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.”

Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010
Italy – Tuscany
13% ABV
$10.99
My Rating: 88 points
Trader Joe’s

I am a fan of Super Tuscans; they are often big, rich wines. Tuscany is home to some of the most recognized wine regions in Italy, like Chianti, which have specific regulations on which grapes can be used in production and how much.  Like Chianti, many Tuscans contain Sangiovese, either on its own, or blended with grapes that are not native to Italy. This 80% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah blend is well balanced; the acidity that Sangiovese is known for is balanced out by the big tannins found in Syrah. This food friendly wine is a great buy from Trader Joe’s and pairs well with Italian food.

Ruby colored, cherry, wood, with drying tannins. Nicely balanced and medium bodied.

Pair with: pasta dishes, medium/aged cheeses, pizza

Recipe pairings:
Sausage and Peppers
Creamy Chicken a la Vodka
Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

From the winemaker:
“Our Toscana is produced with 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah grapes, attentively harvested by hand and selected to give birth to this wine that refines for twelve months in barriques by 225 litres in the cellar of Poggio al Casone Estate, legendary vineyard of the Castellani Family. The estate is situated in Crespina, ancient village on the Pisan Hills just few kilometers from the Tuscan coast.”

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

 

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014
Italy – Piedmont
12.5% ABV
$5.99
My Rating: 87 points
Trader Joe’s

There is a lot to like about Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014.  At only $5.99, it is a small fraction of the price of Rosa dell Olmo’s underwhelming $14.99 Barolo, but much more enjoyable.  First of all, it’s hard to beat the price.  Trader Joe’s carries more than a few wines in the $6 range, but not all of them are drinkable.  This Barbera is a pleasant, everyday table wine with 12.5% ABV, so you can enjoy more than one glass, especially with pizza or just some cheese and crackers.  The bottle refers to distinct “red fruit” and they’ve nailed that description.

Ruby colored, maraschino cherry, black cherry

Pair with: pizza, light pasta dishes, poultry dishes, medium aged cheeses

Recipe pairings:
Everyone’s Favorite Mac and Cheese
Chicken Scampi
Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle

From the winemaker:

“An everyday and easy to drink red wine.  Deep ruby red in color, with pleasant and distinct red fruit notes, it is dry and rich, and has a remarkable silky texture.”

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.”

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2014

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2014
Argentina – Mendoza
13.5% ABV
$11.99
My Rating: 86 points
Costco

Argentinian Malbecs are pretty versatile wines. They seem to pair well with most meals, as long as there is lots of meat involved! Malbec is full bodied enough for a big steak, but doesn’t have the same long finish that most Cabernets have, so I prefer it with casual meaty dishes. La Posta Pizzella Malbec is a pretty grape color, with the telltale magenta rim, common in Malbec. There was lots of this wine at Costco, so grab a few bottles to enjoy at a cool weather BBQ.

Lots of blueberry and blackberry, smoke on the front and black pepper with smooth tannins on the finish.

Pair with: burgers, BBQ chicken, ribs, brisket

Recipe Pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs
Sweet and Salty Pork in Sherry Garlic Sauce

From the winemaker:
“The Pizzella family invites you to journey westward in the Uco Valley for a Sunday afternoon with them. There will be no agenda beyond the sun warming your skin and the air filling your lungs. You will sit at the family table, and with each passing moment, you will become more of a part of it. And it will remind you of important work – to enjoy simpler times.”

Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010

Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
$11.49
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Costco has some of the best prices and selections of Spanish red wines from Rioja. They get a few new ones in monthly, and you can usually spot the great bargains by reading the labels. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, 1 of which is in oak), Riserva (3 years aging, 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Riserva (5 years aging, 2 of which is in oak). This is a great example of Riserva that is priced better than some of their younger counterparts, and there really is a big difference in the depth and complexity of the wine from the oak aging. This 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano blend is a fantastic value at $11.49, worth stocking a few bottles to enjoy with meaty dishes.

Cherry, oak, long finish with well integrated tannins

Pair with: steak, grilled lamb chops, aged cheeses

Recipe Pairing:
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks
Sous Vide Flank Steak
Instant Pot Carnitas

From the winemaker:
“Carlos Serres was a pioneer in Rioja. He arrived in Spain in 1896 and created one of the first wineries in Haro, in the heart of Rioja. Carlos Serres went on to be an instrumental figure in promoting the early exports of Rioja wines, and today is one of the only a few centenarian producers in Rioja.
Our Rioja is aged 24 months in oak barrels and an additional 12 months in the bottle before its release. It is a complex and elegant wine with aromas and flavors of mature black fruit and mineral notes, a perfect match with grilled meats, stews and stronger cheeses.”

Montgo Monastrell 2012

Montgo Monastrell 2012
Spain – D.O. Alicante
14.5% ABV
$8.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Costco has been offering some great bargains on Spanish wine, and the Montgo Monastrell 2012 is a steal at $8.99. A quick search online shows this wine being offered at $18 elsewhere, so grab a few bottles of this bold Monastrell, awarded 91 points from wine enthusiast. Monastrell, known as Mourvedre in France, has qualities reminiscent of Zinfandel, but tends to be bolder and a little spicier. This makes it a perfect pairing for pork, and spicy or savory dishes. Since Monastrell tends to be on the inexpensive side, it also makes a nice pairing for casual Mexican food, like tacos or fajitas

Dry with a bit of spice. Blueberry, blackberry, black pepper and oak. Medium tannins on the finish.

Pair with: pork ribs, grilled pork, sausage, Mexican food

Recipe pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs
Chicken Fried Pork Chops
Sous Vide Carnitas
Green Chile Pork Soup

From the winemaker:

“Montgo Monastrell is a flawless balance between dark fruit and toasted oak. Innovative and passionate winemaking teamed with terroir and historical vineyards, results in a wine bold in personality and independent in its expression.”

Pocas Vale de Cavalos Douro Red 2013

Pocas Vale de Cavalos Douro Red 2013
Portugal – Douro Valley
14% ABV
$12.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Portugal has long been famous for producing fantastic Ports, but red blends from Douro Valley can be exceptional values. These table wines are garnering quite a bit of attention from top wine raters (3 of the top 4 wines on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list in 2014 were from Portugal) and they are starting to show up at discount wine retailers. This wine is a great example; a 50% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain), 10% Tinta Barroca blend from Portugal, aged in American and French oak for 8 months, followed by a fining period in stainless steel. Grab a few bottles of this one to enjoy over the next few years.

Currants, blackberry, cherry, spiced oak. Dry with well integrated acidity and tannins.

Pair with: Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steak, lamb, aged cheeses

From the winemaker:
“From the region of Douro Superior, and vinified at Quinta das Quartas, this lovely red embodies red fruit with a touch of balsamic and oak.
Produced with grapes from the Douro Superior region, this red wine embodies aromas of dark cherry fruit and a touch of spice. A parcel matured for eight months in French and American oak barrels. Enjoy with meat, an assortment of medium and full bodied cheeses, as well as wild game.”