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Archive for December, 2009

10 Bottles of Bubbly That Got Swagger!


New Years Ball - Times Square

New Years Ball - Times Square

Tick Tock.


It’s that time of year again when most of us go wandering around in the “Champagne” aisle looking for that perfect bubbly to toast with loved ones.  You ask yourself, should I purchase the genuine article from Champagne, France or just something modeled after it?


Sparkling wine is the term used when talking about all of the other bubbly stuff made outside of the Champagne region of France.  Some examples of sparkling wine include Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, and French inspired Brut from California estates.  The choices and style differences from around the globe can be endless and pricing can also be all over the board, depending on what you’re looking for and how much you want to spend.


Here’s a list of 10 reliable Sparkling wines/Champagne that know how to make it pop year after year.


  1. Segura Viudas Brut Extra Dry Cava (Spain) Price: $10.  For the money, this might be the most delicious sparkler on the market.
  2. Freixenet Brut de Noirs Cava Rose (Spain) Price: $8.  Another great Spanish sparkler with a touch of sweetness.
  3. Mionetto DOC Prosecco (Italy) Price: $12.  Italian sparklers really got my attention this year, and this one is totally fantastic.
  4. Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Sparkling (USA) Price: $12.  A real crowd pleaser and very reliable year after year.
  5. Domaine Chandon Brut Sparkling (USA) Price: $20.  Can be a bit too dry for some, but very French in style and taste.
  6. Roederer Estate Sparkling Brut and Rose (USA) Price: $25-$30.  This stuff starts to move into French Champagne pricing – but so does the quality!  Both the Brut and Rose are superb and its as good as the best that France has to offer.  If your wallet runneth over with Benjamins, you may want to try a bottle of their Cristal (Rappers sold separately).
  7. Gruet Blanc de Blancs (USA) Price: $25.  The Gruet Winery is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico – reason enough to try this American sparkler.
  8. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV (France) Price: $40.  Some may argue that this French Champagne is overpriced, but it has established a benchmark in quality for itself that a lot of other producers have imitated.
  9. Pol Roger Blanc NV Brut (France) Price: $40.  I love this Champagne!  It’s rich, interesting, and tastes even better after two days in the fridge after being opened.
  10.   Bollinger Special Cuvee NV (France) Price: $60. At 60 bucks a bottle, this Champagne delivers the goods!  The Bollinger is about as good and reliable as it gets when it comes to rich tasting French Champagne. 

Happy New Year! 


Top 10 Wines “That Got It Right!” in 2009

Rather than replicating a list of the particular wines the large wine publications proclaimed as being the best of 2009, or even rehashing my own personal favorites, I thought I’d provide a different look at the top 10 wines that my palate said, “Got It Right!” in 2009.




1.  Anything But Chardonnay Brotherhood – 2009 proved to be another exciting year for wine drinkers who were looking for something other than Chardonnay.  Riesling, Torrontes, Vinho Verde, and Viognier (to name just a few) “Got it Right” in 2009.


2.  I Prefer My Chardonnay “Naked” – In 2009 we started seeing more Chardonnay producers leaving the trees in the forest and getting “naked” or “unoaked”.  So, before you scratch Chardonnay off of your wine checklist, you may want to look again!


3.  Acidity Is A Good Thing – In 2009, I experienced a lot of terrific white wines that brought the acidity to the party.  The places that rocked me most throughout 2009 were Chile, Portugal and New Zealand.


4.  Italy Is Not Just For Pinot Grigio And Chianti Anymore – Man, if you haven’t experienced an Italian sparkler this year, you’re missing out!


5.  The Wine Treasure Chest Called France All I can say here is that the French sure know how to make fine white wines, and cheap tasty ones too!  Treasure hunters might want to start digging in the Gascony, Languedoc and Loire Valley aisles.


6.  I Never Met A Red Headed Spaniard That I Didn’t Like – I’m probably a little bit biased on this one, but damn – I had a lot of great Spanish reds in 2009 and Garnacha spoke to me like Rain Man in my ears.


7.  There’s A Lot To Like Down South! – Gadzooks I tell you – I had a love fest with many a Carmenere and Malbec this past year.


8.  California Can Still Smoke’em – Nobody brings the noise like Cali.  I had a few Cabs and red Zins that nearly took me to the moon and back in 2009.  Big, bold and 100% California gold in those hills!


9.  I Like My Wines Shaken Not Stirred – Industry insiders say that most inexpensive blended wines are an afterthought to utilize the leftover grape lots.  Well, sometimes the “leftovers” are better!  I didn’t meet too many a Meritage in 2009 that I didn’t find enjoyable – especially in the under $15 club.  Additionally, the wines created by those wineries who strive to produce Bordeaux-style blends, using only the very best grapes, weren’t too shabby either.


10.  But, I’ve Never Heard Of That Place Or Grape… – In 2009, retailers introduced wine lovers to a few more, far away, and unpronounceable places that are making exciting wines while adding a few new grapes to our growing wine vocabulary.

The question is – Were you too afraid to try any of them?  If you were reluctant or a bit intimidated in 2009, do yourself a favor and taste drive something new in 2010!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!


BYOB – George M. Taber Brings Tavel

As wine lovers, we’ve all had those really special and unforgettable moments in time that become ingrained in our minds forever.  These keepsakes could have been a particular bottle of wine, a special trip, a memorable meal or event, or maybe even the time that you made your first wine.  My point is, these very personal and special experiences make us all slow down in that very moment to appreciate and take notice of all the wonderful things and blessings that we have in life.


My personal goal for this website was and still is to share the good, the bad, and sometimes ugly wine encounters that I’ve experienced, and to share them with you in a manner that is enjoyable and relatable to you in your own “WineLife”, so to speak.  For this reason, I wanted to create a place on this website for people just like you to exchange and share your own memorable wine experiences for others to read about.


Earlier this past year, I had a very special wine experience that will forever remain in my memories.


george-taber-and-mark-walkerWhile attending the Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting and swapping wine tasting notes with best-selling author Mr. George M. Taber.  You might remember, he was “that American guy” living in France as a reporter and editor for Time Magazine who was asked to cover this silly little wine tasting challenge that was going to take place in Paris between France and a newcomer called California.  The rest, as they say, is history.  He went on to write a best-seller about this monumental day in California wine history called ”Judgement of Paris.  He’s also written “To Cork or Not to Corkand most recently released a book entitled “In Search of Bacchus“.




I recently caught up with Mr. Taber to wish him happy holidays and congratulate him on the release of “In Search of Bacchus”.  All that I can tell you about this man is that he’s very down-to–earth and easy to talk to, just like any other wine buddy that you might have, and he’s got a lot of great stories to share.  With that in mind, I asked him if he would kindly share one of his own personal wine-related experiences for the BYOB section of WineLife365.  He graciously agreed and took time out of his schedule to share this wonderful wine moment in his life that I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading just as much as I did.


Without further adieu, the following was written for WineLife365 by Mr. George M. Taber!

While I was researching my book “In Search of Bacchus,” I had a lot of interesting wine/life experiences. But the one I remember most vividly took place more than 30 years ago. It remains burned white hot into my memory.


It was sometime between May 1973 and September 1976, when I was working for Time magazine in Paris. Sorry, but I can’t zero in on it closer than that. I had been sent down from Paris to Provence to report on a story the subject of which I can’t even remember. But I can still vividly recall that I wasn’t happy to be there. I don’t know whether I wanted to be back in Paris doing something else or if it was a dull story, which can sometimes happen.


Anyway, I dutifully reported on the story in the morning and then had a couple of hours to kill before getting back on the train and returning to Paris. So I decided to have lunch at an outdoor café in the center of the town of Tavel, which is located near the spot where Provence and Languedoc meet. It’s not too far from Avignon, where the Popes who gave their name to Châteauneuf-du-Pape used to reside.


