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Your First Flight of 2017

Welcome to 2017's first flight of delicious and affordable wines!

Okay, the holidays are over; you've spent your weight on gifts and dinners for the family—but you still want your evening glass of wine.

What's a wine lover to do? Fear not!

This week's wines will meet your needs and only cost you the same as two of your favorite mocha-choca-chinos, or whatever people who don't like regular coffee drink these days. All of this week's picks are under $12!

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First up is Laurent Miquel's Viognier. (Pronounced: vee-oh-nyay, NOT: voyg-ner) Sorry for the poor quality photo. My blog master had an incorrect pic up earlier. Bad blog master! No wine for her - ONE YEAR! We will get a better photo up soon.

If you're not ready for yet another Chardonnay after the holidays, and a Sauvignon Blanc just seems too "summery," a nice French Viognier is the way to go.

This is a wonderfully aromatic wine. The first aromas to greet you are rich, creamy vanilla and an orange-citrus, followed by a sweet white flower floral note. On the palate the first thing you will notice is the crisp acidity as well as a light sweetness. The green apple and pear notes fill the mid-palate, along with a hint of orange-zest. It has a pleasant finish, that leaves your mouth watering and wanting more. Try pairing this wine with that grilled chicken salad you're having, as you try to stick to your New Year's resolution to eat healthier. It can also be enjoyed alone as a pre- or post-dinner wine. Price range: $9-$12

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The Hess Select Monterey Chardonnay is up next. 

Compared to the Viognier, this chardonnay is considerably less aromatic. I expected this wine to be more fruit forward. However, the nose is very light, yielding only a hint of fresh yellow apple, a touch of lemony-citrus, and not much else. On the palate, you will get the yellow apple, but it is very light, with some lemon grass and a nicely balanced, soft acidity. This wine reminds me of a French Chablis, minus the chalkiness. Enjoy it with fish dishes, or be adventurous and pair it with a grilled Swiss cheese sandwich using sourdough bread. Price range: $7-$10

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Our first red of the year is the always popular and delicious Mark West Pinot Noir. 

The nose on this wine is always fruity, filled with rich raspberry, and dark cherry notes. On the palate you'll enjoy a juicy black cherry, cranberry and hint of strawberry mixture. The finish is medium in length with a nice black cherry cola taste, which makes this the perfect mid-week burger night wine. You can also pair this with a nicely braised lamb chop accompanied with a grilled stuffed tomato.

Price range: $8-$11

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Our first Cabernet Sauvignon of the year is from Quinton Estates. 

This is a great budget wine that has a nice nose of bright cherry, and some wood spice. On the palate, it is light for a Cab, but the cherry and sandalwood flavors come through in a mix of sweet fruit and spice. The tannins are low, which makes this a very drinkable wine. Pair it with just about anything you like. A pan-seared steak is a no-brainer, but I would pair it with a chicken fried steak to get the most out of what this light, fruity Cab offers.

Price range: $5-$6 (REALLY!)

This next wine is special. It comes from McManis Family Wineries, which were just awarded the California Green Medal for Sustainable Farming in 2016. McManis Wineries are "Certified Green" based on the extremely strict Lodi Rules for Sustainable Farming Practices.

Basically, this means consumers get wine that has been made from some of the most rigorously vetted, "beyond organic" grapes available in California.

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The McManis Petite Sirah is one of the best examples of just how delicious this wine can be. On the nose it yields luscious blackberry, rich black cherry, currant and baking spices. The first sip lets you know this inexpensive jewel is a steal. Deep rich notes of blackberry, black currant and cherry cola flood your palate thanks to the slight bit of residual sugar. Petite Sirah was created by crossing Syrah with a flowering plant, which yielded very small, black, thick skinned berries compared to Syrah's big, black, thick skinned berries. This gives Petite Sirah the unique characteristics of being a big, bold and modestly tannic wine, but not as dry, rough or grippy as its cousin can be. The finish reveals one further characteristic of Petite Sirah, a white pepper spice.

Enjoy this wine with anything from pasta dishes like spaghetti or lasagna, to pizza, steak, or my favorite pairing, meatloaf. Price range: $9-$11

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Lastly, we come to another unique wine that many of you may have heard of, but never tried. This offering comes from the vineyards of Chile's Concha Y Toro. It is their Casillero Del Diablo Carménère. The story of Carménère is fascinating, in that it was thought to have gone extinct during the Phylloxera blight of the mid to late 1800's.

Thankfully, the French had sold several vines to the Chileans, mistakenly as a cheaper, inferior vine stock of Merlot. For over a hundred years this grape thrived in the valleys of Chile, and produced what has best been described as a form of spicy Merlot. It wasn't until 1994 that the "fortunate mistake" was discovered. Read more about Carménère's story here.

As for the wine, on the nose it presents bright red fruits of cherry, cranberry and boysenberry, as well as red plum. The palate is very similar to that of a fruity Merlot, but with the added black pepper notes. The tanin structure is smooth and velvety, making this a very drinkable wine. Pair it with roast beef or London Broil for best results.

Price range: $9-$11

That's the end of our first flight for 2017! I hope you enjoyed the summaries I presented this week. Please share these with your friends and family, and the wines too!  

Cheers everyone! I'll have more new wines for you next week.