Category Archives: Still White Wines

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.


Summer Wine | Keep Cool with these Summer Sips!

Summer Wine | Keep Cool with these Summer Sips!

Summer Wine

Taken in the gardens at Beringer Vineyards this Summer in Napa

Summer is officially well underway! And here in Washington D.C. that means staggeringly high temperatures coupled with collar soaking humidity. It’s a combination that calls for the type of relief that only a cold bottle of wine (or pink) wine can deliver – so I’ve put together a list of the Summer wines I’ll be reaching for myself over the next few months.

Feel free to take inspiration from this list or have your own fun and come up with your own Summer wine menu. Regardless of what you choose, I hope that you’ll share you’re Summer wine selections with me via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, too. Keep cool and enjoy your Summer wine safely!

Costco Wine

Summer Wine | Costco Kirkland Signature Series Chablis Premier Cru: There’s never been a more affordable way to experience the wines from this noble region, famed for their bright, mineral-driven Chardonnay’s. It can be found in the Costco Wine Section. Summer Wine

Summer Wine | Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria 2013: Boy that was a mouthful, but you can rest assured that what’s in the bottle is simply excellent white Rioja. This elegant and versatile white wine is produced from 100% Viura and will impress with its near weightless, mineral-inflected personality. You can read my full review here.

Summer Wine

Summer Wine | Contadino Pinot Grigio 2013: Tired of the boring, watered down Pinot Grigio’s you regularly find under $10 in the grocery store? For all of you Pinot Grigio fans out there, this is the $6 find you’ve been waiting for…and it’s available in the Trader Joe’s Wine Section! You can check out my full review here.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Paul Mas Cote Mas Mediterranee Blanc 2014: You might be wondering if this blend of 35% Grenache Blanc, 25% Vermentino, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Sauvignon Blanc will transport you to the sunny quaint French countryside overlooking the Mediterranean – just as the label tactfully and pleasantly suggests. Well I’m convinced that after one sip you’ll agree that this label couldn’t be more appropriate as this wines bright and clean personality reveals itself. It’s pure refreshment in the mouth with lemon citrus oil, hay and subtle spice. Like sunshine in a bottle, you’ll appreciate the 1 Liter bottle size while the Cote Mas Blanc transports you to the French Riviera. It’s an excellent value that can be found ~$10 according to wine-searcher.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Davis Estates Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2013: Let’s face it – no Summer is complete without copious quantities of Sauvignon Blanc, and this refined and complex example from Napa newcomer Davis Estates is sure to please. Its combination of rich texture, generous tropical fruit and abundant spice makes it hard to put down. Click here for my full review.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Mayr Gruner Veltliner 2012: This Austrian offering comes in a more is better 1 Liter bottle with an easy-access screw top. I recently paired this with Maryland Crabs and it was a great complement – incredibly refreshing with all the lemon citrus acidity and subtle stony mineral you could ask for. Simple, under $10, crisp and immensely refreshing.

Summer Wine

Summer Wine | Nonino Prosecco Bianco Grappa: While technically a spirit, the Nonino Prosecco Grappa is produced from the pomace of Prosecco (Glera) grapes so it does in fact share DNA with wine. Interesting, right? Well I was also intrigued when I first discovered how expressive and interesting the entire line of Nonino Grappas were. The Nonino family was the first to introduce single-varietal Grappa and truly focus on artisanal quality – at a time when Grappa was considered a drink strictly for peasants. Historically, wine was consumed by the noble ruling classes while the leftover seeds, skins and stems (the pomace) were used to make low-quality Grappa for consumption by the common man. Fortunately, times have changed as Nonino’s emphasis on quality combined with the utilization of the freshest ingredients during the distillation process yields Grappa of the utmost quality. For example, this Prosecco Grappa exudes a fragrant, floral nose and is surprisingly smooth, balanced and delicate despite sporting a near 80 proof alcohol rating. To learn more about Nonino Grappa, click here.

Summer WineSummer Wine | Reserve des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine: Planning on enjoying any seafood this Summer? How about Oysters? If so, then your go to Summer wine is the Reserve des Cleons Muscadet – available in the Trader Joe’s Wine Section at under $8. It’s offers an enormity of palate cleansing and briny minerality for the price. Check out my full review here.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Stinson Vineyards Chardonnay 2013: As much as I enjoy eating local foods, I love to sip the local pours – and for us East Coasters it doesn’t get much better than a great Virginia Chardonnay. But what makes the Stinson Vineyards Chardonnay so special is that you needn’t be a local to appreciate its refreshingly bright personality that manages a smooth, creamy texture. Notes of apples and pears are accented by balanced oak-influences of butter-cream and spice. You can read my previous write-up of Stinson Vineyards here.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Murrieta’s Well The Whip 2013: It’s time for wildly popular Caymus Conundrum to move over, because there’s a new California white blend in town and this one isn’t afraid to reveal its unique varietal composition! This intriguing blend produced by Karl Wente consists of 28% Semillon, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Orange Muscat, 11% Viognier, 11% Gewurztraminer and 1% White Riesling resulting in an intensely aromatic, floral and just slightly off-dry wine. In the mouth it’s rich, round, well-balanced and still quite bright with notes of lychee, melon and butterscotch. While I typically prefer my whites bone-dry, I wanted to include The Whip because I feel it will be immensely popular with fans of wines like the Wagner family’s Conundrum. A quick wine-searcher query shows that The Whip can be found for ~$16 or can be purchased directly from Murrieta’s Well.

Summer wine

Summer Wine | Vaughn Duffy Rose of Pinot Noir 2014: This Rose of Pinot Noir hails from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. The rear label claims that ‘It takes a forklift to raise a wine.” Fortunately for us on the consumer end of the spectrum, it merely requires a corkscrew to release this wines perfumed, delicate aromas of rose petal, strawberry and juicy watermelon. It boasts a relatively complex core of bright red fruit and spice character. As one of the better Rose’s I’ve tasted recently it’s a solid value at ~$18. You can learn more about the wines from this first-generation winemaking family here.

