Category: Domestic Red Wines

Pedroncelli Merlot Dry Creek Valley Bench Vineyards 2017

Well, fellow sleuths, Merlot is back in a big way (not that it ever left the Right Bank of Bordeaux, where Merlot-based classic wines are typical), and we all benefit from the presence of great Value Wines such as the Pedroncelli Merlot Dry Creek Valley Bench Vineyards 2017. Unlike the flabby Merlots of 15 years ago, this Big Red has ample structure and acidity to pair extremely well with a grilled beef filet, an idea which sounds delicious for tonight’s dinner.

Milbrandt Merlot (Columbia Valley) 2017

I am always on the lookout for a satisfying Big Red that meets our criteria as a Value Wine–i.e., high quality and a price of less than $20. We at The Wine Bargain Sleuth have long been a fan of Washington Cabs and Merlots and have frequently recommended the same to our wine sleuths! The Milbrandt Merlot Columbia Valley 2017 is a terrific example of a great Value Wine: at its modest $17 suggested retail, it far outdrinks many Merlots that cost 2-3 times more.

2015 Land of Promise Pinot Noir

Say you have a birthday or a big anniversary coming up. Or you closed that big deal at work…or just because you are worth it! Some days you…

Cline Zinfandel Contra Costa County Ancient Vines 2016

Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel 2015

Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015

The Ken Wright 2015 is delightful as a cocktail wine, yet with sufficient substance and acidity to pair beautifully with roasted pork tenderloin or crispy duck. As many Oregon Pinot Noir fans are aware, most Ken Wright Pinot offerings are single-vineyard sourced and typically priced over $60; however the Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015 breaks the mold as a blend of numerous terrific Willamette vineyards.

Justin Isosceles 2014

So, fellow sleuths, you have a big milestone coming up, say your birthday or perhaps a meaningful wedding anniversary. You are a Big Red drinker and have made a decision to grab a bottle of something out of the ordinary and even extraordinary. However, your budget is not unlimited (have to save your hard-earned bucks for flowers or some other goodies for your significant other!). The solution? This one is easy–the Justin Isosceles 2014. Justin’s delectable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is sourced from the Paso Robles area of central California.

Lamborn Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Howell Mountain)

I don’t know that I tasted a better, more elegant, more nuanced Cab the entire trip to Napa, if not this year to date, than the Lamborn 2008 Howell Mountain Cab. Deep aromas of blackberry and even a hint of black cherry and cassis began the experience, with an oaked but polished mid-palate, with a smooth, earthy and complex finish that felt like it lasted for 2 minutes.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Without a doubt, the State of Washington is producing some terrific wines, and you savvy wine sleuths should definitely pay heed. Exhibit A is the Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an delicious medium-bodied Cab that is widely distributed. I picked up hints of cocoa, blueberries and blackberries, with a noticeable but delicious oak overtone. Not overly tannic, this is an everyday Cab that can be served as on its own, or it would be a delicious pairing with a grilled filet or even a pork tenderloin.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2014

Looking for a new house Big Red that impresses your savvy wine buddies but still leaves a few quid in your pocket from a $20? The great state of Washington and one of its shining wine stars, Chateau Ste. Michelle provides this month’s answer in the form of its Indian Wells Merlot 2014. A full-bodied but lush expression of Merlot, the taste profile for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2014 is that of ripe dark cherries, cocoa, spice and just a hint of oak for balance.

2014 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir

As your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth is ever vigilant and on the lookout for value Pinot Noir that actually resemble high quality Pinots and Burgundies, the Wine by Joe project…

Cameron Hughes Lot 457 Meritage Napa Valley 2013

As temperatures creep up to the dreaded 100’s in the Great Southwest, one might think that it is not an opportune time to look for a new house Big Red. On the contrary, my fellow wine sleuths, when others zig we like to zag, and your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has a real treat for you in this month’s Value Wine No. 1: the Cameron Hughes Lot 457 Meritage Napa Valley 2013. We have reviewed and highlighted other Cameron Hughes wines previously, as the negociant’s philosophy and ours tend to align. However, the CH Lot 457 Meritage is a cut above even the typical high quality of Cameron Hughes offerings.

Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Your humble wine sleuth has previously confessed to being a fan of the Napa Valley “Rutherford Dust” said to be from the terrior of certain Valley Floor grapes bottled in Rutherford. I was fortunate to have the recent opportunity to travel to Napa Valley and sample the offerings of Round Pond Estate which included the delightful Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Round Pond Estate is located within walking distance of several notable Rutherford neighbors, including Beaulieu Vineyards, Peju Provence and Caymus, to name a few, so fans of those world class Big Reds should definitely take note of their this vineyard’s wines. Although arguably lesser known than some of its Napa Valley floor neighbors, Round Pond Estate has been delivering some terrific Cabs and Cab blends over the past several years, including its own highly acclaimed Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Chatter Creek 2008 Blend 105

Are you wine sleuths looking for an aged, elegant Bordeaux blend Big Red to get you through the winter chill that doesn’t set you back the equivalent of a January gas bill? We have just the wine for this month’s Value Wine No. 1, the Chatter Creek 2008 Blend 105 from Columbia Valley, Washington. Yes, that’s right, this Northwest Big Red is actually a 2008 vintage, meaning that it is perfectly aged at the vineyard and refined for your immediate enjoyment. Reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux, the Chatter Creek 2008 Blend 105 is a Merlot based blend, with helpful dollups of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to complete the classic five Bordeaux blend varietals.

Cameron Hughes Lot 403 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Those of you who follow The Wine Bargain Sleuth regularly are undoubtedly familiar with Cameron Hughes’ terrific value wines. In fact, it is fair to say that we could easily feature a Cameron Hughes wine as a recommended Value Wine each month. Savvy wine sleuths understand the value that all Cameron Hughes wines bring in terms of bang for your hard earned buck, and the Lot 403 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot is no exception.

McManis 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

In today’s world of pedestrian bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that run nearly $100, it is indeed a delight to find a Big Red that one can enjoy…

Turley Juvenile Zinfandel 2013

When I think of the Turley Juvenile Zinfandel 2013, I think of elegance and balance, with a pleasant but not overpowering nose of cherry and strawberry, followed by a hint of spice and a touch of green pepper, followed by a lovely and lengthy smooth finish. The winemakers at Turley have the reputation of being one of California’s foremost Zinfandel experts, and this bottle should quickly convince a wine sleuth that they are not just whistling Dixie on their mass-production Zins.

Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel

This month’s Value Wine No. 1 is the cleverly named Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel. This Lodi-sourced example of the robust Zinfandel grape is a worthy match for your backyard BBQ ribs or that extra-juicy burger fresh off the old grill. This inky purple wine (it contains a small dollup of Petite Sirah) has a profile of blackberry jam with multiple layers of earthiness, pepper and minerality woven throughout. Its fine tannins ensure that the Zin is seamless and remarkably elegant for a wine at this price point of $16 retail. I would describe this bold Red as the ideal mid-week wine for those who enjoy grilling out during the warmer months. Widely available, this Zinfandel was recently awarded an impressive 91 rating by Wine Enthusiast. My recommendation is that Wine Sleuths should stock up immediately!

Epoch 2011 Tempranillo

This month’s Worth a Splurge wine is a treat for those who enjoy the polished, earthy Tempranillo wines typically associated with the Rioja region of Spain. The craftsmen of Epoch have offered their Paso Robles, California interpretation of this European classic wine in the form of the Epoch 2011 Tempranillo. I recently had the opportunity to sample this robust red on two different occasions, once pairing the wine with aged cheeses and fruit and once pairing the Epoch wine with one of the absolute best bone-in filets that New York City had to offer. May I say that the Epoch Tempranillo was magnificent in both instances, and my only disappointment is that my cellar is now empty of more bottles of the 2011 Tempranillo.

Honig Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

I have had the opportunity a couple of times in the past month to enjoy the 2012 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon with good friends. Honig has long made high quality Cab from its classic Napa Valley location in Rutherford on the bench floor. This is classic Rutherford Cab Sav, with dark berry profiles, hints of cocoa and vanilla bean and a silky, lingering finish with the classic “Rutherford Dust” that so many Cab fans (your favorite Wine Bargain Sleuth among them) seek. As with a great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Honig pairs beautifully with a juicy T-Bone steak, but its polish and balance also make it equally tasty with pan-seared scallops.

