10 Value Wines for the Holidays
'Tis the season to party hardy. If you're a wine enthusiast with discriminating taste and an unlimited budget, no problem. Luxury wines abound. For those with less elastic wallets, the good news is that delicious, high-quality wines at value prices are in abundance, too.
This week's tasting notes are dedicated to the proposition that you don't have to spend big to enjoy delicious wine. The 10 wines recommended today offer exceptional quality at affordable prices (less than $25) and will surely dress up any holiday gathering that seeks to combine good wine with good friends.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Pieropan's 2016 Soave Classico, Italy ($20) -- Few of Italy's numerous wine regions have taken more slings and arrows over the years than the Soave district in northern Italy's Veneto region. Much of it was deserved, for the object at one time was volume. Quality took a back seat until the Italian wine renaissance of the 1980s. Soave has been reborn, and Pieropan has been at the forefront of the surge in quality. The 2016 is a beauty, showing a nose of lime blossom. On the palate, the wine exhibits aromas of marzipan, citrus, crunchy green apple, pear and honeysuckle. Beautifully structured, it delivers backbone, but with a rich, creamy texture. Rating: 92.
Bonterra's 2016 sauvignon blanc, Lake-Mendocino-Sonoma counties ($14) -- This sauvignon from Bonterra's organic vineyards is one of the great steals of the vintage. At $14, it represents exceptional value. Notes of white peach and lemongrass jump out of the glass. The wine is exceptionally well-balanced and a perfect complement to steamed shellfish, grilled chicken or goat cheese. Rating: 90.
La Crema's 2016 Monterey pinot gris ($20) -- I've always been struck that California and Oregon pinot grigio lacks the richness, palate weight and viscosity of pinot grigio made in Alsace. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a difference that draws unrealistic and unfair comparisons to the wine's European cousin. New World pinot grigio typically falls somewhere between the lushness of Alsatian pinot grigio and light-bodied, crisp Italian pinot grigio. La Crema's Monterey version is a good example. It has a modicum of richness that is beyond most pinot grigio but is far from lush. This vintage offers a marzipan note, as well as nuance of lemon oil and pear. Rating: 90.
Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG, Italy ($12.99) -- This sweet bubbly from Asti is the perfect end to a holiday meal, aromatically inviting and not so sweet it overwhelms the taste buds. Made from white muscats, this wine shows lush aromas of pear and tropical fruit with a soft, elegant mousse and a clean, lingering finish. Serve it with cakes, pies or Italian cookies. Rating: 90.
Ferraton Pere & Fils' 2015 La Matiniere, Crozes-Hermitage, France ($23) -- This meaty syrah from the northern Rhone Valley offers a complex array of red and black fruit aromas, firm tannins and good acidity that imparts freshness. Not so sought-after as neighbors Cote-Rotie, Hermitage and Cornas, hence the slightly below-market pricing. Rating: 89.
Landmark's 2015 Overlook pinot noir, Santa Barbara-Sonoma-Monterey counties ($25) -- Overlook is Landmark's "value" tier, and it's one to seek out, whether you are in the market for a pinot noir or you want a chardonnay. The 2015 Overlook pinot is another winner in the growing category of delicious pinot noir for less than $30. On the nose, it shows a floral note, followed on the palate by aromas of cherry, ripe strawberry and pomegranate. An earthy forest-floor note provides a savory backdrop to this otherwise richly fruited value pinot. Rating: 89.
Louis M. Martini's 2015 cabernet sauvignon, Sonoma County ($20) -- Martini's Sonoma County cabernet (sourced from the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys) has long been one of the great "value" red wines in California. The 2015 vintage shows notes of plum, red currant and black cherry, with a subtle spice note and a whisper of mocha. Rating: 89.
Montmassot's 2016 picpoul de pinet, France ($10) -- You can almost taste the sea in this delicious picpoul de pinet, which hails from the Mediterranean coast of southern France. With notes of melon and citrus and a hint of spice, this exquisitely balanced picpoul is refreshing and satisfying as an aperitif but at its best when paired with freshly shucked oysters. Rating: 88.
Talbott's 2015 Kali Hart pinot noir, Monterey ($26) -- The Talbott vineyards are some of the most prized in California for chardonnay and pinot noir. Although the best grapes go into Talbott's more expensive bottlings, the value-tier Kali Hart pinot noir need not make any apologies. The 2015 delivers an attractive floral note on the nose, and on the palate the wine shows good weight and depth, with aromas of cherry and plum, supple tannins and excellent balance. Rating: 88.
Ferraton Pere & Fils' 2015 samorens blanc, Cotes du Rhone, France ($14) -- This grenache-driven Cotes du Rhone (85 percent) shows little to no oak influence, allowing the warmth and charm of grenache's inviting red-fruit character to shine. It gets its backbone from a splash of syrah (10 percent) and cinsault (5 percent). With good balance and an attractive spice note, it's a winner for this price range. Rating: 87.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.