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Toasting The New Year On A Budget

Instead of Champagne toast New Year's Eve with these budget friendly Sparkling Wines

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Sparkling Wine

Looking to toast to your family and friend’s good health and happiness this New Year’s Eve, but not spend a fortune? There are plenty of sparkling wine options available if you don’t want to splurge for Champagne. I visited CBS 12 and chatted with Eric Roby and Michele Wright to talk about three sparkling wines under $13 that are perfect for ringing in the New Year, or any time!

While the Gruet family started off making Champagne in France, in the 70s they migrated to New Mexico, and after meeting other European wine makers, started making sparkling wine. Over 4,000 feet above sea level, their vineyards are cool at night, prolonging the growing and ripening periods, offering great fruit for their various sparkling and non-sparkling wines. The Gruet NV Brut costs only $12.99 at Total Wine, and many other wine retailers, but doesn’t lack the flavors of more expensive bubblies. Made from 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir, this non-vintage sparkling wine offers great flavors of green and yellow apple, with slight toasty notes.

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

If you like more dry styles of sparkling wine, Cava is a great option. With less fruit and more tart flavors, the Conde de Caralt Brut is a good option at $7.99. Made by Freixenet, I like the dry, tart style of this sparkler. There are some notes of apples, and some citrus, but the fruit is very faint. This is a good sparkling wine to mix cocktails, especially if you like making mimosa as it doesn’t end up being too sweet! Cava generally has a budget focused price point, and I’ve recommended Rondel cava in the past.

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Prosecco is a light, delicious sparkling wine style from northern Italy. From Treviso, located in the Veneto region of Italy, the Luna d’Or Prosecco is made of Glera grapes. For $12.99, this refreshing sparkling wine has fruit forward flavors of melon, apricots, and citrus, and is perfect for those who like a little more fruit in their sparkling wines. Prosecco is a great option for a toast on New Year’s Eve. I’ve recommended Lemberti’s Prosecco in previous New Year’s Eve segments!

Luna d'Or Prosecco for your New Year's party

Luna d’Or Prosecco for your New Year’s party

Check back later on, as I’ll be posting another CBS 12 segment on French sparkling wine and Champagne that won’t break the bank. I’ll also have some other options for bubbles that I’ve had in recent weeks that have been fantastic, such as the Barons de Rothschild Champagne that for $99 at Total Wine is a great classic Champagne from a prestigious producer.

Harry and David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Gifts For You

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

“What’s in the box?” No, it wasn’t Brad Pitt’s scene from Seven, but the scene unfolding in my living room. A gift had arrived from Harry & David, and Robin was dying to know what we got. Ever since I partnered with gift great Harry & David to review their Fruit and Cheese of the Month club, and pair it with wine of course, we’ve been on pins and needles to see what was coming. We couldn’t wait to try everything out, as well as offer one of their fantastic gifts of fruit and cheese to you as a giveaway.  I’ve always been a fan and customer of their delicious fruits and goodies, but after visiting Harry & David’s orchards and operations in October, I feel even more strongly about the company.

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

It’s no secret that Harry & David offer some of the most delicious pears you’ll ever sink your teeth into. They are not only the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever tasted, but their color and texture is amazing. Their other fruit gifts are equally as delicious, and they’ve partnered with great cheese companies to give you amazing wine pairing options. Couple that with the new line of wine from Harry & David and you’ve got amazing gift options, or a perfect picnic or party delivered right to your door.

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

The gift I received was a sample of what you can expect when you order a gift of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month. The giveaway, details are below, will be three months of their fantastic fruit, paired with an artisan cheese delivered to your door. It’s an amazing gift idea, something new and exciting each month it arrives. From their Royal Riviera Pears to their Honeycrisp Apples, my favorite apples ever, you will savor each and every bite. The cheeses are amazing options like Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese or their own Cheddar cheese which is creamy and delicious.

While this is a sponsored post, I’ve always been a put your money where your mouth is kind of person. I couldn’t in good conscious recommend and write about something I wouldn’t pay my own money for. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, sending their pears and other gifts to people all the time. The nurses who’ve been helping my sister recover for the last year have been delighted to recieve a gift of Harry & David’s fresh fruit, and of course go wild over the MooseMunch. I even sent a bunch of goodies to Robin’s mom this past Thanksgiving, including two boxes of Harry & David’s Royal Riviera Pears.

