Cameron Hughes Lot 321 2010 California Field Blend

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Cameron Hughes Lot 321Price: $10
Maker: Cameron Hughes Winery, Geyserville, California
Variety: Red Blend
Packaging: 750ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Our Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Cameron Hughes Lot 321 2010 California Field Blend is a really, really nice wine for a mere ten bucks. It’s a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Carignane. Its aroma includes berries and licorice. The Zin is the predominant grape, and on the palate the first impression is lots of fruit – blueberries and raspberries. But then, the flavor expands into a rich complexity, with chocolate and chewy tannins. If you like complex Zins that exhibit good fruit without being simple and too sweet, you’ll like Lot 321.

I found this one at Sam’s Club. Like all of Cameron Hughes numbered lots, when this wine is gone, it’s gone. They claim to offer ultra-premium wine at real world prices, and Lot 321 is a good example. Apparently, for at least part of their supply, they buy excess juice from top wineries and turn them into affordable wines. Their site: Cameron Hughes Winery.

Cameron Hughes Lot 321 2010 California Field Blend is a great buy. I’ll be heading back to Sam’s to pick up at least half a case. It’s a couple of bucks more than Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009, also an excellent and inexpensive red blend, but I actually prefer this wine for sipping on its own.

Cameron Hughes Lot 321 2010 California Field Blend posted at Box Wines

Amazon & Online Wine Sales

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Reports today suggest that Amazon is targeting the wine market as ripe for picking. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ecommerce giant held a workshop earlier this week that was attended by 100 wineries.

As we’ve discussed here in the past, a patchwork of laws in the 50 states has made online sales more difficult for wine than other products. If anyone can sort out the logistics of state law compliance and delivering a perishable product, though, it’s Amazon. It will be interesting to see how effectively Amazon can compete with the variety of local merchants, ranging from outlets like Sam’s Club and Costco to supermarkets (some with major wine sections) and specialized wine shops.

Amazon & Online Wine Sales posted at Box Wines

Stackable, Prefilled Wine Glasses

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Stacked Wines MerlotWine merchants are always trying to come up with novel and convenient packages, and Stacked Wines has done just that: a 187ml container that is shaped like a stemless wine glass. The containers stack securely, and four of them are equivalent to a standard 750 ml bottle of wine. That’s a slightly larger pour than you’d get at your local restaurant, but I suspect they’ll get few complaints.

Stacked describes their container, dubbed Vinoware:

STACKED’s exclusive Vinoware container was designed by engineers to offer the look and feel of a wine glass. Vinoware is made with a high-quality plastic that is shatterproof and lightweight, while also protecting wine from oxidation and spoilage. With STACKED’s Vinoware, every glass is sure to be fresh!

This seems like a great idea, if the wine is drinkable. There are lots of single-pour bottles available, usually inexpensive wines sold in four-packs, but one still has to have a wine glass. That’s fine for home, but not so convenient for picnics or the beach.

Somewhat similar products have been created before, though in a different form factor. Five years ago we wrote about “instant wine glasses” in the UK.

Stacked describes their wines in glowing terms… The Merlot, they say, has “just enough complexity,” ” tasty fruit flavors like red plum, red raspberry and cherry,” “a soft cedar and tobacco note,” and “a mellow tannic structure.” Not bad for a plastic cup of wine. We haven’t found this product in stores yet, and Texas is one of the few states their online distributor doesn’t serve. If anyone tries this, please post a comment and let us know how it is!

Stackable, Prefilled Wine Glasses posted at Box Wines

Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009

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Price: $6
Maker: CL Dolo, Italy
Variety: Pinot Grigio
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12%
Our Rating: 8.2 out of 10

Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009 Delle Venezie isn’t typical of the varietal. It’s pale straw color doesn’t lead you to expect an overwhelmingly fruity taste. Its flavors are pear and tropical fruit, and this wine is far less dry than most Pinot Grigios. Light acidity clears the palate, preventing it from being overly cloying.

This is a great wine for those who prefer a fruity, not very dry wine, but who don’t want a truly sweet wine. It could be a good compromise white wine for a gathering of wine newbies and those with more demanding tastes.

