The monumental task of declaring my top 40 wines under twenty bucks has begun. Contrary to what you might think, I enjoy this self-appointed assignment. It has always been my passion to find the best “bang for the buck” when it involves wine. If I can find a ten-dollar bottle that tastes as good as a twenty-dollar bottle of wine, I have succeeded in what I am trying to accomplish. It brings me great satisfaction to save my readers some dollars, and at the same time bring them a good if not great bottle of wine.
With that thought in mind, it has been an awesome year for great values under twenty dollars. Instead of scratching my head and searching for the last five wines, I have much more than forty to choose from. As a result, I think you are getting some pretty d*^n serious wines for less than a twenty-dollar price tag.
My list is meant to include wines that should be available for purchase. Many top 100 lists or whatever, often include wines that are no longer on the market. I understand why this is the case, but I have a problem with publishing a list of wines that you cannot purchase and decide for yourself if they should have the honor that is heaped upon them. What good is a list, if you have no chance of getting anything on it?
So, this year I had to cross a few off that changed vintages since my initial review. All of the wines listed below achieved a B grade or higher. Price-to-quality ratio has a huge impact on the wines I choose for this list. Another words, does the wine deliver a ton of quality for the least amount of dollars. Unfortunately, there were a lot of wines that were stellar, that did not make the list because they were just a hair over twenty-bucks. I am still ruminating on the idea of a top ten list of wines, price not being an object… I may do it this year, wait and see. I now introduce my top forty wines under twenty bucks for 2014…
2013 Domaine Des Cassagnoles Cotes De Gascogne (Sud, France)… $10.
Aromas of grapefruit, grass, lemon and lemon pith with a touch of honeysuckle and wet stone. Cutting acidity and bright minerality mark this wine in the mouth with notes of lemon-lime zest and a pithy edge. A little gooseberry and lychee nuts show up on the mouth-watering lemon-lime finish with wet stone notes lingering. A blend of Colombard, Petit Manseng and Ugni Blanc. (B+)
2011 Franco Serra Barbera D’Alba (Piedmont, Italy)… $10.
Notes of tobacco, dust, black currants and perfumed cola come through on the nose. Soft tannins back notes of currants, blackberries and hits of blueberries on the front of the palate, with a bright edge. An earthy, leather component underlies the fruit front to back finishing with notes of tobacco, blackberry and blueberry. Nice balance of fruit, acid and tannins. This is a lot of wine for ten bucks and is an excellent compliment to hamburgers, pizza or hot dogs. (B+)
2012 Maryhill Winery Winemaker’s Red (Columbia Valley, WA)… $11.
Toasty currants on the nose backed by notes of tobacco, licorice, plums, and an undertow of cinnamon. Deep currant notes on the front of the palate on smooth, structured tannins. White pepper and spice notes take over on the mid-palate joined by licorice and tobacco into the delicious medium to long, spicy finish. The spice on this red, makes it an excellent match with pizza, hamburgers or stews. (B+)
2011 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Crianza (La Rioja Alta, Spain)… $14.
Very true to Rioja on the nose with notes of red flowers, crushed rock, currants, cherries, wet leather and tobacco. Deep and resonant on the palate with notes of currants and leather with an undertow of black and green olives. Red flowers and crushed rock show up on the mid-palate, flowing into a finish joined by notes of forest floor. This Rioja has excellent balance and structure showing off what anyone might expect from this great wine making region of the world. 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano. (B+)
2013 Domaine La Rocaliere Tavel Rose` (Tavel, France)… $16.
I would rarely put a rose` on the list, because they sale out before the end of the year. I had to make an exception with this one, and I have a feeling you might be able to get your hands on a bottle or two even now. Tavel only makes rose`, so you know they do it right.
Aromas of rose petals and cherries with a backdrop of dried herbs and watermelon rind. It has a meaty characteristic on the palate (very typical of Tavel), with notes of ripe cherries, plums and watermelon coming through, with cherries dominating on the finish. This baby has nice balance front to back, and is a “10” in the delicious category. (B+/A-)
2013 Monte Delle Vigne Lambrusco (Emilia-Romagna, Italy)… $15.
Yes, there is more to Lambrusco than Cella (although I cut my teeth in the wine world on Cella Lambrusco, so I feel indebted). This is a little more serious of a wine than it’s cheaper sibling.
