Drinking Wine on a Budget

Everyone knows that wine prices can range from very low to very high.

The cheapest most inexpensive bottle of wine (which many refer to as “Two-Buck-Chuck” from Trader Joe’s) runs just a couple bucks, but the most expensive wine ever sold was a bottle of 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon going for a purchase price of $168,000.00.

Some Master Sommelier wine sleuths gathered together and suggest some of their favorite, inexpensive, well-known wines.  They also reveal some of the tricks they use to find these affordable wines.

Drink Wine on a Budget

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All Different Types of Wine

When most people think about wine, the first types and most popular that come to mind are Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot, and Zinfandel etc. Here’s an eye opener of the variety of different wines that are available. It’s almost a certainty that you’ll discover a new type of wine after viewing this chart.

Different types of wine


Thanks to WineFolly.com for sharing this. Check out their Wine Basics Beginners Guide.

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Pinot Perfume-Reata Winery

My love for Pinot Noir is no secret.

I find it to be the sexiest of any wine and yet I am super picky about how I like it.  I tend to love a Pinot that is a bit deeper and richer.  Berry taste should be big as well as an earthy taste.    These are classic characteristics and yet I have tasted so many that have fallen flat and were a total disappointment.

THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that I look for is a floral note that gives it the taste of roses or lavender.

The reason why I named this post PINOT PERFUME is because I found the most incredibly fragrant Pinot that I have ever encountered.   It smelled as though I was putting my nose into a huge bouquet of roses.   I swear I could have lingered in that glass forever and possibly poured it on my body.  I’m not kidding it was THAT Fragrant.  Super CHERRY flavor danced on my tongue along with earthiness and then the ROSES!  It was elegant and wonderful!

This wine that I speak of is REATA Estate Pinot Noir 2009

Reata Winery is halfway between my home and Napa and is literally 10 minutes away.  I have driven by it for years and never noticed until this time, the perfect time.

It’s beautiful with lavish wood floors, ceilings and stone walls.  There are beautiful wooden beams and cowhide covered couches and chairs in a wonderful little sitting area. The Western theme is cute.  There is even a moss covered cow that is there to greet you upon entering.

 The beautiful large windows show the breathtaking valley.

There is a large area on the wall covered with 594 bottles that Ron Keith called, ” THE WALL OF WANT”  (In the picture below I purposefully included the head of someone behind the wine bar to show how big this bottle display is)  Ron was there pouring our wine keeping us company as we enjoyed the tasting.  It was his last day, well he said that it was SUPPOSE to be his last day, but that he was covering for the Winery manager that was on a camping trip.  What a nice guy!

If you’re headed towards NAPA VALLEY on HWY 12 this quaint little place is right there on the right and if you blink you’ll miss it so stay sharp!

Do yourself a favor and bring some food to enjoy at their nice outside picnic area area and buy a bottle of that sexy Pinot to enjoy with your honey.

Cin,cin! Salute!

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Viansa Winery and MarketPlace-“Bello Vino”

When I think of my experience at this amazing Winery, all I can say is, “BELLO VINO!”

Yes the award winning wines are incredible, but the entire experience at Viansa Winery and Marketplace was captivating from the moment we pulled up, to the moment we walked the grounds.  It felt as though we took a little vacation away to Tuscany.  Read the heartfelt story about how they saved and preserved THE WETLANDS surrounding the grounds saving animal and plant life.

We entered the beautiful tasting room that offers a generous tasting and Lorenzo was attentive and knowledgeable.  My experience with the tasting was wonderful and I found that these wines had exceptional flavor and smoothness to them.  After our tasting,  we ventured out on the patio that overlooks the breathtaking Sonoma Wine country  There they offer gourmet brick oven pizzas and a glass of wine for $15.00.  This is such a great deal for such a decadent experience.


The wine that I chose to review was the Reserve Pinot Noir 2010.  This wine surprised me a bit.  I usually really like a deeper, richer Pinot and even though it was a bit lighter,  it had beautiful cherry and floral notes, and then it hit me with a creamy, toasty taste, like Creme Brulee.  Super smooth and refreshing and not bitter.  I LOVED all of the reds but this one stood out.  Sexy and feminine!

We took a long lunch enjoying our girl time and taking in the beauty of the day.   We then went back inside THE MARKETPLACE where we tasted and bought some infused olive oil, and balsamic.  I bought the Pear Balsamic Vinegar, and the White truffle oil…YUMMO!!!  In addition to these there are many sweet gifts there and a cheese bar as well.  You can sample all of the specialty food items they have.  The olive oil is created from the olives grown right on site.  There are food and wine classes also available and wonderful events for TUSCAN CLUB MEMBERS to enjoy like a Crab feed, Annual Harbor cruise or Italian Festival.

