My Brother’s Graduation Gift: His Very Own Blog Post

I bear no responsibility for the contents of this post. For my brother’s graduation gift, I’m giving him a wine tasting, and we’re going to transcribe the tasting. Since he HAS to make me play the straight man to his shenanigans, be prepared for an… unusual tasting.

Cast of Characters:

Josh – Heroic host of Wine(Explored). Self-Proclaimed Huguenot (whatever that is).

Zac – Recent graduate. Antagonist to Josh. Master of the French Horn.

Peanut Gallery – (S)He Who Shall Not Be Named

Peanut Gallery 2 – (S)He Who Shall Not Be Named 2

ACT I

Josh: We’re going to kick things off with a mystery glass.

Zac: *sniff* Well, for starters, it smells like wine.

Josh: …

Zac: *sips exaggeratedly from the glass, pinky in the air, winces* That’s rough.

Josh: That’s because it’s a $12 dollar box of wine. Now finish it off. We got good stuff to get to.

Zac: *finishes the tasting glass* Grimace. It tastes like something I tasted before. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s not good.

Segura Viudas Brut ReservaJosh: First up for the real tasting: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava.

Zac: Talk about the classiness of the screw cap.

Josh: Well actually, you bring up a good point. Winemakers are moving towards using screw caps instead of regular corks because the seal is more dependable, and they’re not prone to becoming corked, which is where tainted corks infect the wine with a chemical contaminant.

Zac: Bottom-line. Screw cap? Classy.

Josh: Cheers to your graduation, good sir.

*clink*

Zac: *sips* I liked it, then I hated it, then I liked it again.

Peanut Gallery: Sounds like your last relationship.

Zac: Zing!

Peanut Gallery 2: Am I peanut gallery, too?

(editor’s note: nuff said)

Zac: *smells* It smells nicer than the last one.

Josh: If I asked you if you detected more orchard fruits, tropical fruits, or citrus fruits… what would you say?

Zac: I know I’m wrong, but I’m going with citrus.

Josh: You’re actually not wrong.

Zac: W’hell yeah.

Josh: Welcome back from Alabama, by the way. I got grapefruit and pineapple, though there’s some apple and vanilla as well.

Zac: *takes a big gulp* You know what would make this extra classy? Strawberries and s***.

Josh: Dear god. Moving on. What about the acidity?

Zac: Oh, it’s very acidic. It’s what lingers.

Josh: That’s the bitterness on the finish. You’re detecting the flavors of the acid after the fruit flavors fade away. Myself, since we do ratings on this blog, I’m going to say that it’s a very well balanced wine with a lingering finish. The flavors are simple but effective. For a $10 to $13 Cava, I’m giving it a 6 out of 10.

Zac: I’m giving it a 7 out of 10. Your 6 is bunk.

ACT II

Chateau Megyer Tokaji

Josh: All right, next up is the reason we’re all here. We’re opening a Tokaji. Specifically, Chateau Megyer’s 2003 Tokaji Aszu, 3 puttonyos.

Zac: What? That’s a lot of words.

Josh: Tokaji is a product of Hungary.

Zac: So it’s not Japanese?

Josh: No.

Zac: Clarify that it’s my college graduation. I don’t want police showing up at the door.

Josh: I think we’re okay here. Anyway, Tokaji is a heavily concentrated dessert wine. The number of puttonyos represents how sweet it is, as in how much botrytized grape juice has been fermented in it.

Peanut Gallery 2: (interrupts) Pour the wine! *pantomimes pouring something into a glass* Iocane powder!

Josh: Well played. Let’s hope someone gets that reference.

Peanut Gallery: Looks like a trucker bomb.

Zac: Looks like plum wine. I’ve had that, you know.

Peanut Gallery 2: For once, Zac is the classy one. *sniffs* smells like pineapple and patchouli.

Zac: *swirls glass* I’m swirling the glass. I’ve seen that on TV. *sips* I don’t like it.

Peanut Gallery: Give it a couple sips.

Zac: I was expecting it to be more cloying. That’s a real word, you know.

Josh: I know. The acidity is too high for it to be cloying, but yes, that is an issue that sweet wines often have. The flavors are very different compared to the typical wines.

Zac: It still sounds Japanese to me. *tastes again* The fumes linger in the mouth.

Peanut Gallery 2: It reminds me of an apple pie.

Josh: Allspice? It would because it has a basically orchard-fruit and allspice and a syrupy sweet flavor. That’s actually a very good way to put it.

Zac: I’m not a huge fan. I would not spend my money on it.

Peanut Gallery: It’s a very dessert-y wine.

Josh: I’m a big fan of it. It’s very complex and active, even though it’s got such a high sugar content. It has a very countryside kind of flavor to it, floral and fruity, and the alcohol and acidity are potent enough to keep it from collapsing on itself. I’d give a 6 out of 10.

Zac: Stingy.

Josh: For the price tag attached, $30, I think that’s pretty fair.

Zac: But you were just talking about how big of a fan you were, and how floral it was and whatnot, and then you give it a 6? Bunk! *pounds fist on table*

Josh: Fair enough. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Zac: Yes SIR. I’ll give it a 5. I have to give it a grade too.

ACT III

Moscato D'Asti

Josh: Next up is the Sant’Evasio 2008 Moscato D’Asti.

Peanut Gallery 2: *sniffs* It smells like Sweden. What? I relate smells to places.

Zac: *sniffs* How the heck does it smell like Sweden? It doesn’t smell like socialism!

Josh: Actually, that’s pretty accurate descriptor. It has the aroma of evergreen and baking spices. It has some kind of a candy kind of smell as well…

Peanut Gallery 2: It smells like Christmas candy.

Josh: Yep, that’s it.

Zac: Still smells like wine, dude.

Josh: Allright… well, have a taste. Wait, Fruity Pebbles! That’s what it smells like.

Zac and Peanut Gallery 2: It does!

Zac: *sips* That doesn’t even taste like wine! That tastes like juice. This is what you think wine tastes like when you’re a child.

Josh: No, you’re absolutely right. It’s unusual for wine, but it has a very grape-y attack.

Peanut Gallery 2: Heh heh, grape-y attack.

Josh: Attack is what you call the first flavors that present themselves in a wine.

Zac: This is my favorite wine I’ve ever had. This is getting 10s, buddy. Wait, we’re not there yet.

Josh: There’s something a little bacterial about the flavor, and mixed with the potent fruit notes and incredible sweetness, it tastes like peach yogurt to me.

Peanut Gallery 2: But I don’t like peach yogurt. Maybe blueberry yogurt? *sips* …it DOES taste like peach yogurt!

Zac: I get the yogurty flavor because it tastes fermented but gently. It tastes like there was care with how that fermented flavor was introduced.

Josh: The acidity is great, especially compared to the considerable sweetness. It carries along on a long peach finish. With the great fruity, bready flavors and nose and fantastic balance, at $20 per bottle, I’m giving it a 7 out of 10.

Zac: 9. Out of 10. And the only reason I’m not giving it a 10 is I want to leave something better to search for.

ACT IV

Josh: Last up is the Shargren NV Sparkling Shiraz. After the two dessert wines and sparkling white, this might be a little jarring.

Zac: *sniffs* I smell red wine, which I’m never a fan of.

Josh: I think you might actually be surprised at the flavor you get from it. I’m smelling a very distinct lingonberry here.

Zac: *sip* Nope! Not a fan.

Peanut Gallery 2: It’s really bland. It smells and tastes like meat.

Josh: I can see where you’d get that. Some Shiraz has a tendency to exhibit a meaty-like aroma. It also has a spicy red wine marinade kind of quality to it. Acidity is a bit high, and it’s got a heavy red-fruit flavor. I actually kind of like it. Real quick. Snap rating?

Zac: For a red? 6… as far as how much I liked it and how much I’d drink it again? 2.

Josh: I’d probably give it a 5 out of 10. It’s fairly bland, I agree, and there’s not too much to the flavor, but for how bad a $10 Shiraz CAN go, it’s got some good character to it. Zac?

–END OF TRANSMISSION– (Zac wandered off, distracted by strawberry pie and Chelsea Hightower on Dancing with the Stars)

The Search for the Best Boxed Wine: Week 7

The Back Story:

Double Dog Dare is a producer of rock-bottom wines. Seriously, if you thought Two-Buck Chuck was pushing the limits of wine price credibility, you can find reviews on Snooth or Cork’d stating the reviewers found bottles of their wine for $1.67. For less than the price of a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi, you can have a 750ml of California Chardonnay, albeit non-vintage. I’ll let the review speak for how much of a bargain this is, but first, a tangential back story about where I got it:

This particular boxed wine was an impulse buy during a shopping trip at Total Wine. For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (or just missed the exchange), I recently lamented a very poor showing by a Greek wine that I purchased at Total Wine. Ever the vigilant brand manager, Greg Tuttle from their Maryland offices replied to apologize for the regretted purchase.

