The Winos’ Tasting Series: the Mendoza lineup

By on July 28, 2011

The perdiz (Spanish for “partridge”) is a medium-sized bird, larger than its cousin the quail, but smaller than its cousin the pheasant.  It’s a native resident of Argentina, and it lends its name to a winery in Mendoza called Las Perdices, whose labels depict a small flock of the stately fowl.  The good people at Vines of Mendoza were kind enough to send the Young Winos a handful of bottles from Las Perdices to taste and evaluate.

We met on an oddly chilly summer night in Jason’s backyard.  The orange glow from the adjacent parking garage did little to warm our spirits, but the full-bodied, unctuous wines toward the end of the lineup stepped in quite nicely.  Of the five wines, we found the most to enjoy in the following three…


The Winos’ Tasting Series: the unending fight for good wine, featuring Guerrilla Zin and Cafe du Vin

By on May 12, 2010

The LA Winos recently gathered at Erik’s place to taste a few new samples: three bottles of Zinfandel, followed by some wine-infused coffee.  “The unending fight for good wine” was written by Julie, with photos by Erik.

Wine Guerilla claims to make wines “worth fighting for” and encourages drinkers to “join the insurrection”. Well, Saturday night’s alright for fighting, but it was Friday and the Young Winos of LA decided to call a truce, sit comfortably and drink copiously.

We had three bottles of 2007 Zinfandel (by reputation, California’s native grape, but I wouldn’t want to get into a pissing contest with a Croatian over that one). Wine Guerilla sources grapes from multiple vineyards, so our plan of attack was to move from the broadest to most specific area of harvest, beginning with a Sonoma County, moving on to a Dry Creek Valley, and finishing with a Forchini Vineyards harvest.


The Winos’ Tasting Series: despite dire forecasts, love is in the air for Fresh & Easy

By on February 13, 2010

Late last year, newbie grocery chain Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets sent us a couple bottles of wine from their Christmas lineup.  We were impressed with both of them, and the Ogio Prosecco made a repeat appearance at our bubbly tasting later that month, where it was a big hit.  The chain, however, has endured some tough economic times since opening in 2007, and two recent reports (here and here) predict that the times don’t look to be un-toughening any time soon.  (In addition, the store continues to be protested by the UFCW for its non-union policy.)  Nevertheless, it would seem that Fresh & Easy hasn’t given up on getting their name out there, if the recent arrival of a free package of goodies is any indication.

Valentine’s Day is nigh, and Fresh & Easy assured us that the wine (and chocolates) that they’d sent us would make for inspired Valentine’s Day selections.  Never one to recoil from the challenge of putting corporate claims to the test, I asked the Wino roommates to help me imbibe.


My Pinot Days, when I was green in vintage…

By on January 30, 2010

The Winos were invited to cover the first annual “Pinot Days” of Southern California in Santa Monica earlier this month, and longtime members Jason Meltzer and Jordan Marks were on the beat.  I would’ve gone too, but it’s always really awkward being the only one in the group whose initials aren’t “JM.”  (I used to have a fake ID that said my name was “Joe Mama,” but it got confiscated by a dubious bouncer in Hermosa a few months ago).

“My Pinot Days” was written by Jason, with photos by Jordan.

A rainy January 17 did not stop throngs of wine lovers from showing up at the first annual Pinot Days event in Los Angeles. If you closed your eyes inside the gigantic hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, you might have imagined yourself on the banks of a mighty river or near a gushing waterfall — so loud was the noise from over a thousand attendees.

Who knew Pinot was so popular? Lisa and Steve Rigisich, that’s who! This dynamic duo first launched the Pinot Days event in San Francisco six years ago and has since expanded it to Chicago and Los Angeles. Why do they do it? For the love of Pinot, says Lisa. “It’s art” — and the winemakers are artisans, not corporate big-wigs producing tens of thousands of cases. She appreciates the care and passion put into the wines, and, at least since Sideways, the masses agree. Just look around this place! It’s swarming! Good thing, because over 75 producers from Oregon to Santa Barbara were there with more than 400 distinct wines to try. How much time did we have for this?


Fizzy, fermented, and topped with a crown: taking a peek below sparkling wine’s iconoclastic new closure

By on January 11, 2010

Over the years, the Young Winos have reliably held forward-thinking stances on a number of contentious issues, including, among others, the ongoing shift away from corks and towards artificial closures. In particular, we’ve applauded the Stelvin screwcap for its comparatively lower rate of spoilage, even as it’s been derided by winemakers we’ve met on account of environmental or tradition-based concerns (as well as by wine snobs we’ve met on account of pretention-based concerns).  But while the cyllandrical still wine cork may be losing popularity, the Champagne cork always seemed a bit more immutable.  No one would ever seal a bottle of bubbly with anything but the classic mushroom-shaped cork and wire ensemble, would they?  After all, besides being quelle traditionelle, the corks are incredibly fun to pop open, no matter which method you employ to do it (click here to watch a video of us testing out three of them).

You can imagine our surprise, then, when we received a sample bottle of the 2007 Municipal Winemakers “Fizz” Sparkling Shiraz (Santa Barbara County) and discovered that it had been sealed with a crown cap — the type found on your favorite long-neck bottle of brew.  While screwcaps may be taking the wine world by storm, the crown cap still has quite a bit of catching up to do.  In a recent article in Wines & Vines, Domaine Chandon PR director Sue Furdek explained the crown cap’s image problem: “Consumers love and want the ‘pop’ when they open bubbly,” she said. “There’s only modest acceptance of alternatives to cork in still wine, and even less with sparkling.”

As has been well-documented in various media, the Winos will open any closure as long as it allows us access to the wine within, so we had no compunction about grabbing the bottle opener and procuring ourselves some fizzy red goodness.  In the interest of satisfying our journalistic curiosity, however, we decided to contact winemaker Dave Potter to learn why he bucked tradition and bound his bubbles below a bottlecap.  What follows is a journey into the mad mind of the Municipal Winemaker.


The Winos’ Tasting Series: a “fresh” prosecco and an (easy?) cab franc

By on December 16, 2009

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is a new chain of specialty grocery stores on the West Coast of the United States.  You may have heard their DIY-style radio ads, in which real customers provide testimonials about their shopping experience, ostensibly saving the store some advertising dollars.  In theory, at least, these dollars are then passed back to the consumer in the form of savings.  If it smells a little too trickle-down populist to be true, then you’re sharing the skepticism we felt upon first hearing the ads — and again upon receiving a package of samples in the mail.  When was the last time a major grocery store chain did the Young Winos a favor?

Traditionally, the Winos have enjoyed a love/hate relationship with the world of chain supermarket wine sales.  Although we acknowledge the chains’ inevitable superiority in the roughly $8-and-under category — a category which, by any estimation, includes some remarkable value wines and excellent daily drinkers — we continue to wave the banner of the small neighborhood wine shop, where your extra dollar or two buys you the advantage of personalized attention from a salesperson who knows your palate.  Also, broader proselytizing aside, we couldn’t help but notice that Fresh & Easy, a subsidiary of UK retail behemoth Tesco, already has gained plenty of local detractors: its non-union policy has drawn protests from the United Food & Commercial Workers, and several other sources have raised a list of environmental concerns.

