Category Archives: California

WINE REVIEW: Bota Box Merlot 2010 – Manteca, California

From the box: ‘The flavor is in the box. Our Merlot has rich aromas of blackberry and plum that perfectly complement full bodied flavors of black cherries, plums, currants, and a toasty oak finish. Try it with prime rib, steak, or your favorite pasta with a rich, meaty tomato sauce.’ 

I never thought I would actually try these wines in the box, new fangled thingies but curiosity got the best of me. I picked up a Bota Box Merlot 2010 and set up to give it a try. “Gee” I thought as I drove home “I really hope I at least can tolerate this wine because it is the equivalent of four 750 ML bottles of wine”.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of the wine box for awhile now. Yes, it doesn’t have a cork like I like it but it is more ecological in some ways. They use recycled paper and 100% post consumer fiber to make the packaging. It’s also bonded with corn starch instead of glue and utilizes soy-based inks. There’s also less waste because of the vacuumed sealed spout and container there’s no rush to have to finish a bottle of wine because it might go bad on you.

Now I did have a bit of reluctance to try these boxed wines for many reasons. First, there’s the snob factor. I will admit it. I can be a little bit of a wine snob sometimes and I traditionally like corks in my wine not nozzles. The boxed wine thing kind of reminded me of a college keg party. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we have kegs of WINE!

Secondly, there was fear. I had never had this wine before and I worried that I would get stuck with a LOT of wine that I didn’t like. Easy enough to get rid of if you have lots of unknowning, wine drinking visitors but alas we do not so it would mean I would have to drink it all or throw away $17 worth of wine. Neither was appealing to me.

Thirdly, it’s SQUARE! Who drinks wine from a SQUARE bottle. Have I no standards? What will the neighbors think? Will I be ostracized from the wine drinking community for a crime such as this?

Well, I figured if I was going to try it now was as good a time as any. I did like the idea that I could have it in my refrigerator (yes, I live in Florida people and room temperature is just too hot most of the year to drink even red wine at) and have a glass of wine anytime I wanted without worrying about leaving a half drunk bottle of wine to go bad. Though recently I’ve taken to buying those little four packs of wine in order to have a glass on hand but you don’t get a lot of choices of brands that way either. It works though.

So I had my first glass of my Bota Boxed wine and was relieved to find that it was a decent wine. I am not saying it’s great like a nice Bordeaux but I think it has it’s place in society. It was fruity and had hints of plums and blackberries and had a nice smooth finish as well.

My overall impression is that it’s a great thing to have on hand for those times when you just want one or two glasses of wine without the worry of what to do with the other half of the bottle once you open it. It would also be good for those times when you have a bunch of people over for a party or get together and they aren’t too discerning over what they’re drinking. I don’t think you’d want to whip this box out when you have a real wine snob visiting or say royalty or famous people milling about. (What? You don’t have royalty and famous people visiting your house regularly? Hmmm…that’s interesting!)

Anyway, I would give this wine a rating of 84. It’s a nice wine for every day or when you don’t want to try something new and just want a glass of wine.

If you’ve tried any of these boxes of wine please tell me what you think. What brand did you try and what’s your opinion of it?

Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates Chardonnay – Sonoma, CA 2009

Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Central Coast, CA

Double Dog Dare Cabernet Sauvignon – California

Edgewood Estates 2007 Tradition – Napa Valley, CA

Sebastiani Merlot 2006 – Sonoma County, CA

From the back label: ‘Our Sonoma County wines are multi-vineyard blends sourced from premium wine growing sites throughout the county. 2006, with its long, mild fall, heightened Merlot aromas and flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and black tea. Aging in both American and French Oak barrels for eight months gave this wine its silky texture and nuances of mocha and vanilla. Enjoy with roasted meats and savory stews.’

Price: $12.99

I have to be completely honest with you. I didn’t really like this wine at all. It was too harsh for my taste. It was very spicy, oaky and….well, just too harsh.

I’ve heard that the best wines come from wineries that grow, produce and bottle their wine on site and this wine may be the wine that puts legs under my table of belief in that subject. The reason being that the last couple of wines that I really like were indeed grown, produced, and bottled on site at a family vineyard. Is this a coincidence or reality? I don’t really know but I now have my interest piqued on this subject and you can be sure that I’ll be watching to see if it is indeed true or not.

So my overall feeling on this wine is that it’s not my cup of tea. Maybe 2006 was a bad year for Merlots for this vineyard or maybe the multi-vineyard sourcing isn’t working for Sebastiani. I don’t know. It’s possible that it’s not really suited for pure drinking meaning that maybe it needs to be had with a hearty meat dish or at least with something bold. I drank this wine by itself without any food influencing its aroma and taste.

Overall I give this wine a rating of 75.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #2 – Serve White Wines Cold

Well being last week’s Interesting Wine Facts was about the serving temperature of red wines I figured it would only be fair to do the same for white wines.

Most people already know that white wines are served chilled but most, like me, don’t know what that temperature actually is supposed to be. White wines should be served between 48-53 degrees F. This is usually the standard temperature that you’ll find in your refrigerator.

It’s also good to note that even though white wines are supposed to be served cold make sure you don’t serve them too cold. That can affect the flavors of the wine too.

Another good tip for white wines is to take them out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before you’re going to drink them.

If you’re serving a champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco it should be served between 40 to 45 degrees F. In order to get it to this temperature you may have to place it in an ice bucket filled with ice or put it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to get it to that temperature. Of course, you should have had it in the refrigerator before that but the standard temperature in your fridge is not going to be cold enough to get your bubbly to the right temperature thus the use of the ice bucket or freezer stated above.

