Sunday, September 16, 2007

Discount Shopping Cart

Do our grocery stores have something in common? Does yours occasionally have a shopping cart or two filled with discounted wines, thrown into the cart all cattywompus and disorganized? Have you ever rooted around in one of those carts to see what was cheapest?

We did the other day and found a nice South African wine with a sub-continent-sounding name. Indaba Chardonnay (2005, reg. $7.49, discounted $5.24) was the cheapest white wine I found in the cart. We brought it home and were pleasantly surprised. It was nice and smooth, not too dry but not too sweet.

Was it in the shopping cart because no one else liked it? Is the winery going under? I don't know. But if you do see it, grab one - especially if it's marked down, but it's still good enough to pay full price. (note: I recently saw it at World Market as well, for regular price)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

West Virginia Wines

I love West Virginia. It might be one of my favorite places on earth. Just driving through the WVA mountains relaxes me. We just returned from a weekend family get-away there and came back with some interesting new tidbits on WVA.

1) A stop at Tamarack, where the best of West Virginia is sold, introduced us to the many fruit wines of WVA. We bought a bottle of blueberry wine but haven't tried it yet. Based on the inventory at Tamarack we inferred that WVA must not be a good place to grow grapes for dry wine.

2) We learned that WVA taxes alcohol 11%. Random, but good to know when checking prices...

3) We learned that WVA's' looser liquor laws allow even Rite Aide to carry hard liquor (including grain alcohol, which is certainly illegal in VA). We called my brother, who's in a VA fraternity, but he didn't need us to pick any up for him. We experienced culture shock at the large amount of alcohol and wine available at the Charleston Rite Aide.

Side note: We were not really in WVA for the purposes of drinking, nor do we only focus on alcohol. My grandmother sent us on a wine run for her party, and although we were confused when her directions took us to the Rite Aide, we soon learned why.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

As simple as you get

If you're deciding between restaurants and the decision comes down to where you can get the most straight-up, normal-but-good wine to go with your dinner, head to the Cheesecake Factory. Their Cheesecake Factory Chardonnay (~$6.25/glass) and Cheesecake Factory Merlot (~$6.50/glass) are the most straight-forward, "This is what wine tastes like" wines we've ever had. This is not meant to be a bad thing - it's actually quite nice. Nothing complex about it, it doesn't make you throw out words like "buttery" or "oaky." It just makes you say, Wow, that's wine.

So if you need to teach your wine neophyte friend what a basic chard or merlot tastes like, Cheesecake Factory has what you need. They also make the best pot sticker I've ever had and a mean tiramisu cheesecake, for what it's worth.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Tonight we opened a bottle of blue fish pinot grigio. It was surprisingly sparkly and light and I really am enjoying it.

It has a screw-top which makes it appear cheap (which it was, that's why we bought it), but according to my wine-savvy brother, screw tops are actually better for the aging and storing process of the wine.

It doesn't matter much since I'm not too much of a wine snob about such things, but now if I want to be snooty about it I can.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

teacher salary, wine lover

In the last few years I've made the disappointing discovery that:

1) I like wine
2) Wine is expensive
3) I love my job
4) I love it more after a glass of wine at the end of the day
5) My job will never pay me enough to pretend to be in Sideways. (To be honest I couldn't even stay awake during the film because I was tired after a long day of teaching)

So, in the last few years we've tried different ways to bring together my love of wine and my small pay scale.

1) Box wine. - While this is fun for those alcoholic months, it doesn't give you that same satisfaction. It's kind of like that natty light in college. It got the job done, but was it really a job that was needed in the first place? Sometimes you're better off sober.

2) 3 buck Chuck via Trader Joe's. I discovered this my first year out of college and it got me and my friends through some times. Raise a glass to Trader Joe's.

3) The Williamsburg Winery wine that frequently goes on sale in the grocery store for $6.99. It's fabulous, and it feels like a taste of VA culture. I wonder if we're supporting the historical society by drinking it. Hmmmm....

4) Stay away from fancy wines. A good friend knew nothing about wine until she started working at the society of wine educators. Now she can drink with the rest of them but can no longer enjoy my spiked Trader Joe's grape juice. Improving my tastes might make me more socially acceptable, but it will only hurt my wallet.

Hopefully this blog will help us continue to explore the non-wine connoisseur side of the wine world.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dinner with Friends

If you're asked to bring the wine for a casual dinner party of 4-6 friends, spring the extra couple bucks and get the 1.5 liter bottle of wine instead of the usual 750 mL bottle. We did this tonight, bringing a $10.99 bottle of Fish Eye Shiraz - just three dollars more than regular-sized bottle for a lot more wine. Fish Eye is a nice label and you shouldn't be deterred by the screw top cap (though the big bottles use a cork), but the shiraz is rather mediocre - if you go Fish Eye, go for the chardonnay or pinot grigio.

However, unless you're dining with real wine snobs, they aren't going to notice the quality of the wine and no one with sense is going to ask you the price. They will notice, however, if the wine runs out.

Don't let the wine run out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pizza and Wine

When people think pizza, they tend to think beer. But what if you want a white wine to cool down a long day? We tried a couple over a nice warm Freschetta pizza the other day. Our competitors for best white with pizza: Barrio La Boca 2005 chardonnay (Trader Joe’s, $4.99) vs. Stone Cellars by Beringer 2004 sauvignon blanc (Harris Teeter, $8.99).

We usually are not big on sauvignon blancs. We tend to find them too dry and oaky – more like licking a tree than a refreshing beverage. Beringer’s sauv blanc, however, tends to be more palatable than others, and for pizza the dryness really helps. Love the La Boca, but with pizza, the Beringer wins.