Posts belonging to Category Under$20



Some Mice! Some Wine! and Thou…

When the Cat Is Away…

[ed. Mr. Story: We are proud and honored to share with you the post below from the expert creator of the award-winning and globally known Mouse Wine Rating Scale, MAUS! Let us all read attentively as the MAUS politely squeaks his knowledge to us…]

A quick reminder about ratings. One MOUSE means I’d proudly serve this wine to anyone; Two MICE, a special occasion wine; three MICE, life-changing. [ed. Mr. Story fantasizes for a moment about how life changing a three mice wine would be paired elegantly with a three mice rated cheese. Oh who needs marriage when you could have that pairing!]

Today we look at SIX wines that total EIGHT mice.

Bacchus seems bearish on California pinot these days. I understand? Kinda? Problem is, they’re not burgundies, and they will never be. Nothing will. But they’re darn tasty.

2012 Onward Hawkeye Ranch (Redwood Valley). OK, I had to look up Redwood Valley, and what I learned was no surprise – Mendocino. Best pinot locale in USA. This wine, purchased for $10+S&H on winebid, is the lightest domestic around. Almost rose-ay. Slightly reminiscent of Marsannay, except Marsannay blows. This shows rose petals, red currant and lemon curd. Problem: it’s gone in 20 minutes.

2012 Inman Family Wine OGV Estate Pinot Noir. $25 plus S&H ($65 at wine shed they sell from). Olivet Grange, their site says, layers both Russian River and Sonoma Coast. Like the previous offering, this is subtle and Chambolley. What am I thinking? Burgundy? Well, this just needs a little spice to pass for the real deal. Bacchus would like. I sent a bottle to my brother-in-law and he flipped. You will too if you try this. More body than the Onward, but subtle as heck. An usually good domestic.

2012 Furthermore Weir Vineyard York Creek Pinot Noir. Pure California pinot in a great way. Lush, medium body, raspberry souffle that makes you want to buy an Alfa Romeo [ed. Mr. Story must contact the wine maker’s legal department immediately because the lack of a warning re this side effect is definitely a risk management issue that should be added to the label]. Another expensive wine (for me) that sold for half price on winebid, $25. York Creek is apparently as north as they grow in ever-loving Mendocino. I’ve never had a better pinot west of Paris. Almost changed my life. [ed. tBoW – I had a heckuvva time finding this winery, never located the particular bottling. These guys are P-R-I-C-E-Y so at $25 on winebid this was a super deal missing an extra digit up front ifyagetmuhdrift…and you like Sonoma Coast Pinot!]

White Interlude……………………

2014 Pikes Riesling Clare Valley. $15.  Aussies, and Kiwis, do a fine job with riesling. This is no exception. 12%, off dry. Lime with notes of petrol. Third glass starts to sear a bit of enamel off the teeth. Drink alone.  Meaning, don’t share. GREAT value. ONE Mouse.

 

 

GREECE! In spring we happened to be in Metsovo, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain village near nowhere. I read about its wine history; it’s boring.

 

 

 

 

2013 Rossiu di Munte Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the actual winery is called something else, but it’s Greek. Purchased in village from small food shop with local gourmet selection. Proprietor was super friendly and begged me try this wine. Perhaps his brother-in-law makes it. Not cheap! 27 Euros. Popped it last month. Had all the characteristics of a Graves but lacked body and depth. Menthol city, however. Superfun, however; the kind of experience that makes traveling a blast. 1/2 Mouse.

2015 Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos. 90 percent cab and merlot, 10% indigenous agiorgitiko. Purchased for 18 Euro at Athens airport. From the northeast tip of the country in a region called Drama. I mean, they invented theater, right? So good that I went online to see if the wine [ed. tBoW; we already have plenty of drama round these parts] available stateside. Yes, about 20 minutes away from me at TotalWine in Milford CT for the same price as airport. Best I can describe: you’re 22 years old and just starting to drink wine that costs more than a movie ticket. You find this, and your whole perspective changes. Wait, there’s more than one flavor? OK, this is rather international in style. But so is Helen Mirren. One Mouse. [ed. tBoW loves Helen Mirren,]

[ed. Mr. Story: All of this mouse talk has Mr. Story thinking about cheese; a hobby he shares with mice. Perhaps Maus could rate cheeses with mice and then provide a rating (in mice) for the wine and cheese pairing.]

