Category Archives: Rated D/F

Review: Campo Azul Tequila

Campo Azul is a 100% blue agave from the Jalisco Highlands, most notable for the hologram that wraps around the neck of the bottle. We sampled both the blanco and extra anejo expressions of the spirit (sorry, reposado!) — two tequilas as wildly different in quality as they get. Both varieties are 80 proof.

Campo Azul Blanco Tequila – This unaged expression is clean, with a moderate agave backbone and a bit of an earthy character to, somewhat uncommon in blanco tequila. Very smooth, with no burn at all, light lemon notes, and light notes of fresh evergreen needles. Refreshing, and very affordable for 100% agave. A- / $23

Campo Azul Extra Anejo Tequila – Aged 18 months in oak, you’d think a sugar bomb was in store for you, but you’d be wrong. Instead, here the piney character goes overboard, with a finish that exudes Pine-Sol so heavily I was instantly transported to a Las Vegas bathroom. There are touches of vanilla on the finish, but nothing can stand up to that gin-like evergreen character. D+ / $27

tequilacampoazul.com

Review: White Mule Farms Spodee — “Wine with a Kick”

spodee 158x300 Review: White Mule Farms Spodee    Wine with a KickAccording to White Mule Farms, the company behind the oddball Spodee, this, er, drinkable was a Depression-era concoction of wine mixed with herbs, spices, and moonshine. Sort of a ghetto version of Port, perhaps, from the sound of it.

Spodee today seems to be perhaps a simpler product: Wine fortified with white whiskey, with chocolate flavoring in lieu of the herbs and spices. Don’t worry about getting too trashed on Spodee. At 18% alcohol — barely 1 or 2% more boozy than most Zinfandels these days — it can’t have much moonshine in it. The bottle itself says the liquid inside is “Grape wine with natural chocolate flavor,” no mention of a moonshine kicker. The packaging is indeed an old-fashioned milk bottle.

How’s it taste? Straight up, exactly like you’d expect: Strong (cheap) wine, significantly sweetened with chocolate syrup. You can probably recreate this at home without too much trouble with some plonk and a bottle of Hershey’s. Any nuance in the wine is lost in the candy character, and the resulting concoction isn’t drinkable for much more than novelty’s sake.

Spodee’s signature cocktail is “Spodee & Sody” — Spodee and Coke, half and half — which is a bit like drinking a Chocolate Coke. Here, though, the wine component gets in the way of the fun, putting a raisiny character into the drink and leaving it equally tough to get down. As my brother put it when served a glass, “Nope, that just doesn’t get any better.”

D / $9 per 500ml bottle / spodeewine.com

Review: Jellybean Wines

This new brand is attempting to muscle its way into the mass-market wine space (Yellow Tail, Cupcake, Barefoot, you know the ones), choosing to head to the ever-popular “desserts” branding strategy for its identity. Jellybean wines come from just about everywhere. We reviewed two of the company’s offerings, with predictable results.

2011 Jellybean Berry Smooth Red Wine Blend – A Spanish red blend. Deep blueberry notes, as candied as they get. Impossibly sweet and, I guess, smooth in a way, but more in the way that Kool-Aid is smooth. Incredibly simple. D+

2010 Jellybean Candy-Apple Red Cabernet Sauvignon California – Another wine that lives up to its name, with flavors reminiscent of a cinnamon red hot (and no apple to speak of). Marginally better, but cloyingly sweet. C-

each $13 / jellybeanwines.com

Book Review: Never Cook Sober Cookbook

never cook sober cookbook Book Review: Never Cook Sober CookbookI’m the first one to agree with the concept of using alcohol — beer, wine, spirits — in your cooking, but a standalone cookbook devoted to boozing up otherwise average recipes is just a mistake from the start.

