A Simple Evening, A Busy Kitchen and Value-Priced Reds

The counter bar here at The Kitten was adorned with tea lights, three wines were uncorked, three long-stemmed glasses awaited the wines, and music from our Pandora playlist filled the air. A tasting, just for the two of us, of value-priced reds. What more could we ask for on a Friday evening at home? Perhaps some take-out food so we wouldn’t have to cook? Oh, yes, we had that, too.

Our teenagers, who are adept at keeping us humble, bantered nearby, calling out amusing adjectives as suggested wine descriptors. They have watched us taste so many times over the years that they can do a Saturday Night Live worthy parody at the drop of a hat. Our youngest used to swirl her apple juice in her sippy cup, take a loud gurgling sip that could rival the most accomplished sommelier, and make confident pronouncements like, “somewhat apple-y with a finish of tart apple-like fruit.” Coming from a four-year-old, we were amused. Given this history, we are quite accustomed to humorous irreverence, and the busy kitchen banter seemed a perfect accompaniment to our tasting.

Since we write often about mid to higher end wines, many of which are hard to find as they are made in small quantities by small wineries, we decided we should give a little attention to “everyday” wines. So I trekked to our local wine shop which is conveniently called The Wine Shop. We love things with self-explanatory names. After all, we named our cat, Cat, for goodness sakes.

Tyler at The Wine Shop had no problem finding a number of intriguing wines that fit my request for full-bodied reds under $15 that would be readily available anywhere. Because of some very nice sale prices, I paid about $10 to $13 per bottle. Of course, I bought a few extra because everything Tyler described sounded so good.

Our chosen line-up  included: Sallier de la Tour 2009 Nero D’Avola from Sicily; Los Vascos 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Colchagua, Chile; Cellar Piñol’s 2010 Ludovicus from the Terra Alta domain in Catalonia, Spain. Like our chosen wines, our chosen take-out food was an eclectic combination, as well, including cheese pizza and a smorgasbord of spicy Indian dishes.

Nero D’Avola is an Italian grape that Tyler said would be comparable in flavor to a Cab/Syrah blend. Wine Enthusiast calls the Sallier de la Tour line “one of Sicily’s best price values.” The color was medium red with a purple tinge, looking a bit more like a Cotes-du-Rhone in the glass than a Cab/Syrah. To us, it had aromas of damp wood and spice. The flavor was delightfully fuller than the color would suggest, and pleasantly balanced with hints of tart cherry and woody-earth. We found it quite a nice complement to both our pizza and, interestingly, the Indian food, as well.

The Los Vascos Cabernet has the distinguished pedigree of coming from Baron de Rothschild’s wine empire (the same one that makes the legendary Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Bordeaux which sells for well over $1,000 a bottle.)  Tyler noted that the Chilean vineyards of the Los Vascos Cab began as “practice vineyards” in which the Rothschild’s experimented. The color of the wine was deeper and more garnet than the Nero D’Avola. We found aromas of earth and dark fruit. Kip noted chocolate covered raspberries and cinnamon on the nose, as well. Nicely structured and balanced, with flavors that echoed the aromas. While not as complex as some Cabs, we were impressed with how food friendly and versatile it was, sipping surprisingly well with the spices in the Indian food.

The Ludovicus was dubbed by Tyler as “The Everything Wine” because it has such an extensive list of grapes in the blend: 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Cariñena (a.k.a. Carignon), 15% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot. Impressive! We found the color a deep burgundy and the aroma filled with raisins and red licorice. Smooth on the tongue, flavors of black fruit, and nicely balanced, with tartness and a bit of spice on the back end of the sip. Kip also detected red and black licorice flavors, as well. We found this wine to be particularly awesome with the pizza, but it, too, paired nicely with the Indian food, also.

We gave a thumbs up to all three wines and found ourselves marveling gratefully at how much fun can be had in a simple evening at home. It took very little effort to make take-out food at the kitchen counter into an entertaining evening, accentuated by the playful commentary of our teenage observers.

So, this week we toast to taking a little time to make something ordinary feel extra-ordinary and to allowing space for good-natured irreverence, which reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and to keep the focus on fun. Cheers!

7 replies »

  1. Dear TK – so into the Nero D’Avola! the excellent sommelier at this great place we stayed in Puglia (Masseria San Domenico) turned us on to them. said they were the “poor man’s Amarone”, and we found that to be true. liked hearing about the various commenters in the kitchen, and can only imagine the teens making (somewhat deserved :) fun of the perpetually thirsty kitten and tom cat. luv 2 u!

  2. We always enjoy tidbits from your Italy trip and the great wine suggestions you picked up there! We’ll be exploring the Nero D’Avola more now after this acquaintance. Perhaps our next foray will be into the small wineries of Italy. Love back to you! And cheers!

  3. Hey kitten! I was going to write a glowing comment professing my adoration for this review, but alas, you did not include any French wines! Being the franco-snob that I am, I must regretfully decline to make any comments about your wonderful writing style, your playful idea for a tasting, or your keen ability to help me ‘taste’ the wine through your keen perceptions and elegant prose.

    Better luck next time, I guess…

  4. Oh, Cyclist, dear Drunken Cyclist, you’ve got us motivated now. We’re going to be on those French wines in a heartbeat. Um, but actually, on second thought, you cover them so well already, it will save us a lot of time if we just read your blog and buy what you tell us is good! Cheers!

  5. Good choices. I am always intrigued by the Nero d’Avolas, never quite sure how much I like them, though…you should give the Cusumano Nero d’Avola a try sometime. I agree on the Los Vascos: pretty versatile.

  6. Hello, The Winegetter! Very nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping at The Kitten. We hadn’t paid much attention to Nero d’Avola until now, but are intrigued. From your comment, sounds like they can vary a bit. We’ll look out for the Cusumano. By the way, we stopped by your blog and enjoyed the story of how you got your blog name. Cheers!

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