50 Years of New Zealand History-Making: Villa Maria Wines

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes, Great Wines Under $20, Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

Whether you subscribe to the theory that humans have lived on the tiny island of New Zealand for 700 years or for 2,000, one can’t deny that in terms of human history, they haven’t been there for long.

Likewise, by the time the 1800s rolled around, most of the world’s major wine regions weren’t conquering new territory, they were playing large-scale games of Monopoly with land that had been planted for ages. By contrast, the first grape vines were planted in Kiwi country in 1819 – less than two hundred years ago.

In light of this, New Zealand’s own Villa Maria Estate and the current celebration of their 50th vintage, is kind of a big deal.

In 1961, when owner and managing director of Villa Maria, George Fistonich, first started the winery (with second-hand equipment, on land borrowed from his skeptical father), he wasn’t setting out to change New Zealand history, he was choosing a trade. Drinking wine was part of the Croatian culture Fistonich was born into, and it was also the family livelihood. Fistonich’s decision seemed as traditional as can be.

But that’s where doing the expected ended.

Sir George and His Barrels

Sir George and His Barrels

Back when New Zealanders were mostly drinking sherries, Fistonich deemed to drag the country in line with the European tastes of the time. He chose an international name that could be from anywhere, hired professional viticulturalists, identified different regional typicities around the country and encouraged his growers to let the terroir speak through the grapes. He’s also maintained a firm commitment to the planet; 100% of Villa Maria’s vineyards and contract vineyards are sustainable, and 30% are organic. Through these practices, Fistonich has helped guide his small country onto the world wine stage and able to compete with those other countries that started fermenting juice back when New Zealand was mostly uninhabited by humans.

Today, Villa Maria Estate produces close to twenty different wines, in four quality tiers (Villa Maria Reserve, Single Vineyard, Cellar Selection and Private Bin), from vineyards in Gisborne, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. George also owns three additional wineries – Vidal, Esk Valley and Thornbury – which are much smaller than the 750,000 cases/year operation that is his original project.

Villa Maria’s large-scale production has not only helped New Zealand’s 5th largest winery reach all corners of the global market, it’s also enabled the company to keep a low quality-to-price ratio (QPR). In fact, I was amazed by how good these wines were for the cost – expecting them to be tens of dollars more expensive than the sticker price.

Of the wines I tried at a recent tasting, the “Private Bin” and “Cellar Selection” bottlings really stood out. The 2010 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir is full of ripe cherry and raspberry, with hints of spice and soft tannin. The 2009 Private Bin Hawkes Bay

2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir

2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir

Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend leads from blueberry, blackberry, red raspberry and cassis on the nose to red raspberry, plum, blackberry, eucalyptus and chocolate on the palate. Both are less than $20.

The 2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir has a nose of black cherry and baking spice, and flavors of big, ripe cherry and delicate tannin. This was my favorite of the day, even at around $25/bottle.

All ofthese wines – in fact, Villa Maria’s entire global production since 2003 – are bottled under screwcap, and they were the first winery of their size to embrace the technology. While stelvin closures are still slightly controversial, Fistonich wasn’t awarded the title of New Zealand’s Most Awarded Winemaker for nothing. In 2009, Fistonich was given knighthood for his contributions to the country’s wine industry. Today, Villa Maria Estate is consistently ranked among the world’s top 50 great wine producers.

I encourage you to join the modern era and taste New Zealand’s history-in-the-making. After all, Villa Maria has been around for a quarter of the country’s wine history. Clearly, that’s something worth toasting to.

2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir

2008 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir

Ravenswood: Joel Peterson and his Powerful Elixirs

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

In Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” a bird comes out of the night and leaves an indelible mark… In 1976, Joel Peterson paid $4000 for four tons of Dry Creek valley grapes. As he raced around the four-acre vineyard at harvesttime, hurling 50 lb wooden crates of fruit into the back of a truck, storm clouds rolled toward the vineyard, threatening to drown Peterson’s plans to become a winemaker. All the while two ghastly grim and ancient ravens perched and sat, nothing more, while night fell on the vineyard and Peterson struggled to insure it didn’t also fall on his future. In the end, almost by some sort of magic, Peterson dodged the rain and got the grapes to Joseph Swan’s winery, where the fruit was pressed into 327 cases, and Peterson called his company Ravenswood. Perhaps just as miraculous, this European-style red wine took home prestigious awards at a time when most of the country associated Zinfandel with something sweet and pink and Sutter Home-ly. Success continued to materialize from there. Perhaps it shouldn’t seem so miraculous that Peterson created something extraordinary out of bleak circumstances – after all, as the son of two chemists and he, himself, a clinical laboratory scientist, he was always within close range of a certain sort of alchemy. His father, Walter Peterson, a physical chemist by day, was the one who first introduced Joel to the magic of C2H5OH. When Joel was ten years old, his father had him record tasting notes at the elder Peterson’s twice-weekly group, San Francisco Wine Sampling Club (now the San Francisco Vintner’s Club). The younger Peterson was told to taste, “shut up and spit.” His spittoon was carefully measured afterward, but Joel clearly swallowed a great deal of knowledge from those sessions. Early in his career as a medical researcher, he helped make ends meet by consulting and writing about wine. Peterson’s mother, Frances, spent the first part of her career as a nuclear chemist, and later transformed her science experience into a celebrated knowledge of cooking – even testing recipes and helping Alice Waters edit her first cookbook. Her son turned his own experiences into the realization that he wanted to become a winemaker, and then parlayed that desire into an apprenticeship with Joe Swan. Swan taught Peterson a type of magic, as well. At a time when irrigation systems have nearly gone space-age, Ravenswood single-vineyard wines are dry-farmed. Fermentation is spontaneous, using ambient yeasts. Although most commercial enterprises rely on additives and extras, Peterson puts his faith in nature: “[When using native yeasts], stuck fermentations are a function of year. Commercial yeast has more stuck fermentations;” he avoids sulphur; and he keeps the bottlings pure, whereas “most Old Vine Zin is adulterated with other things.” He also still head prunes his vines. These are the old ways, based on the best wine-producing regions in Europe – the regions that produce the wines Peterson grew up with. These are the methods Ravenswood has used from the beginning, and they are the lessons Peterson learned from Joe Swan. Certainly there many in the industry who saw Peterson’s methods (including the growing of Zinfandel, itself, at a time when Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were all the rage), and thought – like the chorus in Lucia di Lammermore, as the ill-fated Edgardo Ravenswood takes his own life – “Ritorna in te, ritorna in te!” (Come to your senses, come to your senses!). But Peterson did not commit [career] suicide; instead, he became one of the most important forces in the elevation of Zinfandel to a world-class grape variety. He put California Zinfandel on the map, and he has also served as consultant to hundreds of winegrowers and winemakers in California. In 2001, two years after Ravenswood went public, the company was purchased by Constellation Brands for $148 million. Peterson became a senior vice president at Constellation while continuing to be head winemaker at Ravenswood. His magic clearly works.

The wine brand with the three ghastly grim and ancient ravens on the label, has three hierarchical levels of quality. The first level comprises the value-priced juggernaut of Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend wines. At around $10/bottle, these are big, bold, badass and represent the Ravenswood motto, “No wimpy wines.” The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, Shiraz and Chardonnay are all made from grapes grown all over California and make up about

800,000 of the company’s 1 million cases of year produced. The middle tier are the Ravenswood County Series wines, with names like Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel and Mendocino Zinfandel, and average about $15 each. As the name suggests, these are appellation-specific, and represent a fairly significant jump in quality from the Vintner’s Blend wines. These are also often found in restaurants, although it is likely shoppers will find at least one or two on wine shop shelves as a bridge between the familiar, lesser-priced Ravenswood wines they see at the grocery store, and the third, most esteemed tier, which are the Single Vineyard designates. Barricia, Belloni, Big River, Dickerson, Pickberry, Teldeschi and Old Hill. These are the shining jewels in Ravenswood’s crown – the Single Designation wines. The vineyards were all planted pre-Prohibition, they’re dry-farmed, and they represent the epitome of what Peterson is most passionate about as a winemaker. And they’re bewitching. All but the Old Hill will set a shopper back $35 a bottle (the Old Hill is $60). What they get for that kind of investment is juice from vines up to nearly 130 years old. The Barricia Vineyard is in Sonoma and the 2008 has a nose of pure red fruit overlying a base of forest floor, with some slight notes of baking spice. On the palate, this wine is big and assertive with a spicy center, without being too heavy or jammy. Nice, fine, even tannins with excellent aging potential. 1000 cases produced. The Ravenswood 2008 Belloni Vineyard is more austere, more Burgundian – if you can use that phrase to describe a big California Zin/Petite Sirah/Carignane/Alicante Bouschet blend. It’s lighter, a little more feminine. Dark fruit, tobacco, espresso, with a soft finish. It’s from Russian River, and only 535 cases were made. Big River Vineyard is in Alexander Valley. There were 975 cases made of Ravenswood’s 2008 Big River Zinfandel 100% Zin – and it’s all licorice and black berries and oak. Ravenswood’s Dickerson Vineyard is also 100% Zinfandel. The vineyard is in Napa, but Peterson says the vines think they’re in Sonoma, producing fruit with low acid and high pH. In 2008, this resulted in a wine that smells of red raspberry and a bit of mint, and bathes the palate in sweet fruit and a little mineral. 755 cases made, and can age for up to ten years. The 2007 Ravenswood Pickberry Vineyard hails from Sonoma Mountain and doesn’t contain any Zinfandel at all. It’s a blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s all dense and chewy red fruit and spice box and pretty solid tannin. There were 1,045 cases produced and these wines have aging potential of up to fifteen years. The 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard is another Zinfandel blend that contains 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignane and 2% Alicante Bouschet to round out the cuvee. Planted in approximately 1883, Teldeschi Vineyard is in Dry Creek, and the fruit is packed with power and black cherry, chocolate and espresso, with additional notes of vanilla and cigar. This wine is heady and lush, with a long finish. 2800 cases produced.

 Old Hill Ranch Vineyard is probably Sonoma’s oldest, and the 2008 Ravenswood Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel is a field blend containing Zin plus 25% [???]. They could be any of an assortment of grapes; the only certainty is, the grapes are all black. There were 1000 cases produced of this orange pekoe/dark-chocolate/cherry-scented show-stopper. On the palate, the wine is rich and juicy and packed with vanilla and red and black fruit and baking spice. It’s been almost 40 years, but Joel Peterson’s raven is still beguiling sad souls into smiling, even today. There are reasons to try Ravenswood wines from any of the tiers. Whichever you choose, you’ll be drinking in a bit of California wine history – history spun by Joel Peterson. Because of his wines, California Zinfandel will be weak and weary…nevermore.

Drinking Out Of The Box… WHITE

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 1 Comment

 

Taste My Box…es

Boxed wines might not have the sexy cache of something in a green bottle one pulls off the shelf of a dark and dusty cellar, but they’re being increasingly recognized as both a great economical and environmental choice. While a little oxygen can help open up a wine (especially younger ones), too much exposure will quickly ruin it. For all of today’s technology, there aren’t many ways to keep this from happening to a traditional bottle of wine, especially at home. Wine in boxes are kept inside a plastic bladder. As wine is emptied, the bladder collapses around it, preventing air from getting in. This method keeps wine drinkable, longer (up to four weeks or so). And that’s in addition to the fact that boxed wine is generally priced at a bulk value (3 Liters =  about 4 bottles). Environmentally, when one compares the footprint of shipping heavy glass bottles and cardboard boxes, there’s really no comparison at all.

