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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

A Handcrafted Merlot Value from California

Ancient Peaks Merlot Paso Robles 2008

Tim Fish
Posted: December 14, 2010

The bum rap about California wines is that they’re all overpriced. What nonsense. There are plenty of good values out there, and not all of them are cranked out by nameless wine factories. Case in point is Ancient Peaks, a Central Coast winery owned by a group of winegrowing families. All its wines sell for less than $20, and they consistently deliver well beyond their price range.

A new release is the Merlot Paso Robles 2008, which sells for $16. It’s bright and lively, with lots of red currant and cherry fruit, juicy with easygoing flavors and notes of herb and Asian spice. When I retasted it non-blind recently, I gave it 88 points.

The wine comes from Margarita Vineyard, which is planted on a hillside in the cool southernmost part of Paso Robles. Winemaker Mike Sinor blends in 10 percent Malbec to fill out the midpalate and flesh out the aroma. If only more small wineries were dedicated to making good value, handcrafted wines like Ancient Peaks, California might be able to live down its overpriced reputation.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for other bottlings of Ancient Peak wines.

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Merlot, for $30 and less.

John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  December 14, 2010 12:14pm ET
Tim, I know I always give you kudos for trying and recommending inexpensive wines and I hope you continue to do so but how about splurging and trying like a $100 Cab and telling us what you think???
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  December 14, 2010 3:09pm ET
John, a fair question. I write about what I drink and while I don't just drink value wines, I don't drink $100 wines on a regular basis. Also, I write about and review so many wines that sell for $25 to $100, that I see this as an opportunity to share good values with our readers.
Kc Tucker
Escondido, CA USA —  December 14, 2010 5:56pm ET
I'd rather see more reviews of affordable wines produced in quantities than "cult" wines with closed lists that the average consumer (let alone wine retailer) can't touch.
John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  December 16, 2010 10:07am ET
Tim, I appreciate it and I know that is your point of doing it.....but every once in awhile it would be nice to throw a "Laube" wine in there!! ;)
Karl Wittstrom
Santa Margarita California —  December 20, 2010 12:04am ET
Exciting News Ancient Peaks Winery has agreed to host and be the official sponsor of the Ancient Peaks Mountain Bike Classic. The event is scheduled to take place July 23&24, 2011, in Santa Margarita California. The vent is being produced by all-out events San Luis Obispo California.
Karl Wittstrom
Santa Margarita California —  December 20, 2010 12:30am ET
Thanks for your continuing support The Margarita Vineyards are the source for all of the fruit that makes Ancient Peaks Wines, the vineyards were planted in 1999 by the Mondavi Family. In 1999 the locals all ridiculed the Mondavi's for planting the project that they called Cuesta Ridge. Many thought that the climate was to cool and fruit would never ripen there. We took over the vineyard in 2005 and from our perspective it looks like the critics and the Mondavi's were both right. Margarita Vineyards is truly difficult to farm but if the stars align great thinks can happen, In 5 short vintages Ancient Peak has established quite a following. The exciting thing is we are just now starting to understand this truly unique piece of property.
Thanks Again
Karl Wittstrom Co-owner Ancient Peaks Winery

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