As always, we’ll trust Young Winos near and far to make their own informed decisions regarding their wine purchasing habits.  What we will say without hesitation is that the people at Fresh & Easy sent us a couple of tasty wines.  I tasted them with the Wino roommates on a recent December night.


The Winos’ Tasting Series: guessing games are always more fun with two bottles of tasty Cabernet

By on October 19, 2009

Having definitively proven earlier this year that the Winos are experts at telling reserve wines from their non-reserve counterparts, we decided to take a stab at tasting back-to-back vintages of the same wine and trying to guess which was which.  Theoretically, this should be a pretty intuitive process: whichever one tastes more “settled in” is the older of the two, right?  In the case of red wines, for example, the younger, less settled bottles may have harsher tannins, sharper acid, and more rambunctious fruitiness.  However, these traits can also easily be influenced by climactic factors, so a blind tasting of back-to-back vintages isn’t always the exercise in obviousness that one might expect.

The good people at Wings Winery sent us two subsequent vintages of their celebrated Napa Cab, so I brought it along the night we drank all those Roussannes.  After downing three robust whites, however, would we have the keen perception necessary to tell the two vintages apart?  There was clearly only one way to find out: drink them at once, and ask questions later.


The Winos’ Tasting Series: the most Roussanne you’ve ever seen in one lineup

By on September 21, 2009

I think of Roussanne as the “Ethan Coen” of wine varietals.  Just as you never really get to experience the celebrated filmmaker without his lanky brother Joel at his side, Roussanne also has a shadow of sorts: Marsanne, that other Rhone Valley grape that ends in “-anne,” is pretty regularly blended with Roussanne in France and elsewhere.  We cinema buffs are all left to wonder what a movie directed by just Ethan would look like (without all of the “fleshy richness” and “ripe pear” that Joel tends to impart to the films).  As for the wine fans… well, you get the metaphor, more or less.

California producers have proven much more willing to experiment with single-varietal Roussanne (and Marsanne as well) than have their French counterparts.  When the Winos recently received a selection of bottles from the good people at Lionhert Wines that included not just one but two Rousannes, we decided to throw in a bottle from the folks at Cult Vines, gather the troops at Sasha and Noah’s place, and call it a tasting.  Here’s our rundown of the night we spent finally getting to know Roussanne on its own terms.


Talley and Tudor take center stage as the Winos keep it real

By on September 14, 2009

Y’know those Miller High Life commercials where the delivery man walks into some high-falootin’ gathering or another and takes back all the beer, basically because the prevailing class dynamic isn’t plebeian enough?  That’s what I like to call “keeping it real.”  The Winos employ a similar technique whenever we’re asked by our friends to lend our presence and expertise to an event they’re throwing: we make sure that the assembled guests get the full Wino experience.  We don’t allow anyone to just drink the wine… we insist that they interact with the wine.  We keep it real.

Dylan’s friend Debbie recently asked if a couple Winos could come pour some wine and talk about the organization at her swanky partay, which was to be held at the Beverly Hills Country Club.  Andrew and I happily made the trip, as we figured this would be a great opportunity to shake some hill-dwellers out of their vinous complacency.  We brought along a pair of excellent Burgundy-styled bottles in order to ensure that the conversations we’d be forcing people to have would be stimulating ones.


Wanton Winos: a day of multi-viced indulgence at LA Wine Fest ’09

By on September 8, 2009

The annual LA Wine Fest is basically the “summer blockbuster” of beverage events.  It always arrives on a warm weekend in June or July; it knocks your socks off with its massive selection of wines, spirits, beers, and even cigars; and it leaves you feeling thoroughly satisfied and eager to experience next year’s sequel.  Will it win the coveted Oscar for Best Wine Selection?  No, probably not… that award typically goes to one of the smaller “art-house” festivals, the kind where the attendees cast mean-spirited glances your way if you get a little too vocal in your enjoyment of the grape juice.  But the Wine Fest paces the field with regard to the overall festival experience — and, consequently, has become a perennial Winos favorite.

Brought to you by the same team that’s behind the upcoming LA Oktoberfest, the 2009 LA Wine Fest once again offered a dynamic and varied beverage experience to its emphatic attendees.  The Winos took advantage of a generous ticket discount extended our way by the organizers (they always come through where it counts) and made their presence felt at the dozens of booths the wrapped around the labyrinthine interior of Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios.  It’s hard to take judicious notes when you’re having so much fun, but what follows is my earnest effort to document the day’s drinking.


Old World Meets Young Blood in the Rhône: a tour of Chateau de Montfaucon

By on August 27, 2009

Terroir, that love-it-or-hate-it concept roughly translated as “sense of place,” could’ve only come from France.  Nowhere are the wine traditions more deeply rooted in beliefs of which grapes can grow in which soil (beliefs which themselves are nowhere more highly regulated by law).  And then there’s all that blending stuff — certain grapes must be blended with certain other grapes in order for the wine to be labeled with a certain region’s name.   In this age of experimentation and vinous creativity, how is the enterprising young winemaker supposed to distinguish himself within such a rigidly-structured environment?

In the case of Rhône winemaker Rodolphe de Pins, the answer would seem to be “by getting back to his roots.”  The prodigious vintner at a centuries-old family estate, Rodolphe (or “Rudi” to his friends) creates vibrant and exciting wines in the classic French style, including a special proprietary blend of 15 varietals based on his great-great-grandfather’s original recipe from the 1820s.  At the same time, Rudi is a product of a modern winemaking tradition, having honed his craft in California and Australia, and brings New World sensibilities to his impressive lineup.  He was kind enough to accommodate my family and me on our recent trip through southern France.


Santa Barbara Futures ’09: drinking wine from the future in LA’s premier space-age hotel

By on July 19, 2009

Forty years ago, the three intrepid astronauts on board the Apollo 11 mission (allegedly) went to the moon. Upon their return, the were put into containment for a few days in order to kill the moon germs, after which they were quickly shuttled to an impressive reception at the era’s grandest and most futuristic hotel, the Century Plaza. It seems particularly appropriate, then, that when the ’09 Santa Barbara Futures event needed a location, the future-themed Century Plaza got the nod.

Last year, the Winos had to suffer the indignity of traveling all the way up to Santa Barbara for the futures event. This year, the event came to us, making its home in the enclosed courtyard in front of the Century Plaza. The hotel looked great, and it’s a bit shocking to think that the venerable structure is currently at the center of a struggle over its own existence. More on that towards the end of this piece; first, there’s some wine to talk about.


The Elusive Gypsy: searching high and low for a filthy $5 bottle

By on June 28, 2009

Late last year, several members of the Young Winos of LA fell in love with a lady in a red kerchief.  A wine called “Gypsy” threw us into a tizzy for a period of a few weeks, a wine that offered flavors and complexity unheard of at its price point.  Finally, here was a true value wine, a remarkably underpriced cuvée, a sophisticated daily drinker for the slightly-impoverished crowd.  Just when we were ready to enter into some kind of vinous monogamy, however, she was gone — and, by all appearances, was never to return.

