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The Go-To Wines that Brighten Our Gloomy Days

Posted: Dec 4, 2008 11:17am ET

I was thinking, as usual, about the bad news. I have some friends with Credit-Suisse, and I was thinking of them as I read that the Swiss bank is cutting 5,300 jobs.

But what about some good news? In these times of doom and gloom with the economy, I was thinking about the go-to wine I always buy when I am feeling the pinch when I am in the United States. I am talking about the $20 to $30 bottles that taste like $40 or $60 bottles. The wines that make you feel good but don’t make you get nervous about the price.

Many of you probably already share my choice, but the wine I always buy is Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County, in any vintage. Of course, the 2007 is this year’s No. 10 in our Top 100. So, it’s hardly a secret. But I like all the vintages. I have never had anything but a delicious bottle. And it is usually around $20 in the supermarket or wine shop, and $40 in a restaurant. I love the bright and aromatic quality of the fruit with hints of chocolate and loads of berries. The tannins are integrated and balanced. It’s simply delicious.

In Italy, I usually look to recent vintages of Chianti Classico to give me very good quality for the money. You can get excellent bottles for similar prices as the Seghesio both in wine shops and restaurants. The latter, especially simple trattorias, usually sells its wines for the same price, or just slightly more, than the enoteca, or wine shops. I love the CC’s from Querciabella and Felsina at the moment, but there are many others.

I would like to start a list of wines that you recommend that is similar quality for the money so I can give them a try when I am in California over the holidays with my kids. I will use this as a guide to buy some of them, and then let you know what I think. So please post. We can all share. Thanks!

Morgan Dawson
Rochester, NY —  December 4, 2008 1:12pm ET
James, Very important topic given the economic climate. With the Cote-Rotie on fire right now, I'm finding wonderful values from Saint-Joseph. Last week we had a 2001 Domaine Coursodon; it was rustic, layered, and for $21 it drank like $51, easy.The best Riesling value in the world right now is the Ravines 2006 Dry from the Finger Lakes. It's pure electric gold at just $15 a bottle if you can find it.And I'm surprised you failed to mention one of your favorites: Petrolo Torrione, a top value in just about any vintage. For the money, I prefer it to Galatrona (I find most vintages from $29 to $39 in local shops).
James Suckling
 —  December 4, 2008 1:17pm ET
Morgan. Thanks. I drink Torrione like water at home. I am having dinner with the winemaker in 30 minutes. Ciao.
costa mesa, ca —  December 4, 2008 1:23pm ET
2006 willi haag braenburger juffer auslese.

Hard to find, but best price point wine I've ever had at $20. I wish Sanderson had tasted it; Schildknecht gave it 95 points. I have 7 in storage if you need one.
James Suckling
 —  December 4, 2008 1:26pm ET
Brian. You stole it. Haag is the business in Middle Mosel with JJ and Loosen.
Loren Lingenfelter
Danville, CA —  December 4, 2008 1:28pm ET
I have been on a value hunt of late and have found some wines I love in the $15-25 range that taste great. Most were found after I read something about them on WS. Barrel 27 Syrah 2005, Educated Guess Cabernet 2005, Buehler Cabernet 2005, Bennett Lane Maximus 2005, and Mario Perelli Minetti Cabernet 2004 and 2005. Seghesio is always great. Love all the values by Joel Gott as well.
costa mesa, ca —  December 4, 2008 1:33pm ET
For red, any vintange of Owen Roe "ex umbris" syrah. Widely available through retail and spot on every year at $20. Sapphire in Laguna Beach has it on their list for @40ish a bottle.
Andrew J Grotto
December 4, 2008 1:44pm ET

Hi James, I like to keep half-bottles of Champagne on hand for brightening things up. I can usually find solid bottles (e.g., Heidsieck-Monopole Blue Top) in the ~$15-20 range.

If you're looking for California wines in particular, I adore the wines from Navarro -- they make me smile whenever I drink them, particularly their Gew¿rztraminer. I have wonderful memories of visiting their friendly tasting room in beautiful Mendocino County when I lived in the Bay Area, or stopping by the Berkeley Bowl to pick up a bottle of their Gew¿rz to relieve the stress of graduate school or brighten Berkeley's rainy winters.
