50 Best Wines under $20
- La Montesa, 2003, Bodegas Palacios Remondo, Rioja, Spain
Round and plump with fine tannins and good weight. Velvety and lush on the tongue, this wine brims with roasted plum and black cherry flavors mingling with a bit of smoke and spice. It is drinking very well now.
- Moulin-à-Vent Fleur, 2004, Georges Deboeuf, Burgundy, France
Fresh, ripe red berries with hints of flowers and spice. Delicious, refreshing, and versatile. Everything a Beaujolais should be and then some.
- Rasteau, 2003, Perrin & Fils, Côtes du Rhône, France
Ripe raspberries and blueberries dipped in dark chocolate with hints of vanilla and spice on the finish. Wines like this are why the Rhône region has gained such a following.
- Château les Trois Croix, 2002, AC Fronsac, Bordeaux, France
Made from low yielding vines, this tight-knit wine made by the former winemaker of the revered Château Mouton Rothschild brims with rich red and black cherry flavors and hints of warm stones and earth. Ripe, silky tannins wrap the fruit beautifully. Drink now to 2010.
- Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Château de Beaucastel, Côtes du Rhône, France
This wine is consistently delicious vintage after vintage with lots of lush spicy, meaty, fleshy fruit layered with coffee, smoke, leather, and earth.
- Nipozzano, Frescobaldi, 2002, Chianti Rufina Riserva, Italy
Seriously delicious wine with bold fruit, silky tannins, and flavors that flit from cherry to licorice, prunes to spice. A beautiful wine that benefits from a double decant.
- Escudo Rojo, 2002, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Maipo, Chile
Dark and intense with aromas of violet, ripe plums, black cherries, cedar, as well as subtle smoke, spice, and vanilla. Silky mouthfeel with chocolate and mocha on the finish.
- Campfiorin, 2002, Masi, Veneto, Italy
Rich and beautifully ripe with deep concentration. Will age gracefully until 2009 but drinks well now. Youthful flavors of black cherry and red and black plum with some raisin and spice in the background. Soft, ripe tannins. Medium to long length. Excellent value.
- Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002, Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate, Coonawarra, Australia
Spiced stone fruit, warm chocolate, and mellow coffee flavors make this a welcoming wine to come home to.
- Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Casillero del Diablo, Concha y Toro, Maipo Valley, Chile
Winemaker Marchelo Papa makes excellent wines with his Casillero del Diablo range, which translates to cellar of the devil. The Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite, with intense dark berry and plum flavors wrapped with layers of warm vanilla and rich mocha.
- Carménère, 2004, Casillero Del Diablo, Concha y Toro, Maipo Valley, Chile
A stunning version of this grape variety at an unbeatable price of under $10. Plums, chocolate, coffee, toasty oak—and perfect balance.
- Merlot, 2004, Cono Sur, Central Valley, Chile Adolfo Hurtado, the young winemaker at Cono Sur, delivers charm in a bottle with this well-formed, voluptuous Merlot that resonates with blackberries, plums, and chocolate. Very stylish wine at a great price.
- Reserve Merlot, 2001, Vina Carmen, Rapel Valley, Chile
Lush and spicy nose of thyme, black cherry, white flowers, and lavender lead to flavors of bitter chocolate, black cherry, and pepper. The palate is smooth and ripe with soft tannins, juicy berry fruit, and a lovely depth of flavor.
- Petalos del Bierzo, 2004, Descendientes de Jose Palacios, Bierzo, Spain.
This carefully handmade wine is an intense and serious sipper by one of the most respected wine-makers in Spain, Alvaro Palacios. With meticulous attention to detail in the vineyards and the winery, he has made this elegant wine that tastes of red bell pepper, forest fruits, herbs, and spice, and delivers a lengthy finish of black pepper and smoke. As soon as I tasted it, I bought some for my cellar.
- Reserva Alentejo, 2001, Sogrape, Alentejo, Portugal Creamy hot cocoa, luscious plums, plump raisins, and vanilla.
- Seven Hills Merlot, 2001, L’Ecole No 41, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, USA
Caramelized meat drippings and marzipan on the nose followed by an attack of marzipan, violets, black pepper, smoke, and berries on the palate. Delicious.
