55 Degrees

May 4, 2008 by

TESS: If you are wondering why we haven’t posted in a long time, it’s because since this place opened, we’ve spent most of our weekends there. We even thought to write our blog from there once, but I’m pretty sure AppleCare doesn’t cover keyboard wine spills, even if the wine is a  Brunello di Montalcino. 

CHRIS: 55 degrees is a wine store in Atwater Village (3111 Glendale Blvd) that specializes in Italian wines. The big attraction, however is the enoteca/tasting room they have set up in the cellar.  I’m a big fan of drinking in dark basements, having spent my formative years tossing back cheap beer in them. 

TESS: Drinking in a basement allows you the illusion that it isn’t a sunny day that could be better spent doing some bullshit pursuit like gardening or exercise. 

CHRIS : They offer two or three flights each week and daily specials.  (All reasonably priced between 9-17 bucks) Recent flights have included “Island Hopping” (wines of Sicily and Sardegna), “Beautiful Biancos” (Italian whites outside of the Pinot Grigio box) and “Brunello’s Little Brother” which featured 2 Rosso di Montalcinos and an actual Brunello.  Where else in town can you drink Brunello for under 20 bucks?  (Unless you’re eating on your agent’s expense account.)

TESS: They also offer 2 cheese plates, one paired for reds and one for whites. We get them both and you should, too. You’ll be there awhile as all the flights look so tasty and interesting you can’t stop at one. They also offer a plate of Italian meats such as prosciutto and salami. You should get one of those, too. It’s just like being in Italy except when you pay you aren’t being raped by the exchange rate. And those “gypsy children” are actually the offspring of hipster Silverlake parents who’ve paid a lot to give them that unwashed bohemian look.

CHRIS : The staff in the enoteca are friendly and wine educated.  They take the time to tell you a little about the wine as it’s being served.  So you get to drink AND get educated… its just like being in college.

TESS: Except when you leave you’re actually qualified to do something, even if it’s just being able to explain the difference between Montepulciano the grape and Montepulciano the region.

Check out : 55 degrees : 3111 Glendale Blvd, Atwater Village.  Store open 11am to 10pm. Tasting Room open 6pm to 10pm.

Tess in Front of 55 degrees…

Fried Chicken Pairings

February 17, 2008 by

 CHRIS: I will make any excuse to down some wine.  “It’s the weekend,” “It’s Wednesday,” “It’s 8 o’clock,” “It’s Arbor Day,” “It’s Arbor Day’s eve,” “Hey get off my back, I feel like a glass of something…                 

TESS: This week the excuse was we were having fried chicken for dinner.

 CHRIS: What the hell do you open up to go with fried chicken? (Other than a packet of Lipitor.)  We put this to some of our wine sherpas. 

The folks at the Colorado Wine Company recommended a Gruner Veltliner (the official grape of Austria) called Kalmuck. 

 Our friend at the How’s tasting room in Noho recommended the Rombauer Chardonnay.

 Tess, always the red drinker, suggested a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

TESS: Actually that was the guy at How’s, too. I really wish you wouldn’t keep getting us confused. It was really embarrassing when you sent him flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Bill is the manager of the How’s wine bar in NoHo. (Yes, that’s right, a grocery store with a wine bar. Sometimes Santa does bring you what you want for Christmas.) He had suggested Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but a good one for under $50 is hard to come by. Hard, but not impossible. I remembered I had a 2004 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret at Dusty’s in Silverlake a few months back that cost me $40 a bottle – in the restaurant! So I did some research and I found it online at winerz.com for $22.80. With tax and shipping it came out to be more like $27 but still that’s a lot less than 50.

CHRIS: So we got all three.   All three were nice pairs to an oven fried chicken recipe a friend brought over.

The Gruner Vetliner was a full, fruity, white.   Perfect if you’re not too adventurous.

TESS: It also makes a great pool wine and is a good buy at $14.99.