We took a few pictures to preserve our memory but we will return for sure.

VIANSA is a gem and a MUST VISIT.   What a delighful place to experience a SONOMA WEDDING.

I feel this experience needs to be savored, cherished and fully enjoyed, so my suggestion is make it the last stop,  landing there for lunch after a day of wine tasting.   I also recommend it for a romantic date.  I plan on bringing my wonderful husband there soon.

Bello, Vino!

Cin, cin! SALUTE!

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Michael Mondavi Family Estate

“Wine is our life…we look forward to sharing it with you!”  is what the Michael Mondavi Family Estate Mantra is, and you certainly feel it when you enter what they call their Tasting Gallery.   Located just off the Carneros region of Napa Valley, this tasting Gallery is quaint, and warmly welcoming and much like an art gallery in itself with each label presented artistically among the decor.   The gorgeous and breathtaking views on their large porch area beckon a picnic with one of their beautiful and tasty wines.

We had the personal pleasure of meeting TRACY RIOS (Retail Manager) who was very passionate and knowledgeable about the history of the Mondavi family.  It is clear that she has experienced every facet  of the wine making process and had so much to share which further enhanced our wine tasting experience.  We appreciated the fact that this kind of mentality is what sets Mondavi apart from the other tastings rooms that go through the motions of just pouring the wine, verses educating the customer.  Mondavi has been producing world renown wines for Four generations and we hear that the 5th generation Mondavi has just been born into the family.

Click on the wine labels below for more information and details:


The wine I chose to review is from the ISABEL MONDAVI line “ISABEL MONDAVI DEEP ROSE, 2011”


This super light and refreshing ROSE is surprising with strawberry, cranberry and apple flavors and a slight acidity that dances in your mouth.  It reminds me of a summer day and I definitely put it in my GIRLIE WINE category.  I would personally serve this for a Sunday Brunch, Womans’s Tea, or for a special occasion such as Valentines Day or a Wedding Anniversary.    This makes for a perfect aperitif wine.

Mondavi offers three different wine clubs and make it affordable to any budget.

I highly recommend visiting this elegant and beautiful place.  I also recommend that you bring a nice picnic and enjoy it with one of the many wonderful wines presented here.  With the generous tastings that they offer you are sure to find just the perfect bottle.

Come find out why the San Francisco Chronicle voted them among “THE BEST TASTING ROOMS IN NAPA VALLEY

Cin, Cin, Salute!

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Vezer Family Vineyard – Mankas Restaurant

In the Valley right near our home in Suisun there is little wine community with a handful of wineries, and one of our very favorites is VEZER FAMILY WINERY.   They make top notch wines and are considered superior in the valley.  We frequent both the VEZER tasting room, and THE BLUE VICTORIAN which is their sister winery just down the road housed in YES a cute little Blue Victorian nestled amongst the vines.

~The Blue Victorian~

One weekend my husband and I went wine tasting at Vezer and when they closed, Frank Vezer came into the tasting room and asked us to hang around and have a glass with him.  He asked us about our family and about ourselves and of course my husband told him about our music and said, “You should hear my wife sing.”  So of course I did and he had this idea of me working in the tasting room and singing while I pour wine for the customers.  I almost took the job but got busy during the summer and was unable. I was honored to be asked.

Vezer Family Vineyard-Photo by Kim Liew

Funny thing though that nearly a year later Frank and his lovely wife Liz opened a new restaurant next to their winery.  One day as I was alone having a glass of wine and reading a book out on their beautiful back deck Liz walked by to go into the barrel room.  I had never met her, but I somehow knew she was Franks wife.   We started talking and she took me over to see the new MANKAS Steak and Tapas Restaurant.  It was absolutely beautiful and everyone was rushing to get it finished.   I felt the excitement and asked if there was anything that I could do to help.   Well her husband  Frank was nearby and told her that I sing,  and I was asked to perform for the first private invitation opening.

I sang and and my Husband played ukulele.  We walked around serenading each individual table.  At the end of the evening I was honored to sing I’m In The Mood For Love for the Executive chef David Pajarillo and his girlfriend in honor of Valentines Day.  Before blessing the Mankas Corner with his culinary talents, Chef David worked as head chef at the Four Seasons in San Francisco, and worked with Michael Mina at AQUA in Las Vegas.

What a blessing for us to perform that night for such and exciting time for the VEZER family and their friends.  They made us feel like family too!

Mankas Corner Restaurant has a full bar with a incredible wine selection!   Check out their menu.

