How To Be A Better Wine Buyer

  • Start to shape up your sense of what types and styles of wine you like and why you like them
  • Define basic wine terminology
  • Go to local wine shops and ask for help with no fear and open mind

Start with what you know you like. Talk to someone who works at the shop or store you like.  Ask questions with no concern for being embarrassed or judged. No good Sommelier or wine shop attendant should ever speak down to you. They exist in their entirety to help all levels of wine buyers and if they act snotty remind them not be!

  • Find two or three regions you know that you enjoy the wine from. If you loved a wine from a specific area, chances are you will love other wines from there too. Regions dominate flavor profiles because grapes are all grown very similarly in connected geographic areas. It really is the climatic conditions and topography of region that determine the core flavors and characteristics of what the wine will taste like.
  • Find grape varietals that are similar to the ones you know you like (but might be more expensive) and try those. For example, despite it’s completely unfair reputation Merlot is amazing and used to make some of the very best wines in the world! Try a Napa Valley Merlot instead of the more expensive Cabernet to save a few dollars and be prepared to be amazed. Some other great examples are Pinot Noir being not too different in body and weight than Gamay or Barbera. Another one is Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino or Gavi di Gavi for white wines. Vermentino & Gavi are very close in profile to Sauvignon Blanc but often times less expensive.

Think about the style of wine you like, is it light, medium or full body? Is it sweet, dry, robust, fruit forward? Use these terms to describe what you like.

Think about the how oak effects wine and what your preferences are in regards to how those flavor profiles influence the wine.

Most wine is aged in various types of Oak Barrels although some trends are moving away from Oak ageing like Stainless Steel Fermented Chardonnay. Oak adds vanilla notes to white wines and wood and tobacco notes to red wines. Oak softens the acidity of wine but when a certain type of oak (i.e. New American Oak) is used it is a very powerful flavor contributor. Often times you’ll hear “Neutral French Oak” which still imparts softness and roundness to both whites and reds but with less Vanilla, butter and smoke & tobacco characteristics.

How to Save Money Buying Wine:

Think about not necessarily spending the least amount possible but really about knowing that you are getting the most value and bang for your buck with your wine selections. It’s all about the value of what you bought and how satisfying that wine was to you and your personal palate! A good range to think about for everyday wine purchases is $15-$20 for whites and $25-$30 for reds. Good wine is a few more dollars usually but well, well worth it. Consider investing in a tool that helps preserve the wine after it is open, like one that removes excess air from the bottle. You can find one at Target for $10 and it makes your bottle last longer so you won’t feel so worried about it going to waste.

  • Look for “satellite regions”. These are areas that are right next to very famous wine regions that make very similar tasting and quality wine but for fraction of the price! Examples are Anderson Valley in CA, very close to Napa & Sonoma, the area makes excellent wine but typically for less than its more famous neighbors. If you like French wines look for wines from the Rhone region in the south of France or Jura & Beaujolais, which neighbor Burgundy and make similar wines for much less.

Get to know a few star winemakers and follow the brands that they make. Many famous winemakers consult for several brands of varying costs and impart their style and quality levels of all of their brands. They often make very expensive wine but also love to make hidden gems and steals, they even sometimes use a little of the same grapes that go into a very expensive bottle to blend into some of their other wines. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you, this is my favorite trick of the trade! Some great ones to follow are Kirk Venge, Martin Reyes, Anna Monticelli and newcomer Ashley Leon. Between just those four there are probably 50 wines produced of all price ranges, but similar quality and style.

  • Buy wine from better sources than regular grocery stores. A grocery store is fine in a pinch but you get exponentially more value when you join a great wine club, buy directly from the winery or local wine shop. Ordering direct or doing a wine club is great because it cuts out many middle man and distributors and those savings are often passed directly to you, the consumer. You also know your wine is being hand selected and meticulously cared for, packaged, and shipped immediately to you in temperature controlled environments. Grocery store shipping and loading docks are not so carefully regulated often times and wine can be left in dangerous temperatures which can destroy the taste of the bottle that you spent your hard-earned money on. Some grocery stores also play games with pricing and discounting whereas wine clubs and small wine shops rarely ever do. Some large grocery chains mark wines up, then offer what seems like a huge discount that really isn’t. Be an enlightened consumer.

Please email me to learn more or to book your next wine tasting, thank you!

Meghan Vergara
Owner – Veritas Consultants
Certified Sommelier
veritasconsultant1@gmail.com

Please check out Veritas Consultants on Facebook, Yelp or Instagram for more great wine tips!

“In Vino Veritas – In Wine There is Truth!”

