WINES OF THE YEAR- VALUE WINES

Before focusing in on the wine that I’ve selected as my Wine of the Year for 2013, I wanted to take a moment to recognize some producers who made great everyday drinking wines that are widely available at affordable prices. Some of these found their way into my Wine of the Month feature, but here’s a more organized listing of the best wines in the “Under $10” and “$11-19” price categories. While some of these exact vintages are long gone and have moved on to the next in stores, this is more a general list of producers than anything else, as these wineries have found a way to deliver consistent quality at remarkable prices with high yields of fruit. Happy shopping, and your wallet can thank me later.

BEST VALUE WINES $11-19

 1) Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills 2010 ($15, 91 Points)- Inviting nose of floral, elegant red plum and cherry fruit that shows off elements of baking spice. Supple and plush on the palate with a controlling streak of creamy vanilla bean holding together the red currant and blackberry fruit notes, and finishing with a blast of exotic spice that lingers long beyond the fruit and oak influences. Juicy and complex without being overripe, light on its feet. The spicy finish is commanding, picking up just a dash of mineral as well.

 2) St. Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2011 ($15, 90 Points)- Powdery cocoa, black fruit and perfume aromas. Creamy mouthfeel with black plum and blackberry above dark chocolate, chalky rock notes and spice. Still tannic, but should soften up a bit. Thick body is loaded with dark black fruits, charcoal, graphite and tar notes.

 3) Milbrandt Cabernet Sauvignon Traditions Columbia Valley 2011 ($15,  90 Points)- Full-bodied and in the Washington style, with a smooth palate of blackberry that gains depth from the cedar and dark chocolate notes underneath. Deep, creamy and long. A great value wine.

 4) Paringa Shiraz South Australia 2010 ($12, 89 Points)- Inviting aromas of blackberry, licorice, leather and pepper. This is very round and polished on the palate, with wet, tarry mineral and leather intertwining with juicy black currants, licorice and anise notes and a hint of sarsparilla through the spicy finish.

 5) Milbrandt Riesling Traditions Columbia Valley 2011 ($13, 89 Points)- There’s lots of floral peach citrus on the nose, leading into a juicy body of tropical melon and pineapple fruit. Very fruit forward finishing with a subdued note of tang. The minerality is very understated through the finish, but the vibrant fruit notes keep pumping.

6) Trivento Amado Sur Mendoza 2011 ($15, 89 Points)- Juicy and peppery, with a rich body of blackberry above black pepper and mocha undertones. Finishes with a charcoal tinge. Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah.

 7) A To Z Wineworks Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 ($18, 89 Points)- Floral cherry and rose petal on the nose. Light on the palate with well-balanced strawberry, watermelon and bing cherry notes that finish with white pepper, tobacco and mushroom notes that carry through the finish. There’s a hint of cocoa that lingers, making this unique for its weightlessness, but snappy fruit needs time to gain its full potential.

8) Domaine Sigalas Asiritiko-Athiri Blend Santorini 2012 ($17, 89 Points)- Floral and tropical, with white peach opening through a creamy texture that showcases refreshing acidity. Stone fruit and melon notes carry through the long finish, showing a juicy profile without any tartness.

9) D’Arenberg Viognier-Marsanne The Hermit Crab McLaren Vale 2011 ($17, 89 Points)- Very floral on the nose, with pear and honey dew fruit influences. Clean and creamy on the palate, as straightforward melon and pear citrus lead into subtle nectarine, orange and peach, finishing on a spicy, creamy honey note.

10) Easton Zinfandel Amador County 2011 ($17, 88 Points)- Aromas of red plum and baking spices. Ripe and juicy on the smooth palate, showing jammy wild berry and red plum fruit that lingers with exotic spices and some white pepper. A chalky mineral finish adds intrigue through the finish.

 10) (tie) Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2010 ($19, 88 Points)- Dense and juicy, with ripe black cherry and red licorice flavors at the forefront, showing deeper character of plum and wild raspberry as it deepens. Suave and fruit forward, but not cloying. Lingers enjoyably with a hint of tobacco spice.

BEST VALUE WINES $10 and BELOW

1) Bibi Graetz Casamatta Tuscany 2011 ($10, 89 Points)- Ripe red cherry and licorice on the nose. There’s an impressive rustic note up front on the palate, as wet stone mineral, cigar box and loam intertwine with fresh, ripe cherry, licorice and plum fruit, finishing with a subtle note of graphite and spicy tobacco earth.

2) Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2012 ($10, 89 Points)- Pale, translucent body gives off bursting aromatics of tropical fruit. Nectarine, guava and pineapple fruit provide fresh, vibrant acidity that keeps pumping through the finish, picking up softer notes of pear underneath Very fruit forward and new world in style, with subtle grassiness and spice lingering long with the fruit. Juicy, not cloying.

3) Rosemount Shiraz Diamond Label South Australia 2010 ($9, 88 Points)- Plum, cherry and wet stone mineral aromas. Fresh and ripe on the palate, with a velvety mouthfeel of ripe cherry, plum and wild berry fruit that shows notes of mineral, nutmeg spice and mocha bean through the impressive finish.

4) D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Blend McLaren Vale 2011 ($10, 88 Points)- Inviting nose that blends aromas of crushed rock minerality with ripe red berry fruit. Soft on the palate with its initial notes of earthy barnyard and wet stone, which lead into pleasantly floral raspberry and red cherry, finishing on a spicy vanilla bean note through the polished length.

5) Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Estates Columbia Valley 2010 ($10, 88 Points)- Lots of cedar and powdery cocoa on the nose shading dark black fruit notes. Rich and briary, laced with sage and cedar notes above rich, juicy blackberry and plum fruit that finish with a note of dark chocolate as firm tannins add grip. Earthy spice lingers with a lot of dryness.

6) Santa Cristina Rosso Tuscany 2010 ($9, 88 Points)- Full of vibrant, juicy cherry and ripe raspberry flavors above some subtle wet stone components. This is spicy and lively throughout, finishing with a note of chalky minerality through the long finish.

7) Columbia Crest Grand Estates Amitage Columbia Valley 2009 ($10, 88 Points)- Dark red currants and cocoa powder on the nose. Ripe and approachable, with baked plum, raspberry and cherry flavors above a light undertone of briary, herbal spice and a streak of wet mineral. Smooth and silky, with notes of spicy chocolate lingering. Columbia Crest does it again.

8) Delas Ventoux 2011, ($10, 87 Points)- Lovely nose of perfumed black currant combined with minerally graphite earth and pepper. Very perfumey and floral with cassis and plum fruit and a potpourri nuance here, leading into white pepper spice and wet stone. Medium length.

9) Oxford Landing GSM South Australia 2011 ($10, 87 Points)- Fresh, lively and open, with juicy cherry and wild raspberry flavors that sit softly on the palate and lead into subtle undertones of hung game and mineral through the medium length.

 10) Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Two Vines Columbia Valley 2010 ($7, 87 Points)- Intense aromas of cedar, briary earth and cocoa bean. Creamy body of black cherry fruit gives way to forest floor, pencil lead and powdery chocolate notes that linger impressively with depth and complexity. Remarkably smooth and polished, an absolute steal at this price point.

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