Ron Plunkett is the staff Sommelier and is on hand to help heighten your food and wine experience.  His resume is impressive including, last year being named the Sommelier of Comic-Con in San Diego.  He also served wine to the cast of Cowboys and Aliens, Twilight and numerous Movie and TV stars such as Billy Dee Williams and Katie Leclerc star of ABC Family’s Switched At Birth.  Most recently he appeared on TV with FOOD NETWORK star, Andrea Immer Robinson and the show, DAILY TASTINGS to be aired in the near future.

Roberto CromeyerGeneral Manager, born in El Salvador Central America.  He has worked in the food and beverage industry since finishing High School.  He has also worked for numerous Cruise ships, Cypress Club in San Francisco, Mondavi Winery, French Laundry and Don Giovanis in the Napa Valley.

Jo is the Bartender or mixologist if you will. (You won’t find THAT in the dictionary) and what she refers to as a LIBATION RELOCATIONIST.  Come in and let her explain just what that means.  Jo is friendly, knowledgeable and super innovative with mixed drinks and coffee creations.  She made me a Key Lime Pie Martini that was just as good as the real thing but in drink form.

                                                       I can’t leave until I do my little wine review.

La Salette Love


The wine I chose is VEZER LA SALETTE -A Sirah/Zinfandel blend.  This wine has a sexy nose that is just as pleasing as it’s taste with sweet cherry flavor and soft oak right out the gate.  It’s anise nuances and intense flavors last through a silky smooth finish.   The wine maker  Gary Galleron is known for his beautiful blends.  This is my absolute favorite!

Mankas Corner Steak House and Tapas has been compared to Rutherford Grill and Cole’s Chop House!  If it’s wine tasting, dining or both that you’re looking for. come to our little CORNER!  You will have a very lovely experience.

Cin, cin! SALUTE!!!



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Nashville Wine Diva

What is the definition of a diva? What comes to mind for me is a famous singer or entertainer, but in a single word one could sum it up to be a Prima Donna.   I have never thought of my self as such but suddenly had a change of heart when I found myself in Nashville Tennessee, in the middle of nowhere right by the airport, without a car.   Let me explain.     I made my way downstairs and asked the lady at the desk of the Hotel where I was staying if there was a place I could get a nice glass of wine.   She looked at me and smiled in a way that made me think that I must have had a look of desperation on my face.  She pointed to a hotel across the street and said,  “They have a bar over there.”

DebraLee Darling Diva

I stepped outside and made my way across the street in eager hopes that there might be a decent glass of wine in the cards.   I had my serious doubts as I walked in and spotted a very small bar that offered just a few selections of wine with what appeared to be generic labels.   The young gentleman behind the counter offered his help.   I just sighed and said, “I would like red wine please, I am from the Napa valley in California.”   YES I said that! Seriously who do I think that I am,  a celebrity that thinks if they throw out their name that a magical glass of glorious perfection might present itself from somewhere in the shadows? He looked at me and laughed saying,  “Just taste this I promise it won’t disappoint you.”

I was willing to give it my best shot and to my amazement  this Cabernet was absolutely wonderful.   This little experience taught me that INDEED I am a WINE DIVA.  Since that day I have been over several times and the young people that run this place have become my friends.  The young man that helped me the first night just finished school in Hotel management and knew quite a bit about wine.  Raj was his name and I also had the pleasure of meeting Nakia, Ian, Sasha, and Reggie .  They were all warm, friendly, and made me feel well taken care of.  The owners of this Hotel should be very proud of their staff.  In turn, anytime you see employees that are pleasant and helpful it is a direct result of they way they are taken care of by management and owners.   If you ever get a chance to visit Nashville and need a place to stay go visit  HYATT NASHVILLE AIRPORT

The wine which is worth writing about was created by  Michael Mondavi (Napa Valley) HAHA!  Yes I had to laugh!!! CANVAS – Wines Developed Exclusively for Hyatt Hotels:Cabernet Sauvignon – This Wine is smooth from start to finish with a slight sweetness, mellow tannins, and nuances of tobacco and cedar. Canvas also makes Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Pinot Grigio.

I was blessed to make new friends and find a pleasant glass of wine in an unlikely place.  Now if I could only fix the challenge I have with hotel coffee…..YUCK!!!!!!

Cin,Cin Salute!!!



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Suisun Valley Wine Country

Here in our neck of the woods not two miles away from our home is a quaint little area SUISUN VALLEY that houses about ten wineries just up over the hill from Napa Valley.  Several of these wineries offer not only wine tasting but wine by the glass and live entertainment on the weekends.

Winterhawk Winery
– Most Saturday’s they offer live entertainment, wine tasting and one full glass of wine and pizza all for a $5.00 price.

WoodenValley Winery
– Art, entertainment, and special events.

Ledgewood Creek
– Wine by the glass along with a beautiful picnic area with bocci ball courts.  Entertainment, weddings, special events etc.

