Archive for the 'Wine under $10' Category

Lucarelli Primitivo 2004

Lucarelli, Primitivo 2004 from Puglia. $6.97 (find this wine)

In the heel of the boot that is the Italian peninsula, the hot plains of Puglia have typically produced prodigious quantities of wine. Quality is creeping in now as the effects of the world wide glut are being felt. This Lucarelli Primitivo is an intersection of the two themes: good quality at a low price. These 60 year old vines yield primitivo, a grape that is a relative of zinfandel. The resulting wine is a real crowd pleaser with round fruit followed by persistent, faintly spicy finish. It’s light enough to try with pasta, but would love some grilled meat. What are you waiting for? Start searching for this value vino!

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An open letter to Jorge Ordonez

Dear Jorge Ordonez, importer of wine from Spain,

Bring us a good bag-in-a-box.

Robert Parker may have just sung your praises in his most recent newsletter. He may have lauded some of your top wines such as El Nido with 97 points.

But you also have many great value wines ranging from Tres Picos, to Naia, to Juan Gil. Borsao is great juice for $6 a bottle. You need to put it–or something like it–in a bag in a box. There’s certainly no lack of old vine grenache in Spain that rolls in at value pricing. Tap that wine glut.

Boxed wine sales are the fastest segment with 204 percent growth over the past three years according to this story in August’s Wine Business Monthly. They eliminate the need for glass so can make a claim to being better for the environment. And they are certainly more convenient for consumers who just want to squeeze off a glass or two every night for a couple of weeks. While in France this summer, Mrs. Vino and I — and practically anyone who walked within 100 yards of the fridge for that matter — enjoyed glasses of wine from a 5L box of rosé that we bought for 12 euros.

Restaurants will love box wines since their per unit cost for a wine by the glass will tumble. Heck, if Avec in Chicago can sell the Cuvee de Pena 3L box for $89 on their list, there may be a future for selling the whole box to diners.

Get in quick while you can still be a pioneer. Others such as the three Ds with their DTour and the Three Bandits have beat you in terms of timing (learn more), but there’s still lots of time left on this trend. Catch the wave. You know quality. You know value. Now get to know new packaging.


Dr. Vino

Vinho Verde, Famega

Vinho Verde, Fâmega, NV $4.49 find this wine

I have always thought of vinho verde as something of a wine curiosity since it’s neither green as the name would imply nor a still wine because of slight effervescence. Heck, it’s hardly even a wine by today’s standards since it has only 9 percent alcohol! But after years of scoffing at vinho verde I tried this one—not of my own free will, of course. It mysteriously ended up in a case of wine that I ordered on line. I’m glad it did. It is a fantastically easy drinking aperitif wine with a sort of bluish hue, bubbles, and good acidity. With the low price and low alcohol, you could really put some of this away. And at under $50 a case at Astor Wines-—too bad summer is almost over! Importer: Admiral Wine Imports, Cedar Grove NJ.

By the way, I have been a slacker over the past two weeks and out of technological fatigue have posted my value vino picks here. Recently reviewed:

Lafazinis, St. George, Pelopennese, 2004. $10 Find this wine

Los Planos, Syrah, D.O. Carinena, 2003 $8 Find this wine

Value vino list eighteen

French Rabbit, Pinot Noir 2004. $10 – 1 liter box Find this wine
Sacre bleu—French innovation! Many commentators attribute the current state of malaise in the French wine industry to a lack of innovation and bad labels. This one-liter box should silence the critics. Bright orange, English language, and critter label (well, that’s not the original part) all in packaging that will stand out on the shelf and weighs a fraction of glass. But what about what’s inside? Well, you won’t mistake it for Gevrey-Chambertin, but at least it is 100 percent pinot noir unlike many similarly priced California wines. It’s fruit forward and soft tannins—in other words a great red for the summer picnic basket. And you won’t even have to remember the corkscrew. Importer: Boisset America.

Commanderie de Peyrassol, Coteaux de Provence, rosé, 2005 $13 find this wine
The other day I had a rosé and it was no fun. Rosé is supposed to be fun. Besides the truncated flavor range, the price made it a further downer: $30. Yikes–talk about a buzzkill! So I was thrilled when, a few days later, I had this Peyrassol. Made by a mother-son duo in the hills of Provence, this wine from syrah, grenache and cinsault offers pale colors but alluring blend of rose petals and strawberry aromas give way to refreshing crisp acidity. Just what you need on the deck in Provence–in fact, a deck anywhere. Try this very food friendly with a range or foods from fish to spicy dishes. Shop around so that you don’t over-peyrassol. Importer: Neal Rosenthal.

Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Malbec reserve 2004. $13 find this wine
On my recent trip to Argentina, the jovial Ernesto Toso picked me up in his beat-up sedan and drove me from downtown Mendoza to his family winery in the Barrancas area, about 45 minutes. Overlooking a dry river bed that had channeled into the ground like a miniature Grand Canyon, I tasted the line of wines made at the winery with Paul Hobbs from Sonoma, California as consulting winemaker. The real sweet spot in terms of quality to price was the Malbec reserve with wonderful aromas of dark fruits and a hint of vanilla to complement a luscious mouthfeel and soft tannins. The straight malbec (about $8) is a good approximation but spring for the reserve if your budget permits. Fire up the grill and pull the cork! I also tried the $100 Magdalena 2002 (find this wine), which was no doubt a powerful and serious wine but at that lofty price point I couldn’t help but think about other wines I could have—or even nine bottles of the malbec reserve. Importer: TGIC imports.

Sorbus, cabernet/malbec, Mendoza, 2004. $6 find this wine
The other day a friend poured me some $6 Borsao, a wine that I discovered several years ago as a go-to value. Well, move over Borsao, here comes something meatier. A phenomenal value, this Sorbus displays the depth that a cab-malbec blend can give and has that same, crowd pleasing “ah” of the Ruca Malen Yauquen. I found it at PJ’s Wine in Manhattan for the bargain price of $5.97. This is one to buy by the case! Importer: Mediterranean Wine Co, Dover, NJ.

Lucien Albrecht, Alsace, pinot blanc, Cuvee Balthazar 2005. $8 find this wine
Pinot blanc is the other, other pinot. It’s not pinot noir. And its not even pinot gris/grigio. But it is worth checking out from this Alsatian producer. The light floral notes in this aromatic white are balanced with the crisp acidity somehow seem to make it a good choice for a mother’s day brunch, one heavier on savory than sweet. Or it is great with a salad or hors d’oeuvres. Whatever you pair it with, it does pay to shop around since I found a range of $8 – $16 for it through online vendors for the previous vintage. Importer: Pasternack, Harrison NY.

Veramonte, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 $8 find this wine
That Chile can compete on price the world has known for a decade or more. But quality is increasing as well and when the two intersect, the result is something like this Veramonte. From Augustin Huneeus’ vast vineyard in the Casablanca valley comes this Cab that you will want to buy in bulk for the BBQ this summer. The wine is widely available and has a lot of varietal character thumping soulless shiraz on neighboring shelves into submission. Franciscan Estates, importer.

Ruca Malen, Yaoquen, Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec,
2004 $9 (find this wine)
When I greeted Mrs. Vino with a glass of this wine after she came home at the end of a long day last week she took a sip and said, “delicious!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. This blend of Cab and Malbec hit the high points of the flavor arc (more on that here) for a low price tag. Inky purple in color, with blackcurrant and violets in the aromas, this lush and velvety wine is a guaranteed crowd pleaser whether outside by the grill or inside at the table. But you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank since it is such a steal. Importer: Domaine Select Wine Estates, NY, NY.

Alta Vista Torrontes, Mendoza, 2004 $9 (find this wine)
The best white wine that I had on my recent trip to Argentina I had on the first day at Cabaña Las Lilas restaurant in the hip Puerto Madera area of Buenos Aires: Alta Vista Torrontes. And it kept popping up on the trip as I tasted it two more times (including at the winery with the 05) and loved it each time. “Aromatic” is a way that Torrontes frequently gets described but perfumed might be more accurate. White peach, honeysuckle blossom, perhaps even lychee conspire in an hugely rich and expressive aroma that is not for the faint of heart. The wine has crisp acidity and is totally dry (2g residual sugar) despite the vortex of aromas. While this wine is a little bit hard to find in the US, an able substitute is the Santa Julia Torrontes, which has wider availability (Whole Foods) can be found for as low as $6. Pair with Asian foods or try it as an aperitif. Either way, a torrent of flavor will be yours!