Gerald Ansel
Fullerton, —  December 4, 2008 2:19pm ET
Being a California boy, I too find comfort in a good, briary Zinfandel, particularly any of the Ridge blends like Geyserville and Lytton Springs. Most of the Rhone AOCs work for me, too, like St. Joseph, Gigondas (when it's mature) and Chateauneauf-du-Papes like Vieux Telegraphe and Guigal.
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  December 4, 2008 2:26pm ET
2004 Muga Rioja Reserva - This made the WS top 100 so the price may have gone up, but I got my case at $24 per. Just a fabulous wine for the money with great fruit, acidity, smooth tannins, secondary flavors, and above all everything is in balance. Throw this wine in blind with a bunch of expensive right bank Bordeaux and it will hold its own. Bravo to Muga in almost any vintage but 2004 was something special.
John Henriksen
Pittsburgh, PA —  December 4, 2008 2:35pm ET
James:I am getting great enjoyment from young Paso Robles Cabernets -- Justin and Paso Creek. For under $20, their quality certainly rivals higher priced offerings from Napa. For a white, like Morgan, I am enjoying a Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region -- Dr. K Frank, with 2007 showing up in the marketplace right now ($18). If you are in need of a huge wine for a nightcap, 2006 Mitolo Jester Cabernet from down under is my $17 Amarone substitute.
Carl Gauthier
December 4, 2008 2:57pm ET
I drank today for lunch:condado de haza ribera del duero crienza 2005 and it was really good. it might become my everyday wine at 25,90$ in montreal it really looks like a steal !! great blog... keep up the good work
Italy —  December 4, 2008 2:59pm ET
Hello James:This is my TOP 10 list under $30. I hope you enjoy it!1. Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County 20072. Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero 20053. Bodega Colome Malbec Calchaqui Valley 20064. Bodega LAN Rioja Reserva 20045. La Massa Toscana 20066. Altos Las Hormigas Reserva 20067. Da Vinci Riserva Chianti 20048. Luchador Shiraz South Australia 20069. Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Classico Riserva Rufina 200510. Felsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2006
Andrew Mcdonald
Birmingham, AL —  December 4, 2008 3:08pm ET
Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard 10 red owns the under $10 category.
Stewart Lancaster
beaver,pa —  December 4, 2008 3:32pm ET
I am a big zinfandel fan. The recent good value zins I have had are Four Vines 2006 either the Biker or the Sophisticate, and Ancient Peaks zinfandel 2006. Also, recently had the 2006 Zenato Ripassa which was excellent and I always love Portuguese wines- best one recently was the 2006 Quinta Do Vale Meao Duoro Meandro. Enjoy!
Matthew Hunt
Canton, Ohio  —  December 4, 2008 4:01pm ET
Jafurs 2007 Santa Barbara County Syrah is dynamite, and at a price of $25.00 it is hard to beat. 2006 Home Ranch Chardonnay, Carlisle Russian River Syrah 2006. All wines are fabulous and offer good values.
Scott Oneil
UT —  December 4, 2008 4:08pm ET
I too am a fan of Seghesio Zins and Felsina CC, but I'd add Riecine's CC to that as well. If you've never tried a Tensley Syrah, I'd highly recommend them, especially the Colson Canyon, which I've found south of $30. The Ste. Michelle/Dr. Loosen Eroica is a remarkably consistent performer from WA at ~$20 - always a pick-me-up IMO. Then again, a Chambers or Buller Muscat is a great spirit-lifter for less than $20/half-bottle.
Tom Breneman
eau claire, WI —  December 4, 2008 4:09pm ET
Thorne-Clark Shotfire Ridge
Burton East
SC —  December 4, 2008 4:20pm ET
Bogle Phantom is comfort wine!
