Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2014

Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2014
Portugal – Lisboa
13.5% ABV
$7.99
My Rating: 88 points
Costco

In the past 2 years, Costco has been carrying more and more Portuguese wines, most of which are both budget and food friendly. Confidencial is bold enough to pair with most meat dishes, but really shines with roasted chicken or pork. Wine Enthusiast gives this wine an impressive 92 points and quotes its list price at $27! Costco gets such great deals on their wine purchases, that this gem is a budget friendly $7.99, making it a great choice for a casual night sipper.

Medium ruby, medium bodied, nice balance of fruit, acidity and tannins.

Pair with: roasted chicken

Recipe pairing:
Half Roasted Chicken
Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken

From the winemaker:
“This quality wine was produced from a selection of the best varieties of this region, using traditional fermentation techniques, long maceration and oak aging period. Very aromatic with notes of ripe wild berry fruits, in the palate it is a fruity and full bodied wine with some oak notes and an agreeably pronounced acidity.”

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
California – Mendocino County
14.5% ABV
$15.99
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

It can be hard finding a robust California Cabernet in the sub $20 range, but Costco has been getting in several cabs from Mendocino County that are terrific values. Big and bold, Paul Dolan has the drying tannins that pair nicely with a marbled ribeye. At this price, it’s worth stocking a few bottles for grilling steaks at home.

Deep ruby, cherry, cedar, drying tannins.

Pair with: grilled ribeye, braised short ribs, sharp cheeses

Recipe Pairing
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

From the winemaker:
“Paul Dolan Vineyards is located in the heart of Mendocino County, Northern California, a secluded land of rich biological diversity and unique microclimates. Grapes are sourced from meticulously tended vineyards, and our balanced winemaking practices support each bottling’s expression of terroir for wines of unforgettable character.

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014
Spain – Tierra de Castilla
14% ABV
$7.99
My Rating: 87 points
Costco

If you can count on only one thing from Costco, it’s that you will find some unbelievable bargains on Spanish wines. I have been impressed with most of the Spanish reds under $10, and at $7.99, this Tempranillo is a great deal. They carried the 2013 vintage of this wine in the fall of 2016, and when I went back to stock up, it was gone. I didn’t make the same mistake this year. As soon as I saw it, I grabbed a case, because I know it won’t last long. Mano a Mano is an easy drinking wine to enjoy with or without food.

Full bodied, earthy, vanilla, blackberry, with a hint of mint and drying tannins on the long finish.

Pair with: grilled meat, pork dishes, lamb, serrano ham

Recipe pairings:
Instant Pot Carnitas
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“A hand-made wine created in the spirit of collaboration. Hand-harvested grapes are selected from the best vines in “Tierra de Castilla”, then passed on to the agile hands of our winemaker. The result is a carefully made wine: long slow fermentation is followed by gentile aging in French oak to create a balanced “tinto” with vanilla, spice, robust red fruit and a rich finish.”

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
$9.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

If I’ve ever spoken to you about Costco’s wine department, you know that if I see a Rioja Reserva for under $10,  I snap it up immediately. There are some great bargain wines coming out of the Rioja region of Spain, especially if you know what to look for on the label. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak), Reserva (3 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Reserva (5 years aging, at least 2 of which are in oak), and prices tend to go up the longer its aged. Many of my favorite Riojas are Reservas; they have a great oaky finish and pair well with red meat and aged cheeses.

Deep garnet, tobacco, oak, nice cherry acidity.

Pair with: lamb chops, sharp cheese

Recipe Pairing:
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“Just fill your glass and enjoy this smooth and round wine, elaborated with Rioja’s native grapes following a century-old tradition. Aged for more than 3 years, with at least 18 months in oak barrels.
Its spicy and fruity flavors are a perfect match to cheese, red-meat dishes liked grilled lamb chops and smoked food. Serve at 64F
Fall in love, again, with an authentic Rioja”

Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013
Spain – Yecla
14.5% ABV
$7.99
My Rating: 88 points
Costco

I was wildly impressed with Montgo, a Monastrell Costco was carrying a while back, so when I saw Solanera, a blend of Monastrell (70%) Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Garnacha Tintorera (15%) for $7.99, I had to give it a shot. Monastrell is a bit like a zinfandel, but a little spicier and complex, and this blend did not disappoint for under $10. It’s a perfect pairing for bold, savory dishes.

Deep ruby, limestone, black fruit and a bit spicy, drying tannic finish

Pair with: lamb dishes, bold Spanish or Mexican dishes, BBQ

Recipe pairings:
Instant Pot Carnitas
Best Baby Back Ribs
Sous Vide Carnitas

From the winemaker:
“This special limited production wine is an example of the high quality potential of the emerging Yecla region in Southern Spain. Solanera is produced from the oldest vines of the indigenous Monastrell along with low yielding Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnaca Tintorera which is aged in oak for 10 months. The resulting wine is deeply colored, with the ripe, rich flavors of the Mediterranean.”

Espiral Vinho Verde

Espiral White Wine
Portugal – Vinho Verde
9% ABV
$4.99
My Rating: 86 points
Trader Joe’s

There are many reasons why I love Espiral. Sure, this wine isn’t overly complex, and it probably isn’t winning any awards, but it’s crisp and refreshing and its under five dollars. Plus, it’s only 9% ABV, so Espiral is the perfect daytime sipper for the long, hot Texas summers. It’s on the lighter side, and wouldn’t pair well with anything heavier than a salad, but it pairs perfectly with summer and a pool. Although Vinho Verde literally translates as “green wine,” it is meant as “young wine,” and is meant to be consumed young.  Drink up while the weather is warm.

