Wine With Milk Wine With Milk

THE DREAMING TREE. Cabernet Sauvignon. 2013. North Coast, CA. $14.99.

IMG_205941218_121991121183118_7630781_n

10438574_10100275070363828_8055645995391757919_n

Mr. Jankura is a man of many passions. Wine is not one of them. Surfing, fishing, boating…. all in a speedo, are. Unlike his balls in that bathing suit above, Mr. Jankura lives a life free of few restrictions, a life him and his colleagues (myself included) refer to as LTD, or Living the Dream. He recommended this to me because he probably associates more with the idea of a tree living the dream on a wine label than he does with Dave Matthews and his wine making project, but life is all about how you perceive it, and wine is just a microcosm of that. I LTD’ed when I drank this bottle not only because Mr. Jankura said I would, but because it was pretty freakin’ good.

THE FACTS: Cabernet Sauvignon has reputation. Made famous on the Left Bank in Bordeaux’s Haut Medoc district, its a grape that gets around and even if you don’t drink wine, you recognize the name. Its planted all over the New World (aka not just France) and may be the most perfect grape for complex, super f’in good wines. It buds late so spring frosts have a hard time killing it from the get go. Its grapes are thick skinned and grow loose, so its more resistant to bad things like rot and bugs. It generally gives lower yields so it tends to concentrate its flavors better than the best of em. The grapes post-harvest are high in acid, high in tannin and when made into wine, especially with the addition of oak aging, crazy flavors can abound, right then or years down the road. It’s popular, its charming and lives the dream quite hassle free from the time its picked til the time it ends up in your stomach.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Purple

Smell :

  • Intensity : 8
  • Smells like : blackberries, vanilla extract, Nature’s Seasoning, black cherries

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 7.5
  • Tannin : 8.5
  • Alcohol : 13.85%
  • Body : Full
  • Finish : 8
  • Tastes like : that stuffed grape leaf you get a Greek places, but instead of rice inside its a blackberry.
  • Conclusion : Full body, tight tannins and a good balance of black fruits, herbs and oak where none of the aforementioned flavors stand out over the others. Just a balanced wine with a legit finish.
  • Good with : Burgers, ribs, LTD’in on boats and surfboards in a speedo.

SCORE: 8.77

     

CLAVA COASTAL RESERVE – QUINTAY. Pinot Noir. 2011. Casablanca Valley, Chile. $11.99

IMG_0260I’ve always said, or for like the last three months anyway, that Chilean wine is where its at. If this bottle said it was from the Willamette Valley, OR or Carneros, CA (our own country mind you) it would be three times as much. A buddy of mine asked me today whats a good starter wine for a dude who doesn’t drink wine and I should’ve just said “Casablanca Valley in Chile for whites/Pinot Noir and the Rapel Valley in Chile for reds.” Chile and next door Argentina have been and still are taking the wine world by storm by making affordable wines that can run with stuff twice the price.

THE FACTS: The Casablanca Valley is the only spot in Chile that produces more whites than reds. Why? Because its much cooler and whites need that cooling influence to keep their acidity up and make them fresh. Pinot Noir as you know is a red, but, more so than any other reds, needs this cool air thing too. It kinda has gender wine issues. It wants to be a white grape so bad. It acts like a white grape in the vineyard, needs to do white grape things like cool off all the time and is a total prima donna when it tries to do red grape stuff like chill and bake in the hot sun. Well it found one of its few homes in the Casablanca Valley where it can just hang out with the white grapes all day, still kinda be a red grape and turn itself into one of the most spectacular wines in the world.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 7.5
  • Smells like : sweet cherries, cranberries, uncooked mushrooms

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 8.5
  • Tannin : 3.5
  • Alcohol : 14%
  • Body : Medium
  • Finish : 9
  • Tastes like : a slice of mushroom drenched in Hershey’s strawberry syrup
  • Other : Pretty full bodied for a Pinot with a fresh acidity that screams of red fruit….any red fruit really, you decide. A little bit mushroomy, especially on the nose, probably because its a few yrs old and is getting its age on nicely. Good structure with a lasting finish, not watered down like some cheap Pinots.
  • Good with : stuffed mushrooms, tuna steak, salmon, your first wine ever.

