Ruffino prosecco sparkling wine review

24 12 2011

Here’s a $15 non-vintage prosecco from Italy, which I obtained from Costco.

This Ruffino is an extra dry sparkling white wine.  The label says that it is creamy and crisp, with hints of peach and golden apples.

I disagree.  I say it is massively over-carbonated, and produces loud, extended belching.  As for its flavor, I can’t tell, because of the Colorado-rapids rush of foam in my mouth.  After various efforts to reduce the carbonation, which your New Years Eve guests will not be able to replicate, I conclude that this is an average, OK-tasting sparkling white wine.  Meaning, it tastes roughly like salty apple cider. 

Like most sparkling wines and champagnes under $300, this prosecco is:

Not recommended.


It’s Thanksgiving: What wines should you buy?

19 11 2011

Hello!  Today we are going to get right to the point.  For Thanksgiving, here is what I recommend:

1.  Do not buy “Beaujolais Nouveau,” no matter how much your wine store pushes it.  It is light, boring, and basically worthless.  Ha!  THAT should generate some friendly comments.  Just to put the cherry on top of my popularity profile, you should also avoid California chardonnay at Thanksgiving.  Its flavors are non-complimentary and too dominating.  For turkey, cranberries and stuffing, the next 3 wines are where you want to be.

2.  Zinfandel.  This is THE All-American grape, and yes, it goes very well with turkey.  For a very friendly, sweeter version of this very Thanksgiving-ish red wine, buy 99 Vines for $10.   Try 1 bottle first, and make sure you like it.  For $10 it’s a great value, but it may not be for everybody.

For a more serious, kickass zin, acquire Oak Ridge ancient vine zinfandel, just $12 at Total Wine.  This wine is very dark purple, oaky, spicy, with some sweetness way in the background, and basically acts like a wine that costs almost twice as much.  For a better, more well-known name, buy Ridge “Three Valleys” zin, for $20.  Yes, the Ridge “Three Valleys” is superior, but is it 67% better than Oak Ridge?  No.  For a serious knockout punch, you can buy any zin by Ridge in the $30-and-up range.

3. Pinot Noir.  Buy a bottle of La Crema pinot, the “Monterey” version.  I reviewed it here.  More light on its feet than a zinfandel.  It’s $20.  If that’s more than you are used to spending:  just trust me.  This wine is lovely, spicy, and tastes very organic.  It adds a LOT to any Thanksgiving dinner.  In my opinion, more important than the zinfandel.

For a bolder, also-excellent pinot, buy Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, which I reviewed here.  It’s around $25, and again, worth every penny.

4. Sparkling pink stuff.  If you want your Thanksgiving table to say “FUN!” loud and clear, add a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling wine from Italy, reviewed here.  On the back, it says “Rosé.”  To you and me, it’s pink champagne.  And it’s good.  Only $15.  Definitely not bone-dry, this one’s a crowd pleaser.  Don’t bother with snooty impressive champagnes up to $50, because they are mostly terrible.

So, I am recommending 2 reds, and a sparkling rosé if you want a high fun factor.

If you want a white wine, I recommend the super-friendly David Hill “Farmhouse White” blend from Oregon.  Around $11.  Floral and tropical, this is a brilliant blend of mild sweetness with crisp tartness and acidity.  You don’t want your white wine to steal the show at Thanksgiving, and this won’t.

Have a wonderful holiday!

ridge zinfandel99 vines zinfandeloak ridge zinDavid Hill Farmhouse White

Yellow Tail sparkling wine review – CONTROVERSY!

10 12 2010

As we continue searching for champagne that makes sense for New Year’s Eve, today we look at this Australian sparkling wine for $9.

Such controversy!  Reviews are really mixed on this bubbly.  This guy says it’s repulsive, and undrinkable, and this other guy says, “no joke,” it’s actually decent, fruity with a smooth finish.