[ed. tBoW] The Greek actress, the Greek film, the Greek dance moves that started it all!! If this doesn’t warm you up get in front of a mirror…you may be a ghost.

Mr Story Applies Lean SIX∑ to Wine

There’s a new sheriff in tBoW town and his name Story.
Mister Story.

He lays down a few laws that should clear an often muddled path to enjoying wine. This is Part One.

I’m new on the blog. They call me Mr. Story. I reside in Playa Del Rey- where the only grapes can be found at a local grocery store or in a bottle. I don’t own a winery, produce wine, and I have never studied the subject.

Today I am here to enlighten you with the Healthcare Systems Engineer’s perspective on wine. The production of wine is inefficient. Advanced LEAN production techniques can be applied. Readers may recognize my wine selection habits, acquisition techniques, and consumption behaviors. You may be wondering why a man like me is writing a post on the world-famous The Best of Wines blog. I care. I care about you. I care about the planet. I care about good wine.

Charles Neal value importer

Statement of Principles: select wines that are low cost and high value CLICK!. A $25 bottle of wine in my budget includes the following: transportation to and from the store, taxes or fees, bags, chilling, preservation, and glass cleaning. In my experience Extremely Low Cost Bottles (ELCB) of wine can be quite sickening. This negatively impacts my productivity. This is extremely problematic. Outcomes of ELCB – extremely low cost bottles – include lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. No one will be able to solve these major healthcare issues if they have had even a sip of ELCB.

One expense over which wine consumers have complete control is where to buy wines. For me, driving six hours and eighteen minutes to go to the Napa Valley to select wines is simply not a financially wise option. The cost of fuel plus the opportunity cost is quite large, meaning that even the state of Texas would start to feel intimidated. I go to the local Trader Joes [ed. TJ] which has decent wines and is four stoplights and two full plays of Rock Lobster away.

Kermit Lynch original value wine hunter

I suggest four TJ wines [ed. tBoW has inserted a few choices other than TJ]. If you don’t have a Trader Joes near you, then perhaps go into a nearby Italian restaurant, see if a man named Joe works there and if he is open to doing some trading. If he is you just might be in luck. If you don’t enjoy these wines as much as I do, then so what? They weren’t that expensive.

2017 Miraval Cotes De Provence Rosé $21.99. With climate change causing erratic weather patterns and an increase in the number of uncomfortably hot days during the year, having a delicious Rose at your disposal is strongly advised for survival. Miraval is one of my favorites. Not too sweet and quite sophisticated. Fruity, but not disgustingly so, with a careful and nicely balanced blend of strawberry fruitful flavors, caramel, and spice. I always have a bottle of this chilled in my refrigerator. The bottle has a unique shape which is the only pesky thing about this wine. Makes it difficult to fit on wine racks. I enjoy this rosé very much and think you will too. If you want to be a pro with this wine like me, make wine cubes with one bottle (pour the wine into ice cube trays and freeze it). [ed. now THAT IS berry berry shmahhhttt!] That way, you don’t ruin the wine by adding ice cubes to it and can enjoy it at an even more refreshingly cold temperature. It bothers me when people dilute their wine.

Jim Moore top “value to quality” winemaker in Napa

2016 Bonterra Chardonnay $9.99 [ed. dingdingding! U20 even U10!!!] Made with Organic Grapes from Mendocino County, this wine is fantastic if you just have cheese without the typical cheese platter essentials. Creamy buttery taste transitions to an appetizing collection of honey, lightly toasted, lemon, pear, pineapple, with a very slight hint of oak. Yum. While your mouth enjoys it, your bank account will as well.

