Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

Best Wine Deals Under $15

Wow … a few of the under-$20 deals ran out quickly on Wine.com. No biggie … here are my choices for the best values available on the site for under fifteen bucks. Remember you must order TODAY to take advantage of the one-cent shippingdeal. Click on the wine name to order directly from Wine.com.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2007icon $14.79
I described the 2006 vintage of Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz as a “beast”, and expect a similarly full-flavored, bold structured, jammy bottle of juice in the 2007 edition.

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2008icon $14.99 sale price
Tiefenbrunner doesn’t sound Italian, but it is. Pinot Bianco is Italy’s version of Pinot Blanc, and this is one of the leading producers of the grape from the Trentino – Alto Adige region. A fresh, floral, light, and elegant white with just enough acidity to match with a variety of dishes, it’s an easier drinking alternative to Pinot Grigio and an ideal wine for the Thanksgiving table.

Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2005icon $13.99 sale price
Ho-hum, you may say … a mass-market brand, a boring California Cab. To me, though, Geyser Peak is among the best and highest quality of the volume producers, and in fact makes some outstanding, world-class wines in the upper price ranges. And though I tend to be an a constant hunt for hidden gems, there’s something to be said for a brand that can be found just about anywhere, consistently delivers solid wine, and offers good value for your money. Geyser Peak is one of those “count on it” labels, and their Cab is an approachable yet fulfilling wine that matches well with beef and cheese – based dishes. The $13.99 price tag is a good $5 – $7 below what you’d normally pay at any retailer.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2008icon $13.99 sale price
Like the aforementioned Cab, this is another “count on it” wine with a current sale price about $5 – $7 below what you’d normally pay. If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from Marlborough, then this will please your palate — it is a standard-bearer for the category. Fresh, clean, zesty, and full of ripe limey and tropical citrus flavors, this Sauv-Blanc is a tasty, creamy drinker on its own and really comes alive when matched with food. Try it with crabmeat and other shellfish, spicy dishes, poultry and pork.

Rocca delle Macie Morellino “Campomaccione”

Rocca delle Macie Morellino di Scansano “Campomaccione” 2005

Rocca delle Macie Morellino di Scansano wine bottleDo not be intimidated by the long, somewhat threatening words on the label of this wine. It’s nothing to be afraid of — in fact, it’s something with which you’re likely very familiar.

Morellino di Scansano seems difficult to pronounce on first glance. It’s not — it sounds the way it looks, just say it slowly the first few times (alone, in a dark room, of course). And remember Vino Joe’s general rule of thumb: any wine with five or more syllables HAS to be good (and this one has eight!).

Seriously now, a little background. Morellino is a grape grown in Scansano, which is a hilly village inside an area called Maremma, which is sits partly in the Italian region of Lazio, and partly in the southern part of Tuscany. Geography lesson complete, and we mentioned Tuscany, a place you may have heard of before.

It gets better. Morellino is what the people of Scansano call Sangiovese, which you may know is the main grape of Chianti wines. That said, if you enjoy Chianti, there is a good chance you will also like Morellino di Scansano.

Since it’s not a trendy wine (yet), it doesn’t make sense for an importer to bring in any old plonk from Scansano — so if you see a Morellino di Scansano on your wine shop’s shelf, chances are very good that it’s a quality bottle. This example is no exception. It comes from an estate called “Campomaccione”, and is made with 90% Morellino, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot.

Tasting Notes: Rocca delle Macie Morellino di Scansano “Campomaccione”

Nose is open, rich with ripe black cherry, some stemmy vegetal or herbal aroma, earth, and a hint of vanilla spice. On the palate the texture is glassy smooth, carrying ample black cherry and red raspberry fruit. Tannins are mild but firm, acidity is medium. The wine finishes with good red fruit flavors mixed with earth and hints of bell pepper and spice. This is a wonderful alternative to Chianti – at about 14 bucks it’s as good or better than most Chianti at five dollars more. Don’t drink it alone – have it with pasta in marinara and meatballs, sausage and peppers, pecorino, grana padano, or anything else you’d normally eat with Chianti. At around twelve bucks, a great value.

a-7 t-7 b-8 fc-10 v-9 ~ 91 Points

Importer: Palm Bay Imports

Winery: Rocca delle Macie

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White Wine Review: Antinori Bianco

Villa Antinori Toscana Bianco 2006 IGT

Villa Antinori Bianco Italian white wine bottleA few years back, Pinot Grigio replaced Chardonnay as the number-one selling white wine in the USA. As a result, prices for established, reliable Pinot Grigio skyrocketed, and a slew of unknown Pinots — of varying degrees of quality — flooded the market. The popularity of the wine became so great that many California wineries have renamed their wines made from Pinot Gris as “Pinot Grigio”. Today, there are shelves filled with that popular Italian white wine, some very good, some not so good, most of them overpriced. Which is too bad, because Pinot Grigio tends to be an easy drinking, food friendly wine.

But hey, there’s plenty more white wine flowing in Italy that tastes great, matches well with a variety of foods, and can be had at reasonable prices. One of them is this wine from Tuscany, Antinori Bianco.

This Bianco (Italian for “white”) is a blend of four grapes: Malvasia, Trebbiano, Chardonnay Toscano, and Pinot Bianco. You may have heard of some of these grapes before, as they are commonly found throughout Italy. If you are not familiar with them, don’t worry — you don’t need to know anything about them to enjoy the wine. All you need to know is that if you like Pinot Grigio, you’ll probably like this wine as well.

Tasting Notes: Antinori Bianco

Clean, simple nose of citrus and white fruit. Clean, fresh, and zesty with citrusy flavors of lime and lemon. Also touches of pear, apple, and mineral. Acidity is medium to medium-high, plenty for food matching but not too much to enjoy alone. This is a simple white that has advanced polish and a surprisingly lengthy finish. Have it as an aperitif, match it with all kinds of apps, pair it with simply broiled or lightly battered / breaded white fish, chicken breast, sushi, pork. A fine alternative to Pinot Grigio. The suggested MSRP is $12, but I’ve seen it at less than ten bucks in some stores — which makes it a great value and a good everyday drinker.

a-7 t-7 b-9 fc-10 v-8 ~ 91 Points

Website: Villa Antinori

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White Wine Review: Argiolas Costamolino

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino wine bottleIdeally, wine is made for food – though mass production wineries that make superripe, sickly sweet, fat fruit bombs would like you to think differently. One of my favorite white wines for food is Vermentino – a wine that may as well be unknown among all but the most advanced of wine geeks.

Contrary to what you might think, Vermentino is not what an Italian woman screams when she sees a rat run across a Florentine piazza. Rather, Vermentino is a grape that produces white wine – the best of which come from Sardinia (Sardegna).

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino is one of the best examples of the varietal you will find easily in the United States. It is fresh, clean, and ripe, expressing pear, peach, spice (cardamom? vanilla?), and a touch of grapefruit on both the nose and the palate. It also has hints of lemony citrus, mineral, and herbaceous flavors, and is held up with a good edge of racy acidity. Texture is smooth, almost creamy. Though it appears to be a simple, light and refreshing wine when ice cold, if you let it warm a bit you’ll find it is actually rich and complex. Fairly unique, I’d say it’s what you would get if you crossed a rich Chablis Premier Cru with a Pouilly Fume. Drink it with almost any appetizers, smoked fish, cured meats, seafood, poultry, pork, or spicy foods. It also cuts right through overly garlicky dishes, such as what you might find in Greek cuisine. A winner in every way, and a good value at around $11.99. Buy as fresh a vintage as possible (2008 is current).

a-8 t-8 b-10 fc-10 v-8 ~ 94 Points

Importer: Winebow

Buy Argiolas Costamolino direct from Wine.comicon

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