Tales from the Trellis 2014 Top Value Budget Wines with New Years Eve Sparkling Picks

31 12 2014

My Top Value Wines of 2014

2014 was quite a year and filled with great memories. Throughout the year, I have enjoyed many excellent wines at really great prices and want to share the best wines at the best values with you.

I will start with my favorite, as it is the day and evening to open some sparkling wine! These are all the wines that come to my mind when I think back on the year and what I have ordered over and over. See the BOLD for best value in each category.


1) Sparkling Wine:

a) Top Cava: Raventos i Blanc de Nit Rosé and regular Brut bottling, Llopart Rosé 2009*

b) Top US Sparkling Wine: J vineyards: Cuvée 20, J Vineyards XB, Roederer Estate, Scharfenberger, Roederer Estate Le Hermitage 2004

c) Top French Sparkling Wine (not from Champagne): Pollo Club, Charles de Feré 

d) Top Prosecco: Adami Prosecco Garbel 13 and Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Bosco di Gica, Mionetto

e) Top Champagne: Pierre Gimonnet Belles Annees (hard to find), Veuve Clicquot yellow label, Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut

f) Top Other: For those that love extremely sweet and syrupy – Banfi Rosa Regale or Barefoot Sparkling Pinot Grigio

2) Chardonnay: 

a) Novellum (french) 2012/2013

b) Foxglove 2012

c)  Kendal Jackson 2012

 3) Shiraz:

a) MollyDooker the Boxer 2012

b) Schild Estate

4) Cabernet:

a) H3 (Horse Haven Hills) 2012 

b) Hall

c) Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon

5) Pinot Noir/Burgundy:

a) Meiomi 2012 and 2013

b) Leyda Classic and Leyda Las Brisas (single vineyard bottling)

b) Walt

6) Sauvignon Blanc:

a)  J Vineyards Russian River Valley

b)  Hall Triple T Bar T Ranch 2013

7) Zinfindel:

a) Bogle Phantom (blend of 4 varietals)

8) Italian reds:

a) Falesco Vitiano Rosso (blend) 2010

b) Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2011

 9) Italian Whites:

a) Bastianich Adriatico Pinot Grigio 2011

b)Santa Margarita Pinto Grigio 2012

10) Top Malbec

a) Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva 2011

b) Bodega Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2012

11) Rose:

a) Charles and Charles

b) J Vineyards

c) Miraval 2013

My top pick for wine of the year – that provides the best value based on price vs. quality, is a TIE!

The Horse Haven Hills 21012 Cabernet from Washington State at $12 USD is an amazing wine that has tones of complexity and yet affordable to have every day.

The Leyda Single Vineyard Las Brisas from Chile (at $14.99 USD) is an outstanding value and taste like they are double the price.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year. I am grateful for your support and humbled by your following me here on talesfromthetrellis.com.

Peace, love and health to you all.


Steve from the trellis

My top and best value wines for Thanksgiving 2014

27 11 2014

Many people come up to me and ask about pairing wines on Thanksgiving – and I like to keep it simple. As always, drink what you love, but if you really want to know what goes best – try out a few things to see. I happen to believe sparkling wine (my favorite) goes best with anything ;). But, many love Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel (red).

It really depends on what your sides and main course is – as there are some dishes that will make your wine taste sour or acidic – like asparagus. Some sides are sugary sweet like a sugary topped sweet potato or candied carrots, which will also affect your taste buds when paired with the wrong wine.

Try and see what happens with the below. My best bets for a great value 2014 are:

A) Chardonnay: A perennial favorite with turkey.

  1. Novellum (France). This is a very good quality French wine with deep flavor and less butter (oaky wood). It is light in style and very crisp (acidity). This will pair nicely with many of the dishes. $11-15 USA
  2. Kendal Jackson Reserve (California). This has all the butter you want, and more. It is very rich and coats your tongue. May be too much oak/wood for some of your sides, but will be great with the turkey and potatoes. $12-15 USA.

B) Pinot Noir. My choice for great Thanksgiving pairings. Try to stay with a light style per the below.

  1. Vina Leyda Las Brisas Single Vineyard (Chile) is my current favorite value priced Pinot Noir. Dark cherries, some mineral and herb and a long finish. Really excellent value and highly recommended. About $16 USA. I must get a case of this asap! A lot of complexity for the money.
  2. A to Z (Oregon) makes a consistently good value pinot noir. Light and earthy in style and has hints of raspberry and dark cherries, clove and lavender with some smooth oak/vanilla. About $20 USA. Also make a quality Chardonnay if you can’t find the above. Elegant.

