Category Archives: Wine

Wine Review: Winc Wine Subscription

April 18, 2017

Winc Subscription Wine Review | Alyssa Pacaut

Today we have something new. First, I’ll be reviewing three wines instead of the usual one. Second, the wines are not from Trader Joe’s. I repeat these wine bottles are NOT from Trader Joe’s.

Yup, I ordered some wine from Winc, a wine subscription service that’s exploded in popularity over the last year or so. If you haven’t heard of them, then you’d probably recognize them since their bottles have cute labels with clever names that are regularly ‘grammed and snapped.

Signing up was easy. After creating an account, you take a quick quiz about your tastes. This helps Winc suggest a few wines that may enjoy.

Though the Alyssa of years passed was into full-flavored wines, my palette has become a bit more refined. So, I ignored most of their suggestions for intense Cabs and tarty whites, and went for three reds that are more on the delicate side.

Did the wine live up to the hype? Read on for a review of each wine and then my final thoughts on the Winc subscription as a whole.

To Be Honest Wine Review | Alyssa Pacaut

Wine: To Be Honest Red Blend
Region: California
Retailer: Winc
Price: $13.00

Full disclosure: I got this wine because Matt Bellassai is a lush who cracks me up with his videos of sassy complaints and hilarious musings on everyday life. He partnered with Winc to make this red blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Grenache.

The wine has a light color in the glass with little-to-no legs. Its nose is earthy with a slight whiff of tobacco and strawberry. Smoky strawberries, right? Sounds gross but smells yum.

While I expected something super fruity, this baby turned out to be peppery, spicy, and earthy. Others on the internets found this wine to be an easy drinker, but I personally found it too dry.

Perhaps it’s better for chugging just like Bellassai does in his videos? You could also aerate it a bit to take off some of the edge.

Nouvelle Ère Wine Review | Alyssa Pacaut

Wine: Nouvelle Ère Red Blend
Region: France
Retailer: Winc
Price: $13.00

Next up is a red blend from France that is 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. I got it because, well, France. Though from the old world, it is made by a winemaker in Bordeaux who is shaking up the wine making process and aging his wine in steel barrels. Hence the name Nouvelle Ère, which translates into new era.

Similar to the To Be Honest wine, this one has a light color that is slightly darker and more burgundy. One whiff conjures up the sweet cola smell of a can of Coke, but there is a sour note on the edge.

Taste-wise, it is semi-dry with hints of pepper and red fruits like strawberries and cherries. Thanks to the steel aging, there is no oaky intensity but it’s definitely mineral forward. Or better put, you can really taste the terroir.

All that said, I found it delightful and easy to drink.

Scarlet Smack Wine Review | Alyssa Pacaut

Wine: Scarlet Smack Zinfandel
Region: California
Retailer: Winc
Price: $13.00

Okay fine, I choose this wine because I loved the label. That minimalist Jagger-esque mouth had me hook, line, and sinker.

Light wines were apparently a theme because this one is also faint in the glass but with an earthier color. The nose has a fruity tang like sour cherries or bunch of red Sour Patch Kids.

But the taste, oh the taste! One swig revealed a delightfully light and fruity taste that I couldn’t quite place. Cherry? No. Berry? No, it was something more unique like pomegranate or one of the those fruits with the gnarly shape that vegan bloggers love.

Whatever it was, I want more and would totally reorder this wine again and again (and again). Also, you apparently can judge a wine by it’s label because this was my favorite wine AND design. Boom, wine lesson lived and learned.

Review on Winc Subscription

As a whole, the Winc subscription is definitely worth a try. The sign up process is fun (always been a sucker for a quiz) and I loved scrolling through all the different bottles. Plus, each package comes with a well-written and well-designed mini magazine about wine.

One downside is the delivery process. You have to be home to sign for the package since they can’t deliver alcohol without the signature of someone 21 or older. Though I’m glad this prevents the local youth from stealing my wine, it was a little annoying to reroute the packed to the nearest Fed Ex and pick it up later.

Though the wine is high quality and I really liked two of the three bottles, the price is a bit steep for our budget. We usually spend about $6 to $10 a bottle unless it’s a fancy pants occasion and then we’ll spend up to $15 a bottle. Most of the Winc bottles are listed at $13, but with the added cost of shipping they probably average out at $15 or $16 a pop.

