Decorating With Wine – Who Knew?

I have been finding a lot of interesting ways to make wine “fashionable” in your own home!  Not only do the “cork candles” in wine bottles (featured in earlier post) make for a great display and add a semi rustic feel to your home, I have also stumbled on a few other items related to wine and it’s paraphernalia that serve as great storage spaces or even just add that extra spice of character to a room.  Check out some below!

From Apartment Therapy (an apartment fix online blog) – Wine Crate Shelving for the Bathroom!

IMG_7140.jpg

Urban Outfitters also carries this cool/vintage looking “Pop Shop Shelf” that most likely didn’t carry wine at one time but is smaller than the above.  Great for the kitchen!

Again on Apartment Therapy, celebrate spring with an outdoor picnic with fun place card holders made from corks!

2005_4_7_corkholder.jpg

When we moved into our apartment, the wine lovers that we are, we started a collection of unique and special wine bottles and placed them nicely above our kitchen and dining “room” (more like an alcove :) )

Display your corks in a candy jar!  It’s almost warm weather, better to have wine corks in there then candy!!!! :)

Box, Can, Keg O’ Wine…

From the WSJ, take a look at the life of Box O’ Wine… A great alternative for situations where bottles might be too bulky and inconvenient (i.e. on boats, park, near hard surfaces etc…).  They also share a few suggestions on good types of Box O’ Wine that not only taste good but are available at a reasonable price point!  These are perfect for your outdoor Spring Celebration!

Happy Monday!  Enjoy!

Paper or Plastic? Wine by the Box, Keg and Can

By LETTIE TEAGUE

The ancient Romans are said to have pioneered a packaging breakthrough by putting wines in glass bottles. As subsequent generations of wine producers realized, wine tasted better, looked better and lasted longer this way. Glass also allowed winemakers of different countries and regions to tailor individual looks—tall, thin green bottles for wines of the Mosel, square-necked bottles for Bordeaux and rounder, brownish bottles for Burgundy.

[Wine1]F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street JournalPACKAGE DEAL: Pouring a glass of Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Today’s wine-packaging breakthroughs include metal barrels, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and even test tubes (available only in France, at least for now). Winemakers proclaim the ecological friendliness (smaller carbon footprint!) and the economy (cheaper than glass!) of some of these new formats, but I wondered if any of them actually one-up the Romans. Do they make a wine look better, taste better, last longer or, for that matter, express a regional identity? I don’t think, for example, I could tell a Bordeaux from a Burgundy in a Tetra Pak.

The Tetra Pak container is the most widely distributed of these alternate wine packages. First created in 1943 by Ruben Rausing in Sweden as an “aseptic” cardboard container for milk, Tetra Pak cartons have since been employed to hold a variety of liquids, including wine.

Tetra Pak has attracted many ambitious wine producers, some of whom have even begun turning out vintage-dated products. However, California winemaker Joel Gott, who owns both Gott Wines (packaged in traditional glass bottles) and Bandit wines (packaged in Tetra), says vintage dating on these packages is just “a marketing ploy.” Though one of his Bandit wines, a Merlot, carries a vintage date, most of them have “bottling” dates embossed on the box tops. Mr. Gott says it’s more important to know when the wine was packaged than its vintage. “Tetra wines oxidize after about 24 months,” said Mr. Gott. “And whites age faster but reds lose their color sooner.” He counseled consumption within the first year of production.

Mr. Gott is a bit of a packaging impresario; after an attempt to revive the old “fingerhook” glass jug of the 1970s, he was a pioneer of Tetra-packaged wines in the U.S., launching Bandit in 2003. It’s been a great success, according to Mr. Gott, who sold an impressive 300,000 cases of Bandit last year (versus 90,000 of his glass-bottled Gott wines). The Bandit boxes come in a Crayola-colored array: green for Pinot Grigio, blue for Merlot. Unlike conventional bottles, whose labels convey information about the wine, the Bandit boxes are covered with facts about packaging: “Made largely of renewable resources! 33% more wine! 96% wine, 4% packaging!”

Mr. Gott is currently experimenting with PET bottles (aka polyethylene terephthalate, a recycled plastic used for cheap wines in Europe) but says it’s been a challenge: “It’s hard to make the PET bottle look large enough. When you put a regular-sized [750 ml] bottle in PET plastic, it looks like a 500 ml bottle,” said Mr. Gott.

Jean Charles Boisset, scion of a famous Burgundy family (now married into the yet more famous Gallo clan) is another PET proponent. The Boissets produce Fog Mountain California Merlot in a 1-liter PET bottle. Originally produced for the Marriott hotels, it’s now available at a handful of retail stores.

The Boissets (who also produce California Rabbit in Tetra Pak boxes) surmounted the problem of the seemingly too-small bottle by putting a cardboard collar around the neck of the Fog Mountain bottle. The collar notes that the PET bottle holds “33% more wine” than a regular bottle as well as a few more interesting facts, including a note that the bottle has a “60% smaller” carbon footprint than a regular glass bottle and that seven recycled Fog Mountains could produce a single extra-large T-shirt.

The future production of clothing seemed like a peculiar incentive to buy a particular wine (unless said T-shirt would be yours at some point in time). So, too, did the fact of a wine’s carbon footprint—though this phrase was cited over and over again on wine packages. In fact, “carbon footprint” seems to be the “terroir” of winemakers using alternative packaging—a phrase everyone likes to hear, even if they don’t know what it means.

