Best Bargain Wines? South Africa!

South Africa is gaining more and more exposure in the US market these days. Known for their Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, these are some of the best value wines, most under $15.

Most recently, I poured wines for Wines of South Africa at Washington DC's International Food and Wine Festival. Great crowd pleasers, I hardly had anyone dislike any of the wines I was pouring. Their eyes lit up when I mentioned they were all under $10. I was pouring wines from Two Oceans, who source grapes from the Western Cape region. They were a delightful Sauvignon Blanc, a not-to-sweet Moscato and a fruity Cab/Merlot blend. Ranging in price from $6.99 to $9.99, the everyday wine consumer is their ideal market.

Well-made, becoming more easily accessible, and at that price, South African wines are the perfect everyday wine. The crisp, citrusy chenin blancs and the smoky, meaty Pinotage's pair well with food as well as easy to drink on their own. A classic New World wine, you can expect them to be very fruit forward, light, and fresh.

Perfect for patio drinkin' and your wallet. Seek out something different, pick up a bottle of South African wine next time!

Italian Wines in Loudoun County

Plus side of moving outside of the Beltway? MUCH closer to VA wine country!

Bryan and I cruised down Route 50 for about 15 miles and reached Quattro Goomba's Winery in Aldie, VA. To me, this was a lesser known winery in the Loudoun region. I glanced at their website and noticed they made "Italian" wines. don't see a lot of Sangiovese grown in VA but I'll give it a try. Come to find out, they source all their grapes from Italy and California and just make the wine here. In their words, it is a micro-winery.

I was intrigued and delighted to see something off the beaten path. They had 7 wines to taste, 2 reds, 4 whites and a sweet wine. Glancing at the tasting notes, I noticed a Russian River Chardonnay and a Napa cab. Again, I was a little surprised since I recognized the Napa cab, Sean Minor. I once sold a lot of this at the wine store. So we get started with the tasting.

The Vino di Frascati is a white blend of Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano. Crisp citrus notes and slightly fruity, this was an easy drinker but still a little too fruity for me. I knew I would love the next one on the list. Teresa's Chardonnay from Russian River Valley. I'm partial to Russian River chard's because they tend to be unoaked with bright flavors. This one was just that!

On to the reds. Vino di Nonni is a blend of 2 red grapes with 1 white grape, all sourced from California. To the eye it is a deep rose color and very light on the palate. I described it best as a pizza wine. The Vino di San Peitro is a Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cab Sauv, and Merlot. Sadly, the bottle was just opened before she poured our tasting and it had a strong diesel odor. This one definitely needed to breathe before pouring. Next up was the Sean Minor Cab from Napa. This wine they buy from a distributor in order to offer to their patrons. A little weird if you ask me. I come to a winery to taste your wines, not ones I can find in the neighborhood store. And I must say, this was my favorite red wine of the day. Elegant, smooth, fruit forward and a long finish. Classic California cab. Lastly, they poured us the Tradizione, full-bodied, strong finish, very big wine in my opinion. The color was a bit cloudy and the finish had a tad of spice. Pretty complex but again, definitely needed to breath and be enjoyed with food.

The winery itself is a large garage with a pizza oven in one corner and tasting table in the other. There were plenty of tables in the middle to sit down, enjoy some pizza and a glass of wine. This particular day they had a live musician playing the guitar as entertainment. Other things worth noting was that they offered a Frappe Vino Slushie, perfect for the summer time, and a mulled wine which was ideal on that cold Saturday.

We ordered a glass each. I got the Vino Di Nonni, the lightest of the reds and Bryan got the Sean Minor Cab (go figure). All in all, it was a great Saturday afternoon but I must say, I probably won't return. I like to visit wineries where the view is spectacular, overlooking the fields of vines. Also to be an Italian winery where only one wine was made from grapes from Italy. Sadly, I just wasn't impressed.

Best Skinny Margarita Ever!

Ok, so it's not wine related but it's alcohol related!!

While making amazing, healthy for you mahi tacos at my girlfriend's house the other night, we just had to have the perfect margarita to pair. We're both on a health kick with exercising, eating well and just feeling all around healthier in 2012. There are a ton of skinny margarita recipes out there but most are very similar. We started with the basics and she happened to have blood oranges on hand. Great choice!

I came up with this concoction:

2 parts tequila (we like boozy drinks)
1 part Triple Sec
Juice of half a lime
Juice of half a blood orange
Top with homemade club soda
(Makes 1 drink)

By juicing your own citrus and not using that pre-made mix, you're saving a lot of calories! At first taste, we both were immediately impressed! "This tastes just like summer!" "It goes down sooo smooth!" Not super tangy or sour, the lime and blood orange were a perfect fit. Not to mention how perfect they were with the amazing mahi tacos!