March 20, 2009

Swanky meets Rummage Sale - Wine Enthusiast Scratch 'n' Dent Cellars

031909_Scratch_Dent_23.jpgIf you are in the market for a wine fridge, now just might be the time to buy. If you're a bargain hunter and and don't mind a slightly imperfect model (we've all shopped at TJ Maxx, right?) then check out the Scratch 'n Dent sale at Wine Enthusiast. You can peruse the outlet options via the link below--prices range from $329 to $4495--then call the 800-number and mention the code for scratch 'n dent savings:

What are Scratch 'n' Dent Cellars?
Scratch 'n' Dent Wine Cellars are like-new units that may have some cosmetic flaws but are guaranteed to work perfectly and include the full manufacturer's warranty. Prior to purchase, we'll provide you with a concise description of the cellar's blemishes.
Call a Wine Storage Consultant today and find out about additional savings on Scratch 'n' Dent cellars. Mention code
E0309C. 800.377.3330

Via Wine Enthusiast

Read More in: Swanky Wine Fridays | Wine Accessories

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March 11, 2009

Wine Cube South Australia Shiraz 2007

Once again, the dashing Mr. CheapFunWines and I were enticed by the lure of novelty and a cheap price tag. Since our previous experience with the Wine Cube (the Sauvignon Blanc) was pretty positive, we decided to give a red a try. In deciding which red to try, it was mutually understood that often cheap shiraz is marginally more appealing than say, cheap cab or merlot (why, I don't know... I think we were trying to give purpose to something rather arbitrary). And there ends our agreement on the subject.

While Mr. CFW found the shiraz to be bold and spicy with generous fruit, I rather found it to be a bit lacking. I'll admit it smelled pretty good... the promise of ripe dried berries and spice, but the little flavor I got when I first tasted it, virtually disappeared on on my palate before I could identify any interesting characteristics. I kept trying, though... sip after sip, swirling, slurping and praying for something even remotely distinctive to report. I gave up when my first glass was empty.

I will concede that it wasn't unpleasant. It just wasn't particularly flavorful, which is something I find desirable, even in cheap wine. The price tag, $14.99 for the equivalent of 4 bottles, is certainly a great selling point and I think for a big bash, or for the novice wine drinker this is a good buy. Perhaps we should have tried a blend.

If you're interested, you can find it--and an assortment of other flavors-- at your local Target. I think I'll let Mr. CFW polish this one off while I dig into my order from My Wines Direct.

Read More in: Shiraz | Wine Tasting Notes

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March 9, 2009

Epicuro Vermentino 2007

epiVermentino.jpgVARIETAL: Vermentino
REGION: Lazio, Italy

Well it isn't the most interesting of the Italian Vs (Vernaccia, Verdichio, etc) but the Epicuro Vermentino is pretty pleasant for $4.99. Hailing from Lazio, which is the region containing Rome that geographically makes up the shin of the boot, all of the depth of this wine is in the aromatics-- bright melon and floral notes are abundant, layered with ripe stone fruit and just a hint of citrus. But the flavor profile is a bit more shallow. On the palate this Vermentino hints at the flavors that you associate with the aromas, but it never quite makes it to the party. Still, it is light and bright and pleasant. There is certainly nothing bad about this one and I think, for the money, it would make a lovely summer party wine. Stock up at your local Trader Joe's or wherever you can find Epicuro wines.

Read More in: Trader Joe's Alert! | White Wine

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February 2, 2009

Primarius Pinot Noir 2006

primariusPNoir.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Noir
REGION: Oregon (sourced)
PRICE: $11

My expectations were exceedingly low for this pinot... I haven't had too much luck finding good wines at Fresh & Easy, but sometimes you just have to go with what's convenient. Primarius makes two wines, a pinot noir and a pinot gris, that are produced and bottled in Mattawa, WA but the grapes are sourced from Oregon. The first thing you'll notice about the pinot noir its lightness and clarity in the glass. The color is brick, but quite pale and really looks watery. The pleasant surprise comes when you hesitantly take a sip and realize that is isn't watery, just incredibly delicate. Very Burgundian, the Primarius is layered with subtle dried fruit and spice flavors that evolve on your palate. This wine is not for everyone. If you are a fan of the bolder, new-world pinots that are more obvious (and sometimes oblivious) in every way, please stay away from this one. You will hate it. But I find the Primarius' subtlety refreshing and the perfect pairing for a simple grilled salmon fillet. Stay tuned for more on the pinot gris...

Read More in: Red Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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January 21, 2009

Bangin' Red 2005

banginred.JPG<REGION: Napa Valley, California
VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec & Zinfandel
I sooo wanted to HATE this wine, recommended to me by an incredibly irritating sales associate who tried pretty hard to sound knowledgeable, but it was painfully evident, by his descriptions, that he hadn't bothered to learn the basics before taking the sales floor. Add to that, a cutesy name/label and I certainly feared the worse. I kept hearing a little voice in my head, 'Cheap red wine with a cute story on the back. . . It can't possibly be good... All story, no substance'

But I was compelled--as I am most wines under $10--to give it a shot. So imagine my surprise when, on its journey from the glass to my lips, wafts of ripe, dark berry and spice scents tickled my nose. It smelled lovely, lush and inviting. And I must confess, it tasted pretty good too. Definitely not as lush as it smelled, but medium bodied, warm and spicy with lots of plum and berry flavors strung along with with a fine oak-y undercurrent and hints of coffee.