Almost as popular is the phrase “wine on tap,” used by makers of wine in kegs. Barreled and dispensed much like Budweiser, wine kegs have been attracting more and more winemakers in the past several years. Sonoma-based Dan Donahoe, one the first wine-on-tap producers, told me he sold “the equivalent of 5,000 cases” of Silvertap wines in 2010 and expects to sell four to five times that much in 2011. Once pretty much alone in the market, he estimates there are three or four more companies producing wines on tap and numerous wineries (Saintsbury, Palmina, Syklark) who use his “custom kegging” services.

One of Mr. Donahue’s first clients was Todd Rushing of the restaurant Two Urban Licks in Atlanta. Mr. Rushing opened his restaurant six years ago serving only wines on tap. For Mr. Rushing, the biggest incentive to go total-tap was “the green aspect, first and foremost” he said, citing the (inevitable) “carbon footprint.” But the system used to keep his kegs full—sending barrels back and forth to California by Fed Ex for refilling—seems like it could leave a fairly sizable carbon footprint as well.

Bruce Schneider may have a solution to that problem. Mr. Schneider, who produces keg wines from New York State grapes under the Gotham Project label, has a list of proposed “filling stations” around the country that would localize his barrel returns. “As we expand we’ll have filling stations across the country,’ Mr. Schneider said unfurling his map over lunch at the Breslin in Manhattan, one of his top wine-on-tap customers. The map looked like something a wildcatter might use—not to drill for oil but to barrel Riesling and Cabernet Franc.

His wines, on the other hand, were a delight: the Gotham Project Riesling and Cabernet Franc were fresh, lively and bright, and quite reasonably priced at $8 a glass. “Wine on tap is about 25% cheaper than their bottle equivalent,” said Mr. Schneider. “And we pass the savings along to our customers,” said Carla Rzeszewski, the ebullient manager of the Breslin who joined us.

A week or so after my Breslin lunch, I began amassing various alternatively packaged wines. It wasn’t easy—in fact I probably I left a pretty large carbon footprint tracking them all down.

Was it worth all the effort (and carbon)? With a few exceptions, I’d have to say no. Or, in alternative-packaging-speak, the expended energy wasn’t commensurate to the pleasure experienced. The wines in aluminum cans tasted tinny and thin and left me thinking (longingly) of beer. Ditto the Fog Mountain Merlot, which I mostly admired for the amount of information they managed to fit on its cardboard collar.

The California Rabbit Pinot was pleasant (and cheap) enough, and I did think a couple of the Bandit wines were pretty good—a light Pinot Grigio, a simple, juicy Merlot. I was quite impressed with a Spanish rosé and an Argentinian Torrontés, both from Yellow+Blue, an all-organic producer that buys wines from all over the world and packages them in Tetra. I also have hope for wine on tap, given my Gotham Project experience.

Sometimes it wasn’t the wines but the boxes themselves that failed. When my Bota Box wine leaked all over as I poured it, a friend who was watching commented, “I can’t say I’ve ever had that experience with a glass bottle.” I had to agree (and find something else to wear).

Though I admire the ambition, not to mention of the resourcefulness and the ecological mindfulness of these producers, my carbon footprint isn’t likely to be getting much smaller soon. I’ll be doing as the Romans did—at least for now.

Oenofile: Alternate packaging

Although I also loved some of the wines on tap that I tasted, they’re only served at restaurants—hence, these five in boxes and Tetra Paks.

Bandit Pinot Grigio, 1 liter, $8

[boxwine1]Bandit Pinot Grigio
Most Pinot Grigios are styled for immediate consumption rather than depth or complexity. The Bandit California Pinot Grigio, a light, simple white is in the former category but it’s an excellent aperitif to serve at a pool party—or a boat. (A retailer whose shop isn’t far from the water told me she carries Bandit especially for boaters.)

2009 California Rabbit Pinot Noir, $6 (500 ml, $5)

[boxwine5]2009 California Rabbit Pinot Noir 

A pleasingly light Pinot from Boisset Family Estates—whose holdings are in both Burgundy and California—makes a Tetra Pak wine that spans both continents as well. It’s a California wine that’s lively, drinkable and, well, quite cheap.

2009 Yellow and Blue Torrontes, 1 liter, $12

[boxwine2]2009 Yellow and Blue Torrontes 

This fresh lively white from the Salta province of Argentina is made from Argentina’s Most Favored White grape. It’s also made from certified organic grapes (as are all Yellow and Blue wines). Marked by a bright acidity, it’s a particularly delightful aperitif.

2009 Yellow and Blue Malbec, 1 liter, $12

[boxwine3]2009 Yellow and Blue Malbec 

If there is one company that seems to be doing particularly right by Tetra Pak, it’s Yellow and Blue. I really liked the three wines (there was also a rosé) that I tried. The Malbec, from San Juan Argentina is light to medium bodied with soft tannins and notes of strawberry.

2010 Domaine Le Garrigon Cotes du Rhone, 3 liters, $41

[boxwine4]2010 Domaine Le Garrigon Cotes du Rhone 

Made by respected Rhone winemaker Daniel Couston, this Grenache-dominant red is juicy, bright and positively delightful. The package is a combination of old and new: a plastic bag inside an attractive wooden case.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D6

Malbec – The King of WINE (in Argentina)

Malbec Grapes - Mendoza, Argentina

It’s a wine that is known for it’s incredible taste and beautiful heritage that becomes more and more popular in the US.  Distinctively known as home to Argentina, Malbec is an exquisite red wine and the only red that I know of where the grape ties so closely back to it’s origins.  It has a beautiful red violet color with a depth in taste yet still remains fresh and “deep” berry flavors (blackberry, boysenberry, plum).  The grape’s importance to its culture makes this wine that much more enjoyable to drink because of it’s story and provenance.

Some interesting details into the grape’s agriculture and a few recommended Malbecs can be found in http://www.modbee.com/2011/03/28/1619412/wine-malbec-is-king-in-argentina.html

One of my favorites full of berry, spice, sweet tannins with a long last finish – Familia Mayol Malbec Mendoza 2008.  Even the label is beautiful and comforting…. Try it out with a family style dinner of a hearty pasta or an assortment of cheeses.. Delectable!

Celebrity Wine – Drew Bledsoe’s Next Move

Imagine being in your mid-late 30′s, retired and then starting your own winery…. Ahh what a life… Former NE QB Drew Bledsoe is doing exactly that in his hometown of Walla Walla, WA.  The wine is called Doubleback and the bottle looks very sleek and sexy.. It seems that he has 2 types of bottles, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and Cabernet 2007 so clearly Drew loves his deep fruity and smokey reds!  Drew’s website - http://www.doubleback.com/

Kyle Stack from espn.com writes all about Beldsoe’s new endeavor (snippets below)  http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/news/story?id=6243939

“As Bledsoe’s interest in wine swelled during his NFL career, he and his wife, Maura, decided to go all-in. They made that 80-acre purchase for $400,000 and planted 50 acres at $20,000 per acre without a winemaker, label or name. “We took a ready, fire, aim approach initially,” Bledsoe said of the foray initiated by the land purchase.

The decision to start the vineyard in that section of the country comforted Bledsoe. What makes southeastern Washington such good wine country is its terroir (pronounced “tay-wah”) — a combination of the region’s soil, climate and other environmental factors that make it optimal for growing grapes.”

Chocolate + Wine = Heaven???

Oh my goodness, my two favorite things, chocolate and wine have been smooshed together!  I have yet to try it but it seems more like an after dinner drink complimented to any type of sweet dessert or fruit! I’m wondering how it tastes and even how this will do in restaurants and in stores?  I have a feeling it might not go over too well when ordering in a restaurant but you never know! I definitely want to give this a try!  A great new concept to bring to the wine world – Love it or Hate it?!  See some production and tasting notes below taken directly from the website Cocoa di Vine Chocolate & Wine

Production:

An intoxicating blend of chocolate  and wine, Cocoa di Vine* is the ultimate indulgence! The chocolate flavors are produced at one of the top creameries in the United States. The wine – a blend of Torrontes, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscato – was produced at a US winery as well, making this an all-American product.

Tasting Notes:

Rich, velvety-smooth chocolate flavors, combine with undertones of vanilla and caramel.  Best served chilled.  Enjoy within 9-12 when refrigerated or within 6 months when stored at room temperature.

90+ Cellars – “Rated Wines at an Extreme Value”

90+ Cellars Label

I read an article on Time.com (take a look!) about this company 90+ Cellars who offer high quality and high rated wines for a discounted price!  They make sure that their oversupply is a 90 or higher in rating and is the best buy from a respected winery.  In this sense it’s like a Marshalls when you find that great designer bag for half the price!  They literally have bottles that would be $75 for only $25!  The only catch (and I think the really fun part), is that you have no idea what winery the wine came from!  So take a chance and indulge in a gold medal wine at an affordable price and try to guess where it came from!  For all of those wine enthusiasts out there it sounds like a great idea as an activity at your next house/apartment party!

I’ve outlined a few stores in NY and Boston that carry the brand but you can find all locations on their website!  Can wait to try this!!

NYC

International Wine & Spirits
2903 Broadway
New York, NY 10025

Uptown Wine Shop
1361 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10128

(UWS is the first store to bring 90 into NYC!)

Chelsea Wine Vault
75 9 Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Boston/MA

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church Street
Salem, MA 01970

Sagarino’s

106 South St
Boston, 02111

Sanctuary
189 State Street
Boston, 02109

Charlestown Liquors
10 Thompson Square
Charlestown, MA 02129-3316

Golden Goose
179 Commercial St
Boston, MA 02109

Charles Street Liquors
143 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114

Kappy’s
216 Border Street
Boston, MA 02128

KozieGrape Your Way Into Warm Weather!

How about enjoying these fun customizable Kozies with your spring/summer glasses of wine!  Just upload your photo, choose your quantity and enjoy your favorite glass of wine with a no slip grip and your favorite picture!  Even great for events to promote your business or for fun parties!  Take a look!  KozieGrapes

KozieGrapes - Event Wine Glass Insulation

Beauty, Fashion, and Wine – Great Pairings

“Photographed by famed photographer Bruce Weber, Olsen sisters Vogue April 2011 issue” http://www.popsugar.com/Pictures-Mary-Kate-Ashley-Olsen-April-Vogue-15128218?page=0,0,0#1

How cute do the Olsen’s look in Vogue with their pajama’s posing with wine glasses on the beach.  Looks like paradise to me!