Muscadet 2004 $11. Find this wine
Marc Ollivier poured me a taste of this Muscadet a few days ago and after giving it the old swirl, sniff and taste, I cocked an eyebrow and looked at the price sheet. Whoa! I cocked two eyebrows! This crisp, tangy Muscadet was so refreshing and vibrant that it made me want to have grilled fish—and right away. The secret to the success in the glass comes not only from the vineyard but also from the winemaking: Ollivier leaves his wine on the lees right until his late bottling in May. This makes it more smooth and complex than the average Muscadet and a great wine for a midweek dinner. Importer: Louis/Dressner (NY).

Marc Ollivier, the man behind the Muscadet

Luzon Verde Jumilla 2004. $7. Find this wine
Verde in this case does not mean young—as with the Luzon and the Luzon Alto, this is more old-vine deliciousness from Spain. Verde here means organic complete with an image of a whimsical grass cutter on the back label. This old vine monastrell (mourvedre) is a jammy yet balanced glass that will thrill fans of big reds—especially when they learn the price! Importer: Jorge Ordonez, Dedham, MA.

See previous list of value vino

Sorbus, cabernet/malbec, 2004

Sorbus, cabernet/malbec, Mendoza, 2004. $6 find this wine

The other day a friend poured me some $6 Borsao, a wine that I discovered several years ago as a go-to value. Well, move over Borsao, here comes something meatier. A phenomenal value, this Sorbus displays the depth that a cab-malbec blend can give and has that same, crowd pleasing “ah” of the Ruca Malen Yauquen. I found it at PJ’s Wine in Manhattan for the bargain price of $5.97. This is one to buy by the case! Importer: Mediterranean Wine Co, Dover, NJ.

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Value vino list seventeen

Vinum, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, 2004. $11 Find
this wine

As spring approaches and the weather improves, Chenin Blanc makes for a great spring transitional wine. And with temperatures in the high 60s today, spring is in the air. In the past week, I tried five Chenins and this cheapest one (and only new world one) stood up well, perhaps because the non-interventionist team in South Africa is headed by Frenchman Edouard Labeye. Light notes of flowers,
a squeeze of lime, and faint vanilla infuse this snappy value vino. Serve it with fish or appetizers or wherever you would have had American Chardonnay 5 years ago. Importer: Vinnovative Imports, Charlotte, NC. 5,000 cases produced

Bodegas Naia, Las Brisas, D.O. Rueda, 2004, $9. Find this wine
Not so long ago white wine from Spain was dismissed as industrial plonk but several regions have been coming along and raising the country’s profile.
Rueda, a region on the Castilian plain (where it doesn’t rain all that much actually), has started making some crisp and lively whites based on the Verdejo grape. In this Las Brisas, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura blend with Verdejo to make a wine that has crisp acidity with floral notes–think orange blossoms. It’s a great wine for summer weather but even in the winter, it pairs well with soft cheeses or grilled white fish. Importer: Jorge Ordonez.

Quinta do Dorado, Auratus, Alvarinho/Trajadura, 2004. $13 Find this wine
Snappy and crisp, this refreshing wine has a certain softness to it that makes it more appealing than many Sauvignon Blancs from the New World-or
even albariños from north of the border in Galicia. This is a cross-border wine: Spaniard Marcial Dorado crossed into Portugal to find a 70 year old vineyard planted with the Albariño/Alvarinho grape. He started to farm the vineyard organically, reduced the yields, and hand harvested the grapes, which preserves them intact better than machine harvesting. He also built a winery that relied on the flow of gravity to run the juice through the various stages of fermentation and maturation. The resulting wine is the best white wine I have ever tasted from
Portugal, granted a small category, but it really is an excellent wine. Try with seafood or stir-fry. Importer: Vieux Vins, Vinesbrug, CA.

Casa Castillo, Monastrell, Jumilla, 2003. $10 Find this wine
Murcia once was a region known for its sausages. Now the wines are giving the sausages a run for their money. Located on the Mediterranean coast just below Alicante, the wine growing region of Jumilla lies inland at an altitude of 2,000 ft with hot summer days and cool nights. This red, dark in color and rich in flavor, definitely punches above its featherweight price tag. Try with sausage (from Murcia?). See pictures of the arid vineyard here. Importer: Jorge Ordonez.

Falesco, Vitiano rosso, IGT 2004. $9 Find this wine
Readers of this web site sometimes write in that they have trouble finding the wines I recommend (but a lot less since I started adding a link to online retailers) but that shouldn’t be a problem with 200,000 cases of Vitiano produced. This bargain red blend-equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese-is made by Ricardo Cotarella at his own winery though his fame as a consulting winemaker
led Robert Parker to call him “Italy’s answer to France’s Michel Rolland. . .” The resulting wine is a great pizza wine that is light in color and
in alcohol with crisp, clean notes of dark fruit. While still a good bargain, it was an even better bargain a couple of years ago when it was a couple of dollars cheaper. Importer: Winebow, Montvale NJ.