I wasn’t able to track down anything about the winery, though it is labeled as a Venetian wine imported by Joseph Victori Wines. Nobody has blogged about the wine, either.

Although not your typical Pinot Grigio, this wine is pleasant enough. If you can find Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009, consider it a very inexpensive brunch wine or accompaniment to fruit.

Vendi Pinot Grigio 2009 posted at Box Wines

Barefoot Zinfandel (Update)

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barefoot zinfandelPrice: $5
Maker: Barefoot Cellars, Modesto, California
Variety: Zinfandel
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

It’s been five years since we looked at Barefoot Zinfandel (non-vintage), and it’s good to know that not much has changed with this very inexpensive wine. In fact, although it’s nominally a $10 wine, we scored this bottle for a mere $5. (The Barefoot Wine website lists it at $6.99.) This incarnation of the Barefoot Zin offered sweet vanilla aromas. It was smooth and soft, with chocolate cherry and blueberry flavors and a spicy finish. This isn’t a big, bold, complex Zin, but it’s definitely a drinkable red that will please fruit-oriented red drinkers.

Wine bloggers still enjoy this Zin. Cheap Red Wine says, “…good grape juice for wine lovers. That may not sound exciting to everyone, but very few producers seem able to deliver a fresh, tasty, defect-free red in this price range.” The Wine Tribune commented, “It’s outstanding for the money. Tasted blind, you’d never guess it costs less than a tenner.”

As I noted in my original review of Barefoot Zinfandel, it’s not easy to find a quaffable Zin for way under $10 – that field is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot varietals. While not an outstanding example of the varietal, Barefoot Zinfandel is an excellent buy.

Barefoot Zinfandel (Update) posted at Box Wines

Buying Wine at Sam’s Club

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Sam's ClubI’ve always found Sam’s Club to be a good place to buy wine. They have an interesting, if limited, selection ranging from inexpensive, mass-market wines to pricier fare. Some of their best offerings are inexpensive wines that are hard to find elsewhere. For example, after trying one bottle of the rather amazing Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009 that cost a mere $8, I hustled back for another half-dozen bottles. That wine is a one-shot deal – when it’s gone, it’s gone. A dependable and even cheaper offering that Sam’s Club always stocks is the nice Veo Grande Cabernet Sauvignon that ships in wood crates.

Of course, Sam’s has no expert staff to advise you or suggest a wine for a particular purpose. Finding a human of any kind is tough enough. They have always compensated for this by displaying each wine in its own bin with an information card next to it. This card, in addition to the basic identification and price info, often contained a brief note about the wine and, in particular, point scores awarded by well-known sources, like Wine Enthusiast or Robert Parker. I’ve found a few good buys that way – highly rated wines at bargain prices. Occasionally, one might see a “buyer’s choice” designation, which I interpreted to mean that the Sam’s wine buyer had liked the wine in question (usually quite obscure) enough to buy a quantity.

Of late, though, this reliable information system seems to be deteriorating. I’ve seen greater use of ad cards (provided by the winery) which take the place of the old rating notes. Even more annoying is that the tasting notes don’t seem to be updated – the ratings are a couple of years older than the vintage that’s in stock. In one case, the only rating for a 2009 wine dated to 2001 – of what possible use is that?

On my last trip, I found just a small percent of the reds that had applicable rating notes. I suppose with a smartphone it wouldn’t be difficult to search for a given wine on the Web, or even scan its barcode, but that’s not the most convenient way to check out more than a couple of wines.

Is this a local phenomenon, or are you seeing this too? My feeling is that if you are going to be completely self-service, which Sam’s Club certainly is, you must give consumers the information they need to choose products with reasonable confidence. They person coming in to buy a 60″ flat screen TV will likely have done extensive homework and brand comparisons, but the typical wine buyer is more likely to come in looking for something no more specific than “a nice Cab that doesn’t cost more than $15.” Opinions?

Buying Wine at Sam’s Club posted at Box Wines

Wine Gift Ideas

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Wine Cellar Wine Glass Charms (Set of 6)I love this season, because all sorts of wonderful wine accessories pop up in stores.  Plus, it’s a time of year when you can get something a little odd or extravagant.  I searched my own accessories plus a variety of sites to come up with some clever ideas for a few wine-lover oriented gifts!

Wine Decanters.

Jeremy Parzen of the Houston Chronicle suggests a wine decanter as a useful and thoughtful gift.

Crystal vessels by Riedel are the benchmark for fine wine decanters these days. They’re not cheap, but they’re worth every penny for their high-concept design and the technical precision… Here’s a little tip: Look for crystal decanters at consignment and thrift stores in high-end neighborhoods. As long as they’re not chipped, they will polish up like brand-new. And remember: Decanters don’t need to be made of crystal. Glass decanters work just as well, are more sturdy, and go a lot easier on the pocketbook. [Top 5 Gifts for Wine Lovers.]

Riedel Cabernet Wine DecanterOne thing that’s really practical about decanters is that they can improve the taste of wine by letting it breathe better than in an uncorked bottle. Reading the wine reviews here, you’ll often see comments about an inexpensive red that improved with breathing.

Wine Aerators

Decanting is great, but if you want to give wine some really quick breathing, try an aerator. The general concept is that you pour wine through the aerator (some actually attach to the bottle) and it is swirled with air as it pours into the glass. Some aerators use a “venturi” effect to suck air into the liquid and produce intense contact.

Cork Kits

Wine Cork Lazy Susan KitOne dilemma shared by every wine enthusiast is what to do with the corks that remain after the wine is consumed. Sure, you could throw them in the trash, but why not preserve the environment and at the same time create a useful, or at least decorative, item that shows off the owner’s wine hobby? These make a great gift, whether the recipient completes the project or the giver presents the finished display. There’s a great selection of cork kits at Wine Enthusiast.

How about a Wine Cave?

The ultimate gift for a wine lover is a great storage system. Most of us can’t excavate a wine cellar, or get access to a real cave, but a climate controlled storage unit is a lot more practical. Better units will offer plenty of storage, along with temperature zones for storing different types of wine. One of the better lines of storage is Eurocave, which usually ships for free. Check out EuroCave Performance Wine Cellars.

Electronic Cork Screws

I always thought these were kind of gimmicky until I received one as a gift. Now, I use it every time I uncork a bottle. They are fast and easy, and will never tear a cork up or fail to open the bottle. I’ve only had one instance of a cork failure with my opener, and that was a crumbling cork issue rather than any fault of the opener. Best of all, family members and guests can easily pull corks, too. People who might struggle with a sommelier tool and end up breaking a cork or shaking the wine can extract corks with intuitive ease. Try one, and you won’t go back to the old-fashioned way of opening wine bottles.

Best Wine Gift Suggestion?

What are YOUR favorite gift ideas for wine lovers? Leave a comment and let us all know!

Wine Gift Ideas posted at Box Wines

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

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Tilia Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $9
Winery: Tilia, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.9%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Perhaps the strongest appeal of Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is the ripe berry and licorice nose. On the palate, it combines cherry, red berry, and woody notes with an reasonably long finish. It’s on the light side for a Cab, though I didn’t really see the sweetness that a few reviewers noticed. This Cab definitely improves with some air. Despite aerating and a little breathing, the first sips were a bit harsh and not all that flavorful. An hour or two later, the wine was more pleasant and pleasantly drinkable. At first taste, I was thinking a sub-8.0 rating on my personal scale of 10, but after the wine sat for a while I found it more to my liking.

Wine & Spirits rated this wine an amazing 91. Not all wine bloggers agree. Jason’s Wine Blog said, “I’m not sure how Wine & Spirits got to 91 points on this one. Perhaps they were having a rough day in the tasting room. That said this is a perfectly drinkable everyday wine at a nice price point.” K&L Wines called it, “a cheap and cheerful reminder that cab from Argentina, when well made, presents good value.” Wine75 was less enthused, calling it “very harsh and tart.”

Like Jason, I’m a bit skeptical of the 91 point rating from Wine & Spirits. (Maybe it was a very GOOD day in the tasting room!) But, if you give it a while to breathe, Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 will serve as a pleasant table wine or for other light-duty quaffing.

