I have been swimming my way through a veritable flood of wines, old and new, for the past few months. I try to stay within a reasonable price range, from the low teens to the low-twenties. Here are a few that stand out in that group.
I recently sampled a new wine called Day Owl Rose. It is based on Barbera, once a popular grape planted by Italian immigrants in California vineyards, but now a relative outlander. Day Owl is attractively pink in color, a veritable fruit bowl of strawberry, plum and vanilla scents on the nose and similar flavors on the palate. It’s easy drinking at a suggested retail price SRP) of $15. Interestingly, another producer puts out a batch of different wines under the night owl label in the low teens, but I haven’t tried any of them.
I am more familiar with Toad Hollow, which produces a line of wines from its own vineyard and other fields in Sonoma. The 2015 Sonoma County Merlot is an elegant red, bursting with blueberry and violet aromas and a bit of smokiness on the nose. Pomegranate and cranberry show on the palate and flow gently into a smooth finish. SRP $15.99. Grapes for Toad Hollow’s 2016 Chardonnay came from fields in Monterey and Mendocino. There’s a surprising bit of anise tilting with lemon on the nose, apricot and grapefruit on the palate. It’s a dependable white at an SRP of $14.99, probably lower depending on the retailer.
Look hard for the wines of Ciu Ciu. At the bargain price of $10, Ciu Ciu’s Arbinus salutes the Italian grape, Verdicchio, a flowery white that makes a great wine for antipasto and varied appetizers. On a more serious level, its Oppidum, 100% Montepulciano, is a full-bodied, wood-aged red to complement red meat in all forms at $19. Grapes for these and other CIU CIU wines come from Le Marche, a region that may lack the glamour of the Piedmont or Chianti country, but are reasonably priced for their quality. The firm should be commended for working with indigenous grapes that others overlook.
If the cost of Champagne off-putting look to Spain, where cava is the sparkling wine for all purposes, and comes at a far more accessible price. I can suggest a pair from two respected old line producers Freixenet and Cordoniu, each at an SRP of $15. The ancient house of Cordoniu uses a 70/30 blend of Chardonnay and indigenous Parellada grapes for its Anna Cava brut, while Freixenet blends three native grapes, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. The wines are remarkably similar with lively acidity and fresh fruit flavors.
When I adopted a serious attitude toward wine, my go-to red came from the French firm of Perrin & Fils. The Perrin Cotes du Rhone, a balanced, peppery blend of syrah and grenache, cost about $8 in those bygone times, and can be found today at about $13. Bargain shoppers should find happiness with a domestic version from Concannon in California. The Concannon Syrah is built on the same grape that powers the Perrin wine, but is even less expensive at about $10. My favorite white, for many years, has been Chenin Blanc from Dry Creek. It was about $8 when I first latched onto it, about $15 today. I like its burst of pear, pineapple and banana scents and the refreshing taste of melon and white pear on the palate. This is one dependable, all-purpose wine that never fails to please.