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Champagne ToastAs we approach the New Year it is time to make your New Year’s Eve Champagne and Sparkling Wine purchases. This year we received another great group of options for you to choose from. In this post we will highlight some of our favorites bubble options!

I will break the post into three categories. White bubbles, Rose bubbles and Bargain bubbles.

White Bubbles

NV Henriot “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France) $68
This was my favorite Champagne that we covered in our recent Big Blind Tasting. The collective Tasting Panel also enjoyed it a lot, as we awarded it with 92 points. It opens with a fragrant bread dough, light lemon and chamomile bouquet. We found it to be perfectly balanced and creamy. We all really liked the mouth feel. Its flavor profile was a very tasty mineral infused lime with notes of almond and lemon zest. This would be a perfect News Year’s Eve toasting wine. You can also serve this gem with bacon wrapped scallop appetizers.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut” (Anderson Valley, CA) $24
This good value sparkler wine with streaming tiny bubbles performed very well in front of the Tasting Panel. They awarded it 91 points. It opens with a very doughy bouquet with hints of bosc pear and baked apple. On the palate, we found it to be medium bodied, balanced and round with mineral infused bread toast flavors. We also picked up some notes of walnut and caramelized apples and a touch of honey. The finish is dry and shows nice length.

NV Schramsberg “Mirabelle Brut” (CA) $29
There is no better way to kick off your holiday party than with a toast to the family for another great year! I would suggest you consider this affordable 90 point sparkling wine from Schramsberg. This sparkler displays tiny streaming bubbles and opens with a green tea and lemon bouquet with hints of honey. The Panel really liked its toasted almond and green apple flavors with hints of candied lemon and earthy herbs. The finish is dry and refreshing. Try it with a fresh bruschetta appetizer!

Rose Bubbles

NV Henriot “Brut Rose” (Champagne, FR) $75
This pinkish dark coral colored Champagne opens with tons streaming bubbles. Its opens with an attractive Maraschino cherry and bread dough bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and has a nice presence. The flavor profile is a tasty mild mineral infused strawberry and red raspberry blend with a hint of lime. The finish is dry and its flavors linger and last for quite a while. This 93 point “Brut Rose” is very impressive and will be liked by all. Bring it out for a special occasion! Enjoy it with fresh sliced Norwegian salmon.

2015 Schramsberg  “Brut Rose” (North Coast, CA) $46
This 91 point coral colored Sparkling Wine from Schramsberg displays plenty of streaming bubbles. It opens with a fragrant doughy bouquet with a hint of red cherry. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, gentle and elegant. The flavor profile is a mild mineral infused light red cherry with a hint of golden raisin. The finish is dry and refreshing. This Rose sparkler is food friendly and would pair well with mushroom risotto.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut Rose” (Anderson Valley, CA) $29
This light coral colored Sparkler was well received by our mini-tasting group. We gave it 90 points. It opens with streaming bubbles and a mild strawberry and bread dough bouquet. We found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of strawberry and lime. I would suggest serving it as your opening wine with shrimp cocktail.

Bargain Bubbles

NV Gruet Winery “Brut Rose” (New Mexico) $17
Every once in a while, our Tasting Panel finds a diamond in the rough. This gem, is one of the best deals we have ever found in a Big Blind Tasting. We loved this surprise entry. It is a truly a steal at $17! It opens with an inviting red cherry bouquet with hints of raspberry and rose petals. We found it to be medium bodied, nicely balanced, elegant and smooth. It displays very tasty mild mineral flavors with notes of strawberry and tangerine and a hint of red raspberry. It closes with a dry and delicate finish that fades away nicely. The Panel thought this offering would be a huge crowd pleaser. We awarded it 93 points.

2016 Vino Dei Fratelli “Prosecco Extra Dry” (Veneto, Italy) $18
This last one was discovered by our chief Bubblehead Nicolay. He stated that as far as Proseccos go, this is exactly what most folks are looking for. Soft, inviting, with nice notes of wildflowers, ripe peaches, and hints of lychee. The wine has plenty of apple and apricot flavors that is lifted by the acidity and the smaller bubbles. This 89 point well-crafted Prosecco is well-crafted and would pair well with creamy pasta and oven roasted pork.

To see all the Champagnes and Sparkling Wines that we recommend, please check out to these two links that lead to all our recommendations!

Champagnes and Sparklers under $50
Collectible Champagnes and Sparklers over $50

We hope your New Year’s Eve is a wonderful one.  See you next year!

Cheers – Ken

On Friday, November 16th the Tasting Panel covered 13 wines ranging from $85 to $245.
Below is a video of the Top 9 winning bottles in order from lowest score of 91 to the highest score of 93.2.

Below is a list of the Top 9 Winning Wines.
1) Mt. Brave 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Mt. Veeder” (CA) $90 (KWG 93.2)
2) La Jota 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Howell Mountain” (CA) $125 (KWG 92.2)
3) Argiano 2015 “Solengo” (Tuscany, Italy) $85 (KWG 92)
4) Blackbird Vineyards 2015 “Paramour (Napa Valley, CA) $140 (KWG 92)
5) Jim Barry 2013 Shiraz “The Armagh” (Clare Valley, Australia) $245 (KWG 91.3)
6) Ramey 2015 “Annum” (Napa Valley, CA) $100 (KWG 91.2)
7) Pine Ridge Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stag’s Leap District” (CA) $150 (KWG 91.1)
8) Cakebread 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Benchland Select” (Napa Valley, CA) $121 (KWG 91)
9) Force Majeure 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain, WA) $95 (KWG 91)

We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Also – If you would like to see all of our High End Recommendations – Check out our Collectible Wines page!

Cheers – Ken

Most readers are looking for a deal or steal. Who wouldn’t be? So, years ago, I decided to create a part of the website dedicated to those wines that are inexpensive and over-deliver in terms of value. I decided to call it the “Practical Party Case” in earlier versions of the website. However, since no one knew what that was or meant, the Value Wines link was created. These are a list of “very good” wines $16 or less. In this blog post, I will highlight a few of those select value wines and share the link to this popular page on the website, where readers can easily find the current list.

We will start with a few White Wines.

2016 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc “Columbia Valley” (Washington) $10
We kick off this post with a fantastic value wine that the Tasting Panel discovered in May. This Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley in Washington is a steal at $10 in terms of quality to price. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and gentle with very tropical flavors that feature gentle lime and mango with a touch of kiwi. We scored this wine 89 points.

2016 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris (Pfalz, Germany) $12
This 90 point Pinot Gris from Germany is a great value and a perfect wine to share with friends on the beach. It is light bodied, pleasantly acidic and juicy with mineral infused lime flavors and some notes of yellow grapefruit and white pepper. This refreshing Pinot Gris from Germany will appeal to Sauvignon Blanc fans and very popular. Serve it chilled on a hot summer day.

2017 Raats Family Chenin Blanc “Original” (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $15
Another great beach wine is this “Unwooded” Chenin Blanc from South Africa that I awarded 91 points. This tasty wine is light to medium bodied and slightly acidic. It features mild mineral infused lemon verbena and ginger flavors with a touch of yellow grapefruit. It finishes dry and refreshing. Pair this food friendly crowd pleaser with grilled scallops.

2016 Red Newt Cellars Riesling “Circle” (Finger Lakes NY) $15
The Tasting Panel consistently recommends the “Circle” Riesling from Red Newt! I always over-delivers for the money. The 2016 vintage is no exception. We gave it 89 points. The “Circle” light bodied, delicately off-dry, and soft. Its flavors are a combination of gentle minerality and ripe Anjou pear with hints of ginger, chamomile tea and a touch of yellow grapefruit. Pair it with baked haddock with a Ritz cracker crumble.

2016 Senda Verde “Albarino” (Rias Baixas, Spain) $13
Our last white wine for this post is a very affordable 89 point Albarino from Rias Baixas would also be perfect on a hot summer day at the beach. It is light bodied, nicely acidic, juicy and mouthwatering with tasty mineral infused lime flavors with hints of pineapple and pilsner beer. It finishes dry and refreshing. Enjoy it oysters!

For Red Wines, we will start with two wines from Portugal. Then wrap up the post with a Malbec from Argentina and a Cab from Washington.

Quinta de la Rosa 2015 “DouRosa Red Wine” (Douro, Portugal) $15
The 2015 “DouRosa Red Wine” is full bodied, slightly acidic and very juicy. I really liked its mineral and oak influenced red currant and black cherry flavors. I also detected some hints of strawberry licorice and black olive mixed in towards the end. It finishes dry and linger for a bit. I would pair this 89 pointer with a juicy Angus burger off the grill.

Rui Roboredo Madeira 2015 “Beyra Reserva” (Beira Interior, Portugal) $16
Our second blend from Portugal is this 90-point gem Beyra region! It is full bodied, balanced and fruit forward. The main flavors are black cherry with notes of blueberry and gentle oak. I also detected some hints of faint minerality. This wine finishes dry with refined tannins that linger and last for quite a while. This wine is a steal and I pair it with grilled marinated bourbon steak tips.

Zuccardi 2016 Malbec “Serie A” (Uco Valley, Argentina) $15
Our next good value red wine is this 89 point Malbec from Argentina. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. I really enjoyed its red plum and cinnamon flavors with hints of cranberry, minerality and oak. It finishes dry and its flavors and moderate tannins stick around for quite some time. This Malbec would pair well with a glazed balsamic roast pork tenderloin.

Columbia Crest 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “H3” (Horse Heaven Hills, WA) $15
The “H3” series from Columbia Crest consistently over delivers. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. Its flavor profile is black cherry with notes of minerality, plum and oak. I also detected some black pepper and dark chocolate. It closes with mild dry tannins that are friendly. This crowd-pleasing 89 point Cab is very versatile and would pair well with many foods. Try it with a burger or meat lasagna.

