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.