Tag Archives: under $10

AG Pick: Kimmel Illuminate Chardonnay 2013

Looking for an unoaked Chardonnay at an unbeatable price point? Try the 2013 Illuminate North Coast Chardonnay from Kimmel Vineyards.

Illuminate ChardonnayIt’s a delicious answer to oak fatigue – that sensation when you drink a heavy-handed Chardonnay and you fear you might find a splinter in your tongue. The Illuminate Chardonnay is stainless steel fermented with no oak influence or secondary fermentation. What you get in the glass is pure, fresh fruit.

The Kimmel family has been growing Chardonnay in northern California’s Mendocino County since 1986, on the cattle ranch that was established by Ed and Lillian Kimmel in 1963. Lillian, or Nana as she is affectionately called, is still at the helm and celebrates her 90th birthday this month. Today the fourth generation is cultivating a love for the land.

The 2013 Chardonnay is 100% Chardonnay from the North Coast AVA. The wine is bright yellow in color, with tropical fruit and apple aromas. Flavors of golden apple, Asian pear, pineapple and guava come together in a lingering gently tart finish. Bright acidity adds a refreshing mouthfeel.

For this kind of taste, you won’t believe that the Illuminate North Coast Chardonnay costs just $9.99 a bottle.

Kimmel produces a variety of premium and everyday wines. For more information visit kimmelvineyards.com.

14.5% alcohol

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AG Pick: Avia Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Introducing the Sauvignon Blanc you’ll enjoy drinking all summer long: the 2011 Avia Sauvignon Blanc.

One taste and you’d never guess the country where it comes from: Slovenia. Yes, the small European country bordered by Italy, Austria and Croatia is producing some exciting wines that are now available in the United States.

Avia Sauvignon BlancPronounced ahh-vee-ahh, this wine is grown and produced just over the eastern Italian border in a region called Goriška Brda. It’s an area of low rounded hills (brda means hills in Slovenian), with a Mediterranean climate and a winemaking tradition that is several centuries old.

One look at the colorful label and you’ll see that this is meant to be a fun wine. Easy to drink and with flavors that are more fruit-driven than grassy, the Avia Sauvignon Blanc is a crowd-pleasing wine.

Aromas of citrus and tropical fruit introduce flavors of pineapple, Meyer lemon and white grapefruit, with a hint of lemongrass. The wine is well-balanced and soft in the mouth, with gentle acidity and a clean finish.

Costing less than $10 a bottle, the Avia Sauvignon Blanc is affordable and versatile. It’s a wine you won’t feel guilty about opening on a weeknight; it can be enjoyed with friends, outdoors on a warm day, on its own or with food. Serve the Avia Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif or with salads, shellfish, white fish or poultry.

Interested in other wines from Slovenia? Click here to read about wines from Colliano.

$9, 13% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | More under $20

AG Pick: Hera Vinho Verde Branco 2011

Atlantans, meet your new summer white wine. Introducing Hera Vinho Verde Branco, a refreshing wine from Portugal that is now available in Georgia.

Vinho Verde is a type of wine produced in northwest Portugal. The name translates to “green wine,” which refers to the wine’s youth, not color. Vinho Verde wines can be white (branco in Portuguese), red or rosé, and are meant to be enjoyed young (typically within a year of bottling).

From the pool to the picnic, Hera Vinho Verde Branco is your go-to white wine. With fresh acidity, a slight effervescence and a lower alcohol content, this wine is perfect for an afternoon outdoors.

Hera Branco is made mainly from Loureiro grapes (85%), the principal variety in the region. Making up the remaining 15% are equal parts Trajadura and Arinto grapes.

Hera Branco is extremely pale straw yellow in color with a touch of green. Tart citrus and melon aromas introduce a crisp and refreshing palate. Flavors of lime, white grapefruit, green pear, honeydew and white flowers culminate in a clean finish. A slight effervescence and racy acidity give the wine a pleasant and light mouthfeel. Some residual sugar balances out the acidity, rounding out the wine and making it easy to sip.

Hera Vinho Verde Branco is great as an aperitif, and can pair well with a variety of summer dishes – salads, shellfish, grilled chicken and fish. The wine has a screw top so no need to remember the corkscrew.

Yet another reason why you’ll want to make this your summer sipping wine – Hera Vinho Verde Branco is extremely budget friendly, costing between $8 and $9 a bottle.

Hera Vinho Verde Branco should be served between 48°F and 50°F.

10% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

Great Value Summer Whites

Keep your summer going well into September with one of these great value white wines.  They’re perfect for an outdoor picnic, a day at the beach, as an aperitif or whenever it’s too hot to drink a red wine (or later on when you wish it was too hot for red).

All of these whites are $10 or less, so don’t be afraid to taste a new or unfamiliar varietal.

All have screw caps so they’re great for outings or parties — no need to remember to bring a corkscrew.