CHRIS: The Rombauer Chardonnay was the big surprise for me.  This is a big, oaky, buttery Chardonnay. 

 TESS: It’s like if butterscotch got you drunk.

CHRIS: It’s kind of too much for me to drink without food, but it paired awesomely with the spices in the fried chicken.

TESS: I second that. I think we know how I feel about chardonnays, but this one really stood up to the food and even I thought it was a good match.

CHRIS: This is a red masquerading as a white for sure. 

TESS: What the hell does that mean? Does the red have a wife and couple of clusters he left behind somewhere that he’s hiding from? Is he part of some sleeper cell of fundamentalist syrahs? When he pretends to be the white does he have to tuck his tannins?

CHRIS: CDP is a French blend from the Southern Rhone Valley of France.  Every CDP is different, but all winemakers have to draw from a recipe of 13 grapes.  Mostly, it’s Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.  It’s a light fruity red (not too sweet), very accessible for those looking to cross over from whites. This is a great pair with the fried chicken if you’re a red lover. 

TESS: I had it with the dark meat and it wasn’t at all over-powering. It’s a great red because it wasn’t too fruity, it was still complex and dry, but it was also light enough that the diehard white drinkers at the table all finished their glasses and wanted seconds. 

Why I Hate Pinot Noir

February 12, 2008 by

I don’t like Pinot Noirs.

If you served it to me at your house I wouldn’t be so rude as to tell you I hate it, but I am about as excited to drink it as an over-oaked Chardonnay.

(The spell check is telling me the phrase “over-oaked” doesn’t exist. If only that were true. What if we lived in a world where words that spell check didn’t understand just didn’t exist? Am I high? No. But thanks for asking.)

I dislike Pinot Noir for the same reason most like it: I think it’s too thin and fruity. I like a dry red with strong tannins. If my tongue isn’t cemented to the roof of my mouth after a glass, I’m not happy. I like earthy wines. I want to stick my nose into a glass that smells like dirt and peat and a little must. I don’t mind smelling cherries, but at least throw a little oak in there. Most pinots smell like they were made for people who like to get drunk off of cough syrup but can’t handle the trails.

CHRIS:  Tess does indeed believe in throwing a little oak in cherries, which is why her cherry pie recipe is not very popular with people who don’t want a mouthful of wood chips with their slice ala mode.

Now some have said that I’m just not drinking good pinots and point me in the direction of something that costs 35 bucks. Here’s my other problem: I don’t think you should have to spend $35 to get a decent bottle of anything. I mean, last week I had a good Barolo that only cost $30. And if I’m going to spend $35 or $50 or $100 on a wine it’s going to be on something I like; a Cab or a Bordeaux or an Amarone or a Barolo. I’m not going to spend $100 to drink an acceptable version of a wine I didn’t like in the first place, when I can spend it drinking an amazing version of something specifically tailored by Dionysus himself to fit my palate.

CHRIS: Tess has a bumper sticker on her car that says “Dionysus is my co-pilot”

Is that why I keep getting pulled over? I know what you’re thinking. “But Tess, what about Paul Giamatti’s famous monologue from Sideways?” Now, for the record, I love Sideways, love Paul Giamatti, still hate Pinot Noir. And I hate Sideways just the smallest bit for making people think Pinot Noir is cool. For making it so popular that even my low-rent Ralph’s (where I once bought a six pack that had 3 beers already drunk) stocks it. For putting an over abundance of it on bar menus, just because everyone thought they must know something about wine if the movie about wine told them to order it. And as for the quote, let’s look at what he says about Pinot Noir’s flavor: “the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.” All accurate if you’re describing a Gregorian chant. Not at all relevant to describe a pinot noir.

The one positive thing I will say about Pinot Noir is that it can be a “Gateway Red” – something light and approachable for people who don’t think they like reds that can get them in the door and then we can get serious.

