Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: Jun 12

Dear friends,

It's been a very long time since the last post in December 2021. Apologies. It's been very busy at work. Anyways, here we go with a new set of reviews. We will cover 6 French, Spanish and Italian wines, 5 American, 2 Chilean, and 1 Portuguese, South African and Argentine. Very classic this time with no wines from exotic places. In any case, my trips to Poland are opening new horizons to Georgian Saperavi wines. I brought a couple of bottles home and really enjoyed them. If you can get a hold of one try it and let me know. In any case, in this post I am sticking to what "The Chairman" brings us. In addition to new discoveries, I was happy to see that some of my favorite wines relative to quality/price ratio, like Tenuta di Ulisse, Ancient Wisdom and Silver Totem, keep delivering year after year. I hope you enjoy all the recommended wines in this post!


Château Courac 2018, Grenache, Shiraz - Côtes du Rhone Villages, Laudun, France

Same aromas as when you open the bag of dry cherries and cranberries. Followed by Mediterranean herbs and cocoa. The herbs became so intense that I closed my eyes and saw myself in the mountains of Southeastern France. Clove and rosemary, with possible hints of cinnamon and licorice. In mouth it had a perfect level of acidity with so thin powdery tannins that turn with time into silky in a dense structure. As I swallowed it, it seemed to travel upwards evaporating towards the larynx and even nostrils. Pleasant aftertaste. A fulfilling wine in my opinion. The appellation Côtes du Rhone Villages is given to wines from certain locations within the larger Côtes du Rhone, and you should expect a higher level of quality from them. This one became my staple wine for months. I called it “may affordable Châteauneuf du Pape”. I tried it because Jan Stetler highly recommended it. Thank you, Jan for the advice. 90 pts WA. Warning: Only a few bottles left in 5th Ave, Bethel Park, Monroeville, Plum and Greensburg. Worth the trip to get it!

$12.99 My Rating: 93 pts

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Slates of Bonmont 2017, Cariñena (Carignan) 63%, Garnacha Negra 28%, Garnacha 9% - Priorat, Spain

Intense aromas of violets, licorice, dry raspberry, blackberry and, above all, soil (I said dry stony/mineral, Sally said clay). These aromas are evolved providing the wine deep bouquet. The taste is a nectar, concentrated, coming from the old tortured grapes. This is a land of dry mountains with slate soils cultivated in terraces often with the help of donkeys. The vines are usually very old and with extremely low yield. Due to that, as well as the high demand, Priorat’s prices are usually higher. However, this one is very affordable. Take advantage of it!

93 pts W&S

$13.99 My Rating: 92 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Tenuta di Ulisse 2018, Montepulciano - Montepulciano di Abruzzo, Italy

Fruit in the aroma but even more fruit in the taste. This wine is just pure juicy and pasty fruit! Pomegranate, blood orange and, … apple sauce? Oh! Wait a minute: I smell my grandmother’s kitchen while cooking her delicious flan (aka custard caramel) every time I visited.

Perfect acidity, pasty and pleasant tannins with medium to full body, this wine is forward, intense and easy. Just too easy to drink. We took good care of the bottle in a blink. Dangerous!

This winery is very consistent and its wines are always a Best Buy.

$11.99 My Rating: 91 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMEDNED


Tritón 2018, Tempranillo - Toro, Spain

Deep and intense blueberry aroma accompanied by dry raspberry, dry peach and dark chocolate followed by the smell of red wine barrels, must and ash transporting us to the interior of a cellar. In mouth it shows bright acidity and dusty tannins that cover your tongue with a very fine coat. Medium to full body. The finish is peppery, deep and long, perhaps slightly bitter. Allen purchased for the friends the 2016 vintage. The wine was even better. I am very glad Chairman’s is now bringing it to us. 92 pts JS

$12.99 My Rating: 91 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Vincens 2018, Malbec - Cahors, France

