Value vino list fifteen

Crisp white

Bandit, Bianco, 1 Liter, Italian Trebbiano, 2003. $6 Find this wine
Sometimes it’s all about your expectations. George Bush strings words into sentences without making any egregious grammatical errors in a debate and lo and behold, he’s won! Same with this wine. It’s in a Tetra-Pak for crying out loud so your expectations are at rock bottom. But hey, it’s not half bad! The three thieves are actually three winemakers from California who broke through with their bold red jug wines last year. This year sees the Cal-Ital Bandit Bianco, made entirely from Italian Trebbiano grapes (brilliant marketing idea! Import surplus Italian wines rather than buying surplus domestic ones and consumers will pay a premium!). Pale yellow in color, this unoaked wine has a crisp acidity and a twang of steel tank. The Tetra-Pak makes it convenient for sticking in the picnic basket for summer concerts—just be sure to chill it before setting out since an cooling sleeve won’t fit around the box. Resealable. (Imported by Liberators, Inc, Sausolito, CA)

Wine in a box,
sans bag

Dry rosés

Toad Hollow, The Eye of the Toad, Pinot Noir rose, Sonoma County, 2004. $8 Find this wine
“Fine wine at a reasonable price” is the motto of Toad Hollow winery based in Healdsburg, Sonoma. This dry, crisp and refreshing rosé with notes of rose petals and strawberries is indeed easy on the palate and on the wallet (it is probably the cheapest, good Pinot Noir from California given how the prices have taken off post-Sideways. Since it is from their own vineyards, however, it will likely remain affordable unless they decide to divert the juice back to other Pinots that fetch a higher price). The flavors resemble excellent rosés from Europe though it is, surprisingly for a Pinot Noir, more full-bodied. The winemakers tip their hat at this style in the name, the eye of the toad, since French rosés are known colloquially in French as “the eye of the partridge.” A
great eye peers through the label. Enjoy with chevre or salads on the deck.

Antichi Vigneti de Cantalupo, Il Mimo, (rose) 2004. $11 Find this wine
This mime speaks volumes. On a hot summer day, there is nothing like a bottle of rosé glistening in the middle of an outdoor table surrounded
by excellent salads

and breads and good company. And with plenty of warm weather being served up this summer across the northern hemisphere, I wouldn’t be surprised if rose sales were up higher than the thermometer. Il Mimo fits the bill very nicely with it crisp acidity and smooth and balanced fruit—it is one of the top value roses from Italy
I’ve found this summer. (Importer: Summa Vitis, San Francisco)

Medium-bodied reds

Capcanes, Mas Donis, Barrica 2003. $11 Find this wine
These old vines keep pumping out excellent value vino. Located in Montsant, the value-minded person’s region next door to Priorat, these 60 year old Grenache and Syrah vines produce a profound wine. In the glass, it is transparent and deceptively light in color yet on the palate the complex flavors yield to a finish that is rare among value vino. I would serve this wine with confidence to any guests—and this vintage’s swanky new label helps it further punch above its price point. Importer: Eric Solomon, Charlotte, NC.

Luzon, Jumilla, 2004. $7
Find this wine

Lush and velvety this big red from Spain’s up-and-coming Jumilla region has great bang for the buck. If I had been traveling with a cork screw last week (which I wasn’t thanks to the TSA) this would have been my wine of choice (but since I wasn’t I factored in the corkscrew price and then opted for a screwcap from down under). This monastrell-syrah blend goes well with smoked or grilled meats and is on my list for “transitional reds for the fall” as well as “candidate for best label of the year.” Importer: Jorge Ordonez.

Teatro, Malbec. (NV). $6 Find this wine
This is an Orwellian wine. It states neither vintage nor place and comes from the eerie producer named “bodega A-72107” (though the synthetic cork was stamped “Weinert,” a reputable producer). Why the marketing department at Bodega A-71207 chose the name Teatro and then put some restaurant watercolor scene on the label is known only to them but the wine gets the job done whether you’re having a pre-teatro menu or a BBQ. The wine does exhibit some of the red fruit leatheriness of Malbec but it is really only recommended for bargain hounds who won’t pay a dime over $6 since there are several other good examples still under $10 (viz Alamos). But, hey, if wine half this good were available by the glass in restaurants, wine drinkers would be happy. Importer: Pelloneda, NY.

Castillo de Fuendejalon, crianza, Campo de Borja, 2001 $9 Find this wine
We’ve heard of wine in a box. And even wine in a paper bag. Well this wine bottle is packaged pre-bagged! Yes, I am recommending a wine under $10 in a paper bag (and I’m Dr. Vino, not Wino!). You may be familiar with the Rioja packaging of gold wire wrap, but this wine from Campo de Borja comes with all information printed a paper wrap. But it’s not the outside that’s important since the inside holds a pleasantly oaked, medium bodied red with notes of dark fruits and violets. A blend of old vine greache and tempranillo, this wine’s packaging makes it ready to hit the road and bring to friends at the grill. (Scoperta Importing, Cleveland Heights, OH)

Codice, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, 2002. $8 Find this wine
This balanced red has notes of irony. It’s ironic because the term “codice” is the old word for Spanish laws and the wine is not from the strictest legal category, the denominacion de origen (D.O.), but instead from the larger and looser Vino de la Tierra de Castilla in the plains southeast of Madrid. However, since I have discovered several yummy, easy-drinking reds from this new area, it does lead wine drinkers to wonder about the values of the D.O.s. From the same family that makes Sierra Cantabria in the Rioja, this balanced, medium-bodied red is not earthshatteringly profound but it’s competently done and a good value. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser by the barbecue. A Jorge Ordonez selection (Tempranillo
Inc, Mamoroneck, NY)

Big reds

de Roriz, Prazo de Roriz, Duoro 2003. $12 Find
this wine

This wine is international in style and if that’s ever a bad thing, it’s not in this case since I’ve tasted some pretty rough table wines from unreconstituted winemakers in Portugal. But the Duoro is really looking up and has become one of Europe’s best places for value vino (or vinho) as well as the exoticism of indigenous grape varietals, often unheralded internationally. This wine blends the Tinta Roriz, Tinta Franca, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Nacional to come up with a smooth, fruit forward red wine with excellent aromas of leather (saddle, not jacket) and dark fruit. On the palate, the pleasant tannins also have an X factor that I ascribe to the Touriga but would make it a great match for smoked or grilled meats. Kudos go to the Duoro DOC, which has one of the prettiest certification stickers on the back of the bottle. Importer: Premium Port Wines (San Francisco, CA).

Peachy Canyon, Incredible red, Bin 114, 2002. $9. Find this wine
This will provide the American red for the 4th of July-you can supply the white and the blue. I often like a chilled white or rose in the summer to beat the heat. But then there are those meals, such as BBQ, that just cry out for a big red and the all-American Zinfandel fits the bill (although DNA research has proven the grape has its roots in Sicily and Slovenia). Peachy Canyon, a family-owned winery near Paso Robles, has a line of affordable zins. This “incredible red” is not the most full-throttled example of the grape, but is balanced with dark fruits and a peppery finish. 7,800 cases produced.

See the previous list including great summer wines

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