Tag: wine

When Life Hands You Crappy Wine, Make Sangria!

When Life Hands You Crappy Wine, Make Sangria!

You’re at the wine store and the end of aisle promotional display looms before you. An eye-catching label, a close-out sale price, or an unfamiliar varietal, you find a few new bottles to try. Cocktail hour arrives and it’s time to open one of your much-anticipated acquisitions. Pouring, swirling, sniffing, and sipping culminates with sad disillusionment. The wine isn’t corked, oxidized, or spoiled in any way. It just isn’t great. Sometimes a well-intentioned wine proves to be disappointing. But don’t worry, sangria to the rescue!

Summertime social media is all abuzz about sangria; wines to use, recipes, fruit infusions, ice rings, and fancy serving glasses. The Boozy Lifestyle guide suggests that a good bottle of wine shouldn’t be sacrificed to the gods of sangria. The best wine for sangria is the one that wasn’t quite good enough to drink on its own. By the time you add all the ingredients in this recipe, you’ll hardly taste the wine at all.

Sangria Rum Cocktail

  • 8 oz. wine
  • 4 oz. Triple Sec
  • 2 oz. Bacardi Gold rum
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 2 oz. sweetened lemon juice
  • Splash of Myer’s rum

Stir together the first five ingredients. Pour into glasses over ice and float the Myer’s rum on top. Makes about 4 glasses.

More About Rum

We generally prefer rum over brandy in our sangria, and have found that Bacardi Gold is best for our recipe. We’ve tested it with different rums such as Pyrat, Appleton, 10 Cane, Shellback, Myer’s and Captain Morgan, but rums with too much personality of their own don’t perform as well as the Bacardi Gold at harmonizing with the other ingredients. As part of the “which rum for our sangria?” drink lab, we discovered that a Myer’s floater adds a nutty aroma with flavors of toffee and caramel without exposing its medicinal aspect. You see, Myer’s is good for something other than rum cake.


More About Lemon Mixer

Back in the day, we used bottled mixers such as Rose’s and Mr. & Mrs. T’s Sweet and Sour, but the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup became a turn off for reasons of health and taste. Since we like to have a pre-made mixer ready to go, we buy unsweetened lime or lemon juice such as Real Lemon and mix it with simple syrup in a 50/50 ratio. We make a quart at a time and store it in the refrigerator.


Wine & Warren & The Wind

As I sip my sangria and listen to Warren Zevon’s final album, The Wind, I begin to see the analogous meaning of making lemonade out of lemons as it applied to Zevon. His was the ultimate tragic lemon; a diagnosis of a cancer called pleural mesothelioma and a prognosis of untimely death. His lemonade is an insightful collection of songs expressing his ironic humor, love, anger and frustration over dying, and the desire to be remembered after death.


As a collaboration of close friends, The Wind comes full circle in bringing together many of the artists who contributed to his self-titled major-label debut album, Warren Zevon. Before asking Alexa, we found ourselves playing ‘Guess the Guest’ performance. The recognizable voices include Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, and Emmylou Harris. Signature instrumentalists such as David Lindley on lap steel and Ry Cooder on guitar are easy to identify. Harder to name are Don Henley and Mick Fleetwood on drums.

In “Disorder In The House”, performed with Bruce Springsteen, Zevon is both amused and disgusted with his own apathy over a sad state of affairs and “Even the Lhasa Apso seems ashamed.” I can relate.

“It’s the home of the brave and the land of the free

Where the less you know the better off you’ll be”

Knowing that Zevon’s days were numbered is all the more reason to shed a tear when listening to “Keep Me In Your Heart.” The feel of the song is especially intimate, as if we’re listening in on Zevon’s final words to his lover. Concurrently, and in a larger sense, he’s expressing our universal desire to live on through the memories of loved ones and to live a life that mattered.

If your Boozy Lifestyle guide gets a bit philosophical, it must be the sangria talking. But honestly, thank you to the nightly news and those who star in it for forcing me to tune out and rediscover my enjoyment of music.


Michele Chiarlo Palás Barolo 2010


Our old Monday through Friday work schedule that I irritably referred to as “up at six, home at six”, deserved to be rewarded with Friday night dinner and drinks at one of our favorite local haunts. Thankfully, our routine is much easier now but the Friday mindset of rewarding ourselves for wrapping up another work week has remained constant. In keeping with the traditions of a Boozy Lifestyle, if we aren’t treating ourselves to a meal at a restaurant, we must at least splurge on a good bottle of wine.

