Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fiver Rivers

This 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Five Rivers got trashed by the Brown Bag Sommeliers. They said it had notes of mushrooms, licorice, stewed prunes, and honeycomb. They said it had a flabby unpronounced balance with a broken finish.

In short, they hated it. Or was it because by this point in the tasting, they had tasted 8 wines. Yowch! That is a boozy bunch.

I am not about to go out on a limb and defend this wine, since it I didn't really care for it and it cost $12.99 a bottle and was thus at our price max - but a word to the wise; if you are having a tasting at home - limit the amount of wines you try.

After four or five wines, your palate loses its senses. After all, we're amateurs.

Another word to the wise - skip Five Rivers - especially at the recession un-friendly 12.99.

I've got two more Paso postings coming up - one is for the Liberty School Cab that the Brown Bag East tasted - aka my Mom and Dad. They loved it although who knows they split the whole bottle.

And the other post is for the Paso greatness of Rabbit Ridge - a great buy option - especially when they have it at Trader Joe's for $4.99 which they have been doing on and off for the last eight months.

RATING: 1.35 Screwcaps
LABEL: Five Rivers
GRAPE: Cabernet Sauvignon
PRICE: $12.99

Friday, July 24, 2009

J. Lohr - Seven Oaks

I picked up this 2006 J-Lo Cabernet Sauvignon for $12.99 at K&L Wines( which has become my new favorite wine store in Los Angeles beating out my old stand-by The WineHouse).

This fruit back wine with flavors of kiwi, blueberries, preserved lemons, and cinnamon had what the group determined was unstructured and immature tannins and was over-all lacking in body.

Unstructured and lacking in body are not what you are looking for from what should be a solid, mass produced California red - especially at $12.99. At that price point, you should be able to pick up a dependable, go-to bottle. The one you can safely get when you are in a supermarket looking at an uninspired shelf of vino.

But don't go looking for it at J-Lo's Paso based label.

I think that the group was looking for something a little more from J-Lo, and they didn't get it.

RATING: 2.45 Screwcaps
LABEL: J. Lohr 2006 Seven Oaks Cabernet
PRICE: $12.99

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Estancia Zinfandel

After a while, you have to wonder... what the hell am I supposed to write about a wine? Like this one with its flavors of dried strawberries, hint of citrus, cinnamon and graham and turmeric!!!

Who gives a damn? When the honest review is... it tastes fine enough to allow me to drink enough glasses to get sh**faced... Or this was the wine my cousin picked out to serve at her wedding where I got so drunk I chased her bridesmaids through the dirty fountain and fell face first into the pond scum... Or they served this wine at the company Christmas party.... I don't work there anymore.

I read the NY Times and the LA Times food critics give their spiel about wines week after week, and I wonder... When is their breaking point? When does Eric Asimov sitting at his computer in the Times Dining Section finally crack and spill some ink and say My God the wine business is all about getting people liquored up. It's not about terroir or fruit forward or back or nose or balance. That's secondary.

Wine is a way to get greased and still feel high-brow and in control.

And for a mass market Paso Zin, Estancia does a good job at that. I think they carry it at major supermarkets in California. So next time you're there, pick up a bottle, and bring a cork screw with you. When you find yourself stuck in line to the chirp chirp bleep of the scanner read week 50 of the Michael Jackson coverage, uncork and take a glug.

And if the checkout clerk gives you a hard time, tell her - Hey, this wine has notes of turmeric, graham, cinnamon, and a balanced soft finish. So step off!

RATING: 2.75 Screwcaps
LABEL: Estancia Zinfandel 2006
GRAPE: Zinfandel
PRICE: $10.99 - not a bad price for a solid wine

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Toad Hollow Cacaphony Zinfandel

Like its label with a dancing frog and a fox playing a banjo and black and white tile flooring, this wine was all over the place. Not in a good way. This wine didn't wing any fans. Its nose gave rise to heavy alcohol fumes and bay leaves.

With flavors of star anise, plum, and a hint of tuberose it came on strong and left weak with rubbery, unstructured tannins.

It's strange having friendly get-togethers/wine tastings because no one ever likes to criticize something that a guest has brought. Especially guests with good taste in wine - as was the case of the Brown Bagger who brought this bottle. You want to say something positive, but you also have to be honest.

