Bon courage! “Rockin Red Blog Needs Your Help to Travel to France!”

J’adore Rockin Red Blog for the great writing inspired by food, wine and music.  A creative approach I admire and a writer who is as gracious and generous as her pours (take note of the capacity of her wine glasses.) Take a moment to read her entry and a second to vote for Michelle so we can selfishly read future posts about this trip! All convenient links should be in my following repost….

As posted by Rockin Red Blog:

A few weeks ago I received an email from Millesima. The email said they had reviewed my blog and found a few articles that would qualify for their 2016 Blog Awards and suggested I enter the contest. So I did! Yesterday I received another email congratulating me on being a Millesima 2016 Blog Award Finalist! Woo […]

http://rockinredblog.com/2016/02/11/rockin-red-blog-needs-your-help/

Holiday Pairings for the Discerning Wino

The holidays are here and whether you await St. Nick or Harry Hannukah there is the perfect wine for every occasion and every gift. Nothing could be more cheery than a cheap gift with some cheap wine. Tacky? Shameless? Pas moi! I’m just selfishly thinking of the bottle of joy I’ll need after bringing so much joy to others. Shall we?

Wine Gift Sets_primativo1. Grifone Primitivo Puglia, $4.99  & Scared of Santa, $4.51

The perfect après mall parent giftset to take the edge off and reward the contrivance of happy memories. These pictures will bring a deserving chuckle years later only to trigger repressed emotions by your adult child who is now coping under the supervision of medical professionals. It happened to you right, so why break the vicious cycle of Santa torment now? It’s a time honored tradition!

Wine Gift SetsJaume2. Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava, $8.99, Duct Tape, a Kitchen Timer and Oven Mitts

This hostess gift will ensure your Christmas meal will be cooked to perfection or at the very least tended. Use duck tape copiously to adhere a timer and mitts to the distracted host and anxious chef. Ideal gift for sister/brother-in-laws who vehemently insist on cooking the holiday meal, but really shouldn’t because their inexperience and lack of focus can lead to ruin. It’s not fail proof, but the wine is! Throw in a can of dry roasted peanuts if your feeling generous or don’t think you’ll have time to wolf down a quarter pounder before Aunt Helen says grace to memorialize the main course. Duct tape comes in handy if Aunt Helen digresses from fantastic to periphrastic.

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3. Espiral Vinho Verde Portugal, $4.99, a Fire Extinguisher

You forgot to water the tree – for weeks but remembered to string those crackly old lights as you were too cheap to buy new. Your darling grandkids plugged all 6 of their refurbed electronic devices into a faulty adapter in a single outlet with your space heater. Your oldest nephew has lit the menorah and before you can say “Shamash” the seven year old twins swiped the matches. Papa Bob insisted on making a fire in the fire place before he took his medication…there’s a wine for that.

 

Wine Gift Sets_RRBlackBlend4. Black Blend California Extremely Rare Red 2012, $9.99,  Batteries, Magnifying Glass, Tiny Screwdriver, and Pliers.

Those nieces and nephews sure love their gifts from Santa. They will love them even more when they work. All those tiny parts somehow go together if you look closer at the instructions printed on flimsy paper set in type fit for a near sighted thumbellina. If that remote controlled action toy still looks more like a burned out hoop-d on the wrong side of the tracks, don’t give up. Drink that bottle of wine and try not to poke your eyes out with the tiny screw driver or pull your toe nails out with the pliers. Frustration is self destructive but only if you let it get between you and that glass.

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5. 2013 Cline Cellars Zinfandel, California, $8.99 & a Roll of Stamps with Fisher Space Pen 

Christmas cards are rolling in and you’re ready to return the sentiment. What joy is it to repeatedly sign your name, the kids and the spouse over and over and over and over. Make that 3 bottles of Zin and a few shots of whiskey. Save some of those stamps for the paid bills to send out after the holidays. While you’re at it, let’s make it 4 bottles of Zin.

Wine Gift Sets-Sauv6. Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2013 CA$7.99 and Lead Mittens with a Tube of Shea Butter Crème Pour Les Mains

Always be ready with a heavy hand to honk the horn in the super store parking lot before you get backed into by another shopper too battle-worn to look in a rearview mirror. Keep your hands to the shelf while fending off the competition at the bargain rack. Some weight behind the velocity of a shoving match for that last pair of size 7 slippers will ensure you’ve got the upper hand. But don’t forget to nurture those cuticles and soften up those callouses. Hang-nails are unseemly while holding the hymnal when singing Silent Night. Keep it together!

