Friday, October 9, 2015

Nevada City Winery

My best friend joined our 40th spin around the sun on Monday. We've been friends for about 15,225,600,000 miles around that gaseous mess (give or take 400 million), so this is not an insignificant milestone.

Our significant partners and we went out to the Long Dream Farm outside of Lincoln, Ca, which meant we spent our morning with cows in the middle of their milking, and the dogs ran all over, imagining they were wild farm dogs (despite their diminutive stature).

As is our way, we set to work getting drunk in the classiest way possible: by going to a winery.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), Monday and Tuesday seem to be religious holidays for wineries, so [insert huge sad face here]. Except Nevada City Winery.

Not only did they welcome us on a Tuesday, they even allowed our wild farm dogs (granted, our dogs both weigh a total of 35 lbs, so they're basically cat-sized, with more personality).

If they served us urine in glasses, that alone would be enough to garner a two and a half star review... But they actually served us Excellent Wines. The Alpenglow Blush is literally the only blush I have ever enjoyed, in all meanings of the word "blush." And although my usual mainstay Merlot was kinda meh, the Petit Syrah was... We all agreed... Jammy. But not in a bad "ew, what is this jam in my mouth?" kind of way. In an actual "omg, please can I have only jam this forever?" kind of way.

Ultimately, the Petit Syrah wasn't selected to be our Serious Birthday Porterhouse Steak Dinner wine, but only because it was conquered in appropriateness by the Nevada City Winery Barbera.

And that was a great choice.

Nothing quite matches a good steak like a bold wine. I'm not a wineologist, and I didn't even minor in it (I was a vodka academic), but in my immediate (and trustworthy, since you're reading this blog) appraisal, we could not have selected a more superior wine for Teresa's birthday dinner.

I would be lame if I didn't mention we also picked up their Chardonnay and Alpenglow blush. Which I finished a bit ago. Because NO WINE LEFT BEHIND.

I've heard comedians refer to there being "no such thing as leftover cocaine," and I feel the same about wine. There's just no excuse for that kind of negligence.*

So yeah, Nevada City Winery gets five stars all-around.

* that said, last time I visited my co-blogger Rachel, I left a glass or two of white wine in a bottle... But there's no such thing as wasting wine by just leaving an incomplete bottle at a friend's house. It won't go to waste.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Times That Wine Tried to Kill Rachel, Part I: No More Big Girl Glass

Sometimes friends fight, even best friends.

Wine and I are pretty tight, but every once in awhile, my buddy vino tries to kill me. I would like to share these assassination attempts as cautionary tales titled "Times That Wine Tried to Kill Me".

Wine may treat you really well most of the time, but I'm warning your back.

My first installment of "Times That Wine Tried to Kill Me" will recall the time wine slit my wrist and almost got me 5150'd as a suicide attempt, leaving me with quite possibly the weirdest and stupidest scar you've ever seen.

If you're good at anatomy, you know what fascia is. If you've asked someone to pull yours out of your arm because you don't know what it is? You'll remember, because it will be burned into your soul. It looks like a rubber band.

It is not. It is part of your arm. For fucksake DO NOT PULL ON IT.

A lot of people find it a little weird that I always use the same plastic wine glass every time I imbibe. Sometimes I even bring it places, but when I'm camping I usually just drink out of the bottle. (What? I pee in the woods too, it's not like you have to be even remotely civilized when you're camping. If I have to crouch behind a rock and wipe with leaves, I can swig out of a bottle.) I used to only use it when I was outside drink-gardening, but now it's a constant.
The glass of shame.

So why don't I use an actual adult wine glass? Because I'm not allowed, ever again, under strict orders from these ladies, Heather and Shannon.
These ladies aren't the bosses of me! Just kidding. They are.

These ladies are two of my best friends, and they are always there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on, a smack on the head to come to my senses, and a bottle opener. About 4 years ago they drove all the way to LA from Oakland to give me some love while I was recovering from the loss of a pregnancy. Obviously, since no one was pregnant, there was much drinking in the proposed itinerary.

Having every intention of earning a hangover the next morning, Shannon and I posted up on an air mattress in my living room with (undisclosed/recalled) bottles of red wine. Heather didn't join us for a reason I've forgotten-tired, sick, tired of listening to us cackle, something like that. My husband at the time went to bed immediately, because watching people have fun was super irritating to him, especially if that someone was me.

