Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Good wine at a fair price

Subtitled: “Consistently tasty selections selling for $10 to $15”

The article from
Dan Berger (published 12/1/04 in the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Ca) makes some excellent points, and is worth reading in its entirety.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate an online link to the article, so I’ll use excerpts here.

“You want a good bottle of wine, you want it to be cheap (meaning inexpensive /Huge), and you want to be able to find it.

“That is the question I get bombarded with most by readers of this column. And it’s seemingly impossible to answer for about 34 reasons, each of which entails a number of sub-reasons, corollaries and theorems.

“Well, for one thing, if I gave you the best lower-priced wines in each varietal category, it would have to be a wine that is made in large amounts. (This column appears in many newspapers.) Which generally means that such a wine comes from a large winery.

“And some readers believe that nothing great can ever come from a large winery.

“I have said this before, and can’t repeat it enough: some of the best wines in the world are made by giant wineries, and the main reason is consistency from bottling to bottling.

“Also, larger wineries are well funded, can buy the best equipment (such as barrels for aging and sophisticated bottling lines) and can pay for a consistent source of high quality grapes.

“One person’s bargain is another’s splurge, so I have decided to shoot for the mid-point, about $10 to $15. Here is a current list:”

(Tasting notes from the following have been truncated to fit my schedule, but it contains all of the wines he recommends. Please see his article for the notes /Huge)

  • Most consistent Chardonnay: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve…
  • Most dramatic Sauvignon Blanc: Geyser peak…
  • Best Pinot Gris: Rancho Zabaco… (owned by E&J Gallo)
  • Most consistent Cabernet: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve…(second place goes to Hess Selection)
  • Merlot: Pepi… (owned by Kendall-Jackson)
  • Syrah: Delicato…
  • Sweeter Riesling: Fetzer… (also notes Fetzer’s Gewurztraminer as being rather good /Huge)
  • Bargain red wine: a blend simply called "Reds” from Laurel Glen Vineyards
  • Pinot Noir: Firesteed (from Oregon)
  • Petite Sirah: Bogle
  • Zinfandel: Rancho Zabaco “Dancing Bull” (owned by E&J Gallo)

*************

[MORAL: Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say. Please don’t let yourself fall into the “Small artisan wineries will always be superior” pretense. Most of that BS stems from people trying to be "exclusive" or attempting to be the person to find the newest "garagiste" wineries. Large wineries can and DO produce good wines at good prices. Just watch out for large bottlings of plonk from the Central Valley, as that 1970's business model (just making huge insipid blends of jug wine without regard to quality) is where the 'large producer" reputation came from.

As I've said before, commercial success is not the enemy. Producers who grow large by ignoring their quality, while not dropping their prices are the enemy.

Those who expand their business while still paying due attention to their quality & reputation are OK by me. /Huge]

3 Comments:

Blogger Enoch Choi said...

here's the article, available until saturday at:

http://www.creators.com/lifestyle_show.cfm?next=2&ColumnsName=dbe

Every Saturday they post a new article, bumping the old ones off, even off of google cache results.


by Dan Berger


All newspaper editors want to know what their readers like. If you would like to read this feature in your local newspaper, please do not hesitate to share your enthusiasm with your local newspaper editor.


BY DAN BERGER

FOR RELEASE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2004



You want a good bottle of wine, you want it to be cheap, and you want to be able to find it.

That is the question I get bombarded with most by readers of this column. And it's seemingly impossible to answer for about 34 reasons, each of which entails a number of sub-reasons, corollaries and theorems.

I usually start with the question, "What sort of wine do you like?"

And the questioner shoots back, "Something that tastes good."

Well, for one thing, if I gave you the best lower-priced wines in each varietal category, it would have to be a wine that is made in large amounts. (This column appears in many newspapers.) Which generally means that such a wine comes from a large winery.

And some readers believe that nothing great can ever come from a large winery.

I have said this before, and can't repeat it often enough: some of the best wines in the world are made by giant wineries, and the main reason is consistency from bottling to bottling.

