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 (http://jasonswineblog.com/) 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.

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7 comments

  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.
    http://www.savianvini.it/index_eng.html 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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