Typical aromas of the varietal such as plum and blackberry as well as spice but this wine is packed with bouquet of licorice and mocha. It’s still very tannic, like many wines from this vintage in nearby Bordeaux. Decant for 3-4 hours before drinking, and keep a few in your cellar to enjoy well into the future. Several Cahors I have had age very slowly and make you think whether the vintage year in the label is real. Do you remember, Allen, your amazing 2010 Cahors? 93 pts and #53 in WS Top 100 List

$13.99 My Rating: 91 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Rivallana Reserva 2016, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano - Rioja, Spain

Aromas of ripe red plum, dry cranberries and boysenberry with notes of ash. Deep and earthy. Velvety tannins, still alive in spite of the aging. I think the winemakers may be using less/softer wood than usual in Rioja reservas. They are probably trying to strike a balance between classic Rioja qualities with preserving the fruit. Very good vintage, by the way.

92 pts and “Smart Buy” WS

$14.99 My Rating: 91 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Marqués de Casa Concha 2019, Cabernet Sauvignon - Maipo Valley, Chile

Started with aroma of loquat and blackberry, but soon aromas of milk chocolate came out transporting me to an old-style café, and then prune and dry fig, but suddenly, in one of the shakes, a powerful aroma of cigar came out. Unfortunately, another shake brought up the sulfide so prevalent in Chilean wines but quickly the other aromas, with the addition of blood orange and cigar again, came out orchestrating a symphony that actually prevented me from drinking it. I was just so enticed by all the different notes that were succeeding one to another! Finally, I surrendered to the temptation and took my first sip. It was an easy to drink wine with a lot of evaporation to the upper palate, some acidity in there, silky tannins in a medium to dense structure. The aftertaste lasted forever preventing me to take my second sip. Finally, I kept drinking it, once I had lost the respect this wine deserved, and kept enjoying it. However, the wine evolved amazingly fast in the glass showing more bitterness and veering towards excessive ripeness. So that, … advice: A wine to share with several people so that they only have a first glass. 92 pts JS, 91 pts WS and WA

$14.99 My Rating: 91 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Infinito 2017, Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon - Jumilla, Spain

Aromas of dry red and black fruits including plum and blackberry with some hints of date and chocolate. In mouth this wine strikes a balance non-exempt of tension amongst 15% alcohol, ripeness and acidity to keep it fresh. Big structure with plentiful but refined dusty tannins.

This wine comes from relatively old vines in arid land at 900 m (~3,000 ft) that are collected relatively late to obtain full flavor development. Hence the high alcoholic grade.

$16.99 My Rating: 91 pts

RECOMMENDED


Planeta Rosé 2020, Nero D'Avola, Syrah - Sicily, Italy

In addition to typical rosé aromas or red fruits such as dry strawberry and roses this one came with a grassy feeling and the smell of the grape skins. Pleasant secondary aromas from the fermentation. Finally, some green stuff in there such as green pepper and whole cucumber. I’d want to ask the winemaker how they decant this wine. Years ago, Sally drunk too much rosé with her friends who kindly assisted her in her way back home. Since then she does not try it. Therefore, I purchase few rosés and cannot claim expertise on them. I can, however, say that I really enjoyed this one. The combination of varietals resulted in a special wine. This winery jumped to fame years ago with a Chardonnay that made the #1 in the Top 100 WS list. 90 pts WE

$9.99 My Rating: 90 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Premier Soleil 2019, Sauvignon Blanc - Napa Valley, CA

Definitively no relation with Bordeaux or New Zealand Sauvignon. Aromas of overripe kiwi, passion fruit and ripe yellow apple are intense and escorted by herbal notes of possibly laurel or thyme. Dry and refreshing, with micro-fizz that makes it lively and playful. Also enjoyable in mouth with intense flavors including lemon zest tickled by sparks. Perfect acidity. Just a well-crafted wine. Get over the dull label and enjoy!

$9.99 My Rating: 90 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Lomond 2021, Sauvignon Blanc - Cape Agulhas, S. Africa

Very original aroma. Surprising! A review says stone fruit. May be but I don’t know how a stone fruit smells or tastes. The closest fruit I could assign to this aroma was kiwi, with some Meyer lemon notes but the one most powerful aroma was one of the flower of a plant we have in our backyard. I went to the internet to search pictures of bushes flowering in PA in May and I finally got it: Black Lace Elderberry. Thank you, Lomond for helping me to learn this!

