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Recession Busters/Best Buys

Wines Priced at $10 or Below

Here are 28 wines, perfect for everyday drinking, and, priced at $10 or below, offering good value to the pocketbook and the palate.  Eighteen of the wines are priced below $5.  All are pleasant surprises, interesting,  inviting and worthy of buying again.  Until the last year or so, good wines in this price range were very difficult to find in the U.S., other than Two-Buck Chuck or wines found in stores’ bargain bins.  These very affordable wines fill a vacuum in the American wine market: vin ordinaire and vino de tavola for the American table.  Some are surprisingly good, some could benefit from additional aging and some are just nice, early-drinking quaffers.  While quality and price are generally positively correlated, this is not always the case.  You don’t need to be embarrassed to serve these wines to guests or to let them be the second wine served at a party. However, keep in mind that you can’t expect these wines to be perfectly balanced with great complexity and richness.  While these wines may not interest a connoisseur, they are fruity and flavorful, perfectly quaffable on an everyday basis to the vast majority of the wine drinking public.  Moreover, the wines are quite food friendly.  The six white wines pair well with fish, shellfish, cheese, creamy pasta and poultry.  The red wines complement hearty meat dishes, hamburgers, tomato-based pastas, pizza, mature cheeses, barbecue and other grilled meat.  When reviewing the tasting notes below, please remember that every wine is a Best Buy and some are truly extraordinary buys.  Don’t miss them!

Abrazo del Toro Winery. This winery in the Carinena region of Spain is producing some nice, interesting wines.  Abrazo del Toro translates to hug of the bull.

The 2008 Abrazo del Toro Tinto (80% Garnacha/20% Tempranillo), dark ruby color, has a perfume of cherries, with rich cherry/berry flavors, a light spice and a mineral tone, with a full body and soft tannins. 1-yellow-star $4.99

Ambas. This winery in the Maipo Valley, in the Mendoza region of Argentina is producing some attractive red and white wines, especially Malbec.

The 2008 Ambas Chardonnay Maipo Valley,  pale yellow in color, has aromas and flavors of citrus, flowers, tropical fruit and stone fruit.  It is medium-bodied, fruity and flavorful, ending in a medium finish. 1-yellow-star $4.99

The 2008 Ambas Malbec Maipo Valley,  dark ruby, has inviting aromas and flavors of rich, ripe black fruit, with spice and oak nuances, ending in a medium-long, dry finish.  The wine is juicy, flavorful, smooth, balanced and has good concentration.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

Beringer. One of California’s premier wineries and the oldest, continuously operating winery in Napa Valley (not even Prohibition could halt production), Beringer produces a broad range of lovely wines, most at considerably higher prices than the wine mentioned here.  This is a delicious wine at an incredibly low price, possibly a close-out sale, as it is regularly sold for up to $14.

The 2006 Beringer Chardonnay 3rd Century of winemaking excellence Central Coast, pale gold color, has a faint nose of pear and apple and juicy flavors of ripe tropical fruit, pear and crisp apple, laced with oak.  It is balanced, with a fruity mid palate, good acidity and a dry finish – a bright, fresh, tasty wine.  2-yellow-stars $3.99

Bon Midi. This winery is situated in the L’Herault region in the south of France. The 2008 Bon Midi Merlot/Grenache L’Herault, ruby color, has a raspberry perfume and light raspberry flavors.  The fruit has a vibrancy and is balanced, yet light and delicate – a pleasant wine.  1-yellow-star $4.99

Castello di Gabbiano Winery. This 12th century wine estate is located in the rolling hills of Tuscany south of Florence.  The wine can sell for up to $12.

The 2007 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti DOCG Italy (90% Sangiovese, small amounts of Canaiolo and Colorino), is ruby in color, with a fresh perfume of red fruit and violets, has a palate that mirrors the aromas.  It is round, medium-bodied and dry, with supple tannins and medium length.  2-yellow-stars $9.99

Chariot Gypsy. Jim Neal Wines of Healdsburg, CA is responsible for this fine quaffer made by winemaker, Jeff Hunsaker.  According to their web site, Neal, a former chef at Spago Hollywood and Terra in Napa, also worked with Mike Chelini of Stony Hill, Chuck Wagner of Caymus, David Abreu and Ric Forman.  Jeff Hunsaker previously worked at Phelps for 10 years. Grapes for the wine are sourced from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, San Joaquin and Monterey counties.  Neal aims to produce food-friendly wine at palatable prices.

