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 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

2011 Summer Rosé Recommendations – a quick short list of highly available summer sippers

3 07 2011

Since July 4th is upon us here in the states, I always want to make sure I have a supply of value priced Rosé on hand. Many that see the color immediately think of that “other” blush wine that is sweet like candy. I refuse to slam White Zin, as it actually works to bring people into the wine fold from other alcohol based choices. My wish is that those White Zin sippers move on to try other things beyond that door. But enough about White Zin.

For US-based Rosé, a value priced  standby is always the Bontera (had some last night) and The Bony Doon Vin Gris de Cigare. Muga from spain is usually fantastic and highly rated as well. But…if you can find it, the Domaine Le Galantin Bandol Rose 2010 is a classic Provençal rose. All under $20 and most of these under $15!

Look for my Sparkling Rosé recommendations soon.

Let the sun shine and keep pouring me Rosé. Guys, don’t be afraid of the pink…trust me, it’s summer in a glass.

Please drink responsibly during the holiday and always. Be safe. Enjoy.

Steve From the Trellis

©2011, TalesfromtheTrellis


Eating Local in Mt. Olive, NJ: Gabby’s II – the Review

10 03 2011

We heard about Gabby’s II  in Hackettstown from good friends Tara and Dan,  and I am pleased to welcome this new Italian restaurant to the area. Sure, we are flooded with so many pizza “joints” you can throw a rock and hit one in any direction on RT 46, mountain Ave, or RT 57 – but you won’t find this care of ingredients, preparation and quality of food in any of the rest.

Hector & Josh, Owners of Gabby's II

Gabby’s II resides were Carlena’s was – 190 Mountain Ave. in Hackettstown (to the right of the IHOP). It opened in December, 2010 and the owners are warm and gracious hosts Tricia and Hector Salazar (locals from Mount Olive) and partner Josh Harris (of Flemington). They come with a wealth of experience – this is their second restaurant (Gabby’s I is in Flemington, NJ).

By the way, Gabby is the name of Hector and Tricia’s little girl, which makes sense as this does feel like a family place.

We came in and sat at a one of the available tables early on a Tuesday night. A few people were already sitting and it was just after 5 p.m. We were given menus (nice selection) quickly and decided to order a few things to share – so we can see how they prepare some of our favorite Italian-American dishes (no Osso Bucco tonight).  We decided on Chicken Francaise, Eggplant Parmesan hero, and Penne in Vodka Sauce. Dinners come with the usual salad and pasta choices.

Gabby's II Dining Room

Tricia took our orders and returned quickly with bread and soon followed up with the salads. Nice crisp fresh greens, onion, tomato and olives, with a good balsamic dressing (not to heavy).

We were given both garlic and regular bread in a basket and I had a good feeling after taking a bite. Hot, crunchy, amazing. No bits of raw or overcooked garlic or over oiled. The bread itself is actually seeded French bread (as Hector explained) to give it the right texture. This was not the soft spongy bread that are the norm in these parts, it was crunchy outside with a great bite and taste, and just enough garlic and butter.

The food came out and the Eggplant Parmesan hero had the perfect combination of eggplant, tasty sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and of course – served on that excellent bread.

The Shrimp Parmesan dinner was equally good – with large shrimp breaded perfectly and topped with that delicious Marinara sauce and fresh cheese. Generous portions!

The Penne was cooked perfectly al denté and the vodka sauce was rich and thick – extremely creamy! Plenty to share all around.

The Chicken Francaise was the best dish so far, with a perfect blend of lemon, butter and lightly breaded, fork-tender, thin chicken. The ziti that accompanied it was also cooked perfectly al denté and served alongside (perfect in the lemon sauce too). This is my favorite dish and something I learned to cook from a chef many years ago and has become my “signature dish”. This was even better than my own – I love this dish.

We were too full order dessert, but they have a nice selection! The pizzas looked great too and we will certainly be back to try those!

Hector came around to the table and introduced himself, and asked how everything was. We  explained were really here to try his food and see if we liked it (which we did) and see about catering for an upcoming party. He was very accommodating and sent us home with a sample of the Sausage, Onion and Peppers to try  since we were interested in having it on our menu for the party. It was cooked and seasoned perfectly –with tender sausage (sweet not hot). It was so delicious that I ate the peppers and onions as ravenously as the sausage!

Hector’s care about ingredients is evident, as he told me they do not buy that frozen pre-breaded stuff that typically helps cut corners (time, money but most of all, quality). You can taste care in everything they do.

It is a BYO so don’t forget to bring something to pair with your meal. I had a Cupcake Vinyards Sauvignon Blanc that had nice lemon, lime and grapefruit flavors and paired well with the Chicken dish. I have recommended it in earlier posts. For $8 on sale, it is a great value. I wish I had also brought the Falesco Vitiano from Umbria (under $10 and always an easy drinking Italian Red Blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Sangiovese) that would pair well with the red sauce dishes).

I welcome Gabby’s II with open arms. I know we all get set in our ways and remain loyal to our tried and true dinning establishments we frequent with family and friends. I too understand how easy it is to fall into that, but quality and taste are what we are after right? Everyone in the area should give Gabby’s II a try one night – instead of the usual Frank’s, Branda’s, Mamma’s or Pietro’s. I think you will taste the difference, I know I did. Their tagline is “Love at First Bite”, and they deliver on that promise.

Oh, and speaking of deliver – did I mention they will DELIVER! Hard to find a great Italian place that will drive your food to you around here anymore!

Gabby’s II: 908 850 1803 • 190 Mountain Ave., Hackettstown, NJ

Gabby’s in Flemington: 908 237 9990 • 203 Main Street, Historic Flemington, NJ

More information on their website and there is a coupon when you click “Specials”.

Buon Appetito!

Steve from the Trellis

©TalesFromTheTrellis, 2011

Note: My reviews are always uncompensated and honest – based upon my palette. Your taste/opinions may differ. I base my opinions not only on taste – but always a baseline of quality that is factual. I have no affiliation with any restaurants or wineries. Full disclosure: I am known to be extremely picky, critical and often brutally honest about food and wine, taste and preparation. I welcome any and all comments on this blog.

Value Wine Alert: Wily Jack Wine for $5 – The Review!

5 03 2011





As I hinted at the end of my last post about the Three Wishes wines for $2.50, I had recently purchased 2 bottles of Wily Jack (pronounced Why-lee) wine in a local Bottle King (a large retail chain in New Jersey) for a sale price of $5 each. The label captured my attention first, as it was a bold and well branded wine – with Michael Schwab illustrated label (his name was right on the bottom of the label, interesting).

Though this bottle was purchased on sale for $5, it typically sells for anywhere between $7 – $10. These wines are non vintage, like Three Wishes, meaning they can blend different years together. The grapes were sourced from vineyards all over California, so a blend of many areas as well. They offer a Chardonnay, Cabernet, and a Zinfandel (was not available at Bottle King at my time of purchase). They have been around since 2009, and owned by Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines. The brand is meant to be fun and approachable. These wines should be enjoyed now, not aged.

They had a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon, so I took both and walked away for less than the price of a typical everyday drinking bottle. I thought this would be a good – post as it was twice the price of the last Three Wishes bottles – but was it twice the value?

I decided to bring the two bottles, along with some others, to a gathering at friends Chris and Karen’s home last night. Great cheeses and Karen’s homemade desserts like cheesecake, apple crisp, brownies and mixed fruit salad. All delicious, thanks Karen!

Wily Jack Wines ©TalesFromtheTrellis, 2011

Wily Jack Wines ©TalesFromtheTrellis, 2011

The Chardonnay:

Nice notes of apple and pear on the nose. Medium body,  with great pineapple and tropical fruit taste. Then, surprisingly, the citrus (acidity) kicks in on the dry finish– which is fairly cleansing and refreshing. Worked especially well with the softer goat milk cheese, and would recommend brie with this as well.  I was really happy about this wine for the price. It was not just worth double the price of Three Wishes, but the quality was substantially better. Again, I like this at $9 but love it at $5! This may be my new house white wine!

The Cabernet:

This was the second bottle that I opened, after the Chard disappeared quickly! It had cherry and dark fruit with violet on the nose. Plum, cherry and vanilla (oak) on the tongue. Smooth sailing from the first sip through the mid-palette, then the finish goes a bit tannic, but in a god way. It had some guts to it and more power than I expected. After some time in the glass swirling, it calmed down a bit and really smoothed out the edges. I enjoyed this with the brownies! Yum! Was this really $5? This wine also seemed to be a success, and it looks like this was a winner.

I’m shocked that I haven’t seen this wine in stores, or even heard about it until now. The web site is simple but well-organized and designed. Have a look.

I am excited to recommend these wines to you, an excellent value with great quality for this low price. Please go try these and let me know what you think!


Steve from the Trellis

©TalesFromtheTrellis, 2011