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calling all connoisseurs

Will be getting married this November, garden wedding. I know diddlly-squat about wines. My best resource is Trader Joe's. Would like some reccs from those of you who are able and can espect my shopping choice. Already pic't up:

Rodney Strong - Merlot and Cabs
Wente - Chard
Sterling - Chard
Bonterra Chard
and Gloria Ferrer Chard

What else can YOU reccommend?? Thank you !

Kitchen Queen :)

"To the world you may be just one person but, to one person, you may be the world!"

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  1. KQ,

    There's no need to call "connoisseurs" -- it's far more important that you and your fiancée like the wines being served (#1), that the two of you think they match the food being served (#2), and that the wines fall within your budget.

    I am more than happy to offer you some suggestions (along with my congratulations), but in order to make EFFECTIVE suggestions, I'd like to know what food you're serving? where the wedding will be (Hawaii in November would call for different recommendations than New York City)? what kind of wines the two of you enjoy (e.g.: are you "wedded" to serving Chardonnay and Cabernet [or Merlot])? what's your budget, and how many people are coming? and what about sparkling wines?

    3 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Thank you - Wedding in So. Cal. - backyard in Rancho Cucamonga. Casual Elegance Hors d' oueveres prior w/cheeses/fruits/smoked salmon etc. After dinner is Persian - meat and fish kabobs, rice and salads. Desserts, pastries, mousses, chocolate fondue and a full coffee barista bar. "We" don't drink wines, all for guests. Don't want to spend more than 15$ per bottle. A few dessert wine suggestions would be great too. You live in Glendale AZ?

      1. re: Kitchen Queen


        I live in Berkeley, CA.

        I am a bit surprised at the lack of a sparkling wine. One of the best deals in the market today is Gruet Brut from New Mexico. Don't laugh! It's VERY good and very affordable -- it's my "go to" recommendation when people want a sparkler on a budget. OTOH, if you want to stick with California, I'd look to:

        Chandon's Brut or Blanc de Noirs (around $18, but you can find it on sale)
        Gloria Ferrer Brut or Blanc de Noirs (around $16)
        Mumm's Brut or Blanc de Noirs (around $17, but you can find it on sale)

        IF -- and it's a big if -- if you're staying with California wines, I'd probably pick a wine that is "softer" than a Cabernet Sauvignon, and opt for either a Pinot Noir or a Merlot. The Rodney Strong Merlot you mention would certainly work. So, too, would wines like

        Pinot Noir ($16.99 and under):
        Castle Rock
        Chalone Monterey Co. (not their Estate -- too much $$$)
        Fleur de Carneros
        Gallo of Sonoma

        Merlot ($16.99 and under):
        Buena Vista
        Chateau Ste. Michelle (OK, it's from Washington)
        Gallo of Sonoma
        Geyser Peak
        Rodney Strong

        Someone mentioned Bogle Petite Sirah, and that would also be a good choice.

        For white wines -- again, if we're sticking to California wine -- I think Riesling would be a good choice.

        Rieslings (all under $15):
        Chateau Ste. Michelle, off-dry (yes, Washington State)
        Chateau Ste. Michelle, dry
        Fess Parker
        Trefethen (this is the only wine listed that is more than $9)

        Congratulaitons, and good luck!


    2. KQ:

      just curious; since you don't drink wine, somebody else must have suggested the above list.

      Am I wrong assuming it was your catering service?

      1 Reply
      1. re: RicRios

        I am NOT using a caterer however, I am very familiar w/Rodney Strong wineries as well as others. I have had many wines in the past and will on occasion. The above wines were a combo of my own supposed knowledge and a suggestion from a Trader Joe's employee. BTW - I enjoy the planning of events and will do the same with my wedding.

      2. KQ:

        The one thing I notice about your list is that you basically have two wines: Chardonnay and Cabernet/Merlot (which I combine in that they are very close on the flavor spectrum)...

