Tag Archives: under $20

AG Pick Under $20: Daglia Canyon 2005 Meritage

Daglia Canyon’s 2005 Meritage from Oakville in the Napa Valley is a blend of the five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  If you’re not familiar with Meritage click here to read my earlier article.

Daglia CanyonThe wine is deep garnet red in color.  The nose is a mix of red fruit and spice — notes of raspberry and cherry mingle with cinnamon and clove.

Flavors of ripe plum and raspberry fill your mouth with warm spice on the finish.  As the wine lingers in your glass the fruit flavors come forward more.  Soft tannins give the wine a silky feel in your mouth and make it very easy to drink.

Serve this wine with grilled meats, lamb, or duck.

The 2005 Daglia Canyon Meritage costs around $19.

Best Value Bordeaux

I don’t like to play favorites when it comes to wine but I must admit Bordeaux is among my favorite wine producing areas in the world, particularly for red wine.

Bordeaux is located in southwest France, a region where wine production dates back to the 8th century.  Today there are more than 10,000 wine-producing châteaux that produce more than 700 million bottles annually.

With the huge amount of wines that come in a wide range of prices, picking out a wine from Bordeaux can be intimidating.  The wine labels look similar and the names may be hard to pronounce if you don’t know French.  Many bottles do not list the grape varietals in the wine, which can complicate the selection process even more.

Wines from Bordeaux can be very expensive but don’t think you need to spend a lot to get a nice bottle.  I’ve found some great tasting wines that start at just $12.

Chateau CoucheroyWhite wines in Bordeaux are made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.  If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try the 2007 Château Coucheroy from Pessac-Léognan.  It’s 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine has crisp flavors of grapefruit and pineapple.  There’s a subtle grassiness that’s typical of the Sauvignon Blanc grape, but it’s much more delicate than other Sauvignon Blanc wines.  The 2007 Château Coucheroy costs $17.

For a taste of all three white grapes, try the 2007 Château Lamothe de Haux from Bordeaux.  It’s 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon and 20% Muscadelle.  The grassy taste of the Sauvignon Blanc is nicely balanced out with flavors of ripe grapefruit and white peach.  It’s a light and bouncy wine that works well with shellfish, sushi, fresh fruit and light fish and pasta dishes.  The 2007 Château Lamothe de Haux costs $14.

Red wines in Bordeaux are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  If you don’t see the name of the grape on the label, it’s likely a blend of two or more of these varietals.

There are many red Bordeaux gems that cost less than $20.  The 2005 Château Cazat Beauchene from the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation costs $14.  It’s 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  The wine has mouthwatering flavors of cherry, plum and blackberry that end in a warm finish.

Chateau La Grange ClinetThe 2006 Château La Grange Clinet from the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux is a steal at $12.  It’s 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  With big flavors of plum and black cherry you’ll think it’s a $20 bottle.  Subtle tannins give it a velvety mouthfeel and a satisfying finish.

If you like ripe flavors of red fruit, try the 2003 Château Roques Mauriac from Bordeaux Supérieur.  It’s 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine has bright and juicy raspberry notes.  At $13 it’s a great wine for chicken or turkey.

Moving up slightly in price, the 2005 Château Les Ricards from the Premières Côtes de Blaye costs $20.  It’s 70% Merlot, 20% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Chewy flavors of plum and blackberry fill your mouth.  It’s a well-rounded wine with nicely integrated tannins.

Chateau Tour de CalensStaying around the $20 price range, I am a big fan of the 2005 Château Tour de Calens from Graves.  It’s 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc.  Lush flavors of black fruits mingle with flavors of vanilla and coffee that end in a lingering, almost a creamy finish.  Gentle tannins roll over your tongue for a velvety mouthfeel.  Serve this with steak, lamb, duck or well-spiced poultry dishes.  The 2005 Château Tour de Calens costs between $20 and $22.

When it comes to trying wines from Bordeaux, don’t be afraid to try a less-expensive wine with a hard to pronounce name.  It could become a new favorite wine!

