Bordeaux Wines That Won’t Break The Bank

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Trips | 2 Comments

Arianna & Jess tasted Bordeaux wines for the first time at the BevMo 100th Store Mega-Tasting in Rolling Hills Estates. At this type of event (a large mixed-beverage tasting at a “big box” store) it’s unusual to encounter a real wine experience. But to BevMo’s credit they lined up 100 2007 Bordeaux’s for tasting, and brought in the owners from many of the wineries to introduce the BevMo customer to Old World winemaking and wine-drinking. It seemed a strange juxtaposition (elegant wines poured by elegant French people in a SoCal parking lot), but in the end, we tasted a wide spectrum of 2007 Bordeaux wines across a broad price range and now we feel a little less intimidated by French wine in general and by Bordeaux specifically.

Jessyca’s ignorance of wines from outside of California has been discussed before, so the following revelations should not be interpreted as wine snobbery, but rather sharing what she learned…

1. Bordeaux is not a grape. While most people who drink wine know this, Jessyca did not. Or at least not officially. Grapes grown in the Bordeaux wine region of France are predominantly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Side note: Similarly, Chateau Neuf-du-Pape is not a winery, but also a wine region in France. Not all Chateau Neuf-du-Pape wines are worth the reputation.

2. They like to mix their grapes in Bordeaux. Most Bordeaux wines that we tasted were primarily Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but nearly all were blends of 3 or four different varietals.

3. French people aren’t all snobby. The manager at BevMo found it important to tell us how unusual and special it is that this level of wine proprietors would be present at such an event, much less doing the pouring. I found the proprietors to be charming, patient, and knowledgeable. One even spent several minutes teaching Jess how to pronounce Pouilly-Fuisse and Pauillac. They were eager to expose the American consumers to their wines and had much better attitudes about the heat and crowds than the other winery owners present at the event.

World famous for some of the oldest and highest regarded wines on the planet, Bordeaux wines are full-bodied, rich and delicious. The wines we listed here are a great value and will age beautifully for the next 5 – 10+ years.

2007 Chateau La Chenade, Lalande de Pomerol. $16 – $20

Bright, dark red. This wine smells of strawberry and is a little firm on tannin. This is a value price for a wine from the Bordeaux region, and while rich and delicious, it tastes “younger” and “greener” than some of the others on this list. However, La Chenade is a good place to start and will improve (although not a ton), by aging.

Drink by 2015

70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.

Jessyca really enjoyed this wine and after tasting 12 different Bordeaux wines, feels this one in particular is of good value. It also says something interesting about the power of winemaking because she’s not a fan of Merlot.

2007 Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Moulis-en-Médoc. $25 – $35

Although the property’s history dates back to 1560, it is likely that the vines from which these grapes descended are much, much older. The vineyard is widely held in high esteem, despite being one of the smallest producers in the area.

Deep red. Tastes of dark fruit, minerals and chocolate. This is an excellent wine at an excellent price. Drink now until 2025.

73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot.

2007 Chateau d’Issan, Margaux Bordeaux. $35 – $45

Dating from the 15th century (and possibly even the 12th), Château d’Issan is located in Margaux, 30 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux. The chateau is still surrounded by a moat, and is frequently described as the most romantic in the Medoc appellation.

Mild at first with a strong finish, this lighter-colored red is fruity on the nose, with a nice, full structure and hints of tobacco.

70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.

2007 Brane Cantenac, 2nd Grand Cru Classé, Margaux. $35 – $50

A Bordeaux blend middleweight, this is a softer, more “feminine” wine. Well crafted, earthy, with tastes of chocolate, strawberries, and raspberries. This isn’t one to age for long, but it’s an excellent value.

As a less robust wine, this might be a good choice for those who are just beginning to dabble in Bordeaux.

Drink now until 2015.

53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc.

Another of Jess’ favorites from the group–this was a smooth, flavorful wine that was pleasant in the mouth and had a long, enjoyable finish.

Duluc Ducru Dulicious

Duluc Ducru Dulicious

Chateau Branaire Duluc-Ducru, St. Julien. $40 – $55

Oak-y, earthy, fruity and balanced. Nicely integrated tannins. Hints of mocha, blackberries and violets. 2007 was not a great year for the region, but this shows a delicious fruitiness for the vintage. Very nice finish. This one is a good choice for the holidays, and should definitely be a crowd pleaser. Drink now until 2017.

