Tag: Malbec

I’ve Been Summer-ized

I’ve Been Summer-ized

It’s not actually summer according to the calendar, but 80 degree weather, light past 7:30 p.m., and a Friday night to boot herald this evening as the official opening of the Boozy Lifestyle Summer Season 2017. We’ve used the barbecue several times already this year, but we’ve yet to sit outside for eating and drinking.  The deck is set up with our screened in gazebo, table and chairs, and television. Friday night is typically a non-cooking dinner but we’ll make an exception and fire up the barbecue for easy burgers. But first, cocktail hour. 

Cocktail hour begins Achaval Ferrer Malbec and a bit of cheese. Lori at Dracaena Wines (dracaenawines.com) brought this Malbec to my attention via her blog posts and #Winestudio on Twitter and, as a fan of Malbec, I had to try it. When we got home from the liquor store I happened to notice that I picked up the 2014 vintage instead of the 2015 that she had reviewed. I hope it lives up to expectations.

We’re using the decanter for this big boy. In the glass, the pour is sparkly pretty with purple edges. The nose takes a while to open up; but after a while, aromas of berries and oak appear. The flavor of anise is dominant on the palate, accompanied by intense, chewy tannins. Hints of prune, dark chocolate and coffee join the party. The sip ends in a solid, medium-length finish.

Achaval Ferrer Malbec is one of those wines that grows on you over time. By the second glass I begin to appreciate how well the nuance of licorice and sensation of chewiness complement each other. My drinking buddy, who had given up by the second glass said, “You shouldn’t have to work that hard.” Oh, how I toil for my art.


This Malbec paired well with our cheese plate, especially the Boursin with a slice of spicy pepperoni on it. Honestly, I haven’t encountered any pairing disasters when it comes to dry red wine and cheese.

Even inside the screens, it doesn’t take long for pesky little gnats to find the wine. Thank goodness for my trusty glass covers.


Cheers to getting summer-ized!


2 For $20

Two for $20 sounds more like a sale at a cheap clothing store than my local liquor store. For me, two bottles of wine for $20 is much more exciting than 100% cotton crew neck T-shirts in an assortment of spring colors.

Although sale pricing is quite common at the liquor store, this is the first time I’ve noticed a 2 for $20 sale. Unlike clothing stores and supermarkets, liquor stores are restricted by our state regulations from selling below cost. They can’t employ loss leader marketing, taking a loss on some items for the purpose of driving business into the store for more profitable ones.

I’m game for taking a chance on an inexpensive wine with a backup plan of making Sangria with it if it underperforms. There are about a dozen reds from which to choose. A few I’ve tried and am not likely to buy again. I find a California Cabernet Sauvignon and an Argentinean Malbec that look worth a try. 

The first one we try is 2014 Crimson Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Crimson Ranch is a new collection of wines from the Mondavi Family. The two other offerings in the collection are a Chardonnay and a Red Blend. Grapes are sourced from various areas of California.

The nose is brightly fruity and a little vegetal. Oak and vanilla are more present in the second glass. The medium-bodied palate is filled with ripe cherry, raspberry, and blackberry. The tannins are firm and end in an easy, medium-length finish. Overall, we’re pleasantly surprised by our $10 wine purchase. It’s on my list to buy again (even if the everyday price is about $13.50).

Wine #1 of our 2 for $20 sale has set the bar pretty high for wine #2, the 2013 Cruz Alta Grand Reserve Malbec. While I didn’t find company information online, the label seems to provide more than enough in the way of specs. But I must admit, I’m a bit leery of an overly ambitious label. This Malbec is made from high altitude, old vine grapes and aged 70% in new French oak and 30% in American oak for nine months. Okay…

As I pour the wine into the decanter, the grape jelly aroma is evident. We give it time to blow off, but essence of barnyard appears in its place. The palate is full-bodied with tobacco notes but the grape jelly flavor overpowers. Where are the oak and vanilla I expect in a Grand Reserve Malbec? The finish becomes tarter over time and we finally relent to implementing Plan B, making Sangria with the remainder of the bottle.

Internet reviews of various vintages or reserve qualities of Cruz Alta Malbec are all over the map, from horrible to wonderful, leading me to suspect that the batch in our blow-out sale was not up to par.

BTW, our Sangria recipe has evolved again. We’re using E&J XO (Black label) brandy in place of rum. Here’s the updated recipe:

  • 12 oz. red wine
  • 6 oz. triple sec
  • 3 oz. E&J XO brandy
  • 3 oz. orange juice
  • 3 oz. lemon juice and simple syrup mixture (half of each)

Back in the day, we used a store-bought lemon mixer that contained high-fructose corn syrup. Now we make our own lemon mixer with Real lemon juice and simple syrup in a 50/50 ratio. Instead of mixing it up for one or two drinks at a time, we make a one quart batch to keep on hand for Sangria and other cocktails.

Don David Malbec 2012 Michel Torino Estate

Don David is named for David Michel who emigrated from France to Argentina in 1892 and founded Michel Torino Estate in Cafayate. The high altitude winery features over 1500 acres of vineyards that thrive on warm days, cool nights, and low humidity.
The color is deep plum. There are three qualities of the nose that play well together. Dark berries and smoky cocoa sing to a pleasantly light floral accompaniment.
The taste follows through on the fruity aromas with blueberry and boysenberry. The mid-palate reveals an herbal quality and gentle oak. The lengthy finish is full of soft tannins.
Overall, this Malbec is lush but well-balanced. It is a great compliment to a peppery skirt steak and a good value at about $13.

Benjamin Nieto Senetiner Malbec 2013

We are excited to try a new Malbec, 2013 Benjamin Nieto Senetiner from Mendoza, Argentina, with a hanger steak on a nice crusty Calandra roll for dinner. As the splash of deep-hued purple color swirls around my glass, I detect a woodsy aroma mixed with plum. From the color and nose, I’m expecting a bold, full-bodied taste. My expectations are dashed as I begin sipping. While attractive on the nose, the wine is petite and pale on the palate. The tiny flavor yields a light finish. We try allowing some time for more aeration, but sadly, it is what it is. Maybe it would have tasted better had it aged longer in the bottle? Overall, Benjamin seems on the light side for a Malbec. Cost about $12.

Norton Malbec Reserva 2010

We pour Norton Malbec Reserva 2010 from Mendoza, Argentina and start sipping right away. The nose is pleasantly plum plus something I can’t quite identify. The taste is a tight concentration of fruit and I don’t detect any secondary flavors. The finish is somewhat bitter. At this point the wine hasn’t made a very good first impression.
Despite our initial impression of the wine, we don’t give up on it. We let it decant in the glass for a while, give it several hearty swirls, and try it again. Eventually the wine opens up and we begin to enjoy it. The dark fruits in the nose are joined by a hint of root beer. The taste of fruit begins to mellow and balances with the tannins and acid. The bitterness in the finish of the first sip is replaced by an echo of the dark fruits. By the end of the bottle, we like it much better. My lesson learned for Norton Malbec is to make sure it’s decanted before drinking. Costs about $14.

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble, this week’s TGIF wine

Finally it’s Friday and we’re feeling adventurous to try a new wine. We select a Masi Tupungato Passo Doble 2011 that is sale priced at $12. The wine is a blend of 70% Malbec and 30% Corvina from Mendoza, Argentina. As the wine is aerating in the glass I catch an aromatic whiff from across the room. On the palate there are hints of bing cherry and blackberry. The finish is moderately long with a peppery encore. Our rainy Friday dinner is Chinese take-out which may not be the best pairing, but the wine stands up well to the fried appetizers. The bottle is empty by the time we start the entrée.