My picks are influenced by basically just two criteria. I pick wines that are either a great example of a certain grape variety or region and wines that are stylistically “outside the box” and just plain fun. All of these wines are $20 or under (with just a few exceptions) and will hopefully change your view on what a wine from a certain grape, region or price range can express. Of course, keep in mind that part of what makes wine fun is that it is so subjective and everyone perceives it differently. These are just my humble opinions. That being said, have fun and I hope you enjoy!
Deep Sea Chardonnay – Central Coast , CA – Supported by a small percentage of Viognier, the Deep Sea boasts a bright, fruity, slightly floral nose that is deep and captivating. Layers and layers of apple, pear, nuts and toffee unfold on the palate surrounded by very crisp but balanced acidity. A refreshing cal style with a hint of Mersault.
Bree Riesling ‘10 – Pfalz, Germany – Bree is a fun sipper that is more about balance than power; as good Riesling should be. Located further south and closer to France than most other German growing regions, the Pfalz is a warmer region and therefore produces riper grapes resulting in less acidic wines. This wine is drier than some other Rieslings since not as much sugar is needed to balance out the acid.
Sauvion Vouvray ‘09 – Loire Valley, FRA – Light and fruity with impeccable balance; this Vouvray, from one of the region’s classic producers, is a joy to drink. The Sauvion has just enough sweetness to balance the acid and highlight the peach and honey notes. A great wine for the table or just sipping on the porch on a cool fall evening.
Newton “Red Label” Chardonnay ‘09 – Napa/Sonoma, CA – Harmony is the word that comes to mind with this little gem. Yellow apple, pineapple, vanilla and just barely browned toast highlight the complex nose. The ripe fruits really come out on the palate where honeydew joins the party. The finish is rich, crisp, refreshing, fruity, toasty… fruity? toasty? fruity?….harmonious.
Cuvee Anne-Laure Pinot Blanc ’09 – Alsace, FRA – I like my fall & winter whites to have a little more intensity in order to match up to the rich dishes and cool weather of the seasons. The Anne-Laure definitely delivers in the intensity category. Ripe peaches, pears and white flowers explode from the glass and follow through on the palate in a rich, balanced fashion. Another Thanksgiving keeper.
White Knight Viognier ‘08 – Clarksburg, CA – The nose is rich with aromas of peaches, white flowers, pear and citrus. I like the White Knight because it avoids an oily texture that some Cali Viogniers are prone to. This wine, and the grape in general , is also a great food wine that will match well with a multitude of different dishes. Hint: Thanksgiving
McManis Merlot ‘10 – California – I realize many of you have likely had this wine but I just have to throw it on the list. McManis is a great bargain brand in general but I think their Merlot is the wine that really shines. Everything one would look for in a Merlot is there; big cherry cola, red raspberries, milk chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla are present in large quantities on the nose and palate. The finish is long and silky smooth. This is a steal at under $10.
Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Borgueil “Cuvee Alouettes” 2010– Loire Valley, Fra – Wow! A stunning example of Cabernet Franc. Classic aromas of red cherries, strawberries, violets, herbs and bramble seduce you on the nose. Great intensity follows on the palate along with silky tannins that offer just enough grip. Ironically and thankfully, the finish is as long as the name.
Beringer 3rd Century Pinot Noir ’09 – Central Coast, CA – Now this one should be proof that I’m not a snob, and I’m not but still. Bottom line…it’s good! I bought all they had left of this little ’06 and right now it’s in its prime! Some of the fruit and spice has softened into wonderful leather and woodsy notes and the tannin and acid are in harmony. Let it breath for 20 min or but then polish off the bottle cause it won’t last overnight.
Trefethen “Double T” Blend ’07 – Napa Valley, CA – A classic Meritage style comprised of all 5 classic Bordeaux varietals the Double T gets it right. A fragrant nose of black fruit, sweet oak and spices draws you in. The wine is softer and rounder on the palate than expected which makes for immediate enjoyment. Juicy black fruits, smooth tannins and dark chocolate dominate the palate. A great food wine!
Pozzan Zinfandel ’08 – Napa Valley, CA – The Pozzan gold series is a pristine example of classic Zinfandel. The nose is rich with red & black raspberries, warm oak & vanilla and white pepper. On the palate the wine has firm texture with very ripe tannins and layers of flavor. I drank this over a 3 day period in which it continually evolved and was a pleasure every time.
Moobuzz Pinot Noir ’08 – Monterey, CA – The Moobuzz is a reminder that there are still few great Pinots out there for under 15 bucks. Good Pinot to me is like an air hockey game playing out in your nose and mouth; back and forth between the fruity notes and the spicy/earthy notes. With the Moobuzz, raspberry, strawberry and red plum make up the fruit team. Sauteed mushroom and fall spices of clove, cedar and orange peel make up the spice & earth team. All these flavors just bounce off each other from all different directions with the finish going into overtime.