Every now and then I’m asked to recommend wines that are considered well-known, a good value, readily available and consistent from year to year.
In today’s economy it’s easy to understand wanting good, value-priced wines—we all want to get the most for our money, and why should wines be an exception? Unfortunately, when you set out to find “bargain wines,” the bargain most often being made is to drink something that’s wet and grape-based, and not much more.
Don’t you think you deserve better?
In my book, the best value wines aren’t necessarily the cheapest — but wines that display superior taste and complexity for their price range. They aren’t necessarily bargains but they are good values. Some may sound unfamiliar, but to find value in wine today, we often have to look for interesting, distinctive bottles from around the world that you can put on your table with pride.
I have listed these wines without vintage information because these wines are consistent from year to year and you should be able to buy them reliably across vintages.
Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta, Piedmont, Italy
From one of Piedmont’s most celebrated producers, Veitti’s Moscato is wonderfully pleasant. The nose is captivating with gentle aromas of white peach, ginger ale, and roses. On the palate, the creamy mousse delicately tickles the palate with the expected slight sweetness and fizz. At just 5.5 percent alcohol, this wonderfully refreshing and bursting with bright, flavors of freshly picked apricots, peaches and nectarines and just a shade of spice, it is perfect as an aperitif. It can be found for around $14 at Circus Wines in Middletown as well as most wine shops.
Ménage à Trois Rosé, California
Good rosé is like a carnival in your mouth, and this interesting aromatic and fruity blend of Merlot, Syrah and Gewürztraminer offers a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. This is a very good fruit-laden rosé full of raspberries, strawberries, lychee nut flavors and flowery aromas. I found this one at Spirit of ‘76 Liquors for around $10.
Domaine Chandon Carneros Chardonnay, Carneros, California
Full-bodied and fruity, this creamy Chardonnay shows the dual properties of ripe, delicious fruit and acidic, minerally earthiness. The flavors are of citrus and tropical fruits, while oak brings lovely notes of vanilla and buttered brioche. This wine proves that Chandon can make still wines at least as good as its better-known sparklers. Shop Rite Wines & Spirits offers this wine around $26.
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Central Coast
It is amazing that, year after year, Kendall-Jackson can produce a flavorful Chardonnay at a retail price under $20. Elegantly layered, this wine exhibits rich tropical fruit, grapefruit, lemon and lime peel with a hint of buttered vanilla, toast and cinnamon spice to round out the lush texture, firm backbone and long, creamy lingering finish of fleshy fruit and butterscotch. This wine runs around $17 at Circus Wines and around $18 at Spring Lake Bottle Shop.
Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay, California
California Chardonnay is often marked by the influence of oak aging, offering flavors of buttered toast, caramel and crème brûlée flavors. When the use of oak is bypassed, the grape’s true personality has a chance to shine. This Chardonnay has bright citrus aromas of pineapple, mandarin, tangerine, Meyer lemon and lime lead to more floral aromas of vanilla and honeysuckle. Stone fruit, dried peach and ripe apple flavors are balanced by a clean, bright acid backbone and minerality on the finish. It’s so good all by itself. With its dry, crisp Monterey acidity, it’s so good all by itself and will satisfy your Chardonnay tooth. I found this for $15 at Spring Lake Bottle Shop.
When it comes to reds, I like to start with a Pinot Noir, but for most of us, it can be a budgetary nightmare. Pinot is a finicky grape, difficult to grow, and expensive on the shelves, but here are two that run just below and slightly over $20.
Carmel Road Monterey Pinot Noir, Monterey, Central Coast
This wine is made of 100% Pinot Noir and aged in 98% French oak and 2% American oak. It is balanced and bright with crushed blackberry, ripe strawberries and refreshing red fruit complemented by lovely spice and deep earthy notes. The palate echoes the nose, with vibrant acidity balanced by supple texture on a long, velvety finish. Look for rich flavors, firm acidity and bright Pinot Noir fruit flavors. It runs around $22 and I found this at many of my favorite shops.
Mark West Estate Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, California
This medium-bodied Pinot Noir is entertaining and perfect for drinking on its own. Aromas and flavors of rose petals, cola, raspberry and cherry, are touched by bright spice, and a bit of oak and minerality. It’s definitely not your father’s light, see-through Pinot Noir. As one friend says, it has a high “smile factor” as this wine delivers an “alcohol” punch in the mouth. This is a $16 find at Rumson Wine & Spirits.
No shortlist can be considered complete without a Merlot and a Cabernet, and the next two wines are well-known, good-value quality wines.
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Merlot, Sonoma County, California
This wine opens with black raspberry and menthol with a hint of red currant, olive, and pepper—a favorite dark fruit and spice combination. This juicy Merlot has a little bit of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon added for balance, resulting in a dark black raspberry flavored wine with notes of oak, dark chocolate and black plum. Medium-bodied, it’s slightly acidic with soft round tannins that are slightly prolonged on the dry finish. About $23 almost every wine shop in the area.
Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon
This 100% California Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, Lake County and Mendocino. It begins with aromas of plum, cherry, blackberry, cinnamon spice, a little leather, vanilla toast and anise. This smooth, medium-bodied wine has great structure and soft silky tannins. Flavorwise, the wine features cola notes, plenty of dark fruit and some dried herbs. Ther oaky accents are well-integrated in the form of dark chocolate and spice. The soft finish is dry with a rich, dark fruit burst of spice and lingering minerality. About $15 – $16 at Circus Wines.
All of these wines can be easily found in most Jersey Shore wine shops and liquor stores. The best part is they are all delicious and they make a great first impression for fall. Enjoy!