Alma Negra Sparkling Rose of Malbec, 09 Argentina

Okayokayokay.  I promise this will be the last Rose post for a while.  And for the record, this is a Rose sparkling, NOT strictly a Rose, so it’s a totally different category.  The first step was admitting I have a problem.  But honestly, I chose today’s wine based on what I feel like sipping on right now.  And it happens to be slightly pink in color.  Can you blame me?  It’s noon on Monday afternoon.  I’m chilling at Cellar listening to Fleet Foxes on Pandora.  And doing a little bit of work, too, I guess.  It’s truly a perfect storm of Rose necessity.

Okay, so I lied  a wee bit.  I didn’t just pick this wine for today  because I felt like drinking it, I also picked it because it’s awesome and different!  And I just found out it got 89 points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.  So that’s cool, too.  And check out the spooky dude on the bottle!  He must be the one with the black soul (alma negra = black soul).  Yikes!

Well, black as his soul might be, this wine’s soul is anything but!  Winemaker Ernesto Catena is sort of a badass to begin with, and his other line- Tikal– produces some of my all time favorite big, nasty Argentine reds.  The Almanegra line is just a baby- started in 2003.  When I first opened this bottle, I was expecting a bold, bright pink wine- seeing as it’s Malbec and new-worldy.  But I was to be surprised!  Check out it’s fairly delicate, light salmon coloring:


Cute, lively notes of sweet tarts and candied strawberries are a-plenty.  Light and fresh, with additional aromas of rhubarb, raspberries and fresh biscuits.  Sort of reminiscent of a summertime strawberry shortcake.  But one of those semi-sweet, crunchy shortcake biscuits, not a sticky sweet fluffy one.  I like those.  Light on its loafers, but offering a lengthy and elegant finish.

We sold the bejeezus out of this wine last Tuesday night during Champagne Tuesday!  And we likely will again tomorrow night.

What?  you haven’t been to Champagne Tuesday?  I find this hard to believe, first of all- but you need to get in on the action because every Tuesday night at Cellar we pour glasses of champage, cava, prosecco, and anything else that sparkles for half-off!  Flocks of females flood Cellar with a burning desire for frothy bubbles.  Did you like that alliteration?  I thought it was fun.  I really don’t know why I’m plugging Champagne Tuesday on here, because it stays busy with little to no help from moi.  BUT it is a perfect opportunity for you to try THIS WINE for $4 a glass!  Then you can whisk away a bottle to take home for $18.  It’ll be a good start to your week, and a good way to celebrate that we FINALLY made it to August, which means there’s only two more months of summer to go.  Yes, September counts as summer.  It’s still hot.

Reunion Malbec, 2009 Mendoza

Who loves Malbec?  You ALL do.  I know you do, because it’s our best seller at Cellar!  A Cellar-best-seller I call it.  Not my most creative use of words, but it sure it fun to say.  Cellarbestseller.  Argentinian wines, especially Malbec, have definitely boomed over the past several years.  Malbec Mania, you could call it.  The United States imported a whopping 48% of Argentina’s exported Malbec in 2010! (source).  We luuuuvs the stuff.  And while I’ve heard buzz from various wine publications that Chile may be poised to rival Argentina in 2011 in terms of sales, if Columbia is any indicator, Malbec hasn’t lost any ground.  In all honesty, Columbia probably isn’t a good indicator, but that doesn’t serve my point very well.

But onward we move- let’s talk about why this wine rocks!  First of all, I know you want to know how much it costs.  Because you’re not going to keep reading if its outta your price range.  But it’s only $13!  So keep reading!  Malbec consistently over-achieves in this price range, which is a good reason it’s so darn popular.  Malbec is perhaps one of the friendlier grapes I know; it is approachable, easy-going and likeable, and the Reunion is no exception.  A concentrated deep magenta/purple-y color, it is ripe with flavors of plum and cherries, with a truly lip-smacking palate of dark chocolate, black pepper, and light leather.  Its right on the money at 13.5% alcohol, as you are not left with any hotness whatsoever.  It strikes me as a relatively unmanipulated wine, meaning it is a pure expression of what an Argentine Malbec should be, without excessive interference from oak or a meddling winemaker.  It just is.

malbec grapes. they look a lot like... grapes.

I’m trying desperately to come up with a superhero to compare this wine to, but I think that would be a bit of a reach, even for me.  Basically I saw X Men First Class this week and it was amazing, so all I can think about are superheroes.  Allow me to divert into a bit of a rant, if you would.  Up until last week I didn’t think there were people out there that legitimately think it’s okay to make fun of someone for liking the X Men movies.  I was called a loser, I was asked if I was going to get an X Men lunch box, and a slew of other insults were hurled at me by this person (ahem… Trevor).

