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90+ point rated wines under $20











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2005 Beckmen Vineyards Atelier**
05Beckmenatelier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $30 @ the Winery 4/13/09
Blend of 63% Cabernet Franc and 37% Merlot
A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with a subtle nose of blackberry, blackcurrant, green pepper, smoke and hints of violet and minerals. The palate opens with pure Cab Franc flavors and was a bit acidic to start. Once it gained some air the mouthfeel rounded out with the same notes as the nose with additional hints of black cherry, spice and cedar on the medium finish. I initially thought this wine was in decline, but became truly integrated and lovely on the second day. Could go another 6 months to a year at least. Made me sad once again that the winery is no longer growing Cab Franc.

2005 Bodegas Castano Solanera***
solanera.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Yecla, Spain $15 Wine Discount Center 8/17/08
Blend of 65% Mourvedre, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Tempranillo
I hate to crib other people's notes but Stephen Tanzer says it all: "Saturated purple. Smoky raspberry and cherry on the nose, with a sexy mocha quality adding complexity. Fleshy, round dark fruit liqueur flavors caress rather than pummel the palate. Gentle tannins arrive late to add structure but this is all about silky, juicy fruit." This wine packs a flavor punch but with great finesse and unity. I would add earth and spice box to the mix as well. A bottle I almost hated to finish and one from which I drank more than my fair share. Am going to get more.

OTHER RATINGS: RP: 91

2005 Dark Star Cellars Anderson Road**
darkstarAR.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 7/24/08
Blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Syrah and 10% Petite Sirah
A deep, ruby-purple colored wine with a tight nose of black fruit, earth, spice and oak. When first opened the tannins were bitter and overwhelmed the fruit. The second night it was a totally different wine with a softer mouthfeel, ripe blackberry and black cherry flavors, smokey oak and notes of sweet spice and vanilla on the medium finish. This is a teeth-coating wine that needs at least another year in the bottle, which may add some complexity to the blend. Currently it's a bit rustic and one-dimensional, but still enjoyable if you like big, fruity wines.

Retasted 1/6/09: This wine is aging wonderfully, opening up within 15 minutes and showing the second night flavors almost right away with more class and unity. Tastes more like Syrah at the moment and I think will continue to get smoother, but is certainly ready to go. Would place it more at the 3 star level now than the last time around. Drank more than my fair share. Wish I had another bottle.

2005 Bodegas Luzon Altos de Luzon**
altosluzon.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Jumilla, Spain $16 Vendome Wine 7/19/08
Blend of 50% Mourvedre, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Tempranillo.
A deep, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose of vanilla and sweet spices along with ripe blackberry, plum and boysenberry notes. The mouthfeel was instantly lush with dark berry flavors, vanilla, earth, spice and a nice finish with hints of mocha. It's a touch rustic with most of the flavor upfront, leaving the midpalate a bit flat. More unity of flavor and weight, would have raised its rating another star. Certainly drinkable now, but another 6 months will smooth out the rest of the tannins. Wonderful wine for the price. One to purchase, if you can find it.

OTHER RATINGS: WS: 89

2005 Halter Ranch Vineyard, Ranch Red**
05_Ranch_Red.gif Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $18 @ the Winery 12/31/07
Blend of 6 reds and 1 white. Changes yearly.
A hearty red with ripe, jammy and spice aromes that come together wonderfully on the smooth palate. Along with bright flavors of blackberry and raspberry the smooth finish delivers hints of chocolate. A little tight on the start, the tannins and acid quickly settle, making this a good choice for everyday drinking.

2005 Justin Vineyards Orphan***
JustinOrphan_Front.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $16 @ the Winery 3/18/07
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
Ripe aromas of cherry, plum and blackberry fill the nose and combine with a touch of smoke. The palate begins soft and supple with bright red fruit and a hint of spice. Layers of earth and a light touch of tannin on the smooth and lingering finish. A complex wine at an everyday price.

2005 Domaine Laffont Erigone**
laffont_madiran.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Madiran, France $17 The Wine House 3/10/08
Blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc
A deep, ruby medium bodied wine with clear aromas of black fruit, smoke, earth and hints of coffee. The palate is filled with a balance of blackberry, spice, earth and oak with a nice finish that leaves hints of vanilla. The tannins are a bit on the high side, so either wait another year for them to integrate or decant for at least an hour. A wine from the Bordeaux region that delivers complex flavors for a very good price.

