As I am in the throws of Bears fever, I have relied on my slow cooker for convenient and hearty meals the last couple of weeks. Chili, beef stew, sausage and beans, pot roast – you get the picture. So, I recently grabbed a few inexpensive reds at the Clybourn Ave Cost Co that were suprisingly tasty for their price. You might enjoy them too. All ranged from $11-13.
Alderbrook Old Vine Zinfandel 2002 (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma CA)
While there is no real “benchmark” for Zinfandel, if I had to choose one – it would be the Dry Creek style. Equal parts raspberry jam and black pepper are the norm in this enclave of Sonoma, but this Alderbrook has an unlikely softness and acidity to boot. Berry tones are definitely dominant, but this little beauty has suprising restraint and class for an old vine Zin. The 2003 is available from the winery, but this 2002 is not at all tired or showing signs of oxidation.
Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2005 (Contra Costa County)
While “old vines” or “ancient vines” or otherwise elderly vine terminology is not regulated in the US, this cuvee comes from 80-100 year old Zin vines that certainly qualify for truth in advertising. Bigger and flashier than the Alderbrook, but in no way hot or out of balance. I loved the dark cherry jam, currant, and cocoa notes in this vintage with a hint of clove – or even allspice.
St. Francis Red 2003 (Sonoma County)
This is definitely a love it or hate it style and I fall squarely in the “love it” camp, but often qualify my approval with a guilty pleasure disclaimer. Honestly, if you don’t like new American oak and lots of it, you won’t like anything from St. Francis. But if you’re a sucker for that slick, polished mouthfeel with a creamy vanilla finish; you’ll be hooked. The key to avoiding the 2×4 impression, is to have plenty of super ripe fruit to balance out the powerful new oak flavors. In my opinion, St. Francis has it in spades. Yep – if you love black cherry and milk chocolate flavors in suculent Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels, run out and git yousef a few from St. Francis right quick. But be warned, they’re not exactly inexpensive. If you’d rather check out this booty shakin style on the cheap, try a bottle of their humbly named Red Wine. Its a funky blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. While most winery gift shop stuff is cheesey, I really kind of dig their poker night gift box.
So there you have it. A few hearty reds to take the chill off without breaking the bank.
P.S. Cost Co is also one of the only places you can buy the Mike Ditka Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in town. They’re mostly impressive only in Da Coach’s involvement, but they are tasty enough and well worth the novelty appeal at your Superbowl party. GO BEARS!!!!!