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

I first paired the Harry & David Honeycrisp apple, topped with a slice of their delicious aged cheddar with the 2011 Rogue Valley Chardonnay, also from Harry & David. Chardonnay pairs so nicely with cheddar cheese, and of course the apples topped with the delicious creamy cheddar is a perfect pairing too. However, the apple was a tad too sweet for the chardonnay! So, I ate the apple, then the cheese separately and finished with the delicious, crisp white wine and was very happy. The Harry & David chardonnay is bursting with fresh crisp flavors of pear and apple, has a nice body and enough acidity to make it food friendly. You can order three white wines from Harry and David, and I think the Gewurztraminer would work perfectly with the sweet apples as well as the cheddar.

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

The Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears were super sweet and super juicy. I put a slice of the Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese on top, and it was an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The pears were WAY too sweet for the chardonnay, and would have gone much better with their viognier, or even the gewurztraminer. The fruit needs a sweeter, more fruit forward wine. The cheese was very smokey, even the tip of it was a dark smoked color. It was very unique, and it paired nicely with the Chardonnay as well.

And now, you have the chance to win three months of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month club! A $130 value, you will receive their Royal Riviera Pears and Mascarpone cheese for the December shipment. Then the January Shipment will be Cushman’s HoneyBells and Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese. Finally, your great gift wraps up with Royal Oranges and Beechers Flagship Cheese.  The Pears and Mascarpone will pair perfectly with a Moscato d’Asti, or even a sweeter, Oregon Riesling. The Honeybell Oranges will also pair well with sweeter wines, riesling, moscato or even Sauternes, while the Seastack cheese should match nicely with pinot noir or chardonnay. Finally, your Royal Oranges pair with the same wines the Honeybell will, and the Beechers Flagship should be nice with Syrah or Chardonnay.

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Entering the giveaway is simple. You have from Thursday December 13th through Sunday December 16th 11:59 pm EST  to enter. Each person can enter up to three times, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, and one for Pinterest. For each entry, you must leave a SEPARATE COMMENT below. Make sure I have your email address, as the winner will be selected at random based on the comments below, and notified by email only.

How To Win This Delicious Fruit and Cheese Gift from Harry & David

1 – Tweet the following then comment below: Winning a @HarryandDavid Fruit & Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadgift

2- Post the following on Facebook and comment: Winning this Harry & David Fruit and Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious  http://budurl.com/hadgift

3- Repin your favorite Harry and David item from http://pinterest.com/harryanddavid/ and comment below where we can see your pin

This contest is open to US residents only, and if you live in a state where Harry & David can not ship wine, an alternate gift will be made available as necessary.

You can see more of what Harry & David offer, just

Follow Harry & David on Twitter
Like Harry & David on Facebook
Follow Harry & David on Pinterest

Disclaimer – I was provided a Fruit and Cheese gift to review and a stipend for my time and any materials invested in writing this sponsored post.  I was not asked for a positive review, but for an honest one.  All opinions are my own

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

In the mean time, I have some delicious fruit to enjoy. Cheers!

 

We Don’t Drink Enough Vouvray

Twitter Tasting of Vouvray Wines

Tasting five Vouvray wines

When people ask me to recommend a sweeter white wine, Vouvray is usually what comes to mind. However, all that is Vouvray is not sweet, and it’s definitely a wine we don’t drink enough of. Vouvray is a region in France’s Loire Valley, and is located east of Tours, in the Tourain district. The primary grape grown in Vouvray is chenin blanc, though arbois is a rarely used grape that can be found in the region. The wines can range from dry to sweet, and about 40% of them are sparkling wines, while the rest are of course, still. I recently participated in a virtual “Twitter Taste Live” of five wines from Vouvray, and I can’t really say anything bad about any of them.

Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray sec white wine

Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray sec white wine

The Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray had a funky, pungent cheese nose. Great way to start a wine review, don’t you think? The palate, however was nothing like that. The palate is full of nectarine and apricot nectar, and is slightly effervescent. There are secondary flavors of almonds or marzipan that were quite pleasant. There was some nice acidity that comes through as citrus flavors. All in all a solid $16 wine.

