Archived entries for Under $20

May Wine Roundup

It’s time for the April and May recap of Maniac Monday, Wine Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday or whenever I could get the work gang together to taste the massive buildup of wine that is happening in my office this Spring.

We tried 15 wines and I’m going to mention 13 of those wines as the highlights – remember these are all price points ranging from $12-$60, so these aren’t apples to apples comparisons:

White:

  • 2013 Arrowood Chardonnay – I got notes of cinnamon baked apples, lemon curd and a nice minerality.  This was a very nice representation of chardonnay.
  • 2013 Atalon Sauvignon Blanc – pineapple, grapefruit, peach and lemongrass make this a very quaffable and perfect patio wine.
  • 2013 J Vineyards Chardonnay – this white had a little spice to it with pineapple, lemon, white stone fruit and a nice balance. 

Red:

  • 2012 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, chocolate, currant, mocha, spice and a touch of smoke.
  • 2012 Atalon Pauline’s Cuvee – black cherry, cherry cola, spice and notes of tobacco. A very nice drinkable, approachable blend.
  • 2011 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon – notes of toffee, plum, Asian spice and cherry.  This was a very well balanced cabernet.

  • 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Noir – red cherry, stone fruit, plum and notes of licorice.

  • 2012 La Pitchoune Pinot Noir – this was a party in a glass and one of the highlights of the tasting.  I loved the Burgundian style pinot with its notes of fig, red cherry, earth and layers of complexity.

  • 2013 Olema Pinot Noir – cherry cola, berry, minerality, earth and pepper. 
  • 2012 Olema Cabernet Sauvignon – mocha, cassis, vanilla, blackberry and herbal notes.
  • 2012 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon – a nice everyday red with notes blackberry, mocha, herbs, cassis and herbs.

  • 2011 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir – this was a nice earthy pinot with notes of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry and notes of mushroom.  Delicious.

  • 2010 Vina Pomal Reserva – earthy with notes of blackberry and raspberry with a nice balance. 

 


Spanish Wine Trip: My Time in Bullas – Day Three

On day three, with 5,000+ calories in our system and a workout underneath my ever tightening belt, we packed up on our road trip with our fearless guide, Eduardo Ruiz.  Eduardo is the export manager of MGW Group and drew the short straw of driving us all over the region … or watching us sleep after consuming copious amounts of wine and more food that should be allotted for a small country. Bullas is a Spanish Denominacion de Origen (DO) for wines located in the region of Murcia and covers the territories of eight different municipalities and focuses on the Monastrell grape. 

Like Alicante, Bullas has existed since ancient Roman time and evolved from a Moore influence to Christian influence over time.  The region changed from a producer of bulk wines in the 1980s to an official DO in 1994.  The landscape is also limestone and has numerous valleys with unique microclimates with mountains to the west.  The weather is challenging with very hot summers and very cold winters.  

As part of MGW Group’s mission to create unique wines from organically grown grapes, Bodegas Lavia was created.  Bodegas Lavia is a boutique winery focused on balancing the fruit that is yielded with expressing the unique terroir in their wines.  The winery was built in 2003 and is located in Venta del Pino, an area known for great wines and a focus on the Monastrell grape.   

Bodegas Lavia’s production is concentrated on preserving the maximum expression and concentration of the grapes. Bodegas Lavia focuses on the same tenants as Sierra Salinas – temperature and gravity control.  The wines are over 40 years old and are grown 800 meters above sea level in an appellation – a higher appellation than yesterday – that is 2,400 hectors.  The soil is clay-based with gravel and the grapes are cultivated in a Mediterranean climate and planted diagonally. 

Sebastien took us through the winery and vineyards on a rainy day.  We learned that only 50,000 bottles are produced in the winery today because they want to keep the quality of the production at a high level.  These wines are produced in a Burgundian style and water is more of a natural source.

We tried three of the Lavia wines – Lavia, Lavia+ and Finca Paso Malo.  We started with a vertical of the Lavia wines and it was eye opening how different the vintages were in this representation.

2006 Lavia – it was rust colored and tasted of tomato confit (not in a bad way), asphalt and red fruit.  This was a really interesting evolution but different than anything that I’ve tasted.

2004 Lavia – this was the first vintage, but was surprisingly bright and drinkable with notes of leather, rose and red fruit.  I really like the smoothness of this wine and was a deal at $17 retail.

2009 Lavia+ — It had notes of spice, cherry, cedar, pepper and a nice nuttiness.  2006 Lavia+ — this was also delicious and ended up coming home with me.  Big notes of cherry, petrol and a nice minerality. 