Try one of these whites at your Labor Day weekend get together.

Starborough 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($9)
Marlborough, New Zealand
12.5% abv
This refreshing white is the perfect match for a hot day.  It’s light in the mouth with high acidity, some minerality and a crisp, clean finish.  Citrus aromas give way to flavors of white grapefruit, lemongrass, sage and a hint of honeysuckle, with a touch of lemon peel on the finish.  Though this white does have some herbaceousness, it doesn’t have the strong grassy taste that other New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs tend to have.

Essay 2009 Chenin Blanc ($9)
Western Cape, South Africa
13.5% abv
This white is not as tart as the Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to the addition of Viognier (5%) that softens the acidity and adds a touch of spice.  Refreshing flavors of lemon, lime and honeydew are rounded out by notes of white flowers and guava.  Overall this white is smooth and supple in the mouth with a lingering hint of granny smith apple on the crisp finish.

La Vuelta 2009 Torrontes ($9)
Mendoza, Argentina
13% abv
If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc but want to try something different, try this white from Argentina.  Similar in taste and in body, this Torrontes has elegant floral notes on both the nose and palate.  The 2009 La Vuelta has flavors of orange, sweet lemon, a hint of honeysuckle and not quite ripe peach.  Crisp and lower in acidity than some of the other whites, this wine has a clean finish.

Niederösterreich 2009 Grüner Veltliner ($9)
12.5% abv
Grüner Veltliner is made for summer parties.  It’s an extremely versatile dry wine that can pair with all sorts of foods ranging from shellfish to spicy Asian cuisine.  If you’re looking for a crisp white, the 2009 Niederösterreich is it.  This wine is tingling with acidity, with almost an effervescent feeling in the mouth.  In taste it’s all about citrus — lemon, lime, white grapefruit — enhanced by notes of white pepper, peach, a hint of jasmine and nice minerality on the tart finish.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler 2009 Riesling ($10)
Mosel, Germany
10% abv
This off dry Riesling is the sweetest white of the group, though still light enough to enjoy on a warm day.  Its golden delicious apple and apricot aromas continue to develop on the palate, enhanced by a hint of wildflower honey.  The wine finishes clean, with lingering sweet fruit.

Cheers to a delicious end to the summer!

AG Pick Under $10: Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne Cuvee Brut

Looking for a sparkling wine that’s just like Champagne but costs much less? Pick up a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut.

This sparkling wine is nearly identical to Champagne. It is made in France, from the same varietals used to make Champagne and produced in the same method as Champagne. It just can’t be called Champagne because it’s not from that region; it’s produced just a hop, skip and a four hour drive away in Burgundy.

Besides Burgundy, Crémants are made in several regions in France including Alsace, Loire and Bordeaux. For the quality and the price, Crémant is hard to beat.

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut comes in at just under $10 a bottle. For the price, this Crémant is extremely elegant and flavorful. Aromas of pear, apple and toasted bread continue to develop on the palate, culminating in a crisp finish that has a hint of toasted almonds. With its small, energetic bubbles this sparkling wine is easy to drink and light on the tongue, with enough going on to keep you interested through your final sip.

A bottle of the Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut costs between $9 and $10.

Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick Under $10: 2009 John B. Sauvignon Blanc-Colombar

If you’re looking for sunshine in a bottle with a price tag that will have you beaming, you’ll find it in the 2009 John B. Sauvignon Blanc-Colombar.  This wine comes from the Rietvallei Wine Estate, a family-owned winery in the Western Cape of South Africa.

John B. WhiteColombar, also known as Colombard or French Colombard, is a white wine grape that is grown in both the New and Old World wine regions.  In France it is among the permitted varietals in White Bordeaux and it can be used to make Cognac or Armagnac.  Often blended to add acidity, Colombar produces fresh and crisp white wines.

The John B. Sauvignon Blanc-Colombar is a fresh and fruity dry wine that you can enjoy any day of the week.  It opens with an inviting floral bouquet and fills your mouth with flavors of crisp lemon, white grapefruit, tropical fruits and a hint of minerals.  Well balanced acidity gives the wine a zesty, lingering finish.

This versatile white is a great match for seafood, salads and Asian cuisine.  It’s perfect for your next outdoor picnic — and you won’t need a corkscrew because it has a screw cap!

A bottle of the 2009 Rietvallei Estate John B. Sauvignon Blanc-Colombar is a great deal at $8.

AG Pick Under $10: The Spanish Quarter 2007 Chardonnay-Albarino

Looking for a blend of old and new at a great price?  Try the Spanish Quarter 2007 Chardonnay-Albariño.  This Spanish white wine is an aromatic and lively combination of the native Spanish white grape varietal and the relative newcomer to Spain.