Meghan’s Thanksgiving Wine Buying Guide

Welcome and thank you for stopping by! Below I have compiled a list of some of the best wines I’ve tried recently that will pair perfectly with all of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Toques e Clochers Cremant de Limoux (Sparkling Wine), Limoux, France – $19.95 – Bev Mo
  • Sparkling wine at a great price is always a nice way to start a meal, especially one as important as Thanksgiving! This sparkling wine comes from Southern France and is made with 60% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac grapes. It is light and refreshing with honeyed citrus notes and has a lovely off dry (or slightly sweet) finish. Thanksgiving pairing suggestion: Pear and Goat Cheese Crostini.

Craggy Range ‘Te Muna Road’ Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2016 – $19.99 – Wine.com

  • This crisp and dry Sauvignon Blanc really exhibits the best of New Zealand. It offers racy citrus notes of meyer lemon and tart melon finishing beautifully with hints of fresh cut grass. This wine manages to be both clean feeling as well as full and satiating which makes it one of my personal favorites. Pair with Mixed Green Salad with walnuts, cranberries and a champagne vinaigrette.
Dr. Loosen ‘Blue Slate’  Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany 2015 – $18.99 – Costco
  • Riesling can often be a misunderstand variety but please don’t miss out on this steal of a wine. Good Riesling can be some of the best wine in the world, especially with food! It is bright and vibrant with the classic white peach fruit and floral, flinty minerality that is so delicious!  This wine is fantastic for the price and will be a crowd pleaser for the non wine drinkers and extremely wine savvy alike. It is an excellent match for Butternut Squash soup and Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables.
Irony Russian River Valley, ‘Small Lot Reserve’,  Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2015 – $27.95 – Bev Mo 
  • Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving Day pairing. It goes with Turkey and many of the classic Thanksgiving day side dishes. This is a delicious and well made Pinot Noir for a nice price considering it comes from a great (and typically more expensive) area of Sonoma County! This wine drinks like it’s double the price. It serves up ripe dark fruits on the nose with rich cherry fruit on the palate.  Medium body, silky Pinot Noir with velvety tannins and a smooth, lingering finish. This wine will be a hit for many of the diverse palates at your table! Pair with grilled asparagus wrapped with prosciutto or stuffed mushrooms for appetizer and light meat Turkey and Roasted Brussel Sprouts for the main course.
Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône, 2015 France – $18.95 – Bev Mo 
  • This luscious and tasty wine is a great price and will impress even your most wine savvy guests!  It is a medium to full bodied Red Blend from the South of France that is a mix of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre grapes. This wine showcases rich plum and cassis notes from the Syrah and Grenache and then balances out nicely mid palate and offers a just a slight hint of a peppery and playfully smoky finish.  A good wine to enjoy with Smoked Turkey or Prime Rib!

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

What Wines to buy at Trader Joes!

What Wines to buy at Trader Joe’s!

Buying wine can be overwhelming at times. With so many selections and not enough opportunity to taste or read about them all, it can feel like a daunting task to find wines that you love for reasonable prices. I am here to help. I have spent the last 15 plus years studying wine and tasting wines from all around the world. I am a certified Sommelier who has worked in and visited some of the best food and wine destinations in the world. However, I am not your usual wine snob. I am a parent on a budget. Though I know the top notch super fancy stuff, let’s face it, it’s just not what the majority of us drink on a day-to-day basis. Not even people in the industry sit around drinking $100 bottles of wine everyday, unless you’re getting a lot of it pro bono. If you are that’s awesome, I’m available for tastings anytime! Instead, I go to Trader Joe’s, a lot. I love Trader Joe’s, a lot. I am usually in a rush and also need to pick up some frozen pizza and organic chicken nuggets for my 8-year old. I can’t run to 5 different stores to find wine anymore, though I sometimes miss those luxurious days of having that kind of time on my hands. Instead, I’ve learned to take what I have and make it great and I’m here to share that with you. As a busy parent you definitely deserve some great wine too! The best part is that Trader Joe’s really does rock. Their wine department knows there are lots of people like you and me who need to find our food and wine in one trusted place.  They understand the brilliance of saving time and money and they work hard to negotiate great deals with their big buying power. They offer some fantastic wine options at prices we all love and it’s what keeps them running a healthy business. The only problem is that some of the better selections may be things you’ve never heard of before and would pass right over. Their selection is large and there isn’t always an expert standing right there to help break it down for you, which higher end wine shops do offer. So let’s break it down in a way we can quickly understand and sort through.

When dealing with wine you usually start with lightest to heaviest in style and body, so that is how this list of recommendations is structured. Please feel free to jump right to your favorite type of wine on the list and skip over things you know you don’t love. One of the key points in helping people learn about wine is to first understand that enjoyment of wine is subjective! Everyone has a very different palate and that is completely ok! There are no right or wrong answers, though I do strongly recommend being adventurous. Always be willing to try something new!

 

Crisp Dry White Wines:

 

Hanna Sauvignon BlancRussian River Valley, Sonoma CA 2016 – $12.99

  • Melon and apricot with fresh-cut grass intertwine on the nose of this crisp white that is long in flavor and minerality. With light to medium weight and texture, it offers a fresh yet mellow touch of acidity on the finish. Very well rounded with a pleasant mouth feel. This bottle typically averages around $18 from other retailers.

Bonterra Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2016Mendocino CA 2016 $9.99

  • Bright ripe grapefruit, Meyer lemon and green apple flavors join together with lovely floral aromas in this medium-bodied wine. Refreshing and delicious, this wine pairs well with a host of summer’s favorite foods. It’s 100% Organic as well. This wine usually retails for $14 at other stores.

 

On the slightly sweeter side:

 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/ Viognier 2016Napa Valley CA $10.99

  • When I worked in Napa Valley this was always one of our most popular summer wines! The price is great and the wine is delicious. It offers a great balance of honeyed citrus, spring flowers and ripe peach flavors all married with crisp acidity and lush texture. This wine works well with something slightly spicy or with seafood.

Vignobles Le Cheteau Vouvray 2015 Loire Valley, France $7.99

  • This is a personal favorite and part of the reason I wanted to write this list of recommendations! Vouvray from the Loire Valley is an excellent offering that I wish garnered more attention from wine drinkers in this area. It is Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France which is the ancestral home of this grape and it’s a fantastic find for $7.99! Jasmine and white flower aromas greet your nose followed by subtle tropical fruit flavors. The wine is off dry with an excellent, clean mineral finish.

 

Full Body Big Whites:

Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay 2015– Sonoma CA $19.99 

  • A reliable chardonnay from a trusted producer and a good price. Golden color with lovely balance showing apple and pear fruits. The wine has a nice medium body, laced with moderate acidity and finishes with subtle vanilla and butter notes.

Hess Select Chardonnay, Monterey County 201412.99 

  • Clean and mineral driven Chardonnay with great balance. Delicious apple and pear fruit with good acidity and a soft finish.

Rosés:

Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé 2016 – Bordeaux France $5.99

  • Nice pink elegant hue. Soft and pleasant bouquet with smooth flavors of fresh strawberries and cherries.  Surprisingly enjoyable for the price.

Miraval Rosé 2016 – Provence France $19.99

  • This wine is luscious and beautiful. Raspberry and rhubarb intertwine with full body, velvety texture and a long complex stone finish that brings this wine full circle. This winery is owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie so I was skeptical at first but after a few sips realized this wine is the real deal! This wine typically retails for $24.99 at other stores.

 

Lighter Body Reds:

Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2014 – Mendocino, CA 2014 $7.99

  • One trick I often rely on a Sommelier is that when I see an up and coming Pinot Noir from Mendocino County, I give it a shot. Most of time they far exceed their price point and do not fail to impress. This is an area to watch for good Pinot Noir! This wine is medium body with scents of spice and earth. Ripe red berry and cherry cola come through as you are tasting. This wine is complex and bold as Pinot Noir goes with voluptuous texture and a nice hint of silky tannin on the finish.

 

Poppy Pinot Noir 2014 – Monterey County, CA 2014 $11.99

  • This Pinot Noir offers great balance of acidity and flavor, with deep color that is characteristic of Central California Pinot Noir. Ripe red fruit brightens across the palate, picking up raspberry and spice and is balanced by the French toasted oak aromas. Soft and silky through the middle with a vibrant, juicy feel in the mouth.

 

Medium Body Reds:

 

Coppola Claret – Red Blend Napa Valley, CA 2015 $14.99

  • This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc is medium bodied and easy drinking. It is smooth and fruit forward with flavors of berries, plum and anise. This wine successfully marries bold California fruit with an elegant European style.

Tertre du Moulin Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015– Bordeaux, France $14.99

  • This Red Blend, made mostly of Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon and just a little Cab Franc makes for a nice red blend. The wine is deep red-purple in your glass, with an intricate nose, weaving together fruity and spicy aromas. The round mouth feel combines the taste of dark currants and cherry jam flavors with subtle hints of spice.

 

Full Body Red:

 

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – Sonoma County, CA $19.99

  • From its deep ruby hue to its fruit-forward aromas of blackberry, currant and black cherry, this wine does a good job showing what Sonoma Cab is all about. On the palate, the rich fruit is balanced by smooth tannins and picks up complexity with layers of spice, chocolate and hints of toasty French oak.

 

Girard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014- Napa Valley, CA $23.99

  • Rich dark fruit notes on the nose intertwined with cocoa and vanilla bean. Baking spice aromas also blend with hints of cigar box. On the palate you’ll taste blackberry and cassis, mocha and a touch of leather. The finish of the Cabernet shows rich dark fruit and expressive tannins.

 

 

 

Meghan Vergara

Certified Sommelier

Veritas Consultants

www.veritasconsultant.com