Tuesday, March 3, 2009

7even Deadly Zins and Menage a Trois: Bad Names, Good Wines

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but as much as I enjoy drinking wine, I don't know much about it. When I'm perusing a wine list at a restaurant, I pretend to be "in the know," scratching my chin as though I am deeply contemplating the virtues of each choice, but I really have no clue what I'm doing. There are certain wines that I know I like -- full-bodied reds (particularly Italian reds) and for whites, Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand -- and also ones I know I dislike -- any Chardonnay. Beyond that, however, I base my wine-purchasing decisions upon recommendations from the sommelier or waiter, or buy whatever my parents and brothers deem acceptable. (They, unlike me, have actually been to Napa.)

The system works for the most part, but at wine shops, or more accurately, Cost Plus World Market, I run into a little trouble. Without a wine connoisseur or expert to lead me toward the finest and most reasonably priced bottles, I have to fill my basket using my own devices. More often than not, I make my final decisions based on the name, appearance of the label and those little stickers that let customers know if it has been ranked by Wine Spectator. Wineries know that consumers often rely on external, mostly superficial clues to predict a wine's integrity. That's why they put those cute little animals on the labels of bottles like Yellowtail.

Given my propensity to judge a bottle by its outside packaging, it would seem to follow that I would never select two Zinfandel wines called Menage a Trois and 7even Deadly Zins. With names that horrible, reason would dictate that the wines should be horrible too. Except they aren't. At all. 7even Deadly Zins, a spicy blend of pepper and fruits (I detect some blackberry), is one of my favorite bottles of red wine under $15. And Menage a Trois, a bottle I tried for the first time a few weeks ago, is another surprisingly astute offering for its under $10 pricetag.

At this point, I should attempt to describe the symphony of flavors and the finish on the palate so that I can substantiate my claim of esteem for these wines, but as I mentioned earlier, I am not an expert on the fermented grape. I do know that both these wines make anything that comes out of the Yellowtail winery look like bottom-barrell $2 buck chuck. And I do know that I'd happily serve either bottle at a dinner party.

I'd just cover up the labels first.


Heather said...

yum! i love wine reviews. have you tried any malbecs, tempranillos, san gioveses or barbera di astis? they're my favorite reds!

Esi said...

I love learning about wine at wine tastings like at K&L or Silverlake wine. That way, you have the expert who is pouring and also answering any questions. A trip up to SB is always awesome too :) I am going to try and get to Cost Plus this weekend to check these out!

The Blonde Duck said...

I have a little confession.

When I make beef burgendy, I buy the mini five dollar bottles of plastic wine in a 4-pack.

I'm such a redneck.

Diana said...

Heather - I love Malbec and Barbera! Those are often my "go-to's" on the wine list. My favorite Barbera is La Spinetta, but that's on the pricier end -- approximately $25. As far as Malbecs, one of the best buys I've found is for the Pascual Toso. Really good! I'll let you know if I remember any more! :)

Esi - I really need to sign-up for a tasting at K&L. That's actually where I found the bottle of Menage a Trois, but it's also sold at Cost Plus. Let me know if you try the wines!

Miranda - Say it ain't so! You should never cook with something you wouldn't drink!!! ;) (which doesn't always stop me)

Reeni♥ said...

I don't know a thing about wine either! I fly by the seat of my pants!

Melissa Good Taste said...

I really like the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir - $10.99

Kirby! said...

Ha, too funny! I'm exactly the same way: love wine, but don't know squat other than what I like and what I don't. Both of the wines here sound yummy, though, especially 7even deadly zins (that name!).

I am thinking about maybe taking a little wine course at L.A. Trade Tech this summer so that I can stop choosing wine based on the attractiveness of their labels....