Marchello Chacchia
Connecticut —  December 4, 2008 4:32pm ET
James,To brighten a gloomy day, I find I need to cut below the $20 mark to feel like I am remaining "prudent". That said, I have been enjoying these recently:2006 Morgante Nero d'Avola Sicilia 2005 Las Rocas Vinas Viejas (drinking right now, in fact- very nice QPR)2006 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos. For me, Spain and Germany have ruled over the last 2 years. I still have many JJ Prum's in my cellar originally purchased in the $20 range that certainly satisfy (even moreso during the warmer months).What else have you discovered recently?Enjoy your holidays. Ciao
Stan Hagan
auburn alabama —  December 4, 2008 4:57pm ET
We were surprized at the Marietta Old Vine Red, Lot #47. Starling Castle Reisling was a hit at Thanksgiving.
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  December 4, 2008 5:09pm ET
You know what makes me smile now a days James.....the cases and cases of 05 Bordeaux futures I bought in the $10-$30 ranges while everyone was chasing the big boys.....I kept my price target in the 05 Bordeaux campaign in double digits and am smiling away in these bad times as the deliveries are now coming in.
Jonathan Li
Toronto —  December 4, 2008 5:17pm ET
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005 (or any vintage) and Catena Malbec 2006. Great for sharing with guests over the holidays when you go through 6+ bottles!
Stephen Bailey
london uk —  December 4, 2008 5:19pm ET
Pretty gloomy in the city of london...always great to get home and have a decent "credit crunch" wine ,mon-fri...portugese wines such as quinta do crasto or de la rosa...weekends still able to enjoy a decent claret...thanks to our gov for cutting the VAT so we can still withdraw our bottles from bond !!!
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
December 4, 2008 5:23pm ET
James, as usual from you a very nice blog topic. I'd like to say first of all that good wine is a celebration and for sure it can light you on gloomy days. One wine that I found I like is Castello Banfi Cum Laude DOC. I can find it for $30-$35 a bottle. Nose is charming with blackberries, plum and cherries with notes of black olives and tobacco. Other one is Etude Carneros Estate Pinot Gris. I do really like Pinot Gris. And this for me is refreshing.
Giancarlo Ortega
Washington DC —  December 4, 2008 5:23pm ET
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Merlot 2005. Achaval Ferrer, Malbec Mendoza 2006 and F¿cien Diffonty & Fils Ch¿auneuf-du-Pape Cuv¿du Vatican 2003.
John Jorgenson
Seattle, —  December 4, 2008 5:32pm ET
Any good wine will do, especially if it is a wine I have not had before. I suppose your referance to "stand by" rules that out though. I hate to mention one of our stand-by wines as it has been beneath the radar of the press and should stay that way. The problem is it's a little spotty being outstanding one year and not so in another year. The winery is Zerba, and I would first pick their Syrah if I had the choice. Even their red table wine can be a good daily drinker in the good years. It's a fairly new opperation and I suppose that when they go through their learning curve they'll be discovered and I'll have to move on to something else. By the way, The ancient book of Psalms doesn't make a distinction when it says: He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate¿ bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. So I'll stick with my first thought . . .It's all good!
Marissa Ocasio
Connecticut —  December 4, 2008 5:53pm ET
It is impossible to feel gloomy while having Champagne. Even if one is, it gives one the thought that future prospects will be better.Right now one of the local stores has Deutz NV Classic for 34.99.
Michael Tracy
Corona, CA —  December 4, 2008 6:09pm ET
There is amazing stuff from Australia recently under $30. I bought Wynns John Riddoch and Michael Shiraz for $17 per bottle. This is once in a lifetime pricing IMHO. Also, from Yalumba a new cab/syrah wine called The Scribler (a junior Signature - get it?)for $13 and Rusden Driftsand, a Rhone style wine for $12. Hewitson's Private Cellar Shiraz is amazing for $26. A couple of years ago Winex acquired tons of Marquis Phillips stuff at $8 to $16. Bought all of these by the case when I find them. Great deals. This is all in the Orange County area from places like Winex and Southernwines. The one thing I've been able to upgrade is the wines I drink every day. Fantastic!