Medium body, just the right acidity, very grassy, mineral and clean in the palate with bit of cucumber skin bitterness in the aftertaste.

From the coolest wine region in S. Africa I have seen this wine at twice the price in other outlets.

$9.99 My Rating: 90 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Silver Totem 2018, Cabernet Sauvignon - Horse Heaven Hills, WA

What can I say … I keep tasting this wine every year. A Chairman’s favorite, always reliable. Just a very well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon at a great price. Sally loves it. Her style of wine: fruity while deep and not acidic or tannic. Dark fruits and chocolate. A nice touch of wood gives it depth and bouquet without reducing the fruit.

$9.99 My Rating: 90 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Berceo 2020, Graciano - Rioja, Spain

I fully agreed with James Sucking’s review: “Aromas of dark cherries, blackberries, dried flowers, vanilla and baking spices. Medium-to full-bodied with chalky tannins and fresh acidity. Supple, polished and velvety. Flavorful finish.”

Graciano is sometimes a minority component of the Tempranillo-dominated Rioja blend but recently we are seeing more Graciano mono-varietals coming to light. The reason is the following:

This varietal is more delicate than Tempranillo and has lower yields. During the mid-1900s many of its parcels were replanted with Tempranillo. However, some would say that Graciano is a finer varietal and are replanting it betting on that. We’ll see as years pass and the new vines become older …

Worth trying!

91 pts JS

$8.99 My Rating: 89 pts

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Generation 1905 2019 - Grenache, France

I bought this wine because the Best Buy classification by WE but I could not help some skepticism since it had no appellation. As soon as I smelled I understood. The varietal in this wine presents its milder side with some sweet hints in the palate from red fruits, vanilla and chocolate. Whoever in WE evaluated this wine really hit the spot and showed the courage to rate highly a wine with such low-profile pedigree.

Here is their review: “The nose delivers red cherry and cranberry alongside a white pepper accent. Juicy red fruit is echoed on the palate that's loaded with bouncy acidity and gentle tannins. A blanket of vanilla and white pepper marks the close.”

90 pts and “Best Buy” WE

$9.99 My Rating: 89 pts

RECOMMENDED


Castello di Gabbiano Riserva 2016, Sangiovese 95%, Merlot 5% - Chianti, Italy

Nice nose of raspberry with notes of cherry and prune followed by licorice. Looking for the spice I started with subtle nutmeg but then Mexican chili clicked on me. I could almost see the ground meat in the pan when I add the taco mix. In mouth it showed dusty tannins with a nice dose of acidity that kept it fresh. The bouquet and aftertaste were nice but not too expressive or durable to my surprise since I was dealing with a riserva 2016. The wine could get better in a couple of years. Worth trying and we’ll see what happens. 93 pts JS

$13.99 My Rating: 89 pts

RECOMMENDED


Lua Cheia 2019, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca - Douro, Portugal

Aroma started with red plum and in general red fruits (Sally said pomegranate) but after shaking a bit a splash of flowers came out. I’d say lilies.

Easy attack and travel through the mouth with soft and light tannins of a pasty consistency. Medium acidity level and easy short aftertaste.

An uncomplicated but very pleasant wine for sipping with that distinctive flowery quality that transported me to a Spring meadow.

$8.99 My Rating: 88 pts

RECOMMENDED


Buehler 2018, Chardonnay - Russian River, CA

Citrusy, a bit of apple and pear but, above all, rosemary! Buttery with mild acidity. Fine, clean and pleasant.

88 pts WE

$12.99 My Rating: 88 pts


Bourgogne Select 2019, Chardonnay - Macon Villages, France

Very shy aroma of citrus, perhaps peach and somehow something white. The word mother-of-pearl came to my mind, maybe because of the texture. A restrained Chardonnay, nothing special but very easy to drink.

