Category: Recommended Wines Page 1 of 2
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 Isosceles 2014. Justin’s delectable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is sourced from the Paso Robles area of central California.
Many White Wine fans simply prefer a Chardonnay to a Sauvignon Blanc or other Whites. However, finding a delicious Chard that doesn’t bruise your Mastercard can be a real challenge. The Sleuth has a great suggestion for this Chapter: the Tangley Oaks Lot 12 Chardonnay 2015 from Mendocino in Northern California.
Not many Value Wines are impressive enough to make the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines for any vintage; this Vina Santa Ema Cab Reserva 2015 was awarded the number 29 slot and a strong 91 rating, a pretty amazing bang for your buck for a widely available Big Red that retails for only $15! Or as Wine Spectator said itself, “This reserva punched above its weight in 2015….”
A classic Right Bank blend of primarily Merlot with a healthy dollup of Cabernet Franc, the Chateau Tessendey 2014 is drinkable now as a cocktail wine or as an elegant pairing to a roast pork tenderloin or lamb chops, but it has the structure to lay down for a few more years as well. The Chateau Tessendey 2014 has a mouthful of berry fruits and currants, with a classic Bordeaux earthiness and a long, bone-dry finish. Wine Enthusiast Magazine agreed and bestowed a strong 91 rating on this Big Red to boot! If this description sounds like a French wine that will put a serious bruising on your Visa card, then we have a nice surprise for you!
The Fabre Montmayou Malbec Gran Reserva Mendoza 2013 is just coming into its own, but is definitely drinkable with perhaps 15-30 minutes of breathing to allow it to open up. Clever wine sleuths know that wines that are released from the Southern Hemisphere are actually a growing season ahead, making a 2013 release from, for example, Argentina the functional equivalent of a 2012 release from the USA. The initial flavor profile of this Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva is of fresh dark fruit, pepper and spice, with a lovely earthiness on the mid-palate, followed by a lengthy finish of chocolate and licorice hints. While the Fabre Montmayou Malbec Gran Reserva 2013 would be an amazing pairing with a charcoal-grilled ribeye steak, it was also silky and elegant enough to be served, as it was to our birthday party, with chocolate truffles and apple pie.
A recent family vacation to idyllic Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic afforded just such an opportunity to try a terrific Argentinian wine — the Trivento Cabernet-Malbec Mendoza Reserve 2013. The very definition of a food friendly Value Wine, the Trivento Big Red contains elegant red berry, earthy green tea and dark current profiles, with a seemingly seamless, lengthy finish.
I don’t know that I tasted a better, more elegant, more nuanced Cab the entire trip to Napa, if not this year to date, than the Lamborn 2008 Howell Mountain Cab. Deep aromas of blackberry and even a hint of black cherry and cassis began the experience, with an oaked but polished mid-palate, with a smooth, earthy and complex finish that felt like it lasted for 2 minutes.
Without a doubt, the State of Washington is producing some terrific wines, and you savvy wine sleuths should definitely pay heed. Exhibit A is the Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an delicious medium-bodied Cab that is widely distributed. I picked up hints of cocoa, blueberries and blackberries, with a noticeable but delicious oak overtone. Not overly tannic, this is an everyday Cab that can be served as on its own, or it would be a delicious pairing with a grilled filet or even a pork tenderloin.
Looking for a new house Big Red that impresses your savvy wine buddies but still leaves a few quid in your pocket from a $20? The great state of Washington and one of its shining wine stars, Chateau Ste. Michelle provides this month’s answer in the form of its Indian Wells Merlot 2014. A full-bodied but lush expression of Merlot, the taste profile for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2014 is that of ripe dark cherries, cocoa, spice and just a hint of oak for balance.
As prices of our favorite Bordeaux and Napa Valley Big Red offerings continue to soar, much to our chagrin (I remember the good old days when I nearly had a stroke when I paid $40 for a top rate Napa Reserve Cab!), we wine sleuths are constantly on the lookout for a satisfying steak wine but still need change back from our $20 bill. Add bonus points if you are willing to look south of the Equator for sometime somewhat exotic and really amazing. Well, my thirsty friends, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has your solution for this month: the Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva 2014.
