I worked in a couple of nice restaurants during summers in college. I soon realized that it would be to my benefit to learn enough about wine to be able to negotiate my way through a good wine list on a date. That initial interest led to my enjoyment of many good and great wines on many good and great dates over the years. I began with whites, but quickly graduated to reds, and came to particularly like big Cabs and Meritages. The best I remember were by Caymus, Jordan, Shafer, and Grgich Hills, all of which were expensive, but always added to the occasion.
Some things I've learned about wine that are worth repeating:
Some of my less expensive go-to wines, depending on the occasion, in no particular order:
- Anyone can find a really good $100 bottle of wine, but the smarter oenophile can find the really good $10 to $15 bottle
- The actual, indisputable definition of "a good wine" is one that you like enough to call "a good wine"
- The most fun, smart, and interesting women I have known over the years all enjoyed wine
- Many of the established California wineries will only release so much wine under their premium label(s) each year in order to maintain a higher price for it. For the years in which their harvests produce more of that wine than they want they want to release, they will often release the excess wine under one of their less expensive, secondary labels. Same wine, lower price.
- If you enjoy wine, it pays to regularly read about, discuss, and try different wines in a way that keeps your knowledge of wine fairly current
- Cupcake Red Velvet - a solid red table wine, neither sweet nor dry, under $10
- Coppola Claret (black bottle with gold netting) - a crowd-pleasing cabernet sauvignon, under $15
- Hahn Pinot Noir - delicious, under $15
- Cupcake Pinot Grigio - a nicely balanced white wine, not as dry as most pinot grigios, under $10
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc - a fantastic white wine, not dry, but drier than most sauvignon blancs. Has a slight flavor of pink grapefruit, under $15
Best Posts in Thread: Million Post Quest - Had a good wine lately?
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Confession time: I love a good bottle of wine with a meal. Back when Mrs. GBM & I were dating (long ago), she asked me to go to a wine appreciation course with her. Being a beer guy I thought it pretty silly, but since I was pretty into her, I kept this opinion to myself, wrote my check, and went. The instructor was the wine critic for Atlanta magazine and we ended up having a blast. Drank some good, and occasionally great, wine and learned a lot. Ended up becoming a modest collector and have had a lot of doors opened just for knowing a bit about what is basically fermented grape juice. I still prefer wine to accompany a meal more than anything else, and though my choices have become more frugal over the years (kids will do that), I still enjoy it tremendously. Some of my greatest pleasure comes from finding a really nice wine for less than $20. Hopefully, I’m not the only one on GCMB who enjoys the juice and I hope others will weigh in with nice bottles they have enjoyed. I am no wine snob and always bear in mind some advice I received from one of America’s fore most wine critics, a man named Robert Parker, who I had a chance meeting with: “Trust your own taste; if a bottle tastes good, it is good.”
This weekend Mrs GBM and I had 2 nice wines. One reasonable, the other in the $30+ range. Both were very enjoyable (and red). The cheaper wine ($12-15) was an Italian wine: 2016 Fontannafredda Briccotondo Barbera. Personally I love Barberas and they go great w/ everything from steak to pizza (we had it w/ pork chili on pasta). California to my mind has not really cracked the code to growing good Barbera, so you have to buy Italian, but great values exist. The nicer wine was a 2015 Siduri Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir, to my taste anyway, is the greatest red wine grape there is and there is some great stuff coming out of Cali and Oregon. Enjoyed it with NY strips smothered in onions and shrooms w/ roasted new potatoes. It was awesome.
Comments as you will, be it mocking or joining in.
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I too enjoy wine. But I can't stand the wine snobs that are like:
- Cross-fit people
- Gluten sensitive people
- Vegans and
How do you know when people are those? They'll tell you.
I'm also of the belief that a good wine is a wine YOU enjoy.
So we held a wine tasting contest. The "type" was for Sangiovese wines ONLY. This is a wonderful red wine from Italy. (Keep in mind this is the primary grape also found in Chianti) Each person had to bring two of the same type wine...one for the tasting and the 2nd for the prizes at the end. They had to check in with the person running the competition so that no two people bought the same wine.
At the party, the wine bottle and price was kept secret and each bottle was kept in a brown bag during the competition. All pours were done in the kitchen while the tasters were in the living room. Only two people (not participating) knew the values and brands and they did the serving. Everybody graded each wine on pre-made cards from 1 to 10 and the totals were revealed at the end of the night along with each name and price.
