The thrifty wine lover’s guide

Am I a stick in the mud? To some, yes. Am I grumpy? Yep, sometimes. Do I think you shouldn’t enjoy life? Absolutely not. Do I actually spend money on anything fun and frivolous? Yep.

Today, I want to share one of my interests with you…but there’s a catch. You have to listen to one of my favorite stories ever. Deal? Cool.

Tammi Ramsey was a very successful corporate recruiter. She was the best of the best. She liked her job, but it wasn’t her passion. Her passion? Wine. She had taken to amateur winemaking in 1996 when she received a wine-making kit from her best friend. Just five years later, she spent her entire life savings on a vineyard in Sonoma County, California. I met Tammi through a mutual friend a few years back, and her story honestly brings me close to tears every time that I hear or read it (here’s the entire version). To me, she is the epitome of awesome. I get great joy when people work hard and pursuit their true passions.

Tammi has been so successful in her new venture that she was featured on the reality show Winemakers Season 2 on PBS. She knows EVERYTHING about wine. EVERYTHING. I asked her to help me share one of my little pleasures with you. I love wine too, but as you can imagine, I like to find really good cheap wine. Here is Tammi’s list of the best wines…for the thrifty.

I received an email from Pete the Planner asking me to guest blog about wines on a budget. I said YES! I have felt like I have been living with a secret for quite some time when it comes to finding awesome wines that will not break the bank.

I am going to give you names, brands, prices, I will even give you some possible food pairings and my tasting notes on several wines. I gotcha back when it comes to “flavor profiles” a super fancy wine snob terms like dry, bold, light, sweet etc. There is only one real rule in wine, that is: trust your palate! If you like a bone dry white wine or if you like something sweet akin to pancake syrup…it’s your mouth and it’s your money, let yourself relax, that’s what wine is all about anyway!

There is no need to drop $30-50 bucks a bottle. Don’t get me wrong, those wines are delicious, but if you are like me and want to have friends over and sit on the deck and grill burgers, there are $10-15 dollar bottles that will be perfect. (insider tip, this way you could use the extra cash for more wine or steaks….just sayin’).

Main white wines to stay on the lookout for:

Chardonnay- Kendall Jackson Vinter’s Reserve Chardonnay, You can find this wine anywhere in the USA and it is going to cost you about $10-13 dollars. My love for this wine started years ago and it was because I found many Chardonnay’s too buttery and oaky, or as I call it liquid toothpicks. This wine is easy on the wallet and it’s a lighter and “happier” chardonnay, it’s not such a serious wine. It has a pineapple and crisp apple flavor and a pear/citrus nose. Pairs well with fish, chicken (roasted for me). Alcohol is about 13.5%

Sauvignon Blanc- Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc, This wine is pretty easy to find and if you do not know anything about me, I did my wine making apprenticeship in Chile with the Lapostolle wineries (in my opinion, best winery in the world). This crisp and pure wine will excite your senses. This wine is perfect with cheviche, fish, chicken, sitting by the pool, reading a book or having friends over. It will not disappoint! Price per bottle is $10-12 dollars. Alcohol is around 13.2% and this is truly an amazing Chilean wine!

Riesling- Some folks think, they can only have Riesling if they like sweet wine. WRONG! Riesling can be dry or sweet, but the Riesling made by Chateau Ste. Michelle from the Columbia Valley, can be easily found at Trader Joe’s for $7.99 per bottle. Order some spicy take out or I like it just as well with popcorn. Friends have told me that a grilled steak rocks with this wine as well. Alcohol is 12% and the floral aroma is lovely and this chilled Riesling will raise your spirits on most occasions!

Vinho Verde- This wine is a newcomer to the states, gaining massive popularity. This is my “veggie” wine. I could ever find a wine I could enjoy with a salad and this white wine from Portugal changed my mind. Gazela Vinho Verde is found in my local grocery store for $7.49. This wine is for people who don’t like wine and this is also for people who LOVE their wine. Pick up some manchego cheese and you have an evening of fun instantly, with 9% alcohol, you can drink more than you think with out the punch of the alcohol.

Red wines to look for:

Cabernet Sauvignon- My personal go to Cab is J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks from Paso Robles is $9-12 per bottle and I personally think this is a taste of deep red silk. I love the deep raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose and the texture is fantastic. With 13.5 % alcohol, this will warm your soul with hearty foods, I love this with grilled meats and big pots of stew. You can find this wine in most grocery stores, wine shops and the big box stores too. Enjoy!

Merlot- Dynamite is my all time favorite Merlot on a budget (their Cab is quite good as well). This wine is grown in the central coast of California and has a big fat black cherry profile and the mouthfeel is very smooth. You can find this wine for about $8-11 dollars a bottle and I always keep this wine handy. I have lots of folks who rave about it and we love to grill and smoke Tri-Tip here and it’s a perfect pairing!

Pinot Noir- I am a Pinot Noir NUT! I will spend a huge amount of my monthly wine budget on Pinot. My personal cellar is packed with Pinots from Russian River area of California and Williamette Valley in Oregon. But when I want to watch my pennies, I am on the hunt for Bogle Pinot Noir for $11-12 per bottle. Pinot is a tricky grape to grow well and it takes some love and attention, so Pinot’s can get very expensive. The thing most people love about Pinot’s are they are softer “feeling” in the mouth and they normally are not at brash with the alcohol so they taste more elegant than other big red wines.
This wine to me says luxury and relax. It has about 13.4% alcohol.

Here is another tip, taste more wines. Every grocery store and wine shop and most Costco’s have samples on the weekends. The folks working there will not judge you if you take a taste and say “yum” or “yuck”.

I hope my thoughts on wine help you to feel brave when standing in front of the display at the grocery store or wine shop.

If Pete the Planner asks me to write another blog, I would love to discuss Sparkling wines and Champagnes on a budget!

I’d love to field any wine questions or just chat about wine anytime, catch me over at

Thanks so much, Tammi! Whether you know it or not, I’m one of your biggest fans.

So there you have it. Great wine, and great inspiration from a woman that followed her passion.

5 thoughts on “The thrifty wine lover’s guide

  1. Love the comment about “it’s your mouth and it’s your money”. Dead on. Plug for my favorite wine shop and that is Grapevine Cottage in Zionsville. Consistently carries highly rated wines and most are under $20 a bottle. Also have cards in front of each wine telling you a littel about it and the most helpful staff around. Good wine, Good prices, Great people. PTP would love it. I would like to know which winery in Sonoma is Tammi’s as I’ll be out there later this month!

  2. From someone with a budget category for wine, thanks! Will have to look for the vinho verde and the cab she suggested!

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