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
Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015
For lovers of Pinot Noir, there is an ever-present tussle of great quality vs. reasonable price. As was thoroughly established in Chapter 46 of "The Wine Bargain Sleuth," it is not difficult to cut that equation too thin in favor of bargain price, with the results often an abject disaster. However, as many of you savvy wine sleuths have discovered, even in the rarefied air of Willamette Valley Oregon Pinots,... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2018-Aug-Sat
Justin Isosceles 2014
So, fellow sleuths, you have a big milestone coming up, say your birthday or perhaps a meaningful wedding anniversary. You are a Big Red drinker and have made a decision to grab a bottle of something out of the ordinary and even extraordinary. However, your budget is not unlimited (have to save your hard-earned bucks for flowers or some other goodies for your significant other!). The solution? This one is easy--the Justin... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2018-May-Sun
Tangley Oaks Lot 12 Chardonnay 2015 (Mendocino)
Many White Wine fans simply prefer a Chardonnay to a Sauvignon Blanc or other Whites. However, finding a delicious Chard that doesn't badly bruise your Mastercard can be a real challenge. The Sleuth has a great suggestion for this month: the Tangley Oaks Lot 12 Chardonnay 2015 from Mendocino in Northern California. As compared to a great number of similarly priced Chards (the Tangley Oaks Lot 12 2015 retails for just $15), this Value... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2018-Apr-Fri
Vina Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2015
Chile's reputation as a wine producing country to be reckoned with is growing quickly. This month's Value Wine No. 1 is a great example. I have previously sampled other modestly priced Cab Sav offerings of Vina Santa Ema and came away impressed in each instance. Apparently so was Wine Spectator when its tasters sampled the Vina Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2015 from Maipo Valley. Not many Value Wines are impressive enough to make the Wine Spectator Top 100... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2018-Mar-Sun
Chateau Tessendey, Fronsac 2014
New and casual consumers of French wines are often confused as to the lack of obvious varietal information typically set forth on a French bottle, which instead labels the wine by region. The fact that the Champagne region of France produces classic sparkling wine is obvious, but less clear are the varietals of wines that typically are grown in regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Provence, for... Read MorePosted by Len Musgrove, Admin The Wine Bargain Sleuth on 2017-Nov-Sat
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…
Greetings and salutations! You wine sleuths are sly dogs! Your friends, parental units, family and significant others are already reaching out to you for your suggestions as to that Perfect Thanksgiving Wine! And at the risk of blowing up your inboxes since we just delivered Chapter 27 a week or two ago, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has nevertheless worked overtime to deliver our 3rd Annual Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations just in a nick of time for the holiday feast!
Greetings and salutations! Fall season is upon us in Texas. College football battles, crisp mornings, State Fair corny dogs, lawns turning the shade of corn tortillas and leaves transforming to golden and bright orange colors. What an ideal time to focus upon great bargain Big Reds! Accordingly, this month’s Chapter will focus on a handful of Splurge Wine values in Cabernet Sauvignon for your enjoyment. Remember, a true bargain wine is not necessarily a wine of $15 or so, but rather a wine that outperforms its price point and thus gives the consumer worthy bang for his or her buck! The list below fits into our concept of Splurge Wines that manage to outperform their class.
THE TAKEAWAY: So what did we learn today? First, don’t EVEN think about failing to double check the spigot on that delicious box wine, whether on your counter or elsewhere. Second, despite what were definitely humble beginnings, more and more decent wines are available in box containers and even (really?!) aluminum cans with sippy straws. Don’t think that this Wine Bargain Sleuth can go that far, my dear friend Lisa, but to each her own!
Suddenly, it became popular, even patriotic, to drink wine in general and those from Napa Valley in particular. The past few decades have been an era of increasing interest and demand by Americans in wine that the statistics clearly bear out. From personal experience, I have seen the price of quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon more than quadruple in the past 15 years alone! Clearly, your Wine Bargain Sleuth should have had either more foresight or better cash flow in the late 90’s. Sigh.