Case Project: The Rest!

Well, let’s get this out of the way. I don’t think it’s going to be all that interesting to continue single-posting a whole case of wine. I’ve got more interesting things to write about. So let’s kick it into high gear and mass-review the next 9, and get to the juicy conclusion.

Wine #4: Feudo Arancio 2006 Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT, Italyarancionero2

Sicily is always going to be a haven for decent values if you like old-world wines with a modern flair. No exception here. It’s rustic, yet refined. Spicy, fruity and even a touch jammy. It tastes like a warm island in the Mediterranean, served up with buttery mussels and capers while feeling the warm afternoon breeze. No really! It was just like that!

Worth it? Yes. Get it again? Yes.

Wine #5: Garofoli Farnio 2007 Rosso Piceno DOC, Italygarofolifarneorossopigeno

Keeping in Italy for the next one, here we have a wine from the Marches region, a less-traveled area for most Americans, wine-wise. I mean, you can’t visit a wine shop without tripping over a stack of Chianti of some sort, but when was the last time you had a wine from the Marches? That’s right, you never have! Okay, just kidding, but they are few and far between, and this probably only made it over the ocean because it hitched a ride with a Verdicchio Castello di Jesi, (its neighbor). So this is a Sangiovese and Montepulciano blend. It’s about the quality you might expect from a Chianti Ruffina. Dry, slightly stewed fruit, hints of dried smoldering herbs, but with tannin consistent with Central Italian reds. Needs food, though.

Worth it? Er, sure. Get it again? Er, maybe. There are probably a hundred things I’d pick up before getting this again, but it’s drinkable.

Wine #6: Caleo 2005 Primitivo Salento IGT, Italycaleoprimitivo

Yet another Italian wine, this one from the South in Puglia. If Italy has a Dirty South, Puglia is probably it, and you can really taste the terroir in any of the wines of the region. This is Primitivo, genetically the same as Zinfandel, but you could never mistake the two. It’s juicy in its own right, and has the prune-y flavors I get off of most of the Primitivo wines of the region. It’s a deep, dark, dried fruit, coarse tannin and some subtle spice.

Worth it? Yeah, I suppose so. Get it again? Yeah, maybe.

Wine #7: Garnacha de Fuego 2007 Old Vines, Calatayud, Spaingarnachadefuego1

A selection from Spain! I am a long-time fan of Grenache, a grape that makes something different everywhere it goes. In Spain, where it’s very warm, it makes this. Bold. Juicy. Got some blackberries. Some currants. A touch of clove and anise. Soft tannins. The flashy label? I don’t care for it so much. It seems a bit cheesy to me. And they say wine and cheese go together. Ha! For an easy-drinking red, this kinda rocks. Needs fuller-flavored foods, though. Pizza. Spaghetti and meatballs. That kinda thing.

Worth it? Totally. Get it again? You bet!

Wine #8: Bodegas Otero Valleoscuro 2006 Prieto Picudo & Tempranillo, Castilla y Leon, Spainvalleoscurotempranillo

What the heck is that? Prieto Picudo? Huh. Some Spanish grape, I suppose. Spain is still a great place to find values considering its developing status on the international wine horizon, at least with the lesser known regions and grapes. Like this one. What was it called again? Prieto Picudo. Huh. Well, it comes from the neighborhood of Ribera del Duero, although it’s a far cry from that powerhouse. Strawberries. Light spice. Medium-light tannins. A bit higher acid. It’s a somewhat lighter red that you could  probably just mistake for straight-up Tempranillo. It does contain Tempranillo but in a smaller proportion (15%) to the larger proportion of the other grape. What was that name again? Prieto Picudo. Huh.

Worth it? I suppose. Get it again? Yeah, sure. Why not?

Wine #9: Altos las Hormigas 2007 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentinahormigasmalbec

In Argentina, Malbec is king. No, wait. Not “king”. Generally there is only one king in a specific locale. What’s a good metaphor for something when there are lots of those things? Cockroaches? Yes! In Argentina, Malbec is a bunch of roaches! They’re everywhere! No, no. That’s not quite right either. How about “stars”? Good, good! And poetic, too. So in Argentina Malbecs are like the stars in the sky. There are a ton of them. Some are brighter or dimmer, larger or smaller . . . um, cheaper or, uh . . . more expensive. Sigh. The point I’m getting at is there are a lot of Malbecs in Argentina in a wide range of styles, from light and juicy, to heavy and tannic, to overblown, overoaked and overpriced. And some . . . just are. Like this one. So much so that this description was primarily a distraction.

