Archived entries for Under $20

September Wine Round Up: Three Affordable Wines Made the Grade

In the spirit of another Thirsty Thursday #thristythursday, I grabbed a group of co-workers and we tried a variety of sample wines — eight in total.  The following were my favorite three sampled:

White:

2013 Kendall Jackson Avant Sauvignon Blanc – lime, lemongrass, green pepper, citrus and minerality made this a great patio ready wine.

2012 Matchbook The Arsonist – candid apple, caramel popcorn, citrus, vanilla and tropical notes made up this wine, but it had a nice balance and finish at the end.

Red:

2012 Kendall Jackson Avant Red Blend – an everyday drinking wine with lots of red fruit, vanilla, mocha and nutmeg.


Andegavia: Smart Package, Tasty Product

The folks at Andegavia Cask Wines reached out to me in the Spring with a green proposition – help reduce the amount of discarded wine bottles and still drink good wine daily.  A chat with our recycling guys would result in an admission that I drink a lot of wine and therefore generate a lot of empty bottles.  Or, perhaps they’d advise an intervention.

Andegavia Cask Wines was named after the region, Andegavia, where the wine trade began and where wines were once shipped in casks or barrels.  It’s meant to be an intersection between Old World and New World, but with a twist.  Andegavia is working with Patrick Saboe, the head wine maker at The Wine Foundry in Sonoma.  Patrick’s been known for overseeing production for Verismo, Keller Estate, Petroni and Pezzi King and has produced wines that the critics love.

I received a .375 bottle of Ruthven Napa Valley Red Blend.  If you look on its website, you see that the packaging is sustainable and eco-friendly.  I tasted big berry, black pepper and herbal notes with a bit of mocha.  It was a very nice wine and placed well in the #thirstythursday tasting with my colleagues.  Then you get to the price – one cask, which is four bottles, for $78, $199 for three casks making this a very affordable option that has some care and tending to the wine.  There are several red blends, one pinot noir and a chardonnay.


Cork Wine Bar: Wine 101, 201 and 301 Education Series

I was recently asked to participate in Cork Wine Bar’s series of wine classes — Wine 101, 201 and 301, that was hosted by Stephanie and Jeff Rennells, the passionate and funny owners of Cork.  At each session we tasted six wines from around the world.  I found the wines to be diverse, off the beaten path and came to the realization that Stephanie and Jeff took great care to select wines that they were excited about sharing.  The entire series of three diverse and fun tastings was only $115, which is the deal of the decade.

The Fundamentals of Wine Series 101 took folks through wine producing regions of the world, common varieties, how to taste wine, common flavors of wines, wine ratings and common wine terms.  I was in Palo Alto for work, so I couldn’t attend this one, but the materials that were distributed looked like a great primer for beginners looking to learn more about wine. 

I was able to attend Wine Series 201 where we covered New World and Old World wines.  The format was casual, laid back and fun with wines that were affordable and then sold at a discount that evening.  People asked plenty of questions and the knowledge of the attendees ranged from newbies to serious wine lovers.  We covered how sparkling wines and champagnes are made and then tasted wines and cheeses from around the world – Spain, Austria, France and California primarily.  I loved the Qupe Marsanne which had layers of caramel, butterscotch, almond and a lot of complexity.  Just delicious.  Other stand-outs were The Franc Cabernet France and Chateau Paul Mas Rhone.  We talked wine storage, sustainable wines, tasting and Old World vs New World wines.  

In the Wines Series 301 class, we focused on wines from Italy and France.  They did a nice job in covering the geography of the region, which highlighted the complexities to help attendees understand the differences between the regions of Napa Valley, France (ranging from the Loire Valley to Champagne to Cotes du Rhone to Burgundy to Bordeaux.  Right Bank Merlots to Left Bank Cabernets) and finally Italy.  We talked about pairing food/wine as well as advanced wine terms ranging from unctuous (rich, lush and intense) to volatile (smells of vinegar as a result of a heavy amount of bacteria).  And then, we had a great page of tasting notes of characteristics of red and white wines.  In our tasting, I loved the Antech Cremant, the Val de Mer Petit Chablis, the Langhe Nebbiolo and the Chateau D’Aurilhac Cabernet.