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc.

At GrapeSmart we like to talk about how you can get more value out of your wine purchases, but sometimes we want to share wine experiences that defy the “Under $25” ethos and extend into the “If I had a million dollars” dreamscape…

The Tale of the Two Longueville Wineries – And Bordeaux Futures
(by Jessyca)

Those in-the-know went straight for the uber-expensive Bordeaux wines (and in retrospect, we should have done this, too) because these were only futures not yet available for purchase.

All day long people were talking of terroir, a concept that has much deeper meaning in France than it does in California. When the following two wines were poured, an explanation included that these two wineries are right across the street from one another so that they should have much in common with one another, and also, the particular area of Longueville in Pauillac is desirable, so the wines are higher-priced.

The 2007 Chateau Pichon Lalande ($100 – $120) and the 2007 Chateau Pichon Baron ($90 – $115) could not have been more different. The Lalande is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Easily one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted, smooth and luscious. It was easy to see what winemakers the world over are trying to achieve when I had the opportunity to taste such deliciousness. The Baron on the other hand, 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot, was more acidic and less special. It felt extraordinarily overpriced, especially in comparison to the Lalande.

This experience really solidified for me the importance of winemaking in the whole process, and rather downplayed the terroir impact. These wines shared little other than their name and their price tag. Ultimately only you can say if a wine is good or bad for you. You just have to try a lot to know what you like and what you don’t.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that K&L Merchants has a MUCH better price on these two wines than BevMo is offering which suggests that perhaps when you want premium wines, it still pays to shop around before you buy.

Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-11-07

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Visitons La Vieille Ferme

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
Get some!
Get some!

Are you searching for something cheap, easy and delicious? Nope, this isn't an ad for an online sex site; it's a genuine endorsement for a bottle (or two or three) of 2007 La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux.

Hailing from the Cotes du Ventoux AOC in France (a region in the southeastern Rhone), this wine is a blend of 5

0% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan and 15% Cinsault – all grapes that grow well in the area's limestone-rich terroir.

Lovely, lively red in the glass, with a bouquet and mouthfuls of juicy red fruit and just enough spice, this wine has a smooth, supple body and goes down easy (no really, I promise, I'm only talking about wine).

La Vieille Ferme is owned by Perrin & Fils (of Château de Beaucastel fame (“Beaucastel is regarded by many as one of the top estates, if not the top estate, of Châteauneuf du Pape, in the Southern Rhône Valley” – thewinedoctor.com). Much less powerful than it's big sister wines (step-sisters? half-sisters?), however, this wine is a terrific value and is great for summer. Take it to picnics, concerts in the park, sunset walks on the beach… you get the idea.

And the best part? At less than $10 per bottle, you can enjoy this wine all you want – as often as you want – without any kind of commitment. That's a small price to pay for a really good time. Salut!

Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-10-31

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Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-10-23

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Wine and…Food? Please! Pairings

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 2 Comments
Hungry people is a XIV theme?

Hungry people is a XIV theme?

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to try celebrity chef/restauranteur Michael Mina's 14th restaurant, XIV. Positioned grandly on Sunset Boulevard near Chateau Marmont, and at the intersection of Glitz and Glam, XIV was designed by Phillipe Starck to “[evoke] the drama and opulence of a European chateau and [add] an exciting new dimension to the Los Angeles culinary landscape.”

I have to agree, the boys did a really good job decorating.

With it's opulent Versailles-esque interior, the paintings of French Baroque nobility in their finery and rich touches like paneling, lounge areas and a fireplace, XIV offers a decadent buffet for all of the senses, but one:

I didn't get a damn thing to eat.

Our reservation was for 8 o'clock, Saturday. The restaurant called to confirm that we were coming. We showed up on time. Then we were shown to the bar and left there. Numerous trips to the hostess stand provided no results (nor even much of an apology), neither did asking for some love from the bartender. At 9:15, we left. And we were starving.

“Starving” is not an adjective I prefer to use when leaving a restaurant. I was dressed well. I was happy to be with friends. I was slightly intoxicated. I was also unfed. And since my money is green and the restaurant even called to confirm our reservation, I find this to be an inexcusable way to exit an eating establishment. Especially when Los Angeles boasts a staggering number of eating places that are happy to be good to their guests. If XIV, in their mirrored/hallowed hallways thinks their clientele should eat cake…or not, rather…all I can do is remind them what happened to the heirs to Louis XIV's decked-out dwelling outside Paris that serves as inspiration to their endeavor. I'm not suggesting that SBE – the group that owns XIV with Mr. Mina – should be decapitated. But they might find themselves incapacitated in other ways: Namely, customers will revolt and go elsewhere. And XIV will be getting their just desserts.

