Muriel Fincas de la Villas Crianza 2016
The warmth of late spring in Texas has forced its presence onto the scene, one is reminded that serious grilling season is nigh upon us! Whether your home grill favorite is burgers, dogs, ribs or chicken, a delicious Red from the Rioja Region of Spain is an excellent choice to pair with spring and summer fare. If you are not familiar with the nuanced, delicious Reds from Rioja, you are... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2020-May-Sun
Marchesi Antinori 2015 Villa Antinori Riserva (Chianti Classico)
Your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has been, like most of my fellow sleuths, observing the local "shelter in place" directive during the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 virus scare. During this seemingly unending period of (more or less) voluntary quarantine, my significant other and I have been cooking at home more frequently, and one of the house favorites is Italian, particularly pasta with hearty meat sauces. I have also taken... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2020-Apr-Tue
Pedroncelli Merlot Dry Creek Valley Bench Vineyards 2017
Those of us who are Big Red fans are always on the lookout for a great Value Wine to enjoy and serve to our own wine buddies. As most of you have heard, the classic Bordeaux varietal Merlot fell out of favor for several years, coinciding in part with the 2004 dark comedy "Sideways" (and Miles' classic utterance that he wasn't "drinking any *&^%ing Merlot" to his twisted buddy Jack),... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2020-Apr-Sat
Olema Chardonnay Sonoma County 2018
Greetings and Salutations! As the vast majority of the country is in some stage of quarantine (in Dallas, we call it "Shelter in Place"), it seems that we wine sleuths need to have good information for quality Value Wines more than ever. Otherwise, or so I am told, one is liable to end up cracking open in frustration a prized bottle of Kistler Chardonnay or that favorite Nuits St. Georges... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2020-Mar-Sat
Milbrandt Merlot (Columbia Valley) 2017
I am always on the lookout for a satisfying Big Red that meets our criteria as a Value Wine--i.e., high quality and a price of less than $20. We at The Wine Bargain Sleuth have long been a fan of Washington Cabs and Merlots and have frequently recommended the same to our wine sleuths! The Milbrandt Merlot Columbia Valley 2017 is a terrific example of a great Value Wine: at... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2019-Dec-Sat
Courtney Benham Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018
In the Great Southwest, a quality Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser around the pool or for a summer cocktail. The Napa expression of the international Sauvignon Blanc grape tends to be a bit rounder than others, with flavors such as peach and nectarine rather than the grapefruit and citrus profile generally associated with, say, the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. A terrific value version of this wine is... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2019-Aug-Mon
2015 Land of Promise Pinot Noir
Say you have a birthday or a big anniversary coming up. Or you closed that big deal at work...or just because you are worth it! Some days you just want to have an amazing glass of wine. After a long day this week, I had one of those amazing glasses of wine: the 2015 Land of Promise Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, California. Even better, I got to share a... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2019-Apr-Sat
Chateau Guiraud G Bordeaux White 2016
With spring comes colorful, fragrant flowers and budding trees, as well as warmer weather that pairs so delightfully with light, crisp wines. Some of my personal favorites include Bordeaux Blancs from France's legendary wine region. In addition to being refreshing with their cleansing acidity and nuanced with their classic blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, many of these French beauties are an amazing value as well. One vivid example of... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2019-Apr-Sat
Cline Zinfandel Contra Costa County Ancient Vines 2016
Looking for a great value wine in a Big Red? Tired of the ongoing Napa Valley price creep? Enjoy a Zinfandel with a old vines taste profile? Well, wine sleuths, I believe I have you covered for this month! I highly recommend the Cline Zinfandel Contra Costa County Ancient Vines 2016! None other than leading wine publication Wine Spectator bestowed a strong 91 rating on this delicious red Zinfandel, calling... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2019-Feb-Mon
Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel 2015
This terrific everyday Big Red is from Bogle, a remarkably consistent California producer of value wines. Big, bold and spicy yet still elegant, this Zinfandel is a terrific pairing for your favorite pizza, BBQ ribs or a juicy cheeseburger on Wednesday night or Saturday night! Flavor hints of blackberry and blueberry are on the front palate of the Bogle 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel, with a light pepper finish that keeps you reaching for... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2018-Oct-Mon
Participating in a Zoom virtual wine tasting is actually much simpler than the uninitiated might think. You need to make sure your computer has both a microphone and a camera. All a clever sleuth needs from there is a tasting package from the winery hosting the virtual tasting, normally offered at a discount from retail from farsighted vintners, and his or her favorite wine glass.
