Thursday, October 27, 2011

Herding Cats Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay, Vintage 2010

First, let me make this disclaimer: This wine is complete shit, but I love it.

The result of a purchase designed to shame and embarrass me as a cat lover, I'm glad I discovered this wine, because it's perfect just as it is: cheap, unassuming, and unoffensive. It's also unextraordinary and unremarkable, but I'm willing to let that slide, personally.

Verdict: Porch wine. It has some of the typical characteristics of a Chenin Blanc (a white floral nose, a minerally palate) and a few of the typical characteristics of a Chardonnay (a fruity palate, creamy mouthfeel due to the ML Fermentation), but it's not terribly complex. It is, however, crisp, refreshing and fruity - a great summer or easing-into-fall wine (or if you're me, an all-year wine!).

Pairing: I have (honestly) paired this with anything. From macaroni and cheese to hamburger helper, this wine just hangs back and stays refreshing - it doesn't presume to "go" with anything. Just buy it to keep in your house for dinner parties... no one needs to know that it's got a silly label!

Wine: Herding Cats Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay, Vintage 2010

Price: $7.99
Purchased: Harris Teeter, Alexandria VA

La Cappuccina Soave, Vintage 2010

This wine was pretty snappy considering it only cost $10! The nose was very floral, but also had a lot of stone fruits (maybe peach or apricot?) and the palate very bright with a hint of herbal or nutty complexity. I got some ripe vegetables on the first sip, but then some nuts and a hint of vanilla (oak-aged, maybe? I can't find anything to confirm this suspicion...) on the second round. The finish didn't linger, but it wasn't abrupt either, and for a white wine, had a surprisingly satisfying medium body.

Verdict: This was a fairly complex white at this price point, but ultimately, l would still deem it "porch wine". Being a bit unfamiliar with both the region and the varietal, I may have to revise this post later once I've had a bit more education on them, but from what I read, my notes are fairly consistent with typical Soaves that are young and from less reputable (but still respected) wineries.

Teachable Moment:
This wine is made predominantly (70%) of a grape that I have *literally* never heard of: Garganega. It took a little bit of research to educate myself on it enough to share with you - so this teachable moment is for you AND me:
Garganega is a variety of white Italian wine grape widely grown in the Veneto region of North East Italy, particularly in the provinces of Verona and Vicenza. It is Italy's 6th most widely planted white grape. It forms the basis of Venetian white wine Soave and is also a major portion of the blend used to make Gambellara.[1]
DNA typing studies in 2003 and 2008 have confirmed that the Grecanico Dorato (Grecanio) grape of Sicily is identical to Garganega.[2] Already before these studies, ampelographers believed the grapes to be related due to the similarities of clusters, berries and leaf characteristics.[3]
-Taken from the Wikipedia page on Garganega.
Pairing: Being an Italian wine of fairly acidic character, I'd be amiss not to recommend it with pasta. I imagine, if I liked seafood, that this would be a great wine for some linguini in clam sauce or other such dish with a thicker sauce and a heady aroma... but, if you're like me, chicken Alfredo is the way to go! 

Wine: La Cappuccina Soave, Vintage 2010
Price: $9.99
Purchased: Whole Foods Market, Alexandria VA

Friday, October 21, 2011

Whoa whoa whoa... where did I go?

Darling blog follower-type people,

I just wanted to send an apologetic note to you (even if you probably didn't notice my lack of posting), because you are no-doubt long overdue for some inexpensive recommendations! The sad thing is that I have 4 draft posts in here, another 3 sets of tasting notes to compile, and a stack of notes from an extensive tasting in Baltimore I did 3 weekends ago, so it hasn't been for lack of drinking ...err..."material".

I'm shooting to get the 4 draft posts pushed out by tomorrow afternoon, and then I'm putting myself on a regular schedule! Since the possibility of my having to go completely gluten free looms large and in-charge, I'm glad that wine is the one thing I truly won't have to think about before I consume. Whether this change in my diet will increases my wine consumption or just allows me to enjoy it that much more, I guess we'll just have to see...!

With love,

Your (very) skint sommelier

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Life is complicated ... so read someone else's perspective!

I get the daily emails from Snooth, and I find them very interesting sometimes (of course, sometimes they're not, but whatever).

Yesterday's email was about summer wines not being just about the whites and rosés... and I found myself nodding in agreement. Check it out here.

Definitely food for thought (or drink, rather...).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Miyone Garnacha Seleccion Old Vines, Vintage 2009

A holdover from that Wine Source "big-buy" I did a few months ago, this was a wine that we drank reluctantly ... but it a wasn't terrible choice (of course, nor was it great). Because it says "Garnacha" on the bottle, you already know it's from Spain (everywhere else in the world refers to the Varietal as "Grenache"), and it's fairly rare to find a Grenache that doesn't have too much else blended into it. This wine is 100% Garnacha, and it screams loudly from the bottle "I AM A THIN-SKINNED GRAPE! I WANT TO BE INDEPENDENT BUT BY MYSELF I AM (mostly) A HOT MESS!" If you'd like to know more about the wine snob world's view on Grenache/Garnacha, read how the "Appelation America" site (plug later) comically describes the varietal below!


Almost a dessert wine, this bottle is super sweet. As I am not a huge proponent of sweet reds, the sugar content of this bad boy was a deterrent to me - but not one to my dinner guests. A matter of taste, the wine itself was fragrant and flavorful, with a nose that reeked of red and black berries and a fruit-juicy, peppery flavor on the palate. Two things to note: the finish was short and a bit abrupt, and this bottle DOES. NOT. AGE. WELL. If you open it, you'd better be willing to drink the whole thing, because it's sickeningly sweet even a day after (and it has a screw-top lid!). This grape is frankly more of a "supporting grape" (*giggle* see below!), and I think it does more to enhance the flavors in blends than it does in a bottle all by its lonesome. Still, overall it was not terrible, but not terribly enjoyable (for me) either... if you want a sweet red that's meatier than a rosé but semi-higher quality than most of the nasty "sweet reds" (see one of my earlier "don't drink this even if your life depends on it" posts) ... go with this. Cheap, sweet, and fairly unobtrusive if you can balance out the sugar with your food.

