This year I couldn't decide on one celebratory sparkler so I rounded up six popular standards and decided that I would pair them up and pit them against each other in a bubbly New Year's throwdown: two Spanish cavas, two California sparklers and two real-deal French Champagnes. As I am house-bound with a sick three-year-old this evening, this tasting comprises the the exciting entertainment for me and the dashing Mr. CheapFunWInes. Here is the line-up:
Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut $11
35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel·lo, 40% Parellada. A Cava with an exceptional, fresh, fruity style and a lingering aroma. It is the perfect partner for the finest food and excellent at any time. (via Wine.com)
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva $11
50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel lo. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, created from a blend of reserve and non-vintage wines, is clean and delicate, yet rich in flavor. The wine is vinified according to méthode champenoise technique and is aged in the bottle for up to 2 years. This fine cuvée is fairly crisp with an interesting floral note and mouth-pleasing sensation of creaminess. (via Wine.com)
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $17
This hugely popular, award winning wine offers touches of vanilla and melon, with firm acid and crisp structure. Medium bodied, with excellent mousse and a rich lingering finish, it is equally at home with a plate of iced oysters, fried calamari, chicken or a favorite pasta with a mild sauce. (via Wine.com)
Chandon Brut Classic $20
51% Pinot Noir 43% Chardonnay 4% Pinot Meunier 2% Pinot Blanc Classic balance typifies this refreshingly soft, yet dry wine. The wine delivers complex apple and pear characteristics accented by citrus spice over notes of almond and caramel in the bouquet. When you taste Brut Classic, look for nutty flavors with hints of brioche that build to a refreshingly dry finish. (via Wine.com)
Pommery POP $10 (187ml)
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier Impertinent and deliberately out of step, POP is a champagne with a determined commitment to the future - designed for lovers of beauty and non-conformity who are looking for new sensations. POP, is the sound of the cork leaving the bottle, conjuring up the spontaneous high spirits of party-time. (via Wine.com)
Piper Heidsieck Brut NV $10 (187ml)
55% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay Piper-Heidsieck cuvée Brut combines 50 rigorously selected growths. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes create a more rounded blend and ensure the originality of the Piper-Heidsieck style. The wine's harmony develops over the course of slow ageing in Piper-Heidsieck's chalk cellars. (via Wine.com)
Obviously the French champagnes are a touch outside the $20 provenance of CheapFunWines, but I made it work by splurging on a split of each. I found all of these at Cost Plus World Market, but as you may have noticed above, they are also available on Wine.com.
Throughout the evening, we will be checking in and reporting our tasting notes and thoughts and declaring a winner in each category.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling
Noël Wallace Permalink
December 15, 2008
VARIETAL(S): Shiraz 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 37%, Petit Verdot 15%
REGION: Langhorne Creek, Australia
From the folks at Bleasdale Winery comes this interesting Aussie red blend. I loved the warm and spicy berry aromas and the smooth supple texture. Very warm and inviting. You get lots of ripe and bold fruit from the shiraz and a sturdy backbone from the cab. However, the more I sipped, the more I was underwhelmed. I would definitely try the new vintage--I'm a fan of many of the Bleasdale wines--but this one faded pretty quickly on the palate. Generally good, but lacking just a little something. Not sure if the 2006 has been released yet, but if you see it, it is probably a good bet. Overall I think a new vintage would be a food-friendly crowd-pleasing red.
Read More in: Cabernet Sauvignon | Shiraz | Wine Tasting Notes
Noël Wallace Permalink
November 30, 2008
Forget about parking... and don't bother standing in line at the mall. I think we've found a little something for everyone on your list.
