Under $20

Review: 2011 Salentein Reserve Malbec

When I first saw the cork of the 2011 Salentein Reserve Malbec, I remember my first thought was: “Now that’s purple.” See:


I bought the Salentein Reserve Malbec in the cutest little bodega in the Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires. After getting some brie, baguettes and green olives for snacking, I also asked the store clerk which was his favorite Malbec of the bunch on the shelf. He said this was his favorite in the medium-price category, so I grabbed a bottle to take home from my trip in my suitcase.

The wine–which is very dark in color in the glass, almost black– smells like perfume and alcohol, but in a good way. It warms your body up real fast, kind of like the feeling you get when sipping on a good glass of whiskey. You can feel the body of this malbec in your mouth; each layer is distinct. The wine has hints of blackberry and vanilla and the flavors linger on your tongue. This is a delicious, flavorful wine that tastes floral at the end.


Only downside is it leaves behind a leathery feeling on your tongue, but not the kind of leathery that dries you out. In fact, the sensation is quite the opposite. The texture of the wine almost makes your tongue so dry it feels wet. My other half said he had to keep drinking more to get rid of the almost astringent feeling in his mouth. Although it took me aback at first, I grew to like the dusty flavor.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Bodegas Salentein
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $15 American
  • Alcohol content: 14.5%
  • When to drink: Now that I think of it, this wine would have been great with my little cheese and olive platter I created at the bodega. Can you just imagine sitting at a wood picnic table, munching on salty green olives and drinking this beefy in flavor Malbec. Yum.

Review: 2006 Montecinco Malbec

Back fresh from my trip to Buenos Aires, I have several stories to share about the many Malbecs I consumed. Let’s start with a traditional tale and then I’ll walk you through my more spontaneous discoveries in future posts.

In search of a traditional steak dinner–I’d heard so much about how at the very best restaurants they cut steak with a spoon that I had to try this tender meat–my love and I ended up at Don Julio, on the recommendation of the receptionist at our very stylish hotel.

Wine bottles cover the walls at Don Julio in Palermo as white tablecloths dress the tables. There’s even a thin mini-table that sidles up next to each diner’s table to add a little extra elbow room. Classy!


Flipping through the wine list, I wasn’t quite sure what to order. I have had many Malbecs before, but the familiar labels weren’t popping out at me. I decided to go with one of the oldest bottles on the menu, because, well I could never do that in my price range in the U.S., but in Buenos Aires, the exchange rate was in our favor. Like savvy travelers, we converted our money on the street-aka at the Dollar Blue rate–and got $12 pesos for $1, making everything extremely affordable, even a fancy steak dinner.

I ordered the Montecinco Malbec from 2006, which by the way is I think, the oldest vintage I’ve had.


It was unlike any Malbec I had had before. It won’t wow you at first sip. This is a wine you have to sit on for awhile. At first, my dining partner didn’t like how thin the wine tasted, but it grew on him after the wine’s flavors developed over the course of dinner. The cherry red wine tasted of plums, currants and even cigarettes–it’s that dirty, smoky feel– and developed a bit of a tang after it sat open for awhile. I liked it, but if you’re looking for a chewy, fruity bomb, this isn’t it.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Montecinco
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2006
  • Price: about 200 pesos, or roughly $16 with Dollar Blue exchange rate, $27 at the traditional rate
  • Alcohol content: 14.4%
  • When to drink: This wine is meant for meat. Drink it like we did, with a big hunk of Bife de Lomo (tenderloin) topped with chimichurri.

Review: 2010 Hobson Estate Chardonnay

Off to Temecula I went this past Saturday to visit my other half’s childhood home–I’m sure you’ve seen my previous descriptions of this quaint property filled with all kinds of animals. Including this durpy Great Dane.


We hung out in the aviaries with the cockatiels–who are also my bird’s parents–and caught a glimpse of three Cockatiel eggs in a nest. We also ducked into a small pen to hang out with quails, which are quite fast and hard to catch. They had eggs, too, so it seems like breeding is in the air!


We sat down to a meal of fresh, hand-made pasta, which was really good (thanks Mario Batali), and glasses of 2010 Hobson Estate Chardonnay.


The first thing my boyfriend’s father said when he tasted the wine was ouch. The acidity in the wine made it kind of tingly on the tongue, which is not so fun when you have chapped lips.

