Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: May 20

Dear friends,


In these very difficult circumstances I hope that a little bit of wine helps us all bringing life and pleasure to our evenings.

I keep receiving emails saying that the PLCB is trying to reopen its on-line purchasing and some of the stores. If they do, this post will get you ready with 23 wines reviewed. In case they don't open, I have also included at the bottom a review of 7 of their permanent wines that may be available at Giant Eagle.

This report covers wines from the following countries: USA (8), France (8), Italy (4), Spain (3), Australia (2) and one from each Austria, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

Take care of yourselves and enjoy.

Ricardo Llovet


Lieu Dit Malakoff 2014, Shiraz, by Terlatto & Chapoutier

Pyrenees, Australia


Wow! This is the Australian Shiraz I have been waiting for after many tastings of sub-par wines. I’d describe it as “big”. Not surprising given the people behind it. Years ago, I loved an impressive CA Shiraz from Terlato while Chapoutier is a large and reputed winemaker and merchant from the Rhone Valley. Their combination could not disappoint.

Intense and deep aromas of prune, blackberry, coffee and some say eucalyptus but I say rockrose. In mouth it is silky with dense but polished tannins and the right acidity. It actually shows intense retro-nasal aromas and a nice aftertaste.

JD 92, JS 90, WE 90 pts. Prior years rated higher.

This wine is being sold in PA at a great discount. Good bargain for the quality.


$15.99

My Rating 92 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Sogno di Ulisse 2018, Montepulciano,

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy


I commented the prior vintage in a previous report, and I said what a great value that wine was. Well, ... even more for this one. Much better than wines several $ higher. This is a must try for us price conscious wine afficionados.

Aroma of underripe blackberries. In mouth you’ll feel an explosion of pure prickly pear flavor with pungent acidity on the sides of your tongue and fine but sticky tannins. Not only very good but very different.


$8.99

My Rating: 91 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Sommariva, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Italy


The cork expanded immediately. The pouring showed intense fizz with very tiny bubbles. Aromas of lemon peel, lemon curd, peach and tangerine with hints of lightly toasted almonds. In mouth, the size of the bubbles and the tight acidity made it very fresh and pleasant. No bitterness or any other defect in the aftertaste.

I served it to Sally while she was holding a Zoom conference with her original CISV friends to communicate during these difficult pandemic times. I was glad to see her, and them, laugh and I hope that this prosecco superiore made its contribution.

A pity I only had a bottle. WE 89 pts.


$14.99

My Rating: 91 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Castle Rock 2016, Merlot, Paso Robles, CA, USA


Aromas of dry cranberry, prunes, cinnamon and coffee. Pleasant medium body and tempered acidity. A very pleasant wine with a good price.


$9.99

My Rating: 90 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Catena 2017, Malbec, Paraje Altamira, Argentina


We are now seeing Catena’s wines crafted with fruits from specific areas, much smaller than the typical A.V.As. I was not as impressed by this one as by their Agrelo, commented in my September 2018 report, but it is very much worth trying.

Aromas of black fruits, blood orange and cocoa. Smooth structure with no angles and polished tannins. It has some depth and is definitively very pleasant.


$14.99

My Rating: 90 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Le Coeur, Domaine de Fabrègues 2016, Syrah, Carignan

Pézenas, Languedoc, France


Fruity but also deep aromas of black currant, blackberry and spice (may be very mild nutmeg?). In mouth it shows a bright and well-integrated acidity with almost resolved tannins and a bit of sweetness flourishing as it evolves in the mouth. Deep. Nice, I’d not say long or intense, but nice retro-nasal feeling and aftertaste. WS 92 pts.


$16.99

My Rating: 90 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Silver Totem 2017, Horse Heaven Hills, WA, USA


Very fruity cab with aromas of red and black fruits. It reminded me of a Zin. The experts agree on green pepper. Well-crafted with integrated tannins and nice acidity level. The label was mesmerizing.

I keep saying it: California beware! There is this bunch of new people with lots of suitable land available, helpful temperatures and sun light, money, and with the knowledge it took you decades to develop. Good value for the price.


$9.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Castle Rock 2017, Petite Shiraz, Paso Robles, CA, USA


Dark wine with aromas of blueberry, blackberry and black plum. Soft and dense in mouth. Nice acidity level and soft aftertaste. After minutes open it began to ripen. Drink it immediately after opening.

I see more and more Petit Shiraz in the shop every year. And I understand why. Great varietal.


