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A Case of 'Value' Wine
By Robert Whitley
Aug 6, 2013
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As a longtime collector of relatively expensive Bordeaux, I must confess I am always most proud of the bargain Bordeaux I’ve cellared from so-called “off” vintages. Even though I am willing to pay a hefty price for wines that have earned my highest tasting marks, I never want to pay more than I have to for a good bottle of wine.

Neither should you. The global wine market is a sea of options, including outstanding wines that are available at somewhat humble prices. This week’s Wine Talk is a case in point. I’ve identified a dozen “value” wines that have impressed me in recent months. The term “value” means different things to different wine consumers, but for the purposes of this column I’ve set a price limit of $20 for each wine selected.

I wouldn’t hesitate to serve any of the following wines to family or friends, or with a superb meal.

1. Paco & Lola 2012 Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain ($20) – Albarino is a crisp, fresh white wine produced in the province of Galicia along the rugged west coast of Spain. Paco & Lola is among my favorites from the region because it is more complex than most, with excellent backbone and a good amount of fleshy fruit. It’s also very consistent. It works well with the earthy, briny flavors of freshly shucked oysters, but also has the richness to handle grilled swordfish or sautéed soft shell crabs. Or you can sip it as a quaffer, which I do often.

2. Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Fume Blanc, Sonoma County ($14) – You can sip it on a warm evening or serve it with light cheeses or shellfish, for this is one of the most versatile and reliably outstanding sauvignon blancs made in California. Dry Creek Vineyard has a long history with this grape variety and was among the first to give it the respect and care it deserved in both the vineyard and the cellar.

3. Voveti Prosecco DOC, Italy ($18) – My favorite summer aperitif in recent years has been prosecco from northeastern Italy. This one is made in a brut style, so it doesn’t come off as sweet, and it’s an excellent match with antipasti or Mediterranean tapas.

4. Navarro 2011 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($19.50)
– This family owned winery in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley has been quietly making outstanding wine for three decades or so, and virtually everything it does it does well. In a world gone gaga for $40-and-up pinot noir, this Navarro delivers a delicious but delicate pinot that beats its rivals on price without watering down the end product.

5. Kenwood 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County ($12)
– This wine was voted Best of Class Sauvignon Blanc at the recent Critics Challenge International Wine Competition, an accolade that should surprise no one who’s followed this winery over the years. The Kenwood SB is as consistent as it gets, with a delightful grapefruit/citrus signature aroma that has pleased sauvignon blanc fans for decades.

6. Gloria Ferrer 2010 Chardonnay, Estate, Carneros ($18) – While Gloria Ferrer is more closely associated with outstanding sparkling wine, it also has some serious chops when it comes to chardonnay and pinot noir. The 2010 Estate Chardonnay is a yummy medium-bodied Carneros chardonnay that exhibits lemon/citrus aromas and a smooth, well-balanced palate.

7. Tangent 2012 Albarino, Edna Valley ($17) – Winemaker Christian Roguenant also makes the wines for Baileyana (Best of Show white wine at the 2013 Winemaker Challenge and 2013 Critics Challenge) and several other top brands. The genius of this French-born winemaker working his magic along California’s Central Coast is that he seems to do everything well, from pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon to difficult grape varieties such as albarino. This is a firmly constructed wine that shows beautiful citrus and stone fruit aroma, and it’s extremely well balanced.

8. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Spain ($10) – While it might be hard to comprehend that a serious bubbly with good weight and complexity can be made for such a modest price, please know that it is hardly a fluke, for Segura Viudas has been delivering the same high quality at the same low price for many years now. This is a perfect summer aperitif, and a delight with salty tapas.

9. Veedha 2010 Douro DOC, Portugal ($13) – After tasting this wine for the first time I promptly went out and bought a case. It was that good. Made from the same grape varieties (such as touriga nacional) that are used to produce the great Port wines of the region, this is a dry red that has remarkable complexity and structure at a ridiculously good price.

10. Eberle 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Selection, Paso Robles ($19) – In the four international wine competitions that I supervise as Director, this particular wine from Eberle never fails to win a gold medal. What’s curious about that is that this is one of the few non-vineyard-designate wines Eberle makes from purchased grapes. Stylistically, it is made to be delicious upon release, without regard to aging potential. If you want a “now” cab, this is the ticket.

11. Antano 2008 Rioja Reserva, Spain ($12) – If you want seriously good red wine at a stupidly cheap price, the first place to look has to be Spain. Antano’s 2008 Reserva is beautifully structured, rich and full-bodied, with enough complexity and pleasure to satisfy even the most demanding of red-wine drinkers. Fire up the barbecue and serve this wine with grilled meats and sausages all summer long.

12. Rodney Strong 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County ($20) – The judges at the 2013 Critics Challenge loved this wine, awarding it a platinum medal and praising its structure and elegance within its price class. I concur, this is winemaker Rick Sayre doing what he has done for more than 25 years at Rodney Strong, producing delicious, well-balanced wines at prices everyone can afford.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru.