Story by The Gazette
Written by Rich Mauro
Most of us indulge during the holidays. Waistlines expand and bank accounts shrink. So it helps to have less expensive, everyday wine options. That means ready-to-drink wines that deliver varietal accuracy, clean fruit and a sense of character for $25 or less.
With the following brands, you’ll swear the wines are worth more than you paid. Most are 2017, 2018 or 2019 vintage.
• Avalon. This Sonoma, Calif.-based winery produces solid appellation wines — Lodi cabernet sauvignon, Flint & Steel Napa Valley sauvignon blanc, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and California-designated chardonnay and pinot noir. ($10-$20)
• Bonterra. A pioneer in organics and biodynamics since 1987, look for chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, rosé, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and zinfandel with most of the grapes from Mendocino vineyards. ($14-$16)
• Cline. This Sonoma winery offers many value wines. My favorite is the Ancient Vines portfolio ($25) sourced from 100-year-old vines in Contra Costa County. The portfolio includes zinfandel, mourvèdre and carignane. The sustainably farmed Sonoma Coast series ($20-$25) — chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier, marsanne-roussanne, riesling, pinot noir, syrah and merlot — also is distinctive.
• Decoy. The entry-level brand in the Duckhorn flock showcases estate-grown and purchased Sonoma County grapes. Cabernet cauvignon, merlot, red wine blend, zinfandel, pinot noir and rosé ($25) plus chardonnay and sauvignon blanc ($20).
• Hess Select. The second label of Napa’s The Hess Collection seeks out vineyards throughout California to find grapes approximating big brother’s quality at everyday prices. Cabernet sauvignon, Treo red blend and pinot noir are $19. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and rosé are $12.
• J. Lohr. The J. Lohr Estates tier represents consistent varietal expressions from estate-grown vineyards: Riverstone Chardonnay and Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc ($14); South Ridge Syrah and Los Osos Merlot ($15); and Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon and Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir ($17).
• Knotty Vines. A new label from Rodney Strong Vineyards, one of Sonoma’s finest, sources these $15 wines — chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and red blend — from vineyards throughout the state.
• Line 39. Line 39 offers wines from select vineyards located in Monterey, Lodi, Central Coast and Lake County, including sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon ($11).
• McManis. Located in the San Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento, this is one of California’s more reliable value producers. The wines — cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, petite sirah, merlot, zinfandel, pinot grigio, viognier, petit verdot and barbera — are mostly from estate-grown fruit and other trusted sustainable vineyards ($12).
• Oak Ridge Winery. Lodi’s oldest operating winery owns estate vineyards throughout the area. The portfolio includes OZV (Old Zinfandel Vines), available as Zinfandel, Red Blend and Rosé ($13). The Old Soul label features more old vines ($13): zinfandel, red blend, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, petite sirah and chardonnay.
• 7 Deadly. Full-bodied, exuberant fruit sourced from Lodi vineyards and produced by Michael David winery. 7 Deadly Zins is my favorite, but 7 Deadly Cab and 7 Deadly Red ($16) are also zinfandel-based