Wine With Milk Wine With Milk

PENYA. Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. $12.99


If you’re into hooch, Grenache may be your kind of wine. Its a grape that digs the sun and as such ripens its sugars at some pretty escalated levels. Now if you know science, when you add yeast to something with a high sugar content you’re gonna end up with a lot of booze. The problem with Grenache is sometimes this booze isn’t backed up by enough fruit and phenolics and you’re stuck with what I call Red Wine Ice. Like Bud Ice or Beast Ice, but with red wine.

FACTS: Many winemakers know this, so (like this wine) they blend in other grapes to add flavor, complexity and general scrumptiousness. Or they just make it a rosé. Either way nowhere is this done better than in southern France. Many (like this bottle) are also Vin de Pays which basically translates to a wine less regulated by the French gov’t. That means winemakers can source their grapes from more squirrely areas, blend it however they want and don’t have to stay within specific yields. In Bordeaux or Burgundy this is probably not a good thing, but down south who cares? They do what they want.

SCORECARD (out of 10)

Look : Red

Smell :

  • Intensity : 6
  • Smells like : cranberries, raspberries, bacon grease, alcohol

Taste :

  • Sweetness : Dry
  • Acidity : 2
  • Tannin : 8
  • Alcohol : 14%
  • Body : Medium
  • Finish : 4
  • Tastes like : slightly watered down raspberries and strawberries, like the frozen kind you put in smoothies.
  • Other : Harsh tannin thats feels like chalk on the gums. Needs beef.

Good with : Red meat, warm fruit smoothie.

SCORE: 5.82


CLOS DU BOIS. Pinot Grigio. 2013. California. $13.99

IMG_0365When I’m not drinking wine, pouring wine, making wine or tending to wine vines, I’m in the water, frolicking about on a surfboard. Surfing, like wine, is best enjoyed with good friends and one of those good friends is the legendary Cole Allen, fellow shredder and internet genius behind the website and surf podcast, I even got my own podcast and if you should feel so inclined to hear about my titillating adventures away from the wine bottle and amongst the waves, feel free to take a gander here. But enough about me, Cole is one of the most impassioned watermen I know, and what does he drink onshore? The Clos du Bois Pinot Grigio.

FACTS: Pinot Grigio is the same grape as Pinot Gris, but if it says Pinot Grigio its probably made in the “Italian style” which means its unoaked and fermented and aged in stainless steel. These suckers are crisp, clean all about the pure varietal fruit flavor.

SCORECARD (out of 10)

Look : Yellow green

Smell :

  • Intensity: 5
  • Smells like: flowers, sunscreen, Candy apple…like the ones in fall

Taste :

  • Sweetness: Off-dry
  • Acidity: 7
  • Tannin: 0
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Body: Light
  • Finish: 3
  • Tastes like: pears, flowers, caramel apple, lemonade
  • Other: crisp, refreshing

Good with : a surf session (before, during, after), the beach when everybody else is drinking Coors Lite

SCORE: 7.33



SEAGLASS, Unoaked Chardonnay, 2013, Santa Barbara County, CA, $13.99


The most talented and promising baseball team of the year suffered a rare 8-0 loss today. With our never to be washed up south paw ace Cole Hamels on the mound, coupled with our high power, home run hitting offense, it was odd that the less than spectacular Boston Red Sox hit five home runs while we only managed three hits. Strange that the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies lost their bid for an undefeated baseball season so fast.

To celebrate the greatness of Opening Day with the promise of spring and a good baseball team, today it had to be the beachy Seaglass unoaked Chard. Unoaked chards are gonna be more fruit driven, fresh and crisp, while being less soft, round, oaky (obviously) and creamy. They’re just more refreshing and thats why this got the nod today. Plus its from Santa Barbara, whose oceany climate churns out some pretty nice chardonnay grapes.

This particular one kicked out a good amount of lemon citrus and pineapple with a solid medium body and a nice clean feel to it. Overall, the key to this wine was balance…it has a little bit of everything, but not too overbearing in any one aspect. The 13.4% top heavy alcohol also did a good job of going straight to the head with euphoric, yet insane ideas of a respectable Phillies team this year. The reality is they’re gonna blow. Historically blow.

Good with: Pasta salad, hot dogs, Opening Day, bad baseball.

SCORE: 7.14


FONTANA CANDIDA, Frascati DOC, Italy, $10.99


My mom is a clear favorite to win Mom of the Century award. She’s just the best….was always there, cooked like a machine, put up with my shit, brought me to sports, taught me lessons. How did she do it so well, and everyday for like 18 yrs? (Ok maybe 32). Answer: Frascati.

Everybody and their other mothers (not mine) drink Pinot Grigio. (This guy has a good take on why). 9 outta 10 whites in the Italian wine section are ubiquitous, boring ass Pinots labeled Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGP). Italian wines labelled IGP are wines that are less regulated than Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wines (like this one) and depending on where they’re from could mean they’re considerably crappier. Maybe my smart Mommy always knew this and went for the equal priced, but somewhat classier Frascati DOC.  She did bring me up quite discerning and refined. I mean look at me now. I curse and write dumb things about wine on the Internet.