The Gypsy is a wine to buy by the case, but good luck finding one.

It was the $4.99 price tag as much as anything else that first led me to randomly grab the 2005 Chariot “Gypsy” Red Wine (California) off the shelf at Trader Joe’s last October, and it wasn’t any special occasion that prompted me to open it; Max and I were editing a video one night, and a cheap bottle of red seemed an appropriate sidearm.  First impressions weren’t tremendous, either… juicy, extracted, a bit hot, about what you’d expect from an anonymous California rouge.  A short while later, however, at some point in our second glass, we stopped mid-batch capture and did a double-take.  “Whoa,” came the mutual realization.  “This wine suddenly got really good.”  For five dollars, the wine was insanely good.  Too delicious to cost that little.  We should’ve known it would never last…


The Azamor Online Tasting: the Winos do some drinkin’ on the information superhighway

By on June 19, 2009

The Young Winos recently participated in a uniquely modern wine event that simply never would’ve been possible before the invention of the Internet in the early ’70s.  For the first time ever, Winos around the country opened the same bottle at the same time, then logged on to and live-chatted their tasting notes.  It was like one of those high-tech conferences where executives all over the world are linked together in a “virtual board room,” except with a lot more drinking and a lot less globalization.

Present in the chat room last Saturday afternoon were three of our local chapters — Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York’s Capital Region — each represented by either one or two typists who recorded the verbal responses of their assembled compatriots.  Additionally, we were happy to be joined by importer Tempe Reichardt of, and winemaker Alison Luiz-Gomes, who came to us live from Portugal (at midnight, no less).  The wine in question was the 2004 Azamor Red Wine (Alentejano), which the LA chapter first sampled when Alison and Tempe visited us a few months ago.


The Winos celebrate drinking culture at the Mutineer Magazine Launch Party

By on June 11, 2009

In a recent interview, Mutineer Magazine Editor Alan Kropf characterized his publication as one that reports on fine beverages in a cultural context (as opposed to the market-based focus of most other wine mags).  It’s a fair claim: the pages of Mutineer are indeed devoid of scores and rankings, concerning themselves instead with celebrating drinking culture through in-depth features that aim to inform rather than judge.  It was no surprise, then, that pretension took a back seat to good ol’ boozy mayhem at the Mutineer Magazine National Launch Party.

Held at the swank-happy Falcon Hollywood, the Mutineer party claimed around two-dozen Winos on its guest list, some arriving as event volunteers and others as paying guests.  Making good on Mutineer’s mandate of inclusivity, the party featured a diverse cross-section of fine beverages for our eager sampling: wine, beer, spirits, sake, and even soda all found a home in Falcon’s dimly-lit enclosure.  What follows is a digest of some of our favorite tipples from that evening, coupled with embarrassing photos of our members in action.


Santa Barbara ’09: day two (Los Olivos excesses, and the inner workings of Fess Parker)

By on June 3, 2009

The party on Saturday night had been taxing on our collective sobriety, and swinging by State Street for last call probably didn’t bode well for our 9:30 wake-up call on Sunday morning.  But wake up we did, and it was with only a relatively excusable thirty minutes of tardiness that we arrived at Los Olivos.

The LA kids have been big fans of the Los Olivos tasting room scene ever since our initial trip to Santa Barbara back in ’06, and we were thrilled that several of the respectable Grand Street establishments had the audacity to invite the Winos in to sample their current lineups.  Our first stop was Tre Anelli, followed then by its sister winery Consilience, and lastly by Epiphany.


Santa Barbara ’09: day one (the Ojai Valley and the Municipal Party)

By on May 18, 2009

One criticism that has sometimes been levied at the LA Winos (most frequently from within our own ranks) is that we don’t get out of town nearly enough… a fair criticism if I’ve ever heard one.  So when illustrious Santa Barbara winemaker Dave Potter told us he was holding a release party for his ’08 vintage, we were on it like white on wine.  The trip also offered us the opportunity to arrange visits to a handful of wineries and tasting rooms that have been on our radar for a while, and it wasn’t long before the casual weekend in wine country soon ballooned into a boozy journey of epic proportions.

We didn’t have to be in Santa Barbara till 8pm, so we took an afternoon detour through the beautiful Ojai Valley, where we made two stops: Old Creek Ranch Winery, home to Mike Meagher and the Vino V label, followed by the Casa Barranca tasting room in downtown Ojai.


The Winos’ tasting series: losing our inhibitions with and the wines of Azamor

By on April 28, 2009

Next time you find yourself in your local wine store, do a little experiment: ask where you can find the Portuguese section. Chances are, they’ll guide you over to a display rack full of Port, the fortified dessert wine of which any liquor or grocery store will usually have a healthy supply. If that’s what happens, explain very nicely that you’re looking for still Portuguese wine — white or red wines, not tawny ones. Your store may have a decent selection… or, just as likely, it may not.

The wines of Portugal represent a huge value these days, particularly because so many people haven’t realized yet that Portuguese wine is anything more than the Port that Pop-Pop likes to drink on Christmas Eve. That’s why the Young Winos were so excited to recently be visited by the winemaker of an excellent Portuguese label, who tasted us through her lineup on a recent Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Winos’ Tasting Series — pregaming for Santa Barbara with a Lucas & Lewellen lineup

By on March 30, 2009

The big trip up the 101 is less than a week away, and we LA lushes have all got Santa Barbara on the brain. So, when Friday evening beckoned several thirsty Winos to my abode, we thought it made sense to reach for a 4-pack of Santa Barbara bottles recently sent our way by the good people at Lucas & Lewellen.

Inspired by the exciting new capabilities at my disposal ever since I got myself a brand new 1GB memory card for my relic of a digital camera, I decided to take some home movies of the Winos in action… the results are embedded later in this post. Although the video quality may not be great, it’s the content of the discourse that counts — and, fortunately, this lineup gave us much to talk about.


The Young Winos stop by for a quickie at the Santa Lucia Highlands shindig

By on February 13, 2009

For whatever reason, the Winos seem to have a propensity for rolling up late to tasting events. Sometimes it’s because we’re still way too hung-over from the night before, while other times it’s because we know that if we actually get there at the beginning we’ll inevitably be way too hung-over the next day. On Monday afternoon, however, we were left wishing we would’ve arrived at the “Santa Lucia Highlands trade & press tasting” at a reasonable hour, as a number of probably-delicious bottles went untasted.

Undaunted by the ramifications of our fashionable lateness, we succeeded in tasting a good lineup of wines before eventually being shunted out (and even that failed to interfere with our journalistic pursuits, as depicted in the photo above). Organized by The Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans and brought to us by Blue Lifestyle, the event was held at BLT Steak on Sunset and featured 27 wineries, 70 wines, and a solid contingency of winemakers to talk about them. Here are the bottles that the Winos managed to taste before (and, in several cases, after) the end of the event. (more…)

Tolosa Winery helps us enjoy the good life at the May Bartus jewelry show

By on January 30, 2009

In these times of economic strife, it can be difficult to spend one’s Saturday afternoon perusing luxury goods without being adequately liquored up. The Young Winos understand this, so when CJ asked Dylan and I to pour some vino for her friend’s jewelry show, we thought it would be the right thing to do.

