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

TOP 10 UNDER $10 : #Wine Suggestions For Thanksgiving!

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Golly! Is it really Thanksgiving time already? I just got out of recovery from Halloweek and without missing a beat, we are off planning the big Turkey trot. I have never hosted more than a Taco Tuesday but have logged many hours assisting a hapless host on this most notorious of American holidays. Hosting is a performing art typically reserved for the patriarch &/or matriarch of the family. When not in the homeland, the stage is kindly set by a friend who has a few extra seats at their folding table and a tolerant extended family too enthralled with football to succumb to social awkwardness. Ahhhh, the memories. And when the police have left to have dinner with their own families, and the dishes are dried, the pie put away and bail has been posted for that gregarious uncle who got a little carried away, we tuck ourselves in for the night and give thanks for the wine that got us through it.

This holiday you will be tasked with making wine selections for an array of occasions. Hostess gift, friendly gathering, family affairs, work events and after parties of one. Sure, sure, sure. Who wants to look gauche by bringing cheap wine to a party – the horror! Then again, who realistically can serve unlimited bottles of fine vintages for hundreds of guests other than your wealthy relatives – actually, they won’t be either.

Cheap is chic! Living well doesn’t mean living expensively. Sharing those special splurgy vintages with winos who can appreciate it is much different than ensuring your Great Aunt Helen enjoys that glass of quaffable red that puts some color in her cheeks. And if the hostess is a snob, then rise to the occasion and bring a respectable wine, but I don’t know a wino who doesn’t appreciate a good tip and a smart deal every now and then. Hey, every bottle does not find a place in the cellar, they often end up at the next party or in the fridge….yes even the reds!

After 6 months of mining the bottom two shelves for the most delightful of deals, I present my 2014 top 10 wines under $10 USD. I urge you to let me know if I’m full of giblets. If you violently disagree with any of these selections, please pipe up. I am not perfect and sometimes I’m swept away by the “conviviality” of the tasting. My first and foremost objective is to provide good guidance. Mistakes happen and when they do, better it be a value wine than a $78 bottle-o-fancy like the one I bought a few months ago. Oh, boy, was that a party.

Drum roll please:

My fave! These guys sell a tonnage of this wine in Texas at HEB – the number one red wine sold currently. I love this wine because, every time I decant it, the flavor changes and is so smooth, enjoyable and guest love it. They ALWAYS comment on how good the wine is – this is red wine crack for guests. It is on the fruit forward side for those winos with a rarefied palate, but let me tell you, me likey and can’t image a dish (other than fish) that this would not complement. I would even venture to serve this with a rich chocolate dessert – outstanding!

I’m finding that this brand hits it outta the park with its other varietals as well, so I’m gonna give them props for getting it right and making a red jammy whammy that pairs well with turkey smothered in rich gravy with a italian sausage stuffing. I think this would be great with lamb and any gamey flavorful meats. Prime rib would be a match made in heaven.

I have bought this wine now 3x and enjoyed it more than I should.Crisp, not grassy like other NZ Sauvs and very citrusy acid without a trace of a sour aftertaste – eeeew – hate that. Pairs well with a turkey left over sandwich on sourdough, aioli, pepper, butter lettuce, tomato and let’s throw in a piece o’bacon for good measure.

Oh, so delicate, delightful, it takes me to Provence. Not much more to say. Perfect for those guest ambivalent about white or red and want something light to complement their meal, not take over the show. The lightly roasted brussels sprouts will love this co-star as well as the harcourt verts and cauliflower au gratin.

A little spice makes this light and lovely Pinot a friendly accompaniment to yams, sweet potatoes and fluffy dressings. Baking spices will linger with each sip after every bite.

The bold richness of this wine will definitely pair nicely with the heartier foods on the table. Cheesy potatoes au gratin, crusty olive loaf bread and onion tartes. Turkey lovers will enjoy the mingling flavors when this is paired with buttery mashed potatoes and rich brown turkey gravy.

I think this Merlot is a great starter wine to get the appetite going. Serve this with hors d’oeuvres, olives, bold cheeses, charcuterie and mon rêve: a creamy, dreamy Emmental and Gruyère fondue – ahhhh go big or go home.

