Category Archives: Under $75

The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling

The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling Wine

Franciacorta Wine

When you’re deciding which sparkling wine to purchase, it’s not uncommon to consider the gold standards of Champagne or the similarly reliable, yet significantly more affable Prosecco options from Italy’s Veneto region. Many savor the former, while the latter is often relegated to mimosa duty. But look a little harder and you’ll not only discover Italy’s best kept secret, but one of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine: Franciacorta.

What this relatively young yet fiercely dynamic wine region lacks in sheer size and history it more than makes up for in quality, consistently producing distinctive sparkling wines that rival the quality of those in Champagne, yet are produced in their own unique style. Consider the fact that they’re often less expensive than their expertly-branded French counterparts an added bonus.

Franciacorta is the only region in Italy where all of the wines are made in the costly and significantly more time consuming Méthode Traditionelle, whereby the wines undergo their secondary fermentation and aging in bottle, resulting in more complex, finessed sparklers.

If you’re wondering why you might not be familiar with Franciacorta’s wines, the numbers offer an explanation. Champagne boasts a towering production of roughly 300 million bottles per year from 75,000 vineyard acres, while Franciacorta spans merely 10% of that size, measuring just 7,800 acres.

Champagne has also been in the business since as early as the 17th century, while Franciacorta has only been producing wine since 1961. But such a stark contrast highlights what might just be most impressive about this little region in Northern Italy: how far and how quickly it has come in barely 50 years.

Franciacorta Wine

Understanding Franciacorta | An Area, Production Method and a Wine

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Big Cork Vineyards | A BIG Reason To Take MD Wine Seriously

Big Cork Vineyards | A BIG Reason To Take MD Wine Seriously

Big Cork Vineyards

Wine lovers residing in the Washington metropolitan area have witnessed tremendous progress in the local wine scene, with quality up significantly across the board. And sure, not every winery is making great wine… Naturally, being locals, we’ve wanted to like them so badly – yet we’ve all poured out our share of thin, lifeless wine in mournful disappointment. But major advances in viticultural practices have been paying off in a big way, and the proof is in the pudding.

Regrettably even I don’t take the time to explore the local wine scene as much as I probably should, but a recent invitation from the folks at Big Cork Vineyards in Rohresville, Maryland piqued my interest. Located roughly one hour northwest of DC or thirty minutes east of Frederick, the country chic winery and tasting room offer a stunning contrast to the bucolic setting, with fresh country breezes and endless views of rolling hills making you feel right at home – or blissfully away from it.

Big Cork Vineyards

Estate vineyards surrounding Big Cork’s winery and tasting room

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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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Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum Review | Standing Out in a Tough Crowd

Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum Review | Standing Out in a Tough Crowd

Tenuta di Arceno

Tenuta di Arceno’s Tuscan estate | Photo Credit: Tenuta di Arceno

To say it was a tough crowd that crisp September day amongst the sun-drenched vines of Sonoma would be quite the understatement. Vintage Vérité is an annual event whereby those lucky guests have the opportunity to taste the most recent release of Pierre Seillan’s highly acclaimed Vérité wines alongside a library release (usually ten years old) to observe how well the wines develop with time in the bottle.

And develop they do, with enough interest to command nearly $400 per bottle and a bevy of perfect Parker scores to match (twelve to be exact). But while Vérité might be the star of the show, guests had the opportunity to sample more offerings from the Spire Collection’s compelling portfolio. When I remarked how taken I was with the 2012 Vérité Le Désir, composed predominantly of Cabernet Franc, I was offered a blind pour of a mystery wine, and it was beautiful.

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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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Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet

If you’re not familiar with Lake County, that’s okay. Most aren’t yet aware of the potential of this sleepy section of Northern California wine country. But that’s about to change, as one of Napa’s power players just made a Warren Buffet style investment in these sun-drenched hills.

What’s interesting is that up until 1861, Lake County and Napa County were actually the same county – yet this quiet community with deep farming roots has mostly missed out on the fantastic wine industry successes of neighboring Napa and Sonoma counties to the south – and with it all of the tourism and hospitality fueling those economies today.

Though still quite small in comparison to Napa, vineyard acreage is on the rise, with around 9,000 acres now planted to vine, up from just around 100 in 1965. Compare that to over 45,000 in Napa and 60,000 in Sonoma, and you’ll see that Lake County has room for growth – and none other than Napa grape-grower extraordinaire Andy Beckstoffer has taken notice, in a big way.

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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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