I must admit this is a very Pinot-esque wine, but with more of an edge. Its light, crisp and short on the finish like your standard I-type Pinot Grigio, but with a more awesome, pronounced floral nose. There’s also a tad bit of nuttiness to it. Likable to a spring day watching baseball with a bag of peanuts. Maybe thats why my mom liked it, because it tasted like dragging me around outside to ballgames when the weather got nice.

Goes with: peanuts, spring, planting flowers, parenting.

SCORE: 7.62


SANTA EMA RESERVE, Chardonnay, 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $11.99


Why does everybody dog on chard when every decent domestic chard is like 20 bones at the wine bodega? Now I’m not that tuned into economistics but that tells me someone is buying this stuff up.

Someone obviously other than myself. I needed a buttered up New World chard because $1.39 white cheddar shells and mesquite chicken was the call for dinner tonight and I’ll be damned if I was “shellin” out over $15 bucks. So the logical call was South America. You know its bad when similar good wine is being made overseas and its half the price as it’s American counterparts. But then again don’t we see that with virtually all of our produce? I’ll just stop there.

You’re probably thinking what the hell is a new world chardonnay and how does it differ from the old world kind? (Note: a quick, basic view of new/old world wine can be found here.) New world chards got things kicked up in Cali a couple decades ago by being more oaky, buttery and less acidic as opposed to its Burgundian “old world” counterpart that focused more on the crispness and general fruit flavors of chardonnay. It really wasn’t until Nancy Reagan started binge drinking Kendall Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve in the 80’s that the new style chardonnay revolution went full swing here in the States. Three decades later, that make is still popular, just cheaper elsewhere, i.e. new world worlds like Chile, Argentina, Australia, etc.

Hence, this purchase. All twelve dollars of it. It could very well cost three times that if it said “from Sonoma” or “from Napa.” Give it a smell and give it a taste and the thing is a mouth coating mesh of banana, caramel, toasty oak, cream and coconut. Very much like bananas foster. Or banana cream pie. Something desert-y and banana-y. Yet oaky, dry and built for food. Classy food. Like white cheddar boxed pasta shells.

Good with: white cheddar boxed shells, mesquite chicken, banana desert.

SCORE: 9.46



CASA DE SANTAR, Vinho Tinto, 2010, Dão, Portugal, $9.99


I’m 1/4 Portuguese and I’m gonna push Portuguese red wine for a hot second. Its part of my ancestral duty.

Whether its them being in the shadow of Spain or us just thinking they’re only good at making fancy schmancy Port, Portuguese dry wine just does not get the attention it deserves.

Although the country itself churns out rad wine from top to bottom, this particular bottle hails from the Dão, a place towards the North and close enough to share many of the same grape types, climates, and soils used in making Port, but far enough to be its own, underrated dry red entity. Its a “vinho tinto” which translates to “red wine” in Portuguese and most likely includes native grapes like Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro (maybe best grape name ever) and Jaen.

It’s definitely a full wine and as far as taste goes, dried up cherry and earth is all over this bitch. Like you picked the cherry, forgot about it, then ate it with the stems. Why you would do that I have no idea, but the sheer up front tannin makes the wine feel like there’s something other than just fruit in your mouth. This plus the fair amount of acidity means its quite the age worthy wine (a lot of Portugieser play this game).If you’re anything like me though you have no patience with cellaring and want it now with a meal that has the protein and prowess to keep up with the wine. On the table tonight was my girlfriend’s mom’s patented pizza chili which is more or less like a meat lover’s mashed into a stew that handled this wine just perfectly.

Goes with: pizza chili, meat lover’s, that Little Caesar’s pizza with the bacon strip crust

SCORE: 8.04


OLIVARES, Rosé, Grenache/Monastrell, 2014, Jumilla, Spain, $9.99.


Spring is being a real son of a bitch in the Northeast as of late by not showing any signs of putting winter in the rearview. I went ahead and tried to will it myself by going rosé tonight but not much unlike a late March day that’s supposed be sunny and 55 but really cloudy and 35, this bottle was a complete miss.

Ever since the mass of us non-Euro’s have realized that rosés can actually be dry, complex and awesome to drink (why did we ever drink White Zin anyway?), quality for this stuff has been on the up and up. I thought I was dead on with this because 1.) it’s made up of Garnacha and Monastrell, two grapes traditionally used to pump out good rosés and 2.) it’s from Jumilla, Spain a place where these two grapes (particularly Monastrell) thrive.

Turn’s out, I was just flat wrong. A sign could’ve been Garnacha was spelled Grenache (French and English for Garnacha) on a Spanish bottle of wine. Either way, it was just weak. The beginning nose had a slight cotton candy-ish smell which promised of something good and summery, but the end result in taste was just a simple, boring, low acidic wine with no finish. Cold, bland and more or less wintery, save the bright fake pink color.

