This year, Beverage Dynamics will be presenting the selections of our wine panel organized not by varietal or region, but by price. This issue, the panel looks at red wines with a retail price around $15 and under. At a time when sourcing good quality wines at value prices is increasingly difficult, we think it’s particularly useful to share the insights of our panel and spread the word that wines can be appreciated at any price. Later this year, the panel will recommend value whites, and we will climb the price ladder as the year goes on. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a numerical rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which varies from market to market) . – Richard Brandes
***** Five Stars (92-100) A top-flight wine. Superior in taste and character and providing an outstanding price/value relationship.
**** Four Stars (86-91) A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.
*** Three Stars (80-85) An above- average wine, at a reasonable price point, which many customers will enjoy.
** Two Stars (70-79) An average wine.
* One Star (50-69) A below-average wine.
***** (95) Yangarra Park Old Vine Grenache 2002 (Australia). A rich, ripe and massively powerful grenache overflowing with fruit flavors of plum, blackberries and blueberries that cascade over the palate; it maintains enough texture and grace to make it possible to warm up to this monster; long-lasting finish. ($14)
***** (95) Da Luca Primitivo/Merlot IGT 2003 (Italy). Earthy truffle/tobacco aromas and flavors of the primitivo are balanced with berry, currant and soft tannins of merlot; great mouth-feel and length; an excellent value. ($10)
***** (94) Colombier Vacqueyras 2001 (France). This estate-bottled southern Rhone blend is made from 50-year-old vines and could easily be mistaken for a Chateauneuf du Pape; hand-crafted with an artist’s touch, it is full of soft, ripe flavors of blackberry and raspberry with hints of spice and white pepper; velvety tannins on the finish.
***** (93) Terra Nostra Chianti Riserva 1997 (Italy). The vintage was sensational and this wine drinks like a wine at three times the price; a heady bouquet of strawberries and violets with lots of ripe cherry flavors. ($14)
***** (93) Pierre Dupond Beaujolais Nouveau 2004 (France). Nouveau perfection, the effusively fruity and charming ’04 Pierre Dupond Beaujolais Nouveau stays true to type; scintillating and generous; serve slightly chilled and enjoy. ($8)
***** (92) Hartford Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Aromas of blackberries, boysenberry, nutmeg and smoke are followed by flavors of bing cherries, roasted plum, cinnamon and allspice; complex aromas; a dense, sweet and juicy mouth-feel supported by centered acidity, fine tannins and a complex finish. ($14)
***** (92) Luis Felipe Edwards Carmenere Gran Reserva 2001 (Chile). Deep ruby color; elegant mouthful of carmenere, cabernet and merlot; rich, dark plum fruits with a hint of chocolate and spice; long finish. ($13)
***** (92) Thorn-Clarke Shiraz Barossa Valley, “Terra Barossa” 2003 (Australia). Dark purple in color, with a bouquet that displays an earthy frame to aromas of baked cherry, cranberry and spice and a touch of mint; explosive on the palate, with rich, ripe flavors of black cherry, plum, cassis, cocoa and the lightest touch of cinnamon; ample tannin, good acidity, beautiful balance and a long, luscious finish wrap things up beautifully. ($10)
***** (92) Vina Rubican Crianza Navarra 2001 (Spain). Fresh fruit with ripe tannins, this Crianza is a barrel-aged tempranillo-based blend sourced from Spain’s Navarra region; ruby red in color with a complex nose and red fruit flavors; this well-structured Crianza has a good balance between fruit and wood, making it a good selection for rich meat and cheese dishes. ($12)
***** (92) Valley of the Moon Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Everything you want from a pinot at this price; black cherry with hints of strawberry and spice; lots of flavor with a supple finish. ($15)
***** (92) Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2004 (France). Pretty and enticing, the substantially built ’04 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau stays pert and elegant on the palate; a simply scrumptious effort; great with turkey or ham.
**** (91) Barbier Gely Vin de Pays de Caux 2000 (France). Great blend of old vine cabernet and syrah; good body, touch of oak and easy black fruits; drinks like an expensive Rhone.($10).
