Category Archives: Under $10

Jam Jar 2009 Sweet Shiraz

Trader Joe’s has done it again! This is an incredibly drinkable read with a sweetness that is very approachable. Though it does make you think it is a great affordable staple. At 9 smackers, its a crowd pleaser, great for bbqs and pork based foods.

Cost: $9

Sip: jammy, fruit, a little spice, straight forward, very sweet

Sniff: light notes of cherries, stone fruit

Eat: BBQ, chinese food, pork

Rating: Not Bad

Old Moon Zinfandel

At 5.99 a bottle from Trader Joe’s this bottle is a complete stand out. I always have some on hand. Plummy with a surprising depth in character and a slight coat to the tongue that hints of tannin makes this incredibly well balanced. I would say it holds up to bottles at much higher price points. I love drinking this alone or having it with pastas, pizza, bbq, anything a red can hold up to.

Haro Tapas and Wine

Tucked away amidst an industrial area in the southwest side, Haro is a gem of a restaurant. It features a wide array of tapas with a layering of flavor you rarely see with restaurants at this price point. With dishes like garlic shrimp with a balsalmic vinegar and honey sauce, your tastebuds are definitely given a wide showcase of flavors with each bite. One of my favorites was a dish with champignons glazed with sherry, garlic, and truffle oil. It was so rich and mushroomy with a burst of flavor when you bit into the mushrooms…drool. My only wish is that they had provided us with bread to sop up the saucy remains of each dish. We did not get to try the great desserts they had to offer and instead opted to have some fondue with dessert wines. (Post about that to follow 😉 )

Of note, Haro Tapa is no longer BYOB, but we brought wines anyway thinking it still was…oops. It made for a lovely meal with great pairings.

In order of opening:

Firehose Gewurztraminer 2006 California- $10

Sweet and light with hints of lychee and apricot I thought this bottle was incredibly drinkable. It had a little complexity, and resembled the more German sweet style of Gewurztraminer. I plan on keeping this as another staple for casual dinners and whatever excuse I can come up with. It paired wonderfully with the honey balsamic shrimp, manchego cheese dish, and salty bacon wrapped dates. Other suggestions would be a saltier crumbling cheeses like stilton to go with honeyed walnuts. Excuse me while I salivate!

Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc- $9

This bottle was savory compared to the firehose with a good lemony nose and a taste to match. Less complex than the previous with a little bit of fruitiness and citrus, it went amazingly well with the champignons. With the right food it becomes buttery and mouthy. I would pair this in the future with seafood, chicken, a rich creamy pasta, or something along the lines of a butternut squash ravioli. Mmmmm…I am already thinking of my next meal!

Concha Y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere 2005- $12

This was a young with a bit of tannin to this finish. Very drinkable and smooth, the nose was amazing with the scent of warm spicy berry if that makes any sense. With its come hither smell, I was mildly disappointed by the chalkiness of the drink, but it did have a great savoriness to it that reminded me more meat. It would probably have went better with a steak than the spicy sausage and other fixin’s we had. I definitely plan on opening it again with a juicy steak.

Sauvignon Blanc, a Tasting

Dinners this week were paired with three lovely white wines that were crisp, refreshing, and although the same grape, very different in taste.

For dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday, I’d sauteed salmon with rice, chosen deliberately to go with a bottle of Barnard & Griffin Fumé Blanc 2006* that I’d picked up over the holidays for just under $10. It was satisfyingly crisp in the initial mouthfeel, with flavors of ripe melon and just the hint of grassiness. The melon shone through right to the end, so the finish was a little sweeter than I’d had expected – but nothing a little chill won’t mask! 😉

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My friend was in the mood for a white for dinner on Friday night, so I selected a bottle of Chateau Ferrande Graves 2005 (from Bordeaux), a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. I was deciding between a bottle of Chablis (from Burgundy), but in the end went for the Chateau Ferrande partly because I was keen on comparing a different style of Sauvignon Blanc, and partly because the 2005 vintage has been hailed one of the best in recent years (Robert Parker writes in Food and Wine, “Overall, the 2005 Bordeaux have turned out brilliantly, and 2005 does appear to be one of the most singular years of the past five decades,” and later, “If wine drinkers are willing to forgo the most prestigious châteaus, they will find an ocean of high-quality 2005 wines at reasonable prices from lesser appellations and little-known subregions…”).

The wine was delicious. Chilled to just the right temperature, the wine was crisp and elagant, infinitely more restraint than the Fume Blanc I’d had earlier in the week, and definitely more so than the fruit bomb Fetzer Valley Oaks Fumé Blanc 2004 (retails for ~$10) we’d ordered to go with our sushi back in Banff on Sunday (for the record, Chuck and the others enjoyed the wine, but I thought it way too sweet for my tastes, and a little oaky at that too – I prefer the lighter, unoaked style because it feels so much more refreshing). Frustratingly, I couldn’t find much information on it online – most importantly the retail price (we paid $48 for it at the restaurant) – because I’d have loved to pick up a couple more bottles to go with dinner. It was a delightful wine to wash down with my savory plate of rabbit risotto, and I think it would be a perfect drink to have in the summer, lounging at an outdoor café while watching the rest of the world stroll by.

