Argento Bonarda

ARGENTO BONARDA 2013, $9.95. LCBO# 292458.

ARGENTO BONARDA 2013, $9.95.
LCBO# 292458.

It is high time for a $10 wine post, and this Bonarda is a winner. We are fans of Argento’s Malbec (here’s a link to my past review). We usually keep it on hand for weeknight dinners and casual gatherings, and one day I noticed the Bonarda next to it in the LCBO. It must have been on sale, and I thought “never heard of that grape but why not?” and I’m so glad I did. I’m not sure which I like better, the Malbec or Bonarda, because both are so nice and also economical. Interestingly, they are Argentina’s 2 most planted grape varietals- points to Argento for doing the local grapes so well.

The Bonarda is a lovely deep plum shade that promises good flavours and then delivers. It is medium/full bodied, full of berry fruits and is also a bit smoky with oak. It makes me think of California style reds, which I also love. Dry, but not too dry, nice with red meat, BBQ, and dark chocolate.

Spring is in the air and backyard parties are right around the corner, so pick it up for a BBQ potluck and I know your friends will be happy.

Overall, I give this bottle 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

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Trapiche Astica Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon

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Trapiche Astica Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2011, $7.95. LCBO#359083.

I’m long overdue for an affordable wine post or two, so I thought I would follow up my January tasting of the Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec with one of their white wines. I was happy with the value of the red, and so this week, whilst browsing the LCBO shelves for new finds under $10, this $8 beauty stood out. Always on the hunt for crisp, dry, refreshingly affordable whites; this one fit the bill.

It is citrusy, a bit herbal and grassy, with a touch of sour green apple, and none of the sweet apple-y tones that tend to turn me off cheap whites. Great alone, also nice with the fish we had for dinner, and would be lovely in a white wine spritzer (a drink preferred by me and cruise loving divorcees the world over). I’m not ashamed to admit my spritzer love- it also happens to be my favourite under $5 drink at a pub- laugh if you will. It’s the perfect hangover prevention recipe since you are forced to hydrate as you imbibe.

I think this little Argentinian treat has dethroned my usual South American Sauvignon Blanc go-to bottle- Casillero del Diablo– which is sadly now $11 and stretching my $10-and-under quest. Perhaps it is time to try a few more of Trapiche’s affordable bottles. Stay tuned!

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 5/5 for value.

Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec

2010 Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec, $7.45. LCBO#359075.

I’m writing this post in response to a friend who recently said, “Can you post some more tasty wines on your blog?” Why, yes of course! And, you can always find a list of past $10 wine reviews here, for easy reference.

This Saturday night was full of great conversation, fun ladies, and a rather hilarious ride downtown crammed into a cab like 18 year olds. But before all that came to pass, I was in a rush out the door to start the evening, and grabbed the first bottle of wine I saw. It was one of Chatelaine’s November wine picks, deemed a perfect wintry red.

I didn’t actually know the price while I was drinking it, and have to say I thought it was more than a $10 bottle. The fact that it is $7.45 is amazing. Hello new fave red!

It has a nice balance of spice from the Malbec, and a smooth finish from the Merlot. Easy to drink on its own, it would go well with pasta or pizza too. A bit fruity, dry and smooth; just an easy, tasty bottle.

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 5/5 for value.

La Puerta Shiraz

2010 La Puerta Shiraz, $9.15. LCBO#614636.

I was first introduced to this bottle at my favourite Calgary restaurant, Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro, as it was the house wine for a long time. Perhaps it still is, I sadly have not been there for a few years. One of the downfalls of moving across the country, of course. I always enjoyed this wine, especially with Aida’s garlicky hummus and baba ghanoush, and other appetizer sized treats, but could never find it at the Kingston LCBO. Last month, as I was browsing the Argentina aisle, this very distinctive and memorable label jumped out at me. I was shocked to see that it fit my $10 price point, and immediately added a bottle to my basket.

We drank this wine with friends during a games night, and I have to say it went well on its own, and with some simple veggies and dip and chips. Sadly the spread was nothing like Aida’s delights, but the wine is versatile. Medium to full-bodied, deep plum in colour, with a bit of cellar-like funk on the nose that quickly dissipates. It has ripe berry flavours, but also some depth and peppery spice, with a pleasingly dry finish. I am happy to add this bottle to my $10 list.

Overall, I give this bottle 8.5/10 for taste and 4.5/5 for value. And bonus points for a fun, graphic label.

Holiday $10 Wine Tasting

The bottles, after the big reveal, in the order we tasted them.

