Tag Archives: Astor Wines Top Ten Under $10

OK! Bordeaux Superior for $10…GO!!!

14 Jul

Chateau La Reine Audry 2010.

It’s a red Bordeaux Blend. Do you like them? Then get some!

I bought this $10 bottle to help fill up an empty space in a mixed case with a couple of super-rare, no-longer available Jura wines from Jacques Puffeney (tangent, sorry). I tasted it at dinner with my brother-in-law, (a doctor who drinks red wine every night) who thought it was the best wine he’d had in a long while. Me, I thought it was a killer value. 

So the next morning, I sent a half case to my dad as a belated Birthday/Father’s Day present, along with a few other things I really wanted him to try. It was a package of great, affordable reds from Spain, France & Italy. But this was the ONE wine I sent him a HALF CASE of. Because I know he is going to love it, and he doesn’t know it’s dirt cheap. (Dad also doesn’t read my blog, and I trust you will NOT tell him!)   

And now I’m sharing this with you, dear readers, out of guilt. Because I also love you, and so many of you adore great buys under $20, and I rarely find really good wines in that price range. When I do, I am often quick to point it out. This time I was lax, and I apologize. So here you are, Loie, Kim, Angela, Lynn- some of my favorite readers who love the bargain pricing? This one’s for you!

Chateau La Reine Audry. Currently listing for around $15/bottle at Astor wines, today’s Bastille Day sale gets you a 30% discount to $9.96! For my West coast friends, The Wine Club in SF also has it for just over $10/bottle. It’s a STEAL at that price. 

What are you waiting for? This delicious red has cassis, red plum, and a ton of tannins. A beautiful bordeaux superior blend that is hard to beat at this price. It’s a 2010. It’s drinking beautifully right now. 

I dare you to find a better CURRENTLY AVAILABLE Bordeaux for under $10.

If you do, I owe you a bottle from my personal stock (my choice, not yours. It won’t be the Puffeney).

Sorry I didn’t take a bottle shot.

ChAudry Edit

My lousy, “I didn’t think this was going on my blog until after I enjoyed it” picture.

 

La Reine AudryA little more even label shot, photo credit to wine-searcher.com.

 

à votre santé!

and yes… this one’s for you. But you know I can’t say that without remembering my time mixing monitors for Barry Manilow when he was performing on Broadway right?

Senseless about Great Buys: Sensible Tudela De Duero Tempranillo

2 Jun

Isaac Fernandez Selection’s Sensible Tudela de Duero 2013 Tempranillo (Spain).
14% ABV; List @ $12.99 /bottle, purchased from Garagiste at $7.99/bottle!

 

“Wishing I had bought more” is a tasting note that I should celebrate (for finding a great wine) instead of being frustrated. Alas, sometimes you realize you missed a great opportunity. Well, this wine is still a bargain at the street price, so don’t you worry!

A Spanish delight! Color is a murky ruby with purple center. The nose shows black fruit, a hint of kiln dried wood and minerals. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberries, smoky black pepper, secondary notes of vanilla, cedar, forest floor, halite and some gravelly chalk on the full and savory finish that resounds with a tight, tannic mouthfeel.

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Very satisfying on the palate and a lovely complement for food. I had forgotten everything about this wine and pulled it out of a mixed case for a dinner with family, and my brother-in-law and I both loved it on first taste, then more with a little air, and I continued to appreciate it for several days. Not until a week later did I realize this was a $13 bottle I had acquired for only $8 and made the mistake of only buying two. Live and learn… a few cases would have been perfect, but maybe Fernandez will do even better with the ’14 and ’15. Keep your eyes peeled.

à votre santé!

 

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
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A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

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This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

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Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

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The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Bodan Roan Cab Sauv ‘2011

3 Aug

Bodan Roan Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. 13.6% ABV, $9/bottle from Astor Wine & Spirits.

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The first thing you’ll notice with Bodan Roan 2011 Cab Sauv is that the color looks like a pinot, not a cab. The light color belies the grapes. The nose, too shows bright red fruit, some vegetation and touch of wood. On the palate, the red fruit is quite bright and matched by powerful acidity, showing a quicker finish as loose tannins creep in gently. A hint of stone is the final note after the tannins subside. This is a wine made for food, flexible and capable of pairing with just about anything, leaving a clean and fresh palate quickly without imparting a new color of its own. A great table/house red for warm seasons or climates that can stand up to any food, easygoing & providing solid value.

Just beware if you taste on its own, you might say ‘bleh’ but if you taste with food, you’ll likely say ‘yeah!’.

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à votre santé

In Vino Veritas 2014. Vinho Verde!

28 May

I attended another “In Vino Veritas” group in NYC in which everyone brings a bottle (not the same one, hopefully) of a grape varietal or style of wine. I suggested several possibilities for summer wine options to group’s host,  Jimmy. A few days later I got an invitation via email, and the wine of choice was Portugal’s Vinho Verde.

I’ve been to Portuguese wine tastings before. One at a high-end wine store in Manhattan where I had found the vinho verde choices just not quite to my personal liking at that moment. I hoped to fare better at this one, and knew at least I’d bring one that I enjoyed.

The day of the tasting came and we found ourselves around a table with five bottles of vinho verde, from five different manufacturers, several of which cost under $10. They were quite different in style: some were lighter in color, body, and depth while others had some savory notes and a more yellow hue instead of the pale green I’ve come to associate with them. Not all the wines were sparkling/carbonated, and interestingly enough as a group we all seemed to choose different bottles as our favorite of the set. The tasting process became a great overview of a variance of style and flavors.

My apologies for the lack of specific individual reviews, as I was determined to actually enjoy this tasting and not make it “work”, so I left my notes for the next tasting, and am sharing only the overview today.

Casal Garcia

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Quinta de Azevedo

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Gazela Branco

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Muralhas de Mancao

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Most importantly at this tasting, everyone found a wine (or three) they enjoyed. For most of the group, it was their first time tasting this delicious and refreshing treat just in time for summer. For all of us, it was a great time with friends, trying something new and exciting, learning and enjoying, and having a wonderful summer evening.

vinho-verde-portugalHave a favorite Vinho Verde or a great story to share? Tell us about it!

à votre santé!

Spice Is Nice, WOW at this price! Your BBQ Rioja is here!

23 May


Finca Valdeguinea Rioja, Spain; 2012. Ltd Edition (15,000 bottles), 14% ABV. Astor Wine & Spirits, $7/bottle.

Made from 100% tempranillo, the color is violet with ruby edging. The nose is of black plum and cherry, while in the mouth blackberry, sour cherry, and black plum flash the palate along with nice acidity. Additional notes of spice, vanilla bean, licorice, new leather, and tart vegetation on the back palate with a nice finish that was longer than I expected. Great for pairing with spicy food, held up beautifully to my spicy chicken fajitas, but will also work well with pizza, any tomato sauce, or red meat. Delightful on the palate and a good value at this cost.

Simply put, a great BBQ wine. I should buy more for the summer. And I love the tongue-in-cheek label, it looks like so many white tablecloths I’ve ruined. You, too?

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à votre santé!

 

Your First Rioja!

29 Apr

Too many of my friends admit they haven’t tried rioja. I have found an ideal “first time” rioja for you!

Terra Milenaria, 2012,  Rioja, Spain. Purchased from Astor Wine and Spirits, $8/bottle. 14% ABV.

Light purple color, nose of boysenberry, wild blueberry, saddle leather and tar. In the mouth, a blend of black cassis, blackberry, and black plum dominate with secondary notes of saddle leather, limestone and shale. I enjoyed this on my first tasting, then refrigerated it for later and enjoyed it over several days, enjoying how the fruit slowly paled over a series of days  but remained tasty and enjoyable a week after opening. This dry Spanish red is the perfect entry- level bottle that costs less than a glass does in most establishments. A great value both in tempranillo and in red wine.

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à votre santé!

Taste the Mediterranean- On a Budget!

3 Apr

“Tala” Monastrell 2012, Alicante, Spain. 14.5% ABV. Bottled exclusively for Astor Wines & Spirits. $5.96/bottle.

