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Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Dear friends,

Let me offer these commentaries, with some help from my family, about the following 22 wines presently at Chairman's Selection.

I have been impressed by some, so that you will find some 91 and 92 ratings in there. Also, some other lower rated wines had a great quality/price ratio and were worth trying. If you like them, your wallet will notice it. I have included some varietals that are not well known in the hope that they help us expand our palate. Finally, there were some not so good.

We have this time 7 wines from the US, 5 from Italy, 4 from Spain, 2 from France and 1 from Portugal, Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

Enjoy and, as always, I am looking forward to your tasting notes or comments after you have tried any of the wines.

Ricardo Llovet

A Lisa 2016, Rio Negro (Patagonia - Argentina), Malbec

Argentina Malbecs come from Mendoza and adjacent provinces in the Andes foothills. I was surprised to see a wine from remote Patagonia. I thought, let’s go for the exotic and adventurous and spend the money! It was money well spent.

Different from other Argentinian malbecs, more like a Cahors, I would say, and in a Burgundy bottle!

Complex and intense aromas spring out as plum (lots), cranberry and blueberry combined with tea and a bit of chocolate.

Very soft and warm mouth feel with just a bit more acidity than needed. Medium body and high intensity. Longer bouquet that expected for a relatively young wine. Very good. Let’s have the next bottle in Patagonia! 93 JS and WA. 92 pts. $18.99


De Martino Reserva Legado 2015 (Maipo Valley - Chile), Cabernet Sauvignon

I discovered this wine months ago in one of Dave’s Saturday wine tastings in the Waterfront wine store. Both of us liked it and I got two bottles. Last weekend I found their 2015 in clearance discounted $3.

Solid Cab, reminiscent of some Médoc wines.

Cherry paste (lots), blueberry and a bit of prunes. In mouth it is very fruity, soft, full and with balanced acidity. The bouquet is there.

I found it a bit mono-dimensional, and would have given it a bit more of aging in wood to unveil its potential, but overall it was a round wine with no apparent defect and a solid performer. 90 pts. WA

90 pts. - $15.19


Secateurs Rosé 2018 (Swartland - South Africa)

Swart means black in Dutch. Wine from black land. This area, North of Cape Town is named after the rhinoceros bush that turns black after the rain.

Usual and expected rosé aromas of cherries and strawberry. The critics also say grapefruit.

Pleasant, crisp and light. Nice wine for a swimming pool day.

Nonnie, it may be good to get Ben’s opinion.

86 pts. - $9.99


Arrocal 2016 (Ribera del Duero - Spain), Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)

No tannins in cork or at a glance. Light aroma of candied cantalope and strawberry. Bland taste in soft and watery texture, right acidity. Little bouquet.

I have seen two Ribera types: The big, aromatic and powerfully structured wines, worth of a competition with the best wines from around the World, and the bland and light type. Two different animals. I’d guess that, either very young vines or thorough malolactic fermentation, are behind the bland types. It’s a pity that both go under the same denomination. Wines like this detract from the excellent wines this region produces. Regulator, please, do something about it.

83 pts. - $15.99


Granza 2016 (Toro - Spain), Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo)

Toro lies alongside the Duero river downstream from Ribera del Duero. The Tinta de Toro is the same genotype as Tempranillo but the phenotype is different, producing grapes with thicker skins and more veins. The only way to survive for its vines in this 14 inch a year of rainfall territory is to reach for the river’s underground bed. The days are sunny and hot but the nights are cool in this 600 – 800 m. elevation. All this produces the following result:

Aromas of mature blueberries, blackberries, violet, prickly pear and pomegranate. In mouth it is intense, with powerful body, sticky tannins and some unpleasant acidity. The bouquet surprises for its refinement and silky feeling, but the acidity is still there. 93 pts. JS

91 pts. - $16.99


Esteva 2016 (Douro - Portugal), Portuguese Blend

Douro is the Portuguese continuation of the Duero and Toro wine regions in Spain, but, unlike their soft hills, the river here flows through a canyon, and the vines grow in man-made terraces on all sides of the hills. This, creates multiple micro climates from sunny to shady, from low to mid elevation, and compounds with the Portuguese tendency to combine varietals creating broad diversity in Douro wines.

Intense aromas of cherry and strawberry (the label says raspberry and blackberry), white chocolate and cupcake. Hours after opening the white chocolate evolved into milk chocolate. Sam detected liqueur.

In mouth it is silky with still some powdery tannins. The bouquet did not reach the promise from the taste. The next day the tannins disappeared giving way to an improved and very pleasant bouquet.

Sofia noted that the label uses too many different fonts.

89 points that evolved to 91 after 1 day - $13.99


Lajella 2017 (Colli Ripani Offida DOCG - Marche - Italy) , Passerina

Aromas of fruit, maybe pineapple. Taste of tree leaf, maybe eucalyptus, the critics say acacia.

Some oxidized flavors a bit like dry sherry as well as bitterness in the attack and also in the bouquet. Beautiful bottle though and a rare varietal. Dave, the Sommelier at my wine store had a better opinion of it than mine.

86 pts. - $12.99


Secoli 2018 (Soave - Italy), Garganega

Pear, apple, straw and flower aromas. Slight touch of wood. Very mellow and pleasant in mouth. Moderate acidity. Light and smooth. Hint of almonds in the bouquet.

Great price, as typical of wines from this large and reliable brand and from this classic region between Verona and Venice.

88 pts. - $8.99


Secoli 2016 (Veronese IGT - Italy), Corvina

This wine’s aroma is complex and intense. I could perceive red fig, cherry, red licorice, followed by subtle notes of strawberry, apricot, peach, orange rind and raisins. In mouth it was light, fresh and acidic with some pungency volatilizing towards the upper palate. The bouquet was nice and long lasting but the pungency remained in there too. A different wine worth trying and a bargain for the price.

89 pts. - $9.99


Cune Blanco 2018 (Rioja - Spain), Viura

Viura is an indigenous varietal from Spain. It is one of the 3 constituents of the Cava blend. It may happen that you never heard of it. For a long time it was the most popular Spanish white varietal, but in the last decade Albariño and Verdejo have taken over the prime scene. This one is from a reliable and price / value conscious producer, Cune, from Haro, Rioja Alta. Well, guess what: It’s coming back, and it’s worth trying. Do it if you want to expand your boundaries.

Aromas of green apple, kiwi and rosemary (yes, rosemary, I was trying hard to identify the herb and Sally did). Pungent palate with balanced acidity. Clean finish.

89 pts. - $12.99


Ca' Momi Rosso di Napa 2014 (Napa Valley - CA), Blend

The critic said in its tasting: campfire. I was astonished That’s too much! Well, I did smell it. Intense, right after opening the bottle. Real campfire aroma. It faded away after 1 minute and I never detected it again. Neither one in my family did.

Other than that curiosity, this wine delivers what the origin and blend would promise: Lots of black and red fruit. Some spice. Creamy finish. There was something authentic and delicious about this one. It over delivered beyond what my expectation was when I saw the bottle. Very good quality/price ratio.

89 pts. - $9.99


Primo 2018 (Txacoli de Zarautz - Spain), Txacoli

In a blind tasting some would say they are drinking hard cider. This wine challenges the boundary between grape and apple.

Very much green apple aromas with some kiwi, pineapple, herbs, pine tree, celery and white flowers. In mouth it is very acidic and as salty as a manzanilla sherry. Some light fizz in it tickling your tongue.

This wine talks loud about its origin in the Basque Country coast, surrounded by pine trees, apple trees, and cliffs over the sea.

11% alcohol. Most similar wines would be Muscadet and Vinho Verde. Drink with raw or steamed seafood. For vegetarians, it goes great with crudités. Very interesting experience but not recommended for Chardonnay lovers. 92 pts. W&S

89 pts. - $9.99


Firestone 2016 (Paso Robles - CA), Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles is a great AVA. It brings me good memories of a trip from LA to San Francisco with our friends Melissa, Enrique and Luisa. We spent the night in Madonna Inn, off San Luis Obispo. What a unique place! Memorable. I do not want to tell you anything to preserve the surprise. This is also a wine that Sally’s parents, non-frequent wine drinkers, bought for a dinner with us to impress us.

Aromas of blackberry and blueberry. Deep. Cola and coconut oil. In mouth it combines depth from aging with some young acidity. Almost dual personality. Coffee came out high in the palate. Some pepper in there too. Acid and still a bit rough, it will withstand years of cellaring. Really good and solid wine.

91 pts. - $14.99


Sterling 2016 (California), Cabernet Sauvignon

Not in Chairman’s but with a nice price discount right now.

Young and balanced Cab. Right acidity and mouthfeel. Really no defects. Feathery texture. Great for a casual drink at a fantastic price. If you, like me, drink wine almost daily, it will help you with your monthly bank statement.

88 pts. - $7.99


Les Fumées Blanches (France), Sauvignon Blanc

Francois Lurton is a cosmopolitan wine producer. His base is Bordeaux but he has ventured essentially everywhere Worldwide. All of his wines promise and deliver good quality, good price/value ratio and reliability. It’s like the old message from my company: “You can be sure if it is Westinghouse”.

