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Friday Fishwrap
Pay Attention: I Have The Antidote To One-Hundred Dollar Wine

By Charles Olken

It's the middle of summer. Time to relax. Just drink wine because you like it. No need to spend a hundred dollars for the privilege. I got the antidote to expensive wine right here.

This weekend, do yourself and your wallet a favor and buy a wine that you can enjoy without having to analyze the hell out of it. Sure, it may not be complex, layered, sophisticated, refined, but if you pick up one of wines below, identified in our blind tastings as a Best Buy among the hundreds and hundreds of wine we taste, you can sit back on your easy chair or your patio and enjoy wine the best way possible-for sheer joy of it. Here then, my value picks for the weekend ahead.

The fragrant PALI Huntington Santa Barbara County 2009 ($19.00) and its companion bottling, the racy PALI Riviera Sonoma Coast 2009 ($19.00) are hard to beat at the price point. The juicy, well-ripened BRIDLEWOOD Monterey 2008 ($20.00) and the supple, slightly berry-like SEBASTIANI Sonoma Coast 2009 ($18.00) similarly prove that good Pinot can be found for $20.00 or less. It hard to find wines of the quality offered by this quartet without paying considerably more.

Viognier may not have lived up to expectations in every corner of the California, but there are very good California Viogniers to be had, and these wines, with their aromatic fruit offered in dry, balanced styles make excellent summertime drinking. The rich, ripe and eminently satisfying EBERLE Mill Road Vineyard 2009 ($21.00) proves the point, and its 91-point score makes it one of the bargains of this or any week. Also, you might keep an eye out as well for the very lively ZACA MESA Santa Ynez Valley 2009 ($20.00) and the brisk, eminently fruity * CURTIS Heritage Blanc Santa Barbara County 2009 ($18.00).

It may be true that Zinfandel's ripeness and prices have both been on the increase over the last several years, but our recent Connoisseurs' Guide tastings have found an encouraging number of first-rate bottlings that are both affordable and long on the juicy fruit that marks the varietal at its best. Although the 95-point RAVENSWOOD Teldeschi Dry Creek Valley 2008 ($35.00) admittedly comes at a premium, it is an altogether classic Zinfandel of enormous depth, complexity and attentive winemaking. It is one that you can enjoy now or put away for later. Zin does not get any better than this, and greatness in any wine usually costs a lot more.

Among lower-priced Zinfandels, you cannot go wrong with the sturdy EASTON Amador County 2009 ($16.00), the gutsy, well-ripened PROJECT PASO Old Vine Paso Robles 2009 ($14.00) and the solid, tannin-firmed ARTEZIN Mendocino County 2009 ($18.00). And, at the "pour it for the gang" end of the scale, both the modestly priced ROSENBLUM Vintner's Cuvée XXXIII California ($12.00) and the CLINE California 2009 ($12.00) win easy Best Buy votes as friendly partners to red-sauced pastas and barbecues.

My list of Chardonnays for the weekend is topped by the rounded, well-composed 90-point CHAMISAL Edna Valley 2008 ($24.00), a wine of depth and accessibility with enough buoyant acidity to be at home with all manner of chicken or seafoods hot off the Weber. The bright and lively SEBASTIANI Sonoma County 2009 ($13.00) is simply a remarkable wine at the price, and the engaging, thoroughly enjoyable RODNEY STRONG Chalk Hill Sonoma County 2009 ($20.00) is a thoroughly satisfying effort that will bring smiles to both your palate and your wallet.


No Old World?
by Littlerip
Posted on:7/27/2011 1:32:04 PM

Oh yeah, you are the connosieur's guice to CA wines.

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