Greetings and salutations! I am writing this month’s Chapter with the realization that I am no longer a 50-something white guy, as last month’s birthday kicked past yet another important mile marker. Two thoughts: (i) How in the wide world of sports is that possible(?); and (ii) All things considered, it beats the heck out of the alternative. And what better wait to celebrate that big day than to get together with good friends and possibly another January 1960 baby (not to name any names, Lori, as that would be indiscreet) and to head to Napa and Sonoma for a long tasting weekend. In any event, our merry group was more or less evenly divided between females and males, so it was decided by the Birthday Girl that we visit some amazing Sonoma County purveyors of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and some remarkable Napa Valley Big Red wineries to satisfy everyone’s palates over the course of the long weekend.
Thanksgiving means that our 5th annual Thanksgiving Wine Pairing list is here for your holiday enjoyment! As with the last couple of years, our list will recommend excellent Value Wines as well as Worth a Splurge Wines. For those new to The Wine Bargain Sleuth, each Value Wine gives great bang for your hard-earned buck at the retail price of $20 or less while remaining a delicious wine for your more finicky friends and family. By contrast, the Worth a Splurge Wines are also great values relative to their respective classes without the $20 governor, as sometimes a sleuth just needs to pop a special cork to celebrate!
Other than simply toughing it out through the misery until October blows in from somewhere north of Calgary, lucky folks from the Southwest often head for the hills–or rather mountains–or the cool ocean breezes if they have a choice. Speaking of which, there are much worse places to hang in the brutal summer months than Sonoma and Napa, California, where I recently found myself with my lovely significant other for a long weekend that blended (pun intended) my dual loves of Shelby cars with great wines in the idyllic setting of northern California. Hey, somebody had to be there!
Greetings and Salutations! Your humble wine bargain sleuth occasionally fields questions relating into my apparent love of wine and all things related thereto. Why wine instead of other passions such as golf, hunting, fishing, knitting or maybe canasta? Well, my friends, the answer to that question is complicated and lengthy, but I thought it might be insightful and a little fun to stroll down memory lane to demonstrate five recent examples of why wine has become such a fascination of mine.
I have a treat for the readers of The Wine Bargain Sleuth in this month’s special Chapter. Indeed, I have the privilege of introducing a dear friend and this month’s special guest, the one and only “Yodelmeister” of Peju Province Winery in Napa Valley, a man recognized by San Francisco Magazine as the 2017 “Napa Valley Wine Educator of the Year”: Alan Arnopole. For those have met Alan or who have had the opportunity of tasting with Alan at Peju or during one of his frequent road shows to Dallas and many points beyond, then you already know just what a dynamo and force of human nature he is. For the rest of you, buckle up, my friends.
On the positive side of things, that first stinging cold snap also means that your humble Sleuth’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is just around the bend. And what a better time to take inventory of one’s wine cellar than to evaluate the best pairings for that most American of holiday feasts? If your family resembles my own, then you will celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving meal with a variety of palates, tastes and levels of wine sophistication, so the task of picking just the right wine (or even better, wines!) is not a feat for the weak of stomach. Since you are the sleuths of your respective packs, this month’s Chapter is designed to simplify your job and to help you make certain that the wines to be served are equal to the terrific foods to be devoured, whether Mimi’s cornbread dressing, Aunt Mabel’s pecan pie, the Mom’s homemade cranberry jelly or even the big bird its ownself!
The New York Wine Experience is held over a long weekend in October, and includes two nights of generous tastings of award winning wineries from around this planet, with each invited winery presenting its wine that earned at least a 90 point rating from the picky reviewers of Wine Spectator. Approximately 210 world class wineries presented their prized juice on the 5th and 6th floor ballrooms of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. In other words, attending a Grand Tasting event required, um, commitment to the task of tasting these gorgeous wines!
