Under $20

Review: 2014 Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir

I found this wine on the wine rack, but I have no idea how it got into the house! It may have come from a birthday party or been left over when we had guests. We really don’t know! But I’m glad this Pinot Noir entered our lives.

This is one smooth Pinot ?

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When my husband and I started drinking we almost in unison said “This is so good.” It’s true! This smooth, delicious red is an easy drinker with ripe plum and flowery flavors.

This is from Sean Minor’s Four Bears brand. The grapes are gathered from several wine growers along the Central Coast. The bottle doesn’t get more specific than that.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Sean Minor
Type: Pinot Noir
Origin: Central Coast
Vintage: 2014
Price: $16
Alcohol content: 13.5%
When to drink: This is an everyday wine sure to please a variety of folks. Bring it over to a friend’s house for a party or better yet, throw a party at your place and buy a couple bottles of this Pinot and celebrate.

Review: 2013 Morgan Winery Cotes du Crowes Grenache Syrah

I’ve had my share of GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourevadre), but it wasn’t until my birthday earlier this week when I tasted just a GS.

Distinctively missing the high tannin, rich Mourevadre, this unique blend of 52% Grenache and 48% Syrah really caught my attention. Let the wine breathe for a bit if you don’t want a high kick to the cheek. This wine, featuring two prominent Rhone varietals, is not a shy wine at first sip.


Full of plum and other dark fruit flavor, the wine smells delicious. The scent is very inviting and just a hint of smokiness near the finish makes your lips magnets for the glass. It’s a nice pairing of the lighter Grenache and the plummy Syrah, which gave it some upfront flavor.


I had this blend at my birthday dinner in Atwater Village with one of my best friends that I’ve known for 10 years and my fiance. My friend wanted a red and I was vacillating between picking a pure Syrah and the GS. But a little nudge from our waiter at All’Acqua, and we were sold. (By the way, we were first-timers at All’Acqua and it was great. That silk handkerchief pesto pasta…yum!)

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Morgan Winery
Type: Grenach Syrah blend (52% Grenache, 48% Syrah)
Origin: Salinas, CA
Vintage: 2013
Price: $44 at the restaurant, $14 retail, according to wine-searcher.com
Alcohol content: 14.2%
When to drink: Surrounded by good friends in the midst of good conversation. Seriously, if it wasn’t a Monday night, I think the three of us could have kept on gabbing and finished a second bottle.

Review: 2012 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Pinot Noir

We drink so much wine, that our landlord finally noticed. After my other half did him a favor using his technical ninja skills, our landlord gifted us a bottle of a 2012 Francis Coppola Pinot Noir. The Diamond Collection wine has a fruity, long-lasting flavor— think raspberry! raspberry! It’s a bit dry, but does the job.


For those staring at the photo, yes, we watched House of Cards as we finished off the bottle.

This is an average pinot noir, I’d say. It’s not the best, but it’s pretty good, as my other half said. But, he was quick to point out, it’s no Wolff Vineyards Syrah.

Nuts and Bolts

Winery: Francis Coppola
Type: Pinot Noir
Origin: Monterey
Price: Gifted, but on wine-searcher.com, it’s between $14-$20
Alcohol content: Forgot to write it down!
When to drink: Have the in-laws over for dinner and bring this red out. It can be a conversation piece—who doesn’t want to talk about The Godfather—and it’s middle-of-the-road enough to please a crowd.

Review: 2012 Etc. Malbec

When I think etcetera, I think of it as an aside, everything lumped in that category is not worth mentioning after some standout examples are thrown out first.

Now, this bottle of Malbec was a nice drink, but I would say it matches it’s name, it’s not THE BEST Malbec I’ve had and it may not be worth mentioning as the first example in a list of good, cheap Malbecs, but it is a sturdy wine that can hold it’s place during a weekday family dinner, especially if you have dark fruit lovers at the table.


This wine is fruit-forward–dark cherry, perhaps?–and has a pungent flavor that lingers on your tongue, with a hint of plum and black licorice (which was nicely spotted by my other half).

It’s a very juicy wine that smells like flowers.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Etc.
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Price: $12, but gifted
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: When you’re in the mood for a red at dinner in the middle of the week that is happy to deliver without stealing the spotlight.

Review: 2013 Kenwood Vineyards Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

The first thing I thought of when taking a sip of the 2013 Kenwood Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc was: Spritzy! I felt a surprise party in my mouth! No, really.

This very bright wine, that has a little oily nature, was unexpectedly acidic. It was stored in stainless steel tanks, so that could have been the reason for the extra bubble. It’s fruit-forward and tangy, the lemony/sour notes were honestly a bit overwhelming.


