Excellent at Any Price


As I peruse the results of any major wine competition, I gravitate naturally to wines that seem to outperform their price point, or punch above their weight, as some would say.

The recent San Diego International wine competition certainly had its share of heavy hitters that claimed top prizes. The beauty, as I survey the medals, is that many modestly priced wines also stood out as the 30 wine professionals who judged the event evaluated the more than 1500 wines entered.

I taste and review many of the platinum-award winners (the top medal, followed by gold and silver) and am happy to report that it doesn’t always cost a small fortune to drink seriously delicious award-winning wines. This week’s Wine Talk tasting notes highlight a handful of my favorites from the 32nd annual San Diego International. For complete results, visit SDIWC.com.

Tasting Notes

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Handley Cellars 2013 Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley ($20) — Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley is California’s sweet spot for aromatic whites, and this dry gewurztraminer from Handley is a stunning example of that fact. On the nose it has the classic rose petal and spice profile, with notes of honeysuckle and stone fruits on the palate. The finish is long and clean. Another superb effort from winemaker/owner Milla Handley. Rating: 95.

Davis Bynum 2012 Chardonnay, River West Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($25) — It’s not every day you come across a vineyard-designate chardonnay from a top California producer for such a modest price. But Davis Bynum has been delivering this sort of value for decades. The 2012 River West Vineyard Chard is a rich, oily chardonnay that shows hints of lemon creme, pear and spice. The richness is supported with mouth-watering acidity that keeps this delicious chardonnay fresh and compelling. Eating: 94.

Robert Hall 2013 Chardonnay, Paso Robles ($20) — Robert Hall is a gem of a winery in the heart of Paso Robles. The wines are superb across the board and always fairly priced. The 2013 chardonnay is beautifully balanced and shows intense pear and apple aroma, with hints of spice. On the palate it is rich and oily without being cloying. And for the price it’s one of the finest California chards you will find. Rating: 94.

Eberle Winery 2012 Sangiovese, Paso Robles ($24) — Some say Paso Robles is best for Rhone grape varieties such as syrah and grenache, others lean toward the Bordeaux grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

All seem to benefit from the warm days and cool nights of Paso, but there is another country to be heard from, and that would be Italy. Eberle’s Tuscan-style sangiovese is consistently one of the finest made in America, and the 2012 is a stunner. It exhibits impressive intensity, with full-throttle black cherry fruit balanced with good acidity and supple tannins. Rating: 94.

Marques de Alella 2013 Pansa Blanca, Alella DO, Spain ($15) — Pansa Blanca, otherwise known as Xarel-o and frequently used as a blending grape in Spanish cava, makes a delicious and interesting white. On the palate it displays an oily texture backed by firm acidity, with fruit notes of mandarin orange, pear and honey. It is utterly delicious. Rating: 94.

Chateau Morrisette, ‘5 Red Grapes,’ Virginia ($15) — This red blend from Virginia is mostly of the Bordeaux-blend variety, with the exception of a significant (35 percent) jolt of chambourcin, a red hybrid grape variety that is popular throughout the eastern and midwestern United States. It shows bright red-fruited aromas, supple tannins and a long, lingering finish. Rating: 94.

J. Lohr 2012 Pinot Noir, ‘Falcon’s Perch,’ Monterey County ($17) — J. Lohr has joined the parade of California producers now turning out eye-catching pinot noir that retails below $20 a bottle. The Falcon’s Perch offers a floral nose with excellent intensity. On the palate it delivers ripe red and dark fruit aroma and a seductive savory note. It finishes with a bit of grip on the back-end, suggesting it will pair nicely with hearty meat dishes and stews. Rating: 93.

Rue de Perle 2013 Cotes du Rhone Villages, France ($11) — Cotes du Rhone Villages, generally a step up in quality from the broader Cotes du Rhone designation, is one of the greatest values in red wine anywhere in the world. The Rue de Perle is a peppery, spicy example. This luscious Rhone Valley red offers sweet red-fruit aromas, good balance and is firmly structured. Beautiful for the price. Rating: 91.

Passori 2013 Rosso Veneto IGT, Italy ($13) — Much as they do in Tuscany, vintners in other parts of Italy are enamored of merlot because of its tendency to ripen early. And so it is that this red blend from Italy’s northerly Veneto district is 60 percent merlot, with the rest the indigenous grape corvina, which is prominent in the Valpolicella of the Veneto. The passori is fermented to medium dryness and shows intense black fruit characteristics. The slightly elevated level of residual sugar (1 percent) softens the palate and masks the somewhat aggressive tannins. Rating: 91.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.