Originally Posted By eracer:
Originally Posted By supplex:
I'd like to set the record straight on one glaring issue in the responses. It has to do with how one variety vs another is more dry or not.
Winemakers tweak their blends to suit their clientele. Take Turning leaf Cabernet, I would bet it is 1-2% residual sugar...now a Duckhorn Cab from Napa would probably be completely dry. Regional consistency is also fleeting.
My educated opinion is that 75-85% of wines on the grocery store or average liquor store shelf are owned by 4, maybe 5 wine conglomerates. Also, a vast majority have some level of residual sugar.
It is also my experience that high priced wines/cult wines are hardly ever up to their namesake. In fact, most are quite bad.
Now some of you hardcore wine sobs will disagree, but let me explain.
Background: I am a classically trained and educated winemaker. I have a degree in it, have sat on peer reviewed committees, taught classes, and have made more wine than most winemakers will in their career. I am also dogmatically pragmatic. The smoke and mirrors of our industry and the elitism drives me bananas. There is just way to much BS. Sure, some of it is rooted in fact, some not.
During my time in California, we would conduct blind, anonymous competitive tastings on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Every time, we would throw in a "ringer" (ie something with an esteemed name/region). this bottle would be typically in the 35-65$ price range. Very rarely was the ringer the best wine, most times, it was the worst. Oxidized, microbial faults, etc. Piss poor winemaking. Again, this was blind, and there was 4-5 of us at each tasting, mostly in agreement. We even did ringer tastings, where every wine was top shelf. Those actually sucked the worse, wines were so bad, I would never bottle them. Sure, sometimes a ringer lived up to its name and it was fantastic.
I find that the 10-20$ pricepoint to be the most consistent. Especially coming from wineries of commercial size, they have the market presence and technology to make sure they produce a consistent, high quality product.
As far as general recommendations:
Merlot: I prefer east side of Washington.
Pinot Noir: Willamette Valley of Oregon (more rhubarb, cherry) or Edna valley/Central Coast (more tannic)
Syrah: West side of Paso Robles (think ripe exocarp of a plum mixed with blackberries)
Petite Sirah: West northern side Lodi
Zinfandel: Lodi of course or east side of Paso
Cabernet: hard to beat Napa, but east PAso does a great job, though it has more of a chalky tannin structure
Sangiovese and Iberian varieties: Sierra Foothils...BE WARNED these are hugely tannic
If you have a specific variety, I can be more specific on producer.
It amazes me as well, just how mediocre some of the high-priced, so-called 'blockbuster' wines are. If we criticize, we're told that our palates aren't refined enough, or, we've been ruined by the 'drink it now' wines that pollute the shelves of the local wine stores.
It is indeed all BS. Much like critics who tell us that we don't appreciate Jackson Pollock because we fail to understand the nuances of paint randomly splattered on a canvas.
That said, I have tasted some amazing wines that commanded a premium, and have never had an amazing wine that cost $20. Good ones, yes. But never amazing.
The challenge, of course, is to keep from going broke wading through mediocre $100 bottles to find the killers, the ones that make you wish you had a case of.