For those guests who want white wine, this is a crisp but hearty white that helps keep the palate cleansed between bites and finishes nicely with roasted potatoes and veggies drizzled with butter, spices and a little balsamic. Perfect match for asparagus and hollandaise.

A shockingly good Cab whose price per bottle is less than a latte. Easy drinking once it breathes for an hour and lovely paired with a bite of turkey and cranberry sauce. The fruit and the tannic spice will enhance the succulent flavors and spices of your Thanksgiving dinner.

A lighter red that will pleasantly build on the flavors of rich gravy, buttery potatoes and savory dressing. This wine will cut the richness and finish strong without an overwhelming boldness.

Most of these wines are widely available at Safeway, Von’s, TraderJoe’s, WholeFoods and various national grocery chains. If you must search further, I suggest going to WineSearcher.com which is a great resource for finding wines in your hood.
Stay curious!
loie

This Red Will Make You Mencia For Under $11!

2010 Estefania Tilenus Roble $10.98 + FREE SHIPPING! Whoa.

Now Available at WineLibrary.com but won’t last long….

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Ok – I cheated on this post…teeheehee. I have not tried this wine, but before you get on my case, I got your back – here is the intel so take a swig and calm the “flavor” down! Thank you.

Hear me out. Saturday night I decided to procrastinate about finishing an important presentation for really important people for a Monday deadline. So what did I decide to do unproductively with my time? Peruse Twitter for people to chat-up and indirectly harass. You know my intentions are always Pollyanna-ish, but my enthusiasm can unintentionally insult, frighten or irritate. So I pissed off a retired Post Master General by agreeing with her – uh – yeah (I think it was my not so funny joke about Gwyneth Paltrow and Ted Nugent.) I then had to tweet to the defense of one of my FAVORITE followers @SottileStephen who was bizarrely ensnared in this conversation with the former Post Master – ugliness and then a vulgarity ensued and all of a sudden POW! This post popped up….Gotta go y’all – cheap wine awaits!

When GV says SICK – all caps with a $ afterwards, we got to get it going on people! Who can resist the powers of a GV recommendation with a price less than a cocktail at my local fancy restaurant? Only the crazies.

If any of you have tried this wine – please, please, please let me know. To sweeten the deal and make it EVEN SICKER IN THE HEAD – free shipping from WineLibrary.com to boot! I have no idea for how long but get your crazy-arse online and buy this wine before you drive yourself nuts because you missed the deal.

Here are the truncated notes for your reading pleasure. FYI: it got a 90 from that wild man lunatic “The BobbyP.”—“flavor”yeah!

Score: 90 points from Luis Gutierrez – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Varietal:
Mencia from Spain – a Roman era clone that is identical to Jaen do Dão (or “Jaen” for short) from Portugal. Shares a similar profile to Cabernet Franc – light, with soft tannic flavors and aromas. I suspect it is structured enough to pair well with savory meats such as pork, fowl, some game. Not bold enough for a heavy steak but a beef carpaccio would be an excellent pairing. It’s Spanish so a tapas of jamon y olive tapenade – muy sabroso! But I am only fantasizing – let me know if you get the real deal on your palate.

The Critic’s Tasting Notes:
“The 2010 Envejecido en Roble is aged in both French and American barrels for 8-10 months and spends one year in bottle before being sold. Sometimes these shorter times in barrel result in a less-than-perfect integration of wine and wood, and I must confess I am a little bit biased against this category of wines. Fortunately it is not the case here and the violet notes are perfectly integrated with the cinnamon and vanilla tones from the barrique. The palate is compact, light to medium-bodied, with great length and a spicy, velvety finish. This again represents good value for the category. Drink 2014-2019. ” (08/13)

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Interesting Regional Fact:
The winery is located in a restored old dairy in the village of Dehesas in Ponferrada. The remodeled building integrated the stone, slate and wood of the region to align with the Bierzo architectural vernacular and gives the winemaker the purest environment for the creation of this wine.

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Made By:
Carlos Garcia  is the “bodeguero” or winemaker and the technical director of the winery is Raúl Pérez. They work in a quiet uninterrupted facility that allows them to focus on the beauty and character of the wine as it evolves. Hence it’s proclaimed gorgeousness. Bravo mi amigos por vino están muy interesante y nada mas dinero.¿Verdad? ¡Lo quiero!

