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

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“>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

Pretty In Pink…We Think.

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Veuve du Vernay Brut Rosé 750ml

French Sparkling Wine, $3.99 – $11.99

Find a bottle near you on WineSearcher.com

It was a dark, wet Thursday evening and I was Rushing Through the SF Ferry Building as my ship had come in to take me home. As I passed the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (motto: “We spit so you don’t have to”) I realized I owed the world a sparkling wine review every week until New Year’s Eve 2015. Last week was a home run (Dibon Brut Reserva Cava Penedes, Spain $9.99) so I was brimming with ambition for my next selection.

The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is one of the anchors in the renown SF Ferry Building. If you visit SF, this stop on the tour is worth the aggravation of parking drama or extra cab fare. The Ferry Building is best known for the amazing farmer’s markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Widely acclaimed for the high quality farm fresh produce and artisanal foods, it is renown as one of the top farmers markets to visit in the country. Saturday mornings especially, you will very likely see some of San Francisco’s best known chefs fondling the watercress, nosing a Chanterelle or ogling the Romanesco. Nearly 25,000 shoppers visit the farmers market each week, but everyday the plaza is home to many highly regarded foodie merchants/innovators including; The Slanted Door, Cowgirl Creamery, Heath Ceramics, Blue Bottle Coffee, Sur La Table, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and more, more, more.

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Inside the SF Ferry Building – Check out La Mia Vita Blog for a great pictorial of the foodie extravaganza!

The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant has a loyal wine membership that begets their robust calendar of events, tastings and pairings. Their mission is to find the most interesting and delicious wines from smaller producers around the world – I’m on board with that. They also have a store located in the über foodie fabulous Oxbow Market in Napa. One of their founders/buyers was honored as “Sommelier of the Year” from the James Beard Foundation and all the partners have impressive bios as wine industry professionals. As I write this, I’m pressure texting a friend to join me for their 6th Annual Champagne and Oyster Fête this Wednesday. Ahoy there!

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The Cowgirl Creamery cheese counter at the SF Ferry Building. My quest for the best in cheap wines is to off-set my costly habit for cheese and shoes. #trueconfession

As I ran past all the stalls to catch my ferry, I saw the display of sparkling wines under $20 front and center. How long could this take? Bad judgement? Well, I do tend to push the edges of timeliness and if there is a plane, train or ferry to catch, subconsciously it becomes a game of chicken. My race against the clock felt necessary in this instance. I had wine to drink and a post to write.

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Ferry Building and Bay, San Francisco CA, c.1910

I was in luck, no lines and the wine merchant was at the ready to provide guidance. I explained that I wanted a sparkling wine under $10. What did he recommend? At first he was puzzled, and expressed that my request was a tough one, could I spend a few more dollars? Sure, why not? Better to take his recommendation than miss my ferry and swim to Alcatraz. I had to abruptly explain that my ferry was leaving in less than ten minutes and the only requirement is that “It can’t be crap.” He handed me a wine, briefly explained the notes and origin, I gave him my credit card, signed, grabbed the receipt, the wine and booked off to my pier. Two minutes to spare, the booze cruise was still there! Hurrah. I got on board, went straight to the bar, ordered dinner which consisted of a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke with a side of Ranch Flavored Cornnuts. My compliments to the chef.

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Those cornnuts are not levitating, they are just happy to see me.

Oh, so now where were we? Yes, yes, I was reviewing a wine.

