2014 Vermentino from Maremma Toscana

At a glance:

Country: Italy
Region: Maremma Toscana
Grape(s):Vermentino
Year: 2014
Maker: Le Chiantigiane

Price: Around 5 dollars

I recently took the longest vacation I have had in years, and over more than two weeks drank my fair share of wine. The first one I tasted (not including the rather generous plastic cups filled to the brim on my flight over) was a Tuscan Vermentino I bought for five euros at a supermarket near where I was staying.
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2014 Vermentino from Maremma Toscana

2014 Côtes du Rhône from Kermit Lynch

At a glance:

Country: France
Region: Côtes du Rhône
Grape(s):Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre
Year: 2014
Maker: Kermit Lynch

Price:  11.99

I trust Kermit Lynch – that extends to most of what he brings in the country, and also to the unbranded stuff blended for the company. It was a Sunday, and I was drinking with a buddy and playing some guitar, so I figured the Cyprus Cuvée would be the perfect bottle to open – something tasty, versatile, with the added bonus that I could consume it without sweating over the price.
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2014 Côtes du Rhône from Kermit Lynch

2014 Insolia from Sicily

At a glance:

Country: Italy
Region: Sicily
Grape(s): Insolia
Year: 2014
Maker: Valle Dell’Acate Tenuta Ibidini

Price:  12.99

We moved across town recently, which was a pain, because moving always is. The upside (in addition to now living in a better apartment and having access to a grill) is that we are now way way closer to a wine store. The prices are not the best (but not terrible either), but the tastings are a stone’s throw away, and with plenty of bottles still firmly in my price range, I’ve already been hitting it pretty hard.

One of the bottles that I bought as a result of just such a tasting was an Insolia from Siciliy – the first Insolia I have had and one of the first Sicilian wines for me as well. In the spirit of embracing the new shit I now live by, this bottle came up to the roof to keep me company while I did some grilling (insert American flag emoji). Because I’m lazy and not that adventurous, I threw some chicken thighs in a marinade of balsamic vinegar, oil, and some garlic scapes from our CSA, let it hang out there an hour, then added salt and pepper and grilled them super hot for around four minutes a side – consistently good and more or less effortless.

The wine was a solid companion – good but not great, undoutedly refreshing and reasonably priced. It was tart, more so than I remembered from when I had tasted it a few days earlier in the store, and a little briny as well. It was definitely different – a little flat and without the mouth puckering of a viura but also absent the oak or butter or a chardonnay, though still woodier than I would expect from a super dry wine. It reminded me quite a bit of the Chardonnay I brought back from Mexico, with some of the vegetal, celery-like flavors around the edges. In the end a wine that did the trick, and one that I imagine I will pick up again at some point down the road.

2014 Insolia from Sicily

2012 Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

At a glance:

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Grape(s): Bonarda
Year: 2012
Maker: Zuccardi

Price:  14.99

In my pursuit to find new wines and new grapes, I almost always try to leave a wine store with at least one varietal I’ve never had. It was no different a few weeks back, and after stocking up on some of my more predictable selections (dry whites from France, west coast pinots) I picked up a bonarda from Argentina. It found its way to the back of my wine storage where it lived for a few months before resurfacing recently.
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2012 Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina

2015 Chardonnay from Quinta de Monasterio

At a glance:

Country: Mexico
Region: Ensenada
Grape(s): Chardonnay
Year: 2015
Maker: Quinta de Monasterio

Price:  18.99

I was in Ensenada, Mexico for a bachelor party a little while back and managed to work some wine tasting into that trip. Although I was pushing wine tasting as the central weekend theme, my two traveling companions were more interested in surfing than tasting, so I only managed to convince them to hit up one tasting room, which happened to be the same place we were spending the night – Quinta de Monasterio.

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2015 Chardonnay from Quinta de Monasterio

2014 Rara Neagra from Moldova

At a glance:

Country: Moldova
Grape(s): Rara Neagra
Year: 2014
Maker: Chateau Purcari

Price:  15.99

There are some settings that lend themselves to a really good wine. Late in the evening, after an adult rec league soccer game, and accompanying nachos and brocollini is not, at first glance, that kind of set up. But it turns out the bizarro combo actually works, and a good wine from a new place can shine through.
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2014 Rara Neagra from Moldova

2013 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

At a glance:

Country: USA
Region: Santa Barbara County
Grape(s): Pinot Noir
Year: 2013
Maker: Nielson (by Byron)

Price:  14.99

I like pinot noir and I also happen to be cheap, so I have bought my fair share of inexpensive pinots hoping for a miracle. The truth is that we have not had the world’s best luck with inexpensive pinot noir. Aside from a few good bottles from Oregon under $17, most of our ventures into the inexpensive wines of that varietal have been a little dodgy. So, when I brought home a $15 Santa Barbara County pinot noir, expectations were decidedly low.
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2013 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir