Here’s a selection of good-value reds for all tastes

August 5, 2023

Welcome to August. A longtime reader, Ray, asked me for top-flight Zinfandel that wouldn’t break the bank. Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2019, 94 McD, can be had for $34 plus shipping costs; your local wine store pal can get their hands on it if you are patient. Other states normally charge less than Delaware. This lovely can easily be found under $40. The Zinfandel is blended with 16% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignan and 2% Mataro. Redolent of blackberry, blueberry, cassis and barrel spice, the bouquet continues through the palate. Supported by berry-tart acidity and fine tannins, the flavors continue through a medium-long finish. Approachable but will cellar. If you are lucky, the 2018 may be on the shelf. Also 94 McD, it shows black fruit, raspberry, barrel spices and hints of black pepper. Both are excellent with smoked or charcoal broiled pork and red meats, and roast or grilled lamb. One reason I look to Ridge is it makes a broad selection of red wine that ranges in the 90s and from the $250, 95-96-point Montebello Zin to the $42, 93McD Lytton Estate Petite Syrah 2018. There’s also a lovely Grenache Blanc Adelaida Vineyard that consistently rates 91, and the 2021 can be found under $35. The last needs another year aging. For those looking in the $20 range, Seghesio Family Vineyards Zin is a good stop; the 2018-20 vintages scored 89-90. The 2019, 90 points under $30, is a fine choice. Starts with a bouquet of blueberry, blackberry, barrel spices and sage. Tannin and acidity support complex palate of cherry, plum and raspberry, with leather, licorice, raisin and white pepper back notes. Great for those who enjoy spicy Zins. A bit hot at 15.6% ABV.

Martinelli Bella Vigne Pinot Noir RRV 2019 is a wonderful buy under $45. Its 85% RRV juice and 15% from cooler Fort Ross provide a bright PN with plenty of fresh fruit flavors, aromas of bing cherry and raspberry. The palate is full of flavors including ripe cherries and cinnamon that linger in the finish. Their $65 Three Sisters Chardonnay 2018 is a 95 McD home run and just entered its 8-year window. Pale golden, it opens to white flowers, wet stone and pear aromas; lemon drop and ripe white peach flavors continue through its long, clean finish. Three Sisters Chard is one of my few favorites in the under-$100 category, a substantial value pick.

Vince asked, “What happened to the Italians? How about a favorably priced Ripasso, Amarone or Valpolicello?” First, thanks for asking about Mom’s side of the family; they are all doing well. Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2019 is a fine entry-level choice, 89 McD around $16 or less. Bright-dark ruby with violet, dried plum (not prunes) and cherry bouquet. On the palate, raspberry and cherry with bright acidity and grippy tannins supporting. Their Ripassa Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2016-19 all score 90+ McD. The 2018 is the best choice of the four recent vintages. Dark ruby, opens to morello cherry, dried floral and a hint of coffee aromas. Juicy, full-bodied, the fruit repeats, supported by integrating tannin and appropriate acidity. Good now through 2026. Decant to allow nose to come forth. Longtimers are informed that producing Amarone is an arduous process that takes a while to complete. In addition to normal processing, after selection, grapes are sun dried prior to vinification, The less-expensive varieties may use heating for the drying process, and side by side, most tasters can tell the difference. Zenato Della Val Classico DOCG 2017 is a solid 93 McD. Reminds me of the 2014. Dark fruit, pie spice, touch of coffee nose. On the palate, blackberry, spices and dark chocolate ride a balanced acidity/soft tannic frame. Ready now. Should be available under $60, 2 price points.

Burgundy lovers, only buy 2021 you have tasted. This was a difficult year, and the hyperbole from reputable wine producers is causing me to avoid the vintage until I have more exposure. As you know, top-flight French Burgundy is frequently at the peak of the price scale. So far, there are few good QPR wines to be found. I’ll let the likely suspects evaluate and check out the $50-$100 retail range this fall and winter.


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