2001 Dead Horse Red, 2003 Mad Housewife Chardonnay and Chipotle Beef Tacos

Wine and tacos: the classic pairing.

Well, maybe not, but why not try a little wacky pairing with some wackily-named wines? And anyway, we drank the last of the tequila Sunday night in margaritas and were too lazy trek out to the liquor store. I took this as a sign that we should take Is My Blog Burning up on the challenge and taste some wines with wacky names (hosted by, and theme created by Chez Pim).

It’s rare that I browse the grocery store aisles for wine that we’re going to drink that night, as we somehow manage to accumulate plenty of wine reserves. I studied the labels judiciously, hoping that the wine guy wasn’t around to ask if I needed help. I could just picture it: “Can I help you find some wine tonight? What will you be cooking? Are you looking for a white or red? Dry or sweet?” “Oh, I’m just looking for something with a crazy label. Do you have anything like that? Something that repels people right away from the shelf?” Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

I managed to find two entirely different wines.

Mark Ryan Dead Horse Red 2001 is a red table wine made by a winery right here in Bellevue, WA (I think the wine is bottled in Bellevue, but the tasting room is in Woodinville). The description written by the grocery store said Mark Ryan is the hottest winemaker in Washington, and I saw that the grapes come from the Red Mountain appellation, which seems to be the hottest Washington state appellation these days. Columbia Valley may grow more grapes, but it’s nowhere hear as hip as Red Mountain (although to be fair to poor Columbia Valley, Red Mountain is contained within it; it just doesn’t get Red Moutain’s bling).

Dead Horse is a “blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot.” The winemaker notes say that it is “Left Bank Bordeaux in style”. I have no idea what that means, so I’ll just have to take his word for it. (He has another wine, Long Haul, which he says is made in the Right Bank style.) He says he named the wine “Dead Horse” because the vineyard where the grapes are grown, Ciel du Cheval, translates into “horse heaven” in French. Why then he didn’t just name the wine “Horse Heaven” I have no idea. Dead Horse sounds more appetizing maybe? He does note, in all caps, that no horses were hurt in the production of the wine.

Wine Enthusiast gave it 93 points; Wine Spectator gave it 90. It was $35.

Mad Housewife Chardonnay 2003 is a California Chardonnay priced at $6.99. I figured it was the perfect balance to the red, both in style and in quality.

The Tasting
We set about to taste (after some makeshift chilling). First, the Chardonnay. I was expecting a typical cheap California Chardonnay.

Me: “What does it smell like?”

P: “I don’t know. I’m not really getting anything.”

Me: “Peach?”

P: “Maybe. It’s too faint to tell. It tastes funny.”

Me: “It doesn’t really taste like a Chardonnay. No finish.”

P: “No.”

Me: “Better than the Olive Garden house wines.”

P: “Much better.”

Me: “Overall assessment?”

P: “Mild.”

Me: “That’s it? Mild?”

P: “Yep.”

The only mention I could find of this wine on the Internet was at winesquire.com. They said:

“This easy drinking white shows juicy fruit flavors of ripe apple, melon and pear that give way to hints of toasty vanillin oak, mineral, and cinnamon notes, wrapped in a soft texture that is well balanced, and gives way to a smooth, creamy finish. A very nicely priced new entry to the Seattle wine market. ”

This is when I think wine writers are just making stuff up. This wine was in no way flavorful enough to get all of that out of it. It was drinkable, it was pleasant. It wasn’t acidic and thankfully didn’t taste like a tin can. It didn’t taste like a Chardonnay either. It had none of the traditional buttery taste, and while it can be refreshing not to be overpowered, I wonder if they used any malolactic fermentation at all on this wine. It had no finish. I don’t where these people got smooth and creamy.

Had I tasted this in a blind test, I would have guessed that it was a lackluster Pinot Grigio. It just didn’t taste like much of anything.

Next, we tried the red. P. thought it smelled of rasberries. But the tannins were too much for him. They really did take hold of your entire mouth and coat your tongue. His final assessment? “Strong.” This wine had much more powerful flavors. It was complex and rich. But just a little thick. I guess this is a wine meant for a bit of aging. At 14.7% alcohol, it was strong in another way too. One glass was plenty.

I just never know what to do about red wines: when you store them, when you drink them. Wine Spectator agrees with P. about the tannins, calling the wine chunky and chewy: “Needs time to resolve the tannins. Best from 2006 through 2012.” Only 224 cases were made. Should I go buy some more and cellar it for a couple of years? Can you really know how a wine is going to age? (I said to P., “you’re a wine expert; you said exactly what Wine Spectator said. Well, you said, “bleech”, but same thing really.” “Yeah, that’s what I meant anyway,” he told me.)

Wine Enthusiast doesn’t mention aging. It calls the wine a stunning success: inky and thick, tasting of iron. Iron? I admit, my palate didn’t pick up on the iron. The black cherry, yes. Iron, no.

Conclusion: Cellar the dead horse. Pick the mad housewife over the Olive Garden house.

chipotle beef tacos with radishes
The tacos came about like this. As we drove by my favorite taco truck on Sunday, I said to P., “I want a taco!” He looked at me lovingly, ready to grant my every whim, and said “no.” He thinks I mostly wanted the taco in an abstract way, but not in an actual way, as I’m trying really hard to eat healthfully. But, no, actually, I wanted the taco. So, he said he’d make me tacos.

My love for taco truck tacos started back in high school. On the weekends, we’d head out for this dirt parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Someone always brought beer, someone else would turn up the car stereo. Sometimes, someone brought a keg. And the taco truck was always there. He got there around 10pm and stayed as long as we did. The lines were always long. Two tacos for a dollar. He topped them with whole radishes.

We made up the recipe for last night’s tacos as we went along. We cut some beef into long strips, then made a marinade of the juice of four small limes, half a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and salt. We let that sit in the refrigerator for about a half an hour while the grill heated up. Then we grilled them for a few minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, we sauted a sliced sweet onion and some garlic in olive oil. We sliced up some lettuce, avocado and, of course, radishes.

The beef turned out great, crisp and spicy, with a coating of the chipotle marinade. I like my tacos with corn tortillas; P. prefers taco shells. We added a little sour cream to cut the heat, and a bit of cheese. They were perfect (and I think it was about 8 WW points for two tacos).

5 thoughts on “2001 Dead Horse Red, 2003 Mad Housewife Chardonnay and Chipotle Beef Tacos

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  4. Hi! This is not related to your post, but I just wanted to send you a quick note. As a fellow Alice, with a food blog loosely connected with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I thought you’d want to know (if you didn’t already) that today (January 27) is Lewis Carroll’s birthday. Hope you find time to do something fun to celebrate the occasion!

  5. Hi! I did not know that today was his birthday. I’m going to have to think of something fun to make in honor of that! I’ll have to check your blog and see if you have anything planned.

    Cool to meet another wonderland adventurer!

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