Give Dad the best: superb wines at great prices

June 14, 2019

Happy Father’s Day to all you gents with children. Years ago, my wife Barbara bought me a shingle engraved with the shibboleth, “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.” I’m still not quite sure how to read it. I prefer to see it in a favorable light. Let’s look at some very affordable excellent wine this week that you can buy for Daddy. Chehalem Three Vineyard Willamette Valley Riesling 2016, served at room temperature, allowed the Riesling nose to expand into a varied bouquet with lemon pie, orange blossom, Honeycrisp (I love Honeycrisp apples) and grapefruit highlighted by five spice. On the palate, steely mineral accents ending with tart, crisp lemon zest tang; 90 points under $20. It was their Pinot Gris that caught my palate, though. Again, $20 buys you a complex, lovely, aromatic, 89-point McD gem. Starts with white flowers, Asian pear, and lemon curd accented with candied ginger and butterscotch. The well-balanced palate includes dried apricot, peach, tart cherry and rose notes. The fruit provides a perceived sweetness that is delicately balanced by bright acidity.

Stephane Vedeau La Ferme Du Mont Cotes du Rhone Premiere Cote has been getting nice 88-90-point reviews for the past five years. RP recently wrote: "One of the more exciting, relatively new estates in the southern Rhone..." [everyone should] "...check out this estate’s impressive Cotes du Rhone." He is enamored of Vedeau, a rising star from an inexpensive French wine region, so expect the prices to escalate. This 2016 can be had for $144/case or less and is worth 90 points including 2 price points. It’s 60 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah and 10 percent Mourvedre, aged in foudres (large concrete tubs), a common practice in Rhone. Bouquet of black pepper, garrigue, licorice, brambleberries; medium body, great QPR, a value food wine.

The Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2016 was even better than when sampled in the fall; 90 points, mostly Syrah, fruit and mineral nose, it opens on the palate to earth, garrigue, smoke, licorice and black currant riding a balanced profile with enough tannic grip to support 10 years in the cellar. Ready to drink, and best of all, it can be found under $24. WA’s Dunnock awarded 94 points. There are 1.5 L available, but they are selling for $60. Of course, these will be ready to drink sooner. Please avoid the 2017. It was a poor vintage.

How about an under-$17 Sonoma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir named Orbit, from 2012 or 2014, both with plenty of raspberries and cherries. Medium body, mellow, and smooth as velvet. Finishes long and clean. Drinks like a $30 bottle; great value here. Winemaker, businesswoman and author Alison Crowe has her act together. Learned her craft working at Chalone, Curtis, Bonny Doon, Byington and some time in Argentina. Read her book, “The Wine Maker’s Answer Book” or blog, Cuvee Corner. She produces a full line of varietal wines under the 30 Degrees label in addition to those from Orbit and Garnet. All those I sampled – a Chardonnay, Cab and the Pinot Noir – were priced under $17 and well worth the money. 

Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Cabernet Sauvignon has been one of the better Cab buys since 2007 in every vintage. H3 has been awarded 87-90 points by many major writers including WS, WA, WE, and Wine & Spirits. Due to their usual opening price, under $15/bottle and $150 case, they are a favorite of some of my pals who drink Cab whenever red meat is served. So, I award at least 1 price point at 87 and 88, and 2 for higher rated. You can still find some 90-point 2012 around for less than $15, and it is drinking beautifully. The 2013 is 91 points and selling for $148/case or $15/bottle. 2014 is a bargain buy at $13 and 90. I can’t find the value in the Reserve Cab at 90 points and $40-plus/bottle.

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