Would I do it again? Sure, I’m down to order a few bottles every once in a while when I want to try something new, get a cute bottle as a gift for a friend, or get my fancy pants on. However, my Winc subscription is on currently on pause and our next batch of wine will likely come from Trader Joe’s. If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, right?

P.S. Music to play while you wine and dine and a fave rosé from Trader Joe’s.

Wine Review: G. Chevalier Sauternes

January 24, 2017

Wine Review: G. Chevalier Sauternes |

Wine: G. Chevalier Sauternes
Region: California
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $12.99

I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as our friend recounted the first time he drank a Sauternes. It was a lazy afternoon in France and the local winemaker had poured some of the sweet liquid into a halved, fragrant melon. He almost shed a tear as he explained the perfect pairing and how delicious it tasted.

My first experience with a Sauternes was quite different. First, it was the middle of winter. Second, we were in good ole Southern California. Third, this affordable Sauternes from Trader Joe’s was served at the beginning of the meal along with foie gras and toast points. The only similarity in our stories was the sweet, delicious taste of the wine.

The nose of the G. Chevalier Sauternes starts off with a sweetness of honey dew melon and, well, honey. There is also a light citrus note at the end of the inhale that is more orange-like than lemony.

When drinking, it’s very caramel-forward with notes of melon, apricot, and pineapple. Though sweet, it’s not cloy and the syrup-like flavor adds to it’s smooth qualities. You may even notice a bit of funk on the backend, which is likely from the famous botrytis of 2011 when this wine was made. Google “noble rot” and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In regards to food pairing, a Sauternes is surprisingly versatile. It can go the sweet route with desserts like a creamy custard or carmelized stone fruits over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heck, you can even drink it as the dessert itself.

Savory-wise, foie gras is a classic pairing and oh-so-française. Otherwise, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Choose a creamy pasta, strong cheeses (i.e. Roquefort or blue cheese), cured meats and ham, or any creature of the sea from oysters to crab, shrimp, and lobster. Fried foods like fried chicken and panko-crusted porks chops also pair well.

P.S. More ways to be oh-so-française at the dinner table and some great cheeses at Trader Joe’s.

Wine Review: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve

October 19, 2016

Good Cheap Wine: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve |

Wine: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve
Region: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $6.99

One perk of marrying a Frenchman is that you now have a mini sommelier with you at all times.

I love to watch the monsieur choose wine. He’ll stand in the aisle staring at all the bottles and I can practically see him rifling through all the folders in his brain full of info about different regions, grape varietals, and more. This Côtes du Rhône was a product of one of our recent trips to Trader Joe’s and quickly became a favorite.

Though a Côtes du Rhône can be a blend of up to 23 grapes, this one is a traditional “GSM blend” meaning it comes from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. It results in an herbal, earthy nose. Tastes are subtle yet strong with hints of red fruits. There is also something spicy and almost peppery there too. On a final tasting note, the finish is dry and long in a good way.

You can pair this wine with practically anything. Our friends just poured a Côtes du Rhône along with roasted chicken and a pumpkin side dish. It was heavenly. You can also serve it with roasted lamb, your Thanksgiving turkey, or a cheese and charcuterie board.

It’s versatile enough to serve alongside Northern African dishes, Mediterranean food, stirfry, or even pizza (yes pizza!). Overall, it’s an easygoing wine that goes down easy, which is just how we like it in laidback Southern California.

P.S. Another laidback wine for lazy days and a pinot noir IN A CAN.

Wine Review: Espiral Vinho Verde

August 2, 2016

Wine Review: Espiral Vinho Verde |

Wine: Espiral Vinho Verde
Region: Portugal
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $4.49

There is something about drinking a cold glass of wine on a hot summer day. For a while now, it’s been all yes way rosé at our home, but last week a friend brought over this bottle of vinho verde and now we have a contender for best wine of the summer.

The Espiral Vinho Verde is a white wine with a light, pale yellow color. It smells of straight up, full-on citrus with a very faint mineral note on the edge. Taste-wise, it opens with a burst of tart, green apple and then eventually mellows out to a honeydew melon that’s just sweet enough.

Notice all the references to green fruit? Well, that’s partly because vinho verde is Portuguese for green wine. However, the name doesn’t reference the color of the wine and instead refers to the fact that these wines are bottled super young. As a result, they are ever-so-slightly effervescent and do a little dance on your tongue.

