Friday, July 18, 2008

Wines for $10 or less

I was reading an article on where three sommelliers were given $70 and told to buy 7 bottles of wine. Not surprisingly, very few of the wines purchased were from California.

Looking locally, about the only winery I can think of that has a range of wines worth drinking that are available at retail for under $10 is Clos LaChance; I've frequently seen their "Glittering-throated Emerald" unoaked Chardonnay on offer in Safeway for under $10.

All is not entirely lost however. Some wineries do occasionally clear out excess inventory to make way for the latest vintages. Recently I've taken advantage of a couple of these. The only down side (if you consider it to be) is that you have to buy a whole case.

Silver Mountain makes a non-vintage blend called Oscar's Wild. At $17 a bottle it's in the same price range as Cinnabar's Mercury Rising, or Fogarty's Skyline. And it's a reasonable enough blend of Bordeaux varietals. At $17 I'd probably pass, but on a recent vist they were clearing it out for $100 a case - a better than 50% discount.

Down in Santa Cruz, Alexander Cellars are currently selling their 2000 Zinfandel at $22. But to clear space for the next vintage they are offering it at $100 a case. I tried it recently - I doubt that you'll find a better Zinfandel anywhere for the price.

Around the corner from Alexander cellars in the same complex you'll find Equinox and its sibling label, Bartolo. The Bartolo range includes several different varietals including a Sangiovese Rose for $12, a red and white blend called "Cioppino" for $14 and a Syrah for $16. Currently the winery is offering a mixed case - any 12 bottles - for $120.

So that's six wines for $10 or less. The original challenge was for seven; provided they stayed in budget the contestants were allowed to go as high as $15, and all of them included a sparkling wine. Well you could certainly pick up any number of sparkling wines at Safeway for under $15, but we don't necessarily have to go outside the area. Woodside Vineyards has a NV "Champagne" for $12. It's made for them by Weibel vineyard in the East Bay using the Charmat bulk process, which helps keep the costs down, And while I grant you there's far better available if you're prepared to spend the extra money, it'll certainly hold its own against the likes of Korbel, Freixenet and the rest of the sub-$10 sparklers.