Cloud Break Merlot 2015

– Not Good Booze –

Even for a value-priced Merlot, this has little to offer. OK, it’s not terrible. But, the modest amount of fruit and character fades rapidly. This leaves a soft, wine-like drink. There are better choices in red wines in this price range which have more life in the glass. We recommend taking a pass on this one, at least for this 2015 vintage year release.

The Facts

Cloud Break Merlot 2015

Price Paid – $8.99/$8.09 MIx 6

Date Reviewed – 3/12/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Merlot

Vintage Year – 2015

Appellation – California

Winery/Brand – Cloud Break Winery

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 13.5%

Cork? – Composition

Pour it and taste – Reg. Red Wine Glass: Medium color, hint of cedar and then cherry aromas. Modest cherry and berry flavors. Medium dry, easy finish.

Aerator – Reg. Red Wine Glass: Cherry and berry aromas. Balanced, modest cherry and berry flavors. Soft finish. Light body. Fading.

Decanter – Reg. Red Wine Glass: Just a hint of tar in the nose with some berry aroma. Flat. Smooth but not much fruit or body.

Overall – Not terrible or awful, but this is a very modest wine. The small amount of cherry and berry fruit fades quickly. Even at this price, a pass.

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Copyright 2018 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Gnarly Head Authentic Red 2014

Good Booze

From Gnarly Head, another tasty red wine blend. This one is full of blackberry jam with no tannins to speak of or any alcohol “bite”. This wine has “only” 13.5% alcohol. Positively restrained these days. Pour this one by the big glass for your friends and there will be a lot of smiles on your deck. It’s not a subtle or layered Cab Sauv, but for under $9 who cares. Gnarly keeps delivering fun reds at great prices. Grab some today and light up the grill.

The Facts

Gnarly Head Authentic Red

Price Paid – $8.99 / $8.09 Mix Six

Date Reviewed – 3/12/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Red Blend

Vintage Year – 2014

Appellation – California

Winery/Brand – Gnarly Head Wines

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 13.5%

Cork? – Composition

Pour it and taste – Deep red color with berry and dark plum aromas. Smooth berry flavors and a nice mouthfeel. Easy finish with no hint of tannins.

Aerator – Berry aroma. Blackberry jam and mixed, dark fruit flavors. Soft easy finish. Nice rich, feel.

Decanter 30+ minutes – Fading berry aroma. Soft berry flavors. Fading a bit, now.

Overall – Nice jammy red wine when newly opened and poured from the bottle or with the aerator. This is a good “cocktail” red enjoyed by the tumbler full or with ribs and BBQ sauce. It’s going to fade after being opened after a while on the counter, but unless you’re having a two-hour dinner with just one bottle, it’s enjoyable as a lip-smacking red wine. Popular “bottle of red” style.

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Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved


GoodCheapBooze.com Review Ropiteau Pinot Noir

Ropiteau Pinot Noir

Good Booze – Nice French Pinot –

At a great price, this wine from a French winery founded in 1848 is a perfect example of why owning a carafe or wine decanter pays off. Here’s a very nice little Pinot from France in a very attractive bottle that offers great color, with balanced, smooth, rich berry flavors if you follow our advice. We tasted this one three ways and the last was the winner. Pour it into a decanter, wait a bit and enjoy. Imagine a little Paris Bistro and all those classic dishes. Bon! Ropiteau makes several upscale Pinots at $40+ as well, by the way, so be sure to grab the right one off the shelf. Cheers!

The Facts

Ropiteau Pinot Noir “Les Plants Nobles”

Price Paid – $8.99 (Mix 6) $9.99 regular

Date Reviewed – 2/14/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Pinot Noir

Vintage Year – 2016

Appellation – France

Winery/Brand – Ropiteau Feres

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – “11% -14%” as listed on label

Cork? – Artifical

Pour it and taste –

– Reg. Red Wine Glass: Berry aroma. Berry and cherry flavors. Good color. Rich in the mouth. A bare hint of tannins on the finish.