C) Zinfandel

  1. Bogle, the Phantom. This comes in and sells out very quickly. Deep red with a great blend of 4 varietals (Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre) make this delicious. Also, aged in oak and will give you a smooth, mouth coating of deep berry with milk chocolate and vanilla and a hint of herb. About $17 to 22 USA.

And yes (as always) for value priced sparkling wine, I recommend the Raventos i Blanc – De Nit in rose or the Brut Cava (Spain). $14 to 24 USA. This is what I will be drinking on Thanksgiving. Both smooth and creamy, and stand up/pair well with so many things. If you can’t find this, I recommend the Charles de Fere or the Veuve de Vernay (France).

Cheers and enjoy – try new things and see what you like.

As always, be safe and be happy!

Steve from the Trellis

Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukah!

28 11 2013
Thanksgiving 2013 Bubbbles

Thanksgiving 2013 Bubbbles

The Thanksgiving holiday is a double treat for many this year – with Hanukah coming out on the very same day (ok night before) and won’t happen again until 2070.

This is my favorite holiday of the year and a really good time to enjoy 3 of my favorite pairings – Turkey and Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (and) or Sparkling wine.

My favorite value priced Pinot Noir this year are the 2011 Meiomi Pinot Noir from Belle Glos ($20-24 USD). http://www.meiomiwines.com
For the price, you are getting complexity and really long, silky finish. Not heavy but more of a medium weight wine. Nice berry (raspberry), vanilla and cola flavors. Another winner!

For value priced Chardonnay, I go with Novellum (France) – really amazing food friendly wine with crisp flavor or peach and mineral, full flavor but not heavy – and at around $12 a bottle, buy a case and enjoy! If you can’t find it or want to spend a bit more, the Cambria Chardonnay is around $20 USD and has great flavor of mango, is crisp and nice with turkey!

Of course sparkling can go with (and cut) the rich and sweet/fatty sides –
always nice to have my perennial favorite value priced sparker, Charles De Fere Cuvee Jean Louis Blanc De Blancs Brut (France) for about $11 USD. Flavors of tart apple, honey and, spice.

Go a step above and try the Louis Roederer Estate Brut (California) for around $20- crisp and dry with really deep flavor of toasty almond, apple, vanilla and spice. Can’t miss bringing and pouring bubbles at Thanksgiving!

Have a happy and healthy holiday(s),
Love and Health – Steve from the trellis

TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 2 – Best New Year’s Eve Bargain Sparkling Wine & Champagne Values

29 12 2012
TFTT 2012 Top 3 Sparkling Values

Tales From the Trellis 2012 Top 3 Sparkling Wine Values

I am looking outside of my window and it is snowing once again! We are only 2 days from New Year’s Eve and that means Champagne or sparkling wine! If you read this blog you already know that I feel that every day is a good day for sparkling wine – since it pairs with almost everything, or if you want – nothing at all as an apéritif. Since sparkling is my favorite of all, I drink a lot of it all year-long (but yes, especially during the holidays and definitely on New Year’s Eve) and feel I have some experience to talk about what I feel are the best values for your money. I love champagne, but you really can’t get any real Champagne (sparkling wine specifically from the Champagne region of France) for under $25- so we look for cheap champagne alternates, and luckily – there are many from all over the world!

In my last post I talked about my top 3 Rosé best value Sparkling wines. This post is about non Rosé – which are typically less at the register. Today, after tasting many different sparkling wines and comparing notes – I am sharing “the best of the best” in terms of value, price and quality. These are my “go to” house wines and are such great values that you should try them and stock up to have on hand for your parties, events and gifts. They are less than $16 USD but some are around $11 USD when you find a sale or online coupon or buy in quantity (case discounts typically will get you 10, 15 or 20% off – check with your retailer).

Also, purely by coincidence, these three are the brothers of the Rosé sparkling wines I reviewed in my last post – which clearly also makes these producers extremely reliable and conscious of us, the consumer – by making high quality wines at great prices.

Charles De Fere Chardonnay Tradition

Charles De Fére Chardonnay Tradition

Top Value A) Price Range: Under $11-15 USD: Charles de Fére “Chardonnay Tradition” Blanc de Blanc

I have always been a huge fan of Charles De Fére. They make the best value priced, high quality sparkling wine in France – period. Their Blue label “Jean Louis” cuvée has always been my favorite in their lineup but that is only because I have never been able to find their  black Label “Chardonnay Tradition ” in any stores, anywhere. It is also extremely difficult to find online. I found it. Click here.

After a deep search, I was able to – with online discounts,  get this for about $11 USD a bottle. It medium straw in color with medium size bubbles, aggressively streaming up from the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has apple, honey, white peach and a bit of mineral (stone). The mouthfeel (viscosity) is full-bodied, creamy and a bit like cream soda (similar to the Chandon etoile I reviewed in the last post below (and that is a good thing)! In the mouth it is tart apple, vanilla, and butter cookie – all smooth sailing to the finish, which is just acidic enough to keep you coming back. This is made from Chardonnay grapes – and only Chardonnay, so it is a blanc de blanc (white from white) and shows all the finesse of a quality one – at a bargain price. I can not believe that this is under $15 USD and at the price I bought it, I wish I would have bought more (cases)!  I have deemed this wine my Top Sparkling value of 2012. Click to link to their (Boisset Family Estates) website.

Raventos i Blanc Reserva 2009

Raventos i Blanc Reserva 2009

Top Value B) Price Range: $14-18 USD: Raventos  i Blanc Reserva 2009

Here is a cava from Spain (Catalonia – Penedès) that is of extremely high quality and at a low price. I have enjoyed many bottles of this after discovering it for $14 in-store. Note: This is extremely dry, bone dry – which I love but some will not. It has a dark straw color, with small bubbles streaming up from a single line at the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has more mineral than fruit, stone and melon overall. The mouthfeel has a medium weight. This cava is crisp and bone dry and with deep, rich, complex flavors of more tart fruit like grapefruit and lime with high acidity and minerality. This cava is not typical (as is their rosé) in terms of the overall carbonation (high) which makes it feel more like a French sparkler and not a Spanish one.

This has a crisp, tangy, long finish.Yes, this is sparkling has a very different taste as the spanish grapes they use are probably something you are not used to (60% Macabeo, 20% Parellada and 20% Xarello). It is a perfect food wine, while the Charles De Fére Tradition is more for apéritif. This can cut through fat easily (nice with fried foods) as well as sushi/sashimi or fatty meats like prosciutto, salami, etc. I have awarded this my Top Sparkling Wine value for $13-$18 of 2012. Click to link to their website.

Chandon Blanc de Noir

Chandon Blanc de Noir

Top Value C) Price Range: $15-18 USD: Domaine Chandon “Blanc de Noir”

Here is an extremely versitle sparkling wine from California. This complex wine from Domain Chandon provides a different experience than the two listed above. This wine is a “Blanc de Noir”, which means literally – “white from black”. The winemaker used red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) to produce what is a white sparkling wine (hint of pink). Remember, all juice is white, it is when they are put with the skins of red grapes that a red or pink color is imparted. This wine is served at white house receptions since 2008 and is always a highly rated value wine.

It has a deep honey, rose color with medium bubbles exploding up in a single line from the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has strawberry, dark berry and spice . The mouthfeel has a medium weight, creamy, rich and complex (the use of the red grapes helps this). This has flavors of dusty berry, casis, a hint of gingerbread and cookie dough. When left to breathe- it has some dark plum flavor. This is crisp and rich, with nice acidity throughout and a great food partner. This is  my Top Sparkling value for $15-$18 of 2012. Click to link to their website.

Above I have listed my top 3 value priced sparkling wines of 2012. Each is low-priced, high value, but very different in taste and region. The Charles de Fére is a creamy, easy to drink sparkling wine made from Chardonnay. The Raventos i Blanc Reserva is a cava made from 3 interesting grapes from spain and is very dry and complex. The Chandon Blanc de Noir is made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (and no Chardonnay) but deep, rich and smooth. I can’t pick one over the other, so they all win – and we all win because they bring such great value!

If you can’t find the Charles de Fere Chardonnay Tradition, try their other offering and you won’t go wrong.


Middle to Higher End (in price) but still a value

If you want to find a really excellent, higher-end sparkling wine for a special gift, New Year’s Eve, or Valentines day – try the J Cuvee 20 sparkling wine from California ($24). A step up from that in quality and price – try the Gosset Excellence for around $32 USD (best with food). One level up go with Veuve Clicquot Champagne, yellow label for around $42-46 USD. If you want to splurge, they Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (2004 or 1998) is about $120-150 USD and I feel is equal to the Dom Perignon (2003) $140-170 USD. Of course, there is always Louis Roederer Cristal (2002, 2004 and 2005) for $200 USD and up…but those are really young and I would wait till time made them better (and go for the Clicquot in the interim). 

