“Value” wines find new fan base

You may have noticed that “value” in wine is getting quite a bit of attention. A recent LA Times article expounded on the merits of various domestic and international wines which they considered to be good values, i.e., the U20 wines (under 20 bucks) we favor. The Wall Street Journal also recently (Sept 7) featured values in pinot noir.
We could not agree more with this reasonable fascination. We recognize trophy wines have their place as trophies that can play a very helpful role when entertaining and seeking to impress clients or anyone else whose favor is worth culling. I am being perfectly serious. However, we also know when it comes to enjoying wine for nothing other than the sheer pleasure of drinking and talking about wine…it’s a great big world. Bully!
Here are four wines we tasted recently that cover the range from bargain to trophy.
2002 Ethan Santa Ynez Valley Syrah Purisima Mountain Vineyard $25: This was purchased in 2003 on futures at the Wine Cask Santa Barbara tasting. We do not go
anymore as the event dipped in quality and range of wines offered. It is actually an interesting story of how the leverage shifted from the Wine Cask to the winemakers. As the winemakers and their respective labels received more and more attention the winemakers began bringing fewer wines to the tasting where the cost of entry to them included a mandatory 25% discount (which encouraged attendance). The only way to get many of the top wines is to buy them through the winery mail list at full retail or with a nominal discount. Makes sense, no?
Ethan Lindquist is the son of Bob Lindquist, founder of and winemaker at Qupe. This bottle may be Ethan’s first release of Purisima Mountain Vineyard. It was delicious. Profound bittersweet chocolate (65% cacao) flavors. Dustiness initially (soft tannins) faded within 15 minutes. Never faded throughout our meal. There was a companion tasting article in the LA Times that covered a couple other Purisima Mountain releases from SRH winemakers. This vineyard is regarded as one of the area’s best. 14.5% alcohol which is typical for SRH. Ethan kept it balanced without pumping up ripeness. I doubt pricing for Ethan wines still begin with a 2!
2005 Clautiere Estate Viognier Paso Robles $20: I am not a big fan of viognier from any region domestic and abroad. The grape just does not thrill me. I have had the “legendary” and very expensive Chateau Grillet young and aged. Nnhh. This wine was nice enough. Came with the Clautiere club order. I like Clautiere wines. Great price points. Well made. I prefer their red blends which are traditional Rhone style. I really like that. But even Tablas Creek (California’s best winery) makes duds. I would still recommend joining the Clautiere maillist (along with Tablas Creek), especially if you like costume parties and the bacchanalian debauchery.
2005 Trenel Moulin A Vent Tirage Limite $23: These are numbered bottles which means they are limited production. It is the fabled 2005 Beaujolais vintage. How much longer will we be able to find these wines in our local (and favorite mail order) stores? This is a cut above the ordinary 2005 wines from Beaujolais. More tannic backbone with just as much of the ripe Gamay fruit. This wine will keep for several years. In flavors it is closer to Barolo than Burgundy (its northern neighbor). A lean and sinewy wine (think marathon runner) that likewise does not give out.
1997 Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru: Long term cellar dweller that I finally busted out for a special guest. This is highly sought wine for burg hounds. 1997 was a difficult vintage in Burgundy with intermittent rain. This means some grapes did not ripen enough. French chardonnay blows away California across the price range but especially at the high end. This wine has character and flavors that cause us to prefer French to domestic chardonnay wines, however, the vintage did leave a mixed impression. Stones and minerals in the nose and initial flavors. A bit later jasmine emerged as the wine opened. Ten years is a good time to wait for white burgundy especially a Grand Cru. Because of the vintage problems with ripeness I wold say this was a good time to open this bottle. Served with halibut and a tomato salsa that worked well. Here are notes from the domaine.


  1. Wavatar
    JC says:

    I’m a little confused… you list the Clautiere Rousanne for review, then speak of how you dislike the Viognier grape?

  2. Wavatar
    Anonymous says:

    I need an editor! Thank you for the heads up. The wine of which I am writing is a 2005 Clautiere Viognier. It is not the 2005 Clautiere Rousanne. Send resume if interested in editing position soon to open.

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