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Possibly The Best QPR Wines In The World Today?

October 5, 2015 13 comments

Colors of the Chelsea MarketToday, I want to talk about wine and value. “Value” has an interesting meaning in the world of wine – may be as subjective as the concept of a “good wine” itself. To me, the value is not an absolute amount of money one paid for the bottle of wine – if you paid $3, but poured the bottle down the drain after half-finished first sip because it tasted terribly – was that still a “value”? Or was that a pure waste of money? By the same token, if the $20 bottle of wine gave you lots of pleasure in every tiniest drop (including the one you licked of the table), would that be a “good value”? Talking about the “value” of the wine, I prefer to use a proverbial term QPR, so happily adapted by the wine lovers – a Quality Price Ratio (this is what QPR stands for) conveys the “value” concept of wine a lot better than the sheer price itself.

One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to classify and analyze thousands and thousands of wines produced today in the world is by region, as wines from the same geographic area would typically have some similarities. Thinking about all the different wine producing regions in the world, which region do you think delivers the best QPR today? I’m really asking here to think about the region as a whole, rather then individual wines. Yes, you can find delicious Napa reds for $10, but this is rather an anomaly, as on average, you need to spend at least $25 – $30 for a good bottle, so we are definitely not talking about Napa here. Thus the question stands – what is your best QPR wine region in the world?

This question might be more difficult than it seems. Wine regions don’t stand still – they are constantly evolving. As the region becomes better known and more demanded, the price increase often accompanies this rise in popularity – which obviously affects the QPR. I used to consider Greek wines as a great QPR – but many Greek wines are now pushing the $30 boundary, while not consistent in quality – this immediately drives QPR down. I used to think of Israeli wines as a great value – but same thing is happening there, with lots of better wines moving north of $30, and wines under $20 been more of “hit and miss”. My next “go to” wines were Portuguese – but even here I now have a problem – wines under $20 are often only randomly tasty; wines at around $30 and up are consistently excellent, rivaling $100+ wines from the other regions, so in relative terms, they still offer a great value – but probably not the best QPR?

“Knowing what I know now”, the region which I think consistently delivers the best QPR at the moment (!) is Georgia – not the state down south in the US, of course, but an independent country. I always loved Georgian wines, but what prompted this broad statement about QPR was a recent Georgian Wine tasting I attended a week ago at Chelsea Market in New York. Wine after wine was delicious, and priced under $20 – that is a QPR I’m definitely happy about.

You don’t have to take my word for it – you should find a bottle of Georgian wine and try it for yourself. I really hope you did just that last Sunday, October 4th, as it was a #GeorgianWineDay in the social media – and if you actually had Georgian wine, I’m curious to know what it was. In any case, let me share the notes for the wines I tasted at the “Discover Georgia in New York” event at the colorful Chelsea Market. Below are the notes, using the “+” ratings. Pay attention to the prices and corresponding ratings – don’t know what you think, but I think the “QPR” is spelled very clearly across the full range of wines I tasted.

2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Rkatsiteli Kakheti, Georgia ($10.99) – +++, very acidic, requires food
2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Mtsvane-Kisi Kondoli Vineyards Kakheti, Georgia ($14.99) – +++, excellent, clean, lemon notes, touch of food


2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia ($11.99) – +++, excellent, simple, an everyday wine, red fruit, crushed berries
2009 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Red Kvareli Special Vicultural area, Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – ++++, beautiful, clean, great depth
2012 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Saperavi Kondoli Vineyards Kakheti, Georgia ($18.99, 18 months in oak, starting from fermentation) – ++++, stunning! round and delicious

2007 Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Reserve SAPERAVI block Kondoli vineyards, Kakheti, Georgia ($70) – ++++1/2, off the charts, produced only in the best years, complex, round, delicious. Yes, it is $70, and it might be to expensive for an amazing QPR, but you should taste this wine first…


2006 Wineman Cabernet Sauvignon Kakheti, Georgia ($10.99) – ++++, wow!, pick of maturity, dark notes, concentrated – another wow!
2010 Wineman Ikhalto Red Kakheti, Georgia ($12.99, 50% Saperavi, 50% Cabernet Franc) – ++++, wow!, acidity, beautiful wine
2013 Wineman Kindzmarauli Special Viticultural Area Red Semi-Sweet Kakheti, Georgia (12% ABV, $15.99, 100% Saperavi)  – ++++, beautiful, perfectly balanced sweetness


