Recommended Wines

Chapter 48: A VISIT TO THE NEW YORK WINE EXPERIENCE

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!

Chapter 47: BLENDING AND TASTING, SOUTH BEACH STYLE

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.

Screw Caps & Corks

Chapter 46: VALUE WINES WITH A COLLEGE BUDGET

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.

Chapter 45: RECOMMENDED THANKSGIVING WINES FOR YOUR FEAST

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!

Chapter 44: A VISIT WITH A WASHINGTON WINEMAKER

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.

Chapter 43: A TASTE OF HOWELL MOUNTAIN

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!

Chapter 42: A WORLD CLASS TASTING AT HALL WINERY

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!

Chapter 41: SCATTERSHOOTING WHILE WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED TO $20 NAPA CAB

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….

Chapter 40: OUR NEW LOOK AND FUNCTIONALITY!

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.

Chapter 39: 2016 IN REVIEW

Greetings and Salutations! As 2016 comes to a close, it occurs to me that a summary of an eventful year in wine would be a great way to…

Chapter 38: THANKSGIVING WINES FOR YOUR TABLE

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…

CHAPTER 37: A TRIP TO OREGON: BURGUNDY, AMERICAN STYLE

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…

CHAPTER 36: WINE EXCURSIONS WORTH PURSUING

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.

Chapter 35: WHAT TO DRINK IN SPRING?

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.

Chapter 34: TIPS FROM ORDERING FROM A WINE LIST

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?

Chapter 32: PASO ROBLES: THE FUTURE OF CALIFORNIA WINES

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.

Chapter 31: SCENES FROM THE GRAND TOUR DALLAS

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?

Chapter 30:THE ZEN OF A GREAT WINE FESTIVAL

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!

CHAPTER 29: PRACTICAL TIPS ON ORDERING FROM A WINE LIST

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…

CHAPTER 28: THANKSGIVING WINE PAIRINGS!

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!

CHAPTER 27: CAB SEASON IS UPON US!

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.

CHAPTER 26: DO REAL MEN (AND WOMEN) DRINK WINE FROM A BOX?

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!

CHAPTER 25: WE’RE NUMBER ONE!

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.

CHAPTER 24: CAN WINE IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH?

Let’s get to the bad news first: Wine is decidedly not a panacea that magically fixes otherwise substandard health. However, many medical studies have suggested and in some cases concluded that moderate consumption of wine may be a factor in a healthy lifestyle. Before you take this statement as a green light to tip back a magnum per night and automatically become Mr. or Ms. Health, most of such studies are also quick to conclude that in no circumstances does excess alcohol consumption, in wine or otherwise, improve one’s health. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

CHAPTER 23: WHAT ARE YOUR HOUSE WINES?

I frequently am asked by my friends to recommend everyday wines to enjoy and share with guests. We’re not talking about fancy, expensive wines here, mind you. No, we’re talking about quality, good values, go-to wines. Or as I like to call them, House Wines!
So what are your favorite House Wines? Do you have one? If not, you should!

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