Here I go once again on this labor of love. Why you ask? Good question, but one that is easily answered. I love wine, the wine world and all it encompasses. I love finding great deals and passing that information on to my readers. I am, as you all know, The Blue Collar Wine Guy who helps you spend your wine dollars wisely. There are many wines out there that are very good and do not bust the budget.
I flirted with the idea this year of raising the ceiling to thirty bucks. It makes this project a little easier because there a a ton of wines between twenty and thirty bones that are real gems. However, I have found by experience, that under twenty dollar wines that are good get a lot of attention from my customers that I help at the store I work at on San Juan Island. We have many folks with more than enough discretionary income that love to save a buck or two whenever they can. Especially when it comes to finding a great bottle of wine at a very reasonable price. So once again I embark on the project of going through my copious wine notes and finding the wines that earned the right to be on this list.
Remember, I try to list only wines that I think you can get your hands on. If they changed vintages since I took my notes, I leave them out. They must garner at least a B+ grade. Although I taste close to a thousand wines a year, I have not tasted everything, so I will leave wines out that are stellar simply because I have not tasted them, and I apologize to the producers I left out…Maybe next year. Here we go!
#40 2014 Waterbrook Melange Founders Red Blend (Columbia Valley, WA)… $14.
Cherries and tobacco on the nose with hits of violets and rose petals with a little leather action thrown in. Tobacco in spades on the palate, joined by notes of cherries and currants. Balanced acidity and chalky tannins. Leather notes join the party on the back-end. This is old school juice that has a nice balance of fruit and rusticity. You could age this baby for close to five years and get even more out of it. Just say’n. Mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with a dose of Cab Franc, Malbec, Grenache and four others. (B+)
#39 2014 Le Monde Friulano (Friuli, Italy)… $17.
Aromas of banana and grass with a touch of melon. Round, almost buttery on the palate with notes of melon, banana and fig coming through with a hint of lemon curd. Nice structure and an easy flow across the palate finishing both fresh and buttery. Hits of citrus and stainless steel sneak on the backside. (B+)
#38 Non-vintage Mestres 1312 Cava (Catalonia, Spain)… $15.
Apples all day on the nose with hits of roasted nuts. Yeast, bread dough and dusty apples on the palate, backed by a solid core of acidity. Bread dough notes hit hard on the mid-palate, joined by a nice citrus hit on the finish. Clean, crisp and delicious. Very Champagne like for a prayer. (B+)
#37 2014 Rocca delle Macie Toscana White (Tuscany, Italy)… $15.
Banana bread and slight peach notes with a little wet stone action on the nose. Seamless blend of banana, apples and peaches on the palate with a splash of citrus. Very fresh, but not bright. Wet stone notes sneak in on the finish with a hint of white pepper that lingers. 35% Chardonnay, 30% Vermentino, 20% Pinot Grigio, 15% Trebbiano (B+)
#36 2014 Cashmere Black Magic (California)… $15.
Aromas of blackberries, currants and tobacco with underlying black cherries and petrol. Dark cherries and currants up front on the palate leading into a clean finish with black licorice and blackberry liquor joining the party. This could be a fruit bomb, but it stays in check nicely. Lots of “Black” wines hitting the shelves, but this is one of the best I’ve tasted in ’16. 37% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah, 17% Petite Sirah, 17% Alicante Bouschet, 11% Grenache. (B+)
#35 2014 Cantina di Trento Muller Thurgau 1339 Block (Trentino, Italy)… $11.
Wet stone all day on the nose with notes of peaches and apricots joining in. Dry on the palate with a slight sweet edge of papaya and apricots. Loads of minerals that are nicely integrated with the acid and tropical fruit notes. Citrus hits on the mid-palate leading into a clean, delicious finish. (B+)
#34 2013 Corvidae Wine Company Ravenna Riesling (Columbia Valley, WA)… $12.
Rubber boot all day on the nose, joined by hits of pineapple and apple. Light sweetness on the palate with a good core of diesel that is backed by pear and apple notes. Nice balance front to finish with a fresh acid kick on the back-end (B+)
#33 2014 Sawtooth Pinot Gris (Snake River Valley, Idaho)… $13.
Aromas of pears and apples with hits of peaches. Great mouthfeel with creamy pear notes front to back, joined by an undertow of apples and peaches. A tiny hit of white pepper and pear skin joins up on the dry finish. (B+)
#32 Bodegas Baron Micaela Cream Sherry (Jerez, Spain)… $16
Fig, coffee bean and mixed nuts all day on the nose. Coffee bean, figs and nuts on the palate front to finish with a nice citrus hit on the delicious finish with mixed nut notes hanging around for a long time. You sense a power hitter here, but it dances lightly on the palate. If you haven’t explored the Sherry world yet, this might be a good place to start. (B+)
#31 2014 Terrapin Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR)… $16.
Root Beer, earth, mushroom pizza, dark cherries and plums on the nose. Nice core of dark cherries on the palate with Asian spice and Root Beer underneath. There is a touch of bark action on the mid-palate into the finish, with a little tobacco joining the party. Good acidity, that is well-integrated with the fruit. Delicious medium to long finish. (B+)
#30 2013 McManis North Forty Red (California).. $15.
Candied fruit on the nose, cherries and plums, backed by violets and tobacco. Serious structure on this baby with notes of red flowers, currants and cherries coming through on the palate. Bright on the finish with red and black licorice notes joining in and a hint of blackberry hard candy. A blend of Petit Verdot and Tannat. (B+)
#29 2015 Ryan Patrick Vineyards Rock Island Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, WA)… $17.
Aromas of butterscotch, apples and pineapple. Creamy on the palate, with butter and butterscotch notes backing notes of pears and apples. Seamless with excellent balance of fruit and acidity, finishing with a nice freshness. Clean and round at the same time. Very cool. (B+)
#28 2011 Alto Cinco Garnacha (Carinena, Spain).. $13.
Aromas of currants, blueberries, strawberries and a pinch of tobacco. Big currant notes on the front of the palate backed by chalky tannins. The fruit expands somewhat on the mid-palate leading into a surprisingly drier finish. Notes of blueberries join up on the back-end along with hits of dried currants and tobacco. (B+)
#27 2012 Franco Mando Divino Monferrato Rosso (Piedmont, Italy)… $14.
A little funk on the nose joined by notes of leather, cherries, oatmeal cookies and violets. Full currant notes on the palate, balanced by notes of leather, wet stone and tobacco. Violet notes underneath, front to finish with a solid backbone of acidity that cuts through in a balanced way. Just to let you know it is all about old world, there is a touch of funkiness on the back-end. 70% Barbera, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (B+)
#26 2014 Lupino Chianti (Tuscany, Italy)… $14.
A little stink action on the nose with notes of cherries, violets and tobacco with hits of rose petal and red plums. Balanced acidity and grippy tannins support bright cherry and orange peel notes. Mineral and leather notes back up the fruit front to back with dried wood and red flower notes lingering. This is Chianti at its best for a very good price. Rusticity and enough complexity to keep it interesting. (B+)
#25 2015 Falesco Tellus Cabernet Sauvignon (Umbria, Italy)… $16.
Cherries and blackberries on the nose, joined by a little petrol and crushed rock. Crushed rock all day on the palate with notes of cherries blending in. Solid core of acidity gives this wine a bright lift in the mouth, finishing with notes of red flowers, licorice and crushed brick. A solid cab that really needs food, unless you are like me and enjoy the old world action all by itself. (B+)
$24 2014 Disruption Wine Co. Red (Washington State)… $15.
Red flowers on the nose, joined by notes of red cherries, cinnamon, plums and licorice. Gritty, approachable tannins support notes of plums and cherries along with blackberries and baking spices. The fruit notes are deep and resonant front to finish with a little chocolate sneaking in on the tail end. Good structure and balance. (B+)
#23 2013 Balancing Act Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington State)… $15.
Aromas of currants, bark, worn leather and chocolate. Great balance on the palate with smooth but not polished tannins and a solid backbone of acidity. Notes of currants and bittersweet chocolate front to finish with hits of tobacco on the mid-palate. Finishes long with notes of red flowers joining in and hits of minerality, with tobacco notes lingering. (B+)
#22 2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley, WA)… $12.
Deep blackberry notes on the nose mingled with red cherries, tobacco and hits of chocolate. Blackberry notes come through on the palate with a backbone of chocolate and tobacco. Smooth with just a little grit on the back-end. Nicely balanced with a bright edge underneath and hits of violets, mid-palate to finish. Chocolate and tobacco notes join up on the fairly long finish. (B+)
#21 2015 Michel Chapoutier Les Vignes Bila-Haut Cotes Du Roussillon (France)… $13.
Licorice and red plum notes on the noses with a slight candied element coming through, joined by hits of cherries and minerals. Cherry and blackberry notes dance lightly on a bed of minerals in the mouth. Licorice and bark notes join up on the mid-palate into the finish. Licorice, crushed rock and red flower notes linger. (B+)
#20 2012 Valle Las Nen Cias Reserve Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina)… $12.
