Last week, I posted an article with my Top 10 Budget Wine picks. In the dreamy, sleep-deprived bliss of fatherhood, I totally missed the opportunity to invite you to submit YOUR favorite low-cost wines.
Blame it on the magic of having a new baby in the house – the kind of special magic that wakes you at 3AM and keeps you up until 6AM soothing a small, crying human being and saying things like “Aaaaaawwwwwwww…. What’s the matter sweet lil’ munchkin?“
Anyway, let’s make up for this gross oversight!
Got a great “budget wine” recommendation? Shout it out in the Comments!
1) You have to think the wine is good
2) The wine needs to be widely accessible
3) The wine needs to be cheap (ideally under $15 USD, but certainly not more than $20 tops).
In other news: My stint in “new baby-land” continues, and so far I am really digging being a dad. To help me out and give me some extra diaper-changing time, there will be more interesting guest posts for you next week. Stay tuned…
(images: Joe Roberts)
That time when a young man’s fancy turns to love.
And to thoughts of what wines are best to get that love just a little bit tipsy. Or maybe a lot tipsy, depending on the moral stature of the young man.
Although the weather here in the Mid-Atlantic/NE has been a bit unpredictable lately, I know for certain that Spring is finally here. I am sure of it, because I receive regular calls and post mail from Chemlawn asking if I want to participate in their lawn care program (apparently, it’s Spring and my lawn looks like crap).
I had originally planned to write a nice, conventional little post about Wines for Spring. I was even going to call it “Rite of Spring” (get it?) which sounded cute to me (despite the sacrificial death portrayed in the ballet of the same name).
Then the Dark Side took over. Literally…
You see, Quite a bit has been written (very well, I might add) already on the subject of lighter wines for lighter-weather times. For example, WineLoversPage.com has a great recent recommendation of a sparkling pink Prosecco for Spring.
There are many other wines that would serve you well on a Spring picnic. Like a spritzy Vinho Verde. Or a light rosé, which is a nice option for easing out of your heavy Winter reds into lighter Spring fare.
But you know what?
Even though it’s Spring, the evenings are still on the cool side here in eastern PA. And I don’t want to give up those heavy Winter reds just yet.
Maybe I’m just not down with the vernal equinox, but I still find myself liking my wine dark. And when not dark in color, I want that wine dark in character – bold and “heavy.”
To bolster my stubborn stance, it seems the general wine-buying public isn’t easy to sway either when it comes to changing their wine drinking habits. In the Winter, people drink big, bold wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
And in the Spring and Summer, they drink: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
At least, that’s the tale that the wine retail sales figures in the U.S. tells.
Who am I to upset the applecart?
Welcome to Spring. Drink whatever the hell you want!
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to savor those crisp, fruity, spritzy, mouth-watering and thirst-quenching lighter wines.
For now, savor that chill in the air that greets you when the sun goes down and the wind picks up just a bit, for just a second. That’s a little stab of Old Man Winter’s cane, as he pokes you lightly in the gut. You know what he’s saying?
I’ll be back.
As you take a swig of that last big, dark, gnarly, 14% alcohol red wine you had stocked up on when it was snowing outside, just look Old Man Winter in the eye and tell him something for me:
Whatever. I’ll be waiting. And I’ll have more of this killer Shiraz with me, too.
(images: all from Joe’s house!)
Although I was raised in the shadow of Roman Catholicism, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a religious man.
In fact, after attending an Oblate grade school, a Franciscan high school, and a Jesuit university for undergrad, I ended up totally religiously-confused. Not exactly a poster-child for American religious education.
Still, despite being (more-or-less) totally religious-averse, I would consider myself a spiritual person. Over the last few years, I have been introduced to Zen and Buddhist principles that I have tried to integrate into my life, with some great results. I don’t claim to understand any of the universe’s mysteries, but there is no denying (for me, at least) the powerful & moving experiences of communion I’ve felt when meditating.
“This small word – witnessing – contains the whole of spirituality.” – Osho
And by “meditating” I don’t just mean the familiar image we have of someone sitting on a pillow silently exploring the depths of their witnessing (though doing that is great and I’d highly recommend it to anyone). I mean going about your daily life activities and truly witnessing each moment of your life – trying to be “in the zone” and really living, treating every action you take as sacred – whether you are washing the dishes, walking the dog, negotiating an important business deal, playing music…
…Or tasting wine.
It’s by truly being meditative when tasting that we can most maximize both our enjoyment of wine and our wine appreciation skills…
I’ve written a few “glasses of zen” articles in the past, but I’ve never really explored how the simple act of witnessing can enhance the enjoyment of wine.
Some of the greatest noses in the wine business follow a similar “witnessing” tasting method, though they themselves may not call it meditation.
Take the love-him-or-leave-him wine critic Robert Parker, for example:
“When I put my nose in a glass, it’s like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr.
A similar tasting ethos has been expressed (quite eloquently) by the venerable Christie’s wine critic Michael Broadbent:
“You do not need to be an expert, or even that interested in wine to enjoy drinking it. But tasting is not the same as drinking… The important point is that there is a reason for every colour, smell and taste. Every facet of a wine’s effect on our senses… is meaningful. Exploring and understanding these facets helps us to appreciate a wine more fully.” – from Winetasting, by Michael Broadbent
Those are some serious big-league wine-tasters, whose opinions have been known to make-or-break sales for virtually any wine that they happen to taste. So, you don’t just need to take Dude’s word for it!
I could wax philosophical on how the quality of our focus may or may not increase the quality of our wine appreciation. But I’ll leave that one to the book Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine which has already explored it in great detail.
Instead, I will simply leave you with another quote, and then request that you do just one simple thing. Here’s the quote:
“Meditation is not something that we just do for 20 or 40 minutes every morning and then forget about. Meditation involves a principle of awareness that you can practice in every moment of your life.” – Wildmind.org
Here’s the simple request:
The next time that try a glass of wine, really taste it, don’t just drink it. Don’t think, just taste.
If you find yourself marveling at how all the disparate aspects of nature have come together to allow you this moment of real, focused living – connecting you to the small miracle of how the fruit of a wild plant can end up producing the complex and pleasure-giving drink in the glass in front of you – well, my friend, then you “get it.”
Nothing left to do but sit back, relax, and offer up a small prayer of gratitude to the universe for the gift you have received.
Well, that and finish your glass, of course.
(images: piperreport.com, amazon.com, storeappeal.com)
It is with much trepidation that I publish this post.
Not that I don’t enjoy giving wine advice. I love it, acutally.
I especially love when people tell me that they truly enjoyed a wine that I recommended to them. When I hear that those wines opened people up to new culinary and epicurean levels of enjoyment, I am one very happy wine dude.
It’s just that I prefer to give this advice one-on-one, and tailor it to an individual’s or business’ specific needs. Once I publish this sort of stuff in one way or another, I invariably get flamed from people who feel that I snuffed/ignored/disrespected their favorite budget wine pick.
BUT… you folks keep asking me for it, so I’m gonna bite the bullet and go ahead and give you –
1WINEDUDE’S TOP 10 BUDGET WINE PICKS…
To make the cut, the wine needs to a) have a decent enough amount of production / distribution that most people won’t have a difficult time finding it, b) offer a consistent level of quality bang-for-the-buck, & c) cost less than $20 USD. The wines are offered in no particular order. Where I have previously reviewed the wine on twitter, I’ve included a link to the ‘mini-review.’
- Smoking Loon Viognier (CA) – Good varietal character, a nice into. to a Chardonnay alternative if you’re willing to branch out.
- Hess Chardonnay (CA) – Not too oaky & well put-together.
- Chateau Ste. Michele Gewürztraminer (WA) – Consistently yummy. Mini-review
- Salmon Run Riesling (NY) – Contains some of the best aspects of this underrated varietal, at a low price.
- Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Branco (Portugal) – Improbably cheap, with nice spritz and refreshing fruit. Mini-review
- Banfi Centine (Italy) – “Super Tuscan” type blend for the rest of us. Mini-review
- Ravenswood Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel (CA) – Dark and jammed with fruit. Mini-review
- Firesteed Pinot Noir (OR) – An elegant introduction to OR Pinot.
- Misterio Malbec (Argentina) – Black as tar and tasty. Mini-review
- Francis Coppola Diamond Claret (CA) – Accessible Bordeaux-style blend at a fair price. Mini-review
The more astute readers out there will already have noted that the vasy majority of these wines are made in the USA. To be honest, the list would more accurately be titled “DUDE’S TOP 10 BUDGET WINE PICKS IF YOU LIVE IN THE U.S.” There are only 3 non-USA producers in my list, representing (in order of appearance) Portugal, Italy, & Argentina.
The reason for this is twofold:
1) I live in the U.S., so I’m giving you what are good budget picks available to me, and
2) Aussie, NZ, German, French, and Spanish wines are not currently offering particularly good value for money in the U.S. (my opinion). The ones that do are notoriously difficult to locate (which usually ends up driving up their prices eventually anyway).
I’d like to think that this could be a bit of a wake-up call to budget importers and producers from those countries who want to succeed in the huge U.S. wine consumer market… but my Google Analytics reports suggest that I don’t yet have that kind of influence on the world’s wine blogging readership :-).