But even though they might operate using similar mechanics, all boxed wines are not created equal. So what’s worth drinking and what should be bagged and boxed? To answer this question, I conducted a little – absolutely unscientific – market research with the help of some thirsty friends. The wine we tried, boxed red and white, is commercially available, and priced between $10 and $25. This post focuses on the whites. Tune in next week to read about the reds.

To provide feedback on the wines, there was a packet of yellow-tabbed Post-It Notes and red-tabbed Post-It Notes, and party guests were asked to write down their notes – yellow notes for white wine, red notes for red wine.

The Whites:

 

A Slam Dunk For The Price

2010 Big House White. The Big House winery is in Soledad, California. In fact, it’s located right across the way from the Soledad State Correctional Facility, which was the inspiration for the name. Big House says their “cornerstone is rebellious New World winemaking and making blends of unconventional Mediterranean varieties.” Wines are blended from hand-selected, individual lots, and arranged in similar fashion to how a perfumer organizes individual scents to form a whole fragrance.

Big House White is steel tank fermented. The varieties in the 2010 vintage are: Malvasia Bianca, Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Verdelho, Albarino, Pinot Gris.

There was only one party comment for this one: “Don’t like smell. Taste not bad.” I took my own notes… “Aromatic nose of white flowers and lychee. The palate is a blend of ripe peach and mango, pineapple and tangerine. Medium finish.” This is a great wine for the hottest months of summer. (13.5% abv. $20 for 3L)

Black Betty

2010 Black Box Chardonnay. The website for Black Box wines boasts that they’ve won “20 Gold Medals and 14 Best Buys,” and it’s easy to understand why. This Chardonnay from Monterey, California was my favorite of the whites: smooth, well-constructed, crisp and bright. Founder Ryan Sproule was inspired to create “super-premium, appellation-specific, vintage-dated wines in a box” after a trip to Europe, where he was surprised to see Europeans guzzling boxed wine en masse. In 2003, he launched Black Box wines as a way to offer consumers “freshness, value and convenience ” without sacrificing quality.

One commenter said the Black Box Chardonnay is “light but bitter…like…ummm…Can’t think of something clever enough…Good.” I noted that it had scents of cream corn, sea spray, freshly cut grass and pineapple; on the palate, there were notes of vanilla, honey, lemon and mango; with juicy, tart acidity and a somewhat rich, silky mouthfeel. (13.5% abv. $24 for 3L)

More than Cougar Juice

2011 Herding Cats Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay. Hailing all the way from South Africa, the idea behind the name is that winemakers Pieter Carstens and Adam Richardson “‘herd together’ signature South African grapes with popular varietals.” The wines are made in a New World style, and are designed to be crowd pleasers. In fact, this was my second-favorite white of the night. It’s not complex, it isn’t fancy, but it is easy and delicious and a ton of fun to drink.

Them: “Very mid-level,” and “Acidic, apple-y.” Me: “Scents of white flowers, orchard fruit and citrus, with flavors identical to the aroma. It had a tart finish, creamy mouthfeel and great acid.” Chenin (80%) Chardonnay (20%). (13.5% abv. $24 for 3L)

Jumpin’ Jack…Kinda…Flash

Jack Tone White. McMannis Family Vineyards – the California winery that produces the Jack Tone White blend – says, “Our initial White Wine Bottle Blend is a blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Muscat. … We have maintained a ‘Non Vintage’ status with the wine in order to give us the freedom to ‘back blend’ between vintages to maintain continuity and consistency.” So there you have it – a flexible, easy-going white wine, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The wines (both red and white) are named after the Jack Tone Road, the longest straight road in San Joaquin County, that connects the McMannis Family Vineyards in Rippin, CA to Lodi, where their fruit is sourced. That Jack Tone is in tribute to the famous Jack Tone, Gold Rush pioneer, who built the road, and died in 1902.

The sole party person who tried this one felt the wine was, “Light. Sweet. Very good.” I said it has “a nose of pear and apricot and some citrus; and flavors of candied apricot, citrus and green grass. It manages to have tart acid, despite being a bit flabby. The fruity finish was long and delicious.” Another great value. (12.5% abv. $20 for 3L)

Not Quite Silver…But Good

2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc: This wine comes from the famous Marlborough region of New Zealand – famous for the gooseberry notes in its Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Drew Ellis sources fruit from some of the best vineyards in the area, then stainless steel ferments, to produce a clean, crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc, designed to deliver “the quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc year after year.” This wine was chosen by Wine Enthusiast magazine as a “Best Buy.”

Them – “Tastes sweet.” “Sweet white grape FTW.” “Too sweet for me!” “Tastes like candy. Yes. I like it.” “Syrupy sweet white grape Welch’s.” Me – “Scents of pineapple, mango and gooseberry; flavors of grass, gooseberry, pineapple, kiwi and a little lemongrass. This had a slick, greasy mouthfeel and was fairly full-bodied. A big Sauvignon Blanc.” (13% abv. $24 for 3L)

 

Winners: Black Box, Herding Cats and Jack Tone

 

 

Try Some Wine! Win A Contest! Tapena Is Here To Help.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 1 Comment

“Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.” – Sarah Bernhardt

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d talk to you a little about love. …And the Spanish company, Freixenet (known for it’s world-famous black-bottled Cava, Cordon Negro). Love is what built Freixenet. In the late 1800s, Pedro Ferrer Bosch, whose family owned La Freixeneda – a farming estate dating back to the 12th Century – and had been making wine since the 1500s; married Dolores Sala Vivé, whose family owned the wine export company Casa Salas, and had been making wine since the 1830s.

The Phylloxera epidemic hit hard around that time, wiping out vineyards across Europe. But the family stuck together and their love of working in wine persevered. Instead of continuing to export wines from Europe – which had become a daunting endeavor, since many of Europe’s vineyards were now gone – Pedro and Dolores joined forces with her father and changed the direction of Casa Salas; while once they shipped vino, from then on, they made it.

