Cheap Cali Reds at Cost Co

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!!!!!



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5 responses to “Cheap Cali Reds at Cost Co

  1. Nice notes! I wish we had a CostCo nearby – all we have in that category is a Sam’s Club. Not bad prices on wine (though not a huge selection, unfortunately). I’m a huge Zin fan, and I’ll try to hunt down these selections locally. The Cline sounds particularly intriguing.

    We’re about midway between Chicago and Indy, and local NFL fans are about evenly split. Being a Tennessee Volunteer, though, I’ve got to go with Peyton and say, “Go Colts!” 😉

  2. Thanks BWG! I have many pals who are Colts fans and I definitely admit to a celebrity crush on Peyton. (How funny is he in the MasterCard ads!) The Cline is a great value and I highly recommend it. If you like the style of the Ancient Vines, maybe splurge on one of their reserve wines. Mmmmm 🙂

  3. Bart Williams


    Love the notes on Zin, but alas am stuck with Renwood. Which is good, but not inspiring. I have a question to ask — unrelated. I was recently tasting some Chablis versus Aussie Unoaked, and the producer of the Aussie said that it was actually a blend. There was 90% chardonnay and 40% malolactic fermentation. Which made me completely forget the wine, but made me wonder, could only 40% of a wine have undergone malolactic fermentation. I thought once underway, well, it’s like being a little bit pregnant. The sample was too appley for my taste, but does this mean that there is a practice of mixing malolactic fermented and once fermented chardonnay together. I was confused, as no doubt the rep was. please help me.


  4. Wow! I’m so proud of how far you’ve come in your wine geekdom :).

    As I understand it, a batch of wine can go through a bit of malolactic fermentation or completely or anywhere in between. In this case, yes – you can be a little bit pregnant.

    The basics are:
    Malic acid is naturally present in wine. It is often desireable for a winemaker to convert some or all of this malic acid to lactic acid, or “malolactic fermentation”. (This is in not related to the regular fermentation of sugar to alcohol.)

    Malolactic fermentation results in a wine that is lower in acidity or “softer” and particularly suited to Chardonnay. It can also release something called diacetyl that has a characteristic “buttery” smell.

    Malolactic fermentation used to happen naturally in the cellars of Burgundy and such. In order for ML to occur, the juice has to be at a somewhat warmish temperature and lactic bacteria must be present. This process used to occur in the Spring as temperatures rose naturally in the cellars. Depending on the temperature of the juice, the Ph, and the amount of lactic bacteria present, some or all of the malic acid would be converted to lactic acid and release some CO2. In particularly cool years, the percentage of the wine that went through malo would be lower.

    Nowadays, winemakers can specifically induce or stop malolactic fermentation by controlling the temperature of the must and the juice and/or adding lactic bacteria at the appropriate time.

    And yes, I suppose you could blend juice that had gone through malo with juice that had not. As long as you blended them in a container that was free of lactic bacteria and kept the temperature cold enough to prohibit the conversion from taking place. I’m guessing you could then “cold stabilize” the wine so that there would be no worry of the ML starting up again in the bottle once it arrived in retail stores at a warmer temperature.

    Again, this is basic conjecture. I’d have to consuult one of my winemaker buddies to really confirm this and would welcome any enologist (or someone smarter than me!) to confirm, clarify, or correct any part of this post.

    Thanks for my favorite nerd question of the week!

    Cheers to you my friend,

  5. MRA

    I’m a big fan of the Oakley Terrior so I picked up the Cline for that reason.

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