FOR THE PINOT-PHILE
The Boys Up North
The Boys Up North: Dick Erath and the early Oregon winemakers. Paul Pintarch's stories let you meet and enjoy a cast of characters who have made Oregon and American wine life more flavorful and a lot more fun. Even better, most of these "heroes of Pinot" are still alive and breaking new ground as you read. $15 (via Wine.com)
FOR THE GAME-NIGHT HOST
Pop the cork off any gathering with WINEOPOLY! Players buy favorite wines, collect bunches of grapes and trade them in for decanters. Sounds easy enough but add Import Taxes and serving faux pas and it becomes a little more difficult and a lot more fun! Each deed back contains wine descriptors and fun facts about each wine. It's all fun and games until you're sent to the Wine Cellar to age-then you're out of the game for three turns. So choose your token (wine bottle, cork, wine glass, cheese, grapes, or a carafe) and advance to CHEERS! Who knows? You may be elected president of the wine club or you may be penalized for serving obtrusively malodorous cheese! $25 (via Wine.com)
FOR AVID PICNICKERS
Picnic Gift Del Mar Two Person Wine & Cheese Tote
A gift for all your wine and cheese lovers to enjoy! The insulated compartment will keep cheese cold or bagels warm. Complete with cutting board and cheese knife. The handle or detachable shoulder strap makes this small lightweight tote perfect for the day hiker or the sunset watcher. Contents: 1 Deluxe Bottle Stopper. 1 Stainless Steel Corkscrew. 1 Cheese Knife. 1 Wooden Cutting Board. 2 Acrylic Wine Glasses. 2 Napkins. $32 (via Amazon)
FOR PORT LOVERS
Warres Otima Port & 8-Piece Godiva Chocolates
Is there a better combination than tawny Port and chocolate? From the renowned Port house Warres, Otima is a 10 year tawny Port made in a lighter, more contemporary style. Beautifully packaged and incredible when paired with Godiva's 8-piece ballotin of assorted creamy milk, white and dark chocolates. $40 (via Wine.com)
FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS A LITTLE EXTRA PAMPERING
Bamboo Bath Caddy by Umbra
Turn your bath into a spa! Rest the extendable handles of this spa-style wine bath caddy by Umbra on the rims of your tub. Slide the base of your wine-filled glass in the stem slot. Prop your favorite read on the book/magazine rest. Then relax! Features a spot for a small dish or glass and notches to hang bath accessories. A perfect fit for standard-size tubs. Expands up to 38" for larger tubs. Made by Umbra of water-resistant, renewable bamboo. $40 (via Amazon)
FOR THE NOVICE OENOPHILE
Wine Essence Kit
Learn how to taste wine while you are guided through its mysteries and pleasures. The kit is based upon international studies that have identified nine principal components of wine. The principal "essences" --along with their level of concentration and intensity--are what ultimately determine a wine's flavor and character. The kit includes these nine essences--sweet, bitter, sour, smooth, acetic, flowery, fruity, oak and tannin--individually bottled and carefully prepared so that the suggested dilution corresponds to their concentration in wine. The more you use the kit, the better you'll be able to identify the separate tastes in wine and understand the countless ways in which they can be blended. Kit also includes, a detailed instruction booklet, all necessary labels and a wine tasting glass. $40 (via Wine Enthusiast)
FOR YOUR BOOKISH BUDDIES
3 Bottle Wine Rack Bookend
One of your passions (books) supported by another (wine)--it only makes sense! Three wine bottles on each wrought iron bookend provide enough weight to prevent sliding, and more than enough style to enhance your shelves. Will fit standard Bordeaux 750mL size bottles. Size 10"H x 10"W x 5-1/2"D. $40 (via Wine Enthusiast)
FOR THE GADGET GURU
Picnic Time Wine Accessories Boxed Set
Eight-piece wooden box set includes lever-style cork-pull, two bottle stoppers, drip ring, foil cutter, pourer/stopper, thermometer, and extra cork-pull. $40 (via Amazon)
FOR THE SKI BUFF
RECYCLED SKI WINE RACK
You don't have to be a wine connoisseur or an expert skier to appreciate this innovative way to display your favorite vino. The bottles are stored on their sides to properly maintain the wine's integrity, while the original materials (recycled skis) adds a touch of fun and excitement. Made in Millbury, MA. $50 (via Uncommon Goods)
FOR THE WORLD TRAVELER
Spanish Paella & Wine Gift Set
The heart and soul of Spanish cuisine is fragrant paella. Our gift set starts you off with the essentials: a traditional steel paella pan, imported saffron (the world's most expensive spice), pimenton (a smoky paprika) and paella rice which naturally absorbs all of these wonderful spices. Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, from Spain's most prestigious wine region, delivers complex, spicy flavors that complement the exceptional flavors of Spanish paella. Add a special touch by serving your paella on the festive tapas plates. $70 (via Wine.com)
FOR THE HOME CHEF
Dining Delights Deluxe
We've cooked up the ideal bonus pack with a delicious assortment of wines from Chile, Australia, California, and Italy along with an award-winning, beautifully illustrated cookbook. If cooking and entertaining are on your list - you'll love getting six wines and the 'I Love to Cook' book all at once. The wines won't last long, but the recipes will make life easy and delicious for a long time to come. The book alone sells for $35 so you are getting a tremendous value. Perfect for any epicure on your gift list too! $100 (via MyWinesDirect)
FOR THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST (OR THE FRIEND WHO HAS EVERYTHING)
WineDown Accessories RoJaus Grapevine Decanter
The RoJaus Grapevine decanter from WineDown Accessories is the first and probably only touchless decanter on the market. The artistic form is a conversation piece in itself, but the graceful way the decanter aerates, chills and dispenses wine is phenominal. As wine is poured over the wine bubble, the flavors and aromas are released. Sediment and cork particles are trapped in a stainless steel filter allowing only perfectly aerated wine to be dispensed into your favorite stem. Information about customizing the decanter is included with your purchase. $180 (via Amazon)
Read More in: Wine Accessories | Wine Advice
Noël Wallace Permalink
November 25, 2008
With the holiday season upon us, it is time to start thinking about gift giving... NO, I don't mean Christmas gifts--not quite yet, anyway-- I'm talking about the more personal variety that you need all year long... but with frightening frequency during the holiday shuffle: the hostess gift. Be the beacon of fine manners and proper etiquette that your mother taught you to be and show your appreciation with wine and accessories. We know times are tight so we're offering some great ideas for less than $20.
WINELINES: The Wine Party Glass Tags$10
Can't find your chianti? Misplaced your merlot? Don't fret. Wine Lines are here to save the soiree! Wine Lines are soft, flexible, stretchable, washable synthetic rubber. Easy to slip onto a wineglass, and unobtrusive once in place. Twelve different color tags make for a perfect party pack. Each tag has a comment that is great fun to break the ice. Which one will you claim as your own? overpriced, complex, immature, rich, formidable, earthy, supple, opulent, ripe, volatile, sturdy and vintage. (via Amazon)
WINE CORK PLACE CARD HOLDERS- SET OF 8 $12
Put a cork in seating arrangement chaos with these clever wine cork place card holders. Looking every bit like the real thing, the resin corks feature a discreet card slot and a flat base to stay put long after the last bottle of wine is finished. The set of eight pieces makes the perfect gift for wine enthusiasts and harried hostesses.(via Uncommon Goods)
SONOMA COUNTY WINEGRAPE CHOCOLATES $15
16 Premium chocolate Truffles infused with wine grapes from Sonoma County's finest grape growing regions. Includes 4 of each: Russian River Pinot Noir Truffle, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Truffle, Knights Valley Merlot Truffle and Chalk Hill Chardonnay Truffle. (available via the link above or at your local Cost Plus World Market)
THE WINE TASTING AND PARTY KIT: Everything You Need to Host a Fun & Easy Wine Tasting Party at Home $17
Whether it's a casual afternoon in the backyard or a more formal soiree, a wine tasting party is fun and educational for everyone from novices to sophisticated sippers. Within this all-inclusive kit are the elements to be a terrific host, including cloth wine bottle covers, tasting score pads, a cheat sheet, glass markers, and an entertaining book that introduces you to the ins and outs of tasting wine in a comfortable, festive, social setting your own home. (via Amazon)
WINE SMARTS $17
Do you know the difference between a Barbera and a Burgundy? Would you like to read wine lists with more confidence? Welcome to Wine Smarts - the thinking person's drink game. Designed as both a stand alone game and a stylish coffee table accessory, our Wine Smarts game comes complete with 100 Wine Smarts question and answer cards with interesting and useful wine facts to expand your wine knowlege, a 12-page wine tips guide (including wine tasting techniques, how to throw wine tasting parties, and more), and a score pad. Makes a great gift for a beginner or a wine connoisseur alike! (via Amazon)
MULLING SPICES (set of 2) $18
Over the centuries wassail, a warm mulled drink consisting of ale, cider, wine or fruit juice flavored with citrus and spices, has been enjoyed at the onset of Winter. The word comes from an old Norwegian toast, "Ves heill!" meaning "Be in good health!" Simmer this beautifully balanced mixture of cinnamon, orange zest, clove and allspice with cider or red wine for an old-fashioned flavor and heady aroma that personifies the spirit of the holidays. 6 oz., packed in an airtight tin. (via Williams-Sonoma)
You'll be ready for any party with one of these great gifts... and a bottle of good (cheap) wine of course.
Read More in: Wine Accessories
Noël Wallace Permalink
November 24, 2008
Finally! A picnic wine that you can actually take to the park or the beach or an outdoor concert venue -- or just about anywhere you CAN'T take a glass wine bottle. Super convenient and dare I say, super cute, Volute wines might be the best thing to happen to tailgating.
We source our wine from small, independent Bordeaux wineries that posses the same values and views as we do. Our wineries also believe passionately about - and employ - green practices, and do not use any artificial additives.
