Category Archives: Between $30 and $49.99 | Reviewed

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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Caballo Loco | The Still Valdivieso Wine You’ll Go Crazy For

Caballo Loco | The Still Valdivieso Wine You’ll Go Crazy For

Caballo Loco

To say that Valdivieso Winery is an iconic Chilean wine producer would be an understatement. It was all the way back in 1879 when Alberto Valdivieso founded Champagne Valdivieso, Chile’s first sparkling wine house; predating the laws in Champagne that would now prohibit such controversial nomenclature today.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Brett Jackson, who had made wine all over the world (including France, California and South Africa) before arriving at Valdivieso, where he has been for an impressive 16 years now.

Caballo Loco

Winemaker Brett Jackson Eveluating A Wine | Photo Credit: Valdivieso Winery

Brett explained that  it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Valdivieso began to focus their efforts on producing still wines in addition to the sparkling wines that had been a runaway success for the winery.

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Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent | The Serious Side of Beaujolais

Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent | The Serious Side of Beaujolais

Chateau Moulin a Vent

When you think of Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau is likely first to come to mind. This simple, light-bodied, uncomplicated quaffer arrives to market with substantial fanfare, produced from grapes that were literally hanging on the vine just three months earlier.

The King of Beaujolais, Goerges Dubouef, would be proud of such instant recognition, which he is largely credited with creating. It is after all arguably one of the greatest marketing feats known to man, itself a case study in effective marketing that has captivated an often mercurial audience, the wine consumer.

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Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards

When you think of Calistoga, you would be correct in thinking that this sleepy locale nestled within the Northern stretches of Napa Valley is known for its relatively warmer temperatures than those areas of the valley located further south, with their proximity to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay.

Yet on the beautifully clear August morning when I visited Perliss Vineyards, I pleasantly surprised by the cool, persistent breezes serenading me as I explored the organically cultivated, gently sloped 2.6 acre Raven Vineyard with vintner Anthony Perliss.

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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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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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The Unusual Suspects | Beyond California Cabernet

The Unusual Suspects | Looking Beyond California Cabernet

Kobler Estate

I’m definitely guilty of writing a lot about California Cabernet. I freely admit that I have a real penchant for the sturdy varietal, particularly when it’s built to last. In California, Cabernet is king and sadly many of the best examples fetch a princely sum.

But if the myriad of interesting, lesser-known and even esoteric varietals I encountered on my recent trip to Napa and Sonoma are any indication, Cabernet isn’t all that’s thriving here in Northern California. Not only was I surprised to find Spanish and French stalwarts like Albariño, Tempranillo, Grenache and Malbec being produced at wineries I visited, but I was surprised by just how good they were. Oh, and did I mention I encountered an Aglianico?

The best part? These wines don’t command the regal prices of Cabernet. They lack the cachet, and are often the ‘pet’ projects of winemakers – who produce them because they are passionate about the varietal and love drinking them, while their bread and butter Cabernet and Pinot Noir offerings keep the lights on.

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Madrigal Family Winery | 2012 Madrigal Petite Sirah Review

Madrigal Family Winery | 2012 Madrigal Petite Sirah Review

Madrigal Petite Sirah

My friend Tara recently began an exciting new position as Hospitality and Tasting Room Manager at Madrigal Family Winery, introducing me to this boutique producer located in-between St. Helena and Calistoga in upper Napa Valley. Considering its location in the heart of Cabernet country, it’s no surprise that Madrigal Winery produces three different Cabernet Sauvignons, but it’s the Petite Sirah that vintner Chris Madrigal is especially proud of.

Chris Madrigal’s family history in the Napa Valley dates all the way back to the 1930s, when his Mexican grandparents moved to Napa Valley to seek better opportunities for their family. They soon began farming apples, pears, walnuts and grapes, unknowingly laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a successful vineyard management business in the hands of Chris Madrigals father Jess, currently overseeing some 800 acres.

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Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the historic Robert Mondavi Winery in January and tour the acclaimed To Kalon Vineyard adjacent to their Oakville estate. Widely regarded for its first-growth level quality, To Kalon has gained a near mythical status throughout the wine community in recent years.

Considering that it is arguably Napa’s most famous vineyard, with undeniably the most expensive fruit, it carries some serious cachet to have “To Kalon” on the label. Bottles regularly fetch $150 to $300+, with names like Schrader, Paul Hobbs and Carter Cellars paying record-level prices to Andy Beckstoffer for the rights to purchase fruit from his section of the To Kalon Vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

My view from Mondavi overlooking the To Kalon Vineyard in January. Click to check out more from my Instagram!

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Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate

I have been buying and drinking Franciscan Estate wines for years now. In fact, shortly after tasting the 94 point 2007 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon I promptly added a few cases to my stores. Considering that I paid just under $20 at the time, these wines were amongst the most reliable, consistent values I had come across in Cabernet, especially Napa Cabernet, in some time.

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