2005 Montes Alpha "Purple Angel" Carmenére***
purpleangel.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Rapel Valley, Chile $55 The Wine House 4/21/08
Blend of Carmenere and Petit Verdot
A deep, youthful ruby-purple color with black fruit aromas and hints of smoke, vanilla and sweet spice. The wine is full bodied, with a considerably amount of ripe tannins giving grip and structure along with the blackberry, plum and oak with hints of herbs and vanilla on the soft and long finish. This is a big wine that is drinkable now but could use a bit more time to fully integrate the tannins and alcohol. The price is somewhat steep for a Chilean wine, but it does deliver quite a bit of flavor and quality.

2005 Palmina Alisos**
palminaalisos.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $25 @ the Winery 3/28/10
Blend of 60% Sangiovese, 15% Sangiovese Appassiemento and 30% Merlot
A medium, ruby-colored wine with bright, candied berry aromas with notes of sweet spice and flowers. The palate is medium-bodied, round and ripe with a slight spritz, low tannins and acidity. The dried grape flavors have taken over – appassiemento is an Italian winemaking method of drying that concentrates the grape sugars before being pressed and blended back into the wine – making this seem more like a Zin than a sangiovese/merlot blend. Well-balanced with mostly red fruit, plum and black cherry flavors and a dusty, medium-length finish. While still enjoyable I wish I had drunk it a year ago, as it wasn't showing much complexity. Unless you like your wines on the super-ripe side, this one is past its prime.

2005 Stolpman Vineyards La Croce***
05StolpmanLaCroce.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $65 @ the Winery 1/20/11
Blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Sangiovese.
A medium-deep, ruby-garnet colored wine with an intense nose of ripe cherry, blackberry, raspberry, herbs, earth and hints of mocha and smoke. The palate is medium-bodied, round and ripe with well-balanced acidity and fine tannins. The grapes are picked and co-fermented together in new French oak barriques, which immediately blends the flavors together, adds vibrancy to the nose and color (or so they claim). We popped and poured this wine and it really was a seamless blend of these two vastly different grape profiles. The flavors mirrored the nose with great depth and intensity as well as finesse, with a lengthy mineral, mocha and spice finish. We popped and poured this wine and it was lovely from the first sip to the last and went quite well with our dinner of Beef & Mushroom Ragu. Was a bit worried about its evolution due to its' 15.1% abv, but it showed no sign of heat or of slowing down. However, if you like your wine to taste of fruit it might be better within the next year or so. Many labor-intensive methods and new French oak go into producing this wine, which is clearly reflected in the price and for me, shows up in the bottle, though I'm a club member and get 20% off so that helps. A surprising pairing that works wonders here.

2005 Tobin James Chateau Le Cacheflo**
TBcacheflo.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $12 @ the Winery 6/23/08
Blend of Syrah, Barbera and Sangiovese
Just what you want in an everyday wine. This blend is fairly light-bodied with a bright ruby color. The nose is mild, filled with red fruit and earthy spice. Medium tannins and acidity help keep the ripe flavors of plums, dark cherry and berries in check. The good finish is filled with sweet spice, earth and a hint of mocha. The syrah is used for structure and to balance the sometimes overpowering acidity of the Italian varietals. Elegant and enjoyable for the price.

2005 Vines on the Marycrest My Generation**
VMGeneration.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $22 @ the Winery 1/7/10
Blend of 45% Zinfandel, 28% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre and 9% Petite Sirah.
A deep, ruby-purple colored wine with a bright nose of brambly berry fruits, black cherry, earth and sweet spice. Initially the Zin takes front stage on the palate with ripe berry flavors along with notes of spice and smoke. Then as the wine opened up, more blackberry, blackcurrant leaf and meaty notes emerged to the forefront, making it seem like more of a blend. Medium/full-bodied with good acidity, ripe and round with a tinge of raisin on the lengthy finish. Am sure the abv was over 15%, but it was integrated fairly well for a Zin-based wine. Starting to show it's age a bit due to the high proportion of Zin, but still eminently enjoyable. Would drink within the next 6mos to a year.




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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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