When Life Gives You Grapes…

Wines For The Quarantine

We are all spending time at home these days in either a self-imposed or forced quarantine. Whether you’re supporting local by ordering carry-out, cooking at home, or a little of both now is the time to pair that food with a lovely, and not so expensive wine.  I don’t consider myself to be a wine expert, but I do know what I like. My experience at a blind-tasting taught me that wines don’t have to be expensive to be delicious. To my not-so-sophisticated palate, I find many less expensive wines hold up quite well to the pricey ones. Having said that, I also believe that life is too short to spend drinking cheap wine. Some wines are inexpensive for a reason.

In a quest to find good, reasonably priced red wines (because reds are my favorite) I used a social media post to ask my wine-loving friends to give their suggestions on delightful wines that didn’t break the bank. My original post was this past holiday season, and the list has been growing since. Now seems to be a good time to share it, because if you have to stay in, WINE-not enjoy?

The following is a compilation of my and my husband’s selections, but there are two contributors that I want to send a shout out to; my friends Andrea Hess and Katie Bright Christenson, who gave a wealth of suggestions. Please note that this list came from friends who live all over, and prices vary. The price I list is a general price range for each of the recommended wines.

Katie’s list:

  • Beringer Knights Valley $20
  • BV Napa Cabernet $22
  • Etude Pinot Noir (note: one of her favorites) $28
  • Stags’ Leap Cabernet & Petite Syrah  $3
  • Penfolds Max’s Shiraz or Cabernet  $18
  • Sterling Napa Cabernet $25
  • Mount Veeder Cab $30
  • Franciscan Estate Napa Cab $15-20 depending on the year
  • Torcicoda Primitivo $20

Andrea lives in CA and knows her Napa wines. She says Zinfandels from Lodi, California are excellent.“They are known for producing some of the best Old Vine and Ancient Vine Zins”, says Andrea. Andrea’s vineyard suggestions:  OZV, Oak Farm, Bokisch, McKay, Klinker Brick, Michael David, Lucas, and M2. Andrea’s list:

  • Educated Guess (I can vouch for this one–my son-in-law found it and brought it home and it’s been a favorite ) $25
  • Michael David Cabs; Freakshow and Earthquake $17-21 ish
  • Michael David 6th Sense Syrah $15
  • Justin Cab (Pasa Robles) $25-30

I’m a fan of big bold wines, especially Italian wines like Brunellos, Barolos, Amarones, super tuscs, and red blends- but most are out of my price range. Here are a few of my favorites with a bigger taste but not a big price:

  • Le Volte from the Ornellaia estate around $30 Cab-Sangiovese blend –a fave!
  • Amicone (a poor person’s Amarone) $15
  • Meeker “Call Me A Cab”-a little more at about $40
  • Mankus cab from CA, $15
  • Kiona cab and blend from Washington State very inexpensive wine (like $12) and really good for the price.
  • Garnacha De Fuego $12-$15
  • Fred Red (blend) cute dog on label $12-$15
  • Wild Thing Zin $23
  • Treasure Hunter -they have a line of cabs and blends in the $20 -$26range
  • Amicone is a lovely poor person’s Amarone $15
  • Le’Cole from Washington State $35
  • The Prisoner by Orin Swift–ok that one is a little higher…close to $60 but most Orin Swift wines are a good bet.
  • Chateau Caps St George Bordeaux $25

If you love Pinot Noir, you should definitely try those from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Oregon Pinots have been gaining popularity and have a great reputation for wines that taste a little different than pinots that come from California. The climate in Oregon (less sun and cooler) allows the vines to experience four full seasons and that makes for a  soil that allows grapes to ripen slowly.

Experts say that pinots from California produce a darker, more purple wine because they see more sun, and are more fruit-rich, whereas Oregon pinots are a touch lighter and more delicate due to less sun and cooler temps.  So here are some suggestions from both OR and Cali. It is tough to find pinots under $30 but most of these are in the $25-30 range. I’ve been loving these since my daughter moved to Portland:

  • Etude Pinot Noir –California (Katie Bright Christeonson hands-down fave!)
  • Planet Oregon
  • A to Z
  • LeCrema
  • Elk Cove
  • Erath 36
  • Kings Estate (the Pinot Gris is excellent too)
  • Elouan
  • Underwood
  • Lady Hill

Malbec note: I do not have any Malbecs on this list, and I am just starting to explore them. A friend who loves Malbecs said you just get a lot of bang for your buck and your tastebuds with a Malbec. It is known for its dark fruit flavors and smokey finish and is a great alternative to higher-priced Cabs and Syrahs. I’m keeping my mind and palate open, and I sure do like the price point. She recommended the Crios.

Feel free to comment or add to the list. My email is sue@suewilsoncrative.com