Posts Tagged ‘torrontes’

Basa Fillet in Wine Sauce: A French Recipe with a Peruvian Twist

October 6, 2010

 

A while ago (I’d rather exclude definite time references to avoid feeling old-er) I met with delight a simple yet delicious seafood dish. My friend in her  Coquitlam home made this salmon fillet in Pinot Noir sauce. I loved it so much that she made it a couple times more for me. Then one day I figured I would try a similar recipe changing ingredients, which is the best way to create new recipes and have a lot of fun. So I replaced the salmon for white fish, in this case, Basa, although I have used rockfish (aka snapper) and halibut also. It works out great with all of the above. I am not fond of precise recipes, just because that is the way I cook and also, I believe that every person has a different appreciation for each ingredient, so bare with me. I would suggest try to interpret the recipe in the way you would like the final product to taste like. Here it goes.

Grab a couple 200 gram Basa fillets. For those who don’t like grams or measurement units, grab a couple fillets, each enough to satisfy one person. That would be the average person. Which means nothing really, because the “average” is a figment of one’s imagination. Pretend the average person to be you then and grab those fillets.

The Salmon Pinot Noir recipe included shallots. In this case, just for fun I used red onions. I highly recommend Peruvian red onions from Arequipa province, with no doubt, the best ever. Since they are hard to find, I used Washington State red onions of medium size. They are phenomenally good. Chop one onion fairly fine. Put a dash of vegetable oil in bowl shaped frying pan, wok or similar. On low heat melt a couple spoonfuls of salted butter. Sautee the onions for 2 minutes. Here comes the tricky part. You need to find this product called AJI PANCA. Aji (a-hee) is the word for hot pepper or chili in Peru and in most of the South American Andes. This Panca one is a truly delicious condiment, a little bit like Chipotle but less pungent and not smoky at all. It doesn’t have that bit of bacon like aroma that the Chipotle does. You can buy this Panca pepper paste in Latino shops, there are a few in Metro Vancouver. If you google them up you will find them easy. Slather the fillets with this paste, you can use quite a bit of it. Do not be afraid, this aji is at most mildly spicy but oh, so flavorful. Place said fillets on frying pan or wok and add a quarter of a glass of white wine. This can be dry or off dry. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 6 minutes. I sometimes throw a few capers for that briny, zingy acidity that always seems to enhance fish and seafood flavors. Probe the fillets with a fork; they should flake nicely although Basa will not flake like salmon. It is firmer. You will have to learn this by experience. Serve on fresly cooked basmati rice. I have enjoyed this fish with Alsatian Gewurztraminer or a Torrontes with personality, like the Andeluna.

If you make this you will love it. Let me know what you think. Aji Panca paste is usually sold in little jars like the one shown above. It sells in Vancouver for about 5 dollars. You can also buy it in plastic sachets for a little less.

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Playhouse Wine Festival 2010: Let’s the Games Begin

April 23, 2010

Wow! the new Vancouver Convention Center is really awesome. Great sweeping views of the North Shore mountains and the Burrard Inlet and spacious, huge hollow rooms that may feel cavernous if it was not by the skillful use of wood bricks covering the walls, giving it a warm maple syrup brown feel to this great indoors. Light years away from the warehouse feeling that the old Convention Center has. The first trade session was packed, with kilometric line ups to pick up tickets and to complete registration.

To the wines. I ignored the siren calls of Italian reds, elegant Champagnes, appealing Oregon whites. I went straight for the theme booths, Argentina and New Zealand. The latter country was very popular and many of its booths were beyond reach. Rant: C’mon Vancouverites. This city has been a wine city for over a decade now. When are you going to learn the most basic etiquette of wine tasting? Blocking spittoons, chatting endlessly with your pals blocking access to tables and wearing perfume are all no, no, no and no.