Now back to finishing that presentation – but only after one more tweet….

Stay curious!

loie

This Malbec Should Be Arrested For Assault!

It is with great pride I share my very first video post – the first of many near-masterpieces to come! If you had the pleasure of experiencing my prior VideoPress technical difficulties, I deeply apologize. I know my very public pleas to the WP support team were uncomfortable for all of us. Well, the issue was resolved after I called Uncle Dick – he’s from the Cheney side of the family, very very very distant cousins, but none the less, helpful in a pinch. So magically my video post worked unexplainably, but if there are WP execs on an extended leave to Guantanamo Bay, I hope they are enjoying the ocean breeze, cigars and water sports. With a humiliating spectacle behind us, I send my deepest appreciation to all who choose to read my posts. I know you have a multitude of options for your viewing pleasure and I value your patronage…if you would like to see my desperate cries for help on the WP support forum click this . With out further adieu – here’s to a day in the office on a Malbec safari!

( Video is best viewed NOT through a Safari browser.)

Stay curious!

loie

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

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

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

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

My checkered past…

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 Grifone Primitivo, Puglia Italy $3.99

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

Stay curious,

loie

 

Arrogant Frog: making old world wines with new world attitude

So there I was, tapping away at the keyboard, enjoying my new-found self-appointed career as a food and wine journalist dreaming up idea after idea of posts to like, retweet, memes to create, memes to share, people to poke, chats to follow, inside jokes to make, hashtags to use…you know the typical stuff one does when one doesn’t really want to earn a living. Then startlingly I received one, possibly my first ever, guest comment on my blog from someone at McCue Communications. Mon Dieu!

She wanted me to give her my information so she could send me some wines to try. They were actually going to send me wine? Huh? What’s the catch? Ah ha….so that’s what this is all about. This was a similar epiphany to the day I realized that golf was more about betting money and drinking beer with the “fellas” than it was about golf. I gave up golf too soon to fully partake. Quelle dommage.

Being accustomed to buying and reviewing wines of my own volition, I was concerned about my freedom to express an opinion untethered by wine sent gratis. What do I do if they, ahem, are not so good? Luckily, the Arrogant Frog wines by Domaine Paul Mas made my job much easier and euphemistic free. Moreover, I had the pleasure of tasting with other wine writers I deeply admire including Sir Jeff Siegel winecurmudgeon.com, Michelle Williams rockinredblog.com and Beth Smith travelingwinechick.com – who happens to be my neighbor so we made a lunch date.

The Humble Wine Maker

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This frog gets around.

It was a privilege to partake in the virtual tasting with fourth-generation vintner Jean-Claude Mas to learn about his latest value vintages. His family has led premium winemaking in the Languedoc region from their centuries-old estate since 1892 and when M. Mas took the reins in 2000, he dedicated his wine making practices to preserving the land and the beauty of Languedoc. In 10 years, he plans to transition all 8 of his family wineries into organic vineyards that employ natural farming principles through the use of the latest technology. This has already reduced the need for pesticides and other chemical based agricultural practices that can harm the natural balance. “We must preserve the beauty of Languedoc, and feed the Earth with nutrients in the way nature intended. The use of chemicals for the past 50 years has stressed the vines and now we need to use technology to bring us back.” In summary, it is about making old world wines with new world attitude. C’est tout!

http://www.creme-de-languedoc.com/Languedoc/history.php
Rebellion & Resistance: The history of Languedoc Roussillon, South of France

7 Things that I learnScreen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.15.54 AMed about the Jean-Claude Mas philosophy:

1. He prefers new American Oak to French Oak – definitely a new world attitude.
2. He believes advancements in agricultural technology will replace the need for chemicals – hooray!
3. He believes a vacuum wine stopper is “utter stupidity” – good to know.
4. The Frog on the front of the bottle is the “humble wine maker” – I chose to name him Hubert de Vin-chy.
5. He likes Stelvin screw caps for white wines and cork for red. (pro vs. con see this post on bauduc blog)
6. He believes all his wines taste even better after 24hrs. I agree.
7. His style of wine making is not aggressive but soft due to the ripeness of the grapes in the South of France.

