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Under $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 a fortune.

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 - thanks Andrew!


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 and disagree:

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 or better.

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 wine.....

We hope you find something you like, and give us a call! We love to talk with customers - you give us our best ideas.

Best regards,

Jean, Marcus, Chris, Kevin, and Wendy

Jean Yates
Avalon Wine
201 SW 2nd Street
Corvallis OR 97333

Marcus Looze

Chris Haggerty
Customer Service

Kevin Hanscom
Shipping Manager

Wendy Brown

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