After a leisurely 50 minutes on the ferry, I was home. I chilled the bottle in the fridge (45° F.) Before serving, I placed the bottle in the freezer for ten more minutes. I admit, I was concerned that this wine might ruin my night, so I wanted it to be ice cold. Who needs another cranky post. When I finally had the courage to pop the cork, I was happy to see a lovely salmon pink sparkling come to life. The nose was fruity, candy apple. First sip I tasted strawberries, florals and it had a nice balanced acid and flavorful intensity. Even though it was fruit forward, it was not sweet and the finish was long and dry. Mousse was moderate but still rich. As the wine warmed, the flavors nicely became more intense but I also noticed a nutty bitterness, which made me reconsider whether or not I loved this wine. However, the packaging was very pretty. The chocolate brown foil with pink and gold accents was very tasteful and felt luxurious when serving this wine to guests. Billecart-Salmon it was not, but it was very enjoyable cold and exhibited quality beyond other sparkling value wines at its price point. I would buy this again and I would be comfortable bringing this to an event.

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Surprise and delight! The pink underside of the brown foil impressed me. It does not take much.

There was very little on the label to tell me what this wine was about. It was rather mysterious. The Veuve du Vernay site specifies this wine as 11% alcohol and a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache and Syrah. This brand was created by Mr.Jean Eugène Charmat, the French scientist, who in 1907 invented the cuve close (“sealed vats”) method of producing fine sparkling wine which has since been adopted worldwide. Most sparkling wines are produced in one of two ways: Method Traditionelle wherein secondary fermentation happens in bottle, or vat fermentation which is eponymously named the Charmat method.

What’s with the “Veuve?” Monseiur Charmat had a high regard for a widow (veuve) in the village of Vernay who helped him to start his business. When Eugène Charmat’s son Robert created a new sparkling wine of high quality in the 1960s, he named it in honor of the lady whom his father esteemed so highly. Today Veuve du Vernay is an internationally known brand of value sparkling wines from France that are priced well as a result of Monseiur Charmat’s invention 108 years ago.

Let’s raise a glass in honor of the inventor and founder who made it possible for the world to enjoy quality inexpensive sparkling wine today. Down the hatch!

Stay curious,

loie

A friend in need needs this. Naked Grape Cab $7.99 –

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 Naked Grape Cab $7.99
CVS/pharmacy
The bouquet smells like leather, blackberries. The first sip is dark fruit, berries, fig – like it really wants to be a cab but falls just short of the complexity or richness. Not harsh or tannic – weak, sweet, quickly made – easy to drink and grape juicy. Naked grape essentially says what it is. I was drinking this with a woman going through a bitter divorce, and a friend in need is a friend who needs wine – Naked and I were happy to be there for her of course. Other than that, c’est toute!
Rated drinkable, especially when listening to heart breaking stories about an ex in progress and who would get custody of the money.
Stay curious!
loie

Did someone mention value?

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“The world is full of value wines and valuable wines, but the two couldn’t be more disparate.  Unfortunately, value wines get served at events, especially weddings, when you should be serving valuable wines.  So what separates the two?” — the Sybarite

The preceding quote from last month’s Wine Writing Challenge winner, The Sybarite, inspired me to hop on the keyboard and present my hypothesis on the wine value proposition. My quest for the finest of cheap wines has been particularly menacing due to my current domicile in a highly regarded Californina AVA. Bringing a cheap bottle of wine to a soirée can elevate tensions akin to the unrest of an Arab Spring. Flashing a cheap bottle at a more menacing event, like a farmer’s market, can be highly precarious as the picnic snob set are infamous for carrying a concealed corkscrew of restaurateur quality. 

Corkscrew

Although I have been ostracized, unfollowed and unfriended, I wear the stigma with pride. Regardless of whose nose I offend or palate I maim, I am resolute in my journey of finding the rarest, most valuable and coveted of all the Earth’s vintages: an excellent wine for under $10.

A bit of courage, some know-how and plenty of luck…

Admittedly, my chosen profession as a reviewer of cheap wine is a blight to my family. As aforementioned, we live amongst a populace of highly educated winos and plentiful sources of excellent wines. My mission is seen as fanatic and eccentric. My family demands to remain anonymous. There are no friendships made in the cheap wine tasting cellar. The tone is austere and so deprived of conviviality it has been referred to as a catacomb. The brave few will join me in a toast, but most, run screaming to their computers to take me off their E-vite guest list.