On Sephora.com BITE takes full advantage of the benefits (antioxidants, anti-aging) that wine has using it as a key ingredient so we can all keep looking young and beautiful!

Red Wine Resveratrol. This antioxidant targets the signs of aging- there's 5 glasses of red wine's worth in each richly pigmented shade. new . exclusive. BITE Define & Refine Lip Set ($68 Value), $36 > Beauty Bonus: For Beauty Insiders. Get a mini Lip Rouge (doubles as a blush) - FREE with any online order. Enter code BITE at checkout.** >

Red Wine Resveratrol. This antioxidant targets the signs of aging- there's 5 glasses of red wine's worth in each richly pigmented shade. new . exclusive. BITE Define & Refine Lip Set ($68 Value), $36 > Beauty Bonus: For Beauty Insiders. Get a mini Lip Rouge (doubles as a blush) - FREE with any online order. Enter code BITE at checkout.** > www.sephora.com

2003 Marilyn Merlot

2003 Marilyn Merlot - http://www.novusvinum.com/wineofweek/2007/february.html#marilyn

Fun bottle of Marilyn Merlot – Fashion and Beauty Icon

Styleguru.com talks of the new color story for this upcoming season, revealed in February during NYC’s Fashion Week… The WINE color is truly exquisite!

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"WINE Is The Color Of The Season: NY Fashion Week" www.styleguru.com

From Food & Wine: 50 Wines You Can Always Trust

A useful article to be used as a “cheat sheet” (Come on! Everyone has one!) for good wines that you can always count on!  So print this list out and post it on your fridge in confidence that you will have a great evening with one or all of these options!

Source: Food & Wine Magazine

http://www.winesinthecity.com/wine-buzz/views-of-the-wine-scen

50 Wines You Can Always Trust

It’s easy to find great wines made in tiny quantities that cost a fortune. What’s hard is locating amazing wines that are sold in stores across the country, that are delicious regardless of vintage, and that ring up at $20 or less per bottle. Here are our picks for the most reliable, most readily available wines in the world—50 wines that won’t let you down. Plus, there are bonus selections: five top-notch Bordeaux for less than $25, 12 foolproof pairing suggestions and 10 world-class wines from France and the United States that cost a little more but still offer disproportionate quality for the price.

By Ray Isle

UNITED STATES

Beringer

FOUNDER’S ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($11)

This historic winery makes arguably the broadest collection of acclaimed wines in California. Its Private Reserve has been a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon since 1976. The much more affordable Founder’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is also impressive: a velvety, generous, cassis-driven red.

La Crema

SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY ($18)

At La Crema, winemaker Melissa Stackhouse makes a range of subtly expressive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Her Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, one of La Crema’s most widely available bottlings, is also one of her best: round and rich with ripe pear and caramel-vanilla flavors.

Blackstone Winery

CALIFORNIA MERLOT ($12)

Blackstone started out in 1990 producing one of California’s most succulent, affordable Merlots. These days, it makes a large range of wines (including a delicious Riesling only available at its Kenwood, California, tasting room), but the backbone of its business, and one of its best bottlings, is still talented winemaker Dennis Hill’s lightly smoky, plummy Merlot.

Bogle

OLD VINE ZINFANDEL ($11)

The Bogle family has been farming in California’s Clarksburg region since the mid-1800s but only ventured into grape growing in 1968. The late Warren Bogle and his son Chris founded their eponymous winery about 10 years later. The family business is currently headed by Chris’s widow, Patty Bogle, and it farms more than 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Sacramento Delta—some of which go into Bogle’s jammy, luscious Old Vine Zinfandel, one of the best Zinfandel deals on the market.

Chateau Ste. Michelle

COLUMBIA VALLEY MERLOT ($16)

Unquestionably the largest producer in Washington State (more than a million cases each year), Chateau Ste. Michelle is also one of the most adventurous: The winery has forged partnerships with famous European names such as Tuscany’s Piero Antinori and Ernst Loosen of Germany’s Mosel, and has developed properties in up-and-coming regions like Washington’s Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Its Columbia Valley Merlot—smoky, savory and rich with black cherry fruit—is one of the reasons Washington Merlot is so highly regarded.

Clos Du Bois

SONOMA COUNTY PINOT NOIR ($20)

Clos du Bois has been making reliable wines for years; indeed, its Marlstone proprietary red blend has been acclaimed since its first vintage in 1978. In the past few years, though, new winemaker Erik Olsen (who made his name at Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle) has lifted quality levels here another notch. That’s clear in the latest vintage of Marlstone, the 2003, and also in Clos Du Bois’s succulent Sonoma County Pinot Noir—one of the few $20 Pinots that really gives a sense of the allure of this complex grape.

Geyser Peak

CALIFORNIA SAUVIGNON BLANC ($12)

This Sonoma-based winery’s vivid California Sauvignon Blanc can convert even the most jaded Chardonnay drinker into a lover of zesty, unoaked whites. Mick Schroeter deliberately picks a percentage of the grapes earlier than most other producers do to retain the variety’s hallmark crispness and grassy zing, then balances the blend with riper grapes that add juicy lemon-melon fruit character.

