Expanding The Frugal Wine Snob’s Mission

Friends, I’ve been stuck. (Could you tell? No blog posts since January.)

Finally figured it out. This blog has grown in TOTALLY unexpected ways (and has grown me as well). Besides being interested in good, affordable wines, for me wine has become linked with travel. Last year’s trips to Portland, OR and Turkey to attend wine bloggers’ conferences and visit wineries changed my life. My favorite writing days, and my favorite Frugal Wine Snob blog posts, had to do with covering food as well as wine via winemakers’ dinners, and traveling to wine destinations. I’ve even become a travel agent and have organized a trip to Paris in April combining art, wine, and lots of walking. Among other visits, we’ll be touring the oldest winery in Champagne, Gosset House (1584).

So my new mission statement is “The blog about the good life lived creatively, with a special interest in wines that taste like a million bucks but cost a whole lot less.”

Coming soon: Barcelona and Priorat, Spain; Paris and Eparnay (Champagne region), France.

Posted in France, News, Spain, Travel | 2 Comments

“April in Paris” Wine and Art Tour, April 13-20

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m an enthusiastic traveler. It’s great fun to explore new places, learn about different cultures, and meet new people. Did you know that by traveling you also change the structure of your brain? Besides getting those wonderful endorphins, your brain literally builds new synapses.

But I digress. I am excited to present a fabulous travel opportunity: our April in Paris Art and Wine Tour, April 13-20, 2013. $2,995/person double occupancy ($3,585/single — email me if you’re a single needing a roommate, and we’ll see if we can match you with someone) INCLUDES:

  • Round-trip airfare, Orlando-Paris
  • Double occupancy accommodations at Four-Star Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel for the entire trip (no packing and shlepping from one place to another)
  • All transportation, including a Metro (subway) pass for the entire trip
  • Breakfast each morning at the hotel
  • Two exquisite Wine Dinners
  • Day trip to Reims/Champagne including full tasting at a Grand Cru Champagne château
  • Paid admission to all attractions (no waiting in lines!), including:
  • Trip to Versailles
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Paris
  • Eiffel Tower tour
  • Seine River cruise
  • Musée du Louvre
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Rodin Museum
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Saint-Chapelle
  • Contemporary Art Museum Georges Pompidou
  • Basilique du Sacre-Couer
  • Walking tours of Montmartre, Paris Markets, Art Nouveau

Our tour will be fully escorted and guided by an English-speaking American who is a Wine Portfolio Manager with 12 years’ experience leading more than 100 groups on worldwide Wine and Art tours.

To make your reservation, CLICK HERE to fill in the form.
Scan and email to us (TheFrugalWineSnob at gmail.com),
mail to Natural Awakenings, PO Box 1140, Anthony, FL 32617,
or fax to 352-351-5474.
Questions? Call 352-286-1779.

Posted in France, Travel, Visits to Vineyards/Winemakers | Leave a comment

“Single Malt,” oil/canvas 6″x6″ by Jelaine Faunce

“Single Malt,” oil/canvas 6″x6″ by Jelaine Faunce.

Check out Jelaine Faunce’s blog at http://jelainefaunce. blogspot.com

Posted in Art and Music | Leave a comment


I was thrilled to attend the November 2012 EWBC (European Wine Bloggers/Digital Wine Communications Conference) in Izmir, Turkey. Like most of the conference attendees, I sampled perhaps hundreds of wines.

While the conference in Izmir’s SwissHotel was stellar, I was perhaps even more thrilled to have toured some of the central western Turkish countryside and wineries during the three days afterward. Being comfortable, fed, and educated in a lovely hotel is great no matter where it happens. But to have the privilege of exploring the countryside with a gifted tour-guide and translator—that, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. The post-conference excursion offered a much more complete snapshot of the country and a few of its winemakers.

New winemakers there usually play it safe for several years, making Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and other traditional and culturally accepted wines. They build the demand for their wines before growing, making, and marketing their own indigenous varieties, which are less known than the “usual suspects” despite being native to their own region.

And, some of the traditional European wines and blends made in Turkey were delightful, just as good as any traditional wines I’ve ever tasted. The wine pictured here, the Selendi 2010 red blend (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc), was just delicious.

Still, I positively adored four of the indigenous Turkish varieties I tried, and would seek them out here in the U.S. any day. They’re daunting at first to pronounce, but if you put on your Deepak Chopra face and imitate his deep voice and accent, you’ll come close.

The first wine I fell in love with was the white Narince (pronounced “Narinja”), meaning “delicate” in Turkish. While one could argue on behalf of its delicacy in that it is well-behaved, I think it in fact has quite a bit of power with its golden color and aromatic florals, citrus, and exotic fruits. One of the Narince wines I tasted was 70% blended with 30% Chardonnay and aged light-handedly in oak, and I thought this was simply a world-class blend.

Next for me was the charming Kalecik Karasi (pronounced kah-led-jick car-ah-sah). (For my review of one of these, go to http://www.thefrugalwinesnob.com/?p=1528) Although it translates to “the black from the small castle,” in fact the wine is anything but black. It is actually Pinot Noir-like in that it is lighter in color than most reds, with a similar weight and complexity to a good Pinot Noir but yielding a little cassis, spice, and cherry; it is dry, yet round and fruity, and similar to Pinot Noir in appearance and food-pairing function, but way different at the same time and well worth seeking out. “Just say yes.”

Öküzgözü (oh-kooz-go-zoo) translates as “ox’s eye” and I tried some rangy ones and some stellar ones that were as delicious as any red I’ve ever enjoyed from anywhere.

Boğazkere (boy-oz-keh-reh) means “throat scraper,” for the firm tannic structure in the wine. Indeed, when this wine touches oak for any length of time at all, it lives up to its nickname—but from my experience, when it was aged without contacting oak, it was delicious. This one is frequently used to good effect in blends, but it’s equally good by itself as long as its skins and pips are the sole source of the tannins and not oak on top of it. Please note: I am not an anti-oak person, and in fact usually expect and appreciate it if it is done deftly—but I also don’t like over-the-top, mouth-puckering, ashtray/teabag-like effects.

In addition to their indigenous grapes, when it comes to the “traditional” grapes, the Turks are often quite creative. For example, at the Kavaklidere winery, I enjoyed a Muscat which was amazingly and beautifully dry, yet deliciously fruity and friendly at the same time. Here in the States, Muscat is derided and stereotyped as being sweet, a beginners’ wine—yet the Kavaklidere version was masterful, whether for a beginner or an experienced wine aficianado. In my personal wine life, I generally prefer reds, yet in my week of experiencing Turkish wines, this Muscat would be the second (both of them white) Turkish wine that I would characterize as a world-class libation (Narince is first).


Posted in Boğazkere, Kalecik Karasi, Moscato/Muscat, Narince, Öküzgözü, Red Blend, Turkey | 5 Comments

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Matthew Iaconis 2011 Moscato, Lodi. 11.6% ABV. $11.99.

MAN. This will have to be one of my Wines of the Year. Absolutely fantastic. Roses, roses, and linden — perhaps the most aromatic wine I’ve enjoyed all year, with a taste that lives up to the aroma. A touch of sweetness but not an over-the-top California Moscato at all. SO well balanced, and still delicious and consistent three nights after opening. (Love screwcaps for reliability.) It’s so bloody well balanced that I ought to buy a case and keep it in-house as a special treat for company. Yes, it’s that good.

WEB: www.NakedWines.com, a wine club. Available for $11.99, or $6.99 if you become an “Angel” (sponsor of new winemakers, $40/month membership).

Posted in California, Moscato/Muscat, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

RECOMMENDED: Pamukkale 2010 Kalecik Karasi, Denizli, Turkey. 13% ABV.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Tonight, I’m grateful for many people, events, and things, including the one bottle of wine I brought back from Turkey, the Pamukkale Wines Kalecik Karasi. Yummy with dinner!

You probably won’t be able to find the Pamukkale wines in the United States, but I understand they’re available here and there in Europe. For my U.S. friends, if you can find Kalecik Karasi by any winemaker, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. It’s different from the varieties we all know and love. In many ways, it’s similar to Pinot Noir: lighter in color and weight than Big Reds, and similar in effect/food-pairing function — but the fruit flavors are different. A little cassis, spice, and cherry; flavorful and mouth-filling. Definitely a wine worth seeking out even if it’s off the beaten path.

WEB: www.PamukkaleSarap.com

Posted in Kalecik Karasi, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey, Part One. “Life doesn’t happen by doing the practical, sensible, or reasonable.”

Today, the third Thursday in November, is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Yet on this day of French celebration, all I can think about is Turkey as I unwind from my week-long journey to that country, where I visited the city of Izmir and the regions of Manisa and Denizli.

The purpose of the amazing trip was to attend the EWBC (European Wine Bloggers) Digital Media Conference and the post-conference visits to rural wineries and ancient historic sites. At home now, as I continue to savor the undercurrent of primal, eternal wildness I experienced there, the fireplace in my home office has come to life for the first time this season.

Minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the journey and to lessons learned. The second leg of my trip from Florida to Turkey, the flight from JFK to Istanbul, was cancelled because of the snowstorm that hit NYC on November 7th, just a week after Hurricane Sandy hit the area. (The photo is of JFK Airport on November 8th, the afternoon after the airport’s closure on the 7th; plows were still at work.) After sitting on the plane for more than four hours only to be booted off, I joined thousands of others who had to wait in long lines to reschedule flights, and then find places to sleep in the terminal.

During the three hours I spent on the airport’s Delta telephone to reschedule my flight, at first I came to the conclusion that it would be far more sensible to simply go home than to arrive at the conference two days late. And then—after having had the refund applied to my card, and a ticket guaranteed for my flight back to Orlando the next morning—I said to the helpful representative, for perhaps the 25th time, “Can I ask you a question?” And this time, my question was, “What if we could go back to that Turkish Air flight you proposed, which was to fly to Istanbul tomorrow at 1:55 and connect to Izmir the next morning?”

Fortunately for me, after a soft “you’ve gotta be kidding me” chuckle from him, his answer was, “Let me see what I can do.” Toward the end of those seven hours of waiting and frustration, I realized I would probably never have the chance again to go to Turkey, let alone on a fellowship, and the thought clearly came to me: “If you don’t DO what you want to do, then you’ll never get to do what you want to do.” I want to travel the world and experience new cultures and people and joys. Sounds frightfully obvious. Nonetheless: LESSON ONE.

The next inconvenience was sleeping in JFK Airport. When I asked an airport employee if he knew of a place to take a shower in the airport, he suggested I try the Delta Sky Club, which offers 24-hour memberships for $50. However, when I arrived at their front desk, an overwhelming attitude of “Upstairs Downstairs” prevailed. I, and many others, were informed that we were “not allowed” to make such a purchase; the majority of people floating in and around the club were men “living the lie,” clearly puffed up with their own self-importance; and I even saw a famous actor there who kept circling around and staring at me—at first, I made eye contact, as I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his work, but he did a very peculiar flashing eye-glint thing at me. I don’t know, perhaps he was high.

At any rate, I walked out, feeling a sense of freedom and relief as I walked down their hallway back to the rest of Terminal 3. I found a restaurant with thin carpet tile and several other people sacked out here and there, found a spot on the floor reasonably close to a young fellow who looked strong in case trouble should arise, used my carry-on that had my computer, passport and purse in it as my “cuddle buddy,” covered same and self with the blankets that were handed out by Delta, and packed it in for the night. Frankly, I felt safer there among the “great unwashed” than I did in the club. And, I was thankful to have a roof over my head, unlike the tens of thousands of people who were homeless from the previous week’s Hurricane Sandy, only to be hit by this.

The next afternoon, I boarded the Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul for the rescheduled second leg of the trip. As I enjoyed my in-flight dinner—the best airplane food I’ve ever had—I was flooded with gratitude and happiness that I had chosen to continue on. “Life does not happen by doing the practical, sensible, or reasonable” (such as going home when it would have been easier to do so). LESSON TWO.

After reaching my final destination about 16 hours later, I learned my checked bag had been lost. No big surprise, with all the chaos in NYC, but another inconvenience. I lived in the same outfit for the next three days, in addition to the previous two overnights on an airport floor and in an airplane. There is something surreal about doing laundry in the bathtub of a Swissotel, and using a handheld hair dryer to dry everything. But it was okay. And, amazingly, the very minute I was leaving the hotel’s counter on Sunday morning, checking out and preparing to scurry to the other part of the hotel to catch the post-conference excursion, my bag materialized! The delivery person had arrived literally that moment and I was right there to sign for it. Sometimes life is too strange to understand, but it makes for fun story-telling later on.

Then there was the matter of my debit card not working. I had forgotten to notify my banker that I was traveling, and Turkey was on their “closed” list. A call to the bank as soon as they were open again put all of that back into good order, but on future trips I will remember to call the bank before I leave. An obvious practicality to many, but nonetheless, for me, LESSON THREE. Thanks to Robert McIntosh for bailing me out.

I’m safely back now after an uneventful flight back, although I will say that “Don’t travel in and out of JFK” is, for me, LESSON FOUR.

Today I am truly enjoying the fireplace and the peace of my own home after the chaos of the airport.

The next couple of posts will be about the trip itself, so stay tuned!

Conference schedule, http://ewbc.vrazon.com/schedule/
Post-conference excursion, http://ewbc.vrazon.com/ewbc-2012-post-trip-1-manisa-denizli/


Posted in Awards, Travel, Turkey | 9 Comments

European Wine Bloggers Conference

Well, I’m leaving on a jet plane tomorrow for the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Izmir, Turkey, of all places. Izmir is on the western edge of Turkey, on the Aegean Sea. I’ll be flying all day and landing at 2:00 Izmir time on Thursday.

I’m terrifically honored to have received a fellowship to go. My heartfelt thanks to the sponsors at vrazon.com. I’ll be informally presenting my idea for a new international wine magazine and multimedia project to anyone who expresses an interest, and am looking forward to learning about a new-to-me culture. I’m particularly interested in how women wine professionals are faring in a Muslim nation, and what is happening regarding wine consumption itself. And of course, I’ll be tasting some fascinating new varietals!

After the three days in Izmir, I’ll be leaving for a three-day excursion to Manisa and Denizli, where we will be exploring the area’s historical and winemaking sites and enjoying the beautiful countryside, its history, its people, and its cuisine.

I hope to post updates, and I hope you enjoy them!

Over and out for now.


Posted in Awards, Travel, Visits to Vineyards/Winemakers | 2 Comments

RECOMMENDED: Erath 2009 Pinot Noir. 13.5% ABV, around $15.

Medium ruby. Nose of cherries, strawberry. First impression: a little hot, bright fruit, spicy at mid-palate with nutmeg. Softened as it opened up with cherry and raspberry added; could be the “hot” impression came from new oak. A good Oregon Pinot Noir at an excellent price point. Softened further as it opened up; truly a good value.

LABEL: Grapes from the EARTH, wines from the HEART … ERATH. This soft and approachable Oregon Pinot Noir appeals to red and white wine lovers alike. Crafted to highlight Pinot’s best characteristics, enjoy it on its own or discover how well it pairs with a wide variety of foods, from fish to pasta to red meat.

WEB: www.Erath.com.

Posted in Oregon, Pinot Noir | Leave a comment

RECOMMENDED: 2010 Cryptic, California red blend. 14.5% ABV, $18 SRT; available for less.

If you haven’t decided on your Halloween
wine yet, here’s a quick recommendation: the 2010 Cryptic red blend. It is delicious, inexpensive, and fun, with backwards lettering and scramble puzzles on the label that you must decipher in order to determine the blend.

NOTES: Cryptic refers to the mysterious alchemy that comes from combining individual lots of wine together to create a magical blend. The three Cs on our encryption wheel each represent one of three varietal components: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each grape varietal adds a unique characteristic to the blend, and when blended together the result is unexpected and unique. Cryptic is sourced from vineyards we control and from grapes we crush from [more than] 30 different vineyards. These vineyards are located in three distinctive growing areas: Amador County in the Sierra Foothills, the Lodi River Delta and Paso Robles in the Central Coast. Each of these areas is known for soils, climate and growing conditions that produce big, rich and bold red wine grapes. Cryptic sets the mood for a magical experience to be shared. Complex, supple and seductive, with ripe raspberry, dark blackberry and blueberry flavors, notes of toasted hazelnuts, a hint of vanilla and a touch of mocha on the finish.

WINEMAKER: Alex Cose studied finance and worked for Wells Fargo for six years before a change of heart landed him a harvest internship at Monticello Cellars in Napa Valley. After a return to college, another couple of internships and a degree in Enology from Fresno State, at 27, he was cellar master at Peter Michael.

WEB: www.CrypticWines.com

Sample received for review.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Petite Sirah, Red Blend, Zinfandel | 2 Comments