Tony Wood
Brighton U.K. —  December 4, 2008 6:28pm ET
Hi James, Trust you are feeling much better now. Have a great wellearned holiday with your kids. I' am giving -you- tips on great value wines , Ha ! Bellavista Rose 2002, Badia a Passignano Chan. Class. Ris 2004, San Giusto a Rent. Chan. Class. Ris 2004, Jermanns Venezia- Giulia Vintage Tunnia 2006, Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo 2004, Chan.Class. La Rancia Ris 2004, Arte D. Clerico 2006, and finally the best wine I drank this year- San Giusto Percarlo 2004.
Steve Prickett
Hutchinson Kansas —  December 4, 2008 6:29pm ET
Ditto on the Marietta Old Vine Red. Not real complex, but for the price it sure drinks well. Even one of my beer-only friends commented that it is the only wine he has ever enjoyed. Speaking of Marietta, I purchased two cases of their 1996 Cab back in 98 for $13 btl after Parker gave it 90 pts. Just finished my last bottle this year and have never had a QPR like this.
Steve Prickett
Hutchinson Kansas —  December 4, 2008 6:35pm ET
Ditto on the Marietta Old Vine Red. Not real complex, but for the price it sure drinks well. Even one of my beer-only friends commented that it is the only wine he has ever enjoyed. Speaking of Marietta, I purchased two cases of their 1996 Cab back in 98 for $13 btl after Parker gave it 90 pts. Just finished my last bottle this year and have never had a QPR like this.
Jim Nuffield
Toronto —  December 4, 2008 6:56pm ET
James, for me it's a great Cotes-du-Rhone like Guigal, or Coudoulet de Beaucastel, or maybe an Aussie Shiraz like Reynella.
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  December 4, 2008 7:50pm ET
My go-to wines are usually Neal. I love to stock up on the Zinfandel. The '06 Zin is AWESOME and under $30! His Sauvignon Blanc is soooo food friendly and under $20. Mark Neal is a great guy and the wines are always of purity and quality.
Mr Damian Zaninovich
Bakersfield,Ca —  December 4, 2008 9:42pm ET
Domaine Vissoux Fleurie Poncie will brighten your day as will anything they make. Where else in the world can we buy the best wines from an appelation with pedigree for around $20? I'm careful not to mention the dreaded B word. I'm a huge fan of Felsina as well.
December 4, 2008 10:45pm ET
Wines from Alain Chabanon (Coteaux du Languedoc) are always of an amazing value and quality. I would particularly recommend the "Les Boissieres" 2002. The grenache is showing amazingly. Not sure if available on the US market...
Mark Mcdonald
Nebraska —  December 4, 2008 11:28pm ET
James, neat topic. I have to go with 2004 Col d' Orcia Rosso di Montalcino. Not sure if it is just such a great year in Montalcino, but this rosso has wonderful characteristics rivaling some Brunellos. If i'm in the dumps this wine always brings a smile to my face.
Todd Shreve
December 5, 2008 12:20am ET
Castello Banfi Centine '06
Matthew Weiler
Los Angeles, CA —  December 5, 2008 12:53am ET
'05 borgognes (Anne Gros, Meo Cazumet), '04 Siduris and Lorings. Opened an '04 Loring Gary's Vineyard tonight (at times I disagree with JL on his assessment of pinot, but not here). Oh, and at $32, the '06 Anthill Farms Anderson Valley is the best pinot I've ever had in that price range (totally disagree with JL on his reviews of Anthill Farms).
Alexandre De Azara
SAO PAULO BRAZIL —  December 5, 2008 3:33am ET
catena Malbec (argentina) 25 usd and Montes Alpha Syrah (Chile) 25 usd
Kenneth A Galloway
Paris, France —  December 5, 2008 10:05am ET
Cain Cuvee NV#... great young! i've purchased them for under $30, although the suggested retail is slightly over $30
Morgan Dawson
Rochester, NY —  December 5, 2008 10:23am ET
To follow up: I am stunned to be able to find a half dozen 1997 Brunellos for $51-$60 at my local store. The 1997 Canalicchio drinks like a dream and even for $51 feels like a true steal. James, if 1997 is the classic Brunello vintage, why are these wines so affordable?
Jaime Nephew
Laredo, TX —  December 5, 2008 10:40am ET
I've had good luck with Amavi for both cabernet and syrah the last couple of vintages. Just under $25 at the supermarket here.