The May Bartus Designs trunk show went down this past Saturday in the cozy lobby bar of the Maison 140 Hotel in Beverly Hills, and a healthy smattering of Winos showed up to enjoy the free wine and the not-quite-free jewelry. The good people at Tolosa Winery sent us some gratis bottles of their ’05 Edna Valley Pinot, which turned out to be a big hit. Tasting notes and additional photos after the jump. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: doing our best to “reserve” judgment on some Zinfandel

By on January 11, 2009

“Reserved.” It’s a word we Winos see frequently — most often in the form of small white signs placed on tables when the wait staff sees us approaching and doesn’t want to deal with our shenanigans. Reserve, however, is a totally different form of the word, and one we encounter perhaps even more often. It seems like every other bottle likes to brag about how it’s some sort of “reserve” — private reserve, cellar reserve, limited reserve, etc.

Unregulated by law as it is in this country, the term “reserve” is often tossed around indiscriminately (along with phrases like “classic collection” or “vintner’s select”). Sometimes, though, it’s used in the way it was originally intended: to designate an upper-tier wine that, for some reason, is a cut above the regular issue. The Winos recently had a chance to taste the standard and the “reserve” versions of a Dry Creek Zinfandel side-by-side. To make it interesting, we tasted the wines blind, unencumbered by the whims of the labels. Would the superior breeding of the “reserve” shine through in the glass? (more…)

Some enthusiastic (if slightly uninformed) Champagne rec’s for your New Years needs

By on December 30, 2008

New Years is the time of year when this Wino feels most useless.

Invariably, I’ll be asked by other Winos for a New Years Eve bubbly recommendation, and I often attempt to steer my fellow boozehounds away from the knee-jerk strategy of buying French, encouraging them instead to venture into Spain for some Cava, or to Germany for some Sekt. Or what about lightening things up Italian style with a Prosecco, or a nice Moscato d’Asti? If they’re dead set on France, then how about trying a crisp Crémant d’Alsace, or a rustic Crémant de Limoux?

More than once, however, I’ve encountered a staunch dedication to the idea of buying Champagne and Champagne only, and I’m often asked what my favorite one is. Therein lies the problem: I literally know next to nothing about Champagne. I just haven’t drank enough of the stuff to have any favorites.

As luck would have it, though, I recently found myself at a most auspicious Champagne tasting — the annual Tasting Panel Magazine affair hosted by Blue Lifestyle — where I gleefully sampled delicious bottles from top houses in both France and California, taking full advantage of the event’s very welcoming “serve-ur-self” orientation. Based on the twenty or so bottles I tried (within about 40 minutes… not too shabby, huh?), here are my Champagne recommendations for your New Years inebriatory needs. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: searching for faults in the malts of Shmaltz

By on December 11, 2008

The holidays are coming up, and you know what that means: lots of wine, most of which you won’t be expected to pay for! But between robust reds on your dinner table, bubbly on New Years, and all the bottles you’ll receive as gifts, is is possible that a Young Wino might get sick of wine during the holiday season? Truthfully, no, probably not… but prevention is the best cure, so in order to allay the slight possibility that you’ll go sober at any point over the next few weeks, we thought we’d hook you up with a beer review.

Despite their oenocentric moniker, the Winos are nothing if not versatile. If these troubled economic times have taught us anything, it’s that any brand wishing to remain sentient better diversify its portfolio. In this spirit of diversity, we recently welcomed to one of our meetings the western regional sales manager of the illustrious Shmaltz Brewing Company, who tasted us through some of his company’s intriguing brews. (more…)

Wine Books: the ideal gift for your favorite intellectual alkie

By on December 2, 2008

The long holiday weekend is behind us, and I sure hope everybody enjoyed their Vendredi Noir! No, I’m not referring to the little-known varietal from eastern Quebec; I speak, of course, of “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans all across America rush to their local big-box retailers and complete their holiday shopping in an orderly and civilized fashion. But just in case you’re one of those stragglers who inexplicably didn’t manage to finish your present-buying before the onset of the advent, the Young Winos have the perfect gift idea for you: books!

In his 2004 article “Through a Glass Darkly,” The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik spoke of the annoyingly esoteric nature of traditional wine literature. “The space between what the wine writers say and what the wine novice tastes is a standard subject of satire,” he wrote, expressing the same frustration channeled by LA Wino Noah Verleun when he famously declared that “burning tires” and “junkyard” are probably “not something you’d read in Wine Spectator” (despite being exactly the type of smells and tastes that Young Winos run into as they begin to learn about wine). The wine writing in the three books below, however, skips the “cassis and earthy undertones” in favor of openness, wit, and practicality. Here are the Winos’ picks for your holiday wine book purchasing needs. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Municipal Winemakers Bright Red

By on November 13, 2008

A couple months ago, we welcomed Santa Barbara winemaker Dave Potter to one of our hedonistic gatherings, where he shared with us several bottles from his nascent Municipal Winemakers label. One of the Winos’ favorite Municipal wines was a barrel sample of the not-yet-released “Bright Red” Rhone blend.


Well, after many months of waiting, le Rouge Lumineux est arrivé! Bright Red’s debut is finally upon us, and Dave was generous enough to send a few sample bottles to the LA members of the Municipal Winemakers Social Club. (more…)

The Winos’ Winemakers series: a handful of reds from Black Sheep Finds

By on November 10, 2008

Even the most net-savvy Wino can occasionally be nonplussed by the converging realms of online wine sales and objective wine blogging. Is this a review, or a sales pitch? Where does the commentary end and the commerce begin? Does the Jets fan yelling at me from inside my computer want me to learn about wine, or just buy his wine?

Several of the hybrid sites, however, offer rewarding experiences, whether browsing, buying, or just learning — and the most LA-centric that we’ve discovered is Run by Angeleno Jill Bernheimer, the site boasts a friendly and informative blog, a lively forum, and a store stocked with eclectic and well-priced bottles. Best of all, Jill offers free shipping within Los Angeles!


The only way Jill might’ve aspired to be more Wino-rific is if she convinced a couple of her winemakers to come in and talk to the group. It was in inspired fashion, then, that she recently introduced the Winos to winemakers Peter Hunken and Amy Christine of Black Sheep Finds, a small label specializing in unique and affordable wines from around the globe. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: doing one’s civic duty on some Napa bottles

By on November 4, 2008

Want to know what’s even better than getting one of those little “I voted” stickers after you cast your ballot on election day? How about getting 25% off a delicious Napa Valley wine or two?

