Archive for the 'USA' Category

Big House California white wine

I was making a seafood dish (linguine with shrimp and lemon oil to be exact) and wanted a white wine to go with it. We picked up Big House White last minute due to the fact that out of all the wines under $15, listed below it was a 90 point rating (out of 100) from wine enthusiast. We tend to agree. A big red wine lover myself, I usually do not like the pungency or, as one friend described, “baby vomit” taste of Chardonnay, yet Rieslings tend to be a bit to sweet. This had a perfect combination of light sweetness, yet not a sweetness that overpowers the meal. I frequently took sips between bites of pasta and shrimp and they complemented each other very well. Before dinner was even over, the bottle was empty. At $8.99 a bottle, this was well worth it.

winemaker’s notes:
A blend of 56% Malvasia Bianca, 22% Muscat Canelli, 18% Viognierand 4% Rousanne.

Big House wines are a rebellious mix of nontraditional grape varieties destined to give the imbiber a new experience. This year’s tipple is reminiscent of the Franco-Italian battle for the ’06 FIFA World Cup. The flamboyant Italians represented by Malvasia and Muscat Canelli and the much more austere and serious French led by Viognier and Rousanne.

Mirassou Pinot Grigio 2008

Type: Pinot Grigio

Mirassou Pinot Grigio

Origin: California

Year: 2008

Cost: $9.99

Rating: 8/10

Value: 8/10

Alcohol: 13.5%

Our opinion:

Tonight we decided to purchase a couple of whole striped bass from the market and grill them up on the BBQ for dinner.  We needed a decent white wine to go with the fish but didn’t have time to shop around, so ended up at a generic discount liquor store on Route 40 in Catonsville.

I couldn’t think of a good cheap white off hand but we were both in the mood for a Pinot Grigio.. probably because we haven’t had one in such a long time and it was a beautiful late spring day.   We hesitated near a Bolla 1.5 Liter for 13.99.. but decided on the Mirassou 1 L for 9.99 instead.  I don’t think I’ve ever tried anything other than the Pinot Noir from Mirassou, but we were impressed with that wine at the price point compared to others, so we thought it might be a safer bet.

I think we made a great choice.  Mirassou is a common wine and easily found in liquor stores in the area.  The Pinot Grigio was not overly acidic, it was not overly sweet or fruity and not tart at all.  It had none of the negative qualities we so frequently found in our random pinot grigio picks.  In fact, not only was it absolutely lovely on its own, but it went fantastically with our fish.    We detected a slight fruitiness, a crisp, citrusy flavor, but a well-balanced mouth feel.  We both agreed that in the absense of any other known white, we would reach for the Mirassou Pinot Grigio again in a pinch.

Others Say:

We were at a loss when looking for reviews of the 2008 Pinot Grigio, but this is what we could find:

Winemaker’s Notes:
Our 2008 Mirassou California Pinot Grigio reveals intense aromas and flavors of peach, pear and citrus with crisp, lively acidity create an exceptionally refreshing wine. This versatile wine pairs beautifully with spicy dishes as well as grilled poultry or seafood. Our Pinot Grigio is ready to enjoy immediately upon release and should be able to age in the bottle for one to two years.

The Bottle Says:

Offering flavors of lemon-lime and peach with subtle floral notes, Mirassou Pinot Grigio is a bright expression of California’s most celebrated growing regions.  This versatile wine pairs beautifully with spicy dishes as well as grilled poultry or seafood and embodies the optimistic spirit passed down through six enerations of America’s oldest winemaking family.  Enjoy!

Nassau Valley Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select

Type: Cabernet SauvignonNassau Valley 2006 Cabernet Suavignon Vineyard Select

Origin: Delaware

Year: 2006

Cost: $23.00

Rating: 8.5/10

Value: 7.5/10

Alcohol: 12.9%

Our opinion:

We visited Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes, Delaware during a weekend in good old Ocean City Maryland.  We were allowed to try 6 different wines from a list of about 12.  Both of us chose to try a few whites and reds, keeping primarily with the dry- and semi-dry-labeled wines.  This vineyard turns out a large number of very sweet vintages, which we don’t generally enjoy.

Unfortunately for us, this bottle was one of the most expensive ones they sold by a margin of about $10 over the standard, but rightfully so.  The bottle that we tasted in the store had a very distinct oak flavor to it, much more so than the 2005 bottle priced at $17.

The Cabernet Sauvignon tasted structured, smoky, and bold with a medium mouth feel and none of those harsh tannins that generally turns me off from the grape.  It was delicious and so we bought a bottle and drank it at home.

In the end it was nice to try a local wine that we thought competed with many of the California wines.  We really enjoyed the bottle we brought home with us.  In the end we do recommend this wine, but then again, for $23 there are probably a few we’d really enjoy in this price range.

Winemaker’s Notes:
Our 2006 Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot.  100% of the grapes used to make this wine come from the estate vineyard here in Lewes, DE.

Others Say:

Not much, at least that we could find.  If you’ve tasted this wine please share your opinion with us!