So, I'm not going to talk about their “60 Under $60” wine list. I'm going to talk about my evening at Viceroy, instead.

Sparkling and so yummy!

Sparkling and so yummy!

Viceroy is a contemporary, ultra-modern, luxury hotel in Santa Monica. An oasis of hushed elegance inside and too-cool-for-school DJ jams on the poolside patio, Viceroy also happens to offer Wine Lover's Nights at their restaurant, Whist, on Monday and Tuesday and a fantastic h

appy hour from 5 – 9 pm. My friends and I took advantage of the latter for a small birthday celebration.

When I arrived, Jess and LeaAnn (the birthday girl), had already ordered the Prime Beef Sliders with cheddar, tomato jam and pickle on brioche; Lavosh Flatbread with burrata and tomato; and White Bean Hummus with petite salad and grilled pita. They were also enjoying glasses of Piper Sonoma Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. I plunked myself down and joined them.

Piper Sonoma is a popular sparkling wine from California (remember that it cannot be called “champagne” unless it comes from the Champagne region in France). My glass was incredibly pale, with a lovely nose of apple and pear and pineapple. Although a sparkling wine, I'd describe this more as “fizzy” than effervescent, and had a lovely, smooth body, with a great dryness that made it tart but not mouth-puckering. It was excellent.

From the producer:

Very pale straw color with tiny bubbles. Aromas of green apple, citrus and white flowers. On the palate, it is dry with a delicate body and crisp, refreshing acidity. Great balance and a lingering, elegant finish.

As more friends arrived, we ordered the Spicy Tuna Tartare with shiso, green apple, crispy rice and soy caramel; Halibut Tacos with cabbage served with two salsas, pickled jicama and lime; Crab Cakes with smoked paprika aioli and watercress. We also ordered the cheese plate, but unfortunately, none of the servers actually told us what kinds of cheeses they delivered.

Truthfully, I was too busy devouring the tuna tartare to even notice.

I'd turn this stuff

With our second round of food, the girls and I also ordered a second round of drinks. This time I selected the 2007 Hitching Post “Cork Dancer” Pinot Noir, from Buellton, California. Delicious. Deep garnet in color, a nose of strawberries and other berries, and a touch of tar. On the tongue it was lush strawberry, chocolate, coffee and fig. Lovely, balanced acidity and barely tannic. If I wasn't driving home after, I probably would've had at least another glass (or two). And the great thing about this happy hour was that both the sparkling wine and the Pinot were incredibly affordable (per bottle, the bubbly runs about $16 and the Pinot is around $25).

A total of eleven appetizers and eight drinks came out to around $40 per person, for five ladies (including tip). For an indulgent evening at a world-class restaurant, this was an amazing value. And I will certainly go back for the deals on that incredible Pinot.

Are you listening, XIV? Depending on the type of culinary revolution you're trying to create, you might want to take a lesson from this story. To paraphrase a different tale of two things: “Viceroy was a far, far better time I had, than the time I spent with you.”

Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-10-16

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on Weekly Twitter Updates Digest for 2009-10-16
  • Arianna and I cracked the Cameron Hughes Lot 101 Chardonnay… and drank the whole bottle. It's good. Esp for the $$. Review to come on blog #
  • RT @WineExpo: Just in: Off Dry SPARKLING Torrontes (way under $20)… That sparkler is calling my name! See ya soon, R! #
  • @DailyWine My last red sparkler was Lambrusco and it was too sweet for me. Off-dry might be awe-some :) @WineExpo has a few to choose from! in reply to DailyWine #
  • @WineExpo sold me Off Dry SPARKLING Torrontes… Unusual! A tad sweet, but lots of green fruit. As promised, salty snacks enhanced the wine. #
  • Be sure to read the bit about the Riedel 'Vivant' Bordeaux glasses. WSJ.com – Glasses, the Background Music of Wine http://bit.ly/mmzV3 #
  • Halloween is around the corner so we're reposting this: Great Wines for Halloween – Not So Scary! http://bit.ly/10szTr #
  • RT @NYCubsFan Deciding whether joining the WSJ Wine Club is a needed expense right now-There r cheaper/better clubs Try http://bit.ly/24NYl0 #
  • @NYCubsFan @NidhiBerry: Thanks for telling me the link was broken, it should work now. #
  • @NidhiBerry: Wine clubs are a very personal choice… what are you looking for in a wine club? Hopefully I can help you out :) #
  • Help us break 2500 followers today! #FF love to @Everwalking @foodwinechickie @inshin @graf808 @swamwine @jjbuckley @pinotblogger @WineExpo #

