If you dream of jumping into the world of wine, now is a perfect time. A wine certification or even a diploma is the smartest way to launch your palate into the big leagues.
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Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon
It would be enough if this were simply an elegant, fully mature Spanish red. But the fact that it’s an elegant, fully mature Spanish red for one-third of its usual price makes it truly special.
Chateau Grand Destieu
We’ve said it before and we will say it again: 2004 is so underrated that it’s almost funny at this point. Take this lovely St.-Emilion, for example: It’s drinking well right now but still has the stuffing to last in the wine cellar.
Hentley Farm Zinfandel
Say “Zinfandel” and most people will immediately think of California. But Australia is also home to some great examples of the grape variety. This one, from Barossa Valley, shows all the exuberant fruit you’d expect, and pairs it with mineral notes you wouldn’t. $19.99. Code: 01846.
St. Clair Pinot Noir
Well-crafted Pinot Noir that doesn’t break the bank? That doesn’t just taste like a cherry tart with some desultory mushrooms thrown in for faux-authenticity? That spans the seasons and is a chameleon at the dinner table? Yeah, we’ll take that any day of the week.
Jean Laurent NV Blanc de Blancs Brut
The name may not be quite as familiar as some of its more famous cousins, but it deserves to be. This 100% Chardonnay bubbly is not only delicious on its own but also incredibly versatile at the dinner table. And it’s an absolute steal.
M. Sorrel Crozes-Hermitage Blanc
In the Rhone Valley, the reds get all the attention and the lion’s share of love. But fans of the region’s whites know that they are every bit as wonderful as the reds and often rather surprising to boot. What makes this one a standout is its flavor profile (masculine and feminine at the same time!) and its price.
Castillo Labastida Rioja Reserva
International Wine Cellar, notoriously the most difficult of the major wine-review publications, called this bottling “fully mature and delicious.” To that, we would also add “guilt-inducingly affordable” and “dangerously drinkable.”
R.L. Buller NV Fine Tawny
Sometimes, a 375-milliliter bottle is all you really want. And sometimes, the sweet scent of caramel and coffee are all you really need for dessert, chocolate cake be damned. $12.49. Code: 11404.
The first step into the world of wine. Become a master vinologist! After taking this program, the student will be a better wine taster than most sommeliers.
Wine Intermediate Program The second step to a true understanding of wine. The entire world of wine – grapes, regions, history, terroir – is distilled into this exciting and informative program.
The ultimate program for the wine connoisseur. Each semester of the Advanced offers another deep insight into the world of wine.
Diploma Oenotropae The goal of many, possessed by very few. Earning the DO is a laudatory achievement, requiring at least two years of wine studies.
The Philly Five
These are the top five wine deals in the good ol’ PLCB wine stores in and around Philadelphia.
For an everyday tipple, the Hedges 2007 CMS White is my top pick for a white, at least this week. At $7.99 in the PLCB stores, this is a very good deal. Extra brownie points if you know what the CMS stands for.
For the WTF bargain of the month, hands down, its the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Syrah. For some crazy reason, the wine shops are selling this beauty for $12.99 when it really should be priced at about $25. Robert Parker and I have the same notes on this bottle: Smoke, mineral & blueberry. No surprise there: this is a textbook Washington State Syrah.
All of a sudden there are a half dozen good Pinot Noirs on sale in the PLCB wine shops. Two of them are actually very good and under $20. I am really digging the Gundlach Bundschu 2005 Rhinefarm Vineyard Pinot Noir. At $17.99 it’s a steal. I really love its balance between fresh roses and cranberry.
Another lovely is the Picket Fence 2006 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir which is clicking in at $19.99. It’s a woodsy little number with a light body of strawberry and bing cherry.
Finally, Altair Vineyards 2003 Sideral for $16.99 is one of the only Cabernet Sauvignon’s under $25 that is worth paying for. Really good stuff, with cedar notes and fat layer off vanilla over a muscular core of cassis.