With France’s venerable Champagne region as their guide, the family decided to make traditional sparkling wines, and planted all white grapes – Macabeo, Xarelo and Parellada, to be precise – and dug cellars at their home in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain. In 1915, under the name Freixenet (a nickname the locals gave to Pedro), the family began selling their own wines made in the Méthode Champenoise style. By the end of World War I, they were already shipping internationally.

Today, the Freixenet Group has distributors in 150 countries, and they rank number one in the world in production of sparkling wines made in the traditional method.

And they continue to look for ways to share the family’s love of wine.

To this end, the company is launching a value brand called Tapeña – a combination of the words tapas (“the American equivalent of bar hopping with an epicurean twist”) and peña (“slang for a group of close friends”) – the idea being that this wine is ideal to share over good times with the people you care about. What’s more, they offer a rewards program for fans to earn all kinds of cool stuff – just for drinking wine! – and at around $9.99/bottle, what’s not to love?

The Tapeña wines are made from primarily Spanish varieties, and there are four in all: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo, and Rosé (a blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and Shiraz). To introduce wine lovers near and far to these value vinos, the Freixenet Group is running a promotion, and winners will receive one bottle of each of the four wines, as well as nifty gifts like wine charms, a Spanish foods cookbook and a few other items, thrown in for fun (party pack is valued at over $100!).

How do you enter? Easy. In the comments section below, simply give us your favorite tapas recipe! That’s it! A winner will be selected at random on Friday, February 10, at 10am PST.

And if that doesn’t warm your heart, might I suggest picking up a bottle of Cordon Negro, to share in the rest of the world’s love of this classic Cava. After all, what Valentine’s Day isn’t made better by an intoxicating kiss of something sparkling?

“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.” – Amy Lowell

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#Winning (photo courtesy beausbarrelroom.blogspot.com)Love Tapeña wines?

 

 

Love Tapeña wines?

– “Like” them on Facebook

– Follow them on Twitter

 

  • Must be 21 years or older to enter. By entering the contest, you verify you are over 21.

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“Love is like red, red wine…” (photo courtesy blog.craftzine.com)“Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.” – Sarah Bernhardt
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d talk to you a little about love. …And the Spanish company, Freixenet (known for it’s world-famous black-bottled Cava, Cordon Negro). Love is what built Freixenet. In the late 1800s, Pedro Ferrer Bosch, whose family owned La Freixeneda – a farming estate dating back to the 12th Century – and had been making wine since the 1500s; married Dolores Sala Vivé, whose family owned the wine export company Casa Salas, and had been making wine since the 1830s.
The Phylloxera epidemic hit hard around that time, wiping out vineyards across Europe. But the family stuck together and their love of working in wine persevered. Instead of continuing to export wines from Europe – which had become a daunting endeavor, since many of Europe’s vineyards were now gone – Pedro and Dolores joined forces with her father and changed the direction of Casa Salas; while once they shipped vino, from then on, they made it.
With France’s venerable Champagne region as their guide, the family decided to make traditional sparkling wines, and planted all white grapes – Macabeo, Xarelo and Parellada, to be precise – and dug cellars at their home in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain. In 1915, under the name Freixenet (a nickname the locals gave to Pedro), the family began selling their own wines made in the Méthode Champenoise style. By the end of World War I, they were already shipping internationally.
Today, the Freixenet Group has distributors in 150 countries, and they rank number one in the world in production of sparkling wines made in the traditional method.
And they continue to look for ways to share the family’s love of wine.
To this end, the company is launching a value brand called Tapeña – a combination of the words tapas (“the American equivalent of bar hopping with an epicurean twist”) and peña (“slang

for a group of close friends”) – the idea being that this wine is ideal to share over good times with the people you care about. What’s more, they offer a rewards program for fans to earn all kinds of cool stuff – just for drinking wine! – and at around $9.99/bottle, what’s not to love?
The Tapeña wines are made from primarily Spanish varieties, and there are four in all: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo, and Rosé (a blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and Shiraz). To introduce wine lovers near and far to these value vinos, the Freixenet Group is running a promotion, and winners will receive one bottle of each of the four wines, as well as nifty gifts like wine charms, a Spanish foods cookbook and a few other items, thrown in for fun (party pack is valued at over $100!).
How do you enter? Easy. In the comments section below, simply give us your favorite tapas recipe! That’s it! A winner will be selected at random on Friday, February 10, at 10am PST.
And if that doesn’t warm your heart, might I suggest picking up a bottle of Cordon Negro, to share in the rest of the world’s love of this classic Cava. After all, what Valentine’s Day isn’t made better by an intoxicating kiss of something sparkling?
“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.” – Amy Lowell

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#Winning (photo courtesy beausbarrelroom.blogspot.com)Love Tapeña wines?

Love Tapeña wines?
– “Like” them on Facebook
– Follow them on Twitter

Must be 21 years or older to enter. By entering the contest, you verify you are over 21.
Path:

A Little [cash] Goes A Long Way With Big House Wines

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

Soledad, California was founded as a Spanish mission in 1791. It’s the backdrop of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men. It’s also the home of Soledad State Correctional Facility – a large prison filled with scary criminals.

Big House Wines – also in Soledad – is named for that jail.

Not that there is anything criminal about the wines except, perhaps, for how good they are at such a low price point. At a recent lunch with winemaker Georgetta Dane, she was coy about how she can keep the cost of her bottles beneath $10; but having a mixture of estate fruit and great relationships with other growers certainly helps.

When I was invited to meet Ms. Dane and sample her wines, I admit I was skeptical. Monterey has come a long way in terms of wine production, but it can still be very hit or miss. The Big House wines are downright cheap, and the entire line-up shares a gimmicky convict-inspired theme. But meeting Georgetta was the first step in changing my mind. The Suceava, Romania native is smart – she majored in food science in school, but clearly packs a satchel of street smarts.

