WHAT ABOUT WINE: Cheap Wine extravaganza

We are in mourning as we celebrate the Advocate’s eighth annual Cheap Wine extravaganza and $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

Osborne Solaz, the Spanish red blend that has been a mainstay of the Hall since its inception, is being fazed out. The corporate term is “selectively distributed in stores throughout the U.S.,” but the reality is that the wine won’t be for sale in the stores where you used to buy it. (Osborne is replacing the Solaz with a brand called TempraTantrum; hopefully, it tastes better than the name.)

Otherwise, despite the weak dollar, 2009 was a banner year for cheap wine. The only other wines to drop out did so because the weak dollar pushed their prices above $10 — Falesco Vitiano, which produces a solid rosé, an even more solid white blend and a stunning red blend made of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.

The Hall added five wines: A California chenin blanc from Vinum Cellars called CNW; Notorius, a white wine from Sicily; a red Rhone wine, La Ferme de Gicon; and vini merlot from Bulgaria, which may be the best cheap merlot I’ve ever tasted. Also, look for the 2007 Bota Box cabernet sauvingon, which at $5 a bottle, is a steal. I can’t, however, recommend any newer vintages.

Here’s the rest of this year’s Hall of Fame:

• The $10 wines from California’s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.

• Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rosé.

• California’s Toad Hollow pinot noir rosé.

• Yellow+Blue malbec and torrontes, about $12 for a 1-liter box).

• Meridian’s chardonnay, which can be found for as little as $6.

• The Les Jamelles wines, and especially the sauvignon blanc, from southern France.

• Lockwood sauvignon blanc.

Ask the Wine Guy

Q. What is the average price of a bottle of wine?
A. A lot less than you think – about $6, according to Nielsen, which tracks U.S. retail wine sales. Most of the wine sold in the U.S. costs less than $10

New Year’s black-eyed peas

Eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s is a Southern tradition that is supposed to bring good luck. But you don’t have to settle for canned beans. Put this on the stove to simmer after lunch, check on it periodically, and you’ll have dinner without much effort. Serve this with your favorite $10 wine.

Serves 4, takes about 2.5 hours

1 lb dried black-eyed peas
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Ham hock, pork neck bones or turkey neck bones

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Add water to cover the beans by an inch or so.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender. This could take as little as an hour or as long as three or four hours, depending on the beans. You may also need to add water if the beans look dry.



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