Not sure yet if they live up to their story, but I just received a bottle of each, so I'll expound once I've popped the tops.
In the meantime, check out Volute Premium Portable Wines
Read More in: General News | Red Wine | Rose Wine | White Wine
Noël Wallace Permalink
Thanksgiving is the one holiday that I serve only wines made in the U.S. of.A. It just makes sense to me. So, all of the selections below meet that criteria as well as coming in below the $20 mark.
Cheap and Easy (or 1 White and 1 Red)
If you want to keep your selections simple, I would suggest a medium white and a medium to fuller-bodied red. It is always tough to choose only two wines for the extensive array of flavors present on the Thanksgiving table, and since everyone has their own idea of what constitutes 'cheap' I've given you two pricing options:
Cline Cellars Pinot Grigio - Chardonnay 2007
Ripe and creamy tropical fruit notes punctuated by a crisp, acidic finish $10
Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve Antique Vines 2004
Bold berry and spice are the predominant characteristics of this rich and chewy zinfandel $12
$15 TO $20
Eyrie Pinot Gris 2006
Rich and ripe, the Eyrie is fermented in stainless but develops depth and character from significant time spent on its lees. Then it is only loosely filtered before bottling. The resulting wine is layered and lush and a great accompaniment most dishes. $17
Esser Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006
Brilliant medium garnet in color, the wine's aromas are keynoted by violets, baked stone fruits and clove/allspice/fennel notes. With fine firm texture and fresh fruit flavors of cherry and plum backed by notes of spice cake and toasty oak. $16
Full Tasting Menu
I am a big fan of the tasting menu format... I enjoy the concept of trying more, but eating less. So if I were having a small group of mainly wine drinkers for the big feast, this would be my ideal menu:
Baby Greens with Sliced Pears, Dried Cranberries, Pecan Crusted Chevre Medallions & Champagne Vinaigrette
Roederer Estate Brut NV
Fresh Corn Puddings
2007 Foxglove San Luis Obisipo County Chardonnay
Apple-filled Acorn Squash Rings (from Epicurious)
2006 Bucklin "Compagni Portis Vineyard," Sonoma County, Gewurztraminer
Herb Rubbed Roasted Turkey over Rosemary Foccacia Dressing, with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pan Gravy
Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Rouge 2006
Miniature Pear Tatins and Pumpkin-Pecan Tarts
Stony Hill Vineyard Semillon de Soleil 2006
Just remember to choose the wine you like. That is the most important criteria after all. And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Read More in: Wine Advice | Wine Recommendations
Noël Wallace Permalink
November 20, 2008
Today is the day... the cry heard by tout le monde, "Le Beaujolais est arrivé!!!"
It makes me want to cringe. I used to celebrate the Nouveau and all of its quaint history because I thought it tied in so well with our nation's first celebration of the harvest, Thanksgiving. But over the years it has become a ridiculous spectacle that barely resembles its origins. And the thing that REALLY put me over the edge this year is the claim that Georges Duboeuf has gone "green" (so said Reuters a month ago). A lot of posturing about carbon footprint--blah, blah, blah. In actuality, it seems Duboeuf has only gone green--with a special Cuvee in a plastic bottle--for Whole Foods. Everyone else gets traditional glass. Really? We're supposed to be impressed? If they really want to go green they should do it right. Across the board.
So although I am a little curious as to what wine-in-a-soda-bottle tastes like. I was too fired up to deal with Whole Foods today. I settled for the unenlightened, traditional bottle, which you can find at just about every store that sells wine, for anywhere from $8 - $12. When I cool off and make my way to WF, I'll let you know.
And aside from my personal bitterness, the wine tastes much as it does every other year. Since it is pressed and bottled quickly, it is typically vibrant and fruity, exhibiting all the qualities of youth. Lots of bright strawberry, cherry and red currant, both on the nose and on the palate. If you're a Nouveau newbie, it is best served slightly chilled (at about 55 degrees F) and within 6 months of bottling.
Image header from Whole Foods
Read More in: Wine Tasting Notes
Noël Wallace Permalink
October 31, 2008
With the holiday season fast approaching, 'tis the season of merry making and convivial gathering. Here are two stunning leather carriers from QOOQ to make even your cheapest wine picks look like something special.
The Litron pictured above earns the official swanky title because it comes in over the $20 range. But not by much... for about $32 you have a lovely gift that your hosts can actually use for years to come. They won't even notice the 2-buck Chuck inside.
And the Ursula bag you'll want for your own trips to the market, but it is so cheap you'll be buying one for all of your friends. It is constructed of the same fine leather as the Litron, but cut in concentric circles so that it collapses into a flat disc for storage. $12 -$15
via QOOQ Edition
Read More in: Swanky Wine Fridays | Wine Accessories
Noël Wallace Permalink
October 28, 2008
There are a number of novelty wines out there if you're in the market this All Hallows Eve. If you want one stop shopping and live near a Cost Plus World Market, you can find about 9 or ten options there, including their own Trick (red blend) or Treat (white blend) from Chateau Diana. Cute idea, but I think I'll focus on the darker options.
Vampire Pinot Noir - Vampire Vineyards - Vin de Pays, FR
Powerful forest fruit and wild strawberry aromas persist on the nose, balanced by hints of fine French oak. The vibrant ruby red colors hint at a young wine, but the taste reveals a remarkable maturity. Elegant soft fruit flavors are already finely integrated into the structure of the wine, as is the oak, adding a subtle but powerful complexity to the flavor. This is a light smooth wine, easy to drink at any time of the year and exhibiting typical character of a young Pinot Noir. (Vampire Vineyards)
Vampire Merlot - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Picked at peak ripeness, the Merlot is fermented on the skins for two weeks, with three-times-daily pump-overs, the traditional method of extraction which brings rich color and supple tannins to the new wine. Aged with a combination of both French and American oak, our Merlot develops graceful fruit flavors in the cellar, complemented by subtle shadings of vanilla and toast from the oak. At the completion of the aging process, this Merlot was carefully blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure, as well as 8% Zinfandel, which adds a spicy note on the palate. (Vampire Vineyards)
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several small-berry clones of this traditional Bordeaux varietal, grown in the Paso Robles region of California's Central Coast. Classic, small-lot fermentations, followed by aging with both European and American oak, gives full expression to the rich varietal flavors in this wine. Judiciously blended with small amounts of Merlot for softness, and Syrah for added structure, the Cabernet displays ripe flavor character and a lovely aroma that will continue to develop with additional time in bottle. (Vampire Vineyards)
(If you want something a little more authentic, try to find the Cab and Merlot from the Racas Vineyard in Transylvania)
Spellbound Cabernet Sauvignon - California
Spellbound Cabernet exemplifies lush textures and bold dark fruit flavors with a slight hint of oak and spice. Cedar and tobacco aromas complement integrated lively tannins and fill out your palate allowing the wine to be consumed on its own or with your favorite food. (Spellbound Wines)
Spellbound Old Vines Zinfandel - Lodi
Our deep appreciation of the Zinfandel grapes rich history in California has led us to add this exciting varietal to the Spellbound family of wines. Focusing on old vines with lower yields that deliver intense flavors and bright acidity, we have produced a wine that is food friendly and lush on the palate. Located in the Lodi appellation, the 52 year old zinfandel vines offer subtle spice, rich, dark berry flavors, and balanced acidity. Aged in a combination of small French and American oak barrels we believe you will find this to be one of Spellbounds most delicious wines. (Spellbound Wines)
Evil Cabernet Sauvignon - South Australia
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Riverland, Barossa Valley. 25% aged in French oak for 12 months. Dark rich red, with bright crimson hues. Fresh, yet rich classic varietal nose, consisting of black olive, fresh blackberries and raspberries. The soft palate displays complexity of fruit and oak, with blackcurrant and spicy clove characters, balanced with a fine tannin finish. (Wine.com)
Pure Evil Chardonnay - South Australia
Pure Evil Chardonnay has white peach stone fruit characters. Add a luscious and delicious textural mouthfeel and a touch of French oak influence. The creaminess is balanced by an elegant freshness. (Wine.com)
You may also find these and other options at your local wineshop/beverage superstore. All are in the $8 - $15 range, but if you're having a party or just stocking up, be sure to ask about 6- and 12-bottle discounts.
Read More in: Red Wine | White Wine | Wine Recommendations
Noël Wallace Permalink
October 26, 2008
In a clever twist on the periodic table of elements, Wines of Substance from Walla Walla, Washington have caught my eye. They offer an interesting menu of varietals--and they teach you a little something about each on their site. It doesn't hurt that the concept, the website and the packaging are fresh and fun.
There is something infinitely elemental about wine... winemaking is chemistry after all... and I just love a periodic table I can actually remember.
Prices are in the $14 - $18 range. Stay tuned for more info about how they taste and where to buy.
Read More in: General News
Noël Wallace Permalink
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