Wine Gift Sets_ScaryShite7. CheapWineCurious Cellars 2014 Chardonnay , priceless and a Lump of Coal

Well finally! Some genius is marketing lumps of coal for Christmas. What better to pair it with but my own estate bottled 2014 vintage Chardonnay, that literally will add injury to insult. Takes “you better be good” to a whole new level.

Wine Gift Sets_MCMANIS8. McManus Family 2014 Petit Syrah CA, $7.98 and a Carton of Cigarettes

I call this “The Mall Santa Special.” Forget cookies, Santa really needs a jump start to the evening after being beseeched by throngs of screaming, leaking, demanding shopper bairn. Before the season ends, only to be return to his befitting career as an officer of a notorious biker gang he joined in the 70’s, he needs a bold yet delicate California Petit Syrah. Hell, his old Harley has got to get him from the Santa Rosa Plaza back to the safe house in Guerneville and he can’t conveniently detour to the Rusty Nail to stock-up on smokes and liquor ’cause the place damn got shut down after the last bust. Let’s get this party started early for Ole St. Nick (not his real name) as long as the kiddies don’t see him out of character. Ho, ho, ho.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stay curious,
loie

Top 10 Wines Under $10 for Thanksgiving

Obligatory preamble:

The holidays are here ready or not. The best anecdote for the stresses of the season is a bottle of wine at the ready. Just pull that cork like a rip cord and glide effortlessly through the seasonal haze of family, friends, houseguest and office parties until you land gently on your feet and into a new year. That was easy! 

Fresh off the presses, as I await the paparazzi to descend, I joyously share my latest proclamation of the #top10under10 dollar wines for Thanksgiving.

Stay Curious!

Cheap Wine Curious Announces Annual Top 10 Wines Under $10 for Thanksgiving

(Nov. 23, 2015 – San Francisco, CA) Thanks to the second annual Top 10 Under $10 Thanksgiving wine picks from CheapWineCurious.com, anyone tasked to select reds, whites or rosés can chill – even if wine snobs will be at the table.
“I’m passionate about kissing the frogs so my followers don’t have to” says site founder Loie Maxwell. In compiling this list, she tasted over 80 wines under $10 and curated her follower favorites.“I had my work cut out for me but knowing there are happy followers enjoying their wine with friends and family at a bargain is my reward.” 
Dedicated to finding great wines under $10, Maxwell was raised in Sonoma County and has returned to her wine country roots after executive roles at Mattel, Target, CVS/pharmacy and Starbucks. She now balances work and family as a brand marketing consultant and being a wine and travel blogger. She continues to cultivate her understanding of wines and food pairings through relationships with local growers, French wine tourism and connecting with the most prolific winemakers and vintners in California.

After six months of mining the bottom shelves of grocery wine departments, Maxwell presents the best deals:
1. Cecilia Beretta Congeliano Valdobbiadene, Prosecco Superiore Brut, Italy $9.99 Top sparkling wine pick this year with hints of pear, green apple, bright citrus and a surprising dry finish.
2. Grifone Rosè, Italy $4.99 A fabulous find! You will cherish this plummy rosè with every elegant fruity drop. 

3. Folie à Deux, Ménage à Trois Red Blend, CA $7.99 The perfect blend of bold black cherry, hints of vanilla and a smooth finish of lingering fruit.
4. Rare Red Grape 4 Blend, Lodi CA $7.99 Still an all time favorite! A top guest request. 
5. Edna Valley Merlot 2013, Central Coast CA $9.99 Big fruit and a solid body, this Central Coast Merlot holds its own against other wines twice the price.
6. Domaine Boyar Traminer, Bulgaria $9.99 Light delicate and floral, this unique white wine is worth the hunt for a second glass.
7. Mark West Pinot Noir, California $8.99 A delightful Pinot Noir under $10 is a rare bird friends will flock to when craving a red.
8. Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio, IGT delle Venezie, Italy $7.79 Not too sweet, not too dry, an easy to drink and refreshing white wine.
9. Espiral Vinho Verde, Portugal $4.49 A light, bright all time go to favorite white that made the list because it is not to be missed.
10. Kono, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, NZ $8.99 A white wine that is crisp with flavors of passion fruit and herbal aromas you’ll enjoy more than you should.
Most wines can be found at H-E-B, Safeway, Vons, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, BevMo, Total Wine, winesearcher.com and various national grocery chains. 

