Wine Tasting At Binny’s – You’ll Want To Try These Wines

Mo Wine Please

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good old wine tasting roundup. So let’s do this!

Last night, Peter and I met up with my folks and sister-in-law, Kate, for an evening of wine tasting at the brand new Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincolnwood.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

The theme for the night was “California Wines” so this was right up my alley.

Binny’s set up 7 tasting stations throughout the store with six to eight different wines being poured at each station. There were lots of fellow tasters present but it didn’t feel crowded because of the fabulous setup.

Now the wines.


My step-dad who, by the way, turned 98 on the 4th of July, was in search of a new Chardonnay to add to his list of favorite wines.

Wine tasting at 98

The favorites among the Chardonnays were:

2013 DuMol Chardonnay

The 2013 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($55) is a wonderfully complex wine with layers of flavor. It has great body and a pleasing finish. The winemaker says that the 2013 vintage is very strong in this coastal region of Sonoma County. He feels that this wine could age for five to seven years.

2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Another favorite was the 2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45). This wine, made from grapes sourced from several of the Flowers vineyards literally right on the Pacific Coast, has a bit more minerality while still providing plenty of the honey and citrus notes that Chardonnay lovers love.

2014 Stags Leap Chardonnay If you are looking for something at a more modest price point, try the 2014 Stags Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20). A bit less complex that the two wines above, the Stags Leap still provides lots of flavor and quality for the price. It is crisp and clean and quite good.

2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($18) has a bit more of a creamy flavor but still with enough acidity to provide good balance. This could be a nice choice for a house Chardonnay.

Other White Wines

2015 Cade Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($33) was a big hit. Cade is a member of the wonderful PlumpJack family of wines. I love a Sauvignon Blanc that is crisp and refreshing without being too citrusy. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc delivered this profile beautifully.

2014 Jaffurs Viognier

I was drawn to taste the 2014 Jaffurs Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier ($27) based on two things: I love Viognier and I love any wine that comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara.

Remember what I’ve said, if you ever see a wine with “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on the label, you can be pretty certain it will be awesome.

Red Wines

Because we are experiencing a heat wave here and temperatures are hovering around a zillion degrees, we were all inclined to try more white wines than red wines.

Still, I am a red wine gal so I soldiered on.

2012 The Pairing Red Blend

The Pairing is what you might call the younger sibling of Jonata and The Hilt, two ridiculously outstanding wine producers. The same winemaker is responsible for all three members of the family and the quality shows.

While the 2012 The Pairing Red Blend ($25) contains some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the highest percentage of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine tastes like a classic Napa Cabernet but at a fraction of the price.

2013 Emmolo Merlot

Merlot, unfairly criticized in the movie, Sideways, can be the perfect wine for folks who want a bold red but prefer slightly softer tanins than what is usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Emmolo Merlot ($56) comes from the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley which has both the best soil and best climate for growing Merlot grapes. This lovely wine is smooth and has all the great flavors of luscious fruit balanced by a touch of earthiness.

By the way, Emmolo is part of the Wagner Family Wines which include Caymus and Conundrum.

2014 Cane and Fable Cabernet 373

We first discovered this wine on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. Then the winery was called Cane & Fable but they have rebranded as The Fableist. Either way, the wine is quite recognizable because of the grasshopper on the label.

The 2014 The Fableist (Cane & Fable) Cabernet Sauvignon 373 ($23) is produced in Paso Robles and drinks like a Napa Cabernet at more than twice the price. This gem of a wine is a real bargain and could absolutely be a great choice for a red house wine.

I love the description by the winemaker:

“Every little sip leaves you comfortable, content and just feelin’ lucky.”

We did, indeed, feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try so many great wines at Binny’s. And, hopefully, our research will give you a few suggestions for new wines to try.

Do you have any new favorites to share with me?

Please note:

  • I received no compensation from Binny’s or the wineries. The wine tasting was complimentary for anyone with a Binny’s loyalty card.
  • The prices listed are Binny’s. You should be able to find these wines at your local stores but the price may vary.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

You Might Also Like:

Solvang And Los Olivos

Over the weekend Peter and I joined my brother, sister-in-law, her sister and a couple of friends on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos – the setting of the movie Sideways.

Unlike the original, our version of the film had:

  • zero drama
  • an absence of violence
  • lots of laughs
  • much better food
  • excellent wine (even some Merlot)

Our first stop was Andrew Murray Vineyards. Thanks to the membership of one of the friends in our group, we enjoyed a wine tasting – complete with an incredible box lunch – in the stunning Wine Club Member Tasting Room.

Andrew Murray VIneyards Club Member Wine Tasting Room

Folks, this is why people join wine clubs.

Not unlike frequent flier clubs, wine clubs reward loyalty with special perks and discounts that can really make a difference in the winery experience.

We arrived at Andrew Murray Vineyard on a busy, noisy holiday weekend Saturday. Instead of fighting for elbow room at the tasting bar, we were treated to this:

Andrew Murray Club Member Room

Here we spent a leisurely 90 minutes or so tasting Andrew Murray Vineyards current releases including my personal favorites: the lovely 2013 Santa Maria Valley Viognier, the yummy 2013 Enchanté Curtis Vineyard White Blend and the rich and luxurious 2013 Tous Les Jours Santa Ynez Valley Syrah.

The perfect beginning to our trip.

The next stop was the nearby Fess Parker Winery.

