As a native Californian who cut her wine tasting bicuspids in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino while going to college in the Bay Area, then worked in the tasting room at Ridge Winery in the early 80s and who now lives just south of the thriving wine regions of the Central Coast, I am most familiar with and partial to California wines.
Why bother with wine from anywhere else when California wines are so abundant, so inexpensive, so tasty and easy to find at Trader Joe’s, Vons, or The Ventura Wine Company?
All that changed when I started going to the Grateful Palate Warehouse sales two years ago and ventured into the wild and wonderful world of Australian wines, especially shiraz, and I discovered I love GSMs. At their warehouse sale prices, I became spoiled drinking much better quality wines in much bigger quantities.
At the Wine Bloggers Conference, I had the opportunity to taste not only plentiful pours of local Sonoma wines, but wines from New York State, New Zealand, and really all over the world thanks to Doug Cook and others who brought wines to share. Most of these wines were priced around $20.
Since much of the conversation around wine blogs recently has related to Chilean red value wines under $20 (see here for a list of posts), and how Chilean wines are such a great value in comparison, I found myself asking: in comparison to what? In my opinion, there are plenty of California cabs at around $20 which are better than the 2006 Casa Lapostolle “Alexandre” I tasted over the past few days and I know California cabs I’d prefer to spend my $10 on than the 2006 Santa Rita Reserva.
So in comparison to what? I asked myself again. To European wines at the same price point?
To answer that question, I investigated three old world wines easily found on the internet for around $10: a 2003 Raimat Tempranillo, a 2006 J. Vida-Fleury Rhone blend of Grenache and Shiraz, and a 2006 Chateau Nenine blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I liked the Tempranillo. A lot. I would definitely buy this one. In terms of my Wine Predator scale,
5-8………. Terrible; Lose the Trail
9-11…….. Emergency Rations
12-14……. Worth Drinking
15-17 ……..Worth Finding
18-20 ……TRACK IT DOWN!
it scored 17 and it deserves to be FOUND again! It was great with appetizers of various pizzas, cheeses, and grapes, and the gathering drank it up quickly.
Unfortunately, the Rhone wine, at 12 points, as much as I wanted to enjoy it, was barely WORTH DRINKING. It tasted thin, and flat. The Bordeaux fared a bit better, with a score of 13, but it wasn’t too exciting either.
The Chilean Santa Rita, as you may recall, scored a 14 the other day; last night it was clear to us that this was a better wine and a better value than the two French ones. Unfortunately, we finished the Tempranillo before I could taste it again and compare it with the Chilean Santa Rita! I would say that is suggestive! How much can be contributed to the Tempranillo being 3 years older, and other factors, remains to be seen, however.
Last night, over steaks, we drank the 3 “value” reds along with the Casa Lapostolle; at this point, it had opened up into a lovely, personable, pleasurable wine, and the Casa Rita was very serviceable while the two French wines were only that: French, and with significantly lower alcohol levels (which we did appreciate). Yes, I’d chose them over $2 Buck Chuck, but next time I think I’d take my $10 and spend it on another wine.
Sigh. Now that I think about this experiment, I am wishing I’d opened up the Chateau Greysac 2001 I picked on clearance for $14 (regularly $20) to compare with the Casa Lapostolle…
Oh well, another day!