I was surprised how spritzy this Chardonnay tasted. It had a light wheat color, which from the bottle exemplifies the cool temperatures in which the grapes were grown along the coast. The Chardonnay had a lemony, limy taste, but those citrus flavors transformed into a sour taste after the wine had warmed up a bit on the table.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Hobson Estate
  • Type: Chardonnay
  • Origin: Monterey area
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $14
  • Alcohol content: 14.1%
  • When to drink: Hobson Estate isn’t my favorite Chardonnay, but it would be great for a summer picnic at Echo Park Lake. I can see it now: a little pedal boating, a little sun and a little lemon-lime zest to wash it all down.

Review: 2012 Criss Cross Old Vine Zinfandel

This warm, chocolatey wine has a full-mouth feel. It’s pert, it’s spicy and it’s jammy.

Because this wine comes from Lodi, it makes sense that it would have that mocha taste. Zinfandels from Lodi tend to have rich flavors and smoky finishes. 

A friend brought this over to watch a TV show at my place. I did see it at her house party the day before though, so it must have been a leftover. Everyone was drinking Maker’s Mark and Golden Road Wold Among Weeds IPAs at that party anyhow, and I’m glad this Zin got recycled and laid to rest at my place. It’s a better fit for slow sipping on a couch than crowding in the kitchen drinking whiskey on ice in mismatched mason jars, any how.

The only downside: I felt like all the full flavors I tasted when the wine slipped between my lips swiftly dissipated as it slid down my tongue. That was disappointing.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Criss Cross
  • Type: Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Origin: Lodi
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $19.95
  • Alcohol content: I forgot to write it down before tossing the bottle! But I would assume its on the higher end of the scale, as richer Zins have higher alcohol content and lighter Zins, vice versa. Fact of the day!
  • When to drink: This Zin would would do well when you’re glamping/ staying in a boutiquey cottage fit with fire place. Those chocolate notes mixed with roasted marshmallows, yum!

Review: 2012 Jarenincan Crnko

Bet you can’t say that five times fast.

I bought this Slovenian white blend of riesling and dry muscat hoping to drink it with a delicious meal featuring lemon garlic cod and jasmine rice, but I decided to bring this table wine to a pre-New Year’s Eve party since it’s 1-Liter size and bottle cap top make it difficult for individual consumption.

OK let’s stop right there. Yes, this wine has a bottle cap on it.


Not a screw top and not a cork. Weird, huh. It’s the wine of the people over in Slovenia, served in every country tavern and in every household, so I guess the bottle cap blends well with that scene.


That’s not the only thing weird about this number. It’s lemony and zesty and reminds me of the idea of an alcoholic Fresca.


Great for easy drinking, I decided to bring it to the pre-party because I knew it would be low-key, great for a crowd and a nice, light precursor to the Old Fashioneds and other bourbon/whiskey cocktails I’d ride for the rest of the evening, which by the way was filled with beautiful views of Los Angeles and sparklers!




The wine is hand-picked from a family vineyard in northeastern Slovenia that features fossil-rich soils. The blend changes from year to year, according to the folks at Vintage Berkeley.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Crnko
  • Type: blend of riesling and dry muscat
  • Origin: Slovenia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $15
  • Alcohol content: I left the bottle at that pre-New Year’s soiree and forgot to write this down!
  • When to drink: Tuck this in a picnic basket as you head out to the park on a summery day with your friends, a croquet set and this amazing lemon-feta dip.

Review: 2011 Sincera Zinfandel



Berries! Berries! Berries! If the 2011 Sincera Zinfandel could talk, it’s first word would be berries. If you’re a fan of earthy, spicy zinfandel’s, this isn’t for you. But if you like fruity reds, give this one a try. But for the price, $16.95, there are better zins out there. Wilfred Wong from BevMo gave it 91 points, but I think he was being way too generous.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sincera
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: California
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content: I didn’t write it down! Whoops!
  • When to drink: When you’re trying to please a big, fruity red wine lover, whip a bottle of Sincera Zinfandel out onto the table.

Review: 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel

Remember how I cracked the code behind old vine zinfandel and zinfandel? Well, since then I haven’t had much of America’s sweetheart wine and since it’s one of my favorite varietals, I had to break the dry streak.

I brought over a bottle of the 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel to a friend’s house earlier this week and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lightness to the juice, but a strong peppery flavor anchors down the wine and gives it a lingering aftertaste. It’s another easy-drinker that won’t knock your socks off, but you’ll have a good time drinking it up and smelling the dark cherry aroma. At least I did.


