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Feb 24, 2012 12:39 PM

Great Red Wines for under $30

I am trying to build a nice collection of wine, but I don't want to spend more than $30, and I don't want to rely too heavily on cellaring the wines.

I like Medium to big reds with nice ripe fruit (perhaps fruit forward) and nice concentration. As much as I like wines with strong fruit character, I don't like when the fruit is super over ripe or jammy or prunny. I like nice balancing acidity. I don't like aggressive tannins. I don't like wines where acid is dominating everything.
I generally prefer tamed tannins. I like my wine to be "open". I don't need it to be super complex, super elegant, or have ridiculous depth and structure. Those would be great, but I understand that those traits cost $$$$.
I like rounded, silky, rich, velvety textures when possible, but this is not necessary, especially if the wine seems open and not dominated by tannins.
Mineral, Truffles, Earth, Spice, oak, are all things that I love to taste in my wines if they don't overwhelm the fruit too much.

I typically go for CA and OR Pinot Noir, CA Zinfandel, Red Burgundy's from France. CA Cabs or Bordaeux style blends can also be good if they are open, well rounded, and not tight tannin oak bombs. I am open to anything under $30!

Here are my favorite wines to date. Some of these wines are more than $30, but I want to give everyone a feel for me tastes.

2007 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard
1998 Domaine L'Arlot, Nuit-St-George premier Cru Clos L'Arlot
2009 Hartford Court, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir
2008 Freeman Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 750ml
2006 Green and Red Vineyards, Zinfandel, Tip Top Vineyard

I want to try the following
2006 Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
2006 Storrs Winery Rusty Ridge,Zinfandel, Santa Clara County, Central Coast
2010 Cedarville Vineyards Estate Vineyard, Zindfandel, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills.
2009 Dry Creek Vineyard "Heritage" Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($17)

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  1. The Dry Creek is delicious and if you can find it the 2009 Lady Slipper Pinot Noir from Carneros would probably be right up you alley as well.
    2008 Donati Paicines Claret from the Monterey area might fit the bill as well.
    Happy drinking!

    1. You can probably get a Chateau Pez - it's a bordeaux from St Estephe for $30 or a little more. I've always found them very drinkable. From the new world don't forget the raft of Malbecs from Argentina - lots of room to experiment there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kagemusha49

        Thanks for the tip. I might pick up a bottle of Chateau Pez from the wine house in SF. They have a new vintage in stock.
        Next time there is a Malbec tasting at a local wine shop, I will go out and really explore this region and varietal.

        I did a quick web search and it seems like there are many respectable Malbecs for under $30, which is very promising.

      2. Washington State has a lot of good values (Cabs, Bordeaux blends, Syrah), and the reds should be right up your street. Charles Smith does cheap and palatable wines.

        California: Vincent Arroyo (Calistoga) Petite Sirah is around $35 (his most basic one), at least was when I visited there in 2009, and is unbelievable for that price. A bit over 30 dollars, but not much and SO worth it.

        of European wines, a top shelf Sicilian Nero d'Avola can be embarrassingly good value, as are Aglianicos and Primitivos from various regions of Southern Italy.

        Austrian reds from the Burgenland can be very underpriced and they have some full-bodied numbers that would meet your criteria despite it being more of a cold climate region, but not sure about availability in the US.

        Then there is Spain of course - lots of great values in Priorat, Rioja and to a lesser extent in Ribera del Duero, and other regions. Bierzo also has some amazing values.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Asomaniac

          Kagemusha has reminded me of Argentinian Malbecs. As Kagemusha says, endless possibilities to experiment. In terms of very widely available Argentinian wines, try anything by Norton.

          1. re: Asomaniac

            I like Norton's mid tier malbec. I think it might be the Privada? I think their entry level malbec isn't that great. I'd be happy to drink it if someone else was pouring but I probably wouldn't buy it. They do have good distribution though so you shouldn't have much trouble finding it. I know Bevmo and Costco both carry it.