Click here to view my previous post on my top 3 sparkling Rosé bargains that are value-driven and great for New Year’s Eve too!

Thank you all for coming to my blog and hopefully getting something from it. Be safe this holiday season and always.

All the best from Tales from the Trellis!


Steve from the Trellis

TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 1 – Best Bargain Sparkling Rosé Bubbly & Champagne Values

27 12 2012
TFTT Top 3 Rosé Bubbly of 2012

TFTT Top 3 Rosé Bubbly of 2012

Happy holidays to all TFTT readers! Here we are, celebrating as the year comes to a close and as we are about to welcome in 2013 I want to share what I feel are “the best of the best” in terms of value, price and quality. I will be putting up the parts of this piece each day as New Year’s Eve approaches – but want to start with my favorite, sparkling wine (yes, perfect for New Year’s Eve and anytime).

There are so many great choices of sparkling wine available and some really excellent values within reach (price and actual availability in your local wine shop). I have explained the various types of sparkling wines made all over the world right here in this blog in the past 2 years since we started writing about wine – but will give you what I feel are the top 3 I have tried and come back to many times this year – and explain why. My top 3 come from 3 different regions of the world, France, Spain and the USA and are in 3 price ranges.

TFFT_Rosé Value 1_ Charles de Fere

Charles de Fere Rosé

Top Value A) Price Range: Under $12 USD: Charles de Fere Reserve Rosé

I have chosen Charles de Fere in the past and written about this Rosé. The thing is, it is still such a great value ($12 USD) that I have come back to it as my house sparkling rosé. It has a beautiful festive deep pink color with small to medium size bubbles streaming up from various spots of the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has strawberry/raspberry as well as melon. The mouthfeel (viscosity) is thin (i.e. think water, skim milk, milk and heavy cream to describe mouthfeel). This year, it feels a bit off dry (meaning not bone dry and with a bit more residual sugar than in the past). Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover (or color) – meaning the pink does not mean it is sweet (unless it is White Zinfandel, then you know it will be). Great strawberry and watermelon flavour with a simple quick finish that has a touch of mineral. Though this is from France, it is made outside of the Champagne region, so it is not allowed to be called Champagne. This is good for us value driven wine drinkers because that means prices are lower but quality is still quite good – and Charles de Fere is a great example of this. For this price range ($12 USD and under), I have deemed this wine my Top Sparkling Rosé value of 2012. Click to link to their (Boisset Family Estates) website.

Raventos i Blanc de Nit

Raventos I Blanc de Nit

Top Value B) Price Range: $13-24 USD: Raventos  i Blanc de Nit

Here is a cava from Spain (Catalonia – Penedès) that I am extremely impressed with. This Rosé is something I purchased in early summer and found myself going back to the store for it (yes I finally bought enough to have on hand). A few months ago, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, rated it 93 points. I completely agree and at $18 to 22 USD, it is an incredible value – perhaps the value of the year! It has a very pale pink color with small bubbles streaming up from a single line at the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has more mineral than fruit, with a bit of a rose/floral scent. The mouthfeel has a medium weight. This cava is bone dry and has flavors of strawberry and grapefruit with a lot of interesting acidity via mineral to balance it all out. It taste more like a higher-end French Champagne than a Spanish cava and this is highly sparkling – which I love – plus it is organic. I have awarded this my Top Sparkling Rosé value for $13-$24 of 2012. Click to link to their website.


Chandon Etoile Rosé

Top Value C) Price Range: $25-40 USD: Domaine Chandon étoile Rosé

Sometimes you just want to splurge for an event, dinner party, or special occasion. This delicious rosé from Domain Chandon is a bit pricier than the others listed above, but with that comes an entirely different experience – and a value driven one. It is a beautiful bottle, with the name “etoile” (it means star in French) in gold screened right on to the bottle and has a beautiful shape as well (very French, upscale body).  Wine Enthusiast rated it 92 points (as shown on the bottle) and even at $35 USD, it is a value in this mid-priced category! It has a deep, rosé color with tiny bubbles streaming up from a single line at the bottom of the flute. On the nose, it has dark berry and watermelon . The mouthfeel has a medium weight, but here is really where this wine really shines – it is creamy and smooth, like cream soda. This California sparkling wine is dry, but still fruit forward and has flavors of raspberry, baked apple, strawberry, spice and even (when left to breathe) has a tart-like cranberry/vanilla/ginger flavor. I have never tasted anything like this and is many  levels of sophistication up from the Raventos described above. Though harder to find than many, it is worth seeking. This is awarded my Top Sparkling Rosé value for $24-$40 of 2012. Click to link to their website.