On a visit to Oregon’s Willamette Valley earlier this year, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth and our festive group had the opportunity to taste many excellent examples of…
As your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth is ever vigilant and on the lookout for value Pinot Noir that actually resemble high quality Pinots and Burgundies, the Wine by Joe project…
As temperatures creep up to the dreaded 100’s in the Great Southwest, one might think that it is not an opportune time to look for a new house Big Red. On the contrary, my fellow wine sleuths, when others zig we like to zag, and your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has a real treat for you in this month’s Value Wine No. 1: the Cameron Hughes Lot 457 Meritage Napa Valley 2013. We have reviewed and highlighted other Cameron Hughes wines previously, as the negociant’s philosophy and ours tend to align. However, the CH Lot 457 Meritage is a cut above even the typical high quality of Cameron Hughes offerings.
Quiz for the day: When is sparkling wine from France not considered Champagne? I’m sure that many of you sleuths know the answer to today’s pop quiz, which of course is when the sparkling wine in question is sourced from a region other than Champagne! A great example of the non-Champagne sparkler is the Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs NV, a Cremant from the region of Burgundy, France. As its name implies, the Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs NV is made entirely of Chardonnay grapes from the world-famous Burgundy region. After all, you have to get Chardonnay grapes from somewhere, so it might as well be northern Burgundy near the region of Chablis!
Although I recently had the privilege to sample four Chards, including one cuvee and 3 single vineyard Chardonnays, without question the one that rang all the bells of my senses was the world-class Kistler McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2013. The 2013 Kistler McCrea beauty, blended from a Sonoma Mountain source, was truly reminiscent of a Burgundy Grand Cru, managing to be elegant, balanced, complex and absolutely thrilling all in one sip. With tones of muted lemon, fresh apples and a hint of creaminess, as well as the minerality that gives this Kistler beauty the complexity and a thrilling, lengthy finish,this Chard would pair impressively with boiled crab, roasted turkey or a zesty green salad.
Your humble wine sleuth has previously confessed to being a fan of the Napa Valley “Rutherford Dust” said to be from the terrior of certain Valley Floor grapes bottled in Rutherford. I was fortunate to have the recent opportunity to travel to Napa Valley and sample the offerings of Round Pond Estate which included the delightful Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Round Pond Estate is located within walking distance of several notable Rutherford neighbors, including Beaulieu Vineyards, Peju Provence and Caymus, to name a few, so fans of those world class Big Reds should definitely take note of their this vineyard’s wines. Although arguably lesser known than some of its Napa Valley floor neighbors, Round Pond Estate has been delivering some terrific Cabs and Cab blends over the past several years, including its own highly acclaimed Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.
So last month I managed to carve out a few hours for a decadent Italian lunch at Il Mulino, one of New York City’s finest Italian restaurants. As luck would have it, I dined during NYC’s Restaurant Week, no less! What glass of wine would pair beautifully with the scrumptious cheeses, freshly-baked bread, oysters, bruchetta, Caesar salad and incredible veal parmigiana without overwhelming the multitude of subtle yet amazing tastes of the feast? Well, wine sleuths, I have your answer: Botteca Vinaia Trentino Pinot Grigio 2014 from Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. Unlike many Pinot Grigio’s I have sampled over the last couple of years, the Botteca Vinaia Pinot Grigio 2014 had a lovely palate of honeysuckle, apricots and light minerality yet retained the refreshing acidity that one expects out of a fine Pinot Grigio.
If you enjoy Chardonnay from Napa or Sonoma, then you know how challenging it can be to find a complex yet affordable one. Perhaps this month’s Value Wine No. 2, the Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2013, might be your solution. Neither overly oaked nor too creamy, the Chalk Hill 2013 manages a rare balance for a Chard in its price range.
Are you wine sleuths looking for an aged, elegant Bordeaux blend Big Red to get you through the winter chill that doesn’t set you back the equivalent of a January gas bill? We have just the wine for this month’s Value Wine No. 1, the Chatter Creek 2008 Blend 105 from Columbia Valley, Washington. Yes, that’s right, this Northwest Big Red is actually a 2008 vintage, meaning that it is perfectly aged at the vineyard and refined for your immediate enjoyment. Reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux, the Chatter Creek 2008 Blend 105 is a Merlot based blend, with helpful dollups of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to complete the classic five Bordeaux blend varietals.
