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”

Instant Pot Risotto

After making risotto in my Instant Pot Duo 60, I will never make risotto any other way. I’ve made risotto several times on the stove top; it’s quite the labor of love, between the constant stirring and making sure the heat levels are juuuuussstttt right. When I heard of people making risotto in the Instant Pot, I wanted to convert my stove top recipe and it was perfect. The creamy texture was what you would expect from a perfectly made risotto and aside from the initial sauté of the mushrooms, shallots and rice, all the ingredients go in the pot and POOF! Comes out perfect.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish):
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
¾ cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ oz. grated parmesan cheese (½ cup approx.)
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted

Press “Sauté.” When the display reads “Hot,” add olive oil and butter. Sauté shallots and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until starting to soften, then add rice and stir to incorporate. Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Hit “manual” and set timer to 7 minutes. Quick release the pressure when the timer is done and then stir in parmesan cheese and peas. Let stand 2 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings: the earthiness of the mushrooms in this dish make it a perfect pairing for Pinot Noir.  Try these recommendations:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

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.”

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.