Georgetta approaches winemaking with a sense of adventure not unlike the original Big House warden, Randall Grahm (he sold the winery in 2006). She utilizes a blending philosophy taken from perfumers (layering aromatics), and a willingness to blend more obscure varieties (11 grapes, including Malvasia Blanca, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat Canelli and Verdelho in the Big House White; and up to 20 varieties in the Big House Red, including Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Souzao, Charbono and Tannat). Even the packaging of the wines is creative in a way that totally works: Big House has been making their own boxed wine for two years, and at $20 for 3-liter “Octavin,” it really is the best deal in town.

But how do they taste? As I mentioned before, they’re good. As it turns out, the fruit is not solely from Monterey. Some of the grapes for the “Unchained”/”Naked” (unoaked Chardonnay), for example, come from Paso Robles. The grapes for the “Cardinal Zin” are from old vines, tended by a third generation Italian wine-making family. Personally, my favorites from the line-up are the Big House White, the Big House Red and the Cardinal Zin.

So, if you’re looking for a solid table wine you can drink on the regular without robbing a bank to support your habit, turn yourself over to the Big House.

The Line UpSoledad, California was founded as a Spanish mission in 1791. It’s the backdrop of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men. It’s also the home of Soledad State Correctional Facility – a large prison filled with scary criminals.
Big House Wines – also in Soledad – is named for that jail.
Not that there is anything criminal about the wines except, perhaps, for how good they are at such a low price point. At a recent lunch with winemaker Georgetta Dane, she was coy about how she can keep the cost of her bottles beneath $10; but having a mixture of estate fruit and great relationships with other growers certainly helps.
When I was invited to meet Ms. Dane and sample her wines, I admit I was skeptical. Monterey has come a long way in terms of wine production, but it can still be very hit or miss. The Big House wines are downright cheap, and the entire line-up shares a gimmicky convict-inspired theme. But meeting Georgetta was the first step in changing my mind. The Suceava, Romania native is smart – she majored in food science in school, but clearly packs a satchel of street smarts.
Georgetta approaches winemaking with a sense of adventure not unlike the original Big House warden, Randall Grahm (he sold the winery in 2006). She utilizes a blending philosophy taken from perfumers (layering aromatics), and a willingness to blend more obscure varieties (11 grapes, including Malvasia Blanca, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat Canelli and Verdelho in the Big House White; and up to 20 varieties in the Big House Red, including Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Souzao, Charbono and Tannat). Even the packaging of the wines is creative in a way that totally works: Big House has been making their own boxed wine for two years, and at $20 for 3-liter “Octavin,” it really is the best deal in town.
But how do they taste? As I mentioned before, they’re good. As it turns out, the fruit is not solely from Monterey. Some of the grapes for the “Unchained”/”Naked” (unoaked Chardonnay), for example, come from Paso Robles. The grapes for the “Cardinal Zin” are from old vines, tended by a third generation Italian wine-making family. Personally, my favorites from the line-up are the Big House White, the Big House Red and the Cardinal Zin.
So, if you’re looking for a solid table wine you can drink on the regular without robbing a bank to support your habit, turn yourself over to the Big House.

Beaujolais Nouveau "Vieux"

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 - Label

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (well…France), there lived a man named George DuBoeuf. Actually, there lives a man. At 77, he’s still very much alive – in a region of the land they call Beaujolais. In fact, in that faraway land, in that particular region, George DuBoeuf is king: he is le roi du Beaujolais (the king of Beaujolais).

DuBoeuf built his empire on a wine called Beaujolais Nouveau. If you’ve seen the balloons and fliers and felt the anticipation like the coming of a grand parade, than perhaps you already know that Beaujolais Nouveau is released – to varying levels of press and fanfare – every year on the third Thursday of November. The wine is made from the very first harvest of the region’s non-cru Gamay grapes, and has usually been in bottle for less than two months before landing in festival-colored bottles, all around the world.

Beaujolais has been drinking Nouveau for ages, as a way to celebrate the end of the harvest. Up until the 1930s, Beaujolais Nouveau was a local drink to toast a local job well done. It was brilliant marketers (King DuBoeuf being one of the most brilliant), who realized the potential to take this small-time juice into the Big Leagues. Soon there were international competitions/races for who would get the first bottle. Shipments came by plane, train and hot air balloon. The marketing created a frenzy.

And, like most frenzies, as soon as people calmed down a little, the bloom fell off the rose.

For all of the rejoicing, Beaujolais Nouveau often gets a pretty bad rap. Critics pan the strong banana notes in the wine (mostly due to a particular strand of yeast used for fermentation). While the wine has a little tannin, it’s often pretty thin and tropical and no match for the lively and beautiful Beaujolais that sees a little more aging.

But…

Despite the emphasis on new and young and immediate with Beaujolais Nouveau, the wine can actually last a year or two in bottle. As it gets older, the fruit falls out – which was exactly what I was hoping for. By the time I opened my bottle in February, there was very little evidence of banana. The fruit that remained was rich cranberry, with touches of cherry and strawberry.

Beaujolais Nouveau promises fun, and my “aged” Nouveau was exactly that. Light and easy to drink, and a bargain Beaujolais, to boot! A fantastic afternoon wine; something to get the party started.

I’ll probably pick up a bottle or two next year, and hang onto it awhile. Instead of racing to meet next November’s hot air balloons, I’ll wait until the crowd dies down. I plan to pair my Beaujolais Nouveau with kite-flying and summer picnics, instead.

Does it matter?

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 2 Comments

“What is happening is American wine companies are buying bulk wine in France, Chile, Australia or wherever, shipping it back here and bottling it here under their own brand,” says Lewis Perdue, the author of wineindustryinsight.com.

“People have no idea the wine they are drinking is cheap bulk import,” Perdue says.

Read the full article here

I guess my question is… does it really matter? My philosophy has always been, “Cheap wine is fine, as long as it tastes good.” I’m not partial to where it comes from. If I’m looking for a bargain, and you can get me cheaper wine from France or Chile where macroeconomics have more to do with wine pricing than brand recognition, I’m all for it!

I do care if the wineries are labeling it as coming from somewhere other than where they bought it, but I highly doubt they are since it would probably put them out of business.

