linuxdave — December 24, 2012, 1:12 pm

4 Easy Steps for a Cheap Wine Connoisseur

winesnobWant to look like a wine connoisseur at your holiday party this year? If you’re bringing wine to a party, you should probably be able to say something about it. Here are a few simple steps that will allow anyone to give a simply, yet thoughtful review of any wine. Just remember the 4S’s:

1. See it – Take note of the color (beyond just red or white). A white wine will be darker in color if it is older. Red wine will be lighter the longer it is aged.  These are general rules, and certainly don’t apply to every wine.

2. Swirl it – Try to coat the sides of the glass with the wine. This will help bring out the aroma for the next step…

3. Smell it – Close your eyes and really smell it. See if you can pick up different types of fruits or spices. For me, it helps if I run through a mental list of fruits while continuously smelling. See if you can smell any hints of grapefruit, strawberry, or chocolate in your red wine. Smell for citrus, honey, or vanilla in white.  Then compare with the label, which will often give you a list of what your nose should notice.

4. Sip it – Don’t just chug it down! Notice the different tastes on the different parts of your tongue! You should be taking note of the taste in your mouth even after you’ve swallowed the wine. Is your mouth dry? Do you taste any of those fruits/spices listed on the bottle?

Pretty simple stuff for most. If anything, following these steps will allow you to slow your pace and enjoy the wine and the holiday moments even more.

linuxdave — August 10, 2008, 4:20 pm

The Fox Barn’s Harvest White

Fox Barn Harvest White
Since moving to Pensacola Beach from Michigan, I have been longing for a great, cheap, rich Michigan wine. Well, Harvest White from the Fox Barn Winery fits the bill!

This semi-dry white has all the characteristics of the wine I loved so much from Michigan. Spicy, fruity and “snappy”, this wine was a perfect companion on this hot, humid Florida night while we enjoyed some Bands on the Beach.

Since moving to Florida, I’ve really become aware to how good I had it in Michigan. You couldn’t drive an hour in any direction before hitting a winery, and I do miss being able to do just that. Many of the gas stations down here in Pensacola sell all the generic cheap wines: Yellow Tail, Beringer, etc, but you’re not likely to find anything from a local vineyard.

My friend (the one that graciously brought me this wine down all the way from Shelby, MI) mentioned that the tasting room at The Fox Barn Winery was just recently opened, and was a lot of fun to visit. According to their website, it looks as though they have nice little produce market as well.

I am definitely going to check this place out the next time I’m in Michigan, and I would recommend anyone traveling near Shelby to stop in as well.

You can also check out Fox Barn’s website, or their blog.

Rating: 9/10 – Great!
Price: Not sure, since it was a gift, but I think my friend mentioned it was less than 10 dollars.
Winery Info:
The Fox Barn Winery
Paw Paw, Michigan
Phone: 231-861-8050

linuxdave — November 27, 2006, 8:18 pm

Leelanau Cellars Witches’ Brew

Leelanau Cellars markets this unique spiced wine as Witches’ Brew around Halloween, but let me assure you that it is a great wine to have on hand throughout the winter. This wine has two labels, the Halloween one (Witches Brew) and the label for the rest of the year, simply named Leelanau Cellars Spiced Wine.

Leelanau Cellars Witches Brew Spiced Wine

If you’re looking for something fun and unique to bring to a holiday party this year, this is your wine! This wine is best served heated! Simmer in a pot over low heat until it is warm (the temperature of a witches’ tongue, if you’re celebrating Halloween). This spiced wine should not be served with dinner, but rather as dessert, with some good, dark chocolate. I suppose it could also be good before dinner, while folks are still arriving to the party. It would make a great ice-breaker!

Witches Brew is obviously a sweet wine, with aromas of cinnamon and cloves. It has very different characteristics when heated vs. room temperature. Try both!

Rating: 9/10 — Truly unique!
Price: $5.99
Where can I get it? Many places in Michigan carry this wine, especially around the holidays. I found it at Meijer. You could always visit the Leelanau Cellars north of Traverse City to stock up!

linuxdave — September 18, 2006, 8:15 pm

Big Daddy Merlot 2002

Part of becoming a connoisseur of cheap wines is knowing where to look for them. I’ll share with you one of my little secret places I attempt to seek out cheap wine: the “Reduced for Quick Sale” shelf at your local supermarket. At Meijer, my local super-mega-ultra-store, this shelf is usually located in the bottle return area. Not a very pleasant place to be searching for wines, but just think of it as a treasure hunt! You may find a bounty of cheap wines that you never knew existed.

While picking over the wines yesterday, a cartoon label caught my eye: Big Daddy Vineyards Merlot. I picked up the March 2002 vintage for about 6 dollars.

Why was this reduced for quick sale? Was it worth enduring the stench of the bottle return area to bring home this wine? Yes, yes it was. It’s almost sad that this wine traveled all the way from Argentina to end up in my bottle return area.

Big Daddy

Big Daddy knows how to make a good cheap wine. Believe it or not, the first attribute of this wine I picked up on was the light hint of bacon. Mmm bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon? Big Daddy loves it, that’s for sure. Look at that belly! On top of the bacon was a strong berry with a leathery taste.

If you’re looking for a full bodied cheap red wine with a lot of character, give the Big Daddy Merlot a try.

Rating: 8/10 – High score for originality
Price: 6.00
Place of purchase: Meijer
Vineyard Info:
Big Daddy Vineyards
Mendoza, Argentina

linuxdave — August 10, 2006, 11:59 pm

Hook and Ladder – The Tillerman White

The best kinds of cheap wines are the kinds that have a rich story behind them. Well, The Tillerman White wine brought to you by the Hook & Ladder Winery certainly fits the bill. At first glance this wine label made no sense to me… Hook & Ladder? The Tillerman? After doing some research, I feel enlightened knowing the origins of this fine cheap wine, so I’ll share:

The owner of the family-run Hook & Ladder, Cecil De Loach used to be a firefighter! “Hook and Ladder” is just another name for a firetruck. And The Tillerman is guy who drives the back end of a firetruck. A firefighter and a wine-maker! What a life!

Hook and Ladder - Tillerman White

I sampled several bottles of The Tillerman White, and I am glad I did. Not being a fan of white blends with a lot of oak, I enjoyed everything about this wine. The peach/apricot aroma was the most prominent feature of this wine as it approached my nose. The wine was very dry, tasty, had an awesome finish. Just a perfect all-around table wine. For about 16 bucks or less, this Sonoma County wine is a steal. If you see it in your supermarket, snatch it up! I look forward to trying some of their many other varietals. This same vineyard, the Russian River Valley produces Chardonay, Gewurztraminer, White Zin, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the “Third Alarm” Reserve Chardonnay. Oh, how I would love to visit the vineyard one day.

Rating: 9/10 – Excellent!
The only reason I’m not giving it 10 is because I promised my readers “cheap wines less than 15 dollars” and this wine retails for 16. Look around though, I’m sure you can find a good deal! Even if you can’t, it is worth the extra dollar.

Extra Info: Hook & Ladder – Founded in 2004
2027 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
phone: 707-546-5712

pH: 3.3
Acidity: .73
Alcohol: 13.8%
Winemaker: Cecil De Loach
Cases Produced: 2,400