Blog Archives

Our New Year’s Resolution: Drink More Wine

Since we have tasted and hand selected almost every wine, beer, and sake in our store, we’ve decided our new year’s resolution is to drink more.  We’re determined to find new and different varietals, wineries, countries, and off-the-wall crazy winemakers.
We’d love to find a great wine out of China, a small producer in France that provides a good entry level red Burgundy, an excellent Mexican wine, and even a new grape varietal we’ve never seen produced before.
We pursued the same goal in 2009 and came up with some pretty great stuff.  Here’s a review of our favorite finds…
Favorite Winemaker:  Charles Smith.  We love him for being a little ‘different,’ for his crazy labels and names (Eve Chardonnay, Boom Boom Syrah) but mostly because he is making the best syrah in Washington.
Favorite Winery (Domestic):  Orin Swift.  Love Dave Phinney’s wines.  From the popular Prisoner (Zinfandel blend) to the big and bold Papillon, his wines are balanced, bold, and brilliant.  Dave Phinney was also our runner-up for favorite winemaker.  Combine Orin Swift with his Soda Canyon wines (Barrel Chaser) and we are completely impressed.
Favorite Winery (International):  Fontodi.  This small production winery in Italy makes what we believe is one of the best Chianti Classicos.  Not to mention their 99 point Flaccianello.
Favorite ‘Unique’ Find:  2008 Naucratis, Scholium Project.  This wine produced by Abe Schroeder is just different.  We know its mostly verdelho, but that’s about all we know.  Abe likes to do things differently, push the boundaries and we applaud him for that.
Favorite non-wine find:  Sake.  We have to admit, a year ago we barely touched the stuff (except for a sake bomb here and there).  But we’ve found so many great ones this year, it was hard not to become a sake geek.  Our favorites?  Karen Coy, Hiko Sake Milky, and Mutsu AI.
What do you want to discover in 2010?  Send your comments to info@decantedwines.comto be featured in the next Inner Circle newsletter.

Picking the Right Champagne for your New Year’s Party

As New Year’s Eve approaches, we are all perplexed as to which bubbly to celebrate with. 

And with that, let’s begin with a quick ‘bubbly’ lesson.  Bubbly or Sparkling wine is technically any wine with bubbles in it, while Champagne (notice the capital C) ONLY refers to sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.

Enough with the tangent, back to the problem at hand…picking one of these sparklers for the big day next week.  The first question I ever ask anyone who is looking for wine in my store is, ‘how much do you want to spend?’  Some people are thrown off by the question, but it is a perfect jumping off point for selecting any wine.  If you don’t set a spending limit per bottle you could wander around the store and hem and haw all day.  With that said, I’ve compiled a list of sparkling wines that can fit any budget and still impress your host.


Prosecco is a native grape in the Veneto region of Italy used to make their sparkling wine.  I like to call Prosecco the recession Champagne.  Best bang for your buck by far.  It delivers complexity and can be produced dry, off-dry, or sweet just like Champagne.

Best bets: 
Bortolotti Prosecco Valdobbiadene Brut($19):  Although I consider this their best, dryest prosecco, you can’t go wrong with any selection from Bortolotti. 
Soligo Prosecco ($14):  Great surprise, nice dry prosecco paired with the sweetness of crisp pears, sure to be a crowd pleaser!


Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling, made throughout the country but mainly Penedes region (just south of Barcelona).  Cava is produced in the traditional manner with second fermentation in the bottle and can include any one of the following grape varietals:   macabeo, parellada, xarel-lo, chardonnay, pinot noir, or subirat.

Best bet: 
Marques de Gelida Brut ($17):  This blend of macabeo and parellada is surprisingly crisp and clean. 


I use the term sparkling to include any wine that is made in the Champagne style, but is not made in Champagne, France.  For example, producers in South Africa, the United States, Austrailia, and even France (outside of Champagne) have been making wonderful sparkling wines for years.  These wines are usually a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, but can also include other grapes as they are not regulated.  They range from brut (dry) to demi-sec (sweet).

Best bet: 
Graham Beck Demi-Sec ($16): 
Graham Beck is a producer out of South Africa who produces a brut, rose brut, blanc de blanc (100% chardonnay), and demi-sec sparkling.  His demi-sec sparkling is one of the best I’ve had.  With a sweetness at the front of the wine, the progression surprises you with a strong, crisp, and dry finish.


And for those of you who want to stay traditional for the holidays, check some of these great, but small production champagnes out.

Best bets:
Ayala Brut ($70):  This champagne is strong and dry, with reduced calories.  A zero-dosage champagne (less sugar than the rest of them), this brut also delivers less calories giving it the ‘diet  champagne’ nickname.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru ($73):  This 100% pinot noir champagne is a grower champagne, basically meaning that the producer owns the vineyard the grapes come from as well as the production house.  Many large Champagne houses buy their grapes from a negociant and therefore lose a portion of control as to how the grapes are grown.  Grower Champagnes have become a new phenomonen due to their excellent quality and relatively inexpensive price.