Saturday, October 31, 2009

Have You Seen The Naked Wine Show?

This online minute-long review of wine isn't limited to wines under $10, but it's still fun to watch, educational and don't worry it's safe for the whole family. Check out

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cycles Gladiator Is Like Bike Ride on a Beautiful Day

Ok. I know the headline is silly, but Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Syrah is the real deal. Fruit forward, smooth, spice on the finish. You can find it at New Seasons for under $8. Let me know what you think...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Papio Cabernet Sauvignon is Drinkable

Finally, another red wine under $7 that is drinkable! Truthfully, I was about to give up hope.

I'm not going to pontificate about all Papio 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon's various flavors. There aren't many, it tastes like a miraculously balanced red wine for under $7. Not a lot of nuance, alcohol, tannin or fruit. However it is missing that icky sour taste!

So if Goldilocks were to try this next to the Chariot Gypsy Red or Concanon Cabernet Sauvignon she would say it was "just right - for a $7 wine".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Funny Wine Word: Quaff

There are lots of words that vinophiles use that are outside of my regular vocabulary. One that I've been hearing a lot lately is quaff. It seems like something a 13-year-old would make up as part of a dirty joke, but I looked it up and it's completely appropriate. According to Webster's dictionary it simply means to drink deeply.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?

While hand-selling yesterday I talked with an older gentleman who doesn't drink but said he often wanders in to the wine department to marvel at the price tags. Naturally, he asked me what makes one wine worth more money than the next. I told him that several factors play into it:
  • The way the wine is produced: For example if the grapes are hand-picked and the wine is aged in oak-barrels that may increase the cost.
  • The origin of the grapes: Grapes from a particular region or a particularly unique vineyard may be worth more money.
  • The demand for the varietal: Pinot Noir is really popular right now, but it's not that easy to grow so the base prices tend to be higher than Merlot.
  • The year a wine was harvested: I'm told 2006 was a good year for Oregon Pinot Noir, but 2007 was not so great.
  • The branding: Just like any marketable product or service, the reputation of the wine label, winery or wine maker can make a huge difference in the price.

But the real question is does price make a huge difference in the taste? According to a working paper from the American Association of Wine Economists, for most people it doesn't. The economists reviewed results from approximately 6,000 blind tastings and found that "unless they are experts, individuals who are unaware of the price enjoy more expensive wines slightly less."

However, most wine enthusiasts do not drink their wine blind on a regular basis. According to the economists, in a traditional wine tasting "the pleasure we get from consuming wine depends both on its intrinsic qualities such as taste and smell and external attributes such as price and presentation." But the results of their study suggest that "both price tags and expert recommendations may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers who care about the intrinsic qualities of the wine."

Like most novice wine drinkers, I tend to pick wine based on the price and the label, but I just had my first blind tasting a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed the experience of focusing on the smell and taste completely.

Find out for yourself:
  1. Invite a variety of your friends over and ask them to each bring a bottle of wine to try. (Note: You might want to have a specific focus for your tasting like Merlot so you're not bouncing all around the spectrum.)
  2. Cover the wines in tin foil or brown paper bags so no one can see the labels.
  3. Mark each bottle covering with a letter or number to identify it.
  4. Make sure everyone has a way to take notes.
  5. Taste and rate.
  6. Compare notes at the end.
Let me know how it goes!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

House Wine = Fine

I've been hearing a lot about House Wine red blend from Magnificent Wine out of Washington and at Safeway it's on sale for $9.98. I love the label! But I was honestly, not a huge fan of the wine. It smelled nice like red raspberries and tasted a little like sour cherries. I found it to have a smooth, flat finish.

However, their wines have been well received by Wine Spectator, so I'm curious to find out what you think. Have you tried it?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Full Disclosure: I'm Selling Delicious Budget Wine

I apologize for neglecting this blog for so long, but I'm back and as some of you know, I'm actually selling wine part time. I promote a brand called Insatiable which is delicious (the Chardonnay was voted Best Buy by Wine Enthusiast) and costs under $10!

