Tag Archives: pinot noir

Great Wines Under $25

I am often asked by friends and family as to which are my “favorite” wines. The answer is that it depends on what I’m in the mood for and what I’m going to drink. And it also depends on the occasion. I’m not going to open up a $60 bottle of wine for a weekday meal night. But here are my personal favorites for under $25. Please add your favorites in the comment section!

Michelle’s Great Wines Under $25.00

General Tips:
Since it is not always easy to find a particular wine at a store, here are my recommendations for browsing…

  • Wines from Argentina, New Zealand, Chile, Spain are great buys right now
  • Cheap California and French wines tend to be questionable. In general, CA/French wines under $10.00 should be avoided.
  • Look for little-known varietals for good buys: Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Torrontes, Petite Sirah, Vouvray, Carmenere
  • Hot California regions right now: Mendocino, Paso Robles, Lodi, Monterey (St. Rita Hills), Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara
  • Stainless-steel (or “unoaked”) Chardonnays pair well with a variety of foods and are easy to drink

White Wines

How to read:
1. Varietal
2. Producer
3. Region/Country
4. Descriptors
5. Price

Chavignol, Domaine Vincent Delaporte
Sancerre, France
Crisp, tangy lemon, grapefruit, granite, excellent white wine.

Crios de Susana Balbo
Salta, Argentina
Intensely floral, lavendre, mandarin, honeysuckle, long finish

Sauvignon Blanc
Picton Bay
Malborough, New Zealand (South Island)
Tropical flavors, pineapple, pear, twist of lime, fresh and zesty
$10.00 at Trader Joe’s

Roussane, Marsanne, Viognier
Anglim Cameo
Paso Robles, USA
Spicy finish, lower acid, minerality, aromatic, floral

Red Wines

Cabernet Franc
M. Cosentino Cab Franc
Napa Valley
Rich, chocolate, lush, ripe

Red blend
La Loggia Barbera D’Alba
La Loggia
Barbera D’Alba, Italy
Beautiful acidity, blood orange, tart, juicy, pomegranite
$6.00 at Trader Joe’s

Catena Zapata ** Excellent all-around producer
Mendoza, Argentina
Dark stone fruits, lush, chocolate, cherry

Petite Sirah
Bogle Vineyards ** Excellent all-around producer
Lodi and Clarksburg, USA (East of SF Bay)
Leather, nice full body, dark prune, plum, tobacco, orange rind

Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, Mourverde blend
Phantom, Bogle Vineyards
Lodi, Clarksburg, Amador, USA
Dark, earthy, leather, blackberry, plum

Ben Marco
Mendoza, Argentina
Leather, dark plum, blackberry, blueberry, smooth, low acidity

Pinot Noir
Chalone Vineyard ** Excellent all-around producer
Monterey County, USA
Fresh raspberries, orange rind, cranberry juice, light tannins, red stone fruits

Mendocino County, USA
Rich, almost sweet, relatively light body, tannins nearly absent, easy to drink on its own

Pinot Noir
Morton Estate White Label Hawkes Bay
New Zealand
Well-balanced Pinot Noir with sweet cherry, licorice, earthy, mushroom, long finish.

Fuerza Winery/Laurel Glen Vineyard
Mendoza, Argentina
Chocolate, coffee, cassis, nutty, hazelnut
$5.00 at Trader Joe’s

Santa Barbara Winery
Santa Barbara, CA
Fragrant berry aroma, dark blackberry, coffee

Red wine blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Montepulciano)
Trentatre, produced by Santini Wines
Montepulciano, Italy
Lush, rich, ripe, rich plum
$6.00 at Trader Joe’s

Casillero del Diablo (Concha y Toro)
Rapel Valley, Chile
Complex, fruity, long finish
$9.00 at Trader Joe’s


Posted by on September 6, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Becoming a Wine Snob: Step Two

So you’ve mastered the sniffing and swirling and can now wax on eloquently about the “nose” or “bouquet” of a particular wine. Your friends are starting to think you know something about wine, so the next time you’re at a restaurant, they hand you the wine list.

You gulp. Flipping through the pages and pages of wines, some which are as cheap as $20 a bottle and others that range into the hundreds, you begin to panic. What if you order the wrong wine? What if no one likes it? What price range should I go for if I’m looking for something pretty good but not exorbitant?

Before you get to the restaurant, as you taste wines at home, rather than remembering specific labels or vintages, familiarize yourself with regions and varietals. Let’s say you have an amazing Pinot Noir at dinner one night. I had bottle of 1998 Littorai Pinot Noir “Hirsch Vineyard” the other night. Chances are, I’m not going to find the same exact wine at a restaurant, but there will likely find other Pinot Noirs from Sonoma or Mendocino where Ted Lemon of Littorai sources his grapes.

You can even get specific and look for wines from the same growers. Hirsch Vineyard, owned by David Hirsch, sells grapes to many winemakers. If you find another wine with the same grapes, you’ll get even closer to what you’re looking for.

Also, pay attention to varietals. You might love one type of grape from a region, but aren’t a fan of other varietals. Let’s say you try a really great Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley — Merry Edwards, for instance, makes an amazing Sav Blanc. If you’re at a restaurant, you might find a Merry Edwards Chardonnay, but if you aren’t a fan of big, oaky wines, perhaps looking for another Sauvignon Blanc from this region (Russian River Valley is in the county of Sonoma) would be a better idea.

Remember, when you order the same varietal or a wine from the same region, you won’t get exactly the same thing: winemaker styles, grape quality and the particular year’s weather conditions are all factors that influence the wine, but you’ll get an approximation and now you’re at least able to narrow down some ideas.

Plus, now that you’ve gained some knowledge about the region, you can spout some more wine snob talk as you order the wine:

“Oh, yes, we’ll have the Hanna Sauvignon Blanc please,” you’ll tell the waiter before turning to your friends. “I had the most delightful Sauvignon Blanc from this region a while back. A Merry Edwards Sav Blanc, I recall.”

You’ll be on your way to becoming a true wine snob.

Oh, and as for the price thing: it’s really important to be conscious about how much your group is willing to pay for a bottle of wine. Not everyone is a wine snob yet, so be sensitive to your eating companions’ budgets.


Posted by on April 14, 2008 in Wine


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