Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Wines for around $20.00 ...

One of my Christmas presents this year was a few decent bottles of wine to fill my always empty wine rack.  Now, I'm not a wine snob.  In fact, I didn't even start drinking wine until after college ... I had only ever tried white wines, because that was what my parents drank mostly and, quite frankly, I didn't taste the appeal in white wines.  It wasn't until after college, when my husband and I went to a local wine festival and I tried some red wines that I started to appreciate wine.  Red wine is just so much more complex and interesting, intense than white in my opinion.  Anyway, as I said, I am not a wine snob, but it is hard (in my humble opinion) to find a decent bottle of wine for under 15.00-20.00 dollars.  I'm not saying that it can't be done, but it is a challenge.  And do you really want to spend $20.00-$40.00 on a bottle of wine that may or may not be any good?  So for Christmas, I told my husband that I wanted some "nice" bottles of wine in the $20.00 to $40.00 range.  Ken rose to the challenge and he delivered, but most of the bottles are well under $40.00.

Well, I opened my first Christmas bottle of wine tonight and I have to admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised.  Ken had the buyer at a local market, with over 25 years of experience buying, help him pick some interesting looking selections ... everything from a Shiraz to a Pinot Noir, most bottles being from the year 2006.  The bottle that we opened tonight was a Malbec (Malbec is supposed to be tamer version of Merlot, so if you find Merlot too overpowering for your tastes, you might give Malbec a try).  Malbec is a new variety for me, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The wine label is "Layer Cake", Malbec, Vintage 2009 and it is from Mendoza ~ Argentina. 

"Layer Cake", Malbec, Vintage 2009 ... from Mendoza ~ Argentina.
4.5 out of 5.0 stars

The cost is just over $20.00 per bottle.  On a 1 to 5 scale ... 1 being low, 5 high:  I'd have to give this bottle of wine 4.5 stars.  I don't know all of the fancy wine terminology, but here goes ... This Malbec was not overstatedly bold, but it did get your attention, it was rich and velvety, with a chocolaty flavor and hints of blackberry and raspberry.  It had a pleasant bouquet and decent legs.  I had two nearly full glasses, which is saying a lot about how much I enjoyed this wine ... because I usually limit myself to half a glass at a time.  And interestingly enough, I read an article the other day that was about dispelling "wine myths" ... Did you know that contrary to popular belief, the legs on a wine do not speak to the quality of the wine?  The legs on a wine are purely a function of the alcohol content in a given wine, so the higher the alcohol content the more pronounced the legs.  Now you know  : )

I usually hate to buy wine myself.  It can be so intimidating and confusing.  I mean, I read reviews and stuff on-line and sometimes in magazines.  We occasionally go to wine tastings, but I rarely am able to find a wine that I read about, with a good review, or one that I had tasted at a tasting and liked.  So aside from asking someone at the store and trusting in their expertise:  how does the average person like me wind up with a decent bottle at a reasonable price??  As I said at the start of this entry:  "Do you really want to spend $20.00-$40.00 on a bottle of wine that may or may not be any good?" ...  Well, if my adventures with my other Christmas bottles go well ... perhaps, I will share with you here ... an on-going entry:  "Good wines for around $20.00" ... and you can benefit from my experience with bottles that the gentleman who assisted Ken with his selections assured him "are widely available and relatively easy to find."  I'll hold my tongue on wine and food pairings though ... I'm not very good at that yet.  For now, I just like what I like.  Perhaps some of you can help me out on the food-wine pairing side in return? 

That's all for now.  Hopefully more to follow in the coming weeks:  Cheers!

1/5/2011 ... Bad news ... the second bottle of wine was not so good ... It made me break out in hives?  Didn't seem to bother Ken and that's never happened to me before ... but the wine didn't taste good either ... I'd give it a 1.5 tops.  It was a red Zinfandel ... not one I would usually buy, but it doesn't usually hurt to try something new? Well, maybe the next bottle will be better:  Here's hoping!  I'll post the label tomorrow, so that you can be sure to avoid this Zinfandel and save your money ... Okay here it is:  Bogle Vineyards, old vine Zinfandel 2008, California.  I would save my money and take a pass on this one.

