93 Point Bordeaux for $34 – 2012 Fleur Cardinale (RP93 $33.95)

July 8, 2015 90+ BargainsHigh End Values  No comments

ETIQ.-Fl-Cardinale-2012 ScaledDespite Bordeaux having a reputation for high prices, even in so-so vintages, tons of values exist outside the collectible wines.  By collectible, I mean wines that are purchased to be resold, vs. purchased to age and drink.  When it comes to Bordeaux, I look for strong labels in middle-of-the-road years. These are years that aren't total flops (2013) nor mega hyped (2009, 2010).  Strong labels produce great wines in all but the worst vintages, but because Bordeaux's pricing is highly volatile, mostly on the perceived quality of the vintage, middle-of-the-road years tend to produce the best values.

That brings us to the 2012 Fleur Cardinale, a wine whose 2005 vintage - which scored a single point higher - is now selling for $70.  Why?  See above on highly pumped years combined with 10

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3 More Winners from L’Aventure (Up to 98 Points)

July 6, 2015 High End Values  No comments

EstateCuvee2013v65The latest release from my favorite winery unfortunately comes with a significant price increase.  For better (for the wineries and the region) or for worse (for the savvy consumer), Paso Robles is now on the map and top wineries have taken note.  L'Aventure, along with Booker, Saxum, Torrin and a handful of others, have waiting lists so long, they could double their price and still sell out.  So are these wines still buys?

To put things in perspective, the top wine from L'Aventure is $90.  The same quality in Napa, would cost 3-10x.  Better yet, their entry bottling, Optimus, which drinks better than 99% of the wines from the region, is $47 and at that, can still be called a value.

Another year for L'Aventure came with another round of huge scores, with a barrel sample of the

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Mondavi Oakville – Best Napa Cabernet Under $40

July 2, 2015 High End Values  No comments

Mondavi Oakville LabelUnless you go way down into bulk wines, $40 is pretty much the entry price of Napa Cabernet now.  It's too bad, but the glory days of the 2005-2007 vintages are over and this is the new reality.  That's why Mondavi's 2012 Oakville Cabernet is a remarkable value.  It could be labeled "To Kalon Vineyard" as the vast majority (usually 99%) comes from that legendary soil.  But that would pose a problem for Mondavi.  You see, their $145 Reserve Cab is now labeled as "To Kalon", so labeling their Oakville bottling as such would devalue the Reserve, not to mention the $200 Schrader wines, or $350 Paul Hobbs from To Kalon.

So here we are with a fantastic wine, from an historic vineyard, at an entry level price.  I have been through a case of the 2005, and today that wine is drinking better

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Another Winner from Ridge – 2013 Geyserville ($31.95, AG 92-94)

June 17, 2015 Uncategorized  No comments

Ridge GeyservilleAs I've mentioned several times on these pages, Ridge makes a couple of my favorite wines - Geyserville and Lytton Springs.  They are both Zinfandel-based blends, both age-worthy and both remarkably consistent.  They are also some of the best values in American wine.  These are truly top-notch reds in the low $30s.  Compare that to a Cabernet of the same heritage and we would be looking at 2-4x the cost.

Though I haven't had a chance to try either wine this year, I popped a 2012 Geyserville in preparation for this post and only a little over a year after release, it's open for business.  Remarkably, this wine ages well, with some examples from the 70s still drinking well.  Not that it's likely to last that long in my cellar...
Buy Here: 2013 Ridge Geyserville $31.95
Magnums

Halfs

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Napa Cab Round-Up (Round Pond, Keenan)

June 9, 2015 High End Values  No comments

Every so often, I like to do a round-up to showcase some of the best deals on Napa Cabernet.  And while the deals aren't what they used to be, you can still find some values if you know where to look.
Keenan
Keenan currently has two late release 2010s both of which are excellent values.  Their 2010 Napa Cabernet comes from 61% Spring Mountain and 39% Pope Valley.  At $39.95, it's one of the best Napa Cabs in its price range.  Better still is the 2010 Keenan Mernet (pronounced Mer-Nay), a blend of Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot.  On a recent trip to Napa, this was my second favorite wine behind Chappellet's Pritchard Hill, which costs 2x.  The Mernet is currently discounted to $59.95 - $15 off the next lowest price I can find.  This is a heck of a deal on a top tier Napa

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Better than (Most) Champagne and Half the Price (RP92, $18.95)

May 26, 2015 90+ Bargains  No comments

gaudrelle_cremant_LRGIn the infamous words of golf commentator Gary Koch, this wine is "better than most" - most Champagne that is.

I found a little wine shop in Chicago that had this sparkler for $22.  Every time we had guests in town, I bought a couple of bottles - one to drink with the guests and one to drink without!  Every time, I was blown away by this Loire sparkling wine because it outperformed many of the recent $50 Champagne, at half the price.  Sadly, after a few months, the Chicago store sold out and I was forced to move on to less tasty sparklers. Until today...

L.A. Wine Co. has this awesome sparkler, which received 92 points from Robert Parker, for $18.95.  Buy it by the case, serve it to guests, and even those with the most sophisticated palates will assume it's Champagne, unless they

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A $32 Cab for under $20 (AG90, $19.95)

May 21, 2015 90+ Bargains  No comments

beringer_knights_LRGBeringer's Knights Valley Cabernet sells for $32 at my grocery store and most grocery stores around the country.  I know this as I've gladly paid $32 for this wine, because at many grocery stores, it's the only great wine they carry.  Until I got smart... I bought a case of this wine to put an end to the grocery store trips, and a few bottles in to the case, I'm more impressed than ever.

If you avoid their "Founder's Estate" line of wedding caliber wines, Beringer's entire lineup is excellent, but the Knights Valley Cabernet may be the best value of them all.  It routinely scores 90 points or above from a range of critics and at $20, you certainly won't find a Napa Cab close to this good (Knights Valley is in Sonoma County).  It's polished, balanced and frankly just excellent - with no

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Two States, Four Appellations, One Wine – 2012 Luminary Red Blend

February 10, 2015 High End Values  No comments

Luminary Red Wine

I've often wondered - What would happen if someone took a few bunches of grapes from each of the top vineyards in the world and combined them to make a single wine?  It seems the owners of Pine Ridge wondered the same, as they pulled grapes from four different vineyards they own across California and Washington and made a remarkable wine.


The 2012 Luminary is a blend of 55% Cabernet from Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa, 19% Syrah from Double Canyon Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills Washington, 8% Syrah from Chamisal Vineyards in Edna Valley, CA, 16% Zinfandel from Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma and finally 2% Merlot from Pine Ridge.   I have to question the efficiency of making a wine from such geographically distant locations but the result is impressive.

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A Paul Hobbs Made Single Vineyard Chardonnay For Under $25

February 2, 2015 High End Values  No comments

Ahnfeldt Chardonnay Estate 2012Paul Hobbs is the original Winemaker Superstar creating some of the most highly rated wines ever under his own label and, more recently, as a consultant.  Under-the radar winery, Ahlfeldt, which I've raved about before, hired him as consulting winemaker a few years back and they are going through a major quality renaissance.

This particular wine comes from a single vineyard in the Sonoma Valley AVA called Thornton Ranch.  Paul Hobbs is best known for his single vineyard wines and the single vineyard Chards from his own label start at around $65.  For around a third the price, this wine has all of the Paul Hobbs' signatures. It shows richness while staying well-balanced and very focused.  California Chardonnay has the ability to be a buttery oaky mess and though this was raised in 50%

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A Potential 92 Point Vacqueyras for $16 – Domaine du Terme (IWC 90-92)

January 26, 2015 90+ Bargains  No comments

IMG_4300When it comes to France's Rhone Valley, it's hard to beat Vacqueyras for value.  Wines from this appellation are a step up from Cotes-du-Rhone villages, and when you find the right wines, on par with the much more expensive wines of Gigondas.

This particular wine from Domaine du Terme is outstanding with the flinty, mineral characteristics typical of the region but with broad fruit, notes of black olive, tons of depth and excellent length.  The nose is also great, with bright raspberry and flowers.  This is a very complete wine at any price and at $15.95 is a daily drinker with weekend drinker quality.  I had a glass of 2011 Pegau last night and while this isn't quite that good (Pegau is a $60 wine), it's certainly reminiscent.

The Wine Advocate gave this wine 90 points and the

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