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Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Dear friends,

Let me offer you my reviews of these 30 wines that, I hope, will contribute to your opening up to social life in an enjoyable Spring season. I have selected this picture of a blooming Japanese lilac to share the advent of this new phase in our lives with the beauty and promise of fruits that flowers bring. By the way, with these many lilacs around us all wines have been smelling to me as lilac in these last weeks.

This time we have 8 American wines, 7 from both, Italy and Spain, 6 from France and 1 each from Chile, Armenia and Hungary. Yes, a wine from the mythical Tokay region.

Enjoy and feel welcome to let me know your thoughts about some of these wines, even if you disagree, since this is a very subjective matter, and the moment, food and environment also play a role.

Ricardo Llovet

Bastide Miraflors 2016, Syrah 80% and old vines Grenache, Côtes du Rousillon AOP, France

This excellent wine was on sale and it’s gone. Apologies. Dave, the sommelier at the Waterfront wine store, recommended it to me and will let me know when the next vintage arrives next year. By the way, both, Dave and Jan Stetler, a wine expert from Lilitz, PA, have relied to me that the prior vintage was exceptional.

Aromas of red plum, spice, dry herbs and hyacinth (Sally said violets) with hints of chocolate. Perfect acidity and live but soft tannins. Great medium to big structure. 14.5% alc. 94 pts. JD.

We had it with hamburgers but it deserved something more consistent. We loved it! Cheers, Dave and Jan!

The Rousillon is a part of Catalonia that lays North of the Pyrenees and is part of France with capital in Perpignan. Salvador Dalí experienced a moment of "cosmogonic ecstasy" at Perpignan's train station, often referred to it as "The Center of the Universe", and painted a large canvas inspired in it.

92 pts. $14.39


Château Bonfort 2016, Merlot 70%, Cab 30%, Montagne Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Immediate aroma of cherry-raspberry cream pie accompanied with red pepper or paprika and rose. In mouth it was medium body with tight acidity and velvety tannins. 13% alc.

A round and elegant wine in the oaky side. 91 pts. JS

2016 was a great vintage and I am still seeing them in the store. We’ll take care of them!

92 pts. $19.99


Marqués de Toro 2016, Mencía, Finca La Moura, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain

Aromas of strawberry jam, peach, níspero, blood orange, and possibly roses and turmeric. Sally said shoemaker’s glue. Perfect acidity level to keep it fresh and alive. Smooth feel, with drying tannins only in the first sip, and nice structure. In the alcoholic side, 14.5%.

This single vineyard wine from a humble denomination of origin is a little jewel at an amazing price. María Pimentel and her son agree. I am trying to discover a family connection between her and the winemakers. 94 WE pts.

I purchase it by the case and keep the wooden boxes to age this and other wines in my basement.

The 2015 was the #1 wine in my January 2020 post.

91 pts. $9.99


Vitiano 2016, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese (1/3s), Umbria, Italy

Nice but not clearly identifiable fruit aromas. I’d dare to say nectarine and ripe strawberry. The back label says dark cherry and plum. In mouth it displays velvety tannins with perfect acidity and medium body. 13.5% alc. I rated the prior vintage of this low-cost Italian wine from an Indicazione Geografica Proteta (not even a DOC) very high in a prior post. This vintage did not disappoint either. Just so pleasant and easy to drink! And with the familiar characteristics of the French varietals. 91 pts. JS

90 pts. $9.99


Silver Totem 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA

Very fruity aroma competing in a 14% alcoholic frame. Blackberry, anise, Turkish, a little bit of sweetness and clear signs of American oak aging (cedar and vanilla). Great equilibrium between aroma and bouquet. Plush structure with felt-like tannins. Non-aggressive and short aftertaste. Very pleasant and round.

The label is captivating in my opinion. Being so simple it can keep your eyes on it for quite some time.

Excellent everyday wine. This has been a permanent part of my supply since I discovered it. 88 pts. WE.

90 pts. $9.99


Viña Pomal 2016, Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain

The vanilla aroma of American oak becomes very present from the get go. Intense violet scent.

A classical Rioja where the fruit has yielded to the depth from 12-month barrel aging. Silky and deep. Elegant. 14% alc.

90 pts. $13.99


Oremus Mandolas 2017, Furmint, Tokay, Hungary

Aromas of green olive, eucalyptus and cucumber with cream in the bouquet resulting in some reminiscence of tzaltziki. The appearance was thick and in mouth that was not only confirmed but multiplied. It was oily, creamy and dense. Medium acidity and very dry. Special. 13% alc.

Tokay wines were under the Iron Curtain for decades and enjoyed by communist apparatchiks in the Pact of Warsaw governments. Now we can see what they were, and this one is standing up to their reputation.

90 pts. $14.99


Dei 2016, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Italy

Very shy and alcoholic aroma. Flavors of blueberry and strawberry with some depth. Soft, slightly drying tannins with perfect acidity. Good wine but, in my opinion, not as good as I had expected from the professional ratings and the price.

#13 in WE Top 100. 95 pts. WE. 93 pts. JS. 91 pts. Decanter.