This slim volume goes for kitsch, with dishes like “Sassy Salmon in Champagne Sauce,” “Vini Vidi Vici Vodka Caesar Salad,” and — ahem — “Mix Drinks Like a Pro Whiskey Steak and Cheese Sandwich.” The bar in your cookbook isn’t exactly high when it includes a PB&J sandwich with flavored vodka mixed into it and, seriously, jello shots. The latter are included in the “breakfast” section. The book’s recipe for a pulled pork sandwich calls for prepackaged pulled pork and barbecue sauce. (And bourbon.)

Interspersed with banal facts about alcohol and tired quotes on the same topic, the book isn’t just unfunny, it’s also a little wrongheaded when it comes to how alcohol gets used in most recipes. The book includes icons to indicate the “alcohol content” of each dish. From one jug (one shot or less) to six (five shots or more), the ratings bizarrely don’t take into account whether the recipe is cooked or not — thus removing most of the alcohol from the dish. Come on, people.

D / $11 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Vino Innovations Vino Freeze Mix

Do you like wine? Do you like Kool-Aid? Do you like Slurpees? If you said yes to all three, you’re in for a real treat (ahem): Vino Freeze Mix, which gives you the triple threat of ultra-sugary powder plus the buzz of cheap wine in a slushy frozen package.

It sounds like a joke but I assume you this is a real thing. In fact, I tried it. With my mouth.

Let’s start with what it is. Vino Freeze Mix comes a company called Old World Gourmet, so you might imagine all the Ukranian babushkas carefully harvesting the sugar, citric acid, purple carrot powder (for color), and natural flavors from the fields, then packaging it 12 ounces at a time in metallic bags and festively colored boxes to be sold in gourmet stores across the land. (A full bag of Vino Freeze Mix (10 servings) has 260 grams of sugar.)

To make your Vino Freeze — I chose the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor, but a half dozen varieties are available — you dump the bag into a pitcher, add a full bottle of “your favorite* red wine,” and another 750ml bottle of water. Stir, then freeze for 3 to 4 hours, and your wine slushy is ready.

Some problems I encountered: First, a pitcher does not promote freezing well, so you are advised to follow the “or” advice on the package and use a plastic bag to contain the concoction. In fact, my pitcher popped open in the freezer and rained Blueberry Pomegranate sleet across my fridge, which was awesome. My fault, though. Also, after 4 hours, my Vino Freeze was still mostly water. It took at least 7 hours to get anywhere near slushy status.

And once it was done, my, what a heretical beverage this was. Ungodly sweet, with a cough syrup kicker, the only thing going for this “drink” was that it was cold and the weather outside was warm. Clearly this is marketed for the daytime-drinking cougar crowd, but lord knows those tireless ladies deserve better than this.

D- / $10 per package / owgshoponline.com

* I highly recommend not using your favorite wine.

vino freeze mix Review: Vino Innovations Vino Freeze Mix

Review: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

I’ve never quite understood the idea behind the Mickey Finn name. Yeah, it sounds Irish, but it really means a drink served to someone to knock them out (typically to take advantage of them in some way). Why you’d name your Irish whiskey brand after such a thing, I have no idea.

Mickey Finn makes an Irish whiskey (really, it’s made in Dublin) flavored with green apples (“natural apple flavors,” as the label explains). What’s the big idea with this? It is “fanciful,” also as the label suggests, to believe that in the Prohibition era whiskey was smuggled into the U.S. in apple barrels. I’m not sure how that translates to putting apple flavor into the whiskey itself, but I get the homage at least.

Mickey Finn looks like apple juice and tastes like what would happen if you put Apple Pucker into Irish whiskey. It is as difficult to drink as it is to fathom, two flavors that have no business being in the same glass together. The apple is overwhelming here, sour and chemical in character. The whiskey, barely there at all, almost a sweetish afterthought and hardly anything you’d identify with any authority.

Is this something I just “don’t get” or is it just the latest bad idea to come out of whiskeydom? You be the judge.

70 proof.

