Hunt for Bargain Wines Bears Fruit

I spent the last week looking closely at good wine values under $20 and discovered some great-tasting candidates that won’t put a big dent in your bankroll.

At first sip, the Vinos Bartolo red wine didn’t reveal much. It felt tight and shy, so I set it aside and opened another bottle, a red blend from Lorca in Napa.

I left the first wine alone for about 20 minutes. When I returned and picked up the glass of Bartolo’s 2007 Minerva ($16) again, the flower had bloomed.

The nose was sweet strawberry, foreshadowing a luscious cherry finish that definitely hit the mark. The blend is 47 percent grenache, syrah 33 percent and mourvedre 20 percent — all from Santa Clara Valley.

A little bit of patience proved a virtue with this one.

Tasty $10 Chardonnay Ahead

One of my perennial favorite value chardonnays is the Edna Valley Vineyard’s bottling from Paragon Vineyards. I don’t recall a bad vintage of this San Luis Obispo standard (which is often sale priced at less than $15), and that goes back for more than a few years.

I just tasted the Tre 2008 chardonnay ($9.95) that showed the same flavor characteristics — tropical fruit, pineapple, citrus — as the Edna Valley, but in a lighter style. This  nice little wine — a new, bargain-priced entry from Guglielmo Winery — is made in Morgan Hill from grapes grown in Monterey County.

Valentine’s Value

There’s definitely an under $20 vibe going on here, so I’ll go with the flow and uncork a bargain bubbly suggestion for Valentine’s Day celebratory sipping.

Year-in, year-out, the Gruet blanc de noir from New Mexico is an outstanding value, more in the French style — quite dry — but delicious in any language. The current release at full retail goes for $13.75. I’d recommend pouring it for someone you love, or want to love.

Back to Lorca

The Lorca 2004 red wine ($15) looks like another supermarket wine. The label is nondescript, but looks can be deceiving. I bought this wine on recommendation of a local wine shop, Farmstead Cheese and Wines in Alameda.

I like this wine. It’s straightforward and strong.

The Lorca starts with a deep, sweet oaky nose that fills the glass. It gets better with each sip of the deep red juice. The wine worked well with a pasta dish that featured pork sausage/tomato sauce spiked with crimini mushrooms simmered in the same wine and a little olive oil.

Farmstead, which has a sister location in Montclair, showcases a fantastic cheese selection to go with its moderate sized but very fine wine collection. Owner Jeff Diamond knows his stuff and is definitely plugged into the fine wine and cheese network.

The label says the wine is California, but it has no other details except the vintage.

The scuttlebutt is that the Lorca, which was made as a side project by a Caymus winemaker, includes a hefty percentage of cabernet sauvignon that didn’t make the final cut at Caymus Vineyards. This second string selection shadows some of the greatness of its bigger, better brother at a fraction of the $100+ price the Caymus Special Selection commands

Putting the “Fun” in Fund-Raiser

Quintessa Winery is the setting on Saturday (Feb. 6) for a special fund-raising event that features a live auction with a wide range of collectible wines. Tickets are $100 for this charity event in Rutherford that benefits the Young School. Check out the details at the Young School website.

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