Who knows where this wine is from? Lurton doesn't disclose it in the label, but it delivers herbal, mineral and lemon zest aromas. In mouth it is just fine with no defects except a feel of stainless steel. It tastes very much like a prototypical French Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing spectacular but a product that feels just right

87 pts. - $7.99


Shannon Reserve 2017 Red Hills Ranch - Lake County - CA), Chardonnay

Shannon is a favorite of Chairman’s Selection. And all of its wines come at excellent prices for what they deliver. They practice biodynamic agriculture avoiding the use of chemicals and trusting their lambs to take care of eliminating the wild herbs and the extra vine leaves that prevent the necessary sun exposure for the bunches.

I was very happy to see Tara Swanson’s and my favorite of Shannon’s wine, the Petite Syrah, in Wine Enthusiast’s list of 100 Wines of the Year.

This one is a classic CA Chardonnay in my opinion. You will notice the aromas of baked apples, vanilla and peach with an overpowering and resinous wood aging influence. Creamy and buttery in the palate. A critic says buttery croissant (look for it!). I noticed it in the aftertaste. Good acidity level that balances the barrel aging effects. I’d say reduce barrel exposure. Do not mistake it with the $9.99 version with a leaner bottle. Jen Patty, your style. Go for it. WE 90 pts.

89 pts. - $13.99


Viña Amate 2016 (Rioja - Spain), Tempranillo, Garnacha

Red fruits and licorice aromas. Very silky in your lips. A bit acidic, as most Riojas, evolving into a bitter and aqueous bouquet.

Good value for the price although nothing special.

85 pts. - $8.99


Double Canyon 2015 (Horse Heaven Hills - WA), Cabernet Sauvignon

Intense aromas of ripe cherry, plum jam and rare cranberry with some red licorice. In mouth it remains intense (succulent and generous the experts well said), with silky structure, buttery mouthfeel and same flavors as the aromas.

Solid, well-crafted wine that will not let you down.

I continue to find very good values from WA state. 90 pts, WA and JS.

90 pts. - $14.99


Ulises Valdez 2013 (Sonoma County, CA), Zinfandel

See post published in August 2019 about this wine and its wine maker.

Why do I like Sonoma Zinfandels so much! They are such happy and lovely wines.

This one started with aromas of blood orange, blackberries, may be some pepper and a persistent echo that increased in intensity every time I smelled and I finally identified as carnation. I did not see that in the professional commentaries or winemaker notes, so that, use your imagination and judge by yourselves.

In mouth it was acidic (I was comfortable with it after the second sip), and a bit tannic (although it mellowed with time). In the full body side. Red cherries took over big time and invaded my mouth. Almost like concentrated cherry juice. Sally said over-ripe peaches and plums, but the sweetness was very well tempered by the acidity, and the depth of an aged wine showed up with persistent and frank bouquet. Drink with no food.

92 pts. - $15.99


Rosemblum 2013 (Sonoma County - CA), Zinfandel

Aromas of cranberry, raspberry, black pepper and some remembrance of mushrooms. In mouth it is soft and evolves sweeter than expected with raspberry jam and chocolate, evolving into a salty bouquet.

I’d say it is a chamaleonic and multifaceted wine that got me a little confused. Not bad though, but it does not compare with the Ulises Valdez from same general area, year and price. If you have enough people, drink these two wines side by said and compare. 90 pts. WS

88 pts. - $14.99


Zensa 2018 (Puglia - Italy), Primitivo

The real Zinfandel. It is called Primitivo in Southern Italy, where it came from. This wine in such a pretentious and tacky bottle is made with organic grapes.

Light color, with aroma of ripe cherry jelly (Sally agreed but also found red plum and raspberry). Very fruity palate with silky texture. Almost no bouquet. Volatile and intense, just too raw and fruity for me, but Sally loved it.

Drink it besides a Sonoma Zinfandel as the Rosemblum and Ulises Valdez and appreciate the difference. The only thing they have in common is the DNA!?!

88 pts. - $13.99


Chateau Grand Médoc (Haut-Médoc

Cru Bourgeois - France), Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon

Pungent aroma of red fruits, maybe cherries, currant and cranberries. Slight notes of vanilla and ashes.

Very acidic in mouth and with drying tannins.

Some depth with red fruit compote, spice and gum but the acidity reaches the bouquet too and invades everything. I was hoping for much more from a Cru Bourgeois.

86 pts.* - $13.99

*But after a while the acidity receded, the tannins softened and it improved significantly to 89 pts.

Decant and wait before drinking.

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