Better Than Bargains

The $15.99 Challenge

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REMEMBER WHEN $15.99 seemed like a lot of money to pay for a bottle of wine?

     What? You think it still does? Boy are you out of it...but you're right. You shouldn't have to pay $50 for wine that will make both you and your dinner guests happy.

     So don't! Instead, come to this page for my continually updated list of  "Better than Bargain" wines. Stuff you'll look forward to opening and won't be ashamed to serve. Not just "good for the money," but good, period.

WHAT IS IT? *+2002 Chaddsford Winery Cabernet/Chambourcin (Pennsylvania). Served blind, this wine snookers the table. Contains both Cabernet Franc and Cab Sauvignon, I believe -- and they work weirdly well with the Chambourcin. Violet aromas followed by sweet strawberries. Finishes well. Beautifully made and compares well to its Loire rivals. Just $14.99 at the winery, this wine's a bargain.

CHEAP THRILLS (October 26, 2003) Yes, I've been shamefully neglecting the money-saving side, but help's on the way! As I continue to taste well-priced 2000 Bordeaux, there's no shortage of cheap thrills. Shop sharp and $15.99 or less can buy you either of these two beauties:

*+2000 Cheateau Beau-Site (St. Estephe) seemed a little stern -- mostly earth and lead pencil, with tannins on the finish. Then I forgot about it for two days, hauled it out of the fridge -- et voila! Beautiful blackcurrant flavors, with no trace of oxidation. Cellar this sweetheart for one or two years, or decant an hour before dinner.

*2000 Chateau Vieux Robin "Bois de Lunier" (Medoc) requires no such patience. Coffee bean scents precede a gush of blackberry and cassis. Drink now and over the next few years. Case buy time!

BORDEAUX...YES, BORDEAUX! (April 3, 2003) Drink as your conscience dictates, but are you really going to give up French wine forever? Right now, there's an ocean of delicious 2000 Bordeaux flowing into local shops, and some of it's wonderfully inexpensive. In a week or two, you may wish you had snapped up:

*2000 Le Doyenne. Plush and cuddly, caressing you with sweet cherries and blackcurrants. Drank it over two days, and the good stuff didn't fade overnight. Nothing complicated here -- and it's not a cellar candidate -- but who's going to quibble at a mere $10 a bottle? 

*+2000 Chteau  Marjosse is a tad more structured, but rewards a little swirling with even more depth and a longer finish. This one's selling locally for about $10.99. Show me a Cab from anywhere else that delivers more ooh-la-la for less money.

FLASHBACK (January 4, 2003) Tasting the marvelous **++2001 Marquis Philips Sarah's Blend, I remember the fun we had ten years ago, when terrific California Cabs could be had for under $20. This wizardly weird blend from Oz marries Shiraz, Cab and Merlot. I normally snub such mongrels, but this one jumps in your lap and licks your face before you can wrinkle your nose. Thick, juicy, blackberry scented, it finishes extremely well. At a mere $15, it's the best red wine value I've tasted in months -- maybe a lot longer.

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