What do you think?

P.S. Thanks to Julie Brosterman of @womenwine

for the heads-up on this piece!

La Finca Wines from Trader Joe’s

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment
La Finca wines from Trader Joe's

La Finca wines from Trader Joe\’s

With Two-Buck Chuck heralded as the “everyman’s” wine I have become more open to the idea of deeply-discounted wines. To me, Two-Buck Chuck has always been a nice $6 wine for $2. Since I don’t drink $6 wine unless there isn’t any beer available, Two-Buck Chuck is just something other people talk about, not something I experience myself anymore.

But a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer fearlessly arrived in my mailbox and found its way onto my coffee table. While perusing it, I noticed some new wine they were promoting that goes by the name of La Finca and comes from Argentina. They sell these wines for $3.99 and it caught my attention. The following questions ran through my head, in roughly this order:

  1. If it’s $3.99 could it be twice as good as Two-Buck Chuck?
  2. If it’s $3.99 could it be like a nice wine that’s normally $12?
  3. If it’s $3.99 could it be any good?

By the time I’d arrived at the third question I’d reached the point of mini-obsession and I just had to know what they’d be like. So I marched myself right over to TJ’s and picked up a bottle each of the La Finca 2009 Malbec, La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay.

I’ve drinking a lot of Malbec in the last six months as I’m going to write a post about Malbec one of these days. Anyway, the general conclusion I’m drawing about Argentinian Malbec involves the difference between “regular” Malbec and “reserve” Malbec and the old addage “You get what you pay for.” Looking for one more notch in my Malbec bedpost, I dove right in as soon as I got home. And I was pleasantly surprised!

I found the La Finca 2009 Malbec to be very drinkable, very characteristic of Malbec from this region, and of pretty solid structure for a very young wine. Here is a little recap from twitter after I tweeted my usual “mini-review.”

grapesmart: Drinking 2009 La Finca Malbec from Trader Joe’s for $3.99. Was very skeptical–Chocolate nose, slightly acidic, low alcohol… kinda nice.
7:10 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart so…is it a middle of the week wine or something good enough to pour for friends?
7:18 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Depends on your friends. It’s acceptable for friends after the first bottle is gone. I have friends I could serve it to :)
7:26 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy That is, if you’re not embarrassed to serve a 2009 IN 2009 😉
7:29 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart not at all. The Southern Hemisphere is a half year ahead of us on vintages. So a 2009 is not unacceptable. As a 2nd btl, ok.
7:32 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Thanks for teaching me something new about vintages! I had never thought about Southern Hemisphere being 6-months ahead!
7:42 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart awww, that’s what I do. :-)
7:43 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

Some time later I opened the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an Argentinian Chardonnay, or a $3.99 Chardonnay for that matter. I have to tell you, I was absolutely blown away by this wine. It is better than 95% of the Chardonnays I’ve ever had, including all the ones that are over $30. My biggest concern was that since it doesn’t taste like a typical Chardonnay—or even an unoaked Chardonnay where you’ll (hopefully) find more of the Chardonnay grape showing off instead of the oak—that I was mistaken about how good it was. So, I called up Arianna (whom you may remember from such posts as: “I Don’t Read Playboy for the Articles“, “Wine and… Food? Please! Pairings“, and “An Oak Barrel-less Barrel of Fun“), had her come over, and gave her a blind taste. I told her absolutely nothing about what she was drinking and handed her a glass of chilled white wine. I found her analysis to be extremely curious considering what I’d poured.

Amazing balance, citrusy, apricot. Bright & crisp, no alcohol taste like you get in cheaper wines. I’d guess this is a Roussane or other white Rhone and that it’s at least $20. It tastes a little bit older, like a 2007.

This kind of wine is the reason this blog exists. We try everything and point you to great values. This kind of value is rare. If you like white wine go stock up on this Chardonnay, you’ll be glad you did. And if you’re not, I’ll buy the rest of yours off ya.

The story of La Finca comes to La Fin on a sadder note though… Last night I finally cracked the La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to say… meh. Not only was there nothing extraordinary, there was nothing ordinary. Well maybe not nothing, because the underlying flavors were nice (cherry and blackberry I think), but I had to fight through minerality, alcohol taste, and that dreaded cheap-red-wine-toothiness to get to them and my taste buds were fatigued before I even finished the first swallow. I wonder if it sat in the bottle a while longer (maybe a year or two) if it would get better. I also wonder if it will be better tonight than it was last night (I’ll keep you posted if it is).

At any rate, the moral of the story is to drink lots of wine so you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like… and then buy lots of what you like when it goes on sale.