Worth it? Well, yeah, I suppose. Get it again? Well, yeah, I suppose.

Wine #10: Terra Andina 2007 Carmenere, Valle Central, Chileterraandinacarmenere

Okay, now. We may be onto something here. The most often overhyped grape of Chile makes good. There is something about this that I find so pleasing. It’s like a certain crispness of character that I’ve grown so fond of in Cabernet Franc. Delicate, but with a punch. There’s fruit here. And this light, delicate flower on top. Wow. This I did not expect. Requires further research.

Worth it? Hell, yes. Get it again? Hell, yes.

Wine #11: Henry’s Drive 2007 Pillar Box Redpillarboxred

It’s a blend of Shiraz, Cab and Merlot. No surprise there. It’s Australian. Big. Fruity. Jammy. Unsubtle, but pleasant. There’s really not that much to tell. The reason why Aussie wines dominate the market is because they are good, easy-drinking, and overall pleasing wines at a great price. “Tails, you win” right? Not exactly THAT, per se. But true, nonetheless. Something I’ve learned about the Australian wine is that it’s a specific curve. Could be bell-curve. Could be parabolic. But price-to-quality certainly does plateau after about $25. That could spell trouble for their wine industry as a whole, but for the value seeker, it can save you some bucks. I’ll go as high as $50 for some oddball Mataro, just for nerdiness’ sake. But really, it’s pretty consistent. Heck, that’s probably another article altogether.

Worth it? Yep! Get it again? Yeah, if I’m in the mood.

Wine #12: Three Winds 2007 Syrahthreewindssyrah

This is another Australian w . . . huh, what? It’s French? But it’s—okay, okay . . . so it’s French. “South of France” it says. Specifically we know it’s Languedoc, but the website says they collect grapes from all over the region. So I imagine it’s really Vin de Pays, but not referred as such on the label. But really, it’s made in such a new-world style, it might as well be Australian. Bold jammy fruit. Screwtop. Flashy branded label. Actually, the fruit DOES exhibit a few more “French”-like qualities that differentiate it as a Syrah versus a Shiraz. Actual spice notes. A touch of black pepper. A fleck of clove. Awash in  jam. I know what they’re doing here. And it’s selling like gangbusters. Really, what the heck does that mean? “Gangbusters”? Ugh. Here’s the bottom line.

Worth it? Sure, whatever. Get it again? Only if you want to support the New-World influence on the old world regions, even if that means Languedoc. Oh, me personally? Nah.

Stay tuned for the juicy conclusion!

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Case Project Wine #3: Foppiano Lot 96

foppianolot96One of my reasons to research these inexpensive wines in the face of economic adversity is my lifelong cynicism about the retail industry in general and the commercial view of “value”. For example, long ago when I was about 10, I remember leafing through a Sears catalog, looking for things to circle so my folks would know what to get me for Christmas. This was back when the Sears catalog was bigger than a phone book. (Also when phone books were smaller, and people actually used them.)

Of course, I didn’t want to miss anything so I looked through the whole catalog. Appliances. Power tools. Lingerie and swimwear. Heh. Big store, big catalog. It kept me occupied for a few hours. What I remember though is that since it was the Christmas shopping season, they had the quintessential shopping guide, and whatnot.

One specific section of this gift guide was clearly labeled “Gifts Under $30!!!” And every single thing in that section was $29.99. Now, even at the age of 10 I was saying “What are you kidding me?” Way to throw us a bone, Sears. I mean, really. That shows just how much they care. Or, what they really care about. A few more rip-offs later and my journey to the dark side of cynicism would be complete. Darth Mike.

Segue into today, or around today-ish, and it got me thinking about the wine industry, as well. Wait, first let’s get into Europe. Someone send me to Europe?

Okay, now we’re in Europe. Or in Franco-Italio wine country. Everyone who I’ve known or met who has traveled to Europe come back with the same old story. The wine was spectacular, but it wasn’t the stuff you buy on the shelf in the states in bottles. It was wine you would buy in 2-liter jugs, or refillable bottles, or a canteen to take to work, or it’s piped directly into peoples’ homes, with a tap for hot, cold, and wine, and it’s spectacular and way better than the stuff we get in The States, blahdeblah, etc.

