Best reasonably-priced wine/food matches?

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Haven't done a sparkling wine. Alas!

Several years back, at a good café, a waiter recommended a bottle which we really loved. Can't recall what we ate, but the wine was memorable. So before we started home the next day, we hit the liquor store and bought several.


Champagne, the designation, is strictly limited to wines produced in that region of France. The major grape varieties are chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. Pinot blanc and pinot gris are also allowed. But pinot noir is the staple.

To make a white wine from red and pink grapes, one must separate the juice from the skins early in the process. Yet the skins are what give a wine much of its flavor and character. A blanc de noirs (white from dark) wine gives the juice more time on the skins, from which it gets a pale salmon hue and a rich character: pear, berry, vanilla, toast and a creamy mouthfeel.

Since we discovered it, we seldom drink brut wines. Our first bottle was a mere $13. The present price has edged up to $16-18. But it's still a brilliant wine (90 points from Wine Spectator) and pairs well with a range of dishes.

It's produced in the US, in New Mexico, by a French family with a background in sparkling wines. They also sell brut and blanc de blancs sparkling wines, both excellent.
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Another wine we tasted at a restaurant and then bought was a red blend from Italy, from the exporter Banfi. It's a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, in which either can predominate according to year– they don't give percentages. Still, it's consistently good with any Mediterranean-style food involving red sauce: spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, etc. It also works with grilled meat and roast chicken with Italian herbs.

Dark berry flavors with a hint of smoke, medium-dry with soft tannins and a nice finish.


Widely available at $10-12.
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If you have a household favorite wine you'd like to review, please jump in. The only rules are a price of $8-20, and general availability.
Another Rhône-style red, from the central coast of California. The Hahns, a Swiss couple, bought a vineyard in the Santa Lucia highlands in the 1970s, and started producing wines that gained them a following. They've since expanded their acreage and bottle several varieties, largely based on grenache or pinot noir.


GSM refers to the signature blend of the southern Rhône valley: grenache (69%), syrah (29%), and mourvedre (2%). The 2019 opens with strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and white pepper notes. On the palate there's a creamy red cherry taste, with hints of vanilla and tobacco. It's pleasantly dense without feeling heavy or overextracted.


Good pairings include antipasto, red sauce pasta and vegs, lamb, grilled lean meats, mushrooms, and rich stews and soups. Ranges from $12-15.
Airlie, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, is a favorite winery, so I'll do another of their white blends, called Seven. There are seven varietals in the blend, which in the wrong hands could be characterless. The Riesling, Müller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay grapes are all grown in their vineyards and fermented separately. Once that's done, the vintners start blending, trying to capture the particular virtues of each variety: a hint of sweetness from the rieslings and muscat ottonel, spice from the gewürztraminer, and the richness of chardonnay.


The result is sort of a Swiss Army Knife white: adaptable to various dishes such as cheese boards, seafood, lightly-spiced chicken or pork, pasta with white sauce, and maincourse summer salads. Best way to get it is to order from the winery, with a 20% discount for a case lot. From about $16 to $18.
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Another note on buying wine. A local shop owner agreed to sell case lots for wholesale + 10% + sales tax (6%). It usually takes about a week for an order to arrive. I already mentioned that we also order direct from wineries (there's usually a case discount) and online retailers such as Tannico (for Italian wine). In Wyoming there's a limit on how much wine a household can order that way— 36 liters/4 cases per year.

There's a popular website, Reverse Wine Snob, that features decent lower-priced wine. There are lots of 'best' lists and sections for large discount retailers such as Costco, Aldi, and Trader Joe's. Another bit is a group buy setup, Insider Deals, for good (assuming that your taste accords with the head dude) but lesser-known wines, usually 4 or 6 packs, discounted, with a flat $10 shipping fee.

I got a 4-pack of Hawley Old Vine Zinfandel, from a small vineyard in Mendocino, for about $16 per bottle delivered. Good deal for an excellent red wine.


Anyhow here's a link.

Be warned that clicking through the website or placing an order might auto-subscribe you to e-mail messages, and opt out as required.
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I find it interesting that 2 Bogle wines were mentioned. This is one of my favorites. I love a Petit Syrah. (Not to be confused with a Syrah or Shiraz)


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That's a very good wine, especially at the price. We've had quite a lot of it over the years. What sort of dishes do you like it with?
How about a box wine? This one is rather good and the price is right.


The first box wine from Sokol Blosser, an Oregon winery of high repute. A bottle sells for $20 and I bought the 1.5 liter box (two standard bottles) for about $16. It's rich and dense, opening with ripe cherries. The aroma is both fragrant and fresh with hints of spice and a thorny complexity. There's a stout frame of tannins and oak, and it finishes long and clean.

If you savor the occasional glass, the box keeps it fresher than a bottle opened and stoppered repeatedly.

It hits usual marks: salmon, roast chicken and turkey, roast lamb or pork, savory stews such as cassoulet, rich but not strong cheeses (brie).
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This is a really good pinot gris for the price, $15-$19, and it shows why the variety has become Oregon's top white wine grape (although the fruit itself is actually purple).


Elk Cove presses whole clusters, removes the skins, and does a cool fermentation in small stainless steel tanks, which brings out the aromatic and fruit essences. It opens with ripe pear, honeydew melon, and lemon curd flavors and has a clean citrus and mineral finish.