SCORE: 9.56

     

GRAFF, Riesling Spätlese, 2012, Piesporter-Michelsburg-Mosel, Germany. $10.99

IMG_0791

“Deutsch wein is auÞer kontrolle geraten.” Thats google translate for “German wine is out of control.” At least trying to understand them is.

I’d wager that even if you fancy yourself an everyday wine drinker who has some interest in wine, you still can give two f’s about German wine. The labels are impossible to understand, and there will always be the stereotype that they’re all Riesling, sweet and low in alcohol. Riesling is in fact their big deal, and although the country can bust out many different varietals, Riesling is still what you’ll find most in the German section of the wine store. Are they always sweet and low in booze? No. How do you tell? See below.

THE FACTS: Here we go. Basically there’s two types of German wine: landwein and Qualitätswein bestimmter AnbaugebieteI know, you’re thinking this is already fucked, but bear with. Landwein literally means “land wine” or “shit wine” and Qualits-whatever-the-hell means “quality wine with specific attributes.” You won’t find too many landweins here in the States and if you do, you may just wanna rock the “quality wine” for obvious reasons.

Now the qualits-i-wont-be-spelling-this-crap-anymore is organized on ripeness which dictates quality to these guys. That’s because Germany is way north for grape growing and a lot of times they can’t even ripen their shit because winter comes too fast. Here’s how thats broken down and this will help you determine the style of wine when you see these words on the label:

Kabinett: Literally “cabinet” wine picked at the normal harvest before any crazy storms or cold. They’ll be light, low in alcohol (not much sugars because the grapes probably didn’t ripen right) and dry. Your best bet for wine with food.

Spätlese: Literally “late harvest.” Wine made from grapes more fully ripened. These will be more intense, fuller bodied and sometimes a little sweet.

Auslese: Hand selected late harvest bunches of grapes that are much riper than Spätlese. The wine will be fuller, more intense and could be dry or sweet.

Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese are late harvest, hand selected grapes (not bunches) that have been infected with a fungus called botritis cinerea that concentrates the grape sugars for ultra-sweet, super ripe grapes.

Good luck finding an Auslese for under $15 bones and if you have a beerenauslese or trockenbeerenauslese you are one lucky s.o.b. because that’s some of the most expensive wine in the world. Our middle class asses will most likely be confined to landwein, kabinett or spätlese…picking one just depends on what you’re into that day given what you know above.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Yellow

Smell :

  • Intensity : 2
  • Smells like : apple juice, rubber bands

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Semi-sweet
  • Acidity : 8
  • Tannin : 0
  • Alcohol : 8%
  • Body : Full
  • Finish : 7
  • Tastes like : liquid adult applesauce
  • Conclusion : A sweeter wine that has the acidity to keep it from tasting sickly and flabby. Its a spätlese so its full with a sweet (literally) finish but no alcohol and no real smell to it.
  • Good with : Salty potato chips before dinner and german apple strudel for after.

SCORE: 5.56

 

     

FEUERHEERD ANCHOR WINE. Vinho Tinto. 2012. Douro, Portugal. $14.99.

IMG_0779

That’s your’s truly at my girlfriend’s birthday dinner party chugging water. Call me an un-fun hydrating wuss-face that can’t hang, its just her friends can flat out throw down. They may even drink more wine than me…which is mighty tough. And they do it right. Take that bottle of wine in front seemingly wrapped in toilet paper with the anchor on it. It’s affordable, massive in taste and hails from the center of the Portuguese wine universe…the Douro.

THE FACTS: You, or your rich friends, or your rich friend’s dads may know the Douro as the land of the Ports. The basic history of the area is as follows: During the early 1700’s the English hated the French and as such wouldn’t drink their wine. Wine from Portugal was an obvious substitute because it was just a shot down the coast and merchants could ship up wine from there at a reasonable cost. Problem was the wine went to shit on the boats because the journey back to England was too long. Solution: stop some of the fermentation by adding sweet grape brandy to create a wine that wouldn’t easily go bad on the ships, had more booze and still tasted good. They called it Port and we drink the same stuff til this day.