- Calvet Reserve Rouge, 2002, Bordeaux, France Cedar, pencil shavings, black currant, spice, and cherry flavors swishing around this medium-bodied wine that’s always reliable almost regardless of vintage.
- Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, Australia
I can’t improve on the chief winemaker’s notes, which describe the wine as spicy with aromas and flavors of dark fruit, quince, fig, hints of olive and licorice, smoky meats, dark chocolate, and fruitcake.
- Red Reserva, 2000, Marqués de Riscal, Rioja, Spain
Cinnamon and spice, blueberries and raspberries, smoke and milk chocolate, and hints of caramel and vanilla. Look for the bottle enmeshed in gold thread and bearing a white and gold label.
- Bin 28 Shiraz, 2001, Penfolds, South Australia Smooth and full of fruit with a round, easy-todrink-quality. Concentrated black cherry flavors with smoky notes. Excellent balance and value.
- Shiraz Show Reserve, 1998, Wyndham Estate, Hunter Valley, Australia
Interesting flavors of caramelized pan drippings, leather, and raspberries, with hints of dark chocolate and tobacco. Long peppery, robust finish. Drinking very well now. Well-balanced. Excellent choice for a prime joint of roasted meat.
- Zinfandel Vintners Blend, 2003, Ravenswood, California, USA
Joel Peterson is the winemaker behind this wine that delivers incredible value for about $10. He makes a variety of other single vineyard Zinfandels, but I like this one best. It is all about clean ripe blueberries and blackberries, ultraripe raspberries, warm spice, and supple tannins. It’s the perfect thing to bring to a barbecue.
- Tatone Montepulciano d’Abuzzo, 2000, Terra d’Aligi, Abruzzo, Italy
Deep, almost opaque wine with clean aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, and spearmint. A smooth, rich palate of concentrated berry flavors fills the mouth, along with nuances of dark chocolate, tobacco, and black pepper. This wine is drinking well now but will continue to develop for at least five years. Drink it in the fall or winter with roasted beef.
- Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001, Woodward Canyon, Washington State, USA
This wine exudes curious aromas of barbecued steak and black peppercorns followed by flavors of charred beef and red plums. A bit of mineral and green pepper on the finish.
- Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002, Wolf Blass, South Australia
This wine gives easy pleasure with cleansingly bright acidity, ripe tannins, and perfect balance, as well as vanilla, spice, cassis, mint, and a long finish after the swallow.
- Merlot, 2002, Pikes, Clare Valley, Australia Black forest cake in a glass—sour cherry, dark chocolate, a rich creamy mouthfeel, and complete satisfaction.
- Castillo de Almansa Tinto Reserva, 2001, Bodegas Piqueras, Almansa, Spain
Tremendous value for the money. All fresh berries, leather, dried fruit, and spice.
- Castillo Ygay Tinto Gran Reserva, 2001, Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja, Spain
Toasted oak, black and red berries, and spice. This wine is intense and meaty, yet exquisitely polished. Long and drinking beautifully.
- Sauvignon Blanc, 2003, Robertson Winery, Breede River, South Africa
Grapefruit aromas laced with whiffs of smoke and stone lead to grapefruit, tangerine, mineral, and herbs on the palate with a green pepper finish. This is a restrained style of Sauvignon Blanc.
- Marlborough Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2003, Sacred Hill, Marlborough, New Zealand
Silky smooth, rich mouthfeel provides an amazing contrast with the crispness of the wine that tastes of gooseberries and lemons. Delicious, clean, and long.
- Chablis, 2002, Maison Joseph Drouhin,
Classic aromas of wet stones and earth with flavors of lemon, minerals, nuts, cream, and the faintest hint of cherry vanilla. Tasty and long.
- Les Princes Abbes Riesling, 2001, Domaines Schlumberger, Alsace, France
Extraordinary. Aromas of lime and butterscotch lead to a palate of lime, butter, crushed stones, and orange zest. Beautiful stuff. Dry, crisp, but with excellent concentration, body, and length. Worth every nickel.
- Tokay Pinot Gris, 2001, Domaine du Bollenberg, Alsace, France
Classic Pinot Gris aromas of peach and spice on the nose followed by flavors of full ripe peach with nutmeg, cinnamon, and white pepper. This dry white wine has a full-bodied almost oily mouth-feel with good acidity and excellent balance. Long, concentrated, and drinking well now, but will last until at least 2010.
