The following notes are from tastings the past four months with a focus on wines scoring above 14.5 on the UC Davis scale (87 other scales) and costing less than $20. The range starts at $9. We added one at $24 for the big spenders because of its quality and availability. Sources were warehouse stores, local wine merchants and online flash sale websites.
Of the 15 wines: four each were Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon; two each, Malbec and Merlot; one each, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Four of the wines were from Lodi, with two each from Paso Robles, Calif., Sonoma, Calif., and Mendoza, Argentina, and one each from Burgundy, Washington, Central Coast of California and California (non-specific).
The selections offer a good range of styles to choose from, with an edge toward bigger wines that will match well with heartier dishes. Enjoy!
- Value Amador, Calif. 2018 Renwood Zinfandel Premier Old Vine ($9 at Costco). Mid-ruby, viscous (14.5 alc.); red fruit, rhubarb, wood nose; light-mid acids, tannins; mid-depth, off-dry (some R.S.?); balanced fruity finish. w/pizza, BBQ. 15 UC Davis scale, 88 other scales.
- Value Columbia Valley, Wash., 2017 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot Indian Wells ($12 less $3 off at Costco). Medium garnet, viscous (14.5 alc.); red fruit, herbaceous, wood, ripe grape nose; dry; mid-plus acids, tannins; medium-full body; long hot woody finish. BBQ and burger wine. 15/88
- Value 2019 Jean-Claude Boisset Pinot Noir Bourgogne Les Ursulines ($12 Costco). Light-ruby; light red fruit, cherry nose; dry; low acids; low-medium body; red fruit flavor; semi-long, fruity, slightly hot finish. w/cheeses, bread. 14.5/87
- Paso Robles, Calif., 2019 Opolo Zinfandel Summit Creek ($13 Costco). Mid-dark ruby, viscous (15.5 alc.); ripe grape, red fruit, bramble nose; off-dry (?); mid-acids; mid-plus tannins; full body; long hot finish. BBQ/rib wine. 15/88
- $13 Calif. 2019 Bonterra Vineyards Merlot. Mid-garnet, viscous (14.2 alc.); red fruit, raspberry jam nose; dry; mid acids/tannins; decent varietal finish, slightly rough. w/appetizers. 15/88
- 2017 Hahn Zinfandel Boneshaker Lodi, $15. Mid-ruby, viscous (15.0 alc.); ripe grape, red fruit, berries, bramble nose; mid-acids; medium-plus tannins; deep fruit; long berry and wood finish; slightly hot. w/BBQ. 16/90
- Mendoza, 2019 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec High Mountain Vines, $15. Dark garnet; black fruit, berries, pepper, hyacinth nose; mid-acids/tannins; medium body; good Malbec fruit; long balanced (13.5 alc.) varietal finish. w/picnic and party fare. 15.5/89
- Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Argentina, 2017 Vinos De Potrero Malbec Reserva, $16. Dark purple, viscous (14.5 alc.); smoky, peppery, ripe grape, prune nose; mid-big body; deep fruit, tannins; long semi-chewy semi-hot finish. w/BBQ, ribs, pasta. 15.5/89
- Lodi, Calif. 2018 Michael-David Vineyards Petite Petit, $16. Dark purple, viscous (14.5 alc.); black fruit, black pepper, cedar, prune nose; dry; high tannins; full bodies; deep fruit; long hot woody finish. BBQ, pasta wine. 15/88
- 2017 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County, $17. Mid-garnet; berry, sweet red fruit, floral nose; mid-body; balanced; softening tannins; semi-long, semi-chewy Cabernet finish. w/meatloaf. 16/90
- $18 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Simi. Mid-garnet, pink edges; smoky, cassis, berry nose; mid-body; balanced acids/tannins; semi-long Cabernet finish. w/casserole. 15.5/89
- Central Coast, Calif., Syrah, 2018 Qupé, $18. Mid-ruby; red fruit, peppery, woody nose; mid-body (13.5 alc.); soft acids; medium tannins; some depth of fruit; long fruity finish, slightly hot. w/pasta, pizza. Good value. 15.5/89
- Lodi, Calif. 2018 Michael-David Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Freakshow, $19. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.5 alc.); ripe grape, prune, black fruit, jam nose; round; medium plus body, tannins; long hot semi-chewy semi-deep finish. BBQ, grill, burger wine. 15.5/89
- Lodi, Calif., 2018 Purple Corduroy Zinfandel Red Siren, $20. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (15.5 alc.); ripe grape, wood, blackberry, black cherry nose; mid-body; softening tannins; deep fruit; long red fruit and wood finish. w/picnic fare. 16/90
- Paso Robles, Calif. 2018 Justin Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, $24. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.8 alc.); herbaceous, ripe grape, blackberry and cedar nose; balanced; mid-level tannins; long fruity semi-chewy finish. w/beef, stew. 16/90