More often than not, owners of small, independent wine shops know their wines inside and out… they know what the best values are or the most interesting and unique wines on the shelves. So, one of our favorite past times is walking into a shop, talking to the owner for a bit about our taste and/or what we plan to cook, and then we just sit back and watch as the owner will put together a mixed case that represents the best the shop currently has to offer.
Typically, we set a limit of somewhere between $150-$200 for the case, which allows for the odd $25+ bottle, a lot of good value bottles ~$15 and then some real steals less than $10.
We recently put the owner of Dandelion Wines, Lily Peachin, to the test and here’s what she came up with (prices include 10% case discount):
- Angelo Nero d’Avola 2008 ($12) – decent for the price, but lacks the punch of some other Neros in the same price range
- Lan Rioja Crianza 2005 ($12) – nothing to really get excited about… expected more given the nice bottle age
- Gruet Pinot Noir 2007 ($21) – very tasty, but we felt perhaps a bit expensive
- Descombs Morgon 2007 ($19) – solid value beaujolais
- Pinuagua La Senda 2008 ($12) – probably the most likely candidate to win title of “case-filler”
- Librandi Ciro Duca San Felice Riserva 2005 ($17) – interesting and unique, just as Lily told us it would be
- Haut Bernasse Les Coteaux de Bern Bergerac 2005 ($13) – great value, with Old World character and some nice fruit
- Seguret Laurence Feraud Cote du Rhone Village 2007 ($17) – super wine, one of our favorites from the case
- Tenuta Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2008 ($19) – this has become one of our favorites… highly recommended stuff – thanks Lily!
- Janvier Jasnieres 2008 ($17) – another surprisingly great wine – more details here
- Argiolas Costamolino 2008 ($13) – great Sardinian value wine we already knew and loved
- Domaine d’Uby Colombard Ugni Blanc 2008 ($10) – really good value, simple wine for easy drinking
At just under $200, this was pretty much maxing out our budget… but we were pretty pleased with the results. There were only a couple disappointments and, more importantly, some real gems in there. The Terre Nere and Jasnieres were real stunners that completely won us over and the Uby is now a standby white for midweek, casual dinners at home.
Overall, we found Dandelion to be a great place to explore new wines in a friendly, laid-back environment. Also, if you happen by there on a Friday, they’ll probably be pouring some free wine and offering up some great cheeses as well for your tasting pleasure.
Over the next few months, we’ll be asking other local wine shops to put together their favorite case in our price range. To compare each wine shop’s results, we’ve come up with an incredibly complex, statistically sound formula which calculates what we call a “Price-to-Happiness Ratio”. Basically, the higher it is, the happier we were with the shop’s case.
Dandelion Wine Price-to-Happiness Ratio | 79% (pretty darn happy)
Like Jay-Z, Mario Lemieux and Grover Cleveland, we here at Tag: Wine decided to take a little break. But just like Hova, Super Mario and… ummm… the President with the same name as the blue monster on Sesame Street, we’re back! And what better time to get back in the game than when summer is in full swing and everyone’s attention is focused on tasty roses, crisp whites and anything else to stay cool as the mercury soars?
Here in the New York City area, it’s been hovering around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the last few weeks and the need for refreshing, thirst quenching wines has reached epic proportions. So, here are a couple suggestions to help you coast through the twisted cruelty of the global-warming-is-all-too-real summer of 2010:
[White] Barnard Griffin Riesling 2009 – over the last couple years, riesling has been making an admirable comeback, and rightly so. Although Gruner Veltliner is still the trendy choice for non-Chardonnay white, the beauty of riesling is the virtually limitless number of incarnations of this grape around the world.
This one hails from Columbia Valley, WA and possesses some of best characteristics of the two most famous riesling producing areas in the world – Alsace and Rheingau. It has a great backbone of minerality and throws off some floral notes similar to an Alsatian but also has the fruit and sweetness on the palate that can be found with most wines produced along the Rhine. But honestly, the point is that you’ll like it because it tastes really great.
And the best part of this wine? At 11% alcohol you can definitely session this at a picnic without worrying about getting too loopy for the croquet match. Also, it can be found for around $10 a bottle so just get a couple cases and make it your house white this summer… we did!
Other awesome rieslings to consider: Hermann J Wiemer or Dr. Konstantin Frank from the Finger Lakes, NY area and another Columbia Valley wine called Kung-Fu Girl made by Charles Smith.
[Red] Raisin Gaulois (Vin de France), Marcel Lapierre – nothing says “picnic wine” like one with a screwtop… except when it’s a bottle of screwtop French RED you just pulled out of your Coleman cooler. Beaujolais, the area where this wine comes from, sometimes gets a bad name because Beaujolais Nouveau is typically seen as a silly marketing ploy to push low quality wine down the throats of the unsuspecting. However, gamay grapes from Beaujolais are capable of far more and this wine shows it.
It definitely has the juicy fruitiness of a young Beaujolais, but there is some earthiness and some gamey (no pun intended) notes as well on the palate. But in the end, this is not a wine to be analyzed to death. It tastes great with a little chill on it and goes well with the burgers and chicken you’ve been grilling all afternoon. But be careful, after a couple glasses you’ll really feel like you’ve been transported to a small town in central France overlooking rows and rows of vines.
So, that’s what we’ve been drinking… what have you been drinking to keep your cool this summer?
Next time, we’ll give you a run down of our favorite roses so far this summer. Until then, stay hydrated.
After a few hiccups in our schedules – one of us got a new job while the other got a work travel schedule that… simply is all over the place – Eat Boutique and this humble blog were a bit left to themselves (I mean, a post on Hello Kitty wines, really??).
However, things are hopefully getting back under control and we were able to have a new post published on Eat Boutique this week. To make things even better, it’s about one of our happiest moments year in, year out: our first rosé of the season.
