Switch It Up: Reds Go First

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The WOD Squad kicked off the new year at Don and Elaine’s. They were joined by landscaping maven and fellow anewscafe.com contributor Karen McGrath and her husband Bob.

The wines were selected by Don wandering around town checking out wine sales and foraging through closeout bins.

Elaine was feeling creative, so we started with a memorable onion soup gratin. This gave us a chance to try the red wines first. Yeah, yeah, we know you’re not supposed to do it that way. Don and Roger, being old retired guys who usually spend their time contemplating solutions to the world’s problems, have been pondering why we seldom like any of the reds we review. Could it be it’s harder to find cheap red than cheap white?  Could it be we taste {drink} them after we have tasted {drunk} several whites? Being able to pronounce Zinfandel without drooling does not mean you have not drunk enough to dull your palate. World peace and climate change will just have to wait. This little test is our first step to the solution. Case in point: All the reds fared well.

Next, Elaine served Ina Garten’s scallops and potato pancakes topped with sour cream and smoked salmon. Nice treats to sample with the whites. We finished off with Joy’s tasty and innovative salad with beets and mango. Last but not least: her apple pie.

Don decided to test the tasters in two ways.

First, the wines were tasted blind. In addition to rating, we guessed the variety. The only one everyone got right was the Sauvignon Blanc. This Grocery Outlet pick at $2.99 turned out to be the most highly rated. The Chardonnays broke into two types , slightly sweet (the Santa Barbara and the Firefly), and slightly flinty or metallic (the Foxglove and the Chalone). They fooled everyone. We thought the sweeter ones were either Gewurztraminer or Riesling and the others Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Just goes to show, there is more to Chardonnay than the expected buttery, oaky standards.

We were just as confused by the reds. Doni thought they were all Zinfandels, evidently feeling “if I like it, it must be a Zin.” She has a point. Zin comes in a lot of different styles, all good.

Second he put in a ringer, the Chalone Estate Chardonnay, which was recently rated no. 29 of the 100 best wines in the world by Wine Spectator magazine. This got the lowest rating of all the wines, with three nahs and two shrugs, translated: “How could you sell that to a nice person like me?”  Who do you trust — us or those fools at Wine Spectator? They probably eat pizza with a fork. Don, however, liked it a lot, “clean fruit with a slightly flinty taste, reminiscent of good French Chablis.” This didn’t surprise Bruce, as he had, at the last tasting, sneaked in a high ticket item, with similar dismal reviews.

NAH = Life is too short to drink bad wine — marinate something in it.
SHRUG = Would probably drink it but not sure why.
YAH = Like it, would probably buy again.
HOORAH = Love it, run out and buy a case.

Wine Price Store Nah Shrug Yah Hoorah
1 Sam’s Creek
2008 Sauvignon Blanc
New Zealand
$2.99 G.O. 4 4
2 Santa Barbara crossing
2006 Chardonnay
$5.99 G.O. 1 5 3
3 Foxglove  *
2007 Chardonnay
$2.97 World Mkt. 8
4 Chalone Estate  +
2007 Chardonnay
$18.99 Holiday Mkt. 3 2 2 1
5 Firefly Ridge
2008 Chardonnay
$5.99 Safeway 1 2 5
6 Automoto  ^
2005 Merlot
$3.99 G.O. 8
7 Firefly Ridge
2007 Cabernet
$5.99 Safeway 4 4
8 Jacobs  Creek  ~
2007 Shiraz
$3.99 Holiday 6 2

* World market had this in the bargain bin for $2.97. A Google search shows it as a $10-12 offering from The Varner Bros. Winery, producers of $30 plus single vineyard Chardonnays. Sadly, it was a single bottle.
+ If you are a Holiday club member, one of the less exclusive clubs around, your calendar had a coupon in December for $10 off any wine over $15.
^ A gift from friends who had enjoyed it and wanted to see what we thought. We all concurred.
~ Normally $8-9 a closeout price.

The moral to this little story is: You never know where or when you will find a bargain. If you have any similar finds or ideas, please share.

Don Cohen is a retired commodities trader who has lived in Redding for 10 years. Joy Yoshioka is a retired high-tech exec who has lived in Redding for four years.

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