Think you have to spend a lot for a quality Pinot Noir…. Think again!!

Ever since the movie Sideways hit the big screen, Pinot Noir has become THE wine to drink… and with good reason. It can be expressive in so many different ways depending on where it is grown and how it is crafted. However, when buying the inexpensive bottles of Pinot you run the risk of getting a tart, dirty and fruity wine… not fun! Below are some easy tips to make sure you grab a Pinot that is of good value and quality.

 First off, stay away from the inexpensive brand names… like Glen Ellen or Woodbridge for example. I don’t want to knock Woodbridge too hard, as some of their wines like the Pinot Grigio and Merlot are totally drinkable. But as far as Pinot Noir goes there is a bit of a skill to making it, and is tough to do when it is that mass produced.

 The least expensive Pinot I have found that has all the pleasurable qualities one looks for is from Pepperwood Grove. It will run $6-9 and is great for an everyday wine. The grapes are from the Central Coast of Cali, so it is a bit light but has all the cherry, plum and spice that a good Pinot should have. Apollo Creek also makes a nice, light Pinot for under $8. This one is from Greece (yes Greece) and as skeptical as I was when I purchased it on a family member’s recommendation; I could not have been more pleasantly surprised!

 Once you get to the $10-15 range, you start to have a little more selection. A couple of my favorites are from Castle Rock (either the Monterey County or Sonoma Coast offering) and Aquinas from Napa Valley. Both are very soft, fruit forward and have a beautiful finish. However if you find any Pinot from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley (both in Sonoma), Napa Valley or Carneros (both in Napa) you really can’t go wrong.

 The two latest hot spots for Pinot are in Oregon and New Zealand. In Oregon, the Williamette Valley produces high quality Pinot. Cloudline is a solid value option, but will still run $15-20. Argyle and Erath’s Pinots are also worth a purchase and will run around $20 or so. If you are willing to move up the Pinot food chain, go for the Domaine Serene Pinots… some of the best you can find for $50-60.

 In New Zealand, Marlborough and Central Otago have been putting out quality Pinots for years now. They are generally very clean, delicate and have a subtle earthy quality that balances well with the typical cherry fruit flavors. They run about $15-30 (some higher for the single vineyard wines) with St. Clair, Kim Crawford and Mt. Difficulty being a few of my favorites.

 But if you really want to try Pinot Noir in it’s purest form, then you are going to need to do two things…. Dig deep into the bank account and get your hands on some Burgundy wines. These French gems made strictly from the Pinot Noir grape are arguably the best wines in the world. While the most expensive ones can run in the thousands (not a misprint), there is a way to sample the essence of the region without having to take out a second mortgage on the house.

 Joseph Drouhin, Laboure Roi and Louis Jadot put out a handful of reasonably priced Burgundies. The most affordable ones will have the Bourgogne region on the label. Even though they may not be classified as Burgundies, they carry the same characteristics to a degree and will run less than $20 for the most part.

 If you are looking for a special occasion Pinot Noir, there are so many to choose from that it would just be too long to list here. But feel free to comment on this blog post anytime you are looking for a recommendation and I would be happy to be of service…. Cheers!

Get out and taste in North White Plains!! Two great spots with great juice flowing….

Looking to taste some wine before heading home after a long week? Then get over to North Broadway in White Plains where there are two wine shops pouring some really nice wines right now.

The Wine Professionals are showing about 5 different European wines. Included in the mix is a Vinho Tinto from Portugal (Duoro region… quite tasty), a Tempranillo from LaMancha and a few Italian wines. The gems being a nice, fruit forward Sangiovese from Umbria, a value Nero D’Avola from Santa Margherita for around $8 and a stellar Valpolicella Ripasso. The Valpolicella, or a baby Amarone, was certainly the best of the bunch and even though it rings in around $20, definitely worth it.

Grapes- The Wine Company has 2 wines they are pouring this evening. The standout of both tastings being the 2006 Etude Pinot Noir from Carneros. Lots of ripe cherry and spice, yet very soft and supple. Absolutely delicious, and for around $37 it should be. They also have a white blend from the Cotes du Ventoux region. Nice fruit with ample amounts of floral and lemon zest flavors. Great summer wine for the warm days ahead, and a good deal at $11.

Again, the best way to learn about new wines as well as wine shoppes in the area is to get out and taste!! These stores want you in there tasting for free as they know if you try something you like… you’ll probably buy a bottle or more! Yet, there is never any pressure to do so… so if you just want to grab a drink after work, you can hit it up for that too ;)

Below is a link with the addresses to both spots…cheers!

http://www.westchestermagazine.com/Westchester-Magazine/Westchester-Resources/Food-and-Drink/index.php/city/North+White+Plains/

Still looking for that traditional neighborhood Italian restaurant? Check out La Grotta in Yonkers.

I have to hand it to my folks for finding this awesome little Italian joint. It’s one of those restaurants that has a huge menu, homemade pastas and sauces, delicious meat and fish dishes and very reasonable prices to match. Plus it feels like you took a time machine back to the late 80’s….which I love. It’s so old school that it doesn’t even have a website for WWG to promote!

 As soon as you sit down not only is bread brought to the table, but also a plate of complimentary Bruschetta. It’s nice these days to get something for nothing! Then the server will typically let you know about a deal on one of the wines they are trying to move. The servers are fairly knowledgeable about the wine, but it’s not someplace I would trust them whole heartedly. So you may want to ask a question about the wine just to test them out a bit.