Faites Votre Choix….

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My friend and Napa county neighbor, the Traveling Wine Chick, had the winner’s honor of picking the theme for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC19 . I can only hope the dissertation I am about to put forth is worthy of her motif – “choice.”

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I had the good fortune of being a guest at the wedding of two dear friends in Biarritz, France. Merely a week from this last Saturday, I was strolling the gardens and walking the halls of a beautiful chateau on Lac Brindos surrounded by nuptial brilliance and celestial beauty (the wedding designer is genius and there was no expense spared for this union.) I could go enviously on and on and on giving you enough time to stitch a voodoo doll of my likeness, but I shall refrain.

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Biarritz is a gorgeous seaside city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in southwestern France. A luxurious destination that is popular with tourists, surfers and scantily clad sun seekers. Situated in Basque country, at the border of Spain and only an hour or more by car from San Sebastian and Bilboa, the town has had a storied maritime past since its establishment as a successful whaling port in the11th and 12th centuries. Doctors in the 18th century prescribed the destination to patients to remedy ailments as they believed that the ocean had therapeutic properties and soon health pilgrimages to Biarritz became de rigeur.

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In 1884, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III the longest serving President of the Republic and the nephew and heir of Napoleon the First, built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais) and soon this was a favored destination for European royalty including British Monarchs, Queen Victoria and King Edward and Spanish Kings.

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Most recently, Biarritz became known as one of the best surf spots in Europe and the beach culture is evident. At times, I did double takes, as certain scenarios looked more like Santa Barbara than seaside France. Surf shops, VW buses with surf racks on top and distant coves sprinkled with bobbing heads on boards waiting to catch the next wave.

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Then there are the casinos, the fine dining, the sea food and the warm hospitality…yes in France! Albeit, the service is at a much different pace than what one finds in the US, but then again, what’s the hurry? Slow down, relax and enjoy a glass of wine.

Enough of that.

As I navigated through the choices of meats, seafood, pastries, cheese, wines, meats, seafood, pastries, cheese and wines, I realized I was caught in a traffic circle of gastronomic proportion with all roads leading to gout.

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I was pleasantly exhausted by the generosity of my hosts and the exceptionally kind service we received from the Chateau Brindos staff. As the jet lag delirium waned, and the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, post ceremony cocktail party, formal dinner, Basque performers, fire works display, lighting of the lanterns, cakes, more cakes, macarron pyramids, wild dancing until 8am, day after morning brunch, cocktails by the pool, chartered buses to Jai Alai tournaments, family paella dinner, scheduled outings to local and not so local sights…I was so enthralled by the glamour of all this organized fun, it can only be described as my personal Belle Époque.

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As guests, we were all spoiled rotten and the wedding hosts could not have executed with any more or less perfection. What I soon learned to appreciate was the fact that I really didn’t have to make any choices, there it all was before us to indulge in blissful celebration in honor of our friends and their union.

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Every wine that was poured for me was excellent, in fact the one choice I made at a restaurant in Paris – a Chinon with my steak frites – was terrible, stale and sour. I sent it back facing off the waiter when he gave me a blank stare – I did not flinch. He disappeared, for a while, then returned with a glass of Bordeaux and chided me for my poor choices. He declared that he has now decided which wine I will be drinking, so I will not bother him again and he can smoke a cigarette. What a kind, generous man, and by the way, the wine was delicious – bon choix!

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Back stateside, safe and sound, I thought of how luxurious it was when I didn’t have to make choices, and conversely how the most important choices you make – the friends you keep, the spouse you marry, where you call home, and where you venture – can afford you that rare luxury.

With that pithy statement, I now bid you adieu as I have made the choice to shred all my credit cards before the gendarmes get back from the tabac.

Stay curious!

loie

10 Reasons Why Virtual Wine Friends Are the Best Friends…

I invite you to enjoy my tribute to you – my fraternité of virtual winos. Please reflect on these words in all earnestness. Is there a possibility I may be obfuscating my inability to procure a wine under $10 to review? Certainly. Is there a scintillating bonus for you at the end of this list? Most definitely. Drumroll please…. Top 10 […]

https://cheapwinecurious.com/2015/07/07/10-reasons-why-virtual-wine-friends-are-the-best-friends/

10 Reasons Why Virtual Wine Friends Are the Best Friends…

winefriends

I invite you to enjoy my tribute to you – my fraternité of virtual winos. Please reflect on these words in all earnestness. Is there a possibility I may be obfuscating my inability to procure a wine under $10 to review? Certainly. Is there a scintillating bonus for you at the end of this list? Most definitely. Drumroll please….