*Fumé Blanc is just another fancy name for Sauvignon Blanc. It was coined by marketing genius Robert Mondavi, who coined the term in 1968 in an effort to distinguish his latest dry version of sauvignon blanc from his earlier sweet ones. He derived “Fumé” from Pouilly-Fumé, one of the popular dry-styled Loire Valley wines in France. While “fumé” literally translates into “smoke,” that characteristic decribes the morning fog over Loire Valley and not the wine, which typically has herbal and vegetal (green bell pepper) aromas (and, in some New Zealand styles, a distinctive cat pee smell). For more information on the characteristics of the grape, go to Diwine Taste.

The Dregs: Rosé Wine Apricot Clafoutis

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Inspired by my favorite celebrity chef Mark Bittman’s recent New York Time’s video on clafoutis. I decided to create my own version of this easy French dessert. I had a lot of left over dried apricots thanks to a Costco impulse buy and decided to reconstitute these super sweet fruits with a little rosé wine to bring back the tartness that seems to go so well with a clafloutis. Most claflouti recipes are made with either plums, berries, apples, pears, or cherries, nice fresh tart summer fruits. But I REALLY had a hankering for some after watching this video and being short of clementines at the moment, decided fruit soaked in wine is never a bad option. I chose a rosé since I have had the combination of rose and apricots before and its delicious. Plus I like the added color it gives to the dried apricots. I bet this would taste equally good if made with a fruity floral white, like chenin blanc or viognier, or even a rich dessert wine like sauternes or icewein. Sometimes I am reluctant to cook with the latter though since those bottles tend to get more pricey.

Biltmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir 2006- $11
I bought this bottle on the estate a little over a year ago. They have a surprisingly good array of wines. This particular buy is a really nice fruity refreshing rosé, and went well with the sweet tart apricots. Very floral on the nose, I would not hesitate to drink this with any dessert.

Other suggestions for this recipe that are more widely available are: Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel and Barefoot Winery’s White Zinfandel. Both are very fruity, the latter having a nice burnt sugar caramel finish. The best part is that they are both cheap so “sacrificing” a cup or two for baking is not such a loss.

Rosé Wine Apricot Clafoutis
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Clementine Clafoutis recipe

Butter for greasing
1/2 cup flour, more for dusting pan
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1 cup dried apricots
1 1/2 cup of rosé wine
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Soak apricots in wine, just covering most of them, for 24 hours in a container with plastic wrap or a lid. They will plump up a little and become soft. A lot of liquid should be absorbed and most of the apricots will not be submerged.

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2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a gratin dish, about 9 by 5 by 2 inches, or a 10-inch round deep pie plate or porcelain dish, by smearing it with butter, just a teaspoon or so. Dust it with flour, rotating pan so flour sticks to all the butter; invert dish to get rid of excess.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add granulated sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Add cream and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir just to combine.

4. Place apricots (without remaining liquids) in dish. Pour batter over fruit. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until clafoutis is nicely browned on top and center is not too jiggly when you shake the dish. Mark Bittman suggests to test to see if a knife comes clean, but I found this works just as well and doesn’t ruin the nice perfect finish. 😉 Sift some powdered sugar over it and serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten right away, but can be microwaved next day.

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Honey Moon Viognier

Honey Moon Viognier (California, 2005)– $6- Damn Good 😉

Trader Joe’s has done it again! This cheap tasty bottle of viognier has the complexity and beautiful floral fruity notes of a more bling worthy bottle. Sweet with apricot, peach, and pear with a slight hint of mineral to the finish and a nose to match, this is definitely a great deal for parties or recipes calling for white wine. The prius of wines, this little gem is economical, quality, and something you can have around without the guilt.

Sniff-floral, salt

Sip- apricot, peach, pear, melon

Eat- seafood, chicken, chocolate, light dessert

Cheap Wine and Pasta: The Shrimp Extravaboganza

While shopping I found myself drooling over a pile of jumbo shrimp just waiting to be cooked and eaten. Peter and I bought 2 lbs of deveined ginormous tiger prawns at and grabbed a bottle of Bogle Chardonnay to match. With our trusty pasta maker we cranked ourselves up some succulent ribbons of fresh pasta to absorb the juice of the soon to be deliciously pink shrimp. We used the Chardonnay to make a rich garlic butter sauce that went perfect with the delicate flesh of the shrimp.

Garlic Shrimp with Pasta

Adapted from The New Best Recipe’s Shrimp Scampi

2 lb 18 ct Large Jumbo Shrimp, deveined and peeled (Bigger is better!)
Juice of 1 medium lemon
4 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (Chardonnay/Viognier/Muscadet)
5 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
Handful of chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In large pan heat olive oil on high heat. When oil is hot, add shrimp. Turn rapidly, cook until just opaque. The shrimp will curl up into lovely medallions. Take shrimp out quickly and place in bowl.

2. Add garlic and butter to oil. Place on medium-low heat

3. Add white wine, and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Take pan off heat. Add shrimp and juices and parsley. Mix.

5. Pour the liquidy sauce and shrimp all over cooked pasta.

6. Serve with a chilled glass of the white wine

Pasta Dough-
Combine 3 eggs and 2 cups of flour….kneed until smooth….crank through a pasta maker.

Bogle Chardonnay 2006 (California)– $9 Damn Good 😉

The particular chardonnay is very light and fruity with a hint of butteriness and salt. There is only a mild hint of oak to it and a tangy finish. Needless to say with all the descriptions I just threw out, this is a nice complex white especially for the price. It would pair well with any seafood or chicken dish as well as a fruit and cheese course.

Sniff- grapefruit, oak

Sip- light, fruity, buttery, mild salt, tangy

Eat- seafood, chicken, fruit and cheese