Delicious California Wines Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune: Review

Delicious California Wines Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune: Review

By Ryan Flinn – // Aug 9, 2010 5:01 AM GMT+0100
Hall Winery Spending an afternoon in a Sonoma Valley vineyard sipping from a heavenly $450 bottle of Verite 2007 La Joie is hard to beat. Shelling out a tenth of that for something just as memorable is even better.

I recently sampled some of California’s most sought-after – – and priciest — cult wines. Among the highlights were a 2006 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($250) and the La Joie, both of which received perfect scores from Wine Enthusiast magazine and uber-critic Robert Parker. All were delicious — and unaffordable to the average wine drinker. To find bottles that could stand in for their pricier counterparts, I asked sommeliers, vintners and fellow connoisseurs for recommendations. The wines had to be limited production, made with grapes from the same farms that cult producers use, or have a famous winemaker attached to the project. Plus, cost as close to $50 as possible.

Petra Polakovicova, wine director at San Francisco’s Epic Roasthouse, offered me several excellent choices. She first poured me a 2007 Fisticuffs Napa Cabernet ($25), made by highly regarded winemaker Jeff Smith, who’s better known for his Hourglass label ($125). Fisticuffs sells for $65 at the restaurant, and less than half of that in shops.“It’s very well balanced, velvety on the palate and doesn’t overpower you,” Polakovicova said. Coffee Flavor

Another wine she recommended was the 2006 B Cellars Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) from Kirk Venge. This bottle presented ripe raspberries, sharp tannins, nice acidity and a roasted coffee flavor on the finish. A bigger pour was a 2005 Bridesmaid Proprietary Red ($45), which displayed black fruit, smokiness and a tight structure with ample tannins.

“These are nice, lower priced wines, and people really buy them,” Polakovicova said.

Smith said Napa vintners have generally ignored lower- priced quality wines. For instance, he said, cabernet sauvignons costing less than $30 is a “wide-open” category.

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