Just a touch of stink action on the nose with notes of black olive, boysenberry, old wood, violets and rose petal. Tobacco notes linger underneath. Sweet tannins support notes of blackberries and plums with a lace of white pepper and tobacco. Seamless on the palate with brooding fruit notes on the finish joined by notes of leather, wilted violets and BBQ spices. When Malbec comes through with this kind of complexity, it’s a winner in my book. (B+)
#19 2015 Bodegas Atalaya Laya Red (Almansa, Spain)… $10.
Blackberries and cherries all day on the nose with a little char action underneath. Dark cherry notes on the palate with notes of blackberry mingled in front to finish. Soft, chalky tannins with a little mineral action coming through. Red flowers and licorice notes join the action on the clean finish that lingers. Nice complexity for a ten-dollar wine. A blend of Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell, (B+)
#18 2012 Vinos De Arganza Lagar De Robla Mencia (Castilla Y Leon, Spain)… $11.
Aromas of rusty cherries and violets joined by notes of earth and sage with a dash of raspberry and licorice. Minerals front to back on the palate joined by intense, currant and dark cherry notes backed by a spine of violets and raspberries. Tobacco notes show up a little later with a bit of grip to the tannins. Finishes clean and delicious with minerals and fruit lingering. (B+)
#17 2014 Alder Ridge Six Prong Cabernet Sauvignon (Horse Heaven Hills, WA)… $18.
Aromas of currants and rose petals, with a backdrop of earth, tobacco and licorice. Nice intensity on the palate with notes of currants, licorice and vanilla joined by a touch of chocolate and coffee bean. Excellent structure with a nice flow across the palate front to finish, featuring a little leather grip on the back-end. (B+/A-)
#16 2014 Pazo das Bruxas Albarino (Rias Baixas, Spain)… $16.
Aromas of apple, melon, tangerine, wet stone and orange flower blossoms. There is a solid core of acidity that supports notes of apples, lemon and tangerine with a good dose of minerals. Interesting wet stone meets stainless steel on the finish with a touch of sweetness. For those who have discovered Albarino, this is what it is about. (B+/A-)
#15 2014 La Chablisienne “Saint Bris” Sauvignon Blanc (Burgundy, France)… $12.
Filberts all over the nose, joined by notes of wet slate, cut grass and hits of melon. Herbs, chalk and crushed seashells lie on a bed of bright, mouth-watering acidity that pulses through, front to finish. Steely on the mid-palate, finishing with notes of lemon and grapefruit pith that leaves the mouth-watering. (B+/A-)
#14 2014 Moutard-Diligent Chablis (Burgundy, France)… $18.
Chalky white flowers and melon on the nose with just a hint of stink (a good thing) and interesting roasted nut notes. Bright acidity backs intense citrus notes with just a touch of honey. Minerality is dominant with notes of chalk and crushed seashell. Finishes long and crisp with a little nuttiness on the back-end. (B+/A-)
#13 2014 Domaine Allimant-Laugner Riesling (Vin D’ Alsace, France)… $16.
Aromas of slate and lemons with a touch of honey and white flower blossoms. Crushed rock mingled with notes of Mango and papaya on the palate. Cutting acidity across the palate sending the tropical fruit notes to a new height. Steely slate backbone front to finish. Dry, clean citrus driven finish with tropical fruit notes brooding underneath. Surprisingly no petrol on this little gem, which a lot of you might like. (B+/A-)
#12 2013 Alta Luna Pinot Noir (Dolomite Alps, Italy)… $15.
Cherries all day on the nose with underlying forest floor and Root Beer notes along with hits of licorice and rose petal. Very old world on the palate with a solid core of acidity and minerality. Earth and violet notes come through with a blend of cranberries, Root Beer and cherries. It’s somewhat bright but balanced with the fruit and earth notes. If you want to enjoy this one at its best, make sure you have it with food. (B+/A-)
#11 2015 Tenuta Sant Antonio Scaia White (Delle Venezie, Italy)… #12.
Just a touch of stink action on the nose with interesting aromas of rosemary, sage, wet stone and loads of peaches. This little white tastes just like biting into a fresh ripe peach with some stainless steel, melon and crushed rock thrown in. Finishes with peach notes hanging on the palate. A blend of Garganega and Chardonnay. Just a side note, it comes with a cool glass stopper. (B+/A-)
#10 2014 Erste + Neue Pinot Bianco Sudtirol (Alto Adige, Italy)… $13.