To explore all of our recommendations, visit the “Value Wines” page and be sure to bookmark it!  Enjoy and Cheers! – Ken

Dry Rose is one of the fastest growing categories in wine. Although still minuscule is terms of overall sales, it is one of the most interesting subjects in the wine world these days. So why is it so popular? One reason is its price point. In most cases, you can get a very good premium Rose for between $16 and $22. Another reason is these wines are very drinkable. On a hot summer day, some might even say they are quaffable and refreshing. That makes them very easy to like. Finally, another big reason for its popularity is social media. Millennials love their selfies with pink wine in the glass! Hashtag’s galore, like “Rose All Day”, “Yes Way, Rose” and “Brose” for the guys, keep it front and center on the internet. So, with all this popularity winemakers are doing their best to keep up. As a reviewer, I can safely say, everyone is now making a dry Rose. It is my job to sift through the loads of samples submitted to find you the best ones to enjoy. In this blog post, I will present to you several terrific Rose options that I have discovered so far this Spring. I wanted to get this list out to you soon so you to can enjoy them this summer. I hope to provide a second update over the Fourth of July week.

The best Rose that I have found so far this spring is the 2017 Anaba “Rose of Grenache” from the Sonoma Valley. While not inexpensive at $28, it is well worth your investment and time to seek out a bottle or two. This gem is light to medium bodied, very smooth and wonderfully coats your mouth. I loved its very tasty mild tangerine and mineral flavors with notes of wild strawberry and a hint of lemon. It is dry, refreshing and very food friendly. I would enjoy it with steam Nova Scotia mussels. There were only 171 cases of this 92-point beauty made. So, call the winery soon, before it is all gone.

This next grouping is our 91 pointers. These three wines are also very impressive offering that will stun your friends and turn them into dry Rose fans.

We will start in Provence, France with a wine produced by Ferry Lacombe. Their 2017 “Haedus” Rose for $22 is very good. We gave it 91 points. This gem is made from the traditional Provence grapes of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and some Cinsault & Vermentino. This wine is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays classic flavors of upfront minerality with notes of gentle strawberry. We also picked up some vanilla, watermelon and cashew mixed in. It finishes dry and refreshing. I would pair it with grilled tequila-lime shrimp.

Navarro Vineyards up in Anderson Valley is well known for their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and of course their Gewurz. But do not discount their Rose. Their 2017 “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $22 is a knockout. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and has a really nice round mouthfeel. Its flavor profile is a pleasant mineral infused strawberry with notes of white pepper. I also detected a hint of watermelon and touch of lime mixed in. This dry Rose is very food friendly and versatile. I would pair it with a grilled spicy lime shrimp with a creamy avocado cilantro sauce.

Our final 91 pointer is from the Tavel wine region in France. An interesting nugget about Tavel is they only make Rose wines. So, they are very good at it. The 2017 Chateau La Nerthe “Prieure de Montezargues” for $25 is a very good example of this. This wine is made from 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the rest Clairette, Bourboulenc and Cinsault. It opens with a mild floral bouquet that features rose buds. Our mini-tasting group found it to be medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and a refined wine. Its flavor profile is a nicely integrated mineral and mild watermelon blend with a hint a red cherry. It finishes dry and its flavors show nice length for a Rose. Our group thought it would pair nicely with a blackened swordfish.

Next up we have five 90 pointers. We will kick off the list with the 2017 Decoy Rose from California. This $20 wine is made from mostly Syrah. It is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. Our mini-group of tasters liked its gentle mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of red cherry. This Rose will be a crowd pleaser and very versatile. I would pair it with tomato and basil bruschetta.

The next two Roses are both made from Pinot Noir. We will start with the 2017 Merriam Vineyard “Rose of Pinot Noir” from the Russian River Valley. This wine is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. I really liked its mineral influenced light strawberry and red cherry flavors with a hint of clove spice drop mixed in. This wine goes for $22 per bottle, there were only 190 cases made you be sure to secure some soon.

Next up is a bigger production wine from La Crema. Best known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, La Crema over-delivered with this Rose. Their 2017 “Rose of Pinot Noir” was very popular amongst the tasters at a mini-charity event for Ovarian Cancer that we had at Colonial Spirits in Acton. We found it to be medium bodied, balanced, elegant and very approachable. The group really liked its mild watermelon flavors with hints of red cherry and minerality. We all thought this $22 Rose would pair nicely with delicate foods.

The last two 90 pointers use traditional Rose grapes. The first is from California and the next is from Tavel. We will start with the 2016 Malene Rose from the Central Coast for $22. This offering is made from mainly Grenache with some Cinsault, Vermentino, Mourvedre and Counoise. Our class would it to be light bodied, slightly acidic and friendly. We all enjoyed it’s a mild mineral influenced flavors with notes of faint red raspberry, lychee and a hint of white pepper. The group thought this would pair nicely with a chicken and shrimp paella.

Our last 90 pointer is the 2016 Domaine de la Mordoree “La Dame Rousse Tavel” Rose for $26. This wine is made from 60% Grenache along with Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Bourboulenc and Clairette. It is medium bodied, round and well balanced. Its flavor profile, like the nose, is a blend of wild strawberry and red raspberry with a nice amount of minerality woven in perfectly. I also detected some hints of Maraschino cherry and white pepper hiding in the background. It is food friendly and would pair nicely with a pork tenderloin.

Our 89 and 88 pointers
De Morgenzon 2016 Rose “DMZ” (Western Cape, South Africa) $12 (89 points)
This 100% Cabernet Rose from South Africa is a great value. It is pleasantly fruity but dry with a medium body. It has flavors of strawberry, pink grapefruit and reserved minerality. Enjoy it with a grilled turkey burger with guacamole on your deck.