Not so coincidentally, I notice that there is a wealth of wine from those areas arriving to our shores with affordable price tags, and it’s decent juice. The aforementioned people who went to Europe would often say that the cheap stuff that arrives here in bottles isn’t as good as the plastic-jug country wine over there, but there’s something to be said about scenery while drinking the stuff. Plus, on the other side of that argument, it probably doesn’t do a wine any good to be jostled about on a boat in the Atlantic for 6 weeks, sometimes in 100-degree shipping containers.

So what’s our problem? While shopping for the under $10 wines for the case project, I tried to find representatives from our American shores to even out the roster. Australia was easy. Chile, Argentina, no problem. Italy, piece o’ cake. But when it came to our home country, it was near to impossible to find something within the budget that is still independently made. Sure, you could drop $3 on ol’ Charlie Shaw, K-J, or anything else that’s made in million-gallon batches. Or in Washington you can find the budget blends that get branded and bought by merchandising giants, where the cost rises by a buck-a-year and the quality drops with a resounding “Plonk!” sound.

And in Oregon? Fuhgeddaboutit! A place where any retired attorney can buy a plot of land, squeeze out a few bottles and then charge $75 a pop by the second vintage. A place where a $17 Pinot Noir is as cheap as it gets. You won’t see any Oregon wines in this project.

So here we are with the sole American wine I could find for the project: The Foppiano Lot 96.

I’ll start out by saying that I’ve always liked the Foppiano wines. They’re one of the few and premiere producers of Petite Sirah, and that will always be a positive note in my book. I gather that the wine is named “Lot 96” after the founding date of the winery (1896) rather than how many tanks there are in the winery, or a rotating number for each release, or whatever.

The first thing I noticed about the wine is the glaring absence of a vintage date. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are probably a lot of decent wines that aren’t from a specific vintage. But my knee-jerk response to this is usually along the lines of “there’s something about the wine that makes it so the winery can’t declare a vintage on there”. I mean, I think wineries can automatically charge more for a bottle if it’s a vintage wine.

So why couldn’t they declare it a vintage wine? The most obvious reason is blending wines from different vintages. I believe there are other conditions, like inter-state grape trading, or perhaps how the wines are made. The cynic in me just automatically believes that someone is trying to get away with something, but softened by the idea that maybe, just maybe, someone wants to put out something inexpensive. For the people!

After checking the Foppiano website and spec-sheet for the Lot 96, and after wading through a bunch of schlock that reads like corporate-monkey mission statements, I saw the general makeup of the wine is a kitchen sink blend of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Carignane,  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Whew. Did we miss anything? Any room for some Lemberger, or something?

The end result? Good! It was about as dark as what I would expect from a Petite Sirah producer, and a nice purpley-ruby color. The nose was somewhat sweet and spicy, with brambly and blackberry notes. The palate was like a blackberry jam, hinting at some basil and vanilla-like notes, but not the hit-you-over-the-head-with-oak-staves kinda thing. Reminiscent of some Australian wines of a similar caliber, if tasted blind I’d have said it was some Barossa plonk. So it passed the test, and at $9.95, it fits the bill. Even for a cynic.

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Diversion: Edgefield 2006 Black Rabbit Red

edgfieldblackrabbit1Okay, yeah. It’s been over a week since the last post. I apologize for that. I also apologize for diverting from the previous topic, not that everyone was waiting with patient enthusiasm and bated breath as to which cheap wine I’ll review next. That’s all part of a larger project, and I’ll get back to that.

I’m hand selecting this wine that I had recently for a variety of reasons. Primarily it’s because we here at the Carpe Vinum headquarters in Portland Oregon, have had a loss of one of our valued friends, family and crew. It was Mojo Jojo, our beloved bunny of the last 10 years. I can’t express how much the little guy meant to us, and I pay tribute to him by bringing up this wine, in his honor. No, he didn’t drink the wine, himself. And he didn’t share in our love of steak and bacon, being a vegetarian, and all.

