2011 Top Value Priced Wines Under $15 USD and Best Sparkling Wines for New Years Eve

31 12 2011

The countdown has begun as we await the annual dropping of the ball here in the US. Many are scurrying around at the last-minute to find the best wine for our hard-earned money and wondering the aisles in search of the perfect wine for tonight – many are looking for something sparkling that won’t break the bank.

This year I am going to combine my “Best of the Year” value-priced wine list with my “Best Sparkling” choices because there are a few sparking wines within my top 10. What criteria did I use for this list? To keep it simple, the wines had to be around or under $15 USD and not only have the best value/price ratio, but also be good enough to have me either reaching for it again, or buying a large quantity as my house wine of the month or for large parties. Some of these selections are highly-rated by professional wine critics while others are not. I am not a slave to the scores from others and march to the beat of my own palette (as should you). Rating wine is clearly based own our own preferences for style, cost and overall enjoyment so some of you may purchase some of these on my list and not feel they are worthy.  What I am trying to do is find some wines that are inexpensive yet taste like you would be paying much more based on not only their taste but quality for price paid.

I am breaking it down in category to help you search for varietals you prefer and will give a final overall list at the bottom of this article.

Best Value Priced Sparkling Wine of 2011:

    • 1: Charles de Fere Reserve Blanc de Blanc Brut Though made from grapes sources outside of Champagne, this Blanc de Blanc (meaning white from white grapes) continues to be the best value prices sparking wine in my list year after year. It is extremely easy drinking (love this alone or with light appetizers) and a perfect sparking wine for drinking throughout your New Year’s Eve celebration. Great dough on the nose and toasty apple and ripe stone fruit on the tongue – extremely light on its feet yet off-dry, this wine has incredible finesse (fine bubbles too) and structure for the price, especially from France and so close to Champagne. I purchased a case of this for the holidays and did not break the bank at under $10 USD. Grab some!ee
    • 2: Riondo Prosecco – Best in class true Italian Prosecco for the price. Amazing tropical fruits, mango, apricot, peach with a great apple/ floral nose and extremely “pure/clean” tasting. A bit more off dry than the above, and a real crowd pleaser. This has been highly rated in the past and always what I reach for in a Prosecco. Light in style so it will keep your mouth refreshed without weighing you down all night. Great aperitif.
    • 3: Bitch Bubbly: This one is sweeter than the other 2 above, and is made from Chardonnay, Shiraz and Grenache from the Riverland, Barossa and McLaren Vale districts of Australia. Created by Chris Ringland – the winemaker that also created Bitch Grenache and 3 Rings Shiraz (I like those as well). This made the list to represent a good buy on a rosé sparkling wine.  Nose of strawberries, cranberries and dark berries, and taste of the same, with a bit of a creamy yet medicinal finish – though fairly long and interesting. Women do like it more than men, perhaps based on color and the candy-like aspects of this sparkling blush. It is not for everyone, but represents a good value at around $10 USD. Hurry, R Wines produced this wine and is now bankrupt! Click here for my previous sparkling wine reviews and previous New Years Eve Prosecco reviews.

Best Value Priced Chardonnay of 2011:

    • 1: 4 Vines “Naked” Chardonnay – This Naked (meaning no oak) Chardonnay from Santa Barbara, California is amazing for the price (around $11 USD or under).  This remains my house white wine until someone can knock it off its pedestal. Has amazing acidity (crisp not flabby) and great with raw seafood or just sipping. Toast and apple and pear on the nose. Peach, pear and apple with some acidic lemon/citrus on the tongue. Simple but clean and fresh. 4 Vines also make an amazing Zinfandel “The Biker”, which is around $25 USD and highly recommend that as well.
    • 2: Cupcake Vineyard Chardonnay Yes, I know, I know. I will be getting some flame for this from some more “serious” wine drinkers, but I have to say that if you want a heavy, buttery, and extremely over-oaked chardonnay – this is the best one for your money. This Central Coast, California Chardonnay is a steal at under $10 USD and at times, $7.99 at the A&P liquors in the tri-state area. In fact, Cupcake has really been the best value priced producer overall in the past few years. They source grapes from their proper designations to make their global wines. I also recommend the Sauvignon Blanc.
    • 3: Wily Jack Chardonnay:  I reviewed this wine earlier in the year, click here for the full review. For $5 USD, this HAD to make this list.