The contents of Port and this bottle are very much the same. They come from the Douro (a river valley in the north-central part of Portugal) and they use a lot of the same grape varieties. The difference is this wine is fermented to complete dryness, won’t have any hint of sweetness and has about 5% less alcohol. It’s put together to have during dinner, as opposed to before or after and if you play it right like my girlfriend’s rad friend Erin did, you can get it cheap.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Purple

Smell :

  • Intensity : 8.5
  • Smells like : ripe blackberries, fruit seeds, licorice, port

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 7.5
  • Tannin : 9.5
  • Alcohol : 13.5%
  • Body : Full
  • Finish : 8
  • Tastes like : A cotton ball dipped in blackberry juice and Jaeger.
  • Conclusion : A heavy duty, tannic wine thats big in basically everything. Don’t buy this if you’re into finesse or light fruit or easy drinking. A little outta balance because its so dry and tannic so it could benefit from some chill time on the shelf.
  • Good with : Steak, cheese plates, a birthday girl’s reunion night out?

SCORE: 9.35

     

VILLA CAMPOBELLO. 2012. Chianti DOCG, Italy. $7.49.

IMG_0374

We are a proud nation of fat asses. Blame our TV, blame our sedentary lifestyle, even blame our alcohol, but please, please leave the carbs and the awesome everyday Italian pizzerias from whence those carbs come from out of this. They are a national treasure. Without them you wouldn’t get through the week. And neither would your children. Any incentive for them to play sports and instruments and get good grades week after week would be irrelevant without that weekly reward. We all would have one more day of dried up pork chops and milk and one less day of extra cheese pizza,  meatball subs and Chianti. We would be ruined.

THE FACTS: A DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) Chianti will be at least 80% Sangiovese, a varietal known for its sharp acidity and big tannin. Alone, it’s notorious for having a bite. Complimented with everyday Italian-American fare smothered in tomato sauce and cheese, its a thing of beauty. Tomatoes are high in acidity and the gravies and sauces made from them need a wine that can match its intensity. Cheese is high in protein and fat which balances and offsets the somewhat bitter, astringent taste of a high tannic wine. (See my “Tasting?” page or this for a more detailed definition of “tannin.”)

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Purple

Smell :

  • Intensity : 5
  • Smells like : balsamic vinaigrette, blueberries, cherries.

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 8
  • Tannin : 6.5
  • Alcohol : 12.5%
  • Body : Light-Medium
  • Finish : 2.5
  • Tastes like : Cherry tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette salad.
  • Conclusion : For seven and half bucks, buy it, especially if you’re out to grind on cheap Italian. Its high enough in acid to hang with the tomato sauces, vinegar in antipasto or balsamic vinaigrette in salad. No finish and not much body or fruit complexity, but think of that as a good thing because it doesn’t interfere with the taste of your coveted Friday night pizzafest.
  • Good with : Pizza, meatball subs, balsamic vinaigrette, hard fought weeks at the office, good grades.

SCORE: 6.93

     

PETIT. Pinotage, 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa. $9.99

IMG_0373

You’re a man’s man who’s off to day-drink with some motor head friends, but Dog Piss Lite just doesn’t cut it anymore. You need something cheap, something you don’t have to chill, something you can open without a corkscrew and something you won’t get shit for. Is a purple bottle of wine named Petit the answer? Believe it or not, yes. I know it looks like it belongs in a make-up kit, but don’t read a book by it’s cover. Maybe just remove the label before you gotta bro it up, but this wine is approachable, doesn’t need food and actually tastes like a cigar.

THE FACTS: Pinotage is a cross between the world renown Pinot Noir and the easier to grow Cinsault. South Africa got really weird, did some experimentation, came up with this and laid claim to it as their national grape varietal. It can have some pretty strange tastes (see this), but generally its light and cheap enough to swill anytime. Not a bad answer for a day boozing outside.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 8
  • Smells like : cigars, cigar ash, campfire, leather, dark cherries.

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 4
  • Tannin : 8.5
  • Alcohol : 14%
  • Body : Medium
  • Finish : 8
  • Tastes like : A black cherry that fell into an ashtray.
  • Conclusion : This wine’s like your burly friend who smokes, drinks, curses, fixes cars then goes out on Saturday and dresses like a metro-sexual d-bag. He’s cool and all, but why the awkward get up? A questionable, cute label whose inside contents have gritty tannin and a big finish with a cigar/ashtray/leather kind of taste.
  • Good with : Cigars, day drinking, metro-sexuality.

