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Friday Fishwrap
Do Your Wallet A Favor: Try These Good Values This Weekend

By Charles Olken and Stephen Eliot

This blog lives by its opinions, as do most blogs, but sometimes one must step back and drink the wine. Today is such a day.

Here at Connoisseurs’ Guide, we taste thousands of wines every year in order to bring our subscribers the best choices in California and West Coast wine. We love finding the next great wine for our cellars, of course, but we take equal joy in finding wines that we can drink day in and day out. We may taste a lot of hundred-dollar plus wines, but we don’t drink many of those three-digit extravaganzas.

Here then is a discussion of some incredibly priceworthy offerings among varieties that have been our recent tasting focus. Enjoy. Your palates and your wallets will thank you.

SAUVIGNON BLANC Sauvignon Blanc has traditionally been a category that offers up a fair share of good values as our recent tastings have confirmed once again. At the top of this month’s list of Best Buys, the refined 90-point QUIVIRA Fig Tee Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2010 ($18.00) is a complex and deeply filled wine brimming with citrus, sage, smoke. The VOSS Napa Valley 2010 ($17.00) continues the winery’s winning ways with a well-balanced mix of varietal herbaceousness and ample fruit, while the decidedly grassy HILL Napa Valley 2010 ($18.00) is briskly balanced and long on energy. Those favoring the grape’s grassy side should also check out the zesty GREENWOOD RIDGE Anderson Valley 2010 ($18.00), while the HUSCH La Ribera Vineyards Mendocino 2010 ($14.00) gets good marks for its insistent, lightly lemony fruit and its fine sense of structure. We are especially pleased with the rounded, well-filled CHATEAU ST. JEAN Fumé Blanc Sonoma County 2009 ($13.00), and the blossomy, fruit-focused ROCK WALL Lake County 2010 ($15.00) hits the mark for real value as well. Finally, if not quite reaching full recommendation, the very mannerly, lightly toasty TANGENT Edna Valley 2010 ($13.00) does a nice job at the price, and the nervy and buoyant COVEY RUN Columbia Valley 2010 ($9.00) is nothing short of an out and out steal.

SYRAH Last month’s look at Syrah belied any idea that the variety is suffering from a serious dearth of quality examples in California, and, while we were impressed with many first-rate new releases, we were also pleased at the outstanding value offered by some. While it may not be cheap, the JC CELLARS Fess Parker’s Vineyard Santa Barbara County 2009 ($30.00) is a serious Syrah whose extraordinary richness is unmatched by most any red wine at the price, and the powerful, intensely spicy LAETITIA Estate Arroyo Grande Valley 2009 ($25.00) hits all the right varietal marks. An additional noteworthy wine, the ripe, well-polished and very complex, 90-point JC CELLARS Smoke and Mirrors California 2009 ($25.00) reaffirms winemaker Jeff Cohn’s place among the State’s outstanding Syrah producers, and the bold and brash HIGHFLYER Centerline California 2008 ($20.00) is recommended to those who like Syrahs with plenty of strength. Last, but far from least, the keenly defined and generously filled VENTANA Arroyo Seco 2008 ($18.00) wins especially enthusiastic endorsement for its ample fruit, its involving complexity and its very comfortable price.

MERLOT Much as Syrah has been underappreciated of late, murmurs about the death of Merlot are without a great deal of basis. Not only is Merlot alive and well and continues to be responsible for lots of plush and eminently affable red wines, it often affords outstanding value when measured against its high-ticket Cabernet cousins. As a case in point, the very supple, full-bodied McINTYRE Kimberly Vineyard Arroyo Seco 2009 ($19.00) is an utterly delicious wine rife with dark cherries and filled out with just the right bit of sweet oak, and the similarly sensibly priced SEBASTIANI Alexander Valley 2009 ($19.00) is sure to win favor from those who fancy Merlots on the plush, slightly riper end of the varietal spectrum. Washington State’s COLUMBIA CREST WINERY checks in with a pair of particularly noteworthy values, and both the juicy, distinctly cherry-like H3 Horse Heaven Hills 2009 ($15.00) and the slightly lighter, very graceful Columbia Valley 2008 ($15.00) deserve serious consideration from price-conscious fans of the grape, and, while finishing a scant step back from award, the eminently likeable NAPA CREEK Napa Valley 2007 ($13.00) is a lithe, well-fruited Merlot that outperforms at the price.


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by TomHill
Posted on:4/1/2012 9:31:10 AM

I liked both of those new releases from JeffCohn. Really good/solid wines at very decent prices. Not had the Ventana Syrah '08, but I really like what Jeff does w/ those grapes.

   The Ventana vnyd is one of the best Syrah vnyds in Calif. It is the first truly cold-climate Syrah planting in Calif. When DougMeador first planted it back in the '80's, I thought he was absolutely nuts. But that first Syrah from that vnyd was a real eye-opener about what Syrah could do in a cold location.

   Thanks for coming up & introducing yourself at RhoneRangers last weekend, Steve. Always nice to be able to put a face on a name from CyberSpace. And nice to know that there's a handsome/studly face to CGCW as well!!! :-) Sorry, Charlie...couldn't resist. Me bad.

   Don't know if you tried the ParadiseVnyd SonomaCoast Syrah Sunday or not. Very much a cold climate Syrah (it's located on SanPabloBay just SE of the race track) at a very attractive price ($24). My big discovery of the day.



No Subject
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:4/1/2012 10:26:28 AM

Mr. Hill--

Now, I won't try to compete with Mr. Eliot for handsome,but studly, that is a different matter altogether.

By the way, a Mr. Musso has emailed me asking after you.

As for Jeff Cohn, I know his wines are not to everyone's taste, and they certainly do not reflect the cold-climates from whence they come, but they are very fine examples of generous and balanced wines. Glad you liked them as well.

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