Hess

HESS SELECT CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($12)

Although most of the great wines of the world come from specific vineyards, most of the great affordable wines of the world are a blend of grapes from many different sites—as is the case with Hess’s spicy, black cherry–rich Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Typically sourced from regions that range from Napa Valley to Paso Robles to the Sierra Foothills, it’s a reference point for modestly priced California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hogue Cellars

COLUMBIA VALLEY RIESLING ($7)

Hogue’s Columbia Valley Riesling helps explain why Riesling has become such a popular grape variety in the United States (sales rose about 29 percent in 2006). Hogue’s bottling, with its orange blossom scent and crisp, minerally flavors, underscores the appeal of this grape; it’s lightly off-dry (i.e., slightly sweet), but the crisp acidity provides balance and makes the wine a natural match for Asian or Indian cuisines.

Kendall Jackson

VINTNER’S RESERVE CHARDONNAY ($12)

Here are two things to know about Kendall Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay: More than two million cases are made each year, and every single grape that goes into those bottles comes from vineyards owned by Kendall Jackson. (This is why, when you take a tour of the Kendall Jackson vineyards, you do it by helicopter.) Vineyard ownership means control over viticultural practices, and that’s why this wine—despite its vast production—remains so delicious: rich but finely focused, its flavors suggesting ripe mangoes and pears.

King Estate

OREGON PINOT GRIS ($16)

It takes a certain kind of genius to envision vineyards where cattle are grazing, but that’s exactly what Ed King III did in early 1991. While he was on a hay-buying trip in Oregon’s Lorane Valley, he noticed that the hillside slopes where the cattle were standing were similar to a couple of small vineyards he already owned. The 600-acre ranch turned out to be for sale, so King bought it. Now King Estate has become one of Oregon’s largest and most reliable producers. The winery is particularly known for its Oregon Pinot Gris, a crisp white full of stone-fruit flavors that is a consistently great value.

Pepperwood Grove

CALIFORNIA MERLOT ($8)

Don Sebastiani’s Sonoma-based wine négociant firm, Don Sebastiani & Sons, was founded only in 2001, but its multiple brands have quickly become go-to names for high-quality, affordable wines made with grapes sourced from throughout California. Pepperwood Grove may be one of the company’s least playful brand names (compared to Smoking Loon, say, or Screw Kappa Napa), yet its juicy California Merlot, full of plum and chocolate notes, embodies the appealingly straightforward drinkability of Don Sebastiani’s wines.

Rancho Zabaco

HERITAGE VINES ZINFANDEL ($17)

Rancho Zabaco is one of many labels owned by Gallo. The company also owns a vast range of vineyards, including many long-planted to Zinfandel. Its Heritage Vines Zinfandel takes advantage of the old vines’ intensity of flavor, and while it may not be as inexpensive as Gallo Hearty Burgundy was in the 1970s, it’s still a steal.

Ravenswood

LODI ZINFANDEL ($15)

Not so long ago, Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson remarked that when he started out, his wines were considered high-alcohol. These days, Ravenswood’s Zinfandels seem positively graceful compared to some of the galumphing Zin-monsters out there—and that’s why we still love them. Of particular note is its Lodi Zinfandel, a shade pricier than the company’s ubiquitous Vintners Blend, but with a depth of blackberry richness that’s well worth the few extra dollars.

Robert Mondavi Winery

NAPA VALLEY FUMÉ BLANC ($18)

Though no longer owned by the Mondavi family, this is still one of Napa Valley’s defining estates, producing wines ranging from its age-worthy Reserve Cabernet to its citrus-scented Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. Robert Mondavi coined the term “Fumé Blanc” for his Sauvignon Blanc wines in 1968 (French Pouilly-Fumés are made from Sauvignon Blanc), and winemaker Genevieve Janssens still uses French techniques—partial fermentation in barrel, the addition of a touch of Sémillon—to add complexity to this zesty white.

Rodney Strong

SONOMA COUNTY CHARDONNAY ($15)

Former Broadway dancer Rodney Strong was one of Sonoma County’s earliest fine-wine pioneers, helping it make the transition from a source of grapes for mass-produced jug wines to a fine-wine region whose reputation can challenge that of neighbor and rival Napa Valley. Strong, who founded the winery in 1959 (and passed away in 2006), focused on vineyard-driven bottlings—he created the first single-vineyard Sonoma Cabernet, Alexander’s Crown, in 1974—at reasonable prices. The winery (owned by Tom Klein since 1989) still produces one of Sonoma’s greatest values, its lightly toasty Sonoma County Chardonnay.

AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND

Yalumba

BAROSSA SHIRAZ VIOGNIER ($16)

A family-owned Australian big brand is rare today, but Barossa Valley–based Yalumba is run by Sam and Robert Smith, fifth-generation proprietors. The brothers run the business, while winemaker Kevin Glastonbury creates eminently drinkable wines, most notably the red-berried Shiraz Viognier.

Banrock Station

SHIRAZ ($5)

Banrock Station is well known in Australia for its efforts to preserve that country’s endangered wetlands. (It has also awarded grants to environmental agencies around the world.) But Banrock, located on the Murray River in South Australia, is best known in America for its deliciously smoky, berry-flavored Shiraz.