Spanish QuarterAlbariño is mainly grown in northwest Spain and can also be found in Portugal (there called Alvarinho).  It produces light bodied white wines that are generally high in acidity and have notes of peach and apricot.  Albariño wines pair well with antipasto, paella, cheese and seafood.

In the Spanish Quarter, the Albariño contributes intense floral aromas and bright acidity while the Chardonnay gives the wine a rich mouthfeel and tropical fruit flavors.

The wine is straw-green in color with a fragrant floral nose of exotic fruits.  The palate has highlights of ripe peach, tropical fruit, spice and a long, clean citrus finish.

This wine pairs well with seafood, chicken, rice dishes and vegetables.

A bottle of the 2007 Spanish Quarter Chardonnay-Albariño costs $9.99.

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

A great Thanksgiving feast deserves a great wine!  Though selecting a bottle for your holiday dinner may seem a little daunting at first, the many flavors mean you can serve a variety of wines.

I’ve come up with a list of traditional pairings like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, less common ones like semi-sweet white wines and even included a couple of tasty blends, all for less than $30 a bottle.

Here are wines that will pair well with your Thanksgiving meal:

Ca'Montini Pinot GrigioCa’Montini 2008 Pinot Grigio ($20)
This northern Italian white is my new favorite Pinot Grigio with its rich and creamy taste.  Relatively full-bodied for a Pinot Grigio, the wine has flavors of apple, peach, lemon and white grapefruit, with a hint of almond and hazelnut.  It’s an elegant pairing with turkey and lighter side dishes.

Washington Hills 2007 Gewurztraminer ($9)
This rich and well-balanced Gewurztraminer goes well with turkey and all the fixins.  Slightly sweet but still crisp, this white has flavors of pear, mandarin orange, pineapple and spice.

Heron Hill Ingle Vineyards RieslingHeron Hill 2006 Ingle Vineyards Riesling ($15) & Pinot Noir ($15)
Located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Heron Hill makes some delicious wines.  The 2006 Ingle Vineyards Riesling has an elegant bouquet of tropical fruit and jasmine that will add to the flavors from the meat and side dishes, while the wine’s natural acidity will pleasantly contrast with the sweetness of corn, sweet potatoes or gravy.  The Pinot Noir will bring toasty and spicy flavors to the table, while notes of cherry and plum will perfectly complement cranberry sauce.

Codorniu Pinot Noir Rose BrutCodorníu Pinot Noir Rosé Brut NV ($15)
Put a little sparkle into the traditional Pinot pairing with this Brut Cava from Spain.  Deep salmon in color with small and enthusiastic bubbles, this wine will certainly add a celebratory feel to your meal.  With flavors of strawberry and toast that come together in a crisp citrus finish, this sparkling wine goes well with turkey and all the sides.

Chehalem 2006 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir ($28)
This Pinot comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and has a great mix of red fruits and spice.  Flavors of spicy cherries and strawberries mix with cherry cola, cocoa, dried herbs and white pepper, with a hint of cedar on the finish.  Silky in texture, this wine is very easy to drink.

Beaujolais NouveauGeorges Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau ($9)
Released each year on the third Thursday in November, this light to medium bodied red from Burgundy is an ideal pairing for Thanksgiving.  Called the best vintage in 50 years, the 2009 has flavors of raspberry, blueberry and cherry with a hint of spice on the finish.  The tannins are intense for Gamay but still soft, balanced out by good acidity.

Gundlach Bundschu 2005 Mountain Cuvée ($24)
This Sonoma Valley red wine is one of my go to wines because it’s delicious and easy to drink.  It’s a medium-bodied blend of Merlot (71%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (21%), with Syrah and Cabernet Spanish QuarterFranc making up the rest.  Soft and round flavors of raspberries and cocoa lead to a spicy and meaty finish with lingering berry and cola notes.  This wine pairs well with turkey but is still elegant enough to go with lighter side dishes.

The Spanish Quarter 2007 Cabernet-Tempranillo ($10)
This red blend is a zesty and satisfying mix of Spain’s native varietal and a grape relatively new to the country.  Aromas of cherry and blackberry introduce full and silky flavors of ripe berries, dark chocolate, exotic spice and a touch of sweet oak on the finish.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2006 Heritage Zinfandel ($17)
Rued ZinfandelFor its bold and sophisticated flavors, this Zinfandel is a great buy.  Inky purple-red in color, this wine has concentrated flavors of blackberry and plum that mingle with dark chocolate, allspice and vanilla.  Firm and supple tannins create a balanced mouthfeel that culminates in a lingering and elegant finish.

Rued 2006 Zinfandel ($25)
This Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel comes from a small, family-owned winery in Sonoma County.  The wine has flavors of fresh baked blackberry pie, with hints of cocoa, licorice and spice.  It’s velvety in texture with well balanced tannins and acidity.  I’m also a big fan of their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir which costs $35 a bottle.