Our $10 wine tasting was such a hit this spring, we decided to throw a repeat for the holidays. The details from the first party and the logistics can be found here. In a nutshell, a $10 wine party involves each guest bringing 2 bottles of $10 wine, one gets tasted and the duplicate bottle goes in as a prize for whoever brings the best bottle, as voted by the guests.

This time was as fun as the last, and the appetizers disappeared just as fast. The fan favourites continue to be home made sausage rolls and baked brie topped with fresh raspberies. I was quite proud of the spread, but am sad to report that I have no pictures of it. My camera man had too much fun socializing and neglected his duties! I suppose this means I will have to host another party and manage to document all the tasty treats.

This time we had seven bottles of wine to taste, and ended up with 2 whites and 5 reds. We covered the bottles in paper bags for a blind tasting and randomly tried them, starting with the whites and moving to the reds. I don’t know how much research there is on wine tasting bias, but the first 3 bottles we tasted got the top scores. Perhaps they were indeed the tastiest, or perhaps we got harsher as the night went on. I also liked the first three bottles the best, so I really can’t comment on tasting psychology!

There was a 2-way tie for first between the 2 white wines. It was great to see that both bottles were Ontario VQA. Third place went to a California red. The final 4 reds were very close in scores, so I won’t rank them. The tasting crowd was similar to the spring party, and it was easy to see that people like what they like. At the last party, off-dry whites and easy-drinking reds were a hit, and we saw a repeat of that this time.

Our winners were:

1. 2008 Eco Trail Chardonnay Auxerrois, VQA, $8.95. LCBO#591719. Pelee Island Winery, Ontario. Crisp, fresh, slightly sweet with apple and citrus flavours.

1. 2009 Strewn Gewurztraminer-Riesling, VQA, $10.95. LCBO#467662. Strewn Winery, Ontario. Off-dry with peach and floral flavours.

3. 2008 Barefoot Merlot, $9.95. LCBO#53991. E & J Gallo, California. Medium bodied with hints of toasty oak and vanilla. Very smooth and easy to drink.

The runners up:

  • 2008 Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.95.
  • 2009 Mommessin Beaujolais, $9.85.
  • 2009 McGuigan Shiraz, $9.95.
  • 2009 Fuzion Shiraz Malbec, $7.75.

Our entry, the McGuigan Shiraz, was my second choice for a red in the blind taste. I still enjoy its spiciness and complexity, but I don’t think our guests enjoy a bold red very much. For our next party……perhaps I’ll have to bend to the will of the crowd and pick an off-dry white!

$10 Wine Tasting Winner: Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Our 8 economical bottles, ordered from highest score to lowest.

I am very happy to report that last night, a good time was had by all.  We hosted our very first $10 wine tasting, which I hope is only the first of many variations on that theme.

The rules were: you must bring 2 bottles of your favourite $10 wine (red or white), one for tasting and one for the prize basket. The bottles for tasting were wrapped in brown paper bags and were sampled “blind,” ordered from white to red and randomly numbered.  The bottles were scored out of 20 (5 for nose, 5 for taste, 5 for finish and 5 for overall impression). We picked the basics: how does it smell, do you like the taste, how does it leave your mouth, and what do you think of it overall? Here is a copy of the $10 wine tasting score sheet for those who want to host a similar event. The score sheet is certainly not designed for wine snobs and sommeliers, but for ordinary folk who might not be thinking of uppity terms like balance, complexity and bouquet.

Last night we had 13 attendees and 8 bottles (5 white and 3 red). The winner was Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $9.95. Sadly it was not my entry, but a wine I’ve reviewed in the past and been very pleased with regarding quality at its price point. Good choice, Eve & Tomek. Congrats on winning 8 bottles of wine, and thanks for sharing a few with your hosts!

Kevin and I entered our latest favourite white, Sogrape Gazela Vinho Verde 2009, $8.95. Unfortunately it was not a fan favourite, and we came in 6th. I think our crowd enjoyed off-dry whites the most, and weren’t into its crisp dry spritzy quality.  But I still love it!

Here is a list of the 8 wines and where they fell in the ranks:

1. 2008 Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.95. LCBO# 113001. (California)

-Soft vanilla and oak flavours, very smooth finish and medium-full body.

2. 2009 Deinhard Green Label Riesling, $11.95. LCBO# 8094. (Germany)

-Off-dry, fruity and fresh.

3. 2009 Ruffino Orvieto Classico, $11.75. LCBO# 31062. (Italy)

-Slightly off-dry, clean and crisp with flavours of apple and pear.

4. 2009 Copper Moon Moonlight Harvest Pinot Grigio, $9.45. LCBO# 158303. (Ontario, Canada)

-Off-dry with flavours of citrus and melon.

5. 2009 Argento Chardonnay, $9.95. LCBO# 591701. (Argentina)

-Fruity with a sweet, almost maple syrup finish.

6. 2009 Sogrape Gazela Vinho Verde, $8.95. LCBO# 141432. (Portugal)

Dry, light and effervescent. Flavours of citrus and tomato leaf.

7. 2008 Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec, $7.95. LCBO# 28803.  (Argentina)

-Oaky nose and blackberry flavours. Medium-bodied, fruity and toasty.

8. 2009 Funky Llama Shiraz, $9.90. LCBO# 614685. (Argentina)

Black currant flavours with a hint of oak, medium-bodied.

All the bottles were enjoyed and represented great quality for price. My personal top 3 were the Beringer Cab-Sav (17.5/20), Gazela Vinho Verde (16/20) and Ruffino Orvieto Classico (16/20). Funnily enough they are all wines I have reviewed before and really enjoyed.  Even with a “blind” tasting, I still like what I like!

Argento Malbec

2009 Argento Malbec, $9.95. LCBO#591693.

I have been so happy with my latest wine picks, all of which have been coming from Wine Align‘s red wines rated 85 and above for under $10.  When I started this a few months ago, the first few bottles were thin and wimpy wines, and I worried that most wines in the $7-10 range would be total let downs.  But never fear, my wine loving readers, I have persevered (it’s such hard work to drink 1-2 bottles of wine a week, let me tell you).  And the fruit of my labours is yet another lovely wine to share.

This Malbec hails from Argentina’s Mendoza region and is produced by Bodegas Esmerelda. Apparently their high altitude vineyards make for fruit forward wines.  I wouldn’t call this wine extremely fruity, but it has a well balanced sweet-tart berry quality while still being fairly dry. It is a cheerful deep ruby-plum colour with just enough oak for a smooth finish.

I could sip this on its own, but it would also be a great addition to a girl’s night or appetizer gathering. It’s also an excellent dinner wine. I’m embarrassed to say we had it with spaghetti and garlic bread…..I feel like I’m always pairing things with pasta!  What can I say, carbs bring me comfort and almost always go well with wine.

Overall, I give this bottle 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec

2008 Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec, $7.95. LCBO#28803

This bottle, from Argentina’s Mendoza region, is an economical delight.  Hailing from the same region as Fuzion wines,  Finca Flichman has reduced their prices to compete with the mega winery.  Personally, I would spend 50 cents more to support anyone other than the Zuccardis.  I feel like their 1000+ bottles on Kingston shelves alone makes them fit for sale at Walmart.  And all you have to do is read my original post on $10 wine to know how I feel about that.

The wine is a very pleasing dark purple, with an oaky nose and blackberry flavours. It is medium-bodied, fruity and toasty.  This malbec is pleasantly spicy on its own; we drank it with grilled sausages and lentil soup, and it was a great pairing.

Overall, I give this wine an 8.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec

2008 Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec, $9.95. LCBO#135475.

This is my first review of a bottle kindly provided by friends.  Johann & Tiffany heard of my quest for an affordable bottle and made sure to have a $10 bottle on hand for dinner this weekend.  The bottle comes from Argentina’s Zuccardi family, the famous makers of Fuzion. I’m not sure how popular Fuzion is in the rest of Canada, but Ontario is bananas for Fuzion.  My handy LCBO website tells me there are 150 bottles of this wine alone in Kingston, and when you consider their many other varieties, the size of the empire becomes apparent.  I first heard of Fuzion last summer when CBC Radio did a segment on “Recession Wines.”  Between that, and the threat of an LCBO strike last June, I think it was hard to keep Fuzion on the shelves last year.  The great appeal is that they make very drinkable wines for very affordable prices, with Chardonnay and Shiraz Malbec at $7.45, and organic Malbec Cabernet at $12.95.

This bottle of Reserve Malbec is well-rated on Wine Align, getting an 88, which is notable for a wine at a $9.95 price point.  I found the wine very smooth and drinkable, and I must say it disappeared quickly along with our fresh linguine and bolognese sauce from Pasta Genova.  To my knowledge, this was my first taste of a Fuzion wine, although Fuzion frequently shows up at parties and may have made its way into my glass previously. It had a very lush, balanced taste with plenty of berry flavours and just enough oak.

The reviews say to splurge on this bottle vs. the Shiraz Malbec at $7.45, apparently the $2.50 extra gets you a better taste and a prettier bottle. This is definitely a wine that appeals to the masses, and would be a very safe buy for a party or a dinner where wine preferences vary.

Overall, I give this wine an 8/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.