Personally, I question anyone that cannot appreciate a good escape into fantasy.  I question their inability to enjoy things that are imaginative and fun and allow us a brief respite from our everyday lives.  How is this a bad thing?  It’s FUN to imagine a world where I don’t have to pay bills, return library books on time, vacuum up the never-ending amount of cat hair that coats my floors, or remember to change the air filter in my AC.  It would be much cooler if I could control metal, read people’s minds, fly, create hurricanes, or make myself look like anyone I want.  So go see X Men First Class.  It’s good.  And when you get home you can open a bottle of wine and contemplate what super powers you would want if superheroes were real.  This is a better use of time then watching a lot of the crap that’s on TV, in my opinion.

Okay, let’s change the subject.  Here’s a cute picture of Ricky’s beagle, Reggie:

She’s just chillin’ in the armchair.  She’s a very Zen sort of beagle.  I think she appreciates fantasy life.  And maybe even wine.

Alright that’s all I got for today.  Reunion Malbec is by the glass at Cellar on Greene for the forseeable future, and can of course be purchased to take home for $13 a bottle any old time you want!


Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda- zing!

If the Colonia Bonarda could make a noise, it would be “ZING!”  Why??  I’ll level with you, kiddies- this is probably the best $10 wine I’ve had this year.  I wouldn’t lie.  It really is.  Why should you listen to yours truly?  Like you need another reason?  Well, here’s one- remember when I freaked out about the Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja last year?  GUESS what was just rated … drumroll please… THE NUMBER ONE BEST BUY of 2010 by Wine Enthusiast?!  That’s right.  Never let it be said that I don’t know a killer bargain when I taste it.  Actually, quite a few wines that we’ve had at Cellar made it on to the list.  Okay, that’s enough horn-tooting for today.  Moving on to said Zing…

Why, you ask, am I imagining this wine saying “Zing?”  Because it is just screaming “In ya FACE!” or “BOOYA!”  but I think Zing is a much cooler way to say it.   I learned the term Zing a few years ago from my friend Greg, who was and still is a master of Zings.  For those of you who don’t know, a well-timed Zing is pretty priceless- if someone makes a stupid comment that you can quickly, succinctly and intelligently put down and then you smile and say “Zing!” you will never be the same. 

But back to the wine.  Quite simply, this wine is a badass.  So if other, more expensive wines are making fun of it because it’s only $10, it’s flamboyant fruit flavors just leap out with a giant ZING and put them in their place!  Juicy plums, dense dark blackberries and cassis, chocolate, licorice, black pepper and earthy spice.  This wine is unoaked, too, which I love.  It’s all fruit and spice and no flab whatsoever.  It has great tannic/acidic structure as well- just enough to give that pleasant “smack” in your mouth.  Pizza, pasta, burgers steaks, this wine is pretty much perfect for anything.   Here it is on it’s little display right when you walk in the door at Cellar on Greene:

And a closer look.  Note the sweet 87 point Wine Spectator Rating!  And of course, your old friend Opala there on the right…

Did you know that this past week, this wine was available as part of our $90 Mystery Case that we offer through wine club?  No?  well it was.  And still is!  You didn’t know it was possible to get a case of wine for less than $100 bucks?   Yup.  Here’s a brief plug, if I may: every week we send out an email with the $90 Mystery Case offering, plus any other fun and exciting new wines we’ve picked up recently that we’re just dying to tell you about.  If you want a Mystery Case, you pick five of the (around) 25 different choices that can make up the Mystery Case.  Then we fill in the other seven.  The grand total is $97.60, bringing the per bottle cost to $8.14 cents with tax.   How is this possible?  Is it schwag wine?  No!  I promise!  The fact is, because we’re a restaurant we can offer you better quality wines for the same price that you might pay at the Piggly Wiggly!  So stop, stop buying wine there!  Just take a chance and buy a case.  And as an added bonus, both myself and Ricky have freakish memories when it comes to what people like… so if you say hey guys, I really prefer dry whites… than chances are you will often find drier whites in your case.  And so on. 

Check out our website to see what else this week’s choices are.  Okay, end of shameless plug.  The Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda, 2008 Mendoza is currently being poured by the glass at Cellar, too!  So stop in for a glass sometime soon!  Oh and PS- the Borsao wines will be back in stock SOON, so keep your eyes peeled!

Crios Torrontes, 2009 Argentina

A brief apology for my lack of posts the past few weeks.  April was a busy month around Cellar with lots of catering going on, people going on vacation, and a host of other things to keep me occupied.  In particular- I was busy writing an article for May’s edition of undefined magazine! So keep a lookout for it- it’s my first time being published and I’m excited and a little apprehensive.  The theme of the column is “indulgence,” and I think it came out pretty well.

So this week’s pick!  A favorite of mine for years.  Another go-to summer crowd-pleasing wine from a very consistent Argentine producer, Crios- made by female winemaker extroidinaire Susana Balbo.

