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 $10-$20 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 nice selection of wines in the $5-$15 range which have character and
are good examples of their type and style.
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...and we
spend a lot of time looking for good values.
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
wine business folks.
Here are some suggestions from our current offerings:
Updated July 2013
BORSAO 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.
A blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo....this delicious!
Please note: Aside from the fact that this is a dynamite bottle of wine for six
bucks-and-change, it makes a superb Sangria!
QUINTA DAS AMORAS $5.99
The fellow who owns this estate is a real wine fancier and
aficionado. We trekked to his winery in Portugal's Estremadura region and
found a number of really interesting wines...all well-made and of good
The wine is a blend of Castelão (Periquita), Camarate, Tinta Miúda and Touriga
Nacional. Medium-bodied and showing a dried cherry note, it's drinkable
now and over the next year or so...
VIU MANENT CABERNET SAUVIGNON
SALE PRICE $5.99
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, here's a
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
SALE PRICE $5.99
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
You'll find some wonderfully spicy, peppery notes here as we liken this to a
good Côtes du Rhône.
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 a five buck red wine.
"120" Series of Cabernet is not going to remind a connoisseur
much of Mouton-Rothschild or Haut Brion.
But it is a delicious little red wine.
Though vinified from Cabernet, the wine is not tannic and it's smooth enough
to drink now. Think of it as "Cabernet meets Beaujolais."
In fact, we like it served lightly chilled.
- Currently in stock: SANTA RITA "120" CABERNET
SAUVIGNON SALE $7.49
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.
PROTCOLO SALE $6.49
- This wine has been
reliably good for perhaps a decade...It's a Vino de la Tierra de Castilla in
terms of its appellation and is made entirely of Tempranillo.
It's a bare-bones bottling of Tempranillo and you'll find it to be a
medium-bodied red with no oak and some red fruit aromatics and flavors.
It's dry, supple and smooth. Not a fancy wine, but paired with
some good food, it tastes more expensive.
QUINTA DA CABRIZ Portuguese White Wine $6.99
Dao region of Portugal used to be viewed as a top quality area and it was
best known for its red wines.
These days there are good wines coming from the Dao but not as many major
league bottlings as we're seeing from competing regions.
This producer makes good quality wines, though and they're certainly
up-to-date in terms of technology in the cellar.
We found the little white wine from Cabriz to be a very simple, light,
mildly fruity aperitif. It's also well-suited for cooking,
particularly if you're steaming some clams.
The grapes for this wine include Cerceal, Encruzado, Bical and Malvasia Fina.
We wouldn't compare this to Sauvignon Blanc, but perhaps it's closer to some
of the lighter versions of Italy's Pinot Grigio. That is to say it's
not a profound bottle of wine, but with those clams you've just steamed or
some light picnic fare, this works nicely and it works at a modest price.
ABEL CLEMENT Côtes du Rhône Blanc $7.99
Grenache Blanc is the predominant grape is this
remarkably delicious dry white wine. If a California vintner made this it
would cost $30 and critics would proclaim the winemaker to be a hero for making
such a good wine at such a reasonable price.
COLONIA LAS LIEBRES BONARDA $8.99
Italian fellows (two of them famous winemakers) started a little enterprise
in Argentina to make Malbec.
I suspect the project was more about being able to take a little vacation in
a warm climate during Italy's cold winter months.
The Altos Las Hormigas venture is now well-established and they've developed
another winery called Colonia Las Liebres, so they've gone from
"ants" to "hares."
The grape for the Colonia wine is Bonarda, a wonderful Italian variety that
can still be found in Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna, as well as in
Piemonte. Naturally, the name of the grape changes to keep everyone in
Bonarda, though, is a major grape in Argentina and it's fairly widely
planted. Some producers make a wine along the lines of Argentinean
Malbecs, but this wine is perhaps a better example of unfussed-with
Bonarda. Wood and residual sugar are not part of this wine's
It's dark in color and teeming with blueberry and blackberry-like
fruit. We typically serve this cooled to cellar temperature. It
is a versatile table wine and it's also a great picnic table wine, too.