Cline 2016 Rose “Ancient Vines Mourvedre” (Contra Costa County, CA) $13 (89 points)
This coral colored wine from Cline is made with Mourvedre. It is light bodied and displays nice bright acidity. It has nice gentle mineral infused strawberry and lime flavors with hints of kiwi, tangerine and saline. Try this crowd-pleasing Rose with a mahi-mahi sandwich.

Day Owl 2017 Rose (California) $15 (89 points)”
The Day Owl Rose is made from mostly Barbera with a little Grenache. On the palate, it is medium bodied and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of red raspberry and a hint of tangerine. Try it with shrimp cocktail.

Attems 2016 Rose “Ramato” (Venezia Giulia, Italy) $20 (89 points)
This light coral colored wine from Northern Italy is very nice and made from Pinot Grigio. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. Our class liked its mineral infused red cherry and mild strawberry flavors with a hint of tangerine. Enjoy it poolside on a hot summer day!

Susana Balbo 2017 “Crios Rose of Malbec” (Mendoza, Argentine) $12 (88 points)
This 100% Malbec Rose is medium bodied, vibrantly acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused ginger ale with notes of watermelon and tangerine with a hint of Maraschino cherry. Pair this good value offering with a bacon wrapped shrimp.

Chateau La Nerthe Rose 2017 “Les Cassagnes” (Cotes du Rhone, France) $15 (88 points) This dark pink colored wine from Cotes du Rhone is medium bodied, balanced and nicely coats your mouth. Our class enjoyed its mild mineral influenced watermelon flavors with hints of gentle strawberry and red cherry mixed in. Pair it with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.

Domaine Lafage 2017 Rose “Miraflors” (Cotes Catalanes, France) $16 (88 points)
This very pale pink wine from France comes in an attractive frosty bottle. It is medium bodied, balanced and has a round mouthfeel. It is mainly made from Mourvedre. Its flavor profile is a mild mineral infused gentle tangerine and nectarine blend. Pair it with bruschetta.

Warwick 2016 Rose “The First Lady” (Western Cape, South Africa) $17  (88 points)
This intriguing food friendly Rose is from South Africa.  It is made from 100% Pinotage. It is slightly savory, dry, with a medium body and slight acidity. It displays flavors of white peach, red raspberry, watermelon and honey. Serve it with poached salmon for lunch.

This list represents the winners we discovered so far this spring. Be sure to check back for another post later this summer with more winners for you to try. For a complete list of recommended Rose wines. Please visit our Rose Guide page. If you find a Rose that you love, be sure to share it with our readers via the comments below.

Cheers – Ken

The Tasting Panel is a big fan of Zinfandel. We decided to do an impromptu ZAP tasting in December before our regular winter Zinfandel blind tasting in February. So you might ask, what is ZAP? ZAP stands for the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers. It is a membership based organization that advances knowledge and appreciation for American Zinfandel. They have a big tasting event called the Zinfandel Experience each year in January. This year it is once again in San Francisco on January 18th thru the 20th. At the Grand Tasting there will be over 500 different wines poured by 120 of the best Zinfandel producers. Throughout the tasting, you can meet many of these great winemakers.

At our December tasting we discovered some very good Zin’s. I am sure you will find these and more gems like them at the Zinfandel Experience. We will start with the 2014 Seghesio 2014 “Home Ranch” Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley. This Zin is a big boy! It is full bodied, velvety, rich and fruit forward. We really liked its black cherry and black raspberry flavors with notes of cinnamon, oak and mulberry. We awarded Zin with 92 points. The Panel suggested pairing this Zin with Steve’ chicken, shrimp paella or Jiko’s wild boar.

The next one was a new one for me. The 2015 Bella Grace “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Amador County was a very good introduction to this winery. We gave this gem 91 points. It is medium bodied, very nicely balanced and smooth for a Zin. The Tasting Panel really liked its tasty pomegranate and red plum flavors with notes of strawberry licorice, oak and a hint of red cherry. The Panel suggested pairing this food friendly Zin with the Woods Hill Table’s Charcuterie.

One of the best values we found was this Zinfandel based wine from Marietta Cellars. Their “Old Vine Red Lot #66” for $14 is a steal. We assigned it 90 points. It was medium bodied, balanced and a little richer than your typical Zin. We liked its black cherry-cola and oak flavors with hints of strawberry licorice, plum and black pepper. It finishes with gentle dry tannins that linger nicely. The Panel suggested pairing this one with Colorado lamb chops.

Another very good 90 point offering is the 2014 “Old Vines” Zinfandel from St. Francis for $22. This Zin was also well-received by the Tasting Panel. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. It displays ripe plum flavors along with notes of dark chocolate, black tea and some hints of cinnamon and toasted oak. The Panel suggested pairing this Zin with Chinese pork dumplings.

This Zin is also from a new winery for us, but the wine maker and vineyard go way back for me. The 2015 Three Wine Company “Live Oak Vineyard” Zinfandel was a treat. Matt Cline has made wine from this vineyard for years and this offering was just another one of his treats. Readers will find this Zin to be balanced and smooth with tasty black cherry and strawberry flavors. We also detected notes of cola and oak with some hints of black pepper mixed in as well. The Panel suggested pairing this Zin with some Scottish salmon.

