Log In / Join Now

If I Don't Return, Send a Search Party

Posted: Dec 29, 2008 1:47pm ET

I am in La Quinta, Calif., visiting my mother with my two children for Christmas break. It seems like the middle of nowhere, unless you are ancient or like playing golf. The desert mountains are beautiful. And I love talking to my mother and my 100-year-old grandmother. It’s great to be with your family, as you all know. And I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and you are looking forward to a good glass or two of excellent wine for New Year’s Eve.

I am going to the supermarket to buy some food for tonight, and I'm going to buy a bottle or two based on your recommendations in the comments on my Dec. 4 blog on values. I am going to see if I can find a few in Jensen’s Finest Foods, which has a good but expensive wine selection.

What would you do in my situation? I'm going to jot down 10 or so of the recommendations because I don’t want to know the Spectator scores before I taste them. Do you do the same when you are buying bottles? Or have you tried Wine Spectator Mobile when you're out shopping? I plan to buy a few bottles and try them and let you know my thoughts on your choices. I am going to barbecue some sausages tonight and serve them with a couscous salad and a green salad—fresh and yummy. I am going to go for some fruity reds like Zins or Syrahs.

I think hanging in wine shops and wine sections is a blast. It used to drive my ex-wife insane. I don’t have that problem anymore. I can spend as much time as I want checking out bottles! I will let you know how I did tomorrow and how your wines showed.

Charles Leary
North Carolina —  December 29, 2008 2:53pm ET

I admit to referencing Wine Spectator Mobile more than I probably should. I've had some wonderful finds buying relatively inexpensive unrated wine, but also a few disasters. Alas, this is the world of wine. I often know the WS score of the wine I am drinking if there is one available and I usually agree very closely in my personal tasting notes. Although, I do find that if don't know the score, it often lines up very closely to my notes if I check it later, which is a very exciting affirmation. I hope that the wines you try are excellent.

Hoyt Hill Jr
Nashville, TN —  December 29, 2008 2:57pm ET
Gigondas, Cornas, Vacqueyras with grilled sausages are a blast!Pallieres, Clape, Chateau des Tours respectivelyA bottle of each!Come to Nashville some time and I'll pop a few!
Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  December 29, 2008 3:27pm ET
Can I persuade you to look at Mouverdre if you're thinking of syrah/zin. Finca luzon 06 is a steal at 6$.
Jimmy Hwang
Atlanta , GA —  December 29, 2008 3:46pm ET
James, I'm curious...your partener in crime, Laube, generally doesn't care for Cali cabs made in a Bordeaux, or "old world" style. One wine that comes to mind is Clos du Val (the 04 scored 70! Gasp!), which I find delicious. Have you ever scored a wine, blind or not, that differed greatly from one of your colleages' scored?
Eric P Perramond
Colorado Springs, CO —  December 29, 2008 4:30pm ET
Sausage, green salad, couscous: Hmmm..hard to think of one wine that will work all the way through but how about a lighter Zin (Peachy Canyon, Four Vines) or a nice Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Ventoux (Vielle Ferme/Cairanne or Sablet)...if it's hot enough, I'd even do a Tavel Rose. Enjoy!
Timothy Clark
Chicago,IL. —  December 29, 2008 4:35pm ET
Hi James, I've never responded here before, but thoroughly enjoy the blog, especially how frequent your entries are - thanks! I'm responding now because I just polished off a delicious (if I say so myself!) salad of greens,a little avocado,grilled salmon and couscous, washed down with a (lefover from last evening) glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle 05 Indian Wells Merlot. Now, I see you rolling your eyes - "this guy works for the winery and is shamelessly plugging his stuff on my blog", but honestly, based on your menu, the price, and what you might turn up at Jensens, I gotta' say, I think this wine will be hard to beat. If it's just disgustingly shameless for me to be recommending wines from my company, here are a few others I would look for; 2005 Primus from Veramonte, 2005 Beaucastel Cru de Coudoulet, 2005 Le Cigare Volant-Bonny Doon. Very cool idea you've had here - best of luck shopping!
James Suckling
 —  December 29, 2008 6:07pm ET
Jimmy. All the time!
Jack Tang
San Gabriel, CA —  December 29, 2008 6:14pm ET
Hi James, just wanted to let you know I had a Suckling sighting over the weekend. Who did I spot at the next table over this past weekend having dimsum at Sea Harbour in Rosemead? Looks like you were in the presence of good food and even better company (amongst them Sal Marino?) I've never had wine with dimsum but your group was certainly enjoying the meal with a couple of magnums.I was in La Quinta a few weeks ago as well. Indeed it is beautiful this time of year. Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Socal. I'm looking forward to 06 Bordeaux coverage.
Jameson Fink
Seattle, WA —  December 29, 2008 6:19pm ET
Saint Cosme CDR orTres Picos Garnacha
Stephanie A Hubbell
winter —  December 29, 2008 6:23pm ET
Esporao from Alentejo region of Portugal is making some amazing wines at great prices.Some one else mentioned Four Vines Zin,awesome for the price.
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  December 29, 2008 6:31pm ET
What an interested concept...like a personal shopper of sorts...

