Tackling the Wine Debt Ceiling

July 27, 2011

The wine store was closing in ten minutes. My wife and I stood in the aisle staring at a bottle of Barbera.

“We should get it,” I said.

“Kris, we are way over budget,” she replied. We recently decided to give her a greater input on our household spending.

“So let’s just raise our wine budget,” I said. “We’ve always done that. Then we can buy more wine.”

“No. We can’t keep doing that,” she replied. “It’s time we stop being irresponsible.”

“Well if we don’t we won’t have wine for our dinners and parties,” I said. “Everything will suck and it will be your fault.”

“Hey, I’m doing us a favor,” she shot back. “It’s your fault we’re in this situation in the first place with your out-of-control wine spending. If we get this under control we’ll be able to afford more and better wine in the future.”

“Okay, how about this,” I said. “We move some money from the vacation budget to cover this bottle and then slowly repay that over the next five months with money from our food and gas account.”

“No,” she replied flatly.

“STORE CLOSES IN FIVE MINUTES,” Yelled the guy at the counter.

“Okay, then let’s just move some of the money we use for the dog’s obedience classes to cover the Barbera, and repay it with money we borrow from our 401K.”

“Kris! No!”

“You mean you’re not even going to compromise?” I asked. “Our marriage has always worked on compromise.”

“If you remember I told you I would get our budget under control. What kind of message would that send if I went back on my promise?” I had the impression she would rather see our wine cellar totally decimated than give one inch.


“Okay, we’ll just get a cheaper Barbera,” I said.


“Honey, I’m not leaving this store without some kind of Barbera,” I said sternly.

She crossed her arms and dug in her heels. “We’re not spending one more dollar on wine till we pay down that budget,” she said.


This week’s recommendation:

Cantine Valpane 2009, Monferrato Rosso Pietro ($13.99): If this week finds you tired of all things American, try this fantastic Barbera from Italy. Here, the wine makers simply did their job and found the perfect compromise between ripe, red fruits and a delicious earthiness. Try it with roast chicken.

The Best Wines You’ve Never Heard Of

January 12, 2010

In 1969 Jack Nicholson appeared in the film Easy Rider. Not many knew who he was then but after stealing a few scenes people started asking “Who is this guy?” He was a great actor that nobody heard of. Wines are no different. So many talented wine makers create little-known gems which, given time, will become the stars of tomorrow. In addition, to compete with the better known bottles sitting next to them on the shelf, these stars are often under priced. If the future me traveled back in time to give the present me a few purchasing tips on which wines to buy before everyone discovers them and their price goes up, I believe the following wines would be on that list. Then I would ask future me to travel back a little further and tell me not to buy the tan Chevy Citation.

Montevina 2006, Barbera ($8.99 on sale): Barbera, typically grown in Italy, is now showing success in California. This bottle is already turning up more frequently in wine shops. It delivers the bigger, earthier flavors of cedar and coffee balanced with lighter fruits like cherry and pomegranate. There is an interesting graham cracker note on the finish. So many flavor profiles within such a light body is like a featherweight boxer with a massive knockout punch. For a taste, the Eden Prairie Dunn Brothers serves this wine by the glass.

Envero 2007, Gran Reserva ($13.99): From Chile, this blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Carmenere shows aromas of darker berries on the nose. It sports mint and eucalyptus notes up front that fade to lighter, black raspberry like fruit on the mid-palate. The most memorable feature about this wine is the rich, velvet mouthfeel you experience on the finish. It lasts for days.    

Quinta Do Crasto 2004, Douro, Reserva Old Vines (31.99): Don’t let the fact that this wine comes from Portugal scare you. It scares a lot of people and that’s why a wine of this caliber is priced so well. QDC is a blend of various indigenous grapes from Portugal. The nose carries aromas of tobacco and pepper. The tannins, still quite strong, are integrated nicely and this wine will cellar well for another three to six years. Flavors of old wood, spicy raspberry, and a long finish complete this wine. A $32.00 bottle needs to deliver the goods. Quinat Do Crasto does.

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