A decent full-bodied red for under $10: Sterling Meritage
Feb. 26th, 2012 @ 09:27 am
Even though I live in Napa Valley and occasionally do the nice wines around here (just about all of them at the wineries are $30+), we've been on a kick lately of trying out $10-and-under wines from the local grocery store and Cost Plus.
Usually we decide these aren't even worth the $6-$8 we pay for them, but there have been a few exceptions. I was pleasantly surprised by Sterling Vintner Collection Meritage (mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with a little malbec and petit verdot)
Even though it's not perfectly balanced, it has some similarities to $30+ cabs I've tried around here. It's definitely for those of you who enjoy a somewhat hearty/rich wine... it has a balance of brambleberry and green vegetable flavors, with slightly chewy tannins (noticeable, enough to give it some heft -- better than most cheap cabs -- but not overbearing). To me, I get flavors of blackberry and green pepper with subtle hints of coffee and tobacco (slightly smoky/toasty oak flavor).
It's not perfect, but it certainly seems good for a full-bodied sub-$10 bottle. Usually I find the cheaper reds to be either too "ripe" and fruity tasting (like prunes or overripe something or another...), or too thin and alcohol-hot; at least this one avoids those fates.
Some other recent under $10 forays (red) we have enjoyed have been:
* Apothic Red (another blend, but no cab in this one so it's all fruit and a little oak, not so heavy on the tannins because it's mostly merlot and syrah)
* Fleur de Lyeth -- a blend of cabernet, merlot, and malbec. This one falls somewhere in between the Sterling Meritage and the Apothic Red. It's a little sturdier and not as fruity as the Apothic Red, but still has a weaker cab and stronger presence of merlot than Sterling does.
* Maggio Zinfandel (rich, quintessential Lodi/California zin flavors combining a nice balance of ripe, jammy fruit and a fair deal of spice. A mix of prune, raspberry jam, and hints of black pepper and clove)
* Greg Norman pinot (a rich red pinot with tart berry/cherry flavor)
* Concannon pinot (a lighter, ruddier pinot with strong oak presence)
A slightly off-topic question...
Do you find that your local shops (not big wine merchants) sell mostly local wines? I live in South West France and 80-85% of wines sold here are from this region, another 5-10% from other parts of France or Spain. A TINY proportion are "other countries" Californian wine is almost unknown!
I know the french like to support local producers but sometimes they are too narrow-minded! I'd love them to try a bigger variety of countries but they tend to look down on 'New World' wines. Pity.
Yes. Since I am in wine country, especially, the vast majority of the wines are local ones.
They do stock some foreign wines -- Australia, France, Spain, and a little less from Italy, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa. But I get the impression that most of the ones offered are big "bulk export" wines and they haven't really seemed very good to me. I've had much better examples from each of those reasons when I've visited (which have mostly been Italy, Germany, and New Zealand)
But I think it really depends where in the US you are. From what I understand, shipping cost is actually cheaper to get wine from France to the eastern US than it is to get wine from California. When I lived near Washington, DC, I noticed there was a much larger selection of international (especially European) wines and fewer California wines to choose from. Many parts of the US don't have a very good selection of wines at all, either from California or anywhere else in the world.
I'm like you and can appreciate wines from all over the world. I like to see what the differences are, and which types seem to shine best in a given terroir. The best crisp whites I've had have been from Marlborough, New Zealand. One of my favorite syrahs was an affordable Crozes-Hermitage (light delicate... very different from my other favorite syrah, a big, bold one from Clayhouse in central California). I had wonderful riesling and gewurz in Mosel/Cochem, Germany, and some very interesting, mineral-filled (iron-flavored?) tempranillo in New Mexico. Victoria, BC (Canada) has some wonderful blackberry wines. And, for what it's worth, I really feel like California can't be beat when it comes to zinfandel.
And yes, New World wines don't get a lot of respect. They do tend to be different, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
And they've beaten the French wines in taste tests on their own turf, on more than one occasion :)
I do try to pick up a few European wines when I can. Just had an inexpensive Rioja which wasn't bad, although a little thin and hot.
Have a Chablis (Jacques Bourguignon) chilling in the fridge right now, so I guess we'll see how that one is, as well...
I've had wines from every continent (except Antarctica!) that I've liked - I don't think you can dismiss any area. The French vineyards are gradually modernising and some are even being taken over by foreigners (gasps of horror from the locals!) who produce very good wines from local grapes but with a more modern method.
Some of the local 'traditional' wines around here are, frankly, awful. They could do with a good kick up the pants!
There are wines sold by the litre from huge barrels - bring your own container - at 1€ a litre. Pure gut-rot but the oldies love it. There are also beautiful Bordeaux reds, velvety sweet whites from Jurancon and crisp dry whites and roses from Gascony. A bit more pricy - especially the reds - but a very good dry white can be had for 4€ whilst sweet whites start at about 6€ and good Bordeaux about 10€. I know they're MUCH more expensive in the UK for the same quality. It's one of the reasons we moved here :-)
The new vintage of Apothic has cabernet sauvignon in it, according to my friendly local Gallo rep -- he mentioned it this week as he was stocking us up on it. So it should be a bit more structured than the prior vintage was.
Haha I was quite surprised to see the title and wine for this post since I work at Sterling Vineyards' main winery in Calistoga. Sadly, since the Vintners Collection wines are from the central coast and just for distribution, we don't feature them at the winery. I haven't gotten a chance to get to know them as well as I know our Napa wines, but I hope to try them soon! I'm happy to see them being enjoyed/discussed in a place I semi-lurk in =)