2011 Shalvino Kardenakhi Special Viticultural Area Kakheti, Georgia (18% ABV, $18.99, Blend of Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, Goruli and Mtsvane) – ++++, made using Solera method, delicious, Pedro Ximenez like with a delicate balance
2013 Telavi Wine Cellar Satrapezo Rkatsiteli Ice Wine Kakheti, Georgia (10% ABV, $29.99 500ml) – +++1/2, beautiful, perfect balance, not overly sweet


2013 Teliani Valley Tsinandali White Kakheti, Georgia ($12.99) – +++, great acidity
2012 Teliani Valley Special Vicultural area Kakheti, Georgia ($17.99) – +++, great acidity, perfect, food friendly


2013 Schuchmann Rkatsiteli White Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – +++, touch of sweetness, nice balance
2013 Schuchmann Saperavi Red Kakheti, Georgia ($15.99) – +++, perfect, clean, great balance


2012 Vinoterra Kisi Kakheti, Georgia (13% ABV, $NA, Qvevri fermentation, Oak maturation) – +++, complex, very intense, unusual, thought provoking

What do you think? I understand that QPR is subjective and relative term – first, you have to like the wine, and then everyone’s idea of “value” is different – but I was (once again) blown away by the quality and consistency of what I tasted – I didn’t skip a single wine, those are all the wines which were presented in the tasting. This would make it 16 wines out of 16, which I would gladly drink again. I hope it gives you good frame of reference for my experience.

Thinking about the wines of the world, what would be your top region for the best QPR? And if you tasted any of the Georgian wines, what is your opinion about them? Cheers!

More Than 20 under $20

March 14, 2014 12 comments

A few days ago I was challenged to create a list of 20 wines under $20 which I can recommend. I generally shy away from this type of exercise, due to many reasons – I buy a lot of exotic wines (rare grapes, natural wines, old wines, etc.), and I also have my specific way of buying the wines (mailing lists, WTSO, Last Bottle, BinEnds, closeouts at my local store), so there is a good chance that my recommendations will be useless for majority of the people. But then I thought – no, I can actually do it. In my oenophile years, I accumulated a number of safe choices – I might not be buying those wines myself all that often, but nevertheless, there is a number of wines I tasted throughout the years, and they are consistently good, vintage into a vintage, and they are under $20. One problem though –  there is no way this list can be limited by 20 wines. If you have seen any of my Top Dozen Wines of the Year lists, you know that they include not the dozen, but rather a two dozens and then some. So 20 under $20 simply sounds good, but then More Than 20 under $20 probably sounds even better, right?
Okay, without further ado, here is my list of More Than 20 under $20. Just to make it clear, this is how the list is built:

1. The wines are generic and widely available, can be found at many wine stores. As much as I love Fiction by Filed Recordings, which is generally under $20, the wine is almost impossible to find and thus will not make it into this list.

2. To the best of my knowledge, the wines are priced under $20, at most of the regular wine stores and/or supermarkets – yes, if you will buy the same wine at the convenience store in Vegas or a pharmacy in Miami, you might pay a lot more than $20, and sorry, I can’t help you with that.

3. Private label wines are not included, even if they are great and under $20 – sorry Trader Joe’s, Costco and Stew Leonard’s.

4. The list is not sorted, not rated and not prioritized in any way. These are all solid wines, vintage into a vintage – thus vintage is not specified either. I will provide brief descriptions as to why I like the wine – or may be no description at all. Also, some recommendations are general group recommendations, not for a specific wine.

5. The list is organized into Sparkling, White, Red and Dessert. I honestly wanted to include some Rosé, but quickly realized that I will not be able to do that.

Here we go.

Sparkling wines:

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, France – one of my all time favorite French sparkling wine. Dry, pleasant, refreshing. Typically around $11.99, unbeatable QPR at that price.

Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, California – just love the depth of expression on this wine.

Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Blancs Columbia Valley, Washington – perfectly refreshing and outstanding value at around $10

Mionetto Prosecco, Italy – not the most mind-boggling sparkler, but very consistent and very reasonably priced.

