You’re in the early stages of Lent. The glue isn’t even dry on the seal that binds us to our commitments of what we’re giving up this year. Some of us are smartly laying off the booze after a long, wet Mardi Gras put us in the bed for a few days. Some of us are reigniting the fire under our failed New Year’s resolution. We have meatless Fridays to deal with. It’s a time to behave, or at the very least give it a shot.
For those of us who aren’t laying off the sauce, an occasional good glass of wine or two shouldn’t set us on the fiery path to the underworld. We may have given our livers a run for their money over the past couple of weeks, but now is a chance after a week of relaxing to ease back into the game with something a little better than the regular swill you’re used to. I’ve selected a few wines you will savor rather than guzzle. And while you don’t find these in the $10 section, they still won’t break the bank.
Dior La Petite Grace Pinot Noir, Monterey
I’ve been a big fan of this for the past four or five years. The 2017 sitting before me is a blend from six different vineyard blocks from San Bernabe Vineyard and the Santa Lucia Highlands. Aged in predominantly French oak, this wine is a mouthful of velvet. With notes of cherry and darker fruits, you may get a slightly nutty and smoky sweet punch (in a good way) that makes this bottle a great choice with duck breast. I’ll gladly drink this with a rack of lamb if it’s left alone and not overly sauced. Forgo the Bearnaise sauce and let your red meat work with this wine.
This isn’t the dirtier pinot noir like the ones we enjoy from Willamette. If that’s what you are used to, you may find this a refreshing substitute. It’s common to locate this excellent choice for under $25 at wine retailers. Anything under $45 in a restaurant and you’re doing good.
Domaine Franck Millet Sancerre, Vigneron à Bué
This French wine comes from third-generation winemaking husband and wife team Franck and Betty Millet in Bué. I was steered to this particular Sancerre at Red Or White by our favorite trustee (thanks, Mary!). Its color is a very pale gold, and you’re eased into citrus that matches its hue such as lemon, grapefruit, perhaps a little pineapple. This bottle had a very strong finish. I loved it.
Salmon was the smarter pairing, but the real star of the show was goat cheese. I’d recommend sticking to fish and cheese or possibly a salad. I wouldn’t take it to the crawfish boil, but shrimp dishes may be another story. Search enough and you’ll find this one under $20, maybe $17 if you’re shopping online. It’s an excellent buy, either way.
Vrac Rosé, Vin de Pays Mediterranee, Provence, France
I have an extremely soft spot for rosé. That fondness is even greater when it comes at a price point below $12. I remember a time when I didn’t particularly care for rosé. Actually, I remember a time when America didn’t particularly care for it. After watching too many college girls get smashed on “white zin,” there was no way I’d be caught drinking anything pink.
Finding that rosé isn’t exactly the same thing helped me open my mouth to a world with which I was unfamiliar. Turns out I am totally man enough to drink rosé. We saw a huge campaign by Charles & Charles promoting a more masculine side to the now popular wine, and it’s been going ever since.
Vrac is one I happened upon that suits me fine. It’s a French blend that isn’t pretentious, with a medium body. It’s great with lighter fish or salads, but is best enjoyed on a front porch swing in the morning at the first sign of spring. It’s one where the more chilled the bottle, the better. Try to find the strawberry or peach in this sweet-on-the-nose, dry-finish beauty found for about $10 anywhere.
Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, California
I couldn’t make a list without a readily available California-grown cabernet sauvignon. Josh Cellars is one I turn to when on a budget. Another dark wine, a little spicy with cinnamon and cloves as well as blackberry and almonds, a hint of vanilla and a powerful finish, you probably want a marbled ribeye with this. Have another glass with a dark chocolate dessert. It would be fine with pork dishes, too.
Grapes harvested from different regions of California make this a good cross-section wine that hasn’t let me down, especially for being in a $15 price range. You can find it in most grocery stores that have a decent wine selection.
Wine is a spirit still going strong among millennial crowds and those in the game who’ve always carried the torch. A surge that happened a few years ago changed the way wine was being made, just from the sheer popularity of it. It can be a little intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you may drink a lot of bad wine to find the ones you like, but it’s worth it. Maybe this short list can ease some of that research and help a newcomer find a decent bottle without going broke on the hunt.
There are so many great wines under $30 that can help you to at least look like you know what you’re talking about. Get to searching.
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