Three Great Thanksgiving Wines For Under $20

Thanksgiving is next week and it can be tough to find enjoyable wines that won’t drain your bank account.  Good news – we did the work for you and found delicious, affordable wines that will pair really well with your Thanksgiving meal!  Here are three wine picks that we feel deliver a lot of bang for your holiday buck!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a great bottle of sparkling wine.  One excellent choice for under $20 is NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut.  This blend of Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire will draw you in with aromas of fresh baked bread and baked apples.  The palate is equally delicious with tastes of apples and nutmeg along with vibrant acidity.  Easy to sip throughout the meal! ($15)

2013 The Pinot Project Pinot Noir

Need a solid Pinot Noir to pair with your turkey for under $15?  Look no further than The Pinot Project.  It’s not complex but the medium-bodied wine offers enjoyable tastes of cherries with hints of earth and spice.  A definite crowd pleaser! ($12)

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois is 100% Gamay and a perfect Thanksigiving wine. Your palate is met with a medley of raspberries, cherries, and cranberries along with hints of pepper and lively acidity.  Light-bodied and pairs wonderfully with turkey and stuffing! ($13)

West of West Wine Festival – Orange County

Last weekend, Brandon and I attended the inaugural West of West Wine Festival in Orange County.  The event, held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, was put on by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine, Celebrity Cruises, and Hartford Family Wines.  West of West exclusively featured wineries from the West Sonoma Coast, a region known for producing cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

West of West Wine Festival

West of West Wine Festival

West of West afforded attendees the chance to not only taste delicious, well-made wines, but to also have one-on-one conversations with winemakers from many of the wineries pouring at the festival.  Here are a few of my favorite wines along with tasting notes from the event:

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Fesitval

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Festival

2012 Small Vines “MK” Vineyard Pinot Noir

Elegant flavors of dark berries and black cherries are coupled with floral undertones and hints of spice. A beautiful wine that will age with grace! (13.5% alcohol, $70)

2012 Red Car Hagan Vineyard Pinot Noir

Layers of cranberries, pomegranate, black tea, and spice.  Complex and balanced flavors that are enjoyable now but will benefit from more time in the bottle.  One of the best wines I have tasted from Red Car! (13.7% alcohol, $68)

2012 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Bright tastes of cranberries, raspberries, and cherries are met with notes of black tea and rose petals.  Structured and well-balanced.  Such an impressive effort from this young winery! (13% alcohol, $60)

2012 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Harmonious layers of flavors that include black cherries, dark berries, licorice and earth.  Vibrant acidity and a complexity that unravels with each sip.  So glad I had the chance to try the Pinot Noir from Gros Ventre…some of the best at West of West! (13.8% alcohol, Continue reading

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings with Turkey

Tired of pairing your Thanksgiving turkey with Pinot Noir year after year?  This Thanksgiving, try some wine pairings that are a little less traditional.  Here are a few of my favorites that are just as delicious as Pinot, yet not on everyone’s radar.  Plus, the wines generally make great conversation pieces since many people around the table will not have tried them before.


Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir

Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir

Grenache is one of my favorite Thanksgiving wines.  It not only pairs well with turkey but also with side dishes like stuffing.  Look for a bottle with low alcohol, healthy acidity, and ripe berries.  One of my favorite picks is Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir.  Refined tastes of cherries, cranberries, and strawberries are met with hints of spice.  Elegant with vibrant acidity, this is sure to be the highlight of your meal! (13.3% alcohol, $38)


Several weeks ago, I participated in a Cinsault tasting and all I could think about was how well the wines would pairing with turkey.  Turley 2014 Lodi Cinsault is an excellent option and is also a great value.  The wine offers layers of red fruit with bright acidity and excellent texture.  There are also savory and earthy notes to go along with the tart fruit.  A perfect match for turkey! (13% alcohol, $17)


A well-made Gamay is pure, fresh, and delightful with turkey.  Martian Ranch & Vineyard “Absolute Magnitude” 2013 Gamay Noir is a great choice.  This Santa Barbara County Gamay is light-bodied with bright tastes of raspberries and strawberries along with hints of violets and spice.  A great addition to your Thanksgiving meal! (13% alcohol, $24)

Exploring Lodi Tempranillo

Last night, I had the privilege to taste through 5 different Lodi Tempranillos along with fellow wine lovers in pre-celebration of Tempranillo Day, which will be held on Thursday, November 13th.  We were virtually joined by Stuart Spencer (Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS) and Rick Taylor (owner and winemaker of Riaza Wines and Director on the Board of Directors for TAPAS).

The lineup!

The lineup!

Over the past 10 years or so, Lodi has been exploring and realizing the potential of Spanish varieties.  Tempranillo has done particularly well, with over 900 tons produced in the region in 2013 (Source: CDFA 2013 Grape Crush Report).  Our hosts led us through a lineup of 5 very different Tempranillos from the Lodi region.  The wines showcased the diversity of Tempranillo along with differences in winemaking styles.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the evening:

2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (SRP $23, 13.5% alcohol)

Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from two different vineyards in Lodi.  Savory notes of licorice and tobacco are followed by juicy flavors of cranberries and blackberries.  Light yet full of flavor.  A really nice wine!

2012 McCay Cellars “Lot 13 Vineyard” Tempranillo (SRP $28, 14.3% alcohol)

McCay Cellars Tempranillo is 100% Tempranillo that underwent native yeast fermentation (the only wine undergoing native fermentation in our lineup).  The palate features tastes of plums and red berries with underlying spicy notes.  Well-integrated tannins, smooth, and balanced.  This was the favorite of the night for me!

*Media Samples

Cedro do Noval 2009 – Rich and Complex

Quinto do Noval is a historic Port House in the Douro Valley of Portugal with roots dating back to 1715.  Quinto do Noval recently added two dry table wines to their portfolio, one of which is Cedro do Noval.  Cedro do Noval 2009 is a blend of traditional Douro grapes (50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, and 10% Tinta Roriz) along with 10% Syrah.  The wine does an excellent job showcasing the great potential of a region predominantly known for Port.

Cedro do Noval 2009

Cedro do Noval 2009

Uncork Cedro do Noval and you will immediately notice intense, earthy aromatics.  The palate is rich with tastes of dark fruit, earth, and cedar.  There are also smokey and savory notes followed with a spicy, elongated finish.  A little big when first opened but we really enjoyed how the complex flavors integrated with time and air.  Pair with roasted or grilled meats! ($22, 14% alcohol)

*Media Sample

Wine Event in OC: Inaugural West of West Wine Festival

Hey Southern California readers…on Saturday, November 8th, the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine and Celebrity Cruises, will host the Inaugural West of West Wine Festival.  This event will take place at the Grand Terrace in the Honda Center in Anaheim.  The West of West Wine Festival will feature tastings from Sonoma wineries including Red Car, Littorai, Small Vines, and Flowers.  The West Sonoma Coast is known for producing delicious cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

The West of West Wine Festival will also include fun events like the “Sommelier Challenge”,  free swag from Celebrity Cruises, and delicious food from several OC restaurants.

Wine of the West Festival

Wine of the West Festival

Tickets for the Grand Tasting are normally $175 but, for a limited time, you can access a special $99 ticket offer on General Grand Tasting tickets by using code: WOWOC at  This is going to be a great event and OC could definitely use more events like this so please consider attending!

Visit for more details!


2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

Fall ushers in some of the best seafood California has to offer so I like to make sure we have plenty of wine on hand to pair with oysters, crab, and other seasonal delicacies  One well-priced bottle we always have chilled is Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc.  This blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, and 30% Clairette comes from 25 to 50-year-old vines that are organically farmed on the Mediterranean shores of the northern Languedoc.  With 12.5% alcohol, it is fairly easy to find at a retail price of around $10.

2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc offers pretty aromas of citrus, melon, and pear with floral nuances.  The palate is crisp and lively.  There are ample tastes of citrus followed with a refreshing finish.  Super enjoyable and very easy to sip…this wine definitely over delivers on value!

Movie Review: American Wine Story

Last weekend, I had the chance to preview an incredible film from Three Crows Media titled American Wine Story.  American Wine Story is a documentary that chronicles the journeys of several winemakers and wine professionals who, for the most part, don’t follow the path into the wine industry that most Americans seem to envision.  The movie draws you in from the start with tales of tragedy, hard work, and success.

American Wine Story

American Wine Story

American Wine Story’s underlying theme is following passions and pursuing dreams, which in this case, revolve around making wine.  While the movie centers around the death of Oregon winemaker Jimi Brooks of Brooks Winery, I found the stories of many of the other featured winemakers equally intriguing.  As a viewer, I was captivated to learn about the winemakers’ day jobs, personal and professional struggles, and what ultimately led them to pursue wine.

Some of the featured winery owners in American Wine Story

Some of the featured winemakers, winery owners, and wine professionals in the film

While the storyline can seem a little slow at times, for the most part the film keeps the audience engaged. American Wine Story also neglects to mention stories of failure, which are as prevalent (if not more prevalent) than successes in the wine industry.  However, in spite of the aforementioned flaws, I found the film very enjoyable.

If you are interested in watching (and you should be), the film is now available to audiences everywhere on iTunes, Amazon, On Demand and at  So grab a bottle of wine, relax, and enjoy the movie!

Broc Cellars 2013 Love Red “Part Deux”…Seriously Good!

If you are looking for a highly quaffable wine for around $20, look no further than Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the winery, Broc Cellars is an urban winery with a tasting room in Berkeley producing seriously good, minimally manipulated wines.

Broc Cellars Love Red "Part Deux"

Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”

The newly released “Part Deux” version of Love Red is a blend of 83% Carignan, 14% Valdiguie, and 3% Petite Sirah from Frei Vineyard in Solano County.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and then racked down to 20 year-old 600L German casks for 10 months.  Native yeast fermentation, unfined, and lightly filtered.

Love Red “Part Deux” is incredibly bright and vibrant.  The palate is flavorful yet light with tastes of red berries and spicy anise.  With plentiful acidity and a juicy finish, I could drink this wine all day.  Grab a couple of bottles while this wine lasts!  (13% alcohol, MSRP $20)

New Releases from Cimarone Wines

If you are a fan of Santa Barbara County wines, you should really add Cimarone Wines to your list of wineries to explore.  Cimarone’s vineyards are located in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara and the winery is run by husband and wife team Roger and Priscilla Higgins.  With the help of winemaker Andrew Murray, they produce small lot, crowd-pleasing wines.  Over the past week, I sampled the newly released Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese and Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc.  Each New World style wine is well-made and full of flavor.

Cimarone's vineyards courtesy of Cimarone Wines

Cimarone’s vineyards courtesy of Cimarone Wines

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone’s Cabernet Franc is pleasantly aromatic with notes of ripe, red berries, cassis, violets, and hints of oak.  The palate is super smooth and features tastes of plums, green bell peppers, red berries, and spice.  Balanced and incredibly enjoyable! (13.8% alcohol, $29.99)

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone 2012 Cabernet Franc

Cimarone 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese

This wine opens with aromas of ripe fruit, earth, and cinnamon.  Decadent flavors of plum, red berries, and cinnamon are surrounded by more nuanced notes of earth and vanilla.  Hearty enough to pair with roasted meats, this wine will most definitely improve with a little more time in the bottle! (14.5% alcohol, $29.99)

*Media Samples