This month’s Chapter is set in the sun-washed climate of Miami Beach for the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where world-class chefs from around the country present their delectable bites, vintners present outstanding wines selected by Wine Spectator and celebrity bartenders offer up their potable drink creations. There are far worse places to find oneself in late February. Just sayin’….The SOBEWFF events run for nearly a week, and include events ranging from intimate dinners with renowned chefs to seminar-style educational events to the show-stopping Wine Spectator Best of the Best event on Friday night, in which approximately 50 vintners poured some of their finest (each wine was rated 90 or better by Wine Spectator’s judges to be eligible) and chefs from Miami to Los Angeles to Boston to NYC presented their creative and delicious food bites.
One of the interesting side effects of writing a wine blog is that, intentionally or otherwise, your now-college-aged daughters tend to pay attention to both your wine collection and the wines you recommend in the blog. As one of my daughters is now officially 21 and the other one seems to think that she is (“Dad, I have been 20 for about, um, 10 years now!), I will confess that it was duly noted that some of the herd of my private wine stash was thinned a bit over the Christmas break from their respective colleges–including a world-class Hall Stag’s Leap Cabernet that was more or less innocently consumed by a late night movie-watching binge without the Sleuth’s knowledge or permission–but that is a whole ‘nother story. I digress.
It’s time once again for our recommendations for that most American of holiday feasts: Thanksgiving. Our goal as always is to allow you wine sleuths to heroically pair great wines, both Value Wines and Worth a Splurge Wines, with their favorite holiday dishes. Whether your preferred Thanksgiving entree is a classic roast turkey, a savory honey-glazed ham, a grilled fish or something completely different, our recommendations include sparkling wines, whites and reds, domestic and foreign, classic wines and a few curve balls thrown in to keep ’em guessing!
Those who are kind enough to follow The Wine Bargain Sleuth are aware that I am a fan of Washington wines in general and Washington Cabs, Bordeaux Blends and Merlots in particular. In terms of high quality and low price points, the very crux of value wines, I am of the view that there are very few competitors to Washington wine offerings at prices that casual wine fans and wine sleuths on a budget can equally enjoy.
I recently had the opportunity to sample some of the higher end wines of Columbia Crest, including their world renowned Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and their Walter Clore Private Reserve Reds. Presenting the Columbia Crest Big Reds was Laura Sorge, a winemaker for Columbia Crest. While Laura acknowledged that Columbia Crest was possibly best known for its value wines such as the H3 Les Chevaux, H3 Cabernet Sauvignon or the Grand Estates Merlot, she maintained that it would be a mistake to overlook the two high end Columbia Crest offerings, which are in and of themselves a great value, particularly when compared to Napa Valley Big Reds.
Sometimes your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth is a slow learner, but I have learned that without a doubt my favorite wine festival is held annually in June at the classic Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, California: The Taste of Howell Mountain. As luck would have it, I was able to string together a weekend getaway to this terrific event presented by the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association. And yes I did have a large time, thank you for asking!
Sometimes your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth is just plain fortunate to be invited to amazing wine events. That was definitely the case with last weekend’s by-invitation tasting at Hall’s beautiful St. Helena winery in Napa Valley, for which my lovely spouse and I were somehow included. I have found that many times in life it’s better to graciously accept rather than question why, just in case one’s invitation was delivered by mistake!
My giving nature aside, the alarming cost of great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is on my mind this month. And like the absurd price increase in college costs since I myself was a college freshman back in the Dark Ages (which now, according to my daughter and her friends, makes me “vintage”), the prices of Napa Valley’s trademark Napa Valley Cabs have shot up astronomically since the wine bug first nipped on yours truly. I have a sharp recollection of purchasing my first high-end Cab (a Peju Reserve 1994) in January of 1998 during a La Nina monsoon that blanketed Napa Valley. I held my breath and purchase this prized bottle…for the princely sum of $40. That equivalent bottle in April of 2017, just 19 years later, is now $125, over 300% of that first prized bottle that made my head spin, thinking that purchase was a one-time only deal! Well, so much for best laid plans, etc….
Amazingly, our little blog is about to celebrate 4 full years. What began as a basic idea and clearinghouse of quality wine information with a little dollup of fun mixed in has continued to grow exponentially and, hopefully give you the reader more and better information.
