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Wine of The Week – 2014 Williams & Heim Chardonnay - 91 Points

The Santa Lucia Mountain Range in Monterey County separates the Salinas Valley from the Pacific Ocean and Carmel. This is the home of the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) AVA and “The Bench” – a literal shelf of land from the foothills, which extends out towards the Salinas Valley, then dramatically drops off.

50 California Central Coast Wines You Should Be Drinking Right Now

The California Central Coast, identified as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo (and its main wine region Paso Robles) and Monterey is California the way it used to be, or at the very least, California the way people want it to be: small towns, charming architecture, varied history of Missions and Indians, and coastlines for miles; a slow pace, clean air and a belief that no one real really works very hard. But the area has been home to grape growing since the Spanish brought vine cuttings from Spain via Mexico in the late 1700s and winemakers and vineyard managers have been working hard ever since.

To celebrate this beautiful region offers these 50 wines that represent the diversity of the California Central Coast.

Can You Get a GREAT Bottle of Wine for Under $50?

For those of you who drink really high end wine, the prices over the last few years have been sky rocketing.  I am not speaking about the price of DRC, Lafite Rothschild or Screaming Eagle.  Luxury goods will always be expensive and the top and rarefied air items will always receive a premium based on scarcity and distribution.  No, I am speaking of wines that don’t approach that level.

If you drink with enough older wine lovers, eventually the stories come out about how inexpensive wine used to be.  They will regale you with their exploits of getting a case of Chateaux Margaux for a few baseball cards and some chewing gum as trade.  Well, ok, maybe not quite, but tales of buying 1982 First Growths for $20 a bottle seem to abound.  And that’s understandable, just as stories about buying a home thirty years ago or a fancy car re told.

Top California Pinot Noir: Which California Wine Producers Make the Best Pinot Noir?

California has actually been making outstanding wines from the Pinot Noir grape for a long time.  Sure, not long in the Burgundian sense but going back at least to the middle of the last century there were good bottles of Pinot Noir being produced in California.  Not many to be sure, but there were some.  Starting slowly, in the 1990’s, and then exploding when the movie Sideways came out, there are now more and more offerings of good to excellent Pinot Noir being produced in California.

Top 20 Tuscan Wines Under $45

Forty-five dollars is a lot of money to spend on a bottle of wine.  Yet, it is also a threshold pricing for wine.  For many people, that is the most they are willing to spend on a bottle.  For others, that is a typical Tuesday night pizza wine.  The real question is what kind of quality you can get for that price.  Unfortunately, the best wines often cost more.  On the other hand, spending more does not guarantee quality.  With that in mind, this article turns its attention to Italy in general and Tuscany in particular.

Wine's Velvet Rope - 11 California Winery Mailing Lists to Sign Up For

I am often asked which wineries mailing lists I should sign up for.  Before I answer that question, let’s back up a bit.  What are mailing lists?  They are different than wine clubs.  A mailing list is an offering from a winery to buy their wines.  Many wineries offer their wines to allow a consumer to buy directly from the winery.  Typically, the prices are not any lower than one would find at retail and at times, they are even priced a bit higher.  For the wineries, it’s a great deal as they can avoid the middleman and capture more profits from the sale of a bottle of wine.  But, why would a consumer want to do this?

Which California Cabernet Sauvignons Deserve "First Growth" Status?

In 1855, the Exposition Universelle was held in Paris to showcase all that was good in France.  Emperor Napoleon III requested the leading Bordeaux merchants to rank the best wines.  The top wines were rated as First Growths.  Over the years, many people in the rest of the world have discussed what wines from their country would be First Growths.  I am often asked what I think the First Growths of California are.  It is an interesting conversation with lots of room for debate.

Top 50 California Cabernet Sauvignons to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement.  I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites.  I am sure I left some out.

1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine.  But this has a track record that’s very long.  Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine.  They just don’t seem to make a dud.  My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle.  But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price. 

Top 75 California Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking.  In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California.  This proved to be a different task.  First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine.  Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France.  Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can.  Here is my list:

1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine.  This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time.  Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores.  Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.

Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

If you are a wine lover, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado or even if you just like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, it soon becomes obvious that there are some wines that are held in a higher esteem in the wine world.  Sometimes, it is because these wines are very rare.  Other times, it’s because the wine has a place in history.   Sometimes it’s because the wine is just that good.  Here is a list of 75 wines from France that make up that category.  A few caveats.  I have not tried every wine on this list.  Some I have and others I hope to.  Many of these wines are rare and hard to find.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on the list.  After all, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. 

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