Save your 'green' on these bargain reds

Redtree Pinot Noir makes its case at $8.99 a bottle

The June 2012 issue of Wine Enthusiast features an attention-grabbing story on the cover: “30 Great Napa Cabs for $30 or Less.” If you like cabernet, it’s a must read. Most of the wines are rated 88 points or higher. Still, you can find less expensive cabs that fit right in with WE’s selections for a lot less. Two that I mentioned weeks ago come to mind: 2009 Liberty School Cabernet and 2009 Louis Martini. Both sell for less than $15 and are universally rat in the 88-89 point range. But why should ratings matter? It’s what you like that matters.

On that theme, I’ve asked two local wine dealers to stake their reputations on the best quality wines in their stores for $10 or less. I wanted a list of four each from Dick Rourke at Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Cellar in Lowell and Steve Maciejewski of Stadium Plaza Wine & Spirits in Tewksbury. I picked two myself, giving us a total of 10. There are 5 whites and 5 reds. Today, we are going to deal with the wines of color.

Now while my “sommeliers” have many good bargain wines in their stores, yellow tail and others come to mind, they told me their choices were based on quality of grape, taste and enjoyment of summer fare. In full disclosure, I purchased the wines and held my own personal wine tasting with the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee. I did not look up any previous reviews of these wines or search for ratings. This was strictly adventure. Here we go:

1. Le Drunk Rooster, 2008, France — The rooster on the purple label certainly had something to crow about with this dark purple, Grenache (65%) and Syrah (35%) blend. While not overly aromatic, I detected minerals and chocolate on the nose. The taste was smooth and full of berries with a long, spicy finish. The WG declared the finish was bigger than the price ($9.99) and well worth it. Stadium Plaza.

2. Red Guitar Sangria, Constellation Wines, N.Y. — We drank this cherry and full fruit concoction over ice, although the bottle says it should be well-chilled. If it mattered, the taste didn’t show it. A great leisurely sipper, there were plenty of flavors in this bottle, from lime and lemon to cherry, and you could have fun putting your tastebuds to work. But why bother? An ideal companion for summer fiestas at $8 a bottle. Tutto Bene.

Le Drunk Rooster from France tastes bigger than its price ($9.99).

3. Campos Reales, 2011, Spain — If you’ve never tasted a Spanish wine, this is a good one to start the global experience. The Tempranillo grape, used in wine blends with Granacha, is becoming more popular around the world and this stands well on its own. Its medium bodied with blackberry and plum aromas. I enjoyed this with leftover chicken saltimbocca. Smooth tannins and warm, mouth-pleasing dry taste. Solid value at $9. Tutto Bene.

4. Line 39 Cabernet Sauvingon, 2011, Calif. — Wow! Why pay $30 when you can have this dark, luscious Central Coast appellation for $9.99! This is very drinkable now. It’s full bodied like all the big Cabs and supports solid plum and licorice flavors. The WG thought it was smoother than most young cabs, and ruled it delightful for the price. I say it is a steal of a deal! Stadium Plaza.

5. Redtree, Pinot Noir, 2010, Calif. — Interesting to note that this Pinot and the above Cabernet are both produced in St. Helena by the successful Cecchetti Wine Co. Like I said before, if the grapes are quality and the fruit is at the height of its ripeness, you can sell it in a tuna can and people will buy it. For $8.99, Redtree has the ripe cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors that are deliciously expected and appreciated. While a bit thin on the finish, this wine is consistently good solo or with light meals. Tutto Bene.

If you like white wines, don’t despair. I’ve got five on the table for review for next week’s column. Remember, the key to a good wine experience  is what’s in the bottle, not on the price tag. You should always be willing to toast to a good bargain. Salute!