FYI...I'm drinking the Red Blend from the Columbia Valley now and it's really good. It's smooth and velvety and tastes kinda like a dark chocolate raspberry truffle. I actually prefer it to Menage a Trois which is in the same price point and is a best seller at Safeway these days.

Don't worry, I won't be talking about Insatiable exclusively (I've been tasting lots of other budget wines these days), I just wanted to let you know what I've been doing instead of blogging.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Is It Possible For A Wine To Have No Flavor?

Tonight, I decided to try a bottle of Italian San Giorgio Sangiovese (sänj-vz) Di Puglia from QFC, because they were pouring Sangiovese at the tasting I went to last weekend.

I poured myself a glass and then my neighbor generously fed me a couple of pieces of delicious Pacific Veggie Pizza from Domino's with added jalapenos and pepperoni.

We started talking and she told me all about our neighbors. Each one has their own unique story, but get this: the guy that used to live above her is on the show Ghost Hunters and used to bring the spirits home with him and sometimes they would visit her in her apartment to hang out with Martini the shitzu. She says they left when he did. Phew!

When the conversation was over, I remembered that I had a glass of wine airing out, but when I went to smell it I couldn't pick up anything. I shrugged it off and took a sip, swirled it around like the pros do and then swallowed, but it
didn't' taste like anything either! I didn't know that was possible.

According to Professional Friends of Wine,
Sangiovese is the base for the well known Italian Chianti blends. They say that it's supposed to be a more subtle medium-bodied wine, but will often have "a strawberry, blueberry, faintly floral, violet or plummy character."

Sounds like it could be delicious! I'll have to give it another try. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wine Flavored Gum?

I stopped by the gas station on my way home from a wine tasting on Saturday to pick up some gum and a new flavor from Orbit caught my eye: Sangria Fresca. Wine flavored gum? I had to try it.

I'm chewing a piece now and I think I'm picking up tropical fruit and a hint of mint. No red wine though.

Note: Apparently this is just a new-to-me flavor. I came across several blog posts about it from May 2008. I have a feeling this pack has been in the racks at the AM/PM for that long because I've only been chewing this piece for one song and my jaw is already starting to hurt.

However, this experience reminded me that it's sangria season, and if you're in the mood for the real thing, you have a few options:

1) Find a wine shop or restaurant that makes it.
I believe Sarrah Torres from Winestock in Oregon City makes a fresh batches during the summer.

2) Pick up a prepackaged version at the store.
Whole Foods is advertising an all natural red wine version for $6.99!

3) If you're feeling especially adventurous you can make your own.
From what I can tell, there are no real rules to making a good sangria, but here are the basic ingredients:

Red or White wine
Fruit (oranges, peaches, nectarines, etc.)
Sugar (if needed)

Feel free to experiment, just make sure that you have someone fabulous to enjoy it with when you decide to partake. Yes, your own company counts in a pinch!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Visiting Boutique Wine Shop Pays Off

As promised, I began my recovery by braving the Wine Cellar's six year anniversary wine tasting celebration this weekend. (I just noticed that the url of their site is!)

I introduced myself to Erin the shop owner shortly after I got there, who seemed friendly, albeit puzzled by my awkward introduction. She was really busy so I tried to stay out of her way by hovering around the tasting tables making small talk with the people pouring and the other tasters.

I tried perusing the budget racks of the shop myself a couple of times, but was too embarrassed to pick up every bottle and turn it over to look for a price tag.

Eventually, I started to run out of tasting tickets and realized I needed to get home and to let Mr. T out to relieve himself, so I got up the nerve to whisper to the staff person behind the cash register that I was looking to buy something for my blog about wines under $10. Naturally, she said Erin would be the best suited to help me. I cringed as she hustled to the tasting tent to retrieve the shop owner.

Erin was extremely gracious and took me on a quick tour of the budget sections of the shop. Upon her recommendation, I purchased a bottle of Painter Bridge 2007 California Zinfandel for approximately $8.

I took it home and savored it alongside The Secret Life of Bees. (If you've never done this before, I highly recommend pairing a wine and a movie. If you're lucky, like a good food pairing the two will enhance each other.)

Like the movie, this zin doesn't have a lot of the depth, but the characters are endearing and it leaves you with a sense of being home. It's like warm raspberry pie a la mode in a glass. Smooth, jammy--but not too sweet--with hints of vanilla and raisins.

Despite being a zinfandel, this wine is not too heavy for this time of year. In fact, it can go down a little to easy so as Erin suggestes, keep it in the kitchen forcing you to have to get up to refill your glass or it will be gone before you know it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Budget Wine Snob: Coming to Grips With My Prejudice

Hi, my name is Natalie and I'm a wine snob.

I came face to face with my prejudice on Mother's Day when I took my mom to brunch at Whole Foods.

After enjoying some delicious quiche, maple bacon and a little oj, we decided to take a field trip throug the store--my mom had never been there before.

When we entered the wine section I was surprised to see a variety of featured wines for under $10! I flitted from one display to the next reading the delightful descriptions (so quirky they're worth the trip alone) and investigating the labels.

Naturally, we left the store with a basket full of new budget wines to try. Two that I highly recommend are Mirth 2007 Chardonnay and Our Daily Red Vintage 2007 California Red Wine.

Mr. T and I have a favorite spot by the creek under the willow tree where we like to splash in the water, play fetch in the grass or lay on our quilt and read on sunny days. If those times could be bottled, I think it would taste just like this wine. The thing I like most about Mirth is that, unlike many chardonnays, it's not oaky so you get to taste the fresh, frolicing flavor of the fruit.

Our Daily Red
I've never eaten a lily before (are they edible?), but Our Daily Red is similar to what I'd expect a lily might taste like: light, fruity, velvety and spicy. Plus, it's good for you and the environment because it's organic and has no detectable sulfites. (Although the issue of sulfites in wine is one that is under debate according to Kenton Erwin at Kenton Wines.)

The Future of Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savor
If you've visited this blog before, you probably already know that my passion is to find good wines for under $10 to share with you. Until recently, I thought this could only be accomplished at discount grocers and gas stations, but I was wrong. From now on I'm going to try to have an open mind when it comes to hunting for delectable wines within my budget and to boldly go into high end grocers, wine shops and wineries to see what other fiscally friendly vintages I can find for us to swirl, sniff, sip and savor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sagelands Is Worth the Wait

I've been eying Sagelands for months now, but I'd never heard anything about it so I thought it was a bit risky to spend $8 on it. Today I finally gave in and bought it for $7.99 at Fred Meyer.

Even without decanting or drinking out of a proper glass it was enjoyable. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I used a coffee cup because all my wine glasses were dirty. Now that I'm in my own apartment and not cooking as much, I tend to go days before I have a full load to run the dishwasher.) It's a warm hearty wine with strong fruit flavors and rich smooth tannins.

I think that if you were patient and let this wine breath first it would open up quite a bit. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking to Learn more about wine?

I just started following Vinomentary on Twitter: Looks interesting if you like random quick wine trivia. Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Columbia Crest Two Vines - Better The Second Time

On a friend's recommendation, I actually bought a bottle of Columbia Crest Two Vines 2004 Merlot from Walmart a couple of months back. When I tried it, I wasn't impressed, but when the same friend brought me a bottle a couple of days later, I tried it again and I really enjoyed it! I'm not sure if it was because of the weather, the food I ate, the amount of time I let it aerate or the sweetness of the gesture, but regardless, if you can find this gem buy it and give it a try. I think it usually goes for between $5-7.

It's somewhere between purple and brick in color. It smells like yeast, alcohol, cherries and a hint of blackberry. The palate is actually pretty complex: cherries, prunes, dried strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, leather and smoke.

Let me know what you think! If you like it, think about buying one for a friend.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir: Definitely Drinkable

Pinot for under $10? It's true and it's not bad. At $6.99 Pepperwood Grove Pinot 2007, is definitely drinkable.

In the glass it looks a bit thin and translucent, but it's got a nice nose of subtle oak, sun-ripened raspberry, spice, mushrooms and forest.

The flavor is also a little thin, but you definitely get the raspberry, cherry, and mushrooms. It also tastes of some kind of spice, that I can't put my finger on? Can you name it?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

BoonaRoo = Blech

I couldn't pass up BoonaRoo's 2002 Shiraz Cabernet blend when I was at Safeway on Friday (it was only $3.99), but I should have.