Wines from the Land of Milk and Honey

One of the oldest wine producing regions in the world is producing some great new wines.

Israel is no longer the land of sweet, syrupy wines.  Today Israel’s wines are winning medals and finding their way onto wine lists at top restaurants.

Though winemaking in Israel goes back to biblical times, Israel is considered a producer of “New World” wines.  It really wasn’t until the 1980s, with the influx of new technology and more popular grape varietals, that Israel came onto the world wine scene.  Boutique wineries have been popping up since the 1990s and today the government estimates there are more than 200 wineries.

Wineries in northern Israel are making very tasty wine.  Upper Galilee in particular is well-suited for winemaking with a high elevation, cool breezes and rich soil.

For a taste of Israel’s impressive reds try Yarden’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  It has big flavors of blackberries, cherries and cassis with a hint of vanilla and spice that lingers in the finish.  This wine pairs nicely with steak and lamb dishes.  A bottle of the 2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon costs around $27.

A less expensive alternative is the Yarden Mount Hermon Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc fermented in steel.  Wild berry and cherry flavors are complemented with a hint of herbs.  Serve this with grilled meats, duck or pizza.  A bottle of the 2005 Yarden Mount Hermon Red costs around $12.

Another great value is the Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented in steel.  This big, juicy red has flavors of ripe plum and blackberry with a hint of bell pepper and spice.  This wine goes well with beef, lamb and hearty chicken and pasta dishes.  A bottle of the 2005 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon costs around $14.

On the white side, the Golan Moscato makes a great aperitif or dessert wine.  It’s 100% Muscat Canelli and made in the style of Moscato d’Asti.  The sparkling wine has mouthwatering floral and honeysuckle notes.  Tiny bubbles and a crisp finish make this wine light and refreshing.  A bottle of Golan Moscato costs around $12.

A bonus to all these wines — they’re all Kosher.  So you don’t have to drink Manischewitz ever again.

Italian Wines You Should Be Drinking

When you think of Italian wines, what comes to mind?  I think of Chianti, Barolo, Pinot Grigio, Brunello, Prosecco and Super Tuscans.

How about Pecorino or Gaglioppo?  You may not have heard of these Italian grapes but you should be drinking them.

Wine has been made in Italy for more than 4,000 years.  Today Italy produces and consumes more wine than any other country; the variety of grape types and wine styles is staggering.  Some grape varieties are marketed better than others in the United States but now it’s time for these lesser-known grapes to get the publicity they deserve.

The name Pecorino may sound familiar because it is the name of an Italian cheese.  The Pecorino grape has no relation to the cheese.

pecorinoPecorino grapes are grown in Abruzzo, a region in east-central Italy on the Adriatic Sea.  Pecorino produces medium to full bodied white wines with moderate acidity and gentle minerality.  The wines have flavors of ripe green apple and pear.  Some have notes of almond and hazelnut or ground spices like white pepper and ginger.  This wine pairs nicely with shellfish, light pasta and poultry dishes and soft cheeses.  I recommend Colle dei Venti 2007 Terre di Chieti, which costs around $12.

Gaglioppo is a red wine grape grown in Calabria.  This region is the “toe” in Italy’s boot.  Gaglioppo produces a wine that is light cherry red in color with an elegant taste.  Ripe flavors of cherry, strawberry and raspberry are rounded out with licorice and a hint of spice.  Gentle tannins give the wine a nice structure.  Drink this with veal and grilled chicken, meat lasagna and tomato-based pasta dishes.  I recommend the 2007 Ceraudo Grayasusi, which costs around $22 or Ippolito 1845 “Liber Pater” 2006, which costs around $12.


liber paterPecorino and Gaglioppo may be harder to find than the more popular Italian varieties.  But try a bottle and you’ll wonder why they’ve been kept hidden for so long.

AG Pick: Heron Hill Riesling

I’m really excited about the wines that are coming from my home state, New York.  There are some impressive Rieslings being produced in the Finger Lakes region.

