Red Wine Gives Boost to Breast Cancer Drug

Red WineWe’ve known that red wine confers health benefits for years, but here’s a new one: researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, led by Charis Eng, MD, Ph.D., Chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute, have found that red wine boosts the effects of a common drug used to treat breast cancer. The drug is rapamycin, and the compound in the wine is, of course, resveratrol. The latter compound seems to be the active ingredient in red wine that drives most of its health benefits. Continue reading “Red Wine Gives Boost to Breast Cancer Drug”

Seriously Good Wine Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Seriously Good Wine Chalk HillPrice: $12
Maker: Chateau Diana, Healdsburg, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 13.7%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

A name like Seriously Good Wine Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 sets seriously high expectations, even though it’s an inexpensive wine. Seriously, though, this Cab does a reasonable job of living up to those expectations. The berry aroma was unremarkable, but the wine was more interesting on the palate. It started with bright cherry and chocolate notes and finished with robust but well-balanced tannins. The wine was accessible but not overly simple. Continue reading “Seriously Good Wine Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007”

Malbec Dominance Continues

New sales data shows tht Malbec is officially the hottest wine export from Argentina:

Malbec stood for 40.1% of the volume of bottled wine exports during 2010 (this percentage was 34% in 2009). Except in The Netherlands (Chardonnay) and Paraguay (blend red wines), Malbec was the leader variety in the main 25 destinations, with high share percentages on the total, which in most cases is higher than 30%. For instance, in United States, 60% of the volume was for Malbec, while this figure amounted to 48% in Switzerland, 47% in Mexico and 37% in Peru. [From Malbec keeps on breaking records by Gabriela Marizia.]

From our perspective here at Box Wines, that trend makes a lot of sense. Malbecs are easy-drinking and usually (though not always) inexpensive. More importantly, it seems that even sub-$10 Malbecs are often quite drinkable. With the US economy still in recovery mode in 2010, good but inexpensive wines are a logical choice.

And, lovers of boxed wine can enjoy Malbec, too. We found Vaca Morada Malbec in a 3 liter box – .at around $4 per bottle, it’s a great value. This trend was evident last year, too, as reported in Malbec Crushing Other Grapes.

Tait The Ball Buster 2008

Tait - The Ball BusterPrice: $15
Maker: Tait Wines, Lyndoch, Australia
Varietal: Shiraz – Merlot – Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 16%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

One has to hope that a wine called The Ball Buster 2008 from Tait Wines would somehow live up to that name. Fortunately, this wine does. Its color is impressively dark, an inky purple that is almost black. It has an intense ripe berry and tobacco aroma, but even that doesn’t prepare you for the huge blueberry, plum, cocoa, and pepper blast to the palate. The fruit predominates. The finish is a little oaky with soft tannins. This wine reminds me of a big California Zinfandel – lots of complex fruit and relatively high alcohol content.

The Ball Buster is a blend of 77% Shiraz, 12% Merlot, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around the Web, wine bloggers liked this wine. The Weekly Wine Journal described it as, “almost like a liqueur with a very ripe blackberry flavor.” Thursday Happy Hour said The Ball Buster “went with everything from my prime rib, to pasta, roast chicken, and grilled sausage—a fantastic bottle to share over dinner.” The oddly named Drinking my way through Trader Joe’s Wine and Beyond… said, “I’m going to rave about this wine, because it is a total contradiction and I love contradictions.”

If you like big, bold, fruity reds, The Ball Buster 2008 from Tait Wines is a great choice and a superb value.

Campobarro Tempranillo

Price: $21
Maker: San Marcos Winery, Almendralejo, Extremadura, Spain
Varietal: Tempranillo
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Campobarro Tempranillo 3LSlowly but surely, more interesting boxed wines are appearing on store shelves. A good example is Campobarro Tempranillo (non-vintage) from Spain. This is the first Spanish Tempranillo I’ve seen in a box. Like many inexpensive Tempranillos, this is a fine, if undistinguished, table wine. It has a fruity nose, with red berries and medium tannins on the palate. It’s not overly complex and the finish isn’t memorable, but for the equivalent of less than six bucks a bottle it’s very drinkable.

The wine is labeled as “Vino de la Tierra Extremadura,” indicating that it is from the Extremadura region of western Spain. The winery seems to be Bodega San Marcos, and the importer San Antonio-based Makin Wines International. The San Marcos website doesn’t reveal too much about the winery, sadly, and I haven’t seen any other boxed products from them.

Don’t expect to wow your oenophile friends with this one, but if you are looking for a chance of pace from the more common-seen boxes of California Cabs and Australian Shirazes, Campobarro Tempranillo may be just the ticket.

Wine & Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Wine  and ChocolateChocolates are a Valentine’s Day favorite, as is wine. So, why not try to pair the two for a great Valentine’s Day gift or treat?

Chocolate, of course, tends to be sweet. To pair with a red wine takes some creativity, and sticking with dark chocolate will help. Dark chocolate is much less sweet than milk chocolate, and might pair well with a red toward the fruitier end of the spectrum. A fruity red Zinfandel would work nicely, or, if you can find one, a Cabernet Sauvignon that leads with berry flavors and isn’t too dry.

A dark chocolate and red wine pairing has something beyond flavor going for it: both are considered heart-healthy food items.

If you absolutely must go with milk chocolate, a dessert wine like a Sherry or Ruby Port would work best. You might try a Merlot from the sweeter end of the spectrum, though I’d expect the creamy sweetness of the chocolate to clash with even fruity Merlots and Syrahs.