– Plus 5 Minutes in the glass: Berry aroma. Subtle berry flavor with some bit of leather. Smooth finish.

Decanter –

– Medium Pinot Noir Wine Glass: Berry and cherry aromas. Soft berry flavors. Balanced. Very smooth.

Overall – Patience is rewarded. Hold in a decanter/carafe for 20-30 minutes and enjoy a smooth, French-style Pinot Noir. Easy to enjoy.

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Copyright 2018 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Ménage á Trois Midnight Dark Blend

Good Booze – A Decent Red

If you pour it the way we discovered this is an OK sipper. A blend based on Merlot, as with many Ménage reds, it does not have much depth. This means it won’t age much or stand up to robust foods such as roast beef or grilled lamb. But there are berry flavors worth finding if you follow our method detailed below of using an aerator and a larger Cabernet Sauvignon glass. Nice looking package,

The Facts

Ménage á Trois Midnight Dark Blend

Price Paid – $8.97

Date Reviewed – 1/16/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Red Blend (Website mostly Merlot)

Vintage Year – 2015

Appellation – California

Winery/Brand – Ménage á Trois, Folie á Deux, Trinchero Family Estates

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 13.5%

Cork? – Artificial

Pour it and taste – Simple Grape aroma and a touch of sulfur in the nose. Jammy grape flavors with lingering tannins. A bit dry on the finish.

Aerator +5  – Soft berry nose. Rich in the mouth. A hint of sulfur and some zingy tannins in the finish. Much softer than the quick taste.

Decanter +30 – Tiny grape and berry nose. Smooth. Some berry flavors. No finish at all. Faded.

Large Cabernet Glass: Pour and taste: Hint of sulfur in the nose. Juicy grapes. Bare hnt of tannin. Aerator: Some berry in the nose. Smooth berry jam. Easy to drink. Best of all methods. Decanter: Not much nose. Rich in the mouth. Not much fruit.

Overall – This is not a wine with much depth. This means not really a food wine in that it would add much to foods, and mostly disappear. The top result was using the aerator into a Cab Sauv glass. Brought out the berries and limited tannins smoothed it right out. So proceeding that way, a decent sipping wine.

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Copyright 2018 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Kaniché Rum Artisanal Reserve

Good Booze – Amazing Rum –

Very different from Cuban, Puerto Rican or Jamaican style rum. Barbados (Bajan) Rums are golden, sweet and spicy (no extra flavors can be added by law). Many consider them the “true rums”. This one is aged in Bourbon barrels in Barbados and then shipped to France and finished in the Cognac barrels used by the maker their brandy production. Classy. The cocktail recipe below was a real keeper and worth the effort. The aromas and flavors take you to the islands and one round easily becomes two or more and very dangerous. Not for Bacardi or Don Q type drinks. Not for “Tiki” dark Myers rum style drinks, either. This one is also perfect for an amazing “Mule” when you add just a whisper of Ginger Syrup to the mix. Find and enjoy this great spirit at a good price. Cheers!

The Facts

Kaniché Rum Artisanal Reserve

Price Paid – $16.99

Date Reviewed – 1/5/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Type – Barbados (Bajan) Barrel Aged Rum

Aged? Yes in Bourbon and Cognac Barrels

Country of Origin/Region – Barbados (Aged in France)

Brand – Maison Ferrand

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Proof/Alcohol – 80 Proof

Take a shot neat – Spice in the nose. Molasses, sweet, hint of banana flavor, plus a touch of lime in the finish. Smooth.

Rocks – Bananas in the nose. Spice. Vanilla, lime and spice flavors. Very smooth.