And now... for a "teachable moment"!
Below is an excerpt from the varietal page for the Grenache (aka "Garnacha") grape, found on the "Appelation America" site (join for a small fee each month if you want to learn a lot about wine as well as have access to some great - and often hysterical - tasting notes and wine lists). As a member, I won't divulge all the secrets I pay for on a monthly basis, but I find this description of Grenache to be fitting and entertaining:

Pairing: We drank this bottle with pasta and red sauce... WRONG. The sugar in the bottle + the acidity in the sauce = nasty migraine for me (and a nasty, lingering taste in your mouth for anyone who dares try this combo). Better enjoyed, as I said above, as a heavier dessert wine (don't get me wrong, it's not intended for this purpose, and WILL NOT play nicely with other very sugary things), this could also pair well with fatty foods like stews and lambs - something heavier to balance out the sugar (but not overwhelm it with acidity *cough* pasta dish *cough*). Again, it all comes down to preference ... I'd drink this wine with a bread pudding or some pumpkin bread before I'd eat it with meat (after all, I love my Zins!), but you might like it for dinner - as always, try it and feel free to let me know!

Wine: Miyone Garnacha Seleccion Old Vines, Vintage 2009
Price: $8.99
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD

Friday, June 24, 2011

Agua de Piedra Reserva Malbec, Vintage 2010

Bless my Dad's little heart, he is always trying to keep up with my flighty passions. Ever a beer connoisseur, my Dad wouldn't touch wine with a 10-foot pole until I started taking the WSET Classes last year ... then, suddenly, I came home for the weekend and he was sipping Malbec out of a tiny white sampler glass and saying things like "this doesn't have a lot of tannins in it, so I like it". It was precious ... but more importantly, it was true.

My Dad brought this bottle over as a "housewarming" present for my roommate Caroline and I to enjoy, along with my typical bottle of Dr. L Riesling (always a favorite) and some food. Then he helped me move stuff. This is why my Dad is awesome.

Verdict: While I didn't drink much of this bottle, I did enjoy what I had - and let me tell you, it's delightful. Argentinian Malbecs really are the "everybody" reds (I also like Australian Shiraz, but Malbecs are a little more light bodied with smoother tannins). I didn't take extensive tasting notes, but what I remember of this bottle was plummy and rich with an earthy base that allowed for the minimal hints of spice to come through on the palate. The finish was quite long and as my Dad said (although he didn't know he was stating a fact), the tannins are velvety smooth. It's not a complex wine, to be sure, but for $8.99, it's a very nice bottle.

Pairing: Classic Malbec pairing is an acidic food, or one with a bit of spice (like a tomato-based dish, or a smoked meat). Because this wine is mild, it would do well with more subdued "big flavor" dishes like Teryaki Chicken or Tex-Mex food without a ton of jalapenos in it. I think this bottle would go nicely with most dishes, but it would definitely overpower a simple chicken-and-rice dish unless you're going to throw a ton of spices and garlic in there (*cough*boyfriend*cough*).Basically, just enjoy this wine. Grab a hunk of Asiago and munch on it while enjoying your air conditioning and watching Veronica Mars on ... if you want to spend your days like I do, anyway.

Wine: Agua de Piedra Reserva Malbec, Vintage 2010
Price: $8.99
Purchased: Rick's Wine & Gourmet, Alexandria VA

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elios Mediterranean White, Vintage 2010

It's rare when a wine lives up to the often-hefty words of its reseller/vineyard website, but this is a fine example of one that does. According to the Terlato Wines International website (the reseller that partnered with old-hat Greek vineyard Boutari),
Elios wines are a blend of traditional grapes such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Mediterranean grapes that are reminiscent of the sun soaked beaches, deliciously fresh foods, and relaxed culture of the Mediterranean. Elios Mediterranean blends have a bright, fruit forward flavor profile that today’s consumers seek out in a memorable package that will keep them coming back for more.
Doesn't it just make you want to throw a few chilled bottles in a cooler and head off to a beach vacation (of course LIFE these days makes me want to go on vacation - not even any specific part of life, just life in general, but who's counting?)? I know this wine belongs in a beautiful crystal long-stemmed white wine glass, but I'd be just as happy drinking it out of a 'sketchy' cup stretched out in a folding chair under a lovely (read: large) umbrella. Sigh.

Verdict: This wine is the perfect blend of inexpensive price tag and quality - plus, the label is pretty, for all my I-prefer-a-pretty-label amigas reading this today. I admit that I didn't know much about Greek wines when I purchased it, so I had to do some research on the grapes out of which this wine was made (mostly Chardonnay, but also a large percentage of Moschofilero, with a bit of a  Roditis/Savatiano blend). In addition to learning a lot of about the Greek winemaking history and reputation, I learned a lot about typical Greek wines and favorite tastes, and this wine seems to be at the lower-cost end of the favorites - the opposite end of the spectrum from Retsina (the wine that gives modern Greek wines a bad rep!). While I know Whole Foods in Maryland doesn't sell wine, I have to admit that a lot of my purchases lately have been from there, because they seem to feature unique wines at reduced cost - furthering the cause of this bloggy adventure.

On first glance, the color of this wine is a pale lemon, but after pouring it into a glass and letting it warm a bit in my hands, the color became more vibrant. The aroma is exceedingly pleasant on this table wine - a mix of fairly complex citrusy/floral scents that had me sniffing for quite some time to try and identify them all (a feat which I'm quite sure I didn't accomplish). On the forefront of the nose, there was a lot of lemon, melon and even a bit of lime with an almost honeysuckle or fruit blossom blend to it. While it was difficult to pinpoint all the different smells, it was very fun to try - almost as fun as tasting! A very light-bodied wine, the citrus translated to the palate along with a peachy/apricot-y base, supporting very grassy overtones. This wine is crisp, light, with a long finish and a tiny bit of sweetness (whether it's actual or perceived I'm not sure - it's so fragrant, I think my taste buds are confused by my nose!) - simply perfect for a refreshing white on a warm summer evening, by the beach or not.

