Eureka! I think we struck gold…A Primativo for $3.99

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Apologies of the unappetizing drip – a result of passing the tipple – I promise prettier vines next time.

2012 Grifone Primitivo, Puglia, Italy, from old growth Zinfandel $3.99

Trader Joe’s

Wowza! Just when everyone was losing faith in my crusade to uncover the best wines under $10 – Eureka! I think we struck gold.

My checkered past…

Let’s go in the way-back-machine to about 30 days ago….I was hitting rock bottom, I could not respectably review the wines I was tasting, those bottles will remain nameless but for all intents and purposes, let’s refer to those wines as shite.

A prior post recounted the events that led to the Tepranillo-Gate scandal. I was nearly impeached from cheap wine forever and I believe there were dark forces at work against me. There was a conspiracy behind that unfortunate event, alas alack, there is no point troweling through the past when the future is before us. In this instance, a cheap and cheerful Primativo.

Primitivo or Zinfandel: are they cousins, siblings, identical twins?

Primitivo is a descendant of the rare Croatian varietal Crljenak (pronounce that!) There is plenty of discussion about the differences and similarities of Primitivo and Zinfandel. The latter is often defined as the exact replica of the Crlienak while Primitivo is defined as being a clone. The difference? I’ll have to get into that in another post but you can do a deeper dive here. Read the debates online and decide for yourself, but when planted next to each other the variance is noticeable in size, bunch density and color. What’s the big deal? About $10-$20 in price. Primitivo is sold typically at a value between $10-$15 while Zins can be twice as much. Unlike Europe, U.S. labeling laws don’t allow the names of the two varietals to be used interchangeably. Hmmmm. Market forces at work.

Well I notice a difference and maybe it’s wine stye, but the Puglian Primitivos, although intense in flavor, seem lighter in body, more refreshing (a touch chilled with a wedge of juicy orange – Mwah!) with a pleasant Italian bitterness in the finish that lends itself to the grape’s unique complexity. Zinfandels are jammier, fruit forward and I find them heartier, more body, tastes like California sunshine with a coastal breeze to me. This variance could be due to the propensity for Primitivos to ripen earlier (hence the name which means “early one”) which produces a younger tasting wine high in alcohol and tannins, which can mellow with age.

Without further adieu, I proudly present my latest discovery of undeniable significance…ecco qui:

2012 Grifone Primitivo, Puglia Italy $3.99

This wine was rather delightful. Color in the glass is rich garnet like pomegranate juice. Nose is dark cherry, some light spice. First sip, mmmmmm, juicy rhubarb, rose petal, very smooth, rich, strong yet balanced tannins and a finish that departs as soon as you want another sip. Very enjoyable and also flexible for various food pairings. Will go great with stronger flavors like BBQ, venison and will complement richer fattier delights like foie gras or a densely marbled Kobe. If you were pairing wines for 4 courses, this would be best served with the main course. I actually believe this is caseworthy as it will only get better with time. Dude! Do the math, only $48.00 a case? That’s the price of ONE splurgy bottle of Zin…OMG! No me digas! Sacré bleu! Exclamation exclamation.

Stay curious,




Caution: may cause headache…this is a dangerous job but someone has to drink it.

 Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs Brut FR $4.49
Bubbly is fun. It’s celebratory. So $4.49 for a party in a bottle is hard to resist, but be careful what you pay for later. The bouquet is floral – one guest said like a stargazer lily. The first sip is crisp like a pear and finishes with a sweet mustard, it’s not that harsh but it may not be for you. The description on the label says “…delicate, fruity character and refined, lasting flavor.” That lasting flavor may taste like _________ you fill in the blank (one taster mentioned urine another mustard gas. I am not one to ask how either of them know these flavors, I merely conduct the research.) Final verdict: in a pinch for a less than special occasion, it’ll do. Those who are particular about their sparklings will find it barely drinkable on its own, but those who need to grab a quick bubbly for a brunch can confidently do so as long as they make belinis and mimosas. As the picture recommends, it is served best as ice-cubes with aspirin on hand.
Stay curious!

A peach for the beach! Beringer 2012 Pinot Grigio $4.99 – rated buy again


Bouquet is definitely peachy and floral. First taste is bright, refreshing, with nectarine and citrus – description mentions a hint of a mineral finish – I did not pick it up. Perfect for a summer picnic on the beach – a classic Pinot Grigio best served very chilled. This wine can hold its own against bottles that cost 2-3x as much. A little more sugary than what I prefer – but I’ll rate this a buy again and although perfectly fine alone, I’m having premonitions of a punch bowl. I can see a beautiful white Sangria coming together with a few orange, lemon and nectarine slices – add a few cups of gin, a bottle of sparkling white wine, plenty of ice cubes, garnish with kumquat* (see technique below,) sprig of mint from the garden and a number for a taxi- muy bien!

Stay curious,


*Isn’t this a cute garnish idea for cherry tomatoes and kumquats – float it on a Sangria.

tomato_flower copy

2012 Grand Cru Vineyards, SauvBlanc $3.99 – I suggest you buy yourself a latte instead.


2012 Grand Cru Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc CA $3.99

Bouquet does not offer much. Citrus with nectarine and one guest commented there was an earthy vegetal fern. First sip is sugary not too sweet with a grape leafy finish. However, not much more to talk about. Not much to like, really.
My suggestion, buy yourself a latte and leave this on the shelf. It’s drinkable, barely, but I wouldn’t even use this for cooking. Ouch!
Stay curious,


2012 Crane Lake Petite Syrah 3/$10

2012 Crane Lake Petite Syrah 3/$10
Mystery Origin CA
Bouquet suggests rose petals, hint of strawberry. First taste is decent I’m not of fan of mystery origins but it’s got that lightness of body I like in a good Petite Syrah and a second glass will go down easily. Depending on how edumacated your audience is, this is a good buy for the house but not something I’d bring to anyone’s home that I didn’t reluctantly accept the invitation. If the neighbor unexpectedly shows up with a report on the other neighbors, offer them a glass and see if they go away or if you need to exit them, do so by generously ushering them out with the bottle as a parting gift (may not be legal in your town, check with your neighbors.) Very handy to have around. Decent in the right company – price can’t be beat 3/$10.
Buy again, possibly as an unexpected guest consolation prize.
Stay curious,

2012 Dona Del Sol, Cabernet Sauvignon, CA 3/$10


2012 Dona Del Sol
Cabernet Sauvignon
Product of California
Oliver’s Market 3/$10

Bouquet is light fruit, hint of blueberry, mild, not big. First taste is surprisingly smooth, no oak, does not have typical cab qualities of bigger, bolder richness. It could masquerade for an Itallian red table wine. It’s a young tasting, very drinkable lighter red that with some age could be interesting. I’m tempted to buy a case and put it in the cellar – but alas for now it will be braising our short ribs for next 3-4 hrs at 350. We’ll save some for a couple glasses with dinner.

Very guest worthy definitely buy again!