Classic Cocktail – Barbados Rum Punch*. Fantastic. Worth picking this up and taking the time to make it right. The sort of drink written about in old novels. A man trying to get lost could stay lost in these…

Compare to – Mount Gay Black Barrel

Overall – This is one nice Barbados style Rum. Great price. Not for a rum and coke. That’s what you need a Cuban or Puerto Rico style rum. Not for “dark rum” Tiki drinks. This is a naturally sweet style with spice flavors enhanced by the barrel aging. Dangerous in a Barbados Punch Cocktail.

* Barbados Rum Punch Cocktail Recipe:

1 ½ Ounces of barrel finished Barbados Rum ** (see notes below)

¾ Ounce Fresh Lime Juice

¾ ounce of Demerara Sugar Syrup*** (see notes below)

¾ ounce water

¼ ounce of Angostura (classic style) bitters

Shake all with ice until well chilled. Strain into a tall glass with ice.

** This drink will not work with other style rums. Period.

*** To make this syrup (do not use simple syrups made with regular sugar. Period.) take 1 cup Demerara (or Turbinado a good quality raw) sugar plus ½ cup of water (2:1 scale up for several drinks) and dissolve slowly in a pan over low to medium heat until a syrup forms. Do not boil. Let it cool a bit. Note: if left for a long time it will thicken dramatically. This stuff makes the drink. C&H makes a good quality raw Turbinado sugar widely available. If you can find Demerara sugar in the USA even better.

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Copyright 2018 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Ménage á Trois Pinot Noir

Good Booze – Smooth Drinking –

Here’s a popular brand’s Pinot Noir at a pretty fair price. Nice package. Opens up OK with some nice cherry flavors. It’s pretty smooth. However, there is not a bunch of Pinot character here. So as with some other Menage reds, what we find is a decent sipper but not a big food wine. That means it won’t add much to food, but it won’t take much away either. Need a popular Pinot to pour for friends on the deck or with snacks? This might be it.

The Facts

Ménage á Trois Pinot Noir

Price Paid – $9.55 (Mix 6) or $10.49

Date Reviewed – 1/3/18

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Pinot Noir (small amounts of Syrah and Petite Sirah)

Vintage Year – 2015

Appellation – California

Winery/Brand – Ménage á Trois, Folie á Deux, Trinchero Family Estates

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 13.5%

Cork? – Artificial

Pour it and taste – Hint of tar and leather on the nose. Deep color. A bit of cherry flavor. Smooth.

Plus 5 Minutes in the glass* – Cherry nose. Lush cherry flavors. Smooth with a bit of spice and lingering cherry on the finish.

Overall – Smooths out in the glass. Modest cherries. Smooth but this one is a bit ordinary. A decent couch sipper. Not much of a food wine. Easy to drink.

* We used a medium sized, standard Pinot Noir glass

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Copyright 2018 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Ménage á Trois Decadence Cabernet Sauvignon

Good Booze – Decent Sipping Wine

Billboards on the Interstate promote Ménage’s new red, Decadence Cabernet. First off, the package looks great. Rich label etc. They claim French Oak aging. Ok, there is some oak aroma. 2016? Well, that means the whole winemaking and aging process was pretty darn quick for a Cab Sauv and the wine reflects all of that haste. Not much body or deep fruit. But it looks great to the eye and sips well if you take our advice (see 🙂 below) and use an aerator into a Cabernet glass. Sometimes you can find this as low as $7.99. That makes it look even better.

Staff Wine Review – The Facts

Ménage á Trois Decadence Cabernet Sauvignon

Price Paid –  $9.44 (Mix Six) $10.44 single bottle

Date Reviewed – 12/17/17

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Varietal or Type – Cabernet Sauvignon (2% Merlot stated elsewhere)

Vintage Year – 2016

Appellation – California

Winery/Brand – Ménage á Trois, Folie á Deux (Trinchero Family Estates)

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 13.5%

Cork? – Artificial

Pour it and taste – Very dark in the glass. Berry and mild asphalt aromas some oak. Medium dry, berry flavors. Smooth. Warm tannins on the finish.

Aerator +5 – Tar and some berry aromas. Some berry flavors. Softer tannins on the finish. Modest body.

Decanter +30 – Tar and small berry aromas. Milder berry flavors, hint of bitter tannins. Smooth, modest body.

Cabernet Glass –  Pour and taste: Tar aroma. Berry flavors, hint of bitter tannin. Smooth. 🙂Aerator +5: Best results of all methods. Berry aroma hint of tar. Modest tannins. Berry flavors, smooth. Short finish. Decanter +30: Tar faded out. Softer tannins. Some berry flavors. Short finish.

Overall – This is a sipping red and not a big food wine. The dark color is nice but deceiving in that the body of the wine is very modest and the fruit is there but not deep and lingering. Use an aerator into a Cabernet type glass and enjoy. After four hours on the counter in the open bottle (cork replaced) r the wine was certainly OK if lighter in berry flavors. The look of the package is rich and it is certainly smooth. Good reason to own an aerator.

Copyright 2017 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


A Tale and a Tasting of Four Zins

Ah, California’s Zinfandel.

Now, we are talking a red wine here and not the sweet pink stuff. Zin is a fun and popular type of wine that goes well with grilled meats, hamburgers and even BBQ sauce (that is not over the top hot and spicy).

Full of juicy, ripe and jammy blackberry flavors with hints of spice, Zinfandel can be compelling and invite you to dive right in and luxuriate.

Yum.

Sadly, there are many Zins, which are not so good. Hard, tannic even nasty. These would be Not Good Booze.

We tasted a flight of four. Two are great, one is pretty good (with comments) and one is rather unpleasant.

The prices ranged from $4.99 to $12.99 per bottle and all purchased at Total Wines in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Listed In order of Price Paid

Canyon Oaks Zinfandel 2014 – $4.99

Full Review Here

Pretty tasty if you don’t linger over it. Our tasting protocol includes putting the wine in a decanter for 30 Minutes. The Canyon Oaks Zin faded away here. But, open it and give it a minute or two in a big glass or run in through an aerator as we did, then wait about 3-5 minutes. Bingo. For $4.99 this is a pretty tasty little wine. But not to linger over or to expect much if you save some for the next day.

Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 – $5.47

Full Review Here

This is just an unpleasant wine. This one is widely sold, particularly as a “price leader” in some restaurants; outside of pricing, it’s hard to understand why. But, this is not new. Vintner’s Blend Zinfandel has been the winery’s “cash flow” cheapie for years and years. No matter how we handled the wine, it was just off-putting. Walk on by this one in store.

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 – $6.97

Full Review Here

Gnarly Head’s red wine offerings continue to perform way about their price point. Their Lodi Zin is not exception. In the glass, lots of berry and spice with just enough round, moderate tannins to stand up to meats and BBQ. Rich in the mouth. A tasty Zinfandel at an amazing price, this one will please red wine drinkers. In a classy winery tasting room, sporting a restrained designer label it would sell briskly for $20-$25, right now.

Double Black Zinfandel 2014 – $12.99 ($11.69 Mix Six)

Full Review Here

This one is from the wildly popular Paso Robles area in California’s Central Coast Wow, another Zin that is so above the asking price. Great package, too. This makes it a wine that looks expensive and actually tastes that way. Juicy blackberry and spice flavors that are in good balance. This wine gets better and better, and richer, as it opens up. But, don’t tell your friends what it sells for. This is Good Cheap Booze.


Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel

Staff Wine Review

Good Booze – Lots of Flavor

Gnarly Head continues to impress with their value-priced reds. So much berry and spice that just gets better and richer as the wine opens up. At this price point, just an amazing value. Stock up and enjoy. Check out other zins we’ve tasted lately here.

