Wine With Milk Wine With Milk

THE VELVET DEVIL. Charles Smith Wines. 2012. Merlot. Washington. $14.99.

IMG_0665The guy behind this wine is the man. Tell me you wouldn’t wanna hang out with him? He also managed the Ravonettes. Very fuckin cool.

His wine is just as cool. Direct, no bs, made to drink now and made to drink well. The label even invokes that, right? Anytime you see this kind of label, big bold print, from Washington, bitchin name, buy it. As a winemaker he’s hands off, doesn’t fuck around with the grapes, lets them do their thing and makes it to drink young. Just how we Americans like it. Now or never.

And this was just that. Busting through the bar after risking death by freeze the other night, we needed a red and we needed french onion soup, else our limbs would’ve fell off and we would’ve been sober and it would’ve blew. This single handedly brought us back to life at a manageable restaurant wine cost of $22 ($14.99 retail). It was tough to find the nose, but thats probably because the bar smelled like ass and fried shit. Or fried ass, I couldn’t tell. Drinkin it was like having a spoonful of cherry jam, it was smooth (sommeliers always use “velvety” for a good merlot, hence the name), low acidity and a nice dusty tannin that kept pace with the saltiness of the french onion soup. The end result was warmth, lots of red fruit, lots of carmely onion and lots of melted cheese. All in all, a pretty dynamite meal.

Good with: french onion soup, a dive bar, indie rock.

SCORE: 8.60


FOLATRE. 2013. Sauvignon Blanc. Curico Valley, Chile. $8.99.

FullSizeRenderOooo its “Reserve.” Unfortunately that means jack shit, unless it comes from Spain or Italy, which it doesn’t. It could mean they’re trying to tell our dumbasses that this is a wine they actually put on reserve because it’s of better quality than the un-reserve Sauv Blanc from Folatre, but you probably didn’t see any of un-reserve in the aisle so they’re basically bs’in us. Which is fine, just don’t go bust a nut when you see a “Reserve” wine for $6.99.

Curico is a good place to start to look for some accessible Sauv Blancs / Cab Sauvs. Miguel Torres of the legendary Bodegas Torres in Spain crushed on the area so much that he set up shop here in the late 70’s and basically put Chile on the map. There may be some better spots in Chile for the Sauv Blanc (Bio Bio, Casablanca, west-side Colchagua come to mind) but Curico does the trick.

The taste and smell I thought were both a little herbal (think green tea) and a little citrusy, but not insane enough to be wowed. It was light body, easy going and very chuggable. Again, I think you can almost do better from Chile, but my girlfriend, who was really putting it down over some riveting reality TV, triumphantly claimed this to be her favorite white yet. So there you go.

Goes with: light salads, fresh greens, reality TV

SCORE: 5.12


VENTA MORALES. 2013. Tempranillo. Vino de la Tierra Castilla, Spain. $8.99.


First off, my bad with pic. Technology can be a real motherfucker sometimes.

Secondly, I love me some Spanish wine and I love me some Tempranil-lo but this just didn’t seem to make the cut. Key word on this label is Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, which translates exactly to Wine from the Land of Castile which means it covers a mass area that the Spanish government has yet to decree as good vineyard area. Not saying that these can’t be good, but if its own gov’t thinks the land it comes from is beat, the wine has a good chance of being beat.

And it pretty much was. Medium body, low acidity and overly bitter….which nobody likes. Super fuckin classy sommeliers will say a bitter red wine has “green notes” or tastes like “green pepper” or “capsicum.” I always found that a stretch, but if you see descriptions like these for a red wine, stay away.

Goes with: a bell pepper, a shocker of a night where its your fourth personal bottle of wine.

SCORE: 3.54


SKETCHBOOK. 2011. Pinot Noir. Mendocino County, CA. $13.99.


Holy f do I love all-you-can-eat sushi. I mean anything all-you-can-eat is amazing, but if its sushi and its somewhat quality, I’m sold. Being as it was my birthday yesterday and being as I demand that I be treated like a prince on my birthday, my girlfriend knows exactly where to go (obviously a BYO). What we bring is a b-day Pinot that my buddy Al scored because he thought the label was cool. Turned out, so was the insides.

Mendocino County is just north of Napa and Sonoma but basically in the same neck of the woods. Its a cooler climate so in some spots Pinot Noir (the most annoying grape to grow on the planet) isn’t as fickle and gets along good with the cool fogs brought in from the Russian River Valley. You can find some nice cheapy ones too because everybody gets off on the Napa and Sonoma wine to the south.

This thing just worked with sushi. Wine/food pairing is a lot of times a process of elimination. You don’t want a big, tannic Cab or Shiraz with the sushi, but you don’t want a weak, light bodied white either. Pinot was an obvious choice. It’s super flavorful and you want that to match a variety of sushi being thrown at you that’s likewise flavorful. Sushi is low in salt, so the lightly tannic, definitely non-bitter, elegant Pinot works because salty shit needs big tannins, and less salty shit needs lesser tannins. The nose was a little tough to search for because the whole place reeked of Japanese food, but the taste was all red fruit….the sweeter kind though, almost like a cherry jolly rancher or strawberry dum dum. Candy and sushi. Fuck yea.

Goes with: sushi, tuna, salmon, red colored candy.

SCORE: 8.98


PLUNGERHEAD. 2012. Old Vine Zinfandel. Lodi, CA. $12.99.

IMG_0655Is that considered toilet humor? I don’t really get it, but I guess the label was weird enough for me to buy. What really got my attention though was the “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Lodi, CA.

I’m assuming that during the gold rush a lot people wanted to get trashed all the time so they planted some Zin (which dominates out there), turned some into raisins, some into wine and subsequently got angry, sick and poor because there wasn’t that much gold but there was plenty of alcoholic grape juice. A lot of that happened in Lodi and there are still some vines leftover today.

Does it make the wine better? Kind of. First off there’s no rules or regulations saying what’s “old vine” and if they actually have to be from old vines. Basically any winemaker, if they wanted to be an asshole about it, can put that on the label, and they may just do that as a way to communicate to you that its better than their “regular” Zinfandel. If they are in fact old vines and they’re treated right, they may be superior grapes because an old vine has to struggle to produce its crop (so it produces fewer, more concentrated, flavorful grapes) and its wise and used to its surroundings so it knows what its doing. Think of it like your granddad who likewise struggles, but has great advice to give out.

On to the wine. It was funky on the nose and in a good way. Not just blackberry fruit, but it smelled smokey and almost like bacon. And the palate was just as cool. It was inky, not too tannic, full bodied and loaded with a bunch of crazy things, namely that cured meat / bacon thing. I also got a bit of coffee taste, but not bitter at all, more like the Dunkin Donuts kind of crack coffee loaded with sugar and cream. Crazy I know but when you feel like you’re tasting a bunch of random shit, that’s a sign of a good wine. Maybe it was because it came from old ass vines that knew what they were doing.

Good with: a plate of bacon, BBQ chicken, a fire pit, Dunkin Donuts coffee

SCORE: 9.66


SALMON & TROUT. 2011. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon. Bordeaux, France. $10.99.


“I dunno Seneca, the French are assholes,” I advised my girlfriend when she reached for this bottle.

When you’re talkin any wine, particularly euro wine, its best to understand that the smaller the geographic area on the bottle, the better potential for that bottle to be good. If it says its from Bordeaux, like this one, its  prob gonna suck much more than a bottle from a particular Chateau (or vineyard/winery) or smaller area in Bordeaux. And the French can be dicks about their cheap wine on the int’l market because they can charge big time cash to our dumbasses just because it comes from anywhere in France. They can, in fact, be assholes.

So I guess this was an aight wine. The labels cute. It had some apricot nuance and a little bit of that weird white wine petrol taste, but overall it was just simple and flat. Although it had decent body to it, there was no real acidity to brighten the day either. Maybe I’d drink it with that actual fish tail because I’d use a better white wine to drink with the better parts of the salmon or trout.

Goes with: Salmon and trout (the tail portion), a cooking party where you can brag about cooking with a Bordeaux

SCORE: 2.76


VINO DE EYZAGUIRRE. 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon. Colchagua Valley, Chile. $9.99.

IMG_0322That is a wine bottle in a burlap sack. It cost me ten bucks and I bought it in the ghetto part of town because it is probably a hobo favorite. Does the hilarious sack cost more than the wine? More than likely. But I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. Especially since I can pretend I’m Don Quixote for a hot second.

