Cru Bourgeois! Chateau Saint-Saturnin 2000 Médoc

I bought six bottles of this 2000 Medoc for $9.99 each last year. Now I wish I bought a lot more!

This isn’t a grand cru, it is a garagiste really. I can’t find much about it online, but what I have read the winemaker is a bit of a rogue. Makes stuff a bit differently and only sells when he needs cash.

First of all, no French or Spanish 2000 vintage has ever disappointed me. Second, how can you go wrong for a damn good Bordeaux for under ten bucks??

This wine seems to have ZERO oak on it. All grape and terroir on the nose. Distinctly Bordeaux terroir at that. Very light, but kilometers of finish. Love this wine!

You may still be able to find some where I did, right here: www.winex.com

Peppery Carm! 2014 Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carmenérè

Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carm

I love Carmenere. It has always been a go-to varietal for me. Consistently yummy. Great food wine. Almost always an exceptional value. For example, this single-vineyard example cost me less that $15. I popped the cork on it as I was rummaging around the kitchen last night making a small dinner for just myself. Warming up some leftover lamb stew, and chopping from veggies for roasting in the oven… I thought, “cooking with wine is better…” so I went to the cellar and grabbed this Carm. I have no recollection of buying it, but thankfully the pricetag remains affixed to the bottle.

A strong aroma of black pepper wafted from the bottle as soon as it was uncorked!

I’ve had peppery Syrahs before. Plenty of them. I’ve also enjoyed a peppery Cabernet Franc once or twice. But a Carm? Mild pepper, yes. But never this strong. In the glass it was by far the dominant force on the nose. PEPPER!!!

Likewise on the palette. Quite unique in my experience.

It also had a long, strong, dry finish. Stayed lingering in the mouth long after the liquid was down the gullet.

Dinner slowly warming & roasting, I partook in my favorite evening pastime… the sunset glass:

Sunset Glass

In the summer and autumn months this is usually done out on the deck, but here in winter and spring it is usually too cold for that sort of thing. I have a nice comfy chair setup inside a west-facing window and just plopped down there and savored this glass.

Well, technically TWO glasses.

Later it paired perfectly with the lamb stew and roast vegetables. By then the peppery notes were fading. By three hours after being uncorked, the pepper was gone, the fruit was up front, and four hours later I couldn’t even finish the last of my glass… it had faded that swiftly. Short-lived, but lovely.

Best of 2017: Cameron Hughes Lot 606 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Sure, it’s only October, but I’ve found the best budget wine of the year, hands down. It is still available, and if you’re smart, you’ll go buy some now. It sells for $29/bottle, but I have to tell you, this is a easily a $75 wine. I received two bottle via my usual wine club shipment several months ago. But as per my habit, I put it down in the cellar to let it rest and recover from bottle shock and shipping… and promptly forgot about it.

Until two nights ago. It was a pleasant, “indian summer” evening and I decided to eat out on the deck and watch the sun go down. I was eating leftovers from a big dinner with guests… just warmed up some roasted veggies and what was left of a giant pan-seared steak with an amazing reduction sauce I made from a bottle of Cabernet Franc. So the food was leftovers, but I decided to open a fresh bottle of wine. Somehow I knew I had to savor some of that “Rutherford Dust” so I went down to the cellar to search out this specific wine.

Wow. Just wow.

This wine is GOOD.

No, actually this wine is GREAT.

No question, the best wine I have drank this year under $100. Even better it is $71 less than $100.

After I drank it I went online and ordered a few bottles more. You should too.

Finally, an actual, damn good Pinot Noir, for under $20.

Pinot Noir by Joe

I’ve often said “Pinots are like Porsches. Good ones are expensive, and bad ones are also expensive.” A truly great Pinot Noir is a treasure, but they are elusive, and usually expensive. In my experience “cheap” Pinot Noirs are often terrible. As the years roll by, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to buy Pinots. I’m supplied with a regular amount of passable Pinots from my Cameron Hughes wine club, which satisfies the cravings of “Testa Rossa” my red-headed Pinot-loving dining companion, and nothing goes better with a grilled/planked salmon that a light Pinot on a summer’s evening.

