Saturday, October 27, 2007


Not only do we love wine and food, but we’re also home beer brewers. We appreciate a well-crafted IPA or Amber Ale, and we always buy the small-name craft beers at stores or pubs. But corporate America has been subtly sneaking into the craft beer marketplace, by introducing beers that by their labels can seem like true craft beers, but aren’t.
Not only do the faux craft beers taste (to us) more watery and less “crafted,” but we deplore the deception that is made to confuse consumers (and, of course, probably to try to drive the small brewers out of business by the big corporates).
Blue Moon is made by Molson Coors, and tastes as wimpy as does any beer with “Coors” on the label. Henry Weinhard is owned/made by Miller. Redhook by Anheuser-Busch.
If you want great-tasting real craft beers, consider avoiding the above brands, as well as beers by Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing, Widmer Bros. Brewing, Goose Island, and ZiegenBock. These brewers are owned all or in part by one of the Big 3. We’ll report on others as we become aware of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

B&G Bistro Wine Pinot Noir 2005 – France

It appears that the “Pinot Noir light” craze is here. This is fresh, fruity, like a Beaujolais Nouveau but with Pinot Noir instead of Gamay grapes. To us, better than either a Beaujolais Nouveau or the previously rated Echelon Pinot. And better than most reds we've had in bistros in France - this has some balance and roundness, not the youth and harshness too typical in France. Yes. B&G is a very reliable producer (see our review of their Vouvray). $9.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Echelon Pinot Noir 2006 – France

Still another French/California hybrid. Like a French bistro wine – pleasant, “red” wine. If it were 5 Euros in a café in Paris, it would be good. At $11 on the U.S. grocery store shelves, it’s a Maybe, at best.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parducci Petite Sirah 2004 – California

Tastes of plum, dark cherry. Nice and dark – as a winemaker once said to us, “wine that stains your teeth black.” Petite Sirah is a related grape to Syrah/Shiraz, but individual nonetheless – almost Zinfandel-ish at times. A Yes/Maybe wine for us. $11.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ridge Zinfandel – California

Ridge is one of the oldest and most well-respected Zinfandel producers in the world. They focus on a philosophy of making smaller-production bottlings from individual vineyards, and, as often as possible, using old-vine Zinfandel grapes. Some of the vines are more than 100 years old. We’ve loved Ridge wines for years, and they are our go-to wines for special meals. They’re also the wines we turn to when we want consistently great reds, no matter the occasion. Many of Ridge’s Zins are actually “Bordeaux-style” blends – but the main grape is Zinfandel rather than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. To paraphrase something we read in a wine magazine several years ago: “Your $100-a-bottle cult Cabernet wine snob friends won’t believe that they’re drinking a $30 bottle of Zinfandel.” Most Ridge wines are in the $25-35 range. Several of their bottlings can be found at retail, but others are only available through the winery’s mailing list.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Choosing Restaurant Wines

Recently, the Wall St. Journal’s wine column discussed what to do when a less-experienced wine enthusiast asks your (more-experienced) opinion in picking a wine from a restaurant wine list. The column discussed the dilemma of not knowing their price range, and not wanting to ask and embarrass them. Our solution is quite simple: We narrow it down to red or white, then simply suggest two wines, one inexpensive and another higher-priced bottle. We hand them the wine list so they can read the descriptions (and also “privately” see the prices). The decision is thus theirs, and we all get to experience a fine wine.