$10 Wines


By Steve Bjerklie

YOUR INDULGENCE, please, for a short statement of the obvious: Great wine costs too damn much. And cheap jug wine is best applied as deck stain (red) or silver polish (white). Colliding into these immutable facts is another truth I hold to be self-evident: No evening meal is truly enjoyable without wine.

So what to do–ride the debt bull or become a crank? Fortunately, a string of good wine values at or below the $10 mark–a kind of methadone for private-reserve addicts–solves the problem, fitting today’s real-life lifestyles. What wine, for example, best suits The X-Files? What does one serve with burritos? What’s appropriate for the kids’ soccer-team picnic? These are the questions to which the drinking public demands cogent, informative answers. And these we will provide.

St. Supery 1995 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Dollarhide Ranch. A good just-home-from-work quaff. You need something cool and light in your hand as you shitcan the day’s junk mail and choose which pasta sauce to open over the noodles. This is the stuff. Mind you, it’s not for the pasta, but for earlier, when you’re cattle-prodding the kids into hanging the morning’s damp towels. Astringent, but without an overdose of the grassiness dominating other sauvignon blancs. If you leave it in your mouth long enough–and I almost never do, rushing toward the more personal and meaningful act of swallowing–you can taste a hint of apricot, maybe even marmalade. Finish the bottle with a hearty salad and/or a significant other. Being a destitute writer, I had it with a bowl of Top Ramen. Excellent. Two and a half stars. $5.99 at Cost Plus.

Rodney Strong 1993 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. The true test of a good cabernet is not whether it can make a piece of steak stand up and sing “America the Beautiful” in your mouth, but if and how the wine enhances the subtleties of such foods as fettuccine Alfredo and Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner. You want a cab that makes you light the candles for meatloaf. Here is such a cab. Surprisingly complex in flavor (anise, licorice, and good ‘ol burnt toast), with a nose as noble as Cary Grant’s–all for less than eight bucks. Republicans buy this wine secretly and rebottle it with LaTour labels. Being a bit short of fettuccine, and too poor to have any real Alfredo fixings anywhere in the house, I made this wine accompany jack cheese on crackers and one of the baseball playoff games on the radio, which it did with admirable panache and patience. Three and a half stars. $7.99 at Trader Joe’s.

Rosemount Estate 1995 South Australia Shiraz. Year in, year out, the best red-wine deal on the planet. A few years ago the Wine Snobtator ranked Rosemount Shiraz among the top 10 wines in the world. Considering that a bottle of it costs about 1/30th what a bottle of Petrus runs, this is a dangerous accomplishment. A fruity syrah grape without a lot of pretense, I find the ’95 a little less complex than those of previous years, but it still tastes like excellent sex with satin at the edges. Try it with a caesar salad or, maybe, lamb. In fact, definitely lamb. Being a destitute writer–did I mention this?–I had it with bologna on sourdough dabbed with just a hint of off-brand Dijon mustard. Very, very nice. Then I phoned up women I used to know, but to no avail. Three and a half stars. $9.99 at Cost Plus.

Appearing on a regularly irregular basis, Spo-Dee-O-Dee will explore $10-and-less wines fitting today’s real-life lifestyles, without bias toward snob appeal, rarity, or source. And then we’ll microwave the burritos to go with ’em.

From the October 17-23, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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