Wednesday, November 28, 2007



The 2005 Alexander & Fitch Winery Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a bit of an anomaly. I get it at Trader Joe's for $5.99 - and I have not seen it anywhere else, although one wine blog I saw did mention that it was otherwise available, but did not indicate where.

The few reviews of this wine that I could find ranged from very positive to very negative. I my recent ratings of the Top Ten Everyday Reds, I had it at #10. Actually, since then, I would move it up the list a bit.

The wine is of mysterious provenance if you go by what is on the bottle - no contact information. Apparently, it is made by Bronco wines, a purveyor of "manufactured" wines and a provider of a number of wines found at Trader Joe's. Regardless, Dorianne and I drink it quite often and find it to be a nice everyday red for an amazing price.

There is no doubt that it is not a high-end wine in any sense of the world. That being said, it does have a nice cherry nose and soft fruit flavors - mainly berry, with a hint of leather that might be called terroir in a more expensive wine. The tannins are balanced and it has a relatively low alcohol percentage (13.6) for a California Cabernet.

Naturally, all wine tasting is subjective - so you may or may not like Alexander & Fitch. My recommendation is to try a bottle - at this price, you can just use it for cooking if you do not find it to your taste.

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, November 21, 2007




So what wine to serve?

My good friend Steven Brabant just stopped by to gift me two bottles of wine - a 2004 Gainey Santa Rita Hills Limited Edition Chardonnay and a 2004 Tobin James Silver Reserve Zinfandel. Despite their high quality, neither one will be on our Thanksgiving table.

I've been scanning the wine experts and experimenting over the past few years. Here is what I've come up with:

1. There is no "perfect" choice for a traditional turkey dinner.
2. The main issue is the sweet dishes, like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc.
3. Turkey is not the easiest food to pair a wine with anyway.
4. You want wines that do not fight the foods served - no big fruit bombs.
5. If you will be drinking much of the day, you want wines with lower alcohol.

So there are my recommendations - not specific wines or vintages, but types of wine.

Dry sparkling wines are excellent, both with dinner and before with appetizers or munchies,

With the traditional dinner -
Reds - Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec, Barbera, Bordeaux - Cabernets and Zins are generally too much.

Whites - Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Grigio - oaky Chardonnay is too much, most Fume Blancs are too little.

Roses - a nice dry Rose is fine, but not one that runs sweet or semi-dry.

We will be serving the following wines for our guests - our red will be a 2003 Latetia Estate Pinot Noir; the white will be a 2005 Conundrum White Table Wine. We also have some bubbly available for the morning preparation time (maybe some Mimosas).

Whatever you decide, enjoy your holiday, and remember to be wise and safe when it comes to driving - whether for yourself or your guests.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Sunday, November 18, 2007



Dorianne and I found a nice wine bar and restaurant in NoHo - The Eclectic Wine Bar and Grill - on Lankershim near Magnolia.

The place has a modern look with banquets and some tables with chairs (the cushions are a bit sparse, or am I getting old?). Lots of blue neon out front. The crowd was generally young (20's - 30's) with a few older folks mixed in.

They have a pretty nice wine list - not really extensive, but a good mix of choices. There were two wine flights offered the night we went - so we ordered one of each to start, along with some stuffed mushroom appetizers and garlic toast.

The first flight was from Tevenot Winery, a prolific winery from Calaveras County, CA. Their web site lists no less than 23 wines from the current vintage. The flight we ordered included a Danza Roja (Tempranillo/Garnacha/Mourverde/Graciano blend), which was very nice, rich and fruity; a Cabernet Sauvignon, which was smooth with nice hints of spice and fruit; and a Tempranillo Gran Reserva, a velvety Roja style that was the best of the flight. I am going to see if any of the Stevenot wines are available at local retailers.

The other flight was a Coppola Director's Cut flight from Niebaum - Coppola Winery in Napa. The flight included a Chardonnay, a Zinfandel, and a Cabernet. All were OK (the Zinfandel had the most character), but nothing stood out.

We both settled on seafood pasta for our main course, so we switched to a 2005 Jewel Viognier The wine was very light and smooth, but with a nice lemongrass bouquet and a fruity- citrus flavor that was a nice complement to the seafood pasta in a white wine & garlic sauce.

Our waitress, Jessica,was knowledgeable and just attentive enough. She easily answered questions about the wines and the food. We also met David, who was either owner and/or manager, who gave us some information about the Stevenot Winery and the wine bar.

We will definitely return to the Eclectic. Our bill was $95.00, including 2wine flights, two glasses of wine, and appetizers, so not bad at all for the quality of the experience, the food, and, of course, the chance to enjoy and learn something new about wine.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Wednesday, November 7, 2007



This past weekend, I was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida visiting my daughter. A friend and I went to THE GRAPE, a wine bar on Las Olas Blvd - the upscale shopping and nightlife street between downtown and the beach.

The concept at The Grape is that they categorize wines into ten categories - from light bodied whites to full-bodied reds, plus sparkling and sweet wines, and a category of premium wines. The menu has a dozen or so wines in each category.

We ordered reds from the medium and full-bodied categories. I had a 2004 Four Sisters Shiraz ($12.99 - retail), with a deep color, and nice fruit forward flavor. The wine is actually a blend of Shriaz, Sangiovese, and Viognier - with a very satisfying result. If you can find this wine, I recommend it.

And if you are in Ft. Lauderdale, try The Grape - I'm sure there are plans to franchise the concept.

Another stop in the beach town - Season's 52 - a wonderful place with 5 Florida locations and 2 in Atlanta. The menu at Season's 52 changes seasonally, is very eclectic and reasonably priced. The wine concept is very nice - glasses cost 1/4 the bottle price, and the pour is 1/4 of a glass - so there is no penalty for drinking by the glass. When the restaurant opened in the Galleria Mall in Ft. Lauderdale a few years back, a number of my good wine friends were in town for a conference. Many of us spend several meals at Season's 52 during the week - mainly trying wines.

On this trip I had lunch - a blackened grouper sandwich with a salad and a tomato and cheese flatbread. With the meal, I enjoyed a single glass of 2006 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Marlboro, NZ ($12.99 - retail). This is a nice, crisp, light wine with nice fruit components, and a grassy-green color. It was excellent with the fish.

It was a nice visit to an old home town - I took my daughter to visit colleges in Tampa and spent some time with friends in Cape Coral.

'Till Next Time,

The WineSaver