Good Wines/Good Value
Good Value Wines...
We can't think of any California wineries that have much respect for a ten dollar bill. Many in Napa ask you for
$20-$50 merely for the privilege of them
"allowing" you to taste their wines (in hopes you'll spend the king's
ransom it takes to secure a bottle of wine).
We have a great selection of wines in the $6-$20 range which have character and
are good examples of their type and style.
We spend a lot of time and devote much effort into searching for wines which
over-perform for their price.
The San Francisco Chronicle printed an article on "Bargain Wines" (a
few years ago now) and
our little wine emporium was cited as being a Bay Area leader in value-priced
We've found some customers only think to come to Weimax when they're looking for
a "special" bottle of wine, but please know we have really fine
"everyday" bottles, too.
Many stores offer "wines they can sell." Our philosophy is quite
different: We feature "wines we can recommend." Heck, we
like to enjoy a great wine for which we've not spent so much money.
A low price does not make for a good value. A wine must be of good
quality, first and foremost. A good "value" is a wine which
tastes more expensive than its price tag indicates. Simply being cheap
does not make for "good value."
We hear from some people, speaking about some famous cheap wines, "Well,
it's not bad for the price."
We disagree, especially when "it's
not good for the price," either.
In any case, please know we have more respect for a ten dollar bill than most
Here are some suggestions from our current offerings:
Updated May 2018
BORSAO GARNACHA Still SALE PRICED $6.99
the Aragon region of Spain comes this amazingly "soulful" wine.
It's dark in color and teeming with berryish fruit and a mildly spice note.
It's a bit reminiscent of Beaujolais but with raspberry-like notes instead of
A blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo....this delicious!
We typically chill this for an hour in the 'fridge...
Please note: Aside from the fact that this is a dynamite bottle of wine for six
bucks-and-change, it makes a superb Sangria!
ROQUEVALE'S "COZINHA VELHA" RED
WINE SALE $5.99
The wine is a blend of Castelão, Aragonez and Trincadeira.. They claim
it's been matured for 6 months in wood. French oak, even.
We are not sure how they make such a nice little wine and get it here for six
bucks, but you ought to taste it and see what you think.
VIU MANENT CABERNET SAUVIGNON
SALE PRICE $6.99
big fans of this producer. While you can buy thin, watery, sweet wine from
California's Central Valley under labels such as Mondavi's Woodbridge or other
dry, medium-full bodied red of exceptional intensity in this price range.
No oak. A couple of weeks' maceration on the skins, so this even has a bit
of tannin! And it's dry.
SALE PRICE $7.49
Here's a dynamite red
wine from Portugal's Douro Valley, a region that's famous for Port.
This is made of some of the same grapes that go into Port, except the wine is
Touriga Nacional. Touriga Francesa. Tinta Barroca. Tinta
You'll find some wonderfully spicy, peppery notes here as we liken this to a
good Côtes du Rhône. The importer now brings in only the
"Reserva" bottling...it's a buck, or so, more expensive but well worth
If you pour this into a fancy decanter and give it an hour or two to
"breathe," your wine 'geek' friends will all guess this as something
far more noble than an every
TAMMELINI SOAVE $14.99
Brothers Gaetano & Pio-Francesco Tammelini keep a rather low profile.
We drove around the hills just north of Soave looking for their winery and the
place is well-hidden.
No sign. No winery tanks visible from the road...
But damn, they make a great bottle of Soave.
So many Soave wines resemble a bottle of Crystal Geyser water and then these
Here's a great bottle of white wine with a remarkably fruity fragrance...peaches
It's dry and crisp on the palate and has the intense flavors you'd expect given
I brought a bottle to dinner at the home of a prominent winemaker in Italy...we
were disappointed that I didn't have a second bottle in my bag as this
disappeared much too quickly.
Our former colleague Kareasa sent a text after we insisted she buy a bottle:
Yes, it is "damned good."
If you've been drinking simple Pinot Grigio,
check out a bottle of this.
- CHIROULET CÔTES DE GASCOGNE "TERRES
The Fezas family owns this excellent estate in Gascony and we view this as a
"top of the market" white wine from the Southwest of France.
The name "Chiroulet" refers to the sound the wind makes as it
whistles over the hills of their vineyards and a spalsh of this in a big
wine glass will certainly whet your whistle.
The wine is typically 50% Gros Manseng and then there's about 40% Sauvignon
Blanc with 10% old vines Ugni Blanc.
It's dry and fresh, with notes reminiscent of ripe peach along with a touch
of melon-like fruit.
Despite Philippe Fezas spending much of his week selling French oak barrels
to the top Bordeaux wineries, this wine has no wood influence.
It doesn't need oak...
This is one of the best dry whites from the Gascogne appellation...it's
seriously good and yet costs a mere $11.99.
As you can see, the bottle is standard and the label is a bit bland, even if
the wine is not.
GATO NEGRO CABERNET/MERLOT SALE $5.99
- This is vinified
in the style of Beaujolais, so you'll find a very fruity, berryish quality
to the wine. We find it enjoyable as a picnic red and like it served
moderately chilled, since it's smooth and virtually without
They now are sold in a screw-cap bottle.
