Ojai Vineyard 2006 Santa Barbara County Syrah Dec 25, 2008
It had been a while since the Wine Guru had come across an Ojai Vineyard Syrah, perhaps a decade or more. Too long, the Guru thought, given the rapturous experience he had tasting the new releases from this remarkable but off-the-beaten-path winery a mere one hour north of Los Angeles. The basic Ojai Sanata Barbara County Syrah is a beautiful wine, with excellent balance between fruit, oak, alcohol and tannin, and the price ($27) makes it a veritable steal!!
Merry Edwards 2007 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc Dec 23, 2008
Merry Edwards is something of a legend in California winemaking circles. She's the queen of bold, full-bodied Russian River Pinot Noir. But Merry's repertoire is deep, as the Wine Guru discovered when he nosed a glass of Merry's aromatic 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. It's a beautfully crafted Sauvignon in a riper, less pungent style than most other California Sauvignons.
The Wine Guru has always been skeptical about the rustic reds from the village of Mercurey in Burgundy. The tannins can be coarse, and sometimes downright green. But Domaine Faiveley did a masterful job with the '06 vintage, crafting a Mercurey even the Wine Guru can love.
Given the difficulty with the exchange rate and the extraordinary price of classified Bordeaux, it would seem a 90-point bargain Bordeaux (under $20) would exist only in the imagination, or as a distant memory. So the Wine Guru is delighted to have found this 90-point Right Bank gem from Canon-Fronsac. This is one you can afford to buy by the case!
The Wine Guru has never been a huge fan of Gavi, the famous white wine of northern Italy's Piedmont region. Not that he doesn't like Gavi. But most of it is overpriced and underdelivers. So this fresh, clean, juicy Gavi from Ca' Bianca at less than $20 was a real find, and has the Guru giving Gavi a second look!
The Wine Guru didn't know quite what to expect when he recently tasted through the Northfield lineup for the first time. Northfield is a quality minded New Zealand wine producer that had heretofore escaped detection by the Wine Guru's highly sensitive radar. These Kiwi wines were quite worthy, especially this Home Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir.
The Wine Guru just loves it when he comes across a bold, complex red wine for less than $20. This Argentine Malbec from Famiglia Bianchi is an incredible value at $17. Decant this wine and give it some air, and you'll be amazed!
Winemaker Tom Rinaldi has demonstrated a deft hand with Sauvignon Blanc going back to his days at Duckhorn, the iconic Napa Valley winery. He hasn't lost his touch since moving over to Provenance, and the Wine Guru is all over this latest release.
When Pat Roney of Girard purchased Windsor Vineyards a few years back, you knew change was a gonna come. That's because Roney's winemaker is one of the Wine Guru's favorites -- the masterful Marco DiGiulio! DiGiulio is aces with Sauvignon Blanc, and all the evidence you need is this latest vintage of Windsor Sonoma (there was a name change, too) Sauvignon Blanc.
The Wine Guru doesn't sling around too many 100-point wines, but he's found one in the stunning Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon from the Martin Stelling Vineyard. This won't qualify as one of the Wine Guru's "value" wines, unless you compare the price ($140) to what you might pay for a first- or second-growth Bordeaux of comparable quality.
Merlot doesn't get much respect from connoisseurs these days, yet everyone should take a deep breath and remember that the most expensive Bordeaux money can buy is 100 percent Merlot (Chateau Petrus). The Napa Valley offers some of the finest domestic Merlot to be had, and Truchard's vineyards in the cool Carneros district of Napa consistently yield Merlot of character. The Wine Guru believes the 2004 from Truchard may be one of its best.
Albarino, once upon a time an obscure white wine from an out-of-the-way corner of Spain, is now everywhere. The Wine Guru loves Albarino for its crisp structure and minerality, qualities that refresh the palate and enhance shellfish dishes. But many Albarinos also possess layers of fruit complexity that wouldn't seem possible in such a crisp, refreshing wine. Fillaboa is one of those exceptions.