A little challenged on the nose with hints of black olive, strawberry and currants coming through. Nice intensity on the palate with notes of dark cherries and currants dominating with just an edge of bark. A good backbone of acidity drives the fruit notes into the finish. Interesting tobacco notes join the party on the mid-palate. Very smooth and structured, lending it well with food…Think ham or fowl. (B+/A-)
2013 Barnard Griffin Pinot Noir (Oregon)… $14.
This is Rob’s first attempt at releasing a Pinot Noir on the market, and in typical fashion, he hits a home run. Dark Cherries, root beer, violets and rose petals come through on the nose with a backdrop of cranberries and Earl Grey tea. Notes of cherries, black tea and root beer on the front of the palate with underlying cranberry action. Polished and smooth (besides delicious), with an edge of beauty bark and leather coming on the back-end with just a touch of grip. This is serious juice at a stupid price for what you get…I just hope you can get your hands on some before it’s gone. (B+/A-)
2011 Chateau Buisson-Redon Bordeaux Rouge (Bordeaux, France)… $10.
Aromas of cherries and currants with a touch of earth, leather and red flowers. Currants and spice on the front of the palate with a white pepper hit on the mid-palate. There is a worn leather element underneath with hits of wood and coffee bean coming through. Just a touch of bitterness on the white pepper, coffee bean and currant finish. This is a lot of wine for ten bucks and one of the best bangs for the buck I’ve had in 2014. If you are in the mood for a good little Bordeaux, I highly recommend this one. (B)
2007 Bacalhoa Vinhos Moscatel de Setubal (Azeitao, Portugal)… $10.
I am totally breaking my own rules here, but I could not over-look this delicious, well made dessert wine from Portugal. You see, I have this rule about not grading sweet wines because, they are sweet and good and how could you not like them (that is unless you don’t have a sweet tooth)? However, this little gem delivers some high quality juice for an incredible price. I can see this gracing many tables during the holiday season.
Aromas of golden raisins and orange peel with a sherryesk sort of character to it. Delicious notes of figs and oranges with a backbone of tangerine. Nice intensity on the palate without getting cloying. Finishes dry with the sweetness lingering. I fell in love with this one as soon as I tasted it and knew I would have to put it on the list. Oh well, rules were made to be broken. (B+/A-)
2012 Chateau Argedans Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux, France)… $15.
Aromas of grapefruit pith, gooseberry and fresh-cut grass with hits of lemon oil. Grass and grapefruit notes come through on the palate with a sense of spiciness. It rounds out a little on the mid-palate leading into a finish of grass-blade, lemon, grapefruit pith, Asian pear and spice that lingers. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. (B+/A-)
Non-Vintage Fordue Sparkling Rose Cuvee (Valdobbiadene, Italy)… $17.
Ripe strawberries all day on the nose. Very delicious with medium to small bubbles. Ripe strawberries on the palate backed by ripe cherry notes. You have to like strawberry jam to like this one, but even if you don’t, it’s hard to pass it up. Delicious, fresh and clean with excellent fruit notes and a nice backbone of acidity. (B+/A-)
20112 Tons De Duorum Red (Douro, Portugal)… $13.
Aromas of black olives, currants, rose petals, dark red cherries and a touch of blueberries and minerals. Dark cherry and currant notes hit hard on the front of the palate, but then are tamed by the minerality that comes through. Tobacco and red flower notes join up on the mid-palate leading into a finish of spice, white pepper, leather and minerals with blueberry notes lingering. The excellent values in red wines coming out of Portugal are endless, keep your eyes open. 50% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz. (B+/A-)
2013 Vina Tabali Viognier (Limari Valley, Chile)… $12.
Very tropical on the nose with notes of mango, papaya, banana and tangerine. This is a tropical fruit bowl in the mouth with a base of whipped papaya and mangoes with a trace of tangerine lingering on the finish. Nice backbone of fresh acidity supports the tropical fruit notes, front to back. Viognier is starting to take a foothold in the wine world, and if you want to get started, this would be a good one to initiate your palate. (B+/A-)
2012 Tenuta San Antonio Scaia Corvina (Veneto, Italy)… $11.
Forest floor notes come through on the nose joined by notes of minerals, leather, coffee bean, red raspberries and cherries. Red cherries coat the palate backed by notes of blackberries and coffee bean with a touch of mocha sneaking in. Nice balance of acidity and fruit with balance and a nice mouthfeel. Cherry and root beer notes on the back-end joined by forest floor and mineral components. Not that it makes a difference, but it comes with a nice glass stopper. For the price, this is a ridiculous value. (B+/A-)
2011 Mas De Mas Minervois (France)… $10.
Totally “old World” on the nose with notes of iron, currants, blood, violets, wet leather and underlying spice. Almost a bloody meat component on the palate joined by notes of currants and minerals. Good flow across the palate leading into a finish of crushed rock, white pepper and leather notes with a little dried violets sneaking into the picture. This is old world juice with a boat-load of personality that should lure in a few new world wine drinkers. (B+/A-)
2013 LeCole No 41 Old Vines Chenin Blanc (Columbia Valley, WA)… $16.
Aromas of lanolin, apples and lemon pith that is slightly perfumed. It seems a little oily on the palate, but that is dissipated by citrus and tangerine notes that cut the lemon oil. This is a creamy puppy that has a bright edge to it. Almost steely on the finish with notes of lemon pith, tangerine and apple lingering. This is a tale of two wines that brings it home. (B+/A-)
2012 Kyra Wines Syrah (Columbia Valley, WA)… $18.
Tarry boysenberries and currants come through on the nose backed by hits of smoked cherries, tobacco and blueberries. Smooth and intense on the palate with notes of smoked currants and blueberries coming through up front. Spice notes sneak in on the mid-palate followed by mocha and milk chocolate on the finish with a pop of blueberries that linger. This is what Washington State Syrah is all about for under twenty bucks. (B+/A-)
2011 Hess Select Malbec (Salta, Argentina)… $18.
Currants, black olive, bark and perfumed rose petal on the nose. Very solid core of tannins on the palate with a core of red and black cherries, tobacco and bark notes. A core of acidity backs the fruit notes. Some grip action on the finish of black olives, tobacco, cherries and currants that linger. Drinks well now, but will age nicely over the next 3-7 years. (A-)
2011 Robert Ramsay Cellars Mason’s Red (Columbia Valley, WA)… $18.
Very earthy on the nose with notes of bark, iron, cherry, currants and blueberries with a touch of smoke. Round and lush on the palate without going fruit-forward. Notes of cherries and raspberries with a touch of blueberries and chocolate on the back-end. Good structure and balance with a nice backbone of acidity and some mineral notes coming through. (A-)
2013 Kyra Winery Chenin Blanc (Columbia Valley, WA)… $13.
Almost a coconut meat element on the nose backed by notes of peaches, apples and tangerines. Bright acidity on the front of the palate that pops the fruit notes of tangerine, peaches and melons. There is a creaminess on the palate that is countered by the brightness of the citrus notes. There is an edge of minerals with a touch of wool on the clean, delicious finish with a touch of citrus and honey. (B+/A-)
2011 Jean Perrier Apremont Cuvee Gastronomic (Savoie, France)… $9.
A little funky and smokey on the nose with notes of crushed rock, lemon, melon and lemon drop candy. Crushed rock all day on the palate with notes of honey, melon and white flowers up front. Cut grass notes hit on the mid-palate with a backbone of acidity. finishes with notes of crushed rock, slate and melon. Old world white at it’s best, full up front, finishing lean and dry. 100% Jacquere (A-)
2013 Andrea Faccio Moscato D’Asti (Piedmont, Italy)… $18.
A little soapy on the nose, blended with a citrus medley, with hits of white flowers and orange blossoms. Delicious notes of tangerine and orange sorbet up front, leading into a honey and tangerine finish that lingers for some time. (A-)
2012 Condes De Albarei Albarino (Rias Baixas, Spain)… $10.
Very saline on the nose with notes of orange blossoms coming through. Minerals all over the front of the palate with notes of orange blossoms chiming in. It gets creamy on the mid-palate with a little oily element coming through. Finishes with notes of white pepper, citrus and orange blossoms. (A-)
Non-Vintage Patterson Cellars Due Anni red (Columbia Valley, WA)… $17.
Black currants and blueberries on the nose backed by notes of worn leather. Smooth and delicious with good concentration of fruit. Notes of currants and blueberries come through with a touch of forest floor and tobacco. Finishes on the bright side with just a touch of cranberry action blended with the tobacco and forest floor notes.
Solid wine with good structure and balance and a solid core of acidity. 35% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc with a hit of Petit Verdot and Merlot. (A-)
2012 A to Z Pinot Noir (Oregon)… $18.
2012 was a great vintage out of Oregon, so it is no surprise that a pinot under twenty bucks makes the list, especially from this well established winery.
Aromas of cherries, black tea and rose petal with underlying cranberry and cola notes. Black tea and dark cherry notes up front and through the mid-palate with violets joining the party. finishes with violets, rose petals, black tea and cherries. Balanced acidity with some earth notes coming through front to back. A very feminine style Pinot Noir. (A-)
2011 Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley, Chile)… $15.
