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 its modest $17 suggested retail, it far outdrinks many Merlots that cost 2-3 times more.
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!
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….”
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!
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!
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.
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.
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…
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…
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…