By Denman Moody
There are numerous wineries that produce five, 10 or even 15 different wines, and only one or two of them are great values in their respective price range. There are even fewer wineries with a name alone that commands great respect, with wines that are all either very, very good or outstanding. For this article, I only included wineries that produce five or more wines.
One of the first to come to mind is Duckhorn. While out of the normal price range for many, the entire Duckhorn line is outstanding. The Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon are each, in a word, superb. And their other wines — Goldeneye, Migration, Decoy and Paraduxx — are also top values.
Heading in the opposite direction regarding prices would be the Washington State wines of Columbia Crest. Most are in the $8 to $11 range, and all provide surprisingly substantial wines — Grand Estates Chardonnay and Grand Estates Merlot being my favorites.
While on the topic of less pricey wines, I must mention the wines from the “King of Beaujolais” Georges Duboeuf. For beautifully designed labels and imminently quaffable wines from the Gamay grape, Duboeuf’s Beaujolais-Villages and his top “cru” wines such as Moulin-a-Vent, Julienas, Morgon, etc., are the superstars of Beaujolais. As an aside, my favorite dish with the Beaujolais-Villages is a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard, lettuce and tomatoes, and with the “cru” wines is roasted or grilled quail.
Several relative newcomers to the Napa Valley are Frank Family and Kuleto Estate, the eponymous wineries of Rich Frank, former Disney super-exec, and Pat Kuleto, the world’s top restaurant designer — he claims he was born with a building permit, not a birth certificate. The wines from these two wineries are great, not because vast sums of money were thrown at them, but because serious analysis along with rounding up top winemakers, vineyard managers and winery sales staffs have been successfully accomplished by both of these men, not to mention their considerable entrepreneurial and management talents.
For Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, J Winery and Patz & Hall (both in Sonoma County) are in the top tier. I’ve yet to try a wine from either of these wineries that was less than delicious. And J Winery also makes top sparkling wines.
For a taste of incredible Rieslings, look to Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes Region. This winery was also the first in the U.S. to produce Rkatsiteli (rumored to come from the vines planted by Noah on Mt. Ararat) and sells out only two weeks after release every April. Try a Rkatsiteli on one of your blind-tasting expert friends. Some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from New York also are ensconced here.
Iron Horse, a denizen of the Green Valley inside the Russian River Valley, is another perennial winner throughout its line. Its sparkling wines have long been top notch and the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs have become some of the very best anywhere.
On a closing note, I must mention the impressive array of single vineyard, single varietal wines of Nickel & Nickel, the brainchild of the late visionary (and my great friend) Gil Nickel of Far Niente and Dolce fame.
Next time you’re stumped for either a birthday wine or a holiday wine, or you just want to luxuriate with a wine that is tops in its price range, reread this article.