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”

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.”

Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

Once upon a time, eating lamb was something reserved for an evening out; rack of lamb in a swanky restaurant or lamb chops passed around for an appetizer by a white gloved waiter. With that kind of swagger, it can be pretty intimidating to try making them at home, but this recipe is a breeze. If you love lamb chops, give these a try. The garlic and lemon on the lamb are a perfect match for the creamy dill yogurt sauce, and sure to have you wondering why you aren’t eating more lamb at home.

Options for purchasing pre-cut lamb chops near my house are limited; they command a steep price tag at the local butcher or Whole Foods ($25-$30 per pound!), but Costco carries rack of lamb already frenched for around $10 per pound. Most come in a 7-8 bone rack, with the bones already trimmed, so it’s just a quick slice between each bone, and we are ready to go. I will certainly cut my own for that kind of savings. They are easy to cut; stand it on its end (with the bones pointing upwards) and cut between ribs using a single stroke. That’s all there is to it!

Ingredients (serves 4):

Yogurt sauce:
½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Honey Simple Syrup
1 tsp. dried dill
½ tsp. dried Greek oregano
½ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Lamb chops:
2 lbs. lamb chops
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges

At least one hour before starting to prep lamb chops, whisk together yogurt sauce and set aside in fridge for to let flavors marinate together.
Allow lamb chops to come to room temperature before grilling. In a small bowl, grate garlic into olive oil. Season lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides, and rub garlic mixture all over chops. Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Cook until desired temperature, 4-5 minutes per side for medium. Remove from heat and squeeze with a lemon wedge. Serve lamb chops with a big dollop of yogurt sauce spread on each plate. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Il Tarocco Chianti Classico 2015
Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

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.”

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2014

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2014
Argentina – Mendoza
14% ABV
$10.99
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

Malbec is often a great alternative to higher priced Cabernet Sauvignon for a full bodied red wine, and if Costco is still carrying this wine for $10.99, I am going to stock up. Big time.  This Malbec is a touch spicy, and like most Malbec, would pair best with grilled meats or BBQ.  Argentinian cuisine is so famous for its savory meat dishes, and a few sips of this savory wine, and I was picturing myself at an Asado with a glass of this in hand. This is a perfect wine to take to a backyard BBQ and will be my go to for my favorite BYOB BBQ restaurants Texas is so famous for.

Deep ruby, lots of mineral on the nose, red fruit, blackberry, black pepper

Pair with: grilled meats, BBQ, spiced rotisserie chicken

Recipe Pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs

From the winemaker:
“This wine completes Achaval-Ferrer’s exploration of Malbec. Through other wines will expressed Malbec as a terrior driven wine and as a key building bloc of a complex blend. This Mendoza appellation Malbec expresses the pure tipicity of the variety. Low yields, careful vineyard management and low intervention winemaking are the hallmark of this and all other Achaval-Ferrer wines.

Mustiguillo Mestizaje Bobal 2014

Mustiguillo Mestizaje Bobal 2014
Spain – El Terrerazo
13.5% ABV
$10.49
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Without question, Costco was the store that started my love affair with Spanish wines. There are regularly new ones in stock for around $10, and upon trying them, there is a good chance that I would stock up on several. Mustiguillo Mestizaje is a red blend; primarily Bobal with 10% Syrah, 6% Garnacha, 5% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Each grape is aged for one year in oak barrels before blending, which adds to the smoothness and drinkability of the wine. Spanish wines tend to have lots of acid, but this one is balanced nicely. For about $10, I’m going to pick up more of this one to drink on its own or with a casual meal.

Medium ruby, wild cherry, blackberry, with a bit of oak on the dusty finish.

Pair with: medium to firm cheese, grilled meats, tomato based rice or pasta dishes, paella

From the winemaker:
“Deep in color with an intriguing nose of black fruits, violets, cedar and black pepper. The fleshy dark fruit flavors of blackberry and black currant are lifted by brink mineral acidity (this is where those limestone soils come through) and fine tannins. Leaves you on a nice sweet and spicy finish, a perfect pair with anything cooked over fire and smoke.”

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
California – Mendocino County
14.5% ABV
$14.89
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

I am a big believer that wine does not have to be expensive to be good, but if there is one varietal I have a hard time finding an inexpensive pick that I really enjoy, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. I simply cannot have a big juicy ribeye without a good cab. Every once in a while, I’ll splurge on a more expensive bottle, but for under $15, True Grit really delivers that big, tannic California cab that pair so well with the buttery umami of a ribeye. I will be picking up a few bottles to enjoy over the next couple of years to enjoy for a good occasion at home. I wouldn’t pair this bold, juicy cab with anything other than a big steak.

Deep ruby, tobacco, cedar, drying tannins. Long dusty finish.

Pair with: grilled ribeye

Recipe pairings:
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

From the winemaker:
“Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of red wines; pitiless and double tough, you will long to pull this cork. Rich, full-bodied, with signature elements of earth and tobacco, it’s a bit uncivilized. We have been making Cabernet Sauvignon for generations. This one is special.
The immigrant farmers who planted grapevines here in the 1800s arrived full of hope and optimism. Their special piece of heaven on earth lay just over the next ridge, in Mendocino County. Their vineyards, their determinations, patience and vision… their True Grit.”

La Encina Centenaria Monastrell 2014

La Encina Centenaria Monastrell 2014
Spain – Alicante
14.5% ABV
$6.99
My Rating: 87 points
Costco

Move over Zinfandel, because Monastrell is the new go-to for pork dishes. At least in my house it is. Monastrell (known as Mouvedre in France) is big, ripe and fruity like Zinfandel, but has a little less sweetness and a little more spice, which makes it perfect for pairing with pork. Monastrell also tends to be fairly budget friendly; I am particularly fond of Montgo Monastrell 2012 for $8.99 at Costco, but La Encina is even more budget friendly at just $6.99.

Deep ruby color, lots of fruit, primarily plum. Balsamic vinegar and mild/medium tannin.

Pair with: Pork, beef, game (venison and duck would both pair well), lamb

Recipe Pairings:
Chicken Fried Pork Chops with Sausage Gravy

From the winemaker:
“Deep cherry-red colour with purple edges. Aromas of red and black berries and plums and hints of balsamic vinegar, prunes and herbs. In taste, it is the rich fruit that really stand out, in perfect harmony with the slightly spicy notes. The structure is soft and silky and ripe tannins and a balanced acidity completes the experience. The big ripe fruit taste lingers long in the aftertaste.”

District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
California – Monterrey
13.5% ABV
$11.99
My Rating: 87 points
Costco

It’s difficult to find a great Cabernet under $15, but District 7 delivers a fruit forward, easy drinking wine. Medium bodied with moderate tannins, this is a good one to drink on its own or pair with food. Less bold than a typical Cabernet, and without any real oak, I would pair this with a more casual meal, rather than a big steak.

Blackberry, raspberry, well balanced fruit, acidity and tannins.

Pair with: ribs, burgers, BBQ chicken

Recipe Pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs
Best Ever Oven Baked Chicken

From the winemaker:
“California has 17 grape crush districts. District 7 is Monterey County, a windy and cool coastal region known for producing complex and balanced wines. For nearly 50 years, our family and dedicated employees have been sustainable farming this remarkable land. We hope you enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon specially selected from our estate vineyards.”