Segura Viudas Brut Cava, Spain – both white and Rosé versions are very good, with great QPR. Sometimes, you might even get lucky, and find their flagship Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava, but this wine generally is a touch out of our range at around $22 (but still worth it).

White wines:

Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – a perfect example of Sauvignon Blanc from California, very delicious, and one of the most reasonably priced California Sauvignon Blanc on the market.

Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand – yes, I know it is a broad recommendation – but NZ Sauvignon Blanc is generally priced well under $20, and it is generally hard to go wrong with any of them – as long as you like grapefruit notes in your bright and invigorating wine.

Sauvignon Blanc, Chile – another general recommendation, yes – but again, it is hard to go wrong with Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, as long as you prefer a bit more lemon/gooseberry profile as opposed to grapefruit profile.

Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, France – one more broad category recommendation – these wines are extremely food friendly, generally very well priced and will keep you refreshed with their cutting-through acidity. Look for the words “Sur Lie” on the label for the added complexity.

Botani Moscatel Seco, Malaga DO, Spain – every time I taste this wine, it puts a smile on my face. Delicious, with perfect QPR.

Bodegas Shaya Shaya Verdejo Old Vines Rueda, Spain – perfect Chardonnay-rivaling complexity, delicious wine.  Excellent QPR. If you are in a mood to splurge (at around $26), try its older brother – Shaya Habis.

St. Urbans-hof Riesling, Mosel, Germany – I like this producer, with many wines reasonably priced under $15, widely available and generally well balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity.

Red wines:

Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah, California – generally at around $11.99, this wine is literally impossible to beat in the QPR – dense and powerful, well balanced and round. Pretty much full Bogle product line is good and well priced, but Petite Sirah is a standout. Also, for a bit more money, but still under $20 ($17.99 or so) , try Bogle Phantom – big and decadent, with lots of ripe fruit, but still well balanced.

The Magnificent Wine Co. “House Wine” Red, Columbia Valley, Washington – nice, simple and consistent, very quaffable, vintage to a vintage.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – finding good Cabernet Sauvignon under $20 is a serious challenge, I’m glad Louis M. Martini consistently delivers.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, France – yes, you read it right, I actually recommend Beaujolais Nouveau – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau gets better and better every year – and sports great QPR.

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Red, France – E. Guigal makes lots of great wines, this Côtes-du-Rhône not been an exception

Delas Côtes-du-Rhône Red, France – same as the previous wine, Delas is a great producer and these wines are very consistent

Catena Zapata “Catena” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – soft, simple, easy to drink – also a versatile choice at the restaurant

Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha, Spain – power and delight. ‘Nuf said, go try for yourself.

Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo “C” Jumilla, Spain – exuberant and exciting.

Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Tres Picos, Spain – one of the best expressions of Grenache at the great QPR.

Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza, Spain – consistently good Rioja, bright and cheerful. Once you try it, you can’t believe how little you paid for what you got.

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Colli Senesi Monrosso, Italy – it is actually pretty difficult to find mainstream Italian wines to recommend in the under $20 range – Monsanto Chianti is a good exception – excellent, supple and round wine at a great price.

Cono Sur Pinot Noir, Chile – simple, but surprisingly classic Pinot Noir, Chilean or not.

Dessert wines:

Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto – a classic.

Late Harvest Wines, Australia – yes, a wide category, but generally very inexpensive and delicious

Late Harvest Wines, South Africa – same as above

That’s all I have for today for you in this group of more than 20 under $20. Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of wines under $20, which are consistently good – but you have to draw the line somewhere. What are your favorite wines under $20? What do you think of the wine sin my list? Cheers!

Wine Till Sold Out (WTSO) – Value Wines At Your Doorstep

November 24, 2010 7 comments

I’m sure you saw in my prior posts mention of QPR – Quality Price Ratio. I like wine in general – but being able to achieve high QPR makes it even more enjoyable.  One of the best ways to reach high QPR is to buy wine online. Wine-searcher is the best tool I know to find the wine online, but when it comes to buying wine it is hard to beat Wine Till Sold Out, or WTSO (you can now find them also on Facebook). What I like about WTSO is price (of course), simplicity, reliability and service. They do respond to your e-mails, and answer your questions! The reason I emphasize that is because when you deal with “value” businesses, often you have to give up on some of the elements, like service, for instance – and WTSO is pleasantly different. Information on the web site is simple, easy to understand and comprehensive, and wines are available on, well, first come first serve basis – yep, I missed a few wines are dearly regretted.

