Food & Drink

Russ Winton: Wine thoughts and odd lots

I received an email from a reader who wanted my thoughts on inexpensive wines. Were there any I would recommend?

The answer relates to one of my mission statements and that is, find a wine that YOU like at a price you can afford and enjoy it. Today, cheap wine doesn’t equate with bad wine. The winemaker’s toolbox is loaded with goodies to make a merlot taste and smell like a merlot. The $5 wine won’t “blow you away” with layers of texture, aromas or long finishes, but they are good solid wines. Three brands that have been consistent medal winners are Barefoot, Sutter Home and Fetzer.

Since we’re talking brands, I do have some favorites based on different price points. In the $8 to $12 range, my go-to wines are Bogle, McManis, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Cupcake. Above the $12 range, I like J. Lohr, Hahn, Kenwood and Coppola. All have outstanding QPRs (Quality to Price Ratio). By relying on your favorite brand, you can relieve the stress when facing that humongous supermarket wine wall as you go about selecting a wine.

Readers from Tracy mentioned they gave Trader Joe’s Moon Series wines a try and liked the Old Vine Zinfandel. Good pick, it just won a gold medal at the State Fair. The 2013 Robert Hall’s Rosé de Robles (Trader Joe’s $5.99) was also mentioned as a favorite from several readers. And finally, I found one of my favorite 2013 rosés in the Bay Area, Marques De Caceres (Spain $6.99). All is well in the world.

Odds and ends

• One reader, who shops for wine deals at the Grocery Outlet, said the Vivino App on her smartphone is amazing. The app instantly gives her information (ratings, suggested retail price, etc.) by just taking a picture of the label. The great news is that Vivino is free and is now available on the Windows Phone.

• According to the Drinks Business website, as reported by the Daily Mail, an unidentified man switched shelf-talkers of four well-known wine brands in several London stores. The Blue Nun is described as being “Made by actual blue nuns in sea caves protected by wild otters” and tasting “full bodied with a hint of sand.” Another described a wine as “Agile clam flavors with a suspicion of red Kryptonite. Great with road kill or clam chowder.”

Ha-ha, great stuff, I love it! Wine should be fun. When you hear a pinkie-waving wine expert describing a wine of having “nuances of bruised fenberries wreathed in ripe Asian moonfruit” (from Bernard Kelm in Wine Speak), run away as fast as you can. Ignore wine snobs.

• What’s on our table: 2012 Belle Ambiance Pinot Noir, $9.99. A light summer red. Cheers!