It gets a little hazy here. There is whooping and loud talking and bouncing with excitement born of how charming we were being to ourselves. I remember consciously setting my wine glass a little ways away from the mattress on the carpet so that I wouldn't reach back for it and knock it over. Apparently I put it back a little too far, and as I leaned back to grab it balanced precariously on my tailbone, Shannon shifted her weight, and the sudden lack or air beneath me tipped me too far back to recover. I fell onto my glass, my wrist taking the hit.

Yes, I was sent to the ER after falling 6 inches. I fell on the floor while basically sitting on the floor.

I felt okay but I also was made of wine at this point so we decided we needed an adult...well, Shannon did. I was pretty sure we could handle this, and I didn't want to wake up Heather or deal with Judgy McJudgeJudge. There was a lot of blood, and it looked like a severed rubber band had lodged itself into the cut. It was white and looked like those thick rubber bands teachers use-my husband was a messy artist, so there could have been anything on that floor. The thought of some foriegn object lodged in my skin freaked me out, so I demanded that Shannon remove it.




She said something about thinking it was maybe "attached", but I didn't buy it-nothing in your arm looks like that, right? I begged her to pull it out. She looked at me in horrified resignation, grabbed it with her fingernails, and gave it a good yank after I bellowed "Just rip it out like a bandaid!!"

It was not a bandaid. It was also not a rubber band. It was indeed a part of my arm, a fact that became horrifically obvious the second she tried to rip it from its home, also known as my tendon. Apparently there's stuff called fascia that encases your tendon like the insulation on an electrical cord. Science!

Shannon was severely traumatized, probably still is. I feel horrible about that, but I went to continuation school, how was I supposed to know anything about anatomy? I took a course on addiction recovery for my health credit. I'm not a tendonologist.

Would you wake this woman up at 3:00am?

Okay fine, we need an adult. We assume my husband is the most sober and likely to let me bleed in his car-Heather's was a rental. Shannon summoned him and I braced for the lecture and the "Oh my god Rachel are you fucking serious what did you do now?" speech. Surprisingly, I was spared, because my tall, strong, serious ox of a husband took one look at my wrist and passed out cold on the kitchen floor.

Okay, Plan C, wake up Heather.

After a quick (and well-deserved) observation at what idiots we were and a stern warning about dripping blood in the car ("It's a fucking rental. I will kill you.") she drove me to the ER, Shannon in tow. It's now around 3:30am, and while pain is sobering, there was a lot of sobering to do. The first thing they did upon admission was have me give a urine sample, which my wine-soaked, shock-addled brain found amusing. "You have to check my PEE to see if my arm is okay? THAT'S SO WEIRD!"

Rolling his eyes in unmasked disgust, the attending explained that they need to know how drunk or high I was so they didn't give me meds that would kill me, and they needed to know if I was pregnant or not before they gave me an X-ray.

"We need to x-ray to see if there's any glass in there, so we can get it out "

He tells me this as I oblige, bathroom door wide open. A thought pushed past the booze haze...I had just had my blood tested earlier that day to see if the pregnancy hormone had left my system yet, and it had not, even though it had been almost three weeks. I would test pregnant, and then if there WAS glass in my arm, it would have to be there FOREVER. Awkward...well, better speak up.

I explain that I WAS pregnant, but I'm not now.

"You had a miscarriage recently?"


Suddenly grumpy nurse is interested in me. I assume it's because I'm so interesting.

"Were you upset?"

I scoffed. "DUH. of course I was. It totally sucked. That's why I'm so DRUNK. My friends got me drunk to escape the SUCKAGE for a minute."
This is what you get at my house when you spill paint in the garage

I look up and notice there are suddenly more people in the room, and they are exchanging meaningful glances. I'm not surprised, I AM pretty interesting. They ask me questions and I answer, fully engaged in my favorite topic-me. They seem to be getting prepared for something, maybe my x-ray! Does it really take all these orderlies to carry me to the x-ray....wait a minute.

Wait one god damned minute. I get it.

"Oh NO!" I laugh nervously. "No no, I know what you're thinking. I was depressed and...HA! No, not me. I would never..." They don't seem convinced. I try to charm them. "No, I'm DRUNK AND STUPID, not suicidal. Same difference, amirite? Look at me! I'm a total weirdo with a bat tattoo. Don't I look like someone who would at least know how to do it right? I mean, EVERYONE knows it's "down the road not across the street!"

No? Not funny? Awesome. I'm about to be put on a 5150, also known as a psych hold. Now I'M getting grumpy...and sober.

Just then, my heroes arrived, flustered and frantically shaking their heads.

"No! She's just clumsy and wasted, not suicidal!" They had been listening to my bad jokes and verbal flailing and realized without intervention, I was getting locked up. They managed to convince the doctors, for which I'm eternally grateful for...because they weren't buying what *I* was selling.