The last recommendation from the December tasting is the consistently very good “Westside” Zinfandel from Peachy Canyon. The 2015 vintage is a bit of a quaffer! It is medium bodied, balanced and fruit forward. Its friendly red plum and cherry flavors with notes of vanilla oak where appealing. The Panel suggested pairing this well priced Zin with a Thanksgiving sandwich or BLT.

These last two Zins where not in the tasting but covered recently and worth noting as they both popular and affordable. The 2015 Seghesio “Sonoma County” Zinfandel for $26 is really popular. We found it to be medium bodied and very juicy. Its flavor profile is an extracted blackberry with notes of black licorice and minerality. It would be ideal with a tangy pulled pork sandwich. The 2015 Cline “Ancient Vines” Zinfandel is another very good offering for less than $20. I found it to be balanced and very easy to drink. I like its blackberry and cherry-cola flavors with hints of minerality, mild oak, red currant and strawberry. While this Zin is flavorful, it is not a fruit bomb, making it food friendly. Pair it with barbecue boneless grilled short ribs!

We hope you like these Zins as much as we did. If you go to the ZAP experience, please share some of your favorites with the group. If you would like to go to the ZAP Experience you can buy tickets via this link. If you have any question about the link. Please reach out to Robert Larsen @

Cheers! – Ken

By Julia Hoggins

If you’re looking for something to read about wine in a short period of time, I would highly recommend Monika Elling’s Wine 123. Whether you’re just starting to like wine or are an experienced taster, this book offers a brief insight on the basics of understanding how to choose and differentiate wines. It can be overwhelming to select a bottle or even a glass of wine no matter what the occasion, so familiarizing yourself with the basics is important.

The first step is noticing the weight of wine, or “WOW” as Monika Elling calls it in her book. Color is essentially the fastest way to know the difference between heavy, medium, or light wines. This method can be used for comparing both red and white wines. The alcohol levels also contribute to the WOW scale. The darker the wine, the more weight it has and vice versa. For example, a light white would be a Pinot Grigio, but a heavy red would be a dark Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you’re wondering what wines to pair with specific dishes, Elling also gives you a breakdown of how to go about pairing. Traditionally, darker reds are good with dark meats like steak, and a nice white Chardonnay goes well with a light fish or chicken.

True wine professionals are open to trying new types of wine even if they have favorites. Professionals classify wines under two categories: Old World vs. New World. Old World wines are produced in European regions, whereas New World wines are produced in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the modern era, most New World high quality wines are from California. New World wines are fruitier and have a higher alcohol content, and they can be enjoyed with meals but also on their own. Whereas, Old World wines tend to accompany a meal.

Monika Elling also reveals a corked versus screw cap bottle of wine. The problem that occasionally arises from corked wine is a fungus called Trichloroanisole (TCA). It’s reportedly found in 3-10% of naturally corked bottles creating a very undesirable musty aroma, and potentially taints the wines. As a result, many winemakers are now turning to screw-caps. There isn’t currently enough information on the age ability of screw-caped wines, but wineries are in the process of studying it. With a screw cap, customers are assured to get the full value of the wine.

Another fact that will enhance your knowledge about wine is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine. Champagne is only considered “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne wine region of France. Any other wine with bubbles is referred to as Sparkling Wine. You also might not know that Champagne is typically made from two red grapes and one white: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

Did you know you can have wine for dessert? In Tokaj, Hungary in the early 1500s, dessert wine was discovered by monks who found shriveled grapes on the vine and found that the delayed harvest resulted in an intense sweetness to the wine. Delaying the harvest allows the grapes to be infected by Noble Rot, “Botrytis,” and the dried-out result contains a high concentration of natural sugars, giving the wine a sweet taste.

Whether your looking for a nice sweet dessert wine, or a perfect blend of food and wine to please your taste buds, Wine 123 is the perfect book to read in 90 minutes or less that will tell you all you need to know about the basics of wine. From history, to wine selection, pairing, and how to look like a “pro” while swirling and holding your glass, this book covers it all.

Cheers! – Julia Hoggins

With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, I thought I would give you several terrific Champagne and Sparkling Wine options that we found this fall that will make your celebration extra special. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did. I also think most of these are readily available and can be found for less than the SRP prices below.

Schramsberg 2013 “Blanc de Noirs” $42 (92)
This sparkling wine from Schramsberg was one of my favorites this year. It is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and bright with tasty mineral infused lime and bread dough flavors. This sparkler was very popular with our tasting group.

Laurent-Perrier NV “La Cuvee Brut” $45 (92)
Another winner that the Panel discovered is this Champagne from Laurent-Perrier. This offering is light bodied, bright and lively. The Panel was drawn in by its mineral infused lime flavors with notes of bread, mild grapefruit and a hint of golden delicious apples. It was a treat!

Duval-Leroy NV “Brut Reserve” $50 (92)
This Champagne from Duval-Leroy is another winner that I discovered at the Colonial Spirits fall wine event. It is light bodied, nicely balanced and fresh. Our group really liked its tasty mild lime and mineral flavors with notes of mild bread dough. This one is another crowd pleaser that everyone will enjoy!

Besserat de Bellefon NV “Cuvee des Moines Brut” $50 (92)
Nicolay covered the Besserat “Cuvee des Moines Brut” and really enjoyed its robust and pronounced stone fruit flavors with a ginger and a tangerine finish. He felt this was one of the better showings this year.

Charles Heidsieck NV “Brut Reserve” $65 (92)
This Champagne with nice streaming bubbles was very well received by the Tasting Panel. It is medium bodied, nicely balanced and smooth. We really enjoyed its mineral infused bread dough flavors with notes of ripe lemon and tart Granny Smith apple.

Other Winners To Consider
Eric Taillet NV “Brut Egali’t” $35 (90)
This one is as clean of a Champagne as it comes. It displays higher in acidity than most Champagnes but this adds to the wine’s overall appeal. – Nicolay

J Vineyards NV “Cuvee 20” $38 (90)
This crowd-pleasing sparkler is also very good. It is medium bodied and mouthwatering with very nice effervescence. It has gentle lime and light grapefruit flavors with hints of quince.

Andre Jacquart NV “Brut Experience Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs” $46 (90)
This Champagne is light bodied, bright, fresh and smooth. It displays mineral infused tart green apple flavors with notes of white pepper and ginger. It finishes dry and refreshing.

Rose Bubble Winners
J Vineyards NV “Brut Rose” $45 (92)
This coral colored sparkler displays lots of very tiny bubbles. It is light bodied, balanced and fresh with tasty mild mineral infused gentle strawberry and bread dough flavors. A very good sparkler to serve with shrimp cocktail on New Year’s Eve!

Goldeneye 2014 “Brut Rose” $56 (92)
This Pinot based sparkler from the Anderson Valley is impressive. It was light to medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and nicely coats your mouth. I really liked its mild bread dough and strawberry flavors with notes of lime, tangerine and Maraschino cherry mixed in. Pair with fresh sliced salmon.

Eric Taillet NV “Luminosi’T Brut Rose” $40 (91)
This salmon colored Champagne Rose is lengthy and filled with the fruit flavors that linger and last. It is a sipper to enjoy with smoked halibut or roasted duck. – Nicolay

Schramsberg 2014 “Brut Rose” $45 (91)
This coral colored sparkling wine from Schramsberg very food friendly. It displays tasty mineral infused strawberry and bread dough flavors with hints of cinnamon and red raspberry.

Collet NV Champagne “Brut Rose” $50 (90)
Once again this Rose hits all the right notes. Nicolay enjoyed its smoked nut flavors with notes of stone fruits and berries. He would pair it with Asian cuisine or seared scallops.

Yorkville Cellars 2016 “Brut Rose” $36 (89)
If you are interested in an Organic Sparkler, check out this very good one from Yorkville made 100% Malbec. It has pleasant light strawberry and mineral flavors with a touch of bread dough and lemon. Enjoy with steamed mussels.

Bargain Bubble Values
Graham Beck NV “Brut” $19 (89)
This Sparkler from South Africa is very nice. It is medium bodied, bubbly and round. While this is not the most complex Sparkler, it is pleasant and priced properly. It is a very good option for a large gathering.

Prosper Maufoux NV “Cremant de Bourgogne Rose” $20 (89)
This Rose displays flavors strawberries, raspberries, candied lemons, and a nice dollop of mint on the finish. The finish is long and fresh with some acidity. Enjoy on its own. – Nicolay

Mont Marcal 2015 “Brut Reserva Cava” $13 (88)
Joe thought this Cava would be perfect if you were having a lot of friends and family over for the holidays and looking for an affordable sparkler that will please everyone. It has an enjoyable palate presence and will be well-received at your holiday party. Serve with sushi. – Joe

14 Hands NV “Brut Rose” $15 (88)
This Washington State Sparkler made from seven different grapes varieties is a very good value. It has exceptionally fine bubbles and a fruit salad like flavor profile. This is another very good party offering. – Nicolay

Paul Mas NV “Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Brut” $16 (88)
Our last recommendation is this Cremant de Limoux. It features flavors such as peaches, granny smith apples, and the slightest hint of peppermint. Nicolay thought it would make for a perfect aperitif around the holidays.

Cheers and Happy New Year!!

The holidays are upon us and I frequently get asked for gift ideas for wine lovers. So we will start with six very good stocking stuffer ideas that I personally love. Better yet, none of these will break the bank. They will all be well received and very appreciated!

We will start with the Barvino Corkscrew. This is best waiters-styled corkscrew I have ever owned. It is very well made and it is really sturdy. It’s a great deal at $13. The recipient will love it!

My next suggestion is Wine Away. This is the best wine stain cleaner that I have ever come across. This product works great on red wine stains. A good-sized bottle costs less than $10. The only problem is that you still need to change your shirt after you use it, otherwise you will smell like a tangerine for the rest of the night. But it works great!

Any great gift is the Riedel microfiber polishing cloth. It is just terrific for cleaning stemware, which is my least favorite thing to do. That said, this cloth makes its barrable. I get a new one every year for Christmas. It is a must purchase and it is also less than $10.  So be sure to get one and make sure all your stemware sparkles in 2018!

