All wine reviews, Great wines under $10, Jumilla, Monastrell, Red blends, Red wine, Spain, Syrah/Shiraz

Finca Luzon 2009

Producer: Finca Luzon
Grape: 70% Monastrell, 30% Syrah
Region: Jumilla, Spain

I don’t honestly know why it took me so long to review wines of Finca Luzon. I was impressed with their wines from the first time I tasted them (and every vintage since).

There is another reason why I have a special feeling about this wine. During my stay in Spain (2007), our visit started in Jumilla, and we spent the very first 2 nights at the beautiful hotel Finca Luzon. We later learned it was built from the old winery, Bodega Luzon.

Bodegas Luzon was founded by the Gil family in 1916, located about 60 miles from the Medirerranean at 2,100ft elevation. Today, it is an estate of 216 acres of vineyards with some very challenging conditions that happens to be perfect for Monastrell wines.

It makes it one of the best conditions for growing Monastrell  (Mourvèdre) in the world.Sand, with combination of chalk with large chalky gravels and stones, is the tough soil there, with almost no nutrition. Wine has to struggle with very little rainfall, windy climate high in the hills and huge drops of temperature between days and nights.

The winery works with Monastrell that is about 55 years old and for this particular wine, they blend it with Syrah that came from Aragona vineyard at 2.296 ft above the sea level.Finca Luzon also produces an organic wine called Luzon Verde which showcase 100% Monastrell. Altos de Luzon (which is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet and Tempranillo), Castillo de Luzon (Monastrell, Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet).

This is a winemaker of Finca Luzon, whose name, embarrassingly enough, I can’t remember. (I couldn’t even find it anywhere on-line, I tried).He also showed us a historic ruin, a beautiful property, the Finca Luzon were reconstructing to later move their business into.

Seemed like a huge job, surely took a lot of effort, time and money. I wonder if they are finished by now.

Later at night we had a wine tasting with him and very late superb dinner – that started about 11 pm. Hard to imagine, especially when we had to leave from the lobby the next day at 7 am and got to our hotel at about 2:30 am.
I know, tough life, right?

Tasting notes:
This is a deep purple red with rich aromas of fresh fruit, such as black cherries, red plums with a tiny bit of herbs. On the palate, this wine is super smooth, very fruity (which doesn’t mean sweet), velvety tannins.

As it opens up even more, you can taste rich tones of dark berries with notes of dark chocolate and spices. This wine is big enough to stand to your steak, it’s lovely on its own and for its price, it is a steal!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak– Aged in oak

Retail price: $ 8.99

Ideal food pairing:
Summer barbeque, Not so Greeg Musaka, Bison burgers with Cabernet Onions and Wisconsin CheddarPistachio crusted rack of lamb, Shish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzaziki sauce, Lamb burgers with Relish Mayo,

Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Great wines under $10, Napa, Red wine

Grayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Winemaker: Larry Levin
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: California

There aren’t many family owned wineries in Napa, that would produce wines at this price point. And if there are some, are they also getting consistently “Best Buy” ratings from Wine Advocate? Grayson Cellars is owned by O’Connell family and their mission is to search for the finest fruit in California, and craft  wonderful wines in a very attractive price point.

I didn’t expect much when I first tasted this wine. I have tasted quite a few Cabernet Sauvignon wines, without an appellation,  from “California”, under $ 10.00. I didn’t find many that would impress me. I get it – quality fruit, the land, the equipment – all that became very expensive in California. So almost exclusively, the mass production companies could still keep the price in the reasonable range.

O’Connell family doesn’t fit this scenario. They buy fruit from all the great regions of California, but without that pricey overhead. Larry then hand-crafts high quality wines in his Napa facility, and all that personal attention pays off. His wines always over-deliver. You can buy Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir in the same price point from Grayson Cellars, and they are truly exceptional wines.

