Archive for the 'Wine under $10' Category

Aging an under $10 wine – Castano, Hecula, monastrell, 2002

“Do Americans have a wine cellar?” runs an old industry saw. “Yes, it’s called the back seat of their car on the way home from the wine store.”

True enough. Virtually all wine bought in American gets uncorked (or uscrewed) within a very short time after purchase. And at no price point is that more true than under $10 wines. So for today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday assignment of finding a Spanish wine under $10, I thought I’d try the impossible: an under $10 wine with some age.

I dug around the Dr. Vino cave, and came across a bottle of the Castano, Hecula, 2002. Since I bought it for $7 about three years ago, I had low expectations that the wine would still even be good. But it was a Tuesday night, so what the hey.

Wow, was it good, perhaps the most rewarding under $10 wine I’ve had in a long time. Alluring notes of grilled meat drippings, leather and tobacco permeated the aroma and the wine actually had an attack, a midpalate, and a lingering finish. While five years of age is just warming up for most more expensive and age-worthy wines, this under $10 wine may have been particularly long lived because of the grape variety, monastrell, aka mourvedre in the south of France. In a tasting last fall of this big red grape, I found that I preferred the wines with some age on them to blow off some of the gamey, animale character.

The sad news about this wine is that it was my last bottle. A quick price check showed only a few vendors with it available, and now they want $14, double what I paid for it three years ago. A sign of the times, for popular Spanish wines.

Check out for the full WBW round-up of good value wines from Spain.

Related: “An open letter to Jorge Ordonez

Nine wines under $10

The hardest thing—but perhaps more sought-after than a Lafite—is a list of good, interesting and affordable wines, for parties or for dinner Sunday to Thursday or even all week long. Here’s my latest list, arranged not by preference, but by style, from lightest to fullest in white and red.

Why is it only a list of nine wines under $10 instead of the usual ten under ten? Because I’m grumpy. It’s increasingly difficult to find good wines with character under ten dollars. Blame part of it on the weak dollar (though my list here is heavy on eurozone wines), blame it on producer greed–they’re all just excuses! Good wines, easy on the palate and on the wallet are what consumers want. Sure, there are lots of great wines for $12-$15 and many more from $15 – 20, but these are out of reach for a lot of people to have with dinner on a given Tuesday. Producers take note of this market opening, ready to be filled! Meanwhile, we can fill up our wine storage areas with this value vino.

Muscadet Sur Lie, Hautes Noelles. $9.99 (find this wine)
This muscadet is great for oysters. Don’t you get tired of people saying that? I do. I have oysters once every five years and this wine is too good to wait that long between bottles. The “sur lie” aging gives this muscadet a richer mouthfeel but it still has the characteristic crsip acidity, faint melon note, and gentle briney quality. Fire it up with grilled seafood on the deck. (Importer: H2Vino, Michael Skurnik)

Vina Sila, Naia, Verdejo, Rueda (Spain), 2005. $10 (find this wine)
This is a classic summer wine from a grape you may never have heard of: verdejo. Fresh citrus notes, though not as much acidity as a kiwi sauvignon blanc, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers make this wine a great one as a warm-up (with light, salty appetizers) or as a cool down (poolside).

Creta Olympias, Vilana, Crete 2006, $10. (find this wine)
Vilana is usually a ho-hum wine that is churned out from the most recent vintage. However, in a recent tasting of this off-the beaten-path variety, I found a few that were recommendable with this being the most affordable. With delicate white flower aromas, the wine had a certain lush mouthfeel, with pleasant minerally verve. This wine + Greek salad + outside under umbrella on a sunny day = life is good.

Domaine Houchart, Cotes de Provence rose, 2006, $9. (find this wine)
This dark, vibrant, and dry rose has notes of strawberry and watermelon. The lively acidity makes it a great food pairing. While I think that rosé should be less than $10 a bottle to be lots of fun I might be tempted to pay $12 for the Domaine Sorin. But this blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre gets the job done on the deck in the summer.

Bodegas las Hormigas, Colonia las Liebres, bonarda, Mendoza (Argentina). 2006. $4.49 (find this wine)
This ridiculously priced bargain is one to buy with both hands. This surprisingly light and lively, unfiltered old-vine bonarda from importer Marco de Grazia’s project in Mendoza. It’s now our house burrito wine.

