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Month in Wines – December 2014

January 5, 2015 Leave a comment

Feels a bit strange when we are already in 2015, and I’m writing about the wine highlights from the month which belongs to the last year. Well, but then it is just a calendar, after all, and another month is just another month.

December 2014 was not super-eventful when it came to wines – but some of the wines stood out. Here are the most interesting wines of the December 2014:

2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC, Italy (12.5% ABV, $35, 100% Chardonnay) – Delicious. Perfectly round, with all the undertones of a great sparkling wine. 8+

NV Rivarose Brut Rosé Provence  – Unexpectedly delicious. Never had Provence Sparkling until now, and this was an excellent wine, clearly reminiscent of Provence Rosé, but with the addition of toasted bread and yeast. 8

2011 Bodegas Volver Volver La Mancha DO (15% ABV, $27/Magnum) – One of my all times favorite Spanish wines. Dark, dense and powerful – good amount of fruit, but also lots of spices, espresso and pencil shavings in every sip. Also pretty much an unbeatable value. 8-

1998 Ceretto Monsordo Langhe DOC (13% ABV, $NA) – This was my last bottle. Sigh… It doesn’t show as a young wine, but at the same time the fruit is well present, coupled with excellent tannins and acidity. 8+

2010 Chateau Saint-Pierre Tradition Cotes de Provence, France – While Provence is famous for their Rosé,  this was an excellent red wine. An old world profile, blackberries, spices, touch of pepper, very elegant and restrained. 8

2004 Tenuta Friggiali Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Italy (13.5% ABV, $30?) – Unmistakably Italian. Fresh acidity, leather, earthiness, well present tannins with good astringency, kitchen spices, tart cherries, medium to long finish. Needs food. 8-

2011 Barton & Guestier Bistro Pinot Noir 2011 Pays d’Oc IGP (12% ABV, $9) – Simple, but without any flaws, which makes it a great every day wine (look at the price). Fresh fruit, good acidity, touch of lavender. 7+

2009 Chateau Roland La Garde Blaye-Cotes de Bordeaux AOC (14% ABV, $17) – Good Bordeaux, especially at a price. Warm, inviting, touch of cassis and bell peppers, eucalyptus, blackberries, good acidity and good balance. 7+

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2007 Erba Mountainside Vineyards Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley (14.8% ABV, $55) – Delicious, textbook quality Bordeaux blend from California. Perfectly round, supple, luscious, heart-warming with every sip. 9-

2011 Cuveé Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard Russian River Valley (14.9% ABV, $28) – Another textbook classic from California, this time – a textbook California Pinot Noir – warm, dense and concentrated. Let me leave it at that. 8+

Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny ($45.99) – delicious complexity of the aged Port – dried fruits, nuts, good amount of sweetness and fragrant lightness which shows in a well made, well aged Port. 8

Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Years old Madeira ($23.99) – A depth of flavor only Madeira can show – lots of dried fruits and nuts with a dash of salinity. Very elegant, good acidity makes it quite refreshing. 8

And we are done here. If you had any of these wine, let me know what do you think. If you tasted any great wines in December – please share. Cheers!

More Than 20 under $20

March 14, 2014 12 comments

A few days ago I was challenged to create a list of 20 wines under $20 which I can recommend. I generally shy away from this type of exercise, due to many reasons – I buy a lot of exotic wines (rare grapes, natural wines, old wines, etc.), and I also have my specific way of buying the wines (mailing lists, WTSO, Last Bottle, BinEnds, closeouts at my local store), so there is a good chance that my recommendations will be useless for majority of the people. But then I thought – no, I can actually do it. In my oenophile years, I accumulated a number of safe choices – I might not be buying those wines myself all that often, but nevertheless, there is a number of wines I tasted throughout the years, and they are consistently good, vintage into a vintage, and they are under $20. One problem though –  there is no way this list can be limited by 20 wines. If you have seen any of my Top Dozen Wines of the Year lists, you know that they include not the dozen, but rather a two dozens and then some. So 20 under $20 simply sounds good, but then More Than 20 under $20 probably sounds even better, right?
Okay, without further ado, here is my list of More Than 20 under $20. Just to make it clear, this is how the list is built:

1. The wines are generic and widely available, can be found at many wine stores. As much as I love Fiction by Filed Recordings, which is generally under $20, the wine is almost impossible to find and thus will not make it into this list.

2. To the best of my knowledge, the wines are priced under $20, at most of the regular wine stores and/or supermarkets – yes, if you will buy the same wine at the convenience store in Vegas or a pharmacy in Miami, you might pay a lot more than $20, and sorry, I can’t help you with that.