When I lived in New Zealand (2002-2003), Pinot Gris was just coming on. Today, it's the third most-planted white varietal, after sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. NZ pinot gris is much like Oregon pinot gris: the cooler climate seems to bring out the fruit-forward and aromatic qualities. In this, it's similar to French pinot gris. Kim Crawford bottles a good pinot gris for about $17.

The same grape is known as pinot grigio in Italy, where the wines are quite dry and acidic. Cavit is a widely-available example, good for $8-$10. California pinot grigio can go either way: dry and tangy or more fruit-driven.

For some reason, it's seldom blended. Cline (California) sells a chardonnay-pinot grigio blend for about $12.

Food pairings are like those for dry whites in general: seafood (incl. oysters, sushi and sashimi) light antipasti and cheeses, chicken, simply-spiced pork and veal, Asian dishes, and salad entrees.
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Thaks for looking in. To celebrate 1000+ views, I'll invite other wine buffs to post reviews of your favorites. The only rules are that the price be $8-20, and the wine be widely available.
If you enjoy white wine but haven't tasted viognier, it's about time.

First, it's pronounced vee-ON-yay. Second, it is said to have been brought from Dalmatia to the Rhône Valley in France by the Romans, c. 300 AD. It can be difficult to grow, developing best with warm days and cool nights, and the acreage had dwindled, but it's had a revival, both in France and in California, with several growers expanding their stocks. Still, there are only about 2000 acres planted to viognier in California at present (compared to 100,000+ for chardonnay).

Fred Cline has specialized in growing Rhône varietals, with good results at reasonable prices. The 2019 can be bought for $13-18 (worth shopping around).

The grapes were hand-picked and de-stemmed, then pumped to a tank press where the juice was extracted. Thence, to a stainless steel fermenting tank to be chilled and settled overnight. The juice was then racked off the solids (pulp and skins) and inoculated with yeast. It was kept in stainless steel tanks at a cool 50°F to preserve the fruit character.

Neither tart, like sauvignon blanc, nor lush and oaky, like chardonnay, this wine opens with stone fruit, jasmine and honeysuckle, giving way to ripe peach and apricot. The mouthfeel is soft and refined. The finish is clean and pleasantly crisp.

Good matches include Gruyere or Camembert cheese, omelettes, quiches, sushi, white fish like halibut and black cod, white-sauce seafood dishes, or lightly-spiced chicken.

I'm just finishing a glass and fighting the urge to open a second bottle.
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Did you open that second bottle, Bitser? [emoji6]

Virginia wineries produce some fine viognier. It's been ages since we did our own little vineyard crawl, though, so I don't remember which ones.

Himself and I have a great arrangement - he's the designated driver and I'm the designated drinker. [emoji38] He then samples my curated choices as I describe the dishes I would prepare to partner with each selected wine.
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I've learned, hard way, that the best wine for cooking is the wine you like for drinking.
And going with somebody else recommendation means you are going to be using the wine somebody else likes, not you.
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For cooking I keep a box of decent white wine in the closet under the basement stair, which stays around 55°F. Right now, it's Harvest Press pinot grigio. For red, there's a Bota Box old vine zinfandel. I seldom use more than a half-cup. Also have a bottle of cheap sherry for Asian sauces: works fine but I shan't be drinking it.
I learned the had way that the wine used for cooking should be a bit better than just drinkable. I ruined a whole chicken in some coq au vin by doing that. It should be wine that is at least enjoyable. For me, at least. It certainly doesn't have to be a fancy wine. I also try to always have some white vermouth on hand, to sub for white wine, if necessary. Vermouth tends to stay good for a very long time.
If you can´t drink it, then don´t cook with it. It´s as simple as that; and I´m not saying you should cook with Chateau-neuf-du-pape 1959! No - just make sure the wine tastes good, and your food will also taste good. However, you also need to know if the wine is acidic, sweet, fresh-tasting, fruity, etc., because that will also affect your dish.
For me, at least. It certainly doesn't have to be a fancy wine.

The key bit for me is that the wine used for cooking doesn't dominate the flavor. I never cook with chardonnay, because the oaky wang surfaces like mad. Likewise highly tannic wines, cabernet sauvignon fruit bombs, which overpower nearly any dish.

Pinot grigio is my all-purpose white for cooking.
With fresh oysters and white fish, my favorite wines have been Sancerre and Muscadet from France, and New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Marlborough. But a server at a fish place suggested we try a white wine from Argentina— Torrontes— and we loved it.

Torrontes is distinctly South American, a cross between the Mission (Pais) grape and Alexandrian Muscat. The character depends on which of three areas it's grown in: Salta, Mendoza, and La Rioja. Salta gets the highest marks and the wine we had was from there: Colomé.


Best served chilled, it has a lemony citrus taste, paired with a light floral aroma, over a base of mineral, almost salty dryness much like Sancerre, as opposed to the grapefruit tang and tropical fruit nose of NZ sauv blanc.

It complements lightly-spiced Asian dishes, white fish, oysters, sushi and sashimi, and could also work with a white-cheese quiche or an omelette.

For a decent bottle, look in the $13-18 range. Cheaper brands tend to get sweeter as the price descends.
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