$15 FINDS

06/27/2014

 
Once upon a time, $10 was a benchmark for an everyday crowd-pleasing wine on a retail shelf. A consumer felt good about the price, and it also represented somewhat of a sweet spot for producers and distributors as well. While we are proud to carry wines that hover around $10, they are not the same wines you used to get for $10. 

Today, $15 is the sweet spot. That's where you can often find wine that over-delivers and stays within your budget. I began to make a list of all-stars at this price point and found enough to prove my point. The options go on and on, but for the sake of brevity I've paired it down to a manageable list.

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DOMAINE VAUGONDY VOUVRAYVouvray isn't always that easy to navigate. Chenin Blanc, like Riesling, can be sweet or bone dry with lots of variations in between, and even variations between vintages of the same producer. Unlike German Riesling, the producers are not always very helpful by stating on the label what to expect in the bottle. Domaine Vaugondy makes an excellent off-dry Vouvray: just a touch of sweet. Refreshing and an excellent companion to food.

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DUPEUBLE BEAUJOLAIS: Oh Beaujolais, how I love you... except when I don't. There are no exceptions for Dupeuble, however; I love this year after year. I think we've all had Beaujolais that was closer to Kool Aid than to its neighbors in Burgundy, but if you stick to the good producers you'll not be disappointed. This is a fantastic wine at any price, but at $15 it's especially great!

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KERMIT LYNCH COTES DU RHONE: He doesn't just import anymore, but has a couple of Southern Rhone wines that he produces as well. Imagine all the connections Kermit Lynch must have, so it's conceivable that he can walk into most cellars in France and blend together as good of a wine as anyone. We've enjoyed every vintage since 2009 and they are consistently pleasing and of enormous value. 

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CLOS LA COUTALE CAHORS: If you've been around wine long enough, a Cahors was probably your first exposure to the grape Malbec. These days, however, cheap Malbec from Argentina is trendy, and while there is worthy Malbec out there, most of it is simply boring. Not the case with this one. You probably won't see this on a restaurant's wine list, so order in some Peking Duck and enjoy this rustic wine from Southwest France.

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RAFFAULT CHINON: I've written about Chinon before here, but I'll take the opportunity to again remind you of the adventure you can have for only $15. Chinon, made from Cabernet Franc, is so out of the mainstream of what we're constantly being served that it truly wakes up your pallet and makes you take notice. Silky smooth and light in texture, yet full-bodied and tanic all at once. This Chinon is very aromatic and is as exciting to smell as it is to drink.

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NISIA OLD VINE VERDEJO: it's become a cliche, but great Spanish wine would cost at least 50% more if the same wine was from a French AOC. This is Verdejo from Rueda where the soil is very poor and sandy. The vines are upwards of 125 years old, so consider the low yields and therefore the concentration and extraction of fruit. That's all very good for Verdejo, which can be razor sharp, and it makes for one of the single best values in white wines that we carry. I have taken this wine over to Hana across the street several times and can testify that there is no better pair with Sushi.

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VALPANE ROSSO PIETRO BARBERA: I wish I could take credit for best describing this wine, but I must give the credit it to our loyal customer David. "This wine is simply charming," he said. I could not agree more, and I really do wish I had beaten him to the punch. Barbera is distinctive, so distinctive that I'm often at a loss for words to describe it. "Well, it smells like Barbera... and it tastes like Barbera," I might say, which can lead one to thinking they're all the same. But they simply are not, and this one in particular is about as charming as a wine can be, and most certainly dangerously easy to drink.

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PALLADINO DOLCETTO D'ALBA: I've written about Dolcetto here, and if I've ever caught you browsing the Italian section I have probably tried to convince you of its virtue. I am sorry. Here I go again. I don't know why so many customers tell me they don't like Dolcetto, but I'm happy that I've changed many minds about it. I'm sure there's some swill out there, but everything we have here is top-notch. A serious wine from a serious producer, and at $15!

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JEAN-PHILLIPE BLANQUETTE DE LIMOUX: The sparkling wine of Blanquette de Limoux was the first sparkling wine made in France, even before Champagne. The primary grape, Mauzac is a bit obscure outside the Languedoc, and lends a bit of green apple to the profile. It's wonderfully refreshing and every bit a satisfying sparkler when one requires some fizz. In our climate we need to drink more sparkling wine, so no need to wait for a celebration: it's $15!