We’re drinking the 2010 vintage of Michele Chiarlo Palás Barolo in 2017. The violet-rimmed ruby color pour that is characteristic of young Nebbiolo has changed to a translucent brick-orange over seven years of aging.

Barolo Palas Michele Chiarlo

Have you ever had a first impression of someone with your nose instead of your eyes? This wine attracts you with a delicious and intriguing scent. With all of its aromatic complexity, I’m having trouble identifying the many facets of its bouquet individually.  Oodles of dried fruits mingle with licorice candy and fresh spring roses. Not to take away from the enjoyment on the palate, but the nose on this Barolo is by far my favorite aspect.

The wine is light-bodied on the palate, tasting of dried apricot, prune and currants. The initial dried fruit flavors are followed by bright acidity with tangy cranberry flavors. On the finish, the brightness lingers along with soft tannins. This northern Italian varietal has some similarities to Pinot Noir in body and mouth-feel.

The winemaker, Michele Chiarlo, began producing wine in 1956 in Piedmont, Italy. Today, he runs the business with his two sons, Stefano and Alberto. “Palás” is a Piedmontese word meaning palace of luxury. After browsing the Michele Chiarlo website, I get the impression that Palás is a fancy label given to one of the wineries more budget-friendly collections. But no matter how you slice it, Barolo is still one of the most prestigious wines of Italy.

An easy way to remember some of Italy’s great wines are the three big B’s: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino. Barolo and Barbaresco, produced in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, are made from the Nebbiolo grape. A difficult grape to cultivate, Nebbiolo is most successful in Piedmont’s cool climate, low rainfall, and autumn fog. Brunello, the pride of Tuscany, is made from the Sangiovese grape. The Sangiovese variety that is grown around the village of Montalcino is called Brunello. This area, located south of the Chianti Classico zone, is drier and warmer than Chianti. In this terroir, the Brunello variety of Sangiovese produces deep-color, full-bodied wines with balanced tannins. Whether you prefer the delicate quality of Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco or the robust character of Brunello, you can’t go wrong with any of Italy’s three big B’s.



May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

When we got married on May 4th twenty years ago we had no idea that our anniversary date would be hijacked by Stars Wars, “May The Fourth Be With You”. Likewise, May 5th was just an ordinary day; not the Cinco de Mayo holiday that’s so popular today. As much as I love tequila and Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo will have to wait until after our two-day anniversary celebration.

A local steakhouse, Rails, serves uniquely delicious appetizers, premium steaks cooked to perfection, wonderful sides, and sinful desserts. Quality food, nice atmosphere, and professional service come with a fairly hefty price tag so we save our visits to Rails for special occasions like our anniversary. From my longtime practice in the art of the Boozy Lifestyle, I’ve become pretty familiar with retail wine pricing. This knowledge makes it difficult to order wine with a 400% markup so we put the wine list aside in favor of their creative craft cocktail list. The bourbon-based drinks we order are refreshingly full of fresh herbs and muddled fruits.

Here’s a sampling of Rails’ wine list. The Library Reserve Selections has some of the giants of Napa; Caymus, Silver Oak, and Far Niente. If you’re willing to spend big, the Nickel & Nickel Tench Vineyard is about the best deal on the wine list since it sells in local liquor stores for about $100.

Rails Wine List

With day one of our anniversary celebration complete, day two is set for uncorking Baldacci’s Four Sons Fraternity 2012 to pair with our steak doggy bags. Fraternity is a red blend from Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, California. I couldn’t locate documentation of the varietals in the 2012 blend, but my guess is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.

I open the wine for an hour of decanting and notice that the freshly popped cork is full of sediment. We purchased this bottle about eight months ago and it has been stored on its side ever since. It’s a good idea to stand a bottle upright the day before opening it, and maybe I’ll remember next time. I pour the wine into the decanter through a small strainer to remove the remaining grit.

The nose is full of ripe cherry fruit, oak, and vanilla with floral and tobacco notes. The fruit is dominant but not overpowering. I don’t detect much in the way of earthy or vegetal aromas. Acidity and alcohol seem a little harsh on the back of the throat at first sip, but disappear over time. The palate is full of juicy plum, cherry, and blackberry. Dark chocolate and coffee flavors add a trace of bitterness, along with subtle notes of graphite that become more noticeable after swallowing.  The finish is long and leathery. Overall, Baldacci Fraternity offers a balanced structure from start to finish.