$9.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Cuatro Rayas 2018, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain


When I was a kid this was the most common Rueda at home. My father would buy Sanz, Marques de Riscal and Cuatro Rayas. The latter was the cheapest. And when David from the wine store told me that he liked this wine I gave him a mouth full about how cheap and common this wine was. However, once Sally tasted it and told me how much she liked it I purchased more bottles for her and tried it. Well, what a surprise! This was the same wine that had engraved its aromas in my younger mind but it was superior in each of its characteristics. I am happy to confirm the improvement that this region has undergone. Aromas of lime peel, apple, grass, other green herbs and marigold. A reviewer said: Notes of lettuce. Yes, once I read it I through: That was it! A white wine aroma I had been for years trying to describe. Right level of acidity and body. Unpretentious but refreshing and fulfilling. Dangerous: It goes down very easy.

WE 90 pts.

$9.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Stars Collide 2018, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand


Typical NZ Sauvignon Blanc. All of them, in this price range, are similar. This one even says just New Zealand with no denomination. But the fascinating thing is that “all are good”.

Aromas of lemon, hay, herbs and tarragon. Lots of acid, sleek texture and feeling of flint combine to produce “on your face” freshness.


$9.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Domaine Fabrègues, Le Mas 2016, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Pays D'Oc, France


You may laugh at me but its aroma reminded me of the dry strawberries in a Special K cereal box with a pinch of Mediterranean herbs added. In mouth it is intense and concentrated with just minimum tannin roughness left and the right acidity. Some chocolate notes come up. Languedoc has been for long a lower grade wine compared to the more established wine regions in France. It can produce anything although its specialty is the Rhone blends based on Grenache, like this wine. They are usually pretty good price/quality values. This one is good, although I preferred Domaine Aladères from my October 2019 post. WS 90 pts.

$10.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED



Font-Mars, 2018, Picpoul, Picpoul de Pinet AOP, France


Aromas of crème brûlée and vanilla combine in an interesting manner with white flowers and oregano, or perhaps acacia.

Smooth in mouth with taste differing greatly from the aromas. Bitter, green olives, metallic and salty. Still pleasant but only for adult palates. I think it is very suitable for the Italian palate. I’d serve it with the label covered as wine of the day in a Venice bar and see what the reactions are.


$12.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Cuvée Clémence, Maison Cheval Quancard 2017

Sauvignon, Semillon, Muscadelle

Entre Deux Mers, Bordeaux, France


Ines recommended me this wine. And I know she knows about wine so that I ran to the store and bought it.

The aroma was almost inexistent but I kept my faith on Ines’ criteria. I then sipped it and Wow! It came out all at once like an explosion of flavor. I detected very intense banana bread and green fig with notes of thyme. Much more buttery than usual Sauvignon from Bordeaux, probably because of the blend composition. And the aftertaste stuck with me.


$13.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

RECOMMENDED


Las Rocas 2017, Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain


Dark. Aromas of dried red concentrated cherry and plum. Very typical from the Garnachas of this D.O. In mouth it was relatively smooth but dense, powerful and pungent. Peppery. Anti-sweet! This is a wine to have with goulash or things like wild boar. If you are doing that, add a bit to the stew to provide it its energy. I can imagine medieval knights drinking it in a clay jar at an inn.


$11.99 (I have seen it at lower price in some Websites)

My Rating: 88 pts.

RECOMMENDED


La Greffière 2017, Chardonnay, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine AOP, Bourgogne, France


Aromas of pineapple, olive oil and thyme. Salty, with adequate acidity level and semi-creamy structure. Mineral and a bit sour at the finish. Far away from CA Chardonnays.


$14.99

My Rating: 88 pts.


Colvendrá, Glera, Prosecco Treviso DOC, Italia


The cork was cheap but in very good condition. No crown and sparse very large bubbles.

Aroma of just one fruit but that fruit was something in between kiwi, apple, apricot and grapefruit. Some dill in it.

The taste was clearly of grapefruit. Mild acidity and not as sweet-ish as many Proseccos. Correct and smooth, although smaller bubbles would have been more pleasant in mouth.


$?

My Rating: 88 pts.


Tormentoso 2016, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Region, South Africa


I am just copying what the back label says because my blind tasting was identical: Aromas of cassis and black currant with vanilla and cedar spice. Velvet-like mouth feel with very soft tannins and ripe red fruit flavors.

The acidity is like biting a fresh fruit. Light aftertaste. Uncomplicated but pretty decent for the price.

The name comes from Cape Tormentoso, given by the Portuguese and meaning stormy.


$9.99

My Rating: 87 pts.


Marotti Campi 2018, Verdicchio dei Casteli de Jesi, Italia


A middle-of-the-road Verdicchio with no apparent defects and an affordable price. I am providing notes from the winemaker I agree with, although I think what they say is in very moderate intensity: Aromas of acacia, straw and wildflowers. Chamomile and typical hints of almond. Dry savory mineral taste with hints of green apple and pleasant almond finish.


$9.99

My Rating: 86 pts.


Sandgrube 13 2018, Grüner Vetliner, Winzer Krems, Austria


I like this varietal, and rated high a prior one. This one is correct but nothing to die for. Typical apple, herbal and mineral aromas and flavors.

