Recently I was reading my favorite wine publication, Wine Spectator, and a light flashed on. In every issue there is a feature called Smart Buys, spotlighting wines that are above average but with price tags that do not mandate the sale of first-born children to acquire them.
Since I fear being legally bludgeoned if I call my attempt at doing this by the same name, I’ll refer to it as Intelligent Purchases. In the past couple of weeks I’ve reviewed the shelves at wine stores and supermarkets in Hall County and picked out a collection of wines that are readily available and of above average quality.
A caveat: It is entirely possibly that wines I selected in late May might not be there in early July. In addition prices may have changed. All stores mentioned have Gainesville addresses.
Gruet Brut Rose: This rosy sparkler comes from, of all places, New Mexico. But it’s great -- dry with just a trace of red raspberry in the mouth. Pronounced grew-AY. About $17. Found at Brown Package, 2896 Browns Bridge Road.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs: One of California’s fine sparklers, this comes from the famed Carneros region. It blushes lightly but the structure makes it great with any food. About $21. Found at North Lake Liquor, 1230 Dawsonville Highway.
Saint Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut: Champagne-style bubbly from the south of France. Crisp and dry. About $16. Found at Kroger, 1831 Jesse Jewell Parkway.
Lunetta Prosecco: Can’t leave this list without a prosecco. Lunetta is good wine and a good value. Bubbly with some fruit, it’s a great party wine. About $15. Found at Publix, 879 Dawsonville Highway.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay 2016: Like white Burgundies? How about their wallet-busting price tags? This is a genuine white Burgundy: crisp, dry, elegant: that I truly like. And the price is right. About $18. Found at Ingles, 3320 Thompson Bridge Road.
Martin’s Rake Sauvignon Blanc 2017: From New Zealand’s stellar Marlborough region, this wine is crisp to the point of being crunchy, with the trademark smell and taste of grapefruit peel. Bone dry, it’s a beauty with seafood. About $14. Found at Kroger.
Elizabeth Chambers Pinot Gris 2016: It comes from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, where pinot gris and pinot noir rule. Subtle flavors of mineral and cucumber. It got a 90 from a Wine Enthusiast reviewer. About $18. Found at North Lake Liquor.
Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling 2017: As the guys from Monty Python used to say, “Now for something completely different.” Pacific Rim specializes in rieslings of different styles. This is quite sweet: 7% residual sugar: and low in alcohol. It’s great after dinner, or served with hot, spicy Asian food -- sweet vs. fire. About $12. Found at Brown Package.
La Galope Cotes de Gascogne Rose 2017: It comes from southwest France in the mid-Pyrenees, mostly a white wine region. Mid-range pink, it’s soft, but with edges. Nice, pleasant structure, good with lighter picnic-style fare. Needs to be cold. About $11. Found at Vine & Cheese, 1290 Thompson Bridge Road.
Hahn Pinot Noir Rose 2017: Hahn is one of my favorite Monterey County wineries. This wine entertains your senses: eyes, nose and taste buds. Lovely sipper on a steamy Georgia summer day. About $16. Found at G&P Package, 1664 Park Hill Drive.
Belleruche Cotes de Rhone Rose 2017: This is the big boy of the bunch. It has more body to it, thanks to a blend of full-bodied Rhone grapes. It’s a darker pink than the others, yet is light in the mouth. About $15. Found at Publix.
Le Grande Noir Rose Pays d’Oc 2017: Quality outstrips price here. It’s as well-balanced and flavorful as wines costing $8-$10 more. You’ll swear there are strawberries hiding inside. About $12. Found at North Lake Liquor.
Les Violettes Beaujolais Villages 2016: Never been a great Beaujolais fan. So when I found myself really liking this one, I took notice. This is a red that needs serious chilling: 48-50 degrees. Lots of fruit, dark color, but light in the mouth. About $11. Found at Vine & Cheese.
McManis Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2016: This is the bride’s go-to red. It’s juicy, it’s jammy, it’s full of flavor and it’s a bargain. We drink a lot of this and you should, too. About $11. Found at G&P Package.
Terra d’Oro Barbera 2015: Barbera is one of the great red grapes of Italy’s Piemonte region. Terra d’Oro (formerly Montevina) produces a world-class quality version of this mouth-filling red. Wonderful with food. About $14. Found at Brown Package.Bel Posto Montepulciano D’Abbruzzo 2016: One of Italy’s prized red wines, this one comes from the Adriatic Coast, from Montepulciano grapes. Red cherries speak to you, while soft tannins shape up this wine. It’s another fine food wine. About $16. Found at Publix.
Wine of the Month
B Side North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
The wine: Dry, medium-bodied red table wine.
The grapes: 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Syrah.
The source: North Coast of California.
The verdict: One happy aspect of being a wino is finding a paradigm wine at a painless price. This offering from the legacy winemaking family of Don Sebastiani and Sons is such a wine. Want to learn what cabernet sauvignon is all about, but don’t want to spend 75 bucks for the lesson? Latch on to the B Side. It has deep fruit flavors with a hint of black coffee, it’s quite dry, it has just enough tannins to give it a spine and it’s terrific with food. Plus, it’s ready to drink right now -- today. For the folks under 50, I have to explain that B Side is the name given to the secondary song on a record, not the hit side. Now I have to explain what a record is. Forget it. I recommend this cab: lightly chilled, of course: with red meat grill fare, such as steaks or burgers.
The price: About $20.