Brancott

MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC ($12)

While Cloudy Bay is still the most famous Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand, the much larger producer Brancott Vineyards deserves recognition, too. With properties in regions on both the North Island (Gisborne and Hawkes Bay) and the South Island (Marlborough), Brancott turns out a broad range of wines, including this compulsively drinkable Sauvignon Blanc.

Jacob’s Creek

SHIRAZ ($8)

Long before there was Yellow Tail, there was Jacob’s Creek, one of Australia’s largest value labels for more than 30 years. Its wines have won a raft of medals (800 in the past three years), and its voluptuous, blackberry-rich Shiraz is consistently one of its best bottlings.

Penfolds

KOONUNGA HILL CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($12)

Once upon a time, only one Australian wine was considered first-rate: Penfolds Grange, a Shiraz and (sometimes) Cabernet blend. While Grange remains the country’s standard-bearer, Penfolds also makes many other excellent wines, especially its cassis-scented, fruit- forward Koonunga Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the most reliable Cabernets from Down Under.

Rosemount Estate

DIAMOND LABEL SHIRAZ ($10)

Rosemount Estate founder Bob Oatley made his fortune in the coffee fields of Papua New Guinea before turning his attention to the vineyards of Australia in the late ’60s, making him one of the country’s modern wine pioneers. Rosemount’s best known wine is probably the Show Reserve Chardonnay, which debuted in 1982, but its reasonably priced, robust Shiraz has helped make Rosemount Estate a household name.

Wolf Blass

YELLOW LABEL RIESLING ($12)

Although Wolf Blass makes many notable reds (it has won Australia’s most prestigious wine prize, the Jimmy Watson Trophy, for its $70 Black Label Cabernet-Shiraz blend a record four times), the winery is also focused on high-quality whites, including a wonderfully zippy Yellow Label Riesling that’s clean, bright and dry, marked by refreshing flavors of lemon and lime.

CHILE & ARGENTINA

Bodega Norton

RESERVA MALBEC ($15)

Though founded by an Englishman (Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton) and now owned by an Austrian (Gernot Langes-Swarovski of Swarovski crystal), Norton is deeply Argentine—as is clear from its spicy, black-fruited Reserva Malbec.

Alamos

MENDOZA MALBEC ($10)

Nicolás Catena is probably the vintner most responsible for helping Americans realize that Argentina has the capacity to produce world-class red wines, not just affordable everyday bottles. So it’s a bit ironic that Catena’s surprisingly inexpensive second label, Alamos, is so good—as evidenced by the remarkably consistent Alamos Malbec, with its velvety raspberry fruit and toasty oak notes.

Casa Lapostolle

SAUVIGNON BLANC ($10)

Most people may be familiar with the name Marnier (as in Grand Marnier), less so with Lapostolle. But that’s been changing in recent years thanks to the high-quality wines of Casa Lapostolle, the Chilean winery co-founded by Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, great-granddaughter of Grand Marnier’s founder. Consulting top enologist Michel Rolland oversees the winery’s production, including a crisp and lively Sauvignon Blanc that’s consistently one of the best in Chile.

Concha y Toro

CASILLERO DEL DIABLO CARMENÈRE ($9)

Odds are that if you’re drinking a Chilean wine, it’s Concha y Toro, which is not only that country’s largest producer (15 million cases a year) but also its largest exporter, accounting for almost a third of all Chile’s international wine sales. The blackberry-rich Casillero del Diablo Carmenère, made from vineyards all over Chile’s Central Valley (including those in Maipo, Rapel and Maule), is Concha y Toro’s affordable star.

Cousiño-Macul

ANTIGUAS RESERVAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($15)

The Cousiño family has been producing wine at the Cousiño-Macul winery for more than 150 years. But this doesn’t mean the Chilean company is stuck in the past: It still turns out attractive, well-made wines, most notably the Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon, a fruit-forward, accessibly styled red.

Santa Rita

120 CHARDONNAY ($8)

Although Santa Rita is practically within the city limits of Santiago, in the Maipo region, the winery owns vineyards all over Chile, including the Aconcagua Valley, the source of the fruit for its soft, citrusy 120 Chardonnay. Made mostly in stainless steel vats (only 10 percent of the grapes are aged in oak), it’s a clean, bright white with just a touch of oak-derived richness.

Trapiche

OAK CASK MALBEC ($10)

At the base of the Andes in the Mendoza region, Trapiche has become one of Argentina’s most ambitious wineries. Two years ago, it released an impressive collection of single-vineyard Malbecs; even so, Trapiche’s peppery Oak Cask Malbec offers equal insight into winemaker Daniel Pi’s skill with this variety.

FRANCE

Paul Jaboulet Aîné

CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE PARALLÈLE “45″ ($12)

Jaboulet’s large portfolio ranges from the stunning Hermitage La Chapelle, one of the Rhône’s greatest wines, to more modest offerings such as the peppery Parallèle “45,” but the firm’s laserlike focus on quality carries across the whole line.

E. Guigal

CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE ROUGE ($12)

While Guigal’s greatest acclaim derives from its extraordinary single-vineyard Côte-Rôties, which Rhône wine fanatics refer to as the “La Las”—La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque—this family-owned firm makes top-notch wines at every price. Its typically Syrah-based Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge is full-bodied and compellingly aromatic.