Also, larger wineries are well funded, can buy the best equipment (such as barrels for aging and sophisticated bottling lines) and can pay for a consistent source of top-quality grapes.

Over the years, as I have been asked this question, I have sought a single answer that, regardless of the vintage, can be reliably used to answer any such question.

However, within the question lies the deeper question of just what is a reasonable price. Some folks say $8 is the most they'd ever pay for a bottle of wine. Others suggest that $8 will get you only blah wine, and they're prepared to go to $20.

One person's bargain is another's splurge, so I have decided to shoot for the mid-point, about $10 to $15. Here is a current list:

Most consistent Chardonnay: Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve. Always shows excellent fruit components, has a touch of oak flavors, and the balance is impeccable. At less than $15, this wine (despite production in the millions of cases!) always satisfies.

Most dramatic Sauvignon Blanc: Geyser Peak. Made slightly in the style of New Zealand, with exotic tropical fruit notes like gooseberry, pear and lime, the wine is crisp and delicate, yet still full enough of body to pair with a wide array of spiced foods. About $12, occasionally less.

Best Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris is a grape that has a fruit that's different from Chardonnay in that it usually offers hints of pear, melon and other spices. About three years ago, E&J Gallo came out with a Pinot Gris called Rancho Zabaco that at about $15 is excellent, and occasionally discounted.

Most consistent Cabernet Sauvignon: Again Kendall-Jackson's Vintner's Reserve tops the chart here, mainly since the winery reduced production of the wine and improved quality with its 2001 vintage. And at $15 or less, the wine is excellent. A close second is Hess Select, always a superb value.

Merlot: I'm not a huge fan of this grape variety, but at $8, the Pepi Merlot (a second label of Kendall-Jackson) is an excellent buy.

Syrah: There are a number of marvelous wines in this varietal, and among the best bargains in an entry-level wine is Delicato (about $7).

Sweeter Riesling: This light, floral wine is usually made slightly sweet, and for value it's hard to beat Fetzer Riesling at about $7. Fetzer also makes an excellent companion wine, a Gewurztraminer. There are better and drier wines at a bit more money, but these two are hard to beat on price in the sweeter style.

Bargain red wine: The owner of Laurel Glen Vineyards, Patrick Campbell, has long made a wine that's an homage to the past called simply Reds. It is always a delight at less than $9.

Pinot Noir: Very few entry-level wines (priced in the under $15 price point), but one that comes in at $10 and is a nice reflection of the variety is Firesteed, one of the largest producers of the variety in Oregon.

Petite Sirah: This hearty, dark red wine has a kind of cult following, with more than a dozen producers charging $25 to $50 and more for their inkiest, most concentrated wines. One that's more approachable and works nicely with grilled steaks is from Bogle, usually less than $11.

Zinfandel: Again, concentration seems to be the order of the day for most makers of this wine, but the Rancho Zabaco "Dancing Bull" Zin at $10 is superb.

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2003 Rosemount Riesling, South Eastern Australia ($10) -- Not for everyone, this stylish bone-dry wine from Down Under offers hints of grapefruit, dried pineapple and petroleum, and finishes with a citrus rind sort of complexity. Dry enough to be a substitute for any dry wine at the dinner table, and a great complement to oysters and other seafood. Served alone, with no food, be prepared to pucker!

Dan Berger resides in Sonoma County, Calif. Berger publishes a weekly newsletter on wine and can be reached at danberger@VintageExperiences.com. To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Originally Published on Saturday November 20, 2004

December 01, 2004 2:52 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

Excellent!
Thanks for taking the time to post the entire article, and for the info on where to catch it online.

I usually get to read him in the paper, and have been looking for a link where I can access those same articles (other than his VintageExperiences.com).

Cheers!
/Huge

December 01, 2004 3:32 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I don't think there is any question that Dan Berger is the most accomplished and insightful wine writer in America. But his REALLY good stuff shows up in his "Vintage Experiences" newsletter. It's weekly. Always has provocative prose and is never boring.

December 01, 2004 10:59 PM  

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