Archive | January, 2021

Total Wine Challenge Part 2: White Wines Under $12.99

30 Jan

if you read part 1 of this post, then you know that this tasting was part of a challenge from Justin Koury & Bevfluence  to find six “good or better” wines in the $12.99 and Under category from a national retailer, which in this case, is  Total Wine & More. 


A reminder of my rules:  

  1. I would not review wines I have previously tasted.
  2. I would look for small producers in regions known for good value. 
  3. I would avoid the two most popular white grapes: chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
  4. I would take advantage of the Mix6 discount, since I knew I needed six bottles (Three red, three white.)   


I’ve already written about the red wines. (Click the link at the beginning of this post!)
Ready for the awesome white wines? 



All Rights Reserved. Images and Text Copyright 2021, JvBUnCorked. 



Seastone Albariño 2019, DO Rias Baixas, Spain. 12.5% ABV, $12.99/bottle ($11.69 Mix 6)

Color is medium straw; the nose is a delicate mix of citrus peel, floral blossoms, and tangerine. On the palate, gentle stone fruit before acidity. White peach, Braeburn apple, lime zest, and salinity, followed by almond paste. Lemon pith, limestone, and tart acidity on the finish, leaving the mouth refreshed. A good pairing for fish, shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and moderate entrees. I paired this with baked flounder, a fresh green salad and sautéed kale, then enjoyed it with goat cheese on a multigrain cracker for an after dinner snack. I liked how this paired with ginger, soy, and hot pepper chicken and vegetable stir-fry. I have been serving and enjoying Albariño more and more in the last year; Americans seem to be just starting to appreciate the flexibility of this grape. Good wine, great value.




All Rights Reserved. Images and Text Copyright 2021, JvBUnCorked.



Herederos del Marques De Riscal 100% Rueda Verdejo 2019, DO Rueda, Spain. 13% ABV, $5.49/bottle ($4.94 Mix 6)

Color is pale straw with a green tinge. The nose offers salt air, Meyer lemon, and jasmine. On the palate: lemon-lime, lemongrass, grapefruit, Forelle pear, and green herbaceousness on the back palate with just a tiny hint of bitterness on the finish. According to their label, the wine is 100% organic. I first paired this with seafood (a no-brainer), then a vegetarian meal of grilled vegetables over black beans and rice, which also worked nicely.  Finally, the last glass accompanied Thai spring rolls and spicy basil chicken perfectly. My tasting note says: “Goes with anything. Should buy a case.” 

Ok, I really liked this wine. Really: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Huge QPR!  Darn pandemic, I wish I had a tasting schedule so I could serve this wine to guests. They’d never expect it costs so little! Restaurants should buy this by the pallet and sell it for $8/glass. How often can you find a really delicious white wine for $5 a BOTTLE? Don’t expect it to stay this cheap for long.  

I almost broke my own rule on this wine; I have enjoyed wines from this winemaker before, though not the Verdejo. How shocked was I, that the lowest priced wine I tried was the one I enjoyed pairing the most? Really impressive, this wine is a tremendous value. 




San Gregorio Single Vineyard La Muela Macabeo 2019, Catayud DOC, Spain. 14.1%ABV, $11.99/bottle ($10.79 Mix 6)


Color is medium straw; the nose offers gentle citrus, sweet melon, and honey. Delicate lime zest, honeydew, and Concorde pear are on the palate. Acidity crosses the upper back palate, with secondary notes of green herbs and minerals. Finishes with a clear, fresh resolve. 

This single vineyard macabeo paired nicely with Thai chicken in basic sauce, roast turkey, salmon, as well as lentil soup and a salad. It would be an obvious and easy pairing with grilled seafood, tapas, or pesto sauce. Another solid cellar option I am glad to learn about, another of the San Gregorio, and one more of several well-priced wines at Total Wine & More that are deserving of your attention.  

In case it sounds unfamiliar, the macabeo grape is also known as viura in Rioja. Viura is commonly used as a blending grape in creation of Spain’s sparkling wine, cava. In France, macabeo is known as maccabeu, and can be found in vineyards along the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region. 




What did I learn by this challenge? 
These are wines I normally ignore, and I simply won’t ignore wines under $13 any more. My regular price point starts at $15/bottle and I learned a lesson about that, for the second time in about a year! These Spanish and Italian wines below $13 were well worth my time. (The last time was Pedro Cancela. Remember my February 2020 piece on Wines of the Dão?) Yes, my personal tastes, the pricey chardonnays and pinot noirs are awesome, as are the old and rare bottles, but there is absolutely a place in my home for these wines. And no matter what the price, THEY DELIVER.

So you should consider giving them a taste, and sharing with us what you think.  



à votre santé!







Total Wine Challenge: Red Wines Under $12.99

25 Jan

My friend Justin Koury of Bevfluence asked me to join in a wine challenge; I accepted. 

The Challenge was to find six “good or better” wines in the $12.99 and Under category from a national retailer. 

I was assigned Total Wine & More, (TW) a merchant that I commonly use with clients for their personal shopping. With 214 retail locations in 26 states, they are a vendor I use regularly for clientele because they make it easy for me to find wines to meet a customer’s desires. What’s different is that I normally look in higher price ranges of $15-$25 and $25-$50.  So while I know the merchant, I had little other background or idea what I’d be buying or tasting. 

While ideally I’d prefer a “mom and pop” style stores, Total Wine’s buying power allows them to deal directly with a winery which is a win/win, for the winery, for TW, and for the consumer. Additionally, TW has a multi-bottle deal called “Mix6” which is a 10% discount on more than 6 bottles marked Mix6. This is the incentive a smart buyer is looking for: a discount on the lesser-known bottles. But the same smart buyer can look for either a shelf-talker or a rating or score to help them take a chance in tasting something new. 

