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What To Drink Now: Affordable Wine for the New Year

By Hayley Hamilton Cogill |

As the new year starts we throw around resolutions to save more money, get into better shape, eat healthier and, in my case, drink wine that is both affordable and delicious.  If you are looking for a few options to start your year off with great taste, and without spending too much, consider one of these options….you’ll find that saving a few $$$$ never tasted so good.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Pali Wine Company recently launched a new program to bring region specific wines to the forefront at an affordable price.  Their Pali Charm Acres Chardonnay from Sonoma is barrel aged for , but does not go through malolactic fermentation, creating texture without an abundance of butter or cream, and filled with with juicy lemon, ripe melon, apricot and tropical notes.  Not overly complicated, but a great everyday wine to enjoy with friends or over dinner.

The goal of Educated Guess Chardonnay is to give both the oak loving Chardonnay drinker and the steely, mineral rich Chardonnay drinker a compromise, with half of the wine barrel fermented undergoing malolactic fermentation, the other half going through stainless steel fermentation creating a Napa Valley Chardonnay that marries both the white flower, tropical fruit and mineral notes with spice, toasted almond and just a hint of vanilla.

Founded in 1972 Markham Vineyards is one of the oldest, continuously operating wineries in Napa Valley. With over 350 acres of vines throughout the valley, Markham wines show a strong sense of place in every glass.  Their Markham Chardonnay, from grapes grown predominantly in Oak Knoll and Trubody (near Yountville) display stone fruit and citrus characteristics, that are highlighted by the barrel fermentation and 8 month oak aging of the wine. Chardonnay with true California style for under $15 a bottle.

If you are looking for a solid white under $10, try Camelot Chardonnay.  Like all the wines in their portfolio, this is easy drinking, fresh and uncomplicated, just what is often needed at the end of a long, tedious day.  Made from grapes grown in the Central Coast and Sacramento Delta of California, stainless steel fermented and aged just slightly on the lees (yeasts) for a fruit forward wine filled with green apple and white peach.

Albarino blossomed as the new darling of Spain a few years ago, with white wine drinkers leaning towards more mineral rich, earthy white wines filled with balanced fruit and acidity.  Though wine trends are taking us to other parts of the world these days, I still love a good Albarino.  Martin Codax Albarino from the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain with a cool, maritime climate producing fragrant, briny, luscious white wines.  A nice, distinguishing characteristic of this Albarino verses some others I have had is how well rounded the palate is, helped by the wine undergoing partial malolactic fermentation and aging for four months on the lees, giving structure, body and texture to the crisp, citrus filled wine.

Estancia from the Central Coast of California consistently produces a good everyday Chardonnay with a very food friendly flavor profile.  Winemaker Scott Kelley understands how to balance flavors in wine to highlight food pairings instead of compete with them, and takes this philosophy to heart in his wine making process.  This Chardonnay compliments recipes like Citrus Marinated Salmon and Halibut Brandade, with lush flavors of lemon, ripe pear and green apple with a touch of wild honey on the end.

I am a fan of the lively and citrus filled Vermentino from Duchman Family Winery, one of the best wines from Texas I have tried.  I recently had a bottle of their 2010 Duchman Dolcetto  am happy to see this Texas winery shines as much with Italian reds as they do with Italian white varieties.  Smooth and nicely balanced with layers of ripe red fruit and a long finish.

Hope Family Winery, the folks behind the gorgeous Treana, red and white Rhone style blends, and stellar Austin Hope Syrah, knock it out of the money saving park year after year with their Liberty School wines.  Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles blends both ripe fruit characteristics with layers of cedar and toasted spice, creating a nicely balanced wine that is as interesting as it is affordable, with personality and approachability.

Tin Roof Cellars prides themselves on their casual, uncomplicated approach to both wine making and living in general.  Almost a life is short philosophy that comes out in their down to earth wines.  The Tin Roof Red Blend brings Zinfandel, Merlot and Petit Sirah together in a harmonious mix for a big, juicy wine with spice and pepper notes, ideally paired with a bone-in grilled Texas rib-eye or smoky barbecue.

The thought of spending less than $20 or $30 or more on a bottle of great Bordeaux might be somewhat hard to believe, however there are incredible options available if you know how to do a little shopping.  By identifying the area of Bordeaux you love, like if you are Margaux or St. Emilion fan, you can narrow down the region you are partial to and then search for wineries in the area that will have a similar style to the high dollar producers, without the high price tag.  Wines of Bordeaux have a characteristic unlike any other in the world, and though others outside of the region may try to imitate, they can not match those those from within Bordeaux, growing their grapes in the limestone and clay filled soils of the area.

Chateau Vieux Manoir dates back to the 11th Century when the Manor was used as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Epernon.  Located in the center of Bordeaux with limestone and gravel filled soils the winery produces their Bordeaux Rouge blend of predominantly Merlot with 12% Cabernet Franc and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ripe black cherry and plum aromas blend with earthy, tobacco characteristics in this balanced, nicely structured wine costing about $10 a bottle.

6th generation winemaker Jean Darriet purchased the the La Maroutine estate in the southern part of the Cadillac 1942,  a premier Cotes de Bordeaux appellation.  Today the 8th generation of the Darriet winemakers produces wines for Chateau La Maroutine.  The Bordeaux Rouge blends 80% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon for a jammy, juicy wine with subtle tannins, earthiness and a touch of toasted oak on the finish, impressive for a $9 bottle of wine.


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