Tag Archives: wine review

Arizona Stronghold – Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala”

Cost: Average price $25

Where buy now: Vinifera – $24.99

Grapes: Arizona Stronghold: Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala”

Region: Cochise County, Arizona

Vintage: 2009

Arizona Stronghold Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently saw the documentary, “Blood Into Wine”, www.bloodintowine.com/Blood Into Wine the story of wine makers pioneering the terroir of northern Arizona (most notably, Maynard Keenan, front man for bands such as Tool and A Perfect Circle). A real triumph of man vs. nature, these guys attempt to coax the finicky climate into producing consistent, quality vino. Intrigued, I decided I needed this wine.

The winery, named Caduceus, lists but one, yes, ONE Minnesota shop on their website who carries their wine. Where did this city gal venture to sample this precious nectar? Vinifera, located on the Plymouth/Wayzata border, about 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. Sexy Wayzata, home of Brandon and Brenda Walsh!

As I walk in to this cute shop, I am greeted by a sweet golden retriever just milling about. I soon met the owner, Christian, and we chatted about “Blood into Wine”. He explained that all Caduceus wine has been taken off the retail shelves and is only available from the tasting room in Arizona. Boo-urns! Thankfully, he did have four bottles from the Arizona Stronghold winery (a joint venture between Mr. Tool & Eric Glomski). The Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay are solely produced from Arizona-born grapes, and they also make two blends (a red and a white) from Napa Valley grapes. Well, the curiosity of the AZ grape is what brought me there, so I went for the Cab. At $24.99, this was steep for my wallet, but I had to roll the dice. Was this wine worth the price AND the drive?

Later that evening, I inspect the bottle. I cannot believe I’m going to crack a $25 bottle of wine on a Monday night. Who am I? I work for a non-profit for rice lakes! I gingerly open it and pour a glass, letting it breathe for about 10 minutes while I prepared a quick spinach salad with red onion, gorgonzola dolce cheese, tomatoes and vinaigrette. I sat down and stuck my nose in the glass for good whiff of this Arizona swill. I smelled cherry, mild spice and chocolate [dare I say even a little earth? This could the documentary’s influence]. The taste was all Cab – fuller bodied, dark red fruit with undertones of chocolate and spice. It paired quite well with the gorgonzola. I like this creamy gorgonzola dolce [sweet gorgonzola] found at Lund’s, Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, etc. (the fancy-pants joints).

After the salad, I just had to grab some dark chocolate to complete the evening. I recently bought some 65% cacao dark chocolate (on sale at Kowalski’s), so into my face it went. I let the chocolate melt a little before dropping in for another whiff. Oh, yeah – now the chocolate scent was pronounced. I continued to let the square shrink on my tongue as melty chocolate ribbons oozed down my throat. “Now it’s time!” I thought. I took a sip of the Stronghold and sat back, my eyes rolling. “Wow!” I thought, “I may do this every Monday”. My only criticism of the wine is that I wished it had a longer finish. So delicious, I wanted the flavor to hang out a little more in my mouth. What’s the rush, man? Chill. Stay a while.

Was my jaunt out to Wayzata/Plymouth worth it? Hells yes! I wished I hadn’t gone over my lunch hour because I would have perused the shelves. Christian remarked that 80% of their wines are Californian, but they do carry wines from all over the world. I’ll keep these guys in my back pocket as I saw they carry wines I haven’t seen outside Sonoma! If you live in the Western suburbs, add this stop to your weekend or nightly errands.

March is here and that means inconsistent and often times, crappy winter weather. Here’s my suggestion for a decadent evening: Stop over to Vinifera www.viniferawinesandales.com/Vinifera and pick up a bottle of the Arizona Stronghold Cabernet, rent “Blood into Wine” and pick up some good dark chocolate. Nestle into the couch with your goodies and relax. It’ll be like Mr. Roger’s “Picture Picture” for adults.

Bodegas San Valero – Manyana

Cost: Average price $6-$7

Where buy now: Haskell’s – $4.99

Grapes: Tempranillo

Region: Carinena, Spain

Vintage: 2010

Bodegas San Valero Manyana

It truly does not get more bang-for-buck than this $4.99 beaut’. Simply put: 100% Tempranillo wine; dark, ruby red in color, with smells of cherries, smoke, maybe a hint of plum. A little fruity, but with a hint of oaky spice, the taste is pleasant and mild. The finish doesn’t last long but, really, who cares? It’s $4.99. (You get an entire 750mL bottle for $4.99.)

If you aren’t a huge wine drinker, pick this up. If you are a huge wine drinker, and you are reading this during liquor store hours, leave now. [Did I mention the $4.99 price tag?] Perhaps it’s just the 2010 vintage, but this sucker goes down easy like a Sunday morning.

This is quite a versatile, medium-bodied red that would go well with typical Minnesota meat and potatoes fare. It would also go well with ribs, pork chops, or tacos. You could enjoy it with some tapas such as olives, almonds and Spanish Serrano ham (Trader Joe’s Serrano would pair nicely on a budget). Or, here’s a great movie snack: a bottle of $4.99 Manyana, a bag of Sweet Potato tortilla chips (on sale at Cub Foods for $2 and change), and mango salsa.

I insisted my husband try this wine immediately after he walked in the door that evening. I’m sure he was thinking “Ah, another cheap wine. Glory.” He took a few sips, and gave me an atypical “what is this?!?!?”. I told him it was $4.99. His next question was “Can we buy a case?” He NEVER asks if we can buy a case. If you didn’t catch this factoid earlier, Manyana Tempranillo costs $4.99.

You are welcome.

Domaine l’Enclos

Cost: Average price $10

Where buy now: Haskell’s – $7.99

Grapes: Blend – Colombard & Ugni Blanc

Region: Gascogne [Gascony], France

Vintage: 2009


Domaine l'Enclos Colombard & Ugni Blanc
Domaine l’Enclos Colombard & Ugni Blanc

While doing some online homework, I noticed Haskell’s had a bitchin’ sale cooking, so I shimmied down to the Downtown MPLS location over lunch hour. New to the store, and staring down a serious list of wines, I felt overwhelmed. Thankfully, my, nay, OUR new BFF Andy approached me. He appeared calm, educated, and ready to lead me into battle.

Then, I shamefully dropped the “B” bomb. Yep, B-L-O-G. I came clean to Andy about The Savvy Lush.com – he was the first liquor store person I’d ever told. As it turns out, when you tell one of “them” you write a wine blog, the floodgates open. He explained how Haskell’s is especially known for French wine. I was there seeking a budget Cali Zin, but “This is good”, I thought- I could learn some about French wine.

He pointed me to a Bordeaux for under $10. I bought it. I inquired about Tempranillos, and he led me to his go-to. I bought it. The white wine I saw online for super awesome sale was out of stock, so I asked him to recommend one. Guess what?

This week’s white hails from Gascogne (or “Gascony” to us Americans), in Southwestern France near Northern Spain. They’re known for “Armagnac”, a brandy named for the region. It is distilled from a wine blend, using Colombard and Ugni Blanc grapes. Andy didn’t have to say more- they make a mild cognac from this! Into the basket it went.

I begrudgingly returned to work, chomping at the bit to get outta there. At 4:58 PM, I raced home. Upon arrival, I tossed the dog out, flung off my shoes and methodically unsheathed each wine from the silky, green Haskell’s tote. I snatched some brie from the fridge (I know, brie should be eaten at room temperature- sue me) and unscrewed the cap, the first poured drops sending tingles where the sun don’t shine. After a quick swirl, it (the wine) started to open up, begging to be sniffed. It popped but in a light, crisp way with an aroma reminding me of lemon, faint lime and grassy scents. I took a measured sip- my nose had not led me astray. This is a dry white wine but is alive with hints of refreshing citrus. I took a bite of brie and then another sip. Wow.


My only regret is that I was home alone. No one to share these remarkable tastes with, nor to stop me from becoming pregnant full of wine and cheese. Words cannot express how much I recommend this wine, and it‘s right cheap right now at Haskell’s ($7.99?!?!?).