John Shuey
Carrollton, TX —  December 5, 2008 11:08am ET
There are many, but among my favorites are the Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabs, as well as any of the bottlings of Concha y Toro's Marques de Casa Concha from Chile. (And in most years, Bogle's Petite Sirah is value spelled entirely in capital letters.)
Michael Bonanno
December 5, 2008 11:13am ET
The borgofortes quality is just so evident and if I were you I would have those rolling around somewhere close by. Gotta hit the smaller shops to find some good bottle age values. Dont you hate looking at nothing but young wine in the bigger stores???
James Suckling
 —  December 5, 2008 11:15am ET
John. I drink a lot of Marques de Casa Conch when I am travelling in Latin America. They are always good quality whether Merlot, Cabernet or the Syrah.
James Suckling
 —  December 5, 2008 11:17am ET
Morgan. You are lucky as long as the 1997 Brunelli have been stored properly. I guess in your area people missed the boat on the greatness of the wines!
David Nerland
Scottsdale —  December 5, 2008 11:45am ET
A nice bottle of Aubert or Marcassin seems like a steal when comparing to the 05 burgs or cali-cab cults. Very enjoyable.
James Suckling
 —  December 5, 2008 11:48am ET
David. If that's your "go-to" wines on a regular basis, I am visiting you soon in Scottsdale!
Bart Van Eck
Amsterdam —  December 5, 2008 4:17pm ET
James, we share our enthousiasm for Tuscan wines like Querciabella, Felsina en Villa Pillo. Next to this great region, I think Douro wines deliver by far the best QPR in Europe as WS acknowledged by ranking Crasto no 3 in 2008. My personal favourite in this region is Meandro from Meao in basically any vintage!
Mark Savelloni
Newburyport, MA —  December 5, 2008 6:36pm ET
I've had good luck with Stefano Farina Barolo and Travaglini Gattinara. Nebbiolo that doesn't break the bank.
Michael Holzer
Miami Fl —  December 5, 2008 6:55pm ET
Masi Campofiorin is a great bottle of wine for $15. Also like Caro Amancaya.
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  December 5, 2008 7:08pm ET
When I read the responses, it looks like the majority of the recommended wines are not from California but from your blog entry, you seem to want California wines with good QPR and decent availability. Personally, I like to do the "when in Rome, do as the Romans" kind of thing so in LA I would drink South Coast wines (plus, its greener, for whatever thats worth). I cannot comment on Temecula wines but from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles its hard to go wrong with Justin (PR syrah and Cab), Jaffurs (SB syrah), 4 Vines (PR Zin, PR syrah among many others), Hitching Post (SB syrah and Pinot), Kinton and Melville (SB syrah). All are pretty widely available and less $25; even JL likes many of them!!! Enjoy your trip--zinc up for plane ride so you do not get sick again (it works and i can say that, I am a doctor)
James Suckling
 —  December 6, 2008 3:34am ET
Andrew: Thanks for yoru thoughtful comments. That's what I try to do "when in LA, do as the Los Angelenos do." I am born and raised in LA. Anyway, I am going to look for those wines and report back. And I will take plenty of Vitamin C and Zinc before the flight!
James Suckling
 —  December 6, 2008 3:36am ET
Mark. I had a Travaligni Gattinara Tre Vigne 2001 the other night and it was delicious. Good calls on both.
Kirk R Grant
Bangor, Maine —  December 6, 2008 8:28am ET
I have to say that in these tight times I tend to play both ends of the spectrum. I drink more of my older wines and more expensive wines on a regular basis...and I buy more bargains when I find them. Top bargains so far this year, 97 Avvoltore $35, 01 Beaucastel $45, and 95 Torrione for $28. I am buying a fair amount of 2007 German Reislings and my favorite value is 2007 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett $14. Wines that I have slated to pull the cork on around the hollidays that I'm excited about are a 1990 Pichon Baron, 2000 Nizza La Court, and some old Stony Hill Reislings from the 80's (my sibling's birth years for a 25th anniversery dinner I'm holding for my parents).