Just to give you an idea of what WTSO can bring you, I decided to collect the e-mail notification during one week (week of November 15th), so here is the information in the form of the table:

Date Time Wine Name Rating(s) Original Price WTSO Price Min # ofBottles % off
Nov 15 12:02a Andre Farjon La Deveze Cotes du Rhone 2007 $19.99 $11.99 4 40%
Nov 15 12:50p Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne Reserve Rose NV WS93, WE92 $79.99 $49.99 2 38%
Nov 15 3:01p Bodega LuzDivina Amigo Baloiro Beirzo Mencia 2005 RP 91, W&S90 $30.00 $13.99 4 53%
Nov 15 4:19p Miguel Torres ‘Salmos’ Priorat Red 2007 W&S91,WS90 $39.99 $23.39 3 42%
Nov 15 7:33p Juslyn Vineyards Vineyard Select Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
RP91 $84.99 $49.99 1 41%
Nov 16 12:02a Champagne Charles Ellner Cuvee De Reserve
Brut NV
WS90 $49.99 $29.99 3 40%
Nov 16 11:49a Reserve du Chateau Croix Mouton Bordeaux Superieur 2009 by Michel Rolland and Jean-Philippe Janoueix $23.99 $12.99 4 46%
Nov 16 4:18p Robert Storey Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2007 by Bill Knuttel JHN92 $31.99 $17.99 4 44%
Nov 16 8:47p Soos Creek Wine Cellars Artist Series #7
Columbia Valley Red Wine 2007
ST89, RP90 $35.99 $17.99 4 50%
Nov 17 12:01a Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino 2003 RP90 $90.00 $39.99 2 56%
Nov 17 12:00p Valsanzo Vina Sanzo Reuda Verdejo 2009 RP89 $19.99 $10.99 4 45%
Nov 17 3:31p Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards Trilogy
Napa Valley Red Wine 2006
RP90,JHN92 $65.00 $32.49 3 50%
Nov 17 9:32p St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Elu Napa Valley Red Wine 2003 3.0L Double Magnum W&S90,WRO92 $350.00 $159.99 1 54%
Nov 18 12:03a Coelho Winery Paciencia Willamette Valley
Pinot Noir 2007
WS89 $35.99 $14.99 4 58%
Nov 18 10:55a Bodegas Y Vinedos Recoletas Vendimia Seleccionada 2004 RP90 $40.00 $19.99 4 50%
Nov 18 1:34p Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpinia Rosso
IGT 2003
WRO92,TWN92, RP92+ $80 $37.99 3 53%
Nov 18 6:03p I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri, DOC 2007 WS92,RP90 $29.99 $19.99 4 33%
Nov 19 12:01a Tom Eddy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 JHN94 $90.00 $39.99 2 56%
Nov 19 1:03p Benessere Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Sangiovese 2006 JHN90+ $45.00 $15.99 4 64%
Nov 19 4:01p Gonfrier Freres Chateau de Lyde Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 $17.99 $10.99 4 39%
Nov 19 8:02p Portal del Montsant Santbru 2007 RP93 $47.99 $23.00 2 50%
Nov 20 12:02a Maroon Winery Spring Mountain District,
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
$45.00 $19.99 2 56%
Nov 20 8:42a Warwick Estate  Professor Black Stellenbosch
Sauvignon Blanc 2009
WS90 $12.49 $12.49 4 50%
Nov 20 1:07p Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli DOCG 2003 RP91, WS90 $149.99 $59.99 2 60%
Nov 20 5:05p Chateau Bizard Serre de Courrent Cotes du Rhone 2007 $34.99 $19.99 4 43%
Nov 20 6:55p Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir 2007 WS93 $49.99 $29.99 4 40%
Nov 21 12:03a Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpinia Rosso
IGT 2001
WS94, RP92+ $100.00 $49.99 2 50%
Nov 21 11:35a Domaine Fond Croze Cuvee Romanaise Cotes du Rhone 2007 RP91 $18.99 $12.99 4 32%
Nov 21 12:47p Casali di Bibbiano Argante Toscana Red Blend 2006 WS91 $44.99 $18.99 3 58%
Nov 21 4:03p St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Elu Napa Valley Meritage 2004 TWN92 $64.99 $34.99 3 46%
Nov 21 5:50p Domaine Drouhin Arthur Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2007 IWR91, WS91, ST90 $55.00 $19.99 3 64%