2017 Erath Pinot Noir $12 [ed. another U20]. Versatile wine from Oregon. A sip of this wine will transport you into a mystical forest of black cherries, plumbs, raspberries, pomegranates, and hints of nutmeg on the outskirts. As the beverage departs your tongue, the fruity flavors will gently linger, increasing your drinking pleasure. While it is indeed a very versatile wine, I find it pairs nicely with meats.

2011 Poggio al Casone Toscana $9.99 [U10]. Consuming this Italian wine takes me through a coffee plantation. My palate is greeted by toasted oak and wood-driven spice. Subtle hints of dried fruit (predominately black cherries) and black pepper, hints of mint. A smooth blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Syrah (20%). Enjoy.

The most important part of wine is the cheese pairing. Appropriate cheese pairing is critical to a pleasurable wine experience. The cheese pairing is ultimately the foundation of my wine philosophy. In my next post, you’ll get to know wines in a different way. I will be exploring the inefficient production of wines and explaining advanced LEAN production techniques that can be used to improve the value of the wine (better quality at a lower cost) and production efficiency.

tBoW: Thanks Mr. Story for sharing. The “cheesy” finish is splendid. I will be searching out some selections today. Excuse my relentless links to former tBoW posts on themes you have cited! We are in synch. TJs is the go-to for many folks who enjoy wine. The most useful articles on tBoW try to address similar themes, such as most wines are awful! What TJs is missing is staff obsessed with wine. Find a local wine store – a premium wine store, one that specializes in wine – and make a friend among the staff who hate working normal jobs and are crazed about wine and esp wine travel. Tell your new pal you enjoy wines that are good value (<$20> and great quality. You abhor “big ticket trophy wines” and and you could care less what are the “points”. In fact, if your new pal mentions points ask for a new friend. Another short cut to buying great wines at great values is to buy the importer CLICK!; Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner, Charles Neal and others. These are a few who can ALWAYS be trusted.

Send Part Two asap. And many minny money thanks! Now for that new sheriff….

Weird Wine Conversation Has Legs!!

When the going gets weird the weird turn pro.
Hunter S. Thompson

Target wins top award for selling the most uninteresting wines at the most attractive prices.

Target selling wine is weird to tBoW. The “word” weird looks wierd to me. There is a new kind of weird convo taking place in wine. tBoW is serving notice: “weird wines” is a hot topic. National Wine Day – May 25 – has come and went. We guess this “holiday” celebration online piece officially kicks off the 10 month long holiday season. Dotore is eating his liver!

We have received solicitations to buy “weird wines” from vendors. Kermit Lynch features some weird wines in his current June newsletter. His staff presents articles on “The Bigfoot of Chateauneuf,” [a producer who favors the “M” in G-S-M]; the Vaucluse region of Provence [keeping it simple here] and the varietal Mourvedre from a Pic St Loup producer [tBoW KLWM hits a two bagger – region AND varietal – on the weird wines scorecard]. KLWM is also offering “20% Off “White Wines for the Curious Drinker.” KLWM is like Kaiser health. Where Kaiser goes the industry follows.

And while tBoW may not take credit for initiating this especially refreshing direction in discussing wine and wines, we reserve some credit for getting on this quickly so that our readers/viewers can get up to speed.

Talking about weird wines is good.

How many years have the tBoW writers suffered through formulaic wine writing [off blog] with these silly conventions: 100 point scores, market driven varietals, glamorous attachments to whatever kind of activity can be shopped through the pages of the Wine Speculator and other imitators.

Oh the glamour of the wine industry! I love wine! I could not live without wine!! It’s all so wholesome farm to bottle getting closer to nature working with the earth how do you like my overalls and my farm truck and my new custom crush winery labels?!

Break time. tBoW is getting dizzy.

Thank goodness tBoW contributors and wine freaks KrisB and Maus have non-conforming points of view and are willing to share them when it comes to wine. In last week’s post we featured their thoughts and comments. That was just the beginning. There is more to be shared! Great for us.

