Store shelves seem to be lined with large selections of wine at and around $10. The challenge at that price point is getting a wine that provides more interest than grape flavored alcohol, thin fruit taste, poor aroma, or big woody oak to hide inferior quality juice. With beer, it’s pretty safe to assume that most light beers have certain flavors. The majority of main line beer has distinct tastes that register in our memory. With so many wine labels on the shelves, selecting one can be pretty hit and miss.
I believe the $10 price point is pretty status quo for the daily drinking wino on a budget and the occasional wine sipper. Therefore it is important to have a list of trustworthy labels that can be counted on to deliver.
The Under $10 Wine Team
In early 2010 I began the mission of fielding a team of wine players that could score at parties, hit it out of the park for value, and be trusted to step to the plate in most any situation. The rules were that each wine had to be purchased for $10 or less (sales, club discounts, bulk discounts were considered). Wines showed up to spring training and specially scheduled tryouts to show their stuff for the coaches. Each was vying for a coveted spot on the 12 man roster of 9 starters and 3 reserves. While legal issues (state distribution) kept us from trying out every player referred to us, we made every effort to select players who are widely available. After reviewing the scouting reports and film, I am pleased to reveal the 2010 “Under $10 Wine Team.” I’ve included the coach’s summary, roster position, and stats for each player. Links to the full scouting report are included for your reference. Many of these players’ tryouts were filmed. Enjoy the footage and make a note of the jersey (label) so you can get an autograph next time you are in the store.
||2008 Chateau St. Michelle Riesling (WA)
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from various Columbia Valley vineyards, 12%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light, pear in color
- The Sniff: Mild peach, citrus, and metallic aroma
- The Sip: Moderately sweet front end with a well balanced dry back end wine. This would be considered an off-dry Riesling. Hints of peach and lemon peel
- The Score: This is a solid wine for the money. 3+/5
|2008 J.Lohr Syrah (CA)
- The Stuff: 93% Syrah, 3% Petite Sirah, 3% Grenache, 1% other red; Paso Robles AVA; 14 months in 25% new French and American oak; 13.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Cloudy deep purple color that presents about 80% opaque.
- The Sniff: Aromas of boysenberry, toasted almonds, and dark red fruit on the nose. Very aromatic and full with subtle notes of campfire.
- The Sip: Medium bodied Syrah that is slightly thin on the front but opens up nicely to dark red fruit, hints of smoke and a beautiful long velvet finish. An easy sipping Syrah that will have you wanting more.
- The Score: Retail is $15 but I scored this wine for only $10. At that price this well balanced, nicely flavored Syrah. 3+/5
||2008 Caterina Chardonnay ($10-$12)
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Preston Vineyards. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and stored in 50% oak for 6 months. 13.5%ABV, 500 cases produced
- The Swirl: Lighter straw color reminiscent of wheat. In the glass the wine gives off a thicker viscosity
- The Sniff: Subtle nose (as typical of Chardonnay) with hints of toasted almond, honey, and cinnamon.
- The Sip: Very impressive with thick juicy flavors. A subtle effervescence greats the tip of your tongue and then gives way to an abundance of fruit. Lots of subtle layers in this full bodied white wine with honey, crisp pear, vanilla, and peaches. The finish on the wine has moderate acid and dissipates quickly.
- The Score: At only $12 this wine outperforms many at twice the price. This is a strong recommend and a definite re-buy for any food appropriate dinner or Chardonnay lover. 4/5
||2008 Dancing Bull Zinfandel (CA)
- The Stuff: 100% California Zinfandel from various sourced vineyards. Synthetic cork enclosure
- The Swirl: Deep dark opaque plum, slightly cloudy with hints of ruby and garnet. Strong legs indicating high residual sugar.
- The Sniff: Good strong nose that leads with strawberry, vanilla, tobacco and cocoa
- The Sip: The wine was slightly disappointing as it came across as one-dimensional. The nose was a tease and the palate did not deliver. After two hours in glass, the flavor profile did open up. One dimensional is not bad, just not super interesting.
- The Score: You won’t go wrong getting this wine and the predictable taste may score well with beginning wine drinkers. 3+/5
|2008 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) $10-13
- The Stuff: 100% organically grown Sauv Blanc from the San Antonio Valley; 13.5%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow green color
- The Sniff: Very tight on the nose with only slight floral blossom and citrus present
- The Sip: What was lacking on the aroma comes out to gently play on the palate. The Cono Sur is what you would expect from a traditional Sauv Blanc. Tropical fruit, pineapple, good minerality. Wine blogger, winefoot, described this wine as a grassfield creamsickle. I couldn’t agree more.
- The Score: At $10-13, this classic presentation of Sauv Blanc showcases the potential of this Chilean variety.4/5
||2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (WA)
- The Stuff: Columbia Valley, 85% Merlot, 7% Syrah, 5% Cab Fanc, 3% Cab Sauv; 13.5%ABV, aged 14 months in a combination of new French and American oak.
- The Swirl: Dark cherry color with moderate translucence and thin outer edge
- The Sniff: Modest cocoa and oak on the nose with hints of cherry and tobacco
- The Sip: Dark cherry blackberry on the mid palate with a nice smooth finish of cocoa. A hint of spice jumps through that makes this a decent Merlot for the money. Nothing is intense and everything is subdued.
- The Score: 3/5
||NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut (Spain)
- The Stuff: 60% Macabeo, 20% Parellada, 20% Xarelo-lo; 3 years on yeast
- The Swirl: golden yellow (Chardonnay color), moderate bubbles
- The Sniff: Tight nose with apple toast and yeast being predominant.
- The Sip: Strong carbonation with hints of apple and smoky bread
- The Score: At $8, this is not a bad tasting bubbly, but lacks a lot of flavor and has too much carbonation and yeast. 3/5
||2007 Velvet Devil Merlot (WA)
- The Stuff: 100% Washington Merlot, 10 months in oak, 13.8% ABV
- The Swirl: Mildly translucent with ruby red undertones. A pretty wine
- The Sniff: Smooth dark chocolate with cherry and oak. I would imagine this would be the aroma an Umpa Lumpa would smell in the chocolate river (if cherries were involved too).
- The Sip: The sip is slightly thin on the front that opens up to a nice moderate fruit – still cherries. Definitely a chocolate covered cherry Merlot.
- The Score: At only $12 (sometimes under $10) A trustworthy wine for the money. Good sipper the thin front and single dimension leave the score lower. 3/5
||2006 Kiona Lemberger (WA)
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Lemberger from Red Mountain AVA Kiona Vineyards
- The Swirl: A dark strawberry color that was about 50% translucent. Muted jewel tones
- The Sniff: Bright strawberry and cherry with moderate earthiness and minerality
- The Sip: A sweet wash of cherry, vanilla and some cola flavors. The wine is sweet and soft with more substance on the back end with some spice and tannin
- The Score: An incredible value for a wine that provides a variety of flavor. 4/5
|The Bench Players and Reserves2008 Gozzo Malbec (Argentina)
- The Stuff: 100% Malbec from Mendozza Argentina; 6 months in new French oak, 14.2%ABV
- The Swirl: Beautiful rich purple with hints of bright amethyst around the edges. Light seems to dance off the glass.
- The Sniff: Hints of woody evergreen that make way for bright red fruits and subtle spice. Slightly under-ripe red fruit comes out as well.
- The Sip: Great big gobs of red berry wash across your tongue and give way to subtle blueberry undertones. The mid-palate is a little fleeting but the back end structure is no push over. Medium body and good finish make this a very pleasant value.
- The Score: At $10, I would buy this wine again. Perfect burger or pizza wine. The wine presents enough layers of flavor to be mistaken for twice the price. 3/5
2007 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir (CA) **$11
- The Stuff: 100% California Pinot Noir, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Very light, typical Pinot, with slight rusty brown tone, extremely translucent
- The Sniff: I get a woodiness on this wine (and it’s not the naked lady) along with a bright candied cherry. Pretty good nose for the price of the wine. Earthy funk that is found on a lot of Pinot
- The Sip: A good cherry candy cola flavor with slight earthy dirt on the mid-palate. The finish is slightly off balanced with some bitterness.
- The Score: 3-/5
2007 Bogle Petite Sirah (CA)
- The Stuff: 100% Petite Sirah
- The Swirl: Very very dark plum, completely opaque, nice legs indicating some stronger residual sugar
- The Sniff: Once again a restrained aroma profile. Some dark cherry, dark blackberry fruit and a hint of spice trying to come through
- The Sip: Wholly wow, this is a big wine. There is some decent fruit on the front end which is immediately attacked by the strong tannin on the back end. This wine needs food! I look forward to pairing it with some BBQ, spicy pork, or a steak.
- The Score: At only $10 this is a big wine with some big back end structure.I would definitely consider this for a future purchase to pair with food. 3+/5