At the end of the month, I will be conducting a wine tasting for a local business as part of their annual fundraiser. After speaking with the organizer, I discovered that the theme of the night was “A Trip Around the World” (or something like that) and the desire was to have four wines between $15-20 (a sparkling wine, one white, two reds). Oh, and they were expecting to have around 100 people (!). With that information, I headed to my local H-E-B grocery store (I love my H-E-B) and grabbed a few wines that fit the bill. I already knew what sparkler and white I wanted, the only question was whether H-E-B could get a case of each in time (it took them a day to do so). As for the reds, I pulled a few from the shelves and tasted them this week (even though the suggested retail on each of these wines is $20, they all were for sale at under $15).
2019 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy: Retail $24. Big. Ass. Bottle. I was shocked, shocked to see a wine from this legendary Barolo producer on the shelves of my local H-E-B (I love my H-E-B). Close to translucent, but darker in the glass than I would expect from the variety/region. Dark fruit, laced with herbs (sage), spice (clove, black pepper), and earth (dark) on the nose, with plenty of fruit, a zingy tartness. While the name on the bottle might be enough for most aficionados, what is actually *in* the bottle is pretty darned close to exceptional. I guess great wineries become such for a reason. Excellent. 92 Points.
2016 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Reserva, Spain: Retail $20. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha Tinta and Graciano. I am doing a tasting at the end of the month and I was looking for a handful of wines from various spots around the world that were: a) relatively inexpensive, b) readily available, and c) did not taste like, well, garbage. Check, check, and check^5. While I do not drink a ton of Rioja, I have tasted some very nice iterations and some that were, well, regrettable. This is decidedly the former. Dark fruit on the nose and the palate, a touch of anise, black pepper, and clove, in a quintessential Old World way. Good fruit, fantastic acidity, plenty of verve, and very nicely balanced. Really good, certainly a contender to make the final cut. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Cuvée 89 Rosé, New Mexico: Retail $20. Varietal blend? This was on sale for under twelve bucks (when you buy at least six bottles), so I gladly took a flyer. Really fantastic strawberry and cherry fruit on both the nose and the palate with a lovely sparkle, plenty of tartness, and an above average finish. Under $12? Uh, yeah, gonna grab me some more, for sure. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Juan Gil Jumilla Red Blend, Spain: Retail $20. Juan Gil makes a ton of wines and, well, I could not find this at all on the web, but this likely has Monastrell (or Mourvèdre, Mataro). I am doing a tasting at the end of the month and I was looking for a handful of wines from various spots around the world that were: a) relatively inexpensive, b) readily available, and c) did not taste like, well, garbage. Check, check, and check^2. Closer to a New World style with tons of fruit, a bit of spice, fruit, and, well, more fruit. Did I mention the fruit? There is also mocha and a bit of pine needle. The palate is fruity (I think I mentioned that), with a nice level of tartness (although it is always trying to catch up). For around 15 bucks on the shelf? One could do a lot worse. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino, Italy: Retail $12. Under screwcap. Purchased at H-E-B for under $8. Cards on the table: I went on a press trip to Mezzacorona a few years ago and I have been an unabashed fan ever since and this wine is largely the reason. I am no fan of the Italian style of Pinot Gris, in fact, other than a few notable exceptions in Alto Adige, I avoid PG like an unmasked sneezing traveler in an airport. But. This wine is always fabulous. Sure, they make a ton of it, but the fruit comes from an army of small, family-owned farms (Mezzacorona is a co-operative) and it always delivers way above its weight (I have told the folks at Mezzacorona that they need to charge more, but they have yet to listen). This bottle is fantastic—bright peach, pear, and even some tropical notes on the nose, the palate is wonderfully balanced with oodles of fruit and mouth-watering acidity, but it’s the finish, which is both long and flavorful, that is the most remarkable aspect of this wine. Just a delight every time. What more do you want for under eight freaking dollars? Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel Freakshow, Lodi, CA: Retail $20. Big Ass Bottle. 100% Zinfandel (17 months in 82% American, 18% French). Quite dark in the glass with cassis a-go-go, black cherry and raspberry, vanilla, clove, and sage. Really, really fruity on the palate as well, this might classify as a “quintessential Zin” with all that fruit at the fore, mid, and finish. But there is enough acidity melded in to balance out the wine–make no mistake, however, this is a fruit-driven wine, and it is quite tasty. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy: Retail $20. Heavy Bottle. 100% Sangiovese. I guess it is safe to say that this wine comes from a “legendary producer” in the region and that I had fairly high expectations as a result. Well, expectations met (for the most part). Fairly light in the glass with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, and, well, black earth. The palate is fruity but mostly lean with particularly high acidity, a touch of verve. While this is not the “best” Sangiovese I have tried, it is certainly a solid effort and one I would likely seek out. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Trivento Malbec Golden Reserve, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina: Retail $20. I am pretty sure this is 100% Malbec, but could not confirm. A heavier bottle than this needs to be, for sure. Trivento makes a slew of Golden Reserves and while I am not entirely certain what it takes to achieve that designation, I am pretty sure that this is the first Malbec I have tried. Very nice. Fairly dark in the glass with black pepper, cassis, and plum. On the fruity side on the palate, particularly after a bit of time open. All that fruit is paired with what seems like just the right amount of acidity, resulting in a nicely balanced wine. Quite nice. Excellent 91 Points.
In the end, I opted for the Cuvée 89, the Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, the Juan Gil Red Blend (the Rioja seemed great on day one, but really different on day two and I felt it was a bit of a risk), and the Trivento Malbec. I will be sure to write about how the tasting goes!