CHRIS SAYS : Gateway reds have long been the focus of parent’s organizations.   As we all know, you start out drinking Pinots with your friends, then a Barbaresco before your wife comes home, and before you know it, you’re uncorking Napa Cabs at three in the morning and waking up in a puddle of your own sick.   If Pinots are ever outlawed, I can only hope “Medical Pinot clinics” open up and I can find a shady doctor to get me my medical Pinot card.  Food for thought is all I’m sayin’.

To be fair, I have had a few Pinot Noirs I have liked, including one this past weekend. I tasted Domaine Drouhin Vero Pinot Noir at the Colorado Wine Company.  I have a suspicion I may like French Pinot Noirs (also known as a Burgundies.) I like French Chardonnays better than American, too. What can I say? When it comes to wines I don’t like, I don’t like how the French make them the least. Also, the next day I get to call the headache a “Freedom Hangover.”






Colorado Wine Company

February 3, 2008 by

TESS: We discovered the Colorado Wine Co. on one of those January Sundays when the holidays are over, it’s too cold to go outside and it’s either break up, or find something fun to do.

CHRIS: Why do you have to say it like that?

TESS: We turned to our most successful relationship counselor, wine, and a quick google search found the Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock. Within the hour we were at their Lazy Sunday Tasting. That was two years ago and we’ve been back so often that it’s also been the site of 3 of my interventions.

CHRIS : Do you always have to make my birthday about you? We could write about this place all day —

TESS: But it’s a drag typing with a glass in one hand

CHRIS: So, let’s just cut to the chase with our list of 5 Reasons We Love the Colorado Wine Company.

#1 The Tastings – Our favorite days at the Co Wine Co are Fridays and Sundays when they hold their tastings. For 12-15 bucks, you get 5 generous pours of always interesting wine, a sample of cheeses from Auntie Em’s… and the moral high ground of saying “I’m not getting drunk, I’m just tasting.” You can also buy wines by the glass 6 days a week.

#2 Case Discount – You can mix any 12 bottles and get 10 percent off. This comes in handy if, like us, you’re tired of having that nightly (Yes, we said nightly. Don’t judge.) phone call where one of you asks the other to stop on the way home and pick up some wine. This way, you’re stocked up with better wine then you’ll get at the supermarket and you save money. Really, how can you afford not to?

#3 The Pizza Place next door. The newly opened Brownstone Pizza is two doors down from the Co Wine Co and serves NY style pizza, which you can bring with you into the tasting. Nothing goes better with pizza than wine. (Except for shame.)

#4 Jen and John – the owners. Sometimes, buying wine is an intimidating experience. People are afraid to ask how much things cost or questions like, “What kind of wine could I serve with fried chicken?” These guys have an answer for that (it’s a Gruner Veltliner.) When I went in there looking for “Strike Friendly Wine” they pointed me in the direction of two reds under $10 and they were fantastic. If you’re in the WGA, get over there before the strike’s over – they offer a discount if you show them your union card.

#5 “Wine for everyone,” that’s their slogan, and they always deliver. Most of the wine in their store is under $25 and it’s all good. A lot of time it’s under $15 and sometimes even $10. They stock product from all over the globe, including Italy, Spain, South Africa, Germany, France and of course, California.

Of course, they do offer wines over $25, too. We recently took a chance on a $30 Barolo. To see how that worked out and read more about Barolo, click here.

The Flask, Part I

January 27, 2008 by

TESS : Since we moved to the Valley, we’ve been waiting for The Flask on Ventura Blvd. to get its wine bar up and running. They finally did this fall, but unfortunately I didn’t notice until a few weeks ago, probably because I drink too much. But one sober day in early January we were driving down Ventura Blvd. and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a sandwich board on the sidewalk announcing “Wine Tastings.” I have a gift when it comes to finding these types of events. I’m like that kid in the Sixth Sense, except instead of dead people I see wine flights.

CHRIS : Since then, we’ve become regulars.   The Flask Fine Wines and Spirits is a high end liquor store.  The presence of a rug is a dead giveaway.  Also, they don’t sell lottery tickets.  This makes for a very comfortable atmosphere to sit and drink wine and not worry that someone in a ski mask will arrive and demand to see the contents of the cash register.

They have regular tastings on the weekends which feature wines from all over the world.  It’s a great way to explore wines from outside of California.

TESS : Not that they neglect California wines. A recent tasting included all California Cabernet Sauvignons. For $13.99 we got to taste 6 Cabs.  It was nice because it allowed you to taste the difference the climate and terrain can have on the grapes, in addition to the style of winemaking.

CHRIS : All of the cabs were great, but two stood out as awesome values.   At $9.99, The 05 Central Coast Mountain View Cabernet is one of the best wines I’ve ever had for under 10 bucks.

TESS : And trust me, we’ve done our research. For years we’ve been in the field studying $10 wines with a crack team of bitter writers and out-of-work actors.

There are some great occasions for a good 10 dollar bottle of wine….

CHRIS : Tuesdays come to mind.  They also make great gifts for people who wouldn’t know a decent bottle if Joseph Phelps shoved their head in a barrel of Insignia.   

I also really enjoyed the 2004 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain.)  It’s a 45 dollar wine that tastes like a 100 dollar bottle.

TESS: If you’ve never tried a 100 dollar bottle, congratulations, you probably have a healthy IRA account. 

The Flask is located at 12194 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604. ( 818-761-5373) They have tastings on the weekends.

Wine Clubs

January 27, 2008 by

“Are you interested in joining our wine club?” This question is as inevitable at a winery tasting as “Why don’t you slow down? This isn’t a race.” It’s a time worn sales tactic: Get your customer drunk, then try to sell him something.

TESS: That’s how I once spent $150 on jeans.

CHRIS: In this case, they’re trying to sell you a “Wine Club” membership. The benefits of joining a club vary from winery to winery, but generally you get scheduled wine shipments, discounts on purchases, free tastings and invitations to “special events.”

I love having wine shipped to my house. Every month or so, I come home to find a three-pack of kind juice on my doorstep. I usually welcome them with “Well, hello my friends. Which one of you is going to end up in my tummy tonight?”

TESS: Actually the wine comes to my office. Seems the FDA or someone doesn’t like to ship wine to places where someone 21 or older isn’t around to sign for it. As if there’s some 15 year old kid somewhere so desperate to get drunk he’s spending $60 to ship a Rhone-style blend from Los Olivos to his house. In fact, we should encourage 15 year olds kids to drink Rhone-style blends. If they know what good wines taste like, they won’t binge drink Two Buck Chuck in college and fall off a frat house to their death. Anyway, if you join a wine club, you’re going to need an address where 15 year old kids can’t get to it.

CHRIS: Anyway, the amount, type. and frequency of your shipments vary from club to club. The clubs we belong to ship 2-3 bottles 3-4 times per year. The bill shows up on your credit card after each shipment.

TESS: It’s like a hangover that happens 30 days later. But the good thing is, at least you have wine to drink while you pay the bill. And if you drink enough, you won’t even remember writing the check.

Still, the check doesn’t have to be a big one. Many wine clubs are very affordable. The ones we belong to have shipments in the $40 – $60 range which is very reasonable for 2 or 3 bottles. Plus, you can usually cancel at anytime if you decide it’s just not worth it.

CHRIS: As a member, you usually get some kind of discount on your shipments (10%-20%) which can make that expensive bottle turn into a deal.

Then there’s “special events.” We belong to the wine club at Malibu Family Wines. (A great local vineyard with an awesome outdoor tasting room located here. (More info in another post.) Recently. we were invited to a “release party.” (Not the kind you have at a massage parlor near LAX, but a party where you taste new wines and get to meet other drunks with standards.) This one was the Malibu Family Wines’ release party for their Semler label 05 Merlot and Syrah.

