Category Archives: Between $20 and $29.99 | Reviewed

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must…

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must

Smith Madrone

The views of Napa Valley below from Smith Madrone Vineyards

Something From Nothing | The Beginnings of Smith Madrone Vineyards

Tucked away at the very end of Spring Mountain Road lies Smith Madrone Vineyards. Situated at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District, its steeply sloped mountain vineyards reach grades of up to 34% at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet.

Notable and familiar neighbors include Bothe Napa Valley State Park directly to the North, Barnett Vineyards immediately to the West and Keenan Winery lies due South.

The history of the property dates all the way back to the 1880 when a man by the name of George Cook secured a land grant authorized by then President Chester A. Arthur and planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate.

But when Stu Smith discovered this special parcel of land, with its expansive views of Napa Valley and rocky, well-drained volcanic soils, the existing vineyards were in disrepair and the property was still mostly just a forest!

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Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva | Finding Value in Spain

Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 | Finding Value in Spain

Casado Morales

I initially tried the Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 after picking it up during a Wines Til Sold Out flash sale offering and was shocked at the quality considering I paid less than $23. I even brought this to a blind tasting where it competed with a few other Rioja’s from respected producers and it’s victory was unanimous – and quite tasty!

Some time had passed since I had seen this again but WTSO recently offered it and I’ve also seen that it’s available at Total Wine so I thought I’d share this character-laden, well-aged Spanish bargain from Casado Morales with you guys…

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Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco | Value in Obscurity

Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco Review | Uncorking Value in Obscurity

Sagrantino di Montefalco

Sagrantino di Montefalco

The Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco is not exactly a new find. But after a confluence of factors oddly converged I decided I needed to share this relatively obscure yet deeply rewarding wine. It’s one I’ve really enjoyed several times and I have several resting to track its evolution.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me about which bottles I thought might “blow you away” that could be found around the $30 price point. I assured him that it can certainly be done, though it might take some effort to do so. Immediately the Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco came to mind, but I thought it might not be worth sharing due to its scarcity.

I had thought that Sagrantino was only grown in the small town of Montefalco in Umbria, Italy (with a mere 250 acres of vines dedicated to Sagrantino, mind you). That is until I recently came across an offering from Italian-centric winery Bennessere Vineyards in Napa that just so happens to produce a bottling from their tiny half-acre parcel of estate grown Sagrantino.

Intrigued, I ordered a bottle of Benessere’s Sagrantino and decided it was time I share my adoration for wine that introduced me to this interesting varietal: Tabarrini’s Sagrantino di Montefalco.

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Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon | A Cabernet for Pinot Lovers?

 Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon Valley 2010 | A Cabernet for Pinot Lovers?

Ruston Cabernet

When I received an e-mail offering from Last Bottle Wines touting a hyper-limited Napa Cabernet from the stellar 2010 vintage at 50% off, I began clicking away feverishly. I discovered that the wine on offer was the 2010 Ruston Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon produced 100% from notoriously expensive and character-laden Rutherford fruit.

As is often the case with any great wine region, many of the best wines – the hidden gems, rarely leave the region. They are enjoyed without abandon by in-the-know locals, who don’t subscribe to clever marketing prowess and highly-commercialized wines. I love finding these local favorites, and I just had to see for myself if the Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon itself is worth seeking out.

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Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Elyse Winery

Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Review | Elyse Winery

Elyse Winery

A few months ago I picked up Elyse Winery’s Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel from Last Bottle Wines and it was excellent – rich, pure and balanced with great Zin character. It was also a really great value at $16 shipped, so when I received another e-mail from Last Bottle offering Elyse Winery’s Napa Valley Cabernet I jumped at the opportunity to give it a try.

It’s tougher and tougher to find good Napa Cabernet without draining the checking account, and Elyse Winery is a respected, somewhat under-the-radar producer who sources their fruit from top vineyard sites throughout Napa Valley.

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A Taste of Stinson Vineyards | Rose & Meritage Review

A Taste of Stinson Vineyards | Rose & Meritage Review

Stinson Vineyards

The Historic Piedmont House originally built in 1796. Photo credit: StinsonVineyards.com

Stinson Vineyards is a small, family-run winery located in Crozet, Va. The father/daughter winemaking team of Scott and Rachel Stinson sought to produce fine wines in Virginia with a winemaking philosophy that is strongly influenced by those of the French, and especially the controversial ‘garagiste’ winemakers of France.

Rather appropriate then is the fun fact that the winery at Stinson Vineyards is actually built into an old 3 car garage on the 12 acre property. That may be all they have in common with the garagiste winemakers however as Stinson Vineyards focuses on “…European-style wines that emphasize subtlety and complexity rather than power and super-ripeness…” The latter attributes essentially being the goals of the French garagiste winemakers who defy mainstream, more traditional French winemaking practices.

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Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Clos Pegase Cabernet

Today we’re highlighting a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve discovered from Clos Pegase Winery via Wines Til Sold Out. Located in the northern section of Napa Valley, just outside of Calistoga, the owners of Clos Pegase sought to create a world-class destination where wine would be celebrated as one of many art forms.

The winery itself is it’s own piece of artwork. 96 architects entered into a competition to design the winery, with Michael Graves winning the hard fought competition. The winery has become a destination for those who appreciate fine artwork and first-class hospitality. But I’m getting distracted… Can you tell I want to visit? Let’s get back on track and pop the cork on the Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2009!

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Balbas Reserva 2001

Balbas Reserva 2001

Balbas Reserva 2001

The Balbas Winery was founded in 1777 in the Ribera del Duero wine-growing region of Spain. The estate vineyards consist of 222 acres of hand picked Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

Balbas Winery believes that yields from their estate vineyards should be kept low while utilizing various techniques such as green pruning to yield a better crop. Their style of wine-making is one that exercises restraint and honors the local wine-making traditions of the Ribera del Duero region. Let’s pop the cork and give the Balbas Reserva 2001 a try!

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Swanson Vineyards Napa Valley: 2008 Oakville Merlot Review

Swanson Merlot Review

Do you drink Merlot?

Probably not if you’ve seen the movie Sideways.  Let’s assume that most wine drinkers have both seen the blockbuster movie Sideways starring Paul Giamiatti and Virginia Madsen and that they have had a glass of Merlot at least one time in their life. Those who saw Sideways might recall that the movie was not at all kind to this specific varietal.

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Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009

Alta Pavina Pinot Noir 2009 | Bodegas Alta Pavina

Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009

What do you get when you grow the revered and fickle Pinot Noir varietal in the now overachieving wine growing region of Spain under the auspices of legendary wine consultant Claude Bourguignon? I present to you the Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009.

Spain is a wine producing region that was once known more for the volume of wine it produced rather that the quality of the wine it produced. Fortunately for us wine consumers, that has significantly changed and Spain has been a consistent source of high quality values for years.

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