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Apr 1, 2002 04:22 PM

Really Good Merlot At A Reasonable Price

  • j

We haven't talked about wine a lot on this board but occasionally a real value comes along. This time, having just purchased four cases, I thought I'd pass it along.
The current issue of the Wine Spectator rates the '99 Chateau Souverain Merlot a 92. That is an excellent score. When you consider that Calvert Woodley had it on sale early last week for $13.99 that is THE bargain of the year. Paul's has it for $15.99 right now.
In a few months it will probably get around to Safeway, Giant, etc. replacing the decent '98 that is on their shelves. When it does it'll be going for full pop at about $18 or 19. It's still more than worth it at that price. This is an excellent, smooth, fairly intense wine that would not be a disappointment if you spent $30 or 35 for a bottle. But on sale for $13.99, well, if you like wine look for it.
Don't be afraid to buy by the case either. Most stores give a 10% case discount. If you combine this with a sale price of the current $14.99 at Total you can bring the average bottle down to $13.50. Total does not have the '99 yet only the '98. But they will soon.
This is, maybe, the best wine bargain I've seen in the last two years or so. But remember. It's the '99.

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  1. I love going treasure hunting when the new issue of WS comes out. Thanks for the heads-up about how good the 99 Chateau Souverain merlot is. That is a real bargain. I don't usually buy merlot, because I find there is so much more bang for the buck with zin, shiraz/syrah and Rhone wines. The 98 Columbia Crest merlot was a very good wine at a bargain price, though. Pepperwood Syrah is sometimes specialed at Rodman's for $4.99, and it is very drinkable (WS 88 pts, if I recall correctly). I just wish I had storage space so I could buy cases.

    5 Replies
    1. re: zora

      I have about 400 bottles spread around a basement, closet and wherever my wife won't complain too much. Sometime this summer I want to take a small walk in closet and make it into a formal cellar. I've talked about doing this for several years and now my neighbors are telling me to do it or simply stop talking about it. The accumulation of 400 bottles started because I got better prices by buying by the case. At some point it got out of hand! I also personally believe that Washington state has the best merlot of anyone with much of it reasonably priced. I've been on Leonetti's mailing list since 1990 and regard their merlots as real treasures. I've done a number of comparative tastings with Leonetti,regardless of the competition, they are always at or near the top. I also really like L'ecole 41's merlots, especially their '99 Seven Hills Vineyard. For $8.99 the Columbia Crest Grand Estates you mentioned are an incredible value. Quilceda Creek makes an awesome cab that sells for half of what a comparative California cab would be. Personally I find it remarkable that the Chateau Souverain isn't more expensive considering the price gouging that we've experienced over the past seven or eight years with California wines.
      A very important point is that last friday the state of Virginia LOST a decision which now allows out of state wineries and dealers to ship into VA. The decision is probably going to be appealed but this is a really BIG deal. For me personally it means that Leonetti and others can ship directly to me rather than to, say, CA where a friend takes the plain brown box and then ships it to me via Fed Ex which costs almost as much as the wine.

      By the way, Zora, earlier you mentioned Michel and Wolfgang. Are you in the business today?

      1. re: Joe H.

        In my early 20's I worked in restaurant kitchens, as a waitress, and had a catering business with a friend. Later, I was a very part-time private caterer/personal chef. Now I cook for my family and friends because it is my passion, not my profession. I do have a life-long, persistent fantasy about opening my own gourmet Mexican restaurant. DC could really use one.

      2. re: zora

        "I just wish I had storage space so I could buy cases."

        Naaah, unless you really get serious about collecting. There is an ocean of fantastic wine out there from myriad parts of the globe. One could spend a lifetime exploring each of them and never really be an expert about any of it. I don't like to get into it too deep when it comes to this issue, but I will say this: WS is as much a lifestyle mag as it is a wine mag; resist the temptation to buy into their mojo too much. find a wine shop you trust, let the staff point you toward the wines they get excited about. Especially DC shoppers; there is a lot of good wine available locally that isn't in wide enough distribution to ever be a blip on a national wine pub's radar screen.
        Cellars, in my humble, contrarian, and likely off-base opinion, are for laying down wines from regions (or a particular niche) that you really care about, have the money to buy good examples of, and babysit them for a while. Right behind me I have maybe 12 cases of stuff as I type: Grand Cru Alsatian whites which I love, Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas which I also love, a case or 2 of assorted Cotes du Rhone for short term cellaring (3-5 years), The best of 1996 from around the world (my wedding year), and a few California Cabs I mostly got as gifts. Plus a couple experiments and impulse buys I now generally regret because so far, none of them have improved much.

        1. re: pleiades

          So, what *are* the most trustworthy DC wine shops? Whose recommendations and selection are worth going out of the way for?

          1. re: Marty L.

            I'm a Baltimore hound, and don't usually shop DC. Post a query at the wwcn (link provided) and you'll get good feedback.

            Also try the forums at this site:



      3. Hey Joe--

        Do you post on WS' forums too?

        I'll keep that Merlot in mind during my next ;hunting expedition'.

        We just had the Penfolds 99 Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cab. Really quite excellent. Pretty cheap too if I remember correctly ($15-18 bucks). Great with Peking Duck pizza...


        1 Reply
        1. re: Rok

          Occasionally I'll post on which is the most active website that I've seen for wine. Thanks for the Australian recommendation.