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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2009 Schild Estate Old Vines GMS**
09SchildEstateGMS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Barossa Valley, Australia $12 Wine Discount Center 6/12/11
A blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah.
Bright nose of cherry, minerals, mint, sweet spice hint of meat. Light-medium bodied with moderate acidity and a medium-length finish of pepper and chalk, flavors of ripe cherry, strawberry, leather, mint. A well-balanced wine with good varietal character if not a great deal of complexity. The fruit was all harvested from vineyards at least 70-years old with no oak aging. A bit of even neutral oak may have helped add depth, but would certainly have raised the bottle cost. Haven't had much wine from Australia in a long time. Forget how interesting they can be in this price point. While not exactly memorable, it is hitting the spot and would probably be better with food, especially pizza. A solid wine that has good flavors without hitting you over the head with fruit or heat. (14.5% abv)

2008 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap**
07wolftrapred.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Franschoek, South Africa $10 Bin Ends Wine 7/8/09
Blend of 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 2% Viognier.
A deep ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose of black fruit, earth, smoke and sweet spice. The palate was round and ripe with flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum and earth with notes of bacon and pepper on the lingering finish. Hard to believe this wine was so well-crafted for so little money and drinking so well, so young. It will certainly be too ripe for some, but there's a lot going on here for the price. If you can find it, buy more than one bottle. Everyday wines rarely get better than this. Should be able to age, but there's no reason to wait.

2008 Domaine de la Garrigue Cuvée Romaine**
08DomLaGarrigue.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Cotes-du-Rhone, France $17 @ The Green Spot 9/21/10
Blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a moderate nose of ripe blackberry, black cherry, herbs, earth and cedar. The palate is medium-bodied with bright acidity and dusty tannins that smooth out as the wine opens. The flavors mirror the nose with additional notes of cranberry, spice and tobacco on the medium-length finish. This is a custom blend created just for wine importer Eric Solomon that comes from 60-90-year-old vines and is aged 18 months in 80% tank and 20% oak. Has a bit more oomph and ripeness due to its' 14% abv than many CDRs. While it delivered for the money, was hoping for a bit more finesse and complexity. Perhaps just needs a bit more time in the bottle to come together. Enjoyable but not memorable.

2007 Adelaida Cellers Version Red***
07AdelaidaVersion.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $32 @ the Winery 12/14/10
A blend of 20% Syrah, 42% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 9% Counoise and 7% Cinsault.
A true field Rhone blend with a moderate nose of black cherry, raspberry, earth, plum, smoke and hints of meat. The wine is a medium-deep, ruby color with a medium-bodied, lush mouthfeel, fine tannins and well-balanced acidity. The flavors are intense, mirroring the nose with great structure and a nice union of the savory and fruity elements. Additional notes of leather, cocoa, wet leaves and pepper add depth to the fruit and help deliver a round and lengthy finish. All the varieties were fermented and aged separately for 21 months in French Oak (28% new), which really helps keep the fruit in check and adds elegance to the wine. Popped and poured this wine just kept getting better as the night went on. Though the varietal percentages vary from vintage to vintage, the quality does not. Very good QPR, especially when compared to other similar blends in the region. (14.9% abv/1141 cases)

2007 Bodegas Luzon Finca de Luzon**
luzon07.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Jumilla, Spain $7 K&L Wines 5/25/09
Blend of 70% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah.
A deep, ruby/purple colored wine with a complex nose of black fruit, spice, smokey meat and hints of violet and herbs. The palate is medium-bodied and well-crafted with a lovely mix of ripe blackberry & plum flavors with earthy/meaty components that keep the sweetness of the fruit contained while delivering a pepper/mineral-filled finish. This wine has seen no oak treatment so you can really see what the location brings to the mix of these varietals. Quite a nice wine for $7 and one I will definitely be getting more of. Don't agree with the WE 90-point score, the wine is lacking a bit of depth for that, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting and enjoyable red for this price. Still quite young, so give it a bit of time to open or aerate before serving.

2007 Domaine L'Hortus de Bergerie Classique**
07LHortusClassique.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Languedoc, France $17 @ The Green Spot 9/19/10
Blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre.
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a moderately aromatic nose of red and black fruit, earth, herbs and a hint and garrigue. The palate is light-medium-bodied with well-balanced acidity and low tannins. The flavors are of black cherry and raspberry, white pepper, herbs and notes of tobacco and meat on the medium-length finish. As their entry level blend this is a fairly well-crafted wine, but not one that will make you want to constantly jump back into the glass. Pretty good QPR. (13.5% abv)