            One's I like more:

            Achaval Ferrer - their entry level malbec is priced right around $20 and is delicious. I sometimes wonder why I buy anything else. Their signature wines are in the $75-90 range and are amazing, regularly achieving 95+ scores from Robert Parker and others. They have a cab/malbec blend called Quimera for around $35-40 but I don't like it nearly as much.

            Aleph - also right around $20. They also offer a pretty good and not very tannic Cab at the same price

            Poesia - also very good

          2. re: Asomaniac


            Thanks for all of your great suggestions.

            I did a lot of research and wrote down a long list of potential wines to add to my wish list.

            I went by the wine shop today and picked up an
            2010 Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Sicilia Rosso IGT, Sicily, Italy
            Which is a Nero d'Avola blend.

            it came highly recommended by the shop owner so I decided to give it a try.

            I am trying to find a local wine shop that I can go to regularly that I can trust to help me choose wines (as well as using chowhound, etc.).

            As for Spanish wines, I have a very nice reserva old school rioja that is sitting in my shelf waiting to be tried.

            Good call on Washington state Cabs. For Cabs, I always defaulted to CA which is $$$$$ for the decent stuff.

            1. re: jlrobe

              Nice choice of nero blend. I haven't had her 2010, but generally her wines are medium bodied, quite elegant (not complex though, but that's fine) and incredibly drinkable. Good choice for the price.

              Another very good option is the 2010 Colosi Nero d'Avola. Very nice wine which I have seen for $12.95 on the internet. I don't know any Californian red for that price that matches Colosi's quality.

              Washington doesn't really do great low-cost wines (by which I mean something in the price range of the Colosi), but at the upper end of the price range you specified, they generally tend to do much better values in terms of full-bodied wines than California.

              For Pinot, there are some great values around the US$ 30 mark or less in Sonoma (e.g., Atascadero Creek, David Noyes).

              For top value Spanish wine, I visited this winery when I was in Ribera del Duero:

              They had wines ranging from 7 Euros to 40 Euros. The 40 Euro wine was incredible, but even the 7 (!) Euro wine (i.e., US$9.40) was very good. Don't know if they export to the US or if the prices are still this good, but I went in 2009 so they should not have changed that much.

              1. re: Asomaniac


                Thanks for the suggestions. I will check out Atascadero Creek, David Noyes, next time I go wine tasting in Sonoma. I can't find them retail. I called around, and can't find the spanish wine that you mention either.

                I prefer not to order wines online at the moment. There are too many local wineries and wine shops that I need to go out and explore first.

                On a general note, I have become more interested in Italian wines because there is just so much out there in the under $30 range.

                I am looking forward to visting DIG and biondivino wine shops for their well curated Italian wines list and tasting events. I think I might be better able to find some great Italian wines under $30 that way.

                1. re: jlrobe

                  Go to Sophie's Cellars' website (just type "Sophie's Cellars" into google, and Atascadero Creek). They sell several Atascadero Creek wines. The Atascadero Creek Railroad Vineyard Pinot is US$ 29.99. They are a Sonoma Pinot Noir specialist (located in Sonoma, obviously). I came across this little gem (actually not that little) when I was on holiday in Sonoma.

                  Speak to John Haggard who runs the place. He was a great source of information and can recommend the best Pinots for whatever price range you give him to play with (they even had some very good Pinot for 19.99!). John is particularly obsessed with Dijon clone 115 so will recommend Pinots that are mainly or wholly composed of that clone. They sell some expensive Napa Cab as well, but he said that they only keep those for people with more money than sense because you always find those who will be prepared to pay the hefty price tag. The real specialty of the place is Pinot.

                  John can also help with a visit to Atascadero Creek (if they have a cellar door arrangement - I think Atascadero doesn't have a tasting room, but I might be wrong) or other wineries . Otherwise you can always order online (I know you said you don't want to do that right now, but in case you end up not getting around to visiting the wineries, it's good to know the option to order is there!).

                  Italian wines: I am a massive fan. They can be a bit frustrating because for $20 you can get something that is barely drinkable, but equally you might also find some absolutely world class gems for that price of a quality that simply does not exist in many of the other famous wine growing regions (or you'd have to look a lot harder). Happy to give some pointers if you have specific Italian regions / grape varieties you might be interested in.

                  Are you only interested in reds?

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    For now, I am only into Reds, which is really interesting because 90% of the food I eat goes with white wine!

                    Sophie's Cellars is a great find and a good online merchant to buy from. Next time I stay in Sonoma I will stay in Guernville and swing by this shop in person.

                    One day I will move onto white wines.

                    That day will probably be soon though.

                    1. re: jlrobe

                      Hope for your sake that day will come soon! So much amazing variety and quality you are depriving yourself of!

          3. California Wines - There are some great Ridge Vineyard wines for under $30. Also, Rusack, Tablas Creek and Justin.

            4 Replies
            1. re: goldangl95

              Thanks for the suggestion.

              It's funny that you mentioned it.

              When I picked up the
              2010 Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Sicilia Rosso IGT, Sicily, Italy
              based on Asomaniac's suggestion

              I grabbed a
              2009 Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys" Sonoma Zinfandel Blend.

              I hope its good.

              1. re: jlrobe

                Hm haven't had that one - but I have been generally happy with Ridge Wines. Let us know how it goes.

                1. re: goldangl95

                  Ridge was the first wine that came to mind.

                2. re: jlrobe

                  I've found the Three Valleys to be a decent value over the years. If you like it I'd really suggest trying both the Geyserville and the Lytton Springs.

              2. Personal tastes and experiences lead me to think that there are "wines" (easily 70% of worldwide production), "good wines" (20% of worldwide production), "fine wines"(9% of worldwide production, and then, "great wines"( 1% of worldwide production). [Those are my numbers, and do not reflect WS, WA, WE or any trade publication.]

                Now, within your price points, I have found some very good wines, though no "great" ones, only "good ones," that really border on "fine wines."

                A couple are:

                Acacia Pinot Noir - good, year in, year out, and can stand cellaring for a few years.
                Glen Carlou Grand Classique - Bdx. blend for South Africa, but does not cellar that long.
                Peachy Canyon Zinfandel - again, lower price-point, but good over vintages. Can be cellared for a short time.
                Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zinfandel - will not take much cellaring, but is pretty good young.

                There are several more, but they do not come to mind, immediately.



                20 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I recall a book that was published a couple of years ago that reported a series of blind tastings of wines under $15 against "great" wines. Carefully selected $15 wines held up very well against the great wines. This could say something about the tasters or could say that the great wines should be stored for 15 years. It was called "The wine trials: 100 wines under $50 that beat . . ." Here's a link

                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    Thanks for the reference.

                    I found a few really good wines in the $20 - 40$, although I have loved wines in the 70$ and up category. And I am looking for more excellent finds in the under $30 category.

                    I have found some 20$-40$ wines that have tasted like $10 bottles when I didn't choose carefully, but I have yet to find many 8 - 15$ wines that taste like very good 20-40$ wines.

                    I will check out that reference though and keep an open mind.

                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      Thank you for the link. I read a lot about a red, at the US $ 5/btl. level, blowing the doors off of great, 1er Cru Bdx wines, at tastings, but usually the folk, who cite such, cannot even list the wines.

                      Your input is appreciated, and I will read.


                      1. re: kagemusha49

                        Now, was this the gentleman, who created a fictitious restaurant, paid a fee, and then got a WS Grand Award, or similar, from a made-up wine list?

                        I am not saying that wine tasters would be influenced by price, or other stimuli, but wonder what the audience was?

                        Might be worth my $ to get the book. I'll see if there is a Kindle version.