- 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.
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!).
RESERVE DE L'AUBE SYRAH / MERLOT BLEND $6.99
- Wow...remarkably nice wine--Rhône Meets Bordeaux. It comes from the
large Rhône merchant, J.P. Brotte. Medium bodied, berryish and
showing lots of red fruit notes Nice clove-like spice. Smooth, too.
"MONTEPULCIANO d'ABRUZZO" SALE
The late Gianni Masciarelli's wine is well-known in Italy and yet it's one of the best
kept secrets here in the U.S.
This is another one of those wines that, served in a decanter, tastes like a
seriously more costly bottle of wine. Medium to medium-full bodied.
Tuscan Red $7.99
a simple Sangiovese from southwestern Tuscany. It's made by the Mantellasi
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?"
McMANIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON SALE
McManis family has extensive acreage in the Central Valley, south of Lodi.
Winemaker Jeff Runquist, whose Runquist wines are very popular here at the shop,
runs the cellar with another winemaker, Mike Robustelli.
These guys create some amazingly good and surprisingly stylish wines.
We're fans of their Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Syrah is a dark, deep colored wine with lots of blackberry fruit and a touch
of wood. It's low in acidity and tannin, so drinking it now is ideal.
The Cabernet is as smooth as most commercial Merlots, but has a bit more body
and richness. It, too, is nicely oaked.
BIDALERE CÔTES de GASCOGNE $9.99
The Beraut brothers make a sensational dry white wine
in the southwestern part of France...superb. No oak.
Peachy, dry white.
Ten bucks? That's all?
By the way, this used to be sold as "Pellehaut," but they changed the
brand name to suit an importer in another part of the USA.
SALVALAI 2011 PINOT GRIGIO Sale $8.99
From Italy's Veneto region, this is a dry, light, simple, fresh Pinot
Grigio. Remarkably good.
MARK WEST California PINOT NOIR (Sale) $9.99
The Vino Fino boys had this wine in a recent blind-tasting of Pinot
Noirs from Burgundy and California. I insisted on including a $25 ringer
from Chile and it won the tasting. But the second place wine, finishing
ahead of Burgundy from Tollot-Beaut and Ramonet was this lovely, charming little
California wine. The winemaker used to work at the Peter Michael Winery
and produced wines which cost more for a single bottle than this costs for a
It's not a hugely profound wine, but it is a delightful, sort of Beaujolais
styled, exuberantly strawberryish Pinot. Very nice.
ABEL CLEMENT GRENACHE
sales rep I poured this for got it right...I had asked him to guess how much
this wine sells for.
"I'd say $12 for a French wine and $20 to $25 for a California."
And he's absolutely correct, except this remarkably delicious Vaucluse (Rhone
area) red costs less than a six-pack of premium beer.
If a California vintner had made this, wine writers
would bestow sainthood on the winemaker. Instead, this comes from a
terrific grower's cooperative winery in the Southern Rhone. Young, fresh,
but not hugely fruity or grapey in the manner of a Beaujolais. It's more
restrained on the nose and has a gentleness and elegance on the
Seven bucks? Are you kidding?
Case discounts, too.
OISLEY-THESEE "TOURAINE" SAUVIGNON BLANC $7.99
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.
CONCHA Y TORO CARMENERE $9.99
tasted a really nice example of Carmenere and it's reasonably priced at ten bucks.
Medium bodied, there's a nice dark fruit character here with a nice touch of
Smooth on the finish, too.
MEIA PIPA $10.99
Bacalhôa winery south of Lisbon makes some really spiffy wines...the top
bottlings will set you back $30, or so.
But in the realm of reality, they have a rather nice red called Meia Pipa.
It's a proprietary blend of 30% Castelão, 30% Aragonez (Tempranillo if
you're in Spain), 30% Syrah and 10% of some odd variety known as Cabernet
It is matured for a bit less than a year, typically, in French oak. We
like the dark fruit notes in the wine and find it to be a satisfying red at
its modest price (case discounts, too).
