Archived entries for Under $20

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.

 


Hardy Wines and Accolade Wine Group: A Match Made in Heaven

Australian wines hit America right around the time I started to drink wine with a cork and figured out that I could afford to buy a case of Lindeman’s.  About 1.6 million cases were imported in 1995.  Today the Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with 750 million liters a year.

I credit Australian wine with beginning my long love affair with the grape.  However, along the way what was shipped in by the large wine makers began to lose its luster.  Smaller production companies were acquired and some of the brands languished.  Luckily, that course is starting to correct.

With the acquisition of Hardy Wines by Accolade Wine Group about 15 months ago, there is a renewed focus on bringing the Nottage Hill and William Hill brands back to the US market.   Paul Lapsley, group chief winemaker for the Hardy portfolio wines, came through Dallas to talk and taste about the wines in his portfolio.  Lapsley’s been making wines for more than 30 years and has worked at some of the top wineries in Australia after doing several months in Burgundy.  Hardy Wines have been made since the late 1870s and are one of the long-time family wine making legacies.

We tried the following wines and they were some of the best value wines I’ve tried in a long time:

  • Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2012 – had lots of tropical fruit, peach, nectarine and oak.
  • William Hardy Chardonnay 2012 – loved the minerality and acidity of this wine.  It was made in a very Old World style with tropical fruit, lemon, vanilla and oak.
  • Nottage Hill Pinot Noir 2012 – black cherry, mushroom funkiness, vanilla and herbs.  Quite the bargain at under $10.

  • Nottage Hill Shiraz 2011 – dark berry, spice, chocolate, licorice and herbs.
  • William Hardy Shiraz 2011 – blueberry, plum, blackberry, chocolate and earthiness.

We then moved to the Tintara wines from McLaren Value, which was established in 1861.  These wines were from 2010, what has been referred to by many as a stellar year for Australian wine.  After trying the 2010 Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz, seductive and lush are the words that came to mind – especially for the $20 price tag.

The grand finale was the Winemakers Rare Release Shiraz 2008, which was made from the best grapes of three wineries.  This was incredible with notes of chocolate, spice, pepper, thin mint Girl Scout cookies (trust me), blackberry, mocha and vanilla.  It had miles of depth, power and complexity.


Franciacorta: Discovering a Sparkling Powerhouse

I recently participated in a Twitter tasting for a region that was new to me – the Franciacorta region from Lombardy in Northern Italy.  The region, which was originally known for still wines, now is a powerhouse area for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s DOCG (Demominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantia) designation.

The region is located about an hour East of Milan on the hills from towns south of Lake Iseo in the Province of Brescia.  Franciacorta has made still wines since the 16th century and sparkling wines started in the region about 50 years ago.  These wines are made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Bianco grapes on about 5,400 acres.  The soil is rich with minerals and calcareous and sandy soils on limestone bedrock.

We tried a variety of styles of the sparkling wines that day all made in the metodo classico style.  Our line-up was as follows (all were non-vintage wines):

-          Lo Sparnerre Saten NV ($25) – notes of yellow apple, toast, saline, mineral and pear was silky, refreshing and delightful.

-          Barone Pizzini Brut NV ($35) – notes of tropical fruit, yeast, creaminess, ginger and floral notes. Loved the acidity on this one.

-          Montenisa Brut NV ($37) – tasted like brioche, apple, peach, lemon and pear.  Another blogger described this as “apple pie in a glass.”  It was a great description.

-          Ronco Calino Brut NV ($30) – notes of floral, pineapple, vanilla and citrus.

-          Fratelli Berlucchi Rose 2008 ($27) – notes of strawberry, citrus, apple, grapefruit and raspberry.  Delightful.

-          Villa Franciacorta Brut 2007 ($35) – apple, toast, citrus, peach and ginger.

These were all great and received glowing reviews from the folks in my party who tasted them. I am a firm believer that sparkling wines should not just be for special occasions.  The Franciacorta region has been doing sparkling wines with finesse, Old World style and traditional champagne methods.  In 2012, 14 million bottles were sold around the globe.  Once this knowledge becomes more than a wine insiders secret, I suspect this number will be off the charts.


Angove Family Winemakers: 127 Years of Family, Legacy and Australian Heritage

I heard from my PR contacts at Trinchero Family Estates, who have been working in partnership with Angove Family Winemakers, that Tim Boydell, their senior vice president, was making a visit to Dallas and had a great story to tell me about their history and their wines.

Tim Boydell was brought on several years ago to help the winery manage change.  That’s tough at a winery that has been part of the family business for 127 years and is currently on its fifth generation, but with Australia’s renewed focus on quality wines, biodynamic processes and expanding its reputation for world-class wine, the family knew it needed to invest to grow.  Tim chuckles at the time he provided John Angove, the Chairman, with his strategic plan for the winery which involved writing a check “with many zeros.”

First, a bit of history about the Winery’s Founder William T. Angove, MD, who came from Cornwall, England to Adelaide in 1886.  Like most doctors of his time, wine was used for medicinal purposes and he developed a vineyard.  Like many, his hobby became his passion and he started making wine full time after he closed his practice a year later.

Today Angove is a major player in Australia.  It provides about 1 million cases of wines per year, which includes 14 different labels.  It is the eighth largest Australian winery and exports half of its production to more than 40 countries.  The Angove shield depicts the family interests of mining and winemaking.

 

We tried a number of wines that showcased why Australian wines have been scored so highly over the last year or two.  Here was the line-up:

  • 2010 Angove Warboys Vineyard Range – an elegant mix of licorice, berry and spice with lots of fruit and finesse
  • 2010 The Medhyk – this is the Angove’s approach to a flagship wine.  Lots of chocolate, spice, black fruit and terrior.  I loved this wine.
  • 2008 Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection — all fruit up front.  Meat in a glass, screams for food, blackberry, cassis, mocha and oak.
  • 2012 Dr Angove “The Recipe” – red blend that was made specifically for the US market that was based on the wines he used to make in England.  Very juicy with mocha and cedar.
  • 2012 Nine Vines Moscato – oldest grapes in Australia which result in a wonderful dessert wine with hints of orange blossom, honeysuckle and apricot.

Unfortunately because the Four Seasons appeared to have no understanding of Friday Dallas traffic from Las Colinas to the West Village, we had to cut our visit short.  But, based on the Australian hospitality and the quality of the wines that I tried that day, I was glad to find out Texas is the number one US market for Angove Wines.  I look forward to watching what comes from Angove Family Winemakers.

 




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