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 posted at Box Wines

How Long is Boxed Wine Good?

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Bota BoxHow long does box wine last?

One of the huge advantages of boxed wine is that it lasts for a month or even more after being opened. This makes it very practical for glass-a-day drinkers who would find storing partially opened bottle wine problematic or wasteful. But, box wines aren’t perfect – it turns out that the bag-in-box packaging is very slightly permeable to oxygen, and after a period of time the wine will oxidize and darken.

Most box wine makers use about a year for their “sell by” date. If they bottle it, or, more accurately, bag it, in October, they allow it to be sold by the following October. They do, however, assume that the wine will be consumed shortly after that. An interesting article in the Austin Chronicle quotes one bag-in-box supplier:

“Our Quality Con­trol department has run extensive tests on the 3L package (i.e. box wine) which show that the wine stays fresh for 14 months,” said Holly Evans, director of public rela­tions. “However, we feel it best to be conservative and go with 12 months.”

Not everyone is that generous. Devon Broglie, a master som­mel­ier who works for Austin-based Whole Foods, said that after Whole Foods conducted an extensive test of boxed wines, preferred six months as the sell-by date.

What does this mean for the box wine consumer? If the box is within its sell-by date, it’s probably fine. If it’s many months from that date, so much the better. The important thing is to not pick up a few boxes on sale and let them sit for a year. Boxed wine isn’t like fine wine in bottles – it’s not meant to be aged, and it won’t get better. In fact, the nature of the packaging means that a box that’s a couple of years old or more has probably deteriorated to some degree.

So, when you shop, check the dates, and don’t stock up on more boxes than you will consume in a month or two.

How Long is Boxed Wine Good? posted at Box Wines

Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009

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Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009Price: $8
Winery: Cameron Hughes Wine, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Meritage
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.6%
Our Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009 is a big, tasty red wine! It is fruity up front, with cherry and blueberry flavors, but maintains some complexity as it eases into a long, peppery finish with chewy tannins. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the nose is surprisingly minimal. It’s a Meritage, which means it’s a red blend that must adhere to a set of specifications.

There’s a backstory to this wine. According to the Cameron Hughes website, “Lot 250 comes to us from one of Napa’s premiere Cabernet producers with prices in the $50 to $200/bottle range. Like Lot 150, Lot 250 is born of an oversupply. For 150 it was mostly 2005 and 2006 barrel aged reds but for Lot 250 it’s all Napa County components from one one of Napa’s most revered wineries and the bountiful 2009 Harvest.”

I’m normally a little skeptical of such claims, but Lot 250 makes them believable. With its fruit-forward character and higher than usual alcohol content, it seems rather like a big Zinfandel. The winery doesn’t actually say what grapes went into this Meritage, though no Zin grapes were used. Meritage, by definition, must be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and/or Carmenère. My rating is no doubt biased by my preference for this style of wine. If you aren’t a Zin person, you probably won’t like this Meritage as well as I did.

For eight bucks at Sam’s Club, though, this is a great deal. I’m planning on heading back to the store to pick up a few more bottles. These are one-shot wines. From what I can tell, they won’t be offered again, so if you find one you enjoy, stock up immediately. For me, at least, Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009 is a very affordable winner.

Cameron Hughes Lot 250 Meritage 2009 posted at Box Wines

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010

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Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010Price: $8
Winery: BEDM Wines, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.6%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Is there a varietal that offers as good a value as Malbec? Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010 is yet another very inexpensive but totally drinkable red wine from Argentina. It’s very juicy and jammy with blueberry and raspberry notes, and offers a tart, peppery finish.

The Bodega Elena de Mendoza website doesn’t tell us much about the brand (reportedly, it is an E. J. Gallo brand), though it does say:

“Bodega Elena de Mendoza is named after our family matriarch Elena Napoli, whose parents emigrated from Italy to the heart of Argentina’s wine country in the nineteenth century. Our bold, beautiful wines take full advantage of the altitude, eternally sunny skies, and mountain water unique to our home at the foot of the Andes.”

This inexpensive but tasty Malbec has been universally applauded by bloggers, who have written about it in record numbers (at least compared to most of the wines I review).

  • called it “fruit-forward and very drinkable” and “a steal.”
  • Ben Bodenstein of Articles on Wine was even more complimentary, terming this Malbec “a truly regal wine that has all the finesse and character of a classical Bordeaux combined with the mineral lased fruit derived from its Argentinean birthplace.”
  • Happy Hour Mary found it “smoky,” and thought it made a good food pairing with pizza.
  • The Cork Chronicles thought it was very fruity and “easy drinking,” and suggested it might be a good “gateway red” for white wine drinkers.
  • Benito’s Wine Reviews said, “This one would still be a good deal at double the price.”
  • Six in the Suburbs described it as, “ripe yet balanced with a whack of freshness.”
  • Under the Grape Tree dubbed the 2009 version “outstanding.”
  • Oxford Liquor did an in-store tasting and considered it “very nice for the money.”

It’s rare to see a sub-$10 wine this widely reviewed. Not only that, although I admit my search wasn’t exhaustive, I didn’t find a single bad review. Just about all found this Malbec to be a good value, and there were more than a couple of rave reviews. So, if you need a fruity, drinkable red for your next large group, or just for a daily table wine, you could do a lot worse than Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010.

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010 posted at Box Wines

Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

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Banrock Station Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $18
Maker: Banrock Station, Kingston on Murray, South Australia, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a very pleasant wine, one of the nicer boxed Cabs in mass distribution in the U.S. It’s a fruit-forward Cab, with blueberry and plum flavoers, along with some chocolate, spice, and oak. The finish is reasonably long with medium tannins.

The packaging is a convenient 3-liter box in a kraft-paper brown color. It’s distinguished by the very subtle embossing of the picture that looks like a little tree in a bottle. It’s almost too subtle, as I’m sure it added to the cost but is likely to be unnoticed by 99 out of a hundred shoppers.

The Banrock Station winemaker is Paul Burnett. Their website notes:

Paul is passionate about the Riverland region, a hub of industry-leading viticulture and winemaking research and innovation. Paul is a South Australian local, completing his Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) at the University of Adelaide. He has travelled throughout the Californian wine regions, a highlight of which was a stint with Blackstone winery, specialising in small scale premium winemaking

Whether you want a 3-liter box for party duty or just prefer the package’s ability to keep wine fresh for a month or longer, Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a nice choice. This inexpensive wine is available in bottles, too – you can likely find the 750ml bottle for closer to $5 than $10. Banrock Station also makes a couple of blends – Cabernet-Shiraz and Cabernet-Merlot. Based on the evidence of this Cab, those would be worth a try, too.

Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 posted at Box Wines

Electronic Tongue Analyzes Wine

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tongueSommeliers don’t need to worry about their jobs yet, but researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have developed a device that is capable of identifying types of cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. The device “combines chemical measurement systems and advanced mathematical procedures, including an “artificial neural network,” that mimics the human tongue and brain to parse levels of sweetness.”

The device is still in the development phase, as it can identify only three of the seven types of cava. Like champagne, levels of sweetness are a key difference between types. Cava ranges from Brut Nature (no sugar added) to Sweet (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter). At the moment, it’s envisioned primarily as a quality control tool for wineries due to its limited range of measurement. (More.)

Undoubtedly, sensor technology will improve in coming years and devices will get more sophisticated in the way they can analyze both aromas and taste. I suspect it will be many years, though, before we can get automated tasting notes that are reliable and reproducible.

Electronic Tongue Analyzes Wine posted at Box Wines

Seven Red Table Wine

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Seven Red Table Wine

Seven Red Table Wine

Price: $19
Maker: Bodegas Osborne, Malpica de Tajo, Spain
Varietal: Red Blend
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Seven Red Table Wine is one of the newer boxes available in mass distribution. It’s from Spain, it’s in a cool octagonal bag-in-box package, and it’s surprisingly good. Seven is so named because it’s a blend of seven red grapes, with Tempranillo being the largest component. It’s not too complex, but offers a pleasant mix of chocolate cherries and a little black pepper. The tannins are soft, and the finish reasonably long.