DREYER SONOMA "Sonoma County"
CHARDONNAY SALE $10.99
The Dreyer family (who live close to
Burlingame, actually) know the value of a buck.
They also know the value of a bottle of wine.
Have a look at the label of most ten-buck bottles of California wine and you'll
see the nebulous appellation of "California" on the bottle>
This allows a winery to obscure the origin of their Central Valley-grown table
Some vintners built wine bottling facilities in prestigious places such as Napa
to confuse consumers and hoodwink them into thinking the California wine in the
bottle may come from someplace of good quality.
The grapes come from the Sonoma side of the Carneros region. The juice was
fermented in oak, with 28% of the barrels being new.
It's fermented to dryness and has less than 14% alcohol, so it's not a
We like the ripe apple and pear-like Chardonnay fruit and the faintly toasty
notes of the wood.
Kudos the the Dreyers for offering such a good wine at such an honest price.
JF QUÉNARD CHIGNIN $14.99
Everyone in the town of Chignin seems to be
named Quénard and there are signs for each Quénard winery as you arrive in
We've long been fans of the wine of Jean-François Quénard...the wines are
always good and they arrive here with a most attractive price-tag.
The grape for the basic Chignin wine is Jacquère.
It grows in a stony terroir on a lovely hillside that makes cultivating these
vines a challenge.
The wine has no oak and it's mildly aromatic and stony.
We routinely order a bottle of this in a favorite San Francisco restaurant where
they ask about $40 for this $12.99 bottle.
But you know what? The wine is terrific and worth it.
CHÂTEAU DE CUGAT BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEUR
When we first tasted this well-priced Bordeaux we
were delighted to find such a good wine at an attractive price.
The property was owned by a fellow named Benoit Meyer and he was really serious
about making good wine. In fact, we discovered he was a bit of a wine geek
and we opened some bottles of far more fancy wine when we dined with him.
He relished driving around the Right Bank and pointing out the really
prestigious estates along the way. He knew them all and he knew their
This, perhaps, was one reason he made such good wine. He knew what the
neighbors made and wanted to produce something worthy of comparison even though
his wine sold for much less.
Some old bottles appreciated and enjoyed by Benoit Meyer...
IL POGGIO SANGIOVESE di ROMAGNA Sale $6.99
This comes from a rather large winery in Emilia Romagna and it's not a
particularly profound or exceptional red wine.
It's not supposed to be profound or exceptional.
Yet we have many fans who buy this as an accompaniment to a simple plate of
Spaghetti & Meatballs or Lasagna...the wine simply "works"
well on the dinner table (no table cloth, please!).
It's a well-made, easy-to-drink, lighter bodied red wine.
BLISS Mendocino County SAUVIGNON BLANC
A fellow named Irv Bliss had visited Mendocino
back in the late 1930s and was taken with the landscape. Some years later
he bid on a property there, sight unseen. Apparently he felt
"ignorance is bliss." Lo and behold, it was the same place
he'd falling in love with on his lone visit.
Bliss grew figs, had a few vines and mostly raised sheep and cattle.
Today Irv's heirs make wine there and their main label is Brutocao with Bliss
being their more modestly-priced wines.
We were looking for a good value in California Sauvignon Blanc and narrowed it
down to this and one from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. The Sonoma Sauvignon
comes from what most would consider to be a more "noble" appellation,
but we chose the Bliss wine because it was simply the superior wine.
It would be easier to sell the first bottle of the other wine, but we're more
interested in quality than image.
This is a light, dry white...one of the few California white wines in this price
category that's got some character and that's dry.
Heck, we taste a lot of stupidly-priced Sauvignons that don't have this quality
and yet they're expensive.
FILIPPO GALLINO NEBBIOLO LANGHE
Filippo Gallino, who's in his late 70s, still
keeps an eye on the vineyards and cellar tended by his son Gianni.
They're in the Roero region of Piemonte and they make good, solid wines.
We were delighted when mentioning Gallino's name to other winemakers how all
spoke glowingly about Filippo and his work. He's well-respected by his
neighbors and this certainly validates the efforts made by the Gallino family.
We have a small display of the Filippo Gallino Nebbiolo Langhe in the front of
the shop. The wine is well-priced and it's a good example of Nebbiolo:
brickish in color, light cherry notes with a mildly floral tone...bone dry,
crisply acidic and moderately tannic. Given how many people come into the
shop requesting low acid California wines which often sport some residual sugar,
we're thrilled to see people return to buy a second (or third or fourth) bottle
of this Nebbiolo.
It's NOT a universally-appealing wine as it's made for Adult Palates, not kids.
The snappy acidity and mild "bite" from grippy tannins is so different
from the wines found in grocery stores and chain liquor stores which feature
wines made at the direction of a marketing department.
This Nebbiolo is made by people who "toil in the vineyards" and who
make wine with the idea that it's a meal-time beverage, not a cocktail with a
piece of fruit and a drinks umbrella in the glass.
If we have not scared you off yet, bravo!
You're likely someone who enjoys "real" wine.
