Grab a glass and stay a while!

"A glass of wine is great refreshment after a hard day’s work." —Ludwig van Beethoven
Isn't that the truth? So here's a collection of non-expert wine opinions and tidbits skewed toward wine bargains. Believe them at your own risk, and please feel free to chuckle from time to time.

June 24, 2009

Rock it out with Red Guitar

Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha (2006)
Origin: Spain (Navarra)

Price: $10

It's definitely starting to feel like summer, which makes it hard to sit still at the office all day long. There's just something about the warm sun that's as energizing as a live concert. Before you know it, you're practically in the mosh pit. Don't try to deny it. Grab a glass and rock it out with Red Guitar.

Red Guitar is a blend of 55 percent tempranillo and 45 percent garnacha, creating a light, fruity wine that won't weigh you down. After all, summer is no time for the rich, hearty reds that you drank all winter long. You'll especially find notes of fresh strawberry and raspberry, with a slightly floral nose. The bright, ruby hue certainly adds to the festivities and makes for a tune that you can't resist.

May 17, 2009

Barefoot: Zinfandel on the cheap

Barefoot Zinfandel
Origin: California (Lodi)

Price: $5.99

If there are any zinfandel hounds out there, you probably already know that there's not a lot of selection near the low end of the price spectrum. Notice that I said zinfandel, not white zinfandel. I'm talking about the red stuff. And this week, Barefoot Zinfandel is on sale for a mere $5.99. I think you can swing it.

I usually turn to Barefoot when affordable pinot grigio is the goal, but you should also add this zinfandel to your list of bargain reds. While it's not overly complex, this wine is very drinkable and smooth – qualities you don't always find in a cheap red. There are notes of dark, red fruit, such as blackberry, raspberry and currant. Meanwhile, the earthy undertone mixes with waves of vanilla oak to make it just interesting enough. Don't forget to let is breathe a bit for even better results.

May 10, 2009

Wild Rock helps bring in summer

Wild Rock "The Infamous Goose" Sauvignon Blanc (2006)
Origin: New Zealand (Marlborough)
Price: $7.99 (Chairman's Selection)

Flip flops. White wine. They kind of go hand in hand, don't they? You've brought out the flip flops for this season, so now it's time to dig up some white wine -- sauvignon blanc to be exact.

One sip and you'll be carried away by the zesty freshness that is typical of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The marriage of citrus -- lemon, lime, grapefruit -- and herbal notes will brighten up even the cloudiest of days and send your tastebuds soaring. Not to worry, the slight mineral finish will surely bring you back to earth, although you might have to refill your glass to experience this lively dance all over again.

At $7.99 a bottle, this sauvignon blanc is truly a bargain, and you would honestly never know by the taste that it's so value-priced. But be sure to pick up a bottle soon, as this one's on Chairman's Selection and may sell out quick.

May 3, 2009

Smoking Loon delivers top-notch pinot noir

Smoking Loon Pinot Noir (2007)
Origin: California
Price: $10.99

I was at a wine tasting party recently and Smoking Loon showed up unannounced. It reminded me that this wine is quite a catch and also pretty easy on the wallet. As you start planning for lighter spring meals of broiled salmon and the like, consider this pinot noir as a delightful companion.

The brilliancy of both its school-bus yellow label and rich garnet hue will light up any room. Its nose is sure to seduce your senses into thinking it's a much pricier wine than it actually is. While a bit on the smokey side, that simply helps reveal a velvety smooth texture. Luscious fruit notes abound -- cherry, strawberry and even a bit of blackberry. And the overall medley will leave you lusting after another bottle of the same.

April 12, 2009

Brunch with Barefoot Bubbly, clementine juice

Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry Champagne
Origin: California
Price: $9.99

Take a chance on this cheap sparkling wine and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I had originally picked up a bottle for New Year's Eve, but for some reason or another it didn't get opened. So Easter rolls around and I decide that I'm tired of this bottle sitting in my fridge. Time to pop that cork!

It's a pleasantly light and fragrant sparkling wine – plenty of apple and tropical fruit on the nose. While it's refreshingly dry, there is a tad bit of sweetness played out by citrus notes.

Given the holiday, I wanted to make a festive drink, and so I was inspired by the forlorn-looking clementines sitting in my produce drawer. Fresh-squeezed clementine juice made for a bright and tasty cocktail when paired with this Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry Champagne. It was quite a hit – with men and women alike. Three parts wine and one part juice seemed to work well, but the amount of juice can be adjusted to your desired sweetness. Try this cocktail, or get inspired to make your own creation!

March 21, 2009

Branch out from pinot grigio with Vionta Albariño

Vionta Albariño (2006)
Origin: Spain (Rias Baixas)
Price: $10

If you're stuck in a pinot grigio rut, albariño would be a logical next step to your wine education. Even though it boasts a slightly more golden hue than your average pinot grigio, this wine could easily be confused with the popular Italian grape.

Vionta is as fresh and light as those daffodils that are peeking their heads above ground right now. You'll notice some lively green apple and citrus flavors, particularly a squirt of lemon. But there's a touch of butteriness that helps tone town the flavors on the finish. It's definitely a wine fit for spring.

March 15, 2009

A malbec that puts the 'fun' in Funky Llama

Funky Llama Malbec (2008)
Origin: Argentina (Mendoza)

Price: $6

Let's face it, folks, this wine sells for a ridiculously low sum. But if you have to go cheap, at least you can choose wisely.

I guarantee that if you walk down the Argentina aisle in your local state store, this brand (and it's price tag) will catch your eye, especially with this week's $6 sale price. And who wouldn't love a bright, artsy label, complete with a Funky Llama? In case you were wondering, the cork is also school-bus yellow and stamped with a llama. It's like a party in a bottle.

The juice itself is in fact fit for a party -- surely nothing too serious. It'll go down easy with a burger or pizza on a Sunday night. You'll taste notes of cherry, blackberry and pepper. While it's not overly complex, it's a decent choice if you're going low-budget.

March 1, 2009

Get saucy with Ménage à Trois

Folie à Deax Ménage à Trois Red (2007)
Origin: California

Price: $12

Ménage à Trois. Threesome. Alright, get your mind out of the gutter already!

So why the scandalous name? This wine is actually a blend of a three varietals -- zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The zinfandel gives it those juicy bursts of ripe fruit while the merlot creates that velvety smooth quality. Meanwhile the cabernet swoops in to add solid structure. To retain their own characteristics, each varietal is fermented separately and then blended afterward.

The finished product is a highly seductive potion. Fresh fruit notes overflow with luscious raspberries and blackberries, which are delightfully jammy on the finish. The rich yet soft tannins practically purr down your throat, and before you know it, you've surrendered to this tempting trio.

February 26, 2009

Preview: UnCork York Tour de Tanks

It's time to hit the UnCork York Wine Trail for this year's Tour de Tanks! Come visit a dozen family-owned wineries in the York, Lancaster, Gettysburg and Harrisburg region, all located practically in your backyard. Who knew?!

During Tour de Tanks, the twelve wineries will be open every Saturday and Sunday in March 2009, starting this Saturday, Feb. 28. Taste new vintages straight out of the barrels and then head over to the tasting rooms for additional samples, all while munching on tasty treats. Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased at any of the wineries. Just save your ticket and reuse it for every weekend of the event. Check the trail map or the list below to find out about the wineries participating in Tour de Tanks 2009:

  1. Adam's County Winery
  2. Allegro Vineyards
  3. Cullari Vineyards & Winery
  4. Four Springs Winery
  5. Fox Ridge Vineyard & Winery
  6. New! Hauser Estate Winery
  7. Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
  8. Naylor Wine Cellars
  9. Nissley Vineyard & Winery Estate
  10. New! Reid's Orchard & Winery
  11. Seven Valleys Vineyard & Winery
  12. West Hanover Winery

So what are you waiting for? Round up your friends and start planning your wine travel routes! For the ambitious winos out there, I've found that with the help of a GPS it is in fact possible to successfully visit up to four wineries in one day. And don't forget to check out this year's two new wineries – Hauser Estate Winery and Reid's Orchard & Winery, located near Gettysburg. See you on the trail!

February 16, 2009

Nando stuffs bottles with strawberry goodness

Nando Fragolino
Origin: Italy (Piedmont)

Price: $8

Think strawberry paradise in a bottle. The name fragolino alone should give it away, as it literally means "little strawberry" in Italian. But don't be fooled, it's made only from grapes -- fragola grapes, to be exact, which exude tantalizing berry flavors.

This sparkling wine will send you pirouetting into a land of sugarplums and fairy dust. Even skeptics are quickly won over by its divinely sweet aroma, a balance of fruit and perfume notes. Many times fragolino will be light pink in color, but Nando is a pale golden hue, similar to Asti, and is a great option for celebrations. I'd also consider it fitting for after dinner; its incredibly sweet yet delicate flavor will nicely complement your dessert without selfishly stealing the show. Just a note that its mere seven percent alcohol is significantly lower than your typical dessert wine. While I'm not normally one for such a sweet wine, this is quite pleasant and rates high on drinkability.

For the record, I pocketed the cork simply because it smelled so good. And, no, I'm not ashamed to admit it.