A trio of outstanding under-$20 white wines for summer and beyond
What’s in a price point? Depending on your perspective (as well as your budget), it means quite a lot actually. There are occasions when most of us are willing to splurge because of a special occasion or noteworthy event. In other cases we may like a producer and want to try their higher priced wines because we love their lower priced offerings. However, more often than not, most of us are looking for a good value, that good-bang-for-the-buck, and the feeling that not only are we drinking delicious wine but we got it for a song too. With that in mind here are three white wines that come in under $20. Each represents a particularly good bargain in their category and price point.
Parducci Wine Cellars has a long history in California’s Mendocino County. They have long been making affordable, everyday offerings that represent their region well. Their standout offerings year after year include their Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah. The white that really stood out for me among their current releases is the Parducci 2010 Small Lot Pinot Gris. This offering is a blend of Pinot Gris (94 percent) and Muscat Canelli (6 percent). All of the fruit came from their home region of Mendocino County. Fermentation and aging took place entirely in stainless steel. Just over 2,000 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Aromas of white peaches, Lychee fruit and apricot are all in strong evidence on the mellifluous nose of this 2010 Pinot Gris. Anjou pear and bits of lemon zest are apparent on the palate, which is quite fruity and gives the impression of sweetness while remaining essentially dry. Pineapple and guava lead a parade of unctuous tropical fruit flavors on the finish, which are joined by a lovely spice component that rings on well after the last sip. Solid acidity keeps things in check here.
Next up is Marc Mondavi’s The Divining Rod 2010 Chardonnay. Part of Marc Mondavi’s story is incredibly well known. He’s part of one of the most legendary of California wine families. His Dad is Peter Mondavi, and his grandparents bought the Charles Krug Winery in the 1940s, and it is still run by his family. The lesser known part of his story -- until now -- is that Marc is a “Water Witch.” He has been divining wine for his vineyards for years, a practice that has been both helpful and provided sideways glances for some folks. I met Marc recently and tasted this wine for the first time with him. He demonstrated his divining skills and was happy to talk about it and the wine. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Santa Lucia Highlands. It’s mostly Chardonnay (99 percent) with a dollop of Viognier (1 percent), blended in. This wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, eschewing oak treatment for purity of fruit. The 2010 The Divining Rod Chardonnay has a suggested retail price of $17. Tropical fruit aromas take the lead on the super-appealing nose of this 2010 Chardonnay. Pineapple and mango are present and joined by orchard fruits such as apple and pear. The palate is loaded with stunning bursts of pure, fresh fruit flavors. Lemon ice and continued tropical fruits pair with apple, pear and spice flavors to envelop your senses with explosively enjoyable fruit characteristics. Minerals and spice fill out the above-average finish, which is clean and crisp. Firm acidity keeps things balanced and pure. This is both a lovely example of fresh, unadulterated Chardonnay and an absolute joy to drink. In short, great story, even better wine.
Finally we have the Matetic Vineyards 2011 EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit for this wine is from Chile’s San Antonio Valley. All of the grapes used were organic and this offering is entirely Sauvignon Blanc. This is a single-vineyard effort, sourced at the winery’s estate vineyard. The fruit was handpicked in select small lots. Fermentation occurred in temperature-controlled stainless steel; aging followed in a combination of barrels and stainless steel tanks. About 1,000 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Citrus aromas lead the welcoming nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe tropical fruit aromas, such as mango and pineapple, follow their lead. The palate is as fresh and loaded with welcoming flavors as the day is long. This is remarkably balanced Sauvignon Blanc that shows off as many of the various sides of this versatile grape as possible. All of the classic hallmarks of Sauvignon Blanc are present in varying degrees. Bits of green herb and grass are present, and they join the tropical and citrus notes to form a pleasing rainbow of flavors. Minerals, bell pepper and citrus flavors are all part of the finish, which has impressive length. This is a fantastic example of cool, coastal Sauvignon Blanc that will pair well with a wide array of foods.
For various reasons, I was really knocked out by this diverse trio of wines. The Parducci Pinot Gris is a slam dunk bargain that’s perfectly priced to break out at a large party. It’s well suited for food and for sipping all by itself. The Divining Rod Chardonnay is an outrageously delicious wine that shows off a boatload of pure fruit and genuine varietal character. It’s an incredible pleasure to drink, and your mouth will thank you for it. The Matetic Sauvignon Blanc is primed to pair with light foods. It’s a wine that is fresh and delicious. The coastal wines of Chile are emerging and this offering from Matetic is an exciting example of the terrific offerings emerging from this part of their wine-making world. All told you can’t go wrong with these three wines -- they’re fresh, vibrant and thrilling examples of under-$20 values. Whether you drink them on your deck when the weather is warm or inside when things cool off, your taste buds will thank you.