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Somms Spot Value Wines

Robert Whitley on

The conventional wisdom holds that most wine experts, including professional sommeliers, are somewhat snobbish about what they drink. While it may be true that wines that retail for $100 a bottle cause something of an adrenaline rush even before they're tasted, most wine enthusiasts enjoy uncorking a cheap bottle of wine only to discover it is delicious.

This was obvious from the results of the 13th annual Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition Sept. 12-13 in San Diego. As executive director of this competition, one of my distinct pleasures is the opportunity to taste and do my own evaluation of many wines awarded a platinum medal over the course of the competition. (Medals include platinum, gold and silver awards, platinum being the top rung).

The somms certainly singled out a fair share of $70, $80, $100 wines for platinum, but I was thrilled and pleased to discover they also had love for a number of wines at $20 or less. I tasted 19 platinum wines that fell into that category. Here are my thoughts and ratings:

Angels & Cowboys 2019 Rose, Sonoma County ($14.99) -- This crisp, clean and refreshing rose delivers pretty aromas of strawberry and cherry and is well balanced and zesty. Rating: 92.

Baccolo 2019 Bianco Veneto IGT, Italy ($18.99) -- This unusual blend (sauvignon and garganega, the white grape of Soave) is made partially from dried grapes, a la the great red Amarone, using a technique called appassimento. It's an earthy white that picks up the strong grapefruit aroma of the sauvignon as well as melon and stone fruit. Rating: 94.

Black's Station 2018 Malbec, Yolo County ($12) -- This is a plump, juicy malbec from Northern California's underrated Yolo County wine district. The tannins are supple and the palate smooth for easy drinking now. Rating: 92.


Bulletin Place 2019 Pinot Grigio, Southeastern Australia ($10.99) -- Fresh lime and good acidity are the features of this superb pinot grigio from Australia. Rating: 90.

Calandrelle 2019 Carignan, Vielles Vignes, Pays d'Herault, France ($17.99) -- Just another beauty from the south of France. This carignan is smooth, supple and juicy, a spicy red with smooth tannins and a long, savory finish. Rating: 94.

Carnivor 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, California ($15) -- This easy-drinking California cabernet is rich and supple with loads of dark fruit goodness. Rating: 90.

Earl Stevens 'Function' Red Blend, California ($12) -- There is no information about what's in it other than the declaration on the label that it is a "finely crafted and delicious red blend," and it is non-vintage to boot. For 12 bucks, it's an excellent buy. Rating: 90.


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