2012 Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo – Only 2,000 bottles were made of this stellar single vineyard wine.  I tasted cranberry, spice, earth, rosemary, tobacco and a nice nuttiness that tied the wine together.  I really enjoyed this wine.

We then went into the winery and tried two blends directly from the barrel.  The 2013 Lavia+ and the 2017 vintage that just went into the tank.

After our wine tour, we had an amazing lunch at Restaurante Borrego.

Our next stop was the Museo del Vino Bullas, the region’s wine museum where we learned all about everything from the terroir to the way wine was stored to the grapes of the region. 

We ended our day with an exquisite dinner at La Nyora, which was my favorite dinner of the entire trip with a focus on the region’s seafood.  And of course some late night drinking and walking of the city by the #olewinos.   


MGW Wine Experience: My Time In Alicante

Our next day was spent at Sierra Salinas in Alicante.  Alicante is a Spanish Demoninacion de Origen (DO) located in the province of Alicante in Valencia, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary.  There are two sub-zones: Vinalopó, which is the Southern area of the province known for Monastrell, which we visited.  The other sub-zone is known as La Marina in the Northern area of the province.  Alicante’s grape growing and wine production traces back to the Romans.  The soil in the region is comprised of lime and sedimentary rock with a sandy consistency.  Vinalopó is known for Mediterranean temperatures that tend to shift to frequent frosts in the Winter creating extreme temperatures ranging from day to night.

Ramon Castano Santa is the original visionary behind the winery.  Ramon has been involved in the wine business since 1950 when the family built its first winery in Yeda, a small city near Villena,.  The family acquired Sierra Salinas vineyards in the beginning of 2000 and built the winery,  Bodagas Sierra Salinas, which is named after a mountain range.   The winery was up and running in 2006.  The Castano family made a bet on Monastrell (a red wine grape variety), and wanted to balance the legacy, quality and technology to make the best wine possible.  The production of Sierra Salinas will never pass 200,000 bottles because the family believes that the wines need to show the authenticity of the soil, terroir and the people.  In 2013, MGWines Group acquired the property.

We met with Winemaker Sebastien Boudon, who came to Spain from France because he was excited about the opportunities in the region.  He took us through the winery and showed us the unique temperature control system designed to manage the extreme temperatures as well as the gravity system the winery uses to avoid pump racking.  The grapes are processed on three levels of the building – the vinification plant is one the first floor; the grapes are pressed on the second floor and the bottling occurs on the third floor.  The grapes are hand picked and harvested in small batches to make sure the best fruit is used, but no fruit is sold in bulk.  The wines are stored in French Oak barrels.

We also walked through the vineyards, which are located 650-680 meters above sea level and we saw the dry irrigation of vines.  The winery is organic and planted on limestone, which is dry farmed.  There are 42 hectares of Monastrell and 10 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet and Petit Verdot, trained with trellis and goblet systems.  We saw two different vineyards – which had terroir that changed from clay to stones and with older vineyards.

We then went into the tasting room and had the opportunity to try seven wines.  Here was our line-up:

2013 Puerto Salinas – a blend of 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Moscatel, which had lots of jasmine and floral notes with white stone fruit and mineral notes.  A great deal under $10.

2012 MO Salinas Monastrell – lots of juicy cherry, berry, spice and very fruit forward.  The price tag here is $8.99 making it a hell of a deal and it matched my purse.

2010 Puerto Salinas – this had some age and more complexity.  You could taste the blackberry, spice, liquorice, beef jerky, balsamic and black pepper.  This one was a great deal at under $15.

2011 Puerto Salinas – it was fun to taste the difference that a year of age can make.  This had notes of floral (violets and roses), graphite and lots of spice. It was very silky and was easy to drink.  Same price range as above.

2010 Mira Salina –this one had notes of maple, vanilla and a deep berry.  The balance on this wine was great and I really enjoyed this more between the vertical.

2011 Mira Salina – this had earthier notes of licorice, berry, hazelnut and coffee.

2009 Salinas 1237 – this was an amazing and intense wine.  I tasted notes of currant, toffee, blood orange, balsamic and earth.  This wine was elegant, long lasting and a wonderful special occasion wine.  I made sure to bring a bottle of this home with me.  Sebastien talked about how this wine takes the best of the landscape with both the terroir and the grapes.  We ended with the Dulce dessert wine, which I didn’t have enough time between notes and pictures to truly savor.

We then moved to a delicious paella lunch at Restaurant La Despensa and ate our weight in paella and dessert.  At that point, we needed to walk the city so it was time for me and my partners in crime, Thea and Liza to explore the city.  Then another night at a great restaurant and another food coma.


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?




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