Showing a violet color with ruby edging, the nose is ripe red fruit, menthol and slate. Tart raspberry and  cherry meet green stalkiness on the front palate,secondary notes of pepper,  spice and stone are followed with a dry, tight finish.

Better than a basic vin du table, this wine shone when paired with food. On its own, the acidity may be overpowering, but with a basic pasta & meat sauce, Tala cuts through and leaves a fresh, clean palate. It reminded me of dining outdoors in southern Spain, looking out from the restaurant to view the Mediterranean sea. I enjoyed the fruit, strong tannins and acidity on my initial tasting of the wine by itself, but preferred Tala on the second day when I  took time to enjoy it, and pair it with an appropriate dish to match the spanish grape. A good party wine at a superbly low price, I’d suggest opening to air for 30 minutes prior to service or decanting for best enjoyment.

I’m not used to liking much I’ve found under $10 but Tala and the Horgelus have enough to make anyone pay attention for good value.

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à votre santé!

Smooth Criminal

24 Mar

Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon Blanc & Gros Manseng, 2013, Côtes de Gascogne, France. $6 from Astor Wines, NYC. 12% ABV.

 

Sometimes you pop the screwcap, enjoy the nose, have a taste and sigh pleasantly. Then you let your fingers do the walking and do a serious double take. WHAT? This wine hit me like that. I was expecting to see $15/bottle, on special from Astor as I got this in their “12 under $12” package I try a couple of times a year to find new inexpensive wines. So I saw what Astor charges a bottle for this: $5.96. I almost spat out the wine. “REALLY?” I thought, “That’s simply criminal!”

Here’s why: the color of this wine is a transparent light straw. The nose is grapefruit with a touch of lychee, sniff deeply and you’ll find the B.O./funkiness that makes unfiltered Sauv Blanc infamous. In the mouth, this is delightfully fresh, popping bright citrus with gentle acidity and delicious tartness. Secondary notes of minerality just make you want to drink more. I think I’ll order a case of this, and  another for the party I’m having in a month. The only problem I have with this wine is that at this price point, it’s going to get more expensive. It could easily sell at $15/bottle, which is what I would have expected to pay after my first taste.

You evil, terrible, smooth criminal. You take my gold watch and I admire you for it, like Jesse James, the outlaw turned folk hero. Next time I see you, you’ll cost me even more to enjoy. In the meantime, the townfolk might as well enjoy the benefits of a well-made wine for a great value. Best served well chilled, you might just hide out in the cooler with this to prevent your friend from asking for a glass. Enjoy it while it lasts, it can’t last for much longer. People are surely going to find out.

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à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

Tears from Italy: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba

7 Mar

‘Barbarossa’ Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, 2011 Romagnoli, $10 from Astor Wine, NYC

This ruby red wine hails from a small family winery near the eastern coast of Italy. With a nose of blueberry and violet, the palate is dominated with blue plum and blackberry with a hint of rose petals. Young tannins provide only a little grip in the finish but the acidity pairs well with the young fruit and makes for a very satisfying wine that may make you think you’re sitting on the veranda of an Italian villa, looking out at the Mediterranean sea.

Barbarossa 2011

Lacrima was a grape I had not heard of before,  but the word immediately reminded me of ‘Lacrimosa’, the latin word for ‘weeping’  whichI knew thanks to Mozart and his K626 Requiem in D minor- a haunting and lovely piece of music. Tangent aside, I did a little research and learned that in Italian, ‘lacrima’ literally translates to ‘tear’ primarily due to the tear-shape  of the grape,  as well as the thin-skinned nature of the grape which allows juice to leak out and ‘cry’ from the bottom of the grape at maturity. This unusual grape is only found in the Marches area of Italy (near the calf of the boot, if you will) and Lacrima is considered best when enjoyed young. 

I picked this up from Astor Wine as part of their  10 Wines under $10 and waited for a night that I was cooking Italian food to taste it. While it paired beautifully with gnocchi and tomato sauce, it would pair equally well with light meats, cheeses, salmon and similar fare. I’ll keep my eye out for wines made with lacrima in the future, especially at this price tag.

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