If you bring (or fax) your voting stub to Goosecross Cellars today or tomorrow, you’ll get 25% off any bottle in their lineup. The offer is good only on 11/4 and 11/5, and isn’t valid with any of their other offers or club discounts. The Winos received a couple of bottles not too long ago from the good people at Goosecross, and when Jordan showed up one night with a Pinot he’d snagged on a recent Napa trip, we threw some Winos together and made a night of it.


Information on where to send your voting stub can be found at the bottom of this post… we know how you Winos adore discounts so. First, though, is the all-important wine review — essential reading for anyone who purports to be an informed “vitizen.” (Cute, right? I just made that up.) (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: revisiting the nascent négociant

By on September 30, 2008

The Winos remain rabid devotees to the pursuit and discovery of quality bottles at approachable price-points. That’s why we were pleased as punch to recently receive another case of wines from the good people at Cameron Hughes. On a recent Friday, several Winos wound their way up the precipitous slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains to indulge in the lineup at Erik’s legendary hideout in the hills.


As we learned when we tasted a few of the eponymous producer’s offerings back in April, Cameron Hughes is helping to redefine the notion of a négociant (a French term referring to a wine broker/blender) for a new generation of savvy drinkers. Instead of concentrating on achieving quantity within one region, though, his company sources small lots of high-quality juice from top-tier producers around the globe and bottles them in anonymous packaging, save for a “lot number.” The other edge of the Cameron Hughes sword, however, is that when a certain “lot” of wine is gone, it’s gone — naturally, then, the Winos approached this particular evening’s drinking with a heightened sense of urgency. (more…)

The Winos’ Winemakers Series: getting back to basics with the Municipal Winemakers

By on August 29, 2008

Sometimes it takes a Young Wino to truly reach the Young Winos.

By all accounts, most wine producers haven’t yet quite figured out what to do with the so-called Millennial Generation — that discriminating demographic of tech-savvy twenty-somethings (of which the Young Winos like to think of themselves as some kind of boozy vanguard). But Santa Barbara winemaker Dave Potter, the man behind the Municipal Winemakers label, doesn’t seem to suffer from this same marketing malady. Himself a child of the eighties, Dave has created a brand that eschews animal labels and Flash-heavy websites in favor of distinctiveness and authenticity — and, most importantly, makes wines that are both intriguing and delicious.


“What’s cool about Millennials is that we’re not scared of wine,” Dave told me. “We’re not just dependent on brand loyalty. It’s all about exploration.” In that spirit, a group of Young Winos recently gathered in Sherman Oaks to welcome Dave and explore the flight of wines he’d brought with him. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series — brother, can you spare a cabernet?

By on August 1, 2008

Jordan and I apparently are suckers for Orin Swift bottles following a Vendome tasting. In an unintentional homage to our Papillon tasting of last spring, we recently stumbled out of the venerable Studio City vendor — where we’d just enjoyed a pleasant and affordable flight of varied Sauv Blancs — clutching a bottle of thoroughly unaffordable Cab Sauv from one of our favorite Napa producers.


Always a fan of the distinctive packaging, owner/winemaker Dave Phinney has really outdone himself this time — he’s affixed an antique Winged Liberty Head (or “Mercury Head”) dime to each and every bottle. Apparently, if various nerdy websites are to be believed, the Mercury Head dime is one of the most admired US coin designs ever minted. But would this wine prove to be one of the Young Winos’ most admired Cabernets ever minted? (more…)

Putting the “fest” back in Wine Fest: a grand day out at Raleigh Studios

By on July 30, 2008

A skeptical young oenophobe might fairly ask why anyone would want to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon at a wine tasting. This year’s recent LA Wine Fest offered a most convincing answer.

The Young Winos have visited a number of excellent wine events over the past few months, but none of them have featured quite the “festival” environment that the three-year-old Wine Fest managed to achieve on a sunny weekend in mid-July. Along with a generous number of wine producers pouring their latest vintages, the Winos encountered craft beer, fine spirits, food vendors, and wine-related merchandise a-plenty. An eager Young Wino could spend hours visiting the various booths — and quite a few of us did, thanks in no small part to a ticket discount extended our way by the organizers.


“I’ve always thought that LA needed to have a consumer-oriented tasting event,” explained Joel Fisher, the President of the LA Wine Fest. “And this year was the biggest turnout we ever had.” The weekend festival offered two days of tasting; Sunday’s event proved the quieter of the two, drawing what Joel called an “older, more laid back” crowd. Saturday, though, was a packed house, boasting more thirsty young people than the Winos have hitherto encountered at any wine event. The hum of the crowd, audible even as we walked up the street towards the gates, bore in its pulsing drone the promise of a memorable afternoon at the studio. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: bargain bottles from down south

By on July 13, 2008

Now that the wandering Winos are back from Hawaii, it’s time to get back into some serious tasting.  The auspicious arrival at my apartment of a handful of thirsty youngsters on a recent Friday evening prompted me to break out a few bottles sent our way by the good people at the Cellar Door.


The Winos find nothing more thrilling than scouring the ranks of budget-priced bottles and attempting to unearth hidden gems.  This week’s lineup was a selection of wines from down south: Argentina, Australia, and Spain (southern part of Europe = south enough to fit into this makeshift theme). (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesdays #46: Rhone Whites

By on June 11, 2008

It’s not a crime if you’re going to blog about it, right? Isn’t that some kind of law?

To be fair, it wasn’t even a crime to begin with. Last Wednesday, several of us found ourselves at the regrettable terminus of the delicious Rhone Rangers event in Hollywood, and we grappled with the realization that we hadn’t gotten a chance to taste a number of the wines we’d been so looking forward to. One winemaker — whose identity shall remain shrouded in mystery, as to add intrigue to this somewhat unimpressive crime story — suggested that we take all of his mostly-full bottles home with us, a suggestion we happily accepted. Moments later, as we witnessed the cleanup crew mindlessly throwing half-full bottles into the garbage without regard for their precious contents, we more or less expanded our winemaker’s offer into a blanket mandate to “save” as much wine as possible.


So it was thus that we crept through the soundstages of Raleigh Studios, desperately clinging to our purloined cargo: an impressive eighteen-bottle bounty, four bottles of which were still unopened! The following Saturday, six Winos showed up at my door to enjoy the spoils of our desperate pillage — nay, “rescue mission” — of the leftover Rhone Rangers wine. (By that point, however, only thirteen bottles remained… admittedly, I’d gotten a bit thirsty in the meantime.)

Our actions were fully vindicated when — in what could only be interpreted as a sign from above — we learned that Dr. Debs had recently chosen white wines made from Rhone grapes as the theme for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday. Fortunately, we had one such unopened bottle to satisfy the requirements of the topic… and twelve additional bottles to satisfy our Saturday night vino cravings. (more…)

The Rhone Rangers ride at Raleigh

By on June 7, 2008

There’s something so very Hollywood about going to a wine tasting at an old movie studio. One can easily imagine all of the legendary drinking that’s taken place there in years past: actors and directors stealing out to their trailers to wet their whistles between takes… auteurs and ingenues escaping behind the set for a slug of prohibition-era moonshine. It’s fair to assume, though, that the Winos enjoyed some of the tastiest drinking ever experienced at Hollywood’s venerable Raleigh Studios when the Rhone Rangers set up camp there on Wednesday night.