Pairing: This is a FOOD wine. It's light body lends itself to a large range - from appetizers to full chicken dinners. I am recently obsessed with this "Athenian Chicken" from the Old Town Deli in Alexandria, and I think this wine would be amazing with the lemon-herb dressing on the greek-style "sample salad" they feature as a lunch special. Truly, though, this wine goes with just about everything (except maybe barbecue, and you've got plenty of other cheap options I've reviewed before to choose from for that! Go Zin!). Love this wine, or don't, but you could definitely give it as a host/hostess gift for just about any dinner party and it would be great to open before/during/after the meal.

Wine: Elios Mediterranean White, Vintage 2010
Price: $10.99
Purchased: Whole Foods Market, Alexandria VA

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Three Wishes Chardonnay, Vintage 2010

This wine is the definition of CHEAP WINE. I picked up this bottle because it was in a Whole Foods stand with a giant sign that said "$1.99" ... who wouldn't have tried it?! The equivalent of Trader Joes' "2 Buck Chuck", this is a 750mL bottle with a very pretty label. Plus, it's my bloggy duty to test the good deals and share my findings with the blogosphero -- I'm like a wino superhero!

This wine was a very poor California chardonnay, but I didn't expect much, because let's face it, it was $1.99. It had a metal-y taste and it was almost bubbly (reminiscent of a bad Riesling), but it at least hinted at some stone fruits and a tiny bit of citrus - plus, anything is refreshing if it's cold enough. I wouldn't recommend taking this bottle as a gift to anyone, but if you want to get your buzz on with a chilly glass at your neighborhood barbecue, I'd say this is at least a tiny bit classier than Boone's Farm or Mike's Hard Lemonade.
Pairing: Since this isn't much of a wine, it's probably best with a burger and fries. Were you waiting for me to say that? Were you hoping and praying I'd finally recommend a bottle you could smuggle into McDonald's to enjoy with your McChicken or your snack wrap? Well, friends, here it is. For $1.99, it's roughly the same price as a large Diet Coke - and believe me, I know that for a fact.

Wine: Three Wishes Chardonnay, Vintage 2010
Price: $1.99
Purchased: Whole Foods Market, Alexandria VA

Beronia Crianza Rioja, Vintage 2007

This wine was a pretty nice wine, one of the last of the big Wine Source purchases, and we enjoyed it with dinner (despite the fact that we didn't exactly pair it well). Made by Matías Calleja, it is an 84% Tempranillo, 13% Garnacha and 3% Graciano blend aged in mixed-oak barrels. As an 87-point wine on the Wine Spectator scale, this wine came recommended by several different wine blogs as a good example of a classic-but-modern Rioja style wine.

A bright ruby wine, the nose was a delightful blend of red and black fruits with a hint of vanilla and some bright spice (maybe a white pepper?). On the palate, the vanilla is more vivid, no doubt a nod to the time it spent in mixed-oak barrels (vanilla from the American oak, spice from the French oak), but is predominantly fruity, a delicious blend of cherries and blackcurrants (and maybe some plums?). The tannins in this wine are a little edgy, but the texture is still fairly smooth and the finish is long with a wisp of vanilla right at the end.

Pairing: This type of Rioja (Crianza, specifically), is a great "dinner party wine" - it goes well with fish, lamb, beef, pasta ... pretty much everything but chicken (which is, of course, what we had for dinner!). Because this wine was a little heavier-bodied, it would be best enjoyed with a meatier dinner (a lighter Rioja would be better for fish or pasta, although this one still would be great with the right sauce and/or seasoning).

Wine: Beronia Crianza Rioja, Vintage 2007
Price: $12
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Finca Luzon Verde Jumilla, Vintage 2008

Much like the Juan Gil that I love so much, this was a great Spanish Red from Jumilla made of 100% Monastrell. 

Verdict: If you can't find the Juan Gil, then go for this one. The nose on this bottle is very sweet and jammy (lots of dark cherries and currants), with some smoky notes that hint to an earthy base. The palate is a "fruit bomb" (to quote Chris), with some coffee undertones and a bit of anise (I think sometimes I taste anise in things because I like it so much, though...). I think it was a little more on the sweet side than I wanted out of this wine, but it was only slightly off-balance.

I think this would pair best with something on the spicy side -- as usual, I recommend barbecue, but maybe some chicken wings would be good(I'm going to get half-priced wings at Hard Times Cafe in Rockville in about 15 minutes, so I definitely have wings on my mind...)? I believe we didn't consume much "comida" with this bottle, but good conversation can line your stomach sometimes, right?

Wine: Finca Luzon Verde Jumilla, Vintage 2008
Price: $11
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc, Vintage 2009

This wine is my absolute FAVORITE that I have purchased since I started this whole skint sommelier project. When I was going through the certification classes, we tasted a few Chenin Blancs, and I remember hating them, so I was hesitant to grab this one, despite the "no brainer" recommendation from the Wine Source. It was only after Chris and I went to a tasting at The Curious Grape, we tasted this wine and bought a bottle (I didn't realize it was the same one until we got home). Two strong recommendations from two great wine retailers later, and I finally cracked open a bottle and was DELIGHTED with the results. 

Verdict: Awesome. The Royal, 2009 Old Vines Steen (another name for the South African Chenin Blanc grapes), sourced from 48 year-old vines in the Swartland wine growing region of South Africa is easily the most lovely, and universally drinkable South African wines that I've ever had. If I had blind taste-tested this wine, I would have guessed that it was French because the mineral quality of the wine and heavy-handed honeysuckle flavors are way more reminiscent of a French Chenin Blanc than a South African one. Similarly, the acidity and the citrus characteristics are reminiscent of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I reviewed earlier. Another thing I loved about this wine was the fact that it's unoaked - but that's a personal preference, as the characteristic smoky/oaky flavor typical of oaked whites just doesn't agree with my palate most of the time. Also the stone fruit and honey overtones of the palate are absolutely lovely, as is the creamy mouthfeel (indicative of malolactic fermentation, although I have no confirmation that the vineyard uses this process).

Pairing: This is another wine like the Starborough where it goes well with most light meals (or by itself!). As this is a creamier, sweeter Chenin Blanc, it tends to pair well with cream sauces and spicier food (this was the PERFECT wine to drink with the creamed spinach chicken with bacon that I cooked a few weeks ago - heavy cream with smoky bacon and sweet honey wine = heaven!). I also dream of the day that I can make a lovely potato soup and drink this wine, because I think it would be an absolutely divine pairing. 

