August 13, 2009

Svelte Summer Sipper - Biokult Gruner Veltliner 2008

gI_0_biokultFrontLabel.jpgIt is hotter than Hades out there, and what better way to cool your palate than with a fun, fresh white. If you are unfamiliar with gruner veltliner, don't let the tongue-twister name intimidate you. This Austrian wine is similar in style and body to a sauvignon blanc, and similarly makes a super summer quaffer.

The Biokult gruner, which is made from organically grown grapes, is the pride and product of an innovative austrian family that practices biodynamic farming. So innovative in fact, that the wines are fermented in egg-shaped tanks! I don't know what that means for the wines, but I can tell you that this gruner is full of zing and pep. At first it reminded me of a vinho verde--very light and green and ever so slightly effervescent. But unlike the simple white from Portugal, this is subtly layered with soft fruit, fresh herbs and bright citrusy acidity.

Add this gruner veltliner to your arsenal of crisp summer whites, but resist the urge to drink it with a straw... you'll miss out on the vibrant and jaw-tingling aromas. I paired it with my bathing suit and floaties because as I mentioned, it is quite hot. But it would pair beautifully with simple grilled shrimp or a mesclun greens salad with grilled beets and herb crusted goat cheese. Find it at Whole Foods for $11.99

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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July 20, 2009

Buehler Vineyards Russian River Chardonnay 2008

Varietal: Chardonnay
Region: Russian River Valley (Sonoma), California
Price: $15

It is no easy task finding good California chardonnay at this price point. And as I am willing to try just about anything, I often find myself looking, forlorn, into a glass of too flabby, too fruity, too fake-oaky swill. And consequently, you won't find too many chardonnay - particularly California chardonnay - reviews here. What keeps me going, what compels me to keep on looking, is that every now end then, I am ever-so-pleasantly surprised. Every now and then, I find one that I like AND that I can afford.

The Buehler Russian River chardonnay delivers on all counts. It is a lovely, golden, medium bodied beauty with up-front peach and orange blossom fruit. The fruit mellows into warm toastiness, which rolls into dreamy-creamy, and somewhere in there I get a little twist of lime peel. Full malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging provide the creamy richness. But thankfully there is enough acidity and a clean minerality that help provide balance and make the Buehler somewhat Burgundian.

An all around winner and certainly an elegant choice for the money... You can find it online here or at Buehler Vineyards.

Read More in: Chardonnay | Wine Tasting Notes

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July 2, 2009

Mapema Sauvignon Blanc 2008

VARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: Mendoza, Argentina
PRICE: $11

I recently hosted a tasting and featured this lovely Argentine SB for purely personal reasons. I love it... and I'll find any excuse to share the love. I think it might even convert some white haters. If you're not a fan of sauvignon blancs in particular, I'm going to surmise that you might be a little off-put by the grassy, sometimes bitter bite that is common among so many good SBs. I can assure you that this one is quite different.

Though, true to form, it is is crisp with a fine acidic finish, the lead-in is all finely woven, ripe summer fruit. Melon and stone fruit add wonderful richness and aromatics, while a hint of golden apple and lime peel contribute a soft freshness that is clean, but not at all bitter.

This should be your go-to white this summer... great on its own, but fantastic as an aperitif... or fine with fish... super with salads... you get the picture.

Find it at your local Cost Plus Word Market or online from a number of retailers, but plan to add another few $$.

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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April 20, 2009

Telmo Rodriguez Basa Rueda 2007


VARIETAL: 85% Verdejo 10% Viura 5% Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: Rueda, Spain
PRICE: $12

Sometimes good wines, like friends, come and go. But if you're lucky you can find a few that stand the test of time. The Basa is one wine that has always been there for me. we were first acquainted about 8 years ago, and since then, the Basa has been consistently on my tried-and-true list -- though I only recently learned it is a product of sustainable viticulture practices. And though the ratio of the blend may vary from year to year, the Basa is always lip-smackingly delicious. Bright and wonderfully fresh, this light white is bursting with bosc pear, golden apple and grapefruit blossom. Not to fear, it isn't all soft fruit and floral aromas. You get a punch of zesty citrus and a clean mineral finish. Perfect for summer, but why wait?