Domaine Lafond, Roc-Epine, AOC Lirac,
2003. $12 Find this wine
Located where the southern Rhone drifts into Provence, Lirac proves to be good ground for this wine that resembles a Chateauneuf-du-Pape but at a fraction of the price. (yes, it is over $10 but hey, it’s only about 5 US Postal stamps more.) This wine has a terrific complexity for the price with balanced notes of dark fruit and tannin and a long pleasant finish. An excellent mushroom-chard
pasta was a great food match. Jean Pierre and Pascal Lafond of Lirac, you rock! Importer: Wines of France: Mountainside NJ.

Terrazas de los Andes, Malbec 2004. $9. Find this wine
Polyphenols, they’re all the rage. No, they’re not a chemical additive dumped into wines by industrial wine makers; instead they are chemical compounds, high in antioxidants, that may fight cancer. Since polyphenols occur naturally in red wines, enthusiasts and the producers of red wine have been quick to make tout the health benefits of red wine (yes, something we enjoy doing may
actually be good for us). According to a 2001 study in the magazine Nature, the high elevation of the Argentine vineyards gives their reds more exposure to ultraviolet rays and raises the polyphenol level. So don’t reach for a bottle of POM pomegranate juice, reach for an Argentine Malbec. This Terrazas is a great place to start. After tasting through a half a dozen entry-level Malbecs, I found this 100% Malbec
grown at 3,000 ft above sea-level to be the most attractive. Dark in color, with notes of blackberry, plum, cassis, and saddle leather, and the tannins in the finish were smooth. The obvious food pairing is a steak but would also be good with burgers. Importer: Schieffelin & Somerset, NY.

Le Petit vin d’avril, NV $9. Find this wine
Father and son team of Paul and Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes make great wines. The only trouble is that their 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape is about $40-for a half bottle! If you can find it, that is, since it snagged the #2 WS wine of the year (yoink–not as if that means anything to us). The Avrils have made this excellent nonvintage “table wine” that is exemplary in two ways: a light-hearted
label and punching well above its weight. The wine is light in color and has the gentle sweetness that is characteristic of Grenache as well as dark berries and a faint spice. It is balanced with a mere 13% alcohol—I’m heading back to the store where I got it and stocking up! Importer: Wines of France, Mountainside, NJ.

Tres Picos, Garnacha, D.O. Campo de Borja, Spain, 2004, $9.99. Find this wine
Like rivals the Capulets and the Montagues, Grenache and Tempranillo have been duking it out, in this case, for red grape domination in Spain. With an old-vine Grenache value like this, it would be shocking if the Tempranillos
didn’t just lay down their swords. From the obscure Campo de Borja region comes this beauty with notes of red berries and earthiness. I included it in a recent tasting with wines three times the price and it had no problem keeping up. The heavy glass bottle makes for a nice presentation — rate this one a great value gift wine! Importer: Jorge Ordonez, Dedham, MA.

signature Blanc Saumur, NV $8. Find
this wine

Sparkling wine is a contentious issue. Not for consumers who
gladly sip the stuff at weddings and graduations. But for producers from outside
the Champagne region who chafe to free ride on the term Champagne. (While such
usage has been stamped out in the EU, a recent accord has let the issue bubble
in America.) In France, there are several sparklers from other areas beyond Champagne
and this is a particularly attractive price-to-quality ratio from the Loire. A
pale yellow color and a fine bead appear in the glass with pleasant crispness
and surprising depth. The grape is almost all Chenin Blanc, which adapts very
well to the methode champenoise that Bouvet employs. While dyed-in-the-wool Champagne
enthusiasts will no doubt recoil at the thought of a sparkler not from the sacred
region, this is a choice that is easy on the palate and on the wallet—a welcome
relief for the party host or the father of the bride. Importer: Kobrand, NY.