Wine: The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc, Vintage 2009
Price: $10 and $12, respectively
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD & The Curious Grape, Arlington VA

Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec, Vintage 2010

I am not that familiar with rosés as a category of wine, but the winemaking process is very interesting, so when I saw this Crios as a recommended wine at the Wine Source, I had to snap it up and try it. When wines are made, all of them - white and red - are made from dark-skinned grapes. White wines are white because when they are fermented, the grapes do not come in contact with the skins or stems, which contain both the pigment and the tannins. Red wines are fermented with the skins and stems, which is why tannins and dark coloration are characteristic of reds. Rosés live somewhere in the middle, where the grapes come into contact with the skins and stems, but only for a brief part of the fermentation process, which is why they have the pinkish coloration and very low tanins. 

Verdict: I have to say I did not enjoy this wine very much at all. We drank it last monday when it was ungodly warm and the AC wasn't turned on yet in Chris' building, so even though I made BBQ pork for dinner (and what have I said about BBQ? Syrah or Zinfandel! I had the chance to enjoy a ZIN!!), we went against our instincts and drank the rosé because it was chilled and we were so damn hot. The wine was spicy and hot in my mouth, with a 13.9% alcohol, and a surprising full body for a rosé. The coloring is also quite deep for a rosé, typical of the thick-skinned malbec grape (the main grape grown in Mendoza, Argentina, from where this wine hails). The nice part about this wine was the nose and the palate were heavy with strawberry and cherry notes/flavors, but between the bad pairing and the glaringly hot alcoholic mouthfeel, I couldn't enjoy much about this wine except it's cool temperature on a hot evening. 

Pairings: Obviously, not BBQ. A rosé is typically a chicken wine, but this spicy version would also go nicely with Thai food or maybe even spicier Chinese food. The a-typical body in this wine makes it more suitable for heavier foods (and less refreshing on a hot day). Don't let me discourage you from trying this wine, just make sure that you pair it appropriately. 

Wine: Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec, Vintage 2010
Price: $12.99
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD

Monday, March 28, 2011

Starborough Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2009

This is one of those wines that screams "GORGEOUS SUMMER DAY!" and you can literally drink with almost anything (or nothing, as I'm want to do these days!). I absolutely love the mildness and crisp nature of this simple New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc - and the name is so cute! Starborough from Marlborough! 

Verdict: The nose on this wine is very fragrant with heavy citrus and white floral (honeysuckle) notes. The palate is very fruity, with hints of melon, passion fruit and peach as well as a crisp citrus undertone (grapefruit?) and a significant acidity level, perfect for sauce pairings. It's refreshing just to inhale the scents of this juicy beverage, and like I said above, a glass of it just screams "summer". If you like complex wines, this is probably not for you, but it's really a treat for someone who's looking for an easy glass to drink while unwinding on the porch or at the beach. Just thinking about this wine makes me crave a vacation (but what, nowadays, doesn't?)! Side note: This wine reminds me of a slightly less interesting, but equally cheap and refreshing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Ponga. If you can't find Starborough, the flavor profile in Ponga is very similar and it would be a suitable substitute.

Pairing: Classic Sauv Blanc pairings are lighter seafood, pork and chicken, dishes but this wine is so easy and smooth, you could enjoy it with vegetarian meals or even pastas with creamy sauce (in moderation, though, because too much fat in foods makes the wine and the food taste sour or "off"). I pretty much just enjoyed the bottle as a glass (or two...or three....) of wine after a hard day. 

Wine: Starborough Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2009
Price: $10.99
Purchased: Giant, Arlington VA & Target, Alexandria, VA

Friday, March 25, 2011

Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2008

I really love California Cabernet Sauvignons (as you know!), but in my never-ending quest to find "interesting" and "unique" buys that us pobrecitos can afford, I snagged this Chilean Cab from the grocery store by Chris' house for a dinner I made for him - one that I have to say was pretty delicious!

Verdict: This Cab is pretty classic, although I will say it's not anything super special. It's got a heavy red fruit aroma with a hint of a woody smell (maybe cedar chips? knowing what I know about Chile's winemaking techniques, that's likely). The palate is heavy on the darker red fruits (particularly blackcurrant and blackberries) and the tannins are smooth and integrated, although the alcohol is a little high for my taste (leading to a little heat on the back palate) 

Pairing: I made a lasagna and garlic bread to go with this wine - while a Cab sometimes can be too mild for red sauce, it went nicely with this meal because of its relatively high acidity and tannic nature. A full bodied wine, Cabs traditionally go well with steaks and lamb, but pair nicely with rich sauces like alfredo. While they don't pack as much punch as a Zin, Cabs are still hearty wines meant to be enjoyed with hearty meals - you'll find you get the most of your wine when you pair it appropriately.

Wine: Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2008
Price: $11.99
Purchased: Harris Teeter, Arlington VA

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Return of the Cheap Drunk!

A great "blog" I used to read is now being revamped through (one of my favorite non-pretentious wine sites) and you can read now about a few good deals selected by the always entertaining Gregory Piaz...

"Return of the Cheap Drunk!"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Juan Gil Jumilla Red Wine, Vintage 2008

Another selection made by my wino boyfriend, this is one of his favorites (and now one of mine). It's made from the monastrell grape (also known as Mourvedre) in Jumilla and Miguel Gil, the winemaker, is pretty much the expert on both the grape and the region. 

Verdict: This is a nice, inexpensive red that's very interesting and different. The first thing I noticed on this was the alcohol - you can smell it, taste it, and it's definitely on the high side (this wine has legs!). Also on the nose are a lot of the black fruits (currants, blackberries, or even black raspberries) as well as some vegetal notes and definitely a chocolate and coffee smell. On that palate, I got a lot of spice and smoke (most of which I can attribute to the French Oak barrels in which it was aged), and smooth, integrated tannins with a long, almost maple-y finish. To me, this wine was like a comfortable leather armchair, and I can just imagine sinking back into it while smoking a Cuban cigar...but I digress.

Pairing: This is a hearty wine, best paired with meats (although now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure we ate chicken! Still, I would recommend this with a steak or even better: a pulled pork barbecue sandwich. I know I always pair Zins with barbecue, but this would be another one that would be awesome with some Sweet Baby Rays!