I'm getting sick of telling this story so to wrap it up, they believed my friends, but never gave me an x-ray, and instead of stitches they put two staples in it. A few days later, the fascia that I had made Shannon yank on worked its way out of the incision, so I went back to the clinic and said "I'm no doctor, but shouldn't this be on the inside instead of the outside?" and the doctor said, "Well, that would mean reopening the incision." and I said, "....uh....okay....should we do that?" and he basically said he didn't feel like it so we didn't.

The white stuff is fascia. Gross, I know
This means that the fascia, which is now attached to both my tendon AND my skin (which healed over it) pulls the scar into a weird belly button shape, and when I move my wrist back and forth it opens and closes the "arm hole" like a gross little arm mouth.

So, the glass. Because I can no longer be trusted with a standard wine glass made of adult glass, I was gifted a plastic glass, which I use every time I drink wine at home. When I'm in public or at a party, depending on the setting, I either bring the glass of shame or I risk it with their glasses and those in the know keep an eye on me just in case.

The scar totally disgusting and gives most people the willies. That makes me kind of love it. It looks like a belly button, which makes me mostly hate it. If you want to see it, just ask. If you want, you can draw a face around it with a sharpie and make it talk. I do sometimes. It makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2011 Crimson & Quartz Red Blend (by Fetzer): Delightful! $14

Crimson Quartz 2011 wine: fancy as fuck.
Bringing wine to parties is so awkward.

First, there's the question of quantity. If I bring only one bottle, I hover around it like a hawk guarding a freshly caught mouse. If I bring two bottles, not only does that double how many wine decisions I have to make, but it's also expensive and we're prohibitively broke.

Second, there's the question of quality. Even if I'm pretty sure no one cares (obviously, we're sitting on the patio and my "glassware" is a baseball cup), there's usually SOMEone who will pick up the bottle and make a comment or ask a question about the quality.

Third, red or white?

It's hot as BALLS here in the Bay Area, and as if just the heat wasn't enough, someone decided that starting some GODDAMN WILD FIRES would be a good idea.

Only a total lunatic would drink red wine on a day like yesterday.

But, as I'm the official red wine reviewer and red wine is a bit of a habit for me at this point, I stuck with my ol' faithful. And it was a bar-b-que, so it was a safe bet that some red meat was going to be eaten.

(Also, I am a total lunatic.)

This Crimson & Quartz caught my attention as the perfect bringing-to-a-party wine, because the label is fanciful, but not garish. It speaks to artistry and handcraftedness,  not flashiness. The year (2011) is boldly placed as if to proclaim "THIS IS NOT THE FRESH WINE. THIS IS OLD WINE. THEREFORE IT IS SUPERIOR TO THE MODERN, FLY-BY-NIGHT 2013 CHARDONNAY LINDA BROUGHT."

For the record, I don't think there was a single Linda at the party last night, and I am not nearly that competitive about wines, even in my inner monologue. This was purely for illustrative purposes.

Upon arriving to the party, my friend and the hostess handed me a wine key, which I immediately struggled with, ripping the cork to shreds. (this is why we drink boxed wine and screw-top wine, folks!) I sniffed the cork and my friend said, "so, is it wine?"

Indeed it was.

She's in the middle of moving, so all her glassware was already at the new place (this was her exodus party). Her glassware selections angled more towards the safety of plastic, which of course suits me just fine.

I was DELIGHTED to find that Crimson & Quartz was in fact THE ABSOLUTE PERFECT WINE TO BRING TO A PARTY.

I've already mentioned the stylish label and prominently placed vintage, but the taste... it's a GOOD WINE.

It's a beautiful blend of cherry and plum and tastes nothing like raisins. It's smooth and drinkable at all speeds, and I was delighted to find that I have almost no hangover.

Did I just discover a good wine with no hangover at a reasonable price with a fancy label? YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID.

My only complaint with this wine is that it's really too good for regular consumption. At $14/bottle, this is no Thursday-night-watching-Newhart-reruns-on-YouTube wine. But somehow it seems like that's a complaint that Fetzer can live with.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Boxing Match: Bandit vs Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon

We have already talked at great length about how amazing boxed wines are, but when I realized you could get regular bottle sizes (and even half-bottle sizes) of boxed wines, well, I became even more in love.

I first heard about Bandit from some branding publication or other... it had been featured in Amy Schumer's movie Trainwreck (which I have not seen). And really, it's perfect for her. It's basically a big juice box, except the juice has fermented and people are all shitty about it if you hand them to kids.