With something so bright and refreshing, it’s no surprise that this wine goes well with the summer food like grilled chicken, pasta salads, spicy seafood dishes, and citrus-infused ceviche. You could also go Mediterranean with your food pairing and serve with a chorizo sausage appetizer or saffron-heavy paella.

Most importantly, be sure to chill the heck outta this baby. Plunge it into an ice bath or chill it in your freezer for 30-40 minutes. That way, you’ll take one sip and forget that the words “heat wave” ever existed.

P.S. How to say tipsy in French and a great red for those who aren’t into white wines.

Wine Review: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé

June 14, 2016

Wine Review: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé |

Wine: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé
Region: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $6.99

A couple weeks back we went to a fancy pants party along the California coast. All the women wore pastel dresses, the men were in loafers, and there were a million bottles of rosé in silver ice buckets.

At one point we escaped from the party and walked down to the beach. We sipped rosé from our glasses and watched the sun set over the crashing waves as we thought to ourselves, “This is the life.”

While we can’t afford the wine from the party, this budget-friendly rosé is a great replacement. The first sniff is full-on strawberries, which perfectly matches the light-pink color. But that’s where the sweetness stops. The taste is bright and acidic with a mellow hint of something fruity on the back end. It’s not very complex or layered, but shouldn’t a summer wine be easy and breezy anyways?

For me, the best pairings for rosé are a hot day and ice to keep it super cold. However, if you’re really looking for foods to complement it, then look no further than your typical summer BBQ fare. The dryness of the wine goes well with salty potato chips, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Food from a French-style barbeque would also taste good with this refreshing rosé. Try it with thin slivers of saucisson sec as an appetizer or for the main course with grilled veggies, pork sausages, or a tomato tart with a creamy, cheese base.

Above all, enjoy this light-hearted drink and let it be a reminder of the best of summer i.e. hot days, long nights, and good times with good friends.

P.S. Another awesome rosé and the five best cheeses at Trader Joe’s.

Wine Review: Underwood Pinot Noir in a Can

May 17, 2016

Wine Review: Underwood Pinot Noir in a Can |

Wine: Underwood Pinot Noir in a Can
Region: Oregon
Retailer: Silverlake Wine via Union Wine Company
Price: $6.99 per can*

Like most people, I drank a lot of beer in college with friends. We drank it in cans, we drank it in red cups, and, most importantly, we drank it often.

That’s probably why there is a certain novelty in drinking wine from a can. It makes you yearn for the days you “studied” at the beach and danced reggae until four in the morning. You may even get nostalgic for a frat party or two.

At first sip, this wine has a lot of bite for a pinot noir. You get hit with a spicy, cola flavor that eventually mellows out into a chocolate-like, cherry taste (kind of like a cherry cordial).** It’s pretty easy to drink, but that’s probably because the wine comes from a can and it’s so easy to sip from one of these things.

The taste may not blow your mind, but in frat boy terms this pinot noir is “solid bro.” And really, the best part about this wine is that you can drink it anywhere. It’s perfect for your next picnic, camping trip, BBQ, or wherever a tote-able beverage is a plus. So pull back that tab, get your cheers on, and enjoy!

* Each can contains 375 milliliters of wine, which is just half of what you typically find in a bottle.

** You may be wondering if it tastes like the can. I’m happy to report that there is no metallic taste at all. Praise modern science!

Wine Review: Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc

February 16, 2016

Wine Review: Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc |

Wine: Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc
Region: Paso Robles
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $6.99

True story: This blog post almost didn’t get published. See, the entire wine review was composed in my head and I sat down to write it, but then I made the big mistake of doing a quick Google search. Surely, I thought, there must be legions of other winos who love this Cabernet Franc as much as I do.

Ehhhhh (buzzer noise), wrong! Turns out a lot of fancy pants folks really hate this wine and I can’t really figure out why. It’s light, berry-forward with a slight touch of pepper, and goes down easy. Actually, it goes down so easily that I couldn’t keep a bottle in our wine cabinet long enough to take a photo during the day.*

The first rule about Wine Club: Talk about the wines you love no matter what other people think. The second rule about Wine Club: Seek out the Trader Joe’s wine guy.** Rob at our local Joe’s asked me a few questions about my taste in wine and then suggested three new bottles that were all within our budget. This one was the front-runner but his other picks will be getting reviews soon.

