* One of your resolutions this New Year may be to save a little money. That doesn’t mean you have to give up good quality, especially when it comes to wine. In fact, you can find some good value wines between $8 and $12 representing several different categories. So if you haven’t resolved to be on the wagon this year, then peruse your way through this exercise in frugality.
Sparkling Wine: Codorniu Cava ($8)
Here’s one of those rare moments when the wine is actually worth more than the going price. Codorniu is a Spanish sparkling wine with roots dating back to the 16th century. Although modern bottling didn’t start until 1872 it is considered the “Original Cava” and truly blows the competition away. It has persistent beading, a nice balance of fruit and medium yeastiness, without being doughy.
Sparkling wine should not be reserved for special occasions, because it does pair well with many foods. That being said you can grab a case of this Super Value for about $87 and pull for your favorite team at the upcoming Super Bowl party.
Pinot Noir: 2005 Silver Ridge Pinot Noir ($11)
Fred Franzia and the Bronco Wine Company continue a long trend of offering solid wines at very fair and affordable prices. If you consider some of their other super values like Coastal Ridge and Napa Ridge then you know they’re all about passing the savings on to the consumer. The 2005 Silver Ridge Pinot Noir from California is no exception, or slouch for that matter! With cherry notes and a tart finish, this Pinot Noir makes for a good food wine on weeknights. Plus, unlike a lot of value priced end Pinot Noirs, this winery doesn’t seem to be running out of juice anytime soon.
Riesling: 2005 Bonny Doon’s The Heart Has It’s Riesling ($11)
If the Salvador Dali inspired label on this bottle of wine doesn’t grab your attention, then the uniqueness of its flavors will. The Heart Has It’s Riesling by Bonny Doon Vineyards is an all west coast Riesling produced in California with grapes grown in Washington State. Low in alcohol at 8.3%, it has flavors of Gala apples, aromas of slate stone and funky fruit nuances that may remind you of fresh mangos. It might best be described as an American Riesling with a German flair.
French: 2004 Le Paradou Rouge ($10)
A few months ago I sent out an email about a “local boy done good.” Jon-David Headrick is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and worked at the Orangery for years. After school his passion for wine grew and bam, before you know it, he’s personally selecting wines from the Loire and Rhone regions of France!
The 2004 Le Paradou Rouge is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Aromatic and spicy, the blend has silky tannins, delicious black fruit flavors and no oak influence. It’s so good you may be tempted to finish the bottle or even return to purchase a case.
Merlot: 2004 Capolan Sonoma Merlot ($12)
From the Purple Wine Company, makers of the beloved Avalon Cabernets, comes a new Merlot from Sonoma County called Capolan. Unlike a lot of similarly priced Merlots that are overloaded with green herby flavors, this wine has none of those obvious flaws. It is rich and round, with a medium body and soft tannins but successfully avoids being “tooty fruity.” Look for the bottle with the bright red parrot on the label. Polly may want another.
* A version of this column was published in 2007 in the Knoxville News Sentinel