Bang for your Buck

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Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about value wines. Wine drinkers are looking to get the most bang for their buck.

My favorite value country is Chile (actually Chile is probably my favorite wine producing country regardless of price). Concha Y Toro is the largest vineyard in Chile covering over 17,300 acres. They produce wines at all different price levels; the most inexpensive being Frontera, the #1 Chilean wine in the United States.  brand_img_frontera_01You can find Frontera at all local liquor stores; it is mostly sold in the larger1.5L bottles for around $10. Frontera produces many different varietals, their most popular is their Cabernet/Merlot blend. This spring they released a Malbec, making them the only 1.5L Malbec in the United States market. The whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are very popular during the summer time and the reds, Carmenere (which put Chile on the map), Merlot, Cabernet, and Shiraz are popular year round. Next in line for Concha Y Toro is Estate Reserve Casillero del Diablo, which is available at all local liquor stores, in the regular 750mL size, for around $10. brand_img_casillerodeldiablo_01In the 19th century, Concha Y Toro founder Don Melchor discovered his workers were stealing and sampling his greatest wines.  This led him to hide his greastest wines in Casillero del Diablo - Cellar of the Devil. Just like Frontera, Casillero del Diablo is known for their reds including; Carmenere, Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot, and Malbec. In addition, Casillero del Diablo offers a Pinot Noir which is simply delightful. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Casillero del Diablo offers a Gewurtztraminer. This Gewertz is dry with some spice to it, making it perfect for sushi or to simply sip on a hot summer patio. Along with great prices Concha Y Toro frequently receives “Best Value” and “Best Buy” along 85+ point ratings on both Frontera and Casillero del Diablo.  I’m not finished with Chilie yet; there is still one more vineyard to look at, Santa Rita. sr_120sauvblanc_lab_smSanta Rita’s best-selling “120” series recalls the heroes of a pivotal event in Chile’s successful 19th century struggle to overthrow Spanish rule. In the early 1800s, Doña Paula Jaraquemada, then proprietor of the Santa Rita manor house and estate near the Chilean capital of Santiago, famously gave refuge in the cellars of her property to 120 Chilean patriots, following a fierce fight with soldiers of the Spanish Crown. When a brigade of Spanish soldiers arrived at the expansive one-story ranch house in search of O’Higgins and his band of rebels, the feisty matriarch stated she would rather see the Spanish burn the property to the ground, with her inside, then let them step foot within her family home. Thus, O’Higgins and his band of 120 men lived on to fight another day. Santa Rita 120 is found in all local liquor stores, in the regular 750mL size, for around$10. It offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Cermenere, Merlot, and Shiraz. However, it is most known for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Recent awards include; Carmenere 2007 “Extreme Value” Wine & Spirits Magazine; Sauvignon Blanc 2007 “Best Buy” 87 pts, Wine Enthusiast; and Cahrdonnay 2007 “Best Buy” Wine Spectator.

Don’t rule out boxes! Box wine had a very negative stigma for a long time but now that stigma is changing. The stigma is changing for good reason! Good quality wines are being put into boxes. Keep in mind that a 3L box is equal to 4 bottles of wine! Boxes better preserve wine because the bag does not allow oxygen to get in. Also, you do not have to deal with the problem of corks; having to always remember a corkscrew, difficulty removing the cork, breakage, or cork tant. If you are trying to be “green” boxes are definitely the way to go - they greatly reduce transportation costs and thus carbon emissions. Here are the numbers: 55% less carbon footprint, 3L box requires 1/2 the emissions of the 750mL to create, and 85% less landfill waste. Another point is that living in Minnesota many of our local parks do not allow glass - so drink in public with boxes! About a year ago Italy’s bibo_family_lg1Agricultural Ministry announced some wines would now be able to be sold in boxes! Italy!! Introducing Bibo, the first premium 3L from Italy. Pronounced BEE- BO, it is Latin for “I Drink.” from the island of Sicily Bibo brings two blends, a Cabernet/Shiraz and Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay. Priced just above $20 ($5/bottle) it is available at Cashwise Duluth. Funf is a QBAfunf51Riesling from Schmitt Sohne vineyards in Germany. Also brand new on the market it is a croud pleaser. Priced around $20 it is available at Mount Royal and Cashwise. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! Last but not least, is Andes Peak from my favorite value country Chile. Andes Peak is also new to the market, offering Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay. The winery is ISO14001 certified which means they practice sustainable agriculture and natural pest mangement. They are also certified IMO for life which means Andes Peak provides nuturing and fair working conditions for all workers. brand_img_andespeaks

I hope this list gives you some new ideas to try. So get out and try some tonight. Cheers!