Wine: Juan Gil Jumilla Red Wine, Vintage 2008
Price: ? Most websites offer between $7-10
Purchased: Gift

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2009

This wine is a fun one! I haven't done a whole lot of Sauvignon Blancs before because... well, because I thought I didn't like them! I didn't buy this wine, and from everything I've read, there is not a lot on where this "Maxwell Creek" vineyard is... but a little birdie told me that it's a relabeled 90pt bottle from the Rutherford Area of Napa Valley that normally sells for $30 a bottle.

Verdict: The nose on this wine was heavenly - heavy on the grapefruit (as I've found a lot of Sauvignon Blancs to be these days, but with pepper and a high floral note of honeysuckle or another white blossom, it smells too sweet NOT to eat! The nose really delivered on the palate, proving this wine to be a very fruity, dry and minerally SUMMER wine! Additionally, there was a vegetal note on the palate that I didn't get on the nose reminiscent of some grassy or peppery earth flavors. 

Pairing: While pairing is always the ideal, this is a nice sipper - no food necessary! We drank it with pesto-and-Parmesan crusted chicken over angel hair pasta, but it would also go nicely with pork or fish. A crisp, clean and integrated yet slightly complex, bottle, I recommend you go get it (if you can find it)!

Wine: Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2009
Price: ? Most websites offer between $7-15
Purchased: Gift

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Four Vines "Old Vine Cuvée" Zinfandel, Vintage 2008

One of my many wine source purchases, I drank this bottle as my last beverage after a rowdy night, so I am not confident that my tasting notes are as "elite" as I'd like them to be. For you, my few but fabulous readers, I did a bit of research on it, so this review a little bit more of an "interpretation".

Verdict: This wine is a MAJOR mouthful. Not my favorite Zinfandel, but still an interesting try because of the reputation of the winemaker (read more here). As far as I've been told, there's quite a difference between the vintages, so I'm just going off of the 2008 I tried... I'm not sure if I could recommend the others based on this, unless they were a lot more integrated (or didn't have the spicy oak that hits you over the head like a, well, oak tree). As for the tasting, the nose on this (as far as I can recall) was plummy and ripe - almost raisin or prune-like. It was medium-to-full bodied (I always hesitate to categorize wines one way or another because it really just depends on your own personal judgment), and it was VERY fruity (jammy, plummy, and a hint of anise or licorice on the back palate). While others argue that the tannins were smooth and integrated, I maintain that the tannins were a bit sharp and on the in-yo-face side.

Pairing: As I've said before, you need a big food for a Zin (barbecue being my personal favorite pairing), because it's such a "fruit bomb" as my wonderful boyfriend calls it. If you had this Zin with chicken, forget about tasting the chicken... or anything else, for that matter. It's a challenge, but fruity wines like this one CAN be a great addition to a fun meal ... just don't drink it at the end of a rowdy night (or drop your blackberry into it... a story for another time, perhaps).

Wine: Four Vines "Old Vine Cuvée" Zinfandel, Vintage 2008
Price: $10
Purchased: The Wine Source (see previous post extolling their amazingness....)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SPLURGE: Graham's 20 Year Tawny Port

As many of you know, I missed the last lecture in my WSET series, and it just happened to be the most important for the test - sparkling wines and Ports/Sherrys/Liquors. Consequently, I had never tried a Port except in Port wine sauce, and had no concept of what they were supposed to taste like (other than what the book said). Although I promised to review the shiiiite Port I bought last week (it was a Ruby, and it was nasty - even Jon, who will drink many things that I wouldn't even sniff, agreed it was foul), I decided to review the *good* bottle instead (even though it's not a *cheap* purchase). A good substitute, however, is the Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Tawny, which runs for around $15-20 and has a lot of similar qualities as this Graham's 20.

Verdict: This bottle, purchased by Clare's darling father after reading about it in the paper, is a nice intermediate-to-advanced Port. The flavor is actually surprisingly syrupy (so much so, that I had to smell it multiple times to be sure that I got the caramel and chocolate notes beyond what my brain associated with Maple Syrup!). The mouthfeel was very smooth and the flavors very integrated, despite the fortification making this 20% alcohol by volume - there's still heat and spice from the alcohol, though, so don't let me fool you.

If I'm being 100% honest, I didn't really like this Port, but that may be because Port just isn't my thing. Sweet wines, I've found, and fortified wines, are almost like an acquired taste - something you perhaps train yourself to enjoy on those nice winter nights sitting by the fire and enjoying good company.

Pairing: As for pairing, I'd definitely pair this with a a fruity dessert to bring out the red fruits that I know are hiding behind that caramel. Perhaps a tart or a parfait would be the right kind of light-but-rich dessert, bold enough not to be masked by the Port but integrated enough to blend well with the flavors. I'd also like to make a glaze for a pie or a cobbler from this Port, because I'm betting it lends itself well to a caramel reduction!

Wine: Graham's 20 Year Tawny Port
Price: Between $50-80, depending on where it's purchased
Purchased: Gift

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beware: Major Wine Source purchases were made... lots of bottles to follow!

I'm house-sitting this week and have a VERY large space to myself, so... who wants to come get drunk with me? As a very thoughtful birthday gift, my dear friends gave me a gift certificate to my favorite Baltimore wine store, The Wine Source. This place is a) huge b) has knowledgeable staff and c) has a great selection - plus, it's in Hampden, across the street from my very first apartment, which makes it sentimental and awesome.

I bought NINE bottles of wine - all under $12.00 - and all a variety of recommendations from the store employees. They have signs on recommended bottles that read "No Brainer" and have a brain with a slash through it - which makes it really easy to select the featured wines (and it's cute and silly and makes me laugh).

The shopping part was a blast, so I'm betting the drinking part will be even more entertaining - stay tuned!

Santa Rita 120 Carménère, Vintage 2008

This bottle was recommended by my dear friends as a good less-than-$8-bottle, but what makes it even better is that it is a Carménère. Carménère grapes, which originated in the Médoc region of Bordeaux in France, are almost extinct in Europe, initially a victim of the Phylloxera plague in 1867. Later, when Bordeaux vineyards attempted replanting the vines, they proved to be extremely susceptible to the coulure, which prevented the vines from flowering. Some time in the 19th century, Carménère vines were imported to Chile from Bordeaux and the vines have been thriving there ever since. I recommend reading about the history of this grape if you like viticulture, because it's extremely interesting to learn how climate, soil, weather patterns, insect life and other extraneous factors can affect how varieties evolve and survive. Now pretty much "the grape" of Central Valley, Chile, Carménère continues to thrive and Chilean wines are getting more recognition every year.

