Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cooking: Red Truck Wine

I don't think anyone would ever confuse me for a 'picky' wine drinker. Only once can I remember loathing a bottle so much that I actually poured it down the drain: a particularly atrocious and vinegary red that I couldn't even bear to use in tomato sauce. Occasionally I find myself present at a dinner where a sample of some $50+ bottle of wine finds its way into my glass. (Yay verily, it is good to know folks with expense accounts. Yay.) But really, I'm quite happy sticking to the top half (ok, top quarter) of the wine list, and I find myself pretty happy with everything in that range. For reds, I like syrahs, Chiantis, and Merlot. For whites, I go for pinot grigio and pinot gris. My standby red is Yellow Tale Shiraz (retails at about $7), and my go-to white is Grigio Luna (retails at about $5.50). In my opinion, these are good, solid, dependable wines that are always good in a pinch.

But then a few weeks ago, something happened that caused my hand pause, hovering uncertainly, on its familiar course toward the Yellow Tail and my eye wander nervously toward the rows of neighboring wines. I had come across a blog called "The Cellar Rat" by Alan Baker: a blog discussing all things wine-related wherein he finds nothing shameful in picking from the top of the wine list and enjoying a bottle for $10. He says as long as you enjoy it, drink it. On his blog and in his podcasts*, he documents his exploration of the wine-making industry from the vine to the bottle. Baker worked in broadcasting in Minnesota for years, and then about two years ago, decided he was in need of a life change and moved to California wine country to explore the wild and gnarly world of wine making. He worked at a vineyard for a season and is currently experimenting with bottling his own "Rat Cellar" wine. His blog and podcasts include everything from explanations of the wine making process and wine vocab for the layman, coverage of local wine-tasting events, interviews with wine-makers, and of course his own opinions on various wines. Baker's blog (with links to his podcasts) is http://www.cellarrat.org (or click HERE). Since I started listening to his podcasts, I feel like I've been given permission to go forth and sample, dismissing that which is gross, and happily collecting that which I like.

On a recent trek to Trader Joe's, I picked up a bottle of Red Truck 2004 California Red Wine for $7.99. I'd heard this wine recommended a few times over on Chowhound.com, but hadn't tried it because I'd previously assumed that blended-grape wines were "uncool." I have no idea where I got that impression, but with my new found, Cellar Rat-inspired confidence, I didn't even hesitate before putting a bottle in my cart. Now, I'll tell ya, rarely do I open a bottle of wine, take a sip, and actually stop to say, "Wow." This stuff was good! It's a blended Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Mourvedre. It's dark and berried, but with none of the bite or acidity that I tend to associate with many dark red wines. This is a wine meant to be drunk from a tea cup and is perfect for an evening wrapped in a blanket with a good book. It would likely pair well with red meat, spicy foods, and a chocolate dessert, though I unabashedly admit that I've been drinking it by itself all evening!

I like this new freedom of wine choice.
I'm hooked now, I'm afraid. What to do but sample more wine?

*If you're asking yourself, "Podcasts? What the heck are podcasts?" you're not alone. Apparently these things have been around for the past several years, but who knew? I've only discovered them recently myself and am still trying to master all the Cool Kid Slang so that I don't sound like a big McDork when I talk to all the Cool Kids. Essentially (and as far as I can tell), podcasts are radio shows that you can download to your computer or mp3 player and listen to whenever you feel like it. They're generally free and, much like websites and blogs, anyone and your mother can produce one and make it available for downloading with some basic electronic equipment. Check out the National Public Radio website (click HERE) and the New York Times website (click HERE) for some nationally syndicated ones.

1 comment:

Dominique said...

I absolutely love Yellow Tail, a good standard to have around. The Shiraz was my first love of their's but you have to try the blended bottle of Shiraz-Cabernet (purple bottle)I have recently become a BIG fan of blended wine, but have yet to try Red Truck, I had no idea it was a blended wine! If you are ever in the mood for a $15-17 bottle (a big treat for us, or dinner at the boss's, etc.) try and find Meditrina by Sokol Blosser (a local winery out here). It is the best wine I have ever had and a blended wine.
Happy Sipping!