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$20-$40 Great wines at respectable prices

Icantread Mar 21, 2008 01:14 PM

I've seen the threads plenty of times: Great wines under $20, under $15 and even under $10. Many of these wines are great day to day wines, some surprisingly good. In the meantime there's a whole lot more wines today hitting at least my market at those prices and higher which often don't merit their prices. It used to be, even just a few years back, that you easily got really good quality wines just in the $20s. My question is, in this bloated market, what are go-to wines meriting their price tag. For the sake of the thread, I'm capping recommendations at $40 retail (+/- a couple bucks ok). I'll propose three to start:

From Spain:

2005 Miguel Torres Salmos: A very sexy wine. Big, smooth mouthfeel to it. retailed it at $31 though should be found for less.

2004 Mauro Bodegas Mauro: Wow, what a wine! Very nice mouthfeel a little more fruit and currant to it (drank some time ago) and a bit of acid to complement some hearty food. Blown away by the package of it when I drank it. $35 recently


2005 The Prisoner: Blockbuster full throttle fruit bomb. Once it breathed a little, it became quintessential New World. Great fruit from the Zin but more structure from the cab.

  1. z
    zin1953 Mar 21, 2008 03:51 PM

    My God, there are THOUSANDS . . . . where to start? How about vintners in the Santa Cruz Mountains?

    -- Mount Eden Vineyards 2004 Chardonnay, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains: $42 Winery Suggested Retail Price, but this will increase to $48 with the release of the 2006 vintage, and will still be worth it!

    -- Storrs Winery 2006 Chardonnay, Christie Vineayrds, Santa Cruz Mountains: $30 WSRP
    -- Storrs Winery 2005 Zinfandel, Rusty Ridge, Santa Clara: $30 WSRP
    -- Storrs Winery 2005 Petite Sirah, Rusty Ridge, Santa Clara: $28 WSRP
    -- Storrs Winery 2004 Petite Sirah, Santa Cruz Mountains: $23 WSRP
    -- Storrs Winery 2006 Gewurztraminer, Viento Vineyard, Monterey: $16 WSRP

    -- Ahlgren Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains: second only to Ridge Monte Bello Estate Cabernet ($135) in quality, $35 WSRP. The 2003 is $40 WSRP, and the magnificent 2001 is $45!
    -- Ahlgren Vineayrd 2004 Semilion, Livermore Valley: $16, and wonderful . . . .

    -- Ridge Vineyards 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon: $40 WSRP; the 2004 vintage is $35.
    -- Ridge Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Sonoma: $35 WSRP.
    -- Ridge Vineyards 2006 Geyserville Red Table Wine, Sonoma: $35 WSRP.

    -- Equinox 1995 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Cuvee de Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains: $32.00 WSRP.

    Is that enough? ;^)


    1. z
      zin1953 Mar 21, 2008 04:02 PM

      Oh, wait -- it's not. Focusing on other "Rhone-ish" Calfornia producers, for my taste (and my money) the BEST producer of Rhone-styled wines in California is Edmunds St. John . . .

      2005 ESJ "Rocks & Gravel" Red Table Wine, California: $18 WSRP
      2005 ESJ "Wylie-Fenaughty" Syrah, El Dorado Co.: $25 WSRP
      2005 ESJ "Bassetti" Syrah, San Luis Obispo Co.: $45 WSRP

      Also superb are the wines from Eaglepoint Ranch, whch has long sold off their grapes to various wineries in the state.

      2006 Eaglepoint Ranch Grenache, Estate, Mendocino Co.: $20 WSRP
      2005 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, Estate, Mendocino Co..: $22 WSRP
      2005 Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah, Estate, Mendocino Co.: $26 WSRP

      Then there is Cedarville Vineyard, well-worth seeking out, IMHO*

      Cedarville Vineyard 2005 Petite Sirah, El Dorado Co.: $25 WSRP
      Cedarville Vineyard 2005 Grenache, El Dorado Co.: $25 WSRP
      Cedarville Vineyard 2005 Syrah, El Dorado Co.: $25 WSRP


      * Of course, all this is "IMHO," so . . . .

      2 Replies
      1. re: zin1953
        ibstatguy Mar 22, 2008 08:35 AM

        rather than "Rhone-ish", how about the Rhone? my goodness, there are many, many excellent quality wines still available in this price range, even with a worthless dollar...

        1. re: ibstatguy
          zin1953 Mar 22, 2008 09:11 AM

          Keep in mind, I just started with California. I have yet to get to Oregon & Washington, to New Zealand & Australia, to Spain & Portugal, to Germany & Austria, to Italy and to France -- each of which have thousands of choices all by themselves!

      2. b
        BN1 Mar 21, 2008 06:22 PM

        All of the Itailian wines I purchase are under $40 except for a very few special Barolos and Brunellos. That would include Sangiovese, some 2001 Brunello, Barbaresco, some Barolo, Barbera d'Asti, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Langhe Nebbiolo, Roero, Gewurztraminer, Magdalener (Schiava), Valpolicella (usually Ripasso), Vino Nobile and various blends from Tuscany, Umbria plus The Marche. For instance, I just got the prized 2001 Travaglini Gattinara Reserva for $30. Most of these wines are highly recommended from Beltramo's and K&L wine shops in San Francisco. I was just reading the Jan./Feb.WS magazine and saw my 2006 Falesco Umbria Sangiovese ($9.99) rated 90; I haven't tried it yet so I can't comment. California wines seem overpriced.

        3 Replies
        1. re: BN1
          Frodnesor Mar 21, 2008 08:34 PM

          I've not seen much Brunello or Barolo under $40. What and where are you buying?

          I think there's plenty of good CA wines under $40 that I wouldn't consider overpriced - Zins from Ridge, Seghesio, Rosenblum as well as smaller producers like Carlisle, Hartford, etc.; Rhone-style wines from producers like Tablas Creek and others mentioned above...

          1. re: Frodnesor
            BN1 Mar 22, 2008 10:16 AM

            Frodnesor, I’m a fan of all the CA wine you mentioned, but I think they are somewhat overpriced vs. comparable quality imports. The imports have to pay shipping too. At Moccagatta in Barbaresco, I saw the owner’s wife pruning the vines, a sight I have not witnessed in Napa, Sonoma, etc. Here are some specific answers to your question and these are good wines.

            1999 Cascina Adelaide di Amabile Drocco: Chronicle Wine Shop Pasadena $28
            2001 Damilano : BevMo $35, Beltramo’s $30
            2001 Stefano Farina Barolo: Local wine shop $35, Chronicle $25
            2001 Batasiolo: Costco $28
            2001 Pio Cesare: Costco $42
            2002 Ruggeri Corsini, “Corsini”: K&L $30

            1998 Fossacolle: Local restaurant $30
            2001 Tenimenti Angelini, “Val di Suga”: Beltramo‘s $44
            2000 La Fortuna,“di Ricciardiello Felicetta Anna”: Beltramo’s $37 & $30
            2000 Altesino, Estate, Cantine di Palazzo Altesi : Wine Whse. LA $39
            I have five 2001 that I bought in Montalcino under $40, but that’s cheating

            1. re: BN1
              Frodnesor Mar 23, 2008 09:10 PM

              Those are good prices we don't typically see here in So. Fla. In my experience it's very unusual to find a quality Barolo or Brunello under $40.

              I think "overpriced vs. comparable quality imports" is all a matter of personal taste, particularly when you're looking at the $30-40 price range. However, I do think it's a lot easier to find quality $10-20 bottles from Europe than in the US.

        2. Bill Hunt Mar 21, 2008 08:25 PM

          Seeing as how Jason and BN1 have given some suggestions on particular wines, I'll post about the term, "great wine."

          By my way of thinking there is wine, there is good wine, there is fine wine and then there is great wine. The first accounts for about 70% of the "wine" produced. By definition, it is wine. Then you get to good wine. That is probably about 20% of the wine produced. Fine wine will fill in another 8% and great wine will be only about 2% of the volume produced and over a few centuries.

          You seem to be talking about a bridge that encompasses wines in the second two tiers - good wine and fine wine. I'd be hard pressed to find any great wine in your price range - going back 30 years. Great wine is a product that hard-bound books are written about.

          Now, this is a tiny point, and I do not believe that it is what you are actually asking for. For that, you've gotten some good answers.

          OK, nits have been dutifully picked.

          I'll add some favs (good to fine).
          Price point winners for me:
          The Edge, Signorella Vineyards, Bdx blend ~US$19 (recently beat out Caymus, Far Niente, Silver Oak Napa and Groth in a local tasting, and is the house "reserve" red at Vidalia, DC)
          Glen Carlou, SA Bdx. blend ~US14

          There are some very good, and value, wines out there. Some are domestic, but probably most will be imported. I'm just very hesitant to term any "great wines."

          Though they are way out of the price range listed, and going up each month, two (well, not really two, but two producers), that I still consider value wines are:
          Joseph Phelps Insignia and Diamond Creek (all three main vineyards). They are not cheap, but still equate to a "value" for me - very personal tastes. Now, as their respective prices climb, and climb quickly, I may have to retract the previous statement. Still, they do it for me, and I'll pay the price for what they offer me. Right now, I always buy my allocations, and kick myself if I am late with my order.


          1. r
            RicRios Mar 21, 2008 10:17 PM

            Boy, that's way too easy.

            I'll list from my last purchases ( in no particular order ):

            2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Sabon-Favier Chante Cigale $24.99
            2004 Coteaux du Languedo,c Orliac, Jean - Domaine de L' Hortus Pic Saint Loup Grande Cuvée $22.95
            2003 Péssac-Léognan Chateau de Cantelys $ 29.99
            2004 Macon-Uchizy Bret Brothers La Martine $26.10
            2001 St Julien Gruaud Larose $37.50
            2004 Pessac-Leognan Chateau Le Pape $25.00
            2005 Chateauneuf du Pape Corcia, Alain Cuvée Patricia $24.99
            2006 Sancerre Vacheron $24.69
            2005 Chablis 1ère Cru Fevre, William Fourchaume $35.00
            2004 St. Aubin Colin, Marc La Chatenière $27.54
            2004 Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Villaine, A. et P. de Les Clous $21.59
            2004 Savennières Joly, Nicolas Les Clos Sacrés $27.00
            2004 Savennières Joly, Nicolas Roche aux Moines Clos de la Bergerie $36.00

            and on and on ...

            2 Replies
            1. re: RicRios
              anewton Mar 22, 2008 09:04 AM

              I think the difficulty with the question posed is defining "great wine." Some oenophiles might think that the best wine they have tasted in the last week represents "greatness"; others might define great wine in terms of the best wines they have consumed in the last month; others yet may look at their very favourites from the past year or favourites tasted in their lifetime.

              If I am simply looking at favourite wines tasted in the past 1-2 months, I offer the following:

              Kilikanoon "Prodigal" Grenache 2003, Clare Valley ($35 in Canada)

              Michael David "Petite Petit" Lodi 2005 (50% Petite Sirah, 50% Petit Verdot blend) $18 in the US; $30 in BC.

              Syncline Cuvee Elena 2005 Columbia Valley (blend of 51% Grenache, 43% Mourvedre, and 6% Syrah). $35 WSRP.

              If I look at the greatest wines I have ever tasted, well, that's a different question, and I do not know if those wines fit within the above specified price range. (i.e. last November, I loved tasting the 1970 Dow Vintage Port, blew the other ports at the tasting out of the water, but certainly not under $40. Similarly, loved tasting the 1998 Penfold Grange a few years back, but not exactly under $40.)