So come snap up a bottle of this...the price is right and the quality is in the
"Wine and music make the heart rejoice"
ROGER PERRIN CÔTES DU RHÔNE BLANC
You might know the Perrin name already as there's a
prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape winery called Beaucastel that's owned by one
This is not that Perrin.
We have said those famous Perrins own Beaucastel while Roger Perrin has
The "other" Perrin clan has a bustling business in the Southern Rhône,
marketing a full range of wines. They do a good job of buying and selling
This little domaine only makes wine from their estate vineyards, tended by them,
harvested by them and vinified and bottled by them.
We mostly sell their wonderful Châteauneuf-du-Pape...it's excellent quality and
the price is right.
Their Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc has also been a winner.
The vines are roughly twenty years old.
It's a terrific blend featuring Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette
It's this last grape that really sings nicely here as you'll detect peach and
No oak. Dry. Very showy.
Sure, it's not Condrieu, the prestigious benchmark wine made of Viognier, but
it's not Condrieu-priced, either.
CANTINE DUE PALME PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA $13.99
The wines of Puglia don't get a lot of attention, despite the
efforts of its leading independent wineries.
Tuscany's Antinori family makes wine there and some are pretty nice, albeit you
pay the "royalty" tax for it being an Antinori property.
We prefer paying solely for the wine, frankly.
Cantine Due Palme is a relatively newish winery, founded in 1989 by a fellow
named Angelo Maci. His family had a winery but her realized there's
"strength in numbers" (don't the Golden State Warriors say that about
their basketball team?), so he invited 15 neighbors to join him in launching a
little co-op cellar.
Today there are more than a thousand neighbors participating in the Due Palme
enterprise and they make some good wines.
There are four cellars in this company, too, so it's not exactly a tiny family
enterprise. But the average grower tends to a mere 2.5 hectares. so each
vineyard site isn't exactly huge.
The wines are routinely bright, dry and well-vinfied.
Primitivo, as you may know, is said to be a very close cousin to
Zinfandel...we'd say this combines elements of Zinfandels typically found in
Lodi and Lake Counties...and it's well-priced.
Medium-full bodied and fairly soft...not a wine for cellaring, this is best
consumed shortly after purchase.
DOMAINE DE COLETTE
We asked winemaker Jacky Gauthier why the winery
isn't named after his lovely wife Evelyne, but after, apparently, some other
woman named Colette.
As a result of such a query, Gauthier and Evelyne this we are out of our mind.
"Colette," you see, refers to the hill where Gauthier's home and
neighboring vineyards are situated.
The main thing is the Domaine de Colette wines are great examples of
Beaujolais...teeming with red fruits such as strawberry tones and raspberry.
The Beaujolais-Villages is a delight. Best served lightly chilled, this is
as gentle as a white wine but with lots of fruity notes.
Gauthier was amused and delighted when we contacted him recently to help in
translating the Colette website. We told him we sell far more of his
Beaujolais than we do from the famed "King of Beaujolais," Georges
We finally informed Jacky that we do not sell DuBoeuf's wines...so, of course we
sell more of Domaine de Colette.
But still...this is a really good Beaujolais and it's from a steep slope with 80
year old vines.
The local importer requests the wine be bottled without being filtered.
RESERVE DE L'AUBE SYRAH / MERLOT BLEND $7.99
- The Brotte family, long-time Rhone specialists, produce this
medium-bodied blend featuring Syrah and Merlot.
The wine is vinified for immediate drinking, so plan on opening your
bottle within 10 minutes to 2 years of purchase.
We had noted a hint of a brown spice tone in the wine a few years ago, but
today it's more red berry sorts of fragrances and flavors.
LOOSEN'S "DR. L"
RIESLING SALE $10.99
Brothers Ernst and Thomas Loosen make so stellar Mosel
Rieslings from their Dr. Loosen estate. They own parcels in many famous
sites and make an impressive array of impressive wines.
Some years ago they had the idea of making a good, entry-level Riesling in hopes
of introducing Mosel wines to a broader audience.
As a result you won't find a litany of hard-to-pronounce words on this label.
No Ürziger Würzgarten Grosses Gewächs Alte Reben Riesling Spätlese on the
Instead all you have to remember is Dr. L Riesling.
The wine is floral and fruity with noticeable sweetness. However, the
sugar is offset, as is normal for good German wine, with ample acidity.
If you're looking for a good quality white wine with a touch of sweetness, we
prescribe a bottle of Dr. L.
Tuscan Red $8.99
a simple Sangiovese from southwestern Tuscany. It's made by the Mantellasi
The local importer designed the label which is a photo he took of four old
fellows sitting on a bench discussing the latest soccer game or what they had
for dinner last night.
The guys don't give a damn about numerical point scores and they don't like
mass-market wines made by some marketing guru who's telling the winemaker they
need inky black color, fake oak and some residual sugar in the wine to appeal to
people who don't normally drink wine.
It's a remarkably good wine and arrives here at an honest price, thanks to a
good Bay Area importer.
No oak. Nice cherry-like fruit and it's
terrific with simple Italian-styled foods.
CAVE DE RASTEAU COTES DU RHONE
a large grower's co-operative in the town of Rasteau in the Southern Rhone.
Our friend Valerie Aigron works there, having spent time out of France
working in the wine biz. She's back "home" now and is one of
the crew at this big producer.
The Cave de Rasteau is well-regarded as a source of "good" wine
and they offer it as pricing which is quite attractive.
The 2011 Cotes du Rhone is not a profound, hugely complex, compelling bottle
of wine. It's not intended to be so. They make this with the
idea the consumer will buy it and open the screw-cap within, probably an
hour or two of purchase (maybe sooner).
The wine is competently made and it's grown with the idea they're making
economically-priced wine, Grenache, mostly, with 20% Cinsault
and 10% Carignane. It's a lighter bodied red wine, which works out
well, since it's lighter-priced, too.
We enjoy this served at cool cellar temp.
CASAL GARCIA VINHO VERDE $6.99
This is a famous Portuguese white wine...it's low
in alcohol, light in flavor and has just the right amount of oak...none!
CHÂTEAU DE LA CANTRIE MUSCADET $9.99
- Muscadet is a delightfully dry, crisp, light white wine from the western
part of France's Loire Valley. It's made of a grape called "Melon
de Bourgogne" and this sort of wine pairs handsomely with
oysters, We've enjoyed it with fried calamari, too.
People who know something about French wine know Muscadet.
People who know "a little bit" about wine are befuddled.
Typically this is the conversation in a wine shop:
Wine Shop Staffer: "If you're looking for a good seafood
white that's economical, perhaps you might enjoy a Muscadet."
Customer: "Oh, but we don't like sweet wines."
Wine Shop Staffer: "Muscadet is actually a dry wine.
It's not sweet at all."
Customer: "Oh please! I know more about wine than you
do. Muscats are always sweet."
Wine Shop Staffer: "Never mind. Would you like to see
a bottle of Kendull Jackson Chardonnay?"
CHÂTEAU LA CROIX CALENDREAU BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEUR
How's this for confusing?
The man who owns this estate also has a winery in the St. Emilion appellation
and that wine is also called
La Croix Calendreau!
It costs a lot more money though.
Here's a nicely made Bordeaux that's based on Merlot. It's from a 3
hectare estate which is on clay soils and is flat enough to pick the grapes
using a mechanical harvester.
The wine is vinified in stainless steel and they leave the skins in contact with
the juice/wine for about a month.
This contributes a bit of weight and intensity to the wine, though it's not a
heavy or ponderous red.
We enjoyed a few glasses of this with a Cassoulet...a good pairing for simple
peasant cuisine for simple peasants.
It's quite drinkable now and we expect the wine can last for maybe five or six
years, though it's not intended for extended cellaring, so don't think you're
going to have a wine such as Château Lafite-Rothschild.
DOMITIA PICPOUL DE PINET $12.99
Domaine Guillamarine sells most of its fruit to
a local grower's co-op winery, but they keep a small quantity for their own
production and make this Domitia wine.
Domitia refers to a road the Romans built 2100+ years ago starting in Italy and
finishing in Spain.
Marion and Guillaume Allies live in the Languedoc village called Pomerols and
they're not far from the Bassin de Thau, a hotbed of oyster cultivation.
Guess what white wine pairs handsomely with oysters?
In the Occitan language the word "picpoul" translates to "lip
That's likely because the wine made of the Picpoul grape used to be screamingly
high in acidity.
Warmer growing seasons and better cultivation methods (and picking decisions)
allow for the production of a wine that's easily drinkable. Oak barrels
are not used to produce this wine, so you'll find it light, crisp and dry
DISTRICT 7 MONTEREY PINOT NOIR SALE
The name "District 7" is not some notion from the
Hunger Games movies.
It stems from California having 17 numbered grape-growing districts.
Monterey is, according to the California Agriculture department, District 7.
If you're keeping track, District 3 is Sonoma and Marin, while Napa is District
The Scheid family launched the District 7 brand some years ago
and it's a reasonably-priced red that actually shows notes of Pinot Noir on both
the nose and palate. It's a medium-bodied, gentle red wine.
We've had maybe 4 vintages now and it remains a popular wine with Weimax
CANTELE SALICE SALENTINO RISERVA
The Negroamaro grape is typically found in Italy's Puglia
region in the "heel" of Italy's boot.
The region is gaining fame as a tourist destination, but its wines lag far
behind those of Piemonte and Toscana in terms of price.
On the other hand, if you're looking for good value, Puglia might be a good
place to start your search.
Many wines from Puglia could easily be described as "rustic" in the
not-too-distant past. And it's easy to find some of those sorts of wines
even today if you look hard enough.
But the Cantele family has been making some good, somewhat modern wines for a
number of years.
Thanks to Puglia being in the shadows of other wine regions, prices remain quite
This is a medium-bodied red wine. It's entirely Negroamaro and the wine is
fermented in stainless steel tanks before being racked into seasoned oak barrels
for about half a year.
It's low in tannin, meaning the wine is smooth and it's ready to drink upon
If you're grilling some red meat or making a soulful pasta sauce, consider this
as a good pairing.
As it's so smooth, we like to chill it for about an hour in the 'fridge.