D / $24 / mickeyfinnwhiskey.com

Mickey Finn Apple Whiskey Review: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

Review: Hiram Walker Watermelon Sour Schnapps

Wow. No.

“All natural flavors” don’t get more horrifying than this. Or more Kool-Aid pink in color.

I could go into detail about the flavor that reminds me of Jolly Ranchers melted into Chinese sweet & sour sauce, but let me leave it at this: I would have trouble imagining even the most desperate bum in need of a buzz knocking back more than half a shot of this stuff, and even then I know he’d probably be really angry about it.

30 proof.

F / $10 / hiramwalker.com

Hiram Walker Watermelon Review: Hiram Walker Watermelon Sour Schnapps

Review: Malibu Red

On paper, Malibu Red is a terrible, terrible idea: Take standard Malibu (coconut-flavored rum), and add white tequila to it.

The brainchild of R&B artist Ne-Yo, I am here to tell you that, yes, Malibu Red is as bad as you think it will be.

Fundamentally these are two great tastes… that just don’t go together: Super-sweet coconut rum on the nose, muddled with sharp agave-heavy tequila. Like putting orange juice on your cereal, these flavors collide in an often angry, unsatisfying fashion, and it’s difficult to get a real handle on either one. The finish is cloying and muddy, leaving you desperate for one side to take hold. Neither does, and your mouth ends up coated in a syrupy, tangy, almost medicinal film.

70 proof.

D+ / $25 / malibu-rum.com

malibu red Review: Malibu Red

Roundup: Sparkling Moscato on the Rise

Moscato continues to prove how popular this grape has become when used as a low-alcohol, fruit-forward, and sweet alternative to other sparkling wines. These Moscatos show just how inexpensive and far-flung this wine is, hailing from eastern Europe and Australia, while not exactly proving how great it can be.

NV Esti Exclusiv Rose Moscato – Hailing from Moldova, this Moscato is from the same company that makes Exclusiv Vodka. The peach-colored wine lacks finesse. The fruit flavors are present — apples, mixed red berries — but come across like canned fruit, with a huge dose of perfumy flower petals atop  them. The finish is on the sour side. 10% abv. C- / $7

NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato Australia – Not a bad representation of Moscato. Oranges and peaches, with a sweet but not overbearing presence. Finish is clean and refreshing, not cloying, while leaving behind some bracing sweetness. 9% abv. B+ / $6

NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato Rose Australia – A rose similar to the Exclusiv, it’s cloying and smells of musty perfume, but with heavier and more saccharine sweetness on the finish. 9% abv. D+ / $7

esti exclusiv rose moscat Roundup: Sparkling Moscato on the Rise

Review: Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah

Touted as “the hottest beer this side of Hell,” Twisted Pine’s Ghost Face Killah takes a style of beer unknown to many (chile beers) and smashes any semblance of tame spice. Ghost Face Killah is brewed with six different types of peppers – including Anaheim, Fresno, Jalapeno, Serrano, and Habanero – but the calling card (and allusion to its name) is the inclusion of the Bhut Jolokia / Ghost Pepper. For those who don’t know, the Ghost pepper is about 170 times hotter than a jalapeño and 8.5 times hotter than a habanero and is more commonly used as a weapon within hand grenades and pepper spray than an actual culinary ingredient. Full disclosure: I am not much of a spice lover… When wanting to actually enjoy my food, the hottest I’ll go is probably Tabasco Habanero in terms of commonly available sauces, though I always enjoy trying spicier offerings.

Straight out of the bottle this couldn’t look less unassuming as it appears much like a mass-marketed light lager would with a pale yellow body and relatively meager head and retention. It is even surprisingly clear despite having a wheat base to it. It isn’t until you get your nose closer to the glass that you remember that this isn’t just any beer. A smorgasbord of chili and vegetal matter fills the aroma and obviously it is predominantly spicy, with the habanero and jalapeno surprisingly easy to pinpoint (although if I were more familiar with the other varieties here, it’d probably be possible to target them as well). I get maybe just the slightest notion of wheat and citrus, but I can’t say for sure if it’s my imagination or not.

