I tasted the black label M. Chevallier Carte Noire Cava with trepidation and suppressed my high hopes, attempting to give it a fair and balanced assessment (which is tough without tasting blind). But I was pretty damn impressed. That was a few months ago. Now, it’s my house pour on a Sunday morning, sometimes mixed with tangerine or orange juice for mimosas, sometimes straight up. It all depends on what kind of eggs we’re having.
Read more: Wine review: The best $5 bubbly you can buy — M. Chevallier Cava
Red blends appear to be all the rage these days, and I’m all for it. Many times, single varietal wines can be one dimensional and flat, lacking in personality or interest. But mix in some other grapes and beautiful things happen. The Europeans, of course, have known this non-secret for eons, especially in Bordeaux, France and most parts of Spain and Italy. And Trentadue has known this for 30 years.
Read more: Wine review: Trentadue 2009 Old Patch Red Alexander Valley
Even generic, corporate-owned wineries like Estancia can make good wine if they have great fruit from Monterey, specifically their Pinnacles Ranch vineyard. And another thing corporate wineries have to offer is lower prices. Like under $15 for a pretty decent Pinot.
Read more: Wine review: Estancia 2009 Pinot Noir Monterey Pinnacles Ranch
The tasty Climber Chardonnay is part jumbo juicebox, part boxed wine. The pouch houses 2 bottles of wine with 90% less waste than glass. And… it’s quite drinkable. Even tasty. What’s more… it’s affordable and 1% of sales go towards Trees for the Future organization.
Read more: Wine review: The Climber Unoaked California Chardonnay in a pouch
When I explored the limitless wines of Italy’s Tuscany wine region during a trip last year, I became enamored of the high quality “Toscana IGT” labeled reds. These simple table wines helped salve my weary wallet, already weathered by the leather purse and jacket shops of Florence. But they weren’t just inexpensive — they were high quality sangiovese-based reds, reminiscent of the more expensive Chianti which normally cost a lot more money but often aren’t worth it.
Read more: Wine review: Banfi 2008 Centine Toscana
Bravo to this deliciously affordable Italian red wine, made from two grapes few have heard of — Negroamaro and Primitivo (the Italian equivalent to Zinfandel) — and the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. Neprica also hails from an obscure region in Italy, Puglia — the heel of the boot — where vineyard land doesn’t fall into the ranks of the absurdly expensive. Puglia (also called Apulia) is an up-and-coming wine region, having shod their former lowly, bulk wine rep, and now competes successfully in the international red blend market.
Read more: Wine review: Tormaresca 2008 Neprica Puglia (Italy)
I wished I lived on Carmel Road, ’cause maybe I could stop by any random Tuesday night and swap some tomatoes for wine. Yes, I would gladly give up homegrown tomatoes — perhaps my favorite thing on earth besides wine — for their wine. Based in cool climate Monterey, Carmel Road winery excels at everything that excels in cooler weather – Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. And for under $20 per bottle. Perhaps it helps to have a successful parent company — Kendall Jackson Wine Estates – looking out for them, but winemaker Ivan Giotenov has his eye on the ever moving vinous ball. And consumer tastes.
Read more: Wine review: Carmel Road 2009 Riesling Monterey and Carmel Road 2009 Pinot Gris Monterey
Snoqualmie is owned and operated by the fine folks who bring us Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle wines in Washington State. Per their corporate mantra, this is a good value wine that’s well made but there’s one added benefit to this brand: Snoqualmie practices sustainable and organic grape growing.
Read more: Wine review: Snoqualmie Naked 2008 Merlot Columbia Valley
Tuscany is home to Chianti, likely the most famous wine region on the planet. The straw baskets have been discarded for sleek bottles and modern winemaking went mainstream here about 20-25 years ago. Santa Cristina, made by Italy’s Antinori wine family, is most definitely part of this modern revolution yet still maintains a traditional Chianti style.
Read more: Wine review: Santa Christina 2009 Chianti Superiore
Warmth is finally peeking out from underneath the underbelly of winter, escaping to where people wear shorts and sandals. When the mercury rises to this level, it’s difficult to slurp red wine, so I recommend these five inexpensive white and sparkling wines that should quench the thirst tugging at your tongue.
Read more: Five refreshing white wines for spring and summer