Still value vino,
but higher prices

See Making
a case: 12 gift wines

Capcanes, Costers del Gravet 2001 $20. Find
this wine
Allende, Rioja, 2001. $25 Find
this wine

Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002, $30 Find
this wine

See previous list of value vino

Great on the palate and on the wallet

Whoever says that you have to spend a ton on each bottle to have a great evening is wrong. However, moving out of the “cheap and cheerful” under $10 category when you have guests over certainly does pay rewards. We had some non-wine friends over a couple of weeks ago here for a late afternoon/evening meal at the Dr. Vino World Headquarters and assembled this line-up:

Domaine de Baumard, Clos du Papillon, Savennieres, 2002. $25 (find this wine) Importer: Ex-Cellars, Solvang, CA.
What a wine to lead off with. Delicate yet intense, floral and almost sweet with an invigorating minerality and a long finish. Everyone was blown away. It was gone quickly.

Vignoble Guillaume, Pinot Noir, vin de pays Franche Comte, 2004. $17 (find this wine) Importer: Fleet Street, Moorestown, NJ
A clean pinot that is Burgundian in style with a great balance of acidity and fruit. One pinot lover with an admitted preference for new world styling admitted to disappointment. But I found it a great transition wine to the reds. It was still light out at this point, so I didn’t really want anything too heavy.

Clos Roche Blanche, Cabernet, AOC Touraine, 2004. $15 (find this wine) Importer: Louis/Dressner.
Mmm, terroir. This Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) from the Loire has great balance between acid and tannin, mineral and fruit. Some people were scratching their heads at first but paired with quince and manchego they attacked it with gusto.

Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002. $27 (find this wine)
A more familiar style for some with a lush, rich mouthfeel of tobacco, leather, dark fruits, and vanilla. It’s like a 700 thread count of California Cab.

Macallan, 18 year old whisky. (find this whisky)
Going out in style. This bottle had done some additional aging in our cabinet because we drink whisky at a slower drip than any IV. I think this bottle had been with us for three moves in fact. One friend who loves whisky saw it and insisted on a round. I’m glad he did. Once I got over the straw aromas and the burning in my throat the finish was very smooth. Much more smooth than the Knockando 12 year that we had to try in comparison apparently.

Who knows, we might even get some whisky glasses? Otherwise everything we had was in Tritan Forte stemware. Unbreakable! And like the wines here, they were easy on the wallet.

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Value vino list sixteen

Burgans, Albarino, Rias Baixas, 2004. $11 Find this wine
Just because the summer is winding down doesn’t mean that you have to abandon this crisp white from northwestern Spain. A cooperative formed 20 years ago in Galicia, Martin Codax makes this custom cuvee for the American market. The steel tank fermented Albariño had notes of peaches and green apples and is great for impressing lovers of kiwi Sauvignon Blanc—at a lower price. Try with grilled white fish or cheeses, consumed indoors or out. Importer: Eric Solomon.

Simonsig, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, 2005. $9.99 Find this wine
Having sampled the 05 vintage from Beaujolais, I’m getting my “freshly squeezed” wine from the southern hemisphere for now. This Chenin Blanc is crisp and clean with neither too much acid (though there’s a great zip) nor too much floral/sweet notes that can be annoying in the grape. Surprisingly, cheese wasn’t much of a food pairing but it was great with grilled fish with Asian glaze. Hmm, a butternut squash soup with a grind of pepper would be good too I bet. Yum, I think I’m going to have to find another bottle of this one. (Importer: Quintessential, Napa, CA. 28,000 cases made)

Hugel, Gentil, 2003 $10. Find this wine
This wine recently stumped my class in a blind tasting. A Gewurtz? A Riesling? A Pinot Gris? In fact, it is all three with a bit of Muscat and Sylvaner thrown in too. If that sounds like a hodge podge, it actually makes for a great bit of value vino. It has the lush mouthfeel you might expect from an American Chardonnay but none of the oak. Floral notes leap from the glass and the light sweetness is not cloying is balanced with acidity that makes it an excellent match for Asian food or seafood. Not bad for a family who has been making wine since 1639! Importer: Frederick Wildman.

Basilium W., Pipoli, Chiaro, IGT 2004. $8 Find this wine
This wine has an identity problem—it drinks like a red but looks like a white. It is actually a white wine made from red grapes but the skins were removed immediately from the fermentation process to lighten both the tannins and the color. But the substance remains, which along with the low 12% alcohol, makes it an excellent match for the cuisine of late summer and early fall. It’s never been easier to discover Italy’s “indigenous varietals” here in the US so try something different. (Gregory Smolik Selection, Sauvage Selections, Bensenville, IL) Read more about Gregory Smolik and this winemaker.