Verdict: This wine is a medium-bodied red that has almost a chewy quality to it. It's typically jammy with vegetal notes of bell pepper and dried herbs. The nose on it isn't exceptionally fragrant, but the palate lingers and the finish has a spicy licorice and chocolate undertone that is reminiscent of a great anise chocolate bar I had recently. I enjoyed this wine, but it is extremely tannic (they aren't very integrated, so the wine is almost soupy in mouthfeel), so if your head is susceptable to tannins like mine is, don't drink the whole bottle by yourself!

Pairing: Traditional pairings of Carménère wines include lamb and beef (and not-so-traditional, but likely delicious is Shepherd's Pie!). Not exactly being "traditional" folks, my friends and I enjoyed this wine with Clare's homemade sirnica and krompiruša, two varieties of Bosnian "pita". While the wine had a bit too much flavor to balance with the light, flaky dough and the creamy farmer's cheese in the sirnica, the spice vegetal notes seemed to go better with the sauteed potatoes in the krompiruša. This wine is a bit too hearty for vegetarian cuisine, but it's still an enjoyable bottle - especially for the price!

Wine: Santa Rita 120 Carménère, Vintage 2008
Price: $6-8 (depending on when you buy it and sales!)
Purchased: The Wine Source, Baltimore MD

Anne Amie Pinot Gris, Vintage 2009

This is a great bottle that was again recommended by Wishing Well Liquors in Easton (it's right next to my physical therapist, so I imagine I will go often since both of the recommendations have been outstanding). After I explained to him the premise of the blog and the "pretty label" phenomenon, he endeavored to find a bottle with a pretty label that was cheap and also a solid, flavorful, semi-complex wine - and succeeded.

Verdict: This wine is balanced and crisp (a great summer wine) and while the nose is super floral, the palate is heavily fruity with pear and stone fruit notes (stone fruits are fruits like peaches with a "stone" or "pit"). It is a very dry wine, with a fairly long finish (lots of minerals) and it's almost spicy with hints of black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom (which add to the complexity in a big way).

Pairing: A classic pairing for this wine would be mussels or chicken, but I enjoyed sipping this wine while eating a fettuccine alfredo I made. Honestly, I wish more places would allow you to BYOB, because this is a great bottle to take to dinner!

Wine: Anne Amie Pinot Gris, Vintage 2009
Cost: $12
Purchased: Wishing Well Liquors, Easton MD

**For more information on the vineyard, click here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Maringer-Reif Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling, Vintage 2008

Initial Reaction: This was a really great Riesling! Recommended by Wishing Well Liquors in Easton (I'll give a shout out on facebook as well!), this was a fairly inexpensive bottle from a well-known vineyard that made for an outstanding birthday evening!

Verdict: Yum! I abused this wine in every sense of the word - I think I even drank it from a paper cup - but it still put on its best show for me. This nose on this wine is perfume-y, with green fruits and honeysuckle (I hit the nail on the head with this tasting, by the way, as everything I read is what I ... um... drunkenly scribbled ... in my notes!). The flavor was crisp (this is a great summer wine - very refreshing), with a lot of peach and a pleasant mineral taste that made it exceedingly easy to pretend I was lounging in the German countryside sipping a glass of this with my rich (and dashingly good looking, of course) husband ... instead of chugging it in my dear friend Ben's basement while playing drinking games and watching Piranha 3 on Bluray (incidentally, a gory-and-cheesy-yet-very-hilarious film). Funny enough, I know I'd be happier hanging out with my friends, drinking out of paper cups and eating "cheese food" -- and there's a lot of comfort in that.

Pairing: While I could expound upon classic pairings and talk on end about chicken and spicy food and the balance of the oak and the acidity, I think I'm just going to be honest here... I drank this entire bottle by myself, by itself. No food, no cheese (although I believe Jamie may have shared some of his cheese puffs with me), just an ENTIRE LITER (yes, this price was for a liter bottle - what a steal!) of this glorious citrus-y goodness. This wine truly is a great one to drink by itself. Best part? No hangover! It's a freaking birthday miracle!

Wine: Maringer-Reif Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling, Vintage 2008
Cost: $16 (for a liter!)
Purchased: Wishing Well Liquors, Easton MD 

Tofanelli Family Zinfandel, Vintage 2006

This is our only Zinfandel by the glass at work at the moment, and I freaking love it. While it's a *tiny* bit on the not-so-cheapy side at $26/bottle, it's very much worth the price!

Verdict: The first thing that hits me is black cherry and black raspberry scents (but cooked, more like a jam). There's also a good bit of astringency in the aroma, reminiscent of tea or cigars - which is then reflected very accurately on the palate. The flavor is immense, with hints of citrus fruits (maybe orange?) and some nutty flavors in the background. The tannins are oaky, but smooth and the balance of this complex wine is really nice, despite its acidic nature!

Pairing: This is a nice, full-bodied, BIG flavored red, so it would go best with a meal that has BIG flavor. My favorite "classic" pairing for a Zin is barbecue, (which reminds me that I haven't eaten yet today...), but anything from a burger to a steak would taste great alongside of this wine. Also, a lot of sites I've read pair this with a well-ripened hard cheese like French Cantal (or for those of us not educated in the cheese world, a nice Wisconsin sharp cheddar). Whatever you eat with it, make sure it's big on flavor, because this wine would overpower a wimpy chicken or fish dish!

Wine: Tofanelli Family Zinfandel, Vintage 2006
Cost: $26
Purchased: Wishing Well Liquors, Easton MD

Posting Bonanza!

So... I spent most of my birthday weekend eating, drinking and being merry (hence the blog silence), and now I have lots to share! Keep an eye out for a great Zinfandel, another (groan) great Riesling, an outstanding Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, a so-so Argentinian Malbec and a really terrifyingly bad Ruby Port!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mini Wine Classes with great info!