My next great gift idea are two  documentary movies on Wine.  The first is Somm. It is about four men who will do just about anything to pass the most difficult test you’ve NEVER heard of… The Court of Master Sommeliers, massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and their journey. The follow up movie is called Somm: Into The Bottle. In this movie, viewers are taken beyond the exam and into the world of famous winemakers and sommeliers as they unravel what makes wine the most compelling beverage. I thought it was a great follow up and if you are into wine, you will really enjoy it.

My last stocking stuffer idea is the a daily wine calendar.  Who wouldn’t want one of these.  A wine thought or word everyday!  Check out this 2018 Daily Wine Lover’s Calendar for less that $11.

So these do not fit in a stocking, but you should not forget a set of wines glasses for the wine lover in your life.  You can’t miss with Spiegelau.  They are durable and affordable.  We use these with the Tasting panel. Here is a set of 4 Vino Grande Bordeaux Wine Glasses at a reasonable price. I do believe a very good glass is necessary to fully enjoy the wine you serve. Swirling the wine to open up the aroma’s and enhancing the taste through aeration is a must!

To see all the other Wine Gifts and Accessories that I recommend, check out our wine gifts page on the website!

Additionally, I get asked a lot around the holidays for Wine Books recommendations. So here are three wine books for all levels of wine lovers.

The first two books, are a great place to start for new wine lovers. We will start with the newest book that will likely become a classic. Madeline Puckette’s  Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine for $20 is very good. It uses unique infographics that help readers understand the basics of wine. It answers many of the questions new wine lovers have about wine. For me, the three things I really like that she covers in this book are detailed maps of wine-regions, a nice guide to pairing food and wine, and she has a very good grape flavor profile charts.

The next terrific book is the “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly for $18. Kevin has sold over 3 million copies. Enough said! Kevin is the ultimate wine educator. This book is set up like a basic wine course textbook. It covers the wines of the world from Bordeaux and California. It is a great wine guide. The 2017 edition updates the latest vintages. It also gives you all the tools you need to discover and enjoy the great wines of the world.

My last recommendation is the deepest offering of the three. The 2nd Edition of the Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. This the ultimate wine book. It is by far the most informative and detailed book on wine that I have read. I use it as a resource all the time. If you have a question about wine, it is very likely covered in great detail in this book. I would say this one is more for a true wine geek vs. a beginner. You can get this gem for $14 on Amazon. It’s a steal!

To see all the other Wine Books and DVD’s that I recommend, check out our wine books page on the website!

My last recommendations of course is some High End Red Wine! Each year the Tasting Panel gets together to review High End red wines before the holidays. These are super premium wines over $50. They make great gifts for the true wine lover in your life. I have listed our Top 10 Finishers in our last blog post.  Be sure to check them out. The Krupp Brothers 2014 M5 Stagecoach Cabernet is Outstanding! To see all of our recommended Collectible Wines over $50.  Check out our Collectible Wine Page.  It is sorted by type of wine.  Have fun and happy hunting. anyone would love to receive any of these gems!

Happy Holidays!

On Friday, November 17th the Tasting Panel covered 14 wines ranging from $75 to $200.
Below is a video of the Top 10 winning bottles in order from lowest score of 91 to the highest score of 95.

Below is a list of the Top 10 Winning Wines.

1) Krupp Brothers 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “M5 Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa Valley) $175 (KWG 95)
2) Pina 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Wolff Vineyard” (Yountville) $85 (KWG 93)
3) Star Lane 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Star” (Happy Canyon) $200 (KWG 93)
4) Pine Ridge 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stags Leap” $150 (KWG 92)
5) Gundlach Bundschu 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Vintage Reserve” (Sonoma Valley) $125 (KWG 92)
6) Mt. Brave 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Mt Veeder” $75 (KWG 91)
7) Alpha Omega 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $100 (KWG 91)
8) Ramey 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Annum” (Napa Valley) $100 (KWG 91)
9) Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Passage” (Red Mountain) $80 (KWG 91)
10) 12C 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III G3” (Rutherford) $115 (KWG 91)

As the scores are posted, I will link to the reviews on the KWG website. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Also – If you would like to see all of our High End Recommendations – Check out our Collectible Wines page!

Cheers – Ken

Riesling in general gets a bad rap. It is a noble grape and can be made in almost every style. Most folks know it as a sweet wine grape. While it truly does make great sweet wine, this post is about the other side. It also can be made “Dry” or “Trocken” as they say in Germany. The results are equally delicious. Now here is the rub. Those that like sweet Riesling, usually don’t like Dry Riesling. So you have to gather tasters who do like this style, to truly evaluate and appreciate these Rieslings. I found some great evaluators and we recently went through some Dry Rieslings that were submitted. We found some real gems to share with you. Those plus some others that I covered earlier this year, will give you quite a few to look for, discover and enjoy!