Susana has a pretty awesome story- after working as a winemaker and consultant for 25 years (among them Bodegas Catena Zapata), she founded, designed, and constructed the Dominio del Plata winery in 1999 with her husband.  The winery puts out several different labels- Ben Marco, Susana Balb0, Nosotros, and finally the Crios line, whose full name is Crios de Susana Balbo- meaning “offspring.”  The Crios wines are intended to be consumed young, as they offer a more lively and fruit-forward characteristic (and an awesome pricetag, to boot!) while her other “high end” offerings are definitely cellar-worthy.

I am partial to wines that are meant to be consumed now.  I like that they defy tradition a bit, challenging the old-world notion that good wine requires patience and reticence.  I have several bottles at my house (no, I don’t have a cellar or even a wine refrigerator, just a wine rack) that I intend to save- but sometimes I look at them and just think, when?  really, WHEN am I going to drink these?  I appreciate wines that carry the philosophy that NOW is the time.  Why wait?  Just do it.  Drink it.

So yes, with summer now poised to rear it’s muggy head, I think you should DRINK this Torrontes!  At $14 a bottle, you really can’t find a better expression of this great little grape.  Exquisitely fragrant, it smells like you’re sitting in the middle of a spring garden in full bloom.  Notes of spices and honey are fully present, too- and at Cellar we collectively decided that we get a distinct “white gummy bear” scent as well.  Everyone knows they are the best gummy bears.  With all that going on, you’d think it was a sweet wine, but in fact it’s a medium-bodied, slightly tangy taste you get, with great acidity and a slight dryness.  Awesome.

Jay Miller from The Wine Advocate gave this vintage a cool 90 points! And remember, it’s only $14 a bottle retail at Cellar.  We’re also pouring it by the glass, so you can cool off with a glass at any point without committing to a bottle.

I promise to get back on the once a week blogging track.  In closing, here is a picture of the first strawberry ripening on my strawberry plant!  Yup, I’ve managed not to kill it yet!

Happy summer, drink wine, eat strawberries!  Cheers!

Don Tiburcio Malbec- a “God among insects!”

Alright, I’m giving myself away, once again, as a huge Dork with a capital D.  While sipping on this wine, I was reminded of the scene in X2, where Magneto tells Pyro he is a “God among insects.  Never let anyone tell you different.”  You might think I am overstating the case just a TAD, considering that we’re only talking about wine.  You would be wrong.  Although I am, at times, prone to exaggeration when it comes to a wine I really enjoy- not. this. time.  !!!

The reason the “insect” part came to mind is because there really are a lot of “insects” when it comes to this price range in South American Wines, in my opinion.  I am too frequently underwhelmed with your average $12- $14 Malbec or Cabernet from South America.  Stylistically, they may just not be my preference, which is fine- but in general I find them too “hot” as some would say.  They try too hard.  Not all of them- granted, I have had a TON of wonderful wine from South America… but for my money, I’d usually rather drink a $14 Spanish red.  Like the Atteca Grenache, for example.  So, whether you think I’m right or not, allow my aforementioned opinion to illustrate just how GOOD this wine is!!


The Wine Advocate gave Don Tiburcio (2005, Mendoza) a cool 90 points!  Need I say more?  This stuff is good, y’all.  It’s not all Malbec-  it has Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab in it as well.  Very cool blend.  It’s an extremely expressive wine- it has a lot going on right away, but I also noticed that it became even more expressive after it had been open for an hour or so.  I get a lot of clove and cinnamon on the nose, followed by a nice amount of licorice.  Took me a while to identify the licorice… I kept saying to myself, “It’s something I don’t really like in real life, but I like it right now…”  Licorice.  It has nice freshness, too- black cherries, blueberries, and also a little mocha.  You might think it sounds like a heavy wine, but once in the mouth it has a very pleasant touch of dryness that makes you smack your tounge against the roof of your mouth and say “Damn!”  Or maybe that’s just me… only time will tell. 

We’ll have this wine at the wine sale at Cellar on Greene this Saturday (Sept 12th) for $14.  I know there is a lot going on thie Saturday, especially in the Vista, but please stop in and try this before the Vista thing gets going at 2!  I will plan your perfect Saturday for you- go to the Farmer’s Market at 701 Whaley, then come to the Wine Sale from 12-2, stop in at the Gourmet Shop’s tasting that goes from 2-5, and then make your way to the Vista.  You don’t need to get there right at 2.  It will be a marathon of eating and drinking and fun!  Then you’ll probably need a nap, but I’ll leave that up to you.  Who knew there was SO MUCH fun to be had in Columbia that doesn’t involve FOOTBALL?!  That’s all I am going to say in regards to football this week… I can’t even go there.  See everyone on Saturday!