Posts filed under Under $20

Thanksgiving Wines for Sharing

sharing a bottle of Wattle Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Thanksgiving 2013

sharing a bottle of Wattle Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to share a few bottles with friends and family.  With such a variety of food during the sometimes day-long feast, it can be a challenge picking something that pairs well across the board... so why not share a few!  

Selecting a variety of wines will aid in pairing with the several components of a traditional turkey dinner, as well as cater to a variety of guests’ palates.  Hosting dinner or joining a party?  Here are a few tips for selecting wines for your Thanksgiving Day festivities, as well as a list of affordable favorites to look for as you shop!  All are available at BevMo, Total Wine, and Specs, and many are available at national grocery stores as well. 

White Wine ~ pick one that is refreshing and slightly fruity, nothing with too much butter, or too much citrus.  Well balanced, and fairly neutral is best.  You want one that will compliment from turkey to pie. 

Affordable Favorites:

  • Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc & Viognier ($12)
  • Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc ($11-$15)
  • St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc ($15-$20)
  • Cuvaison Chardonnay ($20-$25)

Sparkling ~ One of the most forgotten wines for serving on Thanksgiving.  Choose brut. Dry sparkling wines pair nicely with turkey and all that comes with it. Adventurous?  Try a Sparkling Shiraz!  

Affordable Favorites:

Red Wine ~ The trick with reds is to select one that is not too tart or high in tannin.  Fruit forward, medium bodied ~ solid, neutral food wines are best when going with reds.  

Affordable Favorites:

Check out some of our other Thanksgiving favorites:

Thanksgiving Wines Under $20

More Perfect Thanksgiving Wines Under $20

Great Wine Event for a Great Cause


This past weekend, thousands gathered in Balboa Park, San Diego for the 18th Annual Komen Race for the Cure. Organizers say about $1.3 million was raised during Sunday's race, helping to provide mammograms and services for those who can not afford it.  In support of this great cause, our friends at Antica Trattoria held a Wine Dinner, raising over $2000.  Chef Francesco Basile, once again, put together an incredible dinner paired with some pretty tasty wines! 

First Course

The Dish:

Tatara di Pesce Spada - local swordfish+lemon +EVOO+Capers Mousse+Micro Greens+Pistachio

The Wine:

2013 Zorzon, Collio Sauvignon, Puglia Italia

course 1a.JPG

Second Course

The Dish: 

Triangoli di Margo - homemade osso bucco ravioli+crispy local vegetables+trufle cream sauce (our favorite dish of the night!)

The Wine:

2009 Muralia, Babone, Super Tuscan, Maremma Toscano Italia (65% Sangiovese 35% Syrah)

Third Course

The Dish: 

Quaglie - boneless Sonoma roasted quail+bitter dark chocolate aglianico wine sauce

The Wine:

2012 Conte Calevi, Aglianico, Campania Italia (our favorite wine of the night!)


The Dish: 

Pumkin Savaione and mixed fresh berries - roasted oragen pumkin+wild berries+spiced pumkin mousse (what's not to love about this!)

The Wine:

2013 Moscato D' Asti, SIFASOL, Piemonte Italia 

All the wines were less than $20 a bottle ~ affordable and tasty!  We look forward to sharing a few with friends.  So glad we could be a part of this fun evening ~ truly a great event, for an even greater cause! 

Posted on November 3, 2014 and filed under Under $20, Tasting Experiences.

2012 Cune Monopole – White Rioja

In our quest to discover new wines beyond California and the west coast, we have tried some really great, and for us, unusual wines.  One recent discovery was the 2012 Cune Monopole White Rioja Wine from Spain. 

Made of 100% Viura, this wine is very crisp and light in color with a fairly neutral palate. The nose is very aromatic, with notes of pear, melon and a hint of floral.  There were bright citrus flavors on the front, fading to lemon/lime, and little stone fruit on the finish.  Very refreshing, and an easy drinker.  It is nice all on its own, and paired very nicely with grilled chicken and zucchini along with a tomato salad.  A fun summer wine, and very reasonable retailing at about $12 – look for it at Specs, or other large wine retail stores near you! 

Posted on July 11, 2014 and filed under Under $20, Wine Discoveries.

Wine Bar Discoveries

Some of our best wine finds have been discoveries while attending events at local wine bars.  Many of them offer special tasting events or even just a wide selection of wines by the glass.  Both are a great way to explore wines you may never find, or try otherwise.  Here are a couple of wines we discovered while attending local tasting events with friends. 

2011 Tomàs Cusiné “Auzells

We discovered this wine at a Spanish wine tasting event at Village Vino.  It is a blend of 31% Macabeu, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 16% Riesling, 16% Chardonnay, 5% Albariño, 3% Müller Thurgau, and 2% Muscat. If you are like me, I didn’t know what half those grapes were, much less how to pronounce them.  The important part was that it tasted really darn good.