What did my other half have to say about this Sauvignon Blanc? Our exchange below:

Me: “So love, what do you think? It’s lemony right?”
My boy: “It reminds me of cough syrup.”
Me: “So it’s bad then.”
My boy: “No, cough syrup is delicious.”

I’m still not sure if he was being sarcastic…

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Kenwood Vineyards
Type: Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Sonoma
Vintage: 2013
Price: $19.99. Purchased during BevMo 5 cent wine sale, so got two for one!
Alcohol content: 13.5%
When to drink: This Sauvignon is a good everyday drinker, if you like Lemon Drops! Actually, that’s a good idea, pair this wine with some sour patch kids and watch a funny movie on Netflix.

Review: 2013 Leoness Muscat Canelli

I know the summer is over when I head to the Hollywood Bowl for the final time of the season. No more potluck picnics and al fresco wine in the bench seats, sigh.

My last trip a few days ago to see Cat Power and the Pixies play, I brought along a flirty, sweet wine to numb the sadness.


The 2013 Leoness Muscat Canelli doesn’t have much depth nor bouquet–it just smells like grape skins to me–but it does have nice single-dimensional flavors of sweet peach and apricot. It’s made in stainless steel, giving it a little spritzy kick.

This is a pretty simple, sweet table wine that you won’t have to think about.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Leoness
  • Type: Muscat
  • Origin: Temecula
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $15 club price, $20 regular
  • Alcohol content: 11.4%
  • When to drink: Picnicking on a hot day

Review: 2012 Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir Vintners Reserve

Yes, the 2012 Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir Vintners Reserve was pungent and peppery, two characteristics I look for in Pinot Noir, but something was off. It felt like I was drinking a watered down version of other Pinots I like.


The flavors were loose at first, but they picked up as the wine headed toward the back of my tongue, but not enough to save me from being disappointed.

This plummy wine also tastes of vanilla and a soft mouth feel, so the tannins were pretty supple. If you’re into that, this is for you. If you’re like me and want a little more punch, grab something else, like the 2012 Melville Estate Pinot Noir.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Kendall Jackson
  • Type: Pinot Noir
  • Origin: Santa Rosa
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $15
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: When you want a less expensive Pinot and you’re not in the mood for something tightly wound.

Review: Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava

I’m not a constant sparkling wine drinker. Proseccos and Champagnes are a rarity in our fridge. But I had a very cute, 187 ml bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro in my fridge the other day when I was on the hunt for wine to drink with a nice grilled fish and all we had were Cabernet Sauvignons and Malbecs. I took a chance and opened up this baby wine that I got off the free table at work.


This brut sparkler smells like pear and tastes like apricot It has an oily feel that coats your mouth, but not in a bad way. It’s tastes almost like it has a slight aftertaste of almond extract. When asked how he felt about it, my other half said: “It’s better than Cook’s.” I replied: “That’s not saying much.

“It’s saying a lot, it’s not Cook’s,” he said.

So much for feedback. Anyways, I enjoyed this cava and would buy it again.

Interesting note, it had a screw top, not a cork! It looks like a cork, but don’t be fooled.


Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Freixenet Cordon Negro
  • Type: Cava
  • Origin: Sant Sadurni Danoia, Spain
  • Vintage: No date on the bottle
  • Price: $12.99 for full bottle, according to wine.com
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: You just got a new job, or a new boyfriend/girlfriend or a new puppy, yay! Have some friends over and pour some bubbly.

Review: 2013 Tapiz Malbec

I got this Malbec at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale. I’ve purchased it a couple times, so I definitely keep coming back.

It’s sour, tart and has a long finish. The bottle says it ends with a violety flavor–a common characteristic of some Malbecs, but I didn’t taste the flowery perfume. To me, it smelled and tasted like black cherry and a lot of it. It’s a full-throttle kind of wine, so you taste a lot of fruit at the outset and all the way through.


Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Tapiz
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $20 (for two)
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: With steak, chimichurri and the World Cup playing. Vamos Argentina!

Review: 2012 Stateland Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

When you drink this berrylicious Cabernet Sauvignon, your mouth will water. The blackberry aroma and soft tannins of this easy-to-drink Cab can be quite persuasive.


However, this Central Coast red can be a bit leathery at times, lying heavy on the tongue, coating it as if it were leaving behind a prime layer of paint. It can have a bump in the finish, but that dissipates the longer it breathes.

Use the leftovers, if you have any, as a steak marinade. I did this with Tri-tip, salt, pepper, cumin and garlic and loved the berry/ savory results.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Stateland Cellars
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Paso Robles
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $19, purchased at Bevmo 5 cent wine sale, so I got two for one, basically
  • Alcohol content: 13.7%
  • When to drink: Bring this to a dinner party. The classic label makes it look more expensive that it is and the balanced, fruity Cab will be a crowd-pleaser.