The following wines were selected from among several hundred tasted in recent months and scored based on quality for price and how well they could go with foods favored during the summer months. “Easy-drinking” was one criteria and “food-friendly” another.
On the flip side, we chose to avoid including Big Monster High-Priced Wines that are touted with sometimes odd descriptions of their characteristics by online merchants. Here are a few excerpts, lifted directly from sales copy received in recent offers for more expensive wines:
“…unsmoked cigar tobacco, pen ink blackberries, dried rose petals, remarkably suave, perfect texture…”
“A hedonistic blast to all the senses, a broad swath of sweet cherries, immense gratification to anyone who gets the chance to drink this wine!”
“This is a Dam Buster! This feels like two wines in one – heaping spoonsful of berry jam, cracked pepper and licorice smashed together with coffee ice cream, cinnamon chocolate and a bouquet of flowers.”
Sound yummy, particularly the unsmoked cigar tobacco? Now for the lower-priced spreads, some with nice styles, available from your local wine merchant, grocery or big box store and enjoying without a blast to the senses:
- $10 Mendoza Malbec ’16 Tapiz. Mid-ruby; light smoky, peppery, red fruit nose; light-mid body; balanced; easy-drinking party, picnic, appetizer, all-purpose red.
- $12 Mini-Super Tuscan Sangiovese (60%) Cabernet (40%) blend – ’14 Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo. Mid garnet; woody, blackberry nose; mid-body; soft tannins; good fruit and flavor. Easy sipping w/appetizers, pizza, pasta, meatloaf.
- BBQ, burger, pizza, picnic wine Crooked Path ’14 Zinfandel $13. Mid-garnet; berry, brambles, wood nose; mid-body; balanced; good fruit and flavor; nice structure; some tannins, semi-tight finish. Great value.
- Good $13 picnic, party, burger, BBQ red. Robert Hall ’14 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. Mid-dark garnet; plum, prune, blackberry nose; mid-body; decent tannins; some varietal style; long semi-chewy, fruity finish; a little hot (14.5 alc.).
- $13 burger, BBQ, pizza wine. Colchagua, Chile, ’14 Cabernet Sauvignon Terra Noble Grand Reserva. Mid-dark ruby; herbaceous, wood, pomegranate nose; mid-body; mid-tannins; berry/wood flavor; hot finish (14.5 alc.).
- Central Coast Calif. Pinot Noir ’15 MacMurrary Ranch $13. Mid-brick; light Pinot Noir nose; red cherries, light wood; mid-light body; balanced; good structure; long fruity varietal finish; opens with air.
- 1865 Vina San Pedro Single Vineyard Cabernet $14 Maipo. As good as many over $20. Mid-ruby; cocoa, Cabernet, mint, bright fruit and wood nose; mid-body, balanced, mid-tannins; good fruit and flavor; softens with time. Nice style.
- $14 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon ’14 Los Vascos (Lafite). Mid-dark garnet; herbaceous, mint, redwood nose; mid-body; balanced; good fruit; some style for the money; long fruity finish.
- $14 S. Australian Shiraz ’15 Layer Cake $14. Mid-dark garnet; prune, pepper, black fruit nose; mid-big body; semi-chewy; decent flavor; some varietal characteristics; long hot (14.5 alc.) finish. Burger, pizza, BBQ, rib, beach party wine.
- $15 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ’15 Irony. Mid-ruby; light Pinot nose; black cherries, wood, plum; mid-body; balanced; decent fruit; a little hot (14.5 alc.). Cheese and appetizer wine.
- Good $15 Sonoma Coast Merlot ’16 Cline Reserve Series. Mid-dark garnet; blackberry, cocoa, manzanita nose; mid-body; balanced; soft tannings; decent fruit and flavor for the price; long finish. w/cheese, appetizers, BBQ
- For those who do like fruit bombs. $16 Barossa ’15 Schild Estate Shiraz. Mid ruby; pepper, burnt toast, prune nose; big body and extract; thick; one-dimensional. BBQ, pizza wine.
- Mendoza red blend ’11 2011 Benvenuto de la Serna Trisagio $16 (70% Malbec 15% each Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot). Mid garnet; berry, jam, peppery nose; mid-body; balanced; good fruit; nice mix of flavors; long chewy hot (14.5 alc.) finish. w/beef, BBQ, pizza.
- Food friendly 2013 Wash. Cabernet Sauvignon ’13 Alder Ridge Horse Heaven Hills $17. Mid-garnet; berry, wood, roasted nut nose; mid-body, balanced, softening tannins with age; some style; long fruity finish; good Cab flavor. w/beef.
- $17 Paso Robles GSM ’15 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas (51% Syrah, 31% Grenache, 14% Mourvedre, 4% Counoise). Mid-garnet, pink edges; blackberry, mineral, peppery nose; mid-body; balanced acids/tannins; good fruit; complex mix of flavors on the finish. Beef and BBQ wine.
- Chianti Classico ’15 Volpaia $17. Mid-ruby; sharp red fruit nose, earth, wood, vanilla; mid-body; good acid/tannin balance; long tight finish; needs a little time. Good w/pasta, red sauce.
- Food-friendly Sonoma Pinot Noir ’16 Decoy $20. Mid-ruby; distinct Pinot nose, stemmy, strawberries; light-mid body; good acid balance; long fruity finish. w/veal, pork, lighter dishes.
- $20 Gigondas ’15 Grand Montmirail Cuvee Veilles Vignes. Mid-brick; red fruit, berries, peppery nose; mid-body; balanced; soft tannins; good fruit and flavor. w/pastas, pizzas, charcuterie