The 2008 Chariot Gypsy Red Table Wine California (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese), bright ruby, has a fresh cherry/berry nose and flavors of mixed berry, candy apple, raspberry and spice.  Balanced and mouthfilling, with juicy fruit, good acidity and smooth, balanced tannins, it resembles a rich Pinot Noir.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

Condesa de Sarabella. This winery in Spain makes pleasing  wines from ancient low yield vines.   This wine can sell for up to $10.

The 2008 Condesa de Sarabella Garnacha Calatayud DOC Spain, bright ruby color, has a cherry perfume and flavors of berry, cherry, licorice, pepper, plum, blueberry and spice in a medium body ending in a fruity, moderately long finish.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

Epicuro. This winery makes several different kinds of wine from southern Italy.

The 2005 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva DOC (blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, 80%/20%), dark ruby color, with a smoky, woodsy plum perfume and flavors of plum, smoke, berry, herbs and a woodsy, minerally character.  It is balanced, soft and smooth, with some richness and a dry finish. 2-yellow-stars $4.99

The 2007 Epicuro Beneventano Aglianico IGT, dark ruby, has scents and tastes of roses, blackberry, cherry, chocolate and spice.  It is fruity, balanced and textured, with a firm backbone and a rustic quality.  1-yellow-star $4.99

Feudi del Duca. This is new winery in the Italy’s Abruzzo region.

The 2008 Feudi del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Italy, bright ruby, has a subdued perfume, flavors of rounded fruit, red cherry, raspberry and hints of spice, ending in a medium, slightly tannic finish.  1-yellow-star $8.99

Fuerza. The grapes for the Fuerza wines come from low-yielding vineyards in Mendoza in Argentina and then are vinted and bottled by Laurel Glen Vineyard in California.  The Malbec is found in a price range of $5-15.  Torrontes is Argentina’s national white grape.

The 2009 Fuerza Blancos Mendoza (a blend of Chardonnay and Torrontes), light yellow, with a subtle floral and fruity nose, is balanced and round, with flavors of honeysuckle, crisp apple, pear and spice — resembles a Rhone-style white wine – a crisp, fresh, attractive wine. 2-yellow-stars $4.99

The 2009 Fuerza Malbec Mendoza, dark ruby, has a spicy perfume of smoky, black fruit.  On the palate, deep black fruit, plums, chocolate and spice are balanced, juicy and supple, with notes of smoke and game – a very tasty wine.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

Hacienda Altavina. This winery is located in the Central Valley region of Chile.

The 2009 Hacienda Altavina Carmenere Central Valley Chile, ruby color, has a perfume of black fruit and nice flavors of chocolate and mint-tinged, juicy black currant and cherry, with hints of pine and licorice, showing some richness, a really tasty mid-palate and a medium finish. 2-yellow-stars $3.99

The 2008 Hacienda Altavina Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley Chile, light yellow color, has aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, melon, peach, citrus and herbs.  It is bright, clean, fresh and crisp, with good acidity and medium length. 1-yellow-star $3.99

Haut Marin. This family-owned winery, located in the heart of Gascony in the mid-Pyrenees, makes vin de pays wines from old, low yielding vines, under the name of Earl Charpenties Vigneron Imports, Selection Eric Stauffenegger.  This wine can sell for up to $15.

The 2008 Haut Marin Cuvee Marine Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne (blend of 60% Columbard, 20% Ugni Blanc 20% Gros Manseng), light yellow, with a mild citrus and melon perfume, has mild, attractive flavors of citrus, melon, flowers, a light spice and herbs, with good acidity – a refreshing, easy to drink wine, resembling a Sauvignon Blanc.  2-yellow-stars $9.99

Havens Wine Cellars.  Havens, now owned by Billington Imports since 2006, seems about to be ceasing production.  Hence, this fine Merlot is selling for about half its regular price.

The 2006 Havens Merlot Napa Valley, dark ruby color, has a subdued nose of dark fruit, and flavors of berries, plums, roasted coffee and chocolate, with mineral tones.  It is balanced and textured with a moderately long, fruit-laden finish.  2-yellow-stars $7.99

L’Authentique. This wine comes from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.  The exact blend is unknown but, from the interesting taste, the wine could be a blend of both Rhone and Bordeaux grapes.

