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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category


March 28, 2011

Wine Spectator Top 100 Wine for $7!

I rarely will write a post about a single wine, but today’s deal from K&L warrants an alert.  Enter the 2008 Fontanafredda Barbera Piemonte “Briccotondo” one of the go-to table wines that I’ve served at least a case of over the past two years– and gladly paid $12 for it.  Today, some “wholesale deal gone wrong” enables K&L to sell it off at $7.  Back up the truck!

2008 Fontanafredda Barbera Piemonte "Briccotondo" (courtesy, K&L Wines)

It’s deals like these that keep me loyal to trustable retailers with a quality email list.  I subscribe to about a dozen, and always keep the pulse on deals around town and across the world.  Yes, there’s lots of noise in my email box every week, but a month never goes by without me finding an outstanding wine deal in the $10-20 range.

Here is K&L’s tasting notes on Briccotondo:

“Even the best plans often don’t work out, and when a major national retail chain asked Fontanafredda to prepare a special box for them and ordered up a bunch… who knew they would decide not to take it! Fortunately for you inventory pressures forced the distributors hand, and they decided they’d waited long enough and decided it was time to get this outta here fast and cheap! So now for you it’s resulted in an outstanding bargain on one of our best selling selections. This Barbera has been one of our most popular “Bargain Wines” for the last couple of years as well as a feature in the Top 100 wines from the Wine Spectator. Fontanafredda has done an outstanding job of making a wine with real, vibrant flavors that just jump out of the glass. They’ve also done an amazing job of softening Barbera’s sometime forceful acidity to make this wine supremely pleasant for anyone to drink! Try it with foods from the BBQ or your favorite pasta, it is a real winner! (Greg St.Clair K&L’s Italian buyer) According to Wine Enthusiast “An impressive effort at this price point, the Briccotondo Barbera offers up an eclectic mix of herbs, scented soap, yuzu and citrus fruit leading into a concentrated, multilayered palate. Long, cherry-infused finish. Drink now to 2011. – W.E. (2/1/2010) According to Wine Spectator: “Raspberry and blueberry aromas lead to a medium body, with delicious fruit and hints of vanilla and cream. Drink now. 42,000 cases made.”


March 5, 2011

When the best wine choice is a beer

For me, ordering wine out is a different game than buying it in a retail shop. Because I can count on the price being marked at least 2x above retail, restaurants and bars are places where I’m extremely conservative with my wine budget dollars.

Food quality being the same, I heavily favor restaurants and bars with well picked wine lists that have at least one desirable, value-priced wine (sub $35) in each category.

After a week of drinking value-priced malbecs in Argentina, I cried ‘uncle’ and ordered this beer.

But sometimes, it just isn’t possible to find a decent glass of wine for the price you have to pay. Consider these scenarios:

  • You’re at a midrange steak and seafood restaurant, but you realize that they want $15 for a glass of Acacia ‘A’ chardonnay–a bottle that has an everyday price of $12 at Costco.
  • You’re at a sports bar or ballpark that clearly views wine as nothing more than a profit center — all you see are uninspiring names like Woodbridge, Vendange, and Gato Negro.
  • You’re just not in the mood for a glass of wine, even if the dish you ordered is begging for it.
  • At your favorite neighborhood Asian noodle shop or sushi bar, when there is not a single bottle on the wine list that can hang with the hot and spicy food you just ordered.

When these things happen, I urge you to punt…and grab a beer or a bubbly water instead.

Life is just too short to drink wine that doesn’t inspire you.

Wine accessories

November 11, 2010

Should you spend $20 on a single wine glass?

About 8 years ago, I heard the Riedel glassware pitch at a wine tasting event.

The marketing professional in me sat skeptical in the back of the room as they told us how every glass in their extensive product line was created to suit the characteristics of a particular wine. They went on about how bowl size and shape matters down to the millimeter and milliliter, as does the edge, because there is an ideal way to lay out wine on the tongue. Ha!

At the end, I stood up and clapped — they had crafted a believable story to justify the purchase of up to 40 different types of glasses starting at $20 each! I then went home to my thick-edged, $3 glass stems and, not knowing what I was missing, loved them for many more years.

Fast forward to 2 years ago. I was sitting in a wine-pairing class in the back of Murray’s Cheese on Bleeker Street in New York. The instructor’s final words to us were: great glassware matters, and even more so if you are drinking $10-20 wines.

Hearing this message, my wife went out and bought me my first Riedel stems (red Burgundy and syrah) and we soon decided to do some reasonably scientific tests amongst ourselves and our friends over the next few months.

The results? Astounding. First and foremost, there is a HUGE difference in the nose and flavor of the same wine, served in different glasses. Second, especially with lower-end value wines, thin-edged crystal like Riedel makes wine unquestionably more enjoyable than thicker-edged glass stems. Finally, about 60-70% of tasters preferred pinot noir served in a pinot noir glass, a syrah in a syrah glass, etc. Cabernet served in a pinot glass was just not as tasty to many folks.

So…my skepticism now aside, I can say that Riedel, Spiegelau, et. al are right and I believe that most wine enthusiasts should order them. And if not Riedel, any other fine wine glass manufacturer ( etc.) will do.

Before these trials, I would have never been able to justify $20+ on a single stem of glassware. But today, we have about 30 of them at home. And best yet, premium crystal is much more durable than cheaper glass, ergo, we have not broken a stem during standard “dinner party” usage in over 4 years.

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