That’s where Heron Hill Winery is located.  It’s in a town called Hammondsport, about a 5 hour drive from New York City.  The scenic route will take you through New Jersey and Pennsylvania before crossing back into the Empire State.

I normally select a specific wine for my AG Pick but with Heron Hill I couldn’t pick just one.  I tried the Ingle Vineyard Riesling, the Semi-Dry Riesling and Semi-Sweet Riesling and liked all of them for different reasons.

The 2005 Ingle Vineyard Riesling is a nicely structured wine that goes well with a variety of food or on its own.  Citrus and melon flavors are complemented by a pleasant minerality.  There’s a slight petrol character in the wine like with German Rieslings.  Overall, this is a very pleasant wine to drink and a good introductory Riesling for people who may not be fans of or familiar with the grape.  Serve this with seafood, sushi, pasta or cheese.  The Ingle Vineyard Riesling retails for $15.99.

The 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling is a delicate mix of ripe peach, apricot and mango.  It’s sweet and yet crisp at the same time, with good acidity.  This is a versatile white wine that pairs nicely with Asian cuisine.  Try it with stir-fry or Thai coconut curry.  The 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling retails for $12.99.

The 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling has a gentle floral aroma and flavors of juicy peach and apricot.  The finish is soft and lingering.  Sweetness-wise it’s similar to a German Spätlese Riesling, the lightest of the late harvest wines.  It’s great for wine drinkers who want a hint of the sweetness that the Riesling grape can offer.  My husband who is not generally a fan of Riesling really enjoyed this wine.  This pairs nicely with fruit, cheese and spicy Asian dishes like an Indian curry.  It’s also great for an afternoon picnic.  The 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling retails for $12.99.

At one of the wine stores I most often visit, the wines from New York State are given a small shelf in the “Atlantic Wines” section, hidden between Kosher wine and specialty beer.  I rarely pass by it when I go to the store — though that’s going to change.  Heron Hill may be hard to find in your local wine store, but it’s definitely worth searching for.

For more information on Heron Hill visit www.heronhill.com.

AG Pick Under $15: 2006 Anakena Ona Red Blend

If you like bold, complex and spicy reds you’ll want to try Anakena’s 2006 Ona Red Blend.  For a winery that’s only been around since 1999, it produces some great quality wines.  This one just made the $15 cutoff at $14.99, but the taste is so big and sophisticated you’ll think it is a more expensive wine.

Anakena Winery is located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, in the Rapel Valley in central Chile.  The name of the winery and symbols on the wine bottles evoke the region’s roots in the Rapa Nui culture.

Anakena Ona is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Carmenère.  It’s aged in French oak barrels for 16 months.

The smell is spicy and earthy, rounded out by black fruit.  The taste is a satisfying blend of cassis, dried fig, cloves and pepper.  The finish is warm and long lasting.  This is a multilayered wine that’s fun to drink.  It’s really well balanced, with the flavors, alcohol and tannins in harmony.  It’s a great example of the delicious and great value wines being produced in Chile.

This wine pairs nicely with lamb and beef dishes, rich chicken dishes and mild to medium spiced Indian and other Asian cuisines.

This was the first wine I’ve tried from Anakena and I will definitely be trying their other wines to see how they compare.

For more information on Anakena wines visit www.anakenawines.cl.

AG Pick Under $10: Alamos Malbec

I’m in a South American wine phase right now. Argentina and Chile are producing many great wines that cost much less than wines made here in the United States. Many of the red wines have an earthy taste characteristic of Old World wines, a quality I really like when pairing wine with beef or lamb.

The 2006 Alamos Malbec, made by Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, packs a big taste into a small price. For around $10, this is a wine you can buy and drink on any day of the week and not feel guilty.

The wine is a deep purple color. The smell is intense, with spicy black pepper and ripe black fruits. The taste is a lip-smacking combination of black cherries, cassis, cocoa and a hint of leather. The mouthfeel is full and soft with a smooth, lingering finish.

Alamos Malbec pairs nicely with Argentine style beef dishes as well as lamb, hamburgers, chili and hearty stews.

For more information on Bodega Catena Zapata wines visit www.catenawines.com.