We picked up Mojo in 1999 when he was 5 weeks old, and about the size of a cottonball. Well, maybe three cottonballs mashed together. If cottonballs were black. Ten years ago. What was everybody doing ten years ago? Worrying about the Y2K Bug? Excited about the new VW Bug? Enjoying the peace and prosperity that was to dissipate in a few years’ time? It’s pretty incredible, when you think about it. Ten years is a long time.

I considered this little black bunny part of the crew here because, besides just being a good friend, he was a great help with the working-at-home environment. If you get stressed out, pet a bunny and you feel a lot better. Bored or lonely? Pet a bunny. Writer’s block? Pet a bunny.

“How is that different than a cat?”, you may ask. Well, most cats I’ve ever known, even the most friendly ones, get annoyed if you interrupt their naptime (which is about 18 hours of the day). Bunnies are almost always on the ready for a good nose rubbin’.

I’ll wax poetic about Mojo and the virtues of rabbits as pets at another time. Perhaps on a different blog. Let’s talk about the wine here that we drank in tribute to a little black bunny this past week.

The name of the wine should be pretty obvious why we chose that one. Sure, there are a lot of rabbit-themed wines out there. Rabbit Ridge. Hare’s Chase. Rock Rabbit. French Rabbit. Also, keep in mind that one of the more popular wine openers out there is the Rabbit Corkscrew (that one with the grips and the handles–works great. Quick like a bunny). But nothing quite as exact as “Black Rabbit”. Besides, Edgefield has a bit more meaning to my wife and I, as we had our wedding reception out there. Another story.

Edgefield’s wines have improved vastly over the last 7 or 8 years. They’ve been making wines out there since 1990, primarily for service in their chain of pubs and restaurants. If I remember correctly, we used to joke that the Edgefield wine existed on the menu to remind people to drink the beer. After time, and perhaps better sources of grapes and more experienced winemakers, things did improve and the roster of wines expanded to less of a footnote and became more of a counterpart to the famous McMenamins beer.

The Black Rabbit Red is a blended red. I am unsure what the motivation is behind the wine from the strategic standpoint of the winery and winemakers. So often in this country the blended wines are the kitchen-sink of leftovers of all the “serious” wines — the run-off juice from the last pressing — whereas in Europe the blend is generally to give a flavor of the land and what grows there; the Terroir. The Black Rabbit Red may have started down the “leftovers” path, but is perhaps taken more seriously these days, as it is one of the top sellers in the McMenamin empire.

This one is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a bit of Syrah and Grenache thrown in. It states that the grapes were sourced from both Washington and Oregon. For Oregon that likely means Columbia Gorge, or potentially Southern Oregon and for Washington it’s anybody’s guess. Gorge. Yakima. Walla Walla. Columbia Valley.

How were the aromas and flavors? The color, the bouquet and the finish? I can’t say. I don’t remember. We were grieving our lost little bunny. It’s hard to taste anything during those times, y’know? It was good, though. Better than any of the wines I’m tasting for the Case Project. I’ll try it again in the near future and give a full report.

One more thing, though. If you didn’t gather from earlier, the Black Rabbit Red and all the other Edgefield wines are only available at McMenamins restaurants and pubs and at Edgefield. You can get bottles to go, and it’s cheaper than drinking it there. (Corkage fee.) But considering that the McMenamins chain fixes up any derelict old building and turns it into a pub, chances are you have a McMenamins just a short walking distance from your house. Unless you live outside the Portland Metro Area. Then you can get it online. Here.

That’s if you want to get your hands on a Black Rabbit Red. If you want to get your hands on a REAL black fuzzy bunny of all your own, to love and cherish, don’t go to a McMenamins. For more information on the joys of rabbit ownership, and how much fun it is to have a house rabbit, be sure to check out the Rabbit Advocates for the Portland area. Here.

Should you try the Black Rabbit Red in the near future, please raise a toast to little Mojo: The Best little black bunny anyone could ask for!

Black Rabbit Red cork

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Case Project Wine #2: Daniel Belda Ponsalet Monastrell Jove

ponsaletmonastrell1Ah, Spain! I started my love affair with Spain quite some time ago. Nowhere in the world will you find more new and exciting wines at such good values. Well, okay . . . there are lots of places, but this is one them. For the wine explorer like me, the thing about Spain, at least from an American perspective, is all the relatively unexplored territory out there. There are so many Spanish regions that make wine that are seldom imported to our shores. Quite often while browsing the current releases I’ll check the back label and say, “Hey! I never heard of that one before . . . that goes in the box.”