The winner, by far and it wasn't even close, was the cheapest bottle of the night...a $13 bottle of Chianti that comes in a wicker lined bottle and is featured at every damn Italian restaurant you've ever been to.
The more expensive bottles were way down the list and there were two selections that were both in the $50+ range. The person that brought that Chianti went home w/ALL of the 2nd bottles everybody brought!
Figured I’d give this a bump with football season coming to an end.
Last night Mrs. G made a de-boned leg of lamb with a Dijon mustard sauce. I’m not usually a big leg of lamb fan, but it was excellent. As she made a pretty involved dish, I figured I had better provide a good wine, so I went deep in the cellar for this:
It was outstanding. Despite being 25 years old, it was no where near the end of its life span. For those not familiar with Bordeaux’s, the wines from St. Estephe tend to be fairly tannic (due to the higher proportion of Cab) and long-lived. And this one was no exception. 1995 was a great vintage across Bordeaux and one of the last where a case of a wine like this wasn’t crazy expensive. I seriously doubt I’ll ever buy much from there again, but last night was damn glad I bought this one. This particular producer is not one of the top tier, but nowadays a bottle of their wine from a good vintage is over $100. Crazy.
Scout's Honor is a really good Napa blend that's in the $35 range but is consistently excellent and a great value given that neighboring estates sell for 4x that much.
If you're looking for an under the radar wine to try for cheap ($10 or less), go with a feteasca negra from Romania. They have them at Total Wine (Recas is the brand name) and bottles go from $6-10 (one is blue, the other red--both are excellent tasting and can't beat the value). I've brought them to various wine tastings with friends and it's been consistently voted as one of the favorites, despite being the cheapest bottles there.
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Also had a Meiomi in Washington State last week, also enjoyed that one.
Oregon Pinots seem to be the best IMO, but this one was good.
Stag's Leap is fantastic as well. My manager just gave me a bottle for our fiscal year end.
I also was gifted a bottle of Cakebread by our distributor...
so when I chug both of these down, I will report back.
A great App to install is Vivino.
You can snap a picture of a bottle's label and it will give you the consensus rating as well as the average price you'd expect to pay.
And ...you can snap a pic of a restaurant's wine menu, and it will rate all the wines on the list.
Great for guys like me who are not all that wine savvy.
As it was Mrs G’s birthday, I went pricier than usual tonight and grabbed one in the $25 dollar range that I’ve been saving for a bit. The wine was a 2014 Vietti Nebbiolo which went great with grilled steaks and roasted potatoes. For those unfamiliar with Italian wines, the labels can be very confusing. On the US, the label, unless it’s a blend, lists the primary grape, Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc. In Italy (and several other places in Europe), it is usually a place name, like Chianti.
Two of the pricier wines in NW Italy are Barbaresco and Barolo. They start in the $30-40 range and go up. Way up. Both of those wines reflect in their name the growing region and not the grape, which in both cases is Nebbiolo. So, if you grow Nebbiolo, but not in one of those two regions, you list the grape name, not the region. Confused? Join the club. In any event, this wine is from just outside Barolo and tastes just like it, but at prolly half the price. Vietti is a good producer and very consistent. Doubtful this wine is still on the shelves, but recent vintages should still be very good. As always, here’s the label.
I’m tired of talking about Covid-19, etc so here’s some wine talk. I’ve had three different reds over the last few days. All good, but all very different. So, here goes:
This is a nice Barbera available at Total Wine. Very fruity with low tannins and will go with most dishes from chicken to steak to pizza. Can’t remember specifically, but think it was around $15. Maybe less. Also good to just sit and sip.
For those who have read my posts, you know I am a sucker for good Pinot Noir. The very best PNs are a mind blowing experience; sadly they are also a wallet busting experience. As a result, I am perpetually on the hunt for reasonably priced PNs. This one won’t make you forget top tier Burgundy’s, but for the price was a great find. Mrs G roasted some chicken thighs with fingerling potatoes and asparagus and this was a nice accompaniment. Also around $15 @ Total wine. For those not familiar with Argentine wines, trust me. They have some winners.