AG Pick Under $20: B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been a fan of B.R. Cohn’s wine since visiting the Sonoma winery earlier this year. Their 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorites. It’s a big and tasty wine that is a great value, costing around $17.

The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate Vineyard and other North Coast vineyards. It’s aged in French oak for 18 months.

The taste is of ripe black fruit: blackberries, cassis and black cherries. The oak aging gives the wine a touch of vanilla on the smooth finish. It’s a lush and full wine that’s very pleasant to drink. It pairs nicely with beef, lamb and well-spiced chicken and pasta dishes.

B.R. Cohn makes other delicious wines. My two favorites are the Sonoma Valley Zinfandel and Moose’s Red, which is named after Bruce Cohn’s dog. These wines cost around $26 and $40 respectively. Click here to see my earlier article about visiting the winery and tasting these wines.

For more information on B.R. Cohn’s wines visit www.brcohn.com.

Click here for more wine recommendations under $20 or click on “under $20″ in the tag cloud on the right.

AG Pick Under $20: Jean Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace Brut Reserve

If you’re looking for a nice bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the New Year, skip Champagne and head farther east in France to Alsace. Crémant D’Alsace is a sparkling wine made in the traditional Champenoise method but doesn’t carry the same price tag as Champagne. For the taste and the cost, Crémant D’Alsace is hard to beat.

The Alsace region is on the eastern border of France, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. Crémant D’Alsace is mostly made from Pinot Blanc grapes but may also contain Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

My pick for a great Crémant D’Alsace is the Brut Reserve from Jean Albrecht. I found it for $17.99 at my local wine and spirits store. It’s a Blanc de Blanc made from 100% Pinot Blanc. It’s a beautiful pale straw yellow in color with small energetic bubbles. The taste is subtle and delicate. It’s dry and crisp with light toast and a hint of apricot. The gentle fruit flavor makes this sparkling wine really enjoyable to drink. It’s just the right amount to serve to people who like their sparkling wine dry, and will please the palates of people who prefer some sweetness. Champagne drinkers may be converted to Crémant D’Alsace drinkers after trying a glass.

The complex and delicious taste at a relatively low price point makes Jean Albrecht’s Crémant D’Alsace Brut Reserve a great value. It’s a sparkling wine I’m looking forward to serving at my New Year’s Eve party.

AG Pick Under $10: Camino de los 7 Lagos Cabernet Malbec

In July 2006 my husband and I traveled to Buenos Aires where we spent four days drinking great wine and eating all sorts of meat. Our friends from Argentina did the ordering so I’m really not quite sure what parts of a cow we tried or even if it was all from cows. There was some blood sausage and sweet breads in the mix, along with a squiggly light brown thing that may have been brain or intestine, I still don’t know. We took a bite of everything and it all tasted delicious with the wine.

While eating our way around the beautiful city, we tried a great Malbec from Neuquén. It’s a province located in the Patagonia region of Argentina, bordered by Mendoza to the north and Chile to the west. There, temperature variations of warm sunny days and cool nights produce grapes with a nice balance of fruit and acidity.

Since our trip we haven’t found many Argentine wines from Neuquén. But this weekend we discovered Camino de los 7 Lagos wines at Sunset Corners Liquor in Miami. Camino de los 7 Lagos was the first winery in Neuquén. They produce mostly red wines, along with a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. We bought a bottle of the 2007 Cabernet Malbec to try. It’s 60% Cabernet, 40% Malbec.

At $8.99 this red blend is a great value. The wine is dark garnet in color with a touch of purple. It has aromas of red cherries and earth. The taste is more fruit forward than the nose may lead you to believe. There are flavors of red fruit – cherry, plum and raspberry. There are very light tannins that give the wine a silky mouthfeel. The finish is warm and rounded. It’s easy and very pleasant to drink. Camino de los 7 Lagos’ Cabernet Malbec blend is one of Sunset Corners’ best sellers and it’s easy to see why. For the price, the wine is well-balanced and sophisticated and would pair nicely with a variety of dishes.