                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill Hunt,

                        Thanks for the specific recommendations.

                        At first glance, the Peachy Canyon sounds intriguing, but reading some reviews, the Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend seems like quaffable choice.

                        Does this wine have at least a little refinement or balance or complexity to go with its big fruit?


                        1. re: jlrobe

                          I often keep a few bottles of each, the PC Westside and the Ravenswood VB in stock, and use them for cooking. However, I also drink them, while I cook. I wait until someone, like World Market, has them on sale, then pick up a case.

                          I was once more of a fan of Ravenswood, back when Joel Peterson was truly at the helm, and have not followed them so closely, since they were sold, though Peterson was retained (now?) as the winemaker. Way back, their single-vineyard offerings were really great buys, and the VB was a real value. Have not really warmed to some of the single-vineyard offerings, in recent times.

                          Also, Rosenblum does a blend Zin, but cannot recall the exact name right now, Cuvée ___ ?, that has been good in the past, and at a very reasonable price. They also do some really interesting Zins, from single-vineyards, and are not to be discounted.

                          The usual Ridge offerings (though I love Ridge), are often just above the price-points, but are usually well worth the few extra $'s. At least to me.

                          I still feel that Zinfandel is a bargain, especially to some of the Cab Sauvignons, Merlots and Pinot Noirs. Now, much will depend on WHICH Zinfandel, so that statement is very, very general.

                          Pinot Noir, while a great varietal, is a bit tougher to grow and produce, than Zins, Cabs and even Merlots. Finding a really good PN, at a good price, is a search, though there can be rewards.

                          Merlot (in the US) are mostly still weak (OK, that is going easy on many), but there ARE some great examples of the grape, just not at the lower-end, where many US Merlots "settle."

                          Just saw a good (at least to me) Bdx., Ch. Gloria, for US $ 39, at Total Wines. They are owned by Ch. St. Pierre, and in many years, could be a 5th Growth. We have had many vintages, as Ch. St. Pierre is my wife's family, and Gloria is her sister-in-law, though Ch. Gloria only figures in from a Bdx. ownership aspect. Still a good Bdx., at a fair price, and can be consumed early, or can be cellared - depends on the vintage.

                          I would not equate Ch. Gloria, any vintage, with, say the '70 Ch. Latour, but it is still a very good wine, and if the price is right, why not?

                          Most of all, enjoy,


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            I completely agree re: Chateau Gloria. I think it is an excellent Bordeaux at the price and drink it often.

                            1. re: Asomaniac

                              I am glad that I am not alone!


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                You, me and a hefty chunk of Japanese wine drinkers. I live in Tokyo and Ch. Gloria is very widely available in shops and restaurants. It's regarded by many as a top notch Bordeaux for a fair price. I think anyone who has tried it and has seen the price tag surely must agree.

                            2. re: Bill Hunt

                              Thanks Bill Hunt.

                              I looked into Ch. Gloria. I can only find it online, and it will set me back $50 once shipping is included. So I am going to pass for now, but keep my eye out.

                              The price point for the Ridges seem in my range, so I am looking forward to trying the bottle I just bought.

                              Finding good Pinot is a tough search in my price range. When I find a great value, I will probably end up buying quite a few. The best ones I had so far have been Freemans ($45) and a Cotes De Nuits for about ($100). The rest have been so so.

                              I will checkout Rosenblum next time I head to Oakland since they are an urban winery.
                              I also remembered that SF has a local winery called bluxome, which has a pinot in their collection.

                              Thanks for all the info. I am learning a lot!

                              1. re: jlrobe

                                Re Pinot, do try the Atascadero Creek I have recommended - it is around 29 dollars.

                                1. re: Asomaniac

                                  I'd love to try it. Hopefully my wife and I make it up to Guerneville this year for vacation. We usually do several Sonoma/Marin Weekend trips and we have been meaning to stay at Cottages on River Road. We will check out Sophie's cellars then and pick that wine up.

                                  Thanks for the awesome Rec for the wine shop by the way!

                            3. re: jlrobe

                              The Peachy Canyon Zin is often available at our local TJ's for ~ $10. When I see it, I always grab some because to my palate, it's the perfect accompaniment to simple suppers such as grilled burgers, chili, a hearty beef barley soup, or even a simple pasta with sauce bolognese.

                              On a higher scale, there are some wonderful Oregon Pinot Noirs that can be had for under $30. Adelsheim & Sokol Blosser come immediately to mind. If you have a good wine merchant near where you live, it shouldn't be hard to find some very good red wines in the $25-30 range. If you have a Total Wines anywhere near you, they can be very helpful in pointing you in the right direction...not so much for Bev and More which I've found very disappointing. A local wine merchant who knows his/her stuff is your best bet.

                              1. re: josephnl

                                Thanks for the rec Josephnl.

                                Much appreciated.

                                I am axnious to try this 10$ wine. I found another 10$ wine that might be even more promising. I will check it out. Its the 2010 Shenandoah Vineyards "Special Reserve" Amador Zinfandel

                                I am getting a really wide range of suggestions and I really appreciate it!!

                                1. re: jlrobe

                                  Just bought some Peachy Canyon Zin at TJ's for $8.99. There are many $100+ bottles of wine that I have at home and love, but when I'm having a simple weeknight supper at home, I often want something simpler (less expensive). The PC is perfect wth a bowl of pasta, some meat loaf, or perhaps a Shepherd's Pie or meat loaf. No way will I uncork a wonderful old Calfornia cab, a special single vineyard Oregon PN, or a terrific Burgundy with this kind of meal. I'm always looking for excellent inexpensive wines such as the Peachy Canyon Zin for this kind of meal.

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    So I had the PC with a nice homemade pizza last night. One glass without decanting and one with.

                                    My impressions are that it was pretty good for $10, but I find that I am just not an every day wine lover. It was obviously not at the level of a 1998 Cotes De Nuits burgundy, or a 2007 Freeman Pinot, etc. The PC tasted good, but it was a bit hot, a bit jammy, and it had no structure or elegance to speak of. All that said, it was good for $10.

                                    A $20 bottle of Green and Red Vineyard Zin was miles ahead of the PC (IHMO), and only $10 more.

                                    When it comes to wine, I am spoiled I guess.

                                    My first 6 years of experience with wine consisted of great wines served at world class restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Gramecy Tavern in NYC, or Michael Mina and Cyrus in the bay area. The only wine I would drink would be carefully selected wines (typically $35+ retail) to match my fancy meals.

                                    I just started building my own collection about 4 months ago, starting with the nice 20$-$40 bottles. I have just now started trying 10$ wines, (e.g. the McManis Petite Syrah and PC Zin), and I must say, that I am not really that into them.

                                  2. re: jlrobe

                                    I have had several Shanadoh wines, and have not yet been impressed, at any level, but have not stayed current, nor have I tasted all of their wines.

                                    Maybe it's just my palate?

                                    Good luck,


                                  3. re: josephnl

                                    Yes, their Westside, at a discounted price, is a good wine.

                                    Their Incredible Red is also discounted around AZ, and can be very good.

                                    With either, I can cook with them, and drink them, as I cook, and never bat an eyelash.

                                    Are either the "ultimate?" No, but at a good price-point, they are quite good.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      I've not seen the PC Westside, but their Incredible least to my, for $9, a pretty decent cooking wine, and definitely acceptable for drinking with a casual home-cooked meal. I think it's a bargain, and am always amazed how for this price a decent wine can be made.

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        I think it's just my palette, but I not that into decent wine. I guess, on the low end, I rather drink craft beer or small batch whiskey.

                                        The incredible red is much better than the cheap $10 bottles that you get at Safeway.