When I was exploring a new blog I just found called "Indie WineMakers", I came across a link to the Terlato Wines International site, which has a "knowledge" page that I found very informative and fun! I Thought I'd share for the fellow beginning-ish winos out there...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Disgusting "Deals" to avoid!

Because I'm legitimately skint, I generally gravitate towards the excessively cheap wines, which, as you probably have guessed, aren't always terrible. Well, here's a few that you can just go ahead and pass on... yuck!

Schmitt Sohne Fünf Sweet Red, NV
I really enjoyed the cheapy Fünf Riesling, so I decided, against my better judgement, to try this one as well. It is, as expected, exceedingly strange and is only really palatable when it's ice cold. This reminds me of Boone's Farm mixed with grape juice, and would only be useful for playing drinking games ... which isn't actually a terrible idea!

Wine: Schmitt Sohne Fünf Sweet Red, NV
Cost: $6.99
Place Purchased: ACME Supermarket, Easton

Frisk Prickly Riesling, Vintage 2009

I bought this wine because I had the fleeting hope that it would be called "prickly" because it tasted like prickly pear ... not the case. This is another crappy Riesling that has undergone an unintentional secondary fermentation in the bottle as a result of the extra residual sugars, so it tastes bubbly when it shouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't kick this Riesling out of bed if I wanted to have a fun night, but this bottle just doesn't deliver what it promises... that being said, I still finished the bottle when I couldn't sleep the other night!

Wine: Frisk Prickly Riesling, Vintage 2009
Cost: $9
Place Purchased: Town & Country Liquors, St. Michaels

I have a few more, but I'll update this when I'm feeling less drained. Physical therapy kicked my ass today!!

Splurge: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2005

As I learned today, apparently 2005 was an amazing year for the Napa vineyards. While I'm not very familiar with many Cabernet Sauvignon styles (at least by taste, though I can describe them thoroughly by the book!), I was told this wine is very typical to both the vineyard and the growing region. If this is true, I'm a California Cab fan for life!

Initial Impression: Mmmm...Jammy! This was a full-bodied, juicy Cabernet that, admittedly, I didn't nail immediately when tasting it blindly. I could describe the bouquet of aromas and the complete palate (even the nuances came to me immediately, despite its complexity), but as I'm not a Cab drinker and had only experienced one (very NON-memorable) California Cab, I didn't recognize the tell-tale signs. *sigh* I'm such a newb!

Verdict: Run, do not walk to your nearest quality wine source (like that plug?) and buy this wine. With its almost overwhelmingly rich dark cherry and blackcurrant flavors, peppered with a smokey/vanilla-y undercurrent and spicy anise notes to balance out the sweetness. The acidity is powerful, but bright, and the tannins are smooth and blended making this wine extremely integrated in spite of its complexity.

Pairing: This would go amazingly with a hearty beef stew or even a big ass t-bone steak. My Dad, a true meat-and-potatoes man, would love this wine ... and you will too!

Wine: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2005
Cost: Around $40 (can order it here)
Place Purchased: I did a tasting at Sherwood's Landing, but see link from above for online ordering at one of the best prices I could find...

Few days rest there... a reward for passing the Level II exam! Now, as an additional reward, I'm going to review a few GOOD wines this evening, as well as two not-so-good wines I had over the weekend, and one that I haven't tried yet, but I'm assured by my friend (and ACTUAL sommelier) Dave is comparable to an Inniskillin Icewines (read about them here), which is something I'm looking forward to very much!

Yay for wine knowledge!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Château Rocher Cap de Merle Bordeaux Superieur, Vintage 2006

I know the name is a mouthful, but this is a seriously interesting wine.

For the wine beginners like I was fairly recently, Bordeaux refers to a region in France that produces very high quality wines. This particular wine is from Pomerol, a sub-region on the right bank within Bordeaux, where the main grape grown is the Cabernet Franc. While a typical top-quality Château blend is usually 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Merlot (referred to as the "Bordeaux Blend"), this wine's composition is 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, which is more typical of a right bank wine.

I had the opportunity to try this wine at a wine tasting done by my boss at Sherwood's Landing. While it's on the lower-end, price-wise and quality wise, in comparison to some of the Bordeaux blends on our wine list, I think this is a good starter for someone who would like to get into French wine.

Initial Impression: As I tasted this over a month ago, I'm just going off my tasting notes, but I really liked this one from what I wrote. Because my palate wasn't as refined (I was still going through my wine classes!), I wrote things like "yummy!" and "a bit sour" (probably referring to the astringent nature of the tannins). Still, I liked this wine then, and I'm confident that I'd like it even more now.

Verdict: Nice starter for French wine exploration! My tasting notes are a combination of my own ideas and those given to me by my boss during the lesson, but I have written: ripe fruit, sweet spices like cinnamon and clove, and cedar wood. I also have words like "chewy" and "strong" likely referring to the full bodied nature of this wine - it is practically a meal in a bottle!

Pairing: Bordeaux blends are STEAK wines. It would be great with a burger or even a lamb dish, but this meaty wine pairs perfectly with a meaty meal.

Wine: Châteaux Rocher Cap de Merle Bordeaux Superieur, Vintage 2006
Cost: Around $15
Place Purchased: Available at two of the three liquor stores where I live, I'm pretty sure you can get this one anywhere there's a decent wine selection. It's also on the wine list at Sherwood's Landing, if anyone wants to come visit me at work...

"Bitten By the Wine Bug"

I love wine.woot! While I can rarely afford their selections (and have no reason to buy six of the SAME bottle of wine), I think it's great that there's the option, should I ever marry rich or strike gold or something... anyway, check out this neat story about how Scott Harvey of Scott Harvey Wines was "Bitten By the Wine Bug". Picture perfect, isn't it?

Polka Dot Pfalz Riesling, Vintage 2008

Disclaimer: I know I've already done a Riesling, but in my defense, I've been injured and so I've been drinking what I've already bought! Since I'm only drinking a glass or so at a time, it's hard to open so many bottles and not worry about wasting them - anyone want to come over and help me finish some of these beauties?