The deep purple of the wine when I poured a glass, made me think that I might have found a gem, but on first sniff all I got was must and oak. I let it sit for a while to open up and sniffed again. With a lot of effort, I managed to detect slight notes of plum or prune, a hint of spice and a strong heat.

It tasted like licking a musty oak barrel: bland. Although, I must admit that there were also subtle flavors of prune or raisin. I couldn't even finish a glass and it still gave me a headache.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Captain's Catch 2007 Red Wine Land Locked

Most of us who gravitate toward drinkable wines on budget know that Trader Joe's is a treasure trove of these types of gems.

They sell a variety of wines under $10, including wines under their own label. This week I decided to try a wine under the Trader Joe's label: Captain's Catch 2007 California Red Wine for approximately $7.

Despite the name of this wine, it emanates some pretty strong earth tones. It smells of dirt, mushrooms, oak, alcohol and raspberries.

As for the taste, the first thing I notice is raisins. But there is also a strong sense of a dark, dewy rain forest floor covered in moss and ferns. As it opens up, I start to taste raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I would imagine that this wine would benefit from decanting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Banrock Station Shiraz Is Hard to Put Down

I've been watching Wine Library TV over the last couple of days and I've picked up a few things about wine tasting from Gary Vaynerchuk's daily video wine blog that I tried to implement when tasting Banrock Station's 2007 Shiraz. Thanks for the education Gary!

Only $5.79 a bottle, this earth-friendly wine from South Eastern Australia was really hard for me to put down.

As Gary does, I gave it a few really good sniffs and honestly, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but it smelled like the Outback Steakhouse to me. I kid you not. More specifically it smelled warm, musty and peppery.

When I swirled it around in my mouth I noticed that this wine had a rich, soft velvety texture. The first thing I tasted was pepper, but I also got notes of cherry, alcohol, leather, smoke and raisin.

For ideas from Gary about nice wines at nice prices check out Finding Good Wines at Great Prices on Get Rich Slowly.

Do you have a favorite Shiraz that I should try and post about?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Novella Zinfandel Falls Flat

I stood in the middle of the Trader Joe's wine section holding a bottle of red in each hand reading one label and then the next when I felt someone step up beside me.

After a few seconds I looked up and a short man with a name tag that read Deano said "The Novella Zinfandel is somewhere between a fruity young zin and your earthy old vine zin."

He was right. It tasted dusty with slight hints of cherry and spice. It was drinkable, but not my favorite Novella. Like my counterpart at Budget Vino I prefer their rich blend Synergy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Red Diamond Merlot Shines

Since I live in Washington now, I figure I should try Washington wines. So when I walked by a display of Red Diamond Wines on sale for $6.99 in Fred Meyer the other day after work I decided to try the 2005 Merlot.

I love almost everything about this wine. I love the price. I love the label. I love the soft velvety mouth feel. I love the juicy taste of cherries , the jammy berry flavors and the warm spice notes.

The only thing I don't like is the cheesy attempt to play off of the word diamond in the description in the back, but I see why they did it. In fact, I couldn't help but use the technique myself in the title of this blog.

I highly recommend this wine if you're looking for a nice full bodied fruit forward wine to warm you up this winter.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Old Vine Zin for Under Ten

Old vine zin roots me to one of my favorite memories. My soon-to-be-ex-husband and I went to a summer wine tasting in Forest Grove and bought a bottle for $25 (which was a huge investment for us during the college years). Then we drank it out of plastic cups later that night with our German and Californian friends from school while playing volleyball in the sand.

I can't remember the winery of that bottle, but it was delicious. Regardless, I get the same warm and connected feeling tonight from my current favorite under $10 wine: Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin.

I love this wine. It's rich, fruity, spicy and pairs nicely with chocolate, ice cream and popcorn. (Note: my roommate makes the perfect popcorn that goes with everything or nothing.)

The zin was the perfect antidote to not smoking and the perfect reward for going to the gym. Need to treat yourself? I definitely recommend this wine and at less than $10 a bottle you won't feel guilty if you drink it out of plastic cups in the sand.