Valley Bargain Wines
it seem as if there are simply too many wines at your local
wine retailer, specialty outlet, grocery store and favorite
website? Which ones to select? What region, varietal and price point? Price is always a consideration, and nobody wants to spend more money than necessary for any item,
including wine. Narrowing the field down to
Napa Valley Red Wines, we take a brief
selection of bottlings that exhibit the region's typical character,
deliver excellent price-to-quality value and will certainly
make your friends and loved ones stand up and notice.
Valley Bargain Wines
2001 Merlot, $29
(crudely maligned in the hit movie, Sideways)
makes the list with an entry by Barlow. This smooth
Napa Merlot is perfect: the clean, approachable roundness
is evident from the first diminutive taste. This wine
brings memories of hot valley summer days, cool evenings,
pleasant conversions and opening yet another bottle
of Barlow. If you enjoy a good Merlot, you will assuredly
appreciate this one. The 2001 Barlow can be enjoyed
immediately, but will mellow even more over time,
based on the firm tannin structure.
2001 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, $25
is a firm investment at an affordable price. Long
on the tongue and smooth in the finish, this wine
exhibits typical ruby reflections and slight black
cherry/brambleberry aromas. Rutherford dust mineral
tannins are alive and well, sparking renewed interest
within this wine. Note the balanced oak. This wine
drinks well, but could use a little time to sit and
mature gracefully. Still, a fine value and the best
of its breed.
Valley Red Table Wine, $38
serious wine is a magnificent chess game of flavors.
Hearty intense cherry notes, dark plum and diverse
oak tendencies (25 months) leave the drinker in wonderment
at the winemaker’s art. Combining 59 percent Cabernet
Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and
a morsel of Syrah, this wine is talkative, yet never
verbose. This is a complex wine, more so than the
average bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Bring out other
wines for the relatives, but save Generations to share
with your best, wine-appreciating friends. This $35
bottle is worth double the price.
2002 Claret, $32
is a wine so full of flavor that somehow gets better
and better as the minutes pass. Strong, mid-palate
sensations combine with a mild, elegant finish. Unassuming,
gentle and understated at $25, this wine rocks—and
knows it, too, you can tell. Examine the fathomable
clarity, and think back to why the English loved Clarets
so. This blend of 70 percent Merlot, 28 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent
Cabernet Franc exemplifies the sensational Stag’s
Leap District terroir, but without the massive oak
and "look at me" pretension. This is an
excellent, worthy value. Cliff Lede’s newly
rebuilt Yountville winery, (formally S. Anderson)
is also a fun stop for the uninitiated.
2001 Paradux, $43
marvelous Duckhorn blend continues with the usual
Mallard stamp motif, providing customers with an intriguing
Zinfandel/Cabernet Sauvignon blend; the result is
another crowd-pleasing winner. Sourcing fruit from
various up-valley vineyards, Paradux has a tantalizing
color, pours deliciously smooth and tops expectations.
This wine is comforting to those who appreciate Duckhorn’s
strong, structured approach and powerful qualities.
Yet Paradux is surely worth the price tag, costing
far less than many comparable wines. This wine should
age predictably for many years, but drinks well now.
This Napa Valley duck gives plenty of bang for the
2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $35
fruit crafted with care and borne of strapping grapes.
This Cabernet is what all New World Cabs vie to be:
solid citizens, tall, wearing hats and pressed trousers.
This wine opens delightfully with a playful roundness,
slight aromas of blueberry and cherry and finishes
strong, crossing the line first. Though the Frank
Family Cabernet should age well, it’s drinking
like a champ already. You cannot possibly go wrong
enjoying this fine wine—a firm value at this
2002 Napa Valley Pinot Noir, $35
is a local Napa Valley Pinot Noir that makes a statement
and says, "See my autumn leaves, smell my barnyard
oats, taste my green apples, white truffles and mint.
I dare you." This wine delivers its characteristic
Pinot Noir nose, but carries an inimitable easy body.
Grown in the cool Green Island Vineyard region, in
the American Canyon area of lower Napa Valley, this
Pinot ranks with many of the finest from Burgundy and Oregon. Go ahead, try it and find out for yourself.
True Pinot lovers will go gaga over this wine.
2000 Napa Valley Zinfandel, $15
is one reason that Napa is known as the country’s
premier winegrowing region: Ravenswood Napa Valley
Zinfandel. This wine combines Napa's polished raspberry-cedar
character with a hint of French vanilla, giving this
wine the delightful balance that comes with superior
breeding. Pleasing bright, ripe plum flavors with
fine tannin structure are followed by a lingering
finish that tastes of raspberries, cloves, cardamom
and vanilla. Enjoy this full-bodied, intense offering
now, or age for seven years—either way it’s
a mighty (and we mean mighty) good wine.
2001 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $25
Feel the flare! Just released, this is only the second
vintage for this company, but Solaris has already made
quite an impact. Combining evocative packaging (a dramatic
solar flare against a black backdrop) with Rutherford
fine fruit and a strong commitment to quality, Solaris
indeed is a wine to watch. But, of course, it’s
what’s in the bottle that counts, and this wine
is tasty! Solaris exhibits a warm, dry, inviting character,
but without much fuss. This is Pamela Anderson with
a tan—round, showy, a knockout—not all that
much substance, but from the moment you put lips to
glass, the wine cannot be surpassed. The fruit forward,
yet gauzy finish makes this a wonderful food wine. At
$25 this is an excellent value. Watch for Solaris to
climb the charts!
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, $22
Hill Winery wines focus on the cooler growing areas
of Napa, which provide lengthened growing seasons.
The moderate and stony soils of hillside Cabernet
Sauvignon vineyards allow the grapes to ripen past
the fruity flavors of warmer climates into the berry
and spice range. The result is a full-bodied, fruit-driven
wine with aromas of cassis, dark plum and blackberry.
This is a rich wine with a polished texture and an
earthy body. Try it with roasted prime rib in cracked
pepper crust or alongside a tender lamb chop. Scrumptious!
Top 10 Value Wines
Read our 72-Hour Travel Guide to Napa Valley
Top 10 Value Champagnes
Top 10 Budget Champagnes
(Updated: 04/02/09 SV)