I’ve selected a handful of superb wines that, in my humble opinion, over-deliver for the price. Some of these are perennial favorites, such as the Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, and some are recent discoveries, such as the well-balance and elegant Stateland Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County in California’s Central Coast.
The common thread among all of these wines is their ability to hold their own when tasted side-by-side by significantly more expensive wines of the same type. For summer entertaining, all should please even the most discriminating wine enthusiast and make you the host or hostess with the most!
Bolla 2012 Torr’Alta, Veronese IGT, $19.99. Where once the Bolla wines were reliable but never inspiring, today they are reliable and often brilliant. This red blend of indigenous and international red grape varieties is nothing less than stunning. It’s a beautifully balanced red wine for all occasions, from pasta to grilled meats.
Buena Vista 2015 Chardonnay, Carneros, $20. Jean-Charles Boisset immediately set about the renovation of the historic Buena Vista Winery after purchasing the crumbling property several years ago. The result is a thing of beauty. JCB also went to work on the wines. This vintage of Buena Vista Chardonnay is a thing of beauty, too.
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino, $25. The value in the Montalcino region is in Rosso di Montalcino, which is made in the same manner (100 percent Sangiovese) as the famed Brunello but typically from younger vines planted outside the strict Brunello boundaries. Castello Banfi puts as much effort into its Rosso as it does its far more expensive Brunello, and it shows.
Francis Coppola 2015 Director’s Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $17. The Coppola winery is hitting on all cylinders and at all price points. The Director’s Chardonnay is a great example of the new California style, which puts more emphasis on the quality of the grapes rather than the quality of the oak.
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, Sonoma County, $22. It’s hard to argue with anything Gloria Ferrer puts under cork these days, particularly its value-oriented Sonoma Brut. We love the complexity of Gloria Ferrer’s vintage-dated prestige cuvees, but for a non-vintage everyday sparkling wine the Sonoma Brut is unbeatable for the price.
Kim Crawford 2016 Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17. This Kiwi winery is renowned for its pungent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s far from a one-trick pony. Its ultra-smoorth Pinot Gris is pure deliciousness.
Navarro Vineyards 2016 Pinot Grigio, Anderson Valley, $16. Never be surprised by anything that comes from Navarro, the small family run winery located in the remote Anderson Valley district of California’s Mendocino County. Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, whatever the grape, Navarro nails it. They’ve nailed this Pinot Grigio, too.
Noble Vines 2014 Pinot Noir, Monterey County, $14. Decades ago the conventional wisdom said plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Monterey County. Only problem with that was the climate. The northern end of Monterey is too cold (yes, even in summer) for Cabernet to ripen. But Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, early ripening grapes, do just fine. Well, this Pinot Noir is better than “just fine” and the price is eye-popping considering you wouldn’t think twice if it was listed at $35.
Sartori di Verona 2013 Valpolicella DOC, Italy, $15.99. Sartori is one of the quality leaders in the Verona district of northern Italy, home of Valpolicella. This vintage is yet another splendid example of how much Valpolicella has improved in the past 30 years. What hasn’t change much is the pricing. It hasn’t caught up to the quality, which makes Valpolicella from a good producer one of the greatest values in red wine today.
Stateland Cellars 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve, Santa Barbara County, $24. Blindfolded, I dare you to pick this as the cheapest Pinot Noir from a flight of otherwise $40 to $500 Pinots stocked by your favorite wine merchant. The highly regarded winemaker Adam LaZarre of Paso Robles is the hidden hand behind the scenes. LaZarre is a master at sourcing excellent gapes for his modestly priced wines.