        Why not reach out and add:
        A sparkler
        A sweeter, dependable white like riesling
        A medium red like pinot noir or a lighter one like beaujolais

        The above will have the benefit of adding new flavor options plus matching a range of foods not particularly covered by chardonnay and cab/merlot.... they are abundantly available in reasonable price ranges with reasonably consistent quality (unlike other wines that may be more "tricky")

        Lastly, depending on what you're having for dessert, some sort of dessert wine... if you want to go with a drink that "everyone loves", isn't too expensive, matches alot of desserts, and has a way of wrapping up a meal in a very pleasant style, try a Moscato d'Asti.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          Chicago Mike-
          I am open to any suggestions but, I need specific brands. As I said, I'm not too familiar with spirits so, I stuck to which I do know. A dessert wine or two would be great. How about a Pinot Grigio?

          1. re: Kitchen Queen

            There's a ton of mediocre pinot grigio in the states...

            As for specific brands, my answer is always "the best that your wine vendor(s) have available in your price range"...

        2. I see a great interest in Reislings and Gewürztraminer these days. The have become my favorites in contrast to the oakier chards. These are a bit less austere with the Gewurz having a bit of a "spicy" aroma. But I do agree with Chicago Mike. Make sure YOU like it. My opinion is that if you like it...it's a good wine...for you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: winediva1

            the reason I'd do riesling over gewurztraminer is that it's fairly easy to find a good riesling whereas finding a good gewurztraminer is trickier, IMO.... and there's just a whole lot more drinkable riesling out there at friendly price points than there is gewurztraminer.

          2. Try Bogle's Petit Syrah which goes for about $10 at TJ. It's a good example of what a petit syrah should be for a good price.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MEalcentric

              Thank you - You're the only one so far with specifics! I appreciate that.

            2. KQ, there is some impressive wine knowledge on this board but it is very tough to get a staright answer out of many of them. A good white you can find on sale for under $10 is Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc. A good red is Incredible Red by Peachy Canyon (a zin), also under $10.

              21 Replies
              1. re: AlabasterDisaster

                Nothing better than a suggestion from an "AlabasterDisaster"...............These are all terrific! Thanks everyone! I think I'll add a couple of sparklers and a Reisling or Gewürztraminer. This should round out my collection. I would however, still like a DESSERT suggestion.
                Desserts will be mousses and small pastries/cakes. My wedding cake is a strawberry charlotte and grooms cake is the chocolate bomb from Claim Jumper!

                Hogs and Quiches,
                KQ :)

                1. re: Kitchen Queen

                  Strawberry Charlotte: dessert vouvray....

                  Chocolate bomb.... dessert muscat...

                  A sweet sparkler would also work reasonably well with both of these. Enjoy & congrats.

                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    Respectfully, there is no such wine as a "dessert" Vouvray only Sec, Demi Sec, Moelleux and in the rarest years, Moelleux. In Vouvray wines of varying sweetness are enjoyed throughout the meal with savory food. The OP was requesting wines at a price point of about $15.00, one cannot find a decent Vouvray Sec for 15.00 let alone one of the rarer, sweeter wines. A good Demi Sec, whcih would be far to dry to serve with cake, will run about $30.00, a fine Moelleux about $50.00 and Moelleux Reserve at $75.00 and above. FWIW the term "dessert wine" is detested in France; wines are merely dry, sweet or somewhere in between.

                    1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                      IMO Vouvray Moelleux is the ultimate wine with a "berry" dessert... if you object to calling it a dessert wine in this context, your objection is duly noted and recorded.... and on their wedding day I'll certainly allow a bride and groom to share a pricier toast between themselves....

                      As for a popularly priced solution, as previously suggested, a Moscato d'Asti matches both desserts reasonably well and has a way of fueling a festive celebration very nicely.

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        Thanx C.M. I'll check into a Vouvray or Muscat at T.J.'s. Goes well w/what dessert cheeses?

                        1. re: Kitchen Queen

                          Hi KQ...

                          My recs for Vouvray Moelleux and Moscato d'Asti are more oriented towards your desserts than to cheeses...

                          However, it's an interesting question which cheese might match best with these and I've not done an extensive tasting with either wine to speak from actual experience on it...