Those of you who follow The Wine Bargain Sleuth regularly are undoubtedly familiar with Cameron Hughes’ terrific value wines. In fact, it is fair to say that we could easily feature a Cameron Hughes wine as a recommended Value Wine each month. Savvy wine sleuths understand the value that all Cameron Hughes wines bring in terms of bang for your hard earned buck, and the Lot 403 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot is no exception.
As your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth peeks at his Outlook calendar he is somewhat surprised to see that the pending countdown to Thanksgiving, that uniquely American holiday and excuse to polish off a week’s worth of calories in between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys football games with impugnity. That, of course, can only mean that it is high time for this month’s Chapter to unveil our recommendations to allow you sleuths to shine with your thoughtful wine selections at your own annual battle for the turkey leg with your families, friends, significant others and hungry, random strangers who popped in to purloin your dressing and that last piece of pumpkin pie!
In today’s world of pedestrian bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that run nearly $100, it is indeed a delight to find a Big Red that one can enjoy…
When I think of the Turley Juvenile Zinfandel 2013, I think of elegance and balance, with a pleasant but not overpowering nose of cherry and strawberry, followed by a hint of spice and a touch of green pepper, followed by a lovely and lengthy smooth finish. The winemakers at Turley have the reputation of being one of California’s foremost Zinfandel experts, and this bottle should quickly convince a wine sleuth that they are not just whistling Dixie on their mass-production Zins.
Those who follow this blog have likely discovered that your Wine Bargain Sleuth is becoming an increasing fan of Spanish red wines in general and those emanating from the Rioja region in particular. My experience is that a good Rioja red often delivers tremendous bang for your wine buck. This month’s Value Wine No. 2, Bodegas Burgo Viejo Crianza 2012 is definitely one of those Spaniards!
You have probably noticed the recent trend of wine reviewers spotlighting the wines of Portugal. Or stated differently, Portugal’s liquid imports are not just about Port dessert wines anymore. As an example, 3 of the top 4 wines in this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 wines were Portuguese offerings. If you haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Portugal or otherwise familiarize yourself with the Portugal wines, your Wine Bargain Sleuth has an excellent opportunity for you as one of this Chapter’s Value Wines: Feuerheerd’s Anchor Wine 2012 from the Douro region.
This month’s Value Wine No. 1 is the cleverly named Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel. This Lodi-sourced example of the robust Zinfandel grape is a worthy match for your backyard BBQ ribs or that extra-juicy burger fresh off the old grill. This inky purple wine (it contains a small dollup of Petite Sirah) has a profile of blackberry jam with multiple layers of earthiness, pepper and minerality woven throughout. Its fine tannins ensure that the Zin is seamless and remarkably elegant for a wine at this price point of $16 retail. I would describe this bold Red as the ideal mid-week wine for those who enjoy grilling out during the warmer months. Widely available, this Zinfandel was recently awarded an impressive 91 rating by Wine Enthusiast. My recommendation is that Wine Sleuths should stock up immediately!
This month’s Worth a Splurge wine is a treat for those who enjoy the polished, earthy Tempranillo wines typically associated with the Rioja region of Spain. The craftsmen of Epoch have offered their Paso Robles, California interpretation of this European classic wine in the form of the Epoch 2011 Tempranillo. I recently had the opportunity to sample this robust red on two different occasions, once pairing the wine with aged cheeses and fruit and once pairing the Epoch wine with one of the absolute best bone-in filets that New York City had to offer. May I say that the Epoch Tempranillo was magnificent in both instances, and my only disappointment is that my cellar is now empty of more bottles of the 2011 Tempranillo.
I have had the opportunity a couple of times in the past month to enjoy the 2012 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon with good friends. Honig has long made high quality Cab from its classic Napa Valley location in Rutherford on the bench floor. This is classic Rutherford Cab Sav, with dark berry profiles, hints of cocoa and vanilla bean and a silky, lingering finish with the classic “Rutherford Dust” that so many Cab fans (your favorite Wine Bargain Sleuth among them) seek. As with a great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Honig pairs beautifully with a juicy T-Bone steak, but its polish and balance also make it equally tasty with pan-seared scallops.
Your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth was introduced to the Argentine vineyard Trivento nearly two years ago, and recently had the unique opportunity to sample the Trivento 2012 Golden Reserve Lujan de Coyo Malbec against several other high quality producers hailing from Argentina, the Rioja region of Spain, the US and Mexico at the Cancun Wine & Food Festival. How did this South American red fare, you ask? Well, to my palate it was the star of the Cancun Star Chefs Dinner event!