Eating Local

There are many restaurants in Duluth that should be recognized for their efforts to bring great wine to their patrons.

The newest addition to the downtown area is Kippis. Kippis is a Finnish Tapas Bar that takes pride in unique cocktails and world class wine. The wine list is short and simple while still providing something for everyone. Talk to Ari, Peter, or any of their expert staff and they will pair wines or wine flights with your tapas. Kippis is the only restaurant in town that serves a free amuse bouche, of Cava and Scandinavian breads.

At Sara’s Table / Chester Creek Cafe opened their new wine bar a little over a year ago. They recently started changing their menu every few months to focus on different world regions. Chefs, Mike and Bruce, select new wines especially with their featured dishes in mind. These pairing can be found on their menu which makes selecting the correct wine very simple.

Last but not least, Bellisio’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar. For the past eight years they have earned Wine Spectator’s “Best of Excellence” award. In addition to their fabulous Italian wines, such as Bertani Secco Valpolicella and Fonterutoli Badiola, they offer wines from all of the large wine producing areas of the world. Not sure what to order? Their knowledgeable staff will help guide you or you could always order one of their many wine flights and sample a few wines.

Get out and support our local restaurants today!

Organic? Sustainable? Biodynamic?

I’d make a bet that most people who buy “organic” do not know what they are really buying. I went to an agricultural college and people in my college classes were confused about what “organic” means. It gets even more complicated when talking about wine.

organicIn most countries, other than the United States, “organic wine” is defined as wine that is made with organically grown grapes. To be grown organically means to be grown without the use of chemically formulated herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, growth hormones, and or antibiotics. However, there is a long list of natural fertilizers and pesticides that are allowed. Organic does not mean that the product is grown locally on a small family farm. There are large corporate organic farms that ship their products all over the world, just like corporate conventional farms. In the United States, for wines to be labeled as “organic wine” and be USDA certified orgaourdailyrednic, they must not contain more than 100ppm of sulfites. Sulfites are preservatives that are often added to wine. However, sulfites are also found naturally in wine. Two of the largest USDA certified organic wine companies in the United States are Organic Wine Works, and Orleans Hill. The biggest seller in the United States is “Our Daily Red” by Orleans Hill.

Sustainable farming looks at all aspects of the farm. It focuses on three main goals which are; enivronmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Hahn Vineyards in California are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified. Below is Hahn’s SIP statement. The Hahn Vineyards achieved this Certification through its dedication and farming practices in the following areas:

Biodiversity—In addition to cover crops and vines, Hahn encourages biodiversity by allowing a multitude of flora and fauna to thrive in the vineyards, providing wildlife habitat and encouraging residency.

Vineyard Management—Hahn Vineyards is continually improving farming practices to make them more envirosip-certified-150x150nmentlly sound, socially just and economically viable.

Soil Conservation—At Hahn, we improve the soil by natural methods such as cover crops, including legumes which mulches into the soil and helps improve nitrogen.

Pest Management—Hahn promotes a wide range of natural pest controls including beneficial insects such as beetles, lady bugs and lace wings.

Water Quality and water and energy conservation—Hahn uses VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) pumps which control water and energy usage and uses UV light treatment to give pure clean water to the winery and vineyards.

Organic Approved and Reduced-risk synthetic pesticides—Hahn uses Stylet oil instead of sulfur when possible which controls mildew and suppresses mites.

Social Equity—Hahn considers quality of life issues for farm workers and neighbors in the community. The core group of farm workers at Hahn is provided with full benefits, and the winery stays involved with the farm-growing community.

Continuing Education—Hahn Vineyards is continually monitoring the latest in sustainable farming practices and making improvements to the vineyard program to meet those standards.

Fruit Quality—Fruit quality is of the utmost importance to us, and that is reflected in the quality of our wine.

Economic Viability—Hahn has been in business growing grapes and producing wine since 1980 and has expanded over the years to own over 1,000 acres in Monterey County.

Biodynamic farming is the most strict of all farming techniques. The farmerpyramid403x287 looks at the farm in a very holistic and even spirtual way. The farm is a system in which the plants, soil, and animals are all related and interdependent. The soil helps produce healthy plants which feed and nourish the animals. The animals in turn fertilize the soil making it rich and full of nutrients. The nutrients in the soil go into the plants and the cycle repeats itself. Biodynamic farming is fully organic. The use of irrigation is discouraged. The use of tractors is not allowed; horses are used to plow the fields. Biodynamic farming requires a lot of labor. The pyramid was created by Mike Benziger of Benziger winery.