Best Value Priced Cabernet or Cabernet Blend of 2011:

    • 1: 2009 Columbia Crest, 3H (Horse Haven Hills) Les Chevaux Red –  After trying this new wine from what I consider the very best value priced (as well as higher end) producer in the country, I wanted to run out to get a case! This blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (which all but the Syrah would be in the typical French Bordeaux blend) aged 18 months in oak (French and American) make this a smooth and silky red to enjoy. Dark fruit and vanilla on the nose with deep rich body and flavor – dark plum, dark berry and vanilla/dark chocolate on the tongue with a smooth, long silky finish. Blockbuster deal at around $11.
    • 2: 2009 Falesco Vitiano Umbria IGT – This Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet blend is a perennial favorite of mine and seems to always receive high marks. It comes from Umbria and is a rich, smooth (though still sometimes a bit rustic) with dark fruit, Cassis, and a touch of cherry and spice. Great everyday with pizza, red sauce dishes, etc. Consistent.
    • 3: Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – Yes, again! The Two Vines line is a fantastic deal. Medium body, blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, oaky. Smooth and simple, but quality for the price of under $8 USD. Also recommend the other Columbia Crest wines : H3 Cabernet, Merlot, Indian Hills Cabernet and Merlot, as well as their higher end Reserve line (over $24 USD).

Best Value Priced Pinot Noir of 2011:

    • 1: 2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir Every year there is one wine that just blows me away for the price. Though each wine on this list is something I feel strongly about and buy/drink/recommend, this one is what I talk mostly about when people ask me what to buy. Blackberry, cherry, fruity and earthy all at once, vanilla tones, rich but light on its feet. I can not say enough about this wine. It has sold out almost everywhere when it was under $13 USD, and extremely hard to find at even $16. It taste like double that if not more. If you find it, buy it all (before I do). It was rated 94 points by Wine Enthusiast – so of course people went running and wiped out supply!
    • 2: 2009 Leyda Pinot Noir Reserve – This selection from  the Leyda Valley in Chile has a lot of flavor and style for the price ($10 USD). Great nose of dark fruit and strawberry with tons of dark fruit and strawberry/cherry, with earthiness and herbs make this an interesting choice. Smooth but not flabby – nice acidity. Try it and let me know what you think.
    • 3: 2010 Matua Valley Pinot Noir – While making quality priced Sauvignon Blanc, they also have an incredible value in this Pinot Noir. Soft and smooth, with great cherry and plum, pepper and spice, berry and oakiness. I love this with pork dumplings and of course lamb. Light bodied but structured and balanced.

More varietals to come, but quickly want to mention runners-up:

    • 1. Chandon Brut Sparkling wine (as well as the rosé) at $14.99
    • 2. Gloria Ferrer Sparkling (around or a bit over $15)
    • 3. Three Wishes Wine Merlot (does taste more like Pinot Noir and HAVE to mention the price is $2.50 at Whole Foods Market. Beats 2 Buck Chuck.
    • 4. H3, Horse Haven Hills entire line! Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay – you will not go wrong. Always excellent and around $12 USD
    • 5. Evolution by Sokol Blosser – an excellent white blend with tropical fruit, herbs and extremely smooth. A cheaper alternative to Caymus Conundrum (thanks Wolfie)
    • 6. Santa Emma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – A real bargain from Chile. Great dark fruit and smooth, but has a long finish and though it is under $11 USD, it tastes much more complex! They make quality wine year after year. The merlot is also a fantastic bargain.

My Selection for the 2011 Tales From the Trellis Best Value Priced Wine of the Year is:

2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir. The value in this wine is really unbeatable, this year!

Have a Happy and healthy holiday and wishing you all the best for the new year. Cheers!

Steve from the Trellis

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3 responses

1 01 2012
jean louis dumeu

You are a Master young man! I will recommend a nice Champagne brut from Drapier [what else Georges?]. JLD

1 01 2012
trellis66

Jean Louis, Happy New Year! En vous souhaitant tout le meilleur en 2012.

27 12 2012
TFTT Top Wines of 2012: Part 1 – Best Sparkling Rosé Bubbly & Champagne Values « talesfromthetrellis

[…] have chosen Charles de Fere in the past and written about this Rosé. The thing is, it is still such a great value ($12 USD) […]

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