Mexican food and margaritas may just as easily be enjoyed on Seis and Siete de Mayo.

Premium Margarita

  • 1 oz. Don Julio Anejo
  • 1 oz. Patron Citronge
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice and simple syrup (half and half)

Shake over ice, strain into a margarita glass, and say Salud!

Panini Style Black Bean and Chicken Burrito


  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • ¼ Teaspoon cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz. chicken breast (1 large or 2 small), cut into small cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • ½ cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Pinch of pepper or crushed red pepper for more heat
  • 2 large flour tortillas


  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and cook the garlic and cumin for 1 minute. Add the minced red pepper and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. (If I don’t have a red pepper, I use a small onion or a stalk of celery.) Add the rinsed black beans. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag. Add taco seasoning and pepper to the bag and shake until chicken is coated. Brown the chicken in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add ¼ cup of water and continue cooking until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. Pre-heat the Griddler (panini press) to Grill/Panini between High and Sear.
  4. Brush olive oil on the outside of the wraps. Flip them over and fill with cheese, chicken, and the bean mixture. Fold them up and cook in the Griddler for a few minutes until the outside shows some nice grill marks.

Top with sour cream, taco sauce, and cheese.

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!

Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre 2015


In the 1980s when Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay dominated the field of California wine, a rebel band of vintners formed an informal group to promote the use of grape varieties from the Rhône Valley, France, and dubbed themselves the Rhône Rangers. The fruits of their marketing labor have resulted in Syrah and other Rhône varietals becoming more prevalent in today’s California wine scene. Fred Cline, one of the original Rhône Rangers varietal insurgents, is the owner of Cline Family Cellars, located in Sonoma, California.

Cline, grandson of Valeriano Jacuzzi (the man whose name is synonymous with spa tubs), and his wife Nancy founded Cline Family Cellars in Oakley, California in 1982. They began their wine business by restoring 100-year-old vines of Rhône -style varietals. Mourvèdre and Carignane, along with Zinfandel, make up Cline’s Ancient Vines Series of varietal wines.

Today the winery is located at a 350-acre ranch in Carneros Valley in Sonoma County, and produces many different varietal wines and blends from vineyards owned by the Cline family throughout Sonoma County. The vineyards are sustainably farmed using the Green String farming method developed by Fred Cline and Bobby Cannard.

Oakley, where Cline’s Mourvèdre grapes are grown, is in the Contra Costa County appellation, 40 miles east of Sonoma County. It’s a sub-region of the very large Central Coast AVA which stretches from San Francisco in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. The area’s terroir provides favorable conditions for this grape variety that likes to have its face in hot sun and feet in cool water. Vines are planted in sandy soil along the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers where summer days are warm and sunny.


The pour is inky purple with lots of leg action consistent with a high alcohol content of 15.5%. There’s not much fruitiness on the nose. Subtle aromas lean more towards hay, leather, and cedar. Over time, scents of grassy herbs are added to the bouquet. On the palate are flavors of ripe plum, tobacco and spicy black pepper with very bright acidity. A short clean finish closes with smooth tannins.

Cline Mourvèdre is reminiscent of visiting the horse stables; hay and saddles without the manure. The grape’s characteristic bright acidity that works to its advantage as a blending grape threw this single varietal a bit off balance. Overall, the wine was a nice change of pace from the typical fruit bomb and interesting enough to warrant a blog post. The Cline Ancient Vines Series varietals cost between $17 and $23 as per their website.

Welcome the Winery Ghost: Phantom 2013


At first glance at the Phantom label, it’s not obvious that this proprietary red blend is produced by Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, California. That information is hiding on a hard-to-see watermark on front label and more prominently shown on the back.

Our first encounter with the Phantom was about seven years ago when we owned a liquor store. One of our employees had “reserved” half of a case in the back office. We asked him why he did this but suddenly his English wasn’t so good. The lack of information gave us all the more reason to take a bottle for “homework” and find out firsthand what all the fuss was about. 

I can’t find any personal tasting notes from so long ago and I don’t remember if we liked it or not so Bogle Phantom 2013 provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

The Bogle label is so prolific that when I began researching it online, I thought I’d find it was owned by some conglomerate maker of mass produced wines. But in fact, Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned business that produces a selection of value brand wines, including popular varietals and two red blends.  The Bogle family farms 1600 acres in Clarksburg and the Lodi appellation, as well as sourcing grapes from various California growers.