And I'm a branding geek, so seeing a company embrace boxed wine as part of their central brand offering was pretty fucking funny.

"Here's a wine for people who don't give a shit that they're being judged for drinking boxed wine."


Rachel and I already are fans of Black Box. They were pretty much THE STANDARD in high quality (ok, not shit-quality) boxed wines. I think they were some of the first boxed wines that I tried that I actually liked... given my standards, ok, that isn't saying a whole lot. But they make a decent box of wine.

Their brand promise is delivering bottle-quality wines for 40% less than stuff in a bottle.

And I get it. When they started doing this whole boxed wine thing, they had to break out of the "Wait, like Franzia?" boxed wine stigma.

But those days are behind us!

I think those days are behind us not so much because people think boxed wines can actually be good, but because people (like Amy Schumer) have just stopped giving a shit what people think about boxed wine. And boxed wines can actually be good.

So fuck you, I drink what I want.


Really, no matter what you're looking for, you can find it in boxed wine (unless you're looking for dangerous, dangerous glass).

At first, you could only get wino-sized economy drums of wine. But now, boxed wine has embraced their role as "wine for people on the run" (though I've never brought it running... yet.). They're not constrained by standard bottle and label sizes, so they can get truly whacky.

Need an ocean of wine for the party? Have a huge bladder of wine!

Need a bottle and a third? Hey! Here's that size!

Need a sippy cup of wine? Yes, Black Box can do it.

And yeah, that's a REAL photo from the grocery store, because WE KEEP IT REAL.

The Tasting Itself Was A Trainwreck
It had been a long day full of ups and downs, so I didn't want to wait around to have a glass of wine until I could put on my Groucho Marx wine nose and snob around. Immediately, I did the thing 100% of wine reviewers know not to do: I had two glasses of wine while watching the news.

Why is this a bad idea? Well, first, you get a taste for that wine, whichever it was. It happened to be the Bandit, so I was all "oh, this Bandit is pretty good..." and then I was sad when I had to go for the Black Box.

Instead of finishing off the bottle --ahem-- box, I set it aside and waited around for "golden hour" so I could take my fancy pantalones wine photos:

YES, I am aware that the horizon isn't straight, but that's because I want the lip of the glass to be straight, and it's hard to shoot wine glasses on a car hood.

So, about the tasting, yeah, I pretty much botched it. But I think I can honestly say they were pretty much about the same.


Since I didn't finish the wines (or even get very far along in drinking them at all on Friday), I decided to bring them to Arlette to see if I could get her opinion on them.

And you know what?


The fucking Black Box wine juicebox ripped open in my purse, dumping several perfectly fine glasses of wine right into my purse, staining dang near everything, and making me smell like a fucking winery.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

I spent all day trying not to accidentally get my purse against my body enough to stain my favorite shirt.

To me, that is a tie breaker.

It's not just a tie breaker, it's a fucking heartbreaker. I had such high hopes for the opportunities on the horizon for boxed wine, and it turned on me.

I felt betrayed.

I felt sad.

Except, well, I still had my Bandit.

So, the verdict is:

Black Box:


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ferrari-Carano "Siena" Sangoiovese, $8 A GLASS

...a tiny glass at that.

This is Douglas holding Bug. Sorry ladies, he's taken.
My friend Douglas was visiting this weekend because the Bulgarian is gone for a few weeks and he knew I was lonely and stressed from having no baby/dog/life help so he sent a text that said “Love you!” and I sent one back that said “IF YOU WERE MY REAL FRIEND YOU WOULD BE HERE HOLDING MY BABY AND HANDING ME COCKTAILS WHILE I SOBBED IN THE BATHROOM.” He said I was right and showed up less than 24 hours later.

That my friends, is a super pal.

Needing to get out of the house, we decided to walk downtown and find a place where we could drink while accompanying a mini human in a stroller without looking like total assholes. “That place does not exist” you say, but you are incorrect. They are called RESTAURANTS. Restaurants are places where people can drink around their kids and totally get away with it. If you’re taking baby for a walk in the stroller and stop for dinner (and a few beverages) you look like a nice family on the town, not total dicks. What a relief for new parents, right?

Since Douglas isn’t actually a parent and I was so totally over everything and anything involving care taking, he offered to push the gargantuan stroller to town while I skipped alongside unencumbered. I always enjoy newbies struggle with the curbs and bumps and just the sheer fuckery of maneuvering a small, unwieldy vehicle covered in diaper bags and squeaky animals.
This is my baby and my wine, out on the town.

We decided to head to Cirino's on Main Street, a restaurant and bar that the Bulgarian and I frequent, just never in the restaurant area. Because it is a somewhat fancy joint, I ordered a glass of wine that ran about the same price as the bottles I usually enjoy. $8.95 a glass, I better get what I’m paying for.

...and by “I’m paying for”, I mean “Doug’s paying for”. I haven’t worked since October of last year, so I’m in no position to high roll it at some Italian place just because they have cloth tablecloths. I chose the wine that the menu suggested pairing with my polenta, the Ferrari-Carano "Siena" Sangiovese. I’ve never tried a Sangiovese because the word reminds me of salami and I hate salami with a passion. I was hoping it tasted like nine dollars and not mystery meat product.

It did. In fact, I’d say it tasted like a solid $10.99. Rich burgandy red color, a dry sweetness that was subtle and left a pleasant aftertaste, and an unidentifiable but lovely fruit flavor, which Douglas said was either raisin or cranberry. I’m going to say cranberry, because if I ever find out they put raisins in wine my head will explode into a million tiny disgusted and betrayed chunks. So, I’m going to say cranberry.
There's no way there are raisins in that fine glass of magic. NO. WAY.

It was truly lovely, and I give it 5 stars. I hope to someday find out how much an entire bottle is and ask Douglas to buy it for me so I can enjoy more of this fine delicacy. Because I doubt I can afford it, and He knows I’ll share.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fancy Pants 2013 Pinot Grigio Wine Review: Reporting from Luscious Lake Tahoe $8

Hello Enthusiasts!

I’m in lovely Lake Tahoe and it’s AWESOME. I’m in a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood so obviously, I’m drinking fancy wine...but it’s not expensive wine, oh no. I haven’t forgotten where I come from. It’s Fancy PANTS wine, which is all the fancy at a fraction of the price, especially at Safeway where the wine sales are plentiful.
The label says "I Wear the Pants" I love it.

I’m watching my sister’s 6-year-old and her beautiful, giant house while she and my brother-in-law take a well-deserved 10 day vacation in Belize. I have my teenager, baby Bug, and my niece Bri by myself, but the house is fantastic and the kids are all decently behaved, so my favor to sis doubles as a vacation for me, even with three kids.

I needed a fucking vacation from my life, because it’s royally sucked for awhile now.

I’ve been pretty explosively stressed. Insurance fuckery and weird side effects from meds and the mastectomy combined with trying to handle a newborn while pushing 40 is not a scenario I would recommend. I’m trying to write about my cancer experience and I’m having all these FEELINGS and I hate FEELINGS and it’s unpleasant and I don’t like it.

Also, my house is tiny and dark and hot, and Bug hates being hot even more than I do, but because he doesn’t know anything about science because he’s a baby, he thinks he wants me to carry him around the house all day like a boiling human shawl, screaming every time I try to peel his sweaty little body off me. It’s terrible.

But I’m not at home, I’m here. In remission. In delightful weather. Without a boiling baby shawl. In luxurious, lovely Lake fucking Tahoe. EVERYTHING IS OKAY.

The house is so big, I could go to another part of it and not even HEAR kids. What kids? I don’t hear any kids...if anyone was bleeding I’m sure the bigger ones would find me, or call someone or something. Whatever...OMG STEAM SHOWER! You know what goes great with a steam shower? A glass of wine in a fancy-ass glass. (I’m technically not allowed to drink wine out of glasses made of actual glass, but that’s a story for another time.)

I drank this wine out of one of my sister’s very nice glasses, and that made it feel dirty. I feel dirty AND rich. It feels good…
A little nip by the fireplace? I shouldn't...oh alright.

The wine didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too acidic like a lot of Pinot Grigio, and the sweetness was mild and mellow, very strong on the pear flavor, which I love. It totally fit in with the setting-I think you could serve this to rich people (hide the actual bottle) and tell them it was expensive and they would totally fall for it. I drank it and photographed it in several settings, as you do when you’ve got no worries and nothin’ but time-and right now, just for these 10 days? I actually feel like that for the first time in longer than I can remember.

Cancer changes time-it stops it cold and speeds it up all at once. Today, I felt like I had time to spare, and that’s an amazing feeling right now.
I’m taking half of a star off for a totally petty reason-the color of the label was annoying to me. I have no idea why. My niece disagrees, it’s the same color as her Frozen Princess dress. Four and a half stars, well done Pants of Fance, you have a new fan.
We'd like a little privacy, if you don't mind.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Think She Meant Five Days...

No, she probably meant six.