Now on to the wines…

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The peaches are nearly ready to be picked, grilled, doused in cream, baked into a rustic tarte, made into ice cream, eaten off the tree – ahhh Summer.

Arrogant Frog 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $10
The first thing I detected in the nose was lemon and grass. First sip is crisp, citrus and bright – reminded me of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc vs. the California Sauv Blancs I enjoy at this price point which can be more fruit forward. I enjoyed this wine and found it had a nice bright mild acidity and a smooth finish that was a touch buttery. It was very enjoyable. For $10 at retail, it would be a challenge to find a wine of this quality for a better price – I’d buy it again. I’m about to harvest my peach trees in a couple of weeks so I think this will pair perfectly with some grilled peaches and a cheese board of aged cheddar, gouda and a Humboldt Fog.

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Coq Au Vin recipe anyone?

Arrogant Frog 2013 Pinot Noir $10
The color was dark garnet with a red-brown halo, which was unusual to me. There was a comment made about this being a “refreshing” Pinot Noir. As it was a warm climate Pinot, when slightly chilled, one can appreciate the delicate flavors of cherry and very light oak. Due to the warm climate in Languedoc, the Pinot grapes mature fast, unlike classic Pinots (like on the Sonoma Coast) that mature slowly. M. Mas explained that he takes great care in deciding where these grapes are planted to ensure the best result, although he did admit, this Pinot was unlike most typical Pinots. I found it very unexpected. I let it open up the next day and albeit pleasant, it was not necessarily the right flavor profile for this Pinofile. I would say it was respectably drinkable and it was fantastic the next day for braising chicken with tomatoes and peppers picked from my garden in my Le Crueset for hours and hours and hours – delish! What little wine there was left, did sip nicely with the meal.

Arrogant Frog 2013 Chardonnay $10
The nose was immediately and undeniably pineapple. First sip was lemony with a light oak finish – 25% of this wine was aged in Oak which contributed to the lactic character on the mouth which is the toasty flavor the oak expresses through the wine – some refer to this as creme brûlée. I enjoyed this wine and it was an outstanding value for $10. This Chardonnay was aged in American Oak which was quite intriguing to me. When I asked what the difference was between American and French Oak M. Mas explained that the American oak gives more lactone resulting in more toasty vanilla notes than the French oak which is more subtle. When the oak is very dry, it does not dominate the character of the wine. (Note to self, more wine knowledge to be had in the procurement, aging and use of oak in the wine making process. I found a succinct post on thekitchn.com about French vs. American Oak) In Mediterranean made wines, the American oak is preferred as it lets the wine breathe less and is better when aging very ripe grapes. As M. Mas explains “in Languedoc we can pick the grapes when we want, not when we can. Think about that…” I think this Chardonnay is a delight. An everyday luxury I would buy again.

Arrogant Frog 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) Merlot (45%) $10
Nose is blackberry, blueberry, dark fruit. First sip is spicy, cocoa, vanilla, coconut and raspberry. Nicely complex and toasty from the US Oak. Soft, round not aggressive and very refined tannins and acidity. This wine is excellent with dessert, especially chocolate! Rich and bold, this wine could easily pass for a $40 bottle of wine. When asked about how the cocoa flavor was achieved, M. Mas answered it was from the ripe fruit and the American Oak. This wine is a buy again. I don’t want this wine, I need it!

 

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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

 

  

 

Sadly, this Cab was not fab.

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Hacienda 2012 Cabernet Sauvingon, CA $5.99

As I lose friends, my self respect and a few tastebuds, I do it for you my dear readers, all blessed 3 of you. (by the way, glad you liked the wine cork planter magnate idea for father’s day.) Therefore I am still driven to seek that hidden treasure and share it with the world. Enough of my blather. This wine was disappointing – blech.

The nose on this 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was rhubarb, a little plum, hot. First sip I tasted cherry and it finished with berry and oak. It was NOT smooth, very harsh and maybe if it had the chance to decant and open up, the noxious fumes would be released to enjoy what very little there is in this wine to enjoy. Alas, not the case. The alcohol content definitely got to my head right away. This wine would be best served with an ibuprofen aspic – anyone have a good recipe?

At best, throw this in with the roast or cook up a frat party sangria. This wine is rated as blech. Marchons!

 

Stay curious,

loie