Category Archives: Between $15 and $19.99 | Reviewed

Soos Creek Ciel du Cheval Red | Red Mountain To The Rescue

Soos Creek Ciel du Cheval Red 2013 | Red Mountain To The Rescue

Soos Creek

Every once in a while I come across the type of wine that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. A wine that’s truly distinctive, with the elusive ability to convey sense of place and the depth, structure and finesse to keep your interest for years to come.

And sure, such wines capable of captivating the senses are readily available to those who not only know where to look but have the financial wherewithal to be able to afford them. And therein lies the problem, as the affordability component makes many of these compelling pours easily out of reach for most consumers, often myself included. For example, consider one of the gold standards for classic, elegant, terroir-driven Napa Cabernet’s: Heitzs’ Martha’s Vineyard.

It was the first single-vineyard wine in Napa to boldly wear the name of the vineyard from which its fruit was sourced on the label. Today, it is widely-recognized and celebrated as an immediately identifiable and utterly classic expression of Napa Cabernet, but the current release will run you a cool $225.

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Spring Fever? | 6 California Chardonnays You Can Count On Under $40

Spring Fever? | 6 California Chardonnays You Can Count On Under $40

Best Chardonnay

From my Instagram page. The Frank Family Chardonnay traveled with me all the way to Newport Beach! You can click the image to see more.

To say it has been an uncommonly warm winter here in the nation’s capital would be quite the understatement. In the last week of February alone, I witnessed cherry blossoms in bloom, heard the hair-raising crackle of intense thunderstorms, and played tennis in record-setting sunny seventy-five degree weather. Thank goodness climate change is a complete farce, right?! (Insert sarcastic, scared to death emoji here.)

So understandably all of this warmth has me reaching for chilled, crisp white wines far earlier than usual. I mean, this should be Cabernet Sauvignon prime-time for me! So I thought I would take this opportunity to point out some Chardonnays you can reliably count on in the coming months, as temperatures promise to rise alongside political tensions.

Reliably Good Chardonnays You Can Actually Find, and Afford!

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Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Fields Family Wines Cinsault

In my recent post, A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine, I enthusiastically raved about my recent visit to this often underappreciated region. Meeting the innovative, down to earth winemakers and tasting the fruits of their labor amongst the very vines responsible for their production was enough to convince me that Lodi is doing something right.

But I realize that not everybody is able to hop on a plane and travel to Lodi (though do I hope that you’re able to make it there, eventually!); which is why I put together this compilation of the most compelling, interesting wines I tasted in Lodi. Consider this list the itinerary for your virtual visit. You might even find, as I did, that you wish to revisit a glass or two of these beauties!

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Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Teso La Monja Almirez

If you’re a looking for rich, layered, broad-shouldered wines at bargain prices, dare I suggest a tangle with this bull? The Toro Bravo, or Spanish fighting bull, is prized for its aggression and stamina. Oddly enough, the wines of the Spanish Toro appellation share similar characteristics – yet us wine lovers can rejoice in that they don’t share quite the same level of notoriety as the venerable Toro Bravo.

A few years ago, I read an e-mail advertisement for the 2011 Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez touting a huge 94 point Parker score. The review was nothing short of glowing, even going so far as to say that “At this quality level, one would expect the price to be three digits or more.”

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Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta's Well

For me, Summer is all about burgers on the grill and debating who has the best pork BBQ in town. The dress, the cuisine, and the attitude are all about being relaxed and casual – so the question becomes finding a well-crafted, flavorful wine that can stand up to hearty summer fare yet isn’t so expensive that you have to take it too seriously. After recently tasting the 2013 Murrieta’s Well The Spur Red Blend, I’m convinced it’s the perfect wine to savor during our last few days of Summer.

Murrieta’s Well produces exclusively estate-grown wines from their 500 acre estate in California’s Livermore Valley. At Murrieta’s Well, acclaimed Winemaker Robbie Meyer takes great pride in identifying key microclimates on the estate and crafts each vintage from a unique blend representing the best of what the estate has to offer. In his nineteen year experience as a winemaker, his wines have earned over ninety 90 point ratings, yet still manage to offer a lot of bang for the buck.

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Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon | Embracing Sustainability

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon | Embracing Sustainability

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

In the late 1980’s, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon became the first ‘premium’ wine to be exported from Chile. It was a runaway success for Montes, and despite being one of the more expensive Chilean wines in the marketplace it now sees distribution in over 100 countries.

A vanguard in the nascent stages of the Chilean wine industry, Montes was determined to lead the way for the world to one day associate Chilean wines with quality. Fast Forward twenty years, and they are attempting to raise the bar for Chilean wines again – this time by focusing their efforts to incorporate sustainability measures into their winemaking practices.

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Regusci Winery Merlot | Best Merlot Under $20?