All of the Vouvray wines in this post were sec, or dry, with little residual sugar left after fermentation. However, the fresh, fruit forward palate makes them appear almost sweet.

Sweetness of Vouvray
Most Dry to Most Sweet

Sweetness of Champagne
Most Dry to Most Sweet
  • sec
  • demi-sec
  • moelleux
  • doux
  • brut natural
  • extra brut
  • brut
  • extra dry
  • sec
  • demi-sec
  • doux

Vouvray is a very food friendly wine, and can be paired with fruit, almonds, chicken, shellfish, seafood, and pork. However, don’t leave out cheese, as a tremendous range will pair, including cheddar and goat cheese.

Tasting the Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray $20

Tasting the Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray $20

Next up, the Bourillon Dorleans 2010 Vouvray, La Coulee d’Argent. This was a very dry, crisp white wine with beautiful white floral scents in the bouquet, and a palate of ripe stone fruit with a bracing citrus finish. Stone fruit is a general term for peaches, nectarines, apricots, and this white wine had a little hint of all of them.  A number of my fellow wine writers thought this was a stand up and take notice wine. The acidity, that citrus I keep mentioning, makes this a very food friendly wine. Fatty fish, cheese, lobster and shrimp are all great options. For $20, worth giving a try.

Domaine des Aubuisieres 2011 Vouvray

Domaine des Aubuisieres 2011 Vouvray

The 2011 Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Cuvee de Silex was more dry and acidic than the other wines of the evening. Cuvee de Silex is a blend of chenin blanc from three different vineyards, each are composed of silex, a flint and sand based soil. This was a glass of muddled green apple with lime juice to flesh it out. There were interesting nuances of baking spice on the palate, specifically the finish, that balanced the fruit nicely. There was minerality on the palate, the flint coming through from the terroir, or earth. Another $16-18 wine that a number of other wine writers found favorable too. Pamela liked the idea of pairing this white wine with pike fish with Beurre Blanc!

2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray

2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray

We moved to the 2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray. This French white wine has a very fragrant nose, with a palate that had a lot of floral notes and a big, spicy finish. A number of other tasters found a lot of minerality and acidity on this wine, and I really did not. I found it to taste of white flowers, baking spice, and honeysuckle. Another French white under $25!

Champalou Vouvray 2010

Champalou Vouvray 2010

The last wine of the evening was the 2010 Champalou Vouvray, imported by Kermit Lynch. Just 12.5% ABV, this is a great lunch wine! Big flavors of nectarines surrounded by white jasmine flowers on both the bouquet and palate, this wine was beautiful. There was that flinty minerality that is common to all the Vouvray wines we had this evening, but it was subtle, not overpowering. There were some comments that perhaps this was the most “New World” of all the wines, tasting the least French. However, several people found that this wine opened up beautifully, becoming a bit more lean and crisp, and having the flabby flavors unwind and dissipate. For $15, this would work nicely with a grilled or broiled white fish like sole or snapper for lunch!

All of these wines were samples, part of a Tastelive.com blogger event. I am always grateful to participate in these events because not only does it expose me to wines I may not have had before, but the team at Tastelive knows that I’ll only write about wines I would serve to you when friends visit me!

I  have a few takeaways for you from this French white wine tasting

  • Vouvray is made from chenin blanc grapes
  • Vouvray is a more fruit forward, and often sweeter white wine
  • Vouvray is very food friendly, especially fish, shellfish, chicken, and cheese
  • Vouvray can be found from $15-20, and can rock your socks off
  • Vouvray can work nicely for Thanksgiving, it will pair with the turkey, ham, and some sides
  • Vouvray can age, and has been known to be fresh and delicious 5, 10 and even 40 years old
  • Vouvray can benefit from a little air. All of the wines tonight changed over a few hours
  • Vouvray pair with your Halloween candy, though look for demi-sec or sweeter

I’ve brought Vouvray to the CBS12 studios before, as a recommendation for Delicious white Wines From France. It’s definitely something we need to sip more of! So,when was the last time you said “Hey, Vouvray” when ordering wine? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

Oregon Photo Recap… and Who Won The Harry and David Basket

 

Thank you all for entering the Harry & David Cheese & Salami gift basket giveaway. It was awesome to be able to share the delicious treats I was able to sample on my media trip. Rebecca Graham was selected at random using random.org’s third-party random drawing program, and I’ll be  excited to hear her thoughts  on the delicious gift. I’ll also talk about some wine that will pair with the delicious treats in an upcoming article.