Basa Rueda 2007

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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April 16, 2009

Great Green Gift - Wine Bottle Plant Nannies

This might be the perfect gift for me... if I ever dared to purchase a houseplant again. I can't say that I have a black thumb because I've never really put forth the required effort to keep a plant alive. There is a reason I live in the desert... and my yard is filled with desert plants. Anyhoo, this nifty little terra cotta spike--along with your empty merlot bottle from last night's dinner--will keep your precious houseplants happy as long as you periodically remember to refill the bottle. Check it out:

Wine Bottle Plant Nanny Stakes
The Plant Nanny is a specially-engineered ceramic stake that waters your plant easily and beneficially. Inserted into moist soil near the root base, the Nanny will release water as the soil begins to dry, so it won't under-water or over-water your plants. A recycled wine bottle serves as the water reservoir and adds a decorative flair to the plant. The water level can be seen through the glass so that you know when it is time to refill the bottle. Each set of four is attractively label-wrapped for gift-giving. $45.95 for 3 packs of 4 stakes (via Amazon)

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Drink, Reuse, Recycle. Repeat...


The number of empty wine bottles we produce in my small household is obscene. So I am constantly looking for new ways to reuse our bottles, corks and other vinous waste. In honor of Earth Day, I'll be spending the next week sharing some cool ideas and products that will make use of our tasting trash... And I suppose I'll sample a few organic and biodynamically farmed wines. Feel free to chime in if you find a good one too.

Photo of the Earth taken from Apollo 17 from Wikipedia

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April 9, 2009

Easter Wine Guide

Growing up in my large extended family, easter meant not just ham, but 2 hams, mountains of scalloped potatoes, fresh spring beans and my grandmother's hot cross buns. Whether your holiday meal is brunch, dinner, or an open house/free-for-all, we have some suggestions for easy wine pairings that complement most traditional Easter fare.

If your Easter meal is all about the egg dishes, I would keep it simple and offer Mimosas and Bellinis. Choose a cava, prosecco or other sparkler that is tasty on its own, but inexpensive enough to use as a mixer.
Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Rustico $15
Soft and fruity... an absolutely perfect prosecco on its own and an ideal base for bellinis.

Cremant de Limoux, Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" $14
So rich and toasty... if you didn't know it wasn't from Champagne, you'd swear this was the real deal.

Segura Viudas Aria Brut NV $10
A bright and crisp cava that shines on its own, but is well suited for mixing.

Ham still seems to be the centerpiece of most Easter feasts. Be it the honey-baked, spiral cut, cola glazed smoked variety, or the lesser known FRESH (non-pink) version, ham is a protein that pairs well with both reds and whites. But since both fresh and smoked varieties are usually bathed in a sticky glaze, it is important to find a wine that has a little fruit. I think the conventional wisdom is that a fruity but dry riesling is the best match... but if the thought of riesling conjures images of Blue Nun, then by all means go with an alternative. But if you're feeling a little adventurous, I think you'd be surprised at how many great dry rieslings are out there.

Leeuwin Estate Riesling 'Art Series' 2006 $20
I know this one pushes our limit on cheap, but it is certainly fun and I think worth every penny. The Leeuwin is a crisp and refreshing riesling with succulent, ripe stone fruit flavors balanced by refreshing citrus.

Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris 2007 $14
Subtly floral and slightly smoky, this pinot gris is a great alternative for riesling-phobes. Soft fruit feels round and ripe on your palate but this wine finishes super clean.

fleurie.jpgFleurie 2006 Chateau des Bachelards, Georges Duboeuf $15
This single vineyard Beaujolais is rich and ripe with layers of black cherry and earthy spice... much more akin to the burgundies of the north than the young, sourced wines of Beaujolais. Medium bodied with the perfect punch of fruit for ham.

magpie.jpgd'Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2007 $19
You might be thinking that a shiraz/viognier blend must be a typo--or at the very least an error in judgement. But I am here to tell you that if you can find this wine, you must try it. You get remarkable floral and ripe stone fruit notes from the viognier, which marry surprisingly well with the dried fruit and herbal components from the shiraz.

If spring lamb is more your speed, you have a lot of flexibility in wine selection. Pick a cab, a merlot, a malbec-- or any number of blends that are red-meat friendly. I chose two that I think are interesting and a fine match for racks or legs that are rubbed with garlic and fresh spring herbs.

juangil.jpg2006 Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil Monastrell $14
This mourvedre from Spain is inky and intense... lots of jammy fruit layered with leather and smoke and spice. I think this pairs slightly better with the richness and gaminess of a leg of lamb, but it is so good I'd drink it with almost anything.

montgrasquatro.jpg MontGras Quatro 2007 $15
30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, 25% Syrah and 15% Carmenere
This Chilean chilean blend is full and rich with lovely currant and plummy notes. It is a little dusty and spicy and a beautiful match for lamb.

I know for some, Easter is all about the chocolate. For you chocolate bunny and egg hounds, I'd recommend a good port. Of course, depending on your chocolate preference (white, milk or dark) you do have other options, but for flexibility and sheer yumminess, I'd go with a tawny port

bullertawny.jpgR. L. Buller & Son Tawny Victoria NV $11
Delicate, yet layered and rich, the Buller is a great value tawny port. Toasty caramel notes mingle with spice and honey for a truly intoxicating blend. Aromatherapy at its finest.

Easter egg image via

Read More in: Wine Advice | Wine Recommendations

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April 1, 2009

March Madness Sale at My Wines Direct

MWDlogo.jpgI know it is April already, but March Madness is still going on at My Wines Direct. They have a great, albeit limited, selection of wines that they select BY TASTE (you'd be surprised at the number of retailers who skip this crucial aspect of the buying process) and they offer them at great prices. The catch is, you must order in quantities of six, but shipping is FREE. My last order was a mixed pack of six which set me back $82 (about $13/bottle). But they always have specials for packs in the $75 range.

Check out these March Madness specials in the $70-$175 range (please note there is a pack of 12 included):

Chardonnaypack.jpgChardonnay Selections - 6 Whites $69.95
This impressive collection of whites showcases the different styles of Chardonnay. Do you prefer the styles of California or Chile? Sample and see which you like best! Chardonnay is the #1 white varietal in the US; you can never have enough. Five oak-aged picks in this collection plus 1 Semillon Chardonnay for a little variety. My Wines Direct's Final Four - Chardonnay Selections, now only $69.95 + FREE Shipping. Limited time offer valid 03-24 to 4-6. Shop today!

Royal_Reds_.jpgRoyal Reds - 6 Reds $79.95
These royal reds are the best of their lands, with full, rich flavors. You'll love the zesty Australian Merlot, the bold Spanish Rioja, the smooth Argentinian Syrah, plus 3 more stately reds. You can enjoy these reds with so many hearty meals or pour a few glasses for a quiet night in. My Wines Direct's Final Four - Royal Reds, now only $79.95 + FREE Shipping. Limited time offer valid 03-24 to 4-6. Shop today!

foreignfinds.jpgTour the World of Wine - Mixed $84.95
Take a taste tour-de-force through small vineyards around the globe. Try a Pouilly-Fuisse from France, a classic Chardonnay from California or a Semillon-Chardonnay blend from Australia. Move on to reds and enjoy a Rioja from Spain, Syrah from Argentina and Cab from California. My Wines Direct's Final Four - Foreign Finds, now only $84.95 + FREE Shipping. Limited time offer valid 03-24 to 4-6. Buy now!