They also produce Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, but I didn’t have a chance to taste those yet. I enjoyed selling this wine. When you have value like this in your hand, it makes you proud. I usually took another, let’s say $ 24.00 bottle of Cabernet from the shelf, and tasted it with my customer side by side. Guess who won?

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color and a lot of ripe plum and blackberries fruit aroma. Rich fruit in your mouth, full body red with notes of spice and soft tannins. Aged in French Oak, it shows a hints of toasted oak on the palate. Pleasant, long finish that you don’t expect from wine in this price range. Seriously, this wine is a steal!
Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 9.99

Ideal food pairing:
Barbeque,  anything from the grill,  Not so Greek Musaka, Lamb burgers with Relish Mayo, Flank Steak Fajitas, Beef Chorizo

Austria, Great wines under $10, Gruner Veltliner, White wines

Weingut Groiss Grüner Veltliner 2009

Producer: Ing. Herbert Groiss
Grape: Grüner Veltliner
Region: Wagram, Austria

The charm of Grüner Veltliner wines is still under appreciated here in America. This light, crisp, fresh zesty wine is one of the most versatile wines when it comes to pairing with the food.

Completely delicious on its own – for those hot summer nights, when you feel like sipping something light and refreshing on your porch, while watching stars.Despite all those lovely fruity flavors in the wine, complexity, character and balance, most of the great Grüner Veltliners are both light on alcohol and  your pocket.

Weingut Groiss Grüner Veltliner reviewed today, became my new spring-summer favorite. I keep coming back to my local wine shop, buying at least 2-3 bottles at the time. It’s a perfect wine when you feel just like having 1 glass with your dinner.  It comes in 1L bottle with a screw cap (which is 25% extra wine compare to regular size wine bottle) for $ 9.99.

And, what is important to add, if you open a bottle and don’t finish it right away, put your screw cap back on with no fear. Keep the wine in the fridge, it will stay the same the next day, the following one and the day after. It says something about the quality of this wine, doesn’t it?

Very young, dynamic and modern winery of Herbert Groiss  is located in Austrian wine growing district of Wagram. Vines are planted on the south-facing slopes of Wagram hills, with great soil, exposed to warm air and cool nights. This micro climate provides an ideal condition for an optimal grape ripening and unique character of Herbert’s wines.

Besides Grüner Veltliner, the winery also produces Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris for their white wines, and Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds.

Tasting notes:
This zesty white opens with charming aroma of lemony flavors, wild flowers and white peach aromas. On the palate this light to medium body wine is crisp, refreshing, with hints of green apple, lime, peach.
Complexity of ripe fruit flavors is greatly balanced with acidity. This is a very charming wine – don’t miss the chance to surprise your friends and bring it to summer picnics! Super value!
Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 10.00 (per 1 L!)                                                              
Ideal food pairing:
Great wines under $10, Italy, Red wine, Rosso, Sicily

Ajello Majus Nero d’Avola 2008

Producer: Ajello
Grape: Nero D’Avola
Region: Sicily, Italy

Ajello family, in the southwestern region of Sicily is one of the most recognized producers in the region. The family owns 124 hectares of land in total, 65 hectares of vineyards to grow some native varieties such as Nero D’Avola, Grillo, Insolia, Cataratto or Grecanico, but also popular varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay.

“It was my grandfather who planted the first vines, and my father passed on the same passion that I, today, try to transmit to my own children. Our philosophy is simple: “We leave nature to do most of the work, trying to capture in bottles the wealth, the vitality and the structure of the magnificent grapes that our vines produce, knowing that our role is merely that of guardian of these intrinsic qualities.”    Salvatore Ajello

Dalla Terra, a wine broker, who imports their wines to the United States, also carry Ajello Furat, an impressive blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Nero D’Avola and Syrah. Besides Furat, the Ajello family produces two other delicious and very reasonably priced wines, the Majus Bianco (Inzolia. Catarata) and Majus Rosso (Nero d’Avola).