Medium-bodied reds

Fontaleoni, Chianti, Colli Senesi, 2004. $11. Find this wine
The theme at this week’s Wine Media Guild lunch was “Out of the Zone: Chianti NOT from the Classico Zone.” I went because I am generally lost when it comes to Tuscan wines. Two wines really stood out from the 25 or so that we tasted, this wine and another one. When I realized that this wine was around $10, I said “booyah!” (well, not out loud). The other standout was a Super Tuscan from Castello di Poppiano, so, alas, it was no value vino. This Fontaleoni, however, a blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo, is a great food wine—and I don’t mean that to be derogatory. The high acidity characteristic of the wines from this area just goes great with food, especially cheese or other fatty foods. The acidity in the wine is balanced with supple tannins, dark fruit aromas and an excellent, long finish. Yum, this wine is an excellent value! I’ll be stocking this one in the Dr. Vino cave for the holidays. Importer: Michael Skurnik, Syosset, NY.

Scala Dei, Negre, Priorat 2002. $11. Find this wine
This fall I have enjoyed tasting many wines from Priorat, the craggy, inaccessible wine-growing corner of northeastern Spain. The vertiginous hillsides produce powerful and, sadly, prodigiously expensive wines. One of my favorites from the “reasonably” priced wines was the Scala Dei Cartoixa Reserva 2000 (about $26; find this wine), which is complex and brooding thanks to old vines and a good helping of Cabernet Sauvignon. Fortunately, the monastery-turned-winery (see photos at BK wines) has a value vino priced offering in its Negre 2002. This young red wine has a light sweetness that’s typical of Grenache and pairs well with food,
such as a salad with grilled salmon and a hunk of rustic bread. Scala Dei means ladder to heaven—see if your ascension starts here. Importer: Vinum International, Napa, CA.

Chateau de St. Cosme, Little James Basket Press Rouge, $10 Find this wine
This light-hearted label has six light-hearted images—but no vintage and no varietals. Sound like a stunning lack of information even by French standards? Well, that’s because it is a lowly vin de table, a category that dwindles in production volumes every year. Chateau de St Cosme is a well-reputed Gigondas producer owned by Louis and Cherry Barroul who have made this vat-aged Grenache in honor of their son James. Vin de table rules don’t allow a vintage but this current batch is from the 04 vintage. The light sweetness of Grenache and the fruit-forwardness of the wine make it a good match for autumnal foods. This is good example of what clever winemakers can do inside the bottle and out—French wine makers in distress should use this as a point of reference. Imported by Stacole Fine Wines, Boca Raton, FL.

MontGras, Reserva Carmenere, Colchagua, 2001. $9.99 Find this wine
This wine is built for the long haul. It’s not just that it came all the way from Chile, but in the under $10 universe, it’s one of the rare performers that can be as good on day 2 as it was on day 1 (assuming, that is, there’s anything left after day 1). The winery is only a little more than a decade old and Paul Hobbs, superstar flying wine maker from Sonoma, consults. Inky purple in color, aromas of dark fruits, leather and spice leap out of the glass and the wine is lush and balanced with smooth tannins on the palate. This “forgotten” Bordeaux varietal of Carmenere has found a good home in Chile. Try this excellent value vino with smoked meats or firm goat cheeses. Importer: Palm Bay Imports.

Full-bodied reds
Elsa, Syrah, Mendoza 2004. $9 Find this wine
This value vino comes in a new package. The second vintage of Syrah for the Bianchi family of southern Mendoza sports a new, larger bottle and a swanky redesign of the label (a big grape leaf background.) Fortunately this bottle need not be judged by its cover since it what’s on the inside is more important. More in the style of the northern Rhone than a brash shiraz from down under, this elegant wine punches above its weight. Although I didn’t have the Barbera, I found this syrah to be the strongest of the Elsa line at a recent tasting. Pair with autumnal foods-I’m thinking anything with a mushroom sauce would be good. Imported by Quintessential (Napa, CA).

Cousino-Macul, Cabernet Sauvignon, Antiguas Reservas, 2002. $12. Find this wine
This wine combines two of the most overused and underspecified wine terms: “old” and “reserve.” At Cousino-Macul, the line was developed originally at their Macul vineyard in what is now downtown Santiago using old vines. But this current bottling comes from their newish vineyard in the Maipo Valley’s region of Buin. As opposed to the regular Cab, this wine sees 12 months of aging in French oak and a further six months bottle aging. Those dark fruits, tobacco, leathery notes of Cab shine through in the wine—a comparable wine from California would be at least double the price. Importer: Billington Imports.


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