2007 Las Rocas Totally Rocks

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on 2007 Las Rocas Totally Rocks
Dark ruby-colored, fruity deliciousness!

Dark ruby-colored, fruity deliciousness!

As we've covered in previous posts, wines from Cost Plus World Market can be very hit or miss. In general, I have had great luck with their wines, and since I had a coupon for their Friends and Family 25% Off sale, I thought I'd do a little shopping and buy some new bottles and test my luck.

2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha, from the Calatayud region of Spain, is one of the wines I picked up. It's a 90-point Wine Advocate/Parker, and deliciously drinkable now and over the next three years.

I'm not very familiar with Grenache (in Spanish, Garnacha and Garnatxa in Catalan), but it was first cultivated in Spain and is arguably the most abundantly planted grape on the planet. Although it is used on its own to make 100% varietals, it is frequently used to “fill out” other reds, including the bulk of Rhone and over 80% of Châteauneuf du Pape.

This particular bottle is 100% Grenache/Garnacha. It's an absolutely gorgeous deep garnet red in the glass, with a smokey bouquet mixed with red berries and just the tiniest tinge of alcoholic heat. On the tongue, my first taste was of grapefruit! Other imbibers agreed that this was present, although no one else found this to be the principle taste. We all agreed it tasted of smoke and lush berries. Although slightly lightweight (some might say watery), I found this wine to be absolutely scrumptious. It would make a delicious table wine.

From The Wine Advocate:

There are 18,000 cases of the delightful 2007 Las Rocas Garnacha, a wine sourced from Calatayud vineyards ranging in age from 70 to 100 years. Dark ruby in color, it delivers alluring aromas of spice box, mineral, cherry, and black raspberry. Layered on the palate, it has superb depth, succulent flavors, and a pure, lengthy finish. It will provide pleasure over the next three years. (02/08)

From Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:
Deep ruby. Rich kirsch and blackberry aromas are complicated by mocha and licorice. Smoky dark berry aromas pack serious punch and are supported by suave tannins. Finishes clean, lively and persistent. As usual, this is a great bargain. (9-10/07)

At $10 – $12 per bottle, the 2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro is also a great buy. It's not always easy to find a highly rated wine for such a low price. This wine is ready to drink now and seems to be universally declared as delicious! If you don't like it, I'll finish it for you.

Cheers!

Innovative Wine Businesses

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in How to Buy Wine at Good Prices | 6 Comments

As is the case with every industry, clever business people with big ideas and great connections often find ways to accelerate industry growth and take a cut of the market for themselves.  These entrepreneurs figure out an angle on how to get their own piece of the pie by targeting the consumer market. The wine world is no exception.

While you may not know the names of these companies, you have likely heard of a few of their wines. This post covers the different approaches these innovators are taking: Bronco Wine Company, Cameron Hughes Wine, Latitude Beverage Company, and Oriel Wines.

Method 1: Reach the most consumers by making cheap wine widely available

Two-Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw Wine)

You may not know the name Bronco Wine Company but I’ll bet you a year’s salary you know their biggest brand–Charles Shaw (a.k.a. Two-Buck Chuck). Did you also know that Bronco Wine Company has over fifty other brands, too? According to Wikipedia (the only web-presence the company maintains), Bronco Wine Company is the fourth-largest wine producer in the US with total annual sales of approximately 20 million cases.

Bronco is a 30-year old wine company that has had some troubles along the way, but it’s never easy for the pioneers; CEO Fred Franzia (no relation to the wine in the box) has successfully executed his vision of bringing wine to the masses. (See earlier comment about you knowing the name of their #1 brand.) They did it by buying grape and wine overruns from existing wineries and repackaging them. They did it by buying 35,000+ acres of grape-growing land in California and making their own wines in less-expensive areas than the Napa Valley. They did it by specializing in distribution and getting their wine into grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and other national chains.

