Boxed Wine Part 2: Carlo Rossi Founders Oak, Pepperwood & more!

UPDATE 4/15/13: Lots of people recently landed here wondering whether Carlo Rossi Founders Oak and Carlo Rossi Founders Blend were the same wines so I emailed Kelly Conrad, my contact at EJ Gallo, to find out. She wrote me back to say:

We recently changed the package from Founders Oak to Founders Blend—there was NO change to the wine. Research showed “oak” tended to be a polarizing word, even though most people enjoy the benefits of oak. Hope this helps and please reach out if you have any additional questions.

In part two of this two part post about boxed wines which I highly recommend for camping trips like Burning Man (or just to have around because they last so long and have a much smaller carbon footprint!) I review Carlo Rossi Founder’s Oak merlot and cab, chardonnays from Vella, Turning Leaf and Pepperwood Grove’s Big Green Box, as well as Pepperwood’s pinot grigio, cab, and old vine zin.

If my grandpa was around today, he’d be keeping Carlo Rossi boxed wine in his cellar.

How do I know this? Because there are still gallon jugs of Carlo Rossi in the cellar–and my grandfather died in 1997!

I think my grandmother would like the golden delicious apple sweetness of the Carlo Rossi chardonnay and my grandfather would enjoy either the soft round fruity (cherry and plum) merlot or the more oaky and vegetal (bell pepper) qualities of the cabernet. The color of both are similar but there’s no confusing the two if you give them a sniff!

These are simple wines that will please most people and when you’re camping, sometimes you want to just keep it simple. The chardonnay would be good with appetizers (I liked it best with sea salt pita chips) and the reds work great with BBQ–tritip, ribs, you name it. These are all 5 liter boxes which is almost 7 bottles of wine!

Learn more about Carlo Rossi (the man and the wine!)

I also sampled two more boxed chardonnay–Vella and Turning Leaf. Out of all these boxed wines, I expected the most out of Turning Leaf and yes, it seems like the same wine that’s in the bottle is in the bag! So if you like Turning Leaf in the bottle, for camping, parties, Burning Man or just to have a wine around that will keep for a month or more, try Turning Leaf in a bag. It’s got that same oaky California chardonnay taste and mouthfeel.

The Vella chardonnay is a favorite of my sister-in-law–it has nice fruit but it’s golden delicious sweet not as sweet as the Carlo Rossi and it has a little more body and heft to it and some tropical fruit but it’s still lighter than the Turning Leaf.

Finally, in the chardonnay department, I liked the Pepperwood Grove Big Green Box. I mean I really liked it. Like Turning Leaf, this is the same wine that you find in the bottle in your grocery store but in a box which means you save green (money) big time AND you go green big time (have a smaller carbon footprint.) I tried it with a lot of different meals and it worked with chicken, fish, appetizers, and more. It’s very easy to enjoy!

Out of all the Pepperwood Grove boxed wines, my husband really liked the Pinot Grigio. When I’d open a bottle of something else to sample and offer to pour him a glass, he’d tell me he was just fine with that pinot grigio. This is high praise for a man who usually has a beer or two in the evenings! So if you’re looking for a wine that your typical beer drinker in your camp might enjoy, try the Big Green Box Pinot Grigio.

I sampled two reds from Pepperwood Grove also: Old Vine Zin and Cabernet. Read more about how much we loved the Old Vine Zin here. The cabernet is good–balanced and with lots of cherry fruit but honestly, I love zin and I think the zin is an excellent value. The Pepperwood Grove wines retail at about $20 a 3 liter box containing four bottles of wine.

Thanks for the samples, ya’ll! I’ll have all but the Pepperwood Grove out on the playa for you to taste! To find out where, stop by Playa Info –we might be there–or they’ll have info about where we are tasting!

Boxed Wine Reviews & Pairings Part 1: Offerings from Octavin & Trader Joe’s

At 12:01am early Monday morning August 29, 2011, the gates to Black Rock City, home of the Burning Man Festival, will open, and some 50,000 people will pour in before the Festival ends on Monday September 5.

Which means that this weekend and in the coming week as people pack and prepare for camping on the playa , 40-50,000 people are buying copious amounts of alcoholic beverages.

Labor Day weekend is also a very popular time to go camping–it’s the last three day weekend of summer and summer weather!

To help my favorite winos with decisions about what to bring whether camping at Burning Man, mountains, lake or beach, I have 11 (that’s ELEVEN) boxed/bag in box/bag wines sitting on my counter which have tasted and I am ready and willing to share my expertise with you! From Octavin, I have a German riesling, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a red wine blend from Spain, and a Pinot Noir from France. From Carlo Rossi Founder’s Oak, I have a Merlot, a Cabernet, and a Chardonnay plus Chardonnays from Vella and Turning Leaf. Finally, from Trader Joe’s, I have a Chardonnay and an Australian shiraz.  And since boxed wine keeps for a month or more, I will be bringing these wines to Burning Man for you to taste too! I’ll also say a few words about Pepperwood Grove’s Big Green Box Wine.

I first realized how brilliant boxed wines are for outdoor adventures last November when I received four Big Green Box wines from  Pepperwood Grove and  I took the Old Vine Zin camping.

Boxed wines are really perfect for camping expeditions at Burning Man or elsewhere–they won’t break, you can use them for pillows, and when they’re empty they collapse down into nothing –or fill the bag inside with water, put it in the sun and then use the water for washing dishes or bathing!

In part one of this two part post, I’ll discuss the bag in box offerings from Octavin and Trader Joe’s; part 2 will include Big Green Box and Carlo Rossi Founder’s Oak.

And yes I am bringing these wines out to the playa so YOU can taste them! Check in at PLaya Info–we’ll be doing some tastings there most afternoons around 3-5pm. I’ll also post where and when we’ll be tasting.

Octavin R. Muller “Rabbit” Riesling from Germany

This “medium sweet” wine is best nice and cold (which will be a challenge on the playa!) It would pair well with a cheese plate before or after dinner or with various Asian or Indian spicy stir fries; it was great with a peanut satay sauce, chicken, and vegetables. Light, fresh and aromatic of fresh peaches and pears, it was fermented in stainless steel. Very pleasant, not too complex, slightly metallic finish. 3L box = 4 bottles of wine in the box for $24 or about $6 a bottle. A great value.

Octavin Silver Birch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

I really think think this NZ Sauvignon Blanc is an exceptional value. I really like NZ sauvignon blanc in general and I would definitely buy this wine and keep it in the fridge for those lunches or dinners when I’m having a salad and just want a small glass of wine with it. Do not taste it after the riesling though–it brings out a little too much of the gooseberry! Lots of bright citrus–lime, grapefruit– and green apple with a hint of nectarine. Here’s another post about this NZ Sauv Blanc and me. At Burning Man or at home, I’d pair this with salads as well as pesto and pasta (and raw oysters!) $24 for 3L (4 bottles). Continue reading

Th. Sept 1: Celebrate Sep-Tempranillo or Cabernet? Or Both? Here’s How!

You’d think there were enough days in the year to devote one day per varietal or style or region or…but as recent events have shown, I guess there’s not.

For example, Ed Thralls claimed August 18 for #pinotsmackdown and Thirsty Girl claimed it for “pink” port. (And yes, I would have participated in both events, thank you both very much for the invitations, except my port didn’t arrive in time!)

Now, September 1, the Tempranillo folks are horning in on Cabernet Day!

For most people, it will be easy to participate in Cabernet Day. I’d bet it’s the most common and well known kind of wine around. You can register here (it’s free!) and learn more about participants and participating wineries but you don’t have to.

Tempranillo might seem a bit more “exotic” than cabernet sauvignon but according to The TAPAS Society, Tempranillo, which is indigenous to Spain and used in Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, is planted in 500,000 acres of the world’s vineyards making it the fourth planted varietal in the world. While most of it is grown in Spain,  Tempranillo is grown in the United States, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, France, Portugal, Turkey, Canada, China, Thailand, and more.

Personally, I’ll be at the Burning Man Festival, Black Rock City Nevada, doing my part to celebrate both days! I might be at the Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro or playa info in center camp but easiest might be just celebrating at the Black Rock Cellar since that’s where I’ll be storing the wine! Continue reading

Black Rock Wine Cellar Gifts Playa Storage

Back again in 2011 is the Black Rock Wine Cellar where you can store your wines and protect them from the insanely hot Black Rock Desert! According to Jack Rabbit, the BLACK ROCK WINE CELLAR IS GIFTING WINE STORAGE!

Wineaux writes: “The Black Rock Wine Cellar is once again opening its subterranean wine storage facility for public use.  If you have a precious bottle or two you would like to store in our refrigerated facility, swing on by and speak to our sommelier.  In addition to storage, we look forward to hosting the occasional tasting, in which we share some of our special selections.  Check out our chalk board at The Cellar for tasting dates and times.  And if you would like to participate in any capacity, please don’t hesitate to contact us.” Wineaux and DanO BlackrockcellarATgmailDOTcom

Read on to learn more…

Wine Weds: Where I'd like to be tasting wine today--the Black Rock Wine Cellar The annual Black Rock Arts Festival aka Burning Man is currently a huge happening out in the Nevada Desert northeast of Reno. And that’s where I’d like to be this Wine Wednesday, tasting and talking wine at the Black Rock Wine Cellar centrally located on the Esplanade and 7:30 near center camp.It would also be a super fun place to participate in tomorrow’s Cabernet Day organized by Rick Bakas. This is the team that’s putting it together: Lucifer … Read More

via Wine Predator

Happy 99th Birthday, Julia Child! Celebrate with some wine with dinner tonight!

Today, August 15, 2011 would have been Julia Child’s 99th birthday. To honor Julia, and her various accomplishments,  wine writer and educator Rosina Wilson suggests we all make this “Drink Wine with Dinner” day. And I certainly applaud that idea!  According to Rosina,

 “For decades, Julia Child showed America how natural and enjoyable it is to drink wine with dinner. What better reasons could there be for creating a day of joy and feasting ~ in Julia’s honor, and on her birthday!”

“Until now,” Rosina said in a press release, “there has been no official celebration to bring wine to the table. “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day will unite like-minded people throughout the world who love wine, love food, and love how much each can enhance the other.”

 How can YOU take part in  “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day? It’s easy!

No special fancy menu. You don’t have to make anything French or from a Julia Child recipe. Rosina assures us that “it doesn’t matter *what* you plan, as long as it involves wine, food, and people. It can be an upscale dinner at a restaurant or winery, with a different wine for each course. Or it can be a down-home backyard barbecue with friends, and a favorite value-priced bottle or two.”

Since my husband came home with ground turkey so we could grill up some burgers, and since I LOVE zinfandel with turkey and turkey burgers (with creamed blue cheese, arugula, and heirloom tomatoes plus corn on the cob!), I pulled a bottle of 2007 Eberle from the cellar; it’s 50%from  Steinbeck and 50% Wine-Bush (and 100% Paso Robles!) At 15.9%, it’s a little big for a midweek wine; we’ll have to pace ourselves and stick to one glass–each! I just opened it to write a bit about it so it’s still a bit closed but it’s still a classic zinfandel full of brambly fruit character going on–lots of blackberry on the nose, some raspberry,a little rose petal, and it explodes with sweet fruit on the palate with a nice berry and caramel finish. With that high alcohol, you’ll want to keep this wine cool, possibly even chilling it. Plastic cork (shame!). Retail:  $24 at the winery.

Looking for an inexpensive zin to pick up at the grocery store next time you’re getting the ingredients for turkey burgers? How about organic Bonterra, around $10? We had it the other night and it reminded me how much I love zinfandel’s spicey, brambley nature. Or try sustainable Redwood Creek, under $10. I had some last fall with turkey burgers and I was really pleased with the wine for the price; it was so wonderful with the turkey that we had the same wine and meal two nights in a row! For that summer BBQ at the beach with a bunch of people, check out Old Vine Zin in The Big Green Box; it’s really good and you don’t have to worry about spills or what to do with open bottles of wine! (Note the Redwood Creek and Big Green Box wines I received as samples, but if they weren’t worth drinking at their price point, I wouldn’t tell you about them!)

Rosina invites everyone to take part in “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day on or around August 15th. To publicize *your* plans, simply email Rosina ~ at ~ with details about your event or menu. If you include wine-friendly recipes, Rosina will credit you.

“Each of us is spreading the word about “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day in our own way, with a big ripple effect,” Rosina comments. “I like to think of it as a semi-planned, semi-spontaneous, international ‘flash mob’ of food and wine lovers, springing up on August 15th and celebrating “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day in dozens, hundreds, or thousands of locales around the planet. Mainstream America deserves to know the pleasures of wine with dinner. And it’s finally time for us to catch up with the rest of the world!”

Learn more about  “Drink Wine With Dinner” Day at Rosina’s site.

Dianne Jacob at WordCamp SF 2011: how to have a killer food blog

So last night I was at Meteor’s new release party in Napa. (More on that later–wow a night! What wines! Pictured is the tree where we watched the meteors and the moon and enjoyed desserts!)

And today? I’m at WordCampSF 2011 in San Francisco listening to Dianne Jacob, food blogger, and a blogging coach for food bloggers.

And I’m blogging about it here for you because I know many of my wine readers are also very interested in food. Personally, it’s all about the food AND the wine together that makes big magic for me!)