We will start with two incredible offerings that I discovered at a tasting with Ernie Loosen this spring. These offerings are quite limited and expensive, but if you can afford them, you can truly see the higher end of Dry Riesling. The top score is this 2013 Dr. Loosen “Urziger Wurzgarten GG Reserve” Riesling for $92. Only 220 cases were made and I scored it 95 points. It is Excellent! It is light bodied, slightly acidic and refreshing with delicious mineral infused Anjou pear flavors with hints of green tea. I also picked up a touch of grapefruit towards the end. This fantastic wine finishes dry and pleasantly refreshing. It would be a perfect pairing for grilled swordfish. Next up is the 2015 Dr. Loosen “Erdener Pralat GG Alte Reben Alte Reben” Riesling for $64. This Dry Riesling is also very impressive. I gave this one 93 points. This one is a little different in that it is light bodied, pleasantly acidic and juicy. It displays tasty mineral infused lime flavors with notes of tart mild yellow grapefruit and a touch of lychee. Like the first one, this offering would also pair nicely with grilled swordfish.

Now this next wine shows that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to truly enjoy some very good Dry Riesling. The 2015 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “QbA Dry” Riesling from Mosel, Germany is an absolute steal at $15. The Tasting Panel loved this wine and rewarded it with 92 points. We found it to be light to medium bodied, nicely balanced, soft and delicate on the palate. It has delicious mild Anjou pear flavors with notes of lemon-lime and hints of green apple and faint minerality mixed in. The Panel suggested pairing this gem with Stuart’s scallops with Brussel sprouts or something from the raw bar. Hurry to grab some, the word is out!

Another gem is the 2015 Hermann Wiemer “HJW Vineyard” Riesling from the Finger Lakes. This is one of a few very good “Dry” Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in this report. This single vineyard offering for $39 landed 92 points from yours truly. The HJW is medium bodied, slightly acidic, clean and fresh. I really liked its very tasty mineral infused quince, lime and lychee flavors with notes of apricot and a hint of white pepper. This very food friendly Riesling would pair nicely with fried clams.

Our next two 91 point Dry Rieslings hail from Australia. The first is from the southeastern Australia in Adelaide. The 2015 d’Arenberg “Dry Dam” Riesling for $17 is another steal. It is medium bodied and shows very nice gentle acidity and balance. I found it to have tasty lime and tangerine flavors with hints of green apple and a touch of pineapple. It finishes dry and refreshing. This very appealing offering is food friendly and easy to quaff. I would serve it slightly chilled on a hot day with grilled swordfish skewers. Next up is the 2014 Frankland Estate “Isolation Ridge” Riesling for $40. This was one of top finishers in our recent blind tasting. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its gentle acidity and delicate fruit. It displays mild mineral infused green apple flavors with notes of Anjou pear and a hint of lemon and ginger. The Panel suggested pairing this food friendly offering with baked scrod or a pork roast.

Our three 90 pointers come from the Finger Lakes, Australia and California. We will start off with the best deal of the three. The 2015 Dr. Konstantin Frank “Dry” Riesling is from the Finger Lakes. At $16 it is a bargain. This wine had broad appeal with the Tasting Panel. We found it to be light bodied, juicy and have plenty of mouthwatering acidity. We enjoyed its pleasant iced tea flavors with notes of lemon-lime and a touch of green apple, peach pit and nectarine. The Panel suggested pairing this Riesling with grilled grouper or Chilean sea bass. Next up is another very good Aussie offering. The 2015 Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Riesling from the Margaret River is medium bodied, brisk and fresh. I enjoyed its mild grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and some hints of white pepper and lime. It finishes very refreshing and would pair well with grilled swordfish skewers. Our last 90 pointer hails from Marin County California. The 2016 Dutton Goldfield “Chileno Valley Vineyard” Riesling for $30 was also very well received by the Tasting Panel. It opens with an appealing floral bouquet with notes of rose petal and gardenia. We found it to be light bodied, balanced, mellow and delicate. Its tasty mild chamomile tea flavors with hints of lime, yellow peach and mild minerality were well received. Its dry finish takes a very long time to drift away. The Panel thought this Riesling would pair very well with baked Dover sole or a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.

Our 89 Point Winners
Anthony Road 2015 Riesling “Dry” (Finger Lakes) $18
This wine is light bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. It displays tasty mild grapefruit flavors with notes of gentle lime and mild minerality. Dry and refreshing. A nice beach wine!

Robert Weil 2015 Riesling “Trocken” (Rheingau) $20
Displays lots of tiny bubbles that dissipate quickly. Balanced and fresh. It has gentle lime and green apple flavors and notes of delicate minerality. Hints of grapefruit. Panel thought it was nice quaffer for the beach.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2015 Riesling “Dry Reserve” (Finger Lakes) $29
Another Wiemer winner. This one is medium bodied, off-dry and very ripe. We liked its peach and lychee flavors with notes of minerality and hints of apricot, ginger and golden apple. Reminded us of Gewurz!

Frankland Estate 2014 Riesling “Rocky Gully” (Western Australia) $25 (88 Points)
This wine is medium bodied and mouthwatering with bright acidity. The Panel liked its lychee and delicate grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and lime. A refreshing choice for the beach with Thai rolls.

We hope you enjoy these Rieslings as much as we did. Be sure to comment on your favorite Dry Rieslings. We will post them to share with our readers.

Cheers – Ken

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