This wine scored very poorly with the brown baggers, and by rights it should be wearing the brown bag of shame.

RATING: 1.5 Screwcaps
LABEL: Toad Hollow - Cacaphony
GRAPE: Zinfandel
PRICE: $12.99 ( shame on you Toad Hollow - at this price you need better quality control)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Castoro Cellars Viogner

Brownbag newcomer Leora brought this 2007 Viogner from Castoro Cellars to the Brownbag v. Paso Robles event. To mixed reviews (something to remember when organizing a wine tasting night - don't treat it like a no holds barred competition [even though I do]).

It opened up with a good floral nose but some found that its magnolia scented flavors gave way to a perfume-y, bitter fruit forward flavor. Brown Bagger Dennis said it tasted like lemon head candies which reminded him of seeing Superman 3 in Rogue River, Oregon, so maybe it made him sad to think of Superman getting mean and flicking beer nuts at supersonic speeds at the mirror behind the bar where he was drinking. I mean, I think Superman 3 is the one where he turns mean, and he has to battle Richard Pryor and a super computer - God being a screenwriter back then must have been a dream job.

Anyway... Some of the panel found the wine to have flat tannins with a lingering finish and a hint of bitterness.

It personally did not bring me back to any Superman movie screenings nor did I think it bitter. The one criticism I had of the wine is that it lacked the crispness of a viogner that I like. It had more of an oaky, chardonnay character which is why the group decided that the best food pairings would be bacon wrapped scallops and sausages with sauteed collard greens.

RATING: 2 Screwcaps
LABEL: Castoro Cellars
GRAPE: Viogner
PRICE: $9.99

Thursday, June 25, 2009


When I first started writing this post, I was convinced that it was the lead runner and ultimate winner of the Brown Bag v. Paso night. Looking back over my notes, however, the Eos 2007 Sauvignon Blanc came in 3rd. Yet another example of the Brown Bag Bias against white wines - something which will be challenged in the July Brown Bag v. Whites Night.

This wine with flavors of peaches, pears, and other sauvignon blanc flavors like hint of mushrooms, jasmine, soft lemon rind, and wet grass( I still asure you that these are actual notes and not figments of my imagination) was still a crowd pleaser. It has a fruit back tendency with a soft, lingering finish.

All around, this wine is a good bargain in the sweet-spot range of 7 to 10 bucks. It came in with an MSRP of $9.99.

Think of this wine as something that would go awesome with fish tacos or skillet fried corn( with a little bit of squeezed lime) or even a turkey club sandwich with some bacon and avocado.

Eos is a strong performer for what it is.

And come to think of it, it would be a good wine to revisit when the brown baggers take on white wines. How would it compare with a field of other white wines?

I give this a strong Brown Bag recommend - look for it on sale at BevMo.

RATING: 2.75 Screwcaps
GRAPE: Sauvignon Blanc
PRICE: $9.99

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Brownbagger Mike B does not like fruit forward jammy wines which is funny since he brought a bottle of just-that to the Brown Bag v. Paso Robles event.

This 2007 Foxglove Zinfandel that he picked up from Silverlake Wines was jam central with flavors of dried cranberries, black cherries, preserved fruit. Someone even detected a hint of Eucalyptus( I swear I am not making this up).

Honestly, I thought this was a great wine if you are into strong, full fruit flavors like that. It was not overpowering jammy as the fruit still had a nice balance to it with soft tannins.

As we went around the table discussing what kind of food would pair well with this wine, we decided first upon game. Meat with complex flavors like wild boar or venison or even marinated lamb would go very well with Foxglove.

Brown Bagger Aaron suggested getting some short-rib tacos from the now wildly famous Kogi taco truck( which for those of you who don't know is a taco truck that puts Korean barbecue style meats and also tofu on corn tortillas. They evidently have kimchi quesadillas which sell out as soon as the truck pulls up. People find the truck's location( I think there are two of them now)via their Twitter feed).

We might have to send a scout out and get a whole bunch of Kogi specialties in the future to see what wine pairings we can come up with.

As for Brown Bagger Mike B, I know you don't like wines like this Foxglove but I am glad you brought it - cause I sure liked it.

RATING: 3.5 Screwcaps
LABEL: Foxglove
GRAPE: Zinfandel
PRICE: $12.99