In the year that we’ve been writing this blog, we’ve consumed a lot of wine. So much, in fact, that we’re running out of choices in our price range in our usual grocery store wine aisles. Tonight, we branched out and went to Ingersoll Wine & Spirits to pick up this bottle.

The wine: Strong Arms 2008 Shiraz

The price: $10.99 (at Ingersoll Wine & Spirits)

The alcohol: 15%

About the wine: “Bright, lifted aromas of red berries, red cherry and subtle smoky vanilla. Vibrant raspberry and red cherry fruit aromas with a hint of white stone fruit. This is complimented with light cedar oak notes and soft tannins.”

The verdict: This Shiraz had a surprisingly opaque purple tint, which barely lightened on the edges.  After letting the wine open up for a short amount of time, its nose was filled heavily with the pleasant scent of smokey vanilla, followed by bright cherry.  At first, the scent seemed complex and nuanced.  But the more the wine opened up, and the more we really dove into it, the only scent we could smell was that of alcohol.  Granted, at 15% by volume, this wine is rather strong and perhaps a slight alcohol scent was to be expected.  Nonetheless, after awhile we just couldn’t get past the fact that all we could smell was the alcohol.  That aspect of the scent is quite misleading though, as the taste is actually rather pleasant.  Tart cherry flavors come through at the front.  The wine has a light body, with a slightly tangy and cool feeling. A light oak and toasty vanilla quality comes through with the finish of this wine, and exuberant cherry sticks around through the finishing flavors.  Grading this wine was a tough decision.  We felt that the scent of this Shiraz, as far as the prevalence of the alcohol, made this red deserve a C.  As stated before, the scent was misleading, because the taste of the wine was actually pretty good.  Taking all things into account, we decided it deserved a B-

Usually we try to pick our bottles of wine based on the tasting notes (or the price; we’re cheap). But we couldn’t pass up this amazing-looking label design that our fellow blogger at Design By The Glass would love! We served it with suggested pasta and red sauce (and optional meatballs).

The wine: Blue Groove Lodi Zinfandel 2010

The price: $10.99 (at the Target near Valley West)

The alcohol: 14.5%

About the wine: “Salvatore Principe’s dedication to enriching people’s lives through his expressive art is reflected in the richness and depth of this Limited Edition Signature Series Lodi Zinfandel. Deliberate strokes of spice and mocha point themselves on a canvas filled with bold flavors of plum, chocolate and sweet vanilla. The robust tannins lead into a silky smooth finish… a work of art. Accompany this wine with saucy ribs, a juicy pepper steak, pasta with spicy red sauce or pizza.” -wine label

The verdict: The juicy scent of cherry that this wine boasts became more prevalent as it opened up, with undertones of a deep mocha. The taste was very spicy, with those bold and juicy plum flavors bursting through, and underlaid by pepper that perfectly complimented the spicy red sauce on our pasta. A lush finish, fruity but not too dry, was mellowed by the sweetness of the vanilla and chocolate. This wine’s versatile, interesting flavors were as enjoyable as the beautiful label (which is not always the case) and we gave it an A. Grab this bottle and hang onto it!

Last Saturday evening, we decided to make our own sushi.  While we felt that this was a rather daunting task, it was actually quite a bit easier than expected.  We felt that a crisp, fruity white was necessary to cut through all of the salt in this meal.  We settled on Cheateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer 2010.  This white was chosen not only because of its light and crisp nature, but also because… come on, Gerwürztraminer  (pronounced Guh-voorts-truh-mee-nur) is a really fun word to say.

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This evening, we feasted upon a baked ziti prepared by Jared’s mother.  We apologize for the lack of pictures of the dish, but it smelled so amazing that we simply scarfed it down before even thinking of snapping any.  We paired the delicious pasta with two different reds: Martino Old Vine Malbec 2009, and Primal Roots Red Blend 2010.

The wine: Martino Old Vine Malbec 2009

The price: $13.99

The alcohol: 14.0%

About the wine: “Impenetrably dark. Aromas of plum, chocolate, baking spices, and hints of vanilla. On the palate it is rich and viscous, with more dark fruit flavors and round tannins.”

The verdict: This Malbec had a deep, opaque purple color, with reddish hues.  It had a very sweet nose, that began with hints of vanilla and finished with the bitter scent of chocolate; this scent of chocolate added a smokey quality to the wine.  The wine’s taste brought soft flavors of blackberry and other dark fruit.  This red had a slightly bitter, but nevertheless rich flavor.  The flavors of vanilla and chocolate pulled through at the end, which blend in with hints of smokey oak.  While this was not our favorite Malbec we’d ever had, it certainly deserved the grade we gave it.  This wine received a B+

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We are relatively bad college students. Instead of going out to bars and getting crazy on New Year’s Eve, the last two years we’ve stayed at home drinking our favorite champagne, whiskey and wine. This year, we made a veritable feast of appetizers, paired with a signature drink of whiskey-apple juice-ginger ale. Our evening did get somewhat exciting at about 1 AM when the power went out; so crazy!