                          Just doing some "palate guesswork" I'd prepare a plate of:
                          Some Loire chevres
                          Brie or Camembert
                          Parmesan Reggiano

                          My thinking here is that the Moelleux is likely to match somewhat similarly to other dense sweet wines and therefore work with a rich blue cheese (roquefort). You're also doing a "regional pairing" with the VM and loire chevres although I can't speak to how good that pairing really is.

                          The chevres, brie, and gruyere are likely to match quite nicely with the bubbly (Moscato), and perhaps the roquefort would also.

                          If all these guesswork matches are only mediocre, at least you have a very interesting cheese plate by itself but moreover, the brie, chevre, and gruyere are exceptional matches for your Chardonnay which you're serving with the main courses anyway, and the Chevre, Gouda, and especially the parmesan reggiano are incredible matches with the Cabernet/Merlot you're serving !! So you'd cover alot of bases with this 5-cheese assortment.

                          Enjoy :)

                          1. re: Chicago Mike

                            >>> Don't want to spend more than 15$ per bottle. <<<

                            Do you have any suggestions for a Moelleux that's under $15? I would love some . . .

                            1. re: zin1953

                              You seem to be pretty knowledgeable when it comes to wine. Recently I heard about a "green" wine. It was Verdi something. Ever hear or taste?

                              1. re: winediva1

                                "Green wine" is aka "vinho verde" or green wine

                                1. re: FrankJBN

                                  Any specific one that is better than another?

                                  1. re: winediva1

                                    "Any specific one that is better than another?"

                                    This is a light, inexpensive, undistinguished style of wine. Since that is the style, that is what all producers make - light, inexpensive undistinguished wines. Is one less undistinguished than another? Maybe, but not so much that it would be distinguished, that would make it a different style of wine.

                                    Look for Rene Barbier, a Spanish discount producer of reds, roses and whites, though he might not call his product 'v v'. His whites at around $5 a bottle are reliably refreshing.

                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                      Spain does not produce Vinho Verde.

                                  2. re: FrankJBN

                                    Yes but the "verde" is in reference to its freshness/age (think "salad days"), not its colour. Red vinho verde is made, not that we often see it on this side of the pond.

                                    1. re: carswell

                                      I was thinking of the Finca Luzon Jumilla Verde, but I think that verde refers to "organic" and not "fresh"

                                      1. re: Frodnesor

                                        Could be but I and, I assume, the other posters are talking about Portuguese vinho verde.

                                  3. re: winediva1

                                    Vinho verde is a Portuguse wine that is best in its youth. There are two kinds: far and away, the largest production is made from the local grape varieties, Loureiro and Trajadura; but the very best will come from Moncão, and be made from Alvarinho grapes (known as Albariño just across the border in Spain). These will always have the name "Alvarinho" in the label.

                                    I don't know where you live, but some of the names you may want to look for include (in alphabetical order):

                                    Antonio Esteves Ferreira "Soalheiro"
                                    Portal do Fidalgo
                                    Quinta da Aveleda
                                    Quinta de Azevedo
                                    Quinta do Dorado
                                    Quinta do Feital
                                    Quinta de Melgaço
                                    Sogrape "Verde Morgadio da Torre"
                                    Varanda do Conde

                                    Hope that helps . . .

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      All of your help is appreciated. Will give it a try!

                                    2. re: winediva1

                                      Bruno Verdi produces an excellent Moscato grown in Oltrepo Pavese and a Sangue di Giuda (delicious, sweet, fizzy red)

                                  4. re: Chicago Mike

                                    "You're also doing a "regional pairing" with the VM and loire chevres

                                    Actually, Fourme d'Ambert, an idiosyncratic, cow's milk, bleu cheese from the nearby Auvergne region is the classic regional pairing for Vouvray Moelleux. When you speak of chevre, am I to assume that you mean fairly ubiquitous fresh chevre? These fresh chevre are best paired with the wines of the Sancerrois (Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly Fume and Quincy). There are hundreds of goats milk cheeses produced throughout the Loire valley, each with a unique character and flavor, I do not belive one should to lump them into a generic group.

                                  5. re: Kitchen Queen

                                    Check Costco, too - in the Bay Area Costcos, I always see a Californian orange muscat called Essensia, for (I think) around $15/750 ml bottle. I haven't tried it, but Costco tends to stock decent wine. In fact, you should try Costco for all of your wines - they tend to go heavy on the big Californian brands (at least in the Bay Area, and I'm assuming in SoCal as well) , so there's a good chance you'll find most of what you're looking for there.

                          2. re: AlabasterDisaster

                            I second IR from Peachy Canyon. I pick up a case/year at World Market, when on sale, and use it to cook with. It's also good to drink, WHILE cooking. It'll round out with about a year in the cellar, but this is not a concern to you, given the circumstances.

                            I also like the Ferrari-Carrano FB. I've not found it at quite that low a price, but I'm in AZ, not CA. Another SB, that I like with food is Groth Napa Sauvignon Blanc. It's a bit more $, but very, very food friendly.

                            I like Chicago Mike's (I think that it was his) suggestion to spread the varietals a bit more. I did not see your price-point, and I looked, but maybe it was in a reply. Anyway, Acacia Carneros PN goes for <$20 at Costco and is a good food-friendly, or sipping PN. Same for their Carneros Chard, at a few $ less/btl.

                            Good Cabs at low pp's are tricky, and I think that good Merlots at low pp's are even harder to come by. Beringer's Knight's Valley Cab comes to mind. Cheap Merlots? I have not a clue. If you can find a South African Bdx. blend, Glen Carlou's Grand Classique (try Costco), it is the best value Cab/Merlot/Cab Franc/Malbec that I have had in years at ~ $13/btl. Not CA, but great bang for the $.

                            I also second the Gruet NM Sparkler rec. Great wine at a more than fair price. Again, not CA, but hey, unless your guests hang out at Michael Mina's, they are likely to never have tried it.

                            Viognier is really getting some good exposure from CA, but the pp's may preclude most of them, and cheap Viogniers are like cheap Merlot. Did see Treana's Viognier/Marsane for <$25 at Costco today.

                            Before I go on, what is the price/btl. that you're shooting for, and do you have one retailer, that you really want to use, TJ's? Even when I plan an event, everyone knows that the wine will be the best that we can do, even if I have to "donate" from my cellar to "kick it up a notch." I'm not very good at picking "value" wines, unless I stumble upon them, like the Glen Carlou.


                          3. Some of my favorite food friendly bottles under $15

                            Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling (usually around $8)
                            Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc (also usually around $7-8)
                            Flora Spring Sangiovese (about $15)

                            And I like prosecco for sparkling... $15 champagne-style sparkling wine tastes terrible, but $15 buys you a pretty good prosecco.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: daveena

                              Daveena, I looked at your rec's and thought I'd written them myself. You picked exactly what I'd pick; all super food friendly, quaffable wines that most seem to enjoy.

                              KQ- Grab some of these, especially the BDPRR and the FSS. I'd grab a few bottles of Babich Sauvignon Blanc (about $12 and easy to find) instead of the GPSB, but I just really love that citrusy New Zealand sauv.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                I third the rec for the Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling.

                            2. KQ....Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials and also for doing the planning yourself. Many of the choices listed previously are good but I'll add two under $15 Cabs which taste much bigger than their price. Hunington 05 and Geyser Creek 04. Both taste much more expensive and are Californian. There is a third from Pavilion, also Californian which is almost as good. The Hunington and Pavilion are both around $10 and the Geyser Creek is around $14.

                              Best Wishes for a long and happy marriage.

                              1. If you need a cheaper sparkling wine I would recommend a Seguria Viudas cava. Their Aria is about $10 at BevMo. They also have one that is in a beautiful pewter bottle (would look great on a table at a wedding) that is $20, the Heredad Reserve. They are both really good. Someone mentioned Petite Syrah, Concannon has a good one that is under $15 and is at most grocery stores as well as Trader Joe's and Bevmo. I have paired that with many different types of food and it is a pretty versatile wine.