Initial Impression: I bought this wine last Sunday before the Ravens game, and took it to my friend's house in anticipation of drinking quite a bit of it while watching the game. The bottle was not super chilled, and I'm pretty sure that Logan would back me up on the fact that I made a horrible face after taking a sip of this wine. It was almost bubbly, which made me think it was an "off" wine, and I could only stomach half of a glass before we abandoned her house in favor of Plaza Tapatia and margaritas (do I sound like an alcholic yet?). Since I was so put off by the first sip, I didn't do a proper tasting, and screwed the cap back on and put it in my car to revisit later.

Verdict: Ok. After letting it breathe, I realized that it wasn't so much "off" as just a mediocre wine. Considering it's a Pfalz Riesling (a German region, subject to wine laws and restrictions for quality control), in my opinion it's pretty average. This is a great example of why we don't buy wine because of cute labels *cough* Ellen *cough*! Still, if you'd like to know what to expect, this wine is a little too sweet to be called a "medium-dry Riesling" with a heavy floral nose mixed with pear and green apple. With it chilled and sufficient time to breathe, it's much more palatable with hints of vanilla and licorice behind an overall green fruit/citrus fruit profile. Not terrible, but it's probably better with some type of food.

Pairing: This wine would go with a lot of different types of meals, which works in its favor. I would probably drink this wine with spicy food to bring out that undercurrent of herbs and spices that's hiding behind all the crispy fruit. Personally, I think you'll find that the Fünf Riesling is exponentially better - and $3 cheaper - but this one will do in a pinch (just make sure it's COLD).

Wine: Polka Dot Pfalz Riesling, Vintage 2008
Cost: $9
Place Purchased: Grohl's Market, St. Michael's MD

To learn more about wines from this vineyard, click here: Polka Dot Wines

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red Blend, Vintage 2008

A friend of mine posted on Facebook about her love of the South Australian d'Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz a few months back, so I recognized the name when I saw the lable. But, while Shiraz is pretty much my favorite red, I opted for a red blend of 42% Grenache/ 36% Shiraz/ 22% Mourvedre because of the sticker on it that read "Wine Spectator 90 Points Best Value". You might think that this is contrary to what I posted about the purpose of this blog, but while I do maintain that experts don't know everything, I also find it helpful on occasion to attempt to understand WHY some low-cost wines are rated so highly.

Initial Impression: I have to admit that this wine was a bit of a turn-off upon first whiff because the pepper and VERY ripe fruit aromas were so strong. After I let it breathe a bit (I forgot, of course, that this blend is now a few years old - always breathe wines when you have the opportunity because more often than not, they open up), the aroma mellowed and I got a nice earthy/fruity nose.

Verdict: I am SO glad I selected this wine. Also a cheapy, it is a tiny bit spicy and definitely sweeter than a straight Shiraz (likely because of the Grenache). The tannins are fairly smooth and even though the alcohol is 14%, there is little heat on the palate, which adds to the balance of this wine. Some strong flavors I get are dark red fruits (cherry/plum/cassis) and even a little floral note (maybe rose or violet?). There an undercurrent of licorice and pepper which adds to the complexity and the finish is lovely, if not a bit earthy.

Pairing: This is a great red for someone who doesn't love red wine! Lighter than a traditional Shiraz, this would go very nicely with meats and smokier cheeses (I had a bit of aged Wisconsin cheddar with it and it was heavenly!). I would also pair it with pasta and red sauce - the acidity in the wine will balance the acidity in tomato sauce quite nicely.

Wine: d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red Blend, Vintage 2008
Cost: $10
Place Purchased: Town & Country Liquors, Easton, MD

For more d'Arengberg wines, check out their vineyard sites at: d'Arenberg vineyard.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First up: Schmitt Söhne Fünf 5 Riesling,Vintage 2009

Riesling is, admittedly, my favorite white wine. Some are too sweet, some are too "gassy"(seriously, one of the markers of a German Riesling is a strong "petrol" smell/taste), but some are just perfect with a lot of different types of meals. What I like about the Riesling grape is that it's rarely grown in other parts of the world, so it's easier to find better quality German wine. So, despite the fact that Fünf is a Tafelwein Rhein (Germany's way of saying "cheap table wine made from grapes of the Rhein region"), it still meets the higher standards set for German wine production, which goes a longer way to ensuring relative quality.

Verdict: What I love about this wine is that it is marketed as a bottle of fun! The bottle's label actually reads: "translated from German, Fünf literally means "five" because, after all, most fun starts at five o'clock, right?" Fünf is a well-balanced, light bodied wine with lots of citrus fruit and a refreshing, clean finish. This Riesling went will with a wide variety of meals, ranging from leftover Chinese food, to a cookie slathered in nutella (all right several...), to potato gnocchi with shrimp, to linguine with clam sauce and it was delightful with the asparagus & pea risotto with panko-breaded chicken I cooked for dinner tonight.

Pairing: Fünf is what I like to call a "little black dress" wine because it goes with almost everything*! I will be purchasing several more bottles of this wine to have on hand for any surprise fun(f) times!
*A disclaimer for the more beginner wine drinkers that might stumble across this post: while most things go great with this wine, be sure to pair a fuller-bodied, heavier (read: red) wine with steaks or other fatty meats.

Wine: Schmitt Söhne Fünf 5 Riesling, Vintage 2009
$6 (I KNOW!)
Place Purchased: ACME Supermarket, Easton, MD

For more Schmitt Sohne wines, check out their really fun vineyard sites at: Schmitt Söhne and Schmitt Söhne USA

Too poor to be a wine snob?

The great thing about wine is that tasting it is a completely subjective process. One can go through years of blind tasting and sommelier certification courses to have the palate and the knowledge to be considered an "expert" ... but ultimately, the only one who can decide whether a wine is "good" or not, is you - with or without years of training.

As I have begun the sommelier certification process (currently waiting on my scores for the WSET Intermediate Certification exam), I've been desperate to try as many wines as possible... BUT, my meager hourly wage puts a severe damper on my ability to buy the bottles that those "experts" deem worthy to learn.

That's where the "skint sommelier" comes in. I promise to try all the cheap-y, "unrated" wines you can buy in your local grocery store and let you know which wines are enjoyable, which wines are better used for cooking ... and which wines are better left on the store shelf. Questions and requests are welcome - and to any distributors or vineyards that want to send me samples to, er, sample... shoot me an email at!