90 pts. $27.99

Il Poggio 2017, Aglianico Sanno, Italy

A first impression of smoke/ash showcasing blood orange and strawberry marmalade. Sally said shoemakers’ shop. After stirring, marron glace came out. You’ll call me crazy but with more stirring I got some remembrance of banana split. I thought in mouth it was going to be very oily due to the dense and persistent legs, but a blast of powdery tannins invaded every corner. It was like drinking dust and my mouth became very dry begging for water. In the acidic side and with light aftertaste. Definitively, this wine will be better tomorrow. So that I placed the bottle aside. During the next two days this wine evolved wonderfully. The tannins softened and produced an explosion of flavors. 14% alc. 92 pts. JS.

89 pts. (92 pts. next day) $11.99 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Infinito 2016, Monastrell 70%, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jumilla, Spain

Shy nose of very ripe cherry, rose and alcohol. In mouth it displays ripe fruit flavors with a powerful structure of domesticated tannins. The acidity level is sufficient to keep the ripeness from overwhelming. 15% alc. 93 pts. WS

90 pts. $16.99


Lunadoro 2016, Sangiovese, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Italy

Very shy aroma. Ashy and spicy. Possibly some hints of mandarin and cinnamon sticks, but this is stretching it!

Right acidity and medium body with fine tannins. Some depth. 14% alc.

Overall, an elegant wine, but overrated in my opinion.

90 pts. $17.99

Broadside 2017, Merlot, Paso Robles, CA

Strawberry jam, cinnamon and tea. Perfect acidity level and soft tannins make the wine very easy to drink. 13.5% alc. Not the first Merlot from Paso Robles that I like.


89 - 90 pts. $11.99

Planeta La Segreta Il Rosso, 2017, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sicily, Italy

Aromas of volcanic earth, fresh blackberry, orange peel and nutmeg. Very fine tannins and sticky structure. The attack started with a pinch of acidity but I got used to it after the third sip. Pleasant evolution in mouth and some level of depth.

Great quality to price ratio! 88 pts. WS.


89 pts. $8.99

Sogno di Ulisse 2018, Montepulciano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, Italy

Delicious aromas of dry strawberry and nectarine complemented with Mediterranean hers and ground cinnamon. Very aromatic.

Lively acidity and slightly drying tannins in a sort of aqueous envelope. If fades away in the aftertaste. 13.5% alc.

For years, when friends that don’t want to spend much in wine call me in their way to the wine store, this is one that I have been recommending.


89 pts. $8.99

Edge of Heaven 2018, Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA

Fruit-oriented Cab. I agree with the aromas description I read at the store: Ripe red fruit, blackberry pie, dried cranberries with hints of brown sugar and warn baking spices.

In mouth it shows no sharp edges – medium acidity, some minimal sweetness, round softened tannins and medium or big body. Just a wine that has been well crafted to be enjoyed with confidence and without complications. 14% alc.

This relatively new a.v.a. is producing trustworthy wines and good price.


89 pts. $10.99

Salamandre 2019, Sauvignon, Touraine (Loire Valley), France

This is a Sauvignon that I would not have recognized in a blind tasting. I thought it had traits of Alsace Pinot Gris or even Loire Chenin Blanc. Shy aroma but very pleasant taste. Lemon peel, overripe pear, pineapple, white flowers and pine needles (I checked the winemaker’s notes the day after writing mines and I was happy about how similar they were). Very little of grass and minerality proper of Sauvignon Blancs from Bordeaux or Malborough Co. Medium body and precise acidity. The only “defect” we found was that it was too easy to drink! 13% alc.

And these are the tasting notes Jan Stetler has offered: Very pale yellow color Fragrant nose of ripe yellow peach...hints of under-ripe pineapple...quite pleasant... Medium weight, dry entry on the palate...decent acidity...some peach follows from the nose but really there is not a lot here...some minerality...dry mid palate...shows signs of large yields, in so much that it has refinement, but it lacks concentration...that being said it is light on the palate and quite dry...should pair well with a variety of food. 90 pts. Decanter


89 pts. $11.99

El Salce 2017, Monastrell, Alicante, Spain

The aroma was sort of opaque but I could see in there some dark ripe fruit, hints of chocolate and garrigue. Convincing structure with assertive but soft tannins. Correct acidity level. A very slight bitterness in the finish suggested a bit of over-pressing in order to enhance flavor extraction. The wine became more expressive the second day (like many wines from the appellations from S.E. Spain). 14.5% alc. I love the label. 91 pts. WA. Monastrell is known in France as Mourdèvre and in Australia as Mataro. It is used as a minority component in the Southern Rhone blend to provide color and weight. This wine presents an occasion to see how this varietal tastes.


89 pts. $11.99

Grey Glacier 2018, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trinidad Vineyard, Maipo Valley, Chile

The aroma screamed “Cabernet”. I also detected strawberry and raspberry jam with subtle notes of cigar and chocolate (I checked the winemaker’s notes the day after writing mines and I was happy about how similar they were).

