Last year, I battled the crowds at Toys R Us for a Nintendo Wii. This year, it's those creepy little Bakugan critters. There must be some conspiracy against us parents each year to find - and secure - the "it" toy for our beloved brats. What is a Bakugan anyway?
After standing in lines that rival opening day ticket sales to a Van Halen concert, we parents really need is a good, stiff drink. Or, maybe a glass of merlot to mellow out. Either way, the holidays are stressful. Planning big meals, the pressure of keeping the kids happy on Christmas morning, familial get-togethers, it's enough to make you want to take the plunge off the Mill Avenue Bridge and into Tempe Town Lake. I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course, but you get the gist.
One area where you don't need to stress out is with your wine purchases. Good deals abound. Slowing demand, a glut of good wines and retailer promotions all add up to savings for consumers. BevMo's buy-one-get-one for a nickel deal is a winner, and we all know about the vast selection under 10 bucks at Trader Joe's. The supermarkets are also trying to keep pace by discounting wine and spirits and offering discounts on six or more bottles. You're going to need a good amount of hooch for all the dinners and company who visit this time of year.
I strolled the aisles at BevMo, World Market, Trader Joe's and others in search of good wines at a good price. I found a mixed bag of excellent bottles around $10, but also found great "value," wines that tasted above their price point, just slightly beyond that mark. So take it easy the next couple of weeks. Kick off your shoes, pour a glass of chardonnay and roll around a few Bakugan balls.
Mouton Cadet 2007 Rouge, Bordeaux, France. Every time I stick my nose in a glass of anything from this producer, I wonder why we don't drink more French wine. We seem so California-centric as wine drinkers when there is a big world of good, affordable wine out there, such as this one. The Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc hits home with its lively tannins, ample fruit and food friendly properties. Sip on its owor splash a bit into a pot of beef stew. $8.
Francis Coppola Diamond Series Alicante Bouschet 2007, California. Coppola wines are always sexy, but this bottle cranks up the heat with its exotic grape variety (how often do you ever sip alicante bouschet?!) and vibrant magenta label. An 85-year-old patch of the obscure European variety was found in California's Central Valley and bottled for our enjoyment. Loads of dark, fragrant fruit dominates this beautiful wine. $16.
Red Truck 2006 Petite Sirah, California. It seems like there is always a premium on organics (just visit Whole Foods), but not this bottle, which is made from all-organic grapes at a reasonable price. Lush dark cherry and plum bursts from glass, along with nice pepper spice. Pair with an organic zinfandel or sauvignon blanc and give as a gift or bring to a dinner party. The petite sirah was a hit a recent tamale rolling party. $11.
Tamari 2007 Reserva Malbec, Argentina. I've extolled the virtues of malbec the past couple of years and every now and then you come across one that reminds you why you took notice to begin with. I love the "big-ness" of the wine in mouth-feel and flavor, which comes without the weightiness and heat of zin and shiraz fruit bombs. Perfect for beefy holiday dishes. $14.
Greg Norman Estates 2007 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, California. The Shark continues to win friends and influence wine drinkers with his imminently drinkable and affordable wines, this one from an area known for knockout chardonnay. The long growing season here imparts marine-mineral nuance and ripe tropical fruit. The smooth palate and rich fruit speaks of California's bounty. Enjoy with your own holiday spread. $13.