              PS--I also love the 2005 Orin Swift "the Prisoner"; looking forward to seeing what it tastes like 3-5 years from now.

              1. re: anewton
                Bill Hunt Mar 23, 2008 06:49 PM

                An aside: I think that the '70 Ports are so very often underrated, whether Dow, Taylor, or others. Good for the Port consumer. Pass on the '85s (good, but never quite living up to expectations) and some others that the wine press tout, and grab any/all '70s. Just my opinion.


            2. Icantread Mar 24, 2008 09:46 AM

              Thanks all for your posts. While I do know that this was probably a too-broad category for most of you, I think it's the perfect range to really start seeing something special in wines, and yet, I've found that that's not always the case any longer. While I am willing to dismiss a poor wine under $15, once you get above that range, there's a bit of sting, at least for me and my pockets. I will rave about a wine that brings me something "special", even if its not the best wine I've had, but get disheartened when they don't deliver. So again, I appreciate everyone's input into my wine oddyssey.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Icantread
                mengathon Mar 24, 2008 01:01 PM

                Over the last 6 months, here are some that I've had.

                Very Good/Outstanding:
                2005 Vouvray demi-sec, Foreau, Clos Naudin
                2004 Meursault, Pierre Matrot
                2003 Savennières, Domaine des Baumard, Trie Spéciale
                2005 Vouvray sec, Huet, Le Mont
                2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Monpertuis
                NV Champagne Aubry
                NV Champagne Pierre Gimonnet, Blanc de Blancs
                2004 Ridge Zinfandel, Lytton Springs
                2001 Penfolds Shiraz, St. Henri, S. Australia
                2005 Felton Road Pinot Noir, Central Otago, NZ

                Great: (I'm thinking top 5%, not necessarily wines that books are written about, but ones that you will always remember having)
                2005 Crozes-Hermitage, Alain Graillot
                2005 Coteaux du Layon, Domaine des Baumard, Clos Ste. Catherine

                1. re: mengathon
                  Bill Hunt Mar 24, 2008 07:59 PM

                  "Great: (I'm thinking top 5%, not necessarily wines that books are written about, but ones that you will always remember having)"

                  That is an excellent way of describing "great" wines. You did so much better, than did I.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    mengathon Mar 25, 2008 11:42 AM

                    Thanks Bill, though I dont think I was very eloquent. Maybe others can help....


              2. c
                Campania Mar 27, 2008 03:04 PM

                Southern Italy in Campania...Aglianico, Taurasi, Pierdirosso, Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Coda di Volpe. All typically run from $15 and up. 2005 and 2007 are great years. 2000, 2001 for Taurasi.

                1. d
                  dinwiddie Mar 28, 2008 07:25 AM

                  I think that you have to put it into persepctive. The price point, under $40, mean different things depending on where you purchase the wines, how much of the wine was produced, and how "hot" the wine is on the aftermarket. There are several fantastic 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Papes that released under $40, Le Vieux Donjon and Clos des Papes come to mind, but I doubt you could buy them for that price now, the same thing goes for the Ports from 1970. On the other hand, I buy some wines on allocation that are produced in very small numbers, less than 100-150 cases, primarily California Pinot Noirs and Syrah, that release at about $40, but sell for more than twice that in wine shops here in DC or thru some of the bigger wine resellers like Blicker Pierce Wagner. Wines from Kosta Browne or Macphail easily fall into this category. On the other hand, some excellent Reislings sell for under $40, J.J Prum. and Dr. Loosen make some superb wines at that price point.

                  Another place to look for excellent, if not necessarily etherial wines at this price point is South America or australia. If you like the style Achaval-Ferrer Malbecs can be wonderful, and Casa Lapostolle makes many excellent, easily affordable wines. I'm also a fan of Yalumba's rhone style blends like their GSM (although they are still not as good as the best Cote du Rhones) and the Thorn Clarke Shotfire Shiraz.

                  1. d
                    Dan G Mar 28, 2008 10:19 AM

                    This is tough to do because I live in Alberta Canada, and prices are very different from store to store here, not to mention how different they are from other provinces, countries...
                    But I generally buy wines in the $25-35 range locally. Some favorites in that price range (not going to bother with vintage):
                    Thorn Clark Shotfire Quartage
                    Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon
                    Miguel Torres Salmos (mentioned above - I just bought a case of this stuff and it is great)
                    Arrowood Saralee Syrah
                    Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
                    Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir

                    1. greedygirl Mar 29, 2008 12:53 AM

                      Wow - I had no idea wine was so expensive in the States! We're lucky in that we live in London and can pop over to France for some great deals.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: greedygirl
                        moh Mar 29, 2008 06:44 AM

                        Please Greedygirl, no need to rub salt in the wound... I don't know why wine is so expensive in North America. Wine is seen as a luxury item, not an everyday beverage, and so I guess the market tolerates the prices they charge. Some people with European sensibilities (wine as a necessary beverage) tend to buy in bulk, or have started to make their own. I do remember the first time I realized how cheap everyday wine could be in Europe. I nearly wept. And don't get me started about the $2 Alentejo I picked up in Portugal - I'd happily drink that every day.

                        1. re: greedygirl
                          Bill Hunt Mar 30, 2008 09:21 PM


                          Yes, you are fortunate to have the access to some good FR wines. However, I also feel sorry, that you do not have access to some great US wines. I always shudder, when confronted with a London wine list, and see the Modavi Woodbrdge Cab at £60. It is ~US$12 in the "States." Same for some great Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. I began to understand why many UK and Euro folk dismiss US wines. If I was faced with this price differential, I'd likely eschew some of my fav. FR wines, and that would not sit well with me. Still, when in UK, I almost always go to the FR offerings and just disregard those £'s and pretend that they are $'s, and let American Express sort it out, a month later. Otherwise, I'd go crazy and also not have really good wines with my meals.

                          For the good wines that you do have, I can only say that you need to bring your £'s to the US, and sample the really, really good wines, that are produced here. What you see, is not what is available.

                          See 'ya in April, and I'm glad that I got a few hundred £'s, back when the $ was stronger - best investment that I have ever made. Also, I'll be drinking FR in Shepard's Market and not looking back... If you ever find yourself "across the pond," let me know, and I'll share some "great" US wines, that you are never likely to see in the UK, even at the Savoy House, or the Dorchester, or any place else.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            greedygirl Mar 31, 2008 10:58 AM

                            Thanks Bill. I hope you enjoy your French wine in Shepherd's Market - where are you intending to drink them, out of interest.

                            We did have some great California wines a few years ago on a trip to San Francisco/Napa/Sonoma etc, but I thought they were on the pricey side. One of the wines we enjoyed was Ravenswood Zinfandel, which is now widely available here for around 6 or 7 pounds. On the rare occasions we buy wine in a supermarket, the OH like to get a bottle or two of that.

                            Any other recommendations would be gratefully accepted.

                            1. re: greedygirl
                              Bill Hunt Apr 6, 2008 08:01 PM

                              A little favorite of ours is Le Boudin Blanc. I love the food, the service, and the sommelier always pulls me aside with some "special." Several trips back, he brought out a Chilean Cab/Bdx. blend, that was the first Chilean wine, that I would buy and that includes some "heavy-hitters."

                              We lease a flat on Curzon, so Shepard's Market is just a hop (no skip, or jump) away. I did see that O'Neil's seemed to be closing that shop. A sad moment for me. Though Odd-Bins, across the St. is now a privately owned wine shop, and we leave our stemware in the flat, so should be OK. With the 1 carry-on out of LHR, we do not travel with our Riedels, when going. Be there in a few weeks, and looking forward to the trip.

                              And, yes, we'll likely be doing FR for most of the trip. I am so often tempted to bring some "good" US wines, just to let the folk in the UK know what they are missing. Still, I am in no way opposed to great FR selections, and will let AMEX sort out the exchange rate, so I can enjoy and also sleep at night. A month later, I have forgotten what I ordered, so the pain is less.

                              Going back in the days, when Ravenswood was an independent producer, I loved their single-vineyard offerings, and still have several cases in the cellar. Lately, their lower-end offerings are still good, but the S-V wines seem to have suffered a bit. Joel Peterson is/was still the master there, but I think that the sources have changed.

                              If you are in/around Mayfair at the end of April, I could well bring a few wonderful US Zins, and share a Montrachet with you at Le Boudin Blanc! My e-mail is in my profile.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                greedygirl Apr 13, 2008 12:50 PM

                                That's a very kind offer, Hunt. I will drop you an e-mail soon.

                        2. s
                          Simon1111 Apr 9, 2008 11:46 PM

                          I really enjoy a townsend T3. It's a wine from Washington. The name comes from the fact that it comes from three varietals from three different years. Excellent. Around 35 I believe.

                          1. WineUnleashed Apr 10, 2008 09:35 AM

                            If you want GREAT value and something off the beaten track... don't forget South Africa, Argentina and Chile. You could pay $25 for something that tastes more expensive.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: WineUnleashed
                              Icantread Apr 10, 2008 01:48 PM

                              I usually do not go that high a price points in Argentina and Chile, but South Africa does have some great stuff. I have to say I had very very good Pinotage in the past, though I've been unlucky so far in finding locally a good bottle on my own. That being said they have some other great stuff on the market. Chile as well has great bang for the buck and that's much easier to get in South Florida.

                              1. re: WineUnleashed
                                zin1953 Apr 10, 2008 02:20 PM

                                In my own personal experience, I find much higher quality wines available from France, Spain and Portugal in that price range than I do from South America. But that's me. YMMV.

                                1. re: zin1953
                                  WineUnleashed Apr 10, 2008 06:01 PM

                                  My personal preference is definitely aligned with yours (zin1953) and is usually my go to but there are some really great wines coming out of South America. Many foreign investments are making a positive impact on the wine produced down there. I was at a tasting put on by Jancis Robinson and she brought a wine made by Hess (can't remember the varietal off-hand, left my tasting book at the office) and it sells for @$20 and to me was a better value than some old world wines. Different yes, but technically sound. Another winery to watch is Catena. They have their "mass produced wines" but they have other limited production wines that range from $20 to $75 and are an incredible value. Extremely nice family too!

                                  As for Spain... Terra Alta is a region to watch. Investment in that area is beginning to show as well. So you can find great values @ the $20-$25 range.

                                  1. re: WineUnleashed
                                    zin1953 Apr 10, 2008 08:22 PM

                                    >>> Another winery to watch is Catena. They have their "mass produced wines" but they have other limited production wines that range from $20 to $75 and are an incredible value. Extremely nice family too! <<<
                                    For years, Laura Catena was a doctor here in San Francisco.

                                    1. re: zin1953
                                      WineUnleashed Apr 11, 2008 08:34 AM

                                      Laura still lives here and in fact our children share the same piano teacher!! That aside, I tasted one their high-end bordeaux style wines... fabulous. Rivaled an old world bordeaux. I was shocked. That was about 8 years ago and since then I have really started to pay attention to vintners down there.

                              2. k
                                kingrex Apr 13, 2008 03:39 PM

                                My wife and I just enjoyed a bottle of 2003 Chateau Mazeris ($23) with lambchops. A good value, I think, and a decent Bordeaux.


                                1. d
                                  Docsknotinn Apr 13, 2008 11:27 PM

                                  We enjoyed a 2005 Honig Cabernet the other night. At $38 I thought it an absolute bargain.

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