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

New Year’s Sparkling Celebration Taste-Off Part 1: Prosecco!

31 12 2010

Anticipation of the Bubbles

As the close of the past year is upon us and promise of the new year is hours away, we toast to all that has come before and that lie ahead.

As I have mentioned in the Valentine’s Day post earlier this year, my favorite wine is sparkling, so this day is always special when it comes to my preferred choice(s). Many countries and wine regions produce various styles of sparkling wine (see the Valentines blog for more detail) from bone dry to downright cavity inducing sweetness, and everything in between!

Of course we all would love to be drinking Dom, Crystal or  my favorite higher end Champagne – Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, but for many of us, we need to find the best quality and taste for our hard-earned dollars. So spending between $8 and $15 USD is our sweet spot. No, we won’t be able to compare any of the 8 bottles in this 2 part blog with anything that resembles a classic and true French Champagne, but let’s find what is the best of the value priced sparkling wines. Also note, these are priced for everyday drinking – so if you do try and like some of these, make them your go to wine. Many of these will be great appertiefs and some will work with some fried foods or light cheeses. The more acidic the wine, the fattier the food to pair. I always love tuna or especially salmon with my sparklers. Potato pancakes, egg rolls, Tempura and other fried foods work well too – try KFC and french fries!

Prosecco on the Sill

3 Prosecco

I have broken the tasting up into two categories: Prosecco (from Italy) and Sparkling wine from the USA and France. I would have loved to include Spanish Cava, but will need to return to you with another global sparkling tasting report another time. The Prosecco tasting was done blind, meaning that I had no idea which of the 3 producers I was sampling – until the reveal at the end.

Prosecco is a lighter style of sparkling wine, from the Veneto region of Italy. There are also several South American countries that are producing Prosecco like Argentina and Brazil.

Prosecco is created using the Charmat method, where there is a secondary fermentation that takes occurs in stainless steel tanks. This is a less costly method than the French “Method Champenois” where the secondary fermentation occurs inside the bottle itself to create the carbonation.Less cost make for bargain alternatives!

One thing to note and understand, and this also holds true for most sparkling wines, is the level of sweetness/dryness.

“Brut” style has up to 15 g of residual sugar and is typically the most dry, though some producers have started to make zero percent dosage (added sugar after the secondary fermentation) sparklers that would be the driest of all, but those are not a large share of the market.

“Extra Dry” does not mean it is drier, it means it may be sweeter than the Brut with anywhere from 12–20 g.

“Dry” designation means it is actually the sweetest with 20–35 g. In France, there are other styles such as Cremant and Demi-Sec, which will have to be discussed on a post closer to Valentines Day.

Ok, enough about the nomenclature, let’s get into it!

Rionolo Prosecco, First Place

Rionolo Prosecco, First Place

My first place choice ended up being my favorite go to Prosecco from Riondo. It had nice random bubbles but was not as sparkling as the other 2. Color was very pale yellow with floral scents and flavors of apricot and lemon/citrus. The finish is nice and smooth, but with enough acidity to keep it interesting. It was clean and pure tasting. It sells in the Tri-State area for around $10 to $15.

CupCake Vineyards Prosecco

CupCake Vineyards Prosecco

My second place choice was CupCake Vineyard Prosecco. This brand has made a big splash making different varietals around the world sourcing grapes from the correct regions. In this case, they made this Prosecco from 100% Prosecco grapes from Veneto. I found that it was a bit more dark in color, more effervescent than the others, and resembled a california sparkling wine with its nose, body and crispness. There was a bit of a sharp chalk/minerality on the finish. I like this very much, though the other 2 seemed to be more in line with a typical Prosecco profile. This can work really well with fattier foods as the acidity will help cut that fat and refresh your mouth. For $7.99 on sale, it is a steal.

Mionetto Prosecco

Mionetto Brut Prosecco

Third place went to Mionetto, though I would consider it a tie for second. Similar in profile to Rionolo, but with apple and lemon/lime aromas and flavors. The finish is faster than the other 2, but it is smooth and easy drinking. This is a nice light style sparkler that many will love. Priced at around $9.99 – $12.99.

In conclusion, any of these 3 are great value priced Sparkling Wines and you won’t go wrong here.

Look for part 2 of the Sparkling Wines for New Years coming soon!

We tasted 5 more Sparkling bottles including Woodbridge by Mondavi from California, Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington, Charles de Fére from France, Barefoot Cuvée from California, and Yellow Tail Bubbles from Australia.

Best and Happy New Year! Thank you all for reading and following Tales From the Trellis.