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Harry & David media tour starts with 12 bloggers meeting at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn, a fantastic Bed & Breakfast in Jacksonville, Oregon. We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and of course, some great Oregon wine.

wine and nibbles at the JV Magnolia Inn

wine and nibbles at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn

Delicious Oregon Wine

Delicious Oregon Wine

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

My room had a great “Manly” feel to it with the cigar band photos and the various musical instruments. The flowers would have made Robin happy.

Our first night in Oregon, we went over to Sandy Coughlin’s home for dinner. Sandy and her husband Paul were amazing hosts, and put on an absolutely wonderful welcome meal for us. The evening was capped off with their very talented daughter playing the violin for us. It was a captivating moment.

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin's home

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin’s home

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Sandy used a number of Harry & David products, all of which were fantastic. She also used a few of their new “Easy Entertaining” items, including the lobster risotto, which was superb. It was so good, that we’ve decided to place an order of several of the items for our Thanksgiving dinner. Of note, the Crab Quattro Formaggio mac and cheese was to die for.

Sandy made a great appetizer with Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears, Sweet Potato Butter, Goat cheese and flat bread. It was delicious!

[table id=3 /]

One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

Our next day started with a tour of the Harry & David Royal Riviera pear orchards. Orchard Director Matt Borman spoke to us about everything from the method Harry & David uses to graft the pear trees on to quince rootstock to maintain a reasonable tree height, to the use of gravity flow and reservoir water to irrigate the orchards. The views were spectacular, as was the fruit!

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Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

A few fun facts about the Harry & David orchards:

  • There are 40 degree temperature swings during the Royal Riviera pear growing season
  • These pears are winter harvest, unlike Bartlett pears which are summer harvest
  • There is a team of 300 people that hand harvest the 14,000 tons of Royal Riviera pears annually
  • The quince rootstock that the pear trees are gown on limit their height to about 8 feet
  • The Harry & David team puts out about 1,300 bee hives annually

The next day we had the opportunity to tour the Harry & David operations. From their chocolate factory (and yes, Charlie is in the chocolate factory) to their production lines to their basket assembly lines, Harry & David was a high quality shop through and through. Of all the things that I was impressed by, the longevity of employees was remarkable. Two of our tour guides had 25 years with the company, and during the visit we watched a 50 year employee be celebrated by their coworkers.

[table id=5 /]

A few fun facts about Harry & David treats

  • Tankers deliver 40,000 pounds of liquid chocolate to Harry & David each week
  • Harry & David uses 4-5 million pounds of chocolate a year
  • They make their own chocolate for Harry & David gifts

The team at Harry & David works hard to deliver quality gifts to their customers every day. It was a lot of fun to meet the people behind the company, and have a back stage pass to all the delicious goodies. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, and this sponsored media trip strengthened that relationship. There is no doubt Harry & David will be on my holiday table this year.

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Holiday Elves

Harry & David Holiday Elves?

Other bloggers/writers who attended this media trip:
Aggie
MaggyDaraBrenda, Brian, Sommer, Heather, Gaby, Julie, CarrieKelly (from Martha Stuart Living), and Sandy

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

We had some great Oregon wines during this trip, aside from the new line of Harry & David wines. I did not take many tasting notes, but a few that we sipped on are:

  • Cowhorn 2011 Spiral 36 – white wine blend of viognier marsanne and roussanne
  • Trium 2006 Grower’s Cuvee – red wine blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc
  • Brandborg 2011 Gewurztraminer
  • Slagle Creek 2008  Farmstead Red – red wine blend
  • Domaine Paradox pinot noir
  • Dr Bergstrom 2008 Late Harvest Riesling dessert wine
  • Merrill Cellars Cotes du Rogue Blanc 2010. 50% Viognier 50% Marsanne

Do you have a favorite Oregon wine? Have you tried any? Let me know below!