Top 10 reasons why virtual wine friends are the best friends:

1. Virtual wine friends generally have better breath, and if they don’t, you’ll never know.

2. No broken fingers from wrestling away car keys and silverware.

3. Limited exposure to circular debates over the 100pt system or boorish ramblings about the new vs. old world? Just click elsewhere. They won’t know.

4. They are better houseguests, use less water and don’t frighten the neighbors.

5. You know immediately if they like you.

6. You never need to brush your hair, teeth or cat to impress them.

7. If you ignore them for a few days, they give you the benefit of the doubt whereas real life friends actually guilt you into socializing which may require showering, driving, splitting a bill, blah blah blah.

8. None of those awkward run-ins at the supermarket wine department while carrying a pack of “lady-pillows” and cheese-doodles.

9. Many virtual wine friends reside in different time zones and that means it’s always “wine’o’clock” somewhere (translation: higher statistical probability that someone is drunk, reading your post, liking it, RT it or commenting – hooray!)

10. Open up whatever you want to drink, you don’t have to share!

Thank you for reading my pithy ode of appreciation. As a special bonus for your wild dedication, I leave you with my list of top 10 wines under $10 for the Summer of 2015 (peer below my signature.) I know, I know, what a ridiculously generous and selfless gift. I shouldn’t have. But you’re worth it. Mwah!

Stay curious,

loie

TOP 10 WINES UNDER $10 for SUMMER 2015:

1. Espiral Vinho Verde, Portugal $4.49

Trader Joes

Case-worthy goodness and a wine that will hold it’s own against wines 3x as expensive. Beep, beep. beep that’s the sound of my truck backing up to the dock – load-er up. Drink this wine anytime but when paired with Indian, Thai or Mexican dishes, it shines. Crisp, refreshing, citrus and green apple. What do you have to lose except one heck of a deal on a great wine for the summer and beyond.

2. Cline Syrah 2013, Sonoma County, CA $9.99

ClineCellars

I was blown away by this complex, rich and sophisticated Syrah. How could it be under $10? It tastes like it’s a $30+ bottle of wine! Nose is generously cocoa, smoke with some earth. Perfectly light bodied red for Summer, great fruit, plum, berry and beautifully balanced acids and tannins with a gorgeous vanilla finish. Undeniably case-worthy.

3. Fetzer Gewürztraminer 2013, CA  $7-$9

Total Wine

A hands down favorite find for the Summer. This wine was highly recommended from an esteemed wine biz insider, and this hot tip will keep things cool this season. A classic Gerwürz (my nickname because I can’t pronounce the full name properly, the Fetzers call it “Gew”) is sweet, but this is not cloyingly sweet, has the perfect amount of fruit, acid, brightness that finishes dry. Perfect as an aperitif. So much to love, especially at the price.

4. Mark West Pinot Noir, CA $8.99

BevMo

My favorite red for summer, why? Because it is both rich and refreshing. I call it a miracle wine because I have rarely found a Pinot Noir under 10$ that wasn’t blech and since this wine is delicious, it’s a bonafide miracle. It carries nuances of better Pinots such as dark cherry, touches of spice and cedar with a smooth wet stone finish and a body that is light. Perfect with grilled skirt steak on a bed of lettuce with lime cilantro dressing, or with manchego cheese and Marcona almonds. Your guests who require red will not be disappointed.

5. Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Griogio, IGT delle Venezie, Italy $7.79

Wine Searcher

Recommended to me by a fancy friend who drinks it everyday, hey no harm in that. She has a driver. Especially perfect to pair with summer dishes like a perfectly chilled shrimp cocktail, Vietnamese spring rolls, and fried chicken. This wine is fruit forward but not sweet. It has a ripe stone fruit and honeysuckle essence and nice body for a light wine. Poured into crystal at a luncheon or Govina’s by the pool, this is a versatile wine!

6. Madame Fleur Rosé, Wholefoods 365 Brand, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Languedoc Roussillon, FR $8-$9

Wholefoods

This is my all time favorite value rosé. It tastes as good if not better than some more famous (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) rosés from Provence for a third of the price. Floral strawberry nose with a perfect French rosé profile of light berry, pear and bright acid that finishes with some citrus, grapefruit. I’ve bought this over and over and over again. So will you if you say yes way to rosé this summer.

7. Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc, CA $8.99

Ultimate Wine Shop

Ok, what the heck is going on? A mass market wine that I actually like and pretty much can get anywhere in the country. Yep. Here you go, for those who want it now, I’m certain your local supermarket will be carrying this wine as well, it’s Robert Mondavi and who doesn’t carry Robert Mondavi? For those snobs out there, give it try, it’s dry, had a great balance acid and emotes all the best qualities of a Sauvignon Blanc; light, crisp, fruit but dry. I suggest a roasted Branzihno with ripe tomato salad with some feta cheese with toss of oregano and basil. This wine is the perfect finish to a light meal.

8. Dibon Cava, Catalonia, Spain $7.99

Winesearcher.com

A sparkler for this much money often gives me a head-ache just thinking about it. Ah-ha! Here is a a sparkling Cava that is a must find. Hunt it down. I picked up flavors of apricot, tropical fruit and enjoyed the lively effervescence. This wine is perfect for summer celebrations and special deserts like the Ile Flottante you manage to whip up for all the 29th birthday celebrations. Better buy a case, I see several such occasions in your future.

9. Rare Rosé NV, CA $5.99

Sonoma Market 

I was steered away from this 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Bronze medal winner, by the attendant in the wine department. How could a wine that inexpensive, on the bottom shelf be any good? Ha! I know the Scottos make many other great premium value wines so how could I not take a chance. Not only was this wine worthy of the bronze medal, it was deserving of my gold. Ka-ching! Beautiful bouquet, light body, essence of berry and florals, and under $10. A perfect accompaniment to a late morning brunch of egg white fritata and warm scones with home made strawberry jam. Dreamy.

10. Line 39 Pinot Grigio, CA $9.99

wine.com

These guys at Line 39 are fantastic and always get it right. This Pinot Grigio is drier than many and although there is ample fruit on the nose, it finishes dry with some fresh cut grass and maybe a hint of honey dew. This wine will put you in an alfresco state of mind. I enjoyed this wine with a gorgeous poached salmon with fresh dill and lemon. This wine cuts through the richness of the fish with a nice bite. Perfecto.

In Time for the 4th – Emergency Sangria!

I threw a party back in the 90’s and a visiting colleague from Spain, Enrique, who we just called “the Spaniard” (I recall Russell Crowe was starring in Gladiator at the time,) made a White Sangria of legend. To this day, family, friends and every outer rung of acquaintance still inquire about the recipe. No kidding, I received a request for it last week on FB. My Twitter friend @RoseCondrieu commented on a fruitless search for the recipe today.

Wait no further! Here it is. A note to those who have consternation with following recipes – not a worry – the more reckless and muddled the better!

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The Spaniards secret was the gin…yes, sounds Moorishly dubious, but you won’t notice, trust me. And from what I barely recall, Enrique left the party not only a hero but with 2 conquests in tow.

No need to thank me now, you can blame the Spaniard later. Have a safe and lovely Fourth of July!

Stay curious,

loie

Strawberry-Cabernet Compote

Great recipe for you winos who like to cook! Throw this on ice cream, custard, cheesecake, cardboard anything that can use a little something to take it from heavenly to sinful. Sins of the Palate always has a fab recipe and some sharp wit to share. Hence why I must share this with you now. Bon appetite!🍷😘

Sins of the Palate

I’m about to be really honest with you. And if you are someone who cooks and cooks for friends often, then you will probably get up out of your seat in a few seconds and dance around. I don’t know if it will be a joy-induced dance or if you’ll just feel the beat of a really good, unrelated song. But I bet something similar will happen momentarily.Don’t fight it. Be true to yourself. Live your truth.Every once in a while, friends will insist on bringing something (ex. Side salad, dessert, etc.). And if you have a strong need to feel like you contribute at least in some small way, to every component of your dinner party, this can present an issue. Maybe this blog entry is me dealing with my own personal “control” issues. Either way, you should probably leave comments that follow this model: “Remington, you’re so pretty.” Feel free…

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Improve the Odds: 3 Tips to Picking a Good Wine Under $10

Recently a friend asked my opinion regarding an article he read about the virtues of buying cheap wine, as in really cheap. My dear friend has a rather valuable wine collection stored in a high tech temperature controlled vault, so although he was open to the merits of the premise, he was askance at the supporting arguments. (Why You Should Be Drinking Cheap Wine via @slate)

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I did not entirely disagree with the article, but I was left quizzical with the explanation of why. I definitely did not find merit in the bias against the industry by attributing wine mark-ups to whiny vintners who bemoan the cost and intensive labor of winemaking. Those greedy capitalist wine makers claim to barely “break even” so it is up to consumers to “subsidize” their glamorous industry – I embellished my point with the glamour bit. Anyone who is close enough to the wine industry knows, it’s agribusiness and not an easy buck, period. Moreover, it’s a calling often led by the courage of a passionate few and tribes of multigenerational vintners. However, ironically, the fastest way to alleviate a greedy capitalist of his money is to sell him a vineyard – ha!