La Finca wines from Trader Joe\’sWith Two-Buck Chuck heralded as the “everyman’s” wine I have become more open to the idea of deeply-discounted wines. To me, Two-Buck Chuck has always been a nice $6 wine for $2. Since I don’t drink $6 wine unless there isn’t any beer available, Two-Buck Chuck is just something other people talk about, not something I experience myself anymore.
But a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer fearlessly arrived in my mailbox and found its way onto my coffee table. While perusing it, I noticed some new wine they were promoting that goes by the name of La Finca and comes from Argentina. They sell these wines for $3.99 and it caught my attention. The following questions ran through my head, in roughly this order:
If it’s $3.99 could it be twice as good as Two-Buck Chuck?
If it’s $3.99 could it be like a nice wine that’s normally $12?
If it’s $3.99 could it be any good?
By the time I’d arrived at the third question I’d reached the point of mini-obsession and I just had to know what they’d be like. So I marched myself right over to TJ’s and picked up a bottle each of the La Finca 2009 Malbec, La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay.
I’ve drinking a lot of Malbec in the last six months as I’m going to write a post about Malbec one of these days. Anyway, the general conclusion I’m drawing about Argentinian Malbec involves the difference between “regular” Malbec and “reserve” Malbec and the old addage “You get what you pay for.” Looking for one more notch in my Malbec bedpost, I dove right in as soon as I got home. And I was pleasantly surprised!
I found the La Finca 2009 Malbec to be very drinkable, very characteristic of Malbec from this region, and of pretty solid structure for a very young wine. Here is a little recap from twitter after I tweeted my usual “mini-review.”
grapesmart: Drinking 2009 La Finca Malbec from Trader Joe’s for $3.99. Was very skeptical–Chocolate nose, slightly acidic, low alcohol… kinda nice.
7:10 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart so…is it a middle of the week wine or something good enough to pour for friends?
7:18 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Depends on your friends. It’s acceptable for friends after the first bottle is gone. I have friends I could serve it to :)
7:26 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy That is, if you’re not embarrassed to serve a 2009 IN 2009 😉
7:29 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart not at all. The Southern Hemisphere is a half year ahead of us on vintages. So a 2009 is not unacceptable. As a 2nd btl, ok.
7:32 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Thanks for teaching me something new about vintages! I had never thought about Southern Hemisphere being 6-months ahead!
7:42 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart awww, that’s what I do. :-)
7:43 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
Some time later I opened the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an Argentinian Chardonnay, or a $3.99 Chardonnay for that matter. I have to tell you, I was absolutely blown away by this wine. It is better than 95% of the Chardonnays I’ve ever had, including all the ones that are over $30. My biggest concern was that since it doesn’t taste like a typical Chardonnay—or even an unoaked Chardonnay where you’ll (hopefully) find more of the Chardonnay grape showing off instead of the oak—that I was mistaken about how good it was. So, I called up Arianna (whom you may remember from such posts as: “I Don’t Read Playboy for the Articles”, “Wine and… Food? Please! Pairings”, and “An Oak Barrel-less Barrel of Fun”), had her come over, and gave her a blind taste. I told her absolutely nothing about what she was drinking and handed her a glass of chilled white wine. I found her analysis to be extremely curious considering what I’d poured.
Amazing balance, citrusy, apricot. Bright & crisp, no alcohol taste like you get in cheaper wines. I’d guess this is a Roussane or other white Rhone and that it’s at least $20. It tastes a little bit older, like a 2007.
This kind of wine is the reason this blog exists. We try everything and point you to great values. This kind of value is rare. If you like white wine go stock up on this Chardonnay, you’ll be glad you did. And if you’re not, I’ll buy the rest of yours off ya.
The story of La Finca comes to La Fin on a sadder note though… Last night I finally cracked the La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to say… meh. Not only was there nothing extraordinary, there was nothing ordinary. Well maybe not nothing, because the underlying flavors were nice (cherry and blackberry I think), but I had to fight through minerality, alcohol taste, and that dreaded cheap-red-wine-toothiness to get to them and my taste buds were fatigued before I even finished the first swallow. I wonder if it sat in the bottle a while longer (maybe a year or two) if it would get better. I also wonder if it will be better tonight than it was last night (I’ll keep you posted if it is).
At any rate, the moral of the story is to drink lots of wine so you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like… and then buy lots of what you like when it goes on sale.

A Weekend Full of Great Wine & Friends

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Comments Off on A Weekend Full of Great Wine & Friends

This past weekend my husband and I flitted off to San Diego to visit some friends and chill out. In addition to excellent company and excellent food, it was a fun wine weekend, too.

Wine #1: 2006 Beringer Napa Chardonnay

2005 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay

2005 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay

As a pre-dinner diversion, our friends Greg & Celine had us over for snacks and a glass of wine before heading out. They served us homemade dips (a delicious Greek yogurt dip with herbs in it and a yummy parmesan-artichoke dip) with pita chips and edamame. They served it to us with (and here's an adjective I never thought I'd use to describe a Beringer wine) Napa Valley Chardonnay. It was crisp, a little oaky, and had hints of green fruit. A well-structured, enjoyable white wine for $10-13 per bottle.

Wine #2: 2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Greg & Celine brought us to their friends' new restaurant in Del Mar, California called Zel's. The patio was lovely, the food (mine at least) was excellent, and the service was an adventure. Greg insisted that since I have a wine blog I needed to choose the wine for the table. Unusually, there was a choice to be made because Zel's has a great wine list and really great bottle prices on the wine. I asked around and everyone liked Cabernet, so I chose the Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. You've heard me say before that you can't go wrong with a Cab from Alexander Valley and this gem was no exception. A delicious Cab typical of Alexander Valley, it carried us gracefully through mussels & french fries, warm spinach salad, sea bass with mushroom risotto, steak, pork shoulder, and a serrano ham woodfired pizza. We happily ordered 2 bottles during dinner and not only would I go back to this restaurant (a rare compliment from me) I would buy this wine at twice it's normal price of $14-17 per bottle.

Wine #3: 2005 Clos du Bois North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast

2005 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast

In the afternoon, I took my friend Gary shopping at Walmart. There are so many parts of that sentence which sound strange to me, but the strangest of all is that I voluntarily went into a Walmart (stranger still I spent money while I was there… on wine!). While we were wandering the aisles, I discovered they sell wine. In fact, I picked up a couple bottles of the Bonterra Organic & Biodynamic Chardonnay for $6 which is a STEAL. While perusing the shelf I saw the 2005 Clos du Bois North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and opted to pass. Boy was that dumb. Later that afternoon, while sitting around playing games and drinking (that's what Sunday afternoons are for, right?) we opened a bottle that Gary already had at his place… and it was better than I've come to expect from Clos du Bois which can be SO hit-or-miss. (Example: I love their Pinot Grigio but hate their Pinot Noir.) This Cabernet was not of the same exceptional quality as the one from the night before, but nonetheless, when you're looking for value in your limited wine budget, this wine will make you think you spent more than you did for your $12-15 per bottle.