Auzells is a medium body white, with aromas of citrus and pear.  We found these flavors to carry over to the palate.  It was delicate, but not bland.  Light and crisp, with flavors that stayed strong throughout.  It paired very well with maple mustard chicken and roasted root vegetables. 

This wine is distributed to restaurants and specialty wine shops. Keep an eye out for it, it’s really quite tasty!

2010 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc

We discovered this wine at a Cabernet Franc tasting at Bacchus Wine Market & Tasting Room.  I love Cab Franc, but it is harder to find this varietal not hidden as part of a blend.  This event was an opportunity to taste 6 in a single setting.  Count me in!  

Writer’s Block is produced by Steele Wines, in the Lake County area.  The 2010 is a blend of 92% Cab Franc, 4% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It did not disappoint.  Thick, full flavors that hit you from the time you pop the cork.  We immediately smelled green pepper, coffee, and a little tobacco that carried over with a growing flavor of rich, dark berries that finished with bold tannins.  Excellently balanced, with no burst of alcohol. This is a very solid wine, and at under $20 a bottle, an excellent anytime wine. 


Check out your local wine shops and bars for upcoming events.  You never know what you may discover! 

Upcoming Events

Village Vino (full list and details)

April 2: Oregon Pinot Tasting with Raptor Ridge

April 12: Cune Winery with Lucia Ramos

April 15: Patz & Hall with owner Anne Moses

Bacchus Wine Market (full list and details)

March 28/29: Wines from Eastern Europe

April 4/5: Wines from Portugal

April 11/12: Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted on March 27, 2014 and filed under Under $20, Wine Discoveries.

2014 Oscar Party Wine Winners

Oscar Night is a fun night in our house.  It’s a perfect evening to celebrate what we love… movies and wine!  We’ve hosted this event a number of years (2013 Results, 2012 Results).  Whether it is who takes home the Best Picture award, or which wine is the favorite of the evening, each night brings different surprises.  All wines selected are under $20, and ones we’ve shared or discovered with friends. 

While the food pairings give a good hint to what’s inside the bag, it is always fun watching friends guess the varietals.  This year had a little twist, as they were all blends.  I must say, the surprise for me was how many of our friends came pretty darn close to nailing every single wine!  After tasting all the selections, and before the reveal, votes are cast for the favorite.  This year’s winner…

4th Place: Gruet Blanc de Noir

We first discovered this wine as part of our “Coast to Coast, Champagne Toast” New Year’s Eve parties.  At these events, we shared sparkling wine from each time zone, welcoming the New Year on each hour (including Hawaii!). It was a tough challenge to find a decent selection from each US time zone, but this one was a winner for the Mountain region.  It has rich and toasty flavors, smooth and refreshing finish, and a great deal. Retails $17.

Food pairing: Ginger-Soy chicken wraps, vegetable spring rolls, parmesan cheese

3rd Place: 17th Edition Sokol Blosser Evolution

We discovered this wine while visiting their tasting room.  It is one of my favorite “summer” wines.  Intense tropical fruit notes up front, with a nice crisp, clean finish.  Blended from 9 grapes, this smooth, layered white is an excellent food wine, and is enjoyable all on its own.  Retails $14

Food pairing: Bacon crostini, butternut squash tartlets, baked camembert with roasted garlic onion jam

2nd Place: 2009 E. Guigal Cotes Du Rhone

We first shared a bottle of this wine with our friend Darren, in Dublin.  It is a versatile, light-bodied red wine blend of 52% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre.  It tastes well on its own, even better with food.  It’s a crowd pleaser in flavor and price. Retails $12

Food pairing: Italian sausage pigs in a blanket, port salut cheese

1st Place: 2010 Wattle Creek Kristine’s Cuvee

This is another one we discovered at the tasting room.  It is a Bordeaux blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot, 13% Merlot, 13% Malbec.  Friends enjoyed the aromas and flavors of plum, cherry, and caramel, and lower alcohol and light tannin profile. Retail $20

Food pairing: Balsamic beef sandwiches, aged cheddar cheese

Posted on March 5, 2014 and filed under Under $20.

Best Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time with family and friends, and an excellent time to share a bottle… or three.  With such a cornucopia of treats served during a traditional feast, it can be challenging to select one wine that pairs well from ingredients to dessert.  So, why not select three – a white, red, and sparkling! 

Selecting a variety of wines will aid in pairing with the several components of a traditional turkey dinner, as well as cater to a variety of guests’ palates.

When selecting a white wine, pick one that is refreshing and slightly fruity.  You want one that will compliment from turkey to pie.  The trick with reds is to select one that is not too tart or high in tannins – a solid, neutral food wine is best.  One of the most forgotten about wines for a Thanksgiving feast is sparkling wines.  The tip with these wines is to choose brut. Dry sparkling wines pair nicely with turkey and all that comes with it. Sparkling Shiraz is also highly recommended.  

Having the gang all over to your house and not sure what to serve?  Joining another feast and not sure what to bring along?  Check out some of our favorite Thanksgiving Day wines – all under $20, widely available, and sure to please a crowd!