Torres 2007 Sangre de Toro 'Vina Sol' Sep 17, 2008
The Wine Guru is still looking for great quaffing whites for summer, particularly as we head into the long Labor Day weekend. Torres, the impeccable family winery from Spain's Penedes region near Barcelona, delivers a mouth-watering example of the genre with its $10 Sangre de Toro "Vina Sol." And that's not bull!
Trefethen's dry Riesling has long been one of California's finest, and something of an oddity for a Napa Valley winery. The Wine Guru recently tried it and still thinks it's one of California's best examples of this style.
The good folks at Planeta are among the most innovative and important wine producers in Italy. They're best known for voluptuous Sicilian Chardonnay, but the Wine Guru has flipped over their first-ever vintage of Rose. You will, too!
Merryvale 2007 'Starmont' Sauvignon Blanc Aug 13, 2008
Merryvale's Starmont wines not only offer good quality, but the prices are modest compared to other Merryvale wines. The Wine Guru believes the Starmont Sauvignon Blanc is one of the Napa Valley's best Sauvignons for the money.
Clos du Val's record for quality and consistency over the past quarter-century is unrivaled in the Napa Valley. So says the Wine Guru, who found the 2005 Clos du Val Cabernet merely another in a long line of exceptional vintages from this iconic California winery -- and at a stunningly modest price for a seriously delicious Napa Valley Cab.
The Wine Guru has noticed a significant change in Champagne Mumm over the past several years. The once popular Mumm Cordon Rouge non-vintage brut has experienced a rebound in quality that, if price is any barometer, has escaped the attention of Champagne enthusiasts. Yet judges at the 2008 Critics Challenge took notice and awarded the Mumm Cordon Rouge a Platinum award. This is a toasty full-bodied non-vintage brut that's one of those rare commodities -- a bargain (relatively speaking) Champagne!
If you've hung around as long as the Wine Guru you know the Napa Valley winery Chappellet is synonymous with consistency across its entire range of wines. The 2006 Chardonnay is yet another in a long line of exceptional vintages. It's beautifully structured -- rich and oily upfront, finishing crisply with clean, bright acidity. Yummy stuff.
Mendocino County's Bonterra Vineyards is one of the pioneers of organic wines in California. These wines are invariably well made, modestly priced and delicious additions to any wine cellar. The Wine Guru is especially fond of the Syrah from Bonterra, and he absolutely loves the price!
The Wine Guru doesn't mind paying a few bucks more for a great wine, but he wants a big bang for those bucks. Franciscan's red Meritage blend, Magnificat, delivers. It's not cheap at $50, but it can play with the big boys of the Napa Valley at twice the price.
Craggy Range Sauvignons aren't your typically tangy New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, which you will find in Marlborough. The Te Muna Road Vineyard, source for this Craggy Range Sauvignon, is located in Martinborough and delivers a crisp white that's considerably more floral on the nose and a bit more oily on the palate, which the Wine Guru found to his liking.
The Wine Guru was looking for a juicy, delicious red to serve with a leg of lamb butterflied and barbecued on the grill. This inexpensive award-winning Merlot from Beringer proved to be a great match at a great price. Click to listen to this one-minute audio review!
The Wine Guru enjoys Chardonnay with a bit of richness and plenty of mouth-watering acidity when he's barbecuing salmon or swordfish on the grill. He's found a couple of gems: the value-priced 2006 Bonterra Chardonnay and an affordable beauty from the Russian River Valley, the 2005 Willowbrook Chardonnay. Both wines were Gold Medal winners at the 2008 San Diego International Wine Competition.
Raymond 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Jul 17, 2008
When is a $35 Cabernet Sauvignon considered a value wine? When it's a delicious vintage from one of the Napa Valley's most reliable and consistent producers. The Wine Guru finds Raymond's Reserve delivers on the promise of Napa Valley excellence without the hefty price usually associated with Napa Valley Cab.
Kim Crawford 2007 Marlborough Dry Riesling Jul 15, 2008
Kiwi Kim Crawford has found his niche with clean, crisp, refreshing white wines. Though best known, perhaps, for his Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay, the latest vintage of his Marlborough Dry Riesling rivals many of the best expressions of this style from neighboring Australia.
The Wine Guru was impressed by the delicacy and finesse exhibited by this lovely blanc de blancs Champagne as it swept the Best of Show Sparkling Wine category at the 2008 San Diego International Wine Competition. UPDATE: Since winning the big prize at the SDIWC, and after this recording was made, Henriot issued a price correction and informs us the Blanc Souverain will now come in at $50 or so retail in most U.S. cities.
Marc Kreydenweiss 2006 Andlau Riesling Jul 13, 2008
One of the purest and most complex dry Rieslings the Wine Guru has found from Alsace comes from the perfectionest Marc Kreydenweiss, whose wines are uniformly impeccable. Kreydenweiss is a devotee of biodynamic farming and produces wines of unique personality and character. The Andlau Riesling is a rich, powerful Riesling that you wouldn't hesitate to pair with meat dishes or other strongly flavored foods.
Sometimes you've just got to have a great high-end Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to celebrate -- or impress. But you don't want to throw your money away. This vintage of Far Niente Cabernet lives up to its price. The Wine Guru believes it's probably the most evocative and well-balanced Napa Cab he's tasted this year. A truly memorable wine!
Sonoma's venerable Sebastiani Vineyards has been around for decades making good everyday California wines that can be enjoyed when they are young and fresh. The Wine Guru doesn't often think of Sebastiani when he's on the prowl for something extraordinary in red wine. The stylish and complex Sebastiani Secolo may have changed his mind!
While the Cabernet and Chardonnay usually hog the headlines at Grgich Hills, this Napa Valley icon's ever classy Fume Blanc is steady as she goes. The Wine Guru prizes this wine for its restraint and complexity, particularly its flinty minerality in a world of pungent, grapefruity Sauvignons, which are no less good but somewhat ubiquitous.
Sonoma Cutrer 2006 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay Jul 7, 2008
Almost overlooked when the discussion turns to California's better Chardonnays is the superb Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches, which is a restaurant staple and thus usually consumed well before it reaches maturity. The Wine Guru finds this wine to be one of the most firmly structured, complex and age-worthy Chardonnays on the U.S. market today. And it's a certifiable steal at the price.
The Wine Guru has long been fond of the wines from Eberle, where former Penn State football great Gary Eberle holds forth. Eberle is the Godfather of the Paso Robles wine region and deserves most of the credit for having the vision a quarter-century ago to believe in the Paso terroir. So it brought a smile to the Wine Guru's lips when he learned the well-balanced Vineyard Selection Cab from Eberle had snagged a Platinum Award at the prestigous Critics Challenge. And this wine is a steal at the price!
This is a Tuscan wine from the Maremma district, between Montalcino and the Mediterranean coast. In this region, around Scansano, the Sangiovese grape is called Morellino. These are delicious reds that are priced well given the quality, but only because they don't yet have the visibility or cachet of the wines of the Montalcino and Chianti districts. This is one of the Wine Guru's favorites.
Pinot-phobes may have noticed that the cost of good Pinot Noir has been on the rise in recent years, with prices in the $50-plus range not at all uncommon. But the Wine Guru has good news for Pinot lovers everywhere, with four affordable gold medal-winners from the 2008 San Diego International Wine Competition. These crowd-pleasing Pinots retail for between $20 and $38.
Some of Italy's most age-worthy and collectible red wines are those made from the glorious Aglianico grape, grown primarily in the southern climes of Campania and Basilicata. The Wine Guru says one of the best is Mastroberardino's single-vineyard Taurasi 'Radici.'
Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm has a cool hand with one of the hottest white graoe varieties in the world, the crisp and refreshing Albarino from Spain's Rias Baixas region. But Grahm grows it in California at his Ca' del Solo property.