Terra Rosa, Malbec Mendoza (Argentina), 2004. $10 (find this wine)
This is a fascinating wine of the global era: Patrick Campbell of Sonoma buys the fruit from local growers in Mendoza, makes the wine on location, then ships it back to California for bottling and an admirably reduced carbon footprint. The cost-savings results in a wine of character, with good fruit and a pleasant and unusual level of acidity, at a very reasonable price. It calls out for grilled meat.

Castaño, Hécula, monastrell, Yecla (Spain), 2004 $9. (find this wine)
I poured this wine recently at a tasting and people thought it was a $30 wine. It has the wonderful mourvedre game quality on the nose, and serious but not aggressive tannins on the finish. I actually came across a bottle of the 2001 of this wine in the Dr. Vino Cellar recently (originally purchased for $7—inflation!) and it was among the most rewarding $7 bottles of wine I have ever had. I’ll throw some more of this one in the cellar and check back in a few years. Try it now with game or sausage.

Castillo de Jumilla, monastrell, Yecla (Spain). 2006. $9. (find this wine)
Given what I just wrote about how I feel about young monastrell, I wasn’t planning on being wowed by this freshly squeezed 06. But I was. It’s a gobs-of-fruit, beef-drippings kind of wine but with a pleasing lushness. According to the wine’s importer, there are only a few hundred cases of this excellent BBQ companion wine available.

Trentadue, Old Patch Red, Sonoma, 2004, $8. (find this wine)
California Zinfandel has sadly seen prices escalate: consider this one greed relief. Fans of big reds will find this a gulpable bargain with hints of dark fruits and faint spice. The biggest plus here is that—unlike some of the other wines on this list—the wine has broader availability.

Test driving a one-click case

Reader Jeff J wrote in yesterday asking for a case of wine, probably red, about $150 – $200 to give to a friend in New York who recently got married.

Great question! And thoughtful gesture! Some retailers put together pre-fab cases but I have generally approached them with skepticism. Why? I probably don’t want one or two or three of the wines in the set case. And I suspect there’s something in there that the store might be trying to move for reasons other than necessarily serving the consumer.

But I put my skepticism aside and decided to put my money where my mouth is. I recommended Jeff check out Chambers Street Wines, which has a selection of pre-fab cases at $100 and $200 both red and mixed. I also recommended the mixed “Memorial Day” case at Le Du’s Wines in the West Village. Maybe it was the thought of grilling this weekend but for some reason I found myself clicking “buy now.”

Tuesday I clicked and Wednesday my doorbell rang. I have to confess a certain amount of excitement pulling out bottles I’ve never tried before. Even if I don’t know the producers’ names, the back labels sport the names of some very solid importers–Neal Rosenthal, Jon David Headrick, Classical Wines among others. And they were selected by the knowledgeable staff, headed by Jean-Luc Le Du, formerly the sommelier at the restaurant Daniel.

But the best part? $145.99! Free delivery in New York State. I’ll keep you posted on how the one-click convenience works out in the glass. The list follows below for your perusal. But if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go put a bottle in the fridge since it is heading to 84 degrees today… Read more…

Cameron Hughes, a bird on the back of a hippo


One of the oldest and most dubious sales pitches in the wine trade might be “this wine comes from the vineyard right next to [insert prestigious winery name here]. Similar quality, a fraction of the price.”

Uh huh.

So it was with my eyebrow duly raised that I met with Cameron Hughes. He lures Costco shoppers down the aisle to try his wine by telling them that he’s got a “$30 wine for $9.99.” Based on some rhapsodic reviews of his wines on wine web sites, the claim sounded plausible enough to lure me to meet with him for a coffee one morning on his recent trip to New York City.

Hughes is not a wine maker. He is part wine finder, part marketer, and and part salesman. And he’s introducing an innovative way of making and selling wine that is delivering cost-savings to consumers in the form of some easy-drinking, value vino. Read more…

Domaine Sorin, box, WBW 31

We’re fans of the box around here. No shame in that. In theory, it’s convenient, fresh and brings the per glass costs down to levels low enough to make you generous, even with your neighbors. I wrote an open letter to Jorge Ordonez and told him to hop on it. Sadly, no word from him and his importing empire.

Box wine theory does not often meet reality in America. The quality of many almost all box wines found on our hallowed shores is enough to give them a bad reputation. Oh wait…So for inspiration, let us turn to France. They get it after all.

Domaine Sorin: I had the Cotes de Provence 2005 rose last summer (find this wine). At 25 euros, it was double the price of another box we bought, which might make it seem expensive. But the 5L box meant that it was five euros ($6 give or take) per liter putting it in the realm of gulp-tastic pricing. Domaine Sorin is made without chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyard. The blend comprises of four classic grape varieties from the region and is vinified and aged in vats. Sadly it is only available in France. Perhaps another letter is in order? Dear Domaine Sorin importer…

For some worthwhile and no doubt more attainable box wines, check out for the round-up from this Wine Blogging Wednesday.

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Hop on this rabbit for $53.88 a CASE

I’m always on the quest for wine bargains. Sure, Napa cabs can be great but they’re often expensive. Ditto many Burgundies. We need a wine for Sunday – Thursday.

Behold Colonia Las Liebres (Rabbit Colony), our current house red. I bought a bottle for $8 and thought it was remarkably decent. Then I hunted on the web and found it for $5 a PJ Wine (map it) in Manhattan. But wait, it gets better: there’s a case discount that brings it to $4.49 a bottle or the insanely low price of $53.88 a case. I had two cases delivered yesterday. I figure that should get me through the end of February. Oh wait, that’s Wednesday. OK, maybe a little longer.

The wine is an unoaked, unfiltered bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina. It is an unbelievable value. It has some bright purple fruit balanced against pleasant acidity and easy tannins. It’s gulpable. It’s now my official burrito wine but I’ve had it with pasta and would love to try it with barbeque. Is it a little bit rustic? Try it and let me know your thoughts…It’s made by Marco de Grazia et al. at Altos de las Hormigas in Argentinta (Michael Skurnik, importer). Scoop up as much as you plan to consume between now and July. And say adios to Two Buck Chuck.

(note: the 06 label has the same image but with a white background)

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Farmer fizz, for less

There’s a lot of talk these days about “grower champagnes,” sparkling wines made in the Champagne region by the grape growers themselves (see my backgrounder). In all the rush to talk about this farmer fizz, the fact that growers also make bubbly outside of Champagne sometimes gets lost.

When I was in Argentina earlier this year, I tried some of the local bubbly. Moet controls the Argentine market for bubbly through its local subsidiary. In fact, their local label has risen to a level of brand awareness on par with Kleenex and Xerox. Instead of asking for a glass of “champagne” Argentines mostly ask for a glass of “Chandon.”

The sparkling wines made at the Mendoza Chandon winery serve many Latin American markets but don’t ever go north of Panama. Domaine Chandon in Napa provides American domestic sparklers to the US market alongside the Champagne brands in the LVMH portfolio such as Moet, Veuve Clicquot, and Krug.

In Argentina, Pascual Toso plays the Avis of the bubbly market to Moet’s Hertz. This family-owned company has been making wine since 1880 and now provides something like five percent of the bubbly to the Argentine domestic market. But unlike Chandon Argentina, which you would have to go there to taste, Toso brut is exported to the US. It is a blanc des blancs made of chardonnay and chenin blanc. If you’re looking for a bargain bubbly, to stock for a large party or simply for a break on the budget, the Toso retails for between $6-8 in the US (find this wine). Light in color, with notes of yeasty brioche, it’s some farmer fizz that will add bubbles to your budget.

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Value vino list nineteen

Lucarelli, Primitivo 2004 from Puglia. $6.97 find this wine
In the heel of the boot that is the Italian peninsula, the hot plains of Puglia have typically produced prodigious quantities of wine. Quality is creeping in now as the effects of the world wide glut are being felt. This Lucarelli Primitivo is an intersection of the two themes: good quality at a low price. These 60 year old vines yield primitivo, a grape that is a relative of zinfandel. The resulting wine is a real crowd pleaser with round fruit followed by persistent, faintly spicy finish. It’s light enough to try with pasta, but would love some grilled meat. What are you waiting for? Start searching for this value vino!

Texier, Cotes du Rhone, 2004. $10 find this wine
I pulled out this wine as a “third bottle” one evening because I expected it to be big. But it was lean. And very food friendly. I poked around the web and found this comment from the importer: “Eric Texier and his wife, Laurence, studied nuclear science in France and in Illinois.” oops, that wasn’t the important part. Take 2: “He vinifies all of his Rhones as if they were Burgundies. His touch is therefore light, and involving cold maceration of all reds…and the gentlest, non-filtered, gravity powered bottling possible.” Aha! Well, it certainly is an unusual CDR, but good nonetheless–and Texier is tres sexier at $9.99! Importer: Louis/Dressner.

Evesham Wood, Blanc du Puits Sec, Eola Hills, 2005. $13 find this wine
While I was in Oregon recently, I tried this excellent organic pinot gris. Russ Raney adds depth to the wine by blending in 15 percent gewürztraminer, which makes it a terrific aperitif wine. It has the floral notes of pinot gris with a hint of the lusciousness of gewurtz all with minerality and refreshing acidity—I’d like to taste it blind against some Alsatian whites, or forget that, with some seafood! The only bad news is the limited availability of the wine. But based on this taste, I’d be very willing to cobble together an order of his very reasonably priced wines from Russ at the winery directly. (503) 371-8478

Chateau Turcaud, Entre-Deux-Mers, white 2005. $11 find this wine
The Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux is a misnomer. It’s not between two seas, as the name states, but between two rivers. This wedge of flat land between the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers used to produce a lot of boring wines but the economic crisis in the area is starting to invigorate the area as a whole. This dry white, a blend of sauvignon blanc (50%), semillon (45), and muscadelle (5) is great value vino from Bordeaux. Luscious notes of pineapple layer on top of crisp acidity giving the wine a great mouthfeel. It’s an excellent companion to potato-leek soup. Mmm, fall is here. Consider this a wine for between two seasons, not seas.
Importer: Fleet Street Wine Merchants

Zero manipulation, Peterson winery, California, 2003. $12 find this wine
I love the text on this label: 78% Mendocino County carignane, 14% Sonoma syrah, 8% Sonoma mourvedre. They even stick the vineyards on there too but I won’t bore you those. The point is, information! Love it! In the glass, it is a red, light color but not lacking in aromas of garrigue, leather and spice. It has good balance on the palate and is a very food friendly red for the fall. And zero manipulation, who can be against that?

cabernet sauvignon, Washington State, 2002. $11 find this wine
If some entry level cabernets have too much raw tannin, then, ironically, this wine called Powers is a way to throttle back. A blend of cab from four vineyards in Washington State, the wine maker also added a gob of syrah and a blob of merlot from organically farmed vineyards. With a little age on it now, the resulting blend is smooth yet substantial and a good match for the beefy side of this fall’s dishes.

Vinho Verde, Fâmega, NV $4.49 find this wine
I have always thought of vinho verde as something of a wine curiosity since it’s neither green as the name would imply nor a still wine because of slight effervescence. Heck, it’s hardly even a wine by today’s standards since it has only 9 percent alcohol! But after years of scoffing at vinho verde I tried this one—not of my own free will, of course, but it mysteriously ended up in a case of wine that I ordered on line. I’m glad it did. It is a fantastically easy drinking aperitif wine with a sort of bluish hue, bubbles, and good acidity. With the low price and low alcohol, you could really put some of this away. And at under $50 a case—too bad summer is almost over! Importer: Admiral Wine Imports, Cedar Grove NJ.

Lafazinis, St. George, Pelopennese, 2004. $10 Find this wine
Greek wines have come a long way. This light summer quaffer hails from the blazing sun of the Pelopennese. Made from the Agiorgitiko grape (chalk up another one for the wine century) with no oak, the light bright red fruit shines through followed by a slightly tannic finish. Try chilled with anything you’re eating al fresco. Importer: Sotiris Bafitis.

Los Planos, Syrah, D.O. Carinena, 2003 $8 Find this wine
These planes of Spain may become known mostly for their syrah. This 6,000 case offering from the team behind the old-vine grenache of Las Rocas, has a similar unctuous, big style. Leather and dried herbs on the nose and blackberries on the palate, this syrah is going to be a huge crowd pleaser-and at this price, you can afford to pour it for a crowd. To make it fit better with the summer weather, try and chill it a few minutes before pulling the meat off the grill. Importer: Eric Solomon.

This list is updated weekly.
See the previous complete list of ten wines under $10.

Wines over $12 that are still good values:
Il Corzanello, $14. A delicious white wine from Tuscany. Read more.
Gerard Boulay, Sancerre, Chavignol, 2005. $21 find this wine


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