Bronco can safely claim they did a tremendous amount to contribute to the explosion of wine-consumption in the US because at $2 a bottle, it’s a risk-free experiment for nearly everyone and since most consumers don’t know good wine from bad they’re happy drinking the two-buck bottles. Some people refer to Two-buck Chuck as a gateway wine–it introduces people to wine and when they’re ready for something more adventurous, they’ll step up and start buying better wines. I don’t know what percentage of the Charles Shaw audience are upgraders, but I’ll bet brands like Yellow Tail and Coppola are thrilled they do.

Method 2: Diversify in different methods of selling oversupply and partner with others to help do it

Cameron Hughes Wines - Lot Series

Cameron Hughes Wines – Lot Series

Another innovative company aiming to bring more value to the consumer market is Cameron Hughes Wines. They’ve diversified their approach to include purchasing oversupply and backblending some of it into their Rock Ridge series while maintaining the integrity of the better wines in their Lot Series. When they find good winemaker partners, they create ongoing relationships for their Flying Winemaker Series, even going so far as to choose one uber-partner for their Evergreen Series.

Cameron Hughes also cultivated strong distribution channels with major retailers maintaining great brand loyalty like Costco, Cost Plus World Market, and Safeway. These are stores where consumers aren’t looking for fine wines, but good quality wines at a good value and Cameron Hughes thinks they can build lifelong consumer loyalty for their brands through these distribution channels. If the quality is there, and the prices are fair, I’ll bet they keep growing at a record pace.

Method 3: Specialize in high-end oversupply and only source the best varietals from their best regions

90+ Cellars Malbec

90+ Cellars Malbec

Latitude Beverage Company is an example of an innovative business which sees that the fine wine market is declining and that there’s more growth opportunity in bringing good quality wine to the mass consumer market. They’re doing it in two different ways under two unique labels–90+ Cellars and Ku De Ta Wines.

90+ Cellars is just like Cameron Hughes’ Lot Series except that the wines Latitude Beverage purchases come with a ratings pedigree. While we don’t necessarily advocate buying wines based on their ratings (because everyone’s personal taste is different), we think only selecting wines that are well-structured enough to earn a 90+ rating in the first place is a great place to start. When you purchase a 90+ Cellars wine, you’re getting premium quality at value pricing–a great way to win over sophisticated wine buyers on a budget.

Ku De Ta Wines, Rioja

Ku De Ta Wines, Rioja

Ku De Ta is more like Cameron Hughes’ Flying Winemaker Series in that they’ve hand-selected varietals from the regions where they perform best. When you want to produce consistently high-quality wines, why buy your grapes from a region that doesn’t have the best terroir to support superior winemaking? Why buy your Cabernet grapes from anywhere other than the Napa Valley? Why buy your Malbec from anywhere other than Mendoza? You get the point. I can’t tell if they make their own wines or if they contract with winemakers (probably the latter), but it’s almost irrelevant because winemaking that starts with the best grapes and that respects the varietal’s characteristics produces wonderful wines.

Method 4: Leverage winemaker contacts to produce the best line of wines from around the world

Oriel Wines

Oriel Wines

Among myriad platitudes there are two popular truisms in the business world that help companies focus: “know your strengths” and “stick to your core competencies, outsource the rest.” Oriel Wines understands focus and knows their own strengths don’t lie in vineyard equipment and property operations, but in evaluating wines and winemakers for greatness. Oriel has created partnerships with the world’s finest winemakers from the best regions and hand-selected varietals to be crafted into world-class wines. They then bottle these wines and distribute them under the single brand, Oriel.

The difference between Oriel and Cameron Hughes in this area is that Oriel is specialized. Specialists tend to excel at their niche and often can bring exceptional quality to their work. Oriel has managed to do this and still sell their wines at consumer-friendly prices, and they consistently get top ratings on their wines, too. With a range of pricing from $15 – $75 per bottle, Oriel knows that consumers who get to know their brand through one of its well-priced selections will become a loyal brand follower and continue to discover a world of wines as their wine experience and appetite for more extraordinary wines grows.

Bottom line: If you buy wines that are priced according to innovative business practices (as opposed to local real estate prices and ratings-driven demand), odds are good you’re getting better quality wine for your money–who doesn’t want that?

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.