I learned a lot – did you know there were more sulfites in a banana than a glass of wine?  Did you know there was no official certification for natural or sustainably labeled wines?  Stephanie and Jeff reinforced what I am a big believer in personally – try wines you like from lesser known regions.  You’ll find a bargain and you’ll find some wines that you love.    

You will walk away from this class with an understanding of wine varieties and regions, how to identify what you smell and taste, how to spot common defects in wine, how to select wine from a menu, how to read a wine label, and the basics of how wine is made.  There is a lot of information that you will take away from this class, but I won’t be able to bring it all to life the way that that Stephanie and Jeff did.  I highly recommend this wine class series.  It fills a big need in the Dallas market that is currently not filled without taking an expensive certification class.

 

 


What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been: A Conversation with David Ready Jr.

It’s rare you sit down with an individual that saw 175 Grateful Dead concerts, went on tour with them and lived to tell the tale.  Then you find out he’s an esteemed winemaker for Murphy Goode, a newly converted runner (lost 50 pounds since he started), believes in giving back to the community to bring his dad’s legacy to life and is just an all-around cool person. 

David Ready started his career in winemaking in 1985 when his dad strongly suggested getting a job would be a good idea.  He grew up in Minnesota, played in rock band for a time and is a huge Vikings fan.  He worked harvests in Australia and Sonoma.  David moved back to California approximately 20 years ago and it’s been home since.  He worked his way up from cellar master to assistant winemaker and then served as the winemaker for Zinfandel in 1997.  Today he supervises 18 wines.  

David came through town last month to talk about his Homefront Red release, which raised 300K for Operation Homefront, a 501c (3) organization developed to support the families of deployed service members immediately following 9/11.  The organization provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.  And the cool thing is that the distributors and sales people for the winery have chipped in to support the effort as well.

Ready wanted to do this to honor his father who passed away during the fall of 2010.  He pondered what it meant to “do good” with the current owners of the winery.  His father served in Vietnam and his family has a long history of military service.  In his words, “Everyone knows someone who has served.  These kids go off in search of a better life, service our country, get hurt and then they and their families suffer.  No family should ever be left behind.”

He makes wines that he wants to drink and wants to match them with different foods and settings.  “I love a big cab, but not every day,” he said.  We tried a few and I want to continue to drink them too.  Clearly he has found his calling and you can tell he’s passionate about food, wine and socializing. We tried the following:

  • Murphy Goode The Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – citrus, tropical fruit and melon.  A really nice $14 poolside or Texas patio wine.
  • Murphy Goode Dealer’s Choice Alexander Valley Cabernet 2010 – blackberry, herbs, bay leaves and thyme.  A very well balanced and drinkable wine that could age well or be opened today. 
  • Murphy Goode All In Claret Alexander Valley 2011 – a blend of Alexander Valley merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is full of dark cherry, blackberry, herbs and raspberries.  It was a really great blend.
  • Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2010 – raspberry, Asian spice, black cherry with balance.  This wine called for BBQ but didn’t need it to be appreciated.

California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Holiday Wine Round Up

It’s a new year and time for a new wine round up of those sampled over the holidays.  This time I tried 18 wines in the $10 to $125 range from California, Chile, Italy and Spain.  Half of them made my list, which excluded some high priced samples:

Whites:

Italy

NV Mionetto Brut Prosecco – the quintessential, easy to drink brunch wine.  Priced at $14, this sparkling wine had notes of green apple, pear, citrus and peach. 

2012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($17) – I liked this wine, but I think it needs to be paired with Italian food.  I got lots of tropical fruit, melon, apple and floral notes. 

Spain

2012 Franco Espanolas Royal White Rioja ($10) – lots of lemon curd, citrus and green apple.  This was a nice aperitif wine that begged for shellfish.

Reds:

California

2011 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir ($16) – a very drinkable wine with black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and earth.   This is a wine club that sources wines from around the world delivered at an “everyday wine” price point.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Wine Blend ($14.99) – when a master chef puts his name on a bottle of wine, you know it will be very food friendly.  You taste the berry in the Merlot, followed by the black fruit in the Cabernet, and then finish with the spice of the Zinfandel.  I’d pair this with beef tenderloin.

Chile

2009 Viña Concha y Toro Don Melchor ($125) – this lived up to its billing as Chile’s first ultra-premium wine.  Cassis, berry, tobacco and chocolate notes are showcased in this very well balanced special occasion wine.

Spain:

2009 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($13) – a great value wine with notes of cherry, herb, wood, spice and chocolate. 

2007 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($15) – notes of cherry, rosemary, basil, and tomato plant – this made me crave a margarita pizza.

I’m also going to give a special shout out to one wine that blew me away from the Guarachi Family.  Guarachi, which was previously unknown to me, sources small parcel lots from top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and makes Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  The winery was launched by Alex Guarachi, a native of Chile and importer of South American wines.  The winery just purchased Sun Chase Vineyard in Sonoma and if this wine is any indication of what is to come, I’m beyond excited.

2011 Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($65) – this was full of red berries, cherry, floral, earth and cherry cola.  I loved this wine.


A Few of My Favorite Sparklings

Courtesy of Pierre Peters Champagne

I published a few of my favorite sparkling wines at a variety of price points just in time for your New Year’s celebration.  See what you think of what I published in Culture Map Dallas.  What are your favs?


Cornerstone Cellars, Elyse Winery & J Vineyards: Samples to Remember

When sample packages from Cornerstone Cellars, J Vineyards and Elyse Winery arrive in the mail, I’ve learned to stand up and take notice. 

I’ll lead with the still wines.  Both Cornerstone and Elyse are known for hand-crafted and boutique wines that express the terrior where they are produced.  I’ve found these to be balanced, delicious and get better and better every year.  The wines are all distinct and differ depending on where they are grown.  Winemaker Jeff Keene who talked about how his wines express their sense of place .

My notes on the wines were as follows:

  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon combines the grapes of three vineyards — Ink Grade on Howell Mountain, Oakville Station in the To Kalon district and Kairos in Oak Knoll.  Tons of blackberry, raspberry, dried herbs, chocolate and mocha.  I had the chance to try this in the spring and it only got better with age.
  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain known for its white soils, which is unique.  This wine had tons of black fruit, spice, flowers, mocha and chocolate.  I loved every sip of this and it was beautiful.
  • The 2010 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc was full of berries, herbs and the greenness that is indicative of cabernet franc.  It was balanced and delicious.

In the spring, I sat down with the Elyse Winery’s portfolio of wines at the winery.  The Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 was impressive then, and the 2009 is impressive now.  I took this wine to a gathering with friends and it was definitely the favorite of the evening.  It was full of red berry, spice, earthiness, plum and coffee. 

And now onto J Vineyards & Winery bubblies.  I had the chance to meet Kathryn Lindstrom, chief operating officer, and Melissa Stackhouse, vice president of winemaking, when they made a trip to Dallas, also in the spring.  Melissa talked about the collaboration that happens with her wine making team of three where there is a focus on the integrity of the grapes and bringing the fruit into the glass.  She views her team’s role as “allowing the wines to find their own happy place” and interfering minimally. 

I tried the J Cuvee 20 Brut which we opened at the turning point of the Auburn game when it became clear we were going to the Championship game.  I tasted almonds, citrus, pear and freshly baked bread.  With our victory solidified and as I made my plane reservations to Pasadena, we turned to the J Brut Rose NV, which was full of luscious strawberry, brioche, raspberry and notes of floral.  Both of these wines stood up to a national championship celebration!  War Eagle!


A Quick Twitter Trip around Italy, France and Wines for the Holidays

Exhibit A of what not to drink after a Bordeaux tasting

November was the season of Twitter tastings and I was asked to be a part of three tastings – one from #planetbordeaux, the second from #Franciacorta, and a Whole Foods Top Holiday wines under $25.  Lesson learned #1 – if you really want to enjoy the next morning, don’t invite your girlfriends over, taste all the wines and then plan a crazy night out.  Lesson learned #2 – and I should know better – even if you are spitting the wines, tasting eight of them in one evening leads to palate fatigue.