If you want to find a really excellent, higher-end sparkling rosé for a special gift, New Year’s Eve, or Valentines day – try the Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne. Laurent-Perrier is located in Champagne in village of Tours-sur-Marne. This sophisticated champagne is salmon in color, has fine bubbles and a nose of berry, current and cherry. In the mouth I taste raspberry, dark berry and plum – which makes sense as this champagne is 100% Pinot Noir. It is smooth with a long finish but has nice acidity and stands up well with food (try seafood, lamb or duck). The price range is from $80 to $125 (again, based on season – this time of year prices go up on sparkling wines). Click to link to their website.

My favourite wine is sparkling and my favorite sparkling is rosé – and above, you will find my best values for 4 different price ranges.

Part 2 of  “Tales From the Trellis Best of 2012” my top bargain, value-driven sparkling wines and Champagnes of 2012 is now live. Click here to see. 


Steve from the Trellis

3 bottle Rosé Tasting & Reviews – with friends at a 4th of July Backyard Blast! Inexpensive Rose Wine Recommendations.

4 07 2012

For the past few years, we share the 4th of July celebration at our good friends (and excellent hosts) Dan and Tara. Great food, great friends and a large sampling of wine and beer mixed with the perfect weather and made for a memorable, fun day (and night)! Thank you again for everything!

This year, I brought a mix of  red, white, and … no, not blue – but Rosé. Summertime is really perfect for Rosé – since it typically light, pretty and no, not sweet – that would be a White Zinfandel (the Beringer’s Sparkling both Dawn and Neil enjoyed) but dry with nice acid to keep it lively.  Several friends wanted in so I poured a sample from 3 areas: France (where Rosé and summer in the south are a must), Washington State and Oregon.

As this was a casual outdoor affair, I only asked those that partook in the tasting to let me know which they preferred and why. I took a few notes so I can explain my rationale for my order (worst to first).

1) I decided to pour our French Rosé first, 2010 Chateau Laulerie, from Bergerac located in Southwestern France, just to the east of Bordeaux. It was the lightest in color (a pale salmon). It was a bit tight on the nose, giving a slight strawberry scent. It was easy drinking and simple, and nice acidity on the fast finish. There was a bitter aftertaste that both Rosario and I noticed, which I felt hurt my overall score and it’s ranking. Eileen really liked this one, and was her top choice, and Beth also enjoyed it. It runs around $10 locally.

2) Charles and Charles: Washington State – USA. 2009. This Rosé is something I picked up a few months ago and have sipped since.  It was a medium pink and had a really nice strawberry/watermelon nose. Sipping it, I tasted strawberry, raspberry and melon – again with nice acidity to keep it interesting. Again, this one was simple but delicious and a longer finish than the first Rosé. Ryan chose this as his #1. A few of us picked it as our 2nd choice, and it was a close running 2nd. This runs around $10 and can be found at A&P Liquors or Best Cellars. Not easy to find, but worth it.

3) A to Z Wineworks: Oregon – USA. 2010: Darker pink, almost sangria color – the deepest color of the three sampled. On the nose, dark fruit (blueberry or blackberry) as well as strawberry and raspberry. A lot going on before the first sip. Complex dark stone fruit and strawberry/raspberry flavors. Longer through the middle and a smooth sail to the finish. Really nice and rounded – still nice acidity at the end that makes you come back for more. Complex Rosé, very different that the other 2. I loved it. Rosario, Tara and I picked it as our top choice. It comes in at around $14, so it is most expensive of the 3.

So, after discussions about the tasting, I think the A to Z was the top choice, though at $14, the priciest and perhaps not the everyday sipper for the summer – but nice for weekends! I think the Charles and Charles is a great value and will be my house Rosé this year. Find it and try it – let me know what all of you think! I have 3 other Rosés that I will be tasting and writing about soon so check back!

Happy 4th! Santé!

Steve from the Trellis

Review of Value Priced Sparkling Rosé for Valentine’s Day: The under $20 – 3 bottle taste-off! A Chandon, a Banfi and a Bitch (oh my)!

13 02 2012

3 Rosé Sparklers for Valentine's Day

I was excited to do this 3 bottle tasting…it had all the makings of something special. 3 Bottles from 3 different producers, from 3 parts of the world. All have similar price points (between $15-20 USD, but very different styles.

1) Banfi Rosa Regale: Made from Brachetto grapes in Piedmont, Italy

Color: The darkest of the 3, with deep, dark purple – so deep you can barely see though it. It is ominous but pretty. Bubbles: Barely any. Upon closer inspection, they are there, but it is so dark, that you really need to shine a flashlight through the flute to see any! This is one the darkest sparkling wine I have ever seen! Nose: String. As soon as I popped the cork, I had an extremely good idea that this was heavy, sweet and concord grape-like. This also had some boysenberry characteristics on second smell. It was like inhaling candy. Taste: Jolly Rancher Grape meets Welch’s, so sweet and thick, you can pour it on pancakes. Not much effervescence, otherwise it may taste like grape soda. I think this one is for those that like wine coolers or perhaps Berninger Sparkling White Zin. I would not drink this with anything other than dessert, or perhaps a waffle (pour it on). I’m shocked this came from the House of Banfi.

2) Bitch Bubbly (welcome back): Was Australian now Spanish:

Color: A pretty medium red/pink hue. Bubbles: More than the Banfi but less than the Chandon. Active, but not as many. Nose: Tight, not giving much away, other than sweetened chemicals – like astringent household cleaner but with added sugar. Taste: Though I have tried this before, and liked it, this bottle was not the same. I checked the back of the label and SPAIN was noted on the top. I thought this was made from Grenache in the same place that Bitch was produced – Australia, but it is now made in Spain from different grapes. This is shocking and I am not enjoying this one at all. It has some skittles, candied flavor but quickly turns bitter and unpleasant. Fans of the Aussie stuff in the past, buyer beware and make sure you check the top/back of the bottle. If it says SPAIN, run.

3) Chandon Rosé: Mostly Pinot Noir – from California.

Color: Pale Salmon. Bubbles: Scattered and plentiful. No defined bead, just very active and scattered. Nose: Light strawberries, vanilla/cream soda, raspberry. Taste. Nice creamy mouthfeel, but light flavors of vanilla and strawberry-apple fade quickly. Some acidity on the finish, but gets bitter and harsh. Still, better than that Bitch!

3 Flutes of Pink

Winner? Nobody wins in this group. I am completely disappointed. I’ve  had 2 of these 3 bottles in the past, and they have been good, but not these new versions. Could it be bottle variation (where I actually bought a “bad bottle”) – sure…but 2 of the 3? The Banfi was so over the top sweet, it was like drinking liquid jolly rancher – think barely sparkling Manischewitz (kosher fortified wine).

So – disgusted, I went ahead and finished the last of the Gosset Excellence Brut I opened the other day. That…though double the price of these Rosés – was 500 times better in quality and taste – even unsealed more than 24 hours later. Update, even after an hour or so – warm and less bubbly, it still had a great taste and is truly an excellent french champagne for the money (right now $29.99 in NJ ShopRite Liquors).

I really wish I could tell you that any of these are a great value for the price…but I can’t. If I were forced to recommend one of these 3 rosé sparkling wines…I would have to go with the Chandon. It is dry, somewhat smooth and creamy, and not awful. But, I am unhappy with this for the price.

Go for the Scharffenberger Brut I mentioned last post, or if you must have pink (if you can find it) look for the Charles De Fere Rosé ($10 USD from WineLibrary.com). A true value. Alternately, check my earlier posts on Prosecco and Sparkling wines for Valentines’s Day. Riondo Prosecco is delicious and a bargain. As is the Charles de Fere Reserve. Both around $10 USD, though not pink!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Always 😉 Steve from the Trellis

Value Valentines Day Rosé Sparking Wine Reviews: Coming Soon!

12 02 2012

I am about to sample some popular and widely available Rosé bubbles for Valentine’s Day. Check back in the next days! By the way, I also have sampled what I now considered the best value sparking wine from California I have ever tried. It is Scharffenberger Brut and I am blown away. It has toppled my current value favorite, Roederer Estate (around $20 USD). See http://www.scharffenbergercellars.com and I will be preparing notes for you all. But it is so much more complex, deep, full of dark flavor than any Cali Sparkler I have ever had. It is bold enough to go with dinner (light like roast chicken, fish). Complex, deep yet light on its feet. A must have at around $16.00 USD. Please try and let me know your thoughts. This is a must try. By the way, it remind me of Veuve Clicquot vintage champagne 1998 vintage in its complexity and depth – yet without the heaviness. It also beats, in my estimation, the Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne from Ay, France – for about half the price. People, trust me on this and look for it.

