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Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

1. Ventisquero Queulat Carménѐre 2015, Maipo Valley - $9.99 (from $17)

I took it to Ocean City two weeks ago for the evening parties after each day of beach and tennis with Sally’s brother’s Jerry Nava, his family and several friends. It was the cheapest one. It had great reviews but was apprehensive for several reasons.

Calling Gran Reserve a 2015 wine is quite a stretch. I am noticing that many Chilean and some Argentinean wineries are doing that. Rioja is now releasing the 2011 Gran Reservas! Also, the rating was 94 but Decanter is a generous rater. Typically I deduct 4 points from their rating to infer a WS or WE rating. Anyways, in spite of my skepticism it was a big success, and some people told me it was the best wine of the bunch. Maybe the influence of the rating, or maybe that the Carmenere flavors are so similar to Cabernet/Merlot and our companions were used to the flavor of these varietals. I think you will have a big success if you serve it to people that are not connaisseurs, and the price is amazing.

Dark fruits with hints of dark chocolate aftertaste. Ends with freshness.

2. Jean Cavaille 2016, Agremont Cep Noir -

$14.99 (from $28)

Chairman’s team may have visited The Savoy (La Saboie) 1 year ago or so; and also the Loire River, because in the last year we have had an unprecedented amount of Agremont, Muscadet and Touraine choices.

Agremont “Cep Noir”, red varietal in English, is made with red grapes. Sort of a “blanc de noirs”. Some producers treat the back grapes as if they were white. They separate the skins pressing the grapes lightly and filtering to obtain a clean liquid juice. The result is often a white or a slightly pink wine.

Agremont is perfect with cheese fondue. And they are clearing the last bottles at an even more discounted price!

My son Sam was in La Savoie this summer. He came back impressed with the landscape, mountains, lakes, … . If you can, and like white wine, cheese and the best mineral water, this could be a good destination.

Fresh and dry, citrusy, with nutty hints.

3. Maison Jean Hauteville, Domaine des Coteaux de Val Lamartinien 2016, Mâcon Villages, - $14.99 (from $24)

Very good opportunity to taste an affordable and correct white Burgundy for a very affordable price. If you can, you may try to drink it at the same time as a typical CA Chardonnay like for example La Crema, or Rodney Strong, or Kendall Jackson. You may notice the difference. Many Californians use the Burgundy method and age their Chardonnay in oak, but they do it for a longer time than the French. The results will be wines more honeysh, with flavors of very mature fruits and sometimes pine resin, while the Burgundies tend to be more restrained and fresher.

Floral, mineral and citrus aromas. Possibly some green pine needle notes.

4. Franciscan Estate, Reserve Merlot 2013, Napa Valley - $19.99 (from $45)

I tasted this wine in Desire’s and Kip’s home 1-2 months ago. Next day I was at the wine store purchasing several bottles. I will be drinking some while I age others.

I also remember when I first tasted it: Jerry’s and Kim’s wedding in San Francisco. We went for a Napa valley tour and visited the cellar. Since then Jerry has been a fan of this wine. The labe; back then was more attractive in my opinion. This one will make it unnoticeable. When I retire, one of the possibilities I am thinking about is wine label designer. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I agree with Chairman’s: Outstanding and a tremendous opportunity. Of course, this is the most expensive wine in this report, but it’s worth it. I am going for more this afternoon.

Expect a big but refined and well-structured wine. Dark Cherries and blueberries combine with the flavors from aging like vanilla and cigar box.

5. Bodegas Atalaya, Laya Red Blend 2017, Almansa - $8.99

Dave, the Waterfront store sommelier, and I independently arrived at the same conclusion and were very happy when we discovered that: The best $8.99 wine we’ve ever had. Displayed in the front desk of the wine store.

Awful and unassuming label screaming cheap wine. If you are serving it to friends, serve it in a decanter. It will also benefit from that. Most Spanish Mediterranean wines do. Many open up after one or even two days, but this one does from the beginning.

The varietals are indigenous from Spain but are better known in the US by their French names. Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bousquet) and Monastrell (Mourdѐvre). These, as well as Grenache (Garnacha) and Carignan (Carinena) are widely used in wines from Côte du Rhône and Provence. Those, however, have more beautiful labels and higher prices.

Black fruits, licorice and expresso coffee. Dense and savory. It tastes to me older than a 2017.

6. Sin Zin 2014, Alexander Valley – $11.99 (TBC)

Not much to say about this one since most of us must have drunk it many times. Just keep getting it. Always a sure value. Why always prices end in 99?

Alexander Valley is in the northern part of Sonoma Valley, and therefore receives not much fog and a lot of sun, making it an excellent place for the Southern Italian Primitivo, known in CA by the much more enticing and melodic name of Zinfandel. It sounds like bells to me Zinnn Fannn Dellllllll. Very very fruity. The label fits it very well.

7. Buccia Nera, Tenuta di Campriano 2015, Chianti DOCG - $8.99 (from $15)

Frankly, the best $8.99 Chianti I ever had. Not a Classico but a DOCG. Very pleasant.

Crisp, violets and lots of cherry. Some carbonation still there making it very subtly frizzante. A wine for Italian fare like pizza, pasta, vitelo or salami. I got half a case.

8. Catena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Agrelo 2014, Mendoza - $14.99 (from $25)

A very solid performer with clear varietal characteristics. From one of the largest producers in Argentina. This is not their mass-bottling but one from specific plots with old vines. Worth trying it.

Mendoza is a very interesting terrain. The Andes keeps all the clouds in the Chilean side and leaves a desolate and dusty landscape in the Argentinean side. Nothing could grow here, but the snow melt from Los Andes supplies the water needed for irrigation. The light is very bright at day time, helping the grapes mature, but the very high elevation keeps the vines cool at night preserving the acidity in the grapes. The equivalent in the Northern hemisphere would be Columbia and Yakima valleys in WA. There terrains have demonstrated to be very apt for the Bordeaux varietals, in spite of the drastic differences in climate with that French region. Mysteries of nature with some help of mankind!

Blackberry and cassis with hints of menthol, tobacco and licorice. Decant a couple of hours before drinking.

9. Peuzat 2015, Bordeaux Superieur - $12.99

Right bank, 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a very high rating by Robert Parker. And 2015 was a good year in Bordeaux. Dave had chosen it as Staff Pick. Sally, who is not a red wine drinker and has some prejudice against French wines told me she absolutely loved it. This confirmed Robert Parker’s comment: “This is exactly the wine the market is demanding”. I think this one will be great when you have visitors. I bought 2 bottles 2 weeks ago and I am going for more today.

Very balanced combination, in my opinion, of fruit and depth. Well crafted. Typical berry and spice right bank aromas.

10. Arca Nova Rosé 2017, Vinho Verde - $8.99

And to finish, let’s do it with something very refreshing.

This wine is semi-sparkling, with some sweetness without being a sweet wine. Not too different from Matheus Rose. At a time Matheus was the most sold wine Worldwide, but I do not know what has happened to it. Is Chairman’s upset with them for any reason? For prior Matheus lovers, if possible in a hot day, an appetizer at noon on a weekend with this wine will be very satisfying. But, please be careful, this wine is too easy to drink!

Red currant with a note of caramel.

And, of course, as always, if you bump into anything from Shannon Ridge, does not matter, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, Barbera, get it.

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