$15 Fridays: Affordable Après-ski

ab fab wine

Holy El Niño! Guess where I am? The mountains, yo. After about 112 years of no water fall beyond whatever Shamu splashes over his tank, California is seeing some serious precipitation. So the family made the trek up to Mammoth to carve up some fresh pow pow. Well, the other two are. I’m pregnant so all my favorite mountain activities (snowboarding, Jacuzzis, drinking) are off limits. Don’t feel too bad for me, though. Currently the husband is off solo and the kid is in a snowboarding class being taught how to inevitably break a limb by some stoned college kid. That means I’m all alone, holed up in the cabin, writing while sipping a Gatorade neat. I’m practically Jack fucking London.

I figured this was a perfect time to talk about wine to bring along for ski or snowboard trips. And it’s also the perfect time to unveil my new Friday posts: $15 Fridays. I know that there are many delicious yet affordable bottles out there, mostly because if I didn’t curb my booze spending, the car was going to be repossessed. And I’m really excited to have the opportunity to introduce quality and unique wines for $15 or less every week. Plus, you can use the money you save on my new venture: custom haikus.

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So what $15 wine should you pack for your mountain getaway? A wine from Savoie. Often referred to as ‘ski wine’, Savoie, or Savoy, is a French wine region tucked far east against the French Alps. So far east it’s practically Switzerland, which is why you will often see a white and red cross logo on the bottles. They’re also Swiss-like in that the wines are light, fresh, and rarely take sides in arguments. Being a somewhat isolated area with a variety of difficult growing conditions, most of the grapes utilized in Savoie wines are indigenous varietals you will not find in the grocery aisle.

Typically, most of these wines never left Savoie as it was guzzled down in chalets by guys dressed like those Swiss assholes from “Cool Runnings”. But a combination of improved winemaking and of increasing export has resulted in these little gems popping up in wine shops and on wine lists all over the U.S. Here is both a red and white bottle of Alpine to try without dropping Alpine cash.

2014 Domaine Labbe, Abymes


Most of the wine coming out of Savoie is white, and most of that wine is made from the grape Jacquere. And even though this a high yield grape, its not thin or lackluster. Clean and crisp as Lake Geneva is more like it. A lot of minerality, citrus notes and even a bit of grassiness, this would be a great new find for all my Sauvignon Blanc lovers- so, you know, skinny girls. Jacquere’s classic pairing is cheese fondue but it also pairs well with mountain cuisine such as roasted vegetables and smoked trout. And like most light whites, drink young and often.

2013 Domaine Jean Vuillien et Fils, “Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte”
t1431794p3_1The major red grape of Savoie is Mondeuse Noire. After a battery of DNA testing, Maury Povich announced that it is indeed a distant relative to Syrah! *raucous cheers from the audience* And Syrah should have totally known as they both display the same purple hue and spicy cherry notes. This wine has some earthy intensity with an acidic bite if you’re used to drinking New World wines, but makes it a perfect pairing for roasted meats.  This producer may have changed to a more ‘contemporary’ label in the current vintage, which is annoying as I like to pretend I’m a fancy French woman when I’m drinking. And when I eat entire bagettes in my car.

I will try to always provide links to websites with current inventories of the wines for under $15, but please know that internet wine commerce is a mess of state alcohol tax laws and cross-border shipping restrictions. You can go into any decent wine shop and specifically ask for Savoie wines and be sure to find some great values to try out as the average prices of these wines hover right around that $15 mark. And by decent wine shop, I do not mean Rite-Aid.

Now I’m back to walking around the lodge in my new sick ass snow boots. Actually, I haven’t taken them off since I got here. I have them on with my pajamas right now. I have to get my money’s worth because it’ll be another year till I get to use them again. The only place you can wear them in San Diego is with a white fur bikini, dancing in a cage during a nightclub’s Winter Wonderland theme night.*

*Bucket list.

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