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Those capitalist pigs are such party animals! There’s his accountant behind him. Looks like they just discussed the financials of the winery.

From what I also recall in the article, there was a proof point about the long standing “gotcha” about blind taste testers who often can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines. Hey, if you find good cheap wine, isn’t that the point. Problem is, 80% of cheap wine is swill, and plenty of fine wine is unapproachable (euphemistically put, you won’t like it ’cause it tastes like 80 year old fanny barnyard, and that is what it was intended to taste like. Hey, not everyone takes to extravagances like caviar and Civit coffee, especially in one sitting.)

Finally, I’m in violent agreement on one point, the palate of the masses vs. the palate of experts and collectors is vastly different. A palatable everyday wine may taste fantastic to Aunt Helen with a pork loin at Sunday dinner but flaccid, unstructured and pedestrian to a more discerning wineaux. Snobs require price, pedigree and ratings to allow anything to pass their lips – I discount them entirely as that’s foolish. But connoisseurs, as with any finely crafted good or service know the minutiae that makes a difference. I know a few wineauxs who can appreciate a good deal as much as the finest vintage.

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All value wines are not created equal – and there are some simple ways to identify varietals and blends that will give you a fighting chance to hit a winner. In one year of doing this blog, I taste an average of 5 bottles under $10 before finding one outstanding value wine. Finding a great wine between $15-$20 is not too difficult, but if you dink wine frequently, it adds up fast.

For the adventure seekers, buying value wines until you find one you love is risky for 2 reasons: 1. The frustration could be a turn off to wine altogether  2. The experiment will be just as expensive but less gratifying than buying one or two great bottles priced 15-20.

3 Ways You Can Improve Your Odds at Picking a Good Wine Under $10:

1. Look at the label and check the origin of the wine. Most value wines are made in the Central Valley of California – Gallo land. This is perfectly fine especially if you see a blend – meaning the label will not define a varietal of grape ie. Cabernet Sauvignon. If you see the origin is a well known growing area, (Sonoma Country, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Monterey) chances are it’s a better wine but there are no guarantees! Some Lodi blends have been fantastic while some famous appellations were blech!

European wines that consistently perform for whites are Italian Pinot Grigio, Portuguese Vinho Verde, Australia and New Zealand produce excellent Sauvignon Blancs. For reds I have found great deals from Spain and Italy – Rioja, Primativo, blends. The best value sparkling is Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and I have found a Cremant and Champagne from France that was ridiculously affordable and as fantastic as some very pricey cousins.

Grape varietals to avoid because I have yet to find one produced under $10 that is decent are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir – they are out there but few and far in between, Chardonnay – unless you want an oak-bomb, and Merlot. These varietals have nuances that can be achieved between $15-20 at such a better quality I suggest you save your pennies and buy a more expensive bottle to truly get the pleasure of the grape.

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2. Get friendly with your wine merchant. Speak frequently to your wine merchant and ask them two questions: First, what wines under $10 would they recommend? Second, what wines under $10 are the best sellers? You may find your merchant to be a snob – yes this happens. They will sniff and backhandedly proclaim your insouciance, excuse themselves as they have a date with a feather duster. Sometimes they just don’t know much, but they should know what’s been blowing out the door – ah ha! Try that one. Sadly, knowing the best seller is also not fool proof because depending on your local population, for example you may live near a college campus, it may actually be a contrarian indicator.

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3. Lastly, stay curious but have a back-up plan. Embark on a quest to find one great red, one white and a sparkling. There is more art than science to finding a good wine under $10. These tips in combination with a little research, word of mouth, and trial and error will aide you in getting lucky. Once you hit on something you love, stick with it.  Having a value “go to wine” will mitigate the angst of buying and trying new wines and provide a satisfying standby in the event you pick up a bottle that ends up down the drain instead of down the hatch!

Stay curious,

loie