Maus – Finally read the rather fascinating article. As you know, I’ve been around the euro block, as KrisB obviously has. One place that was mentioned in that article blew me away. Gaillac. It’s in the Dordogne region. Years back we stayed there. I didn’t have memorable reds, but we were drinking white mainly, and they rocked. I remember a grape called Mauzac. However, the amazing offerings concerned dessert wines. I remember going into a damn grocery store and seeing about two dozen local choices. all for under $15! all very good. I had Negrette along the way, but wasn’t too impressed. Tannat is wonderful. quite tannic. Tannic Tannat. Grows near the Spanish border. And at this point of my life, that wine will outlive me.  Uruguay, of all places, grows it. [tBoW consumed an Uruguayan Tannat “years back”] – forgettable except for the varietal name and the state of origin – by the way Tablas Creek grows and produces Tannat. I picked up a dessert tannat (it’s red) once in Long Island on my way to a Glee concert, godhelpme. Wonderful! …cheers, having a Holloran Reisling tonight. Oregon.

KrisB – I have a weird Gaillac sweet white or two that I’ve been keeping with tBoW’s name on it (https://www.cellartracker.com/classic/wine.asp?iWine=1217606). Problem with these “weird” wines is that there doesn’t always seem to be an occasion to open them.

Maus – You’ll be in beerland before you get to Belgium…in the land of Kolschs! Although I prefer a good lager (Bitburg is also nearby for Bitburger)…man I love German beers. Are you just staying in the towns or will you make a trip to the Ahr?

[SCANDAL ALERT -NEXT COUPLE COMMENTS NSFWS]

KrisB – Love the peasant farmers, except when they make wines without sulfur and think they are all “BIO,” but really are just selling oxidized dreck. Ran into one of these a few weeks ago in Puglia who made wines that would be really beautiful, but they were undrinkable for us. And this guy is imported by Dressner!

The best story is when we visited a Beaujolais producer that we liked, Michel Guignier. He said he was all natural, no sulfur. He gave us a the first wine to try, a rose, and said this has been opened for 2-3 days, see how fresh it is!

Well, it was absolute shit, reminded me of canned dog food. Around the time we were trying not to gag on that first one, he mentioned that there is more than one Michel Guignier winemaker in the region and that’s when we knew we made a horrible mistake! We suffered through the rest of the tasting and got out as fast as we could. He did not have a nice atmospheric tasting room/cellar. I think we are going to a tasting of Slovenian wines this afternoon…

MAUS – Yeah, got a little sideways in Mosel 30 years ago. My best memory is Graach, where my wife who speaks fluent German interpreted a conversation with a typical small European winemaker, meaning he was a peasant farmer in overalls. [tBoW – I don’t care who you are that’s funny]

The Holloran reisling was delicious. Vibrant, pugnacious with a slash a pineapple! Sounds like you’ll be in a land [tBow – think he means Slovenia] where you can have the white wine that began this whole conversation [tBoW – the Himbrecht?]. It’s funny how those small time European wine operations can range from absolutely delightful to Frankenstein. I had bipolar experiences 2 years ago in Sud Tirol.  When the people are nice I always feel compelled to buy something, usually doesn’t cost more than $12  at any rate.

I was in Prague 10 years ago. I learned that Slovenia is Wine Country and Bohemia is beer land. I found a dessert Chardonnay that I accidentally froze and when it started to thaw out I had the most delicious snow cone ever. By the way my recent trip to Greece convinced me that the cradle of democracy has not enjoyed a wine Renaissance. Good lamb, though.

tBoW – Only way to top off this convo is with a video that provides a quick review of Hunter S. Thompson’s daily schedule as he ramped up for daily writing.

Wine Buckets and Bucket Hats

Warning: this post is written by Beexlee [tBoW name] who gets paid $$ to cover fashion style. Clarity of vision, sharp phraseology and general wordsmithing may cause disorientation for some readers.

Bodega Tres Mujeres: Humility & Charm

When GQ came out with the article “25 Bucket Hats Built for Summer That You Can Buy Right Now” last year, I gasped. Why were they encouraging them? Young men, who already have a hard time understanding that flip flops are not shoes to be worn anywhere but the beach, are now being told that hats made originally for toddlers are FASHION. I had to put the magazine down and walk away.