Over 40 wineries were represented at the event (many by the winemakers themselves, which is always a treat), each of them pouring the Rhône varietals and blends that allow them membership in the exclusive Rhone Rangers organization. Thanks to the admission discount extended our way by event co-sponsors Blue Lifestyle and The Tasting Panel Magazine, a contingency of eight Winos were on hand to experience all of the floral whites and spicy reds firsthand. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: friday night, four bottles, five bros

By on June 3, 2008

Call it the gift that keeps on giving.

Just like you never want Christmas to be over, the Winos like nothing less than reaching the inevitable end of a delicious wine event, like Thursday’s “Hot Picks” evening in Culver City. So when Tamarack Cellars’ assistant winemaker Danny Gordon slipped Andrew a couple of bottles on his way out, we rejoiced at the prospect of revisiting the night’s revelry in the near future.


Friday night provided just such an opportunity, when five thirsty Winos assembled at the Sh’oaks, mildly belligerent and rarin’ to drink. Complimenting the two Tamarack wines were a couple of bottles sent to us by the good people at Donati Family Vineyard in San Benito County; with four bottles and five dudes present, we were all geared up to have ourselves a merry little tasting. (more…)

Covert in Culver: the winos infiltrate the Wine & Spirits “Hot Picks” event

By on May 28, 2008

The Young Winos turned out en masse last week to enjoy some delicious food and wine at the MODAA gallery in Culver City, where Wine & Spirits Magazine was hosting a great big shindig in recognition of the fact that young people really love their fermented grape juice. The “Hot Picks” event, which travels to Seattle next month, was an opportunity for the trendy young wine professionals and trendy nascent wine critics of Los Angeles to gather in one trendy location for some serious drinkin’ and networkin’.


The event featured a litany of wines from Wine & Spirits’ recent “Critics’ Picks” list, as poured by industry pros and young soms from a number of LA’s most delicious eateries. In an impressive display of thirsty fervor, over twenty Young Winos permeated the event in various capacities: critical tasters, volunteer pourers, and paying guests. It was an event to whose reoccurrence next year we eagerly look forward, and one at which we were delighted to taste a number of excellent bottles. (more…)

The Winos’ Winemakers Series — a “sense of place” at Samuel’s Gorge

By on May 26, 2008

We young drinkers love our Australian wine… the proletarian labels, the sourcing of quality grapes from different regions, the unconventional blending practices, the great values. It’s easy, though, for our demographic to fall into the habit of regarding Australia as little more than a sort of “good-wine factory”: a consistently warm continent producing anonymous batches of ever-ripe fruit, which are then blended by sandal-wearing negociants into delicious and dependable bottles. A recent visit by Justin McNamee, winemaker at Samuel’s Gorge in McLaren Vale, did much to dispel the majority of that oversimplification (with the exception of the sandal part).


Samuel’s Gorge is a small label operating out of a 150-year-old barn on the southern end of the Onkaparinga River National Park, twenty miles south of Adelaide. Justin joined the Winos at Emily’s pad one recent evening and shared with us his unique approach to McLaren Vale winemaking, comprising an integration of New World inventiveness with Old World “sense of place.” Thankfully, he also shared with us several delicious bottles of wine. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Francis Ford Coppola Presents

By on May 15, 2008

One of our favorite wine quotes comes from the 1972 classic The Godfather:

Don Vito: I like to drink wine more than I used to.
Michael: It’s good for you, pop.

It is indeed. But how does a Godfather quote relate to our tasting this week, you ask? Well, the line above was spoken by the actor Marlon Brando, who also appeared in the 1995 film Don Juan DeMarco, which was directed by Jeremy Leven, who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, which featured Matt Damon, who appeared in The Departed with Martin Sheen, who starred in Apocalypse Now — a movie which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola! That’s how.


The Winos love tasting obscure wines from small labels, but another part of our mandate is to interact frequently with wines that are readily available in supermarkets and wine shops alike; after all, what use is a glowing review if you can’t find the wine? The good people at Coppola’s eponymous company recently sent us a few familiar-looking bottles, and we tore into them faster than Peggy Sue could get married. (more…)

The Winos’ Winemakers Series: distinctive drinkin’ with the Departure dudes

By on May 12, 2008

One of the few things than can possibly improve a Friday evening spent enjoying some outstanding Santa Barbara wines at Leah’s place is when the winemakers themselves actually stop by to drink with you. In what felt like the Young Winos version of the Wonka Golden Ticket experience (albeit with fewer accidental deaths), we were recently joined by Tim Grubb and PJ Miele of Departure Wine Company, a four-year-old Santa Barbara label specializing in Rhone varietals.


Tim and PJ brought with them not only seven excellent wines for us to explore, but also a wealth of insight and and rich observations on the winemaking process, challenges faced by a young label, and the journey of the grape from vine to glass. In what we hope will soon become a regular feature on this website, Departure set a lofty standard in the first-ever Young Winos’ Winemakers Tasting. (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesdays #45: Old World Riesling

By on May 7, 2008

Last month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday adventure was a freeballin’, full-sprint marathon tasting in which we polished off a bottle of French Cab Franc, took meticulous notes, snapped and uploaded copious amounts of photos, and resized and formatted those photos using my time-consuming system which Jessica insists is inefficient (but which I continue to swear by). Then we uploaded the whole mess onto the blog, all within an hour’s time, and made it to Newsha’s for the Green Wines tasting — harried and disheveled, but only about ten minutes late. It was a frantic and desperate endeavor, and I promised myself it would never be that way again.


One month later, I’m in the familiar position of sitting on Jason’s floor, funneling our response to WBW #45 onto the blog, maniacally resizing photos, and frequently checking my watch. No time to stress out, though — the weekly meeting is imminent, and there’s a delicious bottle of Riesling to talk about before it begins. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: petite and patties

By on May 6, 2008

After spending several arduous hours drinking by the pool, Emily was loathe to let the festivities end just because the sun was getting lower in the sky, so she invited the Winos over to her house and promised to grill up some huge burgers.  Andrew and I had the sense to take her up on her offer, as well as the foresight to go and grab two hefty bottles of Petite Sirah that had recently been sent our way by the good people at Aaron Jackson and Michael-David, respectively.


Why pair Petite Sirah with hamburgers?  Well, when you’re dealing with a meal that’s delicious, but might not be considered haute cuisine, you want a wine that’s similar: mouth-watering, flavorful, and free of affectation.  Enter big-and-bold Petite Sirah, with its massive fruit, sinister spice, and serious backbone.  If there was any grape that was going to make our taste buds as horny as those burgers were going to, it was this one.  As responsible journalists, though, we thought it best to start by tasting each wine on its own, prior to the hot beef injection. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: poolside pink

By on April 28, 2008

The Young Winos occasionally tire of doing their boozing exclusively under the shadow of night’s darkness like some coven of irresponsible vampires, so when a recent sunny day presented itself to us, we decided to adjourn to a nearby swimming pool for some indiscreet imbibing. And what better companion to a day spent soaking up the sun’s relentless rays than a bottle (or three) of fruity, refreshing rosé?