Georges Duboeuf

MOULIN-À-VENT “FLOWER LABEL” ($15)

Georges Duboeuf’s name is synonymous with Beaujolais, and for good reason: He makes consistently appealing wines, from his ubiquitous delivered-in-November Beaujolais Nouveau (Duboeuf is credited for creating that particular mania in the United States) to single-estate wines produced in limited amounts. Many are good, but his ageworthy, blackberry- rich Moulin-à-Vent “Flower Label,” from Beaujolais’s most distinguished village, may be the star of the portfolio.

Hugel et Fils

GENTIL ($12)

This venerable Alsace producer makes a wide range of white wines, yet its best-known wine is also its most affordable. Hugel’s Gentil revives a reportedly ancient Alsatian tradition in which wines blended from the region’s noble grape varieties were known generically as gentil. Hugel’s modern version, introduced in 1992, combines Sylvaner with Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Muscat to create a lithe, dry white with stone-fruit and floral aromas.

Langlois-Chateau

CRÉMANT DE LOIRE BRUT NV ($22)

It’s sparkling, it’s from France, it’s delicious—and it isn’t Champagne. Langlois-Chateau, founded in 1885, makes a variety of wines, but its shortbread-scented, pear-inflected Crémant is the one that rises above the rest. A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, it ages for 24 months on its lees (the yeast cells left over after fermentation) rather than the nine months typical of most Crémants, which helps give it unusual lushness and depth.

Louis Jadot

MÂCON-VILLAGES ($13)

The firm of Louis Jadot is a rare thing: a large-scale Burgundy négociant whose reputation nevertheless hovers at the same level as many smaller, more rarefied domaines. This is in part thanks to the sure hand of Jacques Lardière, technical director at Jadot for 27 years, but partly it’s because of the inarguable quality of the company’s fruit—found even in basic bottlings like Jadot’s crisp, floral, lime-inflected Mâcon-Villages.

Louis Latour

ST-VÉRAN LES DEUX MOULINS ($15)

Since its founding in 1797, Latour has been one of the defining white wine houses of Burgundy. (It produces fine reds as well.) It’s particularly known for its extraordinary grand cru Corton-Charlemagne, one of the benchmarks of the region. Still family-owned, Latour is now run by the seventh-generation Louis-Fabrice Latour, from the company’s original mansions in the city of Beaune. While its wines generally cost more than $20—the Corton-Charlemagne sells for around $80, actually a good deal for grand cru Burgundy of its quality—its marzipan-and-apple-scented St-Véran Les Deux Moulins, from the more affordable Mâconnais region, is a superb introduction to the Latour style.

M. Chapoutier

CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE BELLERUCHE ROUGE ($11)

In 1990, at age 26, Michel Chapoutier took over his family’s firm and lifted it back to its former status as one of the Rhône’s most significant producers. Since then he’s ventured into new territories, first to lesser-known French regions such as Roussillon and Collioure, and more recently (both on his own and in a joint venture with the wine-importing Terlato family) to southern Australia. Yet his basic Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Rouge, with its Grenache-based spicy, cherry flavors, remains one of his most impressively consistent bottlings.

ITALY

A-Mano

PRIMITIVO ($11)

It took a winemaker from California, Mark Shannon, to put Primitivo from Puglia on supermarket shelves in the United States. His bright cherry-flavored A-Mano Primitivo (an Italian grape that’s genetically identical to Zinfandel) is made from ancient vines in this up-and-coming region of Southern Italy.

Antinori

SANTA CRISTINA ($12)

There is no more famous name in Italian winemaking than Antinori. Under patriarch Piero Antinori, this noble family makes an enormous range of wines all over Italy, but one of its year-in, year-out values is the berry-bright, straightforward Santa Cristina Sangiovese from Tuscany.

Banfi

CENTINE ($12)

Importing Italian wine to America wasn’t enough for John and Harry Mariani (though their family has been doing so for over 70 years); they wanted to make Italian wine as well. Now, with 2,400 acres of vineyards in Montalcino, the brothers produce excellent Tuscan reds under the Castello Banfi brand, including Centine, an earthy blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot.

Folonari

PINOT GRIGIO ($8)

Though Folonari first became famous for Soave back in the 1970s (and set the reputation of that wine back several decades by producing a mediocre, characterless wine), the company also produces a truly delicious Pinot Grigio that’s marked by mouthwatering acidity and bright green-apple flavors. And a note on that Folonari Soave: It’s gotten a lot better.

Frescobaldi

CASTIGLIONI CHIANTI ($13)

The Frescobaldis are nearly as famous as the Antinoris in their native Florence (the family also has a palazzo there) and in all of Tuscany, too. The Frescobaldi clan currently claims nine Tuscan estates, including Castiglioni, where the label’s basic Chianti offers a taste of ripe Frescobaldi fruit for a very small price.

Mionetto

PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE FRIZZANTE ($11)

The one place in the world truly suited to the persnickety Prosecco grape is the small town of Valdobbiadene, just north of Venice. The Mionetto family, which is based there, makes a consistently good Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante, a softly sparkling wine with a bright lime flavor.

Ruffino

CHIANTI ($10)

Ruffino’s Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico is a restaurant-list perennial; there are few Chiantis more widely poured than this wine. Owned by the Folonari family since 1913 and overseen by brothers Adolfo and Luigi, the winery also turns out a simple Chianti that delivers the earthy notes of a good Tuscan red.