Steve from the Trellis


2011 Top Value Priced Wines Under $15 USD and Best Sparkling Wines for New Years Eve

31 12 2011

The countdown has begun as we await the annual dropping of the ball here in the US. Many are scurrying around at the last-minute to find the best wine for our hard-earned money and wondering the aisles in search of the perfect wine for tonight – many are looking for something sparkling that won’t break the bank.

This year I am going to combine my “Best of the Year” value-priced wine list with my “Best Sparkling” choices because there are a few sparking wines within my top 10. What criteria did I use for this list? To keep it simple, the wines had to be around or under $15 USD and not only have the best value/price ratio, but also be good enough to have me either reaching for it again, or buying a large quantity as my house wine of the month or for large parties. Some of these selections are highly-rated by professional wine critics while others are not. I am not a slave to the scores from others and march to the beat of my own palette (as should you). Rating wine is clearly based own our own preferences for style, cost and overall enjoyment so some of you may purchase some of these on my list and not feel they are worthy.  What I am trying to do is find some wines that are inexpensive yet taste like you would be paying much more based on not only their taste but quality for price paid.

I am breaking it down in category to help you search for varietals you prefer and will give a final overall list at the bottom of this article.

Best Value Priced Sparkling Wine of 2011:

    • 1: Charles de Fere Reserve Blanc de Blanc Brut Though made from grapes sources outside of Champagne, this Blanc de Blanc (meaning white from white grapes) continues to be the best value prices sparking wine in my list year after year. It is extremely easy drinking (love this alone or with light appetizers) and a perfect sparking wine for drinking throughout your New Year’s Eve celebration. Great dough on the nose and toasty apple and ripe stone fruit on the tongue – extremely light on its feet yet off-dry, this wine has incredible finesse (fine bubbles too) and structure for the price, especially from France and so close to Champagne. I purchased a case of this for the holidays and did not break the bank at under $10 USD. Grab some!ee
    • 2: Riondo Prosecco – Best in class true Italian Prosecco for the price. Amazing tropical fruits, mango, apricot, peach with a great apple/ floral nose and extremely “pure/clean” tasting. A bit more off dry than the above, and a real crowd pleaser. This has been highly rated in the past and always what I reach for in a Prosecco. Light in style so it will keep your mouth refreshed without weighing you down all night. Great aperitif.
    • 3: Bitch Bubbly: This one is sweeter than the other 2 above, and is made from Chardonnay, Shiraz and Grenache from the Riverland, Barossa and McLaren Vale districts of Australia. Created by Chris Ringland – the winemaker that also created Bitch Grenache and 3 Rings Shiraz (I like those as well). This made the list to represent a good buy on a rosé sparkling wine.  Nose of strawberries, cranberries and dark berries, and taste of the same, with a bit of a creamy yet medicinal finish – though fairly long and interesting. Women do like it more than men, perhaps based on color and the candy-like aspects of this sparkling blush. It is not for everyone, but represents a good value at around $10 USD. Hurry, R Wines produced this wine and is now bankrupt! Click here for my previous sparkling wine reviews and previous New Years Eve Prosecco reviews.

Best Value Priced Chardonnay of 2011:

    • 1: 4 Vines “Naked” Chardonnay – This Naked (meaning no oak) Chardonnay from Santa Barbara, California is amazing for the price (around $11 USD or under).  This remains my house white wine until someone can knock it off its pedestal. Has amazing acidity (crisp not flabby) and great with raw seafood or just sipping. Toast and apple and pear on the nose. Peach, pear and apple with some acidic lemon/citrus on the tongue. Simple but clean and fresh. 4 Vines also make an amazing Zinfandel “The Biker”, which is around $25 USD and highly recommend that as well.
    • 2: Cupcake Vineyard Chardonnay Yes, I know, I know. I will be getting some flame for this from some more “serious” wine drinkers, but I have to say that if you want a heavy, buttery, and extremely over-oaked chardonnay – this is the best one for your money. This Central Coast, California Chardonnay is a steal at under $10 USD and at times, $7.99 at the A&P liquors in the tri-state area. In fact, Cupcake has really been the best value priced producer overall in the past few years. They source grapes from their proper designations to make their global wines. I also recommend the Sauvignon Blanc.
    • 3: Wily Jack Chardonnay:  I reviewed this wine earlier in the year, click here for the full review. For $5 USD, this HAD to make this list.