My rules, (set for myself) 

  1. I would not review wines I have previously tasted.
  2. I would look for small producers in regions known for good value. 
  3. I would avoid the the two most popular red grapes: cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
  4. I would take advantage of the Mix6 discount, since I knew I needed six bottles (Three red, three white.)   


So I’m not the average buyer, but these are wines I don’t know in the entry-level category. So I thought I’d start by looking at Spain and southern Italy for wines in these price ranges. And I quickly found what I was looking for. 




San Gregorio Single Vineyard Las Martas Garnacha 2018, Calatayud DOC, Spain. 15% ABV, $9.99/bottle, ($8.99 Mix 6 Price)

Color is magenta, shifting into purple; the nose offers red plum, black cherry, and a hint of mocha. The initial taste provides a solid mouthfeel of black plum, black cherry, stewed prune, with some heat across the mid palate. Wine shows solid tannic structure, drying across the front palate. Secondary notes of forest floor, cinnamon, wet earth, clay, and limestone. Downturn on the finish works nicely for this garnacha. Tasting this 2018 over the course of a week, with grilled meat, burgers, roast turkey, flatbread pizza, as well as Thai and Mexican. Garnacha, aka Grenache in other areas, is hugely planted across the globe in hot dry areas and is often used as a blending grape, like merlot and cabernet franc. It’s rare to find a single vineyard garnacha in this price range. The end result is that wine drinkers find great flavor for a great value. 


Latitud 42 Rioja Ecologica 2018, Rioja DOC,  Northern Spain. 100% Tempranillo, 14.5% ABV,  $9.99/bottle ($8.99 Mix 6 Price)

Color is bright ruby. Aromas of spice, bright cherry, and dried tobacco leaf on the nose. Bright red fruit (red plum, cherry) and acidity are delivered quickly to the front palate. The acidity starts mid-palate and moves back, as the finish arrives early and stays late, with vanilla, clove, clay, and granite, with a pleasant note of sour cherry holding to the end. Fun, a touch sweet, easy to drink. Ideal for pairing with tapas, Pan Con Tomato (tomato on grilled bread) grilled seafood (octopus, shrimp, turbot), sofritos, and paella come to mind. I enjoyed this with a margarita pizza on night one and beef stew on night two. Tempranillo is under-appreciated in the USA, and that’s one reason why you can get this wine at such a good price! 





Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino Riserva 2017, Apulia, Italy.  13.5%ABV, $12.99/bottle ($11.70 Mix 6 Price) 

Color is a deep purple center with light ruby edging. The nose offers rose petal, fresh pepper, and black stewed fruit.  On the palate, black plum and black cherry with a hint of raspberry up front. Secondary notes are of lavender, forest floor, tobacco leaf, and smoked paprika. If you’ve never had the  Negroamaro grape or don’t know Italian wines well, this is a great entry to Italian wine. You could buy a case of this and be surprised at just how well the wine pairs with food types across the board- it would be an excellent house red! I paired this wine with roast beef & vegetables, salmon, bruschetta, Mexican, Thai, even chocolate. Anything I threw at it seemed quite happy.  Having the last sip on day 5 after being opened, the salinity was a bit forward but the wine still delivered and paired nicely with pasta bolognese. I would have expected this wine to price at $20 or more, and it exceeded my expectations! The bottle image quickly got response from social media, from followers really liking the label. What’s not to like? 




For wine lovers who are looking at solid values for daily drinking, a mixed case of these three reds is a no-brainer to me. They pair so easily, and would also be a very appropriate gift wine for a friend or neighbor. 

If you try one of these wines, please reply to this post and let me know! 
Do you shop at Total Wine & More?

Do you buy using their Mix6 approach?

Do you have other suggestions for customers to find great deals or values? 












à votre santé!

McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot

5 Jan

McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot, Kimberly Vineyards, Arroyo Seco AVA; Santa Rosa, CA.
14%ABV, SRP $25/bottle on release. 


Color is deep garnet center with ruby edging. The nose offers brooding black fruit, tobacco leaf, forest floor, and star anise. On the palate is a pleasing mixture of blackberry, plum, and black currants, with tertiary notes of mocha, cedar box, pencil shavings, and spiced vanilla.

The complexity of this wine might surprise you. It reminded me first, of how hauntingly beautiful and decadent merlot can be,  and secondly, and that my cellar is lacking in high-quality, single vineyard merlot!

Many winemakers spend their time on Merlot’s sibling- the OTHER child grape of Cabernet Franc: the often highly-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, which are the bodybuilders of the wine world. Too many winemakers ignore Merlot, who, like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, will delight and amaze with their subtle performances time and time again, with chameleon-like skill to adapt to roles so that the public could not imagine another actor in that role. That is the beauty of Merlot, and that is what you can expect from this bottle: maturity, depth, complexity, and elegance.    



I paired this impressive bottle over the course of a week with various dishes: potted steak and root vegetables; a second night with pasta with broccoli and garlic sauce; a third evening with baked salmon, greens and sweet potato.  The wine maintained the complex nose, dark flavor palette, structure, tannins, and acidity beautifully over the duration.

Do not let the price fool you, this is a beautiful wine that demonstrates the immense care and skill taken with vineyard and viticulture, as well as a controlled, specifically minimalistic winemaking process to allow the grape to show brilliance and its finest characteristics. This wine could easily sell at twice the price.

Winemaker Steve McIntyre continues to demonstrate how passionate winemakers can offer mature, top level, lip-smacking wines at a tremendous value to the general public with wines of such a high level of care and craftsmanship, while maintaining sustainability to the soul of the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley. Bravo!  


What’s In YOUR glass? 


à votre santé!

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