**** (91) Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse Bordeaux Superior 2001 (France). Not a heavyweight, but well balanced and well made; easy drinking, minimal tannins and bright cherry fruit; good Bordeaux bargain. ($11)
**** (91) Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel 2001 (California). Complex bouquet of blackberries, plums, chocolate and spice; long and lush flavor of ripe fruit, spices, velvet tannins and a rich, succulent finish. ($15)
**** (90) Chateau Belingard Bergerac 2003 (France). Fantastic estate-bottled Cabernet-based wine that drinks like a $15 HautMedoc. Rich cherry and currant flavors are presented elegantly through the medium format with hints of spice and earth. ($11)
**** (90) Prospero California Zinfandel 2002 (California). Blackberry, currant, spice and hints of coffee; old-fashioned “briar” quality; nice mouthful; easy drinking red. ($10)
**** (90) Domaine Des Amouriers Vin de Pays 2003 (France). Soft and supple with a beautiful bouquet of violets and blueberries; 50% grenache, 30% merlot; 20% syrah; elegant and stylish with a long, ripe velvety finish. ($13)
**** (90) Finca Urquiza Malbec 2001 (Argentina). A gorgeous purple color; lush, intense floral nose; ripe, almost sweet black fruit flavors are balanced by soft tannins. ($12)
**** (90) Montalto Cabernet/Syrah IGT 2003 (Sicily, Italy). Very full-flavored and robust with aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum, cherry and spicy black pepper; matches well with pizza, pasta and grilled meats; excellent “new style” from Sicily. ($10)
**** (90) L de Lyeth Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2002 (California). Gobs of black currants, plums and rich dark chocolate — all harmonious in the glass! A wine you can serve with total confidence. ($12)
**** (90) Sebastiani Sonoma California Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (California). Concentrated black cherry jam, toast and chocolate entice; full-bodied, delivering focused black cherry with a streak of cedar and bittersweet chocolate; balanced and sturdy. ($14)
**** (90) Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Cabernet Franc 2001 (California). Distinctive thyme, subtle lavender and jasmine; velvety texture suggesting blackberry and black currant laced with mocha and vanilla bean. ($11)
**** (90) Navarro Correas Limited Release Malbec 2001 (Argentina). Ripe blackberry with hints of cinnamon, clove and a touch of pepper; a wonderful value. ($10)
**** (90) Red Dust Shiraz 2002 (Australia). Deep ruby/purple in color, with a mild bouquet that has a spicy edge to the aromas of cassis and raspberry; medium-bodied and mild; a good kick of acidity on the palate and chewy flavors of ripe cherry and blackberry; well balanced; a medium-length finish and mild aftertaste; a very versatile food wine. ($9)
**** (90) Step Rd Shiraz Langhorne Creek 2001 (Australia). Opaque purple/black, with a bright bouquet of eucalyptus and a hint of mushroom that subside to reveal a touch of currant; dry on the palate, with chewy tannins and spicy fruit flavors of cassis and black raspberry; medium-length finish shows a little tartness to the fruit flavors in the aftertaste; great for grilled or barbecued meats. ($15)
**** (90) Cline Red Truck 2002 (California). Rich and luscious fruit immediately surrounds your tongue; plum and blackberry flavors combined with mild tannins and acidity make this one of the most well balanced wines at this price. ($11)
**** (90) Bishop’s Peak Paso Robles Zinfandel 2001 (California). Talley Family Winery’s second label; lots of red fruit flavors; zesty and crisp; some spice but not big tannins. ($15)
**** (90) Vinum Cellars “Pets” Petite Sirah 2003 (California). Plenty of ripe fruit and toasty oak; layers of cassis and plum; very intense and lush. ($15)
**** (90) Jigsaw Pinot Noir 2002 (Oregon). Loaded with fruit with a long, spicy finish; very food-friendly; great with a number of meats and richer fish dishes. ($15)
**** (90) Castell Del Remei Gotim Bru 2001 (Spain). Aromas of licorice, cedar and currants; powerful fruit flavors; sweet and rich with a great texture. ($15)
**** (89) Don Miguel Gascón Malbec 2003 (Argentina). Dark purple, with cherry and plum aromas and flavors and a hint of chocolate, rich fruit in the middle and a long velvety finish.
**** (89) Catena Wines/Alamos Malbec 2003 (Argentina). Rich and full with flavors and aromas of roasted coffee beans and exotic spices. Great with red meats and grilled fish dishes. ($12)
**** (89) Le Paradou Cotes du Rhone Luberon 2003 (France). A blend of grenache and syrah; deep, dark fruit aromas with flavors of cherry, spice and blackberry; just a touch of oak; pair with roasted meats. ($11)
**** (89) Argiolas Perdera 2001 Isola dei Nuraghi (Italy). This wine from Sardinia is a blend of mostly the indigenous Monica grape, along with a little Carignano and Bovale Sardo; a beautiful and clear medium ruby red color; inviting bouquet of cherry, plum and chocolate; medium-bodied; flavors of black cherry, raspberry and chocolate, and just the right amount of tannins and oak, which are followed by a pleasant and rustic sweet aftertaste. ($12)
**** (89) Henry Fessy Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2004 (France). An effusively fruity effort, the taut ’04 Henry Fessy Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau excels with appealing tart cranberry flavors; delicious with roast turkey sans the stuffing. ($10)
**** (89) Avalon Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (California). An ultra-rich and smooth cabernet; medium-bodied with currant, cherry and plum flavors; great for everyday drinking. ($15)
**** (89) Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2004 (France). Bright with a pleasing magenta, blue color, the very fruity ’04 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau starts with a substantive aroma of blueberries and finishes with fine crispness. ($10)
**** (89) Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (California). Rich aromas of blackberry folding over Kirsch and cassis; clean and smooth delivery of red currant, cassis and dried cranberry, gritty tannins and a dusty medium-length finish. ($13)
**** (88) Guelbenzu Azul (Cab/Merlot/Tempranillo blend) 2001 (Spain). Smoky, complex nose; dry, yet full mouth-feel, with loads of character; another example from this great vintage from Navarra, in the north of Spain. ($15)
**** (88) Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah 2002 (California). Inky color, huge black fruit on the nose; powerful and pliant, with a juicy, lush finish; best with red meat dishes. ($12)
**** (88) Columbia Crest, Columbia Valley Grand Estates Merlot 2000 (Washington). Classy; deep, dark cherry over a base of cedar speckled with vanilla; polished red raspberry and charred black cherries; great vintage and value. ($14)
**** (88) Two Brothers Big Tattoo Red 2003 (Chile). A surprising blend of cabernet, syrah and merlot; densely packed with flavors of dark cherries and blackberries that fill the glass and finishes with very soft tannins and a very long finish. ($10)
**** (88) Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Red 2002 (California). A wonderful blend of zinfandel, merlot and cabernet; the tannins and acidity are blanketed with vibrant fruit; a perfect sitting-around-on-a-Friday-night wine. ($10)
**** (88) Michael Pozzan Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (California). Tons of berry fruit and a lingering finish; a favorite that never disappoints. ($13)
**** (88) Nugan Shiraz 2003 (Australia). Bright currant and pepper notes with medium body, plum and currant flavors and a soft, supple finish. ($12)
**** (88) Turtle Bay Shiraz 2003 (Australia). Loads of raspberries, plums and cherries all mixed together make this wine a great value. ($9)
**** (88) Graham Beck Pinno 2003 (South Africa). Velvety purple in color, with a soft, smoky bouquet of oak and rich black fruits; initial palate entry is soft, but bracing acidity quickly arrives, perking up the tart cherry and raspberry flavors, with some soft touches of vanillin peeking in; nicely balanced; the finish is dry and fruity. A good wine for medium-weight foods, but it is dry enough to stand up to a grilled steak. ($10)
**** (88) Chateau Haut Savin Premieres Cotes de Blaye 2000 (France). Medium purple in color, with a mild but very clean bouquet of stewed cherries with a light, minty edge; soft and rich on the palate, but good acidity enlivens the tart cherry and raspberry flavors; excellent tannic balance leads to a long finish. ($11)
**** (88) Red Bicyclette Syrah 2003 (France). Aromas of flowers, lavender and spice, along with scents and flavors of the countryside; rich, full and fruity-like berries on the vine; beautifully balanced and easy to enjoy.
