A friend of mine had asked me to put together a list of wines he should buy for his new wine cooler. An avid wine drinker, he stuck to the same wines year after year, content to rely on a name rather than risk money on alternatives.
He wanted to buy 10 cases and take my list to local retailers who would then bid for his business. That's an interesting concept, but one doomed to fail. Not every store will carry all of the wines I would recommend. Any wine the retailer special ordered would have to be purchased by the case because retailers just don't want to put wines on their shelves they don't particularly want. Ideally, he would buy a half-case of each and thus diversify his collection.
But he was determined, so I put together the order. We agreed that 5 cases would be priced $25-$35 and 5 cases would range from $35 to $75. The first batch would be for current drinking -- within, say, 3 years -- and the second, more expensive batch would be for long-term cellaring.
I didn't choose wines that I thought were really special, simply because they would be too hard to find and unlikely would be carried by the retailers he was going to visit. So here's the list of wines of good value -- they surpass similar wines of the same price.
MERLOT: Duckhorn Napa Valley $54; Markham Merlot ($25)
CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Calif): Chateau Montelena ($58); Robert Mondavi ($30)
PINOT NOIR: Domaine Serene Evanstad ($70); Ponzi Tavola ($27)
ZINFANDEL: Ridge Pagani Vineyard ($35); Seghesio Sonoma County ($18)
BLENDS: Franciscan Magnificat ($55); Marietta Old Vine Red ($16)
ITALIAN VARIETALS: Gabbiano Chianti ($30); Altare Barolo ($50)
SPANISH VARIETALS: Can Blau ($17); Artadi ($18)
FRANCE: Sociando-Mallet Bordeaux ($40); Guigal Cotes du Rhone ($16)