MARIANA (Herdade do Rocim) PORTUGUESE
Mariana is the name of a Portuguese girl who's
widowed father farmed her off to a local convent. When she was an adult,
she struck up a relationship with a French military man who was assisting the
Portuguese army in battling the Spanish in a war lasting more than a couple of
Their relationship was eventually discovered and caused great embarrassment and
somewhat of a stormy scandal.
The Herdade do Rocim winery honors this bit of Portuguese history by making a
wine named after Sister Mariana.
It's quite a good wine, made entirely of the Alicante Bouschet grape.
Small French oak barrels are used to mature the wine and it's fairly full-bodied
without being heavy or ponderous. We like the touch of a cedary note on
CHÂTEAU LESTRILLE Entre Deux Mers
Estelle Roumage learned viticulture and
winemaking from her father, Jean-Louis. She spent a harvest season in New
Zealand to have a bit more experience in making wine and her simple white
Bordeaux from her vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation is routinely
It's predominantly Sauvignon Blanc and the wine is fresh, citrusy and dry.
Really good and classy.
UNDERWOOD Oregon PINOT NOIR (Sale) $9.99
The Union Wine Company in Oregon makes some good wines at affordable
This is typically found in most places for $12-$14.
We sale price it to introduce budget-mind customers to Pinot Noir that actually
tastes like Pinot Noir.
It's not a fancy red, but it is easily recognizable as Pinot Noir.
Most entry-level wines label Pinot Noir are rather anonymous and weak.
This is a good example of Pinot and well-priced.
OISLEY-THESEE "TOURAINE" SAUVIGNON BLANC
a smallish grower's cooperative in the Loire near Touraine called
Oisely-Thesee, a name which doesn't roll off the tongue of most American
We've tasted this wine for many vintages and I think the 2010 is the first
one we've brought in to the shop.
It's always well-made and, from our perspective, a shade skinny.
The 2011 isn't a big wine, nor is it a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc.
But for a nice, crisp, dry and light wine, this shows well, especially for
it's eight-buck price.
It's not as intense as our Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume wines, but most of
those will set you back $17-$25.
If you're steaming some clams or enjoying some fresh Dungeness crab and
looking for a budget-priced bottle, this is worth trying.
STONECAP Washington State MERLOT
The Monson family has been farming in
Washington State's Columbia Valley for many years and in the late 1990s they
decided to plant grapes.
The Monsons had been cattle ranchers before planting apples and cherries.
They hired a feller named Walter Clore who's regarded as the father of the
Washington wine industry. Soon they had well more than a thousand acres of
We gather they sell a lot of fruit and they make wine for their premium Goose
Ridge Estate Vineyard wines and they make this daily-drinker label called
It's a really well-made, simple version of Merlot. Now many California
wines costing much more than ten bucks betray the wine-grower by displaying a
decidedly vegetal, herbal fragrance. This "green" element is a
result of the fruit not really being mature, despite having sufficient sugar to
produce a 13 or 14% alcohol wine. There are often too many grapes-per-acre
being harvested and the fruit isn't really ripe, hence the herbal or green
Stonecap, on the other hand, doesn't have that character and instead you'll find
some red and black fruit notes.
Someone told us this wine was on the by-the-glass list at a prominent San
Francisco restaurant. $15 for a glass.
DUQUESA Spanish White
This lovely little Spanish white wine is made in the Rueda
region os Spain of the Verdejo grape.
It's mildly citrusy and you might mistake it for a Sauvignon Blanc though we
typically detect a note in this wine which recalls, to a small degree, the
fragrance of fresh fennel.
The company is today owned by a Portuguese wine enterprise and they must
certainly be proud to have such a good wine in their portfolio.
The grapes come from vineyards planted in the early 2000s and these are now
considered "mature." The juice is fermented in stainless steel
tanks at controlled, low temperatures to retain fruit. It's a dry, light
white wine, made without oak.
CHÂTEAU LA ROSE DU PIN
ENTRE-DEUX-MERS SALE $8.99
The Ducourt family have a fairly large
winemaking enterprise in Bordeaux.
They own something like 14 different Bordeaux estates and make all sorts of
wines, nothing especially prestigious.
But this white Bordeaux from the Entre-Deux-Mers region is quite attractive and
it's well-priced for its quality.
One of the Ducourt family had purchased two properties in the Entre-Deux-Mers
appellation and they mostly grow red grapes.
But they have 6 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon to produce this tasty
dry white and costing less than ten bucks, it's a winner.
You'll find mildly citrusy notes...the Sauvignon Blanc takes center stage here.
CASE IBIDINI NERO D'AVOLA SALE $11.99
comes from a good winery in Southeast Sicily. It's a family-operated
property and they make a really charming, fruity, berryish Nero d'Avola.
Some of the Nero d'Avola wines coming to the US market are made to a formula
of what some marketing people think American wine drinkers want. As a
result, some Nero d'Avola wines are styled similarly to Chianti, Cabernet
and other red wines, losing their originality.
The Case Ibidini is a medium-bodied to medium-light-bodied Nero d'Avola and
it has a modest level of acidity. It's not as tart as a good
Chianti. We typically chill this to about 50-55 degrees before putting
it on the dinner table (or picnic table, too, for that matter).