Pale straw, green apple, slightly effervescent
Pair with: salad, or drink on its own!

Recipe pairing:
Blackened Shrimp and Mango Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

From the winemaker:
“The wines of the Vinho Verde Region in Northern Portugal are characterized by their youth and freshness. Espiral is a refreshing, crisp, medium dry white wine made from selected natives grape varieties in from this region. It is great as an aperitif and pairs well with fish dishes and salads. Serve well chilled”

Modus Toscana 2013

Modus Toscana 2013
Italy – Tuscany
14.5% ABV
$16.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Whenever I see a Super Tuscan at Costco, I’m inclined to give it a shot. Although Tuscany is home is home to some of the most notable wine regions in Italy, like Chianti, a wine labeled “Toscana” or what we call a Super Tuscan, is usually Sangiovese blended with grapes not indigenous to Italy, which results in some big, rich wines. Modus is no exception; classic Sangiovese is blended with Cabernet and Merlot, with the Merlot really shining through. The acid in the Sangiovese and Merlot make this a comfortable choice for many Italian dishes, and the structured tannins from the Cabernet give it the depth to respond well to dishes with a good dose of umami. Modus is $17 at Costco; a quick search online puts this wine in the $25-$30 range. Decant an hour before serving.

Deep ruby color, full bodied, blueberry and toasted oak. Long drying tannins and medium + acidity.

Pair with: steak, lasagna, bolognese

Recipe pairings:
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks
Spaghetti Bolognese

From the winemaker:
“Sangiovese (34%) ~ Cabernet (33%) ~ Merlot (33%)
Lush and impressive, elegant and harmonious. Modus is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Each grape variety is packed individually at optimum ripeness and matured in small oak barrels. The name Modus (Latin for ‘method’) refers to the many distinct elements that come together to create this special wine – each depicted in the unique compass logo.”

Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

Averaen Pinot Noir 2015
Oregon – Willamette Valley
14.1% ABV
$15.99
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

Pinot Noir was the first red wine that I can remember enjoying. Lighter bodied than many other red wines, Pinots are a great pairing for poultry. I love the earthiness of Willamette Pinots, although finding a high quality one under $20 can be challenging. Averaen delivers on all fronts. The winemakers from Banshee Wines in Sonoma sourced grapes from throughout Willamette to debut Averaen in 2015, and the quality cannot be beat at this price.

Light garnet, light to medium bodied. Cranberry, a little spice, and earthy

Pair with: roasted chicken, turkey, risotto

Recipe pairings:
Half Roasted Chicken
Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken
Greek Chicken Pizza
Instant Pot Risotto
The Best Damn Turkey Burgers

From the winemaker:
“A mild winter led to early bud break, and early flowering. Weather was perfect around bloom, giving way to excellent fruit set. The hot, dry summer brought accelerated ripening. Warm/early sites came off the vine first week of September, breaking records for red-wine harvest timing. Warm, windy and wet in the middle of September bought us a bonus couple of weeks in cooler, high-elevation sites, yielding more complex, mature flavors in later picks.”

Il Tarocco Chianti Classico 2015

Il Tarocco Chianti Classico 2015
Italy – Chianti
13% ABV
$8.99
My Rating: 88 points
Trader Joe’s

Many of the bargains I find on wine at Trader Joe’s come from Italy. One of their Barbera D’Asti is my go to “pizza wine” at $5.99 but Il Tarocco Chianti Classico, with its bolder tannins and lingering finish is a better option for more substantial dishes. This wine has the classic tart cherry nose found in many Sangiovese based wines, but is a bit more rustic and would pair nicely with grilled meat or heavier pasta dishes. At $8.99, it’s one of the better Chiantis I’ve tried for under $10.

Deep ruby, tart and black cherry. Leather and spice with firm tannins.

Pair with: grilled lamb chops, grilled Italian sausage, lasagna

Recipe pairings:
Grilled Lamb Chops with Greek Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“Made from carefully selected Sangiovese (90%) and Canaiolo Nero (10%) grapes. This wine has an intense ruby color and aromas of ripe fruit. This is a well-balanced wine with a nice finish.
Aged in small oak French barrels for twelve months and six months in the bottle to acquire smoothness.
Serve at room temperature with roasted beef, pork or lamb dishes.”

Villa Pillo Borgoforte 2014

Villa Pillo Borgoforte Toscana 2014
Italy – Tuscany
13.5% ABV
$8.99
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

If you don’t believe that wine does not have to be expensive to be good, look no further. Villa Pillo Borgoforte Toscana 2014 was #25 on Wine Spectator Top 100 list of 2016. And while this wine is a bargain at its online list price of $13, Costco is carrying this wine for only $8.99, which makes it a quality to price gem. Merlot and Cabernet add some tannin and structure to a pleasantly acidic Sangiovese, which is why I often find Super Tuscans more interesting than Chianti, which has more stringent rules on blending grapes not indigenous to Italy. Like most Sangiovese based wines, this one would pair well with tomato sauce, which makes it perfect for many pasta dishes.

Medium ruby, tart cherry and currants, a touch of spice on the nose. Dry, a little dusty and a touch acidic

Pair with: Bolognese, lasagna, pizza

From the winemaker:
“La Villa Pillo is a specialized wine estate on the hills above Val d’Elsa between Florence and Pisa, close to the historic town of San Gimignano. Handpicked grapes from carefully tended vineyards, matured in small barrels for 12 months, results in wine with distinct Tuscan character.”