Well, the second guy is right!  I know wine snobs are supposed to hate it, but this stuff is good!  It’s very fruity, and yes, it’s sweet.  However, it’s not as sweet as the stuff you had in high school (was is “André”? — let’s Google that sucker — ahh, I see their Peach Passion is available for $5.19, good, good).   Of course, the stuff you had in high school probably wasn’t “72% Semillon, blended with Traminer, Viognier and Trebbiano” — I’m feeling better about [yellow tail] already.

This Aussie is also very drinkable, because they don’t overdo the bubbles.  You can actually tell that you’re drinking wine.  This, and the price, make it great for any ol’ day of the week.  The taste is unusual — oranges and mangos — but I loved it.  (That orange note makes it perfect for mimosas, by the way.)  I just wanted to keep on guzzling glass after glass.  Complex?  Refined?  Nope.  But it’s light and fun, and it has a real “champagne” cork that makes a loud BOP!! when you open it.  I still say: for bubbly, you gotta go extreme: cheap, or expensive ($45 and up).  Those “serious looking” mid-priced bottles are just a waste of your money.*  And for New Year’s, it’s cheap and fun all the way, baby.   This fun, fruity, $9 wonderboy is:

Yellow Tail sparkling wine review


*But I love to be proven wrong.  If there’s a mid-priced bubbly you like, please let me know.  I’m at wineguider @

Nicolas Feuillatte rosé champagne review: THE TEST

6 12 2010

As your picky Wineguider continues asking “what champagne for New Year’s Eve?” today we review a $50 French rosé, Nicolas Feuillatte.

OK this stuff is serious.  It has a very fruity, slightly spicy aroma.  Maybe that’s because it’s 60% pinot noir.  (And 10% chardonnay, and 30% pinot meunier, whatever THAT is).  The taste is also interesting, very balanced.  Tasting less sweet than the aroma suggests, it gives you sparkly strawberries and blackberries combined with a tart, alcohol-ish snap.  The bubbles are NOT overwhelming, and you get some of the joy of drinking a good wine — nice!  

But then, I did THE TEST.  I brought this $50 bottle to a big, fun Christmas party with a live band and guests in their 30s – 60s, in an affluent neighborhood in West Chester, PA.  This, and a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling rosé, which is just $15.  The results?  At the end of the night, the Nicolas Feuillatte was untouched.  The Martini & Rossi was drained.  Like, half a glass left.  And you can’t say it was because the M&R looked better — these bottles look eerily identical.

The lesson?  For a big party like New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t make sense to break the bank on bubbly.  Cheap works.  Or at least, it CAN work, if you buy the right kind.  Lesson 2?  Martini & Rossi rosé is FUN, as I said in my recent review.  And when you’re not buying for a big party, I say go extreme: either cheap n’ sweet, or high end — $45 and higher.  Mid-priced bubbly is a waste of your money, because it just doesn’t taste good — overwhelmed with bubbles and alcohol, and not much else.

Nicolas Feuillatte brut rosé champagne is very good, and I highly recommend it for general purposes.  But I can’t recommend that you buy it “in quantity” for your New Year’s Eve party.  Next!

Martini & Rossi sparkling rose review – PARTY PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE

4 12 2010

New Year’s is coming, so it’s time for bubbly.  Today, it’s a $15 Italian rose sparkling wine.    

OK I have an announcement:  there are no rules when it comes to bubbly.  Sure, “champagne” has to come from France, but really, any bubbly is fine.  Do whatever the hell you want.  Here’s why:  unless you spend a whole lot of money, it usually tastes like crap!  Yeah!  Woo hoo!!  Take your shirt off!!  It just doesn’t matter.  With that in mind, today we review Martini & Rossi sparkling rose.

The verdict?  It’s young and innocent and happy, and it doesn’t make me grimace or swear when I taste it, and the bottle looks EXACTLY LIKE this $53 bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte rose champagne that you’re droolin’ all over, which I will review next.  Nice!

In fact, it’s pretty damn good, and you should buy it.  Especially if you want a drinkable, sweeter bubbly and you don’t want to break the damn bank.

And you don’t want to break the bank.  Because on New Year’s Eve, bubbly isn’t really important — you’re much more worried about your shoes being banged up, your clothes not fitting right, throwing up, and the ever-present nightmare, trying to be cool at the party without coming off like a WEIRDO.  Where does the “quality of the champagne” rank, in this evening?  Minus 14?  So, I hereby give you full permission to buy this lovely $15 rose from Italy.

Party on!   (God, that made me sound like a weirdo, didn’t it?)Martini & Rossi sparkling rose review

What wine to serve at Thanksgiving?

22 11 2010

Here are some ideas for what you might serve this Turkey Day.

My overall answer is, drink what you like.  I don’t believe there is any “Supposed To” with wine.  Now, wine lovers already know what they like.  Others — normal people — just want an idea, “please,” so they can check wine off their list.

So, here you go!

Some will tell you, Thanksgiving is the time for the very light red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau.  You’ll see a ton of this on sale now.  I think it sucks, usually, so I’m not going to recommend it.  If you see a beautiful bottle with colorful flowers all over it for a low price like $8, I suggest you steer clear.

I say, Thanksgiving is the time for crowd-pleasing wines.   If you’re putting on a fairly big, nice dinner, consider serving 3 types:

1.  Pink: It’s a holiday celebration, so something bubbly makes sense.  I suggest a rosé champagne (called “sparkling wine” if it’s not French).  The color is fun, and it has more flavor to compliment your food than regular champagne, because it contains some non-bubbly red wine.  My strategy here: go extreme.  Either cheap and sweet with something obvious like Martini & Rossi Austi Spumante, or invest in something really good like Nicolas Feuillatte ($40) — or even better. In my experience, spending $20-$25 and hoping for a “pretty darn good” sparkling wine leads to disappointment.  Even the well-regarded $30-$35 Domaine Carneros brute rosé is just, “OK,” to me.

2.  White: Riesling.  If you want your dinner spread to look really cool, Bree riesling ($12) — because of that super classy and unique bottle.  For more flavor, Kim Crawford dry riesling ($16) is better and more interesting.  And if you want to “buy American” this Thanksgiving, the delicious Eroica from Washington State ($20) is always great.  These are sweet wines, crowd-pleasers that go wonderfully with appetizers.

For something less sweet that is still on the sweet side, and is more of a conversation starter:  Evolution 9 white blend from Oregon ($15).  Nine different grapes! 

For something more dry and tart: sauvignon blanc.  Budget:  Nobilo ($11).  More expensive:  Mason Cellars reserve ($25), St. Supery ($18) or make your guests go “ooooh” with Cakebread Cellars ($25-30).

3.  Red: Make sure to open your red wine 1 or 2 hours before you serve dinner, to let it breathe.  Just pop out the cork and let the bottle sit there until it’s time to pour.

For me, the red for Thanksgiving is pinot noir.  It’s got grace, spice, and it’s a little lighter than most other red wines, so it’s perfect for turkey.  Budget:  Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands ($14) or MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast ($15).  Moderate cost, yet delicious: Bouchaine 2007 ($25).  Even better: Lange Three Hills Cuvee ($37) or Lange Freedom Hill ($65), or anything by Domaine Serene (they start at around $37-40 for the Yamhill Cuvee).   Serious budget: Mark West ($9) — this one is less of a “crowd pleaser” because it has a strong personality, but it’s great if you love pinot.

A more intense and more American choice is red zinfandel.  Red zin is heavier than pinot noir, but can still be nicely spicy.  Budget:  Zen of Zin ($12) or Rosenblum ($16).  Moderate to best: Anything by Ridge, or — look for a “reserve” or other special bottling that costs over $20 by any of these names, and buy the most that you can afford: Cline, Ravenswood, Rosenblum, Rabbit Ridge, or Rancho Zabaco.

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer and it’s always great to drink what you like.  Merlot, chardonnay, whatever, as long as you enjoy it, that’s what counts.  Either way, I hope this list helps.  And if you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll sign up to receive new posts by email (“Subscribe,” upper right of this page).  Cheers!