A pleasant surprise and a great bargain wine that is pretty food friendly, but also an easy, everyday red to enjoy with nothing at all. It is tough to find online, so check your local shops.

Read More in: Cabernet Sauvignon | Wine Tasting Notes

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January 1, 2009

A Mano Chianti DOCG 2006

amanochianti.jpgWell this one is definitely more of a food wine. Lots of currant on the nose, but it is all red cherry and sour cherry in the palate. Vibrant acidity makes it a natural match for anything in red sauce. I liked it, I enjoyed it with linguine in puttanesca, and I suppose I would recommend it... but with food. If you just want to kick back with a glass of vino, I think I'd steer you elsewhere, but generally this is a classic Italian red that remains true to its roots and works beautifully with regional cuisine. $11

I found mine at a local shop, but you can also find it here: A Mano Chianti 2006

Read More in: Chianti | Wine Tasting Notes

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December 31, 2008

Pommery POP vs. Piper Heidsieck Brut

piperheidsieck.jpgThe true Champagne battle was a little like comparing apples to oranges. I didn't realize that the POP I grabbed was Extra Dry (which oddly, in Champagne-speak means a little sweet). I should have selected another brut, but the tasting must go on. So the POP was ok, but I didn't feel like it was substantial enough to be a real contender. Beyond the sweet I thought it was a little bland and really undeserving of more attention.

But the Piper, ahhh the Piper... lush and creamy with a warm, toasty back bone and lovely mousse. Lingering flavors of honey and citrus peel give this sparkler added dimension. A classic and thoroughly enjoyable Champage and the overall winner. Now we can really ring in the new year.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee $34

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Recommendations

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Mumm Cuvee Prestige vs. Chandon Brut Classic

mumm_napa_brut.jpgSuspecting that it might be a wee bit lighter, we started with the Chandon. Mr. CheapFunWine commented on the extremely light hue in the glass and the serious lack of scent emanating from said glass. I must say, for the most part, I concurred. The Chandon was fairly flavorless--save for the initial punch of sharp fruit on the tongue. And by fruit I mean distinct essence of Smarties and Fun-Dip. Powdery and too sweet-tart.

Thankfully, the Mumm's provided a little more enjoyment. The dark golden hue is a clear indicator of the toasty, creamy bubbly inside. Vibrant and crisp with a thread of richness that creates an endearing sense of balance. A great Champagne alternative for under $20!

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $17

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Recommendations

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Freixenet Brut vs. Segura Viudas

segura.jpgIn the battle of the Cavas, the Freixenet is definitely better known, but I think the Segura Viudas (which is also made by Freixenet) is the clear winner. The former is bright and crisp but a little watery and fairly flavorless. You feel the bubbles on your tongue but there really isn't much else going on. Conversely, the latter is smooth and slightly creamy with refreshing grapefruit and soft fruit notes. Light, but pleasant and a great value pick. I love this cava for a big bash or for an anytime bubbly.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva $8

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Recommendations

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Top Five Treats Enjoy With Champagne (or any bubbly)

champs.jpgOkay, these are completely subjective, of course, but are my all time favorite things to eat while enjoying a little bubbly:

1. FRIED CHICKEN - I know it sounds crazy because fried chicken is sooo heavy, but the bubbles act as a palate cleanser and if you choose something a little yeasty, it is a thoroughly indulgent treat. Try Westport Rivers 2003 Brut Cuvée RJR

2. SUSHI - Again, rich, oily fish meets bright scrubbling bubbles. If you don't like wasabi and soy, go for something light, bright and crisp. But if you, like me, enjoy a little sweet and salty sauce in which to dip your fish, then go for something with a little more fruit. Try Llopart Brut Rosé Cava Reserva 2005

3. CRAB CAKES - Authentic, Maryland crab cakes. There really is no substitute. Essentially the same principles apply... take a fairly rich substrate (in this case jumbo lump crab meat from Chesapeake Bay blue crabs) add generous seasonings and a fresh bread crumb coating and then broil or pan fry for a golden, delicious lump of love. Once again, the sparkler cleans the palate with bursts of bright citrusy bubbles. Try Gruet Brut NV

4. COCONUT SHRIMP - A little rich, a little sweet, a little fried... all the makings for an ideal bubbly pairing. If the shrimp and coating are well seasoned, I prefer mine sans sauce. Try Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose

5. QUICHE - Specifically, the gruyere and applewood-smoked bacon variety. Tangy cheese, smokey pork all nestled in a bed of rich eggs and cream and contained in a flaky, buttery crust. Of course the wine must deliver on all of the different flavor components so I would go with something full bodied and layered. Try Roederer Estate Brut NV

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Advice

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