LA CABOTTE COTES DU RHONE Sale $10.99
most entry-level bottlings of Cotes du Rhone come from co-op wineries, this
one is a good, smallish, family-operated place owned by a family from
The patriarch of the family had found this property some years ago and was
enchanted by the prospects of having a warm climate, summer vacation
Today they farm about 50 acres, most devoted to grapes, but some to
We'd tasted the wines over the past decade, or so, and it's only since about
2006 or 2007 that we've felt they're on the right track. It's by far the
best ten buck Cotes du Rhone in the market.
DOMAINE DUFFOUR CÔTES DE GASCOGNE $8.99
Duffour is a brilliant producer of white wines...this is a delightful blend,
but predominantly Ugni Blanc and Colombard.
Fresh, dry, and light (lower in alcohol than California Chardonnay, for
example). And yet is remarkably flavorful.
Nobody, tasting this without seeing the price tag, pegs this as a wine
costing nine bucks.
- VIU MANENT RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC SALE $6.99
clearly pushed the vineyards to produce an abundant crop of Sauvignon
Blanc as the wine is a bit light, but still has enough character that you
won't mistake it for anything other than Sauvignon Blanc.
It's dry and non-oaked and is a remarkably nice little wine for cocktail
service or to pair with seafood.
BODEGAS LAN RIOJA CRIANZA
- Bodegas Lan offers a remarkable Rioja of the "Crianza"
The wine is made entirely of Tempranillo and the wine is matured in both
French and American oak barrels (about a year in wood).
This is classic Rioja and for ten bucks, it's a bargain!
We offer it for a low price to introduce customers to Rioja in general,
hoping they will be sufficiently intrigued that they'll explore some of
the $20+ bottles.
This seems to work nicely, as Spain offers some remarkably good wines at
sensible price levels.
In Spain they'd serve this with chuletillas, small
grilled lamb chops. Not a bad way to go. But this can pair
beautifully with a hamburger, too, though for a mere ten bucks for the wine,
maybe you could afford a small rib-eye or New York steak?
Barrels in the cellars of Bodegas Lan
The Protos winery sits in the shadows of the Castillo de Peñafiel
PROTOS Ribera del Duero "12 Meses in Barrica"
The Protos winery began in the late 1920s and today it's a
rather large vineyard and cellar featuring red wines made entirely of
Tempranillo or, as they call it in the Ribera del Duero region: Tinto
The famous wineries of the region offer some really compelling wines but
often at less-than-compelling prices.
We're not saying this wine is quite as good as those from the legendary Vega
Sicilia winery (plan on dropping $150 for the entry-level bottles and
$300-$600 for the heavy hitter offerings), but given the $14.99 price tag of
Protos' Tinto Fino that spends a year in both French and American oak
barrels, you can probably survive.
This displays some dark fruit notes and there's a cedary, woodsy note from
It's intended for immediate drinking, so don't keep this around in the wine
rack for more than a year or two.
PEDRONCELLI FRIENDS.RED SALE $9.99
County fruit...Merlot, Zin and Cab Franc. A touch of oak.
Smooth, medium-bodied red...they had this on the drawing board well before
the current economic downturn, but then Pedroncelli has always had good
wines at honest, old-time prices. It's quite good.
L'HORTUS "Le Loup dans la Bergerie"
RED SALE $10.99
- The Orliac family makes some terrific wines in the Pic Saint Loup
appellation...and we're delighted to find a really affordable little red
wine from them with a name like a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing (more
literally, a wolf in the sheep house).
It's vinified to be immediately drinkable...mostly Grenache with some
Syrah for color and body and a bit of Merlot for marketing.
It's a delightful ten buck red wine...best at cool cellar temp.
TRENTADUE "OLD PATCH RED" SALE 10.99
The Trentadue family owns extensive acreage in Northern
Sonoma...their grapes go into the famous Ridge "Geyserville" wine.
They make a bit of wine of their own and especially price-worthy is their
simple Zinfandel-based blend called "Old Patch Red."
There's Petite Sirah and Carignane in the blend as well, so it's sort of a
Zinfandel-Meets-The-Rhone kind of red.
Medium-full bodied and with a touch of spice.
The Engel winery continues to produce really good wines in Alsace...we've
been fans for more than 20 years and met winemaker Xavier Baril back in the
late 1990s. Now his daughter Amelie is working in the family business
and she's passionate about the world of wine.
This estate flies below the radar in the world of wine and wine
critics. They make a good bottle and offer it for a sensible price.
As a result, European visitors flock to the cellar door and depart with
cases to take back home.
The brand lacks the fanfare of some of their well-marketed neighbors but the
quality is good and the pricing is attractive for actual wine drinkers.
ENGEL PINOT BLANC d'ALSACE $12.99
- This is a really good dry white from a little family vineyard and winery
along the Route du Vin in Alsace...no oak. This shows a lovely appley
fruit aroma and it's dry and has a modest level of acidity.
It's as good as Pinot Blanc from more famous estates.
FORNAS PINOT GRIGIO $9.99
Some friends of ours who live in Italy's Friuli region make this wine.