There are many ways to drink green. This article only covers regulations and certifications in The United States. There are many high quality organic vineyards all over the world. Many vineyards in Europe are organic and sustainable and have always been. There are also some great organic vineyards in Chile. As a wine consumer ask yourself why you are buying the wines you are. Are you buying organic because they do not have sulfites? Read labels! Many organically grown wines do contain sulfites. Are you buying organic becuase it is better for the environment? Again, read labels! Many vineyards are putting into place “green” business standards and are just as good if not better for the environment than organic wines.


Summer Reds

bocce-wineThere’s a motto that everyone in the service industry knows “the customer is always right.” This is the case when it comes to selecting wines for your summer gatherings. Some people love to drink heavy Cabernets all year round. Personally, when the weather is hot; red wine just makes me hotter and sleepier. But everyone’s tastes and likes are different. I’m not writing this blog based on my personal likes and dislikes; I’m writing it to introduce people to new flavors and experiences. Drink what you like!

Nelly Boy gave some great advice on my “Beer Drinkers” blog about chillable red wines. However, there are many reds that are very enjoyable for summer time that do not need to be chilled.

A lot of people, including me, love to barbeque during the summer. In my opinion the best wine to match with BBQ is Zinfandel. Zinfandel has a big fruit flavor with notes of pepper and smoke. These characteristics make it a perfect pair to many types of BBQ. The only thing to be careful about is if you make a very spicy BBQ, the higher alcohol in many Zinfandels will create an unpleasant burning sensation. A great value is Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel which is available at Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Last Chance Liquor, Lake Aire, and Cashwise. If you are looking for something a bit higher end go for Earthquake Zinfandel by Michael David in Lodi. Earthquake is a favorite at the Kitchi Gammi Club and is available at Fitger’s Wine Cellars, Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Lake Aire, and Cashwise.

If Zinfandels have a bit too much spice for you another great BBQ chose would be Petite Sirah/Syrah. Petite Syrah is a completly different grape than Syrah or Shiraz. Petite Syrah is very fruit forward but lacks the spice of a Shiraz. Petite Syrahs are known for their flavors blueberry and plum, this makes them very drinkable with or without food.  As with Zinfandels, Bogle Petite Sirah and Michael David Petite Petite are two of my favorites. Bogle is available at Fitger’s Wine Cellars, Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Kenwood Liquors, Last Chance Liquors, Lake Aire, and Cashwise. Petite Petite is available at Cashwise.

Pinot Noirs are a great choice if you are looking for something light that pairs well with many different foods. Cavit is the number one imported and selling Pinot Noir in the United States. It is available at most liquor stores in the area, or go try a glass at Olive Garden. Another great company that is know for their Pinot Noirs is Castle Rock. There are very few drinkable Pinot Noirs under $10 and Castle Rock California Cuvee is one of them. They also produce Pinot Noirs from Mendocino, Central Coast, Monterey, and Russian River. Castle Rock can be found at Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Lake Aire, Last Chance, and Cashwise.

Evoida is a new Granacha from Spain that is very light and fruit forward but still has enough complexity to keep your mouth wanting more. Evoidia is available at Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Fitger’s Wine Cellars, and Cashwise.

winehavenWinehaven which is located in Chisago Lakes area in MN. They are the most award winning winery in Minnesota and offer both grape wines and fruit wines. My personal favorite is Rhubarb Wine. Their number one seller is the Honey Wine. Be sure to look for Strawberry Rhubarb that comes out in late June and sells out with a few months.

A great sweet chillable red is Natural Sweet Red by Robertson Winery in South Africa. Robertson makes their Natural Sweets just for the United States. They are sweet but clean and very easy to drink. These wines should be chilled. Try serving them with your favorite fruits. These wines are also very inexpensive and available at Liberty Liquor, Wild West Liquor, and Cashwise.

I hope this gives you an idea for what to sip on while watching your next sailboat race!

As always if you have any specific questions let me know! I love comments and I want to know what everyone is looking for.

Drink Like You Give A Damn » Etica Wine


Etica is the first “fair trade” wine importer in the United States, and they just happen to be located in Minneapolis MN! This allows us Minnesotans to take full advantage of the high quality Etica has to offer.

What is Fair Trade? (taken from Etica’s Website

Fair Trade is in a sense the same as international and domestic trade. Products cross borders, taxes are paid and people work hard to produce the products. Fair Trade however takes traditional trade to a new level. Fair Trade guarantees what traditional trade cannot; livable wages for producers, knowledge about sustaining local environments, and equal opportunities for all workers.

