Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cool Cubes for The Fourth and Beyond

This July 4th weekend, we're giving a salute to two white wines in sleek octagonal packaging by Octavin Home Wine Bar. Soon after we found the Silver Birch New Zealand 2009 Sauvignon Blanc at the Palm Desert Albertson's off Washington, we received Monthaven Winery 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay as a sample. We tested them out for more than a month and even let them sit in our frig during a vacation break. To our surprise, the last drops we angled out of the spigot were as fresh and tasty as the first glasses we poured.

Both sport a sophisticated, luxe look but make no mistake – the eco-friendly packaging is more than just a pretty box. These cubes are functional too, with an octagonal shape that takes up less refrigerator real estate than square-boxed wines. Inside, an air-tight bladder protects wine from oxidation that makes fruit go bad and wine go flat. Neat freaks will like the easy-pour spigot that's also no-drip.

Now, when you want a splash of wine or hesitate to open a new bottle, you can instead pour a glass at a time for up to six weeks. The 3-liter capacity equals four standard 750-ml bottles or about 20 five-ounce pours. And the price is right. Based on a retail price around $25 (we found it for less at Albertson's), the per-bottle price for each Octavin package comes out to about $6 or less.

If you're looking for an easy Fourth sipper, Monthaven Chardonnay fits the bill. It's refreshing all by itself with ripe apple and subtle tropical fruit flavors. Juicy acidity makes this medium-bodied Chard a good match for grilled fish and white-sauced pasta dishes. You won't find much oak influence, buttery textures or blast of high-alcohol here, all of which can make some California Chardonnays tough to enjoy on hot, summer days.

We gave slight preference to Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc for its racier, light grassy and lime flavors. Also medium-bodied and lively, it will keep you cool by the pool and also pairs well with guacamole and chips, ceviche, light salads and simply grilled fish or chicken dishes.

Will either wine bowl you over with complex aromas or flavors? No, but they're not meant to either. Both are pleasant enough to make your Fourth celebration more festive or satisfy your desire for a glass of easy-drinking wine that's not going to demand a lot of attention or concentration.

We'll report back on the Octavin-packaged reds soon. From our experience with these two whites, our taste-testing window might stretch out until Labor Day. Let the backyard party-planning begin! Give these two a try over the long, hot summer and let us know what you think.

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