I found a lot of value priced wines in Napa and Sonoma. This time of year is busy and stressful in wine country with grapes coming in for crush. It was great to see grapes coming in. They are sweeter than I thought they would be when I tasted them. Tasty little treats, though.

   Cuvaison was my first stop in Napa. Most of their grapes come from Carneros in southern Napa, though they do source some Cabernet and Zinfandel from Mount Veeder. The Cuvaison Carneros Chardonnay is well priced and very well made. It is classic Napa Chard, remaining clean and not overly oaked. Cuvaison was featuring the 2007 and 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir side by side. The '07 is very ripe, with cherry and sweet berry flavors. The '08 has a little bit more guts and structure. Both are good value Pinot Noirs.


Cuvaison's Carneros Estate

   Elyse was a great visit. The 2006 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel does not drink like your standard Napa Zin. Tasting this, you can tell it is a single vineyard. It has this briery, Earthy flavor along with a nice amount of ripe fruit that is hard to explain. You'll just have to try it! The '07 Barrel Select Petit Sirah shows bright, rich and dark berry flavors. It is very complex for a $30 bottle and will play nicely with a hearty Autumn meal.

   Besides finding value wines in Napa and Sonoma, which I did find, I wanted to seek out well made Rhone varietals. Copain in Sonoma met both of my needs. They led off with their 2009 Viognier from the Anderson Valley. A lot of California Viognier can get overly big to the point where the wine bites back. Not the case from Copain. This has ripe stone fruit flavors in the nose and in the mouth. It is very clean and would be great on your Thanksgiving Day table. Next was a Roussanne from the James Berry Vineyard. Unfortunately, they only made a couple hundred cases. This was the only white wine I purchased during my trip.

   On to the 2008 Copain Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Anderson Valley suffered a big wildfire in 2008, just before harvest. We tried the 2008 Duckhorn Decoy Pinot Noir, which has a little smoky note to it. It isn't terrible, however. The Copain is a little bit heavier than most similarly priced Pinots. It has dark cherry, raspberry and cola flavors. This is a tough Pinot to beat around $20. I tried two different Syrahs from them as well. The entry level 2008 Syrah is very well made, with Earthy, peppery flavors. The 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah from Mendocino is underpriced at $33, in my opinion. It has bright fruit flavors of Bing cherry, chambord and fresh black pepper, and is well balanced. This wine can pair with anything off of the grill, but I'm going to try it with roasted leg of lamb. Copain is a surprisingly value driven producer, very impressive.

   Another value driven brand you can find at Binny's is Burgess Cellars from Napa. The view from their estate on Howell Mountain is scenic to say the least. The entry level wines we carry include the Merlot ($18.99), Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99) and Syrah ($18.99). The Merlot drinks better than most in the same price range: well structured, balanced and not wimpy. The Cab is very nice as well, with good fruit flavors, considering the cooler 2006 vintage. Again, well balanced and well made for a bottle under $25.  The Syrah is put together nicely as well, with dark fruit and Earthy flavors. I cannot say enough about how well priced these wines are.

   The treat from Burgess is their 1996 Library Release Cabernet. Burgess holds back 500 cases of their Cabernet for re-release. Not many producers (if any) hold their wine for later sales. I did not expect to taste a 14 year old wine during my trip. Upon looking at the wine and tasting it, it didn't look like a 14 year old Cabernet, nor did it taste like one. The Howell Mountain fruit source, plus good storage conditions, gives the wine a little bit more longevity. Burgess was bringing in some Cabernet Franc grapes as I walked around the vineyard. The owner (Mr. Burgess, I called him) was on a forklift, lifting up a container of grapes being poured into a de-stemmer. I guess this is how Burgess keeps its prices so low.  


Burgess Cellars Howell Mountain Estate

   Next time, the opposite end of the spectrum. There were a lot of mid-range and higher-end wines I tasted and enjoyed. (It is Napa after all)  I will also report on the 2008 vintage of Napa. All I have to say is start saving up!

   The above wines are not available at every store.  Please contact your local Binny's for availablility.