At this point I felt pretty bad, because as a supporter of their brand, I had unwittingly contributed negatively to their image, and I certainly don’t tweet out every positive experience I’ve had with them (more on this in a later post). Greg offered to refund the purchase by mailing me a gift card, but at first I turned him down because I’d let my family finish the bottle. He insisted regardless, so I gave him my address and he ended up giving me double what the wine was worth! Spurred by this wonderful discovery, I headed to the Durham-area Total Wine to cash in on the gift.

I remembered I needed a boxed wine for this week’s experiment, but I didn’t want to take another risk on a wine with a gift from Greg that was compensation for a bad wine. To alleviate this dilemma, I ended up with a selection that would suggest to the average person that I had multiple-personality disorder. In addition to the Double Dog Dare Chardonnay box, I also got a fine dessert wine and a six-pack of fruit beer.

To celebrate my brother’s graduation from college, finishing 6 years of music education in just 4 years, just by the way, I bought a Tokaji, 3 puttonyos. He’s got a sweet tooth when it comes to wine preferences, and he’d been not-so-subtly hinting at me getting him an Eiswein as a graduation gift. Since he’d spent the last 4 years having Wagner, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Handel, and the other dozens of hyped German composers shoved down his throat by his professors, though, I decided to buy him some non-German fare. It cracked me up that a 500ml bottle of Tokaji cost more than twice as much as a typical 3 liter box of wine, and my brother, still of the college finances mindset, acted like I was insane.

I also got a six-pack of Kona Brewing Company’s Wailua Wheat ale. It’s brewed with passion-fruit, and I’ll be damned if I don’t look forward to late spring when this beer hits the store shelves. It”s one of the few fruit beers I’ve had that actually makes sense. I’m sure I’ll be posting a review of it fairly shortly, maybe in a summer ales focus piece. I’ve got ideas.

The focus of this post, though, should be on the Double Dog Dare NV Chardonnay. Here we go!

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very dull straw, and it displays little depth in a medium viscosity.

The nose of the wine is rather unfortunate. I’m getting notes of  light citrus, apple, and oak. The alcohol scent is far too prominent, and there’s something way off, something chemically like nail polish.

The mouthfeel of the wine is medium-bodied with a syrupy, abrasive texture. It just feels harsh.

The flavor of the wine is actually not as bad as the rest of the wine would suggest. It’s almost entirely apple, with an off-dry sweetness. The alcohol isn’t too prominent at 12.5%, but the acidity is far too high, leading to a wincingly sour finish of vanilla oak and apple. It tastes like a sour, bitter apple juice.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you can get past the horrendous nose, the wine is drinkable, if barely. The acidity is far too high, so raise your heartburn alert to maximum chest-clutching. Fix it with a lighter chicken or fish dish, not too heavily seasoned, if you serve it with food, but I recommend waiting until the last wine of the night when you or your guests won’t be as sensitive to the acidity.

The Conclusion:

Double Dog Dare manages to provide a wine at a price so low that even quaffing it would be considered a minor victory. The price of $11.99, roughly $3.00 per bottle is enticing, but bear in mind that, in this case, you’re getting what you pay for. From what I understand, you can get it on the west coast for less than $10.00 for a box. If that’s so… well, it’s still a risk. From what I gather online, the quality varies wildly from bottle to bottle. As far as this box is concerned, though? I’m not sold.

3/10

Current Line-up:

Double Dog Dare Chardonnay, California NV

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Very off-putting nose, dull, listless color, rough mouth feel, apple and oak flavor, imbalanced acidity.

Big House Red, California 2008

  • Week 0 – 7/10 – Lean, light texture, floral and red-fruit flavors, good balance, slightly hot nose, medium finish
  • Week 1 – 6/10 – Flavor has deteriorated a bit, and there’s a harshness that I possibly didn’t detect before.

Wine Cube California Vintner’s Red Blend 2008

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Weak structure, heavy oak nose, red-fruit profile, heavy vanilla oak flavor, light-bodied, very short finish.
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Exactly the same as before. Somehow, and I don’t know how, this sweet vanilla red wine manages to be drinkable.
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Nose is a little bit off, but the flavor is still the same as before.

Monthaven Central Coast Chardonnay 2008

  • Week 0 – 5/10 – Imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, apple, tropical, oaky flavors and nose, medium-bodied, way too bitter finish.
  • Week 1 – 5/10 – Similar balance in acidity and alcohol, similar flavors and nose, similar bitter finish
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Starting to taste a bit more imbalanced, flavors and nose have faded slightly, finish is less bitter
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Odd caramel scent on the nose. Flavor has deteriorated and the balance is still off.

Retired Line-up:

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir NV

  • Week 0 – 5/10 – Slightly imbalanced acidity, balanced alcohol, earthy nose, red fruit flavor, short finish, slight metallic undertaste.
  • Week 1 – 5/10 – Still as fresh as when it was opened. Similar earthiness, red fruits, short finish, slightly imbalanced acidity.
  • Week 2 – 5/10 – Still tasting pretty fresh. Still balanced. Flavor tastes on par with previous tastings.
  • Week 3 – 4/10 – Flavor is beginning to diminish, causing the alcohol flavor and metallic taste to come through more.
  • Week 4 – 4/10 – Holding steady from last week. Still a slightly off flavor, but it hasn’t diminished since.
  • Week 5 – 4/10 – Nose is a bit more harsh. Cherry flavor is strangely more prominent.
  • Average score: 4.5/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 5/10. I would completely recommend this wine as a stalwart backup for any occasion as well as a decent sipper on its on right.

Bota Box Shiraz California 2006

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Imbalanced (high) acidity, imbalanced (high) alcohol, smooth texture, black fruits, very hot nose
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Imbalanced acidity and alcohol, smooth texture, no loss in flavor, hot nose, maybe a bit more bitter finish
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Still imbalanced, same texture, flavor, and nose. Holding its meager flavor well.
  • Week 3 – 3/10 – There’s something a little off on the flavor, but it’s not enough to drop the score. Still mostly the same.
  • Week 4 – 2/10 – Tastes very soft now, like the structure is beginning to deteriorate. Weak flavor, alcohol is strangely no longer prominent in the flavor
  • Week 5 – 2/10 – The flavor profile is very different. Very soft, very meek, hardly representative of the big fruit that preceded it.
  • Average score: 2.6/10. Length of stay = 5 weeks. Final score is 3/10. Had a pretty decent stay, though it came from humble beginnings. If nothing else, you’ve got over a month to drink it.

Black Box Chardonnay Monterey 2008

  • Week 0 – 4/10 – Imbalanced (high) acidity, balanced alcohol, briny, weak texture, slightly sour, fruit-forward, weak nose
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Lost nothing on the nose, lost some flavor, still very imbalanced acidity, similar mouth feel, texture, increased sourness
  • Week 2 – 2/10 – Nose and flavor are starting to get musty, still overly acidic, beginning to taste flat, metallic, alcohol flavor still balanced
  • Week 3 – 1/10 – Nose and flavor lost distinguishing characteristics. Taste mostly of acid and alcohol. Flavor is officially wince-inducing. Consider this guy retired.
  • Average score: 2.5/10. Length of stay = 3 weeks. Final score is 2/10. Started off all right, but deteriorated too quickly to make it a contender for the best boxed wine.

Washington Hills Merlot NV

  • Week 0 – 3/10 – Imbalanced (high) alcohol, decent acidity, red fruit, blueberry, oaky flavors and nose, short finish.
  • Week 1 – 3/10 – Still hot on the tongue, balanced acidity, flavors are all holding true. Nose hasn’t changed.
  • Week 2 – 3/10 – Nose and flavor are still the same, mediocre but not any worse.
  • Week 3 – 2/10 – A slightly unusual, chemical flavor is starting to come forward. It’s really affecting the flavor.
  • Week 4 – 0/10 – Nose consists entirely of alcohol now. Flavor is unrecognizable. This guy is retired.
  • Average score: 2.2/10. Length of stay = 4 weeks. Final score is 1/10. Started poorly, and the wine was essentially undrinkable after 3 weeks. Not a good trait in a boxed wine.
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