We’re pleased to have recently received a number of sample bottles, among which arrived several rosés from various producers and importers. This past Sunday, seven of us packed a cooler full of ice, grabbed the three bottles (as well as a 30-rack of cheap beer for after the wine ran out), and headed for the nearest body of cool, chlorinated water. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: negotiating the nascent négociant

By on April 26, 2008

Cameron Hughes is a name fast becoming familiar to the savvy young wino. A producer who sources grapes from all the world, Hughes represents an innovative, enterprising take on the familiar French concept of the négociant. Rather than grabbing up batches of wine from all over a particular region and blending them together haphazardly, however, Hughes takes a more nuanced approach: as phrased in the winery’s press kit, his strategy is buying “super-premium surplus juice from other wineries and growers around the globe” and then “bottling this ‘silver bullet’ and branding it as one of our ‘Lots,’ thus preserving its extreme value.”


Regions are listed on the label, but not vineyards; the sequential “lot” numbers on the bottles thus also preserve the anonymity of Hughes’ various sources, allowing those wineries to continue selling their wine at whatever price they desire without customers flocking to the less-expensive Cameron Hughes version. These “mystery source” wines have gained a reputation among discriminating, budget-minded boozehounds as offering the quality of top winemakers without the prohibitive sticker price. Previously available only at your local behemoth big-box retailer, Cameron Hughes wines are thankfully now sold direct on the website. The good people at his operation sent the Winos a few bottles to try out. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: bonus bottles from the Wine & Food Society dinner

By on April 23, 2008

The only thing that can possibly improve a young wino’s experience at a high society dinner where he gets to taste some insane bottles is subsequently getting to take a bottle or two home with him. Such was the case on Monday evening, when I was invited by the Chairman of the Wine & Food Society of Southern California to join the organization at their final dinner of the season. Several members had read about the Winos in the LA Times and seemed intrigued by our signature pairing of vigorous study and edutoxication with the relentless pursuit of interesting, affordable bottles — a pursuit which I did my best to champion in between sips of ’01 J. Rochioli Pinot Noir and ’95 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol.


The food was tremendous, but I found myself almost too preoccupied exploring the wine to really appreciate the pairing to the degree that I should’ve. When I arrived back home with a couple of half-bottles that had been bequeathed to me as a parting gift, the roommates’ ears perked up at the mention of free wine on a Monday. What followed was an eye-opening journey to the heart of the generational wine appreciation divide: how, exactly, does a demographic raised on Gary Vaynerchuk and Trader Joe’s (or, perhaps in most cases, only Trader Joe’s) react to serious, complicated, and expensive bottles of wine? (more…)

Drinking Wine From The Future: the winos do the 2008 santa barbara wine futures

By on April 15, 2008

It’s only very rarely that the Young Winos find themselves intimidated by quantity.

We’ve been known, at our weekly tastings, to put down fifteen to sixteen bottles and then hit the bar for margaritas. We’ve been seen, when in wine country, to thoughtfully critique the offerings of eight or nine wineries within the constraints of 11am-5pm opening hours and still make it back to LA in time for karaoke. But upon arriving at Santa Barbara’s venerable Wine Cask restaurant on Saturday, the Winos admittedly found themselves a bit overwhelmed, both by the sheer number of wineries present, and by the enormity of the task presented to us: how could we possibly taste and fairly evaluate 200 wines in only three hours?


Needless to say, we didn’t quite drink them all. We did, however, accomplish two important goals: we met a ton of fascinating winemakers, and we tasted loads of diverse and delicious wines. In this dispatch the Winos hope to share with you some of our favorite experiences of the day so that you can live vicariously through us, as we know so many of you like to do. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Peppery Thunder from Down Under

By on April 13, 2008

In continuing a recent trend of sampling wines from importers named after U2 albums (“War Imports” faring only slightly below “Achtung Baby Imports” in a recent blind tasting), this week the Winos turned our attention to five Australian bottles sent to us by the good people at Joshua Tree Imports.


Several of the samples we received had earned very favorable reviews from Wine Spectator and others, but in order to preserve the integrity of the tasting, I refrained from sharing these accolades with the group until after we’d actually had a chance to taste and evaluate the wines ourselves. One white and four reds awaited judgement as eight Winos assembled in my living room this warm Friday evening. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Lake County (no relation to the “wine lake”)

By on April 7, 2008

Anyone unfamiliar with the gastronomical tragedy that is the EU’s perennial “wine lake” should familiarize themselves with the concept here; essentially, millions of gallons of delicious French and Italian wine are being disposed of every year simply because there isn’t the demand for it (although I know of some young people in LA who could probably think of a few enjoyable things to do with several million gallons of wine). Fortunately, California’s “Lake County” is neither named after nor implicated in the continuing humanitarian crisis of the wine lake. It was therefore with a clear conscience that the Winos sat down to enjoy four bottles from this storied region.


We received two bottles each from the good people at two Lake County wineries, Langtry Estate and Shannon Ridge. Nestled in between Napa and Mendocino, Lake County has been producing wine for decades, but new bottles are showing up on LA shelves in abundance these days. We’ve heard rumors that Lake County is a great place to go tasting in some bucolic country while avoiding the glut of tourists and wine snobs you’ll invariably encounter in Napa and Sonoma, which sounds ideal for the Winos’ next semi-annual Gone Drinkin’ retreat. (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesdays #44: Cabernet Franc from France

By on April 2, 2008

The Winos jumped on the WBW bandwagon this week, and per the G-man’s instructions, we sought ourselves out a bottle of Cabernet Franc from France. The majority of our experience with Cab Franc has been: 1) in its capacity as a blending grape, when tasting various bottles of Bordeaux and Meritage, 2) drinking that unusual bottle of New York Cab Franc that Jessica brought on Old World varietals in the New World day, and 3) watching that scene in Sideways where Miles says he doesn’t like it.


Jason found us a bottle of 2005 Domaine de Noiré “Elegance” from the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley. Loire is known mostly for whites (such as the racy little numbers from Vouvray, Pouilly-Fumé and Muscadet), but some solid Cab Franc is allegedly grown in the Touraine area, so we were excited about this one. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Michael-David Winery, Lodi

By on April 1, 2008

Recently we were admonished by some crotchety naysayer on an bulletin board who contended that “this [the Young Winos] is not what a bunch of 20-something guys ought to be doing with their spare time” (post #27, but many other priceless reactions to our article can be found all over the thread). I suppose we should’ve been drinking Pepsi Free down at the discotheque, or maybe watching a “talkie” at the movie palace, or whatever the kids are doing nowadays? At any rate, we decided to further horrify this particular malcontent by holding a tasting on a Friday night. (To be fair, we did head out for some dive bar karaoke afterwards… but the tasting itself was damn serious, trust me.)


