Merlot is the whipping boy of California wine, and I've done a little flogging myself sometimes. When I find a good Merlot at a fair price, it's worth singling out and—just as important—trying to find out why it's so good.
Exhibit A is the Frei Brothers Merlot Reserve Dry Creek Valley 2008. It's focused and nicely structured, with notes of black currant, anise and cedar. I rated it 88 points, blind, and the suggested retail is $20, but you can often find it on sale for around $16.
Did you really believe there was a 100-point Napa Cabernet Sauvignon selling for $15? Even if you didn't, you still clicked on the headline to find out what it was all about.
Consider all the red flags in that headline. A 100-point score means it's a perfect wine. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite topic of our readers and most wine lovers. And a price tag of 15 bucks? Who doesn't love a bargain? Put those all together and it's the Mother of All Wine Headlines.
So why did I do it? To test your biases and preconceptions about wine. We all have them. Well, I sure do anyway, although I try to rise above them.
Everyone likes a good $12 bottle of wine, whether they buy wines by the case or strain their budget with just one bottle. Value is the great wine leveler.
Retail wine shelves are a big colorful blur of cheap California brands from the conglomerates, but let's be real: A lot of it is crap. The odds of finding a value label that's tasty across the board—from the Chardonnay to the Cabernet Sauvignon to the Pinot Noir—are slim to nada.
The list of those across-the-board value California producers is short, but surely Bogle Vineyard must be near the top. Search Wine Spectator's database of Bogle reviews and rarely do the wines score below 84 on our 100-point scale and seldom do they cost more than $12.