This isn’t my first beer brewed with chili peppers, so I’m not exactly a stranger to heat in beers, but the first thing that comes to my mind when drinking this is “wow.” I don’t even have time to actually swallow my first sip before the heat kicks the door down. While other beers are a bit more subtle about it, the image on the label should tell you what this beer is all about. Any salvation the wheat could promise is swept away along with my tastebuds. The positive about this beer is that you can actually taste the peppers, although they sort of blend together rather than being easy to distinguish. But I hope you like heat because that and some pepper is all you’re getting here.

The impression left on the palate after this is both impressive and terrible. Impressive that such a small sip of this beer can leave such a lingering effect on the tongue and throat, and terrible because said effect is a vast amount of burning and numbing. The impression of this isn’t just a mouthfeel, but also a chestfeel and bodyfeel as even your extremities feel the power of the ghost pepper.

This is a beer in which a little goes a long, long way. I’ve had this glass in front of me for almost 30 minutes and I probably drank maybe 3 oz. The heat is intense, but after letting it mellow on the mouth, it gradually fades into a dull heat throb which isn’t so bad, actually. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine drinking a whole bottle of this solo. I am probably going to put the rest back into the bottle and either cook with it or disinfect the bathroom.

5.0% abv.

D+ (A for originality) / $3.50 per 12oz bottle / twistedpinebrewing.com

Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah Review: Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah

Review: Dr. McGillicuddy’s “Intense” Schnapps

I am starting to question this “Doctor’s” medical credentials. Apple Pie Schnapps? Hmmm, color me suspicious.

Designed as “party shots,” Dr. McGillicuddy’s offers a range of traditionally flavored Schnapps… plus these four new modern additions. We braved our way into the quartet (in this order) with as open a mind as possible.

All are 42 proof.

Dr. McGillicuddy’s Apple Pie Intense Schnapps – Color me impressed. It really smells and tastes of fresh apple pie. Light and sweet, plenty of apple and cinnamon notes, and no burn at all. “Intense” it isn’t; rather it’s quite mild. I’ve actually tried apple pie flavored liqueurs before, and this one is easily the best one I’ve had to date. A-

Dr. McGillicuddy’s Wild Grape Intense Schnapps – Looks just like grape Kool-Aid. But on the tongue, it’s incredibly muddy. This is wild, but hardly grape. Flavors of burnt sugar and chemicals dominate. D

Dr. McGillicuddy’s Root Beer Intense Schnapps – Authentic root beer nose. The body, very sweet, like a can of A&W, and almost refreshing. The finish is a bit on the cloying side, but otherwise root beer nuts will find this a winner. B

Dr. McGillicuddy’s Ice Mint Intense Schnapps – Smells awfully minty, with promise. Sadly, tastes like toothpaste. C-

each $10 / drmcgillicuddy.com

Dr. McGillicuddys Schnapps Review: Dr. McGillicuddys Intense Schnapps

Review: Simply Naked Wines

Wine and wood go hand in hand, but Simply Naked’s experiment takes the oak out of the equation. All of these wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel. For some of these wines, like Pinot Grigio, that’s normal. Chardonnay: OK. But Merlot and Cabernet? Interesting experiments.

Here’s how the wines — all budget bottlings from a melange of California fruit — stack up.