Best Value Priced Cabernet or Cabernet Blend of 2011:

    • 1: 2009 Columbia Crest, 3H (Horse Haven Hills) Les Chevaux Red –  After trying this new wine from what I consider the very best value priced (as well as higher end) producer in the country, I wanted to run out to get a case! This blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (which all but the Syrah would be in the typical French Bordeaux blend) aged 18 months in oak (French and American) make this a smooth and silky red to enjoy. Dark fruit and vanilla on the nose with deep rich body and flavor – dark plum, dark berry and vanilla/dark chocolate on the tongue with a smooth, long silky finish. Blockbuster deal at around $11.
    • 2: 2009 Falesco Vitiano Umbria IGT – This Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet blend is a perennial favorite of mine and seems to always receive high marks. It comes from Umbria and is a rich, smooth (though still sometimes a bit rustic) with dark fruit, Cassis, and a touch of cherry and spice. Great everyday with pizza, red sauce dishes, etc. Consistent.
    • 3: Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – Yes, again! The Two Vines line is a fantastic deal. Medium body, blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, oaky. Smooth and simple, but quality for the price of under $8 USD. Also recommend the other Columbia Crest wines : H3 Cabernet, Merlot, Indian Hills Cabernet and Merlot, as well as their higher end Reserve line (over $24 USD).

Best Value Priced Pinot Noir of 2011:

    • 1: 2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir Every year there is one wine that just blows me away for the price. Though each wine on this list is something I feel strongly about and buy/drink/recommend, this one is what I talk mostly about when people ask me what to buy. Blackberry, cherry, fruity and earthy all at once, vanilla tones, rich but light on its feet. I can not say enough about this wine. It has sold out almost everywhere when it was under $13 USD, and extremely hard to find at even $16. It taste like double that if not more. If you find it, buy it all (before I do). It was rated 94 points by Wine Enthusiast – so of course people went running and wiped out supply!
    • 2: 2009 Leyda Pinot Noir Reserve – This selection from  the Leyda Valley in Chile has a lot of flavor and style for the price ($10 USD). Great nose of dark fruit and strawberry with tons of dark fruit and strawberry/cherry, with earthiness and herbs make this an interesting choice. Smooth but not flabby – nice acidity. Try it and let me know what you think.
    • 3: 2010 Matua Valley Pinot Noir – While making quality priced Sauvignon Blanc, they also have an incredible value in this Pinot Noir. Soft and smooth, with great cherry and plum, pepper and spice, berry and oakiness. I love this with pork dumplings and of course lamb. Light bodied but structured and balanced.

More varietals to come, but quickly want to mention runners-up:

    • 1. Chandon Brut Sparkling wine (as well as the rosé) at $14.99
    • 2. Gloria Ferrer Sparkling (around or a bit over $15)
    • 3. Three Wishes Wine Merlot (does taste more like Pinot Noir and HAVE to mention the price is $2.50 at Whole Foods Market. Beats 2 Buck Chuck.
    • 4. H3, Horse Haven Hills entire line! Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay – you will not go wrong. Always excellent and around $12 USD
    • 5. Evolution by Sokol Blosser – an excellent white blend with tropical fruit, herbs and extremely smooth. A cheaper alternative to Caymus Conundrum (thanks Wolfie)
    • 6. Santa Emma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – A real bargain from Chile. Great dark fruit and smooth, but has a long finish and though it is under $11 USD, it tastes much more complex! They make quality wine year after year. The merlot is also a fantastic bargain.

My Selection for the 2011 Tales From the Trellis Best Value Priced Wine of the Year is:

2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir. The value in this wine is really unbeatable, this year!

Have a Happy and healthy holiday and wishing you all the best for the new year. Cheers!

Steve from the Trellis

TFTT 2011 Top 10 wines Under $15 USD – watch this space

26 12 2011
Snow day means Red Day!

Winter © Tales from the Trellis, 2010

As 2011 is coming to a close, I am reflecting back on all the great (and not so great) wines I have sipped this year. In the next few days I will be revealing my personal choices for “Best Under $15” as well as some to avoid. Hope you all had great holidays and continue to be safe throughout this year and always.

Watch this space.