Frei Brothers Reserve – Chardonnay 2008 – Sonoma, CA

From the back label: Russian River Valley, Sonoma’s premier Chardonnay appellation, is the source of our Chardonnay grapes. With a soft mouthfeel and long crisp finish, this medium-bodied wine has bright aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, peach, and a hint of vanilla and spice.’

Price: $16.99

This clear pale yellow Chardonnay may have just changed my opinion of myself. I have always considered myself a red wine drinker and I still do for the most part but this wine was a very nice surprise for me because I really enjoyed it.

In the past I would never buy a white wine for myself to drink. My past experiences have had me deem all white wines as heartburn makers. However in the interest of learning about wines I have been forcing myself to pick out white wines as well as reds. So when I saw this wine on sale at my local Publix grocery store with the words ‘Reserve’ on the bottle I felt it was worth a try and am I glad I took that leap of faith.

The bouquet of this wine is very lemony and citrusy and the taste was subtle, smooth and mellow. I would deem it a light to medium bodied wine although the label says it’s medium I would say it’s slightly lighter than that. It’s very fruity with a crisp, quick finish and very enjoyable.

I served this wine with a vegetarian chicken scallopini and I used a bit of this wine in the making of it as well. The chicken scallopini was accompanied by beautiful steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes. This wine perfectly complimented this meal and I would totally recommend this wine for light chicken, pasta, or risotto dishes especially if they have a lemony and light character to them.

My overall feeling on this wine was that I really liked it. I will definitely buy it again and have it as a regular wine in my wine rack. I am finding it really interesting that now that I am experimenting and learning about wines three of the wines that I gave a score of 90 and above are white wines. I never in a million years would have thought that that would happen.

I guess the lesson in this is to never say you’re a ‘red wine drinker’ or a ‘white wine drinker’. You need to experience many different types, brands, and vintages in order to really find out what suits you. All these years I thought I didn’t like white wine all that much and now I am realizing that when it comes to whites I just need to find the ones that I do like.

So the bottom line is I highly recommend this wine. I give this wine a score of 95 and will definitely have it again especially when my menu calls for a nice white to compliment it.

Here’s a nice recipe for chicken scallopini from AllRecipes.com if you’re a vegetarian like I am you can easily substitute the chicken in the recipe with any vegetarian chicken alternative. I used Gardein brand ‘Lightly Seasoned Chick’n Scallopini’ and then used the recipe on the back of the bag which is very close to this one from AllRecipes.com. It came out fantastic!

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #1 – Serve at Room Temperature

Here I would like to introduce you to a new series of posts called ‘Interesting Wine Facts’. This is where I will share a few interesting facts that I’ve learned about wines recently. So without further ado here’s fact #1.

FACT #1: Red wine should be served at a temperature of 65 degrees.

Most people have heard that red wine should be served at room temperature and never put in the fridge. The fact is that in the old days in European wine country that was indeed true and for the most part is still true however, ‘room temperature’ there is different then say here in Florida. If I serve my red wine at room temperature you’re going to get a nice hot wine most of the time.

The fact is that it is best to serve wines at their suggested temperature rather than some arbitrary, nondescript instruction of ‘serve at room temperature’. The actual  serving temperature for most red wines is 65 degrees F. If you are in a cooler  climate you probably can achieve that by leaving the wine at ‘room temperature’ but if you’re in a warmer climate it’s perfectly okay to put the bottle in the refrigerator for an hour or so, use a bucket of ice to chill it for 15 to 20 minutes, or any other method to get it to reach its optimal temperature. No one is going to take your head off for doing that especially if they really know their wines.

Champagne, Sparkling Wine, and Prosecco – Oh My!

While planning my menu for my birthday celebration last week I decided to make a cheese souffle and with that came some new knowledge (at least to me anyway) that I would like to share with you all.

You see, all of the resources that I looked up in order to see what I should serve along side of my cheese souffle said the same thing – serve with a nice green salad, crusty bread, and a nice champagne or sparkling wine.

With that knowledge I headed off to my local Total Wine and More store to procure that nice bottle of bubbly for my celebration. I told the nice man there what I was making and how it suggested either a nice bottle of champagne or a sparkling champagne to accompany it. He suggested a nice sparkling wine from France.

As he retrieved the bottle for me I had to ask the silly question that was floating around in my head – What’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine? I found the answer was simple and along the lines of what I expected.

In France their laws are very strict when it comes to wine making. No one can call their sparkling wine Champagne UNLESS it actually comes from Champagne, France.  If you’re even so much as a millimeter outside of Champagne, France you’ve created a sparkling wine! If you want to make a Champagne well then you better move your vines!

As Americans we are pretty much used to calling everything with bubbles Champagne because our laws couldn’t really care less where it’s made and we are just trained to call bubbly Champagne. However, if it doesn’t come from Champagne, France it technically isn’t Champagne….but it is really the same thing.

Italy has a similar law when it comes to their bubbly called Prosecco although technically to our American minds we’d probably call it Champagne too.

While researching this whole thing I found that apparently Prosecco is one of the most consumed bubbly in Italy. They even have a  lower end version that they sell to the masses that’s in pop top soda-like cans that is consumed regularly although the quality isn’t going to be like you find in the traditional bubbly-type bottles.

So that’s our little lesson for this week. I hope my learnings have sparked an interest in you to try some bubbly really soon be it Champagne, Sparkling Wine, or Prosecco. I’ve decided that we waste so many opportunities to enjoy a great bubbly because our society says it has to be a special occasion. I think we should all find reasons to celebrate and enjoy the finer things in life. That’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it?

I’ll share my review of the Sparkling Wine that was recommended to me by that nice man at the Total Wine store on Sunday. It just might be a great place for you to start too. 🙂