Green Fin White Wine

Bronco Wines – the marketing geniuses that brought us Two Buck Chuck (better known as Charles Shaw Wines) – have struck again with another Trader Joe’s exclusive, coming in at $3.99 in California. (We are aware that Two Buck Chuck is actually Three Buck Chuck in other states.)

The result is a blend of sultana, colombard and muscat grapes and possibly something else. Organically grown in the Central Valley of California where many table grapes and wine grapes of some lesser quality are located, the resulting blend was intriguing.

Sultana is not generally used as a wine grape – it’s best known as a raisin used in baking. Muscat’s flavor can take over a blend with as little as a two percent addition. Colombard is a survivor of the notorious jug wines of California’s past. Okay, present, too, but we don’t buy those.

The question is how good is the wine? The color is a nice yummy-looking gold. Take a sniff and you get a green apple tartness with honey to balance. The first taste had some residual sweetness but also acids on the back of the palate and a medium weight mouthfeel. Finish was only okay.

So could this be a food wine or is it destined to be a cheap gulper? It may be a decent player with spicy Indian or Asian foods. An experiment with a pickled carrot infused with red pepper flakes in a sweet brine was reasonably successful. Anne – the resident weenie when it comes to spicy stuff – got her taste buds back within an hour of the test. Michael was impressed. All in all, it ain’t transcendent, but it ain’t totally bad, depending on how sweet you like your wines and how often spicy food is on the menu at your personal homestead.

In short, we’re talking table wine here, decent, reasonably drinkable, every-day stuff that won’t trash the budget. And most nights, you don’t need more than that.

Sardinian 2007 Oje

Type: Dry Red
Made with: Cannonau, Montepulciano, carignano (see below)
Plays well with: Strong cheeses, roasted meats, good BBQ

Having found our notes on the Sardinian wines we tasted, we continue with the Oje, from Nuovi Poderi Cantina – a really nice, rich red which we thoroughly enjoyed.

The Oje is a blend of 90 percent cannonau (better known in the U.S. as grenache), with that last 10 percent coming from carignano (carignane, one of the nicer OBG grapes) and Montepulciano (which is technically a place name, but for some reason is listed on the label as a grape name – go figure).

The color was dark. Really dark, almost black. There is a grapey sort of aroma but Mike also caught some black fruit, like blackberry. The tannins were up front, which can be a sign of a young wine that isn’t quite ready. The weight in the mouth is medium – not rich and heavy, but not watery and thin either. The taste at the end is black cherry without any kind of sweetness, and some acids at the back of the palate.

A wine this young may have seen time in a new barrel – hence the tannins. But the upside is that it can go for some time with proper storage. Grenache (or cannonau, in this case), by itself, is not normally a long aged wine. Still, thanks to that 10 percent of carignane/cargnano and whatever the Montepuluciano is, this one could do a few years in the bottle. That is, if you can find it or something like it.

Slainte, from Irish Family Vineyards

Type: Off-dry, uh… green?

Made From: Unknown blend of white wines

Plays Well With: Spicy, lively foods – almost anything but corned beef

Slainte (pronounced slan-chah) is Gaelic for cheers! If you really want to go Irish, you say Slainte Gael – cheers to Ireland.

We picked the Slainte wine up during our visit to Irish Family Vineyards, and for obvious reasons, held it until St. Patrick’s Day, this past Wednesday.

As you can see, the color is not typical – yes, it’s dyed, but that’s part of the fun. Which is the best way to describe this wine, anyway, because it does have a very light, almost soda-pop taste. Normally, it’s not a good thing in wine, but in this case, it’s very tasty.

The alcohol was only 13.5 percent, with a very light nose –  not perfumey or overpowering in any way. The mouthfeel was very rich and there was a hint of residual sugar and some of the Muscat flavors. So we’re guessing that Muscat was somewhere in the blend. Alas, the actual blend is not listed on the label nor the website.

Deciding what to serve with a green wine was a challenge. But given our mixed heritage of Irish-Dutch-English and Texan, the best answer for us was a spicy turkey skillet casserole. But spicy food of any culture would be complimented by the Slainte.


Fess Parker Has Left the Winery

When the news broke yesterday that actor and winery owner Fess Parker had passed away, we knew we had to write about it. That’s because Anne met Parker  when she did a profile on him for the May 2004 issue of Wines & Vines magazine.

Yes, Parker’s Santa Inez winery has been roundly (and sometimes justifiably) satirized and criticized for populist, mediocre wines that only sold because of his name. But not all of his wines were that bad. Some were even pretty darned good. We haven’t tasted them in a good long time, so can’t say where they are nowadays.

But there is no question Parker used his name to sell wine. Why not? The name had value,  and he was fully conscious of it and made a point of using it. More to the point, he purposely became the face of the winery that his children actually ran, not to mention the two hotels he owned and his other businesses. Behind all that folksy charm (and he was charming), the man was one savvy businessperson.

He told Anne in their interview that he  asked Walt Disney for 10 percent of the merchandising money from the Davy Crockett series that made him famous and got it. Granted, the merchandising industry was still in its infancy. Disney had been making some nice change off Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck toys since the 1930s. However, Parker’s request was remarkably astute for the time – and he had no way of knowing that sales of coon-skin caps were going to go through the roof.

Fess Parker Winery certainly isn’t the biggest, nor the oldest winery out in the Santa Ynez Valley. But it’s always been one of the most popular and probably has been a significant drawing point that got people out of nearby Solvang and out touring the surrounding hills and other wineries, particularly when the industry was relatively new. That’s why Anne went out there the first time.

We tended to avoid the place after that because it is one of those slick operations that we don’t really care for and the wines weren’t good enough to get us past that. And it was also usually crowded, and we hate that. But maybe it’s time to check in again – after the fuss has lessened. In the meantime, we raise a glass to Fess Parker and say our prayers for his soul and his family.

You can find Parker’s basic obituary here on the Yahoo site – both Yahoo and picked up the Associated Press obit.

2008 Taja – Wines from Sardinia

Huzzah! We know that in our earlier post about Wines From Sardinia, we mentioned that we had lost our tasting notes on the wines. We found them, and here’s the white: Taja.

Type: Dry white
Made from: Vermentino
Plays well with: Salad, seafood, a summer’s pasta salad

We think the vermentino grape deserves its own spotlight. Yes, it’s blended into countless Italian wines, but the Taja, bottled under the Nuovi Poderi Cantina label, is one of those rare treasures that features the grape on its own.

It’s easy enough to approach. The golden color could be mistaken for a decent chardonnay. But the nose is something else. Floral, say, honeysuckle, and similar to a viognier. But there’s an interesting additional element: myrrh. Myrrh is a resin with a long tradition beyond the Three Magi’s gifts. It has a musky aroma that is not off-putting but would remind you of someone’s cologne – hopefully in a good way.

Flavor-wise, there’s the taste of melon and apple, which are cool climate traits. Lots of good acids to quench the thirst and clean the palate in advance of the next bite of shrimp cocktail, prosciutto with melon or a good salty Reggiano parmesan cheese.

Vermentino should not be oaked or watered down. There are some nice offerings these days, making it a nice change from the chardonnay or even our beloved sauvignon blanc.