On Wine


Affordable Reds
Which Varietal Gives the Biggest Bang for the Buck?


by Fred McMillin


Your wine shop has a display of five California red varietals under $15. Which grape usually is the best? To get an answer, my picky panel tasted an array from my cellar and here is how the varietals ranked.

On Wine: Rankings
California Red Varietals
5th Merlot
4th Syrah
3rd Pinot Noir
2nd Cabernet Sauvignon
1st And the winner: Zinfandel

Here are the top-scoring nine bottles, with the best listed last.

On Wine: Rankings
Our Nifty Nine
9th Cabernet Sauvignon Rex Goliath, California, NV, $9
8th Cabernet Sauvignon Five Rivers, 2003, $10
7th Cabernet Sauvignon Chateau Julien, 2005, $10
6th Pinot Noir Queen of Hearts, 2002, $10
5th Pinot Noir Turning Leaf, 2003, $12
4th Zinfandel Sobon Estate, 2004, $13
3rd Syrah Hahn Estates, 2004, $14
2nd Zinfandel Special Reserve Shenandoah Vineyards, 2004, $10
1st Old Vine Zinfandel Bogle Vineyards, 2005, $11


No Merlot, one Syrah, two Pinot Noir, three Cabs and three of the best four were Zins. In this low price range, Zinfandel continues to excel!


A Final Wine Smile

None of the Above
The first varietal planted in the Golden State was none of the above, but the MISSION grape. How good was the friars' early wine? Sir George Simpson was the Hudson's Bay Company's rep in California about 160 years ago. After sipping a sample of the Golden State's first varietal, he wrote in his diary, "Politeness alone induced me to swallow it."


Fred McMillin

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He was voted one of the U.S.A's 22 Best wine writers by the Academy of Wine Communications. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

Tasting: Edgar Vogt and Kenny Martin
Statistics: Ruby Dequis


Copyright © 2008, Fred McMillin. All rights reserved.


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This page created May 2008

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