This wine is from Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. Does the name sound familiar? Yep! It’s the place famous for the oranges!

Can you make wine from oranges?

You sure can! It has sugar . . . anything with sugar can ferment!

Would it be a good idea to make fermented orange juice?

Probably not.

Is that what we’re talking about here?


Valencia is a region that apparently does very well with its wines, but there are very few that I’ve ever seen. This wine being one of three, and the only one I’d ever tasted. It’s made with the Monastrell grape, better known as Mourvedre in French wines, or wines from anywhere else . . . except Australia where it’s sometimes Mataro, but I digress. Many of Valencia’s neighbors in the Spanish Levante produce Monastrell wines as well, often in the value market, and often to great commercial success. Most famously, I’d say Jumilla leads the pack in Monastrell wines. But we’re not talking about Jumilla, here.

A couple years ago there was an online leak of some misinformation about the Spanish Monastrell being misidentified as Mourvedre, whereas it was actually Graciano, a grape better known in Rioja. This turned out to be untrue and a speculation on certain findings at UC Davis. At the time I believed it, considering that I see little similarity in the way Monastrell performs in Spain to the way Mourvedre performs in France’s Bandol or areas of California.

Mourvedre is a heavy, tannic grape that I find has quite fragrant and light floral qualities when grown in slightly cooler climates, like France and California. In hotter climates, such as the Spanish Levante, it takes on even heavier tannins, sometimes velvety, often chewy, but tends towards more meaty, gamy flavors and stewed, black fruits.

Of course, all this description if for naught, since this wine is like neither of those.

I tried this twice, and neither sampling was very favorable. The first time it was in a smaller-bowled glass, and it came across as a bit bland, on the light side of medium bodied. Not quite what you’d expect from a Monastrell, especially from anywhere in the Levante. There was a little bit of spice and a tiny bit of fruit. Imagine a leaf of basil and a single clove (‘clove’ clove, not ‘garlic’ clove) stewed with blackberries until slightly burned, then diluted 150%. That makes it sound worse than it really was. It also makes it sound more interesting than it really was.

The second sampling was out of larger, Bordeaux-styled glasses. This time it was somehow less distinct. No amount of swirling, sniffing, slurping, or even gargling produced more results. It’s like when you spend so much time reading that when you go to sleep you have dreams where you are reading, but your mind can’t make up that much text for the virtual pages in your dream “book” for you to actually “read”. So in your dream your mind just “tells” you what you are reading rather than reading the virtual text, and then the story never really pans out to be anything worth reading in the first place.

Am I the only one who has those dreams? Hm. Anyway, it’s kinda like that.

Also, once it came to the notes, I realized I couldn’t find the vintage date on the bottle. Sooo . . . I guess that makes it non-vintage. It sometimes makes you wish they would print “non-vintage” on the bottle. The name does read “Jove”, which I can only assume comes from “Joven”, or “young wine”. Which this is. Apparently.

The bottom line: It’s not that interesting beyond the fact I’d never had a wine from Valencia before. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was only $8.95 (which comes to about $8.05 after that case discount). That considered, is this a “value”?

I guess the rest of the project may help answer that.

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Case Project Wine #1: Domaine Paul Autard 2006 Cotes du Rhone

autardcdr2I’m a huge fan of the French Rhone wines, which is a problem these days. First off, the good stuff has gotten terribly expensive. Things like Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, and even Vacqueyras now . . . and I’m not even going to mention the Northern Rhone. After a few flashy reviews by the world-renowned wine guys, a bottle I could take home 10 years ago for $25, I now have to pay $80-$200. And when I say “have to pay”, I really mean “can’t” and “won’t”, since I just don’t take home those bottles any more.

A second issue I find with the Rhone is what I feel is a somewhat misleading classification system. Not misleading in the way the regions and laws are set up, but mostly in practice. This is most likely my own personal issue, perhaps compounded by decisions by importers of which wines make it to market. To make it simple for this particular argument, there are the premium regions, the AOC regions, like the aforementioned Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, and so on. Pretty spectacular wines, in my opinion. But also expensive, by the name.

