Cape Gazette
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Wine

There is a selection of excellent California chardonnays

By John McDonald | Dec 31, 2012

It may be a bit late for the gift-giving season, but the following are findable at local spirits purveyors. A Snooth article provided the idea so I took a spin through several local grog shops to check availability on Tuesday. The lists are focused on excellent Chardonnay and Cab that is reasonably priced. Some folks lay in a case, as these make excellent gifts for an unexpected visit from an old pal. If you are looking for a reliable listing of good wine priced favorably and are internet friendly try this website: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/50-wines-you-can-always-trust.

Let’s start with a couple of excellent Cali Chardonnays priced less than $20: Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma 2011, Franciscan Estate Napa and Rutherford Ranch Napa 2011. Each of these is about 13.5 percent alcohol and shows some apple, vanilla and butter, but the comparison ends there. Each is distinct in its minerality, and the Franciscan shows some pineapple and almond. Also in this range and probably the best buy for my taste is Wente Riva Ranch Heritage Block Arroyo 2010 from Monterey. Very complex for this price. Climate in each vintage is well expressed. Lovely golden color with nice viscosity, pear and tropical fruit aromas, on the palate caramel, a bit of oak provides cream and full body. Please serve this around 60 degrees or even a bit warmer to get best effect. I rate it 90 with one-and-a-half price points if bought under $18. Another winner priced under $20 is La Crema South Coast Chard made by Melissa Stackhouse. She is a terrific winemaker.

Rodney Strong Alden vineyards Cab 2010 is a terrific buy priced around $30. Washington state choices priced closer to $10 that are acceptable are Hogue Cellars and Columbia Crest Grand Estates. In California, R. Mondavi Private selection and Liberty School CA fill the bill under $20. Most of you are aware of Duckhorn Merlot, but how many have tried their Decoy Cabernet available for $19.50? This is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. A lovely complex bouquet of cinnamon, vanilla, black currant and blackberry aromas leads to a juicy palate with smooth tannins, a touch of oak-inspired cedar and dark berry flavors. Be careful on vintage!

While I’m sending warning signals, please check this out: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2012/12/wine-investment-warning-french-regulator. Brief synopsis, those “froggies” are twanging their Bernie Madoff twangers again. There is a very possible scam in the wine investment community. As I have written here previously, wine speculation is for the well-informed, the strong of nerves and, most importantly, the thirsty. If you would be angry about drinking 20-year-old Bordeaux worth several hundred a bottle and you don’t have an appropriate cellar, pay as you go.

Well worth the search is Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat 2011. Normally, a 93-point Parker-rated Priorat will sell around $30-40. When he adds the following comment, it rockets above $50. "The wine possesses phenomenal minerality along with notes of crushed rocks/wet steel, graphite, blueberries and raspberries, medium to full-bodied flavors, and sensational purity, texture and length. It should drink nicely for a decade or more,” 93 points, Robert Parker. A much stingier Tanzer gave it a 90. This wine can be found for $15, and your wine guy can eat if you buy a case priced under $175.

Please don’t buy that cheap sparkling wine for a Christmas or New Year's Eve toast. Purchase some Roederer Estate Brut NV priced under $20; about six servings if you know how to pour. Consumersearch, a company whose advice I have found valuable, wrote, “In three blind tastings, its average scores were 90 points.” The panels were Wine Spectator, Wine and Spirits, and Connoisseurs Guide. Wine.com; Epicurious.com and Hello Vino also gave favorable ratings. As you know, this is also my pick for domestic sparklers based on price/value. By contrast, using the same pour to serve Friexenet Cordon Negro Brut costs $1.50/serving. Another great buy.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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