Better_By_the_Dozen.jpgBetter By the Dozen - Mixed $174.95
This pack includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mencia Roble, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rioja and 6 more versatile wines - you'll find a wine to pair perfectly with each dish and to suit all tastes. This pack also includes our special 10 year aged Napa Cabernet - a velvety, rich wine, aged to perfection, ten years in the making. My Wines Direct's Final Four - Better by the Dozen, now only $174.95 + FREE Shipping. Limited time offer valid 03-24 to 4-6. Shop today!

And if you want a really great pack of interesting wines, check out the
referee_rules_1.jpgBracket Buster:
3 Whites, 3 Reds $72.94
The ref has made the final call - this truly is a winning line up. Three rich reds, three cool whites plus $23 in savings AND $0 Shipping. Easy sipping and easy savings with this international mix - reds and whites from Spain, California and Chile. No matter what your bracket shows, you'll get a winning wine each time with these six wines. Don't let the clock run out on this deal. Beat the buzzer - savings end April 6!!

What I really love about My Wines Direct, aside from the great prices and free shipping, is the selection of wines I've never heard of--and they're all guaranteed. My first order arrived with tasting notes, tips and a special offer to use on my next order.

Read More in: Wine Discounts

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March 30, 2009

Keeping it Kosher - Wines for Passover


In order for a wine to be kosher, it must be created under a rabbi's immediate supervision, with only Sabbath-observant Jewish males touching the grapes from the crushing phase through the bottling. While all wines require some sort of mold (yeast) for fermentation, kosher for Passover wine must be made from a mold that has not been grown on bread (such as sugar or fruit) and must exclude several common preservatives. All Israeli wines are Kosher for Passover and most (but not all) kosher wines are kosher for Passover. To be sure, check the label for the P. (from

Passover is quickly approaching and while I am by no means an expert on Kosher wines, I have tried quite a few and thought I'd pass along some reliable choices that are also budget friendly. There are a lot of online resources for Kosher wines these days and I've included a few links at the bottom so you may browse at your leisure.


hagafenSB.jpgHagafen Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2008 $17
On the nose, this highly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc shows pineapple, key lime, and mandarin orange. This bracing, mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated and creamy mix of apricot, citrus, grapefruit, and tangelo. This Sauvignon Blanc is produced from a well-established vineyard in the Eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, where the hot days and cool nights are ideal for creating crisp, clean, long-finishing food friendly wine. (from Wine Chateau)

recanatiChard07.jpgRecanati Chardonnay 2007 $16
This Chardonnay was made from Upper Galilee Chardonnay vineyards and aged sur lies, a technique used to produce wines that are buttery, complex and rich in flavor. These Chardonnay grapes were harvested in the earlymorning hours in Recanati's Upper Galilee vineyards at Kibbutz Manara and Kerem Ben Zimra, at the foothills of Meron mountain. These well-nurtured and quality vineyards, with their high quality low crop load, are characterized by scents and flavors of white flowers, grapefruit, pineapple and tropical fruit. The wine remained with its sediment and developed flavors and scents of vanilla, butter and toasted bread that combined with the wine's fruit flavors and full, robust body. (from Astor Wines & Spirits)

galil_voig_LRG.jpgGalil Mountain Viognier 2006 $13
Bright, golden straw-like color. Peach, ripe apricot and orange peel aroma with a refreshing blossom-like fragrance and hints of oakand butter characters. A medium-to-full bodied wine with balanced and gentle acidity and a long, pleasant finish. 60% of the wine underwent cold fermentation in stainlesssteel, with the remaining 40% fermented in new French oak barrels.The barrel-fermented wine aged on yeast lees for six months. The cold fermentation enabled the wine to preserve the variety's fresh characters, while wood and yeast characters were added to the barrel-fermented wine. (from