Wine #4: 2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

2006 Domain Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

2006 Domain Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

When we made it to our final dinner of the weekend, we were ready to keep the good times rolling, so we ordered another bottle of wine. Well, I guess we technically ordered two bottles of wine. The first one was a Zolo Malbec… a wine I love! Or thought I did. I in fact love the Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec which I bought at BevMo! (which is, near as I can tell, a Reserve wine). They also bottle a lesser-version of it without the Gaucho Select, and I can tell you it's not as good as the Gaucho Select. So, I sent it back. Instead we ordered the 2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros because Mitch loves Pinot and we were all eating dinners that would go nicely with a Pinot. Lately I've felt like every Pinot Noir I taste is overwhelmingly cherry or tastes like water even though it looks like wine. Finally that streak has been broken but I don't have a new Pinot to add to my shopping list when I want a wine in the $20-25 range because I don't think it was worth that much. More like $15-18 per bottle.

The Pros & Cons of Buying Wine at Cost Plus World Market

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 5 Comments

[Editor's note: This post has been updated… at the end of the post]

Many moons ago, in a land far far away (90-ish miles south) I used to only buy wine at Cost Plus World Market. In those days the prices seemed good and you could sum up my wine knowledge/experience with a phrases like these, “1994 Chardonnay is good” and ” I think I like Pinot Grigio.” I was more of a tequila girl in those days and I really went to Cost Plus for those heavenly Belgian Chocolates (note: only heavenly if you like hazelnut and chocolates with creamy centers) and to buy a papasan chair.

Over the years, we've wandered in to the one near us a few times. We've discovered it's a great place to purchase lightweight Christmas gifts that travel cross-continent in our luggage very well. We've also discovered that they have great prices on Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label around the holidays. I'm not sure why, but I added myself to their email list and over the last several months the company has been significantly gearing up the importance of wine in their stores and improving their online presence.

At first the wines scared me. I hadn't heard of 95% of them, the prices were either ordinary or the wines were so cheap I didn't trust them, and the mediocre ratings didn't increase my likelihood of purchasing. But lately… the only thing stopping me from making a CPWM run is the 20-something bottles of wine I already have in the house.

Regardless, here are the pros and cons I've been weighing on the decision to go try wines from Cost Plus World Market.

Pro: Unbelievable prices. I've used a couple of wines that they sell to make assessments about their general prices (specifically in search of the answer to “how good is the deal?”). The aforementioned Veuve at $34.99 a bottle (sale price any time of year, including the holidays) made me sit up and take notice. I've consistently seen that their prices are under $15 for just about everything. Also, they're constantly sending (seemingly) great deals that are even lower than their already-low prices.

Pro: The list of wines is starting to include wine regions I know and like: Today's email caught my attention with a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero (see my post about the Vina Santurnia Tempranillo) for $6.99 a bottle (normally $9.99). $9.99 is a low price (though not bargain-basement) for a Tempranillo from this region in Spain. $6.99 is a steal and I really want to try it.

Pro: The list of wines is starting to include wines I know and like. After catching my attention in the email, I browsed the website for a bit and was surprised to find these wines which I know and like

Con: The website doesn't publish a LOT of their prices. This is a con for two reasons. It requires me to go to the store to check out their prices, which I'd prefer to do at my computer because I live in a congested area and I'm not a fan of traffic. It's also a con because it makes me think/know they're adjusting prices based on local markets. This drives me batty. Why should I have to pay  more than the wine lover in Encinitas just because I live in Los Angeles? How can I figure out which stores have the best prices? These shouldn't be questions I have to ask.

Con: They're still carrying some skeevy wine labels. There are a couple of classes of wine I'm wary of… Wines with great marketing approaches (“Wine that loves chicken” and “Promisquous” come to mind). In my experience to date, these wines are all ordinary. It's an attempt to sell a large volume of ordinary wine to unsuspecting consumers who might not know (or care) what good wine tastes like. Fine for them, not for me. The other group of wines are anything that's regularly priced under $8. Mostly this is because these wines are almost always produced by the Bronco Wine Company (the esteemed makers of Charles Shaw a.k.a. Two-buck Chuck).

Con (if you don't live in California or near an CPWM): Most of these deals are only available in California. It seems that they're only selling wines (or trying these deals) in some states. I live in California so I have fantastic access to wines and I wouldn't be surprised if the deals are extra special because it's California.

Bottom line: It's gotta be worth a visit if you live near a Cost Plus World Market and you like to find wine values by buying good wines at great prices.

Do you buy wine at Cost Plus World Market? Share your thoughts and leave a comment, please!

Update!

We stopped by World Market the next day (because my curiosity was insatiable) and picked up a six-pack (as I lovingly call them) to take for a test run. We had two shopping goals in mind here… The first was to see if World Market's prices are low and bring great value or just low because they've purchased cheap wine. We also decided to further explore Tempranillos from Spain as it's a region/varietal we've found some great values from in the past. We bought:

  1. Campo Viejo Riserva, $12.99 per bottle – Haven't tried it yet
  2. 2007 Vivir, Vivir Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, $6.99 per bottle
    This PROBABLY belongs on the “do not drink these wines” list. I was able to finish the bottle despite its finishless grapiness. Definitely will not be purchasing again. Would rather spend a few more dollars and like what I'm drinking.
  3. Bodega Norton Malbec (x2), $7.99 per bottle
    This was a wine I had previously purchased at Costco more than once for $12-15ish per bottle. It's a nice quality Malbec. Not something that jumps out at me in the $12-15ish range, but definitely a good value at $7.99 per bottle.
  4. 2006 Etim Seleccion, $10.99 per bottle
    Robert Parker rated this wine 91. I thought it was okay and the price made it okayer. By now I've started to realize that not all Tempranillos from Ribera del Duero are good. This was an important realization because now I won't just buy blindly when I see one… I'll only do it for 2004 or 2005. Another lesson in why if you're going to use ratings to buy wine, be sure you agree with the ratings system at least some of the time. I personally prefer Wine Spectator's ratings and find them the most accurate for my palette.
  5. Cortijo III Tinto, $7.99 per bottle- Haven't tried it yet