Fess Parker Winery

I have to admit that the first time we visited Fess Parker, I didn’t have high hopes. I thought this might be another “capitalize on the name recognition and we can get away with mediocre wine” places.

It most definitely is not.

We tasted a wide array of wines ranging from the 2013 Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay (which has made a convert of this previous Chardonnay-hater) to the 2011 The Big Easy Red Blend (Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate 91 points).

Our fabulous wine hospitality host, Adrianne, treated us to a pour of the 2010 Rodney’s Vineyard Crockett. This red blend was created by the Parker family as an homage to the winery’s namesake upon his death in 2010.

2010 Fess Parker Crockett

Our group agreed that this was the best wine we tasted all weekend. At $80 per bottle is was also the most expensive, but so well worth the price!

We made our way back to our hotel for the weekend, The Hadsten House in Solvang.

The Hadsten House

Located on the edge of the charming Danish town of Solvang, this great hotel is within walking distance of about a million bakeries, some delicious restaurants and some wine tasting rooms.

Walking to dinner we stopped at The Good Life Wine Cellar. Peter and the waiter conspired to come up with a variety of wines by the glass for our group to try and share. We wrote the name of each wine on a cocktail napkin that was passed along with the corresponding glass so we could keep them all straight.

This wine tasting thing is serious business.

Every one of the seven wines was a hero but our collective favorite was the 2013 Cane and Fable Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.

2013 Cane and Fable Cabernet

I don’t love the insect on the label but I sure do love the price. The wine retails for about $25 but I’ve seen it online for as low as $15.99.

Dinner was at The Succulent Café. We started with the gorgeous and delicious cheese and charcuterie platter.

The Succulent Cafe

Every single dish was extraordinary. I’d put this place on the “must visit” list for any trip to the Solvang and Los Olivos area.

Sunday morning we enjoyed brunch at Mattei’s Tavern. Although not a huge menu, each item sounded intriguing and delicious. We started with an order of the breakfast sausage corndogs because, seriously, how could you NOT order something like that?!?! Scrumptious!

Mattei's Tavern breakfast sausage corndogs

Everyone loved their main course – a wide variety of dishes ranging from fried rice to cornmeal pancakes. I ordered the belgian waffles: sourdough waffles with bananas, whipped mascarpone and dulce de leche.

I’d show you a photo but I had cleaned my plate before I could get out my camera.

After brunch we walked around downtown Los Olivos, visiting several in-town wine tasting rooms and shops.

We visited Dragonette Cellars because some of us had enjoyed their wines before and were interested to see what else they had to offer.

Dragonette Cellars

We tasted a variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah blends – both the 2012 Seven and the 2011 MJM (named after the wives of the owners). The wine was great and lived up to our expectations.

Based upon the description in the Touring Guide published by the Santa Barbara Vintners, we were all very curious to try the wines at Blair Fox Cellars.

“The ultra-boutique winery produces hand-crafted bottling of small-lot, limited production, 90+ point wines of exceptional quality.”

from Santa Barbara Vintners 2014 Touring Guide

Blair Fox was named the Andre Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. In addition to making wine for his own label, Blair Fox just happens to be the winemaker for Fess Parker Winery and their sister label, Epiphany Cellars (more on Epiphany later).

Blair Fox Cellars

This 2013 Paradise Road Vineyard Viognier is incredible. With a wine like this kicking off our tasting experience we knew we were in for a treat.

Let’s just say that by the time we left, two of us had joined the wine club and we had collectively purchased about a case of wine to take with us.

We decided to take a little break from wine tasting and walked over to the Olive Hill Farm shop for some tasting of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. For a mere $3 visitors can try any combination of 5 oils or vinegars. My personal favorites were the blood orange olive oil and the blackberry balsamic…although the bacon olive oil, rosemary olive oil and strawberry balsamic were close contenders.

Our tasting day wrapped up at Epiphany Cellars, Fess Parker’s sister winery. The tasting room is beautiful. While Fess Parker’s tasting room is rustic and warm, Epiphany’s tasting room is hip and modern. A nice counter point that reflects the difference in the wines as well.

Epiphany Cellars

We strolled through some shops as we walked to dinner at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Cafe. This spot has a ridiculously huge selection of wines to buy by the bottle. As far as the food on the menu, we loved the scallops, pasta bolognese, gnocchi and pizza.

By the way, each member of our group brought a bottle from their home collection along on the trip and, rather than buying wine off the menu at dinner, we paid the $20 per bottle corkage fee and enjoyed our own wines.

The final stop on our tour was at Foxen Vineyards. Peter and I have been fans of Foxen (and wine club members) for a while and we were thrilled to host the rest of the crew at Foxen’s beautiful “7600” tasting room.

Foxen Pinot Noir

See the “Mr. Bill” doll sitting on the shelf? It was a gift from the winery staff to Bill Wathen, one of the owners.

Our host, John, made sure we had a chance to taste all the yummy wines that would be included in our upcoming club shipment along with many of the other current releases. We all agreed that we would be hard pressed to pick a favorite from among the spectacular wines we tasted.

We were also big fans of this bit of wine art on display in the Foxen tasting room.

Foxen Vineyards

The trip was a huge success – so much so that we are already planning our next travels: a pilgrimage to the Paso Robles area of California. Count me in, I’m ready to go!

Have you ever been to Solvang and Los Olivos? Tell the truth, did the movie “Sideways” color your opinion of Merlot? Have any recommendations for us in Paso Robles?



Do not drink and drive!


No one paid me to say this.

You Might Also Like: