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Archive for the ‘Tried and True’ Category

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! 


10 Wines For $10 or Less That Won’t Disappoint!

The economy may not be too rosy these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking wine.  It just means that you need to make wiser buying decisions!


 I’ve assembled my current Top 10 House Wine Favorites that I guarantee will put a smile on your face and a few more greenbacks back in your wallet.


1.)  2008 Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet HB (France) – A perennial house favorite of mine.  This wine retails in most parts of the world for about $8.99 a bottle.  It just might be the most versatile inexpensive white wine on the planet.



2.)  2008 Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay Vin De Pays (France) – The French are truly remarkable Chardonnay makers in my opinion.  How they can tame the unruly beast known as Chardonnay and bottle this delicious and elegant tasting wine for $7.99 is beyond me.



3.)   2008 Domaine Des Cassagnoles Vin De Pays (France) – There are many great wine secrets in France – Gascony, which is located in southwest France is one of them.  This white wine is utterly superb for $8 a bottle.



4.)    2008 Inca Torrontes / Chardonnay (Argentina) – This white wine is not for everyone, but this interesting 80/20 blend is fresh, current, and flat out dynamite with Tex-Mex and/or spicy foods.  The best part is that this adventure into the great unknown will only set you back $8 bucks – Ca-Ching!



5.)    2009 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) – It doesn’t seem to matter what the vintage is for this wine.  The folks at Cono Sur have been making outstanding inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Riesling, for years and lots of wine drinkers are taking notice.  At $7.99 a bottle, it’s a phenomenal value!


6.)    2007 Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha (Spain) – My gift to you – You will be scratching your head for days wondering how this spicy number is only priced at $9.00.



7.)    2007 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz / Cabernet (Australia) What more can I say, besides that Penfolds makes outstanding red wines whether it’s their cheap stuff like this one or their “ultra – premium” Grange.  Remarkably consistent year in and year out, this $8.99 Aussie standout is a ridiculous no-brainer.



8.)    2007 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (USA) – I had to flip a coin between McManis and Columbia Crest Vineyards in Washington State.  Both McManis and Columbia Crest make terrific value reds, but the McManis line-up packs a bit more punch for $10 bucks.



9.)    2007 Bianchi “Elsa” Malbec (Argentina) – I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little down on Malbec as a whole in recent years.  Carmenere from Chile’s Maipo Valley has really captured my attention.  However, this Malbec is just as good or better than any Chilean Carmenere that I’ve tasted in the $10-12 dollar range, but this particular Malbec will only set you back $8 bucks.


Apologies for the stock photo. I forgot to take a picture before drinking!


10.)  2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha (Spain) – This red wine, my friends, is one of the greatest red wines on the planet – at any price level.  This has been my “go to” wine so far in 2009.  It’s an amazing red that many industry insiders have known about for years.  Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle and see for yourself why the so-called experts rave about it.  One disclaimer however, this wine does break my $10 threshold.  Unfortunately, you’ll have to ante up a whole .99 cents more to taste the brilliance of this Spaniard.  But I guarantee you that the extra .99 cents that you fork over for this beauty will be far better than anything off of the McDonald’s $1.00 menu – trust me!




One final note, don’t get too hung up on the vintages that I’ve listed above; these 10 wines consistently hit it out of the park year after year!




Dirty Dozen

So here’s a question I’m asked frequently - “What is the best wine”?  Given that this question is sort of along the lines of “what’s the meaning of life?”, my response is always the same - “I don’t know”.  Actually, that’s my response to both those questions.  But I digress….focus with me people, focus.  With thousands of different wines to choose from, how can anyone really tell you which wine is the best?  It’s purely a subjective preference.  I personally love to drink French Chardonnay, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Spanish red wines. These are the types of wines that I could drink every day.  But you might have a totally different opinion. Trying different types of wines allow you to figure out whether there are types and styles that your palate prefers.


So perhaps a better question is – “Are there any particular wines that you feel are consistently good year after year, that represent a good value”?  That just might be a bit easier for me to answer.


Below are the 12 wines and wineries that have never let me down in my short wine life.  All of the wines listed below are priced under $15.00 and should be easy to find.


  1. Chateau St. Michelle Riesling – Washington State
  2. Columbia Crest Chardonnay – Washington State
  3. Escudo Rojo – Chile


My personal favorites in this group are the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc and the Escudo Rojo.


If really pressed to name wineries that I feel make consistently good, inexpensive, red and white wines, my response would be:


  1. Chateau St. Michelle (Washington State) – a rock-solid line-up of white and red wines, however they’re not as inexpensive as they used to be.
  2. Columbia Crest (Washington State) – Everything these guys make is great.
  3. Concha y Toro (Chile) – Concha Y Toro is the largest wine producer in Chile. In my opinion, the best wine producer in the world because they can make great tasting $4.00 wine and awesome $100 bottle of wine.  These guys can do it all at any price level.
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