Perfect Thanksgiving Wines Under $20

More Perfect Thanksgiving Wines

What wine will you be sharing this Thanksgiving?

Posted on November 24, 2013 and filed under Under $20.

Getting to know Tempranillo

Last weekend, we shared a couple bottles of Artesa 2007 Limited Release Tempranillo with our friends Sarah and Dave. It was a perfect pairing with a grilled flat iron steak, au gratin potatoes, and an arugula and tomato salad. Cherry flavors gave way to hints of clove and earthiness with mild tannins.

The wine was outstanding and went down way too easily.

Two sad, empty bottles of Tempranillo the morning after a great dinner with friends.

Tempranillo is a wonderful, versatile grape. It goes well with a lot of food and is generally reasonably priced. It was even the red wine served at the Service Failure book release party held at Village Vino.

It's also relatively unknown to most casual wine drinkers.  Here’s a quick guide to help you discover the grape on your own. 


According to Wine Searcher, nearly half of the world’s Tempranillo production comes from Spain, where it is the most popular varietal in Rioja wines. It’s also catching on in other regions such as the US, Australia, and Argentina. The grape does best in places with hot days and cool nights. 


Typical fruit flavors include cherry and plum with hints of spice, leather, and tobacco. Tannins are moderate while acidity is high, making this a wine that’s typically better with food than on its own.


Steak is definitely high on our list and anything off the grill will go nicely. Check out this wide range of additional suggestions from Wine Folly:

  • Lasagna, Pizza and dishes with tomato-based sauces
  • Grits, Polenta and dishes with corn as a major ingredient
  • Mexican food such as tacos, nachos, burritos and chile rellenos

Give it a try!

If you’d like to give it a try, we recommend Volver Tempranillo. This is an excellent under $20 selection that is widely distributed. Look for it in BevMo, Total Wine, Specs, and many other retail locations.

Sadly, Artesa’s Tempranillo is no more. (If you find a few bottles, please share some!)

Posted on October 19, 2013 and filed under Under $20, Wine Discoveries.

Felino Malbec by Vina Cobos

sunset from our table at Merriman'sWe recently shared with you how wine made our Hawaiian vacation better by keeping “Vegas” and the cabana boy away, and saving us money.  Early in our trip we made a stop at the Wine Shop and loaded up on great wines to bring with us to dinner, which local corkage laws allows for you to do.  As California also has great corkage laws, we knew that paying retail, even with a corkage fee, was always a better deal than restaurant mark-ups.  The Wine Shop had an added bonus – partnerships with many great local spots that waived corkage fee for wine purchased at their store.  Awesome, as this fee ranged from $15-20. 

One of the restaurants on the list was Merriman’s Fish House, located in Poipu at The Shops of Kukui’ula.  Wow.  This place was awesome.  Great food, and atmosphere – not something you regularly find both of when dining on the islands.  The restaurant is set in an old Hawaii plantation house, with open windows looking out to the ocean, providing an excellent backdrop for sunset.  This is a “farm to table” restaurant, boasting that 90% of their products are locally grown or caught, using only sustainable methods.  Their fish selections actually list the boat in which it was caught.

While the wine list was quite extensive, and impressive (over 1,000 bottles in their cellar), we opted to bring with us a 2012 Felino Malbec, from Mendoza.  It was a perfect pairing to our very fresh and delicious meals. It is a blend of 93% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Merlot.  We found the nose to be of herbs (like thyme) and a little white pepper.  The palate was full of dark berries, tannin finish with a little heat.  It was a great food wine, and paired well with our meals.

Merriman’s has the 2011 Felino Malbec on the menu for $56.  We purchased the 2012 for $13.95, and no corkage fee ~ Thank you Wine Shop! 

Where to find:

San Diego Wine Company - $15.95

Total Wine - $17.99

Specs - $16.62

Posted on September 22, 2013 and filed under Adventures, Under $20.

Red, White, and Beer

Wondering what to serve while celebrating this weekend?  With the help of What to Drink with What you Eat, here are suggested pairings with traditional, and not so traditional July 4th grub.  Because sharing a cold one is sometimes the way to go, we’ve added a few favorites to the list, creating our Red, White, and Beer recommendations ~ Happy 4th!

You should find all of these at large beverage stores, such as BevMo, Specs, and TotalWine - all are under $20

Hot Dogs

RED: A to Z Pinot Noir

WHITE: Seghesio Pinot Grigio

BEER: Anchor Steam


RED: Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon (especially with cheeseburgers!)

WHITE: about as “white” as you may want to get is Rose – go with any Spanish one

BEER: Abita Amber


Any meat with smoky and/or sweet sauce

RED: “The Franc” – Cosentino Cab Franc

WHITE: Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling

BEER: Blue Moon White Ale

Grilled Meatloaf

RED: Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel

WHITE: Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc

BEER: Shiner Bock

Apple Pie

By this time, I’m sure you’ll just want a nice cup of coffee.  If not, a little sherry always goes nice with pie.