TESS: This was a great event. They were pouring generous tastes of their Saddlerock Chardonnay and their Semler Merlot and Syrah. There were at least three bars set up so there was no long wait to get a drink. They also had a DJ who spent most of the night spinning Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. When he broke out Madonna’s “Holiday” we knew it was time to go, but we had enjoyed the last few hours spent discussing the new wines and which of our friends we could persuade to join the wine club so we could share the next party with them.

Malibu Family Wines is located at 31800 Mulholland Highway, Malibu, California, 90265. Their website is here.

Rosenthal – The Malibu Estate

January 23, 2008 by

It was the day after New Year’s, a day when most people decide to quit drinking, and the boyfriend and I were driving up the PCH towards Point Dume for a quiet “Yes, Virginia, the holidays are finally over” walk on the beach.“Wine tasting?” I read off a sign. And just like that, the boyfriend veers off the highway as if we were in a high speed chase.We stopped in front of Rosenthal, a small tasting room next to the Beau Rivage restaurant, a place I’ve never tried, probably because I never knew there was a winery next door.Rosenthal’s tasting room is a great deal. For about $15 we got to taste 8 or 9 wines, including some reserve bottles. The pours are reasonable – enough so you can get a taste for the wine, not so much as to get you drunk before sending you back on the PCH. They also allow you time to really taste it, discuss it, and enjoy the shop situated just steps from the Pacific Ocean. It’s not one of those places where they jam 3 stingy pours of mediocre wine down your throat and then immediately jump to some sales pitch.Most importantly – the wine is great!The first thing they poured was the Surfrider Chardonnay which is fermented in steel barrels, rather than oak. If you don’t know what this means, it’s probably the reason you hate chardonnay. Oak barrels give it that rich, sweet, buttery taste. The steel barrels allow it to remain dry and crisp – a great wine to have with cheese or just start the afternoon off by the pool.I was also a fan of the Cabs and the Surfrider Red. No surprise there; I like Cabs and the Surfrider Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Petite Verdot, 3 of the 5 grapes used to make a Bordeaux blend. Imagine, 3/5 of a Bordeaux wine right in our backyard,But the real surprise for me was the 2000 Merlot. I am not a fan of Merlot and I practically stood up and cheered in the theater when Paul Giamatti said, “I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!” (Although I’m still annoyed that Sideways made everyone start drinking so much Pinot Noir you can’t get a glass of anything else.) The 2000 Merlot is dry and has nice tannins on the finish (the stuff that makes your tongue go up to the roof of your mouth at the end.) It’s not fruity like a lot of merlots. It tastes like wine and not like grape juice that will get you drunk. Which is cool if that’s your thing. It’s just not mine.We left, new wine club members and with several bottles jammed in the car, including half a case of the 2000 Merlot, which was on special and a steal at $11.25 a bottle. That’s such a good deal, I can drink that on a weeknight.Rosenthal – The Malibu Estate26023 Pacific Coast HighwayMalibu, CA 90265310-456-1392

Geissinger Winery

January 22, 2008 by

Today, the winegurl and I decided to celebrate MLK day by going to a tasting at Geissinger Winery. They’ve got two tasting rooms, one in Santa Barbara and one in Fillmore. We had been to the SB location before, so we decided to check out the Fillmore location. For 6 bucks, you get to taste 20 wines (Don’t worry, the pours are light.) They specialize in dessert wines (They’ve got six of them.) Make sure you try the “Forgiveness Reserve,” a light sweet blush.

Pros : At 6 bucks a tasting for 20 wines, it’s a great deal.

Cons : Mostly unremarkable wines, except for the dessert wines; Their tasting notes read like a bad romance novel and will have you worried Fabio is going to show up. (ex : “She is sweet. This is her night. Watch your steps as you dance with her. She leads and you follow….”)

Dudes : If your lady has a sweet tooth, pick up a bottle of Forgiveness Reserve, and impress her with a few facts about dessert wines here…

Hello world!

January 22, 2008 by

Stay tuned while we get this thing up and running.