Steve from the Trellis

©TalesFromtheTrellis.com, 2010

You’ll always be my Valentine, but these bubbles are for anytime

12 02 2010
Valentine's Toast

Valentine's Toast © Tales From the Trellis, 2010

Where do I even begin. I love sparkling wine. It is my favorite. Bar none. Sparkling wine can be Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, Sekt and of course the grandaddy of them all…Champagne. Since I had no real frame of reference for sparkling wine (my father was not a big fan) my love affair with it began later in my wine drinking lifetime. I would say it was around winter of 1990, I had that big OMG moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

My family and I were at our friend Tony’s home for Christmas Eve dinner. Tony was a real aficionado when it came to bubbles. He was a collector and avid drinker of many types and styles. At the time, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge was my comfort zone– until this magical night. Tony was kind enough to open up a few bottles of what I recall was Domaine Carneros (Taittinger via Napa Valley). We all seemed to enjoy it and we started to polish off his remaining case quickly. Tony came back out with another offering, I think this time we were hitting his reserve of Mumm’s René Lalou (vintage 1986?) – in a fantastic bottle with an unforgettable shape. I believe we moved into Dom Perignon after that – but it all got a bit fuzzy and don’t think I made it through dinner. But again, I digress.

All bubbly wine is sparking but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Many of you already know this, but only sparkling wine that comes from area in France called Champagne – can legally be called Champagne (they are very strict about enforcing this and have gone after people who have broken this rule). In recent years, there were some changes made to expand the area so that more of the wine could be deemed Champagne. Great for the growers and wine makers there! Of course in France, where it seems they carve rules (and tradition) in stone, this brought controversy.

Champagne is really special, but it is not the only option for sparkling wines (just tends to be the most expensive). Other regions within France, and other parts of the world, make really impressive wine at great everyday (ok- at least once a week) prices. Spain makes Cava, Italy has Prosecco, France makes Crémant  in other regions and in the same style (and principle grapes) as Champagne, California makes quality sparklers, as does Oregon. And yes, you can actually find a quality value sparkling wine in New Mexico from a producer named  Gruet, (it’s true, and good). So many regions are making sparkling wine (too many to get to in this post).

Let’s get to the wine! As I said earlier, I love to drink sparkling wine all the time. Summertime with a nice flute, the best! I love it with everything and it is one of the most food friendly wines of all. Many people only seem to buy sparkling wine on Valentines Day and New Years Eve. There is a misconception that it is pricy and only for special occasions. I am of the belief that every day we are alive is a special day. I am also of the belief that good everyday drinking sparkling wine is in reach for everyone.

Ok, so what if I told you that you can find decent everyday “house” champagne for the price you would pay for that bottle you just bought last night. Yes you can. Below are a few of my personal favorite “value priced” sparklers under $17 USD that bring a lot to the table in terms of quality/price ratio. Real values and well made. Can not go wrong here. Great as an apéritif, and I will have a piece on other heavier styles in the future that can be paired with main courses.

Llopart Rose Brut Riserva Cava (Spain). It’s is dark, a very dark rose that looks like it will be sweet, but people let me tell you that it is dry as a bone and amazing! It is creamier and more effervescent than most cava I have experienced. I tasted strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and a bit of minerality. Very floral nose. This newer edition seems a bit stronger overall in terms of body and flavors than the previous. In NYC, you can find it by the glass (where I found and fell in love with it) at Tom Colicchio’s CraftBar. Try it with the sausage stuffed grape leaves- heaven!

Veuve de Vernay (France) is a “blanc de blanc” which means it is pure chardonnay (as opposed to a typical french blend that includes Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier). This one is very dry, with nice fruit and a good finish. For the price ($8-12 USD)  you can also buy in large quantities for  a party or other celebrations – without breaking the bank. We enjoyed this at hour holiday party at work.

Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut (France). I feel this one is a step above the Vernay in terms of sophistication. Lighter in style with pear notes, apple and  toast. Hints of peach. Really nice and this is my “house sparkling wine” of the moment. ($8-12 USD)

Argyle Brut (Oregon) Great spices (the Pinot Noir does this) and toast (chardonnay) with a lot going on and a crisp and long finish. ($16-24 USD)

Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma) Brut. Real quality, small bubbles and smooth. Creamy pear and a hint of nut and finished with toasty crispness. ($14-18 USD)

Riondo Prosecco (Italy) is blow-away for the price. Around $10 USD and a must try. Find this! Vanilla and a bit of lemon character. Amazing mouthfeel and fairly sophisticated for Prosecco. Robert Parker says 90 points and I say YES PLEASE. Don’t walk, run to get this.

In closing, I hope you will enjoy some of these sparkling wines – paired with nice oysters, chocolate, spring rolls, tempura, salmon, fried anything (the acidity cuts the grease/fat)..well, you get where I am going with this. Make sparking wine your anytime choice. No, these probably wont change your life-like a better quality and higher priced option can, but they can make it more fun for less!

For those of us that like it a bit sweeter, you can buy some Veuve de Lalande Rose (available for $9.99 USD in Stew Leonard’s Wines across the USA). This is a touch sweeter (off-dry) and you can taste strawberry and dark fruits within. It does finish dry but short. If you want, you can also add splash of Creme de Cassis, orange juice, peach or pear nectar to your flute filled with any of the above value sparkling wines. Remember never use those wide-mouth margarita looking glasses. The flute will hold the bubbles while the wide mouth will kill them with all that exposure to the air.

Have a happy Valentines Day! Let us all know what you will (or have had) on Valentines day and how you liked it! If you need help locating these, email me and let me know.


Steve from the Trellis


Tales From the Trellis