Of course, if you are giving a gift, you can always combine wine and chocolate even if you don’t plan to consume them side by side.

Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $11
Maker: Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

At a recent stay at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, I was handed a half-bottle of Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 as an amenity of their Joie de Vivre club. It was a screw cap bottle (handy to not have to deal with the whole corkscrew thing if you are handing out bottles of wine to your guests). Although I wasn’t expecting much, this Cab proved to be not only inoffensive but rather tasty. The aroma was of ripe berries with tobacco overtones. It had a fruity raspberry and strawberry flavor, with quite a bit of oak, a hint of chocolate, and robust tannins.

Either the JDV chain got lucky, or they actually put some thought into this selection. This Kenwood Cab is inexpensive, though not in the Two Buck Chuck or Barefoot range. Most importantly, it’s fruity enough to please just about anyone while it sports enough complexity to avoid disaster with a more experienced wine drinker. Plus, it was immediately drinkable, though a little air seemed to bring out more complexity. All in all, it was a very nice welcome to the hotel, and it’s a wine I’ll look for at the wine store.

Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Black Box CabernetPrice: $20
Maker: Black Box Wines, Madera, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Periodically, we revisit the boxed wine of the ubiquitous Black Box Wines. In the case of Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, we’re very glad we did. It’s one of the nicest box wines we’ve tried and definitely as good as a lot of bottle wine costing twice as much. This Cab has a very dark ruby color, with bright berry and clove aromas. Raspberry and strawberry flavors predominate, and the finish is long with chewy tannings and a lingering note of dried fruit.

Our history with Black Box Cabs has been mixed. We liked Black Box Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 enough to score it 8.5, but the Black Box 2005 Cab disappointed at a mere 7.5. Happily the 2006 Black Box Paso Robles Cab bounced back to an 8.5. The 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon, though, was the best of the bunch.

Comments on the latest offerings from Black Box have been mostly positive. Catman_Drinks says, “Usually, boxed wine is in the domain of the cheapest-of-the-cheap, but this is different. It is actually good wine.” Cheap Dates doesn’t rave about this Cab, but notes, “It’s a very juicy, jammy wine that would be a crowd pleaser at a big family party, assuming your family does not consist of wine snobs. There is more flavor and interest here than one expects in a 3-liter box.” WineLife365 tried the 2008, and called it, “by far the best tasting box wine that I’ve ever tried.” Katherine Cole also recommends the 2008, calling it a “crowd-pleaser.” Eat A Perfect Pair said of the 2007, “Lovely wine and a great value.”

I actually scored this box at Sam’s Club for a mere $18 – that’s $4.50 per bottle-equivalent. A pleasant wine and a great value!

Red Wines and Seafood? Yes!

Seafood and Red Wine

Some of us are red wine people, and face a dilemma when dining on fish or other sea creatures: traditional seafood menu pairings always involve white wines. An interesting article by “Unashamedly Creative” suggests some unexpected pairings with traditional reds:

Merlot for Tuna, Marlin

Merlot is our first fishy friend and works incredibly well with tuna and marlin. Whether it is steaks on the barbecue after a deep sea fishing expedition, or working with Mediterranean style vegetables and salads alongside marlin or tuna based dishes, a bottle of red wine such as merlot is just the ticket.

I like that pairing and have actually used it. Merlots tend to be on the lighter side, and tuna is hardly a delicate fish.

Pinot Noir with Salmon, Lobster

Pinot Noir is another tuna lover who extends its range to lobster and salmon of all kinds, especially natural, baked or grilled. Beyond the standard pinot noir and salmon nibbles, the lovely light nature of Tasmanian Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir coupled with its unique smooth cherry tang makes for an awesome combination for several different varieties of salmon or if tuna steak is your treat, you cannot go past the Yarra Valley favourite of Blue Diamond Label Pinot Noir.

The author goes on to suggest matching Shiraz to smoked salmon, and Rosé for just about any kind of seafood. These suggestions are a bit more tenuous, in my opinion. Shiraz wines can be quite bold, but so, I suppose, can smoked salmon. And I’m not a big Rosé fan, though I can see why the author would suggest it goes well with many kinds of seafood.

And for the most delicate seafood, I’d still recommend the traditional white wine pairings. A fine filet of sole, for example, would get blown out by just about any red; stick with a Sauvingon Blanc or perhaps a Pinot Grigio.

Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva

Price: $9
Maker: Colores del Sol Wines, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Malbecs tend to be reliable and inoffensive, even inexpensive ones. Though I didn’t have high expectations for Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva at under $10, one taste showed I had a winner. In the glass, this Malbec is a very dark ruby/garnet color. The aroma was pleasant enough, with berry and mild clove notes. On the palate, though, Colores del Sol exploded with a big blackberry and raspberry blast, milder chocolate notes, and a peppery finish with moderate tannins. Overall, this Malbec tasted like a much more expensive wine.

Wine bloggers were unanimous in their praise for this value-priced wine. The Frugal Oenologist found it “pleasing” with “an even finish.” WineWaves suggested for the 2009 vintage, “Don’t wait around for this wine to age. When a wine is so purely attractive in its youth, why tempt fate?” The Booze Hound recommends it as a “cheap wine that doesn’t suck.” The Wine Cellar at Wichita Falls Crave found Colores del Sol Malbec “stunning in the glass” with “enormous aromas” and called it a “must buy.”

Need a red wine that will deliver big, bold flavor that won’t cost a fortune? I highly recommend Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva.