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

Part 2: Global #Zinfandel Day–AUS Glaymond & Paso Robles Bianchi

To celebrate Global #Zinfandel Day, I decided to open something special, something unusual–something from Australia to toast the 47th birthday of my Australian friend and fellow blogger Paul Squires who had a heart attack and died July 28, two days before my mother died of heart failure.

Paul was one of my strongest supporters as a blogger, as a writer, and as a poet. He was my online buddy with whom I could plot and scheme and strategize. We shared links and ideas and gave each other feedback on many elements of social media and writing.

So when I realized that Global #Zinfandel was his birthday, I knew I’d be drinking one of the two Australian zinfandels in the cellar my grandfather built, wines that Grateful Palate founder Dan Phillips selected for me at one of his warehouse sales.

It was a toss-up between Continue reading

How Will You Zin for Global #Zin Day?

I went to the cellar and what did I see?
Bianchi Zen Zinfandel staring at me!

Glaymond Zinfandel also I see:
Barossa Valley 2003!
I was tempted by Rusden 2003
but 2 zins from 2 continents

seemed enough
the hubby’s lamb
on the grill
tender not tough!

Rhyming pomes
just aren’t my thing
but these zinfandels inspire
trying to make it all ring

I give up–I may be a poet but I am not into rhyming! Tomorrow I’ll get up a more serious post about the wines I’m tasting for Global #zinfandel day. In the meantime, check out my twitter feed.

And let me know if you want to go with me to Bianchi Winery to meet winemaker Tom Lane! The zin is a delight; I can only imagine the wonderfulness of the PS sample they sent also! Thanks Bianchi–this will be fun!

WBW #66 & SHF #62: Lillypilly Noble Blend Paired with Chai Apple Galette

Here’s the truth: If I’d known how incredibly wonderful, how complex, how fascinating this Lillypilly 2002 Noble Blend was going to be, I wouldn’t have been so selfish and opened it tonight for Wine Blogging Wednesday #66, , hosted by Jennifer Hamilton, The Domestic Goddess who asked us to think about dessert FIRST. Read her blog post,  Your Tenderest Twosome.

I also wouldn’t have opened it had I known it would cost me $40 to replace it–if I could find it at all. (I do admit I have a 2006 which has a $13 price tag).

I should have suspected it would be outstanding. After all, I bought it at a Grateful Palate Imports Warehouse Sale on the advice of Dan Phillips, and just about everything I’ve had from those sales has wowed me.

This wine was the 12th and last bottle of a case that Dan Phillips, owner of the Grateful Palate, helped me pick out. I had said I wanted something sweet but not too sweet, that I liked ports but wanted something a little different, maybe something white. Dan said he knew exactly the wine for me: it wasn’t out on display, as part of the sale, so he sent Tim Coles to find a bottle for me in the back.

Tim came out with a Lillypilly 2002 Noble Blend. I don’t remember exactly how much Dan charged me for it; I do remember thinking it was a little more than I wanted to spend for a 375 ml bottle of a wine I knew nothing about except his recommendation (and at that time, I knew nothing about what his recommendation meant!) My guess is I paid around $15 because if it had been more than $20, I would have said no, and if it was less than $10 I wouldn’t have batted an eye.

But before I get more deeply into the wine, let me address some of the parameters of the prompt. Jennifer argues that while most meals end with a dessert and coffee or a dessert wine, the pairing often comes as an after thought, without as much care as the rest of the meal.

Obviously she’s never been to dinner at our house! We like dessert, we like ports, we like late harvest wines, and recently, I’ve discovered fine sherries and madeiras. Not only are we fond of dessert, but I love to bake and create simple, easy yet memorable desserts.

I was definitely up for the challenge and devoted a significant portion of my day to shopping and preparing our meal and dessert.


Although I wasn’t sure what the wine would be like, when I went to figure out my menu, I hoped it might be similar to Bonny Doon’s 2008 Vinferno, a blend of grenache blanc and rousanne, which I adore–and not just because of the name!

I suspected it would be interesting with Continue reading

Wine Blogging Wednesday #66 Meet Sugar High Fridays

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday host, Jennifer Hamilton of The Domestic Goddess offers a first dual event between WBW and Sugar High Friday which has been going almost as long as WBW: 66 months vs 62.

The Domestic Goddess suggests the following theme: Your Tenderest Twosome:

“Most meals end with dessert and coffee or a glass of liqueur. The focus on the meal is long since gone, as is the wine. Guests are getting sleepy, hosts are getting antsy about the clean-up ahead of them and no one is paying attention to what they’re eating or drinking anymore. I think this is shameful. Every once in a while, dessert deserves the attention given to a main course…

The proper pairing of a sugary confection with a good wine is a difficult thing to maneuver. I have seen it done a few times in restaurants, once or twice at dinner parties and maybe done it once myself – and I almost certainly managed it by accident. Do you go sweeter with the wine than the dessert or match it? Do you go red or white or ice? Do you try to harmonize regions or go completely off the map (so to speak) with your choice…?

Shf_logo You have the chance to decide all this and more for yourself this month with the first ever joint SHF-WBW Dessert-Wine Pairing Event! All bloggers (food, wine or otherwise) are welcome to participate. Post your entry on Wednesday, February 24.”

So what will I taste and write about? You know I love my ports…and I just received a bottle of Twisted Oak Pig Stai in a recent wine shipment. And then there’s that bottle of Kachina Port on the shelf that I got at the Wine Bloggers Conference. But I have a few other ideas up my sleeve…like a 2002 or a 2006 Lillypilly Noble Blend from AUS which I picked up at Grateful Palate Warehouse sales on the advice of owner Dan Phillips and would be a new wine and a new winery for me. Or I could go with a familiar and local winery, Old Creek Ranch Winery, and try their ice wine, a typed of wine I’ve never had before.

So what will I be in the mood for? Something familiar? or something brand new? Guess now I need to do some research in the dessert department to figure out what I want to pair with what!

Thanks, Jennifer, for offering us a challenge!

More Wine & Music: KCRW iPhone ap & 6 Bottle Grateful Palate Grab Bag

Writes Grateful Palate’s Dan Phillips of his 6 Bottle Grab Bag for $50:

Six bottles of wine (my choice). Adult signature required for shipping. An additional fee of $4.25 will be added.

The combo that always causes hysteria! We choose the wines from our warehouse. You get six bottle of wine that The Grateful Palate imports. Some shockingly amazingly high quality wines seem to find their way into our Grab Bags – so don’t settle for just one. Note: adult signature required when you receive the shipment and we can only ship wines to States where it is permissible. Call us if you are unsure of your states laws.

Knowing the condition of Dan’s warehouse after several warehouse sales, I’d say this one’s a go for it steal of the day! I’m betting it will include some super close-out deals of wines that they no longer import or the tail end of a case that they don’t want to mess with anymore. My bet is he’s going to give you some great wines at a great price knowing you’ll come back for more!

And what soundtrack might you choose to enjoy with your Grateful Palate wine? The soundtrack to 15 years of my life in SoCal is KCRW–the public radio station out of Santa Monica City College that I’m obsessed with! And now that they have an iPhone ap, I never have to leave home without it–even when I’m traveling by bicycle or out of the station’s reach or away from an internet connection!

This KCRW iPhone ap is absolutely the best news I’ve had since the good times on the Santacon ride Friday! The only bad news is it’s not free–which it should be for us subscribers! Yep, it’s .99. Here are the details:

KCRW Listen to KCRW with our brand-new iPhone app. Listen Live, On Demand, and Be Tuned-In to events around town!

BTW, here’s the info on Today’s Top Tune: KCRW Today’s Top Tune is Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens with “Trouble in My Way.” Get the FREE song-a-day at

WBW #55 Round-Up Report by Remy

Wine Blogging WednesdayMarch’s host Remy Charest writes:

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South – a bipolar roundup

It’s always fascinating to see the many ways people can interpret a proposition. So what did the participants in the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday make of this idea of confronting North vs South?

From Michigan Riesling to Tasmania Pinot Noir, from Spanish Garnacha to Tennessee Chambourcin, there sure were a lot of possible pairings (and threesomes, and foursomes) put together by the 33 participants who took up the challenge.

Here’s the Vino V White Hawk syrah I compared with hazyblur’s Adelaide Plaines. For how other wines fared, check out Remy’s Round-Up including other shiraz/syrah pairings and more here.

Rumor has it next month will be KOSHER wines! Find out more here. Whoo hoo!! I just happen to live a few miles away from HERZOG, which makes buckets of kosher wine! Perfect excuse to get over there and do some serious tasting!