To give you an idea about ratings: WS stands for Wine Spectator, RP = Robert Parker, WE = Wine Enthusiast, ST – Stephen Tanzer, WRO = Wine Review Online, TWN = The Wine News, JHN = Jonathan H. Newman. Min # of bottles column specifies minimum number of bottles to buy to get free shipping, which I never saw exceeding 4. Time column specifies the exact time when WTSO e-mail arrived to my mail box.

If you will scroll through the table, you will see that during one week, 31 different wines from California, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy and South Africa had being offered. The discounts ranged from 32% to the 64%, and wine ratings had being the range of 89 – 94.

Is WTSO The place to get all your wines? Of course not – you can’t beat good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines I talked about before. However, combination of QPR and good service definitely should put WTSO on your short list of places to buy the wine from. Happy hunting!

Daily Glass: Claraval, Another Dangerous Wine

October 9, 2010 2 comments

ClaravalIn one of the previous posts, I came up with the term “dangerous wine” – the wine which is so smooth and so good, once you start drinking it, you pretty much can’t put the glass down until the wine is all gone.  Here comes the second wine from Spain which I also have to declare “dangerous”.

It is called Claraval and it is coming from the Calatayud region. This wine is a blend of four grapes – Garnacha (50%), Tempranillo (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Syrah (10%). The wine has sour cherries on the nose, and it opens up into a beautiful array of spices and fruit, with earthy notes coming through, all complemented by balancing acidity and tannins. If anything, this wine is reminiscent of good Southern Rhone wines (which is not surprising as it shares the same main grape, Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain), but it definitely has its own character. Judging by the mid-palate weight and tannins, this wine will also do well in the cellar – and I was glad to see that Robert Parker think the same, giving this wine 91 rating and saying that wine will evolve all the way into 2020.

So, how much do you think such wine should cost? Nope, it is not $30, which would not be surprising at such a level of quality, it is only… $11.99, so it definitely has very high QPR. This is definitely the wine to buy by the case.

And now, it is time for the verdict (of course you already guessed it):

Drinkability: 8

What is next? The trip to Long Island wineries, which is almost a annual tradition by now – a trip to Long Island wineries in the Fall, when it is already not hot, and still very beautiful. Off we go (well, the team members have to wake up first). Report to follow…

Cakebread Cellars Tasting at Stew Leonard’s Wines

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

And again I have to thank Stew Leonard’s Wines folks for a free education session. This Friday and Saturday (October 1st and 2nd) you can try three different wines from the Cakebread Cellars. Cakebread cellars is a well regarded producer from Napa Valley in California, so I definitely was interested in experiencing their wines.

Two whites and one red were presented, all classical wines from Napa Valley – Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Chardonnay 2009 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, and I tasted them in this exact order. Just to share an overall expression – there are good wines, but I didn’t like them, especially taking into account QPR (Quality Price Ratio), a very popular metric used nowadays among wine aficionados. Sauvignon Blanc has a very nice nose, but on the palate it lacks the acidity, and while it finishes with the fresh cut grass (classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristic), the sensation is too warm and a bit burning. Considering this wine retails for $29.99, I would gladly take any time New Zealanad Sauvignon Blanc instead at $10 to $15 a bottle.

Chardonnay simply didn’t do anything for me. It is very young, somewhat of a Chablis style, but it was missing steely acidity of Chablis. I understand it is 2009, and it might need more time to evolve, but at $39.99 there are so many more better choices, I wouldn’t even go there.

And then the Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of Napa Valley wines – beautiful nose of classic cab, but no mid-palate weight and in general, not enough substance on the palate. At $74, it is really not a player – if not under $20, in the $30 – $40 category there are soooo many better choices…

To conclude, these Cakebread wines are definitely worth trying – and learning. I also have to tell you ( but it is a secret), that tomorrow I plan to try some very interesting wines – and I promise to report on that later on!

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