Next up in the designation hierarchy is the Cotes du Rhone Villages (followed by the village name – Ex. ‘Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau’). There are some 20-odd villages in that designation, and it is meant to be an intermediary step from generic Cotes du Rhone to AOC status. In theory this should make them better than regular Cotes du Rhone, but in practice, at least my experience, I’ve found the Cotes du Rhone wines more pleasing overall.

Now I am loath to generalize anything in the wine world, since there are so few certainties, being an ever-evolving, living, breathing thing (metaphorically, of course). And what you may have found a known fact one day is a falsehood the next. That being said, I’ll take a regular Cotes du Rhone over a “Villages” any day of the week. Prove me wrong.

Back to this wine in question, this Domaine Paul Autard, had me intrigued. Interest piqued. It boasted the price of $10.95. I hadn’t seen a Cotes du Rhone that cheap ‘inexpensive’ for a long time. Remember that before the economy starting failing as badly as it has, it was ailing before that. (We just added an ‘F’, is all). For a couple years we watched the Euro gaining over the Dollar, and the price of European imports showing the discrepancy. And so, this pushed the cost of my beloved Rhone wines, even the cheap ones, into the not-so-cheap territory.

So an $11 Cotes du Rhone had me concerned. It seemed implausible for a Cotes du Rhone to be that inexpensive, yet not be the bargain-bin close-out wine used for cooking or ending parties. But I have to say, for that little cost, this thing delivers!

The wine had a deep ruby color, and a relatively intense nose with aromas of blueberries (albeit slightly under-ripe blueberries), hints of licorice and anise. Flavors on the palate included black cherries, regular ol’ cherries, those blueberries we discussed earlier, some good black pepper and spice. The tannin was there and the acid was there but lacked a bit in fruit, weakening the impact of the overall body of the wine. But really, it was pretty exciting, for Eleven bucks.

As fate would have it, I found the same selection at a wine bar a few days later and had a second taste. Somehow it even seemed better than before. Maybe it was the different glasses. Maybe it had been open for a day and mellowed. Maybe it was the food. Or lighting. Or music. Because you know, if the wine isn’t tasty enough – change the music.

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One more thing . . .

Yes, I know it’s been a week, and I’m well underway in the Case Project, here. I’ve sampled quite a few and have been pondering the proper way to display the selections. I don’t always take the best notes possible which makes me a bad, bad wine guy. What good is a photographic memory if that’s a visual skill, right? (Actual photographic memory notwithstanding.)

Oh, and by the way, I had forgotten to mention that one more stipulation I had imposed on the project was that these are all red wines. Usually you can find that white wines are less expensive to begin with, and the quality can also usually remain pretty decent at lower price levels. Why is that? It’s certainly another discussion, but I believe a lot of it has to do with treatment.

Many whites are harvested earlier, where they may have a lower chance of rot or later-season weather damage. They don’t take up as much time for fermentation considering there’s little to no need for maceration (leaving on the skins to add flavor and tannin in the case of red wines). Also, they don’t take up the space that red wine does while aging in barrel or cask. This extra cost I usually refer to as “paying the wine’s back rent”. But then, I’ll discuss that at a later date.

So since you can find inexpensive white wines as simply as . . . er . . . (insert metaphor here), we’re going to do all the reds. Inexpensive reds are more elusive and a heckuvalot more variable in quality.

Anyway, I thought the best way to display these wines would be, perhaps, one to three at a time, so a to not overwhelm the page, the dear reader, and the humble writer. In addition to the mad blogging skillz, I’ve also personally shot the photos seen for the bottles, some end up better than others. So let’s get started on whether or not the bottles are deals, or duds. (Sorry. Best alliteration I could come up with on the fly.)

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Recession Progression v2.0!

So here we are on the “Value” wine project. How do we select these so-called “value” wines? There are a few parameters we need to set up for this. We have to decide a price limit, an idea of the selection, and where to choose them from.

In the concept for this project, the magical price point to me seemed to be around $10. A few years ago when I had my wine shop, the magic price was $20. Frankly, I think there were a lot more twenties floating around back then, weren’t there? A price at $10 is a good even number and it’s low enough that most folks would be willing to drop that on a bottle of wine. The proof of the value is in the pudding, though . . . I mean wine. Wine pudding. Whatever. Next!

