Category Archives: Staff Picks

Staff Pick: La Marca Prosecco

Wine: La Marca Prosecco
Reviewer:
 Eileen
Rating:
 4 stars

Review: This Prosecco is an all-around pleasure to drink.  It is one of those slightly sweet-to-dry delights that will please anyone at the dinner table or party.  It’s scarily good, I sipped it a little too fast because I was so taken by the first sip.  How can I explain crisp, yet creamy?  I’m certainly buying this wine again as an every day celebration since it’s so accessible at under $15.  A true value and a-must-have-on-hand-at-all times kinda wine.

Creating that perfect case

Let’s say you could only order 12 bottles, but you wanted a bit of every style. How do you build that “perfect” case. Since it differs for everyone, we are here to help give you some guidelines, but let you choose the exact bottles! Check out our selections of wines for the perfect case. Order one of each or a few of your favorites. Today we’re offering 10% off a case of wines from our selection. Here’s what we’d pull together – 2 sparkling, 3 whites and 7 reds. Of course a perfect case for you may be all reds. Or no sparkling wines. Or somewhere in between. So mix it up and make it your perfect case. Some ideas for you…

Sparkling
Prosecco: Always a great wine to have on hand for guests or popcorn :)
Other Sparkling: We love Cremant d’Alsace - a great bubbly from France without the Champagne price.

White
Riesling: It’s about having a great food wine, and Riesling offers that.
Pinot Gris: Oregon is the perfect place to snag a richly textured yet refreshing Pinot Gris.
Chardonnay (or other rich white): Because you have to have a Chardonnay in the line up… If not Chardonnay, a decadent Viognier blend.
Chenin Blanc: Underrated, great value and terrific food wine!

Reds
Pinot Noir: Whether you are an Oregon or California follower, a great new world Pinot is a perfect wine for a case. On some days a case of Pinot is my perfect case…
Red Rhone blend : From Australia, California or the Rhone, this style of wine is one of those perfect food wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend: California makes some great ones, though you’ll find delicious examples of this grape just about everywhere! We selected our favorites in this Perfect Case list.
South American blend: Between Malbec and Carmenere, South America has some incredible wines. They are mixing it up and making delicious blends, which our some of our (and the critics!) favorites right now.
Italian Gem: Have to have an Italian red in the mix. Great food wine, classic example of old world style.
Aussie Shiraz: Gone are the it-tastes-like-a-$10-wine and here are some great examples of quality Australian wine – it’s what they do best!

Enjoy building your case!

Club 89

One of the most popular sections on Wine.com is our 90 under 20 list, where we feature wines that are rated 90 points or higher by one of the 10 publications we use for ratings, and priced under $20. We like to call it the list where quality meets value. However, as much as our customers love this list, we often wonder what to do to tout the value and delicious properties of wines rated 89 points, just one point under that magical 90. I mean, it is just one point, after all. But it makes all the difference. A paper that gets an 89 grade is only a B+ while one with 90 gets an A-. With just one point difference, the scoring drastically changes.

But with wine, this is not the case. In most publications, the 86 – 89 score range is described as good, very good, excellent and highly recommended. Heck, I’ll take that for a great everyday wine! Especially at a great price. In fact, I’d personally prefer a wine with multiple 88 and 89 scores than a wine with just one 90 point score. Matt Kramer agrees with me (or perhaps I agree with him, as he has a much more experienced wine history than I) in this article where he says:

“The “gimme a 90-point wine” approach offers, I freely admit, the greatest good-wine-to-least-effort ratio. But you might be surprised to learn that even the folks who hand out points know they’re only one path to wine bliss. (I’m an 88-point buyer myself, as the higher up the point scale you go, the more “drama in the glass” you’re likely to get-and I don’t always want quite so much drama with my dinner.)”

Some wines are underrated – Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and 89 pointers. That’s just my opinion, but I ask you to taste for yourself. Stock up on some 89 and even 88 pointers for your everyday drinking wines and see if you don’t find some amazing winners. You’ll join Club 89 before you know it. Take advantage of our shipping deal (free shipping on orders $89 or more) for this “club” while you discover some new wines.

Take a look at my favorites if you are so inclined!

Old World vs. New World Gruner Veltliner.

Many people are familiar with Gruner Veltliner from Austria, but did you know that we also have small amounts growing in this country? As far as I can tell there is some being made in Oregon and some in California, as well as Washington and perhaps some others. No matter how you look at it however, there is a very small amount being made here by a very few producers. I love the wines from this grape because it has a peppery note with a good backbone and nice acidity and fruit flavors that run the gamut from stone to apple and pear. The wines seem to pair well with a huge array of foods, perhaps better than almost any other. Because of this, sommeliers around the world are crazy about this wine, as am I.  Stylistically, it can range from light and crisp, easy drinking, to serious full-bodied and well oak aged efforts.

I decided that it might be interesting to try a California example against a fairly serious Austrian one.

Here are the two wines : Zocker Paragon Vineyard Gruner Veltliner and Weingut Knoll Federspiel Gruner Veltliner.

The Zocker is from the Central Coast in the Edna Valley. The Knoll is from The famed Wachau region of Austria.

So  now for the head to head tasting.  First the Knoll: On the nose it displays crisp apple and stone fruit with a bit of lemon curd and a bit of sweet vanilla and there is a white pepper note. When the wine enters the palate, it explodes with spicy ripe apple, guava, lemon and again pepper. The wine’s light color does not prepare you for the intense and density of the mouthfeel, and the mid-palate is especially good with this wine. The finish is very long and there is a bit of light tannin or maybe a tangerine pith quality on the tongue that mixes with the awesome mouth watering acidity.  Truly a classic and elegant, well-balanced, bone-dry wine. This wine will improve for at least 4-5 years and gets 4 stars.

The Zocker I would expect to be riper being from a warmer climate, and on the nose it certainly is.  I get pineapple and more tropical fruit notes, but also a balancing grapefruit aroma…nice. I also get sense of a cooler fermentation with a bit of that characteristic banana aroma that can come with it. In the mouth, right away, there is an almost candy-like golden delicious apple taste, surrounded by that Gruner pepper note, then a blast of nice acidity to round it out. The mouthfeel is rounder than the Knoll, and is more hedonistic, but still retains that true Gruner character, that I was afraid might be lost with the warmer climate. Although the wine is more full-bodied than the Knoll, it actually has a bit less concentration. I am impressed by the winemaking here as it is often tricky for Americans to master new varieties. This is pretty true to itself, whatever that means. This wine gets a 3.5 stars.

All in all, this was an interesting comparison and both wines show very well, with an added edge to the elegance of the Knoll. I, frankly, like both wines a lot, but would drink the Zocker in the next 2 years, and save the Knoll for a few more. I am impressed by the fact that the Zocker really does drink well, and believe that Gruner Veltliner has a good future being grown in this country.

Great tasting, and I see both these wines pairing very very well with many kinds of food.

Shop Like a Pro!

It’s time to up your game and shop like a pro.  So here they are – a few tips to help you pick out the best of the best and, bottle by bottle, transform yourself into the oenophile your parents always suspected you’d become.    

Tip #1 Old to New

This first tip has very little application outside the wine world.  In fact, I discourage it for most other life scenarios, especially when shopping for milk or meat.  Find the oldest one on the shelf!  I always sort the 90 under $20 wine list by “Vintage:  Old to New.”  These lonely bottles are forgotten once newer, shinier bottles make their way onto the site.  That’s a shame because these wines are exactly what makes wine unique, they improve with age!  A little mellower, a little more complex, a little more integrated – a lot more interesting. 

Tip #2  What the heck is that!?

Txakolina? Try it, you’ll like it.  Lesser known varietals like Torrontes, Graciano, Godello, Txakolina, Falanghina and Mencia, may not be as popular as Chardonnay but, ounce for ounce, these wines are some of this category’s top performers.  Complex, affordable and, best of all, unlike anything you’ve tried before.  They are a great way to expand your palate and the breadth of descriptors you use to describe wine.  Do you want to see why people describe Torrontes as smelling like Juicy Fruit gum or experience what a truly high acid wine feels like?  Then try a bottle of Torrontes and Txakolina.  Best of all these wines will blow your world of wine pairings wide open.  So experiment.   After trying some of these you’ll be loath to plunk down twice as much money for a more popular varietal.

Tip #3  Swoop in for Savings

Sort by savings!  You can sort our 90 under $20 list by savings and order a few killer $30-$40 wines for under 20 bucks.  Not only will these wines give you the most for your money, but they typically also offer the most in terms of cellaring potential.  The higher price can be an indicator that, unlike a $10 bottle, it’s a keeper and the winemaker put an extra level of care into ensuring it will develop over the years. That $30 bottle of Pinot Noir with 93 points from PinotReport is good now, but will also be good in another 5 years and you got it for just $19.99!

I’ve shared some of my top picks and my best tips on finding wines, now I’m curious to know about your favorite 90 under $20 wines.