Malbec Might Be Better Than Men

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 11 Comments


Remember those drunken high school Spring Breaks? You know, the kind with vast bodies of water, cruising some sort of strip, 12 kids packed into a quasi-clean motel room and rampant instances of unsafe behavior – both before and after the consumption of bathtub gin and fruity wine coolers? One thing I always link with those shame-filled memories are the ultra klassy t-shirts hanging in beach shop windows and draped across the torsos of swaying, boozy teenagers. Especially the ones displaying an artfully drawn mug of frosty ale, and 30 or so tasteful and respectful reasons why “Beer Is Better Than Women.”

I got nuthin

I got nuthin

I took this IROQ Z joyride down memory lane last night while working over some recent guy issues. I mean, if there exists such profound wisdom as “Beer has no mother and can be mature within a year” (#9),  “You can shoot a beer” (#15) and “A beer is always wet” (# 20) than surely women can find our own answer to those tacky t-shirts, and list plenty of reasons why [blank] is better than men, right?

While I mulled this over, I poured myself a glass of 2008 HJ Fabre Malbec. We’ll call it “research.”

I had opened this Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina the night before. Decked out with a really hot label, I looked the bottle up and down – and even turned it around to see if it was packing anything interesting on the backside. “Five generations of winemaking in Bordeaux and today in Argentina.” Worldly and experienced. Nice. The label claims that this wine “shows a remarkable balance between fine, elegant fruit and silky tannins.” Ooh, sophistication and a nice body. Things are getting interesting…Alcohol 14.5% by volume. Hello, Big Boy! Momma is gonna have a good time to-night! And then I read this:

“We recommend you decant an hour before serving to allow the wine’s full qualities to unfold.”

– Herve J Fabre

Wait. I’m ready to go but have to hang on for an hour before the wine’s magic is ready to start working?

Come again?

OK, fine. It’s no big deal. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re working with 100 year old vines. I can roll with it. I’ll be patient.

HJ Fabre Malbec - treats you right

HJ Fabre Malbec – treats you right

14 years after meeting my ex, I have to admit that I cannot begin to fathom how the modern dating world works. According to the bits and pieces I’ve picked up here and there from my friends, women are supposed to act interested – but not too interested. Always be busy. Dismissive. A little cold – but flirty! Be endlessly optimistic. Messages and phone calls should not be returned until sufficient time has passed that the guy becomes convinced that the girl is being flown on private jet to London by hotter paramour. It’s enough to drive a person to drink…

The Malbec, on the other hand, wouldn’t judge me for weakened resolve to interact. When I tried it – poured through an aerator – after 20 minutes, it was a luscious dark purple in the glass, with a rim of electric lavender. A nose of warm bread, blackberry and spice. My haste was chastened by a sharp, unbalanced experience. Strong tannin, but ultimately a long, forgiving finish. Exhibit A: Malbec isn’t going to freak out on me for not playing games.

When I was 21, life was a lot simpler. Things like “emotional availability” weren’t really issues – because at 21, no one was available. We were all selfish and stupid and unwilling to compromise. Imagine my surprise when – 14 years later – I find the dating scene to look exactly the same! I’ve grown up, but the world seems to be stuck where it was when last I was single. At least one half of it, anyway… Many people say that this is a particular problem with dating in El Lay: That the land obsessed with eternal youth does not make for mature adults. It’s all about “no strings,” “no drama,” “easy,” “casual,” “cool” – forgetting that there is actually something comforting about being able to put aside the false street facades to find authenticity and security with another person – even if that security equates to expecting someone to be there in the morning.

Peaceful, easy feelin'

Me and Malbec: Peaceful, easy feelin'

But my Malbec wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, as we sat together, it just got better and better. After 45 minutes, it presented rich anise flavors, more pronounced blackberry, and a soft, velvety mouthfeel. I never would’ve gotten something that good if I’d only given it a cursory taste and formed an immediate impression. I was rewarded for taking my time and waiting things out awhile. And I liked what I was drinking.

Don’t get me started on the levels of deception. This includes people who post 10+ year old photos on dating sites, creative descriptions for what others would call a “girlfriend”/”fiancee”/”spouse,” excuses for inappropriate behaviors not befitting their respective situations, and the immeasurable inaccuracies one makes up about themselves to work up the courage to get back into the dating pool or to talk to someone “out of their league.” The dating world is bubbling with so many lies that spending too much time here will leave an innocent with a hard, crunchy, burned crust. And that’s if they get out in time to keep their heart from getting blackened and overdone.

This is in direct contrast to that lovely HJ Fabre Malbec! It was upfront from the beginning – well, once I discovered the fine print about waiting an hour after opening to imbibe… It boasted of blackberry and anise – and then it sealed the deal. In fact, it actually over-delivered: I didn’t know what to expect  from a $16 bottle of wine, but this one wasn’t playing around! An hour after opening, this wine showed silky tannins, blackberry, spice, cocoa powder and anise on the palate and anise in the long, delicious finish.

