It’s a new year and perhaps you’ve made some resolutions? Losing a few pounds, eating healthier, not watching so much television? No judgement. In any case, perhaps your resolution included exploration, in which case I offer you a to-do list of wine exploration. Twenty wines, under $17 for 2017. Good luck, and have a great new year.
Sparkling wines are often seen as just a way to ring in the New Year, but I suggest that keeping your good fortune in mind on an everyday basis is the positive way to approach 2017. To that end, here are a handful of sparkling wines to help you celebrate the everyday.
14 Hands Winery, Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington $10
Certainly an everyday celebration pricetag, the 14 Hands Brut from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is a blend of many grapes and offers classic, yet quaffable qualities in a sparkling wine. Fermented using the same in-bottle technique as is used in Champagne this sparkler offers lots of cut Granny Smith apple, and citrus creme.
Valdo “Oro Puro” Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene, Italy $12
Not all Prosecco is created equal, and this bottling from the DOCG of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano shows why. The Glera grape’s true home is in these steep hillside vineyards. Savory herbal notes mix with cut pear and apple, and the classically floral elements that make Prosecco one of the great sparkling food wines of the world.
The Crémant Rosé from Domaine J Laurens is a pretty pale pink and aromatically fruity with red currant, and rhubarb notes. The palate is crisp and fruit forward and there’s a fair bit of body from this blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Rich flavors and great acidity make for a nice balanced wine.
Zardetto Prosecco di Treviso Brut, Italy $12
A blend from vineyards within the broader Prosecco DOC indicated by the di Treviso. Classic Prosecco aromas of white flowers, chamomile and apple skin. The palate is lean, angular and loaded with citrus zest, underlined with notes of kitchen herbs and hints of apricot.
Non-Vintage, François Montand Brut, Jura France, $11
Brut sparkling wine is classical and clocking in at $11 marks one of the most ridiculous bargains on the wine planet. Aromas of white flowers and honey, flavors of baked bread, chamomile and ripe stone fruit. An incredible bargain from one of the most serious sparkling producers outside of Champage, making outstanding bubbles in the funky and cool Jura region.
Perhaps you’re a loyal white drinker, looking to expand your repertoire beyond that go-to Chardonnay. Or, maybe you’re one of those “red wine only” folks, in which case this list might push you to test your comfort zone a little, it’s a new year, take a chance.
2014 Wente Morning Fog Estate Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California $11
California Chardonnay has perhaps developed a bit of a bad reputation based on the overly oaked models, this value priced Chardonnay shows that restrained use of oak results in an easy drinking balanced Chardonnay from California. The aromas are baked apple, and vanilla, but the palate is a balance of bright sweet, tropical fruit rounded off with notes of cinnamon.
2014 Los Dos White, Campo de Borja, Spain $9
Bright crisp and loaded up on fruit. This blend of Muscat and Chardonnay is all fruit all the time. Aromas of passion fruit, mango and pineapple come through with great clarity given the wine’s steel fermentation. The palate is bright, zippy and full of pineapple. As under $10 bottles go this one is a steal, and a change up on your typical white wine blends.
2014 Casal Thaulero Orsetto Oro, Trebbiano, Italy $15
Trebbiano is a classic white Italian variety and this one fits the bill. Lean, angular and complex compared to many American white varieties, a bit exotic. With aromatics and a palate somewhat reminiscent of an Older World Chardonnay. Aromas of sweet hay, lemon and sage and a palate with a lot of complexity, notes of pollen, honey and candle wax. If you’re looking for new wines to explore this one is perfect.
2015 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon $15
Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is far and away Oregon’s most popular white wine. It’s fruit forward, round character balanced by bright acidity makes it almost universally enjoyable regardless of your personal preferences. This bottling from Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of Oregon’s largest and most consistent quality producers shows why. Aromas are exuberant with sweet fruit, ripe cantaloupe and a round mouthfeel that delivers pineapple, ripe stone fruit and honey.
As Chardonnay goes this wine clocks in at a fairly high alcohol percentage, north of 14% but that doesn’t show up on the palate. Rather than phenolic this wine is bright and zippy. The use of stainless steel tanks during fermentation highlights the crisp, fruit forward character of this Washington Chardonnay with aromas of cut stone fruit and white flowers. The palate is equally zesty with a citrusy hallmark of lime and grapefruit.
You’ve had your fill of Merlot perhaps and for 2017 you’ve resolved to discover new wines varieties and new regions of the wine growing world. I’ve got you covered on both.
2014 Bodegas Caro, Aruma Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $11
Frankly, it seems a little crazy to me that you can get a wine this good for $11. Argentinian Malbec faced a sort of identity crisis at the height of its popularity. A homogenity of style took hold and the reason the wine became so popular in the first place in Argentina, it’s ample fruit forward character, sort of got lost. This Aruma bottling from Bodegas Caro, arguably one of Argentina’s highest quality bodegas is an insane bargain at $11. There is a litheness to this fruit forward wine which makes it all the more enjoyable, bright red and blue fruit aromatics mix with hints of crushed stone. There’s a surprising acidity, and an incredibly elegant structure that highlights a fruit focused flavor profile. Outstanding wine. Look for it.
