$25 Big Red Wines You'll Want to Know About
Local and Very Small Production Wines for Insiders
November 4, 2005
Now that colder weather is here, thoughts turn to hearty
meals and big red wines. While there seem to be a wide range of Pacific
Northwest reds for over $35, we're interested in finding the best values-
the little gems that give a real rich, satisfying
experience, at a lower price than the collectible, ageable, higer priced wines with lots of
PR and cachet.
Here are several "insider" big reds that
our local customers crave. They boast a lot of flavor at really reasonable
prices. There's reasonably priced Northwest Sangiovese and Malbec, both
real crowd pleasers. You can try some different grape types without spending
You may not have heard of these wines before, but that's
sort of the point. They haven't won big awards, so their prices are still
quite good. It's great when our Northwest wines get big awards, but their
prices go up and availability goes down! Take a chance at trying some
of the future stars of the Northwest, and get some great deals - at least
until the Wine Spectator scores come out!
Lone Canary "Rosso" 03 $17.99/$19.99
What a pleasing, big, aromatic, rich wine - Marcus calls this "Super
Tuscan-NW Style". It's clearly Sangiovese in the Washington State style,
composed of 78% Sangiovese, softened and refined by 16% Merlot and 6%
Cabernet Sauvignon. The scent is huge, a soft and spicy mix of vanilla,
cedar, and black cherries, and the flavors are mellow and velvety, with
more spice, vanilla, cedar, ripe strawberry, and black cherry fruit.
It has reasonable acidity, and fine, balanced tannins. It's a wine to
drink over the next year, but that won't be a problem, once you've tried
this delightfully different big red. This wine is perfect for game, Italian
food, or a juicy burger off the grill. An Avalon Best Buy.
O'Reilly's Cabernet Sauvignon 04 $11.65/$12.95
We've been sadly remiss in not writing about this super bargain until now
- quantities are limited, and the wine is mostly sold locally here in Oregon,
but it's a wine you don't want to miss. At this price, this wine is simply
a complete and utter BARGAIN. It's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, made from the
same fruit as the higher priced Owen Roe Sharecropper Cabernet Sauvignon.
It's a classic Cab, with black fruit and spice notes in the scent and flavor,
and has David's trademark richness and huge flavors. A great deal, this
wine goes well with a T-bone or beef stew, or pizza- yes, great with pizza.
Andrew Rich Malbec 03 $19.75/$21.95
We tried this wine at the store yesterday, and it was such a hit! A crowd
pleaser, this is a big fruit bomb with an exotic scent of ripe black cherries
and currants, sandlalwood incense, and pepper. The wine is almost black
in color, and completely opaque. The flavors are of black cherry, cassis,
blackberry liqueur, spicy incense, and black plum. It's super-velvet on
the palate, with a long, long finish. This is a huge, mouthwatering wine
for big foods, strong cheeses, or by itself as a sipping wine in front
of a roaring fire on a cold night. Delightful, and it's really nice that
the price is in line with, or even a bit better, than equivalent
Argentinian Malbecs -
Harmonia Hyperion Syrah 2004 $18.86/$20.95
When a new winemaker comes over to the store to visit, we're always
interested - and when the wines are as good as Michael Beckley's, we
jump up and down with happiness (after he leaves, and only in the back
of the store where no one else can see us). It's so pleasant to find
a new up-and-comer, a winemaker who's producing lovely wines at reasonable
prices and making winemaking his life. Michael has three tiny production
wines, a Pinot noir that we think enough of to send to our Reserve
Pinot noir Club, a lovely rich Chardonnay called Theia, and a big,
concentrated, Syrah, called Hyperion.
Hyperion is another winner from garagiste Michael -
there are juicy, lush flavors of classic black cherry, roasted meat,
toasted coffee bean, and black currant, with a nice streak of acidity
to keep the wine fresh tasting, anda pleasant finish. It's a Syrah comparable
to many higher profile Syrahs at almost twice the price.
Here's a decidedly opinionated caveat about highly
rated Big Reds from new wineries, just one opinion, feel free to email
There's been a huge upsurge in high numerical ratings
of Northwest Big Red wines from new wineries in the last few years. Over
a dozen Washington wineries received ratings over 90 points for their
first vintages of new wines in the last 12 months. And congrats and kudoes
are due to the winemakers and vineyard managers.
But.... there's a phenomenon in the small winery
world - the new winery puts its all into its first vintage, pulls out
all the stops, and produces its first, incredible wines. Often, the winemaker
makes quite a small amount, and everything is done personally, and by
hand. Then the wine is sent to the reviewers, gets high scores, demand
increases, and all of a sudden, there's pressure to increase production
to respond to demand.
Techniques that worked well for a winemaker
handcrafting 250 cases of wine are suddenly changed to allow 1000 cases
or more to be produced, New fruit sources have to be sought out. New
employees, labels, facilities, equipment, and more are acquired. All
this costs money. Now there's a lot more wine, made with techniques that
the winemaker is not as used to, from different grape sources, and lots
more overhead. Prices must go up- and justifiably so, if the highly rated
previous vintage wine was underpriced. And if the new vintage is as good
All the changes described above can be pulled off, and
have been. But a winery without a track record is a winery without a
track record. There's a lot to be said for 25 or 30 years of consistent
excellence, if not as much current hoopla, from established wineries.
All I'm saying is, taste before you leap. If you weren't able to get
some of a highly rated wine from a new winery, at least taste the new
vintage before stocking up. And allow for some sophomore effort shortcomings.
Just as they say everyone has a first novel in them, so a first extraordinary
We hope you find something you like, and give
us a call! We love to talk with customers - you give us our best ideas.
Jean, Marcus, Chris, Kevin, and Wendy
201 SW 2nd Street
Corvallis OR 97333