Look to Washington for value on good wine
Although California makes 10 times as much wine as all other states combined, Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt believes it is Washington (and in some instances, Oregon) that offers the widest variety of value wines.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Washington Hills 2011 Late Harvest Moscato; $10
With the surging consumer interest in Moscato, this lovely wine should find a lot of admirers. Delicate orange-blossom scents roll into flavors of pink grapefruit, lemon rind and rose petals. Sweet enough for dessert, but not too sweet for spicy entrees. (Distributed by Southern)
FINDING GOOD value wines is arguably the most important service a wine column can provide. But first you must know what you're looking for. What constitutes a value wine?
It's not as simple as a low price point or a steep discount. Most $6 wines are worth $6, and no more. Many wines are being discounted these days — even in Bordeaux they are talking about knocking as much as 50 percent off the price of the wines from the next vintage to be sold. Even so, half off wines that are so stratospherically priced doesn't make them bargains.
Given that I taste many thousands of wines every year, I have an unusually large database from which to cull the best values. So it makes sense to look at them by some combination of price and competition. In any group of comparably priced wines from similar blends and competitive regions, which are the standouts? Among dozens of countries and scores of wine regions within them, where are the best values to be found?
Overseas, I find great values in the wines of Greece, Italy, Spain and Southern France. Argentina and Chile are the New World value leaders. Inside our borders, although California makes 10 times as much wine as all other states combined, I truly believe it is Washington (and in some instances, Oregon) that offers the widest variety of value wines.
These are wines that will outshine their competition and offer flavor and complexity far beyond their cost. Riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, merlot and syrah are the varieties that offer the most distinctive wines at the best prices. Red blends and cabernet-based wines are a bit more expensive, but in their respective categories, excellent values are to be found.
Recommended, by varietal category:
Washington Hills 2011 Riesling; $10. Arresting scents of jasmine tea and honeysuckle give this an enticing floral character.
Sawtooth 2011 Riesling; $11. An Idaho wine, spicy and substantial, with apple and melon fruit, and hints of clove and ginger.
AntoLin Cellars 2010 Glacier Estate Vineyard Riesling; $14. Tangy citrus, peaches, apricots and papaya. The length, acidity, texture, mouthfeel, depth and freshness of this Yakima Valley wine are exceptional.
Hogue 2010 Genesis Riesling; $16. Irresistible aromas of citrus, stone and exotic tropical fruits lead into flavors of ripe peaches, brightened with vivid acidity.
Hogue 2010 Gewürztraminer; $11. With the snap and concentration of a tasty lemon drop cocktail, this lovely gewürztraminer is perfumed, not soapy, with superb flavors of peaches and citrus.
Waterbrook 2011 Sauvignon Blanc; $12. Bright, spicy, pungent scents of new-mown lawn, herb, pine needle, citrus and melon mark this fresh, clean, textural wine.
Eight Bells 2010 Pinot Gris; $18. This up-and-coming Seattle winery makes an excellent Oregon pinot gris. It's richly scented, stylish and long.
Raptor Ridge 2011 Pinot Gris; $18. Light citrus, cucumber and melon flavors mingle in a clean and refreshing white wine, perfect for warm weather.
Castle Rock 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon; $12. Smooth and supple, with cranberry, black cherry and delicate suggestions of mushroom, cocoa and dusty earth.
Maryhill 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon; $17. Tight and focused, this has a fine core of black cherry and cassis fruit.
Gifford Hirlinger 2009 Stateline Red; $16. Mostly cabernet with splashes of malbec, tempranillo and petit verdot, this is focused and concentrated, with coffee-cake highlights.
Plumb Cellars 2009 Plumb Crazy Red; $18. A blend of syrah and merlot, this marries botanical highlights to a base of citrusy, red-berry fruits.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.