Check out our drinks and our noms:

The wine: Project Paso Cabernet Sauvignon

The alcohol: 13.8%

The price: $9.99 (Windsor Heights Hy-Vee)

About the wine: “Our Project Paso Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent example of high quality Paso Robles Cabernet. The nose is multi-layered, with wild, dusty blackberry, hints of jalapeño, leather, and dried mushrooms from Paso’s rich, red soils. On the palate, flavors of black cherry, dark plum, and cinnamon-spiked strawberry preserves come together with integrated, mouth-watering acidity. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins, the finish lingers with cherry, tobacco leaf and cedar notes.” -Don Sebastiani & Sons

The verdict: This deep violet-colored wine boasts an earthy, deep, blackberry scent. We found that “dusty blackberry” and “dried mushroom” smell rather off-putting at first, but once it fully opened up, we began to enjoy the spicy, leathery undertones. The wine itself tasted leathery and earthy, with bright undertones of berry and a bit of pepper. We enjoyed this wine, but isn’t wasn’t one of our favorites. The spicy, especially earthy flavors weren’t our favorites, and didn’t balance well with the slight blackberry flavors. We give this wine a B-

The whiskey: George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey

The price: $22.99 (at Ingersoll Dahl’s)

About the whiskey: “Displaying enormous depth, range and personality, it is considered by many to be the gold standard of Tennessee whisky. With deeper, more assertive flavors and an incredibly smooth finish, No. 12, a classic 90-proof Dickel whisky, combines older whiskies selected by Master Distiller John Lunn to create a richness that maintains Dickel’s signature smooth finish. Concentrated flavors of rich oak and subtle vanilla lead to a long finish with hints of maple, butter and smoke.”

The drink: 1.5 oz whiskey
3 oz. Simply Apple
top with ginger ale

This whiskey was delicious in this drink, but had a great flavor by itself. For the incredible taste, smoothness, and complexity AND the price (!!!) we were really impressed with Dickel Whiskey, and we suggest any whiskey enthusiast give it a try.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with pita chips

Homemade Crabmeat Rangoons with sauce

Decked out potato skins

This evening we found ourselves munching on various different things, including a cream cheese-pesto-sundried tomato dip, potato soup, garlic-lemon broccoli, and a rather displeasing pesto pasta that Jared added quite a bit of crushed red pepper to (Disclaimer: we love pesto sauce, we just ran into a particularly bad batch with the Christopher Ranch brand).  Midway through cooking this haphazard excuse for a meal, we realized we still had about half of a bottle of the Alamos Malbec left over from Friday evening; obviously we decided it was necessary to finish it.

The wine: Alamos Malbec 2010

The price: $11.99 (Dahl’s on Beaver)

The alcohol: 13.8%

About the wine: “The 2010 Alamos Malbec has a dark purple color with violet highlights. The nose offers bright black cherry aromas with light floral notes and a touch of toast. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with ripe, concentrated cassis and black raspberry fruit interwoven with a touch of chocolate and sweet spice from light oak aging. The finish shows ripe, silky tannins.”

The verdict: The nose of this Malbec is filled with the scent of black pepper, interlaced with black fruits, and soft floral notes.  This red had a pleasant and inviting color, with bright, almost hot pink edges.  The taste, however, left something to be desired.  Alamos’s 2010 Malbec is rather soft spoken; where the nose is filled with black pepper, it seems almost as though it was an afterthought in the taste.  That being said, the taste of the black fruit apparent in the nose pulls through nicely, and was accentuated by a pleasing leathery mouth feel. Overall, this wine did not bode well with the spicy pasta, as it almost worsened its heat.  Malbecs tend to be some of our favorite wines, but we both found this wine rather unsatisfying, especially for the price.  We decided to give it a “C”

As discussed over our dinner and wine this evening, reasons why Panchero’s is better than Chipotle (or any other similar restaurant):

  • They make their own tortillas that are delicious and fresh and awesome.
  • They mix up the ingredients in their burritos. Essential.
  • It all started in Iowa.

Now that you know our opinions on the best burrito chain, here are our thoughts on the wine we drank with our burritos.

The wine: Palo Alto 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

The price:  $9.99 (at Ingersoll Dahl’s)

The alcohol: 13.5%

About the wine: “This premium red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah is a full-bodied, elegant wine with strong character. Intense flavors of blackcurrant from the Cabernet Sauvignon mingle with Syrah wild blackberry and Carmenère’s soft spice to create a full-bodied wine; perfect with grilled red meats and hearty stews.” -from producer’s website

The verdict: We really enjoyed the smell of this wine’s vibrant coffee and oak scent. We stupidly didn’t wait to let the wine open up before drinking, which was a huge mistake. It tasted dull and dry at first, really kind of gross. But 15 minutes in, we found it much more delicious. The peppery aspect of the Syrah was more evident, and was laced with the bright berry flavors of the Cabernet. There were definitely many juicy flavors from black currant and blackberry, although those peppery spices were heaviest. The standout fruit was definitely plum, followed by a smoky cacao and oak. While we enjoyed this wine, it didn’t quite live up to the description and our expectations for it, so we give Palo Alto a B+