1/13/2010  Had a Merlot last night, from "Canoe Ridge Vineyard" ... It was pretty decent, full bodied.  I'd give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.  Had predominantly a berries flavors (blackberry & cherry) with a slight peppery and tobacco taste.  This wine also had very nice legs, but not much in the way of boquet.  I had fun swirling this one around in my glass ; )

"Canoe Ridge Vineyard" 2006 Merlot
3.0 out of 5.0 stars


Waterbrook Reserve, 2006 Syrah
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Been awhile since I had this one ... about 2 weeks?  So I don't remember everything about it, but I do recall that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Seem to recall it being very smooth and velvety, with decent legs.  A lot of bang for buck, as they say.  If you enjoy Syrah, you'll like this one from the Columbia Valley.

3/13/2011  Had another good bottle of wine.  It was a Petite Sirah ... never had this one before:  Bogle Vineyards, Vintage 2008, From California.   I'd give this one 4.0 out of 5.0 stars easy.  No photo and not much time to write.  Will update later ... Promise!  This one was in the $35.00 price range, but well worth the price.

11/07/2011 ... Never did quite finish evaluating all of the bottles in my Christmas wine rack.  Think, I covered most of the best ones?  ... Anyhow, I happened to have an excellent Syrah the other night while out for dinner.  I don't often find a Syrah that I like ... and I really enjoy a good Syrah ... but this Syrah was really good!!  Price per bottle may be over $20.00 a bit, as it was $9.00 per glass:  Jones of Washington, Rose of Syrah 2010.  This wine won "Gold" in the recent  2011 Washington State Wine Competition, held this past June 2011.  So  this Rose of Syrah 2010 is definitely one to consider if you happen to enjoy Syrah.  Cheers!

3/2012 ... In reflecting back over the wines I've had since this opening this entry back at the end of 2010, I would have to say almost every single bottle of wine I've had from the vineyard "Layer Cake" has been truly delightful.  I haven't had a bad bottle from them yet and their wines are surprisingly affordable. In my humble opinion, you can't go wrong with Layer Cake ... gives you confidence to experiment among their many varieties without worry. Their Malbec and Shiraz are my  personal favorites.

Wine Tasting Explained - Terms and How-to Get the most out of Wine

P.S. Just for FUN ... found this very informative art album on wines and other spirits on ArtMagick.  "A Case of YOU".   Enjoy!

12/28/2013  Been awhile since I've revisited this entry.  I have had many great bottles of wine since my last comment ... too many to name, but had an exceptionally good bottle of wine this evening that was reasonably priced as well, at around $30.00 a bottle.  Happened to have this bottle of wine with my significant other while sitting alone by an outdoor fireplace alone (together) while we waited for a table to open up for dinner, so perhaps the ambience added to the overall enjoyment of this wine?  The wine we shared this evening was a Petite Sirah 2012, by Spellbound (a California vineyard).  Seems that Syrah (Shiraz is the same thing coming out of Australia) is my new favorite red wine, but upon further investigation I found that "Sirah" is not the same thing as "Syrah":  "Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880."  The latter aside, I enjoyed this Sirah equally as well as the Syrahs I've had of late.  I personally found the Sirah to be a tad bit fruitier, with fewer tannins than a typical Syrah.  So now you know.  Cheers!

P.S. If you're in the mood for a good Syrah you might try this one Southward Syrah 2009 (at around $25.00 bottle).  From what I understand, Syrah became popular in the northwest of U.S. during the last decade when a blight hit and killed many varieties of grapes in this portion of the U.S.. But somehow the Syrah variety of grape was completely unaffected and continued to flourish.  Syrah also seems to tolerate the cooler temps on west coast as well.  The best way I've heard Syrah described is as a tamer version of the intense --but nonetheless immensely popular-- Merlot).  The Syrah is a bit less intense, smoother and contains a significantly lower concentration of tannins.  I've heard Syrah referred to as "Merlot Light", if that make any sense?

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Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts. I'll read them and post them soon! God Bless! M