Regusci Winery Stags Leap District Merlot Review | Best Merlot Under $20?

Regusci Winery

The 2011 growing season in Napa yielded a bounty of challenges for grape growers and winemakers alike. The cold and wet conditions made it tough to achieve full ripeness, and significant portions of the crop were lost to mold and rot.

Only making matters worse? The resulting widespread consumer perception that all of the 2011 wines out of Napa are awful. While there are quite a few poor wines, many good to excellent wines were made in 2011.

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Black Stallion Cabernet | Top Cabernet’s Under $20

Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Top Cabernet’s Under $20

Black Stallion Cabernet

It’s been a while now since I’ve featured a Costco wine discovery. Too long, I decided as the Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon caught my eye on my most recent bargain wine run. From the stellar 2012 vintage and priced at well under $20 from Cab country? I decided to give it a shot. The winery itself is prominently located on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail and despite driving past it many times, I’ve sadly never committed to investigating…

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Moscato Wine | Putting Popular Moscato Wines To The Test

Guide to Moscato Wine | Testing Popular Moscato Wines

Moscato Wine

Is it just me, or have Moscato wines become all the rage lately? I don’t know whether to attribute this sudden resurgence in Moscato’s popularity to all of the recent hip-hop shout-outs or simply because consumers have rediscovered what makes Moscato wine so likable in the first place. Some are even calling Moscato wine the new “rapper’s delight” – though it’s more likely a confluence of both factors.

Luckily, unlike the purely aspirational nature of previously coveted rapper libations, Moscato’s refreshingly low-alcohol, aromatic and slightly-sweet personality is exponentially more attainable!

What Kind of Wine is Moscato? | Moscato Wine

Moscato is produced from the Muscat Blanc grape resulting in an intensely aromatic, typically semi-sweet white wine that ranges from being still or slightly effervescent to completely sparkling, otherwise referred to as Spumante. Spumante literally means an Italian sparkling white wine.

Moscato owes it’s aromatic intensity to its high concentration of monoterpenes enzymes – some of which are actually known for their natural antibacterial behavior and can also be found in aromatic herbs and spices such as mint and cinnamon. Moscato shares this interesting trait with other highly aromatic varietals such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

What Does Moscato Wine Taste Like? | Moscato Wine

Generally speaking, you can expect a vivid, floral aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom along with flavors of fresh peaches, apricots, apples, citrus and ginger. Moscato wine owes a good deal of its popularity to its exotic and expressive bouquet.

They are usually semi-sweet with enough acidity to avoid becoming heavy. Many Moscato wines have a unique “Muskiness” that is characteristic to Moscato wine.

Moscato wines tend to pack a lot of flavor in an approachable, low-alcohol package. They are phenomenal wines for novice wine drinkers and for sipping on hot, summer days.

Moscato Wine

Where is Moscato Wine From? | Moscato Wine

Being arguably the oldest vinified grape variety in the world has led to Moscato getting around a bit – Moscato wines can be found thriving in many wine-producing regions of the world.

But the Moscato name hails from Italy – as do the famous Moscato d’Asti wines produced in Italy’s Northwestern Piedmont region.

Asti is actually a province within Piedmont with approximately 75,000 inhabitants. Any wine labeled Moscato d’Asti must be produced from grapes sourced within this region.

Moscato Vs. Moscato d’Asti | What’s the difference?

While the different but names may be confusing, the differences between these Moscato wines is actually quite simple.

Moscato d’Asti is most often produced in the frizzante style so it is slightly sparkling, and must come from the Italian province of Asti. Moscato d’Asti is the most famous type of Moscato.

A wine that is simply labeled Moscato is a white wine that can be produced all over the world and will most commonly be slightly effervescent, though is sometimes produced in a dry style.

How Can I Tell How Sweet A Moscato Will Be? | Moscato Wine

Looking for just a hint of sweetness? A great way to identify which Moscato wines will be right for you is to look at the alcohol by volume (ABV), which will be shown as a percentage. The higher the alcohol content, the less sweet that particular Moscato wine is going to be. Conversely, if you want a sweet Moscato wine, look for a low-alcohol one.

As a general rule when trying to determine how sweet a Moscato wine is:

  1. When alcohol is from 5% to 8%, it will be more sweet.
  2. When alcohol ranges from 9% to 12% it will be less sweet.
  3. So using this logic, a 5% ABV Moscato should be very sweet while a 12% ABV Moscato should be far more dry.

What Should I Pair With Moscato? | Moscato Wine

Due to sweetness of many Moscato wines they make terrific accompaniments to spicy cuisines and desserts (think thai food or peach cobbler). But their exuberant, low-alcohol personalities makes them popular aperitifs as well.