2013 Juan Gil Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain $12
Spain may be the single greatest wine value producer in the world. Seemingly the Spanish, throughout their country are cranking out well made wines always south of the $20 price tag, and this well made offering is no different. Monastrell is the Spanish name for Mourvedre, and this wine is a well made example. Intoxicating aromatics of black fruit and barrel spice, and hints of smoke. The palate is rich and redolent. There is ample oak influence on this wine resulting in a velvety mouth coating body. The flavors of dusty blackberry, tobacco and sage round out this masculine, rich wine.
2013 Tridente Tempranillo, Castilla y Leon, Spain $12
Bonus points for outstanding label art on this bottle from Bodegas Triton. While most folks think of Tempranillo from the classic region of Rioja, this grape is made throughout Spain. This wine is a bit brighter than the aforementioned Monastrell, and this is typical of young Tempranillo which really emphasizes red and blue fruit notes. Aromas of candied blueberry and dried violets and a hint of barrel spice. The palate is spicy, and soft. Flavors of sappy raspberry and blackberry along with black pepper.
2014 Mastroberardino Aglianico, Campania Italy $13
Aglianico is a wine with a great historical pedigree brought from Greece to southern Italy. It was the foremost component of the most famous wine of ancient Rome, Falerninan wine, a sought after cult wine at the time. Campania may be it most well known growing region these days. Aglianico has a well earned reputation for being highly, and almost unapproachably tannic in its youth and therefore is often blended with Sangiovese to soften it. That is not the case in this Mastroberardino bottling, nor is it necessary. This wine is wonderfully fruity and relatively light bodied. Aromas of stone, strawberry and fennel and a palate of pure bright fruit, bing cherry, wild strawberry and a hint of spearmint at the finish.
2013 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, California $11
One might balk at the pedigree of California Cabernet in the nearly $10 bin but fret not, at least not when it comes to this bottle. Where cult California Cabernet can be a world changing experience, a well made iteration of this grape shows that California may offer a purity of fruit that you cannot find in Bordeaux. This wine is simple, easy drinking and at $11 is just begging for a pizza in the middle of the week. Yet with all that is unassuming about it’s price point and approachability, it’s still a damn nice wine. Aromas of of raspberry and streaks of fresh kitchen herbs and a bright palate of red fruits accent the palate. Raspberry and montmorency cherry with only the slightest hint of cocoa powder.
2013 Lander Jenkins Pinot Noir, California $13
A super approach and budget friendly California Pinot Noir that accents the red fruit character and hints at the elegance of this finest of fine wine grapes. Aromatics of turned earth, dried violets and red currant. The palate is sweet berry fruit, notes of clove and cola and a finish with ample acidity to make this a well paired food wine.
2013 Tie Dye Red Blend, North Coast, California $14
From two of California’s most well known red wine varieties to a “kitchen sink” blend that includes a little of those, along with nearly everything else, the Tie Dye blend, is perhaps aiming at peace and love by blending just about everything. If you like oak influence, this wine is for you. The resultant blend is loaded with barrel aromatics of cinnamon and baking spice. The palate continues to exhibit that oak with notes of cinnamon, espresso and cocoa powder. There is a streak of black fruit throughout the palate, framed by baking spices.
2014 Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell, Alicante, Spain $12
If there’s a fitting example at just how much wine you can get for your dollar from Spain, this is it. Mendoza’s entry level Monastrell, offers a high bang for the buck and emphasis on bright fresh fruit flavors and aromas. The wine comes from thirty year old vines at an elevation of two thousand feet. The wine spent six months in neutral American oak barrels (used two to three times) and the resulting wine offers aromas of cola, baking spice and dusty ripe raspberry. The palate is lively, fresh and loaded with red fruit, tobacco and cocoa nibs. What an incredible bargain.
2014 Parducci Small Lot Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, California $12
A use of restraint on the oak selection and with fruit from Mendocino County’s inland vineyards you have a wine that shows a lot of class for the price tag. Classic cabernet notes of red berry and white pepper when it comes to the aromas. There’s ample red fruit and brightness on the palate with hints of mocha and just a touch of peppery spice. A great food Cabernet from Parducci.
2014 Root:1 Heritage Red, Maipo Valley, Chile $9
This is a lot of wine for less than $10, about that I have no doubt. The aromas mix fruit, with earthen character,graphite and even hints of coffee. The palate is a core of black fruit, but what makes this wine stand out is its elegance and structure. A blend of Cabernet, Carmenere, Syrah and Petit Verdot, while this are heavy hitting varieties, the balanced blend between oak aged wine and a substantial portion done in stainless steel leaves the wine with a brightness and focus on fruit that make for a great food pairing and an undeniable bargain.