With fruit grown on the valley floor in Napa Valley, the Peju 2013 Sav Blanc stands in lush contrast to more austere examples of the Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand. The Peju white is one of the more complex domestic Sauvignon Blancs I have sampled, managing in one sip to hint at the lovely grapefruit, pineapple and honeysuckle overtones on the front palate, while the mid-palate experiences a lush passion fruit and creamy lemon quality, with a refreshing, clean finish that is delicious by itself or with a salad or light cheese. That is a lot of complexity for a modestly price wine from Napa Valley.
Love your Big Reds but are looking something a bit different than a Napa Cab or Merlot? Want to get ahead of the curve on the great wines being grown around Santa Barbara but don’t know where to start? Well, my friends, look no further than the Stolpman 2012 Estate Syrah (Ballard County). This delicious yet unique Syrah from the terroir of Ballard County in southern California may just break your impression that all Syrah wines are big, jammy fruit bomb. By contrast, the Stolpman 2012 Estate Syrah is silky, elegant and bone dry yet manages to deliver satisfying black cherry on the nose and a sage and earthy quality on the mid-palate.
Last night, I ventured off the obvious path and paired a terrific Spanish Rioja with a world-class aged bone-in filet and was blown away. That particular wine was the Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2008. What is even better is that this balanced, nuanced Spaniard retails for $16, meaning that even in a typical restaurant with a 200-250% markup from retail, the Montecillo Rioja Reserva will not cause your Amex to spontaneously combust at the cashier!
While we are on a bubbles roll, there is nothing like the original. A remarkable example from Epernay, France in Champagne is the Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV. The Perrier Jouet is a Pinot Noir blend that exhibits the classic Champagne characteristics of toast, citrus and a touch of honey with delightful tiny bubbles. Effervescent with a delightfully dry finish, the Perrier sparkler will never disappoint your crowd, whether a holiday party or small gathering with friends.
With New Year’s Eve (a/k/a Amateur Night) just around the corner, a wine sleuth may be on the lookout for a reasonably priced, high quality domestic sparkling wine. Here’s a thought for your consideration–shag a couple of bottles of the delicious Piper Sonoma Brut Sonoma County Select Cuvee NV. Reasonably priced at an $18 suggested retail, the Piper Sonoma Brut NV is comfortably priced at $10 or so below fair-to-middling Champagne.
The Bogle Essential Red 2012 is a delicious blend of old vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sav and Petite Sirah that will have you reaching for another bottle after the last glass is dispensed. The 2012 Bogle blend has a flavor profile of dark berries, vanilla, spice and tobacco. This wine is nicely balanced and has an uncommon smoothness for a Big Red at this price point.
If you are a fan of spicy foods like BBQ brisket, ribs, pepper steak or even jalapeno pepper enhanced burgers like your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth, then you need to find a bold red wine that doesn’t get overwhelmed by the entrée yet is polished enough to complement the bold flavors. An excellent example of that wine, my friends, can be found with the terrific 2012 Turley Zinfandel California Juvenile.
Better known for its terrific Sauvignon Blancs, Kim Crawford’s 2012 South Island Pinot Noir serves notice that it intends to be a player in the Pinot game. This wine has a nose of cherries, cola and spice, and the mid-palate adds a bit of strawberry and earthiness. It is medium bodied and smooth drinking. Apparently Wine Spectator was favorably impressed as well, and awarded a solid 89 rating to the Kiwi Pinot Noir.
I don’t know of a better value wine at this moment than the remarkable 2012 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills H3 Cabernet Sauvignon. We have previously recommended some great wines from the Washington state winery, and there’s a better than zero chance that friends might find a Columbia Crest daily drinker in my personal cellar at any given time due to their consistent high quality and true value price. The 2012 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly no exception. Indeed, if anything, the bar has been reset even higher with this vintage.
It is not every day that a great French wine fits into the Value Wine category, but I hereby offer to you the Domaine de Couron 2011, a delicious Syrah from the Cotes du Rhone region of France. If your guests enjoy red wine with perhaps a bit more body than a typical Pinot Noir, yet your budget demands that avoid maxing out the Visa card, then this French Syrah may be your Huckleberry!
If you are a fan of the Spanish Tempranillo wines like your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth, here is a simply unbeatable deal: the 2011 Mano A Mano Tempranillo from Vino de la Tierra de Castilla. This lovely Spaniard retails for the absurd price of $9 per bottle, literally the typical price of some very pedestrian starter wines. Wine Enthusiast raves about this 2011 Mano A Mano, remarking “It’s almost absurd how good this $9 Tempranillo is.” Wine Enthusiast also awarded the wine a stellar 90 rating and named it Number 5 on its Top 100 Value Wines list last month.
The 2012 Smoking Loon Steelbird is a crisp, delicious Chard, with green apple and citrus overtone and without the over-oaked, buttery offerings of many California Chardonnays. The Smoking Loon Chard was recently selected by the Wine Spectator editors as their Best Buy of the Week, with James Laube singing the praises of the domestic white: “It sings and dances from start to finish,” while awarding the wine an impressive 89 rating.
In short, folks, there’s a lot going on in that Pinot! Still a young wine, the 2012 Walt The Corners nonetheless balances the cherries and sweet strawberry nose in an interesting finesse of earthiness that seems to gain even more balance with 15 minutes of air. The wine takes on a rounder, elegant feel that will delight even the drinkers of the Big Reds.
I had the pleasure of tasting the crisp, refreshing 2012 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif before the spectacular 2014 Taste of Howell Mountain festival recently in Napa Valley. Not only did this stellar Charles Krug Sav Blanc serve as a delicious way to prepare my palate for the world-class Howell Mountain Cabs that were featured at the festival, but it had the complexity and smooth finish to bring me back for just one more glass on the way out!
Although in the past Chapters we have talked about Italian wines and extolled their virtues, until now we have neglected to recommend a full throttle yet elegant Italian Red. However, this month we remedy this situation by naming a gorgeous Brunello, 2008 Antonio Sasa Martina Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, as a Worth a Splurge wine. I had the opportunity to taste the 2008 Antonio Sasa Martina at a great wine event hosted by my friends Rex and Michele at Ronin Wines, and I was simply blown away by the Italian beauty. Deep tastes of blueberry and a bit of cherry and raspberry, polished fine tannins and just a mouthful of luxurious smoothness and balance with a finish that seems to lengthen with each sip describes the fine red wine.
White wine fans are currently celebrating the ebb of summer with their favorite chilled whites. The pool season often brings our thirsty friends to our homes in search of copious quantities of refreshing, crisp whites. Since the key word here is “copious”, it makes good sense to find and acquire a great value white wine for your guests. Your friendly Wine Bargain Sleuth has a recommendation that every wallet will embrace this month: the 2012 Smoking Loon Chardonnay California Steelbird Unoaked.
As the warmer months are gaining on us, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth continues his quest for quality, affordable Pinot Noir to stash away. In that vein, we have a treat for you this month in the 2012 Handcraft Pinot Noir California! The 2012 Handcraft Pinot Noir has classic Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, cherry and cola, but the blend grapes add a bit of structure and interesting tea and spice flavors with a silky smooth finish.
This is a very balanced and nuanced white wine, showing hints of both lime and pear on the nose while showing spice on the finish, and generally giving one the impression of a much more expensive Chard. It pairs beautifully with a light shrimp or crawfish dish, as well as baked chicken.
The 2012 vintage of the Louis Martini Sonoma Cab is a true Bordeaux blend, of which 87% of the juice is sourced from Sonoma Valley Cab Sav grapes. This widely-available value Big Red has a nose of dark fruit, plenty of structure and still manages a lovely, smooth finish, due perhaps to the fairly low 13.9% alcohol content.
One such world class wine is the 2010 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Paso Robles, a unique, Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo grapes. This unique red, from grapes more often associated with European rather than domestic wines, is best described as a rich and fruit-forward wine which at the same time manages to be quite balanced and complex, with a lovely acidity that makes it food-friendly.
As with all Chianti’s, the Castello Banfi is primarily Sangiovese, and this particular vintage provides a glimpse at just how delicious that varietal can be when placed in expert hands. To my palate, the Banfi Chianti Superiore is a complex, elegant wine, with a nose of cherry and currant flavors followed by well-integrated spice and packing a moderately long, earthy yet smooth finish.