In mouth it veered towards acidic, with powdery tannins and intense flavor. The taste was not complex with a slight bitterness in the back of the mouth possibly from over-extraction. It had the power but I missed personality. 14% alc.

The second day the tannins had partially softened and the bouquet was enhanced.

I scored this wine far below the 93 pts. JS but I expect it to age beautifully. Buy and keep for a few years.


88 pts. (minutes after opening) 90 pts. (1 day after) $12.99

Petite Petit 2018, Petit Sirah, Lodi, CA

Intense aroma of crashed ripe cherries. Alcoholic. Possibly some Mediterranean garrigue.

In mouth it has semisweet attack with a balsamic evolution reaching every corner of the palate and staying there. Full body with dense tannins in their way to softening. Very persistent aftertaste. 14.5% alc.

Wine recommended by Inés who I have seen enjoying dense ripe wines.

From permanent collection (non-Chairman’s)


89 pts. $15.99

Château au Vignoble 2019, France

Great cork. One piece with intense purple violet taint.

Aromas of raspberry, blackberry, violet and anise. The more I smelled it the aroma of milk chocolate stiffed with jelly grew in me.

In mouth it was very acidic from the mid tongue and well into the aftertaste. The tannins were still slightly rough. After a very promising nose the taste disappointed. However, I will get more and keep it for aging. I think there can be something in here in a few years.

91-92 pts. JS


88 (with upside potential) $9.99

Hess Collection 2018, Chardonnay, Monterrey, CA

Aromas of lemon zest, golden kiwi and, Sally said melon. Possibly some bay leaf or dill. Very restrained oakiness compared with other CA Chardonnays. Elegant. 13.5% alc.

From permanent collection (non-Chairman’s).


88 pts. (Sally said 90 pts.) $13.99 ($2 off)

Château Haut Maurin 2019, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France

Herbaceous (oregano, dill, grass, …). Pine needle, pineapple, green apple and pear. Smooth and dense in mouth with perfect acidity level, minerality, and a feeling of freshness, almost like mouth wash, or even the feeling of a stainless steel kitchen pot. 13.5% alc.

And I just love the label!

I remember my second Interrail trip in my early twenties. First leg Madrid-Paris. I met a Japanese girl in the train and agreed to meet that afternoon at Notre Dame. We walked around and, close to the Centre Pompidou, I saw a straw basket with white Bordeaux bottles at dirt cheap price outside a store. I bought one. The taste was like nothing I had tried before. Even the color was a novelty for me, … so greenish! My first Sauvignon Blanc. Since then, that image and flavor still come back when I have one of these bottles and I return to my youth.


88 pts. $9.99

Aldeya 2019, Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Cab, Cariñena, Spain

Aromas of cherry and spice.

Right acidity, deep and lively but non-aggressive tannins but sort of rustic, as expected from this region. It’s amazing because, in spite of not having any Garnacha (Grenache) in its blend, it still shows some characteristics proper of this varietal. It must be the “terroir”! Cariñena is the homeplace of the Carignan varietal and it produces a lot of Garnacha.

From Premium Collection at Centre Ave. (non-Chairman's).


88 pts. $9.99

Clos Duval 2018, Chardonnay, Carneros, CA

Aromas of ripe melon, pineapple, apple, jasmine and honey. Oaky. 13.9% alc.

I was expecting more from a Carneros from this classic winery. I will always remember it because it was the first one I ever visited in Napa. I was there during a business trip, a second time during Jerry’s and Kim’s wedding, and a third time with Sally and my parents. Jerry introduced us to their Merlot, which I really love, as well as their Cab.

93 pts. WE, 90 pts. WA

88 pts. $17.99

Cuatro Rayas 2019, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain

Aromas of pear, melon, hay and pine needle. In mouth it was fresh and unctuous. This wine transported me decades back since it was one of the most common whites at my parents’. 13% alc.

Pleasant but unpretentious and far from the following professional ratings: 90 pts. WS, 89 pts, and Best Buy WE Nov. 2020

85 pts. $8.99

Rainstorm 2018, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, OR

Pleasant aroma and mouth or ripe pear but sort of dull and slightly sweetish.

My review coincides with the professional one but my scoring does not whatsoever. If you like semi-sweet wines you may be more generous than I. 13% alc.

89 pts. And Best Buy WE Mar. 2021

84 pts. $8.99

Marotti Campi 2019, Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Italy

Chairman’s Selection brought before a higher-level wine from this brand that I actually liked much. I will wait for that one. 13.5% alc.

84 pts. $9.99

Somona-Cutrer Rosé 2019, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA

Simple red cherry, strawberry and grapefruit aromas in a peaceful envelope. It made me think about trying, after decades, a white zinfandel. 11.9% alc.

83 pts. $13.99

Delia 2019, Tempranillo, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain

You get what you pay for. Good for authentic sangria. 14% alc.

82 pts. $6.99

Armenia Brut, Kangun, Armenia

The Kangun varietal is something very foreign to me and, after two trials, I've confirmed that it's not for me. Persons with a sweetish palate may like this one more than I.

This sparking transported me 10 years back when we gave our kids for New Year’s Eve kid’s sparkling wine.


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