2002 Monte Xanic Calixa Cabernet Sauvingon
We picked this bottle up in duty-free on our way back from our recent trip to Mexico. I was in favor of using some of our "leftover" pesos to pick up whatever good wine was available, regardless of country, but Christina successfully lobbied for a Mexican wine. I was fairly skeptical -- who has ever heard of Mexican wine? As it turned out, Calixa is Monte Xanic's "affordable" line -- most of their wine is much higher-end than we'd consider buying at this point.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable Cab.
2001 Hardys Nottage Hill Shiraz
I got this wine because of how much we enjoyed their other Shiraz (which I think is technically their "Stamp of Australia" label). This was $2 more (although it ended up being the same because of a coupon that probably shouldn't have applied), so I thought it might be even better. It was very enjoyable paired with some Chinese food, but I can't say it was better. Speaking of Chinese food, does anybody know any way in advance of knowing whether a dish is going to have broccoli in it? I lost about 1/2 the mass of my food to broccoli that I had to pick out.
2001 Pietro Barbera
We had avoided this bottle for a while -- we felt that since we had bought it we had learned more about wine, and wouldn't have bought such a "cheap" bottle of wine. We were pleasantly surprised. It was definitely a lot lighter than we were used to -- which is good, since we've tended to buy heavier wines that are better paired with heavier foods. Since we're trying to eat lighter, it seems like a good idea to find some lighter wines. It's harder because we don't really like whites, and whites go better with lighter food.
We kept this lesson in mind last Sunday night when we went out to Galileo for Christina's birthday. It was Restaurant Week, where they offered a three-course menu for a reduced price. I figured we could splurge on some wine. (Well, not totally splurge -- they had four-figure prices on some of the wines.) I ordered a Barbera-Merlot-something else blend, which looked interesting. They brought a different bottle of Barbera; they said they were out of what we ordered. They said this was a good wine at the same price, and the winemaker's son was working at the restaurant for a couple weeks, so we could give him a piece of our mind if we disagreed. It was a nice wine, but the whole experience was kind of odd -- I'd expect a nice restaurant to come back, apologize and ask us to make another selection, but maybe service slips during Restaurant Week. It was definitely a heavier Barbera than the "cheap" one we had had at home.
1998 Le Lodole "Super Tuscan"
I mentioned this bottle in an earlier post. It's the most expensive bottle we've tried in our wine drinking at home. It wasn't necessarily better than all of the less expensive bottles we've had, but I feel like we took less of a chance of getting a "clunker" by spending a little more (and choosing carefully).
2001 Don Sebastiani & Sons Smoking Loon Syrah
This wine featured in an incident we around the Grantham house refer to as "The Great Fire of London Broil". I was assisting Christina in making London Broil. One trick we've learned is to use the wine you're serving in the recipe to tie the food to the wine. Unfortunately, we didn't have the requisite time to marinate the steak, so instead of draining the marinade, we left it on the steak while cooking. Also unfortunately, our top rack lies a little closer to the heating element than is probably the case in more modern ovens. More alcohol on the food + closer to the heat = steak on fire. Fortunately, Christina was able to put out the fire with no real damage to the food.
The steak was delicious, and paired well with the Syrah. Christina enjoyed the Syrah perhaps a bit more than the Hardys Shiraz (Shiraz is Australian for "Syrah"); I probably prefered the Hardys. I'd say the Hardys was "fruitier" and the Smoking Loon was "earthier", and I prefer wines in the former category.
We have been discussing whether there's wines we'd like to keep on hand, or whether we want to keep getting new ones each time. I think we're going to stock a bottle or two of this along with a bottle or two of the Columbia Crest Semillon (since we have a hard time finding whites we'll drink) soon.