Moscato Wine

Which Moscato Wine Should I Buy? | Putting Popular Moscato Wines To The Test

Luckily, due to the recent surge of Moscato’s popularity it is becoming easier to find in local stores. It’s an added bonus that like its approachable personality, most Moscato wines are similarly priced and easy on your wallet.

The following Moscato wines are popular, well-distributed examples so they should be as easy to hunt down as they are inexpensive to enjoy. They are ranked in order from least to most expensive.

Moscato Wine

Blue Fin Moscato 2013

Price: $4.49

Where I Got It: The Trader Joe’s Wine Section

Alcohol By Volume: 10%

Sweetness Level: Medium

Level of Effervescence: Slightly Sparkling

Flavor Profile: An aromatic and perfumed nose leads to rich notes of honeysuckle, apricot and honeydew melon along with hints of orange zest. This exudes a vibrant personality with enough acidity and subtle effervescence to keep this semi-sweet wine from becoming heavy or cloying.

Origin: California

Value: 5 / 5

Should You Buy? Exuberant aromatics, the best price and a level of sweetness that isn’t overwhelming? The Blue Fin Moscato is a solid option and an excellent value at under $5.

Moscato Wine

Barefoot Moscato (Non-Vintage)

Price: $4.77

Where I Got It: Total Wine

Alcohol By Volume: 9%

Sweetness Level: Wow this is sweet!

Level of Effervescence: Slightly Sparkling

Flavor Profile: Only slightly more aromatic than the Alice White Moscato, the Barefoot Moscato reveals predominantly elderflower, honey, pear and lime notes with a thick, viscously sweet mouthfeel that’s lifted by subtle effervescence.

Origin: California

Value: 4 / 5

Should You Buy? If you’re looking for a very sweet, inexpensive Moscato, then Barefoot Moscato is the wine for you.

Moscato Wine

Alice White Lexia Moscato (Non-Vintage)

Price: 6.99

Where I Got It: The Trader Joe’s Wine Section

Alcohol By Volume: 10%

Sweetness Level: Very Sweet

Level of Effervescence: Still

Flavor Profile: A subtle, understated nose with faint suggestions of honey and lime leads to a very rich, sweet mouthfeel that’s dominated by honey notes along with hints of lime citrus and kiwi.

Origin: South Eastern Australia

Value: 2.5 / 5

Should You Buy? If you’re looking for a very sweet, simple Moscato without any effervescence then this is an okay option, otherwise it was not impressive.

Moscato Wine

Bartenura Moscato 2014

Price: $10.99

Where I Got It: The Costco Wine Section

Alcohol By Volume: 5%

Sweetness Level: Very sweet

Level of Effervescence: Slightly sparkling

Flavor Profile: The nose is clean and reveals white flowers and lime along with hints of peach. The mouthfeel is extremely sweet but the refreshing acidity keeps the Bartenura Moscato from becoming as heavy as the Barefoot Moscato.

Origin: Italy

Value: 3 / 5

Should You Buy? The Bartenura Moscato offers decent complexity but is only for those who like their Moscato very sweet. It is a nice option for those looking for a Kosher Moscato.

Moscato Wine
Donnafugata Lighea Zibbibo 2014 (Muscat of Alexandria)

Price: $23 Retail, though available from $16.49 to $19.99 according to wine-searcher.

Where I Got It: Sample

Alcohol By Volume: 12.5%

Sweetness Level: Completely Dry

Level of Effervescence: Still

Flavor Profile: A vibrant, perfumed nose reveals notes of flowers, lychee, apple, melon and pear enveloped in a honeyed richness. In the mouth, those notes carry though but become more subdued than the nose might suggest and are grounded by stony minerality and zesty acidity – something completely lacking in the other Moscato wines tasted today. It finishes nicely with lingering hints of ginger spice.

Origin: Sicily, Italy

Value: 4 / 5

Should You Buy? Those seeking the alluring aromatic qualities of Moscato in a refreshingly dry package will find this more sophisticated offering from Donnafugata to be an excellent option. While the most expensive of the wines tasted today, it is well worth the money and is the Moscato you would find in my glass.


Ty Caton Sonoma Cabernet | An Estate Grown Gem

Ty Caton Cabernet Sauvignon Caton Vineyard | An Estate Grown Sonoma Gem

Ty Caton

As the hunt for good Napa Cabernet under $20 becomes an increasingly arduous one, you might consider treating your taste buds to a sojourn in Sonoma.

If it’s Pinot Noir that comes to mind when you think of Sonoma, keep in mind when you head further west towards Sonoma Coast is where you’ll find the highest concentration of vineyards dedicated to Pinot (and Chardonnay). But just across the Mayacama mountain range from Napa Valley you’ll find warmer days along with some great Cabernet’s such as this example by Ty Caton Vineyards.

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