The good people at Michael-David Family of Wines were kind enough to send us a bottle each of their current vintage Chardonnay and Zinfandel. I threw a dark horse into the mix by dusting off a bottle of Michael-David’s 2003 Incognito Rhone Blend that I’ve been saving for just the right occasion. A total of seven Winos — appropriate, we thought, given the theme — were on hand to enjoy the bottles. (more…)

The Winos’ Tasting Series: the trouble with airline wine

By on March 24, 2008

I went away this weekend to spend Easter with the fam, and on my return flight found myself craving a nice refreshing bottiglia di vino. However, the state of the world being what they want us to believe it is, we Winos aren’t allowed to bring our refreshment with us on planes as we do most other places. Therefore I had no choice but to browse AA’s anemic “wine list” and drop a Lincoln for some mediocre drinkin’.


The experience led me to do a little research into how these bizarre bottles wind up on planes anyhow. What follows is a grim story of bulk wine sales, “Pacific Vista,” and the cluelessness of the American airline industry. (more…)

Belgian Fest at Lucky Baldwin’s

By on March 18, 2008

Lucky Baldwins, a Pasadena/Sierra Madre pub duo, had a fantastic Belgian Beer Festival at the beginning of March. I was able to attend one night and sampled eleven of their many dozens of offerings. The fest is over, but I highly recommend checking out the pub for a great selection of beers from around the world, and a particularly varied menu of Belgians. Here’s what I had from the fest:

  • Val Dieu Grand Cru – wonderfully dark and malty with hints of cherry.
  • Keizerberg – reminiscent of a Triple and rather fruity.
  • Gentse Triple – Strong and nutty!
  • Grotten Brown – a favorite of the night.
  • St. Feuillien Noel
  • De Glazen Toren Triple
  • Radar Blond
  • Grimbergen Double
  • Petrus Old Brown
  • Petrus Winter
  • Nostrodamus

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Division I Chardonnay at Division III prices

By on March 14, 2008

The Young Winos were thrilled to be featured in the LA Times earlier this week, and we want to thank all the winos out there who sent us good tidings. The article represented us really well, with one exception — an insignificant detail to some, perhaps, but an issue of great importance to me. I want to take this opportunity to state for the record: I am not a graduate of Syracuse University, I have never been a graduate of Syracuse University, nor do I ever intend to be a graduate of Syracuse University. I’m sure it’s probably an admirable institution, but my allegiance forever lies elsewhere:


So, in honor of my Division III alma mater, I decided to open up a couple of nice mid-range California Chardonnays that are currently on sale for “Division III prices” at my local bastions de vino. Doug sat down with me to help me taste the pair. (more…)

O’Shaughnessy 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

By on March 12, 2008

Howell Mountain ‘04 CabJesse and I had the great pleasure of indulging in this supreme California Cab last Saturday at our classy (19th century wild west style) wine bar of choice. We were already knee deep in the Staff Picks Tasting XXIV and due to Steve’s regular and copious extra pours we were drifting onto topics ill suited for our surroundings and company (the proper dosages of common prescription medication, the problem with the modern woman, how much of a certain mind altering prescription medication is necessary to void the distress caused by the modern woman and other male oriented musings). In an effort to stay the course and get us back on track I suggested that we reorient the conversation onto something a little more wine inspired. “Steve! Let’s talk about really good California cabs.” (I should also mention that our bar-neighbor Mike was ruminating on the pleasures and joys brought on by the great Bordeaux he was drinking and I was getting downright jealous) We needed to fight back with local flair. Steve walked over to the rack and came back with the O’Shaughnessy ’04 Howell Mountain Cab. He explained that in his opinion it was the best bottle on the rack and truly exemplified the simplicity and big fruit nature that was cherished in great California cabs. We were intrigued. At 76 bucks a bottle this was no cheap experiment. But I will tell you that it was worth it. The Howell Mountain is actually a blend composed of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Carmenere, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% St. Macaire. The nose was quite floral with some light smoke and berry aromas. On the pallet we found a very strong red berry flavoring with some hints of vanilla, sandalwood and spice. This wine was particularly light on oak and tannins and maintained a nice simple structure throughout. The wine closed with a lovely (and long) finish that reminded us that structure isn’t just about tannins but about the general balance of the wine. Acidity played a major role here. For us, this wine really exemplified the power of simplicity in a good California Cab. It was a delight to experience and enjoy.  JMP:93 pts

The Winos’ Tasting Series: 2005 Papillon

By on March 10, 2008

Jordan and I are huge fans of Orin Swift’s “Prisoner” Zin blend, so when our Saturday tasting buddy Kevin Delin raved about Swift’s just-released 2005 Meritage “Papillon,” we were in no position to exercise restraint and resist popping a bottle. By that point, having just finished off a flight of foreign and domestic Pinot Noirs which ran a little hotter than we might’ve guessed, our combined B.A.C. was a bit loftier than would’ve been requisite for us to say, “gee, $56 is really too much to spend on a bottle we’ve never heard of until forty-five seconds ago.” So it was that we threw fiscal responsibilty to the wind and made our way home with our trophy wine.



Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2006

By on March 8, 2008

92579l.jpgThere may be a small corner of my heart dedicated to this lovely New Zealand wine. At 17 dollars a bottle you really can’t beat the wonderfully fragrant nose that is exotic and yet familiar with its tropical fruit basket bouquet intermingled with the requisite grassiness.  On the palette you will find lime, pineapple, grapefruit and and a nice mineral/stone complexion.  If you look at this wine in terms of terroir, for me, it really represents what Marlborough Sauv Blancs are all about: the tropical fruit.  The mouth feel is rich and yet sharp and thorough and the acidity helps to keep it structured and balanced. The YW are not the only ones who have enjoyed this wine.  It has been consistently ranked above 90 pts by WS over the last four years with the ’06 vintage cashing in at 92pts.   The final word is this: an archetypal Marlborough Sauv Blanc rich with complexity and sharpness. Drink Now.   JMP: 92pts 

Fireside Cellars

By on March 4, 2008

Disappointed by the recent suggestions from our usual winestore, Noah and I paid a visit to Fireside Cellars on Montana Ave. The staff was helpful and friendly, and we walked away with two delicious Pinot Noirs we would have otherwise overlooked. I recommend stopping by in the evening, after the afternoon rush of soccer moms coming from Wild Oats.

The Winos’ Tasting Series: Fearless Flyer Follies

By on March 2, 2008

Four times a year, we SoCal Trader Joe’s denizens all receive the venerable “Fearless Flyer” periodical, alerting us to exciting new merchandise that Joe has acquired during the course of his trading. While some of the stuff is a little esoteric (“Oatmeal in the Freezer? You Betcha!”), or downright excessive (“17 Bean & Barley Soup Mix”… honestly, once you hit 15 beans or so, do you really need the barley anymore?), the wine deals contained therein are often enticing. This week, Doug, Max and I sat down to taste a pair of featured bottles, one white and one red, each appealingly-priced at $4.99. Might we discover a cheapo winner?

Fearless Flyer Follies 01