Don’t miss a chance to taste Ajello’s flagship wine Furat, if possible. It is wine worth to buy for your wine cellar.
Ajello Majus Nero D’Avola grew in calcareous-clay soils in southwestern Sicily and aged 6 months in oak with 3 additional months in concrete tanks. Wine is then left for another 3 months for refinement in the bottle before it’s released to the market.

Tasting notes:
Ruby red color and beautiful aroma of dried plum and dark cherries. On the palate you can taste hints of ripe red fruit, even strawberries a notes of green herbs. It will open up even more after half an hour or so.

Hot Sicilian terroire makes this wine very fruit forward and ripe, yet it stays balanced and complex with the right amount of acidity. Tannins are smooth and satisfying finish leaves a pleasant clean taste of fruit in your mouth. Great value for around $ 10.00 per bottle!

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 10.00

Ideal food pairing:
Lasagna, Greek MusakaPork chops with onions and peppers, Flank steak with shitakee mushrooms, Stuffed peppers

Carinena, Garnacha, Great wines under $10, Red blends, Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo

Las Valles 2009

Produced by: Bodegas Virgen del Águila
Grape: 50% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha, 10% Syrah
Region: Cariñena

This is one of those unexpected finds that might become your next house wine. I was preparing my private wine dinner at home for the first weekend of January. When my menu was decided, I came to my favorite wine store to buy the wines. Campos Reales, an unoaked red wine from La Mancha, Spain was in my mind, when composing the third course of my menu.

I needed wine that had a lot of character, yet it wasn’t too big to overpower my smoked salmon/spinach rolls. To my disappointment, the wine manager told me that the distributor was out of stock till maybe February. Well, that didn’t help. It was obvious that I will have to improvise.

When I asked my friend, the wine manager Tryg, what he would recommend instead, a wine that would be similar style to Campos Reales (and unoaked), we walked through isles and pointed out few bottles. The last one was Las Valles. I looked at the label and it said: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah. Hmm, sounds pretty big red to me.

“Are you sure it’s not a big wine?” I asked Tryg. He promised me it’s not – and that it would be probably his favorite out of those he showed me so far. I grabbed 3 bottles. The price was unbelievable and I figured – let’s open one a taste it before my guests come to wine dinner party and I embarrass myself.

Wow, that wine was fantastic! So I went on-line and looked it up. I learned that: “Las Valles” is produced by Bodegas Virgen del Águila, a modern, progressive cooperative near the town of Paniza that also produces wines under the “ia” label for Hand picked selections. The bodega offers a wealth of vines (nearly 5,500 acres!) planted in prime terroir (more than 2,500 ft above sea level!) nestled against the Iberico mountain range.

This includes a wealth (nearly 190 acres) of old, 50+ year-old Garnacha, Tempranillo and Macabeo vines, as well as newer plantings of international varietals. ”

This red blend was stainless steel fermented and never saw an oak. Well, I can tell you, this may as well be my new house wine. Especially for the price of $ 7.99 I paid for it. That’s a serious steel!

Tasting notes:
Beautiful aroma of fresh red berries, cherries or raspberries. On the palate this is clean, medium body wine. Really nice exposure of mixed wild berries flavors spiced up with Syrah (or is it old vines Garnacha?). Either way, Las Valles is totally impressive wine, especially for that price. Complex, balanced with perfect acidity to pair easily with many foods. Loved it, and so did everybody else at my wine dinner.

We might have just found our next favorite! See, sometimes it’s good when you need to change plans. What seemed like a bad news first, let me to discover something new and exciting! Don’t miss the chance to taste it!
And yes, I still love Campos Reales, whenever it’s going to be available again.

Dry – Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 8.00

Ideal food pairing:
Roasted peppers and eggplant dip, Vermicelli con melanzana, Vegetable lentils, Shish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzaziki sauce, and many more… mild cheeses, Italian Antipasto, spiced cured meats etc.