3. Private label wines are not included, even if they are great and under $20 – sorry Trader Joe’s, Costco and Stew Leonard’s.

4. The list is not sorted, not rated and not prioritized in any way. These are all solid wines, vintage into a vintage – thus vintage is not specified either. I will provide brief descriptions as to why I like the wine – or may be no description at all. Also, some recommendations are general group recommendations, not for a specific wine.

5. The list is organized into Sparkling, White, Red and Dessert. I honestly wanted to include some Rosé, but quickly realized that I will not be able to do that.

Here we go.

Sparkling wines:

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, France – one of my all time favorite French sparkling wine. Dry, pleasant, refreshing. Typically around $11.99, unbeatable QPR at that price.

Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, California – just love the depth of expression on this wine.

Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Blancs Columbia Valley, Washington – perfectly refreshing and outstanding value at around $10

Mionetto Prosecco, Italy – not the most mind-boggling sparkler, but very consistent and very reasonably priced.

Segura Viudas Brut Cava, Spain – both white and Rosé versions are very good, with great QPR. Sometimes, you might even get lucky, and find their flagship Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava, but this wine generally is a touch out of our range at around $22 (but still worth it).

White wines:

Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – a perfect example of Sauvignon Blanc from California, very delicious, and one of the most reasonably priced California Sauvignon Blanc on the market.

Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand – yes, I know it is a broad recommendation – but NZ Sauvignon Blanc is generally priced well under $20, and it is generally hard to go wrong with any of them – as long as you like grapefruit notes in your bright and invigorating wine.

Sauvignon Blanc, Chile – another general recommendation, yes – but again, it is hard to go wrong with Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, as long as you prefer a bit more lemon/gooseberry profile as opposed to grapefruit profile.

Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, France – one more broad category recommendation – these wines are extremely food friendly, generally very well priced and will keep you refreshed with their cutting-through acidity. Look for the words “Sur Lie” on the label for the added complexity.

Botani Moscatel Seco, Malaga DO, Spain – every time I taste this wine, it puts a smile on my face. Delicious, with perfect QPR.

Bodegas Shaya Shaya Verdejo Old Vines Rueda, Spain – perfect Chardonnay-rivaling complexity, delicious wine.  Excellent QPR. If you are in a mood to splurge (at around $26), try its older brother – Shaya Habis.

St. Urbans-hof Riesling, Mosel, Germany – I like this producer, with many wines reasonably priced under $15, widely available and generally well balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity.

Red wines:

Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah, California – generally at around $11.99, this wine is literally impossible to beat in the QPR – dense and powerful, well balanced and round. Pretty much full Bogle product line is good and well priced, but Petite Sirah is a standout. Also, for a bit more money, but still under $20 ($17.99 or so) , try Bogle Phantom – big and decadent, with lots of ripe fruit, but still well balanced.

The Magnificent Wine Co. “House Wine” Red, Columbia Valley, Washington – nice, simple and consistent, very quaffable, vintage to a vintage.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – finding good Cabernet Sauvignon under $20 is a serious challenge, I’m glad Louis M. Martini consistently delivers.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, France – yes, you read it right, I actually recommend Beaujolais Nouveau – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau gets better and better every year – and sports great QPR.

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Red, France – E. Guigal makes lots of great wines, this Côtes-du-Rhône not been an exception

Delas Côtes-du-Rhône Red, France – same as the previous wine, Delas is a great producer and these wines are very consistent

Catena Zapata “Catena” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – soft, simple, easy to drink – also a versatile choice at the restaurant

Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha, Spain – power and delight. ‘Nuf said, go try for yourself.

Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo “C” Jumilla, Spain – exuberant and exciting.

Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos, Spain – one of the best expressions of Grenache at the great QPR.

Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza, Spain – consistently good Rioja, bright and cheerful. Once you try it, you can’t believe how little you paid for what you got.

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Colli Senesi Monrosso, Italy – it is actually pretty difficult to find mainstream Italian wines to recommend in the under $20 range – Monsanto Chianti is a good exception – excellent, supple and round wine at a great price.

Cono Sur Pinot Noir, Chile – simple, but surprisingly classic Pinot Noir, Chilean or not.

Dessert wines:

Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto – a classic.

Late Harvest Wines, Australia – yes, a wide category, but generally very inexpensive and delicious

Late Harvest Wines, South Africa – same as above

That’s all I have for today for you in this group of more than 20 under $20. Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of wines under $20, which are consistently good – but you have to draw the line somewhere. What are your favorite wines under $20? What do you think of the wine sin my list? Cheers!

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