From the Cellar: Tough times call for an affordable vintage - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

From the Cellar: Tough times call for an affordable vintage

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 2:42 pm | Updated: 10:30 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Recession rancor, roller coaster stock market, talk of $5 gas ... it’s enough to give even the most optimistic a case of heartburn. Reach for the Tums — or better still, how about a good bottle of wine under 10 bucks?

Nothing takes the edge off the worries of the world like a delicious glass of wine that didn’t require consulting with your CPA before taking a sip. The heat is on — literally and figuratively — and what you could really use are some seasonal “value” wine recommendations.

I feel your pain and went prospecting for good summer deals along the aisles at Trader Joe’s, BevMo and East Valley supermarkets and found a few winners. And while “value” can be subjective and mean different things to different people, for the sake of this experiment I limited the list to wines under $10.

The results were mixed. I’m still having issues with Two Buck Chuck, though the chardonnay isn’t half bad. But there were plenty of other bottles I would recommend such as fruity and aromatic Harlow Ridge zinfandel and zippy Estrella pinot grigio. Both cost $10 and $6, respectively. More value-centric finds are listed below. Keep cool, take advantage of case discounts, and save a few bucks this summer.

Crane Lake 2006 Shiraz, California. The use of “shiraz” versus “syrah” should tell you something about the wine. And it is, indeed, made in the fuller red-fruit Aussie and New World style than more subtle French syrah. Black pepper notes and soft tannins are the hallmark of this solid value. Grill up some burgers and dogs. $5.

Estrella 2007 Pinot Grigio, California. Estrella was recently recognized as a “Hot Brand” by trade journal Market Watch, and I now see what all the hoopla is about.

Enticing green apple, honeydew and citrus tickle your nose, which is then replicated on the palate. I’m thinking ceviche or chips and salsa with this one. $6.

Harlow Ridge 2005 Zinfandel, California. Winemaker Bob Stashak says that “a great amount of pleasure is derived in simply sniffing this wine,” and I can see — er, smell — what he means. Loads of pretty raspberry and dark cherry notes come to mind as does warm vanilla and cedar. Good option for ribs, sausages or steaks. $10.

Trinity Oaks 2006 Chardonnay, California. Fresh and bright Monterey and Santa Barbara coastal fruit shines through right away and makes you remember why you fell in love with chardonnay to begin with. Light oak notes from 50-50 stainless steel and oak fermentation also is appreciated. There’s no need for much more with all this beautiful apple-citrus goodness. Pair with roasted chicken or perhaps a chicken Caesar salad. $9.

Got a wine- and spirits-related question you’d like to see addressed in a column? Contact Mark at

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