Posts Tagged ‘Wines under $20’
You have no idea how happy I am that it’s Friday!
How are you making out with your holiday to-do list? For my wife and I, it sure has been one long and busy week trying get all of the usual weekday stuff done, in addition to hunting down “the right” Red Bull hat ($40 for a freakin’ baseball cap…seriously?!), Tony Hawk skateboard, and running from one video store to the next looking for Nintendo Wii games. In two words: we’re spent!
Last night, it sure felt great getting home and just parking it on the couch to enjoy some pizza, a “not-so-usual” bottle of red wine from Chile, and getting our fill of ridiculous reality TV shows. Yep, it’s the little things in life…
What was so unusual about last night’s Chilean red wine, you ask?
If you’re a fan of Chilean red wine, then you’ve undoubtedly heard of or have tried a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or even a Carménère from Chile. However, are you familiar with Carignan from Chile?
Last night we had the pleasure of trying a sensational Chilean Carignan sourced from 60-year-old vines. The 2010 Meli Carignan (Sample: MSRP: $15) is a blend of 93% Carignan and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ll be honest with you: I was so damn tired last night that I thought it was a Carménère that I was pulling off the rack. From the very first sip though, this red wine immediately grabbed my attention; so much so, that it made me take a closer look at the front and back label to see just what deliciousness we were actually tasting. Looking at my chicken scratch for tasting notes, words like “fleshy,” “fresh,” and “rich” immediately came to mind. The cherry, raspberry and pepper notes on the 2010 Meli Carignan exploded out of the glass!
If you love Chilean red wine, but you’re looking for something a little different to try, a Chilean Carignan might be something worth adding to your holiday shopping list.
Cookies. I have a confession to make: Ummm… well, you see, I’ve been eating lots of them ever since they came out of the oven…like 10 at a time to be exact. But who’s counting…right? One look at these mouthwatering beauties and you’ll see why I’ve lost complete self-control, and understand why there are no measures to curb or ration my daily intake.
We’ve got snickerdoodle cookies, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin with cranberries and walnuts cookies, and cookies called “Cranberry Gems” that have craisins and white chocolate chips in it. We also have “Peanut Butter Blossoms” – they’re the ones with the Hershey Kiss on top, and the world’s greatest chocolate-chip cookie known to mankind. Rounding out the bunch is the ever so dangerous, melt in your mouth, can’t stop with one, “Raspberry Jam Thumbprint.”
Last night, as I was making myself a little (okay, it was more than a few…don’t judge!) plate of cookies for a late-night snack, I thought to myself, “I wonder what wine would go best with this cookie, or this cookie, or that cookie.” I thought, what the heck, let’s do it! So I grabbed six different wines to see if any would be a match made in confection heaven with these cookies.
Here’s a list of the wines that I pulled out:
- Domaine Du Margalleau Sparkling Vouvray NV (>$20) – This sparkler comes from France’s Loire Valley and is made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes. It’s like a dry brut, just with the delicious sweetness of Chenin floating around, with a slight flintiness to round out a very well balanced and exceptional wine. Highly recommend.
- 2008 Rabbit Ridge Viognier from Paso Robles, CA. (>$10) – Wow! What a steal @ less than 10 dollars a bottle. Not overpowering in the least. Made with estate grown fruit, this California Viognier is bright, lush and extremely well-balanced for an $8 wine.
- 2010 Annabella Special Edition Chardonnay from Michael Pozzan Winery (>$15) – Total production on 100% Napa Valley Chard is only 8,900 cases. It’s smokin’ hot with a balance of lemon, pineapple, fig and slight vanilla undertones. Not at all an in-your-face vanilla/oak Chardonnay so commonly found in California: maybe because it’s only 35% barrel fermented in 100% French oak. Whatever it is, this is a delicious California Chardonnay and an outstanding value.
- 2009 Chad ‘Red Hills Lake County’ Cabernet Sauvignon (>$20) – I’ve tasted wines from Chad before that I thought were scorching values, but my first impression of this ’09 Cab had me thinking otherwise. I found the cherry component in this Cali Cab to be way over the top which made it overly sweet; taking away from any other ingredients that might have been swimming around inside. But hey, that doesn’t mean that it won’t pair nicely with my plate of cookies!
- 2008 Three Old Vines Zinfandel (>$20) – This is a steal at less than $20 a bottle. Bursting with bright red berries and spices, with just a touch of earthiness – this red Zin goes down smooth and leaves you panting for more.
