These represent the best of what California Chardonnay can be, although they are mostly in the big-big-big oak and buttery buttered butter style.
- Talbott “Cuvee Audrey”
- Patz and Hall Hyde Vineyard
- MacRostie “Wildcat Mountain” Chardonnay
- Hyde de Villaine Carnero
- Beringer Sbragia
Good Value Pinot Noir
Nether thought this would happen, but sure as hell, it has. There is good Pinot for under $25. If you are telling yourself, “I know a bunch of good Pinots for under $25”, then you are in desperate need of a Wine 101 class. Some of these have been around for a while and maybe harder to find, especially since I have been buying them all by the case.
- Siduri “Sonatera”
- Robert Stemmler Nugent Vineyard
- Picket Fence Russian River Valley
- Kenwood Russian River Valley
- Gundlach Bundschu
Luxury Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa
A great deal of excellent Cabernet has seen price reductions, most likely because high-end wineries are in desperate need of cash.
- Bacio Divino To Kalon Vineyard
- Robert Craig Howell Mountain
- Lail Vineyards “Blueprint”
- Heitz 1998 Martha’s Vineyard
- Pine Ridge Oakville
- Ramey Larkmead Vineyard
- Rockledge Vineyards
Find these wines here: The Wine Finder
There are some excellent Spanish wines in the market right now, with a strong focus on Priorat. Not sure how or why there is a glut of wines from one of the greatest wine regions in the world, most of which is listed at good prices.
- Manga del Brujo Red
- Mas de l’Abundancia Fluminus
- Cims de Porrera Solanes
- Buil And Gine Priorat
- Cellars Capafons-Osso “Mas de Masos” Priorat
Lately, the Italian wines have gotten very interesting, with a lot of 2003 Brunello and some single-vineyard Barolo.
- Donnafugata Mille Una Notte
- Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino
- Terriccio Tassinaia
- Michele Chiarlo Barolo Brunate
- Luiano Lui di Luiano
Glad to see a few old favorites at great prices.
- Bacio Divino Pazzo
- Luna Estate Sangiovese
Find these wines here: The Wine Finder
Good quality that will do quite well whenever a white wine is called for.
- Pieropan Soave Classico
- Source Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
- Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc
Fun, Dumb, and Delicious: the Whites
Great for folks who don’t drink often. Top-notch wines for newbies.
- Pillar Box White
- Hedges CMS
- Pirie Estelle Tasmania
Fun, Dumb, and Delicious: the Reds
These are the easiest drinking bunch of quality wines I have ever seen. Fruit bombs!
- Rolf Binder “Hales” Shiraz
- Bleasdale “Bremerview” Shiraz
- X Winery Spring Mountain Merlot
Serious (but cheap) Reds
These are very well made and offer up some varietal and regional typicity. Serious wines but at a very good price.
- Columbia Crest “Reserve” Syrah
- Domaine de la Soleiade Vacqueyras
- Wolf Blass “Gold Label” Cabernet Sauvignon
Personally, I think this blend is intrinsically flawed. These wines don’t make it into the school cellar often. However, these five are so good they almost change my opinion. Almost.
- B Cellars Blend 25 from Napa
- Bacio Divino Vagabond from Napa
- Hall Darwin from Napa
- Antiyal Kuyen from Chile
- Parson’s Flat Shiraz/Cabernet from Australia
This week, the major media outlets continue their reports on how E & J Gallo was duped into selling fake Pinot Noir. Last week, a French court convicted the leaders of several wine companies in the scheme. The wine in question was actually Merlot and Syrah, which was bound for Gallo’s “Red Bicyclette” brand. Poor silly little Gallo!
Gallo is being portrayed as being a somewhat inept corporation that was duped by a few winemakers and negotiants in the Languedoc region of France. However, Gallo is well known in the industry for being one of the smartest, best run wine companies in the world: a billion dollar enterprise respected for its ability to create, distribute and sell brands. This is a company that turned a brand concept (Da Vinci) into one of the best-selling brands of Italian wines in the span of five years.
Would such a company purchase millions of dollars of wine without a scrupulous audit, or without a team of wine professionals inspecting every batch? Probably not. Pinot Noir from Languedoc is of very poor quality, which is why they produce very little of it. On the other hand, the region produces an ocean of decent syrah, and does so very cheaply.
I find it hard to believe that Gallo did not know about the switch. Gallo is the king of market research: it knows people want to buy Pinot Noir, it also knows that Pinot Noir that retails for less than $10 is crap, it also knows that people who are buying Pinot Noir for less than $10 have two priorities: Price and taste.
You can’t tell a bargain-hunting consumer that there is no such thing as a decent Pinot for $8. Instead of selling them horrendous wine, why not sell them something decent, even if it’s not Pinot Noir? Everyone wins.
Everyone except the 12 people who were convicted of fraud last week. It’s interesting that no one, not even those charged with serious crimes, has even proposed the idea that Gallo actually knew about the switch. Is it because Gallo is beyond reproach or or because Gallo wields such a huge amount of power in a crumbing economy?
Keith’s Cheat Sheet
Back in the day when Jonathan Newman ran the PLCB, his Chairman’s Selections were often amazing. The program is still alive, although lacking in quality control. The program still offers some great wines at stupendously cheap prices. However, the buyer has to be very careful; there are a lot of stinkers out there, too.
As a service to our loyal students, here is our internal list of the best of the best wines in the PLCB system and its Chairman’s Selection program. Wines don’t make this list unless they are priced below wholesale and of exceptional quality. In other words, these are the best of the best…. and the cheapest too!
Find these wines here: The NEW Wine Finder