23 Nov 2010
I love discovering value wines. The majority of the folks on this earth are average Joe wine consumers. The average Joe (or Suzie) consumes about 12-15 bottles of wine per year (I go through that in less than a month) and spends about $15 per bottle. Finding good tasting value wines has been a fun challenge over the last year. I have an entire section of my blog dedicated to “Under $10 Wines” and reviewed 30+ wines over the course of the year to create the “Under $10 Wine Team.”
Recently, by way of industry sample, I received 2 bottles of Parducci wine. I try to review every wine I receive (timing and format vary) but I was excited about the Parducci because there is a Spokane connection. Mike Conway of Latah Creek winery spent time at Parducci in the 70’s. It was while at Parducci that he honed his skills for white wine and brought the slow cold fermentation process to Washington state (cold fermentation brings out a natural residual sweetness in white wines at a lower alcohol level of 8-10%).
Parducci was founded in 1932 as the first Mendocino County winery. In 2004 ownership changed to Mendocino Wine Company, headed up by Paul Dolan and the Thornhill Family. Parducci makes approximately 200,000 cases of wine per year with the majority of it retailed at $10.99. Mendocino Wine Company moved Parducci into sustainable and eco-friendly practices being recognized as the America’s first Carbon Neutral winery.
“In recognition of Parducci’s status as the nation’s first carbon neutral winery and our continuing dedication to social responsibility and environmentally sound practices, we received California’s highest environmental award, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 2007 and 2009.”
The Nectar View
The 07 Petite Sirah (actually only 88% Petite Sirah 11% Syrah and 1% Viognier) is very vibrant and violet in the glass. The color is actually quite striking and invites a continuous swirl. Moving on to the sniff produces a mild aroma of dried prunes, wet socks (not entirely awful) and violets. The strange mix of aroma makes for a fairly interesting experience. On the sip the PS starts with a very smooth and velvet attack but quickly moves to a strangle hold on the tongue. Petite Sirah can be a little tart and tannic on the palate but in the right settings is a great food pairing. This Parducci wine has nice flavor and structure and begs to be drunk with food. Looking for a sipping wine? This is not it. Looking for a unique inexpensive experience? Give this a try. At $10.99 retail (usually under $10), this scores 3/5.
The 07 Cabernet Sauvignon is a combination of Cab Sauv, Malbec, Cab Franc, Syrah and Viognier. With 20% of the wine spending 26 months in new American Oak, I would expect a bit woody experience. Overall, the wood is flaccid J. In the glass the wine is moderately opaque and the sniff is very mild and tame only producing hints of fruit aroma and vanilla. In the mouth the Cab Sauv is minimal in flavor as well. At this price point you’ll often find under ripe or off flavors. The Parducci produces a decent smooth, easy drinking flavor that will not offend or surprise. Only $10.99 retail (usually under $10), this scores 3/5.
Paul Dolan talking about Sustainable Practices
19 Jul 2010
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)
|2008 J.Lohr Syrah (CA)
|2008 Caterina Chardonnay ($10-$12)
|2008 Dancing Bull Zinfandel (CA)
|2008 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) $10-13
|2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (WA)
|NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut (Spain)
|2007 Velvet Devil Merlot (WA)
|2006 Kiona Lemberger (WA)
|The Bench Players and Reserves2008 Gozzo Malbec (Argentina)
2007 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir (CA) **$11
2007 Bogle Petite Sirah (CA)
16 Jul 2010
Why tryouts? Why under $10? In my opinion, this is the most volatile price range for quality. It is also a common price range that non wine snobs shop in. The need for quality trusted wines under $10 is there. While 40+ wines have tried out for the team, most have struck out and been sent back to the minor leagues. Soon, you’ll have a team of nine starters and three alternates that you can bring to the table without fear!
Prior to opening day, I made my pre-season predictions regarding the MLB season.
AL Predictions / Current Standings
- East: Prediction Red Sox / Actual: Yankees (but there is still hope)
- Central: Prediction Twins / Actual White Sox (Twins 3.5 games out)
- West: Prediction Texas / Actual Texas
- Wild Card: Prediction Mariners / Actual Tampa Bay (sadly Mariners have cashed in their chips)
NL Predictions / Current Standings
- East: Prediction Florida Marlins / Actual: Braves (Marlins 10 games out)
- Central: Prediction St Louis / Actual: Cincinnati (Cardinals in the hunt)
- West: Prediction Arizona Diamondbacks / Actual: San Diego Padres (Diamondbacks one of the worst teams in baseball)
- Wildcard: Prediction Phillies / Actual: Dodgers (but Phillies are in the hunt)
The Final Tryouts
2008 Waterbrook Melange Blanc
- The Stuff: 30% Riesling, 20% Gewürztraminer, 15% Viognier, 10% Sauv Blanc, 10% Chardonnay, 10$ Pinot Gris, 5% Muscat; 4000 cases made; 12.2%ABV; 1.4% residual sugar
- The Swirl: Very light pale, nearly clear with a hint of beautiful honey highlights
- The Sniff: Taken by surprise with the abundant perfume, sweet honey, peach and lychee fruit. A fantastic aroma that keeps you coming back for one more sniff before you sip.
- The Sip: Not knowing the blend, I would have pegged this for a Riesling. The distinctive Riesling / Gewurz flavors come through but are contrasted with a nice mouth coating of the Chardonnay and the floral components to the Viognier. The wine is amazingly complex for the price point and delivers great off dry sweetness balanced by medium acidity.
- The Score: At only $15 retail, this is an amazing value. I love the nice subtle honey flavors that balance well with the wet stone minerality. I score this wine a solid 3+/5
Sadly the Waterbrook Melange was disqualified from the Under $10 Team for being overpriced. At the time of tryouts, it was assumed that this wine could be purchased for $10. Upon further investigation the officials have declared Melange Blanc intelligible for consideration.
- 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. Easily score this wine a 3/5
2008 J.Lohr Estate Syrah $10
- 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 scores a 3+/5 and will be a definite re-buy.
14 Jul 2010
Red wine goes great with grilling! Burgers, dogs, sausage, steak…most of the common summertime grilling treats are screaming for big full bodied red wine. Do you want to break out your 78’ Cabernet or 100 year old vine Zinfandel when the wine will probably end up in a red plastic cup? Life may be too short to drink bad wine, but there are times when good value wine is needed! We can’t drink $175 bottles of Opus One every night can we?
These are the wines for you. Three Zin, under Ten ($10). They won’t break the bank, but are they drinkable? To explore the value in the “all American varietal,” we venture to the place where the grape gained prominence…California. With 10% of California’s crop planted to Zinfandel (sadly most used for sugary sweet White Zinfandel), the big bold red grape can provide powerful fruit and a sassy spice that work well for BBQ (and pizza).
- The Stuff: 100% Zinfandel from various California vineyards; aged in new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels for 10 months; 14.3%ABV; 23,000 cases produced
- The Swirl: A presentation of plum colored cola with browning occurring toward the edges.
- The Sniff: Semi-sour raspberry aromas laced with hints of lavender and cloves
- The Sip: The XYZin has some moderately complex layers of flavor that open up nicely to include a dark strawberry, baking spice and cocoa. Reminiscent of a canned strawberry pie filling with hints of sour berry. Good finish with a lingering flavor of pepper spice and nutmeg.
- The Score: Retail on this wine is $16 for the newer vintages, picked up the 06 for $10 at a local wine store. At that price the XYZin is good value that competes well with other value priced Zinfandel from Cline, Dancing Bull, and Seven Deadly Zins. 3/5
Cellar Tracker Score 87 points (8 reviews)
2008 BOHO Vineyards Octavin 3L Zinfandel
- The Stuff: Wine maker David George showcases his 100% California Zinfandel in a ready to drink now 3L Octavin Home Wine Bar. The wine is said to stay fresh for up to six weeks in the patent pending bladder; 13.5% ABV; 20,000 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum color that is about 80% opaque. Wine seems thin in viscosity and has watery edges.
- The Sniff: Very restrained nose with subtle aroma of dried cherry
- The Sip: A somewhat thin presentation of dark berry fruits on the palate. The mouth feel seems round without being flabby. A single dimension wine that is neither off nor dynamic. Lacking in layers of fruit but balanced in flavor and finish.
- The Score: Coming in at $6 per “bottle” the BOHO is certainly a drinkable wine when in need of a larger quantity. If you’re headed camping, having a wedding, or throwing a party, the BOHO Zin would do well to satisfy the average wine drinker. 3-/5
A review on JenniferReview.com – It’s an Octo-box!
- The Stuff: 78% Zinfandel, 8% Primitivo, 7% Merlot and 7% Petite Sirah from Mendocino and Lake County; Aged 10 months in 15% new oak (combination of American, French and Hungarian); 13.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Medium dark plum with slight brightness of cherries. The wine is about 60% opaque
- The Sniff: Medium aromas of blueberry and cocoa are initially present with a mild presentation of black pepper
- The Sip: The Dynamite Zinfandel is new world jam flavors of blackberry and dark cherry fruits. A subtle woody evergreen tree pokes through that reminds me of Christmas. This wine has a good firm grip on the back end and would hold up well to a BBQ steak or spicy burger.
- The Score: At $10, the Dynamite Zin is a fair value but doesn’t hold up as well against other California Zin in this price range. 3-/5
Cellar Tracker Score 87 points (1 review)
08 Jun 2010
You remember that game you played as a kid, duck duck goose? Some of you may have played it with your four year old just the other night. This wine review has nothing to do with that game, but it did come to mind when I received the wine for review. The other thing that I think of when I look at Duck Pond Cellars label is that old Nintendo game, Duck Hunt. Could be the ducks on the label, but I wanted to get out the grey plastic pistol and fire away.
Duck Pond Cellars is located in Dundee, Oregon. I previously reviewed their 2007 Red Blend (which was a crazy value) and their 2007 Syrah (which wasn’t a personal favorite). One thing is sure, Duck Pond is shooting for some crazy values that are way more than child’s play (see how I brought back the two references from earlier, nice eh).
For this review, I decided the wine needed to make the 400 mile trek back to Oregon. The ducks longed to fly in their native land, so I packed them along during our Memorial Day weekend trip to Portland. The Oregon/Washington connection is strong with Duck Pond as all the grapes used for these wines were sourced from sister winery/vineyard Desert Wind in the Wahluke Slope AVA. Just like real ducks, these grapes fly south at harvest to prepare for their fermentation and storage.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 95% Chardonnay, 4% Semillon, and 1% Gewurtraminer that was fermented in 90% stainless steel and 10% in barrel (4 months in new French and American); Partial malolactic fermentation; 15% abv; 19,665 cases produced; all Desert Wind Vineyard fruit
- The Swirl: Great golden yellow tone with a slight creamy quality
- The Sniff: An abundance of tropical flower and fruit with a good amount of heat as well.
- The Sip: Good rich mouth-feel without feeling flabby and fat. I really appreciate the fruit components of pear and pineapple along with other topical flavors. Everything is going well for this duck until the finish which is slightly stinging due to the alcohol.
- The Score: At only $10, this is a crazy value because the wine has some great aroma, flavor, acidity and minerality. The only misfortune is the heat on the finish. Pair this wine with food to compensate for the alcohol (preferably something sweet or rich). I score it a 3 out of 5.
Cellar Tracker score of 84 with four reviews
- The Stuff: 89% Merlot and 11% Cab Franc from Desert Wind Vineyard; Aged 14 months in 20% French and 80% American oak barrels; 14.5% abv; 12,721 cases produced
- The Swirl: Deep rich purple color with about 70% opacity. Slightly watered down at the edges.
- The Sniff: Good strong components of dark berries, leather, and wood. The American oak is prevalent but not attacking. Nice to get a good nose at this price point
- The Sip: The fruit flavors are fun and rich but they don’t hang and play very long. They fly the next and make way for a pleasant velvet milk chocolate mid palate with a better than average structure on the back end.
- The Score: At $10, this is a definite recommend. The wine is pleasing, and although slightly over oaked, it has some very nice fruit flavors and aroma that will make a good value drinking experience. I score this wine a 3+ out of 5
The 2005 Duck Pond Cellars Merlot doesn’t have any formal reviews on Cellar Tracker. It makes a strong showing to be considered for the Under $10 Value Team, but will have to ride the bench due to tough competition from Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 7% Syrah from Desert Wind and Sacagawea Vineyards; aged in a combination of French and American oak; 14.5%ABV; 5824 cases produced.
- The Swirl: A thick muddy jammy purple that reminds me of a dark stormy sunset. The wine is about 90% opaque.
- The Sniff: Dark berry, gamey meat aromas, leather and stone. The nose is intriguing and throws me off from a traditional Cabernet, not in a bad way.
- The Sip: The mouth feel of the wine is a slight disappointment from the nose. The fruit elements are not strong and the expected spice and depth is not there. The wine is not off in flavor but only provides glimpses of what it could be. I would liken this to being the little brother who only played little league where the big kids moved on to the pros.
- The Score: While there is nothing off putting about the wine and it would make a great addition to any table to be paired with summer grillin’ or light pasta, I score it a 3 (out of 5) because of the lack of anything that stands out. Only $12 retail.