We used to import some of their wines in the late 1980s and early
1990s...the Bidoli family...
A couple of years ago, we introduced the Bidoli's to a local guy who imports
He didn't buy them that year, but today he's delighted to have some of their
The brand is Fornas, as the Bidoli family purchased an old brick-making
factory and converted it into a winemaking facility. The old
"furnace" now houses stainless steel tanks and some oak barrels as
they produce a nice range of Friulian wines.
- Pinot Grigio is a delight in terms of both taste and price. It's a
non-wooded wine and it's fresh, dry and reasonably crisp without being
SOBON ESTATE "OLD VINES" AMADOR
ZINFANDEL Sale $10.99
The Sobon family has been making good Amador
County wines since the late 1970s. Back then vineyard land didn't cost an
arm and a leg like it does today. As a result the Sobon family has been making
sensibly-priced wines for a few decades.
So many California wines selling for less than $15 usually have a
"California" appellation and come from over-cropped vineyards in the
Central Valley. These wines are typically soulless and "empty,"
relying on some sugar to fill in the gap left by poor quality grapes.
Meanwhile, Sobon's "Old Vine" Zinfandel comes from good,
sustainably-farmed vineyards in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. The
youngest vines are 35 years of age and the oldest are just over 100. The
wine is matured in seasoned American and French oak barrels, so the bright berry
Zinfandel fruit is prominent here.
As this is on the softer side of the spectrum, we like popping a bottle in the
'fridge for 30 to 60 minutes to get it to cool cellar temperature.
It's one of the few bargains in California wine.
LE BOCCE CHIANTI CLASSICO SALE
is a modest estate and they don't toot their own horn in promoting their wine.
This fellow is their winemaker. He's not famous but damn he makes good
We had remarked that their wine didn't have much wood as did (and still do) a
number of prestigious Chianti Classico wines...and he replied
"We're not in the business of selling vanilla here. We make
And, as you can see, the wines are matured in botte grande, large wood
vats which allow the wine to develop and soften without contributing a
forest-full of oak to the wine.
We taste the wine every year before purchasing a new vintage and have to say
this fellow knows what he's doing.
There's modest vintage variation, but the quality of each year is always good
and the wine is priced a bit below the market.
$14.99 on sale presently.
over Portugal, wineries told customers their red wine was made from the
Periquita grape. Finally a court declared that the Periquita name was
a "brand" owned by the Jose Maria da Fonseca winery and that only
they had the rights to the name "Periquita."
It's a bit reminiscent of the usage of the terms "Xerox" and
Anyway, we have Jose Maria da Fonseca's "Periquita," a wine made
of the grape known around Portugal as Castelão.
This is an
easily drinkable, simple red wine. Berries...smooth. Medium
BADIA DI MORRONA CHIANTI Sale
The current bottling of Morrona's little Chianti is Delicious with a capital
It comes from a lovely winery that's close to Pisa (hence
you'll notice it does not say "Chianti Classico" on the label as it's
outside that appellation area.
The estate comprises about 500 hectares but only 90 are devoted to vineyards.
The cellars are in an old monastery.
It's snappy Sangiovese called "I Sodi del Paretaio"
and the wine is medium-bodied and brightly cherryish.
The wine does not see any oak, as they leave it in stainless steel or cement
Not fancy, but for Spaghetti & Meatballs, Lasagna or Italian Sausages on the
grill, this is a nice accompaniment.
Perfect pasta wine as this has the acidity of Sangiovese and it balances the
tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano you'll put on top of the pasta...
SASSOTONDO'S TUFO ROSSO SALE
have had several vintages of this little Tuscan red in the shop and I
finally had a chance to go visit the estate...
It's way out in the middle of nowhere and it's a beautiful little property cultivated
by a charming couple who are dedicated to making good wines (and a
reasonable prices, too!).
The wine is predominantly Sangiovese but the modest 'twist' here is they
rather specialize in a blending grape called Ciliegiolo.
Ciliegie are cherries and the wine actually displays a nice cherry-like
quality. It dove-tails beautifully with their cherryish Sangiovese and
the wine is intended for immediate drinking. It's not a cellar-worthy
wine, though a year, or two, in bottle is certainly possible.
As the wine is bright and fruity (but dry with snappy Sangiovese acidity), we
like to serve this at cool cellar temp. Pop your bottle in the 'fridge for
maybe an hour to get it to 55 degrees, or so.
The wine pairs handsomely with rigatoni and tomato sauce (as seen above), but
it's a good accompaniment to sausages, pizza, etc.
SOBON ESTATE "ROCKY TOP"
* By the way, the allegedly low-priced places
offer this for $19.99 or $17.99 if you buy six bottles and another place is
The Sobon family makes some terrific and
well-priced California wines in the Sierra Foothills.
Their "Rocky Top" bottling is less fruity than the "Old
Vines" listed above on this web page. It comes from a high-elevation
site where you'll find some seriously old vines...some are 100+ years of age and
produce a small, but flavorful crop.
The wine sees a bit of American and French oak, with perhaps 30% of the barrels
being brand new.
This contributes a mildly woodsy spice note in the wine.