A little stink action on the nose (not a bad thing) with notes of currants, leather, tobacco and caramel with hits of asparagus and green bell peppers.
Green bell pepper on the palate with the dark currants dominating. A nice blend of veggie and currants combine on the palate with a touch of minerality. The fruit expands on the mid-palate with notes of cherries and currants, leading into dry finish with notes of herbs, coffee bean and tobacco. Excellent balance and structure…An old world cab drinkers cab. (A-)
2011 Kyrah Winery Dolcetto (Wahluke Slope, WA)… $18.
Aromas of rusty cherries with a splash of BBQ spices, rose petal and tobacco. Intense on the front of the palate with notes of dark cherries, bark, rust and a splash of red plums. Tobacco and red flowers show up on the mid-palate, with rust and minerals coming into the fold. This is a very cool wine, with the old world attitude of minerals and bark notes front to back with a strong backbone of fruit, finishing with a healthy hit of BBQ spices that linger. Excellent structure, smooth tannins and good acidity. Drinks great now, but will age for 5-8 years. (B+/A-)
2012 Cana’s Feast Pinot Blanc (Willamette Valley, OR)… $15.
Wet stone, lemon, melon, peach and tangerine notes come through on the nose (very aromatic). Nice intensity and bright acidity on the palate with notes of tangerine, lemon-lime and orange that have a slight candy edge to it. There is a little sweet tart action on the palate combined with a wet stone element. Nice clean finish that lingers for some time. (A-)
2012 Alberta Reserva La Mano Derecha Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina)… $17.
Aromas of smoked ham, currants, violets and hits of vanilla. Sturdy, plush cherry and currant notes rest on soft tannins and a smoky element that stays at bay. There is a balanced acidity that “pops” the fruit notes that have a nice intensity, with a leathery grip on the medium to long finish. For seventeen bucks, I would find it hard to find a match in quality to price from Washington or California. (A-)
2012 Hiedler Gruner Veltliner (Osterreich, Austria)… $19.
Aromas of figs, lemon and wet stone with hits of cut grass and melon rind. Gravel and wet stone all over the palate with a back-bone of melon rind. White flower notes and lemon pith come through on the mid-palate leading into a gravel driven finish with cut grass notes lingering. Gruner is starting to take a foot-hold in the states, and this one shows the level they can attain at a very reasonable price. (A)
2012 Anderra Carmenere (Chile)… $12.
This is classic Carmenere on the nose with notes of red leaf lettuce, green bell pepper, asparagus, red cherries and blackberries. Nice currant and cherry notes on the front of the palate, that evolve into forest floor, minerals and tobacco notes on the mid-palate, with a hit of wilted rose petals. There is just a touch of veggie on the finish with a hit of bittersweet chocolate. Seriously. This is awesome Carmenere for the beginner to cut their teeth on. Old world on the nose with enough fruit on the palate to draw a majority in, especially for the price. (A-)
2011 Domaine Duvernay Cairanne (Southern Rhone, France)… $15.
Aromas of pepper and spice with notes of boysenberries and black plums. There is a buttery element that comes through with a backdrop of rose petal. Plush on the front of the palate with smooth tannins. Boysenberries, spice and black plums come through on the palate, joined by notes of spice, rose petal, tar and hits of rose petal. Solid structure, good balance and acidity. A blend of syrah and Grenache. (A-)
2013 I Campi Soave (Veneto, Italy)… $13.
Does anyone take Soave seriously these days? They, or you, absolutely should when you taste an example such as this.
Notes of wet stone, lemon rind, lemon and melon on the nose. Very steely on the palate with notes of melon, lemon and slate. There is an oily element on the finish that is offset by a clean, wet stone and lemon element with a steely edge. Break away from Bola, and find out what Soave is all about. (A-)
2013 Elk Cove Pinot Blanc (Willamette Valley, OR)… $19.
Very nutty on the nose with notes of walnuts and almonds, followed by notes of peaches, lychee nuts and a back-drop of lemon-lime. Lemon meets orange creamsicle on the palate leading into a laser sharp lime sorbet finish with some cut grass notes coming through. A bone dry finish with a chalky edge to it. This is a lively white with nice complexity and mouth-watering liveliness on the palate. (A-)