2007 Kaena Wine Company Hale**
07KaenaHale.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $17 @ the Winery 5/21/10
A blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.
A deep, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose filled with cherry, blackberry, plum, sweet spice and earth with hints of mocha and smoke. Popped and poured, this is ready to go, round and well-balanced with dusty tannins on the medium-length finish. The flavors mirror the nose with the more savory aspects integrating nicely with the fruit, keeping this from being another Central Coast overripe bomb. Great depth and balance just needed a stronger finish for three stars. Winemaker Mikael Sigouin really knows what he's doing when it comes to Rhone varietals and you won't find a better Santa Barbara red wine at this price point. (300 cases/14.9% abv)

2007 Ch. Mas Neuf Compostelle**
07MasNeufCompostelle.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Costieres de Nimes, France $16 The Wine House 7/18/11
A blend of 70% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache.
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a moderately aromatic nose of blackberry, black cherry, garrigue, earth, leather and sweet spice. The palate is medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins and medium acidity. The flavors mirror the nose with a nice smooth finish and additional notes of minerals and tobacco. The grapes that go into this blend all come from vines over 30-years-old. Though tank-fermented the wine is aged in used French oak (apparentely from some of th top Bordeaux chateaux) for about a year. This keeps the fruit fresh, but definitely gives it some savory characteristics that make it more interesting than a $16 should be. This bottle was popped and poured, showing well from the first glass, though it could go at least another year without any trouble and might get a bit better. A lovely wine from an up-and-coming region that is fast becoming my favorite in France. (14% abv)

2007 VINTJS Red Wine*
07VINTJSNapaRed.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $8 Trader Joe's 12/2/10
A blend of 70% Syrah, 29.5% Mourvedre and .5% Viognier.
A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose of ripe red fruit, earth, sweet spice and a hint of bacon. The palate is medium to full-bodied with a lush mouthfeel and low tannins. It starts out quite fruit forward with blackberry, earth and leather dominating the palate with notes of sweet spice and vanilla on the moderate finish. It's not as fruity as the nose suggests and its initial lushness fades sort of quickly, leaving it a bit lifeless. It's still a good everyday wine for what it delivers. I think it's amusing/odd that they would just call it "Red Wine" instead of a Rhone blend, but I guess with the Syrah backlash they're just trying to unload this any way they can. At this price, it shouldn't be too hard. (14.1% abv)

2006 Chateau Mourgues du Gres Terre d'Argence**
chMourguesArgence.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Costieres-de-Nimes, France $15 @ Palate Food + Wine 8/24/10
A deep, almost opaque ruby colored wine with a vibrant nose of black fruit, sweet spice, garrigue and minerals. Though there's about 10-15% Grenache in the blend, the palate shows all Syrah (from 45-year-old vines) with flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, plum, sweet spice and notes of black pepper and tobacco on the medium finish. Popped and poured, the wine is round, well-balanced with fine tannins that hold the alcohol (14.5%) and fruit in check. You'd be hard pressed to find a Syrah-based wine from the New World with as much structure and complexity for the price. While drinkable now, this certainly has at least a year to go in the bottle.

2006 Croad Vineyards Towhenua**
06CroadTot.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 2/15/11
A blend of 55% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah & 20% Grenache.
An opaque, ruby-purple colored wine with a moderately expressive nose of bright red fruits, earth, herbs and sweet spice. The palate is full-bodied with medium acidity and fine tannins. The flavors are black cherry, blackberry, tea and mocha with chalk and earth on the medium finish. Though the flavors are good, it was a bit rustic and disjointed for a wine this old. Plus there wasn't quite enough fruit left to balance out the more savory aspects. Remember it being more smooth and balanced in the tasting room. Just waited too long to drink this one. (15% abv)

2006 Dark Star Cellars Soft Shoulder***
darkstarSS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $35 @ the Winery 5/28/09
A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah & 10% Mourvedre.
A medium ruby-colored wine with the Grenache dominating the nose with aromas of earth, red berry fruit, sweet spice and herbs. The palate is medium-bodied and round – though not overripe – with dusty tannins and firm acid. The flavors begin with cherry, strawberry, earth and smoke and developed more Syrah notes as the evening went on with hints of meat, minerals and blackberry coming to the forefront. There was a little heat on the finish (no surprise for a 15%+ abv wine) but it settled down fairly quickly. For their first Rhone blend, this is a very big, but well-crafted wine. Will be holding my second bottle for another year to allow it to fully integrate.

Re-tasted 8/20/09: OK, so I didn't wait very long to drink my second bottle. Popped and poured, with similar notes as the first go round except for the heat, which was no longer apparent. Norm's playing with the big Paso Rhone boys and this wine is on the money. Still has plenty of life left. Going to get more before it's all gone. Can't wait to try the 07, which was a better vintage in the region, from what I've tasted so far.

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