Beauzeau “Bozo” 2005 Red Wine

Wine: Beauzeau / Bozo

Type: Blend / Red Wine

Origin: California

Year: 2005

Cost: $10.99

Rating: 7/10

Value: 6/10

Alcohol: 12.5%

Our opinion:

We had just finished installing our new wall-mount wine rack and decided to load’er up.  Suddenly wine started dripping down the wall… Oh no!! One of the bottles we put in there was a screw cap, and the motion of twisting the bottle securely into place in the rack apparently twisted the lid right off!   What happened next was an…


At first we were wary that maybe the bottle wasn’t securely closed, and started thinking bad thoughts.  After a quick zip through the aerator, we decided the wine was actually quite good! It wasn’t the #1 smoothest wine ever, it still had a little tang to it, but overall was very tasty.  Bozo would make a great table wine, and the funny juggling guy on the cover is good for a laugh.  The Juggler signifies the way this blend is somehow balancing 8 different grape varietals in one bottle!  A nice blend, at a decent price.

Winemaker’s notes:

Juggling too many balls these days? We know just how you feel. Life shouldn’t always be so serious and neither should your wine, so we set out to make a blend just for the fun of it. Eight different varietals are included in our 2005 Beauzeaux Red Wine ? mostly Zinfandel and Syrah, with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Charbono and others. Show off to your wine geek friends when you tell them it also contains 2% Lagrein, a red grape variety mentioned in the 17th century records of a Benedictine monastery.

This is the wine to reach for when friends show up for pizza. Ripe red and black berry characters with jammy pie flavors and some black pepper to boot make it rich and hearty enough to stand up to your best baby back ribs. And the capper? Nothing but a screwcap would do.

Others Say:


“My wife and I enjoyed this unique red blend. It’s a good value for an everyday table wine, but offers a bit more spice than the more common cab and merlot dominant red blends.”

“My fiancee and love this wine. We bought a case a few months ago and just bought two more. It’s our house wine. We’ll serve something nicer with a meal we go to a lot of trouble over, but for the price it can’t be beat.”

Pacific Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine: Pacific Peak

Type: Cabernet Sauvignon

Origin: California, USA

Year: cannot find a year on this bottle! 1814??

Cost: $2.99

Rating: 5/10

Value: 6/10

Alcohol: 12.5%

Our opinion:

We bought this a while ago and thought it was a great value for the price, so we bought more. The next few bottles were pretty difficult to choke down. I don’t know what happened….

So today when we had an opportunity to try our Vinturi Wine Aerator, we decided to revisit our last bottle of this confusing wine. You want to love it, because it’s so cheap. Well at least we want to love it for that reason. After opening the bottle we poured a little directly into one glass with one of these nifty items which prevents drips and red ring-shaped stains on your table:

The other we poured through our new aerator:

Let me just say that Bernoulli’s law never mentioned anything about a swooshing sound. But it’s kind of cool to hear as you pour your wine through this little bubble into your glass.

Then came a taste-test. On the first sip neither tasted that great. In fact we were both initially disappointed at how bad the pacific peak was tasting. A few more sips and we decided that you could tell that one was a bit better than the other, though I admitted that in a blind taste test I’d be somewhat stumped. It was just very acidic and ..well.. cheap-tasting. Then again I’m not a big Cabernet Sauvignon fan, so that probably didn’t help.

I had an idea.. if the aerator improves the taste by a factor of X, then wouldn’t pouring the wine back through the aerator N times increase the drinkability of the wine by NX? I know what you’re thinking, you can’t do it too many times or you’ll be aerating INXS. We wouldn’t want that. So I just did it 2 times. Better!

Actually by the end of dinner, it was palatable and decent. On the second glass, I admit I did N = 3 aerations on poor pacific peak. Even better. I don’t want to wear it out, I mean we just got it… but, it’s doing its job!

I suppose in summary, if you want to drink this cheap wine, you better get the aerator, because it certainly does it make it taste better! I don’t know how to describe it, but I guess I would say it went from being heavy and tart to a bit lighter (hence the aeration???) and sweeter. Less tang. Or you could cook with this wine, because it’s cheap enough you won’t feel guilty not drinking it.

One last point I want to make. Or maybe a question… Where is the date on this wine?!? Why would they hide it?? What else are they trying to hide….

Winemakers Notes:

California- Deeply colored and full flavored with essence of dark cherries, cassis and blackberry, this wine eliminates thoughts that quality must be sacrificed for value. Strong, firm tannins and explosive fruit flavors make this wine a natural friend of food. {Intense, Dark Cherry, Cassis, Full-bodied}

Others Say:
Surprisingly very good things… with the exception of a few.
From Total Wine:

“This wine is excellent; great bouquet, nice clean taste, and excellent dry cherry finish. That’s about as haute wine as I will get. Those high class reviewers who didn’t know if they would use it for cooking, can go on paying $30-40 or more per bottle, I’ll be happy with Pacific Peak. Come to think of it… I also used it for an excellent sauce of mushrooms and artichoke hearts.”