This bottle is a daily drinker or as Arnaud says, “It’s a great table wine.” You can pretty much drink it with anything: Pizza, pasta, pulled pork, roasted lamb, or any dish with meat. It also pairs well with light appetizers, vegetarian dishes, and hearty salads. Or take a cue from the lady on the label and sip it while laying about on a lazy afternoon. I promise you’ll love it no matter what.

* Seriously, it took me six weeks to take a photo and I had to practically lock it away to stop us from drinking it.

** Oui oui, I know I should just change this series to Trader Joe’s Wine Review. I’ll review a bottle from another store next time!

Wine Review: Magistrate Merlot

November 10, 2015

Wine Review: Magistrate Merlot |

Wine: Magistrate Merlot
Region: Paso Robles
Retailer: Ralphs
Price: $19.99*

Now that fall has finally arrived, we’re bidding adieu to the crisp white wines and rosés of the summer and saying bonjour to the hearty reds. This merlot perfectly fits the bill.

On the nose, it’s a berry explosion with a bit of spice. It also smells like my childhood because my parents were big merlot drinkers and would always bust out a bottle on fancy occasions. Though they would serve us Martinelli’s, I knew that the purple stuff was where it was at so I would pester them incessantly until they let me take a sip.

Apparently, this was a hint of what was to come. A foray into zee future. Some foreshadowing in the novel of my life…but I digress. No surprise that the first taste hits you with berries, specifically cherries and blackberries. It’s sweet with some wine reviewers even reporting notes of chocolate and toffee, but the dryness of the wine helps balance it out.

A punchy, flavor-filled wine like this deserves something equally solid. Meat loaf, lasagna, or pasta with red sauces are all fine choices and also happen to be the foods of my childhood. Beef in any shape or form also works well (i.e. steak in a red wine sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, and even burgers).

* Listed at this price but Ralphs always has a sale so I actually got it for under $13.

Wine Review: Maison Louis Latour “Duet” Chardonnay Viognier

September 15, 2015

Wine Review: Maison Louis Latour “Duet” Chardonnay Viognier |

Wine: Maison Louis Latour “Duet” Chardonnay Viognier
Country: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $9.99

Labor day has come and gone but the summer is still blazing here in Southern California. Though rosé continues to be a constant presence at our dinner table, we’ve been mixing it up with some white wines like the Maison Louis Latour “Duet”. It’s a blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% viognier from Burgundy, France.

One sniff and you could be transported to our backyard. Imagine that we just mowed the lawn (ahhhh, freshly cut grass) and you’re taking in the smell of our lemon tree. This smell is fresh and cooling, and somehow making you feel like it’s nice 70 ºF out instead of friggin’ 97 ºF with Florida-like humidity.

At first taste it’s slightly acidic and dry with lots of citrus and floral notes. Then you taste something bold; it’s almost like butterscotch but not that sweet. It reminds you of those dried apricots where all the sugars have caramelized so that it’s kind of moist, rich, and oh-so-buttery (aka like one of nature’s gummy bears).

Food-wise, you could pair this white blend with something creamy like a simple Caesar salad with grilled chicken or a white fish with a butter-based sauce. Pasta dishes also come to mind; I’ve been dying to try this rigatoni pasta dish that uses both lemon juice and lemon zest in addition to this saffron pappardelle. Enjoy, and cheers!

Wine Review: Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé

July 7, 2015

Wine Review: Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé |

Wine: Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé
Country: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $5.99

It’s officially summer in Southern California, and the only antidote to this perpetual heat is an ice-cold glass of rosé. My bottle of choice this summer is the Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé. Crisp-tasting and more dry than sweet (a big plus in my book!), this good cheap wine goes for about $6 at Trader Joe’s.

A few sniffs before drinking the wine reveals some strawberry and citrus notes, almost like a strawberry lemonade. On the mouth, it has a light raspberry taste with hints of watermelon and another blast of citrus. It’s a bit acidic at first but finishes round. In two words, it’s delightful and refreshing.

Since rosé is like summer water (just ask the girls over at Yes Way Rosé), it tends to go well with typical summer dishes such as a salade niçoise, grilled chicken or pork, or a picnic-style meal of charcuterie, bread, and a young chevre cheese. You could also do as the French do and serve it on pizza night, or go wild and pair it with something spicy like an Indian or Thai curry.

Whatever you do, be sure to serve it while the temps are high (i.e. when rosé tastes the best) and with good company around. À votre santé!