But slowly (very slowly) I have come around to the idea of bucket hats. It started with an old picture of me in a denim one. It was, objectively, cute. But was it just because I was 6 years old? Or could it be…fashion? Then there was a whole thing during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris that made me rethink the trend. And then there was another situation in GQ I couldn’t ignore: Timothée Chalamet in a Burberry-print bucket hat. Could it be that I had been wrong? Here’s the thing about fashion: it’s all about experimenting. Whether it’s jean on jean, crop tops, flared pants, or turtlenecks, the best part of fashion is that you get to decide what looks good (and what makes you feel good).

After a weekend in Guadalupe Valley in Baja, Mexico, I came to realize that the same is true of wines. The winemakers of Baja are taking what we know about wine—what works, what tastes good, what people like and buy—and experimenting with these building blocks to create a new culture of Mexican wines. Camilo from Casa Magoni blends different grapes from all over the world (he’s originally from Italy). Mogor Bodan’s Natalia took knowledge from her family’s background in Switzerland, plus actual grapes from Europe, and grew them in Baja. Vena Cava vinter Phil gets many of his grapes from other growers and explores with natural wines and sparkling wines.

And thus, when my uncle emerged on our first day of vacation wearing a white bucket hat, instead of the shivers I used to feel when I saw one, I thought to myself, “Cool! He’s experimenting.”

[ed. tBoW sez Natalia’s quincey fig winw wine made from Swiss chasselet was lushooosh]

I can easily say that the glass of the Chasselet 2016 Natalia gave me was the best white wine I’ve ever tasted. To be fair, I don’t really like white wine, so it was a low bar, but still, I could tell. Bodega Mogor Bodan:This was GOOD. I may have been swayed by the cat on the label, but the floral crisp wine has convinced me that perhaps I should be more open-minded when it comes to trying new whites. The rose was also excellent, crisp and smelling of brown-sugar. I will be saving it to drink on a warm summer evening on my rooftop in San Francisco. Be sure to stop by Deckman’s, the restaurant next door, for delicious seafood and veggies made in an outdoor kitchen. I can officially check “eat lunch in a cave” off my list.

Bodega El Pinar de 3 Mujeres: Yvette was very knowledgeable about all of her wines, which we tasted in a small cave filled with ceramics and handmade jewelry (yes I bought a pair of earrings, which are always in style). Despite having a french name (she’s from a french-speaking region of Mexico), she knew more about wine making in Mexico than anyone I had talked to. She has lived in Baja for 37 years, and says she has seen winemakers come and go; because of the water shortage, because of the climate change, because of life.

Bodegas Vena Cava: Phil gave the most comprehensive explanation of how wine is made that I’ve ever heard. His winery, located on the same property as his hotel, Ville del Valle, was one of the most architecturally exciting building that I visited in Baja. Designed by architects Alejandro D’Acosta and Claudia Turrent, the structure is made out of old boats, and houses Phil’s reds, whites, and roses, plus his experimental sparkling wines and natural wines. Originally from England, Phil and his wife sold their house in Southern California to move to Guadalupe Valley and run their hotel. Phil’s wine making journey originally began as a few classes here and there at the local wine school, but quickly evolved to become part of his livelihood in Baja.

Bucket Hat in vivo

The wines that stood out were his natural orange wine and his rosé, and there was something extra special about tasting the wines in a building that brought the ideas of sustainability and creativity together in such a beautiful way.

Wear what you want. Drink what you want. Experimentation is key.

tBoW comments: “experimentation is key” says Beexlee. I would add a quote from a long gone pal “I’ll try anything twice. I might not like it the first time.” Well tBoW could not have captured the 3 day trip to Baja Wine Country any better [we have covered the ruta del vino before when there was 20 instead of 120 bodegas]. Aren’t you – the reader – impressed to know that a college education can lead to something so charming and entertaining?

Take a trip to the Tres Mujeres Bodega in Guadalupe Valley!

the Trouble with Rioja Wines

tBoW goes on curmudgeonly jag! Two blogs in a row rip into popular international wines!! What’s next? Napa?