Look closely and you’ll find its actually a real score because it hails from the Colchagua Valley in Chile which any viticulturist will tell you is a wet dream for grape growing. Its sunny/warm, dry, slopey in the right spots, has some ocean influence and is irrigated by the runoff from the ginormous Andes in the west. The grapes essentially struggle the whole time, get just enough water, diseases are kept at bay because its dry, acid levels are kept high because the temp drops at night from the ocean breezes and a fuckton of sun produces a fuckton of sugar in the grape. For someone who’s just trying to catch a buzz from some fermented grape juice that may be getting a little too into it, but know that it all essentially translates to a very money environment for premium red wine.

So naturally this wine couldn’t screw up. Its your basic cabby profile….tannic, a lot of black raz, a lot of black cherry. Pretty basic, but its got a very cool, refreshing, minty aftertaste. I dunno, the bums who buy it from the same ghetto liquor store I did may very well feel as if their teeth are getting an actual cleanse. And they have a burlap sack to boot. They are their own Don Quixote. Their own knight in shining armor. I can relate.

Goes good with: Any red meat, a game of pretend, mouthwash.

SCORE: 9.18


MICHAEL POZZAN. 2012. Chardonnay. Russian River Valley, CA. $13.99


Alfredo sauce is my jam. I go apeshit for it. The heavier, creamier, nastier, the better. So to show my appreciation for my wonderful girlfriend, its only natural I put my superior cooking skills to test last night by whipping up the richest, most disgusting Fettuccine Alfredo dish on the planet. The wine I put on the table was this.

You can kinda look at food and wine as cancelling flavors out. Example: you have a highly acidic Sauv Blanc and you put it with a highly acidic lemon fish dish. The combined high acids almost wipe each other out in a way that you’re left with a lot of the fruit flavors of the Sauv Blanc that may have otherwise been overshadowed by the high acid. This creates a good time for the taste buds and is one of the many reasons why food and wine belong together.

Now take this wine. Its a Cali chard which 9 times out of 10 means it will be heavy, buttery, creamy, oaky and full bodied. And it was. But tasting and drinking it with my heifer meal made it seem more approachable and somewhat fruit driven with a nice green appleyness to it. It also contained some nice acidity which cut right through my gross, bad-kind-of-fat filled dish. Overall the dinner worked, namely because of this wine.

Bonus was we drank it afterwards too and all that nice buttery cream came back, this time with a more caramel, butterscotch, walnut ring to it. A dual threat wine built for dinner and dessert.

Goes with: Fettuccine Alfredo, cream based soups, any dessert-less dinner.

SCORE: 9.02


LEESE-FITCH. 2012. Cabernet Sauvignon, CA. $9.99.


I dunno, I try to avoid Cali Cabs for the reason that if it only says it comes from “California” it probably only comes from the crappy grape growing areas of California and because it says “California” and “Cab” they can charge the shit out of it and its never really that great.

Dave Waddington, friend and fellow boozehound, seemingly has just proven me wrong on this. At ten bones, this is his go to favorite. And it delivers.

Pour it out and the insanely strong nose smells like a goddamn barbecue grill is moving from bottle to glass. Smoke and roasted meat, all over the place, both before and after you taste it, with a little bit of oak and raspberry action on the side. Oddly enough it lacks that full-body, full on tannin you get from Cali Cabs….its more medium style and softer. No big deal though, the complexity of the flavors hooks it up just fine. So buy this sucker if you’re into keeping your cash but wanna find out what a meaty, smoke filled wine tastes like. Thanks Dave.

Good with: BBQ chicken, BBQ pork, charcoal grills.

SCORE: 9.65


THE GOLEM. MISFIT WINE CO. 2010. Riesling. Clare Valley, Australia. $12.99.


Wanna taste something strange? Of course you do. Go buy this Aussie Riesling from the Clare Valley. Stick your nose in for a smell and what do you get? A rubber band. Or a band aid. Or both. Now taste it. Same thing, but with a nice slimey limeyness to it. Sounds disgusting but I happen to think its delightfully weird, not much unlike this here label on the bottle. Even the look of the wine has an odd green tinge to it. Go to their website, and what you get is a winery after my own heart.

Ironically enough, its Oscar night for the girlfriend, which for me is a night enduring people being rewarded for being too far up their own assholes. With a crisp lime acidity, a solid structure and a long finish that helps detract from the Academy Award bullshit thrown all over the boob tube, The Golem saves the day with an honest, no-nonsense wine.

Good with: Pho. Cerviche. Freaking people out at an Oscar party.

SCORE: 9.30

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.