Several weeks ago we reviewed some inexpensive wines and asked our readers to offer their own recent discoveries. You responded!

Tom Handel was quick to write with a list of his favorite bargains. He said he scours the stores for sale wines and sets $8 as his limit. He said he patterned his philosophy after that introduced to him by his best friend’s father who set a $4 limit back in the 1970s.

Wrote Tom, “He believed that there was plenty of good wine at the bottom end of the market — you just had to go out there and spend the time to find it. He didn’t mind ‘kissing a few frogs’ (as he said) in order to reveal the occasional princess of a wine. He was very successful at this.”

Here are some of his great bargains — and Tom’s comments. If you have any discoveries to share, please send us an email. We’ll continue writing about this category in future columns.

Meridian Vineyards California Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($8). “Meridian, which was once derisively (but not wholly inaccurately) described to me by a liquor store owner as a ‘supermarket wine,’ has been a long time backbone of my holdings, and more recent vintages as well as other varietals are all very good bargains for the price.” We agree — we like the pinot noir too.

Meridian Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2005 ($8). “If you like a big, oaky, buttery chardonnay for a reasonable price, this fills the bill admirably. This and the other Meridian varietals regularly go on sale for as little as $5 a bottle.”

R. H. Phillips Cabernet Sauvignon Dunnigan Hills 2001 ($8). “Like Meridian, R. H. Phillips has consistently turned out a superior product for the price, and more recent vintages are also excellent. The current product, which I have only found in 1.5 liter bottles, is Night Harvest. Stock up when it goes on sale. Other varietals in this product line (notably the chardonnay) are also very good.”

Cypress Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2005 ($8). “A screw-top bottle, but some very decent wine for the price. Haven’t seen this on sale in quite a while, but even at regular prices it can probably be found within my limits.”

HRM Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster California Pinot Grigio 2006 ($7). “My wife’s favorite white wine, and a welcome change from the chardonnays.”

Sebeka Cabernet Pinotage Western Cape South Africa 2006 or 2007 ($9). “In the late ’90s and for a few years thereafter, Australian wines were often very good and undervalued. Not so much so any more. But I think South Africa is the new Australia. Sebeka goes on sale with some regularity. Other Sebeka varietals are also very good, like the Sebeka Shiraz Western Cape South Africa 2006 and Sebeka Shiraz Pinotage Western Cape South Africa 2006. Both very drinkable. There are several other meritorious and inexpensive South African vineyards — I also cellar Kumala, Oracle and Tall Horse — but Sebeka stands out.”

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have visited vineyards all over the world and have been writing a newspaper wine column for more than 20 years. Contact them at: [email protected] 



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