$12.99 My Rating: 88 pts


Reciente Olarra Gran Reserva 2015, Tempranillo - Rioja, Spain

Immediate aroma of vanilla, then cherry, red plum, ash, clove and turmeric. In mouth it was acidic, silky and medium body (like many Riojas). Pleasant aftertaste. A wine that improved as I drank it. Not amongst the best Riojas while it was of decent quality. Far from Cerro Añón, a favorite wine of mine, from the same winery. 93 pts VM Only available in 4065 Butler St.

$15.99 My Rating: 88 pts


Cesari 2020, Pinot Griggio - Delle Vennezie, Italy

Aroma of apple with notes of fresh melon, mild lemon and dill. In mouth it was salty and fresh, sort of aqueous and with flavors of cucumber skin or even agave.

$9.99 My Rating: 87 pts


Bonny Doon vin gris de cigare 2019 - Central Coast, CA

Tight aroma of roses and, after several trials, cooking herbs. Slight bitterness in the finish. Clean but nothing special for a highly rated wine. “Vin gris” means a light color wine made with the lightest pressings of red grapes. “Cigare” is how French people call UFOs. There is actually an UFO in the label! 92 pts WE

$10.79 My Rating: 86 pts


Santa Carolina Special Edition 2018, Assemblage - Chile

Shy aromas of blackberry and prune. Medium body. Medium acidity level and silky tannins. Non-aggressive and I do not see any defect other than a slight residual sulfide but it lacks brightness for my taste.

91 pts and “Best Buy” WE

$9.99 My Rating: 85 pts


Château Haut Perdrias 2018, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec - Côtes de Bordeaux, France

No aroma initially. After persistently stirring and smelling I perceived some plum, piquillo pepper and nutmeg.

In mouth it was aqueous, with Bordeaux characteristics but just shy and diluted. Dusty tannins surprisingly evolved for its vintage. Elegant though but with some slight bitterness in the finish.

I did not feel compelled to give it a high score just because the label said Bordeaux 2018.

90 pts JS and WE

$12.99 My Rating: 85 pts


Mas de Mas 2019, Saint Chinian, Syrah, Carignan, Grenache Noir, Grenache - France

House wine with no remarkable virtues or defects. Saint Chinian is one of the myriad of appellations within the Languedoc region.

This is what WS said: ”Freshly picked currant and raspberry notes, infused with orange zest, wild herb, white pepper and anise elements”. Also, I talked to a lady in the wine store who told me she loved it. I may need to give it a second opportunity!

90 pts WS

$9.99 My Rating: 85 pts


Flavs 2020, Garganega - Soave, Italy

Shy and neutral aroma of perhaps white flowers. Vinous attack with lemon zest in the palate. It tasted of something ripe that I could not recognize. Medium acidity and body slightly in the buttery side. Sort of bitter finish.

$9.99 My Rating: 85 pts


Buck Shack 2019, Cabernet Sauvignon - Lake County, CA

This wine is aged in bourbon barrels, something that came in fashion in the US some years ago. That method provides the wine some of the bourbon flavors. This one showed some mocha and caramel and had tannins fully domesticated. Drinkable but this thing is not for me. The benefit was that it took us several days to drink it producing savings for our pocket.

$13.99 My Rating: 83 pts


Il Poggio Guerreiro 2020, Falanghina - Beneventano, Italy

I agree with James Suckling’s review: Aromatic white with aromas and flavors of lemon rind, dried pineapple and some meadow flowers. Hint of lemon grass, too. Almost full-bodied with quite a thick, silky texture, …”. The problem came when I drank it! Overly sweet, and not in a pleasant way like a sweet wine like a Sauternes. This sweetness was, in my opinion, a defect. Surprisingly, I was impressed with, and commented very favorably, the 2019 vintage. This underscores two important facts:

1. Wines change a lot from vintage to vintage.

2. You’ve got to drink the wine in order to rate it.

91 pts JS

$9.99 My Rating: 80 pts


Innovación, Bodega Santa Julia 2021, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay - Mendoza, Argentina

1 liter bottle at an amazingly low price, but the quality was in accordance with it.

$7.99 My Rating: 79 pts







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