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CHATEAU LAUZADE COTES DE PROVENCE: The first thing you'll notice is the curvy bottle. Normally you shouldn't let this fool you, but in this case it's quite indicative of what's in the bottle. Next you'll notice the pale salmon color, a trademark of Provence rosés. Consider this: in most other markets, retailers look at rosés as a liability, something they have a very short season to unload on their customers, otherwise get stuck with last year's rosé when it's snowing outside. But here in Phoenix, we can appropriately enjoy rosé all year long. I can't think of any other wine that is made for such immediate pleasure. Don't forget to enjoy rosé today!

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DOMAINE BRU BACHE JURANCON: So you might be disappointed that while $15, it's half the size of the others. Welcome to the world of desert wine. You will indeed want to drink more than 375ml of this Basque country classic, but it's best you don't. These wines pack in tons of flavor and over-ripe sweetness into a tiny bottle, and this Jurancon comes with some modest fizz to lighten things up. The French author, Collette, called the wine of Jurancon a "great seducer" that "inflamed" her as an adolescent.  Aren't you at least a bit curious to try it?

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JEAN TOUZOT MACON VILLAGES: I learned about "a Macon" long before I was old enough to drink one thanks to Hemingway. Perhaps it showed up in other novels, but I distinctly remember him and F. Scott Fitzgerald drinking their share of it in A Moveable Feast. I recall they were driving in a convertible in Burgundy and of course it was raining so they ducked into a bistro along the way and downed a few a bottles. It's still quite drinkable today and most likely better too. The rest of the world's success with Chardonnay has put upward pressure on this "lesser" region of Burgundy to improve their export. I can't complain: at $15 it still beats most California Chardonnay at comparable prices.

 

Saint Cosme Wines

06/07/2014

 
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I confess I was a geeky child who read an atlas for fun.  This was of course before the internet and Google Maps entered our lives, so a map meant paper and a detailed map meant lots of paper. I remember unfolding maps on the living room floor and reading the names of all the tiny towns around the state I had never heard of. It was a virtual road trip and the atlas on our family's bookshelf had all kinds of useful trivia like population numbers from every nation on the planet. I was captivated.

Not much has changed, actually. I have a wine atlas that is so detailed it has vineyard names and elevations, even some soil types. You can travel Burgundy from one end to the other identifying the premier and grand cru vineyards along the way. I suppose this is why I love wine so much, Old World wine in particular. Every bottle is like taking a trip. Every region is storied and full of rich history. Place. Terroir. Legacy. This is what makes wine special.

Chateau Saint Cosme epitomizes this tradition.  The oldest estate in Gigondas, it has been in the same family since 1490, and the family has been the vignerons for 14 generations. The original Gallo-Roman fermentation vats are perfectly preserved. Saint Cosme is not merely a museum, though, but a living, breathing testament to the terroir of Gigondas. They farm organically and make wines that reflect a real sense of place. They have three distinct terroirs throughout 15 hectares of old vines (average 60 years old). The single-vineyard wines rival any Chateaneuf-du-Pape (Parker gave the 2010 Hominis Fides 100 points for what it's worth), but the more attainable simple Gigondas ain't too shabby (Parker gave the 2010 93 points for what it's worth).

Since 1997 they have been making negociant wine as well including a fabulous Cote Rotie. They have estate Cotes-du-Rhone, but their negociant CDR is 100% Syrah (very unusual) and is crafted with all the care and respect for terroir as their estate wine. Personally, I think that 100% Syrah CDR is a real treat, especially at $15.

I say all of this because I want to sell you Chateau Saint Cosme wine. But even if I don't I can't help but be thrilled when I look into this wooden chest filled with their wine. There's some really special juice in there, and some of it is crazy expensive. But it's a place in a bottle, and they didn't cut any corners on the affordable stuff either. That 100% Syrah Cotes-du-Rhone is from a spot along the Rhone river covered in galets roulés (rolling stones) very similar to some of the best Chateaneuf-du-Pape locations. Louis Barruol, the current winemaker who took over from his father in 1992, talks about this wine as his baby, his little syrah he says, even though he can't claim those vines as his own.

When you drink this wine you are the beneficiary of the Romans who first planted vines here, and especially the monasteries who determined what grew best where and which slopes and valleys bared the best fruit. Drinking through this portfolio is like a virtual road trip.

Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press: $13
Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone 2012: $15
Chateau Saint Cosme Gigondas 2011: $41
Chateau Saint Cosme Gigondas "Valbelle" 2011: $68
Chateau Saint Cosme Gigondas "Le Claux" 2011: $88
Saint Cosme Cote Rotie: $62