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 […]

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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!

EmergencyWhiteSangria

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)

giphy

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!

Party-Animals-senseshaper-Vomiting-Pig

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.

serve-me-my-wine

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.

more-wine

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.

champagne

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

TOP 10 WINES UNDER $10 for MEMORIAL DAY

MEORIALDAY

Memorial Day is one of the all time great national US holidays. Whether you honor our fallen heros by wearing a poppy, laying a wreath or celebrating our hard won freedoms by going hog wild at the lake, you’ll need choices in refreshment aside from that keg of beer your cousin hauled over in the back of his truck.

Just in time to kick off the Summer, I’ve compiled the 10 wines under 10 dollars that you can rely on under ANY circumstance. Fancy friends? How about a Rosé that pairs perfectly with poshness. Oppressively hot weather? There’s Sauvignon Blanc for that. Searingly spicy BBQ ribs? Nothing a scoop of potato salad and a Vinho Verde for $5 won’t tame.

Summer is at large and preparation requires some of these quaffable options…

1. Espiral Vinho Verde, Portugal $4.49

IMG_7741

“>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, France

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.

There you have it! So go on…display Old Glory, kiss your favorite veteran, remember those who served proudly. Enjoying wine is a way to celebrate the occasion, not that you need an excuse to do either!

Stay curious,

LOIE

Mother’s Day Epiphany: Running for My Life in Heels Drinking Champagne

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 12.28.12 AM

Voila! Has been a while, but I am happy to present my entry into the #MWWC17. At this very moment, my husband is pleading for me to feed the family before they all perish, therefore, I must commence with my entry inspired by the theme “epiphany” selected by last month’s winner The Wine Raconteur. Amusez-vous bien!

A traditional mother’s day usually consists of breakfast in bed prepared lovingly by the father of someone’s children with handmade cards awkwardly assembled with the love and charm of a small child. Maybe there is a thoughtful gift; a fragrant soap, cookbooks, hand embroidered aprons and personalized wooden spoons. The fancier moms may receive a gift certificate to a spa or potpourri. Thereafter, you may head out with the kiddies to a brunch, a garden party, a luncheon at the club or a dinner with the in-laws.

My epiphany was realized when I came to the conclusion those were the Mother’s Days of yore. The last vestige of tradition on my Mother’s Day was popping a cork and daintily sipping Champagne while idly chatting about fruit tree blight and aphid infestation with the landed gentry. Unbeknownst in the parlour, the harsh reality of high technology would soon crush all cultural norms of this familial holiday.

In the future, moms won’t request charm bracelets and bubble bath. They will require more technologically superior gifts, and I’m not suggesting the latest egg timer or smart phone. I’m not even alluding to a robotic vacuum. We are talking drones. Ones that fly above the earth hovering like Black Hawk helicopter chicks.

My not-that-much-younger sister, a bonafide mother, received a drone as her Mother’s Day gift. I’m a bit more traditional, I begged for a set of late 19th c. Baccarat crystal flutes I found on ebay, but I guess I’m an old fogey.

Summoned by the children to come outside and see “something,” I reluctantly left the side of my ice bucket to witness the spectacle. All heads hinged upwards to the sky. Hovering 30 feet above was a four legged mechanism encased in white with unidentifiable protrusions. Lights were flickering and it reminded me of a sinister toy Millennium Falcon made by Kennar. As it traversed up and down I noticed that the little devil was filming us on my brother-in-law’s iPhone. Cheeky bastard.

CharlesDeMarques

I believe the reason I survived was because of my will to live to drink this $20 Champagne from Trader Joe’s. I freakin love this stuff…..Mother’s Day is everyday with CharlesDeMarques

My mind was swirling with who, what, why? My younger sister informed me tersely that this ‘droid’ was her cherished mother’s day gift. Well, excuse me for using a rotary phone. Plah-eeze!

At the risk of being crass, I asked my sister how much was “the drone” and did she use the ToysRUs coupon I generously gave her last Mother’s day? Once informed, I was astounded that it cost more than a bottle of 2012 Screaming Eagle Cab and “No,” she did not use my generous coupon.

Then things got a bit silly. Being a bit of a joker, my brother-in-lawsuit started acting murderously irresponsible. With the controls in his hands, the drone became erratic and started chasing people around. FYI: I was carrying a glass of my favorite Champagne from Trader Joe’s. Things were going to get real if one drop of that nectar missed my lips. So I started inching further and further away towards safety. Well, never turn your back and run from a vicious animal or an inlaw with past grudges and transgressions. Chase ensued.

Good news, all this domestic mayhem was caught on video by the drone! Therefore, in the event of my peril or maiming, the footage would be readily available to the authorities for the purpose of criminal prosecution or civil litigation. I wasn’t really thinking about this in the moment as I was running for my life.

Of course I starred as myself in the made for online movie. Please enjoy a laugh at my expense and watch this original content brought to you by the Cheap Wine Curious Channel:

Well, me and the children survived and better yet, so did the Champagne. All fun and games aside, drones are not toys and can be very dangerous when in the hands of irresponsible beer drinking uncles at family gatherings. My final epiphany? I nearly starred in a snuff film. Don’t let this happen to you. 

Stay curious!

loie