We recently conducted a wine tasting for a group of people with the theme of suggesting some of our favorite, standby wines that were reasonably priced. It was a good opportunity for us to reflect on the great discoveries we have made over the past couple of years. These wines represent excellent value and still manage to deliver world-class flavors. It also was an opportunity to introduce an eager crowd to wines they likely haven’t tried.

Here was the selection:

Terre de Neptune Picpoul de Pinet 2008 ($10). Picpoul is a common white-wine grape grown in a sub-appellation of the Languedoc province of southern France and is a popular accompaniment to vacations along the Mediterrean coast. It has fresh acidity, stone fruit flavors and a nice mineral and lemon peel finish.

Prado Rey Birlocho 2008 ($10). This is without a doubt our greatest white wine discovery so far this year. It will be our go-to patio wine for parties. A great value, this Spanish wine is a blend of verdejo and viura grapes. Generous tropical fruit aromas reminiscent of viognier. Fresh acidity but a nice round finish to make it a delicious sipper or partner to seafood dishes.

St. Innocent Vitae Springs Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008 ($20). This Oregon producer makes excellent pinot noirs, but this has been a consistent crowd pleaser at Tom’s house. Ripe stone fruit flavors and a healthy shot of exotic spices.

Borsao Red 2008 ($9). We have often suggested this Spanish blend of garnacha and tempranillo to those looking for a party wine. Simple, forward ripe berry fruit. It’s a good wine for burgers, pizza and light summer fare.

Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 51 ($13). Winemaker Chris Bilbro has turned this perennial favorite into a legend. It has no vintage date assigned because it can be made twice in a year — we’ve been tasting this wine since Lot 10. Although the blend can change from lot to lot, it’s made primarily of zinfandel with a little bit of this and a little bit of that thrown in. Jammy dark berry and raisiny flavors.

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz 2008 ($22). There is lots of complexity and rich fruit in this Australian shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Blackberry and plum flavors with a dash of dark chocolate. It will do well with steaks and other barbecue fare.

Catena Malbec 2007 ($24). Argentina’s malbec is the hottest red grape variety at the moment and Catena is considered one of the best producers. Lots of fragrant berry and violet aromas followed by dark berry and blueberry flavors.


Robert Mondavi Winery Carneros Pinot Noir 2008 ($27). A solid performance with blackberry and cherry flavors, a touch of mineral and fine tannins.

J. Lohr Fog’s Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 ($25). Using grapes from the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, this wine has delicious strawberry notes with a touch of spice and toasted oak.

Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni 2007 ($26). Wow, what a mouthful of fruit! This is an excellent Italian blend of cabernet sauvignon (50 percent), merlot, cabernet franc and sangiovese. Layers of dense cherry and strawberry and raspberry fruit with hints of tobacco, expresso, chocolate and spice. It gives new definition to “delicious.” A wine to serve with beef and wild game, it’s a good value.

Chateau Aiguilloux Cuvee Traditional Corbieres 2007 ($12). Soft cherry fruit typifies the wines from the Languedoc area and this is no exception. Nice flowery nose and a touch of mineral. Good value.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($100). There are legions of collectors who have followed this reputable producer year after year. It is the quintessential Napa Valley cabernet from which other producers have sprung. Although Silver Oak has struggled to hold its prominence over recent years, the 2005 is a reflection of greatness. Blended with 10 percent merlot and 7 percent cabernet franc and 3 percent petit verdot, it has silky tannins, mushroom, gamey aromas with dark berry and pepper flavors.

Penley Estate Hyland Coonawarra Shiraz 2007 ($20). Rich, succulent flavors redolent of raspberries and blueberries. Nice mocha notes with fine tannins. Great value.

D’Arenberg d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache 2006 ($20). Always one of our favorites from this great Australian producer, the Original blend offers saturated plum and cherry flavors, spice and fresh acidity. Very good.


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]


— Relishmag.com


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