 As for the wine list, it’s small and all Italian. However, they do have some very good values. The wines change pretty frequently, but you can almost always find an inexpensive Chianti or Barbera D’Asti for around $30. They also carry the Villa Antinori for around $40. This is a very popular Super Tuscan (blend of Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot) that is really enjoyable each and every vintage. Considering it usually runs about $20 in most stores, they carry it at a good price.

 However, the best value on the wine list lies on the expensive side. They carry the Argiano Solengo which is a very high end Super Tuscan comparable to the best in all of Italy.  In most stores this wine will run around $50-75. I think I saw it on a crazy sale once for like $40, and that was a blowout. La Grotta is selling the 2002 vintage right now for $70!! That is cheaper than I have seen it in some stores!

 Because it’s the 2002, it is drinking beautifully right now. Lots of ripe berries with hints of chocolate and some spice.  I tried to talk my Pops out of spending so much on a bottle, but in the end I am still his son so he has the final say…and it was truly one of the best values I have ever seen on any wine list.

 Having eaten here many times I can’t remember ever having a bad meal. The mussels, both marinara and bianco, are the highlight of the appetizer menu. Although my mom would argue the stuffed artichoke tops the list. The pastas are all homemade, and the nightly special pastas are really something special. I had a black linguini with lobster meat in a vodka style sauce that was out of this world. Not only are all the pasta dishes quality, but none are over $18 and the portions are huge….enough that you almost always have to take some home with you.

 As for the meats, the Osso Bucco is definitely a fan favorite, as well as the veal saltimbocca. The steaks are pretty solid for an Italian place, but you’re better off going with a veal or chicken dish if you’re in the mood for meat. The fish is usually very fresh as well, and I know the Tilapia is one of their more popular dishes. Again, I don’t think there is a dish on the menu that is over $25, which makes it easy on the wallet.

 Like most traditional Italian places, they carry the standard desserts including homemade cannolis, biscuit tortoni, spumoni, tiramisu and a large selection of ice cream and sorbets. What they don’t carry is any hard alcohol or liqueur, so it is really just a wine and beer kinda place… which works for me! Hope it does for you too….enjoy!

What to pair with your Easter Dinner

As Good Friday has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about a lot of things for Easter Weekend….. where to hide the Easter eggs, which masses to hit (preferably the ones that aren’t like 3 hours) and what wines to buy that will complement the Easter feast you have planned. Not to fear…WWG has a few easy recommendations to help make your meal a hit! I should mention that even though I am Westchester based, I am always happy to have new followers that live in other areas too (yes, even out in Massapequa, LI… you know who you are!)

The two most popular meats that people cook on Easter are ham and lamb. So let’s start with a ham pairing. As far as meats go, ham is a little light and usually has some form of a sweet glaze on it. Even though I almost always prefer a red, a hearty Riesling or Gewürztraminer will really enhance the flavors of the ham.  Chateau St. Michelle in Washington has the best value for either (around $7-8) and Dr. Loosen has an entry level Riesling called Dr. L which runs about $10. Very well made wine from the best area in Germany for Riesling, the Mosel region.

If white is not your bag, you may want to try a Pinot Noir. Castle Rock makes a wonderful Pinot Noir from Mendocino County for under $10, and one of the least expensive Pinots that I have found and enjoy with meals is from Pepperwood Grove. It usually is under $8! As far as California goes, any Pinot from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros or Anderson Valley will be solid. If you are willing to move up to the $20-25 range, Cambria Julia’s Vineyard from the Santa Maria Valley is a no brainer…. It received the #1 Wine of the Year from Wine Enthusiast!

Oregon Pinots have been all the hype the last few years, and with pretty good reason. They are putting out some of the best Pinots around every year. The problem is they tend to be a bit pricey so there are not a whole lot of “deals” out there. However, one that I enjoy is the Cloudline Pinot from the Willamette Valley. Almost every Pinot from that area is going to be delicious, but will typically run over $20. Cloudline runs around $13-16 and drinks as well as some of the more expensive ones. But if you are spending the bucks, grab any Pinot from Domaine Serene…. They will all knock your socks off!

Let’s move onto the lamb. Wines from the Bordeaux region are really made to drink with this type of meat. The earthy and subtle fruit components in your typical Bordeaux bring out all the juicy and mildly gamey flavors of the lamb. And if you use the green mint jelly, as we do in my family, the herbal, almost eucalyptus characteristic that some Bordeaux wines have will provide a very pleasant experience.

 Chateau Greysac from the Medoc region in Bordeaux is probably they best value on the market. You can find it as low as $10 on sale at some places, but it usually runs between $12-15. Chateau Arnauton from the Fronsac area will be a little more expensive, but still under $20 and is a very well crafted wine that will be delicious with the lamb. Of course if you are spending over $30 a bottle, anything from the Margaux or Pauilliac region, especially from the 2005 vintage, will be an excellent match.

I know there are some, like my brother, who don’t want to bother with the old world style of Bordeaux and want the “fruit bombs” with their meat! Understood…. And if that is so I would probably go Zin or Merlot. You can certainly go Cab with any type of meat dish, but with the lamb it may be a bit overpowering. There are just too many good options to mention, but on the value side I have been enjoying all of the Merlots from the Columbia Valley in Washington lately. Pretty tough to find a bad one and they are very reasonable.  As for the Zins, as I have mentioned before, the Dry Creek and Lodi regions produce the best ones year in and year out. Anything from Ravenswood, Rosenblum or Rancho Zabaco will fit the bill.

Lastly, I would just like to wish you and yours a very Happy Easter filled with family, friends, love and of course good eatin’ and drinkin’! Cheers.