- 2006 Small Gully ‘The Formula’ Robert’s Shiraz (>$20) – This is one whopping, badass Aussie Shiraz, made from 40 year vines, that reveals dark black fruit and chocolate notes while not burning the rubber off the tires with its dizzying 15.9% alcohol content.
I asked my wife if she’d care to assist in determining if any of these wines would pair well with her delicious homemade Christmas cookies. She said, “The last thing my ass needs right now is another damn cookie, but…I will try the wine.”
“Fair enough,” I said.
As I tasted through this bounty of homemade cookies and wine, there was one wine that hit a grand slam with the cookie plate: that wine was the Domaine Du Margalleau Sparkling Vouvray NV (>$20). It danced and sang with all of them except the Peanut Butter Blossoms and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie of all time. I would have thought going into this tasting that the red wines would’ve done particularly well – especially with the cookies having chocolate and/or peanut butter in them, but sadly it wasn’t a match made in heaven. Only the Shiraz played nicely with the gingerbread cookies and the Cranberry Gems. Oddly enough, the 2010 Annabella Special Edition Chardonnay was a good match for the chocolate chip cookies and the 2008 Rabbit Ridge Viognier was quite tasty with the Peanut Butter Blossoms. Go figure. The ’09 Chad Cab, unfortunately, didn’t pair well with anything…maybe it was because I wasn’t diggin’ on it in the first place.
In the end, I must declare the Domaine Du Margalleau Sparkling Vouvray NV the ultimate winner in the 1st Annual(?) WineLIfe365 Cookies and Wine Event. It sure was a lot of fun trying all of them and now I know which wine to put out for Santa on Christmas Eve!
It’s official: Christmas is upon us. How do I know? We’ve caved in and tuned the radio, in our kitchen, to one of those stations that plays the same 25 holiday songs back to back to back…
Coincidentally, this always seems to happen each year, on one monumental day in December, when my wife and her BFF spend all day in the kitchen, 100% focused on baking Christmas cookies; all the while, listening to Christmas music (the same 25 songs over, and over, and over again…). Although I’m not a fan of the coma-inducing repetition, I must admit that I do have a favorite Christmas song. Turns out it’s my 7 year-old’s favorite, too! He has great taste like his old man.
What’s our favorite Christmas song you ask? It’s the Italian classic, “Dominick the Donkey” sung by Lou Monte. If you’ve never heard it before, it’s about a donkey that helps Santa Claus bring presents to children in Italy. Last night was the first time I heard it on the radio this year. When it came on, my son and I sprang up, danced and shouted for the entire block to hear, “Hey! Chingedy ching, (hee-haw, hee-haw) it’s Dominick the Donkey. la la la-la la-la la la la la. La la la-la la-la la-ee-oh-da!!”
As we danced and sang our celebratory song together, I envisioned a large helping of my wife’s amazing lasagna, along with several Italian Chiantis to wash it all down! (Because I never stop thinking about food and wine!)
Here, my friends, are a few Italian gifts that can be shared with family and friends or paired with your own incredible lasagna recipe.
If you’re “a Virg,” to Chianti (my sister-in-law’s terminology), consider these two friendly, fruitier style Chiantis:
- 2010 DaVinci Chianti ($10.99) – Possessing sweet, jammy flavors of super ripe plums and cherries, this Chianti is perfect for newbies or a great primer before heading for a more complex Chianti.
- 2010 Farnese Sangiovese ($8.49) – This is an amazing wine for $8.50 and also, like the2010 DaVinci Chianti, a great starting point if you are unfamiliar with this wine. It’s soaking in dark cherry and strawberry flavors, and really sexy stuff at this price point!
Looking to go off the beaten path to taste some earthy tones? One interesting and affordable option is:
- 2008 La Maialina Chianti ($10.99) – This Chianti is very different from the ones previously mentioned: it’s loaded with that dusty, musty, Old-World characteristic, paired with notes of dried red fruits.
How about something much more multifaceted, with a touch of spices and a warm sensation in the back of your throat that really lets you know that they’re drinking Chianti? Try these two on for size:
- 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico ($12.99) – Aged in French oak barriques for 7 months, this Chianti is super elegant with its rich cherry flavors, sweet and dark spices, and long finish.
- 2007 Ruffino Riserva Dulcale Chianti Classico ($23.99) – Rosemary, violets, dried cherries and plum all having a sensational time together.
Finally, If you’re looking for an intense Chianti experience, here’s one that’ll surely give your palate a serious workout:
- 2009 Fattoria Di Basciano Chianti Rufina ($14.99) – A killer value @ $15 bucks. Full-bodied, yet silky smooth after letting it breath for a while (like a whole day). This Chianti delivers the goods with black cherry notes, supported by licorice and an intriguing smoky undertone.
À votre santé!
Like it or not, as you’re making the party rounds, there’s a high probability that you’re going to see a bottle (possibly many!) of Italian Pinot Grigio sitting out for your imbibing pleasure. After all, it is the most popular imported white wine in the United States. Having said that, there’s a great divide between those that suck this stuff down as if it were water and those that would rather have water! The latter crowd view Italian Pinot Grigio as being too simple, bland, or tasting like nothing more than expensive lemon spritzer. While the former group simply love the fact that it’s easy-drinking and refreshing – perfect for unwinding at the end of a long day.
I’ll be honest: I haven’t spent a significant time in the Italian wine aisle of late; so I thought it might be fun to conduct an informal blind tasting with six popular, widely distributed Italian Pinot Grigios that can be found in just about any Wine & Spirits shop and/or grocery store across the country.
As our group of tasters went through each of the six brown-bagged Pinot Grigios, two wines stood out much more positively from the other four. Conversely, two of the six Pinot Grigios received downright scathing comments, due to their nearly “un-drinkability.”
After everyone had a chance to taste through all six wines and made their comments, the Pinot Grigios locked inside Brown Bag #2 and Brown Bag #5 were chosen as the favorites within the bunch. Meanwhile, the Pinot Grigio concealed inside Brown Bag #6 really took a beating as being the most disliked in the group, and Brown Bag #3 wasn’t too far behind in giving tasters belly aches and nothing to cheer about.
Our distant 3rd place finisher in Brown Bag #4 was the 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio (Price paid $16.99). Tasters didn’t have much to say about the 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio other than it was “nice,” “easy drinking,” and “smooth.” “I’m ok with drinking this,” was the common theme.
Our runner-up was Brown Bag #2. Tasters called it, “good and juicy,” “bright with good acidity,” and “a juicy mouthful, refreshing – very nice.” When we revealed its identify, this crowd-pleaser turned out to be the very inexpensive and popular Cavit Pinot Grigio 2010 (Price paid $7.99).
We were all excited to see what was lurking behind our favorite, Brown bag #5. Tasters called this Pinot Grigio:
“A refreshing mouthful of citrus flavors.”
“I really LOVE and want to drink this wine!”
“Has somewhat of a Riesling quality to me and I mean that in a good way.”
“It definitely has the most elegance and finesse of the six wines.”
“No tight edges from start to finish. I like #2 a lot, but this Pinot Grigio just tastes more refined to me.”
Here’s the fun part: Our 1st Place finisher turned out to be the least expensive Pinot Grigio in the entire group. The unanimous winner was the 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT priced @ $6.99.
Finally, we were all pretty eager to find out what Pinot Grigio was inside Brown Bag #6. Why, you ask? Unfortunately for this Pinot Grigio, it received scathing remarks such as, “Undrinkable,” “HORRID,” “Get that funk out of my glass,” “Moonshine,” and finally, “F&%k me awful!! This is the worst ever!!”
So what was the awfulness swirling around in Brown Bag #6? It turned out to be the 2010 Banfi ‘Le Rime’ Pinot Grigio IGT (Price paid: $8.99).
Finally, there weren’t a whole lot of pleasantries either for our second least favorite wine, which was Brown Bag #3. Brown Bag #3 may have been the biggest shock. Words like “Awful,” “Dreadful,” “burnt wood,” “petrol,” “Makes me want to gag –but just not as much as #6” were used to describe the most expensive wine in our tasting. Any guesses? It was the 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (Price paid was $19.99 on sale from $27.99)!? Needless to say, @ $20/bottle we were shocked and disappointed.
If you’re planning a holiday gathering, both the 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT and the 2010 Cavit Pinot Grigio are affordable, reliable and should satisfy a wide spectrum of white wine lovers!
1st Place: 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT ($6.99)
2nd Place: 2010 Cavit Pinot Grigio ($7.99)
3rd Place: 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio *(Not shown) ($16.99)
4th Place: 2010 Bertani Velante Pinot Grigio IGT *(Not shown) ($12.99)
5th Place: 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($19.99)
6th Place: 2010 Banfi ‘Le Rime’ Pinot Grigio IGT ($8.99)