herzogChenin07.jpgBaron Herzog 2007 Clarksburg Chenin Blanc 2007 $8
Looking for a dry but soft, easy-drinking white wine that everyone can enjoy? Nice clean flavors with hints of melon, stone fruits, and savory herbs are wrapped in a smooth, medium-bodied package that is delicious on its own, but will also pair beautifully with a wide range of lighter foods. A terrific everyday white wine that's also easy on the wallet. (from The Wine Country)


galilpinot.jpgGalil Mountain Pinot Noir 2006 $17
Perfumed and silky with typical aromas of wild berries, violets and hints of tobacco and oak. Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels. Delicate and well balanced with an elegant structure and a fresh pleasant finish. (from

gamlamerlot.jpgGamla Merlot 2006 $17
Gamla Merlot was produced from Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown in the Golan Heights. The cool climate, rocky volcanic soil and high altitude are ideal conditions for growing these classic varieties. Aging in oak barrels, mostly French with a bit of American, rounds out the berry floral and spice characters in this approachable and elegant Merlot. (from

golanCab.jpgGolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $13
The Golan Cabernet Sauvignon offers ripe berry and plum fruit notes rounded out with rich vanilla, spice and oak. This aromatic, medium-bodied wine finishes off with loads of fruit. Although immediately approachable, it will age well over the next five years or so. We recommend drinking it with boldly-flavored foods, such as spice-rubbed well-marbled grilled steak or eggplant parmesan made with plenty of fresh herbs. The fruit comes from several vineyards in the central Golan Heights. The wine aged for six months in American oak barrels. (from

tishbiPS.jpgTishbi Cabernet Petite Sirah 2007 $10
Cabernet Petit Syrah Dry red wine Appelation: Zichron Yaakov & Kfar Tavor This young, refreshing wine is made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah grapes. Fruity and fresh, it carries an aroma of strawberries and herbs. (from

Other great resources:
Kosher Wine Society
Online Kosher Wine

Main bottle image via Giora's Kosher Food Blog

Read More in: Wine Advice | Wine Recommendations

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March 24, 2009

Hermanos de Villar Ipsum Verdejo 2007

ipsumverdejo.jpgVARIETAL: Verdejo
REGION: Rueda, Spain
PRICE: $13

After a lovely morning hike through a desert preserve, the dashing Mr. CheapFunWines and I decided to spend our rare, kid-less Saturday afternoon meandering through Central Phoenix, exploring the fun and funky shops we would otherwise avoid with our 3-year-old in tow. And so we decided early on that our afternoon pilgrimage of all things "grown-up" must end at a wine bar.

We chose Postino--mostly because I was hungry for good panini--but were disappointed that the Postino Central location had yet to open. So, bellies rumbling we headed for Arcadia and the original Postino location, located in the old Arcadia post office building.

Since this isn't CheapFunRestaurants, I'll skip the lengthy description of the atmosphere and menu, except to note that we loved the casual vibe and lovely patio (where we found our perch) and though the menu is limited to panini, bruschetta, salads and a few appetizers, everything we tasted is excellent. As for the wine list, the by-the-glass list is diverse and interesting, and the bottle selections are displayed on racks as you enter the restaurant. You can browse those at your leisure and the knowledgeable and friendly wait staff is eager to assist in decision making. Glass prices are a little steep for my taste, unless you go between 11 am and 4 pm (every day) when glasses are only $5.

I chose the verdejo because it was a hot day and I thought it might be a lovely complement to the vegetarian panini... And I was not disappointed. In the glass it has a clear green-gold hue. Grass and citrus blossom and lime are the initial aromas that yield to crisp green-apple freshness and soft stone fruit and melon undertones on the palate. I love how the clean, vibrant energy of the Ipsum plays with soft, fruity delicacy and finishes with a clean, herbaceous zing. Pretty refined for a simple Spanish white.

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

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