Are you deadset on a red? If not, try a white with the food you are proposing. Here is one that is inexpensive and food friendly...Rosenblum La Paws C¿te Du Bone Roan, Blanc. Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. You can try the red too as it would fit your bill (Syrah, Zin, Mouv blend).

For a can't miss zin, just pick up anything from Carlisle or Rosenblum. Also, if you want a dry old world style zin, try something from Joseph Swan. Yes, that Joseph Swan. They are making a comeback. Stellwagen is a favorite vineyard bottling of mine.

Good luck
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  December 29, 2008 7:11pm ET
James, Hartford Zins and Central Coast (CA) Syrahs are always no brainers for me. You might consider some of the bubblies though that Jensen's has on special right now. They would go with everything you are serving!
Colin Haggerty
La Jolla, California —  December 29, 2008 9:26pm ET
James-I love wine, but by the time you read this, you folks will be well beyond dessert. I am only writing this to give you some info while you are in La Quinta. This is all in keeping with the WS editor who totally relates to the golfer (James Molesworth). I hope you are a golfer!!! If you are, I strongly suggest the Mountain Course at La Quinta (if you are good). If you are really good, the TPC course at PGA West is wonderful. If you suck, are moderately good, very good or a professional, Desert Falls is really great! Happy hunting and Happy New Year!!!
Chris Caruso
Chicago —  December 29, 2008 9:31pm ET
Best bottle I've found lately for $12 is the 2004 Peter Lehmann Clancy's.
Rob Scarpelli
Elburn, IL —  December 29, 2008 10:02pm ET
Hartford Zin, Russian River valley. Combines the great red fruits and bramble notes you expect in a zin with a nice acidity to wash the food down. If your looking for something old world (and a few bucks cheaper) try a Juan Gill from Spain.
Roberto A Rojas
Costa Rica —  December 29, 2008 10:45pm ET
Esporao I would agree with, Four Vines Maverick Zin is very good too.Just spent a whole week in Southern Cal with the family over Christmas vacation (not better weather than CR, but better wine shopping)... we were in the Newport Beach area, beautiful.Happy Holidays!!
David Lamarca
December 29, 2008 10:50pm ET
James, I highly recommend Truchard Syrah from Carneros. The Truchard's make excellent wine and their Syrah is one of the finest in California, in my opinion of course. Very much Rhone style and very reasonable at around $25 a bottle.
Kirk R Grant
Bangor, Maine —  December 29, 2008 11:20pm ET
It's not going to be affordable...but if you can find it I'd really like to hear your thoughts on a 1995 Chateau Musar(Lebanon). I had it twice this year, and for me it's probably the best wine I've tasted out of the 1,000+ wines I've had this year. I think you'd find yourself enjoying it if given a good decant...cheers!
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  December 30, 2008 2:18am ET
Merry Christmas James! I can't wait to see what you had tonight. Cheers!
David A Zajac
December 30, 2008 10:12am ET
As always its hard to top the wines your dedicated readers suggest, I have had many and agree on almost all the suggestions that I have had, especially the Juan Gill, Tres Picos, and anything from Rosenblum and Carlisle. However, try the 7 Deadly Zins as well (why not!), its a great wine for about $13 - can't beat it for the price!
Thomas Hughes
Texas —  December 30, 2008 11:06am ET
My favorite California value wine is the Liberty School (Paso Robles) Cabernet Sauvignon. It's current vintage is 2006 and I have never seen it priced for more than $15. I usually purchase it at Costco for $12.
Noel Owsley
Palm Springs, CA —  December 30, 2008 11:14am ET
Hey!!!! I am 51 and I live in Palm Springs and love it! It isn't JUST for ancients and golfers. You should also check out L.A. Wine in Palm Desert, they have a great selection there. You picked just the right time to be here too.
James Suckling
 —  December 30, 2008 11:17am ET
LOL. Noel. Well. Now you aren't alone. I am in the area too!

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.