Category Archives: What We’re Drinking

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!

Spooky labels for Halloween!

Our new neighborhood is apparently a Halloween destination. We have been warned of the excessive crowds of children, told to purchase 50 lbs of candy, and to get home early as the street is shut down. Say what? We’ve also learned that our house, situated on the corner, was not only the best decorated home (need decorations, now!), but also the “refill” house of the neighborhood. This is no problem for us, but it got me thinking that I need to serve wine that fits the spooky Halloween theme!

Typically I don’t buy wines for their label.  The saying, “it’s what’s inside that counts” rings most true when it comes to wine, but I feel I can make an exception for Halloween. Here are a few lables I’ll be serving for the adults that  night.

Ghost Pines – it’s possible I will get one of every varietal here. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I have not heard of the winery or tried the wines yet, but they definitely fit into that spooky theme.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo – “Cellar of the devil” – got to have these wines on hand for any Halloween festivities as they are great value and actually named for a haunted cellar!

Razor’s Edge – Choose from Shiraz or Shiraz-Grenache. The label harks back to movies with Freddy Kruger or Jason from “Halloween.” What’s inside is that ripe Aussie fruit style – easy drinking and good for watching the kiddos go door-to-door.

 

Hello Kitty Devil Pinot Noir – it just speaks for itself…

Ode to Pinot Noir

It’s been 7 years since we watched Miles and Jack take that life-altering road trip through Santa Barbara wine country, but the enthusiasm for Pinot Noir remains strong. People are still seeking great Pinot, and even better, great, affordable Pinot. And it can be had! We are enjoying more and more deals in the wine world, including great Pinot Noir.

As a rememberance to Miles and his passion for Pinot, here is how he explained it to Maya:

“It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

Of course, this speech could also be taken  to describe some people and relationships, which is why it is so moving. So take time to enjoy and savor the next glass of Pinot Noir you enjoy – it is a delicate grape, and one that deserves attention. Cheers!

Drinking Deliciously with Peter Lehmann Wines

The problem with productive wine lunches is that they lead to slightly less productive afternoons. So I write of that lunch and the delicious wines tried an entire week after the fact.

I’ve had a few lovely dinners and lunches with the charming Ian Hongell, senior winemaker at Peter Lehmann wines. I first met Ian at the Barossa winery in 2007, when my husband and I travelled down under and toured a number of wineries. Our tour of Peter Lehmann winery stood out due to our immediate connection with Ian. His affability and passion for his wines sunk in and we became big fans of both Ian and the winery. Hard not to – with a line up that ranges from killer deal to cellar-worthy collectible, Peter Lehmann has a focus on quality and affordability.

Let’s just say that all the wines I tried from Peter Lehmann are good. Some are more drink-it-now everyday style wine, like the dry Riesling, the Chardonnay and the newest line, Layers. Layers produces both a red and white blend under the label. The white is a definite Australia blend, with Semillon, Australian Muscat,  Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It’s not sweet, per-se, but it has that ripe, Muscat/Gewurz aroma and flavor. In fact, there are layers of fruit in here! I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Conundrum or Evolution – it’s fantastic with spicy or salty food. We enjoyed it with some fried green tomatos at One Market – can you say yum? The red is a Rhone blend, with Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache as the lead grapes. It’s smooth and easy-drinking, great fruit and spice blend and a fantastic everyday red.

One of the terribly affordable but tastes-like-a-$30-bottle that impressed me was the new vintage and label of Clancys, a uniquely Australian blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. So well-balanced between fruit and structure, and a great wine with food. Hope to have this new vintage – and label – on the site soon!

Finally, what we like most about wine- the STORY behind it. The next wine I tried definitely has that. The Eight Songs, a decadent Shiraz full of dark berries and dark chocolate, is named for an operatic piece called The Eight Songs of a Mad King. King George III of Britain, as it is well-known, suffered from demential towards the end of his life. During this time, he apparently wrote songs and played them on his organ. Eight Songs pays tribute to these songs by printing differing sets of the lyrics on each label. 

The wine is divine, in a word. It’s silky smooth – almost too much so. We tried both the ’05 and ’06 vintages, and while I loved them both, the ’06 stood out with its complexity and layers. Felt like there were 9 songs going on in the glass.

So sing a song for King George III with a bottle of Eight Songs. 2006 should be here soon so stay tuned. Cheers!