Pairing Wine With A Crockpot Chili Recipe

slow cooker crockpot chili and wine pairing

Easy to make slow cooker chili

As the weather gets cooler, people are looking for easy, hearty meals for fall. I’ve seen a lot of people searching for chili recipes, and the wine to pair with them. Chili in our house is a very hot topic, no pun intended. Robin used to make this interesting “tomato soup” that she called chili. I didn’t love it. I was given an award winning chili recipe that I loved, but it made most people cry from the heat. So, when I found this slow cooker chili recipe, I had to make it. And, of course, pair wine.

During my trip to Oregon with Harry & David, I had the chance to meet 12 awesome bloggers. The 11 women and 1 other guy were all super talented at both writing and photography, and have inspired me to amp up my blog! I decided a fun way to do that would be to take their recipes, make them myself, and pair wines with them. This is the first of such projects, and I hope you enjoy it. Brenda’s crockpot (slow cooker) chili recipe on A Farmgirl’s Dabbles is fairly easy to follow and make. She found it in a magazine, played around to make it her own, and it’s been her “Ole Faithful” ever since.

When making her recipe, for the chili powder, I went with 3 Tablespoons from her 3-6 TBS range. I also went 2 chili powder and 1 chipotle powder, since I wanted some smoke and depth to the flavors. I’d probably use 3 TBS of chili powder and 1 TBS of chipotle powder next time. Other than that, the recipe is pretty easy to follow. So, lets talk wine and chili pairing!

clean slate 2009 riesling mosel germany

The Clean Slate 2009 riesling from Mosel, Germany

I know you’re saying “Matt, wine with chili? No way! It’s beer!” I assure you that while a nice craft beer goes well with chili, wine can go equally as well. There are a few wine option for chili pairing, and in general they are zinfandel, shiraz or syrah, riesling, malbec and tempranillo.

The first wine I paired with the chili was the 2009 Clean Slate riesling from Mosel, Germany. This wine was a sample I received over a year ago. It had a screw cap, and I was concerned that after a year, it would be “done.” However, many German rieslings can age for quite some time, and still taste fantastic. This $10 white wine is actually two vintages old now, and was crisp and fresh and full of flavor. The bouquet had feint petrol and river rock scents, and the palate shows nice stone fruit (apricot and nectarines), with really nice acidity. Acidity comes across sometimes as citrus flavors in white wines, and this German riesling had a hint of lime that turned immediatly into peach nectar. However, the finish was a flinty minerality that kept it from being too sweet or syrupy. Well done at $10, definitely a buy, and available in grocery stores (at least in Florida).

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

People often ask “How can I tell a wine is good just by looking at it?” This wine answers that question, “You can’t.” While you can form general ideas about a wine if you know the grape, the area, and the producer, there’s NEVER a guarantee that you’ll have a good wine in the bottle. Forget the fact that wine can be cooked, corked, or dead, it’s a fact that the same grape, from the same area, even in vineyards separated by only a road, can taste completely different. When I grabbed this $22 bottle of Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz at the grocery store, I figured I’d be ok. Penfolds is a fairly big name, Shiraz is a grape that Australia does well, and I’m a sommelier. I know my stuff. Right? Well, sort of. I know my stuff because I taste a lot of wines, and this was one I hadn’t had before.

The Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz nose was sweet spice from the oak, more than any fruit notes. What fruit was there was dark, blackberry and plum. The approach was just dry, sweet wood, without much else to it. Frankly, this wine is a disappointment. Too much oak, not enough fruit, and no spice to speak of. Definitely not what I expect from an Australian shiraz. I pressed on.

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

The third wine I had with my chili was the Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin. This is a grocery store wine I often have on hand. I was turned on to it in 2008 by a twitter friend, Duane, while I was doing an event of 5 other grocery store zinfandels. For the price, which is $10, it offers great fruit, nice spice, and has not disappointed me in four years. Sure enough, this red wine and chili pairing was perfect. The wine had plum, prunes and blackberries with a sweet spice element to it. The finish was a hearty burst of black pepper, and all in all it stood up very well to the chili.

A Farmgirl's Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

Happily, this chili and wine pairing was a success. Even though one wine disappointed, two of the wines absolutely rocked, especially at $10. Brenda’s slow cooker chili is a cool weather meal we can make fairly easily, and enjoy for a few days. And, of course, pair wine with.

What is your favorite beverage to drink with chili? Let me know below!

Budget Wines For Everyday

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

I’m often asked to recommend cheap wines that can be found in grocery stores. Many people hear about Two Buck Chuck, which now sells for $3 or so, and wonder if it’s any good. During my trip to Oregon, someone asked me about Two Buck Chuck right before the Harry and David wine dinner. I’ve not had Two Buck Chuck in recent years, and my first taste was a long time ago. However, I took a run to the local Total Wine, which has a much bigger selection of good wines under $10 than the grocery store, and have eight wine options that wont break your budget.

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Our first budget wine is a $7 option from Italy. The Conte Priola Pinot Grigio – Veneto 2011 has a fragrant nose of spiced pear and yellow apples. There is a smokey, spicy note that translates from the bouquet to the palate. There is very nice acidity, which comes across as citrus notes. An easy drinking, simple wine. Not very complex, just a back yard sipper.

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Moving to Marlborough, New Zealand, we have the $9.99 Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is bursting, big kumquat and tangerine and lime on the nose, mixed with herbal notes. The palate is very refreshing, great citrus notes like pink grapefruit, mixed with tangerine and even apricot flavors. Very fresh fruit, that may come across a touch tart from the acidity. Good structure, and well made for under $10.

Generation Green Chardonnay

Generation Green Chardonnay

Vying with the Two Buck Chuck line is Generation Green Chardonnay, costing a scant $3.99. The nose show scallions and apricots, and the palate is smooth and light. There are toasty apple flavors mixed with toasted breads and vanilla creme. There is a good bit of green and spice on the mid-palate and finish, showing the oak that the wine is aged in. This wine is in a bottle made from lighter weight glass, helping to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Definitely a bit more green than our next option, but also half the price!

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Our next white wine also comes from California. The Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011,  costs $7.99 at Total Wine and is one of their big sellers. The bouquet is fresh pears and yellow apples. The mouth feel is fuller, showing toasty bread topped with a nice pear and yellow apple compote. There is a good bit of warming spice on the finish, that shows the oak aging and barrel fermentation. It’s not over oaked, however. Don’t fear splinters when you sip this budget friendly white wine.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

For those who love a more fruity, almost sweet tasting wine, this $5.99 bottle is for you. I used to jokingly say “I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine.” That was, until I met Barefoot Cellars long time winemaker Jennifer Wall! She had me taste the Barefoot line again, and I had to retract my comment. The entire Barefoot line is fruit focused, and clearly people like that style. Barefoot sells millions of cases of wine a year. So, while it may not be the most complex wine you’ll put in your glass, for $6 or so per bottle, this is an easy drinking, back yard, feet up and relax kind of wine. The chardonnay will show fresh fruit salad, pears and apples, and have just the slightest hint of spice and vanilla.

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Moving on to red wines, our first option is one of Suzanne’s picks. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir is $6.99 in Publix grocery stores. This pinot noir has bright fresh strawberries and red raspberries on both the nose and the palate. There is a little bit of tannin, which dries the mouth and offers the slightest hint of smoke.  The finish seems very long. If you are a fan of more fruit forward red wines, this $7 option would be right up your alley.

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Moving to France, we have the Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010 for $9.99. The bouquet shows dried strawberries that are earthy and subdued. The palate is very dry, and the earthiness and old world flavors come through. There may be a little too much oak for some on this wine, which shows in the tannin and spice on the finish. The oak is not overwhelming, as the fruit still shows. However, the spice from the toasty oak definitely makes a firm showing. This could use some food, whether that be a host of cheeses, some nice grilled salmon, or even a breast of duck dish.

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finally, we have the Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Washington state. The nose is bright red cherry, and highlights the super simple, super fruit forward nature of this wine. Not complex at all, there are fresh ripe cherries and raspberries, with just a hint of spice and tannin on the finish. This wine is all about young, fresh, vibrant fruit, and is a super easy sipper. There is no food necessary for this $8.99 porch wine.

This list is by no means a complete resource of budget focused wines under $10. As a matter of fact, I plan on highlighting more options in the coming months. I’m not the only person focusing on these value wines, however. Jay, the store manager at the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Total Wine put up signs in each of the grape variety sections in the store, highlighting their under $10 wine options. The big pink signs are hard to miss, but customers find them very helpful.

What is your everyday budget wine?