You may remember that I was blown away by the sparkling wines from Franciacorta during the last Twitter tasting.  Let’s just say that “the blush is not off the rose.”  I continue to be blown away by the versatility, complexity and individuality of these sparkling wines.  We tried four during the tasting and they were delicious:

-          Antica Fratta Brut ($25 retail) – notes of green apple, flowers; citrus; bread and a nice minerality.

-          Bellavista Cuvee ($35 retail) – pear, apple, fresh baked biscuits and ginger made this blend in my top #2.

-          Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut ($40 retail) – it was complex with minerality and savoriness; notes of almond, fresh baked bread and pear.  I loved it.

-          Contadi Castaldi Rose ($25 retail) — notes of berry, spice, flowers and bread.

The other tasting scheduled the same night was the Whole Foods: Holiday Wines Under $25 Tasting.  We tried several wines with other bloggers around the country including the following:

-          2011 Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling – notes of peach and green apple with spiciness that would be perfect with a holiday dinner – especially turkey.  This was in my favorite two.

-          2012 Tablao Navarra – notes of stewed plum, tobacco and cherry. A nice tempranillo for under $10.

-          2008 H&G Priorat – nice balance with notes of black cherry, vanilla and black pepper.  This was my favorite of the tasting.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux Rouge – notes of raspberries, blackberries, violet and black pepper.

The final tasting was for “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays.”  This is #Planet Bordeaux (shout out to Duran Duran’s Planet Earth).

There I said it as it goes through my mind every single time I see the hashtag. We had a line-up of six wines that were all priced under $15 and all were ready to drink today although some may benefit from decanting.

-          2011 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux – red fruit, herbs and oak.

-          2011 Chateau de Camarsac Bordeaux – spice, berry, cassis and plum.  This was one of my favs.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux – cranberry, herbs, spice and blackberry. Definitely one of the top ones from the tasting for me and many of the participating bloggers.

-          2011 Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur – plum, soft berry, cedar and mocha.

-          2010 Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur – plum, vanilla, mocha and toast.  This is a fantastic wine for the price (under $14).

-          2010 Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur – oak, berry, plum, chocolate and a touch of anise.

To read more about these Bordeaux wines, visit www.planet-bordeaux.com.

 


Another Wine Round Up: Great Entertaining Wines

It’s time for another round of wines from around the world and this week focuses on Chile, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Most of these wines are under $25 and the majority under $15.  A good showcase of values and “off the beaten path” wines make these regions ones to try.

Chilean

  • 2012 William Cole Albamar Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, citrus, flowers and orange blossom.  This was the favorite white of the tasting.
  • 2012 Como Sur Sauvignon Blanc – herbaceous with lots of grapefruit and green apple.
  • 2012 William Cole Columbine Special Reserve – citrus, floral, grassy and a nice balance of minerality
  • 2012 Garcia and Schwaderer Sauvignon Blanc — grapefruit and notes of honey.

Spain

  • Campo Viejo Garnacha – very drinkable with notes of cherry, flowers, spice, vanilla and oak.  A great easy drinking Tuesday night pizza wine.

French

  • Joseph Drouhin 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – red cherry, black cherry, earthiness, red raspberry, balanced fruit.  A very nice pinot noir for a value price.
  • Joseph Drouhin 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay – a nice Old world style with notes of lemon, vanilla, honey with a nice balance and in the style that I prefer in a chardonnay.  I really enjoyed this wine.

Portugal

  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho White – tropical, vanilla, peach and lemon peel.  Had some depth and layers to the wine.
  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho Red – bramble, berry, bramble and cedar.  Very drinkable but would benefit with food.

Italy

  •  2012 San Pietro Lagrein – plum, cherries, spice, floral and oak
  • 2011 Elena Walch Lagrein – blackberry, cherry, chocolate, floral with a nice balance.  This was one of my favorite reds with that tasted much more expensive than $20.  This was the crowd pleasing red for our group.

 




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