Now and Zen – an Actual Wine Review!

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this blog was add a few wine (and maybe beer and scotch) reviews to the site. I love wine – have since I was a teenager, though I’ve never been financially able to partake of the upper echelon of the wine world. Once in a blue moon I’ll drop $25 bucks on a wine, and slightly more often get a glass of something medium-tier in a restaurant. But generally I’m a $10 and under guy. And since I’ve given up soda (43g carbs in one can!) and generally drink a glass of wine with dinner now instead, finding drinkable cheap wines has never been more important.

I buy wine a few ways. Trader Joe’s is a great source, but generally a crapshoot – they frequently buy overproduction wines and odd lots and stick their own names on them. Sometimes you can find incredible values, and sometimes the wine is total plonk. There’s a good website ( to help, but any info on TJ’s wines is always helpful in knowing where the treasures are buried – and where the mines are. I also utilize places like Cost Plus and BevMo on occasion, and here in the Bay Area we’re blessed with some outstanding high-end wine stores like K & L and Beltramo’s that often have good sales. We also have mini-warehouses like Jug Shop and Spencer and Daniel’s where you can find true steals. And of course, we’re a couple of hours away from multiple wine regions – and tasting rooms can be a great way to discover wines you might not otherwise consider.

But generally, TJ’s is my day-in, day-out source. And I wine I’ve bought many times from them and really enjoyed is white from Alsace called Now & Zen. It runs $4.99 and so falls comfortably under the “everyday wine” threshold. A classic (more or less) Alsatian blend of 29% Pinot Blanc, 25% Sylvaner, 16% Riesling, 15% Muscat, and 15% Gewurztraminer, Now & Zen is an off-dry wine, perfect for summer. I love Asian food and frequently cook it at home, and any dry Gewurtz or Riesling blend is a perfect match for it – or almost any spicy food. There’s a lovely floral nose (thank you, Muscat) with sweet notes of citrus and tropical fruits in the foreground. The sweetness gives way to to a crisp, puckery acidity as the lemon-peel and stone elements dominate the mid-palate. And all through the faint spicy notes from the Gewurz and even a a little smoke from the Pinot Blanc add surprising complexity for a cheapie. The finish is tart and clean. This is a real bargain – a great food wine, but with enough character to make a nice sipper in the warm weather. It goes especially well with the Orange Chicken TJ’s sells in the freezer section.



  1. W

    Thanks for the review. I'll make sure to pick it up the next time I'm at TJs.

  2. d

    I never knew you had these miscellaneous posts instead of anime. Very entertaining to read; however, i'm not of legal age yet; still got a couple more year =P

    It's nice to read other reviews other anime πŸ˜‰

  3. e

    Less than 5 dollars is fairly cheap for a good everyday wine, this one seems quite delicious in your description too. I'm a bit envious.
    Here instead the safe cheap price threshold to drink actual wine and not carb water with some colour is more in the 4,50-8 euros range, and mostly for reds featuring a single grapes variety or a mix of two variety :). Reds from the Italian North-East regions are my favourite cheap reds (Merlot and Clinton are my fav monos … maybe because of my childhood family roots… those wines are our blood XD. Cabernet and Refosco are also pretty good but already stronger in taste and less of a jack of all trades for matching them with food) .
    Otherwise for white and rosΓ© the safest bets are Prosecco (if you like 'em dry and cold and sparkling) – as long as you know which producers to trust :p . We Have Martini and Cinzano for mass market and recently Freixenet from Spain, they're not bad but lack personality imho… they're pleasant and fresh but too flat in flavour – . Once more, some of the best cheap ones are from the North-East areas.
    South and North-West Italy regions offer good ones too, but from a higher starting price. The cheap ones are too heavy to the palate (and to the head :p) for my taste.

  4. Wow, that was a blast from the past.

    What about Moscato? I would think there would be some inexpensive offerings there that would offer some of the same charms as the wine in this review.

  5. e

    Moscato here is considered a sweet after-meal wine (or a companion to a few specific kinds of cheese, but the dessert match is much more common) and is mostly sold as that. In this sense it can be a cheaper alternative to Passito (the most popular Passito being usually made from Pantelleria's vineyards, Sicily )^^ .
    A few white wines from the Trentino-Alto Adige region (basically the North-West portion of Italy just below Austria) and the Venice-Treviso countryside might be a better fit :), but it's really a by trial and error search, much like for Prosecco. The blend and flavour can change dramatically from one vineyard to the next as there is a lot of family producing wine withing a few miles and they all have their own quirks. It makes for some charming bicycle(or car)&wine discovery trips though :D.

  6. e

    typo: Norh-EAST portion of Italy etc.

  7. e

    P.S.: this is one of my fav cheap-to-medium-tier producer family for organic reds (they also make white wines – Pinot included – and Prosecco but I havent tried those yet). Note: the Loncon one is also the name of a little town not far from my grandma's, still dedicated to wine production. if you ever end up visiting Italy, do take the tour and taste the wines there. The avian family's old house is next to the cellars and it's a very picturesque building, its surrounding countryside still retaining part of the pre-industrial looks and charm once belonging to the whole province.

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