So to help things out on the $10 wine project, I’ve kept in mind that most places will offer a  5%, 10% or 15% discount on different volumes. Half-cases. Full cases. Solid (all one kind) cases. Mixed cases. Whatever the case your case may be. So keeping that consideration, and to give a little flex in the bottle cost, we’ll say average price after discount at $10. Sound reasonable? Good.

At this point we can establish what constitutes “wine”. I know that may seem like the most basic of parameters, but then consider that it would be easy to drop $10 (or less) on a bottle of Schmendal-Schmackson (not actual name) or Three-Dollar-Charlie (also not actual name). These are macro, California overflow wines, and don’t really count towards our goal.

With that in mind, I decided to avoid the megahuge grocery outlets which are filled with the big-brand wines stacked in huge displays at the end of every aisle. Grocery giants have corporate schematics and standards that tell them which wines to carry and how to organize it, so a store in Boise has the same setup as the store in Eureka or Baker City. Sure, that’s not always the case, as many stores have wine stewards that can hand-select a few things for the shelf openings, depending on regional demand. That’s another story.

Let’s just start with the local wine merchant. A selection made by just a guy who knows wine, and the availability in the area, unaffected by pressures of big-name wine producers. Well, relatively unaffected, anyway. Besides . . . the little guy around the corner needs help the most in this economy, right?

So I went to Vino in Sellwood and filled myself up on a case of wine. Bruce there at Vino offers a 10% full mixed case discount. I grabbed everything that sounded interesting that was around or under the $10 mark. After it was all over and the smoke had cleared, the cost of this case after discount: $105.25, or $8.77 per bottle! Is it a value? Well, let’s find out.

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Welcome to the Recession!

Welcome to the recession! Everyone is talking about it. Most of us are feeling the pinch of it. Everyone is busy pointing fingers as to who caused it, who is going to solve it, who is making it worse, and who is capitalizing on it. And I, for one, am really tired of all of it. It kinda makes you want to drink, right? That’s why we’re here.

When it gets to the economic nonsensical hoodoo that is going on like right now, the bottom line for the rest of us is how to keep things in our lives as normal as possible while still saving a buck here or there. How that relates to wine is the ongoing argument of “value”.

This has long been a point of contention to me. Back, years ago, when a lot of wines from Chile were appearing on the market, the buzz on the grapevine was about how great of a value they were. However, upon the sampling of these dirt-cheap imports left me gasping, “Yeah, a great value since I didn’t want to pay a lot for my industrial-strength machinery degreaser.”

Alright. They weren’t all that bad, but in the sampling of these “values” had me considering just the basic idea that, in paying $2 more than the cost of these Chilean bottles of ‘meh’, you could net something far, far better. The real point being: what good is a “value” bottle of wine if you don’t really want to drink it? At all?

Of course, value is something different to all of us, and that’s a longer debate I will gladly pursue at another time. Before you pass judgement on my theory here, think of the cheapest wine out there. An amalgam of these wines might be something like Thunder-Mad-Train 50/50, or something like that. It’s some pretty nasty stuff. It may or may not have had actual grapes in its origins. But it does have alcohol. It does have “flavor”. And it’s only 75 Cents for a full bottle! Say it with me, now: “What a ‘value’!” Does that paint the picture pretty well?

I thought the time was ripe to have a little examination of these “budget” wines. I had shied away from the “values” for years since, to be frank, if you can pay a wholesale price, it kinda ups the ante when it comes to “value”. So my goal for the next couple weeks is to try a bunch of these cheaper wines, and report back on what’s decent, and what’s degreaser. Stay tuned. More to come.

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Hey! Whaddyaknow?! A post! A movie Post!

Just through the grapevine I’ve just heard of a new movie. It’s a wine related movie! Hurrah! It’s called Bottle Shock and is playing in a theater near you!

Oh, wait. It isn’t playing anywhere? It was released when?! August?!? And I’m just now hearing about it? Sigh. Well, I guess I’m not part of the demographic for this movie, ironically enough. Or I just don’t pay enough of attention. Of course, I think it’s an independent movie, judging by all of the crested film festival awards listed on the bottom of the projected DVD box design. So will I be reviewing this movie? Not just yet. Looks like I’ll have to wait until February to check this out, unless video stores get it earlier than the rest of us. Or if someone up and decides to play it nearby. I can’t seem to find any record that it ever played here in town. Hm.