Real Simple listed it under “Best Boxed Wines,” calling it “smooth and rich.” For Seven Red Table Wine pairing they suggest “smoky-sweet barbecue ribs or pepperoni pizza.” Cheap wine challenge wasn’t as impressed, calling it “adequate” and “OK.”

The package is the “Octavin Home Wine Bar” from the importer of the wine, Underdog Wine Merchants. They claim the spout is patented and the package is patent-pending. They claim the wine will stay fresh for at least six weeks after opening. Most boxed wine labels suggest freshness for a month, though I’ve had some open for longer without bad results. Other interesting wines in the packaging include Pinot Evil (France), Silver Birch (New Zealand), A Mano (Italy), Herding Cats (South Africa), and R. Müller (Germany). For a box wine guy, this is exciting stuff.

Seven Red Table Wine may not blow away some of the better 3-liter boxes from California or Australia, but it gets extra points for an unusually attractive box and its Spanish origin. Whether you serve it at your next patio party or leave it on your counter for your heart-healthy glass of red wine, Seven is a solid choice.

Seven Red Table Wine posted at Box Wines

Zarpado Malbec 2009

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Zarpado Malbec

Zarpado Malbec 2009

Price: $7
Winery: Mendoza Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.7%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Malbecs tend to offer some of the better red wine values, but for a mere seven bucks Zarpado Malbec 2009 is an even better value than most. It has an aroma of leather and red berries, and is surprisingly complex on the palate for such an inexpensive wine. The overall impression is of juicy blackberries and raspberries, but there’s a hint of tobacco and the finish offers tannins that are pleasantly robust.

Wine Enthusiast scored the 2008 vintage 88 points and called it “a nice, highly affordable bottling that highlights Argentina’s value potential.” Not many bloggers have commented on this wine. Tom and Melody said, “This is good! Softer than a Cab but more intense than a Merlot… I am pleasantly surprised at the quality.” Chris Voss posted this video:

Don’t confuse this Malbec with a $50 Cab, but for a nice table wine or a party wine, it’s a great choice. I paired it with grilled steak, but its softness would work well with slightly sweeter fare like barbecue as well. I’ll definitely buy a few bottles of Zarpado Malbec 2009 to have on hand for every-day drinking and casual entertaining.

Zarpado Malbec 2009 posted at Box Wines

Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

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Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Price: $10
Winery: Grayson Cellars, St. Helena, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

It’s not often that one gets a really nice Cab for a mere ten bucks, but Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Lot 10) is one such wine. This Cab is a dark ruby color with licorice and cherry aromas. The flavor is rich and balanced, starting with ripe cherries and vanilla notes, and finishing with black pepper, robust tannins, and a little oak. The impression is of a more costly wine.

Grayson Cellars is a family-owned winery that sources grapes from various parts of California. They claim 30 years of winemaking experience, and focus on providing value-priced, high quality wines. The latter claim is totally believable based on this Cabernet.

Across the Web, people like this wine. Fermented Reviews said, “I went through the whole bottle in one sitting, it’s THAT good and tasty.” Vera Wine Club says, “Seriously, this wine is a steal!” Southeast Vino thought, “What a remarkable inexpensive wine!” One blogger not so happy was Wineguider, who found the Grayson Cab “too sweet, kind of generic.” Sassy Wine Belly, with multiple tastings, gushed, “This is one I’ll definitely purchase again!” Wine Reviews You Can Understand called it “very distinct, and very enjoyable.” Winegal Detroit found it, “perfect for the upcoming spring Bar-B-Ques.”

Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 posted at Box Wines

Oops! $1 Million in Fancy Shiraz Lost

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What’s one advantage of inexpensive wines? Well, if a forklift driver drops a load, you won’t be out a million bucks. That’s exactly what happened in Australia. 462 cases of 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove shiraz — worth about $200 for each and every bottle — were smashed while being loaded onto a ship in Adelaide. The bottles fell about 20 feet, which was enough to ensure total destruction.

The lost wine was about a third of the year’s production for that winery. (More.) It’s hard to imagine one forklift load of wine being worth $1 million, but those $200 bottles add up quickly. And, one assumes, it must have been a big forklift to lift 462 cases at once. Or perhaps not big enough.

Oops! $1 Million in Fancy Shiraz Lost posted at Box Wines

Francis Ford Coppola Rosso & Bianco Chardonnay 2009

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Francis Coppola Rosso Bianco ChardonnayPrice: $10
Winery: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Lately, I’ve been avoiding Chardonnays, mostly because I’ve been in the mood for lighter, fruitier white wines that aren’t strongly oaked. I’m glad I tried Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009, as it’s unoaked and its fruit flavors come through nicely. This chard has a prominent, aroma of tropical fruit & pineapple. These fruits appear on the palate, too. The finish is a little acidic and lingers nicely. It’s not as creamy as some Chardonnays, but the lack of oak gives it an uncommon character.

I usually try to provide a sampling of other opinions, but for this Chardonnay there hasn’t been much activity. Perhaps it’s too new?

Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009 is a nice summer wine, refreshing, affordable, and not too heavy. Try it on the patio with grilled shrimp and veggies.

Francis Ford Coppola Rosso & Bianco Chardonnay 2009 posted at Box Wines

Boxxle: Elegant Box Wine Dispenser

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Boxxle boxed wine dispenser

Boxxle for boxed wine

We box wine enthusiasts love the good parts of boxed wines: freshness for weeks after opening, minimal storage space, low environmental impact, and better-than-bottle pricing. But we have to admit there are a few annoyances (beyond lacking the satisfaction of extracting a cork). For one, getting the last glass or so out of the box requires extracting the inner bag and squeezing it into a glass. Second, since the wine is dispensed by gravity, the spigot is at the bottom of the box – you either have to set the box on the edge of your counter or table or place it on some kind of platform to pour into a glass. Boxxle may be the answer!

The idea behind Boxxle is simple enough – here’s a video from Kickstarter, where Boxxle founder Tripp Middleton is seeking enough orders to fund their production:

Boxxle pressurizes the bag storage area so that the wine can be dispensed from its top. Not only can you easily pour into a glass, but no manual squeezing is needed to get the last glass or two out of the box. Plus, from a decor standpoint, the sleek Boxxle looks better than the typical wine box. It is designed to accommodate 3-liter bags, which is the standard size for better quality wine boxes.

Be One of the First Boxxle Owners

BoxxleHere’s the catch – you can’t buy a Boxxle right now. With a month to go in the funding effort, a little more than 10% of the required $75K has been raised from box wine enthusiasts. YOU can make a difference! The way Kickstarter works is that you agree to supply a specific amount of funding if the whole deal gets done. So, for a commitment of $75, you get to be one of the first Boxxle owners. (They expect it to retail for about $100.) Other levels from $5 to $350 are available. If the funding goal isn’t reached, no money changes hands. (This is my quick summary, if you participate be sure to read the details.)

So, check out the Boxxle Kickstarter page and the Boxxle website. I think this would be a great addition to any box wine lover’s kitchen, and might even have commercial applications.

Boxxle: Elegant Box Wine Dispenser posted at Box Wines

A History of Zinfandel

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Zinfandels are perhaps my favorite reds – particularly the big, bold, not overly sweet Zins that combine rich complexity with plenty of fruit. I enjoy Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chianti, Bordeaux, and many other red wines, but somehow Zins are special. I was delighted to run across a wonderful chronicle of Zinfandel history at the Times & Transcript. I was surprised to learn that its American origins trace to New England before being transported to California in the 1850s. Although its origins seem to trace to Italy’s Primotivo grapes, it is considered an American varietal.

It seems the grape grew in popularity, if not distinction, for more than a century. By the 1980s, much of the production went into producing white Zinfandels, a blush wine produced by limiting contact with the skins. In the 1990s, the first glimmer of quality red Zinfandels began to emerge with wineries like Ridge, Turley and Ravenswood beginning to produce finer reds.

Now, many Zins are designated Old Vine Zinfandels, produced from vines that range from 40 to 100 years old or more.

Read the lengthy history here.

A History of Zinfandel posted at Box Wines