 DaliWine

When I do find that beautiful bottle of wine that receives countless compliments and cost less than a Frappuccino, I am suddenly genius, popular and reintroduced to polite society. Why? Because there is a direct correlation to peer perceptions of intelligence and expertise when one finds something valuable for little to no cost. This phenomenon is akin to finding gold galleons in a shipwreck or a Dali in grandma’s attic. When you can share a wine discovery that is remarkably affordable, of exceptional quality, and is wholeheartedly enjoyable, you have proven your value to society. 

Serendipity strikes…

As I was pondering how to substantiate my wine value proposition, serendipitously today, Gary Vaynerchuk tweeted a link to a short video about how to bring people value. His value framework defines utility, escapism and entertainment as the key principles. So I applied them. Cheap wine offers utility through accessible everyday price points. Check. Escapism through imbibing. Check. Entertainment through the hunt. Check.

These three themes are exalted in every social media channel known via posts about drinking wine, why we drink wine and the after effects of drinking wine. With confidence I presume the hoi polloi is not hitting “like,” “share,” and “RT” because these memes illustrate the humor in first growth wines from Bordeaux. I rest my case, but wait; indulge me for one moment further.

Boxwine

Sir Jeff Siegel, knighted for his significant contributions to the commonwealth of winos and author of The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wines (must see Ten Dollar Haul of Fame at winecrumudgeon.com) states that “…anybody can go spend a lot of money and find a great bottle of wine, but how come nobody had ever thought of finding a great bottle of wine for not a lot of money? You find that in every other consumer good…the wine business had never really done that.” Exactamente!

{ the below image has had thousands of views, likes and RT. Ok?}

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Millennials and the democratization of wine after the great recession…

And thus blossomed the likes of Sir Jeff and The Reverse Wine Snob who pioneered the genre through their pragmatism and humor which started the movement for the democratization of wine for the masses and not just the classes. They set the stage for the next generation of wine aficionados who came into legal drinking age post apocalyptic economic downturn, aka the Great Recession. These winos have different expectations. They are not collectors, they are collaborators. They want to get nerdy about wine and share their knowledge. They drink what they like and what is aplenty. They can accept that wines under $10 can be exceptional. How can I stand behind this declaration? Mathematics and the new economy, perhaps?

Linda Murphy, of winereviewonline.com, puts it best in her post titled Cheap Thrills “…the fact that many rewarding and interesting wines can still be found for less than $15, and more importantly, for less than $10, which is approximately the price of a six-pack of craft beer.” Quite pithy.

 Love, hate and loathing at the bottom two shelves…

heathand beautywine

The wilderness starts at the bottom shelf of the wine department in any supermarket. Never mind the dust bunnies, we are seeking a wine so delectable, unexpected and rare, we will be kissing a few Jackalopes and Chupacabras before we ride the Unicorn. Akin to mining diamonds or spotting the rarest of birds in their habitat, exceptional value wines can appear unexpectedly. As I machete through the jungle of cutesy labels, clever names and “on sale” signs, this experience can be discouraging and often one limited on time, especially if your ride is in the parking lot honking while the engine is running. 

I rarely have the pleasure of finding wines at the $10 and under price point enjoyable. I believe the bar is so low on inexpensive wines that there is a bias. If you paid very little for a wine and it is palatable, it’s “good.” Not a chance here. I rarely post great reviews and I am often disappointed. However, what keeps me motivated is the thought of a misguided wine buyer with enough means but not enough confidence being seduced by a price and a pretty label. When disappointed by their selection and the missed opportunity to drink good wine, I feel the angst, hence those bottom 2 shelves are my hunting grounds.

Value proposition demystified…

“It’s not enough that a wine is cheap (or expensive, for that matter). Does it offer more value than it costs?” — the winecurmudgeon.com

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It’s easy to spend countless amounts of money on good wine. A $100 wine is not necessarily 10 times better than a $10 wine. Albeit, if you drank 10 wines under $10 and one of those wines was phenomenal, what would that be worth to you? Is the thrill of the hunt as valuable as the find? Whatever the effort it takes to seek an excellent wine at an unbeatable price, when you make that discovery and share it with the world, the value is now exponential. 