CASE IBIDINI NERO D'AVOLA SALE $10.99
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 2011 COTES DU RHONE Sale $9.99
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 2012 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
- 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
had skipped a vintage, or two, following the spot-on 2006 Lan
"Crianza" from Spain's Rioja region.
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!
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?
CHATEAU MOULIN DE FERRANDE SALE $7.99
a dynamite little white Bordeaux for less than the price of a glass of wine
at a local restaurant...
It's Sauvignon Blanc with some Semillon and Muscadelle...lightly citrusy, no
oak and dry.
- 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"
- 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 $9.99
We think this is mostly Zinfandel from Sonoma and it sold for well more than
ten bucks at one point in time.
In fact, the current blend, all from the Alexander Valley appellation, is 77%
Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignane and a drop of Sangiovese.
Now it's just ten bucks...and it's remarkably good.
ENGEL PINOT BLANC d'ALSACE $11.99
- 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.
LA CORTE PRIMITIVO $10.99
The La Corte wines come from Italy's Puglia region and they make wine for
immediate consumption, so you won't need to set this bottle in the cellar
for a decade for it to be drinkable.
Their Primitivo wine is, for our palate, a good, simple "pizza
red." It's medium bodied and not at all aggressive in terms of
- And then price is right.
- POMELO SAUVIGNON BLANC $9.99 (Case discounts,
This is made in Napa by Randy Mason, who's a bit of a Sauvignon Blanc
It's got a citrusy, grapefruity aroma and the flavors are also along the
lines of citrus.
It's zesty, crisp and not quite bone dry...
- 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
LE ROC'S FRONTON ROUGE WINES 12.99
- The Ribes
brothers make our favorite Fronton wines...the local grape variety of
prominence is called "Negrette" which is known in California as
"Pinot Saint George."
This Le Roc is predominantly Negrette with a modest percentage of Syrah. We
like the berry and spice notes of this wine. It's medium bodied and
best, to our taste, served cooled to cellar temperature.
I added the beret to the smiley fellow on the label of this magnificent,
soulful red wine...so don't expect to find the bottles in the shop with a
guy sporting a little chapeau.
It's called the Folle Noire d'Ambat, a playful name for Negrette grown in
a vineyard site called "Ambat."
The wine is dark in color and has a wild berry and spice
We just love it and for twelve bucks, you may, too.
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 2010 CHIANTI Sale $10.99
The 2010 of Morrona's little Chianti is Delicious with a capital
It's snappy Sangiovese called "I Sodi del Paretaio"
and the wine is medium-bodied and brightly cherryish. It's a bit rounder
on the palate than the popular 2009.
Perfect pasta wine!
- SASSOTONDO'S 2011 TUFO ROSSO SALE $10.99
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.
LOSEN BOCKSTANZ RIESLING KABINETT
you like 'serious' German Riesling (not industrial sweet crap such as Blue
Nun or Black Tower wines), here's a bargain!
The Losen Bockstanz cellar is located off the beaten path in the village
of Wittlich (this is a short drive west of Ürzig, zum beispiel)
and being in a hidden area means the price of their wines is attractive.
Their Kabinett level Riesling is a beautifully fruity wine and
it's low in alcohol, crisp in acidity and nicely balanced. And anybody
familiar with fancy German Rieslings will be shocked as to how good this is,
given what it costs.
FRATELLI PONTE BARBERA D'ASTI
good friend Massimo Ponte and his brother make a terrific, serious-quality
Barbera from their vineyards in San Damiano d'Asti, a short drive north
For years their parents made wine and sold it in bulk, so most of their
production was put into something like a 10 gallon demijohn and carted to
A few years ago someone clued them in that it was possible to put wine in
a 25 ounce bottle, affix a label and send it halfway around the
world. What a concept!
I tease them and ask how life is in "San Damigiana d'Asti" when
I drop them a note.
The wine started out nicely some years ago. Today it's a
remarkable bottle and it remains well-priced. You'll pay a lot more if you
buy a similar quality Barbera from famous Langhe producers, for example.
The latest vintage is medium-full bodied with a mildly cedary, woodsy
tone. It's dry and reasonably smooth as Barberas go...and
Pair it with roasted or grilled meats, stews, tomato-sauced pastas, etc.
VIU MANENT GRAN RESERVA
Viu Manent winery produces some remarkably good wines at remarkably
sensible price levels.
These guys must drive some California vintners crazy, as their wines are
well-made, typically have good varietal character and they sell for less
money than you'd pay to taste at most Napa wineries.
Their Gran Reserva Chardonnay comes from 20 year old vines in the
Colchagua Valley of Chile.
About 2/3s of the wine was fermented in oak, a tiny percentage of the
barrels being new. The rest is vinified in stainless steel and the
two lots are then blended. The resulting wine is nicely intense, in
terms of Chardonnay character and it has a nice touch of oak without being
They vinify this Chardonnay to dryness, so it's not sweet like many
"commercial" brands from California.
- FILIPPO GALLINO NEBBIOLO LANGHE $12.99
Gallino family has been cultivating grapes for decades, but it's only rather
recently that they have been bottling and selling their own wines.
We have a very typical "little" Nebbiolo from Gallino. It
comes from chalky/sandy soil in the Roero region and it undergoes a very
simply fermentation and the aging couldn't be more straightforward:
stainless steel...no oak. It's bottled young and the wine retains
reasonable acidity and a mild level of tannin.
If your idea of red wine involves adjectives such as "mocha,"
"oak," "woody," "espresso," "fruit
bomb," "low in acidity," "Lodi," "inky,"
etc., than please do not bother fooling around with this wine. It's
not for you!
If you appreciate dry wines with a bit of mouth-drying tannin so the wine
acts as a palate-cleanser with good foods, then maybe this wine is worth a
try. It pairs well with lamb, steaks, duck and well-seasoned pork
- BIRICHINO MALVASIA BIANCA $13.99
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.
CASAS DEL BOSQUE CHARDONNAY $8.99
a relatively new Chilean brand of wine from a family-operated enterprise
whose mantra is "Quality instead of Quantity."
This is a lovely sentiment and many wineries will tell you this is their
philosophy. But taste their wines as the proof is in the
What is pleasantly surprising here is they clearly make an effort to
produce a good bottle of wine.
After tasting their wine and finding their Chardonnay to "taste more
expensive" than it costs, we found out they hired Napa's Ken Bernards
of the Ancien winery to be a consultant. This guy makes good wine of
his own here in California and the few producers he's helped in South
America have clearly followed his advice (and made good wines).
The entry level Chardonnay costs $8.99 a bottle and you won't find this
quality for that price very easily (unless you stop by and pick up a
bottle at our shop).
The wine shows good varietal character and it's dry. Part of the lot
was stainless steel fermented and aged. The other half was vinified
in wood and giving some battonage treatment (where they stir the spent
yeast). Suffice it to say this is a pleasant surprise.
MAROTTI CAMPI "RUBICO"
Lacrima di Moro d'Alba SALE $13.99
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.
CHATEAU DE CUGAT Bordeaux Superieur
- This estate has
long been a favorite of ours...it's a smallish property not far from St.
Emilion and Pomerol.
Owned by Benoit Meyer when we first started buying this wine, Cugat always
had finesse and elegance you don't typically find in "little"
wines from Bordeaux.
We suspect part of the reason was that Benoit appreciated the expensive
wines his neighbors made. When we'd visit, he would routinely pull
out bottles of rather fancy Bordeaux from St. Emilion, as these were wines
he liked to drink.
And yet when we'd taste his own wines, they'd shine brightly, especially
when you consider the modest prices of Chateau de Cugat wines.
