Demystifying Alcohol for Women: The Dark Side of the Vineyard – Red Wine


The Grapes

I live in California, and being here has great advantages for drinking wine. 

We have Napa.

Okay, so we have Napa…but the grapes aren’t all grown there, actually.  There are vineyards all over the place, from Northern California to Coastal California to Southern California, that grow different grapes for different wines, and the big wineries are in Napa.  Napa of course has the big players like Mondavi, or my favorite, Stag’s Leap.

There are also wineries all over the central-coast, like Concannon Vineyardsin Livermore, which is where Cupcake comes from, or further in you will findGallo who has the corner of the boxed wines, but you wouldn’t believe all the other bottled wines they have under their label, as well.

There are literally thousands of wineries all over every part of America, and even more great dark red wines from Argentina, Australia, France, Italy…maybe not Siberia, but who knows.  Wines are ubiquitous to life, and you will find wineries all over the globe.

Now, the reason why this brief review is important, and interesting, is because who you are will very likely reflect what kinds of wines you like.

Red Wines

pinot noir.
petit sirah.
cabernet sauvignon.

1)  pinot noir. 
The attitude – If you like the briny air of the coast, the grit of sand between your toes, the smell of seaweed in your hair…you will prefer pinot noir.

The grapes – This is because the black grapes grown for pinot noir wines are grown on the coast of California where it is significantly cooler than inland.  The grapes are pelted with ocean fog every day, and they become very bold grapes due to the climate.

Pinot Noir wine – is a bold wine with a full flavor.  It is a little spicy with hints of black cherry.  The front is sweet but the back is very dry.

It pairs well with – salmon, steak, rosemary roasted chicken, duck, shellfish, prosciutto, cheese, mushrooms and risotto.

Honestly, this is a very well balanced wine and you could drink it with any course, or no course.

2) merlot.

The attitude –  Merlot is an uncomplicated wine.  It is easy on the tongue and gentle on your soul.  If you prefer a life with harmony, melody and easy friendships, merlot is your wine.  It is a friendly, unpretentious drink.

The grapes –  merlot grapes are a very dark wine grape, but not a black grape.  They are grown in rocky soil that requires a lot of watering, so the flavor will be much more mild than that of the very concentrated pinot noir black grape.  These grapes need warm weather and lots of sunshine.

Merlot wine – is a very basic red wine.  It has flavors like currant, blackberries and cloves.  The front flavors are very subtle but a little sweet, the middle palette flavors are hardly noticeable, and the back flavors grasp the tartness of the grapes and berries.  It is much less tannic than any other wine, and very smooth and mellow in nature.

It pairs well with – pizza, tomato pasta dishes, roasted chicken, turkey, chinese food, herb crusted pork, garlic asparagus, spinach salad, cheese stuffed mushrooms

Merlot is a friend to us all, on the wine spectrum.  It can do no wrong; although it can get very boring very quickly.

3) petite sirah.
The attitude – This is a dark, complicated wine for dark, complicated people.

The grapes – Once upon a time in a vineyard in France, a vineyard Peloursin cross-pollenated the neighboring Syrah vineyard, and created the Durif grape, also known as the petite sirah grape.  The grapes are very small and tightly packed in little clusters.  They flourish in direct sunlight and can withstand drought and heavy rains without their flavors being compromised.

Petite Sirah wine – is a very bold, very dark, very aromatic wine.  It is heavy on the plum, currant and blueberry notes.  The flavor is very full in the front, big rounded flavors in the middle and heavy on tannins on the back.  This is a well balanced and bold red wine, and you definitely get your bang for your buck with this one.

It pairs well with – life.  It is really that good.  It also goes well with prime rib, duck, turkey, veal, apricot pork, mexican food and grilled bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini.

4) syrah.
The attitude – imagine the gypsy caravan that has just settled in the outskirts of town, blowing in clouds of dust it has brought with it from thousands of miles away.  The clothes are well worn but still bright in color.  The canvases and leathers holding the tents together are stretched from the baking sun.  The smells are vegetative, a little angry from the long travel, sunburnt and claustrophobic.  This is syrah.

The grapes – These grapes need isolation, the sun and quiet.  They are a very dry grape from very dry regions, but the flavor they kick out is out of this world.  The best areas to find syrah vineyards will be in Argentina, Australia and Central California.

Syrah wine – This is the boldest, driest wine you will find.  It holds a conversation all on its own.  The flavors are very spicy dark cherry, black pepper, currant and leather.

It pairs well with – pork with rich plum compote, rosemary and garlic roasted lamb, grilled bison, spicy bbq shortribs, curry fried tofu, dark cherry and dark chocolate ice cream

5) cabernet sauvignon.
The attitude – Let’s take things down a notch for cabernet sauvignon.  This is the floral sundress of wines, you could say.  It is fruity, bold, fun and lively.  Cabernet sauvignon is your best friend who gets seriously chatty after 2 drinks, but you keep busting up laughing because she is so funny when she does this.  BFF forever status.

The grapes – These grapes can grow anywhere.  The plains, the mountains, the hills, your backyard…they’re totally cool with whatever you got.  They areso okay with adapting to climates that they tend to overtake native plants who might also be planted nearby.  They’re like a very friendly Borg who gives you wonderful wine after they assimilate your land.  So, who’s complaining?

cabernet sauvignon wine – This is a very fruity red wine.  It has notes of grapes, cherries, watermelon, lavender, sunshine and secret friend notes you pass under your desks.  Still a much bolder flavor than merlot, but not nearly as dry as pinot noir, it is very well balanced and is quite uncomplicated while still being interesting.

It pairs well with – fish, fruit dishes, monterey jack and pesto omelettes, spinach and strawberry salads, chicken, pasta, bbq, brown sugar glazed carrots and cheese

6) zinfandel.
The attitude – Zinfandel is Betty Francis from “Mad Men”.  She is a beautiful character with white wine overtones, but the punch she leaves you with afterward makes you wonder what she was actually drinking all night….

The grapes – This grape prefers company, but it is like the biggest sorority that has taken over the best part of the beach with the most sun, the driest sand and the cutest lifeguards.  In California, it is mostly in the Central Valley that has insane summers and foggy winters.

Zinfandel wine – is the red wine for white wine drinkers.  It is much more bitter and dry on the pallette, similar to white wines, but much lighter in taste.  It can be found in a red variety, as well as a rose` variety.

It pairs well with – 6 inch crystal stilettos and a perfect smile.  It also goes well with pasta.

I haven’t found the last 2 yet, amazingly! So I can’t really say much about them, personally. 

7) sangiovese