Greetings and salutations! It is hard to believe, but we find ourselves on the precipice of that truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. And what Thanksgiving feast…
Greetings and Salutations! After a few fits and starts and several near misses with the best of intentions, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth was finally able to engineer…
Greetings and Salutations! Lots of catching up to do with my fellow wine sleuths from the events of the last couple of months! A world class wine festival in Napa Valley hosted by the Howell Mountain growers in June, a brief tour of Sonoma and Russian River later that month, and a return to a great Paris wine bar for a French wine tasting in July. So much to talk about and so little time to do so! There is no time like the present, so let’s jump in with both feet.
Even we fans of the Big Reds have to grudgingly admit that there comes a time during warm weather days when perhaps something a bit lighter and more chilled than a Bordeaux red or a Napa Valley Cab becomes welcome in our favorite wine stem. So the question for you, my wine sleuths, is what will YOU be sipping on when spring springs in your neck of the woods? How about a few outside the box ideas from your favorite Wine Bargain Sleuth? In light of my tardiness with this Chapter, I humbly offer a make good by doubling my typical recommendations, meaning four Value Wines, two whites (well, a white and a Rose, actually) and two reds, and two Worth a Splurge Wines, one white and one red.
One of the perks from authoring The Wine Bargain Sleuth is that my dinner guest friends and family often defer to me when it is time to order wine to pair with dinner at a restaurant. While I look forward to the challenge of a new and voluminous wine list now, I will confess that as recently as five years ago the thought of being responsible for my guests’ wine experience was somewhat daunting, even nerve-wracking. After all, who wants to be the idiot who chooses a less-than-tasty wine for his companions’ dinner–especially at the princely tariff of two to three times retail that many fine restaurants routinely charge for a bottle of wine?
First, a few fun facts about Paso Robles before your wine brain rejects my hypothesis out of hand: (1) The town is pronounced “Pass-O Roe-Bulls” by the locals, and its name is derived from the Spanish phrase El Paso de Robles, meaning “the pass of the oaks;” (2) Paso boasts the oldest continuously operating winery in Central California, the York Mountain Wine Co., which dates back to 1882 (making it just slightly older than your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth) and is now owned and painstakingly operated by Bill and Liz Armstrong, the proprietors of Epoch; (3) Paso Robles can boast of the first (dating to 1983) and the largest (614,000 total acres) American Viticultural Area (“AVA”), which has now been subdivided to 13 smaller AVA’s as of 2014; (4) Zinfandel is the region’s heritage varietal, dating to the early 1880’s, but the majority of Paso’s plantings are actually Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other Bordeaux varietals; (5) A large volume of Paso’s grapes are actually blended and released under Napa Valley labels; and (6) Paso is the fastest growing AVA in California, with 32,000 vineyard acres and more than 270 bonded wineries (up from 75 just ten years ago!) ranging from nationally distributed, mid-size to boutique in size.
The sheer size of the event and the enormous number of wines on display at the Dallas Grand Tour was an intimidating factor. I have been fortunate to attend some amazing tastings over the past decade or so, both locally and in my travels, but nothing on this mammoth scale. Clearly, some clever planning would be key to a successful (and relatively sober!) event. Even assuming that my lovely significant other and I sampled different wines, we would collectively be hard pressed to taste even ten percent of the delicious offerings. Yes, I am aware that many if not most wine professionals taste and then spit out the wines. Having said that, are you kidding?
I recently attended the annual Wine and Food Festival in Cancun, Mexico, where one of the showcase events was the Star Chefs Dinner. The Star Chefs Dinner gave 23 decorated chefs from all over Mexico, San Francisco, California, Miami, Florida and even my own hometown of Dallas, Texas the opportunity to display their creative bites before 500 enthusiastic attendees, Similarly, vintners and other purveyors of great wine from the legendary Rioja region of Spain, Argentina, Chile, the host country of Mexico and even a token representation of the Pacific Northwest of the USA were present with big smiles and hopes that their crafted wines would be the perfect pairing for the dishes of the creative Star Chefs!
Greetings and salutations! So you are jumping into the world of fine wines…or maybe just sticking a toe in for now. When your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth began pursuing the…