**** (87) Geyser Peak Sonoma Merlot 2001 (California). Fruit-driven style, typical of merlot with red cherry, raspberry and cola characters dominating, yet complemented by hints of spice, tobacco and cedary oak; palate is bright and lively with cherry and plum flavors following through to a finish of plush, velvety tannins. ($14)
**** (87) Ca’ Del Solo Big House Red 2002 (California). With 10 grape varieties blended together, this complex wine offers an incredible zest; black cherry, plum and a hint of blueberry.
**** (87) Dinky Do Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Australia). Don’t let the name fool you; full of plum, black cherry, blueberry and cherry fruit; nice concentration of flavors come together in a balanced, soft velvety finish. ($5)
**** (87) Veramonte Merlot 2001 (Chile). Bright ruby color, aromas of spice and black cherry, medium-bodied with a ripe, easy finish. ($11)
**** (87) Beringer Nouveau 2004 (California). Fun and delicious, the bright ’04 Beringer Nouveau exhibits ripe aromas and flavors that stay long and textured on the palate; delicious and simple; serve slightly chilled. ($7)
**** (87) Stefano Accordini Valpolicella 2002 (Veneto, Italy). A big valpolicella showing medium ruby color, cherry and pepper notes, medium-bodied and a fresh finish of bright cherry fruit with moderate tannins. ($12)
**** (87) Plantagenet Hazard Hill Shiraz 2003 (Australia). Beautiful garnet color; attractive lush mouth-feel; licorice and fresh black fruit; long finish with a substantial grip on back; rivals some shiraz more than twice the price. ($14)
**** (87) Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Maipo Valley 2002 (Chile). This wine is dark garnet/purple with a smoky bouquet of black fruits and oak; ripe black cherry and chocolate notes dominate a full-bodied palate, and the finish is long and dry. ($11)
**** (86) Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2002 (South Africa). Dark purple color, aromas of smoke and currant, medium body, supple flavors of plum and currant and a subtle finish with ripe tannins. ($11)
**** (86) Beaulieu Vineyards Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (California). Dark, ruby-violet color; promises much and delivers more; aromas suggest black and green peppercorns, with currant-mint and black tea overtones; medium-bodied; the aromas are echoed on the palate; hints of dark chocolate in the finish. ($11)
**** (86) Clos du Bois Sonoma Shiraz 2001 (California). Made in an inky, jammy style, this medium-bodied wine exhibits aromas and flavors of wild raspberries and blackberries, with hints of licorice and layers of black pepper and spice on the back palate; easy to drink and great with pasta and red sauce. ($13)
**** (86) Vina Antigua Sangiovese-Bonarda 2002 (Argentina). Just an amazing value; not a polished style, but delivers plenty of flavor and complexity. ($6)
**** (86) Mustiguillo Mestizaje 2002 (Spain). A blend of six different grape varieties; deep garnet color; big lush mouth-feel with a power grip on the back; works really nicely. ($10)
**** (86) Louis Latour Burgundy Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2002 (France). Mushroom-dusted, baked and dried cherry aromas lay down signature pinot tones; light-bodied and tight, firm cherry flavors with a subtle earthy edge.
*** (85) Sterling Vintners Collection Merlot 2002 (California). Clear ruby color with aromas of ripe blackberry, jammy red fruit, vanilla, nutmeg, dark chocolate and toasty oak; flavors of rich, black fruits; lingering finish of fine-grain tannins. ($15)
*** (85) Gerard Bertrand Vin de Pays Merlot 2003 (France). Firm, solid, generous fruit with red plum and berry flavors. ($10)
*** (85) Santa Alicia Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002 (Chile). Hand-harvested grapes, matured in French oak; inviting aromas of black fruits and cassis lead to pleasing flavors and a balanced finish. ($7)
*** (84) Yvecourt Bordeaux 2002 (France). Merlot (60%) showing off its upfront soft and friendly blue fruit; Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) giving it structure, elegance and backbone; and then Cabernet Franc (20%), allowing the ripeness and spice to end it all on a high note.