Last week’s column featured some of the great wines of California’s elite Rutherford district. Alas, the wines of this special region come at great price and many of you rolled your eyes over our suggestion that you open the wallet for one of them. At more than $100 a bottle you could buy a case of something else that was just fine. As one of you wrote, can any of these wines taste 10 times better than a $12 bottle of wine?
For most of you, the answer is a resounding “no.” So, as penance for a column that left you nothing to buy, this week we’re featuring 10 incredibly great values that should give you relief. These are wines we have tasted year after year and which never fail to please. Oftentimes, they are discounted. They should be relatively easy to find at your local wine shop.
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($12). Just about every red wine made by this Washington producer is gold. The cabernet sauvignon has surprisingly good complexity with dark fruit notes and a hint of vanilla. The producers ridiculously delicious 2016 H3 cabernet sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills is only $15 and has loads of blackberry and black cherry fruit.
- Lohr Paso Robles Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($17). What J. Lohr lacks in complexity is made up by loads of fruit-forward flavors. They define “luscious” in the world of wine whether it be its pinot noir, merlot or cabernet sauvignon. This gem has blueberry aromas and cherry, strawberry flavors with a good dose of cocoa powder and mocha.
- Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2917 ($16). Yes, you can buy good French wine under $20. Just look to the Cotes du Rhone where syrah, grenache, mourvedre and other grape varieties combine to create tasty wines with the acidity you need to pair them with grilled foods. We love the Gigondas made by this producer, but the value is in its simple Cotes du Rhone.
- Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone 2017 ($14). This reputable producer from the Rhone Valley always makes a wine that over delivers. This medium body wine has generous raspberry flavors with strong acidity and a hint of licorice.
- Benziger North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($15). Nice and crisp, this value sauvignon blanc has pineapple and citrus flavors with a dash of minerality.
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2017 ($18). From the Livermore Valley where vineyard property is significantly less costly than in Napa Valley, Wente takes advantage of early ripening grapes to create a delicious chardonnay year after year. This one has citrus and apple flavors with a dose of minerality.
- Marietta Old Vine Red ($16). In place of a vintage, this Sonoma County producer labels the wine with a lot number, which allows it to make more than one batch in a year. We’ve been enjoying this wine literally for decades and it still amazes us for the price. Zinfandel based, the recipe changes every year but generally blends a lot of grape varieties grown on old vines. Nothing complex here – just delicious fruit that makes music with grilled burgers, pizza and ribs.
- Can Blau Montsant 2017 ($14). From the Montsant region of Spain, this wine over-delivers in forward, luscious fruit. A blend of red grape varieties, it has a generous floral, lavender aroma with ripe dark berry fruit flavors.
- Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc ($14). If you like the grassy, herbaceous flavors of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, try this stellar version. Classic grapefruit and lime flavors merge with vibrant acidity to take the edge off a warm August day.
- Hugel Gentil 2018 ($14). This is a versatile white wine from Alsace to serve with summer outdoor fare. A blend of six grape varieties, it has a smooth texture and loads of stone fruit flavors with a dash of spice.
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc 2017 ($35). We loved this delicious blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc from Columbia Valley. It is the combination of grapes that makes white Bordeaux so famous but rarely adopted by American wine producers. The semillon blunts the bracing acidity and pungent grassy flavors of most sauvignon blancs. The Chaleur Blanc is fermented sur lie in French oak barrels to round off the flavors and provide a rich texture. Stone fruit and citrus aromas mingle with lemon curd, tropical fruit and mango flavors.
- Double Diamond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($70). A collaboration between Fred Schrader and Schrader Cellars, this full-bodied cabernet sauvignon is impressive for its tannin structure and classic Napa Valley flavors of dark cherries and black currants. Blended with just a bit of merlot, it is a wine that can be enjoyed now with grilled steak or set aside for a few years.
- Balletto Pinot Gris 2018 ($20). We enjoyed the lush peach and citrus flavors in this simple but delicious wine from the Russian River Valley.