Veser Family Winery and The Blue Victorian
-VESER family Winery is the superior choice for Wine tasting in the valley.
Their award winning wines are unparallelled.    They have top notch entertainment, a deli, and beautiful grounds for picnicking.

By Appoitment Wineries worth visiting

Green Valley Cellars

Tenbrink Vineyards

In addition you can go to the Suisun ValleyWINE CO-OP to taste the wines of the valley that do not have tasting rooms.  The co-op offers a generous amount of wine to taste.   This may be a  place you visit just on it’s own and have a designated driver on hand as there are more wines there than you can possibly taste in one day.

Suisun Valley AVA Viticulture

Take your time and enjoy this little area that is just a bit more laid back and not as crowded as the more popular NAPA VALLEY.

Cin, Cin Salute!

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The New Kitchen Medicine Cabinet

This is just way too cool to not post and share. It was sent to us from a friend and though we are not sure where this home is located, the fact that it exists is really awesome. To say we are slightly jealous would be an understatement.

“As we’ve gotten older we have found that our little medicine cabinet in the bathroom is too small.  Also, we’ve learned that there are certain medicines you want to keep close for quick access.  So…. we are installing this in our kitchen.”

PS – Don’t miss the simple, old fashioned cures at the bottom.

Disease & Wine Daily dose

Allergies — Médoc 1 glass
Anemia — Graves 4 glass
Bronchitis — Bourgogne or Bordeaux > ( + sugar and cinnamon ) 3 cups
Constipation — Anjou blanc electricity . Vouvray 4 glass
Coronary arteries — Dry Champagne 4 glass
Diarrhoea — Beaujolais Nouveau 4 glass
Fever — Champagne sec 1 bottle
Heart — Burgundy , Santenay Rouge Two glass
Uric acid gout — Sancerre , Pouilly Fume 4 glass
Hypertension — Alsace , Sancerre 4 glass
Menopause — Saint Emilion 4 glass
Depression — Médoc 4 glass
Obesity — Burgundy 4 glass
Obesity — Rosé de Provence 1 bottle
Rheumatism — Champagne 4 glass
Excessive weight loss — Côte de Beaune 4 glass

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Peju Winery Napa Valley

Peju Winery is one of the first you see when entering the Napa Valley Wine Country.  We have passed by it many times never stopping, but on this day we were drawn to it.   As we drove down the road that leads to the Winery, there were interesting long tree stalks growing on the side of the road.   They are a type of sycamore.   The architecture and beautifully landscaped grounds are picture worthy and are part of the wonderful experience at this winery.

As we entered, we were greeted by Kerry (a Wine Steward)  who introduced himself and then later, even remembered us by name.  He gathered a few more couples and then led us to the the tasting bar where he gave a brief introduction of the Winery.   Kerry began describing each wine in great detail  before we tasted.  I really liked his descriptions and found them to enhance our tasting experience. My husband also came up with a clever name describing our artful tasting experience  saying it was “Taste-u-cation.”

I enjoyed every single wine put in front of me at Peju Winery.

Kerry reminded me of someone very familiar, and as I closed my eyes to smell my wine,  I realized who it was.  Steve Martin.   Kerry later told me that someone had given him the nickname: Kerry “FATHER OF THE BRIDE” Andrews, and we laughed about it.

As we were were tasting, we were pleasantly surprised when we heard yodeling coming from behind us. It was one of the winery employees named Alan “Yodelmeiser”  Arnopole.   He pulled out his guitar and began serenading us with a song.   His musical gifts are described as VINTERTAINMENT.   



It’s funny I am a red girl,   I don’t prefer white wine much less Sauvignon Blanc , but on this day it was one of the wines that resonated with me the most.

Peju-2009 Sauvignon Blanc

The nose was like a symphony of fruit dancing in my glass even before hitting my mouth.

It exploded in my mouth and grapefruit flavor popped!!!   I then tasted Pineapple and Peach.   It was well balanced and slightly acidic and made my taste buds sing.   Smooth and refreshing.  It reminded me of a Spring day.

On our way out we were greeted by Brendan Scholl, (Retail Sales Manager) who was very interested in our experience.  I felt that he really cared and it made him proud to see how happy and satisfied we were.  He invited us back and we felt his sincerity.

In addition, Peju offers a wonderful art gallery with Local Artist’s work, a small book library, and a gift shop.    They use organically farmed fruit from a couple of their sustainably farmed vineyards.  What could be better than that?  Though the wines were exquisite,  the wonderful hospitality alone will draw us back to Peju!   Visit PEJU Winery and be ready for an amazing experience for ALL OF THE SENSES!!

Cin, Cin, Salute!!

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