Aromas of wet stone, melon and a touch of cut grass and lemon. Mouthfeel is like polished marbles with notes of lemon curd, green apples and melon. Hits of cut grass and white pepper hook up on the clean, long finish. (B+/A-)
#9 2014 Bulliat Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais, France)… $12.
Very interesting on the nose with notes of red clay, iron, violets, rose petals, crushed rock, currants, tobacco and bark (it’s o.k. if you don’t find that much, I kind of geeked out on this baby). Red flower and red cherry notes on the palate with a little tobacco thrown in and bark notes on the finish. Soft tannins with a little rust action underneath. This baby is light but intense at the same time. As this one opens up, the acidity becomes more pronounced. Will age nicely over the next 3-5 years. (B+/A-)
#8 2015 Pajzos Furmint (Tokaji, Hungary)… #13.
Aromas of mint leaf, vanilla, wet stone, orange peel and white flowers with a splash of nuts and banana. Creamy on the palate with notes of banana and fig, with a dash of white pepper underneath. Nice flow across the palate with notes of orange peel and white flowers joining up on the clean finish. White pepper notes lingering. (B+/A-)
#7 2014 Montague Malbec (Columbia Valley, WA)… $15.
Red berries and cherries on the nose with an edge of blackberries and hits of licorice. Nice and full on the palate with big hits of plum and cherry notes with underlying spice. Good structure and smooth tannins. Baking spices join up on the mid-palate with the tannins showing a little attitude on the finish and hits of licorice coming through. It’s almost 15% alcohol, but it does not show the heat. Everything is well-integrated, making for a well made, delicious Malbec. You would expect no less from wine maker Charlie Hoppes. (B+/A-)
#6 2011 Seis de Luberri Rioja (Rioja, Spain)… $17.
Aromas of currants, worn leather, dill pickle and hints of chocolate. This is a sexy Rioja, very polished in the mouth with underlying minerality. Chocolate and currant notes front to back, with an undertow of white pepper. Tobacco notes hit on the back-end with hints of blueberry coming through. Tasty Tempranillo that keeps true to old world with mineral notes as the backbone. (B+/A-)
#5 2014 Airfield Estates Syrah (Yakima Valley, WA)… $15.
Dried rosemary and tarragon on the nose that rest on notes of candied blackberries and currants with hints of chocolate. Dark fruit notes mingle nicely on gritty tannins. Notes of black plums and currants are the core of this Syrah with a nice freshness underneath. Blueberry notes sneak in on the long finish. Very drinkable now, but will benefit with a little age, I’d give it 3-5 years. Excellent balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. (B+/A-)
Nisia Verdejo (Rueda, Spain)… $15.
Wet stone, lemon and melon on the nose. Good balance of acid and fruit on this little gem. Nice and vibrant yet creamy on the front of the palate transitioning into a steely finish. Citrus, wet stone, honey and white flower notes flow across the palate leading into a very long finish. Verdejo is the grape of Rueda, and this is an excellent expression of what it can do. (A-)
#3 2015 Nieto Senetiner Malbec (Lujan De Cuyo…Mendoza, Argentina)… $14.
Aromas of cherry cola, chocolate, light smoke and tobacco notes with hits of vanilla and bark. Currant and red plum notes penetrate the palate with a core of acidity hanging in the background. Tobacco and bark notes join up on the mid-palate into the finish. Tannins show a little grit and chalk action on the back-end. This baby has excellent structure and acidity which will help it age close to eight years. Certainly not your typical vanilla ice cream Malbec. (A-)
#2 2013 Love & Squalor Riesling (Willamette Valley, OR)… $19.
Diesel all over the nose, joined by notes of lemons and apples with a little hit of dried apricots. Cutting acidity drives notes of lemon, tangerine, white peaches and apricots with a spine of petrol front to finish. This is what Riesling is all about and one of the best I tasted in 2016. (A-)
#1 2014 Visalba Corte C Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina)… $14.
This could be the first time that two wines from Argentina made it in my top five, but they certainly deserve to be there. This little gem shows a ton of character. Aromas of licorice, currants and wilted rose petals, joined by hits of violets and Cinnamon Imperials. Cinnamon, cherries and currants rest on solid structure in the mouth. Good acidity that is well-integrated with the fruit. There is a little earth action that comes through with hints of licorice. Finishes with white and black pepper notes joining up with hits of rose petal on the back-end of a long finish. Smooth on the palate with just a little attitude coming through. (A-)
Stan The Wine Man