Wine Country Blog: innsights to the wine Country

Any Bargain Wines in the Wine Country?

Posted by Meilani N on May 12, 2011
We live and breathe wine here in Sonoma County... Now you know you can't drink those $50 and up wines every day (at least I can't).  So what do we do, where do we go to get those everyday wines that we can just drink out by the pool or casually slip some into the spaghetti sauce from our glass (what my sister-in-law refers to as "sluggin' wine")?  Here at Farmhouse Inn  we have a Michelin Star and our Master Sommelier has created a great wine list ...but it is really a celebratory, special occasion type of place-  Not something you would do everyday.  A lot of our guests are here re-stocking their wine cellars with some truly wonderful wines but where do the locals go...

Dan Berger writes a wine column for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and has graciously consented to let me use it.  I was going to write up something myself but he has already done a great job...why duplicate the effort? So here he is...and at the end of the blog I will let you in on a couple of places I go for some fun wines!

Dan Berger


Dan Berger: Reliable high-production wines can be great bargains

Some weeks ago, I discovered a wine, an Australian shiraz, that was closed out. I bought a bottle ($2.99), tried it, and was absolutely floored by its high quality.

So I bought two cases of it.

There are many reasons why a wine of this high a caliber would be discounted so deeply, some of which are so esoteric that they aren't relevant for this discussion — although a graduate seminar on wine marketing might find it fascinating.

Last week's column talked about the huge percentage of truly mediocre wine on the market these days, and I noted that “price doesn't enter the equation.” A lot of expensive wine can be pretty dull stuff, and some lower-priced wines are exceptional, regardless of price.

And often lower-priced lines of wine are trapped at a low level for various reasons, one of which is volume. If a lot of a particular wine is made, some people automatically assume it's pretty ordinary. But a few wines made in larger amounts are superb, and can be fairly priced.

Others are made in large amounts and are still great because of high standards. What comes immediately to mind is Dom Perignon, a superb wine from Champagne that sells for well over $100 a bottle and rarely disappoints.

The reasons for the few great wines that sell for lower prices than they probably ought to is that they started life at a low price, and to radically increase the price “after the fact” could kill sales.

Wineries that make such wines must keep their prices moderate to sell all the production in a year. That's because next year's production will be out, and if any of the prior-year wine is still around, it becomes harder to sell.

And many high-priced wines started out as small-production items; as the image gained luster, the price for them and production both rose. As a result, some of these wines are but a shell of what they once were, and are selling on image alone.

So are there any higher-production wines that are so reliable they represent great value? Sure, and two are listed here:

Kenwood Russian River Pinot NoirKenwood Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley:

This delightful lighter red wine is ideally flavored to show the strawberry-ish regional and varietal character. Even though the company made some 34,000 cases of this wine in 2009, it retains the superb fruit and balance that has made it the best value pinot noir I have tasted in years. If the wine didn't start out at such a reasonable price, I suspect that it would still sell if it were $30 or more.

Wine of the Week: 2009 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley ($9) — There is simply no connection between the (ludicrously low) price and the quality. Made by superb wine maker Wendy Stuckey, a former Australian riesling specialist, this wine was made in a pretty large amount (40,000 cases). Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Reisling 145420

Yet its dramatic lime/citrus, and tropical fruit aroma is a perfect reflection of the varietal. The Washington-based winery also makes literally hundreds of thousands of cases of a similarly priced “regular” riesling that is superb, and often discounted to about $7(!). But that wine is a bit sweeter than is this food-friendly dry version. I have tasted wines that sell for three times this price that aren't as good, or as reliable. And earlier vintages of this may well be better than they were; this wine ages handsomely. Could this be America's greatest wine value?

Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, where he publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at

Hi,  I'm back...I also pay attention to some of the picks by Peg Melnik who writes for the PD also.  However, I find sometimes that by the time I read about a find I can't find it anywhere.  But this week one of my favorite places for wine bargains featured Dan's "Wine of the Week" in their weekly ad... Bottle Barn  in Santa Rosa has a fantastic selection of local wines and very knowledgeable people too. And I love their "Dance Floor Deals"!BottleBarndancefloordeals

They are featuring Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2009 at just $7.59!  A couple of weeks ago I picked up a lovely Pinot there that was normally $42 - a steal at $12.  Went back to get more...all gone! 

Sometimes just for fun I like to spend time in the local wine, cheese, and olive bar department at Andy's Produce just down the road from us. They are worth a stop if you ever get in the area.  I have also found the wine geek at Trader Joe's (they are not just about the "Two Buck Chuck") to be a great help. If you have one in the neighborhood pay them a visit.

 I have certain wines I love this time of year...Rose is one of my favorite warm weather wines and of course, the Sauv Blancs in the area are special this time of year.  But I don't want to share so you will have to find them on your own (of course, if you read one of the previous blogs you might get a hint).  If you have any secret finds or wonderful places you find deals on wine...I might be willing to trade?


Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, Farmhouse Inn

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What would be better than good wine, good company, amazing s’mores, and a cozy fire?  I can’t think of anything else I would want!  Joey and I really enjoyed the nostalgia of roasting and toasting the marshmallows over the fire!  It definitely took me back to my childhood and I had no shame in having two of them!  I couldn’t help it!.continue