Finding great values in the Southern Rhone is still relatively easy, but in the north it’s becoming a real challenge. All the great regions are small with cult-like followings for top producers. It’s one thing to find a great value on a current release wine, but something ready for the table, that’s a different story. 2001 is a lovely vintage, not exactly top notch but with a lovely purity and balance to the fruit that played into the hands of those producers looking for elegance in their wines. Patrick Jasmin has done just that, producing a gentle, accessible Cote Rotie which is drinking perfectly today.
Tondonia Gran Reserva
There’s a ton of great Rioja Gran Reserva out there for less than $100, but the wines of Lopez de Heredia are real standouts for me. I love the complexity and transparency of these wines. They are unique and classic expressions of Rioja. 1994 is an excellent vintage and in the hands of Lopez de Heredia, the fruit has been transformed into a joyous wine, just reaching its plateau of maturity. There are a couple of decades of life left in this wine.
Brunello di Montalcino is the Bordeaux of Italy. Everybody recognizes the name and associates it with a certain level of quality, but the details are often lost to the casual wine consumer. That’s perfectly fine because all you have to do is put some juice in their mouths that makes them say wow.
2001 is a very good vintage for Brunello. This Riserva benefits from being produced with the best fruit of that harvest as well as additional years of aging when compared to Talenti’s straight Brunello. It’s a powerful, rich, layered Brunello that won't quite break the bank but will deliver an eye-opening drinking experience.
Dunn Napa Valley
There are more Napa Cabs at $100 than you can shake a stick at. Many are good, few are to my taste. There are few producers that really wow me and Randy Dunn is one of them. His wines are Napa Valley classics, simply put. They need time to come around, a recent taste of the 1995 was promising but still a little young. The 1993 vintage in Napa is a bit of a precocious vintage, and Dunn’s Napa Valley bottling is firing on all cylinders. It’s an awesome bottle of wine and worth every penny. If you’re shopping for me this year, buy one (or more!) of these please!
Burgundy is almost never cheap and with recent vintages being both of high quality and low quantity, it’s rapidly becoming downright unaffordable. But still, there are a few deals out there. While not a great vintage in particular, the 2000 does offer some great drinking and what might be the last chance to try some of the top producers at affordable pricing. Robert Chevillon make wines that can be difficult in their youths and really demand aging as so many Burgundies do, but when they are finally mature, they are elegant, ethereal wines.