Kurt Wieneke
Indianapolis, —  December 6, 2008 9:38am ET
The Qupe Central Coast Syrah is good one. Very much like Seghesio Zin's - solid year in and year out, varietally correct, terroir driven, and reasonably priced.
Dennis D Bishop
Shelby Twp., MI, USA —  December 6, 2008 12:31pm ET
The 05 Buehler Cab is fantastic - I was able to score 6 bottles for a case discount price - around $21.00 out the door - 90 pts WS.dennyb
Jason M Meyers
Medford, NY —  December 6, 2008 12:33pm ET
Hello James...I always seem to fall back on the second wines of some of the better Bordeaux Chateaux...I seem to get lucky in being able to find good vintages of say, Moulin Riche, Baron de Brane, even Le Petit Cheval or Grangeneuve...I've found many of these and others for fractions of the cost of the Grand Vin in ready to drink vintages...always seem good values to me...
Jordan Harris
Niagara, Ontario —  December 7, 2008 12:05pm ET
Treana White 2007. Not only one of the best white buys in Cali, but one of he best Viognier/Marsanne values in the world. Tough to find great wines from these varieties at under $25.00.
Stephen Bailey
london uk —  December 7, 2008 4:17pm ET
Hi James,Looking forward to your 2006 Bordeaux ratings...so many good deals comming our way on a daily basis in the uk...and the VAT(SALES TAX)has been cut !! !Any idea when we can expect your appraisals ?Or is it the "Mexican Stand off"between your self and a certain Mr Parker ?
Jen & Mike Hahn
Dallas Texas —  December 7, 2008 8:39pm ET
My favorite such wine of late draws chuckles from friends. It's the NV Lini Lambrusco Rosso...bone dry with tight bubbles. It's just "different". Sorry, I'm still trying to develop my vocab for describing what I like. This wine is fun. I travel to Tucson on business and find myself stuffing my suitcase with.
Sander Joniau
Belgium —  December 8, 2008 5:06am ET
Hi James, nice topic and here's some input from Belgium. In affordable champagne I would opt for Drappier, Henriet-Bazin or Nowack. The best 'cheap red' I enjoyed recently was Mustiguillo Mestizaje (Spain) at 10 euros. Also good enough - given its price tag - was Chateau de Rabouchet '05 (Bordeaux) at 6 euro. I find that South-Africa has some interesting red offerings as well, in particular Boekenhoutskloof shiraz and Rust en Vrede red blends. In whites I find Nigl Gruner Veltliner (Austria) very good at 17 euros, as well as well-known Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (Australia) which costs about 20 euros. Or St-Clair Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand at 13 euros. Cheers!
James Suckling
 —  December 8, 2008 11:58am ET
Stephen. I am heading to Bordeaux next week to finish off the bulk of my 2006 Bordeaux bottle tasting. There's some very good bottles out there. And I think they are going to be sold at a big discount. Call it a sleeper vintage, or whatever. Those who waited and didn't buy futures are going to be happy. Stay tuned.
Jordan Ab Melcon
Cambridge, MA —  December 8, 2008 1:45pm ET
MontGras Carmen¿ Reserva, Pillar Box Red, and Las Rocas Garnacha, have all been high my on list recently when looking for the $10 bottles; Seghesio Zin and Amadio Chardonnay for my $10-$20 hankerings, and Markham Cabernets and Merlots are my favorites when looking in the $20-$30 range.
Dan Murphy
Tampa, FL —  December 8, 2008 2:01pm ET
May I humbly recommend the excellent Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs of Raye's Hill, my greatest QPR find of 2008. The wines are an outstanding expression of this great terroir, and at $24-28 a bottle, they seem like a steal compared to a lot of others out there. Definitely worth a try for Cali Pinot fans.
