what’s in the bargain bin this month?

Monday, September 30, 2013

As an occasional service to readers of this fine blog I comb through a few weeks worth of tastings and pick out the best values that I’ve come across. Naturally, most, though not all, are from Washington and Oregon, as those wines still comprise the majority of my tastings. But I am always on the hunt for value wines from around the globe, and welcome submissions from importers and distributors.

How do I define “bargain”? Well, in order to keep it simple, I stick to the Wine Enthusiast guidelines for wines designated Best Buy. On or about October 9th, I will post up the wines I’ve reviewed this past year that are included in the magazine’s Top 100 Best Buys for 2013. I think you’ll be delighted at the winners. Meanwhile, here are some recently-released Best Buy candidates to whet your whistle. All offer excellent quality for the price, and I’ve arranged the list according to potential score, from the highest on down.

Tamarack 2012 Chardonnay; $15
A well-integrated mix of grapes from a broad range of vineyards across the entire Columbia valley, this outstanding value proves that good Chardonnay need not be propped up with new oak barrels. Stone fruits, hints of tropical papaya and banana also, contribute to a complex, fruit-driven, well-balanced wine with medium-term aging potential.

JM Cellars 2012 Bramble Bump White; $17
Sadly, just 150 cases were made of this excellent blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier. Sexy and plump with tree fruits, kissed with butterscotch and propped up with deliciously juicy acids, this yum-fest brings excellent concentration and length.

Thorny Rose 2012 Riesling; $11
It’s no surprise that in this line-priced Columbia Valley lineup from Thorny Rose, it’s the Riesling that takes Best of Show honors. Lightly off-dry, it’s a complex, delicious mix of tea, lemon, vanilla and butter cookie highlights, with excellent concentration and balance.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates 2011 Merlot; $12
Generous and aromatic, this flavorful Merlot is a showcase for sweet black cherry fruit, accented with strong streaks of vanilla and cut tobacco. The plush, dark fruit leads into a tasty, toasty finish, with notes of licorice and smoke.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Merlot; $14
An excellent year for this affordable Merlot, with small amounts of Cabernet, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah included in the final blend. It seems to tilt more toward Bordeaux and away from California in style, bringing well-integrated hints of herb, tobacco, and earth along with a core of black currant fruit.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; $14
This Cabernet Sauvignon’s blend includes Merlot, Syrah and small amounts of “other” – yielding a well-rounded, ripe red with lush flavors of blueberry and blackberry fruit. The tangy acids spark a finish with fresh herb, licorice and tobacco.

Savage Grace 2012 Red Willow Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc; $15
Several different clones are blended into this Loire-influenced Sauvignon Blanc. The freshness and tart, tangy citrus fruit flavors are impressive, and would certainly match well to a plate of raw oysters.

Michelle NV Brut; $14
The regular Brut bottling is the star of the new Michelle lineup (formerly Domaine Ste. Michelle). Yeasty and foamy when first poured, it settles into a light and pleasing sparkler with gentle hints of lemon curd and fresh cream.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates 2011 Chardonnay; $12
For lovers of lush, buttery Chardonnay, this is the one to seek out. Generously toasty, buttery barrel flavors complement spicy pineapple fruit. It’s forward and full-bodied, ready for immediate enjoyment.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Gewurztraminer; $11
This lovely Gewurztraminer is floral without being cloying, and carries the varietal marker often described as talcum powder. There’s a hint of mint also, and despite the 1.6% residual sugar, it’s crisp and fresh tasting.

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