WE 88 pts.


$9.99

My Rating: 86 pts.


12 Linajes 2014, Tempranillo, Ribera de Duero, Spain


Light aromas, acidic, thin and light taste. Vinous. A pity because somebody trying it may decide to not give this appellation a second chance. Please do it. There are actually wonderful Riberas. WE 92 pts.


$12.99

My Rating: 86 pts.


Bourgogne Selection 2018, Chrardonnay, Mâcon Villages


Aromas of apple, kiwi and tropical fruits. Austere taste with some minerality and shy flavors.


$12.99

My Rating: 86 pts.


Tempus Two Copper Series 2014, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia


Sulfur invaded the room as I opened the bottle, and it kept flooding my nostrils when I smelled it in the glass. This is not the first time it happens to me with Australian wines. I had the same comment in a prior report.

Well, my recommendation is to decant it and let it breath. I did that and the Sulfur seemed to fade away after a while. Then, the typical characteristics of Shiraz came up. And in mouth it behaved like a wine that has had some aging but it was still unimpressive. Next time I will look for a Gold Series if it exists.


$8.99

My Rating: 84 pts.


And Now, Wines from the Permanent Collection (Possibly at Giant Eagle)



Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay 2017, Monterrey County, CA, USA


I really loved this Chardonnay and Sally did too. Hold on to your seats Jen and Diana. This is it.

Aromas of pineapple, kiwi, hyacinth, celery, ripe pear, orange tree blossoms, and, … I should stop but will believe you if you identified several more. In mouth it is medium bodied, with just enough acidity, ripe fruit flavors in a creamy envelope, including custard caramel and, surprisingly and successfully, a salty pinch that keeps it alive and playful. Francis, you did it! A $30 Chardonnay at this price.

These past Holidays I organized an international wine tasting at my sister Begoña’s home. In Spain they just drink Spanish wine and I wanted to expand their horizons. Well, guess what: They voted this one as the best of the eight. And their comments were very much on point! Being new to CA Chardonnays they nailed it in their descriptions. By the way, Begoña’s language academy tandemmadrid.com organizes Spanish courses combined with yoga, cooking and winery visits as well as other fun activities. They have gone virtual to cope with the pandemic but will resume physical activities when all this has become a bad dream in our memories.


$12.99

My Rating: 92 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Les Bastides 2016, Maison Louis Latour, Pinot Noir, Var IGP, France


I felt like I was walking through the field in the aftermath of a battle: Ashes, smoke, leather, blood and gun powder embedded in a cranberry base. Really epic. Difficult to get a Pinot Noir of this quality for this price. Maison Louis Latour makes some of the best Burgundies and wines in the world. They seem to be deploying all their “savoir faire” in this plot of land in the affordable Provence to make an excellent wine that many can afford. Thank you for democratizing the noble Pinot Noir!


$12.99

My Rating: 91 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Mouton Cadet 2016, Bordeaux Blend, Bordeaux, France


Pretty decent. Standard Bordeaux flavors and qualities. If you want to approach Bordeaux as a novice, this is a very safe and affordable way to start. And 2016 is a good vintage for this.


$9.99

My Rating: 89 pts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Merlot 2017, CA, USA


Aromas of blueberry and berries in general with a hint of violets. Non-aggressive texture and easy to drink, as many of the wines from this winery.

Correct Merlot but not as impressive as their Claret. Try that one.


$13.99

My Rating: 88 pts.


Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Shiraz 2017, CA, USA


This is what the back label said: Richly textured and intensely aromatic, with supple tannins and bold flavors of cherries and raspberries interwoven with cloves, pepper and earthiness. This is what we felt: Aromas of cranberry, raspberry pie and a bit of sulfur. Sally said she was transported to her grandfather’s shoemaker shop, with the smell of leather and glue. In mouth it was joyful, very fruity (red fruits paste). It lacked depth in my opinion though Sally did not agree.


$14.99

My Rating: 88 pts.


Chateau St. Jean 2017, Chardonnay, WA, USA


A middle of the road Chardonnay, half-way between the Burgundy and California stereotypes. Not too salty, not too oaky, not too herbal or flowery, not too resinous. Just pleasant and without complications.

I was surprised by the labeling change. Let’s see what you think.


$12.99

My Rating: 87 pts.


Kendall Jackson 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon, CA, USA


I have been loyal to this brand. They have been synonymous with reliable quality. However, this one was not up to the task. Then, I realized that it was from the 2017 vintage. That was the most difficult vintage ever and it included the terrible fires you’ll remember. This one seemed to me unsubstantial. May be pure suggestion but I found it ashy.

I will not abandon them because of this outlier vintage and will give them a new chance with the 2018 vintage.


$18.99

My Rating: 85 pts.


Enjoy and tell me what you thought.


Ricardo Llovet and his private advisor Sally Nava

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