Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Spending a Little More Is Worth It

Though my wine reputation is all about finding great bottles that cost less than $20, I do on occasion stray over that financially responsible line. Sometimes I regret it, since the wine I splurged on (even if it's only a $2 splurge!) isn't worth it. Other times, I feel like those few extra dollars deliver significantly more in terms of taste and enjoyment.

What follows are some recommendations for wines that deliver excellent QPR even though they are a bit more than those I usually recommend here on the blog. None, I hasten to add, cost more than $30. Perhaps you're looking for a special bottle for a special dinner. Maybe you're looking for a bottle to give a host or hostess for a gift. Then again, you might just want to treat yourself. While there is certainly no need to go over $20, one of these bottles may just tempt you into plunking down a little bit more at the cash register. When you pop the cork, however, I think you'll agree that it was money well spent. (click on the wine name to be taken to a list of retailers)

Great Napa Cabernet--for around $25: the 2006 William Hill Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. This delivers everything that is good and great about Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for a pricetag that won't leave you gasping. Rich aromas of cassis and plum serve as a prelude to the equally rich, beautifully balanced flavors. More currant and plum notes on the tongue are accented by a herbal aftertaste. Abundant acidity keeps the wine from feeling heavy. This is delicious now, and it should continue to improve through 2014 if you have a cool, dark place to keep it. Kudos to William Hill for making classic Napa Cab for the people.

Fantastic Italian Red for around $22: the 2006 Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Chianti Rùfina Nipozzano Riserva. I adore Italian red wines, but tend to steer clear of Tuscany because of the high prices . This pure Sangiovese wine from the Chianti Rùfina is one of the rare exceptions to that rule. It had delicious blueberry, blackberry, and spice aromas. The flavors are equally berryish, with some cherry and a nice tobacco element that keeps it from getting sappy. Excellent and fruity now, but I would expect it to really bloom in the next few years.

Distinctive Malbec for $25: 2008 Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón Malbec Don Miguel Gascón Reserva. Many Malbecs are perfectly enjoyable fruity red wines. This is not that kind of Malbec. Instead, it's the kind that makes you sit up and think "wow--this is what Malbec can be." It has plum blossom aromas, a blackberry fruit core, and an aftertaste that reminded me of the smell of my mom's cedar chest and the way the spice drawer smells after years of use. This would be terrific on a holiday table that featured beef.

Complex, Layered White for around $22: the 2008 V. Sattui Winery Sauvignon Blanc Vittorio's Vineyard St. Helena. From the prestigious St. Helena appellation of Napa Valley, this is a complex, layered white wine that delivers a great deal in terms of flavor and style for a relatively modest cost. Meyer lemon, hay, and apple aromas give way to a more bitter taste of lemon pith, grapefruit, and stone. The contrast between the sweeter aromas and the dry, more powerful flavors is subtle but clearly drawn and this is a very nice change of pace from assertive Sauvignon Blancs. Very elegant, and far above the ordinary.

A Distinctive French Sparkler for under $27: the N.V. Philippe Bornard Crémant du Jura Blanc de Blancs. Made with Chardonnay grapes, this wine is a delicate, refined sparkling wine that will impress palates used to clumsy, raspy sparklers at this price point. A touch of salt accents the lemon and apple flavors and aromas. Refreshing and light, this wine will not bowl you over but instead entice you to sip more--and more.

Full Disclosure: I purchased the sparkling wine at a local wine store. I received bottles for review of the Cabernet, the Chianti Rufina, the Malbec, and the Sauvignon Blanc.

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