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

Your Green Beer Alternative: A Zin Win for Under $7

It isn’t St. Patty’s day until you see a Millennial walking down the street with beads, daisy dukes, green tank top, a beer and a cigarette at 3pm. I suggest you grab your kids, lock up your husband and get outta town. But before you scatter faster than the jail bait can shake their shamrocks, I suggest you dash on over to the wine aisle in your local shoppe. Check out one of these price busting, lucky charms I discovered to honor this very special holiday celebrating Lá Fhéile Pádraig.

Kenwood 2012 Vintage White Wine Blend, CA $6.89
Floral – smooth, crisp and refreshing easy drinking but lovely balance of acidity. Not much complexity, but for a great table wine that is highly enjoyable, I give it a strong buy again.

Butterfield Station Pinot Noir, CA $5.99
All alcohol, no nose, no fruit, yikes! Wasting away in Sangria-ville – blech – fruit this baby, or soak a roast.

Sutter Home Moscato, CA $5.49
Honeysuckle, almost tastes like apple juice – but not to cloyingly sweet – I must say, it’s not so bad. I kinda like it – but I need to be in the mood, a rare mood. I rate it drinkable.

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HRM Rex-Goliath Free Range Zinfandel, Italy $6.79
Hearty, bold fruit, exactly what I love in a Zin. The fruit could be a little richer and layered, like some better Zins, but this wine is still jammy and perfect with BBQ. I love finding a big wine with a low, low price. I rate it guest-worthy. Pot O’Gold!

Bella Sera 2013 Pinot Grigio, Italy $6.99
Citrus, but other than that – not much more to this wine. It’s drinkable. I’m not a huge fan of Pinot Grigio, but addmittedly, they are difficult not to like, especially after a few glasses of Pinot Grigio. I wanted brighter acid, more fruit, some floral, the characteristics I like in a decent PG. Sadly, this wine needs to get fruited. It would be best icy chilled with a few thin rounds of orange, lemon and lime. Heck, let’s toss in some sprite, a maraschino cheery and jigger of gin for good measure. Last one in the parade is a rotten grape!

Stay curious,
loie

Get your keys to the castle! A Guest-Worthy Pinot Noir for $8.99 – For Reals…

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2012 Castle Rock, Cuvée Pinot Noir, CA (cellared and bottled in St. Helena)

I am always scared to taste a Pinot Noir under $10. Why? Because a good Pinot under $10 cannot be done. Can-not! No way. No. Not ever. Never. Well you know what they say about saying never. Never.

Wincing, I opened the bottle. My victim that day was a local chef and presumably someone who would unfriend me for exposing him to this swill. I prefaced my tasting with apologies and gratitude for his bravery. We uncorked, poured and the rest is surprising. We are still friends.

It smelled like a Pinot to me, fresh, light, young, with notes of cherry and hibicus. First sip was peppery, baking spices, dark fruit, currant, medium bodied and very mild tannins with a pleasant woody finish. Very drinkable. Wow, what a delight. I have yet to meet a Pinot for this price point that I could take home to momma – this passed the sniff & sip test…with flying colors.

Who is Castle Rock? I like to research the makers of these fine wines of “Cheapeaux” and often you find a barrel load of corporate drivel laced with fabrications about growers, makers and wineries you will never visit because they in a warehouse in Commerce, California. Ok, I am verging on snobby which is not my style, but let’s keep it 100. How is it possible for these wines to be priced so freakin cheap? Yes, we have all heard the machinations about Two Buck Chuck consisting of high percentages of gopher guts and pesticides (my friends at Trader Joe’s HQ vehemently deny these rumors and I believe them.) But when a wine is actually good and as guest worthy as this one, I’d like to understand how they pulled it off. I mean, bravo, they actually made a ridiculously cheap bottle of wine truly enjoyable.

Moreover, Castle Rock wines are widely available. I believe this one was acquired at a Safeway. So after poking around, I discovered they offer wines from Napa/Sonoma in California, Willamette Valley, Oregon, and Columbia Valley, Washington but they are HQ in Rancho Palos Verdes in Southern California. What exactly does “bottled and cellared in St. Helena” mean anyways? The plot thickens. Go to the source – their website. Ah-ha – this is how they do it.

“After the harvest, the wines are made in accordance with Castle Rock’s winemaking standards, and are bottled at wineries, boasting state-of-the-art equipment, located in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Washington’s Columbia Valley. Castle Rock’s business model aims to please, lovely on the palate, easy on the wallet. By virtue of having a low overhead, (no nagging real estate mortgages, no marketing teams or large staff to employ, and no elaborate facilities) Castle Rock is able to funnel all their capital into making the best possible wine for the best possible price.”

Well, I like a straight shooter, especially when it’s about what’s going in my Riedels. Moreover, their wines have won several awards of distinction, this 2012 Pinot Noir was awarded a double gold medal and 92 pts from the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Oh-la-la! Pas mal.

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Adding further confidence, their wine makers/growers are both very established and respected in Washington and California. Greg Powers was recognized as a “Rising Star” by Wine Spectator and as one of the “50 Great U.S. Cabernet Producers” by Wine Enthusiast. He started his esteemed career very young by helping his father plant 80 acres of grapes on the family vineyard, Badger Mountain in the Columbia Valley which under his supervision, transitioned the farming from conventional to organic. The California grower and maker, Vic Roberts, is the owner and winemaker at Victor Hugo Vineyards and Winery in the heart of California’s Paso Robles wine country. In 1985 he pursued his dream of being a wine maker by planting 15 acres of grapes on his property which now stands at 78 acres, with the winery located in a picturesque, recently renovated 100 year old barn.

I believe the care and expertise that is put into these widely distributed value wines is fascinating and obviously yields impressive results. This is the dawning of the era of good cheap wine in the US. With producers like Castle Rock, I look forward to trying more….although I cannot guarantee I won’t wince before the first sip.

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

This rosé gave my guests a 90’s flashback & they liked it!

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2012 Regio Dry Rosé, El Dorado County CA $7.99

Available at:  Sonoma Market or find it on Wine-Searcher.com

I was thrilled to conduct a tasting with my esteemed house guests this weekend. These well versed oenophiles were actually shocked that the Rosé was quite delicious. Although I was happy to redeem myself, I’m not sure if the contrast to my other selections tainted their lens (to be revealed in my coming review of my red, white & blue selections for the 4th.)

Nose is immediately strawberry, pineapple. Has a nice complexity for a rosé this inexpensive. Acid is moderate and keeps this rosé bright, crisp very refreshing especially if served well chilled.  The lemony finish pleasantly lingers. We had this wine with a spiced pork loin cooked on the BBQ, roasted seasoned potatoes and a summer salad while listening to the Sneaker Pimps – 90’s flashbacks ensued. After laughing hysterically about something related to an episode of My So Called Life and 21 Jump Street (the original my dears) my guests remarked a second time that they were pleasantly surprised by this wine. Quite impressive after a day of sipping $70+ a bottle vintages of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the like in a doting of wineries along the Sonoma Valley. (Shame, I think we spent too much!) I’m sticking to my $10 and under creed moving forward, unless my guests insist on buying – that’s the proper protocol for a hostess with a knack for tour guidery.

Rated buy-again, without a second thought.

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