And last but not least....we officially launched grilling season at Chez GBM tonight and had this with mixed grill (photo below; also added some angel hair with pesto) and so I went a little more pricy than usual. This is about $25-35, but can’t remember if I bought it at Total Wine or B-21 in Tarpon Springs. In any event it’s not hard to find and is a great Rhône Syrah. Comparable to a good Hermitage or Chateau nuf du Pape at a fraction of the price. Here’s what it accompanied:
Lastly my best cab for the money is “Louis Martini Sonoma.” Should be around $15 and is amazingly consistent from vintage to vintage. (“Napa” version is $10 more, roughly, but very good as well.) Second would be Avalon. Cheaper, but definitely a step down - tho always good for uncritical quaffing! (Grayson Cellars would be the bronze medalist in the event, but at $10-12 a bottle a great bargain. ) Bon Apetit!
Don't know if you live near a Total Wine, but if you do and you are a fan of Spanish wines, they have a direct import Rioja you might like. It's called "Montebuena Rioja." Very consistent from vintage to vintage. Pretty versatile too as far as food goes.
Last of the new wines (‘til next weekend anyway!).
This is a really good Spanish red: 2018 Bodega Dan Gregoria “Las 75 Vendimias de Emilio Gonzalez.” It is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache). I love Tempranillo, but often find Garnacha not to my taste. The French versions from the Rhone can be a little bit more likable, but it’s often blended there with Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. This was a new blend to me and quite good. It also strikes me as quite versatile; I think it would go well with anything from simple grilled meats or various cheeses, to full flavored dishes like paella or goulash. Another new wine of which I’ll be buying more. Retails for $18.
Was in Total Wine yesterday and they were having one of their “Winery Direct” sales. As the name would imply these are wines they are buying (and in many cases importing) directly from the winery. If you bought 8 or more bottles, they gave you 15% off. As I have pretty much been drinking the same stuff lately, I took advantage of the sale to buy stuff I had never tried.
First up is an Argentine Cab from Catena. This was an excellent Cab that went great with beef tenderloin steaks from the egg.
There was very little tannic acid in the taste, leading me to believe it won’t be a long lived cab, but it should continue to drink well for a few years. Had all the classic Cab flavors and was a relative bargain at $17 (less 15% of course). I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a lot of very good to outstanding wine coming out of South America right now and it’s often half or a third of what you’d pay for similar quality out of California. Drink up!
Really good Cotes du Rhône from the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel fame. This CDR is a blend of Rhône grapes (Syrah, Grenache, etc) much like a Chateaunuf-du-Pape. Expect to pay $18-22, but to my taste is good value for the money. It did need some air and time to open up a bit. Would probably be good for several years if not longer. This was the 2018 vintage.
Had several new wines over the last 10 days or so and most were worth recommending (tho a few were quite forgettable).
The first was a white from the Salice Salentino region from way down the boot of Italy. It’s much more known for reds than whites, but I discovered a white worth recommending. The label did not list a grape variety, but my best guess is it’s Chardonnay. This one was very smooth and did not exhibit signs of being overoaked as opposed to American ones, which tend to be often be. (For those unfamiliar, aging Chardonnay in oak casks gives it vanilla flavors; the newer the oak and the longer the aging = more vanilla. My personal theory is vanilla is catnip for humans, but much as I love vanilla ice cream, I hate too much vanilla flavor in wine.) In any event, it was a nice white too accompany pasta in any kind of white sauce or with anti-pasto. I bought it at Total Wine, so it should be easy to find. Here’s the label:
Next up is a Rhône blend from the Costieres de Nimes in SE France. Very smooth and good value. A good wine for any dish you’d pair with a red wine. My best guess is mostly Syrah and Grenache. Probably not a good match for pasta, but any grilled meats for sure.
Another great cab from Chile, this one is also a great value and might be worth laying down few bottles. It’s pretty smooth now, but I could see it improving with a few years of cellaring. This was another find at Total Wine, so should be widely available.
This one might be the best of South American wines I’ve had lately, but was also more tannic and in need of a few years. I found it in a small wine shop in Atlanta, so no telling if it’s widely available. Both of this one and the one above remind me of California cabs one used to be able to find once upon that were good and fairly priced- a hard thing to find any more. Here’s the label:
The last recommendation is a long time go to Zin from Sonoma. The producer, Seghesio, makes a bunch of single vineyard Zins that go $25 and up, but their standard Sonoma bottling is excellent and can be often found for under $20. This wine is very consistent from vintage to vintage. The single vineyard Zins, like those from Seghesio and Ridge, and, at the higher price point, those from Turley and Martinelli, are better for sure, but for the price this one is excellent and very versatile. Was great with grilled steaks.
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