Plenty of good-value wines still available at year’s end

December 30, 2023

Happy New Year! I hope all enjoyed a delightful Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa; ours was family oriented and filled with good cheer. Following are a few reminders for those who plan. Well-chosen, age-worthy wine is a gift that keeps on giving. The best wine, in most cases, increases dramatically in value when safely stored. I have cited many instances in past columns. Timely purchases can provide “free wine” (thanks, Bob) for those who can buy in volume and cellar in a cool, dry, dark place. I have been using a refrigerator set at 53°F for many years as part of my cellaring. The expense is negligible. Buy six or 12 bottles. Get an upfront discount. Cellar for several years, drink half and sell the balance at auction. One caveat – get several reviews, and know who rated the wine. For example, how many are aware that Robert Parker stepped down from Wine Advocate in 2012 and appointed Lisa Perotti-Brown editor in chief? RP left when Michelin became sole owner in 2019 and Perotti-Brown stepped down in December 2021. There have been eight or so reviewers rating under the WA name since 2013. I am not disparaging any of these critics and writers. They are honest brokers with highly evolved palates. Choose your guru by sampling reviewed wine and deciding you agree most of the time. Follow the winemakers, respect terroir, inform your palate and trust it. Worst case, you will be drinking properly aged, wonderful wine. 

I recently visited a few local shops, and here are some wines I sampled at several recent tasting events. All of these are vintage specific. First are some fine 90-point buys under $60: Cabs include Post & Beam 2021, 91 McD; St. Supéry 2019, $48, 91 McD; Stags' Leap 2020, 92; Frank Family Vineyards, 91; Trefethen Dragon’s Tooth 2019, 90 McD; Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert 2021, 91. I have read 2022 is the best yet. They should be on the shelves later this year. About $70 will purchase the 93 McD Penfolds Bin 704 Napa Cab. Although Penfolds is an Aussie company, it has bought into Napa recently. Several have scored it 95, a $90 value. For Chardonnay under $50, try the 2020 Buena Vista, 91 McD; Grgich Hills Estate Grown 2021, 91 McD; Rombauer 2021 under $45, 92 McD is a great buy for those who like crisp acidity, toast and barrel spice aromas, apple and nutmeg on the palate. Full body and a long finish with fruit and pie spice reverberations. For Sauvignon Blanc, my choice is 92-point Groth 2020, on sale for $29. A terrific value.

Bargains under $100: Chimney Rock Cab 2021, Frootbat, 93 McD, $88, normally sells at $110 plus. La Jota Merlot 2018 was a stellar year, 94 McD, $90 at Banks. Some rated it as high as 97. This may be the best buy in today’s column regardless of what Giamatti said in Sideways.

Best wishes to all for a lovely, healthy, successful 2024. As we welcome the new year, the end of 2023 will bring the end of this column. My stint at the Cape Gazette has been very enjoyable. The family-like environment and the courtesy shown to me have been exceptional. Thank you to all readers, the crew at CG and a special thank you to the editorial staff, especially Trish, R.I.P., and Jen and Berni who cleaned up my word soup. Writing each week has been a joy. The friendly greetings I received on the boards or while shopping, and answering emails and phone calls have been great fun. I am grateful for “those few, those faithful few” who will remember me on St. Crispin’s Day. Wine-related questions will still be answered by email; send them to


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