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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The best deals in California wine today

I'm not talking about look for this Chardonnay or this particular Cabernet because it's soooo good.   There are a couple types of wines that are easily available and maybe even undervalued in the market.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauv Blanc grows easily in many places around the world and puts out a lot of fruit per vine without degrading the quality.  That is, if you can get eight tons per acre instead of two then the wine should be cheaper to produce. Plus not having to use expensive oak barrels as most wines do saves, too. Styles range from grassy to tropical but they're almost always crisp and fresh--meaning higher acid.  Relatively high acid means Sauv Blanc compared to say, Chardonnay, is a refreshing drink on a warm day and is a good food match where Chard can seem a little heavy or flabby.  Higher acid wines generally go best with food but can sometimes taste a little tart on their own, though a good Sauvignon Blanc pulls off both roles well.

So Sauvignon Blanc is sort of a poor cousin to Chardonnay.   And that's good for the consumer because there are amazingly good SBs for under $20.  

Just a few examples from Sonoma and Napa:

Geyser Peak - They make one labeled California selling for about $10 in the tropical fruit style plus a big award winner called River Ranches that goes for about $20 and is a bit more tart and a lot more complex.

Kenwood - A "drink and don't have to think" about it wine.  Usually $10 or less.

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Hanna - An award winner every year.  This is Hanna's flagship wine, they make a lot of it, and it sells out easily every year.  It retails for about $20.

Mondavi - The benchmark for popularizing SB under the Fume Blanc name.  Fruity, dry, good acidity.  Goes for about $15.

St Supery - Good balance and refreshing. Sells for less than $20.

Sparkling Wine

AKA Champagne.  Many of these wines have really maintained low prices even with all the extra work that goes into making a sparkling wine.   Part of the issue is supply-and-demand in that Americans only drink bubbles on New Years and at weddings.  But most of these are great food wines, too.   Any evening can be special if you surprise your Significant Other by popping the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine.

There are many great sparkling wines going for around $20.   Just be aware many of the really cheap ones are bulk processed and can be cloyingly sweet as they are made with cheap grapes. Look for methode champenoise on the label.

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Gloria Ferrer - These are superb wines for the price.  The Brut goes for about $18; my favorite the Royal Cuvee in the low $20s.  The Blanc de Noirs is good, also.

Roederer Estate - Their Brut at $20 is first-rate.

Domaine Carneros, Iron HorseMumm Napa, and Schramsberg all produce great sparklers though some going for "real" money ($40-up).

Oh, you're looking for a red wine?   Inexpensive red blends, often just labeled "Red Wine" are your best bet, but do your homework first.  Some come from excellent sources of grapes; others do not.  You can find good, inexpensive varietal wines (even Pinot!) if you look.  A couple examples of good red blends are Pedroncelli Friends Red and Trentadue Old Patch Red.