May 062012

My Wine and Dine column on WashingtonExec has been taking up the majority of my wine posts lately. So it’s time for a post on some good wines I’ve enjoyed this spring.

As readers of the blog know, I look for a balance of value and experience in a wine. With more earth under cultivation using better technology than at any time in history, the market power should be in the hands of the consumer. You shouldn’t have to pay more than $20-25 retail for a quality wine experience.

That said, sometimes you don’t mind paying more for a wine that will deliver an even better experience. The challenge can be choosing the more expensive wine that still delivers a good Quality to Price Ratio (QPR). (See this post by Robert Dwyer of the Wellesley Wine Press on QPR and how it can be tweaked to better balance quality and price).

In that spirit here are two flat out bargains that outperform their price tags, and three wines with higher costs of entry that really soar.

Osel Ruche 2009 – Ruche is a varietal in northern Italy I had not had before, and it was recommended by Lee in the Unwined shop in Belle Haven. The wine is light in color and body, with a smooth texture. Raspberry and cherry lead the fruit, and there’s some tartness on the finish. It gets a bit spicier with food, and all this happens for $13 a bottle.

Daglia 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – This was a nice recommendation from Vince at Total Wine in Alexandria. Deep purple in color, rich aroma, lots of black cherry fruit. Soft tannins for a Cabernet, smooth with a medium weight texture. This is another $13 wine that delivers exactly what most would suggest from a good Napa Cabernet.

Conn Creek 2006 Anthology – A fantastic wine we enjoyed thanks to Daniel, the wine manager at Columbia Firehouse. Daniel has started a reserve wine list, which I didn’t see advertised anywhere on the menu. His enthusiasm made the evening more enjoyable, and when he found he’d run out of his initial recommendation (the Sinnean Abondante) he brought us the Anthology.

This wine is a Californian left bank Bordeaux blend, led by a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It’s incredibly smooth and delicious, restrained with a bit of spice. This wine costs around $45 retail and really delivers. Definitely ask for Daniel and the reserve list the next time you visit Columbia Firehouse.

Elderton Ashmead 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon – I’ve previously reviewed this wine, and it continues to be our standout Australian Cab. This is a huge, delicious wine in which the fruit, the wood and the leather all work together. This wine is an example of why the Barossa valley in Australia has become known as one of the world’s premier wine regions. It can be had for $40 at Total Wine.

Paul Autard 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Gabriele and I had enjoyed the 2006 Autard CNP at Ray’s the Steaks, so I figured the 2009 was a good bet at $45. It’s a delicious wine with a lot of spice and fruit balanced with earth and pepper. 2009 was a great year for Rhones in general and this is a nice CNP to spend a bit more on.

Whatever your budget, you can’t go wrong with the above wines. If you try any of them out, let me know what you think.

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