“Best everyday wine I have found to date. Good taste and extremely low price. This is a medium body wine with a very soft finish. It receives a higher rating because of the price. Of course it’s not as good as a $10+ wine, but at $3.99 it’s an amazing value. If you’re looking for something you can easily afford to enjoy every day, this is a good one.”

“I believe that wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. But this isn’t good. I’d rate it no better than a cooking wine – and I’m not sure what your food would pick up from it.”

Washington Hills Shiraz 2005

Wine: Washington Hillswashington hills shiraz

Type: Shiraz

Origin: Columbia Valley, Washington, USA

Year: 2005

Cost: $7.99

Alcohol: 13.5%

Purchased: Corridor Wine & Spirits, Laurel, MD

Rating: 5/10

Value: 5/10

Our opinion:

We enjoyed this bottle of wine before, during, and after a meal of carry out curry dishes from Indian Delight in Catonsville. The wine is fine…drinks easy enough.. but it’s not great. It comes at a lower price tag than others we’ve reviewed, but also lacks any intriguing flavors in our opinion. Next to other cheap wines it’s not bad but we wouldn’t purchase this one again. If it came down to this and a bottle of Vendage or Boordy, I’d go with Washington Hills, but if you have full run of the wine shop, keep looking!

According to other reviewers, it seems that the Washington Hills Cabernet Merlot blend is a great choice. Perhaps we should give that one a try before writing them off, because at 7.99 a bottle, cheapos are happy.
Others Say:

Tasting notes: “Notes of black cherry and hints of smoke fill the nose of this deep red wine. Sweet black cherry flavors continue on the palate finishing with smooth silky tannins.”

Smoking Loon Sauvignon Blanc 2005

Wine: Smoking Loon

Type: Sauvignon Blanc

Origin: California, USA

Year: 2005

Cost: $10.99 (In at 7-11 in Ocean City, MD.. so I’m sure you can find it cheaper!)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Purchased: 7-11 Ocean City (we believe it is widely available however)

Rating: 7/10

Value: 6/10

Our opinion:

We opened this bottle when making a delicious seafood pasta with scallops and shrimp in a white wine and garlic cream sauce during a weekend in Ocean City. As mentioned above, it was picked up from a 7-11 down the street, no doubt marked up at least 1-2 dollars higher than you can probably find it elsewhere. We are going to classify this as a 5-10 dollar wine for that reason.

The wine seemed to go very well both in and with the pasta we made. It was a bit citrusy and tangy but almost bordered on sweet for a sauvignon blanc. The Smoking Loon is a California wine made in the New Zealand Suavignon Blanc tradition. It was definitely drinkable but not terribly exciting, though we would have fought for the last glass of it. The taste was pleasant but seemed to drop off quickly. It does seem difficult to find many cheaply-priced and good white wines if you’re not a big fan of the sweeter ones, so we will rate this at at 7. The value is a bit lower as the price we paid wasn’t the best. I’m sure if you can find it for $6 it would be a great buy. We may try to find this one again somewhere and give it a second look.

Wine maker notes: “This bleached blonde beauty is reminiscent of fresh green apples, pineapple and has hints of hibiscus blossoms. The concentration of zesty lemon and gooseberry fills your mouth leaving notes of thyme and melon behind. The bright acid in this wine gives you a zing while the fruit keeps your mouth watering for more.”

Others Say:

Budget Vino: “The first sip of this wine was pretty harsh compared to the Geyser Peak. It just didn’t have the same richness in flavor and was a bit tart and tangy. But, it got a lot better on the second, third, forth and fifth sips. It went down easily with salad, fish and cous cous.

Wine Waves: “Color: Pale straw “bleached blonde”. Aromas: Nectarine, green apple, hints of passionfruit and spearmint. Juicy, tart and light on the tongue, the lemon, gooseberry and mineral flavors are vibrant and harmonious. The finish is refreshing and damn near dry.

2007 River Road Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley

Wine: River Road

Type: Sauvignon Blanc

Origin: USA (Calfornia)

Year: 2007

Cost: $12.99

Alcohol: 13.2%

Rating: 7/10

Value: 6/10

Our opinion:

We tried this wine at Corridor when we went shopping, along with a group of other Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios. This one was a lot sweeter than we usually enjoy, and we weren’t intending on purchasing it but I kept lingering on it. There’s something a little more elegant and classy about this wine, despite it’s sweetness. For those who usually enjoy a drier white wine, this is an interesting departure. Lots of fruit and citrus, somewhat big for a white wine, not thin at all, and sweet but without that cheap sugary aftertaste. Worth a try, if you’re in the mood for it. Recommended, for the right occasion.
Others Say:

We couldn’t find this one online either, but here is what the bottle says:

“Our Sauvignon Blanc, from vineyards in the cool Russian River Valley, shows aromas of ruby grapefruit and kiwi, with bright citrus flavors”