The tannin level is low and the wine is remarkably showy.
DOMAINE DES ROMARINS CÔTES DU RHÔNE
The Romarins estate is a small, family operated
property in the Southern Rhône Valley.
We became familiar with their wine when we chided a sales rep for not bringing
any interesting wines for us to consider adding to the shop. She only came
by to take orders for wines we'd had from some California producers. One
day she called to say she had something she thought we might like.
Romarins Côtes du Rhône was excellent and the several succeeding vintages have
also been good and well-priced.
The wine is typically a bit higher-than-normal with its percentage of Syrah
(45%) and a mere 30% Grenache...there's perhaps 20% Carignane and 5% Mourvèdre.
The grapes are all hand-harvested and each variety is vinified separately with a
fairly long maceration, nearly 3 weeks.
The resulting wine has a lot of "soul" for a modestly-priced Rhône
red. Berries and a touch of spice...perfect with lamb or well-seasoned
It shows well in its youth and we would not be surprised to find it cellars well
for maybe 3-5 years.
BIRICHINO MALVASIA BIANCA $14.99
Malvasia grape can make a wonderfully floral and intensely aromatic
Years ago, Beringer made Malvasia as did Santa Clara's San Martin winery...
- Bonny Doon had produced good Malvasia and the guy who gained much
experience there launched his own label, Birichino, and is making this
wonderful wine today.
This has such a beautiful fragrance...perfumy and reminiscent of jasmine
blossoms and a fruit basket, though the wine is actually dry despite all the
Pairing it with Asian dishes is ideal, though a seafood salad with pineapple
or mango works well, too.
MAROTTI CAMPI "RUBICO"
Lacrima di Moro d'Alba SALE $15.99
a most amazing red wine produced in small quantities in Italy's Marche
The area is best known for its Verdicchio wine, a white grape found near
the Adriatic coast and a bit inland...
But there's a red grape called "Lacrima di Moro d'Alba" which
grows around the town of Moro d'Alba. Many people expect this name
to refer to a wine from Piemonte, since there's Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and
The grape nearly had died out but it's on the rebound and makes a
wonderfully distinctive red wine that you'll either love or hate.
The color is dark and inky. The fragrance and flavors, though,
poured into a black glass (so you can see the color) would be identified
by most experts as some sort of Gewurztraminer.
The fragrance shows notes of grapefruit and rose petals, much like great
Gewurztraminer from Alsace or the Alto Adige.
We generally chill a bottle of this to cool cellar temp. It pairs
with all kinds of foods...best with nicely seasoned dishes, though.
Pork, chicken, turkey...we had it with some Chinese take-out and it was
WRONGO DONGO Spanish Red
friend Jorge Ordonez, who imports some stupidly-expensive red wines for
people who believe if they don't spend a load of cash for a bottle of
wine, it must not be any good, brings in some far more drinkable bottles
with small price tags.
One such wine is this one, carrying a phrase Jorge is known to utter on a
regular basis: Wrongo Dongo.
Someone suggested he ought to have a wine with that catch phrase and he
took their advice and one of his producers made the wine for him. It
had a cartoonish face on the label, too. But then there was some
dust-up and the winery and Jorge parted company.
This situation was, to be blunt, Wrongo and Dongo.
But Jorge now has another producer making the wine for him and it's a delightful
wine with lots of red fruit notes. It's meant for immediate drinking, so
if you're thinking of saving a bottle for a few years we'd say this to
you: "Wrongo Dongo."
This is a wine for drinking tonight or over the next year. It's a good
little wine for a large crowd.
The Monastrell grape (Mourvedre is France and Mataro to some Spanish speakers)
can make a hard, astringent red. But this was vinified to be consumed the
same day you buy it.
Best at cellar temp...pair it with informal foods, sausages, burgers, roasted
chicken, paella, grilled pork chops, etc.
Masi winery has been making a special, proprietary wine called Campofiorin
since the 1964 vintage.
In Tuscany, back in those days, it was not uncommon for a winemaker to add
some dried skins of fermented grapes back to a tank of Chianti...this
would add body and maybe round out the wine a bit. In 1964 the
winemaker at Masi was so pleased by the quality of the skins from their
Amarone wine (made of dehydrated grapes) that he couldn't bear to simply
discard them...so he put them into a tank of Valpolicella. The wine
began to ferment and the resulting wine was of good quality, so it became
a normal protocol for Masi.
They named the wine Campofiorin, after a vineyard site of
Valpolicella. And they trademarked the word "ripasso," so
neighboring vintners are obliged to pay a royalty to Masi if they use that
term on their label. And many do.
Now they call their technique "Double Fermentation,"
as they use a small amount of dried grapes from their Amarone program and use
those to encourage this second fermentation instead of the press cake from their
They make a serious quantity of Campofiorin these days and it's a surprisingly
soulful red wine for such a large production. Medium-bodied...nice red
fruits with a ripe, warm character...this focuses on the fruit and not
oak. If you're serving a long-simmered meat sauce with your pasta dinner,
consider this. We've also enjoyed it with some grilled sausages.
Pizza, too, come to think of it.
Stop by the shop...we'd be
delighted to show you our latest discoveries.