Fair Trade is responsible commerce based on equal exchange and respect for all people. This unique business model brings together producers and buyers with the common goal of creating sustainable livelihoods. The end result is an exchange of ideas, development of skills and an understanding of the distinct situations in which poverty exists around the world.

Fair Trade empowers producers by guaranteeing fair and livable wages, which in turn helps develop communities. Fair Trade is not only a key solution to alleviating poverty, it also opens up dialogue between people of all races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds in an effort to develop sustainable solutions for the problems facing the poor and marginalized.

Producers are paid an honest wage for their hard work within the context of their societies, while being offered opportunities for advancement. The goal is to uplift people out of situations where they are dependent on aid to become self-sufficient. Fair Trade helps build lives where people can feed themselves, children can go to school and new business opportunities can develop.

We often forget that every product we consume involves a multitude of people. For many people products magically appear in the store and we as consumers don’t consider how and by whom they are made. We forget that people are often sidelined for profits, human rights ignored and equality dismissed.

By creating relationships and providing markets to those most in need, Fair Trade provides consumers with an ethical choice. It gives you the consumer an opportunity to utilize your purchasing power – one of the strongest mechanisms we have today to bring about change.

Etica’s Green Policy

The choices we make at home and at work directly impact our environment. There are many things we can do as consumers and businesses to lessen our ecological footprint. As a Fair Trade business that promotes sustainable agriculture, Etica is committed to practicing environmental sustainability here at home and abroad.

In the office
Etica uses eco-friendly products and recycled materials, including:

* Energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs
* Recycled paper for marketing materials
* Eco-friendly cleaning supplies
* Biodegradable trash bags and cutlery
* Wine shippers made from recycled material

On the road
As a wine importer and distributor, Etica encompasses many modes of transportation—from cars and trucks, to trains and ships. To offset the effects of CO2 emissions, Etica:

* Contributes annually to the Carbon Fund
* Encourages distributors to turn truck engines off during loading and abide by a “no idling” policy
* Promotes alternative transportations, such as hybrid and bio-diesel vehicles

At the vineyard
Great wine starts with properly managed vineyards. The grapes used in Etica wines are either organically grown, or have been sprayed with copper sulfate—a natural pesticide—only twice per year.

In the future
Etica’s green policy is a constant work-in-progress. As individuals and as a business, we are always looking for ways to lessen our ecological footprint through improved recycling and energy efficient policies. Our goals at home include moving to a green building, owning a bio-diesel delivery truck and starting an employee incentive smart car plan. Abroad, we are committed to working with producers who promote organic and sustainable agriculture.


Soluna Premium Malbec is produced by 19 small family growers, in Mendoza Argentina, who all have less than 1 hectare of grapes. All of the Malbec vines are over 75 years old. The wine is placed into 19 tanks then blended by the wine maker. Soluna Premium Malbec is aged one year in stainless steel with French oak staves. This creates a light and balanced oak flavor. The nose is filled with fruit followed by notes of oak, vanilla, and chocolate. The taste is long and smooth with a lasting velvety finish. Available at Mount Royal Bottle Shop and Cashwise.


Soluna Limited Malbec is a blend of only four of the nineteen previously mentioned growers. Only 5000 cases produced. Soluna Limited Malbec is also aged one year in stainless steel with French oak staves. A bit more refined; it has a bright cherry flavor with well structured tannins. The taste is long with a smooth jammy finish. Available at Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Last Chance Liquor, and Cashwise.


Olifant Grove Chenin Blanc is 100% Chenin Blanc from Western Cape South Africa. Crisp and clean, slightly off dry taste. A great summer wine. Available at Fitrger’s Wine Cellars, Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Last Chance Liquor and Cashwise.


Olifant Grove Pinotage is 100% Pinotage from Western Cape South Africa. This Pinotage is one of the best I’ve ever had with full but light fruit flavors that finish with a touch of spice. Available at Fitrger’s Wine Cellars, Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Last Chance Liquor and Cashwise.


Olifant Grove Cabernet/ Merlot/ Pinotage is 60% Cab, 20% Merlot and 15% Pinotage; also from Western Cape South Africa. Aged in French and American oak for 8 months which gives it a full, tannic structure. This wine is unique in that you can taste all three grapes. The Cab gives it full tannic flavors, the Merlot gives it a lot of fruit, and the Pinotage contributes both fruit and spice. Available at Mount Royal Bottle Shop, Last Chance Liquor and Cashwise.

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