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Favorite Wines Under $25

Fave Vino Under $25 | Covet Living

Listen yo, I’m no sommelier… when all else fails and I’m in a hurry, sometimes I pick a bottle out at the grocery store based on pretty the label is (whoops)… in the same manner that whenever I’ve had to pick fantasy teams, I’ll pick the gaggle of dudes with the best weaves, etc.  That said, I know enough about what I like & what I don’t about wine: don’t like whites that are too sweet (Riesling might as well be a Shirley Temple, IMO), prefer a California Sauvignon Blanc over a New Zealand one b/c I love citrus-y vs. grassy… love big jammy reds that aren’t too battery-acid tannic or too earthy (yack). Don’t need anything that costs an ovary per glass, either. I’d almost always rather drink red – except for the fact that it turns my teeth purple, and except in the summertime when it’s hotter than hades.  You get my jam – anyhow…  This year, I’ve taken stock of the wines I’ve run across that were REALLY great – and relatively reasonable.  SO, here are my faves under $25 (most around $15)… because I’m sure we all need to restock before NYE.  And because I’m sure THIS reality is probably setting in for just about everyone right about now:

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REDS

La Atalaya del Camino 2013 ($17)… I buy it locally (in LA) at Lincoln Fine Wines.  Superb.  Tasting notes: “Suggestive aromas of juicy black fruit and red fruit, alongside creamy notions of spices, vanilla, toffee and moka over a fresh, balsamic background.”

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Piatelli Vineyards Premium Reserve Malbec, $14.  Kudos to Mountain Spirits on Elk for always hand-picking and stocking $15 bottles of wine that taste like $100 bottles of wine.  One of my all-time faves.  Tasting notes: “Decadent aromas of meat, blueberry and mineral. Slate too. Full-bodied, tight and chewy with a lovely texture and freshness. Just a hint of toasted oak and walnuts.”

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True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $18 at Trader Joe’s.  I’ve been loving Paso wines this year; this one might be my fave from there.  Grabbed this a few nights ago for dinner at my Mom’s.  Plus look how pretty the bottle is?  Slap a taper candle in that bad boy when you’re done and light er up.  Tasting notes: “…abundance of blue and black fruit to sweeten, the chalky tannins and earth “soil” play up the savory and mineral tones of this rustic red… serious big oak-caramel and black cherry coming in from the mid-palate to finish… straightforward feel in its red currants, licorice and spice.”

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Daou Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, $23.  Daou never disappoints.  Fun fact: Nick – my cabinet guy I design custom cabs for (kitchens & baths & built-ins) did all the custom cabinetry for their winery this year. #baller.  Tasting notes: “Rich deep dark berry color with creamy mocha-espresso flavors is the first impression of this wine. The tannins are well integrated with the fruit and create a long finish that keeps going. It’s full bodied with a saturated finish while accompanied by bright acidity and infused by black current and cooked blueberry fruit.”

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Chateau Thomas-Laurent Bordeaux 2014, $12.  I think a good Bordeaux is hard to find… and it’s not always the first varietal I reach for, but this is a find.  Another Mountain Spirits score.  Tasting notes: “…initial scent reveals fresh fruits and whiffs of earth, flavors follow with the same notes, adding plums and herbs.”

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Pali Bluffs Russian River Pinot Noir 2014, $23.  I ordered this for the table when my mom was in San Diego last Spring, and it was $75 at George’s at the Cove (most overpriced place ever with the best view of the water at sunset).  Don’t tell them I said this, but it was worth every penny there, so it’s like highway robbery at $23.  Tasting notes: “…oak present from the start, adding to the plushness of the tannin and taste of vanilla and spice. Plum jam gives way to juicier cherry and berry, with an underlying yeastiness that presents like baked bread.”

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Santa Barbara Valley Syrah Santa Ynez Valley 2012, $20.  Tasting notes: “…flavors of white pepper and lavender, with a jammier full fruit character.”

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WHITES

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2014, $12.  I buy mine at Trader Joe’s.  Light & on the sweeter, peachier (but not too sweet) side.  Tasting notes: “…from crisp white peach, honeyed pear and sweet mango, to touches of fresh jasmine blossom and white chai tea.”

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Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc 2015, $12.  TWELVE DOLLAH BILLS and this stuff is DUL-LICIOUS.  Hands-down my favorite white; everyone I have poured it for raves about it.  Tasting notes: “refreshing with rich, lingering layers of citrus, honeydew melon and pineapple.”

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Burgans Albarino 2014, $13.  Hate to be a one-trick pony but kudos again to the sommelier at Mountain Spirits.  Found this one this summer and it went down REAL EASY.  Pedronelli is still my fave, but this is a goodie.  Really tough to find though – I also snap it up from Lincoln Wines in LA.  Tasting notes: “Powerful scents of pineapple, mango and white flowers, with a chalky overtone. Supple and round in the mouth, offering juicy tropical fruit avors and a bracing note of lemon zest.”