2010 Simply Naked Unoaked Pinot Grigio California – Lively and fresh, as Pinot Grigio really has to be. Lemon (or lemongrass) notes, surprisingly fruit-forward, lightly honeyed body, and short finish. As good as any bottle of Santa Margherita. B+

2010 Simply Naked Unoaked Chardonnay California – Honey and lemon notes here, with a moderately big body. A little big funky on the finish, with almonds, nougat, and other odd characters not typical of your average Chardonnay. B

2010 Simply Naked Unoaked Merlot California – Wow, not at all what I wanted. This is a young, astringent, and ultra-sweet wine that, rather than letting the fruit shine, plays down its natural strengths. Sharp and unflattering. D

2010 Simply Naked Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon California – About the same, quality-wise. Musty and biting, with funky plum/prune-jam, vegemite, and yeast notes. No. D-

about $8 each / cwinesus.com

Simply Naked Family Review: Simply Naked Wines

Review: Alex Elman Wines

Sometimes the wines we get aren’t our favorites. But we review them anyway, especially when the story behind them is so lovely.

This line of inexpensive whites and reds from Argentina are created by a young, blind winemaker (Alex Elman, of course) and are produced sustainably (and affordably). The inaugural releases arrive this month on U.S. shelves.

2010 Alex Elman Torrontes Mendoza – Nice, lemony nose, but the body is green, weedy, and unripe. C

2010 Alex Elman Chardonnay Mendoza – Overly buttery, which saps the fruit (evident in the nose) from the palate. Some melon and more lemon charms here, but nothing that will bowl you over. C+

2009 Alex Elman Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza – Thin and a little weedy, lots of meat and smoke character. Not great. D+

2009 Alex Elman Malbec Mendoza – My favorite of the bunch, which is fitting considering Malbec is essentially Argentina’s national grape. This one has real fruit character, plummy and slightly jammy. Easygoing finish and, at last, balanced. B+

$13 each / aewines.com

alex elman collection wine Review: Alex Elman Wines

Tasting Report: Red Wines of Chile

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a live, online tasting event featuring the red wines of Chile. While Chile is primarily known as Cabernet country, I was surprised to find that it is home to several other widely-planted grapes. Its Pinot Noirs shocked me with their sophistication and quality. Its Syrahs, however, were another story…

Eight wines were tasted. Here’s how they shook out.

2009 Valdivieso Reserva Pinot Noir – A solid Pinot. Bright cherry fruit, tart with good acid. Light body, solid flavor, exactly what a good, new world-style Pinot should be. A- / $17

2009 Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir - Bolder, with a fuller body but just as much fruit as the Valdivieso. Some lightly smoky and tobacco notes. Also enjoyable, though the finish is a little too herbal to stand up to the fruit in the wine. B+ / $20

2009 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley - Similar tone to the Nimbus, perhaps a little smoother and more refined. Balanced, with interesting eucalyptus and evergreen notes in the finish. A- / $20

2008 Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley – Intense and jammy, rich, Zinfandel-like body combined with tart, black cherry character. Disarming, and imminently drinkable, but the massively tart and slightly bitter finish gives it a rough conclusion. B+ / $65

2009 Tamaya Syrah Limari Valley Reserva – The first miss of the evening, a Syrah with off menthol notes, skunky earth, and burned wood. Off finish. D+ / $18

2006 Loma Larga Syrah Bk-Bl Casablanca Valley – Bitter green pepper notes, overwhelming bitterness in the finish. Earthy to a fault. Unpleasant. D / $29

2009 Underraga T.H. Syrah Leyda Valley - Better, showing a little of what Chilean Syrah can be: Dark black fruit with intense herbal notes. Still, the balance is wrong and the finish is off, but the intensity marks a good effort. C+ / $25

2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah Francois Lurton Lolol Valley – Dark chocolate character meats bitter, earth, and meat notes. Tolerable, but far too intense, with a bracing (not in a good way) finish. C- / $13

Review: Hangover Gone (aka Hang On)

I’m not saying I had a hangover, I’m just saying that perhaps the words “another bottle of Slovenian* wine” aren’t necessarily a good idea.

Another shot-based hangover remedy, Hangover Gone — “Powered by Cysteine” — claims to cure your hangover in “three phases.” First it helps to metabolize acetaldehyde, “alcohol’s main and most toxic byproduct.” Second it uses glucose to “provide the extra fuel needed for cellular metabolization.” And third it uses a blend of herbs and vitamins — milk thistle, artichoke, goji berry, and ginger extract, plus Vitamins, C, E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, Folate, B12, Pantothenic Acid, and more — to “rid the body of harmful toxins.”

The delivery vehicle is the now-well-known 2 ounce shot, served at room temperature. The taste is unpalatable in the extreme, a dark (sour, it says) cherry cough syrup sweetened to within an inch of its life. I am baffled by this approach to hangover remedies: When you’re not feeling so great after a night out, the last thing I want to do is put an even worse taste in my mouth.

Sadly, Hangover Gone didn’t do much for my post-Eastern-bloc-originated wine flu. It wasn’t until I took some Advil that the situation started to improve but, as is always the case with products like this, individual mileage will likely vary considerably. For me, though, Hangover Gone just didn’t live up to its goals. Or its name.

* It could have been Estonian. I keep getting that wrong.

D / $3 per 2 oz. shot / hangonshot.com

hangover gone Review: Hangover Gone (aka Hang On)

Review: Hannah Nicole Wines

Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area includes Oakland… as well as, apparently, a good number of vineyards. Hannah Nicole, in “the shadows of Mount Diablo,” is a relative newcomer to the business. We tasted four of the winery’s recent releases.

2009 Hannah Nicole Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Contra Costa County – 12.5% Viognier in this bizarre wine does little to improve it: Unusual for Sauvignon Blanc, it is barrel aged, which adds an unfortunate wood/vanilla/butter character to what is normally a crisp and lively wine. Here the wine is wholly out of balance and doesn’t work at all, not with food or alone. D / $22

2009 Hannah Nicole Viognier Contra Costa County – Very mild Viognier, an easygoing expression of the grape — actually 90% Viognier and 10% Sauvignon Blanc Musque. Mild perfume character plays nicely with the easygoing peach and apricot flavors in the wine. Simple, not bad. B+ / $18

2007 Hannah Nicole Merlot Reserve Contra Costa County – Unripe, dusty, and overly harsh on the palate. Has a Zin-like jamminess that is at odds with the silky smoothness that defines good Merlot. C / $29

2007 Hannah Nicole Meritage Contra Costa County – 49% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. A classic Bordeaux blend. More successful than the Merlot Reserve, but unremarkable. On the jammy side, but has enough character to it in the form of plum, cocoa, and herbal notes to make it of moderate interest. B- / $29

hnvwines.com

Review: 2008 & 2009 Mouton Cadet and Cadet d’Oc Wines

Now on its 80th year, Mouton Cadet is a venerable budget label from the venerable Baron Philippe de Rothschild. (If your supermarket carries any French wine, it’s probably this.)

The brand is now extending the line but instead of blending a selection of grapes, traditional with all Bordeaux wines, the new Cadet d’Oc wines (pictured) are 100% varietal wines sourced not from Bordeaux but from the Languedoc region.

All feature rock-bottom pricing: $9.99 a bottle.

2009 Mouton Cadet Blanc White Bordeaux – 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, and 5% Muscadelle. Lemony, with clear, unripened melon notes. A little fuzzy on the finish, but perfectly palatable and easygoing. B+

2008 Mouton Cadet Rouge Red Bordeaux – 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Franc. Bitter and rough, as difficult as the Mouton Cadet Blanc is simple and easy. Not a winner. D+

2009 Cadet d’Oc Chardonnay - An efficient Chardonnay, lightly oaked and crisp with apple notes. The finish is a bit off but for the price it’s certainly good enough for a weekday dinner. B+

2009 Cadet d’Oc Cabernet Sauvignon - Exactly what you’d expect from a $10 imported Cab, jammy and smoky with wood notes — probably some shortcuts in the aging here. Some fine plum character at its core, but there’s too much greenery and vegetable notes to make it anything more than not unpleasant. C+

each $10 / moutoncadet.com

Review: 2008 and 2009 Monthaven Boxed Wines

Monthaven’s 2008 Chardonnay didn’t exactly impress us.

Today the company is back to try again with its 2009 release, plus two new reds from the 2008 vintage, all served up in convenient 3 liter boxes.

Yes, that’s 9 liters of wine. No, we did not drink it all. (Not possible.)

2009 Monthaven Chardonnay Central Coast is at least better than the 2008. Young and with minimal oaking, it’s pretty easy-drinking, and not overly imbued with any particular character. Apple notes are light and fruity, with a little hint of pineapple and some wood in the finish. Passable. B-

2008 Monthaven Merlot Central Coast is undistinguished in nearly any way. Watery and thin, it tastes unbelievably young and without any body or character beyond very simple cherry fruit. Harmless. C

2008 Monthaven Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast is the worst of the lot. Incredibly green, it is embarassingly young, racy with the paradox of both unripe berry and raw raspberry juice notes. Tastes extremely cheap. A hard sell, to say the least. D+

$20 per 3L box / octavinhomewinebar.com

Review: Southern Comfort Lime

It says on the bottle: “The classic reinvented.”

I suppose Southern Comfort is a classic. It’s got its own well-established nickname — SoCo — and the peach liqueur is called for in more cocktail recipes than you’d think.

What then to make of Southern Comfort Lime? Take some sweetened lime juice (like Rose’s) and add it to SoCo and you’ve got SoCo Lime. Imagine that SoCo sweetness plus the overwhelming tartness of lime juice.

It tastes like it sounds: Not really pleasant at all.

OK, I’m being charitable. The aroma alone is nauseating, and in your mouth it tastes like jet fuel. The lime is over-the-top, and that saccharine SoCo burn is overwhelming, redolent of menthol and gasoline. SoCo suggests drinking this on the rocks, but that’s a fool’s errand. Perhaps with lots of soda or ginger ale this could be palatable, but even that sounds like madness when much better mixing spirits are available. SoCo Lime is simply a bad idea. I don’t want to heap insult atop injury, but, seriously, if you need lime-flavored SoCo, I’m begging you: Buy a lime.

55 proof.

D- / $18 / southerncomfort.com

Southern Comfort Lime Review: Southern Comfort Lime

Review: Conway Family Deep Sea Wines

Under its Deep Sea label, Conway Family Wines produces a passel of products. In our sampling, quality was all over the map, with a couple certainly worth a try.

2009 Deep Sea Sea Flower Dry Rose – Strawberries and perfume in this rose of Grenache (68%) and Syrah (38%), though the finish is a bit thin. As modern roses go, this one is refreshing but on the simple side.  B / $25

2008 Deep Sea Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – 15 months in oak give this Chardonnay an incredible amount of wood character. It’s like drinking the residue from a wood chipper, it’s so overdone. If you can get past it, you’ll find intense honey and heather notes in there, but the balance is all wrong. It’s too sweet, too smoky, and far too heavy. Not at all for me. D+ / $34

2008 Deep Sea Red Central Coast – A bizarre blend: Syrah 74.3%, Petite Sirah 13.5%, Lagrein 5.8%, Merlot 3.7%, and Mourvèdre 2.6%. Whoa. Ultra-jammy, this is distinctly Syrah-focused with an overwhelming fruitiness and sweetness that it’s a little difficult to really get a handle on. Tastes young and quite simple, but the vegetal notes on the nose — from the Lagrein, perhaps? — don’t serve it well. C / $28

2008 Deep Sea Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills – The best wine in the bunch reviewed here, a classic and almost elegant Pinot Noir, though not as big as most Santa Barbara Pinots tend to be. Light cherry notes on a moderate to light body, with mild earth notes playing backup. Easy to like, though uncomplicated. B+ / $36

conwayfamilywines.com

deep sea red wine 2008 Review: Conway Family Deep Sea Wines