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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Anglim Winery Best Barrel Blend***
anglim05bbb.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $32 @ the Winery 5/28/08
A blend of 45% Mourvedre, 45% Syrah and 10% Grenache, this dark ruby-colored wine is the winery's first Rhone Blend. Just recently bottled they suggest decanting for at least an hour. Wish I had listened. Tasted rounder and fuller at the tasting room. The nose is full of ripe dark berry fruit with nice tones of smoke, earth and sweet spice. The palate shows the same characteristics, but the finish is currently too tannic – courtesy of 35% new French oak – to give complete pleasure. Just not fully integrated yet, I'll be waiting a year or two before I open my second bottle. (500 Cases/14.8% abv)

Re-tasted 8/12/09: What a difference a year makes. Fully integrated and ready to drink. Popped and poured, this wine was lush, full of ripe fruit, along with sweet and savory spice, but still had elegance and backbone. Stood up really well to our spicy BBQ dinner. Glad I still have more. Has plenty of time left in the bottle. Now 3 stars.

2005 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec**
Beckmen_LeBec.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $18 @ the Winery 9/15/07
This medium-bodied red is ripe with red fruits with additional flavors of pepper, currants, cherries, and licorice. It is 50% Grenache which adds bright berry aromatics and a softer mouthfeel than in other years. Elegant and crisp this is a good wine for everyday consumption.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 88

2005 Domaine Andre Brunel Cuvée Sommelongue**
brunelcdr.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $12 Woodland Hills Wine Co. 6/15/08
This wine is ruby colored with hints of purple. The nose exhibits strawberries and dark berries, as well as some wet earth and spice. The palate is dominated by sweet dark berries spiced up with pepper and some earthly overtones. The structure is smooth and medium-bodied with moderate tannins and acidity. Year after year this is a well-balanced, elegant, affordable wine. This blend is 85% grenache and 15% syrah.

2005 Calcareous Vineyards Tres Violet**
tresviolet05.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 12/27/07
Medium red purple in color. Ripe, rich Rhone aromas. The nose shows dark cherries, raspberries and a hint of mocha chocolate. Cinnamon and spicy fullness in mid-palate, with a generous, yet soft and lingering finish. Low tannins and acid make the wine a bit flabby and the alcohol obvious. Initially tasted at the winery at the end of the day and am now disappointed with the purchase after drinking the bottle at home. Hopefully future bottlings will have a bit more structure for the price. (Retasted 3/28/08)

2005 Cass Vineyards Rockin One***
label_05Rockin.gif Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $42 @ the Winery 2/28/08
The blend is 45% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. The wine is a deep, almost opaque ruby with medium body and bright red fruit aromas layered with a touch of spice. The palate is filled with black fruits, smoke and spice with hints of leather and tobacco. It's a bit alcoholic and tannic without the smooth roundness of the 2004 version, which was mostly Grenache. The Syrah is definitely at play here. This wine could use another 12-18 months in the bottle to finish integrating and soften, but it's still more than drinkable now.

Retasted 9/4/09: Popped and poured, this wine is right in its' wheelhouse. Was spot-on in my aging assessment. Fully integrated with round blackberry and cherry flavors, hints of spice, leather and earth and a long, smooth, vanilla-tinged finish. The heaviness of the Syrah has taken a back seat and just let the purity of the fruit shine through with supple elegance. Great depth of flavor without being over-powering. Was sad only got one glass. Was delicious with and without food and stayed true to the initial flavors as the night went on. Couldn't find a single thing wrong with it. So happy I have more. Now in the 3½ – 4 star range. Could continue to age, but there's no reason to wait anymore.

