Wine that won’t break the bank |

Wine that won’t break the bank

ZEV ROVINE, Of the Record staff

It is hard these days not to think in terms of money. I found my self at the gas station today spending almost $60 on a tank of gas and thinking that that would have bought me a mighty fine bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape or at the very least a few bargain bottles of great Rhone blends from Paso Robles. I turn on the radio and hear about the looming recession on our hands and think about how I will possibly be able to afford Champagne anymore and that instead I might need to look to the values coming up in Oregon or Italy for my bubbly. I think about the billions of dollars being spent on war and then think of the epic cellar of ancient Bordeaux that those billions could buy and conclude that I may be better off thinking about the wines that I can actually afford. So while driving I have come up with just a few of my favs under 20 bucks that are worth a buy.

Every meal should start with some bubbly wine and with the Dollar-Euro exchange being so bad Champagne seems to be out of the question so I have paid more attention lately to the growing quality of the sparkling wines of the U.S. The Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs from Sonoma County is consistently a shockingly rich and balanced wine. They have really made strides in the recent years in terms of the general quality of their wines and the most recent Blanc de Noirs is a great testament to their focus.

It is often in the case of wine that the best values come from the regions that you may least expect. Spain is without a doubt a region known for its red wines rather than its whites however its classic region in Rias Baixas is known for its stunningly crisp and distinctive whites while retaining their great value due to their relative obscurity. The ’05 Pazo Pondal Albarino is one of the best I have run across and I happen to know that the supply is running thin and thus you might want to jump on this one while you can at $16. This one, in particular, has the nicest array of tropical fruit overtop a distinctive grassy character. Nice wine.

It is not, of course, my intention to say that there is not still great value in Spain in terms of their reds. The ’06 Castano Monastrell from Yecla is a stunningly good value at $7. I know what your saying, "There is no such thing as a great $7 bottle of wine." Well, you’d be right if you say that, however, there are a few really good $7 wines and this one is it. Made primarily from the Monastrell variety which is a localized native grape to the Yecla region of Spain, this wine is medium bodied though rich in flavor and particularly in rip fruit flavors.

Finally, if you are like me and have a hard time finding a drinkable California Cab under $20 I suggest that you follow this "Oh so noble" grape to its homeland. Bordeaux is of course known for its insanely high-priced wines though one must understand that there are thousands of houses in Bordeaux and only a small percentage are really all that expensive. There are a vast number of wines from this classic region that are actually great value Cab and Merlot based wines. One cab based deal is the ’03 Chateau Greysac and for $17 it is more than generous in cassis, ripe plum, and an underlying layer of pepper. From the Merlot side of the river the ’03 Chateau Sauman from the Cotes de Bourg region is a nicely structured and full wine with great plum, bark, and violet aromas. Try and beat this one for $11.30.

Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at .