Stolpman 2012 Estate Syrah (Ballard Canyon)

Love your Big Reds but are looking something a bit different than a Napa Cab or Merlot? Want to get ahead of the curve on the great wines being grown around Santa Barbara but don’t know where to start? Well, my friends, look no further than the Stolpman 2012 Estate Syrah (Ballard County). This delicious yet unique Syrah from the terroir of Ballard County in southern California may just break your impression that all Syrah wines are big, jammy fruit bomb. By contrast, the Stolpman 2012 Estate Syrah is silky, elegant and bone dry yet manages to deliver satisfying black cherry on the nose and a sage and earthy quality on the mid-palate.

Bogle Essential Red 2012

The Bogle Essential Red 2012 is a delicious blend of old vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sav and Petite Sirah that will have you reaching for another bottle after the last glass is dispensed. The 2012 Bogle blend has a flavor profile of dark berries, vanilla, spice and tobacco. This wine is nicely balanced and has an uncommon smoothness for a Big Red at this price point.

Turley Zinfandel Bargain

If you are a fan of spicy foods like BBQ brisket, ribs, pepper steak or even jalapeno pepper enhanced burgers like your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth, then you need to find a bold red wine that doesn’t get overwhelmed by the entrée yet is polished enough to complement the bold flavors. An excellent example of that wine, my friends, can be found with the terrific 2012 Turley Zinfandel California Juvenile.

Outstanding Cabernet from Horse Heaven Hills

I don’t know of a better value wine at this moment than the remarkable 2012 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills H3 Cabernet Sauvignon. We have previously recommended some great wines from the Washington state winery, and there’s a better than zero chance that friends might find a Columbia Crest daily drinker in my personal cellar at any given time due to their consistent high quality and true value price. The 2012 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly no exception. Indeed, if anything, the bar has been reset even higher with this vintage.

Pinot Noir Beauty from Anderson Valley

In short, folks, there’s a lot going on in that Pinot! Still a young wine, the 2012 Walt The Corners nonetheless balances the cherries and sweet strawberry nose in an interesting finesse of earthiness that seems to gain even more balance with 15 minutes of air. The wine takes on a rounder, elegant feel that will delight even the drinkers of the Big Reds.

Exceptional Value Pinot Noir: Handcraft

As the warmer months are gaining on us, your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth continues his quest for quality, affordable Pinot Noir to stash away. In that vein, we have a treat for you this month in the 2012 Handcraft Pinot Noir California! The 2012 Handcraft Pinot Noir has classic Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, cherry and cola, but the blend grapes add a bit of structure and interesting tea and spice flavors with a silky smooth finish.

Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Greatness

The 2012 vintage of the Louis Martini Sonoma Cab is a true Bordeaux blend, of which 87% of the juice is sourced from Sonoma Valley Cab Sav grapes. This widely-available value Big Red has a nose of dark fruit, plenty of structure and still manages a lovely, smooth finish, due perhaps to the fairly low 13.9% alcohol content.

An Epic Rhone Blend from Epoch

One such world class wine is the 2010 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Paso Robles, a unique, Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo grapes. This unique red, from grapes more often associated with European rather than domestic wines, is best described as a rich and fruit-forward wine which at the same time manages to be quite balanced and complex, with a lovely acidity that makes it food-friendly.

Howell at the Moon

Sometimes a man (or woman) just has to say “What the Heck” and reach for an amazing, world class Big Red, the cost be damned, and that time is right now! I briefly mentioned the 2008 Howell at the Moon The Knoll Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in Chapter 17 as a standout after I sampled this amazing wine at the 2013 “Taste of Howell Mountain” festival in June. After a recent advance tasting of the 2010 vintage Howell at the Moon The Knoll Cab, I have confirmed my initial impression that this vintner is onto something special.

Washington Heavenly Bordeaux Blend

Like many of the high quality offerings from Columbia Crest, the 2010 Les Chevaux (French for “the Horses”, for the wild horses who formerly inhabited the area) is sourced from the high quality Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington state. This complex yet affordable wine is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a touch of Syrah for structure. It features dark berry fruits, along with a touch of cocoa and mocha and polished tannins on the finish. I am confident you and your guests will peg this red for a much more expensive wine.

Oregon House Pinot

The cool climate of Oregon allows for yet another amazing Pinot from that region in the King Estate Acrobat. This bright red colored wine has ample tastes of cherry and cranberry, with spice and that unique earthy, smooth finish that has reminded so many Pinot Noir fans of Burgundy rather than a domestic wine. It is the complexity of this medium bodied Pinot that sets it apart at this price point and in turn makes the King Estate Acrobat 2011 such an outstanding Red House Wine for bargain sleuths

Cameron Hughes Lot 500: Oakville Royalty in a Plain Wrapper

Wine negociant and entrepreneur Cameron Hughes has traditionally reserved Lots 200, 300 and 400 from what he considers some of the finest producers in Napa Valley, and the 2011 Cameron Hughes Lot 500 Napa Valley (Oakville) Cabernet Sauvignon follows suit with a blockbuster Big Red.

Sleeper Cab from Napa Valley

While perhaps not quite as impressive as the highly rated 2007 and 2008 vintages, the 2010 Franciscan nevertheless is an excellent “go to” or house Cabernet, garnering a solid 89 rating from Wine Enthusiast. That publication is obviously a fan of the Franciscan Cab, describing it thusly: “Good price for a Cabernet this elegant and classy. It’s not something for the cellar, but offers everything it has now, with ripe blackberry, black currant and cedar flavors that are wrapped into sturdy, smooth tannins.” You can grab this one and enjoy it immediately.

Washington Liquid Silk from Horse Heaven Hills

When I think of Washington’s Columbia Crest label, I think consistent quality and remarkable bang for your buck. Exhibit A to this theory is represented by
the 2010 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Worth a Splurge Wine: Cabernet Goodness from Paso Robles

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to taste a terrific Cabernet Sauvignon from one of California’s upcoming but lesser known wine regions, Paso Robles.  I was so…

Value Wine: Affordable Oregon Pinot Noir!

During the recent heat wave in my neck of the woods (read, a few degrees shy of the surface of the sun last week!), I have been in…

Value Wine: A Unique Summer Cuvee

I can’t resist offering up a third Value Wine this month with our theme of hosting a summer wine dinner:   the Peju Provence NV from Napa Valley.  Available…

Splurge Wine: Beauty of a Pinot Noir

Quite possibly the best Pinot Noir I have recently sampled, particularly when price is taken into account, is the 2010 Belle Glos Santa Maria Valley Clark & Telephone…

Worth a Splurge Wine: Single Vineyard Excellence

Just because warmer weather is coming doesn’t mean that red wine fans will change their colors.  This month’s Worth a Splurge Wine is an elegant powerhouse wine from…

Value Wine: The Value Cali Blend

This month’s Value Wine No. 2 is an incredible bargain from a wine value producer you should be familiar with: the 2010 Bogle Essential Red. Bogle is that…

Value Wine: A Perfect Grilling Partner from Sonoma

With so much focus on this month’s Chapter on Napa Valley, I don’t think it hurts to brag a little on a jewel of a wine from neighboring…

Worth a Splurge Wine: I AM Drinking This Merlot!

With due respect to the now-infamous protest of Paul Giamatti’s character Miles in the film Sideways, this month’s Worth a Splurge Wine is the 2009 Meeker Maker’s Handprint…

Worth a Splurge Wine: Classic Oregon Pinot Noir

Your friendly Wine Bargain Sleuth can be a slow learner and not a little bit hardheaded about his love for the Big Reds, but I’m pretty sure he…

Worth a Splurge Wine: A Touch of Rutherford Dust.

This month’s Splurge Wine is a long-time favorite and a beautiful example of what the lovers of the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley call the “Rutherford Dust”: the…

Worth a Splurge Wine: The Napa Big Boy

I recommend the 2008 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Hall Wines, owned by Kathryn and Craig Hall, has been on a remarkable streak under the direction of…

2009 Horse Heaven Hills

Value Wine: The Luxury Daily Drinker.

The State of Washington is making some amazing quality wines for remarkable prices these days. The one I recommend for today is made by Columbia Crest, the 2009…

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