Goes with: a winter day when it’s technically spring.

SCORE: 2.30


THE WOLFTRAP. Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier. 2013. Western Cape, South Africa. $8.99.


I’ve been buying this up for years. And its still around…everywhere. Some stores may even have it as their only representation from South Africa. I remember first buying because I thought the grape combo was just cool and different.

Turns out, its not really that different. The Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier combo has been in use for a long time from, who would’ve of thought, the French. In the Southern Rhone and many parts of South France, Syrah can get over-cooked in the intense sun, so they blend it up with Mourvedre, a grape who’s happiest in the sun and loves the heat. Together you get an almost over-the-top, full, spicy, gamey blend, so the white grape Viognier is often added in small quantities to make the wine more approachable.

Think of it as this: Mourvedre is that leathery South Florida dude with the party shirt and cigar and Syrah is his spicy, hot and popular girlfriend who flies from NYC to see him. Together they make an interesting couple that people just drink up (literally). They can get intense and overbearing at times, so think of Viognier has the shrink who smooths everything out.

Although not as full bodied as you would expect, this mild, medium bodied blend is just what South Africa needs as its quality mass market wine. Its grapes are pulled from all over the West side of the Cape, so you would expect a decrease in quality, but they don’t skimp on grape blend + French oak (tops in the oak category). The result is a slightly spicy (esp on the finish), good structured, medium tannic wine with hints of game meat (hopefully not wolf).

Good with: a hunting trip in South Africa or the Discovery Channel with beef jerky.

SCORE: 8.19


PESQUIE, TERRASSES, Viognier, 2012, Vin de France, $12.99.


When I want a single varietal, Merlot, Cab, Chardonnay, whatever, I start at that particular section of the wine store. Makes sense right? If go Euro-style right off the bat and look for a Merlot, Cab, Chardonnay, from Bordeaux, Burgundy, wherever, I’m gonna probably get something that’s more expensive and needs some serious cellar time.

I wanted the very cultish Viognier tonight because I haven’t had one in days and I’m eating my coveted alfredo and chicken dinner later. Naturally, I go to the Viognier section and every bottle is 30 bones and up. Wtf? Pissy and reluctant, I head to the French section knowing that my wallets probably gonna take an equal rapeing. I ended up unscathed, and here’s why.

Way South France, aka non-Burgunday, non-Bordeaux, non-Champagne, non-anything-ancient-popular-and-expensive has some really awesome vino….for cheap. Because people spend big bucks for those legendary places, France lost good market share for ready to drink, affordable, quality wine. They sincerely do try to make cheap wine in those special places but a lot of the time its still over priced and quite shitty. Example: here. In southern France its a different story. Down there they know they’re not Bordeaux or Burgundy, scoff at the overbearing gov’t rules for making wine (Appellation d’Origine Controlee type stuff) and make some decent, drink-it-now stuff.

This bottle’s a whole third of the price I’d spend on a Viognier from Cali and is equally as good. Blended up with other powerhouse, no-name South France grapes (15% Marsanne and 15% Rousanne) you get a good structured, big nosed white thats everything that makes Viognier so damn popular today. The insane floweriness on the nose is almost like walking into the perfume side of the the chick’s section in Macy’s. Tons of apricot and white peach when you start hammering it down and the finish keeps going. Maybe the best French wine I had in awhile. Look it up or ask about white wine from the Southern Rhone, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, or really anywhere deep south France.

Good with: 2 for 1 garlic chicken from Acme, fettuccine alfredo, gardening, perfume shopping

SCORE: 9.13


STARBOROUGH, Sauvignon Blanc, 2013, Marlborough, NZ. $12.99.


If you’re anything like me, when you’re no longer 20-something and you spend a weekend with your friends you haven’t seen in awhile acting like you’re 20-something, you will be a hungover pile until the middle of the following week. One suggestion at an attempt to derail that phenomena would be to grab yourself some serious fresh greens and a well priced Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. It worked wonders for me.

Marlborough is NZ’s epicenter for grape growing and the place where their signature, super trendy style of Sauv Blanc is grown and turned into wine. They’re crisp, high acid, stainless steel aged wines that are made to drink asap, and many times have a funk-tified herbal, fresh cut grass note to it. Strange in a way, but very different and very cool.

I’ve seen this bottle everywhere, but I’m not sure if it had that atypical herbal, grassiness you would expect from Marlborough. Maybe try another one out there if that’s what you wanna experiment with. It was significantly beefed up with some nice citrus though …more like white grapefruit citrus than a lemony citrus. It was admittedly previously opened by my dear old girlfriend the night before, so it seemed a little bland and dead at first, but when I cracked into the garlic cooked green beans and fresh caesar salad, there was just no better substitute. Cheers to the restoration of health.

Goes with: salad greens, cooked greens, multi-day hangover.

SCORE: 7.80





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.