Anyway, I understand the premise of the movie plenty. In a nutshell it’s about the 1976 Judgement of Paris where some previously unknown wines from California beat out the best French wines in a blind tasting. The action gave a swift metaphorical boot to the metaphorical backside of the worldwide wine industry. It also pissed off a lot of Frenchmen and set Napa Valley on a track of astronomical pricing. It’s also recounted in  “Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and The Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine” by George M. Taber, a book that is currently on my “to read” stack. It is also not to be confused with “The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism” by Ross King. Apparently they judge quite a few things in Paris.

I checked out the website and online trailer and, whoa! That’s quite a roster of big name actors for an independent film. The biggest name on the film is Alan Rickman, that British guy I usually refer to as “That British Guy”. If you’re a geek, you can remember him as Alexander Dane from that horrible, yet hilarious flick called Galaxy Quest. Or as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, if you’re that kind of geek. Okay, he’s been in a lot of stuff.

Next that caught my attention was Eliza Dushku, the sexier-than-Sara-Michelle-Gellar-as-a-vampire-slayer from the Buffy series. Okay, I’m that kind of geek. Whatever.

Also starring in Bottle Shock: Bill Pullman! Crap. That’s too bad. And the lineup was looking pretty good up until this point. Don’t get me wrong. He seems like he might be a nice guy and all, and I’m no movie critic, but his acting has always seemed about as interesting as soggy cardboard. If I find a movie where he does a decent job, I’ll let you all know. No. No, don’t even say “Independence Day”. So who knows? Maybe this will be his breakthrough role!

So it looks like the movie is out on DVD on February 3rd, just in time for a belated Groundhog Day gift! Or an early Valentines gift . . . Presidents Day is around there sometime too, right? Anyway, it’s just good to see another movie about wine. Maybe everyone can stop talking about Sideways, now.

Find the movie website HERE!

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This is just the beginning!

Welcome to Carpe Vinum 2.0! Now in BLOG form!

Alright . . . I have more plans than just that for the future, but every journey begins with a single step, and I’ll try taking these little steps here every day. So anyone who actually has been watching this spot, there will be a lot more interesting things than watching paint dry. Many things may not completely make sense right away as I play with different aspects of this program to see what I can do.

It’s in all hope that this can actually be an informative and entertaining resource, not just for the Portland metropolitan area, but the entire wine world. Many aspects are going to be Portland-centric, however. So here are a few of the things I have in the works for this spot!

Daily Blog! It’s not really interesting if there aren’t continuing posts about something, but it’s not always possible to write something every day. But I’ll do what I can! It might even be wine related!

Wine Reviews! It’s been said that reviewers of any kind are the worst people on the planet. Well, better than paparazzi, but worse than tax auditors. It won’t be those kind of reviews. It will just be the fun and interesting things I’ve been tasting. Something at the local wine bar, something from the cellar, barrel tastings at the wineries, or whatever.

Portland Directory! Need to know where in town to get wine? Who has what selection? Best place to go to not be treated like a mouth-breathing moron? Want to avoid the place that suckers you into buying the thing no one else wants? Or just want to know where the hip, new wine bar is? That’s the plan! (To tell you, that is . . .)

Tasting and Events Listings! Once upon a time there was a local newspaper that gave us all the heads-up on the events in town. It was great! Who is tasting what? There, there, there, there, there and there. I choose . . . THAT one. And that one! And we were all happy. Then I guess the price of ink went up and THEY started choosing the events they wanted to list, directing readers to their unnavigable website for the other listings, but nobody did. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all in one place again? Yes it would!

Wine help! The current plan is to create a forum for people to voice questions and discuss our favorite subject: The Wine! Any questions or discussions from what red wine to serve with fish to the best places to take an out-of-town business associate that you want to impress. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

And much, much more! There are a lot of ideas rolling around in my head that just might fall out into the site as a whole. Wine podcasts. T-shirts and merch. Book reviews. Wine country navigation charts. And so on. We’ll get started with the basics and see where we go from there.

Check back soon! I’ll be adding more stuff all the time!

Seize the wine!


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