David A Zajac
December 8, 2008 3:26pm ET
2006 Sin Zin, a steal at $14.
Russell Quong
Sunnyvale, CA —  December 8, 2008 7:08pm ET
My wines of the year are the Layer Cake 2006 Primitivo, $16 (not reviewed): as good as any Zin I've had this year, and almost everybody who tries this loves it. I bought 15 bottles over time. (The Seghesio 07 didn't wow me.)Montes 2006 Alpha Syrah, $17 (WS 92): the best nose of any wine this year. Overall, even better than the 2005, which was one of my faves last year. Just a lovely wine.Columbia Crest 2006 Chardonnay Grand Estates, $8 (WS 90). I adore the buttery, oaky, creamy style of this wine year in and year out. I probably drink more of this than any other single wine, party due to price.Jim Barry 2005 Shiraz Cover Drive, $13 (WS 90): has a remarkable purity of fruit with a nice acidity.Aussie Fruit bombs $12-18: Marquis Philips 2005 Shiraz, Thorn-Clarke 2004/5 Shotfire or Barossa labels, Tait Ballbuster. Nuff said.
Anthony Dixon
Atlanta, GA —  December 11, 2008 8:23pm ET
James - this is always a fun topic for all to explore. Here are my memorable values...Best Wine Under $50: 2004 Domaine de Courbisac "Pandora" Minervois La Liviniere- purchased at the low price of $25 - absolutely stunning wine for this money and it drinks like $50+. An absolute classic wine regardless of price.Favorite Pinot Noir Value: 2006 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir - real Pinot Noir character at a bargain price. Drinks like $25 and is as good as anything August Briggs has produced under his own label regardless of price.Favorite Cabernet Value: Tough call here because I had so many that I loved but were all in different styles. Bottom line here, I have to give the vote to the 2006 Penley "Phoenix" out of Australia. Pure C.S. character at a song of a price, $20. Not my favorite style personally but the quality is undeniable. Like drinking pure Creme de Cassis from Dijon.Favorite Value White(s): All three "current" releases from Kalin Cellars, the 1994 Chardonnay, the 1997 Semillon, and the 1997 Sauvignon Blanc. Where else in the world can values like these come from other than the genius of Terrance and Francis Leighton at Kalin? Just plain ridiciculous wines of astounding quality that will leave one scratching one's head.
Rhonda Johnson
December 14, 2008 10:00pm ET
Yes, this is a great topic. We all love sharing our 'finds.' My current house wines are Clos La Coutale Cahors (all the bottles I've bought have been between $10 and $14) and Louis Jadot Moulin-¿ent Ch¿au des Jacques (easy to find at $18). These are both wines that, just by the sheer quality, make me feel like I'm splurging. And then when I look at that price sticker, especially on the Cahors, and take another sip, I just tingle all over. I also keep a friendly Aussie Shiraz on hand for straight-on guzzling, since the Cahors and the Moulin-¿ent beg for something lovely to eat along with them. Boarding Pass Shiraz/R Wines is always a big friendly puppy of a wine, and a good bargain at $13. Two Hands Gnarly Dudes is a bit more expensive but, to my palate, more interesting. However, there's a good chance that I'll soon find a couple of new go to's, since I've amassed a nice little list of things to try from all of the posts to this blog entry.
Chris A Elerick
Orlando, FL —  December 16, 2008 9:28am ET
James, You have your work cut out for you trying to track down all these wines! I have to echo the Four Vines sentiments. The 2006 vintage of the Paso Robles Biker and the Sonoma County Sophisticate are out of this world for less than $25. Both scored 92 points and are very available. Another fun red is an Australian blend called Fifth Leg that is less than $20. Kind of hard to find, but a great wine to drink while you watch a movie on a Tuesday night. I find it interesting that when you ask about value wines, people come out of the wood work to give their two cents. No matter what the top-tier First Growths in Bordeaux, Grand Crus in Burgundy, or cult Napa Cabs think, 99.9% of consumers don't get excited about paying those prices. While I am of the philosophy that life is too short to drink bad wine, the reader responses in this blog prove that this mantra can be followed without selling your vital organs.
Greg Sorensen
Brooklyn, NY —  December 28, 2008 10:39am ET
My go to everyday wine for the past couple of years has been Kanonkop Kadette. It is a pinotage blend from South Africa and retails for about $12. It has proven to be of consistent quality over several vintages and always drinks nicely with a great balance of dark fruit and earthiness. Cheers.

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