The Facts

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel

Price Paid – $6.97

Date Reviewed – 11/17/17

Where Purchased – Total Wines

Varietal or Type – Zinfandel

Vintage Year – 2015

Appellation – Lodi, California

Winery/Brand – Gnarly Head

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 14.5%

Cork? – Composition

Pour it and taste – Subtle berry aroma. Balanced flavors. Rich in the mouth. Very controlled tannins. Lingering berries and spice on the finish. Nice.

Aerator +5 Minutes– Bigger berry and spice aromas. Smooth lingering berries on the finish. Very Nice.

Decanter+30 Minutes – More subtle berry and spice aromas. Richer in the mouth. The berry flavors are more balanced. Berries and spice linger on the finish. Very nice.

Overall – One nice Zin.  Smooth and gets richer as the wine opens up.

Copyright 2017 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Double Black Zinfandel

Staff Wine Review

Good Booze – Juicy & Jammy

This is a wine that not only looks expensive from the outside but tastes much more expensive than it is. Jammy, juicy blackberries. Just enough backbone to stand up to meats and barbeque sauce. Opens up well and just gets richer and richer. Could easily sell for more. Don’t tell your friends it wasn’t $25-$30. Looking for more Zins? Here’s some we’ve tasted lately.

The Facts

Double Black Zinfandel

Price Paid – $12.99 ($11.69 mix 6)

Date Reviewed – 11/17/17

Where Purchased – Total Wines

Varietal or Type – Zinfandel

Vintage Year – 2014

Appellation – Paso Robles, California

Winery/Brand – Double Black

Bottle Size – 750 ML

Alcohol – 14.5%

Cork? – Composition

Pour it and taste – Lots of berry aroma. Rich in the mouth with more berry and spice. Very smooth. A bare hint of modest tannins.

Aerator +5 – Berry and spice aromas. Bigger berry flavor. Very modest and round tannins. Solid, lingering berries. Very nice.

Decanter +30 – The berry and spice aromas are more restrained. Very rich with jammy berry and spice. The tiny tannins are perfect to offset BBQ sauces. Lush, lingering berry finish. Very nice.

Overall – One darn nice Zin. All will be pleased.

Copyright 2017 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Ancient Age Kentucky Bourbon

Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Staff Wine Review – GoodCheapBooze.com

Good Booze. Amazing Bourbon Deal

This perennial deal in bourbon made by the well known Buffalo Trace Distillery, is fine enough for party highballs and mixed drinks. It will not satisfy as a straight shot or over ice in today’s craft bourbon world. But a lot of lighter whiskey drinkers may prefer it over bolder, rye influenced whiskeys. A good value bearing all that in mind. Here’s another Bourbon to consider.

The Facts

Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Price Paid – $14.95 ($7.47 or a 750 ML equivalent bottle)

Date Reviewed – 10/15/17

Where Purchased – Total Wines SF Bay Area

Type – Bourbon Whiskey

Aged? 36 Months

Country of Origin/Region – Kentucky, USA

Brand – Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace Distillery

Bottle Size – 1.5 L

Proof/Alcohol – 80

Take a shot neat – Mild amber color. Whiff of oak and sweetness. Floral notes. Caramel and corn. Slightly harsh on the finish.

Rocks – Caramel and spice notes. Smooth. Orange and oak notes. Just a hint of burn on the end. Just fine.

Simple Cocktail – IBA* Old Fashioned. Smooth cocktail. Modest bourbon notes. Pleasant drink

Compared to – Jim Beam White Label. In a straight shot, Beam shows vanilla and caramel with a burnt sugar finish. Smooth and warm with no burn. A better shot. Slightly better on the rocks and only marginally better in an Old Fashioned.

Overall – Fine choice for a mixed drink. A bit young and light for a straight shot, though that may appeal to some. In cocktails, works well but does not show a lot of bourbon character. Easy drinking for sure.

* International Bartenders Association standard cocktail recipe

Copyright 2017 Chandelle of Sonoma, Inc. All Rights Reserved