If you are a faithful reader of wineforthewin.com and you’re thinking, “Hey, Haven’t I seen that wine label to the right of the Zin before?” You’re right. You have.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sebastiani
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: Sonoma County
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $17.99 (I got a second one for 5 cents at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale)
  • Alcohol content: Unknown (I brought this to a party and forgot to look at the label for the Alcohol content. mea culpa!)
  • When to drink: With a hunk of meat, preferably steak, preferably tri-tip and preferably grilled.


Thanksgiving Wine

When Wine Library, a discount wine retailer, asked its followers on Twitter which wines they were picking up for Thanksgiving, it got me thinking: which wines should I pick up for Thanksgiving?

One follower said she was eyeing a 2012 Pascal Pibaleau Rouge L’heritage D’aziaum. When I read that I had to shake my head and refocus my eyes a bit because of the long string of words, so I’ll be patient as you re-read it.

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And, we’re back.

So what’s the deal with the Pascal Pibaleau Rouge L’heritage D’aziaum? It’s a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Sounds yummy.

According to Wine Library, it is:

“With lots of bright red fruit, hints of earthiness, and a nice amount of acidity, the Pibaleau L’Heritage D’Aziaum is a versatile food wine, that will pair with chicken, pork, vegetable, and fish dishes.”


Malbec, in general, can draw in pepper, licorice, coffee and black fruit flavors, while Cabernet France, can exude plum, blackberry or vegetable-like aromas, depending on ripeness.

At $16.98, it’s a stretch, but not a budget-buster.

Another tweep said she was grabbing Brunello di Montalcino. That wine is made from Sangiovese grapes that are grown in Montalcino, a hilltop town in Italy.  According to wine-searcher.com, the $19 wine is “known for its brilliant garnet hue and its bouquet of berries with underlying vanilla and spice. A hint of earthiness brings balance to the finest examples.”

With these suggestions in mind, I’m still thinking about going another direction: Beaujolais. Beaujolais wines can be easy-drinking, fruity and graciously play a supporting role without stealing the spotlight from the star of Thanksgiving: the turkey.

I’d recommend Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages. It’s a good value (last time I bought it, it was $10, but wine-searcher has it ranging from $10-$14). It’s light, fruity (think raspberry and plum) and I think it’ll please guests varying tastes.


Here are some more Thanksgiving wine suggestions from the all-knowing internet:

What are your Thanksgiving wine suggestions?

Review: True Myth Chardonnay

Getting kicked out of your apartment for three days because you’re complex is being bombed for termites is no fun. But getting to have a sleepover with friends who have bottles and bottles of True Myth Chardonnay makes up for it, at least a little bit.

This week we had to pack up all of our edibles and tote Pepita the bird to temporary shelter. On the first night, we toasted with True Myth Chardonnay, which my friend has in abundance after taking home leftover bottles from a work event.


A golden yellow, this Chardonnay tastes buttery and a hint of vanilla holds hands with citrus fruit flavors as the wine slides merrily down your tongue. Although it’s creamy, it still has a crisp brightness. If this wine had a personality, I’d say it was charming and pleasant.

A perfect pair for those cute cat coasters.

Here’s a bottle solo shot:



Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: True Myth
  • Type: Chardonnay
  • Origin: Edna Valley
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $18 (as advertised on the wine’s official website, but I found some stores selling it for $15.99.)
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: At a small dinner party with friends. Or you can copy us and toast with it before watching Jeopardy, America’s favorite quiz show.



Review: Craftwork 2012 Pinot Grigio

It smelled like honeydew when I stuck my nose into my first glass of Craftwork’s 2012 Pinot Grigio, but when I drank it, I forgot about that alluring scent. I expected a fruity concoction, but was distracted by the alcohol burn. The bottle says it’s 13.5%, but it tasted like more. I feel like this wine, because of the bite, would do well in a white sangria.


I’m usually a fan of Pinot Grigio, but I don’t think I’d pick this one up again. It’s not a bad, but it wasn’t for me. Unfortunately, I picked up two bottles at the most recent Bevmo 5 cent wine sale. I was hunting for Pinot Grigio and this one had 91 points, so I snagged it. Lesson learned: points can be deceiving.

Have you ever disliked a highly rated wine? Tell me about it.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Craftwork
  • Type: Pinot Grigio
  • Origin: Monterey
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $15.95, but I got one for 5 cents
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: If you’re making a white sangria, I think this wine would go well with a few shots of clear liquors in your cabinet, peaches, raspberries and a splash of bubbly.