Is there anything more enticing than seeing this headline on the cover of Wine Spectator magazine promising a Top 100 list of best-value new world wines? It would allure most wine lovers I know.
When you’re new to wine appreciation, such a list makes a fine companion to carry along to your favorite wine shop or grocery store. I’ve witnessed many novice wine shoppers referring to it stashed in their tote bag, and it’s exciting when you find those notable wines.
But before I shelled out $10 for the April 30, 2019, issue, I sneaked a peek at the list.
Just as I suspected, there were few Central Coast wines among the list, despite the fact that there are many other sure bets.
To make the Wine Spectator’s 100 value wine list manageable, author Keith Newton listed by varietal category first. He begins with cabernet sauvignon and blends then other reds in alphabetical order, then lists the white wines the same way starting with chardonnay. But within each variety, you’ll find brands from more than the Americas; it includes many choices from Australia and New Zealand.
The columnist explained there’s a wide world of possibilities for value wines, but added, “It’s not always from the grapes you expect.” Which means you’ll find a wide range of wines like cabernet sauvignons, cabernet franc blends, grenache blends, zinfandels and Rhone white varieties, besides chardonnays and syrahs.
“Which grapes from which regions is not always easy to answer,” Newton noted.
I agree that wines change each vintage. I don’t always like the same good value wines each year, as the weather differs, the blend is often from many various vineyards, which means the wine won’t be consistent in flavors. Those factors and other winemaking choices change the wines from year to year.
Note: Wine Spectator receives wine samples from around the world on a daily basis. But not every winemaker appreciates critics, so they don’t always send samples. I know from the seven years working in the San Francisco office that the tasting coordinators also buy wines from wineries that don’t send therm to keep things in balance.
From Newton’s list, I chose some of my favorites that have tasting rooms open on a daily basis.
Wine aficionados always appreciate an opportunity to taste before we buy. Do look closely at their wines available for purchase. While they all offer excellent wines for $25 or less, their single vineyard wines and proprietary brands will cost a bit over that bargain price. There are many Central Coast tasting rooms that offer great wines at value prices, too many to note here, and those that do typically open daily.
San Luis Obispo County
My first find on the list that’s still available is the Ancient Peaks 2016 zinfandel Santa Margarita Ranch (also known for their Margarita Adventures Zipline). It’s described as an ultra ripe and jammy zin with bold blackberry and licorice flavors, scoring 89 points out of 100 possible points, for just $20. Learn more about this excellent good value brand at www.ancientpeaks.com.
Santa Barbara County
Lafond Winery & Vineyards 2014 Syrah Santa Rita Hills was chosen for being well-structured yet tight, and dense with blackberry and rustic woodland aromas and flavors. It’s still available at the low price of $23, and it earned 89 points. Read about their tasting rooms in Buellton and Santa Barbara at www.lafondwinery.com.
On the white wine side was Margerum Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Sybarite Happy Canyon. Although the fruit is grown in three different vineyards, they are all within the new Happy Canyon AVA. Margerum wine tasting rooms are in Buellton and Santa Barbara, which includes other great value wines. You’ll find them at www.margerumwines.com.