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Jan 25, 2007 09:24 AM

California reds too high priced?

CH's, I'm frustrated by the high prices for California reds...good ones, anyway. For example, Carver Sutro Petit Syrah, and the red varietal from Palmeiri Vineyards are both in the high $40s, and we're not even talking about the overhyped reds like Cakebread Cab, etc. Lower priced reds like "Big House Red" or "Station" are ok, but for about the same price (mid-high teens) I can buy a far more supple Bordeaux Blend from France.

Do you agree that good California reds are too high priced, or can anyone recommend a bottle ~ $20 (more or less) that you find to be complex, delicious, good finish, etc.....all the stuff you want from a good bottle?

Share your wisdom/experience, and thanks.

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  1. Generally speaking, these days that's very much the case. In any given price range, the best values are from Europe.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I don't disagree that there are wonderful values from Europe, but the question was are there good complex, delicious, good finish, etc. wines for under $20 from CA. I think the answer is yes. Whether they are to your taste is a different question. I like CA zins, and I agree that recently they have been very high alcohol content wines. But there are still some wonderful tasting zins, especially from Rosenblum and Seghesio that are under $20. I don't particularly like Cab Franc from North America, and Petit Syrah is not my favorite variatal either. But that isn't to say that there are not good examples of such, just not to my taste.

      1. re: dinwiddie

        Rosenblum's wines are a prime example of what's wrong with California. For a few years I went to their big open house once a year or so, and the quality went down as the alcohol levels went up. First visit, maybe four out of the 20 or so zinfandels were balanced and delicious, I bought a few cases. Next year two. Next year one. Next year zero.

        I talked with one of their former winemakers at a tasting of his own stuff. Told him the only wine I found palatable was his excellent dessert wine, that his dry wines were all overextracted and overly alcoholic. He said, I know what you mean, I'm not happy about it either, but the way the fruit comes in, that's how the wine turns out.

    2. Asimov had a really interesting take on this in his NYT Blog, the Pour, recently. California wines tend to be higher priced than euro wines of equivalent quality for a few reasons:

      1) American equate price with quality, so pricing higher gets you more respect.
      2) Most Americans think of wine as a special occasion beverage, not an everyday thing, so again a higher price is expected.
      3) Real estate is freaking expensive in Napa and other high prestige AVAs, and that factors into the price.
      4) And, (I found this to be the most interesting) the American obsession with the varietal ensures that California focuses on the most precious grapes: Cab, Pinot and Chard. These are generally more expensive to grow and make into wine than say Carignan, Gamay, Malbec and other euro table wine varietals.

      In the $20 price range, I like Clos du Val's Pinot.

      1. If you can find JRE wines they are outstanding and very reasonalbe. Very good zin, cab and petit sirah, all under $30. Samll production, hand crafted. Sure there's a web site.

        1. Disclaimer: My exposure to wine is recent(3~4 years) and modest.
          I have enjoyed these reds recently - Conn Creek Limited Release Cab 2002 ($20-$25), Joel Gott Cab 2004 ($14 - $17), Joel Gott California Zin 2005 ($12-$17). Those Gotts tend to have a great nose, just the right body and right kinds of tannins ..well, at least to my taste!

          1. I prefer Oregon reds in general and there are usually really good ones in the $12-$20 price range. I live in Napa/Sonoma and have to say there's tons of overpriced mediocre wines the past 2 years.

            Try Willikenzie from Oregon. They do a lot of great stuff but I really like the Gamay Noir.