Beyond those offerings from Mr. Hughes, I have snagged a dozen or so great Oregon Pinot Noirs from some winery tours we have had the pleasure of doing on some long weekends in the Willamette Valley. Testa Rossa is from that part of the world and both of us have kids that have gone all hipster and live in Portland. Visiting the grown-up kids makes for a nice grown-up excuse to tour some wineries. Oregon has some amazing Pinot producers, all within a very short drive of Portland. None of their products fall within the scope of this blog however. The bottles I’ve bought on these tours range in price from $40, to well over $100. Are they great? Certaily. But not cheap. It is damn near impossible to find a great value Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Until now.

I didn’t buy this bottle, but some poking around online pegs the price well below twenty bucks (Vivino app says avg price is $15.99). It was a gift to us from a guest. I opened it a few nights ago. I honestly expected something dismal, and girded my loins in preparation. Nose into the glass… “ah” Take the first sip… “oooh” “Not bad!”

I would never call this a “great Pinot” but it certainly isn’t a bad one. In fact I’m giving it the grade of “damn good”

So if you’re looking to find a damn good cheap Pinot, go to Joe.

Damn good wine for under $9!

2012 Espelt Garnacha Old Vines


I grabbed this wine a little less than a year ago from Wine Exchange. The price was $8.98, which is an incredible bargain for what this bottle represents. It isn’t available there anymore, but I highly recommend their mailing list, as it can be a bargain hunter’s dream. 

Testa Rossa and I are avoiding culinary ruts by buying those internet delivery meal things. In this case Sun Basket. I was that kid who ate the same thing everyday growing up… for me it was PB&J. You see I’m perfectly happy to eat the same thing over and over, provided it is something I like. As an adult, it isn’t peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anymore, but something like chicken breast and sautéed green veggies is certainly something I could sit down to every night of the week, so long as I swapped in a steak now and then. Sure, I love gourmet food, but don’t really feel like making it often. As a bachelor, I lived like this for years.  


Tonight’s Sun Basket meal is grilled chicken breasts and sautéed veggies. Seriously. But it is a bunch of veggies I would have never picked myself. As I was looking at the recipe I pondered something to pair with it and ventured down to the cellar thinking of a Sangiovese, or a similar Italian. Instead I found this Garnacha and thought “why not?”

When I pulled the cork and tasted it, the overwhelming sensation was “puckery” like a northern Italian Nebbiolo. Super-tight. After decanting for a bit it softened and really opened up quite well. Paired wonderfully with the chicken. Testa Rossa describes it as “tangy”. 

Very oaky nose. Peppery mouth feel and a long finish. 

Here’s a wine for under nine bucks that drinks as good or better than many forty dollar bottles. 

Ain’t Life Grand? Cameron Hughes Lot 602, 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

I think the first contemporary vintages of Napa Valley cabernets I ever tasted were from the late 70s, likely 1978/79. I was just a wee barbarian, drinking at the table of my father, whose wine exploits and palette I aspire to experience. California was really starting to get on-track with the development of their own style of winemaking. The Prohibition era has devastated a vital industry and destroyed its history and legacy… and it wasn’t until the early seventies that they began to recover, and get going again. I often say that it has taken our society a century to recover from Prohibition… the greatest folly of our country. It is really just now that we have fully recovered, in terms of the beverage industry – wines, beer, and distilling. But it was the wine business that started this recovery, and the epicenter of that recovery was Napa Valley.

I can recall tasting the output of such foundation Napa Cab producers such as Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu Vineyards, and Heitz. The industry has changed so much, with hudreds of producers, and prices to match… yet the product has become iconic. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

What it means to me is big, powerful, yet supple and ready-to-drink… TONIGHT. Unlike the Crand Cru Bordeaux it tried to mimic back then, which must age for years, perhaps decades before it becomes drinkable, today’s Napa Cab delivers that supple experience of an aged Bordeaux upon release. They still benefit from aging well, but generally they are also good to go, right when you buy them.

This example, the 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 602 from Cameron Hughes is exactly that. You can buy this RIGHT NOW (click that link!) for $32/bottle and enjoy an amazing Napa Cab. THIRTY TWO BUCKS. Sure, it isn’t ultra-cheap, but I tell you, if this wasn’t being sold by a Negociant, it would likely be well over $100/bottle. It is THAT good – NOW. Grab some of these, throw some steaks on the grill, and pull the cork.

You can thank me later.

A Reliable Go-To: Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc

Walla Walla Vintners Cab Franc

I first tasted this wine at a local seafood & steakhouse. It is a great place and over the years I’ve become a “regular”. The staff knows my name, and know what I like. I used to bring visiting business guests there about every month. Now I just visit every once in a while, but they never fail to deliver the goods.

Their wine selection is excellent, and as usual on my very first visit I went off-script and veered away from the Pinots and CabSauvs, and dove into the “Other Varietals” section of the list to poke around for something interesting. This is where I found this excellent wine. It turns out that I was the first person to ever order that wine at that restaurant. It was so good, that I just kept ordering it every time I went. The servers just said “your usual?” and I agreed. Over the years the vintages changed, but the wine remained excellent.

Eventually I slapped my forehead and realized I should buy some for home. I joined their wine club, and ordered up a case of the newest vintage, which turns out to have been this 2013. Now I have a rather large stash of them, along with some of their oddballs and “wine club exclusives”… they are all great. Wonderful and well-rounded Walla Walla wines. The Cab Franc remains my favorite.

Walla Walla Vintners are probably the best across-the-board bargain from that region. If you’ve had some of the top-flight stuff from Walla Walla, you know it usually commands a hefty price. To my palette, WWV’s output is just as good, or even better, at a third or less of the price. Over the last seven or so years I’ve drank probably fifty bottles of their wines, with half being their Cabernet Francs, and every one of them has been fantastic.

Dusted Valley 2014 Cabernet Franc: Le Garçon Grand!

Big Boy Cabernet Franc

Life had me traveling abroad for a few weeks, so I indulged myself of local wines along the way. I didn’t bother to blog about them as they were universally outside of the low-price scope of this site. Suffice to say I was drinking Pinots, GSM’s and Nebbiolos almost exclusively for two straight weeks. I was unprepared for the shock of this wine… the first I chose to open upon my return home.

Clearly, there is a huge difference between Old World and New World wine styles.

After two weeks of savoring old world reds, most lovingly aged prior to even being sold (I seemed to be drinking mostly 2008-2011 vintages while there) my palette was becoming attuned to soft, earthy flavors.

Then I drank this big boy. Sure, the varietal is of Bordeaux origin, but this Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc is big, BIGGER, BIGGEST. It hit my mouth like a haymaker punch. Not in a bad way mind you… just a BIG one.

This Cabernet Franc is not cheap, weighing in around $40/bottle. But if you’re seeking a big wine for a big meal, this one will do the trick. I’ve got three more bottles (of 2013 & 2014 vintages) in the cellar and likely will let them rest a bit longer to see how they evolve.

Best Value Red of 2016/17: CH Lot 575, 2014 Red Blend, Red Mountain, Washington State

Only in America will you find a winemaker who will mix a Rhone varietal into a classic Bordeaux blend. America, Fuck Yeah!

This wine appeared in my autumn shipment mixed case from Cameron Hughes, and it was a revelation. After I tried it, I immediately ordered a full case of this wine. Big, tasty, and a usual home run from the Red Mountain AVA. As a winemaker once said on The Tasting Room, “if you see a wine from Red Mountain, just buy it. I promise it will be good.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a few bottles so far, and plan to keep trying them every six or so months. I imagine they’ll only get better.

Best of all? You can buy them for $16 a bottle. I’ve also seen them on sale as low as $13.

Get some. I promise it will be good.

Speaking of Rioja: 2004 Viña Tondonia

I paid $36.98 for this 2004 Rioja about three weeks ago. Given that “a good Rioja” should be cellared a decade or so, it is nice to find one that is ready to drink after have been bottle-aged before purchase. After a some rest in the wine cooler I opened this one up to accompany dinner.

The nose was very “woody” with strong evidence of time in oak. On the palate the fruit came alive. A delightful wine certainly! Very different from my usual domestic stuff. One note however: I failed to finish the bottle and re-corked it and placed it in a cool place overnight. By the next night it was unrecognizable from the night before. Almost undrinkable. This is also very different than the younger domestics I usually drink, as they always seem to stretch a few nights pretty well.