The NV L’Authentique La Caumette Red Table Wine France, dark ruby color, has aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum and spice.  It is medium full, fruity and a bit jammy, yet balanced, ending in a tasty, moderately-long finish.  2-yellow-stars $3.99

Liberte. This brand is sourced from several Paso Robles vineyards, under the name of Familia Nueva.

The 2007 Liberte Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, dark ruby, with a berry perfume, has flavors of cherry, berry, dark chocolate, earth, smoke, spice and oak.  It is balanced, with a medium-full body, supple tannins and a moderately long finish.  2-yellow-stars $9.99

Lindemans. One of the leading Australian wine brands in the world, Lindemans wine are prized for their very popular, generously-flavored wines made in an easy-drinking style.  This wine can sell for up to $10.

The 2008 Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz Southeast Australia (a multi-region blend), color of dark ruby, has a nose of spicy plum and mixed berry that carries through to the mouth, with added hints of licorice, vanilla and integrated oak.  The wine is fruity, with some richness, good length and balanced tannins – quite tasty wine.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

Mazzoni. This brand is part of the Boston Wine Group, recently formed, to offer high quality, handmade wines from a number of wineries.

The 2005 Mazzoni Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, dark ruby, has rich, black fruit in the nose and on the palate.  It has nice, tasty fruit but the tannic finish lowers the rating.  1-yellow-star $9.99

Ogio. This winery produces nice wines from southern Italy, including this one from the Puglia region.

The 2008 Ogio Primitivo IGT Puglia, dark ruby, has scents and tastes of cherry, berry, plum, chocolate and spice, with earth and mineral tones, ending in a dry, very slightly hot, tannic finish – still a pleasant wine. 1-yellow-star $3.99

Penfolds. Established in 1844, Penfolds is Australia’s most famous wine. Rawson’s Retreat is named after Christopher Rawson Penfold’s original stone cottage which still stands among the vines at the Magill Estate in Adelaide, in South East Australia.   Generally selling for up to $10, this wine is a good example of Australia’s marriage of fruit power and structure.

The 2008 Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon South East Australia, dark ruby color, has a berry perfume and flavors mirroring the aromas with added hints of chocolate and spice.  It is soft, fruity, rounded and straightforward, with medium length.  2-yellow-stars $5.99

Rabbit Ridge Winery. The wine tasted here is the number one selling wine at Rabbit Ridge.

The 2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles (a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Petite Sirah), ruby in color, with a perfume of black fruit and flavors of strawberry, plum, black fruit, pepper, smoke, coffee and mild licorice.  It is balanced, extracted and fruity, with a medium finish – a tasty, Rhone style wine that is a nice sipper as well as food friendly.   2-yellow-stars $4.99

Tierra del Fuego. This winery, situated in the Maule Valley, a sub-region of Valle Central in Chile, is producing some very nice wines, just right for everyday drinking.

The 2008 Tierra del Fuego Sauvignon Blanc Maule Valley Valle Central Chile, light yellow in color, with a citrus and floral perfume, has flavors of lemon, lime, pear, wet stone and white flowers.  It is crisp, lively, clean and refreshing with good acidity and weight. 2-yellow-stars $8.99

Trader Joe’s Wines.

Old Moon. This brand is made by Trader Joe’s.

The 2008 Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel California, dark ruby color, bright cherry perfume, has a palate of black cherry, plum, oak, vanilla, pepper and light spice.  Fruit forward and juicy, it is more a nice juicy and chewy red table wine.  2-yellow-stars $4.99

The 2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Viognier San Luis Obispo, light yellow, has nose of tropical fruit and sweet, varietal flavors of peach, apricot, flowers and tropical fruit, ending in a slightly bitter, nutty finish.  It is crisp, clean, fruity and refreshing. 1-yellow-star $5.99

Vintjs.  There are several nice red and white brands released under this name, all affordable and tasty.

The 2009 Vintjs Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley, light yellow color, has a lively tropical fruit aroma and crisp, fresh flavors of grapefruit, lime, tropical fruit, gooseberry, herbs and melon, with a clean, medium finish – a straightforward, refreshing wine.  1-yellow-star $5.99