I’m a quinoa lover. Although I love my animal protein, this savory, high protein grain is a savior to many vegetarians. Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains and is super versatile, has a uniquely nutty flavor and substitutes for practically any nutritionally neutral grain (think white rice or pasta). I featured a mushroom and quinoa risotto on my site late last year, but this recipe — recently enjoyed at a wine luncheon — sadly puts it to shame in the flavor department. The host chef, Ruth Van Warebeek, works for Concha y Toro in Chile and she paired this delectable recipe with a 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (CAR min YARE), a grape originally from France now happily residing in Chile’s welcoming climes and soils. Marques de Casa Concha created a soft, silky yet robust Carmenere that cozies up to food in a friendly way.
Read more: The beauty of wine and food pairings: Carmenere meets quinoa mushroom risotto
Folie à Deux (pronounced “folee ah duh”) is one of the bigger success stories in the wine biz. Their sister label Menage à Trois sells like sex on a street corner mainly because it’s sweet, juicy and, well, the name is enticing. I doubt anyone at that winery wonders if sex sells. But the Folie à Deux labels show a more serious wine side to them, with fruit coming from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Dry Creek Valley, which this little drinkable gem hails from. Dry Creek is a neighboring wine region to where I live, and the Zinfandel grape thrives where summer highs can be 8-10 degrees warmer than 20 minutes south in the Russian River Valley. That was something I had to get used to when I moved here. This fruit-forward, low tannin wine has captured my attention for years and I used to drink them more often until their alcohol levels practically morphed into 16% rubbing alcohol.
Read more: Zin love again: Folie a Deux 2009 Zinfandel wine review
Torrontés is one of those grape varieties that teeters on the edge of massive popularity. Its soft, elegant feel in the mouth, coupled with extreme fragrance and fruit could make it a no-brainer for women wine drinkers and men with enough balls to drink a white wine that smells like flowers. It is truly a lovely wine. From Argentina, Torrontés was long believed to be a descendant of Spanish Torrontés but DNA evidence says it’s a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grape (more history about the Mission grape). Thus, if you like Muscat (aka Moscato) — a wine that’s blowing up right now — then Torrontés should be flying up there with it.
Read more: White wine review: Callia Alta 2010 Torrontes Valle de Tulum (Argentina)
The 2010 vintage in Sonoma County was super cool. And I don’t mean it wore awesome shades and sported the latest fashions — but cold like in France’s Bordeaux region. The heat index just didn’t quite get high enough to ripen grapes to the point of super fruitiness with floral aromatics (like Dry Creek Vineyards’ 2007 SB). So if you like New Zealand style Sauv Blancs (like me) then you’re in heaven with the 2010 wines (read more about Sauvignon Blanc, including how to pronounce it). And you’ll also have something to look forward to in the 2011 vintage, which had similar weather in Sonoma County.
Read more: Wine review: Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley
In my opinion, Rosa Regale is the quintessential romantic wine and chicks seriously dig it — a sweet, rich dessert sparkler from the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s an absolutely perfect sparkling wine for a wedding, served with a decadent wedding cake, or to accompany berry-laden tarts… even ice cream sprinkled with raspberries.
Read more: Sweet sparkling wine review: Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui
Years ago, a sommelier friend of mine described Bogle wines as “mass-produced, and you can find them at [the grocery store], but for the money they’re the best damn grocery-store wine you can buy.” I still agree.
Read more: Good cheap red wine review: Bogle 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon California
When people talk about “everyday” wine, I’ve sometimes wondered exactly what they mean. Is it a wine that goes with all sorts of food so it can be consumed without care? Is it a simple wine that that can appeal to many different palates? Or is it an inexpensive wine that you can afford to sip everyday? Family-owned by Sonoma County’s Sebastiani and Sons, Smoking Loon wants to be all that and more.
Read more: Affordable everyday Wine review: Smoking Loon 2009 Zinfandel California
A dear friend gave me a 1.5 liter magnum of this elegant sparkling wine for Christmas and I almost peed my pants. (Available to buy online only, by the way). There’s nothing quite like looking at a family-sized bottle of bubbly and savoring the ensuing drinking fantasies. I haven’t opened the behemoth yet but the little 750-milliliter brothers of the California sparkler are a staple in my house. A blend of 49% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier grapes, Cuvee 20′s new, sleek packaging celebrates Judy Jordan’s 25 years of making sparkling wine in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. They’ve had some time to get it right using the same production methods and grape varietals established in France. Sure, not that long in French Champagne terms but, hey, we’re a new country full of zeal, still finding our wine way.
Read more: Sparkling wine review: J Winery Cuvee 20 Brut
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