Three Under Twenty

For me it is a Labor of Love, for that I am deeply grateful. Sure I complain and kvetch with my friends about work, who doesn’t? Although when I do, someone will inevitably look at me askew and say, “but Anya, at least you love what you do!” They’re right. I love wine and I love being a Wine Merchant. And as a Wine Merchant one of the things I work hardest at is finding those little gems that offer bang for your buck. We like to joke at the store that we taste a lot of bad wine so that you don’t have to, and nowhere is that more true than with the sub $20 category (though this has changed some in the past couple years). I’d like to recommend three red wines that I feel hit the mark in terms of quality, character and value.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, JRE: 100% Napa Valley fruit from St. Helena, Pritchard Hill and Mt. Veeder. Less than 500 cases made. This has the makings of a very expensive bottle of wine. But no, its only $17.98! Aged in both American and French oak, this is a full-bodied, chewy, forward sort of Cabernet with velvety layers of plum and cassis and a slight note of spice. Admittedly, I know little about this winery except that the winemaker is a native Texan who came to California to make wine. After working for a few wineries and having operated his own single varietal label, he began John Robert Eppler Wines in 2001. Recently we tasted his 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, also Napa Valley from two vineyards near Rutherford, and it too impressed us so much we brought it in immediately (though we didn’t really need another domestic Sauvignon Blanc). And get this, we offer it at $10.98 a bottle. Crazy, right?!!
2007 John Robert Eppler Cabernet Sauvignon California
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Other California;
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2006 Zinfandel, Fritz Winery: This estate grown Zinfandel comes from two parcels that were planted to two different clones. This is old-school Dry Creek Zinfandel and by that I mean it has fruit and it has nice acid structure. This combo gives it an Italianesque quality to it. Not at all a fruit bomb, the Fritz Zinfandel’s brambly flavors and zestiness makes it an excellent choice for tomato-based sauces. Fritz Winery has been around since 1979, so this isn’t some great new discovery for us. Only it seems improbable, given how so many Zinfandels have inched up over $30 per bottle, that we can offer this crowd-pleaser at $13.98!
2006 Fritz Zinfandel Estate Dry Creek Valley
Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
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2008 Red X, X Winery: A fun blend of Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache and Zinfandel from North Coast vineyards, this is a soft and juicy, super approachable red. A good choice for large gatherings where there are lots of different foods being served and you need something to go with it all. On the nose it’s a burst of red berries and on the palate there is soft cherry and peppery herbs. It’s got a twist-off cap, so convenient for picnics, long hikes, and fishing expeditions. I think wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. got it spot on when he said of this wine that it is a “fleshy, rich, soft, exuberant, hedonistic turn-on to drink…” Impossible to add to that!
2008 X Winery Red X Winemakers Blend X North Coast
Red Wine; Red Blend; Other California;
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Labor Day Weekend has traditionally marked the end of summer. When a teenager I’d refuse to shower after the beach on Labor Day Monday not wanting to wash off summer and hoping that the traces of sand and suntan lotion would somehow put off the inevitable-that I was starting school the next day. This year summer was almost unrecognizable due to the unusually cool days and the shorter than usual summer break. Nowadays I cherish the long weekend. I can’t wait for Sunday’s family dinner Bacchanalia. And don’t worry, I’ll be showered by the time I come back in to work!- Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, California, Napa

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