As a wine columnist, I get many requests. More than once I’ve received phone calls from friends, at a restaurant, asking me what bottle of wine to order. I’ve even had restaurateur friends ask me for help in putting together their wine menu.
Recently my friend Tom, owner of the Blue Lantern in Elma, asked for my help narrowing down his wine-by-the-glass offerings. He set up an evening for me and my wife to come taste about a dozen wines, complemented with sliced filet and fresh-cut chicken tenders.
We narrowed it down to seven winners, all very good and fairly priced. Although I usually order wine by the bottle (or bring my own and pay the corkage fee), sometimes I want to try new or different wines — and ordering by the glass is a helpful way to do that. Don’t be afraid to ask for a taste before you order a full glass!
Here are our picks. These would also make for great, affordable choices at the liquor store.
Kung Fu Girl Riesling
This is simply delicious. Lots of light colored fruit: Peach, apples and citrus. I love this wine and you will too.
Estancia Chardonnay Unoaked
I was surprised by how much I liked this wine, and it’s a real bargain. It’s very refreshing with plenty of citrus, lemon and even grapefruit. I would serve this at my house and I think guests would love it.
Irony Pinot Noir
I love Pinot Noir, but many that you’d get by glass are thin and lack depth. I never heard of this brand, so had no expectations. However, I was very impressed — it’s a bit lighter than I normally want in a Pinot, but it’s a solid choice for wine-by-the-glass.
Meiomi Pinot Noir
Monterey and Sonoma
I’ve had this wine numerous times and it is very worthy. The beautiful color shows its depth. Flavors include raspberries, blackberries and other summer fruits…plus a touch of chocolate.
Noble Vines “The One”
North Coast, California
I typically enjoy blends, and this was no exception. It features plenty of dark fruit, nice tannins and an excellent finish. There’s also a little spice, smoke and even a hint of chocolate.
Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon
In the 1980s I drank many bottles of Clos du Bois, which hail from one of the fine old wineries of California. Thirty years later, this wine is still beautiful in the glass with nice legs, a good nose and a very nice finish, featuring tons of dark fruit and even some chocolate. There was a good earthiness that kept me in touch with the heart of the wine.
Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon
I admit I am obsessed with Charles Smith wines. Why? They are a great buy for the money. In addition to the Kung Fu Girl at the top of this list, their Boom Boom Syrah is also excellent. Their top wines, which sell for $50+, compare well to California wines that cost three times as much. From the first sip, I knew we had a winner here. Tons of dark fruit, earth, smoke, mocha and more. I think you’ll love it by the glass…but may end up with a bottle.
In search of affordable wines
A friend recently told me how much she liked this wine column…except for the fact that many of the wines I write about are way above her budget. I generally look for wines in the $25 price range, give or take, but she wanted recommendations in the $8-$12 range. I decided I was up for the challenge.
I bought six bottles — five red and one white. The total cost, including tax, was $66. I’d highly recommend three of the reds, as well as the white. The other two reds were harsh and we didn’t like them. After sitting on our counter for 24 hours they improved, but I still didn’t feel they made the cut.
Wine buying tip: Be sure to look out for discounts, rebates and coupons – you can often get a very healthy discount to bring bottles closer to your price range.
Here are my recommendations:
2016 Evodia Altovinum Garnacha
I actually paid under $10 for this bottle. It’s ready to drink now, and will probably be good for several years. Lots of ripe fruit and a little spice make this very enjoyable.
2015 Slow Press Cabernet
This was priced at $15, but I had a coupon for $5 off if I spent $25 or more – so it fit the criteria. I have been shying away from some of the traditional California Cabernets because they have been escalating in price; although I’d never heard of this one, I thought it was worth a try. Also, my wife liked the label, which played a major role in my purchasing decision (true story). This had plenty of dark fruit and a great finish…it really pops in your mouth. I think there could be 7 to 10 years of drinking pleasure with this one. (It would also be great with a hamburger and some well-done fries!)
At $10-$12, this is a delish blend at a great price. Shop around. Very few wines at this price point are this silky with wonderful dark fruit. It was beautiful in the glass with a nice finish. I’m not sure how long this wine will age, but why worry about that? Buy it and drink it now.
2014 Matua Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvingon Blanc is supposed to be the best wine to complement oysters, so even though I’m a red wine man, we’ve tried many of these over the past few years. New Zealand seems to have some of the best – and at great prices. The Matua is another $10-$12 wine. I really enjoyed it: The first sip was an amazing mix of grapefruit and apples, with plenty more citrus, as well.
Warren T. Colville is publisher and president of The Buffalo News.