Little did I know at the time that Tavel is famous for producing perhaps the best rosé wine in France. It was an early summer day and not too hot, as can often happen in that area at that time of year. So I went to the center of town, picked out a café at random, and plopped myself down at an outside table. I still remember ordering a salad and then asking the waiter what wine he recommended. He naturally and immediately replied that I should order the local Tavel. I doubt I had ever had a bottle of that before, and I can’t remember the exact producer he suggested. But I took his recommendation and then because I was in such a foul mood, I ordered a full bottle, rather than the half that I usually had when I ate alone.


When the waiter brought me the bottle, I tasted a sample to make sure it wasn’t corked and found it surprisingly good. Along with a lot of other wine fans, I had always had a prejudice against rosé because it seemed like a waste of a good red wine and ended up as a pudding without a theme, as Winston Churchill once said about another topic. Then the waiter poured me a glass, and I leaned back, looked around at the beautiful little village square, and savored a first glass while waiting for the salad. The sun was gentle and sweet, and it reminded me of the description of the sun in that area in François Sagan’s novel Bonjour Tristesse.


The Tavel was a wonderful surprise. It was fresh, fruity, and vibrant. I hate wine descriptions that talk about hints of mint and gobs of cherry, so I won’t bore you with that. It was simply a well-made, well-served, exquisite example of Midi winemaking.


In only a few minutes, my anger at being there on an assignment that I didn’t want evaporated under the Provençal sun. The world was again beautiful, and life was once more exciting. When the waiter brought the salad, it was a perfect match for the Tavel.


Today I sometimes order a Tavel, if I happen to see it on a menu. Although I always enjoy the wine, I have never been able to repeat the experience of that day in Provence. The memory of that day always remains fresh and returns when I first sip the Tavel.




Wine Review – 2008 Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet

From: France
Price: $9.99

Is your white wine up to the Challenge?


Looking for that perfect crowd pleasing white wine to bring to a Christmas party?  Or, maybe just a great inexpensive wine to give to someone as a gift this holiday season?  Here’s the answer my friend to your holiday dilemma, and it’ll only cost you $10 bucks.  This little treasure comes from France – which of course means that you’ll be instantly greeted by a label in all of its French splendid glory, chock full of unfamiliar French words that will undoubtedly have your brain muttering the words of Mr. Grinch, “How-be Who-be What??” .  After a little label intimidation game, you’re then distracted by the look of the bottle.  It is long and slender and has a Grinch-looking body that by this point has you saying, “Pooh-pooh to the Whos!”, and has you heading back to your ‘ole familiar wine boundaries.  But wait, before you go running back to that safe haven in aisle 3, do yourself a favor and taste drive one of the most heavenly killer values on the planet right now for under 10 smackers.  Here’s all you need to know about this stunning wine before having your taste buds bustin’ loose under the mistletoe with excitement. 


Picpoul is the grape and Pinet is the village within the Languedoc region of France for which this wine calls home.

This white wine pops with gigantic acidic fruit flavors like grapefruit, lime and pineapple from start to its glorious zesty finish.  Not only is the Le Jade great on its own, but it’s also extremely food-friendly and has the chops to stand up to anything from say bacon-wrapped scallops over Southwestern seasoned mixed vegetables to a melted Manchego cheese and Italian Sopressata quesadilla (I speak from experience on these two).

My question to you and every white wine making winery out there is this:  Can your $20 or less white wine do that?  I personally believe that the Le Jade, at just under $10, might very well be the most exceptional and versatile inexpensive white wine on the market right now.  To this point, I’m making a challenge to all wineries around globe – If you think that your less than $20 white wine is better then this French beauty, then I’d like to hear about it!

As for the 2008 Le Jade, Picpoul de Pinet – It’s the tops in my book!  Pour it, enjoy it, or just get crunked (if that’s your thing) this holiday season – 4 Stars.






WineLife365 Rating: 4-Star


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