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Wine under $10

Going Barefoot

Matthew Horbund with Jennifer Wall Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

Jennifer Wall, Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.

Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines.  She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Barefoot Bubbly from Barefoot Wines with Matthew Horbund and Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Bubbly

What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.

While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.

Some Barefoot Wine Matthew Horbund taste with winemaker Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Wine Lineup

While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.

Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.

I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.

So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Ideas for New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

There will be no shortage of recommendations for Champagne for New Year’s Eve celebrations. I visited CBS12 and chatted with Suzanne Boyd about four options, three sparkling wines and one Champagne, that I’ll be serving at my own party. You can serve them with confidence at yours. The video talks about the four sparkling wines for New Years, plus some other tips to make your party awesome.

I mention it in the video, but the difference between Sparkling Wine and Champagne is the area in which it’s grapes are grown. The region of Champagne, France, fights hard to protect the name “Champagne”. In fact, with few exceptions, most sparkling wines no longer will call themselves Champagne if they aren’t from one of the five wine producing districts within the Champagne administrative province: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Enough education, check out the video!

Now that you’ve watched the short video of the TV segment, and know what sparkling wine or Champagne you want for your New Year’s Eve Party, what about food that pairs with it? Appetizers is the quick and easy answer, and almost all of them you serve will pair. Specific favorites are lightly salted mixed nuts, shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp, potato chips and popcorn, hard and salty cheeses, french fries or tater tots. However, if you are going outside of finger foods, I love Champagne with white fish prepared almost any way, crab anyway, especially crab cakes, ham and many pork preparations, and chicken almost any way you can make it. A quick recap of the wines follows, and you’re ready for New Years Eve!

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

The first selection was the Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee. Coming in at $8 in most of the US, this inexpensive sparkling wine will appeal to those who prefer sweeter wines. Sweet ripe cherry and strawberry dominate the palate, and the bubbles were persistent and lively. This budget bubbly surprised me, as it was sweet without being syrupy and is a fun, inexpensive sparkling wine. While they use the word Champagne on the label, I assure you this comes from California!

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

The second selection was Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry. While Extra Dry is more sweet than a Brut, our next two selections, the Lamberti is not a syrupy sweet sparkling wine. Instead, it has notes of honeydew and lemon, with fantastic bubbles that make it a great option at $15. The price on this prosecco makes it inexpensive enough for any time, not just New Year’s Eve. It’s a fun wine to pour at the start of an evening, while guests are arriving at your party, or as the main wine for your party.

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

The third sparkling wine option hails from the Alsace region of France. While you may see the label as Jean Albrecht in stores such as Total Wine and More, but it’s the same great bottle of wine for $20. I love the notes of nuts, warm baked bread and green apple in this wine. It is dry yet has great fruit and other flavors that makes it a perfect Sparkling Wine for New Years. Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blanc is not 100% Chardonnay, but rather a blend of  80% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% Chardonnay, and is made in the traditional Champagne method. Blanc de Blancs means White of Whites, and while many cases it’s 100% chardonnay, it means that red skin grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Pinot  Munier aren’t used.

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

The final option for Champagne on New Year’s Eve is Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut Reserve White Foil. I’ve enjoyed and written about this Champagne previously, and believe it’s excellent at the price.  This is a classic Champagne, with a long history, including being the Champagne of choice for Sir Winston Churchill. It’s a blend of the three grapes typically found in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, and they offer vintage Champagne in excellent years, which is a treat to have. The palate of the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut has amazing notes of brioche, yellow and green apple and the most delicate, tiny bubbles, which makes it an excellent choice to serve as you ring in the New Year.

Regardless of what you select, I hope you have a very happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. I hope 2012 brings you everything you need, and a lot of what you want.

Cheers!

Weekend Wine Recommendation – Chilensis Pinot Noir

TGIF Weekend Wine Recommendation

TGIF Weekend Wine Recommendation

As the weekend rolls in, many of you are looking for a nice bottle of wine to unwind with. There are many options of course, and almost every one of them is a good one.  If you are looking for something new to try, and are a fan of red wine, then I have a great recommendation to kick off the weekend. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wines from Chile. They offer great value, have a wide range of options from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon to Carmenere and Pinot Noir.  Yes, Chile, a very hot and dry place, is producing cool weather Pinot Noir now. And they’re doing it well in many cases.  I was able to taste four Pinot Noir wines from Chile recently, and enjoyed them all.  Today’s recommendation is not one of those four, but I think it’s a great wine, especially for the price.  For under $10, you can get a nice Pinot Noir to sip and savor as you put your feet up and relax this weekend.

Chilensis 2009 Reserva Pinot Noir

Chilensis 2009 Reserva Pinot Noir

The Chilensis 2009 Reserva Pinot Noir can be found in most wine stores and grocery stores. It comes in at $9.99 locally, and that puts it within almost everyone’s wine budget. It’s a medium bodied red wine, which makes it a perfect summer wine. The palate has red fruit, from strawberry to dark berries, with a little smoke and earth that Pinot Noir is known for. The Chilensis Pinot Noir will go perfectly with most any food you want to pair it with, whether that’s cedar plank salmon on the grill, burgers, dogs, or salads for summer. However, this wine has become a staple at our house, and we just love to sip on it slowly and enjoy.

If you try the Chilensis Reserva Pinot Noir, let me know your thoughts. Cheers to a great weekend!