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Page 4, Great Everyday Wines at Great Prices

California ’s Castle Rock Winery keeps its costs low in a different way. It has only six employees, owns no vineyards, and has no winery and no buildings to maintain. Castle Rock rents the space where its wines are blended and bottles them at others wineries. In a manner similar to that of the French négociants, Castle Rock sources its grapes and wine from others, in this case many producers in prestigious appellations like California’s Napa, Sonoma and Russian River valleys, Washington’s Columbia Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Measures like these enable them to sell their wines for $8 to $12.

This néegociant arrangement, not uncommon in Europe, has within the past decade been emerging in the US. Clearly it works well for Castle Rock, because their wines have been getting rave reviews. They’re often likened to wines that cost two or three times as much. This has not gone unnoticed. Sales have soared from 2,400 cases in 1994 to 200,000 cases in 2004. Founder Greg Popovich has a special affection for Pinot Noir. His 2003 Mendocino County Pinot Noir was just chosen by Food & Wine magazine as the best Pinot Noir for less than $20. Other Castle Rock varietals include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Castle Rock also has a reserve line that retails for $15.

Bottom line:
A new trendsetting model in California with very fine wines. (

The state of Washington produces many low-priced but delightful wines, and Hogue Cellars makes a slew of them. The Hogue family had been farming for decades when in 1974 Mike Hogue planted some Riesling grapes (which were ultimately sold to wineries). In 1981 he tried a bit of home winemaking. By 1983 Hogue Cellars, founded by Mike and his brother Gary, was winning awards for its wines. Today it’s still earning awards. Its reasonably priced Fruit Forward line captures the flavors and bouquets that Washington wines are known for. For $10 or less, you can choose from Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Chardonnay, Johannisberg Riesling, Late Harvest Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-Merlot. The Genesis tier, superpremium varietals blended from preferred Columbia Valley vineyards, costs $15 to $17.

Bottom line:
Washington features some of the most spectacular values in US wines. (

Covey Run is another Washington winery that offers wines with bright fruit flavors at reasonable prices. Its Quail Label ($8-$9) boasts 13 varietals, including Chenin Blanc, Dry Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-Merlot. The two most unusual–and hardest to find, generally available only in the Northwest — are the rarely seen Morio Muskat, a German hybrid white grape that’s a cross between Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, and Lemberger, a red varietal popular in Austria, where it’s called Blaufränkisch. Covey Run’s Winemakers Collection ($13) was designed for those “seeking ultra-premium quality at super-premium prices.” Most of the grapes come from the Yakima and Columbia valleys east of the Cascade Mountains, where desert conditions account for warm days and cool nights. These conditions result in the intensely fruit-flavored, high-acid, food-friendly wines Washington produces.

Bottom line:
Like Hogue, many great values. (

Another Washington award winner is Columbia Crest, the state’s largest brand. It attributes its success in part to having vineyards in the Columbia Valley, with its ideal conditions for grape growing, in the same latitude as France’s most-esteemed wine-growing regions. Columbia Crest offers three wine tiers. Two Vines, at $8, comprises Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Semillon and Semillon-Chardonnay (Columbia Crest was the first US winery to make this blend, common in Australia), Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-Cabernet. The Grand Estates wines are intended to “showcase the distinctive fruit intensity from the region’s best vineyards sites.” That’s a lot for just $11 a bottle. Reserve Wines is the third tier, and a good place to splurge. Columbia Crest’s Grand Estates and Reserve wines appear regularly on Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines” lists.

Bottom line:
Yet again, more delicious bargains from Washington. (

These wineries offer some of the best values available today. They produce many different varietals that are ripe for exploring. At these prices, it’s hard to go wrong.

*Prices will often be different (usually less) because they vary from state to state and wines are
generally sold at a discount.

Page 1, Page 2, Page 3

New York City award-winning author and certified sommelier Sharon Kapnick has written about food and wine for many magazines, including Time, Portfolio, Food & Wine and Hemispheres, and many newspapers, thanks to The New York Times Syndicate. She contributed to several entries in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.



©2005 Sharon Kapnick for SeniorWomenWeb
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