Summer Wine

Summer Wine | Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2013: From the First Family of Chardonnay, this estate grown offering delivers quite a bit of finesse and personality at a price that doesn’t necessitate a special occasion to pop the cork. It’s an excellent value at well-under $15. Click here for full review.

**Some of the aforementioned wines were provided as samples for purposes of review. No consideration was received for their inclusion in this article.


Reserve des Cleons Muscadet | Summer Seafood Partner

Reserve des Cleons Muscadet Wine Review | Perfect Partner for Summer Seafood

Muscadet Wine

Muscadet might be tough to pronounce (try Moose-cah-Dey), but if you’re familiar with this popular Loire Valley white then you already know just how easy it is to drink, especially paired with seafood during summertime.

Many of the best Muscadet’s hail from the Sevre et Maine appellation and are aged sur lie, which means on the dead yeast cells. This process adds complexity and lends a certain creaminess to the resulting wine.

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Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar

My incredibly loyal readers know just how fond I am of Spanish wines. They often seriously over-deliver for the price and have an endearing ability to combine the best aspects of old-world wines (balanced, food-friendly and terroir-driven) with those of new world wines (more fruit-forward).

As a Sommelier friend was recently explaining to me, if he is looking to introduce a new world wine drinker to the old-world wine scene, he always starts in Spain. And if he were introducing them to the wines of Bodegas Valdemar, he would have both modern and old-world options to choose from within the same portfolio!

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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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Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay | Ring in Chardonnay Day!

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay | Ringing in National Chardonnay Day!

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

Kicking off National Chardonnay Day with Wente’s Morning Fog Chardonnay

Today is May 21, 2015 which just so happens to be National Chardonnay Day and I’m celebrating with the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay. While you might not be able to get out of work for this particular holiday, National Chardonnay Day is a great reason to kick back and enjoy a glass of Chardonnay – should you need an excuse!

Chardonnay is still by far the most popular white varietal by consumption in the Unites States, with over 65 million cases consumed each year. While I often recommend alternative varietals over always going for the obvious Chardonnay choice, I have always been a big fan of well-made, balanced Chardonnay. Plus there’s an interesting story to be told here…

Why Wente? | California’s First Family of Chardonnay

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Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc | Don’t Overpay! | Costco Wine

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc | Don’t Overpay! | Costco Wine Review

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Kicking off International Sauvignon Blanc Day with Kim Crawford’s Sauvignon Blanc

Well it’s finally Friday and it’s finally warming up after the dreadful Winter we’ve painfully endured here in the Northeast. As if that alone isn’t enough reason to celebrate consider that today, April 24th 2015, also happens to be the 6th annual International Sauvignon Blanc Day! So if your weekend plans didn’t already include some alfresco Sauvignon Blanc sipping, they pretty much have to now, capiche?

How It Came About | International Sauvignon Blanc Day

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Chateau Cantenac Brown | Making It’s Mark in Margaux

Chateau Cantenac Brown | Making It’s Mark in Margaux

Cantenac Brown

A Grand Tasting in The Big Apple

Recently I had the incredible honor of being invited to attend the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2012 vintage release tasting at Cipriani’s in New York. The weather outside was frightful – they were calling for 3 feet of snow on that 26th day of January, and it was quickly accumulating outside.

But inside members of the wine media, restauranteurs and wine buyers from all over were warm with excitement. Why? Over 100 of the most prestigious Chateau in Bordeaux were on site to showcase their newly released 2012 vintage wines, either represented by their Chateau owners themselves or their representatives. Amongst the representatives in attendance was Mr. Jose Sanfins, the accomplished and passionate Technical Director of Chateau Cantenac Brown.

A Successful Vintage and a Great Find

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Fattoria Casabianca | A Taste of Fattoria Casabianca’s Wine

Fattoria Casabianca | A Taste of Fattoria Casabianca’s Wine

Fattoria Casabianca

A few weeks ago the friendly folks at Fattoria Casabianca reached out to me and asked if I might be interested in tasting their wines. It seemed like a serendipitous coincidence as I have really been enjoying Italian wines lately, like the Amarone I recently discovered in the Trader Joe’s Wine Section. They were kind enough to send over some samples of their wines for me to taste.

The Fattoria Casabianca resort is located in Murlo, Italy, approximately two hours south of Tuscany. They offer nightly accommodations (converted from a farmhouse), tennis, swimming, dining as well as wine tastings to showcase their wines produced under their Fattoria Casabianca label.

If the Trip Advisor reviews are any indication then whatever this ostensibly charming and quaint resort lacks in flash it more than makes up for in soul. Many described it as an excellent, laid-back getaway just far enough outside of all of the hustle and bustle. Now I hope that soul translates to Fattoria Casabianca’s wines!

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Contadino Pinot Grigio Review | Trader Joe’s Wine

Contadino Pinot Grigio Review | Trader Joe’s Wine

Contadino Pinot Grigio

I rarely drink Pinot Grigio and am somewhat guilty of partaking in the widespread belief that most low-end Pinot Grigio’s are insipid, watery and just plain boring. Having said that, there are certainly times when you want a wine that is crisp, refreshing and light and the popularity of the Contadino Pinot Grigio in the Trader Joe’s Wine Section piqued my interest.

Hailing from Northern Italy and ringing in at under $6, the Contadino Pinot Grigio is certainly priced like a value-oriented offering. But just by virtue of being inexpensive does not necessarily make it a good value, and I’m quite curious to see just how good the Contadino Pinot Grigio really is!

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