A Cabernet for $20? Yes!

For many people, Cabernet is king. It is one of the “go to wines” for many, yet finding one that is well-crafted for less than $30 can be a challenge. As you can imagine, I read many articles and reviews and found this value bottle mentioned in my reading. This comes from Antonio Galloni, who used to be associated with and reviewed wine for the Wine Advocate. More recently, Galloni started his own publication called Vinous, which is solely web-based. I follow him and appreciate his palate and his views.

Below is a bargain worth pursuing. I have not tasted it; but I think for that price, it is a fun adventure.

2012 Bodega Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza, 91 points, $20
Catena’s consistently excellent cabernet sauvignon is suave and plush yet light on its feet in 2012, showing a restrained sweetness to its sappy redcurrant, plum, mocha, graphite and spice flavors. Fine-grained tannins will not get in the way of enjoying this outstanding value now. (ST)

I am not sure what the flavors will yield, yet would love to hear from those who find this bottle. Please share your views.




Chardonnay, Please…

The top-selling white wine in the United States today is Chardonnay. There are many good reasons for that — it is an easy-going, pleasant, fruity, sometimes creamy, and sometimes spicy wine. With all that going on, it hits the right spot on many, many palates. In the beginning of my exploration of wine, my favorite one was Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. It was lush and approachable at any time. As it turns out, today it is the number one selling Chardonnay in the country.

Chardonnay is grown in many places in the world. Major plantings are found in California, Australia, Burgundy, and Languedoc-Roussillon in France. As you can imagine, these very different climates provide varied growing seasons and temperatures. Chardonnay will deliver a serviceable wine whether grown in a colder climate or a warmer climate, as evidenced by the vast array of growing regions. It will deliver entry-level wines that are easy drinking to the greatest white, the Grand Crus of Burgundy. (Yes, Chardonnay is the grape also known as White Burgundy.) Because of the wide variety of growing climates, Chardonnay becomes a great vehicle to express terroir and a great canvas for the winemaker.

Chardonnay provides a broad spectrum of flavor and styles. It can vary from steely with cool climate austerity to tropical and luscious. There is a Chardonnay for almost every occasion. It pairs well with roast chicken and other white meat. With a full, rich, new world wine, try rich seafood. Oaky Chardonnay pairs well with smoked fish and garlicky dips such as guacamole. Another friend of Chardonnay can be spicy, coconutty, South East Asian food.

Here are some well-crafted value wines for you to explore and try:

2012 Smoking Loon, Steelbird Unoaked, $8
2012 Amici, Olema Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $15
2012 Beringer Chardonnay, $18
2012 Columbia Crest, Grand Estates, $12
2011 14 Hands Chardonnay, Washington, $12
2013 Jacob’s Creek, Adelaide Hills Reserve, $13

It could be party time!


Zinfandel: Two Excellent Wineries

Zinfandel is widespread and well-known in California. In fact, a legislator in the Golden State once tried to have this lovely grape established as the state grape. While that effort failed, the value and quality of the varietal lives on. Its lighter tannic structure and jammy expression are perfect for many occasions. It produces big rich and luscious styles of red wines where the price point is always welcome.

Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. Today, Zinfandel is the third-leading wine grape variety in California, with more than 48,000 acres planted and 469,216 tons crushed in 2013, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

I have found two excellent wineries that consistently deliver in quality and character with Zinfandel. They may be hard to find, yet I want to share them with you, so if you find them on a wine list or in a local store – do not hesitate. They are wines to enjoy that offer great fruit and depth. Below are excerpts from Wine Spectator describing recent releases from both of these wineries. I have bottles in my cellar from both wineries and have never been disappointed.

From Carlisle Winery

Zinfandel Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 2012
93 points | $46 | 450 cases made | Red
Powerful and rich, with intriguing wild berry, licorice and floral bay leaf aromas and deep flavors of black cherry, smoky black pepper and sweet Asian spice. A backbone of tannins and acidity keeps this focused. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.

Zinfandel Russian River Valley Limerick Lane Vineyard 2012
93 points | $46 | 634 cases made | Red
Fleshy and vibrant, with an elegant structure that slowly builds in complexity. Lush cherry, raspberry and cinnamon aromas open to rich and layered flavors of wild berry, cracked pepper and sweet licorice. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.

Zinfandel Russian River Valley Carlisle Vineyard 2012
92 points | $46 | 634 cases made | Red
This agilely balances bold fruit with a core of firm acidity and minerally tannins. Aromas of pomegranate, cherry and fresh anise combine with focused flavors of blueberry, eucalyptus and cracked white pepper. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.

Zinfandel Russian River Valley Papera Ranch 2012
92 points | $46 | 658 cases made | Red
Supple and well-structured, with a succulent core of fruit. Floral, boysenberry and licorice aromas lean toward sleekly jammy flavors of blueberry, cherry, brown baking spices and pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.

Zinfandel Russian River Valley Saitone Vineyard 2012
92 points | $46 | 456 cases made | Red
Rich and ripe, yet nicely structured, with floral raspberry and strawberry aromas and bold, jammy flavors of cherry pie, Asian spice and sage, balanced by a core of fresh acidity and lively tan- nins. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.

Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Bedrock Vineyard 2012
91 points | $43 | 333 cases made | Red
Supple, with a gutsy core of focused fruit. Aromas of smoked pep- per, black cherry and spice cake open to layered flavors of wild berry and licorice. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.

From Bedrock Wine Co. 

Zinfandel Russian River Valley Belle de Jour Vineyard 2013
92 points | $45 | 200 cases made | Red
A lovely Zinfandel, combining subtle power with great balance and structure. Floral black raspberry and dried sage aromas lead to flavors of cherry, fresh anise and loamy white pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.

Zinfandel California old Vine 2013
91 points | $25 | 3,000 cases made | Red
A zesty red, with briary cherry and sage aromas that lead to lively and layered flavors of wild berry, anise and smoky cracked pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.

As you can see with the number of well-rated wines, these guys know what they are doing. Mike Officer is the winemaker and owner of Carlisle and is dedicated to the quality you see above. Bedrock Wine Co. was founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson; and, while he is newer on the scene, you can see the quality is coming through.

While these listed wines are all Zinfandels, both wineries produce a wider portfolio including Grenache, Syrah, and some Cabernet. Remember, there is always the chance that you could secure some wine from the winery directly. I know that the waiting lists can get long, yet it is always worth investigating if you can purchase on-line directly from the winery. It is always worth a shot.


Old Vine Zinfandel

Old Vine Zinfandel