Harry and David Launches Wine Collection

Gift giant Harry and David Launches Wine Brand

Some of Harry and David’s wine collection

The air was thick with the scent of fermenting grapes. The heady aroma of yeast working it’s magic entranced me from the second I stepped off the bus. The building’s cold, dimly lit exterior could not shroud the fantastic things happening inside it’s walls. Inside Pallet, Linda Donovan’s new custom crush facility in Medford, Oregon wine was being made, and I had to have some. A new partnership, Linda was making wines that will be exclusively available from premier gift company Harry and David.

Long known for their high quality gifts of fruit and food, gift giant Harry and David is poised to enter the wine business. Their brick and mortar retail stores actually carry an impressive selection of wines. A recent media trip to Medford, Oregon had me browsing in-store bottles ranging from Oregon locals J Christopher and Ken Wright, to various producers from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While you are already able to order gifts of wine from Harry and David, this is the first time the company is putting their name on a bottle of wine.

Tracy Kaiser, Harry and David Sr Director of Merchandising, talking about the wine collection

Harry & David’s Tracy Kaiser talking about the wine collection

The Harry and David wine collection currently consists of 9 wines. All of the wine comes from Southern Oregon, with a focus on the Rogue Valley. Future vintages will focus on even more narrow appellations in the southern Oregon wine region, including a single vineyard offering from Illinois Valley. The Harry and David wine collection consists of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, and gewürztraminer as white wine options. The red wines in the collection are pinot noir, merlot, syrah, tempranillo and  a blend called Royal Crest Red. The Harry and David Royal Crest Red wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 10% carmenere.

During a sponsored press trip I had the opportunity to taste most of the Harry and David wine collection at a fantastic media dinner held in Linda Donovan’s new custom crush facility, Pallet. Located in Medford, OR, Linda purchased an old commercial building that was in a state of disrepair. Putting a lot of work in to the building, including pouring new concrete ramps and patching up holes in the floor, Pallet boasts over eight fermentation tanks, and a fantastic new press that was pressing the 2012 vintage of riesling during my visit. Linda consults with a number of wineries and has a beautiful barrel room for aging the wines of both Harry and David and her other clients.

Winemaker Linda Donovan on Harry & David wine collection

Winemaker Linda Donovan on Harry & David wine collection

The Harry and David wine collection will be priced from $15 to $30, and should be available online in early 2013. Winemaker Linda Donovan captures the terroir of Southern Oregon and the Rogue valley by focusing on grape varieties that do well there. The wines should be nice to sip on alone, or pair with foods. For the launch dinner, Harry & David’s Chef Tim Keller used many of the company’s soon to be released Easy Entertaining ready to serve dishes to pair with the wines. Some highlights included the Easy Entertaining Chardonnay Turkey with crisp apples and toasted hazelnuts, and a Bellini topped with Steelhead salmon and pickled creme fraiche. Tim was preparing these dishes for 13 food and wine writers, and did a great job impressing us with his creativity using the ready to eat Easy Entertaining meals Harry and David will soon offer.

Bellini using Harry & David Steelhead Salmon

Bellini using Harry & David Steelhead Salmon

The wines were practically barrel samples, bottled a scant few weeks ago before our dinner. The company will be sending me samples to taste and discuss in the near future, but there were two Harry and David wine collection standouts for me. For only $15, the sauvignon blanc had a nice melon and orange citrus nose, with a great orange citrus palate, balanced with a little green herbaceous note that offered some depth without being very prominent. The second standout is the $20 Pinot Noir. A very nice expression of what the Southern Oregon wine country has to offer, this wine had a palate of nice red berries, but not over ripe jammy fruit. It was balanced nicely with spice and smoke from the oak aging.

At $15 This Harry and David Sauvignon Blanc is a buy!

At $15 This Harry and David Sauvignon Blanc is a buy!

As a long time customer of Harry and David, it’s nice to see them offer wines that will showcase the terrior of Southern Oregon. They already offer gifts of fruit, cheese and food from the Pacific Northwest, and it’s only logical that they offer wines from their home. Look for tasting notes and pairing ideas in future articles, including my using the Harry and David Mushroom soup mix to pair with… Well, just come back soon!

