Wine Review – June’s Best Values

quadreviewFinding a great bottle of wine for $8 or $10 can sometimes feel even better than finding one for $50. If you’re spending that kind of money, the wine will most likely be excellent, but really, it had better be. On the off chance that it isn’t, it’s just a huge disappointment. On the other hand, if an $8 bottle of wine turns out to be really good, it’s a pleasant surprise (and if it’s awful, it only cost you 8 bucks).

It’s been a while since we posted our last review, so we picked out four of our favorites from our $7.99, $9.99, and $11.99 bins for an extra-special quadruple review. So in price order from lowest to highest, here are our thoughts on these tasty picks from our discount bins:

Porta do Castelo Vinho Regional Alentejano 2013

Portugal – Alentejo

($7.99 + tax; 40% Trincadeira, 40% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Caiada)

This rustic red blend is made from two of Portugal’s best-known grapes, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional, along with Tinta Caiada, which is primarily used as a blending grape. This medium-dark, purplish red boasts aromas of black cherries, chocolate, and a hint of licorice. On the palate, the Porta do Castelo delivers notes of black currant, spicy oak, and cocoa powder, with a little bit of sour cherry on the finish. Portugal has a reputation for producing fantastic value wines, and this is certainly no exception. This wine would pair beautifully with some ruby port-braised short ribs.

Nicolas 2012 Pinot Noir

France – Pays d’Oc

($9.99; 100% Pinot Noir)

While France is generally known for its lighter, softer Pinot Noirs, the Nicolas 2012 Pinot Noir behaves a bit more like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Franc. A bit rough around the edges and just a smidge past medium-bodied, this surprisingly dark red starts with a nose of spicy oak and blackberries and boasts notes of oak, dark plum, and a bit of smoke and fresh mint leaf on the finish. This is a rare find: a $10 Pinot Noir that could easily stand up to a grilled steak.

Roberston Winery 2012 Pinot Noir

South Africa – Robertson, Western Cape

($9.99; 100% Pinot Noir)

If you’re looking for an easy-drinking, light-as-can-be, summertime red, look no further than the Robertson Winery 2012 Pinot Noir. This South African Pinot Noir is on the opposite end of the Pinot Noir section from Nicolas’ take. It pours translucent red with dark accents and boasts substantial aromas of black peppercorns, fresh blueberries, and sour cherries. On the palate, however, it is much milder, with notes of ripe strawberries, sour cherries, and a nice amount of acidity that balances out the teeming fruit. You won’t find any of the smokiness that is typical of South African wines, so it wouldn’t overpower a salad with arugula, grilled chicken, goat cheese, and sliced strawberries.

Aveleda Follies White

Portugal – Minho

($11.99; 50% Alvarinho, 50% Loureiro)

One of our favorites year after year, Follies White is made from Alvarinho (see: Albariño) and Loureiro. This wine is exceptionally light in color, yet deceptively full in body, with focused, citrusy fruit, along with a some floral overtones and a refreshing snap of acidity. While great on its own, this crisp white blend goes nicely with spicy Thai green curry.

Given their high quality-to-price ratio (and nice labeling), all of these wines would be perfect for a party or event. As with all the wines in our discount bins, they enjoy a 15% half case discount (6 bottles) and a 20% full-case discount (12 bottles), even on mixed cases, in case you want to try all four.

Tim’s Top 5 Barbecue Wines

Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, and we’re willing to bet that most of you are either going to barbecues or planning your own (weather permitting, of course). To help you pick out the best wines to pair with cookout classics, we had Tim Sweeney, owner of Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits, pick out his top five barbecue-friendly wines. Whether you’re slow-cooking some ribs in the smoker, searing steaks over some red hot coals, or just enjoying a few glasses of wine with some friends, these wines will be a sure hit at any Memorial Day party. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Messenger White Wine #1The Messenger White Wine #1 (NV)

($17.99 + tax; 13.4% alc)

Ripe, refreshing, and slightly off-dry, The Messenger White Wine #1 is a blend of 69% Sauvignon Blanc, 18% Muscat Canelli, and 13% Riesling. While it would pair perfectly with spicier dishes thanks to its slight sweetness and notes of tropical fruit and spice, this multi-vintage wine is also excellent on its own.

Fiddletown Cellars 2011 Old Vine ZinfandelFiddletown Cellars 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel

($21.99 + tax; 14.5% alc)

Zinfandel has always been one of my favorite grapes, so when Tim picked out the Fiddletown Cellars 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel for this list, I had no complaints. This full-bodied, jammy beauty of a red is bursting with berry and black cherry aromas and a noticeable hint of fragrant vanilla on the finish, making it a great match for your favorite barbecued rib recipe.

47 Friends California Table Red Blend47 Friends California Red Table Wine (NV)

($11.99 + tax; 13.8% alc)

47 Friends California Table Red Blend was created to take the guesswork out of finding a high quality, affordably priced everyday wine. This fruit-forward, easy-drinking red is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 20% Zinfandel, and 10% other grape varietals, and would pair perfectly with burgers, steaks, chicken, or whatever else you happen to be grilling.

Orlana Rosé Vinho Verde (NV)Orlana Rose Vinho Verde

($9.99 + tax; 10.5% alc)

Vinho Verde (“green wine”) is a style of wine that originated in Northern Portugal. These young, fresh, and slightly fizzy wines are available in white, rosé, or (less commonly) red, and are made from a host of Portuguese grape varieties. Orlana Rosé Vinho Verde is exceptionally light and fruity with fresh berries on the palate, and is a fantastic all-day sipper for a barbecue. At $9.99 a bottle (and 20% off cases!), this is the ultimate summer party wine.

Lava Cap 2011 El Dorado Cabernet SauvignonLava Cap 2011 El Dorado Cabernet Sauvignon

($19.99 + tax; 14.5% alc)

Sometimes called the “King of Grapes,” the California Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most recognizable wines in the world. Lava Cap Winery’s take on this legendary style is a full-bodied yet incredibly smooth wine with notes of black cherry, vanilla, and a hint of spice. This dark and silky red is just begging to be served with a seared ribeye.

From now until the end of the long weekend (let’s call it Monday at 9 p.m.), all of these wines are 10% off individual bottles, so it’s easier than ever to make sure your party is fully stocked.

On a more somber note, with all the grilling, drinking, and celebrating going on, it’s easy to forget what Memorial Day is really all about – it’s about remembering the brave men and women who lost their lives in defense of our country. In honor of those fallen heroes, we hope that you celebrate safely and have a great Memorial Day weekend!