I remain curious.

loie

 

  

 

Wine Journaling – something to do w/used corks – that’s NOT an eyesore!

Winejournaling

 

So many corks – so little time to craft creepy gifs for your wino buddies like hot glue gunned “cork boards” – which only fill the basement or provide luxury housing to spiders in the garage. Well this idea is actually useful in a sentimental way and so easy – just keep the Sharpie handy.

I will actually try this to add value and virtue for keeping those dust collectors around. I admit – I save every sparkling wine/champagne cork I ever opened – even the cheap ones from the lesser bottles. Looking at that vintage ice bucket on my mantle  fill up with spent corks makes me feel happy and reminds me of those cherished moments when the bubbly was flowing for some special occasion, like when I toiled over laundry.

Just hide them when the authorities drop in for tea – but then again – who’s counting anything but the goodtimes.

 

Stay curious!

loie

Credit where credit is due: Idea found on eventremembered.com

 

Wino Redefined!

 

PGHM

I have decided to amend the definition of “wino.” I know this is a frivolous cause and one that most haughty, intelligent types would consider “silly” “purposeless” or as my father would say, “useless as tits on a boar” – which was a saying I always found odd and disturbing even as a small child before I even knew what a tit or a boar was – he’s a depression era baby and talk about obscure and outmoded terminology – have you sat on a “davenport” lately? But I digress. Back to our subject matter.

I have decided to redefine wino because the definition I retrieved when Googled (or as my mother says goo-goo’d – she is Asian ESL- I had to share that because I think it’s funny) is WRONG for many reasons, well 3 to be precise.

1. “Excessive amounts,” I mean really, that is totally relative and unmeasurable. I think excessive is an over charged, over used, over emphasized, over glamorized hyperbolic slur – especially in reference to wine.

2. “…or other alcohol.” Let’s get technical here – wine is not vodka, bourbon, Scotch, or pre-made margaritas in a plastic jug. How can a word derivative of “wine” now be within the same classification of other spirits? This is completely erroneous. Being classified with “other alcolhol”  gets under my skin as the inference is completely encroaching on our oenophilic heritage and unique cultural identity – is every Asian Chinese? Are all Latinos Mexican? Call a Cuban a Mexican and see what happens. Come on. This is very un-American and eerily Communistic.

3. Homeless? Homeless? Really now. I have actually never met a homeless wino. I have met homeless alcoholics, drug addicts, veterans, the mentally ill who are really really homeless. I have met the gentrified-challenged homeless (yes that is a direct hit on the tech industry and the eradication of affordable housing in SF and other places like “Silicon Beach” – raaaa-ther! It was so much more affordable when it was a gangland) I have met runaways and those displaced by economic downturn. Ha! Not a wino in the bunch. I must say I am not diminishing the importance of addressing homelessness and quite frankly, I am militant about eradicating it. There should not be one person in this country without sufficient shelter and support to enable a productive and healthy life with hope for the future….I’m getting on a soap box when I should be on the wine barrel – so I must now return to the original context of this topic.

This is about correct vernacular and the evolution of the meaning in the English language. I believe “wino” in the Anno Domini common era conotes a positive, celebratory community of like minded bon vivants who are resourceful in their pursuit of enjoying wine with reasonable frequency as to not upset their means for acquiring wine.

Raise a glass for the cause you winos and stand up for what is now a new and improved definition of winohood. No more blocking doorways in the Tenderloin. No more refusal of payment with change at 7-11. No more sneers from the cork sniffers. Tear off those paper bags and drink proudly, loudly, responsibly and with fiscal prudence! I’m still saving for those sandals.

Stay curious!

loie

 

 

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

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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,
loie

 

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

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