I don’t have a bulleted, bawdy list of why this Malbec is better than a man. It certainly provided more honesty, more depth and – with 12 months of aging in French oak barrels – a longer commitment than many men I’ve encountered in a long time. I needed it when I was having a hard time, and it was there for me – in all its robust glory. Even with my frustration and anger and disheveled hair and makeup, my Malbec just let me be me. It made no demands. It was the perfect size, and seduced me with its promises of pleasure two nights in a row. It hinted at relaxation and sweet, sweet slumber. My Malbec offered kindness.

And then I drank it.

I Don’t Read Playboy For The Articles

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment
Two Great Things That Go Great Together

Two Great Things That Go Great Together

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t read Playboy for the pictures, either. If I want to see well-lit T&A, I’m lucky enough to be able to step into my shower. You wouldn’t believe the money I don’t spend on internet porn.

I’m a big fan of Playboy for a reason that has nothing to do with literary merit or bouncy body parts. His name is Dan Dunn. He’s known as The Imbiber; he’s the spirits writer for Playboy and he just gave me a big ol’ box o’ booze to review.

Never stop believing in miracles, kids.

The only thing naked in this post will be my reviews. But don’t hold it against me. I promise I’m good and my wine rack is awesome (even in low light).

Campo Viejo Crianza Tempranillo 2006: From the world-renowned Rioja region of Spain comes an “old friend.” A blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo, this deep, dark garnet wine has a golden rim in the glass and a nose of plum and cherry, ripe blackberry and vanilla. 12 months of barrel aging adds smooth vanilla on the palate and soft, ripe fruits like the cherry and blackberry you smell right out of the bottle. But this baby burns. It’s acidic; the initial velvet mouthfeel is replaced by a tinge of acid in the back of the throat. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it the first night. It felt rich, smooth. It went down easy. I didn’t enjoy it as much the next night. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as the first time. And in my opinion, it should always be better the second time around.

Castello Monaci Piluna Primitivo 2007: Italian Primitivo is the genetic twin of the grape we know as Zinfandel.

Primo Primitivo

Primo Primitivo

Generally best consumed in the first 3 – 5 years after bottling, the longer Primitivo/Zinfandel ages in the bottle, the more that lush, jammy fruit taste diminishes.

Apparently for the Castello Monaci Piluna, now is a great time to drink the 2007.

Dark purple in the glass, with a nose of cherry, blackberry and blueberry (Jess actually called it blueberry pie). On the palate it’s all ripe black fruit deliciousness. Balanced, velvety mouthfeel. Medium tannins, medium finish. There was a slight burning on the way down, but just the slightest bit.

Antonio Galloni reviewed it for Parker:

The 2007 Primitivo Piluna flows from the glass with waves of dark red fruit. This generous, ripe wine should continue to drink well for at least another year or two. It is another incredibly delicious value-priced red from Castello Monaci.

Producer Notes:

The wine has broad, ripe black fruit and spice aromas, with notes of pepper, toasty vanilla and Mediterranean scrub. On the palate, the wine has a robust, concentrated character, a firm structure, and small black fruit and licorice notes on the aftertaste.

At around 11 bucks a bottle, this is a great buy.

Good stuff

Good stuff

Trapiche Broquel Chardonnay 2007: In doing research for this piece, I noticed that the importer used the word “international” to describe this wine and its packaging no less than 1 billion times (give or take a few). So I’m going to wager that they’re describing this wine as “international” to reassure potential buyers that it’s as good as Australian and Californian Chardonnay; maybe they’re afraid the average bear won’t buy a Chardonnay from Argentina. Could that be true? Do we use Argentina for their Malbec and rudely walk away from the rest?

If that’s the case, than shame on us. This wine is delightful. Lovely, golden straw in the glass. A nose of honey and apricot and peach. Flavors of green apple, honeysuckle, grass, muscat and apricot. It’s crisp but has backbone. A bit of bite, but – under the right circumstances – a bite isn’t bad. At $15 a bottle, it’s a little more than I’d want to spend, but if you find it on sale, go for it.

Producer Notes:

Tasting Notes: It is an elegant wine with intense scents of red apples, honey, and cinnamon [Ed: Cinnamon?! WTF?!]. Well-rounded flavors offer good body and a mild, harmonious finish.

Food Match: White meats, scallops, hard cheeses, fish, chicken, BBQ [Ed: And

left-over pumpkin cheesecake right out of the fridge, when you’re too lazy to make yourself lunch after spending an entire week cooking for Thanksgiving].

Those are my favorites from the free stuff I got; I raise a glass and toast. Here’s to women and wine. Here’s to Dan Dunn, The Imbiber. And here’s to the magazine that circuitously brought all of them together in this piece. Cheers!

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 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 ($13.99 for the 2007) or (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!