We find the Bogle varietals and blends in most liquor stores selling in the range of $9 to $11 a bottle. Their reserve wines are offered on their website for about $24. As per some of the online reviewers, Phantom, priced anywhere from $16 to over $20, tends to sell out before the next year’s vintage arrives. And so the Winemaker’s Note, “Welcome the winery ghost into your home with the latest vintage…before it vanishes again” is fitting.  

The 2013 Phantom is a blend of 39% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Sirah, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has equal amounts of ripe cherry fruit and briary, vegetal aromas. At the first sip, I realize that although we’ve decanted the bottle for about 15 minutes, it’s quite alcoholic and can use a little more time for the alcohol to blow off.

Coming back to it after another 15 minutes, flavors of currants and ripe berries combine with black pepper and spices on the palate. The flavor is balanced with oak in a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. A long finish has a trace amount of bitterness and slightly hard and chewy tannins. Maybe a little more aging in the bottle will mellow them out?

Overall, Bogle Phantom 2013 has a decent level of complexity for the price point and is one that I’d buy again (and hold for a while before drinking for a bit more aging in bottle). My impression of Bogle wines in general is that they offer consistent quality for the price and are easy to find even when traveling.

Here is an interesting interview with Bogle’s Director of Public Relations, Jodie Bogle: https://hucklegoose.com/journal/meet/meet-bogle-wines

Here are my notes on Bogle’s Essential Red: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-2f





Wine and Wings


The phone alarm chimes and I awake with memories of my most recent dream. Unlike my usual two a.m. nightmares that force me into consciousness sweaty and heart-pounding, this morning’s dream is a pleasant one featuring chicken wings. Have you ever dreamt about something and woken up with an acute craving for it?

Chicken wings may have been on my mind following a recent visit to the Buffalo Wild Wings franchise that opened near us in recent months. We reasoned that a restaurant with “wings” in the name ought to make great wings. In reality, this wasn’t the case. But while the wing meat was slightly disappointing, I have to give BWW credit for their selection of over 20 sauces. The Parmesan Garlic was particularly good!

With a Costco-sized bag of chicken tenders taking up space in our freezer, we’ll use them in place of wings and try out a copycat Parmesan Garlic sauce recipe to go with them. (We could have bought the sauce in a bottle but where’s the fun in that?)  There are two styles of recipes online; one involving melted butter and a second based in mayonnaise. We opt for the mayo-based sauce. Meanwhile, we open the wine.


A few months ago, Lori at Dracaena Wines wrote about Petite Petit from Michael David Winery in Lodi, California. I knew right away that this was one for us to try, given that we are fans of Petite Sirah, as well as other fruit-forward varietals from Lodi such as its Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. And who could resist the circus-themed labeling?

Sipping the first glass and gazing at the wine-drinking elephants on the label, it occurs to me that this wine with two “petites” in its name is anything but small. Like the elephants on the label, this wine has heft and weight. There are so many thoughtful details in this label that I wouldn’t lump it into the classification of gimmicky. Although you may need a magnifier to see it, I especially enjoyed the nod to Michael David’s popular Zinfandel, Seven Deadly Zins.

This 2014 Petite Petit is a blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot. In the glass, it’s an inky, teeth-staining purple. The nose is filled with aromatic, lush fruit. A full-bodied palate reveals plum and blackberry fruit, wood notes, smoky oak, anise, and tobacco. Flavors of prune and currant follow. A fairly long finish has nicely structured tannins.

Back to cooking, we prep the chicken tenderloins with a flour, egg, and breadcrumb/Panko coating and fry them in ¼ inch of vegetable oil until the outside is crispy-brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. With the sauce at about room temperature, we roll the hot chicken pieces in it to coat. While the franchise wing joints tend to skimp on the celery and carrots, we’ve loaded up on our veggies.


Parmesan Garlic Sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 5 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle of oregano, basil, thyme, and crushed red pepper

If one of the chicken tenders in my photo looks kind of green, don’t adjust your monitor. I experimented with a curry sauce that didn’t quite work with this meal. I ate it anyway, since no unspoiled food goes to waste around here. I’d like to elaborate on the food and wine pairing except that, as usual, almost all of the wine was gone by the time the chicken was done.