Lettie Teague is the wine writer for the Wall Street Journal. She covers a wide range of wines from pricey (Burgundies) to cheapos to odd regions and the ones wine snobs like to read about. I would link to her columns BUT without a subscription the columns are out of reach in 24 hours (or so).

Teague’s Jan 13 column covered Rioja wines: “Pour on the Oak: Rioja’s Reliably Aged Reds.” Immediately I recalled a Rioja tasted this New Year’s Eve party…2007 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. Had the big reviews from Suckling and Parker PLUS the big scores in the high 90s [Lettie’s WSJ image adjacent…nice, no?]

A couple of prelim caveats: In the first, the 100 point range for scoring wines is (how can I say this without scrinching faces) frivolous. Find me a wine below 85 points and I will tell you where to buy the 2014 Cune Crianza which is a great bargain at $12. When scores less than 85 are not assigned then the scale is actually 15 points. In the second, avoid reviewers who are paid to sell wines and assign the scores. Better to find a local wine shop with staff that actually drink the stuff. Let him or her get to know what you like and your preferred price point so they can tell you what to buy. One more point…what is the difference between a 96 and 97 point wine? Better yet what could possibly be the difference.

The New Years lineup was brave with many fine bottles lining the bar. Unfortunately, only one bottle was up to the task of pleasing palates. Different wines fell short for different reasons. The 2009 Sweeney Canyon Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara was well made. Our palates have changed since. We (and I am speaking for the smarty pants tasters) no longer favor Central Coast syrupy (to us) beety flavored wines. The two recent vintage Bourgognes were soft and fruity without much stuffing. The winner was opened and placed before the lumpen before the cogoscenti arrived so its remains lay dying in the glasses of the “social tasters” [man, tBoW a real S-N-O-B].

2007 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, $50: The Handle Man brought this with high hopes shared all round. Plenty fruit. Beautiful robe (taster talk for color, weight, luminosity). And big and tannic even after trying again and again for a couple of hours. TOO MUCH OAK. As Teague points out Gran Reserva signifies the wine spent FIVE YEARS in barrel. So this wine was bottled no sooner than 2012 and may have spent even longer in barrel [ed. upon reading about it turns out the wine was bottled after 4 years].

What to make of this? All were disappointed with how the wines we brought by the cognoscenti showed. After ten years we really expected the La Rioja Alta would be more accessible. What’s the deal? TOO MUCH OAK. tBoW favors natural wines made without oak. Or at least wines stored (“aged”) in neutral oak barrels which have been used more than five years and have lost all the oak flavors imparted by new barrels.

Let’s be clear. We hate oaked wines. We are not even sure why the “aged in new oak” style began or where it came from. Spain has institutionalized aging wines in oak to the extent of rewarding wines aged longest in oak with the “highest” rating of Gran Reserva which translates roughly to Grand Poobah of Wines. What is truly worth pondering is how a nation elected to value the use and abuse of oak in making (finishing) wine over factors that are more highly valued elsewhere; e.g., not using oak, steel fermentation, and using natural yeasts or even w-a-i-t-i-n-g for fermentation to spontaneously erupt.

Is there something to be said about the culture? tBoW speculates in his darkest mind that this system was spawned by the fascista values of Generalissimo Franco. Prove me wrong.

The CVNE 2014 Crianza – Crianza means aged no more than two years in barrel which is about 18 mos too long. This particular bottle is a go-to tBoW value perfect for Thanksgiving when the food multiplex is the most challenging to match. And at $14 – we have bought for $10 – it is probably the perfect one-size-fits-all wine for Turkey Day.

tBoW and fam visited La Guardia and Alta Rioja way back before he owned a digital camera. The hilltop village of LA Guardia was a highlight. The yougn ‘uns got a thrill when the “bulls” ran thru the streets. Does this happen every weekend? I was able to find a video of the running of the COWS which captures the thrill we all shared. The streets are narrow and the risks are meager. This ain’t no Pamplona. This was a disco. The only where gouging might take place would be lunch or diner with wine. Although that did not occur.