2010 Kyrah Winery Sangiovese (Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope, WA)… $18.
Aromas of strawberries, currants, BBQ spice, black tea and red flowers. Currants up front in a big way on the palate, backed by notes of BBQ spice and tobacco. Strawberry notes show up on the mid-palate into the finish, joined by notes of currants and white pepper. Smooth, delicious and complex, with a nice intensity and a long finish. (A-)
2006 Conde De Valdimar Reserva (Rioja, Spain)… $16.
Stinky leather on the nose with notes of forest floor, currants and warm spice. This baby is very tight and youthful, but shows great potential. Currants and cherries up front on the palate backed by tobacco and leather. Cranberry notes hit on the mid-palate with leather and oak notes creeping in on the finish. This is a beauty for the price. (A-)
2010 Kennedy Shah Merlot (Rattlesnake Hills, WA)… $14.
A little veggie action on the nose, joined by mint, tobacco, under-ripe cherries and blackberries with underlying worn leather notes. Plush currant notes on the front of the palate, with chocolate coming through on the underbelly. Currants and chocolate maintain into the mid-palate, then it swings into crushed rock, currants chocolate and hits of vanilla with a spicy finish that lingers for some time. This is a very interesting Merlot with a ton of complexity for the price. (A-)
2013 Casa Vinironia Appassimento (Veneto, Italy)… $12.
Aromas of raisin skins, tar, earth, wilted violets and a hit of wet stone. Smooth and powerful on the palate with notes of cooked raisins and black currants backed by an under-tow of minerality. Sweet tannins support the fruit notes with violet notes joining on the mid-palate. Finishes with brooding dark fruits and mineral notes with just a hint of forest floor coming through on the back-end. This puppy reminds me a lot of an Amarone, hailing from the same region. It’s got the fruit, it stays fresh, and it has enough old world attitude to keep everything in check. You should be able to get this for anywhere from twelve to fifteen bucks. 60% Merlot, 30% Primitivo, 10% Negroamaro… Imported by American Northwest Import and Distribution, Seattle WA. (A-)
2012 Tempus Cellars Riesling Evergreen Vineyards (Ancient Lakes, WA)… $16.
Almost like sticking your face in a pine tree on the nose (very typical for Evergreen Vineyards fruit), joined by notes of saline, ripe lemons and apples. Razor sharp acidity on the palate with notes of peaches and apples coming through up front. Apricots and ripe lemons show up on the mid-palate leading into a mouth-watering finish of minerals and orange blossoms with just a trace of rubber boot on the long, long finish. I am a huge Riesling fan, but very picky about what I am looking for. This has all the elements, without getting too eclectic. It has the fruit, acidity and just a little bit of that diesel (rubber boot), that many of us Riesling buffs love. (A-/A)
Here it is, my number one wine under twenty bucks for 2014. Trust me when I tell you that #4 through #1 could be easily interchangeable, so it took a lot of head scratching and contemplation before I was able to finish up. So, without further ado…
2011 Domaine De La Renjarde Cotes-du-Rhone Villages Massif d’Uchaux (Rhone, France)… $18.
The one on the left.
This estate is owned by the renowned Richard Family who have been involved in the wine biz since 1892. They also own the famous estate in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Nerthe. Now that is some serious pedigree! What I love about french labels, is the story they tell. I know they are hard to decipher, but once you do, you begin to understand them a lot better.
First, the designation “villages” (pronounced “villaj”) means that the grapes are selected from certain villages. If it simply has Cotes-du-Rhone on the label, the grapes can be sourced from anywhere in southern Rhone. In this case, the grapes are sourced from the village of Massif d’Uchaux, nestled against the hill Renjarde which is one of the first spurs of the Diois Pre-Alps. The winery itself is in the community of Serignan-Du-Comtat on the other side of the hill Renjarde. Pretty cool stuff when you start breaking it down.
Most wines in southern Rhone are dominated by Grenache (there are exceptions of course), joined by Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan among others. Domaine de la Renjarde consists of four varietals, 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre and 5% Carignan.
Aromas of cherries, tobacco, crushed rock and blackberries with a little worn leather sneaking in. There is a meaty element to the nose with an interesting lavender soap component on the back-end. Cherries and currants on the front of the palate with a nice edge of acidity, giving the fruit a nice lift. Good structure with firm, approachable tannins. Leather notes blended with blackberries and cherries flow into the finish with an edge of minerals and violets lingering. This is a seriously good wine for the money, and a good way to get introduced to blends from southern Rhone. (A-/A)
Imported by Pasternak Imports and distributed in Western Washington by Unique Wine Co.
Stan The Wine Man aka The Blue Collar Wine Guy