If you’re like us, there are few things more exciting than the first few outdoor rosés of the year. Nothing screams summer and good times like rosé. Last Saturday was the perfect day for that.
[...] very full in the mouth while remaining well-balanced. There are some smoky flavors as well as some woodsiness. It is a very food friendly rosé and is very savory as opposed to many sweeter rosés who tend to be on the fruity side. It would be perfect with a platter of meats and cheeses, bruschetta or young olives – the perfect aperitive for a sunny afternoon, really!
We cannot wait for the next bottle.
Read more on Eat Boutique’s A Rose for the Sunny Days
“Our favorite girl has grown up!”
Yes, you read this right. Hello Kitty now has her own line of wine. First distributed mainly in Italy and Singapore, the line of Italian wines will now be widely distributed throughout the US by Innovation Spirits. Wine (and cat) lovers watch out, the line will not offer 1 but 4 different wines, all coming with the appropriately pink label:
- Hello Kitty Devil Red Pinot Nero, 2006
- Hello Kitty Angel White Pinot Nero, 2008
- Hello Kitty Sparkling Brut Rosé
- Hello Kitty Sparkling “Sweet Pink”
It is to be noted that the sparkling rose comes with a matching Hello Kitty pendant.
We are being borderline sarcastic here but at the same time, we must admit that we are a bit curious. It’s easy to roll our eyes at this crazier-than-you’d-ever thought-it-possible blend between critter-wine and rosé boom but part of us kind of wants it to be good. It would be a great way to challenge us wine snobs out there. At the same time, just a look at this image makes us say “Ouch – hangover”.
We are a bit tempted to have a tasting party and to report here (Hello Kitty pendant giveaway anyone?), we will not lie. However, we have not seen the bottles in our area yet and are a bit skeptical about whether Lilly of Dandelion Wines will add the line to her shelves…
On a recent night, we tried out a few new bars in the neighborhood. It wasn’t anything we planned… rather, it happened organically when a bar name caught our eyes or we overheard some cool tunes out on the sidewalk that drew us in.
Inevitably, the first visit to a bar is really a feeling out exercise… a quick scan of the various sizes and shapes of the beer taps might reveal the tell-tale shark of Dogfish Head, the dream catcher-like Magic Hat, or that black shalaylee-shaped handle of Guinness. A cursory flip through a skinny wine list might touch on only the usual suspects – “shiraz” from Australia, chardonnay from Cali and maybe a malbec from Argentina.
So, when faced with what to pick at a brand new place you’ve never been, you have to go back to basics – instinct.
If the bartender is tattooed from head to toe, has disheveled hair, too-cool-for-school glasses with no prescription, and steers you away from the cocktail list because “the REAL bartender will arrive in a couple hours”, pick up on these signals! He is basically saying to you, stick to a pint you know and love. After we had been there for 15 minutes, a dude saddled up to the bar next to us and ordered a Manhattan… he took one sip and didn’t touch it for 45 minutes. Always take note of your surroundings prior to placing your order!
A couple hours earlier, we had holed up in a cozy, almost London-like pub, which had a classic but simple cocktail list. We’re talking Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Gin Fizzes (seriously), etc.. Granted, they had a pretty solid list of beers on tap, but you need to take advantage of a quality cocktail list, regardless of your tendency towards beer or even – gasp – wine. We indulged in pretty much one of everything and nothing disappointed. A small group at the end of the bar was downing pint after pint, treating this place as just another happy hour joint…
As for the tells of a bar where you should go straight for glass of wine? Here’s a pretty good example of a menu (just click on Wine at the bottom of the page) that says “we’ve done all the hard work for you… try anything, you’ll like it.”
It’s around that time of year again… you can sense the first tulips trying to pop up through the snow hardened soil. The sun starts setting a little later and on the occassional sun splashed afternoon, you can even leave the winter coat at home for a stroll along the Hudson.
This is also the time of year when I really have the urge to visit Sonoma Valley in Northern California. For sure, this place is beautiful year round, but I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a few times in mid-March and I just love it. If you have never had the chance, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit:
Fly into San Francisco, rent a convertible and take your time making your way north. As soon as you leave San Francisco, you’ll head past Sausalito. If you are ahead of schedule, wander along the (main) street of this quant “suburb”… stop and have breakfast along the water, which affords a spectacular views of the Golden Gate bridge and the Bay. After a certain-to-be-delicious meal, wind through Muir woods to check out some stunningly dense and beautifully preserved forest.
After a couple hours of enjoying the wind whipping through your hair, the ocean’s salty spray hitting your left window and the woods shading the other, hang a right in Sonoma County and work your way to Healdsburg – your home base for a spectacular few days of wining and dining.
For your first winery visit, the Russian River Valley is a super underrated and very high quality area for Pinot Noir and just a 15 minute drive from downtown. One of the best is Rochioli, a family run operation making some high end (and still somewhat affordable for California) wines. The tasting room doubles as an art gallery for local photographers, so it’s not just the lush rolling green hills of trellaces that will catch your eye.
After experiencing Sonoma’s more delicate side, head to Alexander Valley for a dose of Sonoma and Napa’s signature grape – Cabernet Sauvignon. Tucked away in the heart of Alexander Valley is Stonestreet, producing some great single vineyard Cabernets and high quality Chardonnay as well. If you happen along on a nice day, feel free to take your tasting outside for a spectacular view of the rolling hills from their tables and chairs.
Once you’ve tasted until your heart’s content, downtown Healdsburg has a number of great restaurants to prepare for the next day of swishing and swirling. Or, if self-catering is what you’re all about, the town center has a great cheese shop and grocery store for everything you need to make a perfect meal to go with the bottle you picked up earlier in the day.