Dianne Jacob promises the share the 10 things you need to know to become a well-known food blogger including how to write a recipe, how to become part of the community, get comments, take food photos, etc. She’ll show examples of WordPress food blogs and explain why they succeed. (Who’s Dianne Jacob? Scroll down to the bottom!)

1. Tell moving stories around food.

Tell good stories like David Leibovitz. Tell a story period! Otherwise people don’t care–about you, your brand, your blog. Your recipe is only a recipe, information. Tell a story.

2. Shoot gorgeous photos.

Check out Delicious Days to see some examples. Crop your photos. Use repeated patterns. Study art and use the techniques of the great artists. Your iPhone may not do the job. (Speaking of, I better take a shot of Dianne! And I wish I had some pictures of those amazing sliders from last night at Meteor…the food was so wonderful! Yum! Okay, back to Dianne…)

3. Learn how to style food.

Avoid shadows–use white poster board to reflect the light.

It’s not enough to be a great writer to have a successful food blog–you have to also offer great photography.

4. Take process photos. Continue reading

Octavin Sauv Blanc Goes to See the Beach Boys at Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park

Last night we decided to take a picnic to to see the Beach Boys at the Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park Grandstand.

(Actually, the Beach Boys were playing at the Fair inside the Fairgrounds–we planned to watch from the beach outside the Fairgrounds as you can see from the accompanying photo!)

We packed up a dinner of Trader Joe’s beet and chicken salad (supplemented with more greens, tomatoes from our garden and pine nuts), TJs chicken wine country salad, pita bread, humous, home made pasta salad with roasted vegetables, carrot sticks and sharp cheddar cheese.  has claimed August as “Pinot Grigio” month with this site (and a new wine to spotlight each month in the works), I thought we’d start celebrating with a sample of a 2010 Italian Pinot Grigio, Attems, that I thought would be a good match with the chicken. I pulled the plastic cork as we were packing up, tasting it to make sure it was good and to take a few tasting notes on it for a blog post. Mmn, good! Melon…honeysuckle…tropical fruit…rich…nice!

But when I went to pack it in my pannier with the rest of the picnic and our plastic GoVino glasses, I wondered if I was making the right choice. Was the glass bottle going to break or spill? I probably shouldn’t have opened it first. I thought about how there were going to be four adults–was there going to be enough?

I opened the refrigerator and there was a Silver Birch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Octavin sample sitting there in the fridge where my husband put it when it arrived the other day.

Hmmn, I thought to myself–I wonder if this Octavin wine is good enough to bring to share with friends, one who has a discerning palate? It’s certainly portable. It wouldn’t get knocked over and spilled. There would be plenty–the box holds the equivalent of four bottles. But was it heavy? Actually, no–and the size is quite compact.

I opened it by pushing in the cardboard, pulling out the nozzle, giving it a twist and out came the wine in a squirt. It certainly had familiar New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc characteristics: very pale in color, lots of bright citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime) in the nose, fresh and crisp on the palate (can you say citrus and green apple?), almost sharp, with a clean finish and 13% alcohol. There isn’t a whole lot of complexity here but that’s okay! This is a picnic at a concert! You can find it just about anywhere in its distinctive turquoise 8 sided box for around $20. (I know–it’s amazing how inexpensive good wine can be when it’s not in an expensive bottle!)

So that’s how a box of Octavin NZ Sauvignon Blanc got into my pannier while the pinot grigio went in the fridge for another day! Off we rode on our bikes along the beach path to see the Beach Boys at the Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park Grandstand where it pleased my friends (if not my husband–he’s a bigger pinot grigio fan than a sauv blanc fan!)

Since all four of us last night who tasted it are long time Burners, the Octavin Sauv Blanc will definitely go on my list of recommended wines for Burning Man! More reviews of wines for Burning Man to follow!  You can see that the Octavin is right at home on the bumper of a rental truck!

As much fun as our picnic was last night, tonight we’ve got a chicken roasting on the barbeque and we’re staying home for dinner–we’ve got a date with that bottle of Attems pinot grigio! (Review soon!) Then we’re riding our bikes over to the Fairgrounds with some other Burner friends and their kids to watch REO Speedwagon at 7:30pm.

Yep, that’s us–we just roll with the changes! For the full line-up and the skinny on fair entertainment, read on…

The Ventura County Fair every year offers “free” Grandstand Entertainment with your $12 paid admission to the Fair! But even better, if you’ve had your fill of the fair and you don’t want to pay $12 just for the “free” entertainment, you can ride your bike along the beach bike trail and find a spot where you can hear the concert and even watch it on the jumbotron which is wh … Read More

via art predator