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Looking for Value in All the Right Places

California and the rest of the West Coast know how to deliver bang for the buck
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 14, 2012 11:00am ET

Whenever someone whines about the lack of value in California they usually point to Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. That's like claiming there's no value in Bordeaux because of Cos-d'Estournel and Château Margaux. That just doesn't compute. Smart buys can be found in California as easily as in Bordeaux.

That became obvious while I was researching "Best of the West for $25 or Less" for the April 30 issue of Wine Spectator. California can overdeliver on quality relative to price with the best of them. And that doesn't mean that consumers have to settle for generic and mass-produced labels that carry broad designations like "California" on the label.

When I conducted a search in January, I found 110 wines tasted in the prior six months priced at $25 or less that scored from 85 to 92 points on our 100-point scale. And not only do those wines offer value, they also give wine drinkers a real sense of place in every glass. The wines from my story hail not only from California but also Oregon and Washington, and a wide range of varietals are represented.

From Mendocino County, for instance, there is Scharffenberger Brut Excellence NV ($19) and Decoy Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2009 ($22). The Sierra Foothills has a bounty of good Zinfandel like Four Vines Amador County Maverick 2009 ($15), while Monterey County brings on the Chardonnay with good buys such as Bernardus Monterey County 2009 ($22) and Paso Robles deals up Rhône wines such as Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Paso Robles 2010 ($20).

In Oregon, the price of Pinot Noir has been inching up in recent years but there are still plenty of fine values, even from Willamette Valley, including Redhawk Willamette Valley Grateful Red 2009 ($15) and Argyle Willamette Valley 2009 ($25.) Washington's Columbia Valley has a solid reputation for delivering bang for the buck, particularly when it comes to Cabernets such as Gordon Brothers Columbia Valley 2009 ($22).

When it comes to versatility at a fair price, no region delivers the range of Sonoma County, whether it is Dry Creek Fume Blanc Sonoma County 2010 ($12), Cline Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Cool Climate 2009 ($17) or Frei Brothers Merlot Dry Creek Reserve 2008 ($20).

Look for the April 30 issue for a full list of wines and profiles of each of the regions, and let me know what wines, wineries and regions you would add to the list.

Kc Tucker
Escondido, CA USA —  March 14, 2012 6:21pm ET
Anglim 2007 Cerise Red Rhone Blend, Paso: $15
St Francis 2007 Red Splash, Sonoma: $10
Fiction White, Central Coast: $15
Hedges CMS, Columbia Valley: $10
Seghesio 2010 Zin, Sonoma: $20

Jim Kern, Holiday Wine Cellar
North San Diego County, CA
Sevag Sarkissian
Oakland, CA  —  March 14, 2012 8:39pm ET
Navarro Vineyards from Philo, CA (Mendocino County) is a family favorite. I think the quality and variety they offer for a reasonable price is an outstanding value. They do everything from inexpensive yet delicious table wines to elegant Pinor Noirs.
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  March 16, 2012 3:37pm ET
Kc and Sevag

Good suggestions, thanks for joining the conversation.
Homer Cox
Warrenton, VA —  March 17, 2012 5:44pm ET
Tim, in this months print you listed CC Amitage as a value. David Peters, CA, can get this stuff for $4.09, according to his post in Harvey's article. It I didn't read it wrong and he didn't post wrong, this has to be the best value of them all. IMHO of course.
Thomas Vance
Sammamish, WA, USA —  March 18, 2012 6:30pm ET
Most of the people I talk to about the lack of good quality, low-priced wines from California aren't talking about $15-$30. As your post suggests, they are readily available at that price level. They are talking about wines retailing for less than $15, for less than $10. For that, you have to look northwest. Washington wineries such as Hogue, Columbia Crest, Snoqualmie, St. Michelle, Waterbrook, and many others offer the best quality/dollar for everyday wines.
Andrew J Grotto
Washington, DC —  March 19, 2012 11:05pm ET
I agree with Thomas - $15+ wines are not "value" wines, IMHO. Columbia Crest is a great example of a U.S. producer that produces consistently solid and interesting wines at the $8-15 price point. But even Columbia Crest is a relatively rare example of a U.S. wine that really delivers at >$15/bottle. I tend to look to France, Spain, Italy and Australia for values.

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