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La Crema Chardonnay 2014, $20.  This one goes out to my girl KP, who has a mini-fridge in her sweet Malibu beach studio, and fills up 3/4 of it with bottles of this. Tasting notes: “…opens with layered aromas of fresh Meyer lemon, shortbread and ripe pear. On the palate are flavors of baked, locally grown, Gravenstein apple framed by hints of sweet spice and white peach.”

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Bottoms up & Merry Christmas!!!

xoxo,

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How to Assemble the Most Perfect Cheese Board – By the Foremost Expert Herself

Boards By Mae cheese board | Covet Living

We have two theories around cheese boards. A) They’re porn for women. If we’re on Pinterest and see a heaping pile of charcuterie on a slab, our a*ses are clicking on that picture so fast. And B), it’s not humanly possible to not light up at the sight of a badass cheese platter. It’s just not. So we’re very excited to have the creator of Boards By Mae – badass Mae Bergan – on the blog today giving us the scoop on how to assemble the greatest cheese board for any occasion. Take it away, Ms. Mae:

Mae Bergan | Boards by Mae | Covet Living

I began starting making cheese boards about four years ago. After moving to New York, working late and having little time to prepare full meals – a cheese board was an easy (and filling) solution, although, definitely more expensive.. and fattening.
As the years went on, I began making them for family and friend’s functions and wanted to make each one more beautiful and tasteful from the last. I learned all about different types of cheeses, regions they originated from, what the perfect accoutrement is to pair with each cheese and meat, and the perfect quantities for the amount of guests being served. My cheese books began to outweigh by cook books, and my (now) fiancé was concerned most of my money was going to local cheese shops.
Boards by Mae | Covet Living
Now, as an interior designer, I think my boards have really been taken up a notch. My eye for design has been my hardest critic. I recently launched my own website, Boards by Mae  and am being hired to design and set up boards for all sorts of events and parties. The next phase for the shop will be to launch handmade wooden boards to sell (and rent as part of my collection packages), that I’m actually working on with my dad, an interior architectural woodworker where I can attribute most of my passion for design.
I truly love creating boards for my customers. I’m inspired by the lost, old world of at-home hostessing, and love to bring that beautiful curation back to entertaining. Each board is designed to be the central space where friends and family gather round.
Boards by Mae | Covet Living
Here, I share with you 5 tips I’ve learned over the years to design the most perfect cheese board:
1. Establish a budget
Ok, I hate budgets – but they’re vital when creating a cheese board. You can very quickly spend your entire paycheck. Once your budget is solidified everything else will have structure and you can take it from there.
2. Pick a theme
Ok, I hate themes, too. But what I mean more is what vibe are you try to portray with your board? A lot of the time, the cheese board is the first thing your guests will see and engage with, so it needs to really set the tone for your event. Is it a backyard summer night mediterranean soiree? If so, load up on the harder cheeses, fresh figs, and citrus. Is it a black tie holiday cocktail party? You bet there will be dark chocolate and pomegranate seeds.
3. Analyze the amount of guests/cheese ratio
I’m an over buyer by nature, so it took some serious training to not buy too much meats and cheeses, etc. The rule of thumb, 3-4 ounces for person. If you’re serving a smaller group (under 20 people), it’s ok to have more types of cheeses at less quantities. For large groups (over 20 people), keep the quantities higher, and have less different types of cheeses.
4. Do your research and make your shipping list
Once your theme is selected, Pinterest search your heart out to see what sort of foods and visuals come to life when people thing of the vibe you’re looking for. Then make your shopping list. List out cheeses, meats (if serving), jams/honeys/sauces, and anything else you want to add.
5. Layer. Layer. Layer.
I always start with cheese. It should acclimate to room temperature before served anyways, so it’s the perfect first step. Once the cheeses are on your board, layer on the crackers/breads, then layer on the small bowls filled with jams, honey, etc. After that, add in your meats. Less is more with meats, from both an aesthetic and appetite perspective. You can always replenish throughout the night. After the main characters are all added, layer on your decorate (and sometimes decorate and edible) elements — the fresh fruits, hand tied herb bunches, fresh greenery, etc. Last layer? Utensils! Essential.
Boards by Mae cheese platter 2 | Covet Living
All in all, it isn’t a quick or easy task. It takes creativity, money, and time. But if you take the time, your reward will be a beautiful board you will be proud of and your guests will surely love.
— Mae
Mae is an interior designer, and cheese board builder, living and working in Brooklyn
You can find her work at boardsbymae.com and @maebergan
Other works of art by Mae:

Boards by Mae | Covet Living

Boards by Mae | Covet Living

Boards by Mae | Covet LIving

Boards by Mae | Covet Living

Boards by Mae | Covet Living

xoxo,

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