to me on this one. I found this Syrah to 1) not taste like a Syrah 2) taste like a cherry bomb 3) have a grapey aftertaste 4) be overly acidic 5) lack depth. It's available at BevMo and I feel like Wilfred Wong let me down here with his 90pt rating.

We'll keep adding to this post over time, and refer to it in future posts, too.

Have some real stinkers on your mind? Add a comment below… and warn others! Life's too short for bad wine!

Great wine under $20 – Cabernet Sauvignon

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2005 Chateau Souverain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Last night we ate a nice little fish restaurant on the Malibu Pier (the Beachcomber). We ordered the 2005 Chateau Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon which I had had before and remember enjoying quite a bit. Mitch, who usually doesn't love a cabernet really enjoyed this and said, “We should keep

Vina Santurnia (Rioja, Spain): A lesson in vintages

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
2005 Vina Santurnia

2005 Vina Santurnia

One of our favorite stores for buying wine is The Wine House on Cotner in West Los Angeles. We like it because the prices and selection are great, the staff is knowledgable, it's close to home (which in LA is a bigger deal than it ought to be), and we can always order more of whatever we fall in love with.

The first time that happened, we fell in love with the 2004 Vina Santurnia, a delicious wine from Rioja. At $10.99 a bottle, we didn't even hesitate to order a case. Mitch is a big Pinot Noir fan, I'm a big Cabernet Sauvignon fan, and this wine satisfied both of us. We both like that it's smooth and has a nice mouthfeel, a barely-berry flavor in a medium-bodied, dry red wine. We ordered a case of course, after we cleaned out the remaining five bottles they had in stock. Except we still haven't invested in proper wine storage and the last few bottles started to get a little… negative… before we finished the case.

Nonetheless, we happily drank the remainder and went back to The Wine House to purchase some more. Except now they were onto the 2005 vintage. I'd been doing research and learning that a 2004 Whatchyacallit isn't going to be the same as a 2005 Whatchyacallit unless we're talking about Champagne. So we sent up a test balloon and only bought a few bottles of the 2005. Good thing! We didn't love it as much as we loved the 2004.

Until today that is! I have this not-so-secret love affair with Garlic Triscuit (pronounced tris-kwee in our household). I also love Garlic Jack cheese. Well, in fact, I like nearly all foods with garlic in them, including raw garlic which grosses everyone out and is neither here nor there. Anyway, I had a lovely snack of Garlic Jack on Garlic Triscuit this afternoon, and opened a bottle of the 2005 Vina Santurnia to enjoy with it. And enjoy I did! The pairing of food and wine seems like an academic pursuit to me, until the magic happens like it did today.

On the label
Rioja – Type of wine named after the region of La Rioja in Spain
Denominacion de Origen Calificada – Spain's way of telling you this wine comes from a top-quality wine region
Vina Santurnia – The winery
Crianza – This means it spent one year in an oak barrel
Varietal – 100% Tempranillo