SPAIN

Freixenet

CORDON NEGRO BRUT ($10)

Freixenet’s ultrapopular, black-bottled Cordon Negro Brut is probably the only sparkling wine in the world that’s as famous as Moët & Chandon Champagne. And it’s a lot less expensive but also very good. A crisp, dry sparkling wine with charming citrus notes and a touch of classic cava earthiness, it’s always reliable and a pleasure to drink.

Jaume Serra

CRISTALINO BRUT ($9)

Though it’s not quite as ubiquitous as Freixenet’s Cordon Negro, the lemon-and-lime-scented Cristalino Brut cava is equally delicious, with tart green-apple flavors and fine, appealing bubbles. The company, founded in 1943 by winemaker Jaume Serra Guell, is now owned by the Carrión family, but it still makes wine in the caves under its winery in the coastal town of Villanueva y Geltrú.

Marqués de Cáceres

RIOJA CRIANZA ($13)

This groundbreaking winery was founded in 1970 by Enrique Forner, with help from legendary Bordeaux winemaker Émile Peynaud. Today, though it may be more stalwart than upstart, Cáceres walks a graceful line between modern and traditional. For instance, its ruby-colored crianza (in Rioja, a term for reds that are aged at least a year in barrel and not sold for a minimum of three years after the vintage) is aged in French oak rather than the traditional American but still has all the balance and elegance of old-style Rioja crianzas.

Marqués de Riscal

RIOJA RESERVA ($19)

There’s the much-ballyhooed new Frank Gehry–designed hospitality center, not to mention the new restaurant from Francis Paniego, Rioja’s most famous chef, but there are also great wines made at Marqués de Riscal. Among them are the luxurious Barón de Chirel blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, a long-aging Gran Reserva and this focused Reserva, with its classically Riojan notes of red cherries and vanilla.

Osborne

SOLAZ TEMPRANILLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($9)

Osborne has been best known for its Riojas, ports and sherries—unsurprisingly, as the company has been in those businesses for the past 235 years. But a few years ago, the family (led by sixth-generation Tomás Osborne Gamero-Cívico) branched out into the Tierra de Castilla region near Toledo to produce some of Spain’s most appealing and inexpensive wines under its Solaz label. A brilliant example of its success is its fruit-driven, spicy Osborne Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon.

Additonal reporting by Megan Krigbaum

Under $25 Bordeaux

Most Americans associate Bordeaux with the powerful, complex and very expensive wines of great châteaus such as Lafite-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. But the region has many châteaus that produce reliable values, too. Here are five to look for:

CHÂTEAU BONNET ROUGE ($12)

Usually a 50-50 blend of Cabernet and Merlot, it’s firm and flavorful.

CHÂTEAU GREYSAC ($16)

This medium-bodied, Merlot-dominated wine is graceful and aromatic.

CHÂTEAU CAP DE FAUGÈRES ($17)

From the up-and-coming Côtes de Castillon, this is velvety and lush.

CHÂTEAU CHARMAIL ($20)

Intense and ageworthy, this is a star of the often dull Haut-Médoc appellation.

CHÂTEAU GIGAULT CUVÉE VIVA ($23)

Consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt makes this luscious red from the Côtes de Blaye region.

U.S. Luxury Values

RIDGE GEYSERVILLE ($33)

An old-vines blend of Zinfandel and a variety of other grapes, Geyserville is full of ripe blackberry and black pepper notes, no matter the vintage.

MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS ESTATE CHARDONNAY ($38)

It’s a mystery why Mount Eden isn’t better known, since its spicy, pear-inflected white is one of the few California Chardonnays able to age gracefully for more than a decade.

MERRY EDWARDS KLOPP RANCH PINOT NOIR ($51)

Edwards is one of California’s finest interpreters of the fickle Pinot Noir grape, and this violet-scented bottling (from a vineyard she helped plant 17 years ago) shows why.

ANDREW WILL SORELLA ($60)

Washington winemaker Chris Camarda produces a number of thrilling wines, but this floral Cabernet blend may be his best.

ALTAMURA NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($65)

Each year, this cocoa-scented, complex red from winemaker Frank Altamura is a sublime example of how good Napa Cabernet can be.

French Luxury Values

Many top French wines are reliably great no matter the vintage, but they’re produced in miniscule amounts—a taste of Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne might make you mortgage your house to buy a case, but first you’d have to find one. Here are five consistently well-made, high-end French wines that are possible to find:

WILLIAM FEVRE CHABLIS MONTMAINS PREMIER CRU ($35)

This premier cru bottling is stunning: full of Chablisienne chalky minerality, it’s complex and delicious all at once.

JOSEPH DROUHIN BEAUNE CLOS DES MOUCHES ROUGE ($75)

This velvety, subtle red Burgundy from a famous premier cru vineyard (largely owned by Drouhin) can age for a decade or more.

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE ($95)

This extravagantly aromatic, savory Rhône red is a reference point for great Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE LAS CASES ($170)

Las Cases’ reputation now (as it has been for many years) is essentially “the second growth that ought to be a first.” This wine is profoundly complex and powerful and can age for decades.

POL ROGER CUVÉE SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL ($200)

This tête-de-cuvée Champagne is luscious and intense, with dried-apricot, brioche and honey notes.

 

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