2005 Denner Vineyards "Ditch Digger"***
05DennerDD.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $35 @ the Winery 12/8/10
A blend of 43% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, 26% Syrah and 8% Cinsault.
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a generous nose of cherry, raspberry, herbs, leather, wet leaves and a hint of sweet spice. Was a bit funky in the beginning but, that dissipated after about 15 minutes. The palate was medium-bodied, round and lush with medium acidity and low tannins. It was a bit disjointed until we aerated it, which really brought the flavors together. Flavors were mostly of cherry liquor, raspberry, pepper, herbs, meat and chalk with notes of caramel and pie spice on the lengthy finish. There's a lot going on in this wine and I think it still needs time to fully come together. At 15.2% abv, I wouldn't wait much longer, perhaps at most another year, as the alcohol may start to become a problem. Not exactly a cheap bottle of wine, but one that delivers great complexity and flavor for the price. If you love CA Rhones and don't know Denner, well you should. They are one of the leaders in the Paso region for a reason.

2005 Domaine des Tours Vin de Pays de Vaucluse**
domdestours.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $18 Vendome Wine 8/21/08
The third label crafted by the winemaking family that owns and opertates the famed CDP winery Chateau Rayas. A typical Rhone varietal blend with medium body and a smooth, elegant texture. The nose is all red berry with spice, earth and cigar wrapper notes that carry through onto the palate. The first night the cigar, vanilla and white pepper flavors dominated the fruit. The second showed more integration of flavors and a more balanced earthiness on the lingering finish. This is what French wines are all about, showing finesse with intensity. Classy and ready for everyday drinking, though assuredly this will not be to everyone's taste. Makes me wish I could afford the Rayas.

2005 Edward Sellers Vineyards Le Thief***
LeThief2.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $30 @ the Winery 5/18/08
The wine starts out with bold aromatics of jammy berry fruit, vanilla-scented oak, and saddle leather. Brambly and earthy flavors follow an explosive burst of ripe currants. Chewy in texture, the early tannin gives way to a long, velvety finish. A wonderful mixture of Syrah, with just the right amounts of Mourvedre and Grenache that add flavor and complexity to the blend. More elegant and classy than many Paso Rhone blends. A wine to savor. It's drinking great right now, though should hold for several years to come.

2005 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape***
chateau_fortia_tradition.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $33 The Wine House 10/1/07
Light red. Ripe red berry aromas complemented by a suggestion of gingerbread. Lush, sweet flavors of strawberry, raspberry and black cherry are blended with notes of spice and earth. Has the ability to age, but the medium tannins give it a soft mouthfeel and allow it to be drinkable now.
OTHER RATINGS: Wine Spectator: 91 | Stephen Tanzer: 90

2005 Halter Ranch Vineyard GSM***
Halter05GSM.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 11/4/08
Blend of 45% Grenache, 22% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre
This medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine offers creamy strawberry and raspberry aromas with hints of mint, licorice and spice. The palate takes some time to soften, but once the tannins and acid integrate the wine is rich with flavors of black cherry, strawberry, blackberry, earth and spice with sweet oak and vanilla rounding out the lingering finish. This wine starts out with all Grenache/red berry ripeness and then as it opens takes on more savory Syrah/Mourvedre notes. While lovely now, needs another 6mos to a year in the bottle to show its' true colors.

2005 Mas de Guiot Grenache-Syrah**
Mas-Guiot_Grenache-Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Vin de Pays du Gard, France $14 Vendome Liquors 10/13/08
Blend of 40% Grenache and 60% Syrah
A deep, ruby-purple colored wine with a moderate nose of blackberry, cassis and earth with hints of spice and blueberry. The palate mirrors the nose with dusty, firm tannins, a full body and a good finish with notes of cedar and spice. Though this wine has good fruit it is very Old World in style, very dry and earthy. Could still use another 6 months to a year in the bottle to smooth out the tannins. If you can't wait, decant for an hour.

2005 Opine Cellars "The Offering"***
opineOffering.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Central Coast, CA $20 Wades Wines 11/7/08
Blend of 30% Grenache and 70% Syrah
This medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine offers aromas of black fruit, sweet spice and hints of smokey oak. The palate took awhile to open up (defnitely one to decant), but then was round and ripe with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, blackcurrant leaf and sweet spice with notes of leather and mocha on the lingering finish. While the flavors were bold, this is more of a cool climate wine with deep, savory flavors instead of ripe fruity ones though the grenache definitely gave it a lift. Well-structured and intense for a mere $20. I'd wait another year if you can stand it.

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