For more wines click on the name of the varietal or the price point you’re looking for in the tag cloud to the right.

Organic Wines for Less than $20

Organic wines can be confusing.  Some are labeled organic while others are not, and the definition of what makes a wine organic can vary among winemaking countries.

In general, organic wines are made from grapes that are free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, and they don’t have added sulfites.  Most wines have a small amount of sulfites as a byproduct of fermentation, though additional sulfites are often used to preserve the wine.

For a wine to be certified organic in the United States it must be made from organically grown grapes, contain no added sulfites, and have information about the certifying agency.  If a wine does not have the USDA seal but indicates it is made with organic grapes or organically grown grapes, it can include added sulfites.  In other countries with organic regulations, organic wines must meet the standards set by a government agency.

Further complicating the concept of green wines are the terms “sustainable” and “biodynamic.”  Sustainable winemaking attempts to lessen the carbon footprint of the vineyard.  Instead of man-made chemicals, growers use natural fertilizers and cultivate plants that attract animals and insects that are beneficial to the vines.

Biodynamic winemaking incorporates the concept of organic farming with a broader worldview.  A biodynamic vineyard is thought of as a living system that is closed and self-sustaining.  Many things are done by hand, including harvesting grapes or plowing the vineyard (sometimes horses are used), and winemakers only use indigenous yeasts.  Throughout the year growers will treat the soil to enhance its life.

The best way to tell if a wine is organic is to read the label.  Or you can save yourself the trouble and look for one of these great tasting green wines:

2008 Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia Organica Torrontés ($11)
Malbec is to red wine in Argentina as Torrontés is to white wine there.  This wine is floral and crisp, with an explosive bouquet of rose, orange peel, lime, white peaches and aromatic herbs followed by ripe flavors of citrus, peaches and a spicy finish.

2008 Leth Grüner Veltliner ($17)
This lush white from Austria has ripe peach and buttery apple flavors with a long spicy and creamy finish.  A slight effervescence makes this a fun wine to drink.  Like most Grüner Veltliner, this is a very versatile wine and can pair with seafood, shellfish, spicy dishes and Asian cuisine.

2008 Aguaza Sol-E-Cic-O Almansa ($12)
This is a white blend of 50% Monastrell, 25% Verdejo and 25% Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s intensely silky with notes of green pears, banana, ripe lime and a hint of spice from the Monastrell.  It’s a perfect wine for a sunny afternoon.

2005 Old River Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)
This is a medium-bodied blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc from California’s Mendocino County.  Smooth and well-balanced, this red has compelling aromas of dark fruits and earth.  Flavors of cherry, plum and strawberry are enhanced with a hint of vanilla from 8 months in new French oak.

2007 Finca Luzon Verde ($9)
This red wine is made from 100% organic Monastrell grapes.  For a wine that costs less than $10 it has quite a big taste.  It’s a bold and peppery red from the Jumilla region in southern Spain, bursting with black currant, spice, smoke and vanilla.

2007 Paolo Scavino Rosso Vino da Tavola ($18)
This Italian red is 40% Nebbiolo, 25% Barbera, 25% Dolcetto and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aromas of currant, cherry, mocha, pepper and smoke introduce a concentrated flavor of red berries and black pepper.  Good acidity and smooth tannins lead to a ripe finish.

2006 Jorge Ordoñez Muscatel Malaga Seleccion Especial #1 ($17)
This dessert wine is sweet without being syrupy, with flavors of honey, jasmine and tropical fruits balanced out by a lively acidity.  375ml

I tasted these wines at the Organic Wine Party: Green Wine Demystified at the Chelsea Wine Vault, part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.  All the wines can be purchased at Chelsea Wine Vault or ordered online at chelseawinevault.com.

AG Pick Under $10: 2008 MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc

Don’t let the name confuse you.  This South African winery makes wines that both men and women will enjoy.

It’s actually women who inspired the name.  MAN Vintners was started by three men who created the name by combining the first letters of their wives’ names — Mary, Anette and Nicky.  It’s how Charles Back, José Conde and Tyrrel Myburgh were able to spend their weekends away from their wives making wine.

MAN Chenin BlancThe 2008 Chenin Blanc was the first wine I tried from MAN Vintners.  It’s bright and zippy and fills your mouth with fresh tropical flavors.  Best of all, it costs less than $10.

This white is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from various vineyards in the Agter-Paarl region in southwest South Africa, just inland from Capetown.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and is left on its lees until bottling for a richer mouthfeel.

Aromas of melon and guava introduce crisp flavors of honeydew, starfruit and ripe lime.  Refreshing acidity and good minerality culminate in a clean finish.

This Chenin Blanc is a versatile white that goes well with seafood, shellfish, light cheeses and salads.  Or enjoy it on its own on a hot afternoon.

The 2008 MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc costs $9.