The un-retiring of Bernard Portet

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

When I was asked if I wanted to meet Bernard Portet for lunch, I immediately hit the internet. Didn’t the 30+ year Clos du Val veteran retire from the business? Why would they want me  to meet with someone spending his days playing cards or shuffle board, wine industry veteran or not? The first result when searching for “Bernard Portet” brought up a July 2011 Napa Register article about his retirement barely lasting a year, and his being involved in a new venture, Heritance wines. I jumped at the chance to meet Bernard, and taste his wines, even if I wasn’t getting a “scoop” story.

I met Bernard at Tryst, a trendy downtown Delray Beach, FL restaurant for lunch. As I walked in, Bernard stood, warmly welcoming me to the table. We sat, along with Tryst owner Butch Johnson, and chatted about the Heritance Wines endeavor. After only a year of retirement, Bernard quickly grew antsy when he saw grapes on the vine during 2010′s harvest, and realized none of that would be wine that bore his signature. He soon formed a venture with Don Chase, named Polaris Wines, and began buying juice he had been fond of from the 2008 vintage. Bernard Portet uses assemblage winemaking for Heritance as it has long been his signature style, where he blends different lots of wine to craft a finished wine that is greater than the sum of their parts. Bernard began his masterful blending, and we were soon given Heritance Sauvignon Blanc and Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon, two wines made in the old world style of Bernard’s native France, heralding from Napa.

Bernard said the intent of Heritance wines was originally to be a negociant, buying juice from vintners and blending and bottling himself. However, that plan changed when the wine glut of 2008 and prior dried up. Bernard said the difficult 2009 and even worse 2010 vintages had caused there to be less available wine for Bernard to purchase and blend.  This forced him to change his business plan, purchasing grapes and blending at a custom crush facility. Heritance would not give up the mission of bringing good wine to market, and quickly began sourcing grapes in Napa to continue their project.

Our discussion lead to the styles of wine we often see out of Napa today. We discussed, and all agreed that the age of big, over the top wines may be coming to the close. Bernard feels that the pendulum has swing to it’s furthest point, and is starting to swing back towards more reserved, balanced and elegant wines. Indeed, Bernard found himself wanting to make wines that were closer to his French roots, balanced between fruit, earth and acidity, and crafted with food in mind. With that, we ordered lunch and began to taste the wine.

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010 review

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010

First we tasted the 2010 Heritance sauvignon blanc, a blend of 91% sauvignon blanc and 9% semillion. The nose was full of fresh melon, with faint notes of citrus. The palate was soft and fresh tropical fruit, with a round mouth feel. As the wine opened, citrus notes of lime and lemon developed, and a light herbal note permeated the glass. The Heritance sauvignon blanc had crisp but not bracing acidity, and additional spice notes developed over time. It’s aged and fermented in 100% stainless steel, and has 13.5% ABV. With only 2,000 cases available, it won’t be around long. This white wine had good depth and balance, making it a great $18 white wine, good on it’s own or with food.

I had ordered the fish tacos from Tryst’s lunch menu, and was very glad. Fresh fish, with great taco seasoning, made a great pairing for the sauvignon blanc. The citrus notes balanced the heat of the taco seasoning, while the spice from the wine managed to keep the flavors lingering. I also thought the fish taco would pair nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon, and I was right.

Review heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

Heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

The Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is a great under $30 Napa cab. A bouquet of dark cherry and spice box waft from the glass. The palate has beautiful fruit, black cherry and blackberry mix harmoniously with a mid-palate of earthy leather. This old world leather transitions into a finish of cedar and soft spice while holding on to the fruit. The finish absolutely kicks on this red wine, bold and prominent but not overpowering. At just 13.8% ABV, the Heritance Cabernet Sauvginon 2008 is a blend of 92% cabernet sauvignon and 8% merlot, and was aged in a mixture of new and used medium-toast French oak barrels. With only 3,000 cases made, you’ll find Heritance cabernet sauvignon mainly in restaurants on their website online.

The fish taco paired nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon. The spice from the wine pumped the spice from the taco, while the dark Mexican seasonings worked nicely with the black fruit. However, I think this wine would prefer beef roasted or grilled, as well as lamb, or veal.

Bernard has no plans of stopping with just the two wines currently in his portfolio. There are plans to bring another red wine to market shortly, and while I can’t mention what it is, I look forward to this South American gem gracing my glass and palate soon. Additional plans are in the work to expand past that and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Bernard Portet, Heritance and his wines.