I was recently invited by the San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonne to taste
Bordeaux wines "costing $50 or less". And you know whose
wine was amongst the best of those? Yes...Chateau de Cugat.
We have a fancy, lavishly-oaked bottle costing $19, but the regular wine
for $11.99 is a gem. Merlot-based. Medium to medium-full
bodied. Not much tannin and it tastes smoother with
There are some old bottles of wines Benoit liked to drink...
SOLAR DE LIBANO Rioja Crianza $9.99
- From Bodegas de Sajazarra in Spain's Rioja we have this lovely little
classic Rioja called Solar di Libano.
Now there are many famous wineries in Rioja. This producer is,
frankly, not so famous.
But maybe they ought to be given the quality of the wine and the
This producer grows its own grapes. They do not buy fruit from
neighbors or on the open market...only from their own, estate
vineyards. They claim to farm responsibly, too. And they say
their wines are not filtered, in an effort to get the most character into
This wine is 97% Tempranillo with the balance being Graciano and
Garnacha. The wine is matured in small American and
French oak for about a year and a half and then it's racked into large
wood before bottling.
Medium-bodied and fairly supple on the palate, this is a delightful
ten-buck red wine. It is ideally paired with grilled red
meats. Setting it up with a beer or glass of sparkling wine is
ideal, making the contrast so great, you'll think you spent serious money
on this bottle.
PORTA DOS CAVALEIROS 2009 Dao $8.99
- This producer was one of the early "ambassadors" from
Portugal...We recall having their wines in the shop ages ago when Portugal
was known mostly for its slightly fizzy, mass-marketed Rose wines and for
its sweet, fortified dessert wine.
Some of the labels from this company were even printed, not on a paper
label, but on cork!
They're still making good wines and the prices have escalated from three
or four dollars to nine bucks.
Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz are the quartet that
comprise this wine. It's a medium-bodied red wine and the character
is such that a bottle of this, in an unlabeled decanter, will really make
wine geeks and wine aficionados nervous when you pour it for
them...they'll wonder if it's some seriously prestigious wine and they
can't identify it or they'll wonder if you poured them something
The wine is dry and not particularly tannic...ready to drink with a bit of
bottle bouquet. And well worth its modest price!
QUENARD 2012 CHIGNIN $12.99
best wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lettie Teague, recently
told us that she thought the wines of France's Savoie region would be
"the next BIG thing."
But we've been offering some good Savoie wines for a number of years and,
as delightful as some of the wines are, we've not seen much of a stampede.
The grapes are often unusual and not known more than half an
hours' drive from the region. Isn't is more comfortable to simply buy a
similarly-priced, big brand California Chardonnay than take a flyer on some
never-heard-of-it wine from France? Maybe...but with your $12.99, you'll
get a top-of-the-market bottle of Chignin or a relatively modest California
wine. Take your pick!
Chignin is the town and name of the wine. The grape
variety is Jacquère and it's planted on clay and limestone. The juice is
fermented in stainless steel and the resulting wine IS delicious and
I was pleased the other day when a customer, who'd asked me to put together a
mixed bag of white wines, returned to buy a CASE of Quenard's Chignin.
"We just loved this wine!" she said. "It's dry, a bit stony
and tasted great."
And she got a 15% discount in buying a dozen bottles. That, she told us,
made the wine taste even better.
MASI 2009 "CAMPOFIORIN"
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.
BORSAO "berola" SALE $13.99
Borsao winery is a major producer of Garnacha wine...their simple,
entry-level version is $6.99 in our shop ($7.99-$10 most
We have their blended red called 'berola' which is made primarily from
Garnacha (or Grenache, if you prefer). But they've incorporated some
Syrah into this wine along with a modest amount of Cabernet
Sauvignon. It's matured in wood, being aged in French and American
oak barrels for a bit more than a year.
The wood really pairs handsomely to meats grilled over a hot, aromatic
wood fire. It's a rather stylish wine for such a modest price.
|Stop by the shop...we'd be
delighted to show you our latest discoveries.
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