SCORE: 9.42

     

FREY. Chardonnay. 2013. Mendocino County, CA. $14.99.

IMG_0359

My first memories of my Mom involve her wearing clothes that look like this label. Her maiden name is also Frey, so a bottle with her name in an 80’s aerobic leotard type bottle means this is her current favorite choice for wine. Its “organic” too, so that definitely doesn’t hurt the cause.

THE FACTS: “Organic” wine is a hazy subject. Anything “organic” to us First Worldians usually means no sulfites, but if you’re making wine, thats just not possible. Sulfites (SO2) are a natural byproduct of fermentation and will be in every wine. If someone tells you their wine doesn’t have em, they’re full of shit. Now if an American wine says “organic” on the bottle, like this one, it’ll mean two things: 1.) the wine comes from organically grown grapes and 2.) no further sulfites were added after fermentation. #2 is somewhat sketchy because they could’ve added some, they just needed to be under 10 parts per million and a wine with that amount of sulfites is a wine thats pretty damn susceptible to some nasty crap that would render the wine bad and useless. My take on this is buy a wine that just says “grown with organic grapes” which means sulfites were added but the vineyard didn’t get raped by synthetic pesticides and herbicides in the process. If the right amount of sulfites aren’t added to the wine its just not properly protected from bacteria and sometimes flavors can be sacrificed. Winefolly does a decent job of further getting into this if you’re one of those “I really can’t have sulfites in my system because I’ll die” type weirdos.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Gold

Smell :

  • Intensity : 3.5
  • Smells like : apples, butterscotch, pears

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 5
  • Tannin : 0
  • Alcohol : 13.9%
  • Body : Medium
  • Finish : 4
  • Tastes like : The yellow apple wasting away in the fridge that nobody wants to eat.
  • Conclusion : Pretty standard stuff. Tastes like it should cost $6.99 but it doesn’t. It’s $13.99 because the vineyard wasn’t abused with chemicals and the wine has no added sulfites. I’d say keep the vineyard clean and add the sulfites because the fruit and flavors just aren’t on this one enough.
  • Good with : Leftover fruit, leftover chicken salad. A USDA banquet.

SCORE: 4.78

     

SEARIDGE. Merlot. 2012. California. $5.99.

IMG_0371

My friend Ted is a genius and probably should run for Congress. He is proposing a “Remove Ryan Howard” tax for anybody living within the Philadelphia area. The overpaid, useless first basemen has been dragging the team down for the last 5 yrs or so with his terrible play and huge contract. No team wants him because he costs too much and he sucks complete ass. Ted’s taxation plan: kick him off the team and cover his enormous salary by having each resident in the Philadelphia area pay $5 a week. I’m already on board. Thats why I went well below my average cost of $11 for one wine this week that costs $6. I’m doing my share to help repair a depressing baseball team and you should too.

THE FACTS: Whether it be $50 wine or a $5 wine, no matter the price, if the label on the bottle only says “California” these grapes are more than likely sourced from the Central Valley….the area smack dab in the middle of the state to the left of the Sierras and the right of the Coastal Mtns. Its hot, fertile and with the help of irrigation you can pump out all sorts of varietals with a very high yield. Here viticulture is done on a mass scale so you’ll be gambling on how good your bottle of wine is gonna be. Price may be an indication of quality, other times its not.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 3
  • Smells like : prune juice, plums, cherries.

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 2
  • Tannin : 4
  • Alcohol : 12.5%
  • Body : Light-Medium
  • Finish : 3
  • Tastes like : Watered down fruit punch, berry flavored vitamin water – the sugarless kind your Mom drinks
  • Other : Lighter tannins are there but not bitter, the wine’s surprisingly smooth, doesn’t offer up a lot of luscious tastiness, but a good bang for the buck.
  • Good with : hotdogs, cheeseburgers, everyday Ryan Howard strikeouts

SCORE: 5.48

     

PICKET FENCE. Pinot Noir. 2012. Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA. $12.99.

IMG_0370

I’m one of those people that would risk mercury poisoning death by raw fish if I could have that shit everyday. Problem is I can’t, and not due to the health complications but because my funds need to be allocated to less pricey consumables…like wine. My solution tonight? Clean out the Acme pre-made sushi for $6.99 and go wild. Pinot is a fav of mine with such gluttony (see here) and it turns out I struck gold with this bottle.

THE FACTS: Ask any grape grower and they’ll tell you Pinot is the attention whore of all grape varietals. If done right and grown in the right area though it can be brilliant. Burgundy is one of these areas but in the New World (aka not France) there are plenty others and the Russian River Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) in CA is one of them. Fogs blow in at night off the Pacific through the valley and stay til the next morning creating a giant air conditioner for a grape that whines more than your grandmother about the heat all day. That combined with a diverse set of rich, but well draining soils and you got yourself prime Pinot country where a pretty penny is usually paid for the resultant wine. Fortunately for us, not in this case.

SCORECARD (out of ten)

Look : Red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 8.5
  • Smells like : cherry, strawberry, vanilla sweet spice. All with a tad bit of…deer?

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 8
  • Tannin : 4
  • Alcohol : 14%
  • Body : Light-Medium
  • Finish : 9.5
  • Tastes like : Sweet strawberries, strawberry candy like that kind your grandparents had hanging around, ripe cherry, vanilla, light oak, venison
  • Other : The finish kills on this one. Just keeps going with the above mentioned flavors and that fresh acidity. Good mesh with subtle oak, probably French because its not so in-yo-face and doesn’t go overkill on the ridiculous amount flavors raging all over the place.
  • Good with : pre-made Acme spicy tuna/philly roll/spicy salmon/california roll sushi, any kind of sushi, raw fish, not raw but cooked deer meat.

SCORE: 9.78

     

DEEP PURPLE. Zinfandel. 2012. Lodi, CA. $11.99

IMG_0367

One of the super hilarious words smarty pants sommeliers use to describe wine is “hedonistic.” Is it just me or is the first thing that comes to your mind “gnarly sex moves.” I dunno, I’m probably just a sicko. Anywho, hedonistic in the wine world is a little different….its commonly referred to as a style of wine thats made to be drunk young and without aging and is  so delicious, fruity and spectacular that everybody loves it. To me thats a good wine, right? Well, not really. In some uppity bullshit wine circles they see this as a knock because the taste is so forward and good that it leaves nothing to the imagination and is meant for the unintelligent simpleton. Jesus. You wonder why people are intimidated about wine. All wines like these are awesome, don’t be a d-bag and over think it.

THE FACTS: Hedonistic, fruit forward red wines like this one are made in a style that’s not overtly tannic and acidic, but loaded with tasty fruit and sometimes a good amount of toasty oak (again, like this). To keep away from the tannins many winemakers may not use much of the stalks during fermentation, they’ll bleed the juice off the skins relatively early and they’ll try to use grape clones with a lower skin to juice ratio. That may seem like a lot of jargon, but just know that these red wines are made with the primary idea that the grape’s juice is what is to be considered…not the other physiological factors like skins, pits and stems. Also, to keep the acidity lower and less harsh they may hang these grapes to dry and ripen longer. The resultant grapes are super fruity and ready to made into the popular “hedonistic” drink-it-now New World wines that are increasingly in demand today. This dude does a pretty good of further describing the difference between “young” and “old” wines for some further clarification.

SCORECARD (out of 10)

Look : Red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 8
  • Smells like : black raspberry, blackberry, clove cigarettes, wood shop

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 3
  • Tannin : 4
  • Alcohol : 14%
  • Body : Medium-Full
  • Finish : 8
  • Tastes like : Fresh blackberries from a crate of just-sawed up wood.
  • Other : A fruit bomb of a red with light, soft tannin and a finish that hangs around because of the insane amount of fruit on the palate.

Good with : Pot brownies and classic rock. Smoke on the water. Fire in the sky.

SCORE: 9.22

     
About Me

My name is Rick. Some of my friends call me Milk. I'm an average dude who knows some things, not all, about wine. Every other night I'm gonna put down one bottle of wine, $15 or less, and tell you if I think its awesome or not and why. Hopefully it'll help guide you through the infinite assemblage of wine at your local wine store. Cheap wine is good, damn good. Trust me.

Categories
Connect
Sponsors