Wines from Mendocino County's Bonterra.
PD FILE, 2009
Who says great wine has to cost lots of money? Here in Northern California we benefit from being so close to the source, with many producers focusing specifically on making locally grown wines for $25 and under. Here are some to consider when it's time to find wine that won't scare your wallet.
Bonterra: Mendocino-headquartered Bonterra, which grows all of its wines grapes organically, is a wonderful bastion of fairly priced wines, from its $16 Mendocino County cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel to its Bartolucci Vineyard, Lake County Muscat, also $16. It also makes a mean riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, all under $15. www.bonterra.com.
Don & Sons: Don Sebastiani's wine company with his sons, including Donny, who serves as president and CEO, is a juggernaut of well-made value wines sourced from Napa, Sonoma, Clarksburg and Paso Robles under a variety of whimsical names. The B Side Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is blended with malbec and petit verdot and clocks in at a slightly higher price point, $30, though it's also worth seeking out Don & Sons chardonnay and pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast for a very fair $20. The heartiest values of the bunch, though, include The Crusher ($18), a petite sirah from Clarksburg, and Project Paso, a grenache-heavy red blend from Paso Robles. www.donandsons.com.
Joseph Carr Winery/Josh Cellars: The Napa Valley's Joseph Carr Winery is getting a lot of buzz right now because it is making super-delicious wines at not very expensive prices, and who doesn't love that? Look for its cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot, from Napa fruit, most priced $20 and under. The Josh Cellars wines, named for Carr's grandfather, specializes in wines from Sonoma County and Red Hills Lake County fruit. www.josephcarrwine.com.
Kitchen Sink: Adler Fels Winery makes these non-vintage wines, a red and white blend, priced at $12.99 a bottle. True to the name, the wines are a hodge-podge of many different varieties. The red blend, for example, mixes zinfandel, syrah, merlot and petite sirah grown throughout California. The white mingles viognier with moscato, symphony, semillon and sauvignon blanc. Not too fussy or complex, the wines also hover in the moderately low 13 percent alcohol range. The winery has recently released a Kitchen Sink California moscato as well. www.adlerfels.com.
Line 39, Redtree and Backhouse: Wine industry veteran Roy Cecchetti, who made his mark with the creation of Pepperwood Grove, launched Cecchetti Wine Company five years ago with the goal of producing value wines from local grapes. It is now one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. The success is due in good part to Line 39, a brand of wines focused on Lake County sauvignon blanc and North Coast chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah, that can be had for $10 each. His other wine brands include California-appellation Redtree (which retails for $8) and Backhouse (which retail for $7). Next up will be Exitus, a slightly more expensive red blend. www.cecchettiwineco.com.
Navarro: Anderson Valley's family-run Navarro remains a consistent producer of great wines at great prices year after year. They make some very fun wines to boot, from gewürztraminer, riesling, pinot gris, Muscat blanc, sauvignon blanc and edelzwicker (!), all typically priced under $20, to an inexpensive pinot noir, which can be had for under $20, an unheard of price for the variety these days. www.navarrowine.com.
Novy Family Wines: Novy is the sister label of Adam and Dianna Lee of Siduri, and is focused mostly on non-pinot noir wines. It undoubtedly offers some of the tastiest bang for the buck. If you like a good syrah, Novy makes several, including many single-vineyard designates. But the best deal of all is their Four Mile Creek red table wine, a blend of syrah, grenache and zinfandel from both Sonoma and Napa-side vineyards ($12). www.novyfamilywines.com.
Shannon Ridge/Vigilance Winery & Vineyards: Lake County-based grape grower Clay Shannon got into making his own wines years ago with the Shannon Ridge brand, a wide-ranging producer of everything from sauvignon blanc to Wrangler Red, a popular, easy-drinking red blend. He expanded further into the $12-$25 price range with Vigilance Winery & Vineyards, which sells mostly at BevMo stores. Vigilance is especially known for its racy sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and solid petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon, as well as Cimarron, a blend of syrah and petite sirah. www.shannonridge.com or www.vigilancewinery.com.
St. Francis Winery: Sonoma Valley's St. Francis makes high-end wines but offers a surprising number of wines for under $20 too, from an old vine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon. claret and two different types of merlot, to a chardonnay for $15. New right now is Red Splash, a blend perfect for mid-week burgers, pizza or pasta, for just $13. www.stfranciswinery.com.
Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at email@example.com.