- St. Romain, 2000, Maison Champy, Burgundy, France
Think freshly baked orange pound cake—all butter, oranges, and toasty caramelized edges.
- Masianco, 2004, Masi, Veneto, Italy
This interesting blend of restrained Pinot Grigio and fruity Verduzzo is both serene and evocative—and bone dry. Pineapple, lemon, and a drizzle of honeyed character on the nose and palate leads to a long, dry, pebble minerality on the finish. Excellent value.
- Chardonnay, 2004, Cono Sur, Santa Elisa Estate and El Marco Estate, Chile
Although Cono Sur positions itself as a modern producer and is indeed relatively new to the wine scene, Cono Sur’s single varietal wines display a lot of Old World finesse. The Chardonnay is very Burgundian given its refined flavors, integrated oak, and rich yet elegant mouthfeel. This wine tastes of fresh creamy lemon curd and hints of buttered toast with a long, persistent finish.
- Chardonnay, 2003, Petaluma, Piccadilly Valley, Australia
One big swirl of nectarine, almonds, and creamy vanilla. A favorite of mine.
- Riesling, 2004, Weingut Max Ferd Richte, Mosel, Germany
A wine of serious quality at a titillating price. Crisp Granny Smith apples, lime rind, and warm stones. It’s deliciously long with a tight, firm mouthfeel.
- Riesling, 2004, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen, Washington, USA
Tangerine and wet stones, creamy lemon-lime sherbet. Yum.
- Blanco Reserva, 2000, Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja, Spain
A full-bodied dry wine that’s deep in color and tastes of ripe apricots, butterscotch, vanilla, and nuts.
- Zind, 2001, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace, France
White pepper and peach nose, followed by a rich spiced peach palate with refreshing acidity, full body, dense fruit, and bone dry finish. Good length. Great today but will keep until about 2009.
- Riesling, 2002, Wegeler Estate, Mosel, Germany This off-dry wine shows peach and candied lime peel, apricot, and hints of passion fruit. It is beautifully balanced with a seam of good lime-squirt acidity to balance the touch of sweetness. It will develop nicely in bottle until about 2010.
- Riesling “Le Kottabe,” 2002, Josmeyer, Alsace, France
This wine is built to last and offers a bowlful of wet pebbles, strips of lemon-lime zest, and a bright streak of acidity. Excellent fruit expression, lean, and long. Will continue to develop until about 2010.
- Rully 1er Cru, 2003, Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy, France
This wine yields a classic flurry of lemon, cream, vanilla, nuts, and toffee flavors at a snip of the price of similar wines from the revered area of France.
- Pinnacles Chardonnay, 2003, Estancia Estate, California, USA
An exhilarating example from Monterey that rings of white Burgundy. It is all finesse and class with fine texture, great balance, gentle almond, and a subtle butteriness threaded with vanilla.
- Seven Hills Sémillon, 2003, L’Ecole No 41, Washington, USA
Lemons and peaches, apricots and cream, caramel and warm stones, and a rich, almost waxy mouthfeel. Gorgeous wine of considerable substance.
- Oom Pagel Sémillon, 2004, Fairview Estate, Paarl, South Africa
Citrus, cream, and almonds with a round, full mouthfeel and lovely lingering finish.
- Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, 2002, Sacred Hill, Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine has undergone aging in oak, giving it a toasty, nutty flavor beneath the orange, pineapple, and lemon-lime notes. There’s also cream and butterscotch flavors that remind me of crème caramel on the finish. Fabulous wine. Drink the latest vintage.
- Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Rancho Zabaco, California, USA
All the minerality and freshness of Sauvignon Blanc from great parts of the Loire like Pouilly Fumé, yet this wine is from California. Restrained asparagus, apple, and herb flavors swirl around a firm and intense stony core.
- Anderson Valley Brut, NV, Roederer Estate, California, USA
From the makers of Cristal in Champagne, this wine is one of the best New World sparkling wines on the market today. It is the closest thing you’ll find to Champagne outside of that renowned French region and tastes rich with the hallmarks of Louis Roederer`s exquisite Champagnes—biscuity flavors, toasted brioche, cooked apple, and hints of vanilla, nuts, and butter. Fresh, almost voluptuous, and very refined.