Category Archives: Between $20 and $29.99 | Reviewed

Anaba Wines Reviewed | Realizing a Dream in Sonoma

Anaba Wines Reviewed | Realizing a Dream in Sonoma

Anaba

Anaba Winery is rather conveniently located in Carneros at the ‘gateway’ to Sonoma Valley, so it is amongst the very first wineries you’ll spot as you make your getaway from San Francisco to wine country for the weekend.

Yet despite driving past Anaba’s charming, recently-restored 100 year old farmhouse building more than a handful of times I have surprisingly never stopped by to check them out – as I always seem to be on a mission to get to some producer that’s not so conveniently located.

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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.


Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must…

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must

Smith Madrone

The views of Napa Valley below from Smith Madrone Vineyards

Something From Nothing | The Beginnings of Smith Madrone Vineyards

Tucked away at the very end of Spring Mountain Road lies Smith Madrone Vineyards. Situated at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District, its steeply sloped mountain vineyards reach grades of up to 34% at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet.

Notable and familiar neighbors include Bothe Napa Valley State Park directly to the North, Barnett Vineyards immediately to the West and Keenan Winery lies due South.

The history of the property dates all the way back to the 1880 when a man by the name of George Cook secured a land grant authorized by then President Chester A. Arthur and planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate.

But when Stu Smith discovered this special parcel of land, with its expansive views of Napa Valley and rocky, well-drained volcanic soils, the existing vineyards were in disrepair and the property was still mostly just a forest!

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Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva | Finding Value in Spain

Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 | Finding Value in Spain

Casado Morales

I initially tried the Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 after picking it up during a Wines Til Sold Out flash sale offering and was shocked at the quality considering I paid less than $23. I even brought this to a blind tasting where it competed with a few other Rioja’s from respected producers and it’s victory was unanimous – and quite tasty!

Some time had passed since I had seen this again but WTSO recently offered it and I’ve also seen that it’s available at Total Wine so I thought I’d share this character-laden, well-aged Spanish bargain from Casado Morales with you guys…

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Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco | Value in Obscurity

Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco Review | Uncorking Value in Obscurity

Sagrantino di Montefalco

Sagrantino di Montefalco

The Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco is not exactly a new find. But after a confluence of factors oddly converged I decided I needed to share this relatively obscure yet deeply rewarding wine. It’s one I’ve really enjoyed several times and I have several resting to track its evolution.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me about which bottles I thought might “blow you away” that could be found around the $30 price point. I assured him that it can certainly be done, though it might take some effort to do so. Immediately the Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco came to mind, but I thought it might not be worth sharing due to its scarcity.

I had thought that Sagrantino was only grown in the small town of Montefalco in Umbria, Italy (with a mere 250 acres of vines dedicated to Sagrantino, mind you). That is until I recently came across an offering from Italian-centric winery Bennessere Vineyards in Napa that just so happens to produce a bottling from their tiny half-acre parcel of estate grown Sagrantino.

Intrigued, I ordered a bottle of Benessere’s Sagrantino and decided it was time I share my adoration for wine that introduced me to this interesting varietal: Tabarrini’s Sagrantino di Montefalco.

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Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon | A Cabernet for Pinot Lovers?

 Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon Valley 2010 | A Cabernet for Pinot Lovers?

Ruston Cabernet

When I received an e-mail offering from Last Bottle Wines touting a hyper-limited Napa Cabernet from the stellar 2010 vintage at 50% off, I began clicking away feverishly. I discovered that the wine on offer was the 2010 Ruston Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon produced 100% from notoriously expensive and character-laden Rutherford fruit.

As is often the case with any great wine region, many of the best wines – the hidden gems, rarely leave the region. They are enjoyed without abandon by in-the-know locals, who don’t subscribe to clever marketing prowess and highly-commercialized wines. I love finding these local favorites, and I just had to see for myself if the Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon itself is worth seeking out.

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Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Elyse Winery

Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Review | Elyse Winery

Elyse Winery

A few months ago I picked up Elyse Winery’s Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel from Last Bottle Wines and it was excellent – rich, pure and balanced with great Zin character. It was also a really great value at $16 shipped, so when I received another e-mail from Last Bottle offering Elyse Winery’s Napa Valley Cabernet I jumped at the opportunity to give it a try.

It’s tougher and tougher to find good Napa Cabernet without draining the checking account, and Elyse Winery is a respected, somewhat under-the-radar producer who sources their fruit from top vineyard sites throughout Napa Valley.

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A Taste of Stinson Vineyards | Rose & Meritage Review

A Taste of Stinson Vineyards | Rose & Meritage Review

Stinson Vineyards

The Historic Piedmont House originally built in 1796. Photo credit: StinsonVineyards.com

Stinson Vineyards is a small, family-run winery located in Crozet, Va. The father/daughter winemaking team of Scott and Rachel Stinson sought to produce fine wines in Virginia with a winemaking philosophy that is strongly influenced by those of the French, and especially the controversial ‘garagiste’ winemakers of France.

Rather appropriate then is the fun fact that the winery at Stinson Vineyards is actually built into an old 3 car garage on the 12 acre property. That may be all they have in common with the garagiste winemakers however as Stinson Vineyards focuses on “…European-style wines that emphasize subtlety and complexity rather than power and super-ripeness…” The latter attributes essentially being the goals of the French garagiste winemakers who defy mainstream, more traditional French winemaking practices.

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Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Clos Pegase Cabernet

Today we’re highlighting a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve discovered from Clos Pegase Winery via Wines Til Sold Out. Located in the northern section of Napa Valley, just outside of Calistoga, the owners of Clos Pegase sought to create a world-class destination where wine would be celebrated as one of many art forms.

The winery itself is it’s own piece of artwork. 96 architects entered into a competition to design the winery, with Michael Graves winning the hard fought competition. The winery has become a destination for those who appreciate fine artwork and first-class hospitality. But I’m getting distracted… Can you tell I want to visit? Let’s get back on track and pop the cork on the Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009!

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Balbas Reserva 2001

Balbas Reserva 2001

Balbas Reserva 2001

The Balbas Winery was founded in 1777 in the Ribera del Duero wine-growing region of Spain. The estate vineyards consist of 222 acres of hand picked Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

Balbas Winery believes that yields from their estate vineyards should be kept low while utilizing various techniques such as green pruning to yield a better crop. Their style of wine-making is one that exercises restraint and honors the local wine-making traditions of the Ribera del Duero region. Let’s pop the cork and give the Balbas Reserva 2001 a try!

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