Ok, I got that out of my system. As a result, a limited tasting of New Zealand with two wines that stand out like two lonely stars in a dark southern sky. The Ostler 2008 Audrey’s Pinot Gris is a complete sensorial assault of pleasure. Starting with the nose. It was so intoxicatingly delicious that it made it hard to follow Jim Jerram, Ostler’s rep telling me about their terroir. Close to Otago but not as far inland, limestone soils and ocean breezes influence Ostler’s vineyards. The nose is intense, thick, a prelude to what is to come. Wow! I said after my first sip. It’s like a lady with curves. Chardonnayish. Jim agreed, with excitement. “Exactly, we make it like a Chardonnay, but on a diet.” A Chardonnay in a weight watchers program. A Chardonnay on a fast bike. There is a feeling of something that grows fatter and fatter on the palate but then whooosh! it’s gone and back to a leaner, trimmed up texture. “It’s the acidity, idiot.”  Brilliantly made, this Pinot Gris has a distinct spectrum of nose, flavors and texture and it may not be your accessible everyday wine at $38 but definitely one of those wine styles that set trends and change paradigms. Bravo for Ostler and thanks Jim and Gord for all the information.

The other white from Kiwi land that made my head turn was -not surprisingly- a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Matua Valley’s Paretai 2009 is as good as it gets for the grassy and minerally sassy style from South Island. At 29.99 this vibrant and fresh SB delivers all the goods one expects from the appellation.

Changing country, I expected a lot more whites from Argentina. The offer is still dominated by Torrontes. In my humble (not) opinion, there should have been a lot more quality Chardonnays. Anyway, less whining and more wining. I found one remarkable white by Bodega Lurton. The 2007 Gran Lurton Corte Friuliano, is a somewhat idyosincratic blend of Sauvignon Vert, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Torrontes, accomplished to notes of high delight. Aromatic on the nose, agile, playful and fruity on the palate, satisfying on the endless aftertaste. As in the case of the Ostler Pinot Gris, this Friuliano may have the limitation of price (29.99) to become popular. Nevertheless, an excellent effort by Lurton, which entry level $13.99 Pinot Gris is a promise of what this winery can do with the variety.

Red wines to follow on next post.

A Perfect Sushi Wine

April 17, 2010

Wine to pair with Sushi? Well, that is the 100 million dollar question. When I first tasted Torrontes I thought the varietal was a serious candidate. Of course, Sushi is such a wide umbrella term that is rather simplistic to say “this wine pairs with Sushi.” But some wines get closer to the job than others. Torrontes, with its ripe apricot palate and floral and spice aromas, definitely qualifies for the job. But its bubbly incarnation, the Deseado Torrontes, is really the wine that stands up to the challenge. Sweetness matched by incisive acidity, fruity and muscaty, Deseado meets the diversity of flavors accompanying a set of rolls, nigiri and oily tempura snacks. Available in Vancouver for 22-26 dollars, this is the ultimate Sushi wine. Gochiso Sama!

ps. while you eat your sustainably fished albacore tuna, the bluefin tuna species, perhaps the most majestic animal in the oceans is being caught to extinction by greedy northamerican and japanese fishmongers. let’s put a  stop to it! write a letter to your MP and demand Canada supports a total ban on bluefin tuna fishing

Wines of Argentina WofA

March 13, 2010

Like in the past years, Argentina‘s wines will be the darling of the media in the coming month and a half, as the south american wine power shares the stage with New Zealand for the annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Because of that I will start covering some ground here and for the days to come, with wine reviews and notes on Argentina’s wine culture, regions, grapes, personalities and other etceteras. 

Let’s begin with a flashback, the Wines of ArgentinaWofA- show of last September, held at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Pablo Cuneo, winemaker for Ruca Malen, introduced nine wines representing the wide diversity of Argentinian terroirs as well as grape varieties. Among other interesting things he mentioned was that Argentina’s wine exports amount to only 2% of the global market. This was surprising to me and I’m sure, to many others. Before Mr. Cuneo’s presentation, I thought Argentina’s market share to be a lot bigger than that. But then, you need to understand that Argentina only became a global wine exporting power in the nineties.

In terms of surface cultivated, Malbec takes 50%, followed by Bonarda, in the mid 20’s and Syrah with about 13%. Of these, Bonarda may be the least familiar to Vancouver wine enthusiasts. Traditionally this grape was used exclusively for blending. There is a reason for this, as the variety is very vigorous, so much that some call it -jokingly- a weed. By saying this, they mean that grape production can be huge if the growth is left unchecked. As we all know, too many grapes per vine and the quality of your wine goes down the sink. However, some winemakers have placed their hopes on this variety, restricting berry production and launching some interesting varietal bottlings to the market. A few of these have reached Vancouver, but we will visit them some other time.

Syrah is another grape that not everyone will associate to Che Guevara’s motherland; such is the strong positioning of the Argentina-Malbec tandem in the mind of the global consumer. However, some good Syrah varietals are made there, with my favorite ones coming from the San Juan region. And we should not forget about Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina, with a long ripening season virtually free of rainfall, has great potential for the king of black grapes, and some good examples have already reached the shelves of the Liquor Distribution Brand and private wine stores. 

In looking back, it would have been nice to have a Pinot Noir from Patagonia or a sparkling wine in the flight. I am sure there will plenty of those in the upcoming Playhouse International Wine Festival. Let’s now go to the nine wines tasted. 

Lurton Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2008

Corte is Spanish wine jargon for blend. This is a Tocai Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontés blend from the Uco Valley, near Mendoza. My notes mention floral citric quince*, good acidity, slightly bitter background, creamy texture and lingering finish. In spite of said bitterness or price ($27.99) I gave it a B and a ☺, which means I quite enjoyed it. 

Etchart Ayres de Cafayate Torrontes 2008

Cafayate is arguably the region that has the potential for the best Torrontés, although personally, the best varietal I have tasted is Andeluna‘s from Mendoza. The Etchart version has a pronounced, terpenic nose (chemical term for “floral.” Now go impress your friends). Sweet aromas, a bit rustic, grapey flavors, persistent finish, 15.99 Cdn.  

Las Moras Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys 2005

I discussed Las Moras winery in a previous posting and this one was a head turner during the show. I had to turn my head because the WofA staff forgot to fill my glass and not wanting to disturb Mr. Cuneo’s talk , I gave a convincing look to a staffer who promptly poured some for me. Sometimes I can look very menacing, you know. I found floral (lavender), dark fruit, coffee, rock, sweet tannin, integrated alcohol in a medium-bodied wine that warms up the mouth uniformly, very pleasant all in all. Syrah feels at home in San Juan and I am convinced this will be more evident in the future as more varietals are imported. $24.99. 

Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

In my vinous ignorance I said once that Argentina was in debt for not producing good Cabernet Sauvignon. Time and time again I have been reminded of  my insolence, tasting very interesting vatietals, particularly from the Mendoza area. This Bodega Norton rendition showed a mellow nose with spice, very subtle green note in the biggish body, red fruit and sweet tannin and a long, warm finish with pepper spice. Good at 17.99. 

Andeluna Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005

This is probably the weakest –or the only weak- link in the long chain of excellent wines by this award winning winery. And I am not saying it is not good. Only that at the price (54.99) I’d rather take the brutally good Limited Reserve Malbec 2004** or the elegant Bordeaux style Pasionado blend. This Cabernet Franc showed subdued red fruit, pepper leaft and tannins a bit angular, although the effect of these on the mouth was rather pleasant. Good, like I say, but not at that price.

Ruca Malen Kinien Malbec 2007

Another Malbec from the Uco Valley, which is a cool area within the Mendoza wine district. The nose was closed but the palate was smooth, sweet tannins with solid fruit and firm but gentle grip. The finish was long and soft, like the whispers of a slow stream. I quite liked this one. $34.99. 

Montes Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2007

Aurelio Montes is a bit of a wine King Midas. Every wine he touches, no matter the grape, seems to turn to gold. He is also a bit of a wine Marco Polo, not hesitating much before setting up wineries far from his native Chile, in places like Napa or as in this case, Luján, in Mendoza. The Kaiken Ultra is the bigger brother of the Kaiken Malbec Vancouver wine lovers know so well. The 10 extra dollars are fully justified. Dark purple with floral and plum, sweet scents. Montes’ hallmark smoothness in mouth is present, with pronounced dark fruit and lingering, spicy finish.  Rock solid at $28.99.

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Federico Villafañe 2006

Sweet, gentle  fruit aromas. A jammy, soft, sweet-tannin full bodied palate make this one into one crowd pleaser Malbec. It was the show’s favorite, although myself would hesitate to fork out the 80 dollars required to taste this beauty. 

Flichman Paisaje de Tupungato 2006

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot and Malbec woos the nose with ripe fruit followed by even riper fruit, smooth, sweet tannin body. The alcohol is very well integrated, warming up the mouth uniformly for the length of the finish. Lovely at 18.99.

 

*In 15 years in Vancouver I have never seen one quince. Does anybody know what it tastes like? Back in Peru, where it is very common (membrillo, mem-bree-yoe), as kids we loved to hate it. It looks like a small pale yellow-green apple. It has an interesting herbal –quincey– fragrance. On biting is crunchy, grainy, with zingy acidity and slightly sweet; after a few seconds en bouche it turns excruciatingly astringent, but then, you want more.

** The Andeluna Limited Reserve Malbec 2004 is now just over $60.

Saludos

Ivan Alfonso

Note. Photos courtesy of Andeluna Cellars

Andeluna Wines

October 6, 2009

Argentina keeps surprising the world of wine. Last week Vancouver hosted the andeluna panoramicWines of Argentina event at the Sutton Place Hotel. Wineries from all over the country of Tango, from the hot, arid high elevation vineyards in Salta to the wind-swept pampas of Patagonia’s Neuquen, were present offering their best Malbec, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals and blends. Andeluna Cellars was present at the event, with Mike Kenter, Vice President and Marketing Officer for the US at the booth. So, let’s leave the Wines of Argentina tasting for a later posting and let’s look at Andeluna’s wines instead.

Mike Kenter has been to Argentina a number of times, both in central, Andean bodega_1Mendoza and also in Patagonia, where he combines his wine enthusiasm with fishing trips. He knows the country and loves the wines. When his friend H. Ward Lay of Frito Lay bought property near Mendoza and started producing outstanding wines, enlisting the services of world renowned Michel Rolland and Argentine winemaker Silvio Alberto, Mike joined him on his quest. I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Mike at the Dream Wines headquarters, in Yaletown, courtesy of David Tremblay, to taste some of the best wines Andeluna has to offer today.

Most wineries claim they are on search of excellence for their wines. In the case of Andeluna, after tasting three reds and a Torrontes, this seems to be true. This 2008 Torrontes was arguably one of the best varietals I have tasted. Although this may seem anathema to many, Torrontes appears to be destined to produce rustic wines, lacking finesse or even proper acidity. This was something that I found interesting in Andeluna’s Torrontes, very good acidity, in a lean, unoaked version of the varietal. Its elegance and lingering spice has earned it 87 Parker points, and it is definitely one I favor when compared to other Torrontes I tasted before. This wine will retail for about 18-20 dollars.

The Winemaker’s Selection 2007 Malbec (already available at LDB and private stores) was the second wine in the flight. I had tried it before, and only confirmed what I found previously. This is a serious competitor in the 18-24 dollar bracket. Winemaker Silvio Alberto checked all the elements that a good Malbec should have; none stands out, none is weak. A low 10 tons of grapes per hectare harvested at 4300 feet, results in improved concentration and flavor. Simple, straightforward in its potency, loaded with pure dark fruit and with a good finish, this is a wine worth every cent you pay. No need to look any further for a solid, inexpensive steak wine.

Andeluna also offers a terrific Limited Reserve Malbec. The 2004 vintage is TN_bottle_R_Malbec2produced from vineyards yielding only 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. This is Malbec at its best, and talking to colleagues we all agreed that you may pay 20 or 30 dollars more but you will not get a lot more Malbec (retail price in Vancouver is around 45 dollars). Great palate, chewy, meaty, excellent tannic structure… I could keep piling positive adjectives on this Malbec. The 14.7% alcoholic concentration is not noticeable, as this is very well integrated with the fruit and acidity. Knowing well the wine retail industry in Vancouver, I am convinced that this product will fly off the shelves once it hits the “City of Glass’” retail outlets.

After the Limited Reserve Malbec I believed I could not be further impressed by TN_bottle_R_Passthe last wine in the flight, Andeluna’s flagship Pasionado. This is a Bordeaux style blend that has its individual components aged for 12 months prior to an extra six to eight months once blended. I turned out to completely underestimate the winemaking abilities of Andeluna’s Silvio Alberto. The Pasionado 2004 Grand Reserve shows a restrained nose that promises a lot more. Once on my palate I stopped writing notes. I just could not keep going; I had to focus on what my body, my physical body, was experiencing. Tremendo Vino like they say in the Southern latitudes of Latin America. A tremendous wine, indeed. Incredibly powerful and equally incredibly easy to drink. Certainly Andeluna Cellars is on the right track.

These two latter products will be hitting Vancouver wine stores around the third week of November, and there will not be a lot of them. Make sure you grab your bottle.

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon Part II

September 23, 2009

Import Vintners & Spirits Association
New Product Salon
4 Seasons Hotel
Vancouver, September 21, 2009
Part II
Let’s continue with more white wines that hit a good spot.

Mc William’s Pinot Grigio 2007, Australia. $15.99. A nice effort but at this price, and with the declining reputation of Australian wines, it might have a hard time getting off the shelves. Agent: NA.
Campagnola, Le Bine Soave. Garganega Trebbiano. Veneto. $19.49 Spec. Delicious, chalky, refreshing and with a wonderful long finish. Agent: Red Dog
Cantina Breganze. Terracrua Bianco (100% Friuliano). Veneto. $14.99 Spec. Low alcohol (10%) may be an attractive point for a decent Friuliano, lacking a bit in acidity but at the price point could move. Agent: Vinoallegro.
Sartori Marani Bianco Veronese 2007. Garganega. Veneto. $24.99. Spec. A soft, plump, refreshing Garganega. Agent: Pacific Wine & Spirits.
Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2008. New Zealand. $19.99 Specialty. A tasty, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with the quality that Marlborough wines always deliver. Agent: Calibrium.
Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontes 2006. Salta, Argentina. $13.99. A serious competitor in this class. Intense, fruity and organic. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
Sileni Cellar’s Pinot Gris. Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. $19.99. Pear and citrus, ripe and with very good texture. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
La Sauvageonne Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Les Ruffes, Languedoc, France. $22.99. Spec. Intense nose, good acidity and balance. Agent: Barbara Mills.

Not by Wine Alone….

July 20, 2009

Fish Ceviche for TwoDSC04449

With the summer coming on hard on British Columbians, red wines yield the right of way to a constellation of whites and rosés. Local brews and imports from all over the world offer endless possibilities to the wine enthusiast. What about food? No one should be too excited about oven-roasting a piece of lamb in a day with temperatures well over 25C. Salads and cold dishes are the order of the day. In hot days like these, seafood, preferably slightly cooked or just plain raw acquires an appeal that is hard to match. One of the tastiest seafood dishes is ceviche, basically strips of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with hot peppers.

Although it is made in a variety of styles, depending on the country where it comes from, Peruvian ceviche shows the highest expression of the seafood flavour, due to its minimalist approach. Central American, Ecuadorian and Mexican ceviches call for long marinating periods that go from one to several hours. Recipes include tomato juice, tomato, avocado, olives, green onion, celery, capers, onion and a whole array of other vegetables and even spices. In Peruvian ceviche the fish meets the citrus juice only minutes before serving. Once on the plate, there is only the fuits de mer, the condiments and a few plumes of crisp red onion.

The Recipe

Half a pound of white fish fillet of, preferably sole or basa–ideally halibut- is cut into strips 1 cm long by 1/2 cm thick. Salt, ground black pepper and chopped hot pepper (all to taste) are then combined in a bowl with the fish strips. Put away in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. The heat will depend on how one likes it. For less hot ceviche, jalapeños works well. Habaneros and red Thai peppers are hotter. Avoid using pre-made hot sauces, as they usually have sugar and vinegar and will overpower the delicate flavours of the seafood.

Bring the ceviche mix out and add lime juice. IThis is a crucial step, because many inexperienced cevicheros over-acidify their dish. Every lime or lemon has different intensity of acidity, so it is better to approach this with caution. Add the juice gradually, stirring the mix. When the juice reaches the level of the fish, add no more. Stir, take back to fridge and let marinade for five minutes, if you are into raw fish (think Sushi) or 15 to 20 minutes if you like it “well done”. The citric acid of the juice will “cook” the fish, turning it an opaque white. Bring the marinade out, stir and taste.

This is the moment to adjust the acidity. Add some more juice if necessary. If it tastes excessively acidic do not panic. Remove some juice with a spoon and replace with cold water. Always adjust the salt after you adjust the acidity. You will find that you need more salt than you would normally use. This is because the intensity of acid and heat numb your taste buds. Adjust heat to taste and return to fridge. Cut very thin slices of red onion and dip in cold, salted water for a few minutes. Take a sprig of cilantro, remove stalk and chop leaves only, very finely. Take ceviche marinade out of fridge, mix in cilantro and serve topped with a handful of (well drained) onion slices. Serve accompanied with boiled and cooled potato, sweet potato or cassava root. Tortilla chips are also an option. Pair with chilled white wine. Torrontés from Argentina, German Riesling (off-dry or halbtrocken Kabinett) and Kiwi or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are traditional matches. For the more adventurous, a bubbly, like Italian Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti are interesting choices, specially if the garnish is sweet potato. If you like your cebiche really spicy hot, forget about the wine, as your taste buds won’t sense its delicate flavors. Go for a cold beer.

Los Crios Torrontes

June 10, 2009

Torrontes, love it or hate it? With its spectrum of floral, spice, tropical fruit, nut and apricot aromas, this torrontesgrape has the potential to become a true white wine phenomenon. Every version I have tried tastes so different from the next that sometimes it is hard to believe it is the same grape. Argentina’s flagship white variety can be subtle and elegant or really aggressive in its manifold aromas and flavors. Whatever the case, Los Crios wine series by Argentina’s premier female winemaker Susana Balbo, offers a pleasing rendition of the varietal. Lying between dry and off dry, full-bodied and ambiguous, this Torrontes is packed with flavor and refreshing acidity. Gewurtztraminer lovers will find it adorable; those who are thrilled by whites of less fruit and aromatics will definitely avoid it. Food friendly? Undoubtedly, and it may be the ultimate match for Sushi.

Product: Los Crios

Variety: Torrontes

Vintage: 2007

Winery: Dominio del Plata Winery

Origin: Mendoza, Argentina

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 18.99 (Everything Wine)

Deseado, Sparkling Torrontes

May 26, 2009

Deseado, Sparkling Torrontes

Looking for a crisp, lively sparkling for the warm season? Don’t look any further. Deseado sparkling Torrontes has fruit, character and is a lot of fun. An intense nose of apricot and ripe grapefruit, follows with a creamy body with citrus and pineapple. For those who “never drink sweet wine”, this one may change your mind, as the vibrant acidity more than balances the sweetness. The finish is very long with lemon zest, mineral notes and white peach. Deseado is Spanish for “the one you wish for” and for sure this wine honors its name.

Product: Deseado, sparkling wine

Variety: Torrontes

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Familia Schroeder

Origin: Patagonia, Argentina

Alcohol: 10%

Sweetness: 03

Price: 25.99 (Everything Wine)

Inca, a Smooth White from Argentina

May 20, 2009

A blend of 80% Torrontes and 20% Chardonnay yields a bright lemon colored wine, brimming with aromas of canned pineapple, apricot and lime. In the palate is medium bodied, with citrus and lemongrass flavors, refreshing